The Liverpool And Manchester

Liverpool and Manchester. Two of England’s greatest cities, separated by a mere 35 miles, they have a rivalry that has festered for hundreds of years. The economic rivalry drove both cities to build huge Victorian edifices in their city centres. The football rivalry – the cities are responsible for the two most successful clubs in English football – regularly boils over into rancour with Manchester United fans singing about Hillsborough and Liverpool fans singing about the Munich Air Disaster1.

The musical rivalry, however, has been generally much friendlier. Indeed, Factory Records and Zoo Records used to do joint shows in places like Leigh. The musical heritage both cities have given the world are simply astonishing; with Liverpool generally being the more psychedelic. Since punk they have given us bands as diverse as The Smiths, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Doves, The Teardrop Explodes, 808 State, OMD, The Fall, The Coral, Stone Roses, Lightning Seeds and Happy Mondays. Oh, and Echo and The Bunnymen and New Order.

Which leads me onto the point of this post. Those last two bands have got albums out tomorrow. Well, Echo and the Bunnymen have, and Barney Sumner (with a guest appearance from Steven Morris on many tracks) is back as Bad Lieutenant2. Both bands were hugely influential back in the day, and now have to deal with the fact that so many other bands sound like them. And when so many people sound like them, how can they stand out from the mass? Worse, how can you stop sounding like the bands that you’ve influenced?

This second question strikes you on first listen to both records. With Bad Lieutenant’s “Never Cry Another Tear”, your first thought is “Doves!”; with EATB’s “The Fountain”, it’s “U2!”. Now, this might turn out to be a problem, but thankfully a few listens to each complicates things nicely. With Bad Lieutenant, the Doves-alike singing of Jake Evans tends to distract you from the fact that, on the stronger songs like “Summer Days on Holiday”, a mix of pure-bred Barney guitar-pop and the rather more grandiose Doves is actually a rather tasty one.

“Sail On Silver Water” is a lovely bit of dreamy pop, followed by “Love Vigilantes”, sorry, “Shine Like The Sun”, which does the whole soaring chorus, perfectly written to be played from the main stage at Glastonbury at about 7.55pm just as the sun is setting. “Falling Trees” polishes the album off nicely with the sweet line “We’ll use our love for a shelter”. Barney’s getting all soft on us in his old age.

That'd Be The Album Cover Then

That'd Be The Album Cover Then

In Echo’s weird U2 Feedback Loop, you begin to remember just how good they were at doing portentious, dramatic stadium rock without sinking into the over-egged tosh that U2 have a habit of falling into. Opener “Think I Need It Too” sets the scene marvellously, all echoey guitars and droll vocals, and the album keeps up the pace rather nicely. “Drivetime” makes a decent stab for the, errr, drivetime radio market. Nice move, chaps. Ian McCulloch’s voice is a begrizzled drawl, sounding like he’s been hanging out with Mark Lanegan (this is no bad thing, by the way).

There’s a couple of right shockers on both albums. BL’s “Poisonous Intent” is aptly titled, because you want to round everyone up involved in making the song and give them some Kool-Aid, and Echo’s “Life of 1,000 Crimes” seems to refer to the band’s crimes, of which this song counts for at least 476.

I'm Liking That Guitar

I'm Liking That Guitar

With both albums, I was left with a strange feeling of enjoying them rather more than expected, mixed with a sadness that Bad Lieutenant in particular could have done better. Maybe what they should do is meet up with Johnny Marr. After all, this is a guy who has constantly reinvented his style, from playing with The Pretenders to Modest Mouse and The Cribs. Maybe that old dog could teach these old dogs some new tricks.

But the Echo and the Bunnymen album is better. Ian McCulloch has gone on record to say that he thinks this is their best album since “Ocean Rain”. You know what, I think he might be right. Liverpool 1, Manchester 0.

