LoudAndQuiet Zero pounds / Volume 03 / Issue 23 / 100 percent Cyclic
PLUS Clou d Noth i n gs Gatekeeper Wei rd D reams Swans Abe Vi g oda Ti m Key Chad Valley
“Bjork, Fever Ray, every one I get compared to, they should check me out!”
For Anna Wintour’s Vogue there’s a right shitter of a month every single year. It’s just before the fashion glossy releases its September issue, which is why R.J. Cutler’s documentary film of this horrific time is called ‘The September Issue’. Sure, it’s no thirty days in the Gaza strip but it can get as ugly as Betty. Uglier even! And we sympathise with Wintour. We sympathise because we – and quite probably other monthly music papers too – have our own version of this disgusting time. It comes just before our December issue is released, and you’re holding that now. A Halloween ball or two aside, late October/early November is a crappy time for music. X Factor furiously rages on; end of year lists simmer but are yet to be served; dreary Best Ofs replace real releases because some people like to do their Christmas shopping the day after summer; most bands worth speaking to or watching have knocked all of that on the head for another year, retreating to the studio once again. It’s a dull and boring black hole of a time that makes us yearn for the festive season all the more. But Vogue’s September issue is often their best, and our equivalent isn’t too bad either. It has helped that the classically immersive music of GLASSER [page 26] has provided us with a fitting soundtrack to escape indie limbo to, as have Chicago duo GATEKEEPER [page 12], who find and offer fantasy in demonic sci-fi disco, and garage trio WEIRD DREAMS [page 22] who dressed as their favourite David Lynch characters for our photo shoot. Comedic poet TIM KEY [page 24] did his bit too. And LA noise perverts ABE VIGODA [page 14] – a band that you’re likely to find on our end of year list next month. Until then, enjoy what’s left of this musical downtime. It should be over by the time you reach ‘GET THE BOY GEORGE LOOK’ on page 50.
C o n t e n ts
12 | 10 LOUD AND QUIET ZERO POUNDS / VOLUME 03 / ISSUE 23 / 100 PERCENT CYCLIC
PLUS CLOUD NOTHINGS GATEKEEPER WEIRD DREAMS SWANS ABE VIGODA TIM KEY CHAD VALLEY
“BJORK, FEVER RAY, EVERY ONE I GET COMPARED TO, THEY SHOULD CHECK ME OUT!”
Photography by Holly Lucas
07 ...................Myspace to let 08 ...................pound band 10 ...................eps and singles 12 ...................extraterrstrial horror techno 14 ...................noise punks dance 17 ...................ibiza did this! 18 ...................the great annihilator 22 ...................david lynch house band 24 ...................sex, death and divs 26 ...................through the looking glass 32 ...................a young man’s gAME 36 ...................CALIFORNIA’S FORGOTTEN BLACK HOLE 42 ...................URBAN RENEWAL 46 ...................BAD FILMS 50 ...................PARTY WOLF 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 Ian Roebuck Editor
Bart Pettman, Chris Watkeys, Daniel Dylan-Wray, Danny Canter, DK. Goldstien, Elinor Jones, Edgar Smith, Frankie Nazardo, Holly Lucas, Janine Bullman, Kate Parkin, Kelda Hole, Gabriel Green, Mandy Drake, Martin Cordiner, Matthias Scherer, Nathan Westley, Owen Richards, Polly Rappaport, Phil Dixon, Phil Sharp Reef Younis, Sam Little, Sam Walton, Simon Leak,Tim Cochrane,Tom Cockram, Tom Goodwyn, This Month L&Q Loves
Duncan Jordan, Jenny Myles, Jon Wilkinson, Nita Keeler, Noam Klar, Sandra Croft, Stuart Davies,Will Lawrence 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
12 | 10
Myspace to Let Reef Younis argues that the forerunner of social networking sites isn’t dead... yet
Facemate. Mybook. Beblow. Chandler Ping. Social networking didn’t so much as change the way we connect with friends/ strangers/random mentalists; it fundamentally changed our lives. This is no great secret, and there’s an incalculable number of essays, blogs and reports that would back that up, but where Myspace was the earlier forerunner in the great face race, it’s long been accepted that Facebook is the social network de jour for those not overly bothered about butchering their profile with patchwork mosaics of ropey internet JPEGs and classroom photos. Still, as well as revolutionising the way we interact, Myspace was fun. You could mould your personal page in your image by decorating and customising it. You could even soundtrack your moods. And then Facebook came along with its clean interface and decidedly adult way of promoting yourself to an e-audience. It looked serious and professional, offering more refined, grown up functionality than that of its Crayola-eating sibling – well, apart from fucking Farmville – and so, a majority of those adolescents who grew up with, and on, Myspace jumped ship. The
era of Facebook was upon us and it was supposed to mean we’d be defecting and deleting Tom’s cheery image en masse. And we did. Facebook boomed, Myspace bowed out…but not entirely. Sure I haven’t peeked at my own Myspace profile in a few years but once the novelty of emblazoning your personality on a webpage wore off, there was still a function and a purpose to Myspace that’s ensured I’ve never really left: the music. Myspace was THE vehicle for aspiring bands and DJs, ignored, unknown or simply unwilling to rub shoulders with the corporate, cutthroat mechanisations of the music industry. The concept was simple but revolutionary: update your details, upload your tracks and plaster your URL everywhere you could. It was an essential tool in just getting your music out there and one that an unnerving number of bands, DJs and artists will be forever thankful for. Knowing that Facebook had sounded the death knell for its fundamental social profile appeal, Myspace evolved to survive and remain relevant. And here’s the crux of it: whereas Facebook gives you your cleancut profile, it still fundamentally asks you to pull
all of your music and media content in from elsewhere (unless you have the time to play with HTML and build specific tabs); where Soundcloud is a wonderful, increasingly vital way of accessing, streaming and downloading music, its heart has never been in connecting you with inane status updates or keeping you posted on new releases, events and news. This isn’t forgetting that the hybridisation of social media continues, unremittingly, to aggregate everything with one mouse click, in one place, and the likes of YouTube, Bandcamp, RCRD LBL, PING et al. still have a prominent part to play in its development. But no one has ever seemed to get it as right, first time round, as Myspace did. Its initial simplicity, and now, fond familiarity ensures that the ease of referring a band or track to a friend is often a URL to their Myspace page. And it’s still an easy win for snaring new fans, having upcoming tours, tracks and information all front facing instead of being built a whole click away on a tab. So perhaps it’s a little unfair pitting Facebook Vs Myspace in a music war, especially with PING offering a more lucrative carrot
for artists to potentially exploit, and no-one would deny it’s a long way down for poor old Tom, but you’d be a fool for thinking that any social network doesn’t have a life cycle. Times have changed. Artists want to get their music out there but they also want to turn a profit. A visible, viral web presence will inevitably help a band sell digital songs and albums, and as useful as a Myspace page might be, when it comes to hawking tracks to the masses, you’re pretty swiftly directed to where the download money is to be made. Many thought Facebook would be the one to end the Myspace reign, and it did to some extent, but PING is emerging as the platform to execute the final coup de grace. If Apple can convince acts to create their own profiles, with the added benefit of its in-house iTunes store, there’s your one click destination. We were all supposed to abandon Myspace completely, and while it deals with the latest assault on its revamped purpose, that threat isn’t about to disappear any time soon. Anyway, I’m off; I’ve been told to check out a few bands. Wonder if they’ve got a Myspace…
th e b eg i n n i ng
record label By Danny Canter
Ouse Leed’s latest DIY imprint from the drummer of Please ---------------------
pound band The talking point of In The City is still worth a natter, says Danny Canter
Music festivals are like other worlds. It’s what makes three days on Worthy Farm so appealing…and lawless. What happens at the festival stays at the festival. You wouldn’t want your work friends finding out about those exploits. Rumours; buzzwords; in-jokes; any highlight not broadcast on the BBC – they’re all caught by the invisible dragnets that police festival borders, and yet last month the talking point of In The City beat my train home, partly because ITC is no isolated, feral event in some distant field, but rather a more civilised, urban soirée in the middle of Manchester, sure, but also because the talking point was almost revolutionary. “Revolution not erosion,” was in fact Rob Dickens’ mantra at the music conference’s most interesting discussion: a casual chat between the ex chairman of Warners (Dickens joined the company at nineteen and was impressively appointed MD a week before his twenty fourth birthday) and R.E.M. manager, attorney and advisor Bertis Downs. They were discussing the ins and outs of major label life when Dickens posed a question about 360 record deals (a newish kind of agreement where record companies, having noted the massive slump in record sales over the past few years, profit from a band’s ticket sales, merch revenue and almost all other financial gains). He was questioning if they work, clearly believing that they don’t, and then he announced a theory that he’s had for some
time and has been told to drop by colleagues in the past. Quite simply, Rob Dickens suggested that all albums should cost one pound. And in many ways it’s a brilliant idea. A lot of what Dickens then said was brilliant. It’s all about eliminating choice, he said, which sounds more sinister and Wellsian than it actually is. Over the years CD prices have rapidly eroded (from, say, £12.99 to £6.99) but it’s still been a gradual enough change for us to take it for granted – if anything we feel stupid for ever paying over a tenner for an album, not grateful that they’re now half that price on amazon.com. £6.99 is still a choice, so is £3.99, and even £1.99 in Dickens’ opinion. If an album were a pound it wouldn’t even be a gamble – you’d have to be one tight bastard not to willingly pay a pound to support the artist in question; a total crook to still download a dodgy copy of it for free. But beating piracy by slashing album prices to a micro payment over night is just one upshot of this theory. Numbers is what excites Dickens the most, and he misses the days when Madonna (one of his signings) would sell 100,000 copies of ‘True Blue’ every day of the week. “What excited me most was knowing that 100,000 more people had discovered this record,” he explained. “Those figures just don’t happen now and that’s because of price.” He pointed at Prince giving away his album ‘21’ for free inside The Mail On Sunday as proof that this notion is the
key to making a 360 deal work, allowing bands to reach more fans with bigger record sales. Three million people bought that heinous paper that day, and many then bought tickets to see Prince play twenty-one nights at the O2 arena where they probably bought T-shirts and programmes that recouped the label’s loss on full price album sales. And besides, it’s better to sell three million albums at a pound a go than it is a hundred thousand at ten pounds, right? And then, just as Rob Dickens was about to be lifted high as the sole saviour of the record industry someone said what we’d all been trying to forget – “What about new bands? How do they get started and into a position where three million people know who the hell they are?” Ah. Good point. And, sadly, there’s no quick answer for that. Or at least there wasn’t at In The City, so that became the talking point – how it couldn’t happen because only the already successful would survive. But the hole in that counterargument is surely the size of a pound coin. All albums are going to cost a quid, don’t forget, so why wouldn’t music fans be just as likely to take a punt on a brand new band as they would on another Prince record? After all, good music is catching. Arctic Monkey’s proved that with a MySpace page and no record label. Just imagine what they could have achieved with the support of a record company’s marketing team, investment and patience.
You might remember noise jammers Please from last month’s issue of Loud And Quiet, or perhaps from their fouryear history on London’s underground live circuit, where every band they’ve ever played with has been baffled by how a band so meticulous can sound so free-formed. Well, Please remain a working outfit but drummer Keeby has fled to Leeds where, amongst other things, he’s started Ouse Records, and, following on from his own band’s self-title 10” EP, Keeby’s imprint has just released ‘Brick by Boulder’, the limited debut album by local posthardcore types Beards. It’s only available on 12” (naturally), and there’s only 350 copies, but now that Ouse has finally released their second record, expect more progressive adventures from the UK underground from them in 2011.
Fashion By Mandy Drake
FJØRD Hand-painted tees and totes from Italy --------------------Edoardo Monti is an Italian designer who goes by the name FJØRD and hand paints T-shirts and tote bags. It means that every single garment he makes is completely unique and made to order. Edoardo then ships his minimal fashion pieces (his thing is largely black typography on white cotton) around the world, but not before he’s documented his latest creation on his tumblr blog, www. fjordesign.tumblr.com. Up there at the moment is a conversation FJØRD may or may not have had with Harry Potter, although when Harry ‘asks’, “someone told me you’re producing a limited edition tshirt for Loud And Quiet?” the replying “yes I am” is completely true. Along with tote bags they’re available via www.loudandquietcassettes.bigcartel. com.
s i n g les & E Ps
01 Girls Broken Dreams Club (Fantasy Trashcan) Out Nov 22
At six sizeable tracks long (the closing ‘Carolina’ even manages to pierce the seven-minute mark), ‘Broken Dreams Club’ occupies that middle ground between EP and mini album. Everything else about Girls’ latest release is far less indecisive. From the opening doo-wop of ‘The Oh So Protective One’, it proudly wears its title on singer Christopher Owens’ curled lip, the San Franciscan semi-crooning heartbroken laments like a twenty-something Elvis Costello serenading the losers at a ‘50s Bop. It’s the kind of track that Adam Green would make if he toned down the silly. And, though surprisingly never completely glum, Girls don’t get any less dejected. Song two is called
‘Heartbreaker’ (and yeah, they’re talking about a third party), title track ‘Broken Dreams Club’ is a ballad that could be as harrowing as the weepiest of Bright Eyes tracks if only it wasn’t delivered with what seems like a knowing, wry grin, and ‘Alright’ (a bit ‘Mrs Robinson’, a bit Weezer) once again confirms that Owens isn’t actually that alright at all. What’s clever about all of this is that while ‘Broken Dreams Club’’s constant theme of rejection should eventually become too heavy and awkward for its running time, it really doesn’t. Because although the band mope they never wallow, and during ‘Carolina’ (about the State, not a girl) they almost sound optimistic.
Tip of Your Tongue
Dirty Projectors As I Went Out One Morning
(Hitclub) Out Nov 29 -----
(Acéphale) Out Now -----
(Moshi Moshi) Out Nov 29 -----
(Domino) Out Dec 6 -----
South London quartet Fiction pin a majority of their appeal on their drums, attesting, “they are the heart and soul of the band.” Second single ‘Big Things’ tells a far different story though, its lifeblood being a borderline twee keyboard riff that loops like that of The Cure’s much underrated ‘Six Different Ways’. It’s accompanied by some layered, hushed harmonies, a post-funk bassline and, after some time, those essential drums. But it’s the keyboard that you’ll wake up singing, and Fiction should embrace that - as well as the fact that they sound more like proto Mystery Jets than ever.
Mauro Remiddi doesn’t say “tip”. He says “teeeep”, and that can be more than a little bit annoying. As a result, ‘Tip of Your Tongue’ can be a struggle to sit through, even if its heartbeat pulse does cunningly offer a simulated sense of paternal comfort. B-side ‘Despite Everything’ does a far better job at helping Remiddi live up to his emotive filmmaker reputation, pitching his detached vocals and bleak lyrics next to a sombre piano and little else. It’s music to make teenagers cry, until an odd radio-cutting-out effect interrupts the proceedings, making you think “oh sheeeet.”
If Cerebral Ballzy singer Honor approached you in the street and sang ‘Insufficient Fare’, you’d probably go, “Yeaaah mate...”, just like you do to all the other incoherent drunks that slur the day away and rarely complete full sentences. “Insufficient fare...” he whines on this, the band’s first proper single, before yapping like a pissed Zed from Police Academy and shouting ‘fuck’ every now and then, clear as day. But while Honor still sings through beery gills, the band, for once recorded properly, sound big, competent and sober even. Hardcore this stoopid rarely sounded so promising.
