widg‧et /ˈwɪdʒɪt/ [wij-it] -noun: Pointless ramblings from the New Forest. Obviously complete & utter Rubbish. Why must I contibute to all this endless talk about me? My self-indulgent knees, spilling themselves all over the internet. Obviously i am Jon and his hair, I AM HIM!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dance to the Music (Part Seven)

Just a quick one year one today, the rest tomorrow, promise.

Mew - Frengers
The Cardigans - Long Gone Before Daylight
The Wannadies - Before & After
Placebo - Sleeping With Ghosts
Josh Rouse - 1972
(Frank Black & the Catholics - Show Me Your Tears)

This year's list is dominated by the cultural giant that is Scandinavia. Danish, uplifting & disturbing in equal measure, Mew's debut international release includes many songs that have been reworked from their two previous (Danish only) albums in vastly superior versions. I first came across them in late 2002 at the Southampton Joiners, supporting Martin Gretch. Best fiver I ever spent. With their atmospheric instrumentation, impossibly high vocals & violin-playing cat screen projections, they gained a lot of new admirers that night. This record is packed full of complicated rhythms, soaring melodies & strange lyrics that could only be written by people whose primary language is not English. For example, a heart-warming Christmas song apparently on the charming topic of rape. 'Tis genius from a foreign land.

Now it's time to journey across the Øresundsbron to Malmö, Sweden, the current home of The Cardigans. Back in the mid 90s I went on a Salvation Army sponsored trip to Norway and Sweden. In-between bouts of do-gooding I managed to stop off in the record shops of Jönköping and picked up a few groovy early singles, along with the regrettable impulse purchase 'Svenska Klassiska Favoriter'. I was very fond of their early, cheesy, 60s sounding stuff, but I wasn't too keen on their mid period, Lovefool and the doom & gloom stuff, in direct bloody minded contrast to the rest of the population. Then while this album found them falling out of favour with everyone else, I think this by far their best. I'm not intentionally trying to be a contrary I-found-them-first-so-now-you-like-them-I-can't style music-nazi, but it's like that and that's the way it is, hur. Country tinged, with the odd Svenglish couplet ("Men I've had a few, but they never quite blew me like you", indeed), but don't let that put you off. It looks great, it feels great, it sounds even greater.

Let's travel further north to the Norrland town of Skellefteå, where the Wannadies are from. Here's another band whose initial burst of prominence was followed by a diminishing audience in direct relation to their increasing quality of work. Before & After is an album of two halves, the first half loud & extrovert, the second half more subdued. I'm not sure what is being referred to between the before and the after of the title, presumably something naughty going by the sexy lyrics of brilliant first single 'Skin'.

To continue the Scandinavian theme we have Placebo, a band containing a Swede on bass (they used to have a Swedish drummer too, don't you know). Yet another unpopular album choice in an artists canon, but I'm really not an admirer of their new back-to-basics record. The record with which NME declared that people are now allowed to like Placebo again. Well, bah humbug I say, they were a record too late, this is a much more interesting beast. Heavy guitars, electronic effects, tunes that'll take your granny's head off, what's not to love? Also if you got the one with the bonus disc you get to hear them bravely tackle Kate Bush, I'm not sure who won.

This year's honorary Scandoman is Josh Rouse. This is the first record of his I bought, based on a staff recommendation. I managed to convert many people to the cult of Josh by playing them this. But I will say no more as I am still pissed off at him for refusing my offer of a greasy chip in Oxford last year.

I just need to quickly mention Frank Black's record this year, I've always been a bit nonplussed by his solo work, but this is great. I went to see him live in Portsmouth and was more excited by the songs he did from this album than the couple of Pixies songs thrown in. Little did I know I would be seeing a reformed and newly popular Pixies only a year later. I almost wish he'd kept the Catholics together a bit longer and made a record half as good as this next instead. Almost.


Blogger AlphIANo said...

I completely agree with the bands that reverse-jumped the supposed shark, these albums are much better than the more popular ones.

Just goes to show, you and I have taste, and no one else has any. 2004 please?!!

9:44 pm


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