Tuesday, October 07, 2008 

Quentin Letts and the wreckers of Britain part two.

I've started so I might as well finish. Either that or I'm a glutton for punishment. Quentin Letts' 50 people who buggered up Britain continues, and as he has 256 pages to fill, one would imagine we're only getting a heavily cut down version in the Hate.

21st is Tony Blair, and in keeping with the previous names on the list, this isn't for the reason why you think he might be. Not for Letts is Blair worthy of being on the list because of little things like lying over the Iraq war, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, for the way he casually diluted civil liberties, or how he ran a "sofa government" in which he was the be all and end all, the most presidential prime minister this country has probably had since Churchill during the second world war; no, Blair is a villain because of the way he casually left parliament as soon as he ceased being prime minister. While you can hardly argue that this was because Blair considered himself a superstar and that there was money to be made, as Letts suggests, anyone who seriously wanted Blair to remain an MP after 10 hellish years must be the sort of masochist which the government seems to be so terrified of.

22nd is Richard Brunstorm, a perennial Mail target, often referred to as part of the Traffic Taliban. There is a really simple way to avoid having to pay fines due to being caught by speed cameras: don't break the fucking speed limit. Speed cameras are for the most part not as objectionable as the basic CCTV camera, for the simple reason that it only records the details of someone breaking the law, rather than absolutely everyone as the latter do. Just for good measure, and to fill up the list, the inventor of the speed camera Maurice 'Maus' Gatsonides is in at 42.

At 23 Paul Burrell enters the equation. Few will disagree with the fact that Burrell is a particularly egregious example of someone cashing in on their work for someone famous, a horrible oleaginous pustule filling his boots. This has never been the real reason though for why such bile has been directed his way in the newspapers: it started when he sold his story to the Mirror rather than any of its rivals. Prior to that he was genuinely feted as "Diana's rock"; it's only now that he is ridiculed for what they formerly praised him for. And after all, for quite a long time Burrell was providing a separate narrative to the one which the press and its correspondents and columnists, often themselves writing books about Diana, wanted their readers to hear; he was a threat, hence he had to be dealt with. True, Burrell seems to have embellished and on occasion lied about his relationship with the Princess, but then so has the media which now so viciously assaults him. How dare someone who actually worked for the Princess profit from it; that's our job!

No quarrel with Letts over 24, Alex Ferguson, who has to be one of the most overrated and over indulged individuals in the entire country. No one else would be allowed to get away with what he does, his incessant sniping at referees when they dare to not award a penalty to serial diving offenders Ronaldo and Rooney, when so often the officials favour his team as decisions in both of the last Premiership games involving Manchester United have shown. His accusations that everyone is against them solve a dual purpose: to both intimidate referees before a game has even begun whilst ensuring that everyone else continues to hate his team, which he feeds off of. Football managers are hardly ever pleasant creatures, but Ferguson, despite his successes, does the game as much of a disservice as he does a service.

25th is a further example of Letts' warped thinking. His victim this time is Kenneth Baker, for two reasons: the dangerous dogs act and the abolition of corporal punishment in schools. Undoubtedly the DDA is one of the best or worst, depending on your thinking, examples of how legislation motivated by reacting to tabloid demands results in the worst of all worlds. Quite apart from the fact that Letts' employer has been in the forefront of other such campaigns, it very rarely leads to whole breeds being condemned, as the number of youths walking around with "pit-bull" type dogs proves. Letts though thinks that if dogs can be exterminated, why can naughty children not be occasionally thrashed? I think I'll leave you to ponder that one.

Letts' choice at 26th of Ronald Jasper, who introduced the Alternative Service Book into the Church of England is rather beyond my speciality, and the brutalist architect Sir Denys Lasdun is hardly likely to have many defenders. Pettiness and snobbery though raises its head again at 28, where Helen Willetts, of all those deigned to have buggered up Britain resides. Willetts, a weather presenter, apparently insults our intelligence with her "Chester accent" and by suggesting that you might want to wrap up warm when it's cold. She and her friends are "northern-accented show-offs" that are the "new ruling average". Quite obviously what the BBC needs are more southerners to make up for the northerners that are taking over the tattered corporation.

29th is Dame Suzi Leather, seemingly on Letts' list purely for being a Labour supporter in a position of something approaching power as head of the Charity Commission. She is an "unelected harridan who draws her money from the public sector and sticks her nose into other people's business, making their lives considerably less easy." Who could possibly disagree?

30th is Richard Dawkins, and proving that Letts obviously hasn't read the God Delusion, falls straight into one of the arguments which Dawkins challenges, the idea that religion, even if it cannot provide proof of God's existence "can sugar catastrophe and brighten chasms". As Dawkins says, there is little more patronising than the fact that we shouldn't challenge religion because it brings hope and solace to some. Whatever the opiate of the masses is, if it has such a horrendous and bloody track-record as religion, it needs to be taken on regardless of such excuses.

31st shows that Letts cares nothing for conservation by targeting Geoffrey Rippon, who handed our fishing rights to the EEC in 1973, while at 32 the creator of EastEnders, Julia Smith, takes a battering. God forbid that popular television actually try to consistently target genuine issues of public concern, whether they involve violence or misery or not; for someone that writes for a newspaper than revels in both, Letts seems remarkably squeamish about it being covered unflinchingly for a mass audience, especially when both are apparently so convinced this is what our modern nation is actually like. The biggest resentment, as usual, appears to be that they are having to fund it despite not watching it, and if they don't approve, then the rest of the nation shouldn't be able to watch it either.

