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Issue 5, Sept. â€˜08
Mental illness and Rock
+ Stereolab, Brendan Canning, Yacht, Mercury Rev, Diplo, Bodies of Water
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Lead Feature: Mental illness and Rock Cover illustration: Scalder www.scalderville.com
6. Brendan Canning
8. Musical Subcultures: The Irish Metal Underground
36. Album Swap: Ailbhe vs. Karl
38. Reviews 10. Elecetric Picnic
16. The Dodos 23. Trancehall 18. Diplo 24. Mental illness and Rock 20. Stereolab 30. Concept Albums 28. Bodies of Water 34. Music in Tv Teen Dramas 32. Mercury Rev 44. Label Love: Drag City 46. Music and Comedy
Fujiya & Miyagi Roots Manuva Brendan Canning Mercury Rev El Guincho Horse Feathers Bowerbirds Colm Mac Con Iomaire Railcars Rex the Dog & more
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Thanks for picking up issue five of Analogue. We’re all back and still shaking from the Electric Picnic. Bren’s deep in graphic design mode laying out this issue, so he’s asked me, your humble online editor, to take on the heinous task of tapping out an editorial. It’s been a rough ride getting here but we’re proud to release our second national issue, featuring our best cover yet, from Irish illustrator Scalder (www.scalderville.com). This issue is packed as always with interviews, reviews and features, including the second in our album swap (Karl and Ailbhe do the nasty this month) and label love series, and stunning pieces by Darragh McCausland on Mental Illness in Rock and the Irish Metal Underground. On the interview side we’ve landed chats with Stereolab, Mercury Rev, Diplo and Yacht amongst others. Five issues in and we feel like we’re beginning to find out feet. Analogue’s writers are growing more certain of their individual voices, and our editorial structure has developed into something a little better at getting us all to work! From next month there will be three free music magazines available throughout Ireland, so it’s a good time to point out what makes Analogue unique. First our choice of coverage. The artists Analogue cover emerge organically from the interests of the writers, rather than the dictates of promoters or the swings and roundabouts of musical fashion. We like what we like - although you can bet there are furious arguments internally about how poppy our coverage should get (more about this next issue) - and we write about it. This is particularly evident with features examining individual labels and the like; sincere explorations of a scene, genre, artist or record company, written by fascinated and talented music wonks, working for free. Second there’s Analogue’s look. The magazine has developed a distinct style with cover illustrations and original art by some very talented young graphic artists, including Sarah Jane Comerford and Zoe Manville, and stunning live and artist photography from the likes of Lorenna Rushe and Cait Fahey. Analogue have a way to go before we reach the level of quality we ultimately aspire to. We have publications like Plan B and the Wire to inspire us on the print end, and multi media operations like Ziff Davis’s 1up.com, and Pitchfork Media online to suggest better ways of exploiting the potential of audio and video. To celebrate our first national issue last month we teamed up with two Irish bands ‘Gran Casino’ and ‘Oh Child’ to produce exclusive downloadable video concerts, available on our website www.analoguemagazine.com. Simultaneously we released the debut album by Irish DJ’s Storkboy Choons and Colours Move, secreting the CD in select issues. You can trust we’re hard at work behind the scenes planning future video and audio hijinks. Before I sign off I’d like to express thanks to everyone who helped to produce and distribute these five issues of Analogue, and to our readers for sticking with us as we worked to develop a quality magazine, from the ground up without corporate backing. Next issue is our first year anniversary and we’ll be doing our best to make it our best issue yet, stay tuned. Gareth Stack Web Editor
Staff Publisher & Editor: Brendan McGuirk Assistant Editor: Ailbhe Malone, Web Editor: Gareth Stack Features Editor: Paul Bond Reviews Editor: Daniel Gray Art Director: Garrett Murphy Design: Garrett Murphy, Brendan McGuirk, Zoe Manville Illustrations: Sarah Jane Comerford, Zoe Manville, Scalder (www.scalderville.com) Photography: Loreana Rushe, Sinead Kelly, Orla Graham, Cait Fahey, Neil Burke Writers: Paul Bond, Shauna O’Brien, Karl McDonald, Olwyn Fagan, Daniel Gray, Aidan Hanratty, Ailbhe Malone, Darragh McCausland, Gareth Stack, Ciaran Gaynor, Conor O’Neill Contact: email@example.com Website: Check out our www.analoguemagazine.com for the full transcripts of interviews, a daily blog, vidcasts and plenty more web only interviews and reviews... To advertise in Analogue: contact firstname.lastname@example.org / ph: 087 69 68 374 Analogue Music Magazine is published monthly by Shady Lane ltd. The opinions expressed within the magazine are those of the individual writers or the interview subjects, and not necessarily those of the publishers or the magazine as a whole. All content, copyright Analogue Music Magazine, 2008.
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Brendan Canning Words: AIlbhe Malone
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Brendan Canning was almost a professional footballer. Almost. True to form, the decision to turn down sports in favour of music wasn’t for any bombastic, life-changing reason. He just made an educated choice- ‘I didn’t think I was good enough. It’s kind of like being in a band though, a group of individuals you gotta get along with, and you have a manager…’ The man doesn’t own a mobile phone, and, until recently, his favourite radio show was one on a college station. When he dj’s, he spins African music in his sets, not because it’s currently in vogue, but because he actually likes it. ‘I’ve never heard Vampire Weekend, so I can’t really say anything about them. I listen to old stuff; I’ve yet to catch up. I don’t know if they’ve any African roots in their background, but I like African music. There’s lots of great music all around the world, sometimes I don’t get to the newer stuff…’ In one breath he steps back from modern technology, apparently disinterested-‘When I’m making videos, I just let the director go with it. I don’t really like the medium.’- and in the same breath, offers a far more interesting alternative‘I’d be more interested in making a film. I took a road trip with my Dad and his friend Herb in 1988 to Arizona. I always thought that there were enough moments in that to make a decent film. I could do the soundtrack as well.’ He’s excited about the score for The Tracey Fragmentsstarring Ellen Page. It will be Broken Social Scene’s third score in a short period of time. Their music has already appeared in Bruce McDonald’s film The Love Crimes of Gillian Guess, on the Wicker Park soundtrack and for Clement Virgo’s film Lie With Me and the upcoming film Snow Cake, which is already receiving critical acclaim. It’s fitting then, that Bruce McDonald is the director of a documentary-in-progress on Brendan Canning. Canning feels at ease around McDonald, because of their previous work together, and feels no discomfort at being filmed. His only regret is that ‘sometimes, when I look back on things I said, I go ‘Oh, maybe I should have explained that better, or been a little more eloquent.’ Eloquence isn’t a problem, however, especially on his solo album ‘Something for Everyone’. In keeping with the title, ‘Something for Everyone’ offers a broad selection of musical styles, and of voices. Many friends from the Broken Social Scene stable pitch in a hand, be it vocally or instrumentally. As a result, the record is a pick and mix of all the things that made Broken Social Scene special- swooping, sprawling hooks, tight melodies and anthemic lyrics- along with elements that are all Canning’s own- including muted atmospherics, painterly instrumentation, and clever textures. Unsurprisingly, the album came together in a pretty organic, straightforward fashion. Old song ideas were polished up, refined and reshaped-‘There were a couple of ideas that I liked, and had floating around for a while. The funky track- ‘Love is New’- was basically a soundcheck jam from 2004. I took it, and morphed it a little bit.’ ‘Snowballs and Icicles’that was recorded around the same time as ‘Spirit If…’ in the same studios.’- and new ones were written in studio, as the album was being recorded-‘I was writing with a couple of guys in the studio. It was like writing a new band with those guys. There were there with me writing the tunes. It’s different because you don’t have a family. We weren’t in the rehearsal space.’ He admits there were difficulties changing roles from bassist to lead singer, and from tune-smith to singer/songwriter-‘It took me a little while to get warmed up and not rely on others so much. Before, I’d write a tune and not focus on the vocals at all. A singer/songwriter does tunes before facts. I was used to doing it the other way around.’ Canning is happy to mix together his solo and his group projects- ‘We’ve been doing a few songs at summer festivals, touring a mixture of new stuff and older B.S..S. stuff. Kind of a Brendan Canning Greatest Hits package.’- and remains staunchly loyal to Broken Social Scene (or, ‘the band’) - ‘I don’t need the singing spotlight on me all the time. Right now, it (B.S.S.) is a solid core. It’s been a little easier getting a set-list and line-up together.’ While he refuses to give either of his projects precedence over the other‘Hopefully the band (B.S.S.) will start writing together soon. I just released a record with my name and my face on the cover. I don’t think about scheduling records, really. Whatever comes first, comes first.’- that’s not to say he’s stopped thinking about his next move. When probed further, he quickly mumbles about another, slightly secret side-project-‘I’ve another record coming up that’s neither Broken Social Scene nor Brendan Canning. It’s more pop-rock.’- then stops, refusing to divulge any further information- I’m kind of waiting before I speak about that one too much. I think there are some good tunes on it though….’ Brendan Canning may tentatively left the Broken Social Scene nest, but after looking around the big wide world, and shaking his tail-feather a little, it’s pretty clear that he has no intention of going back inside.
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Musical Subcultures: The Irish Metal Underground Words: Darragh McCausland Photo: Emmett O’Connell
It’s 9pm on a Tuesday in Fibbers pub, and I am staring at a slowly circling four foot windmill made out of human hair. It’s mesmerising. There is no face in sight, just hair, and in between the hypnotic whooshes, glimpses of a whip-thin torso and arms riffing hard on a black bass guitar. The hair in question belongs to Eric, bass player with the Irish Death Metal outfit Nephridium, who are playing support to the acclaimed Grindcore group (bear with me, I will clumsily attempt to describe some of these sub-genres later), Cephilic Carnage. Nephridium, like Atrax Mantis and Slave Zero (the other Irish support acts here) play Death Metal. Growling, deep vocals (Atrax Mantis’s songs are introduced with angry, guttural grunts), outrageously distorted sound, propulsive rhythms and highly technical guitar techniques (practiced fingers crawl mechanically up and down fret boards like clockwork insects) are all characteristic of this genre. As is a healthy dose of anger, morbidity, and a disregard for mainstream culture and religion. In Fibbers, this morbid disregard is displayed proudly on the backs of fans’ t-shirts, which often read like imaginative haikus celebrating all that is ungodly and distasteful. Among the classic one-liners displayed across black cotton tonight are “Dying Fetus: I want you to stop thinking and start killing”, “The pain dements”, “Pathology and Gore” and the sweet and succinct “Death fucking metal.”
By the time Cephelic Carnage take to the stage, Fibbers is fairly heaving. There are about three or four hard-nosed local regulars playing pool in front of a huge mural of Marylin Manson in the far corner (I find this comical) and to the right of them, over a hundred head banging Metallers rocking out to the filthy, barely controlled chaos of Cephilic Carnage. It’s no mean feat to get so many people, from what is ostensibly such a small scene
in Dublin, out on one night. It’s clear though, that the metal underground is a very close knit and active scene. A few weeks earlier I put a post up on the Metal Ireland forums saying that I was doing a piece about Death and Black Metal (later to be expanded to simply the ‘metal underground’ as I found out about Thrash Metal, Grindcore, Doom and all the others dark cousins in the extended family). The post got a quick, mixed response (some of
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the replies were on the defensive side as
say this is overstatement, it would be churlish
There is a certain uniformity about the gang
pieces were written on the scene before that
not to acknowledge an admiration for a group
down to see Cephilic Carnage that fascinates
didn’t reflect it well), and it was soon clear
that manages to wield an undoubted influence
me as an indie fan. I wonder if they look at us
that all the main movers and shakers were
and yet remain so far under the Irish musical
and think we all look the same? To me, as a
very active, knew each other, posted regularly
metal tourist, the preponderance of black t
and had fostered a very strong sense of community. Later, back at the gig, I ask a few of the heads knocking around to what extent they see the scene as a ‘community’? I’m told by one punter that “in Ireland, there aren’t that many bands involved in the more extreme forms of metal, so we all end up knowing each other. If you go to a gig in Europe, you could find six Black Metal bands on one bill, but it would be hard to find six Black Metal bands overall in Ireland. That’s why we all end up sharing bills and getting to know each other.” Having the Metal Ireland forum as a focal point is a powerful uniting influence also. Colm, guitarist with Nephridium tells me that “Metal Ireland is the resource for metal fans in Ireland.” He adds that “it’s not just like you are going out and meeting people when you’re locked. You also get a chance to chat online, catch up and find out about what’s going on.” So what is going on? Who are the hardest rocking acts in the Irish Metal underground? Darragh O’Leary of the Irish Black Metal record label Invictus tells me “it’s hard to pick any one band out because the scene is so incredibly broad.” One name crops up again and again, however, and it is an act you probably haven’t heard of, even though they continually pack music festivals in Europe and receive unanimously positive reviews in the Metal press. The band in question is Primordial. Led by the enigmatically named Nemtheanga, this five piece have been about since Damon Albarn and Liam Gallagher first troubled the charts. Their music appears to me to use many of the traditional elements of Black Metal (cookie monster vocals, freezing cold lyrics) albeit with a distinct flavour of Irish paganism. Like many European Black Metal bands, they express a sense of cultural identity through exploration of the pagan culture of their own country. Most of the metal fans I talk to could not be more effusive in their praise for Primordial, and often expressed an exasperated disbelief that they are not more well-known in Ireland. A girl in Fibbers elaborates, “Primordial are not only influential within the Irish Black Metal scene, their influence spreads right across European Metal. In their own way they are the most influential Irish band going.” Although it’s tempting to
shirts, long hair and tattoos makes them a A more recent addition to the Irish Black Metal scene are a young gang from Cork with the impressive name Altar of Plagues (I suppose they were hardly going to be called Hutchful of Bunnies). To these untutored ears, Altar of Plagues create a more varied and palatable sound than the average Black Metal act, combining deteriorating industrial ambience and dark brooding melodies with the usual formula of insane guitar molestation and misanthropic screaming. Interestingly, on their Myspace page they list London Dubstep artist Burial as one of their top friends.
gang. Everyone seems to know everyone else too. There is a lot of hugging, snogging and high-fiving going on the room. As the bands on stage tear through lyrics that celebrate death and gore, the fans watching seem as close knit and loved up as your average pillgobbling pack of ravers. It’s a curious dichotomy. One of the posters on Metal Ireland explains in an email that “because Metallers are often in a minority in their schools and home towns, being part of a scene is very important to us. That’s why you see so many of your good friends at gigs. It’s a way of life I suppose.”
Primordial’s and Altar of Plagues’ success owes a lot to word of mouth. Like many underground scenes, Metal thrives on word of mouth. Colm Nephridium tells me “many fans get to know bands by swapping tapes and chatting on forums. It’s about sharing stuff.” It’s about pride too. Colm is proud of the fact that you have to put an effort in to find out about new stuff. It needs to be dug out. This is something not unique to metal though. Any record collecting nerdlinger will wax lyrical about a rare split seven inch from their favourite obscuro band. The thing with the Metal underground though, is that this is how fans have to operate, seeing as there is very little mainstream coverage of a scene that is so far removed from the mainstream indie circuit, that my night in Fibbers seems surreal and a little bit alien.
