A Charming Man, really… Johnny Marr’s “Set The Boy Free” autobiography

Johnny Marr recently published his long-expected autobiography and the least I could say is that I was eager to read it. More precisely, I really wanted to get his side of the story in regards to the excellent and funny book written by Morrissey, his partner in seminal band The Smiths. So how good is it? Verdict below

Image result for set the boy free

In terms of style, I guess Johnny Marr’s writing is probably the opposite of how Morrissey wrote his book: straight to the point, no bullshit and the story written factually as things occurred, no more, no less. It probably means this is not the kind of book one would read if one does not have any interest at all in British music from the 80’s and 90’s as the real jewel of the book is the story and the anecdotes, rather than the style. For instance, Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” would be different as one not interested in music could find great reward in reading that book and its values.

On the other side, for those who grew during this period and would like to know more about what happened behind the scenes, this is a fantastic book. For French guys not necessarily at ease with reading books in English, this is the one for you as I cannot see you getting any difficulties in understanding it all. Not the way I would describe Morrissey’s book for instance…

Johnny Marr, Rock en Seine 2013 (4)

So what do we learn?

  • Confirmation that the Smiths broke up for no real reason apart probably from the fact they did not have any proper manager and that Johnny Marr was fed up to do it all by himself
  • Johnny Marr is really a good guy for whom friendship and solidarity are not concepts. Description of his pact with The The’s Matt Johnson or the way he helped Oasis‘ Noel Gallagher by giving him his own guitars are a must to read. I have read also in detail all the pages where he writes about Morrissey and it is amazing how he keeps on saying nice things about his former partner
  • Johnny Marr is first and foremost a musician, like Bernard Butler for instance. It means that sometimes you lead great bands, that sometimes you are privileged to play with the greats like Keith Richards or Paul McCartney and that sometimes you collaborate on other bands’ projects…and that’s it really
  • Guys who run are great but those you know me already knew that
  • Nothing beats summer holidays in Wales near the beach
  • Oasis’ Liam Gallagher real nickname is Mr. Fish!
  • An amazing event occurred in September 2008
  • Quote of the book when Johnny Marr was interviewed after Michael Jackon’s death about what were “Thriller”‘s favourite songs of his: ” I didn’t like “Thriller”, I was in The Smiths

Teenage Cancer Trust Festival, Johnny Marr / Paul Weller, Royal Albert Hall, 27th March 2015

The Jam, The Smiths, The Who, on stage together…and I was there ! Ok, ok, I am slightly embellishing the gig I went to recently as these bands did not actually played but a few of their original members were there.

Roger Daltrey, Teenage Cancer Trust Festival 2015

Held for the 15th edition once again in the gorgeous Royal Albert Hall, the Teenage Cancer Trust charity association has been supported for a long time by Roger Daltrey of the Who and every year at the early stages of spring the creme de la creme of British artists are present to help this good cause.

Johnny Marr, Teenage Cancer Trust Festival 2015

Johnny Marr was the opening act of the night I had chosen to attend and the former guitarist of the Smiths was on top form. Although I found his latest LP so-so, I must admit that the 10-song set he played was excellent with a very good balance of songs from his two solo albums, one cover, three The Smiths songs and the marvellous “Getting Away With It” from Electronic, the band he formed in the late 80’s/early 90’s with Bernard Sumner (New Order) and Neil Tennant (Pet Shop Boys).

Weller on guitar, Teenage Cancer Trust Festival 2015

After a break when Roger Daltrey appeared on stage with teenagers and young adults to promote the Trust and their actions (and a very moving movie shown on-screen), Paul Weller arrived on stage, fit and young as ever at 56. With no major change in his band compared to the recent shows of his I went to in Paris, he played a great focused set taking here and there in all his albums…apart from probably his best one “Wild Wood“. It meant not one song from his days with The Jam or The Style Council (the man is stubborn…) but many new songs from his next-to-come LP but as well a bunch of old ones from his first fantastic “Paul Weller” LP. I must say that listening live to songs such as “Kosmos” or “Uh Huh Oh Yeh” was a great personal experience.

Weller on piano, Teenage Cancer Trust Festival 2015

On top of it, the event everybody was hoping for occurred when Johnny Marr came back on stage to play an old Motown cover song with the rest of the band. A first-time in the UK as I read it already happened in the past in the US…and probably not a one-off as both men are talking about collaborating in the future.

Weller & Marr!, Teenage Cancer Trust Festival 2015

33 1/3 Book Series : a must for all music fans

This series might be known from a few readers of this blog but as they recently reached their 100th volume, I thought writing a post on it was a way to share my never-ending enthusiasm.

33 1/3 Series

Edited by Bloomsbury in the US, the idea is a simple one : each potential author submits to the editor the name of an album on which he/she would like to write an around 150-page book, hoping he/she will be chosen. What started as a good idea with a bit of hope for success has now turned a must-to-have amongst music lovers. This series is now very successful and there are more and more suggestions coming from all over the world.

I personally bought my first volume in 2009 in Phoenix Arizona @ Stinkweeds store (Joy Division’s “Unknown Pleasures” by Chris Ott – volume #9) and must admit my addiction to these series ever since. What is particularly enjoyable is that all authors have their personal means in telling their album stories and through many different ways : precise and analytical description of the genesis of the album, philosophical dimension around it, how it ties with the author’s personal story, etc…

Please find below a subjective choice of four volumes as really every volume is worth the reading :

  • The Smiths “Meat is Murder” by Joe Pernice – volume #5. In which Joe Pernice (singer of the recommended Scud Mountain Boys / Pernice Brothers) writes a novel about the presence of this LP around a kid/girlfriend storyline

  • Nick Drake “Pink Moon” by Amanda Petrusich – volume #51. In which the author discovers a song through a car adverting. That song happens to be sung by one of the greatest songwriters ever by the way…

  • Slint “Spiderland” by Scott Tennent – volume #75. In which the author tells the whole story of this 2-album band whose 2nd LP is a classic of the so-called slo-core scene. To understand what music really means for those who live it.

