Slim pickings this week. Funny how just last night I desperately wanted Leona to win X-Factor, and this morning I'm hoping her single is a huge flop. Ah, the fickle British public.
Peak of the Week: Eskimo Dance feat. Pingu - 7 11
We're due a cartoon character at number one for Christmas. It's been too long since Bob the Builder.
Jeremy Warmsley - Dirty Blue Jeans
The released version is nowhere near as much fun as this kitchen sink, baritone ukulele version. Warmsley seems to have a knack for writing a great tune then burying it under layers pointless filigree.
Time for all music lovers to take cover as the shit storm of Christmas records makes its way ominously over the horizon. Early runners this week include Pugwash and Friends (the friends including Neil 'Divine Comedy' Hannon and Dave 'XTC' Gregory), I Monster, The Houghton Weavers and, inevitably, Slade.
Peak of the Week: Paolo Nutini - Rewind
He gets PotW on sympathy alone. The bloke develops a cracked, whiskey-soaked, soulful voice; lyrics full of regret and longing; and then people go and compare him to James Blunt. Poor sod.
Lil Chris - Getting Enough
Video of the week for the cheeky scampster. Running into the Buzzcock's garden and scrumping the chorus of Ever Fallen In Love With Someone? and dashing away as Pete Shelley shakes his fist and shouts, "You come back here wi' my tune ya thieving rapscallion."
No shortage of A-list support for this metal Kate Bush. Signed to Morrissey's record label, produced by Tony Visconti, duet with David Bowie, and - make sure you're sitting down before you read this - a duet with Brian Molko.
Their website entreaties fans to 'please purchase at REAL, WALK-IN SHOPS.... Like Virgin or HMV. These are the only purchases that count for the British record charts.' Even with such tactics, I somehow doubt this single is going to be troubling Take That too much; or even The MacDonald Brothers for that matter.
Along with Bob Brozman and Jerry Douglas, Kelly Joe Phelps is one of the kings of lap steel guitar playing (as proved in this YouTube clip). However, in the last few years he seems to have abandoned the lap steel in favour of more conventional playing methods.
The latest album, Tunesmith Retrofit, continues this trend. Big Shaky is a showcase for his loose, bluesy folk music; his guitar playing; and his propulsive rhythm section. I still think it's a shame he doesn't play lap steel anymore - there are plenty of great guitarists around, it's good to hear invention brought to the lap steel. Even more of a shame about the harmonica on this track.
The ukuleles are taking over; don't say I didn't warn you.
The King Blues are a London squatter band who make acoustic, politically conscious ska music. They count, left wing activist and writer of Pirates of the Caribbean, Tariq Ali. According to Ali, The King Blues make, "rough, radical music that should unsettle the rulers of this country." It's hard to imagine Blair having too many restless nights over this pleasant, summery ditty; but best of luck to them.
It seems strange that music plays such a huge part in so many people's lives, yet we don't celebrate the Patron Saint of Music's day at all. National Patron Saint Days are all celebrated in the manner that best suits that nation: St. Patrick by drunkenness, St. David by leeks and daffodils, St. George by brow furrowing discussions about why we don't celebrate St. George's Day properly. St. Cecilia's Day should be celebrated, and it's up to us music fans to get things started.
A quick recap of the St Cecilia story for those of you who that were making out behind the bins at Bible Camp. Cecilia, a good little Catholic girl, was forced into marriage with Valerian, an evil pagan. Wanting to keep herself pure for God, Cecilia told Valerian that she was being watched over by a guardian angel and there was no telling what would happen if he tried to enter the kingdom of haven. To avoid his amorous advances, rather than giving him one off the wrist to shut him look like most Catholic girls, she sang along with the music coming from a nearby church - probably making a quip along the lines of, "That's the only organ I'm interested in tonight."
Valerian was obviously none too chuffed with this course of events.
"What are you playing at? You're not Robbie Williams; you can't just start loving angels instead."
He demand, not unreasonably, to see this alleged angel. Cecilia pointed out that couldn't see this, or any, angel until he had been baptised. I think it speaks volumes of men's desperation for a quick shag that - rather than give up, go home and knock one off in front of Hollyoaks: In The City - he went to find Pope Urban and got himself converted.
Sure enough, Valerian returned to Cecilia to find her chatting with a massive, fuck-off, fiery angel. After this revelation, Cecilia and Valerian went round converting people to Christianity. The local pagan hocho didn't take to kindly to this and had Valerian, together with all those Cecilia converted, executed. He then dispatched a pair of thugs to ice Cecilia. They struck her in the neck with an axe three times but, in an unlikely turn of events, Cecilia survived three more days of unbearable agony before dying. Still, at least that marriage ended more happily than Paul McCartney's.
