It’s that time of year again, weeks of preparation blown in a matter of days as an orgy of food, fun, frolics and festivities engulfs us.
And why not? It’s been a hard, long year and you have to let off steam every now and again….
….so the presents have been opened, the house is ready for guests, we’ve invited too many people for Christmas Dinner so we’re a chair short, food and nibbles are all over the place (but can’t be touched until the first person arrives) and we have a stack of AA batteries just in case.
The perfect time for a really quick festive post.
Another Christmas At Home / Merry Xmas Everybody / Teenage Christmas (2009) – Vinyl
I bought this when it came out simply because I wanted to hear their take on Slade’s yuletide staple (aka Noddy Holder and Jim Lea’s pension provider) “Merry Xmas Everybody”. I like it in a laid back kind of way but after a while the monotony of the stomping drums tends to get to me………
The gem here is the A side “Another Christmas at Home” which is actually more of a paean to the nightmare that is enforced Christmas with family but delivered in such a way that you don’t realise this until you actually pick up on the lyrics.
This CD was on quick turnaround in the car during a recent week away – unfortunately not because it was a favourite but due to the lack of CDs available (my fault……)
When Mika first emerged with “Grace Kelly” he seemed like a breathe of fresh air into the turgid ‘popular music scene’, unfortunately this was a view that seemed to decrease with each subsequent release and he rapidly fell off of my personal radar.
Wind forward 8 years and I invested a couple of £s in this CD that I saw in a charity shop – was it worth it? Well yes and no………….
He’s definitely a talented musician and can write songs but in recording this CD he should have been reigned in – there needs to be a flow between tracks when you’re listening to music, that’s missing here it’s all over the place. I’ve heard “Life In Cartoon Motion” being referred to as ‘cartoon rock’ but that gives it too much credence and in reality a good dose of quality control would have made this a much better release.
Not saying that I’m behind the times but I played this for the first time last week – a freebie from 14 years ago and it’s only just worked its way into my CD player.
A select of tracks from 2001 a number of which I love and I’ve only just discovered now. That could be seen as depressing but I prefer to look on the positive side – I’ve got so much music to work through I’ll be finding new gems for the rest of my life.
So my two new ‘go to’ tracks on this CD? They are –
Aerodynamic by Daft Punk. Now I know that DP are big but this is the first thing I’ve ever knowingly heard by them. Love the repetition of themes and the kicking guitar – not so keen about the cartoon in the video though, for me it distracts from the music.
Witness (1 Hope) by Roots Manuva. Normally this isn’t my sort of music but for some reason I really like this. Good lyrics coupled with a decent beat do the job………
Various Artists – Q Best of 2001 (2001) – CD
The Strokes – The Modern Age
The Charlatans – Love Is The Key
Ryan Adams – The Rescue Blues
Gorillaz – 5/4
Roots Manuva – Witness (1 Hope)
N.E.R.D* Featuring Kelis & Terrar – Truth Or Dare
Daft Punk – Aerodynamic
Elbow – Newborn (Album Version)
Radiohead – You And Whose Army?
Muse – Hyper Music
Turin Brakes – Underdog (Save Me)
R.E.M. – All The Way To Reno (You’re Gonna Be A Star)
One of the great things about Robert Plant is that he wears the legend of Led Zeppelin lightly – a lesser talent would be worried about spoiling it, forever trying to live up to past successes and as a result achieve nothing, just becoming a shadow of their former self. Plant seems to genuinely not give a damn. He respects the past but he doesn’t let him hold him back or stop him taking risks or negotiating tangents.
Of course this means that everything is a risk, he can’t guarantee on taking his fans with him on his musical journey. Just because they’ve liked a previous album doesn’t mean that the next one will satisfy their craving for more product.
His work with Alison Krauss side-stepped expectations and launched an album of covers that was critically acclaimed and hit the top across a number of genres. In places it harks back to the delivery and approach used in some of the folk/roots influenced songs recorded with Zeppelin, not a bad thing at all.
However if I listen to this album in one sitting my mind starts to wander, there’s not enough going on to draw me in for any length of time. This isn’t the fault of the album, probably more the fault of my 21st Century lack of ability to concentrate on anything of any length of time.
“Please Read the Letter” is one of the stand out tracks in my record collection but the album as a whole is one I dip in and out of.
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss – Raising Sand (2007) – CD
And so to books and starting off here with a music focused book that I got for Christmas –
Japrocksampler: How the Post-war Japanese Blew Their Minds on Rock’n’roll – Julian Cope (2008)
Now I’m a fast reader but here we are in the second week of February and I’ve only just finished a book of c300 pages, what’s going on?
The issue here I think is a combination of Japanese names and the condensing of decades of rock music that caused my synapses to become blocked and unable to take in more than a handful of pages everyday. What wasn’t the issue was Julian’s writing style. I’ve seen it criticised elsewhere but it gave me no grief whatsoever, it’s obvious that he’s passionate about the music and he’s just trying to get that across. In fact I find it refreshing to come across a book like this where the author is enthusiastic, too often they can end up being dry and academic.
And what is a “book like this”?
Well it’s a detailed romp (if such a thing is possible) through the postWar Japanese rock mind, ethos and industry and it’s one hell of a ride as you cover musique concrete, eleki, the Japanese performance of Hair, a hijacked plane, sniffing paint thinners, futen and Miles Davis. This is then topped off by Julian’s top 50 Japrock albums all with their own brief resume, a list that includes (in the author’s own words) – “hard rock, proto-metal, purely psychedelic free-rock, experimental theatre works, choral and orchestral music, experimental percussion works, improvised ambient wipe-outs, progressive rock, and unadulterated guitar mayhem.” A list so wide ranging that it must include at least one thing for every reader that’s into rock music in some shape or form.
For me the biggest discovery, so far, has been Flower Travellin’ Band (track below – it won’t be to everyone’s taste, what is?) but it’s early days and there’s a lot more discovering for me to do!