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b-logg vb. written by people with too much time on their hands, read by people with   too much time on their hands.

 
A Presonal Trawl Through The Music Year

›› Blog Of The Year 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015

›› On This Page 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009


Blogggg 2009 - Kingdom Of Distrust



Last Shop Standing


Not only the end of 2009 but the end of the first decade of the 21st century. The year started with the final nail in the Zavvi coffin. This left just HMV with a monopoly on the high street for CD browsing – apart from a few independent shops scattered about the country - (Just 305 left in March 2009 down from 750 in 2005.) Not that HMV have much space in their setup these days for CD’s! The record companies whinge about the collapse in CD sales but if there is nowhere left on the high street to buy them, how is the situation going to reverse? By the end of the year, even the supermarkets had reduced CD space to the top 40.

One of the books of the year by Graham Jones ‘Last Shop Standing’ gives an interesting insight into the plight of the independent record shops and the greed of the record industry over the last 30 years. The hyping of records into the top 40 and the ripping off of bands, oh and a couple of good Van Morrison anecdotes.

After reading the book I visited a couple of shops local to me that Graham mentioned. To be honest I was surprised they are still in business. They were selling albums available in HMV for around the £12 mark at over £16. There was no ‘Carrot’ offers. I’m no retailing expert, but a keen punter who buys a lot of product. I still believe that the Fopp model is the way forward. (getting people in by selling a large range of CD’s by a specific artist, label or genre i.e Island & Motown at the 50th anniversaries’ and Depeche Mode, U2 & Pet Shop Boys back catalogue at the time of their latest releases, plus random catalogues by King Crimson & Robert Fripp at around the £5 mark).

However, I have also visited a couple of indie retailers in Brighton (Rounder & Resident) and they do seem to be doing it right, following the sort of idea that I imagine will see them survive this transition period.

Also, I still can’t understand how I can buy from Caiman-usa in Miami Florida through Amazon Marketplace, CD’s cheaper than anywhere else in the UK?

I know that record companies screw the independent shops on price. My perception is that I think that the record companies want to stop producing CD’s and just go for the even higher profitable download. They don’t give a shit about the punter, just the profit. One of the stories in Graham’s book details how a few shops in the west country get together to do ‘raids’ on the supermarkets on a Friday evening to buy up many of the chart albums they are selling cheaper than they can buy them from the record companies. This means the supermarkets can not re stock before Monday leaving punters no choice but to go to the independents to buy the latest hot biscuit.

This also has the amusing situation of the same album going through the chart computer twice giving a false impression of sales figures. Plus I bet the royalty cheque to the artist is not what it seems either. Never mind Bono! A good point the book makes is How Many Artists Have The Supermarket Broke?

In March war broke out between the PRS and YouTube. Basically the fat cats in the music industry were not getting paid enough for punters watching their ‘art’. So the industry had all the music vids blocked for UK viewers, drawing attention to the way a lot of the industry are vastly over paid. The likes of Pete Waterman were moaning that after 100 million people had watched that Rick Astley video, he only got paid £11! Look on the bright side, that is £11 he would not have seen if YouTube had not been there. So it seems greed is not only rife in the political and banking industries. Come on, you’ve made millions out of the song anyway. I don’t get paid every time someone travels on an aircraft using some of my components. Like them, I get paid once from the sale. What other industry continues to get over paid for a lifetime for doing something they might have done 20 years ago. Nice work if you can get it. Dose a car manufactured get paid every time you drive the car? Dose a bed manufacture get paid every time you go to sleep? Every other industry gets paid just the once – that’s it! If you want more cash, make or produce something else that people want to listen or watch and buy. Jeremy Clarkson put it very simply in his newspaper column on 21st March. He never receives a penny for the Top Gear clips that are viewed by the millions. The clips are stolen, viewed, the end – get over it! He makes another program – gets paid for that – The End! How much would you have to pay to advertise, to get that sort of exposure on the likes of YouTube? The technical quality is generally crap at the moment anyway. The sound of a medium wave radio and the picture quality of a bad instamatic camera! Another positive from this I guess will be that without the major labels’ over hyped X-fuckter dross to fill the bandwidth, do it yourself bands with a mass of new and original ideas will be able to get their songs seen and herd more easily – hopefully.

In that same week, Bono was saying that money came to him like water coming from a tap. Thanks Bono. And he’s the one that wants US to give money to help the 3rd world! Perhaps Mr Bono should attach a hose pipe to his tap and start spraying it over Africa! The other howler Mr Bono came out with this year was the one where he wanted all the people gong to the U2 gigs in the US to donate 50 cents to off set the carbon footprint of going to the gigs. Hahaha and the tour only takes a reported 120 trucks to transport the stage and lighting rigs from venue to venue. Oh and can the punters share rides too! Wish I could live on planet Bono…..Just like the British MP’s he is so removed from real life he just doesn’t get it.

The industry always bleat on about how much money they are loosing by people illegally downloading tracks. That figure is a complete nonsense. Yes, I would not argue that they are loosing cash but not that much. In the 10th August issue of The Times, they ran a article about the problem saying that a survey recently carried out says that the average 14 to 24 year old has 8000 tracks on their computer. There is no way that the average 14 t0 24 year old will go out and buy the equivalent of 800 albums. I know people that download the odd track and there is no way they would go into a shop or go to Amazon to buy an album. So the figure the industry quote is just wishful thinking! The article goes on to say that most of the people interviewed are not bothered about illegal peer to peer downloading, stating that the risk of getting caught is so slim, they don’t even think about it.

Now this is probably not allowed. You’ll probably have less chance of getting prosecuted haha – I’ve only herd about this mind and a lot of people don’t seem to know about this. Most desk top computers that are fitted with a Creative soundcard – maybe other makes as well – come embedded in the software a feature called – ‘What U Hear’ – Just go onto YouTube or my space – find the desired streaming video or MP3 and press the ‘What U Hear’ and record straight to your computer. It’s just like the old days when ‘Home Taping Is Killing Music’. The only downside is that you actually have to listen to the track that you are recording – a bit of a bummer for all those people that just want to download a track just to say that they have got it on their phone! But just think, you can piss off the Simon Cowlls’, Bonos’ and Pete Waterman’s even more!

In July the annual missed opportunity Mercury prize short list was announced. The biggest surprise is that pre contest favourites Doves – Kingdom Of Rust wasn’t even on the list! Even more strange, the band that supported them on their April tour The Invisibles – was on the list. No Morrissey, No Super Furry Animals, No Elvis, No Micrchu, No Manics, No Art Brut, No Franz and above all no Doves! An album that no one had herd of before the contest and no one has herd of since won the prize!

First gig of my year was the 1st week of March. To the newly named HMV Apollo (This must be an ironic thing due to the lack of space they now give to music!) Hammersmith for Franz Ferdinand. A surprisingly short gig for a band now on their 3rd album – but leave the punters wanting more – don’t overstay your welcome. Didn’t care too much for the ‘between band disko’ which consisted of bass heavy re mix obscure (even for me) noise. Also a little disappointed with support The Soft Pack who are a band to watch this year. I did splash out on a post gig CD that a few bands seem to be producing now. A bank of CD burners churning out CD-r’s of the gig within minutes of it finishing. Not a cheap purchase but well presented and recorded and better value than most bootlegs.

