Monday, January 30, 2006

Weekender : Paris Hilton now looking for work as Chantelle lookalike

CHART OF DARKNESS: And so into a country that finds no middle ground, you either want Alex Turner's children or wish to murder him, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not becomes 2005's 51st best selling album four weeks too late. Thinking about this again, we suppose what marks ver Monkeys out from the legions of the once-hyped is that the music press didn't need them - they're not being talked up as forebearers of the latest mod revival or providing respite from acres of boy bands as per previously hyped bands, they're the the next step up saleswise on the Strokes-Franz-Kaisers timeline. Anyway, we did all that theorising last week, and the more we do the more we dread having every word copied and pasted many, many times into an email should they become the national punchline in about October. At least they've kept Richard Ashcroft - "legendary", says the TV advert, as if he were Johnny Mathis (Very Best Of new at 18) - off the top. Daniel O'Donnell's scary sounding From Daniel With Love is new at 5, Kooks at 9 must be a clerical error, A-Ha we'll come back to but Analogue is at 24, 2006's Arcade Fire Clap Your Hands Say Yeah outdo Funeral at a stroke by entering at 26, Fall Out Boy show a legion of pop-punk outfits getting emo transfer tattoos - Yellowcard at 59, for instance - where they went wrong by entering at 30, Kubb make an unwelcome top 50 debut at 41, Cat Power remarkably nearly outsells the virtually given out at chain store doors Lee Ryan at 45, Jenny Lewis outsells Rilo Kiley at 63, and the Go! Team finally make a top 75 debut. New paragraph!

Every so often at about this time of year you get a chart that harks back to the days when new entries would be at unremarkable placings and records would naturally climb. What that does however mean is the joy felt when it emerged that the latest Notorious BIG grave digging had failed to top the charts is halted already as it pipped the Arctics very late in the week. In answer to your question, You're Beautiful was the last song to climb to number one. The Ordinary Boys celebrate their singer losing them every last shred of dignity, relevance and the ability of the public to take them at all seriously by seeing Boys Will Be Boys climb 21 places - when was the last time a record climbed that much within the top 40, then? Feel Good Inc's download introduction cheat only gave them a 19 place jolt when the physical product came out - to 9, while the actual highest new entry is the biennial fixture that is A-Ha's 'long awaited' comeback, the attitude to which was summed up on CD:UK the other week when their impressively sized fanbase voted Analogue to number one in the MiTracks countdown as a demonstration that their songcraft and ability to change with the times will outlive mere nostalgia, and in response all three presenters recreated the Take On Me riff. First top ten hit in nearly 18 years. Morten should wear a balaclava and see how they like it then. Pharrell pops by almost unnoticed at 15, Young Jeezy finally ticks himself off the growing register of R&B stars that mean nowt in Britain (where are you then, Slim Thug?) at 16, Starsailor meh in at 24, "but what if the Killers were sold like Son Of Dork?" curio Protocol are at 27, LMC's doomed attempt to cover You Get What You Give is at 30 and the aforementioned Fall Out Boy manage to enter the top 40 on downloads and sales of the undeleted first release of Sugar We're Going Down two weeks ahead of its re-release. Well done, Mercury. The scary bald bloke and Infadels friends are at 43 - and finally someone's thought of making a video at La Tomatina - Be Your Own Pet fail by six to equal the length of Let's Get Sandy in seconds by charting at 51, Moby (53) and Alex Parks (56) are greeted with clarion calls of "are you still here?" and Music Power by Porno looks a worrying prospect at 72.

FREE MUSIC: Drowned In Sound jumps on the podcast bandwagon

HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: MC Lars: post-emo Beasties pisstaker, regular at Truck and very much not to be judged by keeping company with Bowling for Soup, American Hi-Fi, Fightstar, Test Icicles and Simple Plan. Unfortunately promised new album track "Ahab, retelling Herman Melville's class Moby Dick in under four minutes to a Supergrass sample" not up as yet.

BLOG ROLLING: Rocking Vicar, the mailout we like to call Holy Mojo!, has kicked off its own blog

EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: The Doctor Who Christmas Invasion featured a specially commissioned song by respected film and TV composed Murray Gold, which we mention as it's been drawn to our attention that Gold, assuming that's him on vocals, sounds remarkably like Colin MacIntyre AKA Mull Historical Society (who, if you're at all interested, has dropped the MHS pretence and is recording a new album under his own name)

FIRST IN FIRST OUT: Back in the studio: Dinosaur Jr, according to Lou Barlow, who probably hasn't summoned up the courage to ask J Mascis yet. Splitting: Grandaddy, purveyors of fine leftfield popisms these past nearly 14 years and in The Sophtware Slump made the still great unrewarded technology-centric warped Americana album of the last ten years. Nobody mention how rubbish the last EP was, OK?

SECRET LIVES: Not strictly STN target market, this, but what else can you do with Fearne Cotton's Myspace page apart from appease the thousands of 'fearne cotton tattoo' Google search hits that appear on our stats every week? No body ink further details here, but she types in a way much as you'd expect, is 'friends' with Test Icicles and, in a surprising turn of events, can paint a picture of Peaches as well as the next man/woman:

Image hosting by Photobucket

IN OTHER NEWS: Back in our history we travelled nearly 55 miles just to co-present a one-off show on Brentwood RSL community station Phoenix FM, produced by Paul off Mr Red Penguin. He's probably forgotten, or more likely doesn't know who we are, but that's not for now. What is is that they've got another 28 day local broadcast underway, listenable through their website, and Chris T-T and Les 'Fruitbat' Carter have shows on the station. As does Steve Davis, if you're at all keen on French prog.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

In shops tomorrow: 30/1


Well, this week's a right washout, being seemingly a straight fight between Chris Brown, not the one who contributes to our comments boxes but an Usheralike seemingly only signed to win the American R&B Star With A Less Showbiz Name Than Mike Jones award, and an inevitable re-release of You Spin Me Round, only worth mentioning because a) Pete Burns doesn't want it and b) it allows us to mention the showbiz magazine strapline we saw in the week, 'EXCLUSIVE: Pete Burns before the surgery'. Exclusive! If only anyone had thought to take official photos of him in the mid-80s, eh? While we consider the offshoots that might have happened if Billy Childish had taken up a genuine offer to appear in the last Celebrity Big Brother, you'll be considering the new mix of the Go! Team's Ladyflash.


With Walk The Line out at the end of the week there's a rush on Johnny Cash releases, not least the movie soundtrack itself, Joaquin Phoenix doing a pretty good version of the voice and Reese Witherspoon giving it some decent enough June Carter Cash. Their actual musical output together is compiled on Duets, while if you don't already have Folson and San Quentin live Prison Albums is a must. Elsewhere The Crimea's Tragedy Rocks gets a full scale Warners release, only Coldcut's fourth proper album Sound Mirrors is an eclectic affair that ranges from folktronica to dancefloor hip hop and features Roots Manuva, Jon Spencer and Saul Williams, the Infadels don't totally transfer their live energy to We Are Not The Infadels but give it a good shake nonetheless, and the chalk/cheese stylings of Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan's Ballad Of The Broken Seas gives off a folk-tinged Glen Campbell and Nancy Sinatra vibe.

The Weekly Sweep

Battle - Tendency
OK Go - A Million Ways
Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly - Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager Part 1
Young Knives - Here Comes The Rumour Mill
Johnny Cash - Folsom Prison Blues
Maximo Park - I Want You To Stay (Field Music/J Xaverre remix)
Primitive Radio Gods - Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand
Daedalus - Just Briefly
Tilly And The Wall - Reckless
Soft Boys - I Wanna Destroy You

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Festivals for the rest of alls

In these mornings of frost the mind turns to warmer days, and thus to the festival circuit. Here's the major dates and details as far as we can find - and seriously, if you do have any complementaries available...

All Tomorrow's Parties

WHEN: 12th, 13th, 14th, 19th, 20th and 21st May

WHO: The chalet-bound have, as the dates suggest, two long weekends and six different curators to mooch to this time around. So: on the 12th Mudhoney bring along psych-rock acid freaks Comets On Fire and heavy prog influenced one time Coldplay support Black Mountain; the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are on the 13th with the Liars, TV On The Radio, Celebration and the Blood Brothers; Devendra Banhart acknowledges his roots by gaining support from Vashti Bunyan and Bert Jansch on the 14th; Dinosaur Jr find room among the PA cases for Broken Social Scene, the Lilys, Bevis Frond (are they still going?), the Brian Jonestown Massacre and Dead Meadow on the 19th; Sleater-Kinney bring a curious amalgam of Spoon, Joanna Newsom, the Boredoms, Lightning Bolt and the Gossip, plus MCage from the US alternative's inhouse comedian David Cross, on the 20th; and the Shins on the 21st might find themselves outdone by the Decemberists, the New Pornographers, Clinic and the Black Keys.

HOW: Pretty much sold out already, says the website, with all the five berth chalets gone for weekend 1, so get cracking.

Monsters Of Rock

WHEN: 3rd June

WHO: Lordy. The name has been revived for a one day event at the Milton Keynes Bowl, headlined by the none more mid-80s Monsters duo of Deep Purple and Alice Cooper.

HOW: Tickets on sale now for £38.50.

Download Festival

WHEN: 9th-11th June

WHO: Despite the Monsters being about the house festival for the pierced of nose remains at Donington. The Prodigy have confirmed themselves, while rumours centre on the Foos, Korn, the Deftones, System Of A Down, Tool, Korn, AC/DC, new noises Trivium and Bullet For My Valentine and, er, Bon Jovi. We'll know everything for sure from 1st February...

HOW: ...when ticketing details will also be released.

