Saturday, February 09, 2008

Best of 2007

Alright, first of all apologies for posting an end-of-year list in early February - one of the major changes for 2008 chez moi is no more internet in the flat so it's been a trifle complicated to post new articles up here (not that this has stopped me from writing, I compiled the following list right after New Year but in typical style did not stick to my resolutions and post it straight away). So sorry for being such a slackarse and I hope you enjoy it.

xxx John

Best of 2007

The View – Hats off to the buskers

My favourite record of the year, hands down. First saw these guys on the TV footage of their Glastonbury appearance and they blew me away – went out and bought the album straight away and was not disappointed when I heard the recorded version. Great pop tunes, cheeky Scottish wit and the kind of relentless run of singles I haven’t heard since the first Supergrass record – it came out back in January and had consequently faded from the spotlight by the time the end of year polls came round, but for me this is easily the best album of 2007. Bonus points for having the first ever top three single containing the word ‘cunt’ in the shape of ‘Same Jeans’ (check out the second chorus !).

Underworld – Oblivion with bells
Dropkick Murphys – The meanest of times

If your favourite bands have already notched up several faultless albums over the course of their career, why hesitate in picking up their latest release when it comes out ? Both Underworld and Dropkick Murphys have laid down what to my mind are some of the greatest ever records in their chosen genre, and neither have released a weak album so it goes without saying that I bagged both of these as soon as they hit the shelves. What’s more, they’re both absolutely amazing live so the chance to check them out when they tour these albums is one I shan’t be missing either.

MIA – Kala
Klaxons – Myths of the near future
New Young Pony Club – Fantastic Playroom

It’s easy to be cynical about all this fluo new rave business but you can’t deny that there are some decent tunes in there beneath all the scenester bullshit. Both MIA and Klaxons have been the subject of considerate music biz adoration over the last twelve months – I won’t go into whether or not I think they’re the future of music or not, let’s just say that their records are fucking cool (I particularly like Klaxons’ revamp of rave classic ‘The Bouncer’, even though it isn’t included on their album). NYPC are more of a standard electropop affair, but their music is pretty ace and their live show supporting Happy Mondays a couple of months back gave me and my friends a good oppurtunity to discuss which of the three female band members we would like to shag the most. All three at the same time would be my personal preference, not wanting to upset anyone.

Bloc Party – A weekend in the city
Arctic Monkeys – Favourite worst nightmare

The wave of angular guitar bands that came out of Britain in 2004-05 are now at the point where they can no longer ride the slipstream of hype that took them to the top a couple of years back - they actually have to prove they can write more than one decent album. The Monkeys laid down a faultless second record without even sounding like they were trying that hard, whereas Bloc Party made their sophmore album a more complex, personal listen. Like their first record, I was initially fairly cynical about the whole thing as they sounded like they’d sanded down their edge à la Razorlight to hit more radio playlists, but one listen to ‘A weekend in the city’ is enough to dispell those fears – the music is as immediate as before but the difference is that the lyrics are a lot more specific, which kinda adds a whole new dimension to them that I never noticed before. Good stuff guys.

Municipal Waste – The art of partying
Megadeth – United Abominations

Seeing as fluo is the new thing, it was inevitable that a bunch of Hoxton trendies would latch onto thrash metal and try to kickstart a revival, unaware that headbangers around the world had never stopped listening to it in the first place. Municipal Waste became the flagship act due to their big dumb fun approach and their records provided the soundtrack everyone was waiting for, but Dave Mustaine’s return with a proper line-up was equally devastating when the ‘deth unleashed ‘United Abominations’ this summer. The right-leaning political stance of the reformed Mustaine probably kept him out of the NME, but the tunes were just as solid as anything else out there – in any case, I’ve never noticed an artist’s political bias affect their ability to shred like a bastard and there were certainly no problems here.

Gogol Bordello – Super Taranta !

2007 was the year that New York socialites suddenly latched on to Balkan Gypsy punk, and Gogol Bordello were the band to reap the biggest dividends from the new trend, even getting to hang out with Madonna. This sort of stuff has been around for ages though, and Bordello are hardly the only ones playing it – Emir Kusturica has been on the case for years – but a bit of media exposure certainly didn’t do it any harm. I saw this guys at Hungary’s Sziget festival along with loads of other similar sounding bands, and as the soundtrack to some Central-European beer lairiness it was pretty much unbeatable.

