January 9th, 2012

Dalliance Review of 2011 More

2011 Review Your Attention

Written By Michael Wood Monday, January 9th, 2012

Eight Albums

  1. I Am Very Far - Okkervil River
    The best live band you will see doing Rock n' Roll shows have put out an album that shows the emotional range of one of their performances. Weaving between melancholia and pumped guitar stylings I Am Very Far is a band hitting the targets that it sets for itself, and very high targets those are. Lyrical, intelligent, excellent.
  2. Welcome To Condale - Summer Camp
    Out of the ethereal and onto record it has taken a long time for Summer Camp to emerge after some curious shows and a few hints towards obscurities. What emerges is an album recollecting a time not lived in a place that probably never existed but with a feel that is universal. Songs of heartache and loss are always played out well to a catchy beat.
  3. (I Can't Get No) - Stevie Jackson
    Or, if you will, the guy out of Belle & Sebastian doing his own thing and doing it so very well. The references are sixties pop of course but the immediacy of the guitar driven pop and the cute smartness of the lyrics are surprisingly effective.
  4. Nursing Home - Let's Wrestle
    It is thrashing guitars and sarcastic lyrics but that has never been something that upset me and Nursing Home manages not only to power through its running time in an indecent haste but also includes some laugh out loud funny moments. Superb.
  5. Collapse Into Now - R.E.M.
    Or if you will the end of an era. The last R.E.M. is another addition to the catalogue that adds breadth but lacks the depth of the earlier work of legend. Still a cracking listen and they will be missed.
  6. Obscurities - Stephin Merritt
    A collection of Merritt's offcuts from projects is always going to be a sketchy affair but the great stuff is really great stuff.
  7. Passive Aggressive: Singles 2002-2010 - The Radio Dept.
    A singles collection, so perhaps it should not count, but unseen by most this Swedish band have been making a cerebral music that aches with a heartbreak unspeakable.
  8. An Argument with Myself EP - Jens Lekman
    An EP is half an album so Lekman only gets half points for this brilliant collection of songs about friends dying, getting lost in Melbourne and looking for movie stars in Sweden.

Four Tracks

  1. Hanging From A Hit - Okkervil River
    Will Sheff's lyrical masterpiece in two parts is a rock and roll's sexual predatory instinct hitting hard and cruel into a real life. Searing, dazzling, and darkly beautiful.
  2. Walked Out On a Line - Okkervil River
    A band so good they can leave this story of drug fuelled destruction on the shelf as Will Sheff and Co reference the sound of the Beach Boys while creating something utterly new. Key Lyric: In the storm's scream and swirl's/Where I spotted my girl/I was pinning her straight to my side.
  3. Waiting for Kirsten - Jens Lekman
    Lekman's true story of trying to meet Kirsten Dunst in Gothenberg uses the Swedish singer's favourite trick of lulling the listen in with a dry humour and twisting that humour into a thoughtful depression. Key Lyric: But the VIP lines are not to the clubs/But to healthcare, apartments and jobs./"Hey buddy can I borrow five grand?/'Cause my dad's in chemo/And they wanna take him off his plan."
  4. In Dreams Part II - Let's Wrestle
    Mayhem on a record. Key Lyric: In my dreams there were Pokemon beating me up/I punched Pidgeotto right in the face

Written By Michael Wood Monday, January 9th, 2012

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December 24th, 2011

Let Him Be, McCartney plays Manchester More

Live Review

Written By Jon Maher Saturday, December 24th, 2011

Paul McCartney at M.E.N. Arena, Manchester

OK, I’ll level with you. I love Paul McCartney.

I love it when he sticks his thumb in the air. I love it twice as much when he sticks two thumbs in the air. I know there are those that don’t. They think he’s silly.

It will be interesting to see the bent that history affords him once he does leave us. The true genius of the Beatles, the innovator, the psychedelic sonic architect? Or remain just the sidekick of an angry-yet-empowering, peace-mongering poet-come-Martyr, who thought it might be, maybe, kinda cool if we all gave up meat?

This is the sort of thing I think about. And, to be honest, it doesn’t really matter one jot. His true legacy is his songs, and, as tonight proves, his songs are the best.

A giant screen or three projects a Höffner bass made from stars, the lights dim and people cheer. Loudly.

Now, I’m not one for giddiness but I am genuinely overcome as I realise that the little dot at the other end of the Manchester Arena is a Beatle. A real Beatle. My guest for the evening, my Mum, is transported back to the Bradford Gaumont, December 1963. It’s a moment. Silence ye cynics.

Countless moments follow, as Macca expertly picks from Beatles, Wings, The Fireman, and solo material, even throwing in Come And Get It, the 1969 hit he penned for Badfinger.

His defiant reclamation of Live And Let Die from Axl Rose and his cronies, with staggering indoor pyrotechnics, his thundering Maybe I’m Amazed, the majestic Long and Winding Road, and his perfect rendition of Yesterday which takes one and all back to Royal Variety performances of yore. Us in the cheap seats rattle our iPhones.

Oddly though, it’s a George Harrison song that pushes me over the edge. Now if you ask me, or Frank Sinatra, Something is indeed the greatest love song ever written. The blossoming version Macca delivers unfolds delicately from ukulele to full band with four-part harmonies. It is transcendental. Consider this spine well and truly tingled. And eyes moistened.

Now, it wouldn’t be Macca without a bit of that old cheese of course. A kid’s choir helps us all sing A Wonderful Christmas Time as the fake snow falls on the front rows. People are selected from the audience to join him on stage for a chat and hug. But as the cynics arm their pens, it’s worth remembering this isn’t a man fighting the wrongs of the Vietnam war, this is a man who wants to show us the transfer sticker tattoos his grandchildren gave him earlier in the day. Let him Be.

