Long-cherished beliefs are under threat. We go through our lives convinced Win Butler has no sense of humour and then he raises the curtain on his new puffed-up high-concept album with the unmistakable sound of Benny Andersson playing Yvonne Elliman. Is it a subversion of pop’s sturdiest bedrocks, or of his own band, or does he just know how to rip off a tune? A couple of tunes. Good ones, and he does it well. Arcade Fire have always been beholden to “the kids” of course, so let’s see what they think.
“That’s a panpipe,” says Junior.
You know how Thomas Mars sings “Just because of you” in the chorus and it turns out the song’s title is an acronym of exactly that?
Well, I didn’t notice until my seven-year-old daughter pointed it out on Sunday. As is my way, I’m too wrapped up in twinkling synths and Mars’s somewhat Neil Tennant-ish delivery on the verses.
Junior 1 says, “It’s cool. It’s so different, it’s calming.”
Junior 2 has ‘Just Because’ printed on her dress. Is that because she’s a big Phoenix fan?
A warm welcome for Leicester’s second finest after Riyad Mahrez who make their long-awaited Jukebox Junior debut that I thought would never come because they’re rubbish, let’s face it.
But there have always been a couple of good things about Kasabian. One is the way that Tom Meighan says “Isn’t that right, Serge?” after every statement he makes; the other is their position as British rock’s finest sloganeers. Any ordinary record immediately sounds more interesting when you call it ‘You’re In Love With A Psycho’. Any glam-pop knock-off is elevated by a Slade-ish chant of “She said, ‘God bless this acid house!’” This just makes me happy despite myself.
“I think if people are drowsy, this makes them hyper,” is the astute verdict from Junior 2. Big sister and original Jukebox Junior is pulling a ‘rock’ face and doing a Jagger-esque chickenhead, neatly summing up the Kasabians’ slavish devotion to their rock’n’roll lineage. We’ve got their number.
Like I say, they chose the order, not me, which means anything that wasn’t played on Kiss over the course of the year is going to end up clogging the lower reaches of our chart. That’s not to say the girls are wrong. ‘Motion Sickness’ is too warm, fuzzy and sweet to really unfurl the punch lurking there. Who does Phoebe Bridgers “hate”? Who gave her “fifteen hundred to see your hypnotherapist”? Who sings “with an English accent”? Not as many people as you’d think.
Something resonates though. “You can feel how she feels,” says Junior 2, who’s attuned to this kind of thing and hums along. “It’s a bit draggy,” says Junior 1, “You want it to be a bit quicker.”
Emotions ran a bit higher when it came to deciding where this should chart. This was the sixth song we played and the first that saw the three of them screaming and shoving each other out of the way for the privilege of moving the strip of paper up the fridge. Amazed it took so long.
“It’s strong,” says Junior 1, contrasting it with ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’. “I can tell the purpose.” Junior 3 praises “the beat” but Junior 2 doesn’t like it “that much”.
I thought they’d lap Sigrid, barely their senior, right up. A week later they’re among the half-dozen viewers watching her on Sounds Like Friday Night, the BBC’s latest why-in-Hades-don’t-they-just-bring-back-Top-Of-The-Pops flagship music show, and seem more into her, but by then the Blu Tack’s stuck fast. Still, it’s a powerful, defiant anthem delivering a boot to the teeth of any rockists underestimating a young pop star. Assuming her red/white colour scheme’s an ironic dig at Jack White, that is.
Each year on Jukebox Junior I pick the top 20 singles and I put them in order. All very Drowned In Sound. This year we’re making changes. I’ve chosen the 20 but my daughters Junior 1 (aged 12), Junior 2 (aged 9) and Junior 3 (aged 7) have put them in order with the help of lots of strips of paper, some Blu Tack, a fridge door and some keen critical faculties.
Good to hear the ‘French exit’ in song. It’s the aesthete’s departure, a sidestep out the door when you’ve had too many beers to actually frame the word “goodbye”. Ellie Rowsell seems more worried about the gossips than the very real prospect of throwing up over the object of her affection, and frames her turmoil in shoegazey pop, shouting her feelings from the top of a mountain where she’s less likely to be embarrassed.
