Sunday, September 30, 2007

In shops tomorrow: 1/10


Well, this is a drought and no mistake. even in short weeks we can dredge up a couple of tiny label 7"s of interest, but all we can come up with for the 1st is MIA's Bollywood disco Jimmy, which even on a cosmopolitan record such as Kala gives the first time listener no clues as to what she really sounds like. While we're about it, though, here's a single we're a week late with, and as it's a limited edition 7" that Jo Whiley and Zane Lowe have supported it'll be sold out already, but whatever. Noah And The Whale, a band, erm, recommended by Emmy The Great to us last year and now featuring no slouch herself Laura Marling on BVs, are the latest single release subjects by Young & Lost Club, who have just agreed a backup deal with Mercury Records and as they're releasing the Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong single after this one Sarah and Nadia are probably already plotting which bit of Belize they're going to anchor their new yacht off. In the meantime they're passing on pure distilled sunshine in the shape of Five Years' Time.


Corrections and clarifications: Okkervil River's really rather sumptuously excellent The Stage Names got put back a week to tomorrow, as did the House Of Love reissue. As for records we've not previously dealt with, promos for iLiKETRAiNS' Elegies To Lessons Learnt came with a booklet of band-penned essays regarding the subjects of some of its songs, as is their wont. You're not missing out all that badly if you're not on Beggars Banquet's mailing list, though, as while it's useful to know that there are songs here inspired by Plague self-sacrifice, the Great Fire of London, Donald Crowhurst, an assassination attempt on King George III, disappearing MP John Stonehouse, the Salem Witch Trials, Berlin Wall escapees and assassinated Prime Minister Spencer Perceval, it's not important to get into the record. Plenty have tried to knit vocals into post-rock sounds, plenty have failed, but the promise of last year's mini-album Progress Reform is carried on into these huge, wracked soundscapes. Now they've even managed to downsize it into three and a half minute songs without losing the aura, and like Progress Reform the closer features a vocal chorus, featuring Napoleon IIIrd and Katie Sky Larkin. When we talk about bands being better live than they could ever hope to be on record, we usually mean they have reserves of energy and noise that could never be captured on a multitrack recorder. In Les Savy Fav's case, the music isn't the problem so much as not seeing the crash gymnastics and unique approach to breaking down the fan/band barrier of Tim Harrington, who opened the band's set at this year's ATP Versus The Fans by delivering a monologue to the audience on the rock'n'roll lifestyle option and what trust we place in musicians while having his hair cut onstage. Musically they opened the jittery post-punk door everyone else scampered through with more sellable versions of. Let's Stay Friends, featuring Eleanor Friedberger and Emily Haines in there somewhere, is perhaps as a result their most commercial album, but only within the respective relativity of these measures. Jeffrey Lewis will be bringing out a proper new album next year, but in the meantime he's scratching a long-term itch about the lyrical acumen behind messy KGB-watched anarcho-punks Crass, the inventively titled 12 Crass Songs giving them an antifolk onceover. In a year where even EMF can reform without too many dissenting voices the radio silence surrounding the return of Six By Seven is telling, but the bleak Nottingham noiseniks know what they're doing and demonstrate it on If Symptoms Persist Kill Your Doctor. In the late 90s Camden's fashionistas followed Damon Albarn to Iceland, and now Iceland is bringing the exciteable, short indiepop sarcasm of non-progged up late Britpop back to us in a reformatted format with teenagers Jakobinarina's The First Crusade. It doesn't seem hours since Idlewild emerged, but as C97 demonstrated it's ten years since their first single, so the wide world of Best Ofs raises its ugly head in Scottish Fiction. Flight of stairs falling down flights of stairs fans will be disappointed as there's nothing older than I'm A Message, but keen students of their poised Scottish REM identity will find much to identify with, and we've always thought their first three proper albums have ended up hugely underrated. Get in quick for the DVD set featuring a live gig in Aberdeen from March, a documentary, all their videos with Roddy on audio track two, rare clips and, ooh, an EPK. Seven years in, Wichita Recordings have made their name as a home for the eclectic and exciting, both terms that could be applied to the tracklisting of There's Only One T In Wichita, alphabetised so you kids with your iPod Shuffles can do the running order for yourselves. We call it laziness round here, actually. Not something that can be applied to the tracklisting, featuring Los Campesinos!, Les Savy Fav, Those Dancing Days, exclusive Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Euros Childs, The Cribs, Espers, Simian Mobile Disco, Blood Brothers and The Bronx. Tony Wilson's big idea for the Control Official Soundtrack was having emo bands covering Joy Division, but other people had stakes in it this time and talked him down for once. At least, we assume the Supersister here isn't the ridiculously camp girl group of a few years ago, and if it is they'll sound even odder alongside the Velvets, Buzzcocks, Pistols, Bowie, Cooper Clarke, Roxy Music, Kraftwerk and three new New Order instrumental pieces. They'd sound right at home alongside the Killers covering Shadowplay, obviously. No idea why the 2CD set of Elvis Costello's My Aim Is True is back out as it doesn't seem part of another extended reissue package this time around. Peter, Bjorn & John finally cracked radio at the second time of asking, so here comes Writer's Block again with a second disc of B-sides, offcuts, radio edits and videos. As it's not on their own label we can only assume Richard Fearless has been less than careful with Death In Vegas' licenses as a catalogue label is sticking out a Best Of two years after proper compilation Milk It and more to the point three since they last released anything new.


We assume Frank Turner does normal stuff like buy stamps, make sandwiches, set the video and sleep, but we only have logic to go on for that, and logic rarely plays an active part in the life of the perma-touring solo singer-songwriter. All About The Destination follows the first two years and 335 gigs of his nomadic lifestyle up to the small triumph of his Carling weekend shows, as much beteen shows as during them, as well as a set of videos, professionally made and otherwise. The Ramones got a bit further down the line, as proved by how two discs' worth of rare and unreleased live footage has been found for It's Alive! 1974-1996, stretching from two songs in CBGBs in September 1974 to River Plate Stadium, Buenos Aires in March 1996, via the Rainbow in 1977, the Old Grey Whistle Test, Musikladen and both appearances on Top Of The Pops, plus interviews and rare videos.


As well as today's Radio 1 fortieth anniversary celebrations Peel Day III isn't too far away, and this year's first cash-in is The Peel Sessions Story, an updating of the canonical list with reminiscences attached. How many colourful stories does Jools Holland actually have, do you think? Once Squeeze tours and The Tube have been dealt with, surely is more likely to be one of those extended lists of famous people the author has met that a lot of mid-ranking autobiographies are these days.

The Weekly Sweep

We haven't forgotten, just had technical issues - Truck Sunday will be up, along with pictures of both events, on Tuesday.

  • Battles - Tonto [YouTube]
  • Club 8 - Everything Goes [mp3 from Stereogum]
  • Fanfarlo - We Live By The Lake [Myspace]
  • Future Of The Left - My Gymnastic Past
  • Gravenhurst - Hollow Men [YouTube]
  • iLiKETRAiNS - Twenty Five Sins
  • Laura Marling - New Romantic [YouTube]
  • Les Savy Fav - The Year Before The Year 2000 [mp3 from Polaroid]
  • Lightspeed Champion - Midnight Surprise [YouTube]
  • Los Campesinos! - The International Tweexcore Underground [YouTube]
  • Monkey Swallows The Universe - Sheffield Shanty [mp3 from Song By Toad]
  • Napoleon IIIrd - Hit Schmooze For Me [Myspace TV!]
  • Noah And The Whale - Five Years' Time [YouTube]
  • Okkervil River - Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe [mp3 from Instrumental Analysis]
  • The Piney Gir Country Roadshow - Greetings Salutations Goodbye [YouTube]
  • Sky Larkin - Molten [Myspace]
  • Sons & Daughters - Gilt Complex [YouTube]
  • The Teenagers - Starlett Johanssen [Myspace]
  • Thirty Pounds Of Bone - When She Goes Up
  • Those Dancing Days - Those Dancing Days [Myspace] (And a video streaming here)
  • Friday, September 28, 2007

    Ten: Truck Festival Saturday review

    Possibly due to the Likely Lads-esque Truck F two months ago, there was an odd atmosphere around Truck Ten. Whether due to the colder air, the number of large acts who had to pull out (Brian Jonestown Massacre, Jack Penate, Future Of The Left, Frank Turner, iLiKETRAiNS, Euros Childs, Lethal Bizzle), the changing clientele - uni freshers' weeks took away a decent number of original ticket holders and there seemed to be a greater number of Reading Festival lads there - or the feeling that this was some sort of false ending to the festival summer we couldn't quite say, but that it happened at all is a great credit to Robin and Joe Bennett and everyone else involved, and to the Truck extended family of fans and regulars who kept faith throughout the wait. Despite its growing reputation, it still remains resolutely home brewed and under the radar, and that's how it should stay.

