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LOUD AND QUIET ZERO POUNDS / VOLUME 03 / ISSUE 27 / THE ALTERNATIVE MUSIC TABLOID

SMITH WESTERNS THE LO-FI ANTIDOTE +

D/R/U/G/S BIG DEAL DAN DEACON NO JOY MAFIA LIGHTS TROPICS


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MAFIA LIG HTS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 HOW LONG DID YOU THINK IT WOULD BE UNTIL A NEW BAND RELEASED AN EP ON VHS?

SM ITH W ESTE RNS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 HOW TO LEAVE BEHIND YOUR LO-FI PAST AND REINVENT YOURSELF AS GLAM-POP STADIUM STARS

LOUD AND QUIET PO BOX 67915 LONDON NW1W 8TH

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CONTRIBUTORS BART PETTMAN, CHRIS WATKEYS, DEAN DRISCOLL, DANIEL DYLAN WRAY, DANNY CANTER, DK GOLDSTIEN, DEAN DRISCOLL, ELEANOR DUNK, ELINOR JONES, EDGAR SMITH, FRANKIE NAZARDO, HOLLY LUCAS, JANINE BULLMAN, LEE BULLMAN, KATE PARKIN, KELDA HOLE, GABRIEL GREEN, LEON DIAPER, LUKE WINKIE, MANDY DRAKE, MARTIN CORDINER, MATTHIAS SCHERER, NATHAN WESTLEY, OWEN RICHARDS, PAVLA KOPECNA, POLLY RAPPAPORT, PHIL DIXON PHIL SHARP, REEF YOUNIS, SAM LITTLE, SAM WALTON, SIMON LEAK, SIMON GRAY,TIM COCHRANE, TOM GOODWYN, TOM PINNOCK THIS MONTH L&Q LOVES JODIE BANASZKIEWICZ, KEONG WOO, LAURA COULSON, LISA DURRANT, MAX LUTHY 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 2011 LOUD AND QUIET.

DAN DEACON . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 AN EVENING IN A DESERTED CRICKET BAT FACTORY WITH THE LORD OF THE DANCE

36 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ALBUMS FILMS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46

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IAN ROEBUCK LOOKS AS THE GLUT OF MUSIC BIOPICS COMING OUR WAY THIS SUMMER

Anton Corbijn’s fine looking Ian Curtis biopic, Control

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*sigh* A whole day sharking and I’m dateless again! Wonder if I’ve still got that number...

FIT!

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Yep. Same address as before. Same price, right? Fish and chip supper

GET THE CLIFF RICHARD LOOK / DATE MY FRIEND THE PERSISTENT WORLD OF IAN BEALE

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( Check it out! It’s spinning... And the bowtie

GoOutWith MyFriend.com Les

45, looking for the top answer Area: London Children: Yeah Diet: Memories Employment: Quiz host

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Bruno has this to say about Les: We asked a hundred people to name one thing they’d like to do to Les, given half the chance, and they said... well, it doesn’t matter what they said – some people were definitely just trying to be shocking. I know what they meant though, ladies – they meant they’d like to cosy up with him in front of the telly with a bottle of vodka and a pipe of Pringles to watch Challenge TV on weeknights between 7.30 and 8.30pm. And they’d be in luck, because that is exactly what Les loves to do... every week! Les responded by saying: No, it’s 7.00 til 8.00pm now. They’ve moved it forward by half an hour. Blame Catchphrase.

Disclaimer: The representations of the persons herein are purely fictitious.

Blimey! I’ve never seen THAT before!!!

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LET’S WRESTLE, WILD BEASTS JAMIE WOON, DELS AND ALL THE MONTH’S KEY LP RELEASES

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It’s difficult to like an anthem these days. It’s a word that conjures up two images, neither of them good - a huddle of men in the centre of a dancefloor hopping to ‘Living on a Prayer’, or the same men shouting ‘Sex on Fire’ at Kings of Leon. ‘Anthem’ means ‘moronic tripe’. If you’re looking for a fresh (albeit retro-leaning) take on ‘the big stadium song’, you should check out Smith Westerns. Their shamelessly ambitious second album, ‘Dye It Blonde’, is a dazzlingly sophisticated show of hi-fi ’70s glam.

CONTRI B UTORS 01

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T OM C OC K R A M

L UK E W INK IE

P E T E R BE AT T Y

PHOTOGRAPHER

WRITER

ILLUSTRATOR

Tom has been taking pictures from his Manchester base for just two years, but he’s already wracked up a fair bit of experience, shooting for indie labels like London’s Young & Lost Club and the more local Hit Club. He shot this month’s cover feature, which adds Smith Westerns to a list of bands he’s captured for us that includes Zola Jesus, Egyptian Hip Hop and Telepathe. “Photography was the only thing I got good marks in at school,” he says in response to why he does what he does, and his advice to aspiring snappers is, “Shoot as much as you can - never turn down an opportunity, no matter how small it seems.”

