B E STEOAFR THE Y
PETE DOHERTY “H
it i d k ”
A POSTCARD FROM THE EDGE...
BY SYLVIA PATTERSON
HIS LIFE IN 2 0 SONGS PL
US: THE C Q INTERVILASSIC EW
ALBUMS OF THE YEAR PLUS!
BOWIE HIS LAST FIVE YEARS
MY ALBUM OF THE YEAR
As selected by...
U2, MUSE THE 1975 AT OF F JOHN LEGEND 12 JAMES BAY S E E PA G E LAURA MVULA MICHAEL KIWANUKA & more!
Contents February 2017
This month’s highlight: venturing deep into the Sahara to sleep under the stars and share cups of incredibly sugary tea with desert rockers Tinariwen.
Leonard Cohen: Q salutes the genius of “Laughing Len” (p75).
26 AVENGED SEVENFOLD
Q surveys the scene atop a very tall building with the LA hard rock contenders.
32 PETE DOHERTY
COVER STORY: We spend two evenings in the company of rock’s most infamous pimpernel at The Bataclan in Paris.
45 ALBUMS OF THE YEAR
Join our round-up of the 50 best LPs of 2016, while listening along to our ace cover-mounted CD.
60 DAVID BOWIE
A six-page reminder why the world belonged to the Dame in 2016 plus a preview of the forthcoming David Bowie: The Last Five Years BBC doc.
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SEE PAGE 12
66 WHAT’S ON YOUR CD?
The lowdown on the 15 tracks cherrypicked for your delectation from our 50 Best Albums Of The Year list. Play loud!
68 MAVERICK: WAYNE COYNE
Turning on, tuning in and dropping out with The Flaming Lips’ wonderful wizard.
75 LEONARD COHEN
COVER: ALEX LAKE, GETTY PHOTOS THIS PAGE: ANDREW WHITTON
23-PAGE SPECIAL: Q’s tribute to rock’n’roll’s ultimate truth-seeker, as told through his 20 best songs and more.
The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne: he’s got some furry balls (p68).
Troubled times for Kanye West (p8).
INCOMING 8 KANYE WEST
Following the rapper’s recent public meltdown, we look at what’s next for him.
10 LAURA MVULA
The soul singer muses on her nan’s blanket, the joy of salsa and her hopes for 2017.
14 LAURA MARLING
We join the singer-songwriter in the studio to discuss her eagerly awaited sixth album.
13 OUT TO LUNCH: JON BON JOVI Over sushi, the big-haired rocker talks royal fans and wayward band members.
The joy of six: Laura Marling gets back to what she does best (p14).
20 CASH FOR QUESTIONS: COURTEENERS
The Northern rockers reflect on Sylvester Stallone’s hands and, er, Cortinas.
24 RECORD COLLECTION: SLAVES The Kent punk duo on their vital vinyl.
30 10 COMMANDMENTS: ANTON NEWCOMBE
The Brian Jonestown man’s rules for living.
128 Q MAIL
Kink-y Ray Davies has a dedicated follower.
130 LAST WORD: JOHN LEGEND
Courteeners take a pew to answer your probing questions (p20).
The smooth soulster brings it all to an end.
THE WORLD’S BIGGEST & BEST MUSIC GUIDE LIVE
The Tuareg rockers feel right at home as they perform a special gig amid the Saharan dunes out Morocco way.
Chris Martin’s men get back to basics in London (left). Primary colours: Coldplay (p106) light up the Palladium.
Welcome to the legend’s 38th, yes, 38th LP (right).
THE FLAMING LIPS
Oklahoma’s space cadets return to what they do best – writing top tunes.
The doyen of conscious hip-hop taps into the zeitgeist with an all too timely state-of-the-nation address.
THE ROLLING STONES
The World’s Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band™ go back to the source with a raw and revitalised album of blues covers.
118 NEW A TRIBE CALLED QUEST
It’s been 18 years coming but the New York rappers’ wansong was worth the wait.
ED MASON, ANDREW COTTERILL, TRACEY WELCH, GETTY
Slaves’ Laurie and Isaac reveal the platters that matter to them (p24).
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[...And their â€œchoice cutâ€? of 2016...]
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â€œGroup hug!â€?: Qâ€™s chief photographer Alex Lake snaps Pete Doherty and band for this monthâ€™s cover feature, The Bataclan, Paris, November 2016.
â€œAfter five hoursâ€™ weary wait in the Paris Bataclanâ€™s dressing room, Alex Lake sprang out of his seat â€“ as fast as Usain Bolt and possibly even taller â€“ the moment Pete Doherty finally appeared. Rockâ€™s infamous pimpernel, bewildered as ever, was then guided by the jovial and deceptively firm Q lensman through his close-ups, before stalking him down corridors to the backstage moment where the full band circled for a pre-show Group Hug. Lake didnâ€™t miss, naturally, Dohertyâ€™s romantic gaze into his girlfriend Katiaâ€™s eyes. After also shooting the storming show he celebrated with a whisky. Or nine.â€? Q Writer, Sylvia Patterson
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NEW ADVENTURES IN MUSIC...
In which we sneak a peek at Laura Marling’s new LP, talk politics with Jon Bon Jovi and catch up with Laura Mvula in Brixton.
WHAT NEXT FOR KANYE WEST?
LAST MONTH, THE RAPPER HAD A PUBLIC MELTDOWN THAT SENT TWITTER AND THE TABLOIDS INTO A SPIN. EVEN FOR THIS MOST TURBULENT OF STARS, SOMETHING IS CLEARLY WRONG. n 19 November, at the Golden Centre in Sacramento, Kanye West performed a show that was memorable for all the wrong reasons. He turned up 90 minutes late, performed just three songs, delivered a rambling tirade against targets including Jay Z, Beyoncé, Hillary Clinton, Mark Zuckerberg and Q-Tip, then dropped his microphone and walked offstage. Two days later the remaining 21 dates of the tour, scheduled to end in Brooklyn on New Year’s Eve, were cancelled. Shortly after that, the LAPD were called to a disturbance at the home of West’s personal trainer and the rapper was hospitalised, reportedly for “exhaustion” and “severe sleep deprivation”. It was the nadir of a chaotic year. West’s career has always been a high-wire act but he has never wobbled this badly before. The Life Of Pablo was his messiest album yet, from its long public gestation to its incoherent
Pulling the plug: Kanye axes an LA Forum gig just hours before showtime.
running order, which West was still tinkering with after its release on Tidal. His public dispute with Taylor Swift over the lyrics to Famous felt like an ugly and unnecessary reprise of his first, career-derailing clash with Swift back in 2009. He kept getting in his own way. At least the Saint Pablo Tour was going well until the early hours of 3 October, when thieves broke into the Paris hotel room of his wife Kim Kardashian. They tied her up and held her at gunpoint while stealing millions of dollars’ worth of jewellery, including her £3 million wedding ring. West received the news midway through a concert in New York and abruptly left the stage, postponing two shows in order to be with Kardashian. West soon resumed the tour but the wheels began to come off in Seattle on 19 October, when he railed against Jay Z, his old friend and mentor, for failing to support his family after the robbery and for tying his hands with Tidal exclusivity deals. Things got much worse in San Jose on 17 November, when he said he would have voted for Donald Trump and told black people to “stop talking about race so much”. Whether this was sincere admiration for another narcissist with poor impulse control and an insatiable thirst for attention or trolling on a grand scale, it was guaranteed to rile fans dismayed by the election result, many of whom booed him. Even for a figure as polarising as West, the social media backlash was unprecedented. After that kamikaze outburst, the hospitalisation and cancellations were not entirely surprising. When Q sat down with West last year, he seemed extraordinarily tense. His answers, most of which concerned
Storm warning : West faces th e media at LAX, 15 November.
WEST’S CAREER HAS ALWAYS BEEN A HIGH-WIRE ACT BUT HE HAS NEVER WOBBLED THIS BADLY.
GETTY, SPLASH, KEVIN WINTER/GETTY
Yeezy does it: West floats above the crowd at an earlier LA Forum show, October 2016.
changing the world or people who had wronged him, were meandering yet intense. It was hard to work out what he wanted or how he planned to achieve it. Robbie Williams, who also suffered from depression and anxiety at the height of his fame, has spoken recently about the stabilising effect of fatherhood, but getting married and having children does not seem to have made West any less manically driven. Certainly no Glastonbury headliner has ever appeared so
isolated and unhappy onstage. He vibrates at a different frequency to most people – one that isn’t sustainable forever. “Exhaustion” is a music industry euphemism for anything from extreme fatigue to a full-blown nervous breakdown. Having overextended himself with his simultaneous commitments to music and fashion projects, West has good reason to be tired. He is doubtless still upset by his wife’s traumatising ordeal. If the track FML is to be
believed, he uses the antidepressant Lexapro. Any or all of these factors could be relevant but speculation without further information is fruitless. One can only follow the example of friends such as Pusha T and Chance The Rapper and wish him a swift recovery. Just before dropping the mic in Sacramento, West said: “Get ready to have a field day, press. Get ready, get ready. Because the show’s over.” The question is: for how long? DORIAN LYNSKEY FEBRUARY 2017
Where Are You Right Now?
HAVING JUST RECEIVED A NEW BLANKET FROM HER NAN, THE SOUL SINGER IS OPTIMISTIC ABOUT 2017. JUST DON’T INTERRUPT HER WHEN SHE’S TALKING…
Cold com fort Brixton Ele : the ctric.
“I’m hoping for less drama in 2017”: Laura Mvula speaks for us all.
LAURA MVULA’S NEW SINGLE, READY OR NOT, AND A SPECIAL EDITION OF THE DREAMING ROOM ARE OUT NOW.
“I PISSED AWAY MY STUDENT LOAN IN SALSA BARS.”
Tonight. Tonight some of the greatest artists, performers and athletes in the world will be pouring their souls out at theatres, arenas and stadiums across this great city. Tonight thousands of fans will lose themselves in a sea of like-minded strangers. And we think you should be there.
JON BON JOVI
THE FORMER POODLE ROCKER, WHO COUNTS EX-PRESIDENTS AND ROYALTY AMONG HIS FANS, CHEWS THE FAT OVER SUSHI.
ILLUSTRATION: JOSHUA LEWIS:
o, this is breakfast,” ’80s megastar Jon Bon Jovi announces, smiling, and thus unleashing a first blitz of Persil-white from his dazzling gnashers. With his soft blue eyes, gentle tan and newly au naturel grey thatch, he instantly exudes irresistible charm. Yet, one can’t suppress the mischievous notion of ordering up some spinach, with which to besmirch that vision of dental brilliance. It’s 12.30pm, and here at the staunchly traditional Savoy hotel on London’s Strand, that means it’s actually lunchtime. We’re seated in a secluded area of its sumptuous Art Deco riverside eaterie Kaspar’s – separate, but still within earshot of the multi-millionaire riff-raff nearby. The Savoy, Bon Jovi explains, has been his preferred bolt-hole in London since its £220 million restoration in 2010. Having previously favoured the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, he finds the new locale not so great for his daily run – “jogging around people and crossing traffic is a bitch” – but it really came into its own for his band’s 12-night stand at O2 arena in 2010, when they’d “pick up a boat across the street every night, and cruise up the river to the gig.” Cue another beyond-Colgate smile. “It was very James Bond.” As the two-foot-high menus arrive, the
co-author of risk-taking anthem Livin’ On A Prayer instantly gravitates towards the menu’s raw fish section. “I haven’t eaten,” he says, anxiously feeling his tummy, “but on the other hand I won’t need all that much right now”. He explains how he’s on a nightmarish Transatlantic schedule, which saw him
played a similar gig at Kensington Palace, where, after dinner, he was joined onstage by Prince William and Taylor Swift. “I read that he’d sung Livin’ On A Prayer in karaoke,” he recalls, “so of course I was happy to oblige. I’ve been lucky enough to have met his dad, grandmother, grandfather, uncle, and former aunt, so I wasn’t uncomfortable. I mean, it’s not our monarchy. He was just a young kid to me.” With only humble Q for company, the intricately christened John Francis Bongiovi orders the spicy tuna and the Californian roll off the six-piece Uramaki sushi menu, and we agree to add some salmon and tuna sashimi, plus tuna and asparagus roll. The New Jersey rocker is in town to promote Bon Jovi’s 13th album, the defiantly titled This House Is Not For Sale. It’s their first without guitarist Richie Sambora, who departed, his old boss tetchily reveals, after “he didn’t show up for work.” Between sheepish mouthfuls, Bon Jovi details how they were to reconvene in Calgary after a mid-tour break, but Sambora “wasn’t able to get on the plane.” There’s a frosty pause. “Thank God the guy that came in last timee he was in rehab still knew the songs”. After they’d seen out their touring commitments, this chest-puffing anthemicist suffered no immediate worries about the guitarist’s absence. “It had always been about my vision,” he says. “It was never a matter of his having to be there for me to write songs.” This House…, then, is all about taking ownership of his brand, and taking it forwards. “I don’t wanna live on Livin’ On A Prayer,” he summarises. “I’m proud of the song, and I can’t believe I was the co-writer of a song that’s obviously in the patchwork of American pop culture, but that’s just one. There’s so much more.” He talks enthusiastically about his charitable Soul Foundation restaurants for
“I’m proud of Livin’ On A Prayer, but that’s just one. There’s so much more.” performing a solo acoustic spot in New York just 36 hours ago, for his pal Bill Clinton’s annual Global Initiative bash. “I caught the morning flight afterwards,” he says. “It was funny, because, as he does, Bill was like, ‘You’re leaving?’ Like, ‘You’re leaving the President?’ And I said, ‘Yu-uuh! Some of us have to go to work tomorrow!’” Last time he was in town in 2013, he CAN I YOUR TAKE R, MR ORDE o v i? Bon J
homeless and disadvantaged people back in Jersey, but, as his people arrive to whisk him off, our still-over-burdened table suggests that he himself has barely eaten – just one slab of tuna sashimi, and two uramaki rolls. Which leaves three sashimi, and 16 rolls. We say our farewells, and Q loosens his belt – on conscience grounds, naturally. ANDREW PERRY
Favourite restaurant? “Signor Sassi in Knightsbridge. They do a variety of fish and pastas, and good wine.” Culinary speciality? “Peanut butter and jelly.” j Brown sauce or ketch “Ketchup.”
Most hated foodstuff? “I don’t go out of my way for Indian food.” Dream dining companions? “ esus, George Washington, Tom “J Waits and, honest to God, my wife.” ath Row dinner? Pasta.” FEBRUARY 2017
In The Studio
LAURA MARLING TAKES THE LEAD ROLE
AFTER TRYING HER HAND AT PRODUCTION AND INTERVIEWING THE STARS, THE SINGERSONGWRITER STICKS TO WHAT SHE DOES BEST. or her last album, 2015’s electrified Short Movie, Laura Marling chose to produce herself for the first time. Now, for her sixth album Semper Femina, due in March, she has decided to stay on her side of the studio glass, bringing in producer Blake Mills (Alabama Shakes, Jim James). So what changed? Did she feel like a film actor who decides to direct themself, only to realise it’s tougher than they imagined? “Hmm, yeah,” Marling laughs. “I found it was a bit difficult to play both the vulnerable and the assertive roles. I didn’t quite realise how vital it is that you be vulnerable when you’re performing. I think that sort of vulnerable chemistry was missing from that last record.” Marling had first heard of Mills through her friends in her adopted home of LA, the singer currently dividing her time between there and Margate in Kent. Not least because of the jam sessions Mills sometimes hosts at the Mollusk Surf Shop in Venice Beach where the likes of Jackson Browne, Cass McCombs and Jenny Lewis have been known to join in. “He’s the best guitarist I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” Marling says of Mills, who also plays on the album as well as producing. “He’s obviously sat in his bedroom all of his teenage years and analysed everything about modern popular music and beyond. Which is definitely not what I’ve done. I maybe did the equivalent with books, but I wasn’t that much of a music obsessive as he is. He’s a deeply disciplined musician, which I’m not.” Mills’s influence can be heard on Semper Femina – recorded between August and October 2015 in various studios in Los Angeles – in the way that it’s sparser and
WHAT WE KNOW Due: March 2017 Title: Semper Femina Producer: Blake Mills Song Titles: Soothing, The Valley, Wild Fire, Don’t Pass Me By, Always This Way, Wild Once, Next Time, Nouel, Nothing Not Nearly Key Influences: Leonard Cohen’s Songs From A Room, Radiohead In Rainbows, turn-of-the century Russian psychoanalyst Lou AndreasSalomé.
more experimental. Spooked opening track Soothing, for instance, features a rolling drum groove, three basslines playing at the same time and a spectral string arrangement over which Marling sings a lyric in which she seems to be trying to repel some kind of supernatural intruder. “Yeah, it’s like an incantation,” she says. “I’d read Yeats’s book about his wife channelling an entity and I was feeling that vibe.” Elsewhere, The Valley sails along on trippy double-tracked guitar and swooning orchestra like a great lost Nick Drake track, while in Don’t Pass Me By, over a distorted
beatbox, Marling addresses an old lover or friend with the coolly dismissive words: “Take my old guitar/And sell it off for parts.” Even more revealingly, on Wild Fire, with its echoes of Paul Simon, she seems to hint at her feelings about being in the public eye: “Wouldn’t you die to know how you’re seen?/Are you getting away with who you’re trying to be?” “Well, I guess I’m in a particularly unique position for that,” she offers, coyly. “But yeah, I mean, that’s such a normal unconscious human desire, I think.” The title of Semper Femina (Latin for
“DOLLY PARTON HAS THE MOST CHARISMA OF ANY HUMAN BEING I’VE EVER ENCOUNTERED IN MY LIFE.”
“always woman”) ties into Marling’s main extracurricular interest at the moment. In her time away from the studio, she has launched a podcast, Reversal Of The Muse, which explores female creativity in her interviews with, among others, Haim, Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton. “Dolly has the most charisma of any human being I’ve ever encountered in my life,” she says. “Emmylou is much more earthly in a very beautiful, elegant way. But Dolly is, like, off the planet.” So how did Marling, as a regular interviewee, find the experience of suddenly
being the interviewer? “I felt quite under pressure,” she squirms, laughing. “I was introduced to Dolly and Emmylou as a professional interviewer… which was certainly the wrong way to be introduced.” In other words, the singer is way more
“It’s vital that you be vulnerable”: (above and top) Laura Marling, Urchin Studios, Hackney, 20 November, 2016.
comfortable and altogether happier making her increasingly brilliant records. Six albums in, whether she’s directing or starring, Laura Marling is on a creative roll. TOM DOYLE FEBRUARY 2O17
Stocking Filler Sunday Night Music Club host Danielle Perry looks forward to a bit of people-powered raging against the machine this Christmas and into the new year.
an you actually believe this is the Christmas issue? 2016 has flown by – a year of musical loss of such extremity that it’s hard to believe it’s all happened in the past 300-odd days. Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Sharon Jones, Leon Russell, John Berry, Merle Haggard, Phife Dawg, Maurice White, Glenn Frey and Paul Kantner, to name a few. What a shit storm. And every time we hear of more of our heroes leaving us, the resulting digital and social cry from my online bubble is: “Let this year be over.”
DAVID BOWIE – THE DAY THAT CHANGED THE WORLD Absolute Radio, Boxing Day, 6pm Lady Gaga, Noel Gallagher and Tony Visconti are among those talking about how they reacted to the news of David Bowie’s death. KINGS OF LEON LIVE AT THE 229 CLUB 7 December, 10pm 0 Absolute Radio, 27 Kings Of Leon are used to playing
curators and promoters, it’s all about the “mood” now. Gone are people’s attention spans for whole albums (for some ears, anyway), and in come specially curated playlists designed to reflect how the listener is feeling. So next month’s musical theme will be an, “I’m-skint-paying-offmy-credit-card-during-DryJanuary” moment. What a treat! But I look forward with relish to the new albums and new artists that will appear next year, and also the latest offerings from those more established acts who are currently working away on sold-out arena gigs, so this was a very special night for fans, with a “best of” set recorded in a London basement. I LOVE PRINCE – WITH NISH KUMAR Absolute Radio, 288 December, 10pm 0 Comedian Nish Kumar’s 2016 Edinburgh Fringe performance
Getting intimate: Kings Of Leon.
their second, third or fourth albums – who knows how many masterpieces we’ve missed along the way by being too busy looking for the Next Big Thing? If this year has shown us one thing, it’s the power of the people – we can make our own stars through supporting the releases and live shows. I can’t guarantee they will sparkle when left out in the sunlight, but they’ll definitely appreciate it. I Listen to The Sunday Night Music Club from 8pm every week on Absolute Radio. charted his love affair with Prince and he now visits Absolute Radio to pay his respects to the man whose death shocked the world in 2016. RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS LIVE AT THE O2 Absolute Radio, 2 January, 10pm DJ Pete Donaldson goes behind the scenes of the Chilis’ London gigs, before introducing live tracks recorded at their O2 concerts.
MAX MONTGOMERY, NPG RECORDS
COLDPLAY LIVE AT THE LONDON PALLADIUM 9 Absolute Radio, Christmas Day, 9pm An intimate gig recorded in front of an audience of prize-winners. Includes a cover of a Leonard Cohen song performed on the day he died.
Add to that a whirlwind of political and social shifts around the world, and I wonder what impact it will have on us all in 2017, once we’ve fully digested the implications. I wrote about protest songs back when we voted to leave the European Union, and I certainly think that punk and a bit of rage will seep into the mainstream once again. Can’t be a bad thing, right? It seems mainstream music’s got a bit saccharine of late. Thankfully, this more emotionally driven attitude to rock’n’roll appears to be spreading, too. Having talked to labels, managers, festival
Sign of the times: Prince’s death typified a turbulent year for rock and the world.
New to Q
NEO-GLAM FUN FROM TENNESSEANS COMMITTED TO “TOTAL FREEDOM”.
For Fans Of: Denim, T.Rex, Pulp Get This Track: Souvenir Rock Shop
“IT’S MUSIC TO GROOVE TO, DANCE TO, DO DRUGS TO AND HAVE SEX TO.” JEFFREY NOVAK
leading a groundbreaking campaign to find solutions to mental health issues in the music industry.
“We can’t ignore” depression among musicians, says Jack Garratt.
eard the one about the sad musician?? The pop star living their dreams, playing and creating music for fans, yet they’re not happyy? “There is a level of mockery that’ss assigned to a musician feeling sad,” agrees Jacck Garratt, considering the issue of depression and anxiety among his peers. “‘Oh poor you – you have all this opportunity and exposu ure, you must be really upset about it.’ There’’s a sarcasm underneath it, which we’re aware of – we don’t want to be perceived as unggrateful – but we can’t ignore it when we are no ot well.” On a surface level the negative im mpact of a career in music on mental health is possibly not a cause to inspire much empathyy; everyone struggles to make the best of their lives, so why should fans feel sorry for people supposedly living their dreams? However, while a cursory review of musical history should quickly dispel any cynicism, with countless talents lost to depression and suicide, new research is taking the issue out of the realms of folklore once and for all. The charity Help Musicians UK felt it was time to get some facts, so they spoke to over 2000 musicians, predominantly aged between 18 and 35, equally split between men and women and across a spectrum of genres, to get the first clear picture of music and mental health. “We’d seen a rise in the number of calls and applications from musicians with mental health problems and we were keen to understand and quantify their significance,” explains Chief Executive Richard Robinson, whose organisation has 95 years’ experience providing musicians with practical help and assistance. “We wanted to start conversations about depression and other conditions linked to mental and emotional well-being, so that the mental health of artists could be properly looked after by managers and labels.” The research, conducted by Westminster University, reveals that just over 70 per cent of musicians say they had experienced anxiety or panic attacks, while an alarming 68.5 per cent of respondents have suffered from depression. The Office For National Statistics’ Measuring National Well-Being research also suggests musicians could be up to three times more prone to depression than the rest of the population. Creating good music can be a struggle. Many of the of those taking part in Help Musicians UK’s research felt there was a lack of recognition of their problems and of the psychological effort involved in making music. There are many practical, prosaic and manageable factors that have a significant impact on a musician’s life. The long, anti-social hours required to record and tour, and the exhaustion they can entail, can affect mental health. Meanwhile, the musician’s lot can be precarious, often making it difficult to plan ahead or structure their lives. When someone like Blondie’s Debbie Harry tells Help Musicians at this year’s Q Awards that even she feels there’s no job
“Help Musicians UK got me back on my feet”: singer-songwriter, Matt Deighton.
seecurity, it’s clear that for younger, aspiring musicians there is a real cost to chasing your ambitions. Of course, there are massive rewards to a career in music too – personally, creatively and financially. The point of Help Musicians UK’s Music And Depression study is not to paint a picture of doom and gloom, and dissuade people from picking up instruments, but to foster a better understanding of the personal issues that accompany that journey, so that better help and support can be provided by managers and labels. Help Musicians UK wants to ensure mental health treatment is easily available when it’s needed because over half the musicians surveyed said they found it hard to get this help and many also reported gaps in the provision of services. “It’s a difficult conversation because the thing we want to do is make music and for a lot of us our therapy in a way is to be able to make the art that we’re proud of, but that doesn’t mean we can avoid feeling a particular way,” adds Jack Garratt of why musicians have struggled to get practical assistance and treatment. With the public’s support, Help Musicians UK will fill that gap and they also have plans to establish a taskforce to examine what’s needed to target this issue and the charity is encouraging the music industry to do the same. “Manic depression stopped me from playing to the point of getting rid of my guitar to pay for somewhere to live,” explains singer-songwriter Matt Deighton – who’s collaborated with Chris Difford and even stood in for Noel Gallagher in Oasis – of his personal battle. “Help Musicians UK got me back on my feet. I dread to think where I would be without them.” That work includes helping artists suffering from injury, accident and illness with specialist care and assistance, while also helping to solve practical issues facing musicians and supporting aspiring artists too. All of this will go a long way to help ensure Britain’s musicians can enjoy good mental health, allowing them and fans alike to enjoy positive things music brings. I For more about the survey and information about Help Musicians UK’s work and activities, and to support them – visit www.helpmusicians.org.uk.
“THERE IS A LEVEL OF MOCKERY THAT’S ASSIGNED TO A MUSICIAN FEELING SAD.”
THE STAR P R O B E D !! S ! BY YO U!!!
Courteeners WORDS NIALL DOHERTY PHOTOGRAPHS TRACEY WELCH
The Manchester indie-rock titans ﬁeld your enquiries about having a wee standing next to the rich and famous, their preferred choice of sausage and the North/South musical divide. hen the Courteeners are on the road, there are certain shows that need to be followed by a day devoted to being hungover. Coming to the end of their biggest UK tour yet, frontman Liam Fray is sitting in the band’s dressing room reflecting on a relatively well-behaved few weeks. “We ate some cake in Glasgow, let’s put it that way,” he says. Tellingly, there will be a clear diary after tonight’s gig at the First Direct Arena in Leeds. The band have played some big gigs over the past few years, including their own enormous event at Manchester’s Heaton Park last summer, but this is the first time that the indie trio have incorporated arenas into a wider tour. This evening is the last date of the UK leg and, accordingly, Fray says tonight is “party time”. Since first emerging in 2007, the Courteeners have become one of the UK’s biggest guitar bands almost by stealth, amassing a diehard fanbase who holler along to every word of every song at their concerts. Massive trucks at the back of the venue ferry in the giant production and Leeds city centre is abuzz with fans determined to make a night of it. Yet Fray still considers his band to be underdogs. “It is starting to turn,” he says, “but weirdly enough, I do, yeah. Yet here we are in Leeds Arena!” Before his attention turns to the show, though, there’s some rather more important matters for Fray, guitarist Daniel Conan Moores and drummer Mike Campbell to attend to… GLYN ROBERTS
What’s your favourite type of sausage? @TomBiddleBand, via Twitter Liam Fray: I fucking love sausages. 20
The best sausage is a honey and mustard chipolata from Tebay Services [in Cumbria]. Brilliant. We went there yesterday and they’ve got them wrapped in bacon. Pigs in blankets. Please. Come on! Mike Campbell: You’ve got your generic fry-up sausage, but the one sausage I look forward to the most would be a bratwurst from the Manchester Christmas market. Daniel Conan Moores: A Peperami Hot. I have one every time we stop at a service station. When I was a kid, I used to chew on the cellophane wrapper that goes round it, cos there’s more flavour in that. I had to stop doing it after I nearly choked. What’s the first thing you pack when you’re going on tour? Hannah McGeary, via Q Mail
Paint a blurry picture: Courteeners (original bassist Mark Cuppello, left) getting steamy with Morrissey, 2008; (below) a ’70s Ford Courteen... sorry, Cortina.
LF: Sunglasses. When you’re in the car and you’re hungover and the sun is coming through. Fuck right off. It’s not even a rock star moment. It’s just like, “I’m not ready for this.” It’s the hangover. MC: Flip-flops. Some of the showers you get in the venues are disgusting. I don’t want a verruca, no thank you. If you were a saint, what would you be the patron saint of? Mark Clements, Teignmouth LF: Well, our first album was called St Jude, patron saint of lost causes. You can’t say any more than that, looking out for the underdogs. Patron saint of underdogs. According to Exchange & Mart, how much is a 1979 four-door, venetian red Ford Cortina saloon with 83,000 miles on the clock and four previous owners worth? [The correct answer is £3,995]. Dave Akhurst, Kelvedon LF: See, I don’t drive, so I’ve got no idea… £5,000? MC: £12,000? DCM: £6,000? What was your favourite cartoon as a kid? @jpmango79, via Twitter LF: I was into Thomas The Tank Engine when I was little. And Ringo Starr did the voice. Top. MC: I loved SuperTed. Great cartoon. DCM: The Simpsons, without a doubt. Morrissey was an early champion of the band and invited you to support him in America. What does a night out with Moz entail? Kelly Cromwell, Newcastle LF: We didn’t hang out much. We did have one night scheduled where we were all
“Imagine Jamie T doing 50,000 tickets in London? The f**king world would explode. If we do it in Manchester, it’s like, ‘They’re only big up North.’ Do me a favour!” Liam Fray
Welcome to the cheap seats: Courteeners (from left, Daniel Conan Moores, Liam Fray, Mike Campbell), First Direct Arena, Leeds, 25 November, 2016.
supposed to go for dinner but he was properly ill and very nearly pulled the show. He’d booked this restaurant for us all and it was like an hour before, he was on his arse and said, “I’m really sorry.” We went to America for five weeks, played half an hour every night, the fridge was always full and we’d get tanked up and go and watch Morrissey every night singing Ask and Panic. It was like, “Fuck, this is amazing.” Who knows, he might support us next time? A lot has been made of the fact that you’re massive up North, but less so down South. What London bands do Mancunians not give a toss about? Steve Henson, Bristol LF: All of ’em! Can you imagine, say, The Maccabees or Jamie T doingg 50,000 tickets in London? The fucking world would explode. Whereas if we do it in Manchester, it’s like, “They’re only big up North.” Do me a favour! What’s the most embarrassing thing that happened to you as a teenager? Gordon Smith, Dundee LF: Me coming home one day to my mum telling me that she was gonna be a teacher at my school. I said, “Are you fucking joking?!” I was pissed off that she wasn’t apologetic, she was like, “This is happening.” Not when you’re 14! These are crunch years, Eileen! But it was cool. In the end, all the hard lads were like, “Yeah, she’s fucking sound your mum,” so I ended up getting looked after. It was fine. DCM: I got wedgied so hard
on the school bus that it made me cry. I ended up ripping my boxer shorts ff, swinging them round my head and chucking them out the bus window. I actually saved myself from the embarrassment of coming out looking cool. Who’s the most famous person you’ve stood next to at a urinal? James Nurse, via Q Mail LF: Sylvester Stallone. It was in LA. He was sat opposite me in a restaurant. He’s got the biggest hands in the world. He shook my hand and I was like, “Fucking hell.” He didn’t shake my hand at the urinal, he shook it at the restaurant. It was really strong. He told me about six times how he beat up his manager. I said, “Mate, I believe ya. I totally believe ya.” MC: [Ex-Manchester Utd footballer] Gary Neville. There was a code of silence, I recognised who he was and thought, ‘Oh my god, that’s Gary Neville’. I hurried up as quickly as I could and got out of there.
What’s been your most lavish purchase? Claire Barry, Bolton LF: I’ve got about 30 pairs of sunglasses. I’ve heard that Elton John has got this cabinet specially made for his. I fuckin’ love that. I’m gonna get that sorted. An Elton sunglasses drawer, with glass on the top so you can see them all. DCM: I bought a gold parka coat. When I walk around in it, I look like a gold statue. I saw Liam Gallagher wearing it at T In The Park and thought, “Now I look like I’m wearing his coat!” It annoyed me. I bought the coat first! What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? Keith Dawson, via Q Mail LF: Johnny Marr said to me, “Manchester will always be your home but you need to get out every now and again. Get out for six weeks, two months, cos it’ll fucking kill you otherwise. You can’t stay there. It’ll do your
What’s the best pie filling? Christina Hammond, Bedford
LF: Controversial this, but I like chicken and mushroom. MC: Steak and gravy. DCM: Apple pie.
Cash For Questions “‘Do you support City or United?’ Can’t answer that one, fella…” Courteeners get to grips with your delicate queries; (right) the band back in 2009; (below) Sylvester Stallone – became an acquaintance of the trio after meeting in the toilet.
he World when he announced y leadership bid in 2015]. artridge, Hendon weird one with politicians cos you ow who you can trust, until you everything off all of them and you’re ing to, are you? He’s on the right a start. It was weird. He seems like he few that have the right things at ut I don’t trust any of them.
