2007: musings and favourites
Was it just me, or was 2007 a funny year for the rock?
The re-union bandwagon kept a-rolling for sure. The Police, The Who, Rage Against The Machine, Smashing Pumpkins, Sex Pistols, even Led Zeppelin got back behind the wheels for lucrative shows to audiences that really should know better. Whether the success of these gigs is an indictment of the current scene is up for debate, but as the Pixies roadshow proved the shine can soon be rubbed off any goodwill if a band decides to over-milk the golden calf and turn what's sold as a unique experience into an almost endless pension plan.
But what of younger bands? Consider The Hives. Decently-received album and all, but the public indifference probably signals the end of the line for many of those early 21st century guitar bands, as the audience grows up and ships out. It is, sadly, part of the age-old industry cycle. So 'Goodbye!' dear Jet - hooray! - but what odds on another Strokes album for example?
This was also probably the make-or-break year for emo in terms of total crossover to the mainstream, but with all the skinny/tubby kids exchanging their black hoodies for day-glo ones perhaps it's on the wane. My Chemical Romance continued to move the units with last year's Black Parade but it's a sad story when an entire genre is unable to pony up anything approaching a genuine crossover hit: wherefore this generation's "Ace of Spades", "Number of the Beast", "Enter Sandman", "Jeremy", "Smells Like Teen Spirit"? Perhaps the problem always was the fact that, when you stripped it down, so much emo sounds pretty much like what Sum 41 were doing five years ago. (Or, in the case of Funeral For A Friend's new direction, Foreigner.)
Closer to home, it was probably a toss-up between Gallows and trance-rockers Enter Shikari as to who the press believed were the great white hopes for British rock. Neither were in real danger of ever troubling the upper echelons of the sales charts in a Feeder-esque fashion and fiery frontman aside, Gallows in particular were disappointing. There was nothing terribly wrong with their hardcore attack - except for the fact it sounded a lot like The Bronx - and as such, didn't bring anything particularly new to the table. The year-end collaboration with Lethal Bizzle on a cover of a Ruts classic simply served as a reminder that punk rock has a unique British heritage that's barely reflected in the current output.
The Arctic Monkeys recorded a quick follow-up to last year's debut and some felt such haste made for a weaker effort. Certainly, Favourite Worst Nightmare had less of the charm, swapping warmth for a certain rigidity but the likes of "Do Me A Favour" (best break-up song of the decade?) and "505" showed a real depth. More intriguing is where the band go next and the fact that Turner and co. been publicly studying Queens of the Stone Age raises the distinct possibility that the re-invention of Britrock may actually come from this most unlikely of sources.
As with the Monkeys, lyrical wordiness was evident in Kate Nash's debut. "Foundations" obviously caught some kind of public mood, and her mix of Victoria Wood, Pam Ayres and Chas and Dave brought a different vibe to the party. On occasions, things did get a tad too stage school-y, but in a year when many critically acclaimed albums have the air of 'made by beards, for beards', Made of Bricks was as un-beardy as can be.
If you gave up on Jamie T's Panic Prevention album after the utterly dreadful opening track (a flaw also evident on the Kate Nash album) you'd miss a real treat. To the these increasingly knackered ears, this was a fine kebab of 21st century Britpop, melding the best bits of Joe Strummer and Ian Dury with enough contemporary urban edge to make anyone over 25 feel quite, quite old. Result.
On the first few spins, Interpol's "Our Love To Admire" exhibited all the signs of 'difficult third album syndrome' - the diminishing returns on a limited template made them seem like treading water. It lay so unloved I couldn't even be arsed to take it home from work but found myself re-spinning it again a few months later, probably during a particularly intense period of filing or somesuch. And it kinda won me over with its understated elegance. I can never remember any of the tracks afterwards but the fact is, if I was 15 again, Interpol would probably be my favourite band for listening to in my bedroom with the curtains drawn and the lights out.
If there was a problem with The Go! Team's second album, it was that it discarded some of the colour of the debut for a frantic, more one-dimensional sound, probably with an eye to the live environment. When it worked it was great and it adds several tracks to the canon of 'classic riot grrrl anthems' without ever intending to, but I was left yearning for more of the Spencer Davis moments to complement the whole Malcolm McLaren-in-a-blender thing. Fun album of the year tho'.
The one band we fell utterly head-over-heels with in 2007 were American indie-punkers Lemuria, who didn't even put out a proper album. Instead, The First Collection was a collection of singles tracks and comp appearances that, nevertheless, worked as a wunnerful whole. Their intelligent - and frequently sassy - indie punk had me yelling along, big-fat fuck-off grin across my face. Preview tracks from 2008's debut proper Get Better suggest a slightly more angular twist on the formula, but there's no reason why I shouldn't be writing about them in the same place next year when it comes to the annual round up. All killer, no filler.
And a tip for 2008? Operator, Please bring a sense of anxiety to indie-dom, as if they need to get the songs over with before some terrible fate awaits. Their debut is already out in Australia and it's the one thing on the calendar I'm eager to hear. The drummer looks about nine years old. Scary.