Review – Beware by Bonnie “Prince” Billy

Will Oldham is an odd fellow. From his innumerable monikers, his beard, to his habit of apparently releasing an album every few months, he is on a one-man crusade to corner the “rather eccentric country-tinged singer-songwriter” market. Maybe he’s seen the duller likes of Bon Iver and Ray Lamontagne come along and steal his thunder, and he’s just not happy about it. Or anything, for that matter.

Following on from last year’s “Is This The Sea?” and “Lie Down In The Light” comes “Beware”. The quality of his albums has taken something of a hit since “Bonnie Prince Billy Sings Greatest Palace Music” back in 2004. This was not well received, causing something of a storm back in the day, and prompted a seriously negative review in Pitchfork, amongst others. The criticism was largely thanks to reinterpretation of his own work as Palace Brothers/Music/Records, as pure Nashville Country rather than the cracked alt-Country/Americana everyone had kind of got used to. Now, I rather liked it; or some of it, at least. The versions of “West Palm Beach” and “New Partner” really shone, were better than their original lo-fi recordings, and as a whole I thought it worked nicely. But many felt he’d taken the piss and wrecked his own mystique.

So, since that album there’s been “The Letting Go” and “Lie Down In The Light”, both of which were disappointing, plus rather a lot of collaborations, of which “Superwolf” was ok, and the rest less than essential. Can he make a return to form with his new album, knuckling down and finally returning to the excellence of, well, much of his work from 1995 to “Master And Everyone”?

Listening to “Beware” I was at first disappointed, then a little buoyed (those darn glockenspiel!), then disappointed again.  Look, I know I’ve already bummed out M Ward’s Hold Time, but this is turning out to be a bit of a poor year for some of the old stalwarts.  Where to begin?  Well, first of all, for all the swinging country vibe, it just doesn’t catch in the brain.  Will Oldham has always managed to pen tunes, that for whatever odd reason, stick in the head.  Not quite earworms, exactly, but tunes that dance just on the edge of conciousness, all day long, until you just have to listen to them again and again.  Subliminal earworms, if you like.  But this?   Nothing.  I pretty much forgot most of the songs the instant they stopped playing.

Is this just not having had enough time to listen properly, and let those tunes seep into my head? Possibly. But neither of his last two albums succeeded in doing that, and I’m not sure this one will either. It’s not all bad, though, don’t get me wrong. The single “I Am Goodbye” is carried along jauntily by all manner of countrified accoutrements – pedal steel, jangly Telecaster, flutes, fiddle. And loving the beard:

“Death Final” is a beautiful, fiddle-drenched ballad. Well, I say it’s a ballad, I get the feeling he’s being Bad Will again. “You Don’t Love Me” shows his wicked wit again, saying how his paramour “loves the way my stomach jiggles” and how “my kiss rates as a 6 on a scale of 1 to 10”.

But the album has the feel of a man who’s running out of ideas, and is trying to make up for them by piling on instrument after instrument hoping no-one will notice the shallowness underneath. I really want to like this album more, but at the moment it’s just not doing it for me.

Funnily enough, I was thinking of Smog/Bill Callahan whilst listening to “Beware”. Bill came to prominence at around the same time as Billy, and whilst their music is generally quite different, it comes from the same dark place, and with similar influences, from old country and folk, seen through the prism of The Velvet Underground’s more narcotic numbers. Now, Bill had a similar downturn, with albums like “Rain On Lens”, but he pulled himself out of it, partly thanks to, well, cheering up a bit (and the lissom charms of Joanna Newsom can’t have hurt, either¹). His last two albums have featured a few songs which are up there with his finest, like “From The Rivers To The Oceans” and “Rock Bottom Riser”. Wonder if Billy C could take Willy O out for a beer, watch some Nascar, so one ol’ dog can show another some new tricks.

¹ Speaking of which, if you were at the Homefires festival at the Conway Hall back in 2004, or 2005, when both were on the bill, were they seeing each other then?  We have fond memories of her heckling him in the most elven, delicate way, by yelling “YOU RAWK!” very loudly in her best Valley girl voice.  Answers on a postcard, please.