Radiohead – In rainbows
Prince – Planet Earth

What was the coolest thing to happen in music in 2007 ? Major league artists releasing their material for ABSOLUTELY FUCK ALL, that’s what ! Actively silencing the lazy industry fatcats who’ve been complaining about downloading for the past few years, both Prince and Radiohead proved that making their music available for free wouldn’t kill off their careers in the way many had feared – indeed, they only become stronger : Prince sold out 21 consecutive dates in London and the ‘head still topped the album charts when ‘In Rainbows’ came out on CD. Whereas donuts like Lars Ulrich got themselves singled out as money-grabbing company boys when they kicked up a fuss about downloading, Prince and Radiohead have only gained credibility and respect for their decision to trust the customer – hopefully, 2008 will be the year that the industry catches up with them.

Worst of 2007

Mika – Grace Kelly

OK, the album wasn’t all that bad and I suppose I’d be being a little unfair to call out wee Mika for making one of the year’s worst records – that said, if I ever hear this excruciatingly irriting song once more, I am going to track down the guy and shove the fucking CD down his throat.

The Fray – How to save a life

I swear that music in general is getting weedier every fucking year that passes. Back at the beginning of the decade we had Chris Martin foisting himself and his drizzly brand of radio rock onto the world and ever since we’ve had to put up with increasingly bland, faceless radio knob cheese that sounds like the modern equivalent of Barry fucking Manilow ! Starsailor, Keane, James Blunt, James Morrisson and now these guys – if music gets any more neutered and flacid, the next batch of pussweed popstars to arrive are going to be physically bereft of any balls whatsoever !! Listen guys, any band featuring a bloke playing the fucking piano is always going to suck ass, whatever way you try to present it – this dreary spunkstain of a record sounds like a Christian rock band in one of their less dynamic moments !! Even Cliff Richard would probably call you guys out for being boring, you gormless gaggle of fucking geeks !!

Hoosiers – Worried about Ray
Hellogoodbye – Here in your arms
Scouting for girls – She’s so lovely

When did rock music turn so fucking congenial all of a sudden ?? I like rock stars to be relatively approachable, but first and foremost I expect them to fucking ROCK and these guys are a long way from fulfilling that particular requirement. When you ask bands who inspired them to pick up their instruments back in the day, most people come out with stuff like The Clash or Oasis or at least something with a bit of bite to it – with these guys, you half expect their moment of rock ‘n’ roll epiphany to have occured whilst watching Let Loose mime ‘Crazy for you’ on Saturday morning telly ! Where’s the fucking edge ?? I recommend dropping all of these bands down the front at a Gallows concert and seeing how long it takes them to run screaming back to their bedrooms and their Lighting Seeds records !

Linkin Park – Minutes to midnight

Who, I repeat WHO still gives a flying fuck about Linky Pinky Park these days ??? This sort of petulant teenage squeaking over a bunch of two-note riffs and freeze-dried turntable samples might have been in vogue about seven years ago, but I would have imagined that most of the original fans had grown out of slamming their bedroom doors to this wanky tantrum-metal by now ! But no, apparently they’re still selling out arenas and topping the album charts !! How can these tossers still take themselves seriously after building a career on the sonic equivalent of throwing their toys out of the pram when they’re 30-something millionnaire rockstars who should be busy worrying about their mortgages and going fucking bald !!!

Concert for Diana/Live Earth

A head-to-head tie in the race for this year’s most nauseatingly overwrought attempt to right the world’s wrongs by staging an enormous rock concert with all the artistic relevance of the Royal Variety performance – as if Elton John hadn’t already reminded us that rock ‘n’ roll dedications to Diana are the death of credibility, we now get an endless procession of musicians indulging in the sort of Ben Elton-style toadying that should get you kicked out of the serious artist club for all eternity. And as for Al cunting Gore and his little eco-shindig, I’ve got about as much time for his environment speeches as I have for the Jehovah’s witnesses that come banging on my door on Sunday morning when I’m hideously hungover ! You help your frigid bitch of a wife to actively censor mainstream music for most of the 80s and then you expect a new generation of music fans to take you seriously just because you got Genesis back together ??? Al, I never thought there would be a contender for the title of most hollow-voiced, pretentious bloated monstrosity involved in the music business but you’ve made me think again ! Bono, you’re off the hook for now !

