Tuesday, 2 February 2010

That was the year that was (part II)

As the years hurry along, we try and remember the mistakes we've made and what's to be learnt from the past. And 2009 is no different, a year in which the failings of a century of climate disregard has landed us in an endless winter.

A year which bore witness to the end of the brainless shepherding for the pop-shit number, was replaced by a stand against the mainstream, against the industry and the mindless purchase of a song the 'people' had never heard and wouldn't like.

Another year of open jaws as the Jacko carnival rolled to a fittingly murky end. And a year which taught me never to write off the old guard against a puddle of young blood.

Word of new albums from Yo La Tengo, Built to Spill and the Flaming Lips seemed as unlikely to produce a revolutionary moment last year as a Fedaian election push.

And so a return to those wonderful grey-skied days, when Doug Matsch wailed with a depressing purpose on 'There is No Enemy', really took us out of stride. Songs like 'Hindsight' and 'Pat' ( a tribute to the death of Treepeople guitarist Pat Boone) see Built to Spill end the decade with a gorily introspective femme aux bras croises.

Whether it be through death or regret, this homecoming is as welcome as a cathedral hurling Italian - painful and beautiful in equal measures.

It was more of the same with Yo La Tengo, the Grandpa's and ma of New Jersey were up against it even on their own turf. With the sundrenched sounds of Real Estate, Frat Dad and Big Troubles (all fellow Jesey'ers) whipping up a real blog storm. Ira Kaplan came back with a late noughties no nails for brokenhearted 'I can hear the heart beating as one' fans.

But it seems more a case of relentless consistency with Yo La Tengo though, twelve albums and twenty five years on, they can still suprise and deliver but within there own self-built parameters.

'Nothing to hide' could happily serve as a new pop scuzz anthem, a 'Sugarcube' for the unitiated. And opening single 'Here to fall' see's the band trading guarded jabs with their mid-nineties albums, inventive piano and strings yet unwilling to take a bloody nose.

It was those bloody Flaming Lips who really got us spinning though. A live show containing a 30ft kaledioscopic (stage entrancing) vagina and enough beach balls to send Pepe Reina into a bollock shaped retirement wasn't enough to mask the dissapointment of 'At war with the mystics', ''Christmas on Mars' or a set more at home post 'Yoshima battles the pink robots'.

Then there was 'Embryonic'. A collection of Wayne Coyne's self-described 'freakouts', the album may have gone entirely unnoticed had the band not to decided to abandon the alt-rock success stories of previous records and indulge in abit of warped self-belief.

I have the feeling this album could have ended up anywhere, but the end product of a electro-shocked Roky Erickson nightmare was the best present we got at the end of the decade.

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