Wednesday, December 13, 2006

respected, selected, call collected....

This is a re-posting of something that was published as part of the Art of Noise A-Z.... but I make no apologies for that. I'm looking for votes for the Earworm of the Year 2006.

The nuts and bolts of it are that I require you to send your 5 nominations for Earworms of the Year 2006 to the email address in my profile. They can be anything you like: a song, a ringtone, a jingle, an advert... anything. I just need you to think what's been dominating your Internal Jukebox this year, jot them down in an email (ideally with your thoughts on each one) and then send them to me.


At some point towards the end of the year, I will take all of these nominations, chuck in the various songs that have appeared in the "Earworm of the Week" feature that appears every Friday on my blog, and then come up with the definitive list for 2006. Check out last year's poll to see what I'm talking about....

But what's an earworm?

Well that's an excellent question....


O is for… ohrwurm (Swiss Toni)

Have you ever had a tune that seems to be locked on a permanent loop in your brain? A melody so nagging that you catch yourself humming it over and over again? It could be the last song you heard in the car; it could be the theme to a TV programme; it could be the soundtrack to a computer game; it could be a mobile phone ringtone; it could be a jingle from the radio (and ‘Celebrity Tarzan’ is particularly guilty of this). In short, it could be anything.

If you have experienced this – and I’m sure that you must have – then you will already be familiar with the phenomenon. What you might not know is that this concept has a name: “Ohrwurm”. It’s a German word that literally translates into English as “earworm”, and refers to a song or tune that becomes lodged in one’s head. According to scientists, an earworm is a tune that creates a cognitive itch in the brain that can only be scratched through repetition. Professor James Kellaris of the University of Cincinnati College of Business Administration (and, I kid you not, an earworm researcher) reckons that between 97-99% of the population are susceptible to earworms, that women are more susceptible than men, and that musicians are more susceptible than non-musicians.

I don’t know about that, but I do know that I get earworms all time, and that they are highly infectious. Earworms are transmitted from person to person like wildfire – if you hear someone singing a song, the chances are that you will catch yourself singing the same song within minutes. I get hours of entertainment out of this at work: the guy who sits next to me is extremely earworm-sensitive, and all I have to do is to think of as ridiculous a song as I can, start to hum it, and usually he will have picked it up before I’ve got to the chorus. He’ll catch himself singing ‘Tragedy’ by the Bee Gees (or something), look confused and then start cursing me. Sadly he is now all too aware of the fact that this is a game that works both ways – I caught myself singing ‘Shaddapayaface’ this morning.

I suppose it could have been worse. My own personal earworm low point was when I was walking back to my halls of residence as a student and realised I was cheerfully singing ‘Heal The World’ by Michael Jackson. Loudly. This was followed by the realisation that I had been singing the same song all day. I was mortified. It was all I could do not to turn myself around and try to find everyone I had met during the course of the day to try to explain to them that it was just an earworm and that I wasn’t a fan….

So what are the world’s most earworm-y songs then? Well, everybody will be different, but here are the five songs that I catch myself singing most often (well, today anyway):

5. ‘2 Minutes to Midnight’ – Iron Maiden
4. ‘Rehab’ – Amy Winehouse
3. ‘I Will Kill Again’ – Jarvis
2. The theme from ‘Um Bongo’
1. Anything. Absolutely bloody anything. That's what makes them both such a blessing and such a curse.

Still. It keeps life interesting, and is certainly better than silence.

What’s in your head?


Votes please.

Monday, December 11, 2006

We don't need no education.

Ok, so in the not so distant past, we had Meck having a huge hit with "Thunder in my heart", sampling gool old Leo Sayer, then we had Supermodes' revamp of "Tell me why" and there's been countless others that do nothing much more than to put a dance beat behind a well know song.
It's not a remix, it tries to pass itself off as a remix, but it fails. It's not a re-recording, it even puts the words "cover version" to shame.

