Never Mind the Banjos

Manic Street Preachers : Your Love is not Enough

And here, for one song only, we welcome the return of Phil Rose Esq. of Reviews R Us:

Well, I guess it's kinda sorta OK but I'm always reminded at times like this of Sick Boy in Trainspotting when they're talking about Lou Reed...
Well, at one time, you've got it, and then you lose it, and it's gone for ever. All walks of life: George Best, for example, had it and lost it, or David Bowie, or Lou Reed -
Some of his solo stuff's not bad.
No, it's not bad, but it's not great either, is it? And in your heart you kind of know that although it sounds all right, it's actually just...shite.

To which I reply

I know what you mean ( I really do!) but if I heard that song by a new band I'd be loving it, singing along and enthusing about it. It's only cos it's the Manics that I feel the need to point out that the lyrics are vapid, the guitars stadium tuned, the strings clichéd and the melody sing along. But I've loved loads of bands like that - The Primitives, The Saffs, The Undertones are 3 that come instantly to mind. Is it fair that cos it's MSP we expect it to be perfect, as if they're to regurgitate Archives of Pain and Motown Junk for the rest of their lives?

At some point everyone has a right to cast off the weight of their pasts, however brilliant, significant or horrific they have been…

With the Manics, maybe their time is now.

The best thing they've done since Everything Must Go? Love it!

Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols : Artichoke

You're either gonna love this to death or hate it with a passion.

The whole of Never Mind the Bollocks is here re-recorded by Artichoke, a band from Los Angeles, and given an acoustic / folky sound with extensive imaginative re-workings. It's still a reverential homage to an album that changed the world, but it now sounds as if it was re-recorded by a folksier Belle and Sebastian after a night drinking moonshine with Tom Waits and Beck in a Louisiana garden shed, instead of by 4 bitter swilling oiks in Highbury.

The angry power-chording guitars and snarled vocals of the original are replaced by cooing harmonies, happily strumming ukuleles, banjos, accordions and horns, along with the occasional kazoo, tambourine and megaphone. Some equally novel sound effects thrown in to underline the originality of the project; the marching feet of "Holidays in the Sun" are replaced by a dropped toolbox, hitting a washing machine with a shoe is used for percussion on "Pretty Vacant", and, for some reason, there are some relaxing evening crickets in "Pretty Vacant" and some fantastically insistent baaing sheep throughout the really very funky version of "Anarchy in the UK". "Holidays In the Sun" and "God Save the Queen" suddenly become waltzes while "EMI", still angry at record biz lies and bullshit, was apparently recorded backwards.

You can either see this as giving the classic old bird the disrespectful but clearly loving treatment it deserves, or as outrageous sacrilege, letting the twee hippies prettify, ruin and neuter some classic and angry songs.

You can listen to snippets here or on their myspace and make up your own minds.

And, as I said, you'll either love it or hate it.

But wasn't that at least half the point of the Sex Pistols?

Songdog : The Time of Summer Lighting (One Little Indian)

This lot, on the other hand, totally miss the point. Not even their acoustic re-jigging of Janie Jones can save them.

In fact, it underlines what's wrong with this album. Songdog's version of the punk classic, unlike Artichoke's Bollocks, totally misses the rebellious angry heart of the beast.

Yes 'The Heart of Summer Lightning' does deal with dark and poignant issues using haunting acoustic ditties, yes the songs may pine articulately about dreams turned sour, loves left behind and hopes left unfulfilled, and yes they may well have turned the right heads. However their insistence on trying to sound like Bob Dylan, on cashing in on the current craze for British (Welsh?) bands to play what is laughingly called "alt Americana", the twee unapologetically folksy delivery, the ponderous pomposity of it all, leaves the whole thing so lacking any real passion or belief that it sadly leaves me cold. Believe me, I did try hard to understand and like this record and have been thinking about this review for ages, but in the end I just had to give up on ever getting it. Life's too short.

Listening to its yet again, it's no wonder Jonathon Ross, Radio 2 and Springsteen are fans. They're welcome to the Songdogs. Don't count me in! These below are by far my favourite dogs…

Spraydog : Karate Summer Camp (Ferric Mordant)

We were wondering last night about whatever happened to My Bloody Valentine, after they disappeared forever into the recording studio to work on that never completed album. Did they implode, did they all disappear into Kevin Shield's ego, are they still sitting round re-recording and mixing the vocal and feedback parts, or maybe…

Maybe they decided to cut their losses and went on to roadie for Spraydog.

Spraydog combine what I consider the best bits of MBV (before they went up themselves) with an earthy Geordie nous all of their own. It's the rush of the male / female vocal harmonies combined with the fierce guitar onslaughts and drones, all constructed on the solid foundations of a rhythm section so tight they could get into one of Gordon Brown's Treasury meetings, that ensure the long term appeal of this band.

Cambridge gig pic by Hazel Ozell

Also, they've got an infallible ear for a top tune and a searing melody. They're forever pushing back their boy / grrrl distortion to new frontiers in the search of the perfect (anti) pop song. And, while they may not have quite found it (if such a thing even exists), at least they've found something beautiful, new, original and exciting.

Now Kevin, isn't that better than 15 years with nothing but repeats…

Spraydog are a national treasure and are also available for weddings, parties and singing lessons. There's still time to bite the hand that feeds you…

Elliot Minor : Parallel Worlds (

I used to live near York Minster. Then it burnt down. And the Redskins played on the ruins…

OK, time my have enhanced my memories there, but I tell you this because Elliot Minor used to sing in the choir at York Minster (hopefully not while it was burning down). And Parallel Worlds would still sound at home there. There's a Gothic intricacy and grandeur to the keyboard riff that would perfectly fit the architecture of place, and the boys still have the choirboy harmonies of their youth. The track is very slickly produced and rushes along like a saccharine pushing dervish, dancing to a McFly song performed by Muse.

