Friday, February 12, 2010

Looking back - the music of 2009

From my own perception I spent most of 2009 looking backwards into the history of music, specifically the 1980s and following the ephemeral trails left by new pop and (what was then) the daring electronica made by machines and sang with a passionate detachment that historians can only dream about. Despite the trail being somewhat weak in terms of the legacy and impact that new pop and 80s synth pop seemed to have on popular culture it sneaked back enough in the music of La Roux and even bizarrely Lady Gaga in that strange androgynous playfulness (or cold calculated lunacy depending on your viewpoint) that she exhibited. Still, she never made so much impact on me as Boy George did back in the early 80s seeing him on TV and experiencing my first taste of gender confusion - was it a girl? No it's a boy! But he's wearing make-up and a dress mummy! I can only link my extreme open-ness towards the multiple ways in which sexuality and gender can be expressed to growing up in the 80s where it was possible to experience it on a weekly basis if only through watching Top of the Pops - and people think Russell T Davies is being subversive with gay characters in Doctor Who. Hardly.... Anyway I deviated somewhat from the point which was to remind myself that I did not spend the entire of 2009 stuck in a retro music wonderland but I did listen to quite a lot of the modern stuff as well as evidenced by my anal approach to dividing up the albums I buy/add to Itunes into the year they came out. I am sure I am not the only person to do this... commencing with Starsailor's All the Plans which like most of Starsailor's more recent offerings is pleasant but forgettable, I struggle now to even hum any of the songs stark in the list. They even have those vaguely pretentious names like 'Neon Sky' and 'You never get what you deserve' cough Coldplay cough. I bought the Answering Machine Another City, another sorry after reading an interview with them in some trendy muso mag that I can't remember the name for the life of me. It's pretty good in a kind of sounding-like-the-subways-but-less-noisy-kind-of-way, rather earnest and the singer's voice got on my nerves a bit because of his habit of over-pronouncing his words. Bastila couldn't be bothered to think of a title for their album other than um Bastila which is lazy but they have a trumpet player which is pretty exciting and lots of energy live which sadly doesn't translate well onto album like many bands I see randomly at a festival they are quietly consigned to the itunes tracklist for eternity. Mongrel's Better than heavy was a free gift with the independent or guardian something like that so is very worthy as a result I managed about 2 seconds before I got bored. Plus I am not that fond of Reverend and the Makers who constituted a sizeable portion of the record. The Black Ghosts... now this is an album I do like despite their lack of ability to think of an album title and the wistful 'Full Moon' that lurks on the beginning to the Twilight film no real indication of their ability to write a stonking disco tune. Did I really just use the word stonking oh dear I did I blame having to write too many reports at work it has seriously dimmed my ability to think of pretentious metaphors. Ho hum The Big Pink A Brief History of Love seemed to be part of the half-hearted shoe gazing revival (well you don't imagine them to have enough energy to be passionate about it do you?) with its scuzzy production and hazy lyrics about girls and whatever. I like Crystal Visions and Dominos (nothing to do with the pizza people I assume) but the rest seems to be blurred into one big messy mass so lets pass on that to White Rose Movement who released one bizarre single Cigarette Machine which seemed to be an Elvis piss-take on a politically incorrect subject, not as immediate and loveable as their debut but let's give them a chance hey! Anthony and the Johnsons made me cry again with The Crying Light and so I only listen to it at my most resilience, I only hope that Anthony is blithe and cheerful in real life as he is melancholy on record. Ou est le Swimming Pool rocked my festival mind but Dance the Way I feel didn't quite capture the spirit of seeing four men who look like they come from completely different musical backgrounds in one band (the singer in a cardigan no shirt for god's sake) bouncing round the stage like a very wrong boy band. Not that any boy bands are ever right but this is extreme. Dots to connect was some compilation of American bands doing covers of miserable tunes but it had Veil Veil Vanish and Bell Hollow who are awesome kind-of Goth bands. Fever Ray, well I don't know what to say exactly it disturbs