Doves were the next gig. The pyramid centre in Southsea. Impressed by the support band, The Invisibles. Doves started their set with the new song Jetstream which had been given away as a free download the month beforehand. A superb addition to their already excellent back catalogue. The new single and title track from their soon to be released album Kingdom Of Rust also shone out. But the highlight was still one of my all time favourite tracks Their Goes The Fear, complete with carnival drums added to the end.

The following Saturday back to the O2 for Paul Weller, Support was from The Coral. They are one of those bands that tend to get overlooked despite have made 5 albums and having a sizable chunk of chart action. They played an enjoyable 40 minute ‘best of’ set that sent me the next day listening back over their back catalogue. Paul Weller never disappoints but he dose seem to have a problem with his musical past. Their is a part of me wants to hear him play more of his older stuff but I also want to hear the newer stuff as well. When he did play Eaton Rifles & Shout To The Top the crowd seemed to react more that to any other songs in the set.

Exploding light bulbs was not the first surprise of the evening at the Anvil in Basingstoke. Walking on stage promptly at 8:00 pm I thought I had been transported back 20 years to a Steve Wright Roadshow (rubbish British daytime radio DJ) with his newly cultivated moustache designed to keep his very stiff upper lip in place!

Witnessing Elvis Costello on an English stage for the first time in nearly 2 years was almost missed but for the fortuitous flick through the March edition of Mojo and spotting a small ad in the back for a series of dates with the Brodsky Quartet. Lions share of the set was culled from 1993’s The Juliet Letters. Unlike Paul Weller & Morrissey, Costello is comfortable with his back catalogue and for me the best numbers were the re working of key tracks form his past albums – New Lace Sleeves, Shipbuilding, Accidents Will Happen, Pills & Soap, My Three Sons, Rocking Horse Road Plus a couple of songs from his ‘favourite piano player’ The Girl In The Other Room & Narrow Daylight. Ending with a track from his latest album and a cover of Johnny Mercer’s PS I Love You.

After his ‘Outburst’ to the British media some 18 months previous, I was surprised to see him in such an accommodating mood. “The following dates will have to have a notice in the foyer ‘Warning, This Performance Contains Shrapnel’!”

Next gig was a chance click of the mouse and 3 tickets were secured for Doves again. This time at the Hexagon Reading. Much the same set as Portsmouth but the inclusion of a couple more tracks from the Kingdom of Rust Album – Still no Cedar Room!

Nick Lowe at the Royal Albert Hall In London was the next gig. The first time I had been there. It’s a bit like a Victorian version of the O2 arena! Nick was in great form playing songs from right across his career, sadly omitting my favourites American Squirm & All Men Are Liars.

The next gig was meant to be Morrissey at the Brixton Academy but was postponed due to his continuing ill health – more later..

I visit my sister in Orlando at least once a year so I always try to take in a gig while there. This time the lucky band were Animal Collective at the Club Firestone. Haven’t been to that venue before so when we drove around the corner to see a line of likely punters my wife yelled “we’re gong to be child minders for the evening”. What was amusing is that they even wanted to see i.d. from us to get a green wrist band to use the bar. There weren’t many of those handed out that night! Most of the set was from the most resent of their 62 albums they have issued this century. Which was fairly handy as I had up to that point only herd the last two albums plus Panda Bear’s last solo album. They seem to be developing a zappaesq attitude to releasing albums – one every 8 or 9 months. They may not be brilliant albums but all contain enough great music to keep punters wanting more. Plus it gave me a reason to run up a sizeable credit card bill! NME awarded them Best Forward Thinking Band of 2009. Roll on the next 53 albums.

The re scheduled Morrissey gig at the newly re branded O2 academy in Brixton was next. It may have been re branded but is still a shit hole! Support was from a new band to me but did leave a good impression Doll & The Kicks – a name to look out for. The only criticism I would lay at the Bard of Salford is that he ignored his early solo output. I have still to hear him do Everyday Is Like Sunday & Suedehead but in fairness on other nights he did do Billy Budd & Spring Heeled Jim. Plus he dose do a good selection of Smiths songs now (5 to be precise). But the main meat - sorry Mozz – came from his most resent 3 albums.

Not quite the audience participation of a Flaming Lips gig but on arrival at the Manchester MEN for the final night of the Elbow tour we were presented with a white T Shirt with Elbow choir written in the sleeve. Shit, what have we let our selves in for…This is what happens when you decide at the last moment to go to a gig – rubbish (production) seats next to the band and you have to sing for your supper! NO - One of the best arena gigs ever!!! Richard Hawley came and did The Fix. Full brass and string section, sound and vision superb. Not only one of the bands of the decade but one of the gigs of the decade.

My band of the decade – Super Furry Animals was the next gig at the Forum in Kentish Town. Now taken over by HMV they now prefer selling gig tickets to CD’s! This was a last minute gig arranged by the band as a warm up for a festival they were playing a few days later. Most the live favourites were there plus a big portion of the latest album. My new favourite – Inaugural Trams was a big hit with the crowd. A shortened version of ‘The Man Don’t Give A Fuck’ closed the show. The last couple of times I’ve seen them, they no longer perform the over the top trance workout.

I successfully avoided the O2 performance of Spandau ballet but sent Bev instead!!

Trying to give an objective review of gigs that I go to is not a skill that comes easy to me, especially when on the very rare occasion I do 3 in the space of 5 days. On the Friday Muse at the O2, Saturday Kasabian at Wembley Arena and the following Wednesday Arctic Monkeys at Wembley Arena. On any normal occasion I would be enthusing about all three however by the last one fatigue was beginning to set in, this mainly due to sitting in lines of traffic, getting to the gigs being the biggest problem in the London area. Can I not just give them a pile of money to come around my house? Do not answer that.

Muse supported by the hot up and coming Big Pink who left the crowd singing their ultra catchy Dominoes. Muse had probably the most over the top stage set that I have witnessed in an arena. They are a band who definitely have the big songs to fill an arena. The next night at Wembley Arena Kasabian cheered the crowd with their brand of indie rock. Accompanied by Mighty Boosh man Noel Fielding on Vlad The Impaler, kicking 'severd' heads into the crowd. Supported by Reverent and the Makers, they goaded the crowd who showed them in beer and other liquids that Morrissey would have probably left the continent stamping his feet at the site of. Two days later back to Wembley Arena for The Arctic Monkeys. It was here that an Idea occurred to me. Most of the audience consisted of Late teen early twenty somethings. Most gigs have a special area for disabled which is brilliant. What about a special section for old fuckers like me! Support was from Eagles Of Death Metal – less Josh Homme but still did the very heavily influenced by Steely Dan track Now I’m A Fool.


Albums of 2009

Doves    Animal Collective    Super Furry Animals


Doves – Kingdom Of Rust
Franz Ferdinand – Tonight
Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion/Fall Be Kind
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz
Morrissey – Years Of Refusal
Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
Elvis Costello – Secret, Profane & Sugarcane
Super Furry Animals – Light Years/Dark Days
Micrchu – Jewellery
The Duckworth Lewis Method - The Duckworth Lewis Method
Florence & The Machine – Lungs
Bob Dylan – Together Through Life
Madness - The Liberty Of Norton Folgate
White Denim - Fits
The Big Pink - A Brief History Of Love
Manic Street Preachers – Journal For Plague Lovers
The Low Anthem – Oh My God, Charlie Darwin
Eels – Hombre Lobo – 12 Songs Of Desire
Muse – The Resistance
Fuck Buttons - Tarrot Sport
Julian Casablancus – Phrazes For The Young
+(I Know It Came Out In 08 In The US) School Of Seven Bells - Alpinisms

Tracks Of 2009

Doves – Jetstream
Manic Street Preachers – The Jackie Collins….
Elvis Costello – Sulphur To Sugarcane
Super Furry Animals -  Inaugural Trams
Morrissey – I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris
Friendly Fires – Kiss Of Life
The Very Best Feat. Ezra Koenig – Warm Heart Of Africa
Florence & The Machine – Rabbit Heart
The Big Pink – Dominoes


Animal Collective have topped an annual round-up of critics' polls organized by HMV.

