Friday, November 30, 2007

Christmas killing spree

This should be Christmas number one:

The Killers - Don't Shoot Me Santa

But instead it'll be this insufferable twat:

Rhydian X-Factor - Go West

This type of illogical lack of taste is one of the British characteristics Morrissey is so desperate to hang on to. Amazing.

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Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy...

I spent most of yesterday at my "proper job" tangled up in the story about Morrissey suing the NME over an article in which they implied that he was (while being very clear that he definitely wasn't) a big old racist.

It was a nightmare - One of those stories where every tiny detail, quote and punctuation mark has to be checked by a lawyer in case you accidentally repeat a libellous comment. But more annoying was the creeping realisation that the NME were rubbing their hands in glee at dragging Morrissey's reputation through the dirt.

Their "outrage" centred around comments he made to journalist Tim Jonze about immigration.

According to the magazine, Morrissey said Britain had suffered an "immigration explosion", adding: "England is a memory now".

"The higher the influx into England the more the British identity disappears," he was quoted as saying. "Other countries have held on to their basic identity yet it seems to me that England was thrown away."

In a second interview, he insisted he did not intend to be "inflammatory" and said: "I find racism very silly. Almost too silly to discuss. It's beyond reason. And makes no sense and is ludicrous."

Personally, I don't know why the NME is so upset about all of this. Are they really surprised that Morrissey - who has always been a reactionary, grumpy, out-of-touch titbrain - holds conservative political views?

Not that I agree with his comments. There is a very clear British identity which is in no danger of being diluted by immigration.

If you read Kate Fox's magnificent Watching the English to get an idea of what our national characteristics are, you'll notice that the majority of immigrants end up adopting our habits and tics - queueing; using humour as a defence mechanism; talking endlessly about the weather; finding the words poo and bum immeasurably funny.

Yes, the cultural pollination runs the other way, too. But do we really care the curry has replaced fish and chips as our national dish? (Note to Morrissey: You can still get both, the last time I checked) Perhaps the former Smiths miserablist forgets that tea, that most quintessential of British of drinks, was a foreign import as recently as 300 years ago.

What I think the NME is really upset about is that the perennial poster-boy of indie rock doesn't sign up to their right-on world view. It seems to get their goat that they idolise someone who they so profoundly disagree with. Which is weird, because musician's views are largely separate from their music.

For example: I adore Prince, but I'm not about to become a high heel-wearing, Watchtower-selling, squeaking vegan. I love Madonna, but I didn't spend the early 90s fucking everything with a pulse. I worship Girls Aloud, but I wouldn't want to spend half an hour in their company.

Actually, that last bit was a lie.

In the end, this all seems to be an unsavoury mixture of personal vendetta and massive publicity stunt on the NME's part. Unfortunately for them, it seems to have backfired right in their stupid faces.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tatu two to you on youtube

At the bottom of the post you will find the new video from Russian pretend lesbians and Eurovision also-rans t.A.T.u.

Before we begin, let's see how it fares against the band's patented "shocking video" checklist:

Well, everything seems to be in order. Let's have a look:

t.A.T.u. - White Robe

What a load of shit, eh readers?

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Too much candy's gonna rot your soul

Here is Mika's latest video. It's what the Beatles' Yellow Submarine would have looked like if they had been a gay karaoke act (eg Mika).

Mika - Lollipop

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

White Stripe bull fight

It's possibly their oddest record to date, but there's a lot to love about the White Stripes barmy, mariachi-themed single Conquest. Not least of which is the video, in which Jack White becomes a matador. Completely bonkers.

White Stripes - Conquest

But is it just me, or is the song "inspired" by the following clip?

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Condensed gig review: Robyn at Union Chapel

Robyn played her sad songs with a string quartet in a church and people liked it and Jo Whiley said she liked it but Jo Whiley always says that doesn't she?

Only this time she was right.

This really is a picture of Robyn. I need a new phone quite badly.

I was chatting to Robyn before the show and she let slip that she had demo'd some new material for her next album. Unfortunately, she doesn't reckon she'll be able to get into the studio to record it properly before the end of 2008.

In the meantime, her new single Be Mine! comes out on 30th December. She'll be releasing a single edit of the poppy, Papa Don't Preach-style album version - but I prefer this acoustic take recorded in Sweden in 2005.