“Sylvester Stallone has got the biggest hands in the world. He shook my hand and I was like, ‘F**king hell!’” Liam Fray head in.” So that’s what I do, I get out every now and again. MC: My dad always said, “Treat people how you’d like to be treated.” DCM: Never eat yellow snow. Everyone knows about all the great bands from Manchester – but who has been the worst? Josh Moore, via Q Mail LF: What you’ve got to remember, it doesn’t matter if they’re shit or not – they’re probably hard. I still live there, so I’m not gonna be drawn on that.
we were in a taxi back in rush hour at eight in the morning, not where you wanna be. I had a receipt in my pocket and I started rolling it up between my fingers. We were in traffic and the window was open and I went, “I bet I can flick this through our window into that bus”, so I did it and missed. About five minutes later, these sirens are going and a copper comes knocking on my door, going, “Can you get out, please sir?” He said, “You’ve just thrown a missile out of a moving vehicle.” A missile! It’s a fucking receipt, get a grip, you fucking knobhead. I got fined £60. I’m not a lunatic, I keep it safe.
What’s the most trouble you’ve been in? Rose Parker, Norwich LF: We’d been out at a party somewhere and
How did you feel about Andy Burnham tweeting your lyrics? [The Labour politician quoted two lines from Take
he best cook in the band? Fitch, via Q Mail without a doubt. I haven’t really got ity, I just do your staples quite well. t food. All of us quite like cooking. nitely need some kind of sideline. he Observer thing called? Food Monthly. I need to get into that. MC: It’s me. I’m like Ready Steady Cook – give us a bag of anything and I’ll whip you up something delicious. DCM: I reckon it’s me. Liam is always doing these roasted pork joints, like Cuban pork, and they’re nice, but when it comes to home cooking you can’t beat a good curry. What’s the worst job you’ve ever had? Stephan Parvitt, Cheltenham MC: Being a trolley attendant at Sainsbury’s. The only time it was good was in the month of December because people would be quite generous and leave the trolley and go, “Go on, you keep the quid, son.” DCM: Working for the Inland Revenue. It was really boring… data inputting, mindnumbing. I left when we got signed. Thank God for that. To take part in Cash For Questions, go to Qthemusic.com, follow @Qmagazine on Twitter or visit Facebook (facebook.com/ qmagazine). £25 for each question printed! If yours is printed, email Qmag@ Qthemusic.com to claim your money.
THE ALBUMS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE
THE KENT PUNK DUO REVEAL THE RECORDS THAT MADE THEM WHO THEY ARE. THE CLASH COMBAT ROCK (CBS, 1982)
DIZZEE RASCAL BOY IN DA CORNER (XL RECORDINGS, 2003)
Laurie Vincent: “I listened to London Calling loads growing up, but this in my opinion is the best Clash album because of the range of experimentation. To do a record like that late on in your career is really difficult and tracks like Straight To Hell are just incredible.” Isaac Holman: “I listened to it a lot when I was a kid too. I’d hear the bands my dad was listening to, then would just buy one CD by them. This one was the cheapest Clash album in the shop, so it became my favourite by accident.”
IH: “I was into hip-hop and rock when I first heard [single] Jus’ A Rascal and I loved the guitar on it so I knew I had to get the album. I cycled to HMV in Tunbridge Wells, bought it, then went straight back to my room, sat in front of the CD player and listened to it over and over. I’d never heard anything like it. There’s a real charisma to Dizzee’s voice and a lot of the beats are by Wiley. I don’t think anything has touched it in terms of grime. I had the instrumentals on my phone and me and my friends would rap along to it in the playground.”
THE WATERBOYS FISHERMAN’S BLUES (ENSIGN RECORDS, 1988)
JAMIE T PANIC PREVENTION (VIRGIN, 2007)
LV: “Isaac introduced me to their music a year ago so I downloaded this album and have listened to it twice a day ever since. It’s incredible! I love the fact they’ve got absolutely massive songs like U2 or Oasis but aren’t as widely known. The tune Fisherman’s Blues is really uplifting and I love the Celtic influence; the mandolin and the fiddle. It’s a joyous sound. Have The Waterboys left a mark on Slaves? Maybe in our lyrics. They paint a very visual picture and that’s something Isaac does for us. Plus you have to admit you need a bit of a chorus sometimes.”
LV: “This was for me what Boy In Da Corner was for Isaac: it made me realise you could cross genres. I remember seeing the video for If You Got The Money on MTV2 and just going: ‘Woah! He sounds a bit like me, he doesn’t sing that good but he’s rapping and it’s catchy.’ That was it, I got the album and put it on repeat. When we toured together recently I asked him so many questions: ‘What’s this skit about? What does that mean?’ This is the album that has come out in my lifetime and blown rock music away. If you don’t know it, you need to listen to it.”
BAXTER DURY HAPPY SOUP (REGAL RECORDINGS, 2011)
THE STROKES IS THIS IT (R OUGH TRADE, 2001)
IH: “It was actually my mum who introduced me to this. She’s on the pulse with new music. It’s the perfect happy-sad record. It’s great for looking out of a train window on a rainy day and having a think. It’s relatable to what we do, but it’s softer and more melodic. Laurie and I are obsessed with it.” LV: “It’s one of those albums that everyone I play it to loves.” IH: “He’s a wicked guy as well. He features on our track Steer Clear. Such a lovely bloke: down-to-earth and funny.”
IH: “I first heard The Modern Age on a skate video. I thought the cover was so naughty when I was a kid so I had to cycle over to Tonbridge, the other town near me, so I wouldn’t get spotted getting it. I felt naughty buying it. From start to finish I know every track, word for word. It was funny because within a year of this coming out, everyone I knew was dressing like them. I love the vocal sound on it – that distorted, nasty vocal. I’ve always tried to get it for myself. I reference this album a lot when I’m trying to find a sound I want.”
THE STREETS ORIGINAL PIRATE MATERIAL (679 RECORDINGS/S LOCKED ON, 2002)
EMINEM THE EMINEM SHOW
IH: “It’s a cliché to say it, but this album changed my life. My dad was obsessed with it too so we listened to it on every car journey. It’s a very important album to me. It gave me a realisation of how great imperfections can be. It’s perfect as it is.” LV: “Mike [Skinner’s] a complete one-off. I didn’t realise he was from Birmingham originally because he’s got this mock cockney accent. He’s a brilliant export from England. People would ask him how he got a vocal sound and he’d just go: ‘I had a cold.’”
LV: “I was eight when his first few records came out so this is the first album of his that I got. It was on my Christmas list and my parents bought me the clean version – he censors all the swearing with cat and dog noises. Its humour has inspired Slaves. We’ve had reviews saying: ‘They don’t know if they’re a punk band, a political band, a comedy act, blah, blah,” That’s perfect, it means we’re annoying you! That’s exactly what Eminem does. He’s a horrible little brat doing what he wants.”
WORDS: PAUL STOKES PHOTO: TRACEY WELCH
(AFTERMATH ENTERTAINMENT/ T INTERSCOPE RECORDS, 2002)
“I thought the cover for Is This It was so naughty that I had to cycle to another town so I didn’t get spotted buying it.” Isaac Holman
Avenged Sevenfold Paul Brannigan
esembling a stack of vinyl discs, the Capitol Records Tower is one of Los Angeles’ most iconic buildings. Home to some of America’s most influential record labels – Motown, Blue Note, Priority and, since its opening in April 1956, Capitol Records itself – the 13-storey edifice has Hollywood Walk Of Fame stars for each of the four Beatles at its entrance and, in its basement, a recording facility which has birthed albums by Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys, Bob Dylan and, more recently, Muse and Sam Smith. Steeped in musical history as it is, however, the building has not, until tonight, hosted a 3D, 360-degree, live-streamed virtual reality rock show on its rooftop. Presumably Ol’ Blue Eyes never thought to ask. Although the five musicians performing beneath the tower’s 90ft spire this evening are not visible from the sidewalks below, the projection of a macabre winged skull emblem onto the side of an office block just north of Hollywood And Vine telegraphs their identity to those in the know. The “Deathbat” has been the logo of Avenged Sevenfold, America’s biggest heavy metal band not called Metallica, since the band formed in Huntington Beach, California in 1999, and its appearance in West Hollywood foreshadows the quintet’s first LA performance since an intimate homecoming show at the Hollywood Palladium in the summer of 2013. Tonight’s free show is even more select – with just 500 fans in attendance – and a very different set-up from the Orange County punk clubs in which Avenged Sevenfold cut their teeth. With only camera operators and the band’s crew permitted on the rooftop, 50 audience members corralled into the Tower’s parking lot, some 150ft beneath the stage, have been furnished with Samsung Gear VR headsets, affording a graphically-enhanced, augmented reality “front row” view of proceedings, while the remaining number must content themselves with observing the band’s highly technical, tempestuous meld of punk, prog and stadium rock on a giant LCD screen. The VR technology is not without teething problems. When Q first dons a headset, a disconcertingly attractive brunette female avatar unexpectedly sashays into frame from a virtual nightclub, offering an invitation to “make out”. Mercifully, this software glitch is swiftly resolved, and Q is soon elevated to centre-stage, seemingly inches from frontman M. Shadows’s face. In truth, the technology feels a little creepy, emotionally detached and almost voyeuristic. Perhaps that’s partly the intention. The Stage, Avenged Sevenfold’s new album, is a concept piece about artificial intelligence, simulated reality, consciousness and what technological advancement means for our future. It’s a complex, challenging body of work, climaxing with a 15-minute, four “movement” sonic recreation of the Big Bang, featuring a spokenword cameo from US astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Officially, the album was listed on the Capitol Records release schedule for 9 December, so there is a collective gasp of disbelief in the label’s parking lot when an announcement at the end of the band’s compact 26-minute set reveals that the album will be on sale at their merchandise stall from midnight. Although “surprise-dropping” has become something of a recurring trope in 2016 – with David Bowie, Beyoncé, Drake, Rihanna and Radiohead among those releasing new “product” with little or no advance warning – the instantaneous release of The Stage in both physical and digital formats represents an industry first. Not everyone, it emerges, is impressed by the innovation. “Do you know how many magazines and radio stations and industry people are mad at us right now because we’re not doing the
None m o in 2003 re black: the , b Jimmy with drumme and r “The R e (far lef t), who v” Sullivan died in 2009.
“You can’t break the mould if you don’t break some rules and make some people upset. And that’s what this band is dead set on doing.” M. Shadows standard months of promo lead-up?” laughs M. Shadows, aka 35-year-old Matt Sanders, as he watches pandemonium break out in the Capitol Records car park. “Every single person I told about how we planned to do this record has said, ‘Wow. That takes big balls. What does this guy think, or that guy think?’ And I’m like, ‘Fuck what that guy thinks! Who cares? They’re not in our band!’ You can’t break the mould if you don’t break some rules and make some people upset. And that’s what this band is dead set on doing.” hirty-six hours earlier, in an upscale Huntington Beach restaurant a stone’s throw from the Pacific Ocean, Sanders – shaven-headed, handsome and Californian “jock” buff – is expanding upon the logic behind the unheralded release of The Stage, clearly delighted at the prospect of wrong-footing the industry. “Everyone I know knew when Kanye dropped his record, when Beyoncé dropped her record and when Radiohead dropped their record t he explains. “To be because it was an event,” honest, Capitol studied the analytics and said, ‘Look, this is why rock bands don’t do this’, pointing out that Beyoncé has 85 million Instagram followers and we have one million, and that 60 per cent of our audience buys physical copies of albums – so I know people are worried.” The industry, he explains, likes to have the padding of 50,000 pre-sales which sets bands up for a Number 1 record. But what does it all really mean, he asks? “It doesn’t mean shit. What really matters is carving out your own path as an artist.” If such talk sounds bold, it should be noted that Avenged Sevenfold have never been afraid of fouling their own doorstep. Take 2004, when the band joined the annual “punk rock summer camp” Warped tour, and proceeded to alienate the entire travelling party by dismissing tour headliner NOFX’s Rock Against Bush campaign – FEBRUARY 2017
an attempt to mobilise the “alternative” community in opposition to the re-election of President George W Bush – and producing a merchandise range emblazoned with the American flag and the slogan Love It Or Die. Or earlier in their career, when the quintet wilfully scorched friendships within the Californian hardcore punk community they grew up in by printing badges saying Fuck Hardcore, Love Avenged Sevenfold. “Fro rt we were pretty attuned to the idea that it was better t e loved or hated,” says guitarist Brian Haner Jr, with a l y their own admission, the members of Avenged Sevenfold were “obnoxious little pricks” from childhood. Friends since sixth grade, aged 11, Sanders and Haner bonded over a shared love of Guns N’ Roses and Metallica, and an attendant appetite for destruction. Sanders describes his younger self as “the worst kid you could have” and reels off a list of teenage misdemeanours – from running away from home to burning down a local school – which landed him “in and out of jail” for weeks at a time. Haner confesses to being expelled from high school for drug possession. Back then, the pair were in separate bands, Sanders fronting punk act Successful Failure, Haner making “weirdo” music inspired by Danny Elfman’s new wave oddballs Oingo Boingo as Pinkly Smooth. They joined forces when Sanders’s girlfriend Valary DiBenedetto suggested his new group, Avenged Sevenfold, needed a genuine guitar hero. Inspired by their childhood idols Axl Rose and Slash, Avenged Sevenfold’s band members had already adopted stage names – M. Shadows, Zacky Vengeance (guitarist Zachary Baker), Justin Sane (bassist Justin Meacham) and, most flamboyantly, The Reverend Tholomew Plague (drummer Jimmy Sullivan) – and so Brian Haner Jr became Synyster Gates: “And now we’re 35 and stuck with these names,” Sanders laughs. “We didn’t necessarily think we’d be the biggest band in the world,” says Haner, “but equally, we didn’t think that was an impossible dream either.” It took five years for Avenged Sevenfold to become the rock stars The party would come to an end, however, in the most sobering they always were in their own heads, with their major-label debut of circumstances. City Of Evil selling one million copies worldwide. Well-schooled in On 27 December, 2009, the band celebrated their merch guy Matt rock pig etiquette, the quintet (with Berry’s wedding with a party in a park in school friend Jonathan Seward, aka their hometown. As the park curfew Johnny Christ, now installed on bass) neared, someone suggested wheeling a took full advantage of their new status: keg over to Sanders’s house to continue drug habits were acquired, and, after the party, but, mindful that he was due to years of surviving on a collective budget tee off on a Santa Barbara golf course at of a dollar a day, their new-found wealth dawn, the singer politely quashed the was extravagantly flaunted. idea. Haner, Baker and Seward took this A magazine tour diary column from as their cue to call it a night, but livewire 2006 saw Sanders write: “I had been drummer Sullivan elected to carry on kicked out of seven casinos in two hours, drinking. At 1pm the following day, started fights, cursed, drank, insulted Sanders received a phone call telling people, walked away from the police him that his best friend was dead. with my pants round my ankles and A coroner’s report concluded that ended up with a few less grand in my Sullivan had died from the combined pocket.” Ten years on, Sanders and effects of four prescription drugs – Haner, now brothers-in-law – Sanders Oxycodone, Oxymorphone, Diazepam, having married high school sweetheart Nordiazepam – and alcohol. Valary DiBenedetto and Haner wedded “When Jimmy passed I thought it was to her twin sister Michelle – remain game over,” admits Haner. “It was a dark utterly unrepentant about the trail of time. We were living at one another’s carnage they left in their wake. houses, crying, watching YouTube videos “Every kid in our position shouldd do all day. But when I finally came up from that,” says Sanders. “We had the world beneath the water, I thought, ‘These are by the balls, we were young, and I think my best friends.’ We realised that this was Master of puppets: M. Shadows, aka Matt Sanders, pulls the strings when it comes to his new LP’s release. I’d regret it if we hadn’tt done that stuff.” more than just a band, this is our family.” 28
(Clockwise from left) The band play on top of the Capitol Records Tower, LA; a fan’s eye view of the tower; M. Shadows has a surprise for the record label; the group’s trademark “Deathbat” logo.
“I see what Beyoncé and Kanye and Radiohead are doing, defining their genres and owning their world, and that’s what I want.” M. Shadows Sanders) one week ahead of the proposed release date of The Stage, he group rallied, and prospered. Their 2010 album, Nightmare, gave the quintet their first Billboard chart-topping album, a feat repeated by 2013’s Hail To The King, which paid such respect to the group’s formative influences (Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Iron Maiden, Pantera) that critics snarkily dismissed it as a covers album. As cocksure as the band have always been, the criticism stung – “we wanted to make a blockbuster,” admits Haner, “but I think we filtered out our natural instincts more than we should have” – and ensured that, with The Stage, artistic caution was thrown to the wind. “Anything that was funny to us or out there or crazy, we kept on this record,” says Sanders. “Everything that was traditional we threw out.” With this newly liberated mindset, ahead of the album’s studio sessions, the band walked out of their record contract with Warners, citing California’s “seven-year rule,” a statute that allows artists to exit a personal services contract after seven years. So aggrieved were their former paymasters that they announced the release of an Avenged Sevenfold Greatest Hits collection (“a total cash-grab,” spits
and a lawsuit is still pending. Sitting in a boardroom on Capitol Records’ executive floor, facing photos of Sinatra and Miles Davis, Haner describes the move to the new label as a “shot in the arm” for Avenged Sevenfold, and states that he hopes the “controlled chaos” of his band’s audacious new release encourages more rock acts to take risks. “As an artist, you have to stick your head up your own ass, and enjoy your own smell,” he suggests, somewhat graphically. “We havee to take this to the next level,” says Matt Sanders. His dad, he says, told him that he never in his wildest dreams imagined that his son would get the chance to play stadiums with Metallica. “But I want us to be playing stadiums on our own. Metallica won’t be doing this forever, and there better be someone coming up to take their place. I see what Beyoncé and Kanye and Radiohead are doing, defining their genres and owning their world, and that’s what I want. If you’re not making an impact on society, why bother?”
Outside the Capitol building, Avenged Sevenfold re-group with their wives and families, planning for the night and journey ahead. Fans stream away into the evening, their signed copies of The Stage still damp under their arms. Above them the promotional Deathbat illumination is switched off, but it’ll be turned on again soon enough. FEBRUARY 2017
“Whether it’s a handful of Es or buying property, it’s clever to approach everything in increments.”
“I had to develop positive mental devices to carry myself through.” TBJM’s Anton Newcombe, 2016.
10 Commandments School’s out: (left) Mark Twain’s quote about education is an inspiration to Anton.
The Brian Jonestown Massacre leader gives you his golden rules for living.
IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW HARD YOU ROW YOUR BOAT…
…If you can’t bail water! Sometimes you need to think about what’s going on rather than what you want to happen if you’re going to achieve your goals. You can row all you want, but if there’s a hole in your boat you ain’t going nowhere.
BE YOUR OWN VALIDATION
We live in a weird world where people crave validations with selfies and all that stuff, but I want to encourage people to validate themselves. I honestly believe a lot of people will get what they want by just going about their own business rather than following the sea of people all craving the same thing. It’s especially important in music. Don’t sell out and do what other people expect of you because you’ll be more successful doing what you believe in.
WORDS: PAUL STOKES. PHOTO: HARCOURT STUDIOS PARIS
ALWAYS READ IT BEFORE YOU SIGN IT
This is a science that applies to everything. Firstly, anything can wait 24 hours, it doesn’t matter what pressure they’re putting on you. And secondly, there’s nothing stopping you from handing them a contract right back and saying, “This is what I want.” Every clause in every contract can be found on Google these days so it’s down to you if you get a bad deal or sign away your rights. There are no excuses. In your hand you’ve got a smart phone with a computer that’s more powerful than the one they used to send a man to the moon. Use it!
That’s one of Mark Twain’s, but it’s a good one! In my life I’ve had confidence problems because of my upbringing so I’ve become self-sufficient. I created my own musical environment and now it’s happening globally. I had to develop positive mental devices to carry myself through. I’ve seen great artists thrown out of art school because the teachers didn’t get it. Don’t let them stop you.
THOU SHALT COVET THESE FIVE ALBUMS
YOU CAN ALWAYS DO MORE, BUT YOU CAN’T DO LESS
Firstly, this applies to drugs: you can always take more but you can’t go backwards when you’ve taken too much, but it’s actually a lesson that applies to a lot of things in life, whether it’s a handful of Es or buying property. You don’t have to be overly cautious but if you’re playing with fire it’s clever to approach everything in increments.
Sounds Of Silence I especially love side two that starts with Richard Cory and all that dark stuff. PiL Metal Box It’s a wonderful car crash of things – vaguely disco, dub and industrial – and guitarist Keith Levene was a genius in tying all these elements together. The Beatles Rubber Soul/Revolver I can’t pick between these two, so I’d take the Revolver record and stick it in Rubber Soul’s sleeve! Nina Simone The Essential… I know it’s cheating but Nina has so many different recordings that I absolutely love so I’ll go for a comp. She is an artist who has eras and she’s beyond legendary. Derek And Clive Ad Nauseam It’s nuts and it’s the ultimate pick-me-up. It’s funny but it’s also uncomfortable. Peter Cook is really twisting the screws into Dudley Moore. It’s a painful listen, but I do love that.
ART IS MORE IMPORTANT NOW THAN EVER
1million a year into the arts because they want to focus on their future as a society. They’re creating a new history. I think it’s important for you as a person to approach life that way too. That’s why the arts are so important, it encourages you to look forward.
I always believed that, but now I know it’s true. Watch the documentary Dig!, there are people saying: “Look at him, he’s throwing away all these record deals!” Well those labels don’t exist any more and all my peers who signed the publishing deals make nothing from Spotify, whereas I can do whatever I want.
NEVER LET SCHOOLING INTERFERE WITH YOUR EDUCATION
YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE IN 15 MINUTES
If you want to do something, apply yourself for 15 minutes a day and at the end of the month you’ll see results. It works for gardening, playing the guitar, learning German… it doesn’t matter what. Because my ideas come from the ether I have to teach myself how to do every idea I have. It’s a constant process and is exponential with desire.
BE YOURSELF. UNLESS YOU’RE AN ASSHOLE…
…Then being someone else is cool. Seriously though, I think it’s important for people to be true to themselves because it’s not just where you’re standing right now, it’s because you’re holding the torch for the generations that follow. Our destinations are all different but how you travel the road is so important. It shows people following you there’s something up ahead on the road to look forward to.
ONLY GAMBLE WHAT YOU’RE PREPARED TO LOSE
I’m making a film in Paris and investing in that is a gamble, so I’m only putting in what I can afford to lose… and hopefully I’ll be pleasantly surprised. The film’s about one of our guitar techs, Christophe. I’ve known him for 26 years yet know so little about him. Outwardly he’s so flamboyant, but he’s also so secretive – evidently his dad was a spy! So I’m going to get him filmed for 24 hours on a show day. I The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s new album, Don’t Get Lost, is out on 24 February, 2017. FEBRUARY 2017
THE INTERVIEW: PETE DOHERTY
“I imagined Sting’d be motivated by thinking, ‘We can’t let some junkie bastard reopen the Bataclan, I’m gonna do it.’ And I thought, ‘No, I’m gonna be clean and do it.’ For them.”
Look out! Pete Doherty (centre, with his band Puta Madres, from left, Jack Jones, Drew McConnell, Rafa, Katia de Vidas) lets fly with a mic stand, Bataclan, Paris, 16 November, 2016.
THE INTERVIEW: PETE DOHERTY
xactly one year and three days after the Bataclan massacre in Paris and the Bataclan is mobbed with Parisians roaring along to a comedy song about the Bataclan massacre in Paris. Only rock’n’roll can do this. The song sounds comedy, at least, Pete Doherty’s best new rollicking caper, Hell To Pay At The Gates Of Heaven, though the sentiment is profoundly serious: how the youthful ideology which traditionally sparks musical intent can also spark, in a twisted psyche, intent on diabolical violence. “Come on, boys, choose your weapon!” sings a strikingly robust Doherty tonight, before name-checking John Lennon’s favourite guitar against the terrorist’s choice of fanatical munition, “J-45 or AK-47… it’s all aboard the Armageddon… and the whole show comes tumbling down…” Doherty’s new solo band, the Puta Madres (translation: Motherfuckers), featuring six nationalities, is playing the first show of its existence. It began with American violinist Miki Beavis playing a solo rendition of La Marseillaise, the defiant, emotional crowd roaring every word. Welsh guitar player Jack Jones’s naked chest bears the words “Nick Alexander”, the Eagles Of Death Metal’s murdered merchandise man. Doherty, meanwhile, even in a vest-and-braces ensemble conjuring a vision of Rab C Nesbitt, is a theatrical showman powerhouse, no trace here of the stumbling, burned-out hobo of many onstage years. Unannounced, Carl Barât appears to explosive cheers and the Libertines comrades holler as one through You’re My Waterloo, Time For Heroes and a euphoric Up The Bracket, the Bataclan now a choppy sea of upturned surfing legs. As Barât disappears, Doherty propels his guitar high over the heads of the first 10 rows, soon followed, as the songs unfurl, through a frenetic Killamangiro, by his hat, harmonica, tambourine and mic stand to a bellowing, laughing crowd. “It was here,” intones Doherty, finally addressing the Bataclan nightmare, “here in this room, zut alors…” before his lament to Amy Winehouse, Flags Of The Old Regime – “and you don’t feel them songs no more... and I don’t wanna die” – moves the front rows to open tears. “I’ve gotta finish this thing,” declares Doherty, “and we’re not gonna get shot like rabbits… merci boo!” The crowd won’t let him go, feet thundering for five whole minutes, cries of “Lee-ber-teens!”, the sort of spontaneous eruption of communal joy you only find at Glasgow’s Barrowlands. After a stadium-loud Fuck Forever, a French flag stretched across the full band’s bowing shoulders, the lights go up, the crowd disperses and three smiling Parisiennes linger on, handbags dangling, waltzing together across the wooden floor which saw so much all-too-imaginable horror. It’s taken Pete Doherty, of all people, to turn the Bataclan atmosphere from a funeral into a wedding.
mark, staggeringly, 20 years since the teenage Doherty and Barât formed the fledgling Libertines, 20 years’ pursuit of what Doherty always calls The Arcadian Dream, subverting reality through melody, debauchery and the romantic fevers of the literary giants. For his full adult lifetime Doherty’s lived FEBRUARY 2017
THE INTERVIEW: PETE DOHERTY
French connection: (clockwise from left) Doherty salutes the Bataclan crowd; the mannequin challenge has a winner; Carl Barât joins his old mucker onstage; guitarist Jack Jones and Doherty get personal.
“Music is extreme. Music chan es lives the same way a bullet chan es lives you know? It’s like that expression Lennon always used to say about bein turned on. It’s about turnin on. Or turnin somethin off .” a dream-state reality, of carousing anthems and chronic addiction, of fall-outs, prison and tabloid tyranny, of rehab, reunions and occasional redemption. His 2016, though, has been unusually productive, playing both solo and re-formed Libertines tours, releasing his joyous, folky and often funny second solo album Hamburg Demonstrations, while The Libertines are back “on ice” after their autumn 2016 South American tour. It was there, of all places, Doherty finally conquered his heroin habit, announced he was “clean”, even if his crack pipe is never far away. Q has waited five long hours for indie-rock’s infamous pimpernel inside a Bataclan dressing room when he finally turns up (he still owns no mobile phone), less than one hour before showtime, a smiling, shuffling, preoccupied presence in a dishevelled pin-striped suit, grey-speckled hair wisping outwards from his brown fedora. “Alright?” he announces in his barely-audible voice. “When did I last see you?” It’s been three years since Q spent time with an emotional Doherty, openly sobbing in a 2013 dominated by aborted Babyshambles interviews and solo tour no-shows, of panic attacks and a China White 36
heroin addiction, remorseful over dead friends, fractured family relationships and his ongoing “selfish lifestyle”. Tonight, after 45 seconds, he disappears again, “forgotten something”, returning 10 minutes later with a lengthy, ornate, copper crack pipe attached to a jumble of chains and metal skulls (trinkets from South America), evaporates into the bathroom and emerges with a limp. “I’ve stood on me toe!” He picks up a nearby book, Covenants With Death, about World War 1. “Funny word ‘ambulance’, innit?” he muses, having his photo taken, “perambulate, ambyooooo…” It’s the curious Doherty Way: foggy, meandering, oblique. We sit together on the sofa, Doherty announcing that it was Sting, partly, who inspired his heroin-free life; Doherty, a Parisian since 2009, was billed as the original re-opening act before Sting’s sudden, impudent usurping. “I imagined he’d be motivated by thinking, ‘We can’t let some junkie bastard reopen the Bataclan, I’m gonna do it’,” he begins. “And I thought, ‘No, I’m gonna be clean and do it.’ Because it changes how I sing, how I’m involved. [Massive sigh] I wanted to do it for this show. For them.” [The murdered 89]
Doherty has a Spinal Tap moment in the bowels of the Bataclan.
THE INTERVIEW: PETE DOHERTY Tell him last night’s show was ecstatically powerful and he’s instantly emotionally wobbly. t I’m struggling now cos last “Ah don’t, don’t, night was awesome, proper and now I’m in a head space where I don’t know what to do,” he cringes, unfathomably. “I don’t know what I mean. Because this is a new band, new songs and I performed how I want to. And it’s not that usual. Anyway… you got a tipple?” Music, he notes, is the only thing which could salve the Bataclan’s soul, the venue now bearing both a memorial plaque and glass front doors lip-sticked with the words FUCK ISIS. “Music is extreme,” he muses. “Music changes lives the same way a bullet changes lives, you know? It’s like that expression [John] Lennon always used to say about being turned on. It’s aboutt turning on. Or turning something off.” f
Libertines’ South American tour – Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Brazil – Doherty stayed on and finally confronted the heroin addiction he talks about today via romantic metaphor. “It’s like I finally saw the bad side of the girl that was never any good for me,” he explains, of his heroin detox process, now hastily tearing chunks from a just-delivered, small, pepperoni pizza. “You can’t get gear there, y’know?” he carries on. “They make it and send it to the US. So I just sat in the hotel room, clucked out, listened to The La’s constantly. Normally I do detox, go to rehab, it’s always on my mind, just a matter of time. And I wasn’t… craving. Just lost that feeling, that spark’s gone. I thought about exactly what I was doing it for. Basically it’s just a mammoth sedative. That just saves you bothering. Y’know?” What clicked? How did you do for yourself what the professionals couldn’t do for years? “Maybe God aided the postal service,” he decides. “Everything [the heroin] got stuck in Miami. And by the time it came it went down the toilet which is… not me at all. Before, it was always, ‘Doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter you’ve spent all your money, because we’ve always got each other.’ But she wasn’t there for me in Buenos Aries, y’know?” He explains how heroin for him, originally, “wasn’t for emotional reasons, it was a faux-intellectual thing, it was opium” and how he’s come to realise, “I don’t need her, she [only] helps me get to sleep.” He sighs again, contemplating this enormous, lifetime’s turning point. “It’s a fragile time, though,” he notes. “But then I think about other people reading that and thinking, [impersonates my Scottish accent] ‘Fer fuck’s sake, mon!’” I wonder if he’s now looking to a future free from crack, too? “I can’t carry on taking cocaine in Europe after visiting South America anyway,” he replies, oddly. “Cos I’ve realised all these years I’ve never really been taking it, whatever the fuck they cut it with.” When you say you’re “clean”, you’ve always just meant clean from heroin, haven’t you? “Yeah,” he replies and says no more about the crack. “But this… it’s a start.” And he’s turning up for shows… “Yeah,” he grins, with a vigorous handshake. Last night after the astounding show, a curious development erupted. Q has heard that Doherty, instead of celebrating, during a 10-minute backstage interview with a Sunday newspaper, inexplicably turned aggressive, arguing with both the interviewer and then Barât. What happened?
“Last ni ht was awesome I performed how I want to. And it’s not that usual.”
“Oh fuck!” he suddenly yelps, springing from the sofa, striding around the room. “Heavy drinks and Carl told me that she’d [the interviewer] accused him of pinching her bum years ago and I suddenly remembered ]. I thought, some articles [ ‘Actually, who the fuck are you? Get out!’ I thought, ‘Now they must be doing something good for the world [by covering this show]. Instead of being part of a great big machine that’s choking everybody culturally and destroying the planet.’” He looks aggrieved. “I think I just fancied an argument,” he winces, “provoking her, ‘Justify your political view’ and she was just like, ‘D’you miss Kate [Moss]?’ You can quote me on that.”
