Speakers Push Air

October 26, 2012, 12:27 pm
Filed under: Bands, Videos | Tags: , ,

October 25, 2012, 4:07 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,


The Booker Winner of Our Hearts
October 17, 2012, 2:57 pm
Filed under: Art, Reading | Tags: , ,

Kardashian Bieber Levenson Space Jump Paedo Corrie John Terry Immigration Scandal

October Singles Column

(Narc Magazine let me do the singles reviews again. Oops)

“Lots of local bands”, they said. “Try and be positive”, they said. “Some of these bands know where you live”, they said. This reviewing lark is fraught with danger, as Lee Fisher found out.

St James

I assume that St James Infirmary are one of this month’s local bands, although there are so many bands with the same name I can’t be sure. Eight For A Fiver is a decent enough Oi-style terrace stompalong, although the vocals need beefing up to sound proper hooly. At least they’re not indie by numbers. Also avoiding the indie slush pile are Rossi Noise, who on Knivesseem to be aiming for a tricky blend of beats and rock dynamics. I’m not sure it entirely works but they’re trying and they’re worth keeping an eye on.

Allo Darlin’

An indie-schmindie case in point are Sonner – I played We Go Forth Tonight about five times and it just didn’t register, I’m sorry. At least that means it probably wasn’t awful. I’ve been to a Street Party In Soho and it sounded nothing like Take Your Time, which isn’t a bad thing – there’s a nice bit of highlife guitar and it all stops short of stadium bombast on the chorus, which is a relief. Also touting a highlife-tinged guitar sound are Little Comets, who have already had some success, although A Little Opus leaves me struggling to see why. I was really getting into Resolver by Clockwork Radio  – nicely jerky, cool harmonies – and then they went and ruined it with a phenomenally ugly guitar solo. Thankfully, Collectors Club are all the way down in Middlesbrough, which means I can probably get away with saying that despite being very polished and produced, there’s nothing else going on. Allo Darlin‘s new single Northern Lights is actually pretty lovely, if you still feel the need to listen to late 80s indie-pop. But why would you?

Conversely, I wish The Spills and The Runaround Kids lived nearer, I’d buy them all a drink. Both the tracks on their Bitching Cassettes split single are fucking ace by dint of them sounding like a brilliantly noisy blend of Pavement and Archers Of Loaf, and because they have some actual ENERGY, dammit. And finally we have Women In Revolt. If you only have room for one song about vaginoplasty by a polysexual glamrock artpunk trash outfit, it ought to be Oestrogynal Itch, all caveman stomp and Valerie Solanas menace.

Women In Revolt

The Low Drone Of The Treadmill Is The Sound Of My Hopes Being Shattered
October 16, 2012, 5:45 am
Filed under: Miscellaneous, Reading | Tags: , ,


“It was true that I didn’t have much ambition, but there ought to be a place for people without ambition, I mean a better place than the one usually reserved. How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 6:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?”

Charles Bukowski, Factotum

Anti-Social Media
October 15, 2012, 12:37 pm
Filed under: Narc, Tech | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

(OR: my first Narc opinion piece)

“What I don’t like is a pop star doing a diary thing for their fans on the internet. The worst one for me – I cut it out of this magazine, it was amazing – was a tweet by Lily Allen, and it said: “Just had a lovely iced bun and a cup of tea”. That sums it all up for me. Who gives a fuck> Why would you put that on a thing? Who cares? There’s so many things going on about that one line, to me, it’s like everything that’s wrong”. – Lawrence, Go Kart Mozart

You can’t throw a stick without hitting an article about the effevt of the internet on our music consumption: it’s too instant, albums are over, singles are dead, ringtones are the future, kids today don’t know they’re born, yadda yadda yadda.

So this isn’t one of those. This, instead, is about the increasing transparency of the process, the daily Twitter-led insights into where that music actually comes from.

When I was young and Phil Lynott and Freddie Mercury ruled my world (I know, I know… ), albums just… appeared. One day they weren’t there, the next they were and it was such a heady rush coming across them. As I got older, and started to encounter the music press and John Peel and all that other stuff, I might have got an inkling something was up a couple of months ahead – hints in an interview, the announcement of a new tour (which in those days always seemed to accompany a new release) – and your excitement levels would amplify as the details got more definite and the release date hove into view. I think things started going wrong when the lead times on singles got out of hand. They’d be all over the radio months before you could buy them, and you’d be sick of them before they hit the racks.

