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WHAT'S NEW IN iJAMMING!...

THE JANUARY HITLIST:
They Almost Got Away: The Best Of The Rest of 2004:

The IJAMMING! Interview:
Matt Friedberger of The Fiery Furnaces on Pete Townshend

MINUTES OF A 'MIRACLE':
The Birth of our baby Noel

2004: THE YEAR IN REVIEW
1) The Best Album & Singles
2) Most Disappointing Albums
3) Best Wines of 2004

THE GREAT COMMUNICATOR:
TED LEO in concert

FEATURED WINE:
ALBA VINEYARDS
Chambourcin 2002
New Jersey, USA

THE DECEMBER HITLIST:
Album reviews of Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, John Cale, Nick Cave, The Scumfrog, Freq Nasty, DFA, Grip Weeds, High Dials

THE IJAMMING! INTERVIEW:
Wayne Kramer on Pete Townshend

OLD EUROPE, NEW WINES
Modern treats from Italy, Austria and France

JOHN PEEL: A Tribute

THE OCTOBER HITLIST:
Fiery Furnaces, Green Day, Bowling For Soup, Paul Weller, The Go! Team, Fatboy Slim, R.E.M., Kevin Tihista, Brian Wilson

FESTIVE MEMORIES:
A report from THE V FESTIVAL, Stafford, England, Aug 21-23

ABSOLUTE AFFIRMATION:
A NEW YORK HITLIST
(10 new Albums)

From the Jamming! Archives
THE HOMOSEXUALS, 1979

DVD REVIEW:
JEFF MILLS - EXHIBITIONIST

BOOK REVIEW:
SONGBOOK by NICK HORNBY

HIGHWAY TO UNHEALTHY:
Why Fast Food depends on Cheap Oil

THE CLASH: THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO THEIR MUSIC
by TONY FLETCHER
PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 8 2005
A CHRONOLOGICAL SONG-BY-SONG ACCOMPANIMENT TO THE ENTIRE CLASH CATALOGUE. WITH ADDITIONAL SECTIONS ON COMPILATIONS, FILMS, DVDs AND SOLO CAREERS. Available online through amazon.com, amazon.co.uk and at all good bookstores.

The biggest night out that you'll ever have in." Jockey Slut
"Hedonism will have you gripped from start to finish, guaranteed." International DJ


Tony Fletcher's debut novel HEDONISM is out now. For more information and to read excerpts, click here.


HEDONISM is available mail order in the USA from Barnes&Noble.com. It's available mail order in the UK from amazon.co.uk or musicroom.com.

DEAR BOY The British edition of the Keith Moon biography is available in paperback at book stores, amazon.com and amazon co.uk. More info here.

REMARKS REMADE The first ever R.E.M. biography fully updated with ten new chapters covering Reveal and beyond. Available at UK bookstores, amazon.co.uk and musicroom. Available at select stores in the States and through BN.com.

MOON The American edition of the Keith Moon biography is available in paperback at book stores, amazon.com, bn.com and amazon co.uk. More info here

iJAMMING! is a music and lifestyle web site hosted by
author, journalist and dee jay Tony Fletcher.
Click on the buttons above to access the different areas of the site.
For the latest additions, see What's New
To find a specific item, use the search engine
Tony's current musings follow below.
Previous musings are archived here.

SATURDAY JANUARY 28

THE SATURDAY WINE REVIEW

AZAGADOR
LA MANCHA 2002
SPAIN, $10

HERDADE DO ESPORAÕ
VINHA DE DEFESA
ALENTEJO, PORTUGAL 2002, $13

If you drink red table wines from Spain or Portugal, chances are you're going to be tasting a lot of Tempranillo. You just might not know it: as in Bordeaux, the Rhône and much of Italy, the producers tend not to announce the blend in their bottles. Besides which, Tempranillo goes by almost as many names as there are wine regions in this part of the world.

That explains why it doesn't have the global reputation of other noble grapes. The experts may know that Tempranillo forms the backbone of fine Spanish wines from Rioja and Ribeira del Duero, but I had to get out my Encyclopedia of Wine Grapes to discover, a few months back, that a Tinta de Toro from northern Spain was simply Tempranillo by its local name. Similarly, the Portuguese wine reviewed here referred on its label to a grape called Aragonez; out came the reliable encyclopedia to inform me that, yet again, this was in fact Tempranillo.

Discovering Tempranillo in its regional variations is, at least, a relatively inexpensive game – allowing that, Rioja, Ribeira and the Grenache-dominated Priorat aside, Spain and Portugal are still largely under-performing, overly producing wine nations forced to keep prices low by New World competition. My friend Tom paid $10 for the Spanish wine and a few bucks more for the Portuguese one from his local store, Prospect Wines in Park Slope – and this after several months drinking Spanish wines for well under $10. (One of the greatest pieces of wine advice you will ever hear is to find a local store that understands your palate and stick with it. You'll be happy as the store gradually recommends higher quality wine – and the store will be happy that you start spending a little more.)

