Monday, 9 September 2013
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Thanks for reading. Rock on.
Matthew M Taylor, September 2013.
Wednesday, 19 December 2012
Words by MMT
It’s been about eighteen months since Mitchell released his ‘debut album proper’, “Tales From Albion”, and this EP sees his sound stripped back again to the one-voice-one-guitar dynamic we first knew him for.
But otherwise (on the surface at least) it’s business as usual: caustic left-wing agit-busker anthems stacked up against more apparently autobiographical lyrics – the mix of the Political and the Personal we’ve always enjoyed from his work. “Letter From David Cameron” could almost be the total blueprint for the archetypal Mitchell Taylor song, it’s a jaunty acoustic attack on our current PM. “Do you believe in the Welfare State? Well I’m sorry, I just sold that to my mate”.
Scratch a little deeper though and you’ll see he’s continuing to develop and evolve, which is great to hear. The Political songs show less of the generic anti-Right sentiment and a greater sense of the specifics: opener “War Is Business” references both Blackwater and Kony 2012, and encouraged me to go away and look them up so I'd know what they are too.
I think my favourite track is the titular “Blood Of St.George”, addressing the flawed logic of a pride in ‘Nationalism’ based on a total ignorance of actual history – a point I’ve often made myself myself about the B.N.P. We’re all “mongrel-blooded”, after all.
This EP also contains some of his best lyrics yet: I particularly enjoyed “when you’re young you get told to be the brightest star in the cosmos / more than fucking likely to be working the stock room in Argos”, from the sour “Wasted Youth/Life”. And “Dirty Love” finds his voice stretched further than I’ve heard it before, all the way up into a falsetto. So this IS the same, but it’s also different. Which is always one of the keys for me to digging an artist.
Having said that, the final track “Lord Leveson” is a total surprise – an unaccompanied performance poem which would fit in just fine at any poetry slam I’ve attended over the years.
Mitchell continues to go from strength to strength – and it’s clear that he’s broadened his horizons wider than Milton Keynes in the last couple of years. I think it’ll be interesting to see what his next few moves will be.
Sunday, 5 August 2012
Monday, 13 February 2012
You know when – very rarely I suppose – you’re at a gig and all the pieces fit? Several crucial factors come together in a way unlooked for and just interlock beautifully, jigsaw-perfect? Well, that happened to me not once but twice last week. What are the odds on that? I’m almost scared to go to any more gigs in the coming months for fear I’ve jinxed them.
I guess it helps that the two headline acts at these two gigs, on consecutive nights right here in MK, are two of the best local (or semi-local) bands I’ve heard in all my years swerving in and out of the scene – but still, both of them totally lived up to my fanboy expectations!
Thursday night at the MK Gallery Project Space, and Felix are hypnotising an audience with their spellbinding sound as the snow falls gently but persistently in the square outside. This is the first time I’ve been to any event in the Project Space, over the way from the main MKG, and it’s a fittingly arty setting for the three-piece: essentially a small gallery-stroke-warehouse space with white walls and cables strewn across the floor. Phil and I arrived early enough to hot-foot it to the small sofas in one corner, as befits men of our advancing years.
Though frontlady Lucinda hails from Milton Keynes this is actually the first time I’ve seen Felix in the flesh – long-term readers will remember my gushing about their debut album a couple of years back, they’ve already long since made it big enough to not need to be playing here very often! In fact this gig is part of a brief UK leg of a tour which moves on to Canada and the US as they prepare to release their second album in the Spring. Which is brilliant news! I hope they get bigger and bigger.
Their support comes from a chap from Derby trading under the name Emphemetry – one man, one electric guitar and any number of pedals – slowly building up loops of himself which grow into things of intense fascination. We’re starting to see this done more and more around the local open mic scene, but I’ve never seen it done this well before.
The silence which builds during his set is cemented during Felix’s. The audience who have braved the mildly wintry conditions are rapt, not daring even to whisper as we’re treated to a whole batch of new tunes every bit as fascinating and beautiful as their previous work. The three members (piano / guitar / drums) are so tightly in sync with each other it might be telepathy. Near the end, Lucinda and the drummer both bring out matching ‘xylaphone-shaker things’ (this may not be the technical term...) and chime out aching harmonies beat-perfect.
