Monday, 4 May 2009

Later…with Jools Holland (Series 34, Show 4 - 28th April and 1st May 2009)

Interesting line-up this week - talent level could go either way. Really looking forward to the return of Depeche Mode and Lily Allen is always charming and funny. Of the rest, only Sonic Youth caught my interest in what was to become a real mixed bag - and a very subdued low-key step back in time.

Tuesday (live)
  • Depeche Mode - Wrong
  • Lily Allen - Not Fair
  • Raphael Saadiq - Sure Hope You Mean It
  • Depeche Mode (Chat with JH)
  • Sonic Youth - What We Know
  • Lily Allen (Chat with JH)
  • Taj Mahal - Checkin’ Up On My Baby
  • Depeche Mode - Personal Jesus
  • Depeche Mode - Wrong
  • Lily Allen - Not Fair
  • Sonic Youth - Sacred Trickster
  • Depeche Mode (Chat with JH)
  • Raphael Saadiq - Sure Hope You Mean It
  • Depeche Mode - Come Back
  • Taj Mahal - Slow Drag
  • Lily Allen - 22
  • Taj Mahal (Chat with JH)
  • Priscilla Ahn - Find My Way Back Home
  • Sonic Youth - Antenna
  • Lily Allen (Chat with JH)
  • Raphael Saadiq - Keep Marchin’
  • Lily Allen - The Fear
  • Sonic Youth - Teen Age Riot
  • Depeche Mode - Walking In My Shoes
80’s snyth-goth legends Depeche Mode (yes they made some of their best music in the 90s but it was still 80s music…) kicked off both shows with new single Wrong in glorious demonic style. Not sure about the song - it hasn’t really grabbed me yet. Neither has the album so in a way I’m hoping for something that I constantly object to - that it was all new material (the set wasn’t all new songs - actually a good thing as the old stuff was better). Singer Gahan was determined enough but the rest of the band looked bored. They closed Tuesday with a great version of Personal Jesus, easily one of the band’s finest moments. It starts simple, just vocals and guitar, then the electronics and drums come in. The autobiographical Come Back (Gahan describes this song as “coming back to himself“) is dark and menacing, devoid of much of the hope that it professes which is a shame. Friday closed with the dramatic Walking In My Shoes from Songs Of Faith And Devotion, another highlight from the back catalogue. It was a great arrangement, excellently performed. With all these 80s bands coming back, I hope Spandau Ballet don’t make an appearance. Please, no…

The big interview on Tuesday was with DM - shaking off the pointlessness of last series when Jools had a tendency to chat with people just on to plug shows or books or greatest hits without actually performing etc. Martin Gore seems to have become Lilly Savage and not changed his black eyeliner since 1985. In contrast Gahan is looking well and relaxed. The both agree that that the 80s was not the best time of their lives. It was the late 70s or 90s (when they had more fun). There was some ridiculous footage from 1981 and not much else. Friday’s chat was better, talking about the band’s early years and more footage of how they changed so much in the space of a year. Playing live is still Gahan’s passion.

The wonderful Lily Allen showcased her new (ish) album It’s Not Me It’s You with the country vibes of Not Fair. Like her or loathe her (and many do the latter), she is a charming presence on the stage, fusing honestly explicit lyrics with her adolescent voice perfectly. Long gone are the days of chav-pop and Allen is now using her voice with amazing variety. The single is not bad if a little nursery rhyme-esque. 22 is more mature but a bit dull, even if the momentum builds towards the end, but then descends into wordless vocals. In the third interview of the Friday, Allen talks about writing a song about her brother and not realising at the time that loads of people would hear it. Hmm, not the smartest tool in the box. She says it’s better to write about past loves as you don’t know what will happen with a new love. And she wants someone who is interested in her. I think behind the laughter is a broken heart that only manifests in her music. The classic schizophrenic artist. Her third song on Friday previous single The Fear is excellent - complete with expletives to give it extra ‘punch’. Not gratuitous, just brilliantly conceived attention-grabbing grown-up song writing. A song for our times.

In a bizarre moment on Tuesday - and there are many on Later, Jools went briefly to talk to Andrew Marr of all people, who declared that Allen is a ‘family favourite’. He had to go and interview the Russian Present instead of seeing her live - something Jools couldn’t quite get his head around. No Jools, Putin wasn’t president then, it was Medvedev. Jools’ second ‘interview’ on the Tuesday was much more entertaining - Lily Allen saying that she is not into Putin because one of her gigs in St. Petersburg was cancelled for security reasons. Apparently the president (as he was then) went to see a fight instead.

Sonic Youth proved that for ‘old timers’ they can still rock with the best of them. Vocally What We Know isn’t the best, especially the chorus, but the band make the most amazing guitar noise. New album The Eternal follows Rather Ripped - which captured my attention for a while, more than I expected it would. The trio of Moore, Gordon and Ranaldo are still a driving force and even though I don’t like to see and hear fallen stars peddling out tired tunes, SY still has it, Just. First song on Friday Sacred Trickster is more like SY of old with Gordon on vocal duty - bouncing around and in her element. Great (but short) stuff. Antenna - completing the trio of different vocalists, this time Thurston Moore was a SY ballad - a real shoegazing master class; all intricate guitar work and pounding drums. It was like being transformed back to 1990. Teen Age Riot (from 1988), again with TM on vocals - is a great example of the band’s legacy. Brilliantly perfomed with furious energy and control.

Not sure about Raphael Saadiq. His vibe was great, but Sure Hope You Mean it sounded like a collection of recycled Motown lyrics and a bit of improv. The shorter of the two, and oddly androgynous, backing singers provided the energy but the whole thing was a bit dated. Sounds like it’s not my thing - on the contrary - I love soul when it’s interesting. The same dance routine and approach to backing vocals are adopted on Keep Marchin’, a much better song with the same cool Motown vibes. It all gets a bit too repetitive which is a shame. And then Saadiq and his ’band’ just jump around a bit.

Taj Mahal provided the R&B (the proper stuff) this week with Jools tinkling along on his piano. Checkin’ Up On My Baby is typical fare with attitude thrown in for good measure. Taj (as I’m sure he is known to his closest friends) may be wonderful but I though it was nothing special. The banjo driven Slow Drag is more of a slow blues number, again with Jools stomping all over the delicate arrangement. Mahal’s excellent vocals hold everything together and a sweet banjo solo to finish is one of the show‘s highlights. He finds time to chat with Jools but more than two songs would have been nice. But the interview was a revealing incite into a man who loves his music - he describes the blues as a roadmap for everything that can happen in your life.

The running theme of this series of Later seems to be to introduce the world to a new musician. This week was the turn of Priscilla Ahn who was utterly captivating from start to finish during Find My Way Back Home. Twee is a good word to describe it, which is no bad thing. Her voice was pitch perfect.

A strange show - very downbeat and retro in a good way. Depeche Mode did their best, as did Sonic Youth, and Lily Allen provided the modern touch. Lots of chat, but none of it cutting edge interviewing or revealing. More from Taj Mahal and a chat with Sonic Youth would have been nice.

No comments: