Yeasayer Zero pounds / Volume 03 / Issue 13 / 100 percent bloody
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plus Small Black • Christmas Island • Rory Brattwell • Teeth • Esben & The Witch Is Tropical • Good Shoes • Charlotte Gainsbourg • Comanechi
Loud And Quiet is DEAD…* There’s a fair amount of reminiscing in this month’s issue of Loud And Quiet.What with it being the last of not just the year but also the entire decade, it’s to be expected. And we’ve got to say, it all begins in a rather sour tone as resident grump Stuart Stubbs puts forward a convincing case for how ‘the noughties’ killed indie. As for uppers, we’ve pinched some nostalgic blog action from The Decade for a third and final time, interviewed our favourite producer of 2009 and allowed office nobhead Party Wolf to recount the past 10 years with BFF Rod Stewart.
You’ll find the rest of this issue that says goodbye to ‘the noughties’ in fine, forward-facing health.Yeasayer are no band to live in the 0’s, as second album ‘Odd Blood’ is soon to prove, and new bands like Is Tropical,Teeth, Esben & The Witch, Small Black and Christmas Island are just getting started. The opening of the millennium, with its sensationalist headlines and abbreviated text speak, has been a hoot, but it’s over, so let’s pack in the WTF’s and ‘Wino Kills! (at Royal Variety Performance)’ bold type. 2010 here we come! …LOL. xoxo *…ly serious about a new decade www.loudandquiet.com
C o n t e n ts
01 | 10 LOUD AND QUIET
YEASAYER ZERO POUNDS / VOLUME 03 / ISSUE 13 / 100 PERCENT BLOODY
Clap your hands, say...
PLUS SMALL BLACK • CHRISTMAS ISLAND • RORY BRATTWELL • TEETH • ESBEN & THE WITCH IS TROPICAL • GOOD SHOES • CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG • COMANECHI
Photography by TIMOTHY COCHRANE
07 .................. .Grumpy / Old / Men 08 .................. . Kids / In / Uniform 12 .................. .Giggles / And / Groans 14 .................. .World’s / Best / Pizza 17 .................. . Hare / And / Tortoise 20 .................. . Lads / Lads / Lads 23 .................. . Face / The / Front 24 .................. . Horny / Dinosaur / Graffiti 28 .................. . Hot / Cute / Guys 34 .................. . Jealous / Lovers / Speak 35 .................. . Lust / God / Dead 36 .................. . Sea / Of / Guts 38 .................. . Sexy / Love / Hole 42 .................. . Scary / For / Kids 46 .................. . Katona / Trouser / Lumps 04
email@example.com Loud And Quiet 2 Loveridge Mews Kilburn London NW6 2DP Stuart Stubbs Alex Wilshire Art Director Lee Belcher film editor Dean Driscoll Editor
Chris Watkeys, Danny Canter Danielle Goldstien, Dean Driscoll Eleanor Dunk, Elinor Jones Edgar Smith, Elizabeth Dodd Frankie Nazardo, Kate Hutchinson Kate Parkin, Kelda Hole, Lisa Wright Mandy Drake, Martin Cordiner Matthias Scherer, Mike Burnell Nathan Westley, Owen Richards Polly Rappaport, Phil Sharp Reef Younis, Sam Little, Sam Walton Simon Leak,Tim Cochrane Tom Goodwyn,Tom Pinnock This Month L&Q Loves
Andy Fraser, Ian Roebuck, Keong Woo Nita Keeler, Rich Walker, Sacha Shaikh Simon Keeler The views expressed in Loud And Quiet are those of the respective contributors and do not necessari ly reflect the opini ons of the magazine or its staff. All rights reserved 2009 © Loud And Quiet.
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How ‘the noughties’ killed indie Over the past 10 years alternative music went overground… and, sadly, stayed there Wr i t e r : S t u a r t s t u b b s
It’s quite unbelievable how quickly we become nostalgic. The ‘N’ word was daubed on market Tshirts and stitched onto crap woolly hats as we braced ourselves for Millennium-Bug-AGeddon. The noughties, providing we survived our clocks thinking it was the beginning of time again, were going to be as cool as their Big Breakfast/Lad Culture name. New Year came and our clocks survived, but ‘the noughties’ soon buggered off… until a month or two ago when we realised ‘the teens’ were coming. Now we’re using the ‘N’ word as if we have been for a decade straight. We’re recounting how exciting it was when The Strokes saved rock’n’roll™ (which it most certainly was), and how the advent of MySpace changed music promotion forever; how Glastonbury became a number one holiday destination (perhaps due to its holiday prices), and Pete Doherty gave us a nihilistic, good looking rock star of our own, as silly and stylish as Sid Vicious or Iggy Pop. Naturally, there’s plenty that we’d rather forget when looking back at the last ten years, like how rapidly Big Brother went from Nasty Nick-tastic to Jade Goody-shit, scarring us with a Heat culture
that made Tony from frozen veg every bit the celebrity that Abi Titmuss is, although perhaps not unfairly where that comparison is concerned. Ultimately though, ‘the noughties’ were brilliant! Of course we’re going to siphon out the mountains of crap that stank up the air surrounding our personal highlights – we’d probably kill ourselves if we didn’t – but impossible to ignore is the state of ‘indie’ as we approach a fresh-faced decade. The Strokes did save rock’n’roll, but in many ways they also killed it. At the time of ‘Is This It’, the NME called the slew of guitar bands capitalising on the success of ‘Last Night’ and thin clothes ‘The New Rock Revolution’, and while the praise heaped was deserved by some (The White Stripes, The Libertines, Yeah Yeah Yeahs), for most who soon threw their (porkpie) hats in ring (The Cooper Temple Clause, Von Bondies, The Vines) it really wasn’t. Unbeknown, that was the start of the end for ‘indie’ music as an alternative to the norm. Its most fatal blow though – its big fat iceberg moment – was the day Franz Ferdinand’s ‘Take Me Out’ charted at number 3. Parents
were humming it, radio was playing it and TV was, overnight, editing sport montages to that guitar riff. It’s to blame for the Kaiser Chiefs, Razorlight, The View, The Fratellis and even The Ting Tings. It’s the reason Topshop has a Marshall amp and an electric guitar in its window display, and you can’t buy a ticket to see a band without texting Vodafone first. We would say that – listing bands that no one thinks are cool anymore, kicking the uncredible mainstream while it’s down – but what’s worrying about the corporatisation of alternative music is that throughout the past 10 years it’s shown no sign of slowing. Isn’t that what’s supposed to happen? Isn’t bad pop music meant to spring into action when more than a dozen people get sick of guitar music? That’s what happened post-Brit Pop, post-Punk, post-Rave – Robbie Williams, Boy George and MC Hammer nudged those subversive genres out. The problem is that no 12 people are sick of guitars, clearly. At the risk of sounding even more like a jowly contributor to the BBC’s Grumpy Old Men series than I already do, there’s festivals sponsored
by ice cream companies these days! Indie (yes, that term that has now lost all meaning) has unwittingly become the shit pop music default that fills the gaps until something truly alternative and exciting comes along, and over the top of our rose-tinted bins, we can all see that it’s been that way for a majority of ‘the noughties’. The good news is that things are eventually getting better. You just have to look to the DIY set to see that. In fact, thanks to Myspace, home recording equipment and the super-savvy forming their own fully independent record labels, alternative music in ‘the teens’ is looking likely to be its most hardened to corporate corruption in years. L’Oréal will no doubt compose their own garage lo-fi sound-a-like track at some point in 2010, and the majors will most definitely dress up a few new signings as “huge fans of Black Flag”, but after a year that’s had us calling Florence & The Machine ‘indie’, and a decade that’s had us looking on as alternative trends are bastardised to straddle the high street and Nokia Skin-Fest, we’re in the best state we have been since New York was cool for the first time around.
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By Janine & Lee Bullman
Bad Penny Blues By Cathi Unsworth (Serpent’s Tail) It’s only the victims in crime fiction that are dead - the genre is alive ---------------------
Hey Scenesters… It’s the month that ‘the press’ predict next year’s movements of choice. Reef Younis is eying up Manchester’s new dance bands.
Admit it, we’re obsessed with the tribe mentality; the feelgood of the gang; the acceptance and status that come with being part of a ‘scene’. Sure, there are a few pioneers among us, those who strike out – those whose reaction against the status quo enthrals and repels in equal measure, ironically spawning a new movement itself – but we’re still suckers for putting everything into a neat little box, even if it means a little more triangulation. Musically speaking, geography and sentimentality have always played an increasingly important part in weaving the tenuous fabric of the scenes we’ve strived to create in the past. Rightly or wrongly, each one has been heralded as a new dawn; a saving grace; THE spark to light a fire under the blanket of mediocrity that is blighting, choking and stifling music at that particular time. I remember there was this one band from Sheffield, right, and they were dead good, and then there were a few ace bands from Leeds, and they were alright too, and then all of a sudden we found ourselves faced with a ‘Gangs of New Yorkshire’ collective where miles of motorway, local identity, and individual city mentalities counted for diddly. Bacteria mentality aside (one great band does not excuse a landfill of muddling copycats) 40 miles of motorway isn’t a chasm that’s impossible to circumnavigate, geographically speaking, but try telling that
to Liverpool and Manchester, for example. Try explaining that The Beatles could just as easily have been spawned out of Wythenshawe, or that Oasis, deep down, could have been Birkenhead born and bred. Without the blue-sky thinking, and to the point of this increasingly rambling diatribe, the whole essence of a scene, depending on your school of thought, is either justified by the collective, the quality, the culture, or a faultless combination of the three. But it’s a cyclic process buoyed by the press, cities’ famous sons and daughters and the existing musical climate. To this end, few scenes are popularly, repeatedly lauded as they either serve their short by-line purpose or implode and expose themselves as the fashionable fads the naysayers purport them to be. Either way, and without resorting to labelling a longstanding, diverse hotbed of forward thinking music, Manchester has been enjoying a renaissance of late, and thankfully, there isn’t a can of Stella in sight. From the demise of The Smiths and the Stone Roses, to the death of Brit pop and Oasis, it’s a city where the moribund is just as intrinsic to its identity. Rich with the heritage of some of music’s greats, it’s also a place where the sight of crumbling terraces and proud working class stench hangs as heavy in the air as the increasingly mythical hedonism of the city’s 90’s heyday.
Although the iconic namedropping of The Smiths and Joy Division, and latter day mentions for Doves, Elbow, The Verve, The Charlatans et al. only strengthen its indie, guitar-led credentials, it’s always been a city with a BPM count for a heartbeat, even if it has been a little slowed. You know who you are…David Gray. This was a city that gave us The Chemical Brothers’ gargantuan beats and watched New Order rise from the ashes to help shape the city’s output. It became one of the hubs of the UK rave scene and has the eternal shadow of the Hacienda fondly hanging over it. It’s vindicating to see and hear that Manchester’s new lifeblood hasn’t got us rushing back to dust off cherished copies of ‘Do it Yourself’ in a bid for misplaced sentimentality, or accepting the prospect of being domineered by the uniform blandness of The Courteneers, but has been breathing new, high voltage life back into the city with the incendiary Warehouse project nights, the incessant championing of the longstanding Akoustik Anarkhy label, the lively electro-trashing of The Whip, the return of the vibrant soundscaping of The Longcut, and is harking back to the days where the warehouses ruled and bands like Kitsuné darlings Delphic - on many people’s lips, tips and lists - could juggle major label obligations with sticky dance floor sets. And you wondered why the BBC moved to Manchester.
At a time when the bulk of British crime fiction seems to be made up of soporific, formulaic, conveyor-belt dross, Cathi Unsworth’s third novel in four years proves that there’s plenty of life in the old genre yet. Bad Penny Blues plays out against the backdrop of 60s London, the period lovingly and unsentimentally captured in a genuinely spooky psychological/supernatural thriller re-imagining the real life Jack the Stripper murders, whose tragic victims are finally allotted a sympathetic voice within its pages. The book’s characters are rounded, flawed and believable, its plot is dense and considered and the overall effect is nothing short of stunning. This is groovy noir, kids, and you’re going to fucking love it.
Ian Dury: The Definitive Biography By Will Birch (Sidgwick and Jackson.) The perfect way to pay respect to a great punk maverick --------------------Will Birch’s definitive biography examines in loving detail the life, work and legacy of one of the most intriguing and maverick voices of the post punk period. Despite ill health (he contracted polio at the age of seven), Dury managed to live a life of bawdy rock star excess that the rest of us can only marvel at whilst still managing to produce the clutch of records quite rightly now considered classics. One for both the converted and the curious, Birch’s funny, clever, and inspiring biography of Essex’s favourite son comes complete with a cover painting by his old art tutor, Peter Blake, and is published to mark the tenth anniversary of Dury’s death. A fitting tribute to a true original.
