Friday 29 August 2014

50 songs to take to my grave 13: Kids In America

Right, no nonsense here, and not a shade of irony either. Kids In America is one of the greatest pop songs of all time. I will not accept any argument to the contrary.

The town I grew up in has an annual festival known as Torrington Mayfair. It takes place over three days beginning on the first Thursday of May and comprises numerous events including the May Queen procession, a carnival and all-day pub opening. The latter of these was a real exception back when I was a kid as UK licensing laws required pubs to open only between 11am and 3pm, and 7pm to 11pm. Outside of these times would require a special licence, which was always given to all pubs in the town on Mayfair Day.

While the Primary School kids took part in most of the events and therefore got the Thursday off school, the secondary school kids often bunked off. Our parents would spend the day in town watching the events then drinking excessively, while us kids would merrily trot off to the funfair in the car park at the top of the town.

Kids In America is a song I most associate with Torrington Mayfair. For a few years, year after year, it would play on practically every fairground ride – dodgems, jungle, waltzers. As you went round and round and round, the sound of Kim Wilde’s finest moment would be blaring at you from the speakers, with flashes of extra volume as you passed by on each circuit. “Everybody live for the music-go-round.

The song was written for Kim by her dad and brother and describes the paradox of being young and confused at a time when the youth felt they had few prospects of emerging from the seemingly eternal urban decay that surrounded them, while at the same time spearheading a new cultural movement such as punk or the burgeoning new wave scene.

Like a lot of electro-pop that came out at that time, Kids In America was free of the slick refinements that made much of the music that followed over the next few years so excruciating. The opening lines hint at the less-than-cheerful situation the protagonist finds herself in:

 “Looking out a dirty old window
 I can see the cars in the city go rushing by
 I sit here alone and I wonder why.”

The ominous, pulsating drone of the synth gives way to a harsh electronic snare sound, lifting the mood somewhat as we head into town where the action is. The singalong chorus symbolises a triumph, an escape, if only briefly. Perhaps one of the strangest things about it is how Kim Wilde disappears mid-song. The final minute or so consists of layers of synths and her male backing singers chanting “We’re the kids… we’re the kids… we’re the kids in America…” Where’d she go? Has she really escaped? Is she free at last?

Kids In America balanced the despair and desolation of the times – which were exacerbated by the Thatcher/Reagan administrations and the threat placed upon us of impending nuclear doom – with the hope of a new dawn, something for the younger generation to cling onto while the oldies carry on with the daily grind and fuck everything up in the process. It is, by this token at least, the very essence of rock & roll.

Perhaps oddly though, for a song that sounds so very much of its time (1981), I reckon it still sounds awesome today. When seemingly endless posh kids with silly haircuts and fake glasses are trying to sound like the Human League, the 33-year-old Kids In America comes across as rather fresh and exciting by comparison. The hipsters may think they’re so clever that they can play instruments that sound like computers, but at least Kim Wilde had a decent song to go with it. Today’s young whippersnappers have such a lot to learn. Tunes being one of them…

The list of those who have covered Kids In America is seemingly endless (from One Direction to Bloodhound Gang via Nirvana), but few come close to the original. In fact, I would bet most of them are abysmal, which is a shame as this song deserves a far better legacy than that. 

Wednesday 27 August 2014

The enigma of Kate [a repost of sorts]

Back in March, when Kate Bush announced her surprise residency in London, her first live shows in 35 years, I posted an article about her, her music and its impact on me. Hardly any bugger read it and no one commented. So I've decided to post it again (slightly edited to keep it current) to mark the beginning of this historic series of concerts, the first show of which took place last night. Chances are you don't want it second time around either, but tough. It's Kate. 

On your knees, mere mortals, and worship your divine goddess...

Kate and I go back quite a number of years. I first became aware of her when Wow was riding high in the charts back in 1979. I remember mum hating it, taking the piss by wheeling her arms around like Kate did in the video. I thought it was rather quirky, but really didn't get it. The following year I saw her do Babooshka and Army Dreamers on Top of the Pops and still couldn't quite work out what the hell she was up to.

