Sweeping The Nation is one year old today. Please, no flowers. The odd card, but nothing more if you can help it. Odd to think that we've managed to not only maintain our half-formed idea for so long but improve and strengthen it as we've gone along, from our unfocused first steps to our semi-focused modern approach. A sincere thank you to all our readers, linkers and fans - we could do with a few more of the latter, come to think of it, pop over to our Myspace and its shadow blog and declare an interest in virtual friendship. You've seemed to like what we've been doing. Or are humouring us, one or the other. We could stop and milk this venture's anniversary, but there is still so much new music and new experience that we cannot afford to look back even now, only look forwards.
With that in mind, here's what we've been posting about over these last twelve months.
APRIL 2005: Sweeping The Nation is launched with but one mission statement - "mission statements don't work". Aiming to fill a gap that nobody previously knew existed, the first post boldly states "We know our place. This isn't one of those blogs that pretends it likes Uniting Nations. However, The Paddingtons can equally bugger off." It's something we've stuck to all along, unlike the album reviews we dropped in early on - MIA's Arular was the subject of the first proper posting - and dropped completely shortly afterwards. We did manage to find our theme song on a Russian website, though, which is something. Coo, it's still there.
Spearmint - Sweeping The Nation
MAY 2005: One of the ideas we've wanted to expand upon all along is a caustic look at the charts, begun under the title Singles File until we stopped being bothered about going so in-depth when Tony Christie was still number one week after week. His label never did realise people didn't buy it for Christie's input. Sales Pitch, a cheap way of exploiting the fact we have a Virgin and HMV within walking distance, also began early on. Still trying to find out reportage feet with a succession of three-sentence bites we reported Bob Geldof dismissing the idea of a new Live Aid with the phrase "why would I possibly repeat something I did twenty years ago?", months after Band Aid 20, paid tribute to the early, as in good, days of Poptones and in our first Google search engine hit-tempter wondered who the hell were The Gaff, who were getting quite a bit of music TV airtime for their clean Libertines-esque sound and nothing anywhere else. Their website reveals they split in October. What did happen to Freefaller? In the month Belle And Sebastian collected their EPs together we also wondered why they've never sounded the same band since they stopped being our own little pop band and became an actual pop band, something we stick to no matter how many bubble machines Stuart takes onto TOTP with him.
JUNE 2005: Many of the features you've come to know and know in modern STN came into fruition during this month, mostly as a way of utilising our long standing fascination with charts - odd, foreign, alternative, surveyed, awarded and retro alike. We haven't mellowed towards Christian O'Connell of late, we should mention. We also started referring to ourselves as 'we', as a method of attaining a position as less a personal venture and more a brand name to be trusted with informed comment. Or just because we thought sticking an 'I' in looked slightly foolish, one or the other. Other than obviously Debra Stephenson's album, reviewed on Amazon as "probably the best album by a female soloist since 'Like a prayer'", the highlight was Glastonbury, starting with all the BBC sets being washed away and Colin Murray being sat on some steel scaffolding in the middle of a lightning storm. Chris Martin chose the biggest stage of his career to make a joke about Gay Dad, Lauren Laverne lost her composure by back-announcing "Like Eating Glass! That was Bloc Party with Helicopter..." (it was the former) and we accidentally confused a nation of search engine users with our assertions as to Miquita Oliver's family. For the record Andrea is her mother, and slightly scarily they have exactly the same voice, and the late Sean was Andrea's sister, not husband as we accidentally stated at the time. If that gets into any of Miquita's official biographies, we're very sorry.
JULY 2005: This was the month of Live 8, Geldof having been browbeaten into doing what he did twenty years previously. We made the usual unhelpful comments as they went along and are still surprised to find Fearne Cotton continues to find television work, having thought her performance as interviewer on the biggest stage of her career had ended that chance thoroughly. Indeed, our obsession with they way music is presented on TV flowered round about here as TOTP got shoved about and CD:UK embarked on its wilderness years. Some comments about Alex Jones-Donnelly leaving his Radio 1 post led to banter and repartee with the representative(s) of Popjustice on this very subject, and now from a position where everything is being axed we see what they mean. We assure you that our pondering as to whether Rachel Stevens is being sold to the right market was our personal feelings rather than an attempt to curry favour. Meanwhile as the 80s sample plus bpm plus girls gyrating in video trend continued unabated our main suggestion for the source of a possible hit, Red Box's Lean On Me, remains unfollowed up.
AUGUST 2005: We're almost ashamed to say it, but we do think 'It's a picture of Paul Smith out of Maximo Park when he looked slightly different!' is the best headline we've ever written. In a month that included the tenth anniversary of Britpop, from which we learnt nothing, E4's uneven V Festival coverage which included Dave Berry introducing ten minutes of Sonic Youth album tracks, a reminiscence about the original Help album and an inaccurate preview of BBC7's John Peel special which ended up copied onto the description of a torrent on UKNova, and we do apologise for anyone who downloaded it on the basis of that, our puppyish enthusiasm about festivals in general and Summer Sundae in particular was sated by our day by day blogging of the event. Ah, the memories - watching the guitarist from Alfie attempt to exit De Montfort Hall through a locked door, getting the autograph of British Sea Power's mate who'd been in their celebrated bear suit and later joined them in the signing tent, nearly knocking a pint out of the hand of one of the girls from The Chalets, slipping over in the mud right in front of the bar, Luke Haines' David Crosby-esque walrus moustache...