me and thrills me in equal measure a brooding slab of awesomeness particularly 'When I grow up' which never fails to send strange shudders through my ears into my brain and crystallise into tears of amazement as such a song could ever be written. Like The Twilight Sad Forget the Night Ahead it is not an easy listen; squalling feedback, grumpy singer in the Scots vernacular and a true horrorshow of song narratives that make you want to cower next to the stereo with your hands over your ears until it stops. But its that kind of challenge which I expect from my music. Kiss of Life by friendly fires was a sweet candyfloss track that I hope will be toughened up for their next offering, its a teeny bit, well a lot twee - we want strong colours not pastel! The Cheek Hung Up on being the Menswear for the new Millennium and Brett Anderson surprised me by going all torch singer on us and delivering a majestic song The Hunted which reminded me of the swooning delights of The Wild Ones. Hmmm the Editors went a bit weird and electro on In this Light and on this evening: I have to say that I liked the sparse musical backing but unfortunately the lyrics are so clunky that their amusement factor completely destroys the attempt at seriousness. Like actors that have one way of acting singer Tom only really has one way of singing - sonorous, po-faced and absolutely no sense of mischief or even a raised eyebrow. Remind you of anyone? Whereas Yeah Yeah yeahs pulled off the same retro vibe with aplomb on It's Blitz mostly because they seem more fun and Karen O yelps and stutters her way sexily through. I think they should have A levels on the song titles to the Manic's last album Journal for Plague Lovers which saw them return to form in a blisteringly beautiful way, and Nicky's last song to Richey is so plaintive that even thinking of it stirs the tear ducts. Somehow they get away with song titles like Jackie Collins Existential Question Time without looking like prats but then the Manics always got away with many things that no other band can, they have that magic. Royksopp Junior was overall a disappointment for me although I love The Girl and The Robot which is infinitely catchy - I think they used up their magic all on that song. Kitsune Maison Compilation 7 introduced me to Two Door Cinema Club Something good can work and at the polar opposite of this sweet paean Heartsrevolution whose electronic mash-ups like Ultraviolence complete with girly sinister vocals are fabulously decadent. La Roux I liked when they first emerged but I went off the high voice antics pretty quick still not a bad return to the 80s, although listening to the real thing kind of spoils the novelty. I went off Maps as well who went all hippy and rave-y with Let go of the fear. The Maccabees weren't really my thing either but Amadou and Mariam are, certainly The Magic Couple does not lie, they have soul and groove in buckets. More so than David Sylvian who continues his war on music with Manafon a nonetheless hypnotic exploration of sound topped off with David's incredible voice (it got me to try out Tilt by Scott Walker which is deemed to be unlistenable but I rather liked it although perhaps listening to Sylvian prepared my ears for it I don't know). Passion Pit Moth's Wings continued the domination of young men with very high voices making music, well not sure if there is really a dominance but I blame Mika. Another band that are better on record than live, like MGMT they were very flat and disappointing. Blacklist I have no idea who they are but seem to be slightly gothic and Midnight of the Century is suitably dark and brooding as a dark and brooding thing can be. Two giants of the 1980s teemed up as John Foxx got together with Robin Guthrie for Mirrorball, no lyrics as such just Foxx ooh-ing and aah-ing over melodic guitar, would sound good in one of those weird water tank things where you can do nothing but relax. Guthrie's former singing partner Elizabeth Fraser did not do quite so well with Moses which sounded like the Cocteau Twins mashed badly with the Gotan project, a bit dated really. Everything Everything another promising band with My Keys, Your Boyfriend which has one of the best lyrics of the year 'It's like I'm watching the A4 paper taking over the guillotine' and despite the presence of another squeaky male he just about gets away with it because of the beautiful melody which is how Interpol would sound if they were on happy pills. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are a well cute band with a cute name and cute band members and cute songs about being in love and being young and eating too many sherbet dib dabs and even better all this cute-ness is not sickly at all because they have absorbed the dirty feedback sensibilities of bands like My Bloody Valentine, hurrah! The Horrors ditched their Victorian steampunk goth overtones (shame) and got grown up and (but not too) serious with primary colours where Faris howled about ice ages and got his fragile frame into a lather but it worked and that's what matters. Howling Bells did not achieve so well IMO with Radio Wars it's like they had all the right ingredients but something did not rise properly so it came out the studio oven all flat. Paul Haig sneaked into the end of the year with Relive and proved that he is quietly continuing to produce great works without fuss. John Foxx was a busy man with another release this time with Steve Jansen (ex Japan) and D'Agostino A Secret Life proving very gentle and subtle, perhaps too much so as it is the kind of music to lie in a dark room to when you have a migraine. Not that its a bad thing, mind. I like the Hours' See the Light again another band that quietly does its thing getting album covers from Damian Hurst and supporting Kasabian, an explosion of piano and 'will to live' songs that give you hope when your wallowing in the doldrums. Simian Mobile Disco is slightly more then A Temporary Pleasure but not having much cause to dance round the house at the moment it largely remains a silent pleasure. White Lies oh yes To Lose My Life caused me much hilarity when I bought it not just for its obvious 80s leanings but also the completely un-subtle references to DEATH and GLOOM and SUICIDE it gives hope to polo neck wearing 6th form miserable-ists writing poetry in their messy bedrooms. But saying that it is a surprisingly catchy set of songs which means I cannot hate it, to lose my life coming out as a collision of Duran Duran and Joy Division - now if only that had really been possible how good would that be? Fab and now onto my favoured band at the moment Franz Ferdinand who burst Tonight: Franz Ferdinand all over 2009 and made me sit up and realise how fabulous they actually are! Mind you the best songs are all squandered at the start of the album in a funk-tastic orgy of Ulysses, Turn it On and No You Girls - stop Franz you are really spoiling us. Then its Jack Penate who forced upon me a similar about turn with Tonight's Today which followed me around Top Shop and beat me into submission with its Latino vibe (hang on isn't that the preserve of Friendly Fires) and I was very surprised to find that boring troubadour Mr Penate could actually be quite exciting if only someone would give him a pair of maracas. Next, a set of bongos... Clark bended my mind with fierce electronica in the shape of Totems Flare the kind of musical meanders where the tempo and whole atmosphere changes with the wim of a pitch shift. But the Wild Beasts Two Dancers is for whom I reserve most of my love this 2009, the unassuming blokes from the North (although Hayden's denim suit is very outre and consequently disturbing) who produce such innovative, mesmerising and downright bizarre music. If they were a cake they would be one of those super expensive and gaudy macaroons in the golden shop window in London. The Boxer Rebellion financed their own album Union and whilst there is nothing to rave about it is pleasant enough in a generically good alternative music style. Ha ha and if that sounds condescending then its not meant to be. I am only recently getting Grizzly Bear but Veckatimest seems to be everything that Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes are not e.g. interesting, tuneful and wistful in a heartfelt rather than a soppy pathetic way, its hard to articulate the difference as such but there seems to be more substance here. They probably have beards though as the beard has inexplicably become fashionable. Empire of the Sun went Walking on A Dream but were too close to MGMT for comfort so it washed into a blissed out haze-fest devoid of much spirit but fun to sing along all the same. The Victorian Englishman's Club have an unwieldy name and on Watching the Burglars do a convincing Adam and the Ants before collapsing into a coma from inhaling too much air whilst gulping; believe me it's good. Wave Machines another festival find with Wave if you're really there and I was there, I really saw them and I really heard I go I go I go which is easily their most upbeat song with a mean message, always a fun juxtaposition. Kasabian continued to head downhill with West Ryder Pauper Asylum I dunno they just seem to have lost their edge since their debut which still stuns me with its menace, especially if you walk the streets of Leicester with it in your ears. And that was 2009.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Not really so much about music but a link to another of my 1980s obsessions