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50 - La Roux In For The Kill (Skream’s Let’s Get Ravey Remix) Skream’s transformation of La Roux’s original is remarkable: like a slow-mo earthquake on the dancefloor, the track becomes far more than just an auditory experience. 49 - Asa-Chang & Junray Hana Like some intergalactic telegram to a doomed loved one, ‘Hana’ is an utterly unique piece of music – electronic but visceral, cold and steely but very, very warm. 48 - Bon Iver Skinny Love Any musician that can persuade their listeners of their sincerity is surely onto something, which is exactly why ‘Skinny Love’ commands so much immediate attention. It treads that incredibly thin line of being simultaneously universal and personal, inviting yet private, but always constantly, compellingly real. 47 - Sparklehorse featuring PJ Harvey Eyepennies ‘Eyepennies’ paints fuzzy pictures of despair, leaving it up to the listener to sit back and swim in the tired melancholy of it all. It becomes a torch song to almost any moment of sadness you want to imagine. 46 - Basement Jaxx Romeo Basement Jaxx’s decade peak is relatively restrained, for them, but while not ignoring the carnival bombast, it’s their less manic approach to production that makes ‘Romeo’ so addictive. 45 - Four Tet She Moves She ‘She Moves She’ is a brilliantly inventive take on a timehonoured classic pop duet. Futuristic but familiar, it’s a great advert for teaching old tricks to new dogs. 44 - Beyoncé Work It Out Beyoncé’s debut solo single is a modest performance: fun, sexy and with not a hint of diva. Knowles basks in the song’s loose beats and The Neptunes, too, aren’t trying too hard (if they ever did) – this is a slip of a song, and delicious for it. 43 - Mogwai Secret Pint ‘Secret Pint’ finds a sort of beauty in the hopelessly sad; it makes a virtue of its emptiness; it feels stoic among utter despair. Its air is heavy with despondency and cynicism, but its plaintive calm wins through – this is a beautiful exercise in restraint. 42 - The Libertines I Get Along Barat’s “fuck ‘em” halfway through is pure mischief and menace. Rip-roaring and rabblerousing, it’s hard to ignore ‘I Get Along’’s propulsion and bottle – The Libertines’ most
Numbers 50 - 26 of the best songs of ‘the noughties’ Go to thedecade.wordpress.com for the top 25 I l l u s t r a t i o n : ELBO W DES I G N . COM Wr i t e r : S A M WA LTON
gutsy performance was also their finest. 41 - Peter, Bjorn & John featuring Victoria Bergman Young Folks Over bustling bongos, the cheery whistle offers a wonderful juxtaposition: although the melody is tinged with sadness, its delivery also carries calmness. 40 - Franz Ferdinand Take Me Out Take Me Out’s thunderous intro is what makes the song so exciting – and then what a blast of stomp and riff and singalong. ‘Take Me Out’ should be heard loud and brash, hip-swinging and pouting – the indie behemoth of the decade. 39 - Britney Spears Toxic This is a frankly bizarre pop single (proto-dubstep, anyone?) but consistently brilliant nonetheless. History, they say, is written by victors – while Britney might’ve lost a great deal of battles this decade, ‘Toxic’ is one hell of a win. 38 - Anthony & the Johnsons Hope There’s Someone It’s that voice. Quivering and fragile, equally hopeful and desolate, it’s still a shockingly novel sound. ‘Hope There’s Someone’ is hardly a song for all occasions, but such gory blood-letting is rarely this exquisite. 37 - Portishead The Rip Before their rebirth in 2008, only some haywire game of indie consequences would have Portishead writing a science-
fiction lullaby for classical guitar and analogue synth. They were always eerie and strangely affecting, but ‘The Rip’ demonstrated Portishead’s ability to play their trump card in the most unusual of places. 36 - Radiohead Weird Fishes/Arpeggi Quivering and undulating, ‘Weird Fishes’’ imagery and sonic makeup is dense and puzzling, but, paradoxically, also soft and icily pure. 35 - Boards of Canada Dayvan Cowboy Pastoral and hazy, the rich string parts and spooky synthesisers render Dayvan Cowboy less of a song and more just a cinematic sketch. 34 - Graham Coxon Freakin’ Out So this is what happens after spending 15 years stood behind Damon Albarn. The swagger and guts of ‘Freakin’ Out’ is unhidden, abrupt, brash and brimming with a heart-warming confidence. The quiet one had just spread his wings. 33 - Battles Atlas ‘Atlas’ operates on so many levels of deeply satisfying wrongness that it’s hard to know where to start. Everything about it feels impish and mischievous – the track’s every jerk and judder is another boggle-eyed goblin popping up over your shoulder, curling its comehither fingers. With the zeal of breathlessly excited kids who’ve broken into a sweet shop and are stuffing their faces, ‘Atlas’’ genius is forbidden-sounding and
pulse-quickeningly delinquent. Vocals shouldn’t squeak like that; loops shouldn’t pop in and out of time like hyper-extensive limbs. They shouldn’t, but they do, and the assembled collage of mind-altering ideas lollops forward with clomping strides like some runaway juggernaut. ‘Atlas’ is the sound of sheer deviance. It’s musical gluttony. Sometimes, a track dances around you, shaking its wares in your face until you can resist no more. Sometimes it’s worth giving in to temptation. 32 - Bat for Lashes Sad Eyes ‘Sad Eyes’ is so affecting because of its realism – this is parched and weary, but full of gin-fuelled honesty too: the final, sighing “come and spend the night” is beautifully, inexorably sad. 31 - Sufjan Stevens Come On Feel The Illinoise! Even aside from all the technical brilliance, C’mon... sings with an optimism and whimsy to match few others this decade – as the choir ask “are you writing from the heart?” in the closing stages, it’s just as easy to fall under the spell of its romance. 30 - Mountain Goats No Children The hatred here is, weirdly, a spur of so much positivity for the future. This is the sound of catharsis in its purest form. 29 - Radiohead Everything In Its Right Place A sort of musical JFK-moment, everyone can tell you where they were when they first heard this, such was the excitement surrounding Radiohead’s followup to ‘OK Computer’. But even in isolation, the song is a gorgeous piece of shapeshifting, mellifluous electronica. 28 - Regina Spektor Us Despite featuring just one voice, one piano, one violin and one cello, the song bursts with life and vigour; ‘Us’ is full of an inescapable grandness beyond its means, an enthralling sense of self-belief. 27. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Get Ready For Love Yup, that’s love alright. In its sound, if not directly in its lyrics, this is perhaps a far truer treatise on how love can really feel. Brace yourself, Cave’s saying – this isn’t bunny rabbits and roses, this is madstaring eyes, searing intensity and semi-coherent rants. 26 - Ol’ Dirty Bastard featuring Kelis Got Your Money A deliciously seedy, addictive record. The Neptunes’ production once again underpins the dirt: gyrating Billie Jean drums, Kelis’ pouting purr – it all comes together to give ODB’s thug-life braggadocio the right mix of sex and danger.
te e tH A band with endless ways to spell their name and just as many Dance/punk/weird influences P h o t o g r a p h e r : G a b r i e l g r e e n Wr i t e r : p o l ly r a p pa p o r t
“Being in a band… it can be such a joke, I mean, some people take it really seriously, like being in a relationship to get married, while some people are just sort of seeing each other… Being in a band is kind of like that,” explains Teeth!!! vocalist Veronica. “What, like being married?” Ximon Tayki [laptop business] asks, sceptically. “No, like being in a relationship!” she laughs. “Like, saying you quit the band is like saying, ‘Let’s break up.’” “Ximon said he’s quitting the band about half an hour ago,” says drummer Simon Whybray. “Oh, yeah…” muses Ximon. Veronica: “We’re very volatile like that.” Simon: “Whenever I say, ‘Let’s talk about band stuff,’ he says he quits.” Veronica: “So do I.” “You do!” Ximon turns to her. “You send me those Facebook messages saying you’re quitting the band and once I thought you were serious and was wondering, ‘Oh my god, what have I done?’” “And I was like, ‘You know what you’ve done!’” Veronica laughs. Ximon: “We don’t take it too seriously. Basically, we want a record label to give us loads of money and then we can, like, pay our rent and make awesome music – well, we make awesome music anyway, we just want the record label to give us money so we can pay our rent and hire a space since we don’t really have any place to do anything at the moment… Like, ten grand towards a development fund or something.” “He wants a Daddy,” say Veronica. Teeth (or T3ETH or TEETH!!! or T∑∑TH etc – they stipulate that we can spell it any number of ways they do) are not exactly major label material; they also defy the term ‘unconventional’. That’s reserved more for ‘Marmite bands’, those ones that you either think are amazing or completely crap and are impossible to sit on the fence about. They make the kind of music that you have a gut instinct to either love or loathe, if only you could make
up your mind. So, what kind of music is it, then? “We make electronic music… In a unique way,” attempts Ximon. “He has a laptop, she sings, I play drums with an electric kick,” offers Simon. Okay, then what does it sound like? “We have a bunch of influences… I was thinking about the band the other day, and it’s kind of like a platform for us to talk about the stuff we like.” Ximon sighs. “I think it’s difficult to talk about music.” Veronica has a try: “Basically, if you want it in those three MySpace words, it’s electronic, it has a punk mentality and it is kind of… not weird… You can dance to it – it has the capability to be really dance-y, though we don’t necessarily perform it that way. If you were to see us at a show, a good show, it would be at a really late night warehouse dance party.” Though the band don’t do the dancing themselves; at a good show, they say, they end up climbing things and wreaking a healthy amount of havoc. Dance punk? Weird dance punk?? “I think it’s hard to talk about music without referencing stuff, like talking about it metaphysically,” says Ximon. “So being a music journalist is kind of hard.” (Two extra points to Ximon). “A lot of people like to compare us to other bands,” says Veronica “but we started Teeth because we were in another band and, basically, I didn’t do anything besides operate their laptop until the very end when I would do a cover and it was this Tamion 12” song. They were off Ersatz Audio, which is Adult’s label, and they were from Detroit and did this really cool song and we covered that song at the end of the set but it sounded completely different to the rest of the band’s music and we eventually thought, why don’t we make our own band that does this kind of music?” “We don’t sound like them,” Ximon explains. “We just thought we should write our own music instead of covering all the time. The last band wasn’t
really a band; it was kind of a joke. I mean, we have our influences and we have music that we like…” “But we never say, ‘Let’s write a song that sound like those guys,’” interjects Veronica. “It’s more like we finish a song and think, ‘Hey, that kind of sounds like…’” “Although,” remembers Ximon “I did get a major pop obsession, like, three weeks ago and we kind of wrote a pop song.” According to the others, he was ridiculously obsessed with making this pop song. “I like pop music, but I’m not super fanatical about it,” he protests “but all of a sudden I got really obsessed with Lady Gaga.” There is a mixture of giggles and groans. “For three days I was watching every single YouTube video she’d ever done, totally obsessed, added her on Facebook as a friend…” The story goes that one night when Ximon was up late, chatting to a friend who lives in San Francisco… “He does visuals for us when we’re on tour,” says Veronica. “I think he does things for Glass Candy as well,” adds Ximon. “He’s made some music videos, plays with a guy who’s in a band called Tussle… Anyway!” Yeah, anyway! Ximon and his mate were chatting and Ximon got it into his head to try hacking Lady Gaga’s Twitter account and he tried the name of a very popular single of hers, thinking that would be far too obvious but… it worked. He’d hacked her official account – “One point seven million gullible teenagers freaked the fuck out!” he preens. So at five o’ clock in the morning he calls the other Teeth, asking what he should say and do with this new found power. Not surprisingly, they weren’t about to believe him so he proved it by going nuts, posting Teeth’s name and their MySpace address all over this Twitter page for about ten minutes before getting reported. Apparently, Lady Gaga’s potential anger at the hack was won over by how impressed she was that her fans were smart enough to figure out her password. There’s an epilogue to
this tale, involving a large mechanical beetle crawling out of Ximon’s tea cup and flying out the kitchen window but we’ll leave the story with the moral that with such a simple login, it’s doubtful Lady Gaga does her own blogging – or at least it’s as likely as her planting a robotic insect in someone’s tea. “Lots of really weird shit goes down in Dalston,” Veronica concludes. Teeth, post their joke band, have been playing together for about a year and a half. They haven’t changed much, but they’ve thought about it. “We were going to change the way we play live,” says Simon “getting more equipment and working on what comes out of the PA, getting to a point where Ximon was playing more of the sound he makes live – samples and jamming and stuff – but it never really happened, don’t know why…” “It’s something we always talk about but never do,” interjects Ximon “hence, why we need that money from a major label…” Simon counters that even if they had the cash to buy heaps of equipment, they’d almost certainly end up ditching all of it and going back to they way they play now. Teeth’s recordings tend to sound dirty and they like that more than the polished sounds cash and good gear would produce. They’ve just recorded with Rory Brattwell and will hopefully soon have all their songs from the last year laid down, making space for new tracks. They’ve already got singles on Moshi Moshi and Tough Love. “As long as we have recordings that we’re happy with and can just give away, then we don’t feel bound to it,” says Veronica. “Maybe we’re not ready to change just yet.” This is a band who’ve created their own sound – who are their sound: climbs-the-walls punk mashed with the electronic and the cosmic, jarringly garish but intriguing with a bit of sexy and fun as fuck. That’s Teeth and there’s no need to change, and no need to get minted by a major: just fork over a few grand to cover the rent. You got that, Universal?
s mall blac k Proudly Brooklyn AND making fuzzy, emotional synth music for daydreamers P h o t o g r a p h e r : k y l e d e a n r e i n f o r d Wr i t e r : s t ua r t s t u b b s
Casio Noise Pop. That’s how Small Black choose to describe themselves. Sounds a bit vague, doesn’t it? I mean, Casio is in there, so they obviously use keyboards, but ‘Noise’ and ‘Pop’ could mean anything from an awkward grunt to the object of distaste, Lady Gaga. Small Black do not sound like indigestion or ‘Poker Face’. They don’t sound like Abe ‘Casio noise-lovers’ Vigoda either. They sound far more dulcet and beautiful than that. Nostalgic Casio Daydream Music would be more fitting. Yes, it’s an extra word long, but use that from now on, guys. “I am really interested in memory,” admits Josh Kolenik “and how things resonate and trail whether accurately or through the subjective filters you interpret them with… Uncertainty and confusion are also recurring themes in our music.” Okay. Uncertain Confusing Nostalgic Casio Daydream Music, then. This type of thing can of course be neatly summed up as Teen Drama Music – specific to US teen dramas, not our shoddy ‘ol Hollyoaks where OB falls in the duck pond and gets all sad. No, Josh and ambient partner Ryan Heynerband produce the kind of emotional Radio Dept.-esque tones that has us all watching American trash soaps about rich kids. And by the time the episode finishes with a montage of the evil dad getting arrested and the fittest one looking upset about something, you’re sucked into the whole ridiculous affair, all because of the song that’s playing. That’s how powerful bands like Small Black are. Just listen to recent single ‘Despicable Dogs’ – a perfect balance of cinematic, processed drums and keys, and poignant, comforting vocals. Basking in warm light, it’s both pure escapism and wholly relative – like all the best teen dramas, I guess. The band started in Josh’s uncle’s attic last summer as the pair would spend hours experimenting with samples, keyboards and laptops, and by the end of the year’s warmer months they’d pieced together an EP of hazy, romantic-sounding pop songs with lightly distorted vocals. Next, manic blog love and the staple Pitchfork props awarded to most Brooklyn duos
messing about with lo-fi techniques. Not that the attention coming Small Black’s way is unjust – their 8 CMJ shows in 5 days were garnered by their uncanny knack for forlorn melodies and Casio chimes. “I think a lot of the songs on the EP deal with love in some context,” says Josh “but I think I’m more interested in that moment when you’re not very sure of the person you might be standing with, than any sort of romance. And as for being a Brooklyn band, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. We are so lucky to live around the corner from people making amazing records – Real Estate, Javelin, Woods, Vivian Girls, Air Waves, etc.” Surely though, with the instant attention that having ‘the Brooklyn Factor’ gives you also comes a certain amount of pressure to stand out from the band living next door? “Well, with the Internet, aren’t we all pretty much part of one big scene when you really get down to it?” questions Josh. “If anything, it makes it easier to get shows and find people that might like your music.” It’s a nice thought – that we are all one, under not just the same sky but same vast, digital space that is the World Wide Web. And while most of us are way to cynical to agree, it’s this sense of community that has lead Small Black to double in size most recently – “This summer, we added Jeff Curtin and Juan Pieczanski for live shows,” explains Josh “and going forward they’ll be members of the band and involved in the whole process.” And while we may be so sick of every half decent band on the planet coming from New York, Josh, especially, is still besotted with the bright lights. “New York is really hard to beat,” he grins. “I’m an official lifer. It’s ever-changing. There is more music and art here that you can ever get a handle on. I could only hope to see one tenth of the stuff going on. I love the frantic pace too – it keeps you hungry! Best pizza and bagels in the world.” Josh once loved Portland, Oregon, in this way (it’s now his second choice, with London a third because he is, “obsessed with this chocolate éclair I got at Exmouth Market last time I
02 was there,” although, he notes: “I don’t know how I could ever afford to live there”) and grew up listening to rap, which quashes any presumption that his band’s name is a slight on or homage to Steve Albini’s industrial noise pioneers Big Black. “No. Not at all. In fact, I never even heard Big Black until Travis from Pictureplane played it for us in the van a month ago,” he confesses. “I had seen the ‘Songs About Fucking’ LP
cover for years and I know Steve Albini was involved, but that was about it. It was pretty rad though! Need to delve deeper in I think. Because I was more of a rap head as a kid, I just missed a lot of this stuff. Small Black was just a name my friends Petey and Shane came up with when I was living with them in Portland.” Far more ‘no nonsense’ than their Casio Noise Pop description (which is actually growing on me the more I say
“A lot of our songs deal with love in some context, but I’m more interested in that moment when you’re not very sure of the person you might be standing with”
it), is Small Black’s motto, “STAY FOCUSSED!”. It almost comes as a surprise from a band making the music they make – it all sounds so free-n-easy; hissing tape music that’s comfortable enough in its own sweet melodies and fuzzy wallsof-sound to not be bothered about conscious thought. But, then, Small Black have quite the opportunity in their hands, right now. While the indie world begins to look on, in the pipeline they’ve got a Lovepump
United split 7” with Washed Out (another blissful chap worth looking into), a second Mexican Summer 7” and a full LP in the Spring, just in time for them to be the toast of SXSW. Get in there a teen drama montage where the pretty dork walks back into his room and stares at the wall, while, across town, his gal steps into the baddies sports car, and Small Black’s 2010 looks to be as sweet as their Uncertain Confusing Nostalgic Casio Daydream Music.