Luke Winkie is our American Boy; our man on the other side; our informant in the States. He’s from San Diego and is currently studying journalism at the prestigious University of Texas, Austin. As well as writing a monthly column here in Loud And Quiet, which keeps us all up to date with the current music mood of the world super power, Luke writes for The A.V. Club, Paste, Prefix and MusicOMH, and describes himself as “the kind of guy who’ll write about himself in the third person.” He “writes for a ton of publications but secretly likes Loud And Quiet the best, because hey, it’s an actual paper.” Luke is clever.

We’ve always known Peter as a key member of folk pop band Urusen, and for quite a while. He’s an illustrator too though, so God knows why we’ve waited so long to ask him to draw something for us. It might be because he’s been busy drawing for the BBC and The Arts Council. He pens his band’s artwork too, of course, and will do yours too if you get in touch with him. In this issue he’s dreamt up a mythical creature that helps you choose what festival to go to, which points to Peter’s love of the vivid and surreal, and suggests that he might have just come up with the best invention this side of Facebook. Check out www.peterbeatty.co.uk.

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BEGINNING M AY 2 0 1 1

AMERICAN BOY / TALES FROM THE OTHER SIDE BY LUKE WINKIE: OUR MAN IN BAR AK ’S BACK YARD

SIZE MAT TERS BAD BEERS AND BIG BANDS OR HIGH TIMES AND LITTLE ELSE? AUSTIN LAIKE ON FESTIVALS

AN OBITUARY TO THE DANCE HERO OF A GENERATION, HOWEVER UNEXPECTED

It’s April. The time has come to choose. Which field are you going to spend a long weekend in this summer, surrounded by 100,000 people you can’t stand, getting wet and spending more money than you would holidaying in Europe, warm and surrounded by horribly excited Brits, sure, but partially naked ones at least? Festival season is coming – don’t forget to check in with the 3am Girls to keep you up to date with all the goss! And yes, you do have to choose one! Everyone goes to a festival! It’s become an almost joyless compulsion, attending these Kings of Leon publicity stunts; the proof in the sold out pudding – ‘rare’ camping tickets for V Festival making Willy Wonker’s Ebay listings appear to not be worth the gold leaf they’re printed on. Most festivals sell out before they’ve even announced their full lineups, although that’s hardly surprising when a majority of people return from Glastonbury saying, “I didn’t really see any bands.” With the advent of ‘boutique festivals’ there has long been an alternative though, and this year London club-night Suburban Tarts are taking intimate idealism to its logical conclusion with the launch of Apple Tarts – a 24-hour party on an Apple Farm in Kent that is open to just 250 campers. With a capacity a tenth of the size of your local music hall, it could very easily achieve a sense of communion that even the likes of the modest Secret Garden Party and (the increasingly less modest) Bestival struggle to completely muster. Either that or it’ll be so inward that it ends up feeling like a sentence in the Big Brother house, without a roof to keep in the crazy. But whether Apple Tarts proves to be as cosy as expected, or confirms that hating the company of 249 humans is far worse than sneering at thousands, no amount of quaint charm can attract the type of bands that frequent the million-pound-paying Reading & Leeds et al. You can’t have it all, so the real decision isn’t one of where will you watch Pulp’s greatest hits this year, because all of those festivals are identical (save for Primavera Sound, which is the correct answer by the way) – it’s do you choose a boutique festival where the party is the party, not the bands, or a corporate giant, where the ‘official beer’ tastes like it’s been fermented in the port-a-loos, but the lineup is so unquestionably huge you’d have to be a complete grumpy bastard to not be attracted by the weekend’s potential? The irony that those who choose the latter often spend most of their time in the beer tent – and not watching the bands that snared them – certainly isn’t lost. But as bands continue to make their money from live shows, this frustrating toss up is here to stay. All I’m saying is a flight to Alicante is £49.

LCD Soundsystem was never meant to be a band that needed to promote a farewell show. Even the name – it sounds like a kitschy side project; a halfsmiled joke; a singles-oriented entrepreneurship that was supposed to disappear once the novelty waned. It was never meant to resonate, James Murphy was never destined to be a scene-representing hero, the kids (who Murphy was so fond of chastising) were never expected to hitch their wagons to the music, and most certainly of all, it was never ever even wildly imaginable that a goofy project centralized on an angsty middle-aged former-DJ would contribute some of the most era-defining songs of the last decade. LCD Soundsystem’s inconceivable magnitude was buried in Madison Square Garden on April 4th, leaving behind one of the most unlikely runs in modern music history. From an American perspective, this was one of our bands. An undoubtedly New York group of scenesters, relocating vogue, European post-punk on New England shores. They were North American Scum, they sang about an idealised Lower Manhattan and Murphy’s frantic neuroticism was something all of America’s exasperated left could identify with in the age of Bush. But they were also the world’s band. At their towering peaks were songs about a common human experience that transcended any spatiality. The one we all circle back to will forever be ‘All My Friends’, the jittery piano chords and defiant guitars relating a sense of utter ultimatum discernable in any language. In talks with friends surrounding the band’s end, everyone had a specific experience stick out. For some, ‘Someone Great’ lost its abstract nature and honed in on a particular dead friend; for others ‘All My Friends’ made the trip away to college that much more sobering; mine involved a rainy night, ‘Tribulations’ and a dedicated drive home. Through discussions with these people, the bulk of which were teenaged and confused when LCD hit its stride, it became clear to me that the sizable sadness that comes with the end of the band is much more tied to us than it is to them. Murphy has unintentionally left an imprint of completeness on a generation that isn’t used to the feeling. The LCD discography is nice and compact – three records, a few EPs – starting with a clear beginning (‘Losing My Edge’) and coming to a definite end (last Saturday). The immaculate nature of that arc is almost cinematic, and draws a fair amount of contrast to the messy overruns of bands like The Strokes or Led Zeppelin. The end of LCD Soundsystem was so perfect that the most shattering thing was the realisation that it was all real.