But now? Sheesh. These days it’s all photos from the recording studio, pre-release previews of album tracks (in exchange for your email address, obviously), online beef with your collaborators (okay, so that’s mostly Wayne Coyne), Kickstarter projects, photos of someone’s wife’s breasts (okay, so that’s ONLY Wayne Coyne), invites for suggestions for album titles, lyrics, money. (and remember, if you’re not paying for it, you’re the product). By the time a new album comes out I already know everything about it – fuck, I might even be sick of it. I guess this is exacerbated by my quasi-music hack status, as I get stuff early and get press releases even earlier.

I can see the good side of all this transparency – the lowering of the barrier between the artist and their audience, a little glimpse behind the curtain. But perhaps that comes at the cost of… well, excitement, dammit. There’s less and less magic left, less mystery and enigma. The apotheosis of all this is Amanda (Fucking) Palmer, who has moved from someone with a notable twitter following to an artist who raised a million dollars to fund her new album through Kickstarter, using all sorts of bonuses, teases, photos of her naked with the amount raised written on her body, all that jazz. And for an artist like her, someone who is all about ‘we are the media’ and art happenings and late night online concerts for her insomniac fans, it’s all good. It works and it fits. But while her tweets might be inspirational, inspiring or liberating, what about that landfill indie band telling us how excited they are about their new single, or the aforementioned Lily Allen tweet that upset Lawrence so much.

I’m not sure there’s much that can be done about this – the studio cat is out of the bag and we’re doomed to years of Instagram shots of Olly Murs dicking around on the studio piano. Our musicians are now expected to be ‘on’ 24/7, for good or ill. But it makes me uncomfortable. Hold tight for the next Kurt Cobain, tweeting his suicide note. Or the next Mama Cass adding a picture of her delicious sandwich to her tumblr feed (okay, I know that’s an urban myth but you get my drft). And remember, for every Amanda Palmer helping you be a part of the never ending art project that is her life, there’s a dozen Lily Allens with a dozen fucking iced buns.

thanks as ever to Narc for permission to reprint this, which I’ve revised very slightly to make more sense

I Suppose A Shrag’s Out Of The Question?
October 13, 2012, 10:54 am
Filed under: Bands, Videos | Tags:

Tusk Festival last weekend. Supersonic Festival next weekend. Industrial blasted metal behemoth noise folk improv ragga. And what am I listening to between these two experimental bookends?

Shrag. All day, every day


I fucking love Shrag, like I love Los Campesinos. Similar, kinda, and a roughly parallel development from hyperactive sugar rush brattiness to beautifully arranged dark indie.

Some Assorted Recent Film Reviews For KYEO
October 12, 2012, 12:13 pm
Filed under: KYEO, Movies | Tags: , ,

REVIEW: Berberian Sound Studio

By Lee Fisher on September 10, 2012

What the hell IS Berberian Sound Studio, other than the finest film of the year? It’s not a horror film or thriller, not really – nothing especially horrible or thrilling occurs, at least not that you see. It’s barely a drama: Toby Jones’ Gilderoy is a Home Counties nebbish tempted out of his garden shed studio to work as a soundman on a grisly giallo movie called The Equestrian Vortex, thrown into a claustrophobic world of Kafkaesque expenses claims and shrill Italian stereotypes, but nothing much really happens.

Instead, this astonishing and original work is ultimately about the power of movies, a love letter to foley artists, and yet is more easily compared to music, to the kind of albums coming out of the esoteric and unsettling world of artists like Coil or Nurse With Wound (who contribute treated screams to the movie) and the hauntology of the Ghost Box label (indeed the bulk of the soundtrack was provided by Broadcast, presumably their last project following the tragic death of Trish Keenan).

So, while there is nothing ostensibly horrific or dramatic, things unfold in an entirely gripping and disturbing manner. Humiliated by the egomania of the film’s director and producer, bested by a cruel, disinterested secretary, horrified by some of the scenes he’s expected to soundtrack, Jones – in surely a career-defining role – starts to buckle. And as he buckles, reality begins to slip, to jump cut and slide, calling to mind the mental collapse of Catherine Deneuve in Repulsion.

