Archive for December, 2009

My Top Ten Albums of 2009

December 31, 2009

Hey folks. Another year, another chance to look back over twelve months and see what’s been rocking my socks off. Now I should be clear: There’s a lot of music out there I don’t give a monkey’s about and so I haven’t listened to it. I haven’t listened to Lady Gaga because I’m a 35 year old straight man – she’s not aimed at me. Similarly most of the indie bobbins out there is aimed at people who go to Motorhead gigs ironically and then spend all night taking photos of themselves to post on Twitter – again, I’m not the target demographic.

So this is just the stuff I’ve stumbled across and liked. Maybe you’ll like it too.

In no particular order:

Touchdown – Brakes

This is probably best described as Indie pop with a touch of Country and the occasional blast of glam rock. The closest comparison I can make, with some reservations, is The Shins. The album starts with the pulsing Two Shocks, moves through chiming guitar pop, a gospel style hoedown and ripping off Roxy Music riffs.

It really is an album with a surprise around every corner and consequently it’s one of my favourites this year.

Watch Me Fall – Jay Reatard

Reatard seems to have a knack for pissing people off. There’s that awful name for one. He’s got into fights with his audience and angered his band to the point where they deserted him mid-tour. So it’s quite surprising to find that his music is not just snotty punk rock but fantastically skillful pop music with an undercurrent of psych. This album rattles through 32 minutes in no time at all and the quality is high throughout.

The Prodigy – Invaders Must Die

I wasn’t as disappointed with “Always Outnumbered” as many Prodigy fans, however even I can agree that this is a fantastic comeback. For this album they seem to have married the best elements of the first two albums to the punk attitude they discovered on Fat of the Land meaning they’ve pulled off a brilliant trick of invoking their past without repeating themselves.

Let’s Wrestle – In the Court of the Wrestling Let’s

And the award for the best album title goes to In the Court of the Wrestling Let’s! The album itself is pretty great too if you like Wedding Present-ish type stuff. I Won’t Lie to You was on of my favorite singles from last year and they really showed that it wasn’t a one off. The real star of this record is the lyrics where our protagonist is a loser but not a self pitying one.

The Wildhearts – Chutzpah!

Wildhearts albums have always been a mixed bag but this time Ginger and crew have really hit the mark. A collection of three minute pop epics in a variety of styles that never seem at odds with each other. While there are the usual air-punching singalongs there are also epic rock workouts like Jackson Whites and Tim Smith (a tribute to the Cardiacs main man who fell ill recently). While the Wildhearts sound might be too polished for some tastes, for anyone else this is as about as good as it gets.

Art Brut – Art Brut vs Satan

Eddie Argos is a cracking lyricist and he’s occasionally in great form here. Of particular note is Alcoholics Unanimous with it’s story of drunken misbehaviour. On top of that the tunes are great. Having said that there are a few tracks here that only just manage to tread water. I do have one pet peeve about this album though: I find the habit of making the chorus just a repeat of the title barked out four times in a row just a little tedious.

Still, Art Brut are great and I’m looking forward to the next album.

Bob Mould – Life and Times

Bob was on my list last year and here he is again. He’s still overly keen on that autotune/vocoder effect (come on Bob, your voice isn’t that bad) but his songwriting is terrific and really hits all the right notes with me. I think I’m Sorry, Baby, But You Can’t Stand in My Light Anymore is a Bob Mould classic that as good as anything else he’s ever written.

Spinnerette – Spinnerette

I must admit that I was only vaguely aware of Brody Dalle’s previous band The Distillers. I heard Ghetto Love and was immediately impressed. On this album Brody really shows us what a versatile singer she can be while the music is surprisingly ambitious, such as the jangling mandolins that suddenly appear in the middle eight of Baptized by Fire.

Therapy? – Crooked Timber

Therapy took a break before this album to regroup and try something different. This is certainly more experimental and while it occasional misses, it is a tremendously vicious listen if you’re in the mood for such a thing. Certainly, this is a band very much ploughing it’s own furrow, confident in who they are. This doesn’t sound like Troublegum and they don’t care.

