Cultural calendar The coming year already promises to be a vintage one as far as long-awaited musical resurgences go.
Old acquaintances not forgot
The coming year already promises to be a vintage one as far as long-awaited musical resurgences go. And this coming off the back of 2008, which saw new albums by Guns 'n Roses and Portishead, and live shows by My Bloody Valentine, all of whom had long since become bywords for prevarication. Good grief, even Stereo MCs got in on the action with their first album in seven years, not that anyone noticed. Indeed, the spectacle of the ragged, paunchy old rocker emerging red-eyed and blinking from his navel looks to become as much a hallmark of the close of the Noughties as collapsed banks and repossessed homes.
Coincidence? When even the defiantly slothful novelist Thomas Pynchon announces his second book this decade (Inherent Vice, slated for an August 4 release), one has to wonder. It all calls to mind that bit in Bambi when a forest fire forces wave upon wave of slumberous woodland creatures to scramble for open country: an ungainly spectacle to be sure, and a pity it took such general conflagration to bring it about. But, at risk of garbling the metaphor, the pop zoologist in me is in clover.
So, what startled fauna should we look out for in 2009? The Britpop champions Blur have overcome mutual detestation to schedule a one-off gig in London this July - this despite successful solo careers all round and therefore no obvious economic spur. Led Zeppelin are planning to tour again - albeit without Robert Plant, who clearly has better things to do after his last album, Raising Sand, picked up five Grammy nominations and sold more than a 100,000 copies in its first week.
Manchester's punk heroes Magazine are regrouping for a series of British gigs in February after their keyboard player Dave Formula made frontman Howard Devoto "an offer he couldn't refuse". "He said 'Howard, it's your last chance to be venerable'," according to Devoto. There are even rumblings that those latter-day Zep copyists The Stone Roses may be gearing up for a return: bassist Mani Mounfield says that the only remaining holdout is vocalist Ian Brown. If the plan comes off, the band could celebrate the 20th anniversary of their sublime debut album. And Robbie Williams is said to be wavering on the question of a full Take That reunion. Indeed, pretty much the only Manchester outfit who don't seem to be making up are The Smiths. Morrissey has said that this will never happen. Still, the Eagles said that they would reform "when hell freezes over". Fast-forward to 1994 and the Hell Freezes Over tour. There's still hope, then.
To cap all the above, there will also be a new release from Grandmaster Flash - his first proper studio album in 20 years. Flash, for the short of memory, was the man who made the turntable a viable instrument in its own right. His extempore beat collages for the Furious Five set the template for hip-hop ever afterwards. To find a living artist with an equivalent influence on the course of popular music, one has to start looking at around the Paul McCartney paygrade. It should, therefore, be fascinating to hear what Flash and his august collaborators have rustled up for this release. KRS-One puts in an appearance, as do Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dogg and Q-Tip. The album, titled The Bridge, is due out on Feb 23. Here's hoping that it is tremendous.
And it so happens that a few lucky UAE denizens may get a sneak preview of the new material this New Year's Eve when the man himself shows off his formidable turntable chops at the intimate Apartment Lounge and Club (call 04 406 8000 for details). This has to be the hottest ticket going. How often do you get to eyeball a legend at such close quarters? Still, bhangra fans won't want to miss the Anglo-Indian stars Juggy D and Jay Sean, whose live sets head up the Kandy Club New Year's Eve Experience at Dubai's Crown Plaza (see www.timeouttickets.com for tickets). Neither will devotees of house music pass up an audience with perhaps the only gilt-edged urban sophisticate ever to hail from the Isle of Wight, Joey Negro. He's DJing at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel (call 04 406 8769). Alas, for recalcitrants of the "disco sucks" camp, pickings are rather slimmer. But there's classic rock (or at least, rock of a distinguished vintage) from Boston's The Stompers, underdog purveyors of good-time music since 1977. If you like your rock 'n' roll to come helpfully labelled with such titles as This is Rock 'n' Roll, boy has Dubai's Barasti Bar got the band for you. Call 04 399 3333 for tickets and details.