Not so long ago, I had a program loaded on my PC called Dance Ejay. It's a dance/remixing package that's pretty easy to use. Now, I'm not being a swell head here, far from it, but I could have done just as good a job, if not better on that program, of all these frequently erupting, so called remixes.

The latest evidence....
I give you Eric Pridz vs Pink Floyd - "Proper Education".

I'm not a big fan of The Floyd anyway, but this....this is just awful. The only thing comes close to saving it, is that phat synth bassline.

Other opinions?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

really wanna start all over again

So, with a giant fanfare and a huge arena tour behind them, the Take That boys return with their first studio album in nine years. I have to admit that I had my doubts about this venture. Sure, head off and fill giant arenas by churning out your instantly recognisable back catalogue in front of all the people that saw you first time round, but make a new record?

*sucks breath through teeth*

Risky business, lads. Risky business.

Anyway, out of the ether came the fantastic "Patience" single, currently #1 in the UK charts for a second week. This album also made #1 and so, officially, Take That are firmly back on the musical map.

So what of the album? Well, it's a pretty decent effort. And yes, there is some surprise in my voice.

There are more guitars on this record than you'd imagine. Ironically, some of it (particularly "What You Believe In" with it's slide guitar solo) sounds like some of the earlier Robbie Williams solo output. In fact, that's probably the best description of the record I can give you. It is fundamentally "just" a pop record, touching on the always popular James Blunt/James Morrison catchy acoustic type of sound.

In fact, the whole thing is vaguely yet unspecifically derivative. The plodding "Shine" heads firmly into Scissor Sisters territory whereas "I'd Wait For Life" could almost *be* Sir Elton.

So, there is no record as good as "Patience" here, but, God love them, it's a decent pop album for the end of 2006. It's not pushing any boundaries, but I had worried that they'd embarrass themselves and undo their heroes welcome by throwing out some sub-standard nonsense, which this clearly isn't. Welcome back, lads.

don't forget the songs that saved your life...

it's a cross-posting... but hope no one minds too much:


Morrissey @ Nottingham Arena, 5th December 2006

I’m not a big fan of arena gigs: they’re usually just drafty barns with appalling acoustics and expensive watery beer. I suppose that Nottingham Arena isn’t too bad as far as arenas go, but I’d still far rather be watching a band in more intimate surroundings. The last time I saw Morrissey was at the Blackpool Empress Ballroom in 2004. It’s a venue that has a capacity of about 3000, has a barrel vaulted ceiling, a sprung wooden dancefloor and is of course located in the archetypal ‘seaside town that they forgot to close down’ – in other words, it was almost the perfect place to watch the pope of mope. Come Armageddon, come Armageddon come…

That was a brilliant night and it was always going to be hard for an arena gig like this to top it, particularly when the tour is in support of an album (“Ringleader of the Tormentors”) that I thought was a touch lacklustre, however many rave reviews the critics gave it. It might have been produced by Tony Visconti in Rome and it might be drenched in luscious strings, but for my money it wasn’t a patch on the rather lower budget “You Are The Quarry” that announced Morrissey’s triumphant return to the stage and saw him score more top 10 hits than any other artist in 2004.

Still, me and Morrissey go way back, so I was hardly likely to pass up an opportunity to go and watch him performing on my own doorstep – especially when I get to go in the esteemed company of Lord B and Mr. Mark Reed (who is an excellent house guest, by the way). I think it is fair to say that no other musician has meant as much to me over the course of my life as this one. I discovered the Smiths late – about 1992, to be precise – but I fell for them hard and I’m pleased to say that I’ve never quite recovered. The quality of Morrissey’s solo work has sometimes fluctuated wildly (“Roy’s Keane” anyone?) and he may have drifted in and out of fashion with the music press, but he has always, always been a fascinating character and an ever-present soundtrack to my life.

So what was the old boy like then?

