Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Track Of The Day: Cast - 'Do That'

Britpop legends Cast have been working on their sixth studio album, which will feature this brilliant new single. 'Do That' is classic Cast, a catchy singalong affair that reminds me of The Traveling Wilburys. It's available to download now, and a stream can be found below via Spotify. The as-yet-untitled new album is available to pre-order via the band's PledgeMusic page HERE. As well as signed editions of the new LP, there are many more special items and experiences available to buy. The band are on tour throughout the UK in November and December.

REWIND: The Beloved - 'Ease The Pressure'

More wonderful music from 1996 as RW/FF takes you aboard a musical TARDIS on a journey through musical history. If you weren't around or were too young to remember the mid 90s,it's a lesson of enlightenment. If you (like me) were lucky enough to experience it all first time around, then these posts make a fine nostalgic blast from the blast. 

I first heard The Beloved the same way that many others did, via their early 90s hit single 'Sweet Harmony'. The group formed way back in 1983, and 'Ease The Pressure' was taken from the 1996 album 'X'. This single reached number 43 in the UK charts. Although The Beloved never officially split, there has been no new music since, but Wikipedia states that "frotnman Jon Marsh has collaborated with original band member Steve Waddington and others on new material, although as of June 2013 this remains in progress."

Monday, 26 September 2016

Track Of The Day: Temples - 'Certainty'

One of the best new bands of the past decade have been working on their second album. 

The Kettering-based psychedelic foursome Temples released their superb debut 'Sun Structures' in 2014. RW/FF reviewed the album HERE, before going on to award it Album Of The Year. 

The band preview their upcoming sophomore LP with this tasty new track, which finds Temples delving into more electronic territory. The upcoming album is due for release early next year.

REWIND: Suede - 'Lazy'

More wonderful music from 1996 as RW/FF takes you aboard a musical TARDIS on a journey through musical history. If you weren't around or were too young to remember the mid 90s,it's a lesson of enlightenment. If you (like me) were lucky enough to experience it all first time around, then these posts make a fine nostalgic blast from the blast. 

Earlier this month marked 20 years since the mighty Suede released their 1996 masterpiece 'Coming Up'. It was the first Suede album I ever bought, even though I had previously purchased a cassette copy of the 'We Are The Pigs' single. Suede were the band that kickstarted the whole Britpop phenomenon, and yet by 1996 they found themselves overshadowed by the massive commercial success of Blur and Oasis. On 'Coming Up', the band weren't afraid to bring out the big melodies and infectious pop choruses. Their previous album 'Dog Man Star' was a dark, cold record that was seen as a commercial failure at the time. At the time, frontman Brett Anderson said: "I think the next album will be quite simple, actually. I'd really like to write a straightforward pop album. Just ten hits." 

Despite being the first album since the departure of guitarist Bernard Butler, his replacement Richard Oakes immediately proved himself to be a great addition to the group, and 'Coming Up' was the album that introduced Suede to a worldwide audience, in places such as Europe, Canada and Asia. The album went to number 1 in the UK charts, and sold over a million copies. It also spawned FIVE Top 10 hit singles, including the glorious rush of 'Lazy', a single which reached number 9 when it was released as a single the following year.

A special 20th anniversary deluxe edition of 'Coming Up' is available now.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Track Of The Day: Dodgy - 'What Are We Fighting For?'

The brilliant Dodgy recently returned with their fifth studio album 'What Are We Fighting For?', a superb LP that confirms their status as perhaps the only 90s band to have improved with every single record. Frontman Nigel Clark did an excellent job of producing the record himself, while the songs draw from a wider range of influences, making for a more multi-faceted album than their previous LP.

Closing the album, this glorious title track delivers a message of hope, love and positivity set to the backdrop of a sublime musical sunset. A true pinnacle.

RW/FF reviewed the album recently, stating that "the musical references may mostly be rooted in the past, but this band present them all in timeless, transcending fashion. Dodgy have put their hearts and souls into this beautifully sincere record, and have pulled off their greatest trick yet. The most consistent and accomplished work of their career." Read the rest of that review HERE. Dodgy will be touring all over the UK at the moment, with lots more gigs to follow in October, November and December. 