Then, in 1985, she released Running Up That Hill and that was my Kate Bush epiphany. I mean honestly - What. A. Friggin'. Record. I was 14 and still learning lots about music; Running Up That Hill sounded like nothing else on Earth. I rushed out and bought the 'Hounds of Love' album and became engrossed. If you've never heard it (you should be ashamed of yourself), it's in two defined sections. Side one has all the singles on, while side two is a 7-track concept piece entitled 'The Ninth Wave'. I had to work quite hard to get into the latter half of the album, but learned to appreciate Kate's artistry and uniqueness at a time when pop music was becoming insipid and uninspired.

Naturally, I went out and investigated her back catalogue, discovering 'Hounds Of Love''s even odder predecessor 'The Dreaming', what she herself referred to as her "I've gone mad" album. It is indeed difficult to listen to at first, its multitude of styles and moods come at you from all directions: the Irish folk of Night of the Swallow; the Aboriginal drone of the title track; the jauntiness of There Goes a Tenner. The production is claustrophobic and dense, and despite the relative success of lead single Sat In Your Lap (one of the strangest songs to ever grace the Top 20 - hurrah!), there really is very little that screams "smash hit!" at you. In fact it was Kate's least successful album, yet it's my fave (go figure). It's also a big favourite of Björk, which totally justifies my love for it!

And while we're on the subject of other artists who have been inspired by Ms Bush, here's a few more, just in case you need further convincing of her wonderfulness:

  - Tori Amos - the most obvious, of course.
  - Kate Nash - another really obvious one; even her name is similar!
  - Joanna Newsome - take one listen to her 'Have One On Me' album and tell me the spirit of early Kate Bush does not reside in Joanna Newsome!
  - Goldfrapp - in particular the very Kate-titled 'Seventh Tree' album.
  - Florence Welch, St. Vincent, Feist, PJ Harvey... oh I could go on and on...

Sadly, Kate only makes a new album once in a blue moon these days, but 2011's '50 Words For Snow' was well worth the wait. Again, eschewing any craving for a hit, Kate concentrated on making beautiful soundscapes around the theme of winter. The title track, featuring the bloody marvellous Stephen Fry, was one of my top highlights of that year.

Now 55 (and still looking fabulous), Kate Bush remains an enigma. If she has something to say, people tend to stop and listen, which is why all 22 dates at the Hammersmith Apollo sold out in just 15 minutes. *sigh* How I wish I was there. Just one of them will do...

The original post had Wow, The Dreaming, Running Up That Hill and 50 Words For Snow as its soundtrack. This time I've chosen a few less obvious (and quite odd!) alternatives for your delectation:

Monday 25 August 2014

Memories of a thousand* gigs #28, #29 & #30

(* probably not actually that many, but who’s counting?)

Three very noisy gigs hosted by the Cavern in Exeter, possibly my favourite ever venue.

#28: Silverfish
The Cavern, Exeter - c. 1992 (cannot find a date for this anywhere! Any offers?)
Also present: Steve B

A year after they blew My Bloody Valentine into the middle of the following week, I saw Silverfish headline on their ‘Organ Fan’ tour. It was a sweaty and über-raucous affair, as you might expect; memorable in part because vocalist Leslie trod on my hand. The Cavern, being such a small and intimate venue, has no barrier between audience and stage. As usual I was at the front. There was a surge from behind me, I fell forward, and put my hand on the stage to break the fall. At that precise moment, and completely by accident, Lesley Rankine, in full flow, unwittingly stomped her Doc Martin down onto my fingers. Sweat, bruises and broken fingers – that’s rock ‘n’ roll!


#29: UK Subs
The Cavern, Exeter - 12th May 1995
Also present: Tim, Strimmer & Midget

Charlie Harper at the Cavern
pic by TheRobster
Pre-dating Tim's episode at the Bis gig by a year or so, here's another Tim story: He drank far too much and during the show was set upon by a young lady who he was repeatedly falling onto. This resulted in her inflicting a sizable scratch down his cheek that bled long into the night. How a girl of her diminutive stature managed to inflict such a wound on the six-foot plus frame of Tim is a mystery, but impressive nonetheless.

