Friday 20 February 2009

...only stone and steel accept my love

Earworms of the Week

> "Mellow Yellow" - Donovan

Apparently this is often thought to be about the practice of smoking dried banana skins in lieu of marijuana, but the song is actually about a vibrator. So now you know. I have to say that my opinion of Donovan is somewhat sullied by his appearance as "a Glastonbury legend" alongside Starsailor (of all people) at Glastonbury a few years back. They weren't great, but he was awful. This was released in 1966 and sounds a bit like the Beatles - probably not surprising when you consider that Macca himself sings the backing vocals here. Still, it is catchy, eh?

> "Papillon" - Airbourne Toxic Event

I understand that Airborne Toxic Event were the proud recipients of a review of 1.6 out of 10 from Pitchfork that was (obviously) somewhat less than complimentary

" album that's almost insulting in its unoriginality"?


The reviewer goes on to suggest that "lead singer Mikel Jollett can alternately sound like Paul Banks [Interpol], Win Butler [Arcade Fire], Conor Oberst [Bright Eyes], or Matt Berninger [The National], what ties the LP together is quite possibly the most unlikeable lyric book of the year, rife with empty dramatic signifiers, AA/BB simplicity, and casual misogyny." An album inspired by market research, apparently.

I disagree. The vocals sound to me like a mix of Banks / Berninger / Edith Bowman's fella from The Editors, but that's simply because of the depth of his baritone and not though any great desire to copy, I don't think. I've listened to the album through a couple of times now, and I simply can't find anything to get quite so offended about. I quite like it, actually.

> "To Lose My Life" / "From the Stars" - White Lies

...although speaking of singers with deep voices who possibly sound a bit like Interpol / Editors / The National / Airborne Toxic Event..... that brings me nicely to White Lies. I've said before that if one band could be said to represent my music taste, then that band could very well be Interpol: vaguely doomy guitar music played by skinny white blokes. Very much the same thing could also be said to apply to all the aforementioned bands, and can certainly be applied to White Lies. Actually, it's so entirely predictable that I would like bands like this that it might just as well have been written to appeal to my demographic by some marketeers.

*pause as I reassess my whole musical life*

Nah, I just like the way the guitars sound.

> "No Distance Left to Run" - Blur

This popped up in the music quiz on Monday night in the intros's one of those quizzes where they let the record play just a little bit too long (in the case of the Estelle record, long enough for us to hear the artist singing her own name). This one came on, and although I haven't listened to it in a long time, I found myself to be word perfect. It's a beautifully downbeat song charting the end of a relationship, but it's one of those songs that reminds us (and in the pre-Gorillaz, pre-Mali Music and pre-Monkey, "Country House", oom-paa-pa Blur era, God knows we needed to be reminded) that Damon Albarn really is quite fantastically talented. I love how bruised and tender he sounds in his vocal performance.

"I hope you're with someone who makes you
feel safe in your sleeping tonight..."

Not a cheerful song, for sure... but how many really good songs are?

> "I Wanna Be Adored" - The Stone Roses

Unbelievably, it's the 20th anniversary of the Stone Roses debut album. Where does the time go? In time-honoured tradition, the Guardian has chosen to celebrate this fact by running an article pointing out that weren't they just the most incredibly overrated band?

