Eduardo’s Back

The curse has finally been lifted. Eduardo started last night’s match against Cardiff, scoring two goals. I must admit, I had a little tear in my eye when Eduardo ran to the crowd to celebrate. I firmly believe that we’d have won the league last season if Eduardo hadn’t suffered his appalling injury – not just because we lost our finest striker, someone who doesn’t need four or five attempts to score a goal, unlike Adebayor or Bendtner, but also because of the dark funk it brought to the team. Having him back, and better, looking pretty tasty is a great bonus to the team. He’s almost like a new signing (joke).

What’s more, when his name was read out at the start of the game, the cheers were deafening, and carried on right through the substitute’s names. Even if the crowd were pretty quiet the rest of the game, it was great to hear. On that note, it wasn’t good to see so many empty seats. We’d better start filling those seats or money troubles will follow.

On the whole, we looked excellent. I’m still not convinced by the central midfield partnership of Denilson and Song, and Bendtner, although he worked hard, sometimes struggled against a Championship defence, which is frankly not a good sign. And missing an open goal, somehow contriving to hit the post, was pure comedy. I’m glad we’d already scored at that point.

The team also looks far, far more dangerous with Vela on the left and Nasri on the right. They ran, they harried, they made space, and we had more chances in the first fifteen minutes that the entire match at Cardiff. If that doesn’t show Wenger that Eboue is the wrong player for this team, what will? Funnily enough, on the way out, I overheard a guy say “We weren’t good because Eddie was playing, it was because Eboue wasn’t”. Too true.

All in all, though, a great night out. Made even more amusing by watching Cardiff fans taunt the police and then peg it as soon as the police started to walk towards them, outside the Tollington. Protect our sheep, indeed.

Other match reports from Goodplaya and Arseblog, with some ominous news about Usmanov. I’ll try and find out some more about that later.

In other news, I’m now on Twitter. Feel free to follow me, follow meeeeeee. I still think it’s the Interweb’s version of CB radio though.

Off To The Cardiff Match

Right, off to the Cardiff game now. Thank the Lord, Buddha, Yahweh, and any other deity I can think of right now; Eboue is suspended. Hurrah! And Diaby is injured. Hurrah! Song’s ok though. Boo! So we may well get to see Jack Wilshere, the little 12 year-old terrier, fed with sausages and tripe, running around the midfield and scoring goals like this:

Anyway, I’m looking forward to a dull 1-0 win for us. Sigh.

And it’s warm. Nearly properly warm. No thermals tonight!

Review – Hold Time by M. Ward

Hold Time comes at a critical moment for M. Ward. His profile has slowly been building up over five albums, with songs ranging from ragtime (Duet for Guitars #2), fascinating covers (Let’s Dance, To Go Home by Daniel Johnson, and Well Tempered Clavier by, er, Bach), campfire songs (Fuel For Fire), to soulful country rock (Outta My Head, Hi-Fi). An amazing guitarist (have a look at the YouTube clip below – just look at those fingers! See how he can suddenly turn from smashing out chords to fine fingerpicking in an instant), he’s head and shoulders above most other singer-songwriters around these days.

This is his sixth full album, and follows on from his work with Zooey Deschanel as She and Him. He’s been getting big props from everyone from Conor Oberst to Noel Gallagher. He’s been recording, producing and co-writing songs with the likes of John Fahey, Norah Jones, Jason Lytle and Neko Case, so his alt-rock credentials are about as high as they can get.

So, is this the album that finally propels him into the big time?*

Well, I’m not sure. M Ward albums have always had this lovely ancient crackly quality to them, making them sound like something dredged up from the bottom of the Hudson river from 1947. Even on Post War, his most modern sounding album, it still felt like a window to a lost world. But Hold Time seems largely lifeless and lacking in the soul that filled his previous records. Much as I love the variety of his writing, he’s starting to sound like he’s simply running through the numbers here; “Hold Time” and the cover (featuring Lucinda Williams) “Oh Lonesome Me” excepted. “Oh Lonesome Me” in particular shines through, sounding like She And Him should have been if he’d recruited a vocalist who could sing and had a sense of timing, rather than being Auto-Tuned into soulless oblivion.

