She appeared from the west, met her man long ago,
but he’d gone too far, and she moved too slow.
Reaching for an apple, she took a huge bite,
flicked her long hair, and said upon sight:
‘The sun is deep blue and the moon is bright green,
and what has been seen cannot be unseen.
I looked at you and you looked at me,
and freedom’s not worth the price to be free.
My apple’s now gone, and my teeth are now clean,
and the sun has turned blue and the moon has turned green.’
The tide was streaming in, and she had no shoes,
so I motioned to her to pick up her balloons,
and I took her around places that she hadn’t seen,
since the sun turned deep blue and the moon turned bright green.
‘What a cat you are.’ said the girl from the west,
and I didn’t want to become a pest,
so I just nodded, convinced of a dream,
because the sun had turned blue and the moon was bright green.
By the time I’d looked down, beneath the wood floor,
it was all I could do to point and point more,
because the sea was now red and her hair had a sheen,
and the sun shone rich blue and the moon sparkled green.
‘How much more do we walk?’ said the girl from ago,
and I looked and smiled and said ‘I don’t know,
because I don’t know where we’re going or where we’ve now been,
because the sun shimmers blue and the moon appears green.’
‘Do you see that young boy, sat on that goat?’,
said the girl from the west as she undid her coat,
and I squinted to look for the child she could see,
but all I saw was a field buzzing with bees.
They buzzed up and flew above all the trees,
and soon they merged together with the moon that shone green,
and from inside her coat the boy popped out his head,
shook out his hair and smiled and then said:
‘You’ll not get too far trying to follow those bees,
because the sun has turned blue and the moon has turned green.’
And I had more to do than run and chase bees,
so I looked for more places that I hadn’t seen,
but if I had to choose, it’s doubtless I’d be,
where the sun still glares blue and the moon is bright green.
Stumbled across this review of the latest Mumford and Sons one, ‘Babel’.
It’s not really a review in fact, more an ad hominem attack on the background and sartorial choices of the band in question. While it is clear that each music/popular culture/whatever website is absolutely free and within its rights to espouse whichever view it likes on whomever it likes, it sort of left me wondering what exactly it’s contributing to the discourse on music.
It left me feeling a little uncomfortable for a couple of reasons. One is that we’re currently in an era where we can and do know more than we should about the people behind the music that is made and released. This then colours our opinion on the art they create and influences how we listen to it. We’re then left with a situation where something is judged based on the background that spawned it. Mumford and Sons’ music is generally not judged on its merits, rather the social and financial backgrounds of its members. This makes me sad, and while you probably don’t care much about how sad/happy I am, you should care that it lowers the tone of the discussion.
The second is that in this age of boundless, social media-led interaction with each other on an unprecedented scale, it becomes ‘fashionable’ to like/dislike certain artists or publicly known figures. It enables us to belong to a sort of online club. We fit in and identify with others we’ve never met through our mutual dislike of albums, artists. Disliking something becomes more than an opinion, it becomes a movement. This is also dangerous because people then cease to think for themselves.
This isn’t a paean to the lost or overlooked genius of Mumford and Sons. I find them at best competent musicians making music important to them, and at worst bland and inoffensive (probably the worst crime for a musician to commit). The fact that others like/dislike them is of no odds to me. The fact that they went to public school is of no regard. They didn’t choose the family they were born into. They grew up wanting to make music at the behest of most, if not all, other things. That’s good enough for me.
There is a secondary argument here that it is not in fact anything to do with a group of musicians’ financial or social background but that they somehow make music that is anathema to their upbringing, experiences and sensibilities. Let’s call this the ‘Jon Bon Jovi Principle’. Bon Jovi famously spent a decent proportion of his recorded career wanting and claiming to be a cowboy when in fact he was the son of US Marines from New Jersey.
You probably don’t need me to tell you that this argument doesn’t stand up to much either. The Jon Bon Jovi Principle can be unpicked with alarming ease at almost every turn in recorded music history. Mick Jagger and (more importantly) Keith Richards aren’t from the Mississippi Delta. Peter Green is from Bethnal Green. The Beastie Boys are sons of wealthy Jewish families. It only takes a cursory glance across John Lydon’s biography to establish that the man doth protest far too much.
The point is that people have a musical upbringing that is unique to them. For a lot of artists it depends wholly on the music they were introduced to or latched on to in their formative years and when they made the steps into becoming a young adult. A lot of this is then woven with things that everyone can relate to; themes of love, loss and happiness/sadness all feature quite highly, obviously.
Of course different people articulate themselves in different ways, but what’s wrong with that? And it’s below even the witless ramblings of this humble writer to remark on how a band is dressed. I mean, some of the most creative, interesting bands of all time have dressed appallingly. So what?
In short, if you continue to lower the tone by effectively stating that these people can’t make music that is true to them because they dress like farmers, went to public school or have names like Toby, Hattie or whatever (I don’t know the names of the members of Mumford and Sons, other than the lead singer is called Marcus. I have a friend called Marcus. He’s a decent chap) then to my mind you’re no better than those pseudo-politically aware idiots that use David Cameron’s Eton-schooled background as a stick to beat him with rather than his policies. You know, the ones that threaten the NHS, vulnerable people and the education of children from poverty-stricken homes.
Listen to the actual songs. See if you like them. If you do, great. If you don’t, that’s ok too. But like or dislike it for a reason that’s real, and fair. Not because of some vague prejudice you hold because some other people have richer parents than you or dress in a way that you personally find distasteful. Whatever you think of it, they worked hard to make it and we, as music fans and writers owe it to ourselves to not be lazy when we listen, write about or discuss it.
In the summer of 1989, aged eight, I discovered musical phenomenon that changed my life. For a bit.
“What was it?” I hear you ask, “The Stone Roses eponymous debut? The seminal Doolittle by Pixies?” Er, no, it wasn’t either of those. It was ‘Hangin’ Tough’, by New Kids on the Block. I remember hearing the title track on the radio in the back room of our house and asking my Mum what it was and if she’d buy it for my upcoming birthday.
Now, my mother has excellent music taste. She had been extremely diligent in playing The Beatles, David Bowie and the like to me from a very young age and I don’t even want to imagine what she went through in our local Our Price that fateful afternoon when shopping for my birthday. In many ways, I imagine that request being more disappointing to her than me failing my A levels. They weren’t too angry about that, possibly because I had set my stall out early on.
When I announced the fateful results (two Ds and a U), my Mum probably waited for me to leave the room and said to my Dad: ‘Tim, look. Let’s get this into perspective. He’s not played Cover Girl for months. MONTHS! I’m sure I heard him humming And Your Bird Can Sing this morning! Now that’s educational progress!’
