Tuesday, January 01, 2013

2012 round up part one, better late than never

2012 Irk The Purists Story of the Year

Just sneaking in under the wire at 10pm on 31st December, this was the strange sighting of Tim Burton and Helena Bonham-Carter at an Angus leisure centre.  The reasons for their appearance are a little unclear at the time of writing (and while I'd love to see Willie Wonka and the Haunted Squash Court, I think we can safely discount the possibility that they were there for research purposes), but I'm keenly watching http://www.facebook.com/thecourieruk to find out more. Thanks to Lesley S for spotting.

Gerry Anderson,  Fontella Bass, Neil Armstrong, Marie Colvin, Donna Summer, Dave Brubeck, Ravi Shankar, Alistair Burnet, Max Bygraves, Tony Scott, Eric Hobsbawm, Ray Bradbury, Gore Vidal, Larry Hagman, Sylvia Kristel, Davy Jones, Etta James, Jocky Wilson, Robert Hughes, Vidal Sassoon, Herbert Lom, Whitney Houston, Bob Holness, John Barry, Alexander Cockburn, Hal David, Robin Gibb, Terry Nutkins, Andy Williams, Bert Weedon, Byard Lancaster, Frank Wilson, Terry Callier

The 2012 "Nice Try" award
This year, the award goes to EMI who, at the height of Olympic fever in the UK released the debut single Winner from the Pet Shop Boys' recent album.  And while the lyrics may not have referenced athletics and the Olympics specifically, the allusions to being "in the running" and its timing in particular led many (and here's a case in point) to believe that it had some semi-official endorsement from Team GB.  I'm guessing that this was EMI's hope, at least- that its vaguely Olympic theme would allow it to ride on the coat-tails of Jessica Ennis et al into the public's hearts, and therefore into the charts.
The trouble, though, was that the Pet Shop Boys don't do strident, triumphant and victorious.  Neil Tennant's voice has always connoted distance, dispassion and irony.  The song doesn't even sound victorious; it sounds apologetic and half-hearted, more "Oh well, never mind" than "Yay! Go us!"  Which is ironic, because as far as I can tell, this is as celebratory as the PSBs get (see video, below).  It's just that they have the British capacity for self-deprecation, a capacity that Team GB managed to overcome in some style, hard-wired into their souls.  Predictably, the rest of the public was as confused as I was, and while Elbow and others shifted loads of product on the back of our sporting achievements, Winner limped home at a chart high of number 86.

Label of the year: 4AD
Whouldathunkit? Like many people my age, I had a high regard for 4AD in its heyday, thought that Colourbox, the Cocteau Twins and the Wolfgang Press were the shizzle, and sat mesmerised by Vaughan Oliver's (and Russell Mills' and Nigel Grierson's) sleeves in the same way that older friends stared at those of Roger Dean and Hipgnosis.  With the departure of Oliver and the label's co-founder and eminence grise Ivo Watts-Russell more than a decade ago, it seemed that like Blue Note and other labels suddenly cut asunder from the people with whom they were most closely identified. 4AD was likely to limp along, occasionally knocking out so-so albums by so-so bands and living on its ability to licence and re-release its vast back catalogue.  In recent years, though, it's made some interesting signings that were distinctly different from those that made the label's reputation  (Camera Obscura, Zomby, The Big Pink- and BTW, didn't they miss an open goal when they failed to call their debut Music From Big Pink?), and this year really hit the ball out of the park with albums from Scott Walker, Purity Ring, David Byrne and St. Vincent and, especially, Grimes. About whom more next time...

And yes, we now have internet at ITP Towers once more.

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