Saturday, 20 December 2008

The jukebox of cringe and the sound of the stars

There has been some talk round these parts about liking music that is embarrassing, uncool or otherwise shameful. It started on here with the Mariah Carey Christmas song business a while back and it has been bubbling about in the comments boxes ever since. I believe someone mentioned Showaddywaddy (Sorlil?), there was a whiff of Westlife (Señor Armstrong?) and let's not even get started on the great Hallelujah debate (Barbara Smith!). I find I am liking the big H song less and less as the days go by (but as you may remember I am not one of the poets-who-particularly-love-Cohen...I'm fairly indifferent).

Anyway, with all this in mind I was interested to read the feature in Friday's Independent supplement 'Records of the Year (by the people who should know). Kate Rusby (perhaps the best known of the current working English folk singers and a big favourite of mine) picked Noah and the Whale's self-titled album (bit alternative, weird nu-folk business) but she also named Coldplay's 'Viva la Vida' (huge, mainstream, almost a cliché of modern stadium rock wiv a conscience) as one of her favourites. I was interested that Rusby chose Coldplay of all the bands and artists she could pick. She could have picked lots of cooler music – in fact it would have been hard to pick anything less cool because whilst Coldplay have been very, very popular in the past their current status (in Britain at least) is fairly 'past their sell-by-date' and their latest CD is quite likely 'CD least likely to impress your friends if left lying around the house' (except of course the way fashion works they may be so out they're back in).

When this last album came out though there was a definite Coldplay backlash in the media - I lost count of the big features in the press telling us exactly why they were such a bag of pants as a band. We were told they were unoriginal, whingey, untalented, spoilt rich boys...mostly by rock critics who could probably be described in similar terms... but either it worked or the public were just bored of them because the album has not made much of a mark (that I'm aware of anyway). I have managed to get to this point of the year without having heard a single track from it (although that might be to do with the fact that I have been listening to less and less music radio). I've never been a particular fan of theirs but I've no axe to grind into their backs either. I liked one song on their first album 'Parachutes' (the song called 'Everything's not Lost' I think) and him indoors was quite keen on them a while back so I have heard a fair bit (especially of albums one and two). I quite enjoyed watching them (on TV) at Glastonbury that year when everyone sang along with the yellow song and the one about the spider (or is that the same one...I don't pay their lyrics a huge amount of attention I'll be honest).

Some might say that Rusby has a record of uncool music moves...last year she recorded a duet with Ronan Keating (formerly of pop band Boyzone) and that upset some hardcore folk fans no end. I didn't like that song but I still rate her very highly – she is a really brilliant singer, a lass who's been out there performing for years and years and who, really, has the right to like and record whatever the hell she wants. Also (and this doesn't get mentioned as much as her voice) I think she is a really good songwriter so I am kind of interested that she likes songs on the new Coldplay CD. Most of her own CDs contain a couple of K Rusby compositions and I think they're all very, very good. In all honesty I would have to say I even prefer her own songs to a lot of the traditional material she records (and I like her performances of traditional songs a lot so it's no slight on them). Such blasphemy would probably upset Rusby (a huge folk fan herself), never mind serious folk fans who would probably want me tarred and feathered or something.

When I saw her live a couple of years ago Rusby sang hardly any of her own songs (despite one of them, 'Underneath the Stars', getting perhaps the biggest cheer of the night as her encore...to which she responded 'I almost feel like a proper songwriter or something'!). Well, if she isn't a songwriter I don't know who is! There are a couple of versions of 'Underneath the Stars' on YouTube (live and otherwise) but here's one with some stars to look at too. I almost put on the live clip but sometimes Rusby is just so precious to look at (that hair, that lovely sweet face!) that I wonder if her look doesn't almost distract from just how good her sound is. This song comes from her 2003 CD also titled 'Underneath the Stars'.



And here's another of her own songs – 'My Young Man' from the 2001 CD 'Little Lights'. Another perfect song – this time about her Grandad who was a miner. All this makes me think...I have a ticket for the event at StAnza 09 about song lyrics and poetry. I hope we don't only have to listen to people talking about Leonard Cohen! Oh and Bob Dylan....If we do I might just have to put on my headphones and listen to our Kate.

x

24 comments:

McGuire said...

