Kieron Gillen's workblog




I wanted to write something sizeable in thanks to the regular readers of this blog, who appear to be happy enough to come to the site every day to only be presented with desperate, self-serving plugs for other things I’ve done or illiterate descriptions of how Dancing Is Really Fun.

I settled upon doing a list of my tracks of the year, with some elaborative nonsense. Mostly singles, because I’m pop like that, but including room for random things that have caught my attention. One track per artist, just to create a bit more variety. Since I only started scribbling down tracks at the beginning of December, stuff from early in the year, especially the obscure material that hasn’t been namechecked in someone else’s year list, will probably be absent. And all tracks had to be released this year – if it’s a re-release, it’s out. This last rule may have been bent at a couple of points, as I’m lazy.

Now: shall I proof this properly or just post it? Regular readers may already know the answer.

40. Sugababes – Hole In The Head

Neither an Overload or a Freak Like Me, but …: “Late at night when I'm feeling blue/I'd sell my ass before I think of you”. How can anyone with a groin resist?

39. Maps – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

And no-one with a heart could help but love this. The Yeah Yeah Yeah show the cuts beneath the hair-cuts. Drums like designer heels echoing down a midnight stair-well. Techno-expressionist guitar paints sound Pollock-style. And, apparently, No-one loves you like she does. For once, we believe.

38. The Ballad of J Xaverre - J Xaverre

Poor Old Johnny X, he broke a million hearts in mono. Downbeat post-Kenickie folkatronica. Recalls what the Boo Radleys were doing when it was still credible to cite the Boo Radleys. Self-mythologisation is always welcome in these parts.

37. I Only Want You - Eagles of Death Metal

Urgent like a morning after-pill.

36. Kate Moss – Maximillian Hecker

Nothing released this year has made me feel as lonely as the opening track from Maximillian’s “Rose” album. Rest assured Eeyore is listening 24-7 down 100 Acre Wood between bouts of desperate masturbation.

35. Ghost Boobs – Gravy Train!!!

Girl grows breasts! Girl loves breasts! Girl diets! Girl loses breasts! Fuck whining Germans! If you look beneath the two-note synth-racket you can see the true tragedy of the year. Will they ever get back together? What will the bull-dykes down the gym make of it all? Will Gravy Train!!! Ever make a song without obsessing over details of The Fuck? EXCLAM!!!

34. Satan Wants Me – The Auteurs

If we were letting re-released in here, we’d have squeezed in one of the re-recordings from triumphant career retrospective Das Capitol. As it is, we’ll go with a typically Luciferian new track. Best music journalism of the year award goes to ever-Dickensian Luke Haines in the sleeve notes to the album, where he discusses each of his works merits. “My third masterpiece,” he notes astutely. That’s the way to do it.

33. Har Mar Superstar – Power Lunch

Fat Man grinding his groin, while eating a meal. That’s the way to do it Mrk 2.

32. Diamonds and Guns – The Transplants

Faux-dread middle-class ska-punk. “It’s a wicked world in… it’s cruel,” we’re admonished, before screaming woo-woo! train impressions over the chorus. American pseudo-alternative pop is, yet again, most entertaining when it doesn’t realise how ridiculous it is.

31. Drain Your Blood – The Distillers

Or, alternatively, give us a girl. Straight ahead Hole-style screaming pout-rock, included to keep Jamie McKelvie happy and – possibly – aroused.

30. 99 and a Half Just Won’t Do – Detroit Cobras

Official Careless Talk Costs Lives cover band of choice. Take your pick from any album, but I picked this cut (And the Cobras are the sort of band who make me come over all Creem-era Bangs and say “Cut”. I’ll start talking jive in a second or something equally embarassing). The breathless hang in the vocal before accelerating up the numbers towards that won’t-doing 99 makes me stop to stare at the speakers every time just to see if she manages to pull off the trick right this time too.

29. Cameltoe – Fannypack

Could never be as great as the title promised, but Fannypack hit that Daphne-and-Celeste trash-pop nerve of mine hard. Enough to make you wanna fake a petition and get them on the main stage at the Reading Festival.

That rings a bell.

28. The Dusty Groove - The Womb

Lo-fi bedroom Cave-isms, and pretty much owned my post-club fatigues. The only MP3 on my machine that feels like Vinyl. Vinyl, cigarette smoke and the waiting part of loneliness.

