Why The Killers matter to me.

Given that I’m seeing The Killers on Thursday and I’m a fan for ten years this summer I’ve been reflecting a lot these past two weeks on the band that kick started my music obsession.

I can remember discovering them like it was yesterday. It was summer 2004, I was ten years of age and I was sitting with my brother flicking through music channels. We stopped at one – I think it may have been Q – and a song began that immediately jumped out at me. The intro was awash with synthesizers. It was glitzy and glamorous, even sexy. The song was ‘Somebody Told Me’ and the band was The Killers.

As I listened to it, the infectious (if lyrically perplexing) chorus in particular really left a mark on me. Also on a more superficial level I was convinced that lead singer Brandon Flowers and his guy-liner constituted the most beautiful man I had ever seen. The band as a whole just looked incredibly cool and stylish. I was transfixed by these guys and it soon transpired that my brother had purchased Hot Fuss, their first album, as soon as it was released in the UK. He quickly lent me his copy of the CD….. and he didn’t see it again for five years. Crazy.

Instantaneously the album was the soundtrack to my life. I was hooked. I remember one particular trip me and my parents took to Bangor and we listened to it as our road trip soundtrack.The lyrics to ‘Midnight Show’ used to actually scare me a little bit and whenever I developed an unorthodox crush, you can be sure I listened to ‘Andy You’re A Star’ plenty. Ten years on and I still consider it one of the best debut records of recent times. Of course I had merchandise also: I had posters, books, even a mouse mat. I was utterly besotted with my first real music obsession.

My love affair with the band didn’t just stop with them though. I adored their sound so much that I wanted to know what bands sounded like them, or influenced them, so I could discover bands with similar sounds. In doing so, it instilled within me a keen love of 80s music and electronic music that still heavily dominates my music listening to this day. To be honest, every band I listen to can be traced back to The Killers in some way even if they’re from the other end of the musical spectrum. For example I discovered The Clash because reading an Ian Curtis biography made me interested in checking out the punk movement properly. Ian Curtis was of course the lead singer of Joy Division and following his death they became New Order. New Order are one of the biggest influences on The Killers – in fact they’re named after a fictional band in the video for ‘Crystal’ by New Order. I could cite more examples but you get the idea.

No other band has shaped my musical taste as much as The Killers. I’m twenty years old now and this summer marks ten years since I became a fan. That’s half my life. And just as I’ve grown in every way since I became a fan, I’ve witnessed them grow too. I’ve simply adored the experience of watching them become one of the biggest bands in the world. Last year, when they played Wembley Stadium I had such a sense of pride. It makes me so happy to see that as the years go by they’re still gaining new fans. Two weeks ago I was listening to Direct Hits and it actually took me aback how many memories I have associated with their music, especially the Hot Fuss era stuff. I hadn’t heard some of those songs in a while and I still knew every word. These are songs that will always be a part of me, no matter how time shapes me.

Of course, their subsequent albums have turned into release-day pilgrimages to pick them up. I remember when I first heard ‘When You Were Young’ and I was devastated. The new sound and style just didn’t sit well with me at twelve years of age. I think I even had tears in my eyes (thank goodness I grew up). I grew to really like it and I’ll concede that objectively I think Sam’s Town is superior to Hot Fuss for the growth in songwriting alone. Battle Born I consider to be their weakest effort, but I still like it. It’s just a bit patchier in comparison to their previous three records. Irregardless I’ll always get their albums on release day – they’ve had such an indelible impact on me that I’ll always be a fan.

So I’m going to see them performing one of their shows in support of Direct Hits, as last year marked ten years since their first show in London (and thus the start of their rise to stardom). On a more personal note this summer obviously marks ten years since I became a fan and next week it’ll be seven years since I saw them for the first time,(at the same festival as the upcoming gig). Added to all this, the concert takes place on the birthday of one of my other most important musical figures, the late Joe Strummer. In short – it’s a day with a lot of emotional significance. I simply cannot wait for it. I’ve always said that going to see The Killers always feels that bit more special and I think it’s perhaps truer than ever for the upcoming gig. Bring it on.


