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The Curmudgeon – January 2008 Edition

Richard Hawley: "Lady

One year has winded down and another one has begun. You can tell by the chaos. The malls and stores are filled with crashing bores and generally scary people. Traffic is nuts. People are “fake nice” and smile way too much.

It’s times like this that make me glad I shop online or at my indie retailer. Anyway, holiday merriment aside, 2007 was quite a year. It was a year of laughter, smiles, moving, lots of DJing, lots of books and a whole lot of generally trying to keep up.

So I guess this column will be a summary of sorts but also one with news and insights and all that jazz.

Anyway let’s dispense with this stuff early on…

List Madness! Because I am going to be bothered relentlessly for them–here are my Top 10 lists. Yes, I have no taste, now let me live in peace.

1. Richard Hawley: Lady’s Bridge (Mute)
2. Arcade Fire: Neon Bible (Merge)
3. MIA: Kala (XL)
4. Radiohead: In Rainbows
5. Klaxons: Myths of the Near Future (DGC)
6. Kate Nash: Made of Bricks (Fiction UK)
7. The National: The Boxer (Matador)
8. LCD Soundsystem: The Sound of Silver (Capitol/DFA)
9. Blonde Redhead: 23 (4AD)
10. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings: 100 Days 100 Nights (Dap King)

TOP 10 FILMS of 2007
1. Juno
2. No Country For Old Men
3. Persepolis
4. Atonement
5. Hot Fuzz
6. There Will Be Blood
7. Michael Clayton
8. Control
9. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
10. Once

1. Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten
2. In the Shadow of the Moon
3. King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

I am way behind in books and comics I am afraid. Having moved to a new flat I have mounds of books, DVDs and comics to get to. Urgh. But I did get some massive new bookshelves and that has made everything much easier. What I am trying to say is this: 2008 for me begins with a massive pop culture dig out. Fortunately the writer’s strike is delaying a lot of stuff and giving me some catch up time.

I loved Battlestar Galactica: Razor. I thought it tied some things together nicely.

Persepolis kicked ass. It was really amazing.

Frank Black: "93-03" CD cover art

I know it came out in June but I must say I’ve spent a lot of time in the last month or so with the “new” Frank Black best of compilation, 93-03. From his early stuff on Elektra to his newer recordings with The Catholics. I loved The Pixies and a lot of the early solo recordings. However I must that I overlooked some of the stuff in the late 90s and the early new decade. Charles Thompson has always understood where his music comes from and he’s always sprinkled it with his goofy humor in a way that made it enjoyable. In the last few years though he’s rocked out and twanged out all the while juggling his Pixies reunion duties.

His one time cohort Kim Deal has finally gotten around to making a new Breeders record. The often delayed Mountain Battles drops in the spring on 4AD.

Polytechnic are from Manchester, a city rich in musical artistry. However the thing is with these guys is that they seem more playful and explorative in how they use melodies and chord progressions. Down ‘Til Dawn is an auspicious debut with lots of texture and density.

The first great album of the year is Made of Bricks by Kate Nash. It’s been out for ages in the UK and I love it. As a lyricist Nash is ferocious. On an album filled with songs about bad relationships, breakups and morons she never relents on her castigation of her partner. The “Pumpkin Soup” song and “Foundations” are just two examples of her exemplary use of lyrics and melody. The end result is an album with lots of bite from a very talented songstress who understands wit and irony. Nash is also working on a collection of short stories that she hopes to release in book form.

The Brit Box CD cover art

Rhino has just released The Brit Box, a 4-disc retrospective of UK music from the late 80s and early 90s. I love a lot of it — The Primitives, The La’s, Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, The Cure, The Smiths, etc — However near the end they put in some rather shoddy records form the early 90s from the likes of Echobelly, Dodgy and Ash that just seem really dated by comparison. Yes Britpop had its floundering moments but most of it was pretty groovy. Overall the folks at Rhino have made a nice collection here. They score points for including bands like The Shop Assistants, Felt and Spacemen 3 but faltered in omitting bands like the Jazz Butcher and The House of Love. New Order is included but Pet Shop Boys who influenced more of that era than you’d expect and Depeche Mode who revamped their sound at that time are off the list.

I finally got around to hearing Year Zero by Nine Inch Nails. Maybe I was tired of Trent and that whole Hot Topic subculture but this is an amazingly great record.

Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil has been named Environment Minister of Australia.

The Killers are cover crazy these days. They recently covered “Shadowplay” by Joy Division for the Control soundtrack. They’ve also recorded a snazzy cover of Kenny Rogers’ Ruby.

Speaking of Control, the film won four British Independent Film Awards.

Sparks are back with a new album and an extended residency in London from May 16th to June 11th. Each night will feature the band performing a different album in its entirety.

Band of Horses will be touring in the US through February.

Also touring is Wu-Tang Clan who has reformed with eight of their surviving members for a tour through the end of January.

Ladytron has signed to Nettwerk Records. They are currently in Paris polishing up their fourth studio album which should be out this May.