Isle Of Wight Festival

WHEN: 9th-11th June

WHO: The first major festival of the year seems to be set in stone now after the 32 years off, even if it's not a free event any more. The Prodigy, Goldfrapp, Placebo and the Rakes are all confirmed

HOW: £85 the weekend, £105 with camping.

Wireless Festival

WHEN: mid-June, no dates confirmed yet

WHO: O2's ambient marketing tool proves that anything in London will automatically get a shedload of publicity. It's not a festival as such, just a week of single day events at Hyde Park, with only Depeche Mode confirmed to date on the 25th June. Oasis and the Foo Fighters are also being whispered about.

HOW: Full news should be released soonish.

T In The Park

WHEN: 8th-9th July

WHO: Balado's weekend in the sun, or approximation thereof, might become the early summer's biggest event by proxy this year. Rumoured bands? Well, Radiohead, Coldplay, Muse, Scissor Sisters, Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand, Green Day, Morrissey, Massive Attack, Richard Ashcroft, Paul Weller, Charlatans, Snow Patrol, Starsailor, KT Tunstall, Hard-Fi, Goldfrapp... why not play along?

HOW: 25,000 tickets sold out in one day of advance sales days after last year's event and the rest will go on sale soon. Should be £100 camping, £85 without.


WHEN: 8th-9th July

WHO: T's unofficial Irish cousin, so pretty much see that list of bands above for an idea.

HOW: Keep an eye out. Helpful, these big festival organisations, aren't they?


WHEN: 14th-16th July

WHO: Often responsible for the oddest looking bills of the year - last year's main stage played host at various points to Paul Weller, Lulu, Marillion, The Subways, The Others, Echo & The Bunnymen, Daniel Bedingfield and Status Quo - the Stoke Park event is also regarded as a laid-back, family friendly event.

HOW: Keep watching the skies.


WHEN: 22nd-23rd July

WHO: Two things everyone knows about this one: it's held on an actual working field with a stage called The Barn That Cannot Be Named, and it's called Truck because the main stage was originally made out of two flatbed trucks. Always home to the more off-kilter shores, last year they stepped up to the place with headline slots for Biffy Clyro and the Magic Numbers while still finding room for the usual two blokes and a messed up synth acts.

HOW: Locally available from 1st February, across the land via the web from 1st March for a bargain £40.

Cambridge Folk Festival

WHEN: 27th-30th July

WHO: That's folk often in a very pejorative sense, last year's bill including KT Tunstall, the Blind Boys Of Alabama, Martha Wainwright, Hayseed Dixie, the Proclaimers, Mavis Staples, Laura Cantrell, Damien Dempsey and Idlewild. Radio 2 sponsorship helps out too.

HOW: They've not updated the website since last year apart from to confirm the dates, so don't ask us.


WHEN: 28th-30th July

WHO: Subject of hundreds of world music jokes, Peter Gabriel's baby stays in Rivermead with its workshops, craft stalls and, last year, Robert Plant, Apache Indian, Richie Havens, Chris Difford and, um, Kiki Dee.

HOW: Stay tuned. To someone else, we're not updating this every day.


WHEN: 10th-12th August

WHO: By this time we'll have worked out if there really is a proper British folk revival going on and how far down it's digging in time Fairport Convention's annual Oxfordshire reunion, and they're bringing Steeleye Span with them this time. It's one of the few festivals where you can park your vehicle next to your tent, which is ideal for tupperware-based picnicking.

HOW: Keep checking Fairport's own website.

Summer Sundae

WHEN: 11th-13th August

WHO: Leicester's indoor/outdoor festival, with proper bathrooms and everything, was blogged by us last year - look in the archives for yourselves - and almost certainly will be again this year. As its reputation grows they'll have to top 2005's Patti Smith, as well as an upholding of the tendency to book bands when their stock is just emerging at the start of the year that are huge by the time they come to play halfway down the bill.

HOW: On sale from February 1st for £65 for two months and £75 hence.

Green Man

WHEN: 18th-20th August

WHO: Nu-folk and folktronica's natural home is in a venue yet to be announced in Powys, organisers It's Jo And Danny - they're a band as well as a committee, see - promising a bigger, better experience.

HOW: Come on, they've not even finalised the venue yet, although oddly it does seem a weekend price of £65 has been confirmed.

Secret Garden

WHEN: 18th-20th August

WHO: Acquaintances went to this last year and reported it was an excellent, chilled out experience. Virtual Festivals' new festival of the year 2004 and 2005 - how does that work, then? - is set in a ten acre private landscaped garden in an apparently secret Cambridgeshire location and boasts unlikely amusements which last year included space hopper contests and snail racing. Breaking the peace last year were Hard-Fi, Super Furry Animals, Desmond Dekker, Mystery Jets, Adam Freeland and Regina Spektor.

HOW: Details from Eastertime.

V Festival

WHEN: 19th-20th August

WHO: Ah, the soulless monolith. Staying in Hylands Park and Weston Park, this one really is all about the music more than most and seems to attract more backstage bar liggers than anywhere else too. The Who, Kasabian, Keane and Razorlight seem decent rumours, although we suspect Radiohead might think twice about such a branded event.

HOW: Available from March.

Carling Weekend

WHEN: 25th-27th August

WHO: Reading and Leeds by any other Melvin Benn-approved name, of course, and surely the big one this year. Muse and The Strokes might as well be confirmed, with the likes of Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys, Kaiser Chiefs, Flaming Lips and Alice Cooper in the running. Also, Daphne & Celeste are reuniting...

HOW: Last year the initial batch of tickets went on sale on 22nd March and were sold out for Reading by the 30th, so be alert. Assuming you didn't get the few very early bird ones, of course.


WHEN: 26th August

WHO: Superclubs may come and superclubs may go but the Old Liverpool Airfield, Speke booking will remain forever with its charity football tournament and rows of girls in bikini tops and straw hats. The Prodigy have confirmed that they'll be drinking it all in.

HOW: Soon enough.


WHEN: 8th-10th September

WHO: The last full size festival of the year and the second on the Isle Of Wight, this presumably constituting an out of the way venue, Sunday Best and Rob Da Bank's brouhaha won a couple of awards in its second year with its eclectic mix of dance live acts, near-superstar DJs and mid-ranking indie allied to a decent atmosphere and the knowledge that the Cuban Brothers would only be there for one day.

HOW: Tickets are already on sale, which is strange considering the much earlier events that haven't even announced their intentions yet. £85 for islanders, an extra tenner for outsiders.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A century of makers

There can't be any real need for Top 100 magazine lists any more - even the most gullible of potential purchasers will start to smell a rat when one comes up with a different winner to the one that was published elsewhere two months before, and for everyone who really cares about the topic it goes no further than ritual slaggings on message boards and blogs. Speaking of which, here's the NME writers' 100 greatest UK albums ever:

1 The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses
2 The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead
3 Oasis - Definitely Maybe
4 Sex Pistols - Never Mind The Bollocks
5 Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
6 Blur - Modern Life Is Rubbish
7 Pulp - Different Class
8 The Clash - London Calling
9 The Beatles - Revolver
10 The Libertines - Up The Bracket
11 Radiohead - The Bends
12 The Specials - The Specials
13 The Verve - A Northern Soul
14 David Bowie - Hunky Dory
15 Primal Scream - Screamadelica
16 Dexys Midnight Runners - Searching For The Young Soul Rebels
17 The Streets - Original Pirate Material
18 Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand
19 The Smiths - Strangeways Here We Come
20 The Beatles - Rubber Soul
21 Muse - Absolution
22 Super Furry Animals - Radiator
23 New Order - Technique
24 Pet Shop Boys - Please
25 The Kinks - The Village Green Preservation Society
26 The Smiths - Hatful Of Hollow
27 PJ Harvey - Dry
28 Nick Drake - Bryter Layter
29 Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin II
30 Suede - Suede
31 Massive Attack - Blue Lines
32 The Zombies - Odyssey And Oracle
33 Coldplay - Parachutes
34 The Jam - All Mod Cons
35 Radiohead - OK Computer
36 The Beatles - The Beatles (White Album)
37 Manic Street Preachers - The Holy Bible
38 Spiritualized - Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space
39 Ride - Nowhere
40 Dizzee Rascal - Boy In Da Corner
41 Kate Bush - Hounds Of Love
42 The Jesus And Mary Chain - Psychocandy
43 The Rolling Stones - Exile On Main Street
44 Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures
45 The Streets - A Grand Don’t Come For Free
46 Pulp - His 'n' Hers
47 The Libertines - The Libertines
48 Elastica - Elastica
49 The Who - My Generation
50 The La’s - The La’s
51 Billy Bragg - Talking With The Taxman About Poetry
52 Madness - One Step Beyond
53 The Rolling Stones - Let It Bleed
54 Morrissey - Vauxhall And I
55 Bloc Party - Silent Alarm
56 Portishead - Portishead
57 The Cure - The Head On The Door
58 Suede - Dog Man Star
59 The Clash - The Clash
60 The Human League - Dare
61 Echo And The Bunnymen - Ocean Rain
62 Saint Etienne - Foxbase Alpha
63 David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
64 Gang Of Four - Entertainment!
65 Radiohead - Kid A
66 Elvis Costello - This Year's Model
67 Coldplay - A Rush Of Blood To The Head
68 The Pretty Things - SF Sorrow
69 Roxy Music - For Your Pleasure
70 Spacemen 3 - The Perfect Prescription
71 Buzzcocks - Lovebites
72 Joy Division - Closer
73 Kaiser Chiefs - Employment
74 Prodigy - Music For The Jilted Generation
75 Tricky - Maxinquaye
76 Cornershop - When I Was Born For The 7th Time
77 The Beta Band - The Three EP’s
78 Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works 85-92
79 Teenage Fanclub - Bandwagonesque
80 Black Sabbath - Paranoid
81 Antony And The Johnsons - I Am A Bird Now
82 Happy Mondays - Pills ‘N’ Thrills And Bellyaches
83 Wire - Pink Flag
84 Redskins - Neither Washington Nor Moscow
85 ABC - The Lexicon Of Love
86 George Harrison - All Things Must Pass
87 Small Faces - Ogden's Nut Gone Flake
88 Underworld - Dubnobasswithmyheadman
89 Blur - Parklife
90 Supergrass - I Should Coco
91 The Fall - This Nation's Saving Grace
92 Oasis - (What’s The Story) Morning Glory
93 Brian Eno - Here Come The Warm Jets
94 The Futureheads - The Futureheads
95 Julian Cope - Jehovahkill
96 Adam And The Ants - Kings Of The Wild Frontier
97 Led Zeppelin - IV
98 Roots Manuva - Run Come Save Me
99 Patrick Wolf - Lycanthropy
100 Derek And Clive - Live

