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Our Year

BY Stormzy Gorillaz Father John Misty Wiley


Manic Street Preachers Rag’N’Bone Man
Skepta Kasabian LCD Soundsystem Sampha

THE AWA R D S

When
LIAM
Met
ED
It was murder...

50
The

Albums Of
The Year

Squeeze
A love story

Muna
On the road with Harry Styles
and his favourite group

igarettes
fter Sex
The truth behind the
worst band name in music
Contents
January 2018

This month’s highlight: storming live sets by Sleaford Mods and Manic
Street Preachers, which closed this year’s Q Awards ceremony.
A Stormzy in heaven:
the grime superstar
enjoys himself at the
Q Awards (p34); (left)
Muna on tour with
Harry Styles (p66).

24 Q AWARDS 2017
Yes, it’s that time again when the great and
good gather for the highlight of the musical
calendar, the Q Awards. This year featured
a stellar cast, including Ed Sheeran, Liam
Gallagher, Stormzy, Sleaford Mods,
Manic Street Preachers and many more.

54 ALBUMS OF
THE YEAR
Drum roll, please, as we count down the
50 Best Albums of 2017, featuring LCD
Soundsystem, Father John Misty, Sampha
and interviews with entrants, including…
58 SQUEEZE
Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford, South
London’s answer to Lennon and McCartney,
haven’t always had the most harmonious
relationship. But now they’re back together
and making music to match their best.
66 MUNA
What are a group of radical feminists doing
supporting Harry Styles on his US tour? We
join the trio in Texas to find out how they’re
COVER: ALEX LAKE PHOTOS: SIMON SARIN, RACHAEL WRIGHT

bringing the revolution to the masses.


72 THE WAR ON DRUGS
Panic attacks. Despair. Chronic back pain…
It hasn’t been easy for Adam Granduciel
but after his breakthrough in 2014, he’s now
making the kind of albums he once idolised.
86 MAVERICK: BAXTER DURY
He may have grown tired of comparisons
with his father Ian, but with this year’s
Prince Of Tears, he’s now his own man.

JANUARY 2018 3
Here’s Johnny:
(right) the return
of Mr Marr (p14);
(left) ex-Maccabee
Orlando Weeks goes

INCOMING
it alone (p10).

10 ORLANDO WEEKS
Dry your tears Maccabees fans,
ex-frontman Orlando Weeks has some solo
material you might be interested in.
12 STEVE MASON
We hook up with the ex-Beta Band
frontman in his Portslade studio to talk
about UFOs and dusting.
14 IN THE STUDIO: JOHNNY MARR
Why the ex-Smiths guitar maestro is
embracing his glorious musical past
on his forthcoming solo album.
16 OUT TO LUNCH:
STUART MURDOCH
Over prawn linguine, the Belle And
Sebastian head honcho proves he’s made
of sterner stuff than you might imagine.

REGULARS
20 CASH FOR QUESTIONS:
SPARKS
The Mael brothers talk Hitler moustaches,
nearly breaking up Queen and why
Morrissey will never lighten up.
128 Q MAIL
Demands for an Oasis reunion and big love
for the late Tom Petty.
130 LAST WORD
Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neil adds his final
touch to the issue.

108 NEW BJÖRK


After the trauma of her last album, Iceland’s
greatest export is violently happy again.
THE WORLD’S BIGGEST
& BEST MUSIC GUIDE 111 NEW N.E.R.D
The time is ripe for Pharrell Williams and
his old pals to make a storming comeback.
102 LIVE ROYAL BLOOD
The Brighton duo brave the mosquitoes to 112 NEW TAYLOR SWIFT
bring Milan a masterclass in heaviosity. It’s been three years since pop music’s
biggest star released the world-conquering
104 NEW U2 1989. Can her follow-up match it?
ED MILES, TRACEY WELCH, ED MASON

It seems like Bono’s recent brush with


mortality has concentrated his mind as U2 116 REISSUE FELA KUTI
cook up a late-period classic (right). deluxe Erykah Badu-
urated boxset shines
“Yo, Milano!”
Royal Blood
107 NEW MIGUEL light on the Nigerian
live (p102). The R&B star mixes the personal Afrobeat superstar’s
with the political on his fourth LP. underrated classics.

4 JANUARY 2O18
Backstage...
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LONDON NW1 7DJ | 0207 241 8000 |
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[...And their album of the year...]

EDITORIAL
Editor Ted Kessler [Girl Ray – Earl Grey]
Deputy Editor Niall Doherty [Dunkirk score by Hans Zimmer]
Art Director Daniel Knight [Ghostpoet – Dark Days + Canapés]
Production Editor Simon McEwen [Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.]
Assistant Editor (Reviews/Breaking) Chris Catchpole [Four Tet – New Energy]
Picture Editor Marian Paterson [Baxter Dury – Prince Of Tears]
Associate Copy Editor Matt Yates [Peter Perrett – How The West Was Won]
Associate Art Editor Salman Naqvi [Baxter Dury – Prince Of Tears]
Subbing Martin Boon [LCD Soundsystem – American Dream]
Contributing Editors: Laura Barton, Mark Blake, Tom Doyle, Simon Goddard,
John Harris, Dorian Lynskey, Matt Mason, Sylvia Patterson, Peter Robinson,
Laura Snapes, Paul Stokes

CONTRIBUTORS: Words: John Aizlewood, Matt Allen, Eve Barlow,


Keith Cameron, Michael Cragg, Hannah J Davies, Dave Everley, Eamonn Forde,
“I’m plastered, Andy Fyfe, George Garner, Pat Gilbert, Ian Harrison, Rupert Howe,
Craig McLean, Phil Mongredien, Paul Moody, Rebecca Nicholson, James
you’re plastered...”: Oldham, Peter Paphides, Andrew Perry, Simon Price, David Quantick,
Ed Sheeran encounters Victoria Segal, Kate Solomon, Bob Stanley
Liam Gallagher
backstage at the Q Chief Photographer: Alex Lake Photographers: David Andrako, Tom Barnes,
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Awards, October 2017.
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6 JANUARY 2O18
SAM AMIDON CELEBRATING THE YEAR DAN AUERBACH
THE FOLLOWING MOUNTAIN
++++Guardian
++++Uncut
IN NONESUCH MUSIC WAITING ON A SONG
++++Mojo
++++Q

ROBERT FINLEY FLEET FOXES RHIANNON GIDDENS TIGRAN HAMASYAN


GOIN’ PLATINUM! CRACK-UP FREEDOM HIGHWAY AN ANCIENT OBSERVER
++++Mojo +++++The Times ++++Mojo +++++Downbeat
+++++Uncut ++++Uncut ++++Uncut ++++Jazzwise

KRONOS QUARTET k.d. lang YO-YO MA, CHRIS THILE & EDGAR MEYER THE MAGNETIC FIELDS
FOLK SONGS INGÉNUE (25TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION) BACH TRIOS 50 SONG MEMOIR
+++++fRoots ++++Mojo ++++Daily Telegraph +++++Independent
+++++Songlines ++++Record Collector +++++The Times ++++Q

NATALIE MERCHANT RANDY NEWMAN CONOR OBERST OFFA REX


THE NATALIE MERCHANT COLLECTION DARK MATTER SALUTATIONS THE QUEEN OF HEARTS
+++++Mojo ++++Mojo +++++Independent +++++Independent
++++The Times ++++Uncut ++++Q ++++Observer

ROBERT PLANT ROSTAM CHRIS THILE CHRIS THILE & BRAD MEHLDAU
CARRY FIRE HALF-LIGHT THANKS FOR LISTENING CHRIS THILE & BRAD MEHLDAU
++++Observer ++++Evening Standard +++++BBC Music Magazine ++++BBC Music Magazine
++++Q ++++Q ++++Uncut ++++Jazzwise

NONESUCH.COM
1. MORRISSEY
I WISH YOU LONELY
(Morrissey, Boorer). Published by BMG Rights
Management (UK) Limited/Domino Publishing
(P) 2017 BMG Rights Management (UK) Ltd.
Music’s most contrarian figure was
rarely out of the tabloids this year, but
that didn’t distract from him making one
of his most consistent solo LPs in aeons.
This highlight, with its Johnny Marr-style
arpeggiating, shows Moz is at his best
when he lets the music do the talking.
On: Low In High School (Etienne/BMG)

6. GORILLAZ
SATURNZ BARZ
(Gorillaz, Popcaan). Published by Warner/Chappell Music
Ltd. (PRS) & Sony ATV. Popcaan appears courtesy of
Mixpak Records. (P) 2017 Parlophone Records Ltd. A
Warner Music Group Company and (c) 2017 Gorillaz
Partnership under exclusive licence to Parlophone
Records Ltd. www.gorillaz.com
From Q readers’ Best Album of 2017, this
jagged hip-hop/dancehall gem featuring
Jamaican deejay Popcaan showed the

YOUR CD...
cartoon band going thrillingly off-piste.
On: Humanz (Parlophone) See page: 93

Sit back, relax and enjoy your


15-track cover-mounted CD,
Best Of The Best: 2017 In Music ,
11. WOLF ALICE
che i f o our 50 Albu s DON’T DELETE THE K ISSE S
(Ellie Rowsell, Joff Oddie, Theo Ellis, Joel Amey);

Of r list w ich o can published by Kobalt Music Group Ltd; (p) and (c) 2017
Dirty Hit Ltd. www.wolfalice.co.uk
North London indie-rockers Wolf Alice
access fr page 54. ristmas made a giant leap forward on second LP
Visions Of A Life, both in terms of

really has come early this year… ambition and identity. This standout
showcases the band’s grasp of dreamy
atmospherics and shiny pop hooks.
On: Visions Of A Life (Dirty Hit)
*Due to licensing and distribution issues, the cover-mounted CD is not available for overseas or value-pack purchasers. See page: 93
2. LIAM 3. STORMZY 4. DIZZEE RASCAL 5. SLEAFORD
GALLAGHER BIG FOR YOUR BOOTS
(Omari, Joseph) Published by Warner/Chappell Music Ltd.
SPACE MODS
I’VE ALL I NEED J UST LIK E WE DO
(Mills, Salva) Published by Dirtee Stank Recordings (P) & (C)
2017 Dirtee Stank Recordings Limited, under exclusive
(Gallagher) Published by Warner/Chappell Music. When Michael Ebenazer Kwadjo Omari (Fearn, Williamson) Published by Wipe Out Music.
Owuo Jr’s debut album Gang Signs & licence to Island Records, a division of Universal Music
(P) and (C) Warner/Chappell Music. Licensed courtesy of Rough Trade Records Limited by
www.liamgallagher.com Prayer went straight to Number 1 in Operations Limited. www.Raskit.co.uk
arrangement with Beggars Group Media Limited.
The greatest rock’n’roll singer of his March, it heralded the arrival of a grime Dizzee’s sixth studio album Raskit was a (p) 2016 Rough Trade Records Limited.
generation returned to active service in superstar. Its lead-off single, Big For timely return to the unburnished beats www.roughtraderecords.com
2017 spoiling for trouble. But on this Your Boots, showcases Stormzy’s and lyrical flow of his 2003 debut Boy In A highlight from the gnarlier-than-thou
La’s-style album closer, an older, wiser vocal dexterity and brilliant way with Da Corner. On standout Space, Dizzee post-punk duo’s best album to date, and
Liam emerged sagely advising, himself a put-down. declares, “Ain’t no point in playing it their first recorded in a proper studio.
included, to “slow down”. On: Gang Signs & Prayer (#Merky) safe,” and he most surely doesn’t. On: English Tapas (Rough Trade)
On: As You Were (Warners) See page: 83 See page: 85 On: Raskit (Dirtee Skank) See page: 83 See page: 85

7. FOREST 8. ST. VINCENT 9. FATHER 10. KEVIN MORBY


SWORDS PILLS JOHN MISTY DOWNTOWN’S LIGHTS
THE HIGHE ST FLOOD
(Annie Clark, Jack Antonoff, Mark Anthony Spears) Big Deal
Notes / Nail Polish Manifesto Music (ASCAP) / Mark Anthony
TOTAL ENTERTAINMENT (Morby) Published by Kevinmorby (ASCAP) administered
by Kobalt Songs Music Publishing. (P) & (C) 2017 Dead
(M. Barnes) Published by Just Isn’t Music (P) & (C) 2017 Spears (ASCAP) – Sony/ATV Allegro / Beat Bully Productions FOREVER Oceans. Courtesy of Dead Oceans www.kevinmorby.com
Ninja Tune. www.ninjatune.net (ASCAP) / Sony / ATV Songs LLC / Ducky Donath Music (BMI) (P) (Wilson, Tillman) Published by Cripple Creek Fairies
2017 Loma Vista Recordings., Distributed by Concord Music (ASCAP). (P) & (C) Cripple Creek Fairies (ASCAP) / Kobalt With his fourth album, wandering US
When not collaborating with Massive Group, Inc. www.ilovestvincent.com Music Publishing. www.fatherjohnmisty.com singer-songwriter Kevin Morby
Attack or soundtracking movies and When Annie Clark recruited producer According to Father John Misty, aka replaced his hobo-Dylan tendencies
video games, Liverpool’s Matthew Jack Antonoff (Lorde, Taylor Swift) for Josh Tillman, this lush, immaculately with more Lou Reed-like lyrical
Barnes crafts beautiful, textured, her fifth LP, it suggested a crossover sculpted song is about virtual reality observations about travelling through
atmospheric post-dubstep like this. ambition as exemplified on this standout. sex with famous people. No, really. urban space, as typified on this gem.
On: Compassion (Ninja Tune) On: Masseduction (Loma Vista/Caroline On: Pure Comedy (Sub Pop) On: City Music (Dead Oceans)
See page: 83 International) See page: 93 See page: 92 See page: 56

12. LCD 13. JANE WEAVER 14. ALT J 15. THE HORRORS
SOUNDSYSTEM THE LIGHTNING BACK 3WW PRE SS ENTER TO EX IT
OH BABY Jane Weaver published by Heavenly Songs Limited/ Bucks (Joe Newman, Gun Unger-Hamilton, Thom Green)
published by Kobalt Music Publishing P+C 2017 Infectious
(Faris Badwan, Tom Cowan, Joseph Spurgeon, Rhys Webb,

(Murphy) Published by Guy With Head And Arms Music Music Group Ltd (p) and (c) 2017 Jane Weaver. Joshua Third, Paul Epworth) Published by Global (P) and
www.firerecords.com Music Ltd., a BMG Company. (C) 2017 Wolf Tone Limited, under exclusive licence to
and Songs From My Face, Inc. (ASCAP) All rights admin. by
The Manchester-based singer- This wonderfully strange indie-rock trio Caroline International. www.thehorrors.co.uk
Kobalt Songs Music Publishing. (P) & (C) 2017 Excelsior
Equity Management of NY, LLC under exclusive licence to songwriter went distinctively cosmic got even odder on their third album, Drafting in über-producer Paul Epworth
Columbia Records, a Division of Sony Music on her follow-up to 2014’s Krautrock- Relaxer, not least with opener 3WW, for their fifth album was a smart move
Entertainment. www.lcdsoundsystem.com influenced The Silver Globe. This where a twisty-turny exploration of for the Southend quintet, as evinced
Spectral electronic torch song which otherworldly, synth-futurist marvel the phrase “I love you” starts like a here on this LP closer, where they’ve
opens LCD’s spectacular comeback LP. was one of many highlights. futuristic spaghetti western before never sounded so expansive and poppy.
On: American Dream (DFA/Columbia) On: Modern Kosmology (Fire Records) transforming into a blissed-out ballad. On: V (Wolftone/Caroline International)
See page: 94 See page: 77 On: Relaxer (Infectious) See page: 56 See page: 85

JANUARY 2018 9
NEW ADVENTURES
IN MUSIC...
In which we check in
with Steve Mason, join
Johnny Marr in the
studio and break bread
with Stuart Murdoch.

First Look

WHAT THE
MACCABEES’
FRONTMAN
DID NEXT
ORLANDO WEEKS SETS UP HIS STALL AT THE
Yule be lucky: (right)
Orlando Weeks in the Union
CHRISTMAS MARKET WITH A LONDON SHOW. Chapel, London, venue for
the special one-off show on
easonal entertainment can be 12 December; (left) Weeks

S
a dangerous game to play, the with Paul Whitehouse,
who narrates the
domain of “He’s behind you!” Gritterman album and will
panto, spectacles on ice and appear at the live show.
winsome singing children.
An excellent new addition to the Christmas
canon, however, is The Gritterman, created
by Orlando Weeks, the former frontman of
The Maccabees. Released in September,
it comes in two parts – a book written and
illustrated by Weeks, and an album of softly
shining songs narrated by comedian and
actor Paul Whitehouse. He tells the gently
lyrical story of a man who sells ice cream in
summer but converts his van to a gritter in
the winter – a job he loves until the council
abruptly inform him that he’s no longer
required. It’s a role that Whitehouse, reading
between the lines, feels some empathy with:
“Working with Orlando was hell because
although he’s not young, he’s considerably
younger than I am. I will never forgive him
for that. Nevertheless, it was a joy to work Union Chapel, Weeks is wearing a soft black solitary project, the music written on
on something as beautiful and intimate jumper that gives him the same inky line as piano, a way of using the time between
as The Gritterman,” he emails. his drawings. He’s just finished rehearsals The Maccabees calling it a day in 2016,
Weeks is now preparing to perform the before heading home to Margate: the show is and playing their jubilant final shows
album at London’s Union Chapel on 12 on a tight schedule, but the five-piece choir this summer.
December, complete with band, choir and and his band – “the professionals”, as he How much did he identify with his
Whitehouse – the latter possibly up in the sweetly puts it – seem happy, so he is. Gritterman character, a man suddenly cut
ORLANDO WEEKS, ED MASON

pulpit. It’s not musical theatre, says Weeks, “It’s only ever been on record for me, adrift? Is it fanciful to see parallels with the
nor a radio play, but something in-between, or on a computer, so to have a bunch of end of The Maccabees? “The sadness is that
the delicate melancholia of the songs musicians and singers making it something he’s not doing that thing any more, but
influenced by Harry Nilsson, Bill Fay, beyond that, being in amongst it – I don’t there’s also a kind of celebration that it’s
Randy Newman and Leonard Cohen. know what that’s going to feel like,” he says very rare to find the thing you love to do and
Sitting in a North London bakery by the over a cup of tea. It started as a largely be able to do it. I love the things that I do –

10 JANUARY 2018
“I just thought what
a privilege it was to sign
off The Maccabees
in a positive way.”

making, writing, all those things – and if that are lots of complicated emotions but the mark out his Decembers in Gritterman
was taken away I would miss it hugely. It was lasting one is, what a treat it was.” shows. “It’s the first – and I feel like the
very sad that it was the end of that bit, but all The same should apply to The only – time that we’re going to do it,” he
of us are carrying on making.” Gritterman. Even if it’s a Christmas classic says. “I want it to feel like a special thing.”
It wasn’t too much of a jolt for Weeks to in the making, though, the restless Weeks For one night only in December, catch it
re-enter the earth’s orbit post-Maccabees. doesn’t plan to go all Snowman in future and while you can. VICTORIA SEGAL
“It was a very… unjolty moment,” he smiles.
“Knowing that there were going to be these A Christmas classic?
gigs that were going to be a really beautiful (below and right) The
send-off. There was no huge row and people Gritterman, written and
storming out.” Weeks says that the band illustrated by Weeks.
loved making The Maccabees work and
that they’re now enjoying other things.
“I think you have to believe that there are
other things.”
He wasn’t worried about James Murphy-
style second thoughts about quitting, either.
“I just thought what a privilege it was to sign
off in a positive way and I felt incredibly proud
of us all and what we’d achieved. If there had
been awful gigs at the end I might have felt
differently. But they were wonderful. There

JANUARY 2018 11
“I think it’s likely there is
some form of life out there,
but what I love about UFOs
is the romance of it.”
done, so they basically just execute every
motherfucking one of us. Me and Martin
somehow manage to escape and we build our
own little ship, hoping to get to Mars but we
get the calculations slightly wrong and end
up on the moon. We realise there’s just as
many idiots up there as there are down here,
so we just come back and have a massive
party so when the aliens do come back to try
and finish us off, we’ll be partying so hard we
won’t even notice they’re there.
Maybe you could stretch it across a few
different mediums, give Netflix a call?
We could do that, it would be brilliant.
I’d definitely play myself.
Do you believe in UFOs?
I don’t know. It’s a romantic thing, isn’t it?
I think it’s highly likely that there’s some
form of life out there, yeah, but what I love
about it is the romance of it.
If you had to take an alien round for the
day, where would you take it?
I’d probably just take them to the pub. They
could see you there with all your mates and
see how the conversation goes.
You and Martin live near each other in
Brighton. Do you knock for each other
Shock and oar: the
like people did when they were kids?
alienated Steve Mason Yeah, absolutely. The thing is, it’s taken us
“messing around” in three years to finish this thing. When we
his Portslade studio. started doing it we were both single, he’s now
in a serious relationship and I’ve got married
and had a kid. No one can accuse us of being
workaholics, that’s for sure.
During the scene in High Fidelity where
Where Are You Right Now? John Cusack’s character puts on The Beta

STEVE MASON
Band, a peaceful serenity comes over all
the customers. Do you think if your music
was pumped out of giant speakers in the
sky, world peace could be achieved?
I think it would work, yeah. I think the reason
THE FORMER BETA BAND FRONTMAN WILL NEED YOU that I’m not as big as Bono, apart from the
TO SIT DOWN WHILE HE EXPLAINS THE POSITIVELY fact I don’t have lifts in my shoes, is mainly
because I just haven’t been heard enough.
OUT-OF-THIS WORLD CONCEPT BEHIND HIS NEW ALBUM. If I was rammed down people’s throats as
Hi Steve, where are you right now? that was fun and then the concept kind of much as some of these other bands, I’d be
I’m in a studio in Portslade, working on spiralled out of control. massive. It’s just getting people to hear it.
some music with a friend. It’s just messing It is quite a concept, isn’t it? But we’re breaking the back of that, each
around really. Something might come of Yeah, the original germ of the concept was solo album is getting more and more support
it, something might not. the first song, This One’s For The Humans, from radio. But I’m quite happy. I’m playing
You’ve made a mini-album with Primal sending a message into outer space asking the long game.
Scream’s Martin Duffy under the for help from the aliens, saying, “We’ve all I’m pleased to hear it. What will you be
name Alien Stadium. How did that cocked it up down here, we need some help”, doing in 20 minutes’ time?
come about? then unbelievably the signal is received and I think I might do some dusting.
We just wanted to have something where it the aliens come down and they don’t like us Crack on with your dusting, Steve.
was kind of pointless, just start something and they don’t appreciate anything we’ve Thanks, see you, bye! NIALL DOHERTY

12 JANUARY 2O18
Captain of industry:
Johnny Marr, hard at work
in a former factory outside
In The Studio Manchester, October 2017.

JOHNNY MARR
TAPS INTO
THE PAST
FOR HIS THIRD SOLO ALBUM, THE GUITAR ICON OF
A GENERATION HAS MADE PEACE WITH THE SMITHS.
ix floors up in a former reminded me of the early ’80s,” he says.

S
factory on the outskirts of In fact, the industrial atmosphere of the
Manchester, Johnny Marr building seeped into the music Marr began to
is head down in his studio, make when he started working here, the first
working hard on his third track he produced being the hypnotic synth-
solo album. This white-walled industrial and-guitar shapes of Actor Attractor, with its
space is where you’ll find him, usually Krautrock-meets-Factory Records vibe. WHAT WE KNOW
seven days a week, tinkering with tracks-in- In terms of an overall theme, while not Due: Spring 2018
progress or, when it comes to writing lyrics, overtly political, some of the tracks Marr
drifting through the halls lost in thought. plays Q today are oblique, defiant protest Title: TBC
“I just kind of wander around this big songs, such as the Sandinista!-era Clash-ish Song titles: Bug,
place like a ghost,” he says with a grin. “When Bug, about “the virus that is the right wing”, Day In Day Out,
I’m writing words, that’s when I have to be and super-charged rocker Rise, which he Actor Attractor,
in here on my own for a few days and stay till describes as “a conversation between two Hey Angel, Walk Into
the middle of the night.” lovers after a kind of bomb has dropped.” The Sea, Rise, Hi Hello
The as-yet-untitled album, due in spring Initially, though, Marr tried to resist Influences:
2018, is the first that Marr has made in this world events creeping into his new songs. Krautrock, The Clash,
studio, which he’s named Crazy Face Factory “Because of what had happened with Brexit industrial workspaces
– partly in tribute to the Crazy Face clothing and Trump and everything, I came into this
shop once owned by The Smiths’ former record really determined to not let those
manager Joe Moss (who died in October fuckwits impede on my creative life,” he
2015 on the day Marr moved in here) and says. “But you’re living in this world and
partly because it reminds him of the similarly you can’t do anything about it.
one-time factory studio spaces where he’d “So much of the record is about
rehearse in his youth. “This place definitely dislocation,” he adds. “Whether it’s

ch
Striking a chord: “So mu
ut
of the new record is abo
dislocation,” says Marr.

being forced by the political system or


because of personal demons. I was trying
to imagine an alternative society.”
Musically, sometimes, the brighter-
sounding the track, the darker the lyric, as
with propulsive acoustic strummer Day In
Day Out, which tackles the nagging feelings
of everyday obsessions. Elsewhere, the
brilliant chiming pop of Hi Hello is a song
that deals in empathy with troubled loved
ones (sample line: “I will find you if you’re
TRACEY WELCH

losing your mind and you can’t let go”) and –


there’s no getting away from it – sounds
distinctly Smiths-like.
Marr admits that in the past he’d pull back
“I’m proud of The he points out. “But I think that actually some
from making music that echoed his former
band. These days he’s found his peace with it.
Smiths. Enough of the introspection has stuck.”
With 17 tracks in the running for the
“You’ve got to be who you are, and I’m proud
of it,” he says. “Enough people try and copy it.
people copy it. Why album, Marr is going to be a busy boy
between now and springtime. He’s clearly
So why not just be who I am? I don’t feel like not be who I am?” in a happy creative place, though.
I’m kind of resting on it, so I’m alright with it.” “I started out writing songs when I was
Where his two previous solo albums, a teenager by making tapes on my own,” he
2013’s The Messenger and 2014’s Playland, nostalgia that came with writing his 2016 says. “What I’ve done over the years is kind of
had in Marr’s mind “a huge element of autobiography, Set The Boy Free. get back to a more elaborate version of that.”
psychogeography” in terms of being about “By the time I got to the end of it, I felt I’d In other words, he’s never really changed.
towns and cities, his third record – similarly really spent a lot of time in introspection and Except that that tape-making teenager has
co-produced with his keyboard player James I was hoping that the next record was gonna now grown up and found a bigger playground
Doviak – has been influenced more by the kind of blast me out of that introspection,” for his imagination. TOM DOYLE

JANUARY 2018 15
Tarly in Game Of Thrones. “Actually,” he
says, “I just texted her and said, ‘Thanks,
I’m bringing Q magazine here.’”
Picking up the menu, Murdoch orders
the prawn and chilli linguine with a green
salad, along with a black decaf Americano.
“Mostly veggie” since his teens, the 49-year-
old suffers from various allergies along with
chronic fatigue syndrome, so sometimes
seafood-shaped protein is required. Growing
up in Clarkston in the west of Scotland, he
somehow managed to avoid the deep-fried,
chips-based diet of his peers.
“It was quite rare when we got chips,”
he remembers. “I mean, it was relatively
healthy. Always spuds, something green,
and meat. Of course we didn’t have the range
of fancy vegetables. I didn’t see an avocado
till I was 21. Somebody had to explain to me
Pasta la vista, baby: what a pepper was when I went up to
Stuart Murdoch and a Glasgow to go to college.”
rather fetching prawn
and chilli linguine. A music-obsessed youth and dedicated
follower of various (and perhaps surprising)

STUART
bands, he trailed the likes of Mudhoney,
Sonic Youth and The Stone Roses around
the country, before forming Belle And

MURDOCH
Sebastian at the relatively advanced age
of 27. Which, of course, gave him a certain
affinity with the utterly devoted fans his
band soon attracted.
“I’d been through a lot,” he says, as his
HEARD THE ONE ABOUT THE BAND WHO LEFT pasta arrives, “so I didn’t think there was
THEIR DRUMMER IN A WALMART IN HIS PYJAMAS? anything high and mighty about getting
BELLE AND SEBASTIAN’S FRONTMAN REVEALS ALL. up on a stage. When we started playing,
the audience were a hell of a lot cooler
his morning Stuart Murdoch airport. “We got real focused, real fast,” than we were. We were a rag-tag band and

T
woke early in his room at Murdoch laughs. “You never see these suddenly all of these hip folk showed up.”
The Hoxton hotel, East things coming. Honestly, you could ask As far as ambitions left unfulfilled,
London, threw on yesterday’s a taxi driver what Belle And Sebastian have Murdoch dreams of discovering a great
clothes, went outside, hired done for the last 10 years and they wouldn’t female singer he could collaborate with.
one of London’s public bikes and went for know anything. Now they do. Now we’re “I just want to find my Amy Winehouse one
a little cycle. It’s something he likes to do the band that lost the drummer…” day and write with them,” he says. “I don’t
whichever city he’s in, particularly New
York, where he recently braved the three
miles north from Greenwich Village to
“Someone had to explain to me what
Central Park. “It was kind of thrilling,”
he grins today. “Taxis cutting me up and
a pepper was when I went up to college.”
people stumbling into the road. Trying to get We are sitting this Tuesday lunchtime in want to do whimsical indie with them.
through Times Square, it was a madhouse.” Granger & Co in Clerkenwell, an Australian It’s tricky cos I’m from Glasgow and not
As the bandleader of Belle And Sebastian, eatery recommended to him by none exactly in the centre of things. But I’m just
Murdoch has earned a reputation for being other than his actor pal, Hannah Murray waiting for the voice.”
slightly fey, but he’s clearly made of sturdier (who starred in God Help The Girl, the indie Sounds like an invitation. Are you Stuart
stuff. Back in August, it was he who calmly film musical he directed in 2014), best known Murdoch’s Amy Winehouse? He’s waiting to
rallied his band and crew into action on tour as Gilly, the wildling girlfriend of Samwell hear from you. TOM DOYLE
in America when they realised they’d driven
off in their bus leaving drummer Richard Favourite restaurant? Sicily and he makes Chicken
Colburn 500 miles behind in his pyjamas CAN I “The Eighth Station Of The Cacciatore. I had a go one time
at a Walmart in North Dakota in the middle YOUR Cross Kebab House in Jerusalem. and I thought it was up there.”
TAKE
of the night. E R , MR I wrote a song about it.” Dream dining companion?
ORD
och? “It’d be nice to get Buddha and
Inspired by an episode of The West Wing Murd Brown sauce or ketchup?
where the President’s daughter is kidnapped, “Ketchup. Brown Jesus on two sides of a table,
he put a Twitter alert out to fans, a handful sauce is very East to compare notes.”
of whom offered to rescue the hapless Coast Scottish…” Death Row dinner?
tub-thumper, before a local minicab driver Culinary speciality? “Seafood, right out
was roused to drive Colburn to the nearest “My wife’s dad’s from of Loch Fyne.”

16 JANUARY 2018
It’s hard to get started as a
musician. Every year, we help
hundreds of emerging musicians
to develop their talent and get
the crucial break they need.

This year we’ve helped artists


including English songwriter Ralegh
Long and Scottish singer, producer
and writer Be Charlotte.

If you’re looking to develop your


WDOHQW DQG ZDQW WR ̰QG RXW PRUH
please visit helpmusicians.org.
uk/creative-programme or call
020 7239 9100

@HelpMusiciansUK
HelpMusiciansUK

Registered Charity no. 228089 Photograph credit: Charlie Marden 2017


Re-live forever:
Liam Gallagher
plays for your
ears only.

rom Q partners
Absolute Radio this month include Liam
and Noel Gallagher in conversation
(not together!) and Elbow live.

The working relationship Skinner, in an extended chat


LIAM GALLAGHER LIVE between Elton John, musician – about, ostensibly, new album ELBOW IN HYDE PARK
Absolute Radio, 23 November, and Bernie Taupin, lyricist, goes Who Built The Moon? and Absolute Radio, 10 December, 8pm
6pm back 50 years. Mark Goodier talks dabbling in psychedelic pop with As Bury’s finest prepare to unveil
Liam Gallagher took to the to the partnership that has made collaborator, DJ David Holmes. their first Best Of collection 20
stage on 7 November at Bethnal Elton one of the most successful years into their career, catch an
Green Working Men’s Club in artists of all time (with over 300 THE ’80s UNWIND opportunity to re-live one of our
East London for an intimate million records sold) in part two Absolute 80s, 4 December, 9pm favourite live performances of
show, especially for Absolute of this special programme. Absolute 80s metaphorically the year, as Elbow took to the
Radio prize-winners. Hear his kicks back in the spa, with a stage in Hyde Park (in July), in
conversation with Dave Berry NOEL GALLAGHER selection of wind-down classics support of The Killers. It’s a
after 6pm and highlights from the WITH FRANK SKINNER from the decade that brought you master-class of storytelling.
set after 7pm with Danielle Perry. Absolute Radio, 26 November, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The  LIVE MUSIC ON-DEMAND
8pm Dark, The Cure, Everything Download the free Absolute
ELTON & BERNIE AT “50” The greatest British songwriter But The Girl and Deacon Blue. Radio app to listen to extended
Absolute Radio, 25 November, of his generation meets Absolute The “Unwind” hour runs highlights, on-the-go, from a
10pm Radio’s National Treasure, Frank each weekday from 9pm. whole of host musical events.

As my more November (One Little collaboration. Chakras, answers, then relaxing


gleeful friends Indian). We caught up flute-playing, Tinder… enough to show you how
start banging on the phone a couple of we spoke at length about much fun it could be if
on about Christmas, days after the first track, all of these things and you were to make it to
let’s just STOP for a The Gate, dropped. As you can listen back to their “Bunker” HQ for
minute. There’s ever, it took a few listens our chat via our free app. a night of merriment.
still time for a few to get into. And on this Secondly, I caught Finally, this month
releases to enter our occasion, it clicked up with Black Rebel we learned how pared-
musical sph e Motorcycle Club to down Four Tet’s studio
remaining we ng talk about their new set-up was during the
2017. Recentl ndrew LP, Wrong Creatures recording of his latest
I caught up wi Huang – (to be released at the exquisite LP. Sometimes
three of them start of 2018). They are simplicity is key.
This month Sunday show – the firs visual as intriguing in the radio  Listen to The Sunday
Night Music Club
GOFF PHOTOS, PHOTOSHOT

being Björk, w studio as they are Night Music Club from


host Danielle Perry Björk talks 8pm every week
unleashes her onstage, much happier
flute-playing
has mostly been musical chapt and chakras. lurking in the shadows on Absolute
listening to… Utopia, on 24 mulling over their Radio.

