Mo­ments in mu­sic

2009 was Blur, Brit­ney, boo­ing and big bands not liv­ing up to their billing, but it’ll be re­mem­bered as the year when the un­der­ground went main­stream. Tony Clay­ton-Lea, Jim Car­roll, Lauren Mur­phy, Brian Boyd and Kevin Court­ney choose their mo­ments

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Review 2009 -

ALL YEAR LONG THE STARS WERE UN­DER­GROUND

It was the year the un­der­ground came over­ground. A bunch of bands re­leased records which saw them en­joy an in­creased main­stream pro­file, bet­ter-than-usual al­bum sales and a bumper take at the box of­fice. Bands such as An­i­mal Col­lec­tive (Jan­uary), Griz­zly Bear (May) and Dirty Pro­jec­tors (June) reaped the re­wards, while Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver saw their 2008 al­bums con­tinue to sell well. You can men­tion terms like “the tip­ping point” to ex­plain it all, but more folks are dig­ging what was once termed al­ter­na­tive mu­sic.

JIM CAR­ROLL

JAN­UARY

VIL­LAGERS EMERGE

The Ir­ish mu­sic scene has spawned some po­ten­tially world-con­quer­ing acts over the past few years, yet only one or two have se­cured the ad­mi­ra­tion of crit­ics and fans alike. The tal­ented Conor O’Brien – mu­si­cian and artist ex­traor­di­naire – un­leashed his new project

Vil­lagers this year, with a de­but EP ( Hol­low Kind) of songs so strik­ing and swoon­some that Domino Records snapped them up, mak­ing them the first Ir­ish act to sign to the la­bel. Their forth­com­ing de­but is the most an­tic­i­pated Ir­ish al­bum of 2010. LAUREN MUR­PHY

FE­BRU­ARY

KENNYSHAMBLES

A fling­ing-pop-filth-at-our-kids mo­ment al­most on a par with the Sex Pis­tols be­ing in­ter­viewed by Bill Grundy in the late 1970s. Late

Late Show host Pat Kenny de­cided to grill the Lib­ertines/ Babysham­bles singer about his drug past with for­mer squeeze Kate Moss. Like a dog with a bone, Kenny caught Do­herty in a grip that re­fused to loosen un­til the lat­ter de­cided that enough was enough as he shielded his face un­der his hat and asked Kenny whether he could name one of his songs (he couldn’t). The gen­er­a­tion gap parted like the Red Sea, Do­herty seemed like the ar­che­typal mis­un­der­stood rock star, and Kenny came across as a be­fud­dled dad whose tastes started and stopped with The Nolan Sis­ters. TONY CLAY­TON-LEA

MARCH JAPE IS THE CHO­SEN ONE

It’s no se­cret that this year’s Choice Mu­sic Prize was a close-run con­test – a se­cret bal­lot de­cided the out­come. It must have made victory sweeter for Richie Egan, whose al­bum Rit­ual tri­umphed over some truly fan­tas­tic records. It es­tab­lished the Crum­lin man as one of the coun­try’s most creative mu­si­cians and fi­nally pro­vided him with the con­fi­dence to go forth and con­quer. LAUREN MUR­PHY

MARCH

IMELDA’S BOOM-BOOM

Lady GaGa may be 2009’s pop princess, but Lib­er­ties girl Imelda May reigns supreme as Ire­land’s queen of rock­a­billy, blues and rhythm’n’blues, and such belt­ing songs as Big Bad Hand­some Man and Johnny’s Got A Boom-Boom have put grit back into Ir­ish pop.

Armed with a kiss-curl, a bodhrán, bun­dles of at­ti­tood, and a ma­ture voice, May has got her boom-boom on at Glas­ton­bury, Elec­tric Pic­nic and Other Voices, and was crowned Best Ir­ish Fe­male at the Me­teor Mu­sic Awards in March. KEVIN COURT­NEY

MARCH NO TUNES ON THE HORI­ZON

It was a year of ups and downs for U2 Inc. De­spite the hype (in­clud­ing the band set­ting up shop in the BBC for a week), new al­bum No

Line On The Hori­zon proved a damp squib. Bono ap­peared to blame the pub­lic for poor sales (“We’ve made a work that is a bit chal­leng­ing for peo­ple who have grown up on a diet of pop stars”) but the lack of love for the new songs at gigs told the real tale. Still, the bulk of those shows were sold out. Time for the Great­est Hits tour? JIM CAR­ROLL