Robyn - By Mine (acoustic)

Dream On
Handle Me
Bum Like You
Be Mine!
Show Me Love
With Every Heartbeat

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Cute cat corner

This is some seriously hardcore cat cuteness. Be prepared to go "Awwwww...."

Cats talking

As always, however, the best bit about watching a video on Youtube is the comments. Here are a few choice notes from the above video's 3m viewers.

"how can japans eat cats and kill dogs or other sweet animal ? ? ? how ?? fuck off!!" writes dmxez.

"the only people who dont like cats r the ones who dont like themselves," opines spannypumpkin.

"Cat 1: So Brain, what do you want to do tonight?
Cat 2: Same thing we try to do every night Pinky...try to take over the world!
" plagiarises seattleseahawks82.

"oh wow they are in love, go fuck yourself and get a life that is the dumest shit ever," types souljhah111222111 with minimal use of his brain's spelling centre.

"I can hardly imagine why there are so many freaks (e.g souljah111222111)coming here to post offensive comments on such a beautiful clip? Jesus, please throw them into the Hell! They don't deserve your love," responds Manulifee.

Isn't the internet great?

Update: Someone has translated the video so now we know exactly what the cats are saying.

Translated cats

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Girls Aloud Live Lounge 2.0

Guess what? The Aloud have just been on the radio, doing all of that "singing" that they are renowned for.

Backed with a full band they belted out two songs - using their lungs to force air over their vocal cords which they caused to vibrate, resulting in pitch, while the noise was shaped into words using their mouths.

It was quite a technical feat, all told. And, according to Nadine, the whole session was performed in sunglasses, lipgloss and winter coats. Now that's class.

Here are the musics what they done.

Call The Shots

This one is simply brilliant. The acoustic arrangement suits the downbeat melody and the girls hit the harmonies perfectly.

With Every Heartbeat

This builds up quite nicely after a shaky off-key beginning. But it doesn't have the impact of Robyn's own acoustic cover earlier this year.

If you want more live Girls Aloud, you can listen to their Live Lounge tracks from last year on this page.

In other news, their album looks set to be the highest new entry this weekend - giving them a well-deserved number two. Congratulations!

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Cassie is back!

Cassie's self-titled debut album was one of my guilty pleasures last year... It was completely generic US R&B, but somehow the songs stuck in my brain - even if the singles after Me & U underperformed quite badly.

A former model, Cassie has turned up this year in videos by Kanye West (Stronger) and Mario (Here I Go Again), while recording her sophomore album, Step Up.

The first single from that record is called Is It You. Like her previous stuff, it's not going to launch a new musical movement or reinvent R&B, but it's a catchy little slice of slinky urban pop. Built around a dirty synthesised guitar riff, it reminds me of Ashanti's Only U. Expect to hear in a Top Shop near you soon.

Take a listen to the track below and let me know what you think.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Late breaking Leona Lewis news

It seems that while I was away in Australia, Leona Lewis was taking over the world. She has had the number one single for four weeks, her album is the biggest-selling debut in the history of the world, Scotland has been renamed in her honour, and Gordon Brown has made her Queen for the months of March, July and October.

It's all a bit much if you ask me.

Bleeding Love is an excellently-crafted song, but Simon Cowell was right when he crowed about it sounding like "early Whitney Houston" because the production is so horribly dated you half expect someone will shout "pump up the volume" over the top.

Her album, meanwhile, contains exactly three good songs. And while I know its wrong to judge people by their hair, Leona's 'do' brings new meaning to the phrase "would you like to buy a bottle of frizz-ease?"

But opinions are there to be changed, and my feelings have shifted a little after hearing her session on Jo Whiley's Live Lounge (which happened while I was away). Leona covered Snow Patrol's Run, turning a brilliant indie pop anthem into a harrowing, string-drenched ballad.

Her voice will send shivers down your spine for three minutes before the song climaxes in the most ridiculously overblown crescendo of all time. This could literally be the soundtrack to the apocalypse.

Listen very closely: Towards the end you will hear the sound of cliffs crashing into the sea, elephants stampeding, and a World War II tank shooting lasers at a leopard.

Leona Lewis - Run

"Interesting" Pop fact: The Live Lounge is actually the poky little basement room where junior Radio One staff normally answer the phones.

