Saturday, December 27, 2008

Venuewatch: Astoria to be born again

Melvin Benn is insisting that, after it's been knocked down and Crossrail completed, a new Astoria will arise in place of the old Astoria:

"It is a sad day for music fans who are losing out to long planned and long awaited progress of London's transport system," he explained.

However he added it was not the last of the Astoria: "We can do no more than celebrate how good it was and look forward to its replacement being born when construction begins."

It's possible that the current downturn might help the Astoria's chances of being rebuilt - after all, if nobody is going to want to pay top dollar for land for chi-chi flatlets or high-end retail, you might as well reconstruct the steady-earner of the Astoria on the site.

Still, it's nice to hear good news from Benn for a change.

Bookmarks: Some stuff to read on the internet: Last FM

Richard Jones of the recently downsized Last FM talks to Daily Tech about its assets and its future:

“It is a huge challenge; the common numbers are something like 300 million different tracks that we’ve recorded (that’s in tons of different spellings), and about 20 million different artists – but obviously not all of those are valid,” says Jones. “That’s the challenge: we still haven’t quite answered the question of how many unique artists there really are – there’s obviously much less than what we actually have because of all the misspellings. It’s an ongoing problem and it will never be solved, because there’s always new music being released as well and so you have to constantly keep updating the system.”

Peaches Geldof is tired of something

Peaches Geldof's marriage really is the gift that keeps on giving - since nobody is very interested in her pet magazine ("I Am Peaches Geldof, Hear Me Churn" - available wherever magazine retailers enjoy filling out return forms), at least she can constantly complain about reports on the state of her marriage to that bloke from that band:

She says, "It was a complete lie (that we are getting divorced). But a lot of newspaper stories are lies. They (rumours) just came out of the blue like a lot of tabloid stories. Just because I got married, they wrote that I was getting divorced. It didn't really (affect me), because I knew it wasn't true, so did my husband and my friends. So who else matters?"

A very good point, Peaches. So... erm, why are you issuing statements about it?

U2: Dissent in the ranks

Hey, it turns out it's not just us who worries about the people Bono rubs shoulders with. Larry Mullen isn't that comfortable, either:

Although he says he admires his bandmate for his achievements on the world stage – which he says will be “his legacy”, as well as his his voice and lyrics he adds: “My biggest problem really is sometimes the company that he keeps. And I struggle with that. Particularly the political people, less the financial people. Particularly Tony Blair – I mean, I think Tony Blair’s a war criminal. And I think he should be tried as a war criminal. And then I see Bono and him as pals, and I’m going: 'I don’t like that'.

He said Bono "would know how I feel about Tony Blair". Mullen said he understood why the singer had cosied up to President Bush. "George Bush has been very generous to his cause … the difference between him and Tony Blair is that Blair is intelligent. So he has no excuse for what he did. Whereas I think George Bush could find a few excuses for his behaviour.

It's admirably outspoken and honest of Mullen to say that in public - although it's hard to see why he's any more relaxed about the financial chums of Bono.

Bono, of course, has an explanation for why he rubs shoulders with Bush:
“It was embarrassing for the band. Edge always tells me, 'You’re an artist, remember that. You’re not a politician'. But if you’ve looked into the face of a mother whose daughter or son has died in their arms for no good reason, they don’t know or care who’s President of America. It’s something that once you’re a witness to, you can’t get it out of your head and so you don’t take shit on their behalf."

And that's a fair point - if you have the access, you should use it to push for good. Trouble is, Bono seemed to always be popping up to help Bush - photo-ops, stressing what a good job he was doing. And, indeed, the only time Bono seems to criticise his famous chums is when their period of power is coming to an end. It might be easier to believe that Bono is using his unique position to forward the needs of the many if the people with whom he met seemed more like they found the meetings awkward, rather than so much great fun.

Rate 08: This year just gone: August 2008

In one of the most poorly-thought-out screeds against downloading, Womble don Mike Batt used a bread metaphor that rapidly got stale. The LA Police suggested that Lindsay Lohan's sexuality had somehow calmed down the paparazzi. Dave Pearce left Radio One after someone spotted he was still in the schedules some ten years past his sell-by date.

Be Your Own Pet couldn't see a future with them in it but Magazine announced a reunion and Placebo swapped their Steves and the Dead Kennedys dropped another singer. Iron Maiden threw a little tantrum when they were nominated for a comeback award. Forward Russia spoiled the year by saying they were quitting; Bailterspace reactived and The Black Kids warned they might not be arsed to do a second record.