Then you apparently called Carl “a racist”… “Oh shit!” he baulks, head now in his hands. “OK, I was lairy, I was rude to that journalist and she didn’t deserve it and Carl didn’t deserve me bringing up… why did I get kicked out the band again? It never gets discussed, y’see? Aw, I shouldn’t have said it! I love him so much.” He paces some more, hands clutching his face. “It’s all coming back to me now. I offered him out as well!” he roars. “‘Toe to toe on the cobbles’ was my expression. I took my jacket off! Jesus Christ.” What’s worse is how gracious Barât was: “I’ve never seen him like that before, never; he was elegant and charming and didn’t get battered.” Barât bundled him into the toilet and announced some “massive” secret news. “He’s been nest-egging,” he whispers. “All our advances. Cos he knows I always just spunk mine. He’s got this gaff now, on the
seafront, I won’t say where, and we’re gonna open a Libertines Hotel. With a studio, nightclub, a bar. He’s dead set on it. Open to… anyone who’ll pay the bills!”
remains preoccupied with his own internal struggles, he still observes, like everyone, the struggles of the wider world. Trump’s presidential election victory he deems “disastrous, because I’m a free mover, more into getting borders down”. He bemoans the West’s “hyper belief in white liberal man… is he so fucking perfect?” Here in the Bataclan, target of a terrorist atrocity, he contemplates skewed humanity. “Humanity’s always been weird at heart,” he muses, back on the sofa. “Look at how societies form, rituals, practices, even rock’n’roll. FEBRUARY 2017
THE INTERVIEW: PETE DOHERTY
“When I was 14 I had no wish to take part in society. Because it was rottin me from the inside out. At that a e it was only the NME letters pa e keepin me sane. Because of a tape with The Smiths and The Stone Roses on and books I persevered. Music pulled me out of that hell.”
return to that place, that thing my parents believed in: knuckle down, work, save, get your hair cut. I’d probably have become a psychopath. But in a subtle way. Or, ended up going into a venue and spraying an audience with a machine gun out of fucking rage and jealousy that they were having a good time.” He veers away from his point, circling around the idea that all successful artists, ultimately, “become of value to the thing you’re against, labels, agencies, but you’ve taken the money, so you’re used.” He veers further away, onto his ongoing financial crises. “I have… eternity things that automatically take six grand a month off me,” he baulks. “And so many fines for parking tickets – you can’t park a camper van anywhere these days. It’s discrimination, man. What am I, black!?” I cheer him up by reminding him of a conversation we had 10 years
RACHAEL WRIGHT, LFI, REX, XPOSURE, WENN/DANNY CLIFFORD, GETTY
Humanity really is dark and twisted. But I have faith. Maybe we’re just repeating cycles of taking a breather and then going absolutely spasmo again. Letting out all this hatred and anger.” He contemplates how the great, culture-defining art he’s always believed in could re-emerge from all this madness. “Well, I always thought that,” he decides, a sudden coherence emerging. “When I was 14, 15, I had no wish to take part in society. Because it was rotting me from the inside out. At that age it was only the NME letters page keeping me sane. And then when Jai [his new manager, an old schoolfriend] gave me a tape with The Smiths and The Stone Roses on, and books and books and more books, I persevered. I was gonna die, I think. And music pulled me out of that hell, of reality. Until I was so hypnotised, by songs, by these idols, that thatt became my reality. And has been ever since. Because I can’t
A life less ordinary: (clockwise from top left) Doherty plays organ, Albion Rooms, Bethnal Green, 2002; being interviewed by MTV in 1997; arriving at Thames magistrates court, 2004; with close friend Amy Winehouse, 2008; with the reunited Libertines, 2015; at a charity football match, 2008; with ex, Kate Moss, 2005; enjoying a pint with Shane MacGowan, 2005; onstage with Carl Barât, 2003.
ago in his needle-bestrewn Hackney hovel, when Doherty was a mess, without a record deal, continuously smoking crack, about his cultural position as rock’n’roll’s most calamitous under-achiever, who’d never reached his potential, who described himself as “just a schmindie songwriter”. Watching him onstage last night, hearing the crowd holler those beloved songs, it didn’t seem fair any more: Pete Doherty has done plenty. Plenty, considering. Maybe, for a “schmindie songwriter”, he’s finally done enough. “Oh, fucking hell,” he now blinks, chin quivering. “Can we talk about this after [tonight’s] gig? I won’t get lairy and throw you out! I wonder about potential. I don’t know if I’m in the right job.” What else could you have done? “A clown?” he smiles. “Nah, I just wanted to play for QPR, always…”
onstage, Doherty’s new invigoration is waning, he’s more stumbly, less inclined to talk and Paris loves him anyway, bawling through the hits, without Barât.
He has enough energy, though, to launch a steel pedal guitar crowd-wards, including its screwed-on legs, which sails across heads like a bouncing, capsized yacht. The Bataclan’s spiritual restoration is complete. Backstage in the tiny dressing room, band and personnel jostle together, Doherty reclining on the sofa where Q joins him, his vest now off, braces still on, hat off, hair askew, chains around his neck which bears an “Astile” tattoo, the name of his now-13-year-old son. There’s nothing dad-esque about him, his left hand fondling the two-piece copper crack pipe he fashioned from Thailand and Hamburg versions, announcing, “I’ve got a collection, come round and see it some time.” Must I?! “They’re not all active!” he hoots. “I’ve got African chiefs’ double stone whammy pipes, Nick Cave’s old opium pipe… [shouts across room] careful with that typewriter, man, it’s an Olivetti!” It’s an environment as druggy as the fabled ’90s; jaws grind to and fro, Doherty dangles an acorn-sized bag of crack, someone approaches with a tablet, its black mirrored screen hosting a selection of ready-scored lines. “Want one?” Q declines, as he helps himself. FEBRUARY 2017
THE INTERVIEW: PETE DOHERTY Here, he manhandles Q’s E-cigarette. “Can you smoke crack through it?” It seems miraculous, now, he can play these triumphant shows with this ongoing lifestyle of chemical carnage; has he Keith Richards’s constitution, or what? “Alcohol is a lot more debilitating!” he assures, before the contradictory tale of being told off by Keith Richards at the Isle of Wight Festival in 2007 (while accompanying Amy Winehouse). “Keith said, ‘What you doin’? Going in the veins? We only skin-popped in the ’60s!’” before Doherty “passed out” in The Rolling Stones’ dressing room. “They had different coloured dressing rooms,” he marvels. “Uncle Ronnie Wood, his was called The Detox Room, all white and he dumped me in there, in the bins, with my legs in the air, on my back, like a dead cow. I heard Ronnie’s voice in the midst of my dementia going, [spot-on impersonation] ‘Have him removed! He’s a liability! And he doesn’t get the blues!’ Now I get the blues... Billy Hughes, Mississippi John Hurt and your man, the one who sings, awls] ‘the doctor says ah can’t live looooong! But when ah’m dead I be a long time gaaaaaawn!’” I point out he’s now 37. “What are you saying!?” he says, before he bawls a sing-along medley of Scottish classics for my benefit: Flower Of Scotland, I’ll Take The High Road, The Proclaimers’ (I’m Gonna Be) 500 Miles and, er, the Chas & Dave classic, “Snook-ah loop-ee,
“I’m alri ht. I think in mysel I’m alright. It’s funny how it chan es y’know?”
nuts are we!” How goes The Arcadian Dream at the end of 2016? “The Arcadian Dream is alive and well,” he beams. “Everyone’s just pursuing their melodies and dreams, getting their bargain frocks down the market. urns to keyboard-playing French girlfriend Katia de Vidas, sporting a tasselled flapper girl dress] Katia, make your frock shimmer! Thatt is the Arcadian Dream, man! Cheers, boo-boo, I luv ya!”
Are you happy? “Right at this moment I am, yeah!” he chirps, happily. Q leaves him to it, hoping to see him again in another three years, when he’s 40, at the mention of which, he screws up his face. It’s a privilege to grow old, Pete. Become old. Don’t do an Amy. “But what did she do, though?” he wonders, fairly. She didn’t eat enough, is all she did. “She was frail,” he agrees. “Well, I know I’m a bit messy. But I’m alright. I think, in myself,f I’m alright. It’s funny how it changes, y’know?” As long as he eats the pizzas, perhaps, he may even stay alright. In a world where the maverick rock’n’roll madman remains an endangered species, let’s hope Pete Doherty, at 40, exists: he didn’t make his lifelong QPR dream, but there are melodies yet to come. And The Libertines Hotel. Still everything to play for, after all.
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ALBUMS Of The YEAR
JOIN OUR COUNTDOWN IN THE ESTEEMED COMPANY OF THE 1975, BOBBY GILLESPIE, MICHAEL KIWANUKA, ANGEL OLSEN AND OTHER LEADING LIGHTS FROM THE CLASS OF 2016, ALL OF WHOM HAVE MADE Q’S MUCH-COVETED TOP HALF-CENTURY LPS OF THE YEAR. § As compiled by John Aizlewood, Laura Barton, Chris Catchpole, Niall Doherty, Tom Doyle, George Garner, Ian Harrison, Rupert Howe, Ted Kessler, Dorian Lynskey, Simon McEwen, James Oldham, Andrew Perry, Simon Price, David Quantick, Victoria Segal, Kate Solomon, Paul Stokes, Matt Yates, Steve Yates.
ON YOUR CD
The Backstory: The Primals were back to their inventive best on 2013’s More Light, but in recent years they’ve often followed one creative uplift with a muddled dead end. Could they break the habit? The Clincher: An LP of poppy optimism underpinned by some of Bobby Gillespie’s most frank lyrics yet. Touring Screamadelica in 2011 has sparked a creative bloom: they sound revitalised. What They Say: “I’m a 50-year-old guy. I’ve lived. I don’t write love songs. They’re all dislocated.” Bobby Gillespie Key Track: Where The Light Gets In. ND
HOW PRIMAL SCREAM FRONTMAN BOBBY GILLESPIE SAW THE LIGHT.
Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie: “Ecstatic depressive realism!”
It’s usually the case that each Primal Scream album sounds completely different to the one that’s gone before – was that something you aimed for this time? BG: The albums we’ve made tend to be a reaction to the one before. We’ve never wanted to repeat ourselves. Mix it up a bit, don’t stick with any given formula. We went in with the idea of writing shorter, more compact songs whereas [2013’s] More Light had these 13-minute sprawling psychedelic things on it. Although much of the LP is quite poppy, it sometimes takes a dark turn, lyrically and musically… If the music’s got a sense of dread then the lyrics tend to have a darkness. It also depends what wave we’re on. You want to be making work that represents how you feel at that point in time. You want to write about things
that bother you at this age rather than things that you were going through when you were 20. You described it to Q earlier this year as “depressive realism”… Yeah, “Ecstatic depressive realism”! I’m trying to take negative energy and transform it into something beautiful. It’s better than moping around or drinking yourself into oblivion. It’s like a martial art, when somebody’s coming at you you can use the force of your bad energy to turn it around. You borrowed the album title from a book by French political philosopher Félix Guattari. Does it feel fitting for 2016? Times are bad, man. We’ve got a fascist, racist President, our country is moving to the far right, there are deep divisions that are very apparent post-Brexit. But I’m just a guy in a fucking band, what do I know? CC
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49 RICHARD ASHCROFT
A bit A-ha, a bit Stone Roses: Blossoms took giant steps in 2016.
The Backstory: Since Urban Hymns’ 10-million-selling peak, the former Verve leader’s output had followed a law of diminishing returns, hitting its nadir with ill-advised collaboration, United Nations Of Sound in 2010. The Clincher: Inspired by the “big issues” of global conflict, the Arab Spring and the Snowden case, Ashcroft came back fighting, backed by an arsenal of massive, euphoric choruses and customary, cast-iron self-belief. They Say: “The opportunity is there to be the biggest solo artist in my country. I don’t give a shit!” Key Track: This Is How It Feels. CC
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48 DRAKE VIEWS
TOM SHEEHAN, ANDREW COTTERILL, ALEX LAKE
The Backstory: acclimatised to fame and fortune, the question loomed: did hip-hop’s most introspective soul still have anything left to say about himself? The Clincher: Rapper. Singer. Besieged multi-millionaire. Tormented Everyman. Street poet. Wounded lover. Indignant artiste. Meme-made-flesh. Views was Drake’s best attempt yet at becoming all things to all people. The outcome? The first album to hit 1 billion streams on Apple Music. What They Say: “I don’t want you to get it right away… Great music takes a little work.” Key Track: Hype. GG
47 BLOSSOMS BLOSSOMS The Backstory: While this was very much in the tradition of Northern post-Oasis guitar bands from The Cribs to the Courteeners, the Stockport quintet stood out because they went bigger and poppier. The Clincher: At one leap, they exited the indie ghetto with a hook-laden Number 1 album which owed as much, musically speaking, to A-ha as it did to their mentors The Stone Roses. What They Say: “We’re an all-out guitar/synth-pop band, we want to be around for a long time and we’ve made a timeless album.” Tom Ogden Key Track: At Most A Kiss. JA
EDGE, U2 “I really like Kaytranada’s 99.9%. He’s a hip-hop guy and there’s a track on there called Glowed Up with Anderson .Paak, that’s so out there! Kings Of Leon’s WALLS also seemed like a return to form – and I loved Paul Simon’s Stranger To Stranger and
“Out there!”: Edge keeps current.
PETER 46 DOHERTY
The Backstory: The eternal Libertine headed to Germany to record his second solo LP, a change of air that resulted in a record that was ramshackle in right ways. Clincher: Catching the ce between Bohemian style ongwriting substance, rty roved through his ntic, lace-shirted nation while keeping p with the harder es of his rock’n’roll world. t They Say: “At the ent, I’m really inside these ongs. I believe in them.” Track: Kolly Kibber. VS
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45 KANYE WEST THE LIFE OF PABLO
The Backstory: Unveiled via an elaborate album launch-comefashion show for 20,000 die-hards in Madison Square Garden, Kanye’s sprawling seventh emerged to a fanfare that only he could muster. The Clincher: Taking potshots at the police, his wife’s ex, Taylor Swift and himself (among others), it provided yet more glimpses into the world of this boundary-pushing hip-hop superstar. What They Say: “I die on the internet every day for y’all. I die for your dreams. I look stupid so y’all don’t have to be afraid.” Key Track: FML. MY
CORAL 43 THE DISTANCE
LAST 44 THE SHADOW PUPPETS
The Backstory: Back in 2008 Alex Turner enlisted new bezzie mate Miles Kane to make an LP of ’60s-inspired orchestral pop. The Clincher: After an eightyear gap the pair reunited, this time ditching the turtlenecks and Scott Walker records for a sleazy, ’70s disco-rock swagger. What They Say: “[After the first album] we exchanged sentiments from the ‘we have to do this again’ paradigm but we knew the promises we were making might be too juicy to keep.” Alex Turner Key Track: Miracle Aligner. CC
The Backstory: six years – or possibly forever – the herbally-enhanced Wirral five-piece surprise–returned sounding utterly revitalised. The Clincher: The tunes. Distance Inbetween was psychpop par excellence, which tipped its hat to early Pink Floyd and Echo & The Bunnymen – while never sounding like anyone other than The Coral – and offered up great song after great song. What They Say: “It took about four rehearsals and we had half a dozen new songs. Once there’s a spark there it’s hard to stop.” Nick Power Key Track: Miss Fortune. TD
EVERYTHING YOU’VE COME TO EXPECT
42 SOLANGE A SEAT AT THE TABLE The Backstory: Beyoncé’s formerly underachieving little sister made the album she always promised, with help from neosoul maestro Raphael Saadiq. The Clincher: Weaving together personal experience and trenchant politics, Solange channelled free-flowing R&B, and a touch of ’70s soul singer Minnie Riperton, into a candid, compelling reflection on the black female experience. What They Say: “I set out to make an album about selfdiscovery and empowerment. The idea of having to fully understand where you’re from.” Key Track: Cranes In The Sky. RH
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ON YOUR CD
41 KEVIN MORBY
40 BASTILLE WILD WORLD The Backstory: Bad Bloo had broken Bastille globall All they had to do now was make something bigger and better… The Clincher: …and that’s exactly what they did. A barnstorming follow-up w pushed guitars to the fore, maintaining their anthemi story-telling ways. What They Say: “We wan use spoken word sampled films, documentaries, and shows to help weave the a together: it’s meant to play like a mixtape. It jumps aro sonically, so it has this colla texture.” Dan Smith Key Track: Glory. JA
JOHN LEGEND “I love Frank Ocean’s Blonde album. It’s just beautiful – particularly the song Solo, which I’ve listened to a lot. I love Frank, he’s
Speaking Frank-ly: John Legend.
ON YOUR CD
THEE 39 OH SEES The Backstory: The San Francisco garage rockers’ 17th album was a fuzzed-up, synth-washed, Krautrockinspired delight – and the perfect entry point into their colossal body of work. The Clincher: With John Dwyer’s deranged howl and breakneck riffing tied to the gargantuan pummelling from two drummers, …Exits saw the year’s live-act-to-die-for become serious contenders. What They Say: “We had two drummers on a few of the older records… I love double drums. All encompassing.” John Dwyer Key Track: Gelatinous Cube. MY
The Backstory: On his third solo effort, the ex-Woods bassist and Babies co-founder honed his songwriting skills and indulged his obsession with The Band by recording it in Woodstock. The Clincher: Avoiding any lyrical clichés that being an itinerant Texan troubadour might suggest, Morby instead forged a beautiful yet foreboding folk-rock record. What They Say: “Dark subjects make a good story. There’s something beautiful about them… a sense of hopefulness while feeling doomed.” Key Track: I Have Been To The Mountain. SM
ON YOUR CD
SAUL ADAMCZEWSKI, FAT WHITE FAMILY’S GUITARIST, ON THEIR DARK SECOND ALBUM.
ON YOUR CD
WHITE 38 FAT FAMILY
SONGS FOR OUR MOTHERS
If people are shocked by it they really need to look within. It can be an intense listen at times. With certain songs there was no interest in making them necessarily enjoyable to listen to. I can’t listen to some of it myself now, but it was more important that the songs achieved what we envisioned for them as opposed to making them palatable. At the same time, Hits Hits Hits and Goodbye Goebbels, they’re quite sweet and easy on the ear. Was it intense for you as a band? Yeah. It was quite a turbulent period in terms of our relationships and our health. It perfectly reflects that period, which is probably why none of us want to listen to it! We were having fun but… I’ll say no more. Lady Gaga came to see you play in New York in May, what was she like? Lovely. People who are that famous end up having this weird atmosphere around them but I ended up doing a songwriting session with her and she is surprisingly normal. CC
JAMES BAY “Emotions And Math by the American singer Margaret Glaspy is brilliant. Great songwriting ih h
“You do the Math”: James Bay.
The Backstory: The squalid South London degenerates were the most talked-about new band in Britain back in 2014 – could they follow up on the infamy? The Clincher: Like a Victorian horror show, Songs For Our Mothers was even darker than their debut, with the apocalyptic churn of songs such as When Shipman Decides standing up for all that is unwholesome. What They Say: “I like to get at the shittiness lurking in the core of my own soul and in everybody else’s.” Lias Saoudi Key Track: Whitest Boy On The Beach. CC
Both musically and lyrically, Songs For Our Mothers is a lot darker than your debut. SA: Lias [Saoudi, vocalist] had been focusing a lot on fascistic movements, abusive relationships and addiction. Lias writes the words and I try to reflect what he’s come up with musically or vice versa. Lias had wanted to write a song about Mussolini – the track Duce – so I was trying to conjure up an atmosphere for that. It was more conceptual, but it’s not reallyy a concept album. That must have been an interesting conversation with the record company, “So what’s the vibe with the new record?” “It’s a Fascist concept album…” Yeah! “Nazi disco”! If you’re in film or the art world these things can be discussed, but for some reason people think that music should only touch upon light-hearted matters. Ultimately, we want to do things that are interesting to us. It annoys me that people think we have this childish desire to shock everyone.
MYALBUM Of The YEAR
“A turbulent period”: Fat White Family, with Saul Adamczewski (second left).
BRIAN ENO THE SHIP
The Backstory: The first Eno record to feature vocals in over a decade, The Ship sailed into the album charts at Number 28 (his highest since 1981’s My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts with David Byrne) and marked the ambient pioneer’s ongoing artistic rebirth. The Clincher: A concept LP inspired by “the vast deep ocean where the Titanic sank” and the battlefields of WWI could’ve been a dull and worthy affair, but Eno extracted warmth and intimacy from the sonic swell. What They Say: “I thought, ‘Oh, what about making a song that you could walk around inside?’” Key Track: Fickle Sun (III) I’m Set Free. SM
CLYRO 36 BIFFY ELLIPSIS
“We like direct ideas”: Savages, with Jehnny Beth (second left).
The Backstory: Frontman Simon Neil suffered a breakdown as he struggled to write songs for the Biff’s seventh album. Could he rally himself and his band back into action? The Clincher: They come out fighting. Neil crafts personal crisis into some of their most life-affirming songs yet, their jagged rock stomps injected with modern pop production. What They Say: “We’re a heavy rock band and I know there’s not a huge amount of big riffs on this. I knew that people’s initial impact would be, ‘Ooh, it’s different!’ but that’s what I wanted.” Simon Neil Key Track: Wolves Of Winter. ND
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.35 SAVAGES ADORE LIFE The Backstory: Second time around, the Anglo-French quartet embraced a militant kind of positivity without sacrificing any of their thrilling severity. The Clincher: Despite its none-more-black sonic palette, Adore Life is an urgently uplifting record with an agenda summed up by its hair-raising carpe diem torch song, Adore. A bracing collection of existentialist love songs, full of fire and blood, to make your heart beat faster. What They Say: “We like direct ideas – things that don’t take too many detours.” Jehnny Beth Key Track: Adore. DL
GAGA 34 LADY JOANNE The Backstory: A certain sameness had set into Gaga’s career: the hits didn’t dry up, but the art-pop image was getting a bit stale. It was time for a record that came from the heart as well as the head. The Clincher: Teaming up with Beck, Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker and Josh Homme, Gaga makes an album that not only draws on her own family and feelings, but also utilises to the full the musical and songwriting talents of the real Stefani Germanotta. What They Say: “Returning to your family and where you came from, and your history, this is what makes you strong.” Key Track: Perfect Illusion. DQ
33 KENDRICK LAMAR UNTITLED UNMASTERED
The Backstory: Surprise return from the most arresting voice in hip-hop saw the Compton-born maverick revisit outtakes from 2015’s landmark To Pimp A Butterfly. The Clincher: Lamar’s freeform, jazz-infused “demos” proved as musically dextrous and packed with meaning as anything he’s done, enhanced by extra input from West Coast bass virtuoso Thundercat. What They Say: “[The album] just reminded me of how great Kendrick really is. His ability to convey ideas is, like, unmatched.” Thundercat Key Track: Untitled 02. RH
DAN SMITH, BASTILLE “I read about Anderson .Paak’s involvement with Kendrick Lamar and Dr Dre’s music and then I heard his song, The Bird, from the album Malibu and thought it was amazing. It has a great melody plus a great call-and-response trumpet line
Dan Smith: .Paak-picker
FOR 32 BAT LASHES
.31 KATE TEMPEST
LET T THEM EAT A CHAOS A
The Backstory: Multi-tasking poet-turned-rapper showed 2014’s virtuoso Everybody Down was no fluke, establishing herself as the keenest-eyed observer of our national neuroses. The Clincher: A conceptual soap opera set on a London street, Tempest’s pitch-perfect character studies were brilliantly framed by urgent electronica. What They Say: “I hope it doesn’t feel like there’s any blame in [Let Them Eat Chaos]. It’s just a description of what’s happening… We are living in this absolute madness.” Key Track: Ketamine For Breakfast. RH
One in a million: Matt Healy.
T 30 JAMIE TRICK 2014 4 album The Backstory: Carry On The Grudge put South London indie rapscallion Jamie Treays back on the map after five years in the wilderness. Two years later, he continues that artistic resurgence. The Clincher: Treays rediscovers the antagonistic bite of his earlier albums while also sanding down the edges of his indie-rock anthems. He’s at a creative peak. What They Say: “I wouldn’t advise people taking five years off. A lot of people go, ‘Do it in your own time.’ No! Do it now!” Key Track: Drone Strike. ND
The Backstory: After three albums which dabbled in character-driven songs, Natasha Khan upped the ante with a cinematic concept album written from a bereaved bride’s perspective. The Clincher: With music every bit as nuanced as The Bride’s character, Khan’s grand artistic statement was superbly realised. Bat For Lashes’ dream pop has never sounded more haunting. What They Say: “Even if they’re dressed up in a story, it’s my own experience of love, loss and grief.” Key Track: Close Encounters. GG
MATT HEALY, THE 1975 “I loved Bon Iver’s 22, A Million. It’s very short but it’s very good. I was annoyed as to how short it was when I first heard it, but then I went back and realised it’s really quite
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LET’S EAT 29 GRANDMA
28 ANNA MEREDITH
ALEX LAKE, ANDREW COTTERILL, SIMON SARIN
The Backstory: Scary as Ringu, cute as Pingu, Norfolk’s teenage twin-things Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth created a wildly inventive debut of all-devouring art-pop. The Clincher: Wreathed in hair and in-jokes, I, Gemini wove an enchanting experimental spell. Eye of Newsom, toe of prog, songs about chocolate cake and shiitake mushrooms: if ever there was a taste worth acquiring, then this was it. What They Say: “We’ve never listened to Björk or Kate Bush or Cocteau Twins.” Rosa Walton. Key Track: Deep Six Textbook. VS
The Backstory: With a CV that included a Last Night Of The Proms “body percussion” performance, the Scottish composer turned her talents to her “proper” debut album. The Clincher: Pitched between steam-punk and the space-age, Meredith launched the idea of the pop song into experimental orbit, blurring the boundaries between club and concert hall. What They Say: “I’d rather write about paperclips than love. I’d rather take something small and write out from it than take something massive and try to contain it.” Key Track: Nautilus. VS
“Absolute madness”: Kate Tempest diagnoses 2016.
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27 UNDERWORLD BARBARA, BARBARA,
MYALBUM Of The YEAR
LEMON 26 THE TWIGS
The Backstory: Teenage brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario are former child actors from Long Island with a fondness for flares, onstage make-up and unashamedly theatrical glam pop. The Clincher: Suitably for a pair with a background in musicals, Do Hollywood is both joyfully OTT and soaked through with lush melodies reminiscent of Paul McCartney, Harry Nilsson and Broadway. What They Say: “We’re just a couple of bozos from Long Island.” Brian D’Addario. Key Track: I Wanna Prove To You. CC
He’d rather Jack: Matt Bellamy.
25 WILD BEASTS BOY KING
The Backstory: The bawdy Kendal four-piece honed their jangle over four albums. Here they make a fresh start, introducing a sinister synth-heavy swagger to their sound. The Clincher: Their new approach is sleazy on the ear, retooling the quartet as industrial electro-rockers, like Morrissey fronting Nine Inch Nails. What They Say: “The whole thing was to bypass the head and go straight to the heart and gut. Maxing out on those physical reverberations.” Hayden Thorpe Key Track: Get My Bang. ND
WE FACE A SHINING FUTURE
The Backstory: and rejuvenated after six years spent working on the 2012 London Olympics, solo projects, film soundtracks and Eno collaborations, the grand old men of electronica came back bursting with fresh ideas for their ninth LP. The Clincher: By turns mesmeric and uplifting, the confluence of Karl Hyde’s cryptic, melancholic stream-of-consciousness and Rick Smith’s precision-tooled electro sounded as vital as ever. A late-period bloom in full effect. What They Say: “I think it’s the most honest piece of work we’ve ever done.” Karl Hyde Key Track: I Exhale. SM
MATT BELLAMY, MUSE “That Flume album Skin was quite unusual but I really like it. You can’t really predict where the songs are going to go, which is inspiring. I like Jack Garratt’s LP Phase a
ON YOUR CD
JULIA 24 JACKLIN
SHOP 23 PET BOYS
DON’T LET THE KIDS WIN
The Backstory: Twenty-fiveyear-old Aussie factory worker from the Blue Mountains of Australia recalls the country vulnerability of Patsy Cline on a magnificent debut. The Clincher: Marrying observational sharpness to a chiming sense of melancholy, Jacklin succeeds by maintaining a lean and intense power throughout. What They Say: “I had this album, no money and was back at the factory thinking, ‘Crap. What do I do now? What if nobody wants to hear it and I don’t get any help?’” Key Track: Pool Party. JO
The Backstory: Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe reunited with Electric producer Stuart Price for another album of strictly electronic laser-bright bangers. The Clincher: Thirty years after the duo’s debut, Price turbo-charges insightful songs about the changing face of London (Twenty-something), the claustrophobia of power (The Dictator Decides) and the life-changing wonder of going out (The Pop Kids). What They Say: “We’ve returned to what we thought we were going to be at the beginning.” Neil Tennant Key Track: The Pop Kids. DL
“Unashamedly theatrical glam pop”: The Lemon Twigs.
ON YOUR CD
§ STEVE MASON
MEET THE HUMANS
“Jubilant grooves and melancholic reflection.”: Steve Mason beat his demons on his third LP.
The Backstory: After two captivating solo albums, Mason enlists Elbow’s Craig Potter for a sumptuous and euphoric third, music to mirror a man who has overcome his demons. The Clincher: His best solo record, Mason’s mix of jubilant grooves and melancholic reflection hasn’t been so perfectly balanced since his Beta Band days. What They Say: “I have the emotional intelligence of an 80-year-old man on his death bed, but the everything else of a 25-year-old.” Key Track: Words In My Head. ND
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POP 21 IGGY POST POP
The Backstory: His Stooges reunions at an end, Pop headhunts Josh Homme by text message and reignites the vibe of his late-’70s Berlin records with David Bowie. The Clincher: Far from duplicating Lust For Life or The Passenger, Post Pop Depression unveils Iggy as an elegant, statesman-like 69-year-old, voicing lechery and tech-nausea with an old-hand authority. What They Say: “I just had a feeling about doing this with Josh, partly to do with properly fulfilling what I reckoned my potential was.” Key Track: Paraguay. AP
20 ANOHNI HOPELESSNESS The Backstory: A Mercury Prize-winner with Antony And The Johnsons, this was Antony Hegarty’s first major statement since a startling rebirth as transgender artist Anohni. The Clincher: Assisted by electronica wizards Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never, Anohni’s solo debut evoked troubling, turbulent times – yet also found unexpected beauty in the shadow of war and climate change. What They Say: “[Hopelessness] is sugar to the ear – like how a baby tastes sugar and wants more.” Key Track: Drone Bomb Me. RH
19 PARQUET COURTS
The Backstory: Driven by a Stakhanovite work-rate, NYC’s Parquet Courts had steadily risen to be one of the most globally popular “underground” bands. The Clincher: With elements of Wire, The Velvet Underground and Elvis Costello wound into its nervy rattle and loaded with tunes, their fifth album raised Parquet Courts from indie darlings to genuine contenders. What They Say: “I imagine it’s what recording The White Album would’ve been like, except the band was getting along and nobody’s girlfriend was there.” Andrew Savage Key Track: Berlin Got Blurry. CC
ROÍSÍN MURPHY “I’ve listened to Work from Rihanna’s Anti over and over again this year. You know it, the one with Drake on… ‘Work, work, work.’ I fucking loved it. The rapping I’m not bothered about but
Pro Anti: Roísín Murphy.
What took you so long? The Avalanches: (from left) Tony Di Blasi, Robbie Chater, and James Dela Cruz.
THE AVALANCHES WILDFLOWER
The Backstory: The follow-up to the sample-happy Australians’ Since I Left You was an accidentprone 16 years in the making, a period beset by legal, label, lineup and health-related hold-ups. The Clincher: Time hasn’t dulled the eternal summer of their feelgood sound. What They Say: “It starts in a kind of hyper-realistic urban environment, then goes on a road trip to the sea or the desert or the countryside, while you’re on acid. So you start in the city and over the course of the record you end up somewhere far away from there, high as a kite.” Robbie Chater Key Track: The Wozard Of Iz. SY
AVALANCHES MAN TONY DI BLASI REFLECTS ON THE “NERVOUS EXCITEMENT” OF COMING BACK AFTER AN 18 -YEAR ABSENCE. You were away 16 years making Wildflower – was it strange being back in the limelight? TD: There was a bit of nervous excitement, like just before you play a gig. We knew we still had fans out there, but we were also entering this whole new world of 18-year-olds who were babies when Since I Left You came out. But people’s reaction was great. It made it feel the 16 years was almost worth it! Your albums are like stumbling into the best house party ever. How are your actual parties? Er, to tell you the truth we’re getting a bit old for house parties! I actually can’t think of the last time I went to one. Maybe back in 2000? But if we did have house parties I’m sure they’d have lots of weird crazy shit going on.
There were reports you used 3000 samples for Since I Left You. Did you count them up this time? The 3000 figure was probably an overestimate, but I’d say this one has a few more. There were so many that at the end [musical partner] Robbie [Chater] and I would go, “Do you know where this one’s from? I have no idea!” Musically, Wildflower spans everything from ’60s pop to hip-hop, did that just reflect what you were listening to at the time? We went through a lot of different phases, but always aiming for that point between happiness and sadness. The Beach Boys had a lot of that in their music and we try and chase that feeling as much as we can. I think that’s what people respond to. Something in there that hits the heart.
There are a lot of guests on there, too – Biz Markie, Danny Brown, Father John Misty. Was it a case of just calling up your heroes? For me, the big one was getting Jonathan Donahue from Mercury Rev. We were such massive fans of them when we were growing up and our music still has elements of that crazy, Mercury Rev orchestration on it. Have to ask – will we have to wait another 16 years for the follow-up? I hope not! I’ve been told before that I work on “Avalanche” time, so if I say I’ll be somewhere at nine o’clock, expect me at 10. But we’d really love to do something quick. There was a weight that got heavier and heavier making this record and that’s off us now and we can get back to why we love making music – just for the fun of it all. RH
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17 FRANK OCEAN
Celtic soul brothers – and sister: Dexys had it covered.
