• Best Of The Noughties

    12 Ene 2010, 12:16

    Using a <gasp> entirely original idea, here's my top 100 favourite tracks of the last ten years. And in true Spinal Tap style, it goes up to 110!

    Also available as a playlist (minus several tracks, sadly).

    1. Queens of the Stone Age - In the Fade
    2. Muse - Map of the Problematique
    3. Mint Royale - Don't Falter (feat. Lauren Laverne)
    4. Snow Patrol - Set the Fire to the Third Bar (feat. Martha Wainwright)
    5. Kate Rusby - No Names
    6. Low - Monkey
    7. Calexico - Red Blooms
    8. Mark Ronson - Stop Me (feat. Daniel Merriweather)
    9. Kings of Leon - Sex on Fire
    10. Queens of the Stone Age - Go With the Flow
    11. Sugababes - Stronger
    12. Junior Boys - In the Morning
    13. Linkin Park - In the End
    14. The Smashing Pumpkins - Stand Inside Your Love
    15. Radiohead - Everything in Its Right Place
    16. Goldfrapp - A&E
    17. Antony and the Johnsons - Hope There's Someone
    18. Martha Wainwright - Jesus & Mary
    19. PJ Harvey - This Mess We're In
    20. M83 - Teen Angst
    21. Primal Scream - Shoot Speed/Kill Light
    22. Ian Brown - F.E.A.R.
    23. Friendly Fires - Jump in the Pool
    24. Goldfrapp - Number 1
    25. The Flaming Lips - In the Morning of the Magicians
    26. Gonzales - Real Motherf***in' Music
    27. Kasabian - Processed Beats
    28. Alfie - You Make No Bones (Revisited)
    29. Neon Neon - Dream Cars
    30. David Grey - Please Forgive Me
    31. Midlake - Head Home
    32. Radiohead - Reckoner
    33. Radiohead - Videotape
    34. Elbow - The Bones of You
    35. Doves - The Cedar Room
    36. OutKast - Hey Ya!
    37. Snow Patrol - Run
    38. The Clint Boon Experience - White No Sugar (New Improved Bascombe Mix)
    39. Passion Pit - Sleepyhead
    40. The Flaming Lips - Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung
    41. Klaxons - Golden Skans
    42. Radiohead - I Might Be Wrong (Live)
    43. White Lies - Death
    44. Interpol - Evil
    45. Kylie Minogue - Love at First Sight
    46. The Feeling - Helicopter
    47. Supergrass - Diamond Hoo Ha Man
    48. Elbow - Powder Blue
    49. Burial - Archangel
    50. The Avalanches - Since I Left You
    51. Jose Gonzalez - Heartbeats
    52. Will Young - Leave Right Now
    53. Loney, dear - Violent
    54. Doves - Jetstream
    55. MGMT - Time to Pretend
    56. Girls Aloud - Sound of the Underground
    57. Keane - We Might as Well Be Strangers
    58. Coldplay - Shiver
    59. Daft Punk - Face to Face
    60. N.E.R.D. - Rock Star (Jason Nevins Remix Edit)
    61. Interpol - PDA
    62. The Music - Getaway
    63. Lowgold - Beauty Dies Young
    64. Madonna - What It Feels Like for a Girl
    65. Franz Ferdinand - Auf Achse
    66. Kalomoira - Secret Combination
    67. High School Musical - Breaking Free
    68. Rilo Kiley - Close Call
    69. Bloc Party - Helicopter
    70. Badly Drawn Boy - Disillusion
    71. Stereophonics - Dakota
    72. Blonde Redhead - 23
    73. The Streets - Turn the Page
    74. Sufjan Stevens - John Wayne Gacy, Jr
    75. Aimee Mann - Save Me
    76. Noonday Underground - London
    77. The High Fidelity - ITHANKU
    78. Girls Aloud - Call the Shots
    79. Vast - Free
    80. Miracle Fortress - Have You Seen In Your Dreams
    81. Mansun - I Can Only Disappoint U (Single Mix)
    82. Fleet Foxes - White Winter Hymnal
    83. Benjamin Diamond - Little Scare
    84. Crashland - New Perfume
    85. The Darkness - Love Is Only a Feeling
    86. Liberty X - Just a Little
    87. Turin Brakes - Underdog (Save Me)
    88. Richard Ashcroft - A Song for the Lovers
    89. Unamerican - The Closer You Get
    90. Death in Vegas - Scorpio Rising (feat. Liam Gallagher)
    91. Daniel Bedingfield - If You're Not the One
    92. U2 - Electrical Storm
    93. Hercules and Love Affair - Blind (Full Album Version)
    94. James Morrison - Wonderful World
    95. Hot Chip - No Fit State
    96. Spiller - Groovejet (If This Ain't Love) (Radio Edit)
    97. Seth Lakeman - How Much
    98. Sia - Taken for Granted
    99. The Supernaturals - Life Is a Motorway
    100. The Feeling - I Thought It Was Over
    101. Kylie Minogue - Spinning Around
    102. British Sea Power - Carrion
    103. St Deluxe - New Wave Stars
    104. Melanie C - Never Be the Same Again (feat. Lisa “Left Eye”Lopez)
    105. Birth - Last Night
    106. Joe Bonamassa - Happier Times
    107. Liberty X - Thinking It Over (originally released as Liberty)
    108. Manu Chao - Mr Bobby (Live)
    109. Flight of the Conchords - Ladies of the World
    110. Carlene Carter - Why Be Blue
  • My Favourite Intros ... Ever!