    "Different, isn't it? No rain!" Babel's singer opined, apparently without irony even if it did stay dry all day, during the first set we saw, their occasionally rockabilly-infused folkiness easing us into the atmosphere and away from the overcast skies and wretched performance artists. The Trailer Park is already packed by the time we get across the field to I Was A Cub Scout. The beats are pumping, the guitars and keyboards are doing their electroindiepunk thing, the atmosphere in the tent is electric, the vocals are next to inaudible. A potential flyer of a set derailed by technology, and not for the last time.

    While it was punters enjoying themselves that proved the fly in the folk-pop ointment during Monkey Swallows The Universe's End Of The Road set, it's very different noises off that disrupt the first song of this performance as the sound desk have left their talkback mic feed through the PA rather than the monitors, and Nat Johnson is clearly put off by it. When that's sorted out it's much the same set in a shorter timeframe as at EOTR but they seem to be enjoying it more, as are the two girls right at the front professing love throughout the first half of the set, Johnson moved to comment on their intoxication level once they've disappeared. The bilingual Ice Cream Man returns even though nobody in the crowd claims on Johnson's querying to know who Jonathan Richman is, as does the Take On Me steal, while Ballad Of The Breakneck Bride is introduced as "a happy song about a car crash, and we want to dedicate this to Ronnie Corbett, who as you may know died in a car crash late last night". Some people may have gone through the whole weekend thinking this had happened. Even though they have to abandon the last song as Nat's guitar has stopped working for the third time in the half hour, they should consider this even more people converted to the cause.

    Back in the Trailer Park Fanfarlo have their own approach to expansive folk-pop. The trumpet and mandolin-wielding sextet, whom David Bowie has talked up, would be the product if Sufjan Stevens had grown up in Sweden and was latterly inspired by the Shins and Camera Obscura's lush retro-looking pop with a timeless edge, with hints of Neon Bible's lighter moments too. This is turning into a really good year for bands taking a C86 influence somewhere new and exciting, and Fanfarlo are right up there with the best of them.

    Emma Pollock won hearts and minds over long ago as co-leader of the Delgados, and on her own in the Barn - we're obliged to mention at this stage that it's an actual barn - she more than holds her own too. Essentially her songs pick up where their last album Universal Audio left off, sounding like it couldn't be anyone else but their widescreen maxi-pop but with fewer strings, less Dave Fridmann bombast and a slightly more commercial bent. The songs from Watch The Fireworks played here - none of the old stuff - suggest it may be better than that band swansong, though, more focused and dynamic while losing nothing of the strong sense of broken melody that made every phase of the Delgados special.

    After briefly happening across an acoustic set featuring assorted Actress Hands and Restlesslist members in the market tent being watched by five other people, and one of those is Brakes' Marc Beatty, and seeing the Marmadukes veer towards Levellers territory in the Lounge tent, the Piney Gir Country Roadshow provides a welcome break from, well, something. Kansas-heralding longstanding Truck associate Piney's proper old school country is delivered with a just firm enough mix of modernity and semi-authentic dusty barn dance to convince, and her voice couldn't be anything but playfully C&W. Joe Bennett helps out on fiddle, and Bath's own dance troupe the Panther Girls make an appearance for showstopper Greetings, Salutations, Goodbye along with enough punters who attended an earlier dance class to make the band bar Piney disappear entirely from view.

    Clearly, you cannot linedance to Blood Red Shoes, but that's not to say people aren't going to try some sort of response, from the soundman checking the mikes getting cheers to Steven Ansell leaving the stage at the end to shake the hands of the committed and ending up crowdsurfing. In the half hour in between Ansell and Laura-Mary Carter deliver a full-on set of their post-post-punk burnouts, belying any ideas about how much noise a guitar/drum duo who both sing can make. They're clearly enjoying it too, even if Carter's guitar cuts out during You Bring Me Down, and the album tracks previewed veer from all out percussive and delay pedal assaults to slightly more streamlined songs that almost signify a let-up. Having not got off the road in a good couple of years, they're hitting spectral paydirt.

    As are SixNationState, just about filling the Barn the night after playing to thirty people, much to Gerry Del-Guerico's constant delight and surprise before repeatedly inviting everyone over to buy him a drink. The buzz about them hasn't reached anything like critical mass just yet but there's clearly something stirring as a result of word of mouth from, again, constant tour bus living. If Gerry's full throated vocals aren't done many favours in the mix, from the percussive start to the last drop of energy being wrested out of their full throttle falling apart skank-punk, even the laid back on record We Could Be Happy teeming with maniacal energy, now with the members' names in tape on their instruments. Take note, plenty of more lauded bands - SixNationState have heard Up The Bracket too, except they've taken its underpinnings and gone somewhere else, more inventive and willing, with it.

    On the Market stage KTB, aka Robin and Joe's sister Katie, is no mean singer herself, possessing a dab hand at touching country-folk which sounds at times like Everything But The Girl's willowy acoustic phase. Meanwhile Brakes... well, they're Brakes, really, so refer to many previous STN reviews, just with Tom in particularly high spirits tonight and the singer from Cottonmouth duetting on as much as she can remember of Jackson. While all this is going on we're keeping an eye on the Trailer Park, which has an enormous jam outside at Foals' stage time of 7pm. At 7.20 there's still little movement onstage, although the band are milling about. At 7.35pm everyone suddenly starts streaming away. It turns out health and safety concerns have led to the slot being scrapped - there are security guarded barriers in place at the tent from then on - and while they play a set in the Barn later on in its stead we don't hear about it until the following day. This is the third time Foals have pulled out of a show we were supposed to see them at, and being actually at a festival that they're also actively present at and still not hearing a note out of them is some sort of new high water mark.

    Emergency barriers are also brought in for ¡Forward, Russia! in the barn, although in sharp contrast to last year we actually manage to get into it ahead of the pack. A ridiculously kinetic live band at the best of times, the reverberations off the stone walls make their angularities and piercing guitar slabs all the more ominous as Tom Woodhead goes through his crash calisthetics routine. Half the set is of new songs, which are much the same in tune-crashing intent but for the most part also have structured build-ups and slow burns to generate an atmosphere before everything else crashes into it. One song "sounds like the Killers" according to Woodhead's introduction, although judging by the skyscraping FX pedal work, heavy riffage and basically white noise synth that constitutes its coda he may have meant it has the power to kill people. The last song is different again, an epic that's probably as close as they'll ever come to a power ballad featuring, if we heard it correctly, the key repeated lyric "time shits on now". Recorded ¡F,R! is like catching lightning in a bottle, but live they're as spectacular as ever. And they completely ruin Youthmovies, who are straight afterwards in the Trailer Park, whose fractured lyrics and riffs, jumping time signals and post-rock semantics can't help but immediately be compared in the negative. The Bennett's own Goldrush's laid-back psychedelic and country-influenced pop hiding darker lyrical concerns serves its purpose but, with obvious due respect, wasn't working right now.

    Garth Hudson of The Band headlined. We know nothing about The Band, so retired early for the night.

    Night falls over Larmer Tree: End Of The Road Festival Sunday review

    The Swedish game of Kubb, something akin to two-sided pub skittles, has turned up mid-field, certainly a lot earlier than we do. Luckily we've already seen main stage opener Port O'Brien fortuitously, if not Dawn Landes, the bluegrass singer who does Young Folks. Someone we hadn't seen, on their third of four sets, are End Of The Road Records' own The Young Republic, who have clearly entered into the spirit of things with two members in dinner suits and singer Julian Saporiti donning silver face paint, while later on they bring out some kids to inexpertly throw sweets to the crowd and do tricks with those reel things on string you get in juggling kits. None of this overshadows their genre-bounding sound, which is rooted in country rock but with cleverly worked shades of Beatles melodic harmony, classic rock, Dylan, power pop and Belle & Sebastian wistfulness. Worth keeping an eye on. Certainly more so than the mildly hyped Pete & The Pirates, who turn out to be a mildly post-punk take on the mid-90s Blur template, and not a particularly exciting one at that no matter how much the singer moves around in a Orlando Weeks fashion. Meanwhile the Seasick Steve set in the Bimble Inn is packed out well beyond its limits and turns out to be a Q&A with someone from Mojo magazine. Presumably he plays something at some stage, but we have other things to do.

    Then Jeffrey Lewis and new backing band The Jitters, featuring brother Jack, come on in the Big Top and start with a Crass cover. Then another one. And another one. Eight, in fact. To be fair he is over to promote his new 12 Crass Songs stopgap covers album, but as he only thinks to explain this after six we can imagine potential converts confused as to why the post-slacker antifolk poet of the comic book kids was delivering a load of scrappy left-wing polemics, all of which include the word 'system'. Things improve when a bloke in a Cramps T-shirt is invited on from the front to add shaker and backing vocals, and get very much better when Lewis gets into his own songs, No LSD Tonight and Moving followed by a extraordinary solo Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror that gets the best single reception of any song played throughout the three days. That's why he's so feted.

