Every fan thinks that ‘their’ band is the best band in the world. It is of course subjective and there isn’t, or could there ever be, a musical Olympics to determine who the best band in the world really is. Popularity can’t be a measure either – imagine the dross that would grace the podium.

However, I do believe that there are bands, who for fleeting periods have whatever ‘it’ is that makes them ‘the best band in the world.’ The ‘it’ is indefinable, but when a band has ‘it’ you know. If I was being pretentious I’d claim that certain bands, at certain times are conductors of the Gestalt. But I’m not pretentious. So I won’t.

Being the best band in the world doesn’t last for long – whatever the Rolling Stones (who did have ‘it’ briefly before Brian died) may believe. Most bands who are it, aren’t it for long, then spend the rest of their careers (usually unsucessfully) trying to rediscover their ‘it’.  Call it zeitgeist, or mojo, but they rarely, if ever do and eventually become a cabaret version of their former selves.

A royal lineage of ‘the best bands in the world’ from year zero (ie the birth of punk) would look something like this:

The Sex Pistols – (the 1977 version, not the recent vaudeville version)

The Clash – for the first two albums (and you can have two ‘best bands in the world’ simultaneously – my rules)

(The Jam didn’t have it – whatever the Weller legions say)

Buzzcocks – up until What Do I Get

Stiff Little Fingers – between Alternative Ulster and Suspect device

Magazine – briefly

PIL – Lydon scores again with Metal Box

Joy Division – possibly the only band who can lay claim to the title forever, for their two perfect albums. Death does change the rules, leaving a band’s perfect moment forever frozen in time (see also Nick Drake for best singer/songwriter in the world)

The Birthday Party – ‘a flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long’ isn’t that from Blade Runner but it’s very apt for the boys from down under

Theatre of Hate – only for a moment, and maybe just for Kirk’s hair

New Order – between Ceremony and Blue Monday

Echo and the Bunnymen – from Crocodiles to Ocean Rain (like I said there can be more than one at any given time)

(begrudgingly) The Smiths – never really liked them but they filled a gap

(never The Cure)

The Jesus and Mary Chain

The Fall (Brix era)

The Wedding Present

Pixes (the American are coming)

Sonic Youth

My Bloody Valentine

Public Enemy

James (anyone who was on the stage at Kentish Town knows)

Happy Mondays

Stone Roses

Primal Scream

Nirvana (but not as much as people say)

Pavement (more than people say) 

Pulp – between Babies and Common People (never Oasis OR Blur)

Orbital 

Underworld

The (Dust) Chemical Brothers

DJ Shadow

Belle and Sebastian (Indie takes the baton again)

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (and they may still be)

The Strokes

The White Stripes

Franz Ferdinand

Arctic Monkeys

And today – I’d say the Killers really do have ‘it’, but maybe I’m just sweet on Brandon Flowers, who certainly does have ‘it’. I’m sure the hip young things out there already know who the next ‘best band in the world’ is.

And the bands who really thought they were ‘the best band in the world’ but never, never were:

U2

Radiohead

Oasis

Blur

Coldplay

Leave the Capital

Bremen Nacht

Bill is Dead

Fiery Jack

New Face in Hell

Lie Dream of a Casino Soul

Touch Sensitive

In My Area

Mr Pharmacist

US 80s 90s

BBC Rough Trade Night

March 18, 2009

BBC4 seems desperate to convince us that the BBC (television) has always been a great supporter of indie music. BBC4 has recently served up documentaries on Factory, Postcard and last Friday’s Rough Trade night.

Are we convinced?  To say the BBC was slow in spotting musical trends back in the day is a bit of an understatement. It’s flagship ‘rock’ programme The Old Grey Whistle Test was steeped in prog. In 1981 you were more likely to see whisperin’ Bob introduce King Crimson than the Birthday Party or the Pop Group.