It certainly seems a way of life for the rocking crowd in Fibbers tonight. Nearly everyone I speak to is in a band or a member of the Metal Ireland forum. Young upstarts are moshing with wizened old hands (I tentatively step into the pit for about four seconds before feeling like a gangly sap and quickly retreating). By the time the headline act, Cephilic Carnage hit the stage, the atmosphere is electric. There is a lot of wind-milling hair and devil hands are proudly raised aloft in Satanic solidarity. Didn’t I mention earlier that the Cephelic Carnage are Grindcore.? Grindcore is basically a punkinfluenced style of thrashed out metal that was pioneered by Napalm Death back in the ‘80s (although I’m sure fans are arguing about my description like Italian foodies discussing risotto on the Metal Ireland forum right now. More power to them). It is very thrilling live. The next morning my neck is sore. I realise it’s my first case of head banger’s cramp since I rocked out to Therapy? In the Point Depot as a fifteen-year-old. I need to rock out more.
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Electric Picnic 2008 My quintessential Electric Picnic moment came at around 2am Saturday Morning. Returning from the moon-balloons and fairylight madness of the Body and Soul area, my girlfriend and I found ourselves walking through the weirdest place, a gigantic, abandoned film-set from a horror movie about killer robots. No, we weren’t on acid. Yes, there were robots. 16 foot high buggers too, shrouded in billowing dry ice and picked out by pools of light in the balmy darkness. We were the only people around. Through the mist and behind the robots, a neon red sign bore the legend ‘Asylum’. I was too freaked out to go investigate further, but it was the sort of carfully created adult playground that makes the Electric Picnic such a richly rewarding experience for those who like to wander and explore. I must admit I had my doubts about the musical quality of this years line-up. I figured the bill had become too geared toward musically unadventerous couples in their late thirties hoping to catch Sinéad O’Connor, The Sex Pistols and a sneaky Kevin Thornton cookery lesson on a Sunday afternoon. I was wrong. There was work involved, but anyone with the patience to explore the diverse lineup and take chances on acts they never heard of before were rewarded with myriad treats and musical oddities. Those I know who saw her, swear that Grace Jones was nothing short
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of revelatory, strutting around the stage like an exotic black ostrich from Pluto. Also, I heard this classic in the campsite on Sunday Morning, “That Silver Apples dude, what the fuck? He’s pretty class for someone whose like 70 or something.” In the end, I had two absolute highlights. They came from two of the bigger bands that played. The first, was provided by Sigur Ros. Halfway through a set played in front of a stage that appeared decorated from the proceeds of Habitat’s closing-down sale, a veritable army of musicians dressed in funny white costumes paraded in front of the band before melting into the background. It was surreal, euphoric and festival-tastic. My second, was every last moment of My Bloody Valentine’s incendiary set. These were songs that I listened to obsessively over the years (to the point where I knew every last chord off by heart). Now they were being cast anew, hammered home powerfully and immediately by a band on top of their game. It was awesome. Coupled with the blurry whooshes of abstract light behind the band, it brought on a psychedelic swoon. It was the sort of moment festivals should be all about. Darragh McCausland
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Words: Daniel Gray Photo: Cait Fahey
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This year’s Electric Picnic was criticized for not boasting the same high level of recognized groundbreaking artists that usually adorn its brightly-designed line-up posters. As I stood enraptured in half-empty
Are you still friends with James Murphy having toured with him?
tents by Silver Apples and Faust I couldn’t help but balk at what the mass music-listening public’s perception of groundbreaking is. Nothing was more disheartening than turning up thirty seconds before the YACHT roadshow descended on the Cosby Stage to find only another twenty or so picnickers had circled the same show on their print-out
JB Yeah yeah yeah. We’re complete coffee nerds, so we always email each other when we’ve had a good cup of coffee. We send each other messages… it’s either about dogs or coffee. So we’d send each other picture messages of this amazing… Umm… What was that dog we saw?
timetables. CLE It was a Japanese imperial…pygmy dog. And yet, while their music favours fun and inclusiveness over originality as a laptop-poppy amalgamation of Architecture In Helsinki cuteness swirled with a heap of Max Tundra and a healthy dose of his previous outfit The Blow, their live show is the most strikingly innovative experience this side of Wham City. Quite like Silver Apples, there is every chance 40 years from now Jona Bechtolt will be twiddling with his by-then antiquated equipment in a brightly coloured jumper on a small festival stage, happy in the knowledge each person under the canvas knows exactly what he’s contributed to modern pop music and how we experience it. An unabashed computer nerd, Bechtolt (who is no longer the sole member of YACHT, having recently been joined in his dance routines and vocal workouts by the equally winsome Claire L. Evans, previously of hidden pop gems The World Court) keeps a seemingly endless and effervescent presence on the internet, through his Flickr, blog, website and Myspace. More impressive though is his head-scratchingly entertaining live PowerPoint show, this time including a Google Maps tour of the YACHT team’s Portland pad, a webcam singalong with a friend, and a fake blue screen systems failure so convincing one particular member of the Analogue editorial team fretted that the show was about to be called off. His characteristic frenetic dancing has been well-documented on YouTube, and beguiling inter-song elements of the show such as regaling the audience with tales of his dead cat and offering counsel to crowd members make his show a truly incomparable communal experience. Although perhaps YACHT’s contribution to a multimedia-fuelled jocular future won’t remain an underappreciated pleasure for much longer. Having just signed for New York indie-dance kingpins DFA, Jona and Claire might just be on the verge of having an audience in line with their ambitions.
JB Yeah! It was this really beautiful dog. So I sent James a picture of this dog, and said this dog is really beautiful but I’ve no idea what it is. And he wrote back and knew the exact breed instantly Hahaha… That’s a good rapport to have with your label boss, isn’t it? JB Yeah, it’s super-good. That’s the only kind of rapport I’d want with a label boss. I’ve only ever worked with friends in labels, friends in projects. I’m really glad DFA is like that. It wouldn’t have worked well or been a good fit otherwise. The new video is brilliant. JB Oh thanks… The guy who plays the suit with the slicked back hair, that’s Mike, who’s a friend of ours. He and I and another friend of ours started this online community called UrbanHonking, which started out kinda like a webzine, but evolved into this really crazy network of blogs that’s almost like a TV channel, every blog is like a different style of channel. For instance, Claire writes the science blog called Universe, it’s like science, art, and culture and where all those things meet. And then there’s a video games blog, a sports blog… It’s this platform for any project that doesn’t really fit anywhere, we dump it on UrbanHonking. We made three seasons of a web-based reality TV show called the Ultimate Blogger. Which to this day is still the biggest project I’ve ever done. How much time do you spend on the internet, because every day there seems to be some kind of YACHT update to be found? JB As much as I can! I fucking love the internet, man. CLE Between one and two hours a day when we’re on tour.
So… DFA? JB Yeah! Wow. Weird, isn’t it? How long has that been coming on? JB Like the past two months I guess… James of LCD and DFA wrote me an email about two months asking if I had any new songs, and I asked “Well… why?” He was being really cute about it. So I sent him a couple of songs, and he said they were really great. But it kept going like this, back-and-forth emails sort of testing each other. And then finally he was like “Let’s make a record!” and I was like “OK!”. We’d already planned to put out (new song) The Summer Song on our own label, Marriage, and Err in Europe and he just said “Why don’t we just do it?” So yeah, it was totally weird and unexpected.
JB I have an iPhone. I had a BlackBerry but I gave it to Claire. I got a travel SIM card, but the internet doesn’t work on tour in Europe, so only when we’re anywhere with WiFi You’ve been on tour pretty much non-stop. Are you not completely exhausted? JB We’re pretty exhausted. Yesterday we really, really, really wanted to see Silver Apples. They were amazing. JB We were really looking forward to just staying in Dublin and not doing anything so ended up not driving out.
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How long are you here for?
It’s definitely harder to have a one-on-one experience with the audience as whole.
JB Oh just we leave tomorrow, then we’re going to Cardiff. Because people are just walking in and out? Have you played in Wales before? JB Not since 2005. I used to play drums for Devendra Banhart. Haha, really? Are there many differences between touring with Devendra Banhart and YACHT? JB Surprisingly not really! It’s kind of the same thing. CLE The same thing, but with shorter hair. JB I can’t grow a beard, that’s why they kicked me out. Actually for that whole tour I wore a fake beard, made of blue yarn. I loved it.
JB Right, right. But that’s also the exciting and cool part. You get walkers-by who could either hate it or love it. I like to play attention to the fringe people and see whether they like it or not. CLE I think festival shows are a lot more unpredictable. You don’t know who’s going to come and see you, so you get a chance to present yourself and get a sense what “normal” people think of your band, as opposed to people who are already into weird music. It’s funny to see people’s reactions to what we do. They’re so surprised, like “Oh… You call this a band? That’s interesting.” Sometimes it’s very negative, but it hasn’t been recently, so I think we’re on the right track. JB Since Claire joined the band it hasn’t been negative.
So what’s the difference between festivals and… shows in Cardiff? JB Well. I go back and forth between loving and hating festivals. As the kind of music person I am the way I enjoy experiencing music so is different from a festival setting. I guess it’s good for people who live near the festivals because all these things that are never usually found together are converged. You get your music dose at one giant things. CLE This is a lot different here though, it’s not just about the music. This is as much about an event happening.
So what kind of new stuff are you doing live? JB We’ve a bunch of new songs. We’ve really been concentrating on video stuff, trying to make it interactive. We use PowerPoint, which we’re both huge fans of. Huge fans. CLE We try to take video into somewhere new, where it’s not just background animation. We make it really interactive, weird, we try to do lots of “bits”. I know that’s a comedy term, but we do little gags… You could play the comedy tent.
JB You’re right, it’s just not the kind of event I like. I get freaked out around so many people, so that part is weird. CLE It depends on the festival. Here is great, I could totally just hang out here for a couple of days. Some of the other festivals are miserable.
BOTH Yeah! JB We’d like to. CLE Comedy is so difficult though, I don’t think I could ever do it.
JB Yeah like we played the 02 Wireless Festival. It was awful, we hated it. But then we played Latitude, and that was great, it was like this. CLE The same veggie burgers. As long as I can get my aura photographed or my face painted, I’m happy. If it’s just this big thing with lots of people standing around peeing, it’s not cool. JB We played Creamfields and that was awful too. CLE The worst. So muddy. I didn’t really understand that the whole mud thing at British festivals was real. Our car got stuck, our shoes got ruined, etc. What’s the difference with the shows? We were at Dan Deacon last night, and usually he just takes over the entire venue but it just didn’t translate really at all to a tent, and I know your show is similar in ways to his, in that communal sort of experience. JB Well, we try and make a different show for every different place, for every different style of show we play, so I’m not sure tonight if we’ll have video, which is a huge part of what we do. We want to try and bring a festival vibe to the show, and make it as gigantic as possible.
Do you think there’s some kind of crossover between comedy and YACHT in a way? There’s something in the way you work the audience that’s quite like a comedian… but obviously with less comedic music. JB Thank you! I dunno, I’m a big fan of comedy, really awkward comedy, like Larry David and that style. I could never see myself as a comedian, because that shit’s so much harder than what we do. CLE I think you have a comedic tendency though. If something’s going very well you’ll take it in a comedic direction. JB Yeah, I think that’s my default social buffer. When I feel uncomfortable I try to be funny. CLE I think you succeed. You’re a funny guy. JB We really think about our music the way comedians think about their shows. It’s like, have you ever seen that movie ‘Comedian’ with Jerry Seinfeld? No?
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JB It’s a documentary, and they’re just talking about comedy in terms of minutes. It’s like “I have fifteen minutes done. Oh wow, that’s cool. I’ve got like 30 minutes. We went to see Bill Cosby last night and he NINETY minutes of new stuff!”. So it’s all about how many minutes you can sustain, and that’s what YACHT is like too. When I first start playing shows it was like 15 minute noise shows, and then I worked it up to thirty minutes, and now I think we can do 45 minutes. CLE It’s almost unimaginable for me that we can be entertaining for that long. JB Even just physically, holding up for 45 minutes. CLE That’s true, every time we go on tour after like the first 15 minutes I’m exhausted physically, but by the end of the tour it’s just like exercising. I could go 45 minutes without breaking a sweat. I mean I will sweat, because I’m a sweater, but… I won’t feel tired.
Summer Song. JB Yeah. Oh, yeah. Summer Song was written almost entirely as a joke for LCD Soundsystem. We had like two songs off from tour and it was the middle of the summer, and I wanted to write something in the style of LCD and present it to them as like a love-letter and a joke at the same time. We put it up for free on the website, we just shat it out in a day… Which is probably a bad thing to say… CLE Yeah, don’t put that in your interview. No, that’s a good thing! You shit out great songs for James Murphy! JB Yeah, actually!
Do you have to train to be in YACHT? It’s a lot of dancing? JB No. No, it’s anti-training. CLE We probably should though. You could start a YACHT fitness programme. JB We were supposed to do that! We had plans with Architecture in Helsinki to put out a fitness tape. And they’re very serious about it, they keep sending me emails. It’s something we’re supposed to do this year. We’re going to Australia next February or March maybe we could do it then. It’s something I really want to do. CLE We were talking last summer about starting a YACHT franchise, where you could download your own YACHT MP3s and videos and put on your own shows. That would require a dance instruction DVD.
An illustration Jona did for us during the interview
I remember you put the MP3s of your songs without the vocals up on the website JB Yeah, it’d be like that only a couple more steps. We would have outfits we’d send you via Fed-Ex. So a cult? CLE Yes! That’s exactly the word. JB I’ve actually been doing a lot of research into cults and multi-level marketing, and I think that our next album will be a lot to do with that. Have you got all the songs written? JB Oh yeah, yeah. It’s done, it’s ready to go out. Most of the songs we play now are from the new record. Your new song sounds a lot different from your old material, I think… JB Really? Which one?
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The Dodos The Little Big Tent is an apt venue for The Dodos to play at this year’s Electric Picnic. These San Fransiscan charmers are a bit of a little big band. Little, in that their second album Visiter was recorded “over the course of six days” by two musicians (songwriter / guitarist Meric Long and drummer Logan Kroeber). Big, in that the same record’s idiosyncratic, shape-shifting take on acoustic folk, not to mention its bloody bonkers drumming, mark it out as one of the more intoxicating albums of the year so far. Boosted by slavering reviews in the online music press and word of mouth about their thrilling live shows, The Dodos are building up an impressive head of steam right now, a reputation which is fully deserved considering how much effort they put into touring and how likeable they are. Three flightless birds take to the stage tonight. To round out the group the aforementioned duo are joined by Joe Haener, who Meric explains “is filling in on extra pianos and things like that.” Even with the outrageous theatrics of Nick Cave’s Grinderman wowing the crowd over in the Electric Arena, Long and Kroeber draw a sizeable and somewhat demented Sunday evening audience, who recite the lyrics of Visiter back to them as if the record came out years ago rather than in the last couple of months. Although the crackle of frenzy in the air may have as much to do with it being the third day of a heroic bender for many punters as the band’s music, there is no doubt that the album invites abandon. The whizzing rhythms and tempos at its highest points have a touch of madness to them. ‘Fools’, in particular, could be the soundtrack to a roll down a hill, or a childish whirl around your back garden until the fluid in your ears starts to slosh around and you collapse on the ground in a giddy heap. Earlier, I asked the lads about the rhythmic intensity of the album. “I used to geek out super hard on all kinds of complex shit and time signatures” says Logan, “I used to listen to Indian ragga records and try to count along. It’s really fun for me to try and play that sort of challenging stuff.” His masterful drumming is central to The Dodos’ sound. In previous interviews the band have mentioned African Ewe drumming as an influence.