    Herman Dune is similarly loved without the wider acclaim, but unlike Lewis you feel that in an age of The Gossip in the top ten and Feist on iPod adverts these Richmanesque faux-naive poetic homilies to love and life could turn heads given promotion (indeed I Wish That I Could See You Soon got play on The Box). David-Ivar takes the tenets of anti-folk, welds them to west coast pop and you just wish the overcast skies would brighten up to make it befit the mood created. It's Dune's (and Lewis') friends The Wave Pictures who make the greater impact at the time, though, in a clashing Local set. Dave Tattersall turned up the previous day in both Darren Hayman's sets and his own band share much of Hefner's DNA, Modern Lovers indebted and very much set in the bedsit world of sexual discomfort, social mores and self-deprecating humour both in (not least the occasional solo) and between songs. While we were only vaguely aware of them previously the much-travelled trio - bred in Leicestershire, Cardiff scene members through university, now based in Bethnal Green and just signed to Moshi Moshi - understandably already have a hardcore following, eventually leading Tattersall to abandon the setlist and take requests, and their kitchen sink microdramas have hearts and minds to win over yet.

    Johnny Flynn is one of those people who looks far too young for the voice and style he utilises. The ridiculously talented Flynn starts on an English folk footing but is equally at home with country, old fashioned blues and bluegrass, and is lyrically smart with it. Ramshackle charm is a much abused term in reviews, and the Sussex Wit do making a pig's ear of a couple of finishes, but when they're motoring and you can hear them all it coalesces into the self-confident understated joy mirrored in their releases to date, especially the closing with a hoedown version of Tickle Me Pink and a folk dance song with Flynn on fiddle and drummer Matt Edmonds on guitar, when the sound team remember to switch it back on. How new label Vertigo, home of Razorlight and Dirty Pretty Things, will approach them is beyond us, but it'll be fun getting there.

    Somewhat unexpectedly The Local is completely packed out beyond mere queueing and waiting for Peggy Sue & The Pirates, but there's a right row going on on the Garden Stage. Archie Bronson Outfit's hypnotic hammering is rousing enough on record, but it's clearly live that they come into their own, Sam Windett's scorching riffs and whiskey-soaked tremulous yell plus enormous bass lines underpinned by Mark Cleveland's unstoppable cyclical drum thumping ensuring a blues-punk monster has disembarked at the festival. A very different blues-soaked experience follows in Seasick Steve, whose summer of festival touring has made him a stage walkabout crowdpleaser to consolidate his feted slide stomping Mississippi hobo blues skills, even if he does break the Three Stringed Wonder two songs in.

    We've already seen him this summer, so it's off to the Big Top cabaret. Almost literally, in Misty's Big Adventure's case. Misty's are one of those bands that people either hate at first sight or completely fall for, such is the nature of their screwy brass-powered upbeat psychedelic cabaret pop plus deadpan crooned hopeful/cynical lyrics plus blue facepainted dancer wearing red all-in-one outfit covered in blue rubber gloves who calls him/itself Erotic Volvo (and by the way, if any of The Twang are reading...) For us, although Grandmaster Gareth often talks up Raymond Scott, Julian Cope and Pram as influences, we're more inclined to see them as the closest thing to a Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band successor, presenting as our evidence Gareth's sometimes satirical (The Kids Are Radioactive), sometimes wise beyond reputation lyrics and the jazz-influenced swing behind him plus onstage unstoppableness. And Fashion Parade is surely a Noughties Can Blue Men Sing The Whites.

    On leaving the Big Top, two parrots by overhead. It's fitting.

    Charlie Parr is another popular favourite we seem to have missed, although the Bimble Inn was again packed out for the bluesman, so next up is another band we've seen already this summer, The Broken Family Band. While at heart they tread the same Brit-Americana path as plenty of others here, they stand out for the way they're not afraid to go one louder, packing a fuzzed up punch on their newer material that stands often uncomfortably adjacent to their slower burning dustier Will Oldham-meets-Pavement songs. Steven Adams remains one of our greatest deadpan banterers. We will go on to realise we've missed a last minute Twilight Sad show. And two semi-secret Herman Dune sets with Jack Lewis and various Wave Pictures. Again, arse.

    Jens Lekman is running late, so Josh T Pearson, who we'd earlier seen literally observing the cigarette stall (and to be fair you can barely miss him with the world championship entrant beard and stetson) has been bumped down the Big Top's running order. Any thoughts that a timeslot further from midnight than the former Lift To Experience frontman's howling at the moon should ideally be are quashed within seconds. He hardly seems to be putting the effort in to look at him through the gathering darkness, but as his guitar rings out apocalyptically in all other respects he seems possessed, sometimes stage-whispering into his own self, sometimes with righteous preacher intensity about demons and angels. By the time his hour has finished everyone's ears have been given a full going over.

    Which makes readjusting to headliners Lambchop quite a challenge. In fact they're slimmed down anyway, losing a few members and a string section, and the set chosen spends a decent period in the hushed state of the Is A Woman album. Although it does get more rousing, we can't help but think of their indoor set at Summer Sundae 2004, where the acoustics were much more favourable to this kind of thing, and while Kurt Wagner's contemplative tales do occasionally strike a chord the feeling is that Sunday outdoors is perhaps not the best place to experience their captivating peaks. Inevitably, we now learn we missed a choral Up With People prominently featuring, yes, Howe Gelb.

    So let's instead finish with some West Coast-influenced Swedish pop. It's End Of The Road, it's everything you could want. Jens Lekman's new album went straight to number one in Sweden, which shows where we're going wrong (his website says it was promptly knocked off by Paul Potts, which shows where everybody's going wrong). His gorgeously written and carefully constructed songs from the heart, equal parts post-twee and lush pop, off-kilter lyrics looking askance at small town life and love captured by a strong, tight band that left just enough room for Lekman to play in. A joy throughout, and a nigh on perfect closing complement to this most already unique and accomplished of festivals.

    Thursday, September 27, 2007

    Apologies to peacock life: End Of The Road Festival Saturday review

    The sort of sustained sunny warmth that will lead more than one frontman to remark "so the summer's arrived at last", a kneejerk reaction to a bit of sunlight that ignores how probably half the festival season weekends have been warm, deserves as appropriate an main stage opener as Sunny Day Sets Fire. In name, obviously, but also in deed as the multinational, instrument-swapping outfit find the unwieldly middle ground between the Polyphonic Spree's middle-aged symphonies to mammon and the Arcade Fire's choral marches towards valhalla. Partly due to the weather and partly as a result of the advertised Big Top surprise guest proving to be so much of a surprise nobody turns up to perform there they get a very decent audience for midday on the second day of a festival and promise much for future recordings.

    The Local has taken the lead on the impressive initiative of holding weekend morning open mic sessions in The Local. Most of those we catch are fairly uninspiring, but we were taken by a band who, inevitably, we didn't catch the name of (they were a female-male Brighton duo apparently called Das something - do get in touch if you're reading) but impressed with some modern indie-folk storytelling not too far removed from STN favourite Emmy The Great. Who, by the way, we spot on two seperate occasions later on despite not being on the bill, but that's another matter.

    Is live Loney, Dear usually this much louder and harder than on record? The harmonies remain intact but Emil Svanängen's bedroom yearnings lose something in translation with a full band, eroding their winningly wistful sheen with what seems like trying too hard to make up for playing to a field. It's in the Bimble Inn that we find a more successful translation of joy-filled wistful whimsy in the scrappy acoustic pop of Slow Club - Charles on guitar, Rebecca standing up behind an occasionally employed drumkit, both singing and harmonising on their off-kilter stories and city shanties. Nobody dances despite Charles' invitation, although it's fairly hard not to be moved when they're at full pelt, but it's just what the occasion and the ambience required.

    Speaking of pop fun factories, here come I'm From Barcelona. And here comes Emanuel Lundgren, bounding on in mafia chic black and white to an electro version of Treehouse which he sings most of before producing an inflatable lilo to literally crowdsurf on as the rest of the band, down to a manageable thirteen for this trip, emerge. Having played all over the site last year you can tell Lundgren means it when he commends the festival as their favourite, and however much it resembles a microbudget Flaming Lips show the people love it back, joyfully partaking in a never ending supply of confetti and balloons, increasing throughout to Prisoner beach scene size, a couple of which get stuck in surrounding trees. Most aren't going to let a little thing like little new material dissuade them, although we do get a new song taking up possibly ironic cudgels for Britney Spears alongside the singalong favourites. They're a band made for the moment such as this and repay in kind, culminating in Lundgren's flying leap off the front of the stage from which you fear he might never return. It's alright, he does eventually.

    A lot of people enthused about My Brightest Diamond's Big Top set afterwards but despite having made a mental note we went and missed it, following up with 9 Bach in the Bimble Inn, frontwoman Lisa Jen (Gruff Rhys' solo album sidekick) flanked by two different glockenspiels as if this could be no more twee. In fact it's sumptuous Welsh language folk-pop, like Rhys' own work unhindered by the language barrier in taking on mystical qualities while not forgetting the pleasing tunes.