But for the rest, the outlook isn’t so good. “For Beginners” sounds like it was knocked off in a couple of minutes (irony?). “Never Had Nobody Like You” is a lazy glam-stomp, and not necessarily in a good way. “Jailbird” starts to show some of the old M magic, but starts to drown under a sea of strings. And so it goes.

Could be that I’m just being harsh. It’s tough for any artist to have a run that lasts for more than three or four great albums. But to me, Hold Time sounds a little too dashed-off, as though he’s been so distracted by everything else going on that he’s forgotten to write the kind of album that got him noticed to start off with. There isn’t as much of the fantastic fingerpicking and inventive songwriting that so characterised his last few records. Worst of all, this album just hasn’t grown on me in the way that Transfiguration of Vincent, or Transistor Radio, or Post War did. Am I expecting too much?

In any case, I really do hope that other people listen to this and love it, and start to explore his older work. And I really do hope it doesn’t put people off, for M Ward’s music is (almost always) something to treasure.

Hold Time by M Ward

Oh Lonesome Me by M Ward featuring Lucinda Williams

*Something that would help would be to play bigger venues in London. You’ve just sold out the Academy, and the Bush Hall show sold out in minutes, so why not play somewhere bigger like the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, so more of us can actually come and see you? Come on mate, sort it out.

Update on Bad Science and LBC

It’s still kicking off over at Bad Science, with letters and emails being sent to and fro.

Personally, I am very firmly in the science camp. It’s a tribute to modern medicine that people think that vaccines don’t seem to be necessary. As a child, I had a school friend whose father was crippled by polio. Measles and mumps were common (this is in the 70’s) and I remember how worried my mother (who was a GP) was when my brother and I caught mumps. There’s a pretty reasonable chance of some particularly unpleasant complications with mumps in particular. And since the MMR jab has now been in use for decades, and closely studied in many, many countries, it’s about as safe as you can get. That’s not to say it’s 100% safe, nothing is, but it’s far better than being unvaccinated.

As a father of a 2-year old, living in London, we were amazed to come across intelligent, well-spoken parents (who had important jobs in big organisations) who had decided not to give their little ones the MMR vaccine. This was solely due to the appalling press coverage of the time. To me, I believe there is a case for the editors and even the proprietors of papers such as The Telegraph, The Daily Mail and the Independent to be taken to court for endangering public safety.*

Don’t get me wrong. If there is a genuine concern with *any* medicine, then it needs to be followed up, and if the newspapers send good investigative reporters out on the case, then all the better. But simply making a huge fuss over a well-tested vaccine, simply to sell papers, which results in thousands of children getting ill (and some dying) is bordering on criminal. There’s now an enormous industry out there selling “alternative” treatments, which are no better than placebo, to scared and frightened people who now believe that modern medicine is a waste of their time, even whilst they think they are buying these treatments from small, friendly firms (as Ben Goldacre’s book Bad Science explains, one of the largest sellers of “alternative” treatments is largely owned by an enormous drug firm).

I’ll update this later with some links.

*There are of course some rather large caveats to this statement

Woodpigeon, Dirty Hungarians

Got a bit of a cold this morning, and after two 1,000+ word posts on Pitchfork 500, I’m going to be quick today.

First of all, here’s some rather lovely songs from Woodpigeon, from Calgary, Canadialand (home of the long-lost Searsy, who got me onto Broken Social Scene back in the day). They’ve just released a compilation album in the UK called “Treasury Library Canada”, and early copies come with an additional CD. Of extras and that. Which, I’ve got to say, is a bit annoying – whilst you could get away with this sort of thing maybe 5 or 10 years ago, it’s just not the done thing these days, when one can simply download the whole thing for free from somewhere. In effect, if I’m the 501st buyer I don’t get the free CD. So why should I buy it at all? Bah.

