10, 9, 8...

After the past few months of complete noneventness hereabouts, I have no right to expect anyone to care what I liked reading/viewing/hearing in 2005, but I do have the right to shout loudly in this empty hall of a blog and admire the echoes. Unfortunately, I can’t repeat last year’s list extravaganza, but you might still find something new here.

Read More · 19 December 2005 ·

The Madwoman’s Underclothes

Like every other thirty-something music junkie in Britain, I’m fascinated by the new Kate Bush album. As fans go, I’m not that fanatical; for years the only Kate records I owned were the Hounds of Love 7”, The Whole Story, The Red Shoes and The Sensual World. But I considered the last to be one of the best albums of the 1980s, so I guess that makes me a bit of a fan. Never felt compelled to explore the early albums, though.

Aerial looks like the one that will compel me. Deceptively low-key on the first few listens, the collective pull of its sixteen modest tugs is strong indeed. Everyone’s mentioning the “washing machine” verse of “Mrs Bartolozzi”, but I can’t get past “Pi” with its early-’70s Pete Townshend synths and the most beautifully sung string of numbers on record. It’s the second disk, though, that makes this the equal of any of her (later) albums; tracks like “Prologue”, “Sunset” and “Aerial” will keep me coming back to it again and again. And while some might see “Aerial Tal” as more evidence of Mad Kate, it takes a rare genius to record something we’ve all done on our happiest, sunniest days: singing along to birdsong.

True, some of the instrumentation sounds dated; many of the soundscapes are familiar from her ’80s and ’90s albums. But because she hasn’t worn them out in the intervening 12 years, they feel less like an artist short of ideas than a familiar signature in the corner of the canvas. If ever there was evidence that it pays not to keep knocking stuff out regardless of inspiration but instead to wait until the inspired moments have accumulated into something substantial, it’s Aerial.

Read More · 11 November 2005 ·


I’ve picked up three long-awaited follow-up albums recently. The first was Beck’s Guero, which follows his drastic change of pace (and my favourite of his), Sea Change. Reviewers called it a return to form, which had the perverse effect of making me hold off on buying it. But now that I have, I reckon they got it wrong; this is one of his best albums, more satisfying than Midnight Vultures or even Mutations. Guero is a loping, laid-back mix of electro retro, Latin flourishes, and Odelay-era inventiveness. It may even tie with that as his second-best album.

Read More · 14 July 2005

Only a week or two since that musical update and a few more albums have lobbed into view already. Not the Coldplay yet, but I have been listening to the Tears, the together-again project by the two key players of Suede Mk 1. The only reasons for not calling this Suede Mk 3, as far as I can see, are (a) Brett Anderson’s embarrassment over their last album, and (b) Bernard Butler’s embarrassment over leaving before they recorded their best one. Still, Butler was part of their second-best, and this sounds very much like a continuation from Dog Man Star, if not really a match for it. Here Come the Tears even prompted me to listen to A New Morning again, which is not that awful, just uninspiring. Unfortunately, I suspect I’ll end up thinking the same about this, and going back, as I always do, to Coming Up.

Read More · 9 June 2005 ·

Beat on the Baton

Normally I’m not one for web memes, but Ed has lobbed the musical one in my direction, and it’s as good a way as any to write a few words about what I’ve been listening to since my month-long reviewing marathon in December. He blames my Neal Stephenson devotion for the extended silence, but I still haven’t even finished Quicksilver; too heavy for the bus, so progress is slow. No, the truth is I’ve been more into ripping and rediscovering old CDs than in finding new stuff. But there have been some exceptions...

Read More · 26 May 2005 ·

Ramblin’ Band

There’s something depressingly familiar about half of the reviews of Lemon Jelly’s newie, ’64-’95. “Wallpaper music”, “inoffensive”, “soulless”: depressing, because they’re so at odds with my impression of the album; and familiar, because I heard it all before during my days as an Oldfield obsessive (the irony being that I’d use the same terms to describe some of his newer releases, but that’s as maybe).

It’s irritating to see people bag the Jelly’s packaging as some kind of “brand loyalty” exercise (when they’ve said in interviews that it loses them money, but they just like doing it) while missing the entire point of the music. Lemon Jelly, like our Mike, are all about the build and the uplift; about creating musical landscapes you’d happily lose yourself in.

Read More · 20 March 2005 ·

Music in 2004