What's the worst job you ever had? Trying to find rhyme or reason behind this selection, possibly. We're not going to go on about ver Monkeys being so high as the release was probably the reason why it was commissioned and even then 5 was probably the compromise position after office rows about whether it should be at 2 or 3. Thing is, though, you look at that top ten, see them and the Libertines and wonder if this is going to be frontloaded towards whoever they've got on the cover over the forthcoming quarter, then you see the Zombies and Ride in the top 40. When did Modern Life Is Rubbish become Blur's quintessential statement on British mores? We know they played explicitly on the image possibly even more than they did around Parklife (the British Image No.1 business comes from this period, and it was after all marketed around not being grunge) but it's still a stretch to imagine this was where they found their niche. By the opposite token, we'd be interested to see where they see the Super Furries and Polly Jean in the all-time canon now, given Radiator and Dry are hardly influencing everyone since in the same way. The Redskins? Steven Wells has moved on, hasn't he?

Actually, isn't being talked about better than not being talked about? Bugger, done it again. Although actually, this greatest UK album ever - good to see NME consistency still shining through.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Perhaps saviours is a bit strong but...

...we like the Arctic Monkeys.

Yeah, strange thing to say out of context, but we were reading another blog entry, we forget which, over the weekend which was also exploring the idea that here in 2006 a person who likes music might actually like this hugely written about act and - gasp! - not be ashamed of it. We're fairly sure someone in the comments box described the post as "brave". Of course, this is endemic of that kind of self-regarding cynicism/criticism that the Internet, especially the Albion-endemic bits of it, thrive upon - you know they don't hate it as much as they tell you, but it's Conor McNicholas, dammit! We note with dispassion, for example, that Stylus has this week given the album exactly the sort of review you'd expect Stylus to give it, almost word for word. Perhaps it was to win a bet.

So yes, they are a hyped band. Funny, isn't it, how hype by association is always used to refer to These Animal Men, Menswe@r and Gay Dad rather than the Manics (Melody Maker and Sounds covers before the first single), Oasis (first demo on Radio 1 playlist) or the Strokes, perhaps the band the Monkeys' rise most mirrors in that they made something of a splash among those close to the epicentre early but the press didn't really pick up on them until their limited edition first single, at which they went stratospheric. One of the great joys has been watching journalists caught on the hop trying to categorise how the rise by People Using The Internet happened. Reading back, it runs something like: Sheffield gig goers, and by extension bloggers, get excited, band runs off a few demos to sell at gigs, some bloke called The Sherrif sticks mp3s of demos on his local band website (here he is explaning himself on 8th January 2005, with reference to singing along), link to Beneath the Boardwalk goes around bits of the blogosphere, word of mouth develops, band get some money together to self-press 1500 singles (Five Minutes With...), NME goes mad. In those news pieces which show their video on a mock iPod screen or laptop running WMP you're guaranteed a reference to how fans found out about them on MySpace, a site that didn't even have an official band presence at the end of 2005. As Alex Turner has said, in that case why isn't every band with web presence being hyped to the skies?

So no, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not - quick tip for other bands, never a comma in the album title - won't be leading our albums list at the end of the year. But yes, it is actually any good. They have an energy allied with an awareness that comes from being big music fans themselves and at least a semi-melodic touch that puts them well ahead of a great swathe of northern chancers of the day (stand up, Harrisons; run along now, Bromhead's Jacket), and Turner's lyrics, while not fitting exactly into the glib comparisons with Morrissey (less driven by absorption) and Jarvis (positively anaemic by comparison) do follow a peculiarly Northern route of kitchen sink melodramas and Alan Bennett and, although they won't thank us for this one, Graham Fellowes' incarnations as Jilted John and John Shuttleworth, wryly observant and feeling endearment rather than blitheness towards its surroundings, taking the local and personal and making it seem universal. It's a very English sound but not flag-wavingly overbearingly so, wirier than Oasis' breezeblock riffage but more pop than post-punk. Of course it's not an album for romantics and it's time someone came out and said that the production made a mess of I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor. Hear the live video version and then the recorded one, as we initially did, and hear a song being played through a mattress. Maybe that's what writers actually mean when they float the idea that they've delivered power of journalistic hype into the hands of the fans - after years of smart alec journos doing much the same, they allow mere mortals to draw themselves up to their full height and declare the demos were better.

On the other hand, witness the forging of a sound that plays Jam to the post-punk revivalists' Gangs Of Four (Andy Nicholson's bass remains their secret weapon), Riot Van's love song to underage drinking and their standout song A Certain Romance, which starts with a musical switch comparable to Take Me Out and delivers a kind of round-up of all the themes we've just heard in which 'romance' serves as a synonym for the idea of local youth just getting along surrendered to the apparent obligation to split into small groups and make a nuisance of themselves, at a stroke ruining that idea about kids causing trouble because they have nothing to do. Perceptive stuff from a 19 year old lyricist, although if you're 15 and want it to be about hating chavs, you can read it that way if you so desire. And if you still don't see it, think about this - with the Franz Ferdinand millions Lawrence Bell has not only been able to keep Domino's coterie of relative curios going and open a US branch but also licensed back catalogue cherrypickings of Orange Juice, Neutral Milk Hotel, the Magnetic Fields and the Television Personalities.

Talent borrows, genius steals. Whatever People Say I Am... suggests but doesn't exactly do either, but still manages to create its own singularity. And sod it, if they do become the mid-00s Birdland their sales suggest they won't comfortably slot into by this time next decade, we've got a get-out clause but we'll stand by the idea that this meant something for the here and now.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Any excuse for a party

BBC Coventry & Warwickshire celebrates 26 years of 2-Tone with assorted gigs, local interest pieces and contributions from assorted alumni. What did happen to that Specials reunion Crystal Palace's Simon Jordan was putting together?

Kaiser Chiefs get Tyne Tees into trouble

From the latest Ofcom bulletin:

North East Tonight
ITV 1, 11 October 2005, 18:25

This regional news programme featured a report on a local ice hockey club, the Newcastle Vipers. The item focused on the 'hard-man' image of some of the players and the aggressive reputation the team had developed. The sequence included a montage of clips of players fighting, accompanied by the track 'I Predict a Riot' by the Kaiser Chiefs. The report ended with the reporter commenting on the team's aggressive style and saying "so tough - yes, but successful also, and as the saying goes, if something isn’t broke, don’t fix it." A viewer complained that the content of the report was too violent for the time of broadcast.

The report about the on-pitch behaviour and reputation of the players was obviously legitimate in this regional sports programme and we believe that viewers would not be surprised by the inclusion of some violent scenes within a news programme. However, we consider that the amount of fighting shown (which included scenes from a DVD which was devoted to footage of one of the players fighting), coupled with the
music and the closing remarks by the reporter was excessive and appeared to endorse the players’ violent behaviour.

Independent music

It's as if David Jensen opened The Roxy for nothing, as ITV develop a chart-based pop show. Yes, ITV do already have a well regarded pop show that's finishing in March, but nobody ever thought they properly think these things through. And the forward thinking, music as frontispiece producer behind it? Chris Cowey, the man who helped bring Top Of The Pops to its knees by bringing in features, overseeing a dip in viewing figures, hiring Kate Thornton etc. Oh, we know Andi Peters finished the show off properly, but the groundwork had been done. "I want to do for music television what the Premier League did for football" Cowey says, which presumably means three or four big labels reaping all the income and rewards while leaving the indies to starve. Well, it is prime-time ITV.

Interestingly, Cowey and The Official Charts Company are considering promoting a new chart which, it says here, incorporates "sales, downloads, file sharing and airplay". a) That's just the old network chart, and b) file sharing? Of the illegal kind?

Monday, January 23, 2006

No more the Brats

It's pointless really to complain how the NME Awards, with Shockwaves lest we forget, mirror the Brit nominations more and more, although which organisation changed more to make this the case is a moot point. The nominees are out, in any case, and you can vote for the winner at Here's a few pointers. Yeah, right.

Best British Band: Arctic Monkeys, Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, Kaiser Chiefs, Oasis
No matter what they do Oasis will always have enough fans for this kind of thing. You may insert your own Internet voting/Arctic Monkeys line here if you desire. Wonder if they'll turn up.

Best International Band: Arcade Fire, Green Day, Foo Fighters, The Killers, The Strokes
In association with T4, so ver Fire have no chance. The Killers and Strokes were nominated last year, which seems odd as only one has actually done anything since. Green Day have more fans than you'd think, and the organisers will hope they'll set fire to something during the ceremony.

