Thursday, April 30, 2009


We've briefly covered Projekt A-Ko before - they're Fergus Lawrie and Elaine and Ian Graham from Urusei Yatsura. What we have now is the full album Yoyodyne, on their own Milk Pie Records, and unsurprisingly it's not a million miles from the post-Dinosaur Jr/Sonic Youth melody-noise scree juxtaposition they blew their way out of Glasgow with, god, fourteen years ago. Buzzsaw pop/anti-pop hooks, Mascis-esque solos, cryptic song titles, loads and loads of pedal abuse, still very much their own band. Oh, and two acoustic laments. One with a string section. This isn't one of them.

Projekt A-Ko - Supertriste Duxelle

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More opportunities to do our work for us

You might have gleaned some of this from our Twitters in the last couple of days, but here's the full jig: for our other outlet we're putting together a round table-style interview with the organisers of five or six successful, established mid-level festivals (ie not the Eavises or Melvin Benn but festivals you'll definitely know about) on how you actually go about running one in terms of organisation, man-management, the mechanics of getting the thing running smoothly etc. So, within logical reason, what would you ask given the opportunity? Mail, comments, message, you know the drill.

A history of violence

David Cronenberg's Wife are one of those bands who creep up on you stealthily. From behind. After dark. With a dirty great bloodied knife. Probably. Somewhere akin to The Fall, the Birthday Party and some really macabre, dark yet sardonic early 20th century Russian poet, their album of last year Bluebeard's Rooms was a psychedelic headfuck of evil hearted anti-pop. That thread continues onto their digital EP out on May 25th, from which this, not unlike a less clattering version of old STN favourites Gindrinker*, is the title track.**

David Cronenberg's Wife - The Fight Song

* Where are they, anyway? Although we saw them in September, there's been no news updates from them since the single last March.
** We think we're allowed to post this - let us know if that's not the case, Blang.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Satellite of love

Thanks for the responses. Nice to feel loved on demand.

So yeah, AudioGalaxy, it's not just us who experienced it, and this is just a fairly basic tribute to pre-broadband times past that's been playing on our mind. For the uninitiated, which there will be as it shut down nearly seven years ago, Audiogalaxy was one of the first proper peer to peer mp3 exchanges, except whereas Napster established the field in its use of little or no centralised output, Audiogalaxy thought that sort of thing was too much like hard work.

The difference between the standalone software of Napster, and indeed pretty much all other p2p programs (Kazaa? Does anyone in the world still use that, notorious adware issues notwithstanding?), and Audiogalaxy's was that the shared files were reachable only via browser searching and put in a queue, but whereas you can queue on other clients AG ran via a Web based 'satellite', which meant you could go onto the site first, run up a pile of as many tracks as you wanted even if there were no sharers at the time, only then stick the satellite on and leave it to its own devices. Not until Spotify playlists have you since been able to create always-on lists, meaning you ideally didn't have to keep going back just in case it was there that time as the searcher would find it for you if so. There was plenty else of specific interest too - auto-resume, ease of installation (we were able to run it briefly from our work computer) and an attempt at a sense of community - chat rooms, artist specific message boards and commissioned pieces promoting favourite artists and records (here's Will Sheff, supplementing a tyro Okkervil River, on In The Aeroplane Over The Sea) Eventually the RIAA struck, rather too easily, and overnight the satellite was closed down with the basic structure folded into legal site Rhapsody.

(Disclaimer: obviously, everything we downloaded from AudioGalaxy we later bought legally. OK.)

AudioGalaxy was an example of something which lurked away in the background of the higher profile systems, the Limewires and Groksters, knowing for content and reach it had a business plan, borne of a basic love of music and desire not to let people be swayed by the nu-metal hordes of 2001, few could match. And as the downloading carousel rolls round again post-Pirate Bay verdict, it's interesting to note that those still at large, whether fairly soulless torrent sites or straight up and down p2ps, don't offer that any more. We wonder... where did Spotify's creators get their inspiration from?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Nothing like finding out how many Google Reader subscribers you have to kick you back into regular action.

Did anyone reading use AudioGalaxy in its P2P days? There's a reason why we ask, which we'll come back to.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Weekly Sweep

  • A Classic Education - Best Regards [Myspace]
  • Au Revoir Simone - Shadows [live YouTube]
  • Brakes - Don't Take Me To Space (Man) [YouTube]
  • Broken Records - Until The Earth Begins To Part [Myspace]
  • Camera Obscura - Away With Murder
  • The Chapman Family - The Kids Are Not Alright [live YouTube]
  • Das Wanderlust - I Wish I Was A Robot [Myspace]
  • Ebony Bones - The Muzik [YouTube]
  • Future Of The Left - Arming Eritrea [Myspace]
  • The Heavy - Oh No! Not You Again! [Myspace]
  • Jeffrey Lewis And The Junkyard - Roll Bus Roll [live YouTube]
  • Lord Cut-Glass - Even Jesus Couldn't Love You [mp3 on The Pop Cop] (The new identity/incarnation of the Delgados' Alun Woodward; album out 22nd June)
  • Lucky Soul - Whoa Billy! [Myspace]
  • Meursault - William Henry Miller Pt. 1 [Myspace] (Edinburgh's multidisciplined wonders have a new EP, Nothing Broke, on the way)
  • Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson - Buriedfed [YouTube] (Another full name user - middle names are the new 'and the', you'll see - Robinson is mates with Grizzly Bear and TV On The Radio, and they tend to choose carefully)
  • The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Young Adult Friction [Myspace]
  • Polka Party - Understanding Jessica [Myspace]
  • Rose Elinor Dougall - Start/Stop/Synchro [Myspace]
  • Sky Larkin - Antibodies [Vimeo]
  • We Were Promised Jetpacks - Quiet Little Voices [Myspace]

    In response to the many emails, comments and messages about where we've been for the last week... actually, there were none. We think we understand. Anyway, this is what we thought of My Maudlin Career, and you might want to dig around on there as we've covered the Wave Pictures and Brakes for TLOBF in the last week too.
  • Saturday, April 18, 2009

    The Weekly Sweep

  • A Classic Education - Best Regards [Myspace] <(As an apology for not responding to the label's email for two weeks - big backlog, sorry, and the same to plenty of other good people, Grace from Magpie Wedding (it's welcomed, thanks) and Simon from Ace Bushy Striptease (got them, cheers) for instance - we should mention this is out on fine looking 7" via Bailiwick Records, the same people that put out the Gossamer Albatross single at the end of last year, on 27th April)
  • Arthur & Martha - Music For Hairproducts [Myspace]
  • Au Revoir Simone - Shadows [live YouTube]
  • Brakes - Don't Take Me To Space (Man) [YouTube]
  • Camera Obscura - French Navy [YouTube]
  • Cats on Fire - Tears In Your Cup [YouTube]
  • The Chapman Family - The Kids Are Not Alright [live YouTube]
  • Charlotte Hatherley - White (Just to annoy you, the now flame-haired, now Bat For Lashes sidewoman's sometime in the future first single off a new album leaked onto the net this last week and was fairly quickly drained off. It's pretty darn good, anyway)
  • Dananananaykroyd - 1993 [Myspace]
  • Future Of The Left - Arming Eritrea [Myspace] (First taste, and a massively exciting one, of their May-come second album)
  • God Help The Girl - Come Monday Night [Myspace]
  • Grizzly Bear - Cheerleader [mp3 from official site]
  • Internet Forever - Cover The Walls [Myspace]
  • Jeffrey Lewis And The Junkyard - Roll Bus Roll [live YouTube]
  • Kill It Kid - Send Me An Angel Down [Myspace]
  • Lucky Soul - Whoa Billy! [Myspace]
  • Mumford And Sons - The Cave [Myspace]
  • Pulled Apart By Horses - E = MC Hammer [Myspace]
  • Rose Elinor Dougall - Start/Stop/Synchro [Myspace]
  • Sky Larkin - Antibodies [Vimeo]
  • Friday, April 17, 2009

    Drift would

    Reposting something from an email. That always works when we're too tired to come up with a better idea for ourselves.

    But no, this is good, and relevant to STN life as it involves one of our finest underrated independent labels Drift Records, which also exists in shop form. To tie in with Record Store Day, the label is offering 3 For £10 on its eight strong album back catalogue, or the lot for £25.

    If physical exertion's your thing and you're near Pure Groove in Farringdon, London tomorrow, meanwhile, they're putting on a day of instores featuring Graham Coxon, Patrick Wolf and Dan Michaelson. Other independent stores may well be doing their own things, check local press for details.

    Wednesday, April 15, 2009

    An Illustrated Guide To... The Specials

    Back last September the musical man of stone Noel Gallagher decided to make a list for Oasis' blog of his ten favourite bands ever, like a fourteen year old might. Once he'd got his ground rules out of the way - "No solo artists allowed. No female artists allowed. No collectives allowed" - the list was, Bee Gees aside, wearyingly predictable Beatles/Stones/Who/Pistols/La's/Kinks stuff. Plus, the Specials. And that's the position you'd be forgiven for thinking the Specials take up now, with their reunion tour a week away - the token music of black origin in a lad's list of their favourite Mojo bands, the one to show that music you dance to isn't just for girls, just as long as it's something where you have to dress up and look right. That they're Tim Lovejoy's favourite band ever reinforces it.

    This, you suspect, is something that passes through Jerry Dammers' mind often, much as the band have taken a unique place in the nation's hearts. As artists like No Doubt and Rancid paid his band lip service, as members showed up doing the songs he oversaw in various permutations, as his experiments in taking their sound in different directions got respectfully passed over by history, he must have sucked a thoughtful tooth at how the implications of the style he'd taken on and wormed into the mainstream and its own subculture using the DIY door opening punk suggested had got lost in transit. With the recent to-ing and fro-ing over this reunion, perhaps it's time to attempt a more dispassionate discourse on what exactly happened here.

