The Oasis masterplan – Noel, sack Liam and you won’t look back in anger


So, it finally happened, then.
I’ve reached that age when I prefer Noel Gallagher singing Oasis songs
to Liam.
All through my twenties, I said that I liked Liam belting out the
tracks, but after the band’s recent iTunes gig at London’s Roundhouse,
I’ve decided that’s just not the case anymore.
In fact, I’ve drawn up my own, ahem, masterplan for the future of Oasis.
Sack Liam – he’s a liability and a parody of himself. At the
Roundhouse show, he sauntered onstage in a fishtail parka (yawn) and
proceeded to heckle the crowd, swear during songs and, sometimes, not
even bother to sing his parts.
Spending most of the set acting like a surly teenager who couldn’t
get his own way, he only seemed enthusiastic when he sang the songs
that he’d penned – namely Songbird and I’m Outta Time.
For the majority of the show, he sulked around and insulted the
punters. Nothing was sacred – we got tiresome, childish rants about skinny jeans,
pointy shoes and, even, living in Camden.
It was left to his big brother Noel to save the night – dissing Liam (“Someone’s in a bad mood tonight.”)
and coming into his own for superb semi-acoustic performances of The
Masterplan, Half The World Away and Don’t Look Back In Anger – Oasis’
unsung hero, Gem Archer, playing mean electric guitar and expertly
taking the solos.
Acting like a moody brat is oh so 1994, Liam – we’ve all moved on
since then. You’re in one of the best UK rock and roll bands of the
last 20 years, so, for god’s sake, show that you care. Just as the
Britpop Oasis versus Blur battle comes back to haunt us, Liam has
let the side down.
His band are, musically, better than they’ve ever been, but the
Roundhouse performance was tarnished by his sloppy, childish
behaviour. During My Big Mouth, he simply gave up singing and went to sit
on the drum riser, leaving Noel to take up the slack.
By the way, Noel, if you’re reading this, dump Liam, front the band yourself and become a Dadrock outfit in the vein of Weller
and his current musical cohorts. You may not be as rock and roll as
you were in the past, but at least you’ll maintain some dignity and
some musical credibilty – and perform some professional shows.
Liam – sorry mate, you’re outta time.

Britpop – the case for the defence




Rather unfairly, Britpop has become a dirty word.
I loved Britpop – and still do. Let’s face it; it was the
most exciting time in British music since the ‘60s.
And if you don’t agree with me, then, frankly, I don’t give a Shed Seven.
To mark the 15th anniversary of the beginnings of Britpop, I’m
currently listening to Common People. Britpop: The Story – a lovely
three-CD (54-track) box set that reads like the jukebox of the Good
Mixer in the mid-‘90s, rounding up the great and good from the Britpop
era. Oh, and Northern Uproar are on there, too.
Top bloke Bob Stanley (St Etienne) has written the in-depth sleeve
notes and there’s a great 24-page booklet, too. Brilliant, I can
relive my teenage fantasies thanks to pictures of Louise Wener and
Sonya from Echobelly! Honestly, it’s enough to make my Mozzer-style
quiff stand on end…..
Bizarrely, the album totally ignores any tunes from Oasis or Blur,
but, it does include plenty of forgotten gems that will have you
rummaging around in your wardrobe to drag out your skinny-fit Sleeper
T-shirt or your Fred Perry top (alas, mine don’t fit me anymore – not
enough cigarettes and too much alcohol) and doing Dick Van Dyke
chimney sweep dancing, quicker than you can say: ‘you can’t get
thicker than a shit Rick Witter’.
What’s cool about this compilation is that it’s not afraid to include
some lesser known Britpop beauties.
I’m made up to see that my faves Rialto, Gene and Spearmint are
represented – Louis Eliot’s cinematic popsters offer up the genius,
Scott Walker-like melodrama of Monday Morning 5:19, while Martin
Rossiter’s sauve, Smiths-like outfit give us the swaggering, late
night London taxi rank anthem that is Be My Light, Be My Guide, and
Spearmint go all Northern soul on us with the superb Sweeping The
Top marks, too, for including London Girls by Duffy (no – not the
Welsh warbler). Arguably the quintessential Britpop tune, it’s both
cynical and celebratory of the whole Camden ‘90s indie scene.
Controversially, I’m also loving the cracking
Neil-Young-meets-The-Byrds guitar epic Step Into My World by Creation
also-rans Hurricane#1, but then I am slightly biased, as I’m in a band
with their former singer, Alex Lowe. Ahem,
Ok, so we can do without the dodgy Dadrock of Cast, Kula Shaker and
Ocean Colour Scene, but who cares when you’ve got, err, Dodgy’s
hedonistic Staying Out For The Summer (they always use it on local TV
news shows when they’re doing a piece on festivals, don’t they?), the
equally summer-friendly Wake Up Boo! (The Boo Radleys), Menswear’s
sleazy Daydreamer and My Life Story’s grandiose showstopper, 12
Reasons Why.
If we’re being picky, why not include Suede’s Animal Nitrate over
Trash? And where’s Blur’s and Oasis’s best moments – namely This Is A
Low and Acquiesce?
Hold on a minute – how about Cathy Dennis’s version of Waterloo
Sunset, and why can’t we have Speedy’s teenage pin-up masterpiece Boy
Wonder? What about Octopus’s Jealousy, Thurman’s English Tea and Me Me
Me’s Hanging Around?
Anyway, as a representation of the mighty Britpop years, this album
is, err, Alright (yes -that’s on there) and will no doubt be
soundtracking the barbecues of thirty something couples everywhere
this summer.
Britpop’s back: ooh, I’m so excited I could crush a (Black) grape.
Common People. Britpop: The Story (Universal Music) is out now.
Original article available here:…