REWIND: Babybird - 'Goodnight'

More wonderful music from 1996 as RW/FF takes you aboard a musical TARDIS on a journey through musical history. If you weren't around or were too young to remember the mid 90s,it's a lesson of enlightenment. If you (like me) were lucky enough to experience it all first time around, then these posts make a fine nostalgic blast from the blast. 

The massively underrated Babybird were fronted by Stephen Jones, who previously used the slightly different Baby Bird as an alias for his lo-fi solo recordings. After releasing a number of these self-produced albums, he formed a band in order to tour and promote this work. The wonderfully melodic 'Goodnight'  was the group's first single, and reached number 28 in the UK charts. It was included on the debut album 'Ugly Beautiful', an LP that was released the same year. Babybird split in 2000 dropped from their record label in 2000 after their third album, Bugged, had poor sales. The band then split, before reforming again in 2005. After releasing 3 more studio albums, Babybird dissolved again in 2013. Stephen Jones has been highly prolific ever since, releasing huge amounts of new material via his Bandcamp page under a number of different aliases. The 2014 album 'Ambition Expired' is especially recommended. Interestingly he also appears to have recently resurrected Babybird as a solo project. His Bandcamp page can be found HERE

An interview RW/FF did with Jones a few years ago can be found HERE.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Track Of The Day: The Orb - '5th Dimensions'

Ambient legends The Orb have announced details of a new album, 'COW / Chill Out, World!', which will be released on the Kompakt label. The album is due in October and will be available on vinyl, CD and digital formats.

Alex Paterson describes COW / Chill Out, World! as "our most ambient album yet" and "a protest album in reverse." This idea is certainly evident on the superb new track '5th Dimensions', which is the first taste of the upcoming album. Thomas Fehlmann said: "We didn't intend to rehash old chill out vibes. On the contrary. It's the 21st century and it seems like a good idea for people to sit back and chill the fuck out, before continuing to act destructively. To chill out is to act consciously, guided from a calm centre." 

The Orb will be playing shows in the UK throughout November and December, performing their seminal debut LP 'Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld', along with tracks from 'COW/Chill Out, World!' and some of The Orb's best-loved songs.

REWIND: OMC - 'How Bizarre'

More wonderful music from 1996 as RW/FF takes you aboard a musical TARDIS on a journey through musical history. If you weren't around or were too young to remember the mid 90s,it's a lesson of enlightenment. If you (like me) were lucky enough to experience it all first time around, then these posts make a fine nostalgic blast from the blast. 

Here's a pop classic that brings back great memories of the summer of '96. OMC were something of a one hit wonder, although they had a number of other successful singles in their homeland of New Zealand. The infectious 'How Bizarre' reached number 5 in the UK singles charts. OMC were made up of Pauly Fuemana and Alan Jannson, and released one album, which had the same title as their superb 1996 hit. The duo split in Fuemana died in 2010 aged 40, after suffering from an auto-immune disorder.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Track Of The Day: HiFi Sean ft. Paris Grey - 'Lost Without You'

It's safe to say that nobody expected a former singer from a Scottish indie band to produce one of the most essential floorfillers of recent times. But that is exactly what Sean Dickson has done. Yes, THAT same Sean Dickson of Soup Dragons fame, who was last spotted in the early 2000s leading his imaginative and massively underrated outfit The High Fidelity.

