Entertainment Music

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Rock: Hardly a twerk of genius -- that was left to others

Miley Cyrus twerking on stage with Robin Thicke. Photo: Reuters
Miley Cyrus twerking on stage with Robin Thicke. Photo: Reuters

Nick Kelly

Let's twerk again, like we did last summer. Yes, in 2013, there was a whole lot of twerking going on. Those that weren't twerking were asking 'what's twerking?' So many, in fact, that the Oxford English Dictionary added the accursed verb to its list of new words.

Future pop culture historians will blame Miley Cyrus, who seemed to twerk all day and all of the night. The pop star appeared to savour taking a 'Wrecking Ball' to her squeaky clean Hannah Montana persona -- hoping no doubt that she'd gain more fans than she'd lose once she emerged like a minx from the flames, all grown up.

Her graphic gyrations at the MTV video awards alongside the odious and aptly named Robin Thicke made jaws drop from Tallahassee to Termonfeckin. Sinéad O'Connor -- whose video for 'Nothing Compares 2 U' had been a big influence on Miley -- penned an open letter to the new kid on the block warning her of the dangers of the predatory and exploitative male-dominated music biz. The letter went viral and Miley, far from snuggling under the protective wing of her guardian angel, reacted with something less than whole-hearted gratitude.

As if sensing that she was about to be dethroned as the queen bee of pop, Lady Gaga returned with her third album ARTPOP. The general reaction to the chameleonic Warholian wannabe in 2013 was: great wigs, shame about the tunes.

The comeback of the year, though, came from David Bowie -- another artist inspired by Andy Warhol's Factory scene -- who somehow managed to keep the world and his ex-wife in the dark about his first new studio album in eons. A playful, self-referential cover sleeve, an enthralling avant-garde arthouse video and, last but not least, a set of cracking new songs inspired a worldwide orgy of Bowie-love.

The feelgood hit of the summer came courtesy of Daft Punk and Nile Rodgers -- the latter a former Bowie collaborator. 'Get Lucky' was everywhere, and Rodgers's shows in Vicar Street with Chic were the bomb.

Bowie wasn't only the only beloved bona fide icon to return with a bang -- Johnny Marr strutted his Strat like he'd never been away on his debut solo album The Messenger, which reminded all the young dudes that it's all about riffs not quiffs.

A rambunctious gig in Dublin's Academy curiously coincided with a visit from Morrissey to the Fair City, who was in town to see his cousin Robbie Keane captaining the Republic of Ireland at the Aviva.

Morrissey finally publish his greatly anticipated autobiography. Who said there was more to life than books?

Over in New England, Vampire Weekend's teenage fang-club took love bites out of their wonderful third album Vampires of the City: consistency is nothing to be scared of.

Arcade Fire, meanwhile, returned with the slow-burning if at times head-scratching Reflektor. They brood, therefore they are. Some Arcade Fire fanatics, though, preferred the minimalist melodies of the band's violinist Sarah Neufeld, whose solo album Hero Brother is an unheralded gem.

Domestically, it was a year when many veterans of the Irish music scene would return like far-flung emigrants bringing their washing home to mammy. Doctor Millar, for instance, boomeranged with C48, which contained one of the songs of the year in 'My Kids'. The Would Bes, with original vocalist Julie back in the line-up, rolled back the years with their whipsmart Beautiful Mess, while it was also heartening to see the likes of former Blink frontman Dermot Lambert, former Into Paradise singer Dave Long and The Pale all relight the flame.

Every home should also have the Halves album, while Belfast noise supremos And So I Watch You From Afar kept the flag flying for pure post-rock -- indeed it's possible they learned a trick or two from My Bloody Valentine who at long last got around to recording the follow-up to their masterpiece Loveless. What's a few decades between friends? mbv had a lot to live up to -- but many would tip it to win the Choice Prize next year.

Finally, rumours of the death of the music festival were greatly exaggerated. In May, the Kilkenny Roots Festival was an Americana-lover's dream, with unforgettable sets from, deep breath, John Grant, John Murry, The Deep Dark Woods, The Dead Flamingoes and Angel Olsen.

The inaugural Longitude Festival in Marlay Park gave us Kraftwerk's eye-boggling three-dimensional visual extravaganza. And, despite fears that a legal dispute would derail Electric Picnic, the festival went on to celebrate its 10th year in some style.

 

From Bjork to Villagers, These were the top sounds of the year

MY ALBUM OF THE YEAR: The insanely prolific Mark Kozelek made the best indie-tronica collaboration since The Postal Service when he teamed with The Album Leaf's Jimmy LaValle. The fruit of their labour, Perils From The Sea, took the Sun Kil Moon and former Red House Painters frontman in a surprising new musical direction that made this possibly my favourite album of the year. Alas, a follow-up looks unlikely after the pair fell out.

MY GIG OF THE YEAR: I'd have to plump for the peerless Icelandic pixie queen's Saturday night headline show at the Electric Picnic. There were no bells or whistles -- just a drummer, a keyboard guy and an Icelandic female choir in flouncy robes, reimagining Bjork's (left) stellar back catalogue for these ultra-modern times. The video backdrop conveying the splendour and terror of nature was, well, out of this world.

MY FAVOURITE NEW BAND: The curse of sub-editors everywhere, Chvrches (pictured) first appeared on the radar when they were picked as one of the BBC's Sound of 2013 poll of industry tastemakers in January. And Simple Minds singer Jim Kerr raved about his fellow Glaswegians in an interview for this paper.

I con-Kerr: the electro-pop trio's debut The Bones of What You Believe was stuffed with effervescent, euphoric melodies that paid homage to the synth-pop of the 1980s without ever sounding retro-fitted. And who could not love Lauren Mayberry for daring to sing in her native Scottish accent?

MY IRISH ALBUM OF THE YEAR: All the way back in January, Villagers quietly unveiled their second album (awayland). The music press loudly hailed it as proof that Conor O'Brien and Co were here to stay -- and the UK's Mercury Music Prize judges agreed, earning Villagers their second nomination. The subtle instrumentation and keyhole introspection of Conor's lyrics took off where debut Becoming A Jackal left off. Here's a band you feel who are in it for the long haul.

 

nkelly@independent.ie @nickkellyindo

Irish Independent

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