APRIL

SUBO SOCKS IT TO SI­MON

She dreamed a dream, and it was mod­est enough – to make a liv­ing as a pro­fes­sional singer. Eight months af­ter sock­ing it to Si­mon

JUNE

Cow­ell, Amanda Holden and Piers Mor­gan on Bri­tain’s Got Tal­ent, the 47-year-old from Black­burn, Scot­land is top of the charts in 15 coun­tries, in­clud­ing Ire­land, the UK and the US. Her al­bum, I Dreamed A Dream, had the big­gest pre-or­der sales in Ama­zon.com’s his­tory. Fame has been hard on her, and the dream could yet turn sour, but that mo­ment when SuBo turned into a but­ter­fly right be­fore our eyes will linger. KEVIN COURT­NEY

APRIL-SEPTEM­BER NOW YOU SPO­TIFY IT, NOW YOU DON’T

In late spring, Ir­ish mu­sic fans dis­cov­ered Spo­tify.com. Thanks to as­tute use of a tech­ni­cal loop­hole, we filled our boots with the eight mil­lion tracks on the free-to-use stream­ing ser­vice and had a blast re­dis­cov­er­ing old favourites. This, we reck­oned, was the fu­ture. Sadly, in Septem­ber, Spo­tify got wise and closed the loop­hole. JIM CAR­ROLL When is a pop star not a pop star? When they’re around in body but not in soul? When Brit­ney brought her Cir­cus show to Dublin, she mimed the flashy, trashy set. This pin­pointed her com­plete fail­ure as a pop star to en­gage hon­estly with her fan­base, and it was the first time that this writer has seen some­thing that ap­prox­i­mated a holo­gram in place of a hu­man.

TONY CLAY­TON-LEA

JUNE MICHAEL JACK­SON RIP

BRIT­NEY DROPS IN

I had to turn around about five mil­lion words on the night Jack­son died and the next day. So it wasn’t un­til I was walk­ing up Bag­got St later that sunny evening that I could even be­gin to think about what had hap­pened. From a dry clean­ers I heard the strains of Sammy Davis Jr’s Mr Bojan­gles. I stood lis­ten­ing out­side trans­fixed by how the lyrics were so un­can­nily ap­pro­pri­ate. BRIAN BOYD

JUNE WAS IT ALL A BLUR?

Len­non and McCart­ney, Mor­ris­sey and Marr, Al­barn and Coxon. As far as sev­ered al­liances go, the rift be­tween Blur’s singer and gui­tarist wasn’t ex­actly earth-shat­ter­ing, but when the band an­nounced they were re­form­ing for con­certs in Hyde Park, Glas­ton­bury and Ox­e­gen, the stam­pede for tick­ets made the ground shake. It was nearly 10 years since they had last shared a stage, and 20 years since they had formed, but Blur proved they were still at peak power. Glad they didn’t wait 20 years to bury the hatchet. KEVIN COURT­NEY

JULY 360• IN THE SHADE

The de­layed plane landed at about 8.40pm. U2 were on stage in Barcelona’s Camp Nou at 9.30pm,

irish­times.com/thet­icket/

for the first gig of their Euro­pean tour. I asked the taxi driver how long it would take from air­port to sta­dium. He said one hour and 10 min­utes. I told him not to spare the horses and if he got me there for 9.20pm there’d be a free ticket in it for him. We got there at 9.15pm.

I was so trau­ma­tised I had to stay at the af­ter-show free bar un­til 7am the next morn­ing. BRIAN BOYD

JULY GE­OF­FREY GUR­RU­MUL YUNUPINGU, LON­DON

I swooned slightly when I first heard Ge­of­frey Gur­ru­mul Yunupingu’s de­but al­bum. I knew he was a blind Abo­rig­i­nal who sang in the Yol­ngu lan­guage, that he played the gui­tar up­side down (he’s left-handed) and that he be­lieved him­self to be de­scended from rain­bow pythons. I ex­pected some wor­thy world mu­sic af­fair but what I found was a glo­ri­ous gospel singer (af­ter a fash­ion) with a crisp tenor voice which he wraps around songs of beauty and brio. This gig was one of those “hushed” af­fairs where the plan­gent strums of the gui­tar and the sweet clar­ity of the vo­cal brought you on a mini-walk­a­bout. BRIAN BOYD

AU­GUST

OA­SIS SPLIT

It seemed like Oa­sis were go­ing to be one of those bands that hung around re­leas­ing sub-par drudge well into their twi­light years. Then again, it seemed like a mat­ter of when, not if, the broth­ers Gal­lagher would kill each other. Hav­ing failed to brand any of their al­bums since 1995’s (What’s the Story) Morn­ing Glory with real qual­ity, Oa­sis called a halt to their 18-year ca­reer af­ter a back­stage bust-up in Paris.

