Arts & Culture Music

Summer Lightening A Musical Odyssey

  • August 9, 2022
  • 6 min read
Summer Lightening  A Musical Odyssey

Our theme is modern music not heritage music, to borrow from Peter Hammill’s graceful apology for not playing more of the classics, although it was sufficient to hear A House with No Door and Gog Magog live for the first time. However great the older bands, a mention of their 21st century oeuvre must be restricted, as we look for the natural inheritors of VDGG, the Floyd, the Velvets, the Bs (Bob, Bowie, Bruce, Beatles, Bolan, Beach Boys, Buddy, Berry, Broughton). What we’re looking for is a young band in 2022 knocking out a Dark Side or a Pepper on the quiet and needing some recognition. There will be if we all look hard enough. In the beginning, there was …

The Strokes

Is this it (2001)

One person’s well-referenced is another’s derivative. Is this it, is a milestone recording. It has a unique bebung umami in the reproduction, less what Iggy Pop sounds like, more his essence. At the end of the century Is this it, will still be considered amongst the great debuts of this, and probably any era.

The Neo-Prog vision belongs to two bands, Radiohead becoming venerable, handing as Coleen would have been pleased to do with Becky, their cutting-edge mantle to Alt-Rock American disciples, the increasingly revered Grandaddy.


The Sophtware Slump (2000)

Grandaddy’s fans will be divided as to the peak achievement, the ground-breaking Under the Western Freeway, which falls out of consideration as a 1997 release, leaving the exquisite The Sophtware Slump (2000) as being almost 21st century, or not quite if you’re, like me, a pedant. Alone with the possible exception of its predecessor UTWF, The Sophtware Slump will reverberate down the generations, an effect lengthened by the release of The Sophtware Slump ….. on a wooden piano (2020). Successfully developing the Grandaddy influence:

Flotation Toy Warning

I’m not sure how I came across Flotation Toy Warning. Their most popular track on Spotify is Popstar Researching Oblivion, with a mere 161,000 downloads, is exquisite. Something of a psychedelic U2 with an early Floyd wash, anthemic with tongue in Grandaddy cheek. Flotation Toy Warning’s debut album Bluffer’s Guide to the Flight Deck (2004) is a masterpiece. Will it be considered as one of the outstanding albums of the 21st century? Probably not.  It hasn’t had the commercial impact of an Is This It or the broad critical acclaim of The Sophtware Slump, but if your Mum and Dad were into Kevin Ayers, Caravan and the Canterbury scene, or Barrett era Floyd, and they don’t at least listen to  Bluffer’s Guide to the Flight Deck, they don’t deserve to argue that the 60s or 70s were better.

Flotation Toy Warning

The Machine That Made Us (2017)

Flotation Toy Warning made The Stone Roses’ controversial Second Coming (1994} look positively rushed, but the thirteen-year gap seems to have been worth the wait. Surely like The Blackheart Orchestra this criminally overlooked talent will be rewarded with mainstream critical and commercial success. FTW take the elements of the original Psychedelic Art Rock, with references to the great Britpop acts (listen for references to The Divine Comedy), and develop the themes in a contemporary context. Proof that the modern bands are as rewarding as the sixties’ pioneers.

Danger Mouse and Sparklehouse

Dark Night of the Soul (2010)

Grandaddy’s status as giants of the 21st century Alt-Rock scene is acknowledged by Jason Lytle’s guest appearance on Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse’s collaborative, Dark Night of the Soul (2010), sadly a requiem for its troubled leader Mark Linkous, like Closer (Joy Division1980) two generations previously. Dark Night of the Soul will be up there in the festive century in 2099. Lyttle, Vega, Pop and Casablancas, and a whole heap of other A-list rockers, provide both vocal and extensive creative input. If not the greatest album of the century, it wins the all-time name-dropping cup hands down. It did that with Iggy Pop alone. 

War on Drugs

Lost in the Dream (2014)

Referred surreally enough to me in the changing room at the Hurlingham Club, I saw War on Drugs at the O2 shocked that a private delight was such a public success. All their albums will be there at the final reckoning, but Lost in the Dream (2014) has two personal favourites (and those of apparently hundreds of thousands of others), Eyes to the Wind and In Reverse.

Other 21st century outings covered elsewhere include, The Blackheart Orchestra’s Mesmeranto (2019) and Edgar Broughton’s 2012 debut By Myself. Edgar Broughton waited thirty years from the last band album to the release of this divine psychedelic folk vehicle, for one of Rock’s most remarkable voices, and indeed guitar talents. By Myself is revelatory not only in itself but in how the solo work differs from the band. Pure genius now, as Edgar Broughton was, when he was admired equally by Lennon and Bowie.

Breathless spanned the decades from 1980s post punk to 21st century psychedelic Neo-Prog led by double album, the lush Green to Blue (2012). I had to look up the date and stumbled on an old article of mine describing GTB as the album of the century. 

When I met Michelle Nadia at Discovery 2, she was promoting Firefly (2011,) and we made it album of the year. Everyone who saw her thought she was Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon and Carole King with a splash of Elton John, and she had the world at her feet. Is it too late for someone to pick up Firefly and promote like they should? She deserves it.

If you want to stay in your comfort zone and atrophy in the music of your fifteenth year, that’s your privilege. But don’t tell me that your music was better than today’s without listening to your pick of the above. The Machine That Made Us by Floating Toy Warning may not be the album of the century but so far it’s the most overlooked. It represents all that’s great about Rock’s evolution in its current iteration, as we near the hundredth anniversary of Minnie the Moocher

Were your heroes greater than Cab Calloway? 

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Douglas Shanks

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