After the set-piece sing-along of sing-alongs Hey Jude leads us into an encore or two, there is one final moment for me, as Abe Jnr on drums powers the incredible band through Helter Skelter. Bucket List item #27 = ticked.

The fact that Macca chooses to include and deliver this near the end of three hour set is further proof that, despite approaching 70, there is no sign visible or audible to me that he wont continue for a 1,000 years at least.

And as Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End brings the night to a fitting close, Macca says he’ll see us next time.

And I respond with a big double thumbs up.

Set list on Setlist.fm | YouTube

Written By Jon Maher Saturday, December 24th, 2011

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December 7th, 2011

The Lemonheads and not being able to recreate More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

The Lemonheads at The Ritz, Manchester

The retrospective gig, which The Lemonheads at the fine Ritz in Manchester ostensibly is, assumes that the album work being celebrated is not only worthy of such devotion but will also stand up to the scrutiny placed on it.

Tonight the album some souls unimpressed at Seattle call early 90s America's finest (half) hour It's a Shame About Ray gets played in its entirety by a laconic Evan Dando.
Time has been graceful to Dando but not passed him over. His surfer/slacker looks are worn in, his mannerisms well practiced. He adjusts amp and levels between songs with an edge to perfectionism not in keeping with his image.

Dando start the show strumming solo before plunging into the album being celebrated with bassist and drummer. The pace is unrelenting.

The album stands up well being payed over more franticly live than memory of mellowed out listening suggests it would be. As an album It's A Shame About Ray captured stories - generally thought to be biographical - of a crossroads in a person's life. It tells of a turning that leads to a narcotic haze, another away from that and any number of compensation that come in companionship.

Dando pours an quart of his soul into the encapsulation of that that is My Drug Buddy. At times I've listened to Ray - and I'm no one's drug buddy and never have been - but heard challenging questions about if it is right to leave behind someone in the interests of improvement or do you owe it to that person to battle on together. I think of people I've known and shared things with but never see again. I think of The Beatles In My Life.

No Mrs Robinson, never a part of the album just a cd bonus track, but after Ray is done and the band work through some entertaining numbers from around their still continuing career it is contextualised in the same way Bridge Over Troubled Waters came at the moment Simon and Garfunkle's reached its shattering summit.

All albums capture a time for the audience which passes too quickly, not all do for bands who are required to live with their work and see it bleed back and forth unto other work. Ray though is an album of friction from a decision now resolved.

Live the album can be repeated, one doubts it could be recreated.

Written By Michael Wood Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

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June 28th, 2011

Morrissey the Reminder More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Morrissey at St George's Hall, Bradford

It is said that Morrissey's set at Glastonbury did not raise much of a note against the back drop of Beyonce but tonight Steven is on familiar ground.

Playing to an audience mostly advancing in years it might be seventeen years since the one time The Smiths front man was hosted in thus venue or this city but should he cast his eye over the faces that yodel back at the singer must feel on familiar ground.

Morrissey knows his audience and plays appropriately. Six The Smith tracks and a smattering of his modern stomp alongs are raucously received. The lighter moments of There Is A Light That Never Goes Out float over the heads of the beer guzzling sort who sing football songs between tracks.

It's difficult to recall sometimes just how insanely important The Smiths songs seemed on a personal level. They were Zeitgeist, they moved the person you were, informed the person you wanted to be.

Perhaps the gang mentality that weaves through of Morrissey's songs - and is seen in his backing band - attract the sort of element which missed that formative isolation which many years ago the Mancunian singer seemed to be all about avoiding. Morrissey is all about gangs, and leading them, and to illustrate that while he shimmers in a purple shirt the six men behind him dress identically in t-shirt emblazoned with the words Fuck Fur.

Morrissey is at his most effective when cast as the outcast leader. I Want The One I Can't Have still crackles with anti-authoritarianism and there is a stunned silence to the images of slaughter and animal cruelty projected behind Meat Is Murder.

It is there that Morrissey has risen to his full height as the reminder. The tap on the back or hand on the shoulder that recalls a person changed by time, and age, but who had nurtured dreams of something else.

Set list on Setlist.fm

Written By Michael Wood Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

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June 3rd, 2011

Belle, Sebastian, Connections More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Belle and Sebastian at O2 Academy, Leeds

"This is the last night of the tour, so we won't be seeing each other for a while, indulge us."

So Belle and Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch enjoys working through a few of the band's less well know numbers at Leeds having indulged the audience with Juno favourite Piazza, New York Catcher. There is talking loud throughout it because this is Leeds, and sometimes the music drowned out what must be a series of important conversations which buzz around.

I've always wondered what bands do between tours. Record, one supposes, but seemingly not together. We have a myth, us music fans, of the band as best mates living in one comedy house. It's not true, but we have to believe bands like each other, and us.

The latter seems a problem from the seats high in the O2 Academy - I'm not going on that floor again if I can help it - and while the band show no disdain or distaste towards their audience there is not the connection that seemed to mark the Manchester gig in December.
instead there are a few trips to areas one might not expect. Le Pastie De La Bourgeoisie is not often heard, nor is Slow Graffiti.

The band must out the lavish set of Manchester, no I Fought In A War here, but finish pairing Judy And The Dream of Horses with Me And The Major so people exit happy.

They have a reputation as being a hit and miss band do and perhaps it is justified but to me they seem more like a symbiotic act going their best when they get something from the audience which is missing tonight.

The band go their separate ways, the audience do too. On the night they never really came together.

Set list on Setlist.fm

Written By Michael Wood Friday, June 3rd, 2011

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