1 You’ll never catch Arsenal fans being so coarse. We just sing songs about facial tics.

2 Funnily enough, EATB did the same thing as “Electrafixion”, back in the late 90’s.

MP3: Think I Need It Too by Echo And The Bunnymen

MP3: Falling Trees by Bad Lieutenant

Buy Bad Lieutenant’s “Never Cry Another Tear” (CD/MP3)

Buy Echo And The Bunnymen’s “The Fountain” (CD/MP3)

Like my blog? Please help spread the word: Add To FacebookAdd To DiggAdd To RedditAdd To DeliciousAdd To TechnoratiAdd To StumbleUpon

It’s That Bad Lieutenant Again

So, last week I posted the new single by Barney Sumner’s new band, Bad Lieutenant. And thanks to the mysteries of the Interwebs, it didn’t show up on Hype Machine. So it goes, and thanks to those lovely people on the Elbows forum, I now know a whole load more about how this kind of stuff works. Thanks folks!

In any case, Mark Reeder has done some rather nice remixes of the single “Sink Or Swim”, and the band have just released the video, so here’s both in all their glory:

Gosh, it’s good to have Barney (and Steven Morris) back.

MP3: Sink Or Swim (Sos Radio Soft Kick Mix) by Bad Lieutenant

MP3: Sink Or Swim by Bad Lieutenant

Pre-Order “Never Cry Another Tear”

It’ll Get You As The Party Ends

The human brain is a funny thing. You can be doing the washing up, walking the dog, pruning the roses, putting out the bins, or any of the other million and one little chores that make up your daily life, when suddenly a thought comes from nowhere and knocks you for six. I get that with songs (as I suspect pretty much everyone does). And, with a heavy dose of irony, the song that did this the other day was a song about unwelcome thoughts coming when you’re doing the washing up, walking the dog, pruning the roses…you get the idea.

Or as the song opens:

It’ll get you on the last bus home
Get you at the discount bend
It’ll get you on the old dance floor
Get you as the party ends

The song is Cherry Ghost’s wonderful “4am”, a charming little country-pop number from their 2007 debut album “Thirst For Romance”. As far as I can tell (what am I,, it’s about lost love and how your brain has a habit of reminding you about it at just the wrong time. And then spells it out at the chorus:

Oh 4am, was the time that you were mine
Frozen in deepest sleep, for only I to keep
Now there ain’t no hiding place on earth
That loneliness ain’t been first

That chorus makes my heart break into tiny little pieces. Seriously, it’s an earworm that has managed to creep up from nowhere and lodge in my brain for the past two days. By the way, the rest of the album is well worth a listen – especially the title track and the fantastic “Mathematics”, even if there is a slightly uncomfortable aroma of Radio 2. Great live band, too.

And I’ve now set up email subscription using Feedburner. Click on the link here to sign up, so you can get your twice-weekly portion of Loft and Lost straight to your Inbox! Modern technology, eh?

MP3: 4 A.M. by Cherry Ghost

Buy Cherry Ghost’s “Thirst for Romance” (CD/MP3)

Bad Lieutenant! Naughty Lieutenant! In Your Bed!

Barney Sumner has been writing songs for more than thirty years. Isn’t that a scary thought? From the early days of Warsaw, through the glorious Joy Division and New Order years, to Electronic then back to New Order again (slightly less gloriously), and now to Bad Lieutenant.

Barney's Changed

Barney's Changed

Teaming up with ex-Marion (remember them?) members Phil Cunningham and Jake Evans, Barney is back making the kind of effortlessly wonderful music that everyone from Broken Social Scene to Smashing Pumpkins have tried, with varying degrees of success, to replicate over the years. It’s great to have him back. I’ll write more about the new album “Never Cry Another Tear” once I’ve had a good listen, but if it’s anything like “Sink Or Swim”, we’re in for a right old treat.

As is usual in these things, there’s a Website, a Facebook bit, a Twitter and a MySpace page.

Have a look at the (unofficial) video above and a listen to the (official) single, “Sink Or Swim”, below. It’s nice to have him back.

On another note, today marks the one-year anniversary of Lehman Brothers death. Let’s all raise a glass to a company at which I spent eight years, and had a great time at. Happy times, and best of luck to everyone who’s still trying to get back on their feet.

MP3: Sink Or Swim by Bad Lieutenant