May Reviews – Teenage Fanclub and Tracey Thorn

Here are the three reviews for which I’m responsible in this month’s Clash Magazine. Although there are only three this time out (seven next month, fact fans) what a three they are. I’m including my review of ‘Bang Goes The Knighthood’, despite the much longer piece I recently published as this is me reviewing it for a wider audience with many, many fewer words. Roughly the same end result though!

May Reviews

TEENAGE FANCLUB – Shadows’ (PeMa)

Finally, the Fannies explore their penchant for prog-rock and German psychedelia! Ok, so it actually sounds very much like a classic Teenage Fanclub record, but that should be enough to satisfy the discerning ear. After the relatively stripped back ‘Man Made’, ‘Shadows’ returns to the lush, meticulously crafted sound of previous albums. Lyrically, they’re no slouches but, as with so many of their wonderful albums, it’s the chiming guitars and angelic harmonies that truly revitalise the soul. ‘Shock And Awe’, replete with soaring guitar break, is a highlight, while their list of classic singles grows with the cheery ‘Baby Lee’. 9/10

If ever it’s possible to find oneself wanting another 900 words or so to explore an album properly, it was with this one. Keep an eye out for another ‘New Music Monday’ coming soon.. It’s a belter.

THE DIVINE COMEDY – ‘Bang Goes The Knighthood’ (DIVINE COMEDY RECORDS)

I won’t piss about. This album won’t convert anyone who previously found Neil Hannon’s band unpalatable. Indeed, it rather gleefully ramps up the eccentricity and delights in the study of curious characters of all ages and classes. At times it gets a little too silly, the lazy implied rhyming slang in ‘The Complete Banker’ the true lyrical nadir, but ‘Down In The Street’ and ‘When A Man Cries’ rank up there with Hannon’s finest grand production numbers, the former a shape-shifting musical avalanche which gets things underway. Album closer ‘I Like’ could even displace ‘National Express’ as his annoying pop smash. 7/10

I opted not to make a big thing of ‘Can You Stand Upon One Leg’ in this review as a) I had bugger all words in the first place b) it might have completely turned people away. It was tricky trying to contextualise this record beyond TDC fans, but I think it’s a relatively fair assessment. The recent, larger piece explains my thoughts in far greater detail.

TRACEY THORN – ‘Love And Its Opposite’ (STRANGE FEELING)

The distinctive voice of Everything But The Girl, Thorn’s almost effortless vocal grace has been a compelling part of the musical landscape for nearly thirty years. From electronic folk to warm, soulful country, the songs on what is only her third solo record tackle the pitfalls of middle age with a stark honesty, tempered by restrained optimism. ‘Long White Dress’ and ‘Singles Bar’, subject matter made clear from the off, are highlights; the former is mellow and wistful, with a delightfully lilting chorus, while the latter radiates the fatigued disenchantment of somebody lacking motivation in the unfulfilled pursuit of love. 7/10

This might actually be an 8 in the fullness of time, but what do numbers matter anyway? There are some quite magical bits on this, not least the two tracks mentioned in the review. Well worth a listen and a charmingly stripped back accompaniment to one of pop’s most recognisable voices.

2010 inverted

New Music Monday – The Divine Comedy ‘Bang Goes The Knighthood’

Wonderful records breed loyalty. If you’ve done enough to lure in the faithful then they’ll likely be there for you in the future, eagerly lapping up any of your aural oozings. Such dutiful application will ensure that releases will get a few more chances than most to gel, will be scoured for the positives and will be received in tones of rapture rarely befitting the actual songs themselves. Think Weller’s ‘Heliocentric’ and ‘Illumination’, ‘Know Your Enemy’ by the Manics, R.E.M.’s ‘Around The Sun’ or even the finest example of reverence over reality, the reviews which greeted ‘Be Here Now’ upon its release. Once you know a band so well that they feel like they’re yours, how easy is it to remain objective? Is it necessary to make excuses for the lesser works of fabled acts? To boil it all down: is it possible for an artist who’s ten albums into their career to shake off esteemed baggage and simply be enjoyed at face value?

