6. REVOLUTIONARY MILLENARIUMS OF THE MIDDLE AGES 2000–2004
It always seemed to me that most of us reach a point in our lives when dreams of scaling mountains, scoring goals and breaking down barriers fade away to be replaced by Saturday afternoons at B&Q and a spot of decorating. And it must have been my middle class conditioning that convinced me that point would come at forty. While I had no choice but to improve my grievous DIY skills to make our house halfway decent there was still time for one memorable last hurrah. At my belated birthday party, I was handed a ‘smoke’ that left me fixed to a chair in the middle of the lawn, not daring to move for the next two hours in case I drowned in the grass. I reckon that little adventure was as good a way as any to hit the big four O!
For as long as I could remember I had imagined myself at forty, if only because it coincided with the year 2000. When I was a kid, the books of the day promised us a brave new world of sci-fi, a space age utopia in which we’d be flying around in silver suits with jet packs strapped to our backs. The future would be now and that now would be 2000 AD. Strangely, I never imagined myself beyond that, say in 2010 or 2020. Those dates held no significance at all. In fact it was almost as if I would simply disappear into the ether as soon as the clock struck midnight on that cold, wet, New Millenium Eve.
Even though my sci-fi dreams failed to become reality, it was still fantastic to finally get to a twenty first century that had once seemed so far away. For the first time in my life I was truly loved and truly happy and I knew it. I had nothing to complain about but there was still something gnawing away at me, a melancholy I’d known before, but one I kept pushing aside so I could get on with living! Yet while there was a whole lot of living to be done, I couldn’t help but be distracted by a couple of global events that ultimately would have a massive impact on me and mine.
In the past I’d never been bothered by international strife of any sort, so when whispers began floating round at work that a plane had smashed into the Twin Towers I wasn’t that interested. Nonetheless, I still scuttled off to find the nearest TV partly because it was a handy excuse for another break. Even when the second plane imploded and the towers tumbled in startling, slo-mo detail I didn’t pause to consider the possible consequences. Much like the majority of those watching with me, I had plenty of sympathy for the victims but none at all for America. In fact, we were all secretly pleased the land of the arrogant had finally got a taste of its own medicine. Maybe we should have guessed that for George W it was just the excuse he needed to turn his Custer fantasy into reality.
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, as slimy toad Tony Blair began bleating on about how the rules of terrorism had changed, the magnitude of what was happening, nationally and internationally, slowly dawned on me, because from that point on rules did indeed begin to be thrown out of the window at regular intervals. We were told that this new form of terror offered an entirely new threat requiring a brand new approach where certain fundamental rights we had historically taken for granted were suddenly seen as impediments to our protection rather than a means of ensuring it.
That things were changing was obvious, but there were serious doubts it was quite to the extent Blair and Bush suggested. I for one knew that governments and others greedy for power love to generate fear, not only when it is justified but also when it happens to be convenient. And even though 9/11 led to us naively giving up a large chunk of our freedom in the name of security, it also led to the haunting spectres of Afghanistan and Iraq. As British military involvement gathered momentum, my youngest son was preparing to join the infantry. It was only then that I finally put the two together and realised how the coming War on Terror could impact directly on our future. Exciting for sure but scary as fuck and to think I hadn’t even known where Afghanistan was until I reached for the atlas.
Ironically 18 months later, right at the point when our personal rights were really being squeezed and our liberties eroded, the wonderful world of pop culture began its own all out assault on the rather different towers of the music industry. This time it would involve technology rather than planes but just like the War on Terror, there would be no going back.
The arrival of iTunes and mp3 culture changed the very nature of pop music, sparking a revolution in consumerism and creativity that had nothing to do with any individual artist or new genre and everything to do with new technology. The invention of the iPod and illegal downloading in particular allowed us to access any music, anytime, anyplace, anywhere. Naturally the industry vented its spleen, ranting long and loud about the supposed psychological impact of getting music for free and how it would lead to a belief that music itself had no specific value but that bigotry was only to be expected, especially when CD sales and profits began to slide. In reality, the effect of free downloads on record company coffers proved minimal but what it did do was break the industries monopoly on what was available and its ability to dictate taste. No longer brainwashed by conglomerate marketing and corporate radios exclusive playlists, we could listen to whatever we wanted. And with the inevitable demystification of computer software allowing any kid with a PC and a hatful of ideas to create music from the comfort of their own bedroom, there was a hell of a lot of it.