La Mancha is a Spanish region, south of Madrid, so vast that its vineyards cover more than four times that of all vineyards Australia's combined! That statistic should be so widely planted and so little known illustrates the problem facing the bigger Spanish market: so much wine, so little reputation. Fortunately, things appears to be moving in the right direction. The Azagador - 80% Tempranillo, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Merlot, aged four months in French oak - offers up a jammy nose, with a slight chocolate/mocha taste that's a result partly of the oak but also of the Tempranillo. Of medium body, relatively low acidity and very little tannin, it's an easy, unfussy, difficult-to-dislike (though relatively one-dimensional) wine.

Winter Warmers: a (mainly) Tempranillo from La Mancha, south of the Spanish capital Madrid.

And a (mainly) Tempranillo from Alentejo, south of the Portuguese capital Lisbon.


Pay just $3 more, however, and you're in a different league altogether. Note my choice of reference: Herdade Do Esporaõ, a standard-bearer for Portugal's wine revolution, shares its owner, Dr. José Roquette, with the Sporting Lisbon football team. Roquette must have deep pockets: in the late 1980s, he built a new winery for his estate to rival some of the best in Napa, firmly putting the Portuguese wine region of Alentejo on the wine map, and a few years later brought in Australian wine-maker David Haverstock. Herdade Do Esporaõ now makes many different wines starring local varietals, with the Vinha de Defesa a blend of Aragonez and "French Castelao." As already noted, Aragonez is Spain's Tempranillo by its Portuguese name, but Castelao, so my books tell me, is Portuguese in origin! No wonder us consumers get confused.

As with its La Mancha neighbor, this (predominantly) Tempranillo wine has much by way of chocolate/mocha and jammy plummy fruit. But it's marked by surprisingly crisp acidity, a more solid body, greater finesse, firmer tannins and much more of the spiciness for which Tempranillo is known. If the La Mancha is an easy-going cocktail wine ready for instant consumption, the Vinha de Defesa feels like it would be rewarded by a few years' cellaring. And if the La Mancha is fairly (over) priced at $10, the Vinho de Defesa seems like a comparative bargain at $13. Each indicates the improving quality of their nation's regional wines - while offering ample proof of Tempranillo's temptations.

MUSIC? These are wines from large producing - and largely forgotten - regions of Spain and Portugal, areas where time is an abstract and where wine, music, dancing and sex are all wrapped up in an everyday celebration of life. Bring the past into the present and pair these warm, fruity, spicy Tempranillos up with the reissued Slits album Cut.

FRIDAY JANUARY 27

CHARITY CHURLISHNESS

It seems churlish to throw complaints at charity gigs, but Tuesday night's benefit at Rothko for Sarah Flynn of Spin Art records, recovering from a serious and previously life-threatening illness, tested audience patience by running a solid two hours behind schedule. I arrived hoping to dig into Benzos' set only to find, instead, Apollo Sunshine stretching their southern-fried rock into a Californian jam. I've got nothing against people with beards, not even if they wear trucker caps, too, nor indeed if they then wear saggy jeans that make them look like they're straight off the farm – as long as such people are, literally, straight off the farm where such a look is part of life. When they're dressed like this while standing on a stage in the Lower East Side playing guitar, I get a little freaked out by the perversities of this thing some call fashion.

The Head Set proved promising: the singer comes on with a hefty dose of the Julian Casablancas, and the guitarist has some serious chops, holding his instrument up high in a manner rarely seen beyond bass players. (The bass player, predictably then, slings his instrument low.) I see they’re at Tiswas on Feb 19. That club should prove a natural home for their Anglicized power pop.

Four-fifths of BENZOS getting emotive at Rothko

Benzos are arguably among the better new New York bands. Certainly one of the most interesting. The five-piece engages in the sort of intensely emotional riffing previously perfected by the like of Radiohead and Coldplay, though that is, I accept, too easy a comparison to throw at a group that is actively striving to develop its own agenda. Cousins Christian Celaya and Michael Ortega alternate lead vocals while their keyboards and guitars (plus those of Brian Joyce) frequently repeat on themselves and the rhythm section of Eiko Peck and Steve Bryant use a background in drum and bass to supply firm though barely danceable beats. Celaya has a distinct charisma, and is unfailingly polite into the bargain. It's all pleasantly addictive. The catch? Well, any hooklines (and sinkers) within the songs currently remain buried under the subtleties and the noise, though 'All The King's Men' offers serious potential. Their debut album comes out in the spring: I can see it seeping through with the slow burn intensity of Ambulance Ltd.

Where have all the Boot Boys Gone? Right here: Ted Leo keeps his feet firmly on the floor...

Sarah Flynn must be a special person: DFA/LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy was happy to play the role of guest DJ for her benefit, artfully upping the tempo between latter acts with weird and wonderful beats I didn't recognize but immediately appreciated. And headlining her fund-raiser, taking the stage only two hours later than billed, was none other than iJamming! idol Ted Leo. I was intrigued to see whether a solo Ted Leo sounded and acted even more like Billy Bragg than he does fronting his band Pharmacists, and during the opening 'Bleeding Powers' from his (typically) superb new album Shake The Sheets, the answer was: very. Let's just say these two men have many great qualities in common and not labor the point.