Words: Darragh McCausland
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For those not up on their hip ethnic musical techniques, Ewe is a fiercly complex method that relies on polyrhythms constructed from drums, bells and rattles. Somewhat magically, Ewe drummers often manipulate the sounds of their drums to imitate language, making approximations of vocal sounds depending on the angle and the intensity at which they hit the instrument. While I doubt the drums on Visiter are secretly communicating to us, Kroeber manages to elicit an organic and fearsome noise from his instruments that demonstrates a rare expressiveness and emotive force. He also sometimes wears tambourines on his feet. How cool is that? Live in Stradbally, The Dodos’ music is even more organic and fierce, demonstrating a tightness that can only come from months on the road. According to Meric “the record is a year old and we’ve been touring it since then, and the tendancy after playing these songs over and over again is to play a bit faster and harder and louder.” He explains that with their first record Beware of the Maniacs, that process often left punters confused. “Back then people would come to see us and we were playing heavy and fast. They would have bought the record after the show and even though their responses were positive they found the record way more mellow than they expected.”
With Visiter, the relationship between the record and the live show appears to have been a bit more reciprocal. Meric explains “part of the goal of Visiter was to make the record and the live show more even, but it’s never totally even. You can certainly hear a progression if you go back and listen to Beware of the Maniacs though.” If the live show is getting faster and harder as the band’s tour continues, they’ll have turned into Fugazi by the end of October when the current almost never-ending series of shows ends. ‘Fools’ will have morphed into a 20 second blast of molten punk. Although such extensive touring can take it out of bands, The Dodos are nothing short of bright eyed and bushy tailed ahead of their gig. I ask them what they are excited about on the Electric Picnic line-up and they unanimously agree that My Bloody Valentine tops their wishlist. A big big band then. Watching My Bloody Valentine later, I wonder if Meric and Logan are watching too. Just before my brain is obliterated by that legendary hurricaine of white noise known as ‘The Holocaust’, I find I am still thinking back to The Dodos’ set. In its little big way it was a proper highlight of the festival.
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Diplo Words: Aidan Hanratty Photo: Tim Soter
One of the highlights for many at this year’s Electric Picnic was the appearance of Philadelphia-based DJ Diplo. To explain the diversity of his DJing style, I need only note his opening tracks: kicking off with XR2, a horn-laden, Baltimore bass-thumping track he produced for MIA, he thundered into DJ Jean’s The Launch, a forgotten trance hit from the late 90s. Heard outside its original context, this track becomes a guilty pleasure, finding new meaning as it straddles styles, its muffled countdown the perfect opening for such a barn-storming set. Consistently busy, Diplo’s most recent work has been with hipster queen Santogold. Having produced three tracks for her self-titled debut album, he went on to create Top Ranking, a mind-bending fusion of Santogold’s tracks and a selection of dub sounds from the likes of Benga and Skream, as well as choice oddities by artists as varied as the B52s, Devo and even Aretha Franklin. That said, Santi herself was such a perfectionist that she insisted the man re-record it on several occasions, his own personal favourite being two or three versions before the one that saw the light of day. Another mix of his that caught a lot of attention was I Like Turtles, produced for Pitchfork in August 2007, the mix was subsequently released through his Mad Decent label. Similarly eclectic, it’s a breathtaking run through some of the biggest songs of last year from the likes of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Soulja Boy and Justice, to classics such as Orbital’s Halcyon, and of all things, a bootleg of The Bartman. His motivation behind this mix was to make it so good that no-one would be able to follow with a better one, and, to date, there has been no subsequent Pitchfork mix. If that isn’t an indication of its success, I don’t know what is.
As far as running a label is concerned, Diplo’s major enjoyment comes from his ability to oversee the work of others while taking a break from his own, and the artists that he feels garner special a mention are London’s Boy 8-Bit and Baltimore’s DJ Blaqstarr. On the other hand, his major frustration comes when certain acts don’t provide him with new material. Already well-documented, Bonde do Rolê have had a turbulent year, with the departure of one member, the addition two more, and a heavy amount of touring. While he understands the financial necessity of such a schedule, Diplo hopes that the group will soon knuckle down and get back to the studio. He’s certainly not the only one. As for the man himself, he claims that his next work should come at some point in 2009. An unlikely source of inspiration for him is Mississippi-born modernist writer William Faulkner, whose Go Down, Moses was an inspiration for Diplo’s 2004 album Florida. Faulkner was the first major fellow Southerner (the album takes its title from Diplo’s birthplace) he felt created work that was truly challenging and interesting. While the atmospheric Florida has more in common with the work of DJ Shadow and RJD2, his DJ sets, like that at Electric Picnic, are unlike any other. DIplo’s Stradbally set raced through everything one would imagine from listening to his mixtapes and then some, was technically impeccable and more importantly, a whole lot of fun. Having played just four shows on this island since 2005, we can only hope that he will come back soon, and often.
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“I think we’re not savvy enough in terms of
This is certainly in evidence on songs like
paid to records as artifacts. For every major
computers, having a blog, showing ourselves.
‘Three Women’ and ‘Neon Beanbag’. Also in
release LP or single there are hoards of
I think we’re missing out on that a bit.”
evidence is Stereolab’s interest in all things
obscure split singles, or one-off single releases
Laetitia Sadier, the immediately recognisable
scientific. There’s a track here called ‘Pop
on coloured vinyl. This should come as no
singer with avant-pop darlings Stereolab is
Molecule (Molecular Pop)’. What provoked
surprise as the band are noted record
discussing the band’s low profile. “Radiohead
this long-time obsession? Laetitia explains: “I
collectors. Perhaps they are a dying breed in
- they’re really taking their fate into their own
don’t know, maybe Tim is attracted to that. A
the age of mp3s and ringtones. Laetitia
hands. I think they’re a really good example of
kind of futuristic idea, a hopeful idea of the
laments the lost art of record hunting, “It’s a
people who know what they are doing and are
future where science maybe comes into play
pity but what can be done? You just have to
really successful at it. And I find that we’ve
and solves a lot of our problems. Within the
accept that people aren’t buying records like
always done the music and when it comes to
music there’s also a lot of spirit. It’s not as
they used to. Ways of getting to music have
the marketing we leave it to someone else, it’s
materialist as it may sound. Within those
changed. I guess we just have to accept that.”
not our job.”
musical molecules, those chemical chords I
Some of our readers may remember Laetitia
think there’s also a spiritual dimension, you
and Tim’s appearance on The Adam and Joe
know, that is not necessarily stated, but it’s
Show, where they were required to justify the
there between the chords.”
stranger inclusions in their universe-sized
For almost twenty years now, Stereolab’s brand of retro-futuristic space-pop has kept writers like myself searching for new ways of saying the same thing. As is the case with The Fall, their records are always changing, and yet somehow always the same. You know there will be French lyrics, xylophones, buzzing guitars and ancient synths and improbable songtitles (‘Puncture In The Radax Permutation’, ‘Lo Boob Oscillator’, ‘The Noise of Carpet’ and so on). Likewise, you can be guaranteed gorgeous tunes, glorious stringarrangements and “alittlebitofpoliticsladiesandgentlemenyesinde ed”, as Ben Elton would once have had it. Since forming from the embers of McCarthy in Camberwell in the late 80’s, Stereolab have released at least twenty, exemplary, long-form examples of airy, other-worldly pop music. Some of it, like ‘Ping Pong’ and ‘French Disko’ sounded like hit material. Others didn’t quite frankly, like the 18 minute ‘Refractions In The Plastic Pulse’ or the succinctly but precisely titled ‘John Cage Bubblegum’. Yet almost all of it, however odd, is superb. No-one else can really pull off the combination of drone-rock, lounge music and pure pop like Stereolab. If you need further convincing, try 2001’s Sound Dust for size. It’s a career high, one of the very best records of this young millennium and each ‘lab record since has faced the daunting task of topping it or even matching it. Stepping up to the plate this summer is Chemical Chords, which has already been well received among the critics, and one hopes this reception translates into sales. This is their brightest, poppiest and, let’s not be coy, grooviest record yet. “We wanted it to be an upbeat record, so it’s good if it makes you feel like dancing. Then the aim is achieved,” says singer Laetitia, “It may not sound like it now, but there was the idea of Motown rhythms which of course is pure pop, pure dance pop.”
record collection. There were vinyl records One of the album’s standouts is the childlike ‘Daisy Click Clack’, a track which might stand a chance of climbing the charts, if someone is astute enough to have the characters from In The Night Garden fronting it. This is no criticism, but Laetitia is defensive: “That’s the sunniest of the tracks on this record. Personally, I like it. Tim [Stereolab’s other founding member and all-round boffin] wasn’t so sure about it. He thought it was maybe a bit over the top. I was like ‘if you think that don’t put it on the record’, but it still made it on the record. There were 16 others that didn’t.” And what will happen to those? “Hopefully they will come out at some point on a proper LP with a proper release and the attention it deserves. Because it’s really a two-parter, this record. We did record 31 tracks for it. It’s like this is the day side and the other batch will be the night side. They can’t all fit on one record but it couldn’t have been a sort of double album because really that’s way too heavy, way too much information to carry within one same box, so I think it’s best to separate them. The only danger is that the other batch gets kind of ignored because you only get one shot every two years in this business.” So the Ash route of whacking single tracks up on their website is not for Stereolab. “I guess we still think in terms of albums. We’re so conditioned to that ,I mean how can we not think in terms of albums? Sometimes you buy an LP and you’re not ready for it and it sort of goes over your head a little bit. It’s only a year later you totally get that record. I’m sure that’s happened to all of us who are of a certain age, heh heh. How can it always be immediate, the impact a song has on you?” Of course, one of Stereolab’s strengths has always been the attention they have always
which played in reverse from the centre to the rim, recordings of motor car exhausts and the slightly less outré Beach Boys Christmas album. Are there any obscure records which have eluded Stereolab’s vast record collection? It turns out Laetitia’s bandmate and ex-beau was the hoarder in that particular relationship: “You’d have to ask Tim that! Cause he’s the record-acquirer. I’m sure there are things... I know there was a thing in France in the 70’s when it was at the end of the night, you know around 1 o’clock, when programmes had ended on Channel 2. They would have a sort of little cartoon that was very poetic. It was of a man wearing a big coat that sort of flies up in the air, and I think it was Hofer de Roubaix that did the soundtrack to it and it was very very pretty. I don’t think Tim ever managed to track that down.” Apart from several examples of fine indie pop, Laetitia and Tim have also managed to produce a child together. One wonders what sort of music a child of this pair grows up to like. “He likes reggae” asserts the mother who knows best, “and he’s really into Daft Punk.” How does he feel about Stereolab’s out-there output? “He’s actually really proud! He doesn’t tell us so, but we hear that through others.” Quite rightly so. Back in 1999, on an LP called Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage In The Milky Night, Stereolab’s famous interest in Marxist theory met the personal on the track ‘People Do It All The Time’, the singer urging her child to “grow… reviving old ideas that will carry”. It was a gentle touch, displaying a warmth one doesn’t always associate with the world of dialectical materialism. I ask Laetitia if she actually gets involved in praxis. Do Stereolab vote? Have
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they ever been involved in a political party?
expectations were really low…” Probably just
Do they protest? Laetitia gathers her
as well given their current incarnation… “But I
thoughts: “No not really. I would like to be
was thinking ‘oh there’s a song there! Wow!
more politically active but somehow I’m doing
It’s rocking! Alright!” Just when I think the
other things. I’m doing music and a school of
lady is going quite bonkers she settles into her
shiatsu at the moment and it’s strange that
theme again. “So here you can hope to see a
I’m not in a political party… But maybe it’s
bit of music and hear it but it’s…too few and
because I feel it would be a bit pointless at this
far between. On French TV there’s a channel
stage because I think there’s not enough
called ARTE. It’s part French owned, but
people who want, and I include myself in this,
mostly German and basically you end up only
who really want profoundly to change society. To radically change society, that is, because I think society is changing every day. It’s just shifting you know? But what I think is really important at this stage is for consciousness to stay as wide as possible. For people to be aware. When you think of that huge blurb of people, that mass, the consumer mass… I mean I see that last night 20 million people watched this horrifically stupid show en masse but I thought ‘I don’t meet these people, where are they? Who are they? Do they really have an influence?’ The whole of the media is catering for these people, whom it completely despises. But I think people are
watching ARTE. I know I did. And there’s a
cleverer than that or can be anyway. Maybe they’re watching it but totally not buying it at all. Aware that it’s for 15 year olds or 12 year olds who are attracted to this kind of…pap. I’d say it’s important to remain critical, aware and conscious.” Warming to this idea, we discuss the state of television, radio and the music press in general. I came across Stereolab via the brilliant and much-missed ITV Chart Show one Saturday morning in 1994, when I caught the video to ‘Ping Pong’ on the indie chart. Does Laetitia think it’s a pity that quirky-pop on TV has been relegated to digital music TV stations? It seems I’ve touched on a particular bugbear, and have prompted something of a rant. “Oh! Yeah, listen, you know that sucks! I mean really this thing where the media is really catering for that nondescript blurb in the middle I mean what’s wrong with having an hour a week of some indie news you know? Bloody hell! Like how come we’re not represented at all? There used to be John Peel and he’s gone and there’s no-one to replace him! And that really pushes bands like us into the ground.” It’s difficult to disagree with that. But there is one beacon of hope: “I was watching [BBC’s] The Culture Show and it’s great!. I only saw it once last week and it’s really great. They had… whatsisface…Primal Scream. They played a song at the beginning and one at the end. I mean I don’t really like Primal Scream. My
programme called Tracks and it’s kind of alternative culture and music. But you know it goes a lot to the US, hip hop or New Zealand in the tribes you know? It’s a bit out there. But you can hope to see a little reportage on Peaches for example.” Laetitia adds, “You know there was a lot of people who thought we’d split up! And we were saying ‘no actually we’ve been making records all this time!’” Let it be known. It remains a joy to have them around.
Words: Ciarán Gaynor Illusration: Sarah Jane Comerford
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Everything you need to know about:
Words: Olwyn Fagan Illusration: Sarah Jane Comerford Anybody who has so much as a vague inclination towards dance music will have noticed that the cultures of urban and house music have been growing ever closer in recent years. The result, a number of mind-boggling spin-off genres from Megathon (a cross between latin reggaeton and big beat apparently…) to Trance Rap and Zulu House. Confused much? Well fear not dear reader, for here at Analogue our aim is to educate and so, here you have it, The Analogue Guide to Obscure Electronic Genres, Part 1: Trancehall. Trancehall, aka NY Tropical aka New Ragga Rave is the bastard love child of dancehall music and old school trance. Gradually gaining momentum in New York, Jamaica and Trinidad, Trancehall music combines ragga vocals and chants with sped up dancehall beats. It takes inspiration from trance while retaining its own distinctly ghetto feel and the kids across the pond in NYC are going crazy for it apparently. I, on the other hand, remain unconvinced Seminal artists include Ricky Blaze, who’s hit tune ‘Cut Dem Off’ is becoming something of a Trancehall anthem. Coming from a distinctly non-ghetto background, I am aware that the music might not ‘speak’ to me in the same way it might some second generation kid from the West Indies wilding it up in Brooklyn on a Saturday night. Still though, culture clash aside, this music’s pretty shit. Combining the worst elements of Euro-Trance with some of the most irritating vocals imaginable, the result is nu-rave for ghetto kids. It’s worse though, genuinely sounding like some kind of blippy ringtone that would soundtrack a CGI Hippo on some late night Jamster ad on MTV. Oh dear. This, surely, is not the intention of the Trancehall artist. On the contrary, the aim is to combine the up-temponess of Soca (calypso music originally from Trinidad and Tobago) with the danceability and rave vibe originally associated with techno. Blaze describes his music as ‘Reggae Techno Pop’ but the resulting amalgamation of genres to the untrained ear sounds like senseless cacophony. In short, it’s appeal does not extend much further than to a select crowd of Guyanese club kids, for whom Blaze is the new Kanye. The question really is whether or not Trancehall is simply an evolution of dancehall; a natural progression of an existing genre brought about by technological advances in music making. Regardless, whether this crossover will make a name for itself on this side of the Atlantic remains doubtful. It does make for some entertaining YouTube viewing though and it is undeniably innovative, so for the mean time we’re going to enjoy it, even if it is in a strictly ironic sense. Who knows, it could be the new dubstep…
Still curious? The sound: Check out the Dutty Artz label for serious Trancehall ‘riddims’ The look: Standard hip-hop couture and bling combined with nu-rave slatted sunnies. The lingo: De club be ram bra’!
