Tag Archives: pop

Art pop A.D.

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More by accident than design: now there’s a cliché; in music as in life. A happy accident occurred mere weeks ago, when noted British singer-songwriter, Steven Wilson lost his voice at a New York gig and back-up singer Ninet Tayeb stepped up to the plate to perform all his parts on a one-off rendition of his last, flawed album Hand. Cannot. Erase. Happy because said album was written in Wilson‘s imagination from the perspective of a female protagonist; and the aforementioned flaw is mostly, if not entirely the lack of authentic female voice. I can’t vouch for any improvement re Tayeb‘s rendition, only imagine it myself based on her contribution to the Brighton gig I attended: bluntly, she stole the show – and this on the back of three songs, including a fantastic take on Space Oddity.

There’s nothing accidental about Confessions Of A Romance Novelist, the latest release from Catherine Ann Davies – aka The Anchoress. It’s a concept album of sorts, and artful in the best way; pulling the prog trick of drawing together disparate styles, moods and time signatures into a cohesive whole.

Long Year recalls Morcheeba’s swampy trip hop; Popular invokes Kate Bush; p.s. Fuck You is smooth R’n’B with biting lyrics not quite disguised by perfectly understated delivery; Bury Me resembles nothing so much as Amy Lee – of Evanescence fame – in balladic mode; Chip On Your Shoulder is a bit Ladyhawke…

It’s wistful, confessional, soulful and angry by turns, gripping from start to finish.

Co-writer’s – Mansun‘s – Paul Draper‘s* hand is all over Confessions…, but unlike – the aforementioned – Wilson, he seems happy to play second fiddle. He contributes characteristic melodic sense to his duet, You and Only You, as well as instrumentation and production thruout, but never gets in the way of Davies‘ story.

As accessible, female-led art pop goes, this is up there with Alanis Morissette‘s – criminally-underrated ‘difficult sophomore’ –  Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie; Paula Cole‘s – raw, incandescent debut, This Fire and Janelle Monae‘s Metropolis twofer.

Check in with the anchoress and order the album:

https://www.facebook.com/theanchoress/

*Draper’s first solo . If it’s a patch on Attack Of The Grey Lantern and Six we’ll be in for a treat

Space Rock

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Way back in 2013 I posted a couple short missives/teasers (here and here) regarding Simon (son of Phil) Collins’ Sound Of Contact project with multi-instrumentalist/producer Dave Kerzner, and mysteriously failed to follow it up with an album review. Shame on me, then, for whilst Dimensionaut was initially a slow grower, it’s proved to be record deserving of repeated spins over the last year and a half. ‘Nu Prog’ is perhaps rightly derided for borrowing the musical template of the pioneering ’70s acts – long songs, instrumental showboating, conceptual contrivances – without really adding much in terms of originality or imagination. Certainly there are bands guilty on these counts – Riverside, early The Tangent and DeeExpus spring to mind – though for me the cardinal sin committed by such bands is their inability to oftentimes muster a memorable tune. Sound of Contact are not such a band, and whilst I enjoyed Dimensionaut from first listen, it was from repeated spins that I learned to really love it. Another recently-purchased album that falls loosely into the aforementioned ‘genre’ is Please Come Home by John Mitchell, aka Lonely Robot. The two artists (and albums) have, on the face of it much in common: overarching sci-fi themes; driving-force musical presences with a reluctance to commit their names to the project; a preponderance for hummable melody over musical excess (not always the case with ‘prog’ type acts).

