This is a scene that repeats itself up and down the country every week. Can we begin to class Jim Henson alongside Orwell as the true Nostradamus' of our time? Seems to be the case, ay...
Wednesday, 24 June 2009
Tuesday, 23 June 2009
As a 14-year-old boy in rural Northern Ireland, before the age of the Internet, it’s fair to say my exposure to The Blues was limited. Sure, The Commitments was as hallowed in our house as any in Ireland, but The Commitments was a laugh. Nothing more. It was always going to take something unusual to spark an interest in the genre, luckily, that something came, and when it did, it took me and countless other barely-adolescents with it.
Gomez are, on the face of it, as unlikely bluesmen as you’ll ever come across. A bunch of student scruffs from Southport, emerging in the fallout of Britpop. Theirs is a tale that bears reflection. Their debut album is one that warrants revisiting. And when you do, there’s every chance you’ll find it every bit as good as you remember.
From the opening, grinding bars of Get Miles, to the now infamous skiffle riff of Whippin’ Piccadilly, to the soothing mariachi strum of Tijuana Lady (yes, I realise the song is a piss take, but it’s still a damn fine tune) and epic and bi-polar centrepiece, Here Comes The Breeze; Bring It On remains, for me, one of the best British albums of my time.
The album won the Mercury Music Prize at a time when it might have meant something, but there were greater achievements than that. Gomez showed at least one 14-year-old that you didn’t have to have a mop-top hairdo, didn’t have to owe an overriding debt to The Beatles, The Kinks or The Stones to make a classic album.
It seemed absurd at the time that these boys had the gall to take on The Blues, but face it; grizzled Louisianans hardly have a monopoly on money woes, boozing, run-ins with the law and tales of sexual triumph and despair. The shoe fitted for Gomez (and probably most students) and they took their chance in glorious style. I remember thinking that I must have unearthed a gem. Nobody else in my year had cottoned on to Gomez; most were still too busy with Be Here Now.
But in the years since, countless people have told me the album had a similar impact on them and their musical taste. Bring It On was my gateway album, encouraging me to listen to different things and not to trust everybody else’s taste. From here, it went OK Computer, Grace, The Sophtware Slump, The Beta Band and Deserter’s Songs, certainly not the most avant-garde of digressions – but some big steps in the right direction.
Unfortunately, Gomez were never quite able to match the high standards set by Bring It On and have become standard cannon fodder for the music press. Liquid Skin is a good album, with some excellent standout tracks (Rhythm and Blues Alibi and We Haven’t Turned Around spring to mind), but their collection of rarities and B-sides, Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hotline, is better than any of the proper albums they have released since then. Perhaps it’s been an albatross around their necks, but many bands would kill to have such a headache.
Here’s my favourite track from the album, Free to Run:
Video: Gomez – Free to Run
Sunday, 7 June 2009
Whilst most festivals trade blows with the announcement of heavyweight act after act in an attempt to attract revellers in their droves, the people at Secret Garden Party prefer to do things slightly differently. Tucked away in rural Huntingdon (which graced the front cover of Boxtree’s prestigious Book of Crap Towns II and was once quoted by no less than Eamon Holmes to be the “most depressed place in Britain”) it’s billed as “a space for creative expression and thoughtful anarchy,” without major sponsors and with an emphasis on ethics.
So, yeah. Basically it’s a big hippy fest in the back arse of nowhere.
On a more serious note, though, Secret Garden Party is said to be the most chilled out date on the UK festival calendar. It started out in 2004 with only 2000 in attendance, in the backyard of local aristocrat Lord Ramsey. It aimed, and still tries, to provide an alternative to those who still wanted to get away for a weekend’s music without the hassle and stigma normally associated with the likes of Glastonbury, Reading or V Festivals. That in mind, 23% of takings goes towards improving facilities at the festival, compared to only 19% going on performers’ fees and a meagre 10% being paid out to the event organisers.
Reflectively, the line up isn’t spectacular, but there are certainly some standout acts. Jamaican ska veterans Toots and the Maytals, along with iconoclastic Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker are undoubtedly the two most renowned names on the roster. Thereafter, things get a little more eclectic. Mexican duo Rodrigo y Gabriela will no doubt seek to capitalise should the sun come out, whilst acclaimed London anti-folkster Emmy The Great is a welcome addition.
Other highlights include Canadian electro popster Caribou, all female Swedish twee outfir Those Dancing Days, Icelandic songstress Emiliana Torrini, hotly tipped soul diva VV Brown, critically acclaimed Brooklyn band Chairlift and fellow New Yorkers Au Revoir Simone.
The capacity for the event has doubled from 6,000 to 12,000 but organisers assure us the ambience will remain. The non musical acts account for about 30% of the overall entertainment. Piggy back assault courses, dancing nuns and giant water slides have in the past proved highlights and revellers are encouraged to come in fancy dress. But make sure you give your bedsheets a wash before deciding to come as a ghost for the fourth year in a row, eh?
Written for The Skinny