Why the Killers keep the 80s alive and kicking

As the killers are about to unleash a new album which will undoubtedly throw another unique take on their 80’s influenced pop, im gonna take you back about 3 years or so to the release of their last album, DAY AND AGE, and give my own unique view on why they shine a light on a decade of ever lasting great music. (i wrote this back in 2009 sometime but will leave it unedited as it was then and will stick by what i spewed out back then).

As we almost come to the end of another decade and twenty years since the 80s ended, the decade that, apparantly, time forgot seems to be in better health than ever.

With new albums from U2, Depeche Mode and Simple Minds, reformed original line ups from Spandau Ballet and Ultravox and a reviograted Duran Duran who are fresh off a world wide sell out tour and have many of todays pop stars lining up to perform and record with the 80s legends, it’s more like the decade that’ll never die.

The one band who are clearly indebted to the 80s, but by no means restrained by the decade, are the Killers.  Throughout their three studio albums to date the band have taken everything that made the 80s great and added their own magical pop fairydust to it.

I mean pop in its truest meaning, whether it be the delicious catchy melodies of the early Beatles in the 60s, the glam rock phenomenon of the 70s or the last great rush of pure pop of the early 80s, which saw the charts bombarded on a regular basis with self penned classics that were born to live forever from the likes of Abc, Duran Duran, Eurthymics, Tears For Fears, Depeche Mode, the Cure, Adam and the Ants, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and many more great bands, and not the endless stream of faceless, manufactured acts that are rolled out nowadays like a factory conveyor belt to a brainwashed musical audience.

A young Brandon Flowers fell in love with all these great bands and sounds of the 80s from a place he could only dream of visiting and had as much love for the sounds and witty lyrics of the Smiths and he had for the pop excellence of the Pet Shop Boys.

On debut album HOT FUSS they mixed the exciting sounds of early Duran Duran (listen to SOMEBODY TOLD ME and tell me you can’t hear Simon Le Bon) with a confidence that many mistook for the arrogance of a young and hungry U2.

By the time of second album, SAMS TOWN, they moved towards a more americanised and Bruce Springsteenesque view of the 80s, but still delivered pop gems such as, arguably, one of their finest singles READ MY MIND.

With the release of last years DAY AND AGE, they once again took another musical detour down the alleyways of 80s pop and delivered their most poppy and at times bizzarest album yet.  In other groups hands some of the songs on the album just simply wouldn’t work, but in the future 80s world that the Killers have created it seems to make perfect, crazy sense.

Newest classic HUMAN, is a delicious, understated masterpiece that could easily have been recorded by the Pet Shop Boys back in their chart topping heyday, and there’s even a point on JOYRIDE where you almost expect Brandon to burst into a verse of Madonna’s LIKE A PRAYER.

They have now amassed a string of hit singles that can stand proudly beside Duran Duran’s early run of almost perfect singles and have probably helped many young and inexperienced music fans to trawl their parents record collections or second hand shops to find out if the groups that inspired the Killers are as good, catchy and essential as some of us already know that they are.

So as we hit the next decade (the tennies?) it wont be long before some new upstarts with visions of global pop stardom will be raiding the seemingly endless well of great 80s music and once again prove that it simply was and still is the best decade there’s ever been for great timeless music.

 

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Control (revisiting a review of the film about the short life of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis)

The short lives of Ian Curtis and his band Joy Division are embroidered parts of musical history, but while the band rose from the ashes of their singers untimely and tragic death to soar even newer musical and commerical heights as New Order, the memory of Ian Curtis was freeze framed in time for us to wonder if we would ever get close to knowing about the mysterious tortured soul who touched us by his music…but from a distance.

After the colourful brilliant, but cartoonish 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE, which magnificently captured the whole chaotic Manchester scene in all its psychotic glory, as well as including Joy Division and New Order portrayed by, reasonably, well knows British TV actors, CONTROL came as a refreshing, bleak, black and white slap in the face.  A bit like their music.

This film may have been the directorial debut from ANTON CORBJIN, but in hindsight it makes perfect sense for the guy who direced classic videos for U2, Depeche Mode and, of course, Joy Division, to easily move into the film world and deliver a passionate and depressingly beautiful insight into the man behind the music.