Mitchell, and to a lesser extent, Collins are both well established ‘names’, at least on a cult-following level. As a long time Marillion fan I discovered the former thru his previous band Kino, featuring Pete Trewavas on bass guitar. He is also a key member of Jem Godfrey‘s Frost* project (third album, anytime soon?) whose Milliontown album remains a high watermark of Nu Prog. (Ironically, if casual listeners are familiar with Godfrey at all, it’s more likely to be thru his work with pure pop fodder such as Blue, Shayne Ward and Atomic Kitten). PCH could be an album by either of those artists, though, despite some input from Godfrey, it more closely resembles Kino. There is a certain ubiquity of melody and style which is distinctly Mitchell, albeit one which chimes rather well with Godfrey‘s and with the broader Nu Prog aesthetic. You can hear such an aesthetic in the work of bands as disparate as Fair To Midland, Doves, Everything Everything and Mystery Jets; one of making music that perfectly combines the demands of pop immediacy with complexity and depth. It’s not a million miles from the ’70s Art Rock blueprint mapped out by the likes of 10cc, Supertramp, or even Talking Heads. As early as the late ’90s, early ’00s, the idea that ‘Prog is no longer a 4-letter word’ had begun to creep back in. Albums such as Mansun‘s Six, Mercury Rev‘s All Is Dream, Pure Reason Revolution‘s The Dark Third and Secret Machines’ Now Here Is Nowhere attracted much critical acclaim. Radiohead perhaps deserve much of the credit for re-establishing the idea that musical ambition is a worthy pursuit, their own flowering spectacularly – in parallel with popularity and critical acclaim – on OK Computer and the Kid Amnesiac double-whammy. Dimensionaut and Please Come Home wear their cleverness more lightly than those albums: in spite of the sci-fi concept angle, both are perfectly enjoyable as pop pieces, for their well-written songs. Both, as is so true of the best of Nu Prog, hark back to ’80s/’90s pop/rock. I’m not a huge fan of Phil Collins‘ solo output at the best of times (as much as I love so much of his work with Genesis) but I’m not oblivious to the fact that he was incredibly popular; and that doesn’t happen without good reason. His son has clearly imbibed much of what was great about his writing: it’s almost a perfect balance of pop Phil/prog Phil. Lonely Robot tips unselfconciously its hat to ’80s singer-songwriting talent too, in the form of cameos from Go West‘s Peter Cox and Nik Kershaw. Both have, what I like to affectionately call their Porcupine Tree (and there’s another band that certainly belongs amongst the list in the previous paragraph) moments; where metallic riffing rudely, albeit appropriately intrudes into procedings in trademark Nu Prog counterpoint.

On first inspection, they could almost have been produced by the same crew, despite Mitchell’s and Collins’ distinct vocal styles (the latter’s eerily similar to his dad’s, as is his drumming): both exhibit the ubiquity of the new prog era as much as its accomplishment. The jarring, unsettling aspects that say, Robert Fripp, Peters Hammill or Hackett brought to the party back in the day (or latterly Radiohead and Secret Machines) are notable for their absence. Where Crimson, Van Der Graaf and early Genesis could sometimes be fuzzy and disorienting, Nu Prog is smooth prog. I’m conscious that I still haven’t provided a proper review of either album; but if you’re a fan of things proggy I hope I’ve maybe progressed a few yards in whetting your appetite. If you’ve made it this far, check out a couple soundclips now: these are not albums that you want to be missing.

What’s in a name…

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What indeed?

In the case of prog-pop supergroup, Flying Colors, one might argue the case for a moniker that promises more than it can reasonably hope to deliver. Factor in the title of sophomore release, Second Nature and the musical nostrils detect an air of, what? Complacency? Pretencious indulgence? If the latter is the former, less so.

In point of fact, the (album) title has been hanging around on the substitute bench for quite some time. Aficianados of the neo-prog revival will doubtless be aware that two members of FC have previous together: Mike Portnoy and Neal Morse have collaborated extensively over the last decade and a half; as the American half of Transatlantic; on most of Morse’s solo records and also in tribute acts such as Yellow Matter Custard, paying homage to their shared love of The Beatles. Second Nature was a working title for what eventually emerged as Transatlantic in 2001 (S.M.P.T.e) and was also mooted as a name for that band’s second (and best) album, Bridge Across Forever. It’s perhaps not coincidental that that two-words cliché has finally come to rest on the sleeve of a record that, at times, bears more than a passing resemblance to the project on which Mssrs Morse and Portnoy first joined forces.

Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda.

Open Up Your Eyes also opens the album, and there’s no denying a more than passing similarity to TA and solo- Morse material. It’s a 12-minute ‘epic’ that wouldn’t have been out of place on a TA album and more than justifies its running time: full of melody, harmony and hard-rockin’ hookiness…

The album also finishes with a long-form piece, albeit one quite unlike any previous. Cosmic Symphony is an, er, symphony in three parts; the first of which comes closest thusfar in living up to Portnoy‘s boast that FC dip their toes into the nu-prog/indie-art-rock waters occupied by Muse/Radiohead. Casey McPherson‘s vocal and the timbre of the song bear an uncanny resemblance to Muse circa The Resistance. As a piece, the languid mood reminds me particularly of Montréal, the narrative-based centrepiece of Marillion‘s Sounds That Can’t Be Made.

In-between, the album ploughs, for the most part, the same hooky, hard-rock groove as FC‘s eponymous debut. McPherson is a stronger, rockier singer than (Neal) Morse; Dave LaRue a less melodic, less conspicuous low-end presence than Pete Trewavas and (Steve) Morse : in short, FC adhere closer to rock convention than TA, which is no bad thing following the – relative – disappointment of Kaleidoscope, which generally found (Neal) Morse‘s superior melodic gifts sidelined in favour of fancy, less-memorable arrangements.

Bombs Away irritates me, featuring a melody that feels familiar yet I can’t place.

Points are lost – lyrically – for The Fury Of My Love: it’s the kind of misogynistic, ‘Cruel To Be Kind’ crap that one hoped rock might have deserted decades ago. On the plus side – melodically – it echoes vintage Tears For Fears. But in the main, Second Nature rescues victory from the jaws of a defeat that seems pre-ordained in the title of both album and band. It’s an album that manages to balance – like the aforementioned TFF – virtuosity and accessibility very well indeed. Lead single Mask Machine perfectly exemplifies this, whoaoahwhoahwohoah: singer McPherson achieving the kind of leg-up Ray Wilson ought to have been granted when he briefly fronted Genesis in the late ’90s.

Not without problematic aspects, FC have managed to deliver one of the most interesting. listenbable rock albums of 2014.

 

The greatest (2)

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…Volume two in an occasional series

Two (contrasting) offerings from Neneh Cherry: one of my favourite vocalists and lyricists. Her tone and delivery are unmistakeable, richly-soulful in a way that too many ‘Soul’ singers aren’t and she’s apt to switch between singing and rapping in a manner as organic as it is unpredictable. Like two of my other favourites, Seal and (Marillion‘s) Steve Hogarth, she plays fast and loose with rhythm around and against the backing track; teases raw poetry from unlikely word-choices.  Progressive might not be the first word to spring to mind when one thinks of Cherry‘s music, but her restless musical exploration spanning four decades has encompassed – and frequently blurred the divisions between – electro, trip-hop, soul, rock, folk and jazz styles, much as her mixed-parentage, itinerant lifestyle and multi-ethnic extended family challenges conventional notions of nationality. Hers is a musical melting pot to dip into again and again and continually discover new and fresh flavour combinations…

Move With Me

Think Twice (with Groove Armada)

Alternative Oz – sweet as…

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REVIEW – HONEYWHEELER (EP) by HONEYWHEELER

Australia isn’t necessarily the first country that springs to mind when one thinks of world-class rock bands, but cast your eye down the following list – AC/DC, Midnight Oil, INXS, Crowded House, Silverchair, Karnivool, Pendulum and Tame Impala – and it’s evident that for a sparsely-populated nation it certainly punches above its weight. The two decades-old (fuck me! Was it really that long ago? Seems like last week) explosion of Grunge/Britpop clearly left its mark on the Antipodean musical consciousness, if this eponymously-titled EP by Aussie rock four-piece Honeywheeler is anything to go by: the Bandcamp blurb describes lead singer Angel Love Owens as an ‘unabashed ’90s kid’, and knowing – by way of her blog –  of her feminist inclinations I mentally put two and two together and came up with L7. In fact, the songs on this EP bear scant similarity to the tampon-flinging LA Grunge rockers save for occasional excursions into a dirtier, riffier guitar attack on Best Thing and Eat Your Heart Out: which is not to suggest that the …Wheelers lack Yankee, Riot Grrl attitude; rather that it’s tempered with a more characteristically-British sweetness and light…