The Sopranos – Peter Gunn/Every Breath You Take (mash-up)

Wow, it does not feel like over a week since I’ve posted on here! I’ve had a busy two weeks and in my spare time I’ve been watching The Sopranos. It’s an amazing show blessed with an equally great soundtrack. It’s exposed me to some gems, one of these is a mash-up and I think it’s a stroke of genius. It’s the ‘Peter Gun’ theme mixed with The Police’s ‘Every Breath You Take’ – it’s used in the Sopranos S3 opening episode entitled ‘Mr Ruggerio’s Neighborhood’. If I’m not mistaken it was Sopranos creator David Chase’s wife who spotted the similarities between the two pieces of music and suggested to him a mash-up might work in an episode of the show. It was created and used to great effect, they just fit so brilliantly together. You can find it on the second released official Sopranos soundtrack entitled The Sopranos: Peppers & Eggs: Music From The HBO Original Series. Once I’ve finished the show I think I’ll pick up both soundtracks as the music in the show is great, with this mash-up being one of the highlights.

Madonna – The First Album 31st Anniversary

It’s a big anniversary today for Madonna fans – today marks the 31st anniversary of The First Album. I just love this album, one of the finest debut albums ever by a pop/electronic artist. All of the songs on the album do sound very similar and it’s Madonna’s least varied album, but there’s something irresistible about those scrappy and raw synths. And it’s got bucket-loads of charm and energy to boot. I far prefer it to Like A Virgin (my least favorite Madonna album). ‘Holiday’ and ‘Borderline’ still stand up as two of the definitive classics of the 80s and two of Madonna’s best singles. However, my favorite track on The First Album is ‘Physical Attraction’. It’s the first underrated Madonna gem and the best album track from her first three albums. It would have done brilliantly as a single I think. Whilst it seems to be a pretty popular song with fans, it’s never featured on any of her tours. On Youtube there’s just a few early performances in clubs recorded in 1983. I would love to see more of The First Album performed on tour actually – Holiday has featured heavily on her set-lists over the years but I think it’s time to hear something like ‘Everybody’ again or the aforementioned ‘Physical Attraction’. Honestly – I don’t think that will happen, which is a shame because The First Album still stands up really well after all these years.

Pet Shop Boys at BBC Proms 2014

Hello – apologies for being quiet these past few days but the heat here in Belfast is absolutely sweltering. It is, quite simply, piping hot.Too hot to really do anything constructive even.

Anyway, last night was arguably the most important date of 2014 for Pet Shop Boys fans as they performed at the BBC Proms last night (in London’s Royal Albert Hall). It was broadcast live on radio as well. I’ve just finished listening to the full show (which runs about ninety minutes I think) via BBC iPlayer and this is what I made of it:

The show opens with ‘Overture to Performance’ – a melody of no fewer than nine classic Pet Shop Boys hits which opened the start of every show on their Performance tour of 1991. They just used a recording of the piece to open the shows though. It’s never actually been performed live until last night. It made for a very fitting opening and I really liked how they opened with a relatively obscure piece. After all, it’s never been used at all after the Performance tour and it’s only available on certain versions of the ‘DJ Culture’ and ‘Was It Worth It’ singles.

At the conclusion of the overture (and following a brief introduction by Neil), Chrissy Hynde of Pretenders fame entered the stage to perform four Pet Shop Boys songs… with a twist. The four songs were rearranged for orchestral performances, all in the key of A minor. Chrissy was in fine voice and performed ‘Love Is A Catastrophe’, ‘Later Tonight’, ‘Vocal’ before singing with Neil on ‘Rent’. All four songs sounded marvelous – especially ‘Vocal’. It just shows the true versatility of Pet Shop Boys as composers as their songs can be readily interpreted in so many different ways. Special mention must go to Neil also, his vocals in ‘Rent’ were brilliant. His voice just gets better with age.

After this, attention turned to the main part of the evening. Receiving its full world premiere last night was ‘A Man From The Future’ – a song suite chronicling the life and tragic death of Alan Turing. Turing was a true pioneer whose findings paved the way for computer science, and thus technology as we know it today. Without his work computing wouldn’t exist (an unthinkable concept really). Not only that but in World War II he cracked various Germany military codes – including the Enigma code which was believed to be impossible to crack. His contributions to the Allied Victory cannot be disputed nor ignored. However, Turing was also gay and in 1952 he was arrested for homosexual activity. He was found guilty and received “treatment”, something which proved so detrimental to him on every level that he committed suicide in 1954. It truly was a despicable way to treat a unique and gifted genius.

