Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Round Up

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.

Best single:
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.

Best book:
A few nominations in this category: I greatly enjoyed Simon Reynolds’ Totally Wired, 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.

Best album:

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

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Oh! Brother

Today's papers are flagging up the forthcoming, final Celebrity Big Brother. According to the Grauniad, Channel 4 commissioning editor David Williams said the theme of the final celebrity series was "Dante's inferno - hell lies in others".

How on earth do you get to be a commissioning editor without being able to discriminate between Dante and Sartre (who said "L'enfer, c'est les autres" some 750 years after Dante)? Actually, scrub that. I know it's precisely such knowledge that disqualifies you from a job at Channel 4.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Lake Superior

The greatest Christmas song ever is, of course, The Waitresses' Christmas Wrapping. And there's a lot of others, besides, as you can read in a post of 3 years ago.

However, I retain a soft spot for Greg Lake's I Believe in Father Christmas. And we don't feature much prog here, so let's break the habit of a lifetime. If it happens to be snowing outside (and it has been in much of the UK over the last few days), I defy you to look out of the window while you listen to this and not feel your eyes prickle a bit.

Have a good one, y'all.

Download Greg Lake's I Believe in Father Christmas (mp3) (deleted Feb 2010- too late!)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Machine tool

There's not a lot to say about the new Christmas No.1. And there's really no need to re-hash all the arguments, mention the moneys raised for Youth Music and Shelter, acknowledge that it's a Pyrrhic victory, or make silly statements about how we're all going to smash capitalism using Twitter. Everybody knows what the campaign was all about, and understands its meaning (or lack thereof). Everyone, that is, except Barbara "Will This Do?" Ellen. Christ, didn't she used to work for the NME? Read this for an object lesson in how to write about something on which you have no knowledge and can't be bothered to research. Scroll down to the comments to see 550 angry Guardianistas in full cry. Try not to think of Private Eye's Polly Filler.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Ugly Rumours

I'm not convinced this (below) is Kesha, as the record company insists. I think, instead, it's the debut single by Amanda, the snarky receptionist from Ugly Betty (left). C'mon, that voice sounds exactly the same, no?