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

club country 12" - the associates

A return to the Halcyon year of pop 1982
For the 12" version of 'Club Country', Billy Mackenzie stares out challengingly from the cover defying you to dislike this joyfully sneering slab of noise. This version comes with pummelling drums to start and a rather jazzy synthesiser bit in the middle. Like boys in lace and make-up it's definitely of its time but defiantly relevant considering the amount of artifice that seems to come with the media.

Unwittingly every day seemed to start the same
'A.G. It's You Again' another version of 'Arrogance Gave Him Up' from Sulk, less polished and with a strange, slightly hectic feel from the giddiness of the drums. So less like the theme tune to a nature programme.

In bed with Bourdieu
Never is it so evident that there is a 'cultural capital' attached to the making, selling and listening to of music. A very few incredibly manipulative people seek to define and control the tastes of the nation - even the world - and would dictate what radio stations play and what infiltrates our head-space. Never underestimate the capacity of music to mess with your head and subconsciously inform your outlook on the world - as a mind-altering substance it is second-to-none. Phil Collins should come with a warning. Ocean Colour Scene should be banned for its capacity to make one feel nauseous and Paul Weller.... well he should only be sold to those who promise, PROMISE, to burn it immediately afterwards once they have taken the required dose. Thank goodness then for 'Ulcragyceptemol' the antidote to the dangerous poison sold to us by the corporates, a stream of common sense and epithets for successful living. Let Billy Mackenzie guide you towards being a better person and the distant piano chords soothe the soul unfortunately harmed by the Beyonces and Britneys. "Put them down" and be a good boy.

Friday, September 04, 2009

she loves me not - alan rankine

In his inspiring work 'Rip it up and start again: postpunk 1978-1984' Simon Reynolds cautions us to be wary when dabbling into the music of our post-punk heroes after 1984. Not only had the shiny bauble of New Pop become 'bloated' and 'plunged into decadence' but Pop Stars suddenly found themselves spokespeople for the world on a scale never seen before. It was the time of the Po-Faced Political Message but also of Pop Stars blowing hugely ridiculous budgets on videos and yachts, champagne and cocaine, the record labels getting fatter and fatter. Everything Went Over the Top in the security of a bouyant market and Smugness ruled in the pop charts, epitomised by those horrible Spandau Ballet songs 'True' and 'Gold'. By 1985, as Reynolds quotes, even the great John Peel was lamenting that "I don't even like the records I like." But there is something strangely addictive about 'bad' music, after all witness the whole 'Guilty Pleasures' movement. And a dabble here and there into the post-1984 cultural wilderness can be rewarding, although generally anything from the mid-late eighties does suffer for being inflicted by what was deemed fashionable in the day, i.e. too much honking saxophone, overwrought female vocals and bathed in that smooth, syrupy production that makes it hard to distinguish the real instruments from the synthesisers. Far from being 'Abba on speed' New Pop began to sound like Abba had swapped the speed for Ovaltine.

It seems to me it was more the loss of the Punk and Post-punk spirit that Reynolds and Peel were mourning, the warped beauty of New Pop that for a brief moment lit up the mainstream more brightly than the bland monotony usually labelled 'Pop' music. Looking back there are treasures to be found. The Cure's 'Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me' (1987) is the best twisted Pop record ever made after 'Sulk'. Paul Haig descended into 'The Warp of Pure Fun' in 1985 and emerged with his dignity intact, while 'Perhaps' (1984) saw Billy Mackenzie haphazardly balancing between youthful hysteria and a growing propensity towards a 'maturer' style (although the later, unreleased, 'Glamour Chase' would see the transformation complete). ZTT were doing good things e.g. with Propaganda, although they were overshadowed by the crass antics surrounding Frankie Goes to Hollywood. David Sylvian, Gene Loves Jezebel, The Wake, Siouxsie and the Banshees.... the Post-Punk greats did not die they just reinvented themselves. However the mainstream certainly returned to the 'manufactured' - no longer could it be countenanced that something like 'Party Fears Two' could sneak into the top ten, into everyone's living room and steal their hearts with its sultry shimmer.

Into 1987 we wade, when Billy Mackenzie's erstwhile Associate, Alan Rankine, released 'She loves me not'. Prior to that he had spent time producing other peoples' records (such as the Cocteau Twins and Paul Haig), working with cultish record label, the wonderfully named Les Disques du Crepscule, and living in Belgium. It's not quite a forgotten classic but like Haig's 'The Warp of Pure Fun' (of which it is reminiscent and not entirely a coincidence since Alan Rankine produced it) it is just that, a fun record which, in this period of 80s revival, is able to stand up to (and maybe even surpass some) contemporary attempts at melding the guitar with the synthesiser. Responsible for most of the instruments / parts in the Associates, Alan Rankine has a keen ear for melody which makes even the weaker songs palatable, but even he was not immune from the taint of sax and syrup. The mid to late 80s also seemed to be to the detriment of the guitar, which almost disappears into the murk here, surprising since Rankine ranks with the best of the Post-Punk guitar pioneers in terms of the sounds he managed to conjure with his fingers and a few effects. Still there is enough sophistication to make up for the disappointment that it sounds, well, so conventional at times. Especially when compared to the diverse and wonky marvellousness of 'Fourth Drawer Down'. It's like listening to 'Perhaps' - you know that both men had to move on and could not have produced another 'Sulk' (and nor would they want to) but it makes you yearn for its weirdness, it's boldness in abandoning the typical song format and its attempt to cram every possible emotion into one circle of vinyl.