    Like the mass-handed Swedes, Darren Hayman is already an End Of The Road favourite, back for a second year with a new album on the way. In fact it's the same set, give or take a few for timeslot purposes, as we saw him play at Indietracks, right down to the fiddle/ukelele faceoff with Hayman suggesting we shouldn't just go on musical ability ("also take into account effort and comic timing") and the early Hefner Hello Kitten/Pull Yourself Together closing run played out to similar joy among the knowing throng. Any Hayman is great Hayman, of course, the lovelorn poet laureate, wise, warm (almost despite his common subject matter) and self-deprecating, showing the Arctic Monkeys and their acolytes what realistic songwriting really is.

    Joan As Police Woman, alone at piano and guitar, seems in as fine form, The Ride coming to life, and brokenly daffy banter form as ever. We've already seen her solo show in full this year so don't stop for the whole thing but her vocal force of nature belies the space issues of the Garden Stage. Over in the Local former Dream City Film Club leader Michael J Sheehy raked through the old Costello traits of guilt, particularly of the Catholic kind, and revenge with a garnish of death blues and the voice of someone you wouldn't mess with in a darkened bar. Comparisons might well be odious but just after Joan Wasser's been on Swede Frida Hyvonen can't help but come across as an own brand version, her own all too personal stories, grandiosely skyscraping piano balladry and oddball between song banter decent enough in its own right but lacking that extra something that sets JAPW apart.

    The RG Morrison, who stops halfway through his first song through worry about the smoke machine being placed directly behind his amp, shares a label with Thirty Pounds Of Bone and deals in a less seafaring but otherwise not dissimilar acoustic ballpark, elements of Nick Drake and Daniel Johnston secreted within his stories and finding an original way to escape the morass of such singer-songwriters, both bruised and strong. Over in the Big Top the programme says David Vandervelde but circumstances say Port O'Brien, over from California and providing a diverting Americana take on the West Coast rock tradition, like a blissed out early Bright Eyes.

    Over in the garden, as somewhat telegraphed by the frontman earlier, Hayman, Watkins, Trout & Lee have gathered to play at the piano for a very decent turnout of loyalists. Darren Hayman's bluegrass project, also featuring two of his The Secondary Modern band and The Wave Pictures' Dave Tattersall, is as much messy fun as you'd expect, with only mildly embarrassed requests for audience participation and covers of Jonathan Richman, Wreckless Eric and the gospel standard Nobody Knows, as once covered in a Hefner Peel session. It's certainly more entertaining than the highly disappointing Devastations, whose new album promises much but here their sequenced sheen is replaced by fumbling channelling of Galaxie 500 to little effect.

    On the other hand, Fireworks Night's subtle intimacy in The Local has an aura all of its own, their slow-burning string-aided minimal folk noir acting as a siren towards tales of hope and loss. Highly charming stuff. Also, almost completely lost when Brakes are raging away a hundred yards away or so. As long time readers will know we keep seeing Brakes at festivals but they remain a live joy, still working their set of minimalist wild-eyed country-punk plus Camper Van Beethoven covers into crowd-pleasing intensity, even if they only do Cheney twice, and mess one of those up. On the plus side, during a gorgeous No Return in the autumnal night air Eamon's head starts steaming like Dion Dublin's used to do.

    Monkey Swallows The Universe also have problems with noises off, but this time it's not of the bill's doing but of festival circumstance, firstly through the sort of in-tent crush rarely experienced by us outside The Great Camera Obscura Logjam Of Summer Sundae 2006 and then by idiots talking loudly next to the bar which make a Nat Johnson solo acoustic song virtually inaudible. Once they're out of the way our bad mood is alleviated by some dulcet music. The smartly playful nature of the British nu-folk scene, as some arse will eventually christen it so it might as well be us, has fine Sheffield representatives here, taking slivers of the confident charm also found in Pulp and the Long Blondes in various ways and using it to construct gorgeously melodic songs with heart and soul, and the odd nod to antifolk's origins and Sarah Records. They're not too precious about it either, throwing a snatch of Take On Me into a version of Jimmy Down The Well that's already getting handclaps and singalongs from the faithful and closing with the day's second Richman cover, Ice Cream Man with French bits included and a few multilingual chorus repetitions to fill out the time. They've had a fair bit of attention, and on this evidence deserve it.

    Realising we have no chance of taking in Benjamin Wetherill's romantic hushed folkiness when The Bees are doing their increasingly wearisome retro thing nearby, we're in the process of wandering back through the forest when we remember Architecture In Helsinki are on. Instantly the Big Top is transported into the weekend's only real dance party as the Australian sextet belie the cool reception for current album Places Like These the only way you imagine they know how - with truckloads of energy, a desire to use everything in sight as percussion and a keenness to see the crowd having as good a time as they are on stage. Like once and future kings of the party atmosphere !!!, they jig about constantly, swap instruments and keep momentum levels high, seemingly intent solely on making everyone dance at their command, coming across as natural rather than trying too hard. More percussive and angular then on record, it makes sense of their variable recorded material insomuch as to show that it can hardly convey the controlled mayhem of what they're making this music for, even during a nearly straight cover of Mental As Anything's Live It Up. Points off, though, for being the only band we saw over the three days to lapse into a stab at Boyz II Men's End Of The Road. Far too cheap.

    With time to kill we venture back forestwards and, in an area so dark we can't so much as pick anything up on the camera, we chance across Frida Hyvonen on the forest piano pretty much picking up where she left off on stage to a small group including Emanuel Lundgren and a man who turns out to be Everett True, before returning to The Local for Congregation. It would probably be churlish to mention that there's already been a band called Congregation (early/mid-90s, led by Billy Reeves, later of Theaudience and now BBC London radio reporter, Friends Of The Bride manager and general man about town). It'd certainly be churlish to mention that their sound has been done before as well, but we'll let them off as such rough-house female-fronted blues is rarely as effective, raw slide guitar backing occasional Television Personalities sidewoman Victoria Yeulet sounding like Karen O as a Stars In Their Eyes Anglicised version of Lisa Kekaula of the Bellrays.

    The big clash of the weekend came with the two Saturday headliners, Super Furry Animals on the Garden Stage, British Sea Power in the Big Top. With start times of 10.30 and 10.45 respectively we thought we'd at least know where to start; in the end both came on at about 11. Even despite the wait, Super Furry Animals seem somewhat distracted. Opening with the not immediately obvious Slow Life, they cherrypick from all eight albums but don't really achieve a level of consistency, especially not when they're persisting with the new straight-up rockout version of Northern Lites, when surely the last thing anyone wants of the Super Furries there is the dumbing down into standard indie of any of their songs. It sounds great enough, and Bunf gets presented with a cake for his birthday ("it's got Clangers on it!"), but it's not happening tonight, and it seems as time passes that they're aware of it. Meanwhile...

    "How fucking wasted?" is Noble's succinct verdict (and the most we've ever heard a member of the band say in one sentence onstage, for what it's worth) as Yan falls to the floor again after, ironically, Please Stand Up. It's not like you could ever confuse the live British Sea Power visual experience for anyone else, but tonight, as well as the towering branches, enormous flagpoles and between song tapes of atmosphere, birdsong and, erm, military aircraft, there's a sense of urgency and intensity around them. Not that we've ever doubted their greatness, but at the moment BSP stand on the precipice dividing them from cementing their place as post-post-punk national treasures and merely being that funny band from 2002 with the foliage. Tonight it's as if they've taken that disparity to heart and power through their set, Yan theatrically crowdsurfing during The Spirit Of St Louis, while the new songs taking up more where The Decline Of... left off than continuing Open Season's streamlining in that refried washing machine-mangled Pixies sense. We didn't make it through to Rock In A. Suffice to say we were surprised the Big Top tent was still standing the following morning.

    Wednesday, September 26, 2007

    Howe good: End Of The Road Festival Friday review

    This was the second End Of The Road festival, set in a well manicured public gardens a few miles from Blandford down some not at all scary after dark single lane country roads. Despite the odd 'too many festivals'-driven sneer from outsiders - how come nobody says Bestival, a week earlier, is too late in the year? - the first event beat the far more press lauded Latitude to the Best New Festival gong at last year's public voted UK Festival Awards, and it doesn't take long on site to see why, or to determine that this site has its own special aura. You could put it down to the way it combines the best visible elements of many a much loved second tier festival : the spectacular setting folk with many twists booking policy of Green Man (the festival the organisers openly admit was their inspiration), the bottom-up build and all-in attendee as music-appreciating gang mentality of Truck, the family friendliness of Summer Sundae and the below-radar flightpath of any event that doesn't have the dead commercial hand of Mean Fiddler acting as a surrogate Banquo's ghost. That it's not yet one for the Q set is ultimately its most pleasing aspect, that Simon and Sofia have gone through with their big idea and chanced across something special in itself.