18 JANUARY 2018
THE STAR
P R O B E D !! S !
BY YO U!!! Do you own a kimono?
Rachel Marriot, via Q Mail
Ron: I own several kimonos. In Japan,
you can rent a kimono for the day. It’s
a real one and they dress you up so that
you’re doing it properly. If you fold it right
over left, you are banned from the country
for life. In any case, I actually kind of liked
the way I looked in a kimono.
Russell: I am more about the yukata. It is

SPARKS
more for leisure. They give them to you
when you go to the onsen, which is a
Japanese spa. You are required to wear
Japanese attire when you go there so you are
given one of these. They are very utilitarian
looking – in greys or blues. That’s more me.
WORDS EAMONN FORDE PHOTOGRAPHS ALEX LAKE
You have a song called Lighten Up,
Morrissey. He’s never going to lighten
The erudite glam-pop siblings on songs about up, is he?
Andy Mitchell, Otford
the First Lady of the US, nearly breaking up Russell: Probably not. It’s not in his nature
Queen and the correct way to wear a kimono… to lighten up. It ain’t gonna happen.

n their West London Is it harder to be ironic in the age of

I
hotel, Sparks are Trump, identity politics and impending
enjoying an autumn nuclear annihilation?
years lap of honour. Adam Buxton, via Twitter
Hippopotamus, their Russell: You can’t concoct anything that’s
23rd album, recently on the level of all of those things that you’ve
went to Number 7 in mentioned. That is one of the reasons
the UK charts, making it their first Top 10 why we steer away from doing anything
album in the 43 years since their commercial overtly political – like referencing Trump
peak with the double whammy of Kimono or referencing things that are happening
My House and Propaganda in 1974. in the world. It seems one dimensional to
Forming Halfnelson in their home town sing, “Ain’t Trump a bad guy?” We know
of LA in 1968, brothers Ron (keyboards he’s a bad guy and our saying that probably
and death stare) and Russell (falsetto and isn’t going to help anything.
flouncing) Mael struggled to get noticed,
but after a name change and move to London Is it “the Godwin’s law of Sparks
they finally hit pay dirt with This Town interviews” that someone will eventually
Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us – still the This staircase ain’t big mention Hitler in reference to Ron’s
weirdest sounding single to almost get to enough for both of us: toothbrush moustache in the 1970s?
Number 1 (it stalled at Number 2 in Britain). Russell (left) and Ron Neil Hillings, Leeds
Mael in 1975; (below) Moz
Briefly, they were the oddest teen idols in – subject of a Sparks ditty. Ron: It does happen more than I would like.
pop – their baroque confections the square Russell: It seems like it is being phased out
peg in the chart’s round hole. Since then more. One thing is that Ron’s moustache
they’ve ploughed music’s most fascinating, have to react. These questions are, after all, is not in that shape any more. And it was
ironic and restless furrow, inventing the big enough for both of them. never a Hitler moustache in the first place –
modern synth duo with the Giorgio Moroder- it was a reference to Charlie Chaplin and
produced album No.1 In Heaven in 1979 What professions do you have listed on Oliver Hardy. That aside, it seems like it is
and springing a neo-classical rebirth with Lil’ your passport? slowly fading by the wayside.
Beethoven in 2002. Reconfiguring, rebooting, Liam Kerry, Hope
refreshing, realigning: they are always Ron: I try to be pretentious and If you had to fight to
different, always fascinating, always Sparks. put “composer”. They the death, which brother
Having their photo taken, they are wary don’t like musicians, but would win?
of showing too much flesh, especially as a composer is different Pete Bruynseeles,
Ron’s trouser legs ride up when he sits down. and seen as erudite. Taunton
“I tried practising the Obama leg cross,” Russell: I am a “music Russell: I go to the
he sighs as he struggles to find his position. producer”. They like that gym regularly so
Asked to react to print-outs of the questions one, too. That’s a step up I might prevail.
they are about to be subjected to, the natural from a musician. Ron: I walk a lot
band and sibling pecking order emerges. Ron: Your baggage gets so I might be able
GETTY, RETNA

“Ron is better at reacting,” says Russell. looked through a lot less if to escape.
“I am better at looking.” you are a composer rather Russell: He could
For this, however, they are both going to than a musician. walk over me.

20 JANUARY 2O18
“It’s not in Morrissey’s
nature to lighten up.
It ain’t gonna happen.”
Russell Mael

Breakfast is served… Sparks’


Russell (left) and Ron Mael,
London, 29 September, 2017.
Cash For
Questions
You tried to poach a pre-fame Brian where one side is not as into it as the You did an album and tour with Franz
May to join your touring band. If you other. Do you actually believe in love? Ferdinand as FFS in 2015. Soon after,
had succeeded, could you have saved Molly Wiles, Huddersfield their guitar player, Nick McCarthy,
the world from the horror of Queen? Ron: We were brought up on movies and, left Franz Ferdinand. Was it
Tanya Blake, via Q Mail at least for me, it ruined a lot for me. something you said?
Ron: That was around the time of I never found love in the way that I always David Thorne, via Q Mail
Propaganda. We approached him and he defined love – which was Cary Grant and Russell: He left Franz Ferdinand. He didn’t
pondered it but it probably worked out best Ingrid Bergman. So maybe I have been leave Sparks. He is still a good friend of
for both sides. I don’t think that would have disappointed only in the sense of having Sparks. We like Nick.
been a long-lasting relationship. His style the idea of love from movies rather than Ron: He stayed in FFS until the end. Our
probably wouldn’t
for us. We were alw
with combinations
Queen”? No comm

In 2008 you playe


albums in order o
ones did you not
Olly Rankin, New
Ron: There were o You’ve got Mael:
got ignored and we according to
ignoring parade – l Russell (left), “it
Sparks and [1980’s seems mention of
process of actually Ron’s moustache
is slowly fading by
a great equaliser an the wayside.”
that maybe it was t
albums were done
Even for the album
thought, “Oh, we c
tomorrow,” the nig
performing them t
seemed special. Th
were, in a way, the
out more for us. Th
obvious ones that w
looking forward to
audience were look
to, but the ones tha
more obscure som
a lot more surprise

Here In Heaven, T
Number One Son
Heaven, What Th
Is It This Time? W
with you and God
Sian Marks, via Q
Ron: None of your
goddamned busin

Super Furry Anim


“You and me and
from Sparks, han
with Howard Ma
you ever hung ou
Howard Marks?
Keith Gobey, Trin
Russell: We haven
Ron: There’s an in
to your question!

Many of your son


failed relationshi
disappointing on
suicide pacts gon

22 JANUARY 2
On your Marks: drugs smuggler Howard
(left) was namechecked along with
“the guy from Sparks” in a Super Furry
Animals song; (right) Cary Grant and Ingrid
Bergman “defined love” for Ron Mael.

aware of Sparks and obviously we love Public


Enemy. That would be one collaboration we
“There’s a song we’ve done already think would be very unexpected. Musically,
God knows what it would bring about. But it
called Everybody’s Stupid. That could couldn’t possibly be bad with Public Enemy
and Sparks. It would have to work.
work for Melania Trump. We’ll do an With urban renewal, is this town finally
updated version of that.” Russell Mael now big enough for both of us?
Ed Upton, via Q Mail
Ron: Gentrification has, in a way, made
places smaller. In those areas now it’s just
What themes would you put into Russell: And nobody’s used that title yet. coffee and bagel shops and it has ruined the
a computer to write the ultimate Ron: How about with an exclamation point? old and seedier aspects of places. It’s making
Sparks song? places into small villages within cities. Maybe
Lianne Riton, via Q Mail No one knows much about your private it is big enough for the both of us if all we
Ron: Lots of proper names. You don’t lives. What are you hiding? want to do is drink coffee and eat bagels.
often see proper names in many songs. Karen Parker, via Q Mail
Apart from maybe Bette Davis Eyes. So Ron: Alex revealed my secret passion for If there was a Sparks tribute act, what
many lyrics just seemed generic. At least bowling. So that’s out. I wear bowling shoes should they call themselves?
when you have a proper name it is pointed with my kimono. Ryan Havers, Sunderland
in some sort of way and you can work Russell: That’s the only thing that people Ron: Fullnelson. It’s tough for people as our
backwards and try to figure out what the are missing. songs are sort of all over the place.
song is about. Put a bunch of proper names Russell: We occasionally see people online
in a huge computer, shake it up and see what The Darkness’ Justin Hawkins did a cover covering our songs. It’s neat to see the
would come out in terms of relationships of This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both variety. There’s a guy who does some of
between several of those names. Of Us. What did you make of it? our songs with an accordion.
Fiona Lyle, Stockton-on-Tees Ron: Someone has done a country version
Ron – where did you learn to throw a Russell: We like to hear other artists’ takes of [1980 single] When I’m With You. That’s
bowling ball? You’re the slickest 10-pin on Sparks songs. In that respect, we liked it. really, really good. I’d love to hear someone
bowler I’ve ever played. Ron: We liked the sound of The Darkness so do an album of our songs in that style.
Alex Kapranos, via Twitter we were disappointed that it wasn’t done in I heard at the time of Kimono My House –
Russell: We were in Dallas mixing the FFS that approach. It was done in an approach and I don’t know if it’s true – that Barbra
album and decided one evening to go out that was a little more controlled. We liked Streisand was considering doing a cover
to a bowling soirée with Alex. the out-of-control thing about The Darkness. of This Town… That would have given us an
Ron: We felt this was really getting into the We were in the video. That’s where we air of legitimacy early on.
Dallas scene. So we went to a bowling alley learned about darts. Russell: We were saying the other night
and I did surprisingly well for someone who that Taylor Swift should cover Missionary
only walks and doesn’t do any other exercise. The FFS album has a song called Position from the new album. The invitation
Russell: And who has no technique! Collaborations Don’t Work. For you is now out there. If Taylor is reading Q, please
they clearly do. Who is next on your call me [does “phone me” gesture].
You’ve done two songs namechecking collaboration wish list?
US presidents’ wives (Jacqueline Samuel West, via Q Mail To take part in next month’s Cash For
Kennedy and Mary Lincoln). Will you Russell: We met Chuck D from Questions, go to Qthemusic.com,
do one about Melania Trump? Public Enemy at a festival in follow @Qmagazine on Twitter
Ian Barnes, Northampton Spain a couple of years ago. or visit Facebook (facebook.
Russell: There’s a song we did already called We said hello. He was com/qmagazine).
Everybody’s Stupid [on 1976’s Big Beat]. That £25 for each question
could probably work. We’ll do a re-recorded Strike! Ron Mael is “the slickest” printed! If yours is printed,
version of that. An updated version. when it comes to bowling, says email Qmail@Qthemusic.
Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos.
Ron: I think Help would be a good song title. com to claim your money.

JANUARY 2018 23
WELCOME
TO THE

V for victory!
(from left) Wiley,
Liam Gallagher and
Wolf Alice’s
Ellie Rowsell.

24 JANUARY 2018
RDS
Everyone here? Then
let’s begin: (from left)
Paloma Faith, Skepta,
Ed Sheeran, Biffy Clyro’s
Simon Neil and Stormzy.

201
This year’s star-congested Q Awards, as voted by Q and our readers, took
at London’s Roundhouse, with live performances from Sleaford Mods and
Manics. Don’t worry if you didn’t get a ticket, all the best moments are her
Q BEST BREAKTHROUGH ACT Presented by

RAG’N’BONE
MAN
Presenter: Paloma Faith
It’s been quite the year for Rory Graham. In-between
becoming a father and part ing with Ron Jeremy,
he released the biggest-selling debut of the year.
“It isn’t ust a flash in the pan,” he says.

alk us through your France is a notoriously difficult


day, please. market, and Paris is a hard gig –
T Yeah, it’s been alright.
I feel very awkward
a bit like London, people are
really fucking cool, and they
at these events, to don’t just roll over for anyone,
be totally honest. It makes me very you know? But I love that.
nervous, but it’s nice to win an award. The French are wicked.
Who have you bumped into so far? Have you had a holiday?
Paloma Faith’s on my table, and I saw Have I fuck! The only time I took
Wiley earlier. I keep bumping into off was two weeks, and that was
him at festivals and stuff. He’s a nice to have a baby! So, no, I haven’t
dude, I get on with him. I remember had a holiday. We’re gonna have
the first time I heard him, he was the whole of December off –
doing something totally on its own, have some time out, and go
that came out of garage and jungle away or something.
and stuff. It’s kind of serendipity how So how were those two weeks
it’s all come back around and those in September?
guys – everybody knows about it now, Just fucking nerve-wracking,
with grime, which is fucking amazing. for the start. I was in America
What’s been the highlight of your touring, and my missus was due
year so far? at the time, so I was like, “If I
Apart from having my little boy [son don’t get back, she’s gonna have
Reuben was born in early September], this baby without me”, and
which is obviously gonna go down in that put the fear of God into
history as one of the most important me. Then when I got back it was
things ever – I say that, because he’s just another waiting game – like,
probably gonna know about this in “When’s it gonna happen?” So,
years to come – yeah, you little shit! yeah, it was all sorts of emotions,
Apart from that, it’s the feeling that Who’s the daddy? Rag’n’Bone Man receives and we were both knackered,
I’m gonna be able to do this for a few years, his Q Award for Best Breakthrough Act. but it was also a beautiful time. I held my son
like it isn’t just a flash in the pan. I think for the first time, and we got to be a family for
people have really embraced this album, player’s birthday and we partied with [porn a little while – before anyone annoyed me.
and me as an artist, and it feels really good. legend] Ron Jeremy. He’s a funny guy, and Did you have any New Year’s resolutions
I don’t feel like I’m just gonna disappear off I’m a fan of his work, so… this year and have you stuck to them?
into the ether, and people will forget. I’m Anyone you’ve been starstruck in front I don’t really do that. I’m pretty sure I didn’t
working on my second record, and it’s people of this year? this year. If so, it was probably to drink less,
all around Europe that have embraced my I met B-Real from Cypress Hill, that was but I definitely didn’t do that. Ha!
music, so it feels like a proper career now! pretty amazing. He’s a hero. It was just at What are you looking forward to in 2018?
You have wider goals now? America? a festival. He was doing the Prophets Of Digging into the next album. I’ve just started
We’ve done pretty well in America, but it’s a Rage thing, and he was just walking by. Liam on it. I’ve been in the studio for the past two
different beast, innit, to the UK. And I’m not Gallagher actually was pretty cool, too. We weeks, because I wrote loads of stuff on the
SIMON SARIN, ALEX LAKE

really that type of person – I don’t have those hung out a little bit, he’s a real safe dude. last tour, and we’ve put down a lot of songs
things, like, “Oh, I’m gonna accomplish this.” We’ve been doing the same festivals – one already. There’s a totally different sound,
We’ll keep going back and see what happens. was in Holland – so you bump into people. and a totally different ethos around the
What was your best night out this year? What was the best gig you played? making of this album. We’re writing the
We went out in LA after a gig. It was my bass The last gig we did in Paris was off the chain. album like a band, basically. ANDREW PERRY

26 JANUARY 2018
Happy together: Paloma
Faith and Rag’n’Bone Man
enjoy the moment, backstage
at the Roundhouse, Camden,
18 October, 2017.

“I don’t
feel like I’m
just gonna
disappear
off into the
ether.”

JANUARY 2018 27
THE

VE R
ACLUB
Q BEST LIVE ACT Presented by And Q ICON Presented by

LIAM
N
C
LIVERPOOL
Est.1957

Presenters: Richard Ashcroft & Skepta


Hero to a new generation of stars, the man
of the moment shows the pretenders how
ows he’s “the bollocks”.

GALL HER hat’s the best


music you’ve

W
heard this year?
By other people?
Nothing. I don’t
really listen to other
people’s records.
What was your highlight of the year?
Going to Number 1, I guess. But releasing
a fucking record, wherever it goes, that
You have to was the highlight, because I didn’t really
hand it to him: expect it to happen.
Liam Gallagher
(with presenter Did you expect it to sell 100,000 copies
Richard Ashcroft) in its first week?
and his Best No, I didn’t to be fair. I didn’t think I was
Live Act gong. even going to make a record this year. So to
have done that has been amazing.
How did you celebrate?
I didn’t, mate. Today is the first time I’ve been
out since I heard about it, I hadn’t even left
the house. I thought I’d save myself for you
lot. I’ve been recovering from my trip to
LA, where I went crowd surfing [when he
joined Foos Fighters onstage at the CalJam
festival to perform The Beatles’ Come Together].
I’d had a drink and that, and I thought we
were going to sing I Am The Walrus. I forgot
the words and jumped into the crowd. People
were pinching my arse really hard, so I was
getting over that.
What was the funniest thing that’s
happened to you this year?
There was the bloke on Hampstead Heath
who dropped his trousers and showed me
his John Lennon tattoo. But the crowd
surfing was pretty funny. It’s not all it’s
cracked up to be but it was good to get among
the people. There were a couple of [Foos fans]
down the front that were booing me, so
I thought I’d just crowd-surf and fart on all
their heads. Cop that, you c**t! Then other
people were cheering, so I’d fart on their heads
too. Have that, c**t! It was good revenge!
How have the Awards been so far?
Good, man. It was great bumping into
Richard Ashcroft. We always cross paths
ALEX LAKE

but we’re working, so it’s nice to have some


fucking time off and have a proper drink

JANUARY 2018 29
ALEX LAKE, OLLIE HALFIN, JORDAN HUGHES
“Those trousers,
man…” Liam
Gallagher and
Q Icon presenter
Skepta swap
style tips at
the Awards.

together, instead of worrying if we’ll get


through the night or not. But it’s nice
being here, seeing people and dodging
people, that’s the most important thing.
Who are you dodging?
Everyone [laughs]. No, I’m not dodging
anyone, but sometimes it’s like, “Shit, didn’t
I slag him off last week? Probably…”
When you woke up this morning were
you preparing for a big night out?
No, I got up this morning and went for a run.
Went back to the house, had a coffee, ironed
my T-shirt. Then I checked out my parkas –
should it be blue or green? I went for blue.
I checked out a couple of pairs of pumps,
took some laces out of a different pair,
then decided to stay with the originals.
But… it’s nice being here, I like doing all
this kind of stuff. I felt like I’d had the rug
pulled out from under my feet, and then
with Beady Eye there weren’t exactly a lot of
awards coming our way. It’s nice going back
down the showboating road… on a boat.
What are you drinking?
I’ve been on the double rum and cokes,
and I grabbed this Champagne on the way
out as I needed something to drink while
I was getting my photo taken. Did I go
to the pub first? Yeah, I went to the Red
Lion in Highgate for a drink.
You didn’t say much onstage apart
from thanking Richard Ashcroft and
your mum…
I want to get this point across – I’m not any
good at speeches, so expect a lot of mumbling

30 JANUARY 2018
“Every day’s
today. I’m not one for
thanking everyone. I must
say, I was very surprised to
a holiday when win Best Live Act. I know I’m
the bollocks and the [new]

you’re in this band are good and all that,


but I thought Stormzy or

game and some of the other young kids


would get it. I was genuinely

you’re Liam
surprised, and that’s thrown
me a bit. I like having

Gallagher.”
this do in the Roundhouse,
by the way. Those posh
hotel ceremonies are
a bit hyacinth, know
what I mean?
What are you looking forward to in 2018?
More of the same, but at the moment I’m
looking forward to playing live. We’re going
to America to give them another opportunity
to “tut”. There’s nothing better than going
to America and watching people “tut” you.
Then there’s the sold-out UK tour of arenas
and then Australia. It’s going to be great, man.
What was the best gig you played this
year? The Manchester concert for the
victims of the bombing?
Yeah, there’s been some really good ones. But
[with our own shows] Glastonbury was great –
I’m not sure if we were great but sometimes
the occasion takes over, the crowd make it
special, and that was one of them. We’ve
done some really good ones when there
weren’t many people there, but let’s not
talk about that [laughs]… so Glastonbury.
Have you had a holiday this year?
No, but every day’s a holiday when you’re
in this game and you’re Liam Gallagher.
Let’s face it, it isn’t that hard being this
cool. PAT GILBERT

Two for
the road:
Gallagher
with his pair
of gongs.
P R E T T YG R E E N . CO M
Q BEST FILM Presented by

SLEAFORD MODS
Presenter: Tim Burgess
Winning Best Film for Bunch Of Kunst was one of many
Playing to a packed
Roundhouse after
the Awards.

peaks for Jason Williamson this year. His band are at the
top of their game. “It’s all been a highlight,” sa s the singer.
ou won Q Best Film In the early ’90s he brought it back. He made
for your documentary the Small Faces what they should’ve been,
Bunch Of Kunst. So he gave them recognition. He introduced

Y it was worth having


director Christine
Franz following
a lot of people to that kind of music.
Where are you off to next?
Lincoln

Mod for it:


Bunch Of
Kunst director
Christine
Franz
and Jason
Williamson.
ALEX LAKE, SIMON SARIN
Award presenter
Mo Gilligan (left) aka
Mo The Comedian,
props up a “very

“There’s a
legacy to be made
that ain’t gonna
make itself.”
Q BEST SOLO ARTIST Presented by

STORMZY
Presenter: Mo Gilligan
With a Number 1 album, a Q Best Solo Artist gong
and a triumphant year behind him, the grime star had
good reason to embark on whisk -fuelled celebrations
Do you know what it is? I just like to be
unapologetically myself. I always just say
whatever I want to say. I know that sounds
a bit rock-starry but I like to go with what’s
in my heart and what’s in my truth, so I end
up speaking on lots of different topics.
at our Awards show. He’ll be back next year, he says. It wasn’t like your Bono moment, then?
Naa. I don’t ever want to be like, “Yeah, I’m
ongratulations on winning early in the year that so much has happened out here doing all of this shit, look at me.”
Best Solo Artist. since, but then I always think, “Na, that one.” Fuck all of that. This is just a thing, you take
C Thanks very much.
How was your day?
That feeling was a different kind of feeling.
Does it make it more special for you given
it however you want it. You do what you
fucking like and whoever likes it likes it.
It was wicked. I was very you were doing it on your own through Winning a Q Award, getting to Number 1,
drunk. That was a proper good night, I had a your own label? being nominated for the Mercury Prize…
lot of fun. I was on the whisky from early on One hundred per cent. I always said that I had is it hard to take it all in?
so by the time I got onstage I was actually to do my first album by myself, it’s got to be There are times when I think, “Fucking hell!”
drunk, to be dead honest. independent. Sometimes there’s this stigma But mostly I take it in my stride. I accept the
Who did you bump into? about true artists, that they can’t equate to memory, I celebrate, then I keep it moving.
I saw Ed [Sheeran], I saw Wiley and I saw mainstream success, that true artists are I find it difficult to sit around on my arse
Liam Gallagher at the end. I’ve met Liam never going to top the charts. But I felt like because I’ve got a Number 1 album. That’s
twice before. It’s always love and good vibes I was able to be myself and not compromise, not how this game works. You bank that –
every time, but it’s always brief. Every time while also having a successful album. Before and then you make the next one. For example,
I’ve seen him I’ve been drunk. It’s always I started music I always felt there were artists I’ve got one Q Award compared to artists
a proper good vibe, he’s a good dude. on top who are always true. Even Liam who have four or five, so I can’t start thinking
What do you chat about? Gallagher – he’s never tried to fit the mould or I’m on top of the world. There’s a legacy
Nothing, it’s always just some drunk go in to make a pop hit and it still translates. to be made that ain’t going to make itself.
recklessness. I’ll be like, “You’re my fucking Outside of music, this year you’ve been So, you’ve got to come back to the Q
boy!” and he’ll be like, “No, you’re the fucking using your position to speak out about Awards next year and win a few more…
boy!” Just gassing each other up. With me not things, from supporting Jeremy Corbyn One hundred per cent. I’ll see you there.
getting much time for celebrations and stuff to your own mental health problems… CHRIS CATCHPOLE
like that, I treat awards shows as a good night
out because before you’ve even won, you’ve
won already. It’s already a reason to celebrate.
Did you catch up with Ed Sheeran?
Yeah, I caught up with my boy for a quick
one. I haven’t seen him for ages, he’s been all
over the gaff, but I caught up with him quick.
He’s broken his arm since you last
saw him…
I thought it was a motorbike accident,
honestly. That sounds way more epic than
a pushbike. He was like, “Yeah, I was riding
down the road…” and I went, “Wait – you
were you on a pushbike? Fucking hell, bruv!”
What did you get up to after the awards?
We went to see Mo The Comedian. He
presented me with my award and was
randomly playing literally next door to
the Roundhouse, so we all went there
after and had a little night of comedy. I’m Man on a mission:
SIMON SARIN, ALEX LAKE

a big fan of his. He’s a very, very funny dude. Stormzy with his
You’ve had one hell of a year, is it hard to Q Best Solo Artist
pick a highlight? award. The first of
many, he hopes…
Definitely the album going to Number 1 was
the highlight. That’s not a bad one! It was so

35
Q GIBSON LES PAUL AWARD Presented by

ongratulations on winning Is there anything you’d change?

KELLEY C
the Q Gibson Les Paul
Award. What does the
award mean to you?
Well, thank you! Let me
You know, my guitar G-string is a little
low right now and it’s really hard to
play slide on it, so that.
What’s the funniest thing you’ve

DEAL
answer that by telling you a story… it’s 1992, seen all year?
NYC and The Breeders are playing CBGB’s. Have you seen who we have for President?
If memory serves, the band Unrest are You’re walking round with your face screwed
supporting. Anyhow… so The Breeders take up all the time, every day is crying through
to the stage and there is a woman screaming the laughter. Maybe it isn’t funny, but it’s odd.
Presenters: Wolf Alice’s Ellie
something over and over and over. You can What are you looking forward to in 2018?
Rowsell and The Horrors’ hear her before EVERY song; after EVERY The Breeders’ new album. I can’t tell you
Rhys Webb song and during EVERY song. This goes the name of it but we’re playing some of
on THE. ENTIRE. GOD. DAMN. NIGHT. the songs and they sound so good live.
For one night only, And this is what she is yelling: “FUCK THE Have you had a holiday?
FENDER, PLAY THE LES PAUL!” I haven’t had one in a long time, but I did
The Breeders’ guitarist How has your day been so far? go to the crime convention in Indianapolis.
hogs the limelight. Good! We’ve been soundchecking [the
band are playing in Camden that evening].
You know who was there? Jon Ronson, the
guy who wrote The Psychopath Test. He
I’ve got my guitar and my vocal and my did a great talk. He took over. IAN HARRISON
[monitor] wedge and so far that’s working
for me. Usually I like to put everybody else
in, but tonight it’s gonna be all about me!
And then more me!
What’s been your highlight of the year?
I don’t know. Tonight’s looking nice though –
let’s see how it turns out.

Guitar hero:
Gibson Les
Paul Award
recipient Kelley
Deal (with
presenters Ellie
Rowsell and
Rhys Webb).

“Usually, I put
everybody else
in, but tonight
it’s gonna be
all about me!”
ALEX LAKE
Sling w
Ed She I
The Wo
presen
Maisie
Q BEST ACT IN THE WORLD TODAY Presented by

ED
Presenter: Maisie Williams
Nothing could stop the unlikeliest lad picking up his
prize: not even a broken wrist, broken rib and broken
elbow. The year belonged to a superstar from Suffolk...

SHEERAN S
o, you’ve bust
more than just
your arm? What
happened?
Fell off a bike, broke
my wrist, broke my
elbow, broke my rib.
In Suffolk. I woke
up at 5.30am and was like that [bewildered
look at arms]. It was just pain. I don’t know if
anyone’s gonna be interested by the time
this is published, though!
You’ve just been photographed with
Liam Gallagher. Met him before?
I met him at the Olympic closing ceremony
in 2012. We were outside, just me and him,
I walked outside for a cigarette and he was
there. He was super-friendly to me. He’s a
very funny guy. I really like him, really cool.
What do you think about your pal
Stormzy being guest judge on this
year’s X Factor?
Cool! It’s a very smart move by Simon Cowell
to do that. [Begins laughing] Have you had
some wine? The red carpet treatment:
We only drink sponsorship Red Stripe Ed Sheeran arrives at the
round ’ere. How about you? Q Awards, the Roundhouse,
I can’t, I’m not allowed to drink! Camden, 18 October, 2017.
2017 has been your year – what does that
say about 2017?
Uuuuuuh, radio have been playing the You’re on the front page of the
ALEX LAKE, OLIVER HALFIN, SIMON SARIN, JORDAN HUGHES

songs!? And a lot of people are falling satirical digital mag The Daily Mash

“I’ve got to
in love, hopefully. today. It says: “Ed Sheeran’s arm
How many parties have you had till 6am breaks itself…”
round your London pad? Heheheheh!

do a lot of
Well, I’ve been on tour most of this year, “…Ed Sheeran’s right arm has broken
so maybe… 12? A lot more till 5am, though – itself in a desperate attempt to save
that’s the more sensible time. Well, if you’ve the world from his music.”

physio...”
got promo at seven, y’know? I do like The Daily Mash. They’ve written
You’re supposed to be touring in 2018 – a lot of funny stuff! [PR approaches,
how crocked are you for playing guitar? bundles him away] I’ve really gotta go!
I’m waiting for the doctor to tell me. I’ve got I’m off to Jonathan Ross. See yer later!
to do a lot of physio before. SYLVIA PATTERSON

JANUARY 2018 39
“Don’t touch
the arm!”: Ed
mingles with
Tom and
Serge from
Kasabian.

lway
“Sorry about Ga Ed
th ou gh ”: (le ft)
Gi rl,
his award
manfully holds
aloft; (rig ht ) with one-
tor Wiley.
time collabora
WHEN ED MET LIAM
“Fucking hell, kiddo!” Liam shouted.
“You want to calm down on the two-handed
wanking a bit. Can’t go breaking both
arms wanking. Go back to one hand, it’s
Liam Gallagher was in a chipper mood at the that, although, yes, he was “a fucking Icon”, all you need.”
Q Awards. He has been in good spirits ever he’d been “robbed” of that Best Track Q Ed barely knew where to look as the
since his album came out and sold a rarely- Award by “those cheeky c**ts Kasabian.” room burst into laughter. The next few
heard-of 100,000 copies in its first week. And then he saw Ed Sheeran. Ed had had minutes were a masterclass in bemused
So, several days later, the Q Awards became a different experience at the ceremony so far. Liam Gallagher piss-taking, all taken in
a de facto Team Liam Number 1 Album No doubt the Q Awards are also the highlight extremely good humour by Ed Sheeran.
party, especially as Liam had said he hadn’t of his year too, but he did have both arms in Being the world’s biggest solo artist buys
been out since its release. There was a lot of plaster and one in a sling. He wasn’t drinking you that kind of humility, no doubt.
pent-up excitement to disperse. because afterwards he was off to perform They parted with an embrace, Ed off to his
He was full of beans as he bounded on television. Minutes earlier, Tom Meighan TV studio and Liam back to his table before
through the swing doors to the first floor of had grabbed his arm in painful greeting. repairing to the nearby pub that his label
the Roundhouse after collecting his second Q writer Sylvia Patterson had hugged him had hired for the night. He was last seen deep
award of the night, walking over the gangway enthusiastically, squashing that cast again. in conversation with Skepta in the garden, as
to the Q photo room, telling everyone he met And here, here was Liam Gallagher. the evening’s real bromance blossomed.

Let the bantz


commence!
Liam Gallagher
sledges Ed.
ALEX LAKE, SIMON SARIN, JORDAN HUGHES
Q BEST TRACK Presented by

KASABIAN
Presenter: Dave Berry (Absolute Radio) & Simon Neil of Biffy Clyro

Tom Meighan and Serge Pizzorno


are thrilled that ou’re in love with
until it was too late. I’m really glad I did as
I would have been ruined. He was meeting
Harvey Keitel and I missed them both.
TM: Mine was Shane Richie, [EastEnders’]
Alfie Moon. I just saw him outside [at the
Awards] and went, “What the fuck are
You’re In Love With A Psycho, you doing here?” He couldn’t reply, he had
winner of the Q Award for Best Track, a fag in his mouth, bless him.
You put your longest-standing roadie Rick
but Liam Gallagher isn’t having it. Graham on the front of your album For
Crying Out Loud, which came out in May.
o how has your day been TM: Me trying to mow a lawn. Has cover stardom gone to his head?
so far? Who else have SP: Yep, Tom mowing the lawn! SP: Yeah. He’s the ultimate example of it.
S you bumped into?
Tom Meighan: I had a good
That sounds potentially dangerous…
SP: He was talking about buying a hedge
TM: [Adopts comedy grouchy voice] “I can’t
do this any more…”
chat with Jason [Williamson] strimmer earlier, can you imagine that? SP: We only did it to do his head in and it’s
from Sleaford Mods at the bar. Nice chap. I’m TM: I’d cut my fucking head off, wouldn’t I? definitely done his head in. He’s lording it
a massive fan. I think we’re friends now. Game Of Thrones-style. over everyone – us, especially. He’s got his
Serge Pizzorno: It’s called banter. [Jason had What are you looking forward to in 2018? own van, his own hotel now, everything.
previously slated Kasabian in interviews] TM: Getting a hedge strimmer! I’m going to Here’s a fun fact for you – while doing
TM: It sells records or it gets people talking. get ahead of the garden. I’m not really into his Cash For Questions interview for
We did it years ago when we were 24. gardening but I’m getting into domestic Q recently, it came up that Marilyn
We were good at it. things around the house, which is fantastic. Manson is a Kasabian fan. His favourite
How’s your year been? It’s good for me, it’s good for the brain. track is Shoot The Runner, which
TM: It’s been wonderful, hasn’t it, bro? It keeps it ticking. he likes to play on film and video sets
SP: Yeah, it’s been amazing. SP: We’re on tour. We’ll be out, mooching to unnerve the staff…
TM: It’s wonderful, we’re all happy. about. TM: Fuck off! Really? I think he’s quite
You can add Q Best Track for You’re In Is there anyone you’ve been starstruck in a sexy guy.
Love With A Psycho to your reasons to front of this year? SP: What I really like about him is that
be cheerful. Tell us about that one. SP: It was a near miss, but I was in a hotel he’s in the same vein as people like Alice
SP: It came from nowhere. It’s one of those and Robert De Niro walked pass me. He Cooper; he’s super clever and they don’t
things that happened in five minutes, which was wearing combats, golf shoes and golf make people like that any more. When he
rarely occurs. It just flowed. It just made me hat. So I missed it was him walks into a room, and we’ve
laugh. A lot of friends seen this before, whether
think it’s about them and you get his music or not he
say to me, “That’s not can make the room stand
about me and my Mrs, still and those people should
is it?” and you go, “No, be applauded. There’s not
no, no.” So a lot of enough of them.
people relate to it. [As Kasabian turn to
What’s been your leave they are accosted
highlight of the year? by Liam Gallagher]
SP: It’s got to be LG: Alright, lads? Right,
headlining Leeds and come on, deep down you
Reading, it really has. know Wall Of Glass is
TM: That was amazing. better than that Psycho
SP: It was a culmination tune of yours. I should’ve
of a lot of things coming won Best Track, admit it!
together. We’ve figured TM: Er… no.
out who we are, and it was LG: Come on, it is! Admit
JORDAN HUGHES, ALEX LAKE

incredible. We covered it, you got lucky tonight.