SAM RILEY is a revelation as Ian Curtis, with a raw, emotional portrayal of the singer that many people have never encountered, which makes the inevitable ending all the more heartbreaking.

With excellent backing from SAMANTHA MORTON as his wife Deborah, we spend two hours in Ian’s deep, poetic lonliness, as he tries to come to terms with his dark flourishing talent as well as trying to get a grasp of, not only his battle with epilepsy, but also an overwhelming battle between head and heart.  Of what he feels is right in his head and what he feels achingly is right in his heart.

In his head he knew that he loved his wife, but maybe he married too young, too quickly.  Had a child he loved, but wasn’t ready or fit for.

He had a love for music and found he had a talent to produce his own music that not only got out of his head, but got out of hand and became something he couldn’t handle.  By giving it out publicly he was leaving himself with nothing. Apart from doubt.

In his heart he feel in love with another woman who he felt got something of what he was feeling, or got something or what he was saying but he didn’t understand, and by being close to her he could maybe get closer to himself, and maybe try to get to the heart of the engulfing mental torture that was surrounding him.

All of this is subtly suggested by Sam Rileys open, human, portrayal of Ian but ultimately we will never truly know.

But for once a beating heart and a fragile soul have been placed as an image of a young lost talent where there was once only a long distant grey stare from a bedroom poster wall.

Lost In Music

Just finished reading an excellent wee book called LOST IN MUSIC by Giles Smith.  It’s a down to earth, honest and very funny account of one mans total love for music, as a fan and also in his, somewhat, failed attempt as a successful musician.

This book has come into my life at a very timely moment, not just because the group he was in (The Cleaners From Venus) have recently had their albums re-released and reviewed in this months Q magazine, but because i have been recently dusting off and going through my old vinyl and cassettes and finding that we do have something in common in that we didn’t follow everyone in our music buying with going for what we were told was cool or good but went for music (good and bad) that moved us in some or any unexplainable way and that in revisiting our music collections we still weren’t really ashamed by what we stumbled across.  As the man said himself, ‘music wasn’t just a soundtrack to my life, it was my life’.

Just as he couldn’t totally explain why he had ten 10cc albums in his collection and why he had more whitney houston than bob dylan, i also sit and wonder why and where some of my musical purchases have came from over the years. He recounts his music buying journey and time on the very outer edges of musical stardom in a refreshing way and never once drifts into any jadedness that you would usually expect from someone who never fulfilled their musical dreams of world domination.  He tried, he failed, he lived to tell the tale.

He’s now a successful writer who has now wrote a couple of books as well as having lived out some of his musical dreams by interviewing some of his heroes for various well known music magazines.  So he has managed to find a way to live and survive and make a living through the one thing that fills his life with total, crazy joy.  He has managed to live for music and through music.

As if all the cds i have scattered around my room weren’t enough to keep me going, i am still religiously trying to expand my musical collection and find it very hard to walk by any place that’s selling music.  Whether it be the big supermarkets where i always stand in front of their top 40’s scratching my head in bewilderment at what the hell they have on display for sale masquerading as today’s selection of popular music or it’s the many charity shops scattered around the place that im always diving into always managing to find some kind of bargain that would be music lovers have discarded as they have grown up and, supposedly, grown wiser.  Thank god these people exist as their loss is always my eternal gain.

My vinyl collection was never big, i was more of a cassette person, so my LP collection stretches to random buys from back in the day when Boots still sold records and had a massive clear out sale with an everything must go price tag of £1.25.  So my small clutch of albums stretches to stuff from Duran Duran, Paul Young, Dire Straits, Nik Kershaw (and not even one of his first two hit albums but Radio Musicola!!), The Bible, Big Country, Roxy Music, Thompson Twins, O.M.D, Rod Stewart and a recently bought Then Jerico (their first album) which is currently jumping all over the place on my record player.  My singles are an even more bizarre insight into my random kamakaze buying back in the music hey days of the 80s that have hit and misses all over the place from Simple Minds, Marilli0n, more Duran Duran, Cutting Crew, Spandau Ballet, Tears For Fears, Thomas Lang, The Big Supreme, Drum Theatre, Paul McCartney, Adam Ant, Ray Parker Jnr, Danny Wilson, Yazz and the Plastic Population, Alphaville, Wham and Phil Collins to unashamedly name a few.

