Sunday, January 31, 2010

Chart well

By now you'll have heard about the to and fro cut and thrust around Owl City's UK number one, following its American success. On one level, it's more explicable over here for the simple reasons that a) we seem to like undominant electro at the moment and b) The Postal Service have never been very well known in Britain. (The number one single fails to be massively groundbreakingly original? Who'd have ever known.)

There's another issue at work here, though, and it folds back into something that's been going on for a year or two now. The record Fireflies replaced at number one was Replay by Iyaz, which was involved in a scrap in week of release with Riverside by Sidney Samson. At that statement, we can't imagine we were the only people looking blankly at it. Maybe our perception has been warped by nearly five years esconsed in the self-perpetuating bubble of blogland, but these don't seem to be records that escaped the Radio 1 A-list into the wider world, something you'd have expected of any chart topper a couple of years ago.

Indeed modern pop, starved of televisual oxygen - when did The Box drop its Television You Control USP? - and consequently precision targeted at its audience, seems to be missing a strata altogether. While a regenerated pop scene is always a useful thing, seeing names like 30H!3, Taio Cruz and Chipmunk suddenly appearing at the top with little wider trailing. Even something as big as N-Dubz would still, we venture, be more famous to most over the age of 16 as the band of the bloke in the hat who had a sideline as a Never Mind The Buzzcocks punchbag.

What that means is complaining about the state of the singles chart is a false economy. Whether you take the download long tail or the death of Top Of The Pops as your starting point, it's not that it's getting sucked dry of interest, it's that its audience is getting exponentially younger. It's young people, not even Lambrini girls or men in vans, that chart music matters to now, and if we're to keep the industry alive in some way that should turn out to be a positive boon.

Honour bound

No, we've not given up hope just yet, just got behind with some stuff. Later on this week there'll be a splurge of new Myspaces and stuff, and various other things will be powered up over the coming days and weeks. But for today before the first month of the year elapses, something very interesting emerging from someone whose previous work was no creative slouch.

It's a couple of weeks short of a year and a half now since ¡Forward, Russia! breathed if not comprehensively their last, then their last before an extended comatose state. In that time Tom Woodhead has become a producer to the awkward (I Concur, Minnaars, Talons, Cats & Cats & Cats), Katie has we think gone to further education, Rob has died (no he hasn't) and Whiskas... well, he was never going to lounge around waiting for awkward math-disco-punk to come back around, so he joined Duels, helped out Wakefield anti-folkie Mi Mye, started a fine blog and started up his own project, which has just recently started playing live in band form.

Honour Before Glory, brought into being with the aid of various I Like Trainsters and Duelsismus, vibrates and reverberates with fractured atmospherics digital and otherwise, at the core of which lies heartfelt, wracked songwriting that glows even as everything around it lifts into the stratosphere. M83 would be the closest reference point, but without the recently overbearing nostalgia angle or so much deference to MBVisms. Maybe Ride after a course of Spencer Krug records would be more accurate, so that you can't help feeling that were he from Toronto rather than Leeds Whiskas would have been corralled into Broken Social Scene long before now. Three tracks stream from his homepage, one can be downloaded via Bandcamp, while Steve Lamacq, a man we once saw ending up crowdsurfing to ¡FR! mostly against his wishes, is giving away another via his blog. This is going to be well worth keeping an eye on.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pre-prepared material girl

Madonna's first UK gig was at Roundhay Park, Leeds in August 1987. Seeing a perhaps inappropriate amount of news time given to a huge gig is of course commonplace now. Perhaps not so much the make-do nature of the reportage, with future NFL host and award winning writer Gary Imlach looking like the world's most 1980s suave man and a frankly quite miserable Annabel Croft-agram from Just Seventeen (now a freelance writer who does bits for the Guardian). And then, Jimmy Greaves gives his view. JIMMY GREAVES. ON MADONNA.

Guess what football-related joke he makes.

Channel 4's groundbreakingly graphic Network 7 had a go too:

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Have you ever heard Suggs covering Suedehead with Mark Kermode on double bass?

You have now. And one for the washboard player, sir!

Here's both men in more natural musical environments. Curiously, Billy Lunn of the Subways is on the Dodge Brothers' new album (not this track):

And this is what Glastonbury last year looked like from the perspective of Chrissy Boy's headstock:

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Music That Made... Frankie & The Heartstrings

Back for a new year's refreshed run through the upbringing and background to some of our favourite musicians, we start with the Mackem dreamers we wrote about just the other week, Frankie & The Heartstrings. In particular, drummer Dave Harper:

First single bought: Stand And Deliver by Adam and the Ants, I was scared wrongwise by the sound of the snarling horses and the fanfare at the start. It sounds like the world is ending, well it did to a child.

First gig voluntarily attended: Er....first paying gig was Oasis supported by Ocean Colour Scene at Newcastle Riverside. My dad dropped me and my first real girlfriend off at about 5 (how cool were we?) Got crushed, Liam got punched, gig abandoned and Jo Whiley was shrieking like she'd spilt her skinny latte on her Echobelly t-shirt! Then my GF at the time was sick on my shoes, I loved that fucking dumb local idiot!

The record that most made you want to get into music: Angel Fingers by Wizzard. My Dad only had about seven singles and a couple of Demis Roussos albums. There was never going to be any question in the Chris De Burgh v Wizzard stakes, Wizzard 1 mad haired god botherer 0, home win!

The three headliners at a festival you were curating: Tiny Tim, Garry Wilmot and The Wombats with only me watching and a high powered rifle.

A song not enough people know about but everyone should hear: Theres a band that exist in between London, Newcastle and possibly Narnia. They are called Les Cox (Sportifs). Almost definitely the band that the hipsters in Shoreditch will say they followed five years after they fall apart. Pretty much all of their songs are better than anything yours or your friends' pointless beat combo have, more feeling, thought and baffling intensity that Les Coq songs do. Listen to the Hand And The Heed and impress your friend who works in Dalston.

A song you'd play to get people dancing: Depends where you are. For example you could be playing what you think is the most vital moments committed to vinyl in Sunderland on a Friday night... nothing, not a sausage. Pop on the Jam/Kasabian/Stone Roses/whatever was on TFI Friday and you're laughing. For other more cordial environments, Never Get Ahead by Bobby Conn, funky musical cat nip for hipsters.

The last great thing you heard: The noise the 18 year old midget fella made when he was awarded his black belt second dan in the documentary I just watched. Extraordinary little chap.

Your key non-musical influences: Books, more specifically authors. Knut Hamsun has moved me like a loose bowel after a double shot Americano. Everyone can learn from that grim Norwegian bastard.

Your favourite new artist: I've recently discovered Sweet Baboo. A chap from Wales who plays in Euros Childs' band. He writes what should be the most twee rubbish ever when on paper. BUT, he does things that are amazing with, what at first listen, seem silly. But theres a darkness to it, like a steel fist with a velvet glove! Id suggest Hello Wave. Ch ch ch ch ch ch check him out. T'ra.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

An Illustrated Guide To... Ian Dury


Of course they were going to make a film of his life eventually (and also now out are Will Birch's Definitive Biography and a compilation), it was just a matter of casting someone as barmstormingly brilliant as Andy Serkis. It's a cliche of towering proportions to say that they don't, nay, can't, make them like Ian Dury any more, because they barely made them like Ian Dury then. A London music hall reared wordsmith in his mid-thirties with a mainline to funk via pub rock and extraordinary raw bordering on abrasive openness, let alone one physically affected such as he was. In person he was a mangle of contradictions, difficult to love but easy to warm to, uncompromisingly strong of personality and an eventual renaissance man of arts and letters. Moreover, while there is some dispute about whether he coined it, he certainly brought to the forefront of the English language an all-purpose phrase of international use.

Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll

Although right through his life he liked to let everyone think he was Upminster through and through, Dury was actually born on May 12th 1942 in Harrow (as was the similarly waywardly accented Kate Nash, of course). Mother Margaret worked as a health visitor and was of landowning Irish stock, while father George was a London bus driver who later became a Rolls Royce chauffeur. After moving briefly to Switzerland for work purposes they settled in the London Borough of Havering, but the couple soon split up and Ian stayed with his bohemian mother, who took him on holidays to Ireland and to West End shows. One day out in August 1949 changed everything - taken to Southend by a friend's parents, Ian is thought to have swallowed water from the resort's open air pool and while in Cornwall with his grandmother weeks later came down ill overnight and was put in a full body cast for six weeks, staying in hospital for the best part of two years. The polio caused considerable damage to his central nervous system and left him with an affected left side of his body, a withered arm and leg requiring support from steel and leather callipers.

