LoudAndQuiet Zero pounds / Volume 03 / Issue 15 / 100 percent mysterious
Brothers in arms
Plus Dum Dum Girls The Art Museums Black Francis Dam Mantle The Caulfields Beats Ganglians Chapter Sweetheart by:Larm
Things we’ve learned over the past 30 days: Frank Black doesn’t like talking about aliens half as much as we thought he would (pages 18-20), Mark Knopfler has invest his ‘Sultans of Swing’ royalties wisely (pages 24-29), ex-death metal heads can turn their hands to post-hardcore jazz and soul (page 22) and Bear Grylls really is a born survivor (page 46). Away from the mag though, we’ve learnt a very important lesson in the World Wide Web: it’s a cruel and horrible place. Or at least the game of building websites is a cruel and horrible game, capable of pushing a sane man to the edge; several sane men, even. We learned this valuable lesson while creating an all-new www.loudandquiet.com, which is now, finally, live and fully clickable. Much like the early days of Google when you could only successfully search ‘boobs’ [or is that today?], or the most primitive Amazon.com where the only books you could find were called ‘boobs’, most will never know the traumas that plagued our new site leading up to its launch. But like those web giants, www.loudandquiet.com is now a slick, pro website (with a less-slick, pro weekly podcast), featuring more exclusive content and relevant band news than ever. And while you hold that in breath, no, it doesn’t mean we’re going to bugger off online and stop printing the paper. After all, we’re pretty sure the Internet is just a fad.
C o n t e n ts
04 | 10 LOUD AND QUIET ZERO POUNDS / VOLUME 03 / ISSUE 10 / 100 PERCENT TRASH
EROL NO C E L E B R IT Y DJ +
M O N OTO N I X – N O D Z Z Z – V E R O N I CA FA L LS C O L D P U M AS – D E AT H I N P L A I N S PA I N S O F B E I N G P U R E AT H E A R T – E GY P T I A N H I P H O P T I M E S N E W V I K I N G – O F F S E T F E ST I VA L
Photography by Phil sharp
07 .................. . Point / At / Bono 08 .................. . Bad / Tribute / Wigs 10 .................. . Brooklyn / Anger / Camp 13 .................. . Drugs / Are / Dum 16 .................. . Teenager / Beats / Off 20 .................. . Evil / Alien / Ass 22 .................. . Snazzy / Death / Metal 26 .................. . Elton / John’s / Short 30 .................. . Passing / A / Joint 34 .................. . Mammoth / Attacks / Boys 37 .................. . Nice / Long / Soak 39 .................. . Panda / Goes / Ape 40 .................. . Heroes / Of / Frustration 42 .................. . Kick / Ass / Snatch 46 .................. . Cod / Bloody / Stuart 04
firstname.lastname@example.org Loud And Quiet 2 Loveridge Mews Kilburn London NW6 2DP Stuart Stubbs Alex Wilshire Art Director Lee Belcher film editor Dean Driscoll Editor
Chris Watkeys, Danny Canter Danielle Goldstien, Dean Driscoll Eleanor Dunk, Elinor Jones Edgar Smith, Frankie Nazardo, Kate Parkin, Kelda Hole, Lisa Wright Mandy Drake, Martin Cordiner Matthias Scherer, Mike Burnell Nathan Westley, Owen Richards Polly Rappaport, Phil Sharp Reef Younis, Sam Little, Sam Walton Simon Leak,Tim Cochrane Tom Goodwyn,Tom Pinnock This Month L&Q Loves
Jamie Woolgar, James Sherry Joolz Bossom, Nita Keeler Stacey Walton 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
04 | 10
politics in music The big ‘No’ of polite company is today even less welcome in popular music Wr i t e r : D a n n y C a n t e r
Discussing politics after a dinner party has always been a massive no no, causing tempers to fray enough to tarnish what was otherwise a lovely middle class time, making everyone feel rather stupid the following day. Politics down the pub, in the office, on Question Time even; it has a similar effect everywhere as it slowly makes grown adults squabble like infants. It’s understandable – it’s a topic that’s all affecting and therefore extremely important. But popular music, if not immune to the after-effects, was at least once brave enough to tackle government issues without regard for the consequences. Now, making a political statement in a song is about as much a good idea as pondering “God: could he really build the universe in 6 days?” before dessert is served. In this issue of Loud And Quiet, Chapter Sweetheart point the finger at Bono for making politics in music uncool, and we’re certainly not going to bend back that digit in protest, but there are artists who have ‘gone political’ regardless. John McClure – aka The Reverend – is never more at home than when on his soapbox. He’s never shown much resemblance to or
admiration for Bono and yet most of us consider him the righteous preachy type, rarely giving him credit for at least trying to make music that exceeds “Some people think I’m bonkers…”. It’d of course help if Reverend & The Makers’ songs weren’t stylistically little more than Arctic Monkeys b-sides set to gloopy indie-disco synths, but even if they were as overtly, darkly charged as The Clash’s ‘The Call Up’ it’s safe to say that we’d not react to them as people did to Joe Strummer’s leftist messages in 1980, simply because we don’t care. That’s really what’s made politics n music uncool – our own cynicism. We call Bob Geldof ‘Saint Bob’ to mock his efforts at lessening Third World horrors, convinced he’s doing it, first and foremost, for himself in some way. And when we’re not presuming that Bono is lunching with Mandela as a PR stunt (which he may well be), we’re looking at the Manics pulling on their red star caps for studio album number 105 and largely thinking, ‘let it go, guys’. Billy Bragg has impressively held on to his credibility whilst singing protest songs over a 30-year career, but he’s something of an anomaly, and
besides, Bragg no doubt makes less of an impression on the world today than Lady Gaga currently does singing about fame and, in ‘Poker Face’, bluffing, rather ironically. If all of our favourite bands released political albums tomorrow, our generation would probably find them too stuffy and serious or not believe a word of it, and that cynicism was planted when Tony met Noel. Back in the 60s when alternative and popular music was a powerful weapon against particularly The Vietnam War, musicians and politicians were far from bedfellows. Hippies were friendly, creative idealists; the government, especially in America, was a conservative, evil bully, and artists like Bob Dylan – with his overtly damning songs and views – would most certainly have not been invited to The White House for tea. By the 70s, John Lennon was considered such a threat to ‘the administration’ and its policies that the CIA reportedly tapped his phone and publicly attempted to have the ex-Beatle deported on a trumpedup marijuana possession charge. And it took a fair while for the British government to realise that people like pop stars
better than them too, until, as we all know, the penny dropped for Tony Blair who promptly wooed the smart Gallagher and captained the good ship Britpop to electoral victory 1997. Noel’s visit to Number 10 is all rather forgivable, not least because he genuinely supported Blair and was arguably not of sober mind for any of the 90s, but it doesn’t change the fact that politics and music had been brought together like never before. They were on the same side. If the establishment was a stuffy old bastard though, what did that suddenly make our precious bands that were drinking with them? Thankfully, the trick grew instantly old so our bands were given back to us way before David Cameron could claim – as he did – that he loves The Killers on Desert Island Discs. And you never know, with a general election coming, this time our favourite bands could shock us with some political song rather than politician flirting, and we could shock ourselves by giving them a chance. Until then we’ve got The Reverend. Now read this out at a dinner party – there’ll be lasagne on the ceiling in no time.
th e b eg i n n i ng
By Janine & Lee Bullman
The Devil’s Music By Jane Rusbridge (Bloomsbury) A poignant, tragic and brilliant tale of motherhood ---------------------
Jane Rusbridge’s debut novel is beautifully crafted and absolutely captivating. Set in 1950s Britain this is a tale of a mother, once an ambitious and energetic nurse, and her children and the devastating taboos that govern motherhood that lead her spiraling into a private and unbearable sadness. At times it’s heartwarming; at others utterly heartbreaking. Rusbridge has a gift for writing fresh and vivid prose with a terrific sense of character and place. A brilliant new voice for contemporary fiction.
The ultimate flattery or plain creepy? “Both and more,” says Mandy Drake
It is weird, isn’t it? Discovering you can – or learning to – sing like your idol and then thinking, ‘well, while I’m at it I might as well dress like them, study their moves and even tour the repertoire if I can get away with it’. That is a little odd – like fully-grown men with ‘Rooney 9’ printed on their England shirts to make them look just like their infant hero. People do get away with it though, living a the rock’n’roll-lite dream, performing in regional clubs and rec. centres under a typically dodgy name that incorporates a bad pun on the object they imitate. And yet to be a dedicated member of Definitely Mightbe is to swagger not just into realms of creepiness, but also simple, honest fun, an unnerving amount of admiration, considering, and a fair amount of tragedy. Just like Oasis, I guess. Short of The Bootleg Beatles (shit name but the unquestionable kings of the tribute world) and Stereophonics (the actual band), Definitely Might Be were the first pretenders I saw, in The Bell Pub, Southend. They waddled through a side door in bad wigs and parkas, except for the fake Guigsy who was wearing a white T-shirt with a mod target on it for some strange reason. To about twenty of us, ‘Liam’ spoke
in a hammy Manchester accent to introduce the songs and say, “Hello Southend-aaah!”. But when they played ‘Rock’n’Roll Star’ and the like they certainly sounded no worse than Oasis would have at the time. They were pretty good – not enough for us to forget that they were men acting like other men, but still… What little illusion they had managed to cast, though, fell apart shortly after ‘our kid’ whined, “Cheeeers-aaah, we’re gonna take a short break.” The band disappeared back through the side door for a matter of seconds before reappearing to head to the bar minus the wigs or parkas. How, I thought, could you then step back on stage in all seriousness and continue to ‘be Oasis’ when we’ve all heard you order a round in a Surrey accent? They did though, and the rest of the gig did seem all the more tragic. Keep The Faith: A Tribute To George Michael, was a different story all together. (Yes, I’ve seen a George Michael tribute act called Keep The Faith: A Tribute To George Michael). The name itself is particularly crap because it doesn’t even enter into the spirit of shitty puns (it’s no Think Floyd or The Pretend Pretenders, who must exist somewhere), but even in a far more boozed state than I was for the Definitely Mightbe gig, I could see that ‘George’ took
himself rather seriously. He’d opted for the ‘Outside’-era Michael – all pointy sideburns, rap-around sunglasses and black shirt, trousers and shoes – and snaked around the stage like the real deal would have. There were far more than twenty people there, most of whom were behaving as if at an actual George Michael show, clawing and screaming (seriously) at the smooth fraudster. Would it have been flattering to the real George Michael? Perhaps. But it was definitely the most fun I’ve ever had in New Cross, made all the more impressive by the band’s refusal to play ‘Faith’ (that would have been plain tacky). ‘George’ had gone much further than ‘Liam’ and ‘Noel’. He must have been a scholar in those moves, and that voice could have strolled to a Stars In Their Eyes final with great ease. But in the half-reality of tribute acts, the laughter and tears must go hand in hand. The better the wig, the stronger the accent, the more accurate the mod target T-shirt; the louder the screams, the bigger the rec. centre, the more like your idol you are. And yet you can’t really be more like someone else, which brings us back to creepy town. The Michael Jackson look-a-likes who’ve undergone plastic surgery to look like The King of Pop though, that’s alright… isn’t it?
Adventures on the High Teas: In Search of Middle England By Stuart Maconie (Ebury Press) A look at the silliness and greatness of English culture --------------------Set to become Britain’s best loved travel writer, Maconie follows up his last book (Pies and Prejudice) with Adventures on the High Teas: In Search of Middle England. Anyone expecting this stout Northerner to sneer at middle England can think again – in this tour of quaint villages and historic towns, Maconie celebrates with great warmth and affection our bizarre English traditions and heritage. Celebrating English humor, food and music, he stops off in places that have been influential in England’s literary and cinematic heritage, including Jane Austin’s Bath and Carnforth Railway Station, the setting for the Brief Encounter. Both touching and utterly fascinating.
7” s i n g les
01 Blank Dogs Phrases (Captured Tracks) Out March 22
Not strictly a 7” (this 4-track EP is a whole 5 inches wider than that), Blank Dogs’ ‘Phrases’ is particularly worth cocking an ear to because it’s not merely Mike Sniper filling the gap between albums with leftovers from last years brilliantly murky ‘Under And Under’. This much is clear because nothing here could really call that record home. While Blank Dogs’ debut seemed to be inspired by Cure guitar parts, drowning vocals and desperate, lingering organ chords, ‘Phrases’ largely explores a brighter side of the 80’s where disco electronics befriend spidery guitars (‘Heat and Depression’) and lyrics audibly chirp with a positivity not previously seen or heard
from Blank Dogs (‘Blurred Tonight’). There is still a certain amount of gloom on even the most upbeat track (‘Heat and Depression’) as Sniper groans his baritone, multi-tracked moan to soil the jollity somewhat, and reverb is still unquestionably this New Yorker’s favourite bedfellow, but, oddly, the heightened clarity of the vocals found on ‘Phrases’ prevent it from being as mysteriously appealing as Mike Sniper’s debut album. The sound of Blank Dogs seemingly playing underwater is missing, as is some of the anger. It’s just Sniper progressing as you’d expect him to but perhaps shedding the tricks that made him so special.
Bonobo Ft. Andreya Triana Eyesdown
(Self Released) Out Apr 12 -----
(Tough Love) Out March 22 -----
(Moshi Moshi) Out April 20 -----
(Ninja Tunes) Out Now -----
Zoo Zero are a 3-piece guitar band from east London: a slice of information that’s as red herring as you’re likely to come by. They’re not twee or into reverb, they’re not happily distracted by Brooklyn and/or west coast garage bands from 2010, and they’re certainly not ‘lo-fi’. This self-released 3tracker is their debut calling card, and is shaped like Pixies, a heavy Pavement and pre ‘Everything Must Go’ Manics (due to Tom Churchyard’s James Bradfield-esque cries). Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, what’s really impressive about ‘Radical Light’ is its continual sense of grungy menace.
Squashed onto 7 inches of royal blue vinyl, here you’ll find two tracks from tropical Dalston punks Fair Ohs and two lackadaisical surf pop numbers by Leeds’ Phil Spector obsessive Spectrals. On the ‘F’ side is ‘Hey Lizzy’, which could quite easily be Fair Ohs’ best island melody to date, and ‘Himalayas’, which clearly isn’t, due to seeming like a cobbled together after-thought. Side ‘S’ tells a similar tale as ‘Birthday Kiss’ drags its heels thanks to its extra muddy recording while ‘Keep Your Magic Out Of My House’ is perfect, lolloping doo wop. Two for four: there’s plenty worth hearing here.
For a short time it was a secret that Summer Camp was the new project of Jeremy Warmsley and Elizabeth Shankey, perhaps due to preconceptions of Warmsley’’s previous folky show-tunes, sang in a tightly wound tone as Marmite as Rufus Wainright’s. Shankey does the singing here though, angelically chirping about love found on National Rail. It’s twee like Telepathe are when they’re rolling to downbeat electronics and dubby bass, which is no bad thing. And although the simple niceness of ‘Ghost Train’ is unlikely to radically change your life it serves as a perfectly warming indie pop experience.
The military reggaeton remix from Warrior 1 aside, let’s chuck out the re-workings of Bonobo’s latest. They are, after all, lesser, samey versions of this nostalgic, trip hop lullaby. The original, though, is a prime slab of melancholy dub-step that could have clicka-clacked its way out of Bristol circa-’97. This is largely due to its contemporary two-step snaps and Andreya Triana’s ethereal vocals, reminiscent of a less icy Beth Gibbon. Like the highlights of ‘Blue Lines’, it’s sullen yet uplifting, and although far from original sounding it’s impressively smooth and semi-stoned.
