Naturally, like any sane, healthy person I really spent the entire year listening to Richard Thompson and Miles Davis, but obviously as an ageing hipster-in-denial I also felt obliged to try and stay saggingly abreast of all the stuff that the kids ( for whom I maintain a lordly late-thirties combination of envy, contempt and irritation) were into. Admittedly I didn’t do very well, only really managing to hear the Klaxons and Arcade Fire. I sort of approved of the Klaxons and loved their sleeve design, packaging, general shiny conceptualism and slightly antiquated Lit-referencing (the obligatory Burroughs, Pynchon and such ) but the music didn’t really draw me in. The same for the year’s really big success story, hype-intensive and hypertensive Canadians Arcade Fire. Listening to their strenuous, rather clubfooted attempt to hit that big moment you kind of willed them on, come on, yes, let’s have some poetic grandeur, some cinemascope, but somehow they just never got there. It was the musical equivalent of performance anxiety, just when you thought grandiosity, pretentiousness, the epic were about to break through they quickly reigned it back in startled at their own temerity. It takes an ego as monstrous, and frankly a lyricism as unabashed, as Bono’s to deliver the truly messianic. The Arcade Fire tucked their hands into their cardigan sleeves a bit too much, finally wanted to just be one of us a little too earnestly, too middlebrow, too middle-class, too decent. We’re here to change your life, if that’s alright with you…
Of course you shouldn’t think this means that what I actually did spend time listening to wasn’t also pretty trad …..
Part Four: A Trad Tryptich
(Err, it’s a top fifteen of the year or something, this.. leave me be.. I’m on a roll, fer fuck’s sake)
Compilation of the century was undoubtedly Weatherall’s insanely magnificent kickin-it-all-off contribution to Soma’s incipient Sc-Fi- Lo-FI series. What is it about that spacey combination of voodoo drums, sheets of reverb and treble-bright twang that’s so darn addictive? It’s the primitive-futurist thing, not yet risen to heights of self-consciousness! The spaceman in the jungle! While the compilation lacked the intergalactic bad-ass of Johnny “Guitar" Watson’s Space Guitar (see above) it more than compensated with the truly astonishing Jungle Fever from Charlie Feathers, a kind of senile, scattted suturing of doo-wop and hillbilly funk, the find of the year. From Link Wray Rockabilly through to The Shockheaded Peter’s Queer industrial R and B. Sci Fi Lo Fi was an absolute gem.
And Weatherall weirdly kept me hooked into his world with his own two projects last year, The Two lone Swordsmen’s “Wrong meeting” parts one and two, for which the stuff compiled on Sci-Fi-Lo-Fi had proved an inspiration. Genuinely against-the- grain concept albums-of-a-kind they were as in love with sixties garage, Goth and rockabilly as they could be ( a previous album, “ From the Double-Gone Chapel” saw them covering the Gun Club’s Sex Beat) the albums floated a backwoods', backroads' scenario of Tobe Hooper Americana inf(l)ected with buzzing, swooping synths. Perhaps not the most colourful vocalist in the world ( I assume it was Weatherall handling the vocals) and despite drafting in a couple of birds wot could actually sing the albums began to pall if taken together but in individual doses they had an oddness of intent and atmosphere, a cryptic, cavernous quality that kept me coming back for more.