September 2008

When I first heard Jay Jay Pistolet, reviewing the other song from this single no less, I took an immediate dislike to him. His voice was the major factor, it sounds like he’s doing a bad impression of Truman Capote with a comedy giant lollypop in his mouth, and it certainly isn’t your usual dulcit folk lilt. On the more upbeat “We Are Free”, it just didn’t work for me, and I didn’t listen to him for a few months.

How wrong I was to do this. I read about “Holly” elsewhere (I forget exactly where I’m afraid) and decided, as I had it to hand, to pop the CD back into my trusty laptop. The quiet strums of guitar, the occasional plink of the high register of a piano and Jay’s vocals fit together perfectly. His lyrics tell the quietly heartbreaking story of the eponymous Holly, with some wonderful little uses of language (“And whilst I’ve always dreamt of making it in Hollywood/But I know if she’d a second chance then Holly could“) it’s all just an onslaught of distressing loveliness.

I can’t think of any more verbose way of summing up the song other than that I can assure you it’s beautiful. And that’s hopefully all that matters.

Jay Jay Pistolet – Holly

In a flurry of boxes of boxes and shopping bags, I have officially arrived at University. Fresher’s Week has nearly come to an end, my room has become a semblance of normality, my timetable is ready to be obeyed and I may even cook real food soon. In the words of Arthur Dent, it’s all rather confusing really.

The Music – Welcome To The North

PS. Maybe it’s my late leap onto the blogging bandwagon (score one for double alliteration there) but I have yet to hear a single song by TV On The Radio. Can anyone suggest one that might help me understand what all the fuss is about?

Well tomorrow I leave on a three year adventure, up to the vast, mysterious, unconquerable (thank you Mark Corrigan) land of Newcastle. In the spirit of leaving, not wanting to leave AND Newcastle, here’s Maximo Park.
Maximo Park – I Want You To Leave
Maximo Park – I Want You To Stay

Another piece of information that’s dawned on me is the fact that never again (OK, for the time being anyway), will I have to wear uniform – school, work or otherwise – which is an unusual source of joy for me.
Bloc Party – Uniform

A worrying fact for me at the moment is my money situation. Or lack of it. If you live in Newcastle and you see a dishevelled, 6’2″, long-haired youth attacking your bins, I can only apologise in advance.
Barenaked Ladies – If I Had A Million Dollars

I’ll admit, after a year off travelling and doing shift work, I am starting to think I’ll remember very little of the things I’m supposed to have learned already, and with the apparent constant supply of alcohol that Uni provides, it might just stay that way.
Nine Inch Nails – Head Like A Hole

Amongst the questioning eyebrows, semi-sarcastic questions of whether we’re living together and all the general annoyances that go along with it, I’m so happy to be going with Cat, my beautiful girlfriend. And, just to set the record straight, we decided to choose our first choice uni separately and, by happy coincidence or pure synchronicity, we both chose Newcastle. So there.
Jack Johnson – Better Together

Well, I feel a little more connected now. I’ve been formally accepted by the wonderful Hype Machine, and may actually have an audience beyond the three people who may or may not be interested in my scribblings (love you guys!). Here’s a lovely, and topically named, piece of indie-art-punk.

Dartz! – Network! Network! Network!

Inspired by my little diatribe earlier, I felt like listening to some hip-hop. Sure, there’s a whole heap of crap around at the moment but the genre also includes some of the best lyricists around. Here are some of my favourite tracks. Disclaimer – I’m White, Middle Class and English. I will sound like an idiot when talking about this. I probably already have done. I’m sorry.

Outkast – Roses
Now go on the raw sex, my AIDS test is flawless
Regardless, we don’t want to get involved with no lawyers
And judges just to hold grudges in a courtroom
I wanna see your support bra not support you!

They’re not inspired but they sure sound catchy in context.