  • Serge Gainsbourg “Histoire de Melody Nelson” by Darran Anderson- volume 87. In which the author emphasizes the importance of this album for all music lovers and in particular the non French-speaking ones. I have never read a book that made you want so much to listen to the songs.

 

2014 Top 15 records

Here we are again… Another year behind us and our recurrent review of the past year and its best records. 2014 was quite a weird year as I felt the overall quality and choice of music was amazing and diverse but at the same time there were not the few killer LP’s that one will remember in 20 or 30 years’ time (hello Kanye West, Daft Punk or Nick Cave in the previous years). However, as in every year, choosing only a few LP’s was a difficult task, excluding either old favourites (Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Jack White, TV on the Radio or The Horrors amongst others) or excellent records that made the professional rock critics’ choices (The War On Drugs, Run the Jewels, FKA Twigs or St. Vincent). Anyway, these are the usual rules of the game so let’s start our Festive Top 15!

2014 Favourite Musical…Thing : Foo Fighters “Sonic Highways”

…thing and not strictly speaking record as we are talking here about a documentary plus the record itself. For those who live in an entire different galaxy, Foo Fighters have been for around twenty years the band driven by Dave Grohl (former drummer of a quite famous band called Nirvana…). I do not have in mind another example of one person having so much success and music credibility in two different bands, knowing he does not play drums but guitar in the Foo Fighters (yes, there was as well Joy Division/New Order…but this is different). Every Foo Fighters record in the past years has been a reward as far as I am concerned especially when one goes over the first layer of their music and finds beauty and subtlety beyond the noisy surface. This new record was based on a clear principle : 8 one-hour documentary episodes about great American cities (namely Chicago, Washington DC, Nashville, Austin, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Seattle and New York) all directed by Dave Grohl . The band’s new tracks had to be recorded in each city in a legendary studio. The results are beautiful and I recommend to watch the entire series before enjoying the record. Is it without any doubt the best record of the year and one that will count in the years to come ? Not sure… Is it the product around music that gave me by far the most emotion throughout the year. Not one hesitation. Watch it and listen to the record.

The rest of the Top 15 records in alphabetical order

 Damon Albarn “Everyday Robots” Quite surprising but this was the first “real” solo album of Damon Albarn, one of the most hardest-working man in show business after his adventures with Blur, Gorillaz, The Good The Bad & The Queen, Mali Music, etc… A great surprise to be honest as I had not been that enthusiastic with the man lately but here he made a very focused and excellent record… and in particular one of the most beautiful songs of these last years with “Heavy Seas of Love” with Brian Eno.

 The Both “The Both” You will not find this album anywhere else, which I do not understand as it was my almost-number 1 and I spent a few days hesitating… Yes, real important things in life, I know… This is the project of indie rocker Ted Leo (voice and guitar) and the great Aimee Mann (voice and guitar). I must admit I am not really objective about Aimee Mann as she is one of my favourite female voices ever and I would find arguments to love her if she were to sing the phone book. If you like punchy, melodic, subtle guitar rock, do the effort and you will be rewarded by this hidden treasure.

 Broken Bells “After The Disco” Another project from two quite active characters of the music scene, Broken Bells are James Mercer of The Shins and Danger Mouse who is one half of Gnarls Barkley and probably the most requested producer of these last fifteen years. Their first self titled record from 2010 was good but this one went a step forward. Melancholic 4 am dance pop music when things are desperate and full of hope.

 Mac DeMarco “Salad Days” I had seen Mac DeMarco and his band a few years ago and even if one could feel a great potential in their songs and melody, their slacker attitudes was a bit tough to cope on during a full record or show. Complete change with this wonderful album and although the Canadian would hate me for me saying it, he has changed and improved his art with a sense of maturity. This guy might well be one of the classic songwriters of our times so discover him if not done yet.

 Flying Lotus “You’re Dead!” The electronica movement has been more dynamic than ever this year and LP’s by Sohn or SBTRKT were really close to be in the list this year. I chose Flying Lotus as his music is an amazing mix of sounds (jazz, hip-hop, dance, jungle) one can listen at home, in clubs or through one’s headphones. Being the grandnephew of Alice and John Coltrane does not bring a bad DNA neither…

 Kelis “Food” I had lost interest in her for a long time and her latest records were only Ok-ish but what a come-back this year ! For those who are not that young, Kelis entered the musical world with strength at the young age of 19 in 1998 with her first Neptunes-produced LP “Kaleidoscope” and was married to the excellent rap singer Nas. She found an equal interest in cooking and food in the last years and became a chef. Her last LP was based on her two passions and was produced by David Sitek from TV On The Radio. For those who like soul with a modern touch.

 Little Dragon “Nabuma Rubberband” Fronted by the female singer Yukimi Nagano, Little Dragon is a Swedish band which has been doing records throughout the 00’s with a funk/pop/rock formula that found the perfect formula this year with this record. Melodies to hum in the shower and a sense of melancholia made it one of the records that everyone should love, from demanding rock fans to those who love their pop music nice and easy.

 Florent Marchet “Bambi Galaxy” Not sure if living now in London is what explains the fact that there are two French records in the list this year… I had always found Florent Marchet’s music interesting but sometimes on the verge of being slightly irritating. This record is completely different as one can feel this is going to be great from the first note onwards. French-speakers will like the Gainsbourg-influenced lyrics but everyone should succumb to the charms of this cosmic and very emotional music. The kind of future we would imagine sounding like when we were young in the 70’s or 80’s.

 Metronomy “Love Letters” Their former record “The English Riviera” was our LP of the year in 2011 and remains without any doubt in the Top 10 record of the 2010’s. Their latest LP did not have the same immediate sense of greatness but was one of these records rewarding you little by little. Great and simple melodies and a “je ne sais quoi” that made it part of this list without any doubt. Live review here.

 Morrissey “World Peace Is None Of Your Business” Poor unlucky Stephen Patrick Morrissey… Despite a weakening health, he eventually came back on top artistic form and delivered the record we had been waiting for more than twenty years for such a talent… only to see his new record label not really promoting it and getting rid of the former The Smiths singer after a few months. Pity as seeing him back on top of his game after his great autobiography last year was a real pleasure. Re-discover him. Live review here.