33rd then, dear reader, is you and I. Or rather, "Webonymous". Letts doesn't take too kindly to those that "are timid to stand by the words in public, just content to hurl vitriol and hide from proper argument." Can't accuse Letts of doing that: after all, how else would he make make his wad if he wasn't employed by the Mail?

34th is the already mentioned Michael Martin, and while few can dispute he has been an abysmal speaker of the house, wasting money like water on trying to stop investigation into MPs' expenses, the snobbery again slips in, as the person who coined the moniker "Gorbals Mick" only can. As before, rather than it be Letts that's the class-warrior, outraged that someone who used to do manual work for a living be an MP, it's Martin that's re-heating the class war, favouring Scots over "southern Tories with fruity accents", while spitting fury at an "aristocratic Tory". Lowering the tone in the house and exposing it to ridicule isn't enough; Martin has to be doing it while Scottish and working class to truly upset the apple-cart.

Harold Wilson next takes a leathering for introducing the special advisor, which obviously inexorably led us to Jo Moore and Alastair Campbell, completely leaving out practitioners such as Bernard Ingham, who newspapers boycotted during the 1980s because they felt he had overstepped his role as a civil servant.

Onto the finishing straight, and John Birt is 36th. No objections on this one, although as Greg Dyke was also on the list, that's the two previous BBC controllers on it, even if for completely different and in Dyke's case idiotic reasons. It's a wonder Mark Thompson isn't either.

Ed Balls and additionally his wife are 37th. Letts it seems appears to have something of a fixation on accents, especially on those people who he vehemently dislikes. Here's his take on Balls:

With their accents, they seek to convey an unconvincing matey-ness. Ed (it is rarely Edward) speaks in a strangulated Mockney, which manages to be both staccato and foggy. It is also peppered by delay phrases, such as 'errr', and by little stammers. So bright! Yet so ineloquent!

Yvette labours for a northern twang, making her short 'a' even more aggressive when she is fighting off criticism. Few onlookers would guess she was reared in southern England - in Hampshire, thank you - or that her husband, who loves to attack David Cameron for his public school background, himself attended a fee-paying school.

Golly gosh, hypocrites who can't talk properly! To ensure though that Letts isn't himself going in for vitriol without proper argument, Balls gets the blame for the following:

This background to the Ballses sits comfortably with their record of 'nanny knows best' interference. The nonsense of tax credits? Classic Balls. Stealth taxation? Yet more Balls.

No fan of tax credits when lifting the poorest out of tax would be a far better option, but stealth taxation really is a conglomerate of different grievances that has become so ubiquitous as to become meaningless. Everything is a stealth tax and the nanny state is to blame for everything. Change the record already.

Again, no difference of opinion over John Scarlett at 39 for his role in the dodgy dossiers, while I'll take Letts' word for it over Graham Kendrick, before we come to Jock McStalin at last at 41, mainly for spending all our money in order to garner votes through those are subsequently employed by the state. This is an old conspiracy theory, and one far from proven. Also noteworthy is Letts complaining about the police always having new cars, which is ever so slightly rich coming from a newspaper that believes never enough can be spent on them, as long as they're the right sort of police and not politically correct individuals like Ian Blair or sinister darkies like Ali Dizaei.

41 deals with cricket and Tony Grieg, which I am completely unqualified to comment on (more so than usual), 42nd we've already done, and so it's onto 43 and David Blunkett. One of the problems of lists like this is that they contain people you can't stand yourself, but for entirely different reasons: Blunkett was a law unto himself, thinking that he could criticise judges for daring to contradict his policies, whilst laying the foundations not just for 90 days but also for the current overcrowding in prisons with his introduction of "indeterminate" sentences. Letts, on the other hand, criticises him for waiving restrictions on the EU ascension states, leading to the mass increase in immigration, which can hardly be pinned just on him when it was a whole government decision, and was also agreed on the basis that the rest of Europe would also open their borders, which they didn't; for introducing citizenship classes, as the poor kids subjected to comprehensive education should obviously be studying more demanding subjects rather than be instructed in the workings of society; and for the police community support officers, whom Letts suggests are scared of even confronting 13-year-olds, which even by the standards of the above is bollocks. Strange that Letts didn't mention the shagging of the Kimberley Fortier, or perhaps that might have stirred up thoughts of what he did to fellow sketch writer and supposed friend Simon Hoggart, who he sent up after he was also exposed as having had a piece. Letts parodied Hoggart's own Christmas round-robin letters book; perhaps Hoggart might be inclined to take his revenge this year.

At 44th Peter Bazalgette enters, mainly for his role in bringing Big Brother to our screens, which I might well have mentioned in the past. 45th then is Alastair Campbell, which surely must have been the easiest and most obvious choice on the entire list. Letts though is still willing to surprise us; this isn't because of his lying, sniping and spinning which brought our political culture to such a low point, but because he was a fanatic, according to Letts a "deeply unBritish" character. He "spread through our land totalitarian vehemence". Campbell might be a thoroughly unpleasant gentleman, but he was thoroughly right when so often identified the Daily Mail as being the ultimate in poison in our public life, an immoral newspaper which time and again upbraids others for not being moral enough. Letts' description is in fact worth quoting in full because of how well it also applies to the Mail as a whole:

Such vehemence of belief you find in this man. Such fervour of support. Such absence of doubt. It is unnerving, unnatural, the product, I'd say, of deep unhappiness. The reason it matters, and the reason he comes into our rifle sights, is that he infected our public life with this fanaticism.

It's little wonder the Mail and Campbell hate each other so: they both have exactly the same qualities while standing for completely different things.