bang-500

Yes. Or, as Neil Hannon would have it rather too frequently on this record, ‘yeah’! ‘Bang Goes The Knighthood’ is a rollercoaster for the emotions; a journey of the high seas of adjusted expectations. My early listens were riddled with apprehension and disappointment. I wasn’t sure what I wanted this record to sound like, but it wasn’t this. Some of the less than eloquent lyrics leapt out at me initially, despite my normal tendency to be someone who is lured in by the music first, and by the time ‘Can You Stand Upon One Leg’ – genuinely one of the very worst things Hannon has ever released – was underway I was starting to worry. In a culture full of snap judgements, aided and abetted by technology that allows, nay requires, instant feedback from you for pretty much every aspect of your life, I wanted to be able to pinpoint this album. Was it a success? How many songs were true greats? How did it fare alongside his back catalogue?

Repeated listens served to ease my furrowed brow, seduce my anxious ears and relax my knotted sense of loyalty. This is not a great Divine Comedy album. I know it’s a little early to be tossing out a dismissive statement like that, but it is perhaps the most effective way to set about putting this album into context for the small but merry band of Hannon fans. Alongside the aforementioned, disturbingly dire aberration that serves as the record’s penultimate track, a couple of these songs feel a bit too much like a grown adult on a bouncy castle. Sure, it’s fun, but is there any need? ‘The Complete Banker’, replete with depressingly clear rhyming slang implications, features workmanlike lyrics about the global banking crisis over a stomping chug of a tune and should really have been relegated to b-side status at best. ‘The Lost Art Of Conversation’ is a throwaway list song, evoking initial smirks from the bizarre choice of chat chums and taking sneeringly stereotypical pot-shots at the limited intelligence of footballers. Neil tells us that when it comes to “Frank Lampard, it’s going to take some concentration.” You see, it would be difficult because he’s not very bright. So he wouldn’t say much. Oh, it’s funny because it’s true. And, it’s weak because it’s lazy. Another track that I’d probably have warmed to shorn of the context of a whole album and simply proffered up as 79p throwaway bonus track in the land of the legal download, but when alongside ‘Assume The Perpendicular’ and ‘Down In The Street Below’ it stands out like someone shitting themselves in a graduation photo. It was supposed to be so special…

As you may have gathered from that last rather indelicately expressed point, there are still some great Divine Comedy track on ‘Bang Goes The Knighthood’ and I’ll confess that – ‘Can You Stand Upon One Leg’ aside – I am slightly exaggerating my disappointment. Largely, the album makes for a perfectly enjoyable listen and, once you’ve got to know the tracks a little better, there’s plenty to like. I would argue that there are three great tracks, along with six further decent tunes. The highs, when they come, are very high. ‘Assume The Perpendicular’ is the missing link between Hannon’s day job and his hobby of writing novelty songs about cricket. It has a certain Duckworth Lewis like swagger to it, a cracking set of lyrics and a brain-shaggingly catchy chorus. There’s no evidence of the epic sweep of old, no sign of the heartfelt musings of recent albums but it sits very nicely indeed alongside a summer smash like ‘The Pop Singer’s Fear Of The Pollen Count’.

That’s not to say that sweeping strings, epic storytelling and emotive, soaring Hannon vocals have been entirely decommissioned. There are three sightings on ‘Bang Goes The Knighthood’, with varying degrees of success. ‘Have You Ever Been In Love’, strangely shorn of its necessary punctuation, is a disarmingly simplistic love song which wouldn’t sound out of place with Michael Bublé’s velvet tones atop it. Despite this, and while I suspect it might not entirely convince the hardcore, I’ve been rather charmed by it. In spite of its shortcomings, its simplistic emotional transparency is oddly endearing. Far more severe is ‘When A Man Cries’, a sombre piece which sits somewhere between ‘The Plough’ and ‘’The Wreck Of The Beautiful’ in terms of impact. Either way, it’s further proof that he has an album of downbeat Scott Walker-esque melodrama in him somewhere.

