Archive for April, 2008

April 28, 2008

Love this music

Love Music Hate Racism – Finsbury Park, London 27 April

This years festival season kicked off before all the leaves are on the trees!!  Even if it was a free gig on a sunday afternoon.  Ah it was great to be back in a park listening to live music, though the rain yet again tried to dampen everyone’s spirits.   Things never change.  Music can still inspire, encourage and integrate.  30 years on from that seminal day, the spirit of community and defiance was back.  The event was remarkably less crowded than anticipated, the sporadic weather was good for something.  Bands interspersed with passionate pleas from leftists & liberals, for love.  Anti- fascist rhetoric whipped up to a frenzy.  Though it was the bands that most people had come to see, lets face it how many people can a political/social movement attract these days without entertainment.

Headlining the day were The Good, The Bad & The Queen, who played a beguiling set of atmospheric rock, as the sun finally shone, chronicling the streets of London.  After a sound problem at the beginning of their set, they unfurled a dynamic and complex 45 minutes of restrained beauty.  Albarn – ringmaster,  hunched over piano, Simonon – prowling the stage – guitar slung around to accentuate every move.  There was low fi, funk, orchestral, brass – contextual, innovative and moody it perfectly encapsulates contemporary London.  The crowded stage finished with an epic version of Ghost town, featuring a huge brass ensemble and an endless collective of rappers and singers led by Ex-Specials lead singer Jerry Dammers.    The fairly small crowd at the end trudged off informed and content.  Everyone was thrilled just to be outside again.,,2276564,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=39

April 25, 2008

Reformation Reality

Portishead are about to release their imaginatively titled third album.  After 11 years of whimsical wasteland the three have decided to reform and emit their foreboding sense of melancholia on us once again.   Many critics have actually praised the album and although Portishead have shown a sense of adventure and experimentation, their change of sonic direction seems to have payed off (maybe not in a literal sense, until the tills start ringing!)

Contrary to popular belief, Portishead have actually managed to buck the trend of failing reformations.  Consider this, how many bands reform and produce anything like their best work?  Very few!  The Verve will be another band this year who will once again try and defy the odds.  Of course they have already disbanded once before and reformed to produce their best work, although the split of 18 months between A Northern Soul and Urban Hymns isn’t really long enough to fully cement the stubborn ego of a rock star!  Though whether they can pull it off again after all this time (8+ years) is debatable.   The pressure that they and their management company have put themselves under is quite startling.  Not content with releasing the album and evaluating the reaction, they’ve decided to sign up to a whole summer of high profile appearances before finishing their new album.  With a whole slew of headlining festival appearances (they definitely appear to be the whores of the festival circuit this year), including Glastonbury, T in the park and V, they better pray their new album is well received or there will be thousands of despondent festival goers.  There are only so many times you can hear the ubiquitous sounds of Lucky man or Bittersweet Symphony, no matter how good they are.   It would probably be more effective to release the album before the summer circuit begins, or maybe their record company knows something we all suspect!!!

Many bands are reforming solely to trade on past glories, with the need to feel vital surpassed by the need to earn the dollar.  From 70’s glam, through 80’s pop to 90’s indie, the industry is saturated with revivals.  Though have any of these bands produced new material worthy of their name? In some cases, ie; Shed SevenEMF and The Wonder Stuff, the worthiness of the name is non-applicable.   Two of the biggest bands to disband and reform, The Who and The Eagles, confirm my point entirely.  While wishing to be valued as contemporary and valid both bands appear to be bereft of ideas and out of touch.  It seems when you’ve exhausted your creative juices you’re better off performing rather than recording.  But why are there so very few that buck this trend?