    5 Sep 2008, 21:29

    In a slight variation from my normal theme (and with thanks to Grindrod who wrote a highly entertaining journal on the same subject) I now present ten of my favourite introductions. In fact, this may turn out merely to be the first installment of many. Or not.

    So, what are we looking for? One of the key ingredients of a classic - or even good - pop song, is an immediate hook, something that grabs you. All the usual suspects have excellent intros. Plus, of course, any song that happens to be a particular favourite probably has your musical juices flowing within the first few bars just through anticipation, but that's not necessarily the same as it being a really good introduction.

    Luckily, since I am not claiming to be making a definitive list (lacking, as I do, the stupidity to believe that such a thing is possible, and the arrogance to believe that I'm the person do it), I don't have to distinguish between those that I like because I just love the song, those that evoke memories and those that are just genius to my ears. So here goes.

    The ISO-standard best intro is, as any fule kno, The Beach Boys' California Girls. I'm ambivalent about the rest of the song, but the first 20-odd seconds is as fine a piece of music as you will find anywhere. Dreamy, sunny, wistful, it floats just out of reach - entirely appropriate in a paean to beautiful women. Then the rest of the song lumbers in with leaden male chauvinist boots and leers at fit chicks. Such a disappointment. But an illustration that the equation "good song = good intro" isn't infallibly true in either permutation.

    One of my favourite intros is actually available in two flavours: "original" and "artifically sweetened". Rose Royce's Is It Love You're After has a classic building intro: starting with a throbbing synth pulse, it brings in a four-on-floor kick, then a sprinkling, sparkling hi-hat before hitting us with the stabbing brass riff that is probably more familiar to most people as the intro to Theme from S'Express, cheekily sampled - or swiped wholesale, if you prefer - by Mark Moore and pumped more full of steroids than a body builders' convention. Sadly, while I find Rose Royce's original to be listenable all the way through, the young pretender drops off sharply after a promising start.

    So that's two songs that fail to meet the promise of their first thirty seconds. But don't worry, The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band have the answer. The Intro And The Outro is the only song to acknowledge that often the best bit of a recording is the intro and therefore to consist entirely of an introduction. Truly comic music is rare but this continues to be endlessly funny. My favourite bit, out of many: Count Basie Orchestra on triangle. (A single note is played) Thank you.I could write a whole journal just about ABBA's intros. More than just about anyone else before or since, Benny and Björn understood the value of grabbing the listener good and hard right from the start. They only really hit their stride with Arrival - god, there are some awful songs on the first couple of albums - but after that, solid, solid gold right through. If had to pick my particular favourites, there are two that stand out for me. My dad was doing some work at CBS in 1976 and returned one day with a copy of Arrival for me. The first track, When I Kissed the Teacher now evokes for me the magic of my first album, played on my own record player, and the start of a journey into music that has stayed with me ever since, as well as remaining one of the best recorded examples of 12 string guitar I know. My second choice would be The Winner Takes It All, which is a beautifully restrained and simple statement of the main theme and a subtle start to one of the saddest songs I know. (And who the fuck thought it would be a good idea to have fucking McFly cover it at the London 2012 launch party recently? What the fuck was that all about? For fuck's sake, do these idiots not have ears? Sorry, sorry, rant over.)