Best Solo Artist: Antony And The Johnsons, Richard Ashcroft, Ian Brown, Graham Coxon, Kanye West
We wonder if anyone else saw Kate 'Belle & Sebastian won Best Newcomer but apart from that it wasn't bad' Thornton on the Brits preview show on Saturday interviewing Antony, who did his best not to look patronised but it must have been hard work. Kanye takes over from Eminem as the token rapper, while Richard Ashcroft presumably gets in as a result of there not being many solo artists voters could think of.

Best New Band: Arctic Monkeys, Editors, Magic Numbers, Maximo Park, We Are Scientists
We thought the Magic Numbers had kind of drifted out of the collective conscious post-Bacon, certainly their album and summer of festival taking not receiving much notice in the end of year round-ups. Let's not pretend four of these have a chance.

Best Live Band: Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand, Green Day, Kaiser Chiefs, Oasis
Green Day for Bloc Party and it's the same as the best group category. Proves something, we suppose. Only Franz were nominated for this last year, which proves something else entirely.

Best Album: Don't Believe The Truth, Down In Albion, Employment, Silent Alarm, You Can Have It So Much Better
Although obviously the winner in this category will have been fixed by subtly altering the positions to settle the advertisers. Ahem. Franz and Pete get consecutive nominations but you'd be hard pressed to think who voted in those numbers to get them into the final five. Whither Funeral?

Best Track: Do You Want To, Fuck Forever, I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor, I Predict A Riot, The Importance Of Being Idle
I Predict A Riot wasn't considered one of the top five of the previous nominee period. Presumably it was a different radio mix or something. ...Dancefloor will piss it, given it nearly won the Festive 50 even though the OneMusic trio never played it.

Best Video: Dare, Do You Want To, I Predict A Riot, Juicebox, The Importance Of Being Idle
Again ...Riot falls down on year on year analysis, in that the new video wasn't as good as the first one. We like Do You Want To because we picture Franz's overseas markets wondering who exactly Count Duckula and Captain Pugwash are, Dare was good for scaring kids and ...Idle proved someone in the camp had a finely tuned sense of humour. 16 Military Wives was our video of the year but we won't go into that as it'll set our Mark Beaumont anger gene off.

Best Event: Carling Weekend, Glastonbury, Live 8, T In The Park, V Festival
Sponsored by, which is why they're all so very obvious.

Best TV Show: Gonzo, Little Britain, Lost, The Mighty Boosh, Peep Show
We reckon this is the fourth consecutive nomination for Zane Lowe's MTV2 beanfeast and never has it come within a metric mile of the title. Indeed, substitute Green Wing for Lost and it's the same as last year's nominees, which demonstrates how little we've all moved on. Peep Show, if you must.

Best Radio Show: Colin And Edith, Steve Lamacq, Lauren Laverne, Zane Lowe, Chris Moyles
Christ, for a moment there we thought it said sane, rational people had willingly declared a love of Colin and Ed...oh. We'd like Lauren to win, but a) she's only a local DJ and b) the curse of her media exploits will mean the paper will have shut down by July if she takes it. You can be the judge of whether you'd actively want that to happen.

Best Film: Batman Begins, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, King Kong, Sin City
Might as well have put Wallace & Gromit in for all the relevance to what people imagine NME's target audience to be.

Best Music DVD: Dig!, Green Day: Bullet In A Bible, Kaiser Chiefs: Enjoyment, Live 8, Morrissey: Who Put The M In Manchester
Of these we've only seen Enjoyment, which is well-meaning but a right mess bar the clips of Parva. Can't imagine M In Manchester has many special extra features somehow.

Best Website:,,,,
Oh, don't worry about us, our time will c...We Are Scientists? Hold on a tick... Well, it's a singular approach, to be fair, but we can't see it catching on. No need to worry, the NME always win this for themselves unless they fancy sucking up to Murdoch for once.

Best Venue: Brixton Carling Academy, Glasgow Barrowlands, London Astoria, London Koko, Manchester Apollo
The capital shoves Birmingham's regular nomination out. Such is life.

Hero Of The Year: Carl Barat, Pete Doherty, Liam Gallagher, Bob Geldof, Alex Turner
Well, you can see how Geldof's achieving whatever it was the G8 summit finally announced would go down with a caring community readership, although after that documentary about London's year that was on over the new year we doubt many of Make Poverty History's core members will be going for him. Peel won this last year for dying. Bad luck on that score, Pete.

Villain Of The Year: Tony Blair, James Blunt, George Bush, Pete Doherty, Justin Hawkins
How quickly fashion turns, not just for Pete but also Justin Hawkins. They haven't had that notable a year, have they? In fact this is four of the same five as last year, Blunt replacing Wolfman, although to be fair he might be dead for all we know. Can we not vote for Tony Christie by proxy?

Best Dressed: Pete Doherty, Brandon Flowers, Liam Gallagher, Alex Kapranos, Ricky Wilson
Bad luck, Patrick Wolf. So it's louchely worn jackets this year, which explains the category's Topman sponsorship if not how Paul Smith slipped through the net in favour of Liam's continued thrall to whatever was cheapest at Debenhams. Oxfams across the land must be stripped bare by now.

Worst Dressed: Pete Doherty, Justin Hawkins, Chris Martin, Jack White, Robbie Williams
Oh, we quite admire Jack's stance alone in reviving the silent film villain look. The tache needs some work, but then that's nature not working as you want it to for you. This seems to have confused everyone this year, as last time GLC and Har Mar got nominated in a collective irony failure on the part of the voters and now nobody has a clue. The Sexiest Man/Woman categories seem to have disappeared this year, we note.

Worst Album: Back To Bedlam, The Bravery, Down In Albion, One Way Ticket To Hell... And Back, Wonderland
Not entirely sure why Wonderland's been singled out in a year of Westlife and Lee Ryan releases, but then we're not totally across how the Bravery have ended up here. They are rubbish, we grant you, but surely the national backlash is very much an underground movement at this time.

Worst Band: Babyshambles, Coldplay, The Darkness, McFly, Son Of Dork
Ah, we see, with McFly it must be because they play instruments and are liked by Smash Hits readers and that. James Bourne goes for the hat-trick after two Busted 'wins', but we suspect Coldplay will win, which doesn't explain how Live 8 has done so well.

Throw in the Phillip Hall Radar Award, John Peel Award For Musical Innovation - won by The Others one year, which made us reach for a concise OED - the famous Godlike Genius Award and no doubt completely different Special Award For Lifelong Service To Music and you've got an occasion on February 23rd. Russell Brand presents, and may your god go with you.

Weekender : it's used the Internet to build its reputation

CHART OF DARKNESS: Lots of people from the Internet bought When The Sun Goes Down to make it almost the least surprising number one of 2006. The top four are new entries, the chasing being led this time by Notorious BIG, who surely couldn't chase anyone very well when he was alive, but Nasty Girl benefits from Nelly and P Diddy doing all the work to leave them atop Will Young's brave attempt at a non-muzak laden ballad and Beyonce's sleepwalk through, oh lord oh christ oh no, the theme from the remake of The Pink Panther. Hi-Tack's sampling of Say Say Say, which we'll blame on Heather letting the sample through while Paul was out on, we dunno, business, is at 8, Son Of Dork remind us that Busted split at the right time at 10, Belle & Sebastian's drive for the middle ground gathers pace at 13, ¡Forward, Russia! give the Guiness Book Of British Hit Singles typesetters headaches at 34 and Sway becomes the latest next big UK urban thing to do next to nothing at 38. The album chart meanwhile has gone mad, as well placed singles and sales mean Hard-Fi atop the list 29 weeks after Stars Of CCTV, or at least this version, was released, with Editors at 2. Editors! Number two! Jose Gonzalez, surely ill served by everyone calling him a new singer-songwriter before admitting that Heartbeats is a cover, joins the top ten at 7, Simon Webbe fails to fizzle out as expected and instead climbs 18 at 20 - what are they doing, handing copies out at the door? - while 50 Cent and G Unit's Get Rich Or Die Tryin' limps in at 43. See, no good without Eminem to back you up or feuds to suddenly break out, are you?

BARGAIN HUNT: Why you'd price something up at £4.49, even in a sale, we're not quite sure, but that's the price HMV is selling The Queen Is Dead at.

FREE MUSIC: Save yourself a couple of quid - Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan's Ramblin' Man

HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: Sky Larkin, as alerted to the wider world by Take Your Medicine and surely next cab off the New Yorkshire rank, sounding like the Breeders playing at being Bloc Party.

BLOG ROLLING: See You In The Pit features only acts playing at South By Southwest this year, but there's thousands of them so it could be up for a while. Also, if you missed the Top 65 Videos link before it went down on Friday, it's now been Torrented.

EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: A collection of Wedding Present videos! Some of them made on a tangible budget too.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Exclusive footage of Sweeping The Nation's end of week office meeting

In shops tomorrow: 23/1


Nothing to tear up the charts this week, but keep an eye out for Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan's unholy union bearing fruit of Ramblin' Man, North Eastern garage power trio The Motorettes' Super Heartbeats and the minute-long all-out primal charge of Be Your Own Pet's Let's Get Sandy. It seems the BYOP bandwagon has missed the mainstream altogether despite a series of gigs towards the end of last year that left one journalist comparing Jemina Pearl's stage antics to prime Iggy Pop. Iggy, of course, likes to strip to the waist and sometimes beyond on stage. Erm, excuse us for a moment...