CRS – Us Placers
Lifestyles of the broke and famous
Let you know how crazy this game is
Look at all the new beautiful faces
At home supermodel, Myspaces
Long for their shot on the TV screens
American Idol never seen these dreams
Just last week they want to see ID
Now they got you in VIP, huh?
How many people almost famous
You almost remember what they name is
Like “Hey, didn’t you play in..? No it couldn’t be, quit playin”
I try to keep that balance
After MTV that’s a Real World Challenge Back on that train
Never to be heard from again…

Now here’s Kanye on form, along with Lupe Fiasco and Pharrell, this song from the Can’t Tell Me Nothing mixtape is just awesome, not least because the background sample is from Thom Yorke’s, “The Eraser”.

N.W.A. – Express Yourself
I’m expressin’ with my full capabilities,
And now I’m livin’ in correctional facilities,
Cause some don’t agree with how I do this.
I get straight, meditate like a Buddhist
I’m droppin’ flavour, my behaviour is heriditary,
But my technique is very necessary.
Blame it on Ice Cube… because he says it gets funky
When you got a subject and a predacit.

My favourite opening lyrics from any hip-hop song, it’s just all so well put together – the flow of the rhythm carries you thoughout, and every verse has another part to enjoy.

Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip – Development
I remember hearing Mos Def rhyme the alphabet
I just sat there in silence

As a sign of respect

I knew what I had to do

And that’s what happened next

I rhymed the periodic table
To stay one step ahead
Hydrogen is number one
Cause hydrogen is what puts the shine in the sun
Through nuclear fusion and when it’s done

It leaves element number two
Helium is the second lightest gas that there is

So we use it in balloons we give to little kids

Then there’s lithium often used to treat mental problems

Beryllium don’t conduct electric currents, it stops them

Boron can be used to make things harden

And that smoke that’s coming out of your exhaust, carbon

Carbon is arguably the most important element

And nitrogen in the air is almost eighty percent

The rest of the air is mainly oxygen

And fluorine is the lightest of the halogens

OK that’s enough teaching
I ain’t trying to bore ya
I’m just trying to be a positive role model for ya

I’m sorry, I know that’s a lot of words, but I just couldn’t cut Mr. Pip’s awesome lyrics. Nor could I resist putting more of his work up, I just love it, it’s the best kind of hip-hop, intelligent music, lyrics with something to say and an altogether good feeling about it all.

This is only a little thing, but I want to get it off my chest. As much as I enjoyed the older music of Mr. West, I can’t for the life of me understand how anyone can like “Love Lockdown”. It’s repetitive, his lyrics aren’t up to their usual standard, and frankly his singing voice isn’t a patch on his usual drawl. I’m not going to post it, but if you must listen, go on The Hype Machine, there are several thousand links, you won’t miss it. Here’s some proper hip-hop from a brilliant producer and a bearded poet. Maybe Kanye could follow suit. Please?

Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Fixed (Demo)

There comes a time in every blogger’s life when you have no inspiration whatsoever. And that’s what the shuffle function was created for. Here’s another three random cuts of my iTunes library for you to mull over.

Pull Tiger Tail – Mary Jane
As much as I loved their older stuff (see here for example), I never quite took to PTT’s newer singles, before they fell apart due to label tyranny. This was their last (and possibly last ever) release, and sums up, for me, what went wrong for them. Unlike their earliest stuff, it just lacks the punch, the energy, that made them special. The vocals seem a little laboured, and everything seems a little Athlete-y in places (not to say I don’t like Athlete, I think their first album was awesome, it just isn’t right for PTT). That being said, this is an enjoyable song, just not their best work.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Wet Sand
Ah the Chilis. The first band I ever saw live. Of course, this wasn’t actually released at the time, the whole Stadium Arcadium period was the beginning of my slight loss of faith in them (along with the colossal damp squib that was their 2007 Reading set). I mean, a double album? Really? Not only is it lazy, it’s just too long and full of filler. However, I do like this song. Antony Kiedis’ vocals start off all “Under The Bridge” and then grow with the music to a funky crescendo of an anthem ending, and John Frusciante’s solos never fail to bring a warmth into my soul, remembering all those times I idolised them.