Reviews by D. Canter, S. Stubbs
th e b eg i n n i ng
d u m d u m g i r ls These days there’s four Dum Dum Girls, but the lush phil spector-ish sounds they make originally came from one woman P h o t o g r a p h e r : Pav l a Ko p e c n a Wr i t e r : Edga r Smit h
If you spend your time in the Brick Lane Rough Trade Shop, Barden’s Boudoir in Dalston or ambling between the two, you’ll probably be familiar with Dum Dum Girls, the latest bunch of West Coast guitar freaks to unite Brooklyn, London and anywhere else worth waking up for in one big, fuzzed-out hipstergasm. Now a proper girl band, having been the bedroom project of enigmatically named frontwoman Dee Dee, Dum Dum Girls share a sonic terrain with the likes of Wavves, Blank Dogs, and Vivian Girls. Ex-Crystal Stilt Frankie Rose is on drums and Mike Sniper (aka. Blank Dogs and founder of Captured Tracks) played in an early incarnation of Dee Dee’s band. He was joined by Brendan Welchez, frontman of Loud And Quiet’s favourite reptilian garage types, Crocodiles, and also Dee Dee’s husband (alert! Trashy humaninterest angle coming up). All of this makes her a pretty wellconnected girl, the Queen du jour of US lo-fi if you like, but her music is a poppier step along from that of her friends; the fuzz box turned down and the craftsmanship turned up. It was a smart step to take as it’s got her signed to grunge behemoth Sub Pop and she could turn out to be the first artist in that scene to bring it some longoverdue crossover appeal. What’s it like to (kind of) share a label with Nirvana? “It’s great, it’s surreal,” says Dee Dee. “I don’t really think about it on a day-to-day basis ‘cause it’s very overwhelming. It’s almost like a joke. I talked to [labelmates] No Age about it and they said the same thing. Sub Pop bring you over to Seattle to meet everybody and I remember when I met JP, the owner, he told me he was flattered to be working with me, that he was a fan, and there’s a photo of him with whoever on the wall - I like fainted, it’s totally a trip.” And they roped in Richard “I Want Candy” Gottehrer to produce your debut album “Yeah, we were talking about what we could do to make this a slight step up from what I had been doing and we decided we should get someone really good to mix it. He came up as a joke as he’s such a legend but then he ended up being interested in working with me! I sent him all my rough mixes of the songs so he could get a general idea of the sound, you know, Reverb-ed
vocals, distorted guitar, snappy drums, but I wanted him to improve it, sonically. He did a much better job, cleaned it up a bit but still retained all of the noise.” The process turned her home recordings, the low-key feel of which was reflected in her sporadic, well-received 7”s for the likes of Art Fag and Captured Tracks, into sounding like the sun-sheen production epoch of 40 years ago that inspired them. “It certainly wasn’t a conscious decision on my part” she says “but all my friends share records with each other and we kind of went from like a huge garage kick to being obsessed with the Jesus and Mary Chain and Black Tambourine and that filters its way into the music you make. My favourite has always been girl groups and 60s stuff, that’s what I grew up on as a little kid and for me it’s the gold standard of musicianship and songwriting.” The attention to songwriting, more developed and less minimal than her grunge forbears, comes across well in her show at the Old Blue Last later, her first in the UK. It’s tailored to suit her vocals – probably the band’s biggest asset – which have been polished-up into a controlled and assured presence by years in choir at high school. Her love of music (evidently genuine when I mention The Stooges/Suicide date in May: “FUCK! OH! AH! FOR ATP? Jesus Christ! Are you going? I have to go! When is it? Jesus Christ that’s crazy, I hadn’t heard about that, I’m a little out of the loop. That’s fucked up!”) and her teenage diversion into records, gigs and bedroom guitar fiddling was a reaction to growing up in the meth-riddled cultural desert of suburban California. It’s pretty much the story we heard from Crocodiles. “They were talking about a suburb near San Diego that I think at one point was like the Meth capital of the US. I don’t really know how cities and towns and suburbs work-out over here but in California they’re these tiny places that have been developed architecturally all the same. I grew up in a small one in the bay area, about forty-five minutes from San Francisco. Because there’s nothing to do, drug use is pretty rampant. I didn’t know how to be in a band but I definitely wanted to get out of that town, and go do something,
so that was why I ended up in San Francisco. I would go to Berkley when I was at High School, there’s this kind of famous venue there called Gillman and so I used to go see a lot of punk shows there. Oh, terrible bands at the time, I think it’s where Rancid and Green Day cut their teeth.” She’s done well since escaping from small-town hell and has found not only a band and a record deal but a husband too. What’s it like being married to a Crocodile? “It’s hard but we’re both the kind of people that can’t really do anything else, I mean we can; he’s a teacher and I’ve worked reception and in a library. We both hold down normal jobs but if we can try to do music, we’re going to try. We’ve both just been home for four months, which is really unusual. We’ve been married almost 3 years and I think we’ve probably spent about seven months together over three years. We met as friends, just in the same kind of music scene and somewhere down the line we fell in love in a weekend and got married 5 months later. Definitely a whirlwind. It’s cool, it’s great, he’s a huge music talent but he’s a really good person too.” What about touring and its paranoia-inducing associations with backstage flirting and tour bus orgies? “Truthfully, I don’t know how couples where one person is in a band that tours… I don’t know how they do it ‘cause there’s so much shit that goes with it. You have to be really trusting and you have to know that ok, you’re on tour seeing the world but a lot of it is spent being bored, waiting for soundcheck. It’s not like your partying and meeting guys all the time so…” she laughs “we both understand that. It’s definitely rough, it’s a lot harder being the person at home but we’re going to try and tour a lot together this year. We’ll see.” So, after the tour, what’s next in the journey to alterno stardom? “I would love to make a comfortable living and be able to buy a house and whatever but it’s not that realistic. The impression I get is that you have to have a song in a fucking movie or something to get any real money. I wish I could get a song in the Twilight series or something, right? Then I’d be set. I love vampires, I don’t have a problem with that.”
dam mantle Tom Marshall creates intricate electronic art not unlike Hud Mo. it’s all he wants to do P h o t o g r a p h e r : G A B R I EL G REEN Wr i t e r : REE F YOUN I S
A staple of the rapid radarmaking Glasgow ‘scene’, Tom Marshall aka Dam Mantle is riding the slipstream created by the likes of Hudson Mohawke and Rustie. In an increasingly celebrated movement, characterised by blurring the divide between electronic beats and indie dynamics, the city’s spawned a new generation of electronic producers de rigueur who are pushing genre, form and style to its convergent limits. “It is a scene if you want to call it that,” says Tom. “I’d probably call it that. You see the same faces at the nights, and I guess it’s a scene to some degree, but Glasgow’s so many things to so many people. The reason I’m here is because I’m at the art school, so I moved up a few years ago. I see it all [music and art] as part of the same practice. Inevitably it’s separate to some extent but when I think about painting, I think about music too, so it informs each other in some ways.” Tom’s sat in an old, abandoned pipe factory in Glasgow, nursing a cup of tea and deliberating over an exhibition he’s part of that opens in couple of days. He matter-of-factly states, “I’ve got a lot to do.” It would be easy to categorise Dam Mantle as a creative side project of an art school student; the kind of folly loaded with image and pretension that dogs much of London’s recent music scene, but reassuringly, the ethos coming out of the majority of Glasgow’s young electronic producers is steadfast in its statement and simplicity. “For me the two scenes I found myself going to most are guitar-based nights and kind of dubstep, garage, two step kind of nights. I’m interested in all those elements and I think they just inevitably fuse together.” The current wealth of acts extolling expansive, intelligent
electronica – from Caribou to Psapp; Four Tet to Fuck Buttons - would testify the genre is in rude health as a result of an unrelenting desire to expand and explore, and it’s a concept that’s no different for Dam Mantle, even if the route to that point deviated slightly. “My background is probably different from a lot of electronic producers,” he starts. “I used to make a lot of lo-fi music that was quite playful and it’s still present in what I do.” With a keen eye for toys, gadgets and a myriad of ways to capture and conquer an inquisitive approach to creating music, the subject of classification is one that dogs many DJs and producers, and an element always flagged as a result of a ‘live’ show. Or lack thereof. It’s a particular bugbear for Tom and one he seems resolutely keen to avoid. “I don’t like the idea that someone comes up on stage claiming to be a live set and just presses play and fiddles with the filters,” he begins. “I really want to get away from that. I do it [Dam Mantle] with a guy called Callum at the moment and it’s mainly padbased, a synth… we pretty much just shut our laptops or we just use them to assign stuff and trigger things. “I don’t tend to take toys or the percussion out on the road but in the future, in my dreams, I want nine drummers playing really simple percussion or playing pots and pans because I’m really open to where I want this to go. The project is still quite young and it’s fairly early on so I’m working on it becoming a more multi-sensory thing and I think in the future video will be a feature. I just don’t want to be considered a laptop musician at all.” Like most aspiring musicians, Tom’s interest was piqued early,
and he went through the obligatory run of teenage bands and musical exploration that’s ultimately shaped his current outlook. Interestingly, though, his electronic coming of age made him a bit of a late bloomer by his own admission. “I was quite young and I was in bands and I was quite serious about it. I think I was about fourteen and we put on a friend’s big brother’s Aphex Twin record and we’re just like, ‘What the fuck is this?!’ but that’s going back to the start. Inevitably you just discover electronic music as you grow up and everything I made was kind of informed by it. Maybe even an organic reflection of it, I suppose. Now I’m interested in a combination of the two and how you maybe can’t figure out what’s recorded and what’s sampled or what’s a sound from a music program.” It’s this serious playfulness that pervades most of Dam Mantle’s work; whether it’s sparkling, spaced out or staggered, there’s an unremitting, committed purpose to unearthing something special. The emphasis isn’t on how novel or needlessly subversive it needs to be, it’s just a simple matter of taking the time to make it right. “I don’t think it’s right to set out with the idea ‘I’m going to make deliberately accessible music’ or ‘I want to make something that’s going to make ears bleed’. I think it needs to be organic. I’ll listen to pop music then I’ll listen to a psych record - I think they’re both as important as each other and I hope I find a centre point of all these sounds that surround me. I produce stuff to try and move people, y’know?” As with any good producer, there’s as much appreciation for consolidation as there is for innovation, and it’s a sentiment long echoed by contemporaries.
But while they’re a special breed who can hear value and beauty where others might not, they’re also justifiably capable of reserving venomous judgement, if not a broad swipe at much of the modern industry. “I think in terms of the stuff that’s out there at the moment, it’s accessible to some people but it’s so transparent, you know? When you listen to that, you know they’ve thought, ‘let’s write a hit.’ “I think there’s something really truthful and really beautiful in pop music where you make a melody and it sits there in someone’s head for an entire day. It’s really powerful and I think it’s when you’re making music in marketable terms, that’s a bit dangerous. “I think pop has become a bit of a dirty word and I think it’s more about standing outside of it and seeing a truth in that.” As righteously assertive as that might seem, Dam Mantle’s standpoint isn’t one that is overly denigrating. But how could it be? For a man content to be making music and crafting installations, it’s the archetypal tale of struggling and surviving to do something you love. There’s a lot to be said for modest ambition. “I mix records and I produce music and...I don’t know. I’d probably say I was a producer, I produce music but I create art. I might say an artist. Ha! I don’t know. It’s such a loaded thing to say you’re an artist but I do spend every minute of the day in that mindset of like I’m either making something visual, something audible or mixing something someone else has already made in a postmodern way. I don’t know if it’s expectations but it’s a wish that I’ll make music and art for the rest of my life. That’s it – if I can pay my rent from my music, that’s it. I just want to create.”
th e c a u lf i e ld b e ats “A lot of bands just go for the hook, the basic grammar if you like, they don’t go for the poetry.” P h o t o g r a p h e r : n a s ta s ia a l b e r ti Wr i t e r : I a n R o e b u ck
If the noughties saw the rise of the Bedroom Producer, whatever insufferably shite named decade we’re in now could welcome in the Studio Flat Studio, and The Caulfield Beats would be leading the line. “Yeah I make it in my room but I’m a student so my bedroom is my kitchen, my toilet, my hospital, it’s everything. I bleed, throw up and make music in the same square meter.” At 19 years old, Lawrence Northall may seem pretty young to achieve the intricate, worldly and downright dance-worthy sound he does, but he’s already got a wealth of experience. “I have been fucking around with music on a computer since I was 12 or 13,” he says “using Ableton with loads of plug ins. I also record just random sounds and I’ve got this Hawaiian guitar that I just love hearing and playing”. Talking to Lawrence is a lot like listening to his music – one idea threads into four more, his brain firing on all cylinders, his mouth flying to keep up. It’s pure entertainment and his musical mind is just as scattershot. “I’m classically trained on Piano, Violin and Clarinet but I became a teenager,” he explains “and, y’know, one thing leads to
another and you end up standing on your head in the gutter with sick dripping off your feet instead of playing.” He can’t play everything but you get the feeling he could do. “I don’t play the French horn and I hate the trumpet, it’s for heralding isn’t it, a French horn is like vinyl and the trumpet’s like a copied CD.” Such an erudite fella, it’s no surprise The Caulfield Beats garnered his namesake from within the literary world; with a nod to The Catcher in the Rye’s Holden Caulfield. “It’s a powerful book and it impacted my life a lot when I was 14,” says Tom “probably like a lot of other people. I identified with him wandering around disillusioned. I’ve never really been a part of a big group and always been a social wanderer.” Just like the books protagonist, Lawrence scratches, beeps and walks alone, although JD Salinger’s recent death has brought with it a bandwagon he’d rather not be riding. “Well he was a recluse wasn’t he, so he would’ve hated this shit, maybe we can make it a psychotic post modern name, maybe it’s the point, if not we can make it the point, it’s an interview, right?” He jokes much like
Holden may have, kicking against the pricks (me in this instance). Lawrence genuinely is a wanderer though. Currently frequenting Goldsmiths College, he could be found just a year ago off his box in the fields of Sussex where he grew up – “Yeah, back there was the first time I played live,” he starts to explain. “It was just awesome, everyone was off their heads, it’s Sussex you know!” A ring goes off; it couldn’t have been better timed. “Shit it’s my mum, and she never rings! My parents are pretty cool though. They could’ve done a better job than I have of this interview.” Take a boy out of Sussex, though, and what do you get? “I’m pretty sick of the scene thing in London already,” he says. “I know people probably think I dress like a scenester but I really don’t mean too, I just steal my girlfriend’s clothes. A lot of it’s so contrived isn’t it, it’s not real y’know.” He may not like it but promoters and bands are already cottoning on, and finding yourself on the bill with such great new Goldsmiths bands as Beaty Heart can hardly be problematic? “Yeah maybe there is something going on – DIY
punk, experimental or some kind of shit.” The more time spent with The Caulfield Beats the more you get back, his music like a good painting… at least that’s how he sees it. “I don’t always think of it as music, more visual art. I always think about the aesthetics of sound,” he says, and this isn’t hard to imagine as you’re carried through each track on a euphoric wave, stopping to take in every vibrant layer, every gaudy arcadian hum. His almost playful, humorous take on music is all with purpose too. “There’s the grammar of music and I look for the poetry,” he says. “A lot of bands just go for the hook, the basic grammar if you like, they don’t go for the poetry.” Out on a limb, is it really Lawrence against the world, though? If you make music in a bedsit do you have to exist in that bubble continually? Some producers go on to collaborate with other bands. “Nah, I don’t like the idea of getting in with a group of people, I think of myself as a band even though it’s just me on my own.” Yes, then, it seems it is The Caulfield Beats against the world.
Th e A rt M u s e u m s the psychedelic spirit of the sixties can be heard in this duo however loud the tape hisses Wr i t e r : s t u a r t s t u bb s
04 “My pants are slightly flared today, but I honestly do regret that. I gotta get to the tailor before anyone notices.” Glenn Donaldson [above, left] and Josh Alpher [right] are doing their bit to squash any outdated view we have of bohemic pop Mecca San Francisco, or at least they seem to be until you hear their homerecorded debut album, ‘Rough Frames’, which is as pupildilating and optimistic as any sweet tab of psych pop that’s tie-dyed the Bay Area sky in the last 50 years. The Art Museums love mods, not hippies. They bond over UK pop and punk, not music made in their own town or country. But ‘Rough Frames’, with the exception of the opening ‘We Can’t Handle It’ (which we dully noted in last month’s issue sounds like a Dictaphone Belle & Sebastian demo), largely sounds gleefully inspired by Love, The Byrds and The Mammas and The Pappas. “We are pop fans,” says Glenn “and this is our museum. [We also love] The Monkees, The Smiths, The Jam, The Kinks, and the 90’s work of Strapping Fieldhands, Magnetic Fields and Guided By Voices. Josh is a Syd Barrett worshiper.” “I wonder what Belle And Sebastian would say?” ponders
Glenn’s bandmate. “Thank you though.” Josh snaps out of his brief daydream. “These are all hallowed names in our hearts.” “We are burnt-out old hippiepunk-indie weirdos,” admits Glenn, proudly. “It’s all the same really, isn’t it? California has always been a blend of these seemingly disparate things. Black Flag were in fact HUGE Grateful Dead fans (look it up).” The songs themselves – naïve and void of cynicism like nothing else we’ve heard outside of ma and pa’s record collection – were all written and recorded over the past six months, which is when the band formed. Onstage, like with so many duos, The Art Museums become more than two, beefed up with real life musicians Virginia Weatherby on electronic drums and Carly Putnam on bass. For what is largely a two-man show though, it’s quite the meteoric rise, from concept to debut album release in half a year. “True,” says Glenn “but why wait? Everything’s meant to be fast in the modern world. And No! we don’t deserve any of the press we are getting, but it plays into our delusional thinking about ourselves.” Glenn and Josh have created
music forever, which in itself is a head start, and while Josh claims, “Glenn made me do it,” when talking about how the band started, the pair have been friends for 6 years, not months. Simplicity is the real key to their speedy progression, though. They record onto an old but time effective tape machine, which then predictably hisses all over their unfussy 60’s drum loops, Byrdsian, jangling arpeggios and idyllic, tight vocal harmonies. ‘Hssss’. The sound of escaping air chases the clean chords of ‘Sculpture Garden’, which could have been pinched from Love’s ‘Forever Changes’. ‘Hssssss’. Static accompanies a Spector-ish ‘So Your Baby Doesn’t Love You Anymore’. ‘Hssssssssss’. It almost engulfs the druggier ‘Sing A Song For Stacie’. It’s impossible not to notice it. “That hiss follows me everywhere,” says Josh. “Why, even now... hisssssssssssssssss. I suppose it’s a style thing. I guess… Glenn and I feel fairly at home and warm with the equipment we’ve been using, but would not be opposed to recording in other ways.” “I love studios,” says Glenn “but that costs money ($300+ a day), and we have to work for a
living. I love our old tape machine. I think it sounds great; some may disagree. I like hi-fi and lo-fi in equal measure. But, for example, Guided By Voices’ ‘Bee Thousand’ is a masterpiece for any format.” Yes. So too, one imagines, is Dylan’s ‘The Times They Are aChangin’’, Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, The Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds’. They’re all classic masterpieces largely due to their simple, melodic centres, high above such trivialities as technical recording issues, and ‘Rough Frames’ shares a fair amount with them. ‘Paris Cafes’ – the album’s hippy, flare-lovin’, subtwo-minute high point – certainly does, daydreamy and oblivious to today’s horrors, like a now-sadly-comic ‘child of the revolution’. A lot can be blamed for that view of the 60’s and the west coast sounds born throughout the decade (one “Yeeaaah baby!” too many following Austin Powers’ own shagadelic revolution, countless other ‘flower power’ pastiches) but The Art Museums’ cynic-free mellow psych is a cool win for harmonious, simple song writing that gently and definitely drowns out the tape hiss.
Frankly 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 : T O M P I NNO C K
my dear... 18
He may be the genius who wrote such captivatingly twisted songs as ‘Debaser’, ‘Gouge Away’ and ‘Bone Machine’, but, as Tom Pinnock discovers, Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV is more interested in talking about iPhone tariff charges and people’s ‘agendas’ than his past glories…
man who wrote songs about incest and outer space, peppering them with askew rhythms, pidgin Spanish proclamations and that blood-curdling howl, Black Francis is a legend who, with the four albums he wrote for Pixies in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, redefined alternative rock, thrilled David Bowie and effectively invented Radiohead and Nirvana in the process. Seeing a guy any Pixies fan knows only as the singular, crazed freak screaming on ‘Surfer Rosa’ sit down to a genteel drink on the swish rooftop bar of a central London hotel was always going to be weird. However, what was really strange was that the man formerly known as Frank Black seemed keen to avoid the questions any fan would want him to answer and preferred to talk about business models, mobile phones and bakeries… New album ‘NonStopErotik’ – his 14th solo album proper by our reckoning – is a messy, rugged selection of craggily performed paeans to, unsurprisingly, sex.While it’s nowhere near the sublime treasures of his older work – the less said about the stomach-churning ‘When I Go Down On You’ the better – it boasts some strong, fiery songs and strangely is perhaps one of his most Pixies-sounding solo albums.We decided to start with the obvious enquiries… L&Q: So your new album ‘NonStopErotik’ has obviously got a very sexual theme to it? Black Francis: “Yeah, all the songs on it relate to that general theme, but there’s a complexity if you get into it on an arty level or whatever. I wanted to approach it from the point of view of psychiatry or sociology. [Sex] is ‘it’, it’s the thing; it’s the baton of life. [Waiter brings over hot chocolate] I stopped drinking coffee a couple of weeks ago.”
theory.There’s distance and there’s space, but it doesn’t mean it’s insignificant; it might be very significant, what’s going on here. And maybe one day the whole place will be flooded with life forms.”
I’ve never seen hot chocolate in a teapot like that.
“This place has class up the ass.” And I’ve heard the album was all written on a kind of magical guitar?
Would you like to see the place flooded with different life forms?
“You know, I could tell you the tale or whatever, but the short of it is there was a guitar I was given, it was unwanted by myself, and somehow ended up back in my possession a couple of years later, and it went from being unwanted to suddenly being [long pause] given a certain kind of special status, as in, ‘You’re magic, you’ll be the catalyst to make something happen, something great’, and that’s when it all happened, a few days in LA then maybe two weeks in London.” Is that the quickest you’ve ever written and recorded?
“No. For a record, the fastest I ever did it was two days. It feels good if you can pull it off, something quickly, it suggests prowess or something, or suggests magic, it suggests being in the right place at the right time, all those sort of feelings or thoughts.You always have a few months to have perspective, because there’s no business model that people are doing on a regular basis where you’re going from the creation of stuff you’re working on to its formal release.” And there’s a film by Judy Jacobs to go with the album too?
“Yeah. I might do a screening of the film and a Q&A and a band performance and then it gets simulcast to other arts cinemas around the country, or in different countries. But the source screening would be here in London. I’m kind of excited about that, about being able to be in more than one place at once. At the end of the day, with people becoming less connected as they get electronic devices, I think the truth of it is that people like to go out and mingle with other people.The live concert scene’s actually pretty healthy, as people just want to get out of their day. And they’ll still have their iPhone with them at the gig, ha! I can see the lights from all the phones when I’m playing a gig.” You approve of iPhones then?
“Sure, but I’m very disappointed in it internationally. All the stuff is great but they have extremely high premiums to use any of the data on it abroad, not just expensive, but crazy – like they warn you don’t check your email ‘cause you might get charged $4000 to get a few emails. Literally, people are getting a $60,000 bill downloading a movie while on holiday in Portugal.The phone works fine and I still do some texting, but all the cool shit that you normally do with it you can’t do. Unless I was like Elton John…” Talking of money – while most reunions are money-oriented, it’s hard to shake the idea that Pixies’ is more than most – perhaps they’re entitled to milk all the profits they missed out on in the bad old days? Speaking to Black Francis, though, it makes us suspect even more that the band are perhaps just a convenient gravy train to keep their various solo projects solvent. After all, as drummer-turned-magician David Lovering knows, those white rabbits don’t come cheap… L&Q: You’ve been reformed for about six years now with no new material – are you planning to continue playing? Black Francis: “Yeah, the phone keeps
“Of course I would, everyone does.That’s why we go to the movies.” What if they’re evil, though? [Silence] You think they’ll be nice then, the aliens? Because I’d be worried they might enslave the human race or something.
ringing, so… We’re not soliciting but, like I said, the offers keep coming so we keep saying yes.” Any talk about new material?
“There’s always talk about that.” What are you saying about it, though?
“My theory is that the more I talk about it in the press, the less likely it is to happen. It gives the impression that I have a very strong personal agenda that others are not informed of so it creates strain on the band relationship; see what I’m saying? If I’m spouting about, ‘see, we’re gonna do this and we’re gonna do that’ the others are like ‘what the…? I didn’t hear about this’. More than ever, there’s nothing to say, and even if there was, if I say it, it’s misunderstood by other people and it just inhibits rather than promotes.”
have anything to do with my children. Back to the baker analogy, ‘Now that you’ve had children Mr Baker, how are your breads changing? Are you having more confectionary items because of the children?’ Really? You really think I’m going to switch from my black leather rock’n’roll avantgarde, arty-farty kind of scene, that I’m going to somehow let that be affected? I’m too proud.” Ok, could you signal out a couple of albums that you see as high points in your work?
“The ones that sold the most.” So ‘Doolittle’ then?
“That’s the best-selling. [So] that’s the best one.” Really? There must be one that sold nothing that you really like too?
Well, obviously, I don’t want to cause band friction…
“Yeah, and I like that one too, the one that sold the least.”
“I know you’re not trying to, but I’m just explaining what’s going on. Some people just think I’m being reticent or something, or whatever, but that’s the honest answer.”
But if you really thought like that you wouldn’t make the kind of music you do, you’d try and tailor your stuff to the masses?
People often talk about Pixies as legends, kind of behemoths of alt-rock – do you ever think you shouldn’t have reformed, to keep some of the mystery there?
“Like I said, it’s all one big album.”
“You’re only legends in other people’s minds. From my perspective, you know, you’re just in the band and you didn’t play for a while and now you’re playing again. I don’t personally have a lot of poignant thoughts about, ‘what if this?’ or ‘do I regret this?’, or hypothesising or reflecting. It’s not that there’s no magic in it or anything, but the magic is the playing, the being on stage or in a studio.”
“It depends on what side of the bed I got up on.”
So you don’t think about your ‘legacy’ either?
“You don’t think about it, it stands, either you’re gonna be good or you’re gonna be shitty, that’s the thing about legacy.The only thing I think about in terms of legacy is since I have children I think that they might at some point in their life gain something out of who their father is. Just like if you owned a bakery you’d work really hard in your bakery and you’d say, ‘one day, this is all going to be theirs’…” Do you see yourself as two separate parts – one as a family man, you know, looking after kids, and the other half writing these weird songs?
“Yeah, it is separate. I create art or rock-art or whatever you want to call it, so it doesn’t
Do you have a handful of favourite songs you’ve written?
“Sure, I have an A list and a B list.” What’s at the top of the A list?
What about today?
“Today? I haven’t thought about it today until just now. I don’t know.Throw a dart at one, that’s the one.” ‘Alec Eiffel’ just came into my head…
“[Sarcastically] Love it.That’s my favourite one… I’m not very good at hypothetical questions, my personality rejects that. It isn’t that I’m a grump… Some people’s personalities are lighter, they can flow – it’s just some hypothetical scenario that I have to discuss in order to get interesting insights from me. I’m too animal-like, I’m like a snake.” Let me ask you a more snake-ish question, then. It’s been 50 years since the creation of SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), do you think there’s still life out there?
“I think what people, myself included, forget that is equally fascinating, equally haunting, equally interesting, is what if there isn’t? If this is the only thing going on, it really puts it into perspective, that this is the centre; this is an important place, at least for us. I’m not saying that’s the way it is, I’m just saying in
“There’s a fine line between our discussion right now and, ‘oh, let’s write a science fiction script’, do you see what I’m saying? You can only carry that kind of chit-chat so far, then you’re like, ‘What’s the purpose of this?’” Well, I’m only asking because I think people are interested in what you think.
“That’s what I’m saying – I don’t think [about aliens]. Maybe occasionally, but it’s not like it’s a primary motivator. ‘Tell us more about these aliens that you don’t seem to think about much’, it’s like, ‘Wait a minute…’” But a lot of your lyrics in the early ‘90s suggest you did think about that a lot.
“Like what?” Well, on ‘Bossanova’, there’s…
“Which ones?” ‘The Happening’?
“Yeah, but you can simplify that and say, ‘He’s singing about aliens’, but it’s also singing about human culture and Las Vegas; it’s about moviemaking. I’m just mirroring back popular culture at that time.The fact that I did a few songs doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m obsessed with the topic – it doesn’t mean I don’t have thoughts about it either.” They’re just some songs you wrote then?
“They’re just some songs I wrote. I can’t say, ‘yes, this is the world of thought and forethought and vision and everything that’s behind this song’. No, it doesn’t work like that. Maybe it represents all this stuff, maybe it doesn’t, I just do it. Everyone has an agenda, everyone in this room.That’s not something aggressive, you know? Sometimes when you’re writing a song that’s your agenda, but it doesn’t mean that’s your agenda 18 years later – it’s hard when so much time has passed, you can’t even remember. I can’t remember. ‘Was there even an agenda?’” When someone is denying they were really interested in UFOs when they’ve written at least this many songs on the topic (‘Allison’, ‘Lovely Day’, ‘The Happening’, ‘Old Black Dawning’, ‘Planet Of Sound’, ‘Motorway To Roswell’, ‘Bird Dream Of The Olympus Mons’, ‘Space (I Believe In)’, ‘Distance Equals Rate Times Time’, etc. etc.) it’s clear something’s wrong. Perhaps Black Francis had a problem with talking about Pixies rather than his solo work, perhaps he’d had enough of hypothetical questions after over twenty years of interviews, or maybe he really is as animalistic in his personality as he says he is? Whatever.What is clear is that Black Francis is as difficult and infuriating as geniuses are supposed to be.
C h a p t e r S w e e t h e a rt From DC hardcore to politically driven free jazz, this collective don’t even discuss what they are with each other P h o t o g r a p h e r : L e o n diap e r Wr i t e r : p o l ly r appap o r t
Chapter Sweetheart are in their hipster element; scattered around a coffee and cigarette strewn table in Dalston’s go-to jazz joint, Café Oto, the espresso machine humming along to the sounds of Miles Davis and Moondog. While Kev carefully stores his trumpet back in its case, Charlotte adjusts the ratio of sugar to tea in her cup – in favour of sugar – and Alex produces a dog-eared book, calmly browsing its worn pages. It’s a book about American Hardcore. So much for the bebop Beatnik vibe, then. Charlotte: “We tend to have different opinions.” Alex: “We come from different musical backgrounds.” Kev: “We don’t talk about it, really, we don’t ask each other, ‘What’s our band?’” Christy: “We make the songs up on the spot.” Matt: “We have a certain… way… It just keeps changing all the time, doesn’t it?” Alex explains that it was he and Kevin who started the band, based on a mutual interest in DC hardcore bands, particularly The Nation of Ulysses and The MakeUp. “Me, I came from a hardcore punk background,” he says “and Christy’s into early seventies/ eighties punk, then Matt came along.” “It was a bit of a jump for me because I played in a death metal band beforehand,” says Matt “and I’ve never looked back.” “That’s because it was terrible,” laughs Charlotte. “I’m not going to lie!” “There was a lot of pig squealing involved…” Matt admits “I just liked the names of your songs,” Charlotte presses, still giggling. “What, like ‘Anal Rot’?” suggests Christy. “No, just really terrible long-winded names that were so cliché and cheesy.” Matt looks a bit cornered. “Did you have names like, ‘Girl With Bike On Her Head Fucks Boy Up And Spits Her Gum At Him From Her Eye And Then
Falls Asleep’?” Alex offers. “It was a dark stage,” concludes Matt, happy to put the subject to bed. So how did hardcore and death metal turn into Chapter Sweetheart, then? “We started writing some stuff, played a few shows and then quickly decided we weren’t that into what we were playing,” says Matt. “Then we kind of got a bit more soulful and funky.” “Not funky, really…” Kev frowns. “Well, not funky, maybe a bit surfy,” Matt tries. “The more comfortable we get with the band the more stuff we add to it,” says Charlotte. “I mean, there’s four of us that are attempting to do vocals now, Kev has his trumpet, I have a tambourine, we’re all adding bits so it’s quite different from what we were first doing.” “We always had the trumpet,” says Kev. “That was brought in from Nation of Ulysses, then I started looking into horn players who didn’t play in a traditional jazz or soul way, like Ornette Coleman or even James Chance, but especially Ian Svenonius in Nation of Ulysses.” Kev was specifically interested in loud, sporadic bursts of brass, not tuneful, but as if the trumpet were speaking in frantic, noodling blasts. “From the start, when you’re being influenced by music that has horns in it, it easily progresses to listening to soul, and that’s a progression from playing just punk garage to something more influenced by black music rather than surf bands and sixties bands,” he says, noting that while ‘Nuggets’ is still on Chapter Sweetheart’s stereo they feel that playing that kind of music alone would get boring for their audience. As for the lyrics, “they go with the music.” “I don’t write them before – it’s not like I sit in my room, in pain, I’m not one of those musicians that sits there, wanking and crying,” Kev shakes his head. “It begins in a
political way, you can’t make any kind of art without it being political anyway, even if it’s a love song or a sexy song, politics will always be in it.” That said, the band don’t want to force politics down their audience’s throat, they’re aware that it’s a factor but they don’t want to preach. “I think people are scared to talk about that kind of stuff because Bono made it uncool to be into politics,” says Kev. “That’s stupid,” Christy interjects. “People should write relevant lyrics.” “But, as I say, you can’t make anything artistic without politics being in there. Orwell said that and I think that’s true,” says Kev. Politics notwithstanding, the band want to make music people can dance to. As Kev puts it, “I’ve always said it was music for couples.” “Is it?” Christy clearly missed the memo about that one. “In my head, when I perform, I want it to be smooth.” “It’s a bit noisy, isn’t it?” Christy points out, but Kev insists. “We’re entertainers, at the end of the day, and it’s not that I hate bands that make noise and stuff, but the way I always wanted to do it was as entertainment, to make people feel something.” “Politics and entertainment,” muses Alex. “You can still entertain people, make them feel good, and have a dark message underneath,” Kev explains, citing Chapter Sweetheart’s punky cover of ‘My Girl’ as a more feel-good number (the dark message, perhaps, being that Macaulay Culkin gets stung to death in the film?). Actually, he’s referring to Motown songs in general, political in their own way but incorporating dance moves and snazzy clothing, making a production out of the performance. “I was saying to Alex, I’m not a frontman, I’m a crooner,” Kev laughs – an interesting statement if you’ve ever heard
Kev’s, erm, ‘crooning’, but this is still in the context of seeing what the band do as entertainment. “When you say the word ‘band’, it’s got certain connotations linked to it, to do with rock’n’roll or, in England certainly, indie. I think it’s hard to be an English band and be influenced by black soul music cos it sounds weird. But I don’t really see us as a band, we’re more a musical collective.” “We swap roles as well,” says Matt. “Someone will play the keys for a bit, we’re going to try to get Alex to play bass, we’ll all have a go at different things, make it more interesting.” And how did this hodgepodge musical collective come to be called Chapter Sweetheart? If you look it up, the term is used in American fraternities for a girl who acts as the secretary (read: pretty face) representing the boys. In the context of the music industry, Kev explains, the fraternities are the majors, the cash-counting labels and the advertisers, and the chapter sweethearts are the bands, the pretty faces being marketed and shown off for profit. “Bands seem to be getting big now because they can be used to sell stuff,” says Kev. “Whether that’s why they’re writing their music or not.” It’s about the exploitation of bands; when Chapter Sweetheart started out, they only wanted to play gigs for free, but found that quite difficult and now try to stick to gigs that put the door tax towards a charity or another good cause. “When we started, when we got into all these DC bands, that’s what they were trying to do,” says Kev. “They were putting on free shows or putting the money back into better things.” Perhaps there is a bit of the Beatnik about this posthardcore, ex death metal punk collective; ripping up the rule book and telling it like they see it, mixing music and politics to create entertainment with a whole lot of soul.
P h o t o g r a p h e r : P H I L SH A R P Wr i t e r : s t ua r t s t u bb s
When Mystery Jets began making music a decade ago their skitty folk-pop darted from a practice room on the quaint but unglamorous Eel Pie Island. Today, as they complete their third album, they find themselves in very different, deserved surroundings 24
T h e m y s t e ry j e t s at C h i s w i c k e yo t, M a rc h , 2 010
here are few bands you’d expect to find at the bottom of a west London mews in a recording studio owned by a millionaire guitar hero of the 70s and 80s; who’d be discussing snare sounds and wot-not with a man who has also produced Roxy Music, The Sex Pistols, U2 and Elton John, and mixed The Beatles’ ‘White Album’ and Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’; who’d be recording their third album in the lushest of surroundings; who’d be recording a third album, period. “It feels very natural,” grins guitarist Will Rees. “Sometimes I do wake up and think, fuck, this is our third record, we’re like old men, but y’know… it is quite a big thing. It feels natural because we’re really good friends, and there’s no way we’d stop anyway, even if we were dropped or if we sold no records, which is basically true anyway.We’re not going to stop because we like each other. And I think you can see it in a band from a mile off whether they’re going to make one record or whether they’re going to make five.” Mystery Jets – a merry band of shambolic Eel Pie Islanders once responsible for the nutty ‘Zoo Time’, played on dustbin lids instead of cymbals – are not a band you’d expect to find here in Mark Knopfler’s studio, being produced by Chris Thomas. And yet the more you think about their quite unique career, the more sense it makes. The makeshift days of debut album ‘Making Dens’ never seemed more distant than when the band released 2008’s ‘Twenty One’ – a vast departure from Mystery Jets’ patchwork folk tunes.With the help of Erol Alkan they’d achieved what few new bands manage: they’d made a second record that didn’t sound like ‘part 2’ of their previous effort. ‘Making Dens’ had largely been three ‘pop hits’ that charged around in Dexy’s fashion (‘You Can’t Fool Me Denis’, ‘The Boy Who Ran Away’ and ‘Alas Agnes’) and a collection of modest, slower ballads; ‘Twenty One’ was a packed arsenal of indie disco winners. Almost every track on it could have been released as a single. “Really?!” questions Will. “I don’t think so, but I’m open to that. It is an album that I really like, I have to say. I don’t think it’s a great record or anything, but I’m proud of it. I like the cover, and it’s a warm record I think.” But lesser bands tour lesser records for two years these days.There was surely still a fair few miles in ‘Twenty One’. “What happened is we cut the touring short,” explains frontman (of sorts) Blaine Harrison. “We only toured it for about 9 months, which sucked, and I spent quite a lot of time in hospital. So we thought, right to kick-start this again we’ll do a stand alone single and we wrote a double ‘A’ side, which without knowing it became the seed of this album.”
Despite ‘Twenty One’’s early retirement it had served its purpose, proving that Mystery Jets were no more eccentric neofolk balladeers than David Bowie was the same vaudevillian performer he’d suggested at throughout his debut album by the time he reached his second record, ‘Space Oddity’. And with a new home in Rough Trade Records (“It feels likes a real label,” says bassist Kai Fish “like a real musician’s label that don’t care about the money at all.”) the band were free to go wherever they liked next. So nine months ago they came here.
o you know how much that Strat was worth up there?” poses Blaine in reference to some of Knofler’s guitars we were nosing at a minute ago. “One hundred and forty four grand!” he exclaims. We’d been asked to leave the room with the expensive toys in and were now sat it the vast space of Studio One, surrounded by the band’s equipment. On the other side of a glass wall Chris Thomas – a man with a CV so illustrious that even a Razorlight production credit (for ‘Razorlight’) has negligible damage – is mixing a final track for the new album. “[Making this record] has been quite straight forward in some respects,” explains Will. “We wrote like 30 songs and then with Chris we just sat down and chose the strongest really. And he was really good with that because if there was anything that he’d heard before or thought was too referential… like we got really into ELO and there’s a few songs that sound like ELO songs, and he was like, ‘No, it’s not happening!’.” “It was great getting that honesty,” adds Blaine. “There were a couple of songs that we’d really laboured over, and fine tuned all the space ship sounds on top of it or whatever… Will: “One of them sounds like it belongs on ‘Heroes’. It’s pure Bowie/Eno…” Blaine: “Yeah, and within five seconds Chris was like, ‘Urrgh, turn it off! Turn it off!’, and he’s not afraid to just tell you if he hates it, which is something we’ve really valued about working with someone who’s worked with bands for so many years – he can hear a pastiche from a mile off.” Those ELO songs have definitely not made it onto the still untitled third album, but one of them has been shipped off to Jeff Lynne in the hope that he’ll contribute some strings and backing vocals to it for a Christmas single release. “We thought, if it sounds so much like them, we might as well try and get him on there,” reasons Will. The album, perhaps thanks to Chris Thomas and his ‘no pastiche’ policy, perhaps due to having been recorded in a studio that ‘Money For Nothing’ and ‘Brothers In Arms’ built, sounds like the work of a hi-fi stadium filler from the late 70s and 80s… the one that never made it. It’s infinitely more polished than ‘Twenty One’, and worlds away from ‘Making Dens’, and is sure to have names like Genesis, Fleetwood Mac and 10cc bouncing around it within a few months.These comparisons are not wholly inaccurate, nor are Wings or The Beatles, but www.loudandquiet.com
they stand up due to the glossy production value more than the songs themselves. “On a really simple level, this record sounds…”Will pauses “it’s more quality.The word ‘quality’ sounds like something you use when you’re selling veg, like, ‘Yeah, this is well quality,’” he says in market trader mockney. “It’s not a particularly nice word but I think if you put it up against our other records they sound thinner and weaker.” “It’s all Chris,” says Blaine. “Sometimes when you’re mixing something you find that everything is fighting for attention whereas with Chris, things that you thought were a lead part he’ll turn right down to give it a distance.” “Yeah, and you’d rather look at someone like that, and not like that,” adds Will, moving his face to within an inch of drummer Kapil Trivedi’s. “But when you write a song you’re always going to be like, ‘LOOK AT THIS!’.”Will gets in Kapil’s face once more. Just like Erol left his mark on ‘Twenty One’ (its opening air raid siren was a particularly neat calling card), this record already feels like it could have only been made with Chris Thomas.The band have grown to trust him to such an extent that
when they felt the record was near completion in December and he believed they still needed a couple of potential singles they went away to write what Kai calls, “songs with younger energy.” “What the record needed was a couple of dance tunes basically,” says Blaine, matterof-factly. “Songs the kids can start playing in clubs, which the record didn’t have.” Mystery Jets don’t mind talking about commercial tactics like snaring radio play with tracks they originally didn’t have in mind for a particular album. It doesn’t seem to be connected to the wider appeal of ‘Twenty Ones’’ pop underbelly and overcoat, more a case of seeing ‘hit writing’ as an impressive quality to possess.We arrive at that point via memories of ‘Making Dens’… and discussions about These New Puritans. “It’s been weird over the past couple of months,” says Kai “there’s been a lot of love for ‘Making Dens’, especially in Europe, and we really reacted strongly against that album when we went into ‘Twenty One’ and that’s why we were just playing ‘Twenty One’.” “‘Making Dens’ was all part of the journey maaaan,” offers Kapil in a faux spiritual,Yankee whine. “We had to go there.”
They are a band that show no signs of wanting to write a pop hit. If anything their new album is dead set against the idea. “It’s funny – we’re from such a different stand point to that,” says Will “because for us, writing a hit is very ambitious. It’s part of what we want to do as musicians.” “Yeah,” agrees Blaine “but it’s a constant thing getting the balance right between something that’s really poppy, and something that sounds like a Mystery Jets song.”
Blaine settles for, “It was great fun to make,” which seems to loosen the halfgrimaces that the subject has brought. “It was!” grins Will. “It was great fun to make because James [Ford] is a total character and also we totally went to town. We were getting handfuls of cutlery and throwing them at tiled floors to record it with reverb on…” Blaine: “And attaching microphones to cats and chasing them…” Will: “Yeah, and James’ headphones kept popping up from the strength of his afro, and he’s there throwing down this cutlery…” Kai: “Some of the drumming on that is ridiculous – it’s absolutely amazing. I’d almost scrap everything, keep the drumming and re-work everything into it.” Will: “It is weird.When you think of a song like ‘Zoo Time’, I can’t believe we ever made it. It’s so odd. So bloody weird. But we would have been 17 then. It’s almost like something These New Puritans would come up with.” Will asks me what I make of ‘Hidden’, These New Puritans’ latest album, which ignites a lengthy chat about the band, their music and our cover shoot from last month’s issue. (Will is particularly a fan of the band).
e can’t say much about the bolted on ‘dance tunes’.While the band are being photographed on river beds and against churches, the track that’s most likely to be the album’s lead single is still being mixed in the studio, and we don’t even get to hear snippets of the second proposed floor-filler. The rest of the album is ours for a limited time only (it’s not out until June, only almost finished and still untitled, so there was no way we were leaving the building with a copy) but intense repeated listening quickly gives you a strong idea of what it’s all about. The slickness is certainly unavoidable, but as well as the nods to oldies already mentioned (a personal favourite is the ‘Paper Back Writer’ bass of ‘Lady Gray’ – one of a few tracks that makes a fair mockery of the idea that this record is currently without ‘a hit’), various younger contemporaries are peppered about also. ‘Melt’, which has a classic, waltzing chorus, begins with Telepathe electronics and a snapping drum machine that Kapil then thumps into the ground. It initially sounds like an outcast compared to its neighbouring ‘Miracle’, which is a hopelessly romantic ballad we’ve heard the likes of before from this band.The closing ‘Lorna Doone’ builds a snarling wall of sound like The Big Pink; ‘Flash’ begins
with Super Furry Animals’ cartoon-ish bombast, and is also the instant favourite, filled with witty refrains like, “Have you heard the birds and bees have all caught STDs” – lines that are separated with group whistles. Even the tedious chorus hook of “All you’ve got to do is do it/Y’know there’s really nothing to it” – all head shaking and obvious, like ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ – can’t slow it down.The fact that they get away with it further points to how unique Mystery Jets’ career is.They’re like four young Paul McCartneys, chasing killer melodies rather than over-complexed cool. It’s a far less predictable record than anything else the band have produced. If you heard an isolated chorus from ‘Girl Is Gone’, for example, you’d never think that the verse before it sounds like Madonna’s ‘Crazy For You’, but it does.The same goes for ‘Melt’, sliding from cold, hip beats to teenage, human soppiness. It’s almost as if they’ve taken the serious, darker verses of ‘Making Dens’ and dropped them in front of the big pop choruses of ‘Twenty One’. “Aaaahhhh,” they say, almost as one. “Okay… that’s good, we like that.” “I think this album feels like the end of a trilogy for me,” nods Will “because I think we’ve worked with great producers in James and Erol, but they’re a bit younger and on the experimental edge. And with each record the label changed and now it’s Rough Trade and Chris Thomas and it just feels like all of that experimenting and finding our feet has come into this really nice groove.” “Our next record’s gotta be our ‘Kid A’,” says Kai. “I think we’ve gotta get a bit of something like J Dilla in there,” suggests Will. “I like that approach to making music because it’s so lawless, and it all hangs off a groove, and it’s just like sonic candy – there’s constantly information coming into the headphones, like there’s always movement and weird samples and sounds, and it totally tears up structure. It’s just really playful,” he says, smiling into the circle we’re sat in. The only time the band aren’t as upbeat
as you’d expect them to be considering their current situation is when we briefly discuss that they used to be 5 and are now 4. Henry Harrison – not just a driving force in the band but also Blaine’s father – ceased being a fulltime Mystery Jet shortly before ‘Twenty One’ hit the shelves and road. “It was difficult, and very difficult for Henry, seeing as…” Blaine trails off. “It was a musical decision and a personal decision,” explains Will “but I think it was more a personal decision, and I think the reason for that, when we came to that decision, is because we felt… we’re a young band and we need that space to be a young band without that guiding influence.We need to feel like we’re out there on our own, and feel like we could make our own stupid decisions if they felt like the right idea at the time. But it was quite hard, especially for Henry.” Blaine: “We wanted to feel like we’re heading off to war.” “We’ve got a lot to prove,” says Will “and I think we’ll do it.We’re not really chasing anything in the outside world, just in ourselves.We’ve got a lot to prove, but to each other.” Henry is still involved to a large extent. He’s here today, as was he when we were here in November to listen to the record’s first six tracks. And it was Henry and Blaine who wrote the first seed for this new album as half of that intended AA side, ‘Too Late To Talk’ (a song so brilliantly weepy that they could have flogged it to Leona Lewis). Largely though, Kai,Will, Blaine and Kapil are “at war” unsupervised and yet armed with their most mature and classic sounding album to date.To find them here isn’t that unexpected at all. ‘Making Dens’ was as boyish and grubby-handed as its title suggested; ‘Twenty One’ as lustful and excited as…well…a twenty-one-year-old. This new album, considering its grand ideas, how it’s been made and how the band behind it are close enough friends to “never stop”, should probably be called ‘Brothers In Arms’. www.loudandquiet.com
GANGLIANS They’ve honed their doomy weirdcore, bought a van and are heading this way P h o t o g r a p h e r : M att h ia s Sc h e r e r
Ryan Grubbs is an excitable man. By excitable we don’t mean one of those borderline A.D.D. chain smokers for whom every idea is, in Derek Draper’s immortal words about inventing rumours that shadow chancellor George Osborne had taken drugs and slept with prostitutes, “absolutely totally brilliant”. No, Ryan is excitable in a pleasant, almost childlike way that makes it very easy to imagine why his band’s music sounds the way it does and why they might go down a storm over here once they embark on their first European adventure in May. But first things first: Ryan’s band is called Ganglians (apparently nothing to do with those little balls made out of nerve cell bodies, although the connotation will no doubt please Ryan), they’re from Sacramento, California, and play the kind of demented, all-over-the-place indie pop your hippie uncle would listen to if he could be bothered to step out of his weed-induced stupor. Their debut album, ‘Monster Head Room’, is released on May 10th and is a ramshackle collection of songs taking in the fumes of west coast weirdcore, Beach Boys harmonies, Pavement-esque slackerisms and the odd acid trip. Ryan says they want their music to have elements of slightly niche-y genres, “like jazz, where the focus is on the different intertwining melodies… like the brute force of pop music that hits you in the heart. We wanted to have harmonies and have build-ups like Heavy Metal music,” he enthuses “really pummel people but with beautiful melody instead of loud riffs.” The songs that constitute the foundation of ‘Monster Head Room’ were penned in the solitude of Ryan’s bedroom, shortly after he moved to sunny Sacramento from small-town Montana. “I always dreamed of moving to California and living on the coast, ideally San Francisco, but that was really expensive. Then I met this girl
from Sacramento so I moved there, and, when we eventually broke up, I wrote those songs.” What happened then is very reminiscent of the way The Replacements formed: on his way back from work at a Sushi restaurant, Ryan would pass by his friend Adrian Comenzind’s house and heard sounds that made his ears prick up. It was Adrian’s jamming away with chums Alex Sowles and Kyle Hoover that got Ryan to swap bedroom tales and, most importantly, tracks, with his friends, leading to a development Ryan had been craving for a while: “I didn’t want to do the solo thing - I recorded with a four-track and really got into the layering. I didn’t want to do it all by myself, so eventually Kyle and Eric came into the picture to flesh out these songs.” It wasn’t an easy birth, however, and a while passed before the songs were moulded into presentable material: “It took months – they sounded completely different at first, it just wasn’t working, so we tried different things out. Our first show was just awful. Just a bunch of noise.” Their first album takes a more scattergun approach to indie pop than their eponymous debut EP (released on cool-as-fuck label Woodsist), juxtaposing ClapYour-Hands-Say-Yeah-battiness and hazy nostalgia (‘Candy Girl’) with doomy, drony guitars Mark E. Smith would grunt at approvingly (‘100 Years’). “That’s the death of so many bands – trying to make every song sound like that one hit. They realise their strength and stick to it”, says Ryan. “We wanted the album to be like a mixtape, with every song leading into the next one. It doesn’t matter what kind of song has just gone before.” The aforementioned ‘100 Years’ hits especially hard, and Ryan readily explains the story behind that song: “We started out listening to stuff like the Wipers, and because we had so many pop songs we wanted
something a bit more raw. Quite a few songs on the album are conceptual songs, and ‘100 Years’ is about feeling like a ghost. Wait, it’s actually about a guy who sold his soul to the devil, and then reawakens in a large society and he’s so amazed and perplexed by it and feels like he’s going insane.” It doesn’t take a genius to guess that the band is partial to the odd, um, widening of the senses. “There’s not a practise that goes by without us passing around a joint”, Ryan laughs. “We’ve never actually tried playing on acid, because I hear that’s really difficult and not as fun as it sounds. One time I took acid and recorded a song, which I thought was super-happy and joyous. Then I listened to it the next day and it sounded like… garbage.” They maintain a curiosity in nature, too – Adrian is apparently a botanic buff: “He’s really into plants. On the road he always tells us what plants are edible and which ones are psychoactive. He’s into landscaping as well. I think he’s working in a nature resort right now, taking care of the place.” Who says bands these days aren’t well-rounded? It’s also safe to assume that they’re quite popular with their new label, Germany’s Souterrain Transmissions, and scene mates such as Graffiti Island, which might have something to do with the enthusiasm they approach playing live: “If we play with a band we haven’t heard, we try and seek them out and get excited about what they’re doing. And by the time we meet them, we’ll be totally stoked and stand in the front row and watch instead of staying in the van on our laptops.” This kind of attitude, along with Grubb’s ability to “get stoked on” pretty much anything from new bands to skyscrapers (“I always get a rush when I see those big buildings,” he gushed. “I remember when I was a kid and we’d go to the city from
Montana, I never could contain myself in the car seat”) will serve them well on their first oversees trip as a band, which Ryan sees as a high point in their development. “Our friends think we’re supporting someone else, and are like “no way” when we say we’re headlining our own shows! We’ll have our own van and stuff. Graffiti Island came over, and for them it must’ve been a different experience. They didn’t have visas and they had to kind of run from the law. But we’re super-excited to go over there.” Ryan’s own last visit
“I’m starting to get into Indian breathing, yoga breathing. I never thought I’d get into that kind of thing, but I get on a natural high from it, which means I won’t have to search around for acid”
apparently came courtesy of his mum’s lucky streak: “She wins every contest she enters. She’s won us two family computers, a $1000-bike, a refrigerator, and a 2-week round trip in Europe for 6 people. We went to London, Paris, Rome and Pompeii. I got especially stoked on Rome because I got lost and I had to take a cab by myself. I was in a car with this crazy driver, going through these narrow streets. I was just thirteen and I’d never been in a cab before, I thought I’d never see my family again.” But he got out of that particular pickle, and he
says he might have developed an extra skill by the time Ganglians’ UK dates roll around. “Yeah, I’m starting to get into Indian breathing, yoga breathing. I never thought I’d get into that kind of thing, but I get on a natural high from it, which means I won’t have to search around for acid, and just self-induce it instead. That’s my next goal - if you can figure out how to do that you can get high all the time and still be able to do normal things. By the time we get to London we might be experts in taking deep breaths.” Excited? We are.
re APR vi 10 ews Al bums 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
Beach Fossils Bright Eyes & Neva Denova Cancer Bats Caribou Castrovalva Damien Darwin Deez Dignan Porch Hanoi Janes High Places Kid Sister Love Is All Mi Ami Midas Fall Neon Plastix Nice Nice Peggy Sue Trans Am Wooden Shjips
Live 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
by:Larm Festival Blood Red Shoes Exlovers First Aid Kit Frightened Rabbit Is Tropical James Chance La Shark Racehorses So Many Dynamos So So Modern The xx Thomas Truax Veronica Falls Xiu Xiu Yeasayer
Caribou Swim (City Slang) By Reef Younis. In stores Apr 19
You could never accuse Caribou of lacking ambition; of always taking the path of least resistance; of merely just ‘making’ an album, because there’s a level of detail and creativity that goes far beyond the surface of Dan Snaith’s consistently intriguing output.Twisted; layered; intricate; however it’s packaged, the end result has typically been something of consummate, contrasting beauty. And it’s the contrast that constantly gives Caribou its impetus; from the skittish, analogue development of debut album ‘Start Breaking My Heart’, through to the soporific magic of ‘Andorra’, progression and experimentation are the lifeblood of everything that escapes Snaith’s calculated mind. Where he once tinkered and trialled, plumbing the depth and structure of jazzed, experimental noise (‘Up In Flames’) and slipped
into the edgy territory of Massive Attack and UNKLE (‘The Milk of Human Kindness’), he gave ‘Andorra’ a dreamy psychedelic Animal Collective swirl. But in the same way Kieran Hebden channelled his earlier, itchy ADHD’d inclinations into Four Tet’s recent long-played mesmerism, Snaith has made similar tweaks to the Caribou dynamic. It lacks the mammoth assaults of imploding percussion - content to tread water amidst temperate, subtle build ups - and although you constantly expect the house of cards to collapse in spectral splendour, you’re rarely disappointed when they don’t. In fact, when the atmosphere is tenderly charged up to its glorious detonation on closer, ‘Jamelia’ here it feels like the ostentatious finale it promised to be. By default, because ‘Swim’ is not an album of ambient fork-lightning flashes, this might render it a disappointment to some - and the fact that there is no ranging, nerveless statement of grand, open-ended ambition in the same vein as ‘Niobe’ might also consternate and frustrate.
Those are moot points, however, because ‘Swim’ is underpinned by a staggering clarity.This is an album that has been buffeted into the latest Caribou mould; polished and left pristine. Not as overtly sunshine ditzy as its predecessor, it carries an almost dead-eyed, tongue out concentration, the distant, American plain rumble of ‘Bowls’ rolling into a slowlife of an onrushing buffalo thunder and the ingenuity of a thousand fleet-fingered hands tapping and tinkling a minimal kitchenware march. It’s an unlikely combination at face value but one that has you gripped by both its scarcity and creativity.The melancholic swirl of ‘Sun’ radiates both the solar warmth of an Olafur Eliasson exhibition and lament of the impending end of summer frolics, ‘Found Out’ is pensive, metronomic and perfectly formed – Snaith’s pitched vocal slicing through languid synth and a dusting of sleigh bell – and the glimmering despondence of ‘Leave House’ could crystalise Junior Boys’ finest moment. The sonic monsters might be sleeping but it doesn’t make this album any less astounding.
Love Is All
Year of Panic
Eleven. Return and Revert
(Captured Tracks) By Sam Little. In stores Mar 30
(Thrill Jockey) By Sam Walton. In stores Apr 19
Two Thousand and Ten Injuries (Polyvinyl) By Polly Rappaport. In stores Apr 5
(Sick Thirst) By Stuart Stubbs. In stores Mar 22
(Monotreme) By D. Goldstein. In stores Apr 20
For what is ultimately yet another fuzzy garage band, there’s all manner of confusion surrounding Hanoi Janes.They’re largely a single man for one thing, not from a sunny campus in the States but from Dresden, Germany.They (or he) play what at first seems like now-yawn-some 60’s pop fed into a four-track to make ‘Year of Panic’. But Hanoi Janes is clearly more inspired by The Beach Boys, Spector and the experimental, laboratory pop of the 60’s than many others. So when ‘Year of Panic’s title track punctuates restless jangles with a Joe Meek/ Clangers squeals, and dizzy Stylophone riffs snake throughout ‘Julia’, it leap away from sounding as predictable as it otherwise would be.These tricks - along with sunny xylophones on songs like ‘Our Lives’ - are fleeting moments but pop up just enough to make this lo-fi record more than average.
Trans Am return with album umpteen of space-inflected bleepy math-rock, which has plenty of seriously impressive displays of musicianship but also a very real sense of staleness.When it clicks though, ‘Thing’ really comes to life. ‘Heaven’s Gate’ spends four minutes in mesmerising Spiritualized-esque spacerockfreejazzmetal territory before exiting ecstatically into pounding bass and drums for a triumphant,Teutonic final 90 seconds. Equally, ‘Interstellar Drift’’s constant but imperceptibly shifting time signatures are strangely captivating. However, tracks like ‘Arcadia’ and ‘Apparent Horizon’ feel reluctantly written and performed, slopping along like the soundtrack to a bad noughties computer game, and there are too many songs of their ilk on ‘Thing’ for it ever to be anything more than a musical curio.
Yet again, Love Is All remind us that beneath that immaculate Swedish veneer (think stuff from Ikea) simmers a helluva Nordic temper (think shopping at Ikea). Josephine Olausson’s Karen O yelps are feral as ever, her sentiments as sour (“I didn’t expect you to be here, and now I don’t know what to say, I’m less than thrilled you’re okay”) but the punky screech-fest that was their debut has given way to something with a more distinct personality. Aptly titled opener, ‘Bigger Bolder’, is a rampage of parping organ and swaggering guitar while ‘False Pretense’ remains stark, all simmering drums and blurted lyrics.Then there’s ‘Kungen’, which leaps from a chorus of intricate Byrds harmony bap-bapba’s into a bout of insane saxophone squelching. Bigger and Bolder it is; much more fun than shopping at Ikea.
