2018 music highlights


Apple Music

KT TunstallAs someone who pretty much shuns the mainstream for the corporate beast it has always been in favour of the less celebrated or lesser known artists, this year a few albums have been in heavy rotation on my iPhone.  Firstly the return of KT Tunstall with her surprisingly enjoyable and polished album ‘Wax’ which harked back to that skillfull song writing that made her name in Eye To The Telescope, and well just has some really good pop-rock songs on it.

PearlHartsThen we come to the stripped back, moody guitar simplicity of ‘Glitter and Spit’ the brilliant debut from female duo The Pearl Harts, who initially grabbed my attention when they supported Garbage during part of their UK tour in 2016.  This album has a resemblance to The White Stripes but also adds gritty punk rock to it that made me think of Suzy Quatro.  The guitaring and the attitude driven vocals make for a very promising start to a career in my book.

ChvrchesChvrches impressed me previously with their excellent second album Every Open Eye, and even if their latest ‘Love Is Dead’ seems overly mainstream and a little bit lazy in places, it still has a sheen of slick production and Lauren Mayberry’s angelic vocals to carry it through.  Not a massive highlight but an album I’ve enjoyed none the less.

Against The CurrentAgain favouring a more mainstream sound than their last records, Against The Current still delivered a polished and entertaining second album in the shape of ‘Past Lives’ which features several decent songs even if some of their punk-pop sensibilities are mostly absent.

For a re-issue Garbage’s 20th anniversary of ‘Version 2.0’ not only brought with it a stellar remastering that made the album sound amazing, but a wealth of quality b-sides that made for a hell of a package.  Version 2.0 is not only my favourite Garbage album, it’s my favourite album … period.  So this version, despite some odd tinkering on certain tracks was a genuine highlight of 2018 for me.  Add to this the fact I got to experience it’s entirety live in concert at Brixton Academy, and well I think you can guess how happy that made me.

Garbage

Music for me is certainly still a difficult hobby to truly embrace.  I find myself trapped in the 90s or only listening to the same handful of artists.  We live in a culture that favours repetition and mediocrity and worships heavily promoted familiar names rather than promoting the freedom to go and seek out something ‘different’.  I feel it’s the only entertainment industry that really shuns creativity in favour of whatever music execs and narrow-minded radio stations consider the current cool trend, and so finding music that I can identify with and appreciate gets harder and harder every year.  The above named albums seemed to stick with me this year and stood out when so much else just felt boring.

Craig.

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A weekend to remember


I wouldn’t say I’m a massively outgoing person as far as venturing far and wide, but in recent years I’ve tried to broaden my horizons, at least when opportunities arise.  Two such opportunities arrived the weekend just gone, not entirely planned as such but I jumped at the chance to go and see my favourite band once again … and then another opportunity came around to see a personal favourite TV sketch show’s live tour.

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Probably over a year ago I booked tickets to see Garbage again in London as well as meet up with a friend I’d made last time I went.  Some months later VIP meet & Greets were announced, and so yeah, once again I was going to meet the band and get a photo taken.  The whole experience this time around was even better than I’d experienced in 2016 at The Troxy.  For starters at Brixton Academy, the meet & greet q&a part of the VIP experience was in the same room where the photos were to be taken and it was a small, intimate affair with me sitting amongst 50+ fans within touching distance of the band (!!).  It was so surreal as it wasn’t as if I was sitting before my favourite band, but almost like old friends … it all felt so nice and relaxed and really f’ing cool.  I didn’t say much, as I knew I’d clam up (again) but did get a chance to say how fantastic I thought they were and that Version 2.0 (of which the tour was celebrating it’s 20th anniversary) was my favourite album of all time, by any artist.  I got my photo taken which turned out to be more of a fun thing, with me posing with the band and all pretending to be zombies, with outstretched arms etc. lol.

The VIP experience also meant early entry so I was pretty much at the front (one short girl in front of me, so I had an awesome view) and what was the actual concert like?  In short Garbage (Shirley Manson, Butch Vig, Duke Erikson and Steve Marker) were on electrifying form, belting out the hits as well as more obscure b-sides both word-perfect and with an energetic response from a sold-out Brixton Academy crowd.  It was intense, heart-pounding, utterly feel good and the best I’ve seen them perform.  Garbage are such a skilled and talented band and once again delivered an evening of rockin’ good entertainment that didn’t disappoint.

LoG

Two night’s later I was heading off to Liverpool to see The League of Gentlemen at the Echo Arena and this British sketch comedy four-piece that started out on radio before creating a cult TV show of the same name were utterly brilliant.  They went through a plethora of their most famous sketches and iconic characters to deliver a 2hr+ show of bonkers humour, one-liners, political satire and toilet humour with no end of imagination and charisma.  Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton, Mark Gattis and (behind the scenes / co-writer) Jeremy Dyson are one of the best comedy groups Britain has spawned since Monty Python and that … is not said lightly.  Translating the sketch-based comedy of the show worked well on stage and the sets and costumes were all very well done and seemed to go off without a hitch, aided by what appeared to be some funny ad-libbing and natural glimpses of the guy’s personalities.  This show was partly a celebration of their 20th anniversary as well as a hinted at farewell to the characters unless this talented four-piece find a way to work together again at some stage … we’ll see.  For now though, me and a couple of friends as well as the sold out crowd had a ball.

As far as my usual weekends go, this was pretty intense, rather exhausting but utterly fulfilling, creating memories I’ll look back on for years to come.  So a big shout-out to Garbage and to The League of Gentlemen for making the past few days so very special.