To me, New Kids on the Block were the coolest guys in the world. They wore waistcoats! And backwards flat caps! And they dropped the g from the end of ‘Hanging’! I wanted to be one of them. I was tough enough, I knew I was.
I imagined myself as the sixth member, strutting around concert arenas with my pals Donnie, Danny, Jonathan, Jordan and Joe (I didn’t even need to look any of those names up). We’d high-five and spend our down time playing basketball. I don’t know if I even knew what basketball was then, other than seeing them do it on the VHS video of Step by Step (which I also owned).
I know it’s not that bad liking embarrassing music when you’re young, and some of you are thinking “What’s the problem? He was only eight” etc, so let me illustrate how far it went. By the time Step by Step came out in 1990, I was about ten. I invited all the local kids from our road around to my back garden for a ‘party’. There was to be a bit of football on the lawn, orange squash and music. I locked the back gate so no-one I hadn’t invited could come in, and I used three extension cables to get my ghetto blaster (are they still called that?) out onto the patio and the only music that was allowed was New Kids on the Block.
I sometimes wonder if that’s the reason that I don’t see any of those friends anymore.
This post first appeared on the frankly superb Popfessions blog, found here.
Mediaweek got this chap to write a diary of his average week in media. You can read it here. I don’t know him, so there’s a chance, however small, that he might not be the biggest helmet on the planet. Who knows? Leave me out of it.
Mediaweek have at no stage asked me to write a diary, but I’ve got literally nothing else on so I thought I’d write one anyway.
Aren’t brands amazing? Seriously, they’re like TOTES AMAZEBALLS. One minute you’re just buying something and the next minute you’ve INVESTED in a BRAND. Makes me so happy that we can just buy whatever we want. It’s much better here than in countries where they make all this stuff for us and where they’re all poor. Being poor is shit. We really need this stuff! I LOVE it when I hear a band that I love on an advert! It’s great, and it makes me just want to buy only stuff that that company sells! Capitalism? Huh, FAPitalism more like! Finished off the day with a wank and shaped my cum into the Virgin Active logo. It was easier than I thought it’d be.
Spent the whole morning taking a shit in front of the mirror, and then I thought ‘What would it be like to taste my own shit? The rest of me is brilliant, so surely my shit is, too?’ So I took a bit of shit and stuffed it in my mouth. It tasted amazing. Note: Suggest it as a new flavour to Monster energy drinks. The kids won’t know the difference anyway, and the mark up will be huge!
Woke up early. Carpe diem, baby. Listened to Busted on my iPod. I used to totally hate them but now everyone does it’s sort of cool to like them. Day went really quickly today and it was 5pm before I realised that I’d spent the ENTIRE day high-fiving everyone at work! All my colleagues are so awesome that once I started I LITERALLY couldn’t find a person I didn’t want to high-five! Stopped in at a vegan crunk night on the way home.
Went in late today because I had another shit that was such a creative, production-led campaign that I thought I’d better brainstorm it, blue-sky it and then make some next-steps notes about how to wipe my arse. Actually carried my own shit into work, smeared it all over my co-producer’s face and just left a post it note on his desk saying ‘The Future’. He didn’t say a word but just nodded slowly. Don’t you love it when people just ‘get it’?
Had ‘Virgin Active’ tattooed on my actual spine. Not the skin over the top of the spine, but the bone and spinal column itself. I will stop at nothing to live inside a brand, so why shouldn’t the brand live inside me? When I told Virgin Active what I’d done, they seemed a bit quiet. Maybe they don’t ‘get it’, which is worrying because I don’t like it when people don’t ‘get it’. Asked them for ten pounds a month off my gym membership. They agreed for three months. Realised I can’t go to the gym at the moment as I have severe spinal trauma.
Ex Military - Death Grips
Stand out joint: Spread Eagle Cross the Block
A Thousand Heys - Mazes
Stand out joints: Till I’m Dead, Most Days
Hearts - I Break Horses
Stand out joints: Load Your Eyes, Winter Beats
50 Words for Snow - Kate Bush
Stand out joint: Snowflake
Helplessness Blues - Fleet Foxes
Stand out joint: Battery Kinzie
Yuck - Yuck
‘He came to me with money in his hand, he offered me, I didn’t ask him, I wasn’t knocking someone’s door down, I was running from that. When I got out I was in that, I was already through that, I had that. I had the studio. I went to the studio, I went to Fox Studios, I had it all and I looked at and I said ‘This is a bigger jail than I just got out of’. I don’t wanna take my time going to work, I got a motorcycle and a sleeping bag and ten or fifteen girls. What the hell I wanna go off and go to work for? Work for what? Money? I got all the money in the world. I’m the king, man. I run the underworld, guy. I decide who does what and where they do it at. What am I gonna run around like some teeny bopper somewhere for someone elses money? I make the money man, I roll the nickels. The game is mine. I deal the cards.’
Some music fans are scared of pop music. Quivering with fear in case they ever get caught by the fit indie girl on the train listening to something that isn’t on Wank Myself Into A Coma Records on their iPod, they’ll pride themselves on being a Wolves in the Throne Room completist, visiting All Tomorrow’s Parties every year and knowing the inner workings of A Place to Bury Strangers’ Oliver Ackermann’s elaborate onstage guitar pedal setup. They’ll generally stop themselves tapping their feet to pop, only just stopping short of literally strangling themselves to avoid singing along to the latest chart ditty, lest someone catch them and question their immaculate pitchfork-is-my-homepage credentials.
I am not one of those music fans. I think pop music is joyous, and should be appreciated as often as possible. Of course, I’m contractually obliged here (by myself) to state that some pop music is terrible. In fact, some pop music is even worse than terrible; it’s occasionally just a cynical attempt to separate children from their pocket money, backed by huge marketing budgets and subtle-as-a-sledgehammer campaigns, thought up by horrible, suited, sideburned music industry twats that are almost always called Simon or Paul.
But don’t let that put you off, because, you know, there’s lots of shit rock, hip-hop and electro out there, too. And that didn’t stop you listening to The Stones, MF DOOM or Fuck Buttons now, did it?
Here are some genuinely brilliant pop songs that you should listen to. Go and get them on your iPod (other mp3 players are available) and sing along (quietly, don’t annoy the other commuters too much). To hell with what the fit indie girl/boy thinks. He/She is clearly a snob anyway. That’s why she won’t look at you, or stand near you, and why she now gets off a stop early to avoid your longing looks (probably). You don’t need her. You’ve got Rachel Stevens, Girls Aloud and Sean Paul for company. And that’s real love.