E s b e n And The Witc h Inspired by a Danish fairytale, this is patiently stalking noir pop P h o t o g r a p h e r : o w e n r i c h a r d s Wr i t e r : Nat h a n W e s t l e y
03 The traditional fable The Tortoise and the Hare was keen to preach that it’s not how you start but rather how you perform overall that counts. It’s a thought worth bearing in mind as we prepare ourselves for the annual onslaught of “this band will change your year” features – not all quick out of the year’s starting blocks will be remembered in twelve months time. The Brighton based trio Esben and The Witch are keen to avoid this fate, they know that the year ahead is an important one, and although they may be winning some high profile plaudits of late, guitarist and keyboard abuser Thomas Fisher is keen to emphasise that, “At the moment it’s all about taking our time, we’re all still rather new to what we’re doing.” He, along with vocalist Rachael Davies and electronic maestro Daniel Copeman, view EATW as a longterm project. Having formed a fraction under two years ago, under the familiar story of musician having some songs and needing help to both flesh them out and transpose to the live environment, it’s been within the past six months that they have started coming to the attention of people outside their home city of Brighton. Whereas the name of any band is usually an unimportant nonconsequential element, much has already been made regarding their choice. It’s taken from the title of a hellish, little, Danish fairytale, and the band now seem almost organically intertwined with its dark hallmarks that mirror those deep within the heart of their musical outpourings. “It’s quite a weird process naming a band,” states Thomas who puts the choice down to them having recently read the tale and thinking it was a good fit for there haunting noir-pop: a blend of ethereal folk, triphop and goth that has so far won comparisons ranging from Fever Ray to Radiohead via Aphex Twin. But the one comparison that stands taller than any other is that of Portishead. Understandably, with both Rachel and Daniel declaring themselves as being “huge fans” of the latter, they remain flattered by the comparisons but Rachael is equally keen to point out that they “came into this wanting to make music that wasn’t retreading old ground. We wanted to try to do our own thing and try to create something new,” she says. This mindset shared by all members is still aware that comparisons are inevitable.
“There are obviously going to be other bands that people associate it with,” reasons Thomas. “If you have never heard something, you need something else to read about to spark interest off and in that instance it needs to be a musical comparison rather then a literary or artistic one.” These comparisons as well as their love for both classic literature and artists such as Bacon and De Bosch, which they say influences their work, paint the band as being both high brow and elitist. “We don’t want to be a disposable pop act but at the same time we’ll be a bit reluctant to be called highbrow,” relays Rachael, fully acknowledging that being seen as a coffee-table band can have its pitfalls and may partly explain the bands choice to reinterpret the Kylie Minogue song ‘Confide In Me’; a move which has had a similar affect to the Arctic Monkeys covering Girls Aloud. Though there is a small chance that this cover could be played during live appearances, there is the much greater chance that the stage will be adorned with lampshade covered lights and an appearance of a stuffed owl. They are very much of the opinion that the live performance should feel special and not like a casual stroll through a series of songs. “Not many bands create that visual element as well, I find it an incredibly overlooked thing, it’s strange,” explains Thomas. “People like British Sea Power are often mentioned and I’m thinking why is that something that isn’t done more, really?” he asks, half perplexed that casual taxidermy and foliage is not common practice for other bands. “When I’ve seen bands and they’ve made a stage, it’s just that bit more encapsulating, it makes that whole experience, creates an atmosphere visually to help the music,” adds Rachael, and even though there is unquestionably a striking element of their live show already, they’re keen to improve. “It’s something we definitely want to build on. I think we have as much as we can muster at the moment – we’re restrained by the strength of our backs,” jokes Thomas in reference to the strength of public transport when it comes to playing outside of Brighton. With a forthcoming single released on Too Pure records and a UK tour forthcoming, Esben and The Witch will be casting their spell over many more people in the months to come.
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oday, Rory Brattwell finds himself in a pretty unique position. It’s his day off, for a start – his first in three weeks – but more than that, in a less literal sense, the former Test-Icicle/RAT:ATT:AGG has quickly become a producer like no other. Recording 7”s, demos and the occasional album for friends and a glut of new young punk bands, he’s the missing link between press-n-play bedroom sessions and forking out the earth for James Ford’s bouffant to stare back at you over the mixing desk. If it’s noisy, visceral, or in any way exciting, it’s most probably come out of Rory’s Palette Studio, which he now shares with the ever-illusive Tom Vek. Comanechi, Finally Punk, Male Bonding, An Experiment On A Bird In The Air Pump, Die! Die! Die!, Cold Pumas – they’re just the start of a list that also includes the atmospheric goth pop of S.C.U.M, Ipso Facto and R O M A N C E, and the sweet twee of bands like Veronica Falls and Koko Von Napoo. They all go to Rory, because he’s one of them. His own band’s debut album, KASMs’ ‘Splayed’, which Brattwell self-produced, is most likely one of their favourite albums of the year. He’s a DIY musician with the same ideals and only a slightly heavier wallet, so who better to record your first Myspace demo or limited release with than a like-mind who, unlike Eno, won’t babble, “Try it again but this time play it invisibly” while picking your pocket? L&Q: It’s your first day off in 3 weeks. So producing bands is harder work that being in one, then? Rory: “Definitely. You don’t have to do any work when you’re in a band – it’s like a hobby. The
only bands that moan about how hard it is are people that have never had to have a real job. Touring can be hard, but I’d never complain about it. It’s alright being in a band, although what I’m doing now is pretty good as well.” This year, bands have been queuing up to be recorded by you. How do you sort them into ayes and nays? “I don’t really turn much down. I mean, I would if I really didn’t like something, but 90 per cent of the time I really like it, so it’s stuff that I’d actually listen to at home. So I end up recording all of this stuff and get this massive resource of things I’d actually quite like to listen to, even though it’s a little bit weird listening to it after you’ve recorded it yourself.” Do you listen back to your recordings a lot? “Yeah, definitely. I don’t listen to my own music, but when it’s other peoples’ I’ve recorded it’s okay.” So what about KASMs’ debut ‘Splayed’? That’s your music and your recording. “I don’t like the production on that, really. I had to do it in a massive rush and I was playing the drums for a lot of the time. I had to do it in three evenings, so it didn’t really sound how I wanted it to sound, but that’s being extra particular because it’s our stuff.” Did the rest of the band like it? “I don’t think they care [laughs]. I think they think it’s alright. I was talking to Gemma the other day and she was saying she hasn’t listened to it since we made it. It’s like Scott Walker (not the Scott Walker in our band, the other Scott Walker) – it’s kind of like that – make a record and
never listen to it again. We’re definitely ready to make another one and not listen to that though.” I can imagine producing your own band is pretty stressful. “Yeah, it was really bad. I wouldn’t say it was horrible but it was really stressful. When I usually record a band it’s chilled out most of the time – it’s quite a nice experience, we have a nice day, and it’s almost like a day out. But when it’s our band it was like a constant state of terror. Everything kept breaking, I was stressing out, which was stressing everybody out, neighbours were banging on the door, like, ‘Shut the fuck up!’…” So has that put you off doing the next one yourself? “I don’t know. The place I’m in now is a much nicer environment, and I think we’d have a lot more time to do it, so it might be alright. I might get someone else to mix it. Last time we had half a day to do that.” And then you mastered it at Abbey Road… “Gemma used to work there. I can’t remember what she did there – I think she compiled tapes and stuff for a couple of years – but she managed to get us 30 per cent off, so it only worked out a little bit more than going to a normal mastering place so we thought we would for the hell of it. It’s not as if any of us are massive Beatles fans, it’s just that it’s quite an important place, so let’s go and have a look. It’s pretty impressive, but what annoyed me was that every single corridor is lined with these amazing twoinch, four-track, reel-to-reel tape machines, and they’re not even using them, and I really want one of them. I need to think of a reason to go there again and sneak one out. You’ve got to share the wealth. We
Rory Brattwell From thrash-pop â€œdickheadâ€? to a new kind of British DIY producer, Rory Brattwell has managed to survive the music machine and return to a slime-free world where he and the bands he loves call all the shots P h o t o g r a p h e r : P h i l s h a r p Wr i t e r : s t ua r t s t u b b s
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should do a sad charity appeal about it – all these producers can’t produce because they haven’t got the means, but give a man a 4-track tape machine and he’ll produce for life.” How is recording an album different to recording odd tracks for 7”s? “It’s kinda nicer in a way because you get the overall feel of what the band want to do. I haven’t recorded that many albums, it’s just starting to clock up now. It’s nice to spend a bit more time on what they want. People are more focused and serious when they’re doing an album. On a single they’re like, ‘Yeeeahhh, let’s make a fucking load of racket!’, which is also quite good in a way, so when making an album I like to maintain that spirit of a single, but at the same time make something a bit more grandiose, and more important sounding.” How many bands have you recorded now? “I have no idea. The list on my Myspace page is massively out of date. There’s about six times more records on there and three times as many bands. I reckon I’ve done about 50, maybe more. I dunno… I feel like a slut – I can’t remember, I’m at it all the time – different day, different band.” Can you at least remember a session you’ve really enjoyed? “It’s probably because I’m bias but I’ve really enjoyed recording people I’ve known for a long time and known lots of their bands in the past and I’ve recorded their new things and been quite overwhelmed with how good it is – like Male Bonding, Fair Ohs was fun… One of my favourites was doing the Cold Pumas stuff. The first recording I did for them was this song that was longer and slower, and it was deeply emotional [laughs]. I hope more of these bands I’ve done 7” with would want to do albums. I think the temptation is once a band get a bigger label and a bit of money they want to step it up a bit. Hopefully I won’t get discarded by my harem of bands.” Surely you were the prime candidate for the Male Bonding album, but they’ve buggered off to America to do it. “Yeah, I was going to do their record but I think they really wanted to go somewhere further away from East London, which I understand – I’ve made a record in France before for the same
reason, but I remember thinking when I was there, ‘I could be anywhere – I’m just in a fucking studio.’ Still, it is nice to go away and do the whole thing – it’s like an experience. I was a little gutted about that, not majorly, but I really wanted to do it because I really like them. I really want to hear it too, because I think it’s nearly mixed. I’m going to have to twist their arm to hear it so I can then criticise it and say what I’d have done differently. ‘Lads, lads, lads, what have you done?!’.” Producing or playing? “I guess producing is more steady – I survive off it, and I get a regular output in as much as I always get a finished product at the end of the day. When you’re in a band and you make something you’re really proud of it’s almost on another level, but it doesn’t happen very often. Band’s are ultimately equally as frustrating as they are satisfying when it goes right. Production is nicer because it’s somewhere in the middle.” Don’t you ever think, when producing some bands, ‘God, I wish I making this record and not recording it’? “Oh yeah, definitely. I quite often get in there though. I do a lot of singing on records and weird bits – sneaky keyboard bits. Normally people ask me to do it and then they end up asking me to turn it down [laughs]. I normally get in there on the backing vocals,
“If Test-Icicles were ever wheeled out on our deathbeds to re-enact what we were, it’d be my all-time low” 20
because most people in bands can’t sing, y’see, so I need to help them out. Me included, most people learn the guitar and then neglect the vocals, and no one ever wants to do the backing vocals, because you’re vulnerable. When you’re hiding behind a guitar or a massive wall of sound it’s fine, but when it’s just you in a room going, ‘la la la la laah’, you feel like a bit of a div.” What makes a good producer? “I wouldn’t say I ‘produce produce’; I record people, but I like to think that I have some valid input and an ear. At the same time I don’t want to be one of those people who pulls songs to pieces for the sake of it, because a lot of people will say, ‘no, no, you can’t do that’, change it all, even change the arrangement and some of the parts to the music just to prove something to themselves. There are a lot of producers that are going for a career – they get points on the album and are almost trying to claim song-writing credits. They’re trying to make a band into a massive pop band so they can get loads of money next time. It’s very slimy, and it’s not my kind of thing. I just offer good, honest advise from my years of being in a band.” And what is the key lesson that you’ve learnt in those years? “When I was in Test-Icicles, I wasn’t happy with a lot of things in that band, to be honest, and I learnt a lot of
things about how I don’t want things to be. It was quite good as well because it was quite a big thing, and we had all of this bullshit factor with all these people doing different things and us all going, ‘What the fuck’s going on? Who is this person? Why are they doing that? I dunno’, and then afterwards it kinda all made sense but it was too late. So it’s good in a way that I have that experience because bands can ask me if an offer they’ve been given is good, and I’ll generally know, which is quite good. I have picked up a pretty good idea of how the music industry works. I know all the cheeky tricks.” Do you ever regret splitting up Test-Icicles when you did? “No. The only reason I would have ever carried that band on would have been for egotistical reasons – there was nothing creative or satisfying about that band. I learnt some things. I was always in total noisy, weird bands before that, and I taught myself how to write a song properly. That’s the only thing I’ll take from it, really. I’m definitely glad I did it, but I would never want to do it again. Never ever! I also don’t ever want to be in a situation where, if in twenty years time that becomes a weird cult band, I’d have to be wheeled out on my deathbed and re-enact what we were – three stupid kids jumping around like dickheads. If that ever happens, it’ll be my alltime low. In fact, you can count it as the all-time low of music, and in the encyclopaedia put a picture of me, aged 60, trying to shred with arthritis.”