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Mental illness and Rock Words: Darragh McCausland Illustration: Scalder - www.scalderville.com
“I’m full of dust and guitars”. Syd Barrett uttered these words to a Rolling Stone journalist in an interview in 1971. This haunted statement provides one of the most harrowing insights into the mind of a mentally unwell rock musician. The words betray a consciousness that is both empty and ruined, yet which still holds a place for music. At the time, Barrett was well known as a former songwriter and guitarist in Pink Floyd and as a solo artist in his own right. In the neon raddled excess of the late sixties psychedelic period, fans were fascinated by his playful outsider’s take on the daily world. He had a childlike ability to turn the ordinary inside out, conjuring odd psychedelic fantasies from the grey mundanity of contemporary English life. The elaborate alternative England that is palpable in his best work with Pink Floyd is an archaic, imaginative place, teeming with scarecrows, cross-dressers, gnomes and bicycles. However, as the late sixties snaked darkly into the early seventies, it became obvious to his former bandmates, his fans, and most likely to Barrett himself, that he was experiencing serious mental illness (most likely LSD abetted schizophrenia). Barrett was not alone in undergoing a form of mental breakdown during the late sixties. He was only one member of an ‘exclusive’ club of talented musicians around which a pervasive and enduring rock’n’roll ‘type’ developed, namely the ‘drug casualty’; where the flame of youthful brilliance is snuffed out by a spectacular and rapid mental deterioration normally attributed to overindulgence in
psychedelic drugs. This stuff utterly fascinates music fans. Any half-hearted flick through the pages of Mojo and Uncut magazines will reveal how entranced we are by the myth of the ‘drug casualty’. Indeed, in Barrett’s case this interest intruded into his personal life. Up until his death, he was sporadically bothered by people who arrived at his house in Cambridge on some sort of deluded pilgrimage, hassling a man who had more interest in painting and pottering around his garden, than he did in attention and his own past. While Syd was perhaps the best known example of this myth, there are plenty of others from his generation who share elements of his unstable back story. For example, Rocky Erickson from The 13th Floor Elevators, former Beach Boy Brian Wilson, and Peter Green from Fleetwood Mac. Again, there is a ferocious appetite for printed material relating to stories pertaining to their mental breakdowns. It sells magazines. Stick a big psychedelically coloured picture of Barett’s stoned young head on the cover of Mojo over the words ‘Meltdown’ ‘Burnout’ or ‘Frazzled’ and you have a formula for success as tried and tested as putting Ben Stiller and Will Ferrell in a wacky movie about sporting underdogs. People want to know all the grisly details about these musicians’ eccentric stunts. At times, the musicians themselves seem to become gruesomely detached from the music they made, surrogate Kerry Katonas for 40year-old rock fans who relish the finer points of how Brian Wilson filled a recording studio with sand, how Syd Barrett shaved off his eyebrows, or how Rocky Erickson underwent
electroconvulsive therapy. These stories are played out in exhaustive detail and from multiple perspectives on a monthly basis in our favourite music magazines. And they are just the so-called acid related breakdowns. Of course, it can reasonably be argued that because the artists mentioned above belong to a different era, stories about their mental collapse have now entered rock lore, and fan’s preoccupations with them are as harmless as recounting Marianne Faithful’s alleged brief encounter with Mick Jagger and a Mars bar. However, when this fascination is transposed into the setting of a modern audience and its relationship with a troubled performer, things become more unsettling and problematic. The vampiric relationship between the media, fans and Amy Winehouse flap uglily around the mainstream media for all to see. It might be worth turning our attention, therefore, to a performer in the alternative bracket, Daniel Johnston.
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For those not familiar with him, Daniel Johnston’s story is marked out by a long struggle with both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Much of this is documented in Jeff Feuerzeig’s 2005 documentary, The Devil and Daniel Johnston. Feuerzeig’s film chronicles Johnston’s
beguilingly fragile cassette recordings he recorded as a hyper prolific youngster in the 1980s, through the mental illness that saw his life see-sawing from one damaging event to the next (attacking his manager, believing that various people and places were under the control of Satan, and wrestling the key from the ignition of a small plane that was subsequently successfully crash-landed by his father). Throughout this catalogue of illness-related hurt and chaos, Johnston maintained an adoring fanbase within the indie rock ‘hood. Bands like Sonic Youth, Half Japanese, Nirvana and Teenage Fanclub queued up to sing his praises. He played to hordes of worshipful fans, and all the while was (and still is from time to time) deeply, troublingly ill. Just what is at the heart of Johnston’s relationship with his fans? There are some questions that are hinted at, but which remain largely unanswered in Feurzeig’s documentary. For example, at what point does adulation become exploitation? Do people go to his shows because they want to be infected by the giddy, innocent, Beatles on Hersheys rush of his best material, or because they want to see the crazy man-child that Sonic Youth once toured with? Recently, he played the Whelans venue in Dublin as part of a tour with some noted and venerable luminaries from the alternative music world, including Jad Phair, members of ‘Teenage Fanclub’ and ‘Yo La Tengo’. The gig was something of a success but afterwards, something about it still did not seem right to this journalist. What was it? Was it that a few whoops from the room felt a bit too extreme, a bit too patronising? Or was it a case of a hyper sensitive journalist over-thinking the occasion?
Certainly, according to some accounts, the time he played before, a year or so previously in the Vicar Street venue, an element in the audience were there to see him off the back of the documentary, and received his show in a strange and patronising manner. Anyway, this time around the tone was less one of condescension and more one of adulation. Yet, on the surface there is not much in Daniel’s current live performance (apart from an anxious tremor perhaps) that should distinguish him in any way from fleets of ‘sincere’ indie bands that played the same venue to more muted responses during the year. However, he was revered where others were overlooked. This could be one of the key points in the enduring love-affair with artists who are mentally unwell. What other bands often affect could be what Daniel Johnston actually does. At the core of much music is a very conscious leap from a self-aware way of thinking to a mock innocence. People who could quite coolly sing about fucking their girlfriend’s sister will instead construct a ditty about falling in love with a duffle-coated girl on a park swing in Glasgow. While not always, sometimes much of this is coolly calculated, affected, and as much a carefully spun shell of artifice as the one which surrounds the gurning tosser who chooses his best lucky shirt to wear to Krystle.
So maybe we are drawn to the mentally ill rock artist not just because of sensationalism, but because something special about their songwriting cannot be faked. If, for example, Chris Martin decided to pull all his toenails out with a pliers and run naked through Notting Hill batting cars with an umbrella, would Coldplay suddenly become more artistically credible? It’s doubtful. It’s nice to think that if Syd Barrett’s and Daniel Johnston’s songs were buried in a time capsule and dug up in hundreds of years, that they would be judged on their own merits; as things of precious wonder that stand apart from the details of the mental turmoil from which they were created.
51251 Tom Waits Analouge mag:51251 Tom Waits Analouge mag
my inspiration Tom Waits
You’re a weak little pony, Jim to pull big men like us Dylan Thomas A Visit To Grandpa’s
Photography by Anton Corbijn ‘A Visit To Grandpa’s’ by Dylan Thomas, from Miscellany Two, published by J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., London, 1966 Copyright © 1937, 1945, 1955, 1956, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1971, 1977 The Trustees for the Copyrights of Dylan Thomas.
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Bodies of Water Words: Daniel Gray
If you’ve read any article on Californian four-piece Bodies of Water (or, hell, the review of their new album A Certain Feeling in our last issue) you know exactly what to expect from this one: Six paragraphs trying to explain what their sound is in easily relatable terms, and one concluding statement that despite all such disputations, the band are pretty much unpigeonholeable - simply an utterly transcendent force of nature in its hightide flow. You’ll probably be expecting, also, the term “Christian rock” to pop up a lot. Lets set the record straight: one PR sheet using the term “gospel influences” does not a P.O.D. make. The only truly church-like qualities of Bodies of Water are the group’s spiritualistic lyrics, its communality, and those cathartic everybody-on-the-ark-this-shit’s-about-to-flood singalongs. Thus it is with a gratuitous sigh of relief and a “thanks” that David Metcalf, founder member of the band with his wife Meredith, greets my promise that I won’t mention the words “Christian” and “rock” in the same breath during the course of our phone chat. How frustrating is it, exactly, that every piece of press they receive focuses on their categorization rather than their effect?
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“It’s a frustration, yeah completely, but I guess most bands in the world have to deal with that. Some comparisons are more apt than others. It doesn’t effect us really, these analogies are just par for the course. For us our diversity is subconscious, songs just come together the way they come together. We incorporate many different little bits of other types of music, but it’s never something calculated.” Calculation is certainly not a charge that can be levied at the band. Having formed in David and Meredith’s closet, David was initially the only member with any actual musical training. Meredith learned piano, and their friends Kyle and Jessie learned to play bass and drums respectively. There was never a sense of contrivance to their sound - they simply played what they were capable of. David explains that it is their very amateurishness that lends their sound such cohesiveness while incorporating so many disparate genres. “The first thing that comes to mind is our respective limitations as musicians is what really ties everything together. We can’t really mimic certain styles very accurately, so what you hear is our adaptation of them, what filters through the prism of our idiosyncrasies as musicians. Something might sound like us being Metallica or us being Stevie Wonder, but it’s distinctively through our filters.” Yet for all the realization that they are still developing musicians, A Certain Feeling never concedes sloppy instrumental exchanges. The band are as tight as latex, and sound completely self-assured in each other’s company. Their interplay, rather than the core song writing, is what makes the album so involving, and the seeming effortlessness of it all only serves to further impress listeners. “I’m sure that’s happened as we became more comfortable in each other and in our instruments. We started out where I was the only person who’d played in another band…The confidence came from getting a feel from how everybody else plays a whole lot more, and learning new tricks.” David pauses for long-drawn out thoughts when I ask him exactly how they achieve such a perfectly formed singular sound, how they get to the acme of cathartic peaks. He is clearly as at much at a loss as to what Bodies of Water is, or how that became to be, as any speculator. I describe how immersive I find the album, how I can listen to it stumbling blearily to work in the morning and be transported to a completely different zone, involved completely in the music and swayed by it’s syncopation. Do BOW try to achieve this transportant effect? He agrees that this effect is the same reason he falls in love with certain bands. I mention Can have a similar influence over me, and his voice glows a little more and chugs into life “They’re one of my favourite bands, so there’s some kind of subterranean link there. I totally feel the same way about Can. I’ll be listening to it and I’ll gradually become less and less present. It’s a very singular experience. I guess it’s the most important part of some bands to completely involve you, to have that effect is a huge compliment.”
needed to be more selective about the lyrics…There are songs with just a couple of lines. It wasn’t really a conscious decision. These songs have more frequent passages where it’s just one or two chords repeated the whole time, these things make the album more open-ended I guess.” Bringing matters back to more temporal affairs, David’s voice becomes animated again, as we begin to talk about their new label, Secretly Canadian. The sister label of Jagjaguwar and Dead Oceans saved A Certain Feeling from becoming an anonymous release lost on the wayside like Ears Will Pop & Eyes Will Blink. “They actually give us a lot of space. I’m not sure what the dynamic is with other bands. They explained how we’ve the final word about everything we do. They’re ideologues about running a label, they don’t have any kind of say in what kind of music is going to be on a record. It’s easy to take advantage, but any outside interference is nightmarish to me. If we have any other ideas they’re happy to run with them. They’ve been very accommodating.” So what now for Bodies of Water? With a debut European tour in front of them (see y’all down the front in Whelans) and a dream of dates in America still to come, surely they’ll be stuck with feeling A Certain Feeling for far longer than they might have predicted? “Well no… I‘ve got um… a world exclusive for your interview,” he chuckles, “A real stop press. When we play live we usually have another six or so people who play with us; an extra drummer and some guys who play horns, another guitarist and a violinist sometimes. What I really want to do is to write out all their bits in some new songs we’ve written beforehand, orchestrate the whole thing, and really the only people who’ll need to practice is us, because the logistics of six to twelve people being able to practice is awful. Then I’m getting this computer programme off my sister that will help me map it all out for everybody, so we can go in and record the entire thing live in a day. We want to get all our ideas out there before we go on the road.” Bodies Of Water, then - prolific, cathartic, involving, assured, diverse and intensely unassuming of their potential. These are surely the only personality traits the band needs to be pigeonholed by.
And yet “a very singular experience” is not a description that fits BOW comfortably. They have the inclusiveness of bands like Danielson Famille and Arcade Fire, to whom they earn the most comparisons. Is this communality not a key factor in their burgeoning popularity? “Our songs are usually written from our point of view which lends them a sort of collective psychology, I guess. Whereas songs that are written from a singular point of view are a more introspective experience. We have some of those too. I think on A Certain Feeling I felt like we
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Concept Albums: Then and Now Part 1: Then For many people, myself included, the phrase “concept album” will forever be associated with the progressive rock of the early to mid seventies. That period of time when it was perfectly acceptable to release lenghty, portentious, rockified variations on classical themes - in ornately illustrated triple-gatefold sleeves (preferably designed by Roger Dean). Frank Sinatra may have got there first with “In The Wee Small Hours”, and The Beatles may have pushed the concept album further with “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, but the concept album truly came into its own in the purple, unfashionable, pre-punk seventies. Many of the “concepts” explored in these albums are daft beyond belief. Side two of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s “Brain Salad Surgery” contains a monstrous thing called “Karn Evil 9: Three Impressions” – a 25 minute long a suite of music which “boasts” the world’s longest drum solo, and lyrics which give an account of a dystopian future where humanity is enslaved by a centralised computer’s army of evil robots. Brilliantly, its co-author Pete Sinfield went on to write Heart’s “These Dreams” and “Rain Or Shine” by Five Star. Meanwhile, Rick Wakeman donned a cape and recorded progdramatisations of “The Six Wives of Henry VIII”, “Journey To The Centre Of The Earth” and the supremely ridiculous “The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and The Knights Of The Round Table”, which Wakeman preformed on ice while touring, causing the sometime Strawbs/Yes member to go bankrupt. No wonder that these days he’s a Grumpy Old Man. It may have been a lot of twaddle, but listening to such records now makes one yearn for a bygone age where mellotrons were inescapable and songtitles looked like the table of contents from some academic book you find in a university library. Yes’ “The Yes Album” – the least pretentious and best album the band ever made in many ways – contains a track called “Starship Trooper: (i) Life Seeker (ii) Disillusion (iii) Wurm”. The subtitles and Roman Numerals seemed to say “This is important! Pay attention!”, but Jon Anderson’s frustratingly flowery lyrics are more likely to draw chuckles from the unconverted, while ardent Yes fans look on disapprovingly.