New Music – Super Furry Animals, Here We Go Magic

A nice little email popped into my Inbox this morning whilst surfing Jobserve to try and fend off incipient bankrupcy. It was from those lovely Super Furry Animals, telling me that there’s a webcast tonight at 20:00 GMT, during which the band will be playing their new album, Dark Days/Light Years in its entirety.

A Super Furry Beach

As a little teaser, they’ve released a new MP3, “Inaugural Trams”, which I’ve added below; it’s also available on their website. Featuring Nick from Franz Ferdinand doing a rap in German1, like most new SFA tracks it’s at once familiar and shinily new. As far as I can tell, it’s all about the importance of trams in an integrated transport network. Oh, I don’t know, don’t ask me. Have a listen yourself.

Here We Go Magic did a session for WOXY last week, for the SXSW festival, and the station have happily let everyone download the four tracks. There are from their latest album, plus a new number “Surprise”. Rather good they are too. In particular, “Fangela” and the previously mentioned “Tunnelvision” are the highlights. Do yourself a favour and pop over there and give them a listen. The band are off on tour with Grizzly Bear on their recently announced US tour. Lucky people.

Pop back here later as I’m hoping to have my review of Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s new album up. That’s if you’re not doing anything better, of course.

1 I speak from personal experience here. German rap is quite possibly the worst form of music in the world. It just sounds so wrong.

Fandela (Live At WOXY) by Here We Go Magic

Inaugural Trams by Super Furry Animals

Review – Love’s Easy Tears by Cocteau Twins

Do you ever walk down the road and get the sudden desire to listen to a song that you’ve not heard for years?  Happened to me yesterday, it did, and that song was “Orange Appled” by Cocteau Twins.

If you were going to play a song by Cocteau Twins to someone who’d never heard them before, what would you do?  One of the classic singles, like “Iceblink Luck” or “Carolyn’s Fingers”?  A great album track, like “Cico Buff” or “Lorelei”?   Or would you choose a song that was first released on a free 7″, by NME, and then only later added to the CD release of a reasonably obscure EP?

Because Orange Appled is that song. Strangely neglected by the band when first recorded, it’s one of their absolutely finest songs. Less than three minutes long, it’s about as conventional as Cocteau Twins songs get – you know, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, middle eight/solo, chorus, end.  It’s got the signature mid-80’s Cocteau sound, with drum machines, about three layers of vocals, fluid basslines, and some seriously messed up guitar sounds¹.  But it just works so beautifully, and it gels together into one short lump of absolute gorgeousness.

Admittedly, the EP was released at an odd time for the band.  They’d already recorded “Victorialand”, without Simon Raymonde, and “The Moon And The Melodies” with Simon and Harold Budd that year.  The former was disappointing, the latter really quite good, and still worth a listen now.  So, releasing a proper Cocteau Twins EP at the end of 1986 rather than writing the rest of the material for a 1987 release was decided to be the best route (“Blue Bell Knoll” was the next release, in 1988).

So, EP it was, and “Orange Appled”, for some strange reason, almost got lost.  Still, the band loved it enough to have it recorded live and broadcast on the fantastic Snub TV, four years later!:

Which leads me onto another digression².  Cocteau Twins, despite being a huge studio band, were also a fantastic live band.  There’s an additional urgency and passion to their music live that they never really captured in the studio.  Of course, later in their career this was because Robin Guthrie was off his nuts the entire time, and Liz Fraser was doing her best to avoid him (what with them being married, and all), leaving poor Simon stuck in the middle.  But even in the late-80’s, when all was (fairly) well, they were still a great live act.  I was lucky enough to catch them live in Sheffield on the “Heaven Or Las Vegas” tour and still consider it to be one of the best gigs I’ve been to, nearly 20 years and about 300 bands later.