    But even then there's something different, something other about this one. There's not the scale of human traffic evident in a lot of the competition even though it was within 500 tickets of selling out its 5,000 capacity; everything's more laid back, people seem in less of a rush to get from stage to stage, more content to explore. And there's plenty to discover, from the Somerset Cider Bus that had massive queues outside all weekend to the forest area. Clearly a lot of lateral thinking work went into this area, from the fairy lights and toys draped on and around the trees to the clearing it led to with a piano in one corner. And that's before you've got to the Tree Of Knowledge (a bookcase full of reference books wrapped around a tree), the healing fields, the art installations, the roped off sculpted scenery or the tame peacocks that wandered around the fields.

    By the time we arrive we've missed Strange Idols for the second time this summer among others, and our plans to see ex-Grandaddy Jim Fairchild's new project All Smiles are stymied by the simple fact that he seems not to have turned up. Instead, in the midst of one of the light but annoying persistent showers that will litter the day, we start with cult folk-roots outfit the Willard Grant Conspiracy, an Americana cousin to Nick Cave in his most pessimistic moods. There's clearly a sharpness to their melancholy but the intensity of emotion doesn't quite translate to a big open air stage despite their quasi-orchestral mob-handed setup. In fairness we couldn't stop for much of their set as over in The Local, the new bands tent new to the festival this year, was Napoleon IIIrd, someone we've wanted to see since the excellent In Debt To album (finally released on CD on October 22nd, we understand) landed with us. James Mabbett may well be joined by a drummer and organist but this is no attempt at organically attempting to recreate all the intricacies, loops and multitracking of the album, much of the backing being dealt with by a large analogue reel-to-reel tape player he keeps having to bang to stop it buzzing. It barely matters, as the frustration and passion inherent in Mabbett's voice comes through as much as the hook-laden but complex and oddly structured backing gives the songs their individual twist. It's the kind of thing some would dismiss as 'too clever for its own good', whatever the hell that means. All we'll let on is it's a standout set by a genuine individual talent.

    Suitably ennobled we promptly wander into the wrong tent and end up catching the end of Washington's Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter's set of dark alt-country, which doesn't grab as you feel it should but our decision turns into something of a boon when Howe Gelb, curator of most of the stages today, Big Top MC and resplendent in a large white cowboy hat, joins in on improvised piano for their last song. Back in the Local tent are Actress Hands, scion of the Brighton Scene - all of Brakes are watching on, including Alex White even though he's supposed to be in the band - but today bedevilled by problems with tunings, the mix, the mikes, the monitors and just about everything else. At least Matt Eaton can make light of it all, and their Big Star-indebted sound is more convincing live, when it works properly, then they've managed on record as yet.

    We missed Stephanie Dosen at Summer Sundae, and while again her ethereal style might suit a tent better than this big Garden Stage, backed by an all-girl quartet, two on strings, there's something in the soft-spun fragility of her writing that seems to work in this setting. Her banter and occasional subject matter suggests elements of being away with the fairies as often as spilling her innermost thoughts and secrets, but it's kept in check by a delivery that's reminiscent of Martha Wainwright at her sweetest. You can see what Bella Union main men Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde saw in her, as while it's very much in the alt-country milieu there's a ghostliness and subtlety that suggests the Cocteau Twins' own world.

    Actress Hands' Johny Lamb and Matt Eaton are back on The Local stage for the former's own band Thirty Pounds Of Bone, and while some of the summery power-pop influences are there live at its core this is a different beast, more trad-English folky and sea shanty-inspired while still veering off on warped alternative tangents, like Michael Head teaming up with Sparklehorse to create a darkness on the edge of a coastal town. A confident, poised set proves there's gold in this strand, not really folky in the modern sense of the term, instead founded on home-brewed ambition and a singular cause, and we end up buying their CD on site from a stall run by Rough Trade, who seemingly keep having to fend off enquiries about the seperate entity label, and have to resort to a wind-up torch after their lights go. There's an allegory about the state of independent record shops here somewhere. John Doe, once of LA punk trailblazers X, now a fairly standard bluesy acoustic singer-songwriter with a dark storytelling bent and a song about ex-punk colleagues now deceased, passes time even before Gelb and band join him towards the end, while Woven Hand's gothic backwoods folk approximated Will Oldham mid-cathartic therapy.

    This is Scout Niblett's first festival in seven years, she tells us. Maybe this is the type of under the radar activity that means while the Nottingham-raised Steve Albini favourite holds a small but forceful cult following we'd never managed to get into her. Until now. Starting off alone with electric guitar, later joined by a flailing drummer, it's immediately striking how much passion and empathy she puts into her performance, writing the most delicate, intimate allegories and personalised stories and coating them in a sheer rush of melodically tensed dynamics and grunge-influenced dirty great guitar sounds cut to the bitter quick. Comparisons to Rid Of Me-era PJ Harvey and long dark night of the soul Cat Power are undoubtedly there but Niblett's songs seem to come from somewhere else entirely. Her forthcoming fourth album, featuring four duets with Will Oldham, will on this evidence be something special.

    Sons Of Noel And Adrian's baroque orchestral folk (featuring, it transpires, ex-Hope Of The States violinist Mike Siddall) has promise but doesn't really go anywhere, so for the first time we head off to the bijou Bimble Inn tent, scene, it's said, of the very heart of the festival's all-in atmosphere. Which we can see, but the downside was having to watch Marie Frank behind a group of children playing Jenga. It's no great loss in all honesty, her Sundays-recalling acoustic-led songs are fairly devoid of individual character.

    We never really fell for Midlake's appropriation of 70s soft rock for their own ends on The Trials Of Van Occupanther, and while they're playing solidly enough on their only UK festival appearance of the year - indeed, they've broken off midway through a US tour to come to Britain for this one gig - there's nothing there to make us change our minds, and they're not going to play Balloon Maker, so we decamp to The Local and join a half-full tent in sitting down to listen intently (the sound, by the way, was excellent throughout at all stages) to Mary Hampton. Yet another Brightonian, she's very much in the English folk revival tradition of Briggs and Denny, a storyteller possessing a voice of great clarity and an ability to pull the listener transfixed into her worldview.

    As if Robyn Hitchcock - pop polymath, inventor of psych-indie before cheap categorisations were par for the course and a close second to Nick Lowe in the All-England Gracefully Ageing Singer Championships - wasn't draw enough, accompaniment on huge acoustic bass, slide guitar and mandolin is provided by John Paul Jones, next to be seen for £125 in the O2 Arena in November. Despite such a huge and varied back catalogue that we hardly recognise anything in the set it's all of a piece without being one-paced, typically whimsical but highly intelligent and emotional, psychedelically aired but melodic and modernistic. Being Hitchcock, these come with between song patter that drifts into odd diversions and alleyways yet always find their way back into introducing the next song. Joined towards the end by a saw player and that man Gelb on piano, this was a superior delve into the psyche of one of our foremost off-kilter songwriters, not to mention his accomplished mate.

    And so to wipe clean thoughts of both the cold and any ideas that today was getting far too folky with headliners Yo La Tengo. Ira Kaplan's guitar manages to break down before he's even started, which leads him to fling it to the ground and storm off ostensibly in search of a replacement only for that one to start working again when he returns. Understandably he rages through the opener Sugarcube as if it has a personal vendetta against him. From then on, although accomodation problems meant we couldn't stop for the whole set, it was proof that here are three people who both know exactly what they're doing and haven't pre-planned anything but are more than capable of following each other when Kaplan's off on a ten minute noise solo. Only the experience of actually seeing them at full throttle can probably get across what YLT live are like, from the abrupt changes in style and unsettlement to the musical dexterity while everything fires off around them. No peace in the Dorset night, then, but nobody's complaining when a headliner delivers a set this stratospheric.

    Monday, September 24, 2007


    With sore calves, aching legs, a mysterious stomach strain, the beginnings of a frontal lobe headache, a spinning head (not literally), mild tinnitus, an awkward feeling throat, a number of A4 paper cutouts and notepad pages in assorted states of creasing covered in barely legible scribbling, a handful of CDs, a useless Rough Trade sticker, a good number of Sky Larkin badges (thanks to a Ms K Harkin of Leeds for passing those on) and several hundredweight of great memories of End Of The Road and Truck. Reviews to come this week.

    Wednesday, September 12, 2007

    Sweeping The Nation Covermount 9: C97

    As we leave you for a couple of weeks, we've organised a little retrospective toy for you to play with, and while we thought about it we've reuploaded some of our favourite Covermounts of yore, namely:

    Be My Babies - songs that start with that drumbeat
    Reasons To Be Cheerful - a list of list songs
    Borrowed Nostalgia For The Unremembered Eighties - top 20 hits that'd never get near it today
    You Probably Think This Song Is About You - songs for, about or using other artists' names
    This Won't Last Long - nothing more than 120 seconds long

    All of these, including this one, are on Rapidshare, so remember to click on 'Free' at the bottom of the first page, then enter the four digit release code and get downloading those mothers.