    Talking of 12 string guitars, what about A Hard Day's Night? One of a select few songs that can be identified solely by their opening chords (although no-one seems quite sure what it actually is!), it is of course a classic song, but for me again, it's more a reminder of playing my parents' albums when I was very young. And on the subject of single chord recognition, I'd include Purple Rain, whose opening chord somehow sounds as though it's being played in the middle of a moody, swirling storm. Obviously heavily in debt to Jimi Hendrix, it nevertheless stands as one of Prince's highpoints.

    If making an introduction memorable with a single chord is a tricky prospect, how much more difficult is it with a drum beat? And yet it is a feat New Order have managed more than once. I bet that most well-listened (is that a valid parallel to "well-read"? It doesn't seem right somehow) folks would be able to identify both Blue Monday and True Faith just by hearing the first beat. A tribute to New Order's sonic mastery!

    Finally, possibly the finest last 30-odd seconds of a song - ever! - is that of Glen Campbell's Wichita Lineman. (And don't remind me that Simon Bates or Mike Read used to use it as a bed because I don't care.)
  • Gig Review: Seth Lakeman at The Liquid Room, Edinburgh

    2 May 2008, 9:50

    Wed 30 Apr – Seth Lakeman

    I have to admit that, beyond having heard or read his name in passing somewhere (probably, if I really think hard about it, mentioned briefly in The Word's coverage of the Folk Awards), I know nothing about Seth Lakeman. I went along to this gig out of a simple wish to do something other than sit in my hotel room or a bar all night. (Not that sitting in a bar all night doesn't have its attractions. But there would be time for that after the gig.)

    It could have all gone very wrong, I guess. I arranged to meet up with a colleague at 8, a time chosen completely at random, so we could have been late for the start. The tickets could have all been sold out. The venue could be a dive. And it could have turned out to be dire, finger-in-the-ear folk.

    However, thankfully, none of these eventualities transpired. The timing was perfect; the tickets were available; The Liquid Room is great, just the right size; and, best of all, Seth Lakeman plays a muscular, involving music that is a pleasure to listen to.

    There was a good crowd, a complete mixture ranging from fresh-faced students to beer-bellied oldsters (including male and female examples of both), who respectfully enthusiastic about each song, warming up towards the end. Possibly a later start would have ensured a more well-lubricated and liberated crowd, but the gig had to be fitted in before the "Indi-Nite" club starting at 10:30.

    Seth came on enthusing about his last gig in Edinburgh, at the same venue, and looking rugged in jeans and a tight t-shirt. Now I understood why there were more women in the audience than I had expected. The band - Seth on violin and tenor guitar, Seth's older brother Sean on acoustic guitar, a drummer and a double bassist (presumably Cormac Byrne and Ben Nicholls, respectively, although I didn't catch their names for sure) - created a nicely balanced, full sound that was articulate and rich without being overwhelming. They all put their backs into the performance, Seth being drenched by the end, but I was particularly struck by Ben Nicholls, who gave the old bull fiddle (as I'm sure no-one actually calls it) some fantastically nonchalant slap and tickle and really enhanced the sound.

    The songs were all new to me and so had a tendency to sound somewhat similar, partly due to the instrumentation and partly due to the folky tendency to focus on events from the English civil war or life at sea. Having said that, and having subsequently listened to some, I can hear the differences now!

    All in all, a very enjoyable gig, a pleasant surprise and a new discovery for me.

    Bearing in mind my complete ignorance and based on what I could hear of the announcements at the time, here is what I believe to be the set list:
  • Gig Review: Archie Bronson Outfit at the Night & Day Café, Manchester

    11 Abr 2008, 9:57

    Thu 10 Apr – Archie Bronson Outfit

    I went to university in Manchester, way back last century sometime. In my second year, I lived with two other guys in a small terraced house in Rusholme. We all played guitar, and so every now and then we'd gather in the biggest bedroom with our guitars and have a jam session. Usually it sounded cacophonous, but occasionally it would gel, usually around a simple, descending, Hawkwind-esque riff. We'd set the phaser to a slow swirl and be off for hours. It was fantastic fun to play ... but, er, possibly somewhat less fun to listen to.