Anyway, Orange Appled rocks.  Which got me onto the rest of the EP.  As it was written at the height of wibbly-wibbly-trees-flowers-ethereal-woo nonsense lyric time, there really isn’t much sense in dissecting what Liz was on about.  Some remarkably brave people have posted lyrics; I’m not 100% convinced they are correct, or even close, but what you can see is that they don’t make much sense3. Liz famously strung together proper words in nonsense sentences, to form another instrument, and expression emotion in the way she sang, rather than what she was singing. However, she did state in an interview back in late 1986 that “Well, I do sing about life. Life with Robin; coping with him. They’re all words that I sing. There’s none of it that’s just nonsense. You can’t just go out there and sing noises all day because you’d end up making the same noises all the time”. Still, whatever she’s singing, it sounds gorgeous, as you’d expect.

“Love’s Easy Tears” opens the EP and is probably one of the loudest songs they ever did. Ok, we’re hardly talking about Swans loud, but still, it fairly explodes at the chorus, thumping drum machine taking no prisoners. Whilst it’s rare to pick up external influences to their music, you can certainly hear the Spector Wall Of Sound in this one. And as far as their music goes, it was one of the simpler numbers, but hugely effective. Ah, those chiming guitars!

“Those Eyes, That Mouth” is a bit quieter, thumping drum machine not withstanding, and after what could fairly be described as a humdrum verse, suddenly bursts into life in the chorus, with Liz doing some amazing vocal gymnastics. The last minute sees her singing against herself in the most stunning way. Continuing the slightly Spanish sound of Tiny Dynamine/Echoes In A Shallow Bay, it has that otherworldly feel that marks the finest Cocteau Twins songs and makes them damn hard to copy.

Then comes “Sigh’s Smell of Farewell”, calming things down somewhat. Much gentler, Liz’s vocals float gorgeously over Robin and Simon’s guitar and bass, guitar cheerfully chiming away until a belated chorus, again with Liz’s voice singing multiple harmonies to wonderful effect. Sonic cathedrals of sound, indeed.

Finally it’s “Orange Appled”, which I’ve already gone on about. Just one more thing to say, though. Robin Guthrie often said that he used so many guitar effects to hide his bad playing, but listen to the solo on this; it dances round like the best of Tom Verlaine. Personally I think he’s hugely underrated; he showed what could be done with a Fender Jazzmaster, loads of effects, and more coke than you could shake a rolled up £10 note at.

You might be able to buy the EP as a CD cheap off Ebay, but you’re much better off buying the huge compilation “Lullabies To Violaine”, of which you can buy Volume 1 here. Volume 2 isn’t as good, frankly, and the original 4CD set now sells for around £80. Eek!

So, if you don’t have any Cocteau Twins stuff, or you’ve been curious as to why they are so highly regarded by pretty much anyone with any sense, have a listen to these two songs, then go out an buy “Lullabies To Violaine Volume 1”. You won’t regret it.

¹ If you know how to replicate it on a Line 6 Pod XT, please feel free to let me know!

² Anyone who knows me IRL will know I do this rather a lot.  Sorry.

3 From “Heaven Or Las Vegas” onward, lots of the lyrics do make sense. Check out the link, and also Leesa Beale’s site.

Orange Appled by Cocteau Twins

Arsenal 4 – Blackburn 0 – More Acid, Vicar?

That just takes the biscuit, that does. I had two childrens parties to go to today, so had to miss the game, following the game on Twitter . After about four league 0-0’s in a row, I really was thinking we’d probably balls it up again. Plus, as I was getting my son ready for one of the parties, I looked out of the window, and could see a bird circling high in the sky, toward the north-east. It looked like a vulture. Maybe a Sam Allardyce looking vulture, come to pick over the bones of our challenge for fourth place.

And frankly, if we’d just left it up to Bendtner, it really would have ended 0-0. Just have a look at this:

Dear oh dear. We know that players can’t score every match, but really, this boy needs to start performing. If he was half a good a player as he said he was, he’d have got a hat-trick today.

