Tipping Foals for 2008 commercial success is, we feel, more out of hope than bitter experience - Skins or no Skins (and do search out that special episode for Yannis Phillipakis' acting cameo, proving David Bowie and Sting have serious upcoming competition in the pro-am stakes). They may want to make the fashionable kids dance, but the charts are so unpredictable at the moment and their own herky-jerkiness so left of centre that we might be sitting here in a couple of years wondering where it all went wrong. We learned the hard way from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. All of which is mere bagatelle next to the intricate mechanics of first full-scale release Balloons, the first fruits of their work with Dave Sitek. Holy Fuck also have their own approach, creating what often sounds like pre-programmed dancepunk sequences without the aid of any programming whatsoever, just a lot of antique synths, a lot of percussion and a lot of fluid rehearsal. Milkshake propulses like little else. It'd be stretching the point to call Miracle Fortress propulsive, but they made a pretty good stab at 2007's sub-genre of One Person Sounding A Bit Like Smile Did In Brian Wilson's Head, the person here being Montreal's Graham van Pelt. Have You Seen In Your Dreams also reminds us of the Sleepy Jackson's psychedelic excursions before Luke Steele stopped making out he was mad and became actually mad. The New Wave of New Wave of New Wave, as we like to think of it, may well have settled into bland orthodoxy by now but it can still provide the odd ear-pricking new band of excellence. The Chiara L's - fronted by one Chiara Lucchini, which while hardly thinking outside the box at least gives them a free pass away from the other modern trend of appalling new band names - take audible inspiration as much from Kill Rock Stars and K Records as C86 and fellow Leodensians Gang Of Four on debut double A Knives/Kate's Kid. Watch them carefully. The first Christmas single of the year is also out, and you'd think that they'd have been more careful with the release date with a full week still to go, especially as chart watcher - alright, BBC chart-based show watcher - Eddie Argos is involved. The Black Arts is, give or take a couple of people, Argos plus the reconstituted Black Box Recorder, and Christmas Number One is the post-modern, well-vowelled pre-ironic pop that combination sounds like it should be. Why is Fairytale Of New York back out again? (Unless it's for Justice For Kirsty, in which case fair enough)
They said it'd never happen, for mental health reasons more than anything else, but even in this age of the comeback it's a pleasant surprise to hear through the cyber-mouthpiece of Lord Snooty's giant poisoned electric head that thirty six years after Let's Make Up And Be Friendly, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band have made a new album. It's called Pour l'Amour des Chiens, and reunites all living members of the original line-up, the enormous hole in the middle that Vivian Stanshall left filled variously by Phill Jupitus and Adrian Edmondson, who went on tour with them last year (we saw them; it was spectacular), and Stephen Fry, who's been mentally filling Stanshall's position for a good twenty years anyway. No idea what it sounds like, and we can't say the prospect of a cover of I Predict A Riot fills us with great levels of anticipation, but you never know, and to quote Jupitus' final words on said night, "it's the fucking Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band!" There's a DVD of unreleased live material too. Anthony Reynolds was nearly the Big Shot around 1996-97 as singer with lowlife romantics Jack, and his debt solo album British Ballads still sees him treading the Scott Walker route, with guests Vashti Bunyan, Dot Allison and Simon Raymonde of the Cocteau Twins. Radiohead may now be bringing down the entire record industry and its antediluvian concepts of payment (apart from the £42.50 for London gig tickets, natch) from within their pre-fabricated concrete cold bunker but EMI will have the last laugh yet, as while Discboxes arrive at front doors nationwide they're putting out a box set of all six previous studio albums plus the live set I Might Be Wrong. If everybody knows that a healthy body makes a healthy mind, Shaun Ryder's lopsided lyrical flows have a raison d'etre. Bummed and Pills 'n' Thrills And Bellyaches recall the good times of 1988 and 1990 respectively and come with an extra disc of remixes, in the former's WFL's case those that nearly defined a clubbing generation. MF Doom and Madlib's Madvillain collaboration Madvillainy was enough to burst the bag, sir, of many a leftfield hip-hop fan in 2004 and is widely regarded as the genre's best independent release of the decade. And as the air turns cold and town centre international markets resemble the sweet essence of giraffe, those Christmas compilations keep on coming back out, this week's choice being last year's The Best KIDS Christmas Album In The World…Ever Ever Ever (the Wombats, the Young Playthings, Popular Workshop, Oppenheimer, It Hugs Back, Findlay Brown).
Our bookshelf, just up there, has a steadily growing collection of the works of 33 1/3, the series of small books about influential albums. As a demonstration of its scope, 33 1/3 Greatest Hits Volume 2 features extracts from numbers 21 to 40 inclusive, which are about... Armed Forces, Murmur, Grace, Entroducing, Kick Out The Jams, Born in the USA, Low, Music from Big Pink, In the Aeroplane Over The Sea, There's a Riot Goin' On, Doolittle, Paul's Boutique, The Stone Roses, In Utero, Highway 61 Revisited, Loveless, The Who Sell Out, Bee Thousand, Daydream Nation and Court And Spark. Adding itself in fifty-second place to the big list this week is Nick Drake's Pink Moon, given the once-over by by Pitchfork's Amanda Petrusich including interviews with Joe Boyd, Robert Kirby and the creatives who chose the title track for an American VW advert.