Sunday, 10 May 2009

Later…with Jools Holland (Series 34, Show 5 - 5th May and 8th May 2009)

A strange show in prospect this week with no one compelling me to tune in. A big comeback from Manic Street Preachers with new material resurrecting the lyrics of Ritchie has hit me with mixed feelings. I have my views on this and I’m not sure if it makes good new music. The appearance of the legendary Booker T. is the only real draw this week but I was interested in hearing Taylor Swift live - hopefully without swathes of vocal production to show us that she really can sing. Sadly it turns out that she can’t.

Tuesday (live)

Manic Street Preachers - Jackie Collins Existential Question Time
Taylor Swift - Love Story
Booker T. (Chat with JH)
Paolo Nutini - Candy
Booker T. - Green Onions
Gurrumul - Bapa
Grizzly Bear - Two Weeks
Manic Street Preachers - Me And Stephen Hawking


Manic Street Preachers - Jackie Collins Existential Question Time
Paolo Nutini - Candy
Taylor Swift - Love Story
Booker T. (Chat with JH)
Grizzly Bear - Two Weeks
Manic Street Preachers - Peeled Apples
Booker T. - Hey Ya
Paolo Nutini - Coming Up Easy
Taylor Swift (chat with JH)
Gurrumul - Djarimirri
Taylor Swift - Fifteen
Nicky Wire (chat with JH)
Grizzly Bear - While You Wait For The Others
Paolo Nutini - 10/10
Manic Street Preachers - Me And Stephen Hawking

There is no doubt that Manic Street Preachers are great musicians and as a three-piece they make great music. But the laboured wordy nonsense of Jackie Collins Existential Question Time, opening each show, introduced us to the new song writing - that is the decision to use ex-Manic Ritchie’s ‘shelved’ lyrics. James Dean Bradfield is becoming more and more incomprehensible and the guitar work is very slack - maybe the band are going for a more free-flowing punk approach that used to be a trademark of the bands music. Me And Stephen Hawking was also far from the band’s best work. Fast then slow then fast again, it was more verbal diarrhoea. Second track on Friday was Peeled Apples, a more gritty funky piece - with just a little too much vocal melody nicked from 80s classic Temptation. Excellent ‘metal’ guitars though. Jools chatted with Nicky Wire, which is always entertaining, to talk about Journal For Plague Lovers and Ritchie’s words. Wire has a real love for the much missed lyricist and the band’s motives are purely honourable for their lost one. The archive footage this week is You Love Us from the Generation Terrorists days - reminding us all of the glory days. Wire says they started off wanting to be The Clash. The Clash they ain’t.

Taylor Swift kicked off her set with big MTV single Love Story. Looking like the gorgeous self-confident brat she is, her vocals were far from impressive. Unable to hold a tune and lacking power, it took all the edge of the decent song. I thought it may just be the ‘live’ pressure of Tuesday but the Friday effort was just as bad, especially on the verses. I hope she listens back or someone tells her about it. Jools honoured her with an interview and plugs her new huge selling US album Fearless - London is all about Top Shop apparently. Sadly she has been conditioned - like most young American artists - to have no personality. Second track on Friday is Fifteen, delivered with the same wavering girlish vocals. At least this time the chorus has some depth and emotion and she managed to hold the power. But the song is all adolescent poetry in the sickly sweet singer-songwriter style that has been done and overdone many times before. Michelle Branch she ain’t.

I have never really paid much attention to the music of Paolo Nutini - and on this week‘s evidence it is for good reason. He is a bit like Jack Johnson in that respect. Candy (bumped to second song on Friday) is a bit wishy washy and he sounds and looks in pain when performing, with the posture of Albert Steptoe. Eventually it gets going and the result is a lot of messy shouting. Coming Up Easy was a bit more laid back but soon descends into incomprehensible drudgery. And he loses his voice for the big finish. Maybe all his songs have this same formula. And the least said about the reggae influenced 10/10 the better. Ray LaMontagne he ain’t.

Jools chatted to Booker T. about growing up in Memphis and then resorted to his usual line of questioning and asked him what advice he could give new musicians starting out today. Practice is the key apparently. Do your scales. Take note Ms. Swift. They then talk about Green Onions. Then they play Green Onions - at the wrong tempo. The key to that last statement is the word ‘they’. Yes Jools plays piano in what ends up as a fairly average ‘cover’ of one of the best pieces of music ever written. Such a shame. It does get better, with T. on fantastic form providing the organ but the rendition is far from brilliant. Well at least it looks like they had fun. The Friday chat focused on the Hammond Organ (star of the performance). Jools plugs his new record Potato Hole (a double meaning referencing the days of slavery) and T. praises Neil Young. If anything the brief Friday burst of Green Onions did it far more justice. New song Hey Ya - yes the OutKast cover - is a bizarre take. The arrangement is a mess of guitars, piano, bass and organ. Strangely it all works.

History was made on Tuesday with Gurrumul, the first Aboriginal musician to appear on Later. He performed the haunting Bapa accompanied by guitar and double bass. Not the best voice in the world, but full of emotion and strangely compelling. Second effort Djarimirri is carried with a wonderful melody but starts to get annoying after a while. Again it is always the unknown artists that make the most interesting guests.

Speaking of unknowns, Grizzly Bear are a strange bunch. A kind of minimalist harmonies based indie-band without all the charm of Fleet Foxes. Two Weeks just drifted along pleasantly and compared the rest, it was actually very good. While You Wait For The Others is beautifully arranged and brilliantly performed. Shame bands like this only get two songs to perform.

All in all, the worst show of the series so far. Not inspired by anything and unimpressed with Paolo Nutini and Taylor Swift. The Manics are great but I’m unconvinced with their new songs. Booker T. added some much needed fun, and Gurrumul’s music was strangely beautiful, but it was inclusion of Grizzly Bear that saved the day. One of the terrible things about this weeks show was Jools himself. He was all over the place. The Tuesday live show really needs a decent script and he needs to bloody well learn it. It is his show and he looks clueless and alienated by the whole thing.

Looking for much from Jools and better music on next weeks show. Morrissey and Annie Lennox…and Little Boots is back!


glen123 said...

paolo nutini,was the best thing on the show,first time ive heard his music,amazing.

Double Hawk said...

I remember the first time Paolo Nutini was on Jools, he wasn't too bad. I'm surprised that Taylor Swift was on though...