The band's 'Merriweather Post Pavilion' is Number One in the retailer's "poll of poll" which collates the results of 34 end of year polls into one list.

The HMV top ten is as follows:

1. Animal Collective – 'Merriweather Post Pavilion'
2. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – 'It's Blitz'
3. The xx – 'The xx'
4. Dirty Projectors – 'Bitte Orca'
5. Grizzly Bear – 'Veckatimest'
6. The Horrors – 'Primary Colours'
7. Fever Ray – 'Fever Ray'
8. Florence and the Machine – 'Lungs'
9. Bat For Lashes – 'Two Suns'
10. Wild Beasts – 'Two Dancers'


Other than the Graham Jones book, other music related books that I can recommend that I got around to reading, Alex James – A Bit Of A Blur. As the title suggests a biog of the Blur mans time with the band and his personal life. Len Brown’s – Conversations With Morrissey. Not only an interesting insight to the man but a candid oversite of life at the NME during the ‘80’s. Plus The Olivetti Chronicles. A compilation of John Peels articles from the late ‘70’s to the early 2000’s that he wrote for Radio Times, The Listener, Sounds, The Guardian and other publications. His unmistakable dry wit applied to all manner of subjects from music to Shaving.


Songs (& Artists) That Time Forgot

My top bands & Artists of the decade

How did I arrive at my choices? Must have emerged during the decade. Must have issued at least 3 great albums. Must have left a lasting memory from a live performance.

Artist Of The Decade – Super Furry Animal – For the 6 albums of original material (only surpassed by Animal Collective) plus Gruff Rhys 3 solo & side projects and tours to support the lot. Take note all you slackers. Their unique blend of Anglo Welsh vocals with electronica and guitars helps them maintain an original edge over the competition. Come on NME, God Like Genius award must surly be due.


They Lasted The Distance..

Elbow, Doves, Franz Ferdinand, The Strokes, Ryan Adams, Arctic Monkeys, Badly Drawn Boy, Kaiser Chiefs, Queens Of The Stoneage, The Hold Steady, The Killers, Kasabian, Bloc Party, Animal Collective, Muse

The Ones That Showed Promise But lost Their Way...or the will to continue…

Libertines, Razorlight, The Sleepy Jackson, The Darkness, Beta Band, Granddaddy

They Are Showing Promise of Greatness…

Vampire Weekend, Glasvegas, MGMT, Arcade Fire, Ladyhawke

Still Great After All These Years…

Been around for years but still manage to produce the goods.

Radiohead, Teenage Fanclub, Super Furry Animals, Neil Young, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Depeche Mode, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Bragg, Manic Street Preachers, Morrissey, Paul Weller, The Flaming Lips, Travis, Spritualized

I was going to present my favorite albums of the last decade, but thought better of it. However, reading the lists presented in the Word, Uncut, Q and NME, which I must say I more or less endorse, there are many alarming omissions. I do find it strange that many albums that they have championed throughout the noughties have been completely forgotten, where albums that were either not reviewed at the time or I was having colonic irrigation and missed them, have appeared magically from nowhere. How many of you have herd of Botch, Capdown, Espires or Mclusky? And is The Macabees – Colour It In, really better than say ..Elbow's The Seldom Seen kid? Where are My Latest Novel's Wolves or Canyon's Empty Rooms? Some are glaringly obvious omissions, others may not have had the high profile to maintain enough interest to last to the end of the decade or the biggest crime of all, falling out of favor with the music press.

This doesn't alter the fact that my favorite album of the last 10 years is Radiohead's In Rainbows just the fact that many of my personal selections already appear in many of the lists so what’s the point of duplicating already over publicized product

So here are a few of my favorite artists and albums that the critics seem to have airbrushed from the 1st decade of the 21st century. Most of these artists will be familiar to anybody that knows me or browses the site regularly. Obviously there are albums that I have probably overlooked, but here are a few that jumped out to me.

Nick Lowe – At My Age/ The Convincer
Badly Drawn Boy – The Hour Of The Bewilderbeast/One And One is One
The Darkness – Permission To Land
Katheryn Williams – Leave To Remain/Little Black Numbers
Teenage Fanclub – Howdy!/Man-Made
Manic Street Preachers – Know Your Enemy/Send Away The Tigers
Elvis Costello - When I was Cruel/The Delivery Man/Momofuku
Morrissey – Ringleader Of The Tormentors
Damien Rice - O
Ash – Free All Angels
Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires
Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly – The Chronicles Of A Bohemian Teenager
Grace Jones – Hurricane
Gruff Rhys – Candylion
Guillemots – Through the Windowpain
George Harrison - Brainwashed
Holy Fuck – Holy Fuck
The Hours – Narcissus Road
Kaiser Chiefs – Employment
Kate Bush – Aerial
The Last Shadow Puppets – The Age Of The Understatement
Lightspeed Champion – Falling Off The Lavender Bridge
The Magnetic Fields – 69 Love Songs
Low – Things We Lost In The Fire/The Great Destroyer
Lucinder Williams – West/World Without Tears
The Magic Numbers – The Magic Numbers
Maximo Park – A Certain Trigger
Mystry Jets – Twenty One
Onyan – Baby Food
Panda Bear – Person Pitch
The Polyphonic Spree – Together we are heavy
R.E.M. - Reveal/Accelerate
The Ravonettes – Pretty In Black
Razorlight – Up All Night
Richard Hawley – Late Night Final/Coles Corner
Royksopp – Melody A.M.
Shack – Here's Tom With The Weather
Stereolab – Sounddust/Margerine Eclips
Travis – The Invisible Band/Ode To J.Smith
We Are Scientists – Brain Thrust Mastery/With Love & Squalor
Weezer – Weezer (Red Album)

My biggest irritation about the end of the decade lists is the continuous inclusion of The Libertines. Come on. There is no way that their two albums merit inclusion. Or the very patchy Babyshambles albums. All of them together I could just about cobble a mini album together along with Don't Look Back Into The Sun and What A Waster stand alone singles. As a live band they may have cut it, but we are talking recorded statements that will be listened for years to come.

Heres to the next (10) year. Looking forward to new stuff from…Vampire weekend, Kathryn Williams, The Strokes, Yeasayer, Los campesinos!


Julian White ©2009

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2008: Working On A Cocktail Called…….Credit crunch blues…

As the year went on, every time I walked into a high street CD retailer I got more and more depressed. By October the main 'high street' players Zavvi & HMV had reduced their rack space for CD’s to about 10 – 15 %. (As I write this, I read in The Times that Zavvi are in the financial shit! – just gone to publish this and they are now in administration) I know it’s all about sales and profit but surly if you are not supplying the required goods, you can’t sell them. I might not have the biggest private collection of CD’s but it is fairly large. But now it seems I have a larger selection than most of the high street re sellers.