46th is Harold Walker, who introduced "elf 'n' safety" to the nation, for the thoroughly disreputable reasons of increasing safety in the coalmines and preventing the half a million injuries a year which the workforce suffered. Try as he might, Letts can't blame Walker for the current implications of health and safety laws on the man with the best of intentions. It's rather like blaming Marx for Stalin or Mao: they might have been basing their own rule on his theories, but he was not responsible for the overall outcome.

Coming towards the end, Rupert Murdoch makes his appearance at 47. As somewhat predicted yesterday, this isn't because of Murdoch lowering the tone of the nation with the Sun and News of the Screws, for poisoning politics and ensuring that whoever wants to lead this country has to have the backing of an Australian-American who does his darndest to pay as little tax as possible, but because of what the bastard has does to the Times letters page. No, Murdoch isn't on the list for what he along with Graham Kelly brought about through the Premier League, or for foisting New Labour on us through the Faustian pact which he and Tony Blair entered into, he's on it because the Times letters page isn't as good as it used to be:

Today's Times letters page carries a lot of letters from public relations people, and the 'jokey' contributions are rather overdone.

The paper's change to a tabloid format crushed the elegance of the letters page. It lost its status. And a Britain without an authoritative, tightly edited Times letters page is somehow a less civilised place to live.

To which you can only say: get a fucking sense of perspective you smug, oily cunt.

Ahem. Nicholas Ridley enters at 48, for his contribution to out of town shopping centres and Stalinist-type housing estates, but from which you get the real impression that what Letts really objects to is any building on the green belt at all, the heighth of specious nimbyism that so frustrates anyone who lives within a few miles of the "countryside", 49 is Rhodes Boyson for starting the selling of school playing fields, which again he can hardly blamed for the continuing building on of, and 50 is Alun Michael for ridding us of fox hunting. Give him a knighthood I say, especially if it'll piss off Letts even more.

From yesterday's list of deadly sins then we are able to add snobbery, dislike of northerners despite rooting against Thatcher's imposition of the north-south divide, a tendency to think that it's perfectly OK to flagellate children, limp defence of organised religion because of how it can comfort some, taking exception to those who anonymously critique his quite brilliant sketches, and the sort of lack of perspective that only a Mail writer could have on Rupert Murdoch. I think Letts might just have a best-seller on his hands.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Share |

Monday, October 06, 2008 

Quentin Letts and the wreckers of Britain.

The Christmas book is a terrible thing. Witless, pointless ghosted autobiographies by assorted cretins and non-entities, the endless variety of toilet books with men on their covers standing with their arms stretched out in front of them, gormless expressions on their faces, bemoaning in mime the state of the nation, the books of lists, the books of lists of lists, and the annuals, put together with all the loving care of the work experience kid who desperately wants to return to school rather than be shown another co-workers' balls.

Praise Jah then that Quentin Letts, the Mail's piss-poor sketch writer, has put together a Christmas book entitled "50 people who buggered up Britain", which the paper is naturally serialising. The key to the desperation is there in the title: to really stand a chance in the Christmas market you have to stick a swear-word in there, i.e. Crap Towns and its sequels; Is it Just Me or is Everything Shit? and its sequels. To someone who is inclined to agree that quite a lot of things are shit, even if for the diametric opposite reason to those stated, you still wouldn't be seen dead reading such, well, shit.

It does though fall directly in line with the Mail's own thinking. For those who think that the paper has since the 50s been convinced we've been going to hell in a handcart, it's instructive to note that both George Orwell and even Evelyn Waugh noted the same tendencies in the paper when they were writing. There is no golden age in the Mail's eyes, not only because there never has been one, but because everything is always going to get worse and keep on getting worse. Convince your readers of this and you're half-way there. Perhaps the best summation of the Mail's world view is by comparing it with the Grauniad. Not its politics, but the fact that the Guardian every day runs a leader with the title "In praise of..." If the Mail was to adopt a similar strategy, its leader would instead be titled "In complete denunciation of..."

For those thinking that Letts' list would be a sub-Clarkson pseudo-Littlejohn style rant of how ZaNuLieBore has brought Britain to its knees, first and foremost due to Gordon Clown selling off our gold reserves, then you'll be happy to know that he's slightly more subtle than that. Today's list only has the first 20 offenders, but there's no sight yet of any of the Blairs, or any New Labour politician other than John Prescott, for whom Letts adopts the same outraged tone of snobbery which he brought to his assaults on "Gorbals Mick" earlier in the year (The Amazon page has the full listing, and in fact all the New Labour hierarchy are there). In fact, some of his choices are more than sound: few will disagree that Jeffrey Archer is a prick, perhaps only now are we realising just how wrong Beeching was, and I would happily renounce my social libertarian leanings if I could wipe Starbucks off the face of the map.

Then, with Letts' fourth-choice, everything goes to pot. James Callaghan is picked because of decimalisation. Letts isn't perhaps being entirely serious, but his second paragraph is revealing:

For centuries our kingdom had maintained a quirky duo-decimal system of currency which sharpened our mental arithmetic, burnished our national identity and baffled foreigners.

It was also completely and utterly illogical. If decimalisation was dumbing down, then bring on the apocaylpse.