Meanwhile, Strimmer had a chat with his hero, Subs frontman Charlie Harper, which made him a very happy bloke. What a performer Harper was too. At 50+ years of age, he still had more energy, attitude and rock and roll grit than any of the numerous young pretenders half his age in so-called punk bands at the time.


#30: Blaggers ITA/Naked i
The Cavern, Exeter - 7th April 1995

Another great Naked i support slot, this was also one of their last gigs – they split a year or so later, but didn't get out too much after this show. A shame as they were on blinding form and showed off a clutch of new songs. They also released the Kite Flyer single around this time, so it's even more unfortunate they didn't make more of it. I think I may have done their lights for them at this show. 

The Blaggers set was mental. Rapper Christie hurled himself into the audience on a few occasions, while vocalist Matty was quite literally dragged into the crowd, mic still in hand, performance completely unaffected. It was the second time I'd seen Blaggers ITA and their popularity had exploded by now. You don't get gigs as raucous and energetic as this anymore; there are too many passive hipsters with silly hairstyles that might get a bit ruffled if anyone dared jump into them. But then, there aren't many bands like Naked i and Blaggers ITA around these days either, more's the pity.


Thursday 21 August 2014

Penblwydd Hapus TheMadster!

Yep, another birthday, for 17 years ago to the day, TheMadster was thrust into this world. And the world hasn't recovered yet! I can still remember it like it was yesterday. There's a photo of MrsRobster and I just minutes after the miracle had happened[1]. Yes, in spite of everything MrsRobster had been through in the hours immediately preceding it, she still looked like the cutest thing ever gifted to the Earth. Me - well there I was, bright yellow 'Screamadelica' t-shirt, hair a darn-sight longer (and more plentiful) than it is now and a look of sheer terror in my eyes.

"Holy fuck this is real," I was probably thinking. "So, errr, what happens now? Do I get like a user guide or something?"

And two and a half years later, just to prove how I never learn, sprog #2 (hereby known as TheDoopster) popped out. Anyway, I digress. I revealed a few months ago how I took my first-born to her very first gig in January (Frank Turner in Cardiff). Next month, her mum and I will be taking her with us to see the wonderful First Aid Kit in Bristol. Fair to say then that as parents we haven't done a bad job in educating our children.

TheMadster is also a fan of Jack White and is desperate to see him live too. She's jealous that we saw the White Stripes in 2001 and asks why we didn't take her with us.

"Er, because you were FOUR!" is the response.

"So?" she retorts. "What's that got to do with it?"

Good point, especially as I have fond memories of her singing along to I Think I Smell A Rat during car journeys which involved the ritual playing of 'White Blood Cells'. So while I can't go back in time and sneak her into what was probably an age-restricted show anyway, I can dedicate a tune to her on her 17th birthday. Along with her mother, she's really into Jack's sophomore solo effort Lazaretto at the mo. 

She's proud of the fact she shares her birthday with one of her heroes - Usain Bolt. I share mine with Nelson Mandela, Richard Branson and Screaming Jay Hawkins, but TheMadster still reckons the fastest man on Earth trumps them all! Whatever, while she may not have made the Welsh 800m team for the Commonwealth Games this year, she may well win gold in the best-music-taste-at-her-club stakes.

Rock on, Madster.


[1] No, I'm not going to post it here. We're not at our best, darlings...
[2] As far as mad, crazy, fucking way-out-there Jack White ideas go, this is right up there with the maddest, craziest, most way-out-there... and probably the most awesome: Lazaretto Ultra LP. The guy's both a genius and cool as fuck. I should hate him for that but just can't...

Monday 18 August 2014

The Book Club #2: 'White Line Fever' by Lemmy

The problem with some autobiographies is that often the writer has so little of any interest to say, they just waffle and bore you to death before you get even halfway. Basically, there is little point in anyone under the age of 40 publishing their life story. But of course, as soon as one of today's bright young things sees a pile of £50 notes being waved at them, they're happy to put any old shit down in print. Sadly, the mindless public of the 21st century is more than happy to pay £15 to read about the life experiences of One Direction. As much as I cannot stand Adele, at least she resisted the temptation and turned down a book deal.

