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The Monday Meh! – Razorlight

Confidence goes a long way in the workplace. Sometimes simply having the chutzpah to say ‘we are wonderful’ and doing it often enough pays off. You see it in any industry; guys who have achieved massive and continuing success without giving off any reason for it. Despite the fact that others within the organisation seem to produce better results and have more qualities, the loudest, brashest characters seem to prosper. It’s unfair, but it’s life. Should they be hated simply for making their meagre talents go further?

In Razorlight’s case, yes. Yes they should. Continue reading

T in the Park – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

And somehow Ned Genocide is a crime...

ScantRegard hates most living things, yet that hasn’t stopped her becoming a T in the Park Stalwart. Here’s her guide to what you can look forward to;

It’s that time of the year again, when half of Glasgow and Edinburgh packs up and heads north to terrorise the good citizens of rural Kinross for a weekend. T in the Park is established as one of stalwarts of the ever-expanding British festival scene, and with that comes the good, bad and ugly sides of inviting 80,000 pissed Scottish people to spend time together outside the confines of a city centre.

Continue reading

News Nuggets – Weekly Round-Up

flaming-lipsWhile I always feel I’m more Tom Tucker than Trevor McDonald when I slip on my newsreader uniform, ELM never shies away from its responsibility to bring you – yes YOU, the discerning ELM readership – your weekly bite-size chunks of news. Real news that counts, too. Not all this mumbo-jumbo about the economy, or the fact that the last time we hit a situation like this it took a ten year depression followed by a war which killed 10m to clear the decks. No, that pales when you hear that Pete Doherty played a secret gig at a pub in Camden, or there were reports that Brandon Flowers went into a toilet at a show and emerged ten minutes later followed by what witnesses described as ‘a funny smell’. Things that matter.

So what’s going down in the wide, wide world of music?

Well, first up, The Specials re-union tour kicked off this week in Newcastle and initial reports were very positive indeed. ELM also suggests this tour may well see the largest gatherings of Saturday Dads this nation has ever seen.

In the corner marked ‘brilliantly surreal’, the Governor of Oklahoma passed an executive order overriding the Oklahoma House of Representatives on their decision to not officially make the Flaming Lips ‘Do You Realize’ the state song. Seriously. Apparently, they had a public vote and the Lips beat such well known songs as ‘Oklahoma’ and, well, that’s about it really, but still. Governor Henry stepped up, took the tough decision and I’m sure Oklahomians will sleep sounder at night. I’d have gone for ‘Yoshimi’ myself, but fair play to the good people of Oklahoma, proving there is more to their state than…..well, the song ‘Oklahoma’ and that bit in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

Irritating comedy ‘punk’ fuckwits Gallows sadly proved they are still with us in an interview with NME.com where they announced their new album features a recording of a pig dying. I’m actually grudging typing the words about these dullards, but what I will say is this; guys, you are about as shocking as a Bratz doll and about 70% less useful. Give up and sign on.

Elton John has concluded his five-year Vegas residency, to much wailing among Nevada residents, I’m sure. I know, I know….if he’s been in Vegas for five years, how come we haven’t seem to have been shot of him? I’m sure he’ll return soon to the UK to resume his role as Britain’s favourite charitable homosexual. Paul O’Grady was last night being comforted by friends.

Johnny Borrell remains a gimp in need of a Zed….

Well, that’s all the ridiculous stuff we found. You really think we’re interested in actual news? There are thousands of places you can get that!

Extreme Listening Mode’s Extremely Brief Guide to 2008 – Albums

Well, that was the year that almost certainly was. If anything, it proved that we do indeed live in historic times, and one suspects that when historians look back on this year they’ll conclude that it was the year when, pretty much, everything got fucked. It wasn’t all bad, of course. Barack Obama’s incredible rise to end the year as President Elect gladdened the heart. Oh, and Euro 2008 was good. That’s about it, really.