It seems people of my generation and a couple past have wanted to own a physical copy of the music. In the last few years people have grown up without this need. Personally the thought of just having a track to listen to on a phone seems just ridiculous and expensive. But I suspect the greedy record companies, this is just what they want. Download a track - loose it - download it again! I accept things move on and there are people out there still nostalgic for the wax cylinder days! But their must be a market for a dedicated high street music re seller? On a recent trip to the new Westfield Centre in London (the biggest in London) I was surprised to find only ONE shop, a not so big HMV, with less than 25% floor space dedicated to CD's. Yet there were row upon row of shops selling phones & shoes. Seems the general public would rather brows for shoes & phones than brows the CD racks! People are prepared to spend their disposable cash on these relatively expensive items but not £5 on a music CD's! The up and coming generations obviously don’t want physical copies of music, compounded with competition from DVD's, games, camera phones that take rubbish photos and even worse videos of people falling off skate boards - see You Tube – more of that later… But on the optimistic side, I would like to think that in a few years when the recession has passed, someone will spot a gap in the market and return the CD racks to the high street.

The remaining Fopp outlets are still well worth a visit. On a couple of occasions this year managed to pick up The Kinks (Sanctuary) back catalogue for £3.00 ea and on another occasion, The Yello, Cat Power & The Magnetic Fields back cat for £5.00 ea.

Live Events 2008

1st gig of the year for me was the NME Big Gig at the O2. The sound was just like listening to your hi fi at full volume from the house next door. This may have been due to the fact that we had some of the ‘exclusive’ pre release seats – at 90 degrees to the stage 150 foot from the ground! BUT that aside The Cribs were still over rated live – even with the help of the wonderful Johnny Marr. It’s the third time I’ve seen them and I feel they are still better on CD. The Klaxons, Bloc Party, Kaiser Chiefs & Manic Street Preachers made the event well worth while. Ricky Wilson still managed to find his way through the crowd to the sound mixing desk mid set. Bloc Party sounded more like The Klaxons on Flux. The Manics arrived on stage accompanied by a 12 piece Scottish pipe band, Tom from the Enemy helped the Manics out on You Love Us & Cerys Mathews helped out on Your Love Alone Is Not Enough. The biggest surprise was their interpretation of Rianna’s Umbrella!

Rubbish phone camera pics by James White

Before the gig we managed to gate crash the red carpet for the awards that took place before hand – more by chance than planning! Managed to shout some abuse at Mani & Bobby Gillespie, Kate Nash, Lightspeed Champion, Billy Bragg, Various Klaxons, Ricky & Peanut from the Kaisers & The Cribs & Johnny Marr. Of course all the pictures taken were as blurry as …… camera phones ehaaa… they could have a billion megapixels and the pics would still look crap. Thinking of starting a web site www.blurrypicsofpopstarsandcelebs.com Has anybody ever seen a good picture taken on one?

A rainy Saturday night in March saw the last date of the European leg of Neil Young’s Chrome Dreams tour at Hammersmith Apollo. Only seen him once before back in 2003 on the Greendale tour. Then he played solo for 2 ½ hours mostly new material from the soon to be released Greendale album. The latest tour again comprised of 2 sets. The 1st solo acoustic and a 2nd set with his band. But this time was mostly a ‘Greatest hits’ set plus the few unrecorded songs which he’s been playing live for a number of years and 3 from the current Chrome Dreams 2 album. I never thought I would ever see him play Na na hey hey (into the black) live. The place erupted!

The stage was filled with retro equipment – lighting and amps plus Eric Johnson painting at an easel behind the band. This was one of my top 10 gigs ever.

A week later, what is becoming a regular pilgrimage to Oxford to see Van Morrison. Just a one off gig to promote Keep It Simple. Too many songs off the new album in one sitting, but still a great gig.

A long gap before the next gig at the end of August. R.E.M. at Twickenham RFU Stadium. Don’t know how we did it but it was the only sunny day of the summer! First up the Guillemots. Familiar with most of their material so it was good to see them live at last – even if it was from about a quarter of a mile away. Next up The Editors (Ian Curtis backed by Hank Marvin on helium) The second time I’d seen them and still enjoy them. I seem to be one of the few people that liked their last album. Then the Mighty R.E.M. – been waiting nearly 20 years to see them live. They did not disappoint. A set of 28 songs from most of their albums. A large chunk of Accelerate plus a lot of the familiar hits.


Travis Fran

The ghost Of Fran Heeley

Then came October – gigs galore! The 1st sat in that month the rain was coming down horizontally as we lined up to get into the Pyramid centre in Portsmouth to see Travis. Managed to get a pitch against the crush bar at the front – not a band where crowd surfing is a common occurrence – still managed to get some very blurry pics of Fran and the band! Promoting Ode To J. Smith, one of the highlights was Fran & Andy’s cover of I Kissed A Girl. (see You tube)

Next gig was meant to be the following Monday - The Hold Steady again at the Pyramid – but they postponed – more later.

So the following Saturday – to the Roundhouse in London for Elbow – Guy Garvey is not only one of the best writers but one of the best front men around at the moment. This gig sold out before they won the Mercury prize. Managed to again lean against the front crush bar and managed to get more blurry pics! The set was mainly culled from The seldom seen Kid – surprisingly nothing from Cast Of Thousands. Accompanied by a string quartet the main set ended with a superb version of One Day Like This.

The following Thursday to Wembley Arena for the London return of Oasis. Despite it’s recent refurbishment compared to the O2 it’s a bit dated. Noel Gallagher said after seeing Led Zeppelin at the O2 he won’t play there as it is too corporate! – Strange, the day of the gig they announced a gig at Wembley stadium for summer 2009 – probably the most corporate venue in the UK!

Of all the bands I have seen over the last 38 years they definitely have the most boisterous fans. This is the second time I have seen them live – the first time in 2005 at the Southampton Rose Bowl – The seats on the side of the arena were never used for sitting on and a majority of the crowd sang every lyric from every song drowning out Liam’s voice. Beer – hopefully not urine – rained over everybody’s heads at regular intervals! It was an enjoyable event if it wasn’t my favourite of the year.

Funny how preconceptions can cloud your judgment. At the beginning of the year the name Vampire Weekend kept cropping up in the music press. I kept thinking to my self -Do I really want to listen to a goth metal band? How wrong can you be! The lazy way to explain their sound is Paul Simons’ Gracelands. But don’t let that put you off if you still have to discover them for yourself.

The next October gig was at the Forum in London for the sell out residency of Vampire Weekend. With only one albums worth of material to play it was never going to be a long set. From the minute they hit the stage the crowd were right behind them – singing along and responding to Ezra Koenig’s requests for participation. Joined for 3 songs by a string quartet, the set was over in a little over an hour – even allowing for 3 new songs and a Fleetwood Mac cover, but what quality, leaving the audience wanting more.
 
Postponed from October the rescheduled tour from The Hold Steady reached the Portsmouth Wedgwood rooms on 14th December. A Great gig, the only mistake was by my gang standing at the front in the middle. Could not hear the vocals due to being behind the PA speakers! But the very animated Craig Finn made up for this oversight with a performance of such energy it was hardly noticeable. They hit the stage as if they were a coiled spring that had just been released. The 20 song set was taken mostly from their last two albums. Hopefully will be able to get to see them again soon.


Gavin & Smithy     A Crib

Photos courtesy of James White's phone camera

Last gig of the year it was back to the O2 and risk vertigo and nose bleeds for the final night of Wayne Rooney’s best mates, The Stereophonics tour. A greatest hits show plus a few well known album tracks. A good fun gig which ended with my favourite Dekota.