This list isn’t exhaustive, but it should help you make that tentative first step towards enjoying pop music for what it is. Enjoy. The world’s a sunnier place with it. Click on the song title to listen.
Some Girls - Rachel Stevens
A pop song about how sleazy the music industry is! Blowjobs! Rachel Stevens! How this isn’t considered a pop classic for all time is beyond me.
Love Machine - Girls Aloud
Essentially a brilliant riff (as proved by Arctic Monkeys) through the lens of bubblegum pop, this is timeless. It’ll still sound special on Radio 2 in 20 years time.
Ride Wit Me - Nelly
The best pop rapper of all time! Bar none!
Like Glue - Sean Paul
In another universe I’d have liked to have been Sean Paul. The man’s got it all.
Fascination - Alphabeat
If Denmark is like this all the time, I’ll probably move there. Imagine listening to this with the Laudrup brothers!
Biology - Girls Aloud
More Girls Aloud! Why the fuck not, eh?
Hip hop artists aren’t particularly known for their punctuality. In February, Public Enemy strolled on stage 50 minutes after their scheduled slot in Salt Lake City, and in the same month Snoop Dogg took to the stage three hours after his published stage time at a show in Pittsburgh. I’ve often wondered what makes an artist keep their audience waiting, it seems to me a silly thing to do for all concerned; the crowd get tetchy, the atmosphere is sullied and the artist themselves is usually late getting on the road to the next town. Apart from all those proper reasons why it shouldn’t happen, it also really pisses me off.
Which makes it achingly refreshing that on Sunday night at XOYO, Death Grips are early. Arriving in pitch black onto a stage barely big enough to contain them twenty minutes ahead of time, a crushing cacophony of noise explodes out of Flatlander’s synth/keyboard/computer/I don’t know (it was pitch black remember), and a decidedly hench silhouette of MC Ride slides into view, topless, tattooed and bearded.
Death Grips aren’t a quiet, subtle three-piece. Zach Hill beats the living shit out of his drums in a series of baffling time signatures, Flatlander is an exponent of genuinely eclectic production, from Charles Manson monologues set over chiming notes to glitchy rhythms that come in and out with the inconsistent, nervous movements of a suspicious policeman on a stakeout, and MC Ride is an in-your-face frontman with a beat-you-over-the-head-with-a-nuclear-bomb method of delivery. He’s less a rapper, more a hostage interrogator with a sore throat at the end of a shitty day. They open with the irresistible Guillotine, and it’s loud. Really fucking loud. Aeroplane-taking-off-in-your-head loud.
A thing that strikes one about Death Grips (aside from the absolute disregard for any lighting whatsoever; two dull blue lights at the back of the stage are punctuated by one torch light, intermittently flashed upon MC Ride’s face. It’s horribly sinister), is the level of intensity that accompanies the oppressive volume from start to finish. After Guillotine concludes, the first instinct is to think ‘There’s no way any of them can keep this up’, but they do. And with some style. All the stand out moments from their free download release Ex-Military are visited with no discernible drop in pace or delivery, from the Link Wray-sampled Spread Eagle Cross the Block to Interstellar Overdrive-backed I Want It, I Need It (Death Heated) with a feel that is impressively similar to the record, especially when the fact that Ride doesn’t have a hype man or a break of anything more than about ten seconds in between songs is taken into account.
It’s refreshing to see a hiphop outfit let their music do the talking. As well as the lo-fi lighting setup, there’s no ‘bling’ tonight, no superfluous hangers-on either on or off the stage, just a dark, sinister but superbly entertaining show of music prowess and performance. They disappear no more than 35 minutes after they arrived. No encore, not even a word breathed all night to acknowledge the existence of the audience.
As I leave, I clock the merchandise stand. It consists of a stack of seriously cheap looking t-shirts and around 15 copies of Ex-Military available to buy. On cassette.
It’s interesting how, while some artists will go to great lengths to build up a myth, others have one built for them. Syd Barrett is probably most well known for his mental disintegration, culminating in him dying at the age of 60 in 2006 as a recluse in his hometown of Cambridge. Not only had he not spoken to the press for nearly 40 years, he’d hardly spoken to anyone at all.
The tales about Barrett’s antics are as tall as they are numerous, but behind the mystique and absurdity was an almost unrivalled talent. Syd Barrett was one of Britain’s songwriting greats.
A lyricist and musician way ahead of his time, Barrett joined the nascent Pink Floyd (then called ‘The Tea Set’) sometime in 1965, and once they got their let’s-do-loads-of-American-RnB-covers stage out of the way (as seemed to be the custom for just about every fledgling British band of the time), he guided and steered them into a visionary outfit, forging ahead in psychedelia and improvisational performance with his innovative, virtuoso guitar playing and inspiration.
Unfortunately, the beginning was also the end for Barrett, as with each passing song written and each live performance completed, he became more and more odd and unpredictable before leaving the band altogether in 1968. At that point, he’d contributed around 90% of the band’s songs (including two of the greatest singles of all time: the fantastical, voyeuristic Arnold Layne and the timeless See Emily Play), but had stopped performing with them live; he would amble across the stage, guitar slung aimlessly around his neck and stare into space.
It is at this point it becomes almost impossible to separate the myth from the reality. One thing we do know for sure is that Barrett did take more mind-altering drugs than was healthy. But that’s only part of the story. He was a fragile character from the very start. In fact, Dave Gilmour remarked that Barrett’s nervous breakdown would have ‘probably happened anyway’. His propensity for LSD exacerbated the problem rather than seeding it.
It is, however, unfortunate that his breakdown stole the limelight over his ability as a songwriter. Everyone knows the stories:
Syd’s mate locked him in a cupboard for three days straight while out of his mind on LSD, Syd locked his girlfriend in a room and only fed her biscuits under the door, again, while high on acid. Syd crushed Mandrax into his Brylcreem and let the stage lights melt it all down his face.
All three stories obviously involving heavy drug use, but all three stories probably untrue.
There are enough true stories to go on if you’re that way inclined. For example, he probably did walk all the way from London to Cambridge when he’d had enough of England’s capital never to return, he did walk out on recording sessions halfway through with no explanation (in fact, it got to the point that when the rest of the musicians saw him turn left out of the studio they knew it meant he’d gone for a cup of tea and would probably be back. If he turned right, he’d gone and that would be that), and he did turn up to a Floyd recording session years after he’d left the band, almost completely mute, brushing his teeth while holding the toothbrush still and jumping up and down to clean them. He’d also shaved all his body hair off by that point and was much heavier than his slender figure of days of yore to the point where no-one recognised him.
He had gone from this to this.