Spice Girls – Headlines (Friendship never ends)

So, Take That reform minus their most punchable member and defy expectations by raking it in with a tour and subsequent new album….Record industry fatcats were soon rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of new profits off the back of the Spice Girls’ back catalogue, so a reunion was pushed through without further ado along with a Greatest Hits compilation, assorted TV specials and no small amount of media hoo-ha. OK, the concert tickets might have sold impressively (although I reckon that was just because people had bets on which one of girls would break a high-heel first and ended up falling off the stage with her tits hanging out of her dress) but as for the comeback single… week at number eleven. ONE WEEK AT NUMBER FUCKING ELEVEN !!! You call that a comeback ??? After the cynical marketing campaign behind your original period in the charts gave you nine number ones and a ‘flop’ number two, the best you can manage is number eleven ??? Even Chico would be fucking disappointed with that !!! And your Greatest Hits album stiffed too, not surprisingly seeing as most of the music on it is total fucking toss !!

Tokio Hotel – Scream/Room 483
Avril Lavigne – Girlfriend

Look, for the last time, I keep telling you kids that guitars are for grown-ups, not punkoid ankle-biters who’ve eaten too much fucking chocolate ! If I wanted to listen to squeeky little chipmunks playing crappy punk-pop about refusing to do their homework, I’d go babysit my neighbour’s kids and listen to them trying to learn the latest Fall Out Boy single on guitar – at least I’d get paid for putting myself through all that torment ! I’ll look the other way for Tokio Hotel seeing as they’re all about 12, but as for Avril Lavigne, you’re a fucking married woman playing mall-punk songs about the trials of being a teenager ! Grow up and get a proper job ! Haven’t you got some curtains to put up or something ?

Britney Spears – Gimme more
Amy Winehouse – Back to black

If one thing’s become apparent in celebrity culture, it’s that we’re more eager than ever to watch stars fall flat on their arses in public so that we can all have a jolly good laugh at them. Nothing wrong with that at heart, but reading some of the media backlash against these two after they hit the skids, you’d think the press had some sort of personal vendetta that had been brewing for years ! It’s all starting to get a little bit uncomfortable – should, heaven forbid, one of them finally confirm our worst fears and pop their clogs in some celebrity drug orgy, you half expect the staff of Heat to be found dancing on their fucking grave ! OK, I can sort of understand why you might want to have a crack at an arrogant stage-school brat like Winehouse (especially after she warned her own audience what would happen ‘when my husband gets out of incarceration’ when they booed her at a crap gig – what do you think this is, Menace 2 Society ???), but the fact is that most of the snide, poisonous journalists writing about her are probably leading the same sort of lifestyle themselves. If we rounded up every spoilt media bitch in London who spends most of her free time doing designer drugs, attacking her boyfriend and falling out of taxis, most of the celebrity magazines would close down in a week ! And at least Winehouse can carry a tune – that’s more than you can say for Britney, who managed to top even her most embarassing moments this year by shaving her head, driving her SUV around Hollywood completely shifaced and to top it all, showcasing her comeback single at the MTV awards looking like she’d just come out of a 36-hour drug binge with Happy Mondays’ road crew !! That dance routine of yours had all the sex appeal of a 13 year-old Ukrainian prostitute doing an anorexic lapdance for some sweaty old accountant in a sticky-floored porn parlour ! Please, take whatever dignity you still have and disappear from the spotlight forever before it’s too late – if there’s a new low you haven’t reached yet, it’s only a matter of time and you can bet the paparazzi will be there waiting for you !