The mp3 also revitalised interest in the past as online digital archives opened the flood gates of once forbidden distant territories to bring every last song within easy reach of everyone. I was no different and launched myself into a second adolescence, greedily gobbling up hours and hours of stuff that had suddenly, magically become available at the click of a button. With my insatiable quest for pop nirvana still burning bright, I felt a need to hear to all those saintly artists and records I’d ignored back in the day yet continued to fill the top slots in all those horrible best album in the world ever polls.
The downside of all this rediscovery and revisiting was that even new groups and artists began to sound tainted by a past that was impossible to escape. I couldn’t help but feel I’d heard most of it before somewhere, and that the noughties had become nothing more than a decade of rampant recycling, of reintroducing and reconstructing almost any genre or style from the past. Even the shining lights of hip hop and electronic dance, who had once forged new futures seemingly at will, began to sound tired, bored and boring. It seemed like nostalgia had finally stopped cultures ability to move on.
With all this downloading and listening it was tough fitting in some of the more unpleasant things in life. Naturally DIY took a backseat but working for a living was more of a problem because like most people I had little choice. After more than a decade doing some of the shittiest jobs imaginable, off the back of my own hard graft, intelligence and a bit of luck, I found myself as the local Council Operations Manager, heading up the ranks of bin men I’d once worked alongside. With my complete lack of ambition and a deserved reputation as an awkward bastard who never bowed or scraped to any fucker, I was mighty surprised to find myself heading up anything.
Needless to say, I was thrown headlong into a cauldron of local politiking that seemed to be about nothing more than staying in power. My predecessors had all suffered nervous breakdowns, worn down by the anarchistic nature and militant tendency of the rank and file who were well aware of the disruption they could bring to bear on bureaucrats and public alike if they so desired. Eighteen years of the Tory Reich had most definitely not broken their spirit. It was a job made for me, the money was great and I loved it, at least in the early years. In fact, I couldn’t really have asked for much more in my middle age; three great kids, a nice house, a nice car, and for the first time ever, holidays abroad. But I soon discovered that money couldn’t buy us everything.
Our once sweet suburbia had slowly but surely turned sour as every urban idyll does eventually. Late at night, hordes of Neanderthal beer bellies would swarm onto the streets seeking any poor sod in the wrong footie shirt to beat the crap out of while their scabby kids found any way they could to terrorise young and old alike; nicking mobiles, smashing windows, scratching cars. My sons just accepted it as the norm, supremely confident in their own street smarts, but we became tired of the constant hassle, the final straw coming when the smackhead losers from the sink estate down the hill began a series of break in’s.
Now, I’m definitely not someone who’s adverse to dishing out some meaningful violence to protect my own, but when the use of carpet gripper on the gate and the threat of a baseball bat around the head failed to dissuade these drug zombies it slowly dawned on us that there was going to be no stopping this particular urban tide. And so, not wishing to raise our daughter in such a climate of hate, prejudice and fear, we made plans for a different future. The time had come to move on.
1.1 EMINEM / The Real Slim Shady / The Marshall Mathers LP / May 2000
Back in the day, it felt dangerous to think of a white boy nearing the aesthetic zenith of that celebration of black maleness they called hip-hop. But then because of his colour Eminem had to be twice as good to get ahead, and he was. The first big star of the 21st century he had it all and while he would soon spin into horrible self parody this record was a brilliantly dark, often twisted commentary on the decline of the American Empire, from working class male terror of homosexual feelings to how the traditional old Gods had been replaced by the moral vacuum of cold cash money.
I could have picked almost anything off this behemoth of an album but the motor mouthed parent baiting of ‘The Real Slim Shady’ nicks it if only because it brings back memories of standing on a railway embankment overlooking the Reading Festival a year or so later watching a handful of ticketless teens rapping word for word, their hero on stage, a speck of light in the distant darkness.
