Archive for January, 2009


Silver lining in new music from the rainy city

The Bears Are Coming

The Bears Are Coming

Whilst the bemoaning of lacklustre new music prospects for 2009 gathers pace, as the January rain commences, one city is offering five rays of sunshine to blind the critics. The rainy city. My city. Manchester.

The city’s contribution to the national music scene has been well documented and celebrated in the past, but herein lies the fundamental problem. Manchester has never been able to shake off the lad-rock indie label so brilliantly bestowed upon it by the Stone Roses and Oasis. Following a sprinkling of commercial breakthrough last year, notably from the Ting Tings and The Courteeners, 2009 could see the Manchester music offering blossom in a spectrum of varying guises and styles, finally relegating the ‘Madchester’ scene, alongside, hopefully, those soulless billionaires, Manchester City. But that’s another argument for another day…

The resurrection will be a five-pronged attack. These five bands will smash through your radio and gallop to the top of the league, alongside, hopefully, those illuminating romantics, Manchester United. But that too, is another argument…

These five bands, hand-picked by, well, me, are… Ten Bears, The Travelling Band, It’s a Buffalo, Twisted Wheel and Kid British. Mad for it!

Ten Bears are a ragged, sharp rabble of rustic brilliance. Heavily influenced by Young and Dylan, the Bears have successfully twisted in catchy, pacey tunes with clever, scratchy lyrics. Formerly The Deadbeats, and former winners of the Glastonbury Unsigned Act competition, Ten Bears have added the racier songs of the deadbeat days, such as the fabulous ‘Hotel’ and ‘Sex Music’, to their new furry armour that carries a clutch of electric, joyful, poppy teasers. New song ‘Dirt On The Radio’ gained its first serious airplay on Radio One last week and should kick-start the march of the Bears. Personal favourites include ‘To The Moon’, ‘Braces’ and ‘Zeus’, while ‘Charlie’ holds particular resonance for us boys here at The Equivalent. Remember, Keep It Simple, Stupid. And remember, Ten Bears are awesome. GRRRRRR…

Friends to the Bears, The Travelling Band offer a somewhat more relaxing take on Manchester Americana. Slow and unhurried, The Travelling Bands songs twitter along, and leave you feeling pretty darn… well, for want of a better word, nice. Debut album, ‘Under the Pavement’ has already been released, cementing The Travelling Band’s place as one of the favourite acts on Market Street. The rain may always pour in Manchester, but for those glorious few days of sunshine we’re hopeful for in the summer of 2009, cider drinking in Platt Fields Park will surely be accompanied by the easy jigs of the sublime Travelling Band, flowing, stream-like, from the radio.

Slightly quicker, yet equally as lovely, are the tales supplied by It’s A Buffalo. Hot from a stampeding support slot with The Courteeners, and with a release date of March ’09 for debut album, ‘Don’t Be Scared’, pencilled in, 2009 should witness the steady rise of the rough, yet pleasant, Buffalo boys. ‘Somewhere In Range’ and ‘Divorce Song’ are particularly gorgeous, and the appeal of seemingly ordinary, laid-back Manc fellas could guarantee It’s a Buffalo a comfortable space in the corner of the national conscience.

Much has already been written about fiery scamps, Twisted Wheel, but they’re just too bloody ferocious to be left out here. After being hand-picked by Noel Gallagher to support Oasis for their Wembley Arena gigs last year, they also perhaps hold the greatest chance for mainstream success in 2009. Rowdy and raucous live, tight and urgent on record, Twisted Wheel could whip the Manchester lad-rock tag into a rusty frenzy. They’re sharper than Oasis, more forceful than The Courteeners. Don’t dare take your eyes off the charts this year, Twisted Wheel are gonna smash it up!

Genre-slicing rapscallions Kid British are Manchester’s most intriguing melting-pot. Mixing dub, indie, ska and rap, Kid British are a rasping collective sure to divide, but certain to sky-rocket. Instantly brilliant, ‘Elizabeth’, is a personal recommendation, whilst ‘Lost In London’ could quite easily have been my running life story for the last few months. Comparable maybe to the style infusings of Jamie T, and equally as ace, Kid British look destined to kick on to a similar degree of success and acknowledgement. If they don’t, then they should, for the Kid’s got talent.

So, there you have it. Music isn’t dead. In fact, under the slate-grey Mancunion sky, it is about to be re-born. Manchester, it seems, is gonna command the music scene in 2009 as Man U are gonna dominate the Premier League. But that’s another article entirely… D’ya know what I mean?


What Dreams May Come


Tardis-jumping Time Lord David Tennant hobbled triumphantly back into the limelight on 3rd January, returning as the Dane for the final run of a high-profile RSC production in Stratford-upon-Avon after several frustrating weeks on the sidelines following codpiece reallignment.

Emerging from behind those famous velvet curtains early in the first act, Tennant startled awake an audience of otherwise uninterested Trekkies who had been waiting patiently for Patrick Stewart (playing Captain Picard) to sign their endless mounds of Claudius memorabilia. With talented understudy Edward Bennett due to step up in his stead, Dr Who’s timely reappearance proved a welcome relief to the many feckless grazers baying for celebrity. As the Scot finally whipped out his Hamlet with all the tigerish tenacity of a young Olivier, the crowd went mild.

