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There were two, an hour and a half ago there was only one, and now there are none. I am, of course, talking about the horrific terrorist act that has been performed on innocent people in New York. New York, arguably the centre of world business has been shaken to its very roots, to such a degree that the words on the world’s lips are “World War III”. If we needed a test for Meesers Blair and Bush, then this is it. What we also have to think about when something like this, which could also have such an amazingly huge political bearing, is the enormous loss of life. Not only have three planes crashed (which would be a story in itself), but also hundreds of thousands of people have died inside the World Trade Centre. It is certainly the most influential event in history that I at my tender age of 14 have lived through. However, when all the hysteria ends, there is one issue that has to be resolved from a crisis such as this. World terrorism must be quenched if the world is to resume order from its current state of dysfunction. The IRA, the Tamil Tigers, ETTA, the PLA and the other of the world terrorist groups must be stopped in their tracks if we want our world’s safety to be maintained. In fact, these groups must be licking their lips at the thought of just three hijackings stopping the world. Also, assuming that it was a group from the Middle East that was responsible for this, the Middle East has to be an issue that we take more seriously. We cannot simply watch our TV screens when we hear of a suicide bomb in the Middle East – we have to resolve this issue quickly and as painlessly as possible, and if necessary, ultimatums must be made. Finally, my deepest sympathies go to the victim’s families and the American public at large.
I’ve never been much good at picking so called “great albums”. I thought “Definitely Maybe” was OK, “OK Computer” was a bit complex, but had good songs on it, and “Nevermind” was a good album, but not amazing. Hence, when “Is this it” was said to be the best guitar album for the last 20 years, frankly, I didn’t believe them. It is very easy for hype to cloud your better judgement. I know at least ten people in my year who were Slipknot devotees about 6 months, purely because of the hubbub that surrounded them. They have heard the album again, and have hated it, and wondered how they ever liked it. “Be here now” (by Oasis) has had a similar effect on me and other friends of mine. For this reason, when I put “Is This It” into my CD player, I thought of them as a guitar band that were quite good, rather than the best thing since sliced bread. Don’t get me wrong, I loved “The Stokes” before. “The Modern Age” has been a favourite of mine since it was released, and “New York City Cops” is one of the songs that get me through the physical torture of what is a 1 hour session on a rowing machine. It makes me forget myself, and I become a criminal on the run for around 2 minutes. So by now you are probably itching to know what “Is This It” sounds like. Well, it is special. You can put every song on its own and it could be a single of Top 10 quality. Julian Casablancas may not sing in tune, but he if he did that then it would be out of character for the album. I mean, what would have happened if Sid Vicious sung in tune! The basslines are nice, fat juicy ones and full of funk energy and they can turn on your rock button when they want to (refer to “New York City Cops”, “The Modern Age”, “Sometimes”, “Hard to Explain” for proof). In the loosest sense of
the word, they can be sensitive as well, on tracks like “Trying your Luck” and “Is This It”. The sound that powerhouses like The White Stripes, The Strokes and other US garage rock bands is so easy to listen to and refreshing that I for one can’t get enough of it. It’s quality. However, striking as what I have just said is, that isn’t even one of this album’s greatest attributes. The Strokes have translated the last three years and given us all what we NEEDED. We didn’t NEED another band of 20 idiots from Middle America who distort every sound from every musical orifice, that swear and curse about how their parents hated them and we don’t want to know about their ex girlfriends. (That’s what indie’s for. ). We didn’t need a group of rappers from “the hood” rapping about their “bitches”. What we needed was “The Strokes”. We needed a group of scruffs with rhythm who have been listening to early punk and translated the sound and mood for the 21st Century. We wanted an album that told a story eloquently and in a cool way. Most of all, we wanted something that sounded exceptional, but didn’t have the typical melodrama that this new century seems to have brought. We have that in the Strokes. I think it’s quite safe to say that the hype is all true. However, is the NME’s claim that this is the best album of the last 20 years in any way to be believed? Ummmmm………you decide.
19th July Barcelona Airport 6:37, in a café tucking into a sandwich I gently press the CD into the beaten up, well-travelled old discman, careful not to get any crumbs into the system. I firmly close the plastic lid and press play. These simple actions are normally automatic and in every way thoughtless. However in this case they were nerve wrenching. It has been at least 3 and a half years since I bought a Radiohead album, and I can’t say that I am a “post – guitar” Radiohead fan. What strikes me most about Radiohead now is their sheer arrogance to assume that their fans would be fed a totally different type of music which, essentially, was dance music – no matter how leftfield it was. “Pyramid Song”, on the radio, sounded like Thom Yorke was trying to reinvent himself as a howling wolf that would wake you up from sleep, and that he was in the middle of depression. So, with all that in mind, why did I buy Amnesiac? The truth is I still felt an allegiance to the old Radiohead. It sounds stupid, as there are probably a million other albums out at the moment that deserve my £13.99 more, namely the “I am Kloot” album and the many opuses of “The White Stripes”. However, “The Bends” (Radiohead’s second album) remains one of my favourite albums, “Creep” is one of the best songs ever written and OK Computer has allegedly changed indie music forever. Can this magic be gone in the space of only 2 or three years? I hoped not. Besides, their recent “Later…” performance was quite impressive, and the new stuff didn’t sound that bad. The bhangra drums of “Packt like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box” are my welcome to Amnesiac. There are no guitars (but well…heart of hearts I didn’t expect them), but somehow the synth ridden track is pleasing to the ears. The haunting refrain of “I am a reasonable man / get off
my case” could really only ever be sung by Thom Yorke. Not bad, if not exactly my cup of tea. Basically, that was the overriding theme for “Amnesiac”. The album is undoubtedly leftfield, and the synth symphonies (that has a ring to it doesn’t it?) are at times, well, strange. “Pull/Pulk Revolving Doors” may send you round the room doing some odd conga inspired dance with the opening couple of bars of drums, but after a couple of minutes you’ll wonder whether this is just some aimless soundscape reminiscent of “The Orb”. There are some very good tracks as well. “You and Whose Army” is exceptional, with lovely chiming guitars. It is quite ironic that one of the quietest tracks on the album, and the one most pleasant, has lyrics that are about as provocative as the New Zealand “Haka” dance. (“Come on/ Come on/ if you think you think you can take us on”). “Knives out” is the current single and the amount of airplay that it is currently getting is a good dedication to how good the track is. The last five tracks see the most creative side of Radiohead exposed. This is shown on textured and jazzy tracks, for example “Like Spinning Plates”, “Life in a Glasshouse” the reworking of “The Morning Bell” (which in my opinion is far better than “The original”) and the ambient guitar opus of “Dollars and Cents”. “Pyramid Song” doesn’t sound too bad in the context of Amnesiac either. For all the rants expressed in the first paragraph, I respect Radiohead for making “Amnesiac”. The ambition to change music is clear here, as it would be easy to make another 4 or 5 albums churning out ballad type songs like “Fake Plastic Trees”, which although good, isn’t challenging enough to either the band or the listener. That sort of thing would just demote Radi
ohead to a second rate, past-it band. What they have done is experiment (something obvious on the last 5 tracks) and that in my book, gets more points than just perfecting an already popular form of music. It doesn’t sound bad either. Is it also not coincidence that tracks 4, 5 and 6 are among the best on the album, and that all three are guitar orientated? Johnny, please, play the guitar, if not for yourself, for MEEEEE!!!!!!!! So now, I can proclaim on top of Kingston High Street, that my paperboy’s pay packet for this week will be going on “Kid A”. If it is in the sale.