It's a spectacular week for LP releases, and not just for the time of year but for any time of year, we'd say. Of course most of the attention, and point of sale purchases, will be focused on Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, and we're going to cover that in more detail this week here. Appropriately, we're going to do it... on the Internet! Hope you've been saving up, though, as also available this week are Cat Power's glorious excursion into maudlin Memphis soul The Greatest - has Ms Marshall ever been in finer voice? We doubt it - the throw it all at the wall and watch what sticks excitement of Broken Social Scene's eponymous second album proper, Pitchfork-aided Neutral Milk Hotel/Yo La Tengo's more pastoral moments/David Byrne starved of oxygen near behemoths Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, perhaps less than sum of parts but still intriguing Tortoise and Bonnie Prince Billy teamup The Brave And The Bold, Jenny Lewis' downbeat, Watson Twins harmony-aided solo project Rabbit Fur Coat and, as a neat summary, Rough Trade's 2005 edition of Counter Culture, which finds room for The Boy Least Likely To, Nurse With Wound, Lightning Bolt, David Shrigley, Brakes, Princess Superstar and the Brodsky Quartet. About average fare, in other words.


The long awaited Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds DVD upgrade is finally unleashed in two parts, namely 1990 US road movie The Road To God Knows Where and 1992 Amsterdam set Live At The Paradiso. Meanwhile, almost shamefully, none of the online clearing houses are listing The Go-Betweens: That Striped Sunlight Sound, out on the 27th on Tuition DVD and comprising both visual and audio discs of a Brisbane concert in 2005 and an acoustic session with Robert Forster and Grant McLennan explaining and reworking some of their greatest hits. They don't cover Spring Rain or He Lives My Life in the latter but they do do Cattle And Cane and Bachelor Kisses, which'll do nicely for us.

The benefits of research

The Observer reminds us of that moment at the 2001 Brits when Eminem and Elton John duetted. You'll recall that year, of course, as the one in which the BPI moved the event to America and rechristened it the Grammys.

The Weekly Sweep

Franz Ferdinand - The Fallen
The Boy Least Likely To - Be Gentle With Me
Goodbooks - Passchendaele
¡Forward, Russia! - Twelve
Hamell On Trial - Inquiring Minds
Cat Power - Lived In Bars
Go! Team - Ladyflash
Gnarls Barkley - Crazy
Blues Brother Castro - Flirt
Shortwave Set - Repeat To Fade

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Behind the music

Now it's calmed down from its insistence on current affairs catch-alls and need to promote Eastenders all the time BBC3 is settling into a decent niche. Its Story Of... series documenting the genesis and impact of great songs started with Do They Know It's Christmas? the Yuletide before last and has since taken on I Will Survive, Fairytale Of New York and now Common People, a song we remember hearing Steve Lamacq in the days when it was him and Jo Whiley on the Evening Session giving it its first play from an otherwise unmarked white label (the first show after 1995 Glastonbury, says some crevice in our brain, which would make sense on a timeline but we're not certain about). It's not the most obvious to add to the catalogue, teeming with resonance for those of its generation but probably not yet of the same all time top grade, but in terms of sheer sociological impact you can see how it rang so many bells. Of course, it might well have been held back from last August's Britpop anniversary hosannahs for all we know.

Plus of course it's a much loved band, so loved we suspect there were quite a few viewers looking darkly at the idea of treating it with such reverence, and one that's bound to reform sooner or later. In fact they pretty much did for this as the band, minus Steve Mackey for an unexplained reason although he was interviewed seperately, got back together in a converted room above Nick Banks' parents' pottery shop where they rehearsed, Jarvis finding a bag of sugar with a best before date of November 1995. And there's the other USP - Jarvis Cocker, the 1990s' biggest British pop force of nature, seen here in junior camcorder clips and his current post-hippy Mike Reid look, unashamed about being made to walk through Notting Hill with a keyboard under his arm to recreate the act of his buying one in Notting Hill and taking it home to tap out the riff, and in perhaps the best archive clip of the lot getting early girly screams on the Tarrant version of Pop Quiz with team-mates Chesney Hawkes and Des'Ree against the eventually standing ovation giving all-star line-up of Shakespeare's Sister foghorn Marcella Detroit, Little Angels singer Toby Jepson and, um, Patric.

At this stage of their careers Pulp were a band teeming with internal contradictions, right down to the reference in the documentary to Jarvis and Russell Senior's conscientious differences over the miner's strike, and maybe this could have done with more discussion of such ideas and ideals - it's a song written by someone who admits he was more lower middle class than working from the perspective of an art student being come on to by a class tourist who thinks he's 'common', a state of affairs that surely requires some subtle elucidation, if not full explanation, from both viewpoints - instead of letting the production team drag others into his private hell by unsuccessfully attempting to find the very girl from Greece. There wasn't a great effort made to establish their position beyond ideas of them being a band who sang about Spangles, as one person commented, who suddenly broke big, perhaps forgiveable in the context of a programme about one song, although we wonder if there was a private note of pessimism struck when Jarvis commented that the Glastonbury headline slot would be the big finish to the Pulp film but "life doesn't happen that way", knowing full well with the benefit of being outside the Britpop maelstrom that the dream of pop stardom died when it became such a standout single of the kind that doesn't come along every day. That might explain Relaxed Muscle at least, if anything at all does. On the positive side, there's the usual vaguely fascinating bits for this strand - the producer taking the master tape to metaphorical shreds and explaining how it was built up, Chris Thomas here isolating the stylophone deep in the mix while Jarvis gets highly unnerved by hearing the vocals alone ("I was probably pissed, wasn't I?"), a composer attempting to work out the themes and a proper discussion of the lyrics with Ian McMillan, that Irish psychologist who appears on highbrow TV occasionally and one of those It girls you vaguely heard about eight years ago. There was lots of good live footage and some usual suspects popped by - Jarvis' mum touting nearly embarrassing photos, Sadie Frost admitting she didn't actually like them, Pedro Romanyhi looking like Wayne Coyne, Alex Kapranos, and yes, of course there was a clip of Shatner's version, one of those covers that takes the route one approach to reworking by just reading the lyrics as a selection of words to recite. Of course Americans get irony, unless we've missed crucial biographical details about Larry David and Garry Shandling, but you can see why the cliche remains.

Common People is a song that a lot of people still don't fully get - the Wikipedia entry claims "the song is a put down of all the bands around at the time, who wanted to be like "common people" and attributed poverty with glamour", which is an interesting reading, as well as one that needs some work putting into it just to see the join. Other would read it as internecine class warfare of a kind, which is fairly glib but doesn't entirely ring true with Cocker's intentions, as he never really riffed on the class divide idea as much as, say, the Gallaghers would in contemporary interviews. Did the phrase even exist by itself before this? As we say, contradictory stands are half the intrigue. The programme didn't amount to a hill of beans in the end on this front but it didn't make anyone look any less endearing, which in a funny way must have been the point.

Monday, January 16, 2006


CHART OF DARKNESS: Shayne Ward makes it another week with the bare minimum of effort, from either the rest of the music industry or anyone surrounding him. Richard Ashcroft would have had his biggest solo hit otherwise, so be grateful for diminutive mercies. At 4 it's Waiting For A Star To Fall mania all over again as a second track using the same core sample, here the Baywatch theme, charts in successive weeks. It can't be true that Hasselhoff is making a musical comeback, can it? We seem to be alone in remaining impervious to this cult, but then we've always hated wanton irony. Texas can't manage better than 6 even with Peter Kay dusting off Marc Park from That Peter Kay Thing for the video, Jose Gonzalez pops by at 9, the Kooks manage 12, The Crimea are far too low at 31, while there's re-entries for the Ordinary Boys, understandably, and Kanye West, inexplicably. Big news in the album charts, in which James Blunt takes the top once more, is Editors' The Back Room up 15 to 3. Gonzalez rockets to 16, Notorious BIG's latest set of grave-digging - three dead people on duet duty with Biggie! - is a place below and we'd like full explanation of why Led Zeppelin IV has climbed for three consecutive weeks and is now at 28.

BARGAIN HUNT: Interpol's Turn On The Bright Lights seems to have become something of a US indie touchstone already, in airiness as much as the phalanx of black-clad Joy Division-listening gloom mongers following its lead. New York cares, and Virgin certainly do, selling it for £4.99.

FREE MUSIC: Television Personalities - May You Dream The Sweetest Dreams: Dan Treacy's back from some worrying personal depths with the TVPs first album in a few years, My Dark Places, out on Domino in February. Still sounds like it was recorded in a biscuit tin, still wilfully singular. From the same site, the classic Part Time Punks gets John Peel almost excited

HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: Goodbooks: minor members of the NME's Hot List for 2006, yet more clever-clever post-post-punk, but with a wise head on young shoulders. They claim in that same piece that their name was suggested by Holly Willoughby, which is just pushing their luck publicity-wise.

SECRET LIVES: We've covered Zane Lowe's band Breaks Co-Op before, but on the back of The Other Side winning Best Single at the New Zealand Music Awards and being named the country's most played record on national radio of 2005, their website suggests they've signed to Parlophone worldwide and are about to launch in the UK. Wonder how that'll go down with the press. New Zealand Herald interview and moody photo here

IN OTHER NEWS: Eamon leaves British Sea Power. Remember him this way:

EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: 'Paul Morressey' and Johnny Marr appear on 1984 TV-AM kids pop show Datarun. The woman at the start is Lulu's sister, the kids are from Stephen's old school, the live footage was recorded at a soundcheck, the rest is inexplicable.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

In shops tomorrow: 16/1


Ah, now it's picking up. The big one is of course When The Sun Goes Down by the Arctic Monkeys, engaging itself in the year's first big number one battle against Will Young and Beyonce. Who'd have thought? Somewhere down the list we find Belle & Sebastian's opinion splitting return single Funny Little Frog, a horribly mislabelled on Amazon Twelve by !Forward, Russia!, perhaps their best invocation of post-Fugazi dynamics and annoying to type insistence on Cyrillic punctuation, and the fairly touted nu-shoegazers The Early Years debut properly with All Ones And Zeros. On vinyl look out for Clearlake's Good Clean Fun, Secret Machines' return in a grandiose if still much the same manner with Alone, Jealous & Stoned and our record of the week, Cat Power's sumptuous The Greatest, only on 7" but as previously mentioned here on Radio 2's playlist anyway, supported by an as usual mildly distracted interview with Australia's The Age.