is tr opical A band walk into a bar... at least I think it was a band P h o t o g r a p h e r : F r a n k i e n a z a r d o Wr i t e r : Da n i e l l e G o l d s t e i n
Is Tropical have barely been together a year, yet they’ve already recorded with Al O’Connell (Klaxons, Big Pink), knicked a boat (“We got lost a little bit, had a bit of an argument but got back to the hotel and everything was alright.”) and started up their own club night (ADULTS at The Macbeth, Hoxton). “I think it’s important not to latch onto someone else’s scene and to create your own,” states Gary Barber - not so much a frontman but one of the guys who tackles vocals, guitar and
keys. “In London,” he continues “there are always five bands that play together and they keep to the same clubs and the same kids go to those nights, but because ours is so different the bands from those little scenes will play our night and be seen by different crowds.” If this London three-piece hasn’t bumbled into your conscious yet, let us give you a heads up. Simon Milner, the other one on v, g and k, favours an emerald green lady’s coat with fur collar and cuffs. Barber’s long straight hair
protrudes from his hood and covers half his face, while drummer/programmer Dom Apa sports a brightly coloured jumper and a side-sweep to give Rihanna’s beret-hair a run for its money. They studied fine art, illustration and English literature, respectively, and love to surf (who doesn’t, these days?). They’re now sat in a pub where everything is a bit broken and wobbly, including the peeling décor, which is somewhat fitting for a band who live in squats and scrounge instruments. “We just have no money,” Gary explains. “We booked a live show before we had any instruments and then we were running around phoning people saying, ‘Have you got a KORG I can borrow? I need a bass…’” “Gary made his own guitar,” Dom interjects. Gary laughs. “Yeah, out of a broken one. But everything went wrong at the beginning. We all planned to have money coming in from certain places and that didn’t happen.” “There’s something about serendipity as well,” says Dom. “Because we ordered a keyboard that never came and I bought one that exploded when I plugged it in, but the one thing we did get was this SPD [drum sampler] and that got a really big role. So the way we ended up sounding was dependent on what we actually had to use.” And Is Tropical have filed a little of everything to make that sound: pop, dance, electro, punk slurs…you name it. Their upcoming single alone - ‘When O’ When’ - is a mesh of accordionbased sea shanties morphing into drum-heavy Mystery Jets-on-fastforward. “There’s no specific genre that can be put to it, but I don’t think [the songs are] so disjointed that you can’t see a relation,” utters Gary before Dom adds: “It makes it more fun to play the set as well because you can be swapping between loads of different sounds.” “If something’s written on the guitar,” Gary maintains “a lot of bands would think, ‘Oh, the next song has to have the same thing played on the guitar’. If we write something on the guitar and it sounds good we think, ‘Let’s play it on the glockenspiel, make it sound different’, because a good riff is a good riff.” “A glockenspiel’s not even an instrument that we use,” Dom
scoffs. “But we’ve got one…” Gary says with a glimmer in his eye. Speaking of the live show, if you’ve seen it you’ll know that these boys come adorning masks and basking in projections, because aesthetics is an important part for them. It’s not so much about a bandaudience formula, but an allinclusive performance. Gary is the first to enlighten us. “It destroys the magic if the first time somebody mentions a band you think of what they look like. It’s like reading a book you have an image of exactly what you wanna see…” he says, before Dom interrupts. “And then you watch the film and it’s fucking Matt Damon!” “Also, I’m a fan of nice fabric,” Simon mutters as he pulls a yellow and brown silk scarf with a mouth hole from his pocket. Gary explains that they’re also trying to eradicate a frontman, a leader, which is also why they switch places a lot. “If you swap around it’s anonymous. You don’t really know who’s doing what and you can’t make out the vocals because they’ve got too much distortion on.” Plus, they were in a previous band together and ousted a few members… “We kinda wanna be those criminals who move town and change their names,” Simon jokes. As for the projections? Inspired by documentary-maker Adam Curtis, the band cut together pieces of stock footage to liven things up and give you something other than them to focus on. Simon unfolds the logic behind it: “Sometimes it doesn’t match up to what he’s [Curtis] talking about, but the visuals draw you in and that’s what we want in a live show. Maybe they’re not exactly what we’re singing about but it’s something beautiful that you can be involved with.” “That’s why we wear the masks,” adds Gary “and face each other and get involved and put our heads down and don’t interact with the crowd too much. It’s not about turning our back on them; it’s about doing what we do. If you’re gonna stand and face the front you might as well have something nice to look at, as opposed to watching the backs of three people getting into their own music.”
Ch r istmas Isl and How a split personality can separate you from the pack Wr i t e r : s a m Li t t l e
There’s a moment on Christmas Island’s debut album, ‘Blackout Summer’, where the dating duo of Brian Carver and Lucy Wehrly add an extra fistful of twee to their Tronics-inspired Cali garage. Boyishly pondering the existence of scaly prehistoric monsters, ‘Dinosaurs’ is also the track you’ll sing for the whole of the following day, flatly, if you’re doing it right. “Ceratosaurus are my favourite dinosaur,” says Brian without a second thought. “It was basically like a T-Rex but with a horn on its nose. Pretty badass. I also like the really huge dinosaurs like Seismosaurus, Supersaurus and Argentinosaurus. It boggles my mind that things that big ever walked the Earth.” He’s not making these names up – I’ve checked. Brian is simply a man with the kind of childlike wonderment you’d expect from a Christmas Islander who chose their name “because it sounded like some magical, imaginary place,” and Lucy, whose old band were called [best put your slice of pizza down for this] The Cowabunga Dudes, clearly tows the same youthful line. Together they’ve been stoking the San-Diego-is-so-radright-now fire for a little over a year, along with Wavves, Dum Dum Girls and Crocodiles. ‘Blackout Summer’ is their dudelicious take on west coast, summer jams, and a record that buries a sizable booty of different influences along its shoreline. “I’d like to think we have our own sound,” says Brian. “We’ve been kind of lumped into
the whole ‘lo-fi’ thing going on right now and I don’t really know how to address that. On one hand, I like a lot of bands that fall under that umbrella and it’s helped us achieve some degree of success, but it’s also frustrating because we never set out to be a part of some bigger movement, especially one where the unifying factor seems to be shitty-sounding recordings. Initially, we were going to record the LP ourselves but then I thought, here’s a great opportunity and why sabotage it by doing something I know will sound like shit. That’s why we ended up recording with Mike McHugh at the Distillery. The bands that inspired us initially were The Urinals, Tronics, Television Personalities and The Clean. Lately, I’ve been really into artists/bands with really strong, up-front guitar like Alex Chilton, The Soft Boys and Television.” So far, so DIY, which is exactly what Christmas Island are, but on tracks like ‘Bed Island’, Brian’s melodies are more Beach Boys than Strange Boys; it’s slowed down surf pop about “a mattress made of sand” somewhere between Nodzzz’s horny no-fi and a Brian Wilson high school love song. ‘Egypt’, semislurring to a snake-charming organ doing a convincing impression of The Stranglers’ ‘No More Heroes’, sounds not unlike our own Graffiti Island; ‘My Baby’ is Shangri Las tambourine bashes and a big girl group swoon for those who’ve been dumped at the prom. The point is, Christmas Island really aren’t a lo-fi garage band
in the cheese-burger-and-boners, carton sense, not like Black Lips or The German Measles are. They know more than two and a half chords and bands between them, and yet their logo is a candy cane crossed with a bong, and their debut album can’t help but include a handful of big, dumb summer tunes about Southern California, getting stoned and jumping into swimming pools. It is called ‘Blackout Summer’, I guess.
“Our friend Shauna coined the term,” explains Brian. “A couple of summers ago she said something to the effect of, “This will be our blackout summer,” in reference to how it would be an epic summer for getting wasted. I thought it sounded really cool and it seemed fitting for a song about the summertime and how it brings back heartache, hazy memories.” Hazy because they were long ago, or for some other reason,
“Ceratosaurus are my favourite dinosaur. It was basically like a T-Rex but with a horn on its nose. Pretty badass”
Brian? Your logo is a candy cane/bong emblem, after all, even if it only exists on your front cover in the form of a crude ankle tattoo. And whose ankle is that, exactly? “Actually, it’s our friend Mike Bova’s, and yes, it’s a real tattoo,” nods Brian proudly. “He wrote to us one day and said he was going to a get a stick-and-poke Christmas Island tattoo. We were just like, ‘Uh… OK.’ Next thing we know he sends
us a picture of the tattoo. We were really flattered to say the least. The logo was all his idea. It’s kind of a goofy album cover but there was no way we weren’t going to use it. I’m glad you noticed it was a bong because people always confuse it either as a penis, blow dryer or crack pipe. It seems pretty obvious to me that it’s a bong.” Mike Bova, it seems, knows Christmas Island as well as Brian knows Jurassic beasties.
His own handy-work might mean that his stick of striped candy looks as if it’s being crossed with a particularly unpleasant wang, but it is a bong, and that logo says a lot about Christmas Island. It says they’re innocent but dangerous; sweet but corrupt; naïve but wild. It describes them pretty accurately. They consistently write melodies superior to a lot of the American DIY set, but we can’t help but notice that one
minute they’re about Stegosauruses and the next they’re about “acting like a fuck-head” (‘It’s True’), puking in the deep end (‘Blackout Summer’) or shear petulance (‘I Don’t Care’). Maybe it’s this schizophrenia that, in a year that has given us more lo-fi punk bands than you can shake a blow dryer/crack pipe/cock at, has made Christmas Island stick. Unlike so many others, we’re still talking about these ones.
There Will Be Blood P h o t o g r a p h e r : t i m c o c h r a n e W r i t e r : r ee f yo u n i s
Yeasayer’s second album is coming, and its new pop sensibilities could see this Brooklyn trio ‘go big’ in 2010. They couldn’t think of anything worse Battling through the rolling clatter of luggage trolleys and chitter-chatter of receptionists; fighting through the vanilla pop piped through hotel lobby speakers, a question hangs heavy in the air: “Are you familiar with the American dream?” It’s an ideal touted far beyond Atlantic shores, and as guitarist Anand Wilder does his best to both lounge and swivel his head, owllike, to meet my now unsure gaze, I realise it’s a lofty question that demands an even grander answer. “Erm…yeah?” is the best I can muster. Luckily for me the initial question was neither overly serious nor rhetorical. Thankfully it’s also an interview heavy on the former as Chris, Ira and Anand set me in whirlwind motion. A hive of animated conversation, jokes, personal digs and considered opinion, the trio have the relaxed demeanour of a band immensely enjoying the time they spend together. Following the initial pleasantries where bassist Ira takes a relatively monosyllabic lead, it quickly becomes apparent that as one speaks, the other two, just out of eyeline and earshot, listen intently, readying to take up the conversational baton or actively look to sabotage the others’ answer. It’s a refreshing alternative from the apathy that typically comes with a regimented day of repetitive promo, and it’s a positive merry-go-round that doesn’t wane from the outset. “We’re here just for you…” Chris beams, fiddling with the mic as he looks to set it up on the silver tea pot sat in the middle of the table. “We’re actually over here doing an edit for some of the songs for the radio,” Anand picks up “so it’s much easier just to be here in person.” “We’re just philanderers, travelling around; tying up some loose ends…at least that answer was more than one sentence long!” Chris, still beaming, grins at Ira.
Yeasayer’s jovial mood is understandable. Armed with a mooching European itinerary and a loose mission statement to tidy up the odd track, the band, this time at least, aren’t bound by press days, promotion around an album or even a handful of live dates.There’s early next year for all of that, and with the buzz building around their brilliant sophomore album, ‘Odd Blood’, it seems they’ve also been bitten by the Brookyln buzz bug that’s kept us enthralled for most of 2009.With debut album ‘All Hour Cymbals’ causing a fair few ripples on its release a little under two years ago, their extensive touring schedule, and with a whole lotta blog love buoying the release,Yeasayer represent a further music win for the borough as another of its muso glitterati – hot on the heels of Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear et al. - garners both the blog and broadsheet inches they deserve. A: “I think that’s the kind of music that people who write about music like, but it’s not just the music writers… you guys are probably tired of all the… the pop idea of what indie music is. Like the shit that’s being played at the Barfly with all these 19 year old kids thinking, ‘we’re going to be the next indie band!’You guys aren’t all idiots, right? So you’ve got to be appreciative of something that’s a little bit different and hasn’t been shoved down your throat since The Strokes came out.” I: “I think it’s more to do with the technology that’s taking over.” A: “The blogs, man!” I: “Yeah, it’s the people who are on the cutting edge… or people like Pitchfork… I can remember coming across Pitchfork in 2003 and not really knowing what it was but knowing that I liked the look of it. I think it’s just the nature of the people who are on the fringes; the outliers kind of discover it first.” C: “I think all the major labels are having trouble pushing their pop starlets, and for
whatever reason aren’t doing it so you have your Grizzly Bear’s, your Animal Collectives, your TV on the Radios… they’re kinda coming through and doing their weird little thing.” A: “All those bands have been around for a while, and it’s not like Pitchfork or whoever are going to ditch those bands after supporting them for so many years. More people are reading those sites and having a Times article legitimises it even more.” Where some are naturally reluctant to bite their tongue, as hawk-eyed, bat-eared PR’s circle to nip the broaching of remotely controversial (interesting?) subject in the bud,Yeasayer are resoundingly forthright. Having waived the ‘new band’ tag, the trio are keen to avoid the gimme questions that come with the rising star territory. “You aren’t going to ask us about the name, are you?” Chris enquiries. No, there are far more important issues on Yeasayer’s radar, the decline of substantial music journalism and mainstream aesthetics, is predominantly one of them. I: “Is Pitchfork bigger than the NME over here?” L&Q: Probably more so for the muso crowd, yeah. C: “I can see that, but it’s like how many records did the guy from American Idol sell?” I: “Half a million?” C: “12 million.” A: “What?!” I: “What?!” C: “The NME just started writing shorter and shorter articles and I think lost credibility.” I: “…more and more pop, p-p-p-p-p-p-pop, more cute guys on the cover, more cute girls on the cover…” A: “Perhaps Pitchfork has the capabilities because it’s web based, but it has articles the NME doesn’t print, articles Rolling Stone doesn’t print.”