There’s no guessing what Dirty Projectors’ next trick might be, but it’s safe to say that few expected David Longstreth’s band of weird angels to take a lesser-known Bob Dylan track and turn it into Kenny Rogers’ ‘Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)’, introducing it to one-note backing vocals that still manage to sound complex and soulful, and drums like those of a street busker playing trashcans. Fewer still would expect such a track to sound better than Dylan’s original. Once again, Dirty Projectors prove to be predictably unpredictable and brilliantly brilliant.
Reviews by S. Little, S. Stubbs, T Neils
th e b eg i n n i ng
aron David Ross and Matthew Arkell are two college graduates from Chicago. They live in New York now and make electronic, lyric-less music. It all sounds very familiar, doesn’t it? All very hip and standard. But Aaron and Matthew are a pair obsessed with fantasy and escapism. Physically they might be Brooklyn, but mentally they’re of some odd dimension where no idea is too cosmic to be entertained. They’ve been making twisted, weird dance music as Gatekeeper (the most fitting name ever once you hear their possessed songs for demons of
another world) since 2008 when Matthew’s love for techno collided with Aaron’s skills in experimental soundscapes. And as new EP ‘Giza’ attests, there’s plenty hip but nothing standard about them. Their tracks – which are equal parts Italo disco, industrial, techno and Chicago house – ask one thing of any listener – to use their imagination. And so vivid are Gatekeeper’s darkly camp horror scores that it’s easily done. Even if you’ve never seen dated scare movies like Candyman or It you can imagine that ‘Giza’ would perfectly sink with their most fantastic moments. “We are definitely inspired by film scores,” says Aaron of an observation that has been levelled at Gatekeeper before
now, “but I think it’s more generic than specifically horror b-movies. Beyond horror we’re inspired by sci-fi and fantasy and a lot of other types of films that create these worlds that are inhabited by fictional characters but are supported by the music. For us, the music completes the illusion. So it’s not just a horror movie influence but it’s like this idea of music supporting an imaginary narrative. We want the listeners to invent their own narrative too – that’s how we want people to interact with our music.” “We drew a little bit more from horror scores on our first EP, I think,” adds Matthew, “more so than on this new one.” ‘Giza’ remains a dark record though. It’s like Salem’s ‘King Night’ with a sense of humour,
from the opening ‘Chains’ that pitches a menacing, motorik, arcade game hum next to X Files UFO wails and the disturbing semi-vocals of some poor female, to ‘Serpent’’s good-cop-bad-cop approach of flitting between a comic panpipe riff, the rush of bellowing flames and Gregorian chants that are far too sinister to not mean any harm. Maybe that’s what happens when you name your second EP after one of our most ancient cities, where the pyramids have haunted the desert for centuries and strange goings on have always felt at home. “Somehow we started watching tonnes of documentaries on the Internet about ancient astronauts,” says Aaron, “about ancient Egyptian civilisations being engineered by aliens and
Gatekeeper Escape to somewhere
Photographer: Guy Eppel Writer: Stuar t Stu bb s
all of this over the top, kinda ridiculous stuff. And it kinda changed all of our views of our music. It made it more exotic…” “I think we’re also inspired by how unable we are to know the true answers to these great questions posed by crappy YouTube documentaries,” interrupts Matthew. “So it’s like there are these ideas that aliens came down and built the Egyptian pyramids, and there’s pretty substantial evidence against that, but obviously there’s no way to know that for sure, and we’re really attracted to that mystery.” As you can probably already guess, the recent supernatural holiday of Halloween is a time that Gatekeeper like to embrace. Aaron says: “It’s a time like New Year’s, when you can go wild
and feel like anything is possible.” This year he and Matthew spent October 31st going wilder than was ever imaginable back in Chicago, even for their open minds. They played a show in Mexico City, dressed as UFOs, naturally. “It was like the coolest weekend in paradise imaginable,” confirms Aaron. “We played that show and visited the pyramids there too.” But before Mexico City, a tonne of YouTube documentaries on ancient astronauts and ‘Giza’, Gatekeeper released their first EP, ‘Optimus Maximus’, in 2009. “That EP was more like a haunted forest in Italy whereas this new one, ‘Giza’, feels like it’s happening amidst some ancient desert ruins,” says Aaron. “It’s a change of scenery for us but it’s still coming from the same supernatural point of view.” So this sense of the macabre – this joy for the sinister that makes a track like ‘Storm Column’ as daunting, dramatic and as dangerously sexy as it is – that’s here to stay, is it? That’s always been at the heart of Gatekeeper? “Yeaaaah,” says Aaron, who, like Matthew, is a man almost too affable and ‘normal’ to be responsible for some of this music. “We like to try to communicate the over the top, epic feelings, and we feel it can be communicated pretty well through these darker sounds.” “But I don’t think we’re intentionally dark,” adds his partner. “It just seems like the by-product of us working together. A lot of the music we’re inspired by that isn’t film scores, like industrial, techno and Italo disco, is pretty dark too, so the music we make is a natural meeting place for that and the visual imagery we’re inspired by.” For all their spooking, though, the bread and butter trick of any extraterrestrial is time manipulation. It’s how they beam us up, touch us up and dump us in a field somewhere without us knowing what the hell happened. Has a day gone by, a year or a second? Gatekeeper’s
music has a similar, dazzling effect. An odd one perhaps, they remain a dance act, and dance acts like their tracks long and repetitive. But the six songs of ‘Giza’ only give that endless impression; none of them actually breach three-and-a-half minutes; the closing ‘Oracle’ – the most conventionally Italo disco in sound, once it gets going – fails to bother two minutes fifty. It could of course be the lack of vocals that make Gatekeeper’s eerie tracks feel longer than they are, but there’s a good chance that it has more to do with the duo’s catching sense of the unexplained. It’s certainly more fun to not bother questioning it. “We’re just not following the conventions of dance music,” says Matthew, “even though we’re using their sounds. Ultimately for us, the ideal listening time for our EP would be two in the morning while you’re on the Internet on your own.” That Aaron and Matthew are “gigantic media consumers” goes some way to explaining why they like to keep their songs uncharacteristically short. Classic house lives for the drop, which is worth the wait if
you have the time, but Gatekeeper simply don’t. That’s why Gregorian chants, tortured cries and nutty panpipes will all live in a three-minute radius – to keep things from getting stale. And that feeling extends to the band’s love for EPs over LPs. “We really like EPs because, as we were saying, we consume culture really fast,” explains Aaron, “and typically we’ll get sick of something pretty quickly. So it’s good to make four, six or eight track offerings because if we made twelve tracks the chances are that we’d be sick of the first two by the time we did the last two.” “We’re control freaks too,” confesses Matthew, “so unfortunately it takes us a really long time to produce our music.” “A really long time” could of course mean anything from ten whole minutes to a year in Gatekeeper’s universe, but that’s the bread and butter trick of any extraterrestrial – time manipulation. And space. And this duo’s fantasy electronics can have you believing that Brooklyn is a town in another fascinatingly warped dimension.
The unusual evolution of a bunch of noise punks from LA Photographer: Leon Di aper Writer: P o lly r appap or t
Abe Vigo Rewind the Abe Vigoda soundtrack to 2006. Press play, and the speakers buckle slightly under the clatter-screech of noise punk – like Times New Viking and No Age going for the best of three rounds in a game of Mercy. It’s jerky, bratty, bursting with energy, and, yes, it knows that’s not the way you’re supposed to treat a guitar. Roll over into 2008 and we have ‘Skeleton’, still punk, albeit tropical punk, but basically on the same page. Now here we are, pushing 2011 and presented with ‘Crush’, a broody, cold wave pop record. These guys have some explaining to do… No sooner is the Dictaphone on when two of the four band members are spirited away for another interview. As David, the bass player, and drummer Dane saunter off into the shadows, Dane looks back briefly. “Hope you guys are cool with whatever I say,” he half mumbles to guitarist Juan and vocalist Michael. They’re not worried at all: he might be the newest member, having only joined the band last year, but Dane’s also largely responsible for Abe Vigoda’s new sound. So, go on, how did a band with a fairly solid punk track record end up
all doom, gloom and synth pop? “It was pretty gradual,” says Juan, “We released ‘Skeleton’ in 2008, but we’d written it in 2007, and we hadn’t written a lot of new songs ‘til this stuff. So that’s two/two and a half years listening to other things… Then we got Dane.” Apparently it would have been impossible for Dane to play drums the same way as his predecessor, Reggie, and the resulting change in sound gelled perfectly with the band’s natural progression. “If Reggie had stayed, we would have sounded closer to how we did before, but only a little bit,” Juan explains. “It just wouldn’t have been as much of a jump.” “Our material has always been shifting,” says Michael. “We don’t want to repeat ourselves.” “But it’s not a conscious decision,” Juan insists. “It just happens.” ‘Crush’, they explain, rather than coming together all at once, was written in a series of sessions, which were spread out over a period of a year or so, with the band getting together as and when they could, between practices and tours. “It all started with Dane putting out the idea of using a
sequencer,” Juan says, “to include melody lines we couldn’t play because we were playing guitars, and that grew into having backbeats, and realising we could have keyboards, and it just went on from there – it was so much fun!” “When you put a foot into that element, it’s easy to fall in,” says Michael. “Flirting with pop has always been really appealing to me and it’s funny that it’s really happening. If you know us, know our material, it’s very strange that we would go in this direction – experimenting with pop and the whole new romantic thing.” But it’s not a complete departure; the brooding, new romantic vibe the band now exudes is still flecked with tropical leanings – it’s subtle, but unmistakeable. A mention of the Cure elicits enthusiastic nods. And what about the lyrics? “The lyrics have always been in the same vein,” says Michael. “A little abstract, deeply personal – or not,” he chuckles. “I feel like lyrically I want it to be more narrative – some of the songs are more detailed, have stories, they’re like little mini dramas. But I like to keep it not super obvious or
really direct because that’s more what I’m into aesthetically.” “The lyrics were never super happy,” says Juan. “That’s the way it sounded, but they never were, so I think now the musical accompaniment is more fitting with the lyrical content… not that we’re sad all the time!” he hastens to add. But have the lyrics taken on a new level of importance at all? It seems this style of music draws more attention to the words than, say, uber reverby noise punk. “Oh yeah,” says Juan, “which is cool. While we were recording we made an effort to get the vocals more up front, more the centre of attention.” “On our previous releases, the vocals were always kind of sitting in the mix,” agrees Michael, “which we kind of wanted to avoid this time. I think it draws people in more.” And how has the new sound been received thus far, has it been a bit of a shock to the system? “Reviews have been pretty positive,” says Michael. “A few sixes out of tens, but no big deal,” they both laugh. “I think with the live shows,
oda a lot of people don’t really know this stuff yet,” says Juan. “Before we released the record, we were playing a lot of large live shows in LA and people were into the sound but it was more like they were taking it in, getting that it was new.” The band are particularly enjoying their tour with No Age, playing for audiences who are largely unfamiliar with Abe Vigoda and are hearing the material from ‘Crush’ with fresh ears. Juan equates it to starting over on a blank page, aware that they could easily have changed their name and presented the new sound and new lineup as a new band. Not that they had any intention of doing so. “People want a storyline,” Juan says. “People have expectations of bands they really like, and when the band
makes a change, sometimes it’s disappointing, but sometimes it’s awesome,” he grins. “I’m really happy with the songs – I’d be so bored if we were still doing the same thing.” “I feel like there are people who didn’t want to give us a chance before, who hear us now and think, ‘Oh, well this is something I can comprehend,’” says Michael. “Maybe it’s something that’s a little more their style. Maybe it’s a little more our style too.” Juan agrees that the music he listens to is much more in the current Abe Vigoda vein than the “bratty stuff” one would have expected given their previous output. Michael points out that the band is effectively growing up. “We released ‘Skeleton’, then came out to the UK for the first time, played more than we
ever had in our lives, and it gave us a sense of what works,” he says. “Yeah,” adds Juan, “and a sense of what we wanted to do.” The consensus is that the protracted space between records was essential, and that even a year’s time would have produced a record far too similar to ‘Skeleton’, something they wouldn’t have been happy with. “We’ve always written this music strictly for ourselves,” says Michael. “We try to do what makes us happy, or what we think sounds best – I mean, the audience is in mind, but it’s not the most important thing.” “Don’t get us wrong, we’re glad there’s people there!” laughs Juan, “but when you’re writing, if you’re thinking about the audience too much, it shows.”
Speaking of audiences, how was the not-very-secret headliner gig the other night? (The band played east London cupboard-sized venue The Drop days before we meet). “It was tumultuous,” they say, starting with Juan plugging in his keyboard using a cheapo adapter, effectively frying its brains with UK electric current. But the venue was sold out, rammed to the rafters, and the crowd were loving it. And, considering there’s not much point in guessing with Abe Vigoda, what’s next on the musical agenda then? “Something more dance oriented,” says Juan. “We’re heading in that direction anyway. It’s a whole new genre to geek out about, and a cool world to step into,” he laughs. “I dunno, I like dancing!”
Hugo Manuel returned from ibiza with more than bags under his eyes and an empty wallet
Photographer: owen r i c har ds Writer: I an roebuc k
Dark, damp Dalston. Bob Crow’s spectre hangs heavy over London’s lines of purgatory, the public scowls as the streets swell with corpses of commuting. A tube strike is on and everyone badly needs a holiday, including Chad Valley who for daily intents and purposes goes by the name Hugo Manuel. “I’ve always romanticised the idea of being on holiday,” he smiles. “I love holidays, who doesn’t?!” We’ve settled for the most affordable vacation going: a Turkish restaurant on the Stoke Newington Road, where we get plied with flatbread as Hugo ruminates on London life. Caught in the strike crossfire with winter closing fast (it took Hugo an age to reach us today), it’s moments like this that the charmingly erudite Oxford-born resident can enjoy the (dis)pleasure of our great capital city. “I don’t feel like I need to move to London to make it like a lot of people,” he says. “Y’know come to London, live the dream. From what I’ve noticed from friends in bands it’s quite suffocating; there’s so much competition and just to get yourself heard is a big deal. Don’t get me wrong I like London and I’m here so often
it’s like I live here anyway...” Hugo trails off. Not totally averse to a spot of City dwelling, then, but Hugo would have plenty to leave behind. His band-mates from Jonquil for one – as front-man for the successful alt-folk group he’s still very much part and parcel of the Oxford scene. “It’s being a big fish in a small pond,” he nods. “If you know someone from Oxford then I will know them. It sounds silly but it’s true. Jonquil has changed a bit as three of us have left. They’re now in Trophy Wife, but they left amicably and I still live with them.” Chad Valley is Hugo’s fervently personal project; a one-man show that is sonically way off line to the sounds of Jonquil. “I went to Ibiza just before I started doing all this stuff,” he explains of his new electronic concern, “maybe it’s subconscious and looking back it must have something to do with it. It’s not like you go to Ibiza and you’re surrounded by awesome music though, quite the opposite. But to recreate the feeling of being on the beach is something I strive to do,” he says, and his blissful use of synths and Mediterranean melody
manage it, lifting you to lapping waters and sun-kissed shores, all very intentionally. “Imagine music that sounded like Oxford,” he frowns. “Jesus. It would sound like academia.” Clearly an academic himself, Hugo seems no slouch when chewing the intellectual fat, but turn to technology and his white flag is surprisingly in hand. He confesses: “It’s taken me a while to work out the world of blogs. I’m not a big blog reader. I love the idea but I don’t really remember the ones I look at. My computer isn’t organised, its a world of messy nonsense. I spent three hours on YouTube last night watching old Freddie mercury interviews. He is the best interviewee ever; I was practicing for this you see... “But, yeah, Pitchfork was one of the first ones I noticed [with a Chad Valley review],” he continues as more flatbread arrives. “I saw it on my own then e-mailed the guy who wrote it straight away; a ridiculously gushy e-mail. Embarrassing I know but I was really pleased.” Modest and self-effacing, Hugo smiles, his time in Jonquil perhaps grounding expectations. “It doesn’t translate to anything immediately,” he
reasons. “People think it means more than it does. The knock on effect is very delayed; it’s not quite that simple from what I have noticed.” Something’s bubbling under and waiting to drop though, and it looks like the dominoes will start and end amongst the city of dreaming spires, where a new Oxford collective dwells. “Yeah, I don’t want to say collective or cult or anything but there is a movement called Blessing Force,” nods Hugo. “It’s yet to really kick into shape but its a few like-minded bands who throw parties and hold exhibitions. We are setting up a label too. It’s the idea of creating something where there is not much going on at all. It’s only recently become a more serious concern as a lot of bands are getting noticed,” he explains, “people like Trophy Wife and Pet Moon. We’ve been talking about it to journalists and stuff and we have always liked scenes and the interrelation of bands. Instead of journalists putting us with say Stornaway or something we can give it a name ourselves and say to the journalists use that.” Maybe it’s us that should be moving up to Oxford.