Again, there are enough true stories about Barrett to keep those of that persuasion firmly entranced, so the other apocrypha shouldn’t get in the way. But the important thing to remember is that Barrett’s songs are by far the most effective way of getting inside his character and finding out what he thought, did and felt. From the very first songs he contributed to Floyd to his final, disjointed solo work, the songwriting is a journey into his soul.
The song I’ve chosen to accompany this entry is Here I Go, the centrepiece of Barrett’s first solo record The Madcap Laughs (Harvest/EMI). By this stage, Barrett had progressed from his rangey, psychedelic wig-outs to a more rounded, lyric-led style and to the uninitiated, it’s a classic slice of 60s British pop; a young man, rejected by a girl, woos her sister instead. But it’s so much more than that. The tempo speeds up and slows down seemingly at random, the imagery it conjures up is at the same time surreal yet also vintage 1960s England. It’s classic Barrett. You want to know the time signature? Just try to keep up. You want to know what I’m REALLY talking about? Listen a hundred times, you’ll get there eventually.
He had a tremendous ability for projecting exactly what he was feeling onto record and sharing it with the listener. In fact, it’s hard to think of a British songwriter that could execute that particular facet of songwriting more effectively. David Bowie is the obvious retort to that claim, yet he is, by his own admission, heavily indebted to Barrett.
Everyone with a passing interest in music knows a story about Syd Barrett. Indeed, he was surely the most extraordinary eccentric British popular music has ever produced. But how many people have taken the time to listen to his work? Because in my mind, there is no better way to appreciate his remarkable talent than by putting on some headphones and actually listening to what he had to say.
In the mid-1930s, Robert Johnson transformed himself very quickly from an ‘embarrassingly bad guitarist’ (not my words, the words of the great Son House) into one of the most important blues musicians of all time, and the King of the Delta Blues style that underpinned much of what followed in popular music.
As the now often recounted tale goes, he was alleged to have sold his soul to the Devil at a crossroads near a plantation in Mississippi in exchange for the ability to master the six string weapon he was attempting to use to tell his stories of love, loss and hoodoo. The Devil apparently took his guitar from him, tuned it, played a couple of numbers (I don’t know which ones, but I’d certainly love to find out) and handed it back to him. Johnson was transformed into a mesmerising, complex guitarist, who was suddenly not only adept within Blues, but also other related genres too. My favourite Johnson moment is undoubtedly the ragtime-influenced ‘They’re Red Hot’, which arguably isn’t even Blues at all.
The veracity of this tale is clearly up for debate. The more time passes, the more sceptical we become, and this sort of Faustian tale isn’t going to wash with the majority of right-thinking people in 2011.
But, to question the veracity of the story is to miss the point.
Throughout the history of popular music, the best artists have built a world and a myth around them and resided within it. They’ll construct a series of tales that add to their legend and blur the lines between fiction and reality. When Bowie transformed himself into the androgynous Ziggy Stardust, it was not enough to dress like him and sing songs about him. He had to believe there was only Five Years until the end of the world, he had to become him. Johnson’s tall tales were simply an extension of his myth, which he propagated further with his songs ‘Me and the Devil’ and ‘Hellhound on my Trail’. The music may have been primitive, but he knew the value of a good story.
C.W. Stoneking is a character. No-one can live in the manner that he apparently lives; taking sloops to Africa, being washed up in shipwrecks and owning the last Dodo in existence. But he means it. He lives it, and because he lives it, we believe it. To see Stoneking live is to take a time-machine back 75 years as he stops to tell us about his time as a Hoodoo Doctor’s assistant, before breaking into another song with his Primitive Horn Orchestra.
To listen to Stoneking on record is to be transfixed to the point of hypnosis for 40 minutes as he gallivants around the Deep South, administering potions to would-be sweethearts after escaping 25 years hard labour (the sentence sent down by a ‘monkey in an old wicker chair’, naturally) in sub-Saharan Africa where he was washed up in a shipwreck. Meanwhile, he pays homage to General Douglas MacArthur and his sterling efforts in the Pacific in World War II.
As an aside, the reason the homage to MacArthur, emotively titled ‘Brave Son of America’, is such an important song on his Jungle Blues record is because it adds context. To reference a prominent figure in history within the era you’re trying to resurrect is a smart move, it covers the entire set of stories with a varnish of authenticity.
The song I’ve chosen to accompany this post, the yodelling ‘Talkin’ Lion Blues’, isn’t necessarily his strongest work on his second record Jungle Blues (out on King Hokum), but it perfectly encapsulates the importance of building a myth as an artist. Our protagonist starts off as a gold miner, has a brief tête-á-tête with a talking lion, and, well, I’ll leave the rest to Mr Stoneking. He’s a much better storyteller than me.
Angel - Massive Attack (Mezzanine, 1998) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbe3CQamF8k
As creative conflict swirled around the Bristolian trip-hoppers towards the end of 1997, they seemed to somehow harness this anger and dispute and commit it to acetate. The deep, rumbling bass at the start of Angel quickly gives way to Horace Andy’s haunting vocal, creating an atmosphere of claustrophobia and genuine menace. Couple this with the bleak and distant production, and you’ve got an unsettling beginning to a timeless record. Some people will tell you that Blue Lines is Massive Attack’s best album. It isn’t. It’s Mezzanine. And Angel sets the tone perfectly for the musical malevolence that follows.
Is This It - The Strokes (Is This It, 2001) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQRJvZBH1gw
How do you react to being called ‘the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band since The Rolling Stones’, and tickets for your shows trading hands for hundreds of pounds on the streets of London before you’ve even released an album? Sarcastically call your debut long-player and opening track ‘Is This It’, of course. Julian Casablancas’ observational and often sardonic lyrics and delivery underpin everything on the New York quintet’s debut record, and the first song typifies this. The mock disinterest takes on another dimension when you realise they called the last track ‘Take It or Leave It’. Touché.
See No Evil - Television (Marquee Moon, 1977) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7L0IYPXKj8
The band that The Strokes desperately wanted to be, Television were the original New York hipsters, cutting their teeth at CBGBs in Manhattan, New York at the same time as The Ramones and Blondie. As one of the founders of New Wave, they released Marquee Moon in 1977, and the soaring guitar work from Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd is intricate, beautiful, and is a hallmark of their now trademark sound. The first track is See No Evil, a song that manages to be a foot-stomper and a work of complicated beauty all at the same time. Marquee Moon is one of the best records of the 70s, and See No Evil makes no small contribution.