Felix don’t sound quite like any other band I know, and that’s why I love them. There’s layers and angles and hidden corners to them, and that’s reason enough to dig any band. Brian assures us that the cover they play is Hendrix. Man. I am so glad I didn’t miss this!
And then, 26 hours later, I am stood upstairs at MADCAP with a big sappy grin on my face as Final Clearance rock their way through “Monkey Kettle Track Of The Year 2011” ‘Synth Song’. An appreciative audience of whipper-snappers, the parents of whipper-snappers, and assorted bredrin from the Monkey Kettle Massif whoop and screech their approval. And though this may be the last Dudebox Chronicles gig (at this venue leastways) it feels like an extremely satisfying end chapter to me.
The two younger bands in support are both very impressive too, ‘belying their tender ages’ [this is the sort of cliché rock journalists often write, I’m a bit ashamed to stoop to it here to be honest]. The Individuals are very exciting – a singer with an impressively full voice, solid support from the instrumentalists, and a livewire drummer who’s so hyperactive he drums standing up half the time! Good stuff – plus a nice mix of covers and originals. They had me at “Livin’ On A Prayer” but I also really enjoyed their deliciously bitter song about a recently departed band member. And they all jumped up in the air at the same time at one point – man, not enough bands are doing that these days!
The interestingly-spelled Amoania Lisa are a spiky three-piece whose frontman was wearing a very tall top hat! They may not have all jumped up in the air at the same time, but their tuneful grungy-punky sound was engaging nonetheless – and Phil and I both got very excited when they covered “Molly’s Lips”!
I know we probably go on about them a lot on here, but headliners Final Clearance get better every time I see them. Their ranks now replenished to a five-piece with the addition of new(ish) member Lewis, their sound is even more assured, and it’s a treat to see such a confident and mature – sometimes ‘mature’ can be used in a derogatory way with music reviews, I mean it here in a good way! – performance from them.
There’s even a few new songs on offer as well, which gets me excited about their 2012 – but it’s some of the old favourites which get the blood pumping hardest tonight. The rhythms, the violin cutting through, the tunes. Superb. Plus, we somehow managed to get an audience at a Dudebox gig! So now I can rest in peace, mission finally a-fucking-complished.
Thursday, 29 December 2011
Part Two: Jul - Dec
“Don’t Wanna Go Home”: JASON DERULO (2 weeks)
Goodness gracious me! Why am I only hearing this for the first time now? Bizarrely mashing up early 90s dance standard “Show Me Love” and Harry Belafonte’s “Day-O”? And coming out with 2011-R-n-B-by-numbers? Surely that can only be the work of some kind of twisted leftfield visionary genius? Well, that or an idiot unblessed with any imagination or self-awareness. “Jaason Deruuulo”!
“Louder”: DJ FRESH feat SIAN EVANS (1 week)
Summery and faceless rave-pop with attendant vidjo featuring roller-skating honeys. For what it’s worth, although this barely moves me musically it still succeeds in doing all the things that that LMFAO single fails to.
“Glad You Came”: THE WANTED (2 weeks)
Chart-topping Boy Bands are usually interchangeable no matter what year it is, and this bunch of testosterone-free reality-show rejects are no exception. Heavily seasoned with Ibiza synths to sound like they know what year it is – as if the Little Girls care!
“She Makes Me Wanna”: JLS feat DEV (1 week)
Pretty similar to the preceding Wanted track only very slightly better – I can’t believe these guys are already on their third album. Contains a ‘guest slot’ (i.e. eight lines in the bridge) from some lady called Dev who is apparently a pop star in the States, though that’s presumably in the same way JLS are pop stars here, i.e. 'not particularly'.
“Swagger Jagger”: CHER LLOYD (1 week)
Proving that it doesn’t matter whether you win X Factor or not, 2010’s fourth-placed finalist Cher Lloyd still got signed by Simon Cowell anyway. The gist of the song is that we (i.e. music critics I suppose) can’t stop writing about her or looking her up on YouTube, which is a bit rich given that I’d never heard of her till just now. I think the shouty verses are supposed to conjure up images of Gwen Stefani ‘hollering back’, but actually they remind me more of Daphne & Celeste, should you have cause to remember them (shudders). This is badly judged, badly constructed balderdash.
