Last week I sat through a combination of artists that made my blood boil. It was an all together cathartic experience, allowing me to vent pent up anger in thirty minutes of awful television and 800 words of vitriol. I enjoyed how much I didn’t enjoy Jake Bugg, Manic Street Preacher et al. When I looked at the line-up for this weeks Later… With Jools Holland I felt… nothing. No excitement, no joy, no sense of impending doom. Nothing. A lineup of John Newman, MGMT, Lloyd Cole, Anna Calvi, Buika and Passenger simply does nothing for me. NOTHING.
John Newman has subtly become a big deal. Following a successful collaboration with the Mercury Award nominated Rudimental, John has gone from a gun for hire to the most commercially successful crooner of the year. Much of his popularity has come from number one single ‘Love Me Again’; an upbeat, pseudo-dance, pop record that kicks off tonight’s show. Musically, the song stands up to the test live. With some wonderful sax and string arrangements there’s enough in this performance to justify the song’s success. However, Newman’s distinctive vocals are amplified in the live setting and it all feels a bit forced. When ol’Johnny boy gets all emotional and starts giving it some welly while haunched over on his knees, I didn’t buy it. It didn’t add any gravitas or power to the performance, if anything it felt a bit trivial.
Up next is 2011’s soup du jour Anna Calvi. Back then Anna was a very divisive figure, with many publications touting her as the next big thing despite a lack of sales. Performing single ‘Eliza‘ from her recently released LP One Breath, it seems Anna will remain an enigma. Her guitar work remains beautiful as ‘Eliza‘ shows her ability to create an atmospheric and layered sound that moulds wonderfully with her elongated delivery.
It is an acquired taste. One that will probably never translate into the widespread popularity predicted of Calvi two years ago.
This is the first week I’ve watched Later… with my mum. When Lloyd Cole came on the screen she exclaimed ‘oh, it’s Lloyd Cole! I never liked him.‘ I have to say I don’t think I like him now either. ‘Women’s Studies‘ despite it’s allusion to literature and dissertations, something I as a recent graduate very much appreciated, was a bit flat and listless. My mum tells me ‘he never really had a good voice‘ and that she ‘always found him a bit boring’. Well put mother, well put.
Oh please for the love of god no. It’s time for an interview. Even an interview with ‘one of the greatest Englishman of all time – Suggs!’ falls flat on Later… Please, please, please, no more interviews with Jools.
Time for the twee and impish Passenger with his mega-hit ‘Let It Go’. A song that will live on for millennia in advertising and emotional X Factor montages. This is a very pleasant experience. There’s some pleasant acoustic guitar, some pleasant if slightly uninspired lyrics about wanting what you can’t have, even a pleasant moment where it all slows down a bit and we get pleasantly emotional. It’s all so pleasant that we all almost forget that we’re essentially watching a Damien Rice tribute act. My mum’s analysis: ‘he sounds like James Blunt.’ OUCH.
Up next are MGMT, a band that I unceremoniously divorced in 2011. I was a huge fan of their debut album Oracular Spectacular, an approachable and youthful exploration of psychedelic rock. After the disappointment of second LP Congratulations, I was expecting little from a band that have lost their creative pull. I got what I expected. A wall of indistinguishable noise, the narrative of the band seems to have shifted from the young psychedelics into something a whole lot more boring. The exciting duo have been swamped by a group of uninspiring studio musicians and uninspired riffs. Mum’s analysis: ‘that’s the sound of a band that has gone off the boil.’ Bear in mind she’d never actually heard of MGMT before tonight.
Now it’s time for everyone’s favourite moment of the show! Later… With Jools Holland’s weird jazz act of the week! This week it’s Buika with ‘Siboney’.
Much like before; I’m struggling to describe this performance, so once again I will use the post-modern medium of the ‘selfie’.
I think I kind of liked it.
Watching John Newman close the show with ‘Cheating‘ opened my eyes to the possibility that this man will dominate our charts for years to come. My mum LOVED IT. Whilst she at times found Newman’s voice frustrating, the arrangements, the rhythm and the backing singers reminded her of the northern soul movement that was so popular in the late ‘70s. With his vocals already coveted on electronic records, this classic soul sound could endear Newman to the kind of people who get Michael Buble CDs for christmas every year.
Despite my trepidation, I actually enjoyed this week’s episode of Later… Newman was a strange decision as the main event, but his band were exquisite, Anna Calvi was at her enchanting best, and Buika was my favourite weird jazz act of the series.
Catch Later… With Jools Holland Tuesdays at 10pm on BBC2.