In his latest marvellous act of reinvention, Sean has been a house DJ for the last decade or so, and now returns in his new incarnation with a fantastic record that soundtracks and reflects the many changes this artist has been though over his life. For a while now Dickson has been promising a new album that embraces his skills as a DJ and producer while still maintaining those skills as a songwriter and arranger that made The Soup Dragons and The High Fidelity so intriguing and enjoyable. "Its not a million miles away from The High Fidelity" says Sean, "lots of string sections and omnichords, but throwing into the mix myself as an electronic DJ". Released via Plastique Recordings, the appropriately titled 'Ft.' finds Sean teaming up with an incredible and diverse array of guests, including Teenage Fanclub's Norman Blake, who grew up with Sean in the Scottish town of Bellshill and played with him in pre-BMX Bandits outfit The Pretty Flowers in the 80s. Other tracks feature funk bass icon Bootsy Collins, dance legend Billie Ray Martin, much-loved vocalist David McAlmont, house diva Crystal Waters, the unique Fred Schneider of the B-52's, Yoko Ono, Soft Cell's Dave Ball, and the late Alan Vega, whose haunting 'A Kiss Before Dying' was one of the final songs he recorded. This wonderfully eclectic album also features this infectious Detroit-style dancefloor anthem, where Inner City vocalist Paris Grey balances out powerful gospel-tinged melancholy with uplifting house vibes. 'Ft.' is available now in various formats.

REWIND: The Bluetones - 'Talking To Clarry'

More wonderful music from 1996 as RW/FF takes you aboard a musical TARDIS on a journey through musical history. If you weren't around or were too young to remember the mid 90s,it's a lesson of enlightenment. If you (like me) were lucky enough to experience it all first time around, then these posts make a fine nostalgic blast from the blast. 

'Expecting To Fly' was the brilliant debut album from The Bluetones, one of the best singles acts of the decade. The album went to number 1 and was certified platinum. From it, here is the glorious opening track 'Talking To Clarry', which remains a fan favourite to this day. The band split up in 2011 only to reform a mere four years later. Frontman Mark Morriss has also released a few solo albums including the excellent 'A Flash Of Darkness', which you can read a review of HERE. If you're anywhere near the South West, Mark will be playing a very intimate solo set at The Lamb in Devizes tonight (September 23). Entry is just £8. 

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Track Of The Day: Peter Gabriel - 'The Veil'

Following a three year silence, Peter Gabriel returned a few months ago with 'I'm Amazing', a superb tribute to the late Muhammed Ali. A few months down the line and he's back again with another on-form new track. 'The Veil' was inspired by whistleblower Edward Snowden, and was written exclusively for the soundtrack of Oliver Stone's new movie 'Snowden'. In fact, the video for 'The Veil' even features a cameo by Snowden himself, who is seen walking through the woods and gazing at his computer monitor. The song is out now on all digital download and streaming services.

"As we become so visible in the digital world and leave an endless trail of data behind us, exactly who has our data and what they do with it becomes increasingly important," Gabriel said in a statement. "Snowden's revelations shocked the world and made it very clear why we need to have some way to look over those who look over us. With increasing terrorist attacks, security is critical, but not without any accountability or oversight."

REWIND: The Cranberries - 'Salvation'

More wonderful music from 1996 as RW/FF takes you aboard a musical TARDIS on a journey through musical history. If you weren't around or were too young to remember the mid 90s,it's a lesson of enlightenment. If you (like me) were lucky enough to experience it all first time around, then these posts make a fine nostalgic blast from the blast. 

As a kid I was rather fond of Irish rock outfit The Cranberries, in fact I had cassettes of the band's first two albums. 'Dreams', 'Linger' and 'Zombie' will always be known as their classic singles, but I also owned a copy of this 1996 track from the less successful third album 'Songs For The Faithful Departed'. With a noticeably darker, punkier sound than on the previous records, this single reached number 13 in the UK charts.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Track Of The Day: Thought Forms - 'Forget My Name'

Brand new music from the excellent Wiltshire outfit Thought Forms, who release their third album 'Songs For Drowning' in a couple of months time. The band have become a four-piece with the addition of Portishead bassist Jim Barr, who joins Deej Dhariwal, Charlie Romijn and Guy Metcalfe. Expanding on their fondness for exploratory post-rock/noise/shoegaze sounds, the album's opening track 'Forget My Name' exhibits a more streamlined, melodic side to the Thought Forms sound, casting an atmospheric spell with its entrancing harmonies. 

