It's the end of the year, and along with the James Bond film, the advocaat and the arguments, there's one festive tradition that has become de rigeur across the UK. Or at least for the fourteen people reading this blog. Yes, it's the Irk The Purists' annual roundup.
As albums die out as a format, and every track ever made is available to own or listen to at all times, rather than for finite periods, individual songs really have to punch above their weight to get noticed. Is there even such a thing as a single anymore? Possibly not, when songs can reach the top of the charts without a physical release (don't even think about it- innuend0 ed.). That said, there have been a number of truly fantastic tunes this year, largely by R&B poppets like Beyonce, whose Single Ladies was particularly exciting (especially the parts that sounded like the aliens exploding on the old Galaxian arcade game). However, the one tune of 2009 guaranteed to get the party started at Irk The Purists Towers was Boys And Girls by Pixie Lott.
A few nominations in this category: I greatly enjoyed Simon Reynolds’ Totally Wired http://totallywiredbysimonreynolds.blogspot.com/, especially the chapter that, rightly, gave due credit to the B-52’s (a B-52’s post is overdue, I feel). Also, Paul O’Grady’s autobiog (didn’t get round to this till recently). However, the most thoroughly-researched and enlightening book I read this year (even though, like O’Grady’s, it was released last year) was Michael Bracewell’s Roxy, originally published in hardback as ReMake/ReModel. An in-depth investigation of the pre-history of Roxy Music, Alex Clark in The Observer called it “a stunning look at the band’s cultural impact”. Clark (unbelievably, a former editor of Granta and ex-deputy literary editor at the Observer) clearly wasn’t paying attention to what she read (if, indeed, she read it all. I doubt the people at Faber had properly read it either, as they chose to put this quote on the back cover of the paperback release). Actually, it’s no such thing. In fact, it’s precisely the opposite. It’s a look at culture’s impact on the band: the book concludes just prior to the release of Virginia Plain, so how Bracewell’s book could touch on the band’s impact on wider culture is beyond me.
OK, rant over. If you’ve ever wanted to find out more about the characters in Ferry’s, Eno’s, Manzanera’s and Mackay’s milieu from the 1960s to 1972 (particularly Victor Pasmore, Richard Hamilton, Antony Price, Mark Lancaster and Simon Huxley) then this is a must-read. While it’s enlightening about early Roxy, it’s in no way a biography of the band, and it’s all the better for it. Instead, it’s about art, fashion, education and design in the 1960s and beyond, and while conventional histories of the period tend to ignore many of the protagonists of Bracewell’s book, Roxy redresses the balance.
Most annoying phrasing:
It’s a bloody awful song in every possible way, but the bit in Cheryl Cole’s Fight For This Love when she sings “Now every day ain't gon' be no picnic”, and contrives to pronounce pic-nic with a stressed second syllable really makes me want to throw the radio at the wall. The video is heinous, too.
Most promising newcomers 2009:
The Drums- everybody (including themselves) says they sound like a Factory Records band. See here for example. I can't hear it myself (unless they were referring to The Distractions). Despite this, they're worth your attention in 2010.
Runners up: The XX (my tip for the 2010 Mercury if you feel like a flutter)
Best inadvertent offensive TV moment:
Jamie Cullum, on The One Show, had promised to dedicate a song to the most deserving applicant that contacted the show during the first twenty-five minutes of its transmission. The son of a cancer patient got in touch to ask that a song be dedicated to his mum, then undergoing chemotherapy. Jamie, who clearly was going to be playing the song that he'd prepared, no matter who contacted the show, then, as promised, played his selection to the dedicatee. And what was the song he'd chosen? Go here to find out. It's about 1:35 in. Gulp.
Notwithstanding my comments about the demise of the album (above), my fave albums this year were by Bibio's Ambivalence Avenue , Major Lazer's Guns Don't Kill People, and The Warm Heart of Africa by The Very Best. Can't decide between 'em.
2009 “better than I expected” award:
I’d more or less given up on Primal Scream after the debacle of Riot City Blues, and only picked up 2008’s Beautiful Future as it was in a bargain bin in Dundee. And whaddayaknow, it’s actually alright. Not quite up there with Xtrmntr, but certainly far better than we have a right to expect from jaded, wealthy rock stars with a collective age approaching 250. If you see it in a bargain bin, pick it up. Hell, let's push the boat out. If you see it for less than £7, pick it up.
Rowland S. Howard, Derek B, John Updike, Patrick McGoohan, Julius Shulman, John Hughes, Ron Silver, Dominick Dunne, Frank McCourt, Marilyn Chambers, Michael Jackson, Mollie Sugden, Vic Chesnutt, Patrick Swayze, Les Paul, Merce Cunningham, Charles Gwathmey, John Mortimer
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