Straight Outta Compton - N.W.A. (Straight Outta Compton, 1988) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMZi25Pq3T8
‘You’re now about to witness the strength of street knowledge.’ sneers Dr Dre, as Straight Outta Compton hits you with a wall of police sirens, fiercely spat lyrics, bass and snapping snare drum. In 1988, this was music from another planet. According to the outraged right-wing press, this was the ‘most dangerous group in the world’ proffering ‘gangsta rap’. To N.W.A. it was ‘reality rap’, the collective insisting they were just rapping about the lives of everyday kids in the ghetto. Whilst the entirety of Straight Outta Compton is an assault on the senses, they never sounded more vital, more threatening and more essential than on the opener.
Leave Them All Behind - Ride (Going Blank Again, 1992) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HAT-5MTRrPo
The build up, the metronomic drumming, the guitar effects, the hushed vocal. In many ways this is the definitive Shoegaze song, and although Going Blank Again didn’t quite reach the heights of debut album Nowhere, the first song promised so much. The sound of Andy Bell’s guitar towards the end of the eight minutes has been described as ‘the sound of heaven and earth colliding’, and it’s hard to disagree.
Five Years - David Bowie (The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars, 1972) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=louXPUW7tHU
‘I always had a repulsive need to be something more than human’ said David Bowie, and thanks to his alien creation Ziggy Stardust he finally was. Five Years is the start of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars’ beautiful, chaotic, apocalyptic journey. From ‘boys, toys, electric irons and TVs’ to ‘cops kneeling and kissing the feet of a priest’, the start of the end of the world has never been so much fun.
Welcome to the Jungle - Guns ‘n’ Roses (Appetite for Destruction, 1987) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_enNmzWn6Y
Aged just 24, Axl Rose wrote the lion’s share of Appetite for Destruction, the definitive concept album about living amongst the squalid Los Angeles underbelly. Welcome to the Jungle is less an opening song, more a trapdoor into a 53 minute tour around everything that was seedy and sordid about LA in the 80s; taking in heroin, porn, alcohol and crime. Rose may be a washed-up joke now, but back then he was a bona-fide social commentator with one hell of a voice. From Slash’s riff at the very start to the sneering ‘…it’s gonna bring you down!’ at the end, this is balls-out-of-the-bath hard rock finery.
Search and Destroy - The Stooges (Raw Power, 1973) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFe0OfEtP2w
As opening lines go, ‘I’m a street walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm’ is about as bold a statement as you’re likely to get. And can there be a more autologically titled record than Raw Power, the third of The Stooges’ triumvirate of vicious 70s proto-punk records? The thing that made The Stooges so engaging is that Iggy Pop didn’t just sing about how he’d ‘search and destroy’ you; he was more than likely to follow through with the threat. This wasn’t talking the talk. It wasn’t even walking the walk. It was strutting the strut.
Bring The Noise - Public Enemy (It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, 1988) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cvy7MWjfVPE
Yes, there’s a short skit at the beginning of the record, which is technically track one, but Bring the Noise is the start of the album proper. ITANOMTHUB is an absolute whirlwind of a hip-hop record politically and musically, with Chuck D in blistering form, railing against everyone and every perceived injustice that African-Americans had had to endure in the US up to that point. The Bomb Squad’s oppressive production provides the perfect background to D’s clinical delivery and the result is the start of the most politically-charged and devastating hip-hop album of all time.
Like a Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan (Highway 61 Revisited, 1965) - http://youtu.be/oykxg0eW3n8
‘…a song about hatred’, said Dylan when asked about Like a Rolling Stone, which kicks off probably his most rounded record. The song seen as Dylan’s crowning glory, it seems laced with bitterness, jealousy and longing for revenge against someone or something, possibly even himself. Highway 61 Revisited’s first song was voted as the greatest song of all time by Rolling Stone magazine, and even after all this time it really is impossible to top.
Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana (Nevermind, 1991) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTWKbfoikeg&ob=av3e
‘I started Nirvana because there was nothing else to do’, said Kurt Cobain, the shy boy from Aberdeen, Washington who became the reluctant voice of the world’s disaffected youth. The opening track on their major label debut, Smells Like Teen Spirit, with its beautifully simple four chord riff, catapulted Nirvana into the mainstream, despite Cobain’s typically humble protestations that he was ‘just trying to rip off the Pixies’.
Arcarsenal - At the Drive In (Relationship of Command, 2000) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmTSQZjR3DE
Surely one of the world’s more underrated bands, At the Drive In threatened and hinted towards greatness for a long time before finally releasing what is now appreciated as one of the finest releases of this century in Relationship of Command. The level of brutal hardcore intensity, married with genuine melody and ever-changing tempo from the moment that opener Arcarsenal kicks in is a joy to behold. Sadly for ATDI fans, this was the beginning of the end as the band split up acrimoniously later the following year.
Gimme Shelter - The Rolling Stones (Let It Bleed, 1969) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJDnJ0vXUgw
With Brian Jones limited to a token role in the band (indeed, by ‘69, Mick Taylor had already arrived, and Let It Bleed would be the last album on which Jones would feature at all), The Stones set about making Let It Bleed against a background of great uncertainty in the world, not least the Vietnam War and possible nuclear destruction. Gimme Shelter, with its building intro, gospel backing vocal, and lyrics about war being ‘just a shot away’ captured the mood perfectly. Also, for fans of rock ‘n’ roll trivia, the cake on the cover of Let It Bleed was actually made by then unknown chef Delia Smith. Let’s be ‘avin’ you.
Whole Lotta Love - Led Zeppelin (Led Zeppelin II, 1969) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXKboDqiSbE
Less a rock outfit, more an all-encompassing tornado of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, Led Zeppelin were the band that sold more gig tickets in the US than even The Beatles, as well as 200 million albums worldwide. A perfect marriage of guitar and vocal, Page and Plant were absolutely untouchable, and Whole Lotta Love proves it beyond any doubt. Incidentally, guitar manufacturer Gibson recently voted Whole Lotta Love’s riff as the third best of all time. Which is roughly two places lower than it should be.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Star - Oasis (Definitely Maybe, 1994) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBZ1HTkGF4s
The song that opens arguably Oasis’ only truly great album, Rock ‘n’ Roll Star has been described by Noel Gallagher as ‘probably my best ever song’. It seems to flawlessly sum up what Liam Gallagher is all about: a swaggering, cocky, genuinely gifted and confrontational (and therefore tremendously exciting) front man. Forget all the off-stage tabloid antics, Liam Gallagher was born to be a singer in a band, and if you picture him snarling, with his hands behind his back, Rock ‘n’ Roll Star is the soundtrack.
