# 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 - December 2006

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 22 / 11 / 2006

Miscellaneous - December 2006


In the latest in his 'Condemned by Rock 'n' Roll' column, Ben Howarth writes of end of the year polls and his own choices for Album of the Year.

The fizz of festive bubbly… the sparkle of tinsel… the blinding glare of the Oxford Street illuminations… the wince as bare feet meet broken baubles… the agonising bleepety-bleep as credit card limits are irreconcilably breached…. Yes, it is Christmas. No doubt you have already indulged in what many call Christmas shopping, but which will be more fairly described as looking for stuff you’d like other people to buy you. So why not cut out the middle man? The Robbie Williams album will do for everyone else anyway, as it does every other year. I’m a firm believer that you should get something you really want at Christmas. That will no doubt include some CDs. Many will be tempted by the Album of the Year polls - indeed, we have joined in the fun and present our lists elsewhere in this month’s edition. You will have probably produced your own as well, and why not? If we didn't, somebody else would. If no one did, it would be an awful shame. But, ultimately, that is the past, and the long-term music fan cares only for one thing - what’s next? Well, as Richie Benaud will surely have said at least 50 times on the BBC Ashes highlights, I’m here to tell you. Best old-bloke album of the year goes, unsurprisingly, to Bob Dylan. ‘Modern Times’ is not as good a record as the stunning ‘Love And Theft’, but there is still plenty there to merit many re-listens. Because Dylan is everywhere these days - the leader of the opposition is a fan, for crying out loud - you can reasonably expect to get this record from a relative. If you already have a copy, make sure you let everyone know. I’m still mystified that Dylan has become Cool again. There was a time (theologians have called it BMU - before there was 'Mojo' and 'Uncut') when liking Dylan was the preserve of only the most boring of anoraks. Mere mention of the great man could turn parties into wakes. Now everyone has an opinion, and they are probably going to spend Boxing Day refining it by reading whichever Dylan related tome the publishers have graced us with this year. And yet, though it may be hard to believe, there is life beyond Dylan. Best Beatles album this year is ‘…the Corner of Miles and Gil’ by Shack. It has Scouse accents, dry wit, lush strings and sumptuous tunes. What more can one ask for? Every Shack album seems to be a "comeback", and afterwards they seem to disappear again, but, when they leave behind a collection of tunes as good as this, we needn’t worry. Other cruelly neglected relics of the 1990's have also produced fine albums this year - Gomez in particular - but of all the bands that get too little praise, there is one that deserves it more than any - and that is Eels. I decided not to include live albums in my list for this website, but they still hold a dear place in my heart, and best of the lot is this sensational set by E and his band (‘With Strings: Live at Town Hall’). I have mentioned this record before in this column, but there’s no harm in reminding you. It is a fairly straightforward proposition - the best songs of Eels, subtly reinvented with a string section and delivered with real passion. You’ll love it. Ultimately, though, the best of the lot, and my choice for album of the year, is the Divine Comedy’s ‘Victory for the Comic Muse‘. I have heard very little praise for this album, which is a crying shame. I love every track. From the catchy pop of 'Diva Lady', to the swirling strings of 'The Light of Day' to the pomp-prog of the final three tracks, it is a diverse set of immediately memorable material. Of all the many great albums Neil Hannon has made over the past 16 years, this is surely the strongest. It hasn’t sold very well, and it should have done. Yes, it really would be the perfect Christmas present. You could even wrap it up for yourself, and then play it loud whilst everyone else is trying to watch ‘The Hogfather’ on Sky One. As the rest of your family are struggling to contain their anger, which may soon boil over to murderous hatred, and as the comforting croon of Mr. Hannon fills the room, give yourself a pat on the back, and congratulate yourself. "Good choice, me!" Merry Christmas, or as a liberal humanist/Catholic Prime Minister would say, Season's Greetings!

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