But at ELM, we’ve never allowed ourselves to be cloaked in the darkness enveloping the world, preferring to maintain a healthy glow of optimism. Except about Razorlight, obviously. And musically, 2008 has seen some absolutely beguiling sounds in amongst the murkiness. Here a selection of a few of our favourite things;

Barroom bohemia was very much back in vogue this year. The Hold Steady played pretty much solidly through 2008 in support of their superb ‘Stay Positive’ album. When the dust has settled, it was a consolidation album, but still widescreen enough to elevate it above most other releases this year. The Gaslight Anthem were like their younger brothers, no less enthralled by the Great American (Rock) Songbook but still with that splash of idealism that manifests itself in anger and accusations. We were much taken with their ‘The ’59 Sound’ album.

For those who like their Americana more dustbowl-baked, Lambchop’s ‘OH (Ohio)’ was a stunningly beautiful piece of work. Ryan Adams returned with ‘Cardinology’ which had its moments, but fell short of his turn-of-the-century high water mark. We also liked ‘Rustbelt Sun’ by The God Fearing Atheists, a gritty slice of UK Americana, if that’s not too great an oxymoron.

Elbow’s ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ seems to have come out a thousand weeks ago, but still remains one of the years best work. Nice to see the perennial underachievers get some mainstream success, although, of course, we’ll all pretend not to like them come March. Sigur Ros were at their unsurpassable best on ‘með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust’ which, while difficult to pronounce, was pretty easy to love.

Santogold provided us with possibly the year’s finest debut. From the savvy pop silverdust of LES Artistes’ to the new wave sheen of ‘Lights Out’ to the unbridled mentalness of ‘Unstoppable’ it really followed the three-ring circus theory of music; something for everyone. The Ting Tings proved that a couple of classic singles don’t always mean they are the advance guard of a classic album.

Ida Maria was an early live favourite of ELM, but her debut album lacked the earthiness of her early demos, instead settling for a Radio 1 friendly production sheen that actually pushed her towards MOR territory. Still, as she had hacked about every support slot going for 18 months, you can’t blame her for wanting to see a few records, but what could have been a deranged pop-punk classic instead disappointed.

Jenny Lewis returned with ‘Acid Tongue’ which, sadly, wasn’t as good as her debut ‘Rabbit Fur Coat’. Less time hanging about with the celebrity mates and more on writing decent songs might be the order of the day next year.

Growers were the first albums from Vampire Weekend and MGMT. The VW album in particular revealed itself slowly as an excellent piece of work. The MGMT album was at times guilty of over-ambition and an inability to just let things breathe, but when they got it right – such as on the classic trio of singles ‘Time To Pretend’, ‘Kids’ and ‘Electric Feel’ – there was a feeling that they’d made the kind of electro-pop shudder Alex Chilton may have done had he had access to samplers.

In terms of success, you had to hand it to Glasvegas, who sold many an album but never convinced us at ELM Towers. The next album will be the one that determines if they are one-trick ponies, as we suspect, or truly Spokesmen for their Generation, like the NME does. No matter what, he still came across as a dick on Never Mind The Buzzcocks.

For slightly left of centre treats, can we push you in the direction of Marching Band’s ‘Spark Large’, a lovely collection of harmonious, almost childlike acoustic joyousness. Army Navy’s album was also very worth checking out.

A late mention to the lovely Laura Marling for ‘Alas, I Cannot Swim’ – folky, sweet and very addictive. Bon Iver deserves similar praise, though despite many attempts at it, I just could not get into Fleet Foxes. Different music but similar result was the new Portishead effort. Best of the old stagers was Spiritualized with their ‘Songs from A&E’, the same album they always made but done with polish.

And finally, to this years musical nadir; we hate to say it, but The Feeling’s ‘Join With Us’ made us want to hunker down in the basement to create a new strain of a dreadful disease which rendered society in a permanent state of mental paralysis. It really is that bad. However, it seemed like too much work, so we just ended up down the pub. But we still hope their tourbus breaks down in a remote country and they are left there forever.

Here’s hoping we get a good crop of albums next year!

