Madness. Divine.

An old man thrusting his crotch forth and lifting his shirt in the street would be a pervert. Put him on a stage in Pilton and it’s entertainment. Apparently. Just ask Tom Jones. Still, at the same time they were showing Tony Christie on the red button and he was fucking marvellous. What an entertainer. After a bit of drifting around the red button options and watching Mark Radcliffe freezing Lauren Laverne out of the Tom Jones interview, we were then treated to Madness who, if I’m being absolutely honest, were the highlight of the weekend’s coverage thus far. Bursting with energy and possessing a setlist of pure quality, they proceeded to entertain and delight for the best part of an hour’s telly viewing. The massive bouncing accompanying ‘House Of Fun’ and ‘Baggy Trousers’ was really rather charming and speaking of massive bouncing, did anybody notice how the director included a shot of a female member of the crowd displaying her breasts for all and sundry? I’m sure there’s a great reason related to artistic integrity, but I’m buggered if I can think of it right now. Jarvis and Yeah Yeah Yeahs looking good on the red button, although they’ve only just appeared and were on at the same time, so may need to nip to the BBC site for some catchup action tomorrow.

Blur soon…

(Slightly) Bored In The Uk

Clearly, Glastonbury is not best experienced from your sofa and, as such, any comments I make about the festival are entirely limited to the BBC coverage. But, this year really doesn’t seem to have hit the highs of recent Glastos, at least from the couch potato’s perspective. The red button content has been pretty limited and not especially exciting. Fewer new bands seem to have been shown and the waffle quota from the presenters seems to have been doubled at the very least. God bless the like of Gideon Coe and the ever-charming Adam & Joe on 6music for their sterling efforts in terms of bringing the festival to those us dotted around the country.

Franz Ferdinand, as much as I love their recent album – normal and dub version, were good but failed to thrill, while Bruce Springsteen was a tremendous presence, in fine voice but as extraordinarily lengthy as he always is. Glasto is perhaps not the time to test people’s endurance and from a TV perspective it was time to press the red button. Except there was bugger all on there.

As with 2007, Maximo Park offered a wonderful performance and the thirty minutes of their set that got shown several thousand times on the aforementioned additional channels was hugely enjoyable, even if Paul did use the same line about how grateful they were for people coming to see them despite the choice that they used last time. Ultimately, I just keep thinking about how long it is until we get to see Blur. Not long now. I wonder if my extreme anticipation for Damon, Graham, Alex and Dave is spoiling everything else for me? Or it could just be because I’m pissed off at being riddled with hay fever and too sodding warm. And there’s a heatwave coming.

Anyway, keep yourself amused during today’s early evening broadcast by searching Twitter for the Edith Bowman hate campaign; it’s oddly addictive. The failure to use Phill Jupitus this year is a screw up on the Beeb’s part and the continued banishment of Adam & Joe from presenting duties on BBC3 due to some Rolf Harris incident seven years ago seems ludicrous. As always, thirty minute video highlights from some of the artists are available from the BBC Glasto site, as are the 6music shows broadcast over the weekend.

Glasto update #3

Glastonbury on BBC3 is a bit of chore this year. Isn’t it meant to be fun? Don’t I normally really enjoy this? I’m struggling to think of anything particularly splendid thus far. Doves were great, but then they always are. I mentioned The Hot 8 Brass Band on Twitter, and they’re pretty great. For more, pick out last night’s BBC2 show (the 11.20 one) from iPlayer. They’re very near the start. Apparently, Kasabian are ‘absolutely killing’ on the main stage right now, according to Bowman. Follow Bowman loathing via the Twitter account. She’s just said Kasabian in a ‘comedy’ way. Oh, she’s so ironic.

Hello to whoever runs Maps‘ myspace page, by the way. Assuming you come back for a second time!

Lady GaGa: Making Bowman’s shorts seem lengthy

I don’t suppose it helps that we all know that Blur, Springsteen, Madness and are all still to come, but Friday at Glastonbury seemed rather underwhelming from the comfort of my sofa. As if to add insult to injury, almost all of the presentation team seemed completely incompetent. I can only assume that Edith Bowman has some very incriminating photos of someone very important at the Beeb because she surely doesn’t keep getting rehired on the basis of her actual work. Combine her with the ever-so-slightly too excited Reggie Yates and Jo Whiley, who seemed unable to utter any error-free sentences last night, and the links proved excruciating. The only saving grace was the increasingly enjoyable double act between the lovely Lauren Laverne and the equally lovely (though not in quite the same way) Mark Radcliffe, who seems to be getting younger with every passing year.

