Filed under: Festivals, Gigs!, Photos | Tags: All Tomorrow's Parties, Burritos, Slim Cessna's Auto Club
“this palace… It used to be full of… It used to be full of… History.”
Recovering from All Tomorrow’s Parties’ I’ll Be Your Mirror event at Alexandra Palace. Some amazing performances making up for a few problems. Full account later.
Filed under: Art, Bands, Miscellaneous | Tags: 3am Eternal, KICK OUT THE JAMS, KLF, MOTHERFUCKERS
Pete Robinson at Pop Justice has flagged up the fact that it’s 20 years ago the KLF left the music industry. I could write pages about the KLF, without saying anything new. They may be the greatest band / act / whatever of all time. Seriously.. I still toy with getting a tattoo of their logo..
Filed under: Gigs!, Miscellaneous, Videos | Tags: Bearwood, Dexys, The Little Nibble, The Scum From Moseley
I saw Dexys perform This Is What She’s Like on Monday. I never thought I’d get to say that but I am so astoundingly happy that I did.
Which got me to thinking about The Little Nibble, the Bearwood cafe mentioned in the intro. It’s bad news, I’m afraid
Black Moth – The Killing Jar
If the idea of an unholy union of early Hole and Kyuss gets you wriggling in your seat a bit, you’re going to love Black Moth. Apparently a while back they abandoned their garage roots and surrendered themselves to the riff, which seems to be paying off. Singer Harriet brings a bit of drama and a distinctly early 90s grunge / punk vocal style to the songs, but the music is flat out Sabbath / Stooges riffing – no frills but lots of fuzz. It’s not a wildly varied album – the default setting is “heavy as fuck” – but it’s loud and brutal and in your face, which works for me.
Susanna – Wild Dog (Rune Grammofon)
While she’s pretty damn massive at home in Norway, if Susanna is known here at all, it’s probably for her gorgeous, minimal covers of tunes like Jolene with her Magical Orchestra. This is her third solo album and it’s a damn fine collection of haunted, melancholy piano ballad originals, with enough instrumental and production flourishes to make it stand out. The excellent Wild Horse Wild Dog veers into noisier territory with some Crazy Horse guitar but for the most part the mood is distinctly desolate and heartbroken. I’d love to not resort to a Kate Bush comparison but it is valid – something in the arrangements and multi-tracked voices betrays a definite influence – but this is stirring stuff.
I’d normally run a mile from anything vaguely bossa nova, especially with Rhumbas in the name, but Real Fantasy is actually pretty lovely. The piano is wonderful, the percussion suitably shuffling, and mainman Simon Taylor’s voice has a warm, miserabilist quality that offsets all that sunny Latin smoothness. Robert Wyatt comes to mind, and Real Fantasy wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the legendary Pillows & Prayer compilations, which is one hell of a compliment. An unexpected treat.
Luckily, Invoke don’t sound anything like the various comparisons on their Soundcloud page. Red Hot Chili Peppers? Sheesh… Instead, Misfortune is a pretty good spin on baggy-esque indie with some surfy guitar throw into the mix – think early Charlatans go Malibu. A bit heavy on the bass but it’s nice to hear some indie with relatively fresh ideas.
Randy & The Handstand Band
A promisingly crunchy intro had me hoping this wasn’t going to be the generic indie schmindie I expected, but Demon In Disguise played a classic bait & switch and before long it was pure ‘Arctic Monkeys tribute band’ hell. Randy and his band are clearly doing okay without my approval, but there’s really nothing here to set any pulses racing.
Ms Green clearly has talent in spades – she’s classically trained and you can tell. All dramatic piano flourishes and lengthy instrumental passages, Ah Good The Sea inevitably calls to mind Tori Amos and Amanda Palmer at her most overwrought. Green’s voice almost veers into that slightly nasal Liz Green territory but just about gets away with it. Satisfyingly intense.
I clearly missed the memo telling us it was time to remove Prog from our collective cultural shit list, and the north east in particular seems to have taken irritating time signatures under its sparkly cape. Zadok can obviously play, but no amount of claiming to be ‘proggrungefolk’ can excuse those fiddly little guitar fills and Steve Howe solos. At 2.45, Unit Of Judo at least has brevity on its side, but seriously kids – Say No To Yes!
The Casual Terrorist
While Mr Casual Terrorist – CJ Reay to his mum – clearly sees himself as part of the anti-folk scene, You Should Probably Stick To What You Know Best sounds more like an unplugged session by an American indie band – mid-period Lemonheads, say – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There’s an occasional sparkle in his acoustic guitar style and his lyrics are decent enough but it all sounds a little weary. He’s clearly upset about a lot of things but it would be more useful to swap the weariness for some righteous anger if he really wants to stir things up.
I get the feeling that Gina Strings could be a lot of fun live – a drag disco diva giving it loads over a piano house riff. Unfortunately that really doesn’t translate in the studio. Everything sounds a little cheap, a little ‘will this preset do?’, and sadly Ms Strings’ vocals really aren’t up to much.