I suspect that the album’s title track would also like to keep such company but has no such luck. It just doesn’t really do much at all, gliding in and out without leaving a mark. I suspect if it had a little more presence I might warm to it but it’s so very slight that I have almost nothing to say about it. Anyway, I mentioned three soaring charmers and the third is by far the best. Opening the album, and setting the bar almost impossibly high, is ‘Down In The Street Below’, an exquisitely extravagant, musically ambitious and lyrically captivating high drama for which Hannon has previously been known. It lurches, it eases, it charges and it swoons in all the right places. It’s a likely favourite for many and it would certainly be my tune of choice but for the song which treads the fine line between pop genius and nausea-inducing cheese: ‘I Like’. If there’s one point of view espoused in this review likely to provoke a response, it’s my wholehearted endorsement of this sun kissed, chart friendly demonstration of the meticulous art of songwriting. The lyrics are, at times, comically abysmal – “I like you ‘cos you’re sexy. I like the sexy things you dress in” – but on this occasion I’m willing to file them in the ‘I Am The Walrus’ folder rather than the puke-green wallet marked Des-ree’s ‘Life’ and other slights on mankind.This genuinely has the potential to overtake ‘National Express’ as that Divine Comedy song. It could storm Radio 2 and take over the tastefully minded middle classes in a moment. It is one of the catchiest things he has ever released and I have whole days where I cannot get it out of my head. Whatever reservations the lyrics may instil in you, they will be banished by its sheer force of will. It’s a song that wants you to punch the air, clap your hands and simply enjoy yourself.

indie-disco-500

It would be remiss of me to not consider the album’s remaining three songs: ‘Island Life’, ‘At The Indie Disco’ and ‘Neapolitan Girl’. The first in this list sounds to me like a plinky-plonky piano piece reminiscent of ‘Charmed Life’ from ‘Absent Friends’, ably assisted by the rather lovely voice of Cathy Davey. It’s a pleasant track but it seems ill-suited to bridging the gap between ‘The Lost Art Of Conversation’ and ‘When A Man Cries’. Had it taken the spot belonging to ‘The Complete Banker’ in the opening salvo I suspect it would seem rather more instant. As it is, it likely deserves the tag of ‘grower’ and I wouldn’t be surprised if six months on from now I’m making a minor fuss about how good it is. Likewise, ‘Neapolitan Girl’ is a smirksome shuffle, evoking memories of the very best of Neil’s quirky, novelty b-sides. It gallops along winningly, with the wind in its hair and a bright tie in its collar. It’s great fun and works well as light to the malevolent shade of ‘The Complete Banker’. Finally, first single ‘At The Indie Disco’ contains a delightful key change, replete with euphoric strings, around the two minute mark and the splendid line, “she makes my heart beat the same way, as at the start of ‘Blue Monday’.” Ever since video of an early performance of this track appeared on YouTube, it made me a little uneasy about the new album. As it was, there was some justification for this, even if the song in question is entirely redeemed by the aforementioned magical shift in its latter stages.

Neil Hannon still writes better indie-pop songs than most. He still possesses an enjoyable wry way with a lyric and he still knows how best to deploy the charging acoustic guitar sound that has been a staple of his music for the best part of two decades now. Vocally, he remains a force to be reckoned with and, when he’s at his best, he can still scale the heights of old. With occasional though judicious use of the skip button, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed living with this record for the last month and can gladly reassure the Divine Comedy fans reading this that there’s plenty to be pleased about.

