Saturday, 28 June 2008

Not English

Tunes of the Week '08 - #26

Just last week I was talking about tunes made famous by adverts. It's completely fair to say that Hummingbird by Born Ruffians falls exactly into the camp. Originally released last October, it's now getting a fair amount of airplay ready for a re-release on 7" on the 7th July. Would this have happened if it wasn't for a certain mobile phone advert? Probably not - which is a shame as it is actually a very enjoyable track. OK, we're all waiting for the ending of it now as that's we bit know, but it's fast and furious right up until there. Reminds me a lot of Vampire Weekend in terms of style, and as they're not doing bad for themselves, it's a good sign.

I've been wondering what Paris is Burning by Ladyhawke reminded me of for a while - thankfully Chartblog came up with the answer - it's Gary Numan's Cars. But only the verses. Quite weird, but enjoyable nevertheless. Out on the 30th.

Rihanna is an artist I don't think I should like. After all, her Umbrella[-ella-ella] was one of those plainly annoying songs. However, her songs are quite addictive, and her latest collaboration with Maroon 5 (who are a band I appear to have missed recently - a long absence from the highly successful "Songs about Jane"), If I never see your face again fits the mould of those toe-tapping melodies. It was released at the start of the month, but is still worth a belated mention.

Another song I should have mentioned some time ago is the new single from the new album by Paul Weller. Have you mind up your mind has been around for ages, but it's taken a while to grow enough and enjoy it enough to warrant a mention.

Geraldine has been mentioned a couple of times on this blog already. It therefore seems like it's been around for ages, but actually was only released last Monday. And I think in the last week it's just had enough airplay, including a live session on Twinkle and Rufhulme Radcliffe and Maconie, to really hit home. I know that singing in an accent is very much the latest trend, but the strength of "My name is Geraldine / I'm your social worker" does give the lyrics that extra edge. It is a fantastic song, and whilst I might be a bit late with making it a TOTW, I'm sure Glasvegas won't mind too much.

Coldplay keep getting mentioned here too, and their new album has been getting a bit of airplay, particularly the title track of Viva La Vida. My feelings on Coldplay are fairly well known - more depressive than the Smiths. But Viva La Vida isn't that, it's dramatic and well orchestrated. I'm hoping it'll be the next single.

Just time for a few quick mentions before I 'unveil' the second TOTW (I hope you like the dramatic tension. No? Oh well, tough)

The Kooks - Shine On (7th July) - Middle Class Indie-pop I know, but with a friendly enough tune.

Beck - Chemtrails - a bit psychedelic, but when the new album's been produced by Dangermouse, it's no surprise that it's got such excellent production values to make it appealing

Man Like Me - Carny (28th July) - Natasha's last Record of the Weekend, and could easily be the sound you hear on the beaches if we get a summer. It's got that summer sound, sadly in Britain that doesn't always count for much.

My Morning Jacket - Touch Me I'm going to scream (Part 2) - Long title, long song (8 minutes for the full version if you click on the link). Starts a bit like Duran Duran, then goes a bit electronic. Still decent.

Those Dancing Days - Run Run (7th July) - Enjoyable Swedish Girl Indie Pop. A strange description, but distinctly different to anything else out there.

So, to counter the distinctly Scottish 1st TOTW, it's only fair to look at another part of our proud United Kingdom - Wales

Gruff Rhys - best known for his part in the Super Furry Animals and then also his (strongly) Welsh language solo work - has collaborated with Boom Rip to form Neon Neon. I've mentioned some songs in the past (notably I lust you, but the strangely titled I told her on Alderaan (14th July) is particularly enjoyable. It's sort of futuristic (Alderaan being, for the benefit of non Stay Wars fans, is Princess Leia), with that electronic tune matching that - but also reasurringly retro in a bizarre way. I don't think I'm describing it right to be honest, all I know for sure is that I really like it. So, that's good enough for me...

Thursday, 26 June 2008

My Bleeding Eardrums

My Bloody Valentine, June 23rd - The Roundhouse

Creation records was nearly bankrupted by this mans use of guitars and amps to get to the perfect white noise.

I'm sure the Roundhouse may well be in the same boat.

My Bloody Valentine have returned to touring after 16 years, and after a warm-up at the ICA last week, played five nights at the Roundhouse in Camden.

You could feel the air being shot across the room, as Kevin Shields sliced some kind of distorted wave with each chord from the myriad of Fender Jazzmaster's & Jaguar's he switched through - it was almost like a product tour of each colour!

Bilinda Butcher pulled off something extraordinary during this gig, I almost caught what some of the words were! It took Mr. Shields dropping down to the most de-tuned acoustic guitar on record to acheive that on for 'Lose My Breath' from their first album.

Thankfully ear plugs were provided. Anyone who turned down that option will forever enjoy it as the last thing they probably ever heard.

For the closer, You Made Me Realise, after two minutes of garbled vocals, manic drumming and blasted guitars - the band turn on the audience and use the sonic weapon of mass destruction. As the delays and distortion layer on each other, the feeling of standing infront of the jet engine of a 747, both aurally and physically is imposed on the crowd - a deafening roar of distortion layered on distortion for an unguessable amount of time (apparently 20 minutes).

The scene is incredible, first I wonder how long it's going on for, then start to find it hilarious, then feel a bit annoyed that it's going on so long, then back to amazed, then it's funny again, then boring again. I think I ended on amazed - but also slightly relieved there was no encore.

My Bloody Valentine - Soon

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

From the blogs

Obviously, I'm not the only blogger trying to find new talents.

Arjan Writes is a very respected musical blog, and even had a key part in an MTV award. Understandably, we have to give to weight to his picks.

