July 2009


I think one thing I love about music is no matter how much you know about, no matter how many bands you treasure, there’s always one more to find out about, to explore and to fall in love with like all the others. Moving to uni has been eye opening in that department, and with a whole new group of friends, there’s a whole new wealth of music that I’ve missed out on to find out about. The most recent discovery has always been in my radar, and right under my nose, but I’ve just been too lazy to ever get round to putting some effort in and listening. That discovery is The Flaming Lips.

My friend George said the best way to get into them is by working backwards through their albums, so I got my grubby mits on a copy of At War With The Mystics and started my journey. I can’t say I’ve been quite so happy and upset at the same time – happy that it’s absolutely brilliant, and upset that I’ve wasted so much time not listening to them. The singles, “The YeahYeahYeah Song”, “It Overtakes Me” and “The W.A.N.D.”, I already knew, but the rest of the album is just as good. From the soothing tones and gentle buildup of “My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion” to the lilting indie-inflected strums of the well punctuated “Mr. Ambulance Driver”, every song has something a little different from the last, but it makes for a bafflingly diverse and at times exquisitely beautiful album. Don’t make my mistake, go and get it now!

The Flaming Lips – My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion (YSI)

There comes a time every few years where we must brace ourselves for something important, something we’ll want to give some thought, some time and some attention to. That thing is new Muse material. I’ve bored many of my friends by saying Muse are the only truly credible alternative band since Radiohead who have managed to transcend rockstar status into territory reserved for very few other bands. I can see no other outcome for them other than immortality alongside The Stones, Led Zep’ and those few others who manage to cross fan boundaries and make everyone love them whilst retaining every ounce of what made them special and different in the first place.

And so that time has come around again, and with the imminent release of The Resistance, Muse have whet our appetite just a little more with “United States of Eurasia”. Imagine Queen had been raised on stereotypical Middle-Eastern music, that’s basically what this sounds like, it’s that strange and wonderful. Moving effortlessly from hushed, almost poppy piano and string chords into Queen harmonies, through the sounds of certain parts of Aladdin and into “Bohemian Rhapsody” harmonied yelps and finally into a Chopin piano piece, this doesn’t so much give us a sense of direction for the new album rather than open up several more options than we originally thought. But guess what? It’s excellent, as always, and that’s why Muse are on their way to the top.

Muse – United States of Eurasia (YSI)

I’m not usually into remixes. Mash ups I understand, seeing as they take two songs and make them into one new one, but the act of tweaking a song I already like rarely appeals. There are exceptions like Soulwax’s version of “Kids” or The Twelves’ remix of “I’m Not Going To Teach Your Boyfriend…” but rarely do I prefer the remix. But now I’m in a conundrum, because I just heard Alex Metric’s rejigging of the amazing “Lisztomania” by Phoenix (sorry Scroobius Pip). The original song is upbeat, jerky wonder-pop, whereas the remix manages to slow the whole affair down, giving it a far more laid back feel with almost funky bass synth sounds all over the shop. And both of them are brilliant, and I don’t know which one I like better.

Give them both a listen and help me decide!

Phoenix – Lisztomania (YSI)
Phoenix – Lisztomania (Alex Metric Remix) (YSI)

Jaydiohead

Do you remember January? It was that time a while ago where everyone got excited about every single song they heard that was even mildly good, and wild predictions were made immediately about who was going to be the artist of the year. But whilst all of this went on, Max Tannone quietly released an album called Jaydiohead, which I absolutely bloody loved. 10 tracks of Jay Z and Radiohead that constantly impress me with their inventiveness, it was just a perfect example of why mash-ups are a viable musical form these days.

Well now comes, quite literally, “The Encore”, a further five tracks from Mr. Tannone that achieves quite the same feat. It’s not quite as perfectly formed as its predecessor, but every song does, again, exactly what I liked about the first release – the way the songs go beyond simply putting two tracks together and in fact interweave them and use the layers to work in tandem and create a new sound. Again, it’s a very generous free release and you can get it direct from here, thanks Max!

Jaydiohead – December Backdrifts (YSI)

Year Old

Exactly one year ago, I was sitting in this same chair, in the same room, looking out of the same green window, and listening to the same band (Mumford & Sons if you must know) when I first created this blog, mainly to counteract the boredom and loneliness of my lovely girlfriend being on holiday (something else which is the same a year on, unfortunately). Not a lot might have changed in that respect, but I certainly feel a lot’s changed for me. Going to Uni, making new friends and hearing a whole heap of new, brilliant music and trying to share it with you.

So here’s hoping for another verdant year of musical goodness, and a whole lot more to force on any one of you hapless enough to fall upon my page in your travels. I know this is slightly ridiculous, but thank you to anyone who’s leant their support through comments or real-life tangible communication, to anyone who actually reads my posts after getting here from Hype Machine and most of all to Cat for supporting me and knowing when to call me a music snob and stop me becoming even more irritating and self-righteous than I already am. But I still don’t like Lady Gaga 🙂

Mumford & Sons – Hold On To What You Believe (YSI)

Jimi Hendrix – Hey Joe (YSI)

Jay Jay Pistolet – Happy Birthday You (YSI)

Glastonbury Day Three

Well, I seem to have been a bit useless again, and broken my promise of those daily reviews, but I’ll make up for it with the review of my busiest day at Glastonbury.