You can download an MP3 of this song using Bittorrent from this link.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Mel B does the splits

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Predictably glowing Girls Aloud album review

Five albums in and Girls Aloud have finally discovered the minor key. Bittersweet tales of heartbreak are in - and references to martinis, lingerie and supermodels are out.

But it's not all bad news...

Last year's Greatest Hits compilation gave hit-makers Xenomania a year off writing duties, and they've used the downtime to refocus and recalibrate the Girls Aloud sound. For once, they've been given complete control - authoring all 12 songs - and it shows. Shorn of the tawdry chart-baiting cover versions that so badly marr the band's back catalogue, Tangled Up unravels as the most coherent, mature Girls Aloud album to date.

Opener and forthcoming single Call The Shots sets the tone. Less frenetic than previous releases, it finds the girls resigned to a faltering relationship - practically sighing while delivering the line "If you decide that you can't love me, I won't shoot you down".

Tracks like Close To Love and Black Jack continue the theme of love lost - but rather than marry these downbeat lyrics to a series of sugary ballads, Xenomania whip up a storm.

A thunderous guitar riff powers through Sexy! No No No, while the bass on I'm Falling could tear a serious hole in your subwoofer (fnar, fnar). Wrapped around this glorious cacophony are a series of vintage Girls Aloud melodies, shooting off in unexpected directions like an explosion in a fireworks factory.

The band's knack for offbeat lyrics also remains intact. One of the stand-out tracks, Fling, marks a brief return to the fab five's man-bating ways of yore, as they prowl a club declaring "It's just a fling, baby... (I) don't want a relationship so swing, baby". How rude.

All of the songs are potential singles - although I'd pick out Close To Love and Can't Speak French as highlights. It's just a shame that Kylie and the Spice Girls will get all the attention, when Girls Aloud have released the pop album of the year.

PS If you buy the album in Woolworths, you can get an bonus CD of remixes for £1.97. Wow!
PPS Ticket's for the band's fourth tour go on sale this Friday. Double wow with a cherry on top!

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Gig Review: Arcade Fire

"This isn't fucking Sunday School," bellowed Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler as he took to the stage in London's chilly Alexandra Palace last night.

But he's wrong. If the Arcade Fire's stage show reminds you of anything, it’s a completely ramshackle church band - where every member of the congregation who has ever seen or held an instrument is allowed to take part in a mass worship.

There's something of a missionary zeal to their performance, too. The 10-piece band rattle through the epic, baroque rock of songs like No Cars Go and Laika with a rare intensity - seemingly possessed by the spirits. Except, perhaps, for multi-instrumentalist William Butler whose frantic flailing suggests an in-progress exorcism.

When a band is this wrapped up in their performance, the danger is that they fail to communicate the passion beyond the front of the stage. The Arcade Fire do suffer from this occasionally - most noticeably when Win's microphone fails during My Body Is A Cage - but for the majority of the concert the crowd was swept up in the fervour.

The music even appeared to heal the lame, as one audience-member held their crutches aloft and danced during the barnstorming set-closer Wake Up.

Having graduated to the major league with second album Neon Bible, the band have lost some of the ragged edges that marked their early concerts. The big numbers - Keep The Car Running, Intervention - are replicated almost note-for-note, and the band failed to indulge in their famed practice of abandoning the concert hall to play on the street. This was perhaps advisable, given the sub-arctic conditions outside (this is the first indoor gig I've been to where everyone was wearing a coat).

In any case, the cavernous environs of Ally Pally were perfectly suited to the music, with deep reverb adding bombast to the band's already epic sound. And, I suspect, covering the odd bum note...

Last night's show marked the band's penultimate European date in support of Neon Bible before they retire to Montreal to channel the spirits and divine their third album.

If they continue on this form, they're bound to win thousands more converts to their peculiar religion.

Black Mirror
Neighbourhood #2 (Laika)
No Cars Go
Black Wave / Bad Vibrations
My Body Is A Cage
Neon Bible
Headlights Look Like Diamonds
The Well And The Lighthouse
Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)
Antichrist Television Blues
Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)
Rebellion (Lies)

Keep The Car Running
Wake Up

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Mel C is a zombie

What an hilariously creative moment of amateur Photoshop trickery, eh viewers?