C: “All NME have ever done is talk about what we dress like.That’s not why you’re reading a music magazine but maybe I’m wrong.” A: “It’s the same as Rolling Stone in America – all these kind of institutions we really bought into when we were 12/13 years old, and then to cope with the Internet, instead of getting edgier, they went corporate.” C: “Rolling Stone’s like reading news week!” I: “I have the NME I bought from Camden in the 80’s and it’s huge…” C: “…there was some great stuff, some really weird shit in there, now it’s like Rolling Stone has Jonas Brothers on the front cover. Or Miley Cyrus…” I: “Yeah, it’s gone like a trashy tabloid and all these random articles…” C: “…ones that don’t have any real content, but I can go read any trashy publication for that shit. It’s sad, but being in the States, perhaps it’s done a little better, like some magazines would put Wayne Coyne on the front cover, but there still aren’t enough ‘big’ indie bands on the front covers or anything.” With that sense of disillusionment, you’d perhaps expect the band to give the media, writers and reviews equally short shrift, but for all the frustration directed at certain factions of the music press, the band still holds a respect and appreciation for those behind the written/spoken word who treat their music right. Or wrong. Just as long as they do it properly. “Do I read the reviews?” Chris pauses. “Begrudgingly, yeah. I just brush it off. If it’s a good one I’m like ‘they don’t know what they’re talking about’ or if they didn’t like it, ‘they don’t know what they’re talking about.’ I don’t really care what any reviewer thinks to be honest.” I: “Why would they be so cruel?!” A: “We’re most excited when friends of ours that are musicians come up after a show and say, ‘ I don’t know about that one track but that weird one you guys did, that was
fucking awesome’ and you’re like ‘Yes! You get it!’ I think you look for that with critics too, I mean these guys are specialists and they have an air of expertise.” I: “I’m interested in what other people’s opinions are in what we’re doing. I want to see how this appeals to people or how it doesn’t. I know what I like and what the three of us put together. It’s not going to make me go sit in my bedroom and bite my nails and slit my wrists if it’s not constructive.” C: “The NME thing really bothers me because they don’t seem to do their research. I mean, if you’re going to misquote a lyric, you can avoid that by doing your research. If you’re going to knock, do it right. If you really investigate it and want to trash it, fine, but don’t say ‘his moustache looks so stupid when he sings.’” A: “I actually wrote a complimentary email to a guy who wrote a really negative review of us because it was really well written. I mean, he trashed it, but he’d taken the time to research his shit and it was done constructively.” C: “We’re working in the same world.” A: “Everyone’s a critic… and everyone’s a musician too, right?”
ot that Yeasayer should be overly concerned about the building reaction to ‘Odd Blood’, because to our ears, it’s already set an ingenious marker for 2010. Having stuck to their firm ideal putting out an alternative to the indie fodder we’re typically subjected to, it’s an album vibrant and alive with skewed pop sensibilities, the off-beat world music rhythms that could even justify the numerous, lazy Paul Simon comparisons (white boys doing African music, right?) and Yeasayer’s unerring determination to avoid the identikit. ‘Ambling Alp’ carries all the brass stabs and soaring falsettos that helped make TV on the Radio so vital, there’s the itchy junkyard jitterbugging of ‘Rome’ that’d have Mystery Jets green with envy, and ‘O.N.E’, which towers over the whole album in the shape of (believe it or not) Cut Copy,
its skittering calypso rhythm, gyrating Prince melodies and tumbling breakdowns already pencilling it in as the single of 2010. And yes, I’m aware we’re not even there yet.Who knows, it might even make sense of their self-coined tag ‘middle-eastern-psych-popsnap-gospel’ that’s become a staple in anything Yeasayer-related; from features to Wikipedia entries, to, probably, HMV record sections. C: “It was a running joke when we wrote it down.” A: “It was apt at the time and conveyed the idea we were experimenting with a lot of different styles of music and using a middle eastern scale and working with gospel and all these ambient sounds…” I: “… and no one ever picks up on the word ‘snap’ which was Jermaine Dupri’s word for his style of Atlanta hip hop. I don’t care about the labels of anything, I don’t know what rock ‘n’ roll means anymore, I don’t know what any of it means anymore.” A: “I’d rather be that than electro pop” C: “I always get pretty mad looking at the indie section. Look at all the major labels – it’s the exact opposite! I take that stuff pretty seriously, the whole independent record culture that evolved and you have Rough
Trade and those kind of labels and the stuff going on the West Coast in America.Those labels started out of love and the songs came out of love.” A: “It’s human nature to put things into categories and little boxes. Society and segregation or apartheid type of stuff.This type of music must only be played on this radio station at a certain time and be in this section of the store. I think we all have that in our brains. I can remember listening to Arthur Russell for the first time and thinking what is this? Do I like it? I don’t know. Is this disco? I think indie means guitar, drums…” I: “…whiny vocal…” A: “…white boys singing.” C: “I always find genres funny. House. I’m trying to picture what that is. And then I hear deep house and it’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard. Or Miami freestyle…” I: “…New Orleans bounce…” L &Q: “…Acid jazz, tech house...” C: “…Felix Da Housecat…” I: “…house parties, house of Solomon… I could go on all day.” In a climate where the behemoths of the industry are bleating about illegal downloads, advance album leaks and file-sharing, and
watching their corporate grip gradually sliding off the monopoly, splits – both bitter and amicable – have become increasingly common place over the last year. It would be easy to blame ‘the way things are’ or that the industry’s reaction to the download curve ball came too late, but it’s hard to remember that while all labels are looking to make money, they’re not all hungry Limburger’s looking to exploit a band’s endeavour in the short term. C: “I’d be fine with a major label if I knew they weren’t forcing stuff down our throat or if they didn’t stop us making a weird video. I just don’t want them to be involved where they don’t need to be.” I: “The fact is we’re control freaks. Chris does pretty much all of the artwork and we have our own way.That’s why we signed with the labels we signed with… it’s helped us facilitate the way we do things.” C: “Like we showed the artwork [to Mute] and they were like ‘that’s pretty ugly’ but let us run with it anyway. And that’s to their credit, because the only problems we had was that our initial idea was too expensive for us to do.They said it was kind of goofy and kind of ugly and I was like ‘yeah.’” I: “but it’s also like whether you agree with us or not, we want to get your opinion. It’s not like we want to live in this little bubble and it’s also not like they’re sat in the studio either.” C: “If people start hating us and the label turns against us, well, right now, we’re in the honeymoon period.We’re 10 dates in and we’re fucking, it’s awesome, and you know, 20 dates in, it’s the best time, we’re going to go on vacation, I’m buying everything… 69ing for the first time…” I: “…I think so far it’s just expanded opportunities for us. Like now we’re working on the radio edit, and I guess there might be some purist band that would refuse to do that, and we all love radio, well some version of radio, we all grew up with it, but with the last album we didn’t even have that opportunity.” It’s worth noting that Yeasayer, like a lot of the NY bands championed over the last few years, haven’t seen their star rapidly ascent.While it’s not an archaic expectation for bands to pay their dues to toll roads and toilet venues, it’s one that, for a short time at least, became increasingly redundant as most working bands’ nightmares became an A & R wet dream, and the boom/bust and instant gratification of music in the UK, at least, shifted to those bands fishing for that big fat record deal and Topman endorsement. A: “Ask how many people in America have heard of the majority of the UK indie bands. No one gives a shit about The Kooks in America…even if we don’t keep growing and we get less popular, I just want to be in a position to keep doing this. All my favourite musicians have had their peaks and their lows.” C: “I think there are certain bands over here that are always going to be big here. If I was to look back over the history of all my favourite bands from the UK that were huge in America, it would take me forever. It just so happens there’s a weird climate going on right now of 18 year old kids who can barely play guitar, can’t write songs, have nothing to say, but are elevated by their major labels or NME or Q or whoever and 25 bands later they’re all in the gutter.They’re not doing
“we’re in the honeymoon period. We’re 10 dates in and we’re fucking. it’s awesome!”
anything that interesting.They’re writing songs for 14/15 year old girls, and 14/15 year old girls become 17/18 year old girls by the time the next albums comes out and are now like ‘Oooh, Lady Gaga.’” The two year gap between Yeasayer’s debut and forthcoming second album might be an ice age in majors grand album rollouts, but it also underlines the kind of relationship that should burgeon between a band and a label looking out for their best interests. C: “When we got the record, there was no hoopla around the first one, it just kinda came out and it was just tour tour tour tour and we made it to Australia, New Zealand, Europe, the States, playing with bigger bands, in bigger venues, and at the same time negotiating with labels, we worked so hard that it gave us a better overall understanding of how it works and what would be the right move for us.” I: “I think we had the luxury of being managed well and having the support that enabled us to tour.We might have been scooped up by some major label but I think it’s better if someone comes in early and gets you for almost nothing, there’s more of an investment...” C: “…and you look at that advance money… that’s a loan.The record label’s a bank and they’re trying to use you to make money.You’re actually losing money on your record.We played a lot of shows and the third time we played Cleveland; we actually played to more than four people!” So as venues, labels and management change,
surely the ambition should run concurrently? Bigger venues, bigger crowds, growing fanbase…you would think expectations would inflate with the level of success; aspirations would become more ostentatious; the band more demanding… C: “I thought it’d be cool if we sold 5000 copies.” A: “I didn’t think we’d even sell 5000, but I think it’d be cool to get it out as much as the first one.” C: “The idea is obviously to play big shows but I see a certain point where I don’t want to play in front of a crowd of more than, I don’t know, 3000 people because I don’t need to play to anymore. But it’s always; if you play a bigger room, better sound, reach more people.” A: “Would we ever headline a stadium show? C: “Which stadium?” I: “I’d rather hold onto my morals.” C: “We’re still playing to maybe 1000 people.” A: If we sold the same amount as our last album, that’d be great. I don’t even know why anyone should buy the record, you could just download it, I want you to buy the record… please buy the record!” I: “I like CDs…” C: “…I like looking at things, the things I’ve bought on iTunes or illegally downloaded aren’t the same, plus I hate having to wait, and trying five different torrents to get, say, The Ray Charles Discography, is frustrating for anybody. I’m joking about that by the way.” In a year where landfill indie was tempered by some truly memorable albums; majors started to feel the recessionary pinch; a sense of sovereignty was given back to bands/ musos/fans/users, there are some bands whose sole intention isn’t to fill stadiums or shift millions of units or sell out. Ok, so they’re not exactly raging against the machine, more giving it a rigorous rap on the knuckles, but for these acts, the ethos has remained remarkably intact. “I just think it’s really funny when people see us play live and they’re like ‘man, you’re so much better than last time’” Ira starts, “and my reaction is always ‘I fucking hope so’. I mean, you saw us two years ago, so if you can’t say that, what the fuck have I been doing with my life. I’m working for it, man; we’re working really fucking hard on these records” Are Yeasayer familiar with the American dream? A: “We’re livin’ it,” C: “I can see myself wearing a bandana” A: “On the front cover of NME.” www.loudandquiet.com
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Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti Bob Mould Castrovalva Comanechi Egyptian Hip Hop Fair Ohs Fiction Laura Marling Lightning Bolt Nature Set Part Chimp Pseudo Nippon Sex Beet Soulsavers Trash Talk Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Good Shoes No Hope, No Future (Brille) By Mandy Drake. In stores Jan 18
In 2007, for some, Good Shoes, sitting pretty amongst a plethora of post-Franz guitar saps like Mumm-ra, GoodBooks,The Rumble Strips and a second album Rakes, were just another reason why we should have a generous amount of beef with ‘indie saviours’The Strokes, and ‘No Hope, No Future’ will no doubt do little to change that opinion. For others though, Good Shoes’ debut album, ‘Think Before You Speak’, was an unfairly dismissed, spiky pop record of witty, youth-ish observation to cherish. If you’re one of these clever people, prepare to feel very pleased with your knowing self. By the time ‘No Hope…’ is widely available it’ll be nearly three years since that first album was released. In that time they’ve replaced a member and largely done little else.They’ve certainly not been experimenting with synthesisers, exploring Kraut rock drones or
cottoning on to any other recent fad – this new album is still clearly that of an angular guitar band. And yet, Good Shoes have grown up… and grown angrier. “Everything you do, everything you say, always ends up turning out the same,” purrs singer Rhys with distain to the lightly distorted skulk of ‘Everything You Do’. “I see things another way entirely,” he notes as Good Shoes lurk on in unfamiliar but weighty fashion. Seemingly, this band are done with simply playing giddy, naïve indie pop for teenage pouters. ‘Our Loving Mother In A Pink Diamond’ sounds like brooding Arctic Monkeys (pre Josh Homme/the dull desert house band days); ‘City By The Sea’ a weepy love waltz that reminds us just how beautiful this band’s melodies can be. As for the sprinting-for-the-bus tracks that sound like they’re being played faster than the band can possibly manage, threatening to trip up their own knotted legs at any moment – and they are still here – they all seem to be most influenced by Foals and commercial math-rock.
Like ‘Under Control’ (a convincing case for the best track here), which blips and bounces to guitars played above their twelfth frets.The bassline is more than a little similar to Blur’s ‘Girl & Boys’, and the high hat may well have been lifted from ‘Cassius’ (or any number of discopunk tracks that have proceeded ‘House of Jealous Lovers’), but it really is too danceable to care about. So why is ‘No Hope, No Future’ unlikely to garner Good Shoes a hoard of new fans who have until now filed them away in their ‘meh’ archive? There’s two reasons – 1.) It has been 3 years, trends change and stubborn minds rarely do, and 2.) While Good Shoes are clearly a darker, more widely influenced band than they once were, that’s most apparent to those who’ve lived with ‘Think Before Your Speak’ for all this time.Tracks here like ‘The Way My Heart Beats’ and ‘Times Change’ act as a step back for every two forward earned by ‘Everything You Do’ and the aggressive ‘I Know’.This would be a real shame though, because ‘No Hope...’ is yet another Good Shoes album for fans to cherish.
Dead Zone Boys
(Asthmatic Kitty) By Chris Watkeys. In stores Jan 25
(Rough Trade) By Polly Rappaport. In stores Jan 11
(Woodist) By Stuart Stubbs. In stores Jan 4
(BBE) By Edgar Smith. In stores Jan 18
Life is Sweet! Nice to meet You (Domino)
The opening track of ‘Dead Zone Boys’ is the frankly startling ‘Phantom Don’t Go’, an early pointer to the crazily scattergun approach to style and genre taken by Jookabox.What sounds like looped native American singing sits uncomfortably atop an overridingly loud rhythm, whacked out frenetically, with a touch of electronica in there too. Somehow, it all works brilliantly. Occasionally, the album is slightly more conventional, but no less engaging. ‘You Cried Me’ is a ninety-miles-an-hour rattle through melodic chaos held together by a cartoonish vocal refrain, ‘Gonna Need The Guns’ is crunchingly heavy and laced with funk, while high point ‘East Side Bangs/East Side Fade’ is simply sublime. Sparse then rich, the impact is exciting and energising a powerful testament to the virtues of originality and invention.