Junior 3 would hurt those feelings: “I don’t like it.” Junior 1 equivocates with “It’s not that strong, but I can tell it’ll be stuck in my head forever.” “Basically it’s unforgettable,” Junior 2 summarises.
It’s a start anyway.
The best song wasn’t the single. Takes me back to those blurred boundaries I dithered around back at No.20, because, essentially, I was just seeding this. I could’ve called this 2016 Top 20 Tracks, but singles are magical and if ‘Ivy’ can get Pitchfork’s Best New Music (i.e. be picked out of an album for promo) then that’s basically a single, isn’t it? These days. These new-fangled days.
Now I’m kicking myself for not making Joanna Newsom’s ‘Good Intentions Paving Co.’ the best single of 2010. Or ever.
‘Ivy’ is the best track, single, song of the year because Frank Ocean’s a storyteller with his heart out front, the guitar sounds like Ultra Vivid Scene, there’s no beat, there’s a tale that pulls you into its subversion of guilt and regret, he uses his range to hammer home shifting feeling from the “GOOD!” that desperately affirms everything’s OK to the screaming “dreaming” and the plaintive “me too” in between. He’s an extraordinary performer who makes the assumption you’re in his world – and you are, you’re invested in it.
I mean, take this: as soon as Ocean sings, “I thought that I was dreaming…”, Junior 2 snores. She’s in his hands from the first second (or taking the piss). “I’ve heard it,” she says. “He has a cute voice. It’s very impressive that he’s telling a story.” We talk about Rostam Batmanglij, who’s involved somewhere – the girls are big Vampire Weekend fans. Junior’s worried Frank and Rostam’s diaries won’t coincide enough for them to do it on tour. “They’ll have to bring someone else on.”
“I like the screaming now,” says Junior 3. She then does the “dreaming” screaming until told to shut up.
As we wrap up, as the final scream warps itself away, Junior 2 has a question. It’s a big one. “What’s he going to do now?”
Whittle a nest of tables, probably.
My third daughter has a habit whenever I put on a record she doesn’t know. I’d say she tries to identify the artist, but really she just asks, “Is it Bob Dylan?”
I mean, this almost is. MC Taylor has that winning duck-quack whine and a fairly oblique way with a story, and ‘Biloxi’ rolls like a stone. My iPod reckons I’ve played it 40 times this year, so it just keeps on rolling too. It also takes me back to the days when I wore thrift shop 70s stoner clothes and got into The Black Crowes in a big way, 20-plus years ago, because they knew a groove as well, knew that rock wasn’t just about the headlong headbash, that it benefited from country and soul injections to be its best self. HGM start from a different point but end up in a similar louche, welcoming spot.
Junior 2’s impressed anyway. “Good voice! Have you had an interview with him?” I guess she hopes I’ve felt the full breadth of that voice. I once tried to interview someone with Junior 3 in the room. I think she asked more questions than I did.
“He’s got a funny voice,” reckons Junior, contrarily. She and 3 do impressions, not altogether kind ones either. Then she’s on the air guitar. Final thoughts?
Junior 2: “He sounds like a cowboy.”
Junior 3: “Yeah.”
I was there when the Popjustice judges shoved this into second place behind… Christ, I can’t remember what won. It wasn’t this. Some things are too beautiful to succeed.
If any fellow music journalists are reading, they’ll like this: I never bought or owned the first 1975 album in any way; I just used to dip into PlayMPE every now and then and listen to it. So, obviously I never heard the whole record. Trying to listen to I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It is even more of a challenge, because its playing length actually exceeds its title. Still, worth it in the end, whatever age you end up.
“I like the rhythm,” says Junior 2. “Yeah, the beat,” clarifies big sis. Junior 2’s thinking now: “Is it the man with the curly hair?” Yes, it is. They, like everyone else, were very taken with The 1975’s Glastonbury performance (on the telly; I’m not a madman), providing raw proof that this is a band breaking through everywhere to mass cross-generational, and cross-taste, effect. ‘Somebody Else’ is simply gorgeous, straddling some unconsidered line between FM Radio 70s pop and Balearic house, and doing it while addressing an impulse we all recognise but are never particularly proud of. If you get me. By Jove, they’re going to be so huge.