As Roger Daltrey railed against compulsary retirement, Cliff faltered trying to reach number one. Duffy seemed to think comparing her to Dusty Springfield was an insult, and not to Dusty. James Blunt wailed that he wanted to be left alone by the press during an interview with the press while Alice Cooper admitted he owed it all to Mary Whitehouse. Not all outrage is good, though: paying cash to Holy Fuck threw some Canadian arts funding into doubt.

Some punks came out for McCain, Jackson Browne told McCain to stop while Gordon Smart alone laughed as Rod Stewart drew penises on McFly. Gordon also excelled himself by exclusively revealing that Joss Stone was going to record Obama's theme song, a story only weakened by its lack of being in any way true. The Telegraph wasn't too worried about the truth of Britney to play lesbian stories, it just counted the clicks.

30 Seconds To Mars owed Virgin big time, at least according to Virgin; Chrsyallis blamed its rubbish performance on having rubbish bands, Sony became sole owner of Sony BMG while Google got into legal, paid-for downloads, at least in China. Buckcherry kicked up a fuss about their music being leaked online but when strangely quiet when the Wall Street Journal revealed it was their manager wot dun it. Could Kid Rock's success be because he wasn't on iTunes? No, just despite not being so - as Estelle's people discovered when they tried the same trick.

Madonna had a charity football event kicked out of the Millennium Stadium, not far from where REM were struggling to fill venues. Mel C's positive pronouncements about how great the Spice reunion was makes strange reading in light of what she said on Buzzcocks a couple of months later.

If Miley Cyrus had hoped for a night off for her birthday, she was disappointed: Disney turned her Sweet Sixteen into a public event with a price tag. Australians put a price of Everett True's head as he managed to upset an entire nation - and even the prospect of a Chris DeBurgh date had Iran raging.

In a world torn between laughing and crying over Peaches Geldof's hackneyed Las Vegas marriage, only Hello magazine alone tried to look on the bright side.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Legendobit: Eartha Kitt

The not-quite-irony of a woman who recorded Santa Baby dying on Christmas Day was, sadly, not lost on any news network, all of whom used it as a hook for their obituaries of Eartha Kitt. Kitt lost her fight against cancer yesterday.

Born out of wedlock in 1927 - when such things mattered - into a poor family, Kitt turned an inauspicious start into a sixty year career, setting a template of singing and acting that would eventually invent Streisand, Turner and Middler, amongst others.

Although she was already established as a singer by the end of the Second World War, and with a debut album released in 1953, it was during the 1960s that she really cemented her position. Playing Catwoman in the TV Batman, and earning herself a blacklisting for condemning the Vietnam War. If she upset the right during the 60s, it was the left who would scold her in 1974, when she toured apartheid South Africa. Kitt's argument was that she was raising awareness, which at least sounded more plausible than when Queen, say, tried to justify their bumper pay days in the same manner.

It would be dance music - and the passage of time - which would eventually reclaim Kitt from the mire of political boycottage and start to buff her yup into something approaching national treasure. The combination of faux animal skin and kittenesque purr gave her a trademark identity, and a willingness to work hard past the point where many might have plumped for retirement ensured she sealed her position as a solid-gold legend.

Rate 08: This year just gone: July 2008

Having run out of enemies, Amy Winehouse started to slap members of her own organisation while James Blunt took on all of Athens. Having been invited to play Quebec, Macca managed to insult the city. On its birthday. Dublin, meanwhile, decided to upset Dubliners just to keep Dutch singer Bono happy and approved plans to let his property company screw with The Clarence on the river.

A nurse claimed that hosting a festival trebled the pregnancy rate in her town, but that was nothing compared to the mess Zoo8 left in its wake. Even worse was the Moscow rave where the lasers somehow ended up being shone into people's eyes. Coldplay ticket holders were asked to return their tickets to get different ones for no apparent reason.

Long-promoted 'three strikes and you're out' plans to disconnect people the BPI don't like resulted in a pointless compromise. The EU decided to extend mechincal copyrights to 85 years - hoping that was long enough that Cliff would be dead by the time his expired so he might stop visiting them - but also called for royalty organisations to be more competitive. Yahoo tried to pull the your DRM servers are being switched off trick. Surprisingly, McFly and the Mail On Sunday hooked up.

As the TV coverage focused on Nelson Mandela and not Queen, Brian May felt ITV had missed the point of Mandela's 90th birthday show; Dave Lee Roth had a fake, nut-allergic Dave Lee Roth to contend with and Lemmy sort-of broke German law (and all laws of good taste) by dressing as a Nazi. Billy Joel at least had the grace to admit he had never been in a concentration camp before comparing a rehab resort to one.