Because this ‘Alternative Rock’ which soundtracked my mis-spent teens and early twenties developed independently on both sides of the Atlantic, and Honeywheeler takes its fair share of inspiration from each scene; and whilst it would be a stretch to say the band have created much that is truly original, they’ve clearly put in their 10,000 hours and then some: there’s no denying that they understand the mechanics of a good pop tune, and know how to capture it crisply and powerfully on ‘record’.

And if it seems unfairly reductive, not to say a tad sexist, to trot out a slew of comparisons to female-fronted Indie bands, Honeywheeler does wear its Alt-’90s heart on its plaid-clad sleeve: whilst listening to this EP I had a mental image of a young Owens practising her Justine Frischmann and Louise Post moves in front of a dressing table mirror. And if she stops short of Donita Sparks‘back the fuck up’ snarl, it’s clear she ain’t got no truck with your lily-livered, whiney-ass mansplainin’, either and you’d best listen, dammit! She does sweet and sardonic; hard and heartbroken with equal ease and conviction. The musical backing is, for the most part, capably-executed and not short of hooks, and though Owens takes the songwriting credits on all tracks, three of the four members (also comprising Chris Ellis [Gt], Andy Coles [Bs] and Damien Grove [Dr]) contribute guitar so it’s a hard job to assign proper credit for individual performances.

Two of the five tracks on offer here do step some way outside of that (’90s) mould, though. Lyrics aside, I Don’t Love You could be one of Grant Hart‘s more cheerful offerings from Hüsker Dü, circa Warehouse: and driving closer, I’m Over It (by far the best thing on here) shows musical ambitions outside of straight pop. Its nearly-five minutes allow room for guitar histrionics without succumbing to cheesy rock-god posturing and Owens‘ delivery is both urgent and impassioned, with guest vocalist Michael Strong (…And The Ghost Anyway, The Disappointed)  adding louche, gravelled counterpoints: their interplay is reminiscent – though only a little – of Pure Reason Revolution‘s Jon Courtney and Chloë Alper which is no bad thing in my book. And I love the quirky little synth outro on Another: although Owens‘ is credited with keys, those parts are mostly understated. These moments hint towards a more expansive rock sound and the benefits of additional synthetic ear-candy and suggest two potential directions the band might explore to expand their musical palette.

Here’s a link to the EP via their Bandcamp page – style gurus note the ‘fridge magnet’ option – the coolest rock accessory since Mastodon‘s The Hunter key chain 😉 Enjoy!

My musical 2012

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The Christmas top-ten probably takes the number one slot in the top ten most predictable and pointless thing to blog about at Christmas – so I’m not going to provide one. In fact, I’d probably be hard-pressed to do so: since finally acquiring home broadband around 18 months ago – yeah, I know I’m a bit late to the party; hell, I only upgraded to a smartphone about three months back! – my once-gluttonous compact disc consumption has declined to the point of musical anorexia; in inverse proportion to my porn intake. That’s not to say I listen to music any less – quite the contrary if anything – I simply buy a lot less frequently. Youtube, BandCamp, Soundcloud, Spotify – you gotta love ’em!  So what I’m giving you instead is a brief summary of my musical highlights – and low points – from the past year or so. You may observe the tone wavering on occasion from the serious, objective posture that I strive to maintain on my blog as a rule – but fuck it! If you can’t let your hair down at Christmas…

I and Thou – Speak. This is how Prog – and great music in general – should be done; album of the year for me: musicbugsandgender review