Craig.

Garbage autobiography


For an avid fan of alt-rock veterans ‘Garbage’ the long-awaited announcement of a book being released that covers their 20+ year career was huge news.  It’s been often rumoured and never really dismissed, but nothing had been heard of the book in well over a year. 

Garbage autobiography

So the news today that the book had not only an official name ’This Is The Noise That Keeps Me Awake’ (a lyric taken from their hit song Push It); but that it’s also been put up for pre-order at all good book retailers like Amazon was a big surprise.  The book promises to be a thorough exploration of the band’s career, from their humble beginnings at the legendary Smart Studios in Wisconsin through their rise to Grammy nominated multi-million selling rock stars right up to now, independent darlings of the live arena doing things on their own terms.  With full colour pictures and written by the band members themselves, this will surely be a cherished possession of any genuine Garbage fan – such as me!

The book which will be released in hardback is currently pencilled for a July 11 2017 release, and that date can’t come quick enough.

Garbage – Strange Little Birds


(updated 24/06/2016)  After a long wait the one album I have been looking forward to for the last few years has finally landed.  Yes ladies and gentlemen my favourite band Garbage are back … and could this be one of the best things they have ever created?  Let’s see…

Garbage logoAfter extensive play over the last two weeks I can confidently say this is a particularly polished, quality album from the alt-rock pioneers who first made waves back in 1995.  21 years later and Garbage have still got it, even to the point of further developing their sound to create something with a well defined mood through the whole album, which I feel the band hasn’t totally nailed in years.  Strange Little Birds tells a story of obsession, jealousy, regret and eventually hope.  It’s really quite powerful.  Personal highlights include the sublime rock-ballad ‘Night Drive Loneliness’, the powerhouse anthem ‘So We Can Stay Alive’, moody stadium rocker ‘Blackout’, and the heart-breaking ‘Even Though Our Love Is Doomed’ – but really I like every track and I haven’t felt that way since Version 2.0.  ‘Sometimes’ whilst possibly my least go-to track, is still a perfectly ominous opening and powerfully introduces ‘Empty’, which is the most radio-friendly track at least as far as today’s radio songs go.  Yet there’s a lot of potential here for singles; Night Drive being an obvious one as well as ‘If I lost You’ with it’s decidedly Madonna-like chorus.  I also really enjoy the slightly trippy vibe to ‘Teaching Little Fingers To Play’.  I should also add the closing, suitably epic ‘Amends’ makes me think of a moody western about a woman seeking redemption.

25.-Garbage

‘Magnetized’ is possibly the only track on the album I don’t totally enjoy … but I still like aspects of it.  Also the subjects explored, despite best intentions are not exactly new ground for this band.  However it’s the delivery and the craft that impresses most.  It’s also an album that left me wanting more … no bad thing, but I’d have loved a couple more tracks than the 11 we get here.  So overall, stellar work from Shirley Manson and her band mates; musicians & producers Butch Vig, Steve Marker and Duke Erikson.  You’ve proved the nay-sayers rather foolish indeed and have delivered some of the best work of your career.  I’d say Strange Little Birds will surprise a lot of people, critics especially, and in this homogenized, cookie-cutter musical landscape we find ourselves in – that’s a very good thing indeed.

Verdict:  4 /5

Beyond a fan boy’s wildest dreams


I can’t believe I’m typing this and NOT making it up.  On Monday night of the 13 June 2016…I got to MEET my favorite band in-the-flesh and tell them how much I love their music and even have a photo taken.  That’s not to mention the fact I also got to watch them rehearse and eventually perform a full concert at the Troxy in London.

Yes I just typed all that and it really happened.  I am looking back on it now in disbelief.  Lead singer Shirley Manson was everything I could have hoped and more and on getting to actually speak to her, I almost lost it emotionally, but with her assistance I didn’t cry – but it came worryingly close.  She was a real gem and so nice and genuine.  In fact the same can also be said for Duke Erikson and Steve Marker, who were so lovely and I shook their hands and well, just wanted to press pause on the moment and wallow in it.  It was simply one of the greatest night’s of my life thus far.  Sadly drummer and producer Butch Vig couldn’t make the gig as he’d been signed off sick with a sinus infection.

Shirley Troxy.jpgThe concert that followed this was incredible, spanning the full gamut of their 20+ year career and every song was performed with such energy, enthusiasm and power that I was totally floored.  Personal highlights were the rarely sang ‘So Like a Rose’ which Shirley performed aided by her guitar and was a tribute to photographer friend Matt Irwin who had recently passed away.  Also my favourite Garbage song ‘Why Do You Love Me?’ was delivered as a thankyou to the loyal fan-base, and it was also great to hear several new tracks from the new album, including ‘Blackout’ and ‘Empty’.  I had purchased a VIP package for this event and as well as what I mentioned above, I also got early entry and was right at the front.  In comparison to the last time I saw them at Brixton Academy, I found the sound although very loud, much better and I didn’t come away with the ringing and deafness I experienced last time.  So it was such a better experience and with all the trimmings I can safely say this was a dream I never even considered would be realised … but it was!

The pictures above were taken by myself so you can get a good idea of the view I had.  What an experience which I fully recommend if you get the opportunity.  I conquered several fears and personal obstacles to achieve this and feel so proud of myself for doing so.  Also few front women in the industry have the sheer charisma, likeability or stage presence of Shirley Manson and I tell you now, she delivered 100%.

Not just a band … but a way of life.

Thank you Garbage for such an amazing experience!