    Dammers, born in the Tamil area of India in 1955, got into music after seeing the Who perform My Generation on Top Of The Pops and flirted with various youth subcultures in his youth before discovering reggae through skinhead affiliations in the early 1970s. He ended up studying art at what is now Coventry University and joined a local soul band, alongside which he recorded funkier demos with college friends Horace Panter (later known as Sir Horace Gentleman) and Neol Davies. Eventually he formed a full scale band, the Coventry Automatics, with which to see through his reggae and funk-inflected vision with Panter on bass, Davies on drums and friend of a friend guitarist Lynval Golding, plus drummer Silverton Hutchinson and a singer called Tim Strickland who tenure was short. Davies also left early, to be replaced by local musician Roddy 'Radiation' Byers (whom Dammers had unwittingly previously briefly been in a band with), while Byers' friend, the 17 year old singer of punks The Squad, was brought in as frontman.

    Five years Dammers' junior and given to bouts of stage fright, Terry Hall had been given his musical awakening by the Sex Pistols and marked himself out as a frontman with his skill at putting down audience troublemakers. Dammers also says he was encouraged to start writing his own material by the Pistols, and both have cited the very essence of Coventry as inspiration. Bombed by the Luftwaffe, it was rebuilt as a paen to post-war architectural principles of tower blocks and endless concrete, which in a way befitted its manufacturing base - the city was targeted due to its high concentration of Allied armaments and munitions factories, and many of its historical buildings were unretainable afterwards. In the 1970s the other power base of the motoring industry was declining rapidly and the city suffered high unemployment and factory closures.

    The Coventry Automatics were very much the initial crystallisation of Dammers' vision, recording demos and booking gigs. One early gig at Coventry's soul club the Locarno drew the support of house DJ Pete Waterman, who offered the band some gigs in London and a small amount of studio time, which came to nothing. He also put them into contact with Jamaican emigrant Neville Staple, leader of the in-house dance troupe Neville And The Boys who graduated to becoming the band's roadie. Resisting Waterman's managerial overtures, Dammers instead hooked up with Clash manager Bernie Rhodes. Joe Strummer had seen the band, who at around this time had renamed themselves The Special AKA The Coventry Automatics (and later just The Special AKA), at a gig and became a fan; Dammers' insistence got the band a support slot on the Clash's 1978 On Parole tour alongside Suicide. During a gig at London's Music Machine Staple, in the style of the sound system toasters he loved, plugged himself into the sound desk at a London gig and toasted over the music. Keen on his input Dammers invited him on board, later claiming that, as well as an NF-disrupted gig in Bracknell, this was the making of the Specials concept, finding a path between skinhead culture in the age of the rise of the far right and the Studio One influences. As a result the music began edging away from pure reggae and towards the faster, looser, form of ska, which was starting to come back into fashion after a couple of decades of neglect in the wake of reggae's golden age, and also a nod to the mod revival that was imminent. Original ska was a lot more laid back and far less angry while still as infectiously aimed at the dancing feet, with more percussion and larger horn sections with less utilisation of guitar. To complete the look Dammers suggested the band pick up a unified suit wearing image.

    Rhodes booking the band a gig in Paris proved to be another turning point. Rhodes abandoned the band at Dover and most of the band ended up hitching rides as the van provided only fitted two members in. On arrival the hotel management complained the last English band to stay there, The Damned, had smashed the place up and took the band's guitars in damages. The manager of the club managed to get the equipment back with the aid of a gun. The Specials parted ways with Rhodes after that. Drummer Hutchinson also left in protest at the shift into ska and was repalced by Dammers' flatmate John Bradbury.

    Dammers got a song out of the incident, as well as experience of other music business sharks, and once the band had scraped £700 for a day's recording together it was that they recorded. Gangsters borrowed from Prince Buster's Al Capone, referenced various stories ("can't interrupt while I'm talking/Or they'll confiscate all your guitars") and sounded like little else, Hall's post-punk monotone delivery contrasted with the insistent skank. John Peel was an instant fan. The B-side, The Selecter, was a 1977 demo recorded by Bradbury and Neol Davies resorted to when the band realised they couldn't finance any further studio time. Most of their money had already gone into pressing the 7" on their own label. Inspired by the punk label DIY ethics which brought about everyone from Rough Trade to New Hormones (the label that released the Buzzcocks' Spiral Scratch EP), Dammers named the label 2 Tone, with its own distinctive black and white checked motif and mascot Walt Jabsco, a rude boy figure based on a photo of Peter Tosh.

    Meanwhile the live reputation rapidly flowered, and with the aid of a deal with Chrysalis they took off at speed. They arrived fully formed - a fresh sound by a multiracial collective full of character, politically motivated with a love of music, label and band image in place, live set kinetic. Gangsters hit the top 40 in August 1979 and went on to peak at number 6.


    Things moved at lightning speed. Elvis Costello, a big fan who reputedly gave Gangsters its first Radio 1 play, was hired to produce the album and found a band already strained by rapid turnover and egos, Costello attempting to get Byers sacked at one stage. UK based ska and reggae trombonist veteran Rico Rodriguez, who had been in the Skatalites, was brought in and was given The Specials (as they now were) Featuring Rico billing on the next single, a cover of Dandy Livingstone's A Message To You Rudy, which made number ten (Rico had played on the original). The self titled debut album followed in November 1979, entered at number 4 and didn't leave the top 40 until the following May. It even breached the Billboard top 100.

    While the album at heart captured the energy of the live show, a technique Costello learnt from the similar whack it down on tape approach of his own producer of the time Nick Lowe, the songs could only have come from products of a specific club scene in a run down inner city. Funny and lively but also paranoid and socially conscious, it captured a moment when people wanted to dance but felt under the cosh of the winter of discontent followed by the early flutterings of Thatcherism. Ideologically as much as musically, it was at once of the zeitgeist and right outside everyone else's. The background knowledge meant they could get away with so many covers and reinterpretations - A Message to You Rudy plus Toots & the Maytals' Monkey Man, the Skatalites' You're Wondering Now, Prince Buster's Too Hot, plus elements of Lloyd Charmers' Birth Control in Too Much Too Young and Rufus Thomas' Can Your Monkey Do The Dog? in Do The Dog - as they seemed to fit seamlessly into this tapestry of street violence, sexual unawakening - Hall once said Too Much Too Young was as much sex education for him as for the audience - and no future.

    Nite Klub

    Dammers' vision was for 2-Tone as an all encompassing byline for kindred spirits, a kind of Midlands Motown. One such fellow traveller was found in London when the Specials played the Hope & Anchor pub in Islington and stayed overnight at the house of the singer from another punk-reared ska band who had made that venue their own; Madness' The Prince was the second release on the label, reaching number 16 in August 1979. That was followed in October by On My Radio by The Selecter, Neol Davies having taken the name of his song and applied it to a group of local reggae musicians plus a singer, Pauline Black, recommended by Lynval Golding. Meanwhile The Beat, a "punky reggae" multiracial outfit (saxophonist Saxa had played with Prince Buster, Laurel Aitken and Desmond Dekker) who were gaining support in Birmingham - John Peel was so taken by them when they played at a gig he was DJing that he arranged to swap his much larger fee for theirs - were picked up on by Dammers and their cover of Tears Of A Clown crept into the top ten at the start of 1980. Both Madness and the Beat left after one single - the latter set up their own 2-Tone styled imprint, Go-Feet - but not after Madness, along with The Selecter, had supported the bosses on the 2-Tone Tour. On November 7th all three appeared on Top Of The Pops; the gigs were chaotic on and off stage. The look meanwhile caught on, a mix of 60s rude boy, mod revival and skinhead culture, some mix of pork pie hat, second hand black suit, tapered trousers, Harrington coat, skinny black tie, Fred Perry/Ben Sherman shirt and Dr Martens.

    Disliking how the studio take had captured Too Much Too Young, the band packaged the third length, much quicker live version as part of The Special AKA Live! EP, along with covers of Guns Of Navarone, The Liquidator, Longshot Kick De Bucket and Skinhead Moonstomp, recorded at The Lyceum in London and Tiffanys in Coventry. There was some criticism of their originality, but most discontent was silenced when it spent two weeks of February 1980 at number one. Ironically, it was this very lauded live incarnation that was starting to pull the band apart. Six weeks in America, some supporting the Police, exhausted the band, not least when they were booked for four nights at the LA Whisky-A-Go-Go, two shows a night. And this was while 2-Tone was in operation: an attempt to put out an Elvis Costello single was aborted but The Selecter put out two singles and an album and brought The Bodysnatchers' Let's Do Rock Steady to the label. The next Specials single, a one-off in May 1980, was Rat Race, a Roddy Radiation critique of university hive mentality that reached number 5. By the time they toured seaside resorts in mid-1980 Dammers and Byers were at the end of their respective tethers with each other.

    And it was in that frame of mind that the band returned to the studio to record More Specials. Dammers had decided to largely turn his back on the ska-punk explosion and investigate more mournful styles, as well as a growing interest in what would become known as lounge music and easy listening. Elsewhere things veer from dub to fairground organs to exotic jazz, while the lyrical content is actively, fascinatingly fatalistic, dealing with loneliness, ennui, nuclear paranoia, slumming below your status, dead end lives and loves, where even the outwardly chirpy Pearl's Cafe has a chorus which concludes "It's all a load of bollocks/And bollocks to it all". One can only wonder what guests the Go-Gos, who provided backing vocals, Rhoda Dakar of the Bodysnatchers and Lee Thompson of Madness made of it all.

    Man At C&A

    The album still made number 5, while the singles Stereotype and Do Nothing (credited to Specials Featuring Rico With The Ice Rink String Sounds - oh, Jerry) reached 6 and 4 respectively. Meanwhile the live exultations were getting out of control, and Hall and Dammers were arrested and eventually fined £400 after a riot between audience and bouncers in Cambridge. Dance Craze, a documentary film released in February 1981, documented the live release as well as footage of Madness, The Selecter, The Bodysnatchers, The Beat and non-2-Tone kindred spirits Bad Manners, but nobody involved was really interested, not even Dammers, who'd commissioned it. "What started out as a big party ended up like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" Byers would later comment.

    The Specials essentially had one throw of the dice left. Ghost Town was inspired by Dammers seeing urban degredation and closure while on tour and as a reaction to Thatcherite policies towards unemployment in industrialised areas, but hardly anybody was playing ball in the studio, although the B-sides were left to others, Why? by Golding about a racist attack he'd suffered circa Rat Race and Friday Night Saturday Morning Hall's own caustic view of the clubbing process. The result, based on Latin and Eastern scales with filmic horns and dub paranoia, was an almost unique sound, and when Toxteth, Handsworth, Southall and Brixton among others went up in flames literally the week before it hit number one on 11th July 1981, staying three weeks and selling a million, its fate was sealed as the spirit of the moment captured.

    Friday Night, Saturday Morning (Ghost Town B-side)

    So was the Specials' fate sealed. Booked for Top Of The Pops that week, Staple announced to Dammers that he, Hall and Golding were leaving. The latter later admitted "we couldn't even stay in the same dressing room. We couldn't even look at each other. We stopped communicating. You only realise what a genius Jerry was years later. At the time, we were on a different planet." Byers unsurprisingly followed suit shortly afterwards. 2-Tone meanwhile suffered too, releasing records by Rico Rodriguez and easy listening outfit The Swinging Cats to diminishing returns, as with later signings Leicester soul collective The Apollinaires, Norwich punk-funks The Higsons and Scarborough soul-jazzers The Friday Club.

    Dammers attempted to continue with a new line-up as The Special AKA and recorded In The Studio, where he and Bradbury were joined by more local musicians plus singers Stan Campbell and Rhoda Dakar, the latter of whom contributed early 1982 single The Boiler, previously discussed at greater length - Dammers has called it "the only record that was ever made quite deliberately to be listened to once and once only".

    The Boiler

    It reached number 35, but unsurprisingly despite several attempts of varying commentary status - Jungle Music, Beirut screed War Crimes (The Crime Is Still The Same), Racist Friend, What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend (with Dammers on lead vocal) - the record buyers only trusted them enough for one more top 40 single. It could well be the song that most outlives them, however; Free Nelson Mandela, featuring Elvis Costello and with Golding back on backing vocals alongside the Beat's Ranking Roger and Dave Wakeling and future Soul II Soul singer Caron Wheeler, drew on South African musical traditions and reached number 9 in April 1984, raising a global consciousness that lasted to, and perhaps beyond, his 1990 release.

    Shortly afterwards Dammers got more involved in activism than music and Chrysalis pulled the plug on 2-Tone. Dammers helped bring about 1988's Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute, worked for Red Wedge, contributed to the sole album by The Madness and after several years' activism and DJing formed the experimental jazz conglomerate The Spatial AKA Orchestra. Hall, Golding and Staple released two albums as the Fun Boy Three, landing three top ten singles. Hall went on to work through The Colourfield, Vegas, Terry Blair & Anouchka, two solo albums and collaborations with the Dub Pistols and Mushtaq of Fun-Da-Mental. Staple got into management, Golding DJing and production. Panter joined Ranking Roger and Dave Wakeling in General Public. Bradbury formed reggae big band JB's Allstars, which had the honour of 2-Tone's last single. Byers put out singles with The Tearjerkers and The Bonediggers and is currently leading The Skabilly Rebels. Golding, Staple, Byers and Panter reformed as The Specials in the early 90s and recorded a covers album, Today's Specials, followed by three sets of new songs to little notice. Staple, Golding, Panter, Byers and Bradbury have all at one time or another played with Special Beat, a touring covers band with members of, well, The Beat. By some accounts all former parties met up for the first time in 2004; businessman Simon Jordan made a public attempt to bankroll a tour in 2006; Hall and Golding teamed up on stage for the first time since 1983's Fun Boy Three dissolution at the behest of Lily Allen at Glastonbury in 2007. And next week, six of the seven start a reunion tour next week that may well end in new material, although they all say that. The floors had better be reinforced.

    Tuesday, April 14, 2009

    The cost of living

    One day we'll have all our bright ideas simultaneously, but after the piece about festival disillusionment we got to thinking about how much festivals charge across the board and whether it really represents inflation in interest and value for money. Here, then, is a good cross-section of twenty popular weekends out with how much one non-early bird weekend adult camping ticket cost three years ago and now:

    Festival2006 price
    2009 price
    Reading & Leeds
    T In The Park
    V Festival
    All Tomorrow's Parties
    Big Chill
    Isle Of Wight
    Secret Garden Party
    Green Man
    End Of The Road
    Summer Sundae
    Beautiful Days
    Belladrum Tartan Heart

    * No Glastonbury in 2006, 2005 price taken
    ** Increased from two to three days
    *** Camber Sands 2006, Minehead 2009

    Plenty of things to say here, of which these stick out:

    - If we assume Glastonbury '06 would have been £135 (it was £145 in '07), then Reading & Leeds seems to be deliberately keeping up with the Eavises on price, despite the fact that as every piece about Pilton Farm culture will reinforce Glastonbury is about far more than music, man, whereas modern Reading is designed with music and moreover headliners in mind, with a fraction available of what makes Glastonbury the standout event it is. Is it oneupmanship? If you're paying £175, plus booking fee etc., you'd expect more than standing somewhere at the back of several thousand people with a jumbotron and favourable wind conditions your best hope. Benn has argued that with the weakness of the pound against the dollar those international acts won't pay for themselves. On the other hand, that means Kings Of Leon again.

    - We know why, outside the really big festivals, a lot of this happens - organisational cost inflation, the desire to be bigger and better every year, spurred on by your financially afflicted punters, and not helped by the figures booking agents can charge. We heard some figures for last year regarding mid to high ranking guitar bands whose commercial best is plainly behind them and you'd wonder how they ever get any gigs during the summer. And then there's security and police charges, and again that's akin to presenting them with an open chequebook. To be less fair, Vince Power's Hop Farm festival is £125 in this debut year proper. For two days.

    - Festival culture and its relationship to our beloved class system has itself changed, and this post-Skins idea of a lads' awayday to watch The Killers and whoever Annie Mac was on about last week as opposed to somewhere for the 'proper' music fan is now seeping through to the lower ranked - oh, alright, boutique - events. You can take those people quite easily for a ride. Despite everything Reading weekend tickets sold out in two days this year, so Festival Republic know there's a keen audience they can exploit by charging that much, reducing the camping area and booking Jamie T as second stage headliner.

    - Latitude is properly eyecatching with its £55 increase, but remember that 2006 was the first event, and you can't really envisage that Melvin Benn and co would know how it would evolve and whether it'd catch on at first - that concept of an arts and culture festival in which music is central but not the big catch in terms of how high profile the people it could attract is hadn't been done before. Along similar if less highfalutin lines is Wakestock, which has put prices up by £50 but does seem to have turned from wakeboarding event with music sideline to big ambitious music festival (N*E*R*D, Moby and Dizzee Rascal are headliners this year) with an extra bit of wakeboarding gratis.

    - On the other hand, what's Secret Garden Party's excuse? For a few years now it's sold itself as festival season's best kept secret, priding itself on its sculptured gardens, bizarre events and attractions and at its core an almost DIY element of putting on unique stuff, having people in costumes de rigeur etc in a chilled setting. Yet it's increased its price by £47 over three years and is as a result nearly as much as Bestival, another festival that goes big on fancy dress and oddity, with a sixth of the capacity and nowhere near the artist pulling power or publicity.

    - Jo Bartlett, Danny Hagan and Fiona Stewart, take your respective bows. These three co-organise Green Man, which has over the last few years completely musically repositioned itself, liberally sprinkling the folk core with more outre offerings plus cultural add-ons. It's also physically repositioned itself and increased capacity. The net result on full weekend ticket prices, a figure we've double and triple checked just in case? £17 up. That's less than Reading & Leeds or Latitude just this year. End Of The Road, meanwhile, had early bird tickets for this year at £90, less than their 2006 debut.

    - You don't even want to get into day tickets...

    Sunday, April 12, 2009

    Performing rights

    This first public holiday of the year proper reminded us that we've not done a radio check for a while, and just gone three months into the new year is as good a time as any. For those joining late this is where we copy and paste, in this case, the three month artist and song scrobble charts up to Friday 10th April from the accounts of assorted leading national music radio stations to adjudicate what's popular with the kids on the M6 and groups of lads in factories that text Jo Whiley and equivalents these days.