British Theatre – Dyed in the Wool Ghost. Good to see more inventive and original music arising from the ashes of the much-missed Oceansize, in the form of Mike Vennart and Gambler‘s BT project. With less emphasis on their former band’s metal trappings, and a rhythmic and atmospheric foundation in dark, glitchy electronica; this is nonetheless recognizably from the same creative stable as the ‘Size, and deserves to broaden the potential fanbase for the music of that band and its various ex-members. In other post-Oceansize news, former guitarist Steve Durose is now a full-time member of fellow Manc-based rockers Amplifier and their new album is due for imminent release. If the quality of their last effort, the double album The Octopus is anything to go by, we’re entitled to set our expectations high:

British Theatre – Dyed in the Wool Ghost musicbugsandgender review (with soundclips)

Amplifier – Echo Street update from kscope records

And for any Amp newbies, here’s taste of the immersive, space-rockin’ heavy psych for which the band are rightly revered

Tame Impala – Lonerism. Whilst stylistically-unlike Speak (above) this is likewise, a well-judged exercise in bang-up-to-date retro. Their pop-historical touchpoints are scarcely hard to discern: acid-washed Lennonesques and a Barrett-inspired sense of the absurd give the Antipodeans’ pop an otherness that makes it stand out from the crowd; opening up a wormhole into a Revolver-inspired future.  If single Elephant might be dismissed as Astronomy Domine with added Aussie swagger for the ’00s then it’s no less entertaining for that; and the album has Dave Fridmann‘s fingerprints all over it, too; making it a doubleplusgood investment for fans of The Lips and MGMT; as well as Beatles and Floyd nostalgia hounds

DeeExpus – The King of Number 33.  If I and Thou and Steven Wilson epitomise all that’s fine and worthy in today’s Prog scene, ‘King…’ is a 74 minute lesson in the pitfalls that lie in wait for the aspiring nu-progger; not to mention the foolhardiness of (me) relying on a handful of soundclips as a guide to where to dispose of one’s (my) hard-earned bucks. Much touted by prog-o-philic journos and fans alike, this vehicle for the writing of singer and multi-instumentalist, Andy Ditchfield is all mouth and trousers; superficially satisfying but revealing a disarming lack of emotional or intellectual substance on repeat listens . Like Poland’s Riverside, they purvey an awkward mish-mash of generic prog/hard rock tropes without really excelling in any of them: nary the nimble-fingered chops of a John Petrucci; the finely-tuned melodic ear of a Steven Wilson or the lyrical intuition of a Steve Hogarth in sight (or rather, hearing) here. Ditchfield personifies the stereotype of rock fan as emotional eunuch, grappling awkwardly with feelings thru clumsy and convoluted allegory: thus the potentially touching story of an autistic youngster growing up in a country town is rendered soulless and unaffecting; smothered under layers of sub-par shredding and second-hand riffs. After all else, though, what really has me reaching for the skip button is a dearth of memorable hooks. Three tracks save the album from being a complete write-off: opening number, Me and My Downfall bounces along at a good clip and draws the listener in; part 2 of the title song (and obligatory 20-odd minute opus) is lifted by characteristic keyboard solos from Marillion‘s Mark Kelly letting rip like he hasn’t since Assassing, and Memo has both pop appeal and a touch of real sentiment, thanks again to a guest spot (this time from Nik Kershaw on vocal lead, showing Ditchfield how it ought to be done). That leaves a lot of filler, though: Frost* (Milliontown and Experiments in Mass Appeal), Kino (Picture) and the last two Pendragon albums (if you can stomach Nick Barrett‘s  hackneyed, sentimental apologies for lyrics) exemplify how this modern/nu  prog (taking the ’90s rather than the ’60s as its musical springboard) can be executed so much better; and in a niche as saturated as this, only the best will do.