The very best concept albums manage to shake off that air of self-importance, and are extraordinarily good whether you care to pay heed to the story or not. Gentle Giant’s “Octopus” is a prime example of this. The album is about the friendship between two giants. And why shouldn’t it be. It’s not exactly prog, being much more jazzy, punchy and danceable than that tag might suggest. Gentle Giant comprised Kerry Minnear and brothers Ray and Derek Shulman, both of whom had been members of Simon Dupree and The Big Sound. Camel’s “Music Inspired By The Snow Goose” is, as the title suggests, indebted to Paul Gallico’s short story of the same name and still sounds great thirty-three and a third years after its initial release. Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side Of The Moon”, “Wish You Were Here” and “The Wall” may be the bestknown, best-selling concept albums of the 70s, but the curious are directed to the output of Gentle Giant, Camel, Yes and ELP – certainly they’re the most entertaining of the seventies concept album boom. Looking beyond progressive rock, there aren’t many great concept albums to choose from. A notable exception is Donald Fagen’s “The Nightfly”. His debut solo album from 1982 is
the first part of a trilogy that also included “Kamakiriad” and “Morph The Cat”. While those latter albums may be a little slick and tasteful for some, “The Nightfly” is an absolute treasure. It revolves around a series of images of 1950s America. The beginning of the Cold War, the dreams of the future, the space-race, the post-war optimism – all of it is presented here. “I.G.Y.” sums up the mood perfectly in the lines “What a beautiful world this could be/ What a glorious time to be free”. Even the promise of “spandex jackets one for everyone” is celebrated. It’s breezy and utopian, but the perceived threat of a nuclear holocaust lurks around every corner. “New Frontier” is sung from the perspective of someone in “a dug-out that my dad built, in case the reds decide to push the button down”. The last word in concept rock must go to The Residents, who are themselves a concept band. Everything they do is part of a concept. What that concept is exactly, is far too sprawling, complicated and downright crazy to outline here, but some things are clear. They like their anonymity, so nobody really knows who the members of The Residents are. They perform in a variety and disguises but publicity shots usually show them in tuxedos
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with eyeballs for heads and wearing top hats. They have a spokesperson give interviews on their behalf. They have collaborated with XTC’s Andy Partridge, Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz of Talking Heads and Lene Lovich. Their first major album, “Meet The Residents”, had a sleeve which parodied that of “With The Beatles” (titled “Meet The Beatles” in the US, of course). Cartoon seafish were scrawled over the Fab Four’s faces. They released an album called “The Third Reich ‘N’ Roll” which is ostensibly about the fascistic allure of rock and roll. Its second side was subtitled “Hitler Was A Vegetarian”. Its sleeve depicted Dick Clark brandishing a carrot. The music contained therein is an astonishing and frightening cover-megamix of rock and roll and sixties pop faves. Their best album though is 1980’s “The Commercial Album”. The Residents decided that the true music of America is the radio jingle, so they released an album containing 40 minute-long jingles. A note on the sleeve suggests that by repeating each track three times you can listen to the album as a collection of three minute pop song. It is a superb album; dark, perverse, funny occasionally very catchy. Everything a concept album should be, in fact. Part 2: Now
Defining the modern concept album is tricky business, but probably the most sensible way of deciding what is and isn’t a concept album is to just rely on a simple observation of intent. If there’s a particular idea behind the creation of an album that spans all the tracks on it, then it can be called a concept album. By defining them in this way some of the best and most highly acclaimed albums of the twenty first century can be considered such.
It was during the nineties that the concept album began to step out of the gloomy shadows of prog-rock to be adapted by a variety of other, predominately rock based, genres. During these years a few bands, many of whom are revered these days, created records that are, to all extensive purposes, concept albums. A good example of this is Blur’s Parklife, as it intentionally sketches mid-nineties British life to a Britpop soundtrack. Yet due to the very looseness of this concept it’s very different to the overblown prog-rock albums of yore.
However it really wasn’t until the dawning of the new millennium that the concept album made it’s big return. At the turn of the century
two brilliant records began to change people’s perceptions of the concept album and ushered in a whole decade of fantastic music. These were Smashing Pumpkins’ Machina/The Machines of God and The Magnetic Fields 69 Love Songs. One was a bombastic epic melodrama, washed in overdriven guitars, that told the story of Zero, a rock star, who heard the voice of God and renamed himself Glass and his band The Machines of God. The other was a dedicated thematic study that considered love in all its guises and forms. Between them they heralded the return of the concept album after the soft-rock wasteland of the nineties and the iconoclastic punk years.
In the wake of Machina and 69 Love Songs the following decade saw the recording a plethora of concept albums, some narrative, some thematic, some both. Whatever format they took though they proved increasingly popular and critically lauded. The most well known this side of the pond is probably The Streets 2004 release A Grand Don’t Come For Free. It’s almost an update of Blur’s Parklife for a different generation as it follows the life of a likely geezer and his romantic and financial troubles, all set to the sound of UK Garage. Interestingly it has two alternate endings, one bitter and one optimistic. The critics showered it with praise, which was certainly deserved, yet at the same time it seemed novel to release a concept album so long after their apparent heyday.
If you dig a little deeper though you’ll find that there’s a whole canon of narrative albums released in the in noughties to similar appraise, if not commercial success. Metal bands such as Mastodon, Protest the Hero and Sepultra have all had a pop at the cherry. As have post-hardcore acts such as The Mars Volta and Drop Dead, Gorgeous. Even emo bands like Cursive and the highly popular My Chemical Romance have got in on the act. These narrative trends haven’t just been confined to the more alternative rock scenes though. Neil Young’s hillbilly folk-rock opera Greendale, with its accomplished portrait of small town American life, was also released in this decade.
made into a film with actors lip-syncing the lyrics to the tracks. However although these albums paved the way it was really Nine Inch Nails that broke new ground with their concept album Year Zero. Through its vision of a dystopian year 2022 where a fundamentalist theocracy rules America with an iron fist it criticises contemporary American policies. This was a topic that other acts such as Green Day and Neil Young also addressed with their respective concept albums American Idiot and Living With War.
It was Year Zero’s promotion tough that really pushed the boundaries, in particular the accompanying ARG (alternate reality game) also named Year Zero. In the build up to its release the ARG allowed fans to involve themselves in the unraveling of the story through online, and offline, interaction. By finding clues and deciphering messages that eventually led to the release of Year Zero, the ARG created interest in the concept and threw up many questions which the album provided answers to. It was an ingenious form of promotion that could only work for a concept album.
Marketing aside though what’s really interesting is how in the information age, the concept album has come into its own as a way of stopping the album, as a format, from being divided into its separate parts. Record labels, consumers and even some bands are increasingly eschewing the LP, preferring instead the easy access to and distribution of downloadable singles. Yet for a concept album to work unity is needed to bind all the tracks together. So in the twenty-first century could it be that the concept album, considering its rude health and popularity will become the last bastion of the LP? It would be foolish to predict, but whereas in the seventies the concept album was seen as an extravagant excess in 2008 it can be seen as an essential force of creative expression.
Words: Ciaran Gaynor, Paul Bond Illusration: Sarah Jane Comerford
What made Greendale different though was it’s use of interactive online elements to broaden and deepen the storyline and thematic content. Machina had already had similar online content in 2000, yet Greedale capitalised on this development. It was even
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Words: Darragh McCausland Illustration: Zoe Manville
There’s a cobwebby old rock cliché often trundled out in relation to artists from the ‘60s; what a long, strange trip it’s been maaan! Of contemporary bands, surely Mercury Rev are most deserving of this expression. Their band biography reads a bit like this: Act 1: World War III, The Psychedelic Musical! On bad drugs! [Interval-due to fierce psychological damage] Act 2: In which Mercury Rev eject human chaos receptacle Dave Baker, come down a little bit, stop attempting to gouge each other’s eyes out on planes and choose instead to write pastoral songs about paganism, snowflakes, meadows and mountains. There is a clear delineation between the two chapters in Mercury Rev’s career. The band who released that timeless American classic, Deserter’s Songs, were an entirely different beast to the barely functioning gang of substance-abusing university graduates who somehow managed to get their act together enough to record two of the most extraordinary noiserock albums of the ‘90s, Yerself is Steam and Boces. Since Deserter’s Songs, the band appear to have found themselves in a more tranquil place, and their subsequent records reflect this, becoming more detached from everyday life and more bucolic. Their previous full-length The Secret Migration, managed to rinse the last vestige of darkness from Mercury Rev, and in doing so alienated some fans. Three years later and the ‘Rev are back with two new records released on the same day; Snowflake Midnight and the free MP3 download, Strange Attractor. I get to chat to drummer Jeff Mercel about the new releases. Unfortunately for fans of the early stuff, Jeff joined the group around the time of Deserter’s Songs so questions about the mad old days are off the menu. He is, however, quite open and keen to talk about the new stuff, starting with the reason they took the unusual step to release two records on the same day. He tells me, “as we started working on the music it became pretty obvious that we had no shortage of material. Strangely enough the music began to organise itself into two varieties.” Did they think of putting it all out
together? “The thought of a double album was in our minds early on but we were a little bit hesitant to package them together in that typical way of two CDs for a variety of reasons. Most of it had to do with cost to the general public. Like you could walk into a record shop and see that as too expensive, especially if you’ve never heard of Mercury Rev and are just taking a chance on it.” Jeff says the band sees the idea of releasing the second album digitally as a way of giving something back to fans who “have followed Mercury Rev all along” and also as “a sort of incitement to new fans who might just want to sample our stuff for free and then get into us that way.” This could be a pretty savvy marketing ploy in the post In Rainbows musical landscape. Although Jeff says “we expected at first to have a fight with the record company, and to my surprise they were like ‘do you know what? We like the idea’”, it’s no surprise the record company were well up for this unconditional release as blogs are already all a-chatter at the idea. But what about the music on the two albums? Are they similar or different? “They complement each other” Jeff says, “there are little glimpses of Stange Attractor in Snowflake Midnight. Strange Attractor is predominantly an ambient, instrumental sort of album. It has elements of soundscape, electronica and dance music mixed with other elements. When you hear it, it will make sense.” Being unfamiliar with Strange Attractor but having heard a promotional copy of Snowflake Midnight, I note to Jeff that the album sounds far more electronic in its elements to their back catalogue. He explains what brought them over the divide and into the land of bleeps and bloops. “I very intentionally didn’t get behind the drums for a long time. So you are no longer bound by what your hands are allowed to do, you are only bound by your imagination which is hopefully without limit.” So he sees it as artistically liberating? “Sure. If anything, we were hoping to give ourselves some space to operate. So we can feel that from here we can go in any direction. We definitely felt a desire to take a left turn in a different direction.”
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There is no doubt that new single ‘Senses on Fire’ marks something of a new direction for Mercury Rev. Its pre-programmed beats and rushing crescendos build to an exhilarating sprint towards a walloping finish somewhere over a Catskills rainbow. It’s the strongest song on the album and perhaps a slightly misrepresentative lead single as the rest of the songs are not as propulsive or as overtly electronic. What they all do share, however, is the inimitable stamp of non-touring member and MGMT svengali Dave Fridmann’s production work. Fridmann became well known for his production work around the time that The Flaming Lips’ The Soft Bulletin and Mercury Rev’s aforementioned Deserters Songs defined a new vision of American music. Both albums are as renowned for his expansive, star-struck production as they are for the material on them. During this purple patch Fridmann’s work sounded extraordinary. It was as if the songs were being broadcast through time from huge stereo speakers set up by the Walt Disney Corporation in the middle of the Nevada desert in the 1930s. According to Jeff, Dave’s input was snappier than usual for the new material. He was very busy at the time the guys brought the album to the studio for mixing , but that this worked in the band’s favour. “When we went to Dave, Dave in a very subjective way was like “let’s cut this”, “let’s change this”. So we were doing very quick spontaneous changes which altered the songs in a very dramatic way. This was good. Sometimes you lose perspective. So he had this fresh outside perspective. His busy schedule with other bands actually worked in our favour. When we came to him, he was completely fresh and open.” Additionally, Jeff thinks that the band had more independent pre-studio input into this album than on previous releases. “we pushed things a lot further on our own with this record than we had ever done in the past, before going to the studio. But we reached a point where we had nine or ten pieces of music, and we thought we’ve gone as far as we can go. Then we went to Dave.” Regardless of the extent of Fridmann’s input, the new album sounds very produced. On songs like ‘Snowflake in a Hot World’, ambient sound effects jostle for space in a teeming sonic environment that sounds busier than on any previous Mercury Rev release. I ask Jeff how the band are going to reproduce these songs live? He tells me they’ve “been playing a bunch of them” so far. “Ultimately, your adaptation of a song for the live performance is going to be what it is. It is not ever going to be an exact replica of the record. The songs continue to change and grow on their own. Sometimes we are shocked by how a live arrangement differs. It is important that there is something that a live audience can recognise but we don’t worry too much about reproducing stuff exactly.”
Yup, it would seem that Mercury Rev are now at a very comfortable point in their long, strange trip. They have hobbies outside of the band which they adore. Grasshopper is a whiskey afficionado, Jeff is “a very keen fly fisherman” and Jonathan “is interested in all sorts of mythology, any culture.” It would be naive at this point to expect them to release an album as definitive as Deserter’s Songs or, frankly, as fucked up as Yerself is Steam. But that’s not to say the fire is dead. The new record is not without its fine moments. It is certainly more of an intoxicating brew than The Secret Migration and, as Jeff said, they are continually experimenting on the road. This is actually a fine strength of Mercury Rev. None of their songs ever sound static and lifeless live. They always seem interpreted, more expressive of where that band is at that point in time. I remember seeing them in England a few years ago (when they were touring All is Dream) and they played that old, strung out allover-the-shop classic, ‘Carwash Hair’. It sounded different, but relevant to where they were at that point in time. It was more grand and stately. It wasn’t what I expected, but in retrospect, for them to play it any other way would have been cheating. Whatever way you define Mercury Rev at this point in time (idealistic hippies on retreat from the present? musical visionaries?) you sure can’t define them as being fake. They seem very comfortable doing what they are doing. They are unswayed in their artistic resolve. It’s up to us to decide what to make of them.
And what about the older material? Surely there must be frazzled, oldschool heads in the audience shouting out for Mercury Rev 1.0 songs at every gig? “Sure, we’re conscious that there are people calling out for songs off Boces and Yerself is Steam” says Jeff, “but at the same time we are very excited about the new stuff, so we are trying to find that balance.” Now is as good a point as any to ask if they are playing any specific old stuff live. Jeff is not very specific. He says, “we don’t play much off Boces” but, “on the last tour we played a lot of stuff off See you on the Other Side. Prior to that, we were playing tracks from Yerself is Steam. You have to give songs a rest too. But yeah, sure, some of the old stuff is always coming back into the fold.”