I'll be back with more comments but for now all I can admit, in a moment of shameless honesty, is I can be found listen to Phil Collins 'Groovy kind of love' and Whitney Houston 'Wanna dance with somebody.'

I can't even apologise, all I can say in explanation is that I love them because they remind me of my childhood and therefore have a certian innocence and iconic status that I can't shirk. Also, I just have a part of my soul that wholeheartedly embraces AWFUL CHEESY music.

When I'm not listening to cheese, I have time for just about every form of music. My main love is the icelandic band Sigur Ros.

you're posts always get me thinking. ta. x

Rachel Fox said...

I used to love that Whitney song! Still do when I hear it.

And at least you have a soul...I'm not sure everyone has, you know.
x

Dominic Rivron said...

I really like Radiohead (just about any night) but have never got on with Coldplay. I try listening to them now and again, but it never clicks with me. Taste is a funny thing - especially the way it can change. One day you hear music that you always felt indifferent to and it suddenly means something to you - at least, I have that experience sometimes. But not, as yet, with Coldplay.

hope said...

Ah, Coldplay is in a bit of a dilema currently...they're being sued by guitarist Joe Satriani Over “Viva La Vida". The local DJ I listen to played both versions. I know there are only so many chord arrangements in the universe, but you have to wonder if the Coldplay guys didn't hear Satriani's instrumental and think it needed words. I'm guessing you could google a comparison.

As for my confession...weirdest would be that Sting did a cover of "Someone to Watch Over Me" that I found sentimental and touching. I know. Odd.

Sliding the couch over to.....

Rachel Fox said...

Yes Dominic...the elusive clicking feeling...that is how music works...it's not intellectual - it is more out of our control than that (one reason I like it so much).
I can't say I've really had the click with Coldplay either but I was interested that Rusby obviously has and admits to it in these very anti-Coldplay times (I am presuming they are not showbiz pals or any such nonsense...who knows...they might be I suppose). I like Rusby a lot though - I have all her albums - so I trust her to be straight-up!

And Hope - I had heard that about the new Coldplay album but I haven't heard either of the tracks in question. I wouldn't have thought at this stage in their careers that they needed to rip anybody off...it could be a coincidence or a subconscious steal. The little songwriting that I have been involved in has shown me how easy it is to think you have written a tune that already exists.

As for Sting...he has put himself in the cringe bin by being so successful (people can be so envious of the rich, much-laid and successful) and some of his excruciating Disney music hasn't helped but he always has been a good singer with a distinctive voice. I loved the Police (and still do) and he has written and sung some great solo tracks too. Nothing to be ashamed of there.

Maybe we should put all the cringe tracks onto a compilation CD...

x

The Solitary Walker said...

I do agree with you about Kate R - I've seen her live several times and she's simply amazing. I'll forgive her anything - even her dubious penchant for Coldplay! She could love Bing Crosby, Girls Aloud - or even Mariah Carey - for all I care. And, again, I do agree - she is quite gorgeous.

Once I was unexpectedly so close to her in the bar before her gig I nearly spilt a cup of coffee over her in surprise! Pathetic fandom, I know...

Love that brass band coming in towards the end of 'Underneath the Stars'.

Rachel Fox said...

What's wrong with Bing Crosby? And at Xmas as well. Outrageous!
x

Rachel Fox said...

And as for Rusby being amazing...I just listened to 'My Young Man' again in the headphones. It's dazzling - everything about it.
x

The Solitary Walker said...

Absolutely..! Swoon, swoon... And what about her version of Iris Dement's 'Our Town'? Oh, and many more. Can't think straight at the moment as I'm obviously just so excited about the Strictly Come Dancing Final...

Ken Armstrong said...

I put my comment for this on the previous post. (eejit that I am)

It basically goes on about how great Hope is!

:)

Sorlil said...

Ahh some good music at last, lol :) Well the Kate Rusby Christmas cd has been ordered and now dispatched, we've got a few of her earlier cd's but my favorite has always been Hourglass...linked very much to a time and place for me.

Talking about cheesy stuff I absolutely love the Heart and Soul Ally McBeal soundtrack with Vonda Shepard.

Rachel Fox said...

Ken - it is Saturday night. Are you drunk?

And Sorlil...I like all her albums. Every time I think I have a favourite I listen to another and change my mind!

As for the McBeal music...I know what you mean. I used to watch it now and again and the music was cheesey but it did work with the show. Ling was always my favourite character.

x

hope said...