Thankfully, we’ve now got Arshavin in the team, and Walcott is back, providing valuable pace and craft to a side that’s been dreadfully lacking in both.

The first goal came after Walcott pegged it down the wing, and the ball deflected in from a Blackburn defender from a seriously tight angle.

The second was all Arshavin. He took it down the left, cut inside, skinning the poor Blackburn defender, and he then smashed it in from a seriously tight angle. 2-0 made it safe, and you had to say it’d been coming, following Nasri hitting the crossbar and all sorts of other chances.

Arshavin's Goal

We then got two more goals in the last couple of minutes. Lovely cross, Arshavin hit the crossbar, then Eboue, yes, Eboue was on hand to get the ball in off the sole of his boot.

In injury time, Vela was foolishly taken down by Olsen, and for some reason Eboue took the penalty. And a great penalty it was too. I’ve been a pretty serious critic of Eboue, largely because he’s rubbish but I can’t criticise a guy who has just scored two.

Full highlights available here from the great Arsenalist.

So, a great win, we’re now back in fourth and have a superior goal difference to Villa. They, of course, play Spurs tomorrow.

Come on Spurs.

I feel dirty.

Anyway, Arshavin is off the mark, the team are playing well, and Man U got spanked at home by Liverpool. 1-4, eh? Who’da thought it, eh?

Come on Spurs.

It still doesn’t feel any better.

The Pitchfork 500 Power Pop! – The Only Ones to The Cars

The Only Ones – Another Girl, Another Planet
The Undertones – Teenage Kicks
Plastic Bertrand – Ca Plane Pour Moi
The Records – Starry Eyes
Cheap Trick – Surrender
The Cars – Just What I Needed

Power pop, first originated by bands like The Who and Big Star, was given a huge shot in the arm by punk in the late ’70’s. Power pop is catchy, guitar-driven, just the kind of thing you can sing along to loudly in a convertible on a sunny day.

The Only Ones were one of the sad casualties of late 70’s music. They were power-pop in excelsis, with great tunes, clever songs, with enough bite to keep them interesting. But rampant drug abuse tore the band apart and they were never able to capitalise on their obvious talent in songs like “Another Girl, Another Planet”. They reformed a couple of years back, so best of luck to them.

The Undertones, however, at least made something of their talents. A bunch of young lads from London/Derry¹, which was a pretty grim place in those days, they made pithy numbers about teenage life and its various pitfalls. Mostly girls, of course, but also familial expectations (“My Perfect Cousin”) and suicide (“Jimmy Jimmy”). But this track keeps to the unrequited love template. “Teenage Kicks” is all about that simplest thing, seeing a girl in your neighbourhood and wishing she was yours. Let’s face it, about 75% of music is about this, but few songs have expressed it in such a charming yet direct way. Maybe it’s the twin guitar assault of the O’Neill brothers, maybe it’s Feargal Sharkey’s voice, maybe it’s the simple yearning of the words, but everything comes together to make a three-minute hormonal rush.

John Peel famously cited it as his favourite ever song, and it was played at his funeral and memorial service (and is played every time there’s a programme on the TV or radio about him²).  It’s a song that brings a smile to my face every time I hear it.  At one of The Pixies reunion concerts at Brixton Academy, it was put on the PA before they came on, and I swear most of the crowd were singing it (in fairness, most of us remember it the first time round, it being full of 30-40 somethings).  Arsenal have taken to playing it too, partly because half the team are teenagers, and also because the person responsible for match-day music has a sly sense of humour³.  Brings a smile to my face every time I hear it. Great song.

As an aside, the O’Neill brothers went on to form the fantastic That Petrol Emotion and a chain of Oirish pubs in the UK4. And Feargal Sharkey used his squeaky voice to start a successful solo career. He really must have one of the oddest voices ever in popular music. Still, I guess its stops people trying to copy you.