1.2 THE INFESTICONS / Hero Theme / Gun Hill Road LP / May 2000
1.3 DEAD PREZ / Animal In Man / Let’s Get Free LP / June 2000
By the time Eminem got to take over the world hip hop had become a very corporate beasty, sold from chain stores in the suburbs to middle class white kids lusting for rebellion. By association that took away much of its purity although there were always groups like The Infesticons and Dead Prez only too happy to balance the lack of love for the art and the effort of innovation.
Sounding like a deranged beatnik ranting in the bath over an abstract flow of jubilant beats, Mike Ladd’s Gun Hill Road was an epic concept album about battling rival crews the Infesticons and the Majesticons, a bunch of jiggy automatons intent on stealing reality! Dead Prez’s ‘Animal in Man’ was even better. Kicking off with an excerpt from Beneath the Planet of the Apes it was their take on George Orwell's Animal Farm albeit with a dark twist. Slightly misguided but with the best intentions, I played it to my daughter to try and explain such fantastical concepts as totalitarian socialism and the cult of personality. She didn’t understand one word but loves the tune to this day.
1.4 AUGIE MARCH / There Is No Such Place / Sunset Studies LP / June 2000
I’ve always been all too aware of the fact that like everyone else I’m really only feeling my way through this world. I appreciate music that reflects this feeling of vague existential disquiet, a concern about the worthiness of my existence even though I know damn well there isn’t any. ‘There Is No Such Place’ encapsulated that feeling rather nicely.
1.5 RADIOHEAD / Optimistic / Kid A LP / October 2000
Kid A was the first album to come from Thom Yorke’s immersion into marginalized avant-garde dance music. In truth it was not quite as radical as initially portrayed. Far from being mere electronic doodles, the tracks rarely abandoned a standard song structure yet Radiohead being Radiohead they still demanded attention, ‘Optimistic’ taunting us to ‘Try the best you can/Try the best you can’ before revealing the more resigned, ‘The best you can is good enough’. Relentlessly bleak, dislocated, dispossessed, numb, impotent and paralyzed while successfully detailing our natural response to a dog eat dog world where the logical impulse is to withdraw and disengage, Radiohead were and possibly still are everything a modern group should be.
1.6 OUTKAST / B.O.B. / Stankonia LP / November 2000
My relationship with hip hop had faltered ever since the late 90’s when it was taken over almost completely by commerce and the willingness of rappers to exploit the very worst aspects of black stereotyping to make a buck. Consequently Stankonia was almost but not quite my last blast and like most Outkast albums was everything hip hop could have been if it hadn’t sold its soul at the altar of greed. Fearless in its respect for black music history, its disquiet about America and the pure pleasure to be found in sex, women and being a man, Stankonia’s scope and depth of vision was quite literally breath taking. That gobshite egomaniac Jay Z may well have crowned himself ‘The King Of Hip Hop’ but Andre and Big Boi were the true prodigal sons.
1.7 THE AVALANCHES / Frontier Psychiatrist / Single A Side / February 2001
This strange little tune was built bit by bit from a stack of old records. Bizarrely hypnotic, its use of kiddy melodies and voices from a distant past struck me as a handy allegory for my teenage years, my mother casually telling my father ‘That boy needs therapy’. I never did think I was a nut, crazy in the coconut, but then I had no say in the matter.
1.8 TURIN BRAKES / Underdog (Save Me) / The Optimist LP / March 2001
When I witter about it being OK for a good tune to be just a good tune with no deep meaning or significance, ‘Save Me’ is one of the songs I’m usually thinking about although ironically once you get past the clever hook lines you find it does mean something after all. ‘Save me, save me from myself’ doesn’t sound like meaningless drivel to me.
