2013, the most musically unadventurous I have ever been.

The Next Day Inlay WPWill 2014 be musically dull? In 2013, I wasn’t adventurous in the least, certainly not in discovering new music. It seemed everyone who I hold dear to my musical heart decided to get off their, mostly ageing, backsides and release an album or undertake a tour.

Whilst some may see it as unadventurous, the b-side is I’ve rediscovered or simply underlined what I love about these artists in the first place.

Among the first to shake off the last remnants of the twelve days of Christmas was David Bowie. As this writer was having the Dame’s birthday preview proofread, the 66 year old released a new single and announced an album to follow. A hastily rewritten final couple of paragraphs saved the article from being old within moments of going online.

Happy Birthday Elvis Aaron Presley, who today would have been 78. It meant an awful lot to one schoolboy. So, while Elvis gyrated and ate his way to oblivion, what became of that south London schoolboy? Well, David Robert Jones became David Bowie. Please click italics to read full reviews.

Many other writers frantically pieced together something for Bowiephiles to read, I sat back with a relieved smile and listened to Where Are We Now?, as our unborn child kicked for the first time.

February brought a little despair, as an earlier than usual sighting of an influential albums list.

Change Everything WPWho compiled it?, a self-important teen in their room wanting to show off their cool collection of albums? Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm? Belle and Sebastian’s If You’re Feeling Sinister and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s self titled effort? Really, were the wider public influenced by these releases?

Up on my high horse, I compiled a list of albums which have influenced me. Probably not many other people, but at least I can confidently say Change Everything by Del Amitri taught me how to drink whiskey.

It was a busy month of March. First was The Next Day, Bowie’s new album.

Rather a long trawl, it left many wondering if it was too bloated, yet Bowie had previous for churning out records at a fair pace until his heart problem. A man full of ideas and creativity, silent for ten years was never going to deliver a hit single, six other tracks and a half-arsed instrumental.

At its conclusion, The Next Day contains the very best of Bowie, not a tired 60 something clinging to the limelight in his twilight. The majority of songs are fantastic, the remainder are simply great. It is a strong and beautiful collection of work, one Bowie could makes in his own unique way.

Another decade in the making, this writer finally got to see Bruce Springsteen live. After being refused an extension to a Holiday visa to be allowed to attend The Boss’s last Brisbane concert, there was no delay or immigration restrictions for the Australian leg of the Wrecking Ball tour.

After two hours the house lights come on. Oh, this isn’t the end of the show; this is where the show gets rockier and sweatier. An anthemic Born To Run met with 12,000 pairs of clapping hands and voices roaring approval. 

Celebrate+Amongst all this, Depeche Mode’s thirteenth studio release hit the shelves. Delta Machine was a more bluesy set with much akin to Violator and Songs Of Faith and Devotion. As with Gahan’s work with Soulsavers, this has a more stripped down feel than DM’s previous two LPs, but is still dark, twisted and gothic.

A Simple Minds retrospective comes along in April, all 50 tracks of it.

Such a sweeping rundown of Simple Minds songs may seem unnecessary in these days of Spotify, iTunes and other means of digitally accessing songs. What Celebrate+ does offer is new edits to CD, many versions here are direct from the 7”, concise, punchy radio tunes.

Further Scottish fare was served up come May, with a healthy side of German electronica.

The Scream Team delivered a flowing sonic step from their previous long player with Krautrock a touchstone.

Bowie IndianaMore Light is a knowledgeable and deft record displaying creativity and ambition. Maybe the myth of being a universal tribute act has finally been XTRMNTD.

A month earlier than expected, my second LP (little person) arrived. Bowie Indiana weighed 7lb 1oz, and we thought she was a Number One smash.

There was safer ground come June. Miles Kane’s debut solo record was a Link Wray inspired, 60’s thriller soundtracks by John Barry hybrid, Don’t Forget Who You Are lent more towards young-scally-heading-out-for-a-few-pints-sing-a-long, a potent mix of Beatlemania and Gallagher modernism.

He isn’t claiming to be offering anything new. Don’t Forget Who You Are is not cerebral; the songs aren’t deep. Kane’s lyrics are as straightforward as his clothes are sharp and these pop darts hit their Mod target.

As I was acclimatising to having two children, Justin Currie, the father of Del Amitri and their Celtic maudlin qualities, gave birth to his third solo long player, Lower Reaches – a guess at the LP’s chart placing.

Never afraid to take his music down home, Currie uses these flourishes sparingly but always with a deftness as to not spoil the whole, On My Conscience’s jaunty fiddle is faultless in the mix. Yet it’s Every Song Sounds The Same, which gives evidence of Currie at his best.

A similar feel of songs filled the Manic Street Preacher’s release. The recording process actually yielded over thirty tracks, which will be spread over two records. Rewind The Film being more acoustic based and the upcoming Futurology more balls out rock.

The previous two Manics long players delivered a quality of musicianship early doubters thought incapable of a band so in adoration of their heroes. But the depth of their well has led them to album 11, a startlingly brave record, which still contains melancholy grandeur but with added adventure and eclecticism.

The year still had plenty to offer. The Cult announced Electric 13, a world tour playing their platinum selling rock behemoth in its full, big haired, windmilling arms, Steel Panther influencing, glorious racket whole.

Not a gig for the faint hearted or those seeking subtlety.

They know what they have to do and deliver with their hands on their crotch, fists in the air, knowing it looks ridiculous but is, in all reality, an insane amount of fun.

1383993_10151648218147666_96168555_nCome October, the show lived up to all expectations. Rumbles of displeasure at only playing 9 of the 12 tracks could be barely heard from those with their head up their arse.

On record, Electric can feel rather one paced and flabby around the middle. But tonight The Cult address this and smoothly shift through the gears of Bad Fun and King Contrary Man, playing increasingly intense and manic solos. The show then hurtles into the wanton rock ‘n’ roll of Love Removal Machine. It’s an incendiary climax where Billy luxuriates in the flames licking around his guitar.

With the second half of the show built on their ever-rewarding back catalogue, the night was a triumph of rock n roll over common sense.

Sun King’s slow intro held the crowd in anticipation, and then all leapt in unison as the fjord filling riff and hollered vocals took aim towards Valhalla. And then the band sailed off, having praised the rock gods with their own musical imprint, leaving the mere mortals in shattered awe.

bill-callahan-dream-river-album-500x502I rarely listen to music on the radio, but in amongst the end of year chat the music reviewer for the ABC named Bill Callahan’s Dream River as his album of the year. After a brief rundown of who he was, Small Plane hit the airwaves. Towards the two-minute mark, I thought ‘Leonard Cohen, Justin Currie.’ Not having ever heard of Bill, I took a note to look into him. When Currie himself named the song on his end of year list, I had a concerted effort to make. So, the first new music to me of 2013, I bought on the last day of the year.

I read Callahan’s wish for Dream River to be the last record you hear of the day. To go along with his wishes I shall do so, and make it the last one of the year.


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