And 'She loves me not' certainly starts with a bang! and ends with the apocalypse! clamouring for your ears' attention. 'Beat Fit' has rather silly lyrics but is infectious and introduces several of the 1001 synthesiser noises which identifies this record as a spawn of the 80s - as does the hyper female backing vocals and ubiquitous saxophone. Luckily this is not too intrusive keeping as it does to the rhythm of the song rather than meandering all over it. Alan Rankine's singing voice is remarkably urbane, slightly gruff and cynical at times, but that seems to suit the world-weary, even baffled, tone he affects. 'Days and Days' is the first of one of the more schmaltzy songs here, along with 'Last Bullet' they are quite light and relatively forgettable, but then I have never been a fan of ballad-type songs so they are probably okay if you like that kind of thing. 'Loaded' juxtaposes icy, melancholic synths (the ones that remind me of speeding down German autobahns at night lit only by orange sodium) and a softer vocal, ostensibly about throwing your cares away and having a good time but underlaid with that sadness it suggests it can only ever be ephemeral? Finally a guitar is spotted from very far away singing to itself in the background. 'Enough of that' says the sax and wrests domination of 'Your Very Last Day', unfortunately quite a plodding song despite Rankine's attempt to enliven things up with a dramatic vocal, but tones its influence down for 'The Sandman' which deals with a chilling subject (child abuse) in a surprisingly sympathetic way, when it potentially could be very clunky especially since Rankine's lyrics are far more literal than his former partner's. 'Break for Me' adopts that cod-reggae rhythm that was once so popular (please don't bring it back!) and that 'shimmery-curtain' percussion thing but apart from those two crimes against music it is a pleasant moment, a break after the frenetic rush of 'Lose Control'. And certainly a moment's pause is required before the stand-out track of the album, a slight intake of breath before the aural assault begins. Betraying more than a little of the 'more is more' philosophy that so drove the Associates ever upwards towards musical greatness, 'The World Begins to Look Her Age' is an attempt to capture the end of the world, well what the end of the world would sound like if only hysterical female backing singers, chuntering saxes, synthesisers and Alan Rankine were all that were left. Into this one song Rankine crams an album's worth of ideas and sounds and textures; its overloaded certainly and in the hands of someone less skilled it would probably collapse under its own weight, but this was the man responsible for 'Club Country' and however he does it, somehow it works! It's like magic because taking it all apart it's a pretty much standard 80s pop tune but combining all the unprepossessing elements together with a random song structure, explosions, layer upon layer of alarm and panic, ramping it all up and over eleven, well... it's an exhausting experience. But like the best of the Associates it makes you feel; its more than wallpaper or something to put on in the background and ignore. This is a song that defies being ignored! And it's certainly better to go out on a bang than a whimper. So yes, there could be many things wrong with this record but when it works the sheer verve reminds you that greatness never dies completely.

Sadly, but unsurprisingly, there are no videos of Alan Rankine solo on YouTube so a badly taken picture of the album cover is all I can offer in way of illustration. Luckily he is a very handsome fellow :)

And just for fun, the Associates do 'Club Country' on Top of the Pops, Alan keeping out of the bizarre sartorial choices made by some other members of the band, thinking here of Martha Ladly in the swimsuit!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Squeaks, pops and Scratches: Adventures in Vinyl

