Monday, 19 January 2009

"See her picture in a thousand places, cos she's this year's girl..."

So the White Lies album is released this week. Relax, I'm not going to fall into the trap of giving it a review here. Besides, I haven't listened to yet. But those of you who've been reading this for a while will already know my thoughts on their live show and what I thought of Fear of Flying, so I won't repeat myself. Besides, you are probably sick to the teeth of reading about them on those New Bands For 2009 lists where people described as 'industry movers and shakers' (IMSs) pick their tips for the forthcoming year.

I mention White Lies because in another week of industry changes (Apple dropping its DRM, the Astoria closing, my local Asda no longer selling CDs), it's nice to cling on to good old fashioned highly-anticipated albums.

I was out with one of those IMSs last week. Tellingly, we actually went to the London Art Fair instead of seeing a band. It was fantastic, by the way, particulary the amount of Terry Frost stuff which, if I had a spare £20K, I would sooner invest in than a bank.

Afterwards over a bowl of noodles, the IMS lamented the lack of anything genuinely exciting out there. Now, this may sound like the usual jaded A&R whinge of cliche. Not so. Well, not so with this chap anyway, he's normally ludicrously positive about everything - there's generally a silver lining for him, even in acts which I can't imagine getting beyond their first single. With him, they get to the album and more often than not end up on the cover of NME. Sometimes they even sell loads of records. Not that I'm jealous of him or anything, you understand.

He actually has a lot of time for White Lies but beyond that - looking at the landscape of unsigned and newly-signed artists - he claimed that there really wasn't anything sure-fire exciting out there in the way that there is most Januarys.

But from all those IMS lists you wouldn't think that there was a dearth of new stuff, would you? How many times have you read the names Little Boots, Empire of the Sun, Florence And the Machine and La Roux? They were all present and correct on BBC's Sound of 2009 list, a list which has become such an institution since it tipped Duffy and Adele that news of Little Boots' top nomination ended up making the national TV news. They were also there in the Guardian, The Times, the NME and then were repeated ad infinitum down the chain of lesser titles who always follow suit with their 'picks'. I remember when I was an editor at AOL Music and we did our inevitable image gallery of annual music tips. Despite my loathing of many of the choices, like a coward I would always include tips from other media's lists because I didn't want to be seen missing anything. Remember when you couldn't move for accolades for The Bravery or Holly Valance? Incidentally, you really should click on that Bravery link and read it, then read this year's BBC tips - it will make you smile and nod sagely.

In yesterday's Observer Music Monthly list, there had clearly been an effort to swerve away from some of the more obvious choices and well done them for trying. The interesting thing about all the tipping this year is that with the record business in freefall, there is less and less chance of any of these tipped bands actually amounting to very much more than hot tips. Both Duffy and Adele were heavily invested in - certainly Duffy had to happen, the financial consequences would have just been too dreadful to contemplate if it hadn't worked. If the tipster's goal of 'getting it right' of being able to say at the beginning of the following year,"Yeah, we spotted Duffy ages ago" then the safest bet is to tip the artist who you know the record company is backing. Yes, that's why we all backed The Bravery in 2004.

Press expectation and the marketing budgets for White Lies are of a level that we now see less and less of; there simply isn't enough cash to do it on every new act. So aside from their Joy Division-meets-Duran Duran sound, there is something heart-warmingly old-fashioned about the whole White Lies vehicle, with its press ubiquity, its TV advertising and universal approval. That's with a small 'u' by the way. Even reviews where quite clearly the critic does not get it have been positive. Let's be honest, it is noveau goth music of the sort that teeenage boys can't get enough of; it's not made for 30-something critics who would rather be listening to Bon Iver (there, got a reference in this week, high five!). So critics have to judge it whilst wearing short trousers to avoid sounding dad-like.

In a similar way, I reviewed Graham Norton's debut in La Cage Aux Folles last night - except instead of short trousers, I had to review it in drag. I don't find camp funny of itself and most of the humour in La Cage is derived out of the assumption that men in glittery dresses and wigs is hilarious. But once I got into the spirit - and Norton, despite a limited vocal range, does a fairly good job - I found myself humming along to I Am What I Am along with the middle aged ladies and male couples sharing M&Ms.

Damn, this week, I wanted to go through the critics' picks of acts for 2009 and give you my informed and unbiased opinion on all of them. Instead, I've told you I like Sir Terry Frost and caberet. But would you really be interested to know what I think of Little Boots? Perhaps if I'd seen her live I would tell you but you don't need me to tell you what I think of her recordings - go and listen yourself. My one thought on her is this - and it probably applies to all the other lucky tipped artists too: in her Guardian Magazine feature two weeks ago, the interview ended with the usual bold copy where tradtionally, information pertaining to the release date of her record would be. But instead of these details it merely stated that we could hear her music on Myspace. Let's hope Atlantic are saving up a White Lies-sized budget for her campaign.

No comments:

Post a Comment