Friendly Fires – Photobooth
I know it’s nothing new, and it’s all been said before, but Friendly Fires really are brilliant aren’t they? I haven’t heard their album yet (annoyingly), but I just haven’t heard a song they’ve done that I haven’t liked yet. This early single is a prime example. Straddling the lines between pop, dance and indie effortlessly, it’s just perfect. There are enough lyrics for it to interest me, but there’s enough repetition and a prominent bass line to make it perfect for dancing to. Just amazing.

Band names are a funny thing. They can turn you onto or off of a band before you’ve even heard them. I, for one, will probably never listen to Selfish Cunt, because if they’re idiotic enough to have that name, why would their music be any better? Does It Offend You, Yeah, caused themselves problems with their name because people thought they were a Nathan Barley joke (luckily, they’re awesome). In a similar vein, Fury Of The Headteachers could have easily made me think they were a bunch of idiots, but when I randomly came across their name on Myspace I gave them a chance.

I’m not going to pretend that I’ve listened to a whole heap of their material, or that I know a great deal about them apart from that they come from Sheffield, and I don’t think they’ll ever be famous. But you know when you find just one song by an artist you really click with? I heard “Fables”. It was just such an explosion of raucous noise from beginning to end – the intro sounds like a guitar being tortured, the vocals are breathless and unintelligible, the build up to the chorus sounds like the slow-motion moment in a film before a car falls off a cliff, and the chorus itself is the fall, only about 10 seconds long, but an exhilarating ride nonetheless.

They’ve since released an album, and I’m sad to say I think they’ve ruined the song with a new recording, but this scratchy, amazing demo will always be a personal favourite.

Fury of the Headteachers – Fables

PS. I just found out they’ve actually broken up. Oh.

Ah Saturday, after two days, the aches of sleeping in a tent, drinking too much and being crushed by immovable idiots start to make their way deeper into your muscles. But unbowed, we struggled into the arena to see Bombay Bicycle Club (incidentally, with Katharine and Matt, who introduced me to them – thanks guys!). Again, we really made the right choice as an opening act. A lot has been made of BBC’s age, but to me it really doesn’t matter. No matter how old you are, if you’re this wonderful and effervescent, you’re always going to be a hit. Their Strokes-y guitar lines, Jack Steadman’s tremulously Oberst-like voice, everything about it was lovely. Plus, the token inclusion of a badly dancing panda (from their “Evening/Morning” video) never fails to impress.

Leaving with smiles on our faces, we headed over to the Alternative Tent to see the highly-recommended Jeffrey Lewis and the Jitters. Now I’m always partial to a bit of anti-folk, and the opening with “I Ain’t Thick, It’s Just A Trick” was a lovely little relaxing feeling, but it was all a little flat for me, after the sheer energy of the first band, it just seemed as though I still wanted that. So our next band – on the main stage this time – was a good choice. The Subways (local heroes where I come from) came bounding onstage, Billy Lunn shirtless and screaming. They launched into a lot of newer tracks (the explosive “Girls and Boys” proving the best), but the reaction from the crowd was frenzied when they played their first album’s tracks. “With You”, “Rock and Roll Queen” and the awesome “Oh Yeah” all provoked massive singalongs.

Next, we ran across the field to the NME tent once more, this time to catch the Mystery Jets. In a set peppered with tracks from their second (and much more successful) second album, they really conjured up the whole ’80s vibe of their album, they matched their bouncy melodies with a bouncy persona, smiling throughout and really making the atmosphere a good one. “Two Doors Down” was always going to be a highlight, but “Zoo Time” as a closer drew an obviously wonderful chant out of the crowd, even if most of them didn’t realise there was a first album at all.