Next up is Princess Diana. Blaming Diana for anything is a bit like blaming the knife for a stabbing rather than the individual themselves, for the simple reason that Diana can now be taken to signify anything and everything. She stood for almost nothing herself, except for the charities she supported. Everything else was and has been a media construct; used since her very emergence to sell newspapers, something still going on today. Diana didn't, in Letts' words, make us more neurotic: if anyone did, it was the press that continuously urged us to "keep grieving", that banned paparazzi shots only to reinstate them within days, and that castigated anyone who dared to suggest that the events over 10 years ago were a hideous overreaction that was fed and kept going by hysterical media which had an interest in ensuring it went on for as long as possible. In any case, if Diana did contribute, however slightly, to us losing our notorious stiff upper-lip, what is so bad about that? If anything, the lack of empathy which is still so prevalent is much more harmful, as epitomised by the mob that egged a teenager on who was threatening to jump from a high building in Derby. Jump he did, and they then took photographs off his broken body; the tabloids were shocked, but why should they have been when they take part in the ritual humiliation which takes place on "reality" shows? They bemoan the fake tears but not also the inherent nastiness of rich individuals smirking and snarling at those foolish enough to imagine they might have a talent.

Sixth then is Greg Dyke, for the heinous crime of moving the 9 O'Clock News to 10 O'Clock (seriously) and seventh is Charles Saatchi for having the wrong taste in art. More interesting is Graham Kelly at 8th, the Football Association director who created the Premier League and signed away the TV rights. Surely though you have to be equitable here; you can't attack one side of the deal and not the other half, which was Sky, or as he's also known, Rupert Murdoch. Without Murdoch's money Kelly would have had no Premiership. Murdoch might yet be included, but considering the potential for crossfire between the Murdoch press and Associated Newspapers, I'm not holding my breath (he's on Letts' list, so it should be interesting to see how they cover it).

It's not worth wasting breath, or rather my fingers on Letts's attack on Crosland for daring to introduce comprehensives at 9th, and equally weak is blaming John McEnroe for the current lack of respect because of his hissy fits while playing tennis over 20 years ago. No real disagreement with the inclusion of Stephen Marks, CEO of FC:UK, but considering that err, this very book has what used to be considered one of the more offensive swear-words in its title, Letts seems to be having his cake and eating it to say the least.

We're at 13, and Letts already seems to be running out of ideas. Frank Blackmore, inventor of the mini-roundabout, is the next to be denounced. While mini-roundabouts can be abused, more often than not they make busy junctions both far safer and handle the traffic more fairly and efficiently. Equally daft is the choosing of Sir Jimmy Saville at 14th for being what is generally known as an individual. Sure, if you're unlucky enough to be one of his children you might not think the same way but the phrase national treasure was invented for the likes of Sir Jimmy.

Far more contemptible is Edward Heath at 15. Eurosceptics will doubtless decry him because of his passion for Europe, but few would pick on him because of his swift defenestration of Enoch Powell. According to Letts, this made it impossible to criticise immigration for 40 years. To quote David Cameron from last week, what country exactly does Letts live in? Powell was wrong, has always been wrong, and Heath was absolutely right, however much the likes of Letts would like to think otherwise.

Skipping over Janet Street-Porter, 17th may be a surprise to some: Margaret Thatcher. Even Letts is forced to admit that if anyone has broken Britain, it was Thatcher that shattered it, with her assaults not just on the National Union of Mineworkers but the miners personally. It's why we ought to be so terrified of Cameron's claims that he will be as radical on social policy as Thatcher was economically, even as Thatcher's last remaining economic legacies fall apart.

The last three for today are pretty mediocre, in more ways than one: Alan Titchmarsh, Topsy and Tim (who?) and Tim Westwood, whom I somehow imagine Quentin Letts has never actually listened to, but who's a handy person to bash the BBC with. He's apparently an emblem of "cultural defeatism and broadcasting decadence". Not to question the fact that the man's a twat; he is. It just doesn't like so much else of this list, ring true.

You can understand why the Mail rushed to serialise it, splashing it on the front page, because it shares so many of its own values. Ridiculously conservative and resistant to change, even when it defies all logic, as on decimalisation and Greg Dyke; dismissive of any showing of genuine emotion that isn't covered by anger, except if it's by someone or for some reason which the paper itself can use to sell more papers; endlessly hypocritical, as on FC:UK; stereotypically Little Englander, as on Ted Heath; and attacking that which it doesn't understand or even want to understand with Tim Westwood. The only credit you can give to either is that they don't take glory in everything Margaret Thatcher ever did. Don't know about you, but I can't wait for the other 30.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Share |

Monday, July 14, 2008 

On the uselessness of lists.

In general drawing up huge lists is a thankless, pointless task which tends to prove precisely nothing. That most of those who do are self-obsessed narcissists convinced of their own righteousness (and I include myself here) doesn't help. Therefore including Andrew Neil, Tessa Jowell and three Grauniad no-names in compiling their "Media 100" list is hardly likely to inspire confidence. It's no surprise therefore when Carolyn McCall (Groan Media Group CEO) and Alan Rusbridger are both in the top 40.

You know they're just talking bollocks though when this is how they describe Rebekah Wade, who is at no.30, whereas Paul Dacre who still controls a paper with a lower circulation, it's worth remembering, is at no.4:

"Politically I think it had almost zero influence at the last election, and will have even less at the next one," said one panellist. "It has ceased to be the player it was at the heart of British media and politics."

To call this total nonsense would be perhaps putting it too lightly. If you honestly think that a newspaper with a circulation of 3 million, read by probably closer to 8 million has no influence then you're living in a fantasy world. A rather nice fantasy world, it has to be said, but still one that doesn't exist in reality.