“Promises”: NERO (1 week)
The first number one for this London-based electronic duo, and a pleasingly intriguing slice of 21st Century Pop. You can hear their drum & bass roots but it’s close enough to the mainstream too to appeal to the T4 watching kidz. Certainly stands out among most of the other tracks to top the charts this year. Nice one. It’s no Crystal Castles or Robyn, fo’ sho’, but I actually quite like it. If I was giving out an award for my favourite #1 of the year it’d be this. But I’m not.
“Don’t Go”: WRETCH 32 feat JOSH KUMRA (1 week)
In the Vodka Boy camp we really enjoyed Wretch’s debut single “Traktor” at the start of the year, it’s one of the year’s best - but this is an altogether gentler affair. I’m all for UK rappers topping the hit parade, but it’s a shame it’s usually their more palatable ballady tracks that seem to manage it. This is a shrugged shoulder of a song, shame.
“Heart Skips A Beat”: OLLY MURS feat. RIZZLE KICKS (1 week)
Limp but amiable enough reggae-pop from the hat-wearing X Factor ’09 silver medallist. The video features him looking all urban in a graffiti-covered skate park, and the likeable middle-eight cameo from rising Brit-hoppers Rizzle Kicks helps. He’s one of the least intolerable of his cohort, I suppose. And that’s a compliment.
“Stay Awake”: EXAMPLE (1 week)
Not as catchy as “Changed The Way You Kiss Me”, but a similar template. I just think there’s something about the way he comes across which makes me reluctant about him. Not sure what though. Maybe it’s cos he looks like one of those simian Northmen who populated all those post-Oasis lad-rock bands in the late 90s – my mortal enemies!
“All About Tonight”: PIXIE LOTT (1 week)
Incredibly, Pixie Lott has already had as many Number 1 singles as The Kinks and Frank Sinatra, and as many as Madness, The Beach Boys and The Who combined! Even more incredibly she’s a new young pop star who hasn't come from X Factor or any other reality TV show. Although it doesn’t make any difference to how she sounds – it’s essentially a British (i.e. politer) equivalent of Ke$ha’s chart-topper from February. (sighs)
“What Makes You Beautiful”: ONE DIRECTION (1 week)
And talking of the X Factor... Literally created by the TV programme moguls from five unsuccessful solo boy entrants, this is sappy, non-threatening pretend-edgy-pop for ten-year-old girls. Remember North & South? No, me neither.
“No Regrets”: DAPPY (1 week)
It’d be a nice journalistic device to be able to say here that all this X Factor dross makes even Dappy sound good, but the twatty-hatted goon has let me down with his debut solo single. Looking moody behind a chain link fence in an American suburb even though he’s from Camden, this is heavily diluted RnB with only some – possibly unintentionally! – funny lines in the rap sections to redeem it.
“Loca People”: SAK NOEL (1 week)
Haha! One of those Eurobeat dancefloor fillers I thought had long died out – like “Encore Une Fois”, “Would You (Go To Bed With Me?)” or “Short Dick Man”, it hinges on a posh-voiced chica (Dutch in this case, though it’s set in Spain!) drawling swear words over repetitive bleeps. Makes me wistfully nostalgic and cheerfully bored at the same time. But I’m glad of some respite from Cowell & Co at least.
“We Found Love”: RIHANNA feat. CALVIN HARRIS (6 weeks)
Rihanna’s fifth UK Number 1, and a bit less forgettable than the rest of them apart from “Umbrella”. Calvin Harris adds the now-compulsory 2011 clubby synth production, while Rihanna herself goes through some pretty grim emotional turmoil in the video – which is not reflected in the diet-euphorix pop song one iota. Still, it was the first track since July to hang onto pole position for more than a solitary week – even returning to the top after a fortnight from Professor Green (see next)! And after a couple of listens it does seem to have started burrowing into my brain.
“Read All About It”: PROFESSOR GREEN feat. EMELI SANDE (2 weeks)
Prof Green takes the “British Eminem” comparison to the logical next level – which sadly means airing his turbulent family history in confessional rap mode. The point missed I’m afraid is that the songs where Eminem bangs on remorselessly about his Mom are among the worst tracks he’s done. I don’t mind some of the Professor’s earlier singles, in point of fact – but this smacks of taking himself too seriously too quickly.
