Monday, June 25, 2007

Glastonbury 2007 - second thoughts

Despite the weather, which was awful today too and thus it took twelve hours to get all the vehicles out of the parking areas, it seems that the performances over the long weekend were almost all of the highest standard.

Amy Winehouse was apparently as show-stoppingly good as ever but she looks as though she was unable to find anything to eat!

I can't help but think that she looked better 1n 2005.

Kate Moss was also there and probably not eating either. In fact it was touch and go if she would leave her Winnebago in case she got muddy...

She was probably wondering what to wear too, but whatever she finally decided on it was unlikely to upstage Brazilian band CSS who have been blazing a musical trail across Britain (and increasingly Europe, Japan and Australasia) for the last year or so and a bit of mud wasn't going to stop them.
The band consists of a male drummer and five girls who don' t entirely believe in the 'Size Zero' idiocy, as is the case with Lily Allen too, that much of the music industry does and they are also proud of it.

CSS defiantly mudless on stage at Glastonbury.

Simply defiant: CSS lead singer Lovefoxxx...
on stage at the (indoor) Great Escape Festival in Brighton in early June 2007.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Glorious Glastonbury!

I tried to go to Glastonbury but didn't get a ticket.
So here I am writing from home, a mere ten miles away (as the crow flies), as the action is coming to an end on Sunday evening. Yes it has rained a lot but for the most part the performances have taken place as planned and the crowd had been good humoured despite the rain and the ensuing mud. If you don't like mud, no showers and very dubious toilets then all I can suggest is don't go to festivals and actually go 'wild camping' instead - no mud if you chose a good spot, in fact no anything unless you have your iPod, but that is not
however what a festival is about...

Making the most of it on Saturday!

Mud surfing... a London 2012 Olympic sport?

One new feature was 'The Park Stage', brainchild of Emily Eavis, which suffered a last minute setback when the opening artist, MIA, was ill and unable to perform the inaugural set. Into the breach stepped one of the major names of 2006/7, who was performing on the Pyramid Stage later, performing an impromptu 6-track acoustic set.

Lily Allen covers Blondie's Heart of Glass acoustically...

Surprising cover versions are all the rage these days and many of them are very successful. In her performance this evening Dame Shirley Bassey did not perform the 'Bond Theme' Diamonds Are Forever. The Arctic Monkeys however did the honours by covering it on their headline act on Friday evening! That said Bassey did cover The Doors Light My Fire and also Pink's Get The Party Started, a song that she originally covered for a Marks & Spencer advertising campaign!
When Lily Allen appeared again, as billed on the Pyramid Stage, she had new tricks in store - Lynval Golding joined her on stage for a cover of Blank Expression then she introduced Terry Hall on stage and two original members of early 1980 ska legends The Specials played together on stage for the first time in 22 years and they all performed the 1979 hit single Gangsters.

... and again, electro-backed, on the Pyramid Stage.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Are You Listening?

I'm not asking you the question in the title - but of course I hope you are - rather it is the title of the début solo album by Dolores O'Riordan.

It has been a long time coming but for those of you that can't remember that far back she was the voice of Irish band 'The Cranberries'. I had largely forgotten about them too, but something or other recently reminded me that I didn't actually own any of their albums, even though I was familiar with some of their songs, and I pondered buying a compilation album that sounded quite promising but at about the same time this album became known to me.

'The Cranberries' has now sold over forty million albums, being more successful in the US than in the UK so she, as both vocalist and main songwriter, is unlikely to be under financial pressure to record an album, and furthermore she is married (since 1994 to Don Burton, the former manager of Duran Duran) with three kids, aged 9, 6 and 2, so you can imagine there might well be plenty of competing calls on her time!

