Making a Brentrance

In the words of Russ Abbot, “I love a party with a happy atmosphere”. But in a parallel, monochrome universe, the ‘Atmosphere’ playing on a crackly radio is the considerably less cheery tune of the same name by Mancunian post-punks Joy Division.

I’m reminded that it is nearly 36 years since that band’s singer, Ian Curtis, died, which immediately had me totting up the aeons on my fingers.

Although, you know you’re getting old when… pop stars start looking younger than Harry Styles, all the tunes sound the same (see: Harry Styles), and you start writing columns harking back to the days when pop music was pop music.

Happily, this weekend, the perfect antidote to all the Brexit shenenigans – Eurovision! Although Boris Johnson may be well pleased as those pesky foreigners rekindle memories of the Cold War as the usual voting patterns emerge (though recently it seems that even foes like Russia and Ukraine or Turkey and Cyprus unite, for one night only, to vote the UK into last place).

However, it does send us down another alleyway of dark nostalgia… whatever happened to those glory days when pop was simple – ‘Waterloo’ and ‘Puppet On a String’, Lulu and Buck’s Fizz?

Sadly, it seems that the days when British songwriters could inject saccharine pop straight into European hearts are long gone. There have been calls for proper songwriters to take over the UK entry – in fact, Morrissey once volunteered his services. Not this weekend in Stockholm though, as National Vegetarian Week approaches, and a smorgasbord of raw fish is available in the foyer. Instead, chipper chaps Joe and Jake (pictured), for whom a career surely awaits as kids’ TV presenters, will carry the UK’s hopes and dreams.

For a while the contest seems to have been plagued by desperate attempts to lose – Ireland winning and thus hosting the final six times in 16 years doing more harm to their economy than the early noughties property bubble. Although it did spawn the ‘My Lovely Horse’ episode of Father Ted.

Finland took things to extremes with Lordi’s ‘Hard Rock Hallelujah’, which inevitably won, but that’s the last time I saw the contest, merely catching up on bearded hipster Conchita and the Polish milkmaids on news programmes and YouTube. Although last year the Finns again pushed the boundaries – with an 85-second tune by PKN, which featured members with autism and Down’s syndrome.

That wasn’t the most unlikely feature of last year’s event in Vienna, however. Australia took part – not a typo; rather, we assume, a desperate attempt to garner ex-pat votes for the UK. This time round the event will be beamed live to the USA, and Justin Timberlake is to form the half-time entertainment.

Last year, just pre-contest, we were met by the news that Rutger Gunnarsson, who played bass on every Abba album and tour, passed away. This year, in his home country, another dark cloud has been cast over the party with the departure of stalwart host Terry Wogan for that great studio in the sky. Recently replaced by an even-more grizzled Irish broadcaster (Graham Norton in a bushy grey beard), we’re also lacking Nigella Lawson doing the results, unlike last year when she made “Royaume-Uni nil points” sound as seductive as her recipe for spotted dick.

The campaign for Russ Abbot to represent the UK in 2017 starts here.

Smash Hits
A twee, indiepop legend, Welsh singer Helen Love has garnered cult status for her ineffably perky, bubblegum pop. If the Ramones came from the valleys rather than Forest Hills, they might have sounded a bit like this – ok, with a local girl on vocals, and guitars and drums replaced by Fisher Price rhythm units and plinky plonk keyboards. Which may sound like sacrilege or just plain daft but in fact it’s pure unadulterated fun as she pinches lyrics from everyone from Chic and Johnny Dynell to the A-Teens. Rattling along at a relentless 100 mph, there’s even a high-octane cover of Prince / Sheila E’s ‘The Belle of St Mark’, while there’s another of her constant Ramones nods with the battle cry of “Hey Ho Let’s Go” on ‘No Hit Radio’. Which, if it’s the only source of airplay for this cheerfully chirpy release, would be a great injustice. HHHHH

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