Tuesday, January 22, 2008

How Brit is Vic?

Meaningless, yet catchy post-punk from a Brit band named after a Brit spy show performing their only hit song (based on skit by a Brit comedy troupe), on a Brit pop show.

Without commercial interruption, Department S with 'Is Vic There?' Circa 1980.

I myself have no idea where Vic is, but I'll bet he's a Brit.

I'm just sayin'.

MP3: Is Vic There?

Saturday, January 5, 2008

It's too late to leave- Sheffield then and now

My theory stands about pop music. Well, good, purpose-driven pop music at least. The more severe the socio-economic climate, the better the music. It also helps if conservatives are in power. This hypothesis can be applied to just about all British pop music from the British Invasion onward. The story is the same, angst-ridden, lower income teens looking for a way up and a way out pick up a guitar, or in this case a Roland CR-78, and form a band. This theory can also be applied to American music as well. I site the early work of R.E.M. to illustrate the point. They created their best music during the Reagan/Bush 1 administrations. It's really a simple theory. When things are bad, or perceived to be bad, there's plenty to sing about, and nothing to lose.

My theory is further perpetuated by location. Where you are and what's going on (or not going on) helps percolate a musical scene. Motown comes to mind as a prime example, but next to Hitsville USA, I can't think of another specific geographic locale responsible for producing such a prolific amount of pop music as Sheffield, England. Birthplace of the Post-Punk, Synthpop movement and home to countless 80's bands like ABC, Heaven 17, and the Human League (as well as hair metal gods, Def Leppard), Sheffield has solidified itself in the annals of pop music lore. Manchester pales by comparison.

It's of interest that the town still manages to export talent to our shores. Check out newcomers Arctic Monkeys channeling the energy, if not the sound of the Jam. But we all know they were from Surrey.

Worth a visit is Sheffield Vision, chronicling the rich musical legacy of the region. And if you want to see more, check out the documentary Made In Sheffield. There are some excellent interviews with all concerned parties including the legendary John Peel.

If only I had learned to play that damn Casiotone.

I'm just sayin'.

Sheffield's own Comsat Angels (pictured above) with their 1983 hit, Will You Stay Tonight

MP3: Heaven 17-Let Me Go

MP3: Human League-Facination

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Top 7 of '07

Every year I suffer through the top ten lists everyone compiles to let me know what albums I should have bought/listened to in the past year. Usually the lists are similar and run the gamut of genres, Pop, R&B, Hip Hop, Country, Alternative (whatever that is), Adult Contemporary, etc.

I find these lists are more of a popularity contest than a true evaluation of the better music that was released in the previous year. In addition, it's always a round number, like 10 or 20 or 50. I call bullsh*t on that. Only albums truly deserving should make these inane lists. Just because your favorite band puts out a record, it doesn't mean it is any good, or at least not as good as their last one. Case in point. Spoon's Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. These guy are one of my fave bands, but I don't think this latest album measures up to being the 'best' of 2007. And I don't think it's as good as previous offerings like Gimme Fiction or Girls Can Tell.

That said, I hereby offer my obligatory top seven of 2007. I can't say that there was all that amazing music last year. And I don't listen to Country, R&B or Hip Hop. So, without furthur adeiu, in no particular order:

Wilco Sky Blue Sky- Tough to follow up Yankee and Ghost, but Mr. Tweedy & Co. do a fine job on this personal, introspective piece. This might sound a bit corny, but after suffering a tremendous personal loss last spring, the album arrived at just the right time.

Beirut The Flying Cup Club- Left me pining for the old country.

The Shins Wincing the Night Away- I have a friend who think they are boring. I think they are kinda quirky. Unfortunately, they seem to only exist to provide the soundtrack for shows like The Hills, and give critics an easy album to put in their lists for their 'Alternative' pick.

Ghostland Observatory Paparazzi Lightning- Kinda like the White Stripes meet Beck. Funky.

Grinderman- Mr. Cave & Co. give it to us nice and hard.

Klaxons Myths of the Near Future- Tearing a page from the KLF's 'Manual, How to have a Number One Hit the Easy Way', this trio is creating some interesting new sounds.

In Rainbows- After the lackluster 'Hail to the Thief' accompanied by the altogether underwhelming, self-indulgent electronic drivel of Mr. Yorke's 'The Eraser', I really though Radiohead had fallen off the rails. Not so. This record is ok, but nowhere near the high water mark of 'OK Computer'. Suffice to say their pay what you want offering was just.

I'm just sayin'.