Back to the main stage and We Are Scientists were in full swing, mixing older songs with new, covering ’80s classics whose names I can’t recall with guitarists from Editors and providing their unrivalled between-song banter. Seriously, they’re hilarious, who can blame them for supporting themselves with a stand-up show? But their tunes don’t suffer, “Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt” still crackles along, and “The Great Escape”‘s breakneck verses don’t disappoint. After being introduced as WAS’ aftershow band, Editors more than fulfill their billing. Their album tracks might not be massively interesting, but their singles sound amazing when played live. Tom Smith was clearly loving the experience, jumping on his piano during the breathless chorus of “Bullets” and generally running around the stage constantly, his best Ian Curtis impression blurting out of the huge speaker stacks. “Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors” proved a standout moment, from the first verse until the end, everyone seemed to know the words around us, and it was impossible not to join in.

The Raconteurs were always going to be well-attended, but as Jack White emerged onto the stage, the roar that met him seemed unreal. He truly has become a legend. The show itself lived upto his reputation. Despite the second album not being as good as the first, the songs they played from it were brilliant. “Top Yourself”‘s moody blues carried well, and closer “Salute Your Solution” (which I think is the best rock song for years) blasted through the crowd like the juggernaut it is. But it was always going to be “Steady, As She Goes” that got the greatest reaction, even if it was two songs shy of the end. Its effortless, punchy rhythm made everyone move, and Jack White’s wails positively filled the air.

Bloc Party was our last appointment at the Main Stage and luckily (from what I’ve heard since about the sound problems) we were at the front. Accompanied by a stand-in bassist for Gordon Moakes, they tore through a set full of tracks from both the previous albums, as well as a couple from the album that came out on the Thursday the festival started. It’s difficult to say which tracks were the best received, because adoration for Bloc Party is something to be reckoned with, every track was screamed for. However, the best moment was the incredible laser light show that started with “Flux”. Kele Okoroke danced onstage and led the way for the rest of the audience. “Helicopter” and “The Prayer” may be their most famous outings, but they closed with their first ever singe, “She’s Hearing Voices” and it seemed to be a nostalgic moment for the band and the crowd at once.

But to be honest, we left without much ceremony, mainly because Cat was physically dragging me to the NME stage once more. We did slightly muck up on the timing though, as we got there just in time for the Bullet for my Valentine. Now I have nothing against metal, I can enjoy it (and their captive audience certainly were). It’s just that when the sound is so badly set up that the double kick-drum they used overpowered all of the other music, it doesn’t really make it anymore than violent drum ‘n’ bass. No, what we really came for was something a little more special. Manic Street Preachers really are something else. How a band with such juxtaposing members actually ever worked is beyond me, but work they do. Nicky Wire alone has an incredible stage presence, he carries himself so well, and he plays the crowd perfectly. James Dean Bradfield wields his guitar like a god, and always knows when to summon up the spirit of Richey Edwards to maximum effect – it makes the crowd go wild. It’s testament to this band that the crowd is so incredibly varied, metallers rub shoulders with indie kids, and feather boas are everywhere. Having seen them before, we knew we were going to have a good show in store, but they astounded everyone. Their set was just full of hits. They opened with “Faster”, which led into “Your Love Alone…”, then there was “Motorcycle Emptiness”, a cover of “Pennyroyal Tea” (Amazing), “If You Tolerate This…”, and “Motown Junk”. Not only that, they played a couple of lesser-known tracks (“Of Walking Abortion” and “Little Baby Nothing”) for the hardcore fans. Then they closed with the incredible “Design For Life” – I mean, what a way to end! Why anyone would choose The Killers over this I just cannot understand. If you ever get a chance, see them.

Bombay Bicycle Club – Open House
The Subways – Oh Yeah
Editors – Bullets
Bloc Party – She’s Hearing Voices
Manic Street Preachers – Faster