It's ironic that a week ahead of the official UK release of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's album the first four Talking Heads albums are being reissued, this time on DualDisc format in Special Edition mode. What this means is the original versions have yet again been remastered, or you could turn the CD over, study the Bible on grain of rice-sized text around the hole just to make sure you're now on the DVDA side and listen to demos and live versions you don't need and a couple of videos and TV appearances. Alternatively you could just go to eBay and buy previous, non-bells and whistles versions on the cheap. Have fun with those 2006 profit margins, WEA. Like everyone Fear Of Music is our favourite, followed by Remain In Light, More Songs About Buildings And Food and Talking Heads: 77. Also in the re-release tray are Ride's OX4 best of and the Blue Aeroplanes' Swagger, the 1990 some say lost classic of lit-leftfield-rock also deluxing itself with live versions, rarities and demos. Among the new product that can only dream of remastering suites, the harmonic generation dreampop of Mazarin's We're Already There stands out.

The Weekly Sweep

Nectarine No 9 - South Of An Imaginary Line
Orange Juice - Felicity
Colorblind James Experience - Considering A Move To Memphis
Moneybrother - They're Building Walls Around Us
Del Tha Funkee Homosapien - Mistadobalina
Maximo Park - I Want You To Stay
Infadels - Can't Get Enough
Motorettes - Super Heartbeats
Scritti Politti - The Word Girl
William Campbell & Kevin MacNeil - Local Man Ruins Everything

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Feel The Quality

In among positive news about music sales over 2005 came the fact that the biggest faller (outside physical singles, we imagine) year on year was the humble compilation album, being nearly 16% down. The BPI blamed it on CDR swapping, the twats. We feel it is our duty to make sure the compilation retains its position as the fulcrum of the trade, or at least the handy way to fill those awkward last few racks, so here's this week's compilation chart top ten:

1 Clubbers Guide 2006

USP: Well, it's not like the attraction of a July in Ibiza or Ayia Napa will ever fade, is it? God bless Ministry Of Sound, sticking with the format no matter what prevailing dance music trends throw at it.
STICK THAT ON THE ADVERT: And my, what dance music trends are being thrown at us all these days. Tip to Naughty Boy - your Phat Beach bootleg may have sounded oh so radical in context, just don't keep the title when Leftfield refuse to make your Phat Planet sample legal.
WHAT'S THIS ONE, DAD?: Good to see Karin from The Knife there, obviously as the vocalist on Royksopp's What Else Is There, if not the Thin White Duke remix. We can't work out which is the more worrying title - Work This Pussy (Mad8) or I've Got The Music In Me (Boogie Pimps).

2 Now That's What I Call Music 62

USP: EMI/Virgin's cash cow, or pound-pertaining pig if you want to hark back to the glory days.
STICK THAT ON THE ADVERT: Well, it's all the hits, isn't it? We suspect Bad Day might be held over for about halfway through, though.
WHAT'S THIS ONE, DAD?: Can't see Elton John, Mattafix, Bon Jovi or Texas escaping the kids' Skip buttons. Welcome To Jamrock will just confuse them, or make them cry if it's not the really cautious radio edit.

3 Helter Skelter Presents Hardcore Classics

USP: Two blokes on a low grade PC in Rotterdam on 200bpm rather than four very short-haired college kids trying to play faster than Motorhead in San Francisco, of course.
STICK THAT ON THE ADVERT: Mixed by one Billy 'Daniel' Bunter, apparently. It's not an advert you'd see during Children's ITV, let's say that.
WHAT'S THIS ONE, DAD?: CLSM's semi-legendary John Peel Is Not Enough - an excellent concept, if bugger all use now.

4 Twice As Nice - Weekender

USP: Released on Boxing Day, because of course that's the optimum time for forward thinking superclub business.
STICK THAT ON THE ADVERT: A recent not too commercial R&B primer, essentially, bar the way it starts with Don't Cha and Ciara's 1 2 Step.
WHAT'S THIS ONE, DAD?: The Ying Yang Twins can fuck off, for a start. Plenty to represent the nation, even if it is Audio Bullys and, bloody hell, Wayne Marshall's Ooh Aah G Spot. Ginuwine's Pony crops up towards the end, much mocked at the time for its odd burping noises throughout, little realising that this was Timbaland's first venture into big time production and everyone would be extracting Warp Records-style noises from 303s before too long.

5 The Best Club Anthems Classics

USP: Perhaps the most famous compilation series in dance music, as it's the one with the logo that looks like a gold Letraset Airfix kit. This is their 3CD blowout.
STICK THAT ON THE ADVERT: Tip to compilers - if you're trying to make out that dance music is still as innovative and forward thinking as ever, don't start your big shot compilation with Call On Me, Lola's Theme, Out Of Touch and Somebody To Love.
WHAT'S THIS ONE, DAD?: If there's a track you don't recognise it's because you're too young for K-Klass or Urban Cookie Collective. Out Of Space is the Prodigy track, always good to hear the filtered disco zenith of Cassius 1999, and you'd be surprised how long it's been since you heard Groovejet.

6 The Annual 2006

USP: More state secretarial affairs at the Ministry Of Sound with the calendar event Sarah Cawood always used to do a moody voiceover for.
STICK THAT ON THE ADVERT: Mylo and whoever wrote Doctor Beat must be raking it in with the number of top selling compilations Doctor Pressure is appearing on. What was the point of D.O.N.S. Featuring Technotronic's Pump Up The Jam again?
WHAT'S THIS ONE, DAD?: Paul Epworth's transition from soundman to dance bod is complete as his Goldfrapp Phones Re-Edit is here. What the buggering fuckery is The Disco Boys Featuring Manfred Mann's Earth Band like?

7 NME Presents The Essential Bands

USP: Because the Shine compilers don't seem to be bothering any more.
STICK THAT ON THE ADVERT: I Predict A Riot opens CD1, Speed Of Sound CD2. That's the way, tempt them in early.
WHAT'S THIS ONE, DAD?: Actually less leftfield suggestions than the Best Bands Ever set, although oddly the Killers track is Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine. At least it's not Glamorous Indie Rock'n'Roll. What are the Kaiser kids meant to do when Test Icicles come on?

8 Housework Songs

USP: Completely does away with the need for local commercial radio, the cover shot of a woman singing into a hoover, or possibly an air pumping horn from the local garage, sets the scene.
STICK THAT ON THE ADVERT: Basically it's much the same as you'd get at hen party karaoke, from I Will Survive to Take A Chance On Me, even if it is Erasure's version.
WHAT'S THIS ONE, DAD?: Who gives it the full Aretha to Mike And The Mechanics' Over My Shoulder? Hadn't we all agreed to forget Can’t Fight The Moonlight?

9 The Number One Classical Album 2006

USP: Are there new contenders for the classical canon every year, then?
STICK THAT ON THE ADVERT: Well, interpretations obviously do, as this is classical in the 'classical additions to the tenor canon' sense of the term, ie an inaccurate one. Covering the full gamut of vocal expression from G4 and Bryn Terfel to Amici Forever and Vittorio Grigolo, it manages to find room for the Choirboys' Tears In Heaven, which surely doesn't count.
WHAT'S THIS ONE, DAD?: Allegretto (From Palladio). By Myleene Klass, obviously. How much was that popularising the classics album deal again?

10 The R&B Yearbook

USP: What it says on the tin, although someone appears to have left some of last year's Yearbook inside. How come Frank'ee never made much of her career, eh?
STICK THAT ON THE ADVERT: First four tracks: Lonely, Let Me Love You, Get Right, 1 Thing. From there it goes in much the same direction.
WHAT'S THIS ONE, DAD?: Apart from the inexplicable choice of the Fugees' version of No Woman No Cry, that is. And Terror Squad's Lean Back, which made a massive US impact and did bugger all here. And the oh so timely DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince's Summertime. Why is the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, Blow Monkeys track and all, at 11?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Cupid & Psyche 06

We've always had a soft spot for Scritti Politti, who in retrospect stand a good metric mile away from the synth-soul crowd through Green Gartside's deconstructions of love and funk alike. Hell, we even liked the little we heard Anomie & Bonhomie, the hip-hop flavoured last hurrah from 1999. That, as was usually his want, was the last heard of Gartside for a while, bar backing vocals on a track on Kylie's last album, but like everyone else he's back, back, back, and even playing gigs, at the Brixton Windmill on Saturday supporting The Shortwave Set under the curious name Double G And The Treacherous 3. Baggage Reclaim were there, as was Melodiefabriek's man on the ground, and apparently there's an album under Green's own name later in the year.

In more solo/not solo revival news, Stephen Malkmus played a crowd request show in New York yesterday, including Pavement songs

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A Brit on the side

Time, then, to look at the nominees for this year's Brit Awards, the annual event where labels spend far too much on otherwise simple live performances and the only worthwhile events are only reported on three days later:

Best British album: Aerial, Back To Bedlam, Demon Days, Employment, X&Y
The first of five mentions for the Chiefs and the guardsman. Good to see the Kate Bush nomination of cliche has got in, although you'd have to say it's fair enough in a year when she's actually released something. Probable winner: Kaisers.