JAMES MURPHY WAS NEVER DESTINED TO BE A SCENEREPRESENTING HERO

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BEGINNING SINGLES & EPS / BOOKS 01 BY JA NIN E & L EE B U L L M A N

WA R M BR A INS OL D V OL C A NOE S (MARSHALL TELLER) OUT APRIL 18

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Brilliant producers don’t always make for fine musicians. Just look at Timberland – a man who can shine the shit of anyone but raps so badly himself he has to gurn his way through music videos to keep us watching. Rory Brattwell is a producer, but he’s also a pretty good punk rocker too, maybe because that’s what he was doing way before he began recording every DIY band in London. Warm Brains is his current (solo) musical concern, and quite possibly his best yet – certainly if ‘Old Volcanoes’ is anything to go by. A mess of drums, sliding basslines and guitars, none of the instruments here appear to be playing the same song until they hit a chorus that is more than a little anthemic and features a surprise appearance of a xylophone. It’s an arrangement uncharacteristically sophisticated for a project so heavily set in today’s ‘lo-fi’ scene – full of the kind of lurching rhythms and endless, distortion-free riffs that allowed Pavement to make ‘slacker’ an aspiration in the early ’90s. Vocally, Brattwell is a little like old Test-Icicle band mate Dev ‘Lightspeed Champion’ Hynes, in the sense that he chooses to not swamp his soulful, semi-flat tone in reverb or echo. It’s just another smart move on a consistently smart debut 7”.

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2:54 ON A W IR E

T R OGONS C ON T IN A

(HOUSE ANXIETY) OUT NOW

(X-RAY) OUT APRIL 25

Grunge is back, so it was only a matter of time before post-grunge showed its face, which is perhaps why London duo 2:54 sound a lot like a mid-paced Garbage on this, their debut single. ‘On A Wire’ is sighed out in the most seductive of earthy purrs by singer Collette, accompanied by a trudging low-end that is dragged along by the waspy distortion of a dirty guitar that occasionally wanders off to perform metallic solos from the eighties. It sounds like it wears leather, and that it could teach you a thing or two in the bedroom. What’s most bewitching is that while all of that sounds like ‘On A Wire’ is instantly – and dangerously – gratifying, it isn’t. And perhaps the suspended allure of 2:54 – as well as Collette’s Shirley Manson drowsy hush – is what makes this track seem like a lost demo of ‘Stupid Girl’. Because while this single is sexier than suspenders day at Victoria’s Secret, it takes a while to realise just how much you fancy it.

When you’re a band of self-confessed sci-fi nerds – despite what your collective pasts suggest (Trogons is made up of four people who’ve played in some very hip London outfits before now) – telling a tale is bound to be high on the agenda. ‘Contina’ is the band’s debut “comic book with a serious message”, and its lyrics are even more important than its trippy, Hammer Horror organ and Death On The Nile guitar intro. This is the most theatrical and operatic story of a giant woman breaking through the earth’s crust, destroying the planet and finding the whole thing hilarious. “Ha ha haaa!” repeatedly channels our narrator, singer Gemma Fleet. For her part she sounds not like the Siouxsie Sioux she’s often compared too, but more like the raven sister of Kate Jackson of The Long Blondes. And it’s a perfect tone for Trogon’s gothic take on psychedelia - bewitching and only just of this world.

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ME MBE R S ONLY: T HE L IF E A ND T IME S OF PA UL R AY MOND B Y PA UL W IL L E T T S (SERPENT’S TAIL)

Paul Raymond enjoyed an edgy notoriety for four decades due to the fact that, besides being a prolific pornographer, he owned the renowned strip club Raymond’s Revue Bar: the garish beating heart at the centre of sexshop Soho that played host to Frank Sinatra, The Beatles and Ronnie and Reggie Kray. Raymond was of the old school; a lad who originally arrived from Liverpool with five bob in his pocket and finished up hitting Soho by night dressed to impress in a fur coat and gold jewellery, with his latest showgirl in tow. Raymond’s final days, loneliness, cokeinduced paranoia and unimaginable wealth are dealt with without judgement here, which makes for a thoroughly entertaining glimpse into a world that has since disappeared.