Consisting of 9 tracks, and complete with stunning artwork from Chris Reeder, 'Songs About Drowning' will be released on November 4 via Invada Records, and will come in a variety of different formats. You can pre-order the record HERE via the band's PledgeMusic page, where a massive range of other very special items and experiences are up for grabs. These include handwritten lyric books, rare test pressings, your very own private Thought Forms gig and even the opportunity to have your song remixed by the band.

Thought Forms are playing a number of gigs in the UK and Europe this autumn, and more info can be found on their Facebook page HERE.

REWIND: Electronic - 'Forbidden City'

More wonderful music from 1996 as RW/FF takes you aboard a musical TARDIS on a journey through musical history. If you weren't around or were too young to remember the mid 90s, consider this a lesson of enlightenment. If you (like me) were lucky enough to experience it all first time around, then these posts make a fine nostalgic blast from the blast. 

Today's choice is from the duo that consisted of New Order's Bernard Sumner and Smiths guitar hero Johnny Marr. The wonderful 'Forbidden City' sounds very much like how it should sound in theory, a perfect hybrid of New Order and The Smiths. It was the hits 'Disappointed' and 'Getting Away With It' that made me aware of Electronic at some point in the mid 90s, but it wasn't until I didn't really start following them until I bought the 'Vivid' single in 1999. I say "started following them" when what I really mean is buying one single and then not adding any more of their work to my collection until years later when I bought the first two albums on CD from a charity shop. Co-written by former Kraftwerk man Karl Bartos, 'Forbidden City' was taken from the second Electronic album 'Raise The Pressure', and reached number 15 in the UK singles charts in June 1996.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Track Of The Day: Teenage Fanclub - 'Thin Air'

A heartfelt helping of alluring radiance from the new Teenage Fanclub album, their first in six years. 'Here' is the Scottish combo's tenth studio effort, and was released a couple of weeks ago.

Andy Page at God Is In The TV reviewed the LP, giving it 8 out of 10: "Teenage Fanclub have made an honest and very endearing record on which they appear comfortable in their own skin(s) and very happy to be in one another’s company going into their next era – the band’s genuine fondness for each other truly shines through and is a thing to be cherished." Read the rest of that review HERE. 'Here' reached number 10 in the UK Albums Chart, making it their third highest charting LP to date.

REWIND: Super Furry Animals - 'Something 4 The Weekend'

More wonderful music from 1996 as RW/FF takes you aboard a musical TARDIS on a journey through musical history. If you weren't around or were too young to remember the mid 90s, consider this a lesson of enlightenment. If you (like me) were lucky enough to experience it all first time around, then these posts make a fine nostalgic blast from the blast. 

After returning from a five year hiatus for some gigs last year, Welsh indie legends Super Furry Animals surprised everyone with a new single recently, their first in seven years. I'm a massive fan of this band, but I'm not going to pretend that I loved 'Bing Bong', which has to be the biggest disappointment of recent times, alongside that new Divine Comedy album. Today we'll focus on one of SFA's better moments, this wonderfully bouncy offering from 1996. Ironically this song share the same title as a Divine Comedy track as well. 'Something 4 The Weekend' was the band's third single, which appeared in a different version on the debut album Fuzzy Logic. The song reached #18 on the UK Singles Chart on its release in July 1996.

It's only today that I've discovered the term "Something for the Weekend" was originally a euphemistic reference to condoms, from a time when chemists didn't trade on Sundays. However this track appears to be about recreational drug taking: "First time I did it for the hell of it, Stuck it on the back of my tongue and then swallowed it..." A 20th anniversary reissue of 'Fuzzy Logic' will be released soon. Frontman Gruff Rhys says: “The reissue is radically different to the original, some songs have alternative beginnings and endings and people will notice the difference in definition, especially in high resolution digital and the new vinyl cut.1995/6 was an overwhelming whirlwind of touring, gimmickry and mayhem for us so it's been a real treat to take some time to relive and reassess all these songs and compile everything that we recorded in that short, magical period in one place." 

