The Zaw Towers Review of 2005

2005 certainly wasn't the happiest year of my life for most of it, but one moment at least cheered me up a heck of a lot. And certainly there was lots to praise the year which meant more reality TV pop stars and less real music, but also me re-discovering bits of myself that I thought I'd lost, so definitely another year on and I feel a bit wiser and yes, older too. As such this year I've dropped the personal moment, that might come back next year, it might not.

Best Single of 2005 - "The Hand That Feeds" - Nine Inch Nails
No one expected the mighty Nine Inch Nails to come back with a single that was simplistic yet rocky, edgy yet mainstream enough to be taken seriously, and above all a stomper. Yet this is what you got and more, with a grinding chugging guitar that underpinned the whole lot wonderfully, with the final part of the tune building up into a furious crescendo of Trent and feedback. Excellent stuff, even if the album "With Teeth" was a little disappointing compared to NIN's epic "The Fragile."

Also recommended:
"Oh My God" - Kaiser Chiefs
- It's simple maybe, but also anthemic, especially the chorus. It made you sit up and want to just sing along terrace style with it, not to mention the fact that they just appeared to be so dour yet came up with this absolute gem of a track.
"Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" - KT Tunstall - Acoustic guitar, a magnificent vocal performance, and altogether put together beautifully with some lush acoustics, and you're pretty much there with a bit of edge thrown in. If only people realised that Kristin Hersh's been doing this sort of tune for years, though!

Best Album of 2005 - "Grey EP" - (hooker)
Okay, so why a six track mini album of a band that not many of you have heard of? Exactly the reason why! Six tracks of pure unadulterated rock with plenty of spike, punk fuelled edge and some excellent vocals from singer Zoe McVeigh that really get you turned on to their short, sharp melodies that stick in your head for days on end. Take all the bits that made bands like the Pixies so brilliant, add a bit of Manucnian flavour, and blend in plenty of low slung bass and powerful drums, and you're there. And the last track "Shake It Up" is the best track Blondie never wrote, it's that bloody good. About time the world got to notice how brilliant this band is, and not before time either.

Also recommended:
"B-Sides and Rarities" - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - A fascinating look into some of the really obscure Cave stuff. One for diehards maybe, but the version of Deanna with Oh Happy Day tagged on just seems really beautiful to me - not to mention the original prototype for Where The Wild Roses Grow, minus Kylie plus Blixa Bargeld - which actually works better than the single release. Inspiring stuff.
"Waiting For The Sirens Call" - New Order - Very under-rated for some reason, it had some complete gems on here that stand up with the best of the New Order album tracks - excellent guitar tunes with some lush melodies and Peter Hook's trademark bass, not to mention the title track being completely beautiful and full of passion and emotion. I urge you to take another listen.

Best Concert of 2005 - Pop Will Eat Itself - Birmingham Academy
Despite an excellent effort from Kristin Hersh at London Kings Cross Scala in November, somehow this didn't have the same effect on me as getting to see one of my all time favourite bands ever get back together and perform a stonking live show that not only proved what a force they are in music, but how much the live show made the fans really into the band big time. And from the enthusiasm of the band (some of them are almost forty now remember) really gave an electric performance that will go down from me as one of the great gigs of all time, never mind this year. Having everyone around me bounce in unison and yell out at the top of their voice "f**k them and their law" and really mean it was something else, but then to get Beaver Patrol in the encore? That was just unbelievable stuff. Look out for a new album next year and watch one of the most under-rated indie bands ever kick some ass.

Best Film of 2005 - Wallace and Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Okay, I'm a big softie when it comes to animation, but this is special. This is Wallace and Gromit at their finest - the humour is there in bucket loads, including lots of little touches that the adults will notice which really make you smile and chuckle if you watch it more than once and spot all those little moments. Not just that, but the painstaking way that the claymation comes to life, and really gives you a sense of being there is something else. The plot was even pretty clever stuff, and as usual Gromit is the true star, his expressions saying it all perfectly without words. Immense stuff and certainly one that I'll be eagerly awaiting the DVD release of. And don't you just love the moment between Gromit and the rival dog where they locate coins for the airplane machine only for the rival dog to pull out the most lurid pink purse ever? Classic!

Best DVD of 2005 - Max and Paddy's Road To Nowhere Series 1
This DVD wins for many reasons: firstly, the content of the actual series, which is warm, funny and yet full of little touching moments as well, mixing humour with just the right amount of genuine feeling. And spoofing too: the second episode with homages to the A-Team is a classic in itself, especially the end bit. But that's not all - the DVD has plenty of fantastic extras, such as the out takes which show much fun was had in making the series, and the guest commentaries on each episode: Shaun Ryder and Bez are an absolute hoot on theirs, as are Tess Daly and Vernon Kay. What's most of all brilliant is that the deleted scenes really give you an insight into what could have been shown if Channel 4 were brave enough! Excellent stuff all round.

Best TV Programme of 2005 - The House of Tiny Tearaways
In terms of the moments that the parents and children had to purely inspire other parents and children, and the emotional journeys they went through, it wasn't just television. It was educational, fascinating and above all a real different take on parenting. I liked the way in particular how Tanya Byron was never judgemental but observational and really showed her emotion and enthusiasm in wanting to help the families. All the families who went on there were ever so brave, if you think about it they loved their children to bits and just wanted them to try and behave better. I'm not going to pick out favourites, that'd be unfair, but the moments of joy and happiness that each of them had, and the smiles from Tanya said it all to me. I just hope it doesn't get overdone after the second series in that it becomes too de rigeur. BBC2's "Coast" was also a close second as that was also a very fascinating documentary.

Best Sporting Moment of 2005 - England's Ashes Victory
Obvious I know, but it just had to be done. As an all-round cricket fan I really respect the fact Australia have earned the right to be regarded as the best cricketing nation, and the intensity both sides put into this series was really something else. But not just that either - the way it was played in such a sporting fashion and I for one will never forget Andrew Flintoff going over to Brett Lee at the end of the second test at Edgbaston and say to him "well played" despite the Aussies fighting to lose by a mere two runs. For a lot of people, that sort of sportsmanship summed it up. Watching the nail biting three wicket win in the Fourth Test while on holiday, then the final day of the Fifth Test where we did more than enough to earn the draw to win the Ashes was just marvellous stuff. And cheering them on at Old Trafford and seeing them almost snatch victory by needing one more wicket, I could go on. But now with them losing in Pakistan they have to make sure they don't go the same way as the rugby team did after winning the World Cup in 2003. Let's hope they're up to the challenge.

Best male personality of 2005 - Andrew Flintoff
Not since Ian Botham and the 1981 Ashes series had a player done more to bring cricket to the fore. Sure, the Ashes victory was a superb team effort, but if there was one man who would lift the team, either by scoring runs and smashing sixes around the ground, or by bowling accurately and really putting the Australians under intense pressure, then look no further than Andrew Flintoff. His record in the summer series says it all, 402 runs (only two English batsmen scored more) and 24 wickets (the best English wicket taker) and with those sort of figures, no wonder people like Shane Warne (no less) rate him so highly. I for one remember the 70-odd he scored in the second test with an injured shoulder, and then the way he got two wickets in the best over he'll ever bowl in the second Australian innings just gave everyone belief. And he's a nice laid back down to earth bloke too. Class.

Best female personality of 2005 - Tanya Byron
Probably not a surprise really, but I think people don't realise how much she does. Not only has she been responsible for featuring a lot of helpful parenting programmes, but she takes her professional job very seriously - for example she keeps in touch with the families who were on the House of Tiny Tearaways and ensures that they are okay, and really comes across as a friendly warm person whom you wouldn't mind having as a friend as well as someone who knows their stuff. And she does. I also love the fact she often wears black nail polish - wonder if she was a bit of a goth in her youth and that's the side of her coming out? In any case, if her skills are helping others in this world then that has to be a good thing.