Sunday Morning - The Velvet Underground (The Velvet Underground & Nico, 1967) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eF_CQGHqzts
Possibly the best debut record of all time, The Velvet Underground & Nico saunters into focus with the understated and bleary-eyed Sunday Morning, a song about the morning after the night before. The album rapidly takes a nose-dive into the gutter straight afterwards with I’m Waiting For The Man, but the calm before the storm is a truly beautiful thing. Warning: The Velvet Underground song Sunday Morning is not to be confused with the Maroon 5 song of the same name, a piece of work so undeniably woeful it actually makes your teeth itch.
Hey, Hey, My, My (Into the Black) - Neil Young (Rust Never Sleeps, 1979) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0O1v_7T6p8U
Another entry into the pantheon of greatest ever riffs, Hey, Hey, My, My is a down-tuned, distorted monster of a guitar track mixed with the chaos of Young’s confusing yet brilliant backing band Crazy Horse and the Canadian genius’ fragile vocal. A song sadly better known for having a lyric included in the aforementioned Kurt Cobain’s suicide note (‘It’s better to burn out than fade away’), this opening salvo is a worthy start to one of Neil Young’s brilliant and criminally underrated records.
Astronomy Domine - Pink Floyd (The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, 1967) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ts-2lg5fpQ4
In their early days, Pink Floyd were a band that orbited around the nucleus of Syd Barrett, the wayward genius who eventually succumbed to mental illness. Barrett wrote all but one of the songs on The Piper at The Gates of Dawn, and Astronomy Domine takes us on a sonic trip around the solar system and beyond as Pink Floyd’s position as a truly boundary pushing band was set for generations to come.
Holidays in the Sun - The Sex Pistols (Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols, 1977) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWF9MMxnekQ
The marching boots, the descending lead guitar (allegedly stolen from The Jam), the knowing, cynical, snarling delivery of Johnny Rotten’s vocal. It’s all here. It’s in many ways the definitive punk song, and the definitive Sex Pistols song, and it kicks off the greatest British punk record of all time. The only full-length release the Pistols ever recorded with Rotten, it made everything before it sound suddenly obsolete and has never been bettered in the genre.
I Wanna Be Adored - The Stone Roses (The Stone Roses, 1989) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4D2qcbu26gs&ob=av2e
Yes they only made one brilliant long-player (although Second Coming is a much better effort than the initial reviews suggested), but what a long-player it is. I Wanna Be Adored ushers The Stones Roses in beautifully, with Brown’s hushed yet defiant vocal tying together a building, crescendo of bass-led melody which rallies and eventually gives way to the glorious She Bangs The Drums, a song that just happens to be one of the greatest ever committed to acetate. It’s not just that The Stone Roses were so brilliant, it’s the fact that it seemed to come so easy to them. ‘You adore me’, whispers Ian Brown. Of course we do.
Taxman - The Beatles (Revolver, 1966) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Maz9ddxEQnM
One of three songs on Revolver penned by George Harrison, Taxman rallies against Harold Wilson and his government’s ‘supertax’, which meant The Beatles were handing over 95% of their earnings to the state. So when Harrison sings ‘Let me tell you how it will be, it’s one for you, nineteen for me’, it’s not only a brilliant lyric, it’s also mathematically accurate.
Debaser - Pixies (Doolittle, 1989) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7q5WjYjzrEQ
Another disc that opens with a superb bass hook, Debaser starts Pixies third album Doolittle, and is certainly the only mainstream rock record we know of to kick off with an homage to surrealist filmmaker Luis Bunuel. Criminally under-appreciated in their first incarnation, Pixies were hugely influential to a generation of Grunge bands including the aforementioned Nirvana. Doolittle is a dark, challenging record in terms of lyrical content, but an undeniably brilliant one nonetheless.
Sure Shot - Beastie Boys (Ill Communication, 1994) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhqyZeUlE8U&ob=av2e
Just about every Beastie Boys record starts with an absolutely winning first track, but Sure Shot tops them all. The last full length album to feature long-time collaborator DJ Hurricane, Ill Communication has featured heavily on plenty of ‘Best of 1994’ lists, in a year that proved a very strong twelve months for music. It also contains the lyric ‘I’ve got more rhymes than I’ve got grey hairs, and that’s a lot because I’ve got my share.’ Self-deprecating hip-hop! What’s not to like?
Vicious - Lou Reed (Transformer, 1972) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMpARx-lnEM
A more commercial sounding record than his first release, Transformer is probably Lou Reed’s best solo work, and it starts with the sexy, raunchy Vicious, an opening salvo with David Bowie and Mick Ronson’s greasy mitts all over it. As Reed himself says, ‘You must think that I’m some kind of gay blade, but baby, you’re so vicious.’ Meow.
London Calling - The Clash (London Calling, 1979) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfK-WX2pa8c&ob=av2n
A song about the end of the world through a ‘nuclear error’ (which makes it all the more remarkable that it’s currently being used as a theme for the London Olympics), London Calling is the eponymous opener to The Clash’s third (and best) long player. A song beset with howling guitars and a metronomic drumbeat, when married up with Joe Strummer’s desperate singing it creates a genuinely bleak yet compelling start to an album that tackles several political themes throughout. Crucial stuff.
This article first appeared on IGN.com on 12th August 2011.
I wouldn’t imagine Acute Pancreatitis is a nice way to go. The sudden and severe inflammation of the organ that regulates digestion resulting in unbearable abdominal pain, usually sending the body into shock, leading to multiple organ failure doesn’t sound like a walk in the meadow. It’s usually brought on by heavy alcohol and/or drug abuse.
Consuming large quantities of alcohol and drugs was probably the thing that Peter Laughner was third best at. He succumbed to the aforementioned disease in 1977 (unfortunately the year that Punk, a genre he helped to create, finally took off) at the astonishingly young age of 24 after sustained substance problems, and initially left barely a scratch on the music world he was so desperate to be a part of.
If I was going to hazard a guess at what Laughner was second best at, it would probably be music writing. He contributed regularly to CREEM magazine, idolised Lester Bangs and championed a number of artists, including The Velvet Underground and Television. The man had taste.
His forté was undoubtedly as a songwriter, though. For a man that there’s hardly any record of actually entering a recording studio, he managed to get down a sizeable amount of material, mostly home recorded demos, and later some live recordings, and one thing that is absolutely staggering to appreciate is how varied, interesting and versatile he was as a songwriter and guitarist. Capable of proto-punk savagery with Rocket From The Tombs (most notable for their song Ain’t It Fun, covered by Guns ‘n’ Roses on The Spaghetti Incident?) as well as more interesting, experimental work with Pere Ubu (a band that he did actually manage to record with, but left after just two singles due to his ongoing battle with drug addiction), he was also a stunningly poignant, sensitive lyricist, capable of the lighest touch. In fact, it is arguably this versatility, making him impossible to pigeonhole, that limited his reach among potential fans and would-be admirers of his work.