But while Billy Bragg is a natural raconteur, Leo is all stutters and hesitancy between songs, interrupting his own introductions with brief bursts of power chords, as if holding back from finishing his thoughts. Considering the literary nature of his lyrics and his evidently quick wit, it's a shame that he doesn’t trust himself to finish his own sentences. Still, he knows the answers are always found in the music, and a rousing version of 'Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone' gave way to a cover of the Rolling Stones' 'Factory Girl'… after which the guitar amplifier, having been used by several bands over the course of the night, promptly gave up the ghost. It was another ten minutes before Leo settled into a new amp, by which time the momentum had been lost. Leo knew as much, reminding us that we were there for a good cause, not just for his music, and playing but a couple more songs - closing out with a cover by The Waco Brothers.

There's no doubt that Ted Leo is among America's finest lyricists, one of its most powerful singers, a staggeringly good electric guitarist and, by all evidence, a stirringly decent human being. Given all of which, it seems unfair to expect him to be a captivating and engaging performer too. Just as it seems churlish to complain about charity gigs running late.


It's been a hefty month for charity gigs in New York. The outpouring of club events for Tsunami Relief has been extremely heartening – and presumably financially rewarding for the relevant charities. A special nod to the Canal Room, which hosted a Giant Step fundraiser on Wednesday, a New York Underground Unites Nite on Thursday – and is promoting a major concert featuring PM Dawn and Duncan Sheik on February 22. Considering that Americans were not themselves particularly affected by the Tsunami, it would be wonderful to believe that this level of fundraising and awareness shows (the world) that people living in this nation are indeed a concerned and generous group of people. My instinct tells me, however, that it was probably those living in the multi-cultural big cities (especially New York) who promoted the most events and donated the most money. (Then again, I imagine it's the same in any country world-wide.) Certainly, New Yorkers will never forget the support – emotional, financial, physical, you name it – offered them by citizens around the world following the attacks of September 11. I know that, subconsciously or otherwise, the number of club events promoted in this city for Tsunami Relief over the last two months have been a grass roots way for many of us to give back.

You don't need to go to a club event to help those affected by the Tsunami. As previously mentioned at this site, the U.S. government passed a law extending the tax year by one month expressly for the purpose of Tsunami charity donations. (I wish the rest of the world would publicize that.) That gives you three more days to donate directly to charity and claim the expense on your tax return. Just think who you'd sooner send your money to… Tsunami victims or the Bush Administration.


While we're on such subjects, I'd be remiss not to say something, anything, about the Iraqi election this Sunday. I had a dream last week in which I was in Baghdad, hiding under the back seat as my car sped through troubled areas. It was actually a nightmare, one of those really scary ones that gets the adrenalin going even in your sleep, and I can only imagine how horrendous is the day-by-day reality for people living there during their waking hours too. But worse than it was under Saddam? I hope not. I heard some encouraging figures on NPR news yesterday morning. I wasn't able to write them down quickly enough so excuse me if they're not 100% precise. But the report was about the increased personal wealth in Iraq now that Saddam is no longer hoarding and controlling the country's finances. Car ownership, for example, has doubled bin Baghdad. Something like 60% of Baghdad residents have a satellite dish. And cell phone use is, I believe, somewhere around the 30% mark nationwide. Ownership of either a satellite dish or cell phone was illegal under Saddam…

Given those figures, one just has to hope that Iraqi citizens brave the inevitable attacks on Sunday and go to the polls to exercise some kind of democracy. Of course it's not perfect, but then as dissatisfied Democrats can attest of last November, elections never are. Should the "insurgents" (Baathists? Terrorists? How did we come to give these killers such a credible term?) gun down Iraqi voters, as they've threatened to do, please pause and consider the message that sends. Two wrongs never make a right, and just because you did not support Bush's war does not mean you should wish anything else for Iraqis other than a peaceful future – of self-governance.


Preaching concluded. I've been highly impressed at the level of support offered by Beggars Banquet/XL for Lemon Jelly: there can't be too many labels that allow their artists to sample from across four generations of music, and then agree to release said album in four different formats, including the expense of a DVD production. When reviewing the stunningly inventive album '64-'95 earlier this week, I offered links to the hilarious DVD trailer, and the entire clip of 'The Shouty Song.' Beggars have now set up a mini-Lemon Jelly site at which you can hear more of their music and view more of their videos. But that's not all. At yet another web page is this competition:

"The band have cunningly devised 20 questions - two about each track on the album and DVD. If you score 15 or over we'll enter you into a special competition to win a selection of incredible prizes. The top prize is a whole box of Lemon Jelly promo, rare and limited items, signed by Nick & Fred. And, as everyone loves a tryer... we've also got 10 runners-up prizes - each a Japanese import album and a cased set of 10 pin badges, both also signed. Put your bribes away... it's prove yourself time..."

Us iJamming! people are a musically well-educated bunch. What say some of us give it a try…?


THURSDAY JANUARY 26

CUT!