Friday, 16 September 2016

Track Of The Day: Grandaddy - 'The Way We Won't'

Much acclaimed American combo Grandaddy first came to my attention with their 1998 single 'AM 180', and their magnificent 2000 album 'The Sophtware Slump'. I have fond memories of watching them play in a tent at the Leeds Festival that same year. The band split in 2006, but now return with their first new material in over 10 years. Singer Jason Lyttle spoke in a recent interview about the group's second coming: "It’s a lot of fun. The differences are the obvious stuff – we’re definitely a lot fatter and a lot balder. I asked everyone if they’d be into getting back together, and everyone ended up being into it. That surprised me, and now it’s a case of just enjoying the ride." Grandaddy are currently working on a new album due for release early next year. Lyttle said of 'The Way We Won't': "I wanted it to be a way of saying “Hey everybody, there’s a new album coming!” It’s cool to have it as a 7”, as it means we can have another cool, weird B-side. A lot of people used to be into the weird B-sides we cranked out back then, so ‘Clear Your History’ is another of those." Both songs are available now.

REWIND: Kula Shaker - 'Grateful When You're Dead/Jerry Was There'

More wonderful music from 1996 as RW/FF takes you aboard a musical TARDIS on a journey through musical history. If you weren't around or were too young to remember the mid 90s, consider this a lesson of enlightenment. If you (like me) were lucky enough to experience it all first time around, then these posts make a fine nostalgic blast from the blast. 

Today (September 16) marks the 20th anniversary of 'K', the debut album by Kula Shaker. At the time of its release, it became the fastest selling debut album in Britain since Elastica's debut the previous year. The album reached number 1 in the UK charts. Here's a very underappreciated band whose sound was a million miles from Britpop, but whose success came as a result of the genre opening the doors for lots of other excellent British guitar groups. At first the music press seemed to really dig them, but as soon as they (deservedly) became popular, the critics suddenly turned on them and spent much of the late 90s attempting to discredit and dismiss them. The truth is that Kula Shaker were no more "cod-spiritual" than The Beatles and all the other greats whose music has absorbed Eastern influences.

Dealing in psychedelica and Indian-flavoured 60's rock, 'K' was a classic and so was its less successful 1999 follow-up 'Pigs Peasants And Astronauts'. After splitting at the end of the decade, frontman Crispian Mills formed The Jeevas with a few members of post-Britpop combo Straw before recording a set of as yet unreleased solo tracks. Kula Shaker reformed in 2005 and released another pair of impressive albums in the shape of 'Strangefolk' and 'Pilgrim's Progress'. After six years away, the band returned earlier this year with their excellent fifth album 'K2.0', and have certainly enjoying a creative resurgence. The highly recommended 'K 2.0' was well worth the wait too, a brilliantly crafted combination of indie rock, psychedelica and the band's trademark Indian flavours. It's also their finest piece of work to date. 

But today we remember this ace single from 1996, which reached number 35 on the UK singles chart. The band will be taking to the road again later in the year for a tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1996 debut. The album will be played in its entirety for the first time. There will also be a special 20th anniversary edition of 'K' released on November 11th, which will feature a book about the making of the album.

The 2016 Mercury Prize: Why David Bowie Was The Real Winner

Awards ceremonies are often a total farce, anyone with an ounce of intelligence should know that. So it shouldn't surprise me when those wards go to people who don't deserve them. However last night's Mercury Prize result has stunned and shocked a lot of people. The annual prize for Album Of The Year was given to London grime MC Skepta for his album 'Konnichiwa'. Wheres the problem? The judges appear to have deemed this average stereotype of a record more of a worthy winner than 'Blackstar', the final album released by innovative music legend David Bowie, made while he was battling terminal cancer and released just 2 days before his death. 

Now let's get this straight: I don't believe his death alone would have been a good reason to give the award to 'Blackstar'. The Mercury Music Prize is supposed to be an award for the best album of the year, and that should be the ONLY basis for choosing the winner. In fact I would have actually been annoyed myself if he'd been given the award solely because of his death, rather than because of the magical music his album contained. But even if Bowie wasn't battling cancer and was still here, then musically his album would STILL be leagues ahead of anything else on the shortlist, even brilliant records by Michael Kiwanuka and Radiohead.