Having been at the middle of a really nasty incident with Kele from Bloc Party, John Lydon found a corner of the world where he was still treated with respect, as the Daily Star's gossip column was handed over to him for a day; Calvin Harris tried for a reviewer's job at NME - hopefully not simply to upset Mark Ronson - and Kanye cranked up his own platform to bypass the lying media. Hey, it's worked for Courtney Love - where else would she have got the chance to issue a claim that Ryan Adams robbed her blind without a bunch of lawyers insisting on proof and such like?

Hints of a Madonna affair suddenly made people in the UK have to pretend they knew what an A-Rod was and we discovered that Morrissey will never, ever share a toilet and 50 Cent will not tolerate jokes at his expense.

Alan McGee told new bands not to bother with record companies; and it turned out EMI's Guy Hands had invested in the movie Nine Dead Guys while Poison started fighting over their booking to play a rodeo. Amongst themselves. Noel Gallagher wouldn't approve - he wanted an end to violence - perhaps by banning computer games? Boris Johnson thought that Lily Allen might have the answer to knife crime. Ringo Starr asked for world peace as a birthday present, but the world had already bought him some crayons and a sweater.

David Davis resigned from parliament in order to make some sort of point that he'd not quite thought about. Who would fall for such showboating? Bob Geldof was the first to endorse him. At least he didn't accidently endorse a mayoral candidate on air, like Jason Donovan did on 37 networked GCap stations. Jason went with Boris, but don't worry, Gordon: Robin Gibb still loves you - unfortunately, it was Tony James who ended up on Today.

Irony hit: Tim from the Cardiacs had cardiac problems.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: MGMT

Everything must run its course - and, indeed, our plough through just a few of the better tracks of the year has reached its end:

MGMT - Time To Pretend

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: Florence & The Machine

Florence & The Machine - Kiss With A Fist

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: The Research

The Research - I Think She's The One I Love

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: Polly Scattergood

Polly Scattergood - Machines That Bleed

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: Neon Neon featuring Cate Le Bon

Neon Neon featuring Cate LeBon - I Lust U

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: The Hold Steady

Continuing our trawl thorugh some of the tracks of the year:

The Hold Steady - Sequestered In Memphis

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: Ipso Facto

Ipso Facto - Six And Three Quarters

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: Whispertown 2000

Whispertown2000 - Old Times

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: Esser

Esser - Headlock

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: Metronomy

Metronomy - On The Motorway

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: Pink

Pink - So What

After the nasty Try This, its good to see Pink re-embracing the idea of a decent single:

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: The Week That Was

The Week That Was - Learn To Learn

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: XX Teens

XX Teens - How To Reduce Your Chances Of Being A Terror Victim

The greatest record ever to be inspired by a Fox News feature

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: Ting Tings

Ting Tings - That's Not My Name

Yes, yes, of course they're more faux than Bet Lynch's leopardskin and, really, the song doesn't even quite count as a 2008 release. It's pop music.

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: Emmy The Great

Emmy The Great - We Almost Had A Baby

The best video of the year, obviously, as it features a toy lemur:

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: Stickboy

Stickboy - Pirouette

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: The Kabeedies

You could see it as an off-road version of Christmas Top Of The Pops. You could see it as a giant stocking filled with the cream of 2008's music. Or you could say it's just a bunch of YouTube videos strewn across the day. Whatever, sit back and enjoy. First up:

Kabeedies - Lovers Ought To

Rate 08: This year just gone: June 2008

The rising cost of gas was perusading bands to stay at home - not always a good thing. Michael Eavis was travelling by train, which gave him the chance to talk to black people about Jay-Z. With quite a few unsold tickets for Glasto, he could do with the support. Still, they all sold in the end and at least Glasto didn't suffer the fate of Go Wild In The Country, cancelled after Bjork quit.

Sensing the way the wind was blowing, George W Bush supporter Ricky Martin switched to the Democrats. He wouldn't be saddled on the losing side, he decided, endorsing Hillary Clinton. Craig David wasn't about to change sides, though: still banging on about Bo Selecta after all these years; equally unhappy were Devo, ripped off by McDonalds, they said. GCap Radio revealed they'd been running dodgy competitions on-air.

Blake Fielder-Civil pleaded guilty, R Kelly was acquitted but even appearing in court was nothing compared to what Chris Martin had to face - a Radio 4 arts programme interview.

WalMart suppliers Handleman announced they would handle CDs no longer as there wasn't any money to be made; after all this time, Paul McGuinness was still using the simplistic file sharing equals shoplifting metaphor. Legal download business SpiralFrog signed up EMI for its service, which now boasted more suppliers than customers and QTrax tried to launch again with limited success. Limited to "no" success. To capitalise on the failure of DVD-Audio, someone launched BluRay Audio into an overcrowded format market. Microsoft tried to quietly switch off its Plays For Sure DRM servers.