At nine Dury was sent for three and a half years as a boarding pupil to Chailey Heritage School in East Sussex, which specialised in children with disabilities. He claims its harsh-but-fair, craft leaning approach led to a largely unhappy and physically rough time, and also altered his previously near-RP accent. An even more disliked five years at High Wycombe's Royal Grammar School (Dury claimed he was expelled in his final year, but nobody else recalls this) followed which helped bolster his natural defence mechanism. Dury also got into rock'n'roll at this point, regular visits to Upminster's cinemas, pubs and clubs exposing him both to the nascent culture and to Cockney street speak. He was developed enough to win a place at Walthamstow College of Art as a painter, enrolling at the same time as Peter Greenaway and Vivian Stanshall. A more direct influence was Pop Art pioneer Peter Blake, who became a teacher at the college in 1961. Dury's body of work there was strong enough to enable him to enrol onto a post-graduate course at the Royal College of Art in 1963, from which he graduated in 1966 with a 2:1 and a fiance, Betty Rathmell, whom he married in March 1968. A month later George Dury died and the money he left them, and Ian's income working as a part-time teacher at Luton College of Further Technology and commissioned work for the Sunday Times and London Life, came in useful when daughter Jemima was born in January 1969.

In 1970 Ian started two years working as a tutor at Canterbury College of Art, but hero Gene Vincent's death in October 1971 ignited his interest in restarting his rock'n'roll ambitions, and using a name he'd thought of long previously, Kilburn & The High Roads, he gathered together a coterie of art school friends and friendly students, the latter category including subsequently acclaimed painter Humphrey Ocean, for a first gig that December. By then Ian and Betty had moved to Buckinghamshire, and it was here in December 1971 that Ian's second child Baxter was born, legend (corroborated by bandmates) has it upstairs while the band rehearsed below. Kilburn & The High Roads played pub gigs for the next few years, joined along the way by future collaborators - highly strung free jazz-esque saxophonist Davey Payne appeared in 1972 - and Ian writing more and more of his own songs, collaborating with pianist Russell Hardy. They were however getting fewer gigs even as pub rock came into force around them until BBC Radio London's Charlie Gillett, mesmerised by their electrifyingly theatrical live presence, became their manager. Nick Kent praised them in the NME in September 1973 and Roger Daltrey was so impressed he invited the band to open for The Who's October-November tour that year.

By this time Ian's marriage was slowly disintegrating, largely because he'd met and would end up shacking up with a teenage fan called Denise Roudette. His musical life was changing too, as the Kilburns signed to a Warner Brothers subsidiary and began recording in Apple Studios. That, though, ended up being completly stymied - two members were sacked, the recorded sound didn't match the live riot and the label was shut, Warners refusing to take them on any further. Gillett stopped working with Dury when the latter turned down an offer from Virgin and Hardy left the band suffering from stress and a breakdown in working relations.

The band finally got to release a single, Rough Kids (later covered by Wreckless Eric), on a division of Pye in November 1974, with a second the following February and an album, Handsome, in June 1975. A new recording of the same set recorded for Warners, but now cleaner featuring pedal steel and female backing vocals (including future disco hitmaker Tina Charles), it couldn't come close to holding a candle to a uniquely menacing and riotous stage persona. Madness were inspired to form after catching their set, the fabled Nutty Train stance based on a photo that appeared on the back of Handsome, while John Lydon and Malcolm McLaren are known to have regularly seen them, and footage of the Sex Pistols sees the now Rotten betraying an influence from Dury's mike stance and facial contortions. Meanwhile band members left in increasing numbers, and in May 1975 Kilburn & The High Roads called it a day.

Now writing with the Kilburns' latter day pianist Rod Melvin, Dury formed Ian Dury and the Kilburns with an almost entirely new line-up and some new songs, including a nascent What A Waste, as well as a new sideman as roadie and bodyguard, ex-con Fred 'Spider' Rowe. Melvin soon left to become a Scientologist and guitarist Ed Speight put a bulletin out with a music shop owning friend that Dury wanted a new keyboard player. Enter customer Chas Jankel, formerly of A&M-signed proggers Byzantium and session man with Tim Hardin and the Small Faces' Steve Marriott, and someone who could extend their musical vocabulary with his knowledge and love of funk. Dury and the Kilburns spluttered out a year after formation with a gig in Walthamstow supported by the Sex Pistols and the Stranglers, and Dury and Jankel set out to start afresh, with Dury also writing with one Steve Nugent, an American born writer and pub rock scenester.

With former Pink Floyd handlers Andrew King and Peter Jenner managing, a band began inexorably forming. A rehearsal studio engineer hooked them up with session rhythm section Norman Watt-Roy and Charley Charles, with Ed Speight and Davey Payne returning, and a unique mix of sounds and influences began to coalesce. An album was recorded at the Workhouse Studios in Blackhill with Jenner producing, and while that was being taken round the labels Dury, Payne and Roudette recorded a large part of Wreckless Eric's initial oeuvre, Dury on basic drums.

After several knockbacks, King and Jenner realised that the groundbreaking independent label Stiff Records had its offices below theirs. Already a home for the less categorisable strays, Dave Robinson and Jake Riviera signed them up immediately, releasing the first Dury solo single in August 1977. Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll was a solo single too, only Jankel and Payne also featuring from the Blockheads, who went officially uncredited until after the album. Driven by a guitar riff transposed from a Charlie Haden bassline found on an Ornette Coleman record, Dury intended it as a friendly warning about the titular lifestyle, not having fits of conscience about what there is to life, but the title and joyous chorus ensured its message went masked. Selling very well until Stiff deleted it after two months, it was a critical hit leading into New Boots and Panties!! Released that September, fronted by Chris Gabrin's celebrated photo of Ian and Baxter and named after the only two items of clothing Dury would buy as new, received rave reviews across the board and stayed in the album top 50 for two years, bar a break around the end of 1977 and start of 1978, although it didn't crack the top ten until March 1978 and achieved its number five peak in February 1979. Even hardened punks were shocked by the directness of some of the lyrics - cf the opening line of Plaistow Patricia, Blackmail Man's anti-abuse tirade or the "song of hate" If I Was With A Woman - but the vast majority fell for the mix of nostalgic tenderness (My Old Man, Sweet Gene Vincent), sexual frankness (Wake Up And Make Love With Me) and low-life portraits in miniature (Clevor Trever, Billericay Dickie).

Clevor Trever

To coincide with the release Stiff organised the Live Stiffs package tour, for which Watt-Roy and Charles suggested their friends and former bandmates guitarist Johnny Turnbull and keyboard player Mickey Gallagher join the live band with Jankel and Payne, while Dury's cast of offstage characters was bolstered by hard man ex-con, and occasional emergency babysitter, Peter Rush, AKA The Sulphate Strangler, who died in a police cell in 1988. The cast list - Dury, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Wreckless Eric (for whom Dury, Payne and Roudette acted as backing band) and Larry Wallis - were supposed to rotate order every night, but before long a tradition of ending with a group version of Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll was established. Dury's uniquely idiosyncratic stage persona, not to mention the backing band's tightness, won reviewers and punters over inexorably. By the end of the tour, the Blockheads had been christened.

Sweet Gene Vincent, Dury's heartfelt tribute to his teenage idol (also with a damaged leg, from a motorbike accent), was released shortly afterwards...

...and while it failed to chart his stock was incredibly high, even earning them six weeks in America as Lou Reed's begrudging support. April 1978 saw the release of non-album single What A Waste, co-written by Rod Melvin, a paen to finding a job that ultimately makes you happy even if it meant he "chose to play the fool in a six piece band". It slowly took off and in June made it to number 9. During what was supposed to be recuperation time after the accompanying tour Dury and Jankel ended up writing the next single, although a version of the lyrics had been knocking around for a couple of years. Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick was less than a week from writing to recording, Payne playing two saxophones at once, Jankel phoning his mother afterwards with the news "I've just recorded my first number one". Released in November it took two months but Jankel was proved right, eventually selling 970,000. And on the B-side...