Yet lots of people don't seem to understand this. I came across a post from one Twitter user saying that "if Bowie wins, it'll be a fucking travesty". I actually couldn't believe what I had just read. Why would this person say such a harsh, disrespectful thing? It turns out that Bowie was the bookie's favourite to win the award, and that many people expected him to win. But those who haven't been lucky enough to hear 'Blackstar' or listen to it with patience and an open mind aren't aware of what a stunning piece of work it is. All they know is that it's an album made by a man who died earlier this year. So all they were thinking was "Bowie will win, but only because he's dead", an opinion that completely ignores the fact that the MUSIC itself is astonishing.

And it looks like people on the Mercury judging panel were aware of these opinions too. Which is why they were obviously very, very afraid of giving the award to Bowie. They don't want it to look like they've given an award to someone just because they died, even if they knew that wasn't the real reason for it being picked. They also have a reputation for deliberately snubbing the bookie's favourite for being "too obvious". Also bear in mind that the judging panel is made up of people from inside the music industry. The music industry doesn't want to look "out of touch" and seem to be desperate to make it look like they're "down with the kids". They want a music scene that looks like it's moving with the times. But this is no reason to do that at the expense of an undeniably great record. They've tried this before. Drum n bass pioneer Roni Size won it in 1997, beating Radiohead's classic 'OK Computer'. Did drum n bass become the sound of the future? No. Did 'OK Computer' establish Radiohead as one of the most popular bands on the planet? Yes. Why should 'Blackstar' lose out just because a judging panel is scared of looking out of touch? Basically, Skepta won the award because out of all the nominees, on the surface he was seen to be the most modern and trendy amongst the youth.

This seems to suggest that Bowie would have won if he was still alive. Why should dying mean that you have to be denied of an award that you clearly deserve? People feel cheated, and no wonder.

It's not even the result itself that bothers me the most. It's the amount of deluded people who are actually ignorant enough to think that a generic, cliched grime record deserves to win, instead of a brave, innovative masterpiece made under truly incredible circumstances. Of course there are many who can see things as they are, and who agree that the result was "a complete cop-out". One comment on The Guardian website sums up how Skepta winning is certainly not progress: "which lyrics from Konnichiwa really resonated with you and the jury? "Niggas wanna kill me, tell them go get your uzi" or "still you can end up dead when you disrespect the goonies" or "see them on the roads getting lovey dovey with the hoes"...Misogyny, glorification of violence, progressive." Another user commented that Skepta's LP was "a decent enough album. But groundbreaking? A revolution? I'm not sure about that. As soon as people started mentioning the bookies favourite being Bowie - that rules Bowie out. The judging panel have never gone with what the bookies think have they? They seem to obstinately go against those reports as soon as they start circulating." These are people that know what's going on and who haven;t been fooled. But there are others whose ignorant, blinkered and ill-informed opinions really frustrate me, and symbolise the sort of attitude that is dragging popular music into such a sad, shallow state. I wasted time trying to make them see my point of view and predictably I get the same lazy defence that comes from Justin Bieber or One Direction fans: "your opinions are outdated and irrelevant". Just shows that they can't think of any other excuse except trying to shame others into feeling out of touch. If they're so "outdated" then why do many other people still think the same thing after so long? And what is "relevant" in this day and age where everyone listens to completely different things? Accusations of being "irrelevant" are the only thing that's irrelevant.

