Regular curator of tunes Liz Buckley is back in charge of the Spotify account and this time she’s got déjà vu.
Comebacks are odd things. I often think Paul Weller was right when he split up The Jam: have a blistering career, release no chaff, don’t have a single public moment with any fat on it and get out the game while you’re young, respected and Godlike. Then I remember he didn’t do that and hung around with Noel Gallagher making some far-from-ideal music during the Britpop and Style Council eras while wearing the hair of a highlighted falcon. Wild Wood was a good record though, so I’m going to stick with this example.
Comebacks can be worthwhile. I was left pondering this when I was sat in the reception of Warner Records a few weeks ago, the day after Blur held a press conference to announce their return. Warner is their new record company, having bought Parlophone and gained them by proxy. I noticed that a huge glossy photo of the band had appeared on the reception wall: it wasn’t there the last time I visited.
The crown was back on Blur, but it felt a little wonky, like the raising of a statue felled under previous political rule.
Blur – She’s So High & This is a Low
The only argument I’ve ever had with my best friend Elaine was in San Francisco in 2007. We had a week’s holiday and spent it watching painted trams sweeping up and down the pretty hills, lusting after the colourful houses in the Haight-Ashbury district and being told off at Alcatraz for saying the isolation cell was bigger than my flat.
In short, we were having a lovely time. We saw bands and comedy but were lacking one thing – an after-hours drink. For all its party reputation there were very few bars open past midnight in San Francisco.
After a show in the banking district – which ended well before midnight on a Saturday night – we asked people where we could get another drink. “Another one?” someone said, as though two was a decadent number. “We’re on holiday,” I explained, unnecessarily.
The only suggestions were for hi-energy gay male club nights when all we actually wanted was a simple bottle of red wine or two. Finally, someone suggested a posh hotel with a late-night theme bar. Ecstatic at the prospect of two drinks we scooted off, too thrilled to notice the word “theme”.
About three minutes later (why did we get that cab?) we arrived at a deserted 5-star hotel. A porter in a purple starched suit and hat winked and told us to go to the basement. What we found in that basement was definitely a bar that was open, I’ll give it that. It was also a Polynesian-themed cocktail bar with a steel band playing Eye Of The Tiger on the Bontempi. On an indoor raft. We couldn’t have laughed more if it was Raw Sex playing for French & Saunders. We sipped green and red drinks with umbrellas while this po-faced kitsch band slowly drifted towards us… and away again.
When this mad oasis finally closed we asked the barman the question of the holiday – where can we drink more? And so it was we ended up at what can only be described as a Mexican Christmas. In April. The barman wore a poncho and was playing fast pan pipe music as though that was fine. We sat in the window and consumed a heroic amount of warm wine.
As with many a drunken conversation, talk turned to Reading Festival 1999 and, less predictably, the mood got emotional. We argued about headliner Blur: “How could you say that? Are you trying to hurt me?” I remember someone saying. It could have been either of us.
The morning after I remember pulling the duvet down past my eyes, groaning and checking my red wine lips to ask if that bizarre conversation had really happened. Did I dream it? One of us, I don’t know which, thought Blur were amazing and the other didn’t and we were both SO hurt about that. Mortally wounded. Even though neither of us really like Blur, we weren’t at the gig together and, most importantly, I wasn’t even there.
Nice to have you back Blur. I really cared about you once.
My Bloody Valentine – Soon & Suicide – Ghost Rider
Soon? If ever a band shouldn’t have called a song Soon it’s My Bloody Valentine. In the post-Creation years, despite signing to a new label, writing songs AND recording them, MBV actually did very little in terms of sharing any of that as a band so I was pretty delighted when they announced a comeback gig in 2007 at the Roundhouse.
With a reputation to uphold as one of the loudest bands of all time, we were issued with ear plugs on arrival to help us weather the onslaught.
I’ll be honest with you, I found it a bit quiet even with them still in my pocket.