    This week I was back in Manchester on business and my good friend NoiseXTerror - one of my fellow junior Dave Brocks annoying the neighbours twenty years ago - suggested that we take in a gig during my stay. So that's how I ended up at the side of the stage in the Night & Day Café, watching two tall, heavily bearded men pound their artfully retro (or possibly just cheap) semi-acoustic guitars to produce a wall of white noise. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the Archie Bronson Outfit. And I was thinking, "We used to do this!"

    As guitarist, I know it's easy to thrash a few chords through a couple of decent effects (say, a Pro Co Rat and a MXR Phase 90) and produce an impressive racket. It was clear from my close vantage point that the Archies were doing a good deal more than this; they were tightly in sync (apart from a couple of wobbly moments slowing down at the end of songs), the arrangements showed thought, planning and rehearsal and the singer was trying to say something. Unfortunately, all subtleties were lost in a terrible sound mix that rendered the vocals all but unheard and collapsed the guitars into a mush.

    I've listened to their most recent album Derdang Derdang and it's full of some excellent guitar interplay, contrasting patterns and riffs playing off each other. Occasionally it's a little lifeless, but you can hear the details of the instrumentation, the arrangements and the vocals. Clearly these guys have spent a lot of time getting the music to this state. So I think it's a shame that the live experience was so unrepresentative.

    You know, call me an old fuddy-duddy if you will, but I think most gigs are too loud. I know it's a challenge to be heard over an enthusiastically played set of drums, but it's got to be possible to get a better fidelity of sound that this in a small bar. A lot of clever people have spent time working on sound reproduction over the decades, so why do we still have live mixes that are clipping all the time and burying finesse in a welter of (unwanted) distortion? Maybe it's just done like that because, well, that's how it's done.

    Still, they were well received and there were some very enthusiastic people down at the front (including a couple of girls who looked they were dancing at a disco and clearly knew all the songs). And I'm pleased I went. I don't go to many gigs these days (actually, I never did in those days either), so it was good to be reminded what it's like to experience music physically as well as aurally. The drums really got a good thumping and every beat on the bass drum went right through me. Meanwhile the guitars produced a dense texture of squalling, shifting riffs that seem to be coming from everywhere at once and the singer bellowed indistinguishable lyrics into a mike. The overall result was fiercely energetic and and fun to experience - for a while anyway. The gig was short; maybe half a dozen songs, then an encore, but that's OK, they didn't outstay their welcome for me. And I got back to my hotel in good time. So thanks for that guys.
  • My Favourite Song - Ever! *

    19 Dic 2007, 21:33

    Fairport Convention - Who Knows Where the Time Goes (or Who Knows Where The Time Goes?, if you prefer.)

    It's difficult to know what to say about this that has not, probably, already been said, and better than I can say it. But that's not going to stop me attempting it.

    This sublime, elegiac, melancholic recording is an absolute classic. It was written by Sandy Denny when she was only 20, and has been recorded many times; the definitive version is that on Unhalfbricking, sung by Denny herself. It expresses a limpid, listless acceptance of the passage of time and a shrugging, world-weary acceptance of the impossibility of recapturing past times and lost youth.

    Or not. The best art is a mirror. Maybe, at my advanced age, that's how I see it because it reflects my own sense of the futility of life.

    But it really bears repeated listens. In the final verse, the mood shifts so subtly that you might miss it (well, I did, because I'm crap at listening to lyrics), to embrace the constant forward movement and encourages us, gently, lovingly, to make the most of what we have, here and now.

    With a melody so beautifully formed and a voice so perfectly matched to it, the best that any accompaniment can really hope do is to keep out of the way, but the sensitivity of the rhythm section to the ebb and flow of the sentiments is marvellous, and Richard Thompson weaves a delicate, ornamental counterpoint throughout.

    All in all, a transcendental experience. Mike Harding says that you could just listen to this track rather than read all of Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu. Having somehow, and ironically, failed to find the time to read those seven volumes, I can't say. But I know what I'd rather do.

