Review of 2008 - #1
As musical artistes plied their trade in 2008 it was not, you feel, with me in at the forefront of their mind. Most of the plaudits seem to have gone to acts who've left me quite indifferent - too beardy, too Sunday supplement. Bon Iver? Really? It was that kind of thinking that led to situations like The Good, The Bad and the Ugly being crowned The Guardian's album of 2007. And just how many copies of that have been through Ebay this year?
Having said that, the debut from Santogold couldn't be any more of the zeitgeist if it tried. A winning cocktail of Blondie, Devo and Grace Jones, Santo White's disc defined hip circa 2008 but also pleasingly shoehorned in a couple of the year's nicest tunes in "Lights Out" and "I'm A Lady". Bloody awful sleeve tho'.
It wasn't the easiest of years for Be Your Own Pet. Hobbled by their American record company who took umbrage at the lyrical content of their sophomore album Get Awkward, they finally collapsed after a few farewell shows leaving a quartet-sized grave marked 'teen punk rock RIP'. Proving that the only thing more frightening than a black kid with a gun is a white kid with a gun, this is notably more pissed off than their debut, unloading a barrel full of bile across the high school canteen. But this was also this year's funniest album ("Now you know everyone hates me a whole bunch / Just because I made you cry a little bit at lunch"), making the hoo-ha all the more baffling. Adios, BYOP. You made the best American punk album since Dookie.
In the year that saw one album finally see the light of day after a gestation period of 17 years, Los Campesinos!' decision to release two albums in the space of 5 months seems positively sluttish by comparison. For all the strengths of their debut, We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed has an edge, producer John Goodmanson (Sleater-Kinney, Bikini Kill) giving them the space to expand their vision several time over. It brings to mind Huggy Bear's Our Troubled Youth for its sense of emotion-fuelled exhiliration but retains a Dexy's-like gang power. Passionate kids having the best time ever - in a band! It's great.
More evidence of positive youthful endeavours were to be had with Those Dancing Days. Five Swedish maidens battering out engaging Eurobeat to a lovestruck audience. I seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time in the late 80s listening to Scandinavian garage bands and a hint of that legacy remains. It makes for 2008's least pretentious album in that the riffs and chord changes may be well-worn but they're presented with such honesty, only a complete shit would fail to be convinced. In a good year for female drummers (cf. Popup) Cissi Efraimsson rattles round the kit like Keith Moon on Red Bull, leaving you rather wistful at the fact you didn't grow up knowing any girls with a penchant for the occasional evening of rim shots and paradiddles. At times a little samey, but let's predict Cardigans-style greatness for the future - as long as they don't do anything stupid like go to college.
It bore all the hallmarks of a vanity project but The Last Shadow Puppets proved the naysayers wrong by being simply effortless. Kudos to producer/drummer James Ford and Owen Pallet's spot-on orchestrations for giving the project the necessary dramatic sheen, but the songs themselves were authentic and sweeping and yet resolutely British. A raincoat with the belt tied tight. A broken umbrella at the side of the road. A train at the station in the dark.
In a year when another Scottish band grabbed all the headlines, it was a shame that so little of that Vegas-inspired neon did not shine upon Popup. A Time & A Place is perhaps the smartest album in this list, with a pawky humour and wit in its character tales of girls missing buses and nights in theatreland. It may be a strange comparison, but there are hints of Kings of Leon in the stuttering guitars but shot through with far more interesting arrangements and tempos. It's also a great 'headphones' album, with lots of nice little interludes and moments - more evidence that given the space, bands can create something great in their own time. Make a resolution to check them out in the New Year.
The fact that bands issue duff albums suggests that they really don't know the difference between a good song and an indifferent one. That so, can a band ever know how good they really are? You suspect Lemuria are modesty personified. They just put their heads down, create their art and then play the shit out of it. There was a time when all the good American indie was recorded at Fort Apache Studios and Get Better is a Marty McFly feelgood trip back to those heady days. Unafraid to tackle the weighty issues ("Like a goddamn dog with its tail between its legs / Ashamed of trying to butter up your obituary"), this is not only my album of the year but one of my albums of the decade. In fact I love everything Lemuria have done to an inordinate degree. If you ever adored Lemonheads, Belly or Juliana Hatfield you have a new favourite band just waiting for you.
Last updated: 18/04/2018 21:21:22