You can in fact argue the opposite. While the Daily Mail undoubtedly punches above its weight, and almost everyone agrees that in the not too distant future it will usurp the Scum as the biggest selling daily, it was the unholy alliance of the Murdoch press with Blair that helped ensure that he stayed with us for as long as he did. Although it took a very long time, the Grauniad finally said it was time for Blair to go in around 2005. That left the only papers that really supported him the Times and the Sun. The Mirror doesn't count - although it's unlikely it will ever abandon Labour, it has long since lost any major influence and it always favoured Brown over Blair. No, what helped keep Blair from going under after the Iraq war was the unstinting support of the Sun - its fanatical hatred of the BBC and diabolically slanted coverage of the Hutton inquiry distorted the process out of recognition with the reporting elsewhere. While sympathetic towards Michael Howard, it never offered anything resembling support towards the Conservatives, and with most of the public also unconvinced by Howard, Labour returned in 2005, despite the Blair millstone around the party's neck, even if the Tories did win the popular vote in England.

This pact was always because of the overwhelming Wapping influence on Blair - constant deference towards the Sun's leader line, instant recognition of the latest demands it made, and impeccable rushing to accomodate and help with the next day's headlines. The reason why the Sun's influence has waned now Blair has gone is because Brown has always been far closer to Dacre and the Mail then Wade and the Sun. This hasn't altered the editorial line much, as it is still overly supportive of Brown, showing that Murdoch is still yet to be convinced by Cameron, no matter how similar to Blair he is. This though disproves the idea that somehow the Sun will even be less influential come the next election: already we've seen Cameron making his play on knife crime in the pages of the Sun, something they've unsurprisingly championed. The battle will shortly be joined, and the choice will be made. Will it be as much as a defining moment as the Sun's change to support Labour in 97? No, because the media has overwhelming changed since then. To pretend it won't have any influence is the view of someone who wishes it didn't.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Share |

Saturday, December 29, 2007 

25 best albums of 2007.

Before we get underway, here are some albums which are worthy mentions but didn't quite make the list:

Silversun Pickups - Carnavas (would have been high on my list if it wasn't technically released last year)
The Wombats - A Guide to Love, Loss and Desperation
Biffy Clyro - Puzzle
65daysofstatic - The Destruction of Small Ideas
Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
Fiery Furnaces - Widow City
GoodBooks - Control
Gravenhurst - The Western Lands
New Young Pony Club - Fantastic Playroom
Maximo Park - Our Earthly Pleasures
Oceansize - Frames
The Good, The Bad & The Queen - s/t
The Rumble Strips - Girls and Weather
White Stripes - Icky Thump
Thrice - Alchemy Index Vols I & II
Deerhoof - Friend Opportunity

and some I've either missed or haven't listened enough to yet:

Battles - Mirrored
Burial - Untrue
Maserati - Inventions for the New Season
PJ Harvey - White Chalk
Stars of the Lid - And Their Refinement of the Decline
Panda Bear - Person Pitch
Radiohead - In Rainbows
The National - Boxer

25. Interpol / Editors - Our Love to Admire / An End Has A Start

The cynical would argue that what both Interpol and Editors do amounts to little more than petty larceny. Both bands can hardly argue that they're not anything other than devotees to the back catalogue of Joy Division; Editors especially just strike one as taking the melodies, making them even more anthemic and radio friendly and writing the lyrics as an afterthought, as the line from "The Racing Rats" where the singer asks how big a hole would a plane make in the surface of the earth clearly demonstrates. What can't be denied is that they're very, very good at doing it. Previously, Interpol were far more subtle, and with Turn on the Bright Lights produced one of the best tributes to Ian Curtis which wasn't actually addressed to him. On this, their third album, they seem to be appearing to start to flag. Nonetheless, the singles, the Heinrich Maneuver and Mammoth, while not being anything quite on the level of Obstacle 1, are superior to almost all of the other trash released this year. How better for the bands then to share the same space?

Interpol - Wrecking Ball
Editors - An End Has A Start

24. Kubichek! - Not Enough Night

The wheels seem to have fallen off the Kubichek! wagon come the end of this year, with the lead guitarist and vocalist leaving to do his own thing. It's a great shame, as their spastic combination of math-rock and dancefloor friendly blistering post-punk was just the thing to blow away the cobwebs back in March. Its slight downfall might have been that it was released around the same time as two of the records in the worthy mention section and at least a couple featured lower down this list. Well worth seeking out, especially if you also like another band further down the list.

Kubichek! - Nightjoy

23. Shitdisco - Kingdom of Fear

In the year in which so-called "new rave" conquered all comers, Shitdisco found themselves somewhat left behind. Although they fit the description even less than the Klaxons, as they feature even less "old rave" sounds in their tunes, their ability to both rock and capture the dancefloor was not in doubt. From "I Know Kung Fu", their breakout hit, to "Reactor Party", "72 Virgins" and "OK", the disco was anything but shit.

Shitdisco - OK

22. Fields - Everything Last Winter

Perhaps like with Shitdisco, the name Fields chose may not have helped. This year alone there were records out from The Field and Field Music, and probably some others I've missed. Fields' influences of My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins aren't the most popular at the moment either, but that shouldn't detract from a thoroughly bold and at times even thrilling debut album which shows the band know how to build up to a crescendo without being predictable.

Fields - If You Fail, We All Fail

21. Good Shoes - Think Before You Speak

This is what the View and all the other Libertines followers should be attempting to sound like. While the "successful" ones have just rehashed their already rehashed sound and taken all the vitality out of the music as a result, Good Shoes are just on the right side of the post-Strokes post-Libertines spiky guitar band path. Rather than sounding like the lyrics and music have been especially rounded for a label's PR manager to shoot his load over, Good Shoes actually sound real: the standout, Morden, is hardly an original idea, moaning about the dinginess of a small town, but they manage to make it fresh. The banter between girlfriend and boyfriend on "We Are Not the Same", which emerges as shouts as the guitars attack is some of the best unashamed indie-pop of the year, as is the rest of their debut.