The Backstory: Originally expected in 2014, Frank Ocean’s second LP went through a Kanye level of tinkering before finally arriving by surprise one August morning. The wait was worth it. The Clincher: Ocean collaborates with a raft of like-minded sonic shapeshifters, including Jamie xx, André 3000 and Kendrick Lamar, to create a mesmerising album of envelope-pushing R&B. What They Say: “I had the time of my life making all of this. Thank you all. Especially those of you who never let me forget I had to finish.” Key Track: Nights. ND
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ON YOUR CD
ANDREW COTTERILL, ALEX LAKE
LE BON 16 CATE CRAB DAY The Backstory: Sounding like a gently eccentric, Valleys Stereolab, Cate Le Bon’s third album Mug Museum was one of 2013’s highlights, raising expectations for where the now Los Angeles-based Welsh singer might go with her fourth album. The Clincher: Angular and surreal for much of the time, Le Bon’s follow-up ramps up both factors to delightful effect. What They Say: “With this record there was a lot more abandon. It just seemed to come together accidentally on purpose.” Key Track: Wonderful. CC
15 DEXYS LET THE RECORD SHOW: O DEXYS DO IRISH AND D COUNTRY SOUL
The Backstory: Dexys Midnight Runners split before head honcho Kevin Rowland could record the album of traditional Irish songs he’d envisioned. Thirty years later, he did it. The Clincher: Playful covers of pop songs such as Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now sit happily with warm, respectful takes on Irish standards. What They Say: “We’re not trying to be Irish, and we haven’t used too many Celtic instruments on there. It’s our sound.” Kevin Rowland Key Track: Both Sides Now. TK
IAN ASTBURY, THE CULT “Blackstar! I’m a David Bowie fanatic. Let me show you something to give some context for that [shows Q his AAA pass from The Cult’s recent tour featuring Bowie and a young Astbury photographed together]. He was the first artist to ordain us. We opened f hi h l
“A Bowie fanatic”: Ian Astbury.
MICHAEL 14 KIWANUKA
LOVE & HATE
The Backstory: After his 2012 debut the Londoner wrestled with imposter syndrome before hooking up with producer Danger Mouse and relocating his mojo. The Clincher: From the oceanic Cold Little Heart to dentity politics of n A White World, Love high, embedding tions in luxuriant niscent of Morricone ants of ’70s soul. ey Say: “I wanted re transparent and erable.” rack: Cold Little rt. DL
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The Backstory: Out of nowhere, Beyoncé ousted Kanye as pop’s collaborator-in-chief, marshalling the likes of James Blake, Jack White and Kendrick Lamar into an utterly commanding song cycle about betrayal and forgiveness. The Clincher: The accompanying film marked Beyoncé’s zenith as artist, activist and cultural lodestar but the songs were strong enough to stand on their own. A modern soul masterpiece. What They Say: “Beyoncé is the most inspiring person I’ve ever had the pleasure of worshipping.” Adele Key Track: Freedom. DL
12 GOAT REQUIEM The Backstory: Swedes fuse psychedelia, folk, Afro-rock and even a dash of indigenous two-girl-fronted pop (ABBA!) into something danceable and original. The Clincher: Less frenzied and physical than its two predecessors, Requiem absorbs acoustic instrumentation and blissfully reflective melodies for a more widescreen psych-folk experience. What They Say: “It’s definitely our best album. It’s harder to grasp on first listen, but that was our plan, to make it not so direct, but something you’ll still listen to in 10 years.” Goat Key Track: I Sing In Silence. AP
“An astonishing second album”: The 1975 pull it out the bag.
13 BEYONCÉ LEMONADE
Songs of Love & Hate: Laura Mvula.
The Backstory: Having ridden grime’s highs and lows for a decade, the Tottenham MC was better qualified than anyone to ice the cake of its latest resurgence. The Clincher: Konnichiwa ditched the compromises and pop-grabs of the genre’s recent past. Not since fellow Mercury Prize winner, Boy In Da Corner by Dizzee Rascal, had a grime album succeeded so thrillingly. What They Say: “You have to understand that all I’ve ever wanted is for London to have a credible musical voice. I will honestly, honestly die happy knowing that I saw it happen.” Key Track: That’s Not Me. SY
CHRISTINE 10 AND THE QUEENS CHALEUR HUMAINE
The Backstory: Madonnaapproved, gender-ambivalent Nantes native Héloïse Letissier’s debut sent her home country wild when it was released in 2014; this semi-translated version was made for those of us who didn’t make it past GCSE French. The Clincher: Letissier’s dreamy but danceable tracks and lovably wonky hooks result in songs as all-embracing as you’d expect on an album titled Human Warmth. What They Say: “The album was about trying to relate to people by being really sincere and unmasked.” Key Track: iT. KS
I LIKE IT WHEN YOU SLEEP, FOR Y R YOU ARE SO BEAUTIFUL YET SO UNAW AWARE OF IT
The Backstory: The 1975 frontman Matt Healy went off the deep end during his band’s successful debut, developing a drug habit and a taste for the limelight while making lots of famous friends along the way. The Clincher: Healy pulls all of those things together on this astonishing second album. It balances sophisticated indierock and experimentation. What They Say: “When I’m playing music, I’m not thinking about other people. I’m turned on.” Matt Healy Key Track: Somebody Else. ND
AUSTIN HARGRAVE, MARCO VITTUR, JONATHAN PROCTOR
was something special about it – it’s music that’s so honest, so beautifully put together and so c I s
ON YOUR CD
ANGEL OLSEN MY WOMAN
MICHAEL KIWANUKA “Although not a conventional album, the mixtape Coloring Book by Chance The Rapper deserves all the attention it’s got. I love Chance’s lyrics. He’s an artist who’s really putti it ll t there, an feeling on is amazin producti too. I’ve n across an doesn’t in love wha doing. W a record! Taking a Chance: Michael Kiwanuka.
The Backstory: After 2014’s folk-rock epic Burn Your Fire For No Witness, Olsen experimented with heavier guitars and dub-influenced sounds on her third album. The Clincher: Mixing blasts of grungy guitars and growled demands with country-swooned questions of what it is to be human, this is an album that leaves your head spinning. What They Say: “Side A is where I show people this is what I do, and what I’ve done well. These are new spins on the songs and styles I’ve written in the past. Then you go to side B, and that’s all changed.” Key Track: Shut Up Kiss Me. KS
MYALBUM Of The YEAR
08 “Leaves your head spinning”: Angel Olsen hits a third-album peak.
ON YOUR CD
07 CASS MCCOMBS
The Backstory: Itinerant American singer-songwriter’s groovy eighth album reverberates with acerbic wit and a promiscuous musical spirit. The Clincher: Mangy Love is just the newest addition to a McCombs back catalogue that runs unbelievably deep. Every album sounds like a Greatest Hits and this is the current volume. What They Say: “A lot of my songs are created to have a specific magical reaction. If it works, it punctures a hole in reality. It’s an alternate universe that you can peer through.” Key Track: Medusa’s Outhouse. TK
The Backstory: Over five years since the release of their last album, in May Radiohead turned themselves off and on again, deleting all internet presence and resurfacing 244 hours later with news of their ninth album. The Clincher: One of their most beautiful and stark albums, Thom Yorke’s break-up from his longterm partner adds a melancholic depth to many of the songs. What They Say: “I always think there won’t be another Radiohead album, every time. I cherish this band, but I don’t expect anyone else to.” Thom Yorke Key Track: Burn The Witch. ND
“You want to be relevant”: A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip achieved his aim.
CAVE 05 NICK & THE BAD SEEDS SKELETON TREE
The Backstory: The death of Cave’s son Arthur in July 2015 made some see Skeleton Tree as his attempt to address the unaddressable. Cave pointed out that most of it was written before the tragedy happened. The Clincher: Over fragmented electronic music, he sings startling lines in a voice of fragile anguish. The sense of grief is searing, tragedy resonating powerfully throughout. What They Say: “What happens when an event occurs that is so catastrophic, that you just change?” Key Track: I Need You. IH
MYALBUM Of The YEAR ANGEL OLSEN “Since I really like the Stranger Things soundtrack, which Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein did, I checked out RR7349 by their band Survive, which is them and two other members. It’s amazing. It’s big, heavy, Thrillersized synth-rock wiza d ll I jog beca feels you’ your mov Stranger attraction: Angel Olsen.
TRIBE 04 A CALLED QUEST
WE GOT T IT FROM HERE... THANK K YOU 4 YO Y UR SERVICE R
The Backstory: Eighteen years after their last one, the New York rappers forget their differences to record their sixth LP. And their last, as key player Phife Dawg died before completion. The Clincher: Proof that rap, like a martial art, is not a young man’s game, but best when practised by masters of the form. And that Q-Tip remains not just a champion rhymer, but hip-hop’s most thoughtful producer. What They Say: “We didn’t want to come back and be wack. You want to be relevant.” Q-Tip Key Track: Lost Somebody. TK
Of AL Th B eY U
06 RADIOHEAD A MOON
ON YOUR CD
Louder than bombs: PJ Harvey tackles the big issues.
§ HARVEY 03 PJ THE HOPE SIX DEMOLITION PROJECT
The Backstory: Harvey travelled to Kosovo and Afghanistan to research this, her most overtly political LP to date. The Clincher: It’s not just the subject matter that’s ambitious (essentially a critique of US foreign policy), the music is confident and inventive with its liberal use of spirituals and the blues frequently recalling her 1995 classic To Bring You My Love. What They Say: “I still call myself a songwriter really. I gather information for songs, and my biggest drive in my life is to want to sing to people.” Key Track: River Anacostia. JO
ALBUM Of The YEAR
GIANANDREA TRAINA, JONATHAN PROCTOR
Of The YEAR PAUL BANKS, INTERPOL “SremmLife 2 by Rae Sremmurd has some of the best melodic performances going in hip-hop. Swae Lee is a legit singer – his hooks have feel plus a great tone. His brother, Slim Jxmmi, holds down the rap. I particularly enjoy his vocal modulations and his angry voice is great. Start A Party is a good look whil Chil jam o reco Hip-hop don’t stop: Paul Banks.
01 02 LEONARD COHEN YOU WANT IT DARKER
The Backstory: lifetime of contemplation, the 82-year-old Cohen sounded like he was leaving his last will and testament. The Clincher: Produced by his son, Adam, this is the most musically rich album has made since the ’70s. s, choirs and a hint of ass help leaven the ent goodbye. They Say: “I’ve got some o do. Take care of business. m ready to die. I hope it’s not too uncomfortable. That’s about it for me.” Key Track: You Want It Darker. JO
DAVID BOWIE BLACKSTAR
The Backstory: A startling artistic renaissance, forever coloured by Bowie’s passing two days after its release. The Clincher: Blackstar was two things at the same time: a deeply moving rumination on life and death, and a vibrant reinvention on which Donny McCaslin’s jazz-trained band enabled Bowie to explore new shades of terror and wonder. An ending that could have been a new beginning. What They Say: “His death was
a work of art. He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift.” Tony Visconti Key Track: Lazarus. DL
Please turn over for our two-part feature on the artistic impact of David Bowie by Dorian Lynskey, plus Simon Goddard looks at an extraordinary new BBC documentary about Bowie’s last five years.
B ieAt ALBUM Of The YEAR: BLACKSTAR
HE MAY HAVE DIED IN JANUARY, BUT WE STILL LIVE IN
DAVID BOWIE WORLD, WRITES DORIAN LYNSKEY.
DAVID BOWIE melancholy Bowie (Beck and Nirvana’s rhythm section collaborating on The Man Who Sold The World), quirky Bowie (Madness covering Kooks), anthemic Bowie (Coldplay doing “Heroes”) and more.
The long goodbye: (above) in the studio making 2013’s The Next Day, New York; (right) one of the final shots of Bowie, 2015.
That doesn’t mean that he never tripped up. Bowie was a pop lodestar because he never stopped experimenting, not because all of those experiments worked. Some, notably the Glass Spider Tour and Tin Machine, were spectacular misfires. So it felt appropriate to the reality of the man rather than the myth that Lazarus, the stage musical he was working on alongside Blackstar, was so divisive. If Lazarus had come along 20 years ago, during Bowie’s taken-for-granted years, it would possibly have been regarded as one of his audacious follies. Even with the emotional kick provided by his absence, many fans came away from the London run bewildered by the dream-like plot and unconvinced by the Broadway re-imaginings of his classic songs. It provided one final twist. In contrast to the perfect, tombstonelike finality of Blackstar, Lazarus was a powerful reminder of Bowie’s whims, eccentricities, mysteries and imperfections. Lazarus’s greatest gift was the three new songs Bowie wrote for the show and recorded himself for the soundtrack, especially the elegiac No Plan. Even as it spoke to the purgatorial condition of the play’s characters, trapped between life and death, the song doubled as a graceful farewell from Bowie himself: “All the things that are my life/My moods, my beliefs, my desires/Me alone, nothing to regret/This is no place, but here I am/This is not quite yet.” n 8 January, which would have been his 70th birthday, dozens of musicians who played with Bowie will be performing with guest vocalists at benefit shows around the world under the banner Celebrating David Bowie. At this point he somehow seems as central to popular culture as he has ever been: a benevolent, intangible presence whose influence is never-ending and whose memory is a spur to other artists to be bold and never stop. This is no place, but here he is.
He somehow seems as central to popular culture as he has ever been: a benevolent, intangible presence whose influence is never-ending…
ll of these reactions spun in orbit around Blackstar. If you felt that Bowie’s last album was slightly overrated for sentimental reasons, then bear in mind that the reviews came out before he died, and that nobody made grand claims about Prince’s HITnRUN Phase Two. It’s a great record regardless of the circumstances. What the revelation of Bowie’s terminal cancer did was make Blackstar’s mere existence uplifting. How do you spend your days when you know they’re numbered? Travel the world? Tie up loose ends? Make a bucket list? For Bowie the answer was: you work, you create, because that’s what you do. Lazarus playwright Enda Walsh has spoken about “watching somebody who’s ill and thinking, ‘They’ve still got so much work in them!’” Dying didn’t slow Bowie down; it made him move at the speed of life. And unlike Cohen’s wintry swansong You Want It Darker, Blackstar was less a final summation of a lifetime’s work than one last leap into the future. Apart from plunging into Blackstar’s maze of meanings, the best way to honour Bowie in the months following his death was to reconnect with his other music, especially great albums such as Outside, which were overshadowed by his imperial phase. The second in a planned series of reissues but the first to appear posthumously, the boxset Who Can I Be Now? (1974-1976) shed new light on his achievements. By including The Gouster, an early version of the album that became Young Americans, it invited fans to consider the hard work and thought that lay behind Bowie’s seemingly effortless transitions. Meanwhile, the 40th anniversary reissue of The Man Who Fell To Earth, his finest film, was an opportunity to remember him as an actor. And the Sotheby’s auction of his art collection was a timely reminder that his curiosity and good taste extended far beyond music. He was an exceptional curator of brave and beautiful things. Explicit musical tributes, however, were a tricky undertaking which often ended up underscoring what a singular, inimitable artist Bowie was. Lorde did justice to Life On Mars? at the Brit Awards, backed by veteran Bowie collaborators including Mike Garson and Earl Slick, but Lady Gaga’s hectic medley at the Grammys was all sugar and glitz, while the BBC Proms show missed the mark more often that not. If one performance was too showbiz, then the other was too wilfully avant-garde. Bowie’s genius was to bridge the gap between the two worlds with panache.
BOWIE: THE LAST FIVE YEARS The first anniversary of David Bowie’s death will be marked by a new BBC documentary to be aired on 7 January 2017, the eve of what would have been his 70th birthday. Simon Goddard talks to its director Francis Whately. DAVID BOWIE: The Last Five Years is a follow-up to film-maker Francis Whately’s previous 2013 movie David Bowie: Five Years, which earned the Starman seal of approval. “David loved Five Years,” Whately tells Q during an exclusive preview in his West London editing bunker. “He emailed me immediately after he’d seen it to say thank you. He liked the fact that it wasn’t hagiography. It was merely putting his life in a context it hadn’t been put before. This new film is the same, though it tells a very different story.” The Last Five Years chronicles the making of swansong albums The Next Day, Blackstar and the musical Lazarus, featuring contributions from producer Tony Visconti and every musician involved. “Unfortunately, no studio footage exists of the making of those albums because it was a very private creative process,” explains Whately, “but we reassembled the two bands who worked on both to recreate the working atmosphere.” The film is shaped around Whately’s clear distinction between the two records. “The Next Day is quite a retrospective album, both musically and thematically. It ties together a lot of themes Bowie had raised before – alienation, mortality, fame. So the film FEBRUARY 2017
Cracked actor: Bowie with Gary Oldman, during the filming of The Next Day video, 2013.
discusses The Next Day through his past, using a lot of unseen archive footage. Whereas Blackstar is very different. Brian Eno says that in art you can crash your plane and walk away from it. Blackstar is Bowie crashing his plane. It’s as experimental and daring as anything he’d ever done before.” In its marriage of archive ’70s Bowie with the latter “Greta Garbo of pop” (as Whately describes his media-shy twilight years) the film offers some profound juxtapositions: an isolated vocal stem of 2013’s Where Are We Now? echoes against a previously unseen clip of the young Ziggy Stardust in his dressing room, alien eyes staring into infinity down the camera lens. Its portrait is of an artist
“Most artists end their careers in mediocrity. With Bowie, you have someone at the end of their life making their most avant-garde work. I think that’s extraordinary.” FRANCIS WHATELY raging against the dying of the light by tying up creative loose ends. “That’s very much the case with Lazarus,” agrees Whately. “Bowie always wanted to do a musical with Ziggy
Stardust, then Diamond Dogs, but never had the chance. So Lazarus was the realisation of a lifelong ambition, something that had always been on Bowie’s bucket list.”
Recline and fall: Tilda Swinton joins Bowie for The Stars (Are Out Tonight) video, 2013. 64
s a prelude to the narrative of Bowie’s surprise 2013 comeback, the film begins with his 2004 Reality tour, filmed larking around at a service station with an arcade claw machine and chasing bassist Gail Ann Dorsey backstage with a plastic raven, aged 57, visibly in the prime of life. “His sense of humour was on,” says guitarist Earl Slick. “That tour was the happiest I’d ever seen that man in the 42 years I spent on and off with him.” There follow moving testimonies from his band about Bowie’s eventual collapse mid-set in Prague (“David was sweating profusely and actually unable to sing,” recalls backing singer Catherine Russell). Walking offstage at his next gig at Scheeßel’s Hurricane Festival, Bowie was rushed to hospital after being violently sick. Although he would make a handful of rare guest live appearances thereafter, it was to be his last concert.
WATCH THAT MAN
FIVE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BBC’S THE LAST FIVE YEARS THE LAST “HEROES” A rare clip of Bowie at 2004’s Hurricane Festival in Germany in a noticeably fragile vocal performance of “Heroes” from what unintentionally became his last ever full concert. BARGAIN BIN BLUES During the Reality tour, Bowie and his band visit a truckstop in Montana where the singer notices his own Tin Machine debut in the cassette bargain bin. “That figures,” laughs Bowie. ZIGGY AT THE RAINBOW Previously unseen footage of Bowie performing Lady Stardust from his highly stylised London Rainbow
LAZARUS IS ON NOW AT KINGS CROSS THEATRE, LONDON, UNTIL 22 JANUARY, 2017.
“The intelligence and dignity of the man was astounding”: David Bowie, 1947-2016.
“We don’t shy away from the fact that he was ill,” says Whately, “but we don’t go into any great detail about what illness he had. Ultimately, it’s a film about the music and the artistry. Most artists end their careers in mediocrity. With Bowie, you have someone at the end of their life making their most avant-garde work. I think that’s extraordinary.” When the recuperated Bowie is finally ready to start work on The Next Day in November 2010, secrecy is paramount. Guitarist Gerry Leonard is summoned by
email with the PS “keep schtum!” Dorsey receives a similar bat-signal followed by an ominous management message detailing the “serious trouble” she’d be in if she ever blabbed. Turning up for the first rehearsal, drummer Zachary Alford describes how before a single note was played, Bowie handed him and his fellow musicians NDAs to sign. “On The Next Day he wanted the security of a band he knew as he’d been away for so long,” comments Whately. “That album worked well for the critics and public alike so he was then in a position to do
shows of August 1972 with Lindsay Kemp’s dancing Astronettes. THE SPACE ODDITY ODDITY Q won’t spoil the surprise but while making The Last Five Years, Bowie producer Tony Visconti makes a startling sonic discovery on the studio master tape of 1969’s Space Oddity. THE GOODBYE SUPPER Following Bowie’s death, his The Next Day band, including Earl Slick and Mike Garson, gather for a dinner to discuss the David they knew and lost, the cameras capturing their raw emotions.
something new again. To go with a form of music – jazz – that he’d never used before and with a new set of musicians.” Bowie discovers his Blackstar band at the 55 Bar in New York’s West Village, a jazz quartet led by Donny McCaslin and recommended by pianist/composer friend Maria Schneider, co-writer of Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime). “David brought me two songs, the first was Sue,” says Schneider of their collaboration. “I said, ‘What is it about?’ And he said, ‘Maybe vampires?’… I know that the music David was most attracted to of mine was my early work which was very dense, dark and had intensity to it.” Completing Bowie’s farewell trilogy is Lazarus, his musical sequel to The Man Who Fell To Earth which opened off-Broadway in December 2015 just one month before his death. “One of the most touching stories came from speaking to [Lazarus co-writer] Enda Walsh and the cast,” says Whately. “When Bowie finally sees the play, he’s pretty poorly that day, yet he goes round thanking everyone involved, from the actors to the stagehands. At the end he turns round and asks, ‘Have I thanked everyone?’ The intelligence and dignity of the man was astounding.” For Whately, “a childhood fan”, making the documentary has been “a busman’s holiday”, albeit an emotional one. “After Five Years, I always wanted to make another Bowie film. I just didn’t imagine I’d be making another so soon.” One year on, however strange the world may feel without Bowie in it, The Last Five Years proves an opportunity not to mourn the mortal man that we lost but to savour the eternal art we gained. FEBRUARY 2017
1 THE LAST
SHADOW PUPPETS AVIATION
After an eight-year cool-off, the bromance between Arctic Monkeys chief Alex Turner and Miles Kane was back on for their second LP. The album kicks off with this bouncy, Smiths-esque shimmy, and was the only song from 2016 to feature the words “sectoral heterochromia”. On: Everything You’ve Come To Expect (Domino) See page: 48
LET’S EAT 6 GRANDMA RAPUNZEL
WHAT’S ON YOUR CD...
& © 2016 Let’s Eat Grandma under exclusive license to Transgressive Records Ltd. Licensed courtesy of Transgressive Records/[PIAS]. Website: letseatgrandma.co.uk
Norfolk teenagers Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth fashioned a compelling, dark ambience on their debut album I, Gemini. For crowning moment Rapunzel, in-things conjure a inding, Kate Bush-like fairy er plinky-plonky piano. emini (Transgressive) ge: 51
Now you’ve fully digested our round-up of the records we rated most highly this year, you can sit back and enjoy our 15-track Best Of 2016 cover-mounted CD, cherry-picked for your delectation from our 50 Albums Of The Year list. Christmas, it appears, really has come early… *Due to licensing and distribution issues, the cover-mounted CD is not available for overseas purchasers. 66
11 STEVE MASON PLANET SIZES
& © 2016 Domino Recording Co Ltd. Domino Publishing Co Ltd.
This year’s Meet The Humans, produced by Elbow’s Craig Potter, was the ex-Beta Band singer’s most cohesive, optimistic set of songs yet. Lead-off single Planet Sizes encapsulates the record’s mood: a radiant, Balearic-rock groover contemplating the human condition amid the wonders of the universe. Cosmic! On: Meet The Humans (Domino) See page: 53
WHERE THE LIGHT GETS IN & © 2015 SCRM Ltd under exclusive license to Ignition Records Ltd. Primal Scream are published by Sony/ATV Music Publishing Ltd.
Primal Scream commander Bobby Gillespie duets with Sky Ferreira on this polished, high-octane synth-rocker reminiscent of Technique-era New Order, and just one of many highlights to be found on the band’s poppy, optimistic 11th LP, Chaosmosis. On: Chaosmosis (First International/Ignition) See page: 46
UNION OF MIND AND SOUL Written by:Goat.Published by: Kobalt.Copyright: Rocket Recordings. Contact: www.rocketrecordings.com
I HAVE BEEN TO THE MOUNTAIN
Written by Kevin Morby and Sam Cohen. Published by Domino Publishing Company USA.
The itinerant Texan troubadour gently rages like a fire-andbrimstone preacher on this baroque country state-of-thenation address (dedicated to Eric Garner, who died in 20144 after being put in a chokehold by New York police), one of many standouts on Morby’s top-drawer third solo LP. On: Singing Saw (Dead Oceans) See page: 48
8 THE CORAL CHASING THE TAIL
OF A DREAM & © 2016 Ignition Records Ltd. The Coral are published by Domino Music Publishing Ltd.
For their fourth LP, Requiem, the masked Swedish psych-rock troupe fused folk, Afrobeat and “world” influences to concoct an enchanting, danceable feast. Album opener Union Of Mind And Soul is a folky, pan-pipes-driven voodoo strum with women singers inviting the listener to “open your mind”. Who could refuse? On: Requiem (Rocket Recordings) See page: 56
Missing, presumed lost, the Wirral five-piece surprised everyone in 2016 by returning after six years away with one of their finest albums, Distance Inbetween. As the LP’s lead-off single, Chasing The Tail Of A Dream showcased an impressively heavy and, dare we say it, even proggy new direction. On: Distance Inbetween (Ignition) See page: 48
OLSEN 12 ANGEL SHUT UP KISS ME
BEASTS 13 WILD ALPHA FEMALE
Written by Angel Olsen. Published by Horus Elder Music (BMI). Administered by Ribbon Music c/o Domino Publishing Company.
SIMON SARIN, JONATHAN PROCTOR
3 KEVIN MORBY
For the US indie-folk singer’s third studio LP, My Woman, Olsen embroidered her deeply emotional songs with retro electronics to make her brightest, boldest artistic statement yet. Shut Up Kiss Me’s spikey splicing of grungey guitar and girl-group vocals provides further evidence of Olsen’s rapidly-rising star status. On: My Woman (Jagjaguwar) See page: 57
& © 2016 Domino Recording Co Ltd. Domino Publishing Co Ltd.
Wild Beasts began life very much apart from the indie pack, but on 2016’s Boy King the Cumbrian quartet distilled their strangeness into something accessible. And there was no better place to hear the fruits of this evolution than on Alpha Female, a track that married industrial stomp and snarl to a stridently feminist manifesto. On: Boy King (Domino) See page: 52
CAVE 4 NICK AND THE
BAD SEEDS RINGS OF SATURN
Published by Kobalt Music Group Ltd.
As you would expect from a record spun from unimaginable loss, Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds’ 16th LP Skeleton Tree felt like at any point it could fall apart. Rings Of Saturn offers brief levity, where a lustful, yet wounded, Cave sing-speaks over a looped “whoa-oh” backing. On: Skeleton Tree (Bad Seed Ltd) See page: 58
5 CATE LE BON LOVE IS NOT LOVE
Domino Publishing. Copyright & © Turnst le Music 2015.
The Welsh singer-songwriter told Q earlier this year that her intention for fourth album Crab Day was “to be abstract and have the appearance of being nonsensical”. Which partly explains the “love is not love when it’s a coat hanger” lyric on this LP highpoint, one of many on a record infused with surreal, post-punk inflected magic. On: Crab Day (Turnstile) See page: 55
10 CASS MCCOMBS
THIS IS HOW IT FEELS
& © 2016 Righteous Phonographic Association under exclusive licence to Cooking Vinyl Limited. Produced by Chris Potter & Richard Ashcroft. Written by Richard Ashcroft and Published by Kobalt.
By reuniting with Urban Hymns co-producer Chris Potter on fifth solo LP, These People, the Wigan shaman seemed to signal he was back with a vengeance. This Is How It Feels has all the trademark Ashcroft ambition back in place for this skyscraping anthem. On: These People (Cooking Vinyl) See page: 47
WHITE 14 FAT FAMILY
WHITEST BOY ON THE BEACH PerformedbyFatWhiteFamily. &©2015Without Consent.LicensedcourtesyofWithoutConsent/[PIAS].
Whitest Boy…’s perverse blend of Hot Chocolate, Alvin Stardust and Neu! (with a video featuring torture, Beachy Head and a faceslapping ox’s tongue) was the perfect summation of the South London grot-rockers’ aesthetic. On: Songs For Our Mothers (Without Consent) See page: 49
On Mangy Love, McCombs’s eighth LP, the cult songwriter’s cult songwriter showed some signs of mellowing, moving his sound into altogether lusher territory. Yet the man’s offbeat personality was still very much intact, especially on this laid-back slice of string-laced soulfulness – the sound of an artist at the height of his game. On: Mangy Love (Anti-) See page: 57
OH SEES 15 THEE PLASTIC PLANT & © 2016 Castle Face Records. Written by Thee Oh Sees. Publishing: oneeyedfatgirlpublishing c/o ASCAP.
It’s hard to say why this was the year when John Dwyer’s unhinged garage-rockers finally went overground. San Francisco’s prolific maverick certainly hadn’t toned things down – merely added a two-man rhythm section to his band – as evident on this propulsive, brain-fizzing fusion of rhythmic Krautrock and out-there mid-’60s psych. On: A Weird Exits (Castle Face) See page: 48 FEBRUARY 2017
Wayneâ€™s world: Coyne gets on one, The Zetter Hotel, Clerkenwell, London, 14 November, 2016.
PHOTOGRAPHS ANDREW WHITTON
The Wonderful Wizard Of Oklahoma WAYNE COYNE has been on a fantastic psychedelic journey with The Flaming Lips since they formed way back in 1983. Now, aged 55, he’s relaxed about where the adventure takes his band, as long as it’s somewhere new. “We’re doing whatever the fuck we want,” he tells TOM DOYLE, “and no one is going to stop us.” he 55-year-old man who looks like a wizard flew in from Oklahoma City last night. Entering his room at the boutique Zetter Hotel in London, he fiddled around in the dark trying to get his plastic room key into the electricity slot, switched on the light and was delighted to find himself bathed in the pink glow of a
coloured bulb. He pulled a band of fake flowers down over his eyes, snapped a selfie on his iPhone, and uploaded the hypercolour result. “Cool light in my room in London,” he tweeted. Whatever he does, it seems, Wayne Coyne is filled with a sense of childlike wonder at the world around him. Now it’s just past lunchtime the following day and, posing for the Q photographer in the Zetter’s basement games room, he is an eye-popping vision in a psychedelic fur coat, accessorised by tiny
multi-hued balls strung around his crotch. Perhaps unsurprisingly, his favourite word seems to be “absurd”. The other is “yesssss”. The Flaming Lips singer is proud to let his freak flag fly. Back in his downtrodden Southern US hometown, populated by redneck cowboys, he attracts weird looks but never trouble, seeming to exist as he does almost in a parallel universe. “Well, I’m not going to the singles bars on a Saturday night where a bunch of drunk cowboys would have a dilemma with me,” he points out. “I’m not dealing with what’s really there. I’m living my own life in my own world.” Since 1992, Coyne has lived in the Plaza District of Oklahoma City in a huge house he managed to buy for $20,000 in cash, mainly because it’s an area filled with low-income families and drug dealers. Sometimes at night, he can hear gunfire. But, the singer says, he has never once considered leaving his rough neighbourhood, mainly because
WAYNE COYNE in the midst of it he has managed to create his dream home, in the sense that it’s dreamlike, and very Wayne: an otherworldly palace of giant metallic disco balls and white-walled ’60s futuristic wonder akin to the sets of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. “Living the way I do in Oklahoma, you would have to be a millionaire of sorts to do that in New York or LA,” he stresses. “Where I’m living you can do it without it costing shit.” Each Halloween, Wayne decks the outside of his house with phantasmagorical decorations, attracting visitors from miles around. These days, though, he tries not to encourage outsiders bringing their kids into his neighbourhood. “It’s too hairy,” he says. “Unsuspecting soccer moms with six kids and there’s drug dealers trying to rip you off.” t’s not surprising that Wayne Coyne loves Halloween though, since along with his bubbling enthusiasm for all things, he’s also drawn to the dark stuff. The latest Flaming Lips album, Oczy Mlody, spotlights this with its lyrics about going through “the hole in the night sky” in the wigged-out Listening To The Frogs With Demon Eyes and the strange tale of One Night While Hunting For Faeries And Witches And Wizards To Kill where the singer goes on a nocturnal search for said creatures and ends up being blinded by his own gun. It all sounds like a hellishly bad trip. “I think the drug music that we like is always a bad trip,” Coyne beams. “We’re never gonna see God and like it. We’re gonna see God and it’s gonna ruin us and we’re gonna lose our minds. No one wants to hear someone say, ‘I took acid, oh it was just so wonderful.’ You’re like, ‘Fuck, who gives a shit?’ I wanna know that the fucking worms ate your dick off or something…” Wayne Coyne has lived in this world of pure imagination since his teens. Surrounded by his working-class family of brothers and a sister who were into music and drugs, he spent hours and hours drawing while chaotic scenes unfolded around him. “Always music going,” he remembers. “They’re doing drugs all the time, every day, every night. If you weren’t used to it, it would be a madhouse. You’d be like, ‘Fuuuck this is
Super furry animal! The Flaming Lips frontman shows off his manifesto for a good life.