The Domino effect – Interview with The Domino State
Firefly, the new single from The Domino State, is an old fashioned,
moody indie guitar anthem of epic proportions – the kind of song that
deserves to be heard in huge arenas all over the world.
I spoke to the band about, err, geo-politics, the Cold War,
electronic circuitry and why they won’t be the next Motley Crue.

 Q: I’m digging the new single Firefly – it’s a huge, epic rock song.
What’s it about? Is it a tale of hope, but also one of emotional
upheaval? Why the Firefly imagery?
A: It is a tale of hope, but also about emotional upheaval. Maybe with
a bit of paranoia thrown in for good measure. We like the idea that
the listener can interpret the song in that way – I am sure everyone
has a story or two that causes conflicting positive and negative
emotions. The imagery seems appropriate.
Q: Where does the band name come from?
A: There are five of us and none of us are backward in coming forward
with opinions, so we didn’t have a name all of us could agree on for
ages. No-one can exactly remember where The Domino State came from –
it sort of appeared out of the ether and stuck, as – miracle of
miracles – all of us liked it. We Googled it afterwards and found out
that, apart from the geo-political meaning of a small satellite
country used as a pawn in the Cold War, it’s also something to do with
electronic circuitry. The macro and the micro in one!
Q: Is the single representative of your debut album?
A: It does represent things to come with the album, but at the same
time there will be some diversity. Obviously, some songs sound more
like singles than others, and we hope the album holds a few surprises.
That’s not to say that every other track on the album is doom metal,
though – only a couple of them.
Q: You’ve been playing festivals, including Glastonbury. How were
they? Did you see any fireflies?
A: The festivals have been fantastic. At Glasto we didn’t see any
fireflies, despite the legal highs. All we saw was a dragon and an
evil wizard!
Q: What bands are you guys into?
A:We all listen to a lot of quite varied stuff, and we often don’t
agree on things, but some examples of bands we all like are Ride, My
Bloody Valentine, The Cure and Arcade Fire.
Q: You opened for Coldplay at 02 – how was it playing an arena this
early on in your career? Your sound suits big venues, doesn’t it? Do
you aspire to be the next Coldplay or U2?
A: It was both nerve-wracking and incredibly exciting at the same
time. One of the best things about it was a couple of comments after
we’d played. A member of Coldplay said we sounded “massive” and our
sound engineer told us we totally pulled it off and looked natural up
there. It’s a big place, and too much to take in really, but as a
taste of what’s possible, it presents a pretty good target to aim for.
I don’t know about being the next U2 or Coldplay, but we got a bit
carried away with the after-show hospitality, and the next morning was
a clear lesson that we certainly haven’t got the stamina to be the
next Motley Crue.
Q: Can any of you play dominoes? And when was the last time you were
in a state?
A: We can play dominoes, but prefer travel scrabble on the tour bus.
We were in a state at Glastonbury after we played – watching Nick Cave
and drinking cider.