It's back to the album reviews today. There is so much good music being released in the USA this week of January 25 that it will take me all month to keep up with it. We were talking yesterday about The Gang of Four's debut album Entertainment!, which received a major label release back in 1981 and has been available on CD in the States for at least the last decade. Not the same story with The Slits' debut album Cut, no less important an album. This week, it is finally released in the USA on CD. The review follows beneath...

The iJAMMING! HITLIST
JANUARY 25 2005
"WEEK OF THE YEAR?"

It is, of course, far too early in the year to talk about the Best Albums of 2005, but let me make this prediction: for iJamming! readers living in the USA, there will surely be no stronger week for new releases all year than this one, January 25. Record companies traditionally unveil their new artists around the third week of January, but this particular early year peak period sees an almost unfathomable number of quality releases, new and old, by both established and unknown artists. We're talking Chemical Brothers, Lemon Jelly, Tim Booth, Willie Hightower, The Slits, Erasure, Low, Bright Eyes, ...Trail of the Dead and Marianne Faithfull - to name just a few that I've been keeping track of. Over the next week or two, I plan to review as many of these as possible. Get your credit cards out: you're going to need them. There's some seriously indispensable music about to hit your stores.

THURSDAY JANUARY 27

THE SLITS – CUT (KOCH)

You can tell that an album was ahead of its time when it still sets teeth rattling upon re-release a quarter century later. (Cut has been available on CD in the UK since 2000; it is only now being released in the States.) Recorded in 1979, as the British new wave exploded in an orgy of experimentation, Cut was no less revolutionary than PiL's Metal Box: a furiously emotive and gleefully undisciplined blend of punk attitude, reggae rhythms and the kind of guitar riffs – sharp shards cutting in from unpredictable angles – that has since been termed punk-funk (or even post-punk), but back in the day was a sound with no name.

The Slits were the first all-girl punk group, which makes their originality all the more profound, but they refused to tow the then-prevalent feminist party line. As photographed by Pennie Smith, they posed naked on Cut's cover, wearing loin cloths, wrapped in mud and looking for all the world like primitive jungle girls who would cut off your balls as soon as look at you. My reaction as a 15-year old boy was equal parts terror and turn-on. Then again, vocalist Ari Up was 17 at the time. As their 'theme' song noted, these were not exactly your typical girls.

And yet, perhaps because they were among the first girls on the punk scene, The Slits were intrinsically bound with the movement's most prominent boys. Guitarist Viv Albertine went out with Mick Jones (he wrote 'I'm Not Down' about their break-up); Spanish-born drummer Palmolive had a long relationship with Joe Strummer, influencing the song 'Spanish Bombs' among others. Ari Up's mother, Norah, dated and later wed Johnny Rotten.

While these relationships must have played their musical part, the girls themselves credited Roxy DJ and Old Tenisonian Don Letts for turning them on to reggae, which became their musical bedrock. With Palmolive purposefully speeding up and slowing down, Tessa Pollitt laying down some heavy reggae bass lines, and Viv Albertine distributing that scratchy guitar left right and center, Ari Up screamed, spoke and occasionally sang as she ridiculed sexual mores ('Love And Romance'), the capitalist agenda (''Spend Spend Spend') and failed socialist ideals ('Newtown'). Those who first heard any these songs on The Slits' breathtaking John Peel sessions from 1977 and 1978 know that things were never quite the same again.

"They were feminist, they were feisty, and they were fun; they gave not a damn for political correctness, they wrote lyrics of sharp value – and you could dance to them all night long." Cut is reissued in the States on CD.


By the time The Slits came to record Cut for Island Records, Palmolive had bailed out, following her feminist politics to a logical home in The Raincoats. She was replaced by future Banshee Budgie, who waited until he paired up with Siouxsie as The Creatures before appearing with topless females on any record covers! His drumming proved perfect for the trio, and along with UK reggae producer Dennis Bovell's input, helped cement Cut's distinct sound. It was not Budgie, howver, but a dread from Ladbroke Grove who played on the Slits' monumental cover of 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine'; issued as the B-side to 'Typical Girls', it sounded no less groundbreaking than The Clash's version of 'Police & Thieves.' It is included on this CD, as is an entirely gratuitous remix of 'Love And Romance.'

The Slits did not become superstars; they broke after one more album released on a different label some two years later. And if there was no Slits, there would probably still have been a Raincoats and an Au Pairs: feminist independent music was an inevitable element of the new wave agenda. Still, almost every female performer operating anywhere within the alternative/modern/independent stratosphere owes a daily debt to The Slits for forging such a wide, uncompromising path into the 1980s. They were feminist, they were feisty, and they were fun; they gave not a damn for political correctness, they wrote lyrics of sharp value – and you could dance to them all night long. After several years living in Jamaica, Ari Up now resides in New York, where she regularly performs live – and in a similar style to The Slits. Finally she can walk into her local Megastore and see the influential album she made in her teens in something other than the import bins.


Highlight: Much of The Slits' music was purposefully uncommercial. But they couldn't help themselves with 'Typical Girls': aided by a four-four rhythm, a tinkling piano line, masterful production - and a wry lyric that declared The Slits' outsider status – 'Typical Girls' still sets the hair up on edge all these years later.

Lyric: "Ten quid for the lot, we pay fuck all." ('Shoplifting.')