He is a keen proponent of home-grown talent such as Spree Wilson, and Little Jackie. The latter Arjan thinks is Amy Winehouse similar - and I must agree to an extent. I think the Brooklyn based group are a bit closer to hip-hop than our own little crack addict, with Crying for the Queen being a bit "talking over music" - that said it's got a proper funky backing track, and is very catchy as a result. Listening to the obligatory myspace, they're all in a similar vein - but it's that soulful music I like (See the last Unsung). Don't know if they want to try and crack this side of the Atlantic, but it's music that could appear on the playlists of both Radios 1 and 2. That tends to mean it'll be popular...

Arjan also ventures away from his own American shores. Jamie Lidell (myspace) is described as a "British techno soulman". By such a token, you'd imagine he fits into the same genre as Little Jackie - but his music is what I'd describe as more 'classical' soul than a modern equivalent. Some of his tunes could easily be sung by Stevie Wonder (especially Little bit of Feel Good) or Lionel Richie. I'm not saying that as a bad thing - it's certainly praise - but in this day and age I think that bit of modernisation and creativity is required. Hurricane goes that way to an extent, but not greatly. It's good music, but I don't think it's appealing enough. Which might explain why, despite several albums, I've not actually heard of him...

"This is so fresh. Even the Brits haven't found out about it yet." - that's how The Aikiu is described. He's French, but don't hold that against him, as it's cracking music. The Red Kiss is a bit of 80s Retro, IMHO; and then Let me Freakout is early 2000s Indie - that's what I call varying styles. A diverse and catchy range of songs feature, and whilst I can't really say that's there's any stand out tracks or immediately memorable choruses, they've enjoyable - which at least is a start. Will the obvious talent spread from the little country over the Channel? I hope so at least...

Obviously, there's other bloggers out there - including a brand new name to the blogosphere, but not to music - that of Steve Lamacq. He recently talked about "misfit bands", featuring Fight Like Apes. I think the best word to describe their music is 'crazed'. Not crazy, crazed. It's manic, and it's certainly an acquired taste - for instance Knucklehead sounds like someone accidentally let Lordi into the studio. That or they invaded. Lammo states about the band "The first time I saw them - a year ago in north London - they seemed like too much of a mess to make sense to anyone. It was like watching re-runs of The Goodies." However, I'm always saying that I like the different, and the band ticks this box perfectly. Would I listen to the music regularly? - probably not. But as a special treat once in a while, yeah, it's good stuff.

Finally, Winston is back, and looking at the melange of styles that is The Unstoppable Team. They're a new band - but they're definitely going places - by places I mean the Late 'n' Live stage at Glastonbury. I feel like I've gone full circle referring to hip-hop again, at personally it discourages me. But when they're being tuneful, it's pleasing stuff. Most of all, it's creative. They're brave enough to try it. So, I'm brave enough to listen.

Monday, 23 June 2008

The Last Shadow Puppets: The Age of the Understatement

There's a very sensible reason why my album reviews come several months after the release date. This is an amateur's blog, so I don't get the advanced copy of an album nicely free of charge. So, if I'm going to spend my hard earned cash on an album, I want to be convinced it's going to be a good one.

Strangely, I think I knew that The Age of the Understatement was going to be a cracking album when I knew that Alex Turner and Miles Kane were collaborating (as a surprised fan of Turner's writing in any event), and straight after hearing the lead single for the first time was convinced. That said, I've still only just got round to buying it...

The overall style of the album matches the cover of the album perfectly. It's 60s music. Guitar styled, the (often used for the duo) comparison to the Walker Brothers is exact. You can tell there's Arctic Monkeys-esque moments in there, but that's to be expected - and it's not the same band with just a slightly different line-up and the London Metropolitan Orchestra.

The ability to combine the similar voice styles or Turner and Kane should be praised. The full orchestration is well managed. It's tension building, nostalgic, and yet creative.

Obviously, it still has its failings. I think that I Don't Like You Anymore doesn't really match the rest of the album. It's not that it's a bad track, and I think it would fit perfectly fine on an Arctic Monkeys album - but it's a bit too heavy considering what's either side of it. It builds to a raucous ending, which doesn't have the same musicality I enjoy from every other track.

One also occasionally gets the feeling that they're trying a bit too hard to be the next Bond theme. The opening chords of In My Room; the Russian chorus of The Age of the Understatement - it's all a bit too obvious.

Despite that, it's not stopped from being an exceptional album. Personal favourites are Only The Truth with its full on opening; My Mistakes Were Made For You, and the latest single Standing Next to Me.

I've listened to the album several times in order to really get the mood of the work, and I've not found myself getting even slightly bored of any bits of it, which I consider the mark of a good album. I waited until I was sure I'd like it - and it was well worth the wait.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Isn't it annoying...

Tunes of the Week #25

... when tunes are made popular  because of TV talent shows (which I've mentioned elsewhere that I hate). Often, when a song is featured in a TV advertisement, it's jet propelled up the charts. Strangely with Mint Royale's remix of Singing in the Rain, I can't remember it doing exceptionally well in the charts after advertising a VW Golf. Since a teenager with nothing better to do has spun on his head under a bucket of water to it, it's at the top of the charts. Go figure. Still, it's an interesting and inventive adaptation, so I can't hold anything the tune itself. Just a shame how it's got to the top.

...when an artist you can't stand has a collaboration with an artist who you actually think is pretty good, resulting in this:

Dance Wiv Me is a rap tune out on the 7th July. I really can't stand "Dizzee Rascal", he can't even spell. But that Calvin Harris chorus is (like most of his music) extremely addictive, and memorable just after one listen. As a result, I just can't get the tune out of my head. It's wrong, I know - but finding myself 'bopping' along to it means it must be good enough for a TOTW.

... when an overly pop band keep producing catchy little number. The Feeling are a prime example, whose latest Turn it Up is released digitally on the 30th June, and in hard copy on the 7th July. It is a bit cheesy pop, and some of the rhymes are nothing short of diabolical ("Like you see in the papers / That you read on escalators"), but it's still nothing short of catchy.