It was a day last year and I found out the sheer number of class artists at Glastonbury. A number of friends vowed that we would go and that nothing would get in our way. Inevitably, as is always the case, something did get in our way – parent power. Mothers and Fathers, of course, do not give a monkey’s backside about who is on the Pyramid. They care about the average age of the festivalgoer (and there was no chance of telling them that the average age of a Glastonbury goer was 14). They care about the safety restrictions (and in the aftermath of the Roskilde that was a sore subject). They care about the robberies that go on (and my mum has friends that read the Daily Mail, so there was no use there) and naturally they also care about the availability of alcohol and “unwanted vermin like substances” as teachers seem to call them. However, then I read about the “All Tomorrow’s Parties” festival. No tents! Indoors! Proper Sanitation! What’s more, this is all at a Butlins. There has to be a downside to everything. So, in my desperation to go to a festival, I asked my mum if I could go to ATP (and later asked Dad when mum said no). Inevitably, they said no again only the response was a bit slower. Their argument rested around the fact that I’d never actually heard of these bands before. Mine was that it was music that John Peel liked (and they took heed of THAT, as my Dad likes Roxy Music et al) and that this lived up to their criteria. Yet again their criteria changed, and by now I was beyond caring. This year, I haven’t even bothered asking my parents as to whether I could go to a festival, but a couple of weeks ago, I followed something up about that festival – the line-up. “Mogwai”, “Sonic Youth,” “Shellac” and “Belle and Sebastian” were reportedly a few of the biggest names in “Post-rock” a genre that
had previously totally gone over my head. So I did some work. A trip to my local HMV proved fruitless. One of the staff thought that Sonic Youth were a garage DJ collaboration and Mogwai was one of the furry ones from the “Gremlins” films (but at least the latter was true). On then to “Beggars Banquet” a small little store that is not dissimilar to what I imagine Championship Vinyl from Nick Hornby’s book “High Fidelity” to look and sound like. The staff at its Kingston branch are similarly monosyllabic and rude, but it is the only place with a half decent selection of alternative music. A short, stubby man recommended this (“Rock Action”) as a good starting point to enter into the world of Post Rock. So what do I think of “Rock Action”? In a phrase, “I like”. However, like most Post Rock artists, Mogwai aren’t going to give you an easy ride. “Sine Wave”, the opening track to the album, is a “proper” opening track to the album. By that I mean not that the first track is the track that all the radio stations are playing, but the track that sets the tone to the album. The track is well built, well orchestrated and although voiceless, strangely enticing. I’ve always in the past skipped the tracks that didn’t have any vocals as I found them boring (e.g. OPTIGAN1 on Blur’s “13”). However, the fact that Mogwai had basically turned this one motif of a wave crashing on a beach into the theme of a song was amazing and very clever. I’m sure that when S Club 7 are walking down Brighton Pier, the thought of using the sounds of waves as the basis of a track does not once cross their minds. However, if you are at a listening post somewhere in the country and thinking that the album is really odd, don’t. The sounds are totally different on the rest of the album– mainly esoteric guitars, little voc
als and not in the least bit heavy for the main part, but “You don’t know Jesus” has a few heavy parts as well as the “Robot Chant” interlude). Every track is crafted and meticulously formed as well as “Sine Wave”. As I earlier said, “Sine Wave” really does set a tone for what’s to come conceptually. “Take me somewhere nice”, the somewhat soppy named 2nd track epitomises this, what with it being a sweeping 7 minute opus more Royal Festival Hall than London Astoria. It is so relaxing that it makes you want to run a nice, hot bath and puts you “into the clouds” so much that you really don’t notice that the vocalist sings “What you do if you saw spaceships over Glasgow?” IS THIS THE ODDEST LYRIC EVER? Really though, this is without a doubt one of my favourite tracks of the year. “Dial: Revenge” is the song that is second best in my opinion. It has a wonderful acoustic guitar hook and a choral vocal part performed by the lead singer from the Super Furry Animals. It is the song that, without a doubt would be the most at home on a singles chart. The interludes like “Robot Chant”, “O I Sleep” without making definite chunks in the album like on Basement Jaxx’s “Remedy”, they only make the album feel more musical, thought out and together in my opinion. With the few heavy moments on “You don’t Know Jesus” this album is a complete one, and no track should be given the disgrace of being skipped. You may go to heaven on “Take me Somewhere Nice”, back down to a dingy, depressing alley in the middle of a very bad place on “You Don’t know Jesus”, know the evils of industrialisation on “Robot Chant” and jump for joy at “2 Rights make 1 Wrong”. I might just get another Post Rock album, and you know what, I w
ish I’d gone to Camber Sands now, for “that festival where I knew none of the bands”.