Nirvana’s All Apologies [Tom and Liam mock spar
which was massive, it before ending up in a big
“Security!” Liam
was really good. Gallagher attemp
ts to hug] Alright, see ya, but
What’s the funniest thing g To m an d Se rge of remember you two got
mu
k gong. lucky… PAUL STOKES
you’ve seen all year? their Q Best Trac

42 JANUARY 2018
And the award for Most Ridiculously
Dressed Trio goes to… (from left)
Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neil, Serge
Pizzorno and Tom Meighan.

“I’m looking
forward
to getting a
hedge strimmer
next year.”
Tom Meighan
Q MAVERICK Presented by

IV
Presenter: Don Letts
Unfortunately, Viv Albertine was ill and unable to attend
the Q Awards. Her gong for Q Maverick was presented by
film-maker, DJ and former Slits manager Don Letts

ALBERTINE
to her daughter, Arla. This is Don’s presentation speech.

distinctly Free spirit: Viv


remember the Albertine, recipient

I first time I laid


eyes on Viv.
of the Q Maverick
Award; (left)
Don Letts and
It was just Viv Albertine’s
before the punk explosion daughter, Arla.
of the late ’70s. Me and
Jeannette Lee were running
a shop called Acme
Attractions [on the King’s
Road in London] and in she
strolled, a back-combed
blonde with ripped
fishnets and a black
leather jacket. Striking
as she was, it was her
attitude that caught our
attention and this was
before she was even
in a band! This deadly
combination needed and
demanded a medium,
which she soon found
in the punk outfit The
Slits, via the short-lived Flowers Of Romance
with Sid Vicious. The Slits empowered
women up and down the land with
dynamic live shows and their debut album
Cut, released in 1979. It was during this
period that I became friends with Viv.
Even back then, she was never one to
take things at face value and was always
questioning the norm. Consequently, she
was one of the first to jump the punk-rock
ship, taking a musical hiatus to explore
her keen visual sense and become a film
director. Viv returned to music with an EP
on Thurston Moore’s record label before
releasing The Vermillion Border, her
debut solo album in 2014. Just when you
thought she was back on a musical tip, she
took on her first acting role in the Joanna
Hogg film, Exhibition. Viv’s first memoir
ALEX LAKE, MICHAEL CLEMENT

was the critically acclaimed Clothes, Clothes,


Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys,
Boys and the follow-up, To Throw Away
Unopened, drops in April 2018. What’s
next? Who knows. If she or we did, Viv
wouldn’t be a maverick.”

44 JANUARY 2018
They’re only Humanz after
all: Gorillaz’ Damon Albarn
(left) and Jamie Hewlett.

46 JANUARY 2018
Q BEST ALBUM Presented by

GORILLAZ Presenter: Benjamin Clementine


Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett got
the cartoon band back together after a
seven-year absence to make Humanz,
Did you imagine you’d be going this
long when you first started Blur?
DA: Well, it’s hard to imagine that when
you’re that young. It’s such a different world,
but I can’t believe I’ve had a chance to do
winner of the Q Best Album award. it all over again and establish myself in
America. Jamie’s like me, he’s done two
famous things [art and music]. Very few
ongratulations on DA: The birth of my 13th child. No, realising people get to do three famous things.
winning another that this is my 28th album. Though I know I can’t think of anyone who’s done
that Bob Dylan has written about 50…

C
Q Award. Happy? anything differently that resonated.
Damon Albarn: It’s JH: I’ve got an idea...
really nice. It’s about Virtual reality, by any chance?

“My highlight of
the music. Genuinely, DA: We’ve done a virtual reality project:
we’ve been really been there, done that.

the year? Realising


touched that people recognised this record What are you looking forward to
because it was a bit of a departure in that next year?
I’m not really in it much at all. Obviously DA: The new The Good, The Bad &
I helped to make it. And I forgot to mention
[producers] Remi [Kabaka] or The Twilite that this is my The Queen album, produced with Tony
Visconti. I’m doing it at the moment. We
Tone, but I’m not very good at speeches.
What are you drinking to celebrate? 28th album.” have another session and we’ve done two
weeks previously. Is he bringing something
Jamie Hewlett: I’d love a glass of wine. Have
you only got Q wine? Oh, is it a 2017 vintage…
What’s been your album of the year?
Damon Albarn different? Of course! It’s Tony Visconti, it’s
fucking awesome. And it’s the same line-up
as last time around. MATT ALLEN
DA: I don’t really work like that. I work with
experiences, really. I’m in and out of so many We got the
different types of music all the time, so power: Gorillaz
I don’t really engage in music in that way. In celebrate
their Q Best
terms of experience, that happened a few days
Album gong
ago when I went to see [producer, rapper] with presenter
Mike Will Made It. He did Kendrick Lamar’s Benjamin
albums and I went to do some work with him Clementine.
while we were on tour. As a new experience
in music-making this was something that
I will never forget: it was so loud and brutal.
This man is the top hit-maker in the world
and it was interesting to witness that kind of
alchemy because it doesn’t last forever. It was
interesting, the interface between the two of
us, and how he picked up on what I did and
what I picked up with him.
JH: As for new bands, I quite like Starcrawler
and [singer] Arrow de Wilde. They’re 19 years
old and making a noise that’s interesting.
What’s been your musical highlight
this year?
DA: I saw Erykah Badu and thought she
ALEX LAKE, SIMON SARIN

was fantastic. I also saw Run The Jewels,


they were impressive, too. We’re all
dinosaurs, aren’t we?
What’s been your personal highlight of
the year?

JANUARY 2018 47
Q INSPIRATION AWARD Presented by

MANIC STREET
PREACHERS
Presenter: Michael Sheen
The Welsh trio have spent 2017 revamping their clubhouse
and working out their next move. Ahead of the 30th anniversary
of their debut single, another burst of reinvention beckons.
ongratulations, you are
officially an Inspiration.
C How does it feel?
James Dean Bradfield
(singer, guitarist): I have
a very simple set of emotions. Awards
ceremonies, I’m 48, the next album is our
13th, so I accept these awards with absolute
magnanimity and glee. It’s just lovely.
Nicky Wire (bassist): Our first Q Award
was in 1996. We’ve had Best Album,
I remember when we had Best Band In
The World and James got up and said,
“Best band in the world… except North
America”, that was 1998. But there’s been
some mega dos at the Q Awards. It shows
how old we are that when we did the video for
A Design For Life here, it was a pile of rubble,
the Roundhouse hadn’t been done up.
I forgot to say that in my speech. Shit.
And you’ve got a gig to do afterwards
too, it’s not just a jolly for you...
NW: I’m glad we’re doing it. It’s our only
indoor gig this year.
JDB: I’ve just come off the back of flu so NW: The last few albums were high-concept, Spreading the word:
I might sound a bit Joe Cocker. I’ll sound and I think we ran out of concepts. We’re (above and far right)
like a man. just trying to do a masterclass in songwriting. Manic Street Preachers
play the Roundhouse
What’s been your highlight of the year? We’re making a bit of headway finally. It’s after the Awards
JDB: Finishing our studio, because we got coming fast now but it’s been a bit of a grind. ceremony; (main pic,
chucked out of our other place because the What’s the best thing you’ve heard from left) Sean Moore,
BBC wanted to move in to where it was and all year? Q Inspiration Award
we lost the lease on it. So we built a new NW: St. Vincent’s Masseduction. I love the presenter Michael
studio and the highlight is having the Manic graphic nature of the artwork, the colours, Sheen, Nicky Wire and
James Dean Bradfield.
Street Preachers’ clubhouse back, where the way she fuses art and music, the guitar
we can go, we can piss, we can moan. playing, the lyrics. It’s really high-concept,
NW: It’s just outside Newport. It’s more which I love.
rural, less urban. JDB: Prisoner by Ryan Adams. I love
How are you settling in? that record. It’s a crystalline version of
NW: It took a while. As Liam would say, somebody saying, “I may be of another time,
it’s moving and grooving at the moment. I may be out of step, but I’m just going to
JDB: It feels like home, we’ve started make the record that I always was going to
ALEX LAKE

recording there, trying to make sense of make,” even if it is about the break-up of
what’s happening with us musically. a marriage and who gets custody of the
What’s the next move for the Manics? six cats. NIALL DOHERTY

48 JANUARY 2018
“When we did the
video for A Design
For Life in the
Roundhouse, it was
a pile of rubble.”
Nicky Wire
Q INNOVATION IN SOUND Presented by

Presenter: James Lavelle


The grime godfather’s got a new album and
autobiography out soon, but for now the
Q Innovation In Sound winner is happy to
indulge in a spot of shopping and gag-telling.
alk us through your vibes
after winning the Q
T
Innovation In Sound Award.
I’ve had a great day, man.
This morning I wanted to get
something to wear but I was with a girl. Don’t
go shopping with birds because they’re going
to wind you up, mate. So, they did their bit of
shopping, I done my bit. We got here for the
right time, but I was scared she was going to
make me late. But she didn’t, it was all good. “This year has
Who have you bumped into so far?
Rag’n’Bone Man, Ed Sheeran, Skepta,
Stormzy. I’ve seen some of the other guys as
been my best
well, like Paloma Faith. These guys are even
bigger to me because I wasn’t inside their
year album-
world. That’s why I’m so happy to be here.
Congratulations on your award…
wise, respect-
I’m so happy about this award for two reasons.
Number one, I can’t believe that me and
wise and credit-
Dizzee Rascal started something and today
Skepta and Stormzy are championing it.
wise.” Wiley
Number two, the fact I’m getting recognition
for my last 17 years of work means that I can
think about which direction I want
chaps!”
“Say cheese,
ar t di re ct or looks
Q’s
on as pr esenter
James La ve lle and
pose.
Wiley strike a
ALEX LAKE, SIMON SARIN, JORDAN HUGHES

50 JANUARY 2018
to go in next. I have children and if one day my
daughter decides she wants to do it she can.
If she’s good enough, the people who have
shown me love will show her love.
You appeared onstage at the [grime
collective] Boy Better Know takeover of
London’s O2 Arena in August. Did you ever
think grime would be at that stage in 2017?
The eyes have it: You just don’t know. It’s like when you go to
Wiley with his see a football team, you don’t know if you’re

CHEERS!
Q Innovation In going to win today. Music is one of the most
Sound Award. unsure jobs ever. I like that. I don’t know if
I’m going to have a hit tomorrow but if I go
and work on one, maybe I will.
Was that your highlight of the year?
Definitely. This year has been my best year
album-wise, respect-wise and credit-wise.
A BIG THANK YOU TO...
People have said, “This person cares about THE Q AWARDS 2017 WERE PRODUCED BY:
other people.” It’s like if we go to a youth
Helen Scott and Marguerite Peck at Winter French,
club, one guy can go [and succeed] tomorrow,
the other can go next week, then the others Dave Henderson, Ted Kessler, Niall Doherty
can go. I’m all for that. Dizzee Rascal was & Dave Mackenzie.
the first to show us that you can become
a multi-millionaire out of this, so I always
respected him, but now it’s Skepta and THE Q AWARDS 2017 WOULD NOT HAVE
Stormzy keeping it alive. I’m able to say to my HAPPENED WITHOUT:
kids, “This thing is having its fucking day…” Patrick Horton, Abby Carvosso, Rob Munro Hall,
Look what Dad’s done...
Yeah, exactly! Clare Chamberlain, Dan Knight, Simon McEwen, Marian
It’s been a busy year. You put out an Paterson, Salman Naqvi, Chris Catchpole, Joel Stephan,
album, Godfather, in January and now Jess Blake, Fergus Carroll, Natalie Paszkowski,
your autobiography is coming out.
The good thing about the book is that my
Kirsty Morton, Stacia Nambiar, Nadia Maddison.
sister and my dad also wrote some. When
I was reading it I was like, “Wow, Dad, you SPECIAL THANKS TO:
shouldn’t have put that in there…” But he
Christian O’Connell and Troika, Paul Sylvester, Harriet Hines
should have. They can see what I can’t see, it
lets me see things from their point of view. and all at Absolute Radio, Jo Parkerson and the
And Godfather 2 is coming out... Bauer Ents Hub Team, Gibson Brands, The Cavern Club,
It’s great when I make an album now – it’s Buster + Punch team, Geraldine Coyle at Scenario UK, BMW,
not just about me, it’s about the scene.
Before, it would have been me trying to make 808 Whisky, Pretty Green, Help Musicians UK, Flare Audio,
an album on my own, maybe two [members Red Stripe, Three, BoxTV, Doug Wright, Emma Elwood,
of] Roll Deep, two Boy Better Know… but Sam Roberts, Alex Karol and the team at
now I can make an album with the scene.
What are your hopes for 2018? LD Communications, Rhi Williams and the team at Create
I hope that more youth get into music and Food & Party Design, Sam Stagnell and Chloe Brown at
get to see what their day is going to look like Premier, Hannah Pierce and Joe Leonard at the Roundhouse,
and I hope that England as a whole, team
Ian Robinson, Shirley McLean.
UK, stick together and we do the world thing.
So Liam Gallagher, Skepta, Rag’n’Bone Man,
Ed Sheeran, Wiley… I hope that everybody THE Q AWARDS 2017 IN ASSOCIATION WITH
recognises each other and we stick together. ABSOLUTE RADIO WERE SUPPORTED BY:
Can you tell us a joke? THE

My last joke was an English, Irishman and VE R


ACLUB
N
C

Scotsman one. [Thinks for a moment] It was LIVERPOOL


Est.1957

e where the Irishman comes down the


nd says, “Weeee!” You know it! I’m
can’t remember the fucking middle!
e are you off to next?
e bar to chill. CHRIS CATCHPOLE

d that’s not all...


more interviews with presenters
he Q Awards, including Wolf
e, Mo Gilligan and The Horrors,
d to Qthemusic.com.

JANUARY 2018 51
GOING
PLACES
...with the sponsor of the Q Inspiration
Award, Three, who help you to roam
worldwide on your phone, at no extra
cost, in 60 destinations.
ravel and

T
inspiration
often walk
hand in
hand: Lou
Reed, U2
and David
Bowie have all used Berlin as
their creative base, while the
politics and landscapes of
America have enchanted and
terrified enough songwriters to
ensure its mention in a raft of
tracks and song titles. Some of
these artists have been bestowed
with the Q Inspiration Award
over the past few decades; their
lyrical nods to locations and Aussie rules:
faraway places have provided Manic Street
the scene for escapist fantasy, Preachers wrote
imagined safe spaces and an ode to a land
Down Under.
political drama.
More names were added to
PHOTOS: ALEX LAKE, GETTY DISCLAIMER: NONE OF THE ARTISTS FEATURED HAVE ENDORSED OR PROMOTED THIS SERVICE.

this prestigious portfolio at the


2017 Q Awards, where artists
such as Liam Gallagher (Q Best

DAVID
Live Act, Q Icon), Sleaford Mods Going Dutch: David
(Q Best Film) and Gorillaz (Q Bowie covered Jacques

BOWIE
Best Album) were honoured at Brel’s torrid portrayal
of Amsterdam.
Camden’s famous Roundhouse.
Manic Street Preachers, winners PORT OF AMSTERDAM
of this year’s Q Inspiration Originally performed (but never
Award Presented By Three, recorded) by Belgian singer,
celebrated with a sold-out show songwriter and director Jacques
at the venue, comprising a Brel, this version was released
greatest hits set from their 12 by Bowie in 1973 as the B-side
album-strong career so far. to single Sorrow. Bowie’s
So, what better way to enigmatic, acoustic take of
celebrate the success of this Port Of Amsterdam later
year’s Awards and Three, who appeared as a bonus cut on the
let you roam worldwide on reissue of his seventh studio LP,
your phone in 60 countries at Pin Ups (1973), an album of
no extra cost, than by compiling cover versions that included
a brief list of Q Inspiration The Who’s I Can’t Explain.
Award winners and their lyrical Bowie and his long-term
nod to some faraway, and not collaborator Brian Eno received
so faraway locations. the Q Inspiration Award in 1995.
Berlin calling: U2 recorded
classic album Achtung Baby
in the German capital.

MANIC U2 SIMPLE
A Belfast story: Simple
Minds’ poignant ballad
went to Number 1.

STREET OH BERLIN
U2 are no strangers to winning MINDS
PREACHERS Q Awards. Their portfolio of
successes includes Best Live Act
BELFAST CHILD
A Number 1 on its release as
AUSTRALIA (2016, 2005), Q Greatest Act Of the lead track from the Ballad
The Manics’ fourth single of The Last 25 Years (2011), and Of The Streets EP in 1989,
1996 was a rush of anthemic the Q Inspiration Award in 1996. Belfast Girl drew lyrical
guitars and existential despair: Meanwhile, their relationship inspiration from the IRA
bassist Nicky Wire wrote with Berlin has extended to bombing of Enniskillen in 1987.
the song during the fall-out the recording of 1991 album, “In the second part of the song,
from guitarist Richie Edwards’ Achtung Baby at Hansa I’m trying to relate to people
vanishing the year before, Studios, as the band sought in Northern Ireland who lost
his lyrics shot through with to find inspiration from the loved ones,” says Simple
claustrophobia and an urgency reunification of Germany. Rare Minds’ vocalist Jim Kerr, whose
to escape the despair enveloping studio track Oh Berlin was later band would later win the Q
him: “I want to fly and run till released on the 20th-anniversary Inspiration Award in 2014. “I’m
it hurts/Sleep for a while and of Achtung Baby in 2011 on trying to talk about the madness,
speak no words… in Australia.” the super deluxe boxset edition. the sadness and the emptiness.”

SUEDE European sons:


Suede in 1996.
EUROPE IS OUR PLAYGROUND
Winners of the Q Inspiration
Award in 2010, Suede were
the flag bearers of a scene that
would later morph into Britpop
during the mid-’90s. Europe
Is Our Playground first appeared
as a B-side to the 1996 single
Trash, a brooding ballad swathed
in eerie synths and singer
Brett Anderson’s soaring,
escapist vocals (“Run with
me baby, now”).

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0
Let the countdown
commence as we look
The back in the company
of Squeeze, Baxter
Dury, Muna, The War
On Drugs, Cigarettes
After Sex, James
Murphy and Sampha,
all of whom have
made it into Q’s select
half-century of 2017.
As compiled by John Aizlewood, Matt Allen, Laura
Barton, Martin Boon, Chris Catchpole, Hannah J
Davies, Niall Doherty, Tom Doyle, George Garner,
Rupert Howe, Ted Kessler, Dorian Lynskey, Simon
McEwen, Rebecca Nicholson, Paul Moody, James
Oldham, Andrew Perry, Simon Price, Victoria Segal,
Laura Snapes, Kate Solomon, Paul Stokes, Matt Yates.

ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

01
NO
50 PUMAROSA he Backstory: A band who
left their East London rehearsal
room behind to craft their songs in a
disused cinema in Southern Italy.
The Clincher: It is a record that
inhabits its own fantastical world,
with anthems about priestesses and
ay from
baggy beats to sprawling rock.
What They Say: “A lot of the figures
being sung about are women. There’s
a general feeling of powerlessness or
anger.” Isabel Muñoz-Newsome
Key Track: Priestess
NIALL DOHERTY

“A record that inhabits its


own fantastical world”:
Pumarosa, featuring
Isabel Muñoz-Newsome.

VOCALIST ISABEL MUÑOZ-NEWSOME time once we’d got everything you feel that theme is relevant,
ON MAKING PUMAROSA’S DEBUT AND in order was amazing. It was whatever’s going through them.
emotional. The gigs have been Also, I’m half-Chilean so I’ve got
LAUNCHING HER OWN SPANISH INQUISITION. incredible. Each place has such a a bit of Spanish in my blood, so
Hello, Isabel, The Witch is in they’ve finished recording, they unique flavour and you really pick I translated Priestess and Lions’
Q’s Albums Of The Year. press stop and they’re over it, but up on that with the crowds. The Den with my dad and we’re going
Yesssssssss! I still feel quite inside the music. Green Man Festival was amazing. to be releasing them in Spain.
How does that feel? I’m really proud of it, it’s our first They gave us an 11pm slot, which Politically, there’s this separatist
It feels really great. I’m really, LP, our first proper big release. was nice of them and it worked. theme and the government is
really happy. Q is a massive What’s been your highlight I really like how they programme shutting it down in a violent
institution and it’s amazing, it’s of the year? – they include a lot more women way. You can’t just shut down an
great. Haha! It’s incredible news. Oh God. There have been loads. at their festivals, a lot more lead opinion, so we’re releasing Lions’
How do you look back on Going and playing the album vocal women and that’s nice. Den, which is essentially about
making the album now you’ve through and listening to it with The Witch is a record about the ruling class and being heard.
had some time to reflect on it? Dan [Carey, producer] and Jim and strong female figures, quite I hope that will translate and
I still feel quite inside of it. I read Alex from the label and the band, a pertinent theme now. they’ll hear it.
articles with artists and as soon as just listening to it for the first Yeah, it is. The songs happen cos INTERVIEW BY NIALL DOHERTY

JANUARY 2018 55
“Their most vital album
in years”: Depeche
Mode’s Dave Gahan
steps things up.
ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

49. DEPECHE
MODE
SPIRIT
The Backstory: They aren’t
exactly best friends and live in
three different cities stretched
across the globe, but the
Basildon trio are nearing their
fourth decade together. Could
their dysfunctional set-up bring
something magical once again?
The Clincher: Their most vital
album in years, a snarling state-
of-the-nation address from a
band who’ve made a career out
of turning angst into anthems.
What They Say: “I felt the
world was in a complete mess
and I wanted to address that.”
Martin Gore
Key Track: Where’s
The Revolution
NIALL DOHERTY

48. KEVIN 47. GHOSTPOET 46. JAY-Z 45. ALT J


MORBY DARK DAYS + CANAPÉ S 4:44 RELAX ER
CITY MUSIC The Backstory: Over three The Backstory: Publicly The Backstory: This trio
The Backstory: Morby’s albums, Obaro Ejimiwe chastened by Beyoncé’s of sonic adventurers make
excellent third album, 2016’s has proven himself a new revelations of marital indie-rock that rarely stays
Singing Saw, had cast the former master of musical dread in indiscretion on Lemonade, on the straight and narrow,
Woods bassist into a wilderness the vein of Massive Attack the architect of hip-hop’s not when there’s a psychedelic
of dusty, ancient Americana. and Tricky. Now was the time modern blueprint turns his side-road that they can plough
The Clincher: As its title to make his mark. rhymes against himself. down instead.
suggests, the follow-up swapped The Clincher: Producer Leo The Clincher: Here Jay-Z The Clincher: The group’s
the great outdoors for the big Abrahams helps to expand performs a demolition job on third album is as strange
city. A New York rock’n’roll trip Ejimiwe’s sonic vision, as his public image and extracts and beautiful as anything
that rattled past corners electronica, post-rock and Shawn Carter the husband, they’ve ever done, making
populated by the ghosts of Lou warped funk grooves seep into father and son from the ruins. medieval folk, hip-hop-style
Reed, Television and, most each other. The singer is an It may not be his best, but it grooves, a children’s choir and
obviously on 1234, the Ramones. uneasy but magnetic presence is unequivocally his most orchestral swells sound like
What They Say: “Singing Saw is from start to finish. personal release to date. perfect bedfellows.
a conversation with Leonard What They Say: “If I didn’t What They Say: “This album What They Say: “We usually
JOHN JOHNSON, ALEX LAKE

Cohen, Nina Simone and Neil write about the times we’re has a lot of topics – that’s why come back to the big four, which
Young. City Music is more like living in currently I’d think it had to be so short, it’s are love, loss, sex and death.”
Patti Smith or Lou Reed.” I was cheating myself.” so condensed.” Gus Unger-Hamilton
Key Track: Downtown’s Lights Key Track: (We’re) Dominoes Key Track: 4:44 Key Track: 3WW
CHRIS CATCHPOLE NIALL DOHERTY GEORGE GARNER NIALL DOHERTY

56 JANUARY 2018
CULT HERO AND
“His Love-meets-Nick “CHEEKY SCOUSE TWAT”
Drake vision remains SAYS TA-RA TO HIS PAST.
beautifully intact”: It’s been 11 years since the last
Michael Head, minus
his Red Elastic Band.
Shack album. What changed
so you felt ready to make Adios
Señor Pussycat?
I did a gig the summer before last and
my band at the time pulled out. Tom
[Powell], who plays bass on the record,
his dad Steve engineered The Strands
album [in 1997]. I met him at his dad’s
birthday party and he said he played
bass and his mate played drums. It was
like a bulb went off in my head. I gave
them a bell and said, “Get four or five
Shack, Strands and Mick Head songs in
your arse pocket,” and they were like,
“Yeah, we know quite a few of your
songs, actually…” When we played the
gig, it was like the planets aligned, it
clicked – so we went into the studio.
Is the LP new songs or stuff you’d
been stockpiling over the years?
It’s a mixed bag of songs, old and
new. There’s a song called Working
Family which I wrote about 25 years
ago but didn’t finish.
You got a great reaction to the
shows you played recently…

NO
Young people, you get chatting at gigs
and they say, “Me dad got me into your
album and I love it!” So I’m loving that.
Then sometimes you look out at the
crowd and see people you’ve known
for years and they’re smiling so much.
Everyone is buzzing.
There’s a lot of reflection in the
lyrics – were you aware of looking
back to your past?
There is a lot of looking back and
a lot of farewells in the lyrics. Maybe
subconsciously it’s a new beginning
and I’m saying ta-ra to my past. There’s
reflection in songs like Winter Turns
To Spring and Queen Of All Saints.
Queen Of All Saints is about you
getting a kiss from your teacher at

MICHAEL HEAD
school – how much truth is in that?
It’s all true! Miss McCourt. I was a
cheeky little fucking so-and-so and
yeah, I did ask her for a kiss. She was
buzzing on me and said, “If you guess
my first name, you can peck me on

& THE RED ELASTIC BAND the cheek.” She must have thought,
“You cheeky Scouse twat…”
It’s been 33 years since you first
released an album with The Pale
ADIOS SEÑOR PUSSYCAT his new-found peace of mind. Fountains. Do you still get a buzz
The Backstory: After 11 years What They Say: “Maybe things recording and releasing an album?
in a wilderness of, in his words, could have been different. But Yeah, it’s amazing. I’m always writing
“fucking booze”, Head finally at the end of the day I’m still songs anyway and the fact that we
returns with his first full-length writing music – boss music… can record them and there’s people
album since Shack’s On The And that’s more important to listening to them blows me away. The
Corner Of Miles And Gil in 2006. me than a mortgage or hefty other day we were in rehearsals and it
The Clincher: His Love-meets- bank balance.” was so fucking amazing. It sounded like
Nick Drake vision remains Key Track: Winter Turns The Paleys at their best. It reminded
beautifully intact here, the music To Spring me of that freshness. I’m loving it.
a genial, iridescent reflection of JAMES OLDHAM INTERVIEW BY CHRIS CATCHPOLE

JANUARY 2018 57
N
SQUEEZE
In the ’70s, Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford were the
songwriters in Squeeze, whose kitchen-sink pop classics had
them called a South London Lennon and McCartney. They were
massive. Then, the money. Then, the drugs. Then, the split.
But now they are reconciled. Pat Gilbert offers counselling.
PHO T O GR A PH S: TOM SH E E H A N

PERCHED ON THE ROOF of Squeeze’s


SQUEEZE studio-cum-HQ near the Thames in South East
THE K NOWLEDGE London, Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford are
The Backstory: drinking in the vista. To the untrained eye, it looks
After years of uncannily like a decrepit 1920s industrial estate,
bickering like the kind where high-end motors might arrive in
a post-punk the dead of night only to re-emerge next morning
Ray and Dave with a new paint job and “funny” number plates.
Davies, Chris But to Squeeze’s songwriting partnership, it’s
Difford and an emotive reminder of their earthy London
Glenn Tilbrook roots which, in the late ’70s, inspired the quirky
have mellowed kitchen-sink classics on which their reputation is
with age and based: Cool For Cats, Up The Junction, Slap And
towards each other. heir second album of Tickle, Pulling Mussels (From The Shell)…
new material this century plays to their warm, “My family have lived in the Greenwich area for
wry strengths. 150 years,” explains the still-cherubic Tilbrook,
The Clincher: Diehard fans of the band will today sporting eccentric gold stripy trousers, his
revel in a characteristically witty heartbreaker. short grey hair ruffled by the breeze. “It’s a big
New ones will discover why Squeeze are part of who I am.”
so revered. “In two years this will be built over with flats,”
What They Say: “Playing back The Knowledge adds the dapper, bespectacled Difford, in the droll
I can feel the love we still have as songwriters, Cockney croak which made Cool For Cats’ tale of
and for each other. It’s been some journey.” cowboy films, TV cops shows and post-disco
Chris Difford shagging so convincing. “The community that has
Key Track: Two Forks lived and worked here will be swept out. That must
JOHN AIZLEWOOD be a huge concern for people around here.”
ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

Still cool cats: Squeeze’s


Glenn Tilbrook (left) and
Chris Difford, London,
September, 2017.
The “kitchen-sink classic” years:
Squeeze (from left) John Bentley,
Jools Holland, Chris Difford, Glenn
Tilbrook and Gilson Lavis, 1979.
ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

“When you first get together as a


band, you don’t understand what you’re
Yet, as we descend to terra firma down a
rusty iron ladder, the two men will admit that doing. It takes time to realise what your
the stomping ground of their youth wasn’t
always ripe for romanticising in a pop hit or
journey is, and to be grateful for it. Back
two. Take, for example, an incident that
occurred in a pub in nearby Deptford, not long
then we weren’t.” Chris Difford
after Squeeze had first became famous in 1978.
“We were taken under the wing of some gangsters, as the local boys tackling such uncomfortable topics as erectile dysfunction (the jolly
made good,” recalls Tilbrook. “I was sitting there having a drink when Please Be Upstanding), child abuse (Final Score) and death (the
two blokes beat up another bloke with a fire extinguisher. It was moody Departure Lounge).
proper serious, horrible violence. I wish I’d never seen it. They were “Some albums take a few years to work out, but this has come into
very sweet to the band but that was the last time I ever went there.” focus almost immediately,” says Difford. “I think it takes on some
“Does that sort of thing still happen here?” enquires a quizzical really important issues.”
Difford, who moved out of London to the south coast in the ’90s. “It was crucial for us to capitalise on the momentum Cradle… gave
“I bet it does,” explains his bandmate, “but my life doesn’t come us,” chips in Tilbrook. “For gentlemen of our age, that’s really
into contact with it. The last time it did was at a crack den in the ’80s.” important, because as well as success, we’ve known failure. We’re back
He laughs. “But that’s another story…” where we should be, writing new songs, recording and touring
Welcome to the curious world of Squeeze, your favourite America. That hasn’t been the case for a very long time.”
knockabout Cockney pop band, where London is an endless source of One of The Knowledge’s most poignant songs is the closing Two
wonderment, substance abuse and “weirdness” play an important part, Forks, which probes at Difford and Tilbrook’s famously difficult
and the relationship between its two songwriters is still a challenge… friendship down the years. From 1975 to what at the time appeared to
be a terminal split in 1999, the two men helmed Squeeze’s on-off
t’s a sunny September afternoon, and Chris and Glenn are journey from knavish South London pub rock misfits to world-
seated in the “garden” area of the industrial unit that they conquering pop band, peaking commercially in 1987 with the
call home. We’re here to discuss the band’s rollicking new Babylon And On album.
album, The Knowledge, a swift follow-up to 2015’s Cradle Yet from as early as the band’s second album, 1979’s Cool For Cats,
To The Grave, which was written as a soundtrack to Danny Chris and Glenn admit they rarely communicated openly with each
Baker’s BBC sitcom of the same name, and featured the first other, onstage or off, their connection existing solely in the alchemical
original Squeeze material for 17 years. As its title suggests, moment when Tilbrook would post a cassette or CD to Difford
The Knowledge is both a kind of virtual cab ride through containing the music he’d created for his partner’s lyrics.
modern British society (the trenchantly political A&E calls Even today, 10 years into their millennial reunion, our meeting
for NHS nurses to be paid more, Rough Ride highlights the is notable for the unnerving silences between the two men, and the
GETTY

capital’s seamier side) and a wizened meditation on middle-aged life, sense one is interviewing them separately, even though they are sitting

60 JANUARY 2018
“We could get used to
this…”: Difford and
Tilbrook feel the fan
just feet apart. For their first manager, Miles love, JFK Airport,
New York, 1982.
Copeland – older brother of The Police’s
Stewart – the problem was that both are “deep
and weird. They write great songs but how their
brains worked was always a mystery.” Q wonders
what the pair themselves feel might be at the heart
of their uneasy marriage of personalities.
“[Long pause] Because we’re very different
people,” answers Difford.
In what way, Q asks?
“[Long pause] It might be easier to ask in what
ways we’re similar,” says Tilbrook, smiling.
OK, in what ways are you similar?
The two great songwriters look at one
another askance, before each emits a
spluttering laugh.
“I really don’t know,” says Difford.
Yet both will contend that being in Squeeze –
of which they are long the only original members – ha
hugely entertaining ride, especially in their formative days. The pair Tilbrook, who lived in separate flats in the same townhouse near
first met in 1973, when an 18-year-old Difford posted a message in a Greenwich Park, a new lyric or completed piece of music tucked
sweetshop window seeking musicians to join a band he hadn’t actually behind the other’s milk bottles almost every day. After their first hit,
started yet; 16-year-old Tilbrook was the only person to respond. At the synth-propelled Take Me I’m Yours, in February 1978, Difford’s
the time, Difford had not long been sacked from his job as a solicitor’s interest in diarising quotidian English life rapidly developed, spurred
clerk for stealing from the office safe. He was, by his own admission, on by a fascination with Ray Davies (“I thought The Beatles’ lyrics
a speed-freak and “a bit of a thug” (though – rock fact alert – that were too weird”) and the fact he was by now sinking into the fabric of
summer he did find time to help a mate create the backdrops for South London’s criminal underbelly.
Bowie’s Ziggy/Aladdin Sane stage show). Glenn, meanwhile, was a “I was going out with a girl whose sisters were prostitutes,”
barefooted hippy with long blond hair who’d learned to play guitar explains the lyricist. “The family had connections with proper villains.
listening to Jimi Hendrix records. I found it fascinating to be among these people, getting pissed with
Recruiting showboating keyboardist Jools Holland and hard-man them, going for fish and chips.”
drummer Gilson Lavis, Squeeze cut their teeth playing local pubs Yet during the run of hit singles that followed, crowned by the
around Deptford and Greenwich, where budding Svengali Copeland peerless Up The Junction and its story of an ill-fated teenage
signed them, convinced he’d seen the “next Beatles”. By late 1977, pregnancy, the two songwriters’ friendship became strained. Difford
riding shotgun on punk, they’d landed a major deal with A&M. The attributes the change to his marrying his new American girlfriend in
Velvet Underground’s John Cale was brought in to produce their 1979, and subsequently becoming a father. Tilbrook agrees this had an
debut album, but fell foul of Squeeze’s penchant for practical jokes effect, but believes the estrangement began earlier, “some time
when he passed out in the studio and Holland wrote “I’m a c**t” on his between the first and second albums”, when Difford “began to
forehead in felt-tip pen. “It was still there when we met him the next withdraw” and no longer showed an interest in sharing lead vocals.
day,” chortles Tilbrook. “John Cale wanted to call our album ‘Gay Whatever the causes, both admit “we never discussed it”.
Guys’, but we obviously weren’t so keen…” Adding to tensions within the group, the musically adroit Tilbrook
began to take an increasingly dictatorial approach in the studio. This,
he says, was mostly “because I spent less time in the pub than

WHEN IT’S COOL FOR CATS, an old woman having loved and helped introduce Chris and Glenn

IT’S COOL FOR CATS... lost, set to a weeping country


strum-along.
in 1973, featuring a stinging guitar
solo recorded from that year.
Ten Classic Squeeze Numbers 5. KING GEORGE STREET 8. ELECTRIC TRAINS
(Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti, 1985) (Ridiculous, 1995)
A first-split comeback with all Difford’s nostalgic schoolboy
1. COOL FOR CATS 2. UP THE JUNCTION the classic Difford-Tilbrook memories collide with one
(Cool For Cats, 1979) (Cool For Cats, 1979) ingredients: a South London of Tilbrook’s most stirring,
Difford’s genius lyric about those No chorus, but seven heart- location, a broken marriage, emotional rock work-outs.
essential ’70s male pursuits – rending verses about a young man a midnight flit and a gorgeous
watching Westerns, The Sweeney in Clapham screwing up pop melody. 9. HAPPY DAYS
and pulling “birds” after the disco – fatherhood and his early adult life. (Cradle To The Grave, 2015)
demanded to be learned in full. 6. TRUST ME TO OPEN The first album of original
3. PULLING MUSSELS MY MOUTH Squeeze material in 17 years
(FROM THE SHELL) (Babylon And On, 1987) included this sunny gem, revisiting
(Argybargy, 1980) A gigantic ’80s production the theme of ’70s Londoners
Tilbrook’s brilliantly catchy vocal propels a funky pop behemoth heading for the coast.
melody and slick guitar solo about prematurely blabbing
soundtrack a tale of a saucy about secret love. 10. TWO FORKS
English seaside holiday romance. (The Knowledge, 2017)
7. SOME FANTASTIC PLACE Difford acknowledges his
4. LABELLED WITH LOVE (Some Fantastic Place, 1993) bumpy 40-year relationship
(East Side Story, 1981) Poignant salute to the recently with Tilbrook on this loveable,
A lachrymose drinker’s lament to deceased female friend who lopsided Cockney skank.