27. Lou Reed - Pink grease

Starts at a virtual polka and our New Sheffield Dolls yelp: “I wanna sing like Lou Reed/Make my voice all sleazy”. And then proceed to do, before collapsing to a diseased-showbiz introduce the band finale and then – audibly – falling over.

26. Everything You Need – Brassy

Everyone ignored Brassy’s second album because of Martian control satellites and/or Vodaphone advert, but it made me write “Fake Like An Orgasm”, which was my favourite thing I thought up all year. Everything You Need moves at a double-pace over most of the looped grooves of the albums, walking that line between Le Tigre’s “Hot Topic” and pre-success Luscious Jackson. Leaps out the speakers likes it believes it can fly…. and then it does.

25. Shake Me Baby - Junior Senior

There’s lots to love about the fat homo/skinny hetro Nordic duo, if only because they’re a throw-back to an era of pop when human beings rather than groomed synthozoids filled the charts. They swear! They sweat! They constantly give the impression that they may do something inappropriate on children’s television! While the hits will live in cheese-nights for years to come, this sixties-styled folk-pop provoked the double-take of the year. First it presents a straight Dylan pastiche, then throws in a chorus which references Mr. Tambourine man. It leaves you exactly enough time to nod smugly before throwing the most perfect Dylan chord-change conceivable, an aural nudge-nudge-wink-wink with skill unparalleled in the current scene.

24. Beautiful – Christina Aguilera

WORDS!!! CAN’T!!! BRING!!! ME!!!! DOWN!!!

23. Gay Bar – Electric 6

I’m not revisionist enough to lose this, and rolling across LA with this screaming out of the speakers was one of the more cinematic life/art interfaces of the year. Like most novelty hits, no-one could have really had guessed it would be one before it demanded its rightful position in the charts (See also the Darkness. Look back at old I Love Music threads for sneering evidence). Nonsense lyrics that follow their own inexorable logic with determination and precision, B52s riffola and the word “gay”. If that’s not pop music, nothing is.

22. Shut Up – Kelly Osbourne

No – you shut-up. I never watched the Osbournes. I’m from the Midlands. If I want bad-accented name-calling I can just use my memory. But fuck it - this careerist Transvision Vampisms knew all the moves but framed them around a voice which gave the impression that it really didn’t.

21. This Town - Hot Hot Heat

Hot Hot Heat were white-collar white-bread blue-stock Indie band of the year. And despite a precision-welded guitar-wielding album didn’t do anywhere near the business someone’s spreadsheet would suggest. Which is a shame. No, really. Consider the close of This Town, where there’s a second where the – until then – fairly ordinary song hangs suspended in the ether for a second, before some drunk god’s hammer strikes the world’s biggest piano and it pounds the world to ashes. From this waste rise a simple cow-bell and rail-building chant of “Talk To Me Dance To Me”, and suddenly you realise that something’s changed, and it takes a couple of seconds for you to realise it’s your affections.

20. Pink – Trouble

Pink’s perpetual joke is that she’s clearly no trouble at all, reducing rebellion down to hair-dye, piercings and displayed navels. Which matters not. It’s moving in the same way as Sandra Dee donning leathers at the end of Grease. She’s not bad girl. She’s playing it, and playing it with all her heart. P!nk (EVEN HER NAME IS FUNNY) works best when hitting both sides of her manic-depressive cycle – Just Like A Pill – but this, purely manic piece of machismo somehow manages. The song’s barely there, the bare trace of a track which is just enough for Pink to climb into rail-car and take us on an Indiana-Jones-and-the-Temple-Of-Doom style death-ride.

She’s not just trouble, she explains. “I’m Trouble, Y’all”. Y’all. You do see, don’t you?

19. MOBscene – Marlyn Mansun

Because it’s always nice to hear Faith No More’s “Be Aggressive” again.

18. I luv u – Dizee Rascal

Actually I wanted to include something else from the Rascal album, but I’ve misplaced my copy and can’t remember it was called. Anyway, it would have been it, if its charting this year wasn’t a re-release, so its appearance can be used to prove – oooh – some quantum mechanic or another, I’d guess. Anyway: single most likely to induce mass riddim wiggaisms. Oh – found my copy of the album now. I think it was probably “2 For”, due to the immaculate prissiness of the beats, that bizarre “I live street and she lives neat” Monarchy-baiting lyric and the fact it’s genuinely funny. Like watching a String Section captured playing in a strobe.