Belgians, eh? Responsible for such fine cultural exports as Tintin and, er, someone else, and getting annoyed because everyone thinks they are French, Plastic Bertrand cunningly stole a little bit of a song from another band he’d been in, and re-used it in this little bit of chirpy fluff. Ok, he nicked the whole tune. But who cares when it’s this catchy? Ah-whoo-eee-woo! The lyrics concern, well, no-one is 100% sure, but what comes through is that he’s as happy as a three year old stuffed to the gills with sugar, and he wants to tell everyone about it. Bless.

You've Got To Love Belgians

You've Got To Love Belgians

The Records sound like they’ve been listening to a whole load of The Who and Big Star, to fine effect, on thier first single “Starry Eyes”. At first glance it sounds like he’s having a pop at a girlfriend who’s let him down, but closer listening reveals a three-minute rant against a useless manager. “While you were in the pool, we were meeting with the boys upstairs\Talking to the money men, and carrying out affairs.”. Ooh, get her. Top song, with Who-like toughness counteracting the Byrdsian jangle. Here’s a poor quality video of them performing the song in a shop window.

To me, Cheap Trick have more than a bit of a whiff of the pub rocker about them. “Surrender” sounds like an Alarm off-cut. Or one of Steve Harley’s weaker moments. Ah well. Can’t like all the songs on this list, I suppose.

The Cars’s “Just What I Needed” finds them before they finally sank into the AM MOR drive-time radio abyss of “Drive”. Saying that, whilst there is a certain New Wave poise to it, the song definitely rests within the MOR world. And for that, I’m afraid I can’t say I care much for it.

So, one nailed-on absolute classic, one frothy bit of Belgian pop-punk, two slices of fine power-pop, and two MOR hits. More power-pop next time, folks.

Ca Plane Pour Moi by Plastic Bertrand

Starry Eyes by The Records

¹ I’m not even going to start on that one.
² Whilst I absolutely adore this song, I wish Peely had named a song by The Fall, or better, Extreme Noise Terror, just so program makers would have to use them instead of a charming power-pop ditty like this.
³ Such as playing “Grounds for Divorce” by Elbow recently – yeah, there’s a hole in my neighbourhood I’d like to drop Eboue in.
4 Not strictly speaking true.

The whole list is available here.

Some Live Stuff – Pavement and The Hold Steady

Thought I’d do a few little live numbers today. First off, Cause=Time (top name, that) posted some great Pavement live mp3’s the other day. Here’s the link to the Live section but for whatever reason, I couldn’t get to the post directly. Anyhow, it’s from Pavement’s last show in 1999, at the Brixton Academy.

Now, Pavement were never the most musically meticulous band in the world, but their live shows always had a great shambolic energy. Some great numbers here, including a marvellously lethargic “Rattled By The Rush” and a jaunty “Stereo”. No Gold Soundz though. *sniff*

One band I loved seeing live was The Hold Steady. Craig Finn’s sheer energy, mixed with Tad Kubler’s great riffs and Franz Kublay’s superb mustache, make for a great live show. I saw them a few months ago playing the Rough Trade shop in London; since I’d come straight from work I was still wearing my suit. When Craig saw me, at the front, he started laughing. Ah, bless him. You can just tell how much this lot love playing live; they’ve usually got huge grins on their faces between songs. I guess they just realise they’ve struck lucky, that they are doing the thing they love the most and are getting thousands of people watching them every night. Lucky sods.

Anyway, they’ve got a live DVD out. Trailer here:

That’s all folks!

Stereo (Live) by Pavement

Roma 1 Arsenal 0 – Who Watches The Penalties?

Ok, dear Reader, I didn’t watch the match. Instead, I decided last week to book tickets to see Watchmen at the local IMAX for last night, forgetting that Arsenal were playing. And the film’s ok, you know, considering they’ve filmed a book widely considered to be unfilmable. Not sure that it was wise changing the ending though. You know, with Ozymandias teleporting loads of fluffy bunnies to New York and Moscow to show the world’s leaders that fluffy bunnies are lovely and to live in peace. But still, not a bad way to spend nearly three hours.