As you could imagine, ‘A Man From The Future’ is a moving and experimental piece. Turing’s life story is narrated by Juliet Stevenson against an elaborate backdrop of music which can be divided into eight portions. The BBC Singers (and Neil) add their vocals from time to time into the mix as well. The music seamlessly blends more avant-garde orchestral work with more familiar classic sounding Pet Shop Boys electronics. Even without the narration and knowing the rough gist of Turing’s story, I still found it very moving to listen to. The music is very powerful by itself. The overall feeling of celebration though permeates throughout. All of the eight sections are beautiful, though it’ll take another few listens before I fully become familiar with the piece.

You can listen to the full show on BBC iPlayer. I strongly recommend you do so – it’s a fabulous piece of music that provides another gem in the Tennant/Lowe catalog. It further cements Pet Shop Boys’ status as gifted musicians who continuously put out rewarding music, even after thirty-three years in the business. Just superb.

Tommy Ramone dies aged 62

Today has seen the very sad announcement that Tommy Ramone has died, aged 62. He was the original drummer for The Ramones, playing on their first three studio albums. His passing now means that all of the original members of The Ramones have now left us. It’s truly a sad day for not just punk music but the music industry at large. Those first three albums are stone-cold classics, containing more classic songs in three records that most other bands create in an entire career. Added to this he wrote ‘I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend’ and the majority of one of punk’s most enduring singles: ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’. I was actually listening to Hey! Ho! Lets Go: The Anthology just before I heard he had passed. It never ceases to amaze me just how fresh and vital their material still sounds, and that anthology truly ranks as one of the greatest compilations albums ever made. Tommy had been suffering from bile duct cancer prior to his death. It’s a sad sad day – let’s just hope there’s one hell of a reunion gig going on somewhere beyond right now. RIP Tommy.

Good News, Bad News etc

Afternoon everyone from grey and gloomy Belfast. It was my intention to have posted on the blog before today, but getting a Wii U this week ensured that definitely didn’t happen. In all honesty I am a bit of a Nintendo devotee. I do get every Nintendo console that’s released but I never quite end up getting all the games for said console that I would like. Blame fereverent record buying for that. I do wish my two main hobbies weren’t so damn costly.

Anyway, I’ve got two bits of news to discuss with you today and sadly, the first one isn’t very good. Yesterday, Joy Division fans across the globe were left shocked to hear that Annik Honoré has died aged 56. Annik was known for her close relationship with Joy Division’s front-man Ian Curtis (whilst he was married). She actually was the inspiration for ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. I’m not here to judge Ian’s love life issues as they’re none of my business. Having said that I do actually have a lot of respect for Annik – she always maintained a dignified silence and very much shied away from the media following Ian’s suicide. She made a rare appearance in Grant Gee’s Joy Division documentary which is an essential music documentary I’d recommend anyone to watch. In it, she came across as someone who clearly cared and loved Ian a great deal. I actually was left with the impression that she understood him more than anybody else. She played a key role in this story and her death is really quite a shock. A serious illness was the cause of death, and given how private she was I can’t see any further details being given really. Very sad indeed.

I never like ending posts on a downbeat note and thankfully my other piece of news is much more positive. Last Monday, I had written that Kasabian had just announced dates for a Uk/Ireland arena tour – one of the dates being in Belfast. Tickets went on sale today and thankfully I managed to get one. The gig takes place on Tuesday, December 9th. It’ll actually be technically the second time I’ve seen them. I saw them supporting The Killers in 2007 as part of the Tennents Vital festival for that year but I wasn’t a fan then. It wasn’t until West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum in 2009 that they won me over. Ever since then, I’ve always wanted to see them live so I can properly appreciate them second time around. Their Glastonbury Festival performance last Sunday made me even more eager for them to announce some dates. I wasn’t expecting them to announce the dates less than twenty-four hours later but hey, I can’t complain!

That’s all I’ve really got to talk about for the moment – I’ll be still working on some various bits and pieces I want to discuss on the blog so stay tuned and I’ll see you soon!

