>Like London buses and Noah’s ark.

>Wednesday was a rough day. Two important parts of my life came to a whimpering, and regretfully expected conclusion. Gary Neville – Mr Manchester United – retired with immediate effect. It frightens me to my core that just Scholes and Giggs remain from the glorious core of my football heroes as a youth. On a musical level Wednesday saw the official announcement of the end of the White Stripes. It has been pretty obvious as Jack White dedicates more time to The Dead Weather and The Raconteurs that his collaboration with hugely under-rated percussionist Meg would be put to bed. I admit to finding it a little odd that White decided to announce a split rather than simply leave The White Stripes option on the back burner for a possible future renaissance. It would appear though that he has become fed up with Stripes related questions when promoting his current projects and perhaps wanted to offer fans some closure. It is arguable that the Stripes persona had worn tired as recent albums though impressive have lacked the sparkle that Raconteurs and Dead Weather have offered. White’s songwriting partnership with Benson in particular offers a truly exciting combination of talents that has already given two quite magnificent albums for a so-called ‘side-project.’ The cynic in me might also suggest that the ‘unreleased material’ he pledged to release as a thank you to fans will now generate much more publicity and consequent sales as a result. I tend not to think of Jack White as especially financially motivated – the extra cash gained from a Bond theme and Coke commercial will surely ensure he has enough to fulfill his penchant for fancy dress and red trousers for the foreseeable future (atleast until the Stripes reform for Glastonbury 2025 anyway.) If he really falls on hard times he can go back to teaching musical instruments to cartoon characters. (more…)

Published in: on 04/02/2011 at 10:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

>’That’s just talking over music son’

>The title of this blog is my Dad’s articulate and well reasoned opinion on ‘that rap music’. Now before you get angry and start castigating me for covering rap music again I am doing no such thing. Inspired by Big Daddy Frederick I’m taking his description literally and have chosen five brilliant songs of which the chief component is a spoken vocal over music. I have taken artistic licence with small bouts of singing but generally I have stuck to the formula which meant having to overlook such magnificent tracks as Little Acorns by The White Stripes and Popular by Nada Surf. Baz Lurmann did not make the cut on grounds of being shite.

Pow Pow by LCD Sound System

I chose this song as it came on my ipod whilst putting away the shopping this morning (rock and roll) and made me think of this subject for a blog. I long had an irrational dislike of LCD Soundsystem. They seemed to represent the try hard, indie wannabes that infested my favourite places as a student in Leeds and I never have (nor will) see the big fuss about ‘Daft Punk is playing at my house.’ So it was with some surprise that when enjoying the excellent Minnesota radio station The Current I heard a really interesting track and it turned out to be by the very band I’d often derided. Thankfully my stubborn days are over as meander towards my third decade so I can happily embrace the fact that I was wrong. The latest and allegedly final album is well worth a listen but then you are most likely cooler and trendier than I so know that already.

Be Safe by The Cribs

I love and always will love The Cribs. They were introduced to me by my best friend and we would take huge amounts of pleasure from experiencing groups of comedy outfitted scenesters bopping along to their songs totally ignorant of their meaning. It is always a bittersweet feeling when a band you have felt a personal link to becomes hugely successful. Although they have not hit the heights predicted The Cribs have undoubtedly gone up in the world – recording albums in LA and inviting Johnny Marr into the band. The mainstream output has left me cold in much in the same way as recent Kings of Leon songs have failed to resonate with me as Youth and Young Manhood so emphatically did. However it is doubtful that had they not pointedly looked to make an impact across the Atlantic they would have managed to attract Lee Ranald of Sonic Youth to collaborate on this absolute belter of a track. The Jarman brothers are underrated lyricists and this song is packed full of imagery so sharp you can picture it in your mind e.g. ‘Ideas swirl but don’t stick. They appear but then run off like rain on the windshield. One of those rainy day car rides my head implodes, the atmosphere in this car a mirror of my skull. Wet, damp, windows dripping and misted with cold. Walls of grey. Nothing good on the radio. Not a thought in my head.’ Bob Dylan would be proud of that.

The Revolution will not be Televised by Gil Scott-Heron

Here is where it all began. My first awareness of this classic was somewhat ironically a television advert about  Nike basketball. As cool as that advert was as a yank obsessed teen it jars somewhat with the original which is a devastatingly cool and pithy take on the political and cultural whirlwind that was enveloping the globe with the fall out from the changes of the previous decade. It is hard to believe but this song initially featured no backing other than percussion in the form of bongos and conga drums. The right choice was made when it was re-recorded as what I can best describe as audio silk. The man himself has enjoyed an unlikely revival in the past couple of years and a good friend and fellow blogger even saw the great man in concert. You can hear Gil Scott-Heron explaining the meaning behind the song here.
Fire coming out of the monkey’s head by Gorillaz feat. Dennis Hopper
Dennis Hopper is cool as fuck. Whether you feel Gorrilaz are a brilliant, avant-garde art project proving unexpectedly popular or a mawkishly self-indulgent vanity vehicle for Damon Albarn and friends you have to admit that Dennis Hopper reading a fable about primate dominated land facing environmental difficulties is inspired. His sad passing has left behind so many great moments on and off screen, but this might just be my favourite.
Going the Distance by Cake
Two songs always seem to sneak onto mixtapes and play lists I put together. One is the fantastic Teenage Angst by Placebo which seems ever relevant and the other is this ode to tenacity. It is essentially Aesop’s tortoise and hair fable turned into a song yet it works brilliantly. I’m no great fan of Cake’s other material but praise is due for concocting this quite ingenious motivational nugget.