Westworld meets West End Girls


I am a huge fan of the Pet Shop Boys, so I was thrilled to go to a late-night
club show by Messrs Tennant & Lowe – and all in the name of Smirnoff.
Held at London’s Matter club at O2, the Smirnoff Experience employed
an innovative format in which members of the public submitted ideas on
various elements of the night – including the theme of the warm-up
boat party, music via the DJ’s playlist and cocktails to be served –
in return for a chance to be there.
And if that wasn’t a good enough reason for a knees-up and plenty of,
ahem, Domino Dancing, it was also Neil Tennant’s 55th birthday party.
For me, it was great to see the Pet Shop Boys, who are usually found
camping it up in stadiums, in such an intimate venue. As if to
emphasis the fact that they were returning to their nightclub roots,
the boys opened their set with two rarely heard tracks from their
debut album Please, namely Two Divided By Zero (love those ’80s
computer voice samples and bleeps) and Why Don’t We Live Together – a
throbbing disco-funk-soul-pop tune that is something of a lost PSB
Neil Tennant was modelling a kind of futuristic cowboy look – more
Westworld than West End Girls – and Chris Lowe wore his trademark cap,
shades and shiny puffy designer jacket.
Things took a distinctly more populist turn for the remainder of the
show, which was basically a medley of three of their biggest hits –
the HI-NRG reworking of Elvis’ Always On My Mind (still my favourite
Christmas Number One), the Che Guevara and De Busssy to a disco beat
that is Left To My Own Devices and showstopper West End Girls.
Add in a cool minimalist backdrop and lighting, plus some nifty
dancers (including a pair of stunning blonde female twins) and you
had a great night with one of the UK’s most entertaining and inventive
pop acts close-up in disco heaven. (If you still need convincing of
their genius, check out their in-depth track-by-track audio commentary
on their new album Yes – it’s on Spotify and is highly entertaining
and incisive – )
It’s a shame that they only played for half an hour, but would I do it
all again?
If I was left to my own devices, I probably would.


The best Britpop album you’ve never heard – Speedy’s News From Nowhere

Back in the Great Britpop Wars of the mid to late ‘90s, I used to defend my corner when it came to some of the less successful or popular acts in the genre. I could often be found in an indie boozer, sporting a skinny t-shirt (sigh), providing covering fire for the likes of Rialto, Lodger, Gene, Hurricane#1, Silver Sun, Posh and Speedy. Yes – Speedy. Remember them? No? Shame – you deserve to be beaten to death with my promo copy of Northern Uproar’s first album.

Actually, all is forgiven, as Sheffield’s Speedy were the great lost Britpop band– their debut album, News From Nowhere, which they recorded for the Arista-owned Boiler House label, was never actually released. But, fear not, for a copy has found its way to my office. I won’t tell you what I had to do to get hold of it, but let’s just say that I won’t be showing my face in any public toilets in Camden for a good while. Ah, what the hell – it was worth it.


News From Nowhere is classic Britpop, pitched somewhere between Pulp and Blur – wry, observational lyrics about love, life on the dole, and summer holiday sex, with chirpy choruses, big, swelling tunes and low-rent melodrama. Underneath the blaring brass sections and knees-up Parklife pub piano, there are dark themes lurking, including obsessional love and domestic violence (I Like You So Much) and teenage pregnancy (Heard, Seen, Done, Been – “She smells of sex and chewing gum.”)

Time For You is my favourite. A big ballad with horns and strings, it’s a tawdry tale of a juvenile criminal who’d go to prison for his female partner in crime; it’s as if Bonnie and Clyde had been brought up on a Sheffield council estate.

Sometimes Speedy remind me of Squeeze and there’s also a nod to acts like ABC and OMD – grandiose New Romantic gestures with a distinctly theatrical feel.

Their only real brush with the big time was when their 1996 single Boy Wonder got them on, err, Football Focus and the Shine 7 compilation album. Ahem.

What happened next? Alas, they were dropped and promptly split up – one of the casualties of the Great Britpop Wars. At least I made sure they got a mention in dispatches.