You can rest assured that Melanie Chisholm isn't really an undead flesh-eating monster. It's much worse - she's part of the equally back-from-beyond-the-grave Spice Girls.

They did a thing in LA last night, which looks amazing. But that's because you don't have to listen to their tiresome comeback single. Here are some photos.

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Sugababes raid the dressing up box

Those Sugababes people have made an uncharacteristically technicolourful video for their new single, Changes. Perhaps they are hoping to distract us from the fact that the song is a bit dreary until it gets to the chorus.

Here are some photos. You might want to turn down the contrast on your monitor before proceeding.

Keisha has big pink eyes - a symptom of conjunctivitis.
Maybe she is allergic to shellfish. Or Amelle.

Heidi, meanwhile, is being eaten by a roll of 1970s flock wallpaper

Amelle, surrounded by pansies. Readers can insert their own joke here.

Keisha shows us her flower. Oo-er, missus. Etc.

Luckily, by the end of the video, natural order is restored and the girls appear dressed in silky negligees. Someone should have kept Amelle away from the crimping tongs, though.

If you'd like to see all of these pictures again, only moving, here is the video in full.

Sugababes - Change

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Gwen Stefani - still plugging away

Yesterday, I discussed albums that would make great EPs. Gwen Stefani's Sweet Escape was not on the list because, frankly, the best you could get out of it would be an above average double A-side.

One of those songs would be the title track (the only bearable song to feature the word Akon in the artist's credits), and the other is the new single Early Winter. Here is the video.

Gwen Stefani - Early Winter

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Great pop cutbacks

The Onion's AV Club have just published a splendid article running through 21 average albums that would make great EPs. Among their choices are REM's New Adventures In Hi-Fi, The Verve's Urban Hymns and Kanye West's Graduation.

It's a great read... but saldy lacking in pop records. And, as we all know, pop records generally need a good bit of pruning before they make it over to your iPod.

So, here are some of my additions to the Onion's list. Feel free to add your own using the comments thingummy. It'd make my day.

Christina Aguilera - Back To Basics (2006)

In which Aguilera pays tribute to the jazz singers who inspired her by, erm, dressing up like them and singing exactly the same songs she always sings. The public duly ignored it, aghast at the thought of Aguilera screeching and wailing over the course of two entire discs. But, pared down to a more manageable size, this is a corking little album. The big band flourishes and jazz inflections actually serve to highlight Aguilera's vocal technique (it's not just shouting, after all) and the Mark Ronson track, Without You, is among the best things she's recorded.

EP Version: 1) Back In The Day 2) Ain't No Other Man 3) Candyman 4) Without You 5) Slow Down Baby 6) Save Me From Myself

Madonna - Erotica (1992)

Having hit a career high with Vogue in 1990, Madonna dragged that song's co-writer Shep Pettibone into the studio for an entire album. One of the most prolific and talented remixers of the time, Pettibone struggled when it came to writing actual songs. Tracks like Thief of Hearts and Why's It So Hard are little more than drumbeats, and Madonna - never the world's most profound lyricist - is particularly woeful here "Friends they tried to warn me about you / He has good manners," she declares bafflingly during Words. On Deeper and Deeper, Madonna and Pettibone even acknowledge their lack of ambition by slapping the chorus of Vogue over the coda. The good tracks, unusually for a Madonna album, are the ballads.

EP Version: 1) Erotica 2) Deeper and Deeper (a decent song despite itself) 3) Bad Girl 4) Rain

Radiohead - Kid A / Amnesiac (2000)

Amnesiac already appears on The Onion's list, but I reckon you need to combine both records to create a decent EP. The two albums actually derived from the same recording session - so the songs cohere perfectly. Amnesiac has the best tunes in Knives Out (pretty) and Pyramid Song (claustrophobic). Kid A provides the experimentalism and menace… Plus, in scrapping Life In A Glass House, we can pretend Radiohead never "experimented with jazz".