17. Scandalous - Mis-teeq

I have no idea why I put Mis-teeq at number 17, when it’s my natural inclination to doc marks for that sort of genocidal crime against the English Language and I still can’t note how it’s gained the affection that’s lead to almost constant playlisting since its release in March. Clearly, a few of my favourite things – sex, three-piece girl harmonies, random unexpected production touches and unsheathed, endless thighs – are present to excess. But why precicely? I’ll just have to play it again.

16. All The Things She Said - Tatu

Faux-Lesbianism. Faux-Paedophilia. Faux-Russians, probably. And the real fake sound of Trevor Horn.

15. Hey World – A.R.E. Weapons

I knew it was onto something when I saw another reviewer describe it as the worst song he’s heard this year. Robotic eighties drum-machine production that sounds like its losing bolts as it marches onwards to fight what will only – at best – result in a pyrrhic victory. The section where it sings as if Lou Reed has crawled down his throat, curled up and died that “And the kids [huge pause] still don’t have [another huge pause] A radio station [change tone to whine] that they can believe” it’s the most hysterical – both in timbre and humour – phrase uttered this year.

14. Your Beat Kicks Back Like Death - Scout Niblett

Which compares neatly to this, the most measured, joyous and carefully expressed sentiment of the year. In fact, as is Scout’s occasional tendency, balanced to the point of sociopathy. Even like grave. A grave with a big smiley face drawn in the soil. “We’re all gonna die. We’re a-ll-ll gonna die,” she sings, less drumming and more delicately choosing which tympanic device to strike with this wooden-stick thing. And, as others have commented, it sounds like the Best Thing Ever.

13. Inertiatic Esp – Mars Volta

Prog-RAWK, basically. Seeing them within a month of Dexys made me draw a line between what, on the surface, are clearly hugely different bands – there’s a level of commitment shown that simply absent from most other careerist nonentities, the sense that every second is alive and precious. But where Dexys are soul, The Mars Volta try to prove that those guitars are, in fact, not too noisy and crude. Inertiatic Esp manages space-rock like the Paradox-provoking dream-team 7-Doctor Who beat-combo line up.

12. If She Wants Me – Belle and Sebastian

Still standing against the wall in Indie Discos. Still hairclips and shoulder bags. Still the most English band on the face of the planet, despite being Scottish. Still the easiest target to hit, so still being hit. Still working on being pale and interesting, and just about half-way there now, thankyou. Still standing still, with literate solipsism flowering behind the eyes. Still writing vignettes and stringing them along on the lightest, most seriously delivered, folk-pop on the surface of theplanet. Still making hearts and then – with a choice word – shattering them. Still good enough to make me want my virginity and my Christianity back.

11. X Gon' Give It to Ya – DMX


10. Misfit – Amy Studt

For those who thought Avril Lavigne was a little too much here comes an even more family-friendly alternative with a cheery go-getting hymn to dysfunction. Talk about pernicious: similar to Pink taking the radicalism out of radicalism, Studt rejects rejections and refuses to see the angst in angst. Alicia’s Attic tried similar trick in the UK a few years back, but the FM-radio sheen takes it to a whole new level. By its nature of existence it pricks the pomposity of teenagegirldom, repositioning self-obsessed alienation as something that’s nearly as COOL as growing breasts. Completely Evil. And, as most evil things, delicious.

9. Fried My Brains – The Kills

God, this makes me wanna fuck.

8. Do I look like a slut? – Avenue D

Was it this year? I honestly don’t care. All I know that every time I put it on I end up preening around my bedroom, pretending I’m Miss Amp or someone glamourous, sarcastic and slutty as the record.

7. That Great Love Sound – The Raveonettes

With a “The” band being given away free in your morning pack of cereal, the Ravenoette’s Chain Gang of Love got lost in the shuffle. More shame everyone. We’re in a position where a band looking classically great is a genuine barrier to anyone taking time to listen to them. Essentially, apply all the hype garnered at the careerist hard-rockers mediochrists (Does that neologism work? Close but… no) Black Rebel Motorcycle Club to this (i.e. 21st Century Jesus and Mary Chain). Except that they’re feedback melee as fun-park, all candyfloss sixties girl-band, fifties leather toughness and rock and rollercoaster rides. It’s never stronger than the second track, which walked right up to me, then walked all over.