Certainly better than watching what was, by all accounts, a pretty dreadful match. I’ve only seen the schoolboy-esque defending for the Roma goal and the penalties, but Arseblog and Goodplaya point out the rubbishness. Vucinic’s penalty was so bad that Almunia stopped moving and just sat down on the goal line, looking baffled. You can see it all here.

So we’re through and get to meet Barcelona, FC Porto, Villareal, Bayern Muenchen or one of the remaining English sides. Villareal or Porto, please, random number generator. I *think* the draw is tomorrow.

More linkage etc later, hopefully, and more Pitchfork 500 goodness. I might even write a better Watchmen review.

New Music – Phoenix, Foreign Born

I first saw Phoenix supporting Turin Brakes at the wonderful Somerset House, a number of years back. I hadn’t heard of them before and was rather concerned when someone near us said they were French. Now, the French can do many things – cook well, be stroppy, and be insouciant, but music they really haven’t been good at for some time (French rap? Pah!). But this lot were a pleasant surprise; jaunty, tuneful, with a good dose of style, as you’d expect. They are back with a new album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, and the first song to be put out is called “1901”.

They’ve certainly moved on from the “Everything Is Everything” days; the sound is tighter and the production has moved on in leaps and bounds. It’s got more than a touch of mid-80’s power pop about it, with a soupcon of jittery beats that almost edges towards Vampire Weekend afro-beat. Quite pleasant, and watch it, it’s a bit of an earworm.

LA Band Foreign Born have been playing this morning on my iTunes too. There’s a definite touch of Echo And The Bunnymen grandeur about them and I’m sure looking forward to their new album, which should be out in June. The cut below is from the new album and gives you a good idea what they are all about. And what they are all about is epic stadium-filling art-rock. Lovely.

In other news, YouTube have got into a big argument with PRS here in the UK. It’s meant that some music videos have been removed from YouTube which makes my plan to put loads more videos into my Pitchfork 500 posts a bit redundant. Saying that, I doubt PRS are that interested in Plastic Bertrand. If you don’t know who PRS are, they are (sort-of) the UK equivalent of the RIAA (and not the fancy-schmancy guitar firm¹). They ensure that artists are paid for each play of a song, in public. So if you run a bar, or a pub, or even if you have a company of three people and you play the radio in the office, you have to buy a licence, for thousands of pounds upwards. Having worked in the pub/bar/music industry for some years, I know that PRS live in an alternative reality world where everyone still buys wax cylinders and those gramophones are dangerous new technology. Seriously. So I’m with YouTube on this one. Let’s hope it’s resolved soon – because otherwise a lovely way of sharing music (which leads to people buying more songs and going to more gigs, fact) will be taken away from us.

¹ Should anyone reading this be interested in buying me one of these, I’ll be happy to come over to your house and play “Debaser” by The Pixies very badly in return. Actually, that sounds like a threat. Sorry. What I mean to say is, please buy me one of these and I *won’t* come round your house and play “Debaser” badly.

1901 by Phoenix

Vacationing People by Foreign Born

The Pitchfork 500 Goes RAWK! – Blue Oyster Cult to ELO

Blue Oyster Cult – (Don’t Fear) The Reaper
AC/DC – Highway to Hell
Van Halen – Runnin’ with the Devil
Fleetwood Mac – The Chain
Steely Dan – Deacon Blues
Electric Light Orchestra – Mr. Blue Sky

This section of the Pitchfork 500 is a blessed relief. I’ve rather had my fill of hedonistic Disco and miserable post-punk, clanging punk-funk and Italian prog-rock film soundtracks. This is pure drive-time music, for winding down the window of your ’66 Chevy and driving fast along a highway in, er, Milton Keynes.¹

So first off, Blue Öyster Cult. You have to respect a band who saddled themselves with such a bonkers name, to then add an umlaut, sparking off a great little chain of heavy metal umlauts from Motörhead through Mötley Crüe to Hüsker Dü. “Don’t Fear The Reaper” was one of those songs that, when it came on the tedious late-night radio we were forced to listen to whilst doing nightshifts in a warehouse some years ago, was universally loved by everyone – from the housewives, the old guys to the young students. It’s just one of those songs. The warm, comforting blanket of sound is pierced by the insistent riff, restless drumming and the suicide pact lyrics, simultaneously romantic and deadly. The repeated rising motif keeps nagging at you until it’s finally resolved with the downward “Da da da”‘s.  The bonkers instrumental bit in the middle.