>Come worship at the Church of Dylan.

>I could blog about the great Robert Zimmerman all day but I don’t have all day so instead have a few choice versions of his songs. Enjoy.

Marianne Faithfull covers Visions of Johanna

>Alcohol provokes debate shocker

>What a tremendous weekend – full to the brim it featured a wedding, a christening and barbecue. An undoubted highlight was the discussion in Leeds on Saturday night centred on choosing three songs that could be considered the best of the decade 2000-2010. Now being the type who enjoys such things I made a two CD selection reflecting the best of the decade at the turn of the year so I felt well equipped yet there is no denying that such a decision is tough. It was interesting that almost immediately two friends agreed on one inclusion. B.O.B. by Outkast is a choice that is hard to disagree with – it stills sounds as fresh and important today as on its release. It is sometimes easy to forget that Outkast have not always existed in the mainstream and this magnificent track shared an album with their major cross-over success Ms Jackson. Bob has a relentless urgency which in many ways was an apt dawn to a new age.

Of course it would be entirely remiss of me not to share my own thoughts on such a ‘hot topic.’ The chat took place two days ago now and I’ve had time to reflect but I confess to in no way having my choices set in stone. I fully expect to return to this blog in the future filled with rage at my decision – in some ways the perfect circle.

Anyway here goes:

Sigur Ros – Hoppipola

‘Jumping into Puddles’ as it is known in Iceland is perhaps the most offensively over-exposed piece of music in the last ten years. Only Romeo and Juliet’s balcony scene can compete. Lazy television directors the world over have taken great pleasure in using it as the backing to many a tedious montage. Most disgracefully I remember it being used to commemorate Scottish Gargoyle Andy Murray edging past some poor Slovak in an early round of Wimbledon. If ever a piece of music did not reflect the context of its use it was there. The reason? This piece of music is stunningly beautiful. I will make my peace with those employed in the visual arts by applauding the use for the BBC Planet Earth series as in that case it really did tie in superbly with the subject matter it was used to promote. I’ve said on here before of my belief that music is about emotion and Hoppipola is a stunningly upliting work of art that is genuinely life affirming. I probably should be ashamed to say I purposefully chose to have it on my ipod when I watched the sun rise over Colca Canyon in Peru but I’m not. It is music for the soul. An area of music I gain a lot of pleasure from without having any level of knowledge about is Classical Music and Sigur Ros appear to have managed to create a moving, theatrical piece which had it been composed by Verdi or Puccini would be considered up there amongst their finest work. An honourable mention while I’m at it to Arcade Fire who I feel tread a simiar path and are very unfortunate not to make this list.

Ryan Adams – Elizabeth, You were born to play this part.

Yes I know, I’m predictable. The inclusion of a Ryan track was a given but the choice might be a little more surprising. The album 29 it comes from was not the receipient of heavy critical acclaim – in fact in some quarters it was given something of a slating. Quite incredible when you consider that it contains for my money, the finest love song of the last ten years. Elizabeth certainly isn’t a conventional tale of love; the narrator does not live happy ever after, in fact he appears to live a tortured existent frozen in a state of utter love that cannot be reciprocated. The feeling of losing someone is hard enough when you still feel so deeply for them, but to know in your heart that it is irreversible is simply interminable. The song to me is about heartbreak and lost love but this doesn’t necessarily mean love between two adults. Adams himself has suggested the song was inspired by close friends losing their baby. A dark, painful experience articulated described by Ben Folds in the astonishingly personal Brick . Adams communicates this hugely complex emotion so effectively I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to feeling a bit tearful during more than one listen. Blue Sky blues from the same album and Shadowlands have a similar impact but it is the simplicity of Elizabeth which sets it apart. The verse is emotion laid bare, the words are not particularly clever but are searingly honest. The chorus is pure heartbreak:

Wherever you are, I hope you’re happy now

I’m caught in a dream and I can’t get out

I’m caught in an endless dream

And I’m not strong enough to let you go

It takes you to the brink and then offers an enchanting lilting outro. My words simply don’t do it justice. Genius.
Now for a third and final choice. There are several magnificent songs that spring to mind that; Transatlanticism by DCFC takes some beating, Landlocked Blues is Conor Oberst’s finest moment and Rise up with Fists by Jenny Lewis is a glorious impassioned rail against hypocrisy. However I can’t help feel I’m in danger of representing a whole decade as a melancholic struggle of self-doubt when in fact it was the most fun I’ve ever had! So with that in mind I’ll leave this blog with a song that is pure pleasure. The reaction of a good friend’s normally restrained brother was testament to the power of music to turn a composed, grown man back into a 4 year old boy on a bouncy castle.
Here’s the performance in question. Enjoy.

If you don’t disagree in some way you are downright strange so please leave a comment and let me know your views.

Published in: on 02/08/2010 at 2:01 pm  Comments (2)