Glastonbury 2014: The Grand Finale (and a potential gig),

Evening everyone. Well, that’s Glastonbury over for another year. I’m actually missing the constant coverage already – even if BBC did have a tendency to show the same bands. I think I came across Elbow’s set three times actually, at least. I do love ‘One Day Like This’ dearly but that was just too much. On another note – how berserk was the size of the crowd for Dolly Parton?! I’d bet good money that the majority of that crowd knew about four songs, if even. Is that cynical of me?

Those random points aside, yesterday really did belong to Kasabian’s Glastonbury closer. I had high hopes for their performance and the boys from Leicester definitely did not disappoint. They were born to be on that stage – so much so that I was shocked to discover that was their first Glastonbury Pyramid Stage headline performance. They swaggered their way through a set studded with anthems, one that definitely veered towards greatest hit set as opposed to showcasing 48:13. In fact, only four songs performed were from their latest album. As I’ve said before I don’t consider it their best record so I wasn’t too disheartened at that. The highlight for me was ‘Fast Fuse’, it was a song from West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum that I had previously overlooked, but last night it blew my mind. The cherry on the cake being Noel Fielding making an appearance for ‘Vlad The Impaler’ as I had been hoping for that. Honestly, they were the highlight of the whole festival for me – best was saved until last most definitely!

The show was that good that I said to my brother this morning that I wish an opportunity to see them again in Belfast would arise soon. I saw them in 2007 as part of that year’s Tennents Vital festival. Regrettably though I wasn’t actually a fan then – I was there to see The Killers (who were headlining). Even the idea of Kasabian being second on the bill to The Killers strikes me as crazy now. Both bands have gone on to such dizzying heights that it’ll simply never happen again. So with that in mind, imagine my surprise when I came home two hours ago to discover, lo and behold, they’ve announced a Belfast date today! They play Odyssey Arena on December 9th and tickets go on sale this Friday. Needless to say, I’ll be trying to get a ticket for that!

I’ve got some catchup posts I want to make before then though, so you’ll definitely be hearing from me well before Friday!

Glastonbury Day 3 Chatter: Kasabian, Metallica etc

Afternoon all and we’ve obviously come to the last day of Glastonbury 2014. It’s only been on TV for three days, but I’ll miss the constant schedule checks really come tomorrow. They certainly make boring Sundays much more interesting. I just hope that more performances find their way onto Youtube soon – I need to see Jagwar Ma, M.I.A and the complete Foster The People show yet.

Anyway, like most of you I was watching Metallica last night. I thought they were very good. In fact, it’s even given me an incentive to try Ride The Lightning  as I found myself particularly enjoying ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’. I was really pleased to see that they got a a very good reception from the crowd. Booking Metallica is one of the more controversial Glastonbury moments but ultimately I think it was a good decision. It’s good for the band as it exposes them to an audience who in ordinary circumstances may not have considered listening to them. I’d consider myself in that bracket really. Not only that, but they’re a legendary band with over thirty years in the industry behind them. They’ve got a secured place in the pantheon of music. They’re much more worthy of headlining a festival as large as Glastonbury, than Mumford & Sons, that’s for sure.

Onto today’s schedule and I’m particularly excited to see Disclosure who headline the West Holts stage. I loved Settle last year and I’ve never saw any live performance footage of them before actually. Aside from Kasabian on the Pyramid Stage, there’s no other artist there I’m really looking forward to watching. I’m not a fan really of any of the other artists on today’s Pyramid Stage bill. I enjoy Massive Attack’s first two albums a lot so I’m a bit more interested in their headline performance of the Other Stage, especially if a good portion of the set-list constitutes material from Blue Lines and Protection.

I won’t be watching it live though because for me today is all about Kasabian. I fully expect them to be simply electrifying. Their music and image is just tailor made for a performance this size. It’ll be nothing less than sheer euphoria. Whilst 48:13 isn’t their best album, I just can’t wait to hear ‘Eez-Eh’ live – it should be banging. I’m expecting them to pull out the best overall performance of the entire festival. Frankly, I think it’ll take something extreme – like the band not showing up – for them to not do so.  See you later!

Glastonbury Day 2 Chatter: Metallica, Arcade Fire etc

Evening from a lovely day in Belfast – Glastonbury is now in full swing and I’m actually rather tired from staying up last night to watch the TV broadcast of Arcade Fire’s set. That’s sufficient enough proof that I don’t have the stamina for outdoor festivals. Anyway, I’ll do it all over again tonight, some things just need to be done!