While recently clearing out the loft i thought now was as good a time as any to finally sort through my cassettes which i have kept, and in some cases replaced in my 20 odd years of cd buying, long after i had ceased to have a cassette player to play any of them on.  My thinking being that i could easily sort through them getting rid of everything i now own on cd and hold onto some of the more obscure stuff that for some reason or other i never have got round to rebuying for one reason or another.  After dumping my first bag of tapes onto my bed and seeing some of the stuff i did buy back in the 80s, this clearly wasn’t going to be as easy as i expected.  Even the stuff i do now have on cd instantly brought back memories of when i first started my life long journey of having music at the centre of everthing i do and love.

There’s a whole, long story involved in trying to explain much of the music that i have bought and my cassettes could be a horriffing experience to anyone who innocently stumbled across them.  And just to mention tapes lying there from Bruce Willis, Jason Donovan, Barry Manillow, Take That and even Gary Glitter would have some of my closest friends questioning my sanity.  But as i said that’s another whole, very long story to be told and just like they say ever picture tells a story, every piece of music i have ever bought has it’s own, unique little story to go along with it.  So as i start to sift slowly through all the cassettes i collected in those fun carefree days of the 80s i will eventually, finally sit down and tell the full story of why i just can’t get enough of music and why my life, no matter what comes along, is always more fun, colourful and meaningful because music has soundtracked every mad step i have taken in this crazy life.  Music isn’t just a soundtrack.  It is my life.

So with a cast of musical wonders including Depeche Mode, the Cult, Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie, Go West, Cry Before Dawn, the Hosuemartins and the Beautiful South, Jesus Jones, EMF, the Beloved, Luther Vandross, Prince, the Power Station, Heart, Whitesnake, Van Halen, Duran Duran, Gun, Danny Wilson, the Silencers, Big County, Fish and Marillion, It Bites, Was Not Was, Poison, Gary Moore, Fleetwood Mac, Peter Gabriel, King, Howard Jones, James, Happy Mondays, Londonbeat, Huey Lewis and the News, Midge Ure, Simple Minds,Manic Street Preachers, Hue and Cry, Talk Talk, Deacon Blue, Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, Sting, the Temptations, Stereo Mcs, Chicago, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Propaganda, the Railway Children, the Farm, Thunder, Love and Money, Scritti Politti, The Shamen, the Spin Doctors, the Big Dish, Mr. Mister to name just a few, wish me luck and fear not just for my sanity but for any of yours out there who may wish to one day follow my musical adventures.

Or even better, i hope that you guys out there dig out some of your, seemingly dodgier, musical purchases and fill the world with the bizarre beautiful noises that they made.

Let’s be honest, they can’t be much worse than what’s polluting the airwaves at the moment, and do we really think that the young foolish music buying public of today will be digging out their crazy pop, top 40 buys in 20 years from now?

No, i really don’t think so either.

An almost James Grant gig and another mad day in Glasgow!

With all good intentions comes great responsability.

Met chris for the half 2 train to the wet and windy city of glasgow and quickly shot out the the west end to meet up with a hungover and ever youthfull grumpy Dave. Then the madness begun.

With a good 5 hours before the gig begun I shouted out my favourtie catchphrase of the moment, ‘whats the worse that could happen’ and maybe (but definitely not) regretted to blurt out those words.

A quick, beer of the week, that consisted of some obscure american beer (blue moon!!!???!!!) with a slice of orange, we headed off in the pouring rain we headed off to find more drinking venues.

Found a wetherspoons type of pub and me and chris fired into two bottles of wine while Dave, in his own unique disturbing style recreated, thankfully only in words, a truly horrfic personal story that i really hope you never have to sit through and listen too, never mind actually having to be in that position in the story.

Then we hit the Hillhead library club (sorry no books) for a quick and slightly dear pint before dave shot off to have a hopefully quiet night while me and chris fired along to the Tennents bar for a quick couple of double jack daniels and coke.