... when you don't quite finish an album review, in which you were going to say how much you love Standing next to me, when it starts getting airplay as the next single and is an obvious choice for TOTW

I think that Standing next to me was actually the second song I heard from the Last Shadow Puppets (in an acoustic style), and a lot of the praise I levelled at Age of the Understatement (TOTW12) is still applicable to the new single due for release on 7th July. The harmonies, the combination of the voices, the classic style - I can't praise the creativeness enough, and am enamored by their talents. I'll save myself from saying more though, as I am going to get the review of The Age of the Understatement done shortly and want to save myself things to say there.

Friday, 20 June 2008

The Isle of Wight

What ho readers,

As requested I am writing a review of my exciting trip to the Isle of Wight. Some of Asp's many thousands of readers may have seen my texts from the actual event itself. They should give you some sort of a flavour of the whole thing. If you can't be bothered to read the whole review I won't keep you in suspense. In keeping with good legal reporting here is the conclusion first:

A lot of crappy generic indie-pop like Hoosiering for Wombats and Wombating for Hoosiers padded out the line up, but the atmoshpere was great and the old hands like the Police and the Sex Pistols knew their business well. Iggy and the Stranglers were worth the price of admission alone and the mainly family crowd were good people.

Hmm. I can't get out of italics. Let's just pretend I meant to write the whole post in a different font than normal. That'll save face.

Okay let's take it in more or less chronological order:


Got there on the Thursday thinking we'd find a camping spot quite easily. Ha ha. Place already packed. After putting up the tents and having a martini (premixed. I'm so rock and roll) we wandered into the fair ("Strawberry Fields") which was - as with all festivals - a rampant orgy of capitalism trying to pass itself off as a hippie love in.

I like capitalism and I don't like hippies so I was entirely on board with this.

We watched Suspiciously Elvis, a tribute act no one could accuse of being suspiciously like the real thing. (Oh god I kill myself.) But was entertaining non the less. Didn't stick about for Bjorn Again but went on the bumper cars instead. Bumper cars are awesome. Then I enjoyed a mojito from the mojito bar. Although that should be "enjoyed" and "mojito" in tones of dripping sarcasm. I've seen less ice in a glacial pool.


I was bit annoyed at missing Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong - a band who have always seemed quite decent when I've heard them on the wireless. I got down to the main stage in time for the unbeatable line up of The Wombats, The Hoosiers and KT Tunstall. Yay.

I feel bad not liking the Wombats and the Hoosiers. They seem like decent enough fellows and I'm sure they're enjoying being "Rock Stars" and are kind to their mothers and all the rest of it. It's just their music is so dull... And together with Scouting for Girls they're all completely indistinguishable from each other.

The worst thing is that damnable "Let's Dance to Joy Divison" song. Call me a musical snob but I can't imagine that Ian Curtis would be bopping along to that little number and it seems a bit cheap to me.

So I'm sorry but those chaps didn't do it for me.

Neither did KT Tunstall. Who really did her best to get everyone going, which is always nice to see, but was just not rockin'.

N*E*R*D on the other hand really were. I'm not sure how their appeals to enGLAND to "make some NOISE" went down with our Celtic brothers in the audience, but I did my best to not be completely white. I'm not sure I succeeded but I think I'll pick up one of their compact discs before long. Which is always a good sign.

I skipped the Kaisers, not that I don't enjoy their roguish ways, but the Stranglers (even the fairly reduced Stranglers we had) blow them out of the water. The Stranglers were excellent - their set list was pretty predictable to be honest, going through the Best Of back catalogue with no suprises or much audience interaction. But when your back catalogue is that solid you don't really need to bring much more than gusto in your playing to pull off an awesome performance.


We shall draw a veil over Kate Nash's twee awfulness and proceed onto the Enemy - a band I must say I'm not terribly familiar with. I don't really remember much of their set, but I remember enjoying it so that's a good thing.

The Zutons were great - the biggest reaction was probably to Valerie. I can't help but think it's a little depressing that most of the crowd probably only knew the words because of the version by Katie Melua with a smack addiction. Which reminds me of the old joke "Who killed the Zutons? Mark Ronson." Ho ho.

But there really is more to them than providing fuel for tabloid fodder and they showed that in a brilliant set.

Especially Mrs. Zuton. She's lovely. Mrs. Zuton if you read this please marry me. I've signed on today so you know I've got prospects.

Next up was probably the FUN highlight of the Festival. Iggy and the Stooges. Apparently he tried to crowd surf at one point and wasn't allowed to, so he sang NO FUN at full blast right into the face of one of the security guards. I missed this because I was in the MOSH PIT. Which was great - and in my opinion the right way to listen to the music. There were a couple of Scally looking lads and I must admit that I thought if anyone is going to take things too far it'll be you lads, but everyone acted in good spirits and helped those that fell over up before shoving them in the face. Good stuff.

I missed Ian Brown because my wristband and my friend had got damaged in the pit and I had to take them to get fixed. But apparently he was a cock who managed to piss off a really friendly audience anyway so...

The Sex Pistols closed things off. They know their business those lads - it's all a pantomime of course, with scripted sneers and storming off stage just as their set was meant to close anyway - but it was bloody good fun.

They started up with Vera Lynn playing over the speakers. A couple of skinheads in the audience didn't really seem to get the irony and joined in with a teary eyed rendition of "There'll always be an England" but we're smarter and more savvy than them aren't we readers? Oh yes we are.

Johnny Rotten's satirical targets were perhaps a bit musty. Tony Blair and the Iraq war are not exactly bleeding edge political satire, but the Sex Pistols were always more about trying to offend people, leaving the "trying to make people think" to bands like the Clash and the Jam (In my humble opinion anyway) so you can't really moan about that.

They played all their hits, a couple of covers and generally insulted the audience just enough to keep them onside. I think they might even have learnt to play their instruments since the seventies as well! Shocking I know!


