2011: Calling time on The Hootenanny

Hang on, lads, I know just what that 4'33" needs...

I realise that Jools Holland’s annual dose of comforting musical cheese has dropped below the radar of a lot of so-called serious music critics, but I still find it worthwhile of a little attention. TLC and I don’t do The New Year Thing, choosing instead to stay in, cook (fish pie), watch a movie (Hot Tub Time Machine, beer-spittingly hilarious) and doze out in front of that good ole boogie woogie pianna.

This year, something went wrong, and I switched off at half past twelve. The exact point? Halfway through Roger Daltrey’s painful version of Mannish Boy, backed by the Rhythm and Blues Orchestra. This was the moment where I got heartily sick of every other bloody song being a bad cover version from the band with a “special guest” who more often than not turned out to be … another member of the band.

Now, they’ve been pulling this trick for years. It’s fine, especially as the quality of musicianship in the Orchestra is so good, and includes some genuine legends. But the balance was so fatally skewed towards them that you have to ask the question: where was everyone else? Bellowhead and Vampire Weekend were fine when they could get a word in edgeways. Plan B was fine. He was smart enough to stick to the singles, and delivered them with energy and verve. And that was it. Everything else just blurred into an endless, major-key exercise in ho-hum.

In times past, the Hootenanny has grabbed my attention by the star power of the guests they could bring up, or by the sense of discovery and surprise they could bring to an essentialy mainstream music show. Later… is still the best place on telly to catch the greats along with exciting new voices, and I still think the Hootenanny should reflect that. This New Year’s Eve, it didn’t. It felt, smug, outdated, and fatally caught up in a net of nostalgia. Alongside the endless tranche of old soul and R&B, the new acts were for the most part looking backwards rather than forwards. The Secret Sisters, two sweet Nashville gals, were doing nothing that the Carters hadn’t done fifty years previously. Rumer was another one of those chantooses that Joolsy seems so enamoured with, spooling out smoky Dustyisms in a creamy contralto. It just all seems so… lazy.

Look, the Hootenanny has given me a lot of pleasure over the years, introduced me to a ton of new music and been the soundtrack to innumerable New Year’s Eves. I’m disappointed, and I hope the “will this do?” exercise I was subjected to this year doesn’t happen again. It’s the first time in a long time that I haven’t watched it to the end, and I’ll be wary of doing so again. It’s a low down dirty shame.

(Pic courtesy The Telegraph)

Amanda Palmer and the thrill of creative differences

Many, many years ago, oh lordy, we must be talking at least 2004, my old boss offered me a lend of an album. “This looks like your sort of thing, Rob,” he said cryptically.
It was the first, self-titled Dresden Dolls album, and curse him for seeing the convolutions of my twisted little soul, he was right. It was skewed, wonky, unafraid of it’s influences, powerful, bold and brave. And I instantly fell in love with the stripy-stockinged loon that was Amanda Palmer. A clockwork Sally Bowles, a ticking song bomb. Greasepaint, corsets, minor chords and love songs to robot boys. What’s not to love?
Time moves on. The Dolls go into hiatus, and Amanda works on a solo album, Who Killed Amanda Palmer? Produced by the mighty Ben Folds, it focuses on her piano-driven pop sensibilities, and is a work of utter joy. She makes a couple of cheeky, funny promos skewering the pop world, low-budget gems that show off her penchant for dressing up and being a bit silly. I fall in love all over again.
And then the wheels come off. Her record company, Roadrunner, best known as a metal label, clearly have problems with her. And they start to interfere with the way she portrays herself, calling into question her approach, her songcraft.
Then they start calling her fat.

I’ll let the girl herself take up the story from here. 

And here’s the vid in question, so you can see what the fuss is all about.

Bellygate is clearly the thin end of the wedge as far as Amanda’s concerned. She is now involved in a turf war with Roadrunner. At stake, nothing less than her career. She’s making the perfectly valid point that Roadrunner don’t get her, never did, and are not treating her with any kind of respect or even mild interest. She wants out, and she doesn’t care who knows it.
Here’s her latest offensive, a song written especially for her label, that really tells you everything you need to know about the conflict this far. It’s utterly typical of Amanda that she should take a situation that’s clearly causing her pain and misery, and turn it into entertainment. The sign of a great performer.

Here’s to the exit sign, Ms. Palmer.


Props to Rick for pointing me at this in the first place.

Buy Who Killed Amanda Palmer here.