A balmy evening we made of it. Walking out of Brixton tube station and seeing the orange red sky fold in; there was a sense of expectation. It was a feeling along the lines of that even though the sky and sun were closing shop for the day, Coldplay and the thousands of people that had congregated to witness their musical prowess were nowhere near closing shop. Quite an eventful Sunday night then. The lines on Astoria Walk stretched for quite a distance – more than I had ever seen. Even there, in that very line, I could sense that the expectation that had sprung upon me as soon as I’d taken my ticket out of the tube barrier was not only mine. There were whispers, quiet only because they were rumours, that the 5 new songs that they were to premiere that night were a bit special. But it would be another 2 and half-hours before we found if there was any substance to the rumours. Another rumour, was that the support band, Alfie (incidentally from Twisted Nerve, the same record label as Badly Drawn Boy) were a class act, and from the evidence of their new album (which I’d only heard on a Virgin Megastore listening Post) the rumour was right. Between taking our standing position right next to speaker cabinet and hearing Alfie, we exposed our eardrums to some very peculiar, overly distorted, avant-garde beats. Now I’m not against avant-garde, but this was the bottom end. So by 8:15, we’d been waiting around for 1 hour and a half bored to death by odd beats, Alfie came on. Loose limbed and unshaven, all six of them strolled onstage. It is a shame that I now can’t remember much of their set, because it surprisingly good. What I was expecting from the Mancunian nu-folk collective was twee wannabe American country glissandos and for everything to be all very quiet. Like I said, I was surprised. They came out with 1 and a half electric guitar players (I say half because one looked so stoned that I was s
urprised he didn’t fall off his stool. He oblivious to the rest of the crowd, aimlessly twirled on his swivel stool, and had a cigarette in his mouth whether playing the cello or guitar). The singer, one Lee Gorton, was moving around so much on his stool that I was afraid that at one point he would fall off his stool and collapse ceremoniously onto his Mic. Collapsing onto electrical appliances aside, his voice is one pleasing to the ear, slightly reminiscent of the singer from Mansun. There were some very promising sounds, especially a song that I can only assume is called “Got to get out of the Rain”. The sound is diverse, with some louder songs and the option of a trumpet, which in my opinion, is an essential ingredient in making a warm sound. Once Alfie had finished their set, Coldplay’s roadies were hard at work immediately. It is a miracle that they managed to do this with even more avant-garde dross pouring out of the sound system like puss from an infected wound (interestingly though, they did play the song which Eminem got the sample for “my name is” from). At 9:30, however, the ambience changed, and it was obvious that something was happening. A pulsating drumbeat seemed omnipresent. So strong were the beats that I could hear my hair shaking. A few long moments later, all four members of Coldplay were on stage and a couple of bars into one of their new song – “Animals”. The song is a bit like an introspective, subtle version of Stereophonics’ new single “Mr. Writer”, with the line “Animal I am/ Disposable”. What was more important though, was that it set the tone for the whole gig – It was loud. Most people associate Coldplay with “beautiful” music. Esoteric, melodic, nice music. However, these weren’t the “bed-wetting” (sic) creations of Alan McGee, this was a band that had swirling, dizzying guitar solos that
rung in your ears. “Animals”, along with the perennial Coldplay cover – “You only live twice” – could well be a creation much heavier than Coldplay. You do think that maybe this song was intended to be a finger to Alan McGee, and his famous scathing remarks in the Telegraph. You do get the feeling that the backlash that has hit Coldplay has affected Chris Martin at least hard. He constantly is making comments about it, and has made songs that you can MOSH to in “Murder” and “God put a smile on your face”. And who would have thought that a Coldplay song would have the lyrics “I’m going to burn this house down”. Coldplay have turned over a new leaf. In the same way, the band has approached the Parachutes material in a totally different way. They have a bit of a swagger and the little arrogance that every band needs. Instead of crawling into his shell whenever someone criticises him, he now accepts that people won’t like Coldplay, and that they are not worth thinking about. This new attitude even shows in their music, as now they don’t feel the need to sound just like they do on the record. The lights, an aspect of alternative gigs that are sadly often ovelooked, were superb. During loud bits there were swirly lights that perfectly mirrored the sounds coming from both Chris and Jonny's guitar adn the soft bits had charming little fairy lights of blue and red. They helped this become the sublime mix of show and gig that it was The rest of the gig you can probably guess – “Yellow” sent the crowd crazy and all of the “Parachutes” material was greeted with a massive cheer and help with the chorus (a surprise was that “Spies” and “Don’t Panic” were so popular). The acoustic numbers ( the exquisite “See you Soon” and “Parachutes”) were greeted with an expectant hush and w
ere so rewarding that the moment after the song finished also had a hush before the applause. It was an amazing night, the 29th of April.
Starsailor are really quite jammy. The title track of Starsailor’s first EP, “Fever”, was a somewhat fitting name for the song. The track caused A&R men to go into frenzy, waving around tours, airtime and (inevitably) chequebooks at the young band from Wigan, with hoards of people calling them “the next big thing”. The band scored a first in modern times by bringing the somewhat out-of-vogue sounds of indie and alternative country to the ears of millions on their first commercial release. The band got well into the top twenty with this release and found themselves on “Top of the Pops” – a feat for any band without choreographed dance steps. All that with an amount of gigs you can count on one hand. At the centre of all of this fervour is the innocuous James Walsh. A self - confessed Tim Buckley lover (Starsailor is actually a Tim Buckley album), James Walsh is quite possibly the most humble man in alternative music at the moment. In the recent NME interview that they gave, Victoria Segal described Walsh as “a master of understatement”, and it shows. Whenever he talks, he permanently sweeps his hair back nervously and talks barely above a whispered mumble. On first look, he looks jittery and totally unsure of himself. Which I found very surprising when I first heard the Fever EP. The songs are formed and crafted rather than the hamfisted patchwork of several different tunes that can be found on most bands’ first releases. Walsh’s voice is expressive – at times painfully so – as all good singers should be. The songs are written from the heart rather than the head, and if you can’t tell from the sound, then you’ll hear it in the lyrics (Did you ever really love me? / were you always coming down?). “Love is Here” is a top quality song which is a little bit like the sophisticated man’s “Teenage Dirtbag” by Wheatus.
It sounds like a broken-hearted man’s lament in some forsaken alley. Top stuff. The band has somewhat gone against convention as well with the omission of a lead guitarist and has gone with a keyboardist instead. At times this can sound a bit cheesy and lacks the real meat of tone that a band with 2 guitars has, which is really the only criticism I have with the band. However, their set-up does come into its own at times, but the total lack of guitar solos and interludes does give the impression that the track is just plodding without much excitement. Many people on this very site have accused Starsailor of being record company fodder with a similar marketing machine to that of Hearsay and Atomic Kitten, and of sounding actually rather unrefined and not worthy of the hype. I am not going to disagree wholly. There are other bands such as Turin Brakes, Kings of Convenience and Snow Patrol that at the moment have a far more superior, refined and 3-D sound. However, the crux of the matter is that the sound is not immensely better, and all of these bands have had at least 4 or 5 studio EP s or at least an album in which to perfect their sound and realise where their zone lies. Remember Radiohead? Remember Pablo Honey? That was (in my opinion) a banal album with the shining exception of “Creep”, and that one track managed to get the commercial and interest machine up and rolling. What Starsailor have done is make 2 tracks in “Fever” and “Love is Here” that are have immense promise if even if the band aren’t exactly the finished article. The new single, “Good Souls” also sounds like a corker – probably better than all of the tracks on the Fever EP. I’m quietly confident that Starsailor can iron out the creases in their sound and do their heart-wrenchingly good ballads justice, and send the general public into the same frenzy that the A&R men are in now.
“OK Computer” has shaken the world no matter what your view of music is. The album is accredited with the resurgence in the popularity of indie music and has achieved massive praise from all forms of media. First, the facts. “OK Computer was released in 1997 on Parlophone Records, a trendy offshoot of the EMI label, which is also home to Gorillaz, Coldplay, and the rest of the Radiohead catalogue. The band had already released two albums – “Pablo Honey” which is generally accepted to be a somewhat shallow album with the massive exception of “Creep” which has become the all-time anthem for the social dropout. “The Bends” was a far more promising album, which achieved more commercial success and media attention though still not as much as it deserved. For me it is the best Radiohead album because it is accessable and not in as pretentious as Radiohead albums have been accused of being recently (perhaps falsely). The world had woken up to Radiohead and the stage was set for either a fade-out album or a sensational one. “OK Computer” passed me by on release, which is surprising and not surprising at the same time. The singles didn’t get much airplay on independent radio as the band really wanted to be seen as and album band rather that a singles band, for reasons that I try to explain later. However, the band managed to pick up the Mercury Music awards that year and those “in the know” in the music business were praising the album in ways that were unprecedented. The public accepted them as well, with the readers of Q magazine voting the album the best ever only months after its release. So there is the background. I personally picked up the album last year for two reasons. It had been an album that I wanted but had never got round to buying due to money constraints, and various people had told me words to the effect of that I couldn’t claim to kn
ow anything about alternative music unless I had heard it. When it finally went on sale from an astronomical price of £17, I felt the time was right. Now for the music. As those who have read my previous articles will know, I like to analyse each track of an album, however, this time I have decided to ditch that approach for a series of reasons. Around half the tracks carry themselves like operettas; like 4 or 5 minute Bohemian Rhapsodies only flickering from genre to genre in the blink of an eyelid. An amazing example of this the opening track – “Airbag”. The track starts with a crunching riff with tinkling pianos, moving on to “conventional” indie with the main riff being played what sounds like a cello. There is a shrill guitar/ethnic-sounding instrument somewhere in there, there are false endings with swooping electro beats and Thom Yorke (the vocalist) chanting in a way that characters do in Indian musicals. Take a deep breath, all that happened in 4 minutes 41 seconds. “Paranoid Android”, the next track is quite similar, with a lush mix of esoteric guitar, electro-beats, rock style bass tremolos and guitar crunches. Somehow, instead of sounding overly frilly and fussy, the track sticks together very well, even if Thom Yorke’s emotions do anything but stick together. The next two tracks are somewhat disappointingly normal in comparison, with “Subterranean Homesick Alien” being a nice juicy slice of tender loin indie. “Exit Music (For A Film)” being the most haunting and disturbing song imaginable with the lovely, comforting refrain of “We hope that you choke, that you choke”. They really should use it for a horror film. “Let Down”, the next track, is made to sound like Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” in comparison. The song is certainly a sing –along number. “Karma Police” is one of the bette