 
Albums for the year.

Vampire Weekend - was released at the beginning of the year and therefore was probably played the most.
Mystery Jets, Twenty One – Largley overlooked but produced 3 of the best pop singles of the year, Young Love, Half In Love With Elizabeth & Two Doors Down.
Late Of The Pier – Fantasy Black Channel.
The Hold Steady – Stay Positive.
Black Kids – Partie Traumatic.
R.E.M. – Accelerate.
Bon Iver – For Emma Forever Ago
Lightspeed Champion – Falling Off The Lavender Bridge.
Santogold - Santogold
Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid – Deserved Mercury prize winner
The Last Shadow Puppets – The Age Of The Understatement
Neon Neon – Stainless Style
Glasvegas – Glasvegas/ A Snowflake Fell…– The proclaimers vs. Jesus & Mary chain
TV On The Radio – Dear Science
Bloc Party – Intimacy
Paul Weller – 22 Dreams
The Fireman – Electric Arguments – Without a doubt the best McCartney album since…Band on the run..Let it be…

Great Albums Completely Overlooked Demanding Attention!


Kathry Williams & Neil MacColl - Two
Grace Jones – Hurricane – OK so we had to wait nearly 20 years 3 years longer than Guns & Roses!
Weezer – Weezer (Red)
Leila – Blood Looms & Blooms
Ryan Adams & The Cardinals – Cardinology
We Are Scientists – Brain Thrust Mastery
Pete & The Pirates – Little Death
Chris Difford – The Last Temptation Of Chris
Elvis Costello – Momofuku - In April’s issue of Word magazine he underlines the fact that there is no new material due for immanent release (see 2007 below) – on May 5th Momofuku appears! His most rocking and accessible album since When I was cruel and probably the most played by me of his resent output. Recorded in California in Jan Feb 2008 – so what was the big secret? The only printed review I read wasn’t until the October’s issue of Uncut. – they gave it 4/5.

Reissues.


Nick Lowe’s Jesus of cool and Dennis Wilson’s Pacific Ocean Blue were 2 of the most missed albums to finally get a welcome re issue on CD. Both sound as contempory as anything recorded this year.
The Clash – Live At Shea Stadium
Buzzcocks – A Different Kind Of Tension
The Groundhogs – Hogwash
Neil Young – Sugar Mountain
Paul Weller – At The BBC

Stand Out Tracks Of The Year

Glasvegas – Geraldine, Daddy’s Gone
Elbow – Grounds For Divorce, One Day Like This
Elvis Costello – No Hiding Place
R.E.M. – Supernatural Superserious, I’m Gonna DJ
The Courteeners – Not 19 Forever
Vampire Weekend – Oxford Comma, Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa, A - Punk
Ryan Adams – Born into a light
Chairlift - Bruses

Albums that didn’t quiet reach the parts…

Oasis – Dig Out Your Soul
The Fratellis – Here We Stand
Get Cape Wear Cape Fly
Kaiser Chiefs – Off With Their Heads

A bit of light reading?

Never seem to get much time for reading books, too many distractions at home. Only when on a ‘beach’ holidays. This year managed to get through Paul Weller – The Changing Man, By Paolo Hewitt, a balanced portrayal that caused a rift between the writer and artist. Highlighting many of his less well known songs accompanied by sketches of what was occurring in Weller’s life at the time. Complicated Shadow (Elvis Costello) Graham Thompson. Probably dismissed by Elvis as a complete work of fiction but some of the gigs of his that I have attended over the years were covered so it can not be all fiction! Hammer of the Gods (Led Zeppelin) Stephen Davis. Best line ‘Let our red snapper see your red snapper’ Best story, the one where Bonzo meets Elvis. - & Ronnie – Ronnie Wood, already outdated – if you have been following is story in the UK tabloids this year!

Already lined up for next year – Mass unemployment, Paul Weller at the O2, Deflation, Morrissey at Brixton Academy & Franz Ferdinand at Hammersmith Apollo. Albums – if they are still able to buy them – from: Franz Ferdinand, Morrissey, Bon Iver, Antony & The Johnsons, U2, Lisa Hannigan, The Prodigy, Secret Machines, Lilly Allen, Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian, klaxons, The View, Bruce Springsteen, Howling Bells, Gorillaz…and possibly, Super Furry Animals & Teenage Fanclub….’till next year…..

Julian White ©1995 - 2009

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2007 - The Good The Bad & The Health & Safty!

The gallows album – Orchestra of wolves is not something I listen to on a daily basis. I find this genre of rock music (‘shouty rock’ as I have baptised it) has a similar affect on me to red wine. Although I like the smell and taste of red wine it just gives me a blinding headache! Gallows - just listening to it - gives me a sour throat! Put Enter Shakari in that category as well. Oh and another thing – doesn’t matter how many tats Frank Carter (coolest person of the year according to the NME cool list) gets, there is no disguising the fact the he is still ginger!

One of the best musical events that did not include music for me was …while on holiday in Antigua flew over to Montserrat for a day in a 12 seat “transit”. Interesting and depressing place. The volcano is still erupting and the remains of the population can only live in the top third of the island. 100’s of very expensive houses just deserted on the edge of the exclusion zone. Saw the deserted Air Studios and Sir George Martins deserted house. He is still raising money for the locals through charity auctions etc.. Here is the point of the story….. Just got back to the tiny airport and checked in for the flight back to Antigua – who walks in…. Sir George and Giles Martin. They had been there to open a new Centre and museum that he had raised the funds for. What can you say to a living legend? All Bev noticed was the huge diamond in Sir Georges wife’s’ engagement ring! All I could think of saying to Giles was – what the fuck were you thinking of with Kula Shaker!

Surprise best gigs of the year – Prince at the O2. Just before the gig one of those little incidents that make life worth while… At the official merchandise stand saw an album that I had herd of but never seen - N.E.W.S - Great, I’ll get a copy – ‘Copy of N.E.W.S please’ – “Sorry can’t sell you a copy until after the gig” – mmmm must be some sort of copyright embargo or something… “Health & Safety mate” …. ‘Errr.. OK … elaborate’ – “Well the CD could be snapped and used as a weapon” ‘What a way to go – stabbed to death by a prince CD!’ … The story gets better – upon entry to the arena guess what – you get presented with the new Prince CD Planet Earth! ‘What about health & safety?’ I tell him. The guy handing out the CD’s looks confused, I look confused.. Still managed to get a copy of N.E.W.S at another stall!

I’m surprised because of health & safety, seat belts aren’t required for the seats we had! Must have been 60 feet up with a 40 degree slope. The people in front of us could stand up and we still had a good view! The stage was in the centre of the arena, so no one had a bad view. I last saw him in 1988 on the Lovesexy tour at Wembley Arena. It was a similar set up to that. The sound was OK but the gig was probably one of the best arena gigs I’ve been to. He teased the crowd by starting songs – waited for the cheer of approval and then stopped – ‘You don’t wanna hear that one – I have so many hits’ then started another song and did the same again! He did manage to do a few all the way through! Biggest omission was the latest single Guitar. Best songs Strange Relationship, Take Me with U & It Always Snows in April.

