Thursday, 25 December 2008

A Christmas Missive from Rent a Groupie

Oh, Christmas Day. I still don't feel all that festive. In an attempt to rectify this saddening situation, I turn on the television for a seasonal edition of the axed British institution that is Top of the Pops. Does it work? Does it fuck, it only serves to make me angry – with my sister's dwindling music taste (I am a massive snob, sue me) and the general public. Leona Lewis performs her cover of Snow Patrol's breakthrough smash hit 'Run'; I sit and clench my fists at the travesty of it all. To me, covers are supposed to imaginative, different and exciting. Lewis' "interpretation" is a slowed down snooze ballad, with sparser instrumentation than the original probably to put all focus on the X Factor winner's amazing voice. Now, I'm not a massive Snow Patrol fan nor am I against pop music of this ilk (one of the two acts I enjoyed on TOTP was '90s boyband Take That), but General Public – ARE YOU SERIOUS? How can you make this version of what is actually a quite beautiful song both number 1 and the fastest download in the UK? It's fucking boring (I know Snow Patrol aren't exactly the life and soul of the party either, but still). There's no magic there, just the sound of Lewis' bank account swelling.
As previously mentioned, I quite enjoy Take That's performance. Other than them, however, the only other artist that makes me smile is Dizzee Rascal and Calvin Harris. I don't know what I am expecting, maybe a few more credible/good bands to play seeing as indie is now very much a mainstream genre, but fucking hell, do I feel let down. Kaiser Chiefs for some reason are allowed to subject spectators to their criminally bad social commentary on the state of the youth today, 'Never Miss a Beat', with its horrific lyrics "What do you want for tea/I want crisps". So soul-crushingly awful it's not even funny. A magnificently dressed Sam Sparro plays his synth-dirge hit 'Black and Gold' and proves just how style over substance he is. Girls Aloud perform what is an anomaly in their usually stellar back catalogue whilst looking like they are dressed in bacofoil. I leave the room before this year's X Factor victor murders Leonard Cohen classic, 'Hallelujah', leaving my elder sister waxing lyrical about Coldplay's latest long player and Katherine Jenkins' "inspired" operatic reworkings of pop songs. Excuse me if I don't just burst with excitement at hearing her sing '(Everything I Do) I Do it for You' in Latin.
At two intervals during the hour long special, we're treated to a look back at 2008. Could the BBC make it look any worse? I'm not entirely sure what this says about the corporation but it must be the only reflection on the year to not even mention MGMT in passing. Half of me wants me to give it endless kudos for such a move, the other half wishing they'd fucked off the Ting Tings and given 'Time to Pretend' a whirl for five seconds. At least then I wouldn't have the Most Annoying Song of the Year™ stuck in my head right now. Its all well and good me slating all and sundry on what is admittedly a programme that is probably not aimed at me anymore, but what exactly have I been enjoying this year? I often find it hard to remember when records got released – was it this year or last that the Cribs released Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever? - but a handful of records have latched onto and stuck with me over this past twelve months. Late of the Pier's debut, 'Fantasy Black Channel', is undoubtedly the best album I have heard all year, a collection of complex, intelligent electro-pop, that engages with your feet on first listen and your head on the second. Los Campesinos!' second album in six months, 'We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed', shows a fast progression from cheery pop songs to the perfect soundtrack for emotional breakdowns. Frank Turner converted all my thoughts into melody on 'Love Ire & Song' whilst Johnny Foreigner made an undeniably great punchy pop record with 'Waited Up 'Til it was Light'. Metronomy's second, more band-focused effort, 'Night's Out', is pop genius personified. Dirty Pretty Things farewell record 'Romance at Short Notice' is an emotional journey to keep close to your heart. Vampire Weekend produced an album full of hits, with every song sounding like a bona fide radio smash, whilst still keeping it all so interesting and clever; meanwhile Bloc Party's surprise return is a triumph for progression and non-conformist music.

My Christmas vitriol is fading slightly. Probably something to do with the litre bottle of cheap vodka by my side. Mm. The Verve have just come on the radio but I cannot be bothered to turn it off. They remind me of some of the past events of 2008, mostly the reunions of otherwise deceased bands but also my first Glastonbury and hearing the opening notes of 'History' on the Sunday night as I wandered aimlessly from stage to stage, drinking in the atmosphere and crying at the thought of leaving such an amazing festival the next morning. Usually by the end of the weekend I'm glad to be out of a tent and back in a proper bed, but I would live under canvas forever if it meant Glastonbury happened every day. I attended six festivals this year (if you count the urban shindigs that are Camden Crawl and Concrete & Glass), all of which were wonderful experiences. Camden Crawl was a massive two fingers up at everyone who says who can't plan who you're going to watch and you'll be stuck in queues for half the festival – perhaps the trick is to go for the bands you really want to see rather than the ones other people say you should. That and skipping the last-act-of-the-night queue like you're just too important to queue. Sorry to all those who spent ages outside the Underworld waiting to get into the Noisettes show but, seriously, use some initiative next time. Glastonbury, as you might have guessed from the above, made quite an impression on me. Oxegen might not have been as good if it weren't for our VIP access, although MGMT's set could probably have erased any ill-feeling I might have had towards the festival or its crowd. Standon Calling was the perfect "boutique" festival with plenty of memorable performances from Johnny Foreigner, Glasvegas, The Maccabees and Late of the Pier. Reading was full of surprises although it's a little worrying that at 18, I felt fucking old. Concrete & Glass was a veritable scene-fest, with anyone who believes themselves to be anyone hanging out in Hoxton (if not East London)'s best pub, The Macbeth. Here's to next summer, only 6 months to go.
If you've read this far then well done, sorry for the length – I guess writing this is keeping me away from food I don't need and arguing with my family. We're nearing the end though so don't worry. I suppose I should give a quick overview as to what singles have got me going this year, seeing as they are quite different from the list of albums above. Kings of Leon's 'Crawl' is the first to spring to mind (mainly because I'm listening to them now…). Seriously, try walking down the street to this song and you'll understand. It's one of the most uplifting, powerful feelings. It'll probably make you strut like a massively arrogant wanker but fuck it, eh? Tilly and the Wall, Hot Chip and Born Ruffians all made me go mental on the dancefloor with 'Beat Control', 'Ready for the Floor' and 'Hummingbird' respectively, whilst Razorlight made me actually cry laughing upon hearing 'North London Trash' and the unintentionally hilarious line "I've got a hot body girlfriend". The pause before the last word is what makes it so damn funny, in case you were wondering. God bless J.Bo. Lastly, Chairlift's 'Bruises' has had me staring out of my kitchen window, sighing nostalgically for god knows how long now.
All that remains to be said is happy Christmas and New Year, and keep an eye out for the following in '09: Little Boots, The Virgins, Your Twenties, Rose Elinor Dougall, Right Turn Left, Tellison and the rumoured return of geek-wonder, Tom Vek.
Kisses, Rent a Groupie xxx

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