Quote: "We didn't want to follow male rhythms and structures. We consciously thought about getting girl rhythms in to music and concluded that female rhythms were probably not as steady, structured or as contained as male rhythms." Viv Albertine, from the sleeve notes (written by Mark Paytress for the UK release in 2000).

Wine: Like Marvin Gaye, they heard it through the grapevine. Which grape has never been determined. But the Slits were free spirits, and – perhaps because of Palmolive's influence - I can easily imagine them at home on the plain in Spain, where time is an abstract and where wine, music, dancing and sex are all wrapped up in an everyday celebration of life. Pair Cut up with some warm, fruity, spicy Tempranillo.

Buy: If you decide to buy this album online, please consider doing so through either amazon.com or amazon.co.uk. iJamming! gets a small referral fee.

TUESDAY JANUARY 25

LEMON JELLY – '64-'95 (XL)

Flip over the Chemical Brothers and there's Lemon Jelly on the other side. By which I mean the two acts represent different sides of the same coin. Both are British duos fascinated by the concept of making new music out of old sounds, both operate within the realms of dance music but have an encyclopedic knowledge of pop, rock, soul, folk and all points in-between - and both are releasing superb new albums this January 25, 2005. But whereas The Brothers have built a substantial can(n)on of voluminous sonic assaults for the dance floor, Lemon Jelly's music is mostly designed to chill out with at sunset. (Think Groove Armada during creative peak Vertigo period as a jump-off point.) And of course, the Chemical Brothers have a following stretching into the millions, while Lemon Jelly are still merely a cult.

That could all change with the brilliant '64-'95, but it probably won't. For all their clever ideas, beautiful packaging, savvy marketing and commercial compositions, there's something so purposefully anonymous about Lemon Jelly that I can't imagine them becoming – or wanting to become – superstar(DJ)s any time soon.

For example, I have no idea what Lemon Jelly's Fred Deakin and Nick Franglen look like. I know they're a couple of ex-punks who went their separate ways for 15 years and returned suitably overloaded on ideas to strike up this vibrant creative partnership. And I know that their rare concerts are usually some form of spectacle - like the time they issued tickets in the form of a t-shirt, which you had to wear to gain entry.

But now I know this too: that, after alerting my musical antenna with Lost Horizons, their laid-back (but somewhat stilted) 2002 full-length debut "informal concept record about travel," the duo have delivered a stunningly original and ambitious audio-visual epic with '64-'95. Every 'song' samples a source 'song' from a year within the album title's time frame – and every one of these sampled songs comes from a different musical genre. We hear Masters Of Reality ranting on ''88 aka Come Down On Me,' Gallagher and Lyle softly singing ''75 aka Stay With You,' Monica adapted into 'Make Things Right' and William Shatner elucidating ''64 aka Go' – and yet such is the cohesive nature of Fred and Nick's textural frameworks that if you don't know already how broad a part of the musical spectrum these sampled acts represent, you need never be any the wiser.


As an audio album, '64-'95 is one of the most vividly distinctive records you could hope for in the year 2005. But this time round, Lemon Jelly go one better: the entire record comes (should you want it, and for less than $20) as a DVD, which can best be described as your Private Psychedelic Reel. The nine computerized animations – all courtesy of a team called Airside - sidle up to the songs in question and render them even more distinctive, more humorous… and more human too. Whether it's the pencil-drawn figures headbanging during 'The Shouty Song, or the frog running through ladies' legs on the Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis-originated 'A Man Like Me', the designs imaginatively interpret the songs while still leaving any number of meanings up to the individual. These are the type of interpretive "videos" that your kids, should you have them, will find purposefully hilarious and accidentally inspiring; they’re also the kind that, should you have time to absorb them on your own, will surely prove hallucinogenic.

(An important aside: when I was about 15, I smoked some very strong hash courtesy of a corrupting school-friend, went home and listened to the Yello album Solid Pleasure. As I lay on the floor, eyes closed, more stoned than I'd ever been, I viewed entire animated, rhythmic cartoons against the back of my eyelids. The DVD for '64-'95 is the closest I've come to seeing those cartoons actualized in 25 years... without the need for stimulants other than the music itself. Isn't technology a beautiful thing?)

Animation from The Scars-sampled 'The Shouty Track'....

...and from 'A Man Like Me.' Both are on the '64-'95 DVD

'64-'95 is pushing, then, and in every direction, the boundaries of what we consider "original" art and music in the 21st Century. Still, I get the feeling that Nick and Fred are so surprised to be doing this for a living that they flatly refuse to take it seriously. This might explain their anonymity, which extends to a sleeve design that neglects to include the band name and barely visualizes the album title. Or it may just be that, unlike many of the other electronic post-rave duos, Lemon Jelly really don't give a toss for credibility, let alone visibility. This is a duo, after all, which once played a show purely for kids (as opposed to "The kids") dressed as The Flintstones.