R. Kelly & Usher – Same girl

Remember a few years back when all the mainstream rock periodicals suddenly got all guilty about only having records by white guitar bands in their collection and developed a love for R’n’B almost overnight ? They might have uncovered a couple of decent albums from Missy Elliot and NERD in the process, but overall you can’t deny that R’n’B as a genre is pretty fucking tired these days and nowhere more so than in this risible duet between two of the scene’s most established crooners. Both of these guys have laid down some decent tunes in their time but we’re talking a while back (in R.Kelly’s case, almost a fucking decade) and it’s pretty obvious they’ve run out of ideas. As you can probably imagine, the two protagonists find themselves amourously linked with the same lady and proceed to bear their souls over some identikit MTV production – the results sound like the love theme from some cheesy 50s musical with a few synths thrown in for good measure, and conjures up about as much genuine romance as a plate of cold spunk ! Enough of all this fucking barrel-scraping guys ! You’ve been hammering the whole boy-girl bump ‘n’ grind bullshit for about fifteen years already – get some new ideas !! Hey R, how about writing a track about you boffing 14 year old schoolgirls, that’d be pretty entertaining !!

Annie Lennox – Songs of mass destruction

Oh how very politically scathing !!! ‘Songs of mass destruction’ eh ?? Not only is that title almost impossibly pretentious, it’s also about four years out of date !! Pretty much everyone from Green Day to Faithless has hijacked the whole ‘mass destruction’ metaphor and milked it for all it’s worth, but now for some reason you still think the general public needs to hear the musing of a 45 year old industry hag on the state of global politics ??? I bet a fucking four year old could come up with something more profound than this hopelessly self-aware pile of rhinocerous diarrhoea !! You think you’re going to lecture us all on politics after you spent most of the 80s soundtracking yuppie coke orgies and Jeremy Clarkson drivetime rock radio ?? What’s next, a world tour on your carbon-guzzling private jet to remind us all of the dangers of global warming ??? Fuck off back to the 80s wilderness along with Simple Minds, Midnight Oil and all the other bloated music casualties who still think they’re relevant in 2007 ! The only thing destined for mass destruction is gonna be the enormous reserve stocks of this album that HMV has to dump in a landfill when nobody buys the fucking thing !!

Just Jack – Stars in their eyes
Kate Nash – Foundations
Jamie T – Calm down dearest

Not bad tunes if the truth be told, but it’s kind of hard to take all these London stage school brats seriously when they lay on the Cockney minicab driver accents so bloody thick. Over the last year or so it’s become practically obligatory to develop some designer accent to get your music on the radio if you’re a young solo artist, but in most cases the kids in question are actually privately-educated snotlings from one of the nicer bits of the suburbs rather than Dickensian urchins rummaging through the fucking dustbins. I guess it’s just another reminder that Britain’s music scene is inextricably linked with the capital – let’s just imagine that this weren’t the case for a moment, and that the national music industry was based in Newcastle rather than London…..Would we be listening to droves of public schoolkids rapping in imitation Byker Grove vernacular ? I somehow doubt it. Look, there’s nothing wrong with being middle class and sounding it – Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s managed to forge a career out of home counties disco vocals, so why don’t you posh kids just drop the fucking chim-chimminy accents and sing in your real voices for once ?

Norah Jones – Not too late
Michael Bublé – Call me irresponsible
Katie Melua & Eva Cassidy – What a wonderful world

Another year, another gaggle of million-selling lounge jazz muppets clogging up the album charts – I’ve had a pop at this sort of stuff before, but it keeps selling by the truckload so I see no reason to avert my wrath elsewhere for the time being. Norah Jones is gacky Ally Macbeal soul for yuppie scumbags in plasma screen wine bars, Michael Bublé is neutered by-the-book 21st century Ratpack bullshit and as for Katie Melua, as if it weren’t enough having to deal with her insipid vanilla soul squawking on local radio every fucking day, she has to go and dig up Eva Cassidy for a beyond-the-grave duet available solely via that graveyard of musical creativity, the music section in fucking Tescos !!! What more proof do you need that this dreary wet fart of a record is the sonic equivalent of another pack of overpriced organic cress to be devoured by the vapid middle classes as they meander towards the fucking checkout ??? Listen Katie, placing your own soulless Blue Peter crooning next to the late great Eva just highlights what a piss-feeble talent show muppet you are in comparison – take your odious drivetime radio turd of a record and fuck off back to Children’s TV ! This sort of fuck-tedious dinner party chintz should be made illegal ! Anyone who comes round my flat for dinner expecting to hear shite like this is gonna be treated to Slayer on full whack and a plate of dismembered kittens for fucking starters !

Leon Jackson – When you believe

Simon Cowell, I am going to kill you.