HO W ’ S Y OUR D A D ? T HE S ON S A ND D A UGH T E R S OF R OC K R O YA LT Y B Y Z OE S T R E E T HO W E (OMNIBUS)

Zoe Street Howe, previously responsible for Typical Girls – the rather excellent story of The Slits – has now trained her pen on tabloid and gossip mag favourites, the sons `and daughters of rock stars. Of course most of us regard these progeny as talentless, over-publicised, over-privileged and underdressed, but it seems that is not always the case. For every irritating Osbourne there are stories like that of Baxter Dury, son of Ian, who would on occasion find himself babysat by a character known as The Strangler who made the young Dury pie and chips every night before passing out for days on end having left his scales and drug paraphernalia dotted around the house. Well worth a look.


BEGINNING PREVIEW

SADLY DR AWN BOY BABAK GANJEI MAKES HIMSELF THE BUTT OF THE JOKE IN HIS FIRST GRAPHIC NOVEL Wet Paint and ex-Absentee guitarist Babak Ganjei doesn’t think too highly of himself. In his first graphic novel, the autobiographical Hilarious Consequences, his neurosis is documented in charmingly crude monochrome illustrations. He’s obsessed with being 30 and not 18, constantly worries about hair-loss and forever stressed regarding his success (or, as he sees it, lack thereof) as a musician. When he gets a job in London’s hippest pub he hates it, when he goes to a fancy dress party as Columbo he’s fully aware of how halfarsed his effort has been, feels ugly and wishes he’d gone as a better version of himself. You’re never more than a page away from Babak questioning his worth as a boyfriend (to girlfriend Ellie), or as a father to their son (The Boy). But in the right hands self-deprecation is indeed hilarious, and Babak is a master of self-effacing, uncontrollably honest humour. “It has been embellished, but effectively, I’m scared to admit it, it’s all true,” he admits. “I’ve never been very good at anything other than being honest, but some of the reviews that have come back… I thought it was funny, but I read some of the reviews and I’m like, ‘Holy shit! This is really depressing! Maybe I should tell everyone I’ve made it all up

to appear cleverer.’” Subplots are pretty clever though, and recurring characters. Hilarious Consequences has both (care of an ongoing romance between two slugs, introduced in a chapter called ‘Lynchian Insert’, and the appearances of a man called Dog and a Chinese herbalist from the novel’s start), which is perhaps why Babak has had so many people ask if they can make the book into a film. “At first I kinda turned them all down,” he says, “but now I’m trying to rewrite it with the idea to make a film. Really, it’s an excuse to go to Café OTO for five hours and wear a cap and look a dick and get my Mac out and look busy.” He’s not told his friends who he runs indie label Records Records Records Records with yet, but Babak also hopes to have a second novel out in the summer. It’s kind of important because it was the label that published the thousand copies of Hilarious Consequences, and the soundtrack that you’ll find glued inside the back cover – an eleven-track compilation of “songs from friends’ bands that people haven’t really heard,” featuring the likes of Cheatahs, Dignan Porch, Big Deal and Bloc Party’s Matt Tong. “That could help with the

film actually,” says Babak. “We’ve already got the soundtrack written.” To Babak’s mind, slipping a CD into a comic book is a sign of the times – if people won’t buy music anymore let’s trick them into taking albums home. It’s something that he discusses in the book too, or at least something that he is told by a friend in the pub. It’s one truth of many that make Hilarious Consequences as sobering as it is funny – few musicians will argue with the illustrated Babak when he explains that step six of the creative process is, “You look at pictures of The Kooks and think why not me? They are also ugly and rubbish.” “This one turned into a diary thing and I think the next one will probably go that way too, in which case I’ll start it soon,” he says. “Daniel Bedingfield came to our show the other week actually. He bought a book, the old Wet Paint album and us a round of drinks. It writes itself, doesn’t it? All I have to do is wake up.” --Hilarious Consequences is out now and available to buy at www.recordsrecordsrecordsrecords.com

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BEGINNING LE FTO V E RS

GOLD PAN DA

DAM MANTLE

LAST MONTH JOE MOUNT POSED 10 QUESTIONS TO GOLD PANDA. HE LEFT THESE QUERIES BEHIND FOR DAM MANTLE. realise how important playing is for my success. Is your current American tour making live shows seem attractive or wisening you up to get a proper job? Right now I’m really happy to be releasing music and touring. If the joy runs out I want to score music for films. I will avoid getting a ‘proper’ job at all costs. The only down side of touring is not being able to make music or be with your girlfriend, as far as I can see.

I’ve always been scared of getting old, but now as I am actually getting old I’m getting excited about all the things I’m going to do like Bonsai, gardening, bird watching and blaming Alzheimer’s for putting a Chihuahua in a blender. What are you looking forward to seeing as all the exiting stuff like sex, smoking and drinking has already been experienced? Learning to read sheet music and playing the piano or the cello properly, which I should have done when I was a kid. I wanna be in a quiet home with my wife where I can grow herbs and help my kids to play music, paint pictures and to not worry about credit cards and radiation.