He was brilliant, of course. He burst onto the stage with “Panic” and then followed it up with an even more rapturously received “First of the Gang To Die”, and he never looked back from there. He was on fantastic form, prowling the stage in front of a giant banner of Pier Paulo Pasolini, whipping his microphone lead like a lasso and gesturing furiously as he sang. He even had the good grace to look like he was enjoying himself, stopping occasionally to say hello to a friendly face in the crowd (“Are you alright down there Julia?”) or to hand the microphone over to a chap called Paul, who promptly announced, very seriously, that “I just want to thank you Morrissey for everything”. To Moz’s great credit, he doesn’t take all this adulation too seriously. After another fan had garbled something incoherent into the microphone, he wandered back across the stage shaking his head, “Oh God!”.

The set itself is a good mix of the old and the new. As well as the inevitable clutch of songs from “…Tormentors”, we had a handful of Smiths songs (“Panic”, “William, It Was Really Nothing”, “Girlfriend in a Coma”, “How Soon is Now?”, “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want”), some classic solo numbers (“Everyday Is Like Sunday”), some b-sides and some of the newer stuff. There were plenty of songs that I was hoping that he would play and he didn’t, but he played more than enough to keep me happy.

I’ve sometimes been critical of Morrissey’s backing band, who I have always seen as being somewhat pale shadows of the shimmering genius of Johnny Marr. Tonight though, they are excellent. New drummer Matt Chamberlain (a former stand-in for The Smashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam) was endlessly entertaining, smashing the living hell out of his drums and turning occasionally to bang on the enormous gong hanging behind him. Alain Whyte’s stand-in on guitar, former Red Hot Chilli Pepper Jesse Tobias, also added a touch of beef to those sometimes-ramshackle rockabilly beats that Boz Boorer is so fond of. “Irish Blood, English Heart” in particular stood out for me: the band absolutely let rip as Morrissey spits those words out:

I've been dreaming of a time when
The English are sick to death of Labour
And Tories, and spit upon the name of Oliver Cromwell
And denounce this royal line that still salute him
And will salute him forever

It’s powerful on record, but it’s twice as powerful here.

Amazingly, Morrissey is now 47 years old, but as he ripped off his shirt during the climax to “You Have Killed Me”, I am pleased to be able to report that he’s looking pretty damn good for it. He’s not exactly rippling muscles, but he’s looking lean and toned - perhaps there’s something in this whole vegetarian thing after all (although don’t tell Mozza about the delicious steak and ale pie with braised savoy cabbage and mustard mash that I had prior to the gig, eh? He might not understand).

Perhaps the set drifted a little in the middle as he played some of the newer material and the attention of the arena crowd began to wander, but otherwise he was on rip-roaring form.

There aren’t many performers like Morrissey still around, so we should make the most of him whilst we still can.

"There is no such thing as normal"



Setlist (approximately, anyway): - Panic / First Of The Gang To Die / The Youngest Was The Most Loved / You Have Killed Me / Disappointed / Ganglord / William, It Was Really Nothing / Everyday Is Like Sunday / Dear God, Please Help Me / Let Me Kiss You / The National Front Disco / I've Changed My Plea To Guilty / In The Future When All's Well / I Will See You In Far-off Places / Girlfriend In A Coma / Irish Blood, English Heart / Life Is A Pigsty / How Soon Is Now? / I Just Want To See The Boy Happy // Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want / Don't Make Fun of Daddy's Voice

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I Will Kill Again

Lying in the bath last night, I listened to Jarvis Cocker's solo album. I was never the world's biggest Pulp fan, but I really, really like this. His voice sounds fantastic and the album has a lovely mellow feeling about it. Clever lyrics are in abundance, and what's not to love in a song about having your phone stolen by fat children? Has our Jarvis gone and grown up? Maybe, but he's retained that playful edge that made Pulp a joy to listen to.

However. While I'm sure Bedshaped would rather this post was a serious review of the album, I'm sorry. It's not. I'm rather afraid my off-topic postings may lead to my ex-communication. It's a rant about one of my least favourite things. Hidden tracks. Why do these exist? Do people really think, wow, a secret track - now I really have my money's worth? I'm certain they don't.

Instead, hidden tracks pop up out of nowhere and scare you half to death.