1.9 DAFT PUNK / Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger / Discovery LP / March 2001
Coming over all mysterious in their robot masks, Daft Punk made the kind of dance music that slyly celebrated its own anonymity and production values. Discovery certainly made me feel good but I was never quite sure if I was being cheated, what with its nudge-nudge artful cleverness and dodgy vocodered voices I would have dismissed out of hand on any other record. Of course, I didn’t care about any of that as soon as I heard ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ with its handclaps, cymbals, funky stabs and even that synthetic voice.
1.10 N*E*R*D / Lapdance /In Search Of LP / March 2001
In the early 00’s I spent a fair amount of time in Prague, fascinated by the former Socialist Republic and the gradual corruption and decadence capitalism bought along for the ride. I saw the Russian mafia move in, the increase in violence and the mobs of pissed up Brits seeking a cheap thrill in the numerous lapdancing clubs and brothels hidden amongst the poky backstreets off Wenceslas Square, once the countries central hub of protest and demonstration.
What does this have to do with N*E*R*D. and their bump’n’grind anthem? Well, not a lot really, although given its title, ‘Lapdance’ was played non-stop in the bars, from every passing taxi and of course in the clubs where beautiful girls boosting their college funds gyrated provocatively for drunken, middle aged gits stinking of vodka red bull and Marlboro lights.
1.11 MISSY ELLIOTT / Get Ur Freak On / Miss E So Addictive LP / April 2001
‘Get Ur Freak On’ still sounds extraordinary, one of the weirdest, most audaciously leftfield strokes of genius I can think of, a tune that managed to push futurism and stupidly happy absurdity to ridiculous new heights and lived to tell the tale. Producer Timbaland may have led the way with his bhangra jungle beats and sci-fi synths but it was Missy who stole the show, reclaimed the word ‘bitch’ as a synonym for badass and revelled in the otherness that established this as a total game changer in the evolution of 21st century pop.
1.12 NECTARINE NO. 9 / Constellations Of A Vanity / Single A Side / April 2001
Davy Henderson was certainly a trier. In the early 80’s he fronted the much rated Fire Engines before learning to sing so he could play the proper pop game with Win. Best of the lot though were Nectarine No. 9 and their fabulous Bolan meets Prince, freakazoid, Beefheart tunes of which ‘Constellations Of A Vanity’ was by far the best.
1.13 BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB / Whatever Happened To My Rock’n’Roll? / B.R.M.C. LP / April 2001
Richard Hell once said ‘Rock’n’Roll is a way of life. To choose Rock’n’Roll is to reject growing up and reject straight society, and to affirm other ways of being and of looking at the world’. Listen closely and you can hear Black Rebel Motorcycle Club saying exactly the same thing in their punky, Jesus and Mary Chain type way. And given my brief time in the orbit of rock’n’roll, I agree entirely. If only I could have hung around for a bit longer.
1.14 AIR / How Does It Make You Feel / 10,000Hz Legend LP / May 2001
A Pink Floyd tempo, a crowd of creamy 10cc harmonies and that robot voice so beloved of French men, I never expected ‘How Does It Make You Feel?’ to be this good. Playing on new man vulnerability and the bonds of machismo that stops most blokes ever expressing their true feelings, whenever the world seems like a soulless battleground play this to know there can be hope amongst the ruins.
1.15 SQUAREPUSHER / My Red Hot Car (Girl) / Single A Side / May 2001
From the sublime to the explicit. Like Daft Punk and Air, Squarepusher Tom Jenkinson was another singing through a voicecoder to express his innermost thoughts. But, rather than wondering how it makes you feel, he wanted to fuck you with his red hot cock. Despite all the sonic cleverness, electronic noodling and spirit of adventure, at heart ‘My Red Hot Car’ was still a traditional pop song with an unforgettable hook. And yet that didn’t seem to stop it pushing so close to the cutting edge it almost tumbled over, something all electronic music should have been doing in the new millennium.
1.16 THE SHINS / New Slang / Single A Side / May 2001
Like so many songs of the 00’s ‘New Slang’ hauled me back to another time and place. Floating along in its hummable, familiar way it bore a vague resemblance to my old man’s Simon & Garfunkel records even though its sweet lament hid a sad regret for what once might have been but never was.