Hmm. I couldn't abide the Stone Roses for years, and at the time they were actually in the charts, I actively loathed the whole baggy scene and the ridiculous flares the their scally fans used to wear. In fact, I didn't hear how good an album it really was until several years later when I was just on my way to university. "Second Coming" had yet to be released to spoil everything, but I am one of those people who would put this album somewhere near the top of my "best albums ever" lists. Not at the very top, for sure, but in the top 20. I had the good fortune to see them live, and even though I was struggling with glandular fever, they came onto the stage and played "I Wanna Be Adored", "She Bangs The Drums", "Waterfall" and "10 Storey Love Song" all in a row and they absolutely blew my socks off. Best start to a gig ever. I've seen Ian Brown several times since, always in support of someone else, and without fail he has been awful. We all know that he couldn't carry a tune in a bucket, but his sour and contemptuous attitude to the audience has been a real object lesson in how to piss off people who actually quite like you. A real high/low point was when he mistook a Manx flag in the crowd at Glastonbury for a George Cross and tried to burn it as some kind of demonstration against nationalism.... he couldn't get it to light and had to give up. Idiot. Shame really, as he seems like a nice enough guy in interviews, and he is famous for giving loads of his time and money to the needy in Manchester too. Terribly vocalist, but occasionally underrated lyricist too. I don't know if monkeys were dolphins exactly, but the lyric here: "I don't need to sell my soul, he's already in me" is a brilliant line, isn't it? And F.E.A.R. is great too.

> "Mah Nà Mah Nà"

If I may quote wikipedia:

"'Mah Nà Mah Nà' debuted as part of Umiliani's soundtrack for the Italian mondo film Svezia, inferno e paradiso (Sweden: Heaven and Hell) (1968), a pseudo-documentary about wild sexual activity and other behavior in Sweden. The song accompanied a scene in the film set in a sauna. The lead part was sung by Italian singer/composer Alessandro Alessandroni The song also appeared on the 1968 soundtrack album released for the film."

Obviously. Where else would you have heard it? [the Umiliani version is here]

> "Mykonos" - Fleet Foxes

The song requested by an idiot in the crowd at the Foxes gig in Nottingham at the tail end of last year, and as featured on the band's "Sun Giant EP".

As you might expect, it's beautiful, other-worldly, and ever so slightly sinister.

> "Alison" - Elvis Costello

My favourite ever Elvis Costello song and another downbeat song about disappointment and regret to add to my list.

> "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris" - Morrissey

Morrissey is, without doubt, the artist who has made the single biggest impact upon my musical life. I discovered him late, through The Smiths, but adore much of his solo work. I'm not as obsessed by him as I used to be (there was a time in the early 1990s where he was absolutely *everything* to me), but he's still one of my favourite artists. I've always been a big fan of intelligent lyrics and artists who have something to say, and there can surely be no question that Morrissey pretty much stands head and shoulders above everyone else in this respect. Sad to say, I have learnt to approach his more recent output with caution - certainly since I rushed out to buy "Maladjusted", anyway. "You Are the Quarry" was a welcome return from the wilderness, but "Ringleader of the Tormentors", in spite of the rave reviews that were typically coming one album too late, left me cold. I approached "Years of Refusal" with some trepidation, fearing that Morrissey had gone back off the boil, only to be pleasantly surprised. He's still very much an artist living and working within his comfort zone, and his insistence on continuing to surround himself with a band of lumpen pub rockers is really frustrating, but he remains peerless in his ability to work a lyric and to bear a grudge. It's not all good, sure, but here's some really good stuff on here. Best of all is this, his last single. It's sumptuous, it's shimmering, it's lyrical, it's wistful and - perhaps most importantly of all - it doesn't outstay its welcome. I wish that he would work with someone who could perhaps hold a candle to Johnny Marr, but notwithstanding that, this is probably as good as it gets, and it's been on repeat all week. God bless him, he's a treasure and we absolutely will miss him when he's gone.

Or is it about Paris Hilton?


Next week, with any luck, our Guest Editor will be Mik.... I'm hoping for some Infectious Grooves, but I fear his music taste may have changed since 1990.....

1 comment:

  1. Aah. Just about to give Airborne Toxic Eventa try myself. The single is growing on me with each listen.

    White Lies....yes please! Nothing original perhaps, but it just all clicks together nicely.

    Fleet Foxes....?I really can't get into them. I've tried, oh how I've tried. Everybody else is raving about them and the album received huge amounts of praise, appearing in many a top 10 list. But I'm just not 'getting' it. And I feel like I'm missing out.