The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Night Work

At last, the long-awaited second and dare I say it final half of my review of albums I got this year.

New Vaudeville Band – Winchester Cathedral – A greatest hits. Bought this for a fiver because I liked the title track and Finchley Central. The New Vaudeville Band were, more or less, a bit that dropped off the back of The Bonzo Dog Do Da Band in the 1960s. It’s all that Vivian Stanshall-style cod-1930’s crooning. If you don’t know who Vivian Stanshall is, watch an early Stephen Fry performance, that’s Vivian Stanshall. Apart from a few decent songs, and covers, there’s the original version of A Kind Of Hush. Yes, the Herman’s Hermits version was a cover. I also downloaded You’re Driving Me Crazy by The Temperance Seven.

Robbie Williams – Reality Killed The Video Star – Only downloaded this a week or so when I suddenly realised I didn’t own it. Which is odd, because I really liked the two singles. While I was at it, I bought the new tracks off his greatest hits, plus a few b-sides I was missing. What’s really annoying, though, is that you can’t legally download the b-side of Shame, a quite good track called The Queen. Anyway, I haven’t really given it a proper listen, it sounds okay so far.

Royksopp – Junior – Downloaded this on the strength of Happy Up Here, which is kind of like Air before they went really, really boring, or all those bands like Daft Punk and BRA that were good for one single each during the mid-90s’. It also reminded me of Mirwais' Naive Song, which nobody reading this had probably heard of. Anyway, this is a very fine album, very cheerful, and with The Girl And The Robot you have the best Kylie Minogue song ever recorded not to feature Kylie Minogue. Honestly, Pepsi challenge, you’d swear it was Kylie. I first listened to this whilst walking off calories around Poplar and Leamouth at sunset, and it was kind of the ideal soundtrack.

Scissor Sisters – Night Work – An album of two halves. On the one hand, you have more or the same, which is what I want, if a band ain’t broke don’t fix it. Basically, the first half of the album is all great. Okay, so Fire With Fire veers dangerously close to U2, but Night Work, Whole New Way, Any Which Way are all fab... and then it all gets a bit dull and generically 80s for the second half. Scary Monsters syndrome. And it’s a pain in the arse listening to a song trying to work out which 80's song it’s reminding you of. A disappointment.

Scouting For Girls – Everybody Wants To Be On TV – The thing with Scouting For Girls, you really have to be the right mood to listen to them, and so far, I haven’t had the mood. Plus the iTunes download sounds really trebly like it’s all been mastered wrong, so I can’t really review this. I was disappointed, though, that it didn’t include their excellent cover of London Calling by The Clash, because if a band can get Radio 6 muso farts and Q Magazine readers frothing at the mouth with anger and indignation, they must be doing something right.

Sophie Ellis Bextor – Trip The Light Fantastic – This came out a couple of years ago, and for some reason the next album hasn’t exactly been forthcoming, so I downloaded this to listen to on a bus journey down to Taunton and back. The songs are strong, lots of lovely synths, what more do you want? If I Can’t Dance kicks arse, Catch You, Me & My Imagination, What Have We Started? are all terrific, Blondie-ish pop. Plus there’s a song called Only One which sounds exactly like a knock-off of The Feeling, and which turns out to have been written by The Feeling. Only problem is, having listened to it on the bus journey down to Taunton, it’s now indelibly associated in my mind with the M5 motorway and Bridgwater bus station.

The Divine Comedy – Bang Goes The Knighthood – Comedy songs, hooray! Well, that’s not quite fair, in between the comedy songs are Scott Walker pastiches. I’m still being, when they’re good, The Divine Comedy can be sublime. This album is in the same mould as the previous two; again, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The first track is tortuously dull, but things liven up with The Complete Banker and At The Indie Disco, Assume The Perpendicular, The Lost Art Of Conversation, Island Life and I Like tread a fine line in McCartney-esque whimsy, When A Man Cries is heartbreaking, and Can You Stand Upon One Leg makes you want to hit Neil Hannon over the head with a hammer. I mean, it’s almost funny the first time, but after that... this is why there’s such a thing as b-sides. So about the normal hit and miss rate for a Divine Comedy album.

Yazoo – Reconnected Live – Such is my insane Vince Clarke completism – I must have downloaded a half dozen or more different remixes he’s done in the last year, busy chap – I actually bought this whole album just to get one bonus track. I mean, it’s a lovely souvenir of seeing Yazoo live in Brighton a couple of years ago, it sounds great, Alf is belting and Vince has given the old songs added bollocks, but live albums don’t really do it for me, as a rule. No, I bought it to get Get Set on CD, a track which Yazoo recorded for a theme tune for a kids Saturday morning TV show, which they planned to release as a single, and then promptly split up, and forgot all about. I’ve blogged about it before. I remember, back when I worked at Mute, suggesting they do a Yazoo greatest hits solely so that this long-lost track might finally see release, as it’s a pretty decent song. I was told the master tapes didn’t exist, Vince swore blind they had never recorded the song, and so I let the matter rest and went back to quietly fuming about the fact that they’d decided not to include The Other Side Of Love on the greatest hits either. And now it turns up, almost as an afterthought, on a live album, when really it should’ve been dusted down for the box-set and remasters they did a few years ago. Oh well. I’m just delighted to finally own it. Maybe in another twenty years we could get the demo version of Only You...

And that’s it, that’s more-or-less all the albums I got this year. I hope you have enjoyed this fascinating journey through the darkest recesses of my musical taste.