  Spoon “They Want My Soul” This Austin, Texas band keeps on making excellent records on an impressive regular basis and one can only appreciate the fact that Spoon start to get more and more famous over their historic fan-base. In line with this year’s selection which has been strongly based on melodic songs-oriented artists, to my mind this is impossible not to like their mix of krautrock and catchy songs. Live review here.

 Sun Kil Moon “Benji” Another busy year for Mark Kozelek between solo concerts, collaborations and this new record under the Sun Kill Moon banner. Beautiful and long songs about death amongst friends and relatives sung with an acoustic guitar with his as-usual fantastic voice. One of this blog’s favourite artists. Live review here.

 Sebastien Tellier “L’Aventura” Our favourite French bearded excentric singer/songwriter, Sebastien Tellier was back this year with a beautiful LP recorded in Brazil. To be listened without prejudice and almost with the ears of a child to be able to jump in the direct, complex and inventive melodies of this album.

 Ben Watt “Hendra” This is Ben Watt’s second album…thirty one years after “North Marine Drive”. In the meantime, he was the driving force behind Everything but the Girl with wife Tracey Thorn, felt very ill, had three children, went on being a well-respected DJ, wrote two beautiful books… and here we were in 2014 with album number 2. Exactly the record I was expecting and hoping to be honest, which does not mean it was not one of the best of the year. Former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler very much involved as well. Could be your late night record or your Sunday morning one depending on your mood.

Other top 5’s :

  • New Musical Express (UK weekly mag.): 1. St. Vincent “St. Vincent” 2. Mac DeMarco “Salad Days” 3. The War On Drugs ”Lost In The Dream” 4. Aphex Twin ”Syro5. Caribou “Our Love”
  • Uncut (UK monthly mag.): 1. The War On Drugs “Lost In The Dream” 2. Leonard Cohen “Popular Problems” 3. Aphex Twin “Syro” 4. FKA Twigs “LP1” 5. Sharon Van Etten “Are We There”
  • Mojo (UK monthly mag.): 1. Beck “Morning Phase” 2. The War On Drugs “Lost In The Dream” 3. Sleaford Mods “Divide And Exit” 4. Jack White “Lazaretto” 5. St. Vincent “St. Vincent”
  • Paste (US web mag.): 1. The War On Drugs “Lost In The Dream” 2. St. Vincent “St. Vincent” 3. Run The Jewels “Run The Jewels 2” 4. King Tuff “Black Moon Spell” 5. Alvvays “Alvvays”
  • Pitchfork (US website): 1. Run The Jewels “Run the Jewels 2” 2. FKA Twigs “LP1” 3. The War On Drugs “In The Dream” 4. Aphex Twin “Syro” 5. Grouper “Ruins”
  • Les Inrockuptibles (French weekly mag.): 1. Christine and the Queens “Chaleur Humaine” 2. Damon Albarn “Everyday Robots” 3. Mac DeMarco “Salad Days” 4. FKA Twigs “LP1” 5. Frànçois & the Atlas Mountains “Piano Ombre”
  • Magic rpm (French monthly mag.): 1. Ariel Pink “pom pom” 2. Metronomy “Love Letters” 3. Donovan Blanc “Donovan Blanc” 4. Frànçois & the Atlas Mountains “Piano Ombre” 5. Mac DeMarco “Salad Days”
  • New Noise (French bimester mag.): to be announced soon!
  • Sound Opinions (US music podcast) Greg Kot’s 1. Kelis “Food” 2. Protomartyr “Under Color of Official Right” 3. Benjamin Booker “Benjamin Booker” 4. Mary J. Blige “The London Sessions” 5. Wussy “Attica!” Jim DeRogatis’ 1. Against Me! “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” 2. Ex Hex “Rips” 3. Le Butcherettes “Cry Is For The Flies” 4. Aphex Twin “Syro” 5. Shellac “Dude Incredible”
  • Other Music (NY records store): Top 30 in no particular order
  • Rough Trade (London records store) : 1. Temples “Sun Structures” 2. The War On Drugs “Lost In The Dream” 3. Todd Terje “It’s Album Time” 4. Metronomy “Love Letters” 5. Little Dragon “Nabuma Rubberband”

It’s 1985 again ! Bob Mould, 18th November 2014, Village Underground / The Jesus and Mary Chain, 24th November 2014, Troxy / Morrissey, 29th November 2014, O2 Arena

The Queen is Dead“, “Hardly Getting Over It“, “Just Like Honey“, “Asleep“, “Never Understand“, “Hoover Dam“,… here is a sample of the fantastic songs I was lucky to listen to sung by the artists who created them in the first place. Let me add that they were all in great shape (ok, William Reid might have taken a few extra pounds…) despite all having a dark passenger in the late 90’s/early 00’s. But this is the beauty of rock music, one of the rare places where second acts are still an option and real talent always there somehow. Here are a few comments on these shows that were all occurring in the Eastern districts of beautiful London city.

Who : Bob Mould / Opening act : Young Knives / When : 18th November 2014 / Where : Village Underground, London / Place in history : rank # 27 / Setlist here

Bob Mould, Village Underground, November 2014, band
Those who are faithful followers of this blog know how fond I am of Uncle Bob, either for his extraordinary career with Hüsker Dü, Sugar and as a solo artist or for his great personal story, fantastically written in his book “See a little light“.

What is particularly great in Bob Mould’s current reincarnation is the energy and youth one can find in a 54-year old man. One of the reason is probably the trust he has in his current trio with Jason Narducy on bass and Jon Wurster on drums (same band as for the Brussels show in 2012) but as well the peace he found in his inner soul and trust in his art. Peace is probably not the right word by the way as the set was really powerful and the audience really reactive (anyone interested in pogoing with old-fashioned punks?).

Bob Mould, Village Underground, November 2014, Bob singing

That might have been the only regret of this concert held in the beautiful bricked wall-venue. The man is so good in slow and introspective songs that seeing only his hardcore side is sometimes a bit frustrating. But great show overall and looking forward to seeing him next time.