Usher offered to cure lesbians, Josh Homme fell back onto rubbish homophobia onstage, MTV France got fined for somehow managing to broadcast calls for gay people to be killed. The Daily Mail attempted to convince emokids that it was the paper, not the black clad youths, who were the victims of misunderstanding. In return for organising an anti-racism festival, Jon McClure got a smattering of threats as Boris Johnson axed the long-running Rise anti-racism event - which at least went down well with the BNP.

There wouldn't be a Jam reunion, as Weller damned the idea of reuniting as cabaret - which was enough to get Blue talking about dates.

I Was A Cub Scout were a band no longer while Mike Skinner announced the end of The Streets was in sight. Noel Gallagher realised that Oasis might not be as good as The Beatles.

Madonna announced she was now a director. Goodness, won't that make Guy surplus to requirements?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Punk professor punched

Nasty end to a nostalgic night-out for a man who went to see The Damned's Komedia gig in Brighton. He'd been thrown out by bouncers who thought that he had attacked a woman - mistaken identity, he insists - and then noticed a group of men gathering in a threatening fashion. The Komedia staff weren't, he claims, entirely helpful:

He said: “A lot of guys just jumped on top of me. They were punching and kicking me as I was flat on my back on the floor.”
The 44-year-old said that as he lay battered and bruised on the ground, he was told by door staff: “What do you expect? It’s Brighton.”

The victim of the attack is apparently too scared of reprisals to speak to The Argus without a guarantee of anonymity.
A Komedia spokeswoman said she could not comment on the case because it was in the hands of the police but said violence was not a part of nightlife at the venue.

Really? The Komedia won't comment because the police are investigating? Or is that just a convenient excuse for not wanting to address the alleged behaviour of the door staff at the venue?

Zavvi endings?

Obviously, the timing of the collapse of Zavvi has been sped up by the failure of Woolworths' distribution, but it seems that all that has done is sped the inevitable, rather than brought destruction where there was only light. Even Zavvi's management team seem to tacitly accept that:

The group's founding partners Simon Douglas and Steve Peckham said: "We have done all that is possible to keep the business trading, but the problems encountered with EUK, and particularly its recent failure, have been too much for the business to cope with."

- that there was much else to cope with besides is certainly implied.

It's sad - who wouldn't rather buy music in a shop that at least once used to understand it rather than at Tesco? - and, for the staff, you'd have to hope they can salvage something in the New Year. But nobody who's shopped in a Zavvi since the ugly frontage first appeared on the High Street is going to be that surprised by this one.

Rate 08: Albums of the year

Not comprehensive - but possibly too large - guide to the albums of the year; tomorrow, celebrate Christmas with a musical selection box of tunes.

Black Mountain - In The Future

Adorable - Footnotes

Cat Power - Jukebox

Aidan John Moffat - I Can Hear Your Heart

Lightspeed Champion - Falling Off The Lavender Bridge

Tying Tiffany - Brain For Breakfast

Xiu Xiu - Women As Lovers

Sons And Daughters - This Gift

Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend

Helen Love - It's My Club & I'll Play What I Want To

The Duke Spirit - Neptune

Robots In Disguise - We're In The Music Biz

School Of Language - Sea From The Shore

Simon Breed - The Smitten King Laments

Tegan And Sara - The Con

Pete & The Pirates - Little Death

Los Campesinos - Hold On Now, Youngster

Die So Fluid - Not Everyone Gets A Happy Ending

Hawksley Workman - Between The Beautifuls

The Orb - The Dream

Malcolm Middleton - Sleight Of Hand

Kathryn Williams & Neil MacColl - Two

The Kills - Midnight Boom

MGMT - Oracular Spectacular

Neon Neon - Stainless Style

Operator Please - Yes Yes Vindictive

Ivor Cutler - A Flat Man

Be Your Own Pet - Get Awkward

Kimya Dawson - Remember That I Love You

Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy

Diamanda Galas - Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Brand-new album from DG - her 17th

The Black Keys - Attack And Release

Boy Kill Boy - Stars And The Sea

Brian Jonestown Massacre - My Bloody Underground

Dawn Kinnard - The Courtesy Fall

Capercaillie - Roses And Tears

Forward, Russia - Life Processes

Blood Red Shoes - Box Of Secrets

Tift Merritt - Another Country

Tindersticks - The Hungry Saw

Long Blondes - Couples

Fosca - The Painted Side Of The Rocket

Half Man Half Biscuit - CSI Ambleside

The Fall - Imperial Wax Solvent

Portishead - Third

Robert Forster - The Evangelist

Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles

The Wave Pictures - Instant Coffee Baby

Tokyo Police Club - Elephant Shell

Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

The Shortwave Set - Replica Sun Machine

Delays - Everything's The Rush

Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan - Sunday At Devil Dirt

Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours

They Came From The Stars, I Saw Them - We Are All In The Gutter, But...