There Ain't Half Been Some Clever Bastards

Everyone agrees that fame, even at the age of 36, didn't do much for Dury, exacerbating his bad side and later admitting he felt trapped and jealous through his new found celebrity. Put into a studio in spring 1979 the band found they didn't have a lot of songs but did have an overbearing and increasingly confrontational frontman whom Jankel ended up banning from the studio while the backing tracks were completed. The results, Do It Yourself, were released in May 1979 in 28 different sleeves inspired by the Crown wallpaper collection, the idea of Stiff's in-house design genius Barney Bubbles, and were advertised in home improvement stores through an industry tie-in. The music changed too: the cast of characters and musical ferocity were jettisoned in favour of oblique Cockneyfied wordplay and laid-back jazziness. It got to number two, only held off by Abba, and sold 200,000 copies, but the sales were cancelled out by huge losses from touring, largely due to Dury's insistence on the best hotels and his insistence that the balance should not be rectified by releasing a single from the album. During the European sojourn, though, a single was written and recorded, in Rome following the enforced cancellation of the Italian leg. Reasons to be Cheerful (Part 3), released in July, was a rapid fire list song to a disco beat that roared to number three.

Inevitably, all was not well with the Blockheads, still on a weekly retainer while the increasingly arrogant Dury lapped up the luxury. Early in 1980 Chas Jankel walked out to concentrate on a solo career, and while he was replaced by Dr Feelgood's guitar hero Wilko Johnson the reverberations from the loss of a musical leader and co-writer were felt throughout recording third album Laughter. That was preceded by not entirely serious single I Want To Be Straight, starting with one of rock'n'roll's rare self-introducing intros and making number 22...

...and the copyright-avoiding Sueperman's Big Sister, which in a typically Stiff moment for their 100th single release packaged in a copy of the label's first single with the details corrected in Biro (only number 51, though). The actual album was a long-winded affair in the recording not helped by Dury's increasing alcoholism and resultant control freak tendencies, despite letting all the Blockheads have a go at writing the music. More indebted to straight up rock than before, despite guest spots for Don Cherry and a tap dancer, Dury would much later admit "I called it Laughter to cheer myself up", and many other close parties suspect an autobiographical edge to the darker, depressive lyrics.

The record buying public didn't enjoy it much either, Laughter peaking at number 48 despite healthy live ticket sales. Dury and Stiff split soon after its release, Dury moving to Polydor without the Blockheads. His first solo release for the label came in August 1981, a reunion with Chas Jankel after his Ai No Corrida had been a club hit and became a proper hit when covered by Quincy Jones in that same year. It wasn't exactly tuned down for commercial purposes either. Spasticus Autisticus, Dury's furious and somewhat defiant reaction to 1981 being deemed International Year of the Disabled ("so in 1982 everyone would be alright?") and an attempt to reclaim the word, was outright banned on British radio.

Spasticus Autisticus

Dury and Jankel had flown to Jamaica to record an album but found they had insufficient material to go with. Lord Upminster, released November 1981, was recorded in two weeks nevertheless with Sly and Robbie as the rhythm section and co-produced by Steven Stanley, who would go on to become an unofficial member of Tom Tom Club, Dury would later claim he couldn't listen to anything on it bar that first single, and reviewers and listeners often concurred, appearing briefly at number 53. Dury rejoined the Blockheads to tour it but man and band finally parted, or so they thought, at the start of 1982.

If Dury can't listen back to Lord Upminster, he says he never even tried with 1984's 4,000 Weeks Holiday. Credited to Ian Dury & The Music Students - accounts differ as to whether or not the Blockheads were so much as asked to appear, although Jankel and Payne appear on a track apiece, Charles added backing vocals and the Specials' sideman Rico Rodriguez cameos - his attempt to work with a younger band was delayed to 1984 due to legal and moral wrangles over the eventually axed song Fuck Off Noddy and reached number 54. Polydor parted ways with Dury afterwards.

Profoundly In Love With Pandora provided a brief revisit to the charts, number 45 in 1985 on the back of it being the theme to the TV adaptation of The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole. Bits of stage and film extra acting filled Dury's days for a while, bar a brief Japanese tour with the Blockheads in 1987, an Alexei Sayle-riffing Toshiba advert voiceover and a celebrated fight with Omar Sharif in a restaurant. The most successful role was as narrator in Road at the Royal Court Theatre, the award-winning debut play of Jim Cartwright, who would go on to write Little Voice, whose star Jane Horrocks, who also had a lead role in Road, ended up living with Dury for a year. He kept his musical arm in by writing a set of songs with Mickey Gallagher for 1987 West End show Serious Money, and a year later was confident enough to put his own project on the stage. Apples, written by Dury with music again by him and Gallagher, starred Ian as a hard-bitten newspaper reporter on the trail of political scandal. An album was recorded for WEA with Gallagher, Payne and some Music Students backing, as well as guest vocals by Wreckless Eric and the show's female lead Frances Ruffelle, who'd won a Tony for Les Miserables and would go on to represent the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest. Pam Ferris, Jesse Birdsall and Bob Goody also took roles in the play, but it closed after ten weeks amid poor reviews for both outlets, Dury later admitting it was a bad idea to construct the plot from a collection of new songs. Dury and Gallagher woudl team up for two more music for the theatre projects for the RSC, 1992's A Jovial Crew and 1993's The Country Wife, and the same director called them up to collaborate on a touring adaptation of Sue Townsend's The Queen And I in 1994.

Charley Charles died of stomach cancer on September 5th 1990. The Blockheads had finally reunited for three gigs at the Kentish Town & County Club starting three weeks later to raise money for his treatment, and they took place in aid of his family. That was followed by a Brixton Academy Christmas show, recorded for live album Warts And Audience, with Apples band drummer Stephen Monti behind the kit. During their own hiatus Jankel made three albums, Watt-Roy, Gallagher and Turnbull played on Frankie Goes To Hollywood's Relax, Gallagher had been the Clash's touring keyboard player, Turnbull played with Paul Young and Payne with Feargal Sharkey. Asked to produce music for a film Dury came up with a full album of new work, 1992's The Bus Driver's Prayer And Other Stories. All the Blockheads bar Watt-Roy contributed, as did some Music Students, and bar an incident when Dury got drunk, threatened to burn the studio down, insulted the police officers who turned up and was arrested things seem to have improved. While it failed to chart it got Dury his best reviews since the Stiff years.

After returning from filming a small role in The Crow: City Of Angels, Dury felt bowel problems and had a colonoscopy, which revealed he had colorectal cancer. The treatment was initially successful and he continued in the odd public role, not least becoming an ambassador for UNICEF and travelling to Zambia and Sri Lanka, the latter with Dury fan Robbie Williams, in aid of polio immunisation. He'd also been writing songs on and off for a few years and an album's worth was recorded in early 1997, reuniting him in name with the Blockheads. Mr Love Pants, seven of whose ten tracks were Dury/Jankel compositions, came out in March 1998 on Ronnie Harris Records, Dury's own imprint named after his accountant, and returned to the kind of cast of well drawn, drawn out characters Dury had made his name with. Many reviewers called it his best work since New Boots And Panties, and they may well be right.

Mash It Up Harry

In May 1998, Dury went public with the news that the cancerous tumours had spread to his liver and were now inoperable. On finding out he'd married his partner Sophy Tilson, mother of two more sons Billy (1995) and Albert (1997), and before the year was out would go to Sri Lanka and head on tour, while Bob Geldof famously announced his death on his first day in a short spell as an XFM DJ. 1999 saw a collaboration with Madness on the single Drip Fed Fred, A Q Classic Songwriter Award (shared with Jankel) and changes in personnel. Davey Payne, often the instigator of a good scrap, went too far and was thrown out, replaced by Gilad Atzmon, while Dylan Howe came in on drums.