The inventor and driving force of the legendary Swans talks Edgar Smith through his band’s antagonistic past and boundary destroying present
The Great Annihilator Photographer: Ph i l Shar p Writer: edg ar s m i th
Does Michael Gira do autographs? It was a pressing question as this interview with the Swans progenitor, conducted on the day of their ‘comeback’ show at Koko, was in twenty minutes and my friend wanted to go back to his and get a copy of 1983’s ‘Filth’ to have it signed. I needed to get a move on and left for Camden, he went back to get the record. Once he got home, he decided not to bring it (the thought of rejection and hauling an unsigned LP around all night was too much) and I turned up in the green room at Koko where, leaning over a tablefootball table, Michael Gira was signing what looked like a thousand posters. “I do this first,” he says, pointing to his signature, “then go down to the merch stand at the end of the show and personalise it, write ‘Hello…
whoever.’” Yep, he does autographs. It was surprising and, if you read the current round of Gira interviews, you’ll find a similar sense of surprise, almost always expressed as, ‘I was terrified he’d be mean because of his rep and his music, but then he was really nice but I still think he was laughing at me a bit.’ That’s exactly how you feel as a Gira interviewer, but it gives the impression that this is a balanced, normal kinda guy that’s perhaps made these records (these huge records that hollow-out your insides, then burn them) as an intellectual exercise in sounding mean-asfuck. Listen to the records, look at that man in the photo – this can’t be true. He definitely presents himself as being nothing special, liking to project the image
of a craftsman.Vociferously anti-file sharing, he compares his music-making to a trade (one that should be rightfully remunerated) and there’s audible pride when he tells me about ‘I am not Insane’. “That was a CD/DVD double thing,” he says. “I made a woodblock and printed that myself in full colour prints and I made 1000 of them myself to raise some money for the recording of the Swans album.” The album in question, ‘My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky’, is the first fruit of Swans’ recent ‘re-activation’ after their dissolution in 1997 and, though it’s too early to say, it could be their best – no time to qualify that statement here, just go and buy it, it’s great. Copies of the new double disc edition are piled-up on the tablewww.loudandquiet.com
football table, waiting to be signed when the posters are done. A picture is coming together of, not an insane person, but an obsessive. It’s the character type you’d expect for any artist as prolific as Gira and a prerequisite for anyone wanting to achieve the musical density of ‘My Father…’, its textures pulled-up out of painstaking methods and many patient hours in the studio. And coupled with that obsessive streak is a longing for and relishing of independence. An example of this trait from early on in Gira’s life springs out of nowhere while we’re discussing his 2006 solo compilation ‘Songs for a Dog’. “Oh, you’re talking about ‘The Song for Lena’, that song has a very specific genesis,” says Gira. “That’s on my Angels of Light album called ‘Angels of Light Sing Other People’, and there’s also an acoustic version on the LP you’re talking about.That was a woman, her name was Lena, she was a Persian Jew from Iran who emigrated to Israel. She was very poor but had a Western husband lately, who was dead and she had a son in the copper mines where I was working in Eilat, Israel at the time.The son introduced me to her and she took me in, cause I was a runaway at that point. I was a runaway child in Israel, taking drugs and you know, bumming about in 1969.That was a time when one would just hitchhike around Europe and end up wherever they did and I ended up in Israel somehow, panhandling, selling my blood for money.” How old were you? “I was uh… fifteen. Anyway, she took me under her wing. She was an elderly lady then and gave me a place to stay and talked to me and advised me and, finally, um, contacted my parents – my father – and told them where I was. It was just a tribute to her. I was thinking about her and she needed some kind of signature on the world ‘cause she was a good soul, so I wrote her a song.” A contradictory account on Wikipedia (sorry) has him found, imprisoned for selling drugs and eventually flown back to the US by Interpol. However he got there, once back in America, he went to art college, flirted with the LA punk scene and ended up in downtown New York just in time to catch the tail end of No Wave in 1979.The legacy of strident (and extremely loud) independence left by the likes of Glenn Branca,Teenage Jesus and the Jerks and Suicide must’ve fit Gira like a glove. Swans was the medium with which he could realize his own thoroughly independent vision and even for New York gig-goers, accustomed by now to having Lydia Lunch scream at them, it was too much.The go-to word for critics describing Swans’ gigs in the ‘80s was antagonistic. “It certainly was yes, it was antagonistic,” confirms Gira. “I think actually the reason was that from the very early days we were roundly and decidedly rejected by the audience. People would throw shit and then leave.What we were doing, people hadn’t heard or experienced much like it, usually. Suicide was more pulsing, and it was almost like cabaret, you know? But they got pelted generally as well, they weren’t popular back then.They opened for the Clash and people threw showers of beer bottles at them, they booed them off the stage.”
“We’d play to fifty people and an optimistic outcome would be ten people left when we’d finished” Rather than turn down the volume or give up and return to art, Gira merely allowed the confusion, disgust and anger to permeate his artistic psyche. “Once you get into a relationship like that with an audience,” he explains, “it’s kind of hard to let it go because in a way it’s nice. You can take out your aggressions on strangers and it becomes a mode you fall into constantly. Initially, we would play and, at best, there’d be maybe fifty people in the audience and an optimistic outcome would be ten people left when we’d finished.That was for four or five years. And so you just kind of interiorize and you withdraw and you say, ‘Fuck them, I’m going to do it no matter what – if they don’t like it, fuck them!’ So, we started locking the doors and not letting them out.” He lets out a long, nostalgic laugh. “We’d turn off the lights so they had to experience it really intensely.You just decide you’re going to take charge.” Once he’d fully gripped this idea and ran with it –playing fascistic imprisonment sound explosions to terrified and trapped audiences; the context around him slipped and it was again necessary to drive off down his own course. “Gradually people came to expect what we were doing and our audiences grew.We got this sensationalist press about being this ‘loud’ band etc. and then you saw a bunch of idiot lunk-heads who just wanted to bang their heads and that was even worse. So then
I started adding quieter moments and different textures and then they hated it, so it always changed, there was never an audience that was really on our side until the very end.” What’s it like now then, playing these shows? “It’s an unusual experience ‘cause people are pretty much ok with what we’re doing; so it’s an entirely different experience from the early days in which it was very confrontational.” While there might not be the kind of conflict Gira remembers at Koko that night (I did hear about a “shouting match” between some girls at the front – crikey!), the music was pumped with the emotionally-draining, momentous and world-collapsing panic you get from watching war footage or getting beaten-theshit-out-of.Though there’s some earlier, heavily reworked material, most of the (nearly) two hour set is comprised of extended versions of songs from the latest record. ‘No words/No thoughts’, the insane, propulsive opener on the album, is the opener here – only with a disembodied soundscape and tubular bells intro (played by a solitary, shirtless,Viking-like guy) that lasts for at least ten minutes before the rest of the band come on and the song ‘begins’.The confrontational aspect is still very much present, though, only it’s more consentingly realised as some kind of sonic group
sadomasochism. Group sadomasochism? It fits rather neatly with another theme that Swans’ output is soaked in, religion. Feeling particularly astute and articulate, I ask: “Where does all the religious stuff come from?” “Same place as it comes from for you,” says Gira. “Everybody’s got that stuff in them. It’s not really premeditated, it’s not a program or a dogma or an agenda, it’s just I write about what strikes me as interesting at the time.There is a sort of quasi-religious ambition in the music, it’s not spiritual in the normal sense of the word but I do want the music to lead to a higher place. And maybe it’s a little bit of hyperbole but I say I want the music to destroy your body, so your body atomizes and dissipates. Sort of like a spray, if you took a mouthful of water and – Ssph! – spat it out in the air, that’s what I’d like to happen to your body when we play.That’s a metaphor, mostly.” He winks without winking. “It’s like having intense sex for several hours at a time and eventually you loose the whole concept of who you are and where you are.” Is the ambition to make the music atomizing like that, the reason it sounds so scary? “Scary? I’d not say scary. I want it to be joyful and ecstatic.That’s the ambition of a lot of rock music, even like The Stooges, it’s probably a similar ambition, they just didn’t talk about it. Horror? I don’t really go with that, I’m not horrified. I’m all for the religious impulse, I just don’t like organised religion. But I understand the impulse, I like the hidden impulse toward religion, which is to find something bigger than yourself; to lose yourself in something. I think we all want to do that and we do that in different ways. People who were communists during the early days of communism did the same thing – they lost themselves in Stalin, you know? I think it’s a human ambition to dissolve yourself into something unknowable.That’s what music helps along, really. Like Wagner or something, the whole crescendo-ing thing. Maybe if you’re shitfaced at the same time it might be really perfect, I dunno, or maybe if you’re on LSD? It’s like an ordeal you know, like a ritual ordeal, it kind of just makes you lose your boundaries and I think everybody wants that, they should want that, ‘cause we’re pretty temporary.” You feel that an ‘ordeal’ for him is not quite what an ‘ordeal’ is for us; his threshold for pain and self-obliteration is stratospheric. Often people generalize Swans’ music as ‘dark’; something Gira usually refutes gently by pointing to its sweeter aspects. Dark doesn’t do it justice; it’s cataclysmic, disturbing, unpleasant, funny, beautifulsounding and so on.Where there’s sweetness (his three-year-old daughter singing on ‘You Fucking People Make Me Sick’), it’s stitched so tightly to something decidedly not sweet (the paedophilic undertone of that song) that categories of ‘dark’ and ‘light’ fail to make sense. Gira’s music goes beyond where most music stops to come up for air and, while his easy manner and complete lack of pretension veil it, Gira himself has gone somewhere very strange indeed.
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Weird Dr the name says it all, but this new garage trio still spent halloween dressed as their favourite david lynch characters to make sure Photographer: Lee Go ldu p Writer: D k go ldstei n
‘Twas the eve before Hallows, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except for a few hundred hipsters decked head to toe in David Lynch paraphernalia. And while they chatter innocuously in the bar, their eyes half-heartedly fixed on the unearthly extracts of Twin Peaks screening above the DJ, upstairs sit an Indian, a scalped drug dealer and a demonic entity. “Doran gave me the idea for this because I was freaking out,” says Craig, the effervescent drummer and founder of indie label Sleep All Day, currently perched on the arm of a sofa in a big Indian headdress animatedly chatting about why he’s dressed like his choice of Twin Peaks character. “I’m Johnny, Audrey’s brother, who’s massively disabled and doesn’t really talk at all and you rarely see his face,” he gushes, “but also this is really weird
because my girlfriend is going as Audrey, which means I’m her brother tonight.” As they share in a chuckle Doran, the frontman and songsmith of the troupe, explains that he’s the “drugdealing, wife-beating bastard” Leo, except he’s modified the plot somewhat. “I changed the storyline for my own benefit and decided that this cop Hawk, who’s a Native American, scalped me. I’m just a bloody mess,” he intones, with red splattered across his clothes and a brain poking through the top of his baseball cap. And then routed beside Doran’s small frame is bassist Hugo, who’s slumped in a grey wig, a denim jacket and an owl mask settled just above his brow to resemble Killer Bob. They look like an odd set now, but on stage they gel so well you wouldn’t realise that they’ve only been a band since
July. They released their Bratwell-recorded four-track debut EP on cassette on the 27th through Sleep All Day’s sister label Sleepy King, just three days after playing their first ever show at Tough Love’s fifth birthday all dayer. Hugo wasn’t even part of the band before this. “Well, me and Craig have been talking about doing something for a long time, way too long,” Doran reasons. “Then I finally sorted my shit out and started writing some songs instead of procrastinating all the time. Hugo didn’t join us until we’d finished recording the first EP. Everything has been really fast.” “Before it was just me and Doran in a room making noise,” says Craig, which Doran expresses as weird. “It’s a little experiment,” he clarifies. Aged 26 and 28 respectively, Doran and Craig met at work.
reams “Where we sell dead people’s clothes,” deadpans Doran. “Just a vintage clothes shop. But how do I know you?” He asks, looking towards Hugo questioningly. “Through bands I guess,” shrugs Hugo like a monosyllabic teenager, despite being 23. “Yeah, friends of friends,” grins Doran. “No motorcycle gangs or anything.” Having grown up in different parts of the country – Doran was on the borders of Essex, while Hugo was in Surrey and Craig was in the Midlands – it was London that forced them together along with little ideas sprouting in Doran’s mind. “I guess it’s my project, I write all the music,” he ponders, “but I couldn’t think of anything worse than having a solo project, it’s just one of the most disgusting things I can think of. If you start off writing songs by yourself and you’ve got people around you who’ve got the same
influences, then eventually it becomes more than you would’ve been able to make it in the first place. It transcends my abilities,” he pauses before laughing, “Hopefully.” Once Doran presents the guys with a song they don’t wait around. “Me and Craig rush,” he says. “We book studio time before he knows the songs, and then we learn them as quickly as possible, go in and just record no matter how unprepared. But it always seems to come together.” Unlike all the lo-fi, garagefuzz bands around at the moment (such as Not Cool, The Love Triangle, Lovvers, etc.) Weird Dreams have a really clean sound that’s almost innovative in the current climate. Almost. Taking influence from a plethora of Sixties girl bands and the Beach Boys, they sound like a balladeering, harmonising, poppy soul group with a twist of Weezer-cheese. “The Tammys, The
Girls,” Doran starts offering by way of example. “The obvious ones like The Shangri-Las, but early Sixties southern soul as well and metal and hardcore but you can’t really hear Slayer in there,” he jokes. As well as pop music, Doran channels a Lynchian technique too. “Me and Craig have a mutual love for everything David Lynch,” he begins, “which I know is incredibly fashionable at the moment. I read this book Lynch on Lynch, which is loads of interviews with him about his films and the way he works. It helped me changed the way I write. I don’t practice transcendental meditation or anything, but he uses this stream of consciousness approach and lets things go where they’re supposed to rather than sticking to traditional formulas or composition. I just found it really endearing. It probably doesn’t sound like that when you
listen to the music, it probably sounds really poppy.” Taken from one of the tracks on their EP, ‘Little Girl’, is the name Weird Dreams. “I have a massive history of sleep terrors,” Doran says. “I haven’t had them for a long time, but I moved into a new flat with my girlfriend and the tables turned and she started having these nightmares. She was dreaming that people were coming in every single night. But yeah, it ended up being the chorus of one of the songs and I really like it. It’s quite ambiguous in a way, I think it leaves a lot to interpretation. Plus I like the way it sounds, good euphony.” The guys are working on a follow-up to their first EP now, another four tracks that will be released in January, but to allay your cravings there’s a split 7” out now on Colours’ label Marshall Teller with Brooklyn buds Total Slacker.