1.17 THE STROKES / Barely Legal / Is This It LP / August 2001
Indie music for my kid’s generation really started with this. Me, I instantly recalled a time when rock’n’roll might (whisper it….) change the world. As the cool, skinny boy Strokes came out of their Lower East Side basement studio, the only thing stirring in the world of guitar rock was the flatulent excess of sub Oasis ‘dad rock’ and the beige Coldsailor, Stereotravis brigade. Of course, I knew immediately that the concept of Is This It with its short, sexy songs and artful arrogance was as pre-designed and perfectly executed as any boy or girl band yet it didn’t matter. The Strokes gave kids an altogether more exciting option, the legacy they handed on to the likes of The Libertines and the Arctic Monkeys so influential it’s still with us.
1.18 ROOTS MANUVA / Witness (One Hope) / Run Come Save Me LP / August 2001
Let’s face it, British hip hop never really stood a chance against its more illustrious brethren. By the time our homegrown MC’s got it together, we had been so conditioned by the American drawl that really good records by the likes of Hijack, Overlord X, Silver Bullet and the London Posse were immediately dismissed as being somehow inauthentic. Absolute bollocks of course but it would still be over a decade before Roots Manuva came along to save our sorry souls from the commercialised hell hole the American fantasy of guns, bitches and bling had become. ‘Witness’ was the Brit hop anthem of all time, a razor blade ripped cyclone of a record built on a shuffling squelchy bass (an attempt to copy the Dr Who theme), a gritty narrative and enough authenticity to kick all those bullshit accusations into touch.
1.19 BRITNEY SPEARS / I’m A Slave 4 U / Single A Side / September 2001
The early 00’s marked the start of the cheap TV talent scam, all futures decided by a panel of smug woulda, shoulda coulda’s and their fat controller, preying on a never ending queue of naïve young innocents lusting for their five minutes of fame. Britney was a prototype of sorts, a pre teeny tween shamelessly hawked around talent shows by a domineering, God fearing mother. If the rest of those artistically bereft fools could create a record anywhere near as fab and funky as our favourite Disney club virgin, the land of pop would be a far better place.
2.1 DOVES / Caught By The River / The Last Broadcast LP / April 2002
‘Life it can’t be easy, but you just can’t leave it’. I don’t always go for this sort of thing but there’s no doubting this is a tune and a sad tune at that. A gloriously uplifting, guitar anthem it reminds me of my soldier son even though it tells the story of a father watching helplessly as his son’s life falls apart. My son’s life never fell apart yet ‘Caught By The River’ was just the sort of empowering song that a few years later would be soundtracking his combat tours of Afghanistan and the videos he pieced together to try and help us understand.
2.2 X PRESS 2 / Lazy / Single A Side / April 2002
People have been calling me lazy my entire life. Fuck em’ I say because one thing I know for sure is that fear, especially fear of not working or of not doing something ‘worthy’ dominates most people’s lives. We don’t need imposed slavery in Britain because each morning everyone happily puts on their chains and trots off dutifully to the daily grind. With over four hundred years of conditioning, the fear of what will happen if they don’t is so deeply instilled they can’t even recognise it. Knowing all that, I reckon being called lazy is a compliment.
2.3 THE STREETS / Let’s Push Things Forward / Original Pirate Material LP / May 2002
Just when I thought pop had no more surprises up its sleeve along came a record that proved a new twist is always just around the corner. Mike Skinners debut took on UK garage culture and single handedly pushed it to the next level by really saying something, ‘Let’s Push Things Forward’ a very English clarion call for aesthetic ambition and content despite its mournful echo of The Specials.
2.4 BRIGHT EYES / Lover I Don’t Have To Love / Lifted Or The Story Is In The Soil LP / August 2002
Connor Oberst was 21 when he wrote the 13 songs for Lifted, an album on which he was determined to define the misery of his youth. That he succeeded is wondrous enough but it was also the way he did it. Hitting on just about every topic in excruciating detail, from the hell of love and heartbreak to fear of an uncertain future, he does it with such a broad range of sound that each song remains individual, unique and more to the point memorable. I hesitate to call it a classic because that honour is handed out way too easily these days, but it most definitely is.