Johnny Borrell – We are happy to help

We campaign rigorously round these parts to combat the scourge of ignorance and shine the light of knowledge where we can. So when we read the following quote from Razorlight’s Johnny Borrell, we thought we’d better step up;

“People who don’t like Razorlight? I don’t think such people exist.” Q Magazine, November 2008.

Hey, monkey Boy! Over here!

We’re glad we could help.

Observer Music Monthly, Hold Your Head In Shame

As serious music monthlies go, the Observer Music Monthly tends to be the runt of the litter, but it’s often worth a peek for it’s rather interesting take on the more exotic scenes in the world. I’ve read really interesting articles on Tinariwen, the New Puritans, Death Metal in Norway and Prussian Blue, those repulsive white supremacist teenagers from America. Not music I’m always interested in, but like the best journalism, it grabs your attention because the story is so well written, so perfectly graphed and plotted and the characters so vivid it draws you in.

In fact, that was always the vaguely uncomfortable feeling at the back of my mind. Are the occasionally decent stories good music journalism or simply good journalism? Is there a difference? Well, yes. The best stuff in OMM is often a reportage piece done about a musical act. It rarely gives insight into their actual music. In fact, the weakest part of OMM is when it does try to anticipate what the future holds. They’ve compared middling art rockers Foals to Radiohead; they portrayed Lily Allen as an iconic feminist figure.

In short, there was always the lingering suspicion that, for a music magazine, they weren’t all that interested in music.

And that was confirmed by this months edition which carried reviews of the new Razorlight, Keane, Snow Patrol and Dido albums. This is a dark month for those of us who prefer our music organic and not processed, that’s for sure. And OMM – a serious, worthy music magazine – gave all four of them 4/5 reviews. Honestly.

Now, I don’t hate those acts, apart from Razorlight, Keane and Dido. I’m certainly no fan of any of them. And I’ve heard only the lead singles from each. But I still fail to believe that every one of these albums is a short step away from perfection. It’s just not possible under the law of averages. Indeed, if one of them had managed it, then yep, I’d have held my hand up and said well done. But there is no chance, utterly no fucking chance, that all four of these acts have come back to the fold without one of them repeating history and delivering, well, a Razorlight/Keane/Snow Patrol/Dido album.

There are two possible explanations for this. The first, as bizarre as it might seem, is that I am wrong. Through some sick and twisted plot, Tim Keane and Johnny Razorlight have got together and channelled the spirits of John Lennon, Nick Drake and Jeff Buckley through some sick, Crowley-influenced dark satanic magick. They have emerged from their pop-rock AOR cocoons and truly grasped the nettle, heading us towards the tens on a wave of crazy, innovative pop majesty.

Or, more likely, OMM have calculated that their readership may very well contain a lot of Dido fans and that antagonising them in these fiscally challenged times is a bit of an error.

If it is the first, then I’m sorry. Well done to them all for their achievements and even more so when they all, clearly, released the weakest track on their albums as singles in a clever attempt to re-inforce the prejudices of blinkered commentators such as I.

Or if it is the second, and it is, shame on you OMM. Dido is incapable of producing a four star album, in this life anyway. You have absolutely pissed on the principles of great music journalism and instead helped shape a world where not hating Johnny Borrell does not lead to social exclusion and possibly violence. These are maybe minor crimes, but crimes none the less.

You should be ashamed OMM!

The Friday 5 – 5 Awful Political Songs

Some find politics boring. ELM does not. How can you not? Once you stop worrying about it, and accept that it is what it is, you can simply sit back and enjoy the madness. It’s fascinating to think that almost every important decision, things that affect our lives, are taken by professional decision makers who have had precisely no training and no relevant experience. That’s magic! How can you worry about anything when you know how random everything is? It’s just a ride man, it’s just a ride.

But some people do care, and fair play to them. Sometimes it’s admirable; someone like Billy Bragg, whether you agree with him or not, genuinely believes in the causes he espouses and has done a lot more good than bad. And even someone like Lemmy, unreconstructed old Tory bastard that he is, at least believes in the Conservatives because he is rich and they look after rich people better than Labour (well, better than Old Labour; the new lot are pretty comfortable round money.)