Good Shoes - Morden

20. The Rakes - Ten New Messages

The Rakes, along with Bloc Party were one of the great hopes of 2005: sharp indie without pretending to be about anything other than middle-class angst. While the Arctic Monkeys were chronicling the working class travails of clubbing and pubbing, the Rakes were worrying about their 22 Grand Job in the city. It's therefore completely understandable why the Rakes also on their second album went the Bloc Party route and attempted a sort of concept-album about a day in the life of living in London, even if they are nowhere near as successful. There are still some brilliant moments here, such as the opener, originally commissioned for a fashion show(!), the World Was a Mess But His Hair was Perfect, which effortlessly targets the hypocrisy of bourgeois hipsters and the facile anti-Americanism which exists, even while they continue to drink Budweiser and smoke hash, most likely while wearing Levis. Gobsmackingly good also is "Suspicious Eyes", which ought to win an Ivor Novello for its quite brilliant first person narrative from three different perspectives on a post 7/7 underground train. It slips slightly towards the conclusion, but the first half is remarkable.

The Rakes - Suspicious Eyes

19. Hadouken! - Not Here to Please You

Not technically an album, instead rather a "mixtape" released on USB stick only, Not Here to Please You showcases probably the most "now" act currently around. Mixing grime, hip-hop, new-rave and even metal guitars on occasions, Hadouken! ought to be rubbish and very quickly forgotten. Somehow, it works, and while like other bands of their nature casual misogyny seems to seep in on "Girls" and "Tuning In", you can't deny the urgency of "Liquid Lives", even if the Noisia remix is far better than the original. Leap of Faith, a download only single, shows where they intend to go from here, with its blistering pace which is far removed from their original material. Could such a band really be maturing already? Their debut album proper, out early next year, should provide the answer.

Hadouken! - Liquid Lives

18. Coheed and Cambria - No World for Tomorrow

Technically the second part to 2005's Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness, if you manage to ignore the prog-rock wankery and fact that this is the final chapter of a story, with the first chapter the next album to be released, C & C do still manage to specialise in good old fashioned tunes. While the previous album marked a change from the post-hardcore emo of their first two albums towards an even more progressive outlook, No World for Tomorrow pays tribute more to 80s metal, especially on the squealing guitar solos of Gravemakers & Gunslingers. While there isn't anything here as magnificently urgent as "Welcome Home", which played homage to Kashmir, the melodies on the Running Free and Sanchez's harmonising are still top of the draw.

Coheed and Cambria - The Running Free

17. Dartz! - This is My Ship

Like Kubichek!, even sharing that essential exclamation mark, Dartz! created an album full of pogoing math-rock and the aptly named disco-punk, surpassing their soundlikes with quite some ease. The breakdowns, time signatures and shouting response lyrics are all in evidence, and on "A Simple Hypothetical" all is summed up by the chanting of the title followed by "we've got a job to do!", which they seem to have quite easily achieved. Single "Once, Twice, Again!" is quite rightly up there with some of the best of the year. You also can't help but warm to a band gently mocking their being nominated for the XFM Best New Music award, as the website puts it, alongside such luminaries as "Kate Nash and Enter Shikari".

Dartz! - A Simple Hypothetical

16. Marcus Intalex - Fabriclive 35

While most of the other so-called superclubs established at the start of the decade or just before have fell by the wayside, Fabric has if anything continued to grow in strength. Alongside the eclectic nights it puts on, its line of "Fabriclive" and Fabric" albums continue to surpass almost all the other DJ mixes and compilations put out by anyone else, this year alone releasing great sets from the likes of Spank Rock and LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy. I'm sorry to admit that I hadn't heard of Marcus Intalex prior to this release, but he's certainly now up there with the very best that drum and bass has to offer. The current trend amongst most dnb DJs is to get as many tracks into their sets as humanly possible - the average CD having at least 25 or 30 crammed in. Intalex goes for the opposite route: still packing in 19 into an hour and 17 minutes, but letting the liquid funk he plays linger long enough for you to actually enjoy it. The smoothness of the mix is unequaled this year, so much so that this quite rightly deserves a place in any album of the year list.

15. Soulwax - Most of the Remixes

There are two ways to remix a track: you either beef it up or minimalise what you're given to work with, or you throw the whole lot out, start from the beginning and only include passing moments of the original. Soulwax know when to use the former and the latter: their still massive rejig of Gossip's Standing in the Way of the Control only really tightens the bass and ups the speed, while DJ Shadow's Six Days, a mournful slow original is given more urgency. Then there are their versions of Klaxons' Gravity's Rainbow, an already decent original, but their remix slows it down only to then up the ante with the guitar, and the unimaginable remake of the fat dancer from Take That's Lovelight, which takes a sow's ear and turns it into a silk purse, all sirens and beats. Add in excellent reimaginings of LCD Soundsystem, Justice and Daft Punk, finished off with a brilliant rework of Muse's Muscle Museum, and a second disc with some other remixes in the mix, and this is a fantastic value package.