    (* = today)
  • My Favourite Song - Ever! *

    11 Nov 2007, 21:56

    Queens of the Stone Age - In the Fade

    It starts with an eerie, high pitched whine, part intoxicated bee and part hellish dog whistle. An abused keyboard grudgingly plonks out a random note or two through a tortured, distorted amp. A resigned voice describes the final stage in a broken relationship.
    Cracks in the ceiling, crooked pictures in the hall
    Countin' and breathin', I'm leaving here tomorrow
    They don't know, I'd never do you any good
    Laughin' is easy, I would if I could

    Then a dissonant, downtuned guitar revs up like a demon Harley and boosts us down the highway of the chorus and we learn that everything was doomed, doomed.
    Ain't gonna worry
    Just live till you die, wanna drown
    With nowhere to fall into the arms of someone
    There's nothing to save I know
    You live till you die

    Mark Lanegan's vocals are wonderfully resigned, attractively devil-may-care and beautifully restrained; but the killer hook is Josh Homme's intense, compressed riffage through the chorus as Lanegan repeats the payoff:
    You live till you die
    You live till you die, I know

    World weary doesn't begin to describe it. Nothing matters; everything ends. Illusions of permanence are just that; and the only home is on the move.

    Just the thing for a Monday morning, then.

    The track has flaws; it's too short, for one thing, dissolving into an irritating reprise of Feel Good Hit of the Summer after a scant three and a half minutes, and the verse has a perky, funky bass line that I find out of place. But the gutsiest, ballsiest guitar tone ever cruises through the chorus and lifts the track into the ionosphere, or more precisely, places it firmly onto the two-lane blacktop and Out. Of. Here.

    My benchmark for driving rock for driving is Swervedriver (and was there ever a better named band?), but despite their many superb efforts, In The Fade trumps them. I just wish it was longer.

    (* = today)
  • Phew ... done!

    12 Sep 2007, 20:49

    Yesterday evening I finally finished a project I started about three years ago. Finally, and two crashed hard disks later, I now have all of my CD collection ripped into Ogg Vorbis and dumped onto a nice little Seagate drive that goes everywhere with me and which I shall now call Lou (because it's metal, it's a machine and it's got ... oh, you're there already).

    So I hope I can be excused a slight public lapse into music nerdiness and statistics, courtesy of Winamp's query builder (lovin' it!):

    Number of albums: 1355 (pathetic, thought there were more actually, what took me so long)

    Number of artists: 3345

    Number of tracks: 16,445

    Total playing time: 48 days, 23 hours, 51 minutes and 26 seconds

    Most different versions of one song: 9 (Depeche Mode - Enjoy the Silence) (and that doesn't even include the full "Quad - The Final" mix)

    Most popular track title: "Intro" (how dull) 14 different tracks, by Catherine Wheel, De La Soul, Dodgy, Doves, Hurricane #1, LFO, Martina Topley-Bird, Muse, OutKast, The Prodigy, Sangeeta, Sigur Rós, Todd Rundgren, Benjamin Diamond

    Most tracks by: The Who - 126 (close second place - Pet Shop Boys, with 125)

    Shortest track: Dream Warriors - Maximum 60 Lost In A Dream (5 secs)

    Longest track: Philip Glass - Music With Changing Parts (61 mins 40 secs) (although if you didn't count "classical" music, then it would be Goldie - Mother. Have I listened to either, all the way through? Er, well, not recently, you know, as such, gosh, look over there! <sound of footsteps running into distance>)
  • My Favourite Song - Ever! *

    12 Sep 2007, 4:00

    Alan Price - I Put A Spell On You

    This is something of a standard, having been recorded by artists as illustrious and disparate as Screamin' Jay Hawkins (who wrote it), Nina Simone, Nick Cave, Bryan Ferry and Marilyn Manson (that's a few random artist connections done :-) but I particularly like this version. While Nina sounds resigned and Screamin' (to his friends) just sounds totally hatstand, Alan Price starts off with sinister control and slowly gets more unhinged. Which kinda suits, I think.

    I mean, listen to what it's about. It's like Fatal Attraction in three minutes. He starts off with words of quiet warning, accompanied by a slow, ominous, circling organ.