Lemmy, on the other hand, has so many stories, he could probably write an entire library worth of books. In 2002, he published his autobiography 'White Line Fever' and it's one of the most amusingly compelling books I've read. Not for Lemmy the banal space-filling gossip-mongering nonsense of most celebs, no sirree. What Lemmy gives is a relentless deluge of anecdotes, spanning his youth, growing up in North Wales and the North West of England during the 60s, seeing the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix and sleeping on Ron Wood's mum's couch! It also covers his fledgling career as a musician in Hawkwind in which he reveals he was fired, not for taking drugs, but for taking the wrong kind of drugs. While Hawkwind were all acid heads, Lemmy was a speed freak, and it was this that influenced the name of the band that takes up most of his story: Motörhead.

The book is riddled with hilarious rock 'n' roll tales, most of which make the likes of Spinal Tap and Bad News seem like serious bands by comparison. There's the time when the LAPD were called to get drummer Phil 'Philthy Animal' Taylor out of the hotel room he had locked himself in. He claimed he was trying to climb out the window but couldn't get through it. When the police broke through the door, they found Taylor trying to climb through the bathroom mirror!

Lemmy also tells of the time he befriended Frankie Goes To Hollywood. He attended an aftershow party during which two groupies were blowing their way through every bloke there in a relentless persuit of tracking down Frankie's bassist Mark O'Toole, unaware he had left hours earlier with his wife!

But my favourite story is on page 103. In 1980 as Motörhead were making it big, and after years of substance abuse, Lemmy decided to undergo a full blood transfusion a la Keith Richards - a way of getting clean without the bother of detox. He saw a doctor who took tests, and later broke the news of the results:

I think I read 'White Line Fever' in just two sittings. It's not a difficult read, it's actually as if Lemmy is sitting there telling you everything face-to-face. In fairness, that's probably down to his ghost writer Janiss Garza who rightly saw little need to tart things up. Lemmy has always been a 'what you see is what you get' kind of guy, so pretentious, poetic prose is clearly not something he would have been happy to put his name to.

Lemmy has steadfastly refused to pander to genres and labels, referring to his music simply as 'rock & roll'. As tales of rock & roll go, 'White Line Fever' is pretty much the yardstick against which all other rock stars should be measured. Well, unless you're Motley Crüe perhaps, but they were off the fucking scale...

Pointless giving you Ace of Spades as there cannot be a single living soul on Earth who hasn't heard that. Instead, here's one of my fave (more recent) Motörhead tracks:
Oh go on then, but you're not getting the original, that's too damn obvious. This version was made a few years ago for a beer advert the band starred in, and it's brill:

Friday 15 August 2014

From Inside The Pod Revisited #3

Here's the third repost from my old blog From Inside The Pod. This one first saw the light of day almost exactly three years ago! My, how time flies. I made a series of podcasts featuring cover versions and they proved to be quite popular. Ironically, I actually jacked the blog in when I realised people only seemed interested in these re:Covering podcasts. I wanted to post more original stuff though and became increasingly frustrated that no one else shared my desires.

Nevertheless, I 'released' four re:Covering podcasts, and made two more that remain unreleased. This one has some great stuff on it. I'm surprised most of the You Tube links to the originals still work; those that didn't I have found alternatives. Once again, I've not tampered with any of the original article other than updating the links. As you see, I was already beginning to get a little upset at the lack of interest from my audience. In spite of this, it still lasted another nine months before it ended.

pod 17: re:Covering 2
(first published 21 August 2011)

I have considered calling it a day. The number of downloads of recent podcasts is embarrassingly poor and I wonder whether it is worthwhile continuing to post for the benefit of two or three occasional visitors. I decided to stick it out a tad longer to test the water one last time.

