# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Miscellaneous - April 2006

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 19 / 3 / 2006

Miscellaneous - April 2006


In the second in his new 'Condemned to Rock 'n' Roll' column, Ben Howarth muses on Spring releases and the new Morrissey album 'Ringleader of the Tormentors'

It has just turned spring, which means cold winds, drizzle, abandoned pre-season cricket matches, hot cross buns, exam revision and albums, lots of albums. After four months of compiling, rating and awarding the best releases, the record companies actually want us to go out and buy some brand new ones. Excellent. Some of them might even be worth listening to. During the next two months bands will all want to get their album "out there", ready for the big push and, they hope, subsequent festival singalongs. Followers of popular music will in turn spend frightening amounts of money and, when they fail to produce their bank statements, partners will assume they are hiding an affair or a new drug addiction. Only the mountain of discarded shrink-wrap and carrier bags overflowing from the bin gives a clue to the real truth. Over a two week period, the new albums from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Embrace, Morrissey and the Flaming Lips all competed for our attention. You might even have wanted to take a punt on "hotly tipped newcomers" Be Your Own Pet. Alt country fans were all surely on the lookout for new albums from long servers Calexico or the Willard Grant Conspiracy, and - if they missed out on the Shoeshine editions - a repackaging of material from the first two Beauty Shop records on Snapper Records. Phew. Up against all those, we can only assume that the Vines won’t be regenerating the record sales of their first album with their third. The "curious" purchasers (or addicts as they may be called) are surely going to be elsewhere. I won’t bore you with my decision making process but, inevitably, it will involve a large chunk of my finances changing hands. Of course, the pain in this process works both ways. The artists know just as well as we do what kind of pathetically craven hard taskmaster a music fan is, and they have to live up to our expectations. We want to be humming along after the second listen, but still in a position to enjoy our fiftieth. No easy job, and (since pop music is often a career open to those with no talent at all) the reason for somany let downs. The absolute guaranteed purchase is Morrissey. I’d buy it even if it had been panned in every review, but in fact, many have been positive. Yippee. Not that reviews mean anything much, since this is an album most people have made their minds up about in advance. Only his fan base really care. But all a Morrissey fan needs is the slightest glimour of hope to praise their hero. And we shall. Morrissey - because his appeal rests in his personality and not his tunes -is now above criticism. The 'NME' likes to kid itself that it was responsible for Morrissey’s six year hiatus but in fact it was the lacklustre 'Maladjusted' album (released a full five years and three albums after the 'Madstock' debacle). In 2004, everyone decided they wanted to buy his music again. After all, in pop music it is always much more sensible to keep your audience waiting than release music they won’t want to hear. 'Ringleader of the Tormentors' probably won’t make number one. Having endured the embarrassment of being outsold by Keane in 2004, this time it is Embrace - also on the swift second album after a comeback trail - who should get the votes of the ‘three albums a year’ brigade. But it isn’t album sales which will really show if this is a success. It will sell pretty well. Prominent coverage in all the weekend newspapers ensured that, not to mention spreads in all the monthly music mags and a cover story for the 'NME'. The label seems to have done well to remind everyone that this is Morrissey, who you bought all those albums from two years ago and always says something interesting. No, Morrissey will be hoping instead to replicate the tremendous success in concert that followed ‘You Are the Quarry’. In 2004, he toured round the country, curated Meltdown, headlined a homecoming show in Manchester and then did the rounds of all the summer festivals. But there were still enough people to merit a pre-Christmas arena tour that saw him sell out Earl’s Court. Twice. I was among them. That made him as big a concert attraction as the Rolling Stones. If that can be repeated, it would be right to say that Morrissey is no cult act, but a mass attraction for the long term. And there is the real victory. Luckily, I don’t have to review this album so I’m in no hurry to make my mind up about it. It isn’t a radical change of direction, but I wouldn’t have wanted that anyway. Certainly the album feels more suave and elegant than its predecessor, less bam and more here I am. Once again, sung completely in and about the first person, it seems to be at least as good as any of his other solo albums. Since all of those re-appear regularly on my stereo, it is reasonable to assume this will be the same. The last thing I want to do is wear it out, so instead I shall try and warm to it slowly. The album will always be there, after all.

Also In Condemned to Rock 'n' Roll

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Miscellaneous - April 2006

Miscellaneous - April 2006

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