FROM THE SOUTH-WEST CORRESPONDENT….NEW CLASSICS

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Cardiff, Canada and Courtney

First a question – When does a song move from just being a song to qualifying as a classic? Does it have to be a certain age? Or does it just have to be infuriatingly brilliant? I ask because this week I have chosen three songs that are less than three years old, one is less than ten months old and I think all three are already classics in my mind. I know that in ten years’ time just after JC has done his 60 best C60 mixtapes at 60 series, he will revisit ‘Cult Classics’ and some young whippersnapper will pick and post a wonderfully witty tribute to these three songs, so I am getting there first. I am aware that this probably makes me Mystic Meg or something but it’s a stigma I’m willing to bear (oh and Aquarius watch out on your normal walk to work, there will be a stranger bearing bad news, particularly if you work in the public sector).

So let’s start with a blast from the past – well November 2011 at least – and ‘Polymers Are Forever’ by Cardiff’s Future of the Left. Future of the Left formed in 2005 when the much missed McLusky and the not so much missed Jarcrew split and some of its members formed Future of the Left. The driving force behind the band is one Andy ‘Falco’ Falkous, and I do not shrink from this statement, a man who is perhaps the greatest songwriting talent in Britain today. Yes better than Morrissey, and yes even better than Gary Barlow. His lyrics are brilliant, funny, political, polemic and poignant. He has written sings about everyone and everything from Seb Coe to Robocop (Wonderfully called ‘Robocop 4 – fuck off Robocop’) via Kim Kardashian.

In November 2011 they released the track ‘Polymers Are Forever’, which in my mind is the closest thing Future of the Left have ever got to writing and recording a pop song, although they would probably kill me for saying it. This is one of the things I love about Future of the Left, behind all the noise and ferociousness of the lyrics and energy of the guitars there are tunes snapping away. This one has a chorus that includes the words” ba ba ba ba” for christs sake. It is kind of two songs in one this, the first bit is a shouty pop song and then it goes into a beautiful little ode to Polymers. It is also the only song ever written to feature the words ‘Quantum Mechanics’ and for that reason alone, you must own this song.

mp3 : Future of the Left – Polymers Are Forever

It was the taster for the bands second album ‘the plot against common sense’ in which all songs were listed without capital letters, I don’t know why. It comprises 15 tracks and its worth every one of the seven pounds or so that I paid for it. It is a wonderful album and one for me that gets better everytime I play it.

After this the band announced that their next album would be crowdsourced through the website Pledge. After five hours they had enough money to record it. We then saw the release of ‘How to stop your Brain in An Accident’. That too is wonderful.

Next time a short hop into 2012 and to the Canadian rock duo Japandroids. At the end of 2012 when everyone was writing lists of their Top Ten this and that, one song for me stood out – it was in nearly everyones lists (not interestingly the NME’s) – and yet I have never heard of it or of the band that made it. That song was ‘The House that Heaven Built’ by Japandroids. So I checked it out.

Japandroids for those of you who don’t know describe their music as one part classic rock one part punk and claim to be heavily influenced by Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen. I was say that they are more than two thirds punk and little under a third classic rock, but I’m a pedantic arse. What they are bloody brilliant. I can’t think of a better place to introduce their music to you if you haven’t heard it than ‘The House That Heaven Built’ – for me its one of the best songs of the last fifteen years. How this hasn’t been a massive hit in the UK I have no idea (actually I have but let’s leave that debate for the Daily Mail Comments Page). It sounds a lot like the early 90s grunge sound that I’ve written about – and if you liked the Buffalo Tom song I wrote about a few weeks ago then you will love this. Simple riffs, massive chorus, repeat until you tired of smiling.

mp3 : Japandroids – The House That Heaven Built

On top of this song Japandroids then released the album ‘Celebration Rock’ an album which Rolling Stone claimed to be ‘One of the Ten Coolest Albums Ever’. Now regular readers will know that I am all over cool and am happy to act as the ‘Spokesperson of cool’ for this blog, and I have to say normally I find Rolling Stone so far up its own arse its shoving tissue up it to blow its nose – but on this occasion they are right. ‘Celebration Rock’ is one cool record. One you need to own if you don’t already. It is already a classic, there I’ve said it. Happy now.

Coming right up to date, earlier on I said that Andy Falkous was the songwriting genius of this generation, well time to meet another one. An Australian one at that. Not sure why that is relevant right now, but bear will me and my closely edited Guardian reading acceptable xenophobia.

Around Christmas 2013 was the first time I heard ‘Avant Gardener’ by Courtney Barnett. It was ‘One of those Moments’. I was running through the streets of Exeter in a pathetic attempt to shed that extra mince pie I had the night before. This came on the Ipod it was on a bunch of songs given to me by a friend. I had to stop, not because I was tired, sweating and looking like a stuck pig, but because of this song. A song that tells the story of a lady who has an anaphylactic panic attack whilst gardening in the sun in the middle of an Australian heatwave (See it was relevant). Lyrically it is wonderful as well, it contains the immortal line “The paramedic thinks I’m clever cos I play guitar, I think she’s clever cos she stops people dying.” Brilliant. It also I think is the only song written to feature the word ‘Pseudoephedrine’.

mp3 : Courtney Barnett – Avant Gardener

It featured on the EP ‘A Sea of Split Peas’ and got precisely nowhere in the charts. Yet there at the end of year polls it sat, It was song of the year according to Pitchfork, number 6 in the NME Tracks of the Year. It is an incredible record, half sang, half rapped in a lazy, wonky kind of a way that makes you wonder what on earth you have just heard. Now this song is only ten months old but is anyone going to tell me that its not a classic….

S-WC

7 thoughts on “FROM THE SOUTH-WEST CORRESPONDENT….NEW CLASSICS

  1. Hi everyone. That Courtney Barnett song is completely wonderful. Probably the best song that this blog has ever posted. Definitely a classic.

  2. Another great essay, SWC! Looking forward to listen to the tunes after work today. I’M even more looking forward to JC’s 60 best C60 mixtapes at 60 series … what a great idea!!

    Jim, start working on it now!

  3. Great post. 3 very different tunes but each rather wonderful. I don’t know how I missed Japandroids just my kind of sound. If you like this I’d recommend the Hold Steady in return. Tomorrow I’ll rush my money to the record shop, again. This blog costs me, and I thank you.

  4. The first time I heard “Avant Gardener” was via a podcast that I subscribe to. I literally had to stop what I was doing, rewind the song and listen long and hard to the lyrics… The double EP (LP?) “‘A Sea of Split Peas” is chock full of similarly expertly crafted and wry songs, and was runner-up in my album of the year list. If Courtney Barnett is playing a town near you, you really do owe it to yourself to go catch her live.

  5. Great band, Future of the Left. Practically local boys to me, they are. My fave of theirs is ‘Notes on Achieving Orbit’, the closing track on ‘The Plot against Common Sense’ (which incidentally deservedly won the 2012 Welsh Music Prize).

    I concur with Bill – I can definitely hear some Hold Steady in that Japandroids track. It’s reassuring that there are still some ‘cool’ bands out there not afraid to rock. Sick of all this awful electro-pop hipster crap so many of them insist on churning out.

    Maybe I’m the odd one out, but I’m not blown away by the Courtney Barrett track, but it’s lyrically it’s interesting enough for me to investigate her further. Really good lyrics, in fact.

    You really should start your own blog you know, SWC.

  6. My own Blog? I’m not sure people want to read much more of my rambling nonsense. I’m running out of things to say one day a week as it is.

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