/rant over

Colds make me grumpy.

In any case, their stuff is rather nice. I’m getting sweetness of Sufjan Stevens with the folkiness of classic Bright Eyes. Champion.

Slowcoustic have got some more on Here We Go Magic, who I bloggered about the other day, and who are well worthy of your attention.

And what would a Friday be without a bit of old Monty Python?

Knock Knock by Woodpigeon

Death By Ninja (A Love Song) by Woodpigeon

The Pitchfork 500 Goes Punk – Sex Pistols to Wire

When I was a kid, punks were scary. Not quite as scary as the skinheads that followed them, but the whole mohican and Doc Martens thing was pretty threatening to a seven year old. Even now, the sight of a proper skinhead in Docs:

This Is England

Still scares me a teeny little bit. But listening to Sex Pistols now, it’s almost hard to see why. There’s nothing particularly scary about them; in fact, it’s almost poetic: “When there’s no future\How can there be sin?\We’re the flowers in the dustbin”. Scrub that – “There is no future\In England’s dreaming” – it’s poetry.

God Save The Queen

But at the time, of course, it was a massive shock. No song had quite shocked the nation before. The media were up in arms. And there wouldn’t be anything quite like it until “Relax” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood some years later. We all know now how Malcolm McLaren shamelessly and ruthlessly played the media for ultimate sales value, but you know what? Good. Great Britain in the mid-70’s was a fucking miserable place and we needed the excitement. Whilst Sex Pistols were never exactly groundbreaking – musically they did nothing that wasn’t done 10 years earlier by Iggy and the Stooges and MC5 – they understood how to get a message across. And the message was, we’re in it for the money, and you can do this yourselves.

And so people did. One of those bands was The Clash, led by a diplomat’s son, Joe Strummer. Now there’s always been something about The Clash that didn’t sit right with me. They always seemed contrived, trying too hard (the reggae? Yeesh), and I always thought there was an aura of middle-class kids being working class heroes about them. Listening to (White Man In) Hammersmith Palais doesn’t change this one tiny bit. And it’s my blog, so I can say what I like.

Rock the Casbah’s alright though.

So Sex Pistols were chancers, copying dirty American rock and roll, and The Clash were posh kids playing at being poor. Who were the Buzzcocks then? I’d say they were the first band to really take the punk ethic and make genuinely great records. And Ever Fallen In Love is, alongside “Teenage Kicks” (coming later in the list), truly the best pop-punk tune ever. It takes the punk sensibility of playing the E-shape (ok, Em shape), moving it up and down the neck of a cheap guitar, and mixing it with a pure pop nous of the best anything The Beatles came up with (and I really am not a fan of The Beatles either). Pete Shelley sings of a love that should have stayed unrequited, making him “feel I’m dirt”, with the realisation that “we won’t be together much longer”. Now, I’m still unsure of Pitchfork’s reading of it that it’s about a homosexual or feminist relationship, but given that it was written not long after he’d broken up with his fiancee and before he came out as bisexual, there could well be something in that.* It’s one of the first truly emotional songs of the punk era, and it’s rawness and hurt shine through today. Like a cut that won’t heal and has gone all pus-y. What a lovely image, eh?

How could you tell?

How could you tell?

The next three songs in the list, Vic Godard and the Subway Set’s “Parallel Lines”, X-Ray Spex’s “Oh Bondage! Up Yours!” and The Adverts “One Chord Wonders”, are in some ways stereotypical punk songs, low on musical skill but big on attitude and passion. And the sax in “Bondage” livens it up no end. You can’t beat a good bit of sax.

