Thursday, 24 April 2008

The Crap These Kids Listen To Today...

Sometimes I think that if I went back to my seven-year-old self in 1995 and played him some of the tracks I listen to these days I wouldn't have believed me. I also probably wouldn't have hung around long enough to listen to the tracks, those being the days of Stranger Danger and all that crap. Whatever happened to always relying on the kindness of strangers?

Then I think forward to the summer of 1997, when a nine-year old me bought his first single - Will Smith's fantastic 'Men In Black', from the film of the same name. If I played him a track or two of Santogold, or maybe some M.I.A. - even a little bit of Neon Neon, the young me would have ran straight back into Wimbourne Minster's little music store to get his money back. "No way am I growing up into that guy!" I would say to my parents later, "It's back to Billy Joel for me!" As it happens, I still rank Billy Joel as the greatest singer-songwriter ever to grace 20th Century music - but the point is this:

As a white, middle-class suburban kid from a village in Sussex, it never seemed possible that I would listen to some of the bands I listen to today. Even as a young teenager, when I learnt more about the world, I still wouldn't have seen the day where I could be listening to the music I listen to right now and not be a chav, or some equally blasphemous sportsgear-wearing idiot. Somehow going from Stereophonics decidedly middle-of-the-road Just Enough Education To Perform to getting bored of music in clubs because I've been listening to it for three months already didn't seem viable.

I'm glad it became viable at some point though. I have no idea when. But I like it this way - for the first time this year my Summer Mix will be split into two parts - the laid back and lazy indie that was once scattered evenly across half a cd, and the upbeat ecstacy-driven (that's the state of mind, not the drug) second cd - something for the real summer. Something I can be proud of, and my seven-year-old self can wet himself over. Hell yeah.

mp3: 'Paper Planes' by M.I.A.
mp3: 'You'll Find A Way (Switch and Sinden Remix)' by Santogold

Friday, 18 April 2008

An alternative to loving Brendan Benson...

I've missed Brendan Benson over the last few years. Every now and again I find an artist I have not come across before, like I did with Benson just prior to the release of his third album in 2004, and no sooner than I find them do they stop making music. It's terribly frustrating, and the only real relief is knowing that it's a rare occurrence. For a few months back in the summer of '04, I referred to Benson's single 'Metarie', from sophmore album 'Lapalco' as one of my top five songs of all-time. Whilst the track has now dropped to a still respectable top ten position, more than ever am I appreciating his work with each listen.

And so, it would seem, is everyone else. It is, after all, no secret the Benson co-fronts The Raconteurs with old chum Jack White. The only secret these days would seem to be that Benson had a fantastic collection of songs prior to his later band efforts. As it happens, The Raconteurs newest album, which I finally bought a few days ago, is as fantastic as much of Benson's work. The sound is far more raw than albums like Lapalco and the pure-production of The Alternative To Love, but has a cleaner, more focused edge than that of The Raconteurs' debut, Broken Boy Soldiers. I suppose, since the demo Benson released last year came to nothing, that for now The Raconteurs will do.

mp3: 'Feel Like Taking You Home (Demo)' - Brendan Benson
mp3: 'Many Shades of Black' - The Raconteurs

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

As we jam, the rhythm gets stronger...

Last night I had, once again, the pleasure of seeing Alphabeat live. We folk up here in Nottingham have now been told regularly by the band about how we are the best audience in the UK. And whilst, normally, it would be hard to be cynical about such things, after last night's performance, and the audience's response, it may well be the truth.

The crowd were ecstatic from the first support act - the miraculous FrankMusik (above), pogoing, arms in the air, all bright young things. It was like a cast party for Skins, only with far better music. Frankmusik were, as I suggested, fantastic, and were it not for Har Mar Superstar's set the week before, they would rank as the best support act performance I have seen.

Next up was the equally great Leon Jean-Marie, filling the stage with black musicians of various proportions, but each with a substantial amount of funkiness. Apparently playing in the genre of 'urgent future-funk' or something, he kept the already eager crowd on the verge of aurgasm so that by the time Alphabeat turned up, they were ready to explode.

And that they did - the band started with Fantastic 6, but led into it with a four, maybe five, minute intro that verged a little bit on the Justice side of sounds. By the time the song itself started, it felt like the collective pent up excitement of every kid who has ever been to Disneyland exploding both onstage and off. The following ten songs or so were almost a blur - one hit single opportunity after the next until the last song - the one I knew had been coming all along (having requested it to lead singer Stine earlier). The band called back on both support acts for what was, without a doubt, the best live cover I've witnessed. Daft Punk's 'Digital Love', done with four vocalists and infinite band members, summed up what is right with the music of these three bands - in Alphabeat's 'Fascination' the band sing that 'passion is our passion', and it really, truly, is. Enjoy a studio version of the cover - still fantastic, though certainly lacking the live excitement that made it so pure last night.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Back again, naturally

I'm back again. How lovely of me. Had a little Easter holiday, that in reality consisted of far more work than if I was at university. Oh well. I had plenty of treats awaiting me on my return, including this gem. I'll be posting plenty over the next few days, a little bit on Stars And Sons, reviews of the Sia, Elbow and Alphabeat gigs I've been to in the last week and a half, and reviews of 27 Dresses and whichever other films I see this week - Drillbit Taylor and Flashbacks of a Fool are the best bets.

Until then, enjoy a country hit from Snoop Dogg - one of my top 25 things about the Starsky and Hutch remake. Or something. Anyway, I can't hold anything against a man who namedrops the Man In Black as a 'true American gangsta'.

mp3: 'My Medicine' by Snoop Dogg