Anyone who knows me knows that at best I am an arrogant bastard when it comes to music. I can be a right dick if you like a band that I think is shit (read: Nickleback). But there have been times where even I have made a misjudgement about a band. While I think that a lot of bands I used to think are shit, are still shit (read: Nickleback) here are some of the times I’ve fucked up.
3 – Arctic Monkeys
You’ve probably just strangled a cat right now and I can’t blame you. Yes, there was once a time when I thought that what might now be called the best British band of the 21st century were in fact, annoying. Worse, this was around the time of their first couple albums, when they were arguably better than when I eventually got into them (Humbug). I blame this on the fact that I hadn’t properly listened to them or their lyrics, so I hadn’t noticed they were incredible. I’d only really heard Mardy Bum, and it has to be said, that remains my least favourite song off their first album.
So how did I realise that they were great? My dad made me listen to that first album while on the way to some sort of match. I don’t remember who played or who won, but I do remember actually laughing out loud to some of the lyrics, they were that good. After nabbing the CD, I then came to see how awesome that indie-punk style was, a band that could rock out and have awesome words is still the longed for combination when listening to music, and that’s what the Monkeys offer. I’ll put this song, becuase the line “I’m struggling: I can’t see through your fake tan” is still one of the best in all rock music.
2 – Tyler, The Creator / OFWGKTA
Yes, it’s the violent sexist homophobic rapey rapper man/group. When I first heard Tyler, from a few friends I thought, well he’s a bit angry and then left it at that. I didn’t spend much time listening to him, and frankly I didn’t really want to. One line that did come across to me quite clearly was, “Rape a pregnant bitch and tell my friends I had a threesome” Delightful. I didn’t know what his point was, I didn’t know why he was doing it, and I didn’t want to know.
Then I saw them (OFWGKTA) at Reading Festival 2011. If you were in that crowd, I think you can understand me now. Something happened and if I’m honest I don’t think it had anything to do with the music. That crowd was insane, I couldn’t really hear any music over my attempt to stay alive. Afterwards I staggered out, trying and failing to find my friends and having to miss seeing Madness because I was too exhausted. The fatigue from that and then the Pulp crowd meant I passed on The Strokes later that night as well.
In order to understand why this band/man are so popular and why they mean so much, I had to listen to Tyler’s album a bit more. Specifically the opening Goblins / Yonkers / Radicals finally helped me see what’s going on. Tyler is a final conclusion to a lot of rap’s tired old clichés. The pointless shit-talking about how hard you are, about how many ‘bitches’ you ‘fuck’ mean nothing in the face of one of Tyler’s raps – he has threesomes with triceratops. Tyler is out to get the last shock, push the outrage to the farthest point in the galaxy. I’m not saying he is always right or any good at this, and frankly I can’t listen to much of Odd Future because so much of it is complete crap. But listen to the song Radicals and try and tell me you don’t, well, ‘get it’ a bit. He goes the to the far end of angst and rebellion and sheer violent horror, but he knows what he is doing. What i got wrong, was that Tyler is actually quite intelligent. They are Punk: the Sex Pistols to a repetitive and tiring rap world. You know I’m right, why else is he signed to XL – the same label as The Horros, Jack White, Adele, Radiohead, The XX and the Godfather of rap, Gil-Scott Heron. Listen all the way through.
1 – Arcade Fire
Yeh, I know. If you’ve been talking / friends with me for the last few weeks, you know I have not stopped ranting about how absolutelty incredible this band is (and Bill hates it and wishes I would shut up). For the entire time before the last month I had known they were good. I never thought they were crap, unlike the other two on this list, but I thought they were, well, average. I had heard the odd song, and nothing had grabbed me at all. I thought they were an indie-pop band with some slight orchestral quirks and not worth ranting about, or sadly listening to.
How wrong I was. I’m trying to work out how I didn’t notice. I swear the universe was conspiring to tell me to listen to them. First they were namechecked in one of my favourite internet comics here (i hope you like walls of text) that had already revealed it had good music taste (beatles/nirvana). Then they won like a ton of Grammies, and Brits (for more on the brits click here). Then they headlined Reading Festival, then they had a gig where they were supported by Beirut, Mumford and Sons and The Vaccines, and a few friends went nuts.
Alas, I only got into them after all chance of seeing them tour their best album was gone. And The Suburbs is good. Really Fucking Good. So Good, it gets into my (obscenely subjective) top 5 albums of all time (Quadrophenia, It’s A Wonderful Life, Vitalogy, OK Computer) which is one hell of a feat. the best way I can explain why i think Arcade Fire are so good, and don’t worry this rant will be continued in later posts, is that they are one of the few bands left in the world who have an urgency. You can tell that this band has to make music to live and that as a result they are gonna make the best music they possibly can. Musically and lyrically, The Suburbs showed me a band that was energetic, that really cared, and that really felt that music actually mattered. the best way I can show you this is with this live video from the gig I could’ve gone to had I had a brain. And even if you don’t listen to the music or just think I’m bullshitting. WATCH THE XYLOPHONE PLAYER from 3:00 to 4:00. He epitomises everything I want to explain about them.
p.s. I think Frank Turner would feature on this list in a few weeks. I just wish he wouldn’t shout too much or else I’d buy one of his albums