Until I listened to it for this I’d forgotten how great it is. I’ve listened to it three times already today. This is the sort of song that gives MOR a good name. Mind you, I never knew this was released in 1978; it has such a feel of early ’70’s paranoia that I thought it was from then.

As for AC/DC, there really is none more rock. Not even Van Halen, with Eddie Van Halen’s astonishing guitar playing can beat them in the RAWK stakes. AC/DC and Van Halen, though both heavy rockers, are really the opposite ends of the spectrum. AC/DC were dumb, basic fists-in-the-air RAWK! and frankly none the worse for it. Still are, I suppose. There’s little on “Highway To Hell” that can’t be played by your averagely talented pub-rock band, but that’s what makes them such an enduring band; Angus Young’s guitar playing is simplicity itself (at least on this song), and the band as a whole know exactly what needs to be done. There’s not an ounce of flab; the entire band concentrates on just rocking, rather than flashing technique. With a bloke screaming over the top.

Van Halen, however, were revolutionary. Or rather Eddie Van Halen’s guitar playing was. For those of you not versed in the intricacies of playing guitar, he popularised a technique called tapping (or fret-tapping). This involves tapping the string instead of strumming or picking it, and allows for very fast rhythmic note-changes. Whilst other guitarists had occasionally used the technique, EVH made it his own, and whilst the track on offer here doesn’t show masses of it, it’s still clear that the playing is extraordinary. There’s a bit about 2/3 way through where there’s a sudden arpeggio fill that just comes from nowhere.

Are You Sure You've Got Enough Guitars?

Just a shame that it’s otherwise dumbass metal though with Dave Lee Roth screeching like someone’s caught his bollocks in a drawer.

I approached the next two tracks by Fleetwood Mac and Steely Dan hoping that I’d be amazed by the hidden intricacies of the music, the depths of the emotions involved, the craft and the songwriting skills used, but no. Middle of the road bollocks, I’m afraid. I’d rather listen to The Clash than these two songs again, frankly. It’s stuff like this that gives MOR a bad name. And the lesson of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” is, if you’re going to be millionaire pop-rock stars, don’t go round shagging each other, it’ll only end in tears. And tedious albums about shagging each other. That make you even more money. So you can get depressed about shagging each other and having loads of money. It’s a tough life.

And yes, the awful 90’s band Deacon Blue did indeed name themselves after Steely Dan’s track, “Deacon Blues”. There should be a special circle of hell for people who name themselves after tedious soft-rock songs.

And finally, ELO. Now, ELO have had a bad name for many years. And frankly, given Jeff Lynne’s pomposity it’s not surprising. But then you listen to “Mr Blue Sky” and you marvel at what a great tune it is, and how much detail there is in the song.  Jeff Lynne had tried to mix The Beatles and Beethoven into one huge, mad, vocoder-and-string band, and sometimes it was a bit of a godawful mess. But sometimes it just clicked, and this is one of those times. Just listen to how beautifully it’s all done – whilst the Pitchfork writers say it’s dated, I don’t see that at all. This song is more than 30 years old now, and yet it fairly stomps along and sounds more modern than a whole load of people I could mention (er, The Killers?). You can see exactly why Super Furry Animals love them so much, there’s a psychedelic oddness mixed in with the pop nous, and the stomping Krautrock beat is just fantastic. Listen to how, as the first verse starts to build, they add strings, bells, multi-tracked vocals, and panting as Jeff sings “Running down the avenue”. The bizarre classical coda. And that guitar solo, simple, nicely complementing the song, rather than taking over and spoiling the tone.