And onto the last song for today. Wire are a bit of a funny one to me. I’m a huge fan of their quite unpopular “A Bell Is A Cup…” period. Or rather, when I say “quite unpopular” I mean “No-one ever talks about it any more, rather like that strange uncle who used to let his nieces sit on his knee and wear lederhosen and is now detailed at Her Majesty’s Pleasure and is on special lists”. Maybe I’m getting it all wrong, but no-one ever mentions that album. Hey, maybe it’s next on the “What Shall We Revive Next?” list and at some point in 2010 everyone will release records sounding just like it. I’ll do a post about it soon, as I’ve been listening to Silk Skin Paws a bit lately. Anyway, back to Ex Lion Tamer.

You can tell that Wire were a cut apart from the rest even with this early effort (unlike Joy Division’s early punk efforts as Warsaw, which were just a bit crap). Just listen to the lyrics: “Next week will solve your problemsBut now, fish fingers all in a line”. Er, what? Yes, a big touch of the old Art School with this lot, but still quite special**. So why, I hear you ask yourself, do I like Wire for being a bit posh and still being punks, but not The Clash? Well, I guess it’s because with Wire, they never tried being anything other than their deeply strange selves, whereas The Clash always wanted to make you believe they were someone else. It’s a verisimilitude issue, I reckon.

I knew I could get that in there somewhere.

And where the fucking hell is Ian Dury??? Damn Americans. Can’t trust them with anything.

Anyway, next it’s D-I-S-C-O.

*Yes, I do realise that if I spent a bit more time researching this I’d probably find a quote from Pete saying “Ever Fallen In Love” is about his first homosexual relationship. Look, this isn’t the Encyclopedia Britannica.

**Special, as in good, as opposed to special, sits at the back of the special bus licking the window

Ever Fallen In Love by The Buzzcocks

Ex Lion Tamer by Wire

The whole list is available

Deerhunter/Atlas Sound Micromix 19

Those lovely Deerhunting Atlas Sounding folks have done another Micromix, number 19 this time. Wander over here to download.

That’s going to be my commuting music in the morning. Thanks chaps!

It’s even got the cracking Felt on it:

1. The Monochrome Set – Eine Symphonie Des Grauens
2. Magazine – The Honeymoon Killers
3. Felt – Cathedral
4. Kitchens of Distinction – Skin
5. Guided by Voices – Mother & Son
6. Nobukazu Takemura – A Flying Squirrel
7. Geechie Wiley – Last Kind Words Blues
8. Pavement – Dark Ages
9. Chrome – You’ve Been Duplicated
10. Andy Partridge – I Sit In The Snow
11. DB’s – Dynamite
12. Glass Candy – Lady From The Black Lagoon
13. Bullion – Don’t Talk

But 13 tracks? It’s bad luck, I tells yer.

Pitchfork 500 – Bowie to Smith

So, here goes, the first proper part of me listening to The Pitchfork 500 so hardly anyone can read it.

As a quick precis, Pitchfork (highly regarded and influential yet somewhat snobby music website), released a book toward the end of last year, detailing the greatest 500 songs from 1977 to 2007. And I’m going to listen to them all and comment on some of them.

This is also a rather long post – over 1200 words. Sorry. But there are some gags at the bottom.

First off, David Bowie’s Heroes. When I was a kid, David Bowie was a hugely popular yet deeply odd pop star. The “Ashes To Ashes” video is still burned into my retina, especially the bit where they walk in front of the digger:

And so, first track in, I’ve got two points to make. Firstly, Heroes is the wrong song. Yes, it’s good and everything; I can understand that’s a link between the Beach Boys and Krautrock; the production is amazing – with so much happening at once it’s impossible to take in for the first, ooh, ten listens – but it’s the wrong song. Ashes To Ashes is a far finer song, infinitely creepy, lyrically superb, marvellously evocative of a man on the edge, and I’ll bet if you walked up to the man in the street* and asked him to sing a Bowie song, it’d be Ashes To Ashes. I’ll be coming back to this point throughout the list.