All this makes the country rock guitar solo even more incongruous!

Like York Minster, I'm not sure I should like this, but yet I have a secret admiration for it. Burn or bust? Only time will tell…

God Is In The CD: An Underground compilation.
Rose Kemp, Rhesus, The International Karate Plus, Akira, The Sailplanes and more
GIITTV ( the music and culture webzine is three years old: to celebrate this, and their recent 'facelift', they decided to put together a compilation of unsigned and smaller label acts.

To be honest I don't always enjoy reviewing compilations, they too often feature one or two decent tracks with the rest being filler, local bands eager to get in on the action with very little room for quality control.

I'm glad to say that this compilation has proved me wrong.

Yes the CD does have its star turns - names you may already heard of include Rose Kemp, Rhesus, Korova and Akira. But, if you have the patience, you will come upon something new and exciting. In fact you don't have to go far; first track 'Rhythm Rebel' by Penny Broadhurst is a fantastic, atmospheric slice of female fronted hip-hop, a bit like The Streets or Plan B but consistently and intelligently from a woman's point of view. And with a more powerful backing track. A definite highlight, a definite discovery.

Other tracks I'll want to listen to again are The Swear's Disco Bitch, whose girl - boy vocals combined with punky DIY guitars remind me of mid 90s bands like Disco Pistol and Age Baby, Donde Star's "You Can Keep the Kids" which somehow manages to be both lo-fi and epic stadium pop-rock at the same time, Korova's frantic and feedback sodden "Bad Poetry", the loopy electronica of Akira's "Atom" and the urgently spiky pop punk finale of "Customs" by Salvo.

The more I listen to this, the more I realise that it is remarkable for its type, in that it is not stuffed with dodgy bands just wanting to get on a CD and happily included by a compiler eager to stuff on as many sounds on as possible, regardless of quality. It happens, believe me, I've done it. So hats off to Bill and the team for that, and also to the bands for donating their tracks to support cancer charities. Now it's down to you, invest £5 in making your life and the world that little bit richer.

Klaxons : Gravity's Rainbow (Polydor)

There may well have been a point to Thomas Pynchon's novel of the same name. But there seems to be very little point to The Klaxon's at all. Apart for young people to dance around stupidly 'having a good time' (see every other Klaxon's review on this website). And as you know, 'having a good time' is not conducive to building the revolution.

The Pink Spiders : Little Razorblade (Geffen)

After The Klaxons this is a breath of fresh air. Weezer-esque, poppy-punky, energetic paeans to the impulsiveness of summer road trips, the apathy of youth and testosterone-fuelled fun. However, they also strike me as a very canny band, looking for a niche in the current market (Good Charlotte's poppy appeal twinned with MCR's darker intelligence) and exploiting it remorselessly, "hustling successfully for the big break" as Nashville Scene once put it. Such as the support slot on the recent Fall Out Boy tour. So, while Little Razorblade is a refreshing enough singalong, I fear that The Pink Spiders may soon be caught in a sugar-coated web of their own spinning. One that won't last.

Fallout Boy : Thnks Fr Th Mmrs (Mercury)

This is something me and the kids are in agreement on… Fallout Boy suck like an insane vacuum cleaner competing with an elephant to see which one can ingest the biggest pool of slurry. All that poppy punky vacuousness, all that fake soulfulness, all that cashing in and pigging out on the desire of lil kids to waste their pocket money on something that they think will help them belong to something cool rebellious and worthwhile. The sad truth is that all FallOut Boy make you belong to is the sad gang that wants to be outrageous but their mothers won't allow it*. And another sad fact is that even modest towns like Cambridge have at least 6 bands as good as this.

* Recognise which truly rebellious lyric this quote comes from and win a Fallout Boy promo CD…

Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip : Thou Shalt Always Kill

This, on the other hand, is sadly without match anywhere in Cambridge, or East Anglia, or perhaps the world right now. Intelligent, witty, pertinent lyrics are recited, poem like, accompanied by an off kilter electronica-influenced track that is interesting, memorable and lively in its own right. This may not mean much to some of you, but the accumulating power in the list of "Thou Shalt Nots…", culminating in "Thou shalt always kill", reminds me of nothing more than William Blake's alternative morality expressed so brilliantly (and in easy to plagiarize form!) in his Proverbs of Hell - look here if you want to see what I mean Favourite Proverbs of 'Scroobs' today are

Thou shalt not worship pop idols or follow lost prophets.
Thou shalt not think that any male over the age of 30 that plays with a child that is not their own is a paedophile… Some people are just nice.
Thou shalt not read NME.
Thall shalt not stop liking a band just because they've become popular.
Thou shalt not question Stephen Fry.
Thou shalt not judge a book by it's cover.
Thou shalt not judge Lethal Weapon by Danny Glover.
Thou shalt give equal worth to tragedies that occur in non-English speaking countries as to those that occur in English speaking countries.
Thou shalt think for yourselves.
And thou shalt always kill.

Today I went to St Neots to leaflet against the Nazi BNP who are standing in the local elections there. While most people were of course anti-racist and anti-nazi, we did meet a few pissed off and angry souls who were blaming immigrants, asylum seekers and other easy targets for the shit in their lives. This song reminds me that there are many intelligent, funny, original, exciting talents out there who prove that a vibrant, multicultural, multi racial society is the place to be.

This track is so good, even the usually cynical Phil Rose Esq was convinced. Here he is (again): "That is the best thing I've heard in a VERY long time. Shit, that's great."
So here's a commandment from me:

Thou Shalt love and buy this single…

Rosey R*E*P*E*A*T

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