Sunday morning comedown


It’s been a lazy Sunday here in ‘lovely’ Harrow, so to keep me entertained I spent the morning compiling a Sunday Spotify playlist. I can feel a Spotify obsession coming on – so much cheaper than buying blank CDs and you can email your playlists to your mates – genius. I kind of miss doing the covers and writing the sleevenotes, but I’m sure I’ll get over it.

Anyway, I wanted some tunes that would suit my slightly knackered, lazy, hazy Sunday mood and I think I achieved what I sent out to do – from the classic Sunday Morning by The Velvet Underground (obvious, I know – but it’s simply the best, er, Sunday morning song ever – it does what it says on the tin) to the epic Lay Back In The Sun – Spiritualized’s druggy, shimmering psychedelic/gospel epic.

No-one wrote about the sun better than Brian Wilson, so it’s over to the mighty Pet Sounds for the life-affirming You Still Believe In Me.

Like Pet Sounds? Listen to the album Freedom Wind by The Explorers Club – it’s a homage to Wilson’s masterpiece, as Don’t Forget The Sun proves. Gorgeous.

I’ve been on a bit of a, yikes, folk trip today, so threw in some Nick Drake,  John Martyn and Beth Orton, and then dipped into Van Morrison’s criminally-neglected Veedon Fleece for Bulbs. Someone did me a copy of this little-known Van the Man album a while back and I’ve been slowly getting into it – if you dig Astral Weeks, you’ll like it, too.

You’ve got to have some world-weary crooners on a Sunday morning, haven’t you? Hence the inclusion of Kris Kristofferson’s Sunday Morning Comin’ Down (from which I half-inched the title for the playlist – I love the line  “I found my cleanest dirty shirt,” as a bachelor, I can relate to this very well) Scott Walker’s lovely country ballad Duchess (from the classic Scott 4) and Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra’s spectral Some Velvet Morning – those cinematic strings, Hazlewood’s booming voice, the sexual suggestions – “I’m gonna open up your gate,”- blimey, it’s all a bit saucy for a Sunday. 

I Threw It All Away is one of my favourite Dylan songs from one of my favourite Dylan albums – Nashville Skyline. I know the album’s flawed and isn’t considered one of his best, but I love its laidback country-soul feel – perfect for a Sunday – and the tune I’ve chosen just makes me think of all the mistakes I’ve made in my life. Hmm, maybe Sunday morning isn’t the best time to be reminded off all yer f*** ups – oh, well.

You’ve got to have some Beatles on a Sunday, but there’s no bloody Beatles on Spotify, so I had to make do with the 1960s Karaoke Band (?), doing Good Day Sunshine. For the record, Revolver is the best Beatles album – and probably my favourite album of all time – so inventive, varied and not clogged-up with the music hall material that blighted Sergeant Pepper.

Weller nods to Revolver with Here’s The Good News (love the brass arrangement and the trombone solo), so that had to go on there. Still on a ’60s trip, I dug out some Donovan, (Sunshine Superman) although Season of the Witch is his best tune.

I’ve been having a few discussions over the new Bruce Springsteen album Working On A Dream – it’s had mixed reactions. I really like it – it’s not perfect, agreed, but it does have a nice West Coast vibe going on, with a Byrds and Beachboys feel – Surprise Surprise is simply dumb jangly pop of the highest order.

Suede’s Lazy from Coming Up reminds me of being in bed with a lover on a Sunday morning, hungover to death, but grateful that you haven’t got to venture outside and deal with the general public and the mundanity of everyday life. Morrissey’s Lazy Sunbathers – from his finest solo album, , Vauxhall and I, seemed like a natural successor. I am lazy and I hate sunbathing.

I saw Blur’s Hyde Park comeback show last week – marvellous. Badhead is one of the best songs on Parklife – a neglected gem of a tune that addresses hangovers and has a whoozy, melancholy feel – it gets me every time.

Squeeze’s Chris Difford is one of my lyrical heroes – he wrote the words for Some Fantastic Place, which was about his musical partner Glenn Tilbrook’s ex-girfriend, who died. It’s a spiritual, uplifting song – reminds me of George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord –  and I just adore the guitar solo from Glenn, which leads the song to its anthemic climax, heading skywards with organ and gospel vocals. Wonderful stuff.

Which leads us to Spiritualized’s Lay Back In The Sun – yet more gospel. And to think I don’t even go to church on a Sunday.

If you’ve got Spotify, you can listen to my playlist here: