LoudAndQuiet Zero pounds / Volume 03 / Issue 14 / 100 percent PURE
t h e s e N e w P u r i ta n s
Inside the company
tras h kit / liar s f o o lâ€™ s g o l d / m e m o ry ta p e s / f i ct i o n th e b itte r s r a i n b ow a r a b i a / l au r a m a r l i n g r e a l e s tat e / v i v i a n g i r l s
I AM It feels like we’ve been on holiday for a lifetime, like when you’ve been to Cavos for 10 days but expect your local to lay on a spread and welcome you home. Only to your local, and to everyone else, you’ve been gone for the length of a healthy toilet break. You may have been straddling banana boats and wet-t-shirt-ing down Linekers Bar but they’ve been getting on with things, and those things do not include noticing your absence. So you might not have clocked that last month was without an issue of Loud And Quiet, but while it was, it wasn’t for bananas between our legs. Since we published our Yeasayer issue in December, we’ve caught our breath, re-launched www.loudandquiet.com, turned 5 and mapped out the whole of 2010. For us, it starts here
AM V and will continue with an issue being released on the third Saturday of every month, as usual. Our new website will now feature more exclusive content than ever, and in this issue you’ll find a new regular feature or two (the long-awaited singles page, for one; Party Wolf’s memoirs for another). As for reaching the 5-year mark (the first ever Loud And Quiet was released on January 25th 2005), we plan on celebrating with not one mandatory birthday party but a series of shows throughout the year, and also by releasing a limited 12” that will feature some of the bands we’ve enjoyed interviewing the most. Linekers, the girls from Basildon, Max & Paddy marathons, ‘doughnut Dave’, goldfish bowls, ‘burnt ginger man’, hard house at breakfast – it already feels like a distant dream.
C o n t e n ts
03 | 10 LOUD AND QUIET ZERO POUNDS / VOLUME 03 / ISSUE 14 / 100 PERCENT PURE
T H E S E N E W P U R I TA N S
Inside the company
TRAS H KIT / LIAR S F O O L’ S G O L D / M E M O RY TA P E S / F I CT I O N TH E B ITTE R S R A I N B OW A R A B I A / L AU R A M A R L I N G R E A L E S TAT E / V I V I A N G I R L S
Photography by GABRIEL GREEN
07 .................. . Stop / Showing / Off 08 .................. . Pink / Eyed / Fox 10 .................. . Owl / Shags / Penguin 13 .................. . Upset / My / Pants 14 .................. . Dead / Hollywood / Hippies 16 .................. . Nick / Shat / Sticks 19 .................. . God / Doing / It 23 .................. . TV / Dinner / Vocalists 26 .................. . Nervous / Rough / Affair 29 .................. . Madonna / Talking / Crap 30 .................. . Stuff / Mad / Parents 35 .................. . Club / Club / Club 37 .................. . Predictably / Wasted / Wars 39 .................. . Burger / Of / Pretence 46 .................. . This / Is / Awkward 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, Daniel Dylan Wray, 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 Cochram,Tom Goodwyn Tom Pinnock This Month L&Q Loves
Amanda Freeman, Beth Drake, Chris Tipton Dream Bags Jaguar Shoes, Nina Finnerud Nita Keeler, Miller’s Residence 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 2010 © Loud And Quiet.
th e b eg i n n i ng
03 | 10
Time for Plan B: To Sell Out And can we really blame him? Wr i t e r : D a n n y c a n t e r
In the world of alternative music, it’s the most derogatory term; the most personal of slurs; the ‘stop showing off’ of critiques that it’s impossible to verbally spar against. Much like it’s impossible to insist “I’m NOT showing off!!!” in front your marginally less embarrassed friend with any sense of dignity, there’s no comeback to being dubbed ‘a sellout’. You’re of course lower than the hardcore kids who ate pubes for dinner again last night, but the posh kids too; the ones who ate quail eggs halfway through rehearsing their shit art band that has all the commercial appeal of Gary Glitter Idol. The extreme purists and over privileged avoid such a slight on their art, the former happy to dine on dead skin like their heroes Black Flag, the latter wealthy enough to never need compromise their integrity. Almost everyone in between is susceptible to attack. Oddly – and why the sellout swipe is so synonymous with alt. genres – pop stars are exempt from the put down altogether. It’s because the Jedwards and JLSes are music’s ‘honest thieves’, proudly laying out their shameless stalls beneath bunting that spells out, We’re bringing mass-appeal and taking
the shit load of money that comes with it. It doesn’t make it right, but you can’t be a sellout if you’ve got nothing to sell, and we can’t feel betrayed by something too stupid to try deceiving us. That, after all, is where our grievances with exfavourite/ex-credible artists come from. Robin Scott is the founding father of brazen pop music. In 1979 he made the first knowingly uncool single that checked its credibility at the door from the off. He released ‘Pop Musik’ (y’know, the “Talk about… pop music!” song) with his band M in an attempt to proudly present the perfect throw-a-way hit record. It was punk by be so anti-punk and although its chart climb stalled at number 2, it paved the way for disposable pop that put fun and mainstream success before even the thinnest veil of artistic merit and backslaps from clever bands. It was always rappers that Ben Drew – aka Plan B – wanted the props from as he viciously spat out social verse over wiry twangs of an acoustic guitar, like a Jamie T without the crooked, cheeky Oliver smile and happy reggae bounce. And Plan B’s debut album, 2006’s ‘Who Needs Action When You Got Words’, did alright by him, in terms of credibility and
impressed nods from the music press. But while sneering tracks like ‘No More Eatin’ and recounting his childhood spent on south London council estates, it turns out that it was Ben Drew who wasn’t ‘eatin’, or at least not as he’d like to have been. It’s the only excusable reason for this month’s longawaited follow up, ‘The Defamation of Strickland Banks’ – an album intent on ‘doing a Noisettes’; not just cushioning edges in the hope for improved commercial success but childproofing them beyond all recognition. On a blind taste test, you’d swear that new single ‘Stay Too Long’ is Paulo Nutini’s latest, all chug-a-chugging guitars and soul organs; something Olly Mears would have ‘made his own’ on X Factor. The rap middle 8 sounds a little more like the Plan B of ’06, but can’t help but come across like an non too subtle trick to keep a handful of old fans onside whilst also casting an extra wide net toward all those unaware of Drew’s previous work. It’d somehow be better if it wasn’t in there at all – a clean break from the UK hip-hop that wasn’t making Plan B a penny. The rest of ‘The Defamation…’ tows the same digestible soulpop line and would be far from
terrible if it was a new artist’s first album (helped by the fact that Ben Drew can in fact sing like Lionel…nearly). But it’s not, and that nasty ‘S’ word is sure to be what most Plan B fans will reach for throughout March, which suddenly seems completely unfair, perhaps due to me never have being a Plan B super fan (and therefore void of that cheated feeling), but perhaps because of plain old sympathy. Should Ben Drew know better? It’s not as if he’s U2, or Suggs even, inflating an already heaving bank account with iPod and Fish Finger money. It seems more likely that Plan B was faced with two options after his debut album failed to give his bank manager a boner – sell some records or get a real job. And while plenty of his latest album makes Lidl box boy seem like a very tempting position, Plan B’s dilemma, sorry to say, looks set to be something of the norm if new artists intend to pay the bills with profits from this music game. It’s only a half truth that no one buys records anymore – they do if they’re goddamn catchy enough – and with more second and third albums from mid-to-late-noughties bands due this year, don’t be surprised if ‘sellout’ loses it’s sharpened bite.
T h e BEGINNING
By Lee & Janine Bullman
Point Omega By Don Delillo (Picador) At book fifteen, Delillo is a fine example of experience ---------------------
Brit of a Problem Our leading award ceremony could learn a lot or nothing from America’s Wr i t e r : STUA RT STU B B S
Did you watch this year’s Grammy’s? It was, as ever, the (pimp) daddy of award ceremonies: the aloof Oscars’ sexy, platinum-dipped sister. Like the States itself, it was big, expensive, impressive, ridiculous, glamorous, ambitious, boastful, shameless and self-congratulatory. It was flawless; from its close ups of Beyonce and her man to its Eminem/Little Wayne collaboration. And then came our chance to return the ball by presenting The Brit Awards 2010: a comparable caricature, trying brother of The Grammy’s, hosted this year by a comedian as relevant as Friendsreunited.com. As well as the obvious advantage of tonnes of cash (note how The Grammy’s need no sponsorship while the red carpet of The Brits is forever beneath a giant MasterCard logo that then spins about your screen throughout the coverage), America’s annual back-slap gives itself an edge by not employing an anchorman for the evening. They employ a rather stern sounding ‘voice of God’ to instruct, “Please welcome to the stage multi-Grammy winner Lionel Richie.” It’s then up to Lionel to do his thing, which, this year, was to introduce a Michael Jackson tribute performance of ‘Earth Song’ by Celine Dion, Usher, Carrie Underwood and Jennifer Hudson. Unlike the Brits tradition, there’s no tired observational humour
thrust upon a crowd too pissed or too sober to hear or care. The Grammy’s is respectful and knowing of its class; The Brits is Sarah Harding announcing that she’s just pissed herself. The voice of God – not unlike the fleeting hosts it announces – doesn’t adlib or show off, or associate itself with the wetpant-ed; it’s key to The Grammy’s pooping on our parade. The awards themselves hardly ever go to deserving winners at either event, but the calibre of unworthy gong-snatchers in the States (‘celebrity’ is their bread and butter after all) is undeniably impressive. The same goes for the losers, givers, takers and, most notably, the performers. Over there they get not just Marshall Mathers and Little Wayne performing with and proving that Drake is hip-hop’s one-to-watch this year, but also Celine and Usher’s MJ homage, Taylor Swift and Stevie Nicks, Beyonce and no one (it’s just not needed), Jamie Fox, Pink, The Black Eyed Peas and Bon Jovi, joined by a woman in leather trousers that were only out-frightened by her dance moves (we can only presume she was some super successful country star). Perhaps none of these are ‘your thing’ but they are some of the biggest names in the world. The Brits always give good chase on the performers front (JT and Kylie, Klaxons and Rihanna, this year’s Jigga and
Alicia), but with most of the superstars being American and living in the LA area where The Grammy’s are held, keeping up is a tiring, ultimately impossible feat, leaving us to plug GaGaless holes with Kasabian and JLS, introduced by an adlibbing non-voice of God. The solution seems clear – if the Brits can’t emulate the allbragging Grammy’s to a standard higher than its current, amateurish state (not that it consciously tries to, although it’s safe to say that we’ve always longed to be loved by America where all of our musical achievements are concerned) perhaps we should change tact and play to our Hugh Grantbumbling, slightly tacky strengths. Forget Earls Court, we could hold it on the set of Hole In The Wall, or The Jeremy Kyle Show. We could broadcast it on Dave, and our ‘voice of God’ could be provided by Alan Carr. And forget pleading Jay-Z to perform in front of a hundred thousand pounds of pyrotechnics when Dizzy Rascal can do ‘Bonkers’ beside a roman candle in the car park. It all sounds a little ‘Inner City Sumo’, a la Alan Partridge, but what I mean is, why don’t we present the Brits in a typically British way: with a knowing smirk of stupidity and silliness? Because let’s face it, we’re not very good playing Hollywood.
DeLillo, now in his seventies, shows no signs of putting down his pen just yet. His latest (short) novel, Point Omega, is his fifteenth in a career which has seen him also find success as a playwright, journalist and short story writer. And on the evidence here, it’s not hard to see why. Delillo’s sharp eye is still trained hard on the contemporary culture and his voice more than ready to ask questions of it. Despite weighing in at just 117 pages, Delillo manages to cram Point Omega with more trademark sparse insight than many of his contemporaries convey at double the length. Well worth a look.
The Velvet Underground: A New York Art By Johan Kugelburg (Rizzoli) A collection of some of the finest band photographs ever taken --------------------Kugelburg’s big, beautiful book serves as a welcome reminder of why The Velvet Underground are pretty much the coolest band ever. The fact that Lou Reed and Co. couldn’t give their records away at the tale end of the sixties didn’t stop them having a direct musical and visual influence on any band worth the time of day since. Odds and sods and cultural artifacts are collected within, alongside pages of the grainy black and white Warhol portraits that formed the band’s look. The Velvet Underground are often imitated but never bettered, and Kugelburg’s book shows why.
7” s i n g les
01 Crocodiles Neon Jesus (Fat Possum/Hell Yes) Our March 22
Y’know when you’re in the Strictly Come Dancing studio audience, or at a particularly excitable pensioners’ performance of Sister Act: The Musical (yeah y’do) and every pair of working hands are snapping out a steady, mechanical clap to soap star pirouettes and/or dancing nuns – that’s the heartbeat of ‘Neon Jesus’: an unimaginative, 4/4, drum machine clack. It doesn’t prevent this from being Crocodiles gold though, and neither does the fact that it’s been released once already. It’s the first track that Charles Rowland and Brandon Welchez wrote together under this scale-y moniker (which perhaps explains the grade-less processed beat) and promptly put
out via their Zoo Music label. Its limited 7” print run quickly sold out and it failed to make last year’s debut album, ‘Summer of Hate’, but still a permanent highlight of the band’s live shows, ‘Neon Jesus’ has never gone away. It’s far too cool for that. Brandon snarls a Bobby Gillespie twang (which in turn makes his delivery 2 parts Jagger) while distorted guitars break from their early bar-chord Strokes-isms to buzz wasp-like around occasional, trippy organ chimes. The sex though – the bit that gets you humping dead space in your bedroom – comes from the groove thrusting from the fuzzy bass. If the hole in the middle of this record were any bigger you’d probably try to shag it.
Speak & The Spells
I Hear Flies
Found Love In A Graveyard
(Transgressive) Our March 8 -----
(Trouble) March 1st -----
(God Don’t Like It) Out Now -----
The Worse It Gets / Something I’m Not
Gaggle’s debut single begins exactly like MIA’s ‘XR2’ – with a simple but speedy pulse that somehow tells us everything we need to know about the reggaeton carnival approaching. Ten seconds later it arrives, flinging even more MIA tricks from its bouncing parade float. There’s an obese bassline, unpredictable breaks, sci-fi electronics and mass group raps. The problem is that the party turns sour all too quickly. As if stalling for time, and out of vocal ideas, it descends into obnoxious ranting as all 20 Gaggle-ers inaudibly babble on over each other. Chop 60 seconds off and it would be brilliant.
If anyone could romance a ghost like four handsome Derek Acorah’s dishing out Rohypnol and cokes at a slags’ cemetery, it’s Veronica Falls, and this debut single, released over here by Trouble and over there by Captured Tracks, is the wooing proof. Singer Roxanne Clifford sings in a cherub-like high pitch, which she builds up to from a much lower, semi-flat tone. It’s imperfections like this that make ‘Found Love…’ so charming, from its medieval, waltzing intro to its backing male drone and clean, prattling guitars. What’s more, b-side ‘Stephen’, sounding like Pixies in the 60’s, is even better.
Speak & The Spells are a trio barely old enough to do anything fun, and yet it seems like the 7” format was invented especially for them and their ghoulish 60’s garage. Over the wiriest of surf guitar riffs that reverbs through a vintage echo machine, singer Joe is distraught over his deceased girlfriend. Bassist Ben meanwhile lets out shrill banshee shrieks of sympathy, triggered by Joe reminding himself in a certain John Lydon sneer that, “She’s Dead!” Still, one man’s misery is another man’s joy, and ‘She’s Dead’ almost sounds as exciting as the first time you heard The Horrors.
(Neon Gold) March 22nd ----So far, NYC’s self-celebratory, unquestionably hip Neon Gold label has given us Ellie Goulding, Yes Giantess and Passion Pit. Penguin Prison – aka Chris Glover – twirls a similar new disco baton; a sparkly, vacuous stick made from shiny 80’s vocals and electronic piano that you long to snatch and beat its owner with. ‘The Worse It Gets’ is hopefully just that (all ironic synths and best friends with the comparably edgy Owl City), while ‘Something I’m Not’ sounds like JT and The Neptunes, so is obviously miles better, but you have to ask what wouldn’t be?
Reviews by D. Canter, M Drake, S. Little, S. Stubbs
th e b eg i n n i ng
o get an idea of Trash Kit you have to look beyond the ruthless 17 tracks of their self-titled debut album; past their baggy cardigans and painted faces and into the world that they thrive in - something akin to that episode of Winnie the Pooh when Christopher Robin shoves his rubbish under the bed only to find it sucked into a strange land ruled by a glob of stuff called Crud. Well, that’s where the South London trio live, minus the Crud. In their rehearsal space alone there are six unplugged TV’s, as well as an empty fish tank filled with Orangina products. Cats roam around, distracting the girls’ attentions several times, assorted bikes lay collapsed in the hall and above our heads hangs Rachel H’s (drums/vocals) underwear from numerous lines strung across her bedroom ceiling. Knowing this gives you an understanding of Trash Kit’s MO, of their DIY ethic, even of their name – an oversight on the part of Rachel A, the big-haired guitarist/violinist/singer/ chatterbox of the band who took it under her wing anyhow. “I misread a zine by Osa from New Bloods,” she explains. “She made this zine called Shotgun Seamstress, which is a zine for punks of colour that I find really inspiring. There was an article about street drummers from Washington D.C. who would play trash cans and bits of junk. I remember reading it and being like, ‘Rachel! We have to start a band and you have to play drums.’ I thought it’d be really great to start a band that’s formed around drums as a lead instrument rather than just keeping the beat and I wanted the name to be about that. But when I went back to [the zine] and tried to find Trash Kit it wasn’t there. I thought it was a
tr a s h kit Their Debut album is 17 songs long, but trash kit are as immediate and ecclectic as any young punks you’ve heard P h o t o g r a p h e r : O W EN R I C H A R D S Wr i t e r : D . G o l d s t e i n
“There’s much less energy when you’re comfortable on stage because you don’t care. If you’re not risking anything, you’re not gaining anything”
common phrase for someone playing a drum kit made of trash.” Although Rachel H doesn’t use a drum kit compiled of odds and ends, she does use a Djembe, which is a kind of bongo, to help incorporate beats from around the world into their music. “There’s a song with a Filipino drum pattern,” points out Ros Murray, the basswielding, PhD student of the band. That would be ‘Filipino Song’ – a two minute, Gang of Four-guitar-laden track with schizophrenic chanting spread thinly on top. Album opener ‘Knock Yr Socks Off’ builds slowly into a beat that would nestle nicely into Notting Hill Carnival, while ‘Chinese Boy’ is barely a minute long but carries a fast African rhythm that’s two notes shy of a cowbell.
There’s a wide array of influences to be picked up on here, but when asked, the girls all firmly agree on homegrown, no wave outfit, The Raincoats. “That’s our favourite band,” Ros informs us before Rachel A cuts in. “We disagree on lots of things but we agree on The Raincoats,” she adds with a smile, unaware that she’s perhaps the only one to feel this way. “What else do we disagree on?” Demands Rachel H, who up until this point has only emitted slight whispers. “Yeah,” intones Ros “we don’t disagree on anything.” Looks like the cats aren’t the only ones causing a fracas in this house. “No, I think Dirty Projectors is a big one that we disagree on,” states Rachel A in an attempt to quell this. “I love Dirty Projectors. She [Rachel H]
thinks they’ve got ADHD, but that’s why I like them.” Also on the record you’ll find a smattering of bands like DNA, Y Pants, perhaps even, unexpectedly, The Jam (the “what-a, what-a disgrace” chants in ‘New Face’ in particular think ‘Eton Rifles’) and Foals (in the guitars - but not so tight and mathletic). Seventeen tracks may seem an ambitious target for a first album, but it’s a necessary concoction to parade around all sides of the band, and each track is such a short, abrasive burst that you won’t find time dragging its heels. If you can make them out, the lyrics are worth noting. Coated with identity issues, Rachel A writes about sex, gender, ethnicity… She puts it plainly as “the idea of otherness and difference,” and about celebrating that but thinking about the stress and baggage that comes with it. “The band as a project is a big celebration of otherness,” she clarifies. “And however you might feel that - whoever you are in society. I wanted [the lyrics] to be something really personal, maybe kind of cringe-y, to make me feel a bit uncomfortable singing, because I think if you’re not uncomfortable it doesn’t have any energy - if you’re not taking a risk. There’s much less energy when you’re comfortable on stage because you don’t care. But if you’re singing about something really personal and embarrassing you’re investing more in it because someone could totally rip the piss out of you and hurt you. So, if you care about that you’re really gonna make it good so they don’t. If you’re not risking anything, you’re not gaining anything.” But the girls hide behind a mask of face paint at every show, surely making a mockery of their idea of taking a risk on stage. “It’s not a mask but an exaggeration of yourself,” Ros offers. “I don’t think it’s hiding
anything, I think it’s more aggressive than that,” says Rachel A. “It’s like war paint. And I like the action of getting ready - it gets you excited.” Formed from the ashes of The Madrigals and No Rumours, these 20-something ladies have been playing in Trash Kit for just over a year. Ros and Rachel H were already in London for uni – animation and French literature degrees, respectively – whereas Rachel A moved down from Oxford after studying art. “I think it’s great that the first time we met we were playing music together [Madrigals],” Rachel A drops in. “I think that’s quite cool. I’ve never known Rachel and not been in a band with her. Same with Ros actually, we’ve never not been in a band together.” And it wasn’t long before they were playing Yes Way festival signed by Upset the Rhythm. “It’s quite embarrassing,” Ros tells us “because I emailed Chris [Tipton – head of UTR] after I saw them. I was emailing him about something else and just said, ‘Have you heard Trash Kit? I think you’d really like them,’ and then I joined the band a day later.” With so many great DIY, lo-fi bands out there already – Wetdog, Pheromoans, Pens, to name but a few – why do Trash Kit deserve to be heard? “I don’t know,” murmurs Rachel H, shrinking back into herself. “That’s a really difficult question,” Rachel A answers. “It’s asking us to be really big headed.” But a band that believes in themselves should be able to sell themselves. “I think it’s something different because we don’t want to be derivative of any style. It’s quite hard to say why people should listen to us,” she declares before we get up to leave. “The only reason I feel like I can say is that I’d like to be inspiring to other people, especially girls in bands and anyone who feels disempowered because that’s something I feel strongly about.”
fool’s gold Afrobeat made in LA: surprisingly the perfect climate for this inspired collective P h o t o g r a p h e r : O W EN R I C H A R D S Wr i t e r : s a m wa lto n
“LA is a great big freeway” – or so the song goes. Los Angeles, California: a massive concrete runway of promise, with the potential to take you anywhere you want. LA is Capitol Records, Hollywood, the Entertainment Capital of the World. Los Angeles, California: “one day soon she’ll make you a star”. Or so the song goes. That’s LA, sure. But of course there’s a flipside. Of the major cities down the west coast of America, the world’s perception of LA is of the plastic and gauche, the kitsch and the mass market; the domain of the megastar but rarely the cult famous; the home of the adored but seldom the admired. LA is seen as the uglier, harder, dumber brother of swinging San Francisco; the softer, squarer, lazier cousin of hipster Seattle. If San Fran is the Grateful Dead and hippies, and Seattle is Nirvana and coffee culture, then Los Angeles is The Eagles and psychiatrists. For all its wealth and alchemy, the truth is that LA rarely does cool. LA rarely does outsiders. So it’s maybe a slight surprise that one of the most talked-about bands of recent months, playing a genre of music that’s tipped to define 2010, hails from the City of Angels. Fool’s Gold, a loose collective of ever-changing Angelenos built around the songwriting hub of Luke Top and Lewis Pesacov, play summery afrobeat, all West African highlife, chanted mantras and flat-palmed percussion. But unlike, say, Vampire Weekend or any number of Brooklyn’s current ‘Graceland’ fans, theirs isn’t American music with a dash of international flavour, but actually more like African music wearing a stars’n’stripes pin. Their self-titled debut album owes far more, for example, to Fela Kuti than it does to Paul Simon, with its unhurried, groove-laden songs, foreign-sung lyrics (singer Top performs mainly in Hebrew) and loose, long compositions full of breakdowns and build-ups. Their live incarnation, too, is in debt to the epic desert jams of Tinariwen rather than the
American punk spirit of rattling through ten songs in thirty minutes. Nevertheless, Top insists that LA is the inspiration for his band: “Our album is definitely related to Los Angeles. Lewis and I grew up in the [San Fernando] Valley, which is flat and wide, and I think the geography of the city makes people want to reach out beyond it. Los Angeles is about little communities of people in a big place, and you kinda make your own reality.” Pesacov, the band’s lead guitarist, agrees. “It’s so vast and open that it leaves your mind open to be able to reach past the suburban walls and into different communities,” he says. “We just had this impulse to reach as far as we can. There was no deliberate idea to do something global, but we bonded over a shared idea of reaching out. It seemed like the natural thing to do, as crazy as that seems.” “I think it’s innately human to want to reach beyond your immediate environment”, explains Top. “African musicians are reaching out to the Western world to inform their music, taking cues from soul and Jimi Hendrix, and these days from hip-hop and rap…” “And, equally, we’re hearing what they’re doing and filtering it through our own music,” says Pesacov, finishing his bandmate’s sentence. “It seems like there’s a tradition of conversation there,” continues Top. “A kind of international cultural exchange.” But where previously musicians would meet together to swap techniques and ideas, Fool’s Gold’s cultural exchange is of a very modern variety – surprisingly, neither Top nor Pescarov have ever visited Africa, and instead use the web to feed their addictions to desert blues, Mahmoud Ahmed and new Tuareg groups . “I’ve never been,” says Pescarov, unapologetically. “All the music I’ve heard is just mined from my dad’s record collection, and the newer stuff, like a lot of Eritrean pop, you can’t get anywhere, so you go on YouTube. There are no mp3s, no
CDs, so you have to watch the videos.” That’s YouTube, by the way, owned by Google, whose headquarters are just 250 miles up the coast from Fool’s Gold’s home town. Maybe LA isn’t that far, geographically, from their African influences after all. “I’ve never been either,” admits Top. “But the music speaks volumes so I don’t feel the need. I don’t think the guys in Mali need to visit San Francisco to have their sound – it goes back to that cultural exchange thing: we’re not playing their music, we’re playing our music with their influence.” “It feels really good, though, to be performing in different places from Los Angeles,” adds Pescarov, at pains to point out that world travel is definitely on the Fool’s Gold agenda, funds permitting (they head to Belgium after this, and then onto France, where apparently they are already building ahead of steam). “I want to play The Festival in the Desert, in Mali. It’s about four hours in a 4x4 across the sands from Timbuktu – I reckon we could do it.” He pauses for a quick daydream, perhaps acknowledging the irony that it’s only by actually being in an African-sounding pop group that they might have the chance to see, in the flesh, African pop. Then he snaps back to reality: “...even though I’d miss Los Angeles.” Pescarov’s homesickness might sound a touch parochial, but maybe it actually says more about LA than it does about him. After all, his hometown (he was born in Hollywood before moving to the Valley) is the one place in the world that attracts people who want to paint their own adventures and create their own realities; maybe it’s one of the few cities that actually could be evoked while playing a gig four hours outside Timbuktu. And in that sense it figures, oddly, that a world music band should hail from LA, of all places. “There’s no other place like it on earth,” says Top. “We love world music, but we feel like that’s our home.” Maybe LA really is a great big freeway after all.
Li v e at M a d am e J o j o’s Currently, Fool’s Gold are a seven-piece – “an intimate line-up tonight,” jokes singer Luke Top, remembering the band’s early performances that saw 15-plus musicians on stage. They cram onto the tiny stage, and flow through just five songs in fifty minutes, the whole group dancing not quite in unison but like some many-tentacled sea creature whose arms are all being buffeted by the
same wave. Two nights earlier, they played Fabric. “That was different,” guitarist Lewis Pesacov admits. “We were the only band on a bill of DJs and everyone just wanted to dance and do drugs. But that’s cool – you can definitely dance and take drugs to us. In fact, I want nothing more!” Indeed, with the repeated grooves and hypnotic percussion, Fool’s Gold’s West African highlife has more
than a passing resemblance to electronic music. “It’s about getting into this trance,” explains Top. “We’re not electronic, but there’s the same vibe. There’s something about that propulsive beat that lets us stretch out and allow the natural flow of the songs to happen.” However, Fool’s Gold are a band, and while none of the seven men on stage look alike – Top is all Brylcreem hair
and smart shoes, Pesacov is denim jacket and three-day-old stubble, and various others are in red pyjamas and cardigans – they smile and throb together in a way that a solitary DJ can’t, and that happiness is infectious. By the final song, half the band has jumped into the gyrating crowd to shake their percussion, and the sunny music is overcoming the wintery January night outside.
fi cti on “WE like the idea of making a snappy first album... and farting in a bottle for the second” P h o t o g r a p h e r : E l i n o r J o n e s Wr i t e r : I a n r o e b u c k
Where’s the fun in a fact? Broadly limited by the dullness of reality, it’s got a tough ride of it when up against make believe. Fiction trail-blazes its way about town making shit up, mooning science and generally kicking the crap out of fact’s well-pruned hedge of homogeny. Fiction, the band, though, embrace their limitations but that’s not to say that boundaries aren’t for breaking. “If you come up against something and you’re getting resistance you have to work around it and that’s what we do,” says James Howard, sat sandwiched between his three other band mates. The multifaceted vocalist, guitarist and drummer is talking about his group’s willingness to adapt. They have two drummers for a start, James being one, Mike Barrett the other. “We couldn’t find a drummer but having a commercial drummer doesn’t work for us as they are too inclined to use cymbals,” explains Mike. “We prefer our drums to be more succinct and precise, so James and I played as a joke in rehearsal one day, realised we could get away with it and it went from there.” Mike’s brother Nick plays the guitar but he’s quick to point out the importance of the rhythm section
in Fiction – “The percussion is the heart and soul of the band,” he says “all the bands we admire are the same.” Beaten tracks or unchartered waters, that’s Fiction’s style. Lumbered with a drum machine for a while, it clearly didn’t suit. “That became limiting because you have to stay in time, with a machine, you can’t go off on one!” Always evolving, you get the impression all four of them could be addicted to The Sticks by the summer. Their clean cuts, wry lyrics and dark pop sensibilities were quickly noticed by Offset Festival’s Kieran Delaney who picked them up for Offset Recording’s (and Fiction’s) debut release. “That’s actually meant to be a secret!” blurts out Nick, although he looks elated that the news is finally out there. It’s clearly an honour for the band but no-one can deny how well suited they are. “I went to Offset in the first year and really thought it was perfect,” continues Nick. “We had a plan to play in the second year and we were asked to play the main stage”. James butts in: “We shat ourselves!” They needn’t have – a live set that teeters on the brink and a willingness to fuck with
their own system continually catches the eye. “I guess that’s what people find exciting about our live set,” adds Daniel Djan, bassist and sometime vocalist “it always feels shaky. It could fall apart any minute, and we hope it’s intriguing to watch. You wait for that moment when it falls apart and it doesn’t… hopefully!” Nick murmurs something about reflecting their personalities and a bell goes off; that’s exactly what Fiction manage to create - a vulnerable front, delicately walking the line of chaos but with big confident songs behind them. “We are definitely getting more confident in ourselves although we’re certainly not conscious of it,” muses James. A self-assured band with solid tunes all sounds a bit bland but this is Fiction, remember, not no-friends Fact. “We don’t force ourselves to have a certain image or play a certain way,” says Dan as Mike brings us back to the music. “It’s become a lot poppier and hookier,” he admits. “The songs’ times have come down from ten minutes to three,” he notes, perhaps because the band are already thinking about an album, or at least James is. “We all like the idea of making a really snappy first
album,” he enthuses “…and then fart in a bottle for an hour for the second one.” Now that’d be an Offset release we’d all like to see, split with No Bra, please. But Fiction’s debut single, ‘Curiosity’, will be rolling out early spring. Influenced by …don’t ask. “We’ve heard the Joy Division comparison,” warns James “and frankly that’s just lazy.” “Every band’s influenced by them,” reasons Mike. “We’re into XTC at the moment, err the band of course”. Dan enthusiastically jumps in: “Talking Heads, obviously. Mystery Jets we like, Yeasayer, Wild Beasts.” “Yeah, reel them off Dan!” shouts Nick from the other side of the room. But Fiction obviously listen to a lot of music. “But none of us really listen to singles,” says Dan. “Who does anymore? Albums are so important to us as a band. We were talking the other day about how interesting it is when you discover a band; it’s quite a personal thing. James likes the Wave Pictures and it’s become sort of his band. Same with me and Little Boots,” he laughs Dan. A jovial contemplation no doubt, but Fiction hit the rhythmic, post punk nail on the head on so many levels. Fact.
Ra i n b o w A r a b i a A fine cure for the winter blues: ‘ethnotronica’... dressed as Jacko Wr i t e r : s t ua r t s t u bb s
Boy, do we need Rainbow Arabia right now! There’s something submissively comforting about wrapping yourself in a blanket of melancholy as a New Year crawls out of the starting blocks, over snow, then ice, then sludge, then plain ‘ol dry and uninteresting despair, but it’s not January anymore so where’s the Indian Winter that Channel 4 promised? 2010 clearly still needs some coaxing into life. “We spent some time in Brazil this January, so it was alright for us,” says Danny Preston, the hat-less MJ of Rainbow Arabia. It was Rio’s summer, 90 degrees under a damp cloth and a carnival city ready-oiled to welcome this duo’s “Ethnotronica,” as they call it. They played some shows that, considering Rainbow Arabia’s ability to make a corpse dance, were, rather predictably, “super awesome.” And then, before jetting home, they filmed a video for new single ‘Holiday In Congo’, dressed as two Michael Jacksons [that’s what that picture’s about] in a goofy pastiche of the great one’s goofier ‘They Don’t Really Care About Us’ video. But it’s not as if Danny and Tiffany Preston needed Rio to thaw their New Year blues. They live in LA, for one thing –
hardly a dilapidated seaside town of grey dampness. And then there’s that music they make – a mixture of various Afrobeat subgenres, tribal house, raggaeton beats and gentler MIA vocals, influenced by African and Middle Eastern culture, and played on microtonal instruments bought from Lebanon. It’s music that’s gleefully celebratory of everything non-Western and cynical, and is more than capable of transporting any listener to a land as vibrant as Brazil without you leaving your hovel of self-pity. “From our music, we just want to get people to feel something, and dance, and have fun,” says Tiffany in a Californian accent as sprightly as her husband’s. “But to me I like changing up the mood. We’re mixing in a couple of darker songs into our set,” she warns “and I think it’s interesting to see how people will dance and move and interact with it.” These darker songs include ‘Haunted Hall’ from Rainbow Arabia’s new 7-track EP-comemini album ‘Kabukimono’ – a song that seductively slivers between the Kia-Ora-supping, tropical ‘Holiday In Congo’ and the record’s dance-inspired, polyrhythmic title track, sounding like a spectre-ish ‘Jimmy’ by MIA. Even if it were
infinitely more sinister, it’d probably get people bouncing like beans on a drum skin though, because that’s what happens when Rainbow Arabia play live, unless it’s in LA… to over 10s. “LA audiences are the worst,” says Danny “but it’s good practice because if we can get them dancing we can get anyone into it. But we had a show yesterday on the college campus here at lunchtime, and there were loads of students walking by and sitting around but really distant and then there was all these 10-year-olds that were on a tour from local schools – about 150/200 – and they’re all sitting on the outskirts on a lunch break so we directed the show toward them and they also started going crazy, so we got them involved in the show…” “We did an interactive thing at the end and it was just awesome,” adds Tiffany. “We gave them our percussion instruments and it was so fun. But since the last time you saw us [Rainbow Arabia played our club night last May] I’ve really stepped it up a lot as a performer. I play pretty much half of our songs from in the audience now. I realised after watching videos of myself that, ‘oh my God, I look so stiff’, so something clicked inside of me that I
needed to get out there and move people, and if you’re crawling on the floor while singing, people will move.” Danny duly credits Seattle World Music label Sublime Frequencies for turning him on to African and Middle Eastern punk. After hearing prolific Syrian star Omar Souleyman (a man who’s released 500 live albums on cassette tape) on one of the label’s compilations, both he and Tiffany were instantly obsessed. “We were like, what the hell is this?” remembers Tiffany. “It’s total, like, PUNK, but in a different way. It was pissed and fast and the sounds were so in your face!” ‘Kabukimono’ is a record forged with similar intent. It’s as multi-eyed and multi-limbed as its Indo-Chinese artwork and as reluctant to discredit ideas and sounds from any available source. That’s how ‘Harlem Sunrise’’s steel drums add a mellow taste of the Caribbean, and how their interest in The Knife and straight up dance music allowed remixes of the previously released ‘Omar K’ and ‘Let Them Dance’ to feature also. As Tiffany says, Rainbow Arabia want you to “feel something, and dance, and have fun.” And with infectious giddiness, they do just that, whatever the time of year.
The World is Not
Enoughâ€¦ P h o t o g r a p h e r : P H I L S H A RP Wr i t e r : N AT H A N W ESTLE Y
… so Liars, a band who refuse to revisit their past, have made their own, and their 5th studio album is their best record yet “I remember saying that by the time we got to the fifth record it would either be a Christmas album or a Samba one. I imagined we would be really old and that we wouldn’t be interested in making music any more, but that’s obviously not the case.” So says Liars frontman Angus Andrews at his record label’s HQ. A lot has changed since the turn of the century when that prediction first crept into his mind; the soon to be released ‘Sisterworld’ is neither Samba nor wintry themed and it’s taken the band ten years to arrive at. For many the idea of creating and releasing five albums remains nothing but a milestone that is never reached, many bands falling foul to either in-band fighting, label politics or the age old cliché ‘musical differences’ long before.Yet it would be wrong to assume that Liars’ journey has been a straightforward one. Aaron Hemphill summarises that the initial steps were placed when “we got back from a very long US tour. Right after that we were introduced to Mute and agreed to do that deal. A little bit afterwards a lot of our friends who were in bands that are a little bit more commercial were offered deals,” he continues. “We were kind of like, ‘I wonder what’s going to happen to them? Did we fuck up?’ Obviously not – some of the problems they have had to deal with, with their labels, they’ve tried to relate those to us and we’re like, ‘God, you actually have to ask them if you can write?’ It’s beyond us.” Though they were initially considered part of the happening Brooklyn scene, alongside bands such as The Rapture,Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Walkmen, Liars did not feel they had to retread past steps over and over, nor continue along the same route. “We like to keep it fresh and try new things every time,” says Angus. “We’re that purple word ‘eclectic’; our interests are pretty wide ranging and we’re still scratching the surface on what all those are.There’s so many different types of music and different ways of making it that you can literally for each record stop everything you’ve figured out so far and pick up all brand new ways of doing www.loudandquiet.com
it, like a kid, which is just so much more fun and the possibilities are just so much more exciting than if you get very studied and bogged down.” It’s an outlook that goes a long way to explaining why Liars are not afraid to make drastic changes, each album a document of a band incapable of standing still. Taking control of the recording desk for new record ‘Sisterworld’ was Tom Biller whose previous clientele includes Kanye West and Beck, as well as work on the soundtracks for the films Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Where the Wilds Things Are. Unsurprisingly, this appointment had an effect on the end results (particularly in terms of Biller’s cinematic past – ‘Sisterworld’ is a twisted Fantasia of a concept album) but as with all the decisions the band undertakes, Aaron makes clear that it was one given careful consideration. “We knew he worked with many different people but the thing was 1.) He was in LA and he had worked in LA for a long time and had done all these projects there so he has a reputation – he has a lot of friends and that enabled us to record the album, gave us more time to revise the music and demos etc… but 2.) He had also recorded a wide range of instruments at different paces, he had worked with John Bryan on various soundtracks but that to us didn’t mean that he would incorporate a more cinematic feel, it just meant that he could record strings.” The upside of this is that it enabled Liars further room in which to experiment, and though strings do feature on a good proportion of the new songs (on ‘No Barrier Fun’ their appearance can be described as atmospherically woozy while ‘Here Comes All The People’ swerves in an avant-garde horror direction), they are never overbearing, simply a complimentary aid that adds further texture and suits Liars aggressive underbelly. “It’s from a much more engineering stand point when we select who our producer is, as they function more as enablers,” explains Julian. “We have such a clear idea what we want to do and we work at such a frantic pace that there is no real time to make suggestions, it’s only ever, ‘Well, we could put this mic in front of that instrument and it would work better’ and that’s what Tom did. He’s used to working like that and he made it really easy. He’s used to working with all sort of instruments really quickly so someone could come in and play some glockenspiel and he knew exactly how
to mic it and he seemed like someone who could get it done quickly while also enjoying the process as well.” A happy camp is no more likely to be Xerox’d than an unhappy one though.The making of ‘Sisterworld’ was a joy but there is no certainty that Liars will repeat this process next time round. “As these guys were saying, we have never worked with someone who is a producer in the normal sense, as in they bring in ideas,” reiterates Angus. “I don’t know if it could ever work that way, but it’s interesting to think that someday we’ll work with someone who will bring ideas to us as opposed to us being so dictatorial” Their totalitarian state has helped Liars create an album that feels like a collection of songs with a running theme, arguably for the first time. “That’s important to us,” nods their front man. “Our last record (the self titled album) was a little bit of an experiment on not doing that; seeing what it was like to lump a bunch of songs together that were made in the same time period and see how that sat with us. It was fun as we did it really quickly and it was important for us to do as it helped us then realise that one of the best bits about making albums is to give them this cohesion and inject a bit of life into it as a whole piece of work.” And while we’re talking about change – which it seems like we always are with Liars – there’s the fact that this latest album was recorded not just in the States (for the first times since 2004’s ‘They Were Wrong, So We Drowned’), but in alien LA, a town that Aaron says the band can identify with. “It’s going to sound a little cheesy,” he half winces “but that’s how our band kind of functions. LA is a city that doesn’t function like many others, there’s no real set up, it’s very dislocated, and it’s like that with us – there’s no real centre, it’s spread out and we work in a different way to most bands. Bands are expected to work, jamming out the material, couple of beers, couple of hours in the practice space then off to dance.We’ve never done that.” Equally, Liars have never spent a whole year making an album. But then, until now they’ve never made an album as adventurous as this. “In total a year was how long we worked on it,” confirms Angus “start to finish, which is a long time for us.The first one was two days, but the last one that we did was six months, so it’s quite a difference when you get a chance to let things sit or to let things develop. It’s amazing! I said that
“I imagined that we wouldn’t be interested in making music anymore” this was the first record, for me that I felt we could have worked on for a long time, even longer. Others I felt a real need to get it out there, I was really frantic about it, this one maybe it was all the practical circumstances but it seemed like there was so many things to explore.” When the band handed across the track components to artists including Thom Yorke, Tunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio and Bradford Cox of Deerhunter to rework the songs for an additional bonus CD to compliment the album’s physical release, they were exploring uncertainty to degrees that they never had before.They’re safe hands, as collaborators go, but Liars had given up control for the first time in their careers. Angus informs that the basis of this move grew from wanting to “give the songs a different perspective.” “These are people who we respected their work enough to really wanted them to give us a completely different interpretation of the elements that we gave them,” he says. “We certainly weren’t looking for a remix per se, in the sense of the dance club formula; it’s more how different people see these elements … collaboration is awesome, it’s not something we get to do all that much so it would be great if there was more room in this little genre.” Which instantly raises the question, just how do Liars – a band captaining that hallowed ground between respected artistes and commercial success story (they’re no Radiohead, but they are on album number 5) – categorise themselves, and how do they see themselves fitting in with everything/ anything else? “It’s obvious that there needs to be ways to put things in context,” reasons Angus “but it’s difficult when you don’t think of those realms when you’re creating. It’s hard to then, post production, try and fit
them into a nice place and then to put a whole band into that.” Aaron: “The problem is, when the people making the music not only ascribe to it, they aspire to it after that’s been placed on them, it’s a little confusing. As far as communication goes it can serve as a simple adjective. It’s not that music is so special that you can’t do that when you’re passing the CD around, it just seems really stupid when bands are like ‘we should stick to this.’” Julian describes that doing so would “feel like a prison to us.The idea that you have to do the same thing every time, I think we would lose interest. I can’t understand how any form of an artist can keep on creating the same thing.” Liars are a complicated band, not content to simplify their existence, though Angus admits that it is something they sometimes grapple with. “It’s hard for us to make an album that’s not considered a concept album,” he ponders. “One of our goals is to make a record that’s not determined that way, but it’s difficult because when you’re asked about what you’re thinking about when making a record, either you pretend that you weren’t thinking about anything or you tell people and then it becomes this whole bunch of massive meaning tagged onto the record. I think that sometimes gets in the way of the music and gets in the way of a more straightforward appreciation of it, but then on the other side of the coin I really like that part of records and I actually like talking about stuff like that, more than just listening to music. I think it’s cool that it might create a discourse about something else which is what I think good art does, it’s a bit of a dilemma, obviously, but at the same time it’s not a bad one, fooling around with meaning all the time is fun.”
th e b it te r s Garage rock with pop hooks and songs to actually get addicted to; mid-fi/‘Cave pop’ starts here Wr i t e r : s t ua r t s t u bb s
BEN COOK WAS A CHILD STAR! After countless attempts to put it cleverly, there it is, blurted out and in capital letters. And while we’re at it – BEN COOK IS A KLEPTOMANIAC. Okay, WAS, Ben Cook was a kleptomaniac, but, as he told Australian blog NoGuvNoLuv last year, all that tealeaf-ing stopped when it made members of Fucked Up – his pretty decent hardcore band – feel uncomfortable. Nevertheless, neither revelation is easy to keep in once known, and now both are out. “I guess you missed the Goosebumps and Little Men hits on IMDB?” half questions Aerin Fogel. “Or the Coco Puffs commercial. I recommend getting a hold of Little Men if you can. Ben pretends like he hates it but I think he still knows all his lines, including the amazing a cappella rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’ near the end.” Aerin, a fractured-voiced Suicide Girl-type, purse-lipped here in a tyre yard “because I look good in black”, has clearly studied her band mate’s onscreen work and so impressed was she with that amazing ‘Amazing Grace’ performance that she and Ben formed The Bitters as a reason to hang out (“We wanted to hang out all the time but we both had too much pride to say it,” she says “so ‘writing a song’ became a plausible excuse. This mostly involved scribing detailed treasure maps on the studio walls in gold ink.”). In the east end of Toronto – their hometown and a city that Aerin is particularly proud of – the pair determinedly found time for their new project, between Aerin’s ongoing degree studies (she’s currently writing her first novel also) and Ben’s commitments to Pink Eyes and the gang. “Anything is ‘hard’ if you think about it that way,” reasons the singer “so the same goes for thinking your commitments are easy to sort out.” The walls covered in doodles of snake-back ridge and the like, Aerin and Ben wrote, among
other things, ‘Warrior’, which is why they’re here in Loud And Quiet. Indecently, the rest of The Bitters’ limited 12” EP, ‘Wooden Glove’, is very nearly as good as ‘Warrior’, as is the current Captured Tracks 7”. For now though, even having obsessed over it for the past six months, the size of this song’s anthemic pop chorus, delivered in semicracked, him’n’her duel vocals, remains completely thrilling like nothing else. It doesn’t even seem to matter that no one can make out the whole of the first line. “It’s ‘…your sword goes straight through my heart,’” says Aerin, ending months of mumbles to the stuttering, swaying melody. “It’s about a warrior who has slain so many victims he is no longer able to take off his armour (skin), because he couldn’t remember how even if he wanted to (which he doesn’t). It’s a story. [All of our songs] are stories. Everything is a story. But a good story has to be told in different words. Worlds. Otherwise it’s hard for the listener to find any way to relate. There’s negligible value in relating a story directly from the experience. No one cares about your break-up ten years ago, they’re too busy mourning their own. “Anyway, all the songs are about bridges,” she continues. “There’s truth (real experiences, breathing characters, tangible thoughts) at one end of the bridge, and a world of fiction and fantasy on the other. A good song is simply a matter of building the proper bridge between these two worlds
- one that anyone is entitled to walk across, and one that doesn’t crumble when you’re halfway along; one that isn’t too hard underfoot, and one that doesn’t rock too much in either direction. And one that is not too long, because a person can get tired walking across a long bridge – you may as well have just gone around the long way in that case.” Golden-inked treasure maps don’t seem too alien now – Aerin, and no doubt ex-child star/ex-klepto Ben, has a deep and vivid imagination, which isn’t the first trait that springs to mind when looking at a super cool garage band in a tyre yard. But while The Bitters are essentially just that, it’s not as if that’s all they are. They don’t worship at the alter of Billy Childish like so many others, for one (melody virtuoso Burt Bacharach is their demigod – “We recently drove to a casino in one of the most depressing towns in Northern Ontario to witness a confusing medley of his songs done mostly by Vegasstyle, TV-dinner vocalists,” explains Aerin. “This also featured Burt himself, tucked up to the piano, and single tears during ‘Make It Easy On Yourself.’), nor do they seek out lo-fi aesthetics as if analogue is a badge of honour – if anything it finds them, out of necessity and thin resources. They make ‘Cave Pop’, a subgenre they’ve self-coined, which is “murkier and more mystical than Sidewalk Pop and filthier and darker than Dank Pop, which usually originates from the mouth of a cave as opposed to the slimy gut within,” lets on
“Cave Pop is not to be confused with Wave Pop or Knave Pop (music written by, and exclusively for, kleptomaniacs)”
Aerin, which we totally knew anyway. We also knew, way before this little chat, that this band don’t let little things like interviews prevent them from spinning a yarn and expanding their storytelling skills (Google that NoGuvNoLuv interview for Ben’s description of how he’d have sound tracked Planet Earth) but just in case we had forgotten, Aerin offers, “Cave Pop is not to be confused with Wave Pop (music written while lying on a sunny beach and enjoyed strictly during barbecue sessions) or Knave Pop (music written by, and exclusively for, kleptomaniacs).” Knave Pop, one presumes is played only on half-inched equipment. As for ‘Cave Pop’, though (remember?), it’s worth paying attention to the threeletter word. “There’s always going to be a straight up pop hook in there somewhere,” say Aerin, which is Bacharach’s doing and the reason we’re ‘Warrior’ junkies; the reason The Bitters are not so comfortably filed between The Strange Boys and Thee Oh Seas. “Lo-fi bands are creating a sound, not a song,” argues Aerin. “If you took a lot of those songs into a different recording context and tried to re-create them, they would lose their appeal altogether. There would be nothing left. We did two releases with a pretty lo-fi recording quality to them, but it was a question of resources. We don’t listen to lo-fi or really care about the recent onslaught. I’m confident that if our songs were redone in a better studio or without a slew of pedals and makeshift instruments they would sound just as good. ‘East General’, our upcoming album, is mid-fi quality. This is the direction things are headed in now. Lo-fi is already fading because there’s nothing to sustain it. People want something more interesting out of their music. There has to be a song to back up the sound.”
THESE NEW PURITANS at Miller’s Residence Notting Hill, London January 26th 2010
Hidden Depths On its 2007 release, ‘Beat Pyramid’ evaded not just the record sales but the critical acclaim it deserved. Its follow up, ‘Hidden’, has already changed everyone’s opinion of These New Puritans, except for Jack and George Barnett’s who’ve never questioned the genius of ‘the company’ P h o t o g r a p h e r : gab 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
onday night, 25th of January, and Bush Hall is packed out with an expectant audience while the stage is crammed with samplers, a laptop, a rack of chains and a sixfoot Taiko drum that dwarfs the drum kit. There is also a neat row of chairs with music stands in front of them that gradually fill with musicians bearing bassoons, tubas and the like. As the lights dim, the small brass and woodwind section play a brief, mournful intro, which is met with an awkward ripple of giggles from the darkened auditorium. This is, in fact, ‘Time Xone’, the opening track of These New Puritans’ new album, ‘Hidden’, though the audience are clearly expecting something more along the lines of savage, swarming chest thumper, ‘We Want War’. Fortunately, that’s the next track in line and the giggling dissolves into whoops, cheers and knowing head nods as a furious synthetic whir brings the band to the stage, pulling the classical instruments into context. Bush Hall was the first night These New Puritans had played live with an orchestra and already they suspect it will be strange to play without it. “If we had the money, we’d play with them every time, but we don’t,” says drummer George, although hopefully the more shows they do without, the more funds they’ll have to put towards bringing the orchestra back (though probably not the enormous drum). It will be worth the effort; last night’s show was absolutely thrilling. “Another show we did was in Berlin, it was the worst show we’ve ever played,” says Jack. “It was just full of pilled up kids that weren’t really interested, they were just there to party,” adds George. “It wasn’t just kids,” says Jack. “It was
some kind of corporate event and, yeah, they were just there and we were just… there.” Apparently this dull pill party was not so much an album-plugging venture as it was a means of funding the classical musicians who eventually joined TNP at Bush Hall. Did it make the band nervous to perform with them for the first time? “Maybe a little bit,” says Jack. “All in all we had about five hours’ rehearsal with them, less than that.” “I wasn’t at all nervous, really,” counters George, turning his face up at his brother. “They were such proficient musicians that there was no need to be nervous.They were just playing exactly what you’d composed. I think the worry’s more on your shoulders because there’s rests for x amount of bars that you…” “That’s not difficult,” interrupt Jack. “I think that’s the least difficult bit.” As for how subsequent gigs will work, minus the orchestra, as at TNP’s Rough Trade instore the week before, Sophie [Sleigh-Johnson] will play the brass and wind parts on her keyboard. “But it’s not just her,” says Jack. “We all have two ways of playing, one with the brass section and one without, we just have to adapt.” “But we don’t play with brass sounds, we play with other sounds,” George adds, the idea being that using a laptop or synth to simulate having a small chunk of orchestra on stage is a bit rubbish and it’s more interesting to put together something different for the times when the real thing isn’t available. “It was weird playing in the shop,” Jack comments. “We only played four or five songs because of the curfew.” George: “It was really good though.
There were six hundred people there and only three hundred could get in.” Jack looks at him, a bit confused. “Yeah,” George repeats, “There were three hundred people in the shop and more outside, it oversold!” It seems that Jack is more focused on the music than on crowd numbers or publicity. In fact, the press reaction to ‘Hidden’ seems to have both brothers a bit nonplussed – when discussing the album they appear to be rather underwhelmed by their own work. Yeah, they’ve chatted to more than a few journos and glared gauntly at just as many cameras recently, but otherwise the Barnett brothers (who these days take care of all press matters as a duo, without Sophie or bassistcome-percussion hand Tom Hein) seem removed from the whole affair.When presented with the intended compliment that their new record is ‘a bit epic’, their mutual response is a vague, “Mmm, s’pose so,” which could set off a whole host of arrogance alarm bells, but there isn’t so much as a whiff of haughtiness coming from the Puritans side of the table, where George and Jack are respectively devouring and picking at their pub dinners, awaiting the next question. And as far as my charmingly eloquent ‘epic’ comment is concerned, “I dunno, really,” contemplates Jack “I’ve lived with ‘Hidden’ for such a long time now, I’ve been writing it for about a year and that’s not such a long time but… I can hardly even hear it, I’m used to it.” George agrees: “I can’t anymore. I remember really loving ‘We Want War’ when we first recorded it and now I don’t really care – I still think it’s good, I just don’t get
the same buzz from it as I originally did. I want the next single we recorded to be out now.” Next single? The dust is still settling in the venue from last night’s live album unveiling and we’re already on to the next thing. It shouldn’t be that surprising since ‘Hidden’ was already in the works even as the band’s debut LP was being released and no sooner has LP number two hit the shelves than the next single is on the way. And it doesn’t sound like it will be fruit fallen from the same tree that bore the likes of ‘We Want War’. “We’re going to get a prepubescent girl to sing while me and you play music,” explains George, gesturing to Jack.Turning back to me – “We need to find someone who sings… a bit like Joe le Taxi.” “Or maybe like the Svengalis,” adds Jack. With such overactive creativity glands, ideas buzzing round their heads like wasps, it’s a wonder these two can sit still long enough to have this conversation. “It’s a really amazing song,” George continues. “It sounds really poppy, but not because we’ve made it poppy, just because that’s what you’d written. It sounds really good, I like it, and the fact that you heard it in a dream,” [a peculiar look from the L&Q side of the table], “like Pocahontas,” he offers [peculiar looks from both sides of the table]. “Pocahontas saw things in dreams…” George trails off. “It was an imaginary pop singer,” explains Jack “just playing this song and it sounded good so I woke up and sang it into my Dictaphone. It’s kind of annoying because it was just too late, we’d just finished recording ‘Hidden’ when I wrote it and I
“I hope people hate us as well. I hope there’s a real hatred as well as a really positive side; I don’t like middle ground.” 28
didn’t get to finish it off properly.” Certainly looking like brothers but not necessarily the twins that they indeed are, it’s Jack who cut the shape of an introverted genius. It’s Jack who’s shy-to-awkward, often looking down or away, and it’s Jack who’s the band’s creative force and skilled writer. “It’s not like I’m not doing anything,” defends George. “It’s like, without me I think the band would sound completely different.” “Yeah,” Jack agrees “but it’s not like a band, it’s more like a company or something.” “But it’s me and you, basically, doing stuff…” says George. “I’m more of an editor, Jack is the genius behind the group,” he states matter-of-factly, consulting Jack over the word ‘group’ as opposed to ‘company’, even as Jack is calmly returning the genius comment. “I’m learning to play the violin,” George adds. But if Jack is ultimately the company’s leader, its director, why isn’t he doing the snaps and chats on his own, or, if These New Puritans is more of a group, why aren’t Thomas and Sophie along for the press rounds? “It’s our band, it’s our group, really… It’s so unfair!” George laughs. “I could just stand here and say it’s mine, couldn’t I,” observes Jack. “I could just stand here and say it’s mine,” retaliates George. “Well, no, I couldn’t. I mean, there’s a difference between me and you being brothers and doing absolutely everything and the other two, they play music with us and that’s our band, we play music together.” “We do the day-to-day running, the business side of things,” Jack clarifies. Business aspect aside, the guys say they have been playing music together since they were seven years old and Jack has recorded since about that age as well, using their older brother’s four track recorder and borrowing George’s drum set to create beats. George happens to have a track on his phone and gives us a listen. “The group name is George and Jack,” he announces (their genius hadn’t extended to imaginative band names yet). The track isn’t exactly the stuff of ‘Beat Pyramid’, let alone ‘Hidden’, it’s all spaced out chords, wiry guitar slices and Casio bleeps, based around a simple beat. It’s the sound of young musicians learning about building tracks, fitting layers together to create a whole, somewhere between construction and backwards dissection – a crash course in production.
hese New Puritans’ music is constantly, rapidly evolving and, as well as becoming tighter and more sophisticated, demonstrating a great deal of restlessness, ambition and a virtually unquenchable flow of ideas. Early ventures such as the track on George’s phone gave way to 2006 EP, ‘Now Pluvial’, a whirlwind affair recorded in one session straight to Jack’s laptop. It was a vicious, paranoid gauntlet, thrown down by TNP, not so much to other groups as to themselves.This was followed in 2007 by the Dior Homme-commissioned track ‘Navigate, Navigate’, clocking in just under the thirteen-minute mark, which retained the precisely haphazard energy of previous work but had begun to explore the relationship between beats, melodies and vocals – and the empty space between those elements, which resulted in moments of sonic clutter and strangely intriguing pockets of stark, itchy percussion. By the time debut album ‘Beat Pyramid’ stormed into the world in 2008,These New Puritans had already earned a reputation for themselves,
standing apart from other artists of the Southend scene, referencing a jumble of influences from The Fall to Wu-Tang Clan and being branded with genres including post punk, new rave and art rock.Their debut confirmed that this group was a force to be reckoned with, and not just on the writing and playing front, the production was improving, developing into a style that encompasses levels of organised chaos and layers slick with grit, like ice beneath scattered shards of glass and earth.The release of ‘Hidden’ introduces further challenges including samples of sharpening knives, sculls being smashed (the classic radio technique of melon meets hammer), a children’s choir and yet another crash course, this time in orchestration and arrangement for a brass section. At this point it’s a tough call to say whether Jack is more of a musician or a producer. “I’m not really any of those things,” he says, a bit flustered. “I’m kind of a musician but I’m not really a musician, kind of a producer…” “A composer,” suggests George. “Kind of a composer, but not really because I’ve not really composed that much music,” Jack considers. “I’m more of a beat maker but it’s not really beat-making music.” “I think that you should – that we should – write for musical films,” George intervenes, eliciting a non-verbal, none-too-convinced question mark from his brother. “Yeah, that’s what I’d really like to do.”This slight curve ball lands and rolls round the table for a moment before Jack picks it up, pointing out that the trouble with that is that one would be expected to work to other people’s ideas of what the music should be like, and even five minutes in his company is enough to know that that is not the way Jack Barnett goes about creating his tracks.That (rather crucial) point aside, ‘Hidden’ almost certainly has a story line to it, including a prologue and an epilogue. It’s a sort of musical film score without the film aspect.There’s something almost operatic about it, maybe a whiff of Wagner – “You don’t like Wagner do you?” observes George, glancing at Jack. “He’s not really my thing,” Jack responds, flatly. One could furiously backpedal, perhaps mumbling something pathetically apologetic about any unintentional Nazi implications or, more likely, the suggestion of a stuffiness or pomposity about the music, but being compared to Wagner, regardless of whether he’s on your Spotify playlist or not, is a testament to the sheer strength and impact of the composition.The beginning/middle/ end layout of the record is undeniable and, though the ‘epic’ comment didn’t go down so well either, ‘Hidden’ is a substantial piece of work, with bursts of euphoria, an overall aura of mysticism, darkness and bold lashings of violence.The production is so heady and complex, it’s no wonder the album took over a year to put together. “We were talking about this the other night,” says George. “Recording in the studio took a total of about three weeks, which is nothing really. It was so well-written before hand, we had scores for every song and recording the brass and woodwind took less than one day – six hours, in and out, three hours for woodwind, three hours for brass.” “So literally half the album was done in that time,” adds Jack, “Which is a massive risk, there are lots of massive risks on this album.” The particular risk in the case of the brass and woodwind recording was that something could have gone wrong and the band wouldn’t have been able to afford to get the classical musicians in again for another session. Another massive risk, says Jack, was getting Dave Cooley to mix the album. “He doesn’t do this kind of music,
really,” says Jack. “What I think he’s best at mixing is hip hop, which has a maximum of two components, beat and voice, this record has something more like three-hundred components.” “Well, it did take about ten days to mix ‘We Want War’,” George points out, bearing in mind that it would usually take a day or so per track.This inspired a brief spell of panic at the start of the mixing process, when it occurred to them that it could take the same time for all eleven songs. Fortunately, this was not the case and the brothers say the rest of the album flew by after that.
eing in a band with such expensive concepts and high risks can be quite complicated as it demands a lot of time and attention but also a significant amount of cash, which is tough to come by if the music is consuming time which could be used for other work. “These New Puritans is my work,” Jack states. “George is a chauffer.” “The money I make goes back into the band,” says George. “Like, the video, for example. And I like to meet people, get ideas…” “You’re the fixer,” Jack grins. “He’s the fixer of the band and my contact in the outside world.” “Yeah, I control your circle,” laughs George. “I’m not letting anyone in.” An image springs to mind of a pallid Jack, huddled in a small, dim room, surrounded by samplers and a few dozen four tracks while George stands guard, inspecting proffered gifts and offerings from a queue of devotees, turning away anyone who seems unfit for an audience with the reclusive genius. Surely Jack has more on his agenda than devising the next TNP creation? “Yeah, but it’s what I like doing,” he says. “It’s my idea of fun.” Plus, there’s the issue of control, or at least creative input, the old ‘If You Want Something Done Properly’ thing. This strikes a chord with both brothers, who admit that not having things run past them, even the minutest detail on a flyer, for example, can grate on them a bit. Again, this is not so much band ego as it is frustration with the state of the music business; the tabloid culture, bribery, what ever it is that gets mediocre clone-of-a-clone guitar bands however much funding and fussing they need to do what ever it is they seem to think they’re doing. As Jack puts it, “Really crap bands that people think are doing amazing things, like using an arpeggio synth for a song, playing really boring rock’n’roll and being styled by some twat so they get attention.” Anyone remember a one J Barnett sporting a rather fashion forward Romanesque tunic of gold leaves a year or two ago? Never mind. “Those bands can be so conservative as well,” George observes. “In fact, I was thinking that, about the classical musicians we were working with, that people tend to think of the classical world as being much more conservative, but I don’t think it is. I think even the people in the classical world are likely to be much more interesting.” “More interesting than people who play guitars,” comments Jack. “It’s a very conservative world, the guitar world.” Obviously one could bitch and moan about the industry for ages, though, as George points out, it wouldn’t be worth the breath. “I hope people hate us as well,” he reflects. “I hope there’s a real hatred as well as a really positive side, I don’t like middle ground.” Oh, come on, there’s always someone who hates your band…
“Well, yeah, like in Italy or Spain, the people who just like dance floor hits,” Jack: “People who just listen to singles.” “Yeah, or people in places, like Italy, that are about ten years behind with music,” says George, even as he realises he has no idea what people in Italy, or Spain for that matter, think of These New Puritans’ current work. But what about their fans? There has to be a group of seriously put out TNP followers who think the new album is a load of crap, or, at least, preferred the more accessible material on ‘Beat Pyramid’. Both boys look shocked; they think ‘Hidden’ is far more accessible than its predecessor. “I think it’s more accessible in that it’s more open, it’s more emotional and has a lot more range musically,” Jack says “and also a lot of the music we listen to is more accessible music.” George: “Madonna.” Jack: “Yeah, and well-produced R’n’B, stuff like that.” The general consensus is that they think more people will like ‘Hidden’, though, says Jack, “Only time will tell.” “It’s weird that we’ve got two albums,” he says, somewhat in awe. “I was thinking about that the other night,” says George “and how now we’ll need to make another one.” “Of course we’ll make another one,” Jack exclaims. “We’ve got so much music that’s not even released, at least double that amount.” George suggests that they start releasing a song at a time, not singles, just songs, so people know where These New Puritans are at exactly that point. Jack agrees that the album will eventually become extinct and reckons releasing a track every couple of weeks or so would work.Well, it would work for a band like his, anyway. “We’re really into writing music,” he says “we’re not really that bothered about ‘acting like a band’. It’s not a band thing, it’s a music thing.” That’s one thing in particular that they enjoyed about the Bush Hall gig, it wasn’t all lasers and smoke machines, it was playing their music in its full capacity, to an audience who enjoyed hearing it. I tell them about the classical music giggles at the start of the show and they both chuckle, they think that’s brilliant. Nothing like shifting people out of their comfort zone, eh? To that point, there is a book, released before ‘Hidden’, which contains the score, so technically there were many people who got to ‘hear’ the album before hearing it.The first edition has sold out and they think the second edition will include an extra piece of music that isn’t on the album, a piece of music that would be in paper form only, no recorded track.Very cool, if a bit unfair to those of us who don’t know the first thing about sheet music – just because Jack learned notation in roughly a month doesn’t mean everyone can. George starts laughing. “There was a funny moment with the orchestra the other day…” Jack: “Section! It’s not a fucking orchestra, it’s a section.” George: “Section, okay, but it was just funny the way they were using this jargon with you as if you used it all the time, and you did know it but they must have assumed you’d written music for more than just a couple if months… all that terminology, it was hilarious.” Almost as hilarious as opening your gig with a piece for brass and woodwind, or running round measuring doors in order to get a six-foot drum on stage. Lengthy album tour and book with ‘hidden’ track aside, who knows what These New Puritans are going to come out with next? Well, they probably know, but it’s unlikely anyone else could even begin to hazard a guess. www.loudandquiet.com
m e m o r y ta p e s The internet may be ‘killing the music industry’ but it’s giving us some brilliant, insular artists along the way P h o t o g r a p h e r : s i m o n l e ak Wr i t e r : e dga r s m i t h
Special thanks to Jaguar Shoes
Along with all the terrifying potential consequences of technology-driven music consumption – a peerage for Simon Cowell, compulsory adverts in choruses, Ellie Goulding: The Videogame – there will no doubt be some changes that are as exciting as well as scary and super futuristic. Thanks to the written-to-death phenomenon of web 2.0 (the phase in internet development halfway between 1.0 and 3.0 in which people slowly begin to use Facebook and Wikipedia more than porn sites), we’ve been given a whole heap of brilliant new music that would have otherwise been taped over or left to rot in attics. This is because the dawn of file sharing has revealed a teeming mass of nervy bedroom musicians, now given the freedom to air their art without the torturous rigmarole of forming a band, performing night after night for peanuts and crumbs of appreciation, before getting signed, dropped, killed and then eaten by EMI. Whether it’s the dubstep that leaked out of hotboxed bedrooms in Croydon or riotous no-fi from Brooklyn lofts and LA basements, our current musical appetite has been lead from the back by reclusive, brilliant weirdos. Sitting opposite me in Jaguar Shoes’ basement is Dayve Hawk. He’s soft-spoken, considered and friendly with just a trace of reclusive, weirdo brilliance and last September, as ‘Memory Tapes’, he took the latest, most impressive, forward-thinking and fantastic-sounding step in a thirty year dialogue between guitars and synthesizers. “Basically I was doing Weird Tapes and I was doing the, umm, the Memory Cassette stuff,” says Dayve, delving back in time “and both of them were sort of halfassed. There was a lot of samples and it was really just me fucking around but when blogs started picking up on it, labels came and wanted a record.” Hence Memory Tapes and ‘Seek Magic’, a shimmering debut that sewed together dreampop, low-key
beatscapes, and euphoric space disco; a masterpiece that gatecrashed autumn with the promise of a painful, sunless winter. In fact it’s so good that it’s been re-released this month on special colourful vinyl. Before the cultish hype set in though, and paid for the dye and the forthcoming tours, Hawk erratically released mp3s on his blog as Weird Tapes and Memory Cassette for anyone who cared to listen. By virtue of them being quite good, they didn’t go unnoticed and he quickly caught the ears of Diplo’s Mad Decent (who’ve got him remixing jobs with Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, Gucci and Britney Spears), DFA and countless other hip labels. Just as the interest in him has followed a similar pattern to successful bedroom-compiled hip-hop mixtapes – the kind of organic, passive marketing that T-Mobile suits would sell their nans for – so the album itself is doused in a bedroom aesthetic; a self-contained 40 minutes, it’s deeply personal, evocative, and yet feels isolated and disconnected. In common with the best bedroom music, from Burial to Sparklehorse, it sounds like being alone and, when Dayve describes his hometown, you can understand why. “It’s a kind of semi-rural area of New Jersey. Generally New Jersey is extremely populated, with stripmalls and it’s kind of a Hellscape. But the area I’m from is the Pine Barrens, which is all just pine trees, and cedar lakes, things like that, a bit like Twin Peaks, so I wouldn’t say I’m in the middle of some sort cultural scene or anything out there,” he laughs. “My whole family lives in the laundry room of my inlaws house. I have a pile of synthesizers and guitars and things in the corner and that’s my studio so it’s definitely a sort of bedroom project and it’s not a very happy record.” Where does that come from? “Me, being a miserable
bastard,” he laughs. “I mean I don’t think of myself as a very easy-going, happy-go-lucky guy, so I think it comes from my basic personality. That’s why the whole ‘Chillwave’ tag has never seemed right to me.” Chillwave, a word he says with thinly veiled contempt, is not something he has listened to much. He doesn’t listen to much new music at all. ‘Seek Magic’ might sound at least partially indebted to the endeavours of LCD Soundsystem and Animal Collective but Dayve attributes it to a lucky triangulation of tape music, classic rock and freestyle. “There are no record stores round me, but when I was a kid I had a little plastic Fisher Price record player. Anytime I’d be at somebody’s house I’d go find their parents’ vinyl down in the basement, things they had bought in the sixties and stuff. I used to sneak them up into my coat and take them home. So I like a lot of that kind of old, electronic music, yeah, Stockhausen and Steve Reich. I feel like a lot of the dance music influence comes from a roller-skating rink, which in the town that I live in was kind of the closest thing to a nightclub when I was a kid. For some reason they played a lot of electro and freestyle, like Connie and Lisa Lisa, which I’ll always have a soft spot for. Then there was maybe in the 90’s a Tommy Boy comp. called ‘Perfect Beats’, you know and things like New Order.” Where his heart really lies though, plain to hear in Memory Tape’s vocal harmonies and occasional forays into downtempo funk, is in guitar music from a more innocent time. “I’m a sucker for things like, I don’t know, fucking ‘Stairway To Heaven’! Ha, ‘Close to the Edge’ and that. I love Fleetwood Mac and I like Hall And Oates a lot too. The thing I like about that sort of thing is I really like 60’s pop music and those euphoric choruses. Modern music, when the chorus comes in it
seems like ‘This is extremely easy to memorise’. I like music that leads to a peak, that doesn’t just seem designed. Modern pop music seems designed; it might be catchy but it’s also annoying, older pop music seems genuinely inspired.” He does have a few nice words to say about the accompanying contemporary background though, and the new, enabling distribution methods that he can thank for selling-out his three January gigs in the UK, his first ever shows. “It’s cool because we do have this culture in place now where you can make music and it can get out instantly, it’s almost like the 50’s or 60’s where you’d cut an acetate and take it down to the radio station and they’d play it the day that you’d cut it. I think as horrifying as it is for record labels, I think in the long run it’s good for music.” Is there a chance interest this system has garnered him ruin though? It’s hard to think how his brand of distanced, melancholic music will survive the transition to live shows. At the Luminaire the night before this interview, Memory Tapes deal with the problem by creatively re-clothing the record and lacing it together in a different formation. “I went back and rearranged the entire record, I looked at it kind of like a DJ set and remixed every track, recorded myself playing new keyboard parts and everything, then we play along to that.” He says it wasn’t his favourite of these first shows as he was on a stage, something that, like awkward chatting between songs, he learned to hate in his former band, the synth pop outfit Hail Social. The Luminaire gig ended with a reprise of fan-favourite ‘Bicycle’, winding to a halt long after Dayve and his drummer have left the stage without saying a word. You get the feeling he takes the bedroom with him.
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Laura Marling I Speak Because I Can (Rough Trade) By D. Goldstein. In stores March 22
If women’s voices broke ‘I Speak Because I Can’ is a testament, and at barely 20 years old, to Laura Marling’s coming of age. On this record there’s a sinister veil draped over her vocals and a hint of cynicism – as though they’ve hardened as a child’s skin toughens to the world’s cruelties. “The grey in this city is too much to bear,” she cries in ‘Alpha Shallows’ at a quickening pace, as though in flight from something deadly while she fiercely plucks at a violin and counteracts it with grave chords. “Why fear death? Be scared of living…there is no hope ever of winning,” she agonises in ‘Hope in the Air’, laying heavy diction on every vowel as a mandolin pushes slowly into hearing with the faint drums. In ‘Blackberry Stone’ she accepts defeat, uttering, “I understand that the world does what it does.” In accordance with her twee persona, Marling announced her new album via a note
on her Myspace page – a picture of her pencilscrawled handwriting in a tea-stained Moleskine that has been bookmarked by a dried flower – a kitsch offering that suits the fragile and dainty image of her in oversized shirts and flats down to a tee. Although, her white-blonde hair of old has been traded for a brunette do, to complement the solemnity of the record and possibly to attest to the fact that she’s matured in the two years of touring between albums. Tucked away in other crevices of ‘I Speak Because I Can’, you’ll find scattered religious connotations, in battling the devil (‘Devil’s Spoke’) and God (‘Hope in the Air’) alike, and atoning for sins (‘What He Wrote’). Compared with her first album ‘Alas, I cannot Swim’, this has a much darker outcome overall.Where ‘Ghosts’ and ‘Crawled Out of the Sea’ brought a light heartedness to her debut, ‘I Speak Because I Can’ is shrouded in doom and gloom, with the rather ironic exception of ‘Darkness Descends’, in which Marling’s vocals flutter prettily beside a gentle country riff, flute, maracas, and a beat that brushes at your senses like the wind.You
can see that she hasn’t failed to incorporate the outdoors in this as she did with the tweeting birds that closed ‘Alas, I Cannot Swim’ and the furious, scrawling, fronting ‘Night Terror’. She sings wistfully of her love of England covered in snow in ‘Goodbye England’ to the chugging of a train accompanied by the sound of children playing. On this one, Marling worked with American producer Ethan Johns (Kings of Leon, Ray Lamontagne) and he has helped transform her delicate Johnny Flynn-styled British folk into a domineering, fearless, and more aggressive American product akin to that of Cat Power. It’s three songs short of her first record, but you’ll be pleased to hear that as soon as she drops this one in the public pool she’ll be starting directly on her third album, due for release as soon as September. It’s a short amount of time, but you can’t help but hope that this young songstress finds some kind of inner piece between now and then, partly for your sake (while ‘I Speak...’ is masterfully poignant it is also soul-bearing-ly sad) but mainly for this uniquely honest talent’s.
Two Door Cinema Club
...And Then We Saw Land
(Virgin) By Sam Walton. In stores now
Tourist History (Kitsune) By Matthias Scherer. In stores Mar 1
By Daniel Dylan Wray. In stores Feb 22
(Warp) By Sam Walton. In stores Feb 22
(Full Time Hobby) By Kate Parkin. In stores March 1
Massive Attack have always had an uneasy relationship with consistency, but never let it be said that their albums don’t contain moments of brilliance. ‘Heligoland’, largely, maintains that reputation: beautiful highs, surrounded with tedious electro-dub.Thankfully, the peaks come more frequently here than on any Massive Attack album since ‘Blue Lines’ – Tunde Adebimpe is beautifully smoky and sleepy on slo-mo tango ‘Pray For Rain’, and the Guy Garvey-led ‘Flat of the Blade’ is a gorgeously woozy melding of human and machine. At the top of the pile though is ‘Saturday Come Slow’, building walls of guitars and strings underneath the tenderest performance Damon Albarn has turned in since, well, ‘Tender’. But Heligoland is more than just another imperfect Massive Attack album; there’s a sense of purpose and drive here, and maybe even consistency.
Good bands with the word “club” in their name:Tokyo Police Club, Bombay Bicycle Club, and, er, Slow Club (in there mainly to make up the numbers – they’re actually pretty annoying). It’s a small, selected circle that Bangor’s Two Door Cinema Club are asking to join, and, after listening to their debut album, you’d have to say that their chances are pretty slim.There are few massive grievances (in fact, the combination of clean-cut guitar lines and electronic drums is initially quite pleasing) but you can’t help but think that you’ve heard those slightly whiny vocals, that four-to-the-floor indie beat, and chiming guitars too many times before – oh, that’s right, it was when The Wombats were rammed down our throats via every TV teaser ever. Sorry boys – entry to the League of Goodness is denied.
The Strange Boys: another rollicking 60’s influenced garage band obsessed with nuggets? Well, yes, they were, as their debut album proved in ’09. But these Texan’s have taken a much more rootsladen approach on their follow up; a slow and at times somewhat tender take on blues, rock’n’roll and R’n’B.You’re no doubt expecting the vivacious and at times vicious approach of bands like the Black Lips once again but The Strange Boys, these days, evoke sounds of classic 60’s pop records, moments of Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers and even elements of the White Stripes at their most playful, which is certainly aided by Ryan Sambol’s coarse, twisted and strained vocals. Clearly an album firmly rooted in the 60’s, it’s a refreshing change to see it approached from a different angle - from that of a band getting better.
LoneLady, or Julie Campbell to her mum, is Warp Records’ latest bright hope and a solo Mancunian with a debt to her home city. Her debut album is built from the monochrome, sparse bricks of Manchester’s Factory Records, with echoes of New Order and A Certain Ratio, and also from the one-finger riffs of early 90’s Manc electro. Instrumentally, it’s a Spartan record (most tracks feature just drum machine and solo guitar) and Campbell’s vocal frostiness makes her very difficult to love initially. But what at first appears to be all spike and guardedness – the skittering, clipped singing, the arid production, the mechanical percussion – becomes strangely muscular and warm over time. Like ‘The XX’ last year, ‘Nerve Up’ is a record that only improves with repeated listens. It may only be February, but it could well be the sleeper hit of 2010
Often tied to that ever-elusive beast ‘folktronica’,Tunng’s latest offering bristles with promise. ‘… And Then We Saw Land’ follows members gap years to India and the African desert, and while Michael Palin doesn’t pop up on solo tambourine, their experiences reflect through the lyrical soundscapes of ‘It Breaks’, as delicate keyboards and campfire guitars link hands on the Slow Club-esque ‘Hustle’. Channelling Kevin Shields in Lost in Translation mode, ‘The Roadside’ is breathily elegant, drip-feeding keyboards through sonic distortions to creates an audio wall of mirrors. Despite being sister to eccentric electro pioneer Max Tundra, Becky sadly doesn’t share his penchant for the avant-garde and the Arcade Fireesque ‘mega chorus’ of singers for ‘Weekend Away’ is thus decidedly pedestrian, which marks a sorry end to a rather lovely record.
Titus Andronicus The Monitor (Merok/XL) By Reef Younis. In stores Mar 8
Just last year,Titus Andronicus released one of the most disappointing albums of the year, but with the hype turned down to simmer we can now see their true potential. A concept album inspired by the American Civil War without the historical context, ‘The Monitor’ conveys all the heavy sentiment, conflict and calamity with a wild eyed urgency.Triumphant without being compromised by misty reflection, it’s a record imbued with hopes and fears; of stories celebrated and taken to the grave; of the panorama and horror of a chapter consigned to history. Breathless and bloody, grandstand opener ‘A More Perfect Union’ bullocks along with a Flatley stamp, buoyed by boisterous Celtic spirit and the optimism of better days while ‘...And Ever’ slings and swings with the crackling energy of a smoking backroom bar. Evoking the soaring beat-street story telling of Springsteen and Gaslight Anthem, ‘The Monitor’’s everyman fortitude is immediately endearing. www.loudandquiet.com
Al bums 05/10
New Young Pony Club
Archie Bronson Outfit
Follow Your Heart
Come Down With Me
The Optimist (Pias)
By Sturt Stubbs. In stores Mar 8
By Chris Watkeys. In stores Mar 1
(Brainlove) By Mandy Drake. In stores Mar 22
(Island) By Stuart Stubbs. In stores Mar 8
(Rock Action) By Reef Younis. In stores Mar 1
It’s early 2010 and the Class of ’07 Reunion is underway.These New Puritans are blanking the buffet, stoic as ever but un-recognisable to their ex-piers, an extra vanilla Sunshine Underground have turned up without dates, past their prime, Klaxons are “on their way” and NYPC are still wearing their old uniforms, exactly as they were when we last saw them, which means equipped with little more than two killer hits (‘Lost A Girl’ and the Metronomy Vs Girls Aloud-sounding ‘We Want To’). As ‘The Optimist’ fires 8 more largely forgettable synth-laden tracks it’s as impossible to muster contempt for them as feign excitement, even if there is an overall feeling that the band are desperately clawing at mainstream success via mediocrity. In the hardened disco drums of Sarah Jones, ‘The Optimist’ is, at times, better than OK, but ultimately it’s just that.
Archie Bronson Outfit have always been a grim-faced but aggressively inventive band.Two excellent albums precede ‘Coconut’, on which the trio incorporate dashes of electronica to their druid beats and serrated guitars. Here, abrasive and oblique, ‘Magnetic Warrior’ sounds like Sleater-Kinney covering Xtrmntr-era Primal Scream in a lift shaft, ‘Shark’s Tooth’ has bleak echoes of Joy Division, while ‘Wild Strawberries’ is high velocity, twisted punk. Meanwhile ‘Chunk’ – and I never thought I’d write this of ABO – is something akin to bubblegum pop.While many of the individual elements of ‘Coconut’ are superb, they form an incoherent whole. But despite the varying stylistic angles, and a couple of tracks which almost literally scream ‘filler’, ABO’s unique watermark runs through this record like DNA.Which makes it pretty damn good.
Norwich local Mat Riviere is the macabre man’s electro star. He doesn’t defiantly sing about “being bullet proof ” or “taking you out tonight”, partly because he doesn’t sing at all (Riviere chooses to monotonically drone a robotic, baritone grumble). He makes spidery funeral marches around minimal bossanova beats and sparse strings (‘Slugs and the Dust’), drunken shanty melodies (‘Godless Girl’) and bone-snapping hip-hop clacks (‘F.Y.H’, which has you welcoming this doomy messenger with arms as wide as they go). And while ‘Follow Your Heart’ is certainly not without its faults – occasional blips like ‘Castroreale’, with its regimented, left/right organ sample, feel like monotonous after-thoughts - it’s largely a leftfield reminder that electronic pop can be dark, theatrical and far more imaginative than boy dances with girl.
If you love The Postal Service, you’re going to hate this, and not because Owl City – aka 23-yearold cutie Adam Young – is a doom-metal head, devil-horning Ben Gibbard’s rectum with music worlds apart from PS’s sappy, electronic, teenage love songs. Far from it! Owl City is a carbon copy of the LA duo, minus the occasional melancholia that makes them occasionally interesting/ bearable. He whines a nasalstrained, extra-American whine, soaked in auto-tune and chirping freshmen sentiments that seem far more grown up in your head than when said out loud (“With friends like these who needs enemies?” etc). His Casio loops are forever giddy and irritatingly cynic-proof (he’s already sold millions in the States) as he skips down Disney Land’s Main Street and disappears into the Californian sunset with Hannah Montana.Yuk!
Almost two years after the pulsating gloom of ‘It’s Not Something…’, you could be excused for having forgotten all about Errors’ shimmering shoe gaze and rumbling bass-driven beats. If the Glaswegian quartet did happen to slip off and under your radar though, their second album is more of a polite reintroduction. Sidestepping the electronic menace of their debut, ‘Come Down With Me’ is an album inspired by contrast. Intent on avoiding replication, what it lacks in immediacy, it makes up for with contemplative, slow burning depth. Book ended by the dreamy ‘Bridge or Cloud’ and triumphant ‘Beards’, tracks like ‘Supertribe’ and ‘The Black Tent’ fall the right side of Squarepusher’s dark imagination, but it’s the ambient howl of ‘The Erskine Bridge’ that characterises Errors’ rich ambition best. It’s nice to be reminded.
Moon Duo Escape (Woodist) By Edgar Smith. In stores Mar 1
Moon Duo is a side project of Wooden Shjips frontman Erik Johnson and if you go weak at the knees for that band, you’ll go full-on paraplegic for this as Johnson, who seems from his static stage swagger to be the creative core of Wooden Shjips, has drawn this long (ish) player from the same well of blissed-out, motorik psychedelia. As the name suggests, there are two of them (the other half is Sanae Yamada) and they pump a kind of groovy, lunar krautrock that’s purportedly influenced by the music of batshit-crazy jazz visionaries John Coltrane and Rashied Ali. Starting breezily with the phaser-wigging title track, the record climbs gradually to storming closer ‘Stumbling 22nd St.’; an ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ for the oxycontin generation.These aren’t so much songs as acts of sonic worship, played with all the poise and lurking violence of a billion dollar arms deal. Although it requires patience from some - this stuff reaches your heartstrings indirectly via your pores - it’s well worth it.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Blood Red Shoes
So Many Dynamos
Fire Like This
Winter of Mixed Drinks
The Loud Wars
(V2) By Polly Rappaport. In stores Mar 1
(Woodist) By Stuart Stubbs. In stores Mar 1
(One Little Indian) By Kate Parkin. In stores Mar 1
(Vagrant) By Mathias Scherer. In stores Feb 22
When describing ‘Fire Like This’ to the NME, Brighton duo Blood Red Shoes said the melodies are “more evil-sounding”. Now if that doesn’t make you put the CD down and back away slowly, well, you’re probably into stuff like Funeral For A Friend. Emo off, mate. It’s true, the sound is heavier, though generally retaining the urgency of its predecessor, but round about the middle – okay, track 4 onwards – the angst rolls in and settles like a great damp fog and no amount of frantic cymbal pounding or guitar shredding is going to turn doe-eyed love song lyrics like “Can you feel your heart sink, I can feel mine” and the mantra, “Count me out, I’m not here” into punky, spunky rants. There’s still a sense of pop-driven lash-out but wallowing definitely has the upper hand here. Until they return to their early, forgot, gnarly sound, BRS can Emo off.
‘We Can’t Handle This’ – track one on this sapling Bay Area duo’s debut album – sounds like a Belle & Sebastian Dictaphone demo. Its tape hiss is almost as loud as its parts and yet its sweet, forlorn melody couldn’t be drowned out by jet engines. So yes, these San Fran-ers, who’ve been playing together for just 6 months, are packing a fair chunk of charm, and that’s before their 60’s-leaning psyche begins to flirt heavily with The Byrds and Love. Josh Alper and Glenn Donaldson coo in harmony and particularly on the sub-2-minute ‘Paris Cafe’ prove that the most beautiful of melodies are lo-fi in their very nature.That static “hsssss” doesn’t take long to become extremely annoying though, and a two-dollar drum machine adds to the ‘Rough Frame’’s woes, but if these songs were recorded properly this tiedyed pop would be faultless.
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that Scots like their liquor. Born of infinite nights hard drinking in Selkirk outposts, third Frightened Rabbit album, ‘The Winter of Mixed Drinks’, blends neither subtlety nor irony.The jarring guitars of ‘Things’ shift the morning after scales from the eyes, before sweeping into the serene soundscapes of ‘Swim Until You Can’t See Land’.While lacking some of the raw, tearing urgency of ‘Midnight Organ Fight’, ‘The Winter...’ is still heartbreaking in its intent. By far their most sonically challenging at its beginning, ‘Skip The Youth’’s white noise synths carve out little hollows in your eardrums, while the charging drums and soaring harmonies of ‘Not Miserable’ could fell countless festival fields. Repeating ‘I am’ into the horizon, Frightened Rabbit still demand you acknowledge their existence.
Two years after their last show, rumours about a Dismemberment Plan reunion have now become nothing more than a pipedream, expressed only in the minds of indie fans around the world.Thank god, then, for So Many Dynamos and their new album ‘The Loud Wars’. SMD’s first album was mixed by former Plan member Jason Caddell, and on this record (the band’s third long player), singer Aaron Stovall’s vocals are a loving homage to The Plan’s Travis Morrison’s poignant pleading on the milestone ‘Emergency & I’. The vocal melodies are clever, the drums come straight out of the Q And Not U textbook and the guitar and synth riffs are filled with more jerks and jabs than a KungFu academy. And still its unmissable warmth and sense of humour prevent ‘The Loud Wars’ from becoming a sterile, cynic math punk exercise.
Beat The Devil’s Tattoo (Abstract Dragon) By Chris Watkeys. In stores Mar 8 On their emergence a decade ago, Black Rebel defied the zeitgeist by being a proper rock’n’roll band – all black leathers, dry ice and sleazy riffage. But since then, the trio have somewhat lost their way creatively. ‘BTDT’ sees a shift back to the fiery songwriting of their debut.The title track and opener is BRMC at their finest: hooky, lazily cool and pleasingly heavy. Sadly it’s a false dawn; from here on, the record descends into a semicontinuous, grinding dirge. ‘Evol’ typifies this: overlong, one-paced and self-indulgent. In the album’s midst, the folky, gospel-like ‘Sweet Feeling’s Gone’ is like throwing open the windows of a dark, smoky room and letting the music breathe; ‘Aya’, meanwhile, is a blistering, acerbic aural assault. But it’s just not enough.The dreary ‘Half-State’ drags the record to a long-overdue close.
The Bundles The Bundles (K Records) By Nathan Westley. In stores Mar 1
Born out of a deep friendship between ex-Moldy Peach Kimya Dawson and Jeffrey & Jack Lewis,The Bundles break away from all that the term ‘Supergroup’ implies, with their coming together being an almost organic occurrence. Unsurprisingly this has led to an album where there is no clash of egos and no one voice crying out to be heard over any other, which is no doubt key to producing an album rich in the personalities and idiosyncratic tendencies of all involved. Rather than temporarily wriggle out of the shackles their regular outfits offer, though, they have seen fit to continue wearing them, which, when dealing with songwriters of this calibre, can’t help but feel like a wasted opportunity. It’s a move that has resulted in an album of, rather predictably, reliable lo-fi alternative folk laced with a helping of geek humour that cements this as being a release that will suit the needs of aficionado’s nicely enough but leave those not so keen content with what they already possess. www.loudandquiet.com
The Lexinton, Angel, London 30.01.2010 By Matthias Scherer Pics by Owen Richards
“Wish that I was cool/wish I was surfing.” That’s how the chorus of one of the songs on Fenix TX’s eponymous album went. Back in 1999, those (in some camps) sorely missed American pop-punkers were expressing a sentiment that seems to be widely spread among the late-noughties indie/noise-pop scene. Wavves moan about surf and beach goths,The Drums owe much of their hype to whistled ode to the water sport, while in the UK, exciting acts like Spectrals and Veronica Falls have audibly been paying attention to the licks of Dick Dale & Co as well as the dusty doo-wop 7”s they draw inspiration from. Real Estate might hail from the Garden State of New Jersey rather than the west coast, but their light-footed, introspective approach to surf rock sets them apart from their more noisy and exuberant contemporaries.The word has clearly spread, judging by the packed upstairs bit of the Lexington pub, and the quartet look a bit nervy as they finally grab their instruments after loitering by the side of the stage for a few
minutes.They needn’t have worried, however, because their so-laid-back-it’s-horizontal sound could tranquilise a raging bulldog with one bell-like guitar riff, and there are plenty of those in tonight’s set, for example in teasingly meandering opener ‘Green River’.The sound is attuned nicely, balancing the rhythm section’s smooth workings with frontman Martin Courtney and Mathew Mondanile’s guitar interplay, but more important is the fact that Courtney’s vocals are a lot more prominent than on record. On their debut album, the singing often takes a back seat, whereas tonight, Courtney & Co. prove they are capable of nailing a three-way harmony Fleet Foxes would scratch their beards at in approval. None of the band are sporting facial hair, unless you count the five o’clock shadow on huggable teddy-bear-turned-bassist Alex Beeker’s face.The exquisitely named Etienne Duguay looks like a music teacher from two decades ago, helping out his high school jazz band. But what they may lack in stage presence,
they certainly make up for in visual unorthodoxy. In terms of audible influences, Real Estate are more than the sum of Brian Wilson and a few Budweisers too many for breakfast – there are echoes of the Red House Painters’ slow-mo indie (‘Black Lake’) and a more country Pearl Jam (on EP track ‘Younger Than Yesterday’), while the second of two new songs has a more straightforward late-80s-indie feel (think The Wedding Present) to it, which has something to do with Mondanile’s endearing but mainly tune-less crooning being worlds away from Courtney’s more measured intonation.The most striking aspect of the band’s performance, however, is the way Courtney’s and Mondanile’s guitars weave around each other, mimicking each other’s lines one minute, finishing each other’s riffs the next – and all with an ease that borders on the contemptuous. They are such a likable bunch, though, that by the time crowd favourite ‘Beach Comber’ comes around, we’d all follow them anywhere.
Vivian girls Trinity Hall Centre, Dalston, London 25.01.2010 By Danielle Goldstein Photography by Owen Richards ▼
“I have a question,” announces Ali Koehler from behind her drum kit. “How long does it take English people to dance?” A good few songs if you’ve been thrown in with a boatload of London hipsters who want to make sure they’re mussing their hair – and not to mention their nonchalant exteriors – for a worthy cause. And what better reason than Brooklyn’s delicate, female-trio,Vivian Girls? Pushing through various swing-doors of Trinity Hall, the main area feels like the underside of an upturned boat.The high ceilings and arched beams add to the girls’ ethereal acoustics, with Koehler, Cassie Ramone’s (guitar) and Kickball Katy’s (bass) harmonies echoing as far as their gigantic shadows that tower over the crowd from the
back wall. The mantra of ‘Wild Eyes’ is repeated like gospel, sung proudly by fans of the selftitled debut album. Koehler lays a galloping rhythm alongside Ramone’s Goriessprinkled riff, creating a hoedown in the bow before things slow down for a Chantels cover of ‘He’s Gone’. Sharing one mic, they drop their instruments and go a cappella, filling the empty room with their chorale. A glance at the track listing of new album ‘Everything Goes Wrong’ (featuring ‘Can’t Get Over You’, ‘The End’), tells of despondency, but the tone takes a less “mosh” and more “sway” note too. New song, ‘The Other Girl’ incorporates both with a hard intro involving a ferocious metal beat that instantly melts away into poignant Interpol guitars and the girls deprive us of their striking voices for a minute-long instrumental. It would seem that with a new year Vivian Girls are bringing with them a mature sound with a clear variety of experience crammed in.
Yuck The Stag’s Head, Dalston, London 04.02.2010 By Danny Canter ▼
Free gigs are our wallets’ best friend and our deodorants’ nemesis – it’s hard to have ‘the Lynx effect’ when your shoulders are forced up and forward by the high, protruding shoulders of others and you’re sweating blood because your body outed all other moisture five minutes after arriving. I’m only slightly exaggerating in reference to Dalston boozer (it’s not a pub – it’s a booozer!) The Stag’s Head, at least when the live bill features Egyptian Hip Hop and the unreasonably tipped Yuck.We already know of EHH’s melodious brilliance, but what about Yuck – a band made up of ex-Cajun Dance Party frontman Danny and bassist Max.Well, the rumours go that they’re a youthful Dinosaur Jnr, Sonic Youth and Weezer hybrid, which, y’know, sounds amazing. Unfortunately, they’re not. Not tonight anyway. Crammed onto a tea tray sized stage, their guitar pop begins in the most indie-est of ways, lead guitar noodles (a ’90s word for a ’90s noise) sounding like Ash. It gets marginally more interesting as sprightly Britpop is bumped for the kind of slower, darker shimmers pushed by the shoegaze greats that are being banded about with Yuck (MBV, Spiritualized et al), and backing vocalist Ilana’s twee coos do add a poignancy that prevent this four piece from being completely vanilla. From where I’m standing though,Yuck are nothing more than a solid indie group.
Hexa The Harley, Sheffield 08.02.2010 By Daniel Dylan Wray ▼
If there was ever a band that summed up the essence of being a ‘party’ band, then maybe it’s Hexa. You know all the endless party scenes you see in American teen films when everyone is having an amazing time, doing keg stands, shots of tequila off of naked breasts and playing pool on an immaculate table that in real life would be sodden with cheap cider by now? Well, Hexa are the kind of band
you’d want playing in the corner. They’re fun, no doubt about it. Lead vocals are split between two girls and one guy.They merge what at times feels like an indescribable genre - covering power pop, pop-punk and a sound that borders on Riot Grrrl. At times it often feels like an inebriated karaoke display but in a captivating manner rather than a shoot yourself in the head, bad manner, which, let’s face it, is what all karaoke is.There is no faux pretence, no front and no delusions of grandeur with this band.They essentially exude on stage the same as what they create musically – a fun, feisty and at times shambolic display.
Colours The Victoria, Mile End, London 05.02.2010 By Stuart Stubbs ▼
Colours’ home demos, early recordings and self-released, hissing ‘Burger Tape’ EP, do their lo-fi, reverberating melodies ample justice, but – especially now, with new, extra guitarist Jorge Stride involved – they fail to shout about the Yankophiles’ real brute force. So until they release their debut 7” later this month (and even after then), you’re best off catching them live to see how they’re not your usual garage dudes pushing dumb ‘ol DIY punk. Colours clearly prefer to spend their stage time experimenting with feedback and static, sonic-seeking as much as thrashing out hoppy bar chords and sub 3-minute songs.They do do that, but their set also feels twice its actual length due to the slower, heavier surf tracks that give the band their epic, psychedelic edge.Vocalist Leon runs his voice through a box that makes him sound like No Ages’ Randy Randall when playing fast, and Jim James of My Morning Jacket on the slowies. His words are even more inaudible than on the band’s Myspace profile, detached and ghost-like, just another brick in their sonic wall of sound. Like with Lovvers, you can’t help but to wish for some more clarity, but, unlike Lovvers, Colours’ musicianship detract from this want, guitars dive-bombing like a Sonic Youth air-raid. Not your usual garage dudes at all.
Blue on Blue Old Blue Last, Shoreditch, London 04.02.2009 By Polly Rappaport ▼
Blue On Blue. Pic: ELINOR JONES
Vampire Weekend. Pic: DANIELLE GOLDSTEIN
There is a flush of freshness about London three piece Blue on Blue; a newness that is only partially due to having played a handful of gigs. With the opening bass tolls of ‘Summer Daze’ the climate seems to alter slightly, Dee and Billy’s soft, childlike voices floating dreamily over austere guitar chimes reminiscent of Young Marble Giants, while Mark keeps pace on drums, adding texture to the mix of drowsy melody and clear, wideeyed treble.The songs are stripped back and exposed, the lyrics reflective, painting a vignette of tarnished innocence. ‘Fallen’, a gentle splash of rainy day pop, is infused with a beautiful bass lull and Dee’s ethereal Mazzy Star-like vocals, melting into a soft haze of lithium reverb. However, when Billy takes his turn at the mic, he delivers a slice of ’90’s sweetness in the form of ‘Cinnamon Swirl’; bright and upbeat but washed with a slight patina of Smithsy sadness. They finish off their set with a simple, haunting cover of the Nancy & Lee duet, ‘Summer Wine’, adding a touch of melancholy to the song’s low-slung 1960’s vibe.This is an intriguing, evocative new band, still a bit wet behind the ears but in a way, that’s one of the greatest attractions of their sound.
Marble ValLey The Harley, Sheffield 24.01.2010 By Kate Parkin ▼
Surfer Blood. Pic: OWEN RICHARD
The hype may have been muted, but the praise was more than justified. Descriptions of religious experiences, uncontrollable grinning and light-headed giddiness are not far-fetched. Marble Valley are, simply put, a joy to watch. Singer Steve West spreads his arms out wide, encompassing the crowd as the opening bars of eccentric ramble ‘Shaven Aardvark’ fade out. Drummer in the newly revitalised Pavement, he plays up to the crowd’s wide-eyed curiosity. Part Jonathan Richman lyrical/ part Rolling Stone honkytonk strut, ‘Weed, Crouque’ is
administered in sharp verbal hits. Dancing around, through and over the stage,West is a flaming wirehaired tangle of energy, backed by a fun-loving gang of musicians who giggle and jibe their way from musical skits like ‘Bing Bang Bong’ to the heady euphoria of ‘Fag and a Light’. Cut from the same cloth as classic frontman Jim Morrison, Steve has an air of reckless disorder about him.Thrashing his arms along to every drum beat he is the musician, the singer, the conductor, the crowd; losing himself utterly in the moment.With ‘Triple E’ the laughter and the jokes return as he draws the crowd in one last time. It’s easy to forget that he’s been doing this for twenty years, ten years in the Marble Valley guise alone, yet ‘Artificial Pistol’ carries more sneer and swagger than a thousand young chancers combined. For fans new and old, the love, and the music still remain.
Vampire Weekend The Hippodrome, Kingston 14.01.2010 By Phil Dixon ▼
Tonight’s performance is shaped more by what is left out than what can be shoehorned in. Stripped bare of studio production and their signature afrobeat/baroque accoutrements, the Ivy League quartet put forward a simpler live offering – guitars, keys and drums, with nary a bongo nor a harpsichord in sight.They waste no time breaking out the new material as ‘Contra’’s ‘White Sky’ makes a bouncy if not bombastic opener.The first big crowd surge, though, arrives with ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’. More reserved is the reaction to the incessant tubthumping of ‘I Stand Corrected’, as a quick/slow flow is revealed to tonight’s set. ‘Contra’’s ‘A-Punk’ (lead single ‘Cousins’) then proves to lack the immediacy of the band’s previous hits, although makes up for it with impressive, full-pelt kitchen-sink bedlam.The same can’t be said for the following brace of new tracks, causing a midset lull, despite eschewing their studio intricacies in favour of a more rugged energy as a fuzzy bass is put higher and dirtier in the mix, and it speaks volumes that some of ‘Contra’’s stronger yet more heavily produced tracks are absent
from tonight’s set list. But while the new material offers little progression from the old, those indefatigable indie pop hooks still form the crux of Vampire Weekend’s sound, and though this particular gig is a much more meat and potatoes affair, it’s a fine serving all the same.
Celestial Bodies The Rest is Noise, Brixton, London 06.02.2009 By Martin Cordiner ▼
Since Ferry Gouw’s Semifinalists disbanded, Celestial Bodies has represented his return to first round action (and making music after directing a few videos for his mate, Lightspeed Champion). Although this isn’t necessarily the sort of venue where all bands will be paying their dues, the stage set up doesn’t seem designed to engage the clientele. If you’re not within touching distance of the band then some chunky pillars might make you feel a bit left out. So not the ideal place for a new solo project-come-group attempting something a bit moodier and less direct than your standard indie-with-a-bit-of-synth, and Ferry and Co. do struggle to get the punters involved.Their programmed beats and washes of synth atmosphere add colour to their choppy rhythms and emotive riffs, but it all feels a bit too forced, and too self-consciously angsty, to have any real emotional clout. As a lead voice, Gouw is mostly raw energy and little in the way of diverting, and although they’re committed I just can’t see much reason to single them out for praise. Pastiche is too strong a word but more inspiration and more identity is definitely needed.
Lawrence Arabia The Barfly, Camden, London 09.02.2010 By Chris Watkeys ▼
It would be far too easy to stuff Lawrence Arabia’s music into the pigeonhole labelled ‘psychedelic pop’. But there are certainly elements of that well-trodden genre sloshing around in frontman James Milne’s multi-faceted
musical makeup; the template here is a swirly, dreamy backdrop over which pure-voiced harmonies shimmer like sunshine, with occasional lurches into a fiery whirlpool of Hammond organ and guitars. Original, this ain’t.We’re standing in the Barfly in 2010 but a time-traveller from the future, implausibly materializing in front of the bar, would be hard pushed to pin down a year from the last forty-five.There’s some incredibly Beatles-esque moments (Milne himself even gives it the McCartney headshake on a regular basis); there’s brass, tambourines, and an awful lot of facial hair, while the regularity of the Beach Boys harmonies verges on overkill. Yet while Milne’s originality might be in question, you can’t fault him for execution. ‘Apple Pie Bed’ is the catchy standout of the set: a bouncy, hooky little pop gem which evokes deep blue skies and hazy summer days. But the song is the only real flower in Lawrence Arabia’s desert.
Adam Green Venue, Manchester 01.02.2010 By Daniel Dylan Wray ▼
As Adam Green takes to the stage tonight, he lies somewhere between bouncing and bumbling. Opening with ‘Cigarette Burns Forever’ from his latest LP ‘Minor Love’, he gyrates, flails and pounces across the stage, howling his baritone croon. He exudes himself to the point of caricature, much like Har Mar, yet retains a nonchalant cool often seen by Julian Casablanca, as he tears through the set, both physically and sonically.The band play with a sense of fervour and intensity that makes the performance feel like a little more of a ramshackle affair than on record - this of course is further emphasised by Green’s continual leaps into the crowd. ‘Drugs’ and ‘Hard to Be a Girl’ both go down well early on and demonstrate Green’s ability to merge playful song-writing and themes with a poignant and resonant vocal delivery. But it’s the final stage invasion that is perhaps a fitting example of the evening as a whole - while it may not have been the most professional of performances, the raw, raucous and
rambunctious qualities all pose an endearing charm, much like Adam Green himself.
Surfer Blood Koko, Camden, London 05.02.2009 By Matthias Scherer ▼
It’s been a bit of a shit day, maybe even a shit week.You go and see a band, in the hope to find some relief or distraction from the perceived blandness of your life. You wait for two hours for them to come on, during which your mood gets worse. Luckily for you, the first band on tonight are Surfer Blood, five young dudes from Florida who have made it their mission to throw everything that’s awesome about guitar rock together and improve your life through sheer exuberance.There’s Pixies bass lines (‘Twin Peaks’), Malkmus-esque slacker lyrics (‘Floating Vibes’) and singer/ Michael Cera-lookalike John Paul Pitts whoops and pleads like a young Rivers Cuomo.This is far from cobbled-together idea rock, though – there are incongruous moments of tropical percussion, but nothing about Surfer Blood feels forced or insincere.Who cares if the band look like rabbits caught in the headlights of a freight train, or that the biggest part of the audience doesn’t seem to be paying much attention – they’re missing one hell of a show. Oh, and the fist-pumping, bro-mantic set closer ‘Swim’ really is one of the best songs of the year.
Chapel Club Audio, Brighton 08.02.2009 By Nathan Westley ▼
Having garnered tips to be one of this year’s favourites to jump out of obscurity, it would be easy to assume that Chapel Club are the finished article; a tight confident band with half a dozen songs that will be inescapable from when festival season hits, yet tonight’s showing on a dark basement club stage tells otherwise – tonight Chapel Club do not look nor sound like a band approaching a major breakthrough. It may be
partly due to the muddied sound quality, but tonight their performance lacks that vital factor that separates them from every other White Lies-adoring, depressive rock band seeking their five minutes – worse still, their performance at times becomes a little cringe-worthy. Retreating into a drab, charisma free, unmemorable performance, the effects-laden, glum Chapel Club look and sound uncomfortable onstage. Given time this may well be rectified, but it highlights that, for now, Chapel Club are still currently taking their first few steps before they reach a comfortable footing.
TEeTH!!! The Lock Tavern, Camden, London 12.02.2010 By Stuart Stubbs ▼
The laptop has come a long way in its quest to be considered a bona fide musical instrument, but tonight the box of wires enters uncharted territories. Simon Whybray stands and cradles his MacBook in one arm, mousefiddling with his free hand, like a commuter on a crowded tube. As his pre-recorded synth slabs jab and pulse from distorting speakers he’s a man not likening his computer to a keyboard, sitting it pretty atop a stand too big for its slim body, but proudly boasting his digital aid. For a second you think, is that really playing live music?, and in any other year perhaps the answer would be no, or at least it would be if it was being held by another band.Teeth!!!, though, are as ‘now’ as it gets.Their femalefronted thrash disco could arguably only exist in a post-Crystal Castles world, but they’re substantially less glitchy than the Canadian duo and tonight, even with added wails of unwanted feedback and playing so ‘in the red’ that every bass beat is accompanied by a harsh crackle, their smoother, sparklier electronics make them infinitely more likeable.We’re onside when they restart ‘See Spaces’ because the ‘…Pirate Material’-era Streets strings are too slow, and support Ximon’s decision to beat his skeletal kit as if in a digital-less hardcore band.We like everything they do because they’re the only ones doing it.
Lissie The Social, Soho, London 09.02.2010 By Omarrr ▼
Back home in Ojai, California’s Lissie lives in a farmhouse with a friendly hound, surrounded by rich golden corn fields, warm evening breezes and want-away neighbours like Johnny Depp and Tim Burton.When she’s not potting plants or filtering tractor oil she’s swinging in a hammock on her sun-bathed porch. If this all begins by sounding a bit Little House On The Prairie that’s because it is. In the slightly grimmer reality of a cold winter’s evening in London, Lissie travels without the baggage of a surname - Maurus since you ask - and ambles on stage with two friends (one dreadlocked, one bearded, naturally). But any preconceptions that she’s a major label’s timely pushcart (she has just signed up with Sony), in a cash trail laid by Bon Iver, Mumford & Sons et al, soon diminish.The cute freckles on her press shots might be brushed in but there’s certainly nothing fake about her voice - a tornado-sized whisking of Stevie Nicks and Martha Wainwright.You can see why Band Of Horses’ Bill Reynolds got involved and produced her debut EP last year. Oscillating between Laura Marling and KT Tunstall, Lissie’s songs are one moment boot-stomping yeehawing American highway anthems, and another, red-earthquaking heartbreakers. Closer ‘Little Lovin’’ showcases this the best - a whispy hay-bail that gathers pace and ends with the singer spitting her own hair from her mouth.
Prize PETs The Stag’s Head, Dalston, London 11.02.2010 By Stuart Stubbs ▼
After a good year of ’80s DIY fans forming punk bands to pay forward that fanatical excitement they felt when first hearing Black Flag or Minute Men, Nottingham’s Prize Pets arrive with an all-tooabsent ingredient – anti-stardom. Amongst the recent glut of hardcore/lo-fi bands, many are quite brilliant, but most are also
too cool to pay true homage to the early US underground. Prize Pets’ front man – neat quiff up top, plain blue hoodie in the middle and non-descript coffee coloured trousers below – won’t even face the audience, instead watching his band from within the crowd, shaking his shoulders and occasionally hopping in a circle. He’s out-dressed – as are his band – by the east London regulars who, cleaners or bankers, look more like rock stars than him. But they are not yelling a deep and refreshingly non-faux American, Bryan Ferryesque yell, piecing together pop melodies one minute and ranting in reverb to Misson of Burma garage riffs the next.They’re not Good Shoes and The Stooges. They’re not awkward but likable, or baffling but definitely compelling.That’s what the great DIY masters were and is why Prize Pets could easily be your favourite new guitar band.
Good Shoes The Stag’s Head, Dalston, London 21.01.2010 By Ian Roebuck ▼
Choosing to overlook their roots for four nights in January, south London’s most modest foursome upped sticks and headed north to launch new album ‘No Hope, No Future’ in typically low key style. Having set up camp in the shoe box pub for 8 gigs of a gently shambolic nature, afternoon matinees and BBQs help keep the debauchery at bay.The room Unassuming, intimate and lacking pretence, Rhys Jones and Steve Leach are placed at the same level as their most fervent fans and some rather non-plussed locals, all of which make for a pretty relaxed evening. New material segues into old with relevant ease, the band pleased to be firing out songs like the lurchy ‘Everything You Do’ with aggression that perhaps wasn’t present back in 2007. But although they haven’t lost their sense of fun (“Hey I know you”, says Rhys, blowing a kiss to a girl in the front row), tonight seems more of a nostalgic treat than the rebirth of a faourite, much-missed, art-pop band.Yeah, we know you too, Good Shoes, although strangely familiar it’s a case of, everything’s OK, everything is alright.
film By DEAN DRISCOLL
Natural Born Killers Starring: Woody Harrelson Juliette Lewis, Robert Downey Jr. Tommy Lee Jones Director: Oliver Stone
Kathryn Bigelow on the set of The Hurt Locker
Oscars 2010 For the big prize at least, it still seems like a two-horse race. But what a pair of horses! -----The main storyline of this year’s awards season concentrates on the resistance of the seemingly unstoppable Avatar juggernaut to the threat of insurgency from this year’s plucky upstart, The Hurt Locker.With war-on-terror undertones de rigueur at the moment - in everything from Avatar to episodes of 30 Rock - it’s tempting to see the plotline for the duel between King of The World (again) James Cameron and his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow as another that’s been imbued with subtle digs on the Bush administration’s Middle Eastern misadventures. OK, we’re stretching a bit here - and with Cameron’s movie being a more direct critique of the Iraq war than even Bigelow’s Iraq-set indie effort, it’s perhaps disingenuous to paint it as the USA-proxy in this setting - but nonetheless, it’s made for a fascinating conflict. Another way would be to see it as the people’s champion - Avatar is officially the biggest box office take of all time (not adjusted for inflation of course) vs. the critical darling, with The Hurt Locker boasting a score of 97% on the reviews aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes. Despite this year opening the Best Picture category up to 10 nominees it’s no less a two-horse race, with the Academy likely to reward Cameron’s ambition with the Best Picture prize, and Bigelow’s craft with a historic Best Director statue. Bigelow’s only the fourth female director ever to be nominated, and will hopefully be the first to win. The supporting actor prizes presumably already have the names Christoph Waltz and Mo’Nique
engraved on them: his for being the only reason anyone really likes the otherwise over-represented Inglorious Bastards - otherwise known as Two Great Scenes Searching For A Film That Deserves Them and hers for a brutal portrayal of the one of the worst mothers imaginable in Precious. The lead acting categories are relatively open, though nobody would have a problem at all with Jeff Bridges carrying away the Best Actor prize for Crazy Heart - indeed the strength of goodwill towards the nomination appears to make his coronation inevitable, were it not for the fact the Mickey Rourke seemed similarly on course this time last year. The actress prize is the hardest to call, with Sandra Bullock favourite for American Football drama The Blind Side following her Golden Globe win. However, newcomer Precious star Gaby Sidibe provides strong competition and only a fool bets against Meryl Streep, nominated for her portrayal of the original domestic goddess Julia Child in Julie & Julia. The animated feature category looks nailed-on for Up, which is also nominated for Best Picture, while the screenplay categories could provide some joy for otherwise overlooked efforts such as Up In The Air for best adaptation, and the bafflingly ignored A Serious Man for the original screenplay prize, with the Coens delivering their finest original script since The Big Lewbowski (and arguably their best film since then too) it would be a travesty for cinema if the film walked away from this awards season empty handed. Having received no nominations for any of the relatively unknown but uniformly cast, nor the brilliant cinematography of Coens regular Roger Deakins, it seems that once again the Academy is taking some of film-making’s finest talent for granted.
Save for Best Screen Couple and Best Screen Kiss wins at the ironyimmune MTV Awards, Oliver Stone’s controversy magnet Natural Born Killers wasn’t a movie overburdened with prizes and affection upon its 1994 release - its inflammatory critique of the media was too much for the Academy, who overlooked even its stunning technical achievements in sound and film editing in the year they fell over themselves for Forrest Gump. Although the NBK shooting schedule lasted just 56 days, it took a further 11 months to create the finished movie from eighteen different film formats, incorporating 3000 cuts (most movies average around 600-700). Alas, the controversy surrounding the movie almost certainly overshadowed the film itself, which is as blistering and exhilarating now as it would have been in the mid-90s. Alongside Apocalypse Now! it holds the distinction of being a movie which can only have its desired impact if the volume’s up to 11: the combination of sound design and Trent Reznor’s soundtrack still makes for an experience that causes the hairs on the back of your neck to stand on end. It represents Oliver Stone at his most brilliantly furious, career-high performances from stars Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis, plus Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Downey Jr. on deliciously sleazy form. In a point shared by Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, it made you uncomfortably complicit in the protagonists’ brutality. Making a sharp comment about the American media’s obsession with glamorising violence, it hit back with the same stick used by the media to beat Stone, original writer Quentin Tarantino and movies in general as they salaciously reported on real life abominations and made icons of reality’s murderers. In this age where racially abusing someone in the Big Brother house or having an ex publicise a privately-filmed pornographic home movie can be a positive career move, it’s as good a time as any to revisit one of the best movies of the 90’s.
I AM V 2005 - present - LOUD AND QUIET
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party wolf Photo Casebook “Party on Robbie: Pt 1”
) Really, Robbie? And they won’t let you re-join at all?
I’m sure your face is really concerned, mate, but right now I’ve got my eye on something far more tasty... ALRIGHT GIRLS?!
[ This is awkward. I feel like I’m going red
Look chubs, we’ve already told you, we DON’T wanna see your rude box. Keeley’s even closed her eyes because you’re so disgusting
[Sigh] Think you’re right, mate. Let’s get my band back!
Lonely hearts “It’s not weird, it’s a sexy Facebook”
GoOutWith MyFriend.com Madge
82, looking for a male aged 16 to 19 Area: Children: Diet: Employment:
London Don’t ask Wheatgrass & hair Pop thief
Gwynn has this to say about Madge:
OMG, can’t believe I’m writing this. Why? Because there’s no way Madge should be single. She’s a total catch!!! We’ve been best friends for 30 years now and met working at Matalan. We instantly hit it off and would have the best time folding Lee Cooper jeans and joking about socks made by the tennis brand Wilson. That was a long time ago though, and Madge has so much more to offer. She’s fun (but not too much), brilliant at acting sincere and the eighth best dancer I know. Despite her age she also looks average in a swimsuit (;-P). So what you waiting for boys, her teeth to rot out? Because it’s only a matter of days. Te He. Just kidding babes, luv ya xoxo Madge responded by saying:
Thanks Gwynn. Can’t believe you mentioned Matalan, lol. Best days ever!
Disclaimer: The representations of the persons herein are purely fictitious.
) You’re joking!? I mean, look at my face! It’s the face of disbelief. Let’s get you back in the group!
) Nah mate. Think it’s all Howard’s doing. He never liked me for some reason
I couldn’t believe my luck - I was known for little more than fucking over Les and here I was on a prime time TV show.The papers were dubbing it ‘Somewhere lots of villages are missing lots of idiots’, but we were showing them as Britain’s Got Talent took the nation by storm. And nothing proved us right like that moment Susan Boyle turned up. I’ve got to say, I feel quite guilty now - as she shuffled on-stage I whispered to Piers, “Jimmy Crankies’ let himself go.” Piers did a laugh and I felt rather pleased with myself. But then she sang. And it was amazing! It gave me the perfect opportunity to try out my ‘surprised gurn’ that I’d been practicing for weeks. I pulled it off a treat. Simon was particularly impressed with me and Piers said something too, although I couldn’t really make it out for all the spit coming out of his mouth.That’s one thing people never realised about Piers; he was a spitter, always frothing at the mouth like an excited, rabid ape. After the show we were on cloud nine. I even let Ant or Dec have a drink with me that night. Little did I know these good times couldn’t last...
These New Puritans / Rainbow Arabia / Memory Tapes / Trash Kit / Liars / Fool’s Gold / Fiction / The Bitters