It’s a bank holiday, the weather is mixed, the house is empty and I am trying to put off doing some work.
I’ve been reading up on some of the responses to the Mark Thompson speech at the Edinburgh Television Festival the other day. The Guardian leader gets it right: the debate is not just a little skirmish between a couple of bruisers, but is of huge significance for our society as well as the media: ask the Italians if Berlusconi’s media dominance is just a personality matter. It is also interesting that Murdoch’s newspapers seem not to have carried Thompson’s speech or addressed the issues – which speaks for itself.
However, the gaps in today have made it possible to catch up on some new music. This is an unashamed plug for three very different bands.
Whatever the Weather is the title of the latest offering by Nottingham-based ska band Jimmy the Squirrel. Ska is the sort of music you can’t help smiling to – even when the lyrics are miserable. It’s like a fun version of reggae. I have to declare an interest in this band, though, because the songwriter and singer is my son-in-law, Liam O’Kane. But, I wouldn’t dream of plugging his stuff if I thought it was rubbish or I didn’t like it; after all, I have my own critical credibility to consider! (Er… hmmm….) This band – which has a great reputation for ‘live’ gigs – is getting better with each album and deserves a wider audience. Fantastic, fun stuff.
I remember getting into big trouble for suggesting that 19 year old Alexandra Burke couldn’t possibly sing Leonard Cohen’s epic song Hallelujah because she hadn’t lived long (or hard) enough. I maintained (and still do, for what it’s worth) that some songs bear the depth of experience and can’t be sung by someone who hasn’t been there. For example, would Bob Dylan’s Modern Times album be worth listening to without that rugged, rasping voice? Some of the great blues music is the same: a 19 year old Londoner couldn’t do justice to any of John Lee Hooker‘s stuff.
So, I was a bit surprised to hear the eponymous debut album by Bournemouth-based blues band Paint it Blue (name nicked from the Rolling Stones?). They have a great local following and I haven’t heard them live (I was sent a copy of their CD); but, the idea of just-post-teenagers doing justice to the blues was questionable. Until I heard the album, that is.
The music is tight, the technique sound and the music mostly original. The moody voice of singer Hannah Robinson puts into question the ageist prejudice I mentioned earlier: her voice might yet be young and have years of maturing ahead, but she grabbed my attention – she has a rich, working voice that allows an unexpected emotional depth. This is an unassuming band that, again, deserves a wider audience. Turn down the lights, turn up the volume, open a bottle of Rioja…
Crowded House have now put out their second CD, The Intriguer, since they re-formed. I hadn’t had a chance to listen since it came out a couple of months ago, but it was worth the wait. I could listen to Neil Finn’s voice all day and his astute lyrics are always intriguing. But, even if the sound is typically Crowded House (what else should it be?), they play a damned good tune. I love hearing good acoustic music, too, and these guys have it all: melody, harmony, rhythm and wit. Even if, as they sing in Amsterdam, “the grey men are shadowing us”, music like this breaks out into the daylight of simple creativity.
The bank holiday work-avoidance strategy is paying off. Now for Cockburn, Clapton and Springsteen…