6. Hey Ya – Outkast

Hey Ya, great that it is, isn’t actually this highly favoured in my regard. The analogue stickiness sci-fi retroism is joyous, yes. Shake it like a Polaroid picture is just about as good as exhortations to get down get. And the section when Andre orders us to “Lend me a cup of sugar. I AHM! your NEIGHBOUR!” is certainly in the top ten pop moments of the year. However, overall, its tendency to drifting saccharine fumbles slightly in the chorus. It’s included in the upper echelons as the one-two of Speakerboxx/The Love Below from the Outkast boys would, if I hadn’t included a one-band one-entry rule, taken up at least five of the places in this top forty. By far, my favourite album of the year.

5. Holomovemement – Meanwhile Back in Communist Russia

The Commies – and if there were ever a band who really shouldn’t be referred to by a diminution of their name it’s these serious Oxford Ex-student types – dominated the spring, only to make a return as the seasons turned in winter. I ended up distributing it to Jim and Walker towards the close and had the following conversation about Holomovement…

Jim: very good
Kieron: I used to walk listening to that on the walk from my Oldfield Park flat and work.
Kieron: It turned the world into clockwork
Jim: no wonder you were spaceman in the mornings
Kieron: Yeah
Kieron: And on the way back from the pub it did similar tricks.
Kieron: The dark clouds run their fingers along the sky's thighs
Kieron: The amber streetlights stand guard on the roads frontiers.
Kieron: I cross their borders, feeling the car's wakes slide past me.
Jim: that means you are gay

Anatomies is probably a better track, but I haven’t been choreographing martial arts movies in my head to it, so it wins.

4. The Man That I am With My Man – The Hidden Cameras

Simply, the best explicitly - rather than implicitly - gay love song I’ve ever head. It also helps that it really is explicit. A holiday in someone else’s private debauchery.

3. British Racing Green - Black Box Recorder

From my Careless Talk review of mother-album Passionoia:
“Then there’s British Racing Green, a progression of venal comforts, sung as if there’s a sugared strawberry resting on her tongue and she’d rather die that even moisten its coating. Here Nixey looms the imagination like Britannia, drawn in the style of Perfidious Albion propaganda. As English as a Concentration Camp, September 1900 Boer-War original model. As English as discharging a Maxim Gun into a crowd of Indian protestors. As English as sipping tea and sniggering at Famine Reports and planes crashing into things.

I used to say that Black Box Recorder and Saint Etienne were the Janus-faces of England, the Sarah’s summing up everything there was to love or loathe about this sceptred, sceptic isle. Looking around England 2002, I know I was delusional. Cracknell’s voice is a dream, a propaganda reel of what we’d like to think about ourselves. As “No Hell Or Heaven inbetween” is promised in “British Racing Green”, I think of England’s purgatory and us all stuck like maggots in the amber nectar.

All is quiet in England, not dreaming but rotting. The CD repeats, forever. And Black Box Recorder laugh like the damned.”

Nine months on and I wouldn’t change a word. Except for that “2002” typo, clearly.

(And another, more major typo, which I will attempt to fix without any one noticing)

2. Crazy In Love - Beyonce

Apart from provoking public masturbation from an adoring, enamoured public, Beyonce has done precisely sod all of interest this year. Except this.

(And – well – her version of “In Da Club”, which – as Johnny Casino commented proved genuinely marvellous because “While 50 Cent is all “I could kill a man”, she’s all “I! LOVE! SHOES!”.)

Luckily for her it’s a “this” so good that it’s dominated the pop mind-set like nothing else, so everyone else has just shrugged their shoulders and made her woman of the year. But fugget it! This is an unrelenting pop classic, constructed around a repeated build to a climax before dropping back to a tinny-transistor beat. Like the best pop-songs, it lives virtually lyricless in the public mind. You don’t remember any of the words. You just remember the cut up body-blow horn-stabs, the section build climaxes rising and the wordless golossoria of the multitracked sexual Stalin of modern pop. It ends in a fade because there’s no way that something this big, this ecstatic, this holy, this physical can have any natural conclusion. Endless, boundless.