The Hold Steady

Another band in the studio is The Hold Steady who is working on their next album for Vagrant records with an eye on a fall release.

Dan Nelson of Devilsize is now the new lead vocalist of Anthrax.

We’ve heard this before…. Portishead are releasing a new album. Really, it’ll come out in April of next year.

Beck is reissuing Odelay later this month with 16 extra B-sides and remixes.

Also reissued is Here My Dear, the infamous divorce album by Marvin Gaye. The long out of print record was not looked upon favorably by Motown when it was originally released in 1978 after Gaye’s nasty divorce from Anna Gordy.

Heima, the documentary film about Sigur Ros, is now screening in selected theaters in the US.

Margot & the Nuclear So & Sos has signed to Epic Records.


Firewater has singed to Bloodshot records.

Man Man has signed to Anti.

The Long Blondes are returning this April with Couples, their sophomore album.

Yeasayer are opening the new year with an extended tour.

Stephen Malkmus will release a new record, Real Emotional Trash, this March.

Steve Smith of Death In Dirty Vegas has gone solo with This Town, due in February. (Corrected–thanks, Vaidehi)

Jay Z has resigned as President of Def Jam. He is eager to work on “other projects.”

Mr. Love & Justice is the title of the long overdue release from Billy Bragg. Robert Wyatt makes a guest appearance eon the new album which is due out by the spring.


Morrissey has a new label deal with Polydor’s Decca imprint. His new single, “That’s How People Grow Up,” is one of two new numbers on his forthcoming Greatest Hits package due in February.

The Police made over 212 million dollars touring last year. Kind of makes you wish you could be in a band with your mates and fight all the time on your way to the bank doesn’t it?

Corey Glover of Living Color is playing Judas in the touring cast of Jesus Christ Superstar.

Those wanting a faster more edgy REM are in for a treat. Their new record, Accelerate, promises to be a fast tempoed throwdown. It is produced by Jacknife Lee who has done wonders producing albums for Bloc Party, Snow Patrol and U2.

Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead has composed a wonderful score for the film There Will Be Blood.

My Bloody Valentine

Shoegazers the world over are rejoicing over the much rumored often delayed My Bloody Valentine reformation. MBV have already sold out and added dates throughout the UK and will command big dollars when they play Stateside. Their reunion will culminate in a new album, available digitally by the summer. I cannot emphasize enough what this means. It basically ensures that 2008 will see “shoegazer” noise pop back in vogue again. It’ll also usher in a flurry of reunions and it’ll be like the pre-grunge early 90s al over again. MBV may be the most seminal band of that decade. Their album Loveless has become that starting point for many a record collection.

If that weren’t enough, The Jesus & Mary Chain is finishing up new material for a late spring release and tour.

She, Sir is an Austin-based band that I happened across by chance. Their EP, Who Can’t Say Yes, is a blissed out excursion into fuzzy happiness. “I Love You Blowtorch Eyes” is a personal favorite.

Austin is also the home of Ghostland Observatory, a band that will make a huge impact this year as well. Aesthetically the duo creates electronic thumpiness that they describe as “a robot making love to a tree!!” Their new album, Robotique Majestique, should be out in February. Big things are gonna happen for them.

2008 is also going to be a big year for Nick Cave. His new album Dig Lazarus Dig!! is due out in March with a tour to follow. Plus his thoroughly compelling score for the film The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (with Bad Seed Warren Ellis) is Oscar worthy.

Going Away White is the final album from Bauhaus who are splitting up (again).

Going away for awhile as well is Electrelane who recently announced an amicable “time off” break for the band.

Another one bites the dust….Seattle’s Crocodile Café has closed after 17 years. The club helped launch the careers of Mudhoney, Sleater-Kinney and some band called Nirvana amongst others. The Crocodile Café helped Seattle get on the musical map and was a key part of the “grunge” explosion of the 90s.

As if they didn’t have enough money, U2 are releasing a 3D concert film, U2 3D. The film will undoubtedly change how concert films are made and produced.

Mark your calendars. June, 2009 is the official opening of the ABBA Museum in Stockholm. The museum promises to be a 3-story extravaganza complete with costumes, memorabilia, photographs and interactive exhibits that lets visitors record their own versions of ABBA songs.

Hyperbubble has released three new songs on a split 7″ EP with Shisho.

The High Violets has released Satellite Remixes, a collection of reinterpretations of their songs with mixes from Ulrich Schnauss, BASIC, Darren Ebert and others.

If you like fun zippy spastic pop records check out Cut Off Your Hands‘ EP, Shaky Hands. This New Zealand foursome is booked to play Big Day Out in 2008 with other dates undoubtedly to come.

Some quick signs of the Apocalypse:

  • Marilyn Manson is dating Evan Rachel Wood.
  • High School The Musical (someone please stop this now!)
  • The Captain & Tennille reunion.

As we enter the New Year I hope you all have a happy and healthy year. I there are some cool things coming down the road with movies and music this year and I hope my suppositions prove correct.