Tuesday, 12 April 2011


This site here is with the Arsenal medical staff. It's like the blogging equivalent of Tomas Rosicky or Thomas Vermaelen - it'll be back in a few weeks, then a few weeks more, and now it's return undetermined.

Maybe I should just call this blog Tom?

It was a nice idea that became too much of a commitment, so I took myself over to Tumblr instead. I still prattle on, but a little more succinctly and without any commitment to form or regularity. Find it here...

15 Fame Filled Minutes

Hope you like it!

Thursday, 18 March 2010

I Never Travel Far, Without A Little Big Star

It shouldn't take such events to spark a bit of life into this blog, but it's testament to the man that it does.

Alex Chilton died yesterday, following the untimely deaths earlier this year of Vic Chestnutt & Mark Linkous. Chetsnutt & Linkous are worthy of a few words themselves, but short of a few songs and an album & EP respectively, I am criminally undereducated on both. There's just not enough time in the world to get my ears around everything, no matter how true my intentions.

Big Star though, have been a constant at my side since I cottoned on to the brilliance of #1 Record. I'd probably heard it numerous times as a kid, but it was probably only once I read of the likes of Wilco & Teenage Fanclub taking influence that I really paid attention, liberally relieving my dad's CD collection of it's presence (actually the #1 Record / Radio City combo) when the urge would grab me. To that end, I'd suggest I've probably been listening to Big Star for about 10 years or more. While I understand that pales in comparison to the likes of my dad and many others, it doesn't lessen the impact. Just as I hope one day my son will have the same reaction to Wilco's Summerteeth as I did when it first surfaced.

It's safe to say that were I to own #1 Record on cassette, it would be chewed up inside my walkman somewhere around this point...

Such a simple sentiment, so brilliantly executed. The words alone reflect a time & place that everyone has visited, then set to such a beautiful melody and sparse arrangement, take on even more resonance.

Similar beauty can be found in tracks like "The Ballad of El Goodo" & "Watch The Sunrise", as the power-pop of "Don't Lie To Me" & "When My Baby's Beside Me" set the tone for the folow up, Radio City which also sporned the classic "September Gurls". Both records are worthy of multiple repeats, so the idea of the afforementioned combo, was an inspired one to say the least.

Third (also known as Sister Lovers) was, to coin the cliché, a more difficult affair. Held back for four years before it was finally granted release, it's hard (today at least) to see what reservations were to be had - the cover of "Femme Fatale" alone justifies it's place for me alongside #1 Record & Radio City.

While recorded output of late had been limited, the importance of such a character and his impact over the years, from The Box Tops through to his solo & production work cannot be overstated. There's a lot more to the tale of Alex Chilton that I'm sure will be covered over the coming weeks - I'm simply taking the time to reflect on the impact he's had on me.

Lauded by so many, and lifted by a fair few, tributes have been raining down on Alex Chilton for years. I was pointed in the direction of this annecdote earlier, from the book Our Band Could Be Your Life, the scene is one of Butthole Surfers' Gibby Haynes & Paul Leary, probably somewhat inebriated, at eachother's throats at a Dutch fetsival...

Moments later a man entered the dressing room and asked if he could borrow a guitar. “BORROW A GUITAR??!!! WELL, WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU???!!! Haynes screamed, eyes flashing in delerious anticpation of forthcoming violence. But the man was totally unfazed.

“I’m Alex Chilton,” the man answered calmly.

Haynes was flabbergasted. After a long pause, he methodically opened the remaining guitar cases one by one and guestured at them as if to say, “Take anything you want.”

Alex Chilton. RIP.

Monday, 4 January 2010

My Albums Of The Decade (FAIL Acknowldged)

Were any of my old teachers to read this, they'd be less than surprised. As I present a late, feeble consolidation of what should have been a larger body of work.

It seems it's harder than I thought to manage family life, 9-5 work, and an attempt at forging a musical career, while simultaneously sharing my musical thoughts & opinions with the blogosphere.

The fact I only have about 27 readers spares widescale shame and embarassment, though to the few that do read these rambling monologues, I apologise wholeheartedly.

I think I'll return to sparing entries covering some kind of theme going forwards.

Meantime, in order to complete a project (in somewhat meagre fashion as stated above) I list, in no particular order, 50 albums that hit me hard over the last decade and I continue to value to this day.

The only rule I have imposed is that it's limited to only one per artist.