It has been a long time in coming. It must have been over a year ago when I decided that it was time to test the idea that vinyl is the preferred listening choice of the 'serious' or nostalgic music lover. Although I was brought up with vinyl I would hardly call myself nostalgic for it since it always seemed a bit of a palaver setting it all up and then making sure that the needle was in the right place. It was when my house-mate pointed out that you placed it on the edge of the record to start rather than have to find the songs manually that I realised that perhaps I was a little bit out of my depth. I realised I was even more out of my depth when it took me over three hours to work out how to record the lps through the computer; after much knashing of teeth it was possible to be confident that the software that came with the record player was clearly rubbish rather than it being my fault for being unintelligent when it comes to technology. Fortunately Audacity saved the day and much knashing of teeth and tearing of hair later I worked out how to record the lp, save it to itunes and convert it to MP3 all in one evening. To quote the Inspiral Carpets, 'Nobody said it was gonna be easy...' It became slightly more surreal when some of my worst concerns about buying second-hand records on ebay and in charity shops came true and the lp simply would not play and any amount of cursing at it would not compel it to not jump and not crackle like a crazy coco-pop monkey on lsd with maracas, however it reminded me that someone had obviously loved the album so much they had played it to death (that one of these records was 'Sulk' by the Associates was quite pleasing in that respect if it was not so frustrating in wanting to listen to it...). Anyway the said purchase has opened up a whole new world of music, chiefly because it enables me to seek out even more obscure stuff from the 80s that is only available in vinyl, yay!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Summer Sundae 14-16 August 2009 (a review in bullet points for brevity)

Good things about Summer Sundae 2009 (general)
  • It didn't rain - hooray for sun!
  • It clinched more space from Victoria Park so there was more room to walk about and the sound clash from the various stages was less pronounced
  • The Garden was relaxing if you wanted some peace and quiet... ha ha albeit with lots of screaming children having a pillow fight
  • Now the Charlotte is gone Summer Sundae is one of Leicester's few hopes of seeing new bands and it did not disappoint!!
  • The Streets got swine flu so Idlewild jumped to headline!!
Bad things about Summer Sundae 2009 (general)
  • Having to avoid psycho ex-housemates
  • Disorientation caused by a larger site to play about in
  • Electronica largely absent this year - too much reliance on guitar and whiny folk singers, get rid!
  • Some strange choices of time-tabling
  • Constant queues in the Ladies toilets (but when doesn't that happen???)
Notable bands at Summer Sundae (in no real order of preference)
  • Wild Beasts - the mad poets of Kendal were glorious. These guys deserve to be HUGE - who else would dare sing sweetly choir boy about diverse and unpleasant (ahem) subjects as snogging drunken in alleys, yobs on a night out, fathers being ignored by the courts and the sordid dreams of shiny-shoed men?? I lost my heart in that tent
  • Idlewild - thanks to the defection of The Streets Idlewild were promoted (thank goodness) to headliners and gave a rollicking set of over an hour despite being unprepared for it, although the passion and anger of former years has definitely mellowed (but that's what you get for being over 30)
  • Minnaars - described as math rock crossed with indie dance not sure exactly what that means but definitely exuberant and kicking the retro guitar-synth into the twenty-first century, set the tone whereby younger bands put some of the more established bands to shame for their sheer panache and verve
  • The Kabeedies definitely get a mention for the best on-stage banter of the festival, not sure their sound is doing anything new but fun all the same like swallowing a whole bag of minstrels in one go
  • The Charlatans - Tim Burgess just stepped out of his time machine looking like he had never left the 90s. Like Idlewild the Charlatans rose to the occasion with the right amount of nostalgia / new song ratio and invited the crowd to feel touched by the wonder of their presence (or something like that) - anyway it proved that clunky Oasis stole the crown that should have belonged to the Charlatans
  • Kevin Hewick proved that people over 50 do not have to be staid and boring and can lie on the stage playing their guitar with their teeth. But only just.
  • Monotonix defy any kind of description except they are completely bonkers - playing scuzzed-up dirty rock and roll IN the audience - a security guard's nightmare they must be - moving their instruments around, only wearing pants, chucking water, hairy and sweaty, leaping off balconies, a drummer who is the personification of Animal - audience participation to the max and proving that it can be done. Monotonix I salute you
  • Ou est le swimming pool - strange sartorial decisions abounded (bat-winged cardigan with nowt underneath? tank-top gym wear? check shirt and hairband with moustache? Shirt and jacket like dodgy club promoter?) kind of wonky pop by a boy band who hate each other's guts
  • The Cheek - are they the new Menswear of the twenty-first century? Or is there something brewing in their heads which will blow us all away with its total awesomeness? Only time will tell but there was a good attempt at feigning aloofness whilst trying not to laugh as the sweat drips from the chin
The disappointments
  • Mystery Jets - pretty dull really except for their one good song about being in love with a girl who lives two doors down, since they sacked the Dad it seems to have gone downhill
  • The Domino State - wanted to sound like Echo and the Bunnyman and the Chameleons, sounded more like Richard Ashcroft without the Verve, bloated and dull
  • Broken Records - unforgettable folk whining, the first of many
  • St Etienne - it was amazing to finally see Sarah Cracknell in the flesh and with a feather boa but there was something lacking in the performance, bit flat and they only played one really really good song, Only Love Can Break Your Heart, the rest was slightly drivel (sorry)
  • Bon Iver - less said about this the better as only more whiny folk. Should have been on in the day not the evening, its like getting a sparkler and it fizzing out before it even starts
  • The Zutons - like Bon Iver it makes me feel like there is something fundamentally wrong with my brain - both these bands are so popular but they just leave me cold. Zutons had no warmth no sparkle just sounded conventional and adding nothing to the musical lexicon - very disappointing ending to Summer Sundae this year
Bands I should have seen / seen more of
  • 65daysofstatic - VERY VERY LOUD but sounded promising
  • Micachu and the Shapes - clashed with The Cheek and our allegiance was to the boys from Suffolk
  • Hugh Cornwall - punk and post-punk relic
  • Future of the Left
Ou est le swimming pool prove that sartorial decisions are not their strong point