Robbie Williams - Lovelight (Soulwax Ravelight Dub)

14. Manic Street Preachers - Send Away the Tigers

Who honestly thought that the Manics were capable of another great album? Every sign has been since Everything Must Go and Richey's disappearance before it that the Manics were in slow but inexorable decline. The decision following the failure of Lifeblood to pursue their own solo projects seemed to be the death-knell of the group; on the contrary, after returning from their personal exploits the band seems to have found a second wind. The reversing of the "Rs" in their name, like on their opus the Holy Bible was a statement of intent: as evidenced by their return to sloganising and politicking on "Rendition", to my knowledge the only song so far about the CIA's kidnapping and outsourced torturing of "terrorist suspects", and the rant against neo-colonalism of "Imperial Body Bags". Elsewhere, they produced their finest single in years in "Your Love Alone is Not Enough", featuring the singer from the Cardigans, and the one-two punch of "Indian Summer" and "The Second Great Depression". Ignoring slight misfires "Underdogs", a rather heavy-handed tribute to the fans, and "Autumnsong", with its awful lyrics, and SATT suggests there's still fire in the Manics' bellies.

Manic Street Preachers - Rendition

13. High Contrast - Tough Guys Don't Dance

No one else in drum and bass has been as consistent or as downright imaginative in recent years as Hospital Records' High Contrast, aka Lincoln Barrett. Providing the antidote to the finally dying down runaway train that was jump-up, HC's liquid funk continues to improve, with Tough Guys Don't Dance undoubtedly his finest album so far. Taking just as much influence from old film soundtracks as he does from the roots of d&b, the anthems If We Ever and Everything's Different only confirm his crossover appeal, now being requested to remix numerous other artists. The album closer, "Ghost of Jungle Past", manages to look both forward and backwards at the same time, an admirable feat.

High Contrast - Ghost of Jungle Past

12. Liars - Liars

Liars continue in their efforts to create a genre all of their own. Following from the brilliant, avant-garde and kraut-rock influenced Drum's Not Dead, their fourth album doesn't quite live up to its forerunner, but still has enough melt your face off riffs, especially in the form of single "Plaster Casts of Everything" and sheer mood of foreboding that runs throughout to earn itself another high place in this year's best albums lists.

Liars - Plaster Casts of Everything

11. Future of the Left - Curses!

Apart from having a great name, Future of the Left, made up of the remnants of Mclusky and Jarcrew carry on the tradition of making great critically acclaimed and fan-loved material whilst failing to break through into the mainstream. That's probably more than alright with them, but you can't help feeling they deserve better. Curses! simply rocks incredibly hard: in the words of Drowned in Sound, mixing ear-shredding punk and avant-garde rock squall, along with the same at times nonsensical lyrics and at other times hilarious sense of sardonic humour which perforated the Mclusky albums. How many other bands would write a song that involved the lyric "Mark Foley was right", or indeed, even know who Mark Foley is? Highlight is probably "Small Bones Small Bodies", with the title chanted incessantly over the grinding background.

Future of the Left - Small Bones, Small Bodies

10. iLiKETRAiNS - Elegies to Lessons Learnt

2007 perhaps showed that post-rock is on its last legs. Where once it was confined to the listening habits of college students and others in "the know", the success of Sigur Ros, even if not strictly a post-rock band, seems to have opened the floodgates to every television producer to use various pieces from post-rock albums to fill whichever emotional or cathartic scene that such a score is required for. It's one thing to use Hoppipolla for Planet Earth, quite another to hear one of Explosions in the Sky's tracks on a BBC trailer. EitS's own album this year was a definite disappointment, and although Stars of the Lid's album, again not strictly post-rock but more ambient has been very well received, staleness seems to have finally caught up with the genre.

Thankfully, iLiKETRAiNS, featured on last year's list with their EP Progress / Reform returned this year with their long-awaited full-length. On first listen you might be disappointed: their choice of recording venue, a church, seems to have taken the tautness of their EP and demos and turned it into aural sparseness, but after a few listens you can appreciate why they did it, and it becomes even more clear if you take the opportunity to see them live. Live, their tightness and power is all too overwhelming. The literary quality and historical first-person narratives continue here, so much so that the band have provided explanatory essays to accompany the songs. Even without them, the brilliance of "The Deception" and "Spencer Perceval", a close to 10 minute opus about the only British prime minister ever to be assassinated are incredibly special. Their only worry is how to follow it up without repeating themselves amid the genre's limitations.

iLiKETRAiNS - Joshua and Victress (from the Deception single)

9. !!! - Myth Takes

Following up 2004's Louden Up Now was always going to be a challenge for Chk Chk Chk. Coming at the height of dance-punk's short critical and commercial favour, its foul-mouthed funk and taut rhythms conquered all before it. Somehow, 3 years later, it's as if they had never been away. Dropping the swearing but only sharpening the beats, Myth Takes owes perhaps more to LCD Soundsystem than it does to the Rapture, but what isn't in doubt is the quality of the material. Nearly the whole album could have been released as singles, but those that were, especially "Must be the Moon", about casual sex and a man who fails to satisfy his partner, and "Heart of Hearts" alongside the extended freak-out of "Bend Over Beethoven" more than equaled their previous album.

!!! - Bend Over Beethoven

8. Justice - Cross

The French duo who led this year's dance music renaissance in actual fact put out the relatively weakest album. However huge "D.A.N.C.E." was, and backed as it is by "Phantom" and "Genesis", some of the other tracks are relative filler. Best of the rest is "Stress" and "The Party", which manages to make Uffie even sound good.

