- 06 Jan 04
Like Groucho Marx may or may not have said, timing is (pause) …everything. As such, the two albums that electrified us this year (Interpol’s hugely moving, visceral masterpiece Turn On The Bright Lights; Justin Timberlake’s Neptunes-assisted pop‘n’B triumph Justified) were actually released in ’02.
Good job we had something to listen to, though, seeing as the garage rock movement started to have a decidedly back-end-of-the-marathon aspect to it – populated, literally, by indistinguishable also-rans, each of whom was heralded nevertheless as if they came bearing the meaning of life. Hence, a hype-tired nation was slightly underwhelmed by, ironically, three of the best albums of the year (Radiohead’s Hail To The Thief, The White Stripes’ Elephant, The Strokes’ Room On Fire), purely because they’d have to have been, performed and produced by the Lord God himself in order to have withstood that much pre-advertisement.
Good thing, then, that some artists still delivered gigs so very much better than we could have ever possibly imagined, and never mind the marketing-department bollocks (Tindersticks and Radiohead in the Olympia; Low in the Ambassador; Max Tundra at Mór; Beth Gibbons, The Mars Volta and The Flaming Lips at Witnness; Justin again in the Point; Interpol again in the Village). Good thing, as well, that local artists got seriously busy this year redefining what it is to be making “Irish music” (stunning, crazy-accomplished first albums by Messiah J & the Expert and Barry McCormack; thrilling, disparate, future-pointing, best-form-yet platters from Damien Dempsey, Bell X-1, The Jimmy Cake, 10 Speed Racer, The Tycho Brahe and Kîla).
It’s a crying irony that the year the “other” voices became the mainstream was the same year No Disco got cancelled, the pirates got sunk, and, of course, the backlash began. The mighty Frames aside, we’re not, generally speaking, into singer-songwriter-based music at the moment either (uh oh, uh oh, uh oh oh-no-no) but to diss the Lisdoon phenomenon, and the attendant unprecedented interest from the Irish public in new Irish music, is depressingly point-missing, gift-horse-rejecting behaviour. Mind you, in a year rottingly overripe with hype (see above), and in a year we lost not one or two, but three of music’s most integral voices (Johnny Cash, Nina Simone, Elliott Smith), and in a year we spent watching a fake war, and for that matter in a country whose government have officially stopped even pretending to be anything but useless – such cynicism is hardly surprising.
It must be said though that acoustic guitars were the last thing on our mind in 2003. The girl can’t help it if we were just too damn distracted to sit still and listen, too busy giving it up to the visceral thrill, the in-your-face, the booty call: the thunking, chunking thug-love of 50 Cent, the screaming fuck-me stomp of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the bonkers space-freakism of Outkast and Missy, the silken holler of Beyoncé, the falsetto funk-and-flirt of Justin (who, depressingly, had to go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like “I’m lovin’ it”). But it’s literally all good: ’cos the best part of 2003 was the rediscovery of the massive, undeniable, genre-straddling, joy-and-hormones-soaked power of the perfect pop song – whether it’s by Justin, Beyoncé, The White Stripes, Kíla, Moloko, Interpol or The Darkness – and of how the love of music is a promiscuous kind of love, wherein resistance based on something as incidental as ‘genre’ is not only futile, but pointless. Why deny yourself the pleasure? Like the woman says: “Fuck that. I liked it.