“You just start off like, ‘Well, I’ll look like this when I perform.’ And before long you’re not just looking like it, you’ve become that person.”
RETNA, GETTY, REX
outta control.’ But I think in the way that I was just in it, it made me probably the only person in the world that would want to be around that chaos and music and lifestyle when I grew up. That’s what The Flaming Lips are. I mean, The Flaming Lips, it’s chaos, you’re never alone, there’s always shit happening.” The only normal job Coyne ever held down was at Long John Silver’s fast food seafood restaurant, although a heavy dose of reality was meted out to him there when one day, along with his fellow employees, he was held up at gunpoint and forced to lie on the floor, believing he was going to be shot and killed. Understandably then, when the first line-up of The Flaming Lips formed in 1983 (when he was 22), he ran away with the psychedelic circus, creating an art-rock noise that would often be accompanied by the band members igniting outdoor fireworks indoors and setting their cymbals ablaze with lighter fluid. As the ’90s hit, and already in their 30s, The Flaming Lips never seemed to quite fit into any scene, not least grunge. “Y’know, we didn’t have this mission statement to destroy Guns N’ Roses,” he says. “I mean, we liked some of their songs and didn’t really give a shit. But we weren’t 25-years-old by then either.” In 1993, with She Don’t Use Jelly (from The Flaming Lips’ sixth album Transmissions From The Satellite Heart) and its nursery rhyme-like words about a guy blowing his nose with magazines and a girl dyeing her hair with tangerines, they had a novelty radio hit whose success ensured that they didn’t lose their deal with Warner Bros Records. Threatening to destroy their alternative cred, they even appeared on cheesy American teen soap Beverly Hills 90210 to perform the song.
Never though, says Coyne today, did he worry that The Flaming Lips were destined to become a one-hit wonder. “We followed the absurd and said, ‘Why’s it matter?’” he states. “And I think that saved us. Cos when people would say, ‘You’ve got this one-hit wonder,’ we’d be like, [excitedly] ‘I know. It’s so cool. It’s better than having no hits!’”
(Above) The Flaming Lips, with Coyne (centre), in 1989; (below) getting a big hand on Later… With Jools Holland, 2006.
But Wayne Coyne’s great act of self-invention was to follow and propel the band to a higher flight level. When the four-piece Flaming Lips were reduced to a trio with the departure of guitarist Ronald Jones in 1996, they re-imagined themselves as a post-digital Pink Floyd with the brilliant The Soft Bulletin, released in 1999. Onstage, in front of trippy film projections, offering gently beautiful songs such as Waitin’ For A Superman and Feeling Yourself Disintegrate, the now 38-year-old, greying-haired, peacoat-wearing Coyne became the ecstatic ringleader of this headspinning live experience. He’d animate hand puppets to mime along to the songs. He’d pour fake blood down his forehead. He believes this was the point where he began to truly build his own personality. “I’m creating a persona that lets me go up there and say, ‘Thank you tonight!’” he reflects today. “Part of me was like, ‘I want to become the person that gets to sing those songs.’ And so you just start off like, ‘Well, I’ll look like this when I do it.’ And before too long you’re not just looking like it, you’ve become that person. And that’s the great thing that art does. It’s not that you make it. It makes you.” rom here, over the next few years, The Flaming Lips’ shows became progressively more elaborate, with Coyne walking atop the audience in his transparent space ball, as outsized balloons bounced around him and confetti cannons exploded and people danced at the sides of the stage in animal costumes. There was almost a revival tent-style fervour to the band’s performances, not least with the modern classic Do You Realize??, which put the human condition into sharp perspective with its reminders that we’re all floating in space and that we and everyone we know will die some day. From the stage, nightly, Coyne could see people crying in the crowd. “For sure,” he notes, “and it affected us too. We’d never have that and feel, ‘Oh, look at these idiots.’ It was always very powerful and it would make us play better.” Nonetheless, Coyne and the band’s freakish instincts made them buck against the idea of becoming an arena-sized rock band known only for their emotional, existential anthems. “When I see a band like Coldplay, y’know, I like them enough,” he says, diplomatically. “But I wouldn’t have wanted to do records in that way where, y’know, if you like Do You Realize??, well we have four other records that have this [same] idea about them. We like Do You Realize??
Race for the prize: The Flaming Lips with their l Best Rock Instrumenta 3. 200 k, Yor w Ne y, mm Gra
That shows real balls: (left) Coyne meets the fans at Coachella Festival, California, 2004; (right) with heady fwend, Miley Cyrus, Soho House, New York, 2015.
but it didn’t make us think we should go away from what we want to do with our music and ideas.” And so The Flaming Lips decided to head further and further out there, following a path of ever-more extreme outsider art notions. In the video for 2009’s skronkrocking Watching The Planets, Coyne was kidnapped and stripped naked by a nudist cult. He had no qualms about getting his todger out on film? “No,” he laughs. “You think it would be weird. It’s only weird for about 20 seconds, y’know. We knew it would represent just… there are no rules. We’re doing whatever the fuck we want and no one is gonna stop us.” Subsequently, for The Flaming Lips’ 2012 collaborations album Heady Fwends, Coyne man convince most of its singers, including Ch Martin, Kesha and Bo Iver’s Justin Vernon, to donate blood
“If I was 35 and Miley Cyrus was 22, I might say, ‘Y’know, I’m kinda old for what you’re doing.’ But I’m so old and she’s so young, it doesn’t matter.” to be mixed into plastic for the record’s limited-edition vinyl release. Only Yoko Ono and Nick Cave declined. “I made a blanket statement,” says the singer. “Like, if you feel for any reason you don’t want your blood in there, it doesn’t matter to me why you don’t you don’t even have to say. e first one. She
Transfusion music: The Flaming Lips’ …Heady Fwends blood-filled limited-edition vinyl.
Rainin’ Babies In A Priest Driven Ambulance (1990)
THE BEST OF
The Flaming Lips’ wildest and weirdest moments. 72
Noise (partly) gives way to song in the first of the early Flaming Lips’ great songs. “This is my present to the world!” Coyne screams.
Thumping nursery rhyme that was a college radio hit for the Lips due to its brilliant, ludicrous catchiness.
Loping, unhinged alt-rocker that sounds like something Syd Barrett might have written if he’d still been creatively active in the ’90s.
She Don’t Use Jelly Transmissions From The Satellite Heart (1993)
This Here Giraffe Clouds Taste Metallic (1995)
Feeling Yourself Disintegrate The Soft Bulletin (1999) Emotions-tugging ballad that considers the ageing process with great insight and beauty: “Something is ending/Within us.”
ent times, eyebrows been raised about the fact that Coyne has developed a close friendship and creative elationship with the ncreasingly freakified ley Cyrus. “If I was 35 Miley was 22, I might ‘Y’know, I’m kinda old
for what you’re doing,’” he reasons. “But I’m so old and she’s so young, it doesn’t matter. If you were around her, in five minutes, you’d be like, ‘Oh, I get it, yeah.’” Two years ago in Los Angeles, Cyrus, Coyne and his girlfriend Katy Weaver even got matching tattoos done, featuring a drawing of the younger singer’s dog (which had recently been killed by coyotes) along with the legend: “With a little help from my fwends.” “It was just something absurd to do,” Coyne says with a grin and a shrug. “Miley likes getting tattoos. You should see her brothers and her mom and her dad… they’ve all got the same sorts of things. One would be of a grandmother and they’re like, ‘This means the world to me.’ Then the other is just a pizza, and it’s like, ‘I don’t even
remember why I got it.’ [Laughs] It’s the most meaningful and the most meaningless and it doesn’t matter and that’s why we like her.” or all of his tripped-out joie de vivre, underneath it all, Wayne Coyne can be a worrier. He frets sometimes that his fragile Neil Young-like singing voice isn’t strong enough to carry the melodies he hears in his head. “I’m not a very good singer,” he reckons, while at the same time acknowledging the emotional qualities he brings to a song. “I get to sing the song and the song is better than me.” In years gone by, he used to worry about The Flaming Lips breaking up: “I would always worry that people [in the band] would just get burned out or lose interest or their happiness in it. But then after a while, I would just be like, ‘Well… me worrying about it is probably making it worse.’” Above all, he used to worry about getting old. “Then people would be like, ‘Dude, you’re already old,’” he roars. “And I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, you’re right.’ It was such a great relief. I kept waiting for something to happen. I was relieved that whatever was gonna happen probably already did and this is the way I’m gonna be.” Coyne can’t imagine a time when he would want to quit the road and retire to his psychedelic compound. “I think I could probably go on like this forever,” he muses. He understands that while most people exist in the “straight” world, he’s free to be alive and creative in whatever weird ways he chooses. “I’m just very lucky that I kept working toward the fact that, like, I’m supposed to get up and do music today,” he concludes. “It’s what everybody wants me to do. Everywhere I go, everybody’s saying, ‘You’re gonna do your thing today.’ So I could see where if you want that, you’d wanna be around me and say, ‘How’s he getting away with it?’” The simple reason being because he’s The Wonderful Wizard Of Oklahoma, and that he glows with a bright light, pink and all the other colours of the rainbow, wherever he goes.
Off on a stag do? Wayne Coyne, London, 2016.
Do You Realize?? Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (2002)
The Golden Path The Chemical Brothers – single (feat Wayne Coyne) (2003)
A stone-cold classic, since played at funerals. As secular h go, this indie hymns is impossible to beat.
The Chemical Brothers do Talking Heads as Coyne wanders through the afterworld musing on how he came to die.
Trippy, distorted Krautrock number, which reminded listeners that The Flaming Lips were still out-there weirdos.
The Sparrow Looks Up At The Machine Embryonic (2009)
Children Of The Moon The Flaming Lips And Heady Fwends (2012)
Coyne and Kevin Parker from Tame Impala duet on what might have been a lost song from the musical Hair.
Try To Explain The Terror (2013)
Coyne – who was going through a messy marriage break-up at the time – sounds reflective and unusually downbeat on this melancholy, watercolour ballad.
The Castle Oczy Mlody
Using lovely melody and fairytale imagery, Coyne tells the sad story of a girl who has suffered an irreparable mental breakdown.
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“Concise perfection”: Leonard Cohen, the consummate craftsman.
y rock’n’roll standards, Leonard Cohen arrived old – he was 33 when he released his first album in 1967. But he left seeming younger at 82. He was a lifelong seeker who appeared to possess a deeper kind of wisdom – and the longer he lived the more that sense grew. His records had a lyrical consistency, every one of them containing a handful of hard-won insights. He never told you how to live, he just explained – with a gracious precision – what he’d tried. Born in Westmount, Montreal, in 1934, Cohen had been writing seriously since the early 1950s. Initially focused on poetry, then fiction, the creation of it was all-consuming. He was committed (“I always had the sense of being in this for keeps”) and a meticulous editor (“The cutting of the gem has to be finished beforee you can see if it shines”). When he finally turned to music in the mid-’660s, more for financial reasons than anything else, he operated with th he same painstaking methodology. The results were a conciise perfection from the start. His initial triumvirate of masterpieces spanning om 1967-1971 (Songs Of Leonard Cohen, Songs From A Roo and Songs Of Love And Hate), had it all: mordant wit, tacctile sensuality and a poetic recounting of a life lived. Powerfu ul themes emerged. What novelist James Salter called “thee real game of the grown-up world”, namely sex, battled it out with oblique politics and the conflict with his own psyche. Th he line that opened Songs Of Love And Hate (“I stepped intto an avalanche/It covered up my soul”) perhaps being the mo ost succinct summation of his mental struggles. Indeed, depression was the key to many of his actionss and thus his art. It led to him being characterised – affectionately – ass Laughing Len but the condition was real and it was paralysing (“a kind of mental violence that stops you functioning properly from one moment to the next”). To escape it, he tried almost everything. Drugs were an early crutch. From the mid-’50s, he was seeking ecstasy via hash, acid and amphetamines. While writing his second novel Beautiful Losers on the Greek island of Hydra in the early-’60s, he combined those with fasting – eventually collapsing, having shrunk to 116 pounds after not eating for 10 days. He later joked that the novel
was “more of a sunstroke than a book”. He drank heavily too. By the mid-’70s, the closest he ever really came to unravelling, he’d even invented his own drink, the Red Needle (tequila, cranberry juice, ice, lemon and/or exotic fruit). That sweet concoction was still fuelling recording sessions as late as 1992’s The Future LP. As he noted though, his own lack of tolerance saved him: “I’m not really a good drinker or a good junkie. My stomach just doesn’t permit it.” If intoxicants didn’t help, there were always women. There’s a story, recounted by his biographer Sylvie Simmons, that aged 13 Cohen studied a book on hypnotism, absorbing its lessons so quickly that he got the family’s maid to take her clothes off. That would suggest that his relationships with women were somehow abusive or about power but that wasn’t it at all. He loved women and needed them in his life, both emotionally and artistically. As he told the Village Voice in the late-’60s: “I really am for the matriarchy.” Some of his lovers were famous – Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin, actress Rebecca De Mornay – some more profound sources of inspiration – Marianne Ihlen and the two Suzannes, Verdal and Elrod. Not all women fell under his spell. Nico was famously resistant to his charms and was subsequently rewarded with two songs – Take This Longing and, more famously, Joan Of Arc (“Something in me yearns to win/ Such a cold and lonesome heroine”). The collapse of one of those relationships – with Rebecca De Mornay in 1994 – had a profound impact i on the rest of his life. Devastated, he retreated to the Mtt Baldy Zen Center just outside Los Angeeles and adopted the name Jikan – mean ning silence – cutting himself off from m the world. It was around this time that his longtime manager, Kelley Lynch, began defrauding him, ultimately misaappropriating over $5 million. This became the catalyst for the final T artistic chapter of his life. Forced back out o on the road and later into the studio, Coheen found solace anew in work. His eepic 2008-2010 world tour was raptu urously received, as was his final triloggy of albums – none more so than the musically rich denouement of You u Want It Darker. In the end his demise was as neat ne as his public appearance. He penned a beautifully emotive letter to Marianne Ihlen, the inspiration for Bird On A Wire and So Long, Marianne, just before her death (“Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine”) and offered a typically honest interview with The New Yorker in which he confessed, simply: “I am ready to die.” On 7 November – just 17 days after the release of You Want It Darker – he did. In a year repeatedly punctured by tragedy, this felt like the one that hurt the most. JAMES OLDHAM FEBRUARY 2017
For many years, Cohen considered this song, whose blend of the carnal and the spiritual established him as a doomed romantic, to be his best. So many of the details are taken from his acquaintance with Suzanne Verdal, the alluring wife of a sculptor friend – from the orange-flavoured Chinese tea Verdal used to serve guests to Cohen’s unrequited lust (“You’ve touched her perfect body with your mind”) – that he described it as “reportage”. But through Cohen’s mythologising lens, tea becomes a sacred ritual, a stroll through Montreal is a pilgrimage and Suzanne is transformed into a melancholy bohemian angel. By giving the song to folk singer Judy Collins, Cohen gave himself a music career less precarious than his previous life as a poet and cult novelist. It was Collins’s 1966 version that caught the ear of Columbia Records’ John Hammond and she who cajoled him into a nerve-wracking performance at a New York benefit concert. “I can’t sing and I certainly can’t perform,” he told her. “Of course you can,” she replied.
In 1960 Cohen sailed from London, via Jerusalem, to the Greek island of Hydra. He instantly fell in love bohemian sanctuary (“Everything you saw was beautiful ) and bought a house with money from his late grandmother’s will. Soon afterwards, he met Norwegian beauty Marianne Ihlen, his girlfriend for much of the ’60s and the inspiration for this rousing song about love and ambivalence. Ihlen died just months before Cohen and the beautiful letter that he sent his old lover and muse in hospital went viral: “Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.”
SUZANNE GAVE COHEN A CAREER LESS PRECARIOUS THAN HIS PREVIOUS LIFE AS A POET AND CULT NOVELIST.
One night in Edmonton, Canada, during a snow storm, Cohen invited two shivering female backpackers to crash in his hotel room. While they slept he wrote by the light
Cohen was suffering from a bout of depression on Hydra when Marianne handed him a guitar to cheer him up and he began composing a song inspired by the sight of birds perching on a newly installed telephone wire. Slowly, the song grew into a regretful assessment of how a proud desire for independence can leave a trail of casualties, and a desperate plea for forgiveness: “I have torn everyone who reached out for me/But I swear by this song/And by all that I have done wrong/I will make it up to thee.” It proved maddeningly elusive during the Nashville recording of his second album (among the takes he considered “phony” was one produced by David Crosby) until one of the final sessions when he opened his mouth and at last the song sounded “true and new”. Nashville in its bones, it was covered by country singers including Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and kd lang.
JAMES BURKE/THE LIFE PICTURE COLLECTION/GETTY IMAGES, JACK ROBINSON/GETTY IMAGES
“C’mon fellas – I’m trying to pull here!”: (above) Cohen serenades his bohemian mates, Hydra, 1960; (right) New York, 1967; (below) the back cover of Songs From A Room, 1969, featuring Marianne Ihlen.
of the moon reflecting off the snow outside and when they woke up he played them this song. “It was one of the few songs I ever wrote from top to bottom without a line of revision,” he said. One of his prettiest, most consoling songs, it thanks the life-saving women who were “waiting for me when I thought that I just can’t go on”. When Robert Altman asked Cohen if he could use some of his songs in his 1971 western McCabe & Mrs Miller, Sisters Of Mercy beautifully soundtracked a motley band of prostitutes riding in the wintry North-West. A decade later, a group of Leonard-loving goths from Leeds took their name from it. EBRUARY 2017
Cohen’s reputation as the “Prince of Bummers” and “Duke Of Doom” was always a lazy caricature, overlooking his humour and kindness, but it felt most true on his harrowing third album, recorded amid “a deep, paralysing anguish” after a gruelling, drug-crazed European tour that earned him the nickname “Captain Mandrax”. The opening song crushes the listener with its proto-goth menace. With stormy strings overdubbed by Elton John arranger Paul Buckmaster and none of the usual pill-sweetening female backing vocals, Cohen personifies a leering, inhuman hunchback who dogs the listener like a curse or, perhaps, depression: “You say you’ve gone away from me/But I can feel you when you breathe.” Nick Cave, who covered Avalanche, said the album “seethes and spits with a kind of violence unlike any other record ever made”.
Even though Cohen never felt that he’d nailed the lyric – “too mysterious, too unclear” – this deep and haunting song became a fan favourite. Framed as a letter to the man who’d slept with his wife, it is gracious verging on masochistic as Cohen sings, “I guess that I miss you, I guess I forgive you” and thanks the man “for the trouble you took from her eyes”. The raincoat in question was a Burberry mac he bought during his time in London in 1959 and wore to death until it was stolen in the ’70s. The line, “Did you ever go clear?” refers to Cohen’s brief flirtation with Scientology, which he later brushed off by saying that the church was just “a good place to meet women”. Indeed, it was where he met Suzanne Elrod, who became the mother of his children Adam and Lorca. 80
LEONARD REPUTAT COHEN’S THE “DU ION AS WAS ALWKE OF DOOM” CARICAT AYS A LAZY UR E .
They didn’t call him Laughing Len for nothing: (above) London, 1974; (below) in Copenhagen on his 1972 European tour.
Some mothers do ’ave ’em: (above) Frankfurt, 1976; (below) breath of a ladies’ man, 1977.
MICHAEL PUTLAND/GETTY IMAGES, GIUSEPPE PINO / CONTRASTO /EYEVINE, ANDREW STAWICKI/TORONTO STAR VIA GETTY IMAGES
Cohen deeply regretted revealing that the woman “giving me head on the unmade bed while the limousines wait in the street” was Janis Joplin but this uncharacteristically ungallant lapse is redeemed by the song’s tenderness and self-deprecation: “You told me again you preferred handsome men/But for me you would make an exception.” Cohen and Joplin were both living in the legendarily grimy New York hotel (“a grand, mad place”) in 1968, met in the elevator, and hooked up “through some process of elimination”. In 1971, a few months after her death, he began writing Chelsea Hotel on a cocktail napkin but it evolved (and improved) so dramatically that he ended up appending “#2”. The final version is a beautiful tribute to Joplin, memory and the fleeting but intense solidarity of a one-night stand: “You said, ‘Well, never mind, we are ugly but we have the music.’”
Cohen’s unhappy collaboration with Ph Spector found both men wallowing in the dirt but the producer had the whip hand. Cohen had “lost control of my work and my life,” and was in no shape to hold his own against a mad emperor
in a studio full of guns, booze and dozens of musicians. Cohen loathed Spector’s bullying production and decision to keep his rough vocal takes. The songs, inspired by his separation from Suzanne Elrod, deserved better. But on the nine-minute title track the arrangement’s grotesque decadence goes hand in glove with Cohen’s bitter emotional autopsy: “The great affair is over but whoever would have guessed/It would leave us all so vacant and so deeply unimpressed.” You suspect Father John Misty nows this song well.
When Cohen’s mother Masha was dying from leukaemia, she reminded him of the Russian and Jewish songs she played when he was a child, inspiring him to employ violinist Raffi Hakopian and oud player John Bilezikjian on the surprisingly calm and straightforward Recent Songs. The Guests is a song of welcoming, inspired by the Sufi poets Rumi and Attar and their image of humans as lost souls waiting to be invited to the feast. It celebrates moments of joy and belonging that can’t be explained. “No one actually understands the mechanics of this grace except that we experience it from time to time,” Cohen said. FEBRUARY 2017
“Yes, I’m wearing cowboy boots. What of it?”: Cohen in Paris, 1981.
“You could get some hen dirty pictures…”: Co 1988. sauces things up in
u know this one. Cohen toiled over it for e years and 80 verses, only for Columbia to ect the whole album, but Hallelujah was born when Cohen faxed over 15 pages of leted verses to John Cale, opening the song to endless permutations. Made ubiquitous a rolling alliance of Jeff Buckley, Shrek and e X Factor, it’s perhaps overfamiliar – even hen once said that “too many people sing – but too rich and deep to be exhausted. s a song about sex and songwriting and d and failure; a rueful My Way; a universal mn; and “a desire to affirm my faith in life”. hich theme comes to the fore is contingent who sings it, how and when and where and hy, and which verses they choose. It’s a ing song, fluid enough to suit weddings, nerals and, in the week of Cohen’s death, ction defeats, and that’s why it endures. nventional wisdom says Cohen’s version ’t the best – blame the ’80s studio gloop – t only he could make his words sound like ey were engraved on tablets of stone. On his 08 comeback tour he took his song back.
ANDREW STAWICKI/TORONTO STAR VIA GETTY IMAGES, WENN
HALLELUJAH IS A LIVING SONG, FLUID ENOUGH TO SUIT WEDDINGS AND FUNERALS.
While making I’m Your Man, Cohen’s depression took on geopolitical proportions and he came to feel that the worst had already happened – “that we don’t have to wait for the nuclear holocaust, that the world has been destroyed somehow.” He poured “all my darkest thoughts” into a fatalistic catalogue of the world’s insults – racism, Aids, inequality, betrayal. Yet the almost jaunty melody (written by regular backing singer Sharon Robinson) and John Bilezikjian’s skittering oud help twist the song’s pessimism into black comedy. “It pushes things very far just to get a laugh,” Cohen said.
“This is my story,” Cohen said onstage in Nuremberg in 1988. “It’s a dismal story. It’s a shabby story. It’s a funny story. But it’s my story.” Struggling with the familiar question, “What am I doing with my life?”, Cohen presented the answer in the form of a joke, deepening the self-mockery with the cheap Casio rhumba and wobbly keyboard solo. “I was born like this, I had no choice/I was born ith the gift of a golden voice” is a very nny line but the “no choice” is deadly rious. He describes his dedication to usic not as a career or a pleasure but a fe sentence. Cohen called it “one of the hree or four real songs I’ve written” and ecited the lyric in its entirety when he was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. It’s a bitterly funny selfwritten epitaph: “You’ll be hearing from me, baby, long after I’m gone.” Brains and brawn! Lenny gets ready for bathtime, 1988.
In one Nazi concentration camp, Cohen read somewhere, musically gifted prisoners were forced to play classical music while their fellow Jews were marched to the crematorium. This hideous image of corrupted art perversely inspired a song so romantic that it became a popular wedding song and set opener. The Old European ambience, based on a Greek hasapiko folk dance, is subverted by Cohen’s cheap Casio keyboard, which opened up new melodic possibilities for him even as it gave this transitional album an uncomfortably chintzy feel. Fun fact: he string arranger was David Campbell, eck’s dad.
Paralysed by depression, Cohen developed an envious fascination with the adamantine certainty of extremists. “There’s something about terrorism that I’ve always admired,” he confessed. “There are no alibis or no compromises.” He was careful to add: “I don’t really enjoy the terrorist activities.” Here he expresses this sinister fixation via an unreliable narrator, a fanatic plotting his revenge on the world while supplying enough details to suggest that he’s a demented fantasist. With help from keyboardist Jeff Fisher, Cohen worked it into a synth-pop banger which sounds like the Pet Shop Boys in jackboots. I’m Your Man’s opening track established the musical daring and outrageous humour that would define his best LP. After 9/11, Cohen remarked: “In a way it’s a better song now than before.” FEBRUARY 2017
He liked to swing: Cohen kicks back in 1993.
ICONICPIX, ETHAN HILL/CONTOUR BY GETTY IMAGES
When the Berlin Wall came down, most of the world celebrated but Cohen turned into Jeremiah, anticipating the horrors waiting around the corner. His most brutally hopeless song is an apocalyptic panorama featuring Stalin, Hiroshima, Charles Manson, ecocide, torture, and a declaration of doom worthy of WB Yeats’s famous poem The Second Coming: “The blizzard of the world has crossed the threshold/And it has overturned the order of the soul.” Given recent events, who’s to say he was wrong? The Future’s lyrical extremity and perversely appealing groove made it perfect for the closing credits of Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers. “It would be bleak,” said Cohen, “if it wasn’t set to a hot dance track.”
“There’s not a line in it that I couldn’t defend,” Cohen said of a song whose opening lines were lifted by Coldplay on Up With The Birds and whose central mantra – “Ring the bells that still can ring/ Forget your perfect offering/There is a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in” – became an uplifting aphorism that thrived in rehab clinics and went viral after his death. Anthem is so perfect that you can see why it took over 10 years to get right: it was begun in the early ’80s and versions were recorded for both Various Positions and I’m Your Man. It’s the song that best articulates Cohen’s belief in “the brokenness of things”, turning weakness into strength and failure into hope. Sung with grave compassion and lavished with strings, it’s the closest Cohen got to a feelgood song, as benign and reassuring as the title track is not.
After The Future, Cohen retreated to the Mount Baldy Zen Center for five years of rigorous study to cure his depression and returned to music, with collaborator Sharon Robinson, in a much less fraught state of mind. Like Hallelujah and Anthem, this twilight murmur of a song is about accepting the imperfection and mystery of life. “Everybody eventually comes to the conclusion that things are not unfolding exactly the way they wanted, and that the whole enterprise has a basis that you can’t penetrate,” Cohen explained. He wrote 30 verses for A Thousand Kisses Deep, many of which came to him on Mount Baldy when he was meant to be meditating.
“THERE IS A CRACK IN EVERYTHING, THAT’S HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN” BECAME AN APHORISM IN REHAB CLINICS. 84
“Be seeing you…”: Leonard Cohen, lifetime resident in the Tower Of Song, 2000.
In 2008, Cohen was forced back onto the road for the first time in 15 years after his business manager embezzled his life savings, but what began as a financial necessity turned into a vindication and a joy. Revitalised, he re-entered the studio with a surprising collaborator: former Madonna co-writer Pat Leonard. Narrated in a papery whisper, Going Home begins his long good humorous note, with a bullying boss – God, perhap g being “a lazy bastard” who wants, as usual, “to write a love song, an anthem of forgiving, a manual for living with defeat”: a perfect summary of his oeuvre.
After another triumphant world tour, his last, Cohen got back to work with Pat Leonard, paring down his words and music on a grainily intimate record that was tender but never soft. Creeping through the darkness on a slithery groove, Almost Like The Blues recalls the blasted terrain and macabre humour of The Future, with Cohen a reluctant witness to the world’s myriad cruelties: “There’s torture and there’s killing/And there’s all my bad reviews.”
Housebound with pain as his body began to shut down, Cohen was forced to record his last album at home in LA, emailing his parts t hi collaborators. Produced by his dam, it became his Blackstar. morbid title track features the or and choir from the Montreal gogue frequented by his family finds Cohen railing in his thuselah-like croak against od who permits so much ffering, even as he prepares surrender himself with a alf-Hebrew cry of “Hineni, ineni, I’m ready my Lord.” Leonard Cohen was never likely to go gentle into that good night. He knew too much. FEBRUARY 2017
A fine vintage: Leonard Cohen, Los Angeles, 1991.
eulogy, Leonard Cohen’s son Adam revealed that his father always enjoyed preparing food for other people, proudly acknowledging that he was “probably the best-known short-order chef in the world”. Back in the autumn of 1991, I got to test out this theory at Leonard Cohen’s modest Los Angeles home. He was going to make lunch and tacos were the order of the day. He set out his ingredients like a master craftsman. A cheese connoisseur, Cohen had a block of aged gruyère the size of a house brick. It tasted, as the poet put it, “un-fucking-believable”. Our host generously opened a 1982 Chateau Latour (“Three hundred bucks a bottle!”) and inspired, we discussed collaborating on a wine guide that described the effect, as opposed to the taste, of a particular vintage. “This wine makes one feel wise, holy and handsome,” Cohen twinkled. He anointed the artfully assembled tacos with a blob of sour cream, approaching the counter in a Chaplin-like shuffle, loaded spoon in hand, before delivering the creamy coup de grâce. While eating lunch, we spoke about Bob Dylan, whom I’d interviewed a year or so earlier and Cohen still saw occasionally. I noted that Dylan wasn’t big on small talk. Cohen chuckled knowingly and launched into a heartfelt soliloquy that didn’t make it into the final piece for space reasons, about the fellow he described as “the Picasso of song”. “The last time we met for any length of time was after a concert he’d done in Paris,” he concluded. “We met in a café in the 14th arrondissement and we had a real good writers’ shop talk. We really went into the stuff very technically. You couldn’t meet two people who work more differently. He said, ‘I like that song you wrote called Hallelujah.’ In fact, he started doing it in concert. He said, ‘How long did it take to write?’ And I said, ‘Oh, the best part of two years.’ He said, ‘Two years…’ Kinda shocked. And then we started 88
talking about a song of his called I And I from Infidels. I said, ‘How long did that take you to write that?’ He said, ‘Ohh, 15 minutes.’ I almost fell off my chair. Bob just laughed.” Interviewing Cohen was always a rare pleasure. Perfectly sculpted phrases would pour out of him and stay with you. I still refer to poetry as “the lines that don’t come to the edge of the page.” I confess to regular use of his deadpan claim that “meditation is better than sitting around doing nothing.” Later, crouching by an unstable stereo, Cohen played a selection of recordings that would become his 1992 album The Future: the eerily prophetic Democracy; a cover of Frederick Knight’s Be For Real, the slow-grinding gospel of Always and the devastating Anthem. Eyes closed, he recited the fine line, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” He later admitted that it had been adapted from a quotation by Jaläl ad-Dïn Muhammad Rümï. (“The wound is the place where the light enters you”). The Sufi mystic would surely let it go. Before we said goodbye, Cohen gave me a collection of contemporary psalms and prayers he’d written called Book Of Mercy. It was painstakingly compiled in a caravan in the South Of France during a soul-scouring search for spiritual transcendence. “Not as much fun as it sounds,” he warned. The slender paperback, it transpired, was a long-form warm-up for his masterpiece Hallelujah – the song that his old spar Dylan admired so much. The author rested his hand on my shoulder in the doorway and for a moment we watched the sun set together. He had signed my book: “All good things, Leonard Cohen.”
Adrian Deevoy, l3 November, 2O16
“He was a rare pleasure to interview”: (above) Q correspondent Adrian Deevoy; (top) Leonard Cohen at home in LA, 1991.