Who : The Jesus and Mary Chain / Opening act : The Amazing Snakeheads / When : 24th November 2014 / Where : Troxy, London / Place in history : rank # 69 / Setlist here

The JAMC, Troxy, November 2014, Reid brothers

Last time I had seen The Jesus and Mary Chain on stage was in 2007 at Rock en Seine in Paris and I really thought that it would be the last time as it looked the relationship between brothers Jim and William Reid was as tense as ever. This is probably what has made this Scottish band so great throughout they years : internal tension and a very clear attitude about their art and the limits above which not to go and not to compromise.

The JAMC, Troxy, November 2014, Jim Reid

As a consequence, this current mini-tour was a real gift and to add up to the reward the set was dedicated to their first LP “Psychocandy” (NME Album of the Year in 1985). The above-mentioned album was played beautifully but moreover they were smart enough to start the set with a few other classics of their own. To my mind, it might have been of their best concerts. Here, maturity means integrity as the songs were played with Jim Reid singing better than ever and William reminding everyone that he must be one of the most underrated guitarists of our times. Happy to have you back guys.

Who : Morrissey / Opening act : Anna Calvi / When : 29th November 2014 / Where : 02, London / Place in history : rank # 30 (with The Smiths) / Setlist here
Morrissey, O2 Arena, November 2014, Band

London was holding yesterday evening Morrissey’s only date of his current tour. Although it looked a bit ambitious at first and in particular when watching poor Anna Calvi trying to give a bit of emotion and life to her great songs in such a big arena, the place was actually full when the great man arrived on stage. Wearing white clothes of an uncertain style (between the Loveboat series and workingman overalls) and hugging his crew of mainly American musicians all wearing beautiful “FUCK HARVEST RECORDS” tee-shirts, one could feel a certain emotion on stage and a real and beautiful connection with the British and Toulouse (South West of France) audience.

This is not a secret that Morrissey is currently not in his best-ever health shape but one should not be surprised when reading his fantastic biography as he can already consider himself a real survivor amongst his peers. But this was difficult to spot when seeing his energy and enthusiasm on stage. On top of it, I really found his voice close to perfection last night, even when he sang tricky slow ones.

Morrissey, O2 Arena, November 2014, singing on screen

The show really confirmed that his last LP “World Peace is none of your business” is really amongst his best ones. Although one could regret that Stephen Patrick Morrissey did not sing more tracks from his the Smiths and solo repertoire (as all done live at the O2 were amazing), the overall level of the quality of the set plus the emotion felt made it one of the best shows of the year.

Morrissey – Autobiography… or how to cope at best with life and death.

It arrived from nowhere but the object is now here and refusing to read it would be a disgrace. That was my humble tentative to write in Morrissey’s style but I promised I will not give another try such his writing is talented and rich (and mine is not…)

No need to present Morrissey I guess as you know this blog has been cherishing The Smiths for years now. Although less legendary, Morrissey’s solo career has been very interesting and I do not have in mind a real weak Morrissey LP although a few of them are bigger than others.

Morrissey has been quite low-profile concerning this book and it was a real surprise for all to have it available. The fact of being published by Penguin Classics (home of prestigious dead writers such as Dickens and Chekhov) is quite a good summary of what the book is : literate, open, dealing with death, friendship, treason…with lots if humour ! Indeed, the reason this book is such a pleasure is that it works on two levels : one can find of course all the typical facts expected from a musician’s autobiography (the first years as a fan of the New York Dolls, Bowie, Roxy, Patti… ; the first meeting with Johnny Marr, the Smiths years, the solo years, the infamous Court suing from former Smiths drummer Mike Joyce, success in the USA within the Mexican-American community, etc…) but this would not make it different from any other such book (although I must admit it would have been fine with me).

What makes this book amazing is the way Morrissey writes English, his use of the full range of the English vocabulary, the formulas he uses and the constant humour and the self-deprecating attitude. Not only self-deprecating by the way as he makes amazingly funny (but tough) comments on people such as The Judge John Weeks, former Rough Trade manager Geoff Travis, Manchester legend Tony Wilson, Mike Joyce, many journalists,… (the list is endless). Oh…and have in mind too as any unsuccessful records done either by the Smiths or Morrissey were only coming from bad Records’ Company decisions or dishonest reviews in magazines!

What is somewhat quite disturbing throughout Morrissey’s life is the way he is surrounded by people full of life who die from one day to another ; from many members of his Irish-English family to fellow music industry partners, the way these facts keep on happening throughout the book is fascinating. The way he writes about the late great singer Kirsty MacColl is particularly moving.

Well, enough said… as the great man would say. Just have in mind that there is no excuse not to read this book for all the reasons I tried to share above. It will allow you to kill time the right way before the last post coming soon about our very Best of 2014 ; stay tuned !

TOP 100 Artists/Bands of all Times : 26 – 30

30. The Smiths

Image result for the smiths live from : Manchester, England, UK / first great sounds : 80’s / style : jingle Mancunian angst / essential albums : Hatful of Hollow (1984) , Meat is Murder (1985), The Queen is Dead (1986) / Click for more on the blog

The Smiths are considered one of the most important bands ever in the UK and this is true they changed the lives of many people, including your host. With Morrissey on lyrics and voice and Johnny Marr on guitars and music, they had found one of the most creative pair ever and the list of beautiful and great songs is endless. They had as well an amazing intensity in their musical output as they basically last five years (1983-1987). Morrissey has had an interesting solo career with ups and downs and Johnny Marr has been collaborating…with everyone (New Order, Bryan Ferry, The Cribs, Modest Mouse, The The, etc…) but their spark and peak was without any doubt in the Smiths.

29. Nick Drake

 from : Birmingham, England, UK / first great sounds : 60’s / style : warm folk / essential albums : Five Leaves Left (1969), Bryter Layter (1970), Pink Moon (1972)

Dead too early at the age of 26, Nick Drake was virtually unknown when he lived as nobody bought his three indispensable LP’s, despite collaborations with great musicians such as John Cale or Danny Thompson on double bass. His music could be described by folk by the lazy but this is far more than that and on the contrary of the image of miserabilism he can receive, his songs were full of joy and warmth and have a quality in getting you elsewhere. Discover Nick Drake and you will get a lifetime reward.