Then going to the wrong door at the Oran Mor and the quick witted bouncers (yes im using sarcasm) asking chris wheres hes been we headed round to the other dorr while chris accidentally slipped and fell down the stairs.

By the time we got to the other door bouncer world was in full effect and chris was almost not getting in. Where have you been? what have you had to drink? i just want to hear you talk? all came out the neanderthals mouth before he tried to put the fear in us by saying, i dont want to see a drink in your hand and if i do i will throw you out.

The idiot actually did us a favour and we deliberately didnt even attempt to purchase an over priced warm drink at the venue. We had enough in the topped up tank to keep us going anyway.

Though we quickly found out that we had turned up half way through the gig (who actually goes on the minute the doors open these days?)

Anyway we enjoyed, at mos,t a good half dozen james grant tunes, and to hear Winter again, alone was well worth the ticket price.

As i turned round to chris and said, colin will be raging to miss this, some random woman shouted, give colin a phone! oh no, i replied he’ll be tucked up in bed ha and continued to sing away. we enjoyed some witty batter till a couple of maniac women (sorry for the stereotype but you guys really have to convice me otherwise) told us to Shhhhhush!

Fucking Shhhush i replied. we’ve already had enough shit from the bouncers without you sour faced twats giving us grief. Then they shusssed.

Gig by for 10 and we realised we could jump on the train and round off our night in style at the karaoke in irvine.

In a moment of drunken, unselfish madness we showered a random begger in a wheelchar with money, menthol fags and even my lighter before getting the underground to the centre of glasgow then the train home.

On the way i managed to drop my phone on the floor and its currently a bit fucked up but still just working and we started ordering our songs on the way to an eager waiting stevie.

After my night of watching Rock Of Ages with jodie the night before (another story in the waiting) i was determined to live out my tom Cruise/80s rock fantasises and stuck my name down for def leppards ‘pour some sugar on me’.

It went down a storm, (well with me anyway) and i manged to follow it up with a wee bit of Purple Rain and the Editors ‘smoking outside the hospital room;, a doom ladden song ive been trying to find at a karaoke to sing for bloody ages.

And chris did his best bob dylan and van morrison impersonations and like two desperate Withnail and I wannabees we battered into a bunch of pints and some jack daniels before the end of the night.

A good day was had by all, apart form the charles darwin shy bouncers who wouldnt know evolution if it fell down the stairs in front of them.

Im sure James Grant will be proud of us!

Teenage Fanclub and how much do polar bears weigh? (june 2010)

Just back from the Teenage Fanclub gig, and an excellent night of festivites up in Glasgow, where, not only have the bellshill byrds proved their positon in the musical universe as the third best band EVER! (after duran duran and the manics, of course), but i have also been witness to, possibly the best chat up line ever produced and drunkenly executed anywhere, anytime, and maybe, of all time.

After getting dropped off just about 4 in the heart of the city i wondered what the hell could i get up to, to keep me occupied for a few hours until colin made it up?
then i thought, CAPITOL, £1.50 a pint, £1 a bottle of beer,sunshine, table outside, what more do you need?
Quite happy to sit myself, i bought myself a wee pack of 1o menthols and the newest nme and started to sit and soak in the sunshine, soon realising that people had already started enjoying the cheap booze.
3 guys at one table started passing merry, harmful banter to 3 young ladies at another table and the next two hours and 4 or 5 pints flew by in no time. i never felt as i  was on my own once. not that i usually do.

Anyway this aint a biography of the whole day, and im not introducing the characters involved….so straight on to the chat line.

The main big guy, who was casually funny in an in our face, but not annoying way, and having already spent a good hour asking and forgetting the girls names, suddenly turned round to them and loudly asked……………….

……………..HOW MUCH DOES POLAR BEAR WEIGH?

“what?” one of the girls responded, not quite sure if she heard him right, “how much does a what weight????”

“HOW MUCH DOES A POLAR BEAR WEIGH????” he once again asked,

“eh…..i dont know” replied the girl, perplexed, to say the least.

“ah, neither do i ” said the big man as he started to stand up from his table and move towards theirs………………………….

