Song 1: Young Americans by David Bowie. A self-conscious move away from glam rock, an intermission to allow for a costume change: early seventies rolling stone turning into late seventies sonic experimentalist. Two separate traditions united by one genius. It’s not often that I request songs, but the DJ (stubble, angular hair, short-trousers, pink trainers) at the ICA was right next to me. “Do you take requests?” “Yeah, if I’ve got it.” “Have you got any more Bowie?” The DJ shakes his head. “Roxy Music? The Velvet Underground? The Smiths?” He had nothing. Songs that I consider essential – the foundations to my existence – are, I increasingly find, casually elided in other people’s history of music.
Song 2: Beastiality by Patrick Wolf. There is something tragic about potential. It is a jinx. So much better to be fully realized. This song, after three understated folk numbers, sends shivers down the spine. Not only are form and content enmeshed exquisitely, but you get the feeling that this is the song that Patrick Wolf was born to sing. He would tell me later on tonight that he has never heard a Smiths record in his life. This shocked me for a second, then didn’t. Wolf should keep his stream of influence as pure as possible for as long as possible, unbound by convention. Listen to his words: And I am not sorry for this part of me/I’ll never be sorry for my beastiality.
Song 3: Not Gonna Get Us by Tatu. A line of which is appended by Patrick onto the end of The Childcatcher, adding a touch of humour after such visceral emotion. On Beastiality, Wolf’s voice is transformed into an object, a drum, enunciating the pah and the puh of the P-words. On The Childcatcher, whose lyrics deal with sexual abuse, this extension of the voice beyond its linguistic function is taken much further, with howls and screams taking the place of words. The fact that it is ostensibly a pop song – hook and melody included – make it even more vital.
Song 4: A Boy like Me. A Boy like Patrick Wolf enchants his audience, taking us on a journey to a place that we didn’t know we wanted to go. When we got there, we were delighted. We wanted to stay forever. A Boy like Patrick Wolf is destined for superstardom.
Song 5: Cheating on you by Franz Ferdinand. Traditions are ever more fragmented, that which had once been consigned to the margins is projected into the mainstream. Note the curious revanche of semi-obscure new wave bands (Josef K, Television, Gang of Four) whose influence has been discerned in, respectively, Franz Ferdinand, The Strokes and The Rapture. All hierarchies have been toppled, the message is: follow your own taste in music, don’t worry about notions of cool. Critics hate this, believing that there is something essential that separates the great from the merely good. And rightly so. Originality is the key, I suggest. Are Franz Ferdinand original? Not really, but then neither were the Beatles when they emerged in 1962. With the right encouragement, the necessary liberty and bravery, Franz Ferdinand could be great.
Song 6: Michael by Franz Ferdinand. Best song of the night: moody, anguished and doom-laden. The kind of song that makes me believe in Franz Ferdinand. ‘Belief,’ said Arthur Schopenhauer, ‘is like love: it cannot be compelled; and as any attempt to compel love produces hate, so it is the attempt to compel belief which produces the first real unbelief.’ New bands should heed these words, for it often makes the difference between success and failure. Neither Wolf nor Franz Ferdinand attempt to make anyone love them and we respect them even more for that.
Song 7: Darts of Pleasure by Franz Ferdinand. Surfing the zeitgeist with aplomb, Franz Ferdinand’s debut single is everything that you might want from a rock song. Edgy guitars, evocative lyrics and a rhythm section who actually add more to the soundscape than mere background: this, you realise, is a band who have decided to eschew promising and now arrive to an unsuspecting world fully-formed. Alex Kapranos’s voice is wonderfully confident, imbuing the lyrics with wit and passion. If you are looking for a bandwagon to jump on, then this one looks like going somewhere interesting.