r known tracks of the album that even managed to get itself onto a NOW compilation (Shock, Horror!!!!!). It is yet another example of Thom Yorke’s musical diversity and overawing cynicism. The political references are obvious, with such lyrics as “I’ve given all I can/ But we’re still on the payroll”. That echo towards the end of the song is extremely effective. “Fitter Happier” is an electrical voice, not dissimilar to that of Steven Hawking’s adopted one, repeating anti-capitalist ramblings, with no music. Very avant-garde and very, very scary. The next song, “Electioneering”, continues the theme with a song that sounds like everything that Ocean Colour Scene should have become but didn’t. Politics is at the forefront yet again, unsurprisingly, with the classic lyric of “It’s just business/ cattle prods and the IMF”. “Climbing up Walls” is sounds like an incredibly successful experiment with saturated guitar and vocal sounds coupled with string sections. “No Surprises”, the most successful song commercially, deserves its accolade. It is beautiful, end of story. “Lucky” sounds vaguely optimistic in its lyrics and chorus, but putting the song in the context of the entire album makes you wonder as to whether Thom Yorke is making this into yet another parody of himself. This song isn’t a let down after “No Surprises” which in my view is high praise indeed. Watch out for the Jeff Buckley- style guitar solo. “The Tourist’s” only objective is to prepare you for life when you leave the pleasures of “OK Computer”. It tries, but fails as any track would. Thom Yorke is trying, and succeeding, to make us look and our lives and accept how we have become a race of puppets obeying to elders in the west. “Fitter, Happier” is living proof of that. He is also trying
to say that we have become so shallow that we bow down to every word of so-called “experts” with their miracle cures and skin-deep promises. He makes this point constantly in his albums, and accentuates this point with his constant attack on cars (see “Killer Cars” from Pablo Honey and “Airbag"). For those who wish that politics and music weren't mixed as much as they are at the moment, then the lyrics on this album should be blocked out. When I first heard the album, I didn’t like it at all. The electro-beat/guitar mix was too much for me to handle in one dose, and it was certainly something that I had never heard before. When I came to “Fitter, Happier” I got scared, stopped the CD and went to bed, closing my eyes and ears. However, this album is a listening album, and one that deserves persistence. It is for this reason that Thom Yorke probably doesn’t like singles as he wants an album to be a single entity instead of a CD which makes people want to skip certain tracks so that they can hear the songs that they know. Radiohead repay the favour by making an album that has no fillers. This album is a classic, and one which all music lovers should own and cherish.
The Manics are back and this time we have proof. Fresh from a rather bombastic appearance from fresh faced hippie rap group Outkast, I settled down in front of the box to watch the not-so-fresh faced trio from Wales, The Manic Street Preachers on Top of the Pops The band recently have done their album promoting in a rather unconventional (so typically Manics then....) way. It all started off at their ceremonious gig at the Karl Marx Theatre in no less than...Havana. The band is the first band to play there since US sanctions began and not surprisingly it was a resounding success. The gig, no doubt a political statement more than anything else supporting the socialist cause, charged 5 cents entry and were visited by an idol of theirs, Fidel Castro. A somewhat more meaningful purpose of the gig was to showcase the new material on their latest (6th) album called "Know Your Enemy". More of that in a minute. The other non-conventional happening has been that the band released two singles in the same week, just because it hadn't been done before. How Nicky Wire that is. Back to Top of the Pops. The band started with the song which they pushed commercially more – “So Why So Sad”. When I first heard the song, it was very much like the time I heard “Rock DJ” (by Robbie Williams) for the first time – a feeling of total anti-climax. The track has an annoying plonk-plink organ part the whole way through the song and guitar and bass are inaudible. This isn’t what the Manics are about and it shows onstage. Nicky Wire isn’t doing the “Funky Chicken” with his bass. James Dean Bradfield isn’t bobbing up and down in front of the mike. It is flat. It is like the “This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours” style mock epic that was emotionally empty and the stuff that Toploader have ripped off so well. Oh well, turn off the TV and do something else then. Oh no yo
u don’t. Suddenly there is reverb coming from a massive speaker cabinet and there is distortion. Something is happening, and it sounds promising. The song starts with a guitar crunch and now you know that the Manics have been. Oh how we have missed them since “Everything Must Go”. The song is “Found that Soul” which is precisely what they seem to have done since they released “The Masses Against The Classes”. The new material demonstrates that they have found a meaning political or punky or otherwise in the new material as songs like “Found That Soul” and “Ocean Spray” have proved. The song continues in such a way that “So Why So Sad” is forgotten. The audience is head banging, James Dean Bradfield is really getting into it, Nicky Wire is doing some sort of dance with his bass and Sean Moore (the drummer) is at fever pitch. Dare I say it, but they sound a bit like a proper punk band, and not too dissimilar to the Sex Pistols. “Know Your Enemy” sounds like it has the tools to beat the world if you are willing to ignore the soft rock blabber that has remained in the Manic Street Preacher entity since Richey Edwards disappeared. However, they have found their revolutionary souls, and I for one am happy for them
When I read this title I sat down and thought a bit. If you are bullied you go through that phase where every adult tells you some ideological, level-headed way of dealing with it. You take this into consideration, but the bullies are so penetrative that there is no way out. You are trapped in a daily pattern of getting to school, doing your work, getting shredded to pieces either mentally or physically or both and crying your eyes out at school and home. Everyone that is bullied has been in the vicious cycle and doesn’t want to relive it surely, so I wasn’t eager to write an opinion Then, I thought a bit and read some of the other opinions. This seemed to be the bullied people’s way of getting previous experiences out, something that is undoubtedly a good thing, which is what I am about to do. So, if you are sitting comfortably, then I shall begin… Last September, I went to my secondary school on a scholarship, which unfortunately for me only 3 people sat. It was a recognised boarding school and I was going with a whole load of my closest friends. It was going to be really good experience and I was going to enjoy it so much. The first week was a resounding success. I thought that I was getting on really well with everyone and the class work was easy, which seemed to be my downfall. Word got out that I was a scholar, and as it became cool to dig the dirt on me, friends that I’D SPENT EVERY SINGLE WEEKEND with for the last 3 years went against me in everything I did. They unearthed the fact that I uncovered people doing drugs, that I had a medical condition and they racially abused me. They chucked my books in the bin, they tried to get me into trouble they mashed in my locker and at the end it came to blows. Every single day. At the end, I just hid myself in the poolroom every single break. What’s more, the school didn’t even help me to get me back together, saying that it was “a minor m
atter”. They only had a look when my family and I expressed a will to leave. Before I go on, I’d like to say that the bullies did me a favour in doing what they did. It gave me the ability to see people for who they are and I have gone to a better school that I enjoy far more. However, what we as people need to realise is that bullying will never end, as it can’t. People will always find differences in each other that aren’t “acceptable” and displease the masses. It is an adolescent trait that needs to be grown out of. Teachers can’t be every where, but when they hear of racism then they must grow out of it. Even the bullies aren’t bad people. They just need to know what they are doing, what it is doing to the victim and that it isn’t accepted in our society. Unless they are ogres then they will respond. Feel free to give feedback on this subject, because it is so wide-ranging. I sympathise with everyone who has been in a similar position.