Far be it from me to suggest that if you only had the money for one British post-rave dance duo's superb new album released on January 25, you should spend it on Lemon Jelly and not on The Chemical Brothers. These acts are part of the same coinage, after all. Let me just say this: those who decry the state of the contemporary electronic dance music scene (and that's included me in recent times), those who think all these studio duos are too serious by half, those who believe modern dance music can't rock and conventional pop music can't dance, those who claim that anything said in samples is instantly rendered redundant… those people really need to hear – and watch - this album. It's the rare kind of album of which can be said: everything old is new again.


Quote: "We used to have a rule that if anything made us laugh in the studio it had to go on the record. That doesn't always make it cool but it always makes it interesting."

Highlight: Long before I sought out the sample sources – printed in such minute type on the CD sleeve you need a magnifying glass to read them anyway – I fell for 'The Shouty Song,' with its caustic guitar creating a delirious mid-tempo rock'n'roll dance groove. Then I discovered it was sampled from The Scars, the only one of Lemon Jelly's many source artists I ever saw perform in the flesh. Coincidence? I doubt it.

Web Site: Typifying their contradictory nature, the technology freaks Lemon Jelly neglect to print a URL on their sleeve. (Though the quality of the paper more than makes up for it.) However, you can watch a hilarious trailer for the '64-'95 DVD here, and the whole of 'The Shouty Track' here. (And the band web site exists here.)

Lyric: "Don't Stop Now." ('93 aka Don't Stop Now.') This song came my way while I was working on a decade older Apocalypse track of shorter title ('Don't Stop') though far many more words. It was reassuring to have the sentiment reinforced from another source..

Wine: Lemon Jelly are a hybrid act – merging past and present to create something new for the future. This album comes in hybrid formats: if, like me, you listen to much of your music on your computer, I recommend getting the DVD which, if you need to work undistracted by the stunning visuals, will play the audio tracks on their own. However you choose to enjoy '64-'95, it surely makes sense to do so with a hybrid wine. Americans and Australians should head for the nearest Chambourcin, a grape that belies its hybrid roots. (The Alba Vineyards Chambourcin 2002 is a sterling example from New Jersey.) Brits should march to the nearest supermarket and demand, in a proud voice, a fine British white wine – or even a bubbly - made from the equally impressive hybrid Seyval Blanc. Try Chapel Down. Or, if you like 'The Shouty Track' as much as I do, visit Kent's New Wave Wines.

Buy: If you decide to buy this album online, please consider doing so through either amazon.com or amazon.co.uk. iJamming! gets a small referral fee.

MONDAY JANUARY 24

THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS: PUSH THE BUTTON (Astralwerks)

Throughout history, there have, typically, been two types of Great Groups:
1) Those that relentlessly, unapologetically repeat a proven formula (e.g. The Rolling Stones).
2) Those that constantly reinvent themselves (e.g. The Beatles).

The Chemical Brothers may be among the founding members of a third type of Great Group: the act that reinvents music – but then relentlessly and unapologetically repeats its proven formula. Ever since the duo's debut album Exit Planet Dust – or, more precisely, ever since their breakthrough follow-up Dig Your Own Hole – fans and pundits alike have been waiting for Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons to panic at the prospect of impending irrelevance and, if not necessarily to adapt their sound to the latest trend, then, at the very least, to change for change's sake. And across four studio albums – make it five, now, with the astoundingly familiar Push The Button – Tom and Ed have steadfastly refused to meet those expectations. Is it not enough, you can almost hear them say between the grooves (I still believe albums have grooves, even when they're in digital formats), that we reinvented the wheel? Can't we just claim this corner of music – this enormous, expansive corner of music where everything comes together in peace and harmony, if not exactly in quiet and solitude – for ourselves, then just have fun redecorating the place every couple of years?

My response: sure you can. The mark of a great music act is, when you come down to it, neither repetition nor originality, but self-assurance. And The Chemical Brothers have that in spades. In fact, they appear to have more – or at least a more defiant – self-assurance in 2005 than back in 1995.


Why The Chemical Brothers if not the other superstar(DJ)s of the late Twentieth Century, those who have fallen now upon hard times and appear to be dragging the entire, once fertile genre of electronic rock'n'roll down with them? Here's my theory:

Unlike Fatboy Slim, The Chemical Brothers have never been so shamelessly commercial as to block off their exits back to credibility; unlike Daft Punk, they've never switched sounds on a dime and pretended to 'discover' disco; unlike Underworld, they're still young enough to be ambitious; unlike Orbital, they're not actually brothers and therefore aren't bogged down by sibling issues; unlike The Prodigy, they never copped to metal or threatened to quit while at the top; and unlike every one of these acts, all of whom have earned their individual places in the post-rave hall of fame, they have been profoundly prolific.

Push The Button is the Brothers' fifth studio album in a decade, a rate of output that, of all the above acts, only Orbital equaled - back in their original, equally vibrant heyday. Add in, over this period, Tom and Ed's groundbreaking remixes, a benchmark DJ mix album, and a double CD retrospective whose B-sides bonus was better than most band's Greatest Hits, and it's apparent that the Chemical Brothers remain on top of their game because they've never stopped for long enough to question themselves. If that makes them more Rolling Stones at this point than The Beatles, so be it, because they will still be remembered as the dance group that dared cover the Fab Four in concert – merging 'Chemical Beats' with 'Tomorrow Never Knows' – and pulling it off.