On 6th February New Boots And Panto at the sold out London Palladium cheered their man to the hilt, with more gigs booked for the summer. They never happened. On March 27th 2000 Ian Dury died at home aged 57. Every media outlet paid tribute to a man held in almighty regard by much of the public, and his funeral service on April 5th was attended by a remarkable cross-section from Mo Mowlam and Robbie Williams to assorted high-life waifs and strays. Chas Jankel, Johnny Turnbull, Norman Watt-Roy and Mickey Gallagher were his coffin bearers alongside Chris Foreman and Lee Thompson of Madness, and the Blockheads played his last composition, moving love song You're The Why. The wake took place at the Kentish Town Forum, featured impromptu tributes from Wilko Johnson, Wreckless Eric, Chas Smash, Humphrey Ocean and the Irish singer Ronnie Carroll, whose photo appeared in the Mr Love Pants booklet, and was reviewed by the Guardian.

A Dury tribute concert for BACUP took place in June 2000 at Brixton Academy, featuring a remarkable range of guests from Kathy Burke to Robbie Williams to Mick Jones, Kirsty MacColl, Tom Robinson, Mark Lamarr and Saffrom from Republica. Afterwards the Blockheads decided to continue, backing all but two of the singers on remake album Brand New Boots And Panties, released April 2001, with guests including Williams, Paul McCartney, Billy Bragg, Madness, Sinéad O'Connor, Cerys Matthews and Shane MacGowan. A year later they compiled Ten More Turnips From The Tip, comprised of late period out-takes plus You're The Why with Robbie singing at his own request. Becoming a regularly touring band, Johnny Turnbull took over lead vocals, with Dury's minder and handyman Derek The Draw gradually taking over and "Honorary Blockhead #1" Phill Jupitus making the odd appearance.

A new album, Where's The Party?, followed in 2004; 30 – Live At The Electric Ballroom (2008) saw Davey Payne return to the lineup; and EMI picked up 2009's Staring Down The Barrel. Meanwhile Baxter Dury debuted with the hallucinatory Len Parrott's Memorial Lift in 2002 and followed with the dark psychedelia of 2005's Floorshow; he also produced last year's Slow Club album. Hit Me! The Life & Rhymes Of Ian Dury debuted on the London stage in 2008 and transferred briefly to the West End at the start of the following year. Now, Dury's life is on celluloid. It fits.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Collective decision

A paucity of interesting sideshow in the Brit awards nominees announced today brings up one stop-in-your-tracks name - Animal Collective, nominated for two of the International gongs (as have Empire Of The Sun, a project which may have had a good amount of label dollarage behind it but hardly took off) and allowing Domino to laud "progressive, forward-thinking, unique and beautiful music that doesn’t pander to the corporate systems", an odd thing to highlight when it's just been nominated for two Brit awards.

Obviously, they shouldn't prepare a speech, much as we'd like to know what it contains. What they've fallen into is the curse of the fifth nominee, the moment when the committee realise they're one populist name short and send one of the executives off to see what they've got on in the office. All these people got actual Brit nominations:

- Richard Hawley (2008 British Male)
- The Eagles (2008 international group and album. The Eagles! In 2008!)
- Bob Dylan (2007 international male)
- Cat Power (2007 international female)
- Tom Waits (2005 international male)
- Brian Wilson (2005 international male)
- The Thrills (2004 international breakthrough)
- The Coral (2004 best album, which seems a little highfalutin for a band like them)
- Aphex Twin (2002 British male)
- Zero 7 (2002 British breakthrough)
- Van Morrison (2000 and 1996 British male)
- Wiseguys (2000 British breakthrough, in a dance music-laced list)
- Ann Lee (2000 pop act. Pop must have been in a worse way than anyone thought that year)
- Neil Finn (1999 international male)
- Propellerheads (1999 British breakthrough. Belle & Sebastian were far more unlikely but actually won, which spoils the narrative)
- Mick Hucknall (1997 British male, presumably just for the sake of it)
- Lightning Seeds (1997 British group. How out of place that looks)
- The Tony Rich Project (1997 international breakthrough)
- Jimmy Nail (1996 British male)
- Vanessa Mae (1996 British female, which is a wide definition of the art)

What we also want to draw your attention to is the nomination set for the best Brits performance of the last thirty years, oddly 00s slanted:

Bee Gees - Stayin' Alive/How Deep is Your Love (1997)
Bros - I Owe you Nothing (1989)
Coldplay - Clocks (2003)
Eurythmics & Stevie Wonder - Angel (1999)
Girls Aloud - The Promise (2009)
Kanye West - Gold Digger (2006)
Kylie Minogue - Can't Get You Out of my Head (2002)
Michael Jackson - Earth Song (1996)
Paul McCartney - Live & Let Die (2008)
Pet Shop Boys - Go West (1994)
Robbie Williams & Tom Jones - The Full Monty Medley (1998)
Scissor Sisters - Take Your Mama (2005)
Spice Girls - Wannabe/Who Do You Think You Are (1997)
Take That - Beatles Medley I Wanna Hold Your Hand/Hard Day's Night/She Loves Me (1994)
The Who - Who Are You (1988)

Yes, it really does refer to that classic Beatles song She Loves Me. And no, we don't know that "classic" Bros performance either. And yes, it does include the awry Jacko set-piece, although it's worth recalling that the TV director and seemingly all reporters missed it on the night and it was left to the papers to report events, which they did by condemning Jarvis for attacking children.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Fit to burst

In case there are any future anthology editors reading, we thought in a quiet moment of self-regarding nonsense we'd put together the links for everything we wrote for The Line Of Best Fit in 2009, apart from the album reviews edited down and re-presented for the STN end of year folderol.

Hazel Winter - Situation Normal Then
Luke Haines – Bad Vibes: Britpop And My Part In Its Downfall
Partly on the back of this, we got sent Truth And Lies In Murder Park, a fact-based novel by Tim Mitchell (made, we think, with Haines' cooperation) about a journalist sent to interview a rather more successful parallel version of Haines who finds himself captured by characters and mes en scenes from his lyrics. Never got round to reviewing it, but it's a fascinatingly obtuse companion piece. Even if we say so ourselves the line in this review about Alex James is one of our favourite ever concoctions, albeit originally contrived for something else. The book's just come out in paperback, with a cabbage on the cover.
The Kinks - Picture Book
Six CD box set that for some reason gives each era of the band nearly equal weight, and that 80s and early 90s output was a struggle. We're told the vast majority of the better later tracks were left off.
Rough Trade Counter Culture 08
"Last year’s Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes" is one of those lines that only amuses ourselves. Counter Culture 09 is out on February 1st and features an odd selection that takes in Mos Def, Yacht, Mariachi El Bronx, Loudon Wainright III, The Leisure Society, The XX, The Horrors, The Drums, Super Furry Animals, Broadcast And The Focus Group, Pastels/Tenniscoats, Emmy The Great, Micachu And The Shapes, The Soft Pack, Fever Ray and Tiga.
Dark Was The Night
So much anguish when we nabbed this one first. And Matt Berninger's prayer came true, which is nice.
Napoleon IIIrd – Hideki Yukawa
Why don't we just change our name to Sweeping The Brainlove and have done with it?
Shirley Lee - Shirley Lee
Especially if we're going to be lukewarm about an album by the bloke who wrote the song we're named after.
1000 Robota – Du Nicht Er Nicht Sie Nicht
German language post-punk. Wonder if anyone investigated further, no matter how positive the reaction.
Sunny Day Sets Fire – Summer Palace
Favours For Sailors – Furious Sons
And that's why they split. Maybe.
Simon Reynolds – Totally Wired: Post-Punk Interviews And Overviews
We like the debate in the comments.
The Bluetones – Expecting To Fly (Expanded Edition)
Yep. Not to cast aspersions, but another online music magazine (not to be named here, but think Trompe Le Monde) published a review of this slightly later and used the same reference to Armando Iannucci's pointlessness list without reference to where it originated.
Bill Callahan – Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle
Turned up in the UK blogger poll top 50, which perhaps means it deserves a re-visit.
Caroline Weeks – Songs For Edna
Brakes - Touchdown
Honesty time: the first paragraph (and the bit before it) were written before we'd put the album on. They should really have put Consumer Or Producer Chicken Or Egg on.
The Wave Pictures – If You Leave It Alone
Further to the opening paragraph, Stanley Brinks And The Wave Pictures has just come out with a Dave Tattersall solo album in April. We were inordinately pleased when we found out we were the second people to register the album on after Moshi Moshi themselves.
Cryptacize – Mythomania
Cats On Fire – Our Temperance Movement
To be fair, they were spectacular at Indietracks.
Golden Silvers – True Romance
The Loves – Three
It's not been made public yet but someone told us Fortuna Pop!'s newest signing recently, and we were actively astonished. Presumably it'll be announced very soon.
Awaydays Original Soundtrack
The bit about Merseyside v Leyton was original research (ie we asked someone north-western and older whether casuals would really have been listening to this stuff)
Interview with Stuart Mackay of Indietracks
Reviewed it as well, although only by cribbing STN's own longer review.
Common People - Britpop: The Story
We do keep doing this to ourselves. Another review reckoned the worst, most Britpop-timelocked thing on it was Earl Brutus! These people don't deserve the gift of music. The promo didn't have the Bob Stanley liner notes, and we'd quite like to know his defence of some of it.
The Answering Machine – Another City, Another Sorry
Let’s Wrestle – In The Court Of The Wrestling Let’s
Giving it only one less percentage point than The Low Anthem seems slightly generous, and perhaps explains why TLOBF doesn't do percentages any more, but it's not a bad album by any means, and the site editors having a difference of opinion in the comments is fun.
The Minus 5 - Killingsworth
The Duckworth Lewis Method – The Duckworth Lewis Method
Latitude Festival
Never got round to writing the extended version for STN, although this is pretty extensive as it is. It also solely focuses on the music, which means we've never previously got to relay the sight of Frank Skinner observing the bag check queue before being stopped by some bloke telling him a joke, or Robin Ince reading a Horrid Henry book to a gathering of five year olds while people like us crowded round the outside of the tent taking this curious image to heart, or seeing Simon Armitage outside the poetry tent checking the bit in his book he was about to deliver a reading of. We intend to use that Marina and the Diamonds line a lot more this year.
Interview with Rebecca from Slow Club
The observant will know it was Charles who did similar for STN, so we got all bases covered.
Hefner - We Love The City
Broadcast And The Focus Group – Broadcast And The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults Of The Radio Age
Brakes – Rock Is Dodelijk
The live album. Comma Comma Comma Full Stop isn't even the last track.
The Swell Season – Strict Joy

