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2011: Glastonbury, Gaga and Charlie Sheen | reviews, news & interviews

2011: Glastonbury, Gaga and Charlie Sheen

2011: Glastonbury, Gaga and Charlie Sheen

A year when music, film and TV sometimes provided light relief from the hard truths of world affairs

Best of 2011: Beyoncé gave it her all in a field in Somerset

2011 was a year when the wheels of global history cranked noticeably forward, the news always full of images that will be in school text books within a decade. It was also the year when, for most of us, “a bit peeved” became “utterly livid” that greedy, over-privileged vermin had gambled and lost all our money and were clearly getting away with it, unhindered.

On the other hand, such weighty affairs needed a preposterous counterpoint and there’s little in life more inconsequential yet excellent than Lady Gaga, who dominated the first half of the year with the release of her second album Born This Way. A patchy effort, for sure, but the best of it sterling, and in memory’s illogical randomizer the high energy punch of “Judas” is as much a part of the year as images of the Arab Spring unfolding.

I saw many riveting gigs, from Malcolm Middleton's pub back room acoustic set in December to the demented Brighton Festival Balkan showdown of Fanfare Ciocârlia vs Boban Marcovic in May, but best by a country mile was Beyoncé at Glastonbury who quite simply lit up the festival's Sunday night with fireworks, showmanship and explosive party spirit. The crowd were howling her name with spliff-raddled hoarse voices, willing her to make the mighty Somerset hedonist heaven last forever. Glastonbury as a whole was as fabulous as ever, as was the Bestival’s ever-reliable Isle of Wight rave-up.

New York folk-jazz jam band The Gregory Brothers continued to build a successful parallel career “songifying” zeitgeist-friendly video clips. They will, perhaps, never top “Winning”, the song they created from Charlie Sheen’s manic appearance on Good Morning America in February (“I’m not bi-polar, I’m bi-winning”). “Winning” tee-shirts, posters, stickers, club flyers and street art proliferated, and throwing sample lines around while wasted became a year-long social sport.

Watch the Gregory Brothers "Winning"

Travelling back in time, in 1998 I was a rave zealot, dismissing almost all new guitar music out of hand because the future was surely a utopian electronic narco-nirvana. Consequently I missed the Jesus & Mary Chain’s last album, Munki - as, it appears, did almost everyone else. I adored them back in the Eighties but had fickle-headedly forgotten them by ’98. However, Munki was reissued this year with a host of extras and what an album it is. The band’s core brothers, Jim and William Reid were on the point of splitting and mostly recorded separately, but the ire and fury of their earliest work has returned, speckled with discord and static.

What else? Joe Cornish’s film Attack the Block, a snappy sci-fi horror comedy about aliens assaulting a deprived inner London estate, caught the tone and the lingo just right while on TV Ashley Walters' nuanced portrayal of a modern gangster in Ronan Bennett's Top Boy was compulsively watchable and cast a more serious dramatic eye on urban poverty and crime. I seriously hope the latter is given a sequel. We have already been told there’s a new series of Fresh Meat which is gratifying as, although it occasionally teetered into sentimentality, it usually combined excruciating character comedy with an unexpectedly gripping narrative drive.

Finally, and, undoubtedly demonstrating what a frivolous soul I am in the face of world turmoil and fiscal catastrophe, I shall sign off by recommending Duran Duran’s "The Man Who Stole A Leopard", surely one of the tunes of the year.

2011 highlight: Couldn't get much higher than I was at Glastonbury.

2011 lowlight: That The Death Set's album Michel Poiccard didn't turn them into snot-nosed international superstars.

2012 recommendation: Keep an eye peeled for Cosmo Jarvis. He is going places.

Watch the video for "The Man Who Stole A Leopard", replete with irrelevant disembodied floating grotesques


I was at this concert!!! Amazing, and I have been on a Duran high all year since!!! So glad I had a clear view of the stage ;)

Memorable Duran performance. Great job guys!

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