JANUARY 2018 61
…And they all lived happily
ever after: Chris Difford
and Glenn Tilbrook, 2017.
ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

“We got back together very gingerly.


I wanted the opportunity to press the
the others. Don’t get me wrong, I was
having a good time. But yes, without a
exit button at any time if it wasn’t
doubt I did resent [doing a lot of the work]
as you got paid the same as everyone else.
right, but it was.” Glenn Tilbrook
Those things have to be addressed or they
become festering sores.” great songwriting institutions seemed to have fractured for good;
“When you first get together as a band, you don’t have the tellingly, no one really noticed.
emotional intelligence to understand what you’re doing,” adds
Difford. “You’re just knocking about from one thing to the other. ack at Squeeze’s HQ, Difford is readying himself to
It takes time to realise what your journey is, and to be grateful for it. drive back to Brighton, doing hands-free phone
Back then we weren’t.” interviews on the way. On the wall is a poster for his
In 1980, at the height of Squeeze’s first flush of fame, Jools Holland and Tilbrook’s 2015 The At Odds Couple acoustic
left to pursue a career as a TV presenter and solo artist. In 1982, after tour, its knowing title poking fun at their famously
scoring a US hit with Tempted – sung by Holland’s replacement Paul unorthodox relationship. The pair have been working
Carrack – Squeeze split up, only to re-form in 1985 and going on to together again as Squeeze since 2007, when they
make one of their biggest-selling LPs, Babylon And On, two years later. reunited for a tour to promote the Essential Squeeze
“Five years of recording an album every year and touring took its compilation. The rapprochement came after several
toll, even at that age,” says Tilbrook of the first split. “The inspiration press interviews had convinced them that
had dried up a bit and we needed to take time off. When we got back they were silly to throw away such a singular commodity as the
together we became a better band, the records moved sideways. Difford-Tilbrook writing partnership. There was also the realisation
Then after a while it lost its way again.” that the Squeeze brand was more popular than ever.
Indeed, behind Squeeze’s ever-jaunty public façade, the mid-’80s “Basically, we began to appreciate what we had,” says Difford.
Difford-Tilbrook partnership was entering its darkest phase. It did, however, take eight years for them to return with Cradle To
Tilbrook’s then-wife took to demanding that Chris show her his lyrics The Grave, a result of taking the reunion one step at a time. “Splitting
before he presented them to Glenn. Difford was incredulous. Making up [in 1999] wasn’t a decision I enjoyed at the time,” says Tilbrook,
matters exponentially worse, Tilbrook briefly experimented with “but it was the best thing ever. We did solo things and through that
heroin, while Difford obliterated his own demons in a blizzard of Chris discovered what he could do and I discovered what I can do.
white powder. “I’d sit in a hotel room, look at the wine list, get out the When we got back together it was very gingerly done, I wanted the
cocaine, watch some telly, go for a walk, then do it all again,” he told opportunity to press the exit button at any time if it wasn’t right,
this writer in 2007. “Just selfish. It got to the point where I had to go but it was. It took several years to make an album and now The
into rehab – it was a real wake-up call. But I’m pleased that part of my Knowledge is even better.”
life happened so I could come back.” “It’s been noted many times that we’ve had disagreements but our
Both men spent a cleaned-up ’90s steering Squeeze through similarities are so strong – in the making of the records, the band, the
various line-up changes and studio albums, including 1995’s way that we play, our vision. That’s the important thing.”
superlative Ridiculous. But Difford was now suffering anxiety And with that, South London’s strangest but most resilient odd
attacks, and when he fell ill on the eve of a US tour in 1999 an couple prepare to pull down the shutters on their riverside lock-up
exasperated Tilbrook called time on the band. One of Britain’s and wave Q goodbye.

62 JANUARY 2018
42. LAURA 41. FLEET FOXES 40. TYLER , 39. LANA
MARLING CRACK-UP THE CREATOR DEL REY
SEMPER FEMINA The Backstory: Missing-in- FLOWER BOY LUST FOR LIFE
The Backstory: After Short action for three years after singer The Backstory: Controversy The Backstory: The
Movie’s desert quest, the singer- Robin Pecknold enrolled at magnet and leader of LA hip-hop pre-eminent prophetess of
songwriter’s sixth album sought Columbia University, Fleet collective Odd Future delivers doomed romance returns with a
out some hazy Laurel Canyon Foxes returned with a time-and- his most complex and lyrically smile on her face and hope in her
shade to muse on muses, space-bending record. daring statement to date. heart. But does it work?
wildness and womanhood. The Clincher: Their third The Clincher: Studded with The Clincher: Del Rey’s
The Clincher: Subtle, complex, album takes their acoustic sound A-list guests and grounded by melancholia and fatalism
lushly orchestrated, this was and propels it into an aural low-slung beats, Tyler’s fourth remains gloriously intact, only
music that was as cerebral as it otherworld featuring anything album also found him in this time tempered by joy and
was sensuous. from water drumming to cuts unexpectedly confessional optimism. Lust For Life expands
What They Say: “This one was between hi- and lo-fi, while mood, swapping homophobic her emotional jurisdiction to
about understanding femininity keeping the harmonies. spleen for lines about “kissing stunning effect.
and masculinity. The last one What They Say: “I wanted white boys.” What They Say: “On the
was understanding solitude. moments where the song What They Say: “I just make last records I needed to look
Before that was heartbreak, was stripped away and you’re music. I don’t go into deep shit inward… I came to the end
before that was freedom. It’s almost listening to the demo.” [about it]. Like, if I made a pink of my self-examination and
like I’m tackling the world Robin Pecknold and yellow shirt, it’s because I like I naturally was looking
one emotion at a time!” Key Track: I Am All That I Need/ the way pink and yellow looks.” at everything else.”
Key Track: The Valley Arroyo Seco/Thumbprint Scar Key Track: Who Dat Boy Key Track: Love
VICTORIA SEGAL TOM DOYLE RUPERT HOWE GEORGE GARNER

The Italian job:


Phoenix explore
“a world of
possibilities”.

38. PHOENIX
TI AMO
The Backstory: Versailles indie
royalty return from a four-year
break in unashamedly romantic
mood, inspired by thoughts
of love, art and Italian ice
cream. Bellissimo!
The Clincher: Assembled
largely from first takes, the
quartet’s effervescent sixth
studio album saw them discover
a perfect mix of flavours,
whisking baroque Euro-disco
and crunchy ’80s rock into
their uplifting, festival-friendly
choruses.
What They Say: “[This album]
embodies the true value of what
art should be, which is a world of
possibilities.” Thomas Mars
ED MILES

Key Track: J-Boy


RUPERT HOWE
ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

37. J HUS
COMMON SENSE
The Backstory: East London’s
Momodou Jallow, known to his
friends as Hus, built on the hype
of early YouTube freestyles and
his 2014 mixtape The 15th Day
and ended up releasing one of
the pop albums of the year.
The Clincher: Though Hus
is often bundled in with grime,
his approach to genre is far
less prescribed, and Common
Sense is a mostly joyful, always
earnest blend of everything
from garage to R&B to
classic hip-hop.
What They Say: “I’m like
everything you’ve heard
before, and nothing you’ve
heard before.”
Start making Sense: Key Track: Did You See
J Hus – “like nothing
you’ve heard before”. REBECCA NICHOLSON

36. ELBOW 35. KASABIAN 34. SUSANNE 33. JOAN


LITTLE FICTIONS FOR CRYING OUT LOUD SUNDFØR SHELLEY
The Backstory: A man down The Backstory: Following MUSIC FOR PEOPLE JOAN SHELLEY
after the departure of drummer the more electronic-oriented IN TROUBLE The Backstory: Exceptional
Richard Jupp, the Mancunian 48:13, Serge Pizzorno set out The Backstory: Rattled by Louisville country singer teams
quartet rallied themselves to make a set of chaff-free, depression and anxiety, the up with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy
around lovestruck Guy Garvey’s pop-friendly bangers. Norwegian singer ditched the (he produces) to create her
lyrics about romance and The Clincher: Going straight for electro-pop of 2015’s Ten Love most beautiful album to date.
impending fatherhood. the massive chorus/bit where Songs for a dreamier and more The Clincher: Recorded live,
The Clincher: Little Fictions you can wave your hands in dramatic acoustic sound. it’s sparse and unhurried
set aside Elbow’s knack for the air jugular, Kasabian’s The Clincher: It deals with The throughout, an album devoid
big singalongs in favour of sixth album delivered. Fun Big Stuff (drone-led conflicts, of anything superfluous either
hushed grooves and songs that and frequently outright silly, our place in the mystery of the musically or lyrically but
kept the bombast on a leash. it’s the most consistently universe) and the personal still vibrates with a deep
A gently uplifting record that enjoyable set of songs of the (see No One Believes In Love emotional force.
gets under your skin with band’s career. Anymore) with real beauty What They Say: “The space is
repeated listens. What They Say: “There’s so and delicacy. the most important thing. The
What They Say: “Life is about much comedy in what we do. What They Say: “I wanted to space in between the words, the
the way you touch people’s We’re psychedelic kids from take the pulse of living today. timing of the words: that space
lives. It’s how you exist forever.” Leicester.” Serge Pizzorno I sensed a lot of uneasiness in is the thing that will allow you
Guy Garvey Key Track: You’re In Love the world.” to reach someone.”
Key Track: Trust The Sun With A Psycho Key Track: The Sound Of War Key Track: Where I’ll Find You
NIALL DOHERTY CHRIS CATCHPOLE TOM DOYLE JAMES OLDHAM

64 JANUARY 2018
32. NADIA REID 31. BRIAN ENO 30. BECK 29. EVERYTHING
PRE SERVATION REFLECTION COLORS EVERYTHING
The Backstory: The follow-up The Backstory: On New Year’s The Backstory: After the A FEVER DREAM
to 2015’s lovelorn Listen To day, the nation’s favourite plaintive folk of 2013’s Morning The Backstory: After the
Formation, Look For The Signs cultural polymath released Phase, Beck turned his attention intense creation of 2015’s Get
showed the 26-year-old New his 26th solo studio album. to a kaleidoscopic pop record. To Heaven, Manchester’s indie
Zealander stretching out her The Clincher: This “generative”, But, with two years having experimentalists found a way to
songwriting skills, deepening one-track ambient piece passed since its first single, both harness the gloom and
and darkening her folk-rock harked back to the minimalist would he ever get round to sleep soundly at night.
storytelling. experiments Eno began with finishing it? The Clincher: Frontman
The Clincher: These newly 1975’s Discreet Music. But its The Clincher: It was worth the Jonathan Higgs perfects his role
defiant songs dissected immersive thrum, replete with wait. This is Beck’s most buoyant as perplexed social commentator
relationship fall-out with a clear atmospheric whirrs and whistles, collection of songs in years, to make the quartet’s most
eye and a steady stare, each one sounded thoroughly modern – catchy earworms distilled coherent album yet. It’s a potent
revealing the quiet power and making Reflection his most through modern, slick mix of electronic warmth, spiky
ANDREW WHITTON, ANDREW COTTERILL

slow-release emotion in Reid’s pensive, absorbing moodscape pop production. guitars and twisted hooks.
voice and arrangements. in over two decades. What They Say: “It’s not What They Say: “We’ve written
What They Say: “It can be a What They Say: “It seems retro and not modern. To sit more together on this album
difficult listen sometimes but to create a psychological everything together so it doesn’t than ever before. We just seem
I really think it can be healing space that encourages sound like a huge mess was quite to be churning out the hits now.”
to hear that kind of stuff.” internal conversation.” an undertaking.” Jonathan Higgs
Key Track: Richard Key Track: Reflection Key Track: Colors Key Track: A Fever Dream
VICTORIA SEGAL SIMON McEWEN NIALL DOHERTY NIALL DOHERTY

“Their most
coherent
album yet”:
Everything
Everything
slide forwards.
MUNA
Just what was it about radically
political feminists Muna that grabbed
the attention of superstar heartthrob
Harry Styles? Laura Snapes joins
Styles’s US tour to find out how his
favourite support act are enjoying it.
8 N O

R AC H A E L W R IGH T
PHO T O GR A PH S:
The Clincher: Soaring,
euphoric pop that delves
into dark places and comes
out with something to
hope for.
What They Say: “I like
to find emotional spaces
that feel like they haven’t
been explored by the
MUNA pop terrain. People
ABOUT U talk about love all the
The Backstory: time… but there are a
Three university friends lot of parts about it that
accidentally recorded [they] don’t cover because
a pop song one day they seem too complex.”
and went on to create a Katie Gavin
warm, inclusive brand Key Track: I Know A Place
of synth-y heartache. KATE SOLOMON

wo paper signs are


pinned to the back
door of Irving, Texas’s
Toyota Music Factory
on a bright but chilly
Tuesday afternoon in
early October. One
depicts two wily
teenage girls who are
not allowed in the
building under any
circumstances. The
other is a shot of the former boy-band
star headlining tonight, indicating that
he does not, under any circumstances,
require an access pass. Those passes bear
the edict “TREAT PEOPLE WITH
KINDNESS”, a cultish mantra that
appears on crew members’ lanyards
and gig merchandise.
These are the only rules in an
otherwise absurdly friendly environment
that seems incongruous to one of the
year’s biggest pop tours (albeit one that
takes place in purposefully intimate
venues). There’s no booze, egos or bad
behaviour. Beneath those paper signs,
two security guards chat about church.
Upstairs at catering, the world’s most
lusted-after boy is sitting on the knee of
a girl with a severe punk haircut.
He is Harry Styles, resplendent in a
tropical shirt. She is Katie Gavin, singer
in the LA-based pop trio Muna, the
support for Styles’s debut headline tour.
Alongside Muna multi-instrumentalists
Naomi McPherson and Josette Maskin,
they’re discussing the joy of bagels and
wondering why band chat always gets
scatological. “I hope you’re getting all
this,” Styles gestures at Q as Maskin,
choking with laughter, confesses that
he almost walked in on her mid-shit
earlier in the tour.
This easygoing scene conceals the
chasm between the two acts. He is a
“We know we’re f**king good”: heartthrob trying to make his name as an
Muna (from left) Naomi McPherson, artiste without alienating One Direction’s
Josette Maskin and Katie Gavin, devoted teen girl audience. They are a
Austin, Texas, 11 October, 2017. radically political, hyper-academic
group of queer feminists who behave like a DIY act despite also being Muna think deeply about their obligation to Styles’s fans. On the
signed to Columbia/RCA and sounding like Depeche Mode playing first night, in San Francisco, Gavin gave a speech about taking them
Fleetwood Mac. Styles wears flamboyant custom-made Gucci suits “from the world of your everyday life to the world where all your
onstage. Two of Muna sleep together each night to save money. dreams become real,” she recounts in a mystic voice post-show.
The tour is a huge commercial opportunity for Muna, but equally She’s stopped doing it, but feels a heavy respect for their experience.
great branding for Styles. Gavin sings explicitly about sexual assault, “I wanted to be shamanic, guiding them on their trip, because I do see
emotional abuse and sanctuary, songs that grow in resonance with girls coming down from being in a room with him. It’s no fucking joke.”
each passing week – Irving comes a few days after the Vegas shooting This conscious approach is typical of Muna, who take their
and during the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Meanwhile, Styles’s LGBTQ mission seriously. Though not themselves, thankfully: Maskin, 23,
fans have adopted him as a gay icon thanks to his feminine aesthetic, is a cartoon-voiced goof, McPherson, 24, a no-nonsense hippy. Even
some broad statements about inclusivity and a willingness to dance cautious Gavin, 24, sends up her own seriousness. They’re enjoyably
with rainbow flags. Having Muna as his support stokes this reputation, cocky, because “we know we’re fucking good,” says McPherson, but
which isn’t lost on these three diligent over-thinkers. also as a way of elevating each other. “If you ask me how to value
myself on a day-to-day basis, it’s a shit-show,” says Katie. “But I know

I
nside the Toyota Music Factory, bored dads in real cowboy how to value them.”
hats (not the glittery pink pop show staples) sit reading
their phones. Onstage, Muna look like Regency goths in una met at the University Of Southern California.
lavish white frills and black pinstripes, Gavin extending Maskin and McPherson were more into
a lacy sleeve to the screaming front row. Usually they experimental prog, but at their first jam session,
wouldn’t play their song Everything in such a short set, Gavin told them they were going to be a pop band,
but felt its obsessive theme was appropriate. and that she was going to write lyrics about things
Their euphoric closer, I Know A Place, was written in that weren’t usually covered in pop songs. An
2015 as an LGBTQ anthem. The lyrics console a friend A&R at RCA in the US heard a SoundCloud demo
recovering from trauma by suggesting that they go dancing of Loudspeaker in September 2015, flew them out
in a safe space. Muna released it in late 2016 when it took on a starker to New York and signed them a month later.
resonance in the wake of the shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, McPherson produced their debut album,
as it has again this week post-Vegas. McPherson introduces it with a About U, released this February.
tribute to the crowd. “In this day and age, it does take a lot of courage to It’s hard to think of another pop lyricist like Gavin. You could take
come to a show, which is such a sad thing,” she says. “But I know there’s Crying On The Bathroom Floor as a break-up track, or, as Muna said
a lot of disenfranchised people in this building – queer people, people around its release, as an exploration of “traumatic bonding”, aka
of colour – so look at what a beautiful space you’ve created tonight.” Stockholm syndrome (incidentally, the name of a One Direction track
in Styles’s set that is definitely not about the same
“We knew there thing). Loudspeaker celebrates the power of speaking
out about sexual abuse, “but you can listen to that
was something and be like, ‘Let me fucking dance!’” says Maskin.
“Or, I Know A Place: It’s the club, bitch! Party!”
special about this “We’re not making music saying, ‘Fuck
combination of Republicans,’” says McPherson. “It’s not about
them. We can’t just say, ‘Fuck all these fuckin’
people. What we shitty people who don’t agree with me, I’m going
to go to my liberal cave.’ It’s obviously not fucking
didn’t know was us working for [society].”
being queer women Muna’s Twitter functions more like a summary
of social justice issues than a promo tool. But they
who talk about debate whether they initially intended to be
political. Maskin suggests that McPherson saw
things in certain Muna as an extension of her dissertation on female
ways would be a big rappers using the mainstream to create social
change. “We knew there was something special
deal.” Katie Gavin about this combination of people,” adds Gavin.
“I think what we didn’t know was the fact that us
being queer women who talk about things in certain ways was gonna
be a big deal. We weren’t aware of the way that our narrative was going
to fit into a more national, or even global narrative.”
They admit to feeling desensitised to the events that have made
their music feel more relevant in recent weeks. A less scrupulous
band might take advantage of this significance, but it leaves Muna
conflicted. “That’s the difficult thing about being ‘political’ and being
an artist in an era where everything is just clickbait, ultimately,” says
McPherson. “I feel like in a lot of ways our identities have snowballed
out of control, and become just bait for people to click on an article.
It’s weird to be a ‘political artist’ while also being seen as an artist.
And not letting those things get the better of you.”
It’s five minutes until Styles’s set. Maskin stays upstairs to keep
icing her bad knee, but Gavin and McPherson head down. Girls
approach them for hugs and selfies. At 9pm, a spotlight on a pink floral
curtain covering the stage picks out Styles’s silhouette, and 3000
United front: Muna, mobile phones catch the moment when it drops. Later in the set, fans
Austin, Texas,
11 October, 2017.
Lone star power: (clockwise from
left) gearing up in Austin; backstage
in Irving’s Music Factory, Texas;
Harry Styles’s “TREAT PEOPLE
WITH KINDNESS” access pass and
ALBUMS OF THE YEAR
instructions on the man himself;
“elevating each other” in Irving.

hold pink paper hearts


in front of their phone
torches, giving the room
a rosy glow – part of a
forum-initiated project.
Styles mocks the rare
blokes standing with their
arms folded, and runs
around with a rainbow
flag thrown onstage.
“I could not feel more
honoured to perform in front
of a group of strong women,”
he says before closing with
Sign Of The Times. Then he’s They consider SXSW 2016 the moment the band was truly born,
bundled into a 4x4, though fans so tonight in Austin brings them full circle from that do-or-die
patrol the back door for hours, moment. The urgency of making the band work was also to keep
convinced he’s still inside. McPherson from moving back to San Diego after college. Even now,
on a huge pop tour, on a major label, Muna struggle to break even.

O
n Wednesday morning, Muna convene for a healthy They’re squeezing in small headline shows between Styles dates and
breakfast before the three-hour drive to the next date McPherson will soon move in with Maskin and her parents.
in Austin, Texas. Tour manager and drummer Scott “Only in the last six months has it felt like we’re a professional
Heiner is filming bassist Brian Jones recording a band, this is what we do for a living,” says Maskin. “It’s a more mature
freestyle rap about police brutality in the strip mall car version, it’s not as anxious…”
park. McPherson and Maskin, bored of waiting for their “Speak for yourself!” McPherson sighs, though admits that this
nutritious orders, dispatch Gavin for bagels. Queuing in tour “was an opportunity to take ourselves more seriously.”
the strip mall Starbucks, she says she hasn’t drunk for The van sails down I-35, eventually stopping for tacos in Austin.
almost three months, and that Muna mostly tour sober. Muna are getting colds and lay down once they arrive at The Moody
They learned their lesson at last year’s SXSW, when Theatre. Tonight’s show is standing, so fans have been camping at the
Gavin lost her voice thanks to free beer and her amateur singing front of the queue for a week, planting a rainbow flag in the concrete.
technique. She contemplated quitting, but Heiner told her the band As queer women, Muna weren’t deterred by accusations of
would die if she did. So she persisted. “I’m really proud of myself,” “queerbaiting” that have followed Styles – adopting a sexually
she says, as another girl in a Styles shirt requests a photo. ambiguous aesthetic to ensnare LGBTQ fans. “I think one way of
Muna get in the van and head down the long, straight highway. seeing what he’s doing is that he’s offering an opportunity for a new
After 18 months on the road, the sight of horned cattle and anti- expression of masculinity,” says Gavin. They also share his admiration
abortion billboards holds no interest. Gavin and Maskin read, for his empowered female fans. “Now you’re in an era where young
and McPherson works on their next album, which she’ll produce. women are not only woke, but also some of the only people paying for
“I’m doing something so legendary right now,” she tells Maskin. your music, you can’t be a dickhead,” says McPherson.

JANUARY 2018 69
ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

Bloom, shake the room:


(above) Muna, The Moody
Theatre, Austin, Texas,
October, 2017; (below) the
“woke” faithful in Austin.

Unlike most pop stars would, Styles hasn’t been talking up the
“KINDNESS” branding. “I really respect this whole establishment
that he has created more than I thought I would,” says Maskin. “The
behaviour of everyone who works for him is immaculate. It’s so
important to do what you actually fucking say, and that’s what I keep
thinking about in terms of us being an ally and an activist.”
For Muna, part of that means rejecting the hierarchy of fandom.
“I’m really hopeful that we’ll be able to do something a little bit
differently,” says Gavin. “I want to set up spaces for us to have real
conversations with our fans, not just Twitter or a meet’n’greet.
I just want to destroy the chances for them to put us on a podium.”

A
s the Austin show coincides with International Day politicisation – in senior school she had an account on Tumblr, a social
Of The Girl and National Coming Out Day, tonight media site where millennials dissect social justice and fandom. “I
fans display rainbow hearts. They wave them think everyone’s minds are open to academia being integrated into pop
during Muna’s set, where despite the band’s culture and seeing things through a critical lens,” she says. “We wanna
encroaching colds, they give it even more than last understand what the fuck is going on because it is so confusing and
night. Fortunately, they get a few days off after this; terrifying and you wanna know why you’re so fucking sad all the time!”
Styles is there to hug them at the end. “To see the Muna are often asked why they use pop for their message, but
energy between the audience and Muna every night confess that they don’t really enjoy much punk music and rail against
has been amazing,” he says by email a week later. pop snobbery. “People love to hate what feels good!” says Maskin.
(As friendly as the vibe is backstage, pointing a Right on time, a pre-show Styles, in a pink flared suit, starts dancing to
Dictaphone at Styles is verboten, and my questions on why he exactly Hot Chocolate’s Every 1’s A Winner outside his dressing room.
picked Muna, and how his shows became an LGBTQ-friendly space, Watching him has emboldened Muna as performers. “It’s not gonna
go unanswered.) “They fill the crowd with love, and everyone in the be an overnight change for us,” says Gavin. “It’s such a delicate dance
crowd, including me, loves them right back.” of your body feeling good and authentic, and not making a mockery
It’s worth considering how pop music has become a vehicle for out of the whole performance. But we’re also trying something new.”
activism again, more than three decades after Bronski Beat, Live Aid Despite the differences in resources, perhaps Muna and Styles
and other ’80s causes célèbres. Ariana Grande’s One Last Time became aren’t so far apart. They’re both clinging to their identities when
an unwitting anthem after a terrorist attacked her Manchester there are far easier routes to success and establishing a new way of
show. Acts like Years & Years are far more radical than their indie functioning. For Styles, it means showing his fans of all creeds that
counterparts. Styles is no political firebrand, but his presence has they’re as worthy of adoration and respect as they think he is. For
awakened something within his fans that Muna could catalyse. Muna, it’s outgrowing the clickbait era so they can reach their creative,
McPherson wonders if the internet is responsible for pop’s ethical and commercial ambitions, and endure. Two of a kind.

“I think everyone’s minds are open to academia being integrated into


pop culture. We wanna understand what the f**k is going on and
you wanna know why you’re so sad all the time!” Naomi McPherson
70 JANUARY 2018
That’s
entertainment:
Paul Weller’s
purple patch
continues.