Hold that sigh of re­lief though: solo projects have al­ready been an­nounced. LAUREN MUR­PHY

SEPTEM­BER

DE BURGH STRIKES BACK

Chris De Burgh played three sold-out con­certs at the Gai­ety; and this pa­per dis­patched Peter Craw­ley to re­view one of them. The re­view, which re­ferred to de Burgh as a “small man” with a “war­bly tenor” voice per­form­ing “MOR mulch”, prompted the singer to fire off an an­gry mis­sive to The Ir­ish

Times, which the news­pa­per sub­se­quently printed in full. In it, de Burgh ac­cused Craw­ley of be­ing “churl­ish” and “cur­mud­geonly”, and of hav­ing had a prej­u­di­cial view of the gig be­fore it be­gan.

The let­ter kick­started many a de­bate about the rights and wrongs of mu­sic re­view­ing, and formed part of a re­cent Bill Bai­ley com­edy show in Dublin. KEVIN COURT­NEY

SEPTEM­BER

CHIC, ELEC­TRIC PIC­NIC

We’d been tipped off that Chic, a band that seemed like an al­most to­ken in­clu­sion in the Elec­tric Pic­nic timetable, would pro­vide the gig of the week­end – but noth­ing pre­pared us for the party at­mos­phere. Sev­eral thou­sand crammed into a tent on the Satur­day night to dance, sing and hear Nile Rodgers and band blast out their hits ( Le Freak, Good

Times) and stone-cold clas­sics (Bowie’s Let’s Dance, Diana Ross’s

Up­side Down). It was prob­a­bly the best fes­ti­val set we’ve seen. Rodgers de­scribed it on Twit­ter as “life-chang­ing”. LAUREN MUR­PHY

SEPTEM­BER QUEEN FLORENCE, ELEC­TRIC PIC­NIC

It was Sun­day evening at Elec­tric Pic­nic and crowds were packed into the big tent to see Florence and The Ma­chine. A year ago, Welch and her band had played the small­est stage at Strad­bally. In­deed, a few weeks ear­lier, some ge­nius had stuck them in the small­est tent at Ox­e­gen. But there were no mis­takes here as Welch started with the ti­tle track from her al­bum and the crowd swooned.

In a year of many fe­male stars, Florence Welch shone bright­est, her rise aided by a fan­tas­tic al­bum of off-kil­ter and kooky pop.

JIM CAR­ROLL

SEPTEM­BER

PRE­FAB RE-SPROUT

Twenty-five years ago, Paddy McAloon was up there with the best of 1980s song­writ­ers and then it seemed as if he gave up. What hap­pened was that his body failed him, due to a suc­ces­sion of eye­sight and hear­ing prob­lems, McAloon and Pre­fab Sprout faded from view.

This year, he/they came back with one of the year’s most charm­ing and in­tel­li­gent records, Let’s Change the World with Mu­sic.

Their first al­bum since 2001’s The

Gun­man and Other Sto­ries, the new record more than con­sol­i­dated McAloon’s rep­u­ta­tion for supremely crafted, in­tu­itively smart pop mu­sic.

TONY CLAY­TON-LEA

NOVEM­BER

YUSUF GETS CAT CALLS

It should have been a tri­umph for the artist for­merly known as Cat Stevens. What went wrong? Poor strate­gic plan­ning proved Yusuf’s un­do­ing; he thought pre­mier­ing his Moon­shadow mu­si­cal in the mid­dle of his show would have been re­ceived with en­thu­si­asm.

He hadn’t banked on a hos­tile sec­tion of the au­di­ence re­act­ing to a pro­fes­sional piece of mu­si­cal the­atre with all the grace of a rotweiller pulling apart a teddy bear.

Re­sult? The worst, most un­jus­ti­fi­ably badly re­ceived gig this writer has wit­nessed in over 30 years. TONY CLAY­TON-LEA

SIB­LING SPLIT: Oa­sis go their own ways

Clock­wise from be­low: Florence and the Ma­chine, Blur, Jape and Vil­lagers

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