As a brief aside, the song was used to great effect during the Dr Who episode “Love And Monsters”, to show the main character dancing around his bedroom because he’s happy, and he’s met a lovely girl, and life suddenly has meaning. Sure, it’s schmalz, but Russell T Davies knew he’d hit upon just the right note using this song. As did Michael Gondry, using it in “Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind”.

So, cast off your prejudices, and rejoice in a great song. Madly catchy, experimental, and a thumpingly good tune. Well done, Mr Lynne and co.

A right mixed back coming next…

¹Funnily enough, I’ve just finished “Rip It Up and Start Again” by Simon Reynolds, and he confessed to feeling the same at the end of the post-punk era back in 1984.  Nice to know it’s not just me, then.²

²Yes, I’ve worked out how to do Superscript.  Hurrah!

Don’t Fear The Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult

The whole list is available here.

Arsenal 3 Burnley 0 – Acid In The Cola

Sometimes it’s nice for us to go back to the old days when teams would come and play us and not be all defensive, putting 10 men behind the ball, and actually come and play football. It’s even nicer when we say “Thank you very much, kind sirs!” and proceed to thump them. The icing on the cake comes when all three goals were extraordinary, in their own way. Two were as fine examples of how footballers can be truly balletic, with a flick of the boot, with poise, grace, style and athleticism. And the other was scored by Eboue.

Seriously though, go and watch Vela’s goal. He latches onto a through-ball from Arshavin, beats one defender with a lovely touch, holds off another defender, then chips it beautifully over the keeper. He sure does like doing that. 1-0.

And then go and watch Eduardo’s. Song sends over a cross to the edge of the area, and Eduardo runs onto it and kind of slices it with his left ankle, and it fair shoots past the keeper into the far corner. They showed it about five times in the stadium and we couldn’t make out exactly what he’d done, and having watched it properly on TV I can only say that it’s absolutely extraordinary technique. A couple of people have been saying it was accidental, but watch closely – there’s no way he’d be moving his leg the way he did if he didn’t mean it. I suspect it’s something he’s practiced and this is his way of saying “Yeah, you might have broken my leg horribly and kept me out of the game for a year, but look what I’ve learnt. I’m back.” I said on Twitter at the time that it was astonishing. Watching it again and it’s even more so. I’m glad to have seen that one in the flesh.

Eduardo's Goal Vs Burnley

Eduardo's Goal Vs Burnley

Boy, it’s good to have him back.

The third was extraordinary for other reasons. Song backheeled it to Eboue who took a couple of touches and smashed it past their (rotund) keeper into the net. Yes, you read that right. Eboue scored! I’ve seen it all now. I don’t think I’ll need to go to another match. It’s like seeing Gus Caesar score. Or John Jensen. Actually, that’s a bit harsh on Jensen, he wasn’t too bad a player. Well done Eboue, and hopefully that’ll add a couple of million to the transfer fee when we get rid of you in the summer *crosses his fingers*.

Anyhow, Burnley tried and could even have got a penalty at the end, not long after hitting the crossbar. But mostly we have to thank them for trying to play football. Fools!

Other reviews of the game at Arseblog, Goonerholic hails Song’s excellent performance and Goodplaya does the usual ratings. Personally I think Song had a very good game, but this was a Championship side, and Diaby was disappointing, given this was a Championship side. Everyone else looked decent; Gibbs in particular had the best game I’ve seen him have. Against a Championship side.

Not that I’m trying to set expectations here. This was a Championship side.

Oh, and one word for all the people on the lower tier who legged it inside and up to the upper tier when it started raining icy badness from the sky. Don’t blame you.

So, we meet Hull at home in just over a week and if we beat them (and I really think we need some more revenge after their 2-1 victory back in September) we’ll be meeting Chelski at Wemberley. By which time we should have Cesc back, and hopefully be able to field our strongest team for pretty much the whole season (barring any injuries and suspensions).

Right, I’m off to finish off another Pitchfork 500 post. This site is mainly about music, you know, but I do like wittering on about Arsenal you know. Even when we win.