“Wishing On A Star”: THE X FACTOR FINALISTS (1 week)
Okay. Let me get this straight... they get to have Number 1 singles now just for getting to the final? Then they can have another couple next year even for finishing ninth or whatever? Could Cowell perhaps be gearing up for a year where EVERY SINGLE #1 is down to him? Oh, sorry. This is for charity, of course. So I’m not supposed to hate it with every fibre of my being.
“Dance With Me Tonight”: OLLY MURS (1 week)
Again, I find Murs’ output harmless enough – in fact this airy slice of 50’s rock-infused pop makes me nostalgic for my own youth and the output of Mr Shakin’ Stevens. Though I’m not sure that was his intention. On the plus side, he’s at least finally taken that damn hat off!
“Cannonball”: LITTLE MIX (1 week)
I can almost hear YC Olie’s teeth grinding from here. And I can feel his pain. I wonder if next year’s winner will get their obligatory #1 single covering “Brother My Cup Is Empty” by Nick Cave? Stranger things have happened. I’m not going to review this single, by the way. You all know the answer.
“Wherever You Are”: MILITARY WIVES with GARETH MALONE (1 week)
Still... at least there was (kind of) a happy ending to the charts in 2011. A far more Christmassy single than we’ve had in some years sitting proudly atop the tree. Looks like though he may be all-powerful, Simon Cowell can’t compete with the notion of our brave boys overseas fighting for all our freedom (it sez here). Or maybe he just knew that and deliberately released the Little Mix single a week early so as to still get a week at the top. I wouldn’t be surprised.
And that’s it! Blimey, that was fun. Sort of. If you made it this far, you've probably realised that there's no real philosophical point behind any of this - it's mainly just been an excuse for me to write sarcastic things about mainstream pop on the internet! Yeeha! See ya next year, kidz!
Words by MMT.
Wednesday, 21 December 2011
In the interests of The History Of Pop Music, oh ye merry blog-readers, I thought I’d mark the end of this fine year by casting a genially paternal eye over each of the Number One Singles in the UK chart for 2011. Y’know, a kind of State Of The Union from the front line of contemporary rhythm sounds.
There were 30 number 1 singles this year, and as is now the standard, most of them only reached the top for a single fleeting week – though we did have some bona fide smashes: one shit / ironic / shit ironic dance anthem; one from an über-successful R’n’B mega-star (and not Beyoncé!); and one from a chunky lass with a shapely set of lungs on her.
Of those 30, you’d realistically not expect me to like very many in any given chart year. How has 2011 fared? Let’s have a look, innit.
Part One: Jan – Jun
“When We Collide”: MATT CARDLE (2 weeks)
A festive hangover lingering into mid-Jan like dry turkey sarnies from the X Factor – their fifth Christmas #1 out of the last six years. But I’m not going to get into that again here. Yet. Anyway, from what I gather Matt Cardle is one of the more ‘realistic’ characters Cowell & Co. have elevated over the years, but that doesn’t mean this isn't a disinfectedly limp rendition of the Biffy Clyro anthem – even down to the sanitisation of the title from the original “Many Of Horror”. Tiresome.
“What’s My Name?”: RIHANNA featuring DRAKE (1 week)
R’n’B Pop would appear to be by far the dominant musical genre of the age, if you flick around the music channels at least – and inexplicably, ‘Ri-Ri’ is one of the top predators of the ecosystem. Maybe it’s just me, but didn’t chart pop used to be a lot more fun than this? Still, it’s the first example of what turns out to be the typical 2011 phenotype: basic pop with some gently clubby flavours and what I can only describe as “ravy synths” for seasoning. Mid tempo, middle of the road. Clearly Rihanna finds her own output as forgettable as me, otherwise she’d be able to remember her own name.
“Grenade”: BRUNO MARS (2 weeks)
There’s a very mild flavour of soul on this, but the shiny production has ironed out any interesting wrinkles into a flat featureless surface. I know Bruno Mars (one of this year’s biggest new chart ‘playas’) is somehow hailed as an exciting character in the world of pop because he can write his own songs and play his own instruments, so he gets at least half a point for that, but otherwise meh.