My two most popular podcasts by far have been '#keepingitpeel' (pod 08), my tribute to John Peel, and 're:Covering' (pod 12), a podcast of cover versions. The former had the added clout of being lauded and promoted by Webbie over at Football and Music as he launched Keeping It Peel Day last October. The latter? The result of me having noticed the most popular podcasts up to that point were the ones with most cover versions on them. A case of give the people what they want, so to speak.

So, while we await #keepingitpeel2, here's another pod of covers to see who's still interested. There are hundreds of tunes that could have made it, but I decided to go with ten you may well have missed...

1. Toy Dolls I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) (1997, One More Megabyte)
Best known for their take on Nellie The Elephant which was a big hit back in 1984, Sunderland's Toy Dolls have delighted fans for many years which such classics as the Theme from Rupert The BearLivin' La Vida Loca and Kids In America (retitled Kids In Tyne & Wear), as well, of course, as hundreds of their own hilarious ditties. Here, the Proclaimers' finest moment is transformed into a frenetic blast of punk fun.

2. Let's Wrestle The One I Love (2011, b-side of In Dreams, pt II)
Despite hailing from London, Let's Wrestle certainly owe more than a nod to lo-fi Americans such as Pavement and Grandaddy. Their second album came out a couple of months ago, and this interesting cover of the R.E.M. classic featured as the b-side (yes, a good old fashioned b-side) of its lead single.

3. Benjamin Francis Leftwich Rebellion (Lies) (2010, digital single)
This guy might be just the latest in a succession of young folk singers to appear upon the scene, but at times he rivals some of his more experienced and highly revered peers. Here he covers a track by one of his biggest influences, Arcade Fire. Speaking of which...

4. Arcade Fire Guns Of Brixton (2008, recorded live backstage at Brixton Academy for the BBC's Culture Show.)
Whether or not you see the recent rioting in English cities as the disaffected voicing its anger and frustration, or a just as a bunch of yobs on the rampage with absolutely nothing meaningful to say (I'm firmly in the latter camp), this classic song has no doubt been cited by some as the soundtrack to the unrest. Here, Arcade Fire replace the Clash's original punk-reggae vibe and turn it into a haunting air which revolves heavily around the band's folk roots. See it here.

5. Al Wilson Lodi (1969, single)
Al Wilson's best known songs are Show & Tell and The Snake, but he also had hits with two covers of Creedence tracks, this one and Born On The Bayou. The original version of Lodi appeared as the b-side of Bad Moon Rising, a version of which by the Blue Aeroplanes appeared on the last all-covers podcast.

6. Snuff Rivers Of Babylon (1997, Potatoes And Melons At Wholesale Prices Direct To You The Public)
Harder and heavier than the Toy Dolls, but no less funny, London's Snuff can list a ridiculous array of hilarious covers amongst their canon. Here, their blend of calypso, reggae and hardcore punk is entirely in keeping with their daft antics while retaining an air of familiarity with the song. The Melodians' original, the lyrics of which are lifted from Psalm 137:1, dates from 1970 and became popular through the classic 1972 reggae movie The Harder They Come. However, it was Boney M who made it a worldwide hit in 1978 and it is their version that has become most fondly remembered.

7. Jessica Lea Mayfield Lounge Act (2011, SPiN presents: Newermind - A Tribute Album)
There's a load of stuff coming out to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Nirvana's commercial breakthrough album Nevermind. As well as a deluxe edition of the album (which seems to be the norm for every record that's 10, 20, 21, 25, 30 years old right now), there are also numerous tributes. Reggae legend Little Roy has done an album of Nirvana covers (and from the bits I've heard, a rather splendid effort it is too). There's also a FREE album released by Spin magazine featuring artists covering the tracks from that seminal grunge classic of 1991. On it, the precocious talent that is Jessica Lea Mayfield tackles Lounge Act, transforming a raging guitar-fuelled menace into a sweetly dark country ballad.