Musically, things weren’t much better. Lily Allen offered reasonably tuneful renditions of some of her splendid pop nuggets whilst being only ever seconds away from a wardrobe malfunction. A crisis was averted, unlike during Lady GaGa‘s performance, which prompted Laverne to actually ponder on air as to whether she was wearing any pants during the performance. Whichever way you look at it (and I’d recommend hands over the eyes) the performance was an unpleasant affair. Staging right out of 1970s excess and costumes right out of the necessary inches, one of the possible pop moments of the weekend fell flat.

Fleet Foxes were gently splendid but hardly likely to set the pulse racing. Unlike The Specials, however, who offered a blistering festival set, musically tight and vocally marvellous. Terry Hall even smiled briefly. It was quite brief. Blink and you miss it brief. But smile, he did. Doves, for the few songs they were oh-so-graciously allowed, were as outstanding as their recent tour suggested, ‘Kingdom Of Rust’ confirming its place in the pnatheon of Doves classics. Bloc Party were as distressing as you might imagine. Do any of the band apart from Kele even want to be there now? They don’t give that impression. Everything I saw of theirs seemed nearly-but-not-quite, much like their recent records. That reminds me, I need to review their new single at some point.

Jack Penate was hugely excited but forgot that jumping up and down whilst singing doesn’t tend to allow for a tune to be held. Or ever veered close to. Little Boots still sounded a bit too nasal to me. Something about her doesn’t quite click with me, but I can’t put my finger on it just yet. The Maccabees and White Lies were so inoffensive I can’t really remember anything their sets on which to comment.

I was thinking the other day about who would be this year’s Ting Tings. You know, hideously shouty, out-of-tune, technically inept vocals and ramshackle musical beige. As it happens, it’s the fucking Ting Tings. They were back. No new songs. Same shite performance as last year, just a bigger stage. How exciting.

Anyway, M Ward, Bon Iver, Jarvis, Maximo Park, Franz, The Low Anthem, Kasabian and The Boss all peform today, amongst many others. How much of such good stuff will make it to air, I’ve no idea. After all, we need to spend five minutes in car park while some vacuous girl with a big tongue interviews security before Edith and Reggie talk about how they dance to certain bands. God bless the red button.


An enormous sense of wellbeing

It now actually feels a bit like it never happened. Last night, sweating furiously and surrounded by several thousand like-minded obsessives, I saw Blur at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall. They were probably better than I’d hoped. And I’d had very high hopes for this show. So utterly powerful was this Blur performance that ‘Country House’ sounded like a world beater. Seriously.

The smiles barely dropped from the faces of all four of them across the entire evening and Graham’s not especially graceful backwards roll during ‘Popscene‘ seemed to sum up how they felt about being back on stage together after nine years. Damon doesn’t appear to have aged, in fact he looks an awful lot younger than he did when promoting ‘The Good, The Bad & The Queen’ two years previous. Alex remains one of the coolest performers gracing a stage in modern music, even if he does now tuck his T-shirts in and sweat in the strangest places. After opener ‘She’s So High’ came to an end, Dave looked out at the crowd in wonder and seemed genuinely affected by the response. Rather charmingly, that same look appeared on his face after every subsequent song, resulting in him throwing his sticks crowdwards at the end of the first encore.

Musically, they sounded indecently good for a band that are only five gigs in to the return from a sizeable lay off. Graham’s much vaunted performance on ‘Out Of Time’ was subtle but wondrous and the added brass and backing singers were deployed in an understated fashion to great effect. ‘Tender’, with its multiple false endings, seemed set to reduce the entire crowd to slightly weepy, grinning idiots but it was ‘Beetlebum‘ that seemed to leave Damon choked. He took a moment to thank the audience for its response, a response that was dished out to much of the night’s setlist. The singing was near constant, the bouncing not far behind. Fair play to the slightly chubby teen who suddenly appeared next to me towards the end of the set, clearly barely able to stand, drenched in sweat and more than a little emotionally overcome. He wasn’t alone. The audience reaction was startling and, while I fully anticipated coming across as a crazed loon, I don’t think I’d quite imagined that every other attendee would be the same. Welcomed like heroes and sent on their way by minutes of applause, Blur truly delivered.

