I say old chap, the closing ceremony was absolutely smashing!

13 08 2012

I’m not one for big extravaganzas and over-the-top, choreographed productions.  If the rock and roll is good, there’s no need for dancers, people flying around the arena on wires, lasers, explosions, fireworks and large props.  Still, the closing ceremony to the 2012 Olympics in London was a killer show.

A lot of the artists that performed were not necessarily my cup of tea.  I couldn’t even tell you who Jessie J. is, and I can’t remember the names of the hip-hop fellas that opened the show.  But, until the Brazilians came out toward the end of the show, there wasn’t a performance that wasn’t at least palatable.

Was there too much Jessie J.?  Probably.  She had no business signing “We Will Rock You.”  Why was Russell Brand, instead of a real singer, doing “I Am the Walrus”?  The Who — or the TWho as a friend likes to call them — performing the concluding numbers were alright.  But how did Roger Daltrey manage to mess up the words to “My Generation”?  There’s no way he hasn’t sung that song at least a thousand times.  Take That had no business closing out the show.

Those gripes aside, I loved the show.  Here’s a little run down of the highlights for me:

  • Imagine — It was great to see Mr. Lennon on the giant screen.  Normally, I ignore that song, but seeing it put on like that was incredible.  It was the first time that song has moved me in 20 years.  And how cool was the 3D puzzle picture of John’s face?  Fantastic!

  • “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” — Whoever decided to fit that number in is a genius.  What a fun performance.  Eric Idle really is a master entertainer, even as an older gent.  I smile everytime I think back to that piece.  Wonderful!

  • Freddie Mercury/Queen — The use of the clip of Freddie from an old Wembley Stadium show was super-cool.  As if from the great beyond, he was participating with the audience.  Brilliant.  Brian May and Roger Taylor were great.  Jessie J., as I said, really didn’t belong up there.  [She is easy on the eyes, at least]

  • Oasis…err…Beady Eye — Let’s face it: Liam’s voice isn’t what it was even 8 years ago.  He’s so nasally and seems to have lost his vocal power.  But, “Wonderwall” is still a brilliant song.  It’s almost the unofficial British national anthem.  I thought Liam and the band did a fine job and his voice was better than it’s been the last few times I’ve seen him perform.

  • “Newspaper Taxis” — Ryan Seacrest, or one of the other members of the American broadcast team pointed out that the symbolism behind the newspaper-covered cars and trucks, as well as the newspaper-themed stage ramps, was a tip of the cap to England’s greatest writers.  Sure, the little quotes in the newspapers on the stage were notable sayings of such people.  But everyone missed the most obvious meaning beyond the newspaper theme: tribute to “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds.”  London’s known for its newspapers — fish wrap! — and its busy traffic.  But where do you think the show’s producers got the idea to wrap motor vehicles in newspaper?  C’mon, it’s obvious.  The feature vehicle was also a taxi, in case you hadn’t noticed.  Fun concept.  The newspaper theme covered a wide spectrum of British cultural notes.

  • The Spice Girls — Look, I was never a fan.  But they’ve always been kind of fun.  Twelve, 15 years past their heyday, they looked better than ever and performed admirably.  I was worried they’d fly off the top of those fast-moving cars.

  • Fat Boy Slim — Cool.  Very cool.  I only wish he’d done “Weapon of Choice.”

  • I Am The Walrus — They nailed the feel of the song.  It was a slick, made-for-the-stage update of this classic song.  Russell Brand was a bit more of a circus ringmaster, a role that would fit better had they played “Magical Mystery Tour,” but the production was good overall.  It had a Cirque du Soleil vibe that worked.

Generally, the show was great, not only because of the highlights, but because it was a near-perfect blend of classic, retro and new British rock and pop.  George Michael, David Bowie, Pet Shop Boys, One Direction, Annie Lennox etc. — some of Britain’s most notable stars, young and old, were mixed together in a fine, cohesive stew.  I don’t care for the younger acts, but they all did fine.

I’m glad we recorded this digitally.  I might watch bits and pieces of it again in the coming weeks.

Way to go Britain!

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A Pax Musica Brittania?