A week later I was back at the O2 to see the final gig of the Bigger Bang tour by the Rolling Stones. The Enemy opened up. I was familiar with all the songs they did as they have made one of the albums of the year. Ironically they have sold more copies of their debut than the Stones have of their last album in the UK. However about 17000 of the 21000 audience never saw them! Deciding to stay in the bars – or probably the average age of a Stones fan being a little older than an Enemy fan, taking longer than expected to climb the 100’s of stairs to their seats! Best Stones song of the night – I Can Hear You Knocking.

Another great gig – Ryan Adams at the Hammersmith Apollo in November. Played for two and a half hours running through tracks from most of his back catalogue. Not saying much for the first two thirds of the show between tracks, he suddenly burst into banter and you can’t seem to shut him up! Even from the back row of the balcony he makes the place seem like a small club.

One week in July and bit of gig frenzy for me and Bev. Elvis Costello/Allan Tousaint at the Tower of London. Costello seemed to be suffering from some sort of respiratory problem sighting the ‘hot air’ being emitted from the Live Earth gig at Wembly a few miles away at the same time for this condition. Hopefully this was not his last gig in the UK (see below).

Damian Rice in Reading and Guilfest at the following week end. The Hold Steady’s set and Dub Pistols featuring Terry Hall & Lynval Golding doing Gangsters were among the highlights of Guilfest for me. Also good value, Toots and the Maytals, Jimmy Cliff & The Magic Numbers. Squeeze were a little disappointing due to Glenn Tilbrook suffering from a throat infection. But Chris Difford managed to keep his songs sweet.

Hold Steady    Gabrella   Charlotte   Jimmy Cliff  Terry Hall

Guilfest Photos.

Other great gigs of the year – The Killers at Brighton Centre, Loudon Wainwright III at The Dome, Manic Street Preachers, Travis & Damien Rice In Reading, Van Morrison in Oxford, Super Furry Animals in Southampton & The Who at Wembly Arena.
Last gig of the year for me..Kaiser Chiefs at the Brighton Centre - Really good. They remind me of Early Faces. Good time Rock 'n' Roll band - no political agenda - no silly attitude - just good tunes with a large element of fun - sadly lacking in too many bands today.

Elvis Dead?

Talking of Elvis – (One of my all time favourite artists) In December’s Mojo he says he has no plans or interest to play the UK again. Sighting a bad Glastonbury in 2005 & a bad experience at the BBC in 2006. He also says he has no further plans to issue any more albums! I hope this is not true. I can understand his frustration at record companies – (see the full article). He seems to dislike MP3’s – as I do – (although he says he has 18000 songs on his iPod - 3000 more than me!) but surly releasing and selling CD’s via web sites and at gigs – although not in the UK - independently must be the way forward for him? What about Starbucks?? Hopefully it’s just a middle age strop and by this time next year hell will have forgotten all about it – maybe!

Elvis

Was this the last sighting of Elvis on a British stage?

Once again the Technics/Murcury prize was a catalogue of missed opportunities. The Hours, The Good The Bad & The Queen, Gruff Rhys, Jarvis Cocker, The Fratellis, Manic Street Preachers & Biffy Clyro all must have slipped the minds of the selection panel! At least The Klaxons came through to win!

So how much did you pay for the Radiohead album? How much do you know how to pay before you hear it? Do you judge by their track record? I figure you must start from the price you would expect to pay in your local supermarket - £9.75. Subtract the average markup that resellers make, say 25%. Subtract the distribution cost 5%, Then the manufacturing cost, 10%, The marketing cost 15% the record company profit, 15%. So £2.85 then! Sounds about right for a rubbish quality mp3 download album. OK so how much did I actually pay ..£40.00 for the box set – yeah they saw me coming!
 
Don't Stop The Press 2

Build ‘em up to knock ‘em down – the music press have been doing this for 40 years plus. But the cycle seems to have speeded up. As I mentioned last year the cycle for new bands has gone into overdrive. This seems to be a further extension of that cycle. Back in the late 60’s early ‘70’s the music press would at least let a band get the 2nd album out. This year The NME had Jack Peňate, The Twang, to name but 2 – as cover stars - before they even had albums out. The debut came out and…. crash! OK they might have been causing a big noise live - but come on – lets get the 1st album out to get a full picture of a new artist before they are crucified!
 
Seems the NME can not let it lie - Re ignited it's feud with Morrissey. I'm fully behind Morrissey on this one - as were most of the correspondents the following week in NME. I don't know the man and all I can do is read and hear the interviews he gives and listen to the records. I read the interview By Tim Jones and I feel he saw a chance to make a name for himself and stitched Mozzer up. Bet when Jones was studying for his degree (Media studies & binge drinking - I guess) he would never make a splash as big as this - TWAT.

*In June 2012 as the case was about to go to court, the NME prined an apology for the 'misunderstanding'.

(Seems this story will run for a while - After the NME printed the interview, Morrissey started proceedings to sue the paper for defamation of character. Also according the The Times Friday 7th March 2008 while running an article about the imminent demise of the printed version of the NME, it was claimed - on the Morrissey Blog - The NME decided to take revenge on Morrissey for refusing to headline the Big Gig at the O2 on Feb 28th 2008 - Headlined by The Manic Street Preachers)

Obituary:

Although we had only been friends for a couple of years, Fopp was into his 27th year. Born in Scotland in 1981 and moving to England in the last few years, Fopp OD’d on Music Zone and was laid to rest in HMV. Fopp leaves 7 offspring In Edinburgh, Glasgow (2 Locations), Manchester, Nottingham, Cambridge & London.

I have managed to make a couple of visits to the re opened London branch, thankfully it is still the same. (a large selection of back catalogue at £1, £3 & £5). Hopefully more branches may re open at some stage.

Where to buy CD’s other than the usual top 40 that the supermarkets, Virgin (now Zavvi) and HMV have to offer? All they want to do now is sell rubbish mobile phones, games console's, cheap MP3 players & novelty DVD box sets!! So, I use Amazon Market Place. One of the Market place vendors, Caiman seems one of the best. Out of the 40 – 50 purchases I’ve made this year from them, all have been top rate. Good prices and international delivery within 10 days! Not as convenient as Fopp though!

The other places I’ve re discovered are a few second hand shops. Mainly Ben’s Collectibles in Guildford and Rock Box in Camberley. Good selections of second hand CD’s from £3 to £5.

The only other cheap place I discovered but not recommended was Thailand. Went there for a couple of weeks in December. I Couldn’t believe the scale of piracy for CD’s DVD’s. I only spotted the usual top 40 artists albums for sale. Price about £1.00. The only good thing is that it is denying the likes of The Eagles & James Blunt from amassing even larger fortunes! Oh, by the way – if you get caught bringing them back to the UK, Customs can confiscate them!

Gadgit of the year – no contest the iPod iTouch – not the rip off iPhone. Can’t wait for the 160 Gb version in about 2 years time!

 
Albums
 
What are my favourite Albums of the year? In no particular order..