Waking to sunshine again, we got ourselves quickly over to the Queen’s Head stage to see Two Door Cinema Club. I’ve written about this Northern Irish three-piece before, but if you haven’t already heard them, they really are quite something. Consisting of two guitarists, a bassist and a drum machine, they have already made three absolute indie-pop gems in the shape of debut single “Something Good Can Work” as well as “Undercover Martyn” and “Hands Off My Cash, Monty”, but this set went to prove just how much more they’ve got in their arsenal. Drawing in a largely ambivalent crowd throughout and soon getting the whole tent moving is no easy task, but that’s exactly what happened. Even with technical difficulties slowing the end of the set, they charmingly talked with the crowd and got a smile on every face. Definitely one to watch.

Wandering around a bit later, I spotted the poetry and spoken word tent, and noticed that John Hegley was performing. For those who haven’t come across him, Hegley is a quintessentially English comic poet and songwriter. With songs about a man who dislikes furniture, living in a Luton bungalow and poems about guillemots (birds not band) and hamsters, he’s not your conventional act, but that’s never a reason to discount him. Staying wonderfully deadpan whilst having the audience in stitches, the tiny tent was packed to the edge, and Hegley revelled in it.

Making our way to The Snug tent (half of the time reserved for bouts of Singstar), we waited patiently for Johnny Flynn. One of the flagbearers for the London new-folk movement, along with his band The Sussex Wit, Johnny Flynn crafts beautifully poetic folk numbers that manage to become catchy in the same instant as they are artistically incredible. This set was without the band however, and Johnny walked on armed with only a dobro guitar and his amazing voice. After becoming used to the full band versions of his songs, it was brilliant to hear exactly how he first conceived his songs, and established numbers like “Tickle Me Pink” and “The Box” became completely different songs with the acoustic treatment. As he left the stage, there was rapturous applause and shouts for more, and for good reason, it was wonderful.

For the most of the rest of the day, we remained mainly in one area, the Green Fields. Slap bang in the middle of the Greenpeace area was a tiny stage called the Chess Club/Mi7 stage and, just before the festival a little bird (well, Myspace) had let me know that there would be two consecutive sets from Mumford & Sons and Laura Marling. Apart from anything else, I was ridiculously excited about this as it let me see all three new-folk artists that I love most (Johnny Flynn being the third) in one day. So we took our positions in the tent with good time to spare, and saw the two preceding bands.

Let’s Tea Party were first, three scruffy young men with a penchant for smiling, melodicas and lovely, lovely tunes. After inviting a harpist they’d only just met to play with them, I couldn’t help but be on their side, and I’m looking forward to hearing more of them, although what I have heard suggests its a slightly more noisy style that they usually go for. Following quickly on their heels, King Charles followed. Unbelievably skinny with gigantic dreads, I expected some acoustic numbers, and that’s what I got, at least for the first song. He asked the audience to stand up, before unleashing 40 minutes of guitar solo-led, screaming explosions of rock goodness. Now from the one song I’ve heard, this doesn’t seem entirely in keeping with his usual style, but it was just unbelievable. The crowd turned from mild-mannered folk lovers into frenzied rock fans instantly. Certainly, it’s my most intense experience at Glastonbury, and as the announcer afterwards said, “you’ll all remember being here for the rest of your lives”. I think that may well be true.

After a short break, Mumford & Sons arrived to a wall of screams and hollers, a fair few which came from me, having just met Marcus Mumford outside and feeling like I’d made a new friend, despite only chatting for two minutes. I knew what to expect from their live show, but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to just how glorious it is. I think it’s the harmonies that do it. I could talk forever about how wonderful the instrumentation is, how the sounds grow and envelop each other and just tremble down your body, but it’s the harmonies that push it into a truly wonderful territory. Those beautiful voices working together just like the instruments never fail to get me like very little other music do. Playing to crowd that seemed to be waiting for Laura Marling, I think they gained quite a few more fans in the process. Mumford & Sons are almost too good, and I’m suspicious.

But as I said, the crowd were waiting for a certain young folkstress by the name of Laura Marling. Packed like at no other time in the day, people were standing on benches, craning over one another to get a glimpse of the true queen of new-folk. Her set was nothing short of beautiful, playing every song the audience were waiting for, gracing us with a few newer, more country-tinged numbers. Her star status is assured, and with good reason – she straddles the responsibility of being a pin-up and an artist better than most can manage, and still remains humble and gracious.