28. Television

Image result for television band from : New York, NY, USA / first great sounds : 70’s / style : poetic punk rock / essential album : Marquee Moon (1977)

Ah, New York in the late 70’s, my favourite music period ever… Lead by the great Tom Verlaine on voice and guitar, Television’ musical output is inversely proportional to the influence they have had on hundreds of bands. “Marque Moon” is their masterpiece and the kind of records you could/should listen anywhere, whenever you feel it (late night being a right moment to do so) and with which you will discover every time new subtleties, especially in the magical tricks in the guitar sounds.

27. Bob Mould (Hüsker Dü / Sugar)

 from : Minneapolis, MN, USA / first great sounds : 80’s / style : powerful American rock / essential albums : Zen Arcade (1984), Candy Apple Grey (1986), Warehouse : Songs and Stories (1987), Workbook (1989), Copper Blue (1992), Silver Age (2012) / Click for more on the blog

Of course, it would be unfair to forget Grant Hart as co-leader in seminal band Hüsker Dü but for me Bob Mould was the main force in the band and on top of it he has had an amazing career afterwards either on a solo basis or with his second band Sugar. His style is really not revolutionary as he plays powerful rock with emotional lyrics but he does it the perfect way and with such strength and emotion… In the latest movie “This is 40” by Judd Apatow, actor Paul Rudd bears a Bob Mould tee-shirt so, yes, the guy is cool!

26. Dexys Midnight Runners

 from : Birmingham, England, UK / first great sounds : 80’s  / style : Celtic Soul / essential albums : Searching for the Young Soul Rebels (1980), Don’t stand me down (1985), One Day I’m going to soar (2012)

Yes, I know, they did “Come On Eileen”, the song everyone knows… (actually, quite a great song!). But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Dexys Midnight Runners is basically Kevin Rowland’s band in which he tried to create something new mixing a punk rock sensibility with a love of soul music and literature. The results were/are incredible and their music would bring a dead man back to life such powerful and emotional their songs are. The guy is a perfectionist maniac and has been out of the music business for ages ; his come-back last year, although one of the most unexpected one, gave us a tremendous new LP and fantastic shows.

The Smiths : “Complete” Box Set. A great band to (re)discover

All The Smiths ‘ albums have recently been compiled in a box set called “Complete“. We are talking here about 8 CD’s, perfect replicas of original LP’s, including all the albums that went out when the band was alive: 4 studio albums (“The Smiths” (8/10), “Meat Is Murder” (9/10), “The Queen Is Dead” (10/10), “Strangeways, Here We Come” (9/10)), 3 compilations and 1 live album, all for a very cheap price, therefore a perfect gift to request to your old aunt or your father-in-law for Xmas!

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I recently bought it and it made me going back to this fantastic music, which I am not listening to enough now. For those who do not know, The Smiths formed in 1982 and disbanded in 1987. In these five short years, at a time when UK music was split between awful Adult Oriented Rock of the 80’s and fantastic anti-Thacher post punk bands, they brought poetry, dreams, a sense of purpose and overall great guitar-based music. Without diminishing the quality of a very powerful and straightforward rhythm section with Andy Rourke on bass and Mike Joyce on drums (“The Drums” as written in the LP’s notes and whose name influenced current US band “The Drums”), the strength of the band was based on the partnership of Morrissey on vocals and words and Johnny Marr on guitar and music. The “Morrissey-Marr” signature is for me on par with other legendary ones such as “Lennon-McCartney” or “Jagger-Richards”. Morrissey was 23 when the young Johnny Marr then 19 met him and told him that he was sure they would make history together.

Even if a bit cliché to say that Morrissey was the poet and Johnny Marr the musical creator, both took advantage perfectly of the other one’s skills: Morrissey used to be the “New York Dolls” fan-club British president and was very often writing columns in the New Musical Express, thus having a great sense of rock’n’roll knowledge whereas Johnny Marr was a true music fan , spending hours practising on his guitar and listening all day long to Tamla Motown records and past rock bands (The Byrds for instance can be found out in his guitar playing style). Apart from the music, they had a specific attention to their live shows (daffodils anyone?) and to their LP covers (40’s to 60’s movies and music icons such as Sandie Shaw, Alain Delon, James Dean or Jean Marais).

And the songs, wouahhh! : “This Charming Man”, “How Soon is Now”, “The Queen is Dead”, “Heaven knows I’m Miserable now”, “Barbarism begins at home”, “Panic”, etc, etc… Basically all the songs from this box set are good, very good or gorgeous.

After the split of the band, Morrissey went on doing great, interesting or average LP’s whereas Johnny Marr played with everybody in the music business (Bryan Ferry, Talking Heads, The The, Electronic with Barney from New Order, The Cribs, etc..) but both of them never found their soul mates again, thus becoming good instead of great. There are other ways to start with The Smiths and I would recommend the compilation “The Sound of the Smiths” but this box set is so affordable in terms of price that you could start with it directly.

Go there, (re)discover The Smiths and enjoy hours of happiness!

1985, a fantastic year for records: 10 golden eggs!

The general idea here is not to show once more a subjective best of concerning a past year but scientifically proving that one has to go further than the regular clichés about music related to a specific period in time. For anybody, 1985 could appear as a kind of void, stuck between the early 80’s post-punk period and before the arrival of the Madchester era (Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and many others). WRONG! 1985 is a amazing year for records as you may see below (in no particular order). And frankly, apart maybe for a few tracks, major part of these records could have been made at any other decade.

Please click on covers to get more news on albums from the “All Music” site.