As an ever-more bizarre array of professional movie screamers pass through the vocal booth, Gilderoy becomes more shambolic, his sleep more disturbed, his behaviour odder and more obsessive. Scenes seem to repeat or appear out of sequence, Gilderoy is suddenly speaking Italian (or is he dubbed?). By the end, the viewer is utterly unsettled and acutely aware of the insidious, rarely noticed power of the foley artist.

Director Strickland’s debut, Katalin Varga, was a strangely bucolic revenge movie, but this couldn’t be more different – dark, menacing, without a single external scene. Which isn’t to say it’s without humour –Julian House’s incredible credit sequence for the otherwise unseen movie is brilliant, and some of the characters in the studio – the Goblin, Massimo e Massimo – are a delight.

Perhaps it helps to have seen some gialli movies – something like Suspiria or The Beyond maybe – to pick up on some of the stylistic references and in-jokes, and to understand quite why the Italian characters are quite so overblown and wooden, but even without this, Berberian Sound Studio is a brave, challenging and entirely powerful film and unlike anything else you’ll see this year.


REVIEW: Lawless

By Lee Fisher on September 11, 2012

There’s a danger in reviewing Lawless of giving it a poor-to-middling review because of what it ISN’T. Because it isn’t a really brilliant film, it doesn’t reinvent any cinematic wheels, It doesn’t have much by way of characterisation or even plot.

But it is stupidly good fun, stylishly rendered. From the old timer Christians washing feet in the church house to pantomime villain Guy Pearce wiping a victim’s blood from his fancy dan leather gloves, we’re deep in Nick Cave world (never mind that Lawless is based on a true story). Cave wrote his first novel And The Ass Saw The Angel without ever visiting the deep South where it’s set, and his screenplay for Lawless is driven by the same mythical notion of a Southern Gothic land of swamps and violence and sadism.

Long time collaborator John Hillcoat does a brilliant job of realising Cave’s vision (as does DP Benoit Delhomme, who works wonders here), and in many ways Lawless is a close companion to the previous Cave / Hillcoat collaboration on The Proposition – more bloody violence in the arse end of nowhere. The cast are solid, even though there’s not a great deal to do – as head of the bootlegging bad boy Bondurant family, Tom Hardy mumbles like a good’un, while Shia LaBouef is decent if not outstanding as the ambitious little brother. As the love interest, Jessica Chastain is radiant but rather sidelined (which is becoming a habit, someone needs to give her a role of real substance, and soon).

The story, such as there is, hinges on big city corruption eating in to small town, deep south moonshinining (think Dukes Of Hazzard scripted by William Faulkner) and allows plenty of opportunity for gleefully rendered violence, hokey backwoods wisdom and some great performances (the aforementioned Guy Pearce, big time gangster Gary Oldman, the frankly simian third Bondurant brother Jason Clarke). There’s a lot of humour here, and despite much of the film being fairly dark (and often brutal) there’s a real sense of devilry, of Cave and Hillcoat and the cast really revelling in the Bonnie & Clyde-go-hillbilly clichés. Props also for a fantastic soundtrack, another typically Cave project that sees bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley taking on The Velvet Underground’s White Light / White Heat and winning.


REVIEW: Dredd 3D

By Lee Fisher on September 14, 2012

Let’s start with a positive (because I’m an upbeat, accentuate the positive kinda guy). Dredd 3D is a lot better than 1995’s Judge Dredd. But then so is being beaten around the face and neck with a baseball bat. After that, I start to struggle to find good things to say.

I’ll put my hand up here and say I’m with Mark Kermode in thinking that 3D is a tiresome, distracting gimmick which will crash and burn this time out the same as it has every other time the film industry has foisted it on us to revive its flagging fortunes. Dredd offers nothing much to disabuse me of that view – the few excellent 3D shots (down the central well of a towerblock, that sort of thing) don’t justify the poor image quality the rest of the time. Which is a shame, because the OTHER good thing about this movie is how great it looks.

