New Monday

It’s taken me a while to warm up to Scottish synthpoppers Chvrches (not a typo), there are so many other similarly 80s-influenced bands around at the moment I didn’t think there was anything to separate them from the pack and justify the critical hosannas they’ve been getting. Frankly, I preferred Ladytron.

But I’ve been won over to the cause by their terrific debut album The Bones Of What You Believe with its big pop hooks and pumping synth beats. It’s a sound that’s been done a million times before but they do it very well.


New Monday

Canadian Jessy Lanza makes the sort of sensual, electronic-flavoured music full of skeletal beats and spacey textures that’s become known in some circles as Indie R&B, or Hipster R&B and PBR&B if they’re being unkind.

But who gives a toss what it’s called or if it’s even R&B at all? Whatever it is, her debut album Pull My Hair Back is terrific. Here’s another, more uptempo, track from it.

Something for the Weekend

I saw U2 at the Hammersmith Palais the same year as this clip (1981) and it might not be hip to admit it now but they were fantastic, one of the best live bands I’ve seen and one of the best rock concerts I’ve ever been to. To use the vernacular, they really tore the roof off the sucker. Bono himself said at the end that it was one of the best gigs they’d played so far outside of Dublin.

Funnily enough I only really went to see the support band: Altered Images.

Un Film De Saint Etienne

Those loveable popsters Saint Etienne have become quite the movie producers in recent years, having made three films about London in collaboration with director Paul Kelly. They’re hard to come by in the States so I’ve only seen the first one Finisterre, an impressionistic tribute to the city which I highly recommend.

Their new one How We Used To Live uses old footage from the BFI Library to tell the story of London’s past during the ‘New Elizabethan’ age from the 1950s to the Thatcher era — a sort of prequel to Finisterre — and looks absolutely marvelous.

The film has been selected to be part of the London Film Festival and lucky Londoners (or anyone in town at the time) can get to see it next month. I’m sure I shall see it myself eventually if it ever makes its way to this side of the pond in some form or other.

My Favourite Year?

If you’re a reader of David Hepworth’s excellent blog you’ll know that he considers 1971 to be the best-ever year for rock albums. He’s beating that drum again by listing the albums that would have been on the Mercury Prize shortlist (albums released by UK and Irish acts) if they’d had one that year.

A very impressive list it is too (if you can ignore the presence of Yes and Jethro Tull which I’m trying hard to do) and in response I offer what would have been on the Mercury Prize shortlist in 1979. I’m leaving off some out of personal preference (The Fall, not my cup of tea) and I’m sure there are others missing that will be pointed out in the comments.

Metal Box – Public Image Ltd.
Unknown Pleasures – Joy Division
London Calling – The Clash
Entertainment! – Gang Of Four
Armed Forces – Elvis Costello & The Attractions
154 – Wire
The Raincoats – The Raincoats
Squeezing Out Sparks – Graham Parker
The Specials – The Specials
Forces Of Victory – Linton Kwesi Johnson
The Undertones – The Undertones
Setting Sons – The Jam
Drums & Wires – XTC
Cut – The Slits
Broken English – Marianne Faithful

Not that I want to start a generational war or anything, but: Eat that 1971!

I was 17 in 1979 so obviously I have a sentimental dog in this race but I think it wins this one by several noses. Not only is that a list of great records, many of them are great records which had a huge and lasting impact on rock music. 1979 looks even better when you see the NME albums and singles of the year.

Was it a better year than 1972 overall? We could argue about that until the cows come home but that’s what we like doing best isn’t it? Having completely pointless arguments about things that can never be proved one way or the other.

Download: Careering – Public Image Limited (mp3)
Download: New Dawn Fades – Joy Division (mp3)
Download: Discovering Japan – Graham Parker (mp3)
Download: Sonny’s Lettah – Linton Kwesi Johnson (mp3)
Download: No Side To Fall In – The Raincoats (mp3)
Download: Nite Klub – The Specials (mp3)

Back in The Day

I always get a little annoyed when I hear kids use the phrase “back in the day” when referring to the past. I’ve heard it used in so many contexts that apparently all of human history more than, say, 10 years ago — the 1980s, the 1960s, World War II, the 19th century, the Renaissance, and probably even the invention of fire — took place in some vague time called “the day” as if it’s all just one big mass of old stuff (and there’s so much of it!) More accurately, what it really means is “before I was born when movies were in black and white, had terrible special effects, and you couldn’t watch them on your phone”. I mean, OMG WTF? Right?

I know kids are supposed to be annoying, but would it kill them to at least make a stab at the decade, or even the century? Or am I just peeved that my own youth was apparently so long ago it doesn’t even merit the naming of a decade anymore, but just happened “back in the day”? Probably. Little bastards.

This record is from so far back in the day I wasn’t even born when it came out.

Download: Johnny Remember Me – John Leyton (mp3)