8. Kitchens of Distinction White Horses (1994, b-side of Now It's Time To Say Goodbye)
One of the great crimes of the late 80s/early 90s was Kitchens of Distinction not achieving the commercial success they so richly deserved. Perhaps it was because they were lumped in with the craply-named 'shoegazing' scene by the music press, which immediately got them labelled as miserable middle-class students with floppy fringes. They weren't. White Horses was a German TV show which anyone who grew up in the 1960s will probably have fond memories of. Its theme tune remains one of the best TV themes ever and the Kitchens do a more than admirable take on it.

9. Manic Street Preachers Stay With Me (1994, b-side of She Is Suffering)
Arguably, the quintessential rock 'n' roll song. Listening to the Manics' first album it was difficult not to actually hear Rod, Ronnie and the boys in at least half of the songs, so this cover really isn't all that surprising.  It never featured on the covers disc of their b-sides compilation which makes it quite rare these days.

10. Cud Bohemian Rhapsody (1990, Alvin Lives (In Leeds) - Anti-Poll Tax Trax)
It may be one of the world's most famous songs, but only the brave dare cover it. Many have tried, with varying degrees of success: The Flaming Lips, Pink, Elaine Paige, Rolf Harris, Weird Al Yankovic, even the Muppets have all had a go. Yorkshire's legendary indie combo Cud, who also made notable versions of the Kinks' Lola, Status Quo's Down Down and Hot Chocolate's You Sexy Thing, don't so much cover 'BoRhap' as shred it, mix up the pieces and reconstruct it with bits of BluTac. Another rarity too, its only release being on an obscure benefit album.

Wednesday 13 August 2014

Just because...

Here's a track JUST BECAUSE I really like it. Been listening to Eagulls' self-titled debut quite a lot. Can't put my finger on quite why I like it so much, but it has lots of youthful energy, plenty of punk-like anger and some dead good guitar sounds, so that'll do for starters.

Possessed is my fave track from the record and is in fact one of my top 5 tunes of 2014 so far. Enjoy.


Possessed - Eagulls (from 'Eagulls')

Video: Possessed - Eagulls (performed live on Letterman)

Monday 11 August 2014

Penblwydd Hapus MrsRobster!

Today is MrsRobster's birthday. Of course, I'm far too polite and chivalrous to tell you how old she is - let's just say she's a woman in her prime and still a good few years younger than me!

There is only one proper way to celebrate the occasion and that's to play music. She's a bit of a fan of Teleman's debut album, and fair play to her it is a flippin' good listen. If you didn't know, Teleman were formed following the dissolution of the rather good Pete & the Pirates whose second (and sadly final) album 'One Thousand Pictures' became a bit of a Robster family favourite. Three fifths of the band reformed as Teleman and released the album 'Breakfast' last month on the increasingly brill Moshi Moshi Records.

MrsRobster is particularly fond of the song Steam Train Girl so this one's for her.


Steam Train Girl – Teleman (from 'Breakfast')

Friday 8 August 2014

50 songs to take to my grave 12: Country Feedback

You know sometimes how you really love a record so much but just can’t explain why? This is one of mine. Country Feedback is a song buried away near the end of R.E.M.’s 7th album ‘Out Of Time’. It is pretty much exactly what it says it is: a country song swathed in feedback. It’s a slow, lazy plod through a hot, arid, sun-scorched landscape. It’s one of the greatest songs R.E.M. ever recorded.

So what’s so great about it? Well as I said, I don’t know. It sticks out like a sore thumb on its parent album. It is easily the most downbeat, maudlin number on an otherwise upbeat record. It was probably best suited to its follow-up, the brooding multi-platinum classic ‘Automatic For The People’, but R.E.M. kind of did that – each album seemed to contain an oddity that provided a clue as to what might follow. Maybe that’s one reason – it was the antithesis of the happy, cheerful feel of ‘Out Of Time’.

Another reason may be its deliberate under-production. The version on ‘Out Of Time’ is basically the original demo (with only some subtle backing vocals by Kate Pierson added) featuring local producer and musician John Keane playing the unmistakable pedal-steel. Stipe’s vocals were recorded in a single take (“I sang it and I walked out,”) the lyrics largely improvised on the spot. They never bothered re-recording it, it was good enough as it was.