That joyful little tale aside, here are my proposals for the St Cecilia's Day celebrations:
- Spend all night hugging someone while listening to Jeff Buckley. - Open all your windows and play music very loudly for the benefit of any nearby unwilling brides. - Hit Britney Spears in the throat three times with an axe. - Taunt Chris Eubank with the phrase 'St Cecilia's Day celebrations'.
Their website describes The Noisettes music as being, "schizophrenically comtradictive." I'm not sure whether it's more dismaying to believe that no one's bothered to proof read their bio, or that they felt the million existing words in the English language were not sufficient to describe their straight forward blues rock. And, while I'm ranting, I wish musicians wouldn't call their music 'schizophrenic' to mean 'goes quiet, then loud.' Schizophrenia has nothing to do with having a split personality or, for that matter, with having a sledgehammer approach to dynamics; it's a serious mental condition that leads to suicide of one in ten suffers.
That, together with the fact they are currently supporting Muse, would be enough for me to dismiss the band without even bothering to listen to them. Luckily, I heard a demo version of this single before finding any of this out.
Blood Red Shoes - You Bring Me Down
Blood Red Shoes go with the now standard duo format of one guitarist/singer and one drummer. However, they make a radical departure through gender realignment and playing Gang of Four-style sharp guitar rather than swampy blues rock.
They love their freak-folk at Drag City, and I love them for loving it. White Magic are one of the leading lights of the medieval-psychedelia scene in modern day Brooklyn. On Katie Cruel their song is stripped back to a couple of guitars and Mira Billotte's startlingly spooky voice. A week late for Halloween but good at any time of year.
When Pitchfork reviewed The Light they were even more baffling in their description than usual, "The song in total describes a gentle pitch and yaw, like liquid sloshing in a bucket, reflecting back a cockeyed world symmetrically distorted by concentric ripples." Well, that clears that up.
Also going medieval on our asses are Circulus. As you can see from the above video for My Body is Made of Sunlight, Circulus could never be accused of taking themselves too seriously. I suggest you don't take them seriously either.
iForward, Russia! - Nineteen
In Vietnam it was nineteen, n-n-n-n-n-n-nineteen. I love the conceit of numbering your songs rather than naming them, I intend to follow the same concept with my children, but when you get to nineteen you simply have to cover Paul Hardcastle. As it is, this is okay, but certainly no twelve.
More than a hint of The Jam about this band, they're supporting Paul Weller later this month, which is no bad thing. And Tuned to a Different Station answers the age old question, "What rhymes with 'somnambulate'?" A: Nothing.
God, there's some rubbish out this week. Jonathan 'Charlotte Church' Shalit's latest assault (and I use the word advisedly) on the chart Mr Skillz & His Crazy Girls. Apparently, they, "have spent this year locked in the studio, writing and recording tracks." If there's any justice in the world, they'll be locked up for much longer. There's the unlikely septeting of U2 and Green Day (as much of a mess as you'd expect). 'Glamour' model and X-Factor reject Michelle Marsh releases her debut squawk on an innocent and unsuspecting public. All Saints make a return due to overwhelming public indifference. The kerfuffle over Madonna's baby-heist antics has meant this release has been a little overshadowed. A fact for which we should be eternally grateful. Most disturbing of all is Paris Hilton's seduction of an under age boy - is she really hoping to spark a trend for paedo-chic?
Peak of the Week: Tobias Froberg - Somewhere in the City
The latest Swedish signing to Poptones - doesn't sound like The Hives. He was one of the acts, along with Jose Gonzalez and Tarantula, to feature on the Cowboys in Scandinavia collection which suggests there's some real talent on the ranches of the frozen north.
This single displays a Nick Drake style rolling guitar paired with paired with a range of sqeeks, scapes and bangs and featuring an irresistable melody.
Here are a couple of tracks from his debut album album, For Elisabeth Wherever She Is. The Nick Drake comparison is particularly clear on So I with a distinctly Richard Thompson sounding lead guitar.
Such a stylish video. Who would have thought the iPod ads could have been made to look good by making the background black, the people day-glo and adding a bit of psychedelic bukkake? The songs pretty good too, so long as you don't mind listening to something that occasionally strays into Gary Glitter territory.
Mojave 3 - Puzzles Like You
There's four of them, they come from Newquay (pause for repair of aching sides). Still knocking out the mildly pleasing country music.
Fresh off support slots for the likes of Kaiser Chiefs and Milburn and their appearance at the BBC's Electric Proms (watch highlights of their set here). I might have dreamt this but was there a time when not every new indie band sounded a bit Libertines?
VV and the Vs take their cue from massively successful yet tragically unhip acts like The Housemartins and Madness. According to Mr Vincent himself, "I want to be a songwriter who offers up something new." On that score, their debut single is a failure on a scale not seen since MC Hammer's attempt to become a gangsta rapper. It is, however, a catchy little ditty that could become big if it gets some wind in it's sails.