Take last night. I was happily wallowing away, reading Elle magazine and listening to Jarvis. And then not listening to Jarvis, because the album had finished. So. Time to hoist myself from the murky depths. But I figured I'd give the old legs a shave first. Mid swipe, the mysterious secret track boomed into action. I literally jumped. So did the razor. And suddenly I'm lying in a bloodbath. Not good.

Please, top music people. Just add the extra track onto the CD. We'll still think it's good value for money and we'll be very happy. We just won't hold you responsible for heart attacks or three inch scars on our ankles.


I Will Kill Again - Jarvis Cocker

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Faithless - To All New Arrivals.

Faithless are a band that seem to continue recording and releasing music, long after the media pronounce that dance music has died.
Of course, dance music never died, it just evolved. And Faithless have always been a band that have been able to set a benchmark for other wannabe's to follow.

The biggest mistake the media made with this band, is trying to pigeon-hole them. Once again, they stick two fingers up to music critics and prove that they are in a league of their own by producing yet another solid album.

As usual, there are guest vocalists. On this release we have Robert Smith from The Cure, Cat Power, Dido and Harry Collier, the guy who sings with the band Kubb who almost....almost broke into the big time earlier this year.

If you assign Faithless with songs such as "We Come One", "Insomnia" and "God Is A DJ" then maybe this isn't the album for you. That familiar pounding bass drum, itchy percussion, staccato vocals and anthemic synth line is very much vacant from this album.
There's so much more to this band than 'thumping anthems' and it's sad that most people miss out on that. That said, the mellow flow of easy beats, experimental synths, samples and chill out tracks aren't everybody's cup of tea.

What we have here is essentially a mellow album. Nothing stands out as potential club material, although no doubt there will be a mass of remixes flooding the dancefloors all over the place. And quite rightly so. But the band seem to have left the finer details of filling dancefloors with arms held high to the remixers.
In their own typical style, the lyrics have bite. Every once in awhile reminding the listener about famine, poverty, death, disease and basically bad politics.

There's lots of little samples spliced in here and there, some of them in the most awkward places. Children's voices are very apparent and I wonder if that's anything to do with 2 of the band members having little people of their own recently. Perhaps also a nod in that direction from the album's title?

Standout tracks are "Bombs" (featuring Harry Collier), being released as the leading single, "A Kind Of Peace" (featuring Cat Power) and "Last This Day" (featuring good old Dido).

This is by no means a flawless album.
The second track called "Spiders Crocodiles and Kryptonite" features Robert Smith on guest vocals and on first listen is quite the most bizarre collaboration. It begins with a twisted vocal sample, delivered as if some kid has just taken a lung full of helium and sounds not unlike a munchkin from The Wizard Of Oz. Once past this, the listener is greeted with a funky beat and driving bassline that almost makes you want to forgive them for such a crap intro. Then something familiar happens....a sample of the bassline and melody of "Lullaby" by The Cure. Now this sounds really promising, but don't hold your breath because in comes Mr Smith himself providing guest vocals, actually singing his own lyrics.
What the hell is that all about?
It just didn't work for me and it's a damn shame because the idea was quite brilliant.

There's a couple of instrumental tracks on the album, as per usual and they gel the rest of the tracks nicely together to ultimately provide a very listenable album.

The lack of anthemic songs on here make me wonder just where they're going with this release. It's a great album, don't get me wrong, but Faithless have always been synonymous with those singles that make you wanna crank up the volume, close your eyes and hold you hands up in the air. There's probably a couple of songs on here that would make good singles and gain a fair amount of radio play, but I can't help wondering why they've left out such a key element that is basically their 'trademark sound'.
I have no doubt the track featuring Dido is a potential single release and that in turn makes me wonder is the girl herself has finally finished her follow-up album. After all, what better way to get people talking about you again, huh?

So....A solid album that may not win many new fans over, but certainly shouldn't lose them any credibility.

This will be filed in my 'chill out nights' folder.
Nuff said.