1 05 2012

Pull out of all the metaphors and cliches for this one.  What may have been the greatest ( in terms of vitriol and public attention) rivalry in the history of pop music, Blur vs Oasis, the Gallagher brothers vs Albarn, may have come to end.  OK, it’s not even been an issue for years, but the “end” of which I speak may be, in fact, a new beginning of… wait for it… collaboration.   Yes, you read that right: collaboration.

Noel Gallagher has said he would, hypothetically, collaborate with Damon Albarn.  Mind you, he picked Albarn over Thom Yorke (about whose singing and Radiohead’s music Noel once said, “I’m having it until the little fella starts singing.”)  Noel rightly recognizes that he could make cooler, more upbeat music with Albarn than the guy who Liam Gallagher once called a “miserable ginger dwarf.”

As for Albarn, he’s all but invited Noel on tour in Africa and suggested a collaboration.

http://www.nme.com/news/blur–2/63549

Blur and Gorillaz mainman Damon Albarn has invited Noel Gallagher to collaborate with him later this year.

Asked if he’d like to collaborate with Gallagher, Albarn said: “Well, why not? He should come on the Africa Express train in September. That’d be a nice chance to collaborate.”

Albarn also admitted that Gallagher and his bandmates handled the fame they experienced at the height of Britpop “a lot better” than he and his colleagues in Blur did.

He said of this: “I never held anything against him, even right in the middle of it. I just kind of admired them in a way; that they were better at handling it all than me. They didn’t seem to get too affected by the bullshit.”

Earlier this year, Gallagher was quoted as saying he’d rather work on new material with Damon Albarn than Radiohead – but also described the Blur man as being “as mad as a box of frogs”.

Speaking to NME, Gallagher said: “If I was gonna make a record, it’d be Damon. For a start, he’s as mad as a box of frogs. Number two, he’d get loads of hip-hop dudes working on it, which itself would be fucking mental. And number three? It would be a better record.”

I like Damon’s music and I love Noel’s.  This would be a fine collaboration, if you ask me.  I think Noel’s right that it would be “mental.”





“Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds” soars

28 10 2011

When I first fell in love with Oasis’s music, I was largely drawn to Liam’s vocals.  I don’t think there’s ever been a lead man quite like him, and his voice was one of a kind. But as the band rolled on, sliding out of their spot as most popular band in the world, Noel began to assert himself more as a vocalist (and less as a writer.)  He seemed to save some of the best songs for himself to sing.  Oasis’s best work was often b-sides and bonus tracks found on EP’s and the like; the work that never made the LP’s.  Most of those gems were sung by Noel.

In the meantime, Liam’s vocal work, with some exception, seemed to steadily decline in the 2000’s.  Frankly, his voice is shot, probably from too many cigarettes, Guinness and all night partying.  Sometimes it’s hard to listen to him, as is the case on Beady Eye’s debut album.  What became of Muhammad Ali’s body is kind of what happened to Liam’s voice.  If he could write great songs, perhaps that wouldn’t matter.

All that meant that the best work on the last few Oasis albums was created and sung by Noel.  It became inevitable, I think, that he would break away from the band and put out superior work.  That is what he has done.

On Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Noel put together a collection of songs stronger than the last couple of Oasis records.  His first solo album is much what you expect from him.  It sounds like a compilation of sorts of all the great Noel-sung b-sides and bonus tracks.   Admittedly, High Flying Birds sounds a bit like an Oasis album.  But it’s an album full of songs that are reminiscent of “Falling Down” and “The Importance of Being Idle,” and tunes of that quality.

His vocals are superb!  In some spots, unfortunately, he double tracks them, distorts them or obscures them with layers of other sounds.  If Noel weren’t a good singer, that would make sense.

“Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks” and “The Death of You and Me” have that jaunty bounce of a Kinks pop tune.  “The Death of You and Me” is quite similar to “The Importance of Being Idle,” mostly due to the heavy falsetto vocals.  “If I Had a Gun” channels “Wonderwall.”

“AKA…What A Life” is a bass heavy with a neo-disco beat.  You might hear it in a Eurotrash club someday. “(Stranded On) the Wrong Beach” is a nice mid-tempo rocker, with a bit of gritty guitar.  “Everbody’s on the Run” and has some oomph but relies heavily on sounds effects and psychedelic-tinged backing vocals.  It has a power and passion that makes it irresistible.  “AKA…Broken Arrow” is another track that borrows something from “Wonderwall,” though it’s a bit more uptempo.  It’s one of the weaker tracks.

