Sunday, December 11, 2005

120 Minutes (Hour 1)

Haven't done this in a while, but I'm in the mood for it.

120 Minutes was MTV's alternative show - whatever that means - years ago. In the UK, it lingers on in the much sought-after timeslot of 1am on Sunday morning. On MTV2. Basically, it's a dumping ground for videos that the MTV2 producers want to play but can't. Some old stuff gets thrown in. Some oddball new material. Sometimes they fall in love with a record and play it for months despite nobody else seeming to be interested. And sometimes they inexplicably play utter crap, possibly because they know somebody in the band. No presenters, no adverts. Sometimes, if they're not paying attention, no captions either. Oh, and obviously they're also hampered by the fact that they can only play records with videos. But it would amaze you the sort of records that still manage to have videos.

So. What was on the show this week? Let's play the recording and write/Google as we go along...

1. Celebration: "War." Never heard of them. Obviously, on this show, that's a good thing. Kind of reminds me of Siouxsie and the Banshees, but I can't put my finger on why. Catchy organ riff, keeps stopping dead. Somebody's spent a bit of money on the video. Not bad at all. (Watch it yourself.)

2. The National: "Lit Up." One of those low-budget indie videos where somebody's waved a cheap cine camera around and hoped that some creative editing might save it. Footage of them playing at a festival, which is always a last resort of a director who's run out of ideas. A good arrangement and indie-style wall-of-sound effect can't entirely disguise the lack of a decent song. (Watch it yourself.)

3. Liars: "It Fit When I Was a Kid." Oh hell, no. 120 Minutes loves these guys, who make frequently unlistenable lo-fi records with baffling animated videos. I've yet to see the appeal. This is one of their more accessible efforts, but it certainly isn't doing anything for me. Morose and not as clever as it thinks it is. Mind you, at least it's commendably obscure - it's only available in the UK by mail order, or on limited edition 7" vinyl. (Watch it yourself.)

4. Mara Carlyle: "Baby Bloodheart." I've seen this one before. It's got a rather self-consciously surreal video (yes, yes, lobster telephones, hilarious), but it's a fabulous acoustic song. Lovely voice, too. I think I've seen this before with a much cheaper and much better video, come to think of it. Just a shot of her in a rehearsal studio or something. Anyhow, I can't find a link for this one, which is a shame, because it's brilliant. However, Googling does reveal that she once released a track called "I Blame Dido", so she must be brilliant.

5. The Robocop Kraus: "After Laughter Comes Tears." Electropop! A record that sounds like it's fallen through a timewarp from 1983, from a German band called the Robocop Kraus. It must be good. I'm a sucker for this sort of thing. More realistically, it's above average for that sort of thing, but very much stuck in the past.

6. The Streets: "Get Out My House" (remix) They've been playing this for months and still haven't got around to putting a caption on it. Anyway, this is one of those Streets remix videos where he gets a load of underground London grime types to do a completely different track over the same backing music. It's a spectacularly un-PC parade of men telling their one-night-stands that, for christ's sake, would they get on with it because mum's going to be home soon. Much more fun than it has any right to be, and I'm thoroughly annoyed that I can't find a link for it.

7. Calla: "It Dawned On Me." Tonight, Matthew, we're going to be early U2. Only not as good. We're going to play epic indie music in black and white. In front of a pile of coracles. Or something. One of those records which is thoroughly inoffensive so far as it goes, but I can't imagine why you'd buy a copy when there's so much better music in the same vein available. You'd nod your head happily if they were a support act, but still talk through the whole set. (Hear it yourself.)

8. Part Chimp: "War Machine." Extended random screechings to start. One of the guitarists has a box on his head. Okay noise-pop, I guess, but trying far too hard. Google brings up some positive reviews, but this does nothing for me. Very All Tomorrow's Parties.

9. The Guillemots: "Made Up Love Song #43." This is a bit more like it. Maybe I'm getting old, but I have a newfound appreciation of a decent tune. In fact, after it came up on my iPod shuffle the other day, I'm newly convinced that the second Beautiful South album, Choke, was fantastic. Anyway, this is an enjoyably eccentric pop song, and pretty damn good for a debut single. (Hear it yourself.)

10. Her Space Holiday: "A Match Made in Texas." Ooh, now I like this. Minimalist animation and some modern-era electropop. Fun little record. Nice ending. No idea what it was about, but I enjoyed that a lot. (Watch it yourself.)

11. Sam Prekop: "Something." Rather more serious-minded record along similar lines, but this time with a video of a shop full of lampshades. Pleasant enough, I suppose, but it's an arrangement in search of a better chorus. Is there an official name for this genre, which basically involves the sort of songs that folk musicians have been doing for years, but with a semi-electronic arrangement? There should be, people are making enough of it. (Watch it yourself.)

12. Field Music: "If Only The Moon Were Up." Google turns up an NME review describing Field Music as "like Wire arranged by the Beach Boys", and I really can't better that. And it's as good as that sounds, really. The video seems calculated to look like a low-cost indie video from 1984, but it isn't really. This single is doing its job - I think I want the album. (Watch it yourself.)

13. Death Cab For Cutie: "The New Year." Wow, we're 13 tracks into the show and Death Cab For Cutie are the most famous band yet. (Unless you count the Streets, but Mike Skinner isn't actually on the remix they played.) They're trying hard this week. I've never really got into Death Cab For Cutie, which is odd, since I really like the Postal Service album that their main songwriter contributed to. The arrangements just seem a bit boring to me. Would probably have made a decent Postal Service song. (Watch it yourself.)

14. Red Jetson: "This Every Day for the Rest of Your Life." UK indie at its dullest. Sluggish, not particularly tuneful, angstily heartfelt, and propped up with competent arrangements lifted from better bands. Emphatically not interesting to me on any level. I mean, look at the title, for heaven's sake. God, this is boring. Make it stop.

15. My Morning Jacket: "Off the Record." Punchy start. Sounds like it ought to be a shade faster, but not bad at all. Odd sound for a Kentucky band, and clearly heavily influenced by a lot of Jamaica-via-London stuff from 25 years ago. Quite a good video, by 120 Minutes standards. (Watch it yourself.)

16. LCD Soundsystem: "Losing My Edge." Oh yes, there's a video for this. I think technically "Tribulations" is the current single, but "Losing My Edge" was the critical breakthrough hit, so 120 Minutes are obliged to play it. And yes, it is a great record, with a sarcastic monologue mocking the New York trendsetters and panicking about losing touch. "I hear you and your band have sold your guitars and bought turntables... I hear that everyone you know is more relevant than everyone I know." The contrarian in me wants to dislike LCD Soundsystem because they're so heavily hyped over here, but god, this is a good record. Also, this may be the video that accounts for his stated dislike of making videos. Well, if you will accept a video pitch that involves being slapped in the face repeatedly for the duration of the song... (Watch it yourself.)

And that's hour one. Second hour tomorrow.