If ‘Sixes & Sevens’ saw Adam Green taking things down a notch from the bristling energy displayed on ‘Jacket…’ and ‘Gemstones’, ‘Minor Love’ has dimmed the lights a touch more; his hard, smooth voice-of-a-crude-sex-pest has taken on a smoky quality, occasionally going rough around the edges, a brief, slightly scratched note. ‘Boss Inside’ has a Cohen-ish melancholy about it, accompanied only by a piano, and ‘Stadium Soul’ sounds distant, echoing as though it had been recorded at the bottom of a well. Green’s characteristic, effortlessly clever stream of consciousness lyrics are sharp and on form but there is a slightly weary, reflective overall quality to the album, his angry, tongue-incheek humour having sat down with a tepid whisky to percolate and take stock. It’s a darker shade of Green, and it looks good on him.
In the last 3 months, there’s been a lot of shouting about New York’s The Drums and their excitable surfing habits, but in neighbouring New Jersey, Real Estate have been developing a far subtler beach sound – their coastal, sunbathing indie soundtracks the sunset after a day of hanging ten with Johnny Utah and the dead presidents. It’s slower and slyer than those currently towing the lo-fi/surf line (babbling arpeggio guitars and half whispered vocals, not yelps of early morning shore hysteria), but it’s no less impressive, meandering along at its own mid-to-slovenly pace that is effortlessly immersive. If there’s an argument against Real Estate’s debut, it no doubt sounds like, “Dude, all the tracks sound the same,” which is not an unfair observation, although, “Yeah man, but the whole thing is way too soothing for me to give a shit,” soon deals with such nay-saying.
New York boy/girl duo (and if that’s made you roll your eyes already,Wait! We mean New York the State, not that bloody centre of metropolitan cool) Phantogram’s debut album starts out well with girl-vocal dreamscape-ing that sits comfortably alongside Ken Keseyreferencing psych-bricolage. Once the guy starts singing on ‘Turn it Off ’ though, we’re reminded of UNCLE’s squarer moments. ‘You are the Ocean’ is as bad as its Calvin Klein pour homme name and ‘Running from the Cops’ sounds like it was written waiting for the bus on washing powderderived tranquilizers. As much as it owes Portishead, the record’s snaps of well produced drum sounds and samples make it unnerving and cathartic enough to be enjoyable and ‘Mouthful of Diamonds’ with ‘Bloody Palms’, ‘Let Me Go’ and ‘10,000 Claps’ would’ve made a smashing EP.
By Reef Younis. In stores Feb 1 Devonte Hynes might have been one of the celebrated catalysts for the loud, brash day-glo stain that characterised the vacuous Klaxons generation, but he’s done much since then to escape his colourful past. Lightspeed Champion still carries some of the scenester hallmarks of those halcyon days but they’ve been tempered by some surprisingly agreeable tendencies. Following on from his middling debut, this effort has slightly grander aspirations. Laced with drawing room piano and sweeping string embellishments, there’s a healthy sense of diversity as wholly pleasant balladry sits alongside the jerkier sass of tracks like ‘Marlene’. But this, along with Hynes’ lax lyrics (“Dalston lane seems grey/I’ve spent all my coins, I’m down to my loins”), presents the jumbled contrast that dogged his debut. Still perfectly satisfying but muddled all the same.
Charlotte Gainsbourg IRM (Because) By Stuart Stubbs. In stores Jan 25
The man in the picture is Beck: the loser with a devil’s haircut.The lady, amongst other things, is the daughter of ultimate French lust god Serge Gainsbourg, and Cannes’ ‘Best Actress’ for her role in controversial art flick Antichrist. ‘IRM’ is Ganinsbourg’s second album but first joint effort, produced and co-written by Beck, with his father arranging its string parts.The ultratalented clearly stick together (and pass on their genes), and here the results are as expected. As well as frequently being seductive and beautiful in a way that only Parisians truly know how (the ballads of ‘Le Cafe Des Artistes’ and ‘In The End’ are particularly delicate yet sexy, like a softened Trost), ‘IRM’ is a most powerful DNA test to link Charlotte to Serge due to how eclectic it is, no doubt heightened by Beck’s involvement.Whether stomping through a ‘60’s show tune duet (‘Heaven Can Wait’), distorted, bluesy highlight ‘Trick Pony’, or pulling in tribal rhythms and fleeting violins for ‘Voyage’, this partnership is enviably creative. www.loudandquiet.com
Al bums 08/10
The Shadow of an Empire
(Heavenly) By Nathan Westley. In stores Feb 8
(Manimal) By Sam Walton. In stores now
(Sonic Cathedral) By Tom Pinnock. In stores Jan 25
(Upset The Rhythm) By Polly Rappaport. In stores now
(IAMSOUND) By Mandy Drake. In stores Jan 25
It is easy for sophomore albums to attract an air of disappointment, and when it is one that follows a Mercury nominated debut, avoiding the second album curse is a hard task made several times harder.Wandering Folk troubadour Fionn Regan has skirted around this problem by knitting together a mature sounding album that both acknowledges and bows down to the past’s already treasured greats; yet the flipside of this is that comparisons can be easily drawn and one hangs over ‘The Shadow...’ more so than any other. Likening this album to those of Bob Dylan are inevitable as ‘The Shadow…’ tracks its way along many of the same jagged paths, through country tinged whisky-sipping rock and introspective upbeat American folk. But balanced and finely constructed, this record gives Fionn Regan many more reasons to stand proudly in the spotlight.
An extended EP of two halves, this. At its best, the Los Angeles all-girl trio’s debut release is lush, dreamy and impressively accomplished melancholia; when it’s not, however, the results feel drab and thrown together.The good comes first: opener ‘Stars’ is all sparse guitars, cathedral drums and spook, anchored by sleepily sexy threepart female harmonies. It recalls ‘Parachutes’-era Coldplay, just with more guts and less careerism.Then Sonic Youth and Bat For Lashes mingle with Jeff Buckley on ‘Elephants’, leaving a kind of fuzzy funk just as splendid, but after that the EP crashes. A trio of crass jams follow, culminating in ‘Beetles’, an inexcusably terrible Blondie ripoff, and although the final track saves some face, it really is not enough.There are glimmers of genius here, but over the course of six songs those shafts of light only shine so bright.
Rising from the ashes of French psych-rockers Cyann & Ben, one of the greatest bands never to make it big, three-piece Yeti Lane seem to be aiming their music right for the (admittedly, indie) mainstream, on this, their exceptionally strong debut. Some of their former band’s shoegazey, Pink Floyd-esque sound remains, but it’s all strengthened and speeded-up – ‘Heart’s Architecture’ is dreamy and subtle, yet propelled by a driving shuffle beat.There’s a strong Krautrock influence (unsurprisingly, given the fact their name references Amon Duul II) to the more up-tempo guitar-led tracks like ‘Twice’ and ‘Lucky Bag’, and while there’s a slight feeling that Yeti Lane have timidly reined in some of their weirder tendencies, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing – just wait until their confidence grows, and then we’ll really see what they can do.
For all the ten-minute drone fests one might know and love, there’s nothing quite like a track that cuts the crap and gets its business done in a minute thirty.The Sticks crash out this crude beauty time again through an album less than forty minutes in its entirety, and leave you slightly dazed but twenty songs happier – have that, you proggy three-hour five-trackers. Boisterous and a bit boozy, this is an album of cymbal-driven, crunchy garage punk, prickling with reverb-drenched vocals, manic, metallic surf guitars and a distinct lack of bass lines.There is the occasional woozy punk waltz (‘In The Sea’) or bass-heavy psych moment (‘Nothing Song’) but for the most part this is a thrashy, abrupt, clattering record – if violently emptying a cutlery drawer was an art form, it would sound like The Sticks.That’s a compliment.
It’s customary at this time of year for the music press to not only peak at neighbours’ Ones-ToWatch lists and regurgitate a staple ten names as their own but also take a punt at next year’s alternative genre of choice. And Afrobeat is looking like a frontrunner.Yeasayer are back, as are Vampire Weekend in early 2010, with Foals not far behind and the Paul Simon-influenced Fair Ohs looking set to be on the smartest of OTW polls. Eleven-strong LA collective Fool’s Gold only stoke the World Music fire with this debut album. It all begins with ‘Surprise Hotel’, which sounds like it could belong to The Very Best, and while a bold, hip-curling start of windy guitars and smooth chants, it’s constantly bettered by orchestras of tribal melodies and Beirut-esque instrumentation. Afrobeat and Fool’s Gold are a welcome way to begin the year.
The Soft Pack The Soft Pack (Heavenly) By Nathan Westley. In stores Feb 1
A lot has been written about The Soft Pack already, last years initial burst of blogosphere hype and the disbanding of the risqué moniker of The Muslims has been steamrolled into it being a given that many will be tipping them to make a big impression in several soon to be published ‘One’s to watch out for’ lists.Yet while others propelled into similar positions have tended to disappoint, quickly cobbling together a disjointed effort in order to hit at the optimum time, The Soft Pack’s eponymous album is remarkably sturdy; pillaring together a collection of steady massappeal-seeking, non-offensive, pop-enthused garage rock tracks that are only a breath away from those of The Strokes, which at times curveball towards hugging The Lemonheads ear-falating melodies.That very fact could well have lovers of fuzz labelling ‘The Soft Pack’ as garage lite, but what this record really proves is that DIY doesn’t need to be a lifestyle that shuns mass appeal; this is one pack that will gain many followers.
Built to Spill
Pit Er Pat
Dear God, I Hate Myself
There Is No Enemy
The Flexible Entertainer
(Upset The Rhythm) By Matthias Scherer. In stores now
(Vagrant) By Tom Goodwyn. In stores Jan 18
(Kill Rockstars) By Stuart Stubbs. In stores Feb 15
(ATP) By Sam Walton. In stores Feb 8
(Thrill Jockey) By Ian Roebuck. In stores Jan 25
It’s fair to say that it probably wasn’t a bunch of daisies that inspired Freddy Ruppert, Nika Roza and Jamie Stewart to call their electro-doom-pop sideproject’s album after the French word for flowers.While it’s no surprise that something Xiu Xiu’s main creative force (Stewart) is involved with makes for absorbing, albeit somewhat morbid listening, the amount of clear-cut hooks on display do make you sit up and move closer to the speaker. Out of the ether, numb, scattered beats crawl underneath reverb-heavy synth carpets, echoing Cold Cave and (to a lesser but still notable extent) Casiotone For The Painfully Alone. ‘Mother’ is a painfully strained letter to a dead loved one, while on ‘In Earth’s Palm’ Roza sings a drowning siren’s last words. Lie down and listen to the flowers wither – it’s a beautiful sound.
Eels’ frontman Mark “E” Everett has never been the type to embrace the warmer things in the world - even commercial vehicle ‘Novacaine For the Soul’ smacked of a certain melancholic desperation. Over the course of his band’s 15-year career, he’s actively seeked out life’s darker moments, if anything, and this shows no signs of abating on eighth studio album ‘End Times’. Mainly acoustic and devoid of any noticeable production, the album is smothered by enormous sadness. The tracks are graceful in their composition and the lyrics avoid outright self-pity, but the whole thing is laden with such world weariness that it is hard to listen to. It feels like the creation of a man who has fallen out of love with the world. It’s poetic, at times gutwrenching, but mostly very, very depressing. For hardened Eels fans only.
It doesn’t take much to realise that something is up with Xiu Xiu. There’s that title for a start, and while it can initially be considered some dark irony, the therapysession croonings of Jamie Stewart are far too earnest to be a gag (or a cynical cash-in for Generation Black Parade). Operatically warbling through chattering teeth, Stewart sounds – on opener ‘Gray Death’, at least – like a sincere Editors.The reason this is no bad thing is because, together with partner Angela Seo, the NY-er also has a way with impressive swathes of electronic clicks, whistles and percussion, like on ‘Chocolate Makes You Happy’ - a track not as cheery as it sounds, but rather about self-loathing and bulimia. All of this soul-baring can be uncomfortable - like you’re wrongly hiding behind Stewart’s psychiatrist’s couch - but largely this goth pop is brilliantly poignant.
A decade since their last great record, Built To Spill return with another album of rock-solid US indie. And it’s better than the last couple – although that’s a bit like saying Obama’s better than the guy before. However, there’s some terrific stuff on ‘…Enemy’: the hell-raising Dinosaur Jr-isms of ‘Pat’ are full of life and verve, and ‘Oh Yeah’’s post-rockin’ soundscape is satisfyingly heavy, once it gets going. ‘Done’’s worldweary melancholy is also lovely – a distant cousin of Nick Cave’s ‘Nobody’s Baby Now’ – but suffers from being at least three minutes too long, a problem that plagues the entire album. At nearly an hour, with several meandering jams that offer neither intensity nor virtuosity, ‘…Enemy’ is overperformed and ultimately frustrating – all the ingredients are here for a cracking LP, but the aimless detours sour its rich flavour.
Listening to ‘The Flexible Entertainer’ is an anxiety driven but ultimately invigorating experience. Like Mi Ami and High Places before it, every album album from the Thrill Jockey stable seems to tingle the spine whilst shredding the nerves, and it’s no different here. Butchy Fuego and Fay DavisJeffers are the duo behind Pit er Pat and they like things simple, so simple in fact that this album was never going to exist. Intended purely for the live circuit (‘The Flexible Entertainer’ was conceived once a European tour was booked and the band realised their desire to ‘travel light’), this is a collection of short, sharply spiked shudders, raw and minimal.Their use of space and disjointed beats familiar to any fan of The xx, this remains a wilder beast. Sexy, sparse and on the verge of a nervous breakdown it needs to be played very loud. Play it quietly and let the dread in.