Jim White - No Such Place
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - No More Shall We Part
Josh Ritter - The Animal Years
Calexico - Carried To Dust
Gillian Welch - Soul Journey
The Jayhawks - Rainy Day Music
Jesse Malin - The Fine Art Of Self Destruction
Tom Waits - Real Gone
Spiritualized - Let It Come Down
PJ Harvey - Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea
Bruce Springsteen - Magic
Laura Cantrell - Not The Trembling Kind
My Morning Jacket - Z
Bright Eyes - I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
Two Gallants - What The Toll Tells
Cat Power - You Are Free
The Sleepy Jackson - Lovers
Primal Scream - XTRMNTR
Badly Drawn Boy - The Hour Of Bewilderbeast
Radiohead - In Rainbows
Ian Brown - Music Of The Spheres
Interpol - Antics
Queens Of The Stone Age - Rated R
Beck - Sea Change
The Dears - Gang Of Losers
Blur - Think Tank
The Coral - Magic & Medicine
The Arcade Fire - Funeral
I Am Kloot - I Am Kloot
Super Furry Animals - Rings Around The World**

That is, not forgetting what has gone before of course...

Coldplay - Parachutes
The National - Alligator
Ben Kweller - On My Way
Doves - The Last Broadcast
Elbow - Asleep In The Back
The Black Keys - Rubber Factory
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Howl
Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
Grand Drive - True Love & High Adventure
Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Elvis Perkins In Dearland - Elvis Perkins In Dearland
Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
The Felice Brothers - The Felice Brothers
The Decemberists - Picaresque
Whiskeytown - Pneumonia
The Tailors - Come Dig Me Up
Ryan Adams - Heartbreaker
The Gin Club - Junk
Frontier Ruckus - The Orion Songbook
Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

I expect there's some notable omissions in there but hey, it's just a list eh? And a late, cobbled together from top of my head (and past blogs) one at that.

A supporting playlist, that will be much more exciting, and compiled with due care & attention, will follow in due course.

**NB - Edited 05/01/2010. A major oversight put to rights. Billy Bragg & Wilco (Mermaid Avenue Vol. 2)removed on a technicality.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Catching Up & Keeping Up

Time seems to have come at a premium of late, so these entries become more comprehensive as they arrive more sporadically.

There's a lot to squeeze in in so little time, and while many a decade-end list descends, here I am still lurking in the depths of the blogosphere relaying my thoughts to all & onedry...

So we started with an attempt to write an entry per album, then it became 4 albums per entry. Now, it's any number of albums I can squeeze in covering broadly, something of a genre..

So, as I belatedly left Britpop behind to delve into more Americana towards the end of the 90's, this last decade has provided me with numerous highlights of the kind...

Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Bound to crop up on many a list. A landmark album for band and industry, famously paid for twice over by the Warner Group. If this isn't album of the decade, film of the decade is it's acompaniment, "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart". Especially so with all the extras on the two-disc edition.

Elvis Perkins In Dearland - Elvis Perkins In Dearland
First album by Elvis Perkins was a stripped back morbid affair. And brilliant for it. When touring that record though, Perkins found his band 'Dearland' and transformed a lot of those songs into something new. This record then followed, the first of hopefully many with 'Dearland'. Still featuring some deep & dark lyrics, it's an upbeat and more optimistic record thanks to the joyous sound of the band around him.

Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
When working in Amsterdam, I had one CD with me for one week where my hard drive went bust. It was an Uncut compilation featuring 'The Funeral' and I had no choice but to use that for my aural pleasure. After about 3 days, I found myself returning to 'The Funeral' on repeat. Went home, found the album and that was that, a new band to love.

The Felice Brothers - The Felice Brothers
Which album to choose from the Felice family? All have their own merits and at times have sat atop my list of favourites, but the second takes the title. Ploughing a more barroom atmosphere (as opposed to the bottom of the garden, shed atmosphere of Tonight At The Arizona) and at times New Orleans sound, this album initially took me by surprise and still floors me today.

The Decemberists - Picaresque
Always takes me back to a flat in Holloway where 'Mariner's Revenge Song' was first played to me. Then 'Eli The Barrow Boy'. Much like Band Of Horses, went home, found album and never looked back. Subsequent works have been just as impressive but this one remains my favourite, mainly for the aforementioned songs.

Whiskeytown - Pneumonia
Although recorded before Heartbreaker in 1999, it wasn't released until 2001 and is the sound of a band (or duo & alumni) having fun creating their best work as a fine swansong for the much-revered, ever-changing band, headed up by Ryan Adams & Caitlin Cary.

The Tailors - Come Dig Me Up
Out as recently as last week, nothing's too late to be a contender. Move over Uncut, Mojo, et al...I'll bet this one don't make your list! 'Wakey Wakey' was a fine debut & contender from a band I've admired from afar for almost the decade as it spans. More recently I've become reacquainted and was dumbfounded by the depth of this record, encapsulating a whole series of moods, always leaving you smiling.