I can’t really pick a highlight as there wasn’t a moment where I wished they’d chosen a different song or a performance that didn’t quite take off. It was a consummate performance from one of our very best bands. That said, ‘For Tomorrow’, ‘This Is A Low’, ‘Popscene’, ‘Trimm Trabb’ and ‘The Universal’ were genuinely rather moving from where I was standing. Inevitably, I’ve popped a few YouTube videos below to illustrate my point, although I would still send you dashing off to the post with the videos from Colchester for some startlingly good amateur footage. Rest assured, Glastonbury has its highlight in waiting. What with Blur occupying the Sunday night slot, it’s a fairly safe bet that the majority of the set will be shown on BBC2 without too much Whiley interference. Cancel everything, turn the telly up and enjoy.




Just after posting this, I read that Steven Wells, you’ll have known him as Swells, had died at the age of 49. I am a music press obsessive and anyone who read the NME while Swells was writing for them will remember what made him such a great writer. Whatever else he was (and he oh-so-fucking-many things) he was absolutely hilarious. While so few of us that attempt to write about music ever get close to the linguistic perfection that Swells could achieve, he was an inspiration for so many people. I may have to do a detailed review of the new Bloc Party single in tribute to him tomorrow. All the best, Swells. Your time on earth will be remembered by many for a very long time.

Swells’ last article

NME tribute

Heading for the end?

Since Zavvi took its final breaths in February of this year, Simon Douglas, ex-Zavvi boss type, has been trading a handful of the old sites under the name Head Entertainment. You can spot a Head store by its chronically cheap looking logo, done out in the Zavvi colour scheme and quickly bunged over the name Zavvi on the shop frontage. The shops are, from what I can gather, pretty much a dumping ground for all of the leftover Zavvi stock that Douglas got from the administrator as Zavvi shut for the final time. This does mean that the vast majority of the stock in store isn’t especially thrilling but it’s worth having a look at the bargain CD section. This largely consists of shelves over-stuffed with unsorted CDs and then large crates and boxes full of discs dotted around the shop. It’s a feat of endurance and not for the weak willed.

If the Meadowhall branch is anything to go by, all of these CD boxes have now been marked down to £2.99 or less, suddenly making for some decent bargains amongst stock that was previously the fairly regular price of £5/6. Picked up some Pixies, Iron & Wine, Nirvana, Black Mountain, Modest Mouse, The Aliens, Lambchop, The National, Sigur Ros, Edgar Jones and Isobel Campbell at £2.99, plus Soft Cell and Yo La Tengo at £1.99 each. Throw in the spangly 2CD edition of The Chemical Brothers’Brotherhood‘ at £6.74 and you’re looking at a decent haul for not much cash. Like I said, it takes some time to sift through the vast piles of crap in order to find these, but there’s plenty of decent stuff available.

Despite all of these joyous bargains, it’s hard to see where Head is, er, heading. They’ve got a small selection of current chart albums in at normal prices, but pretty much everything else is stock from up to Christmas 2008 reduced in a seemingly arbitrary fashion. Presumably, it depends how many boxes of each title the Zavvi warehouse had at the time of the sale but it does seem odd to see some recent stand up DVDs at £2.74 and others at £9.99 or more. Rumours circulated when it launched that it was done so with very short term leases and that it’s nothing more than quick attempt to flog off tonnes of stock at customer-friendly prices. Suits me. But when I was in one of the stores a few months back, I asked what the situation was and was told, “Well, we need more variety on the high street.” Now, this seems more than a little disingenuous when the stock isn’t being updated with new releases (barring the small rack or two of new albums) and the whole shop is operating one big sale. In light of these mixed messages, it’s hard to know what Head is. Apparently, the old Zavvi shop in Leicester’s Highcross centre will reopen as Head in early July, while the Bluewater shop has already closed and Meadowhall is rumoured to be going the same way in a couple of months. Apparently, it’ll be having a ‘summer clearout’ from Thursday. How a clearout shop has a clearout is beyond me, but it could mean ever cheaper prices on good stuff. I think it’s fair to conclude that Head isn’t going to be one of those shops that is fondly remembered in years to come but, while it’s still there, it’s worth picking through the odds and sods.

He’d help her if he existed

The last few weeks have been little short of musical alchemy. Every disc I lay my hand on turns out to be gold. Or at least quite good, but that sort of statement doesn’t lend itself to outrageously hyperbolic opening statements. Whether it’s a vinyl copy of Iron & Wine‘s ‘The Shepherd’s Dog’, Cinerama‘s ‘Va Va Voom’ or ‘God Help The Girl’ by Stuart Murdoch and his interchangeable sixties women, they’ve all been a delight to hear. In amongst all of this, I’ve been playing as much Blur as I can fit into any remaining gaps in the day. Lovely stuff. And yet, I continue to keep feeding CDs into iTunes. Why? I want them all to be on the iPod. Will I actually listen to them on the iPod? Clearly, that doesn’t matter, I simply need to keep ripping and ripping. Virtually all of my listening is done via my decent (but nowhere near as decent as I’d love it to be) separates system and yet ensuring that all of those great tracks are there for an emergency situation – provided I have the not-all-that-often-carried-around-with-me iPod to hand – seems essential.