In December 1998 the UN bombed Baghdad. The reason given was that the Iraqis had sent out the investigators who where there to inspect as to whether there where chemical weapons still in the hands of the Iraqis. It seemed to everyone concerned that they had something to hide, and that the powers that be had suitable justification to bomb the nation. The public aren't especially displeased. The recent bombing of Iraq has caused a lot more of a stir. The reason given by Britian and the USA was that a large number of planes have flown over the "No-Fly Zone", and that this is something that can't be accepted. However, the planes flying over the zone in question hasn't attracted the same media attention as the eviction of the inspectors. This has led to speculation over the real motives of the bombing. Major doubts have come into mind over the validity of the bombing. 1) The bombing, as cynical as this sounds, stinks of a team integration excercise by the British and new American governments. It was no secret that Tony Blair had great admiration for Bill Clinton, and was Blair's support of George W. Bush's new idea - "The Missile Defence System" - simply a PR excercise to get off on the right foot? Was the whole idea of bombing Baghdad thought up for the same reasons? The silence of Mr. Blair on this subject has only enflamed the rumours based around this subject, and one will only really find out his true motives in the future. 2) The "UN's" constant bombings and sanctions on Iraq aren't actually doing are definitely having an adverse effect on the morale of the Iraqi people. While we, in the West, see Saddam Hussein as a sadist "monster" of a dictator, the Iraqi's don't. Propoganda, perhaps, has swayed the people to believe that Saddam Hussein is some sort of saviour, expanding the boundaries of Iraq (an argument used by Hitler, incidentally) an
d that the UN was picking on Iraq (another argument used by Hitler). One can't help but sympathise though. If one has no chance of exports, then how are the Iraqis meant to see we, in the West, for who we are? How are they meant to escape Hussein's propoganda? If the UN lifts the sanctions, then maybe we will get sympathy from the Iraqi people, and they will not see us as commandeering ogres who are stopping Iraq from thriving. 3) How are we to justify this bombing at all. We are telling the Iraqis to stop making bombs, and we go and bomb them over an area whose boundaries aren't even clear to all. However, at the same time, if military planes (and I stress MILITARY) are flying in the no-fly zone, then the laws must be enforced. The UN must do its job in that respect, and stop another potential Kuwaiti crisis. The British government, though have made a real pigs ear of justifying their actions. There was no prior bad feeling rising from the media before the bombing, and it took, us as a nation, by surprise which was undoubtedly a mistake. In a democracy, we the electing public, must know of the movements of the government. This works for the government in the long run as well, as if the public decides, then people can't complain, so the party in power won't lose votes. So, in conclusion, I am anti the bombing of Iraq on the basis of what I know, which due to the government and media, is precious little. I also think that Tony Blair should look at his country and measure opinion there before jumping onto the American bandwagon. After all, it may cost him votes, and we wouldn't want that, would we?
At the summer concert last year at my school, a friend and I performed Jimi Hendrix "Voodoo Chile" it was a hit, as everything else there was composed (rather than written) by someone whose body had probably decomposed a hundred years ago. A Jimi Hendrix revival was experienced, and it was so psychadelic it was beautiful. At least five people took up the guitar. Unfortunately "Hey Joe"'s guitar solo was too elusive for all of us. Well, Jimi's aim was acheived with his Shrewsbury House "disciples" so to speak. Jimi Hendrix played the guitar with such poise, talent and mesmerising ability that it just made you want to pick it up and make music. Jimi Hendrix is the only non-electronic artist that has managed to make a successful record where the lyrics aren't the main thing you notice (incidentally, Thom Yorke prizes his lyrics on "Kid A"). Even for a non-hippie like me (I was born only 25 years too late) you can recognise that this man was a trail-blazer, and on first play, one of my friends even went as far as to say that he was the god-father of metal. Personally, even though I don't share the opinion, I can see where he is coming from. It is Jimi's live show that is so inspiring. The ever-apologetical Hendrix always seems to be stumbling across a shockingly perfect adaption of a major hit. He even covered hits by people totally different to him ("All Along The Watchtower" was a Bob Dylan originally). An example of how diverse and wide-ranging he was is on the BBC Sessions CD. On a primetime show, the BBC wanted him to perform his hit "Hey Joe" in a similar way to how S Club 7 would perform on National Loterry Allstars or any other such TV atrocity. Hendrix conjured up an improvised introduction that was absolutely nothing like "Hey Joe" (puzzling directors and crew) and half way through just stopped to play a tribute to "The Cream" who had recently
split. He was cut mid-song. It is without a doubt one of the funniest TV moments of all time. Jimi Hendrix was an eccentric by anyone's standards. He was famed for burning his famous Fender Strats on many occasions, and he was famed for his odd clothes. In fact, in his early days, the crowds used to welcome him onto the stage with the warm retort "We Want the Wild Man". When they heard the music, I doubt he remained a "Wild Man" I respect Jimi Hendrix for making such a bold musical statement at such a testing time. In a time when racial equality was a mere dream, to have a black man kick out the musical rulebook must have been quite a shock. However his character shone through in his records, and it would've been impossible for him not to make a stir - whether it be because of his mythical Woodstock performance, his clothes, or what he did on or with his guitar. Jimi Hendrix made me realise that the Hippy Movement was about a very real issue and that the plight of alternative musicians today is very much like that of the musicians in yesteryear. It is a shame he died - I wish he was my guitar tutor.