El Perro Del Mar - From The Valley To The Stars

Spiritualized - Songs In A&E

Johnny Foreigner - Waited Up 'Til It Was Light

Ladytron - Velocifero

The Silver Jews - Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea

Shearwater - Rook

The Notwist - The Devil, You And Me

Johnny Truant - No Tears For The Creatures

Rudimentary Peni - No More Pain

Sarandon - Kill Twee Pop!

Gemma Ray - The Leader

Joan As Policewoman - To Survive

Errors - It's Not Something...

Lykke Li - Youth Novels

Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

Emmylou Harris - All I Intended To Be

Tilly And The Wall - O

Wild Beasts - Limbo Panto

The Beep Seals - Things That Roar

Black Kids - Partie Traumatic

Patti Smith & Kevin Shields - The Coral Sea

Cute Is What We Aim For - Rotation

The Hold Steady - Stay Positive

Wire - Object 47

The Charlatans - Best of the BBC Sessions 1999 - 2006

Various - Life Beyond Mars

She & Him - Volume One

Heloise & The Saviour Faire - Trash Rats And Microphones

Marianne Faithfull - Live At The BBC

CSS - Donkey

Noah And The Whale - Peaceful The World Lays Me Down

Late Of The Pier - Fantasy Black Channel

Thom Yorke - Eraser: The Remixes

The Week That Was - The Week That Was

Pivot - O Soundtrack My Heart

Stereolab - Chemical Chords

Juliana Hatfield - How To Walk Away

Fujiya & Miyagi - Transparent Things

Squeeze - Complete BBC Sessions

Giant Sand - Provisions

Loudon Wainwright III - Recovery

Thomas Tantrum - Thomas Tantrum

James Yorkston - When The Haar Rolls In

Friendly Fires - Friendly Fires

Little Jackie - The Stoop

Manda Rin - My DNA

Emiliana Torrini - Me And Armini

Calexico - Carried To Dust

David Holmes - The Holy Pictures

Fiery Furnaces - Remember [Live]

Neil Halstead - Oh, Mighty Engine

Glasvegas - Glasvegas

Polysics - We Ate The Machine

Drever, McCusker & Woomble - Before The Ruin

Amanda Palmer - Who Killed Amanda Palmer?

Michael Franti & Spearhead - All Rebel Rockers

Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby - Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby

The Streets - Everything Is Borrowed

Christophe Beck - Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The Score

Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue

O'Death - Broken Hymns Limbs and Skins

Roses Kings Castles - Roses Kings Castles

Euros Childs - Cheer Gone

Mogwai - The Hawk Is Howling

Cold War Kids - Loyalty To Loyalty

TV On The Radio - Dear Science

Thievery Corporation - Radio Retaliation

Ladyhawke - Ladyhawke

Mercury Rev - Snowflake Midnight

Ani Di Franco - Red Letter Year

Hot Puppies - Blue Hands

Euros Childs - Cheer Gone

Leonard Bernstein - 90 Years Of... box set

Of Montreal - Skeletal Lamping

Mr Scruff - Ninja Tune

Asian Dub Foundation - Punkara

Lambchop - Oh Ohio

Department Of Eagles - In Ear Park

Lucinda Williams - Little Honey

Tilly And The Wall - O

Those Dancing Days - In Our Space Hero Suits

Eugene McGuinness - Eugene McGuinness

Shelleyan Orphan - We Have Everything We Need

The Long Blondes - Singles

Okkervil River - The Stand Ins

Will Oldham & Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Is It The Sea?

Various - Jon Savage Presents....

Danielle Dax - Dark Adapted Eye

Lotus Eaters - Silentspace

Pink - Funhouse

Bloc Party - Intimacy

Los Campesinos - We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed

Chairlift - Does You Inspire You?

Steinski - What Does It All Mean?

Various - BBC Radiophonic Workshop: A Retrospective

School Of Seven Bells - Alpinism

Robin Guthrie - 3.19

Tony Christie - Made In Sheffield

Belle & Sebastian - BBC Sessions

Sigur Ros - Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust

David Byrne & Brian Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today

Headless Heroes - The Silence Of Love

Aimee Mann - One More Drifter In The Snow

Beyonce - I Am Sasha Fierce