And so, to return to my original questions. It’s not easy to remain objective and I suspect that I’d be less forgiving of some of these lyrics if they were dressed in different clothes but that doesn’t mean there’s any need to make excuses for such things. ‘Bang Goes The Knighthood’ is a fair way down the rankings for the best Divine Comedy album, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good record. As for the baggage that might be raising expectations and dragging down enthusiasm, it’s impossible to forget that I’ve heard ‘A Short Album About Love’ and ‘Casanova’. I can’t pretend that songs like ‘The Summerhouse’ and ‘Commuter Love’ haven’t melted my heart. I can’t pat down the goosebumps raised by ‘The Light Of Day’ or even ‘Too Young To Die’. This record rarely prompts such intense emotional rushes and, for that at least, I’m a little sad. But that Neil is still recording glorious pop music, still unleashing records containing at least a few songs you’d put on a best of and still capable of the kind of musical alchemy found on ‘I Like’ and ‘Down In The Street Below’ is reason enough to celebrate this release.

2010 inverted

Wittering Wednesdays – Plastic Beach and a dog in a bath

I spent much of last weekend with the new Rufus Wainwright album, ‘All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu’, and I’m happy to tell you that it’s a charming and understated little record. I know, I never thought I’d type that about Wainwright either, but here it is: a collection of twelve songs featuring Rufus and his piano. It features some of his most beautiful singing to date along with complex piano figures, similar to those found on parts of ‘Poses’. Some songs feature guest lyricist Bill Shakespeare who, it turns out, can bash together a decent sounding phrase or two. Album closer ‘Zebulon’, a live version of which appeared on The Guardian’s site a few weeks ago, is spellbinding. I can’t recommend it enough. An alternative performance can be clicked on below.

The need to ensure the Rufus review was done on time meant that a number of delightful promos that landed towards the tail end of last week sat on the side for a while. I’ve previously tweeted about Allo Darlin’ who, despite a truly chronic band name, make some lovely, melodic indie pop. The include Aussie legends The Go-Betweens in amongst their influences and that should give you some idea about their commitment to songcraft. Well worth keeping an ear on. The album will appear in June and I’ll endeavour to say more about it nearer that time.

thorn

Tracey Thorn is back in May with ‘Love And Its Opposite’, an album which eschews some of the bleepier aspects of previous outings and presents a record of chiming, mature pop that sounds blinking great to me. I’ve always loved her voice but sometimes the material hasn’t quite lived up to it. Certainly not the case here and, but for the fact that I can’t imagine how the general public might be whipped into such a frenzy, this record deserves to sell well. As it is, I suspect it’ll end up being a lesser-known favourite amongst those with discerning lug’oles. Get in ahead of the game with a free download of the track ‘Oh, The Divorces!’ which you can claim here.

The rest of the promo jiffy bag was less obviously fantastic fare, but I imagine at least a couple more of them will get a mention here soon enough. Fabulous one man music cloud, Keith KenniffHelios, Goldmund – has had some professionally made editions done up of his previously CD-R only website releases ‘Unleft (Unreleased Vol. 1) and ‘Live At The Triple Door’. You can order from him direct here and expect to receive your discs rapidly and wrappedly. Did I get away with that? Hmmm. Anyway, they arrive neatly wrapped with a little bow around them. Charming. The music is, just as you might expect by now, ethereal goodness that tops up the soul and massages the ears. Highly, highly recommended. Should you need further convincing, here’s the old FUTUREMUSIC piece from last year.

plastic beach

As I type, ‘Plastic Beach’, the latest opus from Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz, is blaring away and I have to say, it certainly has its moments. Mark E Smith’s “where’s north from ‘ere” at the start of ‘Glitter Freeze’ is, perhaps, enough to justify buying the whole bloody record. Add in the just-the-right-side-of-annoying ‘Superfast Jellyfish’, childishly lolloping ‘Some Kind Of Nature’ (replete with Lou Reed) and the chaotic ‘Sweepstakes’ and things are looking up. ‘On Melancholy Hill’ is the latest addition to the Damon Albarn Musical Genius Songbook, a compilation I really should make some day. It is borderline perfect, with its slow-Daft-Punk opening, muffled Damon vocals and innocent background chimes. It makes me smile, and that’s a pretty decent test as far as I’m concerned. At almost an hour, it flies by surprisingly quickly and there is little to make you long for more judicious editing. The vinyl edition can’t come soon enough, but there’s much to like about the CD/DVD Experience edition so I’d treat yourself if I were you. You look like you deserve it.