To say that this is a case of "better late than never" is to do it a severe injustice - I strongly suspect that it is better because it has evolved over time. Yes it has undercurrents of 'The Cranberries', but is far more than a pale reinterpretation of that era and in particular, when songs demand it, the instruments can be quite strident - but not to the point that they ever swamp the vocals - in fact the main flashback is just how good her vocals were then, and given absolute freedom that they are now even better.
This is still an album likely to sell better in the US I suspect, but there is nothing wrong with that. If the rumours that Andrea Corr is planning a solo career
are true, then this might be seen as a very clear shot across the bow; a warning that there will be competition for the market in Irish influenced pop and that elders might be betters!

On the basis of "Are You Listening?" I suspect it will be so because it has some surprises in store.
Track 6 - Stay With Me, with
its plaintive verses, huge chorus and general mood is simply the best song that Evanesence didn't write for their first album, Fallen (2004).
That is probably not what almost anyone would have suspected from this release and it certainly surprised me. At other moments it also reminded me, in some ways, of the tracks Isobel and I'm No Angel both from the album "No Angel" by Dido, possibly because she was also influenced by The Cranberries?

My overall opinion:
If you like the kinds of music above then buy it. This is yet another 2007 album that I have come across rather unexpectedly and another that I have no option but to like!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Less is more?

I have been blogging here for nine months now and this is my 54th post. Time flies, as it does inexorably, but it amazes me that I've actually written that many in so short a time!
In that time I have also contributed only two customer reviews to <> but they have been amongst the most favourably regarded that I have posted in the last couple of years. Writing the blog has helped with this - but one of them was actually that which made me take the leap into the blog community in the first place!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


One good thing about buying albums completely unheard is the anticipation of listening for the first time. When you get something by an artist or band that you have never even heard before, and it exceeds all expectations, that is the best discovery of all.

The stupid thing is that I dithered about buying this album for over a month;
the reviews I had read were very mixed and, aside from a few totally negative reviews that I ignored completely, one reviewer's favourite tracks seemed to be the least favourite of another! In the end I just bought it anyway. I first listened to it at home one evening because the postman had left it after I went to work and that is just as well as had I been listening to it in the car I would probably have driven into almost every stationary object en route.
If Heartland is not in my top ten albums of 2007 then it is going to be one hell of a year!
The reason for the disparate reviews may, I think, not be too hard to find. If you measure electro-pop in the terms of Goldfrapp and other 21st century albums, including the even more recently released album Trip The Light Fantastic by Sophie Ellis Bextor (I have this too; it is good and I might well review it later), Heartland will come as rather a surprise.
It is in a rather icy style and the music is much more stripped down to basics. It is a modern take on electro-pop as it was in the period 1979 - 1984 but with one important difference... Client is an all female band.
As for the music, you either get it or you don't and although they have borrowed much more in style, rather than substance, from that era there is one exception; track 5 is a cover version of Zerox that was released in July 1979 by the original line up of Adam and The Ants before they released their first album Dirk Wears White Sox, on 'Do It Records', later that year. It was released again as a single in January 1981, reaching #45 in the UK charts. It did not appear on an Adam and the Ants CD until 2004, when Dirk Wears White Sox was finally released with the earlier singles as bonus tracks.
Be that as it may this cover version is absolutely spot on (the "misspelling" on both albums is probably deliberate - Xerox® is a registered trademark) and it sounds as good as almost any cover version I have heard this year - and it is proving a vintage year for those already!

Stand-out tracks for me are:

  • The opener Heartland, which is given a short reprise at the end, a trick that works well on this album.
  • The irreproachable Lights Go Out. It may be derivative, according to some, but I simply don't care - just turn up the bass and volume and enjoy it for what it is! It is track 3.
  • Someone To Hurt - track 6 - a rather slower one but none the worse for that.
  • Köln - this is track 9 and if you like it but can't see where it is coming from I suggest the album Vienna by Ultravox (1980) to see how Germanic electro-inventiveness moved into UK chart music.
To be honest there is nothing even remotely mediocre on this album - the whole album is pretty much pitch perfect.