The best example of Laughner’s lyrical prowess and emotionally wrought delivery is on the posthumously released compilation Take the Guitar Player for a Ride, a record sadly now out of print and therefore unavailable, aside from a rather below-par bootleg version. On the magnificent Amphetamine, he eschews any sneering, punk sensibilities to deliver a harrowing Springsteen-esque vocal that is both poignant (given his subsequent demise) and emotional. It dances along for over eight minutes, yet never outstays its welcome.
Peter Laughner was and is a criminally underrated contributor to modern music. He was undoubtedly a key protagonist in the birth of Punk and New Wave in the United States. In my view, he was arguably as important as The Stooges and The MC5, without which there’d be no Ramones. A man whose life seemed to be tarnished with such disappointment and personal problems culminating in an untimely and painful death deserves to be lauded for the beautiful, understated music he created.
A fortnight ago, I popped along to Electric Ballroom in Camden with my pal Jon (of New Noise fame) to see Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA).
You all know who they are. Depending on your outlook, they’re either a horrible, cartoonish every-parent’s-worst-nightmare bunch of kids who joke about, and possibly even endorse, rape and drugs and violence and not eating your vegetables (probably), or they’re subverting what is expected of young black males in the US in 2011. I happen to think it’s the latter, and I’d use a highly revealing quote from an interview with Tyler, the Creator (OFWGKTA’s de facto leader) in a recent issue of The Stool Pigeon. When asked what the most tedious thing about doing interviews with the press was, Tyler responded with:
‘….that they always ask questions about Tyler, and never about me.’
I’d argue that, as many musical artists have done before them (I referenced this most recently in my entry about CW Stoneking), OFWGKTA (or Tyler, the Creator at the very least) have created a set of characters to inhabit, and subsequently perform as them both at their live shows and on record. I’m not suggesting the characters don’t overlap and sometimes get blurred, I’m sure they do. But they are still characters.
Anyway, on to the gig. It was an impressively energetic performance, even without the absent Earl Sweatshirt (apparently currently exiled in Samoa, bizarrely) and with Tyler in a leg cast which rendered him chair bound for most of the set. As they stage dived and swore and fist-pumped their way through the show, it was clear that youthful exuberance is both their biggest asset and their biggest hindrance. There is something absolutely vital about youthful energy and Odd Future have it in abundance. It fuels everything they do. It underpins all their releases to date and it was clearly the lifeblood of this (and I’d imagine every other) live performance. In places, it was impossible to not be swept away by it all. However, their inexperience was also abundantly clear; the insistence on stopping for a minute or two between every single song to indulge in what amounted to little more than in-jokes and mostly inaudible patter was naive. The claim that they hadn’t worked out a set list came across as lazy. It was like they were sucking out the energy as effortlessly as they had injected it.
But the biggest misfire of the evening was left to Tyler, the Creator himself. Towards the end of the set he earnestly exclaimed that the venue’s management had given them their ten minute warning. ‘But fuck it,’ screamed hip hop’s newest superstar, ‘we’re gonna do FIFTEEN!’
He may be every parent’s worst nightmare, but Axl Rose he is not.
Check out a decent quality video of the show here.
‘At the moment, he’s drawn a big line diagonally across a map of the United Kingdom, and he’s travelling along it. Any person who happens to live on that line, he goes into their house and makes them soup.’
This is the answer I received when, a couple of years ago, I asked my friend and ex-colleague Joe what his uncle was up to these days. Joe’s uncle is Bill Drummond, former enfant terrible of the music industry. With his long-time collaborator Jimmy Cauty, Drummond turned the music business on its head for a few wonderful years at the end of the 80s/start of the 90s with his hiphop/acid house outfit The KLF, who mixed genuinely brilliant pop music with a variety of artistic statements.
The KLF a.k.a. The Justified Ancients of Mu-Mu, further known as The JAMMs (to give them their full name) were formed by Drummond in 1987 after he quit the music business upon reaching the age of 33 1/3 (the very speed a vinyl LP rotates on a turntable) and decided to rail against an industry he felt had become stagnant and staid. Within four short years, and on their own independent label KLF Communications, The KLF had become the biggest selling band in the UK, and it’s hard to think of an artist that released a better selection of singles in 1991 than What Time is Love?, 3am Eternal, Last Train to Trancentral and Justified and Ancient (which featured ‘First Lady of Country Music’ Tammy Wynette). Brilliant rap verses, spat with great dexterity by Ricardo Da Force over huge, punishing beats and melodic refrains, coupled with stadium crowd noises collided and sounded like music from the future. It propelled them to the top of the charts. It was breathtaking stuff.
I feel that part of this story is worth reiterating (especially given the state of the music industry in 2011): in 1991, The KLF had more top ten hits than Madonna, Kylie Minogue and Queen, one of their biggest hits was an acid house song featuring Tammy Wynette, and they achieved this on their own independent label. Note to younger readers: this did ACTUALLY HAPPEN.
The album that contained these hits, The White Room was and is a glorious affair, linking the lead singles together with a tight overall concept and aesthetic, resulting in something truly imaginative. Unfortunately, whilst it was only their second long player as The KLF, it also proved to be their last. In early 1992, The KLF performed a magnificent version of 3am Eternal with hardcore crust-punk band Extreme Noise Terror at the Brit Awards (again, yes, really) which ended in Drummond firing a machine gun filled with blanks into a stunned audience of music industry executives and other pop artists. As they disappeared from the stage, a PA crackled into life: ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, The KLF have now left the music business.’ There was only time to drop off a dead sheep at the aftershow party, before disappearing (save a couple of brief reunions under various guises in 1995 and 1997) forever. A further project with Extreme Noise Terror based around a heavy-metal version of The White Room called The Black Room was also shelved and remains unreleased.
Drummond immediately set about deleting The KLF’s entire back catalogue, undoubtedly costing him and Cauty a fortune, and to this day The White Room and its predecessor Chill Out remain unavailable. And, as if that wasn’t enough of a statement, a couple of years later Drummond and Cauty (by now operating under the moniker ‘The K Foundation’) travelled across to the Isle of Jura along the west coast of Scotland and filmed themselves burning one million pounds; this amount was later revealed to be the grand total of The KLF’s earnings.