A few shocks this week. Firstly, it turns out I love the album that is currently top of the UK sales chart. I feel completely out of step with what old people call the ‘pop charts’ these days, so to find that Ellie Goulding’s ‘Lights’, which may well end up being the pop album of 2010, is the best selling album in the country, despite me really liking it, took me by surprise. Were all of the supermarkets’ stocks of Michael Buble albums on holiday for a week? What happened? Anyway, forget some of the slightly sneering backlash that some corners of the music press are opting for and embrace an album full of lovely melodies and outstanding production.

The second shock was rather more severe. It was caused by this picture:

bang-500

This is the actual cover of the new album by The Divine Comedy! What can you say? Loving the gong at the back of shot and the return of the ‘A Short Album About Love’ era logo design though. Till next time…

11. The Divine Comedy – Regeneration

jp 40 11

Out went the suits, out grew the hair and out went the enormous orchestra. Sort of. As the decade began, Neil Hannon had decided that it was time for him to do something a little different with his band, The Divine Comedy. In came increasingly important producer, Nigel Godrich, and a revamp in the band’s sound. It wasn’t for everyone, including Hannon himself. Eights months on from launching the different sound of The Divine Comedy, he sacked the rest of the band and went back to base camp for a rethink. The result of that rethink was the somewhat over-familiar retread of all that had gone before, ‘Absent Friends’.

11 Divine Comedy

Regeneration’ does not deserve to be little more than a footnote in Hannon’s discography as it contains some of his finest songs and some genuinely masterful lyrics. ‘Perfect Lovesong’, while a deliberately cheesy pastiche of mid-sixties Beach Boys and Beatles sounds, is a cracking little pop song. ‘Bad Ambassador’ is one of my favourite Divine Comedy songs of all time, featuring Neil’s voice at full pelt on the ludicrously grand chorus and a musical backdrop which foregrounds the guitars and pares back the orchestra to great effect.

It is in delicious use of understatement where this record really excels and it is something that Hannon hasn’t been known for at any other point in his career. Album closer ‘The Beauty Regime’ is a decent piece of social commentary set to a magnificent tune while ‘Mastermind’ is an indie epic with suitably wry Hannon lyrics, commenting on the bizarre world around him. “We all need reassurance, as we play life’s game of endurance” he sings plaintively over a suitably severe backdrop and yet it hits a charmingly optimistic final note with the lines, “Tell me what the hell is normal and who the hell is sane. And why the hell care anyway? All the dreams that we have had are gonna prove that we’re all mad and that’s ok.” It’s easy to forget how great that one song alone is, tucked at the back of the album, surrounded by other notable tunes.

Likewise, ‘Eye Of The Needle’, which proceeds at the pace of one of the services offered by the institution it critiques, is one of the great lost Hannon classics. The world needs to be aware of this rhyming couplet at the very least:

“The cars in the churchyard are shiny and German
Completely at odds with the theme of the sermon.”

Tremendous stuff. Musically, it’s one of the most interesting things he’s ever done and, while some fans have complained that this is a heinous crime, it features plenty of Godrich’s trademark ‘wooshing’ noises, making it something of a one-off in the context of songs like ‘Something For The Weekend’, ‘National Express’, ‘Come Home Billy Bird’ and ‘Diva Lady’.

32. The Divine Comedy – Victory For The Comic Muse

JP 40 32

The album was preceded by ‘Guantanamo’, an absolute crock-of-shit ‘political’ song that made your toes curl and your soul itch. Things were not looking good. Then, with minimal fanfare, a French radio station played the first single, ‘Diva Lady’, one night and, thanks to the wonder of ‘listen again’ streams, I got my first exposure to the song that told me it would all be ok after all. It was a piss poor quality stream, but you could still make out an unashamedly ‘fun’ little song which, although not universally popular within the Divine Comedy fraternity, is one of many splendid moments on what marked a reassuring return to form.