British male solo artist: Antony and the Johnsons, Ian Brown, James Blunt, Robbie Williams, Will Young
Oh, don't start the "but he's American!" argument again, even if the steering group seem to imagine And The Johnsons is just his imagination, like in the film Harvey (there are permanent Johnsons, a string section and guitarist as we recall) Ian Brown gets nominated for this every single year. Probable winner: Robbie, just because he'd have to have something.

British female solo artist: Natasha Bedingfield, Kate Bush, Charlotte Church, Katie Melua, KT Tunstall
They think highly of Natasha in America, you understand, even if they've been sidelined here. What chance the much discussed other musical Bedingfields now? Probable winner: Bush.

British group: Coldplay, Franz Ferdinand, Gorillaz, Hard-Fi, Kaiser Chiefs
You or us could have named four of these twelve months ago, assuming we'd been told who was releasing albums in 2005. Probable winner: Coldplay, because they're going to be there.

British single (Voted by UK commercial radio listeners): Is This The Way To Amarillo?, Push The Button, Speed Of Sound, That's My Goal, You're Beautiful
One of those wasn't even a British single this year. We thought the nominees were automatically picked from the five most commercial radio played UK hits of the year, but That's My Goal can't have been played that much, and while four of them are four of the five biggest selling homegrown singles of the year (Mr Red Penguin has the top 200) Speed Of Sound is well done. Probable winner: That's My Goal, because it's the most recent

British breakthrough act (Voted by Radio 1 listeners and the Brits Academy): Arctic Monkeys, James Blunt, Kaiser Chiefs, KT Tunstall, Magic Numbers
Hang on, what are the Academy doing here? Getting ready to change the leader just in case ver Monkeys don't show up? Probable winner: Arctic Monkeys if purely on votes, Kaisers if seasonally adjusted.

British urban act (Voted by MTV Base viewers and the Brits Academy): Craig David, Dizzee Rascal, Kano, Lemar, Ms Dynamite
It's five years now since Craig David was nominated for a load of Brits and won nothing, and performing halfway through the ceremony he broke into a freestyle rap which included the line "no brits for CD". How did he know then? At least Joss Stone's not qualified. Probable winner: Lemar

British rock act (Voted by Kerrang! TV viewers and the Brits Academy): Franz Ferdinand, Hard-Fi, Kaiser Chiefs, Kasabian, Oasis
All Kerrang! target market, of course. Probable winner: Oasis if the 3am Girls reckon they'll turn up, Kaisers otherwise

Pop act (Voted by CD:UK viewers, The Sun Bizarre column readers and O2/Motorola customers): James Blunt, Kelly Clarkson, Katie Melua, Madonna, Westlife
Surely it should have been split into UK and international categories long before now to avoid confusion that doesn't already come into play by the redefinition of the word 'pop' exhibited here - the nominations could easily have been Charlotte Church, Girls Aloud, McFly, Nelly and Sugababes and it wouldn't have been any weaker for what it's been set up as. Probably stronger without Melua, actually. Probable winner: Westlife. It's a CD:UK and teen girls on phones vote, remember

British live act (Voted by Radio 2 and a panel of selectors): Coldplay, Franz Ferdinand, Kaiser Chiefs, Oasis, KT Tunstall
Well, that was worth dropping Best Video for. The judging panel, via whoever was on it from the Independent, were supposedly furious that they'd been forced against their will to nominate acts who had played actual paid-for gigs that people could easily go to and not Pink Floyd. Diddums. Probable winner: Coldplay

International male solo artist: Beck, Jack Johnson, John Legend, Bruce Springsteen, Kanye West
A category that's often good for an unlikely nomination or two, although this year we won't get the Brits preview show talking heads being asked for their opinions on Tom Waits unlike 2005, worse luck. Probable winner: Kanye, and he'll be there

International female solo artist: Bjork, Mariah Carey, Kelly Clarkson, Missy Elliott, Madonna
Bjork seems to get into this one suspiciously often. Probable winner: Madonna

International album: American Idiot, Confessions On A Dancefloor, Funeral, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, Late Registration
Yes, Funeral, and you've not heard the last of Arcade Fire here yet. We won't mention ...Atomic Bomb came out in November 2004 and was nominated last year if you don't. Probable winner: if the committee notice that in time, Kanye again

International group: Arcade Fire, Black Eyed Peas, Green Day, U2, White Stripes
If we were organising the awards, we reckon we'd have gone "to hell with it" and incorporated Irish acts long before now, as it just looks slightly odd otherwise. Probable winner: they haven't, so U2.

International breakthrough act: Arcade Fire, Jack Johnson, John Legend, Daniel Powter, Pussycat Dolls
Daniel Powter? Did Snow get nominated in 1992? Probable winner: as great the thought of Win and Regine quickly trying to think of something to say as they approach the podium is, we suspect they'll play safe and go for the Radio 2 casting vote of Jack Johnson

Outstanding contribution to music: Paul Weller
Didn't say anything about never reforming the Style Council, you know.

The awards are on 15th February, the tie-in album (featuring some people who haven't been named above, which is just taking the piss) is tracklisted here, and we'll hopefully be augmenting every other UK music blog in providing a live minute by minute precis of the ceremony the following day. Chris Evans is presenting again. Whoopee.

Monday, January 09, 2006


A new Monday service rounding up everything we've learned in the last couple of days:

CHART OF DARKNESS: Shayne Ward's still up there, and according to a list on CoolClarity last week it's comfortably among the ten best sellers of the decade so far. Go on, whistle it. Not to suggest this is a slow time for the singles market or anything, but of the three new entries in the top 40 one is Editors' right chancing (number 10 for Munich's re-release, one below where we put it in the 2005 list), one workaday Chicago house track and one Baywatch/Phat Planet mashup. We know Leftfield are no more, but surely they don't need money that urgently, and that's a week ahead of another Baywatch theme sampling dance track. Over in albums the Strokes are third time lucky, First Impressions Of Earth becoming their first number one where previously they'd been kept at number two by the unlikely duo of Slipknot and Dido, while 314 days after release Funeral finally makes it into the top forty. We're claiming the credit.

BARGAIN HUNT: The post-Christmas sales are still in full swing, and may we point you at HMV this week where Blur's Best Of is £4.99. Just ignore the new version of For Tomorrow.

FREE MUSIC: Celebration - War: a high speed collision between PJ Harvey, Rip Rig & Panic and Clint Boon's organ by TV On The Radio's mates (David Sitek produces).

EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: Village Voice ponder Korn's supposed secret member and from there the possible Sixth Beatle; entire comments box fails to get the joke

Sunday, January 08, 2006

In shops tomorrow: 9/1

The record industry only really gets back up to full speed next week, so no albums to speak of - good that the Strokes got in there while they could, isn't it? - and on the singles racks it's looking slightly slow too. That one that samples the Baywatch theme in the modern dance way can fuck off, for a start. Not fucking off: Coldcut unleash their idea of folktronica on Man In A Garage, early Tips For '06 candidates The Crimea try not to let on that Lottery Winners On Acid first came out a touch more than three years ago and even Sony's most expensive TV advert ever fails to make Jose Gonzalez's superior cover of The Knife's Heartbeats attractive to most of radio. Tch.

The Weekly Sweep

Jegsy Dodd & The Original Sinners - Grumpy Old Men
The Crimea - Lottery Winners On Acid
Arctic Monkeys - A Certain Romance
¡Forward, Russia! - Twelve
Levy - On The Dance Floor
Cat Power - Where Is My Love
Go! Team - Ladyflash
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - In This Home On Ice
Vitalic - My Friend Dario
The Gossip - Listen Up

Friday, January 06, 2006

While we recover from our busy December...

...just over there are links to Indie mp3, who are reminiscing about C86 with a typed up contemporary week of NME tie-in gig reviews, and Mr Red Penguin, hosting ¡Forward, Russia! and Young Knives tracks.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Big Brother Boys Will Be Boys

Funny, we saw any number of those Celebrity Big Brother prediction pieces and none of them mentioned Preston from the Ordinary Boys, who surely doesn't so much as qualify for the D-list of cliche because you have to transcend your immediate circle to become famous in any way. As expected, the official site forum is trying desperately to convince itself that this is a good idea. Pete Burns, as was always going to be inevitable, is also in, as is Maggot from GLC, who will take some explaining to the unknowing.

(There's also a member of the public who must convince the others that she is famous. One of the apparently properly famous ones is her that had an affair with Sven-Goran Eriksson and then FA chief Mark Palios. That cracking sounds is our irony-ometer breaking.)