Witness Friday night. The first clip of a Rough Trade band they could trawl from the archive was of the Young Marble Giants in 1980 (although what a clip – I’d forgotten quite how good they were. I was just going to write ‘Alison Statton where are you now’, but I’ve googled them and see that they have reformed and are appearing at All Tomorrows Parties in Minehead, Somerset in May this year. And they are performing the whole of Colossal Youth. That is one reunion I have to see, given that I’m still smarting from missing TG at Tate Modern).

Anyway, I lost my thread there a bit with my giddiness at the YMGs reforming, back to my rant against the BBC. What did we get? Some good stuff on Something Else (most notably Joy Division). Later Riverside did have some very good performances by The Birthday Party, The Fire Engines and New Order. But there wasn’t much else. Was anyone at BBC actually listening to John Peel?

It wasn’t until Channel 4 came along with the Tube that we regularly got to see bands like The Fall. I guess the 40 somethings are now the masters at the BBC and are desperately trying to atone for the musical sins of their predecessors. All I can say is “Rosalita” – the Bruce Springsteen track they used to play on their New Years Eve special every fucking year. It lasted forever. That was the BBC’s idea of cool back in the day.

Out with the old

March 9, 2009

The comment on the last post by that young whipper snapper Billy Bolton with his grimey Bristol dubstep has me all paranoid about my old fartishness.

Just to prove I’m still down with the kids here’s some good new stuff I’ve been listening to:

Crystal Castles – OK sounds like 80’s electro but does that matter?

Ting Tings – also sounds like 80’s indie but it means I’m slightly less embarrassing to my teenage daughters. Actually I don’t know what’s more embarrassing – an uncool dad, or a dad trying to cling to cool.

Lykke Li – I have a soft spot for Scandies

Mum – see above re soft spot for Scandies

Sigur Ros – goes without saying

School of Seven Bells – don’t know anything about these guys, but I heard a track called Face to Face on a Higher Plane which is hypnotic, noisy and awesome. I could probably listen to it forever.

Portico Quartet – OK it’s jazz but they look young to me and Knee Deep in the North Sea is a very good album

Burial – dark, dark, dark (is this dubstep?)

LCD Soundsystem – he just keeps getting better – All My Friends is my favourite song from last year

Gossip – I love the Tronik Youth remix of Standing in the Way of Control. Beth has to have the best voice since, ooh Janis Joplin? 

CSS – those crazy Brazilians

I’m sure none of the above are cool to hip young gunslingers, but hey at least its not Coldplay.

(The) Nightingales

March 2, 2009

(The) Nightingales have a new album out. (The) Nightingales new album was reviewed recently in the Times. (The) Nightingales have a website.
 I don’t know which of these statements is the most surprising. That one of the most criminally ignored bands of the post-punk era are still plugging away; that they are finally being recognised by the mainstream media (what next – a Ted Chippington sitcom on BBC1?). No – the fact the Nightingales have a website is the thing I find most shocking. 

I bought the first Nightingales album – Pigs on Purpose in 1982. I liked it –  a Brummie Fall but with more humour. After that I lost touch with them. There wasn’t enough room for two Falls in my life and I prefer Manchester to Birmingham.

Then I saw a review of a new Nightingales album in the Sunday Times last week. I don’t know what my 17 year old self would have been more surprised and disgusted at – that the Nightingales would still be going in 2009 or that I’d be reading the Sunday Times.  

I Wikied them. Seems they haven’t quite had the longevity of their Manchester counterparts – they had a lengthy career break before re-forming in 2004 (although only the Fall recorded more Peel sessions). But like the Fall there have been countless line-up changes, an ever present maverick  frontman (Rob Lloyd) and like the Fall they still sound the same – but different. And they still sound good. Better than good.

Insult to Injury sounds as fresh to these ears as Pigs on Purpose did all those years ago. Tracks like  Down With Blue Lobsters and I Am Grimaldi sound as fresh now as The Crunch and Don’t Blink did way back when.

Download it – I’m sure they must need the money