Coldplay turned down a million quid deal with Nike for a commercial or some shit, but they were already fuckin’ minted at that point. Would you take the million for your tune on an advert right now even if it was something that at first you’d sworn against? I guess it depends on the context of the ad. I’d rather there was good music on ads to infiltrate our sub-conscious rather

Steven Segal is so fuckin’ awesome. He speaks Japanese mad well, gets mad loads of bitches, never gets beaten up in his own films and set up an aikido school in Japan, but he comes across to the uninformed as a self-obsessed fat ex-meathead. Is there anyone you think the world should know about? The world should know about the people that produce for RnB stars. All of them. Do you think humans are soldiers abandoned on earth by an alien race? No. I don’t think we’re anywhere near as important as that. We’ll be gone in the very near future and the greenery can eat away all the concrete and the world can get on with the rest of eternity. Sometimes I’d like to give up playing live and get a really nice job in film or computer games using my Japanese skills and still just release music, but then I

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“IS CHERYL COLE IN GIRLS ALOUD? YOU KNOW TOO MUCH, DERWIN”

than most of the shit that we end up humming to ourselves. You could use the sound of the machinery in the sweatshops as percussion. I never watch TV so all I’d see was the records and equipment I’d buy with the money. Linked to that, Red Bull music academy has turned out to be incredibly well informed and quite respectable, but come on, it’s Red Bull, what the fuck do they know except writing a big cheque and adding vodka? To do something as great as what they seem to be doing

you’ve got to have serious money, right? It’s not going to come from anywhere else. David Cameron isn’t gonna set up something like that. What makes something or someone “pretentious”? Cocaine. Why do you think someone would do music ‘just to get famous’? Surely if you do become a famous pop star you must be fucking talented. Consider Girls Aloud who were born from a talent show, surely if Cheryl was serious about music rather than being famous then she’d have been working hard to do it. Consider Animal Collective who are something like 8 albums in – was all their stuff before ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’ shite? Is Cheryl from Girls Aloud? You know too much, Derwin; you read FHM too much. I’m sure she worked ‘hard’ in some way. I think people who hold the aim of being famous will burn out real quick, because once they’ve achieved it they realise there isn’t anything left to aim for and that it’s totally soulless and artificial. Animal Collective don’t have that thirst for the same thing, they always made great art and were able to do that regardless of whether they were recognised on the scale they are now. When do you think the next Bin Laden video will be released? The world seems to have forgotten about the poor bloke. When the US Senate gets the funding. You’re using a laptop on stage. Anyone can do that, mate. What are you doing, checking your emails? Why don’t you join a band and play guitar reciting perfectly the 8 tracks you’ve been learning and rehearsing for the past year. Haha. brilliant question... Because I don’t make music for rock critics. What the fuck is Dam Mantle anyway? Nothing . Oh, and everything.

Photography by Gabriel Green

What do you think makes some people grow up somewhere, get a job there, marry there, have kids there, buy a house there, retire there, die there? It’s comfortable. ‘Civilised’ countries breed the idea that that is what you are meant to do with yourself. It’s totally understandable that someone would want to settle with a family though – I will no doubt do that at some point. I think that living semi-nomadically is the way right now though.


D/R/U/G/S CALLUM WRIGHT MAKES “CLUB MUSIC THAT WORKS IN HEADPHONES”. IT CAN BE ADDICTIVE. PHOTOGRAPHER -

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GABRIEL GREEN

WRITER -

REEF YOUNIS


IT’S no secret that the digital age changed everything in music, from undermining major labels’ stranglehold to, in some cases, damaging artists’ own livelihood. The advent of file sharing, P2P networks and the rabid feasting of the blogosphere has created a beast no one really knows how to harness for whatever intent. But while it’s given us autonomy in terms of music consumption, it’s also cranked up the hype machine to levels few aspiring artists can truly fathom. As audiences furiously demand instant gratification from the outset, it’s increasingly feeling like the serpent eating its own tail, and for those who do emerge unscathed from the maelstrom of expectation, what next? For Callum Wright (or D/R/U/G/S) it’s been about accepting and adapting since the end of last year, when he began surfing a long wave of expectancy both here and across the pond. “As soon as you put something on the net now, you’re an established artist in a sense,” he says. “You’re expected to be fully formed and people take that as who you are, so anything you put on Myspace or whatever, it takes you by surprise, but you have to be ready for it. “The obsession with new stuff is pretty unhealthy, but it’s just the way it is. I’m surprised at everything that’s happened since day one to be honest. It’s always outpaced itself. I got my first gig offer before I’d had two songs written so everything’s been one step ahead of where I am. I think it’s beneficial in a way because you have to react to it and it forces you to improve.” Having played in punk bands previously, Callum’s departure to the more spectral, layered side of electronic music seems, on the face of it, like a drastic one. He’s long been a fan of club and hip-hop though, and he says that his output as D/R/U/G/S isn’t as premeditated as it appears to be. “I know everyone says it but it’s all been so organic. I just put the tracks out there and there was no idea behind what I was doing. I was making music for me. I’ve been in other bands and done other stuff but this project was just me making stuff I wanted to listen to. I think that’s what people hear and it is a genuine thing because I was always a big club fan and grew up around that, but I only heard music that really resonated with

