Sunday, 16 May 2010

Later... with Jools Holland - Series 36 Episode 5.

There are usually two things that lure me to watch Later… with Jools Holland: A band I love showcasing new material and the show’s tendency to throw in a few ‘unadvertised’ surprises. This week was the turn of LCD Soundsystem who release a new album This Is Happening, out on Monday. Also appearing are The National, a band I have been following for a while but I’ve never been a fan. Until now. Turns out the Brooklyn five piece are easily the best of a really bad show. More and more I seem to be going into a Later review with a heavy heart and this is no exception.

The line-up:
  • Kelis - Acapella
  • Crowded House - Saturday Sun
  • The National - Bloodbuzz Ohio
  • Sam Taylor Wood and Aaron Johnson (Chat with Jools)
  • LCD Soundsystem - Drunk Girls
  • Tracey Thorn - Oh, The Divorces!
  • Crowded House - Don’t Dream It’s Over
  • Kelis (Chat with Jools and Sweet Dreams duet)
  • The National - Anyone’s Ghost
  • Pete Molinari - Streetcar Named Desire
  • LCD Soundsystem - I Can Change
  • Crowded House - Amsterdam
  • Kelis - 4th of July (Fireworks)
  • The National - Terrible Love
I’m not going to dwell on this too much but the main problem with Later this week was how uninspired and dull it is. The good music was downbeat (mainly thanks to The National) and the upbeat music was bad (thanks to the direction taken by LCD Soundsystem and the awful Kelis). Even Jools looked (even by his standards) unenergised and almost bored with the chore of hosting what is the BBC’s flagship music performance show. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that it has now been pushed so far down the Friday night schedule that it is now on Saturday morning (something he points out with hints of bitterness).

Starting with James Murphy and crew, I’m liking the new direction LCD Soundsystem is taking less and less the more I hear of the new album. Drunk Girls is reworked Blur and I Can Change is like a lost discarded album track from one of many unknown 80s electro-pop bands that were lost in the mire of other more successful 80s electro-pop bands. And that is all we get. Hardly a great advert for a great band. Crowded House (now just one Finn, Neil minus Tim - but with the core founder members of Nick Seymour and Mark Hart) is a shadow of the great band Neil Finn formed nearly 30 years ago. With a new album Intriguer out, we were treated to two new songs: Saturday Sun and Amsterdam - the former better than the latter, plus a spirited but clumsy rendition of Don’t Dream It’s Over.

The shining light here (or maybe the least dark) is The National. The band is proficient, talented and focused, pushing the new album High Violet with three new songs: Bloodbuzz Ohio, Anyone’s Ghost and Terrible Love. Each song is a dour miserablist guitar-fest from the likes of Editors but with melodic elements of Midlake. Great stuff and a wonderful frenetic end to Terrible Love closing the show.

Elsewhere, ex-Everything But The Girl Tracey Thorn trudges through the piano ballad Oh, The Divorces! Even with the string section, the lack of melody and structure was a big surprise from a great talent. Kelis, back with yet another image change opened the show with the Goldfrapp-esque Acapella [sic] complete with over-produced vocals, a rubbish ‘impromptu’ vocal on Sweet Dreams in duet with Jools, and the dull 4th of July (Fireworks). Doesn’t inspire me to go anywhere near her new album Flesh Tones. The interview with Jools is equally dull - she grew up listening to jazz and gospel (there’s a surprise). Jools showed a VT of her last performance of that god-awful ‘I hate you so much right now’ song and I remembered how painful that show was…

The surprise this week was another pointless (tenuous) interview with director Sam Taylor Wood and actor Aaron Johnson taking about the DVD release of the John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy. I wanted to hear from The National and James Murphy. And Pete Molinari’s Streetcar Named Desire with Jools and his band is truly horrible. Flat 50s throwback vocals and disjointed music.

Later… with Jools Holland is always a melting pot of musical styles, tastes and textures and so as everything that tries to be ‘everything to all people’, it sometimes ends up being a show that is relegated to selective viewing. It is becoming more miss than hit and I fear the only great music show on UK television is heading into irreversible decline. And now with the late running time, I never watch it at the scheduled time but instead catch it on BBC iPlayer - not something everyone can do but at least you can (reluctantly) skip through the dross. In anticipation of next week, my heart is still heavy…

-- CS

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