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The power, the power

Do you remember Noughties By Nature? (There's one that 'you were a Noughties teen if...' list missed) Did you note Dunc from Birmingham indiepop promotional titans The Autumn Store picking out Airport Girl's The Foolishness That We Create Through Love Is The Closest We Come To Greatness?

Well, it seems that purely due to that write-up their label, the estimable Fortuna Pop! (Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Allo Darlin') are giving it away as a free download. Which is very nice of them.

Monday, January 11, 2010


But good filler, and more pertinently quite possibly the most unlikely thing we've found on Spotify to date, going on to be quite possibly the most unlikely thing we've found on an mp3 blog to date, and as such in the sharing spirit we're temporarily passing it on to you. The Durham Ox Singers were a pub-founded acapella unit with our close personal showbiz chum MJ Hibbett at its centre, and in 2000 they went and recorded this Beatles cover:

The Durham Ox Singers - Revolution #9

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Now playing

Some notes, embeds and downloads on and of things we think you should be aware of:

  • Despite being an Edinburgh band on Song, By Toad Records with a remarkable sound and an unwieldly set-up we've somehow never mentioned Jesus H. Foxx before. A seven piece with three guitarists, two drummers and a full time cornet player - the last band we can think of who had a full time cornet player was iLiKETRAiNS, and he did all their backdrop slides and animated videos so it wasn't like his presence wasn't necessary at the time, although saying that he's left now, and this bit isn't supposed to be about iLiKETRAiNS anyway - their EP Matter, which came out in September, is like a refugee from the US avant-indie-Americana stable, a little Yo La Tengo, quite a bit Talking Heads, laidback oddness of Pavement, unpredictable air of Deerhoof, tongue of Broken Social Scene and eye of Acorn. While it's all boundless harmony and rhythmically offbeat driven joy there's often something a little uncomfortable about how they put it all together from track to track without losing the central thread, which is of course a very good and promising thing.

    Jesus H. Foxx - I'm Half The Man You Were

  • We've written a bit about Nosferatu D2's still intimidatingly good album but nothing yet about Audio Antihero's other release, Benjamin Shaw's splendidly titled EP I Got The Pox, The Pox Is What I Got. An abstract beast, its "six and a half songs of nausea, noise, love, desperation, hope and hilarious anecdote" defiantly lo-fi values cloak some soul baring singer-songwriterliness as if essayed at the end of a very long and uncomfortably active night, quavering voice cracking all over the place as he sends his emotions through the mother of all wringers, throwing everything off course with electronic layers, noises off and the inscrutability of his lyrical worldview. Mark Linkous would be a useful comparison point, Jeff Mangum shredded raw another, maybe Vic Chesnutt (RIP) for the brutal openness and feeling everything is merely hanging on in there. An mp3 of Thanks For All The Biscuits is available from that shop link, the whole thing is being streamed here, while This Is Fake DIY (in whose we once received a promo) are sharing a new song of his. This is as lively as it gets:

    And as we've mentioned Nosferatu D2, Audio Antihero have made available a good quality bootleg of their last gig, supporting Los Campesinos! and Sky Larkin at London The Spitz in March 2007.

  • Buenos Aires are a band we've featured before but never properly written about, so let's sort that out right now. A youthful Leicester outfit who played in 2009 with Maybeshewill (whose Robot Needs Home Records sideline they're signed to), Tubelord, Post War Years, Blakfish, Sucioperro and the late Tired Irie, they betray the full-on melodic intensity of Glassjaw, Reuben and early Biffy Clyro to the righteous fury of a Million Dead and textural post-hardcore invention of a Minus The Bear. Their latest set of demos are heartily recommended.

  • We're going to have to keep some sort of count of how many new tracks by His Clancyness - for latecomers, the stylistically diverse song scraps project of Jonathan Clancy, the Ottawa-raised Bologna resident who also fronts A Classic Education - eke out into the blogosphere over 2010 after the steady stream that littered last year. This is the first; alongside it, watch his live session for Neu Magazine and hear his telephone conversation with the similarly minded London-via-Turin type Banjo Or Freakout here.

    His Clancyness - Mistify The Ocean

  • Plenty of new videos are coming out into the open with the start of the new year, as you'd expect, and they promise much for the months ahead. Leicester/Leeds' dark emotionally expansive post-pastoralists Her Name Is Calla have a new album, The Quiet Lamb, in March, and a single, Long Grass, out on 10" now (we think), which sounds like this and, when played live in an appropriately reverby alcove, like this:

    Class Of 2010 star and future STN Presents appearee Stairs To Korea's All Of Your Friends is out on Monday, is predictably ace, and looks and sounds like this:

    ...and while we don't have it yet, something which we'd forcibly comment on if outright begging wasn't so frowned on in blog circles, Field Music's third album, the indecisively titled Field Music (Measure), is getting some great word of mouth. The first single is Them That Do Nothing:

  • Friday, January 08, 2010

    Into the new live year

    The first two Sweeping The Nation Presents... gigs at Leicester Firebug of 2010:

    Thursday 4th March: The Indelicates

    Sunday 28th March: Meursault/Stairs To Korea

    £4 tickets are on WeGotTickets (Indelicates, Meursault). More nearer the time.

    Thursday, January 07, 2010

    Class Of 2010: Frankie & The Heartstrings

    Aaaaaaand finally... when bands come along now touting excitable rock'n'roll, there's always a slight fear in the back of our minds that they might just turn into the Pigeon Detectives if given the wrong hand. Despite recently tour supporting Florence And The Machine, the joy of Sunderland's Frankie & The Heartstrings is that despite some heavyweight backing they seem only set fair on their own course. Their biog calls them a "brand new old fashioned pop band" and this group of people corralled from various local outpost bands (and one you should hold dear to your heart, obviously) are certainly a big pop band, capable of a rabble rousing chorus and riff destined for Soccer AM use. They really wouldn't know or condone an anthem in the modern sense, though. Theirs is an old fashioned alternative rock'n'roll, of Dexys Midnight Runners' projected passion revues and Postcard Records' swinging songs for lovers. You can tell they want to go about things the right way, with their Factory-apeing PopSex Ltd catalogue, lack of songs on Myspace so you have to hunt further evidence down and pleasingly ragged sound, like the mates they are merely getting together to reappropriate this thing we now call indie for its original means. They teem with good vibes to reward effort put in to them.