    BBC Radio 1
    1 Kings of Leon 259
    2 The Killers 209
    3 Beyoncé 197
    4 Lady GaGa 184
    5 Take That 177
    6 Prodigy 175
    6 Katy Perry 175
    8 Franz Ferdinand 174
    9 Kelly Clarkson 165
    10 Tinchy Stryder 162
    11 Alesha Dixon 158
    12 MGMT 155
    13 Pink 154
    14 U2 153
    15 The All-American Rejects 149
    16 White Lies 148
    17 The Saturdays 144
    18 Flo Rida 136
    19 N-Dubz 131
    20 Noisettes 125
    20 September 125
    22 Coldplay 124
    23 Just Jack 120
    24 Snow Patrol 119
    25 Calvin Harris 109
    25 The Enemy 109
    27 Lily Allen 108
    28 Jason Mraz 107
    29 Friendly Fires 106
    29 Metro Station 106

    The Prodigy's elevated position here is interesting - while they still attracted interest, especially as it was off the back of a long break, there was a feeling then that they were played out as a potential commercial force outside the dance hardcore. Yet here they are, back to Keith and Maxim shouting and getting no end of airplay. The most glaring entry there, and even more so in the song list, is the All-American Rejects, all but one play of which is for Gives You Hell, which for a song that peaked at number 18 by a band currently averaging one top 40 entry every three years is a surprise to say the least. Does it feel to anyone else that Jason Mraz has been subject to frenzied launch attempts for most of this decade?

    1 Tinchy Stryder – Take Me Back 153
    2 The All-American Rejects – Gives You Hell 148
    3 Kings of Leon – Revelry 142
    4 Alesha Dixon – Breathe Slow 141
    5 Prodigy – Omen 138
    6 Kelly Clarkson – My Life Would Suck Without You 127
    7 Beyoncé – Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) 124
    8 N-Dubz – Strong Again 123
    9 U2 – Get on Your Boots 122
    10 MGMT – Time to Pretend 121
    11 The Killers – Spaceman 120
    12 Noisettes – Don't Upset the Rhythm 119
    13 Flo Rida – Right Round 117
    14 Just Jack – Embers 116
    15 Take That – Up All Night 112
    16 September – Can't Get Over 109
    17 White Lies – Farewell to the Fairground 108
    18 Calvin Harris – I'm Not Alone 107
    19 Pink – Sober 105
    20 Metro Station – Shake It 104
    21 The Enemy – No Time For Tears 92
    22 Taylor Swift – Love Story 88
    23 Snow Patrol – If There's a Rocket Tie Me to It 87
    23 Chipmunk – Chip Diddy Chip 87
    23 Shontelle – T-Shirt 87
    26 Chase & Status / Kano – Against All Odds 86
    27 Friendly Fires – Skeleton Boy 84
    27 Jason Mraz – I'm Yours 84
    29 Katy Perry – Hot n Cold 82
    29 Britney Spears – Circus 82

    Imagine being Kano. Seeing which way things are heading with Roll Deep having a top ten single and with your own MOBO and Brit success, you make This Is The Girl with Craig David, a see through attempt at populism, and it doesn't get far. You then watch, relegating yourself to the commercial sidelines, as many contemporaries - Dizzee, Wiley, that sort - take the money and run further. Can things get any more insulting? Well, protege Tinchy Stryder could go and have a big hit and become the new youth poster boy. Your last throw of the dice is to leap aboard the watered down D'n'B set, at which you're criticised for, erm, chancing your commercial arm. Tinchy, N-Dubz and Chipmunk? A subset of urban music that appears to be aimed at nobody over 18? Is this your fault, Grimshaw?

    BBC Radio 2
    1 U2 143
    2 Take That 140
    3 Pet Shop Boys 137
    4 Lily Allen 126
    5 Fleet Foxes 113
    6 Morrissey 101
    7 Coldplay 99
    8 Taylor Swift 96
    9 Annie Lennox 94
    10 The Beatles 89
    11 Tony Christie 87
    12 Jon Allen 82
    12 Empire of the Sun 82
    14 The Killers 80
    15 Tom Jones 77
    15 Keane 77
    15 Sugarland 77
    15 Imelda May 77
    19 Lionel Richie 75
    20 James Taylor 73
    21 David Bowie 71
    21 Paul Carrack 71
    21 Lunik 71
    24 The Script 67
    25 Daniel Merriweather 66
    25 Seal 66
    27 Alain Clark 65
    28 The Rolling Stones 64
    29 Doves 63
    30 Stevie Wonder 62

    Sharing 39th place with 54 plays are Bruce Springsteen and 'Bruce Springsteen / The E Street Band'. There you see laid out the perils of flexible backing band credits. At the risk of getting another admonishing email from someone's management we had never heard of Sugarland (Nashville country duo), Lunik (Swiss (!) female fronted AOR) or Jon Allen (Winchester post-Bluntisms from a Land Rover advert), but they all sound more like DJs or 1Xtra artists.

    1 Take That – Up All Night 119
    2 Pet Shop Boys – Love etc. 108
    3 Lily Allen – The Fear 100
    4 Taylor Swift – Love Story 94
    5 Annie Lennox – Shining Light 89
    5 Morrissey – I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris 89
    7 Jon Allen – In Your Light 82
    8 U2 – Get on Your Boots 80
    9 Sugarland – All I Want To Do 77
    10 Tony Christie – Every Word She Said 74
    11 Lunik – Everybody Knows 71
    12 Fleet Foxes – Mykonos 70
    12 Empire of the Sun – Walking on a Dream 70
    14 Daniel Merriweather – Daniel Merriweather - Change 66
    15 The Script – Talk You Down 63
    16 Coldplay – Life in Technicolor II 60
    16 Doves – Kingdom of Rust 60
    16 Gary Go – Wonderful 60
    19 Alain Clark – Father & Friend 59
    20 Imelda May – Johnny Got A Boom Boom 58
    21 Tom Jones – Give a Little Love 57
    22 Shena – Can't stop the Rain 56
    23 Lionel Richie – Just Go 52
    23 Seal – It's Alright 52
    25 jools holland / louise marshall – I Went By 51
    26 Beyoncé – Halo 50
    26 James Taylor – It's Growing 50
    28 Karima Francis – Again 49
    29 Stone Walters – Trouble 47
    29 The Killers – Spaceman 47

    Hello Mrs Walters, is your Stone about? Taylor Swift there, because every generation needs its own Leann Rimes. Empire Of The Sun's not going to happen, is it? Luke Steele must be getting used to that feeling.

    BBC 6 Music
    1 Franz Ferdinand 198
    2 Morrissey 138
    3 U2 131
    3 Friendly Fires 131
    5 Oasis 127
    5 Doves 127
    7 Kings of Leon 115
    8 Yeah Yeah Yeahs 113
    9 La Roux 111
    10 Animal Collective 109
    11 Bat for Lashes 102
    12 The Maccabees 101
    13 School of Seven Bells 97
    14 White Lies 94
    15 Empire of the Sun 93
    16 hockey 91
    17 Dan Black 89
    18 Fleet Foxes 87
    19 Passion Pit 86
    19 Lily Allen 86
    21 Depeche Mode 85
    22 Jack Peñate 84
    23 Röyksopp 81
    23 Wintersleep 81
    23 David Bowie 81
    26 Super Furry Animals 75
    27 Pet Shop Boys 74
    27 Coldplay 74
    29 Bloc Party 71
    30 The Cure 68

    School of Seven Bells and Wintersleep being up there is a reminder of the station's early days when they'd play the chrome off stuff like Brendan Benson, the Fallout Trust and McKay that nobody else was then touching, plus new stuff by Ian Dury and Joe Strummer. George Lamb would have been attempting to manage the Audio Bullys then. M Ward and Art Brut are in touching distance of this list, as for some reason are Madness. We know they've got this Camden Crawl promotion going on at the moment, but a lot of their plays don't appear to be very recent, and not the new stuff either.

    1 Friendly Fires – Skeleton Boy 127
    2 U2 – Get on Your Boots 107
    3 Animal Collective – My Girls 105
    4 Oasis – Falling Down 99
    5 Bat for Lashes – Daniel 94
    6 hockey – Too Fake 91
    6 Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Zero 91
    8 La Roux – In for the Kill 90
    9 Dan Black – Alone 89
    10 Empire of the Sun – Walking on a Dream 88
    11 Doves – Kingdom of Rust 86
    11 Kings of Leon – Revelry 86
    13 Morrissey – I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris 83
    14 Franz Ferdinand – No You Girls 82
    14 Passion Pit – Sleepyhead 82
    16 Jack Peñate – Tonight's Today 81
    17 School of Seven Bells – Iamundernodisguise 79
    18 Fleet Foxes – Mykonos 77
    19 The Maccabees – No Kind Words 76
    19 Wintersleep – Oblivion 76
    21 Lily Allen – The Fear 74
    22 White Lies – Farewell to the Fairground 68
    22 Röyksopp – Happy Up Here 68
    24 Franz Ferdinand – Ulysses 60
    25 Emiliana Torrini – Jungle Drum 58
    26 Coldplay – Life in Technicolor II 57
    27 The Airborne Toxic Event – Sometime around Midnight 55
    28 Justice / Uffie – Tthhee Ppaarrttyy 52
    28 M. Ward – Never Had Nobody Like You 52
    28 Golden Silvers – True Romance 52

    Is it just us put off a bit Golden Silvers when we realised their singer is a vocal ringer for Joe Lean? No? Alright then. Skeleton Boy being so far ahead is very interesting in that despite Paris' reputation it never took off for them as much as someone like Late Of The Pier, which suggests word of mouth is going around to their ultimate benefit. Well, maybe not ultimate given their first album promotion is drawing to a close.