SEPTEMBER 2005: We started this month by watching open-mouthed from a south coast flatlet bedroom as Baddiel and Skinner took on How I Wrote Elastic Man on prime time, which kind of set the scene. Help: A Day In The Life almost literally came and went - the Zutons' track is shamelessly on their new album, we note - we expressed confusion at the Evening Standard download chart that was topped by Echo And The Bunnymen and featured two Republic Of Ireland World Cup songs in the top ten and inaugurated 'In shops tomorrow'. Should it have been the Americanised but better sounding 'in stores tomorrow'? Who knows.
OCTOBER 2005: As the country recovered from Ashes frenzy we remarked at length upon perhaps these past twelve months' most shameless release, Howzat! The Unofficial England Cricket Album, which never quite realised that there just aren't 42 songs connected in some way with cricket that could be construed as feel-good and motivational. Howzat by Sherbert is not "a Barmy Army sing-a-long anthem" but an unsubtle crowing over a cheating partner that to make matters worse is a set text with the Guilty Pleasures mob. And in what way does the Specials' Friday Night Saturday Morning fit in? Chartwise we attempted to hang on to the coattails of the Arctic Monkeys' rise, finding blog postings from a good year before in an attempt to make sense of a backstory that seems to include Amy Winehouse being spotted at a gig eight months previously to ...Dancefloor's success. Whatever did happen to Amy Winehouse? The endlessly fascinating VH1 US buy-in 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders, hosted by William Shatner (but of course!) and featuring Starsailor as talking heads, confused and delighted us in equal measure and we read the runes of the Christmas number one odds all wrong, but then so did the bookies, installing as third favourite a G4 track that never came out as a single, fifth favourite Tony Christie covering Merry Christmas Everyone which didn't even make the top forty and down at 33-1 a "cult acoustic duo who... um...probably have a mate who works in William Hill's PR department." Well, after a fashion.
NOVEMBER 2005: Perhaps the weakest headline we ever wrote, conversely, was our expressing the poorness of MTV's European Music Awards under 'EMA Leaden'. We suspect we are the only people who remember ex-Live & Kicking presenter Emma Ledden after all. In a quieter period, album of the month was Foster & Allen Sing The Number Ones - not all of them, sadly, as we want to hear how they'd approach Don't Stop (Wiggle Wiggle) with an acoustic guitar and accordion. It wouldn't have been any more unlikely than a Ray-baiting Mark E Smith reading the classified results on the BBC, after all.
DECEMBER 2005: This was the month when we really went mad, with 285kb of pure text over the thirty-one days, starting with the 24 day countdown of great singles Advent Calendar Of Music, inserting the odd retrospective Christmas chart for balance, then running down the top twenty albums of the year and topping it all off with a review of the year that attempted to encompass everything and ended up with a decent deal more than 4,000 words. We don't have to put this effort in, not for the numbers of people who read this. We do it just for those of you who trust us, much as we've sourced these alternate live versions of tracks from the top two albums of 2005...
Arcade Fire & David Bowie - Wake Up
Colin Meloy of the Decemberists - We Both Go Down Together
JANUARY 2006: As with everyone else, we started the year with our predictions for the months ahead, most of which are certainly taking their time to come fully to fruition, but then so are most of everyone else's that we meticulously listed. Those who should know about such things were polled for their favourite albums of 2005, and again Funeral won, a result that didn't receive as much wider publicity as we'd have liked, hint hint (yeah, Largehearted Boy linked to it but didn't so much as include the blog title) We found a way to corral odd links, mp3s and chart chat into one long posting in Weekender, while specific interest was this month granted to The Story Of Common People, the Brits and NME Awards nominations, the reigniting of our festival frenzies, the NME writers' 100 greatest UK albums ever and the Arctic Monkeys, inspired by someone being called 'brave' in a comments box for writing that they liked Whatever People Say I Am... Reverse indie snobbishness ahoy!
FEBRUARY 2006: We're not really fascinated with Fearne Cotton, honest. Obviously we had to bring her Myspace to a wider audience, admiring the way it's quite clearly not compiled by an anonymous PA, but we weren't to know that every day since, pretty much, we'd get a load of search engine hits for 'fearne cotton tattoo'. What's the fascination? If, by the way, you are Fearne Cotton, a) hello, b) that bit earlier about you at Live 8 was knowing humour, you probably know yourself that you were a bit under-par on the day and you can probably do without being reminded of Robbie Williams, and c) don't do any more glamour shoots, you look rubbish in them. For everyone else, here she is being covered in green facepaint. In a month where we didn't get to blog the Brits and didn't so much as see the last Smash Hits we like to think it provided levity.
MARCH 2006: We told you we were obsessed with lists, and March provided plentiful evidence in which the 100 female DJs poll was easily confused with a Suicide Girls gallery, Q's Worst Albums Ever might have been the worst poll ever, South By Southwest gave us the perfect reason for a great big long list of band names given nobody's surely that interested if they're not going out to Texas for themselves and The Feeling's emergence sparked a well-meant rant against Guilty Pleasures. Like what you want! Ivor Cutler, who died this month, would have approved, even if what he would have liked is silence. Right at the end there we had our own little coup of sorts, launching interview series A Friendly Chat With... with coveish singer-songwriter Jeremy Warmsley.
APRIL 2006: Which brings us about up to date. An Illustrated Guide To..., our highly informative and bound to be up soon enough on the BPI hitlist guide to cult artists, began with Wire, we celebrated April Fool's Day with comedy songs and hilarious japes, Frank's intentions confused us, the Streets made little sense all in all and just last weekend or so we hit paydirt with our VH1 poll tie-in of the 40 greatest opening lyrics ever - go and have a look, we sweated over that - followed immediately by An Illustrated Guide To Billy Bragg and then A Friendly Chat With Fyfe Dangerfield off the Guillemots, whose correspondence, we hope he won't mind us dropping into polite conversation, included a typo on the word 'typo'. And that's about the size of our first year. Onwards!