32 Divine Comedy

Absent Friends’, seemingly held up as Neil Hannon’s best album by those who didn’t really love anything he did in his nineties lothario guise, was a limp retreat from the magical indie of ‘Regeneration’, with the suits dusted down again and the orchestras wheeled back in. It had its moments, certainly, but it felt too contrived. Certainly, ‘Victory For The Comic Muse’ could never have that particular criticism levelled at it, assembled as it was from random songs that Neil had lying around, including some written for, and rejected by, others. Recorded on an EMI-appeasing shoe-string over two weeks at the end of 2005, it would turn out to be a confident, almost strutting example of Neil’s wonderful songwriting.

Fans of woodsheds were given an aural hug by opening track, ‘To Die A Virgin’, while those who longed for more of the windswept balladeer were caressed by ‘A Lady Of A Certain Age’. ‘Party Fears Two’ offered a Divine-Comedy-by-numbers reinterpretation of an indie classic which somehow worked and ‘Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World’ ensured that words like ‘smug’ and ‘twee’ could still be trotted out by the non-believers.

But it’s the songs which didn’t receive too much fuss which actually make this album truly great. ‘The Light Of Day’ is regarded by some fans as MOR mulch that deserves a spot on daytime Radio 2 but not a Divine Comedy album. Suffice to say, I think they’re wrong. As delicate in its construction as many of the songs on ‘Promenade’, only smoother round the edges, and absolutely beautifully sung, ‘The Light Of Day’ gets me every time. It chugs at the right time, soars at that right time and goes for broke at the right time. It’s a more mature Divine Comedy, but it is done with supreme skill.

Yes, ‘Snowball In Negative’ is beautiful but the almost shameless Scott Walker love-in ‘The Plough’ is the other standout moment for me. Telling a delicious tale of derring-do over a dramatic musical backdrop, it positively screams ‘Scott 4’ at you. But, as we’re never going to hear that sound from Scott ever again, who can begrudge Neil such a splendid crack at it?

Futuremusic – Day Three

FM3CR

Do you long for a time when Ben Folds wasn’t shit? Do you find yourself wondering why nobody writes proper songs anymore? Were you pissed off when the last Duke Special album sounded like it was made entirely of sugar, dipped in more sugar and then encased in that sugary stuff they put around sugared almonds? Fear not, help is at hand.

Today’s Futuremusic focus is the really rather lovely music of Charles Ramsey. For a start he has a good singer-songwriter name; it trips off the tongue like Randy Newman, Paul Simon, Teddy Thompson. Luckily, he also delivers when it comes to the music. I’ve always been a sucker for what I would call ‘beautiful’ songs. My brain gets diverted, my thought processes unravel and I zone out of all conversation whenever a ‘beautiful’ songs loom into earshot. Recently, I found myself dashing to iTunes as a result of Peter Gabriel‘s stunning cover of The Magnetic Fields‘The Book Of Love’ being used over the final scenes of the eighth season of Scrubs. Not someone whose musical antics I would normally hoover up, but there I was, desperate to get hold of this track which, as it happened, isn’t available via download stores and thus Amazon gained £3 in order for me to relieve them of a copy of the otherwise shite soundtrack to ‘Shall We Dance’. But it’s happened many times before and I truly hope it will happen many times again the future. The latest ‘beautiful’ song moment came courtesy of Charles Ramsey. ‘She Changes You’, from his current album, ‘Good Morning and Good Night’, is a perfect pop song. A gentle drum beat and a stirring string refrain lure you in before Ramsey’s distinctive but utterly soothing vocals take over. It’s not great surprise to see that he counts The Beatles, Burt Bacharach and The Divine Comedy amongst his influences. The presence of both a harpsichord and an English Horn on this track ensure that it is sonically beguiling. And, yes, you’re reading the words of a fan of The Divine Comedy here, but I defy you to listen to that song and not think, “Mmmmm, I’d like to here more of his stuff.” So, why don’t you give yourself a four minute break from whatever your doing and do just that. Clicky for said song.