By all accounts, Tennant brought a puckish sense of adequacy to the melancholy prince, a certain indefinable, other-worldly competence not seen since Kenneth Branagh stepped into those most tragic of tights in 1996. Indeed, many legendary thespians have undertaken this great role  (although it is more typically the provender of heterosexual males) and Tennant may one day be among them. The scene is which he is confronted by the ghost of his slain father is grandly long and just the wrong side of excellent. Stewart meanwhile is, as ever, reliably bald and loud. This experienced ham is clearly enjoying himself exploring the rich personal resonances to be found within his character, a murderous egomaniac. But for a wet Ophelia and the want of a happy ending, this Hamlet was certainly one to remember.

Or presumably would have been, had I actually seen it. Apparently the Equivalent’s budget wouldn’t stretch to a ticket. They wouldn’t even spring for a cheap seat to watch Mr Bean’s panto Fagin in the latest tawdry West End bastardisation of Dickens. Tight-fisted vulgarians. I’m supposed to be the bloody drama critic, for the love of Sir John Gielgud! Oh! How those callous beasts know nothing of the agony and the ecstasy! (Faints)


Greenwich man ‘outcast’ after criticising The Dark Knight

A Greenwich man has been cast out of his family home after not appreciating The Dark Knight enough. The incident happened over Christmas but is only now being reported.

Brian Greene, 31, says his family have “totally gone ape” over his failure to recognise 2008’s tour de force as the greatest movie of all time.

literally the worlds greatest actor ever. Fact.

Heath Ledger: literally the world's greatest actor ever. Fact.

“I can’t understand it,” Greene said. “After Christmas dinner we usually watch a film and my cousin Milo wanted to show off his new Blu-ray player. It’s like DVD but clearer, or something.

“Anyway, my other cousin was given The Dark Knight so we stuck it on.

“But after the best part of three hours of turgid moralising and overdone set pieces I was pretty glad to see the back of it. And that was when the trouble started.

“I flicked on the light and said something like, “Wow, even Aunt June’s turkey wasn’t that dry. And why does Christian Bale have to sound like he’s gargling hammers?””

Unfortunately for Greene, his family had fallen under the spell of the innate genius of Christopher Nolan’s screenplay and Heath Ledger’s deservedly award-winning turn as The Joker. Understandably, they did not take kindly to the clearly unwarranted criticism.

“They just flipped. You want to know how I got these scars? My uncle just stared, then smashed his sherry on the table and rushed me. I fell back on my brother’s Star Wars Lego and that’s when my Gran’s pug Buster went for my face.”

Greene contrived to escape when, cowering under a table still heaving under the remnants of turkey and trimmings, his hand fell on the very pack of mini-screwdrivers he had earlier won in a cracker.

“For some reason they loved it when I threatened them. My aunt screamed I should jam it in her eye “like Heath did”. They kept coming at me. I found myself shouting “come on, I want you to do it, I want you to do it. Come on, hit me. Hit me!”

“That’s when I got the Hell out of there – I knew they wouldn’t go down without a fight, but this was different. They crossed the line”

Greene dashed to the park in a hail of pigs in blankets, but his future looks bleak.

“I’m still finding parsnips in my hair. I thought I was dead. Well, at least half. There’s no way back for me now, not unless I agree to love the film.

“I haven’t anywhere to go – I’m an outcast. Everyone’s creaming themselves over The Dark Knight. When I’m bored I usually head to the IMAX but that piece of crap is on four times a day”

Greene’s case is not an isolated incident. Many other Britons seem to have been affected by the undeniable brilliance of 2008’s highest grossing movie.

In November, a Tolworth man threatened to “blow” the Isle of Wight ferry, bellowing, “They’re talking over the same exact thing in the other boat. They’re murderers…they’ll blow us sky-high in a second”

The Dark Knight is out now on DVD and Blu-Ray. The producers have released as statement saying “anyone who chooses not to buy The Dark Knight in ALL formats is clearly homosexual”.

Cheerfully concocted by Will Nichols


New Music in 2009 already written off – go back to bed

by Jon Bye

A new year, a new age, a new president far away…and the same old here in blighty. Exciting developments in music come thick and fast (who would have thought touring would become more profitable than selling albums). But when it comes to  new artists, if you ain’t known already you can already forget the mega fame for 2009.

This comes thick on the heels of  two pieces – one article in NME(the fallen bastion of new music) and a podcast from the Guardian (the music guide for the misguided). I must note that many other people have done it, but these two publications are the most likely to be picked up. Both backed their artists to make it, most quite obvious (if Little Boots doesn’t have a good year then none of us will) but the odd obscurity (the rise north-western dub anyone?!?)

Nothing unusual in these predictions in themselves. But arguably music is in such a fragile way right now that maybe this is not the best way forward. Its almost irresponsible. If its clear who the media pages and magazines are going to be talking about for the next year (and some key writers are already fixated on their new favourite band and deperate to tell us about it), why bother doing anything then put them on advanced order and go back to bed in a credit-crunching, fuel-rising, Woolies-closing state of apathy? Because whether we want to or not, we will be hearing about these bands for the next 6 months until they finally deliver their disappointing first album, at which point we’ll fall back on the tried and tested artists’ unoriginal new album and claim its gold.

In thi economic state as well, there is little hope for breaking this pattern either. One only needs to watch the glorified pop-youth talent show , T4’s Unsigned Act, to see that the men (or women…but most likely men) with the money are still the dinosaurs from the 90’s who were playing  it incredibly safe and signing up only the artists who had the biggest buzz and the least controversy even before the credit crunch hit.

Now, I can gauge it will be even worse. Tips list of obvious bands become bibles to the casual investor, myspace becomes their billboard and the weekly music press become their whoring ground. This great bright future of music!

Continue reading ‘New Music in 2009 already written off – go back to bed’

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January 2009
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