    I put a spell on you
    Because you're mine,
    You'd better stop the things that you do
    I ain't lying - no, I ain't lying

    I just can't stand it babe
    The way you're always running round
    I just can't stand it
    The way you always put me down

    Then he repeats himself with more insistence as the music quickens to double time, the horns stab and the organ swirls in the background, before it takes front stage for the solo (sadly the worst bit, being too reminiscent of that in The House of the Rising Sun). Then Alan comes back in, desperation in his voice as he howls

    I said I love you, I love you
    I love you, oh baby how
    And I don't care if you don't want me
    I'll say I'm yours, I'm yours right now
    I put a spell on you
    Because you're mine

    Mmm ... scary.

    I don't normally quote lyrics so extensively because often I don't care. The best music transcends mere verbiage so completely that it seems silly to worry about what the lyrics mean and doing so is often to miss the point (and don't get me started on Bob Dylan). A song can have rotten lyrics and still be a great song; but it can't have rotten music. I guess the best songs marry mood to message, and this does so perfectly.

    (* = today)
  • My Favourite Song ... Ever! *

    22 Ago 2007, 5:39

    Muse - Map of the Problematique

    This is another song that creates a very palpable atmosphere and plunges you head first into it. I see a man driving through the night on wet city streets, over flyovers, hours along deserted motorways, to reach his love. Clearly something apocalyptic (there's always something apocalyptic about Muse) has separated them and now he will not stop before he reaches his destination. I can see the film now.

    The music is just marvellous; it has a restless, seething, barely restrained power that always seems on the verge of an explosion but never indulges in it. The soaring anguish when Matt Bellamy sings

    Loneliness be over
    When will this loneliness be over

    contrasts magnificently with the circling chords and insistent beat.

    As arrivee pointed out, there's a hint of Depeche Mode's Enjoy the Silence about the chord sequence, but since that's another of my favourite songs, I don't have any kind of problem with it. But where Enjoy The Silence has a stripped down, oiled up elegance, Map Of The Problematique throbs with a desperate obsession.

    (* = today)
  • Open University: How To Be A Rock Star - Going Solo

    11 Ago 2007, 20:38

    (Being a review of Richard Ashcroft's Alone With Everybody, and originally written when the album was released in June 2000.)

    Hello. Welcome to the Open University course "How To Be A Rock Star". Today, we're looking at going solo and we're joined by Richard Ashcroft. He was the lead singer with The Verve for many years, and he has just released his first solo album. Richard, hi.


    Richard, what do you think is the most important single factor when going solo?

    I think the key factor is to show the punters that you're serious about music. Obviously, the only reason that anyone ever goes solo is to get their own way all the time and to get all the money. But you can't admit it, that really dents your credibility. So you have to make it look like you're a perfectionist who won't comprise your musical vision for anyone.

    So how do you go about showing how serious you are?

    You show how serious you are by being serious. You gotta look moody and you gotta sound troubled, like that weight sitting on your shoulders is too much.

    You've got to look moody?

    Sure, the look and the sound work together. The album cover's critical here, it's going to be the first thing someone sees in the shop and it has to broadcast moody, musical pioneer.

    How did you approach that?

    Well, I'm aiming for a wide demographic, so we had to go straight down the middle, no fancy stuff. It had to me on the cover, it had to say, "Look, here I am and I'm serious about this". We chose the standard Rock Star pose 15 in black and white. That's taken from slightly below - so you're looking up to me, see the implication? - and I'm looking off to the right - at something hidden to you, yeah? The shades aren't classic Raybans but you can't tell in the photo.

    That's always been one of my favourite Rock Star poses. What other options were considered?

    Well, 8 and 10, obviously, but not many really, you have to be so careful. George Michael took a real chance on his first solo album by using his own variant on number 57, and people are still laughing.

    Definitely one of the industry's cautionary tales, that! What about the back and inner sleeve pictures?

    You've got to choose a collection of pictures of The Artist at work. Basically, there are two choices: in the studio and on the road, both real classics. We chose in the studio for speed, since we could do it while we were doing the music.

    Yes, the music. You said earlier that you had to sound troubled to get the requisite amount of seriousness. Obviously, this is important, so what elements did you bring in?