Started with the Delays, I'd seen them before and they were much improved. Still not quite enough to stand out particularly - but they deserve to get bigger. Not much bigger but a bit. We're talking "Decent Growth spurt" rather than "MAKE MY MONSTER GROW" type stuff here.

Newton Faulkner was not as offensively bad as you would expect if you'd only heard his Massive Attack massacre. He wasn't great obviously, but when he started up just a chap on his own playing his guitar quite well he was good. When the band came out things got a little overblown and he clearly didn't have enough material to cover the whole gig - but the audience really liked him and these things are important.

Scouting for Girls offend me. We've covered this. I think they did a little "By the Power of GreySkull I HAVE THE POWER..." He - Man bit. 80s nostalgia always goes down well, especially with a crowd like that - but they didn't have the chops to go anywhere with it.

Starsailor also were bland to an extreme degree. I think I just boozed and talked when they were on. I certainly can't remember anything they did.

I got to the front for James, they were really good. They didn't play "Sit down" which is there big hit. But they had enough manic energy and sheer class that I don't think anyone minded. I will never understand how this band never became the bigger than they were. Madness I say. Sheer madness.

I got out of there double time for the Kooks. You see I've got this problem where if I hear the Kooks my neck swells up and I can't breath. Taking the piss out of the Kooks is a little like shooting fish in skinny jeans so I won't.

Oh just look at them for God's sake. They're not a band, they're a fashion shoot.

We went to see the Music instead. Who were pretty good - and would definitely take the Kooks in a fight.

Then a chum and I barged our way more or less to the front of the Police using the time honoured "But my Sister is up the front, my Mum will kill me if I'm not there to look out for her." Luckily some passing girl took it upon herself to pretend to be our sister. If you're out there passing girl - God Bless you, you sweet angel of mercy.

You know I've got to say I didn't think the Police would be my THING. They ruined Christmas once (long story) and I don't think I've ever really forgiven Sting. But you know what they were awesome. Aside from a wanky montage of Sad Kids from Around the world there was very little of the sort of 80s claptrap you associate with them. They got the crowd going and they played their instruments well. Good on you Police, good on you.

Well after that the festival wasn't quite over. Feeder were headlining the second stage (Feeder at a festival? Surely next the lion will lie down with the lamb) and some chums and I decided to rock out there and played a very silly game where we tried to get as many high fives as we could.

All in all - The Isle of Wight is OKAY! It may be infested by hoards of Devil Bears, Satanist cults and various holding centres for secret agents that tried to retire, but this June it hosted a fun, family orientated festival that I would definitely recommend to my friends and family.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

The Letter C

In the "Different playlist every fortnight with a common theme" we're up to the letter C.

And I'm pleased that I'm able to mention one of my favourite bands for the first time - The Smiths. I've often said that "Everyone goes through a Smiths Phase" when Morrissey's lyrics start to appeal, and Johnny Marr's guitar driven tunes match them perfectly. So, This Charming Man was destined to be mentioned - and I'm sure it won't be the last as we work our way though the alphabet.

Another legendary name is The Big "O". Crying is much covered (including the KD Lang duet with Roy Orbison himself in 1987), and a frequent appearance in lists of "Greatest songs of all time".

After those two though, I think it's essential to cheer things up a bit. I can't think of anyone better to do that than the Beach Boys; and talking about California - if you're not there, you can dream about it with the Mamas and the Papas. California Dreamin' is again frequently covered and well rated, it would be an offence not to mention it.

Candle in the Wind also is very highly rated - yet unlike most in just charts, it's rarely covered. Which is fair enough, given the emotive content and personal sentiments of both versions by Elton Song.

Final two to mention - famous electronica of Gary Numan; and a song that (apologies for lowering the tone) will now for me ever be associated with a comedian's reference to the story of musical condoms, and wondering if it would be an appropriate tune to be incorporated in certain circumstances...


As ever, if you think I've missed something, make a comment - if it's good, I'll add it onto the playlist.

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Tuesday, 17 June 2008

In Concert: KT Tunstall

Final night of the Delamere Forest Tour, and from the previous reviews I think you'll have found a common theme - that you might not know all the songs performed.

For Tom Baxter, supporting KT Tunstall, it was worse - with only really one known song. Miracle is (I think still) on various radio station playlists, and thankfully is a very good song.

Other than that, it was a total voyage into the unknown. Which perhaps made it even more pleasing. The entire concert was at a totally different pace to previous evenings, and the mellowness of Baxter matched the picnics perfectly.

Things weren't annoyingly dreary either, a bit of enthusiasm being shown in the occasional song getting a bit more enthusiastic atmosphere. I'm sure it has to be a certain style of event to suit Baxter's music - but the boxes were ticker, and the mood was built perfectly.

Leading us nicely to KT Tunstall herself. I think there might have been one I didn't recognise - that was probably it. Tunstall plays to the crowd with an exceptional talent, ensuring everyone young and old was body popping to Hold On. She really did talk to the crowd, giving a bit of history behind Black Horse and Cherry Tree - it made it worth more than just listening to some music.

The set itself was wonderfully diverse, even if I'm not entirely sure how many guitars a girl needs - she seemed to change every other song! Beyond the rousing end of Suddenly I See to the 3-song encore of perhaps lesser known songs (including Universe & U), there's no doubt that everyone had a really good time and was enthralled in the music. I also think that the venue really suited Tunstall (and Baxter) more than the other acts - performing in a forest really is a brilliant idea, and I am very tempted to return next year, depending on the acts of course.

I finish my reviews with the same song that the weekend as a whole finished off, and the same comment that KT made - this song isn't about you. I hope, here's I don't want you now.