The Hold Steady – Boy & Girls In America – Yes it came out in the US in ’06 but never reached these shores until March this year.
 The Good The Bad & The Queen – Damon Albarn’s latest venture.
Gruff Rhys – Candy Lion & Super Furry Animals – Hey Venus! – Some of the best pop music to come out of Wales this year…apart from The Manic Street Preachers – Send Away The Tigers.
The Shins – Wincing The Night Away – Portland (OR) based band’s 3rd album hits the spot.
The Hours – Narcissus Road – Debut album of the year from Joe Strummer’s band members. Sadly ignored by every end of year poll.
Arcade Fire – Neon Bible – 2nd full album from Montréal’s finest, Includes re record of No Cars Go from their debut EP.
Editors – An End Has A Start – Not a critics favourite – someone even compared it to Coldplay ???
Battles – Mirrored – Debut long player. A slice of delicious Post Rock noise from New York combo, succeeds to be different!
Biffy Clyro – Puzzle – Scottish bands 4th album heads for Muse territory.
The Bees – Octopus – Isle Of Weight’s 2nd favourite sons (1st Level 42!) 3rd album of cod reggae, Soul & pop.
Radiohead – In Rainbow – Already enough written about this.
Beirut – The Flying Club Cup - Arcade Fire’s prodigy!
Klaxons – Myths Of The Near Future - Deserving Mercury winner & NME album of the year.
The Enemy – We’ll Live And Die In This Town - 2007 version of The Jam – Listen to ’40 Days & 40 Nights’ and disagree!
Holy Fuck – Holy Fuck – A brilliant clash of Can & Neu with a 21st century twist.
The White Stripes - Icky Thump - Jack finds a new chord!

Other great albums that I’ve enjoyed this year worth checking out from :Patrick Wolf, The Pigeon Detectives, Kate Nash, Ian Brown, Maps, Babyshambles, Richard Hawley, The Go! Team, Bright Eyes, The Cribs, Bjork, New Young Pony Club, Cold War Kids, Bloc Party, Kaiser Chiefs, Art Brut, Modest Mouse, Ash, The Coral, Gogol Borello, The View, Arctic Monkey, Ryan Adams.

The only real disappointing albums that I’ve herd are from Foo Fighters, Turin Breaks, Interpol, Cornelious, Stereophonics & Queens Of The Stonage! But that is just me OK.

What about older artists..

Many people seem to dismiss older bands and artists with nothing more to contribute. Well that might be true for the likes of Rod, Elton, et el.. BUT there have been some albums worth checking out by Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Robert Wyatt, Nick Low, Loudon Wainwright III, Lucinda Williams, Ry Cooder & Julian Cope.
 
Tracks Of The Year..

The Editors - Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors
Klaxons - Golden Skans
White Stripes - Icky Thump
Battles - Atlas
Arcade Fire - No Cars Go
Super Furry Animals - Carbon Dating
Manic Street Preachers - Your Love Alone Is Not Enough
The Hours - Ali In The Jungle
Jack Penate - Spit At Stars
The Hold Steady - Chips Ahoy!
Kaiser Chiefs - Ruby
Joni Mitchell - Shine
Bright Eyes - I Must Belong Somewhere
Maximo Park - Girls Who Play Guitars

Most Annoying Tracks Of The Year..

Feist - 123456
Rihanna - Umbrella

Already looking forward to next year. Hopefully new albums from Foals, Glasvegas, The Teenagers, The Ting Tings, Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong, XX Teens, Plus new product from old favourites: Coldplay, U2, Teenage Fanclub, Morrissey, R.E.M. Doves, Get Cape Wear Cape Fly. Gigs already booked for Van Morrison, Neil Young & The NME Big Gig at the O2,

'till next year......
 
Julian White ©1995 - 2009

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2006 - Tails Of An Unconventional Pentagenarian!

This is not going to be a regular blog – just a few personal observations on the last year in popular music.

Let me state here, I am not a writer, (I’m a CNC Programmer/Miller if anybody is that interested) I am just a music fan, have been for about 48 years plus! I now buy and listen to between 350 and 450 CD’s a year and try to go to at least one gig a month. On those points alone I feel I have the right to pass some judgment on the music year!

Yes, I still buy CD’s. I consider downloads in the UK a rip off. For dodgy sound quality, no packaging, no disk for backup and no delivery cost or shop staff to pay, at 80 Pence per track I don’t consider them good value for money.

Most of the new popular CD’s are available for between £8 & £9 and back catalogue between £3 & £5 in ‘real’ shops! OK you don’t get some of the rubbish tracks – but with no rubbish tracks you don’t get the full picture!

I’m not against downloading and I don’t agree with illegal file sharing, I just think the price should reflect the points I have just made. The only downloads I make are the legal free ones mostly from official artist sites. I think downloads are the 21st century equivalent of the compact cassette. Hopefully it will co-exist alongside CD’s or DVD music for a few years to come.

People may realise that the humble CD was not such a bad idea when people start loosing their music by theft or hardware malfunction. These collections may have cost punters thousands of pounds. Try claiming for these on you insurance. Despite all the best intentions, people will not back up regularly. I don’t think, despite screaming tabloid headlines, that the CD is about to die out. That aside, where will the next generation of collectibles come from?

 
Don’t Stop The Press

Back in the early 1980’s, the NME & MM end of year lists would see Bunny Wailer, Marvin Gaye, Black Uhuru, Defunkt sitting next to Kraftwerk, The Fall, The Undertones, U2, The Specials. In the early 90’s you had Public Enemy, Dream warriers, Prince along side Sonic Youth, Teenage Fanclub & Julian Cope. Even in 1999 you had Missy Elloitt, Eminem & Sizzla squeezed next to Flaming Lips, Beck & Pavement, a real mix of genres. This year the only black artist in the NME list is Gnarls Barkley! I can’t believe that there are no black artists or other genres in music at the moment that would appeal to a mainly white audience. The only magazine attempting to widen its audiences musical horizons seem to be Mojo with its World, Urban, Blues and Jazz lists.

The NME seem obsessed to the exclusion of virtually everything else with new guitar bands of white boys and girls. Six weeks in the NME for a band is a long time! A few good gigs – a couple of great downloads on MySpace – a recording contract – an album – a cash in tour – Next Band Please…. It might be good for the listener, but is it any good for the artist. Dose it matter?

Another observation, more than other years, the NME lists for 2006 seems a little odd. Albums that were championed throughout the year including Peter, Bjorn and John, Dirty Pretty Things, Razorlight, Mystery Jets, Primal Scream, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and The Fratellis were no where to be seen. Although the dreadful Lily Allen & My Chemical Romance did! (NME did like these 2 albums – I just think they are rubbish). Two albums off the top of my head that were given lukewarm reviews at the time - Bob Dylan & The Gossip, made the list. (6 weeks is a long time in the NME!)

 
Albums

I find it hard pinning any one album down to be best of the year. In six months time my opinion will probably change. But at this moment, if push came to shove I would have to place Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly – Tales Of A Bohemian Teenager at #1. From bedroom to debut album of quality. Yes MySpace played a part here.

These ones were probably played the most in the car or on the hi-fi over the course of the last year and I can highly recommend. As you can probably tell from the list, I am a sucker for Pop with the rough edges still intact!

The Strokes – First Impressions Of Earth, Great gigs to support the album.
Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Think…. – Any one over 40 miles outside of Sheffield would probably find the lyrical content a bit confusing. Outside of the UK virtually unintelligible!
The Kooks – Inside In/Inside Out – Best Pop/Rock hooks of the year.
Mystery Jets – Making Dens – Ell pie island’s best export! And one of the members is over 50!
The Fratellis – Costello Music – Scottish band of the year – and noting to do with Elvis!
Kathryn Williams – Leave To Remain – Still Britain’s best kept secret! – Best album to date. Lily Allen eat yr fuckin’ heart out!
Guillemots – Through The Windowpane – Multinational bands debut masterpiece.
Peter Bjorn & John – Writers Block – Scandinavians 1st International release.
Morrissey – Ringleader Of The Tormentors – The rejuvenation continues.
Razorlight – Razorlight – Best Pop/Rock hooks #2!
James Dean Bradfield – The Great Western – The manics solo outing that works
The Killers – Sams Town – contains the best single of the year.
Dirty Pretty Things – What the 2nd Libertines album should have been like.
Kasabian – Empire – 2nd album builds on the success of their 1st.
Muse – Black Holes & Revelations - Bigger than Zeppelin & Queen squeezed together in a mini cooper!
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Show Your Bones – Second proper album from US Punk/Pop trio.
 