So, I've been living with Push The Button for a couple of months now, and while I may be among a minority that believes The Chemical Brothers have never made a bad album, I'm also hopefully part of a majority that believes this is as good as they've got. From the opening block-rocking hip-hop of 'Galvanize' to the closing indie-rock/synth-pop of 'Surface To Air,' Push The Button is the sound of a Great Group at the peak of its game, knowing that the sound within – that vast corner continent where everyone's welcome as long as they agree to assimilate – is unmistakably their own.

Who's come to join the party this time round? There's Q-Tip on 'Galvanize' (where he sounds better, well, assimilated than on the last R.E.M. album), Bloc Party's Kele Okereke on 'Believe,' The Charlatans' Tim Burgess on 'The Boxer' (as one of their first guest vocalists, Burgess' return can be taken as another mark of The Brothers' defiance), vocalist Anna-Lynne Williams on 'Hold Tight London', rapper Anwar on the angry (and cliched) rap 'Left Right' and new Heavenly signings The Magic Numbers on 'Close Your Eyes.' A special mention, too, to under-rated Charlatans drummer Jon Brookes, who brightens 'Hold Tight London.'

These, then, are the 'songs' with 'vocals.' But many of us have also, always, loved the Chemical tracks without. Of those that inventively sample from other sources, 'Come Inside' and 'Shake Break Bounce' are so classically Chemical you could be forgiven for thinking you've heard them before. Similarly, among the purely instrumental, 'Marvo Ging' resurrects the ghost of 'The Private Psychedelic Reel' and dares you to question them for stealing from their own epic; the aforementioned 'Surface To Air' steals from New Order (whose Bernard Sumner sung on the Chemicals' Surrender album's 'Out Of Control') and dares you to question them likewise for not crediting such an obvious influence.

But that's the Chemical Brothers for you: a place in space where meets all the music that's fit to be heard, some of which is acknowledged, some of which is instead just absorbed. In that place in space inside Tom and Ed's heads (and studio), there are no such thing as trends, fashions, or perhaps, even, formulas. There is only good music and bad music. They know which camp they belong in. And on the evidence of this contagiously confident fifth album, so should we.

The Chemical Brothers' sop to fashion: Tom cuts his hair.


Highlight: For those who believe 'The Private Psychedelic Reel' to be the Chemicals' pinnacle, 'Marvo Ging' – albeit without quite so much euphoria – will be the most welcome.

Quote: You may know I've stopped reading record company bios until I've fully absorbed an album. I'm extra glad to have followed my proven formula this time around. Having reached my own conclusions that The Chemicals have made iush The Button as a defiant refusal to change for change's sake, I find a 4,000 word essay that says essentially the same. You would do well to read the whole thing: it's one of those rare record company bios from which you learn something about music in general as well as the artist in question. (I wrote the preceding paragraph before discovering the essay in question was written by Paul Morley: who knew he was such a beat-head?) But, to be honest, the opening sentence says it all:

Q: How is it now?
A: The new Chemical Brothers album Push The Button is, as it should be, the same as all their others, and totally different.

Web Site: Go to the www.astralwerks.com web site, click on 'Chemical Brothers' and then 'Bio' and you can read Morley's essay in full. It's well worth it.

Wine: You need a big, bruising – and, yes, block-rockin' - red to fully appreciate Push The Button, especially given its mid-winter release. I'm following the Chemical Brothers' non-lead and sticking to my proven formulas. Americans, pick up a solid spicy Zinfandel: the 2002 Seghesio Sonoma County has had even better marks than the previous years. (I just bought one for $18. I'll let you know how it pairs, but I can't imagine it not being perfect.) Europeans, yes, it's Rhône time once again: I can't think of a better accompaniment to Push The Button than an intoxicating young Châteauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueryas, Lirac or one of the better Côtes du Rhône-Villages wines. (Just remember to skip the 2002 vintage.) And Aussies and fellow down-unders, break out your boldest Shiraz. This is a heady album. It deserves a heady wine.

Buy: If you decide to buy Push The Button online, please consider doing so through either amazon.com or amazon.co.uk. iJamming! gets a small referral fee.

WEDNESDAY JANUARY 25

EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN

You can't really blame them. There's only so long you can watch other bands reaping the harvest from seeds you sowed a quarter century ago, without deciding to get back together and show them all how it's done. (And make big bucks in the process.) Yes, The Gang Of Four – in original line-up as recorded Entertainment! – has reformed and returned to both the studio and the stage. (I stress 'original line-up' as I recall booking a band called the Gang of Four at the Limelight in 1992-93. That group featured founding members Andy Gill and Jon King; Hugo Burnham and Dave Allen have now returned to the fold.)

The New York Times' Jon Pareles was among 200 lucky souls who crammed into The Montague Arms in New Cross, South London last week – a purposefully incongruous start for what's already a much-touted tour. His review appeared in Monday's paper under the cringe-worthy headline "After Postpunk? Post-postpunk." (Surely it should read "After the Postpunk revival? The Postpunk originals.") His piece notes that "The band doesn't plan to write new songs. But it has recorded a new double album to be sold on tour and online: 15 old songs redone with better equipment, and a second CD of remixes by old fans including Franz Ferdinand, Massive Attack, Bloc Party and (iJamming!'s New Band Of The Year) Futureheads." I look forward to the remixes more than the re-recordings.