me about a year ago. It’s not attached to any sort of sound, it just came from the idea that I could make this kind of music. “The way it’s evolved has been so ramshackle and very natural, you know? The way I perform is the only way I could do it. I put it together so backward and the way I use my equipment is so wrong, it’s not how it’s meant to be used. I use Roland SP404s and they’re not supposed to be used as an instrument. I just took what I had and used it to make as good a sound as possible. I try not to use computer programs as much as possible and you’ll hear a lot of live piano and live guitars.” Dedicated to crafting a sound that conveys warmth and character – much like his own personality – Callum’s insistence on being a ‘dance musician’ that deviates from laptop reliance is refreshing. He finds some contentment in retaining a sense of human error in his work, consciously moving away from a systematic dependence. It’s also an intent that fiercely extends into his live shows with the focus on performing instead of just attempting to recreate. “Technology nowadays is incredible. It’s like having an orchestra at your fingertips. I’ve got my songs broken down into the smallest parts and, live, I rearrange it all and put it back together in a sense. The way I do it live, it keeps it interesting for me more than anything. I’ve done maybe 20-25 shows, which isn’t that many, but I try and do something different every set. I might slip in a vocal sample or something new, but it keeps it fresh and hopefully makes each show a bit more special in that sense. I don’t want it to be regurgitation and just knocking them out. “The human error of it all is what I want to keep and that’s why I don’t use a laptop. I want it to be a performance and be actively involved in the music because you can never recreate the moment of when you write a song and it’s not what you should be trying to do.” Like many young producers, Callum is driven and hungry, and keen to make the most of the opportunities coming his way. And like any self-respecting artist, he’s quick to acknowledge the faults and tribulations of his progression, as he is excited about the potential of developing his sound.

“When you’re making the music, it’s such a struggle with yourself. It’s definitely a product of isolation but all I can speak about is the way I make music. It can never be as good as I want it to be and it’s not a band, it’s not a democratic process, I don’t collaborate with anyone, I can’t take it to someone else and get an opinion on it. “I try not to have too many preconceived ideas of what I’m going to do; I just let it form itself. I’ve always strived to make club music that works in headphones. I could easily just knock out an album of club bangers and turn the bass right up but that doesn’t interest me at all. That’s totally got its own place and some tracks will cross that line and they will delve more into a club sound or go the other way as more of a listening experience, but I like to try and keep that balance.” It’s an outlook that again feels reflective of Callum himself. Animated and forthright, he isn’t afraid to make a point, but neither does he shirk the prospect of delving deeper into his thoughts. What is abundantly apparent is that he is fully prepared to turn any constructive criticism on himself. “I’m never satisfied with my stuff,” he exhales, “the hardest thing for me to do is to let go of a track. I tend not to give the tracks names until they’re totally finished because when you give a track a name it becomes like a kid and you get attached to it and you have to use it. It’s really hard to admit to yourself a track’s not good enough. “I think every artist has that struggle or at least every artist doing it for the right reasons. I see it as art, and that doesn’t get said enough. It’s artistic expression that comes from a place that means something to you and you’re putting yourself out there so it should be a struggle. “My dream was to play a festival, have a single and get played on the radio. If I could have achieved those three things, I could have died happy and all those things are happening in the next few months so I feel kind of lost now!” he laughs. “I’m really not keen on looking ahead too much. This is it! I’m playing some amazing shows, I’m putting records out that people seem to like. It’s such a privilege and I honestly think that that doesn’t get said enough either.”