2.5 IAN BROWN / Shadow Of A Saint (Boy Bierton Mix) / Remixes Of The Spheres LP / November 2002
It’s no secret that I never rated the Stone Roses too much. Then, in the winter of 2002 I read John Robb’s first book The Stone Roses & The Resurrection of British Pop and did a complete about turn. Despite John’s tendency to call everything brilliant like that bloke on The Fast Show, he did a great job convincing me that Ian Brown was actually an alright lad with interests and ideas way beyond his arrogant public persona. Quickly grabbing a copy of Remixes Of The Spheres that happened to be lying around I got hooked on ‘Shadow Of The Saint’, a most unexpected treat.
2.6 THE KILLS / Fried My Little Brains / Keep On Your Mean Side LP / April 2003
Looking like a pair who had just enjoyed some extremely hard drugs, The Kills sounded like they meant it, their punksome blues coming on like a mighty smack in the mouth; dirty, downright sleazy, marvellously rockin’ and just what the dodgy doctor ordered.
2.7 JAMMER & KANO / Boys Love Girls / Single A Side / May 2003
2.8 DIZZEE RASCAL / Fix Up Look Sharp / Boy In Da Corner LP/ July 2003
At the height of the economic boom in the early 00’s, while futures, champagne and bad debt swilled around Canary Wharf, the sounds emanating from tower blocks barely a mile away served notice that there was more than one east London. Grime sounded as if it had crash landed in the present with no past, and no future. When pirate radio began to spread the word its impact on British kids like my youngest son and his mates was phenomenal. Many of them were so inspired they set up their own crews, the first time anything like that had happened since punk. ‘Youth making music for youth’ all over again. ‘Boys Love Girls’ and Boy In Da Corner represent grimes true break out moment,
2.9 KINGS OF LEON / Spiral Staircase / Youth & Young Manhood LP / July 2003
You must have heard the old fable of the Followill clan, the three brothers and their cousin, sons of a hell and brimstone Southern preacher man dragged around to churches and tent revivals throughout Oklahoma and the Deep South for most of their childhood. I should have hated everything about them but whereas The Strokes, who they were regularly compared to, were a fabricated pack of lies, these boys were the authentic article. Every word they said was the honest to goodness truth and that made me like them even more. Their first EP Holy Roller Novacaine was pretty great but it was Youth & Young Manhood and seeing them live that made it all click. Here were boys who not only wrote seriously deep fried songs about sex and drugs and rock’n’roll, it was spectacularly obvious they were the living embodiment of their own subject matter. And the bassist was only 16 for fucks sake. Oh to be a Followill in 2003.
2.10 THE LIBERTINES / Don’t Look Back Into The Sun / Single A Side / August 2003
They arrived in the summer of 2002, as fully formed as they’d ever be, a haze of sweat and cheap narcotics with pasty white chests poking out of skip salvaged jackets. With their tall tales of pension drawing drummers, rent boy pasts and idealistic visions of a mythical England, if you’re under thirty it’s entirely possible that The Libertines changed your world; they really were that important. Of course, the return to clattering rock’n’roll had started with the imported Strokes, but The Libertines idealistic visions of a mythical England opened youthful eyes to a freewheeling, fancy free side of life most never knew existed. Suddenly the nation was overrun by a multitude of urchin rock laureates in skinny jeans and thrift store trilby’s.
2.11 THE RAPTURE / House Of Jealous Lovers / Echoes LP / September 2003
Three years into the twenty first century we already had the Kings Of Leon and The Libertines, two of the greatest rock’n’roll groups of many a decade despite all the associated hype and hullabaloo. Then came the Rapture. For a lot of people ‘House Of Jealous Lovers’ was so inextricably linked with the previous year and New York that by the time Echoes came around it was viewed as a wake for a dance punk movement that came and went with a speed that was indecently fast even for an indie micro genre. Thankfully, I didn’t know about any of that shit and anyway it matters not because what a song this is. There’s no need to invest in its supposed importance to find pleasure in that bassline and the fearlessly off key chorus. What a fabulous racket!