Of course the best place to start with today’s Glastonbury chatter is with last night’s headliners: Arcade Fire. I thought their show was absolutely fantastic. Totally bonkers as expected and so consistently good. All credit to Arcade Fire, every song felt like it could have served as an encore, such was the unrelenting spectacle of it all. I was thrilled that they performed the majority of Reflektor. The only two songs from the album that I wished were also performed were ‘You Never Know’ and ‘Supersymmetry’. Apart from that they did every other song I wanted to hear. I was genuinely surprised though that they didn’t throw in one of their Clash covers. It seemed like a dead cert given it’s an English festival and Joe Strummer’s campfires were the stuff of Glastonbury legend – and they still continue in his honor thanks to Strummerville. The exclusion hardly ruined their set though. They actually exceeded my expectations, simply an excellent performance.

Onto today, and for the larger stages today is probably the weakest day of the three for me. The artist whose performance I’m most eager to see today is Jagwar Ma. They released the debut album of 2013 for me and even though they played Glastonbury last year I’ve never seen any footage of the set. Moving onto the smaller stages and I’m a tad annoyed that Charlie XCX, dan le sac vs. Scroobius Pip, and 2manyDJS with James Murphy aren’t being recorded at all. There’s actually a lot of electronic based artists on those smaller stages throughout the whole festival that I’d love to have streamed. I do find that disappointing.

Mind you, by far the most intriguing act for the whole festival for me is Metallica, who make their Glastonbury debut. I actually know little of their music (though I like a few songs) yet as far as left of field Pyramid Stage headliners go I’m hard-pressed to think of a more anomalous headline act. That alone makes this set something I simply have to see. Heavy metal isn’t a genre I listen to usually but it’s always good to take a step out of your musical comfort zone. I might even become enticed to seek out more of their music following it, stranger things have happened! Whatever happens, you’ll be hearing from me tomorrow so I’ll see you then!

Glastonbury 2014: Arcade Fire, Blondie + What’s To Come

Afternoon all – things are set to get very busy on the blog over the next three days because Glastonbury 2014 is now officially underway. I’m not there (obviously) but thank goodness for BBC coverage, Youtube and iPlayer, and I’ll have a better view than most actually attending the festival to boot. That’s what being 4ft 8 does to you. You can’t deny the internet can be a life-saver at times though!

Anyway, due to errands I haven’t caught any of the performances yet except for a snippet of Blondie who performed earlier. They sounded great which I was thrilled to see as Ghost Of Download I found to be very disappointing. Hopefully the live performances of the new material will improve my opinions of it somewhat. There’s a lot of artists I’m looking forward to seeing today actually: Foster The People, Chrvches and M.I.A being another few, and tomorrow and Sunday has plenty also. Honestly, me and my brother have been paying such close attention to the stream and who’s next etc it’s almost like being there in that regard.

Above all though the main act I’m looking forward to is Arcade Fire, who headline the pyramid festival for the first time. I’ve only gotten into their music within the last few months and this will really be the first time I’ve watched a complete live performance of theirs. Reflektor has become a belated addition to my best albums of 2013 list and I can’t wait to see how it sounds live (I’m expecting it to be great). Left of field is what I’m expecting from them really so I hope they deliver on that front. Of course I would adore it for David Bowie to fulfill his cameo role on ‘Reflektor’ live but that will almost certainly not happen. Much more likely to happen though is my wish they’ll throw in one of their Clash cover versions that they often do. ‘I’m So Bored With The USA’ featured a fair amount on their set-list at the end of 2013. I’d even really love to see their version of ‘The Guns Of Brixton’, though that appears to have been covered more in the mid-2000s. It’s such a bizarre version that won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but I really like it. It’s certainly unique. Given that it’s an English festival, I think they probably will perform a Clash cover. It’s certainly the right location for such a tribute.

I’ll be up for the live coverage on BBC1 this evening. I’ll be doing that for both Metallica tomorrow and Kasabian on Sunday too – it’s the first time I’ve wanted to see all three headline acts actually. I’m also looking forward to seeing what new bands I discover thanks to the festival too. In any case, you’ll be hearing a lot from me these next few days!

As a footnote – I just want to say that my blog has saw a real surge in views recently – so thank you so much to everyone who takes the time to read what I’ve got to say! I really appreciate it!