THANK YOU FOR THE MUSIC
By Norman Warwick, a man who ´can´t dance can!´
It was by Catherine Wilkes, a member of a generation considerably younger than my own, that I was introduced to the music of Mumford & Sons at a party she threw for staff and management of the Rochdale based revenue funded dance organisation Can´t Dance Can. She told me it was playing an an i-pod shuffle, which at that time I just assumed to be a new dance.
That kind of stuff was always happening at Can´t Dance Can- I went to watch one particular session being run by one of our young dance practitioners with a view to writing it up for the local paper and the organisation´s web site, and to add a creative writing element to the dance class.
I somehow still was attending workshops expecting to hear a Max Bygraves Double Album played throughout the chair-dancing session for the care home residents but on this occasion (and subsequently in many others) I was blown away by what I heard. I made a polite enquiry as to what the music was (because I like to pretend I´m young and hip) and was told the track I had asked about was Boom Boom Pow by the Black Eyed Peas and the album was called The End. It wasn´t The End for me though as I bought up all the albums as soon as I could afford them by a group I had never heard of. I came to think of Will.i.am (see right) as a musical genius and I even watch The Voice these days because his enthusiasm is so uplifting.
Being a trustee at CDC wasn´t all about young music, of course. Margaret Greenwood, a wonderful dance practitioner-teacher was also a colleague on the management team and she and I would frequently speak about artists we both admired, like Leonard Cohen, and Jackson Browne. If you are reading this Margaret. check out https://www.leonardcohenfiles.com/timdelisle.html for reasons that will become apparent later.
Pam Ashton, another trustee, even dragooned me into taking part in the company´s showcase event one year, dancing to The Bellbottom Blues (The Helen Shapiro version, definitely not to be confused with the song of the same title written by Eric Clapton for Derek And The Dominoes).
Of all the great music that came my way via Can´t Dance Can, though, the killer track was Are We Dancer, a song I heard Catherine playing for a dance class and that she told me was by The Killers. I didn´t know who they had killed but I´d never heard of them. A decade and a half later I now have all their stuff and Brendan Flowers´ solo recordings too.
However, living somewhat remotely on Lanzarote I am reliant these days on newspaper reviews or on-line postings about new releases. I was, therefore especially delighted this morning by a Tim de Lisle review in The Mail On Sunday of the new album, Imploding The Mirage, by The Killers.
Like former Prime Minister David Cameron, (see right) once spotted in a Prive Box at The Royal Albert Hall watching one of their gigs, I am a massive fan of The Killers
Tim de Lisle is the pop critic of The Mail on Sunday, a contributor to The Guardian and a senior consultant for Innovation Media. He edited Intelligent Life magazine from 2008 to 2015, winning a BSME award for Editor of the Year. He edited Wisden Cricket Monthly 1996-2000, winning another BSME award, and Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack 2003, receiving mixed reviews for putting a photo on the cover (“he has dragged Wisden, kicking and screaming, into the 1920s”). Tim has been arts editor of The Times and The Independent on Sunday, a feature writer for The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph, and cricket columnist for The Times, The Independent and the Evening Standard. He is the author of Young Wisden (Bloomsbury, 2007) and the editor of Lives of the Great Songs (Penguin, 1995). He is on Twitter @TimdeLisle
´In a parallel universe, known as normal life, this album would have arrived at the end of May, earlier this year´ de Lisle says of the Killers´ new album.
´At the same time, The Killers would have flown in to kick-start the UK summer, playing stadiums from Falkirk to Arsenal. They had announced ten shows in Britain and Ireland, all sell-outs, and added two more.¨
De Lisle brilliantly describes the atmosphere of a typical Killers gig, and its sound, using words like uplifting, inclusive, urgent and then, perhaps surprisingly, easy-going. Although the aforementioned tour has been deferred until May 2021 de Lisle promises that the album will make us feel like we´re actually at a gig.
Brandon Flowers, leader and lead vocalist, has the rock-enthusiasm of a singer on the football terraces, leading a rousing chorus of ´Come On You (insert noun of choice)
Tim de Lisle describes him as ´a natural-born frontman – almost too charming, like a Disney prince. But he also brings plenty of skill to the task. He cruises through the verses, then lets rip in the chorus, going straight from nonchalant to desperate. It’s an old trick but an effective one´
For several bars during the opening minute of the album we might fear, from what the journalist describes as ´a shimmer of film music and a ghostly vocal´, that we are being led into a territory disturbingly unfamiliar. However, the sudden riff from a ringing synthesiser, backed by a perfect bass line. reassures us that The Killers are here on Imploding The Mirage to do what The Killers do best. From here on in, it’s one anthem after another. They are an anthemic band and the anthems have begun less than a minute into the album, and to paraphrase Mike Nesmith, the anthems just keep on coming.
At last year´s Glastonbury performance Flowers spoke of how, despite growing up in the States, in Nevada and Utah, he was always drawn to the sounds of British bands of the eighties decade. No one will forget how in that festival performance he brought out Neil Tennant of The Pet Shop Boys to perform alongside him.
Having only become aware of that by Tim de Lisle´s reference I listened again armed with that knowledge and the influence and sound-alike element was now so obvious, despite having eluded me for so long.
Nevertheless, says Mr. de Lisle, ´the songs on the album are still very American, with names such as When The Dreams Run Dry, painting pictures that reek of Hollywood and Edward Hopper. They are all things to many people´.
There is nothing to urge caution when I go looking for Killers´ product and anything that features Lindsey Buckingham (left) , formerly of Fleetwood Mac, will always draw my attention. The man who plays here, on a track called Caution, once exchanged tribute songs, writing Johnny Stew, about my favourite song-writer, the late John Stewart who responded with Tear Down The Sky Liddy Buck.
I still have a third or fourth generation cassette of the Buckingham (Stevie) Nicks recording made before the duo joined Fleetwood Mac, and there are two or three solo albums of his that are amongst the most played in my car stereo.
Another guest contributor to this new Killers album is k.d. lang, who de Lisle rightly reminds us, is ´such an effortless singer that it takes a brave man to duet with her´. He further reminds us that the k.d. collaborators is ´a small club, founded by the late Roy Orbison, now chaired by the great Tony Bennett´.
The music writer delivers his verdicts always in an enjoyable and accessible fashion, and I was enjoying this as much as anything I had previously read by him until, like a killer, he shot me dead!
The cause-of-death bullet was wrapped in a sentence that said that ´Between tours, The Killers have been honing their craft, putting away childish things – gone are the lines like ‘are we human, or are we dancer?’
With a sniper´s accuracy he had targeted the very line that had introduced me, as a late-comer admittedly, to The Killers.
The point the music journo was seeking to make, though, was that ´they used to be a singles band, but this album is all Killer, no filler. And thanks to the pandemic, the fans will know every word by the time they finally get into those stadiums.´
A great album, and such an excellent review, that I wasn´t surprised when BBC Radio 2 made this their album of thé week and when hearing it again on the Ken Bruce show this morning I noticed for the first time a lyrical echo of Paul Simon´s Diamond In The Soles Of Her Shoes, showing a band mature enough now, and so self-confident that they feel able to tip their hat to previous generations.
Nevertheless, Tim de Lisle´s review also served to remind me how little I know! What I do know, though, is that I loved, then, love now and always will love Are We Dancer? It will forever remind me of a brief period in my life when this man who definitely can´t dance could.