2.12 RYAN ADAMS / World War 24 /Love Is Hell Pt. 1 LP / November 2003
Once a precocious wunderkid, I think it’s safe to say that Ryan Adams threw most of his immense talent away to pursue his ever changing artistic dreams and a shitload of hardcore drugs. I saw him in Bristol where he was the epitomy of the surly out of it rocker trying to play brand new songs even the band didn’t know. Miraculously halfway through, when the effect of whatever he was on had either kicked in or worn off, he turned into the nicest bloke you could ever wish to meet, the show culminating in his Jesus like walk through the crowd while still playing guitar before he downed a pint at the bar. And all without missing a note. The next night he fell off the stage in Liverpool and broke his wrist!
2.13 MYLO / Destroy Rock & Roll / Destroy Rock & Roll LP / May 2004
Coming over like the DIY dance music equivalent of The Ramones, did Mylo, or rather Myles Macinnes from Skye, really want to destroy rock’n’roll like the preacher he so liberally sampled. I’d say it was hard to tell although would any of us truly miss the likes of Huey Lewis, Billy Joel or The Eurythmics. I don’t think so.
2.14 THE FALL / Theme From Sparta FC #2 / Single A Side / June 2004
No matter which dark corner of my mind I go searching in, I can’t find that rage of youth anymore. In fact, I don’t really care about much these days. More than anything the world makes me feel oh so weary and more likely to go ‘Aw fuck it’. All I really wanna do is go back to building my castle in the sand knowing only too well the tide is getting higher every year. So how does Mark E Smith do it? How does he carry on caring enough to make a record as brilliantly rockin’ as ‘Sparta’ almost forty years after The Fall began?
2.15 THE GO! TEAM / The Power Is On / The Power Is On EP / July 2004
Those indie kids sure used to love their charity shops and car boot sales. The Go! Team were like the aural equivalent of all those dusty shelves and overcrowded racks, reconstructing the choicest musical debris and mixing them up with their own thundering piano, battling guitars and joyous cheerleader chants to arrive at a sound that was genuinely new and exciting.
2.16 THE KILLERS / All These Things That I’ve Done / Single A Side / August 2004
Brandon Flowers and his bunch of beardy nerds were far more concerned about their place on the next Now That's What I Call Music compilation than any sense of art. But, and it’s a dodgy hypocritical but, ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’ was a thunderingly good tune.
2.17 JUNIOR BOYS / Teach Me How To Fight / Last Exit LP / September 2004
Canada’s Junior Boys were the first group of the new age to gain their reputation courtesy of an emerging network of music bloggers. When Last Exit finally made it out of the blogosphere, the Junior Boys new form of 80’s electro pop was bold enough to take that influence and try something new, and with this warm, deceptively friendly pop album, they succeeded beautifully.
2.18 / NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS / Nature Boy / Abattoir Blues - The Lyre Of Orpheus LP / September 2004
Nick Cave has always loved digging deep into the dirt and the darkness. I must admit, I’ve finally given up trying to convert acquaintances to the cause even though, like all truly great art, he would most certainly make them feel differently about the world. This staggering double album would be a good starting point because for once it isn’t all fire and brimstone, ‘Nature Boy’ a rewrite of Cockney Rebels ‘Make Me Smile’ except Steve Harley never wrote a line like ‘I saw some ordinary slaughter, I saw some routine atrocity’. Mysterious, glorious, dismal and beautiful all at once, Abattoir Blues/The Lyre Of Orpheus is Nick Caves masterpiece, the moment he finally led us into temptation and delivered us from evil. Amen.
2.19 RUFUS WAINWRIGHT / The Art Teacher / Want Two LP / November 2004
I can’t help but love Rufus Wainwright, lederhosen and all. How could anyone not be lured and lulled by ‘The Art Teacher’, a lovely piano ballad about a middle-aged woman remembering an unrequited schoolgirl crush. Recorded live and unadorned, you can even hear the boy gasping for breath between each line which makes his eye for the affecting lyrical detail all the more obvious.