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Monday, 16 June 2008

In Concert: Elbow

The number of people in advance of Saturday's concert, when talking to them, had no idea who Elbow were. And, in all honestly, I've only really heard of them in the past 6 months - and started to like the music within the past couple. It's a problem - they've been recording albums (under that name) since 1997 - but of the four albums released none have really had mass appeal (despite all being top 5 in the charts). I suppose it makes them more of a niche band - and yet there was still an almost sell-out crowd in Delamere Forest.

Support came from I am Kloot, who are a band I'd never actually heard of. Unfortunately, I'm afraid to say, I don't really think I'd missed much. They basically had a two part set - starting with a heavy rocky sound; finishing with a smoother acoustic selection. Regular readers will know, I'm not a fan of "rock", so whilst the opening was a lot more entertaining than with Noah and the Whale from the previous night, it really wasn't my cup of tea. Some of the slower numbers were fairly pleasing - but by that stage I had decided I didn't like them. Perhaps less of a split would have been a better result, either way, I was left really looking forward to Guy Garvey even more.

But that was then I discovered the problem with Elbow being a niche band. I hardly knew any of the songs. Grounds for Divorce was enthralling, and finishing with main set with an extended version of One Day like this (which is still my favourite track available at this precise moment in time) was nothing short of awe inspiring.

It was incontestable that Elbow are an exceptional live band. All of the songs were passionate, Guy Garvey engaged the audience to ensure that everyone had a good time. By performing the songs I didn't know, I loved them even more. Station Approach is one that really got the crowd going.

But, there was a problem. Most (if not all) of Elbow's songs are quite heavy. There's nothing with vigor, nothing with "get up and go". Whilst I still say that every single song was very impressive, 90 minutes of it (including encore) did end up being a bit too much. Short bursts are brilliant, such a long set I'm not too sure.

That said, it really did suit the venue. The Weather Gods were smiling, leaving us with a crisp, clear, cloudless night - with a beaming white moon shining over the venue. It proved that Delamere is an exceptional venue for gigs, and long may these concerts continue.

And there is one further important mention to make - the guest performance of Richard Hawley (two for the price of one) for The Fix - the track Hawley both co-wrote and appeared on the latest album with. An exceptional talent of his own, adding him to the performance sealed the deal.

The beauty of the youtube generation is that there's almost certainly to be at least one person who recorded part of the gig. So, as the parting video, and as it was only nominated as a TOTW, here's Grounds for Divorce:

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Hey hey, you you

Avril Lavigne Live, O2 Arena, 4th June 2008

Well, pre-packaged candy pop punk rock doesn't come much more sugar coated than this.

Where the pink hoodie is king, Avril reigns.

Problem is - that's not a good thing.

A chameleon of guided music executives, Avril started attacking the townie market with her first album, moved along to the slightly more sombre pseudo-goths for Under My Skin - and now, taking on the most pop influence from Blink, fused with the musical eloquence of Lolly - we have The Best Damn Thing.

Dancers (very good ones, but nonetheless, dancers) take to the stage throughout the show.

The angsty material which doesn't fit in anymore, gets washed down into an acoustic set instead. Very little from album #2 gets an airing here.

Avril plays drums briefly to show she can for Runaway - which is reduced to a single verse and chorus. This wasn't the only track (I say embarrassingly knowingly huh?) to get shrunk down - with many verses being cut in order to save time. The only confusing thing is - what on earth for? As the tracks are blasted through, Girlfriend even getting a reprise for a 1 and a half song encore - the whole thing is over in an at best just over an hour.

Well, the most established bands seem to play for longer - so maybe when she's touring in 20 years (yeah right!) she'll be touring selections from all 15 albums and on for 3 hours with triple encores!

Avril Lavigne - Girlfriend Live at the Roxy

Isle of Wight Festival: Live Update 3

I'm not entire sure which band this refers to. Which, I presume, is the problem:
"Up next: hoosiering for the wombats. They're all the same band"
"Oh he man references. Nostalgia gives these guys a point. Still boring generic indie pop rubbish though."

However, I'm pleased to report that Dark Sprout is not entirely grumpy and - with the final text update I received - a group was given something that definitely constituted praise.
"Mystified that james were never bigger. Such an awesome band."

Overall thoughts came as follows:
"Strangers and iggy worth price of admission alone. Good atmosphere. V Friendly. Even the rougher looking sould that some might call chavs seen on board with family atmosphere"

I look forward, as I'm sure you do too, to the full update later this week.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

In Concert: The Zutons

Delamere Forest is one of the Forestry commissions venues for their "Forest Tour" of live music from the unique location of - well - a forest. Delamere's part of the tour is three nights in June, starting on Friday 13th June with The Zutons.

Noah and the Whale are supporting the Zutons throughout all their performances of the tour, and opened proceedings. They're a band I've heard on the past, but I can't really say much more than that. Shape of My Heart, as their most recent single, was one I certainly recognised and enjoyed. Unfortunately, that was a rare event.

I consider that one of the most important things in a gig is to start the set with a strong song, that will get the crowd bouncing along to and enjoying themselves. Unfortunately, it didn't happen - and it really took a while to get going. Most of their songs are drab and dreary; and fairly toneless.

Some tunes had an enjoyable tune - but the verses just didn't get there at all (Beating a good example of this).

I don't think it was a particularly bad performance. I just didn't enjoy the music at all. Which is a shame, because we agreed that some of their finer moments were with nice complex Arcade Fire-esque orchestration. It's just we were too dreary by that point to enjoy things.

Thea Gilmore was the "special guest" at the gig, and special she certainly was - by far the best act of the evening. It was impossible to be offended by anything she sang. Simple, acoustic chants. Her cover of You spin me right round was the track over the entire evening that I'll remember for a long time. She made it for the Liverpool number 1s album (to celebrate the Captial of Culture, as she explained from the stage - great for an artist to give a bit of background information instead of just the bog standard "this is a new one"), and made it so distinctly different to the original. She takes the tune and really does make it her own (cliché I know) - the duet at the chorus (I'm afraid I don't know who she was performing with on the night) simply sublime.

It was though, for obvious reasons, more than just one simple song. Old Soul is the well known one, and hearing it live I was just able to drift away. Overall, it was the showcase of a very talented songwriter with an beautiful voice. I was hardly aware of her before Friday night. Now, she comes with very strong recommendations.

So, onto the headline act then. And I'll tell you what about the Zutons - it's amazing how few tracks you actually know by them. Everyone was able to sing along to Valerie (but how much of that was thanks to Amy Winehouse?), and most people knew the latest single of Always Right Behind You.

But - and think about this carefully - how many other tracks by the Zutons can you remember? It's not that easy a task. A few became recognisable after a few bars - even thought you can't help but think if Confusion is going to be a cover of Sitting on the Dock of the Bay. On which point - Confusion was perhaps different to the rest of the set. It was nice and soothing, one to sway along to (as most of us did). The rest was very loud - leading me to wonder if the balance was quite right. OK, I'm sounding like an old man - and you obviously go to gigs to hear the music in its full glory. But, coming after Thea Gilmore, it really was blasting.

Despite that, it was a good set on the whole. The songs are all very catchy, and easy to join along with. The musical influences are distinct (have a listen to You will You won't), and ensures that the band doesn't just appeal to a small section of people - which no doubt helped build a big crowd. It was lacking in some respects, enough to not encourage me to go out and buy the latest album, but still a very enjoyable end to the evening and a pleasant Friday night.

To finish the post, here's one of the real sing along tracks of the set, from the 2004 album - Don't ever Think (Too Much)

Isle of Wight Festival: Live Update 2

I don't think Dark Sprout was looking forward to Newton Faulkner's set, given that he was originally described as "Newton Sporkner".

Still, appearances are deceptive:
"Ginger guitarist in not completely shit shocker"

A more fuller update came through later:
"He should have stuck to the just one guy and a guitar. When it was him and a band got a bit over blown. A lot of covers. Bit karaoke. Still the audience seems to love the ginger bastard so it's a win from that p.o.v."

Well, I prefer the acoustic sets myself, so makes sense. If a bit gingerist...

Spirit / Spiteri - Anagram week?

TOTW 2008 - '24

It's a case of getting straight on with the show today. There'll be plenty of introduction and waffle in my gig reviews from The Zutons and Elbow (that I'll try and write today before I forget to publish over the week) and KT Tunstall (which I'm going to this afternoon, reducing time a bit then...). So:

Black Kids are a previous TOTW, and Hurricane Jane is their latest, due out 23rd June. Nice contrast between the verse and the chorus, however, I think that the verse is a bit lacklustre and lacking in a real tune. A shame, the chorus is brilliant.

I'm going to be mention The Rascals in an album review shortly - Miles Kane of course now perhaps better known as the other half of The Last Shadow Puppets. I think it's fair to say that Freakbeat Phantom is going to be their first 'major' launch on Monday, and it's very interesting to compare it to both LSP and the Arctic Monkeys. Kane's voice is the same harshness as Alex Turner, and you can see how it amalgamates with Turner's own writings in the 'Monkeys albums to create Age of the Understatement. Similar - but different. Familiar - but original. Nice mix.

Cage the Elephant - brilliant name for a band. Ain't no rest for the wicked is out on Monday, with a wonderful twist of combining blues guitar with a funky beat. Fraser McAlpine suggests that it's a bit 90s - yes it is, but it's a good tune, so who's to moan?

You might not believe me, but Melee are not Keane. Built to Last works to try and show otherwise, which really is their downfall as a band. It's a thoroughly decent and enjoyable song. But it's almost a pure copy to me, out on July 14th.

Hazard has already talked about Geraldine by Glasvegas, so there's little for me to add apart from to agree with him that it's a great song, and worthy of TOTW mention, due out on the 23rd.

Can't go back (14th July release) I consider an ironic title by Primal Scream. What can't they go back to? They've been around for ages, so they are back in a way. Am I making sense? I'll shut up then, and show a couple of videos instead.

My Sunken Treasure is an interesting one. The Duke Spirit's lead singer, Liela Moss, seems to be talking her way through through the verse, but it builds very nicely into a great chorus. It's a bonus little number, and was actually released on June 9th. I blame exams for missing it before today, it's well worth being a TOTW.

We all know Sharleen Spiteri, lead singer from Texas. However, this single All the Times I cried is now launching her as a solo artist. I can't help but sensing that with the brass instrumentalisation, she's jumping onto the neo-soul (yes, I have just invented that word) band wagon of Amy Winehouse and Duffy. Although, that doesn't bother me in the slightest, as I love such neo-soul, and it's a great tune. A bit melancholy, and I'm not the greatest fan of the video (have a watch of this from Later... instead), but it's nicely soothing - out on July 7th.

Isle of Wight Festival: Live Updates

Fellow LPC course mate Dark Sprout is presently down on that small island off the South coast of England for the Isle of Wight Festival. He has been very kindly providing me with text updates (21st century and all that) for the purposes of placing on this here blog.

It's certainly proved to be an interesting experiment, but, hey, I said I'd do it. All I do need to say is that if you're offended by strong language, stop reading now. I also feel that it would be appropriate to make a classic statement that you often see in publication - The views expressed in this post are those of the contributor themselves, and not necessarily those of Asp Bites as a whole. In fact, I quite like the Wombats:

Oh god the wombats are shit. Oh so shit. So very shit.

The hoosiers need a healthy dose of death.

Kt Tunstal is trying her best to get the crowd going bless her, but drunk as i am i can't help not giving a shit. Bring on the stranglers. She's not bad she's just so boring.

Mrs zuton is sex on legs. You can tell she'd be a demon in bed.

Hopefully, this post will provide Dark Sprout with the motivation required to make a full post upon his return expanding on these, erm, detailed points - and also hopefully letting us know how the Strangers actually were on the Friday night in the end as well as any other bands he can remember.

