Friday, January 5, 2001

McQ's Best Of 2015 Vol 5 - Bigger In Britain

1. Struck Matches - Bop English
2. So Oh - The Charlatans
3. I Broadcast - Blur
4. And When You Fall - Algiers
5. The Legend Of Chavo Guerrero - The Mountain Goats
6. Return To The Moon (Political Song For Didi Bloome To Sing, With Crescendo - EL VY
7. Lousy Connection - Ezra Furman
8. Congregation - Low
9. Mountain At My Gates - Foals
10. I Want You To Know - Zun Zun Egui
11. Shake & Tremble - Django Django
12. No One's Bothered - Sleaford Mods
13. Vertigo - Mini Mansions
14. Pick It Up - Paul Weller
15. Ghost Ship - Blur
16. Body Was Made - Ezra Furman
17. Play For Today - Belle And Sebastian
18. I Don't Mind - Twerps

Track List / Mix Write-up / Spotify /
McQ's Favorite Albums Of 2015
McQ's Favorite Songs Of 2015

About The Albums/Songs On This Mix: As the title of this mix implies, Bigger In Britain is focused on acts, both foreign and domestic, that are better received in the UK than they are here in the states. If I'm being honest, a few of the acts promoted here, most notably The Mountain Goats and EL VY,  don't fit the mix's thematic criteria, but whose 2015 work meshed well with the vibe of the rest of this material, but for the most part, the theme holds, and no more so than with UK Legend and former Jam / Style Council frontman Paul Weller.

Weller's third act as a solo artist has now gone on for almost twenty-five years, and the last decade, starting with 2008's expansive 22 Dreams, has been especially fertile. 2015's Saturn's Pattern keeps his winning streak alive, but where his previous few releases have been marked by sweeping eclecticism, here Weller hones in on loose, jammy, unpretentious and slightly psychedelic soul vibe and sustains that feel throughout the bulk of the record. It's not an album marked by grand lyrical statements or home run tracks, but it is a very easy album to fall into, and Pick It Up, included here, is a perfect representation of the album's overall feel.

Vertigo, featuring a guest vocal from the Arctic Monkeys' Alex Turner, comes to us courtesy of Mini-Mansions, the Lennon-esque side project of Queens Of The Stone age bassist Michael Shuman, from the band's solid 2015 sophomore LP The Great Pretenders.

Deftly combining the soaring vocal richness of Brit Pop from eras past with a bit of QOTSA's darker edge and gnarly guitar-driven wonkiness, I wouldn't call The Great Pretenders a knock-out, but it is a lush, adventurous work that boasts a number of quality tracks and is definitely worth a few spins.  

The playful Shake And Tremble is my favorite song from Brit art-rockers Django Django's Born Under Saturn, the follow up to their well-received 2012 self-titled debut.

Just like that debut, Born Under Saturn traffics in the same inventive, unique mix of precise, affectless group harmonies, surf-rock licks, and Devo-ish synth silliness, but, for my money, does so a little less successfully on this second go-around.

Still, a band this singular in vision is worth watching. More than anything, I think they just need to get more draconian with their sequencing...both albums so far have felt two-four songs too long.

One of the most lyrically entertaining songs in this entire collection, The Legend Of Chavo Guerrero is my favorite track from Mountain Goats frontman John Darnielle's bittersweet album length paean to the professional wrestling hero's of his youth - Beat The Champ.

If you had asked me, back in 1989 when the Madchester scene first started attracting attention in the states, which of the era's three biggest breakout acts - The Stone Roses, The Happy Mondays, or The Charlatans - would go on to have the most enduring career, I for sure would have said The Stone Roses, by far the most instrumentally talented of the bunch, and then if pressed for a second, I would have probably gone with The Happy Monday's if only because they seemed to have a more restless, stylistic spirit that would suggest an ability to keep things fresh over the years.  And though I loved The Charlatans at the time, an early show I caught of them at Chicago's Metro, where they blew through three of their debut Some Friendly's four best songs You're Not Very Well, The Only One I Know, and Believe You Me in the opening ten minutes, saving only Sproston Green to power the last forty minutes of their short set, left me thinking they might not be able to generate enough material for the long haul.

Boy was I wrong, The Stone Roses, despite a few spotty comeback attempts, never regained their mojo, The Happy Mondays ended up sticking to what the knew for a few years more before disbanding, and then there's the The Charlatans, who've gone on to have a very consistent, if slightly Los Lobos-like, below the radar thirty year career. Kudos.

So in 2015, following the loss of founding drummer Jon Brookes to brain cancer, the Charlatans returned once again with Modern Nature, which while acknowledging Brooke's loss chose to focus most of its energy on positive, soulful reflection rather than wallow in despair.  Now sporting a sound that's more closely tied to classic rock than the psychedelic tones of the early rave movement, the album boasted a number of tracks I considered including in the mix collection, chief among them In The Tall Grass and the jammy Let The Good Times Be Never Ending, but in the end, I had to go with one of my favorite tracks of the year, and probably the most "Madchestery" song on the album, the awesome So Oh.

With songs this strong, here's hoping Tim Burgess and crew can keep it going for another ten to twenty years.

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