Ryan Adams - Heartbreaker
Could have plumped for any one of at least 4 albums (other contenders being (Gold, Love Is Hell, Cold Roses & Jacksonville City Nights) but eventually settled on this because it led me to so much more & my record collection wouldn't be half as full had I not paid attention. Plus, any record featuring Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings has to be a winner right?

The Gin Club - Junk
An Australian band I'll plead dumb ignorance on. I know very little about this bunch, other than me dad came back from their land with 'Virginbus Puerisque'. I quite liked it but never followed up. He did though, and subsequently presented me with this. A double album with rarely a duff moment. Brilliant.

Frontier Ruckus - The Orion Songbook
One of the best gigs I've seen this year. Absolutely phenomenal band from the other side of the Atlantic, replete with bowed saw & banjo amongst a myriad of other instruments to back up the tales that support this album. And the best album packaging bar none this year (mighta been last actually, but I only bought it this year). Great artwork & pullouts, the vinyl comes complete with free EP included and credited in the same gatefold. A more bluegrass and rawer Fleet Foxes, therefore better...

Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
...not that there's owt wrong with Fleet Foxes of course. Perfect harmonies and acoustic guitars without being too twee. Harks back to the likes of Crobsy, Stills, Nash & Young without falling into the trap of being hamfisted or ripping them off.

That's about as much as I can write, or expect anyone to digest, for now. More to come in 'x' days, featuring Calexico, Gillian Welch, The Jayhawks, Jesse Malin, Laura Cantrell, My Morning Jacket, Bright Eyes, Two Gallants, Cat Power and maybe more.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Next Four

So last time I wrote I was acknowledging my surprise agreement with some of the NME's list. We'll address that another time though, because of late, the following albums have garnered my attention.

The Black Keys - Rubber Factory
Heartily recommended by friends, "The Big Come Up" & "Thickfreakness" had already endeared me to The Black Keys, but "Rubber Factory" transformed me into a 'proper fan' so to speak. Their urgency was complemented by more considered tracks reflected in the two standouts, for me at least, the lazy blues of opener "When The lights Go Out", and the heartbreak lyrics and melody of "The Lengths".

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Howl
Another case of a band really finding themselves on album 3. The debut had hooked me straight away, though follow up "Take Them On, On Your Own" didn't really inspire me to play it beyond it's first week of release. "Howl", however, saw the band strip back, embracing the rawer side of the blues and country that had previously remained hidden behind their wall of sound, and introducing a gospel element from the outset - the a capella intro to "Shuffle Your Feet" setting the scene. While "Still Suspicion Holds You Tight" is occasionally skipped, it's only to reach "Fault Line" & "Promise", the latter beautifully capturing the mood of the record at it's peak.

Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
I'm sure I won't be alone in including this. A word of mouth sensation, no doubt aided by it's log cabin creation, it's near on impossible not to be moved by this album. Like many I expect, it was a cursory listen to "Skinny Love" that hooked me. That was followed by "The Wolves" and that was followed by the urge to buy the album. Since then, it's been an addiction, each track having it's day, even now I find it hard to pick a favourite. The lyrics occasionally hidden in Justin Vernon's falsetto, taking on different meanings at different times, sometimes even proving irrelevant when the music moves you. Sad in one monent, defiant, even triumphant, at the next. Pure brilliance.

Grand Drive - True Love & High Adventure
As if to show my record collection does go beyond 'B', we come to this. I used to see Grand Drive posters in our local studio and while knowing little about them, took a chance on this record one day. The opening 3 tracks rival any opening trio I've encountered either before or since, so full of ambition, especially evident upon realisation that this was in effect a debut album (first offering "Road Music" was a compilation of early EPs). The swirling keys, panned mandolin, intricate guitar and most of all, the tight harmonies set the scene and remain almost constant throughout. At a time when I was just being introduced to Americana this album proved pivotal, sending me headlong into the genre, delving into aquaintances & influences.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Predictable? I'll Reconsider

Here it is then, NME's album's of the decade...