Hot Chip One Life Stand (Parlophone) By Phil Burt. In stores Feb 1
Hot Chip and Bret Easton Ellis have some things in common. Starting out producing stripped back, clean and beautifully understated work, both have become more intricate, more long-winded and more obsessed with fiddly details. ‘One Life Stand’ is Hot Chip’s Glamorama. But, rather than providing an astute comment on our image obsessed society, it’s a blob of forgettable pop songs so jam packed with irritating sound effects (‘One Life Stand’) and fussy Little Bootsesque disco beats (‘Thieves in the Night’) that making it through the album is a chore. Simply put, they’ve lost their heart. Gone are the downbeat musings – ‘The Playboy’ – and outstanding pop hits – ‘Over and Over’ – and in are tracks such as ‘I Feel Better’, an auto-tuned beast sounding like it’s been buggered by a synthesiser, and ‘Brothers’ a bizarre ode to those weird little creatures, the brother-lovers. If you’ve liked previous albums don’t even waste your energy pressing play.You’ll only be disappointed if you do. www.loudandquiet.com
CSI: El Paso
comanechi El Paso, Shoreditch, London 11.12.2009 By Stuart Stubbs ▼
Pics by Danielle Goldstein
“Please welcome a very special guest… oh, where’s VSO? Oh, she’s having a shit.” If you’ve ever seen The Exorcist, you’ll know that where the real horror lies is in Linda Blair’s ability to bad mouth like a demon sailor (and puke pea green vomit a hundred yards) whilst originally looking like a ‘nice girl’. Sinead Youth – Divorce’s loosely ringlet’d mouth piece – is a similar deal – she looks like she should be picking flowers in meadow in the 1940s, but when she opens her mouth an ungodly, deep, bark comes out. She rages around to drummer James’ speed metal drumming, ranting about whores on ‘Early Christianity’ and disciplining kids through the confrontational ‘Juice of Youth’. It’s very one dimensional, but an angry, vile dimension we like. Behind Sinead, playing big fuzzy bass riffs (also at a hundred miles an hour), is VSO, but by the time she’s called to the stage to guest on a Comanechi track or five, she struggles not due to toilet business but rather
because El Paso is sausage-skin-tight. Tonight is Comanechi’s long awaited album launch, for their looonnnng awaited debut album, ‘Crime of Love’, and in the basement of a Mexican restaurant, two things are to be expected – what with potty-mouthed singing drummer Akiko also being in The Big Pink, and the band’s label being the achingly hip Merok, it’s going to be a scenester-studded affair (which it is, with A Grave With No Name here, a Big Pink there, an Advert there, oh, and a Jack Penate pictured top left, texting), and it’s also safe to presume that the duo will be chaotic and ultimately quite brilliant. The chaos is in fact turned down (yeah, this is east London - sigh), but the brilliance of Comanechi’s thrashy, trashy punk pop is in full view. As on the record, ‘Prologue’’s short, glitchy feedback quickly dives into the melodic, pacey crunch of ‘Rabbit Hole’. Simon carves Sonic Youth shapes from his guitar, Akiko teaches her drums a lesson whilst letting out her
shrieking J-Pop vocals.That’s the ‘pop’ side of Comanechi, next is their lesser-seen psychedelic state of mind. ‘Mesmerising Fingers’ is a slow, filthy, grungy sex song, tonight played with extra delicacy on its prowling verses and extra ‘uuurh’ when it comes to the thrusting chorus, and ‘On and On’, debuting a post-dump (or not) VSO on bass, is equally as... well... mesmerising, as it lurches about.We all like the fast stuff though, and the days when Akiko would drop to her knees and roll in bar slops, fronting noise band Pre, so, while two is the magic number and a reason Comanechi are so damn sexy, Divorce drummer James is welcomed by all as he releases the tiny singer from kit prison. Akiko, still refrains from stage dives and leopard-print-legging-spoiling antics (yeah, this is east London, and just look at those pins), but ‘Crime of Love’ and especially the closing, heavy-then-heavier ‘Death of You’ leave us more in love with this duo, even if they could do with pinching VSO and James for good.
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti The Rest Is Noise, Brixton, London 08.12.2009 By Matthias Scherer Photography by Elinor Jones ▼
Ariel Pink’s live shows precede a reputation for impermeable, almost alienating quirkiness and jangly monotony, making lead singer Ariel Rosenberg the target for boos and, worse, missiles. At a tastefully re-vamped pub in South London (there is what looks like a morbid miniature zoo – cats and elephants glued upside down to the ceiling), the audience is attentive and friendly, rather than exactly captivated or ecstatic, but at least nobody throws anything, and the broken glass that covers the floor comes from halfempty drinks that are knocked over by people clambering up onto stools and tables to catch a glimpse of the spectacle. What do they see? Not a whole lot, apart from Rosenberg strolling around the stage, asking for “more vocals” on his monitor
every 5 minutes, and his fellow musicians on bass, guitar, drums and keyboards going about their respective jobs diligently, albeit with a knowing smirk – nobody is expecting any emotional outpours or the birth of a musical revolution. Rosenberg, looking not so much like Kurt Cobain but Michael Pitt doing his unkempt Cobain-pastiche, does his best to entertain, clamouring intelligible phrases and never letting his skinny frame rest. Musically, it’s not nearly as chaotic as some might have expected.There are Beatles melodies (‘Among Dreams’), 70’s organ stylings, and Rosenberg’s delivery staggers between a folky Joey Ramone and a ringmaster on Ritalin (‘For Kate I Wait’). Sadly, there are also drawn-out, cacophonous tangents and a distinct lack of dynamics. It might be some people’s wet dream to listen to someone clatter his way through the garage rock/folk history of the last four decades, but would you talk to those people at a party? Exactly. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti play it safe tonight, and yet the room starts to empty before the final song. People’s curiosity, if nothing else, has been satisfied.
Fiction White Heat, Soho, London 24.11.2009 By Polly Rappaport ▼
What is most notable about Fiction’s live set is their technical talents. Among others things, they don’t have a drummer; James (keyboard) and Mike (guitar) alternate between vocals and drumming while Nick does lead guitar duties and Dan grounds things with hefty, glowing bass lines.They execute their slick, edgy guitar-based pop with impressive attention to detail, nimble guitar plinks fuzzed just so by surf reverb, synth tolls ringing precisely and the writing is all artfully layered sounds and unhinged lyrics. ‘Big Things’ is a shoegaze videogame soundtrack of a tune, with a funky, sauntering bassline and a playful, chiming Casio melody garnished with Echo and the Bunnymenesque vocals – sharp, yet eased by slack-jawed delivery. ‘Zebra Crossing’ comes over far more sinister, all arch synth parps and guitar jabs.This is a gifted group of musicians and it’s a wonder one leave with any of their finely crafted tunes fused to one’s mind, but this isn’t ordinary Velcro pop, it’s not that simple. It is music with ideas and talent and therein lies potential. Fiction have all of the above, in spades.
Sex Beet Old Blue Last, Shoreditch, London 26.11.2009 By Danny Canter ▼
When we interviewed Sex Beet two months ago, they really didn’t give a shit. Not with us or our attention, per se, but rather with anything at all.They turned up drunk, spoke about how they’d started as a joke and instantly managed to piss off the whole of France on an ill-equipped, premature tour , and spent the rest time eyeing up a nearby game of table-tennis when others would have focussed on calculated answers making sure their ‘brand’ wasn’t damaged.This evening, Sex Beet still don’t give shit.The sound of the stage is familiarly crappy, but this trio aren’t going to scoff down their mics about that.They’re not going to goad onlookers to “move
forward”, nor give their 7”s the hard sell – singer Luke instead manages nothing more than a teenage huff of “We’ve got some seven inches, you can buy one if you want”, which, mumbled into his shoes, is pretty inaudible.Their organ-dappled, rambling surf tunes are hard to make out too (in its blurted lyrics, not its scratching guitar and clattering drums), and yet, Sex Beet show signs of being a gnarly punk band.They could do with a bass guitar between them, to detract from the wiry Fender and help out the mini Korg that does continually get lost, but largely you can see how these three don’t need to give fuck what anybody thinks.
Lighning Bolt The Boston Arms, London 10.12.2009 By Matthew Cargill ▼
There are two things you need to know about drummer/vocalist Brian Chippendale and bassist Brian Gibson, y’know, for dinner party talk: they make Death From Above 1979 sound like Robson and Jerome and they play on the floor so every show feels like a very cool house party.Tonight they’re on a raised platform in the middle of the room, the crowd bulging and convulsing around them with faces full of cymbals. It all adds to the intensity: you never know what’s going to happen at a Lightning Bolt gig. And nobody could have predicted that Chippendale would attack a guy with his drum sticks for trying to break his kit! New album ‘Earthly Delights’ gets a ferocious airing. Opening with its first track, ‘Sound Guardians’, Gibson’s spaced-out riffage punctuated by Chippendale’s explosive yet masterful, almost superhuman drumming. And the vocals? He screams away into a microphone taped inside his mask, which mangles his voice into distorted jibberish. It’s easy to see why Bjork collaborated with him on ‘Volta’. It’s face-melting up until signature noise ‘Dracula Mountain’ with its concussive time signatures, unrelenting speed and motorific bass, which finally builds into chugging METOL grooves to punch the air to. A magical epic blur.
bob mould Concorde 2, Brighton 09.12.2009 By Nathan Westley ▼
Fair Ohs. Pic: OWEN RICHARDS
Lightning Bolt. Pic: CLAIRE TITLEY
There is little doubting that Bob Mould – the one-time Husker Du frontman and Sugar band leader – is a modern day legend whose influence on alternative culture stretches further then his modest record sales would hint at – rarely do overall record sales and influence stride comfortably together hand in hand.The Bob Mould of old was known for screaming and thrashing his way through fast paced sets but tonight as he becomes more estranged from his youth and the original punk-lite anger subsides we are presented with two very different versions.The first incarnation sees him stand solemnly on stage, acoustic in hand looking like a mature, world-weary troubadour playing a string of radio-friendly, pleasing college rock songs where a need for a hum-inducing melody stands at the fore.The second incarnation, presented around halfway through the night, sees him leave this cruising mode – fully plugged in he lets rip with a string of fuzz drenched, glucose heavy guitar pop that includes Sugars’ underrated ‘If I Can’t Change Your Mind’. Bob Mould may have hit his peak many years ago but tonight he taught us it would be foolish to write this impresario off fully just yet.
Fair ohs 93 Feet East, Shoreditch, London 26.11.2009 By Stuart Stubbs ▼
Castrovalva. Pic: TOM MARTIN
By their own admission, Fair Ohs are a band that, on stage, “talk rubbish and sweat a lot”.The drivel comes largely from the lips of singer Eddy, who tonight insists that his band are Toto on more than one occasion.The perspiration, then, is usually at the glands of bassist Matt and drummer Joe, who, like Eddy, play their African-inspired punk without their shoes on. Like most, we titter at the rubbish and fail to notice a bead of sweat, because Fair Ohs really are that good! Joe, especially, is a poster boy for practice. He’s been in hardcore
bands for years (as have his band mates), tightening his heavy drum patterns and locking in tumbling fills. Now he rumbles complicated, tribal rhythms with little effort while Matt and Eddy yelp into facing microphones.Winding their calypso melodies around 93 Feet East, propelled by Eddy’s steeldrum-impersonating guitar sound, tracks like ‘Hey Lizzy’ and ‘Almost Island’ make Fair Ohs the ultimate, giddy party band.Their carnival garage is more in-tune with golden shorelines and goofy RayBans than Brick Lane’s Curry Mile and visible winter breath, but that’s what makes them so welcome. By summer 2010, their escapist punk will be the most fun and entertaining prospect of your festival season.
Ellie Goulding Cargo, Shoreditch, London 01.12.2009 By Martin Cordiner ▼
Your first London headline show must be a bit of a double-edged sword – great point to have reached, but pray it goes well. Pity, then, the 23-year-old, Londonbased electro-popster Ellie Goulding has already been touted as gonna-be-massive to the extent that Cargo is rammed. Pray hard that it goes well. And it starts just like that, her multi-instrumentalist band members (featuring remixer and major Goulding influence Fin “Starsmith” Dow-Smith in his last gig with the group) providing groovy and propulsive bass, synth and electro squiggles, all anchored by live drums, as Goulding strums an acoustic and delivers a surprisingly strong vocal performance.There’s an added strength in the wide-eyed and sweet voice so far committed to record, coming across a bit like KT Tunstall (and let’s not forget that that’s Goulding’s target, people) crossed with an Andrex puppy. Things go a tad formulaic before fan favourite ‘Under The Sheets’ and soon-to-be-likewise ‘Starry Eyed’ deliver the winsome pop punches that have got her noticed. “I started off with an acoustic guitar,” she says, prior to an encore shorn of electric wizardry, “and then Fin made it into this.” Can we see the join? Not right now. A promising and professional start.
Soulsavers Electric Ballroom, Camden, London 11.12.2009 By Chris Watkeys ▼
The rest of the Soulsavers, looking pretty cool amongst the suits and the smoke, have been playing the opening track for a minute or so, but their ‘guest’ vocalist, Mark Lanegan, takes his time emerging. Then into the midst of the sleazy chords he struts, suited and wearing a mean expression on that character-rich face. He must wake up every morning and spend half an hour soaking his vocal chords in bourbon and gravel; such is the smoky coarseness of his singing. It sits perfectly on Soulsavers’ music. New album ‘Broken’ has a tendency towards wide, anthemic soundscapes, but played live these songs are more elemental, dirtier somehow.The tenderness of ‘Some Misunderstanding’ still shines through though, two superb gospel singers lacing Lanegan’s whiskysour burr with an almost tangible sweetness.There are moments of raw, fiery rock ‘n roll, but the moments of quiet beauty are most memorable. A Josh Haden cover (‘Spiritual’) pierces the soul with its poignant simplicity.The encore brings an idiosyncratic take on ‘Silent Night’, then the cathartic majesty of ‘Revival’ washes over the crowd like a cleansing tide. Simply beautiful.
Part Chimp The Engine Room, Brighton 05.12.2009 By Nathan Westley ▼
To some, the idea of metal or hard rock constitutes little more then strapping on an AC/DC t-shirt from Topshop before gearing up for a serious session of guitar hero. Part Chimp’s response to this would be to mockingly flick up a devil horn hand gesture.Tonight, in front of a passionately eager looking crowd, they deliver a rollicking set of basic balls to the floor, all-out-ear-abusing, noiseloving Neanderthal rock. Broken down into its vital components, what Part Chimp do does not look exceptional – they all too often tie themselves to a rigid simple formula dominated by big thick distorted sludgy riffs, colliding
with brutal animalistic high speed drumming, which is played at volumes so ear-splintering loud that the American government could brandish exposure as a new way of interrogating terror suspects. So no, they may not be the most over complicated of prospects, but sometimes simplicity is the key to having a good time and for these moments Part Chimp cannot be rivalled.