    Well, you know, don't go overboard. All you need to do is get the public to think you're serious about music. That's not the same as producing good music. It's more important to make it sound serious. You've got to pick your topics carefully, big subjects, eternal truths, that sort of thing. My personal favourite is to bang on about physically big things, like the world, oceans, cities. Then I throw in a few references to shelter, survival, saviours, things beginning with 'S' seem to work well. Oh, and fire, burning, that's always good. Then you repeat the phrases several times, because the more you repeat it, the more importance people attach to it, they think it must be important to you so they take notice.

    Do you work hard on your lyrics?

    No, they're crap, but that doesn't matter.

    Ah, right, is that because the music speaks for itself?


    Well, look, we've talked about the photographs and how you chose those, we've talked about the right lyrical subjects, but what about the music?

    Why do you keep going on about the music, man? Look, it's easy. Moody and serious, right? Keep the tempos down, keep the melodies monotonic. Strings are useful here, strummed acoustic guitars, then the slow burn on the distorted guitar. I've always been fond of a wah-wah, too.

    You make it sound like a formula. Doesn't that make the end product a bit samey?

    We say "consistency of mood" in the business! It's like when you repeat lyrical phrases, if you keep doing it, people sub-consciously attach more importance to it. But, you know, I've been doing this for a few years now, it's automatic.

    Let's talk about a few of the songs. "A Song for the Lovers" was the first single, and it's a real epic, isn't it? Those opening strings sound like Prokoviev, then brooding guitar is followed by those purposeful drums. What's it about?

    I dunno. But those drums, yeah, that's a classic tempo, just a touch over 120, giving you a "moving on" feel without rushing. Clear choice of tempo for the first single, 'cos I'm "moving on" myself, right? We spent a lot of time on that track, the first single has to be right.

    Are you saying that you didn't spend as much time on the other tracks?

    Of course we didn't spend much time on them. I think we reused some of the backing tracks from "Urban Hymns". "Lucky Man" is definitely in there a couple of times, under "Brave New World" for sure, and I think we nabbed "The Rolling People" again, I can't remember. You're better off asking Kate, she's better at this stuff than I am.

    What about "New York"? That's a good, rolling, grungey track, and it seems to be about the realisation of dreams.

    You've got to make them feel inspired, make them feel like you're giving them something to aim for. Note the tempo again - it's the same as "Lovers", that "getting on with it" beat, the "you can do it" feeling. Make them feel like achievers and they'll love you forever.

    Is that why you called one of the songs "C'mon People (We're Making It Now)"?

    Bit obvious, isn't it! I was running out of ideas, to be honest.

    Richard, before we go, have you got a final word for our students about doing a first solo album?

    Details matter. For example, if you look closely at the cover of the album, you'll see that the title is followed by a tiny ® symbol. That's there to make it look like I know that it's a zeitgeist-defining statement. Actually, the title means bugger all, but you can see how one tiny detail can give it meaning in the punter's mind.

    Richard, that's all we've got time for I'm afraid, but it's been a fascinating insight. Thanks very much.

    Cheers, mate.

    Next week we'll be looking at classic comeback strategies and our guest will be Kylie Minogue, who'll be discussing the many varieties she's tried out. Until then, goodbye and keep practising those Rock Star poses.

    Just so we're clear, I made this up; this is not a real interview with Richard Ashcroft. At the time, I gave it 5/10. However, I do have to say that, after writing this review, I continued to listen to the album and I would now give it a higher mark - although I still think my cynicism about his motives and attitude is well placed. (Of course, there is the possibility that he really believes all the guff he writes.) Still, never let truth or feelings get in the way of a good joke!

    I'm particularly pleased about the line at the end about Kylie's comeback strategies. This was about the same time as she released "Spinning Around" (and over a year before "Can't Get You Out Of My Head", for any of you kids who are up late). At the time it was just another single from someone who'd been trying to emulate early success for some time, although it is now acknowledged as her comeback single. Personally, I've always loved Kylie ... and if anyone has the video for "Put Yourself In My Place", please contact me asap.

    Finally, for the curious, rock star pose #8 is sitting on a porch with an acoustic guitar, and #10 is standing in some large piece of scenery, usually in snow.