    BBC 1Xtra
    1 Beyoncé 206
    2 Kanye West 186
    3 Ne-Yo 163
    4 Donae'o 156
    5 serani 142
    6 K.I.G Family 129
    7 DJ Perempay & Dee / Katie Pearl 128
    8 Eminem / Dr Dre / 50 Cent 124
    9 Chipmunk 123
    10 Jazmine Sullivan 120
    11 Elephant Man 119
    11 N-Dubz 119
    13 Attacca Pesante / Shea Soul 117
    14 Akon / Kardinal Offishall / Colby O'Donis 113
    14 Ghetto 113
    16 Shontelle / The Dream 112
    17 Fuzzy Logic / Egypt 105
    18 Young Nate 103
    19 Chase & Status / Kano 102
    20 Jay-Z / Santogold 100
    21 Ryan Leslie / Jadakiss 96
    21 Jamie Foxx / T.I 96
    23 Jay Sean 94
    23 Sway / Akon 94
    23 Ron Brownz / Ludacris / Jim Jones / Juelz Santana 94
    23 T2 / Michelle 94
    27 Tinchy Stryder / Taio Cruz / Sway / ChipMunk 93
    28 Crazy Cousins / Kyla 88
    28 Kid Cudi 88
    28 T.I. / Justin Timberlake 88

    Plus Vanilla Ice with 6 plays and MC Hammer with 5. There's the hot new sound of the urban underground. Blasting off in the area! Banging in your face! Excuse me, Doug E Fresh! Anyway. As well as sounding like the name of a rundown beachfront budget joke goods emporium, Crazy Cousinz are at the forefront of the 'funky' scene, which we see a problem with. See, according to all the specialist press this is supposed to be the UK-centric urban scene that becomes massively popular in a way grime, garage etc never properly managed. And yet to date what has been the best known and most public invocation of the movement?

    Yeah, that's funky's PR issue right there.

    1 serani – No Games 139
    2 DJ Perempay & Dee / Katie Pearl – In The Air 128
    3 K.I.G Family – Heads, Shoulders, Knees & Toes 126
    4 Eminem / Dr Dre / 50 Cent – Crack A Bottle 121
    5 Chipmunk – Chip Diddy Chip 120
    6 Beyoncé – Single Ladies 118
    6 Donae'o – Party Hard 118
    8 Attacca Pesante / Shea Soul – Make It Funky For Me 115
    9 Shontelle / The Dream – T-Shirt (Remix) 112
    10 Akon / Kardinal Offishall / Colby O'Donis – Beautiful 110
    11 Fuzzy Logic / Egypt – In The Morning 102
    12 Chase & Status / Kano – Against All Odds 101
    12 Young Nate – i wonder 101
    14 Ghetto – Sing For Me (Remix) 100
    14 Jay-Z / Santogold – Brooklyn (Go Hard) 100
    16 Elephant Man – sweep 97
    17 Kanye West – Heartless 96
    17 Ryan Leslie / Jadakiss – How It Was Supposed To Be (Remix) 96
    19 Jamie Foxx / T.I – Just Like Me 95
    20 Jazmine Sullivan – Dream Big 94
    20 T2 / Michelle – Come Over 94
    22 Sway / Akon – Silver & Gold 91
    23 Tinchy Stryder / Taio Cruz / Sway / ChipMunk – Take Me Back (Remix) 90
    24 N-Dubz – Strong Again 88
    24 Crazy Cousins / Kyla – Do You Mind (Remix) 88
    26 Ron Brownz / Ludacris / Jim Jones / Juelz Santana – Pop Champagne (Remix) 87
    27 T.I. / Justin Timberlake – Dead & Gone 85
    28 Melanie Fiona – Give It To Me 84
    29 Kid Cudi – Day 'n' Nite (Crookers remix) 83
    30 Jay Sean – Tonight 82

    Last week someone gave a play to Wonderwall. Not Jay-Z's miming, that wouldn't have worked, the actual Wonderwall. Serani is dancehall, by the way. Yeah, a new Sean Paul, we were crying out for one of those.

    1 Kings of Leon 572
    2 The Killers 535
    3 U2 485
    4 Coldplay 461
    5 MGMT 430
    6 Snow Patrol 366
    7 Oasis 316
    8 Bruce Springsteen 289
    9 Lily Allen 284
    10 Queen 276
    11 Elbow 275
    12 White Lies 271
    13 R.E.M. 238
    14 The Rolling Stones 236
    15 Keane 230
    16 Stereophonics 212
    17 David Bowie 208
    18 Razorlight 203
    19 The Beatles 201
    20 James Morrison 194
    21 Bon Jovi 190
    21 The Police 190
    23 Blur 183
    24 Doves 177
    25 Red Hot Chili Peppers 170
    26 Kaiser Chiefs 164
    27 Fleet Foxes 159
    28 Simple Minds 158
    29 Foo Fighters 157
    30 The Cure 145

    1 MGMT – Kids 315
    2 Lily Allen – The Fear 280
    3 Kings of Leon – Use Somebody 274
    4 Coldplay – Life in Technicolor II 259
    5 Snow Patrol – Crack the Shutters 243
    6 The Killers – Spaceman 219
    7 White Lies – To Lose My Life 217
    8 Elbow – One Day Like This 215
    9 The Killers – Human 205
    10 James Morrison – Broken Strings 194
    11 Doves – Kingdon Of Rust 165
    12 Fleet Foxes – Mykonos 149
    13 Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire 144
    14 Bruce Springsteen – Working on a Dream 141
    15 Kings of Leon – Revelry 133
    16 Keane – Better Than This 132
    17 Oasis – Falling Down 130
    18 U2 – Magnificent 128
    19 U2 – Get on Your Boots 124
    20 Coldplay – Viva la Vida 115
    21 MGMT – Time to Pretend 114
    22 Florence and The Machine – Dog Days Are Over 90
    23 Franz Ferdinand – No You Girls 88
    24 The Script – Talk You Down 82
    25 Pet Shop Boys – Love etc 79
    26 The All-American Rejects – Gives You Hell 77
    26 Razorlight – Hostage of Love 77
    28 The Fray – You Found Me 74
    29 Elbow – Grounds for Divorce 57
    30 Foo Fighters – Long Road to Ruin 49

    We think we could have put most of those together without looking, to be honest. Which we wouldn't have done had we extended the latter list to a top 50 to take in two AC/DC songs and, surely being used as some DJs' bed music, Tubular Bells.

    1 Kings of Leon 778
    2 White Lies 688
    3 The Killers 652
    4 MGMT 640
    5 Franz Ferdinand 576
    6 Lily Allen 517
    7 Coldplay 457
    8 Doves 448
    9 Oasis 447
    9 Fleet Foxes 447
    11 The View 401
    12 Bloc Party 382
    13 The Enemy 378
    14 Maxïmo Park 376
    15 Kasabian 374
    16 The All-American Rejects 366
    17 The Rifles 360
    17 Razorlight 360
    19 Ladyhawke 354
    20 Yeah Yeah Yeahs 346
    21 The Ting Tings 340
    22 The White Stripes 338
    23 Editors 332
    24 Muse 326
    25 Glasvegas 325
    26 Prodigy 311
    27 Friendly Fires 309
    28 Florence and The Machine 308
    29 The Wombats 307
    30 Passion Pit 295
    31 The Virgins 294

    Bad luck, Laura Branigan. We've extended this by one because The Virgins, like The King Blues, are one of those bands who seem to be getting acres of press by subterfuge. Do they sell out large venues? Not really. Are the specialist outlets mad on them? Not really, bar the King Blues' recent Kerrang cover. Is it an underground following? Definitely not. They just seem to have arrived fully formed and coming for your 17 year old with, in the Virgins' case, their sound of indie disco 2004.

    1 Lily Allen – The Fear 458
    2 Doves – Kingdon Of Rust 426
    3 Coldplay – Life in Technicolor II 394
    4 The Killers – Spaceman 386
    5 Franz Ferdinand – No You Girls 373
    6 White Lies – To Lose My Life 366
    7 The All-American Rejects – Gives You Hell 365
    8 Oasis – Falling Down 353
    9 MGMT – Kids 335
    10 Kings of Leon – Use Somebody 321
    11 Ladyhawke – Paris Is Burning 315
    12 Glasvegas – Flowers and Football Tops 310
    13 Friendly Fires – Skeleton Boy 309
    14 MGMT – Time to Pretend 303
    15 Prodigy – Omen 298
    16 The View – Shock Horror 286
    17 Florence and The Machine – Dog Days Are Over 277
    18 Röyksopp – Happy Up Here 270
    19 hockey – Too Fake 261
    20 The Ting Tings – We Walk 254
    21 The Wombats – Circuitboard city 249
    22 Passion Pit – Sleepyhead 246
    23 Fleet Foxes – Mykannos 245
    23 White Lies – Farewell to the Fairground 245
    25 Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Zero 243
    26 Kings of Leon – Revelry 241
    27 The Parlor Mob – Hard time 240
    28 Peter Doherty – Last of the English Roses 238
    29 The Enemy – No Time For Tears 232
    30 Empire of the Sun – Walking on a Dream 200

    Another artist we drew a blank on here, The Parlor Mob. That's what Google is for, of course, so we learn they're a classic rock outfit from New Jersey, the Black Crowes to the Gaslight Anthem's Springsteen. Every half-generation needs its Jet, we suppose.

    Saturday, April 11, 2009

    The Weekly Sweep

  • A Classic Education - Best Regards [Myspace]
  • And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead - Isis Unveiled [YouTube]
  • Au Revoir Simone - Shadows
  • Bombay Bicycle Club - Always Like This [YouTube]
  • Brakes - Don't Take Me To Space (Man) [YouTube]
  • Camera Obscura - French Navy [YouTube]
  • The Chapman Family - The Kids Are Not Alright
  • Dananananaykroyd - The Greater Than Symbol And The Hash
  • Friendship - The Graveyard Shift [Myspace]
  • Grizzly Bear - Cheerleader [mp3 from official site]
  • Internet Forever - Cover The Walls [Myspace]
  • Jeffrey Lewis And The Junkyard - Roll Bus Roll [live YouTube]
  • The Kiara Elles - Odio [YouTube]
  • Kill It Kid - Send Me An Angel Down [Myspace]
  • The Low Anthem - Charlie Darwin [Myspace]
  • Lucky Soul - Whoa Billy! [Myspace or this, if it's still up]
  • Mumford And Sons - The Cave [Myspace]
  • Papercuts - Future Primitive [YouTube]
  • The Wave Pictures – If You Leave It Alone [live YouTube]
  • The Week That Was - Scratch The Surface [Myspace]
  • Friday, April 10, 2009

    A summer of rage

    There are many times when we've felt like Stewart Lee feels in our life, but when the dread spectre of festivals is raised we feel like attempting to approach festival goers with that same query as he had for his viewers: "what do you want?"

