Tuesday 20 December 2011

Best Of The Year at BPFE

It’s been a funny ol’ year for listening to stuff at BPFE. Thanks to the discovery of a number of exciting blogs, I’m afraid my consumption of brand new music has taken a back seat to rediscovering some classics and some obscurities. I’ve loved every minute, but I’d be hard pushed to come up with a list of 10 albums that have blown me away. Instead, here are three:

Matthew Sweet: ‘Modern Art’
I have no idea why this wasn’t praised to the skies on its release. It’s a superb album with some of Sweets best melodies and some great ensemble playing. Expectations are always high when MS releases an album and for many people, he’s still in the shadow of ‘Girlfriend’ which (IMHO) is insane. There are some great songs on here and it’s nowhere near as ‘Avant-garde’ as I’d been led to believe. Lots of scrumptious, tight, Pop Rock gems, as well as Mr Sweet stretching himself out a little. If you bought this, listened to it once and then tossed it in the ‘trade’ pile, dig it out and try again. It ain’t his most immediate work, but it’s up there with his best.

'Oh Oldendaze!' from 'Modern Art'

Captain Wilberforce: ‘Ghost Written Confessions’
One day, Simon Bristoll will be a huge star and you can say ‘I told you so’ to anyone who will listen. This is his third full length album and has that ‘third album feel’ too – you know – a little bit different to the previous two, possibly reaching for something else, a la ‘Big Star Third’ or ‘Fables of the Reconstruction’.  It’s not as PowerPop as his last, frankly awesome release ‘Everyone Loves a Villain’, but the songs are marvellous – lot’s of detail, always interesting lyrics and memorable tunes. I’ve waxed lyrical before, and I probably will again, but this guy is probably the best Pop Rock writer you’ve never heard of. PLEASE buy it and make him rich.

'The Day Your Mouth Stood Still' from 'Ghost Written Confessions'

Three Minute Tease: ‘Three Minute Tease’
Anton Barbeau with the rhythm section from The Soft Boys. You cannot imagine how excited I was when I heard about this. Too good to be true? No. It’s better than that. Finally, a supergroup that doesn’t suck. I’m not sure if this has a physical release yet, but trust me, it’s breathtaking. Well, of course it is – it’s Anton Barbeau with the rhythm section from The Soft Boys...

'Love Is Onion' Live from 'Three Minute Tease'

Monday 19 December 2011

Grant Hart: The Glee Club, Nottingham 4th December 2011

My sides…my aching sides... Grant Hart, writer of some of the most gut wrenching songs in modern music (‘2541’, ‘The Main’, ‘Diane’) performing in front of a six feet tall, three dimensional model of the word ‘Glee’. That’s an irony worthy of Alanis Morissette.

Grant is a mercurial performer…as excited as I was when I saw a short UK tour announced (well ‘announced’ is the wrong word – maybe ‘apologetically released to a couple of Internet sites by accident’ would be more accurate), my glee (that word again!) was somewhat tempered by some recent YouTube footage of a rather unwell Mr Hart wrestling with his back catalogue. Well, as we all know, camcorders and ‘phone cameras are not the most flattering of recording devices and I am delighted to reveal that Mr Hart is looking pretty darn good. As I mentioned in my last post, Grant has had quite a life and to get through all the experiences that he has had and still be able to stand upright and string a sentence or two together is quite an achievement.

This was the first time I had seen him perform solo and I wasn’t disappointed. He started well and just got better. His Guitar playing may never get him shortlisted for Dream Theater, but he accompanies his voice with aplomb. But the voice…oh my days. Possibly not quite as throat shredding as the ‘glory days’ in Husker Du, but still capable of raising the hairs on the back of your neck. ‘Admiral of the Sea’ and (of course) ‘2541’ were real highlights, showcasing what an expressive vocalist he (still) is. Not even a misbehaving Guitar during the latter part of the set (expertly fixed by the support act) could dampen the enthusiasm of a small but partisan crowd. What Hart lacks in audience repartee, he more than makes up for in intensity and he has that in spades. This was a really great show, with some Husker Du gems played alongside quality material from his most recent ‘Hot Wax’ album. I even managed to score a cheap copy of the beautifully titled ‘Oeuvrevue’ CD from the merch stand.  

I may be in a minority of one, but I really have no interest in a Husker Du reunion. For a start, given the bad blood between all three if the recent Bob Mould autobiography is to be believed it ain’t exactly top of anyone’s New Years Resolutions list. Instead, I’d prefer Grant Hart to get some kudos for three decades of brilliant tunes.  

'Shoot Your way To Freedom' - Nova Mob

Stewart Lee: Leicester Square Theatre, November 19th 2011

The very fact that Stewart Lee is a massive fan of The Rain Parade and namechecks The Long Ryders in his latest book should endear him to you. Other things in his favour are that he’s a Brummie, is a snappy dresser and is almost supernaturally funny.

I saw him play one of a long series of shows at the Leicester Square Theatre in London,  which for him, must be like some form of comedic ‘Groundhog Day’ – turn up to the same venue day after day, be funny (twice on Saturdays) and repeat forever. How he keeps it fresh, I don’t know, but he does.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with his work, he’s one of those comics who don’t tell jokes…you know, the modern ones. For this show, he’s made a virtue of the fact that he’s had no profound experiences to write about and has had to look at the trivia and minutiae of everyday life to inspire him. He manages to avoid the usual pitfalls that other comics in a similar position fall into and finds humour in the most unlikely places – primarily in the vast, out of town shopping complexes boasting names like ‘Carpet Remnant World’. Lee creates an alternate universe where animated bits of Axminster live alongside inhabitants of ‘PC World’ and ‘World of Leather’…except he makes it really funny.

I know I’m biased, for all the reasons outlined in my opening paragraph, but this may be his funniest show to date. My only reservation is the fact that he is becoming almost obsessed with negative reactions to his show and indeed, him personally. As funny as it is (and possibly cathartic and empowering for him) to lampoon the critical drubbing he’s had to endure, pretty soon it may turn into a cliché. Stewart Lee is a brilliant and unique talent and I would hate to see him be perceived as just a ‘loveable loser’ and his work become overlooked.

Any road up – he’s bloody great and on tour in 2012. You should go and see him. I laughed a lot and you will too.

Stewart Lee muses on 'Top Gear'

Let’s Active: ‘Live On a School Night’ The Ritz NYC, October 18, 1988

One of my favourite LA boots…

A stellar track listing, a more than decent audience recording and a few tasty covers make this the perfect Christmas gift for any Mitchaficionado. Pink Floyd and Moby Grape covers rub up against songs from the ‘Every Dog…’ album and beyond.


(And, as ever, many thanks to the original uploader whose name I cruelly deleted from the info file. Sorry man!)