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Music in TV Teen Dramas Words: Ailbhe Malone Illustration: Sarah Jane Comerford
For a teen drama to work, it has to be relevant. It doesn’t really matter if the actors are ten years on the wrong side of 18. It doesn’t really matter if their arch, self-aware style of speaking is unlike anything ever heard in a high school. Hell, it doesn’t even matter if they stay in high school for 9 years. What does matter though, is the music. A teen drama needs a credible, realistic soundtrack, more than anything else. Viewers are willing to suspend their disbelief to a certain extent, but not enough to believe that a 17 year-old boy is going to a Hannah Montana concert. Equally, music featured in a teen drama has to change with fashion. It’s no use writing a show about teenaged hipsters who are three months out of the loop in their listening habits. While several studios (Disney in particular) have circumvented this problem by making their teen characters be in fictional/real-life bands, others have learnt to take a more hands-on approach, learning through trial and error that, ultimately, the viewer knows best.
The hit Nickelodeon show, Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996-2003), featured a spunky young witch, growing up in happenin’ Boston at the tail end of the nineties, and therefore had endless scope for credible musical interludes. The first guest musical appearance on the show was by The Violent Femmes (31st January 1997), whose in store recordsigning Sabrina fan-girlishly attended. Needless to say, a spell goes wrong, she is still learning, after all, and Gordon Gayno falls in love with Sabrina’s arch nemesis, head-cheerleader Libby Chesler. The writers on the show quickly learnt that one mumbled spell could magic any artist into the script, no matter how strained the connection was. In ‘Dante’s Inferno’ (10th October 1997) an unfortunate dose of ‘Pun-itis’ means that Sabrina’s aunt Hilda can only speak in puns that then, hilariously, come true. Hilda says something about the name ‘Jean’ (by the way, not a pun) and Davy Jones from the Monkees appears, singing ‘Daydream Believer’. He then hangs around for the rest of the episode, giving sage advice, and teaching the characters how to do the
Monkees’ walk. An appearance by 10,000 Maniacs on Season 2’s Hallowe’en special is equally shoe-horned into the script. Libby turns up at Sabrina’s impromptu Hallowe’en party, with a withering put-down at the ready: “I thought I’d swing by the biggest gathering of freaks this century.” Sabrina then opens the doors to her kitchen, where 10,000 Maniacs are midway through a surprise set. Teenage Witch- 1, Head Cheerleader- 0. Alas, Sabrina’s taste in music was subject to popular demand. When the show began, she was into grunge-lite, wearing Doc Martens to school, self-consciously toting a canvas satchel, and secretly going to a Smashing Pumpkins concert (2nd May 1997). However, come Season 2, the Backstreet Boys have performed in her school hall (27th February 1998) and in Season 3, she sneaks out to an *N Sync concert (5th February 1998). ‘Sneaking’ out to an *N Sync concert? Surely a spell has gone awry somewhere? It only gets worse, by the time Sabrina has gone to college and found a job on a magazine, she’s firmly ditched her
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indie leanings, in favour of Daniel Bedingfield, Ashanti and an unforgivable two guest appearances from Avril Lavigne (Season 7). It seemed as if music was doomed to play (if Pun-itis can be carried over) second fiddle to the writing on a show, or to falling ratings. However, The O.C. (2003-2007) marked a turning point for music in teen dramas. Previously, musical appearances or references had been mainly incidental, or as part of a special episode. In The O.C., however, creator and producer Josh Schwartz was adamant “that music be a character on the show”. The show utilized the familiar format of a local music club, where local and international bands perform. The Walkmen, Modest Mouse, Tom Vek, The Thrills (!), Death Cab for Cutie and The Subways, to name but a few, coupled with some in-the-know muso characters, who name checked Bright Eyes, The Cramps and The Postal Service. Alexandra Patsavas, The O.C.’s music supervisor, also commissioned several special cover versions for the show: ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ covered by Jem, ‘If You Leave’ covered by Nada Surf, and ‘Champagne Supernova’ covered by Matt Pond PA. As the show grew more and more popular, artists chose it as a platform to premier their latest singles. Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’ was played for the first ever time at the end of ‘The O Sea’ (Season 2), as Seth and Ryan apologize to their respective girlfriends at the prom, and Caleb, the pater familias and corrupt mogul, suffers a heart attack next to a swimming pool. Six volumes of Music from the O.C were released, the first in 2004, the last, an album of cover versions, in 2006. Each ‘Mix’ was essentially a soundtrack to the series, featuring indie-alternative artists such as Of Montreal, Stars, Shout Out Louds, Sufjan Stevens and Ben Kweller. While the mixes were hardly cutting edge, Mix 6 got a 1.8 review in Pitchfork, they introduced previously unknown artists to a wide-ranging, and iTunes-happy audience. Imogen Heap, who features on ‘Mix 4’ and ‘Mix 5’, found mainstream success through her connection with The O.C. Her song ‘Hide and Seek’ soundtracked a dramatic rape/shoot-out/crying a lot scene in the finale of Season 2, the next day, it reached number 8 on the download charts. Likewise, Bell X1’s ‘Eve, the Apple of My Eye’ was the tune to which Marissa Cooper (Mischa Barton) shared her first lesbian kiss. As Paul Noonan’s delicate vocals float in, gliding above clunky teenage romantic dialogue
(“Are you in the mood for the beach? It’s almost time. The tide’s about to change. I have this ritual, for whenever something major’s going to change in my life.” “I thought you said no dating on Valentine’s Day.” “Screw it. I’m a huge fan of spontaneous first dates.”) the sun sets on the two young hotties kissing on the beach, beneath the pier. Understandably, the inclusion of the song on the soundtrack brought Bell X1 to the attention of the U.S. Unfortunately, the inclusion of the song on the soundtrack brought Bell X1 to the attention of a lot of angry American Christians, who immediately associated Bell X1 with promoting homosexuality, promoting drug use, promoting The O.C., promoting being Irish, and anything else they could think of. God only knows what would happen if they watched Skins, a teen drama that centres on a crowd of Bristol-based 18 year olds who like to take drugs, party hard and get laid. And study for their A-Levels. Skins (2007- ) was created exclusively for E4 and is currently filming its third series. Surprisingly, for a show that centres solely on youth culture, it has yet to lose any of its credibility. This could be due to the innovative use of music in the series. The promo for Series 1 is a panorama of young hedonism. Teenage girls who are prettier than any teenage girls ever were take drugs with teenage boys who are cooler than any teenage boys could ever be. A food fight explodes across the screen, while bikes are ridden inside a family house. All the while, The Gossip’s ‘Standing in the Way of Control’, the series’ unofficial theme, blares out. Needless to say then that the music in the show veers towards the hipper side of zeitgeisty, with a focus on drum and bass. DJ Shadow, Tricky, Root Manuva and The Fall can all be found on the soundtrack to Series 1. Skins touts itself not as a TV show, but as ‘a lifestyle choice.’ Fitting then, that it had an Official Skins Tour to celebrate the launch of the second series last February. The tour featured bands and DJs which have made guest appearances on the show already, Crystal Castles and Klaxons, and others which haven’t, but might as well have: Mylo, Maximo Park, Annie Mac, Erol Alkan, Kissy Sell Out. Accompanying the tour were a series of “exclusive” and “deeply decadent” Skins after-parties, tickets to which were, erm, free and available through the ever-decadent Myspace. Just as in The O.C., being associated with Skins is enough to propel a long-forgotten song back
to the top of the charts. In the finale of Series 1, Sid, one of the main characters on the show, plays an acoustic cover version of Cat Steven’s ‘Wild World’. When the episode was broadcast, the song re-entered the Top 40 for the first time since it was released. Likewise, a heart-felt cover version of Daniel Beddingfield’s ‘If You’re Not the One’ brought Natasha Beddingfield’s less famous brother back into the spotlight. While the show has a dedicated composer, Fat Segal who wrote the theme song and a lot of the incidental music, much of the music, especially for the later series, is chosen by the viewers themselves, through fansites and message boards. Skinslife, the main fansite, has its own record label, which signs viewer’s bands, and then features the bands in the show. The signings tend to fit in with the ‘sound’ of the show, or music that will (presumably) go with the episode structure. ‘Alex’, a music producer on the show of some sort, left the following message on Skinslife: “As always I’d like to hear everything you’re making but in particular the following genres: Modern chart friendly Indie like Skinslife’s Paper Heroes produce. Funky House type stuff that sounds like DJ NG, Geeneus, Crazy Cousinz, etc. Dark electronic noise like Alva Noto and neo classical ambient soundscapes like the Stars of the Lid. Things that sound like UK Punk acts from the 70s. And finally ANYTHING remotely Disco orientated.” As recently as three weeks ago, producers were calling out through the fansites for suggestions for the season 3 soundtrack and noting carefully the replies they received. As a result, “Awesome Kompakt-orientated acts (the new Burger/Voigt 12” maybe?)” lie next to “amazing twee Swedish indie pop with bands like Suburban Kids With Biblical Names” in the suggestion box. “Ambient compositions from Summer Night Air to Stars of the Lid to Eluuvium” are also promised to appear in Series 3. By eschewing the middleman, and going straight to the source, the resulting soundtrack-in-progress becomes both hip and, more importantly, relevant. Instead of talking down to a teen audience, or dictating their tastes, producers are instead listening to them. It seems that the producers, directors and the cast themselves have learnt that if they want the series to be a success, they’re going to have to do more than just keep up with the kids, they’re going to have to out-run them.
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Album Swap Ailbhe Malone vs. Karl McDonald Photos: Neil Burke Thinguma*jigsaw - (awakeinwhitechapel) Karl says: (awakeinwhitechapel) is one of my favourite Irish albums of all time. Except it’s not really Irish. Thinguma*jigSaw are a Norwegian duo who were drawn to living in Dublin for a spell by their love of James Joyce, and immediately breathed fresh life into the stagnant banjo-andmusical saw scene in the city. Everything about them involves a vague sense of discomfort. The songs are so sparse that the silence seems to speak more than the sound. The words are sparing but powerful, and delivered in a fragile, midnight fog falsetto. They make lullabies for the already dead. It is a very strange album. This is why I chose it for Ailbhe. It cannot help but jolt the first-time listener out of their cynical distance. I searched through my CD stacks and grilled mutual friends for a week trying to find something that she wasn’t already at least familiar with. In the end I had to pull out all the stops. This album has been my harrowing companion over rainy winter nights since I bought it but it is, at core, a concept album about Jack The Ripper with absolute minimal arrangement by a pair of psycho Norwegians obsessed with death. A challenge to her capacities as a music critic. Difficulty notwithstanding, I thought it would appeal to Ailbhe as some who shares their love of prose fiction and “a good yarn”. We’ll find out. Ailbhe says: I’m quite tentative when it comes to experimental music. I only really like one Xiu Xiu song- and for years I called it by the wrong name. Jamie Stewart didn’t intend for anyone to sing ‘I Love the Valley Oh Haitch.’. Karl loves Xiu Xiu. So, I was a little apprehensive about swapping albums with him. He gave me (awakeinwhitechapel). The album cover was made of brown cardboard, and covered with handwritten scribbles that ran into freehand line drawings. Oh dear. I looked at the
lyrics sheet. Track One- ‘(awakeinwhitechapel) pt. 2 – serepentsapple’began like this: ‘worms are bathing/ in my aching knee/ omni scient, dying giant; me’. Double oh dear. Teeth gritted, determined to Give Karl’s Record A Chance, I put it into the CD player. Over a tense banjo a keening voice began to sing. Wait, was it a voice? No, it was a musical saw. Right. I let the album play on as I brushed my teeth and got ready for bed. I liked Track 4- ‘Walking the Cow’- I checked the liner notes. It was a Daniel Johnston cover version. This didn’t bode well. I should probably prefer original songs. The next morning, it was sunny. The last thing I wanted to do was sit inside and listen to what my memory told me was ‘difficult’. Naturally, I was over-reacting. I drew the curtains on the sunshine, and steeled myself. I was pleasantly surprised. What had sounded like dying cats and unhappy whales on a wet Saturday evening now sounded like something I actually might like. I checked the internet. (awakeinwhitechapel) is a loose concept album, based on the Whitechapel Murders in 1888. It all began to make sense. ‘My Blood Giggles’ wasn’t gibberish; it was a ghost singing about being killed. The lyrics, and mood, which had previously seemed esoteric and exclusive, were now atmospheric and alluring. I began to listen more closely. Delicate melodies and evocative, macabre lyrics mingled with clever Philip Glass-y rhythms.(awakeinwhitechapel) pt. 1- redlightcockfight uses a modernist stream of consciousness technique to plunge into a grimy dank and surround sound world- ‘syphilitic ghoul of germs/ shitfaced sailors/ craving quim-bites/ redlight cockfight/ a pool of sperm.’ By my fourth listen, as the final track played out, I began to think that Thinguma*jigsaw were a Good Thing.
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Lauryn Hill- The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Ailbhe says: Aged 11, I asked for this album for Christmas the year it came out. Mainly, I liked the 60’s influence in ‘Doo Wop’ and also the hidden Andy Williams track at the end. It wasn’t until I listened to the record again in my teens that I realised how skilfully Hill mixed Hip Hop with Motown, creating a record that sounds as contemporary today as it did ten years ago. ‘The Miseducation…’ was Hill’s first solo album, away from the Fugees. While the Fugees had dabbled in pop (‘Killing Me Softly’), she was finally free to immerse herself in 60’s girl group sounds, coupled with her own hip-hop influences. The result was a fresh-sounding, cohesive concept album, which tracked her roots, rise to stardom and personal life. The album was nominated for ten Grammy awards, and won five. The spoken interludes- normally a filler staple- are insightful, and add to the old-skool back-to-basics feel of the record, while the speakers are streetwise enough to keep sentimental nostalgia at bay. The video for the lead single ‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’ emphasized the Janus-like nature of the record- looking forward and backward at the same time. Why did I choose to give this record to Karl? I know that he’s kind of into hip-hop, but also that, beneath it all, he enjoys good pop music. I suppose that’s one reason. But really, if I’m being honest, it’s because ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ is a stellar album. Full stop. Karl says: Some time between being in Sister Act 2 and becoming some kind of bat-shit activist poet with a gigantic afro, Lauryn Hill made an album that won five Grammies and sold nearly twenty million copies. Not only was it successful, it was important. People speak about The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill with reverence. That’s a little intimidating. I wouldn’t care, except that after a couple of spins I started to realise that Lauryn is pretty intimidating herself. Listening to her narrate the life-lessons she learned about love, money, motherhood, artistry and morality, I started to wonder if she has positive thoughts about anything at all. There are two sides to Lauryn Hill in evidence here. Lauryn the Singer is just sad. That’s not so hard to take. It’s just good, honest soul music, delivered with a voice that‘s way above average. But Lauryn the Rapper is a tougher nut than I’m used to. The language on songs like ‘Lost Ones’ is biblical, peppered with words like “repent” and “judgement”. and Even ‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’, the song I remembered from evenings in front of Top 30 Hits, came off a little like a moral crusade when I actually started to listen to the verses. It can be a little like staring directly at the sun at points. Righteousness is not an endearing trait. I was tempted just to slate it. But a lot of people, including Ailbhe, saw something in this album, so I kept listening. As I got used to her voice and the acridity of her lyrics, I started to see something too. Aided by my secret love for gloomy hip-hop, I learned to stop placing myself at the receiving end of the moral tirades (even if Lauryn wanted me there) and started to treat it like I treat all the half dozen hiphop albums I’ve ever truly loved: as a portrait of the artist. It’s just the reaction of one woman to a world she sees as wrong and unjust in a large variety of different ways. She has learned not to trust men. She sees people as fake. She thinks the priorities of society are screwed up. I can appreciate that, in a way.