Which leads me onto the second point. Whilst I can’t argue with the list as a whole – there will always be omissions, changes, etc – I’ll bet you that anyone can hum the tune to at least two or three of the first five songs on the list:

David Bowie – Heroes
Iggy Pop – The Passenger
Lou Reed – Street Hassle
Kraftwerk – Trans-Europe Express
Brian Eno – 1/1

But I’ll bet you $10m that hardly anyone, even someone working in Rough Trade, wouldn’t be able to hum two or three out of five of the last songs on the list:

Hot Chip – Boy from School
Animal Collective – Grass
Black Dice – Cone Toaster
Liars – The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack
Panda Bear – Bros

I mean, I’ve got a pretty reasonable grasp of modern alternative music (or I wouldn’t be doing this) but I haven’t got a clue how two of these songs go. I doubt I’ve even heard them.

Now maybe this is thanks to the atomisation, Balkanisation, whatever of modern music. There are so few shared experiences in music any more – just about the last UK No. 1 that everyone can sing along to was a charity song by Peter Kay (“Show Me The Way To Amarillo”). And that’s going back a couple of years. But ask anyone in their mid-30’s or above to sing David Bowie, or Iggy Pop, or Lou Reed, or Talking Heads, and you’ll get a pretty decent response. And these, even thirty years later, are challenging, brave, fascinating songs. And they all seriously bothered the charts. Now? Nada. Ok, so Girls Aloud do some bonkers things in their songs – how many songs in one? – but they are the exception in modern, pop, high-selling music.

Maybe it’s just that the Pitchfork team have got more and more snooty over time, and aren’t viewing the present with the same populist spectacles as they view the past. I mean, there’s no Girls Aloud.

Anyway, that’s Bowie over and done with.

Before we go any further, I’ll just say that I won’t talk that much about every single song, or I may as well start a book myself.

So the next few, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, yep, great songs, though I always thought Lou Reed was a bit of a cock. Then Kraftwerk. Fuck me, total genius. What more is there to say? Actually, quite a bit more, but I’ll come back to this later.

Brian Eno – baldy slaphead invents Ambient music and does it better than 99% of the people that follow him. Actually make that 99.9%.

The Ramones – wonderful. But possibly the wrong song. Beat on the Brat?

Talking Heads – wonderful, again. Big suit! Loon! Their best song (along with Once In A Lifetime)! Far too clever for pop music! What do you mean, there’s three more of their songs on this list? Jebus.

And then, it’s Television’s Marquee Moon.

Where to start? Well, I’ve no idea what it’s about (and it seems like no-one does). It goes on for 10 minutes, of which about five are a guitar solo, which to a child of the punk wars like me, is heresy. The song is sneered rather than sung. It’s bonkers. But I still can’t stop listening to it. Put simply, it’s fucking genius. Everyone from New Order, The Fall, Sonic Youth, The Smiths (you can really pick up Verlaine’s blend of precision and emotion in Johnny Marr’s playing), through to Radiohead and, well, any half-decent band of the last five years, has got this in their DNA.

Why? I told you, it’s fucking genius.

It mixes simplicity and complexity. It sounds fresh every time you hear it. The guitar lines interweave like the finest Persian carpet. There’s not an ounce of fat on it. The lyrics are bizarre, enigmatic, and draw you in, trying to decipher them (“Life in the hive puckered up my night/The kiss of death, the embrace of life/There I stand ‘neath the Marquee Moon” – dude, WTF?). The deftness of both Verlaine and Lloyd’s guitar playing – listen to the lead line between the verse and chorus, there’s a tiny bit of vibrato on the first ascending line then it’s played totally straight on the repeat, each time; a wonderful bit of texture, and exactly the kind of thing that makes me keep listening, and I can point out all sorts of bits like this, all the way through. Yes, it goes on, but it never once feels like it’s 10 minutes long. And it doesn’t outstay its welcome.