Like all great cosmic kraut jammers,Wooden Shjips know one never-ending, groovy bassline and only a few more floating organ and guitar parts that seem to buzz about overhead in psychedelic sunlight. As ‘Vol. 2’ – a collection of seven hard-to-come-by tracks – proves with great hypnotic ease, this brand of enveloping trance cool is about acquiescing and riding the smooth, lolloping sounds to wherever they may be heading, which in Wooden Shjips’ case seems to be the Arizona desert for a powwow with the Velvet Underground and a mega stoned Doors. For any other band playing any other rock’n’roll, the muddy vocals would be aggravatingly low in the mix; the stretching track lengths and repetitive, prog outros plainly self-indulgent. ‘Vol. 2’ swerves such gripes as it drags you towards the horizon, completely entranced by its dark majesty.
‘Eleven. Return and Revert’ is the pretentiously named debut from this Edinburgh five-piece, melding together an amalgam of experimental prog-rock from Portishead and the croons of Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries with a dousing of Amy Lee (Evanescence), which singer Elizabeth Heaton imitates to a tee. And it’s a dark and somewhat ‘atmospheric’ lift soundtrack. Joy Divison-esque post-punk rears its head in the lightly-plucked riffs of ‘Nautical Song’ and sporadic drumming of ‘My Radio Star’, but it’s too polished to be daring and therefore lacks excitement.There’s little let up in tempo, so come the closer, ‘Stalking Moon’ you’re aching to put on some Cyndi Lauper to lighten the mood.The record may exude tragic undertones, but the real tragedy is that there’s a place for this in the market.
Castrovalva We Are A Unit (Brew) By Matthias Scherer. In stores Apr 12
While medical experts continue searching for a miracle cure for migraines we can add another item to the list of possible causes, alongside intense light and stress – Castrovalva’s debut album, ‘We Are a Unit’.The Leeds threesome play a kind of noise-core that tries to be funny but in fact comes across loutish and crass. Opener ‘We Are a Unit (Intro)’ succinctly summarises the woes weighing this record down. A meaty, distorted bass combines with Daniel Brader’s drumming to initially great effect, but as soon as the vocals come in you can feel the red mist descending – a dreadful whining rings out where a powerful growl would have been appropriate. On the rest of the album, there is some more high-pitched yodelling, a bit of mock-hardcore screaming and annoying spelling in the song titles (‘Hooliganz’).There are echoes of Lightning Bolt in the riffage and the (admittedly pretty good) drumming, but the main asset is the merciful overall length of 28 minutes. www.loudandquiet.com
Al bums 08/10
Bright Eyes & Neva Dinova
Fossils and Other Phantoms
Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones (Hassle)
(Wichita) By Tom Goodwyn. In stores Mar 22
By Matthias Scherer. In stores Apr 12
(Asylum) By Nathan Westley. In stores Mar 29
(Suiteside) By D. Goldstein. In stores Mar 22
It’s taken Peggy Sue a long time to get round to releasing their (not her - there’s three of them) debut album. In the four years that have passed since their first single they’ve released two EPs, changed their name (chopping the ...And The Pirates suffix) and toured with just about everyone. It doesn‘t matter much though as ‘Fossils And Other Phantoms’ is superb. It captures all the raw power of their live shows with enough production sheen to make this a great debut record.There are echoes of the best in innovative acoustic-ness with Cat Power, PJ Harvey and Feist drizzled all over the record, particularly on ‘Careless Talk Costs Lives’ and lead off single ‘Yo Mama’. Rosa Rex’s throaty vocals give the tracks a tangible sadness, which makes the tales of lost love and long nights on tour both tear jerking and uplifting. It’s been worth the wait.
In 2006, Cancer Bats gave our ears the cleansing treatment we needed – ‘French Immersion’ was a deeprolling, bone-crushing piece of punk rock with a punch and intelligence undetectable in their peers’ output.The Canadian foursome’s third album sees them amping up the aggression while retaining the brains.There are echoes of the more metal end of the Black-Flag-spectrum in the slower songs, but it’s when the Bats step on the accelerator (see ‘Trust No One’ and the cracking, gang vocal-driven ‘We Are The Undead’) that things come alive. Singer Liam Cormier has further honed his controlled yet vitriolic delivery – nothing is done for effect but for the greater good of the song. Overall, this is another welcome aural deep clean, although a few points have to be deducted for a very unnecessary Beastie Boys cover.
It may be a given that Kanye West’s protégé Kid Sister has all the itinerary required to propel her to worldwide fame, but as Pete Waterman is so keen to officiate, creating the type of all conquering, chart slaying pop music that will keep an artist in the public eye longer than five minutes is a harder task than many assume. It may help to explain why Kid Sister sought the helping hands of dub step producer Rusko, Count & Sinden and XXXChange to construct a bed of electro dance beats and hienergy euro trance synth noises for her to spit party themed rhymes out over. Uncomplicated and fresh sounding, ‘Ultraviolet’ is a stylish pop record that playfully hopscotches its way around Fannypack, Princess Superstar and Northern State styled feisty, fun time hip hop, from the 80s old skool of ‘Life On TV’ to the Estelle-featured grit spit disco of ‘Step’.
It’s taken Pesaro trio Damien three years to get their Italian butts over here, but they’ve made it in one piece and with an entire record in tow. ‘Crippled Cute’ is their second album and it’s piled high with toespazzing riffs and hip-jutting beats. Touches of Brett Anderson echo in Enrico’s vocals with the obstreperous attitude of Jarvis Cocker. Meanwhile, all the instruments band together in a speedy, hyperactive but compact stint akin to that of The Walkmen. The drums are fast and high-hat heavy, concocting a bit of discopunk like Middlesborough trio Dartz, as the guitar almost grates repetitively but cuts out before becoming irritating. In the words of the Small Faces, it’s a concise “wham, bam, thank you Ma’am,” no-nonsense half an hour of straight up good vibes that leave you wanting to waste another 30 minutes of your life on this record.
Jug of Wine, Two Vessels (Saddle Creek) By Stuart Stubbs. In stores Mar 29 Collaborating with Conor Oberst must be both the Holy Grail for any alt. country artist and a poisoned chalice – the poignancy of Bright Eyes’ semi-cracking vocals and waltzing melodies shining a light on your very existence one second and showing up your meagre input the next. Jake Bellows of Neva Dinova and Oberst have been like-minded pals forever, which is how long this EPcome-LP has been in fruition (4 new Bright Eyes songs have bumped this re-release up to 10 tracks), and while it’s unfair to call the Bellows-fronted tracks mediocre or weightless there’s little escaping that it’s the sheep’s bleat of Oberst on tracks like the typically sympathy-seeking ‘Black Comedy’ and the anthemicly regretful ‘Happy Accident’ that gives this record its nearly frequent highlights.
Mi Ami Steal Your Face (Thrill Jockey) By Chris Watkeys. In stores Apr 12
First up readers, an important safety tip: don’t hit ‘play’ on the new Mi Ami record while simultaneously taking a sip from a hot beverage.The mug will leap out of your hand, and you’ll likely spray tea all over the hifi; such is the startling effect of opener ‘Harmonics (Genius of Love)’. It’s an all-out aural assault from the very first second, a gloriously menacing bassline underneath a vicious sonic maelstrom, with screeched vocals that sound like a maniac having an argument with himself. ‘Steal Your Face’ is utterly raw music, with even rawer production. It’s punky (in attitude as opposed to style), unhinged, incredibly noisy, yet curiously melodic, and infectious. Inappropriatelynamed album closer ‘Slow’ sounds like a protracted, inescapable, semi-conscious nightmare; cool if you like that sort of thing. Six tracks and thirty-five minutes long, this record doesn’t hang about: it just gets in, kicks you in the face and gets out again, leaving you dazed but happy for the discovery.
High Places Vs Mankind
(Captured Tracks) By Daniel Dylan-Wray. In stores Apr 5
(Lucky Number) By Tom Goodwyn. In stores Apr 12
(Captured Tracks) By Polly Rapport. In stores Mar 22
(Blowup) By Nathan Westley. In stores Apr 12
By Daniel Dylan-Wray. In stores Apr 26
Beach Fossils sound exactly as their name would suggest.Without being too defamatory, you can’t help but think of yet another U.S band tinged with surf guitars and reverb soaked vocals that never really elude the tag of being ‘fine’. They pretty much live up to this. It feels like an incredibly well trodden genre at the minute and the tiresome feel the record often displays is probably more a reflection of this than the music itself, which at times is a hazy, sun soaked affair with plenty of charm but ultimately not much bite or sting. Subsequently, there just feels like there is very little on this record that hasn’t been demonstrated in a magnitude of records over the last couple of years. Sadly, this is perhaps more a realisation of the even spread adequacy of some of these bands, rather than the sub-standard quality of Beach Fossils themselves.
Darwin Deez is an odd one. Spawned from the New York antifolk scene that gave us Regina Spektor and Adam Green, he also carries the kookiness that all antifolksters seem to have, but his take on it is a little more interesting. Recorded with the bare minimum of production (just a PC and mic in his bedroom), Deez’s self-titled debut takes a few spins to wrap your head around, but is worth the effort of doing so.There are speckles of other bands everywhere, but only in snatches – you can hear Q and Not U, Dylan and Diane Kluck most prominently. Both funky and lo-fi, Deez keeps to the rebellious mantra that anti-folk lives by, never conforming to any genre, even managing to be both Prince and King Crimson on ‘DNA’. And his lax drool gives the overall impression that this is how Julian Casablancas’ LP could have been.
There are bedroom recordings that are almost self-consciously DIY (all brash, matte vocals and stark, lo-fi guitar) and then there are records so bedroomy you’d half expect to hear someone’s mum knocking to say tea’s ready. ‘Tendrils’ is the latter. A buzz-hiss marks the start of each track, joined abruptly by waspish guitar shredding and fuzzed vocals that sound like they’ve been recorded in an airplane engine.The tracks themselves are a series of short, looping melodies, frequently sounding unfinished, though the LP’s longest player, ‘Like It Was’, comes temptingly close to being a fleshed out pop track proper, still employing the band’s scheme of perpetual hooks, but bulking up on layers and vocal range.There is clearly as much potential here as there is reverb, but these guys may have jumped the gun with this release.
Like milk that has been left on the side for far too long, the long-inthe-making debut album by Doncaster’s Neon Plastix has fallen foul of time. Had it landed when dayglo skinnies were in vogue it may have received five minutes worth of approval from the fashion led press, but now even they will consider consumption a stomach shuddering hazardous proposition. ‘Awesome Moves’ is a record built on the long term fragile up shoots of scenes past leading to a curdling mix of ‘Hot Fuss’ era Killers melodic indie rock, fast paced Nurave synth breaks and disposable Eighties-referencing, uncomplicated upbeat Electro pop. And yet though its overall appeal is only made worse by their penchant for cringe-worthy, overdramatically sung lyrics, there still remain several moments where it’s vibrant cartoonish-ness threatens to raise a smile.
High Places manage to sound unassuming (nondescript, even) yet also evocative and persistently interesting.There isn’t much breathing room on ‘High Places Vs Mankind’ – every spare millisecond is filled with some kind of sound, in a relentless tirade of sea breeze vocals and floating melodies that are tied together with fragmented drumbeats throughout. At times it stutters somewhat in its reserved approach, yet more often than not it marvels in it (‘Canada’ is a beautifully refined, almost enchanting number that recalls Mazzy Star at their fragile best). It’s textural to the point that it almost exudes the elements themselves, feeling like you are listening to the thing underwater, submerged in the studio with them. It’s all rather challenging as listens go but stick with its contradictions and it’s a gloriously rewarding one.
Nice Nice Extra Wow (Warp) By Sam Walton. In stores Apr 5
Granted, what “makes an album” is as liquid as it’s ever been. Nonetheless, it would be a pretty bold step to feature nothing but build-ups (with no accompanying climaxes) across the first five tracks of your LP. But Nice Nice, a kind of Battles-heavy mind-melt postrock electronica group from Portland, have done just that. Depending on your neurochemical state, you’ll experience either heart-pumping suspense or simply fatigue – more often than not the latter.The back half of ‘Extra Wow’, however, is brilliantly solid, veering from thin-eyed motorik propulsion (‘A Vibration’, ‘Make It Gold’) to zero gravity Afro-dub, full of distant mantras and booming percussion (‘Big Bounce’, ‘A Little Love’). Finely textured drones are thrown in as palette cleansers, and the result is as exhilarating as it is hypnotic. No one said that great music can’t be confusing, but while about half of ‘Extra Wow’ is just that, and often gloriously so, the other half just sounds frustratingly confused. www.loudandquiet.com
by:Larm Festival ▼
Oslo, Norway 18-20.02.2010 By Edgar Smith
By:Larm, for those who don’t know, is the only Norwegian music festival/industry expo worth writing home about; a kind of Winter Olympic SXSW.There are three days of bands scattered around dive bars and concert halls, Q&A’s with folk like Geoff Travis and Peter Hook, and weird ‘Speed Meet’ sessions (like speed dating but with business cards), all set against a backdrop of constant snow. Every band is Scandinavian and so after seeing a few, you feel sucked in to a different musical world, with heavy metal machismo at one end and a more metropolitan femininity at the other. and while most bands fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, experiencing either extreme is pretty odd. Solvor Vermeer epitomises the cutesier side, playing coffee shop baroque pop in a candle-lit home studio with a bowl of waffle mix and a waffle iron in the corner.The second minor freak-out is brought on by barn dance metal act Dunderbeist, all eight members decked-out in matching plaid and bleeding black eye paint, slapping their knees, grinning, licking their lips and shouting “Hej!” like they’ve got your mum
tied-up in the tour bus. A million miles away from that immensely popular, God-awful show, but still tapping into Norway’s strong metal tradition are Altaar [top left], the first band we properly see. Comprised of experienced musicians from other outfits, they trade in black metal and stoner rock that’s run-through with the lounge psychedelia of David Lynch soundtracks and moments of contact-mic noise.They’re assisted for the last song by wild improvisations from a legendary local saxophonist and they’ve 50-plus candles on stage that they blow out at the end of the show. It’s in an eerie, almost empty town hall; religious mosaics on the walls and busts of suiting dead Norwegian politicians. The good-times continue with Fontän [centre], whose album ‘Winterhwila’ reminds us of Riton’s excellent ‘Eine Kleine Nacht Musik’ record and, using a drum machine, synths and a double guitar that’s been modified to be half guitar/half bass, the trio play tracks like the excellent ‘Early Morning’, re-clothed with earth-shaking breakdowns and additional solos.