Cover (Meat Is Murder:The Smiths) The Smiths: “Meat is Murder” Morrissey and Marr at their top with probably their best LP with “The Queen is dead”.  Contains two of their best songs with “The Headmaster Ritual” and “Barbarism begins at home”. One should never insist enough on the quality of the Morrissey/Marr songwriting and the intensity they both created. As time passed and as our musical knowledge maybe a bit higher than when listening this record at seventeen (!), the diversity of styles is amazing too. (9/10)

Cover (Steve McQueen:Prefab Sprout) Prefab Sprout: “Steve Mc Queen” For the cover, the melodies, the warmth, the weirdness, the genius in 4-minute pop songs and for “When Loves Breaks Down”, thank you Paddy McAloon. (9.5/10)

Cover (Psychocandy:The Jesus and Mary Chain) The Jesus And Mary Chain: “Psychocandy” Ah the Reid brothers…. William and Jim, the internal fights (reminds you of another band?), the accent from Glasgow, the fuzz noises, the Beach Boys melodies, the hits! This record could really go out at any moment in time and has been so influental to musicians and music lovers everywhere.  And contrary to one of our best French journalists forecast at the time, it has aged as well as Jacques Brel. (9.5/10)

Cover (Our Favourite Shop:The Style Council) The Style Council: “Our favourite Shop” After the success of The Jam, Paul Weller surprized all his fans by creating The Style Council with Mick Talbot with the will of more freedom and being able to go a bit away from rock and get closer to his jazz/soul roots. This is their best album and every track is a winner, mixing left-oriented messages (the Thatcher years in the U.K.) amidst great dancing music. And what a great cover, one on which to spend hours (shoes, ties, actors, Curtis Mayfield,…)! (9/10)

Cover (Rain Dogs:Tom Waits)  Tom Waits: “Rain Dogs” First part of Tom Waits’ career was excellent but one was finding in it what one was expecting: piano-bar-late-night-drinking-wolf songs. And then Tow Waits met his wife-to-be Kathleen Brennan on the set of “One from the Heart” from Francis Ford Coppola, changed his approach to music and became the artist we all cherish now. After first groundbreaking LP “Swordfishtrombones” in 1983, Tow Waits went on with “Rain Dogs”, one the best LP’s ever done, mixing atmospheres, weird stories and an incredible musicianship (Keith Richards plays on a couple of tracks). Nobody has ever done such beautiful sounds and everybody should have this album in their records’ collection (if such a thing still exists…) (10/10)

Cover (Don't Stand Me Down:Dexys Midnight Runners) Dexys Midnight Runners: “Don’t stand me down” Apart from the aficionados, who does really know the genius of Kevin Rowland? Three amazing LP’s only but such classy music. I have been listening for “Don’t Stand Me Down” for years and everytime with the same joy and emotion. The LP is based on a kind of dialog betwen Kevin and Bill Graham and bears the most euphoric song I know with “This is what she’s like”. Discover this LP and you will be rewarded (10/10).

Cover (This Nation's Saving Grace:The Fall) The Fall: “This Nation’s saving Grace” The late and great DJ John Peel favourite bands, The Fall has made thousands of records so it may sometimes be difficult to recommend one of them. This is the supposed Fall “peak” period when Mark E. Smith acid words were followed by great music (file under “psychobillypostpunkpsychedelic”…).  As John Peel once said : “The Fall, always the same, always different…” (9/10).

Cover (Low-life:New Order) New Order: “Low Life” Please refer to Peter Hook’s concert review for a brief story of Joy Division and New Order. Just to write down this is to my mind the best New Order record as a LP (and “Perfect Kiss” my prefered New Order song) (9/10).

Cover (Fables of the Reconstruction:R.E.M.) R.E.M.: “Fables of the Reconstruction” The first LP you hear by one of your top bands is always special so I was afraid of not being objective regarding “Fables”. But no, last year reissue with plenty of bonus confirmed that this is singular music, mixing Americana weirdness, jangle-jingle sounds with a huge post-punk UK influence (the fact that this album had been recorded in the U.K. is not a coincidence). When Stipe/Mills/Berry/Buck were cutting edge music makers… (9/10)

Cover (Virgins and Philistines:The Colour Field)  The Colourfield: “Virgins and Philistines”  Terry Hall’s third musical project after the Specials and Fun Boy Three, The Colourfield is probably his less famous as it only lasted for a few years and two LP’s. I may not have the talent neither in English, nor in French to express my feelings about this glorious LP so please listen (or alternately click on the cover to read a nice review about it). Amazing out-of-time music, like a musical comedy where everything could hang suspended in the air. The fact that the blog you read bears this name is self-explanatory (10/10)

Also more than recommended:

The Cure “The Head on the Door”, Madness “Mad not mad”, Nick Cave “The first Born is dead”, Sonic Youth “Bad Moon rising”, Prince And The Revolution “Around the World in a Day”, Tears For Fears: “Songs from the Big Chair”, The Pale Fountains “…From across the Kitchen Table”, Hüsker Dü “New Day rising”, The Pogues: “Rum, Sodomy and the Lash”, The Dream Academy “The Dream Academy”, Kate Bush “Hounds of Love”, Microdisney “The Clock comes down the Stairs”, Propaganda “A Secret Wish”, Talking Heads “Little Creatures” and Big Audio Dynamite “This is Big Audio Dynamite”.

And here is a summer 2011 update! All Music had done as well as the same time I did this 1985 selection their records of that same year. Click to find out the results!

Best of 2008

Vous étiez quinze puis deux cents et vous êtes désormais des millions (mais chacun si différent) à réclamer la liste. En ces temps de crise, que chacun reçoive un brot d’eau, un quignon de pain, une paillasse et de la bonne musique !

Une année bizarre musicalement parlant car de plus en plus de nouveaux groupes, d’autres à peine apparus qui disparaissent, plus personne qui n’achète des disques, des places de concert souvent à 120 Euro (à quand un emprunt spécial concert ?), le DVD qui n’assume plus son rôle de relais, etc.. Allez, on ne va pas rester sur des souvenirs tristos et rentrons donc dans le vif du sujet.

