January 16, 2007

PhoeniX Phil’s Review of the Year 2006

Filed under: editorial, PhoeniX Phil — pxpl @ 4:34 pm

Well what a year it has been. I’ll start at the beginning for that is often the best place to start. Me and Dom’s little folly “PopArt” started at the Lark in The Park on December 29th 2005 and at the time I had no idea just how influential it would be on me and the music that I listened to over the course of the next 12 months. Bands such as Swimsuit Issue, Milk Kan and Atoms For Peace played great sets and songs from their repertoire such as “Patience Silence”, “Bling Bling Baby” and “Bonfire Night” would be personal favourites of mine for the whole of 2006.

Also at the first ever PopArt event was a band called “And What Will Be Left Of Them?”. Now then, I had never heard of them but Dom assured me that they were amazing. He had toured with them when he was a member of Angels Fight The City and had admired them for their spirit. By the time “AWWBLOT?” hit the stage I was um, a little bit tipsy but the sheer energy and blistering indiepunkpop attack of their set hit me like sonic redbull. I had generally been disgusted with the standard and stylings of indie / underground music during 2004 / 2005… Too much playing to the industry and not enough actual classic tunes / songs. AWWBLOT’s set seemed like an antidote to this and when I listened to their “Dance Damn You, Dance EP” the next morning I was so happy that they were truly great that I played the damn thing THREE times in a row, jumped up and down on my bed and texted Dom like a goon.

Away from PopArt, my love for new underground alternative music was boosted by Ian Watson’s “HDIF.. Presents” nights at the Brixton Windmill. Notably on a cold night back in January 2006, Me and Tamla Tim went one of these nights and caught the opening act Lucky Soul. They looked a bit like a less smug version of Blondie although their sound seemed more influenced by the likes of Dusty Springfield and classic Motown. They were a master class in 60’s pop revisionism… kinda like a less gimmicky Pipettes. They would throughout the course of 2006 manage to get a Guardian Guide - Single of The Week ,obtain ever increasing air play on national radio and play several exciting gigs all around the world. Their debut album is out in 2007 and looks set to be an indiepop classic.

Other great bands that I saw and / or was introduced to through “HDIF.. Presents” include Tilly & The Wall , H Bird, Irene, Gresham Flyers, Scarlet’s Well, and Amida to name but five.

Dom & I then began our brief PopArt at the Tattybogel nights where we had the likes of Scarlet Soho, Metro Corskol, Mokita, The Bicycle Thieves, Robot Blues, Mungo Momby and Plans & Apologies play. A special mention has to go out to a band …nay, a tour de force called The Laurel Collective. My first encounter with the band was when they played at the PopArt monthly in April… they were so unique and their songs were so good they made hardcore fans out of everyone I know who was there.

Throughout the year me, Dom and Tamla Tim put on our many and varied PopArt events and it was an absolute honour to have people like Monica Queen, Jimbob, David Devant and Les “Fruitbat” Carter playing at them. Without trying to prompt the violins of sympathy, I was a total failure as a teenager so it’s pleasantly mindblowing that years later that JimBob of Carter USM would be playing “The Only Living Boy In New Cross” at an event that I had something to do with.

Away from PopArt in the supposed “real” indie scene’s), chart based alternative music became even more sanitised and corporate with the likes of The Kooks, Snow Patrol and Razorlight gaining the lions share of air play and record sales with their sterile and bland take on guitar pop. For my money the best chart based guitar band were McFly whose third album “Motion In The Ocean” (produced by former A singer Jason Perry) was light years more exciting then the offerings served up by Gary Lightbody and company. Granted this year, McFly stole many of their best ideas from cult 90’s powerpoppers Jellyfish but I admire them more for that than I do for Johnny Borrell going for some of that Radio 2 money.

NME seemed to give up on The Strokes (perhaps for good) after their third album of ok-but-hardly-earth-moving “New York Punk” failed to produce the sales to match the 5 years worth of hype invested in them and decided to fully throw themselves into supporting a ridiculous scene christened “New Rave”.

The Klaxons were the poster boys of this scene, I must admit that I got to the party a little bit late with them. My first experience was seeing them at the Reading Festival, I lasted about three songs before being able to declare them “utter sh!te”. Essentially what I saw was a very average indie-punk band playing very ropey songs with some vaguely early 90’s soundeffects over the top. If this was 1990 they would have been Jesus Jones’ support band’s support band. The most disgusting thing though was the people watching… mainly teenage posh girls on pills in silly clothes more concerned with screeching to their clone friends about “how amazing glow sticks are”. Thousands of potential Leah Betts… must we really have to put up with their angry parents making statements on the news when it all goes wrong? Watch them blame the music instead of blaming their child for being an idiot.

Apparently the Klaxons are “better on cd than they are live” and “they haven’t released their best songs yet” so I’ll reserve judgment on them yet. Zane Lowe’s been doing that nervous over hype thing about them (y’know where he sounds really nervous and also insincere like the head of a record label has gun at his head) so I’m guessing that we’ll have them rammed down out throats all year until all the investors make their money back.

The only other “New rave” acts who had mainstream crossover success were CCS (essentially the S Club 7 of New Rave but without the tunes) and Gossip who’s only real New rave song “Standing In The Way Of Control” was actually a re-mix and to be honest it was just “Danger! danger! High voltage” but not as good.

Justice Vs Simian “We are Your Friends” was probably classed as New rave and was my most loathed song of the year… in fact it even took the “Song I Want to Hear Least in a Nightclub” title off of The Rapture’s “House Of Jealous Lovers”.

The world realised that most of the bands and fans of the genre of “Twee” weren’t actually that twee really and the genre universally became known as “indiepop”. The 20th anniversary of the fabled C86 tape and the “Kids At The Club” cd helped define the ever increasing number of bands who seem keen to reclaim the underground nature and purity of “indie”. Unlike previous twee bands most of the “indiepop” bands seem to like US lo-if college rock as much as they like Belle & Sebastian and jangly guitars. The vast majority of these bands seemed to come from Sweden, including Peter, Bjorn & John (who scored the biggest hit with “Young Folks”), I’m From Barcelona, Love Is All and the blistering Irene (not so much of a band more of a pop machine gun - most of there fine songs blast by in about two minutes).

All in all however I would say that 2006 was refreshing in that an increasing number of bands were just comfortable about being themselves and there seemed to be a great concentrated effort to re-create the concept of underground music. 2006.. officially the best year in music so far this century I’d say.

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