the laugh boat Photographer: owen r i c har ds Writer: stuar t stubb s
Comedic actor, writer and poet Tim Key has ventured into the world of music. Kinda. He’s recorded thirty of his surreally real tales for an album, which he did on a boat, with a string quartet. It’s given us the perfect excuse to meet him Rob Pacey turned round, bent over and displayed his arse.Then Mark Davenport turned round, bent over and displayed his arse too. And then Andy Warr turned round, bent over and displayed his arse… Mike Abbot hated this… So goes one of Tim Key’s eleven hundred poems, recited in his docile, sleepy manner to make Mark Davenport’s name as much the punch line as the fact that he, Rob Pacey and Andy Warr are in actual fact peacocks. The poem is called ‘Bending Over’ and it’s track four on Key’s vanity album, ‘Tim Key with a String Quartet on a Boat’, released earlier this month via Angular Recordings. “I just love names like Mark Davenport,” says the comic in a stark latte bar near Boris Johnson’s City Hall. “Obviously no thought goes into them – I don’t sit for twenty minutes and think up Andy Warr.When it works best is when people find them funny without them being at all funny, like if someone turns up called Dan Cook, it’s like,
‘wow, that’s quite funny,’ even though it’s not.” We meet Tim early, just outside London Bridge station. “I need to be back on the tube just before half eleven,” he says. “I’ve got Claudia Winkleman’s radio show to do, and I wouldn’t want to keep Winkleman waiting.” What exactly does a Claudia Winkleman radio show entail? “I dunno,” shrugs Tim, “just a chat. I might ask her if she’s a pervert. I’ll say, ‘I’m going to turn that question around on you Claudia and ask are you a pervert for asking me here today? And where have my clothes gone?’”Tim Key (it’s hard not to include his surname when you’ve been listening to his tales and poems for a few weeks) then lets out a short sharp burst of laughter, which he does a lot. On stage he cuts the figure of a forlorn, sedated scruff who struggles to muster the
energy it takes to complete any given sentence; off stage he’s equally as considered but far more likely to find his jokes and those of others instantly hysterical. Both Tim Keys enjoy the surreal, as Claudia Winkleman will soon find out, and as I did when seeing his work-in-progress stand-up show a week ago. “Oh, you came to one of those, did you?” he happily exclaims. “Which one was it?” The one where Tim Minchin turned up and you finished by singing a song in Russian (a language that Tim studied at university). “Ah, yes,” he remembers. “Yeah, that was fun, wasn’t it?” It was. But comedy – in an age where men as unfunny as Russell Howard, as old fashioned as Michael McIntyre and as unlikable as Peter Key can sell out arena venues – is also something of a serious business. And Tim Key, although unlikely to ever admit it,
is close to tipping point. He’s the guy who sits to the left of Alan Partridge on the recent Mid Morning Matters YouTube shorts; the man who was funnier than Charlie Brooker on Newswipe; the bloke who is a glass of milk on a TV ad you’ve probably seen but not fully noticed.Winkleman wants to talk to him; so do we; and Angular Records have released his record, which is why we’re officially here, although it turns out that Tim is not too au fait with the current musical climate. “I don’t know any of these bands,” he says, squinting at the front cover of last month’s Loud And Quiet. “Are they bands?” “Yes,” I say. “Grinderman are Nick Cave’s band, and you’ve heard of him, right?” “Oh yeah,” nods Tim. “I loved him in Face Off.” His album was recorded, as the title suggests, on a boat, with a string quartet, and is made up of thirty poems that are more often than not shorter than the inter-track back-n-forth between Tim and his friend Lord (comedian Tom Basden). It took two days to make, although has been pieced together to sound like one continual take, in keeping with Tim’s slacker, ‘that’ll do’, heightened air and his train of thought poems. It’s more like a radio play than anything else. “Making it was pretty hectic,” he says. “Yeah, it was pretty grim. It was horrible!” He lets out another burst of loud laughter. “The album is a little bit more straight [than my shows],” he continues. “It’s kinda scripted as well so there’s a different atmosphere. It’s still not a character but it is a little bit of a persona. But the stuff you would have seen the other night; that was very relaxed. It’ll be interesting to see, actually, when I make that show into a proper hour to take to Edinburgh next year, how it might change. I kinda hope it doesn’t because I like it so relaxed and feeling so open. But, yeah, the stuff on Screenwipe and Newswipe is a little bit more disarming I suppose, but I think that’s because I feel there’s a job of work to be done. I’m there for Charlie Brooker to hand over to me and for me to do a poem that they’ve commissioned about a particular bit of news.
“There’s a lot of recurring themes on the record. Well, there’s three. There’s a lot of Sex, a lot of Death and love. Oh, and divs!”
It’s not as if I can stop halfway through and start talking to the cameraman. In fact, they don’t like that at all,” he laughs. For those YouTube viewers out there, I’d suggest searching for Tim’s Newswipe poem ‘Banker’. Filmed in a dank dungeon it features him endearingly sad-eyed as he calmly lays into “those dreadful bastards in banks who screwed the country over”. ‘The Bad Gentleman’ is good too, about a failed terrorist attack that happened around the show’s original airing. The bad gentleman put some powder in his knickers and shuffled through security, it begins. And Tim, quite evidently, likes to self-commission darkly themed prose too. On ‘Tim Key on a Boat with a String Quartet’ he gives us ‘Tiger’ (a sleazy tale of a golfing sex pest), ‘Eggs’ (about a decrepit old crone tormenting her son) and ‘Waterloo’, which is the album’s closing opus that ends in death and embarrassment. But really, amongst the random horrors of the record, the real recurring theme seems to be the fairer sex. “There’s lots of recurring themes on the record, actually,” says Tim. “Well, there’s three! Ladies do come up a lot.There’s a lot of sex, a lot of death and…err…love! Sometimes there’s some sex happening where there’s love; sometimes people are killing themselves because of love; and sometimes people get carried away during sex and die…Oh, and divs!” he remembers, “there are a lot of divs and plonkers, just getting up to mischief.” Last year,Tim won the Edinburgh Comedy Award, which is something he’s extremely modest about. “You’ve got to be quite philosophical about it and realise that it’s just the opinion of those judges watching the shows,” he says. “What more important is that you’ve had a good couple of weeks in Edinburgh and the other people who’ve come to the shows have enjoyed it.” In 2011 he’ll return to the festival with a show forged from his recent live workshops, but not before he releases his debut album and performs in a Tom Basden play between now and Christmas. And certainly not before he gets on the tube and asks Claudia Winkleman if she’s a pervert. www.loudandquiet.com
Through the Looking glass 26
In debut album ‘Ring’, Cameron Mesirow has created a fascinating concept record with no beginning, middle or end. Once you’ve fallen into her world you won’t want to leave Photographer: ho lly lucas Writer: R eef youn i s
you’ve been following the muchvaunted renaissance of dreamy, celestial pop that’s seen Blonde Redhead garner critical acclaim for over a decade of beautiful craft and characterised School of Seven Bells’ deserved prominence this year, Glasser, and her debut album ‘Ring’, completed the holy trinity. A Los Angeles twenty something with a bubbly, considered personality, Cameron Mesirow is the voice, mind and spirit behind the moniker. Armed with Garageband and a vivid concept, Glasser has evolved from early, unformed works to the vibrant, evocative artist responsible for one of the most well thought out albums of 2010. I’m told Cameron is a performer in the truest sense of the word, collating costumes, visuals and theatrical dramatics to rival that of Karin Dreijer Andersson’s Fever Ray productions. It’s a dirty word but preinterview I get a palpable sense I could be dealing with a bit of a diva. “I wasn’t embarrassed about what I wanted to do,” she says. “I wanted to make music and I wanted to do it like other people had done it. But that’s one thing I think I’ve really broken away from, wanting to emulate other people.” The statement, in itself, is not an unfamiliar one. Isolated as it is, you could view it as another artist’s reasoning on their www.loudandquiet.com
perceived originality or a blunt opening gambit designed to put an unscrupulous music hack on the defensive.Thankfully, it’s neither. Flitting between deep-thought, conversation about religion, classics, and the influence the e-grip of information has had on music, Cameron brims with smiles and spontaneous giggles. She has a lovely way of putting a stranger at ease in much the same way her music does. With Glasser representing both the ethereal and beautiful side of her psyche, and the overused theory that any female act with a discernible style or quirk should instantly be thrown in with slightly crazed luminaries such as Bjork and Fever Ray, the comparisons, lazy or otherwise, are a common, recurring theme. “I definitely see it as a compliment,” she says. “I mean, Blonde Redhead and Fever Ray have that combination of Van Rivers and Subliminal Kid producing their albums and they’ve both worked on my album, so I have that connection with them. It’s always nice to be indefinable but people tend to be a little over zealous with comparisons. “It can be lazy because everyone is working very hard in music right now and
it’s difficult when people write it off in the way of ‘if you don’t like this, then you won’t like this.’ It’s human nature and it’s what makes people feel comfortable and like… religious.That’s what religion is all about – giving people something to hold onto. “It’s funny because in an earlier interview we talked about the focus on my record to kind of allow chaos into my life and just embrace it because it’s kind of there whether you accept it or not. I have to allow people to make comparisons, but I have to be strong enough in my own convictions about my music. Everyone I get compared to, they should check me out!” she laughs. It’s a resolve Cameron has had to build upon to push herself to where she feels she can, and should, go artistically. Motivated by a fierce desire of revolution as opposed to evolution, her roots in art and her unremitting drive to constantly reappraise, reinvent and revitalise some of the emulation and repetition in music is as much of a personal journey as it is an inner battle. “When you’re a kid, it’s so huge in your development to latch onto a certain idea or a certain identity, and it’s so important…you kind of have this stage where you wear different hats, you know? One day you’re a punk, the next day you’re a goth, the next day you’re going to prep school; you’re just trying out different stuff. “I wanted to be in a band but didn’t know what I wanted to do, but was wishing I could be in Blondie or thinking ‘wouldn’t it be cool if I could do what that person did?’ So, when I would try, I would always feel embarrassed because I wasn’t being myself in that character.What changed in me was that I stopped having a mark I was trying to hit and started just having to face myself and this is what I can do, and you shouldn’t be embarrassed about being yourself. I think this is a really healthy part of growing into this creativity. I’ve always had the energy for it but not the outlet.” It feels like a familiar story of growing pains and the adolescent struggle to establish an identity – musical or otherwise. It seems Glasser is the latent vehicle for Cameron’s repressed, early creative impulses and one that she, although flourishing, is still yet to
“The idea I had about making the album with no set beginning or end was like, ‘why does an album always have to be over?’” fully grow into. “I just ended up experimenting and pushing myself to make noise that I didn’t think was beautiful or flattering because my consciousness was holding me back. I just had to grab it by the balls and stick out like a sore thumb. It really helped me and dissolved so much of my fear about the whole thing, and I ended up liking what I did. “Now it’s becoming quite known to people around me, at least that I’m making music. I feel like a musician in the sense that I make music, but I lean towards myself as more of a creative person so I don’t limit myself. Music is really important to me and it’s been a real tool in my upbringing and in my social development, but it may not always be…I can’t really put my finger on what’s to come. “People connect me with the art world,” she continues, “and I guess I identify a bit more with that in terms of musicians are often chasing after technique.They want to play things that have been played before.You might want to learn to play guitar like Bo Diddley, then you end up with a band that sounds like Bo Diddley. I’m more interested in making and doing things with sound and music that aren’t a repeat. I like to do stuff that’s me and I know right now it’s cool to reference things from the past, and god knows everyone does it, including me, but I kind of like to just keep pushing myself forward.That’s why I think I connect myself more with the art world. Contemporary art is more about doing things that haven’t been done before.” It’s an ideology Cameron takes to heart. Her debut, ‘Ring’, isn’t any ordinary LP,
recorded, pressed and pushed out to the masses; it’s an album born of the eternal; a living, unending symphony consisting of songs and themes that constantly inform each other. It touches upon ripples of percussion, playful handclaps, drizzling synth and the sweet, honeyed presence of Mesirow’s vocal. “The idea I had about making the album with no set beginning or end was an idea I had on my own. It was like, ‘why does an album always have to be over?’What if there wasn’t a set progression…what if you could just start it somewhere and come back to that? So, during the making of the record, most of the songs share a theme, which was this idea of instability and embracing chaos, and some of the songs are about being afraid of it and others are about embracing it. “It just felt fitting and wonderful if I could add more rings to a ring and make it centred around this one song that wasn’t about embracing chaos or fearing it, it was just a simple message of a love song. So, I framed that song within the others and built this shared theme from the centre out, it’s like concentric circles [Cameron tries to airdemonstrate the theory] and those circles come back…it’s hard to explain!” As concept albums go, ‘Ring’ has been refined to its essence. Inspired by a simple wish to create a cyclic body of music with no fixed beginning or end, its construct is both complex and delicate; a fluid stream of sound that serves to strengthen the mysticism, consideration and execution that went into the entire process. Still, it doesn’t prevent Cameron patiently trying to put it into layman, music writer terms.
“It’s cool that there seems to be an album revival and I’m happy to be a part of that. It’s special and it’s art!”