27. SZA 26. SPARKS


CTRL HIPPOPOTAMUS
The Backstory: Big-name The Backstory: Inspired by
co-writes and well-received EPs their recent Franz Ferdinand
didn’t make getting this hazy, collaboration, the Mael brothers
winding debut album out any went into their first Sparks-
easier for SZA (aka Solána oriented project since 2009,
Rowe). After a year of delays she their first major label release
nearly quit music altogether. since 1994 and the first to reach
The Clincher: A dreamy R&B the Top 10 since 1974.
record to rival Frank Ocean for The Clincher: With Ron’s
tender self-examination, SZA’s symphonic arrangements,
relatable lyrics are like a series Russell’s heavenly falsetto and
of late-night WhatsApps the art-pop legends’ usual lyrical
between friends. wit, it is simply classic Sparks.
What They Say: “It’s What They Say: “We wanted
about peeling back layers an album that would excite
and honesty, even when it’s someone with no knowledge
ugly, when it hurts. Just kind of the band as much as a fan.”
of cleansing… Just being Russell Mael
more free.” Key Track: Edith Piaf (Said
Key Track: The Weekend It Better Than Me)
KATE SOLOMON SIMON PRICE

25. THUNDERCAT 24. PAUL


DRUNK WELLER
The Backstory: Extravagantly A KIND REVOLUTION
attired cat-lover and go-to bass The Backstory: Weller’s
wizard for Kendrick Lamar lets late-period purple patch was
his creative muse run free on now nearly a decade-long,
dazzling third album. would he drop the ball on his
The Clincher: A surreal, 13th solo album?
funkadelic fantasia which The Clincher: A resounding no.
played virtuoso riffs on Abandoning some of the SFX
addiction, racial politics and blips and pings of recent albums
feline-human relations – yet for a warm, live sound, A Kind
still found room for inspired Revolution’s magpie-eyed
guest appearances by ’80s yacht groove shuffled between Aladdin
rock legends Michael McDonald Sane-era Bowie (Nova), funk
and Kenny Loggins. (She Moves With The Fayre)
What They Say: “I wanted to and a Balearic disco duet with
convey a feeling, a reality, and Boy George (One Tear).
an idea. I wanted to express the What They Say: “I still have
feeling of now, what it means this mad, impossible idea that
to be a person now.” music can make a difference.”
ALEX LAKE

Key Track: Show You The Way Key Track: Hopper


RUPERT HOWE CHRIS CATCHPOLE
NO
PHO T O GR A PH S:
GU Y E PPE L

The War On Drugs’ mastermind Adam Granduciel


believes that making music is like a religious
calling. Dave Everley joins the band on tour in
Canada to hear how his faith was tested in the
creation of A Deeper Understanding.
FOR ADAM GRANDUCIEL, THE best thing about the last 12 months is that
A DEEPER hey have been free of pain. When he says this, he’s not referring to the kind of existential
UNDERSTANDING orment that could come with the burden of single-handedly dragging a band from the
The Backstory: Major label furthest fringes of the indie rock scene to the American heartland. Though he’s experienced
debut for Adam Granduciel his share of that in the past. No, he means literal physical pain, of the kind that can floor
after years of relative a grown man.
obscurity ended with 2014’s For the last three or four years, The War On Drugs’ mastermind has been plagued by a
Lost In The Dream. chronic back problem. It started out as a bulging disc, but the endless distractions of life in a
The Clincher: Granduciel band – making records, playing live, generally being consumed by thoughts of music – meant
made his psychedelic t gradually escalated from annoying to debilitating. By last October, when he was trying to
drivetime rock lusher, and complete his band’s fourth album, A Deeper Understanding, the agony was unbearable.
more confessional, detailing “It was bad, bad, bad, bad, bad,” he says, wincing at the memory. He’s reclining on
his paranoia and rejections in a dressing room sofa backstage at Toronto’s Massey Hall. A yoga mat that he uses for
love. In the end, though, A stretching exercises lies on the floor. “I was in pain all the time. I couldn’t sit in a chair
Deeper Understanding was for more than a couple of minutes. I couldn’t stand and hold a guitar for more than a
all about the joy in revelation. minute. I was eight months into making the record and I had to get it fixed or I wouldn’t
What They Say: “I kept have been able to get it done.” He gives the impression that this would be a personal
thinking of this three- doomsday scenario.
dimensional sound to the Granduciel finally had surgery in November 2016. He gave himself the remainder of
band. I was hovering above he year to recuperate and undergo physical therapy. Then he threw himself back into
this weird, spinning thing.” work. “That’s when I knew I could truly finish the record,” he says. “Because I wasn’t in
Key Track: Thinking Of pain any more.”
A Place His ordeal partly inspired the song Pain from A Deeper Understanding. But then putting
TOM DOYLE The War On Drugs before his physical and mental well-being is a very Adam

JANUARY 2018 73
“I want to make records with the
ALBUMS OF THE YEAR grandiosity that I see when I watch
documentaries about my favourite
albums.” Adam Granduciel

Granduciel thing to do. A few years ago he pushed himself to the Hurrica lbum the Toronto-born icon recorded at
verge of a nervous breakdown while making the band’s breakthrough this ven
album, Lost In A Dream. Qm e the second show. Granduciel is a little on
The 38-year-old approaches music as a religious calling, viewing the cran y’ve been on the road for a month – this is
songwriting as “a code to be cracked”. If that’s at the expense of their fifth gig in six days and everyone’s tired. The singer’s parents
everything else, then so be it. Yet despite evidence to the contrary, were in town for the first night and he wanted to catch up with them
he scoffs at the idea that he’s a tortured artist. He settles, grudgingly, for dinner before they flew back home, but the more onerous duties of
for “workaholic”. band life – soundcheck, photos, interview – have scuppered his plans.
“I love doing this, as exhausting as it may be,” he says. “Is it He walks briskly to the needle-strewn alley at the side of the venue
healthy? I dunno. I guess the point is that I made a decision for this to where the band are having their picture taken, then strides equally
consume my life. That’s my burden.” briskly back to the safety of the dressing room when it’s done – with
little in the way of small talk (happily, he’s more relaxed by the time
umps in the road aside, that burden seems to be we sit down to speak).
working out well for Granduciel. Like Lost In A Granduciel isn’t the cosmic slacker The War On Drugs’ music
Dream – Q’s Album Of The Year back in 2014 – might suggest. He speaks quickly, with the verbal snap of a Philly
A Deeper Understanding has been garlanded barman, though with his lank hair and plaid shirt he looks like he
with acclaim. It continues the band’s languid drift belongs behind the counter of a second-hand record store. He cut
towards the centre ground, although the connective out drinking and drugs a few years ago, after the trials of making
tissue that links the frontman’s chief influences – Lost In A Dream.
underground noise, psych-pop, the big beasts Bassist Dave Hartley has been Granduciel’s right-hand man
of American heartland rock – remains. since the mid-’00s and the only other constant member of The War
The tour in support of the album has brought On Drugs during that time. The pair met in Philadelphia after the
them to Canada. Over the next two nights, they will play a pair of Massachusetts-born Granduciel moved back East following a
brilliantly freewheeling shows at Massey Hall, an airy redbrick theatre year-long stint in Oakland, where he dabbled unsuccessfully in
with an ambience best described as “peeling”. Ever the music geeks, the visual arts.
they round the first show off with a cover of Neil Young’s Like A Hartley describes the 20-something Granduciel as “kind of a mess,

74 JANUARY 2018
Canada high: (clockwise from left)
The War On Drugs, Massey Hall,
Toronto, 21 October, 2017; the
benevolent dictator backstage with
the band; drummer Charlie Hall
hits the on-tour vinyl collection.

but an inspiring one”. The bassist remembers his bandmate living in


a “dilapidated squat of a house that looked like what you’d imagine
Andy Warhol’s Factory would look like.” He spent much of his time
avoiding the bill collectors who turned up at his door. What money
he did scrape together would be spent on guitars.
“I was no different to anybody else at the same age,” says
Granduciel. “Who isn’t going out five nights a week, struggling to
make rent, getting the electricity cut off at the age of 24? I never had
any problems with drugs or alcohol or anything. I was just a guy who
was really inspired to be creative.”
The creativity has manifested itself in a distinctive way. The band’s
first album, 2008’s Wagonwheel Blues, was a collaboration between
Granduciel and then-musical partner Kurt Vile. When Vile left to
pursue a solo career soon afterwards, Granduciel assumed complete
creative control. The role of singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist,
musical director, co-producer – benevolent dictator, effectively – has
been set in stone ever since. Granduciel himself has even said that
every War On Drugs album “has been a solo record.”

H
“I’ve never said I can make a great record by myself,” he counters. e says this with the benefit of hindsight, but the
“When I say they’re solo records, I mean that the most important exhaustion and complication and confusion have
thing is how I connect to the material, the arrangements, what the got the better of him in the past. While he was
record is all about.” recording Lost In A Dream, Granduciel began to
It’s a situation the rest of the band seem entirely happy with. suffer from crippling panic attacks. He’d had
“There’s a black box thing where nobody knows what Adam’s vision is sporadic periods of anxiety while he was growing
except Adam,” says Hartley. “Everything is 110 per cent his, there’s up, though he never really knew what was
nobody touching the steering wheel. It only works because he’s so happening. “I didn’t know how to communicate it,
good. If his vision wasn’t so pure, it wouldn’t work.” so I kept it pretty private,” he says.
You can tell a lot about Granduciel, and by extension The War On He can pinpoint exactly when he suffered his
Drugs, by looking at his vinyl collection. Not so much the contents – first major attack. It was just before he was due to go into the studio
Dylan, Springsteen, Neil Young are all there, along with the Bee Gees’ for the first recording sessions for Lost In The Dream, the day after
Odessa, AC/DC’s Powerage and ABBA’s The Visitors. It’s more the fact his birthday. He’d jointly marked both occasions by inviting his
that they’ve taken the trouble to pack a couple of hundred LPs into bandmates over to his house for a booze-fuelled jam session.
sturdy metal cases and bring them along for the ride. They sit perched “We ended the night at a bar near Dave’s house,” he remembers.
on a table in the band’s dressing room, next to a portable turntable. “I was having a strong margarita or two, and I was standing on a chair
Granduciel freely admits he’s a music nerd, although his passion explaining why I was captain of my block. It was the greatest feeling.
goes deeper than merely hoarding plastic. He’s as much a historian as And the next morning, I woke up and it was like a switch had flipped.”
a fan, and not oblivious to the fact his band are spoken about as part of His heart was beating faster than it should have been, he was
the lineage of Great American Rock Acts. In fact, there’s a distinct unable to focus. Rather than abating, it got worse. The feeling of panic
sense that it’s a big part of what he’s shooting for. continued non-stop for days, weeks, months. He was spiralling into
“Sure, I hope that we’re part of that,” he says. “I want to make an anxiety-led depression, and it was taking its toll. His state of mind
records with the grandiosity that I see when I watch documentaries wasn’t helped by the fact he’d just come off a lengthy period of touring
about my favourite albums. I hope that people are talking about the the band’s previous album, 2011’s Slave Ambient, and broken up with
records in 20 years and telling stories about the recording process and a long-term girlfriend at the same time.
the camaraderie and the ups and downs. Making a record is a journey. “I never experienced that level of despair in my life, ever,” he says.
I want it to be hard. I want it to be exhausting and complicated and “It was just consuming my life every day for six, seven, eight months.
confusing. And yeah, I want it to mean something in the end.” When you taste those waves of despair, it’s frightening. You

JANUARY 2018 75
become a prisoner to it. You can’t sleep because you’re worried. show, you don’t realise it’s been 12 years in the making. It takes a lot of
You can’t even leave the house.” work to hold on and be passionate for that long, to go through so many
His bandmates were understandably concerned. “He was so close things to make it happen.”
to the edge,” says Hartley. “He was fracturing, mentally. He went A wry grin. “It kind of makes what I do look easy.”
through a phase where he was only drinking things he’d made in a
juicer. There was maybe a little bit of mania in there, rolling panic n fairness, Granduciel himself makes what he does look
attacks. He put so much pressure on himself to make that record.” easy, at least up onstage. The two Massey Hall shows are
At Hartley’s urging, Granduciel underwent a year-long course of pitched somewhere between soft-rock luxuriance and
cognitive behavioural therapy, which helped him get to the root of his trans-dimensional blow-out, a combination so effective
problems. That, together with the success of Lost In A Dream, put him and all-enveloping you wonder why no one’s done it before.
in a much healthier place. These days, he manages his anxiety in part The absence of rough edges in Thinking Of A Place and the
by avoiding alcohol and drugs. “Managing it is the perfect term,” he Springsteen-goes-Krautrock Holding On are deliberate –
says. “You have to, otherwise you just end up back… there.” part of the reason for The War On Drugs’ success is that
Physically, the process of making A Deeper Understanding was no they offer a salve in these troubled times.
less intense than its predecessor. Granduciel rented a studio in LA last Granduciel himself is literally at the centre of things.
year, and his bandmates flew out to him once every few weeks for short, The band are arranged around him in a semi-circle, waiting for his cue
10-day bursts of recording. But this time it was more collaborative, and to start the next song, or to step Under The Pressure into the next gear.
the frontman made sure he didn’t tie himself up in mental knots. “Now “I would never have thought this when I first met him, but he’s a
I think he’s had his vision validated on such a scale, he doesn’t need to really gifted leader,” Dave Hartley says. “He’s very demanding. He
put himself through what he did,” says Hartley. wants you to work your fucking ass off. But then he works his ass off
It helps that Granduciel has romantic stability in his life once again. too. Nobody’s bristling under his regime. We’re all faithful followers.”
Since 2014, he’s been in a relationship with actress Krysten Ritter, star The benevolent dictator himself is already contemplating what
of Netflix TV series Jessica Jones and Breaking Bad. Ritter conceived comes next for The War On Drugs. “I’m thinking of something more
the sweetly melancholic video for this year’s Holding On single, which intimate and direct,” Granduciel says of what the band’s fifth album
found Granduciel trying his hand at acting alongside The Wire’s might sound like. Tellingly, he’s also pondering what he calls the
Frankie Faison, an experience he says he’s in no hurry to repeat. “veer-off” – that point in every band’s career when they suddenly
Part of the reason he moved to LA was to spend more time with find themselves taking a wrong turn, heading off on bumpier roads.
Ritter. At the start of this year, they made the return journey across “What’s the first exit we take?” he says. “The lost years. Dylan had
the country when her work took her to New York. Theirs is about as them, Bruce had them. I’m just wondering how we can avoid them.”
low-key as celebrity relationships get. He politely laughs off The look on his face suggests he isn’t quite sure if they will. He
suggestions that they could become the Kanye West and Kim knows from experience that no worthwhile journey is without its
Kardashian of American rock if they put their minds to it. pain. It’s all part of the burden.
“We just do our thing,” he says. “Krysten works
ridiculously hard, she’s got a million things “I would never have thought this when
happening. In her world, there’s a big hustle going
on. When you hear about this movie or this TV I first met him, but Adam’s a gifted leader.
Nobody’s bristling under his regime.
We’re all faithful followers.” Dave Hartley

The war on rugs, more


like! The band, featuring
long-time member
Dave Hartley (second
left), Toronto, 2017.

76 JANUARY 2018
NO JANE ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

WEAVER The Clincher: Synth-futurism,


space-rock drive and a heavy
shot of occult ectoplasm: it’s a
formula that sent Weaver’s
“Synth-futurism,
space-rock drive”:
Jane Weaver hits
the kosmic heights.

songs spinning into the far-out


blue. Can’s Malcolm Mooney
even appears on Ravenspoint for
added Krautock gravitas.
What They Say: “I’ve always
been searching for a bit
MODERN KOSMOLOGY of the cosmos.”
The Backstory: After shedding Key Track: The
her indie-rock and folktronica Lightning Back
incarnations, the Manchester- VICTORIA SEGAL
based singer-songwriter hit a
shiny new evolutionary plane
with the kosmische follow-up
to 2014’s The Silver Globe.

HER MUSIC MAY BE OTHERWORLDLY, BUT HER FEET ARE MOST DEFINITELY ON THE GROUND.
What’s been your highlight of the year? much self-imposed stress! I feel like limbo situation [with Brexit] and it’s
We did a gig with Goat that was really good I’m having a meltdown. something I really don’t want. It’s very
– they’re a fun band but I’ve never actually Did Modern Kosmology come easily odd – and also all the war stuff that’s
met any of them because they want to be or was it a struggle? going on. How can you not be affected
anonymous. I did spot the odd girl going to It was kind of a struggle because I wasn’t by that in some way?
the toilet and I thought, “Ooh, you look like sure where it was going to begin with. I had Did you make any New Year’s
a dancer.” I suppose the real highlight is this weird fate situation when I stumbled resolutions?
releasing an album, though. I’m grateful across an artist called Hilma af Klint, I’m always trying to be more mindful and
that I’m in the position to do it. It’s an she was a mystic and a painter. I was so more positive – and I want more studio
amazing thing. obsessed with her and delving into that time next year! That’s probably a resolution
What about the lowlight? world that it then carried me for the rest of I’ll make: get back in the studio.
I never enjoy the bit just before you finish the process. It’s great to stumble across If you had to give 2017 a mark out of 10,
an album. I don’t like people to hear stuff something like that which speaks to you. what would it be?
8/10. It’s been alright! Everything’s good,
REBECCA LUPTON

until it’s more or less finished and I don’t Do you think the world’s turbulent
tend to finish my lyrics until the last minute political year affected your work? pretty grateful being able to do whatever.
– so I put myself in this terrible position, so Yeah, definitely. We’re still in this awful INTERVIEW BY KATE SOLOMON
N O

CIGARETTES
AFTER SEX
Greg Gonzalez was working in a New York cinema wondering where his life
was going when, in 2012, he noticed one of the songs he’d written under the
alias of Cigarettes After Sex had become a viral sensation. Laura Barton
meets him to learn how that fork in the road saved his life.
PHOTOGR A PH S: C OL I N L A N E

THERE WAS A WEEKEND two Octobers ago when Greg pace. “I had notifications on, so I was alerted to it,” recalls Gonzalez.
Gonzalez experienced his life change exponentially. That week he had “Out of nowhere I started getting emails saying, ‘Someone bought
uploaded a video to YouTube – a song named Affection, written and your record on Bandcamp’ or saying, ‘Someone subscribed to your
recorded by Cigarettes After Sex, the musical project he had pursued YouTube channel.’ And that went on for a week straight every
in various incarnations since second.” After a while he had
2008. It was, he felt, a fine song, o turn his notifications off.
worthy of a wide audience, but The Clincher: Drifting Gonzalez was 33 then,
Cigarettes After Sex had no real along like a heavily-sedated working at a cinema on
fanbase to speak of and no Mazzy Star, the combination New York’s Upper East Side,
record label. And although of twinkling atmospheres beginning to contemplate the
Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby, and frontman Greg dea that his music career might
a track from 2012 posted by an Gonzalez’s gorgeous, never really take off. Fearing
unknown fan, had mysteriously sleepy-eyed songs made it he was drifting, his parents
racked up 100,000 views, the difficult not to fall under urged him to take a proper job
band had little online presence, Cigarettes After Sex’s spell. managing a multiplex. Two of
save for an EP still for sale on CIGARETTES What They Say: “The his band members had recently
Bandcamp. Their live shows, AFTER SEX landscape that I wanted to announced they were leaving
meanwhile, playing the small CIGARETTE S AFTER SEX convey was a night-time he city. The sudden arrival
hipster venues of New York, The Backstory: Following a beach with a wildfire. Imagine of success, on the brink of
“were totally dead,” according well-received but low-key EP if you were there with friends mminent failure, proved quite
to Gonzalez. “There would be of noir-ish dream pop in 2012, and with someone that you’re overwhelming. “Lying in bed,
10 people, five people, less.” the Brooklyn-via-Texas outfit seeing.” Greg Gonzalez under the covers, looking at my
But that weekend views for replicated its twilight textures Key Track: K phone…” he remembers. “It led
Affection mysteriously gathered for their debut album. CHRIS CATCHPOLE me to tears. It was like

78 JANUARY 2018
“I would’ve killed
myself if I hadn’t had
music.” Greg Gonzalez “Goths? Us? How dare you!”:
Cigarettes After Sex (from left,
Jacob Tomsky, Randy Miller,
Greg Gonzalez, Phillip Tubbs)
New York, 8 October, 2017.
ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

“Anyone else feeling a little


bit Abbey Road right now?”:
Gonzalez and his new cohorts,
New York City, October, 2017.
my whole life flashed before my eyes – I had this deep recollection along and changes your viewpoint. Your mind changes and your
of everything up to that moment. All those relationships and people perspective is widened. And it’s the same thing with music – the first
that I’ve known that passed away, a whole long history before me. time you hear OK Computer or Kind Of Blue and you’re forever
You’re lying in wait for a moment like that your whole life and then changed. So that’s what film and music did for me – expanded my
it finally happens. It was probably one of the most emotional things imagination, extended my emotional depth.”
that ever happened to me.” Still, he found a force in music that film could not quite deliver.
Not even YouTube has been able to explain how or why “I guess music is the most immediate art form for me,” he explains.
Affection went viral – these things are, apparently, largely random “With a film it can take an hour and 30 minutes for it to give you that
events – unaccountable, unexplainable and prone to strange and emotional punch, but a song can do it in a minute, two minutes.”
unpredictable surges, such as the song’s sudden popularity in Poland Nevertheless, this marriage of music and visual image is a crucial
and India. But ever since, Cigarettes After Sex have continued to grow. component of Cigarettes After Sex. It’s there in the live show of
In a few short months the band found a manager, signed a record deal, course, but it’s also there in Gonzalez’s lyrics – words he works hard
recorded a debut album and headed off on a world tour. to make stand alone on the page.
After high school Gonzalez enrolled in a music composition course

O
n an autumn weekend this year, on pretty much at the University Of Texas with the intention of a career writing film
the anniversary of that first rush of success, they scores, but as a self-taught musician he soon bucked against the
headline two sold-out shows at rigours of an academic approach to music,
the Bowery Ballroom in New transferred briefly to philosophy, then
York. Their live shows are a “I’m writing dropped out. Still, if not an education, what
mesmerising experience, the
band performing almost eerily
because I have to. If his stint at the university had given him was
an introduction to a concrete stairwell that
immaculate versions of their
recorded songs, dressed all in
I didn’t I would be ran the height of the music building, four
long flights up “with this huge and echoey
black, beneath white lights, overwhelmed and I sound” that would play an integral role in
while behind them a screen shows excerpts the story of his band.
from some of Gonzalez’s favourite films: wouldn’t be happy. Gonzalez had begun writing and
Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Double Life Of recording as Cigarettes After Sex in 2008. It
Veronique, Eric Rohmer’s My Night At Maud’s, When you write and was a solo project then, and over the next few
Ingmar Bergman’s Summer With Monika.
The effect is deeply immersive, soft-focus and get feelings out that years moved through various musical phases
– electropop and ’80s new wave and then
dreamlike and tonight the audience is largely
reverential: they know every song, every word,
you didn’t know something “more like The Cure or Jesus And
Mary Chain or R.E.M.” Each time he recorded
every contour. When a small group of Saturday
night lushes strike up a conversation by the bar,
you had, that’s a songs, posted them online and then quickly
grew tired of them and took them down.
the crowd quickly hush them quiet. wonderful feeling.” In 2012, however, he wrote a run of
The next day before soundcheck, I meet six songs that he felt were in some way
Gonzalez at the One Mile House Bar next door Greg Gonzalez “unified… they were songs that felt like a new
to the Bowery. He is much as he appears onstage: band, like a new chapter.” He had at that
slender and gently-spoken, his manner perfectly open yet also neat and point rediscovered his love for Madonna, as well as Erasure and New
contained and considered. He drinks sparkling water and carries a Order’s Bizarre Love Triangle. “And I thought I want to write songs
rucksack, conducts himself as a man who has been preparing for this like this,” he says. Lyrically, too, he had found a kind of honesty he had
moment all his life and sure as hell isn’t going to blow it now. never allowed before. “And that was the distinction,” he explains.
Gonzalez grew up in El Paso, Texas, in a home where his mother “Let’s use these really shiny ’80s pop sounds, but I’ll talk about
liked Mariah Carey and his father played Nilsson, and his older introspective concepts. That was the slant on it – talk about my life,
brother’s record collection led him to Queen’s A Night At The talk about sexual things, just be more detailed. It felt like the right
Opera, and where for “a really short-lived second” he was a thing to do, but it felt dangerous because, honestly, even now there’s
teenage metalhead. “And it was all Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer stuff in the lyrics that if girls I was dating, girls I don’t talk to any more,
and death metal.” read them they would know it was about them. I think it’s kind of
He learned guitar early, took to it readily and soon “sick of metal sweet – just a little tap on the shoulder.”
and wanting to move on” he began exploring other types of music. More than just honest, these six songs were also Gonzalez’s way of
“Quite honestly, I started smoking pot when I was 14 and then that processing a deep sense of heartbreak. “I hit a point where things got
piqued my imagination in a way too,” he recalls. “I started listening to really heavy in 2012, and I learned a lot going through a lot of rough
bands like The Doors and Tool – bands that had drug influences, times,” he says. “I think I would’ve killed myself if I hadn’t had music,”
talking about stranger concepts.” He began making a little money he adds quietly, quickly, with his eyes on the barroom table. “It was
playing at wine bars and restaurants around town, performing jazz really cathartic. I’m writing because I have to do it. If I didn’t I would
standards and salsa and rock. “And I got into more modern pop music be overwhelmed and I wouldn’t be happy at all. When you write
and more avant-garde music and film soundtracks,” he says. “I had to go and you get feelings out that you didn’t know you had, that’s a
through so many phases to get to what I would consider an identity.” wonderful feeling.”
In his early years, Gonzalez’s father worked as an advisor for video Gonzalez decided that the concrete stairwell would be the perfect
rental stores and he recalls the cinematic education that seemed to place to record these heartbroken songs, placing each musician on a
run hand in hand with his musical explorations – the closet that held different floor – “the guitarist one level up, then the keyboard player,
maybe 600 VHS cassettes, the advance copies of Schindler’s List and and down the stairs was the drummer – really far away, no one could
Jurassic Park. Film and music were intermingling back then, he says. hear each other at all,” he explains. “It was a very bizarre experience,
“Film was influencing all of my philosophies and all my viewpoints but it made everyone play in a certain way. And, because it was very
and creative things,” he explains. “You’d see a film and it would change echoey in that stairway, it had an atmosphere to it and notes could get
you. I remember seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey when I was 14 and my lost, so we had to play very delicately and simply.”
imagination went to another level. The mystery that it had and just They recorded at night, which set a kind of precedent. “We only
what it achieved on an emotion level – it blew me away. A film comes record at night [now] and I’m pretty superstitious about

JANUARY 2018 81
Blue, Blue Moon by Elvis, “or the music of Erik
ALBUMS OF THE YEAR Satie where he’s playing one chord and it feels
like a minute goes by and then another chord.”

T
hose rules stayed intact last year
when the band came to record
The sweet smell their full-length LP – largely a
of success: Greg collection of songs written over
Gonzalez onstage, the previous five years. They
Bowery Ballroom, were, Gonzalez says, “trying to
New York City, get that spark again” – though
8 October, 2017. this time they recorded in a small
apartment in Brooklyn, far away
from the wide open spaces of
Texas, forced to turn inwards to find emotional, if
not physical, room. The sound he worked hard to
create had a dreamy, somnolent quality.
“It’s supposed to be deeply romantic and
deeply passionate and deeply melodic,” he says.
“It comes from a lot of pain, it comes from loss, it
comes from a lot of positivity. They’re romantic,
erotic ballads or, I like to say, X-rated lullabies.”
In recent months, Gonzalez has begun to
lessen his control freak qualities, weakening his
grip on every element of his band and its music.
Indeed, it’s only recently that Cigarettes After
Sex officially became a band rather than an
augmented solo project, appointing Phillip Tubbs
(keyboards), Jacob Tomsky (drums) and Randy
Miller (bass) as its official members. “Honestly,
I’m still getting used to it,” says Gonzalez,
“It’s supposed to be smiling. “It felt like I was dating forever – I kept
deeply romantic and deeply things very casual, because I was coming from a
gig background. So it wasn’t like, ‘We’re a band
that,” he says. “Night
is where you have that
melodic. It comes from a lot and we’re going to take over the world.’ It wasn’t
like we’re The Beatles, it was like Paul Simon and
relaxed feeling, more of pain, from loss, from a lot a backing band. And even when the band took off
space, just lighter, you I was like, ‘Well, I’m still leading it.’ But now it’s
have all the emotions of of positivity. They’re erotic locked-in, it’s like a committed relationship, and
the day and they finally I think it’s strong this way.”
sink in at night. And you ballads or X-rated He is even letting his songwriting grow a little
can use all that, you have
access to a bunch of lullabies.” Greg Gonzalez looser. Earlier this year in Spain, recording some
new tracks for their next LP, for the first time
emotions when you’re Gonzalez found himself improvising with his
writing and when you’re recording too. Plus, I wake up really late.” band. “Which is kind of like a fun game to me,” he laughs. “It’s
He took the recordings home and over the next few evenings something I’d done a long time ago, because I’m from a jazz
he drove around east El Paso listening to them on repeat; past the background, and actually I feel like I’ve written some of my best songs
strung-out runs of fast food restaurants, apartment buildings, quiet that quick, in a few minutes.” As a result, the new songs have found a
neighbourhoods, the sidewalks deserted, the roads quiet. “It just really different emotional quality. “Because it’s so rapid,” he explains. “But
had this deep mood to it,” he recalls, “listening to those songs over and I think there’s definitely an electricity to that.”
over again. It just took my mind to places. It felt that there was finally The lyrics, though, remain a solo endeavour – “alone, at night, with
something to it that I just couldn’t deny. There was some magic that just a candle and hot tea, maybe a little bit of whisky. They kind of take
was missing in the older stuff. You can’t even explain what that magic a second,” he says. “Because I kind of have to get into the memory,
is but it has that spark in it.” then I’ll start thinking about what the walls look like or what it felt like,
Space, distance, the night, a strong visual aesthetic, have all been or what someone’s voice sounded like or what they said, then I have to
integral to Cigarettes After Sex’s music. Gonzalez refers to himself paint a picture with the words, create a narrative and be careful what
repeatedly as a “control freak”, imposing rules on his writing and to leave in and what to leave out.”
recording. “I think what happened was that it was necessary for me to The memories come back to him in colour, he says, but it is in the
put restraints on the music because since I played so many styles it writing process that he re-casts them in black and white, makes them
could’ve been anything – it could’ve been jazz, avant-garde, it could’ve big-screen and cinematic. That night I think of this again as they take
been pop,” he explains. “But I made a mix CD of about 10 songs that to the stage once more at the Bowery Ballroom. The dark figures
I wanted the 2012 EP to sound like, and I put Cocteau Twins, Mazzy playing beneath the pale stage lights, the screen showing a slow loop
Star, Red House Painters, Françoise Hardy and Julee Cruise and even of monochromatic images: soft snowfall, a train, Harriet Andersson’s
Dylan’s Basement Tapes on there. And I liked the way that Cowboy face. “Black and white is more romantic,” Gonzalez told me. “People
Junkies recorded their record with just one mic in a church and they’re don’t think how much black and white film removes you from reality.
playing overnight and so I thought, ‘We’ll just do that’ – a few mics and It’s taking away what the natural world looks like and putting you into
play it live. I think those constraints were necessary, because for me, something different, into something more romantic.”
the best music has simplicity,” he says, naming as examples Kind Of Romantic and perhaps even erotic and X-rated.

82 JANUARY 2018
20. FOREST 19. DIZZEE
SWORDS RASCAL
COMPASSION RASK IT
The Backstory: Scouse sonic The Backstory: After burning
explorer Matthew Barnes out on dance-pop, Dizzee
reformatted the hazy electronic returned to the core elements
dub of excellent 2013 debut of beats and rhymes, recapturing
Engravings into glorious the spirit, if not the sound, of
CinemaScope for his second LP. his grime days.
The Clincher: Recorded with The Clincher: US hip-hop
digital and analogue equipment producers provide a sturdy
to blur the boundaries between platform for Dizzee’s most
“real and fake”, this thrillingly dextrous and thoughtful
intense protest record about lyrics yet. A breakneck history
communication (or lack lesson in the evolution of
thereof) dripped with ominous, London, grime and the
post-dubstep dread. man himself.
What They Say: “You can say What They Say: “I’m not going
quite a lot with an instrumental to chase pop hits. I wanted to
part that you maybe can’t say go back to being as honest “A history lesson
with language or lyrics.” with myself as possible.” in the evolution
Key Track: The Highest Flood Key Track: Space of grime”: Dizzee
Rascal gets back
SIMON McEWEN DORIAN LYNSKEY to the essentials.

18. FOUR TET 17. THE X X 16. GIRL RAY 15. LIAM
NEW ENERGY I SEE YOU EARL GREY GALLAGHER
The Backstory: In his restless The Backstory: In the five years The Backstory: The first AS YOU WERE
quest to find new sounds, Kieran since their last album, this most outing for this post A-level The Backstory: After two fairly
Hebden dipped back into his insular of groups has struggled North London trio was a unremarkable albums with
earlier, club-friendly work for with alcohol abuse (Oliver Sim), glorious infusion of teen Beady Eye, Liam Gallagher
ninth album New Energy. fallen in love (Romy Madley- melancholy, beautiful diction finally stepped into the ring
The Clincher: An expansive Croft) and launched a solo and C86 attitude, scented with as a solo artist.
and ambitious set that fused career (Jamie Smith). bergamot and a touch of Gorky’s The Clincher: With the help of
a dizzying breadth of styles, The Clincher: I See You rejected Zygotic Mynci prog ambition. a crack team of co-songwriters,
including early-Warp, trippy the monochrome palettes of its The Clincher: Songs that Liam tore through a knock-out
house, twinkling dulcimer, predecessors in favour of a far- hang out at the corner where set of lean rock’n’roll and
gamelan-like tones and beyond. reaching and even joyous sound. Orange Juice, The Shangri-Las, Lennon-style ballads. Delivering
Not only was New Energy From the brass of Dangerous to the Marine Girls and Syd his best vocals in nearly two
Hebden’s warmest record yet, On Hold’s Hall & Oates sample, Barrett meet? You’d be a fool decades, he reminded everyone
but also a masterwork which this is what you get when life to say no. that he’s still in possession of the
defined his peripatetic MO. finally happens to a band. What They Say: “It does go best larynx in music. It’s good to
What They Say: “I want to look What They Say: “We all off-piste sometimes, but mainly have him back.
back when I’m an old man and thought, ‘Let’s stop worrying. it’s just about love and loss.” What They Say: “I’m at my best
ANDREW WHITTON

have these records tell a story.” Let’s just make music.’” Poppy Hankin when someone gives me a tune.
Key Track: Two Thousand Romy Madley-Croft Key Track: Don’t Go Back ‘Give it here. I’ll fucking nail it.’”
And Seventeen Key Track: On Hold At Ten Key Track: I’ve All I Need
SIMON McEWEN DAVE EVERLEY VICTORIA SEGAL CHRIS CATCHPOLE

JANUARY 2018 83
NO
“Bruised beats,
lonely vocals”:

SAMPHA
Sampha flew
solo in style.

PROCE SS
The Backstory: After two EPs
and a string of sky-high-profile
collaborations – Drake, Kanye
West, Beyoncé, Frank Ocean –
the South London multi-tasker
finally stepped out on his
own terms.
The Clincher: The loss of his
mother hangs heavy over these
songs, but Sampha’s bruised beats,
exquisitely lonely vocals and
spare piano transform grief
into something beautiful.
What They Say: “I felt like
because I’d featured so much
on other people’s records, I really
just wanted to put across the
sense of me.”
Key Track: Blood On Me
VICTORIA SEGAL

HE SYMPATHISES WITH THE JUDGES, BUT SOMEONE’S GOT TO WIN THE MERCURY PRIZE.
Congratulations on making it into I thought, “Will I actually finish a record?” that way. It was quite challenging because
Q’s Albums Of The Year… It wasn’t really a priority of mine, to be I’m not really one to talk about that kind
Thanks. This year feels a bit dream-like. honest. Featuring on all these other of stuff even though I wrote the song.
All the places we’ve been and shows we’ve records wasn’t aimed at this bigger plan of I’m happy that I have that song as a
played, we had the album coming out… one day going solo. All the things that went document of my relationship with my
it’s been a good year. along with releasing an album put me off. mother. It’s like a photograph.
What have been the highlights for you? What changed? What other music have you been
It’s tricky to pull out some, but playing the It was just time. It’s no longer this big enjoying this year?
Roundhouse was cool. Obviously, winning scary thing. I felt I was emotionally stable The Moses Sumney album – that’s great.
the Mercury Prize was a highlight. enough to put myself out as a solo artist. Loyle Carner, Stormzy… it’s difficult. I’ll go
It’s been seven years since your first (No One Knows Me) Like The Piano off and think, “Ahh, I’ve been listening to
EP. You were then busy collaborating was written about the death of your that all year, why didn’t I say that!?”
with everyone from SBTRKT to Kanye mother. It felt like the song that people Do you have some sympathy for
West, did it ever feel like you’d never really connected to on the album… the Mercury judges now?
get around to making your own album? For me, it’s the central song [on the album]. Oh yeah, I don’t envy them!
I definitely went through a stage where I really felt the need to express myself in INTERVIEW BY CHRIS CATCHPOLE
ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

13. THE
HORRORS
V
The Backstory: Having moved
through garage-punk, Krautrock
and stadium-sized Big Music,
the ever-mutating quintet make
their poppiest album yet.
The Clincher: Super-producer
Paul Epworth helps the band
unashamedly embrace their ’80s
influences, and create pop songs
which counter-intuitively nudge
seven minutes and are just as
exuberant as they are elegiac.
What They Say: “We’d
explored that euphoric
ascension, from Primary
Colours and into Skying,
so maybe it was time for
something else.” Rhys Webb
Key Track: Press Enter To Exit “Their poppiest album
yet”: The Horrors embrace
SIMON PRICE
their inner ’80s influences.