After that, we stumble and slide to Oh No Ono, a journey made particularly embarrassing by the passing Oslo Fashion Week models, carving through the ice in high heels. Having teetered on the edge of a breakthrough for a while, the band seem like they don’t know whether to be profoundly depressed by the existence of MGMT or whether to milk the likeness for all its worth.Teetering in a similar fashion, but playing a more assured set to a rammed venue, are Norwegians Casiokids. Hyped in London thanks to some passable singles, they spin out a mumble-y highlighter indie sung in their own language, as the first night then draw’s to a close with instrumental hip-hoppers Jagga Jazzist who sound dated (you assume they’ve been roped in as a sop to nostalgia fans) but are otherwise great and helped no end by a fuck-off lightshow. The standouts from the second night are Afterklang and Diskjokke. The first take the electronica-tweaked twee-pop of Belle and Sebastian’s ‘Electronic Renaissance’ and drag it into the dimensions of Radiohead and Sigur
James Chance The Victoria, London 28.02.2010 By Edgar Smith ▼
The atmosphere in The Victoria is strange as James Chance and new band Les Contortions get on stage. It’s how you’d expect a nursing home to feel if the carers managed to double-book Noel Edmunds and Jesus; shot-to-pieces with a sense that it’s too good to be true. That’s not to mention the fear that, at 56 and looking like the penguin from Batman, he might be shit. From the opening bass hook of ‘Off Black’ though, fears are sent packing and, bar the endless drone of brainless fashion-whore conversation (proving the theory that he’s name-checked twice as much as he’s listened to), it’s a perfect gig.The band rip through Contortions’ and Blacks’ classics like ‘Roving Eye’ and ‘Almost Black’ before airing tracks from the new LP – think Jazz quotes, walking bass and dusty hi-hats twisted perversely out of shape. Impossibly tight, they operate in an awkwardly erotic millimetre between swing and chaos that’s rapturously danceable; Chance lurching between organ, sax, vocals and his signature dance moves. His derailed version of James Brown’s drug sermon ‘King Heroin’ marks a welcome return to older material and it segues into ‘Contort Yourself ’ with an encore of ‘I Can’t Stand Myself ’.What a beautiful way to spend a Sunday night. Ros to stunning effect. Diskjokke, awfully dressed but playing an amazing 11th floor bar, pump a moustachioed ‘Frisco Disco’, touched up with electro/afro influences into great instrumental, un-computerised dance music. A guy from Manchester goes ape at the front throughout, a sign that they’ve totally nailed it.While these bands are gaining a rep in the UK, it’s worth mentioning unheard of electro-poppists Leif and the Future and raucous Christian posthardcore kids Social Suicide.They’re both on precocious 7” club Brilliance Records who operate with enviable enthusiasm, packing out every show and are soon to arrive in London having won the hearts of the Fierce Panda lot. Luckily for us, the last night is arguably the best; our socks, shoes and thermals being blown off by Chimes and Bells. A darkly sexy five piece that sound like Low played at 3rpm, they are the kind of discovery we’d been hoping to make; superior downbeat indie rock with Geoff Barrow-like attention
to guitar/drum sounds and a beautiful singer. Also ticking all our favourite boxes were The Megaphonic Thrift [right] who we catch in an atmospheric complex of venues linked by outdoor staircases. An art-school by day, you can poke about the kitchen, sit in armchairs and read books about Gerhard Richter after the gig.They play with Sten from Altaar, channelling the avant-punk of ‘Goo’ and ‘Dirty’-era Sonic Youth, with the jams clipped into brisk rotations of spectral harmonics and brutal wig-outs. It’s partly so impressive because it creates its own ambience, shunning the painfully frigid industry vibe that infects some of By:Larm. Part of the strangeness of being in Oslo and hearing its music is the subtlety with which it differs from London. It’s so similar in a lot of ways that it feels extra strange when it verges out of comprehension. At gigs like these, however, when the country’s taste barometer seems to be on a parallel setting to the UK’s, there are moments of dizzying clarity.
Yeasayer Heaven, London 23.02.2010 By Stuart Stubbs ▼
The much-peddled “you gotta see ‘em live to get it” line really carries very little weight – if you’re not into a band’s tunes, hearing them in a room that’s colder and more stale-smelling than your own is hardly going to change your mind. With Yeasayer though, few sane minds need convincing that their world music/disco-percussive jams are as funky, emotive, inventive and well thought out as anything that’s spilled from Brooklyn since TV on The Radio. “Getting”Yeasayer isn’t an issue, but when seen live you really get them. Keen to boast their
new party record, ‘Odd Blood’, just three ‘All Hour Cymbal’ highlights get an airing tonight, two of which, sounding all hippy and loose, come in the encore. Up until then the band come across particularly spiritual and life affirming (seriously) just the once as ‘Madder Red’ pitches up with a chorus to dwarf that of Toto’s ‘Africa’. It’s jaw-droppingly uplifting (yes, seriously!) and sad as it soars away from the opening ‘The Children’ that Chris Keating has recently croaked out through the voice box of a twenty-a-day robotic toad. After that Yeasayer bring a more commercial, no-less impressive dance party to Heaven, toying with intros and electro loops as they go – ‘Mondergreen’ more raggaeton and smooth; ‘I Remember’ void of the crumbling Atari computer sounds. And whether snappy or spiritual, Yeasayer lob a fair ‘ol weight at that useless “see ‘em live” notion.
Race Horses The Scala, Kings Cross, London 04.03.2010 By Reef Younis ▼
Bogged down with, as much as boosted by, the inevitable Welsh act comparisons, it’s like there’s a kooky band blueprint down in those hills. From drummer Gwion Llewelyn’s Ultimate Warriormeets-Howard Marks look to frontman, Meilyr Jones’ gentle presence and homely Cardiff burr, Racehorses fall all the wrong sides of stylised in every sense.They’re a band destined to be affably out of place on whatever bill they play, but with Jones’ pitch-note-perfect delivery and Racehorses’ infectious vitality, everyone’s soon grinning and gurning with giddy abandon. ‘Last Boat to Dover’ casts off its amiable seaside pomp and orchestral washes, rollicking with enough wired energy to get the White Cliffs crumbling while ‘Grangetown’ transports you to Saturday nights spent in rented church halls doing the Bop and the Hand Jive. An upbeat throwback to melodic 50s and 60s rock and the honey-dewed indie-pop of Super Furry Animals, Racehorses are a band who simply and effortlessly bring a permeating sense of zany fun and riotous feel-good. Sometimes that’s all you need.
Thomas Truax Oporto, Leeds 02.03.2010 By Kate Parkin ▼
The xx. Pic: BART PETTMAN
Is Tropical. Pic: PHIL SHARP
Eccentric troubadour Thomas Truax carries with him the feel of a travelling fair.Tall, lithe and beetle browed, he is Nick Caves sunnier doppelganger, lining up his array of weird and wonderful musical contraptions for the bemused and enchanted crowd. The dizzying psychedelic hum of ‘Prove To My Daughter’ carries an almost hypnotic quality, while his interpretation of ‘Audrey’s Dance’ from Twin Peaks has a groovy hepcat edge. Before things get too ‘far out man’ he introduces the creations from his magical junkshop; the Dickensian drum machine in ‘Mother Superior’ and the macabre slinky meets didgeridoo, used to chilling effect in ‘In Heaven (The Lady in the Radiator Song)’ from Eraserhead. As well as breathing new life into David Lynch soundtracks he adds crazy little ditties of his own. ‘Moon Over Wowtown’ sees him stalking through the crowd, running out into the street and popping out through windows like a character from Labyrinth. Even his take on blue master Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ ‘I Put A Spell On You’ is still tongue firmly in cheek as he whirls round to reveal the Spiderlike ‘Back-Beater’ in place of a drum machine. Singer, inventor and all round entertainer,Thomas Truax is one of a kind.This is one bandwagon worth jumping on.
Is Tropical The Lexington, Angel, London 04.03.2010 By Stuart Stubbs ▼
Thomas Truax. Pic: BART PETTMAN
Either Is Tropical have a lot of friends who’ve been force-fed their latest demos and cajoled into turning up tonight and moving in a convincing fashion, or this trio fascinated with projections and anti-stardom are quite simply already more popular than their two limited releases should allow them. Understand,The Lexington is not full with po faces assessing hype tonight (of which there is a fair bit), but with real-life, allsinging (they know all the words, somehow), all-dancing-n-finger-
pointing young fans. A similar thing happened before it should have when Arctic Monkeys showed up, but also during that fateful month that The Fratellis came into being. Is Tropical are neither Monkey Brilliant nor Fratellis gash, though.They are a good, fun electronic party band with a couple of neat tricks that make them potentially great. They’re a captivating site – playing with the lights off, in front of a cut-and-paste projection show, highwaymen scarves over their mouths to vaguely hide their identities – but as they swing from Cribs-y guitar tracks to four-tothe-floor indie disco made extra electro due to a parping Korg that often needn’t be there, the real spectacle is the crowd singing along.
So Many Dynamos Buffalo Bar, Islington 23.02.2010 By Matthias Scherer ▼
So Many Dynamos’ singer Aaron Stovall is telling us about the first time he got punched in the face. It occurred after a day of drinking as part of the Mardi Gras celebration back home in Illinois. A boozedup reveller hadn’t taken kindly to Stovall’s remark on his fondling of a girl.What had Stovall said? “Wow. That’s inappropriate.”This episode helps to illustrate the nature of the band’s personality and, to an extent, their music, which is a jerky, dry dance punk that draws on DC’s late-nineties scene and Les Savy Fav. Stovall’s smart vocals hit the sweet spot between detachment and poignancy, while guitars interlock and wrestle with each other with admirable precision. Older, slightly more ramshackle material such as ‘We Vibrate,We Do’ sits comfortably next to new songs like ‘The Novelty of Haunting’, which, while bursting with synth bleeps and panicked drumming, have a more stringent, calculated air about them. Stovall is a lovable, shaggyhaired boy, who looks like he got lost on the way between the record store and his multimedia systems lecture, but he tells his stories of sexual frustration eloquently over a math-rock backdrop that, while infectious, is more likely to lead to a dance-off than a punch-up.
Veronica Falls Madame Jo Jo’s, Soho, London 02.03.2010 By Ian Roebuck ▼
Last year’s Indian summer first brought Veronica Falls to the fore, drenched in melancholic warmth that mirrored the dying embers of another season flying by. Strip away the sun and they make just as much sense, perhaps even more Madame JoJo’s sweaty underbelly cradling the foursome, its shadows creating a fresh, darker perspective to the existing one. Songs like ‘Beachy Head’ shimmer along strikingly but its beauty belies its content – Mastermind this aint: the song’s about cliff jumping – while ‘Found Love in a Graveyard’ is a heart-stopping rush of blood to the bonce… and also a song about bone shaking a spectre. It’s contradictory stuff as touching lyrics sprinkle their set, leaving us one minute full of exhilaration, the next wobbly kneed. ‘Starry Eyes’ encapsulates this perfectly as it’s bravely chucked out early on (by a band that look – from James’ rabbit/headlight stare – more nervy than fearless). “Knowing you’re the one, to leave me and greet me too long in the dark,” Roxanne Clifford sings, her bracing black hair sheltering her coy glance. Come on summer for Christ’s sake, we can’t take much more of these elegant, eccentric and quite brilliant pop purveyors, at least not without the sunshine.
The xx Stylus, Leeds 08.03.2010 By Kate Parkin ▼
Concealed behind a giant screen it seems The XX may have turned to Gorillaz style shadow puppetry. Finally it drops to reveal the gently strumming of the opening chords of ‘Crystallised’. After the recent departure of keyboard player Baria Qureshi, the band seem spread out and slightly detached.The atmosphere is hushed until thunderous bursts of bass appear, setting the walls shuddering as if a wrecking ball is about to raze the building to the ground. Romy’s fragile whispers of ‘Shelter’ are almost wiped out altogether but, like David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ played
on a child’s xylophone, ‘VCR’ is at once bashfully sweet and soaringly atmospheric. As the chiming notes ricochet back and forth the band seem to have finally won their battle against the background hum. Limited by their tiny back catalogue, though, minimalistic covers of disco classic ‘Teardrops’ and Aaliyah’s ‘Hot Like Fire’ help to fill out the gaps and their heavily reverb’d guitars, quiffed hairdo’s and sly reference to ‘Wicked Game’ during ‘Infinity’ echoes their love of all things Chris Isaak in perfectly balanced kitch way.Walking a fine line between darkly enigmatic and chillingly aloof,The XX are still a band it’s hard not to love, perhaps because it’s still difficult to work out whether they’re super cool or super shy.
Xiu Xiu The Freebutt, Brighton 27.02.2010 By Nathan Westley ▼
Rule one of ‘The Indie Band Survival Guide’ states that band names should be something that people can both easily pronounce and remember. After watching Xiu Xiu for a handful of minutes it becomes instantly clear that vocalist Jamie Stewart is not your archetypal frontman and Xiu Xiu are far removed from being a conventional plug in and play band – naming practices of the norm not the only customs they are willing to flounce. Untraditional in being, they have an experimental bent that sees them flinch from one genre to the next in quick succession, making it hard to narrowly tent peg them down into one easy-to-label genre.Where on record their recent material has been multi-layered and fleshed out with orchestral flourishes, tonight on stage they morph into an uncompromising minimalist duo. For the most part Stewart wields a guitar, knocking out a mixture of delicately played folk tinged notes and forceful distortion dressed chords as he theatrically sing a succession of haunting words whilst, barely a metre away, Angela Seo stands texturing further by playing with electronic devices and various percussive instruments, occasionally helping it descend into brief, abrasive noise freak outs
before melody is once again discovered.Wrapped in idiosyncrasies Xiu Xiu are a band unlike any other.
First Aid Kit Jericho Taver, Oxford 03.02.2010 By Tom Goodwyn ▼
When it comes to describing new acts, the word “throwback” is one of the most used terms out there, but when it comes to Swedish duo First Aid Kit this seems the only appropriate phrase. Consisting of sisters Klara and Johanna Soderberg, the pair sing songs that sound as if they were written in a world made entirely of marshmallows, where unicorns run freely.Y,know, of a simpler, preFacebook time. Not that the lyrics are that saccharine, but the harmonies the girls have, the sweetness of the songs and the jokey stage persona they exhibit, makes it impossible not to spend their whole gig beaming like an idiot. Even when there’s a ten minute hold while a guitar is retuned, no one gets annoyed or ancy. Playing most of debut album ‘The Big Black & The Blue’, and covers of Fleet Foxes and Gram Parsons tracks, the duo have strong echoes of many acoustic stalwarts in their sound.There’s a bit of Joni Mitchell, some Carole King, a little Neutral Milk Hotel and a sprinkling of Patti Smith. It adds up to a very pleasant gig and hopefully a promising future, where First Aid Kit move away from their influences and establish their own sound.
Frightened Rabbit West End Centre, Aldershot 06.03.2010 By Matthias Scherer ▼
Outside the venue, the neverending winter is biting into smokers’ faces and bare hands. Inside, there is a warmth that could provide for a small igloo village, and not just because the place is rammed, but because everyone’s glowing with cheap beer in their bellies and adoration for this Scottish five-piece. In these surroundings, Frightened Rabbit
were never likely to put a foot wrong, and they don’t – frontman Scott Hutchison leads his bandmates in an exercise of emotional indie rock containing gushing crescendos and guitar lines so intricate they might break if you listen too closely. Material from the new album ‘The Winter of Mixed Drinks’ is infused with a more direct, fuller approach – ‘Swim Until You Can’t See Land’, the record’s poppiest offering has everyone swaying and singing along, while for ‘Poke’ Hutchison unplugs his guitar, steps away from the mic and finishes the song with the crowd’s help to an unforgettably emotive and, yes, touching effect.There are very few bands around who can do what they do: combine the hard-hitting (‘The Modern Leper’) with the downright beautiful (the Indie/ Emo milestone that is ‘Head Rolls Off ’), and that’s why tonight, the West End Centre radiates for miles with a sense of occasion that will be hard to match.