BREAKING NEWS: "The Ordinary Boys rise above the trivialities of a Big Brother world"

Monday, January 02, 2006

UK Albums Of 2005 Poll

And so we reach what we like to think is the final word on 2005, as well as our shameless attempt to jump on the parochial music blogger poll bandwagon, as we asked UK bloggers for their lists of albums of the year and collated them into the list you see below. Among the voters were Take Your Medicine, Talent In A Previous Life, Silent Words Speak Loudest, Parallax View, Jamie's Runout Groove, Domino Rally, Delete As Appropriate, Snappish Thoughts, The Adventures Of Flossie and a special guest appearance from man about town and New Games Journalist Kieron Gillen. We also borrowed the lists from Mr Red Penguin and The Indie Credential, who we'd tried to ask but couldn't find e-mail addresses for. We hope they don't mind. (NB. Just to clarify, this poll was for albums released in the UK in 2005, rather than only UK acts)

20 RICHARD HAWLEY - Coles Corner
Sheffield singer-songwriter with the tones of a Roy Orbison or Scott Walker coming complete with a dramatic orchestral sweep, full of nostalgia and love pangs

19 LADYTRON - Witching Hour
Liverpudlian/Bulgarian electro axis coax shoegazing fuzz, vampiric menace and Depeche Modian darkness from their analogue synths

Jim James and co depart their echo-laden converted grain silo, hire John Leckie and head all over the alt-rock spectrum, from roots rock to Flaming Lips grandiosity

17 ANNIE - Anniemal
The indie Kylie, they've called her, pitching in between the revivalist electro part producer Richard X loves, St Etienne's knowing kitsch and the sheer fun of pop revivalism

16 STARS - Set Yourself On Fire
Named after the Fry and Laurie sketch about satanic messages in metal records, we'd hope. Unlikely, mind, given they're Canadians specialising in widescreen, often string-laden pop

15 M.I.A. - Arular
World music manque, as a Sri Lankan from East London takes on US East Coast Timbaland-inspired beats, Brazilian favela, Jamaican dancehall, Punjab bhangra and worldly dancefloor rhythm

14 KANYE WEST - Late Registration
The Route One method of hip hop superstardom - deliver a highyl singular album at once confident of its genre surroundings and redefining its boundaries and layers of work as it goes

13 ELBOW - Leaders Of The Free World
Guy Garvey, clearly now a big man out of shape, starts with the simple pleasures of returning home and ends mourning what he's lost there. Anthemists too clever to be as big as Coldplay

12 GIRLS ALOUD - Chemistry
Number one act in the UK list curated by Take Your Medicine and now setting out to prove it, Xenomania working overtime on electropop rushes, lyrical insouicance and pure fun energy

11 MARTHA WAINWRIGHT - Martha Wainwright
Rufus has the stage costumes and the French & Saunders guest slot, but Want Two was comprehensively outdone by little sis' fragile, autobiographical poetics and folk-blues delicacy

10 LOW - The Great Destroyer
They're not slowcore any more, it's fair to say. Instead we have huge, lush yet droning soundscapes that retain the harmonies and melodic ability but take a detour by an overdrive pedal

9 MEW - And The Glass Handed Kites
If they must be prog, at least it's easier to live with than the Mars Volta's version, the Danes relocating their Pixies/MBV dynamic intensity to a Sigur Ros-type singular atmosphere

"Writer of fictions" Colin Meloy does just that, but now finds his intricate short stories about spies, rent boys and lost sailors surrounded by complementary dramatic musical flourishes

They've outdone the Kaiser Chiefs again. If they've got this far on Antony Hegarty's voice, maybe it's time now to talk up the quality of the torch song backings and emotive lyricism

6 EELS - Blinking Lights And Other Revelations
Mind if we're overly surprised by how this nearly made it to the top five? A sprawling double album filled with uncommon optimism next to heartfelt melancholia crafted with E's usual care and attention

5 MAXIMO PARK - A Certain Trigger
The album that pulled them right out of the suited post-punk pack, filled with curious charisma, an abundance of hooks and a kinetic energy of their own. Works as a straight up sequenced album, too

4 ART BRUT - Bang Bang Rock And Roll
Eddie Argos is the Noughties Jarvis the style mags will surely soon claim he is, with a wry sense of humour, an awareness of pop culture that extends to his band's amorphic indie sound and a well slipped sexual mask. Top of the pops, indeed

3 BLOC PARTY - Silent Alarm
The problem with formulating an art-rock backlash is that its main protagonists tend to ruin it by releasing albums like this one - angular, awash with propulsive energy, playing to its effects-laden strengths but perfectly aware of slower dynamics

Oregon next, it's rumoured. It'll be going some to match this eclectic mix of personal and spiritual appropriation, lush and usually self-recorded musicianship, production inventiveness and exceptional songcraft filled with senses of place and character

1 ARCADE FIRE - Funeral
Our personal number one too, but it ran away from the rest regardless and stayed a mile clear throughout. Bringing light from the personal depths several of the band found themselves in, they drove themselves to create a virtually unique sound that references touchstones while pulling away from them, totally committed in emotional lyricism and musical landscaping. Just think - they've now got to work out how to follow it

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Every beginning has an end

A new year is supposed to be a time for change, and so it is that as loose STN associate Chris Brown begins The Hit Parade, digging into old UK charts and pulling out overlooked tracks therein, so New York London Paris Munich finishes up. We're fairly sure Tom Ewing and co's work throughout Freaky Trigger was some of the first pop culture writing of sustained quality we ever saw on the Net and has inspired quite a few, and fortunately it seems his own chart excursion Popular will continue.

So this is the new year

Of course, making predictions about what lies ahead in the year is a game for fools, as there'll be plenty of developments that we just won't be able to see coming from this distance. What we can do, though, is list eight indicators we'll be watching and waiting for in expectation of being able to look back at the end of the year and sigh about:

Jarvis Cocker's solo album
Well, it's been too long. In fact, it's just gone three years since Pulp were officially put on ice, since when Jarvis has somehow combined moving to France to settle down and gadding about town under the name Darren Spooner in Relaxed Muscle, perhaps wisely putting them aside once everyone realised it was him in a skeleton suit and facepaint. More recently he wrote songs for Nancy Sinatra's last album and fronted the house band in Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire with three new songs of variable quality, as you might expect being written to order for such a tough gig. Cocker's solo intentions are as yet unconfirmed but he played at an open mike night at a small LA club in October with film composer and erstwhile Gary Jules sidekick Michael Andrews and Beck/REM drummer Joey Waronker, apparently with a song called Cunts Are Still Running The World.

Cat Power is on the Radio 2 B-list
Look! It's only for a limited edition 7" too, after Ken Bruce of all people made it his record of the week, and one that's downloadable for free from Matador's website too. The album The Greatest, released on January 23rd, finds her in perhaps the best voice of her career - think the milky soft tones she applied in her Handsome Boy Modelling School cameo - handling love, loss and the usual darker matters, backed by smoky Memphis soul. Of course, this sense of publicity achievement will end after 4th March when she plays at the London Barbican with the nation's unforgiving broadsheet review pack in attendance but it's, frankly, nigh-on astonishing while it lasts.

The Black Box Recorder diaspora
Not that anyone who heard their last album - come on, there must be three or four of you - would have expected anything less but Sarah Nixey has gone all Alison Goldfrapp mid-nightmare, or alternately Sophie Ellis-Bextor soaking in cyanide, for her imminent solo releases. The fact she's actually properly singing is enough to take most aback, but the synth-pop stylings could take her deep into radio's heart much as BBR's The Facts Of Life did. Meanwhile Luke Haines' third solo album, due in April, bears the very Hainesish title Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop, and advance notice from his occasional solo shows reveal it's pretty much creepy misanthropy business as usual. John Moore's album is still available, and he's apparently writing a novel.

Pop films that don't feature David Bowie
It seems at times they started work on it round about their formation, but the Flaming Lips' Christmas On Mars is tentatively scheduled for next holidays. Wayne Coyne, breaking off from preparing April 3rd's release of At War With The Mystics (and they're playing the Albert Hall to support it), describes it as "maybe Eraserhead or Dead Man crossed with some kind of fantasy and space aspects, like The Wizard of Oz and maybe 2001: A Space Odyssey, except done without real actors or money, and set at Christmas-time." With real actors and money, and set at some indeterminate point of the year comes the Outkast musical movie currently set for 10th March release in America entitled Idlewild - no, no music press jokes to be had there - set in a Prohibition speakeasy wherein the two performers (oh, guess) contend with gangsters and the like.

The Young Knives finally release an album
We're sure they appeared in a Later spoof for much forgotten BBC Choice series The RDA in 2001, that's how long Oxford via Ashby de la Zouch's own have been in gestation. The wind has finally swung towards their skewed new wave, though, complete arseing up of their last and potential breakthrough single's distribution notwithstanding, and even if it's only as those funny men who wear tweed suits some sort of wider attention seems likely. Single on the ever evolving Transgressive Records in February, Andy Gill-produced album in summer, we'd imagine.

The North American renaissance
From the top: Broken Social Scene's decision to not limit one idea to one song when thirty will do fine has led to some positive, if slightly stunned, reviews - it crosses the pond in February. TV On The Radio's 2004 debut Desperate Youth Bloodthirsty Babes was an astounding work, and their follow-up is likely to sound more band-based, David Sitek warning us to expect a sound with "full production, personal, anthemic, and worthy of makeout sessions with the sky". Yeah. Mission Of Burma's second album after reunion is expected in early summer, one more album of the Shins' idea of power-pop should give them the long-awaited break, The Walkmen have the shimmering cult following of Bows And Arrows to build on, there's new Yeah Yeah Yeahs in March...

The Victorian English Gentlemens Club
A well kept Cardiff three-piece, one male singer-guitarist who looks disconcertingly like a young Boris Johnson, two women on bass and drums who don't. They sound like Wire being attacked by the Deal twins while flirting with the Magic Band, their first single The Tales Of Hermit Mark received the quality assurance mark a 7" on Fantastic Plastic usually delivers, and new single Amateur Man is imminent.

McLusky and Jarcrew have amalgamated
News that's unlikely to get JK & Joel excited, true, but those of us who appreciate a bit of scuzz are excited. A bit of backstory: McLusky made three spectacular albums of grotty guitars, overdriven bass and bizarre, caustic lyricism, while Ammanford's finest made it to a single collection of Fugazi-meets-Fall hyperactivity before disappearing. Now leader Andy Falkous and the drummer from the former, as well as overseeing an imminent three-CD (now come on...) compilation of McLusky's life works, have formed a new as yet unnamed band with, we think, three ex-Jarcrew including frontman Kelson, which Falkous describes as "bluesier, but not in the way you'd expect", and gigging is allegedly imminent. Jon from McLusky is now in Shooting At Unarmed Men, who released a typically splenetic nine track EP a couple of months ago and celebrated by, um, losing a member.