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BIG THE STUDENT AND THE TEACHER PHOTOGRAPHER -

ELINOR JONES

“Oh my god, it’s just so embarrassing!” Alice Costelloe rolls her eyes and possibly her insides. She’s just been asked if Kacey Underwood, her musical soulmate and verbal sparring partner is also her boyfriend... and she looks unimpressed. “People see a girl and a boy on stage and they think… well, you know what they think.” Stifling a smile, the English Alice playfully shrugs off the idea that the American guy toying with his hair to her right could propose a jot of romance. Kacey’s a bit more pragmatic.“You hear songs about being lonely and that’s what is playing out in front of you, a boy and a girl singing about each other. It doesn’t bother us what people think, although I remember telling one person we weren’t a couple and she got really, really upset!” Big Deal are just that to a lot of people. Whether it’s breaking hearts with admissions of platonic relationships or melting minds with their plaintive, stripped down songs Alice, Kacey and their guitars have only been playing together for just over a year, but they are already living up to their ironic moniker. This outfit is a lot different to the pair’s previous projects, though – Kacey sang in Little Death; Alice made the teenage boys swoon in Pull in Emergency. “We are both so used to being in a full band on stage with somewhere to hide,” explains Alice. “I was singing songs that I didn’t even know the lyrics to.” “People never noticed the mistakes before in a loud rock band,” says Kacey. With Alice still doing her A-Levels and Kacey teaching music, he often comes across as the elder statesman of the group, providing plenty of ammunition for Alice’s sharp tongue. “We met after I gave her a couple of lessons,” explains Kacey. “Nothing serious as she already played in a band. We just hung out with friends – her mum actually works at the school I work at, and she was always talking about her daughter’s band and how great they were, and I’d just get annoyed. We talked about music a lot and at some point it crossed over into writing together. “Opening up the song writing process to someone else, I thought was just awesome!” he adds. “Whatever your job is, it becomes easier if someone else is there to share half the workload, doesn’t it?” Well if you put it like that… “I just think you have to know someone well enough to put yourself out there when you are writing a song, otherwise you would always be on guard.” Taking that precious connection on stage was a different matter for Big Deal, though. “In our first song at our very first gig, we started to play and the sound man hit a button and blasted out I don’t know what!” Kacey laughs. “It was electro or techno or something and there we were carrying on.” Alice’s eyes roll again. The more time spent with her

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WRITER -

IAN ROEBUCK

and Kacey, the more gentle differences in dialect become apparent – Alice very English, Kacey a very anglicized American. Those on stage discrepancies, though, are what gives bands like Big Deal their unique charm. “Yeah, it’s seen to be human isn’t it,” agrees Alice. “If we were at a gig we’d want to see that too,” says Kacey,“but at the same time people will look at that and think we haven’t done enough work or dismiss us as lofi, but it’s not like that as we are trying to produce the best.” London indie label Moshi Moshi must think they are getting it right – out now on their singles club the languidly lush ‘Talk’ follows up their innocent debut release ‘Homework’, and while the progression on the page is evident, all Big Deal songs come from the same place. “We had this conversation when we first started,” says Kacey. “We were listening to ’60s classics, really sweet and naïve sounding, but from a dark place, and we liked that juxtaposition.” “We just want to write honestly,” says Alice,“and that was what was going on – when we wrote ‘Homework’ I had some homework to do!” The tenderness of Big Deal’s lyrics seductively entice you in before poisoning your cuppa and burying you in the garden; a stark contrast but it gives them a depth and substance. “We don’t really know how to write any other way,” says Alice. This intriguing paradox and a way with a tune brought Big Deal attention from their very earliest of gigs, and now a highly anticipated album lies just round the corner on what many would consider an unlikely home. “Mute Records were there right from the start,” says Kacey.“It’s a great label and it’s quite different.The head of the label came down to see us and stayed right the way through. It was pretty scary, but they have been great. It’s all been really casual, but they are very professional too.” Just the two of them in the studio must have been quiet? “Just us and the Internet, so I wasted loads of time showing Alice Dave Chappelle videos.” Alice laughs. “There’s this one where they keep saying, “darkness, darkness, darkness,” and we have started one of our tracks with the same words.We laugh every time we hear it. “We do have a Led Zeppelin dispute, though,” she explains. “I don’t like it.” Kacey stops playing with his hair and brings up ABBA. “That’s my Dad!” she says. “He has these songs that he plays when he thinks nobody is home, so I’ll get in and he’ll kick the CD case under the sofa.The world needs to know this!”


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TROPICS PROVIDING THE AMBIENT SOUNDTRACK TO YOUR BROKEN HEARTED SUMMER PHOTOGRAPHER WRITER

REEF YOUNIS - PHIL SHARP

Last year, one electronic track over all others stirred something almost indescribable. It was a song wracked with sadness and desolation, rippling ambience and a beauty so subtly insistent, it took on shimmering, shapeshifting meaning, lending itself to whatever emotion happened to be prevalent that day. The work of Tropics’ – aka Chris Ward – ‘Soft Vision’ came to be personal music salvation of the most exquisite kind, even if the initial intent was more upbeat. “You’re right about getting the heartbreak and the emotion from it,” Chris explains,“that’s pretty spot on. I like to build tracks on a summer vibe but due to the different sounds and layers, you can pick up a lot of different feelings from it. It’s hard for me to put into words, but it’s about betraying a feeling through the music.” A final year digital music student, Chris has made the not inconsiderable journey to London specifically for this interview. Attentive and eager to talk, it makes conversation sat on a sunny day extremely easy going. After the obligatory travel enquiry and chat about his degree course, talk turns to his impending album. Chris’ bedroom production days of just making music for himself and posting the results online are long gone. “I actually signed with Plant Mu quite a while ago. They got in contact with me after they came across some early demos on Myspace and the next minute I know I’m getting a phone call from Mike Paradinas (Planet Mu head honcho) and I thought it was just my mates messing around. I was there asking if we could do a video conference just so I could get some visual