    Now, we've been around the internet for long enough to know that message board users rank just above the Metropolitan Police in terms of people who can be trusted without careful supervision. We've already dealt with the Isle Of Wight fallout in which the organisers made a move which finally got people to acknowledge it as something other than a corporate meat feast and the regulars promptly started stamping their feet ("It would be an embarrassment to Neil Young if he was booed off the stage", you may recall), but the same sort of thing is breaking out all over, from the Reading backlash after the rock day was dropped for this year to the Latitude followers kicking up a stink when Grace Jones and the Pet Shop Boys were named as headliners - more than one onlooker claims they'd attract "the wrong sort", whatever can they mean by that? - to even Bestival getting it in the neck for not being dancier. Plenty of people, presented with their cake, want to devour it immediately.

    Now, clearly most of this is the work of idiot shortsighted fools who'd prefer Pendulum and can be discounted, but the widespread nature of discontent says a lot about the way we look at festivals now, and we suspect the way festivals look at their own headliners. For starters, in among what you may have noticed are straitened times financially, ticket prices are still climbing, put down to the pound's weakness against the dollar set aside opposite the cost of getting American bands in. Reading and Glastonbury are both £175 for the weekend, £20 on last year. Latitude, like Reading a Melvin Benn production, is also a score heavier at £160, the same price as Download, but that's only putting camping weekend prices up by a tenner. Isle Of Wight is £140, up £10. So is Bestival. T In The Park is £170 for three days, up £10 from last year. V is £152.50, up £7.50. For his part Melvin Benn says "compared to many of our competitors who offer two-day festivals or a lesser depth in line ups and less stages, Reading & Leeds Festivals still represent incredible value." Really? We've just gone through all the others and set against what's offered you appear to be clear of all of them. Take out the specialist, the unique and the inner London and what else is there?

    The festival's even dumped its USP, the fabled Sunday Rock Day, supposedly as AC/DC weren't available, because as we know there is only one rock band. What their choice instead illustrates is the spectacular paucity of the pool the four major festivals - Glastonbury, Reading, T and V - draw their headliners from. Oasis will do one every couple of years, Radiohead ditto, Muse ditto, and then you're into the carousel of Arctics, Killers, KoL, Razorlight and whenever they're ready a huge American rock band every third year or so (Foos, White Stripes, RHCP, REM every blue moon) From there, there is no more. Franz and Kaisers aren't the draws they once were. Arcade Fire and Bjork will be seen as too left field. Lily Allen, much as she loves festivals, won't sell tickets as she's "pop". MGMT and Klaxons, the sort of bands people who go to massive festivals fall for, have one album. After the Jay-Z rumpus, which lest we forget the Beeb didn't even show the set by in full, nobody will be thinking outside the box for a while yet. That's why you get the reformations and heritage acts, your Verves and Rage Against The Machines and, yes, Neil Youngs.

    Given 2008 was the year the festival boom was supposed to have abated it doesn't look like there's too few less events this year, even a few new startups - Vince Power has turned last year's Young/Boosh double header into Hop Farm Festival, Sonisphere is attempting to offset Download - and with that the usual roundel of bands who seem to be everywhere. The Zutons look like this year's Seasick Steve, Dan Black the new Lightspeed Champion. We'd contend that this point of the year, where all the announcements are coming in, is almost as entertaining as when they're all taking place, checking through everything, finding odd new names - what else was on your list, Ou Est Le Swimming Pool? - and being intrigued by booking decisions and directions being taken. All we're saying is Green Man had better not slack up next year, as we're going to have to come that way at some point. Indeed, we've taken on curation of TLOBF's at a glance festival guide for the year. Only thing is, you wonder if some of the organisation is working out as well as it should for potential consumers.

    Thursday, April 09, 2009

    The Music That Made... Camera Obscura

    Once, fairly unfairly, dismissed as Belle & Sebastian's mini-mes, Camera Obscura have long established their own niche in the realm of Glaswegian vulnerably melancholic lyrics against uplifting girl-pop. Album number four My Maudlin Career is out on 20th April through new home 4AD and continues their upwards trajectory, sketched around what Tracyanne Campbell has suggested is real events in her life to create a more refined, more bittersweet take on the sound they almost made their own on Let's Get Out Of This Country. We're very glad to have tracked and held them down to add a contribution, through guitarist Kenny McKeeve:

    First single bought: The Smurf Song by Father Abraham and the Smurfs. I was 4 or 5, appropriately. Technically my mother bought it but I remember pestering her for it.
    First album bought: It was either You Can Dance by Madonna or Europe's Final Countdown - I can't remember which was first; I got them both around the same time, aged about 14, and have been torn between suspect rock and magical pop ever since.
    First gig voluntarily attended: The Shadows, aged 15. That wasn't one for bragging about at school, and I such got a hard time when I was rumbled. Quite right too.
    The record that most made you want to get into music: (Excluding my dad's 50s and 60s singles) Fanfare by Eric Matthews, from the album It's Heavy In Here - I've no idea what he's singing, and I don't think of it as a strong song in vocal terms, but the music just blew up in my face. I was a very late start in terms of thinking about making, as opposed to just playing, music and would have been happy playing Beatles covers in pubs until this changed my attitude completely.
    The three headliners at a festival you were curating: ABBA, Scott Walker (from the sad No Regrets era, not the old solo or recent meat-punching era), Queen (the proper 70s and 80s one with Freddie Mercury prancing around in a leotard, not the present day one with the bizarre astronomer and Rod Stewart's wee sister and that chump who never, ever stops singing Alright Now)
    A song not enough people know about but everyone should hear: Do Not Despair by El Perro Del Mar
    A song you'd play to get people dancing: Modern Love by David Bowie, Teardrops by Womack and Womack
    The last great thing you heard: And it's Alright by Peter Broderick
    Your key non-musical influences: Philip Roth, Armando Iannucci, Alfred Hitchcock, history, Count Arthur Strong, food, alcohol, Viz
    Your favourite new artist: Magic Magic. They're from Boston I think. Their debut album is, rather handily, called Magic Magic, and they do just that. Beautiful. Maybe you already know all this. I'm not down with the kids, as is probably apparent.

    French Navy:

    And from 2004's Underachievers Please Try Harder, Keep It Clean:

    Tuesday, April 07, 2009

    On the 'royd

    Regular readers will be aware that we love little better than a mini-clique, a set of likeminded individuals who come together in no greater cause than the common musical good. The White brothers centred Brighton collective was good, the London nu-folkies better if only because the connections are so intertwined we tried to sit down and chart it all once and had to give up, but for sheer visceral thrills and the type of new band namechecking you've come to know as STN's stock in trade we can do no better than the coterie who've given their collaborative powers a name for us - Awesome Pals!

    While their numbers are many - nine contributing to that blog at the moment, and a handful of likeminded souls not doing so - there are four who are closer to the spirit and are in some way the founding fathers (fourteen in total, plus six founding mothers) of this group of new young exciting British talent, and we've featured them all heavily on STN. We speak of the mob-handed cross-referencers of indiepop and maxi-indie alike, Los Campesinos!; the post-pre-hardcore documenters of Birmingham's shitty nightlife Johnny Foreigner; the poised but shortish, sharp shocks of Sky Larkin and the audio-visual fight-pop bitzkrieg of Dananananaykroyd. As we say, these are four bands we've been heavily backing almost from the very start (the last link there serving as a valid public warning about the dangers of entrusting an email interview to John Baillie Jnr) and been vocal fans of their debut albums. The moral: We're great, us. Apart from when we think we accidentally insulted Gareth in private email conversation. Soz.

    So what is it with these four? Well, it helps that they retain a connection with their fans no matter how much time they spend in swanky American studios, whether through embracing blogging's cultural power or the modish entertainments of Twitter, but that's not all. Journalists looking for an 'in' - hello, NME - like to claim they're all cut from the same cloth, but in practice that rarely gets beyond a couple of basic intuitive strands. They have their own community interlinks - LC! have toured with Sky Larkin and JoFo. JoFo have toured with Sky Larkin and Danana both twice and have the former on their new album (the latter missed a flight, as did LC! when they were supposed to contribute to the first LP) - but clearly that's not all either. There's no geographical correlation between the four, which doesn't make it some British equivalent of The Smell. No, there's something they all do in the way they take their primary influences. American for the most part, it's fairly solid to state, and chiefly Pavement and their ilk, but taking in a wide range from the noisenik of Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr and the Blood Brothers to the controlled collapse of Broken Social Scene, Xiu Xiu, Cap'n Jazz, Deerhoof and the Unicorns right through to Jim O'Rourke, Wilco, the Breeders and Why? Then there's a huge swathe of largely overlooked British bands of the 90s and 00s, from Urusei Yatsura to Life Without Buildings to Seafood, and perhaps above all else a determination to make things bend their way rather than pay lip service to prevailing trends. These just shouldn't sound like British bands yet at the same time don't sound like the Americanisation of their influences through a wholly British mordant wit, peculiar obsessions, singular angle of approach and almost grace in their colliding guitars and rhythms. They are, not to put too much weight on it, the products of the Pitchfork and mp3 blog age, and more power to their elbows.