    If you've been reading this blog carefully over the years, and may god preserve you if you have, you'll know we have a special personal affinity with the year 1997 in schmindie. Apart from anything else, it seemed so much more exciting, with bands getting on the Radio 1 daytime playlists while actually taking a chance and forging their own peculiar paths (anachronistic comparative sidenote: we can't help noticing Ryan 'war on corporate indie' Jarman is presently carousing with Kate Nash). As such, here's 74 minutes of memory jogging. Obviously it was something of a bind working out what to leave out, from Arab Strap to Midget to Number One Cup to Silver Sun to Lizard Music (sorry? Theme From We Are The Egrets? No?) You'll also notice that because we're predictable but don't like to be that predictable we've left Kenickie out of this one, although rest assured that coming soon are Covermounts on musicians who went on to become TV stars, bands from the north-east, groups who formed while at convent school, artists with strawberry blonde drummers who also played guitar and any other excuse we can think up. (Actually, musicians who went on to become TV stars would be quite good, wouldn't it? Madness, Altered Images, the Skids, the Higsons, Heavenly for Cathy Rogers... we'll put that one on the list.)

    This was the state of independence ten years ago, and you're welcome to it.


    Bennet - Mum's Gone To Iceland
    Number 34 with a bullet, Bennet were essentially Blur Club Juniors but not without their own charm, something not often seen at the time on their label Roadrunner Records (Machine Head, Sepultura, Type O Negative, later Slipknot and Nickelback)

    David Devant And His Spirit Wife - Miscellaneous
    The best live band in the country for about ten minutes that spring, for their magic trick-filled, low cost effect laden show, props and antics supplied by the Spectral Roadies. The Vessel and co are apparently still going but never topped debut album Work, Lovelife, Miscellaneous

    Gorky's Zygotic Mynci - Young Girls And Happy Endings
    The first band to bring Cymraeg to the masses, the Kevin Ayers/Robert Wyatt admirers had their pop phase in '97. This formed part of their great chart footnote, one of five top 50 singles and eight top 75 hits, the most by a band who never cracked the top 40.

    Belle & Sebastian - Le Pastie de la Bourgeoisie
    From the 3...6...9 Seconds Of Light EP (led by the great forgotten early B&S single A Century Of Fakers), a track namechecking plenty of literary touchstones in a Smiths style named after a piece of misspelt graffiti Stuart Murdoch says he once saw. It's been claimed it was put there by...

    The Yummy Fur - Stereo Girls
    ...John McKeown of the Yummy Fur, who years before claiming to be called Jackie and going boogie with the 1990s was busy being streamlined post-punk pop well before it was fashionable. Paul Thompson's on this, Alex Kapranos (when he was Huntley) joining a year later.

    Angelica - Teenage Girl Crush
    In the immediate aftermath of At The Club many went searching for new vicarious girl-pop thrills and hit strychnine-laced marzipan paydirt with these four Lancastrians who actually didn't make a sustained impact for another couple of years. Holly Ross, where are you now?

    Helen Love - Does Your Heart Go Boom
    The great thing about the mid-90s Evening Session was every so often there'd be a new single from Helen Love, or Mika Bomb, or Girlfrendo, and Lamacq would ignore fashion and play the arse off it. The Ramones-obsessed DIY keyboard-touting Welsh girl and friends knew what they liked.

    Velocette - Get Yourself Together
    The modish sweep of Spectorish girl pop, nearly a decade before it was worthy of extended magazine pieces. Disappointingly, all we could locate is the album version and not the superior single mix with excellent backing vocals, but you'll live.

    Comet Gain - Strength
    Before that most of Velocette had been in these longstanding Northern Soul/Dexys-inspired smart poppers, this their final single before a parting of the ways (and a reformation with other people a year later).

    Idlewild - Queen Of The Troubled Teens
    Score one up for the flight of stairs falling down the flight of stairs where now lies pianos and strings and folk. Nowadays half of MSN would take this as a screen name; then, it was some Dinosaur Jr-indebted brash Scottish blokes with a singer who couldn't stand still for a second.

    Bis - Skinny Tie Sensurround
    Ah, Bis. You loved or hated their E-number technopop and Manda Rin's bouncing, and a surprising number still love them going on the fact they've just announced another reformation mini-tour. This was the moody, sarky one off The New Transistor Heroes.

    Scarfo - ELO
    While everyone aware of Jamie Hince pisses themselves over the coverage of his supposed dalliance with Kate Moss (the Mail referred to "Kate lookalike Alison Mosshart", which is true insomuch as she has ovaries), we go past the Kills to the underachieving abrasive angularities of Hince's first notable band.

    Ultrasound - Same Band
    Remember New Prog? Spiritualized, mostly, but there was a large as a tank parking space for this band that never looked like a band, this being the original version of their debut single before dissolving into double album with 30 minute title track Hades.

    The Bitter Springs - It's Business
    Simon Rivers will one day receive his due for his eclectic nature and socially wry lyrics, but until then he'll have to continue playing east London pubs and putting out albums on Spanish labels to little attention. There's a best of planned for the end of the year. Don't let us down.

    Linoleum - Marquis
    Behind the Sleeper/Echobelly type they may have been, and Caroline Finch always vocally reminds us of Davina McCall somehow, but they're the closest mid-90s UK fem-indie got to a Throwing Muses, pulling the listener in with three clever chords and then knifing them in the back.

    Tiger - Race
    They attempted to repopularise the mullet, and musically they decided there wasn't enough Stereolab/Fall influence in the indie of the day. Guitarist Julie Sims occasionally had three strings tuned to the same note, and they split two weeks before their second album came out.

    Seafood - Scorch Comfort
    Another debut well ahead of the curve of further attention. Despite a lot of positive press around 2001 it never quite happened, largely because When Do We Start Fighting came out in the midst of Strokesmania and they sounded too much like the wrong American bands (Sonic Youth, Pixies, Sebadoh)

    Jonathan Fire*Eater - The Search For Cherry Red
    Now only really noted as a) a primary influence on the Strokes and b) three of them going off to form the Walkmen, they sounded like a 60s R&B Nuggets outfit pumped full of adrenaline and taken round town after dark by Nick Cave. And we know this came out in 1996 in America.

    Clinic - Porno
    IPC Sub-Editors Dictate Our Youth's already been on a Covermount, so here's the spooked-out B-side of the still extraordinary sounding first flourishings of Liverpool's answer to Crime. Last spotted wearing big hats and beefeater-inspired brown outfits as well as the face masks.

    Dawn Of The Replicants - Lisa Box
    Still extant Galashiels oddballs treading the post-Pixies path less Zappa'd and about every other musical sticking point this side of Weller, they exploded onto the Peel/Radcliffe scene at the end of 1996 and got signed to EastWest for two very un-major label-like albums.

    Urusei Yatsura - Superfi
    One of the glitter and leopardskinned kids' favourites, they attempted to be the lo-fi sci-fi Glaswegian glam-Sonic Youth. Slain By Urusei Yatsura was like being dangled over a crocodile pit by a feather boa. Ant & Dec were reputedly fans.

    Earl Brutus - The SAS And The Glam That Goes With It
    You have to end with some Earl Brutus, because there's not far you can progress from a group of mid-30s men, one of whom wrote Boxerbeat, doing electronic glam-rock lagered up Suicide with onstage garage forecourt revolving signs and a man whose only job was drinking cans of beer.

    In shops soon

    As we were saying, we're going off for a little break from Friday. A busman's holiday, actually, taking in End Of The Road Festival and Truck Ten with a period of offline recuperation in the middle, so our first posts back will be our reviews of those two events.

    Inevitably, those two Mondays affected are also two of the busiest and best weeks for quite a while for approvable new releases, so here's our checklist to what we suggest you put on your imaginary Wishlist:

    17th September

    Officially it's Broken Social Scene Presents Kevin Drew, but Spirit If... doesn't really resemble a BSS record aside from how it somehow all manages to fit together against most odds, understandably less of a mess then the band's self-titled record of last year but still stylistically all over the place, held together by Drew's superior sense of what sticks when modern American indie throws everything at the wall, veering from the gorgeously self-assured to kaleidoscopic rowdy rhythms that peak at Dinosaur Jr levels (J Mascis guests on one track). Emma Pollock's Watch The Fireworks picks up where the Delgados left off, a little more piano-centric wistfully but still a close cousin to those moments where her former band found a happy medium between melody and dissonance. Australia's Devastations pick up the sinister baton from the likes of the Dirty Three on Yes, U, betraying the post-rock influence but adding their own stately dynamics. There's little surface sinister about the Rumble Strips' Girls And Weather, which seems to have been on the release schedule for years - downbeat, maybe, but never sinister when there's those horns and that early 80s/late 50s-cribbing energy to be had. (Cliffs Note: when we say they sound like Dexys, we mean as much in Charlie Waller's apeing of Kevin Rowland's untutored punk-origin soul righteous vocalising, itself openly indebted to 'General' Norman Johnson of Chairmen Of The Board, as in the horn section) Sonic Youth projects that aren't proper band albums do increasingly need to be approached with caution, but you're in safeish hands with Thurston Moore solo; Trees Outside The Academy is largely acoustic, reminiscent of the avant-folk Moore's Ecstatic Peace label major on, with psychedelics making their way around the edges. Steve Shelley and good old J Mascis pop by. All three Joy Division albums - Closer, Unknown Pleasures and Still - get remastered and added to with Control's release around the corner (5th October, in fact). A shorter than we were led to believe Gorky's Zygotic Mynci reissue campaign comprises debut Patio and 1995's breakthrough Bwyd Time. The selling point is its compilation by the Dead 60s, but Riot Radio Broadcast is as good a basic reggae and dub primer as you'll get. Wait until it's half price. The Simpsons: Testify is the third compilation of original material from the series, featuring David Byrne, the B-52s, Jackson Browne, Shawn Colvin, Kelsey Grammer and guaranteed no Spider-fucking-Pig. Single of the week is Young Folks, inevitably, already in the top 40 and with only number 30 to beat, closely followed by PJ Harvey's low-key 7" return When Under Ether. Outsider status goes to The Young Republic, who are actually on End Of The Road Recordings and hence play about a million times (four, actually) at the festival, promoting the Shins-folk-Belle & Sebastian of Modern Plays. It's not on Amazon, but Frank Turner's DVD All About The Destination is released, featuring live footage, a documentary, videos and fan contributions. This ties in with Turner being on tour. Well, of course he's on tour.