Perhaps Ken has been into the jollier aspects of Christmas.

The way my week went, I'll take the compliment no matter where it landed. :)

Sorlil said...

I never actually watched the show, but it's a great cd!

Colin Will said...

Yes, I love Kate Rusby. Don't think I'll buy her Crimbo album - Sweet Bells - though. Unless there's some non-Crimbo stuff on it.

Back in the olden days I once confided in my younger son that I liked Coldplay's (XY?) album. His sneer almost deafened me, in a metaphorical way. (But I was always more hip than either of my sons)

Rachel Fox said...

Yes Colin...I too have been swithering about the KR Xmas album. I'll probably get it at some point (just because I've got all the others and I love all of them) but how much will I actually listen to it? We'll see. I tend to let Small Girl choose the Xmas music (she's the one who likes it). She likes all sorts really.

As for your son...the cheek! Doesn't he know how cool his Dad is? And I never sneer or make a face at my mother...well, no more than three times a day anyway...

p.s. Rachel Stevens was robbed.
x

Colin Will said...

I liked Rachel all the way through Strictly, but I have to say that, on the night, Tom's show dance was a knockout, and that's what folks voted on.

Rachel Fox said...

I would agree that his showdance was better than the others (Rachel's was so-so, Lisa's was an abomination - I had to look away!) but I don't think that's why he won. Women are the main voters in Strictly I'm sure and a lot of women vote for a cute guy in a situation like that (I didn't think he was cute but lots of other people obviously did...I preferred Austin of the two leading blokes). In the past few years (since the competition has got more fierce) a female contestant has to be head and shoulders above the guys to win and must also be likeable to a female voting public (not too full of herself, not too amazingly sexy...like Rachel S!). I will admit that Lisa's annoying coy girly faces and giggle meant I would never vote for her whatever she did on the dancefloor! Plus she went out with George Clooney and some women would never get over their jealousy on that one! Alesha managed it last year because although she is sexy and gorgeous most of all she is fun - crazy laugh, infectious love for life etc. I adored her - could have watched her all year - and she did manage to win enough of the women voters to sneak a win. Neither of this year's girls managed to win over the women watching enough to beat the boy in the end. Also even though I loved watching Rachel if I had to hear her say 'it's like a dream come true' one more time I was ready to throw things at the TV. Lovely to look at, thick as a plank! Ah well...sequins away till next year. Good job we don't take it seriously...

I should point out that it is the three generations of women who watch Strictly in this house (it's the one thing we can watch together). Mark, on the other hand, prefers the cricketers when they're playing cricket!

x

Dave King said...

I thought Underneath the stars was quite phenominal, and beautifully matched by the images. I am not familiar with Rusby's work, so thanks for introducing me.

Rachel Fox said...

well, that's your xmas present sorted then, Dave. All her albums are smashing so just pick a cd, pick any cd!
x

Jim Murdoch said...

Do you have Infinite Blue by The Poozies. Kate sang and played guitar and fiddle with them. I bought a copy in America of all places.

Rachel Fox said...

No I don't have any Poozies albums..though they're on my 'look out for' list. I nearly saw them last year but then couldn't make it. I did know KR had recorded with them...one of the reasons they're on my list! Is it a good album?

Fiendish said...

Coldplay are so bland and inoffensive that I actively dislike them.

Noah and the Whale, on the other hand, are pretty excellent - although I like their ex-member Laura Marling the most. Her solo album is spooky and divine (plus she's only eighteen).

My main musical love at the moment is the mighty fine Kings of Leon - saw them live on Friday night and I'm so not over it yet. Total life-changer. :)

Rachel Fox said...

It's a question with Coldplay...were they bland to begin with or have they got blander? I really don't know - I haven't listened to them enough to have an informed opinion. Lots of people/bands/writers have one good album/book in them and maybe that's what happened with them. Maybe they should have stopped after album 1. But then who's going to volunteer to go off and do something else when the rewards for carrying on (for them) are so enticing?

And are they inoffensive? They seem to be upsetting a lot of people these days so maybe they're more like offensive after all! X-rated Coldplay..? Strange idea...

I have tried to listen to the Kings of Leon but no click as yet. Would they be indie? I really never have been a big indie girl (odd moments...here and there...often when remixed in another style!).