“The song about love is in the middle and there’s a ring around that with two songs either side of that song…it’s like if you have a tree trunk and you cut a slice off the top,” she laughs. “I just thought it was an interesting nod to that style of composition that was also like something I conveniently learned in school. “I was taking Classics classes where we read The Odyssey and The Iliad. Now we read them, but they used to just be told, so the way the orator remembered how to tell the story was by sequencing the series of events in the story. If Odysseus went to the island of the Lotus Eaters, and then went to where there were giants, he’d come back to the island. Anyway, the important part is that it’s called the ring composition. Sorry, I feel like I’m being so inarticulate. I didn’t have to talk about it when I was making it!” she giggles.
ehind her open, friendly exterior, it’s clear that there’s a deeper thinking to both Cameron and Glasser.The intermittent laughing and smiling eyes are engaging and inviting, but there’s also a level of seriousness and high intelligence channelled through her conversation. It’s a steeled element manifested by the personal battles and exploration Cameron’s had to contend with in reaching this current point of her creativity, and in the same way the concept for ‘Ring’ was never-ending, her self-analysis seems equally unremitting. “A lot of people are not taking the time to make albums,” she says. “They’re making songs and putting them together as collections. I think it’s cool that there seems to be an album revival and I’m happy to be a part of that. It’s special and it’s art. Everybody, don’t forget – music is still art! When I was done making the album, the album was not done being made. It was working with
producers then it had to get mixed, and, of course, I was there for all that stuff, but it didn’t really sink in it was done until a month or so after.Then it was just months of sitting on it and thinking ‘I have this secret to tell and nobody knows.’There was a lot of suspense.” Not that Cameron need have worried because ‘Ring’ did as much to capture the imagination as any of the current school of melodic, spectral indie pop. It’s an album that surprises and delights, floating with a ghostly, swirling sheen, given a new, glossier weight courtesy of Van Rivers and Subliminal Kid’s production. And whereas the timing of the release couldn’t have been any more perfect, Glasser still had to deliver an album that would both dispel the perception that her music was “difficult”, and prove that the skeletal composition of her earlier tracks could grow into a full body of work. “In the Internet age, people listen to a second of it and they’re like, ‘Oh, Bjork.’ People listen to a fraction of it and they have it pegged…that’s just how art is.The person who’s expressing can never… it’s so hard to express everything and have people take it seriously…we have short attention spans, you know?” It’s often a criticism levelled at blogs in the great hit chase, but it’s symptomatic of Cameron’s positive outlook that everyone and everything has value in spite of the relentless zeal in which we embrace a modern way of life. “I wouldn’t say that blogs are not critical because they certainly are. I’ve had some incredibly badly written blog pieces with some saying how good the record is and some saying how bad the record is, but they’re people with opinions. I think the lack of patience is due to people being inundated with information, and I think about how many more bands there are now and how little emphasis is put on music. “I played an instore at Rough Trade the other day and I was awed by the fact there’s a store dedicated to music. I’ve seen music stores before, obviously, but they seem to be turning more into media stores. For example,
Tower Records, before it went out of business, that was a major chain in America, but towards the end they started selling toys and just had all this shit crowding music. I guess it doesn’t matter so much anymore because we can get it for free.” Ultimately, Cameron’s take on other people’s opinions is proud and understandably personal. It’s protective without being confrontational and again reverts back to the musical sense of self she’s chiselled out over the last few years. “When you love something, you just want… I just want people to like it,” Cameron corrects, “but I have to accept that they may not. I try not to place a lot of emphasis on the really good reviews because I know how crestfallen I’ll be with the bad ones. At the end of the day, I think if you’re proud of what you’ve done, it doesn’t matter what people think. I’m very proud of the record, I worked really hard and I had to overcome a lot of personal obstacles to get it out.”
or some, the completion of one’s album marks a new notch in the timeline. It presents an opportunity to reappraise what came before, gauge its successes and failures or it can be the catalyst for something entirely new. And, with repetition and imitation being two thought processes Cameron needs no encouragement to battle, it’s unsurprising that her mind is already on her next project, even if it’s a little clouded. “I once heard that creativity is like a ghost and it just passes through you then disappears. I still feel like I have that now, but maybe I’m getting anxious to make something new. I also think I’m having a reaction to myself now.The first album was so fluid… I’m finding myself attracted to things that are solid and truthful, not that it’s not truthful, it’s more like an admittance of
flux, and what I’m feeling right now is a barren emptiness and a hardness, and I think it’s a reaction to my previous writing. I’m not sure [about the second album direction]. I haven’t got a good enough grasp on the future to tell you that.” What is for certain is that whatever Glasser’s future direction entails, it will be conducted with the creativity and fearlessness she finally seems to have harnessed and has found a level of comfort expressing.With the potential to delve deeper in either art or music, Cameron seems fulfilled with where she is, but, most importantly, is always looking ahead to where she can go. “I think everything informs everything else and things can be connected,” she smiles. “Music’s definitely been the most important thing for me to do in the last few years. I think I’ll feel like that for a while because I love music and I love singing and I love making songs and sounds. But I’m just following myself, and I don’t know where it’s going to go. I think it could go somewhere totally unexpected and it could potentially be something, someday, that isn’t just critically acclaimed.Who knows? It’s all just a big experiment.You can try to tell yourself that you know where it’s going to go, but you have to keep it open.You just have to do life.” After what seemed to be a gruelling personal battle just sitting in her own skin, it’s difficult not to be enamoured with Cameron’s thoughtful, open-ended outlook to her music.That she’s prepared to recall a time where the progress wasn’t always beautiful is a testament to her conviction, and that in rejecting that period of imitation, she’s emulating the only person that’s most important right now: herself.
Cloud Nothings It’s a young man’s game
Photographer: G em m a har r i s Writer: Dan i el Dy l an wr ay
I approach a young, white, pale, thin male with black rimmed glasses, a plaid shirt and a pristine Macintosh sat neatly in front of him. It’s an all too familiar site nowadays, but there is something intrinsically different about Dylan Baldi a.k.a. Cloud Nothings (a name conjured up from writing down possible band names in his notebook whilst bored in class at school). Not only is he still a teenager, but he evokes the kind of goofball charm and endearing outlook and persona that makes him as refreshing as it does intriguing. At eighteen years old he started to record a bunch of songs in his bedroom, armed only with a battered microphone and a crappy computer. The results were this year’s ‘Turning On’ – an album of lo-fi garage popsmattered songs that brings to mind the early rugged charm of demo-period, pre-‘Is This It’ Strokes, whilst also creating one of the greatest hook songs of the year in ‘Hey Cool Kids’. This is to be followed up by a self-titled release in January, recorded in a proper studio. “It was always an ambition to record properly in a studio,” Dylan says in American high school twang, “definitely. That’s always been on my mind.” With lo-fi itself becoming more an aesthetic and a genre based on trends rather than definition, you’d quite rightly expect it to be something that Dylan is keen to distance
himself from. Plenty of others have since the backlash began this summer. “I’m not,” says Dylan, “because I love a lot of those bands. I also dislike a lot of those bands, but I’m not trying to distance myself from it, I don’t think, no.” As we continue to talk, Dylan’s face very rarely stops beaming and grinning. It all seems a bit overwhelming for him. “Oh yeah, it totally is,” he freely admits. “Only four days ago was the first time I ever went on a plane and left the country.” Now the band are in the midst of a tour with Veronica Falls before they join the Wichita 10th Anniversary tour with Les Savy Fav, followed by a stop off at Leeds’ Constellations Festival to play with the likes of Liars, Four Tet, Broken Social Scene, Sleigh Bells, Los Campesinos! and Les Savy Fav again. Dylan is now nineteen and in a world somewhat far away from his bedroom recordings days of 2008/2009, where he’d work completely alone. “What was definitely a little weird was having someone else there while recording the album,” he says. “It had always been just me before.” And although that suggests that Dylan is now working with a host of other musicians, he’s not. The “someone else” was a studio hand or two – Dylan still plays every instrument on every song. For the tour that’s clearly impossible, so he’s rounded up a backing band of friends, from
other bands from his hometown of Cleveland. So what happens when Cloud Nothings goes home? Will Dylan start to collaborate with his new band? “Erm…no I think it will just continue to be me,” he deadpans. So is Cloud Nothings simply Dylan Baldi? “Well, I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but yeah.” It’s when we start discussing such things as that that Dylan’s ambition, and to a degree control, starts to emerge. “I couldn’t play someone else’s songs,” he says. “I used to play saxophone in the school band and we used to have to play Beethoven and I just hated it, I wanted to do my own stuff.” At this point I quiz him on what instruments he can play and he continues to reel off quite an impressive list that includes piano, banjo, mandolin, guitar, drums and so on. “I started piano at the age of five,” he says, proudly. Imposed by your parents, I assume? “No. Actually, I remember seeing my grandma play when I was a kid and thinking it was really cool, so I just started to play.” The footnote to this is that Dylan admits, “I can’t play them all really well or anything” but it’s nonetheless impressive, and so it seems this passionate immersion in as many things as possible is an accurate embodiment of his frantic and exhilarating musical output. The
songs of ‘Turning On’ (an album in length but a record made up of past demos and limited single releases) give a sense of almost rushed relentlessness, manic and agitated. You certainly don’t imagine there is too much tinkering once they are complete, which is confirmed when Dylan admits that the studio debut album was made in “about a week and a half.” It appears the gusto and speed of which most nineteen year olds live and feel has been cemented into musical form with the creation of Cloud Nothings. It’s music that sounds like what nineteen year olds should be making and it’s also music that
makes you feel nineteen again – a perfect concoction of youth, exuberance and charm in musical form. But, with essentially two albums to promote and tour, touring must be the main focus for now, and that is sure to halt Cloud Nothings’ prolific output. “Oh no,” says Dylan. “I’m always working on more songs. I want to do some more, yeah,” he beams. And it’s hard not to become engulfed by his enthusiasm and energy – a character trait he flawlessly shares with his songs. When the band play live tonight they exceed my expectations, which, truth be
told, were fairly high anyway. They seemed to emit and represent everything a band of their age should: they’re loud, fast, utterly enthralling and most importantly they were fun. Really fun! And I think it takes a band like Cloud Nothings and a gig like tonight’s to reinstate that live music can be that sometimes – it often becomes a forgotten priority in many bands. Ultimately, Dylan is a very inconspicuous character. He’s exactly the kind of kid you may expect to encounter working as an assistant in a store that is polite, pleasant and helpful and even to a degree, a tad dorky.
However, once on stage the softly spoken and very youthful sounding Dylan transforms into a natural performer that glides into the role of front man with a voice that at times rattles and stings with a venomous bite. Looks can be deceiving it would seem. As I get older and generally more embittered with the world and the people in it, I should naturally extend this to the happy young go getters ready to set the world on fire with an enthusiasm that grates and sickens me – instead I feel totally consumed by it, to the point of sustenance. Cloud Nothings created one of the most
engrossing and instantly likeable albums of this year, created from the mind of an eighteen-year-old college drop out, in his bedroom with whatever he had to hand, and that is a really cool thing. As our interview concludes I ask him if he would like a drink. He politely declines and I enquire if he doesn’t drink? He doesn’t it turns out. “No, I don’t do anything cool like that, I just go on the Internet,” he smirks, as he lifts open the lid to his mac. I guess nobody thought it was cool to try and emulate your grandma’s musical skills either, but look where that’s got him.
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Cold in Berlin Diplo Eux Autres French Horn Rebellion Forest Swords Gregory & The Hawk Half-Handed Cloud J.C. Satan Lords of Falconry Jon Savage Munch Munch Not Squares Parting Gifts Reading Rainbow Ruth Sic Alps Simian Mobile Disco Stereolab Tanlines Teeth of The Sea The Sights The Super Burritos Turzi Tyvek Y Niwl
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Various Artists Black Hole: Jon Savage Presents California Punk 1977-1980 (Domino) By Stuart Stubbs. In stores now
Cultural historian and music writer Jon Savage has been here before, collating an obscure and worthwhile compilation with Domino Recordings. But ‘Black Hole’ is a far different, more agitated and instantly enjoyable history lesson than 2008’s ‘Dreams Come True: Classic First Wave Electro 1982-1987’. It’s an introduction that most of us need, to a forgotten time in California’s musical lineage when the hippy dream had been quashed by apathy – and then greed – and Black Flag had yet to change everything with their self-sacrificial hardcore values. Savage [pictured above right], you might know from his UK punk bible England’s Dreaming (or as that impossible posh bloke who admits to crying when Oasis played ‘Some Might Say’ on Top of The Pops in Britpop
documentary Live Forever) but he’s just as well read on late ’70s Cali punk, even if it did exist, as he says, “in a black hole”, void of funding and support from TV, radio and large tours alike. Germs singer Darby Cash best sums up the scene and album in the final whining seconds of the opening ‘Forming’. After three minutes of the band rattling on with their heads down (subsequently influencing our own Graffiti Island in sloppy sound) the front-man selfdeprecates, “We’re playing it all wrong/The drums are too slow, the bass is too fast, the chords are all wrong.” And then the track does what it has spent its whole life threatening to do – it falls apart, unremorsefully. And this sense of reckless abandon, and open slackness, is what ties together the other nineteen bands and twenty-five songs found on this collection of playfully nihilistic punk songs. From the British sounding Dils, who snarl, “I hate the rich” not unlike The Buzzcocks to Consumers and their proto-speed-stadium-metal, none of these underground bands claim to be as sophisticated or technical as Genesis, because pompous prog
rock is what made them start making this brattish, loose racket in the first place. As you’d expect – of Savage and a forgotten alternative scene – most of ‘Black Hole’’s bands are either familiar in name alone or are completely unheard of until now (with the exception of Dead Kennedys and their staple offering, ‘California Uber Alles’), and their antiestablishment rants range from the ghoulish and funky (The Alleycats) to the threateningly sexy (The Zeros’ ‘Wimp’) to the weird and borderline unlistenable (Black Randy & The Metro Squad’’s mornic ‘Trouble At The Cup’). A band like the ever-sinister Screamers meanwhile suggest how punk rock can be at its most frightening (and sarcastic and clever) when dialled down to a pace less frantic than most associate with picking up a guitar for the first time, and Urinals, who provide the title track, even dare to prove that the friendless genre and hippy psych can live together quite brilliantly, which is just one more reason why ‘Black Hole’ is a perfect introduction to a scene that should be remembered.
French Horn Rebellion
(Angular) By Polly Rappaport. In stores Nov 22
(Upset The Rhythm) By Nathan Westley. In stores Nov 29
The Infinite Music of French Horn Rebellion
(Richter Collective) By Sam Walton. In stores Dec 6
(Family Edition) By Reef Younis. In stores Dec 6
Some problems with reissuing a ridiculously obscure cult album: For starters, there are those of us who wouldn’t join the cult in question even if we had a beefy French bondage gimp encouraging us at gunpoint; and for another, what if the members of said cult only joined because they heard the title track on a compilation? I mean, what if they find out that track is one of Mark Ronson’s “favourite songs ever”? Or discover that ironic umlaut usage was never cool, even in 1985? However! If vintage European synth pop is your bag, French Kraftwerk impressions and creepily twee cold wave are playlist staples – hell, even if you like the idea of a migraine-inducing Pere Ubu remix, snap this baby up.You never know, an 80’s revival has been fast on the rise throughout 2010 and this could soon be the new sound of Dalston.
Strict rules usually have a habit of suffocating creators, but they can also spur them on to a different path to take otherwise-uncalledfor risks. Munch Munch have surprisingly engorged in dogmatic rules for this, their debut album; whereby no guitars were allowed to feature and all percussion was to be purely recorded live.Yet, rather than fall flat on their face, this quartet have weaved together a record that unapologetically scurries around on the fringes of outsider pop. Rich in vibrantly eccentric melodies and bursting with tight polyrhythmic explosions, they swerve from sounding like a budget-restricted version of Yeasayer to a more hyperactive version of Klaxons without the penchant for electronic instruments, which firmly pegs this as being a colourful album that will brighten up even the dullest of days.
(Once Upon a Time) By DK Goldstein. In stores Dec 6
Deciding to write a “party record” is in the same league as planning to be spontaneous: the people who do things like that are also the least appropriate types to do a good job. And so to Not Squares (even their name suggests they might be trying a bit too hard) a Belfast rabble who, not content with the legendary Northern Irish craic, decided that their hometown was missing a party band.The first couple of minutes of ‘Yeah OK’ start promisingly enough, with nicely banging techno building up and breaking down. But then an overly wacky German accent intervenes, imploring us to “release the bees”, and this debut effort never really recovers.The beerfriendly big-beat that follows suggests this is probably a hoot at 2am in a sweaty Belfast pub, but on record there’s a pretty distinct whiff of desperation. Party on? Party off.
At first glance,Tanlines’ aggregation of “compilation tracks, long deleted singles and remixes” don’t do much to whet the appetite. I mean, things get deleted for a reason, right? Not content with releasing your average EP, ‘Volume One’ is the lengthy lead in before Tanlines drop their proper debut sometime next year. Still with Young Turks, XL and Kitsune involved in previous releases, and having roped in Glasser and The Rapture’s chief yelper, Luke Jenner, there are some healthy reference points on what is a likeable first offering.Varied, diverse and often accomplished, Jesse Cohen and Eric Emm skip, slide and shake us through a world of understated tribal rhythms, playful pop, busy bongos and feather-light synth. It’s not immediately arresting but if these are some of the offcuts, we’re keen to hear the real deal.