Celldweller – Wish Upon a Black Star. I’m a recent convert to the Klayton (a.k.a. Scott Albert) cause, having clicked on a YouTube recommendation whilst perusing the Pendulum catalogue online.  Like sampling elements of Pendulum, Knife Party, Chase & Status, NIN, Slipknot and Devin Townsend‘s more pop-oriented stylings (check out Epicloud) into your Pro-Tools rig and pressing ‘mash-up’; this is a melange that succeeds as spectacularly as DeeExpus fail, mostly because Klayton‘s writing is almost consistently spot-on. With great melodies and jackhammer beats utilised to deadly effect, Skrillex-style digital warps and bends, chunky guitar riffs and cinematic string orchestrations are just the icing on an already more-ish cake. And like Fear Factory – another band known mostly for their spine-crushing heaviosity – he also writes a great ballad. This album is geared more towards the Metal audience than the EDM one, and like earlier exponents of ‘Rocktronica’ including the aforementioned Pendulum, The Prodigy and Apollo 440 it shows that it’s possible to rock out without an over-reliance on overfamiliar six-string rifferama. Nice tip of the hat to ’80s Rush on Seven Sisters, too.

Steven Wilson – Rock musician of this decade and the last, with only Radiohead offering any serious competition in the creativity stakes, Wilson still nudges ahead for me, thru dint of sheer prolific-ness. 2012 has arguably been his best year to date: having proved his resilience and single-mindedness in breaking thru to the fringes of the mainstream with Porcupine Tree, he’s now put that band on hiatus – along with the bulk of his production and remix work – to concentrate on his art-rock/darkwave/jazz-fusion-influenced solo material. Both Insurgentes (2008) and Grace for Drowning (2011) were up there with the cream of PT, and he’s spent the last two years touring an impressive stage production that showcases the best of those albums, juxtaposed with movies by long-time partner in multimedia crime, Lasse Hoile and ambient material from his Bass Communion project. Currently working on the follow-up album for early 2013 with his touring band, and Alan Parsons in the producer’s chair, it’s a given that I’ll be online first thing on the day the pre-order opens:

Special editions – too much already! As an admirer of musical economy and brevity – incongruous in a prog fan, I know, but can Scott Walker‘s peerless 1, 2, 3, 4 and Climate of Hunter recordings be bettered for mastery of the LP format? – I find something farcical in the ever-accelerating trend to bring out multiple-disc editions of ‘classic’ albums incorporating every fart and squeak that NEVER MADE IT to the final cut. Who are the nerds that buy this shit? The Wall was already too long without the 5 discs of dubious extras that accompany the Immersion edition; and if you read internet forums you’ll have caught on that Peter Gabriel fans are less than delighted with his choice of bonus material appended to the 25th Anniversary edition of So (which isn’t even being released in the right year – come on Peter, there was a bit more of a drug issue at Charterhouse than you’re letting on, right; those wardrobe, make-up and hairstyling tips had to have come from somewhere, or something). Why do artists believe rational human beings want to pay twice and more for the same material in Mono, Stereo, 5.1, Vinyl, DVD, Blu-Ray and MP3 all in the same package? So-called audiophiles will never listen to the LPs, anyway – just put them straight into cryogenic storage and wank to the fantasy of how great they might sound in an alternate universe. But then, Prog and rational in the same sentence – a Roxymoron, surely? I still feel stung over forking out for the limited edition of The Flaming Lips‘ ‘Embryonic‘ only to find the ‘bonus’ DVD contained but two extra copies of the EXACT SAME MATERIAL, albeit in 16 and 24 bit Stereo – neither of which I have the gubbins to even play – gah! Should have read the label, I guess. The exceptions to this rule are Steven Wilson/Porcupine Tree whose 10″ hardbound books are truly things of beauty, both musically and visually, and likewise, Marillion‘s ‘Campaign Editions’ both of which support more than worthy musical causes, and demonstrate the kind of attention to detail in packaging that recalls the likes of Alice Cooper‘s School’s Out and Tull‘s Thick as a Brick. Their latest, Sounds That Can’t Be Made is, coincidentally, their best collection of songs in years, pipping even the wonderful Happiness is the Road at the post; and if it weren’t for I and Thou, would have been my album of the year. In fact, I nominate this September release as the exception to the rip-off Special Edition rule for 2012. Here’s a wee taster