12. SLEAFORD 11. STORMZY 10. THE 9. QUEENS OF


MODS GANG SIGNS & PRAYER NATIONAL THE STONE AGE
ENGLISH TAPAS The Backstory: Striding out of SLEEP WELL BEAST VILLAINS
The Backstory: After four years South London in his size 12s, The Backstory: Cincinnati- The Backstory: Inspired
of intense touring, the post-punk Michael Omari completes his formed band quit their Brooklyn by making an album with Iggy
duo returned with their first LP remarkable transition from base, built a studio in rural Pop in 2016 and picking up
recorded in a proper studio. street-corner freestyler to upstate New York and made the pieces from the terrorist
The Clincher: The winning grime 2.0 sensation. their best, most atmospheric LP. atrocity during the Eagles Of
formula – Jason Williamson’s The Clincher: A chart-topping The Clincher: Sleep Well Beast Death Metal show in Paris in
bug-eyed rants about life in showcase for his natural mixes layers of sonic intrigue 2015, Josh Homme gets his
Broken Britain over Andrew charisma and imperious with equally mysterious lyrics main band back together to
Fearn’s stark laptop-techno – was put-downs, GSAP also revealed (some curiously co-written with seize the moment.
largely unchanged, but a subtle an unexpectedly soulful side, singer Matt Berninger’s wife The Clincher: A playful,
tweaking of sound and the sheer showing there was more to Carin Besser) about the troubles come-and-have-a-go rock
catchiness of the songs made this him than hardcore bangers. of long-term relationships. record with a perfect balance
their breakthrough triumph. What They Say: “I want you What They Say: “There’s a of bristling riffs and emotive
HOLLY FERNANDEZ, SIMON SARIN

What They Say: “The sound to understand who I am, what certain confidence and it’s not so anthems. They had their
of the record changed itself I love, what I hate, what introverted sonically. I feel like swagger back.
organically in the studio, like bio I treasure… I want everything we’ve pushed into another What They Say: “Life’s too
yoghurt in the fridge overnight.” to be in this record.” dimension.” Aaron Dessner short. This is it. Now is all you
Jason Williamson Key Track: Big For Your Key Track: The System Only ever get.” Josh Homme
Key Track: Just Like We Do Boots Dreams In Total Darkness Key Track: Feet Don’t Fail Me
SIMON McEWEN RUPERT HOWE TOM DOYLE NIALL DOHERTY

JANUARY 2018 85
ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

NO
BAXTER DURY
PRINCE OF TEARS
The Backstory:
For his fifth album,
Dury attempted
a break-up record
but rapidly veered
into darker,
surrealist territory
via shout-outs to
Morgan Freeman
and urban geese.
he Cl ncher: irmly cementing Dury’s
reputation as a true British original, Prince
Of Tears marries his usual thrilling verbal
dexterity to a string-laden musicality that makes
for his most satisfying record to date.
What They Say: “I have to be on the edge “It’s funny being
of a ledge to achieve anything… otherwise, here... you remember
forgotten things.”
I’m just a loose Ladbroke Grove knob Baxter Dury, by the
drowning in soya latte.” flats he lived in as a boy,
Key Track: Miami Hammersmith Bridge,
JAMES OLDHAM London, October 2017.
Celebrating the wildcards who’ve inspired cult worship
PHOTOGRAPHS TOM SHEEHAN

DURY
Those who enter the same
trade as illustrious parents
are doomed to live by
constant comparison. Such
is life for BAXTER DURY,
the singing son of superstar
singer, Ian. But now that
he’s released an album
that matches his dad’s best,
will he emerge from the
shadow? TED KESSLER joins
him by the Thames as he
flicks through his Rolodex
of amazing anecdotes.
hen Baxter Dury straitened economic circumstances, Baxter. “He started drinking every other day
was 12, or maybe

W
first in Tring and then in Chiswick, West at noon and that was the mood of the place.
13, definitely London, all the while wondering why her But he managed to turn it into a performance,
before he was son kept climbing through the fence at heckling people from his balcony, charming
14 (or just after), school as soon as she’d deposited him them. So nobody pinned the tag on him.
his exasperated there. So Baxter was moved into Dury Sr’s There was always a party at our gaff.” That’s
mother, the mansion flat overlooking the Thames, in perhaps why there were two steel front doors
artist Elizabeth Hammersmith. It did not immediately to their flat. “Like a prison. Or a crack house.”
Rathmell, sent her provide the disciplined structure that Days in the flat would drift hazily into the
son to live with his father, the singer Ian Dury. Baxter’s mother might have hoped for. evening, with Dury Sr holding court in his
Rathmell had had enough of policing “It was fucking mental,” says Baxter armchair through the night. Trays of pints
her son’s extreme truancy and thought it Dury now, nursing a pint of Guinness outside would be ferried across Hammersmith
was time that his dad had a go. Ian Dury had The Rutland Arms, just a few yards away Bridge from the Irish pub on the opposite
left Rathmell when Baxter was an infant and from the balcony of his father’s former flat, bank as small gatherings developed into
his sister Jemima was three, moving from where they lived together in the mid-’80s. fiestas. Sooner or later someone would
Tring, a market town in Hertfordshire, back “If you were being poetic you could describe whip out a guitar, or a didgeridoo, or some
to London. There he shacked up with a new, it as bohemian.” other instrument designed to disrupt the
younger girlfriend. Undecorated since the 1960s, Baxter’s sleep of a small boy on a chaise longue in
Liberated from the pram in the hallway, bed was “a rotten chaise longue in the front the same room. But whatever happened the
Ian Dury’s musical career blossomed, first room, next to an Olympic-sized ping pong night before, Baxter always awoke at dawn
in Kilburn And The High Roads, and then table.” The bedroom Baxter had earmarked as there were no curtains on any of the
more notably while fronting Ian Dury And as his was instead occupied by The Sulphate windows in the front room. “It was the
The Blockheads. He became a superstar. Strangler, aka Pete Rush, a drug dealer and brightest room in London when the sun
Rathmell fared less well through Ian Dury’s bodyguard. came up over the Thames.” His academic
this period, raising her two children in “I suppose my dad was an alcoholic,” says attendance consequently did not improve.

JANUARY 2018 87
BAXTER DURY

Not too long after Baxter


moved in, Ian Dury moved
abroad for six months to act
in a film. He entrusted his son
to The Sulphate Strangler in
his absence.
“Strangler took it really
seriously,” remembers Baxter.
“He drove me to school,
picked me up, we spent all our
time together.” The Sulphate
Strangler saw it as a mission of
redemption, for both of them.
“He was a middle-aged drug-
dealer, and I was a 14-year-old
schoolboy, but we became close
mates. He looked out for me.”
Their bond was such, in fact,
that when Ian Dury would
periodically return, they’d gang
up on him. “If he was banging
on, as he could, being ‘Ian Dury’,
the role he’d created, Strangler
would dose his drink. Knock him
out.” Baxter smiles sheepishly.
“It was probably dangerous, but
he could wang on.” It was brutally upsetting at first, but then,
Baxter Dury and The Sulphate over time, the pain became even worse. Eight
Strangler’s story would make a beautiful or nine months after she left, he wondered if
rites-of-passage screenplay or novel: he’d ever be mended. There was one silver
Withnail & I meets Catcher In The Rye. lining, however.
Picture the scenes. The Sulphate Strangler “Before she left,” he explains, “I had
escorting Baxter to the classroom of his posh, written volumes of stuff literally about
last-resort exam crammer in Chelsea and nothing, Bic pens or something. I needed
sharing a smoke with his teacher; Strangler a drama, I realised, as soon as it happened,
taking Baxter’s mates clubbing in town in the and I managed to outsource that emotion
back of his car, sneaking them into places into the songs.”
Dury service: (from top) a young Baxter
most 14-year-olds can only dream of; Baxter with father Ian on their old balcony; Over his previous four albums, Baxter
and Strangler setting off on road trips around Dury Sr with (left) bodyguard/dealer The Dury had carved out a reputation for
Europe to see The Blockheads, Strangler’s Sulphate Strangler; Baxter’s Instagram poetically cynical, emotionally vulnerable
wares hidden in their bags… post of his ex-girlfriend Margaux Ract lo-fi funk-pop. His songs were dinky, dark,
“It wasn’t typical,” recalls Baxter. “But it listening to the song he wrote about her. contagious and good, but niche. He’s
was a bit of an adventure.” big in France in the same way that
Anyone who tells you, however, that life Serge Gainsbourg is popular in the
is not circular, or cyclical, that we are not UK with a strand of deeply-invested
bound to repeat our formative paths in music head who appreciates
midlife, is not paying attention to the melancholic introspection and a
correct texts. For in the winter of 2015-16, raised eyebrow, but without being
Baxter Dury, like his father, was forced to remotely as popular in his homeland
flee Tring and seek emotional sanctuary in as Gainsbourg was in his. Baxter
West London. And that is the hook upon Dury should be as well known for his
which this tale hangs. observational reporting of British
life as Jarvis Cocker is, but somehow
or not entirely selfish he’s only as well known as Baxter

F
motives, Baxter Dury Dury. He has often written very
moved to Tring from elegant, perceptive songs about
Notting Hill with his also thought that life in a cottage in the shame – shameful decisions and shameful
French girlfriend, country would be romantic. Who knows. people – and maybe that just doesn’t connect
Margaux Ract, and his In the end, though, the move provided in Britain the way that it does in France.
son from a previous that dreaded flipside of romance: heartbreak. With the break-up, though, a new
relationship, Kosmo, a few years ago. His He was working on his fifth solo album, opportunity presented itself. He could
primary concern was to provide a stable writing melody lines and song structures now examine and exorcise this pain, poke
home for Kosmo, a bright, sensitive lad, away when, for reasons that Dury is beneath the rock of his feelings for an album
from some of the inner-city distractions that understandably unwilling to share with with a more universal message. Nobody
Baxter had faced as a youngster. Maybe he a magazine, Margaux decided to leave him. escapes heartbreak, after all. And so Prince

88 JANUARY 2018
Taking it to
the bridge: the
post-break-up
Dury returns
from exile.

“If a girl threatens to leave me,


Of Tears, his fifth album, was born.
It’s comfortably his best.
my reaction accesses that same
There’s a lushness to it that’s absent
from its predecessors, due partly to some
reaction I had to Dad leaving.”
incredible strings, arranged by “a Welsh
bloke [Joseph Davies] I bullied like a total
c**t until, watching him on the day of the clinical depression, sung with a masochistic seems, is her imagined reply at the other end
recording, I realised he knew what he was relish. Baxter Dury likes picking a scab. of the line, delivered by Dury’s long-term
doing and I didn’t. Suddenly, it was like, On 23 January, 2017 Dury posted a vocal foil, Madelaine Hart, singing, “Please
‘You’re the Bob Marley of conductors and photo on Instagram of a woman in a French don’t call me. Cos there’s nothing here.”
I’m a c**t.’ He even looked more handsome.” café, wearing a large pair of headphones It’s brutal, and very catchy, but the photo
The key to the album’s brilliance is not and an inscrutably deadpan expression. of Margaux listening to Mungo, the song
just the real strings or that the songs are Dury’s description reads: “Margo listening Baxter Dury wrote about her, to her, in the
better, says Dury. It’s money. “I thought, to Margo.” depth of forsaken self-pity, is a masterpiece
‘These are good songs. I’m going to get the Playing Prince Of Tears now, all is of post-modern art in its own right. How did
best people to play them with me. I’m revealed about the photo. Margaux Ract is she take it? Dury can play poker when he
going to get The Harrods Hamper Band listening to Mungo, a pivotal song on the wants to. After all, what more is there to say?
together.’ I argued with labels for a long time album that is addressed directly to Ract, “She was cool,” he says. “We’re still
about releasing cash, but once we got it the detailing Dury’s forlorn need for her. really close. There are people you can walk
recording was quick.” “Hello Margo, please wake up, right now,” away from and it becomes very apparent
Despite all this, if you were to dwell just Dury sings, desperately. “Don’t you think I’m quickly that it wasn’t right. But not her.
on the lyrics and isolate his delivery of them, special? I think I’m special.” Every line in the She’s amazing.”
it does sound like a 30-minute expression of song is to her except for the chorus, which, it At first when they split up, it was just

JANUARY 2018 89
BAXTER DURY

School of hard knocks:


the West London
comp where Dury
often went AWOL.

“Chiswick School was quite tough.


Well, it felt tough to me. It’s all relative.
I was arts’n’crafts class and these were
awful. Nothing more. He could cope. He
didn’t shave, he stopped eating, his clothes
hard lads from tower blocks.”
looked bad and he fell into a light depression,
but it was manageable. Life went on. Kosmo
still had to go to school after all, and Baxter song August is about. I just really fucking songs. They survive there because, for better
had an album he could now write. But this missed her. Like, where are you?” or worse, they’re his people.
heartache was a slow-burner. Letter Bomb, In the end, something had to give and They’re the cokey, delusional sleazebag
although it has no words beyond the title, that something was Tring. “I mean, Tring’s of Miami, “the urban goose, the shadow
describes this phenomenon. a shithole. It was sort of alright when that licker”, who is an amalgam of all Dury’s
“I went out with this girl once,” he girl was there, but she wasn’t and then worst instincts combined with some of the
explains, “and when we split up I said, ‘Oh Brexit happened.” most awful people he knows. And they’re
it’s alright, I don’t feel too bad actually.’ So, just like his father before him, the tearaway described in Oi, with whom,
And she went, ‘Darling, it’s in the fucking Baxter Dury wiped away a tear, packed his Dury sings, he used to “run down Chiswick
post.’ And I said, ‘What is?’ She went, ‘Your bags and got on a train from Tring back to High Road, being horrible to people.”
emotions.’ And they were as well. Ka-boom! West London. “Oi’s focused on one person from a small
This was like that, but much worse.” group,” explains Dury, “but I don’t want to
The detonation lay in the change of hen Martin Amis was say who in case I get a screwdriver in my

W
seasons. By the time July rolled through, writing his bestselling neck.” These were the kids he met at
Dury was ambushed by the memories of novel London Fields in Chiswick School, the comprehensive he
previous summers spent together. She the 1980s, he’d sit in spent most of the time running away from.
was in France and he was in Tring, and only Notting Hill pubs and “It was quite tough, that school. Well,
one person was making the most of that just observe for weeks. it felt tough to me. It’s all relative. I was
arrangement. “I think something snapped The characters he arts’n’crafts class and these were hard lads
in me,” he says. “I was contemplative and needed were all there in the boozers around from tower blocks.”
quite broken. We used to do Frenchy, Portobello Road. Amis has moved on now, to Everyone knew who his dad was at
summery things and I wasn’t doing that. Brooklyn and much less convincing dialogue, Chiswick School, but that didn’t buy him
I was left to my own cooking, not to put too but those voices from his great mid-period space. It made him a target. He had to assume
sexist a perspective on it. That’s what the London novels live on, in Baxter Dury’s a fearless naughtiness to compensate. It

90 JANUARY 2018
meant he bunked off a lot of school and Baxter points out that in fact Ian Dury a rural setting, we were very poor and my dad
fought in corridors when challenged, was raised by three well-educated women, decided to fuck off and live with a 21-year-
although the protagonist in Oi “collapsed his aunts and mother. “That story is much old, leaving my mum very sad and unable to
me like a deckchair.” more illustrative, it explains the artistic side, give me the attention I needed. All that
Once, in an effort to win him over, he but it’s not as interesting as good-old manly comes out whenever I hit crisis mode.”
brought the kid from Oi to his flat to meet working-class conflict. Dad created that Hence, The Prince Of Tears. Baxter
Ian Dury. “But my dad just sat there making Dickens character. That wasn’t who he was.” shrugs. “Understand that I am totally fine,
sheep noises at him for ages. Afterwards Children of messily-divorced parents, please,” he says. “I’m definitely good. It’s
I got it in the neck for months. ‘Your dad is a along with cognitive therapists, will just the life I’ve had makes it hard to settle.
fucking weirdo, isn’t he?’ I’d tried to counter- recognise the slightly dismissive tone that I’m the only one of my mates who’s not
weird him and it massively backfired.” Baxter displays sometimes when talking married. My flat looks like a terrorist bomb
Dury still vaguely knows this kid, now about his illustrious old man. It links to a maker’s, like I could scarper at any time.”
a 40-something man like himself, although word that also runs right through Prince Of But of course, he can’t, and he won’t,
he doesn’t live in upwardly-mobile Kensal Tears, one that explains why it’s a powerful because he’s intent on giving Kosmo as
Green as Dury does, alongside all the other piece of work: abandonment. much of himself as he didn’t get from Ian.
“happy dads with no obvious schedule”. “It all stems from abandonment,” he “Did you know, he’s become a musician,”
“He’s in prison, I think.” He throws agrees, with possible relief. “If a girl threatens he asks, brightening. “It’s been about two
an exaggerated look over his shoulder, down to leave me, my reaction accesses that same months. He picked up instruments and,
the riverbank. “I’ve said too much…” reaction I had to Dad leaving. Now, I was being Kosmo, he just occupied them. The
only one when he left. But we were living in bass and the guitar. He learnt them! Like
axter Dury gets that! I’m like, ‘The fuck?!’”

B
a bit tired of all Baxter drifts off,
the Ian Dury magining his 15-year-old
comparisons. n, the rock star. “I’d put a
Well, you would, illion quid on him pulling it
wouldn’t you? ff. He might be a musician.
That doesn’t mean he first real one out of
we aren’t going to ask him about it ll of us, the first hope.”
though. After all, his singing’s never The sun is setting
sounded more like Ian Dury than on s he finishes his pint,
Prince Of Tears. It’s like he’s his son. lluminating the river
“Thing is, his voice isn’t even his owards Barnes. Baxter tells
voice. I see pictures of Dad in the ’70s a story about an old boy
and I can hear his false Cockney accent: with gangster connections
stop it, please. It was a masquerade.” who owned “an amphibious
This will come as a surprise to those tank” that would pick
who watched Mat Whitecross’s hit up his dad, Baxter and
2010 biopic of Ian Dury, Sex & Drugs crew, sail down the river
& Rock & Roll, which framed Dury’s and then deposit them at
relationship with his own father, wayward various pubs, “coming
Cockney Bill (played by Ray Winstone) up the banks of the
as pivotal to who he was. Thames on wheels.
“But that film’s not real,” protests Freaked everyone in
Baxter. “That’s Andy Fairground or the pubs out.”
whatever his name is [Andy Serkis] “It’s funny being here,”
pretending to be Dad. That’s the Cockney Family guy: the Dury clan, he says, “you remember
vista. It’s a male view. Ray Winstone including Baxter, father Ian forgotten things.”
as his dad, all that bollocks.” and sister Jemima; (below) He and his dad used to
with son Kosmo at an Ian Dury stand on the balcony
artwork exhibition at London’s he night, he recalls,
Royal College of Art, 2013.
watching the water. “There are steps
down to the Thames on the other
side and every so often someone would walk
down them and not come back up.”
Ian Dury, he says, had an idea that he
looked into seriously. “He wanted to get a
massive neon sign hung over this bank and
every time someone climbed down those
steps over there at night he could press a
button that lit it up with: Stop! Don’t Do It!
Come And Have A Nice Cuppa!”
The Prince Of Tears laughs ruefully,
a man weighed down by a thousand
anecdotes. All true, all golden, too
many ghostly.
“It’s a lovely idea, isn’t it?” he says. It is.
REX

Add it to the list.

JANUARY 2018 91
ALBUMS OF THE YEAR DON’T CALL HIM
“MAN OF THE YEAR”.
What was the highlight of
your year?
Well… I really enjoyed
Glastonbury. What do other
“Gorgeously people reference when you ask
sculpted songs”: them this question? It [Pure
Father John Misty,
aka Josh Tillman.
Comedy] is not an album you
particularly enjoy having
lauded, you know? There was
another publication that asked
me to do a “Man Of The Year”
kind of thing and I had to call
the editor and say, “Surely
there is someone more
inspiring than me?” because
this album – it isn’t meant to be
inspiring… I guess it’s supposed
to be sobering in a certain way.
I’m not sure how noble a thing
that is… I didn’t particularly
enjoy any of the material
success of this record and nor
do I think it’s particularly
appropriate to. It’s contrary to
the whole essence of the record
– it’s very, like, dust to dust.
Pure Comedy felt prescient
considering it was written
before Donald Trump’s
election…

NO
The only thing that changed
between when I recorded the
album and when the album
came out is that America got
a leader as hideous as America
is. America was expanding
deportation programmes and
commanding drone strikes and
expanding the surveillance
state and imprisoning
whistleblowers before Donald

FATHER
Trump got in. The only thing
that changed is that now we get
to see the face the world sees.
You ditched Twitter this year
– do you recommend it?
I do. If Twitter was a physical
space – a bar – would you ever

JOHN MISTY
go there? American culture has
just become like this human
centipede – the same shit just
passes through all of us, like
a Hadron Collider of shit.
In a way, Twitter was
PURE COMEDY sculpted songs – simultaneously my lips on the asshole of
The Backstory: Is Josh Tillman lush and bleak – provided the the guy in front of me and
a microdosing hipster with a roadmap through it. I needed to disengage from
jaundiced view of modern culture What They Say: “People see me that guy’s asshole.
or a 21st-century seer with a bent as a charlatan, and that disdain is Any New Year’s resolutions?
for self-flagellation? On his third probably what’s going to ruin this I just got hypnotised to
album as Father John Misty, record, which is too bad because stop smoking. I’m not sure,
he was both at the same time. it’s actually very sincere.” though – it was all I could do
The Clincher: If Tillman Key Track: Total Entertainment not to die laughing.
constructed a lyrical hall of Forever INTERVIEW BY VICTORIA SEGAL
mirrors, then his gorgeously DAVE EVERLEY

92 JANUARY 2018
6. ST. VINCENT 5. GORILLAZ 4. LORDE 3. WOLF ALICE
MASSEDUCTION HUMANZ MELODRAMA VISIONS OF A LIFE
The Backstory: Over the last The Backstory: Damon Albarn The Backstory: Pop moves fast The Backstory: After the
couple of years, St. Vincent’s and Jamie Hewlett hadn’t made but former teenage wunderkind breakthrough success of
Annie Clark has gone from art- an album for seven years, or Ella Yelich-O’Connor took her their debut album, the North
rock darling to tabloid celebrity. even spoken to each other for time processing the success London quartet’s youthful
On her brilliantly ostentatious three, but they buried the of 2013’s Pure Heroine and abandon morphs into
fifth album, which grows bleaker hatchet and reignited their plotting a way forward with mid-20s anxiety.
with every listen, she attempts cartoon collective. co-songwriter/producer Jack The Clincher: They channel
to sift through the wreckage. The Clincher: Roping in their Antonoff, this year’s pop Zelig. their post-adolescent fretting
The Clincher: Clark has highest quota of guests yet, The Clincher: The hard graft into one of the best-sounding
always been a shapeshifter, but they make a party record paid off. Pivoting between albums of the year, a rock record
here she morphs dramatically about the world going to pot. angst and ecstasy, Lorde’s that sounds as dreamily
into a sharp artistic vision It moves away from their song cycle about young atmospheric as it does heavy,
of tawdry glitz, glamour and trademark future-pop sound in adulthood once again places pop hooks always lurking deep
grief, all the while honing her favour of jagged hip-hop- her firmly in pop’s vanguard, in the sonic fug.
ear for strange, unsettling pop influenced grooves. fizzing with wit, wisdom and What They Say: “What am I
to perfection. What They Say: “The three arresting honesty. going to write about if this is
What They Say: “If you want tenets for this record were What They Say: “We finished supposed to be the funnest
to know about my life, listen pain, joy, urgency.” it and I said to Jack, ‘You realise, time of my life?” Ellie Rowsell
to my record.” Damon Albarn I can go anywhere I want now.’” Key Track: Don’t Delete
Key Track: Pills Key Track: Saturnz Barz Key Track: Liability The Kisses
REBECCA NICHOLSON NIALL DOHERTY DORIAN LYNSKEY NIALL DOHERTY

“Unsettling pop
perfection”:
St. Vincent hits
peak form.
ANDREW WHITTON
JAMES
N O
MURPHY
LCD SOUNDSYSTEM
They made the comeback of the year…
ow has your 2017 been? song immediately after [2002 debut single] Losing
Overall, things are great. We’re My Edge called Here Comes The Backlash but never
touring right now, but we tour released it. There’s been a hammer on a rope over
really well in every aspect you our band ever since somebody went: “This is the
can think of. We all get along best!” At that point it was like: “Put a candle by the
really well and we do little rope and we’ll see how long this lasts.” But I forgot
civilised things, so touring about the hammer, went into my little bubble,
isn’t brutal. Like, we make had a baby and became a private citizen, as they
relationships with coffee say when people leave office…
houses who send us baristas. But you couldn’t stay away…
We work out a little barter, I was shamed by my wife to do something. She
LCD so we’ll have coffee all day. pulled my 15-year-old self on me! I always say my
SOUNDSYSTEM Who’s been coming to the shows – the old 15-year-old self would be horrified by this or that,
AMERICAN DREAM guard or new friends? then she said: “How would your 15-year-old self
The Backstory: After 2011’s started doing a poll at shows, asking who’d feel if you owned the studio of his dreams and
premature retirement, James never seen us and it was an enormous percentage. didn’t make a record because you didn’t want
Murphy got the band back ’ve been shocked. The time we took off is a long people to be mad at you?” So the knives were out,
together – at David Bowie’s ime if you’re a kid. You could have been 12 years which was actually exciting. Before it felt like
urging, no less – and more old when we split up and now you’re 18 seeing a we’d been given a pass – none of our records were
than made up for lost time. band you heard about when someone’s older perfect. In fact, I think I might like this new record
The Clincher: All Murphy’s brother gave you a file – I was going to say a tape the most – so it’s been interesting to have the
disco neuroses are turned because I’m 47, I don’t know how people find opposite experience. People were going:
up to 10. It’s everything you hings – so we’re an old band now! “It’s going to be so delicious when this fucking
need for the best mortality- You finished American Dream in May, then self-effacing teddy bear eats it, after the fake
awareness dance party ever. released it in September. Were you making farewell tour to make money…” Yeah, right!
What They Say: “I knew up for lost time? The split wasn’t the PR stunt of the decade?
we were going to have to be That’s about as quick as you can do it. I don’t see the It’s a great idea, but when you quit your job they
significantly better than we point of finishing the record then letting it sit there. tend to stop paying you! [Laughs] It’s been
ever were, for anyone to say Do you know why people do that? They want the interesting to be up against something.
we were even half as good as maximum impact and I don’t. I believe in the record What’s the best thing you’ve heard this year?
we used to be.” James Murphy so I don’t care when it comes out. If we play by We put out Delia Gonzalez’s Horse Follows
Key Track: Oh Baby hose rules we’re always going to lose. We don’t Darkness on DFA in May. That’s a totally beautiful
VICTORIA SEGAL have the weaponised elevator music that pop is record, really moving. And I love the new stuff by
now. People were saying, “We’ll get radio if you AMOR – Paul Thomson from Franz Ferdinand’s
WORDS: PAUL STOKES. PHOTO: SIMON SARIN

wait” but I don’t know that I want people finding other band. I was really into Golden Teacher too.
our music next to stuff I think is garbage. I don’t There are good things in Glasgow right now.
want to lull people into accepting us through And after all that coffee, what’s the best
constant exposure. cup you’ve had in 2017?
Do people treat you differently now you’ve I got a coffee at a place called Third Floor Espresso
done the reunion thing? in Dublin, and the guy does something very magical.
Something new happened this time: the knives They have the best organic Irish country milk.
were out! I’ve never had that before and I’ve been They gave me a box of their special coffee and
fully aware of that all the way along, I even wrote a it’s really fucking good.

94 JANUARY 2018
ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

“The knives were out!”:


James Murphy defied
the naysayers with a
post-retirement classic.

“I was shamed by my
wife to do something.”
“Operating on a higher
plane”: Kendrick Lamar
leaves the competition
ALBUMS OF THE YEAR in the dust with DAMN.
KENDRICK
N O
LAMAR
How often is one of the best-selling albums of the
year also the best-sounding, asks Dorian Lynskey.
world,” he ventriloquises through Bekon on
UNLESS IT IS OVERTAKEN by Ed DUCKWORTH. “Until I found it’s me versus me.”
Sheeran’s ÷ or, at the last minute, Taylor Swift’s His pyrotechnical brilliance on the mic, where he
Reputation, it looks very possible that America’s absorbs and exceeds the lessons of everyone from
best-selling album of 2017 will be Kendrick Lamar’s Eminem to André 3000, is never technique for its
DAMN. That would be a remarkable development. own sake. He hones his craft so that he can get ever
To find other occasions when the biggest album of closer to perfect clarity of thought and expression.
he year was also generally agreed to be the best, DAMN. is precise yet complex. Every track has a
you’d have to go back to the days of Rumours and distinct purpose – the battle rap, the protest song,
Thriller. And if you’re looking for an equivalent run the love jam, the memoir with a twist – but some of
of artistic and commercial dominance, there’s only those tracks are moving targets, sent spinning by
Stevie Wonder in the ’70s. Like Stevie, Kendrick is bold thematic pivots and tonal shifts, while FEEL.
capable of producing one masterpiece after and FEAR. use repetition to uncover a multiverse in
another, becoming the soundtrack to his era. a single word. Kendrick’s multiple voices convey
There’s one crucial difference, though. Wonder multiple truths: “I’m a savage, I’m a asshole, I’m a
poured so much of himself into king” (LOYALTY.); “I got power,
Songs In The Key Of Life that
he could never match it, but “You have poison, pain and joy inside my
DNA” (DNA.). With Kendrick,
Kendrick has found a way to
escape the gravitational pull of the to confirm to the answer is always all of the
above. As he says on LUST.:

KENDRICK
similarly compendious To Pimp
A Butterfly. He couldn’t go any yourself that “It’s all contradiction.”
Kendrick has been acclaimed
LAMAR broader, so he went deeper.
you’re the twice over: as the greatest rapper
DAMN. At first glance, DAMN. may be alive and as the voice of black
The Backstory: Tasked with
following the landmark of
shorter and more straightforward
han its predecessor but once best, period.” America under hideous duress.
That volume of praise and
To Pimp A Butterfly and you’re inside it, it’s no less of a expectation could go to anybody’s
vindicating the most abyrinth: “Fourteen tracks, carried out over wax, head, so it’s impressive that he’s still asking what it
extravagant praise, hip-hop’s searching for resolutions,” to quote FEAR. all means. HUMBLE. is a memo to himself disguised
reigning MC slam-dunked it. As a microphone fiend with a social conscience as a throwdown to his competitors. XXX.’s Bono-
The Clincher: Tighter and and impeccable taste in beats, Kendrick is catnip to communing meditation on the history of violence in
tougher than its predecessor hip-hop fans who miss the ’90s. But his personality America springs from Kendrick’s awareness of his
but no less complex, DAMN.’s s of-the-moment, because he defines the moment. own vengeful impulses. President Trump, the mad
knotty moral conundrums, Many of music’s most satisfying developments elephant in the room, merits only a fleeting
musical curveballs (U2?!) and since the former mixtape rapper went overground reference. What’s happening in the world can’t
breathtaking mastery of the with 2012’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City – from soul- compete with the drama raging in Kendrick’s soul.
mic proved that Kendrick is searching mavericks like Chance The Rapper to One of DAMN.’s running themes is the
operating on a higher plane. multifaceted explorations of blackness such as loneliness that comes from leaving your peers
Sit down, be humble. Solange’s A Seat At The Table, can be described as behind. In a rare interview, Kendrick told Zane
What They Say: “I want to post-Kendrick. His emotional honesty and moral Lowe: “You have to challenge yourself and you have
challenge the way you think purpose, chiming with the unravelling of American to confirm to yourself – not anybody else – that
and the way you take in music. optimism, have changed the musical weather. you’re the best, period.” There’s no shortage of
That’s what excites me.” Kendrick is deeply moral without being a scold, smart, fearless rappers out there, from Run The
Key Track: DNA. because he always loops back to his own failings Jewels to Vince Staples, but really, Kendrick
GETTY

DORIAN LYNSKEY and inconsistencies. “It was always me versus the Lamar’s only competition is Kendrick Lamar.

JANUARY 2018 97
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Miss An
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104 U2
After a near-death
health scare, rock’s
elder statesmen
return with a late-
career classic.

108 BJÖRK
All is full of love 107 MIGUEL
again in the The R&B star gets
Icelandic visionary’s sensual and cerebral
unique world. on his fourth outing.
HOW WE REVIEW

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JANUARY 2018 101


A REGAL HIGH
BRIGHTON DUO COME TO MILAN: THEY PLAY, THEY CONQUER.

“Any roadies about?”


Mike Kerr (left) and ROYAL BLOOD at Glastonbury with the news that
their second album, How Did We Get
Ben Thatcher arrive FABRIQUE, MILAN So Dark?, had duplicated its self-titled
at Milan’s Fabrique. THURSDAY, 2 NOVEMBER, 2017 predecessor’s achievements by
#### entering the UK charts at Number 1.
n the loading alley A triumphant festival season

I
beside Milan’s followed, and thereafter their climb
Fabrique, Royal Blood continued with a two-month US tour
are busy swatting supporting Queens Of The Stone
away one of the city’s Age, heroes of theirs, whose Songs
infamous swarms of mosquitos. At For The Deaf inspired fledgling
this precise point in their trajectory, singer/bassist Mike Kerr to devise
however, there are no flies on the their trademark two-man, bass and
Brighton-based duo. In June, they drums set-up with Ben Thatcher.
inaugurated a plum early-evening set For Kerr, a 28-year-old former chef
Theatre of Blood:
the Milan massive
make some noise.