The Charlatans - effortlessly good

The Kabeedies - blurred but bouncy

Someone forgot to inform the drummer about the visual aesthetic - Minnaars

The Wild Beasts - obliterated by light and poor camera on mobile phone

The best way to see (and hear) the Zutons - slightly out of focus

Yawn, yawn - Bon Iver

Suffolk's finest - The Cheek

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

choose your own adventure - heartsrevolution

'choose your own adventure' books were always a bit of a con: firstly, of course you could only choose the adventure in the parameters of the author's imaginings (sometimes quite sadistic if it was one by Ian Livingston and Steve Jackson, such as monsters with huge numbers of eyes bursting open in blisters from their backs that lounged in pools of disfiguring acid, ice maidens with slaves controlled by metal collars that could burst and kill them, beautiful women enslaved within magic armour that forced you to kill them whilst tears rolled down their face, haunted houses owned by devil worshippers far more vindictive than any hollywood fright fest, vampires with biscuits made of blood to catch the unwary adventurer... who knows what impact such things have on the intensely open minds of young persons) and the fiendishly complicated and ultimately time-consuming approach to fighting monsters meant that it was always more tempting to choose your own outcome (vanquishing the monster of course) and keep going backwards and forwards through the options until the happy ending was reached. heartsrevolution on the other hand are a boy and a girl and 'choose your own adventure' is a deceptively simple, though compulsively hectic rush of adrenaline which despite its cutesy exterior hints at a dark heart beneath.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

veil veil vanish - into a new mausoleum EP

Goth somehow suits the eternal greyness of Britain, desperate to glean something elaborate out of the mishmash of brutal box like houses and grotesque Victoriana that blights our nondescript towns. The Cure and their ilk are as familiar as the cracked pavements and greasy windowsills on the high street even if the black lace gloves and creepy makeup is largely gone. Now the Americans come to steal our monopoly on melancholy. Veil Veil Vanish from San Francisco, not somewhere to be immediately associated with the intense mournfulness that spreads slowly and with intent from the speakers. I wanted to think 'they are trying too hard' after all the Ep is entitled 'into a new mausoleum' and it's like duh death and goth how obvious. I wanted to hate it. To take songs like 'Reproach' and gleefully tear them to shreds (which the masochists would probably love if they have a goth-like inferiority complex). To use the fact that they appear on the Cure tribute album 'Perfect as Cats' covering 'The Upstairs Room' as evidence that you may as well go and listen to the original instead. Instead it's been on repeat all evening. It is the blissfulness of colliding guitars, exploding into the aural equivalent of gazing up into the wonder of a starfilled night; the intense anxiety / obscurity of those shattered by existence and needing to sing about 'shadows dripping like honey kissing'; the exhaustion of feeling captured in sound.