“ I don’t know if I can do this,” apologises Leonard Cohen. “It’s like your wife is in the next room talking to another guy.” He eases himself off the sofa, shuffles across his living room and presses the eject button. “I’m Your Fan,” he reads, tenderly fingering the source of his discomfort, “A Tribute To Leonard Cohen. That’s something, ain’t it?” Not wishing to appear ungrateful, he slots the cassette back into the machine, lowers the volume and resumes his conversation. “Believe me,” he says in that familiar, funereal mumble which, if anything, is more melodic than his singing voice, “any attention I get, I’m grateful for. I never believe anyone when they say that they want to pay tribute to me. Jennifer Warnes was saying for years that she wanted to do an album of my songs and I always took that as an expression of friendship. I never expected her to go ahead and make it. Same with Christian Fevret [a French magazine editor and avid Cohenophile] who has put this thing together. He presented me with the idea and we ran through some group names. I didn’t know all of
them but I knew Ian McCulloch, whom I’ve met on several occasions, and R.E.M. and the Pixies and Lloyd Cole and John Cale. It seemed like a really nice thing but I said, ‘Yeah, seems like a great idea. Goodbye and good luck.’ I never thought I’d hear from him again.” But Fevret came back with a double album of Cohen covers, including R.E.M. reworking First We Take Manhattan, Ian McCulloch tackling Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye, Lloyd Cole revisiting Chelsea Hotel No. 2, House Of Love xeroxing Who By Fire, James bravely attempting So Long, Marianne, the Pixies wrestling with I Can’t Forget and John Cale marvellously interpreting Hallelujah. “Have you heard what Nick Cave has done with Tower Of Song?” asks Cohen, plainly touched by the gangle-limbed gloomster’s brutal deconstruction of his song. “I love that. It’s weird, but it’s a really intelligent approach. He’s thought about it. And he’s caught the spirit of the song, got inside the…” He pauses to listen to McCulloch’s contribution which is quietly seeping from the speakers. He closes his eyes and smiles distantly. “Gotta listen in,” he laughs, “they might be getting something wrong.” He collects himself and continues. “I’m so flattered. I just go into some sort of suspended state. You’re never going to hear me say I don’t like…” He fades out again as the Pixies’ FEBRUARY 2017
Black Francis growls, “I’ve loved you all my life/That’s how I want to end it.” “Wow,” exhales Cohen. “Hear the conviction in that?” As That Petrol Emotion launch into Stories Of The Street, he finally cracks. “Hey, we’re really going to have to take this down. me right down. It’s such an exquisite distraction.” He turns the volum “We’ll try it as background music, although my guess is that it’ll make it more tantalising.” All goes swimmingly until the opeening phrases of Suzanne stop Cohen in his tracks. “Who’s singing th his?” he asks. It is Geoffrey Oryema, who is signed to Peter Gabriiel’s Real World label. Cohen squints toward the hi-fi. “When you hear a guy singing a song like this, which h you wrote before he was born, it gives you a good feeling.” He is genuinely choked with emotion. He takes a deep breath. “This isn n’t a casual moment for me.” “Have some wine. You shouldn’t refuse, it’s a sacram ment.” Wearing a crumpled black linen suit, a grey T-shirt and ecclesiastical black shoes and socks, Cohen clambers up the outdoor stairrcase of his mid-town Los Angeles home cradling a bottle and som me glasses in the crook of his arm. Outside, kids play on golf-green lawn ns and the sun pours down onto low, white-washed houses. “They telll me this isn’t a very good neighbourhood,” he shrugs, “but I haven’t experienced any unpleasantness. Come on through.” Off the main living room is Cohen’s fully mod-conned writing area, complete with Apple Mac computer, modem, fax machine and a digital synthesizer. Earlier he had been indulging his newly discovered passion for freehand computer graphics, drawing, not surprisingly, a woman’s face. Peering through a heavy-framed pair of spectacles he had attempted to close the machine down in order to give his full attention to his guests. Unfortunately, the file he was using began to crash. “Jesus! Shit!” Canada’s national poetry prize winner exclaimed by way of a greeting. “What the fuck’s happening?” The assorted hi-techery contrasts suddenly with the cool ambience and pared-down simplicity of the rest of the house. Apart from the occasional wooden table and ornate gold candlestick, the furniture is predominantly white, receding into bleached floors and walls. Through the clinically clean kitchen is a sparsely decorated bedroom, again all white apart from a black television set perched above the bed. In the hall there is a mirror surrounded by a collection of hats and caps. An anthology of Cohen-composed prayers entitled Book Of Mercy lies on a work-top. Several cordless telephones are dotted around the house. t 57, Leonard Cohen is lined but wellpreserved. Like a pickled walnut. Although, as he says, his hair is grey and he aches in the places where he used to play, he is still a tasty bit of older man. The two young women who drift in and out this afternoon (both answering to the name of “Sweetheart”) certainly seem to enjoy his twinkle-eyed company. And they happily attend to his every whim. He merely asks them to go to the bank or collect some food, engages them in some prolonged and presumably psychosexually-charged eye contact, and off they go with a spring in their step. But that’s why he is Leonard Cohen, poet of romantic “I can’t see a bloody thing despair, and we are not. in these…”: Cohen enjoys “Being called a poet is not very a late-period resurgence. attractive,” he says pouring some
glossy, red Sauvignon into a tiny, engraved glass. “It’s like being called a hippy. There’s something a bit fruity about being called a poet. So whatever that activity is – when you write lines that don’t come to the edge of the page – you just keep quiet about it.” It was, nonetheless, the card marked “Poet” that the young Canadian plucked from destiny’s Job Centre in the early ’50s. He was soon drawn into Montreal’s small but self-assured New Poetry clique. “Each time we met,” remembers Cohen, “we felt that it was a landmark in the history of thinking, let alone poetry. We had a very exalted view of things. But a humorous view too. We had a good time. It wasn’t anguished. There was a great deal of fellowship and drinking. “You’ve got to understand that the English writing scene in Montreal is tiny. It’s a French city and the actual number of people writing in English is very small. It didn’t have any prestige or prizes at the time. Not even any girls. But a few of us were on fire and we’d write for each other and any girl that would listen.” It was this incentive, which would fan Cohen’s creative flames for the next 35 years, that led him to publish two of his own poetry collections, Let Us Compare Mythologies (1956) and The Spice-Box Of Earth (1961), followed, in 1964, by the then-controversial Flowers For Hitler. But even if his verse seduced the odd impressionable female student, the rent remained unpaid. If there was any money to be made in this writing lark, Cohen decided, it was in novels. By 1966 he had written two. “The Favourite Game was a young man’s first novel about his own dismal situation,” says Cohen, condensing the plot for the modern, busy person. “In the second novel, Beautiful Losers, it began to take off, it really cooks. Both books were very favourably reviewed. Beautiful Losers had glorious reviews. Glorious. But it sold 3000 copies. It was then that I realised that I’d have to examine the situation a little more closely. Having done so, I realised that I probably wouldn’t be able to support myself working as a novelist. On reflection, it’s been downhill ever since then. That was my peak! I look at those poems I wrote when I was 15 or 16 and I’d be more than happy to write those now. They were beautiful. I was great at 15. I don’t know how innocent it was but it was certainly very penetrating. I look at those lyrics and their imagery, and the sense of authority is as good as anything I can come up with now. We forget what we were like at 15.
Say it with flowers: Laughing Len turns on the legendary charm in 1991.
There’s a 15-year-old wisdom just like there’s a 57-year-old wisdom. I can’t quite locate the latter but I believe it’s in there somewhere.” “Come into the kitchen,” insists Cohen. “We’ll talk while I make you some tacos like you’ve never tasted before in your life.” So the legendary songwriter sets about preparing a light Mexican lunch, pondering, as he does, how he ever came to be a musician. “I never did set poetry to music,” he says, fetching a slab of Swiss cheese from the fridge. “I got stuck with that. It was a bum rap. I never set a poem to music. I’m not that hopeless. I know the difference between a poem and a song! Anyway, I’d been in a band, The Buckskin Boys: three guys playing a harmonica, guitar and bucket bass. The guy who played the bucket bass was called Terry. We used to play hoedowns at square dances at schools and halls. We had quite a career going for a while.” The transition from hoedown band to his first solo LP, Songs Of Leonard Cohen (an album so bleak and introspective it made many people feel that their dog had just died) must have been quite drastic. “Well, strangely,” he says, thickly slicing a beef tomato, “there was no real transition because it was all folk and country. Very simple. It was a natural move for me. It took a certain amount of confidence to make that first record but as my friend says, ‘The necessary qualifications for being a poet are arrogance and inexperience.’ I had lots of those types of qualifications and I’d got to the point where I had to hustle my backside into some sort of paying proposition.” Released in 1967, Songs Of Leonard Cohen flew directly in the face of the musical fashion of the time. While everyone else was getting
high and experimenting with the complex studio-trickery that produced psychedelia, Cohen was mournfully thrumming a nylon-stringed guitar, mumbling darkly about imprisonment, guilt, betrayal, scalpel blades and torturing frocks. “No, it wasn’t rock music or lyrical protest music,” admits Cohen, now carefully daubing sour cream onto the sizzling taco. “It was an individual sound. It wasn’t conscious. I didn’t have and still don’t have a strategy. It just didn’t feel like a career to me. I had this naive view that I would do what I did, the world would consider it to be of a certain value and pay me accordingly. That was as far as I looked into the matter. Although, as regards psychedelia, I’d been out of touch for a bit, to tell you the truth, I’d been out in Greece, living on Hydra. “At that time I could live on Hydra for $1100 a year and live a good life. So I’d come back to Canada and make a thousand bucks doing some job or other and then go back to Hydra and write and swim and sail. I bought a house there for $1500. I still have it. All of this sounds very idyllic but it was naive and because I’d never set up a career – what Joni Mitchell later called the ‘star-stoking machinery’ – for myself, by the time the ’70s came round and everything had gotten hard-nosed and materialistic, I got wiped out. The records stopped selling, they stopped putting some of them out in America, markets dried out and by the time the ’80s arrived, I was pretty near broke.” But Songs Of Leonard Cohen has sold more than 10 million copies. Surely that acted as a powerful wolf-from-door deterrent? “First of all, the song Suzanne was stolen from me,” he frowns, taking a Galloping Gourmet-styled draught of wine at the stove. FEBRUARY 2017
“Someone smarter than me got me to sign the publishing over to them. I lost Suzanne, The Stranger Song and Dress Rehearsal Rag. I finally got them back, three years ago, but I’d lost a lot of money. Although, fortunately I got them back before the resurrection of my own career, which sort of started in ’85 and really picked up in ’88 with I’m Your Man.” To what would he attribute this resurrection? “I really don’t know,” he smiles, serving the delicious salsa-spiced concoction onto a plate. “Maybe a new generation picked up on it. There’s always those kind of people around, I guess. And I always had a feeling that those songs weren’t dead yet. I’m fond of saying that my songs last just as long as a Volvo – about 30 years.” He laughs and places some cutlery on the table. “Here, you’re going to love this. Let me get you a drink while you come up with more penetrating questions.” You made Death Of A Ladies’ Man in 1977 with Phil Spector. Was that collaboration as weird as it sounded? “Much weirder. I’m too ashamed to tell the whole truth of what happened there.” The stories have it that Spector had armed guards in the studio in order to encourage your performance. “Oh, it was a long time ago.” But do you remember there being guns around? “There were a lot of guns around. Phil had bodyguards and he liked guns. So did I, but I didn’t happen to have any armed bodyguards. But you’ve got to understand, there was a lot of wine and other stuff around, so it wasn’t just that there were a few guns around the place. People were skating around on bullets, guns were finding their way into hamburgers, guns were all over the place. It wasn’t safe. It was mayhem, but it was part of the times. It was rather drug-driven. But I like Phil, and the instinct was right. I’d do it again. Now would be a good time.” Have you ever been involved with drugs yourself? “I’ve looked into most of them. I never really got into cocaine. I tried it but I don’t really like ingesting things through my nose. It always seemed so undignified for a chap of my stature.” What was your drug of choice at that time? “Well, Well, I don don’tt like to speak about these things because I don’t don t want to corru peed.”
If that was the only way I’d exploited a relationship, then I’m going straight to heaven. Are you kidding me?” Did you ever manipulate a relationship because you knew the situation would lend itself to a good lyric? “I never cared that much about writing. But I’ve never been a vampire. I feel that writing is more like dealing in the ashes of something that’s been burnt. It’s detailing the evidence rather than the experience.” Have you always found it easier to write about women? “I’ve never found it easy to write. Period. I mean, I don’t want to whine about it or anything but… it’s a bitch! It’s terrible work. I’m very disciplined in that I can settle down into the work situation but coming up with the words is very hard. Hard on the heart, hard on the head and it just drives you mad. Before you know it, you’re crawling across the carpet in your underwear trying to find a rhyme for ‘orange’. It’s a terrible, cruel job. But I’m not complaining.” Have you felt restricted by your voice over the years? “Sometimes I can’t stand the sound of my voice. It went through periods. The first and second records it sounded right. Then I stopped being able to find the right voice for the songs. The songs were good and the intention was good but the voice wasn’t really up to it. I lost it for a while. When I did Various Positions  it was coming back and when I got to I’m Your Man  I was in full stride.” That leaves 15 years when your voice didn’t feel right. “What the hell. Some guys never get it right.” You wrote Chelsea Hotel #2 about Janis Joplin. Were you aware, during the time you knew her, that she was killing herself? “I hoped that Janis might have been in for a long haul the way that Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell have been but you kind of knew that the candle was burning at both ends and she probably wouldn’t make it. Just in the way that she sang and the way that she lived. But at the time we didn’t know that you couldn’t do that forever. It’s like now they say that cigarettes and sugar and even white bread can kill. But we didn’t even know that heroin could kill you. “I was somewhat older than most of those people so I favoured a moderate position. Also, because I’d come up through the literary side, I knew k the biographies of the poets and how they’d wrecked themselves. So I didn’t feel like ggoingg on the trip. p And I did caution
He refreshes his glass and addresses the inevvitable topic off d depression. i “Well, I can’t deny it – I have known that sidee of things, things ” he laughs drily. “It’s funny how people take it. In a way I guess it’s like drinking. Sometimes when you take a drink, it brings you down. Other times it can make you quite gay. I think a lot of people have had that reaction to my work. It’s a downer but, curiously enough, although this may be hard to believe – and I have documentary evidence downstairs if you have trouble believing this, letters and all kinds – some people say this stuff got them through the night.” Is the humour in your work misunderstood? “Oh, totally. But what can you do? I get a chuckle or two out of it.” Is it a misconception that all your songs are overly romantic? “Well, if you examine the work I think you’ll find quite a realistic take on the whole matter. The notion I get of ‘romantic’ is someone who cherishes illusions. I think just a partial study of my songs – if anyone was actually bored enough to undertake such an enterprise – will discern that the illusions are few and far between. But if people want to call me romantic… there are worse things to be called.” Do you ever feel that you have exploited relationships by writing about them? “That’s the very least way in which I have exploited relationships.
moderation to a few people but you can’t get them to stop using something unless they want to do it themselves.” Chelsea Hotel #2 #2 chronicles your affair in very personal detail detail. Is a subject never too sensitive or personal to write about? “I don’t think my writing has got personal enough yet. I think it has some way to go before it gets really personal. When it’s really personal everybody understands it. There’s a middle ground which is just unzipping and self-indulgence but when you really tell the truth people immediately perceive that. Like when I wrote the lyrics for I Can’t Forget, it went through so many transformations to get it really personal. It started off as a kind of hymn and I ended up stuck sitting at this very kitchen table thinking, ‘Where am I really? What can I really tell anyone about anything?’ So I thought, ‘I’ve got to start from scratch. How am I living this day? What am I doing now?’ So I wrote, ‘I stumbled out of bed/Got ready for the struggle/I smoked a cigarette/ And I tightened up my gut/I said, ‘This can’t be me, must be my double/I can’t forget I don’t remember what.’ “I think when you get really good, you write a line like, ‘I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill’, or, ‘The moon stood still on Blueberry Hill.’ That’s beautiful, isn’t it? ‘The moon stood still.’” “I’ve got to thank you for coming here,” Cohen says as he sways gently towards the stereo. “You’ve given me a reason to drink this delightful bottle of red wine.”
“I just need to get a copy of Fly Fishing by JR Hartley…”: Leonard Cohen, the world’s best-known “short-order cook”.
e’re back in the living room to listen to a few tracks from his ninth, and as yet unfinished, studio album, called (he thinks) Be For Real. The first track he plays, Democracy, is a rolling essay on the arrival of equal political rights in America. Musically, it’s in the I’m Your Man mould, all sub-sonically deadpan voice and bubbling sequencers. It is quite wonderful. As we listen, Cohen closes his eyes, as if in a trance and mouths the words. When it ends, he laughs to learn that it sounds, well, very much like Leonard Cohen. There are, it dawns, few other points of reference. “It can be tricky working in original genres,” he agrees. “There aren’t really any other songs like this. You’re creating forms and it’s hard to know where to take them. So you say to the guitarist, ‘Play it so it sounds like… what?’ There’s no real precedent.” He hunts around for a tape of another track. He searches through his desk. Makes a phone call. Looks around the tape machine. “Can’t find it anywhere,” he says shaking his head and rifling through a drawer. “Maybe Dylan came by and stole it.” Eventually a cassette of the temporary title track and a cover of an old Irving Berlin song, Always, is located. Both are gorgeous, full-blown band ballads. “What a groove!” Cohen shouts over the booming bass and soaring backing vocals. Is that real brass? “Fuckin’ right it is!” He slaps his legs as the ad-libbed couplet, “I don’t give a damn about the truth/Except the naked truth” is declared to be close to Barry White territory. “Thank you!” he calls above the swelling chorus. “Sincerely!”
The informal playback concluded, he decants the last of the wine into his tiny glass and the conversation, like many of his songs, enters the realm of the abstract. We begin talking about his 18-year-old son’s recent near-fatal car crash; this leads on to dancing (“I can’t dance, I just move my hips in a rhythmically suggestive manner”); the history of the synthesizer; the banana on the cover of I’m Your Man (scholars assumed there was deep meaning to the photograph but it was, he regrets to say, just a casual snap taken as he ate his lunch) and the story of his fleeting appearance in Miami Vice. “In truth, I had a much bigger part. I went down there and did my first scene and the assistant director rang me up and said, ‘You were really great, truly wonderful.’ And I said, ‘OK, thanks a lot.’ Then the casting director from New York called me up and said, ‘You were fantastic, truly wonderful!’ And I said, ‘You mean I’m fired.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, we’re cutting all your other scenes and giving them to another guy.’” Then, somehow, the talk turns to the meaning of Tower Of Song which, it transpires, is “that place where the writer is stuck. For better or worse, you’re in it. I’ve come this far down the line, I’m not going to turn around and become a forest ranger or a neurosurgeon. I’m a songwriter.” He quotes – by way of an extension to the song First We Take Manhattan – from a new song he has written, If You Could See What’s Coming Next [which later became the album’s title track, The Future]: “If you could see what’s coming next/If you could see the hidden text/You’d say, ‘Give me love or give me Adolf Hitler’/And you’d say, ‘Give me back the Berlin Wall/ Give me Stalin and St Paul’/You’d say, ‘Give me Christ or give me Hiroshima/Just get me out of this mirror.’” We discuss Zen meditation, something Cohen has studied for many years. “It’s no big deal. I spend a couple of months a year in one of the centres or monasteries. You get up real early in the morning. It’s all very structured. It’s a nice way to re-align in peace and quiet with no noise or telephones. Just me and my own dismal thoughts.” We examine the myth that Leonard Cohen is a 3am-untippedFrench-cigarette-empty-Cognac-bottle-woman-of-Europeanextraction-kinda-guy. “Well, I’m normally up at around five, so that could create problems. In fact, I’m not that melancholy chap you could depend on to depress your friends any more.” We talk about marriage and why Cohen, a great lover of womankind, has never taken the plunge. “Too frightened,” he concludes. You wonder whether he’s kept in touch with the various Suzannes and Mariannes who so evocatively populate his songs. “Pretty much so,” he sighs. “It’s the inescapable lousiness of growing old.” Marianne is now married and lives in Norway, and Suzanne is still in Montreal. As the day begins to fade and evening – as Leonard Cohen would have it – is tuning up, the man we have amusingly come to know as Laughing Len says goodbye and returns to his computer for a further session of electronic doodling. “The song Suzanne is journalism,” he says of his most celebrated composition. “It’s completely accurate.” There were tea and oranges involved? “Well,” he laughs, “the tea actually had little pieces of orange peel in it. But ‘tea and oranges’ sounds better, doesn’t it? She did used to ‘take you down to her place near the river’. You could ‘hear the boats go by’ and you could ‘spend the night beside her’. All those things...” And… “…and I touched her perfect body with my mind.” He leaves a masterfully weighted pause. “Mostly because she was married to a friend of mine and I couldn’t touch her with anything else!” FEBRUARY 2017
A brush with greatness: Leonard introduces Adam to the arts.
’ve had a very normal relationship with my father, with the exception that he’s terribly well known and, so it is said, one of the most important writers in his domain. Like all sons, I have found the relationship has added layers to itself over time. There’s only one layer of the relationship that I didn’t have and that’s the rebellion layer. I was either too unaware that I should’ve been experiencing it or he was simply spared it. These days, I find my relationship with him is just looking in a mirror and consulting with him. Hearing the timbre of his voice in my own. Body posture, mannerisms, ethics, morals, linguistics. All the deep imprintings that are there from either socio-genetics or, if you were to be cruel, you could say it was parroting. Whatever the reason, I throw my arms around the lifestyle I was given. My father made a remarkable effort – and one that I am much more impressed with now as a family man myself – to remain in his children’s lives despite a less-than-perfect split-up with my mother. I always saw him. He was always around. He always made gigantic efforts. There was even a time when he wasn’t allowed on the property and to circumnavigate that he bought a trailer and put it at the T of where the dirt road of our house connected to the municipal road in the South of France. And we’d walk up the dirt road. A lot was imparted by that. From Los Angeles to the South of France was no small journey. We spent all our holidays with him. Every winter we would go to Montreal and every summer we’d go to Greece.
There was always laughter. Despite his notoriety for, I quote, “having a voice like the bottom of an ashtray”, for being “the prince of darkness”, for being famed for his lugubriousness, he is one of the most quick-witted of men, and he’s generous with his humour. The guy is hilarious. I’ve gone into the family business and we get a tremendous amount of laughter out of that. Also, talking about life and women and the journey we’re all on, that brings me so much joy. Hanging out with him is the best, whether it’s over a tuna sandwich or on the front stoop of his house. He doesn’t like to move much, having been a touring man his whole life. He does love being sedentary. I’ve learnt a lot from him on that stoop. The main inspiration that his life provides is a dedication to his craft. He has an old-world view of it. It’s not the prevalent notion that exists in new generations of instantaneous success. His whole life has been a demonstration in the opposite. I remember something he told me when I was 16 and starting to take songwriting seriously. He said there’s a moment when you’re blocked on a song, or on any work, and it’s only when you’re about to quit – having put much, much more time than you planned into it – that the work begins. That’s when you’ve crossed the threshold of being on the right track. But the nature of my dialogue with him is nearly always “There was always laughter”: father and son swap notes.
A family affair: Cohen with Adam and daughter Lorca, Montreal, 1988.
instruction. From the manner in which we should greet someone about whom we have reservations, to gender relationships, to the proper dosage of mustard and mayonnaise. We talk about women all the time, too, and, if I may, out of privacy, I’ll keep that princely wisdom to myself. It is a long-running and possibly incomplete transmission.
you to answer on my behalf. I want the President of France to know that I’ve I ve brought up fully Francophone children children.’ It was a badge of pride for him. Now I have my own son and while it’s difficult to say for sure if a seven-year-old resembles his grandfather, certainly a love of languages is there. Judaism, too. Not that it plays a huge role in our life, but just last Friday we were having one of our regular family meals at a Greek restaurant to light the seven candles as a family. To see my son reading Hebrew and being the chairman of prayers at the table… I didn’t do that and I know that was something my father regretted. For my son to rectify that and to witness the pride it provides for my father is beautiful. ou want to know some secrets about Leonard Cohen? Here’s the dirt. He loves George Jones and Hank Williams. He travels with one small suitcase. Many of his impeccable suits are actually threadbare. He’s only about five foot eight, despite that giant baritone. He awakens at four in the morning and blackens pages every single day of his life. He cuts his own hair. He will find a patch of sun anywhere and sit in it, like a big cat, following that sliver of sun wherever it goes. Although he no longer smokes, there’s nothing he’d rather do. He makes the best tuna salad I’ve ever had – he seems to have a knack for that. He loves making food for people, in fact. He spends a lot of time in the kitchen. Leonard Cohen’s probably the best-known short-order chef in the world.” I My Old Man: Tales Of Our Fathers is published by Canongate, paperback due in June 2017.
e visited him often when he lived in a Zen Buddhist monasteryy in the ’90s. He would periodically come down off the mountain n. Whatever residue there was from his studies was always apparent to us. Like a halo. Like a film of something we knew was otherworldly. A calmness, a peace, a clarity. All of which he’s tried to impart to us, not always with great success. I love seeing him at work. I’m still tingling with pride that this man’s return to the stage was so triumphant, so reverberant, so ministerial, so sermon-like, so moving. All you have to do is consult a review in any of the papers in any of the countries where he performed. He was referred to as the Sistine Chapel of live music. I mean… That seems like hyperbole, but I was moved to tears by the beauty of this man standing on the heap of his work and offering it with such generosity, such precision, such mastery. The Greeks came up with nostalgia, and it’s two words: nostos, which is memory, and algos, which is pain. That’s beautiful. And I experience a premature nostalgia whenever I think about my dad. We’ve never really fallen out. We’ve had a series of minor misunderstandings that were corrected and actually served to provide better understanding in the long run. When you have someone in your family who is in such demand and whom you derive a sense of identity from because of the nature of your own relationship, then you can start to become covetous of the amount of time spent with the person. There are times when, no question, I wish we’d gotten to spend more time together. But the time we have spent together is so valuable. I’ve been to so many great parties and events with him. I remember he was doing a big show in Paris, and Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni were backstage afterwards. He said to me, ‘Anything that anybody says to me, I want
“We’ve never really fallen out”: (above) Adam and Leonard, New York, 1988; (below) Lorca and Adam, with their dad, Mount Baldy Zen Center, California, 1977.
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THE WORLDâ€™S BIGGEST & BEST MUSI C GU IDE E D I T E D BY N I A L L D O H E R T Y
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LINE IN THE SAND TUAREG COLLECTIVE PUT ON A PARTY IN THE SAHARA.
The domino effect: (left) Tinariwen, featuring band founder Ibrahim Ag Alhabib (far left), enjoy a pre-gig game “backstage” at the Taragalte Festival; (top) the local Saharan transport system. 102
“Unmistakably jubilant”: Tinariwen enjoy a gig with a difference in Morocco.
TARAGALTE FESTIVAL, MOROCCO, SUNDAY, 30 OCTOBER, 2016 #### n eight-hour drive south of Marrakesh through the Atlas Mountains, Taragalte Festival sits isolated among the dunes of the Sahara. Quite literally the end of the road as the inhospitable expanse of desert begins, it’s a spot where since Roman times trade caravans returning from Timbuktu would hold an annual celebration to mark the end of the 50-day trek. As camels solemnly plod along the sandy ridges above the encirclement of nomadic tents there aren’t, one imagines, many more suitable places to watch Tinariwen.
It’s been over 15 years now since the North African group’s desert blues was first discovered by Western audiences. With outsider rebel posturing built into the very foundations of popular music, the group’s back story was an authenticity overload: exiled Tuareg insurgents whose leader built his first guitar out of a tin can after witnessing his father executed by the Malian army; a band of soldiers-come-musicians who came together in desert guerrilla training camps writing songs for fallen comrades; a member who was famed for riding into battle with a guitar strapped to his back... They made The Clash look like The Jonas Brothers. Embraced by world music aficionados and mainstream audiences alike, beyond the exotic romance of their background was the unquestionable strength of the music.
A tightly wound knot of mesmeric grooves and crackling guitar lines from which one could unpick strands of musical DNA, from Delta blues and funk to post-punk and the hypnotic repetitions of trance. It would have been deserving of acclaim – if robbed of the mythology – had they been a group of jobbing session musicians from the Home Counties. While Tinariwen have long since swapped their weapons for international touring schedules, the harsh realities of the Tuareg’s situation are ever present. In 2012, Islamic militants Ansar Dine seized control of Northern Mali. Denouncing “Satan’s music”, they targeted the group and briefly abducted guitarist Abdallah Ag Lamida. Currently, the turbulence in their native region means that many band members are unable to return home. Unlike with faux hobo bluesman FEBRUARY 2017
Seasick Steve, no one is likely to unmask Tinariwen as the product of an elaborate marketing ploy. ntering Tinariwen’s camp on the far side of the festival, the first thing that greets you is the rattle and chink of dominoes. Fortified by a continual supply of sweet tea and tobacco, the seven members who form the current line-up are sat around engaging in some laid-back R&R. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given their eventful 30-plus-year history, the standard promotional duties of a band with a new album about to be released don’t rank particularly high on their list of priorities and today softly spoken bassist Eyadou Ag Leche has drawn the short straw. Moving away from the rest of the group, he sits down next to his manager’s photographer wife, who is standing in as an interpreter. Much of Elwan, Tinariwen’s seventh studio album due out in February, was recorded only a few hundred metres away in the open air with the rest captured two years previously in California’s Joshua Tree National Park. In America, guest musicians included Kurt Vile and Mark Lanegan (the former Screaming Trees singer adds a granite-hewn vocal to the shimmering Nànnuflày) while here in Morocco they enlisted local youths to perform traditional “gnawa” music. Ag Leche reflects on how the two deserts provided different “energies” for the music and the importance of bringing outside musicians into the fold so long as they understand the feeling and “sentiment” of Tinariwen’s music. As he speaks, two teenage boys emerge from a tent. One picks up a guitar resting against a small batterypowered amplifier, plucking out an impressively tessellating guitar motif as he sings, while the other sits astride a large globe-like drum brought out for the evening’s performance. Given that numerous band members have drifted away to be replaced by new waves of younger musicians in the years since totemic leader Ibrahim Ag Alhabib formed Tinariwen in 1979, can they foresee the band continuing after they’re gone? As French is Ag Leche’s second language the poetic, if somewhat opaque response, probably loses something in translation: “Each person in this world is like a tree in the landscape. If you take away one tree the landscape is different because each tree is special. Tinariwen is like a landscape with seven trees or
(From top) Not ones for the limelight; Ibrahim Ag Alhabib (left) lends his distinctive tones; (below) Abdallah Ag Alhousseyni gets virtuosic; they’re going to have a job getting a cab home from there.
an organism with seven cells. It’s difficult to have the same animal with different cells.” Just over the next sand dune a camel race is taking place and the shrill, wavering yells of women doing celebratory “barwala” calls echo out. Having spent so much time sat in tourbuses, hotels and TV studios over the years away from their traditional nomadic lifestyle, they must wish more musical festivals were like this. “We like to experience different things. We like this, but we also like places like London.” He pauses. “Actually, maybe not London so much. It’s cold, it’s wet, you can’t smoke. London is difficult.” Walking onstage in iridescent robes just after midnight, whatever energy Tinariwen are drawing from the desert tonight is electrifying. With guitarist and vocalist Abdallah Ag Alhousseyni taking centre-stage, they are a kinetic whir of energy and rhythm, performing with the ferocity and bite of a teenage punk band. Within their distinct sound echoes of a myriad of styles jump to the surface – Can, Captain Beefheart,
SETLIST Tinde El Ghalem Taliat Mallet Assàwt Kud Edazamin Tin Ilhan
“WE LIKE TO EXPERIENCE DIFFERENT THINGS, BUT LONDON IS DIFFICULT.” EYADOU AG LECHE dub, John Lee Hooker, Funkadelic, even the dissonant white heat of The Velvet Underground. It’s not so much that Malian music is some sort of miraculous wellspring from which all popular music sprang forth, but more a two-way exchange between the traditional music at the band’s core and the influences they’ve absorbed. As Ag Alhousseyni fires off virtuoso runs on his acoustic guitar, the tall, grey-haired Ag Alhabib cuts a distant figure within his own band. Seemingly moving at half the speed of those around him, he wanders over to fiddle with his amplifier and frequently disappears altogether, ambling offstage for a sit down and a roll-up while the others continue. Tinariwen have often performed without their leader (after the death of his teenage son he didn’t tour 2014’s
Emmaar) and in his absence the band’s energy shifts. When he does return the impact is instant and he becomes the meditative fulcrum around which everything else moves. Ag Alhabib is one of those rare guitarists who have a unique, instantly recognisable sound. Fittingly for someone who built his first instrument from scrap when he was four years old, there is something incredibly metallic about it as it cracks out into the night like sparks flying off a welding iron. Earlier, Ag Leche had spoken of the band’s puzzlement at foreign audiences joyously dancing to what are, in essence, tragic songs. Yet even on home turf the atmosphere is unmistakably jubilant. People from surrounding villages who have been invited free of charge dance in circles around each other, cheering Ag Alhabib and
shouting out the name of the shortlived Tuareg home state, Azawad.
Chabiba Mafel Nedress
s the band’s founder walks offstage after the show, local teenagers chase after him, eager to get a selfie. It’s a reminder that here Tinariwen are more than just everyone’s favourite band, they’re champions for an entire people. In a few days they will be back on the road again, away from the desert. An international tour arrives in Islington in December. They’d better wrap up warm. CHRIS CATCHPOLE
Tamatant Tilay Arawan Sastan Nakham Chaghaybou Amassakoul ’N’ Ténéré Matadjem Yinmixan Nànnuflày Cler Achel
Well, it’s less muddy than your average festival… FEBRUARY 2017
Chris Martin And The Amazing Technicolor Dream Show, London Palladium, 11 November, 2016.
Stage struck: Coldplay fans assemble outside the Palladium.
