Friday, November 04, 2005

So Far Behind They Think They're Ahead

Uncut have already published their albums of the year list - with, ahem, this blog's 2nd favourite album of 2004 (The Arcade Fire) at the top spot! I suspect this is not the only list this band will top this year - and the passage of 'Funeral' from impressive debut to genuine classic now looks certain. It's intriguing that the UK press only picked up on them after they became a word-of-mouth success.

As for the rest of the list, there must be a marketing logic to being the first publication to compile an end-of-year list, but it looks very silly indeed from a critical perspective. They may have just given Kate Bush's comeback a somewhat confused and lukewarm review - but it's not unreasonable to expect many of their journalists would have included it in their voting had they actually heard it at the time of voting.

In Uncut's favour, they've manged to include genuinely excellent albums from Animal Collective, Boards Of Canada, Ariel Pink, Elbow and Doves, most of which occupy relatively lofty positions. Yet, if we look at how well Animal Collective are currently performing in the Rate Your Music (http://www.rateyourmusic.com) 2005 list, and their sell-out show at the Scala last week, we can see that there is much more of an appetite for challenging independent music than much of the industry accepts.

It's otherwise a mostly predictable list, and skewed in favour of rock/Americana and the trad canon. I've already confessed my guilty enjoyment of 'A Bigger Bang' - but in no way would I suggest it's the sixth best album of the year. Bob Dylan's 'No Direction Home' is at 3 - it's a compilation mostly consisting of alternate versions from his classic 60s period with no new material whatsoever! For some reason they do not elect to extend this bizarre logic of what constitutes new in 2005 to the collection of previously unreleased material from Judee Sill, which is considered a reissue!

I'd concede that it's not been a great year for electronica or hip-hop - but the likes of Roots Manuva, Dangerdoom, Sage Francis, Four Tet, Jackson and His Computer Band, Jamie Lidell and The Books all deserved consideration.

Even if we accept Uncut's trad-rock focus uncritically - why have they criminally ignored the likes of John Prine, Erin McKeown, Teenage Fanclub, The Broken Family Band, Smog, South San Gabriel, M Ward, Okkervil River, Sleater Kinney ('The Woods' surely channels the spirit of the blues as well as anything Jack White has been involved in), New Pornographers, Magnolia Electric Co etc?? The Calexico and Iron and Wine collaboration is a stunning omission - easily the most accomplished Americana release of the year. These are all records that their core readership could be expected to enjoy.

Like the NME in the early 90s, who would regularly give excellent reviews to the likes of Animals That Swim, whilst never affording them any real promotion, Uncut is continually failing to invest in the bands it purports to support. Even after his death, there has still been no cover feature on the great Warren Zevon. Why not! If Richmond Fontaine really are as great as Allan Jones claims - why have they not been given any real column inches outside the reviews section. Even with all this fuss over Arcade Fire - the cover feature still goes to David Bowie for the umpteenth time (at least it's a piece on The Man Who Fell To Earth, which I shall read before I judge too harshly). To expect any real quality of research or appreciation of different genres is too much to hope for when they can't even manage this!

Those tedious Britpop revivalists Kaiser Chiefs and the wildly overrated MIA get token entries at the arse end of the top 50. Mercifully, Coldplay are excluded!!

2 comments:

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Daniel said...

I've been corrected by a helpful ILM user - Smog is at number 43 on the Uncut list! The point still stands though.