Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Catch a Fire

And so to the MEN Arena in Manchester at the weekend, to catch the Arcade Fire. I'd seen them at Glastonbury this year, where they were very, very, good - but you did feel the open air dissipated the intensity somewhat. The MEN is hardly what you'd call intimate, but you felt the enclosed space would suit the 10-piece ensemble better.

And so it proved. Starting with the double whammy of Black Mirror and Keep the Car Running, they delivered a set of measured passion for an hour and a half, taking in all the highlights of their two albums and also finding room for a cover of The Smiths' 'Still Ill', played on stage for the first time, recognising their (local) influence on Win Butler and in oblique reference to his poor health this year.

With so many people on stage, swapping instruments and roles every song, and a series of somewhat unsettling projections, it was difficult to know where to look, although William Butler was always a good bet.

The Arcade Fire seemed to come from nowhere, delivering a noise unlike any other, making a refreshing change from the indie boy-by-numbers currently everywhere. They should be cherished and loved by all.

Trick or Treat, Trick or Treat, the Bitter and the Sweet...

So tonight, parents up and down the country, are allowing their kids to don disguises, knock on strangers' front doors and demand goods with menaces.

I was brought up in a happier, safer time, when Hallow'een was celebrated by playing 'duck apple' and 'bob apple' with my little friends, in the warmth and comfort of my own home, watched by doting parents ready with a tissue when the water ran up my nose.

And in a few day's time, the little darlings will be playing with fire and explosives, and burning effigies of Catholic martyrs as well.

The country is rapidly going to the dogs.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Not posted for a while, but...

..can I just point you in the direction of this blog, and this particular post...

Bit of a 'me too', although my mum rather than my dad probably.

Davy H - you bring a tear to my eye. But a good and happy one. Bless you man.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Libertines - the verdict!

Well, as promised, I had a good old listen to them over the past couple of days, and here are a few thoughts...

1) They're actually pretty good, aren't they? There are a couple of songs in there that do have the stamp of genius - Time for Heroes, Can't Stand Me Now, Likely Lads etc.

2) That said, quality control isn't all it could be and some of the more 'charming' tracks are actually a bit weak, really.

3) They came along at the perfect time, at the arse-end of Britpop - no real competition for them as their generation's 'spokespeople' - only The Strokes in the States offering anything other than retrodden Beatles/Kinks licks or nu-metal posturing from boys short on trouser and long on tattoo.

4) They kick-started a new wave of white-boy indie rock which is sometimes a good thing (Arctics, Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand) and sometimes not so good (Razorlight).

5) There is always a need for 'bad boys' in rock to keep it slightly edgy, and Doherty played (and plays) that role to perfection.

So where does this leave them in the overall scheme of things? I think they were so lucky in their timing - they really did have the field to themselves. Had they some real competition at the time, they might not have been so lucky.

From my generation, the band they remind me of most is The Only Ones - a touch of heroin chic coupled with a clutch of really good songs, burning out after two or three album's worth of material. Ironically, the two kids of Only Ones lead man Peter Perrett played with Doherty in an early incarnation of Babyshambles.

The Only Ones came through with a whole host of other bands at the back end of the '70's and remained a cult band throughout their career. With no competition, they could have been massive. Which might not have been too good for Perrett's health, admittedly.

So overall conclusion? Good band. But not as good as The Only Ones!

One of my pet hates...

Who was it who decided that, on live albums, any spoken introductions to tracks should be tacked onto the end of the previous songs rather than at the beginning of the songs they are meant to introduce? When did this start? I don't recall it ever being the case on vinyl, but on CD/digital tracks it seems to be ubiquitous.

I know in the overall scheme of things it's a tiny thing to get upset about, but it pisses me off every time. If I'm listening to 'A Quick One' by the Who, I want to hear Townshend's little story before the song actually starts. I don't want to hear it after listening to 'Substitute'. This is especially annoying when you're listening on 'Shuffle' mode - after a long introduction from Bruce or Jimi or whoever, your iPod then sweeps you off to something completely different.

I can only assume it's a radio/DJ thing, so that songs can be easily cued up at the start of the music, but I don't care. I want introductions where they belong - introducing things!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A thing of rare beauty

Ok, so it's got less memory than a forgetful goldfish, and it's nothing more than a crippled iPhone - but I happened to be in the Apple store yesterday and there are no two ways about is absolutely gorgeous.

Gorgeous in a 'I know there are a million reasons why I shouldn't buy this (and I won't) but I really, really want one, just to hold and look at and feel happy about' kind of way. Please, please let them find a way of cramming 160 gig into one of these things - and quickly!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Likely Lads?

Have to say The Libertines completely passed me by at the time (stopped reading the NME a long time ago you see), only really became aware of them after the split, when "peteandkate" became this gross media monster - and so basically assumed the worst - talentless druggie makes reputation via the tabloids, not through the music.

But is that fair? The esteem with which The Libertines are held by many, many people of a certain age does make me think I must have missed something - are they truly the voice of 'their' generation, following in the footsteps of Cobain, Curtis, Strummer, Lennon, Dylan and Presley - or is it a triumph of substance(s) over form - and the lack of a better alternative? And what's Barat's role in all this - is his contribution is in danger of being completely overshadowed by the Doherty media circus?

I'm going to have a serious listen - is there something I've missed or has it all been done before, with more passion and belief and with better drugs? Find out here in a few days' time.


...not my phrase, but one of Alun Parry's, a Liverpool singer/songwriter who sells his songs via his website for whatever customers want to pay - or whatever they think it's worth. A very noble and trusting concept, and one which I hope is not abused by too many punters. Visit Alun at for some excellent tunes

Well bugger me, but Radiohead have only gone and done exactly the same thing - their new album is now available at for anything from a notional 45p up to £99.99, depending on the depth of your pockets and the extent of your conscience. Me? Well, sad stamp collecting trainspotter that I am, I signed up for the forty quid box set, with the original download (that I could have had for nowt), a vinyl double album (that I'll never play) and a second CD with some extra tracks on (that no doubt will be up on a dozen blogs within half an hour of release).

Ordinarily, I would have very few qualms about downloading a blog copy - I have poured (and continue to pour) enough funds into the legitimate music industry to balance out the odd 'evaluation' download - but in this instance, I would gladly put my hand in my pocket to support the principle. Good on you chaps.

There'd better be guitars all over it though, that's all I'm saying.