Filed under: Gigs!, Narc | Tags: Forest Swords, Los Campesinos!, New Town Kings, Nurse With Wound, Pye Corner Audio, The Caretaker, The Slackers
AV Festival Presents Stephen Stapleton: Sleep – 23rd March, Newcastle Centre For Life
How do you review a performance where the whole point is that you fall asleep? And how, in any case, can you take something as private and vulnerable as sleep and make it a communal enterprise?
Picture 100 surprisingly varied people on airbeds in a dimly lit corner of Newcastle’s Centre For Life late at night, some drinking and chatting, some settling down under the complementary blanket. Loops of Radio 4’s Shipping Forecast and Sailing By set a sleepy mood, but an avant garde pyjama party vibe prevails.
At midnight, Nurse With Wound’s Stephen Stapleton triggers a warm electronic pulse, our constant sonic companion for the next few hours. As people slowly begin to drift off to sleep, Stapleton begins to drop in more sounds – drones, chattering voices, unsettling effects. He seems adept at keeping us in the shallows of consciousness, sounds shaping our dreams and never letting us fully succumb to deep slumber, a whole room in a collective hypnagogic state. I woke often, finding the warm pulse still looping, more disturbing elements drifting in and out. Around 5am I realised Stapleton had gone, leaving us with just that simple pulse and a sense of having been involved in something really very special. Much more than a gig, this was a genuinely involving, strangely emotional shared experience.
The Slackers / New Town Kings – Trillians, April 16th
I’d be wondering where all the crusties and dreads were in Newcastle. Turns out they were all in Trillians waiting for The Slackers to come on.
But before them, it’s New Town Kings, the kind of festival-friendly Two Tone band that’s begging to be seen in a field on a sunny day, but even crammed onto a tiny Trillians stage, the 9-piece still rocked it. Pumping brass, great vocals and that “the country’s fucked so let’s have a singalong about it” approach to politics that’s inspiring without being worthy. Marvellous.
For my money, The Slackers are the best ska / rocksteady band in the world. Perhaps because more than most, they remember that ska music is black music, that it comes from jazz and rhythm & blues, not just The Specials. Lots of bands remember the skank and forget the soul. The Slackers – these days a sextet of lovable misfits with thick Noo Yoik accents and ‘interesting’ facial hair – tear through a non-stop set of their best songs – Every Day Is Sunday, Manuel, Face In The Crowd, Married Girl – and some choice covers (The Box Tops, The Misfits, Toots). They goof around and have an easy rapport between themselves and with the crowd that comes from 20 years on the road. The crowd go batshit, the band play out of their skins and this might be gig of the year (till next time, anyway… )
Los Campesinos! – 29rd March, Newcastle Academy 2
I don’t much care for most ‘indie’ bands these days but I bloody love Los Campesinos! Any attempt at critical distance for this rammed show was lost about 30 seconds into opener By Your Hand. By the time they played Death To Los Campesinos! I was bellowing along and utterly indifferent to how damned YOUNG everybody else was.
Touring their recent (excellent) Hello Sadness album, and with a lot of line-up changes since I saw them last, LC! are now a more intense, moody proposition than before, some of the bratty, sugar rush urgency of their early singles being replaced by a darker sound that draws you in more than it yells in your face. Gareth meanwhile is a frontman who just can’t help giving it his all in every song, till he’s worryingly red in the face and looks genuinely troubled. Dependably witty between songs, utterly committed during, it’s the sheer emotional force of his performance that makes the band so fucking special. To be honest, any band with You! Me! Dancing! in their setlist is onto a winner, but the whole gig was all kinds of fantastic.
The Time is Out of Joint: Forest Swords, The Caretaker, Pye Corner Audio – March 24th, Star & Shadow Cinema
It was a stroke of genius for the curators of the AV Festival to get three such essential artists (each with their own take on what we probably have to call ‘hauntology’) into a packed Star & Shadow on the night the clocks went forward.
Pye Corner Audio is probably the least well known but his was the set I enjoyed most. He shares some influences with the Ghost Box scene but manages to produce music that is more organic and less in hock to library music tropes than the likes of Belbury Poly, and when he does drop in some beats they’re actually danceable, where often this sort of stuff can sound anaemic.
There have been rumours about The Caretaker’s well-being and this really did seem like a performance by someone pretty near the end of their tether. Bookended by a drunken karaoke take on Lady In Red, he largely abandoned his beautiful haunted ballroom style in favour of a searing blast of noise which, in conjunction with a series of almost confessional home movies, came across like a howl of self-loathing and regret. Or maybe I was just drunk.
Over-running schedules meant I only saw around 20 minutes of Forest Swords performance, but it was amazing. Working with field recordings (and films) made within Gateshead’s demolished Trinity Square, he worked up some gorgeously eerie soundscapes, adding beats and slide guitar sparingly and making it very hard to go and take that taxi…