jools holland

Piano-led bands of the world… unite!

2 October 2012

The LYs busking in the early days. Note former bassist Tom Mansfield on the right, who later mysteriously disappeared shortly before Tony premiered his new eco-friendly, organic drum-skins. You do the math.Those original geek-chic piano rockers Ben Folds Five have reformed and released a new album.

This is exciting news for me, and if you haven’t heard of Ben Folds Five but you’re a fan of The Lightyears then it’s probably rather exciting news for you too – because it means I’m introducing you to a band you’re really going to like (try this track to start you off – “Philosophy” from their eponymous debut album, live on Jools Holland).

I’d been playing piano for nearly ten years when I was introduced to Ben Folds Five by our school-days drummer Alan Oldfield (the first in our worryingly long line of herbivore drummers). At that point, everything changed. Suddenly playing the piano wasn’t about respectfully tinkling the ivories and staring wanly off into the distance anymore – it was about kicking the living shit out of it. I started bouncing around and smashing the keys with my fists and, at gigs, developed a habit of leaping onto my piano from a great height at moments of musical climax.

For a long time I basically just wanted The Lightyears to be Ben Folds Five. This is generally how being in a band works – kids get into music, learn an instrument and then assemble a group of their mates in an attempt to exactly replicate their favourite bands. In truth, Ben Folds Five were one of the few influences that we agreed on in the early days (Tony’s long-time love of Cream didn’t mix so well with mine and George’s Bon Jovi obsession), which is probably why we ended up sounding a bit like them.

Anyhow, I was kicking around the internet the other day and discovered this rare and untouched live recording from an early Lightyears gig at the 12 Bar Club, circa 2004. The 12 Bar Club features prominently in my Lightyears novel, Mockstars, and was a favourite haunt of ours for some years. This track, “Don’t Do It At The Hollywood”, particularly struck me because it’s clear I was very much caught in the clutches of my ‘wishing I was Ben Folds’ stage. It’s pretty scrappy but a lot of fun, and features former LYs member Tom Mansfield on the bass guitar.

The Sound Of 2009…?

14 January 2009

Whilst perusing the BBC website recently I came across a story on the BBC’s search for the “Sound Of 2009“. A winner had been crowned – Little Boots, proclaimed the pundits, will be the sound of 2009. She is apparently being hailed by some as the saviour of pop music. To be frank I hadn’t spotted that pop music needed saving (Gwen Stefani aside) but I followed the link nonetheless and diligently sat through the video of Victoria Hesketh, AKA Little Boots, playing live in the BBC6 studio. Predecessors of this sweeping accolade include Keane and Duffy, both of whom went on to release best-selling albums, so the odds are on that Little Boots is in for a cracking year.

Like most people, my natural instinct when confronted with the supposed “Next Big Thing” is to join the long list of detractors and dismiss it all as a load of old hype. Unfortunately, in this case, I couldn’t summon up a reaction nearly as extreme as that. As it turns out her performance left me kind of indifferent. I think “saviour of pop music” might be a bit strong but I have to admit the song stuck in my head for ages afterwards. I suppose if I had to sum up Little Boots in seven words I’d probably go for “not as bad as The Ting Tings”.

Speaking of which, has anybody else noticed that The Tings Tings are, well…. to borrow an industry term…. a little bit rubbish? I mean, yes, it’s inventive – but then a Japanese Spider Crab wearing ladies pants and sucking scrambled eggs through a straw could be considered inventive but you wouldn’t buy his music, would you?

I remember when I first heard We Started Nothing, the band’s debut album. I had been downright nonplussed by the furore surrounding the ubiquitous hit single “That’s Not My Name” but intially concluded I must have just been missing the point. “They’re an ‘It’ band, I thought. A zeitgeist band. I just don’t get it. I’ve listened to too many Ben Folds and Jellyfish albums and now I’m just not Le Cool enough to understand this music”. Thing is, everyone was raving about it. Jools Holland, NME, The Independent On Sunday. I figured they knew a heck of a lot more about music than I did so I’d probably best keep my mouth shut – or at least give the album a listen before I issued judgment.

So I listened to the album and slumped deeper into a feeling that everybody – literally, everybody – was in on something that I wasn’t. I stood in my kitchen for 38 solid minutes, open-mouthed, wondering why I was the only person who’d noticed. Remember that story about the Emperor’s Clothes? Y’know, this Emperor dude is running around the streets with his arse hanging out and everyone’s so keen to fit in that they just go along with it and pretend he’s wearing clothes? Yeah? Well, it’s kinda like that.

Anyhow, ranting aside, 2009 has some exciting treats in store for music fans, I reckon. The sublime Glasvegas broke spectacularly last year and it looks like they could go stellar in the next twelve months. Think The Killers meets The Proclaimers singing songs about the drudgery of life, social workers and crippling paranoia. Check out their eponymous debut album and revel in its haunting beauty (disclaimer: most of the songs sound the same to me but then that seems to be fashionable these days).

Tipped alongside Little Boots for world domination are the glorious Mumford & Sons, purveyors of a folky Americana sound that has been described as “Coldplay reincarnated as hillbillies”. We caught them on the Park Stage at Glastonbury last summer and found their music to be charming, bittersweet and uplifting. One to watch…

Oh, and I know I’m hopelessly late noticing this but Beth Ditto rocks!! I caught her on the BBC6 Hub Sessions the other day and she has a wicked sense of humour. Yes, I know NME already voted her Most Super-Coolest Person On The Planet Of All Time Ever in, like, 1992, and I’m behind the times, but there you go. I was well impressed.

Oh, and for an alternative point of view, check this out – it’s Neil McCormick’s list of 2009’s Next Small Things. I like it. Very wry.

Lightyears to appear on National TV

1 September 2007

It has just been announced that The Lightyears will be appearing on ITV1’s new chat show The Alan Titchmarsh Show on Thursday 18 October.

Alan will interview the band, along with new Lightyears producer Hugh Padgham (Sting & The Police, Genesis, Paul McCartney, David Bowie etc), and following this the LYs will play a song live in the studio. Other artists currently scheduled to appear in the series include Kaiser Chiefs, Jools Holland, Sugababes and Lionel Ritchie.

The show is aired at 3pm daily and is expected to go out to around 3 million viewers.

…In the meantime, don’t forget that The Lightyears are headlining the Clapham Grand this Wednesday 5 September for Feedme Music’s INDY AWARDS CELEBRATION PARTY.

Doors 7.30pm, first band 8pm. LYs onstage 9.30pm. See you there!