Perhaps it soundtracked the darkness in my life at the time (which I’ve spoken of enough already, so I won’t bang on about it). But you know how music strikes chords with you at certain times in your life – it just comes along at the right time and its impact remains with you for the rest of your life? I think Country Feedback fits in with that. Or maybe it’s just that I managed to play it in Our Price during peak hours several times before the store manager realised Stipe swears in it!

Or maybe it's because it's an incredibly easy song to play on guitar, even for someone with such rudimentary skills as me. It is in essence a repeated loop of Em - G - D - C - G - D - Em; four of the easiest chords over and over again, so simple even I've mastered it. Michael Stipe cites Country Feedback as his favourite R.E.M. song, but then, he's never heard me play it...

There have been several cracking live versions released of it too. One features an extended jam with none other than Neil Young, while another version recorded in Germany in 2003 contains alternative lyrics taken from a later R.E.M. song called ‘Chorus And The Ring’. Stipe even weaved in lyrics from Bob Dylan's Like A Rolling Stone when they performed it for MTV's Unplugged in 2001.

Whatever the appeal, I adore this song. I so rarely play much R.E.M. music from that period nowadays, but this one always gets an airing.

Monday 4 August 2014

Memories of a thousand* gigs #27

(* probably not actually that many, but who’s counting?)

#27: The Flaming Lips
Cardiff International Arena - 26th October 2003
Support: Clinic
Also in attendance: MrsRobster

A singing nun glove puppet, ticker tape and balloons, the singer being passed across the crowd in a giant inflatable ball – I mean this is awesome stuff, right? How to make a rock concert spectacular, theatrical; how to go that extra mile? It is typical of Flaming Lips to redefine the rock concert, but this show marked a turning point in my affections for them. Put aside all the props and stunts, and what I got is a show that not only frustrated me, but annoyed me too. What I got was Wayne Coyne, egomaniac, making me actually dislike him by prattling inanely between songs for what seemed like an eternity. Quite frankly, I don’t give a shit about what a rock star thinks of the situation in Iraq (or ‘eye-reck’ as Coyne insisted on pronouncing it), I didn’t go there to be preached at. Fine, make your point mate, but then shut up and play. 

And when they did play? Well, they opened with a pretty decent rendition of Race For The Prize which was let down only by Coyne’s rather limited vocal abilities. From there on in it was downhill all the way. The band was onstage for about an hour and a half, but they probably only played 45-50 minutes of music. Each minute that went by, I got the impression that Wayne Coyne was disappearing further and further up his own backside. It soon became clear that the floorshow merely disguised the fact that, a couple of exceptional albums aside, Flaming Lips really are not that good. Since this show, they have made some terrible records bordering on the unlistenable, carried out a series of *yawn* bizarre promotional stunts (24-hour song, anyone? No? Don’t blame you…), and are currently hanging out with Miley fucking Cyrus.

MrsRobster, who now gets rather irritated at the mere sound of Wayne Coyne’s voice, reaches for the off button every time she hears the Flaming Lips. Well, it saves me a job…

(For the record, the pix here were not taken at the Cardiff show I describe, but at festival shows from the last couple of years. Yes, they're still peddling the same gimmicks, and Coyne's still wearing the same suit!)


Race For The Prize [live] – The Flaming Lips (live at Summer Sonic '09, Tokyo)

Friday 1 August 2014

Just because...

When I have nowt planned in my posting schedule, I've decided I will post a track JUST BECAUSE. No explanation other than the fact I like it and it doesn't fit in with any of the other posts I'm working on.

These will appear totally at random and only occasionally. Today's comes from Grandaddy, a band its impossible to dislike. The song, Disconnecty, comes from their last album 'Just Like The Fambly Cat' from 2006, a seriously overlooked and underrated piece of work IMO. I love this song.


Disconnecty - Grandaddy (from 'Just Like The Fambly Cat') - note: audio starts at 0:20.

Disconnecty [acoustic] - Jason Lytle (solo acoustic version recorded live for KEXP Seattle, 2006)