    Frankie & The Heartstrings - Possibilities

    Class Of 2010: Talons

    Another instrumental band, but in this case one where pedal abuse rather than Macbook descaling is of the essence. Hailing from Hereford, Talons (not to be confused with the Ohio alt-country singer-songwriter) are post-hardcore post-rock to the core, a neat companion piece to your And So I Watch You From Afars and your Maybeshewills. Heavy riffs plunge down metaphorical lift shafts, bypassed by splinters of song structures and whirlwinds of guitar noise broken up by a two-strong string section on loan from Class Of 2009 non-graduates Gossamer Albatross who add another layer of rushes of violin grandiosity to such visceral energy, veering from dramatic highs to cataclysmic lows. Unsurprisingly, they're by all accounts something special live. Signed to Big Scary Monsters, they've toured with Pulled Apart By Horses and set off with Shoes And Socks Off (ex-Meet Me In St Louis) from the 21st of this month.

    Talons - Commiserations Buff Orpington

    Class Of 2010: Gallops

    Since Battles, with some ground work from Pivot and So So Modern, cleared the space upon which digital motorik could grow there's been a slow but steady shift away from math-rock as an all encompassing signifier of college kids finger tapping towards this electronic undertow propulsiveness, heavy on riff-heavy metronomic dynamism. Wrexham's Gallops are perhaps the best of the new breed as far as we go, melding laptop pulses with a Kraut-guided proper rhythm section, technically gifted but simultaneously loose. Of course it's all founded on complex time signatures and rhythmic structures, altering melodies around when it suits and not afraid of interjecting with a post-hardcore derived guitar riff that in this context sounds almost playful. Fired up and ready to reconsitute, they're like the potential feet impulse scrambling band Warp have yet to find out about.

    Gallops - Lasers

    Class Of 2010: Beth Jeans Houghton

    Nineteen years old and with an individual sense of humour of the sort that seems prevalent among most north-eastern musicians, Newcastle's Beth Jeans Houghton could easily be dismissed as a runt of the freak-folk litter that have well passed, what with her barmid dresses, big blonde afro wig, embellished biography and predilection for considering small amounts of paint to be plenty to wear on the top half when being photographed, but her music, and moreover her voice, belies all that. Achingly romantic, these chamber folk compositions could as easily have been handed down from Denny, Bunyan and Mitchell as exist only in the same time as Newsom and Marling, existing in their own mindset of gossamer arrangements and vocals that range from plangent and mournful to joyously soaring. Recording an album with Ben Hillier, it's critical that she gets to strike that balance right between her playful experimental pop edge and this instantly winning cloak of loveliness even in trying circumstances. Unlikely as it seems, her claimed top influence is Peter Sarstedt. Well, we know exactly where this lovely's going to.

    Beth Jeans Houghton - Lilliput (live on BBC 6 Music)
    Originally posted by The Daily Growl

    Wednesday, January 06, 2010

    Class Of 2010: Mat Riviere

    Sometimes it seems we're on commission from Brainlove Records, home of Pagan Wanderer Lu, Napoleon IIIrd and Stairs To Korea (qv), but something about their approach just chimes with us, the way they find these people able to mix smart lyrics and melodic sense with brutalisation of the electronics around them. And so it is again with Norwich's Mat Riviere. His debut, which you'll find below, is all second hand electronics somehow staying in tune as the loops and verbal ideas pile up. His wider oeuvre creates a sort of back bedroom widescreen, Casio and Yamaha drones and loops creating rhythmic build around his plaintive vocals which sound oddly like Steve Mason, much as the rest of it comes across as early, hypnotic Beta Band on a reduced DIY budget. An album, Follow Your Heart, is out imminently.

    Mat Riviere - FYH

    Class Of 2010: Warpaint

    The only non-Brits on the list, Warpaint are three women who after positive CMJ notices and a critically acclaimed EP, Exquisite Corpse (which features contributions from John Frusciante), have signed to Rough Trade for a forthcoming album and are about to play with Yeasayer and Akron/Family across the US. These are the facts. Opinions are slightly harder to pin down to 150 words or so. They're cloaked in a fog of melodic mystery, utilising space in a way similar to The XX but using as their template foggy slo-mo soundscapes, off-kilter harmonies and gauzy psychedelic explorations of the psyche and, in the case of the track Billie Holiday, repurposing pop itself as cut-up darkness. You may think of Cat Power's pre-Memphis doubtful comforts in visions and wracked emotions, only there's an underlying strength they can call upon to undercut the atmospheric detail, playing around with effects or lingering windchime guitar chords. We've seen plenty of bands in recent years, especially American, burst out of the blocks with something utterly magical and then completely fail to capitalise under the self-imposed strain, but such is the resoluteness lying beneath what bleakness forms the EP that on that score they surely only have rushing into things under hype pressures to fear.

    Warpaint - Elephants

    Class Of 2010: Molly Wagger

    You know, you could do much worse than keep an eye on Edinburgh if you're at all keen on folk with an almighty twist. Following Broken Records, Meursault and Withered Hand, Molly Wagger have at heart a straight talking, all feeling traditional air, but offset all that with a full sonic appreciation of aerated electronic noisescapes carefully built round those woodily widescreen folk songs, stealthily hypnotic loops built up around Charlie Denholm's insistent while laid back vocals. It seems, going on from when we first heard their work, that more of the computer aided cut-up side is coming out in them - they're signed to Tirk, once home to Fujiya & Miyagi and Chaz Jankel - but there's still very much a heart and soul amid the machine turned atmospherics. They say an album, or at least an EP, is being mixed.

    Class Of 2010: Stairs To Korea

    Promise this is the last time we'll go on about it, but right from first listen Boy Bear It In Mind was such an outstanding debut single, glorious harmonic power-pop shapes wedged into shapes they shouldn't necessarily fit into. The man behind Stairs To Korea is Will Vaughan, a half-Icelandic former(?) member of Horsebox whose further work demonstrates a keen ear for twisting alternative tropes in on itself. Next single All Of Your Friends (11th January, the ever reliable Brainlove Records) is a fiercely intelligent chronicle of the human condition by means of dialled down anthemics, DIY electronics and a smart guitar line. Early days yet all told, but Vaughan has already demonstrated he has enough ideas to make an extended go of bringing fresh life to man with guitar ideals.

    Stairs To Korea - After You Die (Dreamtrak Live Session)

    Tuesday, January 05, 2010

    Class Of 2010: Wonderswan

    There was some media excitement at the start of the year about a Leeds-based grunge revival, yet not a lot of those cited seemed to have the ennui-driven Gen X rock drive as, let's be kind to the original genre, In Utero. Even if you wanted to draw a big circle to encompass all points possibly between Dinosaur Pile-Up and Pulled Apart By Horses, Wonderswan would remain resolutely itchily on the perimeter, all Daydream Nation melodic dissonance and Pavement astrayness, scuzzy in a fashion J Mascis would recognise but not after a slacker second hand fashion, or indeed with so many lengthy solos. We were introduced to them tour supporting Sky Larkin, where the bassist set up facing the rest of the band in front of the stage and eardrums were routinely serrated. By the way, they go under ever changing pseudonyms and have very recently taken all the tracks off their Myspace except one fifty second feedback frenzy. Yeah, that sort of band.

    Wonderswan - Cut It

    Class Of 2010: Mitchell Museum

    There's so much good music coming out of Scotland at the moment that it seems unfair that one area, so far away from our usually being able to see any of them, is coming up roses for properly individual talents. Mind you, with so many being from Edinburgh these days it's only fair that Glasgow have a go back. Mitchell Museum are by all accounts a jumping bean of a live band, which makes sense with the more indecipherable parts of their current catalogue, all Cardiacs/Unicorns restless oddness mixed with whirling smart psych-pop. It's American influences that ring hardest, whether mid-period Flaming Lips new weird melody, Sebadoh lo-fi entanglement or Modest Mouse wired experimental pop, but a certain arty Britishness lies at its heart. They've just, as in November, completed their album, already clearly ready to take their "junk pop" brimful of ideas compressed into three and a half minute pop shapes with plenty of overspill to a wider potential audience.

