Saturday, 29 May 2010

Band of Horses = Band of Awesome

I heart Band of Horses. Thanks mostly to my friend Carolina, I was introduced to their second album 'Cease to Begin' a couple of years ago (I missed out on its predecessor, I was a little slow to catch on). It's awesome. Singer Ben Bridwell reminds me of Neil Young but without the out of tune bits, and there are some beautiful guitar sounds ranging from wide and epic to intimate and cosy, accompanied by simple yet effective, and often moving, lyrics, beautifully delivered. The playful country stomp of 'The General Specific' perfectly compliments the rocky 'Ode to LRC'. It's a perfect album that leaves the listener wanting more, it never outstays its welcome. I love it. You know how you have a band that you want all your friends to listen to? Well for me, Band of Horses are THAT band.

I've been listening to their new album, 'Infinite Arms', and it's a belter. The production is grander, but without making its predecessor feel inferior. Opening song 'Factory' is a string drenched tale of life on the road, and looking forward to coming home. The rest of the album is full of great moments, with a classic West Coast feel to it. Go get it. And the first two albums as well. I guarantee that if you have any taste at all, you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Democracy at work... kind of...

I wonder how many other bands out there decide on their set lists this way?

What do you do when you have more songs than you can actually play at your next gig?

It all started after Lennie informed us that she would rather not play Find Me, despite the reaction it got at our last gig. Probably something to do with the fact that we had never played it, during my tenure as guitarist, until the Wednesday before the gig. I then proceeded to nearly make Andy cry when I piped up that I don't want to do Six, which needs a rest in my opinion, before I go and revamp my guitar part for it. Lennie then said, with a very excited look on her face: 'Let's do a ballad!' My first though was 'I'm not sure how a Celine Dion cover is going to fix this difference of opinion, and there's not enough time to work on it be fore the gig...' but it turns out she actually said, and meant, 'ballot.' (Occupational hazard: when you've been playing in bands for as long as I have, your hearing starts to go a bit silly).

So, with paper in hand, we all wrote down our choices. None of us are really sure why we did it this way, as a show of hands would have sufficed, maybe we were all caught up in the spirit of the general election - which by the way, was the first time I ever voted. My dad thinks I'm a disgrace.

Will took the longest to finish, and immediately doubted at least one of his choices. We were all expecting a curveball from Andy. So we folded our papers and put them in the spare mug, taking it in turns to pull the answers out.

We knew there were a few safe seats, Shades of Grey, because it's the single and we still have to shift it, plus we all still like it. Piccadilly & I, because we've just recorded it, our record label loves it, and everyone who's previously heard us play it has loved it too, and it was missed at our most recent gig. A Million Marlborough Lights, because it's our traditional opening number. All three songs got unanimous votes. Out of Rage and Find Me each got one vote, so they're out. Mother Knows Best and Fields got three votes each, so they're in. So it came down to a split decision over Six and Thin Ice. I had earlier suggested that Lennie should get the casting vote in the event of a tie, due to them being her songs. But she was undecided, so it would have to go down to either a coin toss, a rock paper scissors match, or, what Andy ended up doing, which was screw up two pieces of paper and pick one. We ended up going with a fourth choice in the end, which was the 'Butler Swing-o-meter', an imaginary spinning arrow which followed Andy's finger. So Thin Ice made it in. Everyone seems reasonably happy with the result.

Now we just have to decide on the running order.

Six days till gig time...

Sunday, 2 May 2010

The trouble with opinions presented as fact

Spin magazine over the pond has recently published a list of 'the 125 most influential albums of the last 25 years', with U2's mega epic 'Achtung Baby' at number 1. Apparently the list was compiled by their editors. Whilst there are some very good albums on the list, presenting a few hacks' opinions as some kind of definitive statement on the state of modern music is a little pointless, borderline counterproductive, and potentially harmful.

On a personal level, I love 'Achtung Baby' - it's probably my favourite U2 album. But I have a problem with these kind of lists, whether voted for by the public or by the self appointed taste makers who write for the music press. There's no point. And how can it be possible to conclusively prove what is the best, or most influential, album on a purely objective basis? It can't be done. Every music review ever written has been written from a subjective viewpoint, basically it boils down to whether or not the reviewer likes it, and therefore whether or not he or she wants you to like it. A well written review can be a very useful guide to help inform your decision to investigate an artist further, but should never be held up as a beacon, and must never be a substitute for your own eyes and ears.

Over the course of my life, I've been influenced by a few of the usual 'influential' albums, but if I see 'OK Computer' anywhere near the top of any of these lists again, then I won't be legally responsible for what happens afterwards! That's what makes me a beautiful, individual, potentially insane human being.

If you know your own mind, you won't like being told what you should have been listening to all your life. I know I don't.

Opinions are like arseholes. Everybody's got one, and most of 'em stink.