PART 4 - 2000 to 2009
A new Decade. A new Millennium. Will aeroplanes fall from the sky? Will the Banks implode (yes, but not because of the change in the Calendar). Will other electronic control systems get confused by the change from 19## to 20##? Will they bollards, and not because of the daft amount of investment in Millennium Bug software fixes.
Frankly as the clock ticked from as the clock ticked from 11:59 to 0:00 it was (in the words of Johnny Logan) just another year.
The hover board, flying cars, food in pill form, and living in space had not really been delivered - if anything it was a bit of a let down. The books of my childhood promised so much.
But there are 10 more years of musical things to consider, so let's start (logically) at the first year of the 21st Century.
2000 Iron Maiden – Brave New World
There were many albums released in 2000, yet when I review what I bought and listened to that year, this is the only one that really still makes it to the CD Player on a semi-regular basis.
This album marked the return of Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith to the fold (and Smith's replacement - Janick Gers - was kept on the payroll too.
The Blaze Bayley years almost relegated the band to also-rans, but the return of Dickinson and Smith lifted them back to the top of the pile, and this album showcases their capabilities from straight galloping dandruff-moulting metal to more considered prog inflected tunesmithery. Dumb Metal band? Not a bit of it.
2001 Elton John – Songs From The West Coast
For nigh on 5 years in the 70s, Reg Dwight was responsible for up to 10% (or more) of all albums sold worldwide. Then his career sememd to crash (cocaine, self loathing and tantrums may have played a part?) but he remained one of the stately homos of Britain.
But it wasn't until now that he really produced an album to rank alongside his heyday.
There's just something more relaxed, more accepting, like he (and Bernie Taupin) are not trying to do anything more than please themselves with this set of songs. There is also a certain self-realisation and admittance of past failings in the songs and delivery. Reg Is Back? He is here.
2002 The Coral – The Coral
There is a long tradition of bands from Liverpool. There was one in the 60s called The Beatles, you may have heard of them. Add in The Searchers, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Las, Cast, Lightning Seeds, Atomic Kitten ... the list goes on.
And this lot hail from up there too - this debut is pretty accomplished, and ranks with some of the best efforts to emerge from that city.
Post Britpop Indie guitars embellished with bit of 60s psychedelia, a little bit of Folk,a dash of reggae in there too. Full of energy, full of tunes, and pulls that rare trick of being both recognisable, yet also totally new and original
2003 White Stripes – Elephant
The White Stripes stripped back everything to just voice, guitar and drums. They'd had minor(ish) recognition and success with their 3 previous albums, including a Later with Jools Holland appearance in 2001, which is where I first came across them. But it probably wasn't until this fourth album that they were fully formed and managed to maintain quality standards across a record.
It's got Punk notes colliding with delta blues and Led Zeppelin. It looks back to the past (apparently no studio equipment was manufactured before 1965), yet is absolutely current, and even sets a template for what is to come in the future.
Always a joy to hear, and never outstays it's welcome
2004 Green Day – American Idiot
A concept album/Rock Opera by a bunch of snotty minor league Bay Area Punks? Surely not.
But the moment you hear the urgency and belief spouted in first single "Letter Bomb", you get the idea it does actually make sense.
Telling the story of a disillusioned youth growing up in a political inept nation controlled by Government whims and big Corporations (and a fairly apt title for the state of the American Presidency now (oo - little bit of politics there)). But ... the politics is reined back and the songs focus on telling the story, not passing comment (I suppose leaving that up to the listener to decide).
Nothing else in their catalogue compares - this is a real one-off moment, and for a time placed Green Day as probably the biggest band on the planet.
2005 Kaiser Chiefs - Employment
In my mind I can see a parallel to Blur's first re-invention on this album. And not just because they share a producer in Stephen Street.
The Kaiser Chiefs are singing in their own accent, and talking about the close world around them - and (by the sound of it) a having a massive amount of fun in doing so.
The whole album is delivered in a cloud of joy and sheer abandon. There is an urgency about it, but also knowing references to the past and obvious influences like The Beach Boys, 70s/80s New Wave (Jam, XTC etc) and Britpop (are three of the prime ones I can identify). It does what all great pop music should do - entertain and create and maintain a smile.
2006 The Fratellis - Costello Music
Another record full of joy and abandon. The urgency of the songs matches the breakneck speed of The Fratellis - from formation to Number 1 album inside 15 months. Half of the tracks made it out as singles, and the plaudits, reviews and awards they received were worthy.
Feeling down? Whack this on your stereo, turn the volume up and let the world's problems disappear for 40 minutes.
Subsequent albums never quite got my attention in the way this debut outing did, they were good, but this is really something special.
The Manics debut in 1992 was released in a wave of hype and expectation. Unfortunately, they couldn't deliver - it was a good album, but just lacked "something". The next couple were good, but again weren't as cohesive or defined as they perhaps could've been.
And then Richey Edwards goes missing, and the Manics go through a sort of re-invention. 'Everything Must Go' placed them in stadiums rather than the club tours, and their music fitted better in that environment.
By 2007, there was a danger that the band were treading water. That is until James Dean Bradfield strapped his Gibson Les Paul on, turned the volume up, and delivered a set of songs that traded on the energy of their early career, and the wide-screen crowd pleasing of the recent past.
Manic purists hate me for saying this, but I believe this to be one of their very finest albums.
Henry Priestman's first recorded output came with Yachts in 1977. Along with Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe they were the first artists signed to Andrew Lauder's new Radar label. More singles, a couple of albums, and a tour with The Who followed. The breakthrough didn't happen, and the band split. Henry Preiestman returned to the studio picking up session work and forming It's Immaterial with Yachts band-mate Martin Dempsey. He was then a member of The Christians (writing all the songs for their debut album) before returning to sessions and production work.
So it's no real surprise it took 21 years for his debut to arrive.
It has been described as "songs for grumpy old men" - I'm not sure that's true, there is more an aire of frustration, resignation, but a real desire to keep going, running through the songs. And no little amount of realism within the gentle, understated, folk-ish type music.
The album occupies that middle ground between triumphantly punching the air, railing against "the man", and reminding you of the realities of the world.
In fact, I like this album so much, Henry is getting 2 tracks in my selections
2009 Madness – Liberty of Norton Folgate
30 years since their debut single and subsequent elevation to everybody's favourite band in the 80s, came this. The album that pretty much sealed Madness as a National Treasure. After 30 years, was anyone expecting the Nutty Boys to produce an album of such ambition and freshness. At 30 years vintage, and with a back catalogue like they have it would've been easy to rest on their laurels and recycle the past on the 80s Cabaret circuit. The songs are among the very best of their careers, arranged, played and sung as only Madness can - crowd pleasing and entertainment is their raison d'etre.
It's part history lesson, part autobiography, part narrative story arc, part tales of working class struggle in the Capital city, and completely brilliant.