Dashing off to see our last band of the festival, we reached the Pyramid stage to see a bigger crowd than any other we’d witnessed. Stretching from the front row, up the hill and all the way into the camping behind us, Blur were truly a good choice for the closing act. You have to feel sorry for the bands on at the same time, they were always going to attract a huge crowd, and with good reason. I always forget just how many hits Blur have had, and just how varied they all are, but watching Damon, Graham, Alex and Dave perfectly recreate the songs that made them the superstars they are, I was constantly enthralled. From the atomic bomb of a song that is “Song 2”, to the gospel singalong of “Tender” and into my personal favourite, “Coffee & TV”, this set was just proof of why Blur are an incredibly important band for British music.

But Glastonbury didn’t end there. It may have been the last set, but wandering around later that night we saw some incredible things. These included hundreds of people spontaneously dancing to “Thriller” in the Stone Circles, accidently finding Basement Jaxx playing to about ten people in a futuristic Hong Kong covered market and watching a middle aged woman nearly impale herself on a candelstick whilst dancing to the Friends theme tune on a table in the middle of a thunderstorm. Really. And that’s why Glastonbury is the best festival in the world. The music might be incredible, but there are so many non-musical moments, so many discoveries and experiences that you can have there that it pushes the festival out of simply a musical area and into a festival in the true sense of the word, a celebration of human interaction, and what we’re capable of.

Did I just write that last bit? Well, if you didn’t like that, I’ll just tell it to you straight: It’s fucking amazing.

Two Door Cinema Club – Undercover Martyn (YSI)
Johnny Flynn – Tickle Me Pink (Demo) (YSI)
Let’s Tea Party – Reptile (YSI)
King Charles – Time Of Eternity (YSI)
Mumford & Sons – The Cave (YSI)
Laura Marling – My Manic & I (YSI)
Blur – Coffee & TV (YSI)

Glastonbury Day Two

So, where were we? I’ll continue, a week exactly since the wondrous collage of genius that is Glastonbury, with Saturday. We awoke to an absolutely sweltering tent, and upon looking outside, saw that the weather had got much, much better overnight, which was a relief to say the least. Significantly cheered up, we roamed our way all the way across the site to where the brilliant Bombay Bicycle Club were playing.

After hearing them for the first time almost a year ago I can’t believe that I’m still waiting for the prodigiously talented band’s debut to come out (well, it’s only four days now, but you know…). Actually I’m rather happy I am, because every time I see them, they’re brilliant, and if they can translate that to a whole record, it’ll be an absolute corker. This appearance was no exception, with the whole audience enraptured by their jaunty tunes and Jack Steadman’s inimitable, fantastic vocals.

Quickly dashing off to the Pyramid stage we got there just in time for a band I still can’t quite believe I saw. Spinal Tap. David St. Hubbins, Nigel Tufnell and Derek Smalls emerged to screams like no other, and proceeded to wheel out every fictional hit they have. From “Gimme Some Money” to “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight”, they covered every iteration of their band, and every genre. Highlights included two little people carrying an inflatable Stonehenge and Jarvis Cocker joining the band on bass. Brilliant.

Suitably stunned, we made our way to see my favourite new band, Hockey. I’ve heard a lot about their live show not living up the promise of their recorded stuff, but as far as I could tell, they were on top form. Every swagger and soulful move of their tracks was perfectly recreated, and Ben Grubin ruled the stage, roaming up and down, making sure everyone got an equal chance to see his perfectly positioned headband and hipster clothing choices. Scenester aspects aside, Hockey look like a seriously good prospect for the future, and another band whose debut I can’t wait for, and this only helped me get more excited.

For our fourth band, and fourth stage, of the day, we took a safe bet and went to see Maximo Park. Just like The Maccabees, Maximo Park seem unable to fail when they play live. Whilst the band are absolutely perfect every time, Paul Smith is the perfect frontman, engaging, funny, humble and bloody mental on stage. His high kicks and little red book are already legendary, and it never gets old. With perfect picks from all three albums, the crowd lapped up every moment, singing along to every word and having a ball in the process.

After a long gap to wander about aimlessly and sample some delicious food, we made our way to the Pyramid Stage once more to catch the main event. It’s no secret as to why Bruce Springsteen is the dictionary definition of a rockstar. He owned the stage, never seemed dwarfed by his surroundings, and, unlike most artists, looked like there was no better place for him than in front of thousands upon thousands of people. There’s a reason it’s called stadium rock. Now I have to admit, I really don’t know much Bruce Springsteen material. In fact I can only think of two songs, and they both begin with the word “Born”, so I can’t say my attention was completely focused. It certianly isn’t usually my kind of music, but it was certainly an amazing (and long) performance, and the crowd absolutely loved it, so what more can you ask for?

So there you have it, another day of Glastonbury reviewing done, and only one more left. See you tomorrow folks!

Bombay Bicycle Club – Evening/Morning (YSI)
Spinal Tap – Gimme Some Money (YSI)
Hockey – 3am Spanish (YSI)
Maximo Park – Postcard of a Painting (YSI)
Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run (YSI)

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