London Calling – Jan 2006

London Calling.. the faraway towns. It is with both gratitude and trepidation that I write this missive for QUIMS. I was extremely honoured to be asked to contribute to this most welcome enterprise by becoming the Southern (Softy) Correspondent to this esteemed organ. My brief is to write occasional reviews from the Big Smoke, largely drawing upon my personal travels on the highway of live popular music. My brief for this first intervention is to review 2005 as a gig goer in the metropolis, future missives will hopefully provide a travelogue of, as Bob would probably put it, the good, the bad and the ugly of the London music scene. This will encompass talking about bands of course, but also of venues and other ephemera upon the way. In fact this first review probably is more of the flavour of the old and the new, rather good bad and ugly, as 2005 for me was both a journey into the past as well as the present. As Karl Marx I believe posited, possibly after a trip down Carnaby Street, it is impossible to appreciate the future without having a sense of the past, and I will gleefully accept this opportunity to test that theory.

Perhaps at no time in my musical memory has the past loomed so large over the music scene. Apart from the current penchant for post punk writ large over most current alternative music (we all can play spot the reference point when we hear Franz dies in Bloc Chief Monkey etc) 2005 saw a raft of golden oldies grace the stages of London. My year started with a trip to see the Gang of Four at the Empire, ably supported by the Departure. Having always had a soft spot for any band on the Faversham axis, especially with Leeds University Russian and Philosophy department thrown in, this was a most pleasant trip down memory lane, although how such an occurrence squares with their own Marxist rhetoric is open to conjecture.

Other retro pop acts seen throughout the year included The Las (with Mavers gardener who had never played drums before on drums and it showed), The House of Love (if you are interested in cover versions better than the original check out The Shins Destroy the Heart incidentally, The Proclaimers, the lovely Teenage Fan Club and the esteemable New Order. Indeed New Order was perhaps my gig of the year, finding myself down at the front shouting nonsense at Hookey, with him shaking his head at me as if to say what is that old codger doing down the front? There are a few more but my addled brain finds it difficult to recall them all.

In terms of the new, an early gig in 2005 was the NME Awards tour, arriving too late to see the Kaiser Chiefs I luckily was able to catch The Futureheads who to me, at least, in an admittedly small minority, blew Bloc Party and The Killers out of the water. Other highlights throughout the year included seeing Pete Doherty play a solo set supporting the Streets and realising behind all the hype is actually a good songwriter and performer (a duet of Dirty Old town with Shane McGowan was fantastic apart from a pick of Babyshambles and Libertines back catalogue), catching the heroic Elbow and Doves a few times and being in the same room to hear Anthonys voice which was something to behold. Whilst seeing the Pixies was a prime motivation for a trip to the Reading Festival catching the magnificent Arcade Fire was reason enough in itself. Seeing, ahem, VIPs knitting at the Astoria during the Subways was also most enlightening. Knitting is after all the new rock and roll. There were other trips here and there but hopefully this gives a flavour of my musical year, which put down in print actually seems quite busy and respectable. Future reviews will be more show focussed and more regular, alcohol intake permitting.

Over and out

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