Everyone who actually says Skepta deserved this award seems to give one reason why they: "because it's the most relevant, cutting edge thing on the list, and grime is a new, exciting sound". But isn't the Mercury Prize supposed to be for the best album of the year as opposed to the most temporarily trendy genre of the year? Let's not ignore the fact that Mumford And Sons were nominated for this award a few years ago. Yeah, very "cutting edge". Wikipedia even states that: "Simon Frith, chair of the Mercury Prize judging panel, has said that albums are chosen because they are the "strongest" each year, rather than according to genre". Grime itself (and especially the stuff churned out by Skepta) is a genre that's now over a decade old. John Peel used to play it and he died 12 years ago. During that time, the genre hasn't progressed at all creatively, all that's happened is that its become more commercial. In fact Dizzee Rascal took grime into the mainstream over 13 years ago with his album 'Boy In Da Corner'. It's typical of an industry taking underground trends from years ago and passing them off as "new". Embracing the new is good, but unless it is genuinely new then why try and find the closest to "new" rather than award it to an album that will become a massive piece of history? If the winner is meant to be based on originality then why give the award to someone whose album sounds just like music that was around over a decade ago? I'm not saying sounding like the past is bad, i welcome it equally as I do the future. I'm just highlighting the double standards. Fast rapping and loud beats doesn't automatically make you "cutting edge". Neither does rapping about guns and "hos". Skepta's music conforms to every wannabe gangster stereotype in the book. Being cutting edge is more about NOT bowing to trends or conformity. And surely Bowie did that, right or wrong? Who else on a major label would dare to release a dark, complex, cryptic mixture of jazz, drum n bass, art rock and hip hop? Some will argue that 'Blackstar' is a mixture of genres and sounds that already existed before. But exactly the same could be said about Skepta's album. In truth, the only genuinely "new", "unique" and 100% original music is odd, commercially unfriendly stuff that can be found in the dark depths of the leftfield. Music from obscure acts who can't afford to spare the £190 that it costs to even enter the Mercury Prize. OK, maybe they could afford it, but they know there'd be absolutely no chance of seeing any return on their investment.

Also, perhaps the judges deliberately made a bad decision so it would get people talking about the award all over social media. There's nothing like lots of attention to make you seem relevant.

From another point of view, would Bowie himself have even cared if he won or not? This is the man who once turned down a CBE. If he were still here, there's every chance that he would have given the award to a younger act that symbolises the future. Many years ago he quoted: "I wanted to be the instigator of new ideas. I wanted to turn people onto new things and new perspectives. I always wanted to be that sort if catalyst." Presenting the ward to Skepta, Jarvis Cocker said: “We as a jury decided that if David Bowie was looking down on the Hammersmith Apollo tonight, he would want the 2016 prize to go to Skepta.”

I have to add that even though I dislike Skepta's boring, overrated music, I have respect for his DIY ethics, especially in an age where corporate pop seems to rule the singles chart week-by-week. “I want to inspire freedom, not just in music, not just in grime... I want to listen to other genres of music” said the winner of the award. “I want to inspire people who make all kinds of music, people who are with record labels who tell them what to do and they don’t feel like themselves. I want people to get out of these deals because of Skepta. I want to get into people’s heads but I’m not signed, I’m still independent.”

But having an impressive attitude towards music-making doesn't automatically make you a worthy winner. As well as the incredible music on 'Blackstar', it's clear that the songs on that LP are songs that are as genuine and realistic as you get. Surely a terminally ill man (and not just ANY man) raging against the dying of the light and turning his death into the ultimate piece of performance art is an incredible thing. Even if you like Skepta, then it's undeniable that 'Blackstar' is simply in a different league all together. Even if it wasn't made under the tragic circumstances, the MUSIC speaks for itself.

But let's think about it like this: Bowie has an award better than some farce voted for by industry men to sell more records. He has an eternal place in history, the best prize of all.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Track Of The Day: She Makes War - 'Cold Shoulder'

The excellent Bristol-based multi-instrumentalist Laura Kidd (a.k.a She Makes War) struck gold earlier this year with the release of her third album 'Direction Of Travel'. Sticking with you after just a few listens, it's the sort of highly accomplished record that casts its spell song by song, full of bright melody, vibrant delivery, illuminating arrangements all brought together with magnificent songwriting. 

One of 2016's most essential records, 'Direction Of Travel' also features collaborations with Mark Chadwick of the Levellers and Tanya Donelly. The album is available now on CD and download, and She Makes War will be touring throughout the rest of the year. With shades of Elastica and generous helpings of light and shade, the superb 'Cold Shoulder' is just one side of this multi-faceted artist's musical persona.