(Originally for The Skinny magazine)
Part I – Indie.
Maxïmo Park switch down a gear from their usual breakneck post-punk for Karaoke Plays (***, 3 Dec), another razor-edged but same-y track from Our Earthly Pleasures. Next it’s down to Alan Partridge country with Norwich’s Bearsuit: Foxy Boxer (***, 3 Dec) is a bit of fun – nothing more, nothing less. A lesser known band from Sheffield, Arctic Monkeys‘ Teddy Picker (**, 3 Dec) finds Alex Turner as acerbic as ever, but could this mark the beginning of their uninteresting demise? They may be heirs to Turner’s crown, but The Enemy‘s We’ll Live And Die in These Towns (**, 3 Dec) is bare-faced plagiarism. Halfway through I had to stop myself reviewing a reissue of The Jam’s That’s Entertainment. Seriously. To continue the Arctic Monkeys theme (tenuously), Undercut‘s Hot in That (**, 10 Dec) is pitched somewhere between New Yorkshire and BRMC: scuzzy, catchy, but cumbersome. Original monkey man Ian Brown (pictured, of course) trumps them all with Sister Rose (****, 3 Dec). Not quite as tight as past glories, but with its sweeping strings and Bible-black guitar line it’s another swagger-some listen.
Part II – Singer-songwriter.
Jesse Malin‘s Tomorrow Tonight (**, 3 Dec) is all-American, full-fat folk-rock. His intended destination is Springsteen-like dusty wisdom, but he forgets to pack his subtlety … Sorry, did I nod off? Must have been Kate Walsh sending me into a stupor with the silky-smooth, cocoa-clutching Tonight (**, 3 Dec). Zzzz.
Part III – Christmas.
For the uninitiated, Shaun the Sheep is an Aardman animation from kid’s TV who has enlisted Vic Reeves to sing Life’s A Treat (***, 10 Dec), a woolly assault on the Christmas chart. Impossible to criticise, surely. Not strictly a festive song, but Hilli (****, 10 Dec) by Icelandic girl group amiina, who adapted music to Lee Hazlewood’s last ever recording, has the quality of velvet snow on some winter morning. Who’d have thought post-modernism had a place in the Christmas single? The Black Arts‘ Christmas Number One (****, 3 Dec) is the evidence – self-mocking, but glam, of course. But what better to warm your Scrooge heart this Noël than Malcolm Middleton‘s We’re All Going To Die (****, 17 Dec)? It’s officially a 500/1 shot (at the last count) for the Christmas top spot, so heed our advice: bet now, buy a few hundred on the seventeenth.
- Listen to The Black Arts’ Christmas Number One. It’s worth a click.