The advent of iTunes and the iPod means that I don’t listen to music radio on a regular basis anymore. What’s the point when you have the shuffle option, and, as there are 5,859 tracks to choose from repetition isn’t an issue, so it’s like having you own music radio without all the annoying twaddle from a DJ.
The result is that I haven’t really discovered any new music this year and, Amy Whitehouse excepted, all my purchases have been by acts already established in my collection.
Mark E. Smith joined forces this year with a German techno house duo and the result is Von Sudenfed with a disc called Trommatic Reflexxions. It is completely off the wall but it works. How, I don’t know but it does. Trance techno with a drum and bass beat, with the Lad Himself doing his shouty poetry over the top.
This year’s Fall offering, Reformation TLC had all the usual trademarks but with a new band (the old one walked out on the eve of recording, due to an incident that may or may not have involved a banana-skin, a corkscrew, a guitar-amp, and some whiskey) those being clunking, driving bass lines with Smith’s idiosyncratic “vocals” meandering around on top.
Mark’s performance is more poetry reading than singing although the Band are capable of melodic introspection as well as infuriating oddballism, but as ever with the Fall, you won’t get bored and I have played this album over and over, to savour all the unusual twists and turns that aren’t always apparent straight away.
Stereophonics released their new long player Pull the Pin in October, and for me it was going to be almost impossible for it to live up to it predecessor the magnificent Sex, Language, Violence. Other… which I consider to be their finest record and the best British out and out rock album of this decade and which I have played to death since it’s release in 2005.
But I was not to be disappointed. Kelly Jones is back into a rich vein of song writing form after a two-album dip in the wake of 1999’s Performance and Cocktails, and this record displays a heavy, punky sound allied with Dylanesque lyrical subtlety which Jones has made his trademark.
Bank Holiday Monday displays the get down and dirty rock side of things, and Daisy Lane showcases Kelly’s observational side as he reflects on the mindless stabbing of a boy for his mobile phone.
The live show, which we caught when it came to Hull, was a typically raw and visceral experience and was a fitting climax to the year having also checked out the Killers in Sheffield, and the Who at a rain sodden Circle in May.
I missed the Kaiser Chiefs show at Hull Arena earlier this month due to developing meningitis during my last cycle of treatment, but the boys said it was every bit as good as last years.
Whilst it was always going to be a tough task to follow 2005’s Employment long player, Ricky Wilson and the his Leeds crew’s 2007 effort Yours Truly, the Angry Mob displayed a growing song writing maturity without losing the nascent energy of it’s predecessor. They are masters of the pop song hook, and Ruby especially just sucks you in with its upbeat repetition.
Bruce Springsteen continues to confirm why he fully deserves the sobriquet The Boss with a stomping live version of the Seeger Sessions recorded in Dublin. The record contains different arrangements and interpretations from the original 2006 disc, plus a new version of Atlantic City, so charges of cashing in on the brand are not appropriate in this case.
His second release of the year reunited Bruce with the E Street Band for the first time in five years. Yet another soulful, reflective and rocking album to add to his considerable wealth and breadth of work, Magic contains traditional Bruce fare in Radio Nowhere plus his ruminations on middle age with Girls in Their Summer Clothes.
The voice of Blue Collar America, Bruce Springsteen really does have the Midas touch when it comes to making music.
April saw Richard Thompson release his first rock album for four years, and Sweet Warrior was well worth the wait.
Richard does a mean line on relationships, and sexual infidelity in particular and Johnny’s Far Away follows in that tradition, along with the anger ridden I’ll Never Give it Up in which he invites all comers outside in the car park for a good old tear up, shades of a ‘Nineties Thompson classic I Feel So Good.
The outstanding track for me is the truly shocking "Dad’s Gonna Kill Me", which tells the story of a terrified soldier serving in Iraq as he observes death and destruction up close and personal via a road side bomb. None of this matters to his US General who proclaims; "at least we’re winning on the Fox Evening News".
Richard’s under rated guitar playing comes to the fore and is given more prominence on this record, and as ever he makes excellent use of a limited vocal range.
But it’s the songs that typically make this a very good set and a reminder that Richard is an un appreciated national treasure, right up there with Morrissey, Elvis Costello, Billy Bragg and Ray Davies as one of England’s greatest working song writers.
The Arctic Monkeys. My dog has no nose….
And so to my Album of the Year which is by Amy Winehouse and carries the unfortunate, but prescient title Back to Black.
Her travails are well documented, and people seem to have plenty to say on the matter but all I can say is that I have nothing but admiration for her brutal honesty about herself and everything that ails her through the songs on this record, and the lyrics to Tears Dry On Their Own should not have to be written by a 23 year old with such a stunningly beautiful voice.
Winehouse, a Working Class London girl, is the epitome of how we as a society oppress women and expect them to look and behave in a certain manner, and the fact that she describes herself as “ugly”, “fat” and “no good”, shows that the Islamic Fascists condoned by George Galloway, insisting on the burka and veil certainly do not have sole monopoly on putting women down.
The voice of an angel, and a tortured genius. Sounds familiar to me, but please God Billie Holliday is only referred to regarding Amy for the voice and not the lifestyle.