Justice - B.E.A.T. (from the D.A.N.C.E. single)

7. Simian Mobile Disco - Attack Decay Release Sustain

It's fitting that Justice and SMD came to everyone's attention when Justice remixed Simian's "Never Be Alone", transforming it into the massive "We Are Your Friends". Frustrated by Simian's lack of success, James Ford and James Shaw branched out into Simian Mobile Disco, remixing and DJing their way into notoriety, especially with the massive "Hustler". The album, featuring "It's The Beat", "I Believe" and "Tits and Acid" was frustrating not because of the quality of the material, but because of its relative shortness: only radio edits instead of original full length mixes were released. Despite that, the collaborations with other artists, SMD's continuing remixes and their DJ compliations such as the Bugged Out! mix and the latest Mixmag cover mount only suggest they continue to go from strength to strength.

Simian Mobile Disco - I Believe (SMD Space Dub) (from the I Believe single)

6. Digitalism - Idealism

Where Justice are signed to Ed Banger, Digitalism are signed to Kitsune, without doubt the two biggest breakthrough labels of the year, apart from perhaps Transgressive. Coming along much the same path, having remixed artists as varied as Test Icicles, the Futureheads, Klaxons and probably the group all the new-wave owe the most to, Daft Punk, Digitalism produced by far the most coherent and well-mixed album of the 3 breakthroughs. From the opening pulses of "Magnets", the single "Pogo", which as they say does exactly what it says on the tin through to the track that relates that it "was the biggest party ever", it's hard to disagree.

Digitalism - Digitalism in Cairo (Extended Mix) (from the Idealistic single)

5. Klaxons - Myths of the Near Future

Worthy winners of the Mercury or not, and overlooking their rather drunken statement that they were the "most forward-thinking band" nominated, Klaxons' Myths is still a massive and highly enjoyable record. The "new rave" stuff may have been overegged, and their cover of Grace's classic "It's Not Over Yet" may be pretty dire, but it's hard to resist the swagger and melody of "Golden Skans" or the bleeping and sirens of "Atlantis to Interzone". Their deriders might say that they're just playing the same songs as everyone else except twice as fast, and their live show did for a while leave a lot to be desired, but great things still seem to beckon.

Klaxons - Elektrickery (Erol Alkan produced, from the Gravity's Rainbow single)

4. Maps - We Can Create

This was the record that should of won the Mercury. Created and recorded almost entirely in James Chapman's bedroom, it just oozes with everything that makes you think a lot of bands ought to go back to basics. Lush soundscapes, breathy vocals, ample amounts of distortion, influenced heavily by Spiritualized, Low and My Bloody Valentine, it received the critical acclaim it deserves but fewer of the sales. If you missed it for some reason, for God's sake go out and buy it.

Maps - To The Sky

3. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver

It's really hard to know quite where to put the top 3 of this list, as all three are both interchangeable and undoubtedly are the albums of the year. LCD Soundsystem, aka James Murphy was simply head and shoulders above everyone else in his/their genre this year, creating an album as effusive, convincing and simply enjoyable as could be achieved. It's hard to pick a stand-out track, such is the quality, although the singles "North American Scum" and "All My Friends" are outstanding, while both the opener "Get Innocuous!" to closer "New York..." showcase Murphy's talent to be both upbeat and downbeat with equal skill. A complete joy.

LCD Soundsystem - Get Innocuous!

2. Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare

Ignoring the hideous artwork and their new band logo, the Arctic Monkeys' debut, despite the incessant hype and huge sales, wasn't quite the triumph which most claimed it to be. As brilliant as "When The Sun Goes Down" and "A Certain Romance" were, the obsession with clubs and pubs was tedious and got more so on repeated listens. Thankfully, for FWN they chose both a undoubtedly in-form producer in SMD's James Ford, and to eschew their previous material to, dare I say it, mature. The racket of "Brianstorm" has to be one of the best tracks to hit the top 3 of the chart this year, while the tenderness and social comment of "Florescent Adolescent" is just as good as on the previous album's Mardy Bum. Heavier if anything than their debut, the attack of "Teddy Picker", "Balaclava" and "Do Me A Favour" is matched only by the whimiscal downbeat of "505". Not content with producing an album of 12 great tracks, each single has been backed by 3 b-sides, with some of the content, especially the Brianstorm EP matching or even bettering that on the album. Far, far better and likely to be more influential in the long-run than the Libertines? Please let it be so.

Arctic Monkeys - Temptation Greets You Like Your Naughty Friend (from the Brianstorm EP)

1. Bloc Party - A Weekend in the City

Some of those who had fallen in love with BP's debut, Silent Alarm, were turned off by the far more experimental and concept form of A Weekend in the City. It is undoubtedly lead singer and lyricist Kele's album, which is either a good thing or bad thing depending on your point of view. The opener, Song for Clay, with its lyrics inspired by Bret Easton Ellis's Less than Zero, is just one of the tracks to polarise opinion: although once the tune gets going it's an excellent song, the lyrics are close to impenetrable, even if expressing the vacuousness of the modern existence of someone with a permanent disposable income. Unsurpassed though was the stomp of first single "The Prayer", the regret of "I Still Remember", which has been easily misconstrued as Kele coming out, the attack on scaremongering over the terror threat of "Hunting for Witches", the authentic voice of the disposessed and insecure minorities on "Where is Home?" and the self-loathing centrepiece "Uniform". Only adding to the bravery was the release of "Flux", which reached for the synths instead of the guitar and came out just right, although the live version is infinitely better than the recorded one. Like with the Arctics, Bloc Party didn't seem content with producing just one album, with there being a virtual other one in b-sides, not to mention the numerous remixes. For sheer hard work and aspiration alone, with the band already either planning to record the next album or doing so, A Weekend in the City deserves to be album of the year.

Bloc Party - Rhododendrons (from the Hunting for Witches single)

Related posts:
Last year's best and worst lists.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Share |


  • This is septicisle


Powered by Blogger
and Blogger Templates