Director Travis and the production designers have eschewed the lurid plastic of the first movie and gone for gritty reality – equal parts UK riots 2011 and Glastonbury’s Shangri La area after the pills have worn off. Every shot has something to catch the eye, from shop names to graffiti, which makes it even more galling that all this work has gone to waste on what is otherwise a pretty poor movie.

Let’s not get bogged down in arguments about whether Dredd 3D rips off The Raid: Redemption (forces of law and order invade tower block controlled by drug gangs: bloody violence follows) or vice versa, but the bottom line is that The Raid is a FAR better movie. Original, exciting, beautifully choreographed and paced. All the things Dredd 3D isn’t. Nobody’s looking to a comic book adaptation for rich characterisation or a multi-layered plot, but this movie takes the piss.

The script is lazy, the acting perfunctory, that gags visible a mile off, the pace so close to flat out boring I nearly walked after 30 minutes. To make things worse, the film’s key narrative device is a drug called Slow (like an uber-ketamine that slows time down to 1% in the mind of the user) which is employed purely to enable endless, tedious 3D-showcasing shots of people falling slowly through broken glass, or smashing to a pulp on concrete.

The first Judge Dredd movie was an utter clusterfuck, and nobody was much surprised. In some ways, Dredd 3D is more disappointing, because with a sharper script and just 2 dimensions, this really had potential.

Rob Heron & The Teapad Orchestra
October 12, 2012, 9:28 am
Filed under: Bands, Narc | Tags: , ,

(this interview originally appeared in Narc magazine)

Sharp dressed and sophisticated, Rob Heron & The Teapad Orchestra one of Newcastle’s finest bands. With their debut album out next month, Lee Fisher caught up with Rob for a chat.


Taking their name from an album of swing songs about reefer and their musical lead from a bewildering but coherent range of old-time influences, The Teapad Orchestra have parlayed a love for everything from gypsy jazz to western swing, Cajun and bluegrass into a distinctive sound that makes debut album Money Isn’t Everything an absolute gem.

“The style of music we play now is the result of an obsession that I have pursued now for over 3 years, in early 20th century music of all varieties, mostly American.”, Rob explains, while “Tom’s always been a huge bluegrass/old-time fan, Ben is the man for gypsy jazz, Colin plays scottish traditional music but has blossomed into the best Western Swing accordion player in the North!, Rob and Dave play allsorts but fit in perfectly, as they are just brilliant musicians.”

Rob explains that the album really came into focus in March after a successful tour with Pokey LaFarge. “The huge buzz from that spurred us into organising an album. We recorded it all in about 3 days at Blank Studios in Newcastle and did it all live in the room, and got some of our friends to play too”. From the title on, two things dominate the songs’ subject matter. “I wanted there to be a theme of money and drink in our album, as these are things that affect me and my friends – lack of money and too much booze. Being over-political, over-analytical of politics, and heavily biased bores me though….so I only ever do so with tongue in cheek, which I hope comes across in our music!” Hence the inclusion of Bank Failure, recorded in 1931 but “so relevant today, I couldnt not record it!” Also on the album is the crowd favourite The Great Fire Of Byker, about last year’s scrap yard conflagration.

If the band (and studying for a degree in Folk & Traditonal Music) wasn’t enough, Rob also runs Teapad Presents, a promoter based at the Cumberland but spreading its net wider all the time. “There are big plans for 2013, including a mega Mardi Gras party, and a sampler CD of all the local talents. We sometimes venture into other venues, but the Cumberland is the hub.”

I couldn’t let Rob go without asking about his dress sense (you’ll have seen him about town, spats in place and hat at a jaunty angle). I wondered if he ever slunk about in sportswear.

“When i started playing music from the 1920s/30s I came to the conclusion that one can’t just put on a stage persona, then walk to the shops the next day in 21st century clothing. I enjoy dressing smartly, and it makes me feel like i’m living the music I play, not just putting on a show.” Although adamant he hasn’t worn a hoody in years, he admits “I sometimes wear jeans. Period jeans mind.”

Rob Heron & The Teapad Orchestra release Money Isn’t Everything on October 19 th , with a free launch party at The Cumberland Arms. More details at http://www.teapadorchestra.co.uk