In late September, this country suddenly opened their eyes to the possible threat of global warming when our fair country was knee deep in water. People looked on as their homes got flushed away by Mother Nature. However was it Mother Nature or was it Father Industry? Was the whole episode caused by the excess amount of Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere? As I tried to put across in that article, we won’t know if Global Warming caused that particular event, but the threats are very real. One of the suggestions that was brought to the fore after those floods was that we use alternative energy sources, namely renewable ones, instead of the ones we have at the moment. The term “alternative energy source” will, in this article anyway, be taken to mean anything bar oil and coal burning – the two most popular energy sources Alternative energy sources encompass a whole mass of power solutions. There are the non-renewable energy sources such as nuclear energy, natural gas and even the dung burning of the poorer countries as well as the renewable energy sources. These include solar, wind, geothermal, tidal and Hydroelectric. Well, first of all, you may ask what is a renewable energy source? A renewable energy source is an energy source that will not run out. If we put this in practice, then we can say that the sun will not end, so solar will not run out, and the same can be said of wind. A non-renewable energy source is one that doesn’t have an infinite supply. For instance, nuclear involves using uranium, which isn’t an infinite supply. These non-renewable energy sources usually involve burning something. Of the renewable energy sources mentioned in the third paragraph, only three are deemed feasible in the UK – Tidal and wind. The other two aren’t feasible for a variety of reasons. Geothermal (where hot rocks underground heat water which turns a turbine) power is simply not feasible as the
hot rocks beneath the UK’s crust simply aren’t hot enough. Solar isn’t deemed to be practical as we in the UK, with our near constant cloud cover, doesn’t have enough pure sunlight to make solar power work. Wind farms in Cornwall have already been set up, where farmers are getting subsidised by the government to turn their farmland into land that holds wind turbines. Due to the amount of wind that we do get on our hilltops, this is as good a place as any to collect wind power. A slight problem is that a large area of land is needed to provide nearly enough energy to make the idea work, and the turbines are said to be ugly. Tidal power is being looked into in the North Sea. This is where the water on one side of the wall is kept at one set height and the other allowed to deviate according to the tide. When the difference is big enough, the water is allowed to flow through, turning massive turbines. An experimental version has been made in France, which creates enough energy to supply 300,000 people. Unfortunately, no such plants have been built yet, and it remains a concept. Hydro electric Power (HEP for short) is the most widely used of the lot, and is possible to be used almost anywhere with rivers. The idea is that a dam is built across a river (preferably fast flowing) and the water flowing across the river passes through a turbine, which creates electricity. This also does create a large amount of electricity. However, this method is not liked so much by ecologists as it is rumoured to endanger the fish in the area. The irrigation of a certain area may also be affected, as in the Aswan Dam in Egypt and the planned Three Gorges Dam in China. As has been demonstrated time and time again, the renewable energy source is not the cheap and easy option. Despite the soaring prices of natural resources, upkeep and the R&D involved in these power solutions keeps their prices high. There is the ad
ded downside that many of them don’t produce as much energy as their non eco-friendly counterparts. However, with petrol and gas set to run out with the next 150 years, one has to believe that these ways are the way forward if one can bring their prices down and make them more efficient. One can even see people having their own wind turbines or solar panels, and making themselves self sufficient as far as power needs go. Nevertheless, industry still does create a lot of harmful emissions without even counting power stations. However, the development of these power sources can only be a good thing for Earth on the whole.
Stan, Eminem’s contribution to the Christmas charts was something of a Xmas chart oddball. The song is rude (not in accordance with the family values of Yuletide) and it was hip-hop, a genre of music that is generally known as an underground genre (but “Slim Shady” has brought it to the public somewhat). However, the song is hip hop at its best, both melodic, rhythmical and harmonious with Dido (see my opinion of her album) giving juicy chunks of her best song (“Thankyou”) and words rolling off of the famed rapper’s tongue. However, the song, like almost things than Marshall Mathers does, has been labelled as far too rude and profoundly offending. The song, all 7 minutes of it, needed heavy censorship to get anything like the airplay that it eventually got, and the fact that the song was about a crazed, suicidal fan concerned many parents, the total opposite to its chart rival – Bob the Builder. However the alternative community, hip-hop fans (or the numerous persons that only like Eminem) rallied round to make the song number one, but unfortunately, there it ran out of steam come Christmas. From the time I first heard Stan to the current moment, I think that Stan is introspective. I don’t actually think that Stan is a crazed fan – I think it is the great Slim Shady himself. Now this is may sound like a far out theory but I swear by it. If you don’t know the brief life story of the rap superstar, then here it is. Eminem, was found by former rapper and now producer “Dr. Dre” who features on many of his tracks. Since finding fame, Eminem has publicly rebuked girl/boy bands, homosexuals, his wife and various other ethnic groups and individuals. His fallout with his wife has been public, due to his recent court case, where he allegedly waved a loaded gun at a man who was supposedly kissing his wife. He has also written a song (“Kim”) where he publicly vents his
anger. He talks about how he hates his parents, along with just about everyone else in his life. In fact the only female he publicly favours is his young daughter, Hailie, whom he dotes. Stan, the crazed fan, talks of how he is to be a father and generally boasting about his knowledge of Eminem in the first verse. In the second verse he gets angrier and angrier and opens up. He talks about his anger about how Eminem wouldn’t write his brother an autograph, about how his father abused his mother and about how he is into self-mutilation (like Eminem says in his songs). In the third verse, Stan is in his car with his pregnant wife tied in at the back. He is drunk and speeding on a freeway. He says that he only wanted a call or letter is now “on a thousand downers now” and wants to commit suicide. He wants Mathers’ life to be a misery when he is gone and wants him to feel guilty. He then plunges his car into the ocean. Eminem eventually does reply, albeit too late. He writes advice that frankly he wouldn’t take himself (“I think you need to get some counselling/ to stop your ass from bouncing off the walls when you down some”). There are lots of parallels between “Stan’s” life and the real Marshall Mathers’ life, and I can’t help but feel that this is his way of telling the world that his problem’s with his wife are really traumatic for him and that he knows how to solve them. I’m sure that it is no coincidence that this is his slowest rap, and maybe that means that he is going to slow down the chaos of his life. Whatever the psychological analysis of the song is, it is a class act, and in many people’s opinion the best of his opuses. I don’t disagree.