A separate review came from my old band-mate Kevin Bagnall, who saw the Gang Of Four's show in Manchester on Monday night and sent me the following e-mail, which I reprint entirely without his permission or knowledge:

"They were awesome. Dancing at the front took me back to my Electric Ballroom and Lyceum days. They played almost all of their "Greatest Hits" album and 'Essence Rare' and 'Damaged Goods' were fantastic and manic. They are such a great band. Kirsty (Kevin's 17 year old daughter) loved them as well, although she fell short of being at the front with me, prefering to watch her dad leap about with a mixture of people my age and students who have heard the Franz Ferdinand album…"

Later this year – though I haven't seen a release date as yet – Entertainment! is to be re-released in America, most likely with extra tracks and definitely with sleeve notes by Michael Azerrad, author of the American collective independent punk band biography Our Band Could Be Your Life. He's probably the right person for the job: The Gang Of Four were hugely influential in America, inspiring bands such as R.E.M. and The Pixies – as well, of course, as providing a blueprint for the recent crop of post-punk funkers.

Entertainment! Gang Of Four reform original line-up.

Gotham! Radio 4 change original line-up


Talking of which, New York's own agit-rockers Radio 4 – one of the few bands in their genre to follow the Gang Of Four's lead and write lyrics of political substance (naming their second album Gotham! with a deliberate nod to Entertainment!)– have announced a line-up change. Guitarist Tommy Williams left the band last week, on the eve of a west coast tour which has been gone ahead as planned, with a replacement guitarist, another Long Island Anthony, filling Tommy's shoes.


Back in the UK, reunion fever runs rampant. None other than Crystal Palace chairman Simon Jordan has been trying to reunite The Specials – apparently getting Jerry Dammers and Terry Hall back in the same room together. Though there have been various permutations of Special AKAs touring over the last 15 years, it's fair to say that the group needs Dammers and Hall together to be considered anything like The Specials most of us know and love. (Thanks to Pub regular po1ntman for that one.)

After Kevin Rowland split from the original Dexys Midnight Runners line-up (or was it the other way around?), the majority of that group formed a new band, The Bureau. They released one absolutely brilliant single, 'Let Him Have It', about the hanging of Derek Bentley – and yes, there was later a movie of the same name about the same incident. They then released another, less successful single 'Only For Sheep' and appeared to go their separate ways – one of them, the former Merton Parkas keyboard player Mick Talbot, ending up as Paul Weller's musical partner in the Style Council. 2005 finds them reforming (The Bureau, that is, not the Merton Parkas thank God!) – if for nothing else, to help promote what the web site calls the "long-lost album recorded in 1981 and never before released in the UK." Release date is set for Feb 14 2005; that's an album I look forward to hearing. My copy of the 'Let Him Have It' 7" is worn to shreds. (Thanks to Pub newbie Vic Ferrari for that one.)

Happy Mondays have reformed more times than most of us have had hot dinners. (Probably more times than they've had hot dinners too!) For their latest tour, jovial Scousers The Farm have also caught reunion fever and opted to join in the baggy revivals. Altogether now... (Thanks to Pub regular Patrick for that.)

Happy Mondays' Factory label-mates and Hacienda co-owners New Order never split up. They've just gone quiet for periods of up to seven years at a time. Few other groups could get away with such lengthy silences, but we grant New Order all manner of licenses we would not afford lesser acts. The group's new album Waiting For The Sirens Call is due for release March 28 in the UK and April 26 in the USA. If you can't wait that long, you can hear the new single 'Krafty' via this link to the Japanese label's web site. It sounds like… well, like New Order. (What else did you expect?) Yesterday, it was announced that New Order will be appearing at this year's Coachella festival in California, the nearest the USA has to a Glastonbury/Reading style festival, over the weekend of April 30/May 1. The full line-up will be confirmed on January 31st


And while we're on such subjects, and just in case you're waiting to get your advance order in, Going Up In The World: The Best Of Apocalypse 1982-83 is scheduled for release on Cherry Red Records on April 18th. There are no plans for a reunion gig…

2005 MUSINGS:

Jan 17-23: The January Hitlist: Those That Almost Got Away, Revolutions, Remixes, Remisses, Justin Timberlake, Fiery Furnaces, Jimmy Edgar live
Jan 10-16: Tsunami observations/relief efforts/fund-raisers, Best Wines of 2004, British vs. American charts, Alba Chambourcin wine review
Jan 3-9: The Best Of 2004 - Albums and Singles; Biggest Disappointments of 2004; Minutes of A Miracle: Our Son Noel; New York Club Nights

2004 MUSINGS ARE LISTED HERE
2003 MUSINGS ARE LISTED HERE
2002 MUSINGS ARE LISTED HERE
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iJamming! Site Copyright Tony Fletcher 2004


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