Back in late 2014, on their first up, only breached by delirious slam-
sweep through northern Italy’s fashion dancers once Thatcher cracks into SETLIST
capital, the pair suffered one of very the final chorus. Spotting the crowd’s
few career missteps as gastroenteritis over-excitement, Kerr requests mutual
forced them to cancel their show here. care. “Everybody love everybody, How Did We
Get So Dark?
This time around, with How Did We goddammit!” he cries. Where the first
Get So Dark? embedding Royal Blood album’s no-nonsense approach was Where Are You
deeper in the global heavy-rock refreshing, their comfort onstage these Now?
psyche, they’re in no mindset for days sees the excitement ramp up to Lights Out
throwing sickies, as a month-long whole different levels. During a drop- Come On Over
headlining excursion takes them out in Come On Over, Thatcher stands
You Can Be So
through some of Europe’s biggest to comically stare out the front rows, Cruel
theatres and arenas. while Kerr, one arm aloft in
“Before you take on a tour like showboating guitar-god pose, knocks I Only Lie
When I Love
this,” summarises Kerr, ever keen out a solo with his fret hand.
You
to apply a culinary theme, “you do The new record hardly reinvents
need to be seasoned, like a good wok. the wheel, but here in the flesh, its She’s Creeping
Y’know, a work surface needs a good quality tunes and subtle variations Little Monster
oiling every now and then, and we’re hit home. On I Only Lie When I Love Hook, Line &
like a non-stick band right now. You You, Thatcher displays a Charlie Sinker
can fry anything on us.” Watts-style dexterity in shifting to an Blood Hands
At this sixth engagement on their almost disco rhythm, before returning
itinerary, the mood of expansionist Sleep
to a full-tilt John Bonham wallop for
confidence is writ large from the off. his solo on Little Monster. Hole In Your
The familiar Royal Blood set-up – Kerr Another new song, Hole In Your Heart
to the left, amid his assemblage of Heart, sees Kerr hammering on Ten Tonne
“Slap-bass, anyone?” vintage amps and FX pedals; Thatcher, a pair of keyboards but then his amp Skeleton
Royal Blood get physical, right, capped and bearded, battering packs up. In the confusion, Thatcher Loose Change
Fabrique, Milan, away atop a three-foot riser – is fulfils Kerr’s promise of interim
2 November, 2017. Figure It Out
augmented by a further gantry at the “entertainment” with further creepy
back, occupied by two female backing stare-outs. Gear back up and running, Encore
from Worthing, touring with Josh singers, applying the “oo-ooh”’s to there’s a mass clap-along during Hole
Homme’s crew was equally edifying. the second LP’s title track. (Kerr later Figure It Out, quickly topped by the Out Of The
“We had a lot to learn from them,” he notes it’s “cool to feminise” their act). encore’s Hole and Out Of The Black, Black
enthuses, staving off insect interest The square-shaped Fabrique is where a 20-yard-long moshpit appears
with a succession of ciggies. “We can packed wall-to-wall and the place with punters scooting down it as Kerr
drink most people under the table erupts for How Did We Get So Dark?’s orchestrates a deafening left/right
now, and it’s really got us match-fit opening sequence. During Kerr’s riffing cheering contest. Thatcher soon stage-
for this tour.” on Lights Out, a vast circle pit opens dives into the chaos and is briefly
unhatted before returning for a
feedback-drenched crescendo.
“WE’RE LIKE A NON-STICK BAND RIGHT NOW. Non-stick, no flies, no prisoners –
whatever the preferred metaphor,
YOU CAN FRY ANYTHING ON US.” MIKE KERR Royal Blood’s show on a night like
ED MILES

this is about as thrilling as rock’n’roll


gets. ANDREW PERRY

JANUARY 2018 103


THIS BRINGING
ISSUE IT ALL
BACK HOME
G NEW ALBUMS G REISSUES

Alien Stadium 106


Baths 106 BRUSH WITH MORTALITY INSPIRES ROCK
Bibio 106 ELDER STATESMEN’S MOST PERSONAL WORK.
Björk 108
Karl Blau 106 U2
Peter Broderick 106 SONGS OF EXPERIENCE
ISLAND, OUT 1 DECEMBER
Michael Chapman &
Ehud Banai 106 After expansionism comes retreat.
Just as Britain begins negotiating
Eera 109 Brexit and the US prepares to
Electric Wizard 109 withdraw behind Donald Trump’s
Wall, so U2, ever in lightning reaction
Paloma Faith 109
to the zeitgeist, are focussing on
Tav Falco 109 matters closer to home. Their shift
Amp Fiddler 109 has occurred, causally or not, after
the disastrous launch of 2014’s best comeback single since 2000’s
Charlotte Gainsbourg 109 Songs Of Innocence. The group were Beautiful Day. At this perilous
Charles Hayward And vilified for their decision to thrust its juncture, Bono has largely chosen
Thurston Moore 109 11 tracks into half a billion iClouds to sideline his usual Business Class
Hello Skinny 110 unbidden; worse, Bono, their PR globalist observations, and tackle
maestro, had nearly paralysed himself his hitherto keenly-protected
Sharon Jones & while cycling in Central Park and was family life, in his most touchy-feely
The Dap-Kings 110 thus unavailable for some of the initial lyrics to date.
Jonti 110 damage-limitation interviews. Only Behind a Joshua Tree-worthy
the ensuing top-budget Innocence + chorus and Edge’s irresistible riffing,
Kaukolampi 110 Experience tour, and this summer’s You’re The Best Thing About Me is
Fela Kuti 116 Joshua Tree shows, put them back on addressed to his wife, Ali, with an
Lost Horizons 110 an all-pleasing footing. uncharacteristically self-questioning
Yet, as their shaken mouthpiece vulnerability. “I have everything but
Metallica 117 guardedly informed Q last month, I feel like nothing at all,” he notes, then
Dan Michaelson 110 Bono has suffered a further, wonders, “If you’re the best thing
Miguel 107 unspecified “brush with mortality”, about me/Why am I walking away?”
which, more than the necessity to The album opens on a haunted
N.E.R.D 111 respond to world events, halted note, as Love Is All We Have Left
Noya Rao 113 production on this 14th studio outing. speculates on mortality, before a
U2, in fairness, are anything but cosmos-contemplating Bono is fed
Playgroup 117
indolent dinosaurs. They throw through an Auto-Tune, Kanye-style.
Princess Nokia 113 everything at their albums – often too U2 always seek to freshen up their
Penny Rimbaud 113 much. The relative unpopularity of sound, but never in a “new direction”
their last two outings – 2009’s No Line as such, preferring a complex
The Rolling Stones 117 On The Horizon sold a mere five patchwork of often conflicting
Shamir 113 million, half of its predecessor’s tally; signifiers. Hence, Lights Of Home
Sia 113 Songs Of Innocence proved readily conversely features a rootsy
deletable from your consciousness, bottleneck guitar, and a sisterly
Siinai 113 if not your iTunes – might easily have gospel chant featuring its sampled
Sam Smith 115 fed that inherent self-doubt, with riff’s authors, Haim.
fatal consequences. Also woven into the fabric:
Omar Souleyman 114
Instead, Songs Of Experience will a St. Vincent-like tilt at robotic funk song and Summer Of Love find Bono
Spinning Coin 114 likely go down as a late-career classic. (The Blackout); a reading of Christ’s brooding on the plight of Syrian
Mavis Staples 114 Unlike its predecessors, it carries Beatitudes from Kendrick Lamar; and, refugees, but there’s only the odd
some memorable, stadium-ready on Red Flag Day, a revisiting of their passing glance towards Anglo-US
Taylor Swift 112 tunes, initially signposted by You’re War-era selves, complete with angular politics. Instead, the simmeringly
U2 105 The Best Thing About Me – their groove and soaring harmonies. That revelatory Get Out Of Your Own Way
Various: Black Man’s Pride 117 offers his four kids motivational
guidance with near-death urgency,
Various: Habibi Funk 117
SONGS OF EXPERIENCE WILL LIKELY GO
while The Showman (Little More
Lee Ann Womack 114 Better) serves up a knowing appraisal

DOWN AS A LATE-CAREER CLASSIC.


ANTON CORBIJN

Yung Lean 114 of his craft. “There’s a level of shallow


that you just can’t fake,” he avows,
Zombie Zombie 114 archly, “but you know that I know”.
Seemingly under attack from all

104 JANUARY 2018


U2: “they remain
both postmodern and
unpredictable.”

fronts, U2 have dug deep, yet they


remain both postmodern and DON’T FEAR THE REAPER Three more albums inspired by serious health scares.
unpredictable. Able to assume
many sounds and voices; to invoke Bob Dylan Bob Marley Edwyn Collins
their early-’80s innocence, but also John Wesley & The Wailers Losing Sleep
none-more-experienced, masters of Harding Exodus HEAVENLY, 2010
every inch of their game. “Making COLUMBIA, 1967 ISLAND, 1977 The ex-Orange
a spectacle of falling apart is just the After a motorcycle Surviving a point- Juice singer suffered
start of the show,” croons their leader, accident in ’66, Dylan drew a line blank assassination attempt in his two cerebral haemorrhages, but
sagely. From here, U2 can rebuild under his drug-fuelled electric own kitchen in Jamaica, Marley soon found melodies arriving
with bullish confidence. ★★★★ phase, moved to Woodstock, decamped to London to sculpt his in his head by night. Cue this
ANDREW PERRY and hatched a more rustic, cryptic crossover masterstroke in Island extraordinarily upbeat riposte to
Listen To: You’re The Best Thing folk-rock songcraft. ★★★★ Records’ basement. ★★★★★ his illness. ★★★★
About Me | Red Flag Day

JANUARY 2018 105


Common: he’d got into
a row with a particularly
stubborn seagull.

BATHS
ROMAPLASM
ANTICON, OUT NOW
Hermetic beatmaker returns with
first LP in four years.
Few bedroom-pop artists fit the term
so cosily as LA’s Will Wiesenfeld, aka
Baths. Where other stay-at-home
producers trade in ornate electronic
confessions, Wiesenfeld’s bubbly
symphonies embody our private
alcoves in their totality. From grimy
bodily secretions (“Will I let the salt
Alien Stadium: “What flow from my eyes or armpits?” he
do you mean we don’t asks on Out) to cabin fever-fuelled
have AA cover?” escapism, his follow-up to 2013’s
Obsidian hurtles ahead like a chaotic

ALIEN STADIUM Stadium – aka Steve Mason and


Primal Scream keyboardist Martin
eclecticism of The Beta Band’s Three
EPs (This One’s For The Humans),
daydream. Yeoman’s synth-pop
fantasia portrays infatuation as an
LIVIN’ IN ELIZABETHAN TIMES Duffy – are here to fill that gap with the next the electro-buzz of Primal animé-inspired expedition, while
DOUBLE SIX, OUT 1 DECEMBER a record that almost certainly owes Scream’s Vanishing Point (Titanic Extrasolar nods to the soundtracks
Beta Band/Primal Scream its origin to a pint or seven. Despite Dance (Lynch Mob Mix)). Bananas of video games and cartoon series.
collaboration heads spacewards. the ludicrous nature of the concept, but in a good way. #### The manic arrangements sometimes
Concept albums about cosmic the duo don’t play it for laughs. Over JAMES OLDHAM overwhelm, but there are worse
encounters with Martian pop stars four tracks, they weave in and out of Listen To: This One’s For The places to drown than Baths’ ball-pit
have been all too scarce on the their rich personal musical histories, Humans | Titanic Dance (Lynch of an imagination.###
ground in 2017. Luckily, Alien one minute aping the thrilling Mob Mix) JAZZ MONROE
Listen To: Yeoman | Adam Copies

BIBIO KARL BLAU PETER BRODERICK MICHAEL CHAPMAN


PHANTOM BRICKWORKS
WARP, OUT NOW
OUT HER SPACE
BELLA UNION, OUT NOW
ALL TOGETHER AGAIN
ERASED TAPES, OUT NOW & EHUD BANAI
Improvised ambience, designed Off-kilter country-soul from “A group of oddball works” from EB=MC²
to give listeners the chills. Washington State indie veteran. occasional Efterklang member. NANA DISC, OUT 1 DECEMBER
Where last year’s A Mineral Love Having made umpteen records over Oregon composer Peter Broderick Veteran jazz-folk outlier’s
found Bibio, aka West Midlands sonic 20 years, Karl Blau launched himself marks a decade in the music industry Anglo-Israeli odyssey.
voyager Stephen Wilkinson, delving in Europe last year with Introducing with this set of previously unreleased Leeds-born Michael Chapman’s
into ’70s jazz funk and otherworldly Karl Blau, an album of cover versions. pieces that were first commissioned status as the cult-est of cult artists
folk, Phantom Brickworks is an On Out Her Space, he offers up as strange one-offs. There is the score stands in inverse proportion to the
ambient concept album attempting his own songs. Where Ya Goin’ Papa he once wrote for a fashion show (the reverence in which he’s held by
to evoke what he describes as “places turns a question Blau hears from his piano-led If I Were A Runway Model), musicians as diverse as Thurston
haunted by meaning”. In other kids whenever he heads out on tour a piece commissioned as a wedding Moore and Lucinda Williams. Here,
words, lingering, perhaps imaginary into a quirky Harry Nilsson-like pop anniversary gift (Emily’s romantic he unites with another fan, Israeli folk-
spirits trapped in buildings and tune, while Poor The War Away folk), and the 17-minute track written rock institution Ehud Banai. The pair’s
locations. Ambient music is well-worn sounds like a backwoods Talking to accompany a ferry ride through parched reworking of Chapman’s
terrain by now, and opener 9:13 Heads. Sometimes the results Istanbul (the multi-layered ambience 1970 almost-hit Soulful Lady is so
is too close perhaps to Brian Eno to are a bit too wilfully weird, as in of A Ride On The Bosphorus). There’s stripped down you can hear them
make much of an impact. But when the gratingly frenetic electric folk a real and sinewy loveliness to these draw breath, though EB=MC2 is at its
a chorus of ghostly voices rise above of Valley Of Sadness, while Beckon compositions – they stand both best when it meshes Western and
the fractured piano of Phantom sounds like it’s in danger of falling as superb pieces of music and as Middle Eastern cultures, notably on
Brickworks III, the theme really apart entirely. When his songs tributes to the way that songs can English/Hebrew duet Angel and the
works, offering a genuinely unsettling are sturdier though, Blau is an wind themselves around our days, instrumental Guitartar, which overlays
air of spookiness. ### intriguing figure. ### colouring relationships, fashion shows Chapman’s celestial finger-picking
TOM DOYLE TOM DOYLE and boat rides, as they go. #### with swirling Mediterranean scales.
Listen To: Phantom Brickworks II Listen To: Slow Children | LAURA BARTON Stirring and unique. ###
| Phantom Brickworks III | Poor The War Away | Where Ya Listen To: If I Were A Runway DAVE EVERLEY
Branch Line Goin’ Papa Model | A Ride On The Bosphorus Listen To: Soulful Lady | Angel

106 JANUARY 2018


A LOVER AND
A FIGHTER
R&B SMOOTHIE MIXES THE PERSONAL
WITH THE POLITICAL.
his last album, 2015’s Wildheart:
if anything, War & Leisure
feels bigger, brighter, more
eager to connect. That’s noble
and necessary in its way, but
somewhere in here, a stranger
artist is lurking, one that really
would be made for these
times. 
VICTORIA SEGAL
Listen To: Criminal | Skywalker |
City Of Angels

WAR & LEISURE MIGUEL tells


RCA, OUT 1 DECEMBER
Victoria Segal about
Watch the video for Skywalker,
tackling the world’s
the mellow-buzz single from
ills and his “sonic
Miguel’s fourth album, and you
journal”.
could be forgiven for thinking San
Pedro’s prettiest R&B star was Do you think of War &
your average pop hedonist, telling Leisure as a political album?
his audience to “celebrate every “I wake up in the morning and
day like a birthday” surrounded not only do I have to deal with
by bikini-wearing girls. Yet this is a my personal reality, like we all
man who recently aligned himself do, we also have the reality of
with Pussy Riot, briefly covering the world. That is what we see in
their hammering satire Make the news – nation rising against
America Great Again; a man who nation, political powers
clearly enjoys singing, “I know threatening other political
she’s vegan but she wants the powers… it’s part of our human
steak tonight”, but is also acutely history. So yes, there’s a bit of
aware of impending Armageddon. what is happening politically, but
Thoughtful but filthy, sensual there’s also things that are more
but cerebral: like all the best about what I’m living though.”
people, he’s complicated. Like a diary?
War & Leisure is, as the “It’s more of a sonic journal. I’m
title’s punchy contrasts indicate, consistently wanting to take a
more complicated than most. snapshot of what I’m living
Skywalker’s weightless cool through when I create a project
is kept company by the wordy [so] when I’m older I can look
swell and strut of Criminal. The back and remember where I was
old-school soulful good times of – I was living in LA, I’d just got
Pineapple Skies and Banana Clip engaged and it was a time when
are balanced by Now, a nervy all these equality issues were
thrum castigating the “CEO of the coming back up. Hopefully,
Free World”, and City Of Angels, I can look back and go, ‘Man,
a song about cheating on your we moved forward from that’.”
lover just as the bomb drops. What was the inspiration
Such rangy ambition can, behind nuclear-age romance
however, stretch War & Leisure City Of Angels?
a little too thin. Miguel has been “The best thing about creating
mentioned in the same breath music is using your imagination
as Frank Ocean (often by himself) to fill in the blanks. Every day
and The Weeknd, but this we hear things that allow you to
album doesn’t quite unlock such imagine a world of possibilities.
self-contained worlds. There’s That’s the best explanation
nothing, either, to match the I can give short of saying I have
Miguel: “like all the best X-rated dislocation of The Valley, an overactive imagination.”
people, he’s complicated.” or the falsetto haze of Flesh, from

JANUARY 2018 107


Björk: loves
a toot.
IT’S LIKE WALKING
THROUGH A VAST
TROPICAL GREENHOUSE,
FULL OF SUNLIGHT AND
TWITTERING BIRDS.

FEELS LIKE HEAVEN


ICELANDIC VISIONARY SWAPS HEARTACHE FOR EUPHORIA.

simplistic but Björk’s were celebrating new love and (like Memory, “fucking mist”. But
multidimensional: romantic, 2011’s Biophilia) the dance they are eclipsed by moments
erotic, visceral, spiritual. Not between nature and technology. of piercing emotional clarity such
that she skirted tougher realities The airy, organic sounds of as Features Creatures’ playful
but it was shocking to hear her, woodwind, strings, harp and account of fledgling romance
on 2015’s Vulnicura, mapping choirs are knitted with crunchy (just the way she sings lit-er-all-y
the debris of her marriage to digital beats, most exquisitely is a treat) or Tabula Rasa’s
artist Matthew Barney with such on 10-minute centrepiece Body pledge to her daughter: “You
punishing honesty. She had been Memory and the title track’s will have to deal with shit soon
many things but never bleak, rainforest chamber-pop. Utopia enough/I hope to give you the
never lost. is like walking through a vast least amount of luggage.”

BJÖRK As the title of Utopia signals,


things are looking up. Björk
tropical greenhouse, full of
sunlight, oxygen and the
Utopia’s elevating optimism is
encapsulated in its final glowing
UTOPIA has framed it as “paradise” to twittering of birds. benediction, Future Forever:
ONE LITTLE INDIAN, OUT 24 NOVEMBER Vulnicura’s “hell”. She’s brought Like all of Björk’s albums this “Hold fast for love, forever.”
One reason that Björk became back that album’s co-producer past decade, it has a slippery Paradise regained. ####
an irresistible pop star in the ’90s Arca, her most simpatico relationship with melody and DORIAN LYNSKEY
was her talent for joy. Songs collaborator since the late structure. The more shapeless Listen To: Utopia | Body Memory |
conveying happiness can be Mark Bell, but this time they’re tracks resemble, to quote Body Features Creatures

108 JANUARY 2018


Paloma Faith:
“gone to a whole
new level.”

EERA ELECTRIC WIZARD


REFLECTION OF YOUTH WIZARD BLOODY WIZARD
BIG DADA, OUT NOW WITCHFINDER/SPINEFARM, OUT NOW
Impressively intense debut from Mixed bag from West Country
Norwegian singer-songwriter. metal institution.
If the title of Anna Lena Bruland’s first Defined by their thunderous plodding,
album is taken at face value, it seems Dorset doom-metallers Electric
fair to assume the London-based Wizard extend their reluctance
artist behind EERA hasn’t wasted to rush anything to their output:
her 20s having fun. Reflection Of Wizard Bloody Wizard is only their
Youth is, instead, steeped in moody ninth album in 24 years. It starts off
introspection, its electronic tremors
and tense distortions stopping these
well: the familiar touchstones of
monolithic Black Sabbath riffs, stoner- PALOMA FAITH Samuel L Jackso
word opener Evolution, John
songs from holding their solid shape. rock repetition and suitably silly lyrics THE ARCHITECT Legend assumes control of
It can sound like the room-spinning (“Lucifer, my only friend/I’ll burn RCA, OUT NOW swooning duet I’ll Be Gentle and
drama of Birmingham’s retro futurists in hell till the end”) are all in play on Retro-pop belter gets serious. socialist mascot Owen Jones pipes
Broadcast, or Portishead’s eerier opener See You In Hell; Necromania While Paloma Faith’s previous LPs up in the brief rant, Politics Of
night-flights, but there’s something is relatively lively without sacrificing have offered a theatrical take on Hope. With string arrangements
harder and colder present in Living any heaviness; and the hypnotic Hear slick retro-pop, fourth time around from David Arnold, the production
or 10,000 Voices, a wildness found in The Sirens Scream is even better. she’s got serious, taking on is epic and when Faith belts out the
early Cat Power or PJ Harvey at her It’s a shame, then, that the second everything from Brexit, interracial arena-filling choruses of Warrior,
most declamatory. Growing up is half of the album is so unspectacular, relationships and environmental Guilty and the title track, it’s clear
hard to do, but Bruland has clawed reaching a nadir with the 11 airless catastrophe. Alongside songwriting The Architect has elevated her to
some fabulously uneasy songs from minutes of Mourning Of The assistance from Sia, Rag’n’Bone a whole new level. 
the process.  Magicians.  Man and Ed Harcourt, she’s hired a JOHN AIZLEWOOD
VICTORIA SEGAL PHIL MONGREDIEN gaggle of heavyweight talent to add Listen To: The Architect |
Listen To: Living | Beast | 10,000 Listen To: Necromania | Hear The vocals. A gloriously stentorian Guilty | Warrior
Voices Sirens Scream

TAV FALCO AMP FIDDLER CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG CHARLES HAYWARD


A TAV FALCO CHRISTMAS
ORG MUSIC, OUT 24 NOVEMBER
AMP DOG KNIGHTS
MAHOGANI, OUT NOW
REST
BECAUSE, OUT NOW AND THURSTON MOORE
Rockabilly eccentric gets Motor City linchpin stays on French icon delivers her best yet. IMPROVISATIONS
weirdly festive. the comeback trail. Charlotte Gainsbourg’s albums have CARE IN THE COMMUNITY, OUT 8 DECEMBER
Tav Falco is a Memphis provocateur If connections were cash, Joseph traditionally been beautifully curated, Self-explanatory titled
who’s been making deranged “Amp” Fiddler would have enough collaborative affairs sparked by major collaboration produces noisy gold.
performance-art rockabilly since to retire several times over. The personal crises (2010’s IRM arrived in Improvisations is seven tracks of
1979 when he formed his first band, keyboardist-singer-producer links the aftermath of brain surgery). Rest former Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston
Panther Burns, with Big Star’s Alex Detroit’s past to its present like is no exception. Creatively triggered Moore making stuff up with drummer
Chilton. With Chilton long gone, few others. He played in the ’80s by the death of her half sister, it was Charles Hayward of avant-garde prog
Falco’s taste for the absurd has incarnation of Parliament/Funkadelic, made with Daft Punk’s Guy-Manuel de outfits Quiet Sun, This Heat and
continued to spiral, culminating in this mentored the young J Dilla and here Homem-Christo and Paul McCartney. Camberwell Now. It was recorded
– his first Christmas album. Recorded again works with deep house legend However, it also marks a departure for in an afternoon, it’s an hour long and
with a line-up including bassist Mike Moodymann, following last year’s her sonically (producer SebastiAn it’s great. Improvisations veers from
Watt (of Minutemen and Stooges Motor City Booty. Amp Dog Knights brings a Moroder-inspired electro) shorter pieces like the snappily-titled
renown) and keyboardist Toby offers little new to his fusion of R&B and lyrically (Gainsbourg has written A2 to monster riff beasts such as the
Dammit (a current live Bad Seed). vocals, bumpy hip-hop beats and them herself for the first time). This 10-minute A1 (all pieces are named
Obviously, it’s ridiculous but there’s spacey electronic textures, but it new combination reaches its apex on after the track order, not major
something enjoyably unnerving about tightens the formula, making it move the whispered glide of the title track British roads), which sounds like you
these gnarled ne’er-do-wells tiptoeing with a fresh crispness. At its best, as but is equally touching on the sleek always hoped heavy metal would
their way through straight-faced on the taut mating ritual Put Me In melancholy of Kate. The balancing of sound like but it never did. Hayward
renditions of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Your Pocket, it has the swing to match Gainsbourg’s natural good taste with drums like he needs your attention
Reindeer and White Christmas. its considerable swagger.  this deeper emotional resonance right now, Moore plays like an
The John Lewis ad it isn’t.  STEVE YATES remains key throughout.  apocalypse, and it’s all loud, snappy
JAMES OLDHAM Listen To: Return Of The Ghetto JAMES OLDHAM and catchy as hell. 
Listen To: Santa Claus Is Back In Fly | Put Me In Your Pocket | Listen To: Kate | Rest | Ring-A- DAVID QUANTICK
Town | Christmas Blues Good Vibes Ring O’Roses Listen To: A1 | A2

JANUARY 2018 109


HELLO SKINNY SHARON JONES JONTI LOST HORIZONS
WATERMELON SUN
BROWNSWOOD, OUT 24 NOVEMBER & THE DAP-KINGS TOKORATS
STONES THROW, OUT NOW
OJALÁ
BELLA UNION, OUT NOW
Second solo album from jazz SOUL OF A WOMAN Expansive second-coming for Welcome return of erstwhile
drummer Tom Skinner. DAPTONE, OUT NOW Sydney-based magpie. Cocteau Twins bassist.
While London’s jazz scene is currently Modern soul diva’s swansong. From the Dust Brothers to The The relationship between Lost
a fertile beast, it can appear to With the recent death of Charles Avalanches, sampling has raised Horizons’ Simon Raymonde and
have just one act at its core – Sons Bradley, Brooklyn’s retro-soul label mash-ups to an art form – one Richie Thomas goes back to when the
Of Kemet – who feature acclaimed Daptone suffered its second loss embraced by Joni Danilewitz, former was bassist with the Cocteau
saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings in less than a year. The first, last a producer, singer and songwriter Twins and the latter drummer with
(from 2016 Mercury nominees The November, was Sharon Jones, whose who not only knows his way round 4AD labelmates Dif Juz. Both are long-
Comet Is Coming) and drummer Tom final LP gives as much pleasure as her a loop station but has recently been steeped in creating atmospheric,
Skinner, whose personal project Hello 2002 breakthrough. The uptempo brought into The Avalanches’ touring sometimes oblique music, and Ojalá
Skinny is. Although formed from first side kicks hard as she faces down band. Knitting together spidery probably sounds exactly as you’d
improvisational sessions, Watermelon bad boys, and the second beseeches electronic breaks and folksy melodies, expect: melancholy indie rock with
Sun, Skinner’s first album in five years, their love; ill health not dampening his own output can tend toward the flashes of soul and improv jazz. Blank
has none of the bump and squawk that her drama and passion in the slightest skittish, though this follow-up to titles such as Asphyxia, Amber Sky and
that often entails. Instead, it provides on either. Written by members of the 2011’s Twirligig sparkles with bright Winter’s Approaching could just as
a starring role for Arthur Russell’s Daptone house band, 10 of the 11 melodies and inspired collaborations easily be stage directions were they
trombonist Peter Zummo, and is a songs are pin-sharp recreations – not least the hazy psychedelia of not grounded by guest vocalists
voyage through dubbed-out disco, of the classic R’n’B of Jones’s ’60s Lotus Street and Island Rose’s including former Midlake leader Tim
New York’s no wave and London’s childhood, while Call On God, penned exuberant alt-rap, featuring Smith, Ghostpoet and Nordic Giants
bass scenes. It gives the melodies by the singer herself, returns to the Sampa The Great. An album where collaborator Beth Cannon. Raymonde
freedom to wander without ever gospel roots of her faith when she technological trickery frequently may have run Bella Union for 20 years
letting the rhythm go limp. ### needed it most. #### delivers real magic. #### but this is far more than just a vanity
STEVE YATES MAT SNOW RUPERT HOWE project by a label boss. ####
Listen To: Signs | Coda | Listen To: Just Give Me Your Listen To: Lotus Street | Island ANDY FYFE
Watermelon Sun Time | Call On God Rose | Staring Window Listen To: Bones | Reckless

Kaukolampi: the Gollum


vibes are strong
with this one.

DAN MICHAELSON
FIRST LIGHT
THE STATE51 CONSPIRACY, OUT 8 DECEMBER
A new day dawns for melancholy
Brit singer-songwriter.
Where Northampton-born Dan
Michaelson’s last three records
looked long and hard at the end of
a relationship, his new album steps
slightly outside, considering the first
waking moments of the morning.
Though Michaelson regards this as
“the most unpleasant moment of any
day”, the songs here are real beauties,
from the blurry swell of Someone
Else’s Dream to the bittersweet
delicacy of Old Kisses. As Michaelson

KAUKOLAMPI the dark electronica of 2010’s


side-project K-X-P and now this
nine-minute storm cloud of ominous
synth drones, while pulsating
grows older his voice gains even
more creak and patina, and while
1 synth-rock-inspired solo mission. techno chiller Three Legged Giant quiet and space played a crucial
SVART, OUT 1 DECEMBER Channelling both ’70s Krautrock Centipede would slot in nicely on an role in previous records, here Arnulf
Finnish producer communes and the more forbidding end of episode of Stranger Things. Nordic Lindner (aka Skeleton Key)’s
with his dark side. European techno, the result is music drama at its most noir. ### orchestral arrangements bring a
A decade ago Timo Kaukolampi was that strives for knitted-brow RUPERT HOWE warmth and a flutter of breath and
creating quirky dance-pop alongside intensity – even if the track titles Listen To: The Prodigal Son new life. ####
Norwegian singer Annie. Since then suggest irony may be at work, too. Of Magnesia | Three Legged LAURA BARTON
he’s switched tack entirely, first with The Prodigal Son Of Magnesia is a Giant Centipede Listen To: Sand | Someone
Else’s Dream | Old Kisses

110 JANUARY 2018


SWOT TEAM
PHARRELL’S FUNK-ROCK ADVENTURERS RE-ANIMATE TO FACE DOWN INJUSTICE.
last seven years, the funk-rock urges, “lean forward” and resist. bravura cameo from André 3000,
adventurers had been consumed No_One Ever Really Dies is while Don’t Don’t Do It lurches
by their own projects – not least a questing, futuristic rallying from soft jazz keys and sky’s-the-
Pharrell Williams, whose Happy cry, full of bone-rattling bass, limit optimism into urgent funk
single turned him into a genuine cavernous, machine-tooled and snarling guitars as Williams
pop superstar in 2013. drums, hypnotic vocal samples picks through incidents of police
Life comes at you fast, though. and stellar guests. Reflecting the shootings before Kendrick Lamar
One day you feel like a room volatile social landscape, songs arrives for an arresting verse.
without a roof, the next Donald morph boldly in pace and shape. It’s serious stuff but there’s
Trump is President. With Williams Rollinem 7’s fuses high-speed as much positivity as despair –
an outspoken critic of the current doo-wop, woozy techno and a particularly in the dubby Lifting

N.E.R.D US administration, politics have


lent N.E.R.D – completed by Chad
You – and Williams and Hugo’s
unerring ability to transform a
NO_ONE EVER REALLY DIES
IT’S A QUESTING,
Hugo and Shay Haley – a new, few notes into a sharply mesmeric
RCA, OUT 15 DECEMBER compelling purpose. Their fifth riff laces their most experimental

FUTURISTIC
No one ever really dies but album surveys an America beset work yet with immediacy. Alive
N.E.R.D’s vital signs were fading. with racial injustice, police and well, N.E.R.D have come
Since 2002’s excellent debut In back swinging. ####
RALLYING CRY.
brutality and closing borders, and
Search Of…, their albums had concludes that this is no time to MATT MASON
produced dwindling artistic and lay back or lie down but, as the Listen To: Lemon | Don’t Don’t
commercial returns and, for the insistent electro-funk of ESP Do It | Lightning Fire Magic Prayer

N.E.R.D (from left, Chad


Hugo, Shay Haley and
Pharrell Williams): “politics
have lent them a new,
compelling purpose.”
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

JANUARY 2018 111


STATUS
Taylor Swift:
“soars when
she is most
herself.”

REPORT
POP QUEEN’S SKILLS SHINE THROUGH
ON SOMETIMES OVERLY BUSY ALBUM.
TAYLOR SWIFT
REPUTATION
BIG MACHINE/VIRGIN EMI, OUT NOW
Taylor Swift learned a valuable
lesson from the bumpy launch of
her sixth album, Reputation, in
August. If you reveal that title and
artwork composed of newsprint
alongside a single as clickbaity
as the teasingly vengeful Look
What You Made Me Do, a lot of
people will expect a string of
musical subtweets directed at
celebrities who have wronged
you. Reputation is not that – most
of the songs are about love, lost
and found – but its bitchiest track
is actually one of its best. This Is
Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,
which gleefully skewers a former
friend, flaunts most of Swift’s
considerable strengths: melodic
brio, lyrical precision, nimble
charisma and a camp
sense of fun – never
mind subject matter.
Reputation only falls SWIFT IS STILL
short of 1989’s triumph
when it gets in the way A KILLER POP
of those qualities.
That last album’s
warm, ’80s-influenced
CRAFTSWOMAN.
romanticism made
Swift’s full transition from
country to pop beautifully
persuasive. Working with the
same team here – Max Martin,
Shellback and Jack Antonoff –
she skews towards a jerkier,
heavier sound that sometimes
breaks her songwriting flow or,
worse, makes her indistinct.
The characterless End Game,
featuring Ed Sheeran and Future,
sounds like a streaming hit
designed by an algorithm. But
Swift can accommodate deep
house (Delicate) and diaphanous
R&B (Dress) and is still a killer
pop craftswoman. Gorgeous’s
starry-eyed synth-pop and the
pulse-quickening Getaway Car,
in particular, have the fizz and
glow of 1989. New Year’s Day
closes this sometimes overly busy
album on an affecting note of
intimacy and hush, proving that
Swift soars when she is most
herself. ###
DORIAN LYNSKEY
Listen To: Getaway Car |
Gorgeous | This Is Why We Can’t
Have Nice Things | New Year’s Day

112 JANUARY 2018


Princess Nokia:

PRINCESS NOKIA forever in blue jeans,


hoodie, hair...
1992 DELUXE
ROUGH TRADE, OUT NOW
Fierce debut from one of hip-
hop’s most exciting new stars.