THE PALLADIUM, LONDON FRIDAY, 11 NOVEMBER, 2016 #### he London Palladium isn’t a venue readily associated with rock gigs. It’s ITV2 in bricks and mortar, the sort of light entertainment hub where you expect to find Brian Conley behind the bar, Michael McIntyre on usher duties and the ghost of Ronnie Corbett peeking out of the royal box. Coldplay spent most of 2016 re-establishing
themselves as the best stadium-rock spectacle on the planet and their last show was headlining Jay Z’s Made In America festival in Philadelphia in front of 64,000 people. You wonder if playing a venue that had hosted That’ll Be The Day!, the UK’s “No.1 Rock & Roll variety production”, just days earlier, is a bit of a comedown but the quartet make the 2000-capacity crowd at this Absolute Radio show feel like they’re witnessing something special from the off. It’s a Friday night at the end of a miserable week in November: three days after Trump was elected US
CHRIS MARTIN & CO STRIP IT BACK A TAD AT THE HOME OF VARIETY PERFORMANCE.
A sky full of confetti: “no band lift people’s spirits like Coldplay.”
A Head Full Of Dreams Paradise God Put A Smile Upon Your Face The Scientist Clocks
TONIGHT IS A REMINDER THAT STRIPPED OF THEIR GIMMICKS, COLDPLAY CAN PUT ON EUPHORIC, SING-YOURSELF-HOARSE SHOWS.
Midnight Charlie Brown Hymn For The Weekend Fix You Everglow Viva La Vida Adventure Of A Lifetime Suzanne A Sky Full Of Stars Up & Up
President, the death of Leonard Cohen was announced this morning. But similar to the way the quartet rode into Glastonbury at the end of Brexit weekend and lifted everyone’s dampened spirits, it isn’t long before a celebratory feel takes hold. Coldplay are master entertainers and people leave their gigs happier than when they entered them. The most spellbinding aspect of recent Coldplay shows has been the flashing wristbands that turn the audience into one giant light show, but in a theatre setting the “Xylobands” lose their impact. Instead, tonight is a reminder that stripped of their gimmicks, Coldplay can put on euphoric, sing-yourself-hoarse live shows. An arsenal of confetti canons
ensure that the show isn’t entirely without razzle-dazzle, exploding into life during opening song A Head Full Of Dreams’ “whoa-whoa” outro. The abridged 15-song set is stuffed with hits and hearing them one after the other underlines just how many familiar anthems they have. They dispatch with Paradise, The Scientist and Clocks within five songs. Each of the band spend a good deal of the first few songs scanning the Royal Circle for familiar faces: the best seats in the house have been allocated to wives and children, girlfriends, family, friends and Simon Pegg. When guitarist Jonny Buckland spots his West End boys: Coldplay (from left, Jonny Buckland, Martin, Guy Berryman, Will Champion) take a bow.
nearest and dearest, he has the grin of a man playing in school assembly for the first time rather than a bloke who headlined Wembley Stadium a few months ago. Chris Martin takes the relative salutes to the next level when he jumps into the crowd halfway through Hymn For The Weekend and sings to actor girlfriend Annabelle Wallis, who is leading a dancing troupe in the front row of the balcony, from the stalls below. Comically, he gets carried away with his serenade and forgets he needs to be back onstage to play piano. “I’ve gotta get back on,” he realises, “Sorry!” By the time they finish the main part of the set with a knockout one-two of Viva La Vida and Adventure Of A Lifetime, the crowd are elated. There are tears, screams, and unfinished bottles of wine in the aisles. The encore begins with Martin performing a poignant cover of Cohen’s Suzanne, the singer impressively getting through its lengthy lyric without a hitch. Their kids come onstage to dance along to a thunderous A Sky Full Of Stars and a euphoric Up & Up ensures that everyone leaves on a high. No band lift people’s spirits like Coldplay. On a stage where Jason Donovan once sang Any Dream Will Do, tonight Coldplay proved theirs is more magical than most. At the moment, they’re untouchable. NIALL DOHERTY FEBRUARY 2017
OFF THE This A EN Issue BEAT TRACK
Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell
Courtney Marie Andrews 111
UNDERNEATH ITS WARM, ’70S SOUND, THE ROCK VETERAN IS STILL FIRED UP ON HIS 38TH STUDIO ALBUM.
REPRISE, OUT NOW
The Colorist & Emiliana Torrini
Rose Elinor Dougall
The Flaming Lips
John Hassall & The April Rainers
The Proper Ornaments
Public Service Broadcasting
The Rolling Stones
The So So Glos
A Tribe Called Quest
The most lightweight song on Neil Young’s 38th studio album is also the most revealing. On Can’t Stop Workin’, Young ramblingly hymns the virtues of relentless industry: “It’s bad for the body but it’s good for the soul.” If that’s the case, Young’s soul must be in great shape. His torrential output this decade includes protest songs, spectral cover versions recorded in Jack White’s Voice-a-Graph booth, a feature-length Crazy Horse noisefest and a live album smothered in barnyard squawks and moos. When it comes to Pono, his beloved high-quality audio format, Young is as obsessive as Steve Jobs but in the studio he’s rock’s great imperfectionist, guided by an almost superstitious faith in the superiority of instinct over intellect. He’s a frustrating interview because he believes his artistic decisions require no elucidation: if it feels good, do it; if it doesn’t, don’t. What else is there? Three decades after Young was sued by Geffen Records for making “unrepresentative” albums, he’s established that doing whatever he goddamn likes is representative. By Young’s recent standards, Peace Trail is fairly straightforward: 10 songs recorded in four days at Rick Rubin’s Shangri-La Studios with bassist Paul Bushnell and drummer Jim Keltner, a 74-year-old session veteran who first played for Young on his 1993 tour. This simple set-up yields a warm, loping nonchalance epitomised by the title track’s rangy ruminations on life and art. “I have to take good care when something new
groove. Throughout the album Keltner’s drums are mixed loud and close, all boom and clatter, while Young’s shrieking bursts of harmonica and electric guitar give the impression that the song is being broken into by an armed intruder. Often, his singing is conversational verging on spoken word, as if he’s shooting the breeze on a warm night. Everything flows. That doesn’t mean Young is feeling mellow. Just over a year after his eco-protest album The Monsanto Years, Young is fired up by the Native American protests against the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline. Although Young’s portrayal of Native Americans suffers a tad from hippy sentimentality – cue references to teepees and “sacred land” – John Oaks is a powerful story about an imagined protester shot dead by the police: an Ohio for an outrage that hasn’t happened yet. Indian Givers recalls the immediacy of 1960s topical songs by paying tribute to a real protester, Dale “Happy” American Horse, Jr, who was arrested in August. Terrorist Suicide Hang Gliders, which satirically complains about “all those people with funny names moving into our neighbourhoods”, is a playful dig at Trump-style Islamophobia. Less
THESE SONGS SOUND LIKE YOUNG WROTE THEM AN HOUR AFTER WATCHING THE NEWS.
bullishly didactic than The Monsanto Years, these songs feel like Young wrote them an hour after watching the news, too quickly to provide any answers. He’s usually at his best when he sounds softly bewildered. Peace Trail’s back-porch ’70s ambience is sometimes eccentrically subverted by Auto-Tuned harmonies which sound as disorientingly alien as the vocoders on 1982’s Trans and by My New Robot, on which Young buys a robot from “Amazon dot com” (as your grandad would say) and assigns
the second half of the song to computer-generated voices asking for payment details. The peculiar result, something like a Grandaddy demo, concludes the album on a fittingly throwaway note. Unpolished and unhurried, Peace Trail is another charming stop on Young’s long and winding road. There’ll surely be another one just around the corner. ### DORIAN LYNSKEY Listen To: Peace Trail | Terrorist Suicide Hang Gliders | John Oaks
THEY READ THE NEWS TODAY, OH BOY Three more albums of topical songs Phil Ochs All The News That’s Fit To Sing ELEKTRA, 1964
“Every newspaper headline is a potential song,” said folk singer, journalism graduate and Dylan frenemy Ochs. His witty debut tackled civil rights, Vietnam and the Cuban missile crisis. ####
Ice Cube The Predator
Tom Morello Union Town
NEW WEST, 2011
Released six months after the LA riots, Cube’s third album lived up to Chuck D’s description of hip-hop as “the black CNN” with hair-raising songs about the Rodney King case and its fiery aftermath. ####
Have guitar, will travel. Tom Morello’s benefit record for trade unions in Wisconsin combined classic labour anthems like Which Side Are You On? with his own contributions to the struggle. ###
AFTER THE FREAKY DIVERSIONS, WAYNE COYNE AND CO REACQUAINT THEMSELVES WITH TUNES ON ALBUM 15.
THE FLAMING LIPS OCZY MLODY
BELLA UNION, OUT 13 JANUARY
Followers of Oklahoma City’s self-styled “fearless freaks” have been reminded in recent years that it can be a long and strange trip trying to keep up with The Flaming Lips. Having established themselves in the ’00s as purveyors of life-affirming psychedelic anthems that made you laugh and cry and ponder the very nature of existence itself, after 2006’s sometimes overconsciously commercial At War With The Mystics, they veered for the weird again with the lo-fi jams of Embryonic in 2009 and 110
th sci-fi the i fi dread d d off The Th Terror T four years later. Along the way, however, something was lost – namely The Flaming Lips’ gift for classic songwriting. While Oczy Mlody has been talked up by Wayne Coyne as sounding like “Syd Barrett meets A$AP Rocky trapped in a fairy tale from the future”, it’s actually the point where the band reconnect with
Th Tunes. The T As A an h hour-long l psychedelic record constructed from R&B sounds, it leads the listener by the hand into its otherworld, but this time around its standout melodies – the helpless and beautiful How??, the achingly happy/sad Sunrise (Eyes Of The Young) – are both heart-tugging and indelible. If there are passages, especially in its second half, where
THERE’S ALWAYS AN EARWORMING HOOK WAITING AROUND THE BEND.
Oczy Mlody is a purposely disorienting experience where the arrangements seldom settle for long before taking unexpected twists and turns, there’s always an earworming hook waiting around the bend. It finishes with the brilliant country longing of We A Famly, a duet between Coyne and Miley Cyrus, where both imagine “Jesus and his spaceships coming down.” The Flaming Lips know they can always weird us out. With Oczy Mlody, they remind us once again that they’re also great songwriters. #### TOM DOYLE Listen To: How?? | Sunrise (Eyes Of The Young) | We A Famly
ADMIRAL SIR CLOUDESLEY SHOVELL KEEP IT GREASY!
RISE ABOVE, OUT NOW
Grease-rock masterclass from Hastings power trio. Nobody could accuse this trio of not knowing their history. Named after a 17th-century naval commander, they’ve been plundering obscure sludge-rock riffs (Buffalo, Budgie, Sir Lord Baltimore) since 2012 debut Don’t Hear It… Fear It!. Their third LP is the grimiest – and grooviest – yet. Tired’N’Wired is a blistering headbang boogie which finds singer-guitarist Johnny Gorilla shredding like a man lost in his own personal Groundhog(s) Day, while U Got Wot I Need is a Slade and Motörhead hybrid. Add some acid-rock wig-outs (Hairy Brain Pt 2), garage grunge (I’m Movin’), plus the sound of someone burping, and the result is grot-rock heaven. #### PAUL MOODY Listen To: U Got Wot I Need | Tired’N’Wired | Hairy Brain Pt 2
AFI (THE BLOOD ALBUM) CONCORD, OUT 20 JANUARY
California’s masters of misery rediscover their edge on 10th LP. For over 20 years, AFI’s success has been built on their sophisticated blending of goth, rock and punk. One exception to this was their 2013 outing Burials. It was far from a bad album, but it did smother some of their best musical qualities in the bleak tenor of the lyrics, specifically their knack for melodising the macabre into stirring choruses. AFI (The Blood Album) corrects the problem. It still occupies dark territory but this time excellent songs like Hidden Knives are defined by urgency, as well as venom. Best of all is Above The Bridge, a song broadcasting their Cure influences while also tackling a suicidal ideation from numerous perspectives. It’s proof that AFI still sing the sorrow better than most. #### GEORGE E GARNER E Listen To: Hidden Knives | Above The Bridge
COURTNEY MARIE ANDREWS HONEST LIFE
LOOSE, OUT 20 JANUARY
Folk collaborator gets serious about solo career. Still in her 20s, Phoenix-born Andrews is a decade into a career as a touring and studio session guitarist with Seattle singer-songwriter Damien Jurado. With a classic ’70s country pop voice and eyes that look like they’ve seen a lifetime, there’s a sense here of Andrews dealing with growing pains and lost loves that 10 years on the road hasn’t left time for. If you want comparisons, then Andrews shares far more than just a haircut with Linda Ronstadt and Joni Mitchell, while heartbreaker ballads such as Only In My Mind roll from her fingers like Carole King. Paying dues is all well and good, but so too is knowing when to step into the limelight. #### ANDY Y FYFE F Listen To: Not The End | Honest Life | Only In My Mind
WONDERFULSOUND, OUT NOW
Affecting country-soul debut from the UK “Deep South”. Deep South blues may not be the leading export of the sanguine shores of the Isle of Wight. But in the hands of Angelina they sound as natural as the island’s clotted cream. Her floating drawl is a delight and her debut album oozes the easy way with melody of a Bobbie Gentry, whose storytelling skills she echoes on the likes of Mandolin Man. It comes drenched in the sound of old country soul – no surprise to learn that it’s produced by Rupert Brown, in-house drummer at Toe-Rag studios, UK home of old-time authenticity. And if that, and Angelina’s somewhat mannered accent, make for an exercise in second-hand Americana, Vagabond Saint has too much panache to make that a stumbling block.#### STEVE YA Y TES E Listen To: Vagabond Saint | Mandolin Man
DOMINO, OUT 20 JANUARY
Electronic Canadian outfit make perfect winter soundtrack. “I live in a city full of people I don’t know,” sings frontwoman Katie Stelmanis on the deceptively named Utopia, a key track on Austra’s third album. Future Politics develops this atmosphere of astringent, Antarctic artiness, creating a record that’s initially like walking into a white-walled gallery on a snowy day. The glassy surface is quickly and repeatedly fractured, however, Stelmanis’s operatic vocals tangling in the songs’ electronic mechanisms, sudden pulses and chimes. There are moments that sound like an AI Julia Holter trying to unpick the human capacity for cruelty; Freepower sounds like an aggressive Art Of Noise takeover of Cocteau Twins, while I’m A Monster’s clicking distortions undermine the chill delivery. It’s the anti-hygge of records: cold, hard, and anything but comfortable. #### V ORIA VICT I SEGAL Listen To: I’m A Monster | Utopia | Freepower
NOT EVEN HAPPINESS
BASIN ROCK, OUT 13 JANUARY
“Antarctic artiness”: Austra’s Katie Stelmanis plays it super-cool.
Second album from New Yorkbased queen of quiet solitude. They say it’s the quiet ones you have to look out for, so Julie Byrne should be coming up in your mirrors right about now. Often stripped down to just two chords and a voice that barely qualifies as hushed, Byrne’s songs revel in their power to pull heartstrings. Although not directly comparable, they hold the same underlying disquiet as Nick Drake’s starker moments, as on the beautifully plucked Sleepwalker. Occasionally, Byrne subtly expands her musical palette with strings and woodwind, but never at the expense of her own guitar and vocals. As limited as her range is with both, who needs a fiveoctave range when you can pack this much emotional punch while barely rising above a whisper? ### ANDY Y FYFE F Listen To: Follow My Voice | Sleepwalker | Natural Blue FEBRUARY 2017
GLASSNOTE, OUT NOW
REMOTE CONTROL/CAPTURED TRACKS, OUT NOW
“AWAKEN, MY LOVE!”
TV star and sometime rapper recasts himself as funk shaman. When actor and rapper Donald Glover premiered material from this album at a special event in Joshua Tree in September, he promised nothing less than “a shared vibration for human progress”. Yet whatever consciousness-elevating properties the live shows delivered are less obvious on the recorded version, an accomplished, if not groundbreaking, exercise in retrofitted funk-rock. Ditching the impish rap persona he perfected on 2013’s Because The Internet, Have Some Love channels the spirit of Sly Stone and Boogieman does a passable George Clinton. What’s missing is a sense of Glover himself as a defining character. Compared to the way Miguel, say, has reworked similar material, this is missing the magic touch. ### RUPERT T HOWE W Listen To: Have Some Love
FULL CLOSURE AND NO DETAILS Australian singer-songwriter plays it ridiculously cool on debut. This record was recorded in 10 days with two mics, and listening to it, it’s surprising there was that degree of studio luxury. Full Closure And No Details suggests Melbourne-based Gabriella Cohen has pretty much been raised in a garage, scratching out riffs on the sandy floor from dawn to dusk. She has a remarkable gift for turning a ball of fuzz and a few insouciant words into a convincing song, a drawled offbeat “no” spinning the Lou Reed ennui of I Don’t Feel So Alive into gold, a spring in her phrasing making Downtown sound like a girl group infiltrated by Bob Dylan. Her references are classic, but she’s never polite with them, twisting her heritage into a brilliantly volatile LP. #### VICTORIA SEGAL Listen To: I Don’t Feel So Alive | Downtown
THE COLORIST & EMILIANA TORRINI
THE COLORIST & EMILIANA TORRINI
ROUGH TRADE, OUT NOW
Intricate live album from Icelandic singer and Belgian orchestra. Recorded during a run of concerts with The Colorist Orchestra, an ensemble devoted to re-imagining songs by other musicians, this album features reworkings of nine tracks from singer-songwriter Emiliana Torrini’s back catalogue as well as two new songs, Nightfall and When We Dance. Any hint of kookiness and all is lost, as on Jungle Drum, but the ex-GusGus singer and her collaborators largely find the biting point between annoying quirkiness and striking idiosyncrasy, especially on Gun and Blood Red. There are times when it can feel a bit festival theatre tent. Even so, the musical chemistry is clear, and at best, captivating. ### VICTORIA SEGAL Listen To: Gun | Blood Red
CULV L ERT/ILS/CA S ROLINE, OUT NOW
Canadian trio’s second strikes electro-pop gold. Recorded on borrowed studio time, DIANA’s debut, Perpetual Surrender, sounded like a pop record done on the cheap, a lo-fi ambience which actually contrived to enhance its chillwave-y appeal. The follow-up sounds like an altogether more professional job, with the Toronto group revelling in an unashamed celebration of ’80s synth-pop and high-gloss funk – Moment Of Silence’s popping bass and splashy synths wouldn’t sound out of place on a Howard Jones album. But it’s the cool clarity of Carmen Elle’s vocals which now defines the songs as she airily sashays her way through What You Get’s brooding electro-funk and Miharu’s sensuous invocation of Jellybean-era Madonna. #### RUPERT T HOWE Listen To: What You Get | Slipping Away | Miharu
ROSE ELINOR DOUGALL STEL
Form off star quality. It’s fair to say that Rose Elinor funny 19-yea kitschshe was later recruited by superstar DJ, Mark Ronson, as part of his touring band. Her second solo album shows her playing her own smart game, however, layering Krautrock and ’80s synths in a formidable glittering edifice. The futurist vapour-trails of Colour Of Water show an interest in early Kraftwerk – an interest shared with her former bandmate Gwenno, whose Y Dydd Olaf was one of 2015’s most intriguing albums – but she also shows a lighter touch on the Love Action chug of Closer: “I don’t care about your bands/It’s 3.45am.” Grand in every way, Stellular feels like a long-range launch pad for Dougall’s rocket-fuel pop. #### VICTORIA SEGAL Listen To: Colour Of Water | Stellular | Closer
HEY MR FERRYMAN DECOR, OUT 27 JANUARY
American Music Club man teams up with Bernard Butler. While Mark Eitzel’s on-off day job with American Music Club last produced an album in 2008 with The Golden Age, his parallel solo career has been more productive, if patchy. This studio hook-up with the onetime Suede guitarist taps into a rich seam, recalling AMC’s ’80s and ’90s heyday. Eitzel’s voice is as rich and expressive as ever, though matched here with Butler’s production and musicianly skills, the former’s songs of acidic wit and unflinching detail shine brightly, whether it be the subdued tale of an abusive relationship in Nothing And Everything (“His smoke takes all the air”) or the resigned and weary tour diary of The Road. Song by song, it amounts to Mark Eitzel’s best album in years. #### TOM DOYLE Y Listen To: An Answer | The Road | Nothing And Everything
“The theme of the album is freedom”: Common rediscovers his politicised groove.
STATE OF THE NATI A ON
RAP VETERAN TAKES HIS COUNTRY’S TEMPERATURE ON 11TH ALBUM.
BLACK AMERICA AGAIN VIRGIN/EMI, OUT NOW
For a while there, Common was beginning to look like a relic. With his heyday back round the millennium’s turn, mid-noughties collaborator Kanye West preoccupied with his own superstardom and “conscious rap” about as fashionable as Nokia, his musical profile dipped as his acting roles rose. But the
simultaneous rise of both Kendrick Lamar and the Black Lives Matter movement has brought new impetus to his politicised groove, while the phenomenon of President Donald Trump (Black America Again was released the week before polling day in the US), has injected new urgency. Like Lamar, Common is unafraid of going left-field. Karriem Riggins, drummer and hip-hop producer, is at the controls, and although his forays into jazz are less abstract than the more outré parts of Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, he uses its discordant frayed edges to spice the soup and ensure tracks don’t follow the obvious linear path. Which is as it should be: the theme of the album is freedom;
not just the freedom cry of the old Civil Rights marchers, but from the US prison-industrial complex. “The new plantation/Mass incarceration,” he cries on the title track, the six-minute epic which heralded his return, alongside Stevie Wonder who pops up at the end to pronounce they’re “rewriting the black American story”. The album loses energy with the odd drop of MOR gloop, notably Love Star, but the abiding memory is of the blood-freezing brilliance of the gospel-infused Letter To The Free. Uneven it may be, but Black America Again is a stirring reminder of the Chicago MC’s relevance. #### STEVE YATES E Listen To: Letter To The Free | Black America Again | Pyramids
THE PHENOMENON OF PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP HAS INJECTED NEW URGENCY. FEBRUARY 2017
“Raw, loose and alive”: the Stones get back to the essentials.
ING UP ROOTS
ROCK’N’ROLL OLD-TIMERS REVISIT THEIR EARLY INSPIRATIONS.
THE ROLLING STONES BLUE & LONESOME POLYDOR, OUT NOW
The mere notion of the septuagenarian Stones breaking an 11-year studio silence with an all-new collection of blues covers has been greeted with outright snoring in some quarters, but the audio reality is a lot racier. Blue & Lonesome is their most consistently excellent album in 36 years, or more, presenting the beyond-iconic group as most serious fans have wanted to hear them all along – playing the rootsy music that 114
initially inspired them – raw, loose and alive. The pressure on the world’s greatest rock’n’roll band to justify that status on record has been crushing, creatively. So it was proving one Friday last December, while Mick, Keith, Charlie and Ronnie were struggling with a new self-composition at Mark Knopfler’s studio in Chiswick. Hitting a wall, they spontaneously cracked into Blue And Lonesome, an obscure number by Muddy Waters’s harmonica player, Little Walter. It felt good, so Jagger dug deep into his collection to pick out further recherché tunes from
THIS IS THEIR MOST CONSISTENTLY EXCELLENT ALBUM IN 36 YEARS. 1950s Chicago, and the whole album was wrapped up by Tuesday lunchtime. All thoughts of age, celebrity and stadium itineraries melt away as the Stones work their peculiar
y g , y jjeu d’esprit. In an accompanying y g communiqué, Richards talks of “the sheer non-stop throttling hypnotism” of blues, and standout All Of Your Love is testament to that, its two-chord guitar figure grinding on and on and on. Jagger, too, sounds utterly reinvigorated, blasting his harp like Little Walter’s natural heir. Even Richards has been bigging up his performances. Hey, maybe this London combo have a future after all. #### ANDREW PERRY Listen To: Commit A Crime | All Of Your Love | Ride ’Em On Down
JOHN HASSALL & THE APRIL RAINERS WHEELS TO IDYLL VAM, OUT NOW
Libertines bassist goes village green neo-psych. Fans have often speculated about what makes the Libs’ inscrutable four-string operative tick. A teetotal Buddhist, Denmark resident, Hassall has always seemed far removed from Pete Doherty’s narcotic hurly-burly. But what actually goes on inside his head? On the basis of this debut album with The April Rainers, the answer is: memories of rural English summers. Wheels To Idyll’s 15 songs present a narrative of young Johnny Boy scooting out on the train to spend school hols at his granny’s, conversing with ladybirds and then wistfully returning home to London. All told, West Coast harmonies dominate amid blissful psychedelia – a safe haven from his stormy day job. ### ANDREW W PERRY Listen To: Sun In The Afternoon
TRIALS & TRUTHS
BELLA UNION, OUT 27 JANUARY
Oklahoma-based band saddle up for their second album. As their name suggests, Horse Thief don’t lack guile. The follow-up to 2014’s debut, Fear Is Bliss, know how to time a big build, or a dying fall, resulting in a record a little too keen to ingratiate itself. Not as wilfully far-out as their associates The Flaming Lips, Horse Thief strive to twist songs that sometimes couldn’t feel more generic if they were on a pharmaceutical production line. The perky skirl of Evil’s Rising and Another Youth suggest it’s unfortunate Grandaddy picked this year to return, while Million Dollars gallops into straight country rock. There’s nothing fatally wrong with Trials & Truths – and fans of bearded cosmic Americana will find much right with it. What Horse Thief really need to rustle up, though, is their own distinct identity. ### VICTORIA SEGAL Listen To: Evil’s Rising
H AVE YOU H E A R Dg? Ja ke Bug
THE WORLD IS A GHETTO
UNITED ARTISTS, 1972
“I was introduced to this LP by my friend Jason Lader, who worked on my last two albums, and Beastie Boys’ Mike D, who I did a few bits with too. They showed me War’s stuff and I got a bit obsessed with this album. The lyric on The World Is A Ghetto is incredible and the groove and melodies are hard to beat. It’s a pretty amazing record.”
LAST NIGHT ON THE PLANET NINJA TUNE, OUT NOW
Midlands duo’s funked-up lectronica gets a welcome twist. Opening their second album with fired-up rap from Dublin MC ejjie Snow is certainly an attentionrabbing move from Wolverhamptonased producers Andrew Harber and ichard Roberts, even if it turns out to e an anomaly on a set which doesn’t return to hip-hop again until the very end. In between, though, they mine a rich seam of synthesised soul, retro R&B and twitchy electronica which marks a significant upgrade on their self-titled 2013 debut, warming up with squelchy electro-funk – Shanel boasts a bassline as ’80s as a pair of faux-leather hotpants – before cutting loose on New York-style house jams such as Dog Brush. So while the title’s end-of-days concept might be flimsy, the grooves are rock solid. ### RUPERT T HOWE Listen To: Momma | Shanel | Dog Brush
Kacey Musgraves: “incisive wit and charm.”
ATLANTIC, OUT NOW
RAGOORA, OUT NOW
Uptown boy shows his pop mettle. “If you ain’t here to party, take your ass back home,” sings Bruno Mars on Chunky, helpfully setting some ground rules for his third LP. With production as shiny as a marble worktop and a relentless obsession with hedonism and luxury goods, this is oligarch-pop, boasting of lobster tails and Miami beach houses, an idea of sex and style apparently lifted from an in-flight magazine. There’s lots of silk-sheeted ’90s R&B – the alpha-caveman strutting of Calling All My Lovelies, the flash seduction routine of That’s What I Like – and an abundance of crystal-encrusted hooks, Chunky and Perm making Uptown Funk look like the embodiment of austerity. It’s not without its old-fashioned charms, but, ultimately, 24K Magic’s luxe exterior writes cheques its soul can’t cash. ### VICTORIA SEGAL Listen To: Chunky | Perm
A CATHEDRAL OF HANDS
KACEY MUSGRAVES A VERY KACEY CHRISTMAS MERCURY, Y OUT NOW
Country star tips her cowgirl hat to Christmas in style. As you’d expect, nostalgic festive classics are given impeccable country overhauls on this Christmas album from Nashville’s Kacey Musgraves, a Yuletide followup to her 2015 album Pageant Material. But the best songs here are actually her own. For one, Musgraves’s stoner duet with Willie Nelson – titled A Willie Nice
Christmas, naturally – is charged with all the same incisive wit and charm that saw her take country by storm on her two major-label albums. There’s depth, too. The best Musgraves songs devastate with lyrical detail, as with Christmas Makes Me Cry: the image of her parents’ greying hair allowing mortality to gatecrash a tender Yuletide scene. This is a great album first, and a great Christmas album second. #### GEORGE GARNER Listen To: Christmas Makes Me Cry | A Willie Nice Christmas
Widescreen, Scott Walker-aping collaboration hits the bullseye. Oskar’s Drum are Patrick Fitzgerald from Kitchens Of Distinction and Yves Altana from Wonky Alice, and their collaboration is strong stuff indeed. With heart-straining vocals from Fitzgerald and a varied musical palette which uses an intensified ’60s sound where guitars twang existentially and keyboards shine in empty space, they create a sound which somehow conjures up every aspect of Scott Walker’s long career simultaneously. Lyrically, there’s fascination too, as The Last Time I Saw Roger compares a long-dead relationship to Lord Of The Flies, while Floating seems to see death as an awfully big sea adventure. At its worst, this is like little else recorded: at its best, it’s huge, full music. #### D VI DA V D QUA U NTICK Listen To: The Last Time I Saw Roger | Floating FEBRUARY 2017
THE PROPER ORNAMENTS FOXHOLE
TOUGH LOVE, OUT 20 JANUARY
TOY/Ultimate Painting team-up offers more gentle psychedelia. The Proper Ornaments are another outlet for the impressive songwriting of James Hoare (perhaps better known as one half of indie-rock duo Ultimate Painting). Sporadically operative since 2011, this grouping sees him team up with TOY’s Max Oscarnold to create an introverted psychedelia that’s inspired as much by The Beatles as it is by current US indie classicists such as Woods and Real Estate. The results are hazily warm and accessible – particularly on the lysergic 1969 and Just A Dream. The only real issue is that at times the vibe is so laid-back there’s a slight danger of dropping off rather than simply blissing out. ### JAMES OLDHAM Listen To: Memories | 1969 | Bridge By A Tunnel
PARFAITE ET IMPUDIQUE FEINT, T OUT NOW
Italian feminist synth duo’s sharp-edged debut. Venetian ex-lovers Alice (vocals, electronic pads) and Mariele (vocals, and keyboards) have previously released music on Electronicgirls, an Italian label dedicated to women with synthesizers of the past and present. Opener L’ancêtre, an abstract Frenchsung vision of a lunar eclipse, does suggest they’ve been digging the work of Radiophonic Workshop visionary Delia Derbyshire. It opens an intense eight-track mini-LP of bracing strangeness. There are varying degrees of can-you-handle-it: the pounding techno of Cochonne, for example, features Yoko-style keening and sex boundary-smashing (“your brother with my boyfriend/And with your granny”, anyone?). Extra marks go to Alice for tap-dancing during their live shows, too. ### IAN HAR H RISON Listen To: L’ancêtre | Cochonne
Watch this space: Public Service Broadcasting go interstellar.
PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING LIVE AT BRIXTON
TEST CARD RECORDINGS, OUT NOW
Edu-taining November 2015 gig on CD/DVD. Since coming to notice in 2012, Public Service Broadcasting have bee with name misspellings on festival bills – British Sector Broadcasting and Pubic Service Broadcasting being the most egregious. This triumphant Brixton Academy show, though, proves that it didn’t harm the ascent of their stirring mix of electronic rock and vintage
voice samples. Featuring tracks from 2013’s Inform-EducateEntertain and 2015’s The Race For Space, there’s heroism, danger and plift on songs like moonlanding singalong Go! and Spitfire’s hymn to the famous fighter aircraft, nd they all counsel ollective optimism ver despair. The DVD omponent also lets you njoy the archive visuals and, on Sputnik, a recreation of the pioneering Soviet satellite taking off. As for mainman J. Willgoose, he verges on the bashful, but still dons a silver tuxedo for funky cosmonaut song, Gagarin. #### IAN HAR H RISON Listen To: Spitfire | Go!
AD, OUT 13 JANUARY
KILLERS OF THE DEEP
3MS MUSIC, OUT 27 JANUARY
“A surge of warmth”: SOHN nixes any difficult second album doubts.
THE SO SO GLOS KAMIKAZE
VOTIV, V OUT NOW
Fraternal Brooklyn DIY punks come good… finally. NYC siblings Alex and Ryan Levine have been in bands with their drummer stepbrother Zach Staggers literally since they were all toddlers. For 10 years they’ve been chasing the pop-punk dream as The So So Glos. This third album feels like their all-ornothing moment, best encapsulated by Going Out Swingin’, which apes Green Day at their most melodramatic. Yelpin’ Alex’s misfit Billie Joe Armstrong anthemicism also extends to quieter moments (Sunny Side), but Kamikaze’s mission is most transparent on Kings County II, whose yobbo chorus positively screams “lost American Idiot outtake”. Oakland’s finest won’t exactly be quaking in their boots, but they may respectfully tip their hat. ### ANDREW PERRY Listen To: A.D.D. Life | Going Out Swingin’ | Kings County II
RACHAEL WRIGHT, PHIL KNOTT
Pre-punk outfit resurface for first album in 43 years. Their admirers included Bryan Ferry, The Clash’s Mick Jones and the young Johnny Marr, but Sharks still missed the art-rock bandwagon, imploding in 1974. With Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook providing the backbone, the surviving members – collective age 297 – successfully turn back the clock here. “I’m a neon man/I’ve got a mojo hand,” drawls singer “Snips” Parsons on opener Ya Ya Pop, and there’s a card sharp’s swagger to the following 35 minutes. This is mostly down to guitarist Chris Spedding. Rifling through the musical pack at will, he alternates between swamp-blues (Killer On The New Tube) and razor-sharp rockabilly (Can’t Get The Devil), providing the perfect foil to Parsons’s sleazy drawl. Ace. #### P PAUL MOODY Listen To: Ya Ya Pop | Killer On The New Tube
English, Austria-based producer’s captivating second. p e of years, SOHN, aka Christopher Taylor, has proven one of the great architects behind the icy, disembodied sound that has dominated modern electronica – on his own 2014 debut, Tremors, as well as his work with artists such as Rhye and Lana Del Rey. On Rennen he shifts that sound forward, with a surge of warmth and ’80s pop flavour meeting his distinctive experimental swirls and twitches. Opening track Hard Liquor begins breathy and soulful before revving up into a glam-rocked TARDIS-whir, while Conrad has a near-boyband slickness, and Dead Wrong seems an adventurous cousin of Scritti Politti’s The Word Girl. Initially, it’s a little discombobulating, and certainly it’s a less emotionally instinctive LP than his debut, but over time those new pop hooks prove hard to shake. ### LAURA BARTON Listen To: Conrad | Dead Wrong
FULL METAL RACKET
PLATINUM-SELLING ROCKERS EXPAND THEIR HORIZONS ON EXPERIMENTAL SEVENTH ALBUM.
