Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 round-up part three

Best gig:

I was a Barrowland virgin prior to this year. This, despite the entreaties of various friends and colleagues extolling its virtues as a venue (hello Lesley Stokes!). In truth, it actually sounded faintly unpleasant; sprung ballroom floor, decor out of a 70s amusement arcade, unpromising location in the arse-end of Glasgow. Not exactly the Ministry of Sound. And, yes, at first glance the surroundings are exactly as described, a potential set from Life On Mars. But as is so often the case, the unpreposessing decor belies the experience to be had. Because Barrowland (or the Barrowlands as most seem to call it) has that indefinable, elusive quality: soul. Like Nottingham's Rock City and London's Forum, the venue has seen better days and looks frankly shabby in the cold light of day. But when the lights go down and the beer starts to fly through the air, it comes into its own.

Of course it helps if you're seeing the right kind of act at the Barrowlands. Motorhead, the Beastie Boys or The Cramps would kill. Devendra Banhart, The Blue Nile or Fleet Foxes, on the other hand, wouldn't really cut it. Luckily we saw The Streets, and he/they were absolutely made for the Barrowlands.

I was a Streets virgin, too, having nodded along to his output on the radio but not especially exerted myself to seek out his CDs. And while I wasn't exactly going to see him under duress, I'd be lying if I said I was greatly excited about the prospect of seeing The Streets live. However, as soon as Mike Skinner took the stage, he had the audience eating out of his hand. He's the consummate showman, cajoling, exhorting, and with a strong enough sense of dynamics to punctuate his set with moments when the assembled throng could go absolutely mental. He's a good improviser too; unlike so many bands now that refuse to communicate with the audience at gigs (see below), Skinner essayed an impromptu take on Daddy's Gone by Glasvegas, mashed up one of his hits (I can't remember which) with the Prodigy's Out of Space and generally whipped up the crowd into hysteria with his stage-diving and his professions of love for Glasgow in general and the Barrowlands in particular. Gig of the year, no question. You can get some idea of what it was like below:

I'd never seen The Fall live either up until October of this year, and despite my fears that it would be the Mark Smith cabaret hour, the band's current line-up proved to be adept and capable when I saw them at Edinburgh's Queens Hall. So for exceeding my (low) expectations, The Fall deserve a mention in this category, though points are deducted for singularly failing to acknowledge the audience (par for the course with MES, I suspect), and for John Cooper Clarke bottling out of his support slot.

Download The Streets The Sherry End (mp3) (deleted Aug 2009)

Download The Fall Reformation! (mp3) (deleted Aug 2009)

Best book:

Pop Babylon by Imogen Edwards-Jones. The latest in a long line of exposés of, variously, the airline business, the hotel business and the fashion industry by Edwards-Jones, Pop Babylon reads like Jackie Collins meeting Albert Goldman. Strung around a generic narrative featuring the rise of a fictitious boy band, the novel details various showbiz excesses, sharp practices and scandals, vouchsafed to the author by anonymous moles. Unusually, names are named, and Take That, The Spice Girls, Jay-Z, Simon Cowell and others all get it in the neck.

Best single:

Wearing My Rolex by Wiley. So he's a grime sellout. Who cares? This is totally aces. Despite the video, one of the year's WTF?! moments, and doubtless made without the input or consent of the artist.

Also, a mention for Q-Tip's Gettin' Up: a close second. And Please Come Back Home by Glasvegas, Phil Spector by way of the Gorbals.

Best album:

I haven't yet heard The Bug's London Zoo, which made a lot of end-of-year lists, so I'll have to reserve judgement on that. Otherwise, I'd have to plump for the Vampire Weekend long player. I half-expected the David Byrne and Brian Eno album of this year to sound like this. Typically, it didn't, and full marks for subverting expectations again, lads. But if, like me, you quite like a bit of scratchy, jittery, Afro-inflected buttoned-up preppy pop, two parts Graceland to one part Remain In Light, then Vampire Weekend were right on the money.

See you in 2009; first up will be Guns and Roses vs. Crass. You see, I do plan ahead! This stuff doesn't just write itself, y'know.


Digital_Plamf said...

I saw the Mondays at the Barrowlands, late 89. It was exactly how you'd imagine it. It was like "How did they get these reprobates to turn up on time and play in tune?" But they played a blinder.

Bez's mic contributions were for the most part unintelligible, apart from one classic moment when he approaches the mic stand, and says (improbably and apropos of nothing) ... "I've got some new records". Then he went back to dancing (at one point, like a choo-choo train, exhaling smoke in time to the music.)

Anyway - what i want to know is, have Crass reformed or did I misread the last line?

Irk The Purists said...

Hello, Mr P. Hope you're well. I shall see you soon, I hope. I see the Happy Mondays are dragging themselves round the circuit again, including recent gigs in Glasgow.

Crass haven't reformed to the best of my knowledge, and they're probably the band least likely to (though Steve Ignorant did recently reprise many of their tunes at Shepherd's Bush Empire- much to the chagrin of Penny Rimbaud). However, given that Blur have reformed, and that The Smihs and Stone Roses are odds-on to announce reunion gigs this year, stranger things have happened.