NOYA RAO It takes some chutzpah to end your


debut full-length album with a
ICAROS chopped and screwed rendition of
GONDWANA, OUT 24 NOVEMBER novelty hit The Fast Food Song, but
Jazz-inspired Leeds quartet New York rapper Princess Nokia is
deliver stylish debut. not lacking in confidence. A smart
Named after a mythical Amazonian melting pot of influences and
tree and with connections to jazz references, 1992 Deluxe fizzes with
progressives Portico Quartet, Noya righteous anger and feminist chest-
Rao might initially seem a forbiddingly thumping as Nokia’s deft rhymes
arcane proposition. Yet their weave their way through dark trap
seamless union of live drums, subtle beats and old-school samples. Her
electronica and smoothed-out R&B home city provides the backdrop
has a refreshing immediacy, Icaros to tracks that deconstruct gender
slotting in somewhere between the (Tomboy), explore Puerto Rican
off-beat dance grooves of Little mysticism (Brujas) and celebrate
Dragon and ’80s soul siren Sade. It’s weirdness (G.O.A.T.), always with
singer Olivia Bhattacharjee who enough levity to avoid veering
supplies the star quality, especially into po-faced self-
on jazz-enhanced highlight Moments importance. “Most
and tightly syncopated slow jam Fly. folk are so fucking
Golden Claw, meanwhile, has a synth lame,” she spits on alt-
riff that wouldn’t be out of place anthem Different – not
on a Wild Beasts record, the kind of a problem that Princes
attention-grabbing move Noya Rao Nokia has. ####
should try more often. ### KATE SOLOMON
RUPERT HOWE Listen To: ABCs Of
Listen To: Moments | Golden New York | Tomboy
Claw | Fly

PENNY RIMBAUD SHAMIR SIA SIINAI


WHAT PASSING BELLS REVELATIONS EVERYDAY IS CHRISTMAS SYKLI
ONE LITTLE INDIAN, OUT NOW FATHER/DAUGHTER, OUT NOW ATLANTIC, OUT NOW SVART, OUT NOW
The original anthems for doomed Las Vegas singer leaves disco-pop Pop polymath gets in the Finnish Krautrockers go round
youth reborn a century on. firmly behind on minimal new LP. festive spirit. and round.
Nearly 100 years after his death, The Shamir Bailey of 2015 was a man Presumably most days already seem Fresh from their collaboration with
First World War poet/soldier Wilfred of pristine disco-pop. His debut album, like Christmas for fans of Sia, whose singer-songwriter Spencer Krug’s
Owen’s works such as Dulce Et Ratchet, was full of cowbell, dance prolificacy has birthed a fusillade of Moonface last year, Siinai return to
Decorum Est still gut-punch with the beats and brassy self-assuredness. soundtrack contributions, songs for home turf – making instrumental
horror of war, pity for its victims and He then took himself off in a rawer, herself and songs for others. Everyday concept albums about nothing in
contempt for its promoters. Jeremy guitar-based direction for its follow- Is Christmas might be a conflicting particular. Sykli, as Finnish speakers
John Ratter, aka anarchist/pacifist up, Hope, earlier this year. Revelations, experience for them, though: you’d will surmise, is notionally about life’s
Penny Rimbaud, was a baby of the however, finds the Nevada singer hope these 10 original seasonal songs tendency to move in cycles and is
following world war – and his father more at home in both his music and would be good, but what if potential built on much circular motion, with
was emotionally hollowed by his his skin. It’s a beautiful record that hits had been rendered unlistenable remorseless rhythms laying a bed
experience of it. Here, the hardcore unfurls through minimalist songs outside the festive period? Tracks for great swirls of electronic effects.
hippy visionary and co-founder about anxieties and identity, with little such as Ho Ho Ho and Candy Cane Or rather, it half is. The opening two
of anarcho-punks Crass recites more than a single guitar line and Lane don’t prove troubling on that tracks of the five might be set on
some 30 of Owen’s poems, hauntingly Shamir’s irresistible falsetto. From front, but Underneath The Mistletoe an exercise bike for all their lack of
accompanied by cellist Kate Shortt defending millennials on ’90s Kids, and Snowflake are welcome returns forward motion. Not until Ananda’s
and pianist Liam Noble. Their ripping into toxic masculinity on to the intimacy of Sia’s early career. thudding bass and incessant strings
restrained power packs a dramatic Straight Boy or turning a psychotic More upbeat is the Phil Spector- does the action begin. When grand
and moral authority that few listeners episode into the anthemic Float, referencing Puppies Are Forever, the melodies break through like bursts
will deny or forget. ### it’s a record that manages to find hope high-point on an LP that, on balance, of sunlight on closing epic Europa,
MAT SNOW among the uncertainties. ### really is just for Christmas. ### it feels like the destination was just
Listen To: Dulce Et Decorum KATE SOLOMON PETER ROBINSON about worth the journey. ###
Est | The Sentry | I Saw His Listen To: You Have A Song | Listen To: Puppies Are Forever | STEVE YATES
Round Mouth’s Crimson Games | Straight Boy Snowman | Snowflake Listen To: Mestari | Europa

JANUARY 2018 113


Spinning Coin:
“ramshackle and
wide-eyed.”

OMAR SOULEYMAN
TO SYRIA, WITH LOVE
MAD DECENT/BECAUSE, OUT NOW
Syrian singer raves up a storm.
To Syria, With Love is either Omar
Souleyman’s third album or his
five hundred-and-somethingth,
depending whether you count the
avalanche of records yielded during
his career as a wedding singer in his
native al-Hasakah region of North-
east Syria. Now in exile and more likely
to be seen collaborating with Björk
and Four Tet than in his war-torn
homeland, he records at a slower rate,
if not musical tempo. Souleyman can
at times sound like a kid in the world’s
biggest sweetshop, cramming in wild
melodies and relentless 4/4 techno- SPINNING COIN was partly produced
by Edwyn Collins and
Street) and righteous political bite
(Tin, Money Is A Drug). It’s an old-
pop beats played on electronic PERMO released on The Pastels’ fashioned form Spinning Coin
simulacra of Arab instruments. To GEOGRAPHIC, OUT NOW imprint Geographic. inhabit, but with Permo, they display
Syria, With Love sounds like Flight Of Heads they win: Glasgow ban There’s a ramshackle, wide-eyed a self-starting urgency that keeps
The Bumblebee on E – impossibly find new currency in old indie. quality to their songs, a vintage-indie them up to speed with the turbulent
energetic, joyously extreme and Even if you didn’t have the facts, energy that alternating songwriters here and now. 
a little bit exhausting.  it wouldn’t take a huge imaginative Sean Armstrong and Jack Mellin VICTORIA SEGAL
STEVE YATES leap to guess that Glasgow five- turn to both wistful Orange Juice Listen To: Raining On Hope
Listen To: Ya Bnayya | Khayen | piece Spinning Coin’s debut album romanticism (Raining On Hope Street | Tin | Starry Eyes
Es Samra

MAVIS STAPLES LEE ANN WOMACK YUNG LEAN ZOMBIE ZOMBIE


IF ALL I WAS WAS BLACK THE LONELY, THE LONESOME STRANGER LIVITY
ANTI-, OUT NOW & THE GONE YEAR0001, OUT NOW VERSATILE, OUT 8 DECEMBER
Gritty socio-political soul from ATO, OUT NOW Scandinavian rap scenester Enigmatic Gallic trio attempt
78-year-old R&B legend. Country star trades Nashville perfects his mopey party music. techno-prog reboot.
Following cameo appearances on gloss for Texas dirt. Swedish rapper Jonatan Håstad, Driven by the expansive ambitions of
records by Arcade Fire and Gorillaz The noirish sleeve of Lee Ann better known as Yung Lean, has fine- French producer and synth aficionado
earlier this year, Chicago gospel Womack’s latest outing tells you tuned his “saddest boy at the party” Etienne Jaumet, Zombie Zombie are
and soul legend Mavis Staples isn’t everything you need to know about persona over the course of two one of those acts which reanimate the
slowing down. Three albums into the music. A far cry from the mixtapes and two albums, and things cult forms of times past, from vintage
her collaboration with Wilco’s Jeff crossover country singer’s pop-tinged haven’t really changed on latest LP horror soundtracks to classic period
Tweedy, the latter writes all the past, here Jacksonville-born Womack Stranger – although perhaps the Krautrock. The upgrade here comes
material here for the first time, immerses herself in low-tempo, parties have got glitzier and the drugs via additional production input
performing a feat of musical high-sorrow songs such as All The a bit better. His languid rhymes, and from French house producer I:Cube,
ventriloquism with songs that are Trouble and the title track. There the accent he can’t quite shake, sit whose propulsive beats help
pertinent to the long-standing civil are a few missteps along the way – over ghostly trap beats and bass- ground Jaumet’s more progressive
rights activist and come over as the attitudinal stomp of Wicked heavy tracks, lending the whole thing tendencies, not least the title track’s
deeply heartfelt. The sound is classic being one – but it is otherwise an enjoyably hypnotic monotony. insistent acid house pulse and
soul via alternative rock, but it’s the executed with authority. Don’t let Håstad’s not a natural singer, but on muscular percussion. Looose’s
lyrics that punch hardest, whether nail-on-the-head titles such as Mama songs such as the bad-trip ballad invocation of early-’80s New York,
it be the Black Lives Matter sentiment Lost Her Smile deceive you; Womack Agony it’s endearing, like watching complete with squeaky sax solo,
of Little Bit or the rousing No Time excels at finding ambiguities in your brother fluff a talent show. is less compelling, but when they hit
For Crying: “People are dying/ her subject matter. It’s what makes Perhaps not something you’d put on their groove with the aptly titled
Bullets are flying/We’ve got work her special.  to get the party started, Yung Lean has Heavy Meditation, it really does
to do.” Potent stuff.  GEORGE GARNER though nailed the comedown.  sound as if there are superhuman
TOM DOYLE Listen To: All The Trouble | Mama KATE SOLOMON powers at work. 
Listen To: Little Bit | No Time For Lost Her Smile | The Lonely, The Listen To: Yellowman | Red RUPERT HOWE
Crying | Build A Bridge Lonesome & The Gone Bottom Sky Listen To: Livity | Heavy Meditation

114 JANUARY 2018


IT’S EMPHATICALLY
Sam Smith: there are
“no pop bangers”

NOT THE SOUND


on the new album.

OF A YOUNG MAN
RIDING HIGH ON LIFE
AFTER SHIFTING
12 MILLION ALBUMS.

LONELY AT THE TOP


BREAKTHROUGH STAR FACES HIS DEMONS ON EMOTIONAL SECOND OFFERING.

SAM SMITH single Too Good At Goodbyes


was not a false omen: what
Mind. As the sparse piano ballad
Burning shows, the prevailing
itself by its dovetailing of
themes. On HIM, Smith delivers
THE THRILL OF IT ALL has materialised is a 10-track mood is one of a stoic person a coming-out narrative that
CAPITOL, OUT NOW unbinding of emotional wounds. quietly unravelling in some dead- contends with both a disavowing
The Thrill Of It All is not the Smith’s soaring falsettos and of-night despair. Even when Smith father and the notion of holy
second act many would have default vulnerability remain, invokes Amy Winehouse at her judgement, while Pray reconciles
expected from Sam Smith. For only this time they are utilised most ebullient on Baby, You Make his experience visiting war-torn
one, it is emphatically not the to different, more compelling Me Crazy, his conflicted lyrics Mosul with his post-fame
sound of a young man riding high effect than on his sleek yet manage to insidiously strangle existence. Both perfectly distil
on life after shifting 12 million straightforward first album. the music’s upbeat mood. the vision and boldness of this
copies of his 2014 debut, In The There are no pop bangers lurking While the slick production can return. ####
Lonely Hour. The heartbroken here, certainly nothing to rival the occasionally neuter the emotions, GEORGE GARNER
sentiment charging his comeback incessant hook of Money On My The Thrill Of It All distinguishes Listen To: HIM | Burning | Pray

MUST BUYS The essential albums of the last few months


St. Vincent Four Tet Morrissey Baxter Dury
Masseduction New Energy Low In High School Prince Of Tears
LOMA VISTA/CAROLINE TEXT ÉTIENNE/BMG HEAVENLY
INTERNATIONAL The way that Kieran As an artist, Morrissey Though ostensibly
Annie Clark has lost Hebden has shaped is forever tantamount a break-up record,
none of her abrasive unpredictability electronic music over the past 20 years to Marmite but any wavering voters West London wide boy Baxter
nor her love of dramatic contrasts is a thing of beauty. His ninth album has will be astonished by his 11th solo LP. Dury’s sparky and playful fifth album
on this fifth effort. Throughout, she much of the warmth and breadth of Musically diverse and with lyrics of mutates into something far freer and
bends and distorts her voice, taking his earlier records, but by pressing an rare piquancy, it’s his best album since more surreal. Verbally dexterous,
on a different identity for each track. array of new textures (gamelan, strings 1994’s Vauxhall And I. At 58, the Moz musically varied and forcefully
She’s now the closest thing we have to and dulcimer) onto a familiar setting, is proving himself, once again, to be a imaginative, it cements Dury’s
Bowie’s protean vision of pop stardom. he’s crafted the best LP of his career. pop provocateur of enduring efficacy. place as a true British original.
REBEL MUSIC
FASCINATING RETROSPECTIVE OF AFROBEAT LEGEND.

FELA KUTI
VINYL BOX SET 4,
COMPILED BY ERYKAH BADU
KNITTING FACTORY, OUT 15 DECEMBER
An iconic figure even in his own lifetime,
since his death in 1997 Fela Anikulapo Kuti
has assumed near-mythical status. More
than just the many-wived inventor of
Afrobeat, today he bestrides African culture
like a shamanic amalgam of Miles Davis,
Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X, spawning
a Broadway musical and weighty collections
such as this seven-LP boxset curated by US
R&B star Erykah Badu.
Badu’s liner notes declare that Kuti was
“a fucking genius”, as if she were the first
admirer to appreciate the creative leap he
took when announcing his new,
funk-inspired “Afro-beat”
sound in 1968. But she
grasps the enduring allure
of Kuti’s music, the power
of which has sometimes
been overshadowed by his
combative personality and
very public disputes with
Nigeria’s military rulers.
“With Fela it seems to
have spilled right out of
him,” she writes of 1979’s
V.I.P., an Afro-jazz epic
recorded at the previous
year’s Berlin Jazz Festival.
“We instantly get the feeling
that we are connected to
those tones and vibrations.”
Kuti’s musical daring and
willingness to challenge the
status quo runs throughout
these albums. Yellow Fever,
from 1976, is a stinging attack
on the then-current vogue
for skin-lightening creams
in Africa and has lost none of
its radical force, the Afrika 70
band, driven by drummer
Tony Allen, shuffling together
West African highlife, modern
jazz and hypnotic funk.
A year later, No Agreement
formed an even more explicit
attack on the state of Nigerian
society, while J.J.D. satirised
Africans who adopted
European and American
manners. Yet it’s 1980’s Coffin
For Head Of State that provides
the centrepiece to Badu’s
collection. A delayed response
to the Nigerian army’s storming
of his Lagos compound in
February 1977, it remains one of
his most personal, and powerful,
musical statements. By then in

116 JANUARY 2018


KUTI BESTRIDES
his 40s and mourning the death of his
mother, who had lapsed into a coma after
the attack, there’s an imperious air to ALSO OUT...
AFRICAN CULTURE
Kuti’s vocal as he links organised religion
and state corruption, while the backing
band, renamed Egypt 80 following

LIKE A SHAMANIC the departure of Tony Allen, build a


bass-infused rhythm that’s part funeral METALLICA
AMALGAM OF march, part triumphant parade.
Throughout this period, Kuti was
MASTER OF PUPPETS
BLACKENED RECORDINGS, OUT NOW

MILES DAVIS, dogged by controversy, from the 1978


mass marriage in which he took 27 of his
Metal pioneers’ monster third.
Like an old rocker and his favourite pair of skinny jeans, by

MUHAMMAD ALI backing singers as wives to his 1984


imprisonment for currency smuggling.
the mid-’80s thrash metal had outgrown its underground
beginnings. Slayer, Anthrax and former Metallica guitarist Dave Mustaine’s group

AND MALCOLM X. Yet his assault on what he perceived as


institutional injustice remained potent to
the last, 1985’s Army Arrangement
Megadeth all helped push metal into the mainstream, but Metallica carried the
load. This third LP, remastered and available in a variety of extras-laden formats,
combined the aggressive thrust of their earlier albums with power anthems and
directly accusing former military leader furrow-browed balladry. A new rock force was born. #### NIALL DOHERTY
General Obasanjo of corruption and
1992’s frenetic, 28-minute Underground
System suggesting a shadowy network of PLAYGROUP
corruption had undermined many PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED VOLUME 2
progressive African leaders. YES WAVE RECORDS, OUT NOW
Following earlier, and equally Second helping of raw, disco-dub obscurities.
compelling, selections by Questlove, Much like last year’s run of nine weekly 12-inch vinyl
Ginger Baker and Brian Eno, Badu shines EPs which made up Volume 1, this similarly hedonistic
a light on less frequently explored areas set of mutant disco, groovy post-punk and thumping
of Kuti’s back catalogue. With the techno bangers showcases producer/designer Trevor Jackson’s deep
growing interest in contemporary understanding of dancefloor dynamics. Everything here (recorded from
Afrobeat there’s never been a better 1999-2001), especially P.C.H’s propulsive electro and Sold Out’s disco-ball
time to reconnect with one of music’s bounce, sounds relevant and utterly contemporary. #### SIMON McEWEN
undisputed heavyweights. ####
RUPERT HOWE
Listen To: Yello Fever | J.J.D. (Parts 1 & 2) THE ROLLING STONES
| Coffin For Head Of State ON AIR
POLYDOR, OUT 1 DECEMBER
Enjoyable rattle through early-’60s radio sessions.
THE BEAT GOES ON… Seeing as The Rolling Stones’ early-’60s records weren’t
exactly laden with tricksy studio sleights of hand, these
Three later calling-points for
post-Fela Afrobeat BBC radio sessions from the period don’t offer many
revelations. There’s still a thrill to be had from listening to them rattle through
this selection of – mostly – non-originals though. Indeed, if it weren’t for a slightly
Ebo Taylor shoddy vocal recording, the fuzzed-up, proto-punk stomp of (I Can’t Get No)
Love And Death Satisfaction here would inch it over the original. ### CHRIS CATCHPOLE
STRUT, 2010
Berlin-recorded
second coming for the VARIOUS
ebullient rhythms and highlife-accented BLACK MAN’S PRIDE
harmonies of the veteran Ghanaian SOUL JAZZ, OUT NOW
bandleader, who worked alongside More righteous sounds from Studio One.
Fela in ’60s London. #### Like Berry Gordy’s Motown, Studio One was
pioneering, both as a black-owned label in Jamaica
Rocket Juice and as an outlet for songs of black/Rastafarian
& The Moon self-assertion. Soul Jazz’s reliably banger-packed collection focuses on the
Rocket Juice early ’70s, when Bob Marley had yet to formalise the roots sound. Black Man’s
& The Moon Pride thus captures the jubilation of an underclass’s first expression of racial
HONEST JON’S, 2012 identity, from Horace Andy’s Child Of The Ghetto to Winston Jarrett’s Up
Masterminded by Damon Albarn Park No Man’s Land. #### ANDREW PERRY
and RHCP’s Flea, this Afro-inflected,
genre-crossing experiment also united
Erykah Badu with Fela’s one-time VARIOUS
rhythm machine Tony Allen. ### HABIBI FUNK 007: AN ECLECTIC SELECTION
OF MUSIC FROM THE ARAB WORLD
Various HABIBI FUNK RECORDS, OUT 1 DECEMBER
Afrobeats Hot Hits Globe-trotting crate-digging par excellence.
SHANACHIE, 2017 With professional crate-diggers excavating the
Despite the name, further reaches of the globe for vinyl obscurities,
Afrobeats is only loosely today’s thrill-seeking audio-gourmand is spoilt for choice. They’ll still be
connected to Fela’s charged epics, impressed at this haul of deep cuts for grooving from Morocco, Algeria,
Chairman of though this choice sampling of digitally Lebanon and beyond, though. Opening with raw Arabic R&B (the crazed funk
GETTY

the ’board: enhanced West African dance moves of Fadoul’s Bsslama Hbibti must be heard), it moves into snake-hipped North
Fela Kuti in 1986. has similar global reach. #### African-jazz before smoother soul and pop from the ’70s and ’80s kick in.
Entertaining and informative. #### IAN HARRISON

JANUARY 2018 117


CHOICE CUTS
THE Q STAFF AND WRITERS’ TIPS OF THE MONTH.

6
4

LAURA BARTON MATT YATES CHRIS CATCHPOLE


Q WRITER ASSOCIATE COPY EDITOR ASSISTANT EDITOR
“WESLEY GONZALEZ is “I’ve been getting deadly (REVIEWS/BREAKING)
one of my favourite live serious of late in a bid to “From Armando Iannucci’s
performers – sets that are contextualise the current funny – and terrifyingly
precarious, witty, rousing and political crisis in Spain. Along accurate – The Death Of
joyous. It’s an energy that he with a number of podcasts on Stalin to the BBC’s glut of
carries into his debut album, the subject, I’ve been reading documentaries marking the
1 EXCELLENT MUSICIAN, but if you need an THE TREE OF GERNIKA by war correspondent 100th-anniversary of the Russian Revolution, I’ve
introduction to his magic, the video for his latest George Steer and 2 HOMAGE TO CATALONIA by been on a bit of a Soviet bender this month. Still up
single sees him riding around Milton Keynes on George Orwell, whose account of fighting alongside on iPlayer, THE BRITISH ROAD TO BOLSHEVISM
a Swegway. Two music-based books I’ve loved the revolutionary Marxists – and getting shot – in the on how the whole thing had its roots in dingy East
recently: THE STORY OF JOHN NIGHTLY, Spanish Civil War is brutally honest. It’s also led me to End boozers, in particular, was right up my alley. Any
the first novel by composer and curator Tot Taylor, revisit and pore over the lyrics to The Clash’s Spanish insurrectionary fervour has been cooled, though,
and Nick Coleman’s upcoming non-fiction Bombs and the Manics’ If You Tolerate This… Heavy, by debuts from Detroit’s 3 BONNY DOON (think
masterpiece VOICES: HOW A GREAT SINGER complicated, thought-provoking stuff all round – a breezier Parquet Courts) and the psych-pop of Boy
CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE.” maybe a dose of Strictly is needed after this lot.” Azooga, aka Cardiff whizz-kid Davey Newington.”

SIMON MCEWEN NIALL DOHERTY MARTIN BOON


PRODUCTION EDITOR DEPUTY EDITOR SUB EDITOR
“By far the most interesting “Train journeys through the “Having spent the last three
music I’ve heard this month autumnal darkness have months jonesing for the
is by Berlin techno-dub been soundtracked by return of gripping Spanish
minimalists MORITZ VON 5 ANDREW WASYLYK. drama I KNOW WHO YOU
OSWALD and MARK The Dundee native’s most ARE, it was with a slightly
ERNESTUS, the two men recent album, THEMES FOR undignified sense of relief that
behind the much-fabled Basic Channel/Rhythm BUILDINGS AND SPACES, is a collection of I welcomed back the series climax to BBC Four. If
& Sound imprints. The former’s collaboration dreamy instrumentals that veer between hazy you fancy getting acquainted with a host of obscure
with Kyrgyzstan folk outfit 4 ORDO SAKHNA Americana, brass warmth and atmospheric drones. ’70s Americana, can I point you in the direction
(out now on Honest Jon’s) is a mesmerising It hasn’t exactly helped when I’ve needed waking of SING IT HIGH, SING IT LOW, a fantastic
collection of gorgeous a cappella and textured up in the morning, though. On a similarly soporific compendium of the short-lived Tumbleweed
ethno-abstraction, while the latter’s Congo Get tip, I’ve been listening to Hans Zimmer and record label. And, if you fancy getting acquainted
Slap/Flagged Up 12-inch remixes (out now on DDS) Radiohead’s Blue Planet 2 collaboration with a similarly under-appreciated German novelist,
of crack Jamaican production unit EQUIKNOXX (OCEAN) BLOOM lots. They need to release it can I point you in the direction of Hans Fallada’s
is stripped-to-the-bone, digi-dancehall in excelsis.” properly, if only to save data on my phone plan.” wartime classic 4 ALONE IN BERLIN.”

118 JANUARY 2018


VICTORIA PARK
LONDON, E3

FRI 25 MAY

LCD OU D Y T
Yeah Yeah Yeahs > Phoenix
Glass Animals > Richie Hawtin CLOSE > Dixon
George FitzGerald Live

SAT 26 MAY

T
Lorde > Sampha
Popcaan > Lykke Li
Rex Orange County

SUN 27 MAY

BJÖRK
Beck > Father John Misty
Flying Lotus 3D > Mashrou’ Leila
Sylvan Esso > Alexis Taylor > Agoria Live

PLUS MORE TO BE ANNOUNCED

Subject to Licence allpointseastfestival.com


2018 TOUR

MARCH
08 BURY ST EDMUNDS The Apex 21 MANCHESTER Cathedral
09 SHEFFIELD Leadmill 22 MILTON KEYNES The Stables
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14 BRISTOL St Georges 28 LEEDS City Varieties
15 LONDON Palladium 29 EXETER Phoenix
16 BIRMINGHAM Town Hall 30 BRIGHTON Concorde 2
17 NOTTINGHAM Rescue Rooms 31 PORTSMOUTH Wedgewood Rooms
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SATURDAY 14 APRIL 2018


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TUESDAY 24 APRIL FRIDAY 27 APRIL SUNDAY 29 APRIL WEDNESDAY 02 MAY


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LETTER OF THE MONTH this deranged woman asking for


more, will be forever in your debt.
Let’s bring the Q Award for
Dear Q, excellent Noel Gallagher feature in the latest Greatest Live Band to Basildon!
issue – Gallagher Snr is almost as entertaining as his Ana Clara, via Q Mail
younger brother but not quite as amusing However
I was most pert TOM PETTY RIP
Dear Q, your marvellous tribute
“Oasis have go to the late, great Tom Petty
business… It’s [below] was up to your usual high
know he and L Depeche Mode: standard when celebrating iconic
caused “such a stir”
enjoying very s among devotees. musicians. Your writer’s
careers in their knowledge of his subject,
but, as a massiv and the way he told his life story
refuse to believ SIX APPEAL through his songs, was insightful,
to hear more fr ear Q, Thanks ever so much for entertaining and respectful.
he fantastic issue featuring I made a Spotify playlist from the
exciting band t
epeche Mode. As a “devotee” 10 songs selected and have been
seen since The or most of the last 30 years of my listening to it ever since reading
2019 marks 25 fe, I have to praise you for your the article. As so often is the case,
since the releas nconditional support of the it’s sad to lose another great, but,
Definitely May and. I have lived in the UK for fortunately, the brilliant music
(in my view the wo decades and you are one of lives on. Keep up the good work.
best LP), surely he few local media outlets that Gerry Sullivan, via Q Mail
there’s no bett ays DM (and their respective
excuse for the olo projects) the credit that they
re due, by supporting every
brothers to bur
aunch, every tour. You caused
the hatchet and uch a stir within our “cult” that
take a stroll do had to buy six issues to dispatch
memory lane? Noel Gallagher: not cross the globe to fellow
special, wouldn quite as amusing as his evotees who were desperate to
brother, apparently. rab hold of your magazine. My
Matthew Soame
ocal newsagent, though scared of

The
World
of
GORC/GC IMAGES, ALAMY, ALEX LAKE

Meet the world’s


best-travelled
magazine!
Iain MacKenzie, US Tennis Open, Hendrick Val Olivia, Dubai Simon Dancey, San Andrés,
New York Colombia

128 JANUARY 2018


Caption Competition
WIN! THE FIRST OFFICIAL
BOOK CREATED BY
THE JACKSONS.
has teamed up

Q
with the good
people at Thames
& Hudson to offer
FIVE readers the
chance to win The Jacksons:
Legacy – the first ever official
book by The Jacksons. Published
to coincide with the 50th
anniversary of Big Boy, The
Jackson 5’s debut single, this
unprecedented collaboration
with the family tells the
legendary group’s story in
their own words, alongside
outstanding visual material –
much of it never seen before.
Jackie, Marlon, Tito and their hard-back volume features over lives, including their stellar
mother Katherine have given 1000 images including intimate Victory tour and much more
unparalleled access to their family photos, many of which are besides. The Jacksons: Legacy is
Can you feel it? You can if
complete personal and unseen, and top photographer an absolute must-have for fans
you enter our competition
professional archives. Harrison Funk’s exclusive of one of the greatest vocal groups to win The Jacksons Legacy.
This sumptuous, 320-page coverage of their professional of all time.

THIS MONTH’S Q378 WINNING


CAPTION CAPTIONS
CHALLENGE “When I said I wanted the
Here’s a picture of Noel hair of the dog…”
Gallagher having his Andrew Fisher, Stoke-on-Trent
pockets picked outside
a restaurant. Send your “So who does your hair
caption entry (one per then?” Bill Drury, Epping
person, and the funnier Congratulations to Andrew and
the better) including Bill who both win signed posters
your address, and Blu-Ray copies of Fast &
to captioncomp@ Furious 8. Plus Rob Stirrup,
Qthemusic.com or on London; Gerald Harvard,
a postcard to the Q address Leatherhead; Kevin McFarlane,
above. See below for Chorley; Brian Aitchison,
Terms & Conditions. Edinburgh; Richard Whyman,
Competition closes: Nottingham, who each win the
11 December 2017. DVD version of the film.
To win, email your caption to: captioncomp@Qthemusic.com or post to the usual Q address before 11/12/17. Five winners will be chosen by the panel. The winners will be notified, by email, 7-10 days after the closing date and must
PHOTOGRAPH: DAN GOTTESMAN © 2017 JACKSONS ENTERTAINMENT

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 16 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

Q379 SPINE “4.51” billion years is the FOUR GETS FIVE Hebden’s work, and not really
MESSAGE estimated age of the moon, a nod Dear Q, I know you very rarely a fan of much so-called
Am I right in thinking that “4.51” to cover star Noel’s new LP Who give new albums 5-star reviews “intelligent dance music”, but
refers to the running time of Built The Moon? Now can you put (in fact, I can only think of thought it was worth a punt on
Don’t Look Back In Anger on the Damon on the next cover so that Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. this your recommendation and
Oasis album (What’s The Story) you’ve featured my three favourite year so far) so I was surprised – downloaded it. What a brilliant
Morning Glory? artists in consecutive months? and a little sceptical, if I’m honest record! So soulful and
Simon Mallinson, via Q Mail Clare Skinner, via Q Mail – when I saw you gave Four Tet’s melancholic, I’m now a convert.
Sorry, Simon, that’s incorrect. Correct, Clare. Stay tuned for New Energy full marks in the Thanks for the tip.
Better luck next time. that Damon cover. latest issue. I’m new to Kieran Jason Morris, via Q Mail

JANUARY 2018 129


Last Word

Most people think


I’m a vagrant.”
Simon Neil
STAYING UP ALL NIGHT WITH THE BIFFY CLYRO FRONTMAN.
hen was the last time you cooked a meal

W
for someone?
My wife is a wonderful cook. She doesn’t let me
cook because she loves it so much. So it was
probably two years ago and something really basic
like salmon and pasta. Very student, very bachelor.
When was the last time you had to explain
to someone what you do for a living?
All the time. Most people think I’m a vagrant because of my long hair
and beard. So I hear a lot of, “Get the fuck out of my shop!” Often you
say you’re a musician, but people don’t think you’re a real musician
if you play in a band. So fuck you!
What’s the last thing you think about at night?
How much of a headache the next day is going to be. I am a bit of a
worrier so when my head hits the pillow that’s when my mind kicks
into life. It usually takes me around two hours to get to sleep.
What was the last book your read?
I read to help me get to sleep. So it would have been one of
Jo Nesbø’s crime thrillers. He’s a Norwegian writer and his
murder stories actually help me relax. But I’m also reading
a book about stoicism at the moment. Stoicism is my new
pursuit – another thing to help me sleep.
When was the last time someone asked for
your autograph?
It actually happens quite often. The last time was when we
were on the same plane as a load of Celtic fans going to see
the Bayern Munich game. My dad wouldn’t have been
happy about that as he’s a Rangers fan. But I loved the
spirit on that plane. It was like Scotland came together.
When was the last time you were in awe
of someone?
When I met Alan Yentob at the Brit Awards this year. Biffy Clyro’s
I actually went up to him and said, “Alan, I am a big fan Simon Neil:
of yours.” I felt embarrassed afterwards, but it’s true. the scourge of
shop-owners,
When was the last time you went on holiday? apparently.
Me and the missus had a week in Manhattan,
New York, at the start of September, just before
we began a US tour. We always have a holiday just
before a tour. It wasn’t a sun, sea and sand holiday
but it was in a city with a great vibe.
When was the last time you wrote a song?
I’m in a busy period, and I’ve written three this week
already. The latest one has a working title of 698pm.
The trick is, I don’t work on things that don’t excite
me. As soon as an idea stops exciting me, I move on
to something else.
WORDS: MARK BLAKE PHOTO: ALEX LAKE

When was the last time you heard one of your


own songs on the radio?
A month or so ago. I don’t listen to the radio. So it
usually happens when we get picked up in a taxi.
Sometimes I’ll ask to turn it down if I don’t want to listen
to my voice. But it’s a buzz, especially if it’s a newer song. If
you don’t get a thrill from hearing your music on the radio, then
something has gone fucking wrong. You’re in the wrong job.

130 JANUARY 2018


C O M I N G N E X T M O N T H…

The Best Thing I’ve


Heard All Year...

The stars pick their hits.

ONLY IN THE NEXT ISSUE OF Q. ON SALE 19 DECEMBER.


UK & IRELAND TOUR APRIL/MAY 2018
www.noelgallagher.com