…………….”BUT IT BREAKS THE ICE!!!!!!””””……

“……………..MY NAMESSSSSSS…………………” then he stuck out his hand and humoursly tried to, once again introduce himself ha,

i groaned “oh dear” as a spluttered into my pint, and realised in some mad kind of way, thats possibly the best chat up line ive ever heard.

but you never know.

so good was the pre drinking i’ll save the review of teenage fanclub for tomorrow, only to say that i turned to colin at one point during the gig saying “my theses on the fannies and why music makes the world a beter place is already forming in my fragile little mind”

as the ever youthfull fannies say ” i’ll never know which way to flow, set a course that i dont know!”

these guys are my sunshine after the rain!

From a spark to a flame (Arcade Fire from dec 2010)

In this day and age of x facrors and (clearly) Britian has (NO) talent land , where children are brought up to believe that being able to, nearly, carry a tune is a pathway to musical pastures new and  we (or I)…..(and i really hope its not just I) pray each day this isn’t the case, its refreshing to know that not  only is  there something better out there in the music world to change this point of view, there is  actually a band already out there, casually dominating the world, with their mesmerisng live act, that  have organically grown in the last five  years, from an up and coming troop of enthusicastic musicians, to not only compete with the U2s, Coldplasy and Kings Of Leons of the world, but can actually stand head and shoulders above them all, triumphantly wearing their bleeding hearts on their sleeves, without ever once compromsing to this, seemingly always jaded pop world.

   To watch Arcade Fire  command a jam packed audience at the exhibition centre tonight was a total joy to behold.  To not only realise, but be bewildered, by the fact that the audience must be above the usual, “who are we” crowd of oasis, the view or whatever group you would care not to mention, it was great to just meld in with a crowd who were celebrating in a group that, for once, no matter how big they may get, will always mean something.

  And when you really get into this bands music, this is a mass congregession of, slightly drunk (including me!) people who were enjoying songs all about death, family, friendship, hopes, fears, dreams lost and dreams yet to have.

    The music world at the moment, taken at face value, looks like a desolate place, but in reality its never been so alive.

  As the internet, apparantly threatens to killl music, i believe, to quote a famous line, “it will only make us stronger”.

 I enjoyed most of the gig tonight with a massive smile on my face and at some points, tears in my eyes, and i’ll be quite happy to eat my words, but i can only see this group getting bigger, and i really, for once, cant see these guys ever selling out.

 

  i’ll leave you with a few lines from the title track from their outstandingly laid back masterpiece “the suburbs”

 

……………..”so can you understand, why i want a daughter while im still young?

                       i want to hold her hand,

                        and show her some beauty,

                         before the damage is done…………..”

 

and those four lines, if people know me, make me break down and cry, not just for fear of what the world holds for me and my daughter, but for joy of how much i always believe that music does have the power to change, not only the world, but also you and me.

The Crossing 30th anniversary (from feb 2012)

IN A BIG COUNTRY…..DREAMS STAY WITH YOU!

just back from the Big Country gig and i can safely say, BEST FUCKING GIG in a long time.

 Mike Peters was outstanding as the spiritual voice of the late stuart adamson and a packed barrowlands enjoyed an exhiliarating, emotional two hour set, which featured the whole first album in its entirity.

  I was emotional when i woke up this morning, but i held back as long as i could, but when In a Big Country started playing, and guys left right and centre started to rub tears out of their eyes i was off like a fukcing tsunami.

 The whole place was jumping and singing and it couldnt have been a better tribute to stuart, the guys and the 30th anniversary of the release of the grammy nominated album THE CROSSING.

 Even the support was well worth the ticket price with a rejuvinated GUN, who had ditched the long haired lover from the Little Angels and one of the original brothers took lead vocals and took us back to the glory days of STEAL YOUR FIRE, WORD UP, SHAME ON YOU, DONT SAY ITS OVER and BETTER DAYS.

 Gigs like this make the Barras still one of the best venues in the world and with a two hour set from Big Country with the spirit and heart of Stuart shining down it just makes you smile and think that Stuart may have finally found a heaven which was full of the wide open spaces and endless dreams that his words and music always promised.

 Thats the Wonderland that im eternally looking for.