Laura Marling St. Pancras Old Church, London 23.11.2009 By Ian Roebuck ▼
An epiphany bathed in golden light strums elegantly on her guitar; the audience take a sharp intake of breath, then… BONG, the epiphany pisses herself laughing.The clock strikes ten, an hour into Laura Marling’s set, and with nine bongs left this could be awkward if it wasn’t for the goodwill instantly filling the room (we’re in a church after all). Enraptured from the start, a tiny crowd take their tiny seats beneath the altar as the newly brunette Marling (“I’m not used to it yet, do you like it?”) beguiles the room with songs old and new. Her stripped bare stories resonate even more in the intimate space, like watching a confession; albeit with the odd knowing wink. Marling’s breezy bashfulness is welcoming, her light touch giving an otherwise intense experience the humility it needed. A stray mid song cough, a clumsy tune of her guitar or a hair-dye horror story all make for comforting viewing, but it’s the songs themselves that stay with you long after the church gates disappear. Her new material, world weary and full of candour, is arguably beyond her years but when she opens her mouth to sing, it certainly feels like she’s lived it.
Egyptian hip hop The Garage, Highbury, London 07.12.2009 By Stuart Stubbs ▼
If Egyptian Hip Hop aren’t sitting pretty atop a majority of ones-towatch polls next month, I’ll eat my own hands. If they’re not there
justly, you don’t even wanna know what’s lined up for dessert.Tonight, truth be told, edges my body parts closer to the dinner plate – it’s a ropey ‘ol show of malfunctioning equipment and answering shrugs from the Manchester four-piece. It ends with singer Alex Hewitt announcing, “sorry, we don’t usually suck that much”, having spent the past half hour looking anywhere but up. His band mates share a similar stage presence, playing introspectively to each other, side on to the audience at best.When the bachlash begins, y’know, a month after those heady OTW days, people will say that that’s arrogance, although is looks equally as likely to be shyness from here. Despite all of this, Egyptian Hip Hop defend the hype with an impressive show of digit-saving diversity. ‘Rad Pitt’ is sloppy but ultimately still the faultless, forlorn pop that will have all those polls inaccurately labelling this band ‘2010’s MGMT’ – Late Of The Pier would be more fitting. Because while a swap-a-rama of instruments ensues, smart-synthy disco is surrounded by instrumental, electro prog, Happy Mondays funk, heart-aching Cure vocals, that weird, twitchy indiedance almost mastered by Twisted Charm and, at one point, dirty, Stooges-esque grunge riffs. MGMT have never sounded this imaginative or proficient, but have definitely played some stinkers in their time. Let’s put tonight down to an ‘off day’, because EHH clearly have more to offer.
Trash Talk Barfly, Camden, London 25.11.2009 By Matthias Scherer ▼
“Did you see that?” an exhilarated punter asks us after Trash Talk have finished their set. If by “that” he means singer Lee Spielman’s borderline suicidal, head-first leaps into the first row and the walls of the venue, bassist Spencer Pollard not so much playing but hitting his bass with the palm of his hand, or the audience’s complete and utter freak-out whenever the Californian foursome detonate one of their hardcore splinter grenades – then yes, yes we did. There’s also Spielman’s holloweyed stare at an enemy only visible
to him and guitarist Garrett Stevenson’s muscular, almost panther-like stage demeanour that is mirrored in his merciless, razorsharp riffing.Trash Talk’s toxic mix of old school hardcore punk, à la Circle Jerks, and the violent mosh fantasies of Napalm Death is not exactly accessible or pleasant, but the kids go absolutely apeshit for songs like the festering anthem of brutality that is ‘Walking Disease’, throwing themselves around Spielman’s neck and slamming into each other as if ribcages and wrists, like the rules of society, were meant to be broken.The band, especially Spielman, thrive on their audience, and feeding off each other, all of them whip themselves into a glorious, sweaty and unforgettable frenzy.
Castrovalva Cockpit, Leeds 05.12.2009 By Kate Parkin ▼
Tonight is the Pulled Apart By Horses Xmas bash and the Leeds scene is out in force. Castrovalva have a sturdy and vocal following and singer Leemun Smith stands happily trading insults with the crowd. Any semblance of calm is soon shattered by the rumbling thunder of the bass. Leemun screeches and attempts to violate the amp like a dog on heat, backed by the melodramatic thrash of ‘Thuglife’. Drummer Daniel gets a soaking and water flashes off his cymbals as he thrashes around, stopping to make studied poses that distract and disturb the flow and thudding intensity of ‘We Don’t Go to Ravenholm’ but provide a welcome relief. Breaking out from the confines of the stage, Anthony stretches out on the floor, oblivious to the curious crowd gathered around him. Playing around with increasingly complicated riffs, he shows the bass guitar as an instrument capable of serious mind-melting skill. Appealing to the harder metal contingent, ‘Triceratops’ piles on layers of dirty riffs with camp kitsch falsetto screaming. Clawing at the insides of your skull with rampant intent, Castrovalva blend equal parts of the sublime and the ridiculous. Strip away the vocals to the core of the band and that’s where the magic really begins.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs Brixton Academy, London 01.12.2009 By Chris Watkeys ▼
The sheer, exquisite flamboyance of Karen O has been well documented. Needless to say, on stage tonight she’s a stylistic kaleidoscope. But enough about the clothes - let’s talk about the music. For the opening few bars of ‘Runaway’, Miss O emerges to pose alone in front of the stage curtain, her bandmates concealed; then the heaviest chord drops, the veil vanishes and the band are revealed… it’s an adrenaline shot to the heart, and kick starts an incredible show.With each buzzy chord, each strangulated yelp, this is small-venue cool in a giant setting. Enormous disembodied eyeballs adorn the stage, and while YYYs’ live setup is a little fleshier these days, with two seasonedlooking session musos augmenting the core trio, the razor-sharp energy of the music is preserved. A selection of the choice cuts from their three records is presented with insurmountable energy and verve, and the crowd receives it ecstatically. Oddly though, ‘Gold Lion’ falls a little flat, the weight of expectation perhaps crushing the song. But the encore brings a heartbreakingly melancholy acoustic version of ‘Maps’, and a fire-spitting run-through of ‘Date With The Night’.Tonight, the music has without doubt eclipsed the spectacle.
Pseudo Nippon The Freebutt, Brighton 02.12.2009 By Nathan Westley ▼
Anyone stumbling across tonight’s gig, unaware of Pseudo Nippon beforehand, may be thinking they have accidentally wandered into seeing an obscure cult sermon being held by a madcap leader. Armed with a chaos pad and a microphone, this one man delivers a performance that borders on performance art, albeit performance art that has fully embraced the idea that humour is an essential part of living, from an artists whose lyrics are made up of a mish-mash of languages that cover such extreme subjects as Jon
Bon Jovi, Fish Ladies and Jebubu, all performed to a backing rich in electro hallmarks.The programmed backing is a mixture of glitchy synth noises, near broken drum beats and doses of recycled sounds from classic Eighties video games, and the final collision of these vital components is extremely peculiar. Factor in an energetic dance routine that bears more similarities to the exercise routines promoted by GMTV’s famed mid 90’s fitness instructor Mr Motivator than the rigid statuesque movements of your typical guitar band, and the unique gauge is cranked up several more notches. Some may brand what Pseudo Nippon does as low-brand kitsch trash, others will greet it with a sigh of relief; all will never see anything quite like it again.
NatureSet The Harley, Sheffield 09.12.2009 By Kate Parkin ▼
It’s a cold December evening and the stage is set for Natureset’s first ever gig.They have a lineup that’s pure vintage Sheffield, with members of Navvy and former Long Blonde Reenie on bass. Harking back to the classic stylings of Lush, the harmonic jibes on ‘If You Lived Here You’d Be Home By Now’ offer a 90s flashback in the best sense. Levelling their acerbic wit at the mundanities of modern living they spar back and forth in a four-pronged vocal attack. Spitting out lines like, “I spill my guts and then you spill my drink” over whistling keyboards that would nestle quite happily on any Shine compilation. Setting hips shaking and eardrums twitching ‘I am a Planet’ is twee without the woollen jumpers and self-consciously shoegazing. Dragging down the bass to shuddering depths Reenie and Daf change up the tempo. ‘Enough Is Enough’ is saccharine laced, hiding lyrical punches under a girlish smile.The small, friendly crowd offer congratulatory backslaps all round.The Long Blondes may have won over the noughties and Navvy are just breaking through, but Natureset are too good to slip forgotten into the file marked ‘Side Project’. Expect good things in the New Year.
film By DEAN DRISCOLL
MoON Starring: Sam Rockwell Kevin Spacey Director: Duncan Jones In Stores Now
Carol and Max enjoy the sea view
Where The Wild Things Are Director: Spike Jonze Screenplay: Spike Jonze, Dave Eggers Starring: James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener, Chris Cooper, Max Records -----Where The Wild Things Are is going to be a movie that annoys a good number of viewers.There will be a chorus of people howling that it’s too scary for kids; that there’s not enough plot; that there’s too much plot; and that it’s Spike Jonze’s folly. Some of the criticism will have merit; a lot will be the sound of someone thoroughly missing the point by a very wide margin. There’s already been a huge amount of discussion about this movie and what it’s trying to achieve over the course of its long gestation. It’s been seven years since Spike Jonze’s last movie, Adaptation, and it’s funny how easily it’s forgotten that only Being John Malkovich came before it.The Kaufman connection and the indie sensibility of Jonze and his contemporaries has often made it appear that the virtuoso director hasn’t actually been away from cinemas for as long as he actually has. The development of Where The Wild Things Are has been at times rough on the director, who – alongside co-writer Dave Eggers, and with the book’s author Maurice Sendak – has sought to create a deeply personal movie, with an £80 million budget and the weight of a studio hoping for Pixar-like familyfriendly success. Having battled hard to preserve his artistic vision for the movie, he’s forced the studio to rethink its whole approach to marketing the movie, which has turned out to be less a family feature than a niche-appeal indie project. Of course, Jonze has proved in the past that the niche is a very large one.The success of Being John Malkovich, as well as Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind and Lost In Translation, has shown that films that exist just outside of the mainstream can flourish with the right backing. And so Warner Bros embraced the
movie’s quirks with a campaign that allied it with music by Arcade Fire – the Montreal band being more or less the musical equivalent of Being John Malkovich. From the very first moments it’s clear that Jonze has made no concessions to family audiences, the handheld camera following the rambunctious Max providing an unmistakably ‘indie’ aesthetic, as does the brilliant soundtrack, courtesy of Jonze’s ex, Karen O – both are the foremost examples of the movie’s essence: it’s not a movie for kids – it’s a movie about kids, about being a kid and those rushes of emotion that get dimmed as you enter adulthood, and how you stop them turning destructive.The monsters Max encounters after running away from home following an argument with his mother represents different facets of his personality – his fear, jealousy, affection and anger. It’s heavy stuff even for an adult, and it’s vocalised brilliantly by a monsters voice cast including Chris Cooper, Catherine McCormack, Lauren Ambrose, Paul Dano and Forrest Whitaker. But it’s James Gandolfini, as the wild things’ de facto leader Carol, who makes the movie succeed. Sopranos fans know that Gandolfini is better equipped than anyone to portray a character who struggles to contain his emotions – capable of flipping from joy to extreme violence in a heartbeat. Carol provides the soul of the movie, one that’s difficult to tame but will linger in the memory for long after you’ve left the cinema. 8/10 Also out this month… Guy Richie’s Robert Downey Jr-starring reinvention of Sherlock Holmes (26th December) as an action hero which will also hope to overcome the obstacle that not many people like Jude Law very much… and this month’s ‘little movie that could’, James Cameron’s Avatar (18th December), which we hope will be stunning enough visually to make a story about a war over a rare mineral called ‘unobtamium’ on a faraway planet called ‘Pandora’ seem more imaginative than it actually is…
The heightened intimacy of DVD is perfectly suited to the subtle pleasures of Duncan Jones’ directorial debut, Moon.You might recall in our last issue our top 5 movies of the year, where Moon was conspicuous by its absence. However, while Star Trek (particularly in IMAX) may have been one of the top 5 cinema experiences of 2009, when it comes to which DVDs you should be putting on your Xmas list, you could do a lot worse than Moon and its stunning Sam Rockwell one-man-show. It may not have the whizz-bang of the big budget sci-fi out this year, but what it will do is reward the regular revisits afforded by the DVD format.That said, who can honestly say they prefer the CG of Transformers and Star Trek to the lo-fi model-based effects on Moon, which grounds the premise in a reality that’s just not tangible in the blockbuster pixellations? Sam Rockwell, meanwhile, might just be the most reliable actor working in Hollywood today – it’s difficult to think of any film he hasn’t elevated just by turning up (in much the same way as Brian Cox, whom we effused about in a recent issue). Any chance to see him get his teeth into a meaty role is worth shelling out for, and here he’s afforded not just one of those but two. And the only two in the movie at that, save for Kevin Spacey as the voice of GERTY the station computer and some minor support.We’ll avoid divulging too much plot detail, though where most movies would have built up and over-emphasised the ‘twist’, Moon plays its hand relatively early, and in a more low-key manner than you’d expect. It might not leave you as breathless and giddy as an IMAX bombardment might, but it’s undoubtedly a DVD you’ll reach for again and again.
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party wolf Photo Casebook“Noughties but Nice?”
That was ‘the noughties’, then, Rod, you old arse. What was your highlight?
Oooh, good quesiton mate. That shag I did in ‘04 was good. Errm... but so was Dean Gaffney going all wibbly on I’m A Celebrity. Yeah, I’ll go with that. You?
This month is all about firsts for everyone, but especially for you, Capricorn. It’s the beginning of not just a new year but a new decade, so it’s time to ask yourself a wealth of questions. It’s as if you’ve got all these boxes in front of you and you have to open them all one by one, yes like on that in-noway-totally-pointless TV show for jobless skanks, rank students and incontinent old people, Deal Or No Deal. It’s exactly like that! You have to tread carefully over these coming weeks and take calculated risks, otherwise you’ll be as popular as a pesky banker.Toward the end of last year you spent a lot of time on the phone, so how about you use it to call up an old friend? I’m sure a familiar, obese, spotty pal would like to hear from you.
Celebrity twitter See! Famous people are normal, just like us
You know what, even though this decade gave us Kerry Katona smashed on This Morning, I didn’t rate ‘the noughties’. As far as I’m concerned, it was a load of ‘ol trouser lumps!
ROFL. Some kid’s written asking for ‘an IPod’, WITH A CAPITAL i. What a dick! One more for the ‘poo in a sock pile’ about 20 minutes ago from device -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Anyone know how to pull a sleigh? about 6 hours ago from device
@Rudolf Don’t be a prick! If you want to discuss a raise, Twitter is not the place!!! about 6 hours ago from device
I can see a trouser lump I fancy!
Phoarrr! You jammy git PW!
Please, NO MORE tweets for the head of Noel Edmunds in a box! As I’ve said, I’ll see what I can do about 7 hours ago from device
I’ve gone digital, kiddies. Get your gift requests in here, or at firstname.lastname@example.org about 8 hours ago from device
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Yeasayer / Small Black / TEETH!!! / Is Tropical / Christmas Island / Esben & The Witch / Rory Brattwell