“We R Who We R”: KE$HA (1 week)
Even though most of it is drawled in her annoying accent rather than sung, at least Ke$ha seems to get that pop music is supposed to sound exuberant, youthful and catchy. Sadly this ode to going out and ‘dancing like we’re dumb’ still sounds tacky and low-rent, though I suppose that could be what she was intending... And she’s “looking sick and sexyfied”? Um, no. In the vidjo she looks for all the world like hard-faced harridan Jordan. Yeesh.
“Price Tag”: JESSIE J feat. B.o.B. (2 weeks)
I guess Jessie J is probably 2011’s biggest new break-out pop star, but whether she’ll end up becoming a Lily Allen or merely a Natasha Bedingfield is yet to be seen. My favourite memory of this cheery bounce-pop single is seeing her playing it live on Comic Relief – when the lyric “it’s not about the money, money, we don’t need your money, money” turned out to be not perhaps the best-judged choice of song for such a mega-charidee telethon.
“Someone Like You”: ADELE (5 weeks)
A notable chart-topper in that it wasn’t officially ‘out’ as a single when she performed it at the Brit Awards, but so many people downloaded it off the album that it hit the top anyway. I’m not a fan of this kind of thing either, but even I will grudgingly accept that it is ‘quite a good song’ (though given a choice I prefer “Rolling In The Deep”), and Adele is at least less airbrushed than yer standard chart character, so I don’t mind her elevation to the big leagues this year. And she managed to keep the worst Lady Gaga single so far (“Born This Way”) off the top of the pops.
“Don’t Hold Your Breath”: NICOLE SCHERZINGER (1 week)
I always believed that Pussycat Dolls were genetically created by some US über-producer, SO soulless and generic were their pop ‘tunes’, and Nicole Scherzinger seems to have carried this ethos on into her implausibly successful solo career. This is grown in a test-tube, from equal parts Gaga, Rihanna, Beyoncé and ‘flavour of the moment’ (in this case synthy diet-dance beats) and almost indistinguishable from almost everything else you hear in the charts these days.
“On The Floor”: JENNIFER LOPEZ feat. PITBULL (2 weeks)
Ah, the Lambada! (wipes a nostalgic tear from the eye) I mean, it’s hardly “Stairway To Heaven”, but the addition of some euphoric synths and whomping noises and an actual tune – even one cribbed from a shit late 80s dance craze – means that this pisses all over the previous tracks by Ke$ha and Scherzinger. If you do have to do this kind of music, I suppose this is how it should be done. An unexpected return to the top of the charts for the big-bottomed señorita. This Pitbull bloke looks like a dick though.
“Party Rock Anthem”: LMFAO feat. LAUREN BENNETT and GOONROCK (4 weeks)
OMG. Fun for about the first two minutes and then you can just see a million exercise classes across the globe clapping their hands in time as they kick out their legs in a lame hokey-cokey. Disco music for eight years olds, dance music for people who find the Black Eyed Peas just a bit too edgy. I do however fear that repeated listens may cause infection. Proceed with caution.
“The Lazy Song”: BRUNO MARS (1 week)
Another chart-topper from one of the ‘faces’ of 2011, and as sonically lazy as the title implies. His ambition to have “some really nice sex” probably says it all. I quite like the chimp masks in the vidjo though. And am pleasantly surprised we’ve not encountered any covers of this at MK open mics this year (yet!)
“Give Me Everything”: PITBULL featuring NE-YO / AFROJACK / NAYER (3 weeks)
This is like a who’s who of modern-day acts I have heard of but know nothing about! The quirky synth production slathered all over this year’s RnB standards continues, and is insistent at least. Compared to some of the rest of these #1s it’s… alright. I see (from Wikipedia) that this Pitbull character is also “a spokesman” for Kodak, which is presumably why he mentions them several times at the start.
“Changed The Way You Kiss Me”: EXAMPLE (2 weeks)
He may look like a proper dick, but I’ll take the Nineties Rave flavours of this ubiquitous Summer ‘chart banger’ every single time over the bloodless R’n’B of Rihanna or Scherzinger or the pap pop of Bruno Mars. The opening “I’ve never been afraid of the highest heights” hook is even one which I’ve found stuck in my head from time to time this year, which is something, to be sure.
To Be Continued...
Words by MMT (feat Pitbull)