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Fujiya & Miyagi Lightbulbs Full Time Hobby
Emerging from that same fertile period of really-quite-clever-yet-really-quite-fun electro which saw Junior Boys, Hot Chip and Erland Oye prosper from some cleverly kraut-influenced but bleep-based dancefloor-ready songs, Fujiya & Miyagi have been the most quiet in the interim between their previous album, and their latest foray, Lightbulbs. While Hot Chip and Junior Boys remixed anything and everything that made its way through their letterbox, F&M have kept a quiet profile. But then, they are very, very quiet boys. As with breakthrough album “Transparent Things” F&M crash hyperactively out of their cages opening with the album’s most immediate song “Knickerbocker”. Quite how a man as bookish as David Best can pull off a whispered, urgent line like “Vanilla. Strawberry. Knickerbocker Glory…” without sounding the slightest bit perverse is impossible to determine, but his confident swagger and Damo Suzuki-like utterings prove the most addictively sweet icing on Lightbulbs’ cake. “Rook To Queen’s Pawn Six” is as mesmerizing as watching a Slinky moving down an ascending elevator, while “Sore Thumb” is a slab of funk so thick George Clinton would be challenged to chew through it and come out alive.
Fujiya have fallen down before by the inclusion of overly-studied tracks, and a sort of unsure diversity. Here they dig out a comfortable, groove-based pigeonhole and lay golden egg after golden egg. Only on the title track do they make that mistake that so shipwrecked Hot Chip’s “Made In The Dark”; They try to reinstate the slowset. Thankfully, your feet will be so knackered from tapping by the time the track comes around it acts more as a nice respite before album closer, “Collarbone”-soundalike “Hundreds and Thousands”. Intensely nerdish, but twice as sexy, on the illuminating “Lightbulbs” Fujiya & Miyagi prove that geek chic is here to stay. Daniel Gray
Mercury Rev Snowflake Midnight V2 / Coop
Themes of beauty, retreat and transience abound in Mercury Rev’s latest opus which appropriately starts off with a song called ‘Snowflake In a Hot World’. Musically, the band appear to be disappearing further into a hermetic psychedelic headspace they created somewhere around All is Dream. Dave Fridmann’s flawless production work, so refeshingly alien and ethereal on the likes of Deserter’s Songs and All is Dream, is very much at the fore here, yet it somehow doesn’t have the same arresting power it did on those albums. Maybe it’s the MGMT effect, but now it seems oppressive, like a gleaming, lacquered forcefield surrounding these nine songs. There is no doubting the craft and beauty of these songs, but as with The Secret Migration, it’s hard not to experience them like a visitor stopping by somewhere pretty where you don’t belong. On songs like ‘Faraway From Cars’ the overall effect can be a bit much. At best, it’s like peeking into a snowglobe with miniature Catskill mountains in it, at worst, it’s like getting powerlessly dragged through a meadow full of buttercups and starshine in someone else’s deliriously happy acid trip.
The album is most successful in its intermittently clamourous (in comparison to the rest of the stuff) Krautrock-style centrepiece, ‘People Are So Unpredictable’, which unsurprisingly offers a slightly dark and welcome musical counterpoint to the sugar-spun scenery elsewhere. Darragh McCausland
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Roots Manuva Slime and Reason Big Dada
Having watched Dizzee Rascal and Estelle zoom past him to worldwide audiences and financial reward with half the lyrical talent, it would be easy to forgive Rodney Smith some bitterness. However, Slime and Reason’s opening line, “A lot of people don’t know about Smith”, seems more like a simple statement of fact than a complaint. This album doesn’t acknowledge anything in its surroundings. Rather, it is the newest chapter in an isolated musical portrait of the artist. The music channels the place-in-time feeling of Jamaica’s Studio One recordings from the 1960s and 1970s. However, the dancehall carnival feeling is skin deep only. Smith is one of the difficult school of rappers that fight with their demons on acetate for the world to hear. Consistently throughout, but especially on closer “The Struggle”, we find him enumerating the difficulties of balancing artistic advancement and the need to provide for others. There are few rappers in the world who can real internal turmoil and lyrical skill in a successful way. Nas is one. Roots Manuva is another. There is enough universal wisdom in Slime and Reason to make it one of the most vital hip hop albums I’ve ever heard. Karl McDonald
El Guincho Alegranza XL
BSS presents: Brendan Canning Something For All Of Us... Arts & Crafts
After Broken Social Scene’s initial tryptic carried the collective Toronto scene to international acclaim, the Kevin Drew / Brendan Canning centred alt-pop collective had the wit, canny and sheer cynicism to launch a series of ‘Broken Social Scene Presents:’ records - beginning with Kevin Drew’s ‘Spirit If’, a riotously experimental indie rock record, twinkling with wide eyed valiance - and near enough as collaborative as the original Broken Social Scene project. The second BSSP record has now hit. ‘Something For All Of Us...’ provides a platform for Drew’s cofounder, Brendan Canning. More conventional, if no less energetic than Drew’s debut, SFAOU spans the gamut from uptempo cinematic instrumentals (‘All the Best Wooden Toys Come From Germany’), to dreamy shoegaze on ‘Been at it So Long’ & ‘Chameleon’, to grittily melodic alt folk of the Jeff Buckly school (‘Snowballs and Icicles’, ‘Possible Grenade’). Less successfully are the weak Lisa Lobsinger driven pop song ‘Antique Bull’, and the blandly funky ‘Love is New’. Overall, Cannings voice is warm, and his guitar and horn lines catchy, but there’s no snare driven pop athem to compare with Drew’s ‘Safety Bricks’. None the less, this fuzzy, likable record should hit the spot for salivating BSS fans. Gareth Stack
Horse Feathers A House With No Home Kill Rock Stars 80%
It’s a rare treat to be able to use words like “spectacular” or “extravaganza” about an album that is even remotely listenable. Imagine the joy, then, of finding Barcelona resident El Guincho’s Alegranza. Straddling the hitherto underrated no-man’s-land between latter-day Animal Collective and tropicalia compilations, Alegranza is essentially a beach party in a can, the soundtrack to an imaginary ursummer. The result of applying lo-fi looping techniques to the cheesiest of musical sources is an unrelenting, swirling, euphoric experience. It is not mere reckelss abandon, however, with the same notes of childish wonder (and a couple of melodies) from Panda Bear’s Person Pitch making appearances. The highlight, ‘Kalise’, is repetitive almost to the point of infuriation for three and a half minutes, until it recedes without warning into a chorus that approaches anaesthesis in its fulfilled joyousness. Just like the inevitable but slightly embarrassing situation of involuntarily singing random words that sound vaguely like the original Spanish, any words I use to try to explain how much fun El Guincho is on a sunny day are meaningless. Alegranza means joy. In translation I mean. But you get what I’m saying. Karl McDonald
Portland’s Horse Feathers are brother and sister team Justin and Heather Ringle, joined by multi-instrumentalist Peter Broderick. Their second album- ‘A House with no Home’- beckons above an Oregon skyline, drawing the listener in to a land of cold winters and crunchy ice, where spring calls through a jaunty violin hook (‘A Burden’) and where beneath a pretty melody, an unpretty sentiment waits- ‘it’s rude to rile her up/ these fools for god don’t love another’s touch/ making babies for good or grief?’ (‘Rile Her Up’). Justin Ringle’s intonation is meaningful, but never cloying, earnest, but not self-righteous. On tracks such as ‘Different Gray’ the delicate string parts call forth the ghosts of Sigur Ros trading arrangements with Alan Sparhawk, while titles such as ‘Working Poor’ and ‘Father Reprise’ nod their heads towards Sufjan Steven’s ‘Michigan…’, as do the banjo lines that meander across the album. Inside the Horse Feathers’ microcosm, delicate tapestries cover robust frames, and Bon Iver waits for Emma, forever ago. Ailbhe Malone
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Fabric 42 Mixed by Âme Fabric Records
Number 42 on the Fabric Mixlist is German duo Âme. Known best for their 2006 single Rej, on this project the boys seem keen to showcase a more experimental side and not be forever pigeon-holed by the techy yet soulful sound that made their name on that one (undeniably excellent) track. Indeed they succeed in doing so. Fabric 42 takes listeners on a journey through a deep house aural soundscape, making many interesting pit stops along the way. The album is extremely well mixed, each track flowing fluidly into the next and the quality of tracks is consistently high. At only 14 tracks, it does seem a bit short but, as in their DJ sets, the boys pack a serious amount of quality music in in that time, including their new single made in collaboration with Dixon and Henrik Schwarz. This is house music as it should be, intelligently executed, mesmerizing and perfectly put together.
Nightmares On Wax Thought So… Warp
Thought so… is the sixth studio album from DJ/Producer George Evelyn aka Nightmares On Wax. Perhaps inspired by his recent move from Leeds to Ibiza the album captures the chilled out vibe of a Balearic landscape. As one would expect at this stage, Thought so… is downbeat, ambient and altogether pretty easy on the ear. What it is not, however, is groundbreaking. Evelyn does little to sway from the standard N.O.W model and as such creates an album that is perfect in a Late Night Tales kind of way but doesn’t offer much else. Shame really for fans of Evelyn’s much earlier Smoker’s Delight and Carboot Soul as this latest release, much like the last few albums is undeniably smooth but lacking in the skunk infused melodies we see in his earlier work. A very summer friendly listen but not exactly a modern classic. Olwyn Fagan
Constantines Kensington Heights Arts and Crafts
Kensington Heights is the fourth long player from arty Canadian rabblerousers Constantines. To the uninitiated, Constantines are a sort of barroom blend of Bruce Springsteen’s big rock and the lean intelligence of hardcore and post punk bands such as Fugazi and Black Flag. It may not be the most original formula ever, but this gang plays with a spirited, old school conviction that only the most icy-hearted hipster could come away from this collection of songs without giving the air a little punch. Go on, nobody’s looking. Clench your fist and punch the air. Liberating isn’t it? A comparison might be made between Kensington Heights and The Hold Steady’s Stay Positive in that both records pledge allegiance to the untrendy joys of galvanising, heart-on-yer-sleeve guitar music. Of the rocked out goods on offer here, ‘Trans Canada’ and ‘Hard Feelings’ are perhaps the highlights. The former is a slow building epic that thunders to an emotive drum-rolling peak. The latter just rocks hard. It’s the sort of gloriously fret-wanking barnstormer that I’d bet gets denim jacket clad Canadian punks jumping off their barstools after a few too many Rolling Rocks. Rocking. Darragh McCausland
Jenny Lewis Acid Tongue Rough Trade
Coruscating, satirical, energetic - all terms that could be applied to Rilo Kiley’s early work. Jenny Lewis’s sophomore solo effort is sadly a different beast. Stripped of the alt country venom, excitement and indie sensibility of Kiley’s pre Blacklight productions, her voice loses its trademark sting and drifts purposelessly into Martha Wainwright territory. Songs of humourless advice on men and life trickle joylessly into the mic, too embarrassed to raise a hackle. Lewis has always had drolly bitter cornered, but here her ‘Acid Tongue’ fails her, bringing to mind unfavourable comparisons with Fiona Apple. “I went to a cobbler to fix a hole in my shoe,” runs the title track, “He took one look at my face and said I can fix that hole in you.” Most questionable is ‘Carpetbaggers’, in which Elvis Costello struggles with a severe case of strep septum while lending vocals to a too-bland-for-this-cruel-world duet. Motown background harmonies and gritty steel strings point at the direction Lewis was aiming for - this it seems, is an effort at an unironic rock and roll album. Lewis makes explicit melodic references to classic rock on tracks like ‘Godspeed’ (Lennon’s ‘Mind Games’), and ‘Next Messiah’ (the Doors ‘Roadhouse Blues’). Sadly the result is second rate nightclub chanteuse rather than classic vinyl. If this is maturity, hurray for the terrible teens. Gareth Stack
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Colm Mac Con Iomaire Cúinne an Ghiorria Plateau
Ó veidhlitheoir The Frames a thagann an t-albam aonarach seo, agus de réir cosúlachta, ciallaiónn sé sin gur leath uair an chloig de leadrán agus mothucháin folmha atá i gceist. Ach is ón scribhneoir nua-aoise Máirtín Ó Cadhain a thagann an tionchar seachas Glen Hansard, agus is bailiúchán suimiúil go leor é. Is féidir Joanna Newsom a shamhlú ag canadh thar an ceol ó am go ham, agus ní chomh fada ó leagadh amach Van Dyke Parks ar Ys atá amhrán nó dhó. Tagann an bhuaic le ‘Ná hIompair Adhmaid’, amhrán dian le blas ón iarthar agus veidhlin saofa ag seinm an séis. Tá ceilteachas i láthair tríd an t-albam, ach ní ceol traidisiúnta de aon short é seo, agus ní ceann desna “artistes” a chruitheann ceol don Radox bath é ach an iorad. Cuireann an ceilteachas sin as don éisteoir seo nuair a dhruideann an t-albam le chríoch, ach is cuid riachtanach é den ceirnín. Is bac é nach bhfuil aon séiseanna le mheabhrú, áfach, agus is bac eile an claonadh chuig fócas bog. Ach é sin san áireamh, is fiú eisteacht le Cúinne an Ghiorria. Karl McDonald
Bowerbirds Hymns For A Dark Horse
With the blessing of lo-fi deity John Darnielle, and the label grace of Pitchfork king hip Grayson Currin’s ‘Burley Time’ records (although they’ve since absconded for Secretly Canadian offshoot Dead Oceans), Bowerbirds are dripping with critical acclaim. But is it deserved? According to Time Out, Phil Moore and Beth Tacular cohabit in an airstream trailer somewhere in the forests of North Carolina. Indeed, debut LP ‘Hymns for a Dark Hose’ sounds exactly like the faux naif arabesque a couple of web designers might produce, tucked away in the woods for a year with Beirut’s back catalogue. The album’s baroque folk eco aspirations are lost in nutmeg dry production and songwriting that wouldn’t look out of place in a Tom Baxter support act. Bowerbirds sound like a somnambulist Grizzly Bear collaborating with Arcade Fire on an Andrew Bird satire burn. Beth Taculars whingy accordian competes to grate on every track with Phil Moores smarmy ‘gypsy jazz’ vocals; while Bowerbird’s collaborative rhythm section - exclusively hi-hat and bass drum based - clunks along like the ‘quirky’ efforts of a Stockholm one man band. To be fair, the album has garnered almost universal praise, and I struggled with a deeply ambivalent reaction to this record. You may well love it. Gareth Stack
Jason Collett Here’s to Being Here Arts and Crafts
This is Jason Collett’s fourth solo album since taking a break from Broken Social Scene. Aiming for a classic Americana record, flannel shirt wrapped closely around his neck, his touring band- Paso Mino- becomes his backing band, and they are as tight as can be. In keeping with the Band image, and influences, Collett’s voice echoes (though, perhaps ‘mimics’ would be more apt) Dylan’s, mixed with a ‘Maggie May’-era Rod Stewart- not least on ‘Nothing to Lose’. Collett enters ‘Here’s to Being Here’ on the shoulders of Ryan Adams (‘Papercut Hearts’), and slowly exits holding hands with Jack Johnson. There are harmonicas where there is no need for harmonicas (‘Waiting for the World’). There are congas where there is no need for congas (‘Charlyn, Angel of Kensington’). When he leaves behind hippie lyrics, and mindsets (‘‘righteous and holy as a junkyard sunflower/he was the happiest man on earth.’) he produces alt-country songs that even Jeff Tweedy wouldn’t turn his nose up at (‘No Redemption Song’, ‘Through the Night These Days’). Ailbhe Malone
Kitty, Daisy and Lewis Kitty, Daisy and Lewis Sunday Best
The recent rock and roll revivalism of Richard Hawley and the 40s harmony group stylings of The Puppini Sisters has amounted to a wonderful rediscovering of pop’s past and finds its finest expression yet in the self-titled album from Kitty, Daisy and Lewis. Recording from their back bedroom on equipment so ancient they would raise eyebrows at the Antiques Roadshow, the teenage siblings have produced an album that is just buckets of fun. Double-basses, shuffly drums and harmonicas are everywhere, and the best tracks here are evocative of beatnik cafés and black and white films directed by Michael Winner (probably featuring Oliver Reed and some “bird” on a motorbike). It’s amazing to think that the people who produced this sound are between the ages of fifteen and twenty, but on songs like “Going Up The Country”, “I Got My Mojo Working” and “Mohair Sam” they demonstrate an astounding sensitivity to what made r’n’b so great in the first place. The whole thing rushes past in less than half an hour – a perfect running time for this sort of thing. You’ll be crying out for more. Ciaran Gaynor