EP Version: 1) Everything In Its Right Place 2) Knives Out 3) Pyramid Song 4) Morning Bell (Kid A version) 5) You And Whose Army 6) Optimistic 7) Motion Picture Soundtrack

U2 - Zooropa (1993)

This is a bit unfair, as Zooropa was originally intended to be an EP accompanying the band's Zoo TV tour. Instead, in a flurry of activity partially prompted by the dissolution of Edge's marriage, the group turned in a full 10 tracks. Predictably, given the circumstances, they're not all of the highest standard. Stand-outs include the title track - a montage of three different songs that perfectly captures the chaos of the recording sessions - and Stay, Farway So Close, which is perhaps U2's most under-rated ballad. Future Batman single Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me was also started during the recording sessions, so I'm reclaiming it here for my six-track EP.

EP Version: 1) Zooropa 2) Numb 3) Lemon 4) Stay (Faraway, So Close) 5) Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me 6) The Wanderer

Prince - Symbol (1992)

Apparently conceived as a rock soap opera, this album (the sequel to Diamonds and Pearls) has a plot more confused than Terry Gilliam's Brazil. The music, too, lacks focus - as Prince tries to marry his new-found love of 70s funk with the rap stylings of his then-band, the NPG. Sexy MF, for example, wouldn't sound out of place on a James Brown album until it is spectaculraly derailed by Tony M's agressively misogynistic rap. Luckily, there is an edited version that jettisons this atrocious interruption which we can purloin for the purposes of our EP. In addition, several "classic" Prince tracks survived the NPG's onslaught, with The Morning Papers in particular recalling the glory days of Purple Rain's pop/rock crossover.

EP Version: 1) Sexy MF - edit 2) Love 2 The 9s 3) The Morning Papers 4) 7 5) 3 Chains O' Gold

The Beatles - White Album (1968)

A certain breed of Beatles fan thinks this double album ranks as the fab four's best work. They are so wrong it hurts like a spike in your ear. More than half the record is self-indulgent, druggy bollocks. The other half is frequently unfocused - presumably the casualty of the discordant atmosphere in the recording studio. Indeed, many of the better songs were essentially recorded in isolation - with McCartney playing drums on Back In The USSR and Harrison performing While My Guitar Gently Weeps with Eric Clapton after several Beatley attempts at the song proved unsatisfactory. You could probably get a decent single album out of the 30 tracks, but I prefer a more brisk stroll through this musical wasteland… and I'm subsituting the single version of Revolution for Lennon's throwing-the-toys-out-of-the-pram album mix.

EP Version: 1) Back In The USSR 2) Helter Skelter 3) Dear Prudence 4) Revolution 5) While My Guitar Gently Weeps 6) Happiness Is A Warm Gun 7) Blackbird

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Back from the other side of the world

After four weeks in Australia - where Delta Goodrem is literally lauded as pop royalty - I was looking forward to coming back to the relative sanity of the UK music scene. But what do I find? Kylie Minogue has failed to make the top ten, Boyzone have reformed and Leona Lewis has been at number one for a month. I mean, seriously. Jesus.

Not that the holiday was completely without musical merit. We were completely bowled over by Justin Timberlake's Futuresex/Loveshow after missing it in London earlier this year. That boy can dance, I'm telling you. Plus, at one point, he threatened to poo on a piano. You don't get that at a Shayne Ward concert.

I might do a full review later this week but the DVD comes out on Monday, so maybe you should just buy that instead. You won't be disappointed.

We also caught melodic acousti-rock troubador Josh Pyke in concert. He's a big deal in Australia at the minute - even more popular than Midnight Oil and Stefan Dennis combined!!! His best track is probably the current single Memories and Dust, which recalls a less wayward Sufjan Stephens covering a Crowded House track. Only with worse hair. Look here:

Josh Pyke - Memories & Dust

But the song that really sent the needle on my discopopometerTM into the red was by identical twin act The Veronicas. Hook Me Up is the sort of song you could call gazumping, if gazumping was an onomatopoeic word that meant "barnstorming pop stomper" and not something to do with buying a house.

Pop fact one: Hook Me Up is produced by Greg Wells, who is responsible for Natasha Bedingfield and Mika among others.

Pop fact two: The Veronicas had one of their songs stolen by Tatu. In return they seem to have stolen Tatu's gimmick for going all lesbianic in the video. But they're sisters, so that's kind of weird.

The Veronicas - Hook Me Up

Finally, I bring you the song of the holiday - Mental As Anything's 1980s classic Live It Up. As we discovered, any waiter in Australia can serenade you with this song if you ask politely.

Mental As Anything - Live It Up

PS Kangaroos are brilliant

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