PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Reviews

The Bluetones

Matt Pomroy
The Bluetones

The Bluetones

City: Colchester, Essex, England
Venue: Colchester Arts Centre
Date: 2003-03-16
It seems appropriate that the first night of a 50-date crusade-of-a-tour should begin in a church. The Colchester Arts Centre was once a place of worship, and along with the wooden rafters and crumbling columns, there are still dedications to the dead on the walls. But this is no longer a tomb to those who've been and gone -- on stage the Bluetones are still raging against the dying of the light. The Bluetones emerged in the mid-1990s at a juncture when it seemed sunny all the time and the Top 40 was awash with bright, young and hopeful guitar bands. Things have veered off in other directions since then, but thanks to the vast majority of the set being new songs, the Bluetones manage to avoid turning this show into a nostalgia trip. And judging by the crowd here -- apart from a few receding hairlines -- they have avoided attracting the same old people who have only gone along because, hey, remember that band from when we were in the first year at University? In fact, this is a new start for the Bluetones. Mark Morris has said prior to tonight: "We're using this tour as a new beginning, hence we're taking it back to the smaller venues, it's like we're just starting out again." Often the words of a band on the way down, but since being dropped by their label, Morris & Co. have started up on their own and are still releasing records. Kudos to them as they carry on ploughing their own furrow, but is it ultimately the same old thing? They have changed little in appearance and, in fact, fashion has caught them up. Wearing the same suit jackets and T-shirts in that roguish last-day-of-school look that the Strokes have appropriated so well, they walk on stage looking like the misfits from Grange Hill. In essence, they have a boy-next-door charm, but it's the kind of boy next door that slept with his younger siblings' baby sitter when his parents were out. As they once sang: "There's no heart you can't melt with a certain little smile / and no challenge should be faced without a little charm and a lot of style." Good advice indeed. The Bluetones' travelling support ("The Blue Army"), who used to follow them en masse as they toured, appear to have mostly moved on and by now will have no doubt swapped the white lines for worry lines. They've been replaced by groups of people who were no more than 10 or 11 when the band were at their peak of popularity. Hardly the circle of life here Simba, but it seems that the Bluetones are picking up new fans as they go. The new songs are slightly spikier but still have that bouncy hats-on-the-side-of-our-heads British jauntiness about them that fellow Britpop alumni Supergrass have made work so well. Both tracks from the forthcoming double A-side, "Fast Boy" and "Liquid Lips", get played at the start and it is hard to resist their cheeky charms. The latter apparently being an attempt to write a song that would give "Sultans of Swing" a run for its money as most requested track at Acton Working Man's Club. I'll keep you posted. New songs "I Love The City" and "Code Blue" aren't radical departures from their last album (Science and Nature), but do have a more stripped down feel to them. "Code Blue", a song about "un-channelled idiocy", is as much a sign that the Bluetones can still write cracking pop songs as it a reminder that there are some right old numbnuts running the world at present. Older tracks like "Keep The Home Fires Burning" and "Lazy Bed Track" are as warm and charming as anything about now, and as Morris grins and jerks about the stage like a School Prefect possessed by the late Ian Curtis, it feels nice to have the Bluetones back. So fair play to them. A band who are prepared to get back out on the road and take the word to the people night after night is becoming something of a rarity in times of publicity stunts and appearing on any old television programme to mime your new single. While many of their contemporaries from the mid-1990s drifted into musical obscurity (Sleeper, Mansun, Shed 7, etc.), the Bluetones were able to dust themselves down and start again. One down, 49 to go. The Bluetones are off on their crusade, and as their sermon ends, you get the feeling that a few more souls have been converted. It seems that a little charm does go a long way after all.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.