Also: Beyonce’s opening walk-as-opening-sex-war-salvo and closing thumb-lick in the video. Oh yes.

1. Bring me to life – Evanescence

Christ. I’m too tired to do this the justice it requires. Just trust me on this one: single of the year.

You’re not going to buy that are you? Okay. Try this:

Firstly, it’s a song I loathed at first. This is hugely important for a genuinely great single. Songs you loved from the first second are shallow, posturing loves. Mayfly stuff. A great single will annoy. I don’t think I’ve ever hated a single as much as I did “Groove Is In The Heart” upon its release. And now it’s the best single ever!

When Evanescence started to click, my response was to laugh. It’s an incredibly funny song. I turned to my ever-suffering girlfriend and exclaimed, breathlessly, “It’s A Total Eclipse Of The Heart for the nu-metal generation”. And it really fucking is, except even more ludicrous.

The laugh is telling. You laugh when something doesn’t fit into your expectations of the world. The idea of good taste is the most pervasive, invisible regimenter of thought, and this is a complete antithesis of that. At its best, Bring me to life sounds like that album from a few years back which Metallica recorded with a full orchestra, but with the added advantage of being constructed from the ground up to include the symphonic flourishes as an intrinsic part, thus having the ability to be even stupider.

Its simple existence turns the nu-metal schtick – the only popular youth movement for white kids actually worthy of the name, being a collection of cultural mores to buy into rather than a lifestyle addition – into a laughing stock. But it’s a genre dominated by careerist (oh, that word again. We really need another term for such people. And here’s one – Zinglebarbs. Man, I hate those fucking Zinglebarb bastards.) idiots, selling factory-processed one-size-fits psycho-buzzword drenched angst because it’s profitable. The average band has been as desperately uninteresting and totally compliant as S-Club Seven or the average fame-game TV-show winner, and worthless, just selling blank nihilism instead of blank positivism. Equally worthless. Increasingly commercialist leanings into Depeche Mode land and then… someone trumps it all.

They that the chugga-chugga-chugga and processed guitar sound of commercial rock and applies it to resurrect the Power Ballad. Then they throw in an orchestra. And then they have an ICKY GURL sing it. AND THEN THEY MAKE IT ABOUT WANTING GOD TO MAKE THE FUCK WITH YOU.

It’s a nadir, a noble folly, a final testament and by far the most subversive record made this year. And no-one will engage with it properly, as Power-ballads (even remastered, deconstructed 21st century ones) are critically out-of-touch for the ILM elite, too metal for the majority of the CTCL indie-heads and too guitar for the remaining minority and simply too genuinely-pop for the Popjustice crowd.

If you take the time to explore its terrain – and, in a true Steinmannian fashion, this is a record that possesses genuine topography – you’ll eventually find yourself in the final bridge which the song collapses, guitars sounding as if they are keyboard-triggered keeping pace with a string-section crammed in the back of an army surplus land-rover, and the choir-of voice slowing before the duet actually engages, with lines exchanged with all the furious, desperate passion of lovers in a mosh-pit. The end approaches, every voice is thrown through a different filter like the chatter of angels before the last chorus arrives with all the fervour of the Rapture.

And then, for a few beautiful seconds, you can literally hear her eyes dilate.

Listening to it, it plasters a smile over my face and makes me throw myself around the house in increasingly deformed shapes and laugh and laugh and laugh.

Honourable mentions:
Pity the singles that are released in December. They always miss the end of year polls. However, I have been strict, and anything that was released in December 2002 is cast from our presence, left to rub their noses against the window longingly. The frankly disturbing rants about Girls Aloud’s “Sound of the Underground” and – this is an embarrassing one – “Just a Day” by Feeder will keep for another time. Special mention must be made of the Capricorns, whose 2002-released “The New Sound” which, in a perfect example of micro-culture, which was greeted like a national anthem when it suddenly emerged from the playlist at Jim’s New Year party last night. Putting aside its urgency and clarity, it’s also notable for being one of those rare breed of songs that hail a musical form without actually being part of it. In the same way Abba’s “Dancing Queen” paid a eulogy to Disco without actually being disco, “The New Sound” pens poetry about Indie Rock (“Crowd ready to dance when you hit that chord”. No chords, or guitars, feature anywhere in the Capricorn’s sound).

Anyway: Happy New Year.




Kieron Gillen's Workblog, foo'.