Danny Asks: What is there to be happy about?

Danny McMillan 15 February 2008

Whoa, easy there. I wouldn’t stop reading just yet. Having my titles in the form of a question doesn’t always make it easy. If you read that one and thought “oh here he goes again, off on another pessimistic rant about the state of modern music”, then you may be pleasantly surprised.

Having read over my last few efforts, I really do feel like I’ve made the gradual descent from a keen debutant to a miserable bastard. All that whinging and moaning has got a bit humdrum; it’s all “our generation is stuck in a rut” this, “the internet is a bit crap, really” that, or “people can’t come up with inventive names for new music” the other. So this week there will be none of that, and if there is you have the right to throw your newspaper down and have a strop of your own.

So what is there to be happy about, you might ask? Well, for a start, each passing day is one day less I have to wait to see Neil Young in March and I can find out if it comes close to any of the hundreds of fantasy setlists which have gone through my head. It’s also getting closer and closer to my first Bruce Springsteen gig. Now I could write an entire column about my monumental failures to get Springsteen tickets – twice when he was playing in a stadium which is a ten minute drive from my house – so I still have this niggling feeling that something ridiculous is going to happen and everything will go a bit Pete Tong. Closer to home, both Waterson Carthy and Gwyneth Herbert are playing the Cambridge Barfly, which should satisfy my folky and jazzy tendencies.

Looking good on the live front, then, but I’ve also had a really good time lately in record shops and on Myspace. I found some crackers including an album of cover versions by Nick Cave, which has a brilliant version of Black Betty, some wonderful blues compilations and the new Hot Chip album which, just to reiterate last week’s review in these pages, is really damn good. I also found out that Sixstarhotel (a really good indie band from Northern Ireland – check them out on Myspace) recently released their debut album ‘A Kind Of Crusade’. It’s nice to see a band who you have seen play a few times over the past few years actually getting a proper release and I hope it does really well.

Anything else to be happy about? Yes, actually. Later … with Jools Holland recently aired its 200th episode and is going stronger than ever. The relaxed, offhand show is a wonderful counterpoint to some of the less inspiring musical output which the media often feeds us, churning out the usual suspects week in, week out. It’s nice that you can always be guaranteed an eclectic lineup; one minute it’s the latest up-and-coming indie band, then someone singing in Creole, followed by a rising star on the funk scene and all rounded off by a big name draw – someone like Morrissey or Radiohead – just to get the punters switching on in the first place. They broadcast it at a wonderful time too – watching Cat Power on the other week in my semi-drunken Friday night haze made me realise that there are good reasons to be excited about contemporary music.

So, there we are, a whole column without a moan or a groan in sight. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I managed to register for Glastonbury tickets after last year’s abject failure. So there’s one more reason to crack a smile. I was going to say that you can probably expect me on usual form next week, but I’m not so sure now. I think I might try to give up grumpy music columns for Lent (well, I couldn’t just do chocolate or caffeine like normal people, could I?) and hopefully I’ll succeed. All I probably need to do is stay away from the internet a bit, go to more gigs, keep rummaging around record shops and just appreciate the unbridled joy of great music.

Danny McMillan