Contrary to popular belief, rock’n’roll does do serious issues. think about it; it’s always been about love and loss and death and life. It just doesn’t really do politics that well. Even skilled commentators come a cropper, so it’s hardly surprising that neer-do-wells and halfwits struggle to turn coherent, thought-provoking lyrics out regularly. Here we celebrate some unspeakably bad attempts. We know that their hearts were in the right place, it’s just their heads were clearly up their arse.

The Police – Invisible Sun

Sting always fancied being a spokesman for a generation. Alas, he wrote the odd decent pop pot-boiler and that was about it. rather than sticking to what he knew – and there would have been nothing wrong if he had – he decided he would treat us to his feelings on the Troubles in Northern Ireland (I love that term; it makes it sound like a disagreement on place settings at a wedding than the virtual civil war it was.)Trite soundbite a sixth-former would be proud of? Yup, we got ’em;

“There has to be an invisible sun
That gives us hope when the whole day’s done”

But even that sounds like The Songs of Innocence compared to this cracker;

“I face the day with me head caved in
Looking like something that the cat brought in”

I mean, what the fucking hell is that? the worst part of it all is that Sting genuinely thinks he is an artist, rather than Pete Waterman with pecs. Strangely enough, it didn’t resolve the issues in the Province. Which is unfair, because the place deserved better after being badly served by Rock’s glitterati….

Paul McCartney – Give Ireland Back To The Irish

Paul was a bit pissed off that that Lennon fella was considered the more intelligent songwriter (which was probably a bit unfair to be honest.) So he decided to become a hit, edgy political commentator. Sort of sharing his thoughts with the world. Alas, turns out his thoughts weren’t as thrilling as he’d thought. He’d clearly done about three minutes research into the whole Ireland thing and the end result was appallingly, toe-curlingly awful in the way only Macca when he really shoots and misses can be.

“Great Britain You Are Tremendous
And Nobody Knows Like Me
But Really What Are You Doin’
In The Land Across The Sea”

We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say he was probably stoned. ‘Hey, Linda…I’ve just had a thought about Ireland. Isn’t it a shame, la?’ Dreadful.

The Cranberries – Zombie

Maybe Ireland deserved all that though, for inflicting this mob on us. Clearly a comedy act who got strangely massive for about six minutes in the 90’s, this was their attempt to tell us about the horrors of a divided nation. Except, as Andy cairns of Therapy? noted at the time, it was pretty infuriating hearing someone from Limerick singing about tanks and guns. But is that harsh? Is it unfair?

“Another mother’s breaking
Heart is taken over. Zombie! Zombie! Zombie hey,hey,hey,oh dou, dou, dou,dou dou…”

No, it’s perfectly fair. America seemed to love it though.

The Black Eyed Peas – Where Is The Love?

A riposte to 9/11 apparently. And, a plaintive call to order in a confused world. Or a load of platitudinous bollocks given a pseudo-meaning in an attempt to pretend it is any more than a pop song. I actually think Fergies ‘Ladylumps’ is a more politically sensitive lyric.

“What’s wrong with the world mama?
People living like they aint got no mamas”

I didn’t make that up. that’s actually the lyric. Really. God love them.

Razorlight – America

This truly is a belter. So simplistic a mentally sub-normal teenager would reject it for being too saccharine. It’s so unspeakably stupid that you’d suspect it was a joke….but then you remember Johnny Borrell, a walking Punch puppet, is involved and you’d believe anything.

‘Un-uh-oh…Trouble in America’.

And who can argue with that? I suspect Borrell was referring to the carnage caused by Alan Greenspan to the long-term health of the American economy. Or maybe not.I look forward to their follow-up, ‘War Is, Like, Bad?’

Hideously fuckwitted.

So, several songs that simply didn’t change the world. Some may say they had a go and should be commended for it. Others that they should be forced to watch endless hours of David Frost. I’d vote for option two.

Any more for any more?