 

Album de l’année 2008

Plush : Fed

 

Contrairement à l’an dernier, on a privilégié un album un peu hors du temps, fait par un dandy avec son monde à lui. Mais quel choc émotionnel dès les premières notes de guitare qui se détachent ! Cet album a été réalisé par un certain Liam Hayes qui a notamment travaillé avec Will Oldham de Palace. On sait peu de chose sur le bonhomme et c’est d’ailleurs cette part de secret qui est excitante, un peu comme quand on découvrait autrefois un album au casque sur la platine pour la première fois. Ce n’est d’ailleurs même pas réellement une sortie de 2008 car il était sorti au Japon seulement dès 2002 mais n’est disponible dans nos contrées occidentales que depuis 2008. Un album ambitieux avec des arrangement magnifiques pour tous ceux qui aiment les artistes qui sortent du lot. Album of the Year!

 

Les 14 autres (par ordre alphabétique) :

Adem : Takes

De son vrai nom Adem Ilhan, ce Britannique vient de la scène électro avec notamment le groupe Fridge (avec le fantastique Kieran Hebden dont les disques en solo sous le nom de Four Tet sont fortement recommandés). Mais ici c’est une voie différente et même acoustique qu’il nous propose avec des reprises très personnelles de PJ Harvey, Aphex Twin ou encore Smashing Pumpkins. Le disque le plus zen de l’année.

Bon Iver : For Emma, Forever Ago

Mais oui, Bon Iver comme Bon Hiver in French ! Justin a tout plaqué dans la cité (groupe, amis, copine), a pris ce surnom (expression employée par les locaux quand il fait froid) et a noyé son spleen dans la vieille cabane paternelle perdue au milieu d’une forêt du Wisconsin (véridique !). Il nous a sorti un album très intimiste, à écouter autour de la cheminée. Et vive la musique triste !

Daniel Darc : Amours Suprêmes

On était passé un peu à côté du disque de retour de l’ancien chanteur de Taxi Girl et ses performances scéniques avait plus inspiré du respect humain que de l’enthousiasme musical. Et puis on tombe sur cet album dont on n’attendait rien mais dans lequel on prend tout. Des musiques toujours géniales de son compère Frédéric Lo à ses paroles toujours au couteau avec un grand sens des mélodies, on s’incline devant Daniel.

Death Cab For Cutie : Narrow Stairs

Ben Gibbard et son groupe Death Cab For Cutie (chanson du film Magical Mystery Tour de The Beatles) font partie de ces musiciens du patrimoine américain qui vendent beaucoup de disques tout en vivant dans un relatif anonymat. Pourquoi donc plus cet album que d’autres ; eh bien sans doute pour la qualité des intros des morceaux et des ambiances dans lesquelles on s’installe (rien à voir mais les amateurs de The Cure sauront de quoi on veut parler…)

The Last Shadow Puppets : The Age Of Understatement

Difficile de ne pas retrouver Alex Turner des Arctic Monkeys dans notre palmarès. Cette année, suite à une amitié liée en tournée avec leurs groupes respectifs, il s’est uni à Miles Kane (The Rascals) pour cet album à influence Scott Walker ou David Bowie toute première période Decca avec l’aide de l’arrangeur des cordes d’Arcade Fire. Un projet enthousiasmant et une nouvelle réussite pour Alex Turner.

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks : Real Emotional Trash

L’ancien leader de Pavement a enfin retrouvé la formule magique de son ancien groupe (formule qu’il oublie d’ailleurs parfois sur scène…). Au menu : des mélodies magnifiques, des arrangements compliqués et surtout ce qu’on adorait chez Pavement, ce mélange de punk américain dans le format des chansons et de rock US des 70’s dans les solos de guitare. Welcome back Stephen !

Merz : Moi et mon Camion

Un disque totalement passé inaperçu et pourtant quel merveilleux mélodiste. Merz est le surnom que s’est choisi le natif de Bristol Conrad Lambert et dans cet album il nous narre les différents déménagements personnels vécus ces dernières années (hence the title…). Un album dans lequel on se sent bien.

MGMT : Oracular Spectacular

Difficile de passer à côté de ce nouveau groupe américain en 2008 tant leurs chansons nous ont accompagnés dans nos lecteurs mp3, sur scène, dans les palmarès de fin d’année, voire même au générique de l’Euro! Mais une reconnaissance méritée tant ce groupe est inventif et doué. A suivre pour voir comment ils sauront gérer la hype qui les accompagne. Indispensable en tout cas cette année.

Portishead : Third

La plus grande surprise de l’année. Déjà, le fait qu’ils refassent de la musique 10 ans après. Mais en plus cette musique ! On craignait le trip trip-hop, genre disque à mettre en soirée quand on reçoit ses amis en musique de fond, soit la négation absolue de la musique, mais non point. Une intro en brésilien et tac c’est parti et ça dépote ; puis s’enchainent les morceaux fabuleux avec la voix de Beth Gibbons qui chante comme si sa vie en dépendait. A mettre en musique de fond si vos amis sont fans de Sunn O))).

R.E.M. : Accelerate

L’album qui a disparu de tous les classements de fin d’année… On l’a donc ré-écouté pour conclure que, oui, c’est bien le R.EM. qu’on avait découvert il y a plus de 20 ans, avec des arpèges de guitare, des morceaux de pur rock, la voix incroyable et mystérieuse de Michael Stipe.

Shearwater : Rook

Longtemps en balance avec Plush pour le titre d’album de l’année. Shearwater est un groupe américain dont le leader Jonathan Meiburg a une voix qui rappelle de manière troublante celle de Mark Hollis dans les derniers Talk Talk. On retrouve donc le côté américain très rock et libéré avec des plages plus européennes où l’accent est mis sur la voix et les ambiances. Un disque exceptionnel.

TV On The Radio : Dear Science

Quel plaisir de retrouver nos leaders de 2006 pour un album qui perd peut-être dans l’expérimental ce qu’il gagne en sensualité. Des musiciens exceptionnels, des voix démentes et un producteur à la pointe avec David Sitek (cf. plus bas). Et toujours ce mélange indéfinissable entre les Cocteau Twins et la soul Motown.