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Railcars Cities Vs. Submarines Gold Robot Records
I first became enraptured with the hazy pop of Aria Jalali about a year and a half ago, when I found the Californian one-man band’s Myspace. Since then he’s expanded his musical template from the sweetly droning straightforwardness of his early Postmodernism EP, as well as his band line-up, to form Railcars. The Cities vs. Submarines EP is the first fruit of their labours, an EP produced (and unashamedly influenced) by Xiu Xiu’s very own Jamie Stewart. Containing earlier mixtape essential ‘Bohemia Is Without A Sea’, it’s an indicator as to what exactly he’s been doing for the last year; taking perfect pop and filtering it through a layer of razors, dream-sequences and psychosis, resulting in a skewered, less accessible, though no less worthy version of his sun kissed works. You’ll recognize the riffs from Handsome Furs (though Jalali got there first), the layer of fuzz from 90s lo-fi, and the banjaxed anthemicism from the Unicorns. Rather a promising opening salvo for the onslaught to come than a summation of all he’s capable of, hop on this railcar before every other trainspotting bandwagon jumper does. Dan Gray
Rex The Dog The Rex The Dog Show Hundehaus Records
The cover of The Rex The Dog Show promises “New Stuff! Remixes! Synths!” This collection of the German producer’s works gives all of these, but not much else. It‘s big, shiny electro fare from start to finish, not about to win over any haters, but satisfying in its own right. Standouts include the euphoric-in-a-good-way Bubblicious and the epic Circulate, as well as Rex’s reworking of The Knife’s Heartbeats, though one is left to wonder why, great as it is, this four year old remix is being included on a “début” collection such as this. The album is unfortunately beset by two major problems: all tracks are cut down to radioedit length, and there is a proliferation of cheesy, annoying vocals. Serious offenders on this front are I Can See You, Can You See Me? and I Look Into Mid Air. These are awful titles which definitely don’t make for great lyrics. One can only hope that instrumentals will follow. These problems aside, The Rex The Dog Show is an interesting collection of work from a producer who, without breaking the mould in any great sense, has a knack for creating tracks that will find their way into many a DJ’s sets. Aidan Hanratty
Emmilian Torrini Me and Armini Rough Trade
She co-wrote Kylie’s “Slow” single, but otherwise Emiliana Torrini has had a remarkably low-profile for one so talented. She has been making superior pop in her homeland since the early 90s, and she is a sometime member of Gus Gus. This is the third release from the Icelandic singer-songwriter to be released over here. Her previous two are treasured by those who were lucky enough to stumble across them, and this latest album maintains the high quality. Songs like “Big Jumps” and the almost-bossa nova “Hold Heart” should appeal to fans of Feist. Listening to “Heard It All Before” one wonders if Emiliana is just an advert away from similarly world-conquering ubiquity. The safe bet is she’ll continue to record low-key but engaging pop like this for some time yet. With tracks like the dark, threatening “Gun” (this album’s real stand-out) in her artillery there’s no doubt that Emiliana Torrini is a secret worth discovering. Ciaran Gaynor
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Drag City Words: Karl McDonald
A Short History Nearly twenty years after being founded by Chicago independent distributors Dan Koretzky and Dan Osborn, Drag City is one of only a few labels dating from the great DIY boom of the late 80s and early 90s to have survived with its independence and credibility intact. Beginning in 1989 with a Royal Trux release, soon followed by Pavement’s Demolition Plot J-7 EP, the earliest Drag City releases were characterised by the messy but intelligent sound of those two bands. With Pavement’s departure to Matador and the Royal Trux’ eventual shift towards coherence, the label kept its ears open and ended up with a who’s who of everything interesting and non-grunge in early 1990s America. Bands such as Smog, Stereolab and the Silver Jews held the middle ground, while DC explored alt-folk with Will Oldham (Palace Brothers, Bonnie Prince Billy) and pretty much everywhere else with Jim O’Rourke (Gastr Del Sol, Sonic Youth, producer, mixer, avantgarde composer). Towards the present day, Drag City retained their ear for something new and different. They continue to release the multiple albums a year Jim O’Rourke thinks up on various subsidiaries, as well as picking up on the Bay Area’s only surviving fairy minstrel, Joanna Newsom, arranging her marriage with Beach Boys string-arranger Van Dyke Parks for her 2006 opus Ys. With their twentieth anniversary coming up in 2009, Analogue turns the spotlight onto Drag City.
So what does Drag City mean? One of the reasons for their longevity and growth into something of genuine importance is the chameleon characteristic. Drag City started out with similar enough music to most of the DIY labels starting up in cities around the US at the time, but by ten years later the music was unrecognisably eclectic. They will literally put out anything so long as it sounds good to them. A recent example: in Drag City’s latest newsletter, they put some effort into promoting a re-release of an album by Suarasama, a pair of Sumatrans with ethnomusicology degrees. It seems far-fetched for an American indie label to be promoting that, but they are, because they want to. And though they are commonly thought of as economical (i.e. cheap) by many of their artists, as Joanna Newsom says, “they’ll spend money on things if they believe in it”. Recently, they made the news on the blog circuit by pulling their catalogue off emusic.com, an mp3 site, because it wasn’t worth their while to have them there. This created a new round of debate on the future of the indie labels, with the received wisdom that paying for cheap downloads (without manufacturing costs) is just as good as buying CDs coming into question. Really though, the way to enjoy Drag City releases is to sit back with a copy of a zine, drop the needle on a 12” and remember that there would be no Label Love features if it wasn’t for the common identity forged by record labels like these.
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Some Key Releases on Drag City
The Savant Jim O’Rourke - Eureka (1999)/Insignificance (2001)
The Anarcho-Hipsters Royal Trux – Twin Infinitives (2000)
Chicago’s dizzyingly prolific O’Rourke has been one of Drag City’s most important artists of the past twenty years. 1999’s Eureka is his most perfectly conceived record from start to finish, channelling Bacharach in a stab at inventing experimental lounge pop. Certain moments, including the mantric ‘Prelude to 110 or 220/Women of the World’, are sweet enough to jerk tears. Others are simply mood-lifting pop, but Eureka remains one of O’Rourke’s finest moments.
The third Drag City record ever released was Twin Infinitives. On it, Royal Trux come off as a sort of Times New Viking left in the womb, rearranging the component parts of rock music into arrhythmic noise, and only occasionally breaking into something approaching an actual song. It is difficult to listen to and vaguely disgusting. But somewhere in the muddle of noise and silence, there lays an absolutely captivating thing: the sound of being really fucked up. The Royal Trux climb into your head and play the sound of the head cold, the hangover or the heroin addiction back to you. They did eventually calm down and come out with something approaching coherent indie rock, but on this formless double-LP, that was nowhere to be seen. It has been argued that the album is merely a group of substance-abusing art-schoolers ripping the piss out of a scene that celebrates disaffection. This is entirely possible. Listen to Twin Infinitives more as a historical artefact than an actual album.
Being the chameleon of the underground music world, it was only a matter of time until O’Rourke tried out the rock and roll robe. 2001’s Insignificance shows the results of hanging out a lot with Thurston Moore, packing messy riffs and blue-collar drums alongside the zephyr-like qualities he perfected on Eureka. Having left Chicago for New York, O’Rourke lyrically burns his bridges with his former scenemates, especially on the opener ‘Downhill from Here’. However much less likeable this may make him seem, it helps to drag him out of his aggregated “experimental” mythos and into the real world. Add to this the fact that the album is of course sonically gorgeous and even occasionally quite catchy, and you have the perfect introduction to one of the most intimidating back catalogues in modern music.
The Story-Teller Silver Jews - American Water
The Fairy Maiden Joanna Newsom – The Milk-Eyed Mender (2004)
Plagued by the shadow of his own rhythm guitarist for most of his career, David Berman waited until 1998 to make his confession, thereby delivering the greatest opening line in singer-songwriter history: “In 1984 I was hospitalised for approaching perfection”. Berman’s songs are rife with these types of lines, single sentences that stand out and make you go “hah”. He’d been doing this for a while by the time American Water came out, but nothing before or after is as consistent as this. With Malkmus in tow, Berman explores the gauntlet of styles between Pavement and honky-tonk without submitting to either, while his untrained (i.e. occasionally flat) voice sings with the uncanny ability to sound like it’s on auto-pilot until the sixth listen, when a line will come out of nowhere and grab you. His other trick is managing to sound completely sincere without ever actually giving anything away. Fill in the meanings yourself.
The best thing about The Milk-Eyed Mender is that, with a little added vinyl hiss, it could’ve been recorded any time in the last fifty or even hundred years. And it would still sound different. Rehabilitating the harp as a serious instrument with a greater purpose than new age esotericism, Newsom’s unclassifiable folk-classical style is so enchanting that it makes it seem like being enchanted is a reasonable thing to happen. Songs like ‘The Book of Right On’ and ‘Sprout and the Bean’ are profound and playful, beautiful and basic at the same time. The lyrics are sharp, sometimes funny and always delivered in a little girl’s voice that divides everyone who hears it. Newsom was lumped in at the time with ‘freak folk’ artists like Devendra Banhart, but The Milk-Eyed Mender is more timeless than anything that scene produced. The follow-up, Ys, is conceived on a much greater scale, with orchestral arrangements and ten-minute-long songs. It is incredibly impressive in its own way. But not as enchanting.
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featured in the first series have been released as an album which reached the dizzying heights of #3 in the American Billboard Charts. The album features their wide array of influences, trekking through everything from the synth pop ballad of financial strain ‘Inner City Pressure’ (complete with Casio effects ‘ahh’ing over excessive vocodor refrains) to their self-confessed gangster-rap folk crossover ‘Hiphopopotamus Vs. Rhymnocerous’. A little further north of the Conchords and you enter the territory of Australian comedians Tim Minchin and Sammy J who both preach their humour from behind the lectern of a baby grand. Minchin, who resembles a semi-scrubbed up Duke Special (eye-liner and all), sings about everything from his relationship with his inflatable lady-friend to his views behind Donnie Darko’s plot-lines. My favourite though, has to be his scrutiny of religion’s sometimes confusing contradictions titled ‘Ten Foot Cock and a few Hundred Virgins’. Sammy J on the other hand is quite partial to injecting a bit of surrealism into his songs, perfectly demonstrated in his ballad of the love between a girl and her closet hedgehog boyfriend.
MUSIC AND COMEDY Words: Shauna O’Brien Shuffling an iPod can more often than not be an exercise in skipping over excessively played favourites and bypassing album fillers, but occasionally you stumble upon an unheard gem. That’s exactly what happened to me when an unfamiliar fuzzy opening bar heralded the introduction to a track by the artist, or more precisely comedian, Demetri Martin. His stand-up regularly incorporates music into his act, whether it’s remixing his jokes with the aid of a glockenspiel or utilising the hilarious improv vocals of a friend in his ‘Personal Information Waltz’. On the recording of his stand-up routine he also includes four extra tracks which, although impressively catchy songs in their own right, incorporate his typically outlandish humour. It was one of these that I had stumbled upon and until now had been obscured by its comedic tag. Demetri Martin is just one of the many comedians who have ridden this melodic wave. From Denis Leary with his infamous song ‘Asshole’, to an advocate of the medium a little closer to home, David O’ Doherty, it’s a strong genre. Recently O’Doherty was to be seen on RTE in one of their better shows titled The Modest Adventures of David O’ Doherty. In the show he set himself a variety of challenges, one of which was an attempt to reach #27 in the Irish charts with his ballad of heartbreak and fake tan, ‘Orange’. That the single only reached # 30 by no means detracted from the songs endearing humour, which was further amplified by its accompanying video, featuring O’Doherty whitewashed in boy-band glamour pacing forlornly on a beach. Most recently he has won this years prestigious if.comedy award for his live show Let’s Comedy. On a more global scale music has been embraced most fully by the successful New Zealand duo Flight of the Conchords who have taken the comedy world by storm with their hilarious stand-up parodies of various genres of music. This success has granted them a HBO show set in New York. It follows their misadventures, as they persevere in their many attempts to ‘crack’ the American music industry. In addition to the blanket of critical acclaim that the show has received, the songs that
At the beginning of this year, another comedic musician, Matt Berry brought his band’s performance to Ireland. Although probably better known as the character Renholm Denholm from the series The IT Crowd, or Dixon Bainbridge from the Mighty Boosh, his other projects have earned him his own share of critical acclaim. In 2004 he showcased his Rock Opera nativity AD/BC on BBC 3. Taking its cue from typically over indulgent musicals, such as Jason and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, it featured heavy 70’s ‘unholy funk’ with everything from Pan’s People-esque dancers and dramatic split screen interludes to overly metaphorical voice-overs. Along side Matt Berry, who played the Innkeeper, this one-off featured the cream of comedic talent of television today such as: Richard Ayoade, Matt Lucas, Julia Davis, Noel Fielding and Graham Linehan. Although it was Julian Barrett who stole the show as hotelier Tony Iscariot (father of Judas) with his ass-skimming tunic and intense falsetto screams. Matt Berry also lent his musical talents to the show Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, where he sung an 80’s power-ballad of unrequited love ‘One Track Lover’. Featuring in the series as Dr. Sanchez, the music video embraced the decade, presenting him behind a facade of soft focus and silk sheets. The shows title character, played by Matt Holness, also joined Matt Berry in the pursuit of a more melodic slant to his humour. Featuring in Richard Ayoade’s Man to Man with Dean Learner as the folk singer Merriman Weir, he played up to the stereotypical image of the mid-70’s introverted gloom folk artist. His songs include the lament ‘Welcome Woman to my Table Come’ and the brilliant ‘Gallowsman’, which opens with Holness playing guitar whilst noosed above a gallows. What makes this batch of comedians so successful in their more melodic approach to humour is the competence they show in writing music in the first place and the enormous attention they pay to the detail of their target genre. Music is skilfully dated with pitch gone awry or by decade specific techniques to authenticate the worst aspects of a music video. This adds so much to the quality of the parody rather than simply making them sound like bad imitations of an artist. Hopefully this is a trend that will continue to grow, and that comedians will continue to exploit a subject that is so ripe for the mocking.
ust o H , d o g y “Oh m
I can't believe it I've never been this far away
Name: Captain José Hernandez Born: Guadalajara, Mexico Occupation: Astronaut Enjoys: Relaxing to the sound of the Kaiser Chiefs
M U S I C
M A T T E R S