    Mitchell Museum - Take The Tongue Out

    Class Of 2010: Fair Ohs

    Internet Forever are the almost commercial end of something that's been brewing throughout 2009 in London's DIY underground scene, wherein bands take what Times New Viking and Wavves have done for ultra-lo-fi and extended it into artistically inclined shapes - PENS, Male Bonding, Graffiti Island, Cold Pumas, all out there just waiting for the man from Vice to call again. Fair Ohs (formerly Thee Fair Ohs, as a Billy Childish tribute) were comfortably inside that mode with sub-minute songs and thrashing about, leader Eddy Frankel formerly leader of math-screamers Cutting Pink With Knives. Over time they've turned into more of an Afrobeat/hi-life proposition, inevitable of some in these post-Vampire Weekend days the cynical might suggest, yet they seem keener to burn the influence down to the molten lo-fi core it never really knew it had before, euphoric Afro riffage but still with a noisy centre more akin to a British Abe Vigoda just before their party vehicle is driven into a wall.

    Fair Ohs - Summer Lake

    Class Of 2010: Internet Forever

    There's quite a few messily noisy lo-fi bands around at the moment in Britain. Why should Internet Forever be better than any of them? Because they almost don't realise they are one. They aren't an outright distortion over talent outfit by any means, merely one that takes a deceptively simple melody and slathers it in molten core guitar noise, needling keyboard lines and a good few group choral shouts, a DIY gang show of fuzzy joy. In that they have more in common with the Awesome Pals! brigade (they've already toured with Johnny Foreigner and played Los Campesinos!' curated evening at Swn festival), stomping their idea of pop all over the underground they seem too good for with all this catchiness, genuine warmth and abrasive spatial awareness. A union of three entities doing bedroom anti-pop for themselves, they exist somewhere between Times New Viking and Los Campesinos! in theory and somewhere amid their own innocence mission in truth, and who'd have ever thought that of a DIY band with a guttural guitar sound these days.

    Internet Forever - Pages Of Books

    Monday, January 04, 2010

    Class Of 2010: Young British Artists

    Not that it's ever totally restful but, just as Mark E said it would be, Manchester is on the rise again. This time it's a soaring, atmospheric, reverby kind of rise. Near the forefront of this - oh, let's say it - shoegaze division, alongside Daniel Land and the Modern Painters and Airship, are Young British Artists. Actually, let's call what they do post-shoegaze, as instead of just turning on and fuzzing out they bring a dark Northern post-punk element to play, reflecting the claustrophobia and bass-led propulsion lineage of the Chameleons, Closer Joy Division and first album Interpol but refracted through epically soaring and ringing guitar noise, equal parts Slowdive and Twilight Sad if you want an immediate too easy by far comparison. You (we) feel this Scene That Celebrates Itself recelebration hasn't by far reached its modern apogee yet, but with Kyte and Her Name Is Calla active again and these entering the centre ground with a bang it's only a matter of time. And space.

    Young British Artists - Small Waves

    Class Of 2010: The Kiara Elles

    It might sound like a simple step, but there's a crucial gap between the indiepop show and the indie dancefloor, and it's one Leeds' Kiara Elles bridge neatly. They first crossed our path in 2007, where they sounded like a K Records version of the Shop Assistants or Popguns. That's broadly still what they do after late 2008 lineup and name (nee The Chiara L's) changes, only the desire to take their knife-edge art-pop to the floor has been hardened a little. There's more than a hint of Altered Images before the mass consumption self-makeover, Le Tigre's DIY disco buzz and post-punk's darker post-Joy Division end, all held together upfront by the restless, magnetic personality of Chiara Lucchini. With the album out on local startup Vandal in the next few months - they reported recording had been completed in November - and previous form suggesting their energy levels can be successfully transmuted onto disc, they're a band we suspect with any luck will be turning a lot of heads in the very near future. They deserve to.

    The Kiara Elles - Night Terrors

    Class Of 2010: Ice, Sea, Dead People

    In, explode, out. It's the best way of getting your message across should you be sufficiently teeth on edge post-hardcore, and with their twenty minute sets it's something Ice, Sea, Dead People - even they admit they regret that name, but IT'S TOO LATE NOW - understand intimately. The London via Bedford trio take their lead from Fugazi and Q And Not U, twisting taut distorted riffery and hyperkinetic arrythmic understanding into two and a half minute nuggets of splintered, pummelling staccato and most importantly loud art-punk, leaving untold aural damage in its wake. Their debut album, mastered by Bob Weston of Shellac, is out soonish on the reliable Smalltown America, who understand the value of such a thing.

    Ice, Sea, Dead People - Hence: Elvis

    Class Of 2010: Stars Of Sunday League

    Euan Robinson, who by and large is Stars Of Sunday League, has associations with Emmy The Great, but in the musical sphere of charmingly lyrical indie-folk that's hardly unique. It is, however, a useful pointer, as these roughly follow the thematic path of her early solo recordings, surface personal and caring but with an acidic undertow. Backed by Sarah Triggs and Max Jones, Robinson's songs paint pictures of longing and

    individuality, reaching right into the soul with the barest, almost simplest musical accompaniment and in a soft but definite Edinburgh burr. There's a lack of pretension to his approach, a poetry that never touches earnestness while dealing in the everyday with a light touch of imagery. These songs could almost have emerged fully formed as if already minor touchstones, daydreaming verses that takes its thoughts of revenge lightly in favour of thinking aloud through feelings, conditions and the way the world of personal relationships turns.

    Stars Of Sunday League - I Still Like Football

    Sunday, January 03, 2010

    Class Of 2010: Allo Darlin'

    There's a certain strain of music that people like us, that is to say pasty faced Myspace/crate-digging four square guitar rock fans who haven't been properly in touch with what pop actually means for a decade or more, call pop. Allo Darlin' is primarily a vehicle for ukelele touting Aussie Elizabeth Morris, an Indietracks regular and member of Amelia Fletcher's current band the Tender Trap. Which all means lots of (gnnh) twee charm, yes, but also an advanced sense of catchiness and bounciness as well as, yes, chirpy likeability. Underneath that Morris weaves stories of love and joy, not necessarily at the same time - the below song is inspired by the phasing out of non-digital film, while previous single Henry Rollins Don't Dance is about a couple trying to reconcile their varying musical tastes. There's an album expected in February, supported by touring with The School in March.

    Allo Darlin' - The Polaroid Song

    Class Of 2010: Standard Fare

    When we saw Standard Fare at an all-dayer a couple of months ago, two things were noticeable. Firstly, people were dancing. Secondly, the band were visibly surprised that people were doing such. Maybe the Sheffield based trio really don't realise yet the power that could be harnessed by their songs, in which case they'd better wise up quickly before their debut album The Noyelle Beat is released through Thee SPC on 29th March, preceded next week by 7" Fifteen. It's not just in location and label that they remind us of those early Long Blondes single, smart but uncomfortably bittersweet songs shot through with the joy of being in a band, all kinetic energy and Emma Kupa's pleasingly untutored vocals, wracked but somewhat defiant. Over the full length they've got definite hidden melodic depths, the ability to draw magic from uncomplicated interplay as if held together by the thinnest thread, yet the impression is of a band well schooled in their guitar pop homework with observations and ideas to spare alongside heart and soul.

    Standard Fare - A Night With A Friend (B-side version)

    Class Of 2010: Acres, Acres

    Do Acres, Acres strictly count as a new band? They are after all led by Jeremy Warmsley, who we've mentioned a few times before. However we'd argue their sound is different to his electronic singer-songwriter metier, and they've only played a handful of gigs and written not many more songs, so we think you'll find we're right to put them in. Formed with various members of his backing band and thereabouts, we find them exploring a twistedly sun-kissed mode, invoking the Beach Boys, Beulah and the Shins, harmonies intact and methods of throwing pure guitar pop off balance well developed, but with Warmsley's voice and melodic sense are just about intact at the centre, nodding to distorted alt-folk and an English sense of yearning amid the more Americanised nods.