    We mean, this is the sort of song each of them feels they can afford to leave off an album:

    Dananananaykroyd - Chrome Rainbow (Pink Sabbath B-side)
    Johnny Foreigner - I Heard, He Ties Up Cats (Eyes Wide Terrified B-side)
    Los Campesinos! - How I Taught Myself To Scream (freely distributed offcut)
    Sky Larkin - Shipwreck (2006 demo)

    Anyway, on to the matter at hand, and if all that folderol is reallythe case, which it is because we've just said it is, Hey Everyone! may be, if not its totem, at least its stylistic apogee. There may be people who haven't seen them live yet, and we pity those people as a Dananananaykroyd gig is more a community support meeting on mescaline, even if they have decided to stop doing this sort of thing:

    Dananananaykroyd SXSW Scottish Showcase Austin from NMK on Vimeo.

    But we've all heard debut records by bands with phenomenal live reputations who can't capture that lightning in a bottle live. However, a tale: back when Johnny Foreigner took them around the country for the second time in 2008 we caught them in a now defunct cavern, and before they came on Alexei Berrow sidled up to us - the stalking had to work eventually - and let on that they had new songs that, in his words, "made the hairs on my neck stand up". Now, the Danana obsessive will already have seven of these eleven songs, albeit six re-recorded here, but they still sound vital and carry the whole thing along on the crest of a very dissonant wave. So while you're not going to get hugged by a sweaty, more than likely topless, definitely overcome by the thrill of it all Calum Gunn, you are going to hear him and Baillie Jnr give it their cross-purposes all vocally. Behind them whips up an almighty storm, but one so meticulously planned out that it has a certain crooked melody hidden under all the feedback, noise screes and barrage of power chords, handclaps and hardcore pummelling. It's the fact that they can even out handclaps and hardcore pummelling that makes them so special. The first vocal on the record is a chanted chorus of the bandname, following which Gunn stalks out his territory with one well chosen word: "Hiya!" Then things start clanging into and over each other, the two drummers clattering in time. It's full of outstanding little moments - the riff at the start of The Greater Than Symbol And The Hash, the becalmed last minute and a half of 1993, the mass chant at the opening of Some Dresses. It's positivist quasi-screamo, it's car crash noise you can dance to, and it's near enough a new benchmark for those who turn up and fuzz out in this country. Turning hissy fits into sissy hits, indeed. Why is it that we prefer lionising the ordinary American underground bands when we can produce records that sound like this, and the sounds of those around them?

    Monday, April 06, 2009

    Unnatural Hazards

    And so from a contentious post about whether music can be heard in a critical vacuum to a belated review of the opinion splitting suite of a new album from one of STN's favourite bands. Actually, we do just throw this together, but it's nice sometimes for thoughts and ideas to accumulate such.

    Except when details eked out of The Decemberists' The Hazards Of Love project we couldn't help but be worried about the outcome. For one thing, it's an hour long concept album. Concept albums on their own are not necessarily a bad thing, but there was something about the backstory to this one that didn't quite ring true. After all, Colin Meloy's lyrical gifts have been rooted in reality rather than fantasy on their previous proper albums. Whether king, sailor, athlete or concubine, Meloy tends towards grounding his subjects and their travails largely within life rather than fantasy. On the occasions that he has branched out for a sustained story arc, The Tain and parts of The Crane Wife, it's been based on a solid grounding of a story already in the public domain. This, on the other hand, is an intricately plotted and threaded story cycle about "a woman named Margaret who is ravaged by a shape-shifting animal; her lover, William; a forest queen; and a cold-blooded, lascivious rake", based on an imaginary Anne Briggs song. For another, Meloy had started talking about his admiration for stoner/sludge metal, something about which we feel the almost exact opposite. At least when John Darnielle writes about his genuine love of death metal we know he knows he doesn't want to directly chase down that line of music because he feels it's anathema to how he approaches writing and the way he plays.

    Actually, rather than concept album, even if it's all of a piece - there's very little in the way of tracks you could extract from it and hold up as representative, although there's a few you could pick out for 7" duty - it's more rock-opera. There's an orchestral prelude, extended suites, repeated motifs and a consistent tragic fable at its centre. The Decemberists have been threatening to do something of this range for years, and that they got a major label to finance it and it's become their first Billboard top 20 album to boot... well, it gives you fresh hope, both in the form and in the fact people are willing to listen to a near hour long stretch of arching music.

    And what an arch it makes. The Hazards Of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won't Wrestle The Thistles Undone) - yeah, Meloy's in full lexicographal stretch - uncoils its folk-rock approach as gradually as it sets out the mise-en-scène, only to shift into A Bower Scene's alternately chugging and stoner riffs with a garnish of Wish You Were Here Pink Floyd. Then Won't Want For Love takes up the cudgels of both Lynyrd Skynyrd and Peter Gabriel Genesis with Becky Stark (Lavender Diamond) as the ingenue lost in the woods and you're completely lost in a very particular, very targeted type of 70s retro in which Pentangle and the Incredible String Band held sway. It takes great arrangement pains to make clear that it's not really a folk album, but while there's little direct sustained OTT bombast there's more than a few occasions (The Hazards Of Love 2) where it all takes on too heavy a load, taking its cue from the musical theatre Meloy originally envisaged this as. And the children's choir on The Hazards Of Love 3, while making sense to tie up one end of the story, doesn't make for that likeable a musical point.

    Obviously the band are far too smart to let everything go to prog-heavy metal waste. The Wanting Comes In Waves/Repaid starts like classic tentative-anthemic Decemberists before Chris Funk cranks up the Led Zep blues riffs and in comes My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden coming on like Polly Harvey at her spooky as the forest queen to keep it clear from choogle hell. (She doesn't manage to repeat the trick despite an even more eerie performance on The Queen's Rebuke/The Crossing, but then we never got Black Mountain) The Rake's Song is a big old riff monster but not one in that heavy sense, the single not unreasonably, and continues a grand old tradition of the band by killing off five people, four of them young children; Isn't It A Lovely Night?, another Worden/Meloy duet, is a gorgeous love ballad that turns into pedal steel and accordion country-folk halfway through, a motif returned to on the closing The Hazards Of Love 4. Annan Water's an interesting one, a folk tale in the proper sense driven by mandolins, hurdy gurdy and driving subtle percussion, the closest they've ever come to Arcade Fire's well marked territory (think Keep The Car Running) that actually doesn't do that much to directly drive the narrative on, being William's ode to a river to let him pass and save the already abducted Margaret. As such, it's the song that'd most work outside these rarefied surroundings.

    So what do we think of it?





    No, it's not a bad album by any means, let's get that straight from the start of the conclusion. Like The Crane Wife, it may well be an album that only makes sense given time and the consistent effort required to meet its grand follies halfway. For a continuing storyline we're not sure it really hangs together as well as it could musically with the lurches all round the folk-rock spectrum, and while Meloy's storytelling skills are obviously well developed, here with plenty of little touches and archaic wordplay to keep interest alive, actually following the story in amongst it all is another matter when it's structured as an album where removal of any one element would make it collapse. But then, where do the band go from here? Back to a proper album of individual songs would be the logical answer, except that last year's series of 7"s Always The Bridesmaid registered low on the quality control scale and while Sleepless from the Dark Was The Night compilation was a step up it was only because it sounded like an offcut from Castaways & Cutouts. As for now, The Hazards Of Love feels like an idea that hasn't, or can't, be carried through to its fullest extent but remains a fascinating excursion into wilder, newer shores for the Decemberists. Despite the surroundings they remain as they always have, beholden to nobody but themselves.

    They played through the whole thing at SXSW, as captured by NPR.

    Sunday, April 05, 2009

    The weight of expectation

    Hush hush, here comes another meta-criticism post.

    A couple of weeks ago, while in a puckish mood and online, we made comments on our Twitter against two new albums that were the talk of assorted online communities, namely the Horrors' Primary Colours and Dan Deacon's Bromst, neither of which we'd heard a note of. Even if our cudgels taking up was driven by being in an odd, combative mood we had our reasons - Deacon's Spiderman Of The Rings annoyed the shit out of us, far too fast and ADHD wacky-tricky for the sake of it, and given the way his community went for that one he seems unlikely to have turned his back on it (and it's telling that every piece of positive press about it feels obliged to state it's "better than Animal Collective", because there have only been two albums released this year, and after all those AC boys, they've sold out, haven't they?), while the Horrors' comeback had become so mired in forensic review and fevered hype all couched in terms taken from a flick through the big boys' book of avant-references it had already started to feel like the writers were trying to convince themselves as much as us. Now, we've since been sent a Primary Colours promo by lovely lovely 4AD - we're not totally sure it's not a coincidence, but we do note we've not received a similar advance of the new album on the same level by a band we've fervently championed in the past and present (My Maudlin Career).

    Such preconceptive doubt - a well respected London promoter quite rightly chided us in response with "Nice to see people approaching stuff with an open mind" - is in quiet contemplation interesting. Much as we now have available to us more music than ever before, how much of it can we honestly approach with no malice or promise aforethought? With information available literally at our fingertips and opinion, received and otherwise, floating around the communal stratosphere of the internet community, can we ever come to something fresh? There's always this thought that some kind of satellite peer pressure means we have to love this or that album or new band, we have to agree that Unsigned Band X's Myspace is unbeatable, and it's becoming harder to find little nooks and crannies for ourselves where the real jewels sit largely undiscovered. It's all part of the modern hype machine, we know, but when you find yourself, as we have, really attempting to like Crystal Stilts because plenty of your forebears do (still don't get it) or actually being worried that Veckatimest might not be the album of the year after all the love we've exerted towards the Cheerleader giveaway and the tracks they let loose live last year, things have reached a pretty pass. Is the reactionary the pariah, or can you really still just chance across anything any more and fall for it without having a hundredweight of other people's recommendations overhead?