AVENGED SEVENFOLD THE STAGE
CAPITOL, OUT NOW
One of modern metal’s most successful bands, California’s Avenged Sevenfold confidently moved from supporting elite names to headlining vals alongside them. While originally establishing themselves by fusing Iron Maiden’s melodicism with Metallica’s heft and Guns N’ Roses’ sneering machismo, on 2013’s Hail To The King they stripped everything back. It topped charts around the world, but it also exposed how heavily they were piggybacking on individual influences in places. No such accusations could be levelled at The Stage. This concept album about artificial intelligence will answer their critics and delight fans. At times, it will also challenge and befuddle both. To say this is Avenged Sevenfold’s boldest album yet isn’t an exaggeration. The Stage begins with its eight-minute32-second title track: a sprawling prog-metal odyssey capturing the band firing on all cylinders with new drummer Brooks Wackerman before it relaxes into a flamenco outro. Even grander is the album’s 15-minute-long closer, Exist, a song that musically interprets the Big Bang. And yes, it also features a spoken-word interstellar seminar by renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. And strings. Somewhere in Devon, Muse are kicking themselves. Elsewhere, this everything-ispermitted philosophy succeeds to varying degrees. In particular, Simulation’s innate power is lost as its corny narrative – replete with maniacal laughing – unfolds. Far better is Sunny Disposition’s curveball horn section: a moment that typifies the giddy creativity at play throughout. Even if Avenged Sevenfold are guilty of occasionally overreaching in places here, it’s undoubtedly made them more interesting. “Their boldest album yet”: Avenged Sevenfold give it the full prog.
GEORGE GARNER Listen To: Exist | Sunny Disposition | The Stage FEBRUARY 2017
GLORIOUS SIGN-OFF FROM ALT-HOP ELDERS.
“The harsh realities are leavened by wisdom”: A Tribe Called Quest, featuring the late Phife Dawg (far right).
MUST BUYS The essential albums of the last few months Leonard Cohen You Want It Darker
Kate Bush Before The Dawn
In light of the poet-songwriter’s recent death at the age of 82, the album that turned out to be his last feels even more poignant in its summation of his thoughts on love, life and faith. Deeply ambiguous yet wittily epigrammatic, it’s all one might want from a ﬁnal testament.
Before The Dawn is a rare beast: a concert preserved only in the memories of those who saw it and not all over YouTube. This is an album that snubs modern-day convention, a throwback to live albums from the last century. So, close your eyes, listen to the music and imagine what it looked like.
Metallica Hardwired… To Self-Destruct BLACKENED
It’s been eight years coming, but Metallica’s 10th album was worth the wait. Over 12 tracks and two discs, Hardwired… is a love letter to the band’s career, ranging from thrash beginnings to stadiumsized anthems. An album that extends Metallica’s legacy by saluting it.
Pretenders Alone BMG
The message is clear on Chrissie Hynde’s ﬁrst Pretenders LP in eight years: even at 65, she is still a loner rebel at heart. It sounds like Hynde fronting The Black Keys (Dan Auerbach produces) – but it’s a glorious sound and ample proof that, 38 years into her career, she still answers to no one.
THE PACE OF THE PASSING ISLAND, OUT 27 JANUARY
SUICIDAL TENDENCIES WORLD GONE MAD
SUICIDAL RECORDS, OUT NOW
New line-up, same old sound from SoCal thrashers. Together with D.R.I., Suicidal Tendencies were at the forefront of the mid-’80s crossover between hardcore punk and thrash metal. A third of a century on, they’re still exploring the same territory. Their 12th LP finds former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo among those flanking vocalist Mike Muir, the only constant member in a shifting line-up. The band’s latest iteration sound fresh enough, particularly on breakneck single Clap Like Ozzy, although Jeff Pogan’s guitar is overly showy. Lyrically, however, things aren’t so slick, particularly on the title track, which finds Muir railing against such zeitgeist-bothering evils as plastic surgery and TV. It’s a solid enough LP, but it’s hard to see this appealing very far beyond their fanbase. ### PHIL MONGREDIEN Listen To: Clap Like Ozzy
Bombay Bicycle Club bassist’s contemplative solo debut. As the bassist of indie quartet Bombay Bicycle Club, Ed Nash has perhaps been biding his time, a dec of quietly waiting for the band to go on hiatus so that he might unveil his side-project. Certainly, The Pace Of The Passing has a well-steeped, muchconsidered air to its songs; it is an album of unashamed intellectual ambition that ruminates upon the individual’s place in the universe and the passing of time, along the way taking in the work of Charles and Ray Eames as well as references to Sisyphus, Sirens and Pluto’s largest moon. In practice, it’s a pleasing collection of multi-layered pop songs in a manner that at times recalls Sufjan Stevens. Highlights include The Midas Touch, a track made more resonant by the weighty voice of Wild Beasts’ Tom Fleming and the unsettling synths below, and the giddily melodic You Thought I Was Your Friend (I Want To Hurt You). #### LAURA BARTON Listen To: The Midas Touch | You Thought I Was Your Friend (I Want To Hurt You)
“This pool party sucks…”: Toothless, aka Ed Nash, takes a learned approach to his new solo career.
CAC, OUT NOW
CLIVAGE MUSIC/CAROLINE INTERNATIONAL, OUT 20 JANUARY
XO, OUT NOW
GLASS REDUX, OUT NOW
Flute-soloing indie-prog overlords’ comeback gathers pace. Ultrasound’s return in the early ’10s after crashing and burning in the late ’90s was unexpected, but welcome – proof that, sometimes, artistic urges are too important to ignore. Their third LP, Real Britannia, is a concept album of sorts, an exploration of “what it means to be British.” Timely, to say the least. The opening one-two of Kon-Tiki and God’s Gift are great – anthemic, passionate, playful and full of Pete Townshend-style riffing, while the second half, no less impressive, heads into psych-rock territory – flute solos and 20-minute rock odysseys included – and is lyrically more heartfelt (“I feel like a dead man dragging his corpse behind him” – Asylum). No question, Ultrasound are carving a very nice late-career niche out for themselves. #### MATT YATES T Listen To: Kon-Tiki | God’s Gift
French techno maestro returns in fun-loving form. When Vitalic first made waves with tracks like My Friend Dario, the Dijon producer had boots in two camps: the frosty cool of electroclash and the unselfconscious euphoria of filter house. Four albums in, Pascal ArbezNicolas’s refusal to pick a side is vital. On the one hand, there’s the addictive playfulness of shuffling opener El Viaje and Sweet Cigarette, a blatant pastiche of Grace Jones’s Warm Leatherette era with added womp-womps. On the other, Hans Is Driving which, from its title to the deadpan Miss Kittin vocal, could be a Flight Of The Conchords pisstake of electroclash. Voyage, ironically, takes us nowhere we haven’t been, but has a blast revisiting Vitalic’s favourite haunts. #### SIMON PRICE Listen To: Sweet Cigarette | Hans Is Driving | Lightspeed
The story of fame and Abél. Superstardom looked like a good fit for Abél Tesfaye when his second album Beauty Behind The Madness sold over two million copies and the Toronto native behind The Weeknd handle went from being an elusive R&B cult hero to a Grammy Awardwinning mainstream success. On this follow-up, Tesfaye can’t decide if he’s having the best time of his life or the worst. His doleful reflections on celebrity are propped onto an avalanching pop production, with Daft Punk’s two gliding contributions making you wish they’d done the whole thing. The barking False Alarm isn’t the only dip in quality among the 18 tracks, but give the guy a break. “I got all these women too attracted to the fame,” he sings on Rockin’. It’s tough at the top. ### NIALL I DOHERTY Listen To: Starboy | Rockin’ | I Feel It Coming
THE REST IS SCENERY
One-off Anglo-Scottish mystic improvises. Try and count all of avant-auteur Richard Youngs’s albums – there are more than 60 – and you’ll probably give up. But a sense of unknowing doesn’t hurt when confronted with one of the Glasgow resident’s probing distillations of irrationality. The basic elements this time include de-tuned guitar strums and Young’s keening voice on 13 bleak improvised songs. It’s hard not to be bemused by the lumpy For Too Long, but elsewhere he captures the kind of moment that careful method cannot. The laser-like violin drone of Strangest Day On Earth extend tension into fascination, while Grounded Stars In The Afternoon is like Eno’s Deep Blue Day narrated by a landlocked astronaut. A specialist interest, but the man who runs a label called No Fans won’t worry. ### IAN HARRISON Listen To: Strangest Day On Earth FEBRUARY 2017
CHOICE CUTS THE Q STAFF AND WRITERS’ TIPS OF THE MONTH.
6 VICTORIA SEGAL Q WRITER “Fire up the Pop-Tarts and turn on the coffee-maker: 1 GILMORE GIRLS: A YEAR IN THE LIFE is a fast-talking, unclean-eating delight, four new episodes providing a delicious recap of life in Stars Hollow since the original series ended in 2007. Simon Reynolds’s history of glam rock, SHOCK AND AWE, has no empty calories at all, a rich, exhilarating book that sends you back to the music with glittery new perspectives. Providing some quiet thinking space is NADINE KHOURI’s debut album, The Salted Air [out 3 February], a deceptively languid collection of smoke-damaged torch songs.”
SIMON MCEWEN PRODUCTION EDITOR
“A fictional band who made a one-song cameo on Maxine Peake-fronted spoken-word concept LP The Eccentronic Research Council, THE MOONLANDINGZ have regrouped for an entire album. Featuring members of Fat White Family and defunct electronic act The All Seeing I, plus Sean Lennon and Yoko Ono, its deviant electro-glam should appeal to fans who found FWF’s recent Nazis- and crack-themed album a bit heavy going. I also enjoyed BBC4’s 2 THE UNDISCOVERED PETER COOK so much I not only watched it twice, but also stayed up watching Derek And Clive videos into the small hours.”
TED KESSLER FEATURES EDITOR “Took my kids to see MOANA, A the new fandango from the makers of Frozen. Decent, but no Trolls. At home, in a quiet adult moment, I sat openmouthed at the amazing WEINER documentary on iPlayer. Telling the story of the disgraced US senator Anthony Weiner who resigned amid a sexting scandal in 2011, it starts as he launches his campaign to become New York mayor two years later before becoming embroiled in anotherr sexting scandal that has repercussions on Clinton’s presidential bid. Like everyone else, I’ve been listening to nothing but 5 A TRIBE CALLED QUEST’s new, final masterpiece. Peace, Phife Dawg.”
MARTIN BOON Q SUB EDITOR “As global politics lurches to the right, it’s perhaps timely that the recently republished 1939 novel ROGUE MALE by Geoffrey Household caught my attention. Starting from a classic thriller premise – a lone hero pursued across Europe by Nazi assassins – it manages to fulfil its remit as a compulsive page-turner while being written with an almost poetic flair. From a similarly troubled period in Brazil’s history, 3 JOSÉ MAURO’s 1970 album Obnoxius is a classic in waiting. Belying its title, this is in fact an LP of lush orchestral tropicalia rescued from undeserved obscurity this year by the aptly named Far Out label.”
NIALL DOHERTY REVEIWS EDITOR “Timed to coincide with their UK tour, IN BETWEEN DAYS: THE CURE IN PHOTOGRAPHS 1982-2005 is a wonderful collection of portraits drawn from the archives of esteemed snapper Tom Sheehan. Over two decades of pictures, Sheehan captures Robert Smith and his ever-evolving line-up at their most playful. The story of Seattle’s 6 MOTHER LOVE BONE is well known to grunge fans. Their singer Andrew Wood died on the eve of success and two members went on to form Pearl Jam. The Love Bone Earth Affair documentary has some great interviews with Wood and shows what might have been.”
“As a long-time On-U ‘head’, I was well pleased to get my hands on AFRICAN HEAD CHARGE’s Return Of The Crocodile LP, a collection of unreleased tracks from 1981-’86 by dub don Adrian Sherwood and master drummer Bonjo I. If I had to categorise it, I’d call it ‘industrial psychedelic voodoo’, but, really, it doesn’t sound like anything you’ve ever heard before. On a more contemporary tip, DANIEL AVERY’s DJ-Kicks contribution is a masterclass in brooding, hypnotic techno, while Alan Partridge’s 4 NOMAD is his funniest venture yet, not least when he recounts his beef with ‘total wazzock’ Noel Edmonds.”
CHRIS CATCHPOLE FRONT SECTION EDITOR
S.J.M. CONCERTS PRESENTS
P R E S E N T S
SJM Concerts presents
BEAUTY IN THE EAST PERFORMING SONGS FROM THEIR TWO RECENT TOP 5 ALBUMS PLUS CLASSIC TRACKS FROM THE BEAUTIFUL SOUTH AND THE HOUSEMARTINS
PLUS SPECIAL GUESTS
UK TOUR 2017
THURSDAY 23 FEBRUARY
TUESDAY 28 FEBRUARY
TUESDAY 07 MARCH
FRIDAY 24 FEBRUARY
THURSDAY 02 MARCH
WEDNESDAY 08 MARCH
NEWCASTLE O2 ACADEMY
SHEFFIELD O2 ACADEMY
SATURDAY 25 FEBRUARY
OXFORD O2 ACADEMY
MONDAY 27 FEBRUARY
CARDIFF UNIVERSITY Y PLAS
LEICESTER O2 ACADEMY
PORTSMOUTH PYRAMIDS FRIDAY 03 MARCH
HULL UNIVERSITY SATURDAY 04 MARCH
THURSDAY 09 MARCH
HATFIELD FORUM SATURDAY 11 MARCH
MONDAY 06 MARCH
SUNDAY 12 MARCH
NORWICH, UEA THE NICK RAYNS LCR
SONGKICK.COM XGIGANTIC.COM XSEETICKETS.COM TICKETWEB.CO.UK XGIGSANDTOURS.COM XGIGSINSCOTLAND.COM XTHE NEW ALBUM ‘FRIENDS’, OUT NOW X
SATURDAY 3RD JUNE 2017
HULL KC LIGHTSTREAM STADIUM (HOME OF HULL KR)
GIGSANDTOURS.COM | TICKETMASTER.CO.UK PAULHEATON.CO.UK 7 PAULHEATONSOLO 0 PAULHEATONOFFICIAL
A CROSSTOWN CONCERTS, SJM, DHP, DF, PVC & FUTURESOUND PRESENTATION BY ARRANGEMENT WITH X-ray
SJM CONCERTS BY ARRANGEMENT WITH ITB PRESENT
SLEEP NO MORE TOUR 2017
PERFORMING SONGS FROM THESE PEOPLE, HIS SOLO ALBUMS AND THE VERVE TUE 18 APRIL 2017
GLASGOW THE SSE HYDRO THU 20 APRIL 2017
BIRMINGHAM BARCLAYCARD ARENA SATURDAY 18 MARCH
TUESDAY 21 MARCH
TUESDAY 28 MARCH
FRIDAY 24 MARCH
SUNDAY 19 MARCH
WEDNESDAY 29 MARCH
DE MONTFORT HALL
SUNDAY 26 MARCH
ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL
CITY HALL GRAND BALLROOM SONGKICK.COM GIGANTIC.COM SEETICKETS.COM TICKETMASTER.CO.UK CAMBRIDGELIVETRUST.CO.UK GIGSANDTOURS.COM GIGSINSCOTLAND.COM
JACKSAVORETTI.COM A CROSSTOWN CONCERTS, SJM CONCERTS & DF CONCERTS PRESENTATION BY ARRANGEMENT WITH CODA AGENCY
SAT 22 APRIL 2017
LEEDS FIRST DIRECT ARENA FRI 30 JUNE 2017
MANCHESTER CASTLEFIELD BOWL GIGSANDTOURS.COM TICKETMASTER.CO.UK RICHARDASHCROFT.COM NEW ALBUM ‘THESE PEOPLE’ OUT NOW INCLUDES THE SINGLES ‘OUT OF MY BODY’, ‘THEY DON’T OWN ME’, ‘THIS IS HOW IT FEELS’ & ‘HOLD ON’
THURSDAY 6 JULY 2017
HYDE PARK LONDON
UK FESTIVAL EXCLUSIVE
PLUS FULL SUPPORTING LINE UP
BST-HYDEPARK.COM HYDE PARK LONDON
Coming up Fri 20 Jan
Sat 14 Jan
Steve Harley Lee Fields & The Expressions & Cockney Rebel Sat 21 Jan
Fri 27 Jan
Fri 03 Feb
Sat 18 Mar
Fri 24 Mar
Sat 08 Apr
John Lee Hooker Jr
The Blues Band
Sun 16 Apr
Fri 05 May
*ft. Tom Constanten (Grateful Dead)
SW6 1HS 00959
Academy Events present ACADEMY EVENTS & FRIENDS IN ASSOCIATION WITH SPIDER TOURING AND THE MAGNIFICENT AGENCY PRESENTS
MARCH 2017 23 NEWCASTLE NORTHUMBRIA UNIVERSITY 25 MANCHESTER ACADEMY 27 LEEDS CHURCH 28 LEICESTER O2 ACADEMY 29 BRISTOL O2 ACADEMY 31 BIRMINGHAM O2 INSTITUTE APRIL 2017 01 BOURNEMOUTH O2 ACADEMY 02 OXFORD O2 ACADEMY 03 CAMBRIDGE JUNCTION 05 LONDON O2 SHEPHERDS BUSH EMPIRE 06 BEXHILL ON SEA DE LA WARR PAVILLION NEW ALBUM ‘DAMAGE AND JOY’ OUT 24TH MARCH 2017 TICKETWEB.CO.UK | SEETICKETS.COM | THEJESUSANDMARYCHAIN.UK.COM Academy Events by arrangement with Destiny Bookings presents
PLUS SPECIAL GUESTS
FEBRUARY 2017 22 ND MANCHESTER O 2 RITZ 23 RD BRISTOL O 2 ACADEMY 24 TH BIRMINGHAM O 2 INSTITUTE 25 TH LONDON O 2 SHEPHERDS BUSH EMPIRE
HEAVY✯ FIRE ✯TOUR ✯ 2017
WITH GUN AND THE AMORETTES
T H U R S D AY
M A R C H
TRAMSHED, CARDIFF F R I D AY
M A R C H
WILLIAM ASTON HALL, WREXHAM S A T U R D AY
M A R C H
S U N D A Y
M A R C H
limelight, belfast T U E S D A Y
M A R C H
IRONWORKS, INVERNESS WITH BACKYARD BABIES & GUN
W E D N E S D A Y M A R C H T H U R S D A Y M A R C H
O2 ABC, GLASGOW C O - H E A D L I N E R
W I T H
G U N
GUN CLOSE THE SHOW ON MARCH 8 BSR CLOSE THE SHOW ON MARCH 9
F R I D A Y M A R C H 1 0 O2 ACADEMY, NEWCASTLE S A T U R D A Y
M A R C H
AC ADEMY EVENTS by arrangement with X-RAY presents
O 2 academy, leeds S U N D A Y M A R C H 2 T U E S D A Y M A R C H
O RITZ, MANCHESTER
ROCK CITY, NOTTINGHAM
WEDNESDAY MARCH 15
U E A , N O RW IC H T H U R S D AY
M A R C H
O2 ACADEMY BRISTOL F R I D A Y
M A R C H
O2 FORUM KENTISH TOWN, LONDON S A T U R D A Y
M A R C H
O2 INSTITUTE, BIRMINGHAM S U N D AY
M A R C H
O2 ACADEMY, BOURNEMOUTH
For ticket info go to www.blackstarriders.com PRESENTED BY ACADEMY EVENTS, MJR GROUP, VMS LIVE, MCD, RNW MUSIC, REGULAR MUSIC, TRIPLE G & DHP FAMILY BY ARRANGEMENT WITH APA & SIREN ARTIST MANAGEMENT TOGETHER WITH PLANET ROCK
New ALbum ‘ Heavy Fire ’ in store s earLy 2 017
T H E
H O M E
T O U R WED 1st MARCH BIRMINGHAM O2 INSTITUTE THU 2ND MARCH MANCHESTER O2 RITZ UT DO FRI SOL 3RD & SAT 4TH MARCH LONDON O2 ACADEMY ISLINGTON
TICKETWEB.CO.UK · 0844 477 2000 & ALL USUAL AGENTS
Academy Events present presents
in association with SPIDER TOURING present
Celebrating The Twentieth Anniversary of Urban Hymns
STRANGEWAYS, HERE WE COME TOUR 2017 IMAGINING THE TOUR THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN IN 1987... PLUS THE HITS & THE BEST OF THEIR BACK CATALOGUE
THE WEDDING PRESENT
PLUS SPECIAL GUESTS
PERFORMING THE ALBUM
FRI 24th FEBRUARY MANCHESTER O2 Ritz SAT 25th MARCH LIVERPOOL O2 Academy2 FRI 21st APRIL SHEFFIELD O2 Academy2 FRI 19th MAY NEWCASTLE O2 Academy SAT 3rd JUNE BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy2 FRI 9th JUNE GLASGOW O2 ABC2 FRI 22nd SEPTEMBER BRISTOL O2 Academy FRI 6th OCTOBER BOURNEMOUTH Old Fire Station SAT 7th OCTOBER OXFORD O2 Academy2 SAT 21st OCTOBER LEICESTER The Scholar @ O2 Academy
IN ITS ENTIRETY
NATIONAL TOUR 2017
MARCH SAT 25 SHEFFIELD O2 ACADEMY2 APRIL SAT 08 LIVERPOOL O2 ACADEMY2 SAT 22 LONDON O2 ACADEMY ISLINGTON
ticketweb.co.uk | 0844 477 2000
MAY SAT 06 BIRMINGHAM O2 ACADEMY3 FRI 12 GLASGOW O2 ABC2 SAT 13 NEWCASTLE O2 ACADEMY2 SAT 20 OXFORD O2 ACADEMY2
SUPPORTING DAMIEN DEMPSEY @ CELTIC CONNECTIONS
WEDNESDAY 1st FEBRUARY GLASGOW O2 ABC2 THURSDAY 2nd FEBRUARY LIVERPOOL O2 ACADEMY2
FRIDAY 3rd FEBRUARY BIRMINGHAM O2 ACADEMY3 SATURDAY 4th FEBRUARY LONDON O2 ACADEMY ISLINGTON
in association with SPIDER TOURING presents
P LUS S P EC I A L G U E S T S
FEBRUARY 2017 FRI 24 NEWCASTLE O2 ACADEMY2 SAT 25 LEEDS O2 ACADEMY MARCH 2017 FRI 03 OXFORD O2 ACADEMY2 SAT 04 LONDON O2 ACADEMY2 ISLINGTON FRI 10 SHEFFIELD O2 ACADEMY2 11 BIRMINGHAM O2 ACADEMY3 SAT
SAT 04 LIVERPOOL O2 ACADEMY2
FRI 17 LEICESTER THE SCHOLAR @ O2 ACADEMY SAT 18 LIVERPOOL O2 ACADEMY2 FRI 24 BOURNEMOUTH OLD FIRE STATION FRI 31 MANCHESTER O2 RITZ APRIL 2017 SAT 01 GLASGOW O2 ABC2 FRI 07 BRISTOL O2 ACADEMY
By arrangement with THE SOUNDS THAT HISTORY SAVED AGENCY
SAT 11 OXFORD O2 ACADEMY2 FRI 17 BIRMINGHAM O2 ACADEMY3
LADIES & GENTLEMEN... LAST ORDERS PLEASE PLUS SPECIAL GUEST
AN ACADEMY EVENTS PRESENTATION IN ASSOCIATION WITH RHINO AGENCY
PERFORMING THE ALBUMS
SAT 18 SHEFFIELD O2 ACADEMY2
‘SUBSTANCE’ BY JOY DIVISION & NEW ORDER
FRI 24 BRISTOL O2 ACADEMY SAT 25 LONDON O2 ACADEMY2
PAYIN’ RESPECT TO THE MAN IN BLACK
WITH FULL LIVE BAND
LAST EVER SHOWS
A N E V ENI NG W I T H
FRI 27 GLASGOW O2 ABC2 SAT 28 NEWCASTLE O2 ACADEMY
(FULL 8 PIECE BAND)
THE AMY WINEHOUSE EXPERIENCE BACK ...A.K.A
JUNE 2017 WEDNESDAY 7th NEWCASTLE O2 ACADEMY THURSDAY 8th BIRMINGHAM O2 ACADEMY THURSDAY 15th BRISTOL O2 ACADEMY
SAT 17th & SUN 18th DECEMBER 2016 PLUS SPECIAL GUESTS
O2 SHEPHERDS BUSH EMPIRE LONDON
LAST EVER SHOWS
*Hosted by STEVE LAMACQ **Hosted by JANICE LONG
FRIDAY 3RD MARCH 2017 O2 ACADEMY LIVERPOOL SATURDAY 18TH MARCH 2017 O2 ACADEMY LEEDS
DECEMBER 2016 15 SHEFFIELD O2 Academy** 16 BOURNEMOUTH O2 Academy** 17 BRISTOL O2 Academy* 21 MANCHESTER O2 Ritz* 22 LONDON O2 Shepherds Bush Empire* 23 BIRMINGHAM O2 Institute** www.thewonderstuff.co.uk
JAMBINAI ACADEMY EVENTS and MJR by arrangement with EARTH BEAT present
plus special guests
Sunday 23rd April BRISTOL THE LANTERN Tuesday 25th April GLASGOW O2 ABC2 Wednesday 26th April LONDON O2 ACADEMY ISLINGTON @jambinaiofficial
TICKETWEB.CO.UK · 0844 477 2000 & ALL USUAL AGENTS
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Talk to us: QMail@Qthemusic.com | Twitter.com/QMagazine | Facebook.com/ QMagazine | QMail, Q, Endeavour House, 189 Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8JG LETTER OF THE MONTH
left us with You Want It Darker, because as a last testament, it’s a stunning, dignified and magnificent adieu. Jeb Trentner, Taunton
THE RAY TODAY Dear Q, thanks so much for your article on Ray Davies’s 12 best songs in the last issue [Q367]. It was a brilliant piece of musical journalism by Simon Goddard: candid and entertaining, yet without ever being overly reverential. But most importantly for me – as someone who tries, and so often fails, to write songs in his spare time – it was a fascinating insight into how one of the world’s greatest songwriters goes about his business. The secret? “There are no rules,” says the ex-Kink. Spoken like a true songwriting genius! Paul Cartwright, Nottingham
Ray Davies: “rules are for fools!”
Meet the world’s best-travelled magazine!
Julie Beudaert, near Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris, France.
THE DARKER STUFF I must say, your review of Leonard Cohen’s last album [You Want It Darker, Q366] was most prescient: “It feels like a summation of his thoughts on love, life and faith at that end point when there is no longer time to sweat the small stuff.” How right your reviewer was – this is one of the most uplifting melancholic albums I’ve ever heard (and I’m no Cohen aficionado) and it’s even more remarkable when you consider it was made by an 82-year-old. But how sad that, especially after the passing of both Bowie and Prince earlier in the year, among too many others, the world should lose another such singular musical talent. I guess at least he
Heather Bull, Country Music Hall Of Fame and Museum, Nashville, USA.
BRAND NEW// SECOND HAND Dear Q: three good, three bad. Thanks so much for introducing me to the live musical thrills of Thee Oh Sees and Goat, both of whom I saw this year after your recommendations, and both were truly amazing gigs. And also thanks for introducing me to Julia Jacklin’s brilliant LP [Don’t Let The Kids Win], the first “country” record I’ve ever I’ll get my Goat: “live musical thrills.”
David Harland, atop Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
GETTY, ALEX LAKE, RICHARD YOUNG/REX
The World of
Leonard Cohen’s last LP: “a magnificent adieu.”
Caption Competition WIN! A Special Edition 10th-Anniversary Deluxe Box Of No Direction Home: Bob Dylan. has teamed up with the good people at UMC/Capitol Records to offer FIVE lucky readers the chance to win the special 10th-anniversary deluxe box version of Martin Scorsese’s award-winning documentary No Direction Home: Bob Dylan. The 10th-anniversary editions of the film all feature two-anda-half hours of bonus and never-before-seen content, including extended scenes from the film and full-length interviews with Scorsese, and folk musicians Dave van Ronk and Liam Clancy. The Special Edition Deluxe Box will include both Blu-ray and DVD versions of the film and bonus content, as well as an exclusively produced Bob Dylan magazine that features reproductions of historical articles about the artist, plus three highquality lithographic photo prints of Dylan, all in a deluxe portfolio. Produced by Jeff Rosen (American Roots Music) and Nigel Sinclair (The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years), the three-hour film focuses on Dylan’s life and music from 1961 to 1966, detailing the artist’s journey from his hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota through his emergence in the folk music scene of New York’s Greenwich Village to his ontroversial decision to go “electric” nd his rise to the pinnacle of nternational fame and cultural impact. No Direction Home: Bob Dylan is an absolute must-see for both Dylanologists and the uninitiated.
THIS MONTH’S CAPTION CHALLENGE Here’s Sting doing a spot of yoga backstage before a show. Send your entry – the funnier the better – including your address, to captioncomp@Qthemusic.com or on a postcard to the usual Q address. See below for more details. Closes: 13 January 2017.
Q366 THE WINNING CAPTION
Bob’s full house: (left) the Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition of No Direction Home; (right) Dylan tickles the ivories, 1965.
“Well, obviously, I’m in disguise. It’s the only way I can get anywhere near the BRIT Awards stage.”
David Bosherr from Tyne and Wear came up with this beauty and wins a Marshall amp and Marshall: The Book Of Loud. Nice work, David. Runners-up: Michael O’Brien, Co. Durham; Stella Sheridan, Warrington; Mandy Lewis, Taunton; Paul Jones, Liverpool; Mark Brockbank, Cumbria; Paul Howard, Somerset; Andy Simpson, Leeds; Mark Pepper, Kesgrave; Paul Grevers, Edinburgh; Adam Hill, Brighton. To win, email your caption to: captioncomp@Qthemusic.com or post to the usual Q address before 13/1/17. Five winners will be chosen by the panel, and they will be notified, by email, 7-10 days after the closing date and must respond to Q within 14 days or another winner may be chosen. Q will not respond to questions about its chosen winners but will provide winners’ names and the home towns, provided a request is made to the usual Q address and accompanied with a SAE. One entry per person and you must be over 18 and live in the UK. Prize is non-negotiable with no cash alternative. Personal data will be collected by Q and passed to prize provider to process entries. See http://www.bauerdatapromise. co.uk for more details. Full T&Cs apply, see http://www.bauerlegal.co.uk/competition-terms.html. Any queries, email: QMail@Qthemusic.com
purchased. But no thanks to the dull, heard-it-all-before warblings from the multimillionaire rock-star elite such as Coldplay, U2 and Muse in the last issue. Please stick to w music, the exciting new aforementioned have already had their go! Emma Ellis-Carter, Oxford
GOLDEN BROWN What the f*@k has Chris Wolstenholme from Muse done to his face in those photographs in the last issue [Q Awards, Q367]? He’s either overdone it on the fake tan or he’s taken Muse’s 2000 single Sunburn literally! Marcus J, via Q Mail
SPINE MESSAGE Q367 “W & A Gilbey” used the Roundhouse (Q Awards venue) as a bonded warehouse for their gin company for 50 years from 1871. Do I qualify for a bottle?! Steve Loraine, Maidstone You would, Steve, if we had any left after the Q Awards. Muse’s Chris (centre) feels the (sun)burn.
“Well , I am the asshole who calls himself ‘Legend John Legend THE OSCAR-WINNING SOUL TO KANYE AND THE OBAMA
WORDS: PAUL STOKES
Manic depression stopped me from playing to the point of getting rid of my guitar to pay for somewhere to live. Help Musicians UK got me back on my feet. I dread to think where I would be without them. We helped Matt when a crisis stopped him from performing. Help us help musicians. Donate at helpmusicians.org.uk 020 7239 9100
Backing musicians throughout their careers. Registered Charity No. 228089.
++++ Rolling Stone ++++ The Daily Mail
+++++ Mojo 9/10 Uncut
+++++ The Guardian 8.5/10 Pitchfork
++++ Q ++++ Daily Telegraph