Out on November 28th, on UMC, in conjunction with Time Out

Reviewed by Francesca Baker

For me this is pure scribal porn. Writing about my two favourite things in the same review – London and music. Only if I was sat at a desk with a ink well, glass of the finer stuff, windswept hills in front of me and my muse awaiting behind me could my writing fantasies be fulfilled any further. Before the writing is that crucial bit, the bit that is even better. The listening. I already know that despite themed compilations being usually a bit, well, sucky, London: Songs To Define The City is going to rate pretty highly, due to the fact Pulp’s Bar Italia features. A song makes me smile, and can lift a mood better than Calpol can.
As an album of songs that reference, pay homage to, are inspired by or criticise the capital city, this is a collection that aims to mirrorsthe thousands of Londons that there are. A question I often ask myself is what is the real London?
Is it the view from Embankment Bridge, the spires of St Paul’s and the London Stock Exchange stretched out ahead after a stroll with Roxy Music’s Do The Strand or watching a Waterloo Sunset serenaded by The Kinks. The myriad shops selling foods unidentifiable to my born and bred British eyes, down in Brixton’s Electric Avenue (Eddy Grant) and the hubbub of languages I don’t understand, not too far from where you might find one of Simple MindsChelsea Girl. The place of hopes and destinies fulfilled, streets paved with gold where anything can happen, so long as you’re with The London Boys (David Bowie). Or dreams shattered, realisation dawning as you come to in the late night lighting of Bar Italia. A place to live or just exist, rolling along purposeless, as in the Streets of London Ralph McTell informs us of.
It’s all these, and London: Songs To Define The City does a good job of being its soundtrack.

Sohos Bar Italia, where all the broken people go

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