But, as impressive a statement as burning a million pounds is, The KLF’s clever stunts, set-piece art and controversy just wouldn’t have worked had they not been a wonderfully refreshing, interesting pop band. Their innovative way of making music, fusing several genres together to create something fresh and new makes for entertaining and rewarding listening, and 20 years on they continue to be a per’ennially underrated and often overlooked part of British pop music history. Hopefully, this blog posting goes a tiny way towards redressing the balance.
Since the self-imposed demise of his most successful group, Drummond has busied himself with a number of more low-key art and music projects, sometimes with Jimmy Cauty, sometimes not. Indeed, there have even been rumours that they continue to make music as The K Foundation, yet refuse to release it.
Will The KLF come back to give the music industry a much-needed shot in the arm? It seems not, at least not for the moment. In November 1995, a 23 year moratorium between Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty was agreed and signed prohibiting either man from carrying out or even talking about further KLF/K Foundation activities. So it looks like we’ve got 7 more years to wait. That’s a lot of soup.
Glastonbury kicks off on Friday 24th June, and to be frank, there’s more artists playing than you can shake a juggling club at. It can be a terrible business trying to plan your weekend. To that end, here’s our pick of performances worth trudging half an hour through a selection of fields for.
On Friday night, before pop-rock behemoths U2 (who finally make their Glastonbury headlining bow, 35 years after their formation and a year after having to pull out due to Bono’s unfortunate back injury) is the living legend that is Morrissey. A compelling presence live and a master storyteller through his songs, Mozza’s huge stage persona and tight-as-Joey Ramone’s-jeans backing band will have no problem filling the Pyramid Stage. Given that The Smiths are unlikely to reform anytime soon (Johnny Marr is too busy joining every other band on the planet), this is undoubtedly the next best thing. He has a delightful habit of dropping Smiths covers into his set, too. He’ll be quick to tell you that he’s made loads more records on his own than he ever did with The Smiths, but try telling that to anyone when the first note of How Soon Is Now? rings out. Be there.
But, before Friday night obviously comes Friday afternoon, and what better way to spend it than to sit in the sun (fingers crossed) and watch the best rap collective of all time? Staten Island’s finest, RZA, GZA, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God and Masta Killa aka Wu-Tang Clan hit Worthy Farm right in the chin with some of the dirtiest, kung-fu influenced hip-hop known to man. It’s a long way from the Slums of Shaolin to Somerset, UK, and provided they make the trip (no shows have been known), the entertainment level will be sky-high, even if you’re not someone with an ear for rap. If you’re sitting down at the start of their set, you certainly won’t be by the end. Honestly, don’t miss it.
Just after that, hot foot it back to the Other Stage in time for Fleet Foxes, a band that are finally getting to grips with filling huge venues with their four-part harmony laden folk rock. In 2009, they failed to really connect on the Pyramid Stage, but they’ve grown as live performers immeasurably since then, and the Other Stage should suit them. Expect cuts from their new Helplessness Blues album, interspersed with music from their now modern classic self-titled debut. They have the potential to be the the performance of the weekend, so make sure you’re able to say you were there.
Coldplay top the bill on the Pyramid Stage on Saturday night, and it’s been six long years since they wowed the crowds on the back of their X&Y record. If you’re a Coldplay fan, that night was truly special, the weather creating a dramatic mist that swamped over the assembled throng, failing to dampen the spirits of those belting the band’s best-known songs back at them. There’s no reason this year will be any different, so expect anthems and moments to savour.
If you don’t fancy the whimsical, soaring AOR that Coldplay deal in, then on The Other Stage at the same time is the full on aural assault that are The Chemical Brothers. Getting people moving their feet since the early 90s, Ed Simons and Tom Rowlands are Glasto veterans. They know the festival, they know the crowd and they know how to give you a night that you’ll never forget. Expect hits. Loads and loads of hits. Oh, and a laser show that will permanently fuse your retinas to your skull. In a good way. In a I-can’t-find-my-way-back-to-my-tent-because-all-I-can-see-is-flashing-lights-in-the-darkness-way. Get a Coldplay watching friend to escort you back.
Beyoncé takes on the much-coveted and now legendary Sunday night slot and should delight the masses with a whistle-stop tour through her (at the last count) 14 billion top ten singles. And, after his astonishing Gallagher brothers baiting performance in ‘08, is it too much to expect a cameo from the jigga man himself, Jay-Z? It’s easy to write Beyoncé off as a straight-down-the-line chart-topping pop act, but she’s so much more than that. She has transcended the genre, and is one of the finest pop performers since Madonna. She’ll send you home from the West Country with a smile on your face and a shake in your booty. No doubt.
Remember though, Glastonbury is about so much more than the mainstream, it rightly has a great reputation for booking artists from across the spectrum. You owe it to yourself and to the price of the ticket to go and experience as much as you can. Here are some smaller acts well worth your time:
Leeds-based Pulled Apart By Horses are electrifying live. Purveyors of the finest song titles in the known world (‘I Punched a Lion in the Throat’, ‘High Five, Swan Dive, Nose Dive’ and ‘I’ve Got Guestlist to Rory O’Hara’s Suicide’ being particular highlights), they mix screaming alternative metal with grunge and throw themselves around the stage with little regard for their own safety. Also, they’re loud. Really, really loud. Catch them on Oxlyers in West in the Dance Village on Saturday.
Also on Saturday afternoon, Yuck play the John Peel Stage. A heady mix of Dinosaur Jr. and Pavement with a shed load of melody thrown in, their self-titled debut record is one of the albums of the year. Capable of long wig-outs as well as slices of pure guitar pop, there’s something for everyone here.
On the Avalon Stage, look out for travelling bluesman and storyteller CW Stoneking. A throwback to the Deep South circa about 1934, Stoneking weaves breathtaking tales of love, loss and shipwrecks and has apparently visited everywhere from New Orleans to sub-Saharan Africa in search of the perfect song. He spins a good yarn, plays a magnificent steel guitar and has a Primitive Horn Orchestra. What more can you ask for?
In the unlikely event that you need a break from all that music, you could do worse than go and listen to former politician and octogenarian Tony Benn. Now aged 86 and still showing no signs of letting up, he’s an engaging speaker, bristling with razor-sharp wit and experience. He delivers his now customary talk in the Greenfields on Saturday. So, if the hangover is precluding you from listening to anything louder than an elderly man talk about the issues of the day, Mr Benn is your man.
Others to watch out for: Warpaint (Friday, The Park) - dreamy art pop; The Secret Sisters (Friday, Acoustic) - Jack White-produced country music; The Joy Formidable (Sunday, John Peel) - noisy Welsh indie; Billy Bragg (Friday, Left Field) - Legendary songsmith and Glastonbury stalwart.
This article originally appeared on IGN.com on June 20th, 2011.