You don’t like experimental space-hop beats and country ditties mixed together, so you aren’t keen on John Peel. You aren’t hot on Limp Bizkit, Soulfly, Sound Garden and other such loud bands, so Mary Anne Hobbs’ Rock Show isn’t quite for you. Neither are you a drum n’ bass enthusiast, or a wannabe rapper from “da hood” or a chilled out ambient man. So cross off Tim Westwood, Gilles Peterson and Fabio and Grooverider. So what exactly is there for the indie enthusiast on Radio 1? The “Evening Session” was started by Mark Goodier 10 years ago to get away from the constant mainstream pop that was on the airwaves, and it was an effort to make Radio 1 a champion of bands. It succeeded too, as bands like Blur did their first session in the BBC Maida Vale studios. It was when Jo Whiley and Steve Lamacq joined in 1993 that the show really took off and it has never slowed down. The show has championed so many bands – Coldplay, Doves, Radiohead and Arab Strap to name 4 of hundreds. The first plays of many band’s tracks have been on the “Session” because of their prior support, and the good thing is that sometimes these “exclusives” are mixed in with demo tapes which he may have got yesterday. The show is like the bridge between the normal daytime play list and the evening specialised shows, and has no real genre attached to it, but it is mainly indie and punk (however, Steve Lamacq maintains that he championed Fatboy Slim!). The show is so diverse though, with the best of alternative (dance, drum n bass, trip hop e.t.c) on the show. Another reason for the show’s success is the fact that the show is very accessible to the public. The show often goes on the road and there is an annual event called “Sound City” which lasts for a week. Each night, two bands go on and play live to the public on his show, and two bands on Jo
hn Peel’s show. The show goes to a different city every year, so more or less everyone will get to see his or her favourite bands once in a while. The other reason why it is so popular is the fact that a band could just come up to Steve, give him a demo tape, and hear his/her track on his show (If good enough). The only niggle that I can see is that you maybe need to know a background to alternative to really appreciate the music,as some songs are a little experimental and far out. However there are bands that are more mainstream that are played on the show, to make it less of a culture shock. The Session has gone from strength to strength in the last few years and made this new alternative renaissance possible, and one would go further than hoping, but expecting the show to go further – maybe an annual compilation or a TV show like Jools Holland’s? Whatever the direction, LIVE ON THE SESSION!
Notice that this opinion isn’t put under the “The Man Who” section, and surprisingly, unlike many other things I do, that is for a reason. Because, really this article isn’t about “The Man Who” at all. Looking back, Travis has really opened gates for new bands. The explosion of popular, new indie bands on the scene has been immense (Badly Drawn Boy, Coldplay, Muse, JJ72 e.t.c), and without wanting to make a massive generalisation, it is mainly down to Travis. The commercial success of “Why Does It Always Rain On Me?” really was a springboard for later acts. The whole enchantment and myth that surrounds it is gorgeous, and the stuff of legend. A band that commands the weather, we’ll have a bit of that. The album itself really did build bridges in my opinion. It was something different every time you heard it for a very long time. The A sides are classics – Turn, a rousing melodic feast, Driftwood, a somewhat brighter yet sombre view on unemployment and Writing to reach you, a song about a person you just can’t get through to. B – sides such as “Slide Show” and “As you Are” (That guitar solo rocks!) are good B sides, and no tracks want skipping. “Blue Flashing Light” is probably the best secret track the world has ever seen. At the time, critics were saying that the album was dull and dreary, but I can’t see that at all, as now much slower music has become popular. The Radiohead comparisons were never really applicable. The first album “Good Feeling” was far too boisterous and happy to ever be a Radiohead album, and while “The Man Who” is far darker, it isn’t in the downtrodden caves of an album like “OK Computer”. The Travis backlash, and Travis-Mania have both run simultaneously this year. The backlash has been by the hard-core indie music press and other die-hard fans. In
their opinion, they heard the album material so much in ’99 that they didn’t need headline acts at festivals such as Glastonbury where they just performed “The Man Who”. They apparently have “sold-out” by releasing so many singles from “The Man Who” and releasing “Coming Around” before the rest of the album came out. The truth is that it is exceptionally difficult to be popular and not “sell out”. What Travis is doing is take indie music to the masses, into the daytime radio slots, which can only be good for alternative. You can’t banish pop without acts like Travis. Travis mania is easy to see. 95,000 people packed out to see Travis at the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, and equal proportions went to see them at V2000, and T in the Park. “Coming Around” gave the Travis boys their highest chart placing in their history, despite it not being their best song by any description. “The Man Who” is still selling by the bucket load. So 2000, should hail as the year that Coldplay became the “New Travis” (a curse worse than “The New Radiohead”?) and Travis became the Q magazine’s Best Act In the World Today. And you know what, I don’t think they were far wrong.