So So Modern The Scala, Kings Cross, London 04.03.2010 By Reef Younis ▼
A cross between a small town theatre and a school stage production, there’s always been something delightfully intimate about the Scala. It could be the fact that no matter where you stand you get a half decent view of the gig, or that the front rows are close enough to lick the bands’ faces. However, smaller venues like this can often stifle, stymie and muffle sound quality in a trade off for close, sweaty proximity.Thankfully the Scala gets it right more often than not and tonight is no exception.The last night of their European tour, New Zealand’s So So Modern show little sign of road lethargy in a set of bruising, angular synth-heavy post-rock. Enlivened and invigorated by stabbing electronic blasts and a double vocal bark, it’s the cold, calculating insistence of tracks like ‘Berlin’ that put the hairs on edge and the blood into the eardrums. On record So So Modern might be something of a paradox – a blend of Bloc Party’s shimmering dynamics, post-punk shouted vocals and the towering discipline
of numerous math-rock heavyweights – but live, tonight, it comprehensively comes together to make thumping sense.
Le Shark The Victoria, London 05.03.2010 By Stuart Stubbs ▼
If this New Cross 5-piece are your cuppa tea, you’re clearly not a plain ‘ol Tetley’s kinda guy or gal.You’re even more daring than the fauxleft-field Earl Grey or anything Twining’s are pushing, in fact.The genre’s that La Shark blend (yeah, like tea) are as vast and wide as their physical form suggests, which is how they’ve scooped a number 1 fan in Orlando Weeks, who is over there bobbing to their tight urchin ska.They’re a scruffy Specials one second, players of a more dishevelled Prince pop the next and, at one unquestionably low point, a burlesque show-tune band that sees flame-mopped singer Samuel Geronimo Deschamps creep in front of the audience to an organ playing ‘Stairway To Heaven’. Largely, though, they seem to be what Larakin Love would have been if they’d traded their Pogues obsession for a Blockheads one. It’s less overtly geez than that but the thrust and bounce is there, particularly in Deschamps who skanks about and half speaks his prose, his bassist behind him in Dexy’s dungarees, grooving away and surrounded by misfits that make The Levellers look like common clones. And when not hitting with a rhythm stick but rather weaving it into a new kind of carnival punk, Le Shark are a cuppa splosh more lipsmacking than most.
Ex Lovers Jericho Tavern, Oxford 03.01.2010 By Tom Goodwyn ▼
London’s Exlovers have only been together for two years, have released just one EP and two 7 inches, but already they seem to possess more stage presence and sonic gravitas than some acts obtain in twenty year careers.The five piece have just completed two
lengthy support jaunts and are now on their debut run as the band at the top of the bill – a jump they’ve made with great aplomb, transferring the fuzzy, joyfulness of their recorded material perfectly. Co-vocalists Peter Scott and Laurel Sills have a superb vocal blend, which conveys both lovelorn yearning and ice cool cynicism. Reminiscent of the dynamic enjoyed by Stars’ Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell, the duo seem to be angry with one another one minute and fawning over each other the next, exuding effortless cool. Musically, they channel the best of indie pop: ‘Different Class’ era Pulp, Elastica and Suede are all in the foreground. Each track aired is brilliant, but new single ‘You Forget So Easily’ and a haunting cover of Chris Isaak’s mega hit ‘Wicked Game’ are particular highlights.There’s not a band more worth getting excited about in the world right now than Exlovers. Make sure you find room for them in your life.
blood red shoes The Garage, Islington, London 13.03.2010 By Chris Watkeys ▼
The average punter stopped being impressed by the sheer scope of sound a two-piece is capable of producing onstage since The White Stripes started showing us all how it should be done more than a decade ago. So the likes of Blood Red Shoes can’t rely on that to bolster their live set; they need energy, attitude, and most of all tunes.While the first two qualities aren’t a problem – the Garage is sold out, and the atmosphere is buzzing - BRS stumble badly with the latter.With the bulk of the set drawn from recently released album ‘Fire Like This’, the songs themselves are disappointing. Like the venue in which they’re playing, BRS’ raw scuzziness has been corporatised and polished away; they’re as blunt and heavy as ever, but the music now has a faint and unsettling whiff of teen angst; an off-putting American sheen. It sounds something like The Kills bumped into The Subways at a rehearsal studio, got on really well with them and lost their edge. BRS once fizzed with potential, but it seems they’ve fallen flat.
film By DEAN DRISCOLL
Away we go Starring: John Krasinski, Maya Rudolf, Jeff Daniels, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Catherine O’Hara Director: Sam Mendes
Aaron Johnson and Chloe Mortez in Kick-Ass
Cinema Preview There’s no mistaking what this month’s two big’uns are promising -----This month seems like a good one for literal movie titles: April’s two biggest hitters - in all senses of the phrase - are likely to be Kick-Ass, which has acquired a deafening buzz for doing-what-it-says-on-the-tin since its rapturously received Comic-Con debut last year, and Clash Of The Titans – the trailer tagline for which is ‘Titans Will Clash!’ as if to safeguard against potential litigation for fraudulent advertising: “Greek demigods having epic battles – or your money back!”. Both films get their release on Easter weekend, with the latter in 3D - though the 3D conversion was a late decision by Fox, after Avatar started smashing all manner of box office records (unlike Cameron’s world-beater, it wasn’t filmed specifically for the format). Going after the 300 testosterone-dripping buck, it’s a remake of the eighties swords’n’sandals epic mainly remembered fondly for the creature animations of stop-motion legend Ray Harryhausen and rather less fondly for the presence of an incredibly irritating robot owl (they were aiming for R2D2; they ended up with the Jar Jar of its day). Of course this being 2010, there won’t be any of the stop-motion and instead plenty of massive CG scorpions: directed by Louis Leterrier – previously responsible for the recent Hulk sequel and The Transporter 2 – it’s unlikely to be overburdened with weighty intellectual themes, though in its favour it does boast a cast as impressive as the CG, with action-man de jour Sam Worthington joined by Ralph Fiennes, Danny Huston, Nicholas Hoult, Gemma Arterton and Liam Neeson on Kraken-
releasing duties as Zeus. While those titans get on with all that noisy clashing, a very different kind of hero will emerge in the weekend’s other big release.Yes, Kick-Ass is yet another comic book adaptation and just like Watchmen it tries to imagine how ordinary real world people would fare as superheroes. And yes, as everyone who’s seen it will attest, it really does Kick Ass. Created by Mark Millar (Scottish former-Marvel writer also responsible for Wanted), co-scripted by Jane Goldman (TV presenter and author also known as Mrs Jonathan Ross) and directed by Matthew Vaughn (Mr Claudia Schiffer; director of Layer Cake; producer of Lock, Stock and Snatch), it’s the tale of teenage ordinary-Joe type Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson: Nowhere Boy), who is inspired by his beloved to become a real life superhero, donning a green wet-suit and mask and calling himself ‘Kick-Ass’. Naturally, as a geeky teen with no real fighting skill, it’s he who initially gets his ass kicked by the bad guys he takes on, until he happens upon a father-daughter team of vigilantes with whom he teams up with to take down gang boss Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong: Sherlock Holmes, RocknRolla). Joining the aforementioned UK talent are Nicolas Cage as Batman-lite ‘Big Daddy’; 500 Days of Summer’s Chloe Moretz as his daughter ‘Hit Girl’; and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (aka McLovin) as fellow vigilante ‘Red Mist’. So frightened were they of the 18-rated movie’s extreme comic-book violence and the salty language on an eleven-year-old Hit Girl, every studio Vaughn approached turned it down, leaving Vaughn to fund it himself. Of course, once word got out that it had the potential to be this year’s big surprise hit, the studios were queueing around the block to get on board. Asses will be kicked, or your money back.
Released in cinemas last year, Sam Mendes’ follow-up to Revolutionary Road slipped by most people. As something of a counterweight to the austere marriage-in-decay movie that preceded it, the lowkey nature of Away We Go seemed to wrong-foot people who had become accustomed to Mendes’ awards-magnet tales of suburban dysfunction and unhappiness: Away We Go might at first glance seem lightweight in comparison. Such dismissal would overlook the film’s charm: there’s something to be said for ‘easy-going’ movies such as this – in fact, there’s not enough of them in general, most mainstream rom-coms are either shrill and irritating, or hopelessly bland and clichéd. Away We Go’s strength lies in its low-budget indie styling, the script by author Dave Eggers and his wife Vendela Vida, and the immense likability of its leads. John Krasinski, best known as Jim in the US version of The Office, easily transfers his friendly charisma to the role of Burt alongside Saturday Night Live graduate Maya Rudolph as his pregnant partner Verona, as they visit friends and relatives around North America on their search for a place to call home and raise their new family, encountering a few dos and plenty of don’ts in family life along the way. Critics may complain that the plot is slight and the narrative episodic and lacking in ‘tension’, but it’s ultimately one of the most genuine films about love and companionship you’re ever likely to see.
I AM V 5 YEAR OF LOUD AND QUIET
PICK UP LOUD AND QUIET AT... 55 DSL Soho, W1 93 feet east Shoreditch, E1 Amersham Arms New Cross, SE14 Barden’s Boudoir Dalston, N16 Bar Music Hall Shoreditch, EC1 Beyond Retro Soho, W1 Brixton Windmill Brixton, SW2 5BZ Bull & Gate Kentish Town, NW5 Buffalo Bar Islington, N1 Cafe Kick Shoreditch, E2 Camberwell College Of Arts Peckham, SE5 Cargo Shoreditch, E1 Catch Shoreditch, E1 Club 229 Oxford Circus, W11 Coffee Plant Notting Hill, W11 Defectors Weld Shepherds Bush, W12 Dreambags/Jaguar Shoes Shoreditch, E2 Dublin Castle Camden, NW1 Episode Camden, NW1 Fopp Covent Garden, WC2H Fred Perry Covent Garden, Wc2H Ghetto Shoreditch, EC1 Goldsmiths College New Cross, SE15 Gun Factory Studios Stoke Newington, N16 7NX Hoxton Sq Bar & Kitchen Hoxton, E2 ICMP Kilburn, NW6 Keston Lodge Islington, N1 The Lexington Islington, N1 Lock 17 Camden, NW1 Lock Tavern Camden, NW1 London School Of Economics Holborn, WC2A London School Of Fashion Oxford Circus, W1W MTV Studios Camden, NW1 North London Tavern Kilburn, NW6 Old Queen’s Head Islington, N1 8LN Pop Boutique Covent Garden, WC2 Pure Groove
Farringdon, EC1A Purple Turtle Camden, NW1 Revival Reords Soho, W1F Rokit True Vintage Camden, NW1 Rokit True Vintage Shoreditch, E1 Rough Trade EastBrick Lane, E1 Rough Trade Shop Notting Hill, W11 Rythm Factory Whitechapel, E1 Sister Ray Soho, W1F Size? Covent Garden, WC2H Star Green Tickets Oxford Circus, W1 The Albany London, W1W The Bean Shoreditch, EC2 The Cross Kings Kings Cross, WC1 The Enterprise Chalk Farm, NW1 The George Tavern London E1 0LA The Good Ship Kilburn, NW6 The Green Man London, W1W 7EP The Legion Shoreditch, EC1 The Luminaire Kilburn, NW6 The Macbeth Hoxton, E2 The Old Queen’s Head Islington, N1 The Social Oxford Circus, W1 The Premises Studios London, E2 8JL The Relentless Garage Islington, N1 The Rest is Noise London, SW9 8EJ The Stag’s Head Dalston, N1 5RA The Strong Rooms Shoreditch, E2 The Victoria Mile End, E3 The Wilmington Arms Islington, EC1R The Worlds End Camden, NW1 Tommy Flynn’s London, NW1 ULU Holborn, WC1E University Of Arts London Mayfair, W1K Water Rats Kings Cross, WC1X Youreyeslie Carnaby estate, W1F Youreyeslie Camden Lock. NW1
60 Million Postcards Bournemouth Action Records Preston Alt. Vinyl Newcastle Upon Tyne Ape Tunbridge Wells Avalanche Glasgow Glasgow Avalanche Records Edinburgh Blackcat Records Taunton Bungalow & Bears Sheffield, S1 4GF Crash Records Leeds LS1 6PU Diverse Music Gwent Edgeworld Records Brighton Jam Records Falmouth Jumbo Records Leeds, LS2 Kanes Records Stroud Monorail Music Glasgow One Up Records Aberdeen People Independent Music Guildford Piccadilly Records Manchester Polar Bear Birmingham Probe Records Liverpool Rapture Entertainment Evesham Resident Music Brighton, BN1 4AL Rise Cheltenham Rise Clifton, Bristol Rounder Records Brighton, BN1 1HD Soundclash Records Norwich Spillers Records Cardiff Tangled Parrot Carmarthen Tempest Records Birmingham The Bakewell Bookshop Bakewell The Drift Record Shop Totnes, Devon Start The Bus Bristol, BS1 1RU Tom’s Record Shop Hay-on-Wye Wall Of Sound Huddersfield
party wolf Photo Casebook “Party on Robbie: Pt 2”
) Really, PW? You think we can get Take That to take me back?
Definitely mate. We’ll go to their gig and demand they let you back in. You’re a born entertainer!
But at the gig...
On behalf of Gary, Jason, Mark and myself I’d like to invite a special friend onstage... Where’s my boy Party Wolf?
MEMOIRS After four hours I finally felt the metal rip and plunged my bloody fingers into the can of beans. I was losing sunlight, a lot of blood and my body temperature was rapidly dropping. I knew that I had to find some kind of shelter soon so began walking for what felt like hours. It would have been harrowing for an untrained survivor. For me though, this was just another day, no better or worse than yesterday or the day before. Sure, I’d not seen Tesco this busy since Christmas, when it was really full, but I was determined to take it in my stride and make it past the checkout alive.With beans still dripping from my chin I headed to the fish counter. I know what you’re thinking.You’re thinking: if my body temperature was rapidly dropping why am I heading toward the icy fish counter and not the aisle that they sometimes sell duvets in? Better still, why didn’t I leave the shop and return home? But if being a born survivor has taught me one thing, it’s that the simplest plan is often the worst. I climbed into the fish counter and covered myself in ice, plaice fillets and a rare piece of cod. Now I just had to wait...
Lonely hearts “It’s not weird, it’s a sexy Facebook”
GoOutWith MyFriend.com 73, looking for top crumpet Area: Children: Diet: Employment:
Put your tounge away, Keeley I’ve not been this angry since Nicole left me for a monkey
to be cont.
London Disowned Women Retired
Ronny has this to say about Rod:
Rod wears lifts in his loafers!!! HA, sorry mate, I had to say it. Nah, he’s alright, old Rod. We used to ‘run together’ and boy did we have a laugh! We had this little band and all the girls would want Rod, probably because I look like a melted crow. Anyway, Rod is a very spiritual guy, and I’ve always admired that. I remember one time his pants exploded on tour and everyone was laughing at him and calling him Cod, instead of Rod. He just said, “God wanted this to happen. He wanted me to fill my leopard print leggings!” What a way to deal with it! We finished the show that night and Rod got more girls than ever. And now you can have him. He’s not bad for 73 either. Rod responded by saying:
Oh bloody ‘el Ronny. You’ve stitched me right up. Ha! I don’t wear lifts :-p
Disclaimer: The representations of the persons herein are purely fictitious.
I guess, now it’s time, for me to give up...
You’ve gotta be joking!!? This a wind up, right?
Mystery Jets / Dum Dum Girls / Black Francis / Ganglians / Chapter Sweetheat / The Caulfield Beats / Dam Mantle / The Art Museums
Published on Aug 1, 2012
Mystery Jets / Dum Dum Girls / Black Francis / Ganglians / Chapter Sweetheat / The Caulfield Beats / Dam Mantle / The Art Museums