The loudest gig I have ever been to was for Suicide’s comeback supporting the Stooges at Hammersmith. The place was still half empty, the crowd were clearly Iggy’s, so I got nearer and nearer to the duo on stage, a band I never thought I’d even see. They were mesmerising and they sounded – like a lobster being heated in a pot.
I hadn’t realised the sound was increasing all the while to the point that my hair was now jumping and my legs were being shaken like I was glued to a power plate. The noise was so loud it was vibrating through my entire body and I thought I was going to be sick.
I started seeing white lights and feeling faint. I turned around and considered crawling along the floor to safety when I found my My Bloody Valentine earplugs in my pocket and a new lease of life. So I crawled towards them instead.
The Sonics – Psycho
This year, The Sonics will release their first new studio album in 48 years. All other comebacks should take a step back and give that the respect it deserves (especially you, The Stone Roses).
I take back everything about you, My Bloody Valentine, too: you’re positively speedy. In an echo of their best loved album’s title Here Are The Sonics (1965), the new album is to be called This Is The Sonics and we should take a second respectful step back for that too. In case you think: “OK, those guys may not have lost sight of their image but surely they won’t have much energy or cool in their twilight years” bear in mind that they’re about to tour with Mudhoney. And in case you think they’ll lose their iconic sound with modern recording techniques, it’s being pressed in “earth-shaking” mono.
Richard Berry’s classic 50s R&B songs Louie Louie and Have Love Will Travel have been covered by so many bands you could mistake it as a rite of passage or conscription to the music industry, yet most will name The Sonics’s versions as their favourites.
The band played a reunion show in London back in 2008 and pretty much every one I knew went along.
If you love music – if you love The Fall, The Cramps, The White Stripes, The Flaming Lips, Jon Spencer and all that came before and after – you love The Sonics.
Everyone is delighted that they conscripted us.
Girls Aloud – On the Metro
Due to them hating each other and not being a band anymore, it’s starting to look more and more like On The Metro is never going to be a single for Girls Aloud. I have a hard time accepting that. I once noticed an intro to a Girls Aloud song sounded a lot like Cutting Crew’s (I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight and had no one I could tell that to so I’m glad you’re here.
I love Girls Aloud (and Cutting Crew) very much and was delighted when after three years in the wilderness (a long time in girl band years) they returned with the album Ten to celebrate their ten-year anniversary. Now I think of it, not having done anything for three years and then celebrating all 10 of them seems a bit rich but that’s just another thing I now like about Girls Aloud. Cheeky bastards.
On The Metro is co-written by band member and best one Nicola Roberts and is an outstanding pop CLASSIC. As it only appeared on Ten few people will get to hear it, sadly. I saw Girls Aloud perform the song, just once, at their O2 comeback show. I spent a lot of it distracted by the fact Cheryl Cole (she has a new surname but she often does) had just got such a large new tattoo that, from where I was sitting above her, looked like she had an entirely black back. Which was one way to try and counter the racism accusations, I guess.
So you don’t miss out, here it is for you now (the song, not the tattoo. You’ll have seen that. That’s social media for you).
Kate Bush – Never Be Mine
I’m not going to lie to you – I wanted to choose Don’t Give Up as it fits with the theme of the column, just like the Blur song titles do. I wouldn’t want casual readers to miss that level of detail. No problem.
I also love Peter Gabriel and together with Kate I wanted them to be my Mum and Dad when I was growing up. This actually isn’t as mad as you might think, as I grew up just one road away from Kate in Eltham.
She and Peter, her not-husband who didn’t live with her or father me, could have definitely taken me in if only every single thing about them and me was different. Except my postcode, we had that at least (When times get rough/You can fall back on us/Don’t give up/Please don’t give up).
God they were reassuring weren’t they? They definitely were singing about Eltham.
Anyway, Kate Bush came back in 2014 and promptly sold her house so that dream is all over.
*The Sonics back catalogue and a CD entirely of Louie Louie cover versions called Love That Louie can be bought at www.acerecords.co.uk3307 Views
Department manager at an independent record company. Liker of Frank Sinatra and Nick Cave. Very sudden laugh. Pasty but tasty. Quite tired.