See? The music of Charles Ramsey is so clearly borne of a great musical heritage, absorbed over years of intensive listening to some of the true greats, and yet it avoids being simply derivative and inessential. His debut album, ‘Something New’, was the sound of an artist finding his feet and didn’t quite scale the heights of ‘Good Morning & Good Night’ but nevertheless demonstrated a skill for what you might term ‘classic songwriting’. ‘So Much Better Off’, the debut’s highlight, can be heard on Ramsey’s Myspace player and it’s a nifty little piano-pop beast that, were it released by a faddish troupe of pop tarts such as The Hoosiers, could be a huge hit. It bounces along, piano thudding along in a fashion that Foldy Benjamin would be thrilled with, horns gradually building to a glorious flourish and all of it sounding like a record made by someone who loves a bit of ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’. It’s great.

CR for FM

Recent recordings build on Ramsey’s pop nous and thus ‘Good Morning & Good Night’ is an album that deserves an audience. As any good scientist will tell you, it’s been clinically proven that if you end up whistling a song involuntarily, it must be pretty decent and so I have found myself offering my own, fairly out of tune, renderings of three of four songs from this album in recent days. As with the two acts already featured this week, Charles Ramsey has seized the initiative and put his music out there for you to go and get and both albums are available from iTunes (and other download stores) should you wish to get an immediate fix.

iTunes link for ‘Good Morning & Good Night’

iTunes link for ‘Something New’

But, for those of who’d rather have the physical product (and which right-minded individual wouldn’t) you can avoid cutting Apple in on the deal and give your money direct to the man himself via Paypal options on his website. Clicky.

Whether it’s ‘So Much Better Off’ or ‘She Changes You’, just wait till the next time you find yourself absent mindedly whistling to yourself and take a moment to check which song it was. Charles Ramsey is never going to be trumpeted by the NME as the new sound of anything because, frankly, he’s not but I’d say a bit of space can be made in the hearts of anyone who likes smart pop music, be it Ben Folds, Teenage Fanclub or the aforementioned Paul Simon. No agenda. No fad. Plenty of decent tunes.

 

Cucumber sandwiches all round

I’m supposed to be working. That’s why I’m here. If you like, you can imagine the traditional apology for a delay in posting. Feel free to inset it about here. Done? Splendid.

If you like buying records from people then you will soon be officially ‘odd’. It’s not possible, apparently. Even the odd record shop still going – yes, HMV, I’m talking about you – doesn’t appear to actually want to sell music anymore. Branded ‘listen’ or ‘hear’ or something equally patronising, music is gradually being shunted into the small section previously reserved for ‘special interest’ DVDs and magazines. In the last couple of months, we’ve had the demise of Woolies, Zavvi and, more personally, the news that Nottingham’s Selectadisc is shutting up shop at the end of this month. I’ve written about this topic many times on here, so I’ll try not to witter on about the same-old, same-old, but I’m genuinely pissed off at the fact that my record shopping will soon be done almost exclusively online. Where’s the fun in that? Anyway, Selectadisc has always been a shining beacon of how to run a record shop – I’ve said as much here and Nottingham’s Left Lion folk have a tribute here too.

The other thing I felt compelled to mention – admittedly, once again, fuelled by work avoidance – is the new project from Neil Hannon and that fat beardy bloke from Pugwash, called Thomas Pugwash. While his voice is largely unremarkable, the splendidly, well, splendid voice of Mr Hannon delivers the goods aplenty on the Myspace page for this new venture, charmingly called, The Duckworth Lewis Method, as in cricket. The album’ll be out around the time of The Ashes for prime cash-in factor. They appear to have forgotten that neither of them sell many records, but it’s quite sweet logic, nonetheless. Anyway, whatever the sales figures, the track they uploaded yesterday, ‘Gentlemen and Players’ is sublime. I’ve not been able to stop playing it since I first heard it. I’m playing it now, actually. Go listen yourself. Click here.

Should probably do some work now.

Oooh, it’s lunch time.