Douglas Baptie's Review of 2006
2006: the year of quiet revolution?
Back in the early 1990s there was a fair bit of hand-wringing about the role of women in rock music, despite the fact there were a lot of bands led by, or featuring women. With the macho - and often sexist - nu-metal and emo scenes doing little to alter the gender imbalance, it's nice to have witnessed a real sea-change over the past couple of years and have many more female artists making music - and often critically and commerically successful music to boot.
Ironically, it was also the year Sleater-Kinney decided to go on "hiatus" (read: split up) but 2006 was arguably the year that women finally broke through and were simply allowed to be, whether they were established acts like The Gossip or Yeah Yeah Yeahs, or newer faces like CSS, The Long Blondes, Be Your Own Pet, Blood Red Shoes, Tilly & The Wall, Lilly Allen, The Pipettes, You Say Party! We Say Die!, Metric - all just doing their own thing, but not being heckled or groped or having their attractiveness discussed in the music press.
Not many classics this year for me, but here's a quick rundown of the (absolutely MOR) stuff that I'm still spinning long after the fact:
Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am ... A defining British album that deserves its place alongside Definitely Maybe or Different Class. Disappointing that the production team seems to have been dropped for the follow-up, given that Whatever ... roared out of the speakers in a way the blackest black metal never seems to.
The Pipettes - Pull Shapes Whilst the album is probably too much to take in one sitting, on a track-by-track basis there's a lot to love about Pipettes, not least this unfettered ode to the joys of striking a pose on the dancefloor. Oddly enough however, it's the flipside ("Guess Who Ran Off With The Milkman?") that takes the honours here, a b-side of such magnificence you'd think it was 1978 and a time when people gave thought to such matters.
Jose Gonzalez - Hand On Your Heart There's a copyright reference on this from 2004 so maybe it's a re-issue, but this re-imagining of the Kylie track was one of those rare records that moved me enough to lift the needle and play it over again. Between the horrors of karaoke and Pop Idol the cover version is a devalued artform, so blessed are we to still receive the occasional gem.
Muse - Starlight / Kasabian - Empire Two ridiculous tracks from two fairly ridiculous outfits. The former a textbook slice of modern stadium rock; Kasabian pulling out a frankly bonkers stomp with an accompanying video that would've had Duran Duran cringing at the sheer pomposity of it all. Great stuff!
Defiance, Ohio - The Great Depression Folk punk? Roots rock? Just labels for an album of passion and soul that could appeal to fans of Billy Bragg, The Levellers or Dexy's. Enough to make you want to storm the barricades and sack the liars and cheats who laughingly claim to govern and represent us.
The View - Wasted Little DJs / Superstar Tradesman Nothing else I've heard from this bunch of teenage chancers appears to match the sheer early Beatles-esque vitality of these two singles but if they imploded tomorrow, these would be a satisfactory legacy. Probably The Lurkers to The Libertines' Clash.
Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped I prefer The Youth when they ditch the noodling and turn to their fractured take on the three-minute pop tune. This is stuffed to the gills with just that and the result is their most consistently enjoyable LP for a decade.
Primal Scream - Country Girl Gonzo track of the (late) summer, albeit a Faces rip-off of the highest order. Embarrassingly, there's a credit on this for a 'programmer'. What is there to programme? Can't a band of The Scream's vintage simply turn up in a studio and play all three of the required chords?
Rhianna SOS / Sugababes Push The Button Hardly a classic year for chart pop but these two monsters drilled their way into the brain and stayed there. Compare the tracklistings for the Sugababes' 'best of' album with Girls Aloud's and tell me the former doesn't knock the latter into the proverbial cocked trilby.
Peter, Bjorn and John - Young Folks Don't know anything about them. Haven't heard anything else by them. But this has whistling, a big beat and should've been a Number One in a fairer universe.
Tip for 2007?
Surely it has to be time for the rest of the country to wake up to Popup? Short, sharp vignettes wrapped up in a crispy Scotpop shell.