VV seems to have a Bono sized ability for 'self-aggrandising tit'-ery, "I can find salvation through a song." God help us.
Sucioperro - The Drop
Latest additions to the 'just because I play a big, loud guitar and make devil-horn hand signs doesn't mean I don't cry and hug my teddy sometimes' brigade. They are often compared to friends and compatriots Biffy Clyro. To me, they sound more like, Busted side-project, Fightstar.
CSS - Alala The world's greatest band named after a stylesheet language. Alala doesn't make me want to dance like a robot quite as enthusiastically as Let's Make Love And Listen To Death From Above, nevertheless, good stuff.
The reason this dull piece of dance drivel caught my attention is that ' Luciana' is Luciana Caporaso off of of, MTV spawned glam rockers, Portobella. After their genius debut Covered In Punk was ignored, Caporaso took the advice of record execs and jetisoned the rest of the band.
Unfortunately, Caporaso's CV doesn't fill me with confidence. As well as writing songs for Alex Parks, she was one half of Donna Air's disastrous post-Byker Grove band Crush.
I'm always a little disappointed when rockstars go into rehab. They're supposed to be wasted and unpredictable; they're supposed to be living the dream; they're supposed to act like they're immortal then die. They're not supposed to be like Tom Keane and toddle off the The Priory because they've eaten too many Jelly Tots.
Winehouse's appearance on The Charlotte Church Show proves she hasn't gone to rehab (oh no, no, no). Even when she's off her face and not even trying, she's far more exciting, interesting and sexy than Church's predictable professionalism could ever be. Yes, it's a train wreck, but watching a train wreck is far more exciting than watching a train travel slowly along the track.
Apparently, they had to do three takes of this song and this was the best one.
She was obviously much closer to sober when she recorded the single. It's a picture of pig-headed defiance against calls for good sense and conformity. Protest song of the decade.
The Horrors - Count In Fives
They look and sound like a New York Dolls tribute band staffed entirely by Noel Fieldings. What's not to love?
Yes Boss - Tongues In Knots
The latest from Yes Boss features Tom Woodhead off of of iForward, Russia!, who is the walking definition of the wimpy, skinny, band boys that Yes Boss was railing against and throwing of a multi-story carpark in his previous single Indie Kids.
Last week, my humble little town played host to Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman, who were filming The Other Boleyn Girl at Haddon Hall. Inexplicably, neither of them met me and fell instantly, desperately and unaccountably in love. What are the chances? I wasn't envisaging having them both - I'm not greedy and unrealistic. But I think I can reasonably expect the adoration of one beautiful, famous, talented actress. I'll tell you what the problem is - they're both prejudiced against unexceptional white boys. We're the forgotten minority.
In the above picture, it's good to see Portman wearing a painstakingly accurate re-creation of the purple tracksuit that Anne Boleyn wore. So many dramatisations of Boleyn's life miss that detail.
As well as her proto J-Lo dress sense, Boleyn was, apparently, hot shit on the lute (I think that's a direct quote from Simon Schama). Legend has it, she wrote the song O Deathe, Rock Me Asleep whilst awaiting execution. I use 'legend has it' in the sense that it's obviously untrue. Similarly, 'legend has it' that Henry VIII wrote Greensleeves for Anne Boleyn. Henry's later composition for Boleyn Give Me a Son Or I Slice Your Face Off has not been quite so successful.
Lute toter de jour Sting is currently lute-ing the works of 17th Century composer John Dowland in order to bolster his flagging hipster-rating. Dowland was the Morrissey of his day, and went by the motto 'Semper Dowland, semper dolens' (always Dowland, always doleful). I don't know if Morrissey has a motto - if he did it'd probably be in Greek rather than Latin.
Dowland, as a Roman Catholic, was snubbed by, daughter of Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I (showing the kind of prejudice evident in those playing her mother and aunt some 400 years later). He had to wait for Scotch King James I before royal patronage came his way.
I'd wager most of those slagging off the new Sting album haven't heard it. So watch the above clip of Come Again (given unfortunate new overtones thanks to Sting's association with tantric sex) and download this lute duet with Edin Karamazov performed for Radio 3.
My favourite versions of Downland are those by the Skovmand-Gonzalez Duo (unimaginatively made up of Annelise Skovmand and Pablo Gonzalez). Skovmand strikes the right balance in her delivery. She never strays into the hideous bel canto style which, as well as not being suited to the detached melancholy of the songs, was not used in England at the time.
Their album Things Said Tomorrow is something of an oddity - it starts with a series of Dowland songs and finishes with a series of Beatles tunes.