Meanwhile, I'll be able to give my own opinion on KT Tunstall after I've seen her in concert tonight - the crowd should be a very different mix so I'm optimistic she will succeed where she failed two days ago!

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

More from the myspace

Yet another Wednesday, and a chance to check my myspace friend request list. A selection of people wanted me to listen to their music (get a fan base going), so that's what I did.

Some I turned off after about two notes, but I didn't with censored. Unlike most 'unsung' bands I mention, they are signed and have just (ie on Monday) released their first single on the Electric Toaster Label, called Play the Game

There's nothing wrong with it as a song, however, it doesn't really strike me as incredible stuff. I sense the same chord techniques as Thunderclap (Something in the Air), and it's fine - but that's it.
Personally, I prefer some of the other tracks on their own myspace (even if I can't hear full tracks - annoying teasers). Varied styles too - In the Presence of the Lord has got strong rock roots; Lonesome Town is one of those "let's sing in an accent, tell a story" songs (but, it's far from the 'mockney' that's proliferating the airwaves at the minute), and I definitely like it and it's the stand out track for me.
Apparently, NME have billed them as "the buzz band of the Midlands", which is sufficent praise for me.
I can sense that if things take off, I will grow to like them more and more (I couldn't stand the Arctic Monkeys to start with, now I'm a great fan) - so on the basis that I like them more than a bit at the minute, there's hope out there.

Page 44 have also had praise from NME. "...With a barrel-load of soaring pop hooks, the foursome manage to be emotive without descending into farcial emo" is the starting point. They've won the Birmingham Carling Supports competition - against certain tough competition. Add a TV performance - but they're still unsigned. I can't help but missing something here that these guys haven't been signed after that, whilst James Blunt is so successful... (Although, if it was down to me, I'd have signed a mutilated cat above James Blunt as it would sound better, so maybe that's not much praise).
Personally, I'm afraid to say it's not my cup of tea. I bit too close to rock for my liking. But, that's not to say it's not good. In fact, it's very good. It's not annoyingly predictable stuff - each song is different (so much so that I like With or Without You, and To Make you proud is a brilliant example of a piece changing rhythm, style, tempo - but not in a cheesy Eurovision way. So what I wouldn't but an album, I'm sure there's enough people that will. Not only are they better than that diminutive former soldier, but it really is a travesty that they're not signed. They're myspace says they're after Management and label representation. If I had the time guys, I'd be happy to help!

Finally, a request from some 'mates' of my 'friends' Air Traffic (although I have actually had a conversation with Jim Maddock, doubt he'd remember me though), it's Saturdays & Sundays. They seem to be sort-of-partially signed for their single releases, and have supported various high-profile acts, so have distinct credibility.
Brilliantly, they tick my favourite box of "different". The lead single on their myspace, Smile is really innovative. The chorus is almost in a different style to the rest of the piece, but fits will and is a catchy refrain that I think will stick for a while.
Another stand out track (yes, they've got more than one) is Seen the light, with a frantic quirky verse building up to a sing-along refrain - not forgetting a randomly inserted guitar solo that actually fits in well.
Overall, I enjoyed listening to the entire 'album' that is a myspace playlist. Familiar enough to appeal to the masses, yet different enough not to be thrown in a box with so many other artists. Which I think is the mix everyone should be striding towards.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Michaela Strachan

Occasionally, I mention a tune in TOTW that, for some reason or the other, can't actually make it for TOTW. However, it's still a brilliant track, and worth mention. When I heard Michaela Strachan you broke my heart on Jon Holmes' 6 music show yesterday though, I knew it was going to be one of those tracks. So worth a mention, I'll give it a post all of its own...

I remember hearing an interview with Roy Stride (lead singer from Scouting for Girls) a few months back, so knew about the track, but had never actually heard it. He was talking about when he'd met the Wacaday presenter:
"We had the pleasure of meeting the lovely Miss Strachan at our Brighton gig,
"She came backstage and we took loads of photos and got her autograph. She was awesome, she is the TV people's princess.
"No one's ever had a bad word to say about her - and she's still quite a looker!"
You have to wonder if she'd be a bit creeped out having a song about pre-pubescent crushes in her honour, but thankfully - as you'd almost expect from her TV style - she's anything but.
"I bought 10 of their albums for Christmas presents for people because I thought it was so funny," she giggles.
"I'm at an age now where my friends just find it funny rather than thinking I'm completely egotistical.
"At least Roy was a child when he was watching the Wide Awake Club," she continues.
"I mean, there were an awful lot of adults watching it at the time and we used to get the most filthy letters. Terribly shocking!"
In some ways, it's a great shame that it's only a hidden track on the album. I'm sure I've said in the past that their single releases are now getting a bit samey. Michaela Strachan is different - it's not the most engineered or complicated of tracks, but it's a fantastic idea for a song. The line "I fancied you heaps, and so did my Dad" is inspirational; and how many songs can possibly fit in the recurring chorus "You put the meaning in Wacaday"?

However, given what the average age of SFG fans must be, they must be praised for putting it on the album in any shape or form - as Timmy Mallett's podcast proves (Wow, I never thought I'd ever be saying that phrase on this blog), they've almost certainly got no idea who Michaela Strachan is.

From interviews, and the music itself, you do get the feeling that SFG are a friendly group, fairly unstruck by fame. I think the story behind this song proves it, so I don't think anyone can really begrudge their recent success.

Saturday, 7 June 2008


Tunes of the Week #23

If Lay your love on me had appeared at the Eurovision song contest the other week, I wouldn't have been surprised. I don't think it would have won, but it's got all the necessary characteristics: dodgy dance moves, dodgy pause leading to even dodgier key change, and does sound slightly like something famous - ie. Madonna.
Believe it or not though, it wasn't, and it is instead the latest single by Swedish group BWO. Swedish - that explains why it sounds like Eurovision then. Despite that, it is sufficiently catchy, and unlike the Eurovision entries is getting more than a bit of coverage over one week. Makes it more annoying than anything else though perhaps? I understand it's due for release on 28th July, which means there's plenty of time for it to get very disturbing.