    Acres, Acres - Diamonds From Coal

    Class Of 2010: Everything Everything

    The only name in this list replicated on the BBC's, Everything Everything are a tricky beast to pin down. On paper they're an alt-pop band with hooks. Fine so far. It's just their idea of alt-pop is one that has been severely chopped up, electrocuted and generally messed around with until the ready for prime time sheen is surrounded by broken bits of pop. Their harmonies recall a falsetto Futureheads, their breaks are likely to feature earth burrowing bass or broken riffage, and throughout they still manage to keep a tight rein on their razor wire post-punk-funk with opaque lyrics and a curious method of vocalisation. It might sound contrived, wilful even, but it sounds a natural way out of the scene around them's current stasis, by which we mean the Zane Lowe-friendly new wave songsmiths as much as their Manchester bretheren, setting them up as the odd art college cousins of Wild Beasts' refracted indie disco bovver/lover boys. Whether they can similarly carve out a unique worldview in a crowded market is another matter, but they've a better chance than most.

    Everything Everything - Photoshop Handsome

    Class Of 2010

    Regular readers and back issues perusers will know that usually at this time of the embryonic year we provide a full Covermount's worth of tips for the year ahead. This year, while there's still to be twenty to follow for the immediate future to be unveiled over the next five days, they're being provided individually instead. Two reasons: a) so we can explain more about those chosen; b) it's just less bother for us.

    The usual caveats stand: these are not self-fulfilling prophecies. Of the 21 in Class Of 2008 three didn't release anything, two have deals abroad but not in the UK and one has gone on hiatus. As such, these are not Artists That Are Definitely Going To Be Big In 2010; in fact some we'd be surprised to find fit into any major label priority act criteria. All they are are people, not before featured in a Class Of... although in a good few cases featured heavily on this blog already and thus here as some sort of expectations containment exercise, who have fairly recently started up, none yet an album to the good, that we hope to see continued recorded and live excellence from. They have huge potential and we look forward to further interesting things through the 362 days ahead.

    Friday, January 01, 2010

    UK Blogger Albums Of 2009 Poll Results

    Here we go again, then. The traditional first post of the new year on this blog, and hopefully the highest profile given what it entails and the effort put into it, collates the results of our study of good, honest UK music bloggers and their charts of the year's best albums. This is the fifth such gathering of zeitgeist information - check the tag for earlier polls - and as usual we've begged and when that largely failed scrounged blog master lists for enough proper lists to produce a workable full top 50, one more individual list counted towards it than last year. We ended up with a huge range of nominees and an intriguing, not to mention close in various key places, end result.

    This year's harvested lists, by no means covering all the blogs/people counted: 17 Seconds, 2STEPSFORWARD4STEPSBACK, Addict Music, Amusia, And Everyone's A DJ, Aye Tunes, Both Bars On, Breaking More Waves, BurnTheJukebox, Condemned To Rock N Roll, Faded Glamour*, Folly Of Youth, funfunfun, Hotcakes, ireallylovemusic, In League With Paton, It's Getting Boring By The Sea, It’s not for the cock, Music Fans Mic, Music Liberation, Nyevsky Prospect, Our Iron Lung, Products Of A Gaseous Brain, Song By Toad, The Daily Growl, Themilkfactory, The Pop Cop, The Sound Of The Overground, The Von Pip Musical Express, Troubled Diva and Yer Mam! plus this year's special guests, Belgian Anglophiles The Neon Enlightenment. Thanks to those who sent their lists over, sorry to those for whom this is the first they've heard of it. Here's their combined top 50 of 2009:

    50 THE UNTHANKS - Here's The Tender Coming
    49 MAJOR LAZER - Guns Don't Kill People, Lazers Do
    48 JAPANDROIDS - Post-Nothing
    47 KING CREOSOTE – Flick The V's
    46 SWEET BILLY PILGRIM - Twice Born Men
    45 THE PAINS OF BEING PURE AT HEART - The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
    44 TUNE-YARDS - Bird-Brains
    43 PATRICK WOLF - The Bachelor
    42 BROKEN RECORDS - Until The Earth Begins To Part
    41 JACK PENATE - Everything Is New
    40 BLACKROC - Blackroc
    39 GIRLS - Album
    38 ALESSI'S ARK - Notes From The Treehouse
    37 ARCTIC MONKEYS - Humbug
    36 GRAMMATICS - Grammatics
    35 DANANANANAYKROYD - Hey Everyone!
    34 WITHERED HAND - Good News
    33 FUTURE OF THE LEFT - Travels With Myself And Another
    32 BILL CALLAHAN - Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle
    31 WHITE LIES - To Lose My Life
    30 MICACHU & THE SHAPES - Jewellery
    29 THE PHANTOM BAND - Checkmate Savage
    28 WE WERE PROMISED JETPACKS - These Four Walls
    27 NOAH AND THE WHALE - The First Days Of Spring
    26 LA ROUX - La Roux
    25 FEVER RAY - Fever Ray
    24 PASSION PIT - Manners
    23 FANFARLO - Reservoir
    22 THE MACCABEES - Wall Of Arms
    21 SLOW CLUB - Yeah So

    20 BIBIO - Ambivalence Avenue
    Video: Ambivalence Avenue

    19 BAT FOR LASHES - Two Suns
    Video: Daniel

    Video: Drumming Song

    17 MANIC STREET PREACHERS - Journal For Plague Lovers
    Video: Jackie Collins Existential Question Time

    16 JAMIE T - Kings & Queens
    Video: Chaka Demus

    15 THE TWILIGHT SAD - Forget The Night Ahead
    Video: I Became A Prostitute

    14 BLUE ROSES - Blue Roses
    Video: Doubtful Comforts

    13 CAMERA OBSCURA - My Maudlin Career
    Video: French Navy

    12 EMMY THE GREAT - First Love
    Video: First Love

    11 YEAH YEAH YEAHS - It's Blitz!
    Video: Zero

    10 THE ANTLERS - Hospice
    Brooklynite Peter Silberman charts isolation, life, death and his place in the world by means of broodingly cathartic uneasy listening
    Video: Two

    9 PHOENIX - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
    There-or-thereabouts French outfit strike paydirt by refining their hook-laden pop into ever more sophisticatedly streamlined shapes
    Video: Lisztomania

    8 THE HORRORS - Primary Colours
    Much-mocked playgroup garage goths regroup, rethink, listen to a lot of MBV and Psychedelic Furs and come back with an electric malevolence
    Video: Sea Within A Sea

    7 FUCK BUTTONS - Tarot Sport
    Experimental noise duo make a turn for the techno club and rave field with soaring synths, pounding glitch intensity and many layered beauty
    Video: Surf Solar

    6 MUMFORD AND SONS - Sigh No More
    West London nu-folkies whip up a barn dance bluegrass storm with their banjo and their four-part harmonies and their euphoric crescendos
    Video: Little Lion Man

    5 DIRTY PROJECTORS - Bitte Orca
    West African riffs, syncopated post-funk, oblique pop hints, abruptly melodic intricacies and an avant-Mariah Carey impression
    Video: Stillness Is The Move

    4 WILD BEASTS - Two Dancers
    The little Kendal band that could delve deeper into early 80s alt-funk-pop influences and pull out no end of on the pull-based intrigue
    Video: Hooting & Howling

    3 GRIZZLY BEAR - Veckatimest
    Gorgeously arranged suite of harmonic delicacy, founded on the subtlest multi-instrumental nuances while retaining Beach Boys-ish opulence
    Video: Two Weeks

    2 ANIMAL COLLECTIVE - Merriwether Post Pavilion
    Having worked their way round freak folk's outer limits they came back to centre point with noise-pop, avant-dance and a winning strain of positivism
    Video: My Girls

    1 THE XX - XX
    For the second year in a row, the number one was decided by the very last list counted. Late night listening comes home to roost as R&B-reared youngsters make restrained indiefied beats driven by star crossed lovers narrative
    Video: Crystalised

    * Saam Faded Glamour also polled a number of UK bloggers, some of whom are also represented here (us, for one), for the British Albums Of The Decade