Everybody ruinsOne thing that's been making me bang my head against the wall in an increasingly pointless fashion is reading every major publications end-of-year lists; mediocrity and banality lifted into the spotlight and given laudits beyond their actual worth. Were Mike Skinner's tales of the modern relationship set against a backdrop more spartan than can be mustered after five minutes on Music 2000 for the Playstation One really better than Noxagt's incendiary The Iron Point - thirty three of the finest minutes of anyone's existence - overdriven, cathartic & exhilarating avant viola-induced messiness played so hard, Nagasaki becomes levelled again. Similarly, Jake Shears of The Scissor Sisters is an extremely good-looking man - however, so was Fabio, and he was useless at music, too - so can The Sisters' extremely cloying, retarded Studio 54 knock off be considered to be even playing on the same ballpark as Of Montreal, who for their latest recording (Satanic Panic In The Attic) saw them slimmed down to just the muse of Kevin Barnes, and yet managed to record one of the best arranged, genuinely funny, sad and affecting 'pop' records of the history of recorded music, let alone the year. And, these comparisons could made across the board (The Arcade Fire > Razorlight, to name one more) - accompanied with a burst on the perils of aggressive marketing versus letting a record find its own way into the listeners hands...but pah - in your heart you all know the arguments. Go and find the stuff yourself.
All the ballots were useless anyway - record of the year, by some considerable margin, was Q And Not U's Power. If you have to get two of your friends to help you write thirteen tracks to justify your place in time, then on Judgement Day, Harris Klahr, John Davis & Chris Richards will pass through the gates of the righteous - because, if he jams like we're led to believe, God loves Q And Not U. Thirteen tracks of pure beauty, excitement, handclaps, falsettos that work through your veins like silk, rhythms as hard as diamond - melodies that rouse, yet leave the faintest traces of melancholy, delivered from three people who have actually experienced and felt, rather than read and plagiarised. Most bands would kill for a hook like the scratchy guitar at the start of 'Wonderful People', let alone the whipsmart rhythm section and the gentle cooing of the 'softly running running' breakdown - a perfect appropriation of mainstream pop by white boys on Dischord; of a similar stripe are the Sly and Family Stone nods on 'Wet Work' - rallying, irresistably (and I use this word very rarely) funky and lyrically aware ('Something beautiful gets shot down every day'). If you're looking for the future Motown or Stax writing and production crew, they're in DC, and they're listening to Circus Lupus as well as Motown Chartbusters.
Unlike the second side of 'Different Damage', where they became unstuck, the slower tension relievers on Power are just as effective as the poppier numbers; 'Passwords' is understated and brilliant, 'Throw Back Your Head' life-affirming & 'Collect The Diamonds' amongst one of the greatest songs ever written, full stop. It's actually that good. To try and understand the necessity of a band this good, and with so much to say in 2004 - when, it must be said, we did stop confusing the health of the music industry with the health of music - is difficult. To witness in a live context what a burst of manic spontaneity that comprises 'X-Polynation' is to re-appraise what you feel towards music; can you really accept a Keane when you can have so much more for so much less? To talk about more scientific (and therefore anti-feel) appraisals, such as sequencing and 'cohesion' - they are without peer - live and on record. It's an entirely new method of communication; lyrics fragmented and half caught in shade, pieced together and made into one grander narrative - a band that rewards particpation, questioning and insight - but doesn't forget to write a memorable hook and line for those who lack the inclination to throw themselves deeper in. Make little mistake, Power is not just the best album of 2004, it is the album of 2004 - it documents more high and lows, charts more emotional territory and says more about the state of life in 2004 than any end of year round up will - and it'll be around for longer. It's no indulgence. You need this.
Q And Not U
'Wonderful People' MP3