Arctic MonkeysFratellisGuillemots

Albums new to me – but on first listen will be played a lot in the next few weeks – Midlake, CSS, Jarvis Cocker, Howling Bells

Albums that deserve attention, but seem to have been ignored by the media. Badly Drawn Boy – Born In The UK, The Sleepy Jackson – Personality, Babybird – Between My Ears There’s Nothing But Music, Elton John – The Captain & The Kid, Soledad Brothers – The Hardest Walk, Grandaddy – Just Like The Fambly Cat, The Dears – Gang Of Loosers, Two Gallants – What The Toll Tells, My Latest Novel – Wolves, Graham Coxon – Love Travels At Illegal Speeds.

Other albums that seem to fall into my category of ‘OK, but didn’t live up to the hype’ The Automatic – Not Accepted Anywhere, iForward Russia! – Give Me A Wall, The Young Knives – Voices Of Animals And Men, The Gossip – Standing In The Way Of Control, The Vines – Vision Valley, The Futureheads – News & Tributes, Tapes ‘N Tapes – The Loon

Disappointing albums – It seems strange, but I find more words to write about albums I don’t like, than to ones I do like. Ys – Johanna Newsom. I can understand why the critics are wetting themselves over this one, but to me, after about the first 6 minutes (I probably have the attention span of a newt) I was craving for a change of pace or direction. It has all the elements required to be a classic album – Production from Steve Albini – and arrangements from Van Dyke Parks not forgetting the words & voice from Johanna. Over the coming years it will be looked back as a landmark album – but lets be honest – it’s DULL! Not for me. Would make a good single!

The other big disappointing album for me was Nicky Wire – I Killed The Zeitgeist. Sorry it was just his voice. He is not by any stretch of the imagination a vocalist. There are some vocal styles that although not considered singers in the traditional sense – (Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Mark Lanegan, Leonard Cohen, Louis Armstrong) - still make a great sound. I wanted to like this album. He should have got someone else to do the vocals – maybe James Dean Bradfield!

Beck – The Information - another disappointment – it all sounds great on paper, but to the ears – no tunes. I’ve listened to this about 5 times and there is nothing to make me want to hear it again – for about 10 years!

Re Issues

Despite the large amount of new material I have bought, it probably only makes up about 25% of the total for the year. One large collection that I am working on is the Frank Zappa/Mothers set. This was inspired after reading his biog by Barry Miles. I knew very little about the man before reading this volume. I only had a handful of his albums. This has now swelled to 55! There is just a handful of ‘You Can’t Do That On Stage…’ sets to complete the collection.

Zappa is another of the ‘Classic’ artists like Neil Young, Elvis Costello, Van Morrison, The Rolling Stones who have made loads of albums. They may not be ‘vital’ anymore, but most of their albums usually contain tracks well worth seeking out.

As I have mentioned elsewhere in this article, with re issue prices from around £3 in the UK, an obscure album from one of the above artists is well worth checking out.

Talking of Neil Young, the first instalment of his ‘Archive Series’ has just bee released. ‘Live at the Fillmore East 1970’. The original Crazy Horse line up, well worth a listen. It seems the multi CD box set format for the set has been ditched in favour of single CD re issues. But that may change!
 
Mr £50 Man at Fopp

In the UK there is a rapidly expanding CD/DVD/Book store chain – Fopp. So far this year they have extracted probably £100’s out of me by selling back catalogue albums at sensible prices. I have managed to buy most of the back catalogue for Yes (up to Fragile & Close to the edge) The Early XTC Back Cat. Sparks, The Cure (Not The Deluxe Editions), Soft Machine plus loads of CD’s to fill the gaps in artist collections. They have just started selling some of the double Deluxe re issue for £10 instead of the typical £20!

Fopp seem to have found a vain in the music buying public that Virgin & HMV missed. Not selling the usual ‘Greatest Hits’ at knock down prices in the hope that a punter will then spend £17.00 on back catalogue albums – though that must work to some extent. Fopp seem to have gone the whole hog and sell the back catalogue at knock down prices for limited a time. Long may it continue.
 
Tracks Of My Year

Too many to mention, but off the top of my balding head…

The Killers – When You’re Young
Badly Drawn Boy – One Last Dance
The Fratellis – Chealsea Dagger
Kasabian – Shoot The Runner
Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly – A Tree
Neil Young – After the Garden
Flaming Lips – It Over Takes Me
Peter Bjorn & John – Young Folks
Muse – Starlight
Hot Chip – Over & Over

 
Get Ticket. Go Gig. Live!

The most complete gig for me was Flaming Lips/Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly At The Brighton Centre. Sam Duckworth and his laptop – Reminds me of a young Badly Drawn Boy or Billy Bragg. As for Wayne Coyne – Great entrance – inside a large balloon surfing over the heads of the audience. Really like the Brighton Centre. Never been to a bad gig there. The sound is nearly always spot on, and if you like sitting, always get a good view.

The other most memorable gigs – Teenage Fanclub (One of my personal all time favourite top 10 bands) performing Bandwagonesque at the Forum in London. Joined by their original drummer and producer for the event on what was probably the hottest day of the year.

Madonna at Wembley Arena, The Strokes In Brighton, Morrissey at Alexandra Palace, The NME Tour with Arctic Monkeys/Maximo Park/Mystry Jets/We Are Scientists in Portsmouth, Paul Weller In Brighton, Bob Dylan in Bournemouth (Yes. I forced Bev my partner to stand through another 2 hours of his Bobness!) & Kasabian at the tiny Social Club in Orlando & in Brighton with The Fratellis.

The Kasabian gigs were like seeing two bands. Only 3 weeks apart. The stage in Brighton was larger than the whole club in Orlando. In the US they travelled with a bus & a UHaul trailer. In the UK 5 massive trucks!

The only annoying aspect of gig going in the UK is that most of the popular events are sold out within minutes. I had to resort to eBay for the NME, Strokes & Madonna Gigs. Although it would be very difficult to stop this, the technology is there to improve the situation.

I think that too many fringe workers within the industry are making money from selling on tickets to dodgy characters. The promoters know pretty much what gigs will sell out.

My suggestion is: A registration period for these gigs, so all the people that want tickets can register. Names, postcodes etc. can be checked to stop multiple applications, then the applicant can be invited to but the tickets after a lottery. Plus a proper returns policy. It may not be ideal, but at least it will be a fair.

2007

Looking forward to new material from Travis, Editors, Super Furry Animals, Doves, Klaxons, The Rakes, Kaiser Chiefs, Bloc Party, Arctic Monkeys, The Horrors, The View, Franz Ferdinand, Greenday & Windows Vista to name a few. A few gigs already booked – Badly Drawn Boy, Ricky Gervais and The Killers.

If you made it this far without losing the will to live, and you want to make any comments, email or post on the forum page.
 
Julian White ©1995 - 2009