Zoot Woman – Things Are What They Used to Be

This is fantastically well made electro-pop record. I must confess it hasn’t connected with as much as I thought it would however Just a Friend of Mine, Lonely by Your Side and We Won’t Break are fantastic songs.

Also…

A few albums came out in 2008 and I didn’t catch them until the start of 2009 so I thought I’d sneak them in here.

The Week That Was and School of Language were my most played albums of this year. In case you don’t know, the brothers from Field Music decided to go their separate ways and create their own records. School is very much the effort of a single person while Week is rather lavish. Both are fantastic albums and sit very well together. I highly recommend both of them.

Additionally I discovered You Slut!‘s album, Critical Meat. It’s instrumental rock music that is almost the opposite of post-rock. It’s frenetic, energetic stuff that sounds like an alien’s hurried interpretation of what all human rock music sounds like. Again, highly recommended.

I Went to See Stewart Lee

December 30, 2009

Me and my missus went to see Stewart Lee’s stand up show last night at the Leicester Square Theatre.

We were sitting in seats B17 and B18. We were sitting next to each other because we’re married.

We’d got to the venue rather early but were happy to get out of the rain, sit down and have a swift beer. A few minutes later a woman came up to us and said “seats 17 and 18 yeah?” “Yeah” said I. She seemed satisfied with this answer and walked off.

OK, that was weird.

About five minutes later a bald bloke wearing glasses and a suit came up to me with the woman from earlier silently standing next to him. I think I could guess where this was going. “Excuse me could I see your tickets?” “No problem” said I and handed them over. “I just need to check these out, I’ll be back shortly” said baldy.

And off they both went. With my tickets.

It then immediately struck me that I had just assumed that baldy-glasses-suit man was the manager of the theatre. I’d based this entirely on the fact that he looked how I imagined a theatre manager to look.

It then struck me that I had been the victim of an ingenious scam. Immediately my keen brain worked out their modus operandi:

  • Two scammers entered the theatre using genuine tickets. One of these scammers looked like a theatre manager (remember: bald, glasses, suit)
  • The scammers then selected a couple of mugs in plum seats near the front (ie. me and the wife).
  • The “manager” then approached one of us asking for our tickets. He then walked off with them.
  • What would happen next is the female scammer would take those tickets to the real theatre manager and get him to eject us.
  • The scammers would now have prime seats.
  • Not only that: they also have two more tickets which they can pass to someone else (via the toilet window, smoking area, etc)

The pair had clearly come up with a genius scam however I was prepared. I still had a print out of my ticket reservation!

Ha! Take that scammers!

At this point the scammers must have lost their nerve and realised they were dealing with a superior intellect. The so-called “manager” returned my tickets to me.

I don’t mind telling you, I felt very smug indeed.

So kids, what we’ve learnt today is that you should always hold on to your receipt.


Weirdly the only two empty seats in the house were directly in front of us – A17 and A18. Later on Stewart Lee stood on those seats to shout at the audience. So I guess they were left empty on purpose.

Still it was a odd experience having the purple head of Stewart Lee off the telly shouting directly over me.


I have to say that Leicester Square and Picadilly Circus get worse and worse every year. It is almost indistinguishable from Blackpool except it doesn’t have a nice beach, it doesn’t have a nice tower, it doesn’t have those lovely trams. It’s full of gaudy hucksterish attractions and grubby burger bars horribly illuminated by flashing adverts for televisions and coke (the two things that have made Britain what it is today: obese and stupid).

Having said that I can’t mock my fellow countrymen for being stupid when so many of the tourists that populate LS and PC seem so monumentally thick. This shouldn’t be surprising: any tourist who thinks that gawping at bright flashing lights through the window of a TFI Friday is a satisfactory way to spend one’s holiday is unlikely to be a philosopher.

These cretins seem to be incapable of understanding how traffic lights work. They don’t understand that if they and their friends stop walking on a busy pavement then no else can get past them. They don’t seem to understand that if they stop at the top of an escalator they’re likely to cause an accident.

They’re like stupid cattle you’re not allowed to kill

* grumble grumble *

I just hope they’re spending lots of money…..

Anyway I think I’ll stop there before this whole post becomes a great big cliché. Go and see Stewart Lee.