    24th September

    This might just be the best album release week of 2007, so how to choose a highlight? We have a failsafe method known as the Band With Andy Falkous In Solution. Future Of The Left's Curses could easily have been the fourth McLusky album. Well, of course it could - it's two of McLusky plus Kelson from Jarcrew. But you know what we mean - it develops their sound enough, but it's still capable, as the very best of McLusky was, of bringing down walls through sheer force of the combined kinetic power of discordant riffs, fuzzed up bass, earthshaking drums and shouting of angular phrases that amount to choruses. Falco's lyrics are still as sharp and bleakly funny as ever (he recently said he always thought McLusky were treated as a comedy band because everyone went on about the humour in the lyrics, but foolish is the listener who sees this as some sort of Electric 6 knockoff), and if there's more Meat Puppets sludge about some of the songs it's only to heighten how disquieting the whole enterprise is. Rock album of the year? Quite possibly. In a very different, very post-literate American way, Okkervil River could seethe and snarl with the best of them at times, but The Stage Names is a more considered beast, Will Sheff alighting this time on the theme of showbusiness itself and the difference between the publically presented persona and private self. It's not a concept album on which to hang itself, though, but a means of catharsis for Sheff's poetically drawn characters trying to understand the means by which they entertain, both others and themselves. Unfortunately, yes, Okkervil River albums do tend to draw this kind of complex prognosis from people like ourselves. Let's just say it's an emotional rollercoaster of poetic alt-Americana and move on. PJ Harvey albums used to be greeted in a similar fashion, but maybe Uh Huh Her was a post-Mercury step too far as White Chalk seems to have faded into the background. This is her hauntedly fragile piano album, haunted and best parlayed in the imagery surrounding its press of Harvey looking mordant in antique white dresses. Given time this could emerge as her great overlooked work. What to make of Devendra Banhart at any time is even more confusing: Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon was recorded in Topanga Canyon, hub of the early 70s LA CSNY/Eagles/Taylor/Mitchell/Ronstadt/Browne clusterfuck (literally, in some cases) scene, and is also more piano based, but the usual organic mess of psych-folk prevails. Meet Me In St Louis are a mess of something else entirely, Variations On Swing launching the new UK post-hardcore clubhouse leaders as purveyors of awkwardly twisted multi-layered and multi-part quasi-spazzcore, a kind of Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez with fewer prog intentions and much less wilfulness. If more bands who claim a debt to the Libertines sounded like SixNationState we wouldn't be in such a bad way, the Jeepster Records-reviving fivesome taking that shabby jerkiness and injecting it with proper melodies, ska/dub influences and post-punk energy on their self-titled debut. Iron & Wine's Sam Beam has branched out from his previously hushed, intimate tones on The Shepherd's Dog for a walk in more musically grown-out areas, lyrically no less introspective but more confused and cynical. It also comes with a nightmare-inducing painting of a dog on the cover. We need a paragraph break at this point. Imagine if we'd had to write that lot up properly.

    The Flaming Lips were always due a live DVD, and UFOs At The Zoo, which comes in a curious audio DVD package, is a document of their Oklahoma City homecoming extravaganza from a year ago next weekend, incorporating a massive UFO the band appear from, strobes, smoke machines, confetti, Wayne Coyne's balloon and people in alien and Santa outfits. Then the first song starts. You know the Prisoner balloons/mic camera/nun puppet/fake blood/mechanical bird/smoke machines/megaphone drill from there. The more earthly, in all senses of the term, Violent Femmes issue a Live At The Hacienda DVD. The Big Stiff Box Set is five CDs of much of what the legendary label put out, starting with Nick Lowe and ending with an excerpt from the celebrated The Wit And Wisdom Of Ronald Reagan. In the middle, Elvis Costello, Ian Dury, Madness, Devo, the Damned, the Pogues, Kirsty Maccoll, Motorhead, the Go-Gos, the Adverts, Wreckless Eric, Lene Lovich, Yello, Department S, Tenpole Tudor, the Belle Stars, Furniture, Tracy Ullman, The Inspirational Choir Of The Pentecostal First-Born Church Of The Living God and, even more hilariously, The Enemy. The House Of Love's first two albums were both eponymous; the one being reissued is their 1988 Creation Records debut with Christine on. Shack's progression from kitchen sink dreamers to ill-starred lost heroes to Noelrock contenders to Love-inspired outsiders once again is charted on Time Machine. Singles? Gravenhurst issue the howling Hollow Men on 7" two weeks after its parent album, the Decemberists package their singular slot at Talking Headsisms The Perfect Crime along with, of all things, remixes, and Les Savy Fav (the only punk band left in America, you may be aware) glue two of the three best tracks from their forthcoming album, What Would Wolves Do? and The Year Before The Year 2000, together on a double A-side.

    Tuesday, September 11, 2007

    This is music

    Three more new releases below the mass critical radar to highlight and post mp3s from? That's how we swing it.

    For maximum enjoyment it's probably best to overlook the anchoring idea behind Dirty Projectors' Rise Above (8th October in the UK through Rough Trade), it being a "reimagining" of two thirds of Black's Flag hardcore landmark 1981 album Damaged, an album David Longstreth claims not to have heard since middle school. Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor produced and it reflects some of that band's ambitious scope - like Yellow House, it's a multi-layered album that rewards extra listens - with room for a mildly more linear form of Animal Collective's avant-artpop and the stereo-spanning brainstorms of Todd Rundgren if bred on psych-soul. Purists will (and do) hate it, everyone else will struggle to hang on but be glad they did so.

    Dirty Projectors - Thirsty And Miserable

    While we're on far too clever for their own good one man bands, we like to think we've had a long and fruitful association with the now Cardiff-based Pagan Wanderer Lu, in that he contributed to Songs To Learn And Sing last November. His 2005 album Build Library Here (Or Else!) was reissued last week on Brainlove Records, demonstrating his growing prowess (there's an earlier version of The Memorial Hall, standout from last year's The Independent Scrutineer EP) at welding together smart DIY electro, scratchy lo-fi folk and deft lyricism. One big push and a proper cult following is his for the taking.

    Pagan Wanderer Lu - At The Hairdressers...

    We've lost the press release that came with the new self-titled album (their second, and their first was eponymous too) by Toronto's Holy Fuck so can't tell you when it's out in the UK - October 23rd, America - but we do know they specialise in making electronically inclined instrumental dance-punk that actually features no programmed elements at all, developing songs live without rehearsal and recording them immediately after coming off tour. That they're touring Europe soon with !!! gives a good indication of where they're coming from.

    Holy Fuck - Milk Shake

    Monday, September 10, 2007

    Weekender : raging in the plague age

    FREE MUSIC: This, as we'll explain in the next couple of days, is the last Weekender of September, so let's make it precious. Like starting with free iLiKETRAiNS: new single out this week, previous single Terra Nova (the one about Captain Scott) available on SXSW's still active downloads.

    HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: There's something naggingly mid-90s about Cambridge's The Sleep Wells. We don't necessarily mean Britpop and its attendant ills, more the sophisticated female-fronted power indiepop of a Salad or Mambo Taxi (dare we add Sleeper? They were much loved when they first emerged), and latterly the Land Of Talk type. The band themselves describe their sound as "somewhere between Radiohead and Jeff Buckley", but then bands have a tendency of hearing something different to everyone else. What it is is something which lulls the listener in broodingly and has much raw potential.

    VISUAL REPRESENTATION: The only link this week is live clips we've had on our master list for some time and not previously featured. Which means Bjork and Polly Harvey covering Satisfaction at the 1994 Brit awards, Elliott Smith's Waltz #2 on Later With Jools in 1997, Television's Foxhole from 1978, Jonathan Richman's I Was Dancing At The Lesbian Bar with cooing backing vocalists, The Queen Is Dead at Salford University in June 1986 and, as a rejoiner both to this age of televised talent contests and Sly Stone's own abortive recent British shows, an absolutely astonishing clip of Sly and the Family Stone performing My Lady and I Wanna Take You Higher at the Ohio State Fair in 1968, filmed for NBC's Showcase.