For me, and I strongly suspect the bands above, this is our Beatles, our Stones, our Dylan, our Led Zep. Much of the music you’ll find posted on the infinite set of music blogs stems from this one song, and Kraftwerk, and possibly a bit of Velvet Underground. Like Kraftwerk, it owes next to nothing from what preceded it. I once read somewhere that Marquee Moon was the first rock song that had nothing to do with the blues tradition and I think that’s nearly right (not that I’ve got anything against the blues tradition); in many ways it’s comes more from jazz and even classical music. It’s just bizarre. As are Kraftwerk. Speaking of whom, they once told an interviewer that they in fact were huge fans of Iggy Pop and were simply trying to make music, using electronics, that sounded like him. I suspect that’s an example of the famous German sense of humour**. In any case, like Marquee Moon, Trans Europe Express still sounds fresh and alive. Wonderful stuff.

And for both bands, probably their best song (though Venus and The Model respectively are very close).

As for Patti Smith, cor, she doesn’t half sound like that PJ Harvey.

Phew. I’ll try to keep the next one shorter. Which will be PUNK! And why I hate The Clash.

*I do rather like that John Lydon quote “I’ve met the man in the street and he’s a cunt”

**My favourite joke I heard in Germany was “What’s the definition of an Austrian? A German with no sense of humour”. It’s funny on so many levels.

Trans Europe Express by Kraftwerk

Marquee Moon by Television

The whole list is available here.

Big Trouble At Bad Science

Ol’ Ben Goldacre has managed to get into a bit of legal strife thanks to posting a 44-minute excerpt from some anti-MMR loon. So, to keep this brief, here’s the link if you can provide any legal assistance to him. And the article linked explains all the trouble, and now includes transcripts of the pointless fruitcake Jeni Barnett’s rant against MMR. She really is living in a different world to this, the (fairly) real one. It’s depressing and funny in equal measure.

Ben is, of course, one of the modern world’s heroes, and his Grauniad column is unmissable and his book (called, er, Bad Science) is a great read.

Support that man! And read his stuff. And buy his book. You know it makes sense.

Some New Old Music – Grizzly Bear, Here We Go Magic, Devendra Banhart

Little bits and bobs of Grizzly Bear’s new album keep creeping out, mostly live versions. It’s likely to be one of the highlights of 2009 (well, musical ones anyway), and their last album Yellow House was my most played album of 2008. Yes, yes, I know it came out in 2006. I was busy, ok? (and on that note, whilst I would love to be able to post funky new tunes every day, I really am not disciplined enough to find great things every day. There’s loads of fantastic places for that, and you can find some on the right hand side of this blog. Sorry, rant over. Anyway, next I’ll be finding a great new collective from Toronto called Broken Social Something or other and posting their stuff soon. Oh ok, only kidding)

Anyway, courtesy of Gorilla Vs Bear, here’s a lovely new-ish live track, called Cheerleader. Certainly promising, and Lord only knows what it’ll sound like after being put through the famous Grizzly Bear Studio Technique. Probably uniquely wonderful in that Grizzly Bear way.

And whilst we’re on the subject of new albums, here’s a lovely tune from some people called Here We Go Magic. Now I must admit, I know very little about them, but this tune is a charming little bit of dreamy pop. And they are liked by Grizzly Bear. And they like Department of Eagles. Anyone see a connection?
(In fact, just listening to it yet again, it’s a bit of an earworm this one. I rather likes it)

And lastly, Kath Bloom, another person about whom I know next to nothing (shame on me) has an album out, consisting of covers by, amongst others, L&L faves Bill Callahan (Smog) and Devendra Banhart, plus an additional sort-of-best-of. Well worth a listen, I say.

Speaking of which, I’ve just got to post some Bill Callahan/Smog stuff soon. I love him, but not in that way.

Cheerleader (Live) by Grizzly Bear

Forget About Him (Kath Bloom cover) by Devendra Banhart

Tunnelvision by Here We Go Magic