The first number to really slap you in the face and get you listening to this pretentiously named album is ‘The Body Electric’, which is a pleasantly synth-laden, erratically jumping electro track that melds almost unnoticeably into the multi-blips of ‘Broken Heart’. Milwaukee-born brothers Robert and David Perlick-Molinari have essentially made an album of average indietronic pop tunes that Her Space Holiday was doing ten years ago, though. From track four onwards it’s a slow stroll downhill. The plinky-plonk of ‘Antarctica/ The Decision’ is barely audible, while ‘The Cantor Meets the Alien’ resembles sombre jazzy muzak.Thank your lucky stars this isn’t the infinite music of FHR, but with the majority of it taking on a plod-along tempo it certainly feels it.
Forest Swords Dagger Paths (No Pain In Pop) By Sam Walton. In stores Nov 22
Yes, we get it. Echo, cavernous reverberations, skittery, slow-mo beats – it’s urban claustrophobia, it’s beautiful decay. However, for a record clearly aiming at the dubby, low-end textures of Jamaica and, erm, Croydon, ‘Dagger Paths’ makes a pretty big oversight in not including any bass in its first half, and the result evokes less suburban paranoia, more bedsit tedium. It doesn’t help either, that the majority of the tracks here are indistinguishable from each other, with attempts at neither the epic nor the intimate, each with the same sound palette as its predecessor. But the real flaw with ‘Dagger Paths’ is that its repetitiveness doesn’t carry a consistency that can often excuse limited imagination. While plenty of bands cover up the plumbing of one idea across an entire album with dynamism or a sense of overall cohesion, this album’s monomania feels listless and plodding. Sure, there are occasional moments of enjoyment in the second half, but it’s not really worth the wait. www.loudandquiet.com
Al bums 08/10
Lords of Falconry
Lords of Falconry
(Where it’s at is Where You Are) By Tom Goodwyn. In stores now
(HoZac) By Matthias. In stores Nov 22
Most of What Follows is True (Alive) By Stuart Stubbs. In stores Dec 6
(Holy Mountain) By Nathan Westley. In stores Nov 29
(Duophonic) By Daniel Dylan Wray. In stores now
Omaha duo Eux Autres (pronounced ooz-oh-tra) have quietly made two well received albums without drawing much attention to themselves.That’s unlikely to change on their third release, ‘Broken Bow’, which seems to revel in its low-key status. A collection of well put together garage pop songs, it skims through the stereo quickly and efficiently, steadily filling the speakers with cutesy girl boy harmonies and feedback-drenched guitar fuzz. Most of the tracks are in an uptempo doo-wop vein, quietly catchy and infectious without ever being attention seeking, and ‘Queen Turner’ and ‘A Band Undone’ are especially good.The closest comparison with Eux Autres is the much missed Giant Drag - it’s easy to soak in if you are willing to make the effort, and hopefully more people will be for this third long player.
Reading Rainbow used to be an American TV show for children whose parents wanted them to learn how to read good (and maybe learn how to do other things too).The Philadelphia duo of the same name is unlikely to have a similar impact on the reading habits of a nation, but the two resemble each other in terms of colourfulness and fun. By now, there really should be limited shelf space in most people’s record collections for lo-fi guitar pop bands whose musical epiphany was 90s grunge, but who cares when you have tunes like the national anthem of Slackerzthan ,‘Wasting Time’, or the woozy love poem of ‘Runaways’? Nobody, that’s who. At 40 minutes, ‘Prism Eyes’ does drag on a bit and there are some disposable songs, but this band warrant a temporary de-activation of the cynicism mode – you’ll be rewarded.
Way back in 2002, Detroit blues band The Sights got lumped in with The White Stripes,The Vines, The Hives and any other guitar band that semi-resembled The Strokes through a squinting, iffy eye. It was insulting…to everyone other than the band themselves who managed to make even The Datsuns seem revolutionary.To their credit, they’ve stuck at it for nine years since; against their credit, ‘Most of What Follows is True’ – a record that feels nine more years out of date than their last. Phrases like “I’m gonna have me some fun,” on the Elton-Johnplays-‘Rockin’-All-Over-TheWorld’-esque ‘Hello to Everybody’ do little to prevent this record from sounding like a collection of songs that nearly made the School of Rock soundtrack, while the ballads pilfer Wings, ‘Guilty’ mugs ‘Foxy Lady’ and the unoriginality honky tonks on.
Though they may possess a name that may instantly conjure up images of bearded, pot-bellied, World of Warcraft players that have decided that forming a band is the logical step to take in order to increase their long-term social popularity – this duo’s talons firmly grip a time that is far nearer today then the medieval ages of long ago.Their self-titled debut is a record that features a thick spreading of the type of retro garage rock that is loaded with scuzzy riffs and which has been topped off with a slight experimental psychedelic curve that is only usually gained by those that have indulged in the type of mushrooms not promoted by most forest folk. And although this album will not position LOF near the top of the rock hierarchy, they should take delight that being noble workmen is nothing to be ashamed of either.
Stereolab’s latest is an offering of hazy, floating and at times lush and lavish pop songs – a simplistic and somewhat minimalist album that feels playful and charming.The playfulness leads ‘Not Music’ (even the title has tongue lodged in cheek) to exude a certain degree of youth and subsequent freshness, which is no easy feat when you’re a band now in its twentieth year together.The use of repetition creates an underlying degree of tension and angst, but, sugarcoated, it’s easy to swallow, and the use of a Moog or two is always a joy to hear, thickly pulsating and penetrating vibrations that hum and fuzz in equal measures. Sadier’s vocals are still as odd and Nico-like as ever, and the ten-minute plus ‘Silver Sands’ is a particular highlight of the album, managing to amalgamate all the band’s oddities and quirks into one long, twisted number.
Simian Mobile Disco Delicacies (Delicacies) By Reef Younis. In stores Nov 29
When James Ford and Jas Shaw said that 2010 would be a year of no vocalists back in January, they meant it. Staying true to their resolution (even in Shaw’s production of Gold Panda’s lyric-free LP), the only temptation to which they’ve succumbed is of a culinary kind, with each track on ‘Delicacies’ dedicated to a foodstuff discovered during their world tour earlier this year. A concept in name only, ‘Delicacies’ is anything but. It’s dark and hard-edged; churning hefty slabs of low frequency techno to a merciless and unremitting BPM. An album made for the small, claustrophobic club backrooms, this is what 3am sounds like in the sick inch recesses of a serial killer’s mind.To those looking for a revival of the easy electro house bump of ‘Hustler’, ‘Delicacies’ is an engrossing on-disc return to the duo’s clean, clinical programming of their brutal live sets, and it’s fitting that for an album inspired by the exotic and indulgent, the end result is the real pièce de résistance.
J. C. Satan
Gregory & The Hawk
Sick of Love
(Slovenly) By Matthias Scherer. In stores Nov 29
(FatCat) By Kate Parkin. In stores now
(Aderya Papur) By Chris Watkeys. In stores Dec 6
(In The Red) By Luke Winkie. In stores Dec 6
Blow Your Head: Diplo Presents Dubstep
The concept of buying a record because of its awesome album sleeve is, in these days of typing “artist album name 320kbps rar” into Google, pretty much nonexistent. But if it wasn’t, Arthur Satan and Paula H (the brains behind J.C. Satan) could count on a few dozen impulse buys to drive up the sales figures for this bad boy. Two half-naked ladies + Satanist symbols = guaranteed hit with a certain demographic.The tunes on ‘Sick of Love’ aren’t bad either.The rambunctious ‘Endless Fall’ recalls the garage punk of Jay Reatard, ‘Superhero’ is a Pixies outtake compressed to fuck, and ‘I’ll Be There’ is simplistic but pleasant 3chord-pop. A certain horniness, of the sort only southern Europeans can get away with singing about (the French/Italian accents add to that), permeates the songs, but there is nothing diabolical to be found here.
Operating under the moniker of Gregory and The Hawk, Meredith Godreau has inspired many tortured teenage souls to sling on their acoustics and cover songs from her 2006 ‘Boats and Birds’ EP, littering YouTube with their wideeyed and desperately tuneless attempts. ‘Leche’ is a more grownup affair with strings and delicate tabula rasa plucking.Though her lisping vocals may be too sweet in places, the gentle sounds wash over into a dream-like hum and there’s a cold sparseness to the music that counteracts the sometimes cloying positivity, while ‘A Century Is All We Need’ is so darn pretty you’ll want to loop it constantly. Like the soundtrack to the best film you haven’t seen yet, it dips and swells in perfect time, the jolt of drums beats on ‘Leaves’ offering a kick start when things become too sleepy. At times it’s sublime, and still not all G&TH has to offer.
Y Niwl describe themselves as “the first Welsh language instrumental surf band”, which brings to mind Flight Of The Conchord’s selfdeclaration as “New Zealand’s fourth most popular novelty folk act”. It’s clear there’s an element of self-mockery about this group, but they obviously take their music pretty seriously. Album opener ‘Undegpump’ is pure Tarantino soundtrack, instantly conjuring images of a dancing Uma Thurman drawing her fingers across her face.The whole record has a vintage sound, awash with twangy Beach Boys guitar solos. But tracks like ‘Undegdau’, with its hazy waves, really do cry out for some lyrics. And ‘Deg’, which is bright, poppy and synth-y, while the swirling Hammond of ‘Saith’ has a touch of sixties Mod about it. Well-executed and melodically great, but about as groundbreaking as a broken hammer.
Blue collar laments and sad-sack anger isn’t the hippest thing going in music right now but Parting Gifts don’t pretend it is on this, a record of sprawled, sloppy-hearted bar-rock. Instead they scrape up the best snippets lying around the studio and string them together into a 15-track LP that lasts a quick 35 minutes and tries on creaky, ‘Exile’-era Stones and Brittraditionalists Mekons and The Pogues in equal loving measure, the songs encompassing downand-out tales, mainly about screwing up or screwing women. The basic ingredient is Depression-era bounce, like Cash’s trademark boom-chicka train chug percussion, plus frontman Greg Cartwright’s gritted-teeth groan. Irreverent, slap-dashed and looking for trouble, ‘Strychnine Dandelion’ is the modern record that motorbike-riding uncles have been searching for.
(Mad Decent) By Mandy Drake. In stores now You know dubstep. It’s that mutated descendent of dancehall and techno that features a massive bass warble and whip-snapping drums. It all sounds the same.Well, no, not quite. Diplo sets about proving this common misconception wrong with the first volume of Mad Decent’s ‘Blow Your Head’ series, and his work is done from Joker & Ginz’s opening ‘Re-Up’ – a static-surfing, ambient piece of groove music. From then on we do get the dubstep-by-numbers likes of ‘Down’ by DZ, but also the glitchfriendly ‘Glazed’ by Zomby, RnB starlet Jessica Mauboy remixed by Stenchman and some weird, zombie soul from James Blake, while Doctor P includes all of the above and throws in early 90s house piano through ‘Sweet Shop’. A just celebration of a genre more varied than it’s given credit for.
Teeth of the Sea Your Mercury (Rocket) By Polly Rappaport. In stores Nov 22
Anyone who’s ever seen these guys play knows that Teeth of the Sea are one of the best bands in London at the moment, and undoubtedly the most intrepid psychedelic band in the UK. If their debut LP, ‘Orphaned By The Ocean’ was a testament to the former, ‘Your Mercury’ is a towering case in point on both fronts.This is a colossus of an album, with an unfathomable sonic wingspan, seamlessly soaring through forty-five minutes of apocalyptic euphoria. All sounds are heightened, each aural nuance is striking and vivid; soundscapes screened in Technicolor. Schizophrenic samples insinuate themselves like acid flashbacks amidst glowering synth tolls and cosmic rays of trumpet blast, while foreboding drum beats charge the roiling atmosphere. Breathless guitar riffs ride the avant-rock torrents with absurd agility, lifting the journey from highly evocative travelogue to fullblown space odyssey that you’ll wish would last at least forty-five minutes more. www.loudandquiet.com
Al bums 06/10
The Super Burritos
Cold In Berlin
Two Monkeys Fight for a Banana (Bug Foot)
Give Me Walls
By Chris Watkeys. In stores now
(In The Red) By Tom Goodwyn. In stores Dec 6
(2076) By DK Goldstein. In stores Nov 29
As Stowaways in Cabinets of Surf, We Live-out in Our Members a Kind of Rebirth
Imagine a low-rent take on The Hives with no hooks, no tunes, and no talent. Introducing The Super Burritos, Italy’s biggest embarrassment since Silvio Berlusconi,. A “garage duo”, they list amongst their influences Sonic Youth,The Pixies and The Ramones. “Utterly talentless thirteen year-olds” are actually their prime influence, but somehow they’re not quite up to that mark.This is the kind of execrable mess you can hear emanating from one or more of the poorly insulated rooms in almost every rehearsal studio in the country.You and I, reader, could come up with an album better than this in half an hour, after twelve hours down the pub. ‘Two Monkeys Fight For A Banana’? It’s a joke title for a joke band, only the no one is laughing. Inconsequential drivel of the very worst kind.
It might be almost forty years since The Stooges covered the world in their dirgey garage punk, but Tyvek seem hell bent on keeping that famous Detroit tradition going. Their second album, ‘Nothing Fits’, is as uncompromising and unrefined as they come, with twelve songs that all sound like fists being slammed hard against concrete walls, which, incidentally, channels the ongoing frustration of the motor city. Eight of the tracks don’t make it past two minutes, but each is ferocious and packed with a scary amount of aggression. It’s hard to love and the production is so minimal that it’s like being constantly hit by a battering ram, because Tyvek are cut straight from the same cloth as the bands who lined up alongside Iggy and the boys.With MC5 and Patti Smith’s taste for the raucous spread throughout this album, it’s hard to love but difficult to ignore.
Cold In Berlin’s debut album kicks off with ‘God I Love You’ – a punk-disco assault with a careening, high-hat-heavy drumbeat and stabbing riffs. And although that sound not too original, ‘Give Me Walls’ never slows down, never takes a breath with a slow number, and, as leading lady Maya relentlessly shrieks with the sporadic harshness of Chrome Hoof ’s Lola Olafisoye, this record feels far from just another prickly indie dance album. Despite her huge lungs Maya is actually a petite, short-haired sylph who throws her svelte limbs manically around live stages showcasing her bizarre lyrics, like on ‘Total Fear’ when she sings, “open wide/let’s crack your rib cage/I will twist and slip inside”. By combining catchy pop qualities with a hard edge, Cold In Berlin are like a meaner and scarier Be Your Own Pet, which is a good thing.
(Record Makers) By Kate Parkin. In stores Dec 6 Surrealist Parisians may well have been ten-a-penny in the 1930s, but modern day ones don’t come much weirder than Turzi.Their new album ‘B’ comes after 2007 debut, you’ve guessed it alphabet fans, ‘A’. Claiming Air and Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie as fans, their style runs the gamut of electro styles, from the dreamy Running Man synthetic landscapes of ‘Buenos Aires’ to the gothic distortions of ‘Bangkok’. By no means easy listening,Turzi assail your ears from all angles with Led Zeppelin inspired guitars and noises dredged up from the impending apocalypse. More upbeat and with a touch of Africa Shox, is ‘Baltimore’, featuring the vocal mumblings Gillespie himself. It’s stereotypical and slightly dull, though, deadening the impact of the industrial noise that follows. Turzi’s minds must be a very strange place to be.
(Asthmatic Kitty) By Daniel Dylan Wray. In stores Nov 29
Twenty five songs in under forty minutes suggests a whirlwind of an experience; thrashing through multi-faceted sounds, textures and experiences, making your head spin and your jaw drop. Sadly, this isn’t really the case here – the whimsical borders on sickly and the song structures often too similar to differentiate from one another. John Ringhofer’s vocals are delivered in a fragile and high pitched yelp that gravitates more towards irritating than sweet. It feels like a pale imitation of Sufjan Stevens’ ‘Illinois album’, perhaps because Ringhofer is in Stevens’ backing band.There are shreds of light, beauty and intrigue here, but it feels like a series of glimpses rather than an opening. And the flat production is unable to elevate the album to the level of ambition it undeniably contains within it.
Sic Alps Napa Asylum (Drag City) By Luke Winkie. In stores Jan 24
The clanging cacophony and saccharine pop-rock hooks of Sic Alps is pretty well established at this point; zonked tape-haze, schizoid libretto and a copious number of amp squeals. Here on ‘Napa Asylum’ project mastermind Mike Donovan bangs through 22 cuts in about 48 minutes, usually only armed with a guitar and whatever freak-out effects he’s into that hour.What this results in, as usual, is a peculiar, and occasionally rewarding album that does Guided by Voices nostalgia a good amount of glory. Donovan never hits the bang-bang pop power that Pollard could, but a few of these morsels (‘Cement Surfboard’, ‘Ball of Flame’, ‘Wasted at Church’) are raucously fun enough to deserve their own respect, despite their abbreviated running time. An album like this all comes down to the song writing ideas and sonic squalls Mike can conjure up – luckily he knows what he’s doing. ‘Napa Asylum’ is a vaguely psychotic collection of noise jams that you’ll like over half of.
in the city
Various venues, Manchester 13-15.10.2010 By Stuart Stubbs Photography by David Galpin Magnus Aske Blikeng, Mike Gatiss
It may well be that we’ve just spent 101 minutes in front of a quite brilliant documentary called Upside Down:The Story of Creation Records, but 2:54 are coming across very My Bloody Valentine in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. It’s one of the band’s first shows since sisters Hannah and Colette pulled together a full lineup (their fourth, apparently) and it’s the best thing we see all night.The sound is crap because that’s tradition at any ‘urban festival’ where bars designed for pub quizzes and light bites become make-shift venues, but it doesn’t matter – Hannah is a particularly gnarly grunge guitarist, massaging out Dinosaur Jnr. riffs; Colette’s Kevin Shields’, blinding mop couldn’t better suit the band’s power drones. This is In The City, and that, what you’re doing now, is most probably a shrug.Years of extortionate ticket prices and crumby line-ups have long caused such a reaction to the country’s oldest new music showcase, but this year ITC turned nineteen and things have changed.The whole thing has been relocated to the city’s boho Northern Quarter, for a start, where the next venue is a crawl away and a nice place to be once you get there. As the cities definite arts district it’s baffling as to why the
move has taken so long, although nothing confuses quite like the long-awaited introduction of ‘festival wristbands’, which means that anyone can now attend the live shows (although not the daytime talks, debates and conferences) for a reasonable fee of £29. And it is a reasonable fee. Organisers have relented their snooty ‘unsigned acts only’ policy, beefed up the line-up with the likes of Glasser, No Age and Mount Kimbie, and in doing so have shamed the weary looking bills of both The Great Escape and The Camden Queue this year. And what all of this means is that, unlike twelve months ago, the festival’s fifteen venues are comfortably busy. Noho certainly is as 2:54 grind on, and by the time we reach basement club The Ruby Lounge for Factory Floor a tonne of people have already beaten us there. The bravest, stick out the entire, noisy affair, which gets louder even when you think it can’t be possible, but many slip off, deciding that this unrelenting, kraut disco is not made for the sober hour of 9:30pm. It’s a fair point, even if the trio would have struggled to deliver their apocalyptic noisescapes any better. It’s ferocious and animalistic and meticulous and mechanical all at once. In volume it’s uncomfortable, in tone
mesmerising, but it’s impossible to not think that such an uncompromising set wouldn’t have been infinitely better off following HEALTH in the same venue twenty six hours later.Theirs is the highlight set of In The City – a collection of songs that wildly veer from aggressively rhythmic (‘Crimewave’) to surprisingly groovy (a rare appearance from ‘Glitter Pills’) to intelligently melodic (disco tracks ‘Die Slow’ and ‘USA Boys’), all played as if on-the-fly, while actually being scrupulously planned.We even get two unheard tracks – a Picture Planes adaptation that makes use of the kind of delayed guitar riff that The Edge would hang his Stetson on, and a ghostly number that suggests album number three will pick up where ‘Get Color’ eerily left off. It’s French shoegazers Team Ghost that defy our “the venues are comfortably busy” observation the most, but, then, they are clashing with No Age who are playing next door at Night & Day Café. At Dry Life – another underground venue rather embarrassingly styled to resemble The Hacienda – things are quiet as the band take to the stage. In thrashing around they manage to attract quite a crowd by the time we leave to see
blank dogs The Luminaire, Kilburn, London 31.10.2010 By Stuart Stubbs ▼
T3ETH at Mint Lounge, though, even if they drown out their delicate electronics in doing so, which, on record, give the trio a heightened sense of emotion in the often dreary world of wall-of-sound rock. T3ETH are having electronic issues of their own. “The laptop’s broken,” announces Ximon before an audience member volunteers to stand just off stage and hold a wire into a socket, allowing the band’s synths to bounce around the room while singer Veronika So follows suit and the band zip through a set of post new rave thrash. As always, it’s a lot of fun; certainly the most fun that this particular venue sees all week, the next best bit of Mint Lounge action coming from Alabama’s The Pierces, who are either the next Fleetwood Mac or the next Corrs, depending on how kind you’re feeling. Also in line to be ‘the next…’ are Mammal Club (who play The Castle pub’s box room on day two) and Beaty Heart (who all but close day one where we started at Noho).The former are ‘the next Everything Everything’, minus the falsetto vocals and layered, smart disco pop riffs, meaning that they are perhaps more akin to ‘the next Bombay Bicycle Club’. Either way, they are inoffensive to the point of plain dull.
Beaty Heart do much better as they huddle together in a line behind a table to play tropical waves of noise like those that come from Animal Collective (that’ll make them ‘the next Animal Collective’, then). Again, the crappy sound can be forgiven – this time due to the playful spirit of the band who swap instruments and smile at each other between songs as if to suggest that music can actually be fun – but the sparse crowd is ignored less easily.Where did everyone go? Not to John Wiese’s show. He’s playing to a bemused few stragglers at Night & Day, and one heckler who seizes a brief gap between two sample-heavy sonic assaults to shout, “Play ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’!” Usually, this would be very poor form indeed, but with the Californian playing track after track of clanking tool-chestfalling-down-a-mine noise we not only laugh with the rest but hope that Wiese might actually be open to the request. It’s as avant-garde as the avant-garde gets. It’s anti-music. It’s probably highly intelligent, but it’s also a complete din. And yet it’s fitting that Wiese began making music the same year that In The City began promoting it in this way. Against all the shrugs, the pair are both here, almost two decades on, and one of them has finally gotten it very right.
Right now, on a Halloween that’s fallen on the Sabbath, most London residents are presumably feeling queasy to Saw III, nervously giggling to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or crapping their pants to The Only Way Is Essex. And then there’s the thirty-or-so people who like their psychotic episodes a little more interactive; who’ve braved Kilburn’s trick-or-muggers and are stood facing Mike Sniper and a band of four in dead-eyed, featureless masks that are part Michael Myers/part The Knife at their beakiest. It’s a shame that there’s only a few of us fearless souls here (so few that in between songs we feel that silently holding our breath is the only appropriate behaviour, much to Sniper’s discomfort who offer $100 to anyone who’ll talk), because Blank Dogs are frighteningly good (hur hur) in delivering their murky mix of garage and post punk.With guitars sounding like vocoders, vocals tinged with (not swamped in) reverb and a heap of electronic sequences looping on to mimic the sound of a B-movie alien invasion, there’s also a good amount of maniac disco to the band’s set too. Old tracks from 2009’s ‘Under & Under’ sit next to the more synthaddled highlights from this year’s ‘Land & Fixed’, and we can’t spot the joins, just notice that Blank Dogs sound a lot more like The Cure’s unhinged sibling than we ever realised. Go and see this band, even if Freddy Vs Jason is on FIVER.
Foals Brixton Academy, London 12.11.2010 By Chris Watkeys ▼
Indie-dance always runs the risk of sounding slightly dated the moment it comes out of the can (remember The Music?), but Foals skirt that pitfall by infusing their music with heavy doses of both adrenaline and euphoria.The crowd at Brixton tonight are massively up for both, it seems, judging by the atmosphere when the lights go down.There are a few moments of cracking anticipation,
when only the band’s name – spelt out in huge letters on the stage backdrop – is visible, hanging in a ghostly blue haze.Then over an extended opening, the vocals of ‘Blue Blood’ ring out, pure and clear, and when the beat drops the mosh pit extends half way to the back of the Academy.With the band in silhouette and strobe, ‘Cassius’ rips out into the crowd, not quite loud enough for some but still thrillingly visceral.There’re a liberal amount of instrumental wig-outs in the set, but Foals stay just the right side of self-indulgent, before the majestic high point of the night – an awesome ‘Spanish Sahara’,Yannis’ vocals sounding almost celestial as the song builds to an intense crescendo. Doing poise and restraint as well as they do high-bpm mayhem, Foals are as fresh as ever.
Tokyo Police Club Heaven, London 04.11.2010 By Phil Dixon ▼
Since 2006’s ‘A Lesson In Crime’ EP Tokyo Police Club have been purveyors of the finest short and sweet garage pop, with emphasis on the sweet.Tonight’s set is a sugar rush of three-minute gems from their two-album, one EP selection box. From the relentless energy of early singles ‘Nature of the Experiment’ and ‘Citizens of Tomorrow’, through ‘Box’’s chugging bass and sugar-coated synth to the lilting rhythm and totally tropical flavour of ‘Gone’, it’s a mixed bag of treats that never gets sickly. Strained metaphors aside, there’s a free-spirited innocence in TPC’s music that, through extensive touring experience and evidenced in latest album ‘Champ,’ has been refined to something much more mature, recalling early Strokes without the jaded cynicism, or ‘Blue Album’era Weezer (a comparison brought about by a stellar encore cover of ‘My Name Is Jonas’).The hookladen, summertime pop of ‘Wait Up (Boots of Danger)’ maintains that innocence without being naïve, while ‘Breakneck Speed’, with its singing harmonic guitars, possesses near-stadium grandeur that highlights a coming-of-age while still hinting at the rich potential they are yet to realise.
Silver Columns XOYO, Old Street, London 28.10.2010 By Chris Watkeys ▼
These New Puritans. Pic: Kelda Hole
!!!. Pic: Lee Goldup
When half-full, XOYO feels disconcertingly like a school hall done up for a sixth-formers’ leaving party, and Silver Columns’ decks, standing vacant before the set, look a mite cheesy, adorned as they are with tube lights à la Kevin’s Mobile Disco (available for weddings). By the time the synth pop duo arrive on stage and launch into their opener though, the venue is full and the atmosphere is entirely different.The restrained electronica of the opening song swells in crescendos, enclosing and compulsive, while a seriously pounding beat underpins the swirl. It’s easy to make Hot Chip comparisons with this band, but Silver Columns feel much more unique than that.Where they really distinguish themselves from their peers is in their vocals; ‘Warm Welcome’ has a laid-back and beautiful vocal line that would sit easily over an acoustic folk song, while ‘Heart Murmurs’ is warm, fuzzy, and tinged with melancholy. During the set-closer though, Adem Ilhan piles into the crowd brandishing a floor tom over his head, plants it in the middle of the room and begins attacking it with a tribal intensity, before being joined by Johnny Lynch, singing the last few lines through a megaphone. Beats a sixth-form disco, any day.
These New Puritans The Barbican, London 23.10.2010 By Stuart Stubbs ▼
M.I.A. Pic: Elinor Jones
These New Puritans have valiantly attempted to tour second album ‘Hidden’ on a budget; Jack Barnet’s audacious orchestrations squashed into chaos pads and laptops. Tonight, with the help of the Britten Sinfonia orchestra, the record finally gets the airing it deserves in a high-end theatre that feels made for a band this acoustically astute. It’s less a show of surprises (the record is presented in order) and more one of impressive confirmation – a knowing told-you-so with regards
to how a record as ambitious as ‘Hidden’ should have been at least lorded by the Mercury Prize. Brass intro ‘Time Xone’ yawns into life as you’d expect, only to be bludgeoned by a brutally loud rendition of ‘We Want War’.With four percussionists pounding floor toms at once, it sets the continual drum-heavy tone of what’s to follow, and, what with These New Puritans being a band inspired by the rhythmically obscure, it’s no bad thing… initially.Whilst ‘Hidden’ thunders on though, Jack’s vocals become more and more swamped, and so too do a number of orchestrated intricacies, including the mic’d up melon smashing that accompanies ‘FirePower’ – a neat nod to the band’s meticulous attention to detail. And that’s what tonight is really about – a celebration of a band with steadfast, limitless ambition and a frightening amount of composition know-how.
Happy birthday The Brudenell, Leeds 31.10.2010 By Kate Parkin ▼
As you make your way towards the stage the singer’s manic eyes swivel, taking you in like a freaky Chucky Doll.Tonight is Halloween, and Happy Birthday make a suitably creepy showing. Doling out candy treats with a wandering air of malice, ‘Girls FM’ is given a freakout makeover that would make The Ramones weep with envy the hooks are unshakeable and the lyrics wonderfully damaged. Creating pop anti-hero characters straight out of Ghost World, ‘Perverted Girl’ and ‘Maxine the Teenage Eskimo’ tap firmly into feelings of teenage self-loathing with shimmying beats bothering awkward school disco corners and the dance-floor full of vampires with melting face paint. Playing live as a four piece the band add squirly keyboards to the inverted bass and subtly shifting drums that turn ‘Subliminal Message’ from a feverish diary scrawl into an altpop classic as Beetlejuice slowdances into the night with Ghostface. Happy Birthday are here to remind us that we are ‘the Jock, the Brain, the Criminal, the Princess and the Kook’, and that none of that matters.
Tweak bird The Albert, Brighton 29.10.2010 By Nathan Westley ▼
Where drum and guitar duos were once a simple but oddly occurring occurrence, of late their increase in numbers has steadily risen to the point that what was once unique has now been thoroughly muted by its commonness.Tonight in the small confines of the Albert it would be typical to expect bass and drum duo Tweakbird to pull out a brace of riff-heavy, gnarly spirited dirty rock songs that feature enough low end action to cause the walls to positively vibrate and viciously unfurl them upon a largely expecting audience.Yet this Canadian duo see fit to throw a slight curve ball into proceedings and the unexpected addition of a saxophone player on this tour adds a different texture and alters the mood of all the songs at their disposal. Rather than offer us a carbon copy of their recorded output, they have reinvented their tracks and, at times, it’s as if their ears have been hell bent on digesting old Stooges records and offering an updated free-spirited version, which helps pull them out from sinking into the murky depths of un-frilled stripped down basic rock’n’roll tradition.Yet whatever incarnation of Tweakbird is on offer, there is the guarantee that it will at least be interesting.
Michael Rother’s Hallogallo 2010 The Barbican, London 21.10.2010 By Edgar Smith ▼
Klaus Dinger has sadly passed away but in the Spring we were lucky enough to get Skype-ing with Michael Rother, who (along with producer Conrad Plank) created Neu! He promised these concerts would revisit the work of Neu! and Harmonia (his other, only slightly less brilliant band), leaving enough space for creative reinterpretation, and that is just what we got, although it would’ve fitted original Kosmiche intentions better if things had been more freeform and less song-based. Earlier material worked better as it’s these tracks that are
minimalistic enough for Rother to freak-out to on guitar, creating three to five-layer live loops over which he improvises with a typically Teutonic sense of restraint and architectural flair. Somehow ‘2010’ wouldn’t be in the title without pre-recorded material but thankfully this consists of revolving samples, tweaked obsessively by Rother, rather than any asinine backing-track. Sonic Youth’s cuddliest, Steve Shelley, and Tall Firs’ Aaron Mullan fill things out on drums and bass, and although the seated crowd was a drag, these three musicians play ambitiously enough to avoid any museumpiece feeling. Fourty years on, this ingeniously original, spontaneous music, powered by the energies of the sexual revolution,Vietnam, rock’n’roll and Holocaust guilt still sounds like the future.
White Rabbits Stubb’s, Austin, Texas 28.10.2010 By Luke Winkie ▼
Yeah,White Rabbits sound a bit like Spoon.They’re past the point of pretending that that comparison is mute (Britt Daniel did produce their latest record) but even live it’s clear who their heroes are. Like Spoon, their live show is built out of mechanics, layering countless riffs into a sheer engine of musical force.The crowd that gather to the Stubb’s stage in early dusk is mainly kicking around until headliners Interpol are set to go, but even the most disinterested loosened their hips for the band’s rubbery bounce, trade-off verses and jittery choruses.They’re a great opening band, warming up the audience nicely without blowing the other acts off the stage.You know, just like Spoon.Will they ever hit that level of indie ubiquity? Possibly, with a creative spike and a few lucky breaks, but White Rabbits are at least making the right moves on stage – dominating a quick set with an upbeat-or-die policy, making sure the crowd will be telling friends about ‘that opening band’ the following morning.There’s no reason they shouldn’t be headlining a venue like Stubb’s, and with a few more tours like this they probably won’t be far off.The might even get Spoon to open.
Flying Lotus Concorde 2, Brighton 28.10.2010 By Nathan Westley ▼
Electronic machine mangler and laptop abuser Flying Lotus has undergone a Pokemon style evolution since keen eyed focus was decisively aimed onto him at the crest of the year. Although there are some that will still undoubtedly pigeonhole him with the ill-fitting summation of being an intelligent dance music beard stroker’s delight the reality of tonight’s performance sees him act out an alternative role in quite a different multi-referencing musical terrain.Where once Steven Ellison used to purely stand alone ducked behind a laptop, triggering preconceived samples and drum loops at will before filtering into an often glitchy, jazz-tipped, J Dilla-influenced, electronically beating sonic brew, he now stands flanked by two added musicians, which gives him the ability to contort his original songs into new interesting free-flowing shapes – ones that have an added realness and a healthy dose of party-like upbeat fun. It’s a mix that sees him run out of the vicinity where pretentiousness is often dressed up as high-end art and into a realm where entertainment and having an enjoyable time ride high. Rather than be weighed down by expectation, Flying Lotus has taken it on his broad shoulders.
Jaill Old Blue Last, Shoreditch, London 09.11.2009 By Chal Ravens ▼
How are we feeling about guitar rock, people? Were 60 long years enough? Can we plough this furrow every season and still get the full nutritional benefits, or will the yield be measly and blightridden? The answer, as the state of Wisconsin pointed out in 2008, is Yes We Can – and three Milwaukee boys in blue jeans are showing The Old Blue Last how, dripping sweat on their guitar pedals and imploring us to bring some green to the merch table after the show. Kicking off their European tour in London, Jaill demonstrate what a provincial U.S.
three-piece (the fourth member got lost in the airmail, it seems) can do with a decade of beers, tokes and psych-rock records. But if they smoke as much as they want us to think they do, the results are something of a surprise: juddering mescaline hoedown numbers (think Black Lips with a splash of The Thermals) about real get-upand-go topics like, um, shooting craps and lovin’ their babies. Jaill’s parents might have made homebrew in the bathtub, but these guys just cruised around town looking for the best minimart deal on six-packs and Cheez Doodles. A band made in heaven for Sub Pop, who released their album ‘That’s How We Burn’ back in July.
Magnetic Man Heaven, London 03.11.2010 By Ross McTaggart ▼
The hype around Magnetic Man’s live show has grown with the completion of each tour date and so anticipation for tonight’s homecoming show is huge. It’s an unseasonably warm November evening and Heaven, London’s cavernous Charing Cross club, is already heating up as Katy B takes to the stage. Already a crowd favourite thanks to her work with Magnetic Man on ‘Perfect Stranger’ and her track ‘Katy on a Mission’, she doesn’t need to work hard to get the audience on side and her Rinse t-shirt suggests she’s proud to show her true colours. That both tonight’s acts have had successful chart singles is confirmation that dub-step has truly emerged from the dark, sweaty underground into the cold light of the mainstream and Magnetic Man are leading the way in pioneering fashion. As the trio emerge from side of stage and take their places inside their LED encrusted cube the response from the crowd is rapturous; as they launch into the first foundationshuddering track the dance floor erupts. Magnetic Man’s strength lies in their variety; sternum stabbing bass lines and lead-heavy beats are interspersed with synthladen, spacious soundscapes and live cameos from Miss Dynamite and Katy B add further fire to an otherwise incendiary performance.
MIA Brixton Academy, London 10.11.2010 By Stuart Stubbs ▼
2010 was supposed to be M.I.A.’s year. ‘Paper Planes’ had finally brought her to the masses and new album ‘/\/\/\Y/\’ was going to be massive. Only it wasn’t.Tonight, though, Mathangi Arulpragasam proves to still be the ultimate party-thrower on the planet, turning a Wednesday night Brixton into a garish, mad carnival that exotically writhes to hip-hop, raggaeton and dub-step beats while hypnotised by a giant screen beaming brilliantly crap visuals and flickering gif files.The set is short (forty five minutes before an encore of another fifteen) and is divided into the old stuff (which people go insane for) followed by a remixed version of new single ‘It Takes A Muscle’ that marks the start of the new songs (which people don’t go insane for). For that first half hour, as M.I.A. winds to the floor in electric blue hot pants and we do the same (not in hot pants), tracks like ‘Boyz’ and ‘Bucky Done Gun’ still rattle the skull, animate the hips and sound like nothing else in the world.The new tracks, less so, but there is an extra bassiness to them that makes ‘Born Free’ feel like a weapon impossible to ignore.There’s no ‘XXXO’, which, other than the short stage time, is the only real disappointment, because there’s still no one like M.I.A., musically, and in terms of performance.We just hope that 2010’s knock back doesn’t prompt that premature retirement she’s always spoken about.
Micah P Hinson Queen Elizabeth Hall, London 07.11.2010 By Edgar Smith ▼
It’s what everyone says about him, but it’s true: Micah P Hinson is an unlikely country folk singer. Formerly a skateboarding nerd/ prescription drug addict, he still (6 albums later) looks like a twitchy guy who works in a record shop. His voice is a booming, rasping, melancholic phenomena that makes Susan Boyle’s mismatch look/sound as desperately
uninteresting as it really is.Tonight he plays with The Pioneer Saboteurs, who backed him on his latest LP.They’re a string quartet and, though I’d got the impression that there’d be a full orchestra, they conjured something symphonic. The Texan’s delay settings enable a complimentary wailing string sound and though the feedback and field recordings that put an avant-garde spin on his records are absent, the songs are good enough to stand up on their own. His wife (who he famously proposed to at a Union Chapel show) appears June Carter-style to sing for two songs – one an up-tempo version of fan favourite ‘Beneath the Rose’. It would’ve all been sickeningly retro and twee if this musician wasn’t so likeable and brilliant.
!!! Koko, Camden, London 04.11.2010 By Phil Dixon ▼
Despite mixed critical reactions to punctuatively monikered !!!’s latest album ‘Strange Weather, Isn’t It?’, and claims they’ve lost some of their early punk funk vitality (less !!!, more …), it’s still universally agreed that their live performances are something to behold.Tonight is no different. In a set full of highlights from their fourteen-year tenure, frontman Nic Offer is a whirling dervish of non-stop motion. Posturing with the best of them, this is his show, as he parades the stage, Koko’s balconies and through the crowd to infuse the proceedings with extra urgency, continually thrusting out a bizarre dance that can only be described as a sexy Charleston.The Sacramento/New Yorkers’ opening trio of ‘Strange Weather…’ tracks – ‘AM/FM’, ‘The Most Certain Sure’ and ‘Jamie My Intentions Are Bass’ – blow away any aspersions with the usual assured mix of pounding percussion, honking horns and basslines slicker than a Gulf of Mexico beach, while ‘The Hammer’ strikes a mid-set high. A throbbing dance-break build before an explosive double drumkit denouement accompanied by Offer’s wild yelps perfectly illustrates the band’s attuned sensibilities of the ebb and flow of clubland dancefloor energy. !!! have still got it. Full stop.
film By ian roebuck
SAW 3d Starring: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Betsy Russell Director: Kevin Greutert
Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit
Cinema Preview It’s good to be bad! -----Bleak, desolate and austere, No Country For Old Men set a gripping cinematic tone. Movies didn’t have to feel good to pack a financial punch anymore; feel bad film’s surfed the zeitgeist. Apocalyptic with an imposing sense of doom? Good! Collect your critical acclaim on the way out.We had There Will Be Blood, The Road, A Serious Man and The White Ribbon slowing pulses this time last year and we have been peppered with bone-freezing features since. The Coen brothers must have enjoyed their sparkling take on the Western theme as the upcoming True Grit extols similar virtues.Whereas No Country For Old Men took splashes of the genre’s iconography, True Grit dives right in. A re-imagining of the 1969 John Wayne classic, its portrayal of a drunken U.S Marshal helping a young girl catch her father’s killer has everything No Country had and more. Perhaps most exciting though is the return of the Dude in Wayne’s celebrated role. Jeff Bridges tows a solid line when playing a grizzly drunk, as the recent Crazy Heart displayed, and few can sport an eye-patch as convincingly as the 60 year old stalwart. Alongside him in his first Coen picture, and arguably his first Western (well, good one), comes Matt Damon. Not the most obvious choice from the director brothers whose casting occasionally feels like a talent clique-corner for the well admired, perhaps, but Damon’s gradually trading a fine line in selfdeprecation and good judgement (The Informant! didn’t set anybody’s world ablaze but it showed the still young
actor has depth and subtlety beyond Bourne). As with many trends in tinsel-town, genre films come in swathes and swabs, though, which is sometimes encouraging but often headache-inducing. Unsurprisingly, True Grit ushers through a few Westerns in its wake, and some are more Wild Wild West than The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Cowboys and Aliens currently totters somewhere in-between with captivating ingredients. Jon Favreau has emerged with credit from directing the Iron Man films and this looks to follow suit – a special effects-laden blockbuster starring James Bond and Indiana Jones that’s quite a coup on paper. Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford share screen time as Cowboys and Indians are forced to buddy up in order to protect a town called Absolution from alien attack. Craig stars as a lone gunman sure to do a lot of frowning and Ford is a fierce Colonel, no doubt with a proclivity for sardonic one liner’s. Sam Rockwell also stars, probably with some form of mental illness. But while Craig and Bridges make pretty composed Cowboys the leading light in stylish Stetson wearing is undoubtedly Johnny Depp. Following Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man of 1995 – a personal favourite – Depp rocks convincing headwear in David Koepp’s Secret Window. And if rumours are true he’ll also soon be sporting hat and mask for a remake of The Lone Ranger, Mike Newell (a man who seems to have moved on to big budget adventure of late with Harry Potter and the preposterous Prince of Persia but who once gave us Donnie Brasco and Pushing Tin) the name being thrown about to direct the revered remake. Will The Lone Ranger marry both disciplines in stylish fashion? Who cares?! What’s more important is who will play Tonto?
Before we begin, a confession: I have only seen one of the Saw films.The first instalment made quite an impression on yours truly, and the industry, stamping its stubbed leg onto the horror scene and creating a torrent of torture terrors to date.There were some hysterical claims that Lionsgate Entertainment had maimed horror for good, some with genuine merit. Only a handful of the subsequent genre films stood out, (Hostel, Vacancy) the best stuff coming from European shores. So to say Saw 3D was approached with caution would be stating the bleeding obvious. Sticking with blood, it’s no surprise that bleeding dominates the first five minutes. A supremely silly set piece establishes tone, as a love triangle must publicly decide which individual will perish, as shocked passers by film on their smart phones. Perhaps a cerebral comment on audience exposure to torture porn, or a ludicrous way of saying welcome back, it’s probably both, and nicely done to show off 3D technology with skilled assurance. We’re then plunged into muddy waters with only a stump to swim with as flashbacks filter in and plot-holes come and go at rapid pace. All the usual characters are present, albeit in confused fashion. We have Lieutenant Mark Hoffman acquiring a particularly hairy facial injury one minute that vanishes the next. Jigsaw and puppet flap about with charming presence, gruff voices and tricycle shots aplenty.Then there’s some bloke called Bobby who stakes a woeful claim for audience sympathy as he plays ‘the game’ with frenzied consequences and very little acting ability. Reported to be the last in the series of Saw, the film lunges to and fro attempting to mop up any semblance of structure and sense. It’s disorder that reigns though, perhaps inevitably due to the amount of twists the many films have taken (yep, I needed to ask someone) but nobody goes to see Saw for the three-act structure. It’s all about gruesome eye gouging, cars falling on faces and despicable head injuries and this film has it all in enjoyable 3D spades.
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Woah! I’m gonna stop you there, guys. Rod, that’s one of your own songs, isn’t it? You can sing that mate. And besides, what the fuck have you two got on? I’m guessing this is Louis’ doing?
As you can see, I like everything big! I like my suit jackets big; my Star of David pendants big; my Mary J. Blige hats big; my Milky Bar Buttons big! It suits me because I’m a BIG personality. But, due to some legal fees I’ve had to pay out over the past few years (I kidnapped a rent boy), my budget is not so big these days. Still, I make do.T.K. Max really is a goldmine, and I don’t care who knows it! I got this jacket there, and it’s YSL!!! It should have been £800 but it was only £40! I love it, although I couldn’t find a pair of matching trousers, just a load of cool Quiksilver Tshirts. Anyway, if you’re broke like me, darling, simply accessorise! The gun pendant? That’s foil wrapped around a Sugar Puffs box! The Star of David? That’s Weetabix! I’ve then scrawled ‘B Rude’ on the YSL number, a) because it’s a bit naughty and outrageous, like me, and b) because it covers a stain.The ‘A’ on my balls means ‘access’ (that’s right, I’m on the market, can you believe it!?), the whistle is just a bit of fun and every morning I get the kids from the local ‘div school’ to scribble on my face.Taa Daahhh!!!
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Bobby has this to say about Mick: Mick has a penis the size of Linford Christie’s... LEG! Now I bet that got your attention, right girls? I know this because we used to be in a band together. I was drummer number 16 and we became close over the two weeks we worked together. Mick had this ongoing joke, which was just hilarious - he’d say, “Bobby, where are your drumsticks?” I’d say, “Here Mick,” and he’d reply, “You could use my massive wang instead if you like!” He’d then smash a cymbal with it or twack me in the face until I laughed. I was asked to leave the band when I joked, “At least that thing makes up for you being such a massive ginger c*nt!” Mick responded by saying: It’s still big, y’know Bobby! It’s still big!
) I think the cycling shorts look cool
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Inside Next Monthâ€™s Issue The 2010 Review Coming December 18th
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