    VIRAL MARKETING: James Blunt on Sesame Street. That's James Blunt on Sesame Street. Course, it's nothing Stevie Wonder, REM, Johnny Cash or James Taylor haven't already done, but... James Blunt! On Sesame Street!

    FALLING OFF A BLOG: One of the new breed of mp3 bloggers Keep Hope Inside is currently highlighting, A Space For Music Liberation is another of those unpretentious mp3 blogs that gets enthusiastic about a wide range of stuff, from Lethal Bizzle to Billy Talent to Calvin Harris.

    EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: We've always meant to do a mini-series of blogs run by members of notable bands - members of the Mystery Jets, Gravenhurst and Voxtrot all maintain good ones we know of, and particularly meaty and readable whatever angle it approaches from is The Clerkenwell Kid, the work of Stephen Coates, conceptualist behind the "antique beat" dark poetry of The Real Tuesday Weld, last heard of soundtracking a Lucozade advert and releasing a new album (featuring on one track the Puppini Sisters!) next month in the US and next year in the UK, however that's been allowed to happen. Podcasts, stories and downloads are all included.

    IN OTHER NEWS: We mentioned the Facebook group, right?

    Sunday, September 09, 2007

    In shops tomorrow: 10/9


    While the Hot Puppies single that would have firmly placed them up among the top of the UK female-fronted pack, the Blondie-does-Scary Monsters-esque King Of England, seems to have been cancelled (at least in over the counter terms, you can mail order it from their website) there's still plenty of interest, not least from Welsh compatriots Future Of The Left. We should warn you that we're going to come over all unnecessary about their album Curses, released on the 24th, but 7" Small Bones Small Bodies does far more than a good enough job at ferociously evil sludge-hardcore. They'll never cross over, but if we were to take over they'd be one of the most beloved band in Britain. In fact, Falco should be on the next series of Never Mind The Buzzcocks. He'd piss it. iLiKETRAiNS are about as likely as FotL to make the Album Chart Show, but The Deception does suggest a very slight flattening out of their post-rock dynamics. This is all relative, of course, it's still a chimingly doomed elegy from the point of view of Donald Crowhurst, the sort of subject they were bound to get round to covering eventually. Like their own compatriots CSS, you begin to wonder on news of the advertising-aided reissue of baile pop gem Solta O Frango whether Bonde Do Rolê have that much confidence in the rest of their material. SixNationState, thus far and for most of their forthcoming debut album exultant in party indie-dub thrills, explore their Coral side better than the Coral have for some time on We Could Be Happy. Remember when White Stripes singles, at whatever stage, were events? Like the song itself, You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You're Told) just drifts by now.


    A big week for the big shots, with the overplayed Kanye/Fiddy duel (who really believes 50 will retire?) taking top honours with KT Tunstall bringing up a shapely commercial rear. Over on the independent benches, having reneged on their Columbia tie-up to go back into Memphis Industries' friendly embrace (and Sub Pop in America), we find the block party fuzz pedal cheerleaders of your dreams, the Go! Team. If Proof Of Youth doesn't move that far away from the cut and paste signifiers of Thunder Lightning Strike it's because this world is so definitively their own, or rather Ian Parton's own, as while it may sound more like a band effort now he has five other people to call on during recording it still sounds like it's been mixed for large parts from a transistor radio signal. So for the most part - clever move putting My World, a pastoral folk youth education TV theme tune of yore fed through a laptop, third after the two singles - it's a mess of samples, guitars and raps, the disprite sample library beefed up both by Ninja and guests (Chuck D, Marina from Bonde Do Role, Solex, the none more Go! world-sounding Double Dutch Divas), and it sounds like the toughed up summer jam ellipsis to the first album's playful darkness. Gravenhurst have never been predictable, starting as Nick Talbot's psych-folk project before turning on last album Fires In Distant Buildings into a thing of controlled menace. The Western Lands sees he become they and things take another turn, inspired by the end of nu-gaze that values its Krautrock beats as much as its drones and effects pedals, although the ghost of Shields looms large. As a reminder of Gravenhurst things past, so does the perhaps more literal ghost of Sandy Denny, both in tribute, in core melody and in Fairport Convention cover. It might take its time to click, but the rewards are worthwhile. Animal Collective may be the type of band that fools reckon are just pop bands in waiting, but they have melodies and harmonies on Strawberry Jam. The sort that get hurled at a wall at disorientating speed of thought alongside every kaleidoscopic broken beat and odd sound they can think of, but the roots are there even if the garnish is gleefully poisonable. Chalk it up as 'not quite experimental crossover yet, like it matters". Whereas Animal Collective get lauded by the avant-garde artpop gentry, it's left to sites about jobs in regional journalism to laud Bearsuit, who pack Oh:Io with no less in the way of noise and frenzied instrumentation but prefer post-C86 proper indie to noisemaking. No such messthetics with Actress Hands, so much auxiliaries to the Brighton Scene that they even include a White brother, who join the list of Big Star-inspired luminaries on Boys Need Jazz. Siouxsie has divested herself of half of her stage name on, after all these years, solo debut Mantaray, coming across as a Weimar cabaret PJ Harvey. With the Sopranos steady income cut off Alabama 3 return to the acid-country grindstone on MOR. Finally, who feels ripped off that The Fall Box Set 1976-2007 features only 5 CDs? What it does contain is cherrypicked singles, B-sides, album tracks, live rarities (Hey! Marc Riley is one of twenty previously unreleased recordings) and all sorts of gubbins found down the back of Mark E's sofa.


    And to complement that windfall comes The Complete Guide To The Music Of The Fall, written by Mick Middles, previously behind the only officially endorsed Fall book and now attempting a track by track analysis. Wouldn't a H P Lovecraft and Philip Dick anthology be quicker?

    The Weekly Sweep

  • Bishop Allen - Rain [mp3 from Open Your Eyes]
  • Club 8 - Heaven [mp3]
  • Future Of The Left - Wrigley Scott [live YouTube]
  • Gang Of Four - Natural's Not In It [some sort of Marie Antoinette tie-in YouTube]
  • The Go! Team - Flashlight Fight [live YouTube] (Except there without Chuck D, clearly)
  • Gravenhurst - Hollow Men [YouTube]
  • Jakobinarina - His Lyrics Are Disastrous [YouTube]
  • Jens Lekman - A Postcard To Nina [live YouTube]
  • Kubichek! - Method Acting [YouTube]
  • Les Savy Fav - Brace Yourself
  • Mercury Rev - Car Wash Hair [YouTube]
  • Meet Me In St Louis - The Torso Has Been Severed In Mid-Thorax [mp3 from funfunfun]
  • Napoleon - Cleopatra [Myspace]
  • Napoleon IIIrd - Anti-Patria
  • Okkervil River - You Can't Hold The Hand Of A Rock'n'Roll Man [Myspace
  • Pagan Wanderer Lu - At The Hairdressers... [Myspace] (We forgot to mention his 2005 debut Build Library Here (Or Else!), from which this comes, was reissued last week. We'll make up for that this week.)
  • Peter Bjorn & John - Young Folks [YouTube]
  • PJ Harvey - When Under Ether [mp3 from The Yellow Stereo]
  • Sky Larkin - Molten [Myspace]
  • Those Dancing Days - Those Dancing Days [Myspace]
  • Saturday, September 08, 2007

    If you've got a bandwagon I wanna be on it

    Join our Facebook group!

    Radio 1: as it is: epilogue

    So actually there's not much point in listing the Zane Lowe, In New Music We Trust and Colin Murray playlists here, as they're all archived on Radio 1's website. Anyway, we've done twelve hours of playlisted daytime, we think we can gain an idea of our point from that.

    Which is, there does seem to be a lot less music played on the station than you might expect. Four records were played three times over the daytime schedule and of the four presenters three are clearly personality led and the other, Whiley, has a lot of interruptions for the main part of her show for listener interaction and the like. Interestingly, while we've been on this this week Radio 1 has unveiled a new schedule that among other things drops the Thursday regional Zane Lowe opt-out to midnight on Wednesdays, curtailing Huw Stephens' unsigned show, the spiritual successor to Peel. Murray has the late evening slot now and has made it nothing like the Peel approach in any way, and while there's an argument that as nobody could replace his dedication to finding new music there's a far more persuasive one that, if you're running with that new tag, having a show that plays very new music at an accessible time with no easy Listen Again clause. (Also, what the hell is that Sunday evening Annie Mac show "covering all things teen-related" supposed to be? That'll change focus in three months.)

    The problem is, we're railing against the methods of something on an upwards curve in terms of listeners and core audience approval. It's the old independent radio argument - you can give the listeners what you think they want, but at the end of the day they want to listen onto to what they already want.