Muse – The 2nd Law.Apocalypse – check; conspiracy – check; a myriad of pop influences butting up uneasily yet perfectly against each other – check; rock pyrotechnics and orchestral flourishes – check… must be the new Muse, then. To be honest it’s business as usual in camp Muse – this is very much of a piece with their last two releases, and if you didn’t get Black Holes… or The Resistance then this is unlikely to sway you. On average, I’d say the songs are stronger than the latter, though the album as a whole lags somewhat behind the former as a unified statement of musical intent. Well worth your money, though, and as by far the most commercially viable exponents of prog rock since Kayleigh nearly topped the charts back in ’85: they played at the Olympics for God’s sake – Muse deserve much of the credit for rehabilitating public interest in this once-vilified sub-genre. By incorporating a bit of Bro-step into their melodic, symphonic, stadium rock bombast, they arguably exemplify the ’60’s progressive rock model better than most: the roots of prog were fiercely contemporary, not regressive and copyist, and with the mighty Pure Reason Revolution gone, who else is left to drag prog into the 21st century?

Depeche Mode – announced a new album and tour: when perhaps they ought to have been announcing their retirement. Ultra was their last release that was, if not up to the stratospheric standards of their exceptional run of discs from Black Celebration thru Songs of Faith and Devotion, at least worthy of the band name. And if concert footage from the last tour is anything to go by, Dave Gahan is struggling to hit the notes these days, much as he struggles to write songs as appealing as Martin Gore‘s.

Scott Walker – Bish Bosch. Guaranteed to hover close to the top of any self-respecting art-rock aficiando’s must-buy list, the only reason I don’t have it yet is – bah, humbug! – the necessity to buy other people Xmas gifts and the resultant deficit in my disposable income. Grr. 😉 Seriously, though, lead ‘single’, Epizootics! shows, if nothing else, that the guardian Engel of avant-garde pop isn’t getting any less odd. Me? I love it! Roll on pay day:

Johnny Marr – like another much-admired Brit guitar supremo, John Squire, Marr demonstrates that his melodic ear, gift for imaginative arrangements and superlative production don’t necessarily translate into great rock music. Mrar‘s best work – two albums with The The, Electronic‘s first and third, Pet Shop Boys Release album, Modest Mouse‘s We Were Dead… and of course, The Smiths – has always been collaborative. Whilst the guitar work on Messenger (below) is audibly the work of the same six fingers that gave us Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now and There Is A Light That Never Goes Out; the song, and Marr‘s voice in particular are disappointingly bland; generic. His previous ‘solo’ outing (with The Healers) Boomslang wasn’t much to write to write home to yer mam about either – so let’s cross our fingers for another Electronic album, or that he and Morrissey take a leaf out of their fellow Manc superstars’ book…

Rush made the Rock’n’Roll hall of fame. Couldn’t give a stuff, personally; nor about the Grammy’s, Brits, MOBOs or any other kind of industry love-in, with the possible exception of the Mercurys. When it comes to musical merit I trust my own ears. The Mayans may have overstated their psychic credentials when they predicted 2012 as the year the world ends; but wouldn’t it be a relief if it marked the demise of the facile award ceremony as we know it? Hell, in for a penny and all that – lets throw in the end of spurious TV talent shows for good measure. Having rudely dissed over-the-hill synth-rockers The Mode (above) hats off to Martin Gore for laying into Simon Cowell this month: bit of Essex Boy attitude- cowabunga! Like DM, Rush are well past their heyday – Moving Pictures thru Power Windows, Hold Your Fire at a pinch, imo – but Clockwork Angels is a pretty decent album, streets ahead of the execrable Snakes and Arrows for sure. So who knows, maybe The Mode can manage a similar turnaround?

And that’s your lot: musical apogee and nadir circa 2012 (imho). But just as a wee little bonus, and picking up the recurring theme of apocalypse; here’s a quick reminder of what great music sounded like in days of yore.

Here’s to 2013