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confirmation for myself,” he smiles. It’s the increasingly familiar story of a bedroom producer done good, but in Tropics’ case, it hasn’t meant he’s about to hurry or compromise his working process to stay ahead of the hype. Where his ‘Soft Vision’ EP became an unexpected landmark, Chris was just as keen to close the loop before preparing for his full length debut. “I can be really picky about what I want to be released because there were certain things I thought just sounded dated or weren’t up to my full potential.There are some elements I rushed in it, and it was quite a step back from what I was working on at the time, and I thought I’d try something a little different, put some reverb on the drums and give it a power but still keep it quite delicate with that ambience and underwater type sound. “With the album, I want to get as much out of it as I can, so I might finish a track and then walk away and come back a couple of hours later with a fresh set of ears. But there are songs I made a couple of months ago I listen back to and think, ‘Shit, I could change that bit,’ but I think I’m getting into a regime now where when it’s finished, it’s finished. About a year ago I wouldn’t be able to do that – I’d be six months down the line and I’d hear so many errors in the tracks I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it myself, but I think now I’m going to like how I’ve done the tracks for a while. Hopefully,” he smiles. It’s a guarded realism that characterises many in the current wave of young producers. Focused to the point of creative obsession, they’re their own biggest critics, and while they’re happy to extol the privileges of being

a musician, it’s the quest for perfection that drives them on to succeed. “There hasn’t been as much pressure as I thought,” Chris admits. “In terms of Planet Mu, I’m left to get on with it and they’ll give me certain deadlines and I won’t hear from them until closer to the time. It’s definitely made me more of a perfectionist because before I was just making tunes in my room for myself and if it sounded alright, it was enough and I’d upload it. Now, I’m thinking about every single detail, and knowing something is going to be released definitely has an impact in terms of my motivation.” But with the internal and external focus firmly on his upcoming debut, you might expect Chris to be starting to feel the pressure as the deadlines loom. “I’m trying not to, really,” he laughs. “I just think I’d put more pressure on myself. I think I’ll get out of it what I put into it at the end of the day. I’d like to be able to work on another album but this time I think I’d know where I was with it straight away. I think I’d be able to go in and record it quicker and know exactly what I wanted to achieve. “For me, having the opportunity to write a debut album is a real privilege. It’s something where I’ve always wanted to have that continuity and a narrative; as something you can play from start to finish and have that journey.” It’s clear Chris is compelled to ensure that the album is a true reflection of the emotion and experiences he wants to convey. His vision might have been soft first time round but you feel that, these days, he won’t settle for anything less than perfect.


NO JOY THEY MAY HAVE A LOT IN COMMON WITH ‘90S SHOEGAZE, BUT MONTREAL’S NO JOY COULD ONLY EXIST PHOTOGRAPHER -

HOLLY LUCAS

There are undeniably some vacuous, fleeting and irksome qualities that have been bestowed upon us by the rise of the digital age and the subsequent ‘blog-generation’. We are presented with songs in such an abundance, with such an array of meaningless tags and associations with ‘scenes’, that it can make one’s head spin until utter disillusionment sets in and you question the very essence of existing in today’s world. The flipside, however, is the possibility of a refreshing birth of extemporaneity that exists, and No Joy, I soon find out, are the by-product and end result of something that could only really exist in this cracked modern world of ours. Music has become more disposable, there is no denying that; it’s the very principle of the streaming and screening world we live in. But it also breeds spontaneity and impulsiveness, which can lead to wonderment and startling, delightful surprise.We live in a time in which a band can be signed within days, without even playing a gig or having to stretch to the cost of a stamp to mail a CD to a record company, and this can lead to momentary explosions of exciting new bands, movements and sounds, or it can lead to opportunists wreaking havoc and creating a conveyer belt of regurgitated tripe. That’s the gamble we often take now. No Joy is a thriving example of the former, and a band that have risen in giant leaps and bounds in no time at all. I spoke to Laura Lloyd, lead singer and founding member, on the eve of their SXSW shows, who confirms “it’s been crazy,” and that in regards to SXSW, “I’m exhausted just thinking about it, we’re playing eight shows altogether but four of them are in one day.“It’s our

WRITER -

DANIEL DYLAN WRAY

first time here. I mean, this time last year we weren’t even a real band.” No Joy’s existence has been something of a blitz, playing their first ever show in December 2009, which would then lead them to being signed to Mexican Summer just months later, on the strength of two songs on a MySpace page.Their album (‘Ghost Blonde’) would follow in November 2010, taking their cycle from formation to debut album being released and worldwide touring to be around the ten-month mark. Head spin, right? “Yeah, it’s been incredibly relentless,” nods Laura. “When Mexican Summer said we want to put out an LP, all we had were those two songs. So we had to write and record the whole thing in three weeks time.” Such was the haste of the experience that the band had to quickly adapt to their current momentum as they went along. “Then we actually had to learn how to play the songs because we had to go on tour straight away,” says Laura. “We had no expectations whatsoever,” she continues. “We never expected anybody to hear anything we did. The band was just for us. So the fact that people like it and bought it is really exciting to us.” Interestingly, while the band are now synonymous with the hazy, luscious shoegaze-like sounds their debut emits, it’s not something they intