Monday Music Review

By londonist_music Last edited 158 months ago
Monday Music Review

They may not have made it into Channel 4's greatest gigs of all time but for the 130 000 who made it, it was probably pretty damn close, for the rest of us there's this:

Green Day - Bullet In A Bible (Live CD/DVD) (Reprise)

With American Idiot, Green Day pulled off what will probably become known the most emphatic comeback in music history, probably even eclipsing that of Tony "Amarillo" Christie (sorry, Tony). Faced with dwindling critical enthusiasm for a scene which, to give them their due, they pretty much invented, the future of Green Day's blend of punk-pop (nb. not pop-punk, natch) looked bleak just a few years ago. The B-side and greatest hits compilations that followed 2000's Warning didn't leave much on the horizon...

But then came the three B's: Bush, Blair, and Busted (OK, so there were probably myriad other factors involved in Green Day's re-ascension - ruthless marketing, for one, but marketing doesn't begin with a 'B'). When the war in Iraq began and the world turned up its nose, there emerged a common zeitgeist of disapproval on both sides of the Atlantic. Having established themselves as the acceptable face of punk for the MTV generation, no band was better placed to share this malcontent with the masses than Green Day. Granted, others were more openly damning (see NOFX's The War On Errorism and the Rock Against Bush compilations), but no-one else had access to the same worldwide audience.

Meanwhile, the UK was rediscovering the simple joy of three chord rock. Though Busted were no more Punk than Abba, they made guitars cool again. More importantly, they were happy to wear their influences on their sleeves (as are McFly and, now, Son Of Dork) and through little effort of their own, Green Day suddenly appealed to a new demographic of adolescents and tweenies, in addition to their already vast and adoring fanbase. Hence, when American Idiot was unleashed in 2004, it touched both an emotional and commercial nerve. The blue touch-paper had already been lit, but the album's well-balanced mix of polemic bile and

radio-friendly singles seemed to strike exactly the right chord, at exactly the right time.

Bullet In A Bible captures the band at the zenith of their rekindled popularity. Over two days in June this year, Green Day managed to squeeze 130,000 of their own fans into the epic surroundings of the Milton Keynes Bowl. To put it into perspective, that's more than the average attendance of Glastonbury, all devoted to one band. Quite remarkably for a band of their standing, this is Green Day's first official live album, but they've done a grand job putting together this double disc set. The full two-hour live set from Milton Keynes features on the CD, while the DVD splices backstage interview footage into video of the same show.

In sixteen years together, Billie Joe Armstrong, Tre Cool and Mike Dirnt have morphed into one hell of a live act. They may have burned drumkits, hosed down crowds, played in their underwear and dyed their hair every colour under the sun over the years, but today they are living proof that stadium rock can still exist, and doesn't have to be tongue-in-cheek (are you listening at the back, Mr. Hawkins?).

The set kicks off with arguably the best chunk of American Idiot: the title track (accented by fireworks) followed by Jesus Of Suburbia, Holiday and Are We The Waiting/St.Jimmy. Billie and co. then proceed to rip through the cream of their back catalogue. As is now tradition, the middle eight of Hitchin' A Ride gets stretched out to the maxiumum as Billie Joe winds the crowd up like a coiled spring, before releasing them with a simple "1-2-1-2-3-4". Longview, Brain Stew, Basket Case and Minority all meet with riotous approval, even from the under-tens (seriously, this Londonista was there at the MK Bowl, stood next to an eight year old boy that knew the words to every single song).

"Why are there no clouds in the sky?" asks drummer Tre Cool as the band prepare to board the stage at Milton Keynes. "Because God wants to watch his favourite band again!" comes his answer. It's moments of backstage banter like this that make Bullet In A Bible's DVD even more satisfying than the CD. The interview footage is honest and amusing, while Billie Joe's watering eyes and faltering voice make the performance of Wake Me Up When September Ends (written about the death of his father) a poignant highlight.

In concert, his persona seems to alter continually. One minute he swears through gritted teeth, "this song is not anti-American, it's anti-warrrr!", the next he's fumbling around with his hand in his pants, in front of 65,000 people. With his call-and-response showmanship and his ability to reach the audience on a personal level, Armstrong exhibits shades of the late, great Freddie Mercury. Grand scale faux-masterbation aside, there's no better frontman in the world right now, and few live acts that are as entertaining as Green Day.

You can watch clips from Bullet In A Bible at - here



Bright Eyes - Motion Sickness (Saddlecreek)

The last time Londonist saw Bright Eyes live was at Glastonbury earlier this year.

Due to the fact that Ryan Adams had been forced to pull out, the band were headlining the newly-named John Peel Stage on the Sunday night and it was to be the icing on what had been a rather muddy but exceptionally entertaining cake.

Unfortunately the moment Conner Oberst appeared on stage it was clear to everyone present that something wasn't right. There were interminable delays between songs, Oberst was abusive towards the crowd and didn't seem to want to be there...and then he said something insulting about John Peel. Which is when we decided to leave.

So you see Motion Sickness has a hell of a job to do. Not only does it have to entertain us, it has to try and restore our faith in a performer who, up until recently, we had a huge amount of respect for.

And to an extent it does the job. There's no doubting Oberst's ability to write a good song and his voice, already quite raw on record, is immensely effective in a live setting, something that's captured very well here, with songs like Make War, Landlocked Blues and Method Acting all benefiting from the controlled chaos that Oberst's tumultuous but undoubtedly accomplished band bring to their performances.

But don't buy this album if you're looking for a solid retrospective of the Bright Eyes catalogue. All the recordings on Motion Sickness are taken from the Summer 2005 tour (which included Somerset House and a five night run at Webster Hall in New York as well as Glastonbury) and so many of the songs are culled from the recent I'm Wide Awake It's Morning (in fact the two albums share the same running order for the first three songs).

This does make the album feel a little limited and unimaginative, especially when you consider the fact that there are hundreds of hours of bootleg Bright Eyes live recordings already out there.

The Conner Oberst fanclub will love Motion Sickness, but for everyone else, especially those who were stood in that muddy field in June, Bright Eyes still has a lot of work to do. (RH)



The Darkness - One Way Ticket (Atlantic)

It's really only possible to appreciate what The Darkness are all about if you can look the world square in the face and say, yes, I used to wear a bullet belt. And even then you'd probably never admit to it in public. But for anyone who once saw Def Leppard, In The Round, there's a seriously guilty pleasure in this totally overblown slice of pomp RAWK. Kicking off with a blast of the Angus Youngs it quickly serrupts in to molten slab of classic Leppard/Mutt Lange pop metal not forgetting to chuck in a Queen vocal hysteria. It's utterly ridiculous, even more so with the cheesy fnar fnar it's all about doing coke unsubtlety, and yet jaw dropping in it's brilliance for the same reason. But when it's finished you can't help wondering why anyone would still want to plough these ancient furrows and whether or not The Darkness might just be a Quiet Riot for the twenty first century. (MM)

System Of A Down - Hypnotize (Sony)

SOAD have long been one of the most innovative acts in music today, a sort of politicised heavy metal Frank Zappa. Hypnotize is the title track from the second act to Mezmerize, and whilst still a great song, is a more genric affair than, say, the former's lead single BYOB. Nimble fingered guitarist Daran Malakian shares vocal duties with Serj Tankian over a riff that the Screaming Trees might have written had they still been experimenting with their Sweet Oblivion sound, although with it's crashing chorus and Aremenian lilts it remians very much System. Oh, and it might be about the evils of television. Good to know they're back but by their own standards a less than fulfilling taster of their grand opus. (MM)

The Pipettes - Dirty Mind (Memphis Industries)

It's almost impossible not to love The Pipettes. Down in the Londonist dungeon the mere mention of their name will entail having to navigate deep pools of drool and with their first major release for Memphis the Editro's issued the team with life jackets. As catchy as a Colombian headcold at a political party conference, Dirty Mind finds our three-polka dotted debs gaily singing about a boy with a, yes, you've guessed it, dirty mind. It swings along with a retro-eighties B.A.D. vibe, handclaps, harmonies and is over practically before it's begun as all great pop records should be. A sweet taste of sunshine as the days draw in. (MM)


Watch Anton Newcombe of the Brian Jonestown Massacre lose the plot whilst the Dandy Warhols make it big. Glory be, Dig! has finally made it on to DVD. (MM)

Extra Extra - Tuesday Update

And a last minute reminder that Health And Happiness, the recommended monthly intake of country, bluegrass, blues and other music for uplifting gourmandizers, is Tuesday 15th at the Social on Little Portland Street.

This month, as well as playing some great records, they'll be joined by three very special live acts... acclaimed singer-songwriter (and ukulele player) Mara Carlyle, The Fine Arts Showcase, aka prodigiously talented Swede Gustaf Kjellvänder, and all the way from Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, the wonderfully downbeat Americana of The Beauty Shop. 7 till midnight and it's free!

Last Updated 14 November 2005