1. The Strokes – 'Is This It'
2. The Libertines – 'Up The Bracket'
3. Primal Scream – 'Xtrmntr'
4. Arctic Monkeys – 'Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not'
5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – 'Fever To Tell'
6. PJ Harvey – 'Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea'
7. Arcade Fire – 'Funeral'
8. Interpol – 'Turn On The Bright Lights'
9. The Streets – 'Original Pirate Material'
10. Radiohead – 'In Rainbows'
11. At The Drive In – 'Relationship Of Command'
12. LCD Soundsystem – 'The Sound Of Silver'
13. The Shins – 'Wincing The Night Away'
14. Radiohead – 'Kid A'
15. Queens Of The Stone Age – 'Songs For The Deaf'
16. The Streets – 'A Grand Don't Come For Free'
17. Sufjan Stevens – 'Illinoise'
18. The White Stripes – 'Elephant'
19. The White Stripes – 'White Blood Cells'
20. Blur – 'Think Tank'
21. The Coral – 'The Coral'
22. Jay-Z – 'The Blueprint'
23. Klaxons – 'Myths Of The Near Future'
24. The Libertines – 'The Libertines'
25. The Rapture – 'Echoes'
26. Dizzee Rascal – 'Boy in Da Corner'
27. Amy Winehouse – 'Back To Black'
28. Johnny Cash – 'Man Comes Around'
29. Super Furry Animals – 'Rings Around The World'
30. Elbow – 'Asleep In The Back'
31. Bright Eyes – 'I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning'
32. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – 'Show Your Bones'
33. Arcade Fire – 'Neon Bible'
34. Grandaddy – 'The Sophtware Slump'
35. Babyshambles – 'Down In Albion'
36. Spirtualized – 'Let it Come Down'
37. The Knife – 'Silent Shout'
38. Bloc Party – 'Silent Alarm'
39. Crystal Castles – 'Crystal Castles'
40. Ryan Adams – 'Gold'
41. Wild Beasts – 'Two Dancers'
42. Vampire Weekend – 'Vampire Weekend'
43. Wilco – 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot'
44. Outkast – 'Loveboxxx/The Love Below'
45. Avalanches – 'Since I Left You'
46. The Delgados – 'The Great Eastern'
47. Brendan Benson – 'Lapalco'
48. The Walkmen – 'Bows and Arrows'
49. Muse – 'Absolution'
50. MIA – 'Arular'

A fairly predictable list maybe, interspersed with some great surprise choices.

Both Primal Scream and PJ Harvey in the top 10 for starters. Glad to see Grandaddy in there too, and of course Wilco - both fully deserving of a place in anyone's top 50, I didn't expect to see them here. Ryan Adams likewise, though whether they've chosen the right album is debatable.

I'd say, of the 31 that I own from this, nearly half of those would be considered for my own list.

So, that's me agreeing with about 30% of the NME's choices and I can't say I expected it to be that high! Especially when there's nearly 40% of that list I can't pass objective comment on...that said, were both the Yeah yeah Yeah's album's really that good? And Crystal Castles...really?

Still, with this in mind, perhaps it's time to reassess my thoughts on the NME's recent opinions and not be so dismissive in future.

This is me, somewhat backhandedly, eating humble pie.

Monday, 16 November 2009

I Had A Secret Meeting In The Basement Of My Brain

I recall I said I'd be posting every day with my 'best of' entries, and as is apparent, I've patently failed to live up to that commitment.

I'm sure my old school teachers wouldn't be surprised. Always a great talker, never a great writer, always full of excuses...

...this time round though, I forgive myself. And that's all that matters. I spent a great week off last week with my better half and our newborn son.

So in an attempt to play catch up, and upon reflection probably the best way forwards anyway, my posts will become more concise. More list-based with a coupla points, with more reasoned pieces in the new year as I justify my choices.

So, last week, it became apparent that these albums are worthy contenders...

Billy Bragg & Wilco - Mermaid Avenue (Vol. 2)
Narrowly squeezing into the decade, there is always a danger of bias round these parts where Billy Bragg is concerned. However, with Volume 1 having acted as my introdution to Wilco, and having got to know them better by the time this came around, it was their contribution that really made this album for me.

Coldplay - Parachutes
Ambition has since taken Coldplay into other directions, filling stadiums and arenas worldwide, and while I still have a little time for them it tends to be that inquisitive first listen of a new album and that's my fill. Parachutes always has had refular spins though - from seeing them perform as a two piece in a tent in Pilton in 2000, through to headlining Glastonbury in 2002 as this album gave way to the second, I'm not sure I went a few weeks without listening to it.

The National - Alligator
Gripped by a strong performance on Jools Holland, I took a chance on this and it's informed some great stuff since, by The National and a number of their assosicates. 'Lit Up' is instant, while the whole album is filled with enchanting lyrics ('Secret Meeting' informs the title of this post) and captivating, sparring, guitars.

Ben Kweller - On My Way
I'd seen the name around, and my brother had fanzines and badges adorning our pinboard around 'Sha Sha' which I liked but for some reason largely ignored at the time. Something compelled me to buy 'On My Way' on it's release date though, and it's since driven a completists attitude to Ben Kweller. Ethan Johns production and the live feel to the record demand attention and it contains a bit of everything, from the Kinks-y garage rock of 'Ann Disaster' to the stripped back compelling title track.