    Saturday, April 04, 2009

    The Weekly Sweep

  • A Classic Education - Best Regards [Myspace]
  • Bearsuit - Muscle Belt [mp3 via Pitchfork]
  • Buenos Aires - Eleven [Myspace] (If you like(d) Glassjaw, yourcodenameis:milo, Trail Of Dead, early Biffy, Reuben etc. you'll need to know that Buenos Aires' A Landscape To A Blind Man's Eye EP is being given away for free)
  • Camera Obscura - French Navy [YouTube]
  • Cats on Fire - Tears In Your Cup [YouTube]
  • Cryptacize - Blue Tears [YouTube]
  • Dananananaykroyd - Black Wax [YouTube]
  • The Decemberists - The Rake's Song [Myspace]
  • Doves - Kingdom Of Rust [YouTube]
  • Fanfarlo - Drowning Men [live YouTube]
  • Friendship - The Graveyard Shift [Myspace]
  • Grizzly Bear - Cheerleader [mp3 from official site]
  • The Kiara Elles - Odio [YouTube]
  • Kill It Kid - Send Me An Angel Down [Myspace]
  • The Low Anthem - Charlie Darwin [Myspace]
  • Lucky Soul - Whoa Billy! [Myspace or this, if it's still up]
  • Napoleon - I Try To Despise The Ugly People (But The Beautiful Ones Keep Turning Me Down) [YouTube]
  • Ox Scapula - Cuts [Myspace] (It's the Stoke-on-Trent Shellac!)
  • The Wave Pictures – If You Leave It Alone [live YouTube]
  • The XX - Crystalised [Myspace]
  • Friday, April 03, 2009

    You can ignore this one, it's just housekeeping. It's Friday. Go and find a Flash game.

    Yeah, enough with the banners and protest marches, we've been a bit delayed this week and so the Decemberists review will have to wait until next week, when we should be getting a couple of other new album overviews away too. And a Music That Made or two, if assorted bands and PRs get things together.

    On the other hand, we might just post "what are you listening to, then?" all week. That usually goes better than our proper posts.

    Oh, and also to everyone who's contacted us or sent us mp3s, links and Myspace addresses, they're all on file and will be dealt with in the fullness of time. Especially so if you're in the band who've sent us four seperate invitations to listen to their songs in the last month. Your address is in our big list, we'll come to you.

    And finally, after a little local difficulty with thorough spambots, the comments boxes have gone to moderation before posting. This does not affect your statutory rights.

    Wednesday, April 01, 2009

    Sweeping The Nation Covermount #17: April Fools

    Slight change to STN Covermount protocol from now on, as we've extended the runtime of each from 74 to 80 minutes, given the shorter CDR seems to be being phased out by some manufacturers. Plus it means fewer 'last one to be dropped' dilemmas for us.

    This is a Covermount we've been meaning to do on the last couple of April 1sts, and we're not sure how you'd class these other than "songs and, mostly, artists with a GSOH". Inspired partly by Left And To The Back's novelty compilation, these 26 range from straight up low comedy to satirical subtleties, from wry to direct. You probably won't like all of them, but they all work without the pictures. And just in case they don't, for some (except in one case) we've put up an embedded video of an entirely different track by the same people for ballast. Lighten up, everyone!

    April Fools

    Barnes & Barnes - Fish Heads
    Art Barnes and Artie Barnes - not actual names, in fact one of them was Lost In Space's Will Robinson of famed danger - colonised Annie Nightingale's request show for years with their meditation on the likelihood of said piscine part to be seen "drinking cappuccino in Italian restaurants with Oriental women". Their words, not ours. Not even their own song, apparently. There's an Essential... out!

    Spinal Tap - Stonehenge
    "Nigel gave me a drawing that said eighteen inches. Alright?"

    Mojo Nixon - Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant With My Two-Headed Love Child
    Psychobilly! Mojo Nixon, one bloke, was from North Carolina and later recorded Don Henley Must Die, a title that earned itself unending irony when Henley crashed the stage to co-perform it one night in Texas.

    Chris Morris - Motherbanger
    The contents of the Select Magazine flexidisc this comes from are in the recent On The Hour Series 2 box, but we're still using an old rip from years ago for that authentic distortion. This is his Pixies parody, so damn spot on that it occasionally turns up in lists of lost Pixies songs.

    Gindrinker - Hey! Greengrocer
    Cardiff's two-man aural assault of belligerent shouting, guitar and drum machine, long time STN favourites. Contains greatest personal insult in recorded history, perhaps.

    I, Ludicrous - Preposterous Tales
    Long serving, loved by the few but committed, south London duo put together Fall fuzz and pub bore.

    The Shirehorses - A Girl Like You (Hiya)
    Ah. Radcliffe and Riley, plus BBC radio's go-to poetry guy Ian McMillan on guest word, surprisingly successful with what they openly admitted was pretty much just the Barron Knights with swearing, their albums charting at 22 The Worst...Album In The World...Ever...EVER!) and 20.

    Peter Cook & Dudley Moore - Bedazzled
    The number of times we've seen the film Bedazzled referred to and then realised it was part of Hurley bashing... Pete'n'Dud made the original in 1967, where one of Stanley Moon (Dud)'s wishes was to become a rock star, only to become usurped by Drimble Wedge and the Vegetations (George Spiggott (Pete)) and a performance that Johnny Rotten would later cite as an influence on his own style.

    A Tribe Of Toffs - John Kettley Is A Weatherman
    Sunderland students made big by CBBC with celeb namechecking jangle. Apparently then tried to go serious before realising nobody was interested in them at all doing that.

    Bill Bailey - Unisex Chipshop
    A Billy Bragg tribute/pisstake which Billy seems to have been quite sporting about:

    Jake Thackray - On Again! On Again!
    Georges Brassens infected by Noel Coward in West Yorkshire, Thackray was a regular in the early days of That's Life! but has never quite gained the wider cult following he deserves. Get the Very Best Of. Danny Baker maintains this has the best opening line in pop.

    Randy Newman - Political Science
    From the same album, Sail Away, as the original version of You Can Leave Your Hat On - and they should have used that version in The Full Monty, we say - Newman finds a satirical stance about thirty years too early.

    Otis Lee Crenshaw - He Almost Looks Like You
    Rich Hall's jailbird Tennessee country singer reflects on the fine line of prison love.

    Ivor Cutler - Lemonade
    Scottish harmonium-touting poetic genius from his last album A Flat Man, released on Creation.

    Vic Reeves - Vienna
    His 1991 album I Will Cure You is reportedly worth a small bit already; this just slightly reworded Ultravox reworking came from the NME's fortieth anniversary compilation Ruby Trax.

    The Bonzo Dog Band - My Pink Half of the Drainpipe
    More surreal genius for the ages at work, Vivian Stanshall this time with Neil Innes desperately trying to keep up. And yeah, we've always referred to them as the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, but they'd dropped the middle epithet for a while around The Doughnut In Granny's Greenhouse.

    MJ Hibbett & The Validators - Do The Indie Kid
    The indiepop resident bard of Peterborough/Leicester/actually he lives in London now but that's not as helpful has a new album out in May and a new show at the Edinburgh Fringe this August.

    Midfield General - Midfielding
    There's still an ongoing threat of a Mighty Boosh band, but back in 2000 when they were highly rated but still very much under the radar Noel Fielding guested on a track by big beat ubergrupenfuehrer Damien Harris on his album Generalisation.

    The Lonely Island - I'm On A Boat
    No, we're not including Flight Of The Conchords, because it's our Covermount, we'll do what we want with it. We'll give you this nod to modishness, but no more. Incredibad, that's the album. At least it's not Dick In A sodding Box.

    Del Tha Funkee Homosapien - The Wacky World Of Rapid Transit
    Gorillaz first album sideman, cousin of Ice Cube (who's on this), admirer of bus etiquette. Album: I Wish My Brother George Was Here. Done.

    John Cooper Clarke - Twat
    Back on tour at the moment, and not in supporting The Fall this time. Word Of Mouth: The Very Best Of contains most of the Martin Hannett productions and is as good as you're going to find. Beasley Street should be on the GCSE syllabus. And in fact it is.

    John Shuttleworth - I Can't Go Back To Savoury Now
    Inspired by some demo tapes Graham Fellows heard when under songwriting contract with Chappell Music, and early on subject to a rumour, when only the songs existed, that these were indeed demo tapes received by a major label.

    Spitting Image - I've Never Met A Nice South African
    Breyten Breytenbach! There's a namecheck for the teenagers. John Lloyd and Peter Brewis (not the Field Music one, a regular comedy TV music composer of the 80s) penned the brusque take on apartheid for the B-side of soon millstone The Chicken Song.

    Monty Python - Accountancy Shanty
    The theme from The Crimson Permanent Assurance, the Gilliam directed supporting feature short from the start of The Meaning Of Life, eventually compiled onto Monty Python Sings.

    Spike Jones And His City Slickers - William Tell Overture
    1940s-50s bandleader Jones took the long way round the big band standards of the day, referred to by Jones as musicial "homicides", replete with stupid sounds, whistles, comedy percussion and gunshots, the best of which are compiled on Spiketaculars. Here Rossini is rendered on kitchen implements while a horse race goes on (and no, one of the horses isn't called Beetlebum)

    Half Man Half Biscuit - A Country Practice
    Well, of course. Eliza Carthy has named this, from Four Lads Who Shook The Wirral as the song she felt most defined 'Englishness'.