Vampire Weekend : Vampire Weekend

2ème groupe de l’Est des USA le plus hype de l’année après MGMT, ces musiciens au look d’étudiants d’Harvard nous font un dosage savant entre rock US et rythmes africains sous influence Graceland de Paul Simon. Le disque qui nous a sans doute donné le plus le sourire aux lèvres cette année.

Kanye West : 808s & Heartbreak

Le seul qui reste dans la liste par rapport à l’an dernier est celui sur lequel on aurait le moins parié. Et pourtant, Kanye West nous livre un album qui est tout sauf du hip-hop, avec une voix travaillée à l’auto-tune et dans lequel il se met à nu suite à des événements personnels douloureux. Une suite de morceaux ni commencés, ni finis mais qui sont les plus attachants entendus depuis longtemps dans ce monde hip-hop où on préfère souvent mettre en avant ses dollars et ses décapotables plutôt que son vague à l’âme.

 

Tout près de cette liste (pêle mêle) :

-> les jeunes : Fleet Foxes, Born Ruffians, Black Kids, Glasvegas, Santogold, My Morning Jacket, The Black Keys, Gnarls Barkley, Elbow, Foals, The Week That Was, Bloc Party, Peter Broderick (pour ceux qui aimeront Bon Iver), Friendly Fires (pour ceux qui aiment Talking Heads), School Of Language, Get Well Soon, Fujiya & Miyagi.

-> les vieux : Tindersticks, Paul Weller, Nine Inch Nails, Spiritualized, Deus, Beck, Leila, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Oasis, Mercury Rev, Aimee Mann.

 

Meilleur DVD

Various : From the Basement

Le meilleur d’une émission de la TV anglaise dans laquelle on peut voir les musiciens jouer en live mais sans public. Des performances exceptionnelles de Sonic Youth et Radiohead en particulier.

 

Meilleur Single

Midnight Juggernauts : Shadow

Ce morceau ou d’ailleurs n’importe lequel de l’album de Midnight Juggernauts, ce groupe australien découvert aux Eurockéennes de Belfort. Les fans de Justice ou de Daft Punk adoreront.

 

Meilleur Coffret

The Jesus and Mary Chain : The Power of Negative Thinking

Un titre qui en dit long sur l’énergie qui animait les frères Reid de Glasgow à leurs débuts avec souvent des sets de 15 minutes montre en main qui finissaient en émeute. Mais sur le plan musical peu de groupes ont aussi bien intégré l’héritage du Velvet Underground. Un magnifique coffret de 4 CDs, bourré d’inédits et de reprises. Comme quoi, 25 ans après, on peut parler de The Jesus and Mary Chain comme de Jacques Brel.

 

Meilleure Compilation

The Smiths : The Sound of the Smiths 

C’est certes sans doute la 512ème compilation des Smiths mais c’est de loin la plus complète de toutes. Et quel groupe!

 

Reissue of the Year

David Bowie : Live Santa Monica ’72

C’est toujours émouvant de retrouver un artiste en plein phase d’ascension. C’est ce qu’était David Bowie dans ce concert resté pirate des siècles avant d’être proprement réédité pour le plaisir de nos oreilles.

 

Man of the Year : Tom Waits

Le plaisir et l’honneur de l’avoir vu enfin en concert dans nos contrées avec un spectacle époustouflant. Et également ce disque OVNI de reprises par Scarlet Johanson produit par David Sitek de TV on the Radio. Comme il le dit lui-même, elle chante dans cet album un peu comme si Cendrillon avait pris trop de sirop contre la toux…

 

D’autres TOP 10

– NME (fanzine british) :

1.MGMT – Oracular Spectacular

2.TV On The Radio – Dear Science

3.Glasvegas – Glasvegas

4.Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

5.Foals – Antidotes

6.Metronomy – Nights Out

7.Santogold – Santogold

8.Mystery Jets – Twenty One

9.Kings Of Leon – Only By The Night

10.Friendly Fires – Friendly Fire

– Paste (best US mag.) :

  1. She & Him – Volume One
  2. Sigur Rós – Med sud i eyrum vid spilum endalaust
  3. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
  4. Bon Iver- For Emma, Forever Ago
  5. Okkervil River – The Stand Ins
  6. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
  7. Girl Talk – Feed the Animals
  8. Sun Kil Moon – April
  9. Lucinda Williams – Little Honey
  10. Deerhunter- Microcastle

 

– Les Inrocks (more music please) :

  1. MGMT : Oracular Spectacular
  2. Fleet Foxes : Fleet Foxes
  3. Vampire Weekend : Vampire Weekend
  4. Santogold : Santogold
  5. The Last Shadow Puppets : The Age Of The Understatement
  6. Kanye West : 808s & Heartbreak
  7. Portishead : Third
  8. TV On The Radio : Dear Science
  9. Sébastien Tellier : Sexuality
  10. Bon Iver : For Emma, Forever Ago

 

– Mojo (Rock Bible Mag.) :

  1. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
  2. Last Shadow Puppets – Age of the Understatement
  3. Paul Weller – 22 Dreams
  4. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
  5. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!
  6. Hold Steady – Stay Positive
  7. Glasvegas – Glasvegas
  8. The Week That Was – The Week That Was
  9. The Bug (Kevin Martin) – London Zoo
  10. Neil Diamond – Home Before Dark

 

– Pitchfork (best music web site in the world) :

1 Fleet Foxes – Sun Giant EP/Fleet Foxes

2 Portishead – Third

3 No Age – Nouns

4 Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours

5 Deerhunter – Microcastle / Weird Era Cont.

6 TV On The Radio – Dear Science

7 Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

8 M83 – Saturdays=Yout

9 Hercules and Love Affair – Hercules and Love Affair

10 DJ/rupture – Uproot

 

– Ground Zero (où acheter ses disques à Paris ?) : pas de Top 10 cette année mais un TOP 25 sans ordre. Allez voir sur le site et allez acheter des disques chez Ground Zero!

 

Pas de déprime en 2009 ; on sortira toujours quelques minutes de la morosité en se mettant un petit Led Zep à fond !

 

Bonne année à tous!