It did get me to thinking about the luxury of choice and what this can mean sometimes. I actually had to make a conscious effort to give Eels, Malcolm Middleton and Kasabian another spin last weekend, just so that they didn’t get overlooked by other stuff. In what world is it acceptable for albums that have been out for all of seven minutes and twelve seconds to have already slipped down the pecking order. And, I hasten to add, they’re not shit. They haven’t slipped due to piss poor songwriting or mediocre vocals. Nope, I just have a constant stream of music pouring into my ears and, at times, it doesn’t really feel like I’m in charge of it. Another good example is the new Magnolia Electric Co album, which I was sent in order to review about four weeks back. I played it five or six times before attempting to put fingers to keyboard, but I haven’t listened to it much since. Not because it’s not brilliant (it’s one of Jason Molina‘s best ever records) but simply because there’s loads of other stuff. I’m an idiot. With each new jiffy bag or reasonably well structured vinyl mailer, I’m running off to switch the amp on, but how much time are all of these records getting? Is it only me that’s suffering from this problem? I imagine it afflicts people who download by the, er, external-hard-drive-load (really fucking catchy phrase) more than most, but there may be a few format obsessives like myself out there who have similar issues. Still, not to worry. I still seem to be falling in love with albums at same rate as always, so it must all be going in somehow.

Back to Blur for a moment. I would imagine you’ve had a look at some of the many videos I posted links to on the site last week by now and, if you’re anything like me, you’re probably still ever-so-slightly taken aback by just how great they were. I had actually forgotten just how much I love that band and it took all of thirty seconds of the video of ‘There’s No Other Way’ to remind me of that amorous instinct. They just look like they’re having so much fun, not to mention sounding bloody marvellous while they’re at it. I’ll confess to having bought a copy of ‘Midlife’, the rather terribly named alternative anthology of their reign as chart-shagging tunesmiths when picking up a few things from Morrisons the other day. It was cheap and it seemed like the done thing. Yes, I have all of these songs already. Yes, even the 7″ remix of ‘Death Of A Party’. Indeed, the packaging is a bit weak, but the songs, oh the songs! A random running order of songs apparently chosen by the band actually serves to highlight just what is so special about Blur. ‘He Thought Of Cars’ sounds imperious removed from the surrounds of ‘The Great Escape’, while ‘Blue Jeans’ suddenly seems like it must have been a huge hit rather than an overlooked album gem. Off to see them shortly and I really, truly can’t wait. If you don’t like Blur you’ll have to humour me. That said, if you don’t like Blur, you’re a nutter and you shouldn’t be hanging out around here.

I’m going to persevere with the twitter account for a bit longer. Quick thoughts on records being listened to at any one time seems like the way to go. That and shameless advertising for the blog.

Anyhoo, that’s me for now. If you didn’t catch ‘Psychoville’ last night, nip over to the iPlayer right now and treat yourself. That link’s also worth clicking on in order to see that in the ‘More Like This’ section, the iPlayer recommends ‘Last Of The Summer Wine’. Splendid. In fact, while I’m on about telly, have a quick zip through last night’s ‘That Mitchell And Webb Look’ for the fantastically well observed sketch about their ‘hit and miss sketch show’.

For Tomorrow

I’ve been a little bit giddy since it was announced that Blur were returning to life as a four-piece, this intensified when I actually got tickets and now the moment is very nearly here. The band do their first ‘warm up’ show tomorrow in Colchester before gradually performing for larger and larger crowds en route to Glastonbury. As part of this rejuvenated push, EMI are releasing a rather decent selection of Blur songs as ‘Midlife: A Beginner’s Guide’ and The Guardian will have an interview with the whole band in the Weekend magazine in tomorrow’s paper. I’m really quite excited about buying tomorrow’s Guardian, such is my desire to read about life in Blur 2.0.

To whet the proverbial appetite, they’ve been releasing various video clips of them rehearsing for the tour onto the web. Here they are, collected for your enjoyment…

And here’s a link to watch a lovely little Channel 4 interview with the band.