The two most disappointing tracks are “(I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine” and “Stop the Clocks.”  Both were demo’d for Oasis and leaked to the internet after Dig Out Your Soul was released.  To me, “Record Machine,” at least in demo form, was one of Noel’s top 5 best songs.  On High Flying Birds, he blunted the edge of the song by cluttering it with choir-like background vocals and swirly organs.  I hoped he would do something different with it for the album — we already had the demo to enjoy.  But he cluttered it in much the same way Phil Spector heaped vocals and layers of instrumentation on “Let it Be.”  “Stop the Clocks” is…well…a bit sad and dull.  He’d have been better off to bury that one or put it out as a bonus track.

Keep your ears peeled for the b-sides, “The Good Rebel” and “A Simple of Game of Genius.”  “Good Rebel’s” respectable and “Genius” should have displaced “Stop the Clocks” or “AKA…Broken Arrow.”  It has a stomping beat, nice slippery bass lines, nice rock guitar and solid vocal work.  It’s a happier “Let’s All Make Believe.”

All in all, this is a really nice disk.  It’s hard to say whether it will stand the test of time, as they say.  But it will almost surely sound better than “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” and “Heathen Chemistry” sound today.  And, for what it’s worth, it beats the living daylights out of Beady Eye’s thing.

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds

 

 





If Noel Had A Gun

4 09 2011

Noel Gallagher has released the second song from his upcoming album, High Flying Birds.   “If I Had a Gun” has been floating around in demo or soundcheck form for some time.  Throughout his career with Oasis, Noel was known to write good material, shelve it for an album or two or three, and resurrect it to fill in albums or B-sides.  It appears that the new album will be full of stuff that was written in the last days of Oasis.  It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the songs we’ve heard so far sound like songs Noel might have done with the old band.

I’ve only heard 4 songs from the new album.  Two of them are ones that have been around the ‘net for a few years.  Two are the ones that have been released.  It is becoming more and more apparent that Noel’s stuff will outdo Beady Eye.  I don’t think he’ll rock as hard, but the melodies and lyrics are vastly superior… so far.  In fact, I find him much more listenable as a vocalist than Liam, whose voice is shot from cigarettes, booze and the aging process.

Here’s “If I Had a Gun”

 





The Modfather (back) in the rag trade

22 06 2011

Paul Weller has teamed up with his best friend’s ornery little brother, Liam Gallagher, to put out a clothes line on Liam’s Pretty Green label. Pretty Green, of course, is a jam song, so it is fitting Paul would want to sell his designs through Liam’s label.

Who knows how much of Weller is in the actual line, but it gets his name. The noted clothes horse has designed gear in the past for Ben Sherman (a clothier I would wear all the time if I had the cash to burn.)

Weller’s Pretty Green stuff launches on June 23.

http://www.clashmusic.com/news/paul-weller-pretty-green-team-up

You can see his line here:
http://www.prettygreen.com/paulweller/





Liam in the celluloid biz

25 05 2011

http://www.uncut.co.uk/news/uncut/news/14895

Liam Gallagher has put together a script for a movie he wants to make about the Beatles’ Apple years, based on the Longest Cocktail Party: An Insider’s Diary Of The Beatles, Their Million Dollar Apple Empire And Its Wild Rise And Fall.  Mr. Gallagher hopes to take Johnny Depp into tackling the role of Derek Taylor, the Beatles’ famed publicist and Apple mouthpiece.

I’d love to see this movie, if it ever sees the light of day.  I get the feeling, though, it won’t ever get made.  Even if it does, will it have the marketability to appeal to a big budget guy like Depp?  I know the Gallaghers know Johnny, but I’m not sure whether Liam’s owed any favors by him.





Noel-less Oasis plods on as “Beady Eye”

17 11 2010

Exit Noel Gallagher and Oasis.  Enter Beady Eye.  The new band is made up of Liam Gallagher, Andy Bell, Gem Archer and Chris Sharrock.

If the new song, “Bring the Light,” is any indication, I think we might soon see just how indispensable Noel is to Oasis.  This song has a decent groove to it, but “Baby come on” repeated over and over and over just doesn’t cut it.

Decide for yourselves.