What do you get if you take Warren Zevon's Werewolves of London (with the greatest opening line of any song) and the classic Sweet home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd, and mash them together?
Well, you get Kid Rock's All Summer long, set for release on 30th June and Radio 2's most recent Record of the Week. It's taking the "copycat" that I often mention and frequently despise to a whole new level. However (there's always an "however", isn't there?), if we get a British summer, it would be a perfect tune to Barbecue to. It can put a smile on your face as you want to start singing "I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand"; and alternatively loudly shout "Sweet home Alabama!" Concerning how music can do that to you...

Talking about the "copycat", I find myself (once more) in agreement with Fraser McAlpine at Chart Blog. Bryn Christopher is a very powerful singer, and clearly one of great talent. The Quest is a very good song - dark, mysterious, retro with soul. But, if you're going to copy a song, why make it quite so obvious as the person you toured with. No doubt he's heard You know I'm no good many a time, is this proof of music implanting into a subconcious?

I've mentioned that I love Warren Zevon's lyrics - best opening line on pop music according to a Radio2 poll no less. As it's not an opening line, the latest one by the Hold Steady can't beat it in that poll - but it's still a brilliant line: "Subpoenaed in Texas, Sequestered in Memphis".
I first heard the song on Roundatable (it got a respectable score); but in the past week it's been the Pick'n'Mix winner on RadMac, bringing it to my attention once more.

Sequestered in Memphis does sound dramatically like Bruce Springsteen, but if you read my main blog you'll see why those lyrics, it was an inevitable TOTW. It's available for download now.

That's it for 'new' tracks on the shortlist this week - probably expected after the monster number last week. Thankfully, there's already at least one that I'm confident will be mentioned next week - but you'll notice that there's only 1 video so far.

So, I'm left looking back to last week's huge list - what's still been playing and is worth mention. There's a few, for sure - Chick Lit (We are Scientists) and Cross your fingers (Laura Marling) for instance. But what's definitely still around and still sounds great is this:

Julian Velard is, perhaps, cut to a similar mould of Jack McManus and Adele and the others from the Brit School. Certainly Jack McManus - big piano influence here too (see TOTW15 for McManus' own piano banging). The key difference though is that Velard is a yank - coming over from a Brooklyn fame school instead. Jimmy Dean and Steve McQueen, available now for download and hard release on the 16th June, does show that the American's music does match the UK music scene (perhaps more so than his native one?), is nicely worked so it's not purely simple - but memorable enough. Certainly a talent to keep an eye on.

Finally, as this is the first TOTW of the month (although it does seem like it's been June for ages), time to pick a "Last Chance" track from May.
A wide selection of tracks, and any one of a number could have made it. Thankfully, I don't have to justify why I picked one over any other, as it's my blog - so here's Sir Ian McKellan:
Guillemots - Falling Out Of Reach

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Friday, 6 June 2008

Duffy: Rockferry

It's strange what sometimes creates to motivation to listen to an album from start to finish. As my internet connection flaked out whilst listening to Warwick Avenue, I decided it was about time I did the same with Rockferry, Duffy's album that was an entire three years in the making. Plus, for good measure, it links in with the most recent Unsung looking at Soul music.

It's been hyped. There's more reviews of this album going around (mainly from it's release back in March) than there are tattoos on Amy Winehouse. Which is ironic, as the Welsh star has been dubbed as a "Winehouse-alike" by many elements of the press.

Personally, I think there's drawing much too broad a comparison. Both are soul stars, yes, but I feel that Duffy's are much closer the the classic 60s soul 'roots' from Motown. It's probably completely unintentional, but listen to the opening of some tracks, and you can draw a direct parallel to some 'originals' - sampling, but not really. Think I'm talking nonsense? The "big hit" of Mercy (how long was it number 1 for now?) - it's Stand by me by Ben E. King. Stepping Stone - see Walk on By.

This isn't a bad thing, by any stretch of the imagination. It's not a poor cover, or sampling a song to appeal to a different market. Leave that to Sean Kingston. What it does, however, is show that there is pure soul music at work here.

But anyway, Rockferry has been hyped. And the hype machine is certainly a bad thing - it imposes pressure, and often creates a fad that's short lived. And for this to happen with this singer would be a great shame.

What I find is a rare occurrence nowadays, you can listen to the album from start to finish as a 'story'. Mercy explains that "I'm under your spell", then you listen to Delayed Emotion explaining a breakup, and including the line "I'm no longer under your spell".
It's then impossible not to mention the conclusion of Distant Dreamer, described by the BBC as "a sonic waterfall of strings so uplifting you emerge drenched in hope"

It shows a variation of styles - all definitely being soulful though. Northern Soul encouraged danceable numbers like Mercy, simple acoustic things with Syrup and Honey, to the classic ballads like current single (and TOTW18) Warwick Avenue.

Through and through, it's an authentic soulful album - but it's not a copycat. I'm left hoping that the follow-up isn't another three-years away, I want to hear more before then.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

The letter B

It's difficult for B not to stand for 'Baby'. But when you think about it, lots of songs start with "Baby", and many more feature it in the title.

So, when looking at "The letter B", it's impossible not to consider Baby, it's cold outside and Baby Love.

Of course, a baby comes from being born. Born Free and Born in the U.S.A. two suggestions there.

B is also for Ballad, and there's lots of ballads around. Such as The Ballad of John and Yoko.

There's also several names that begin with B, Baba O'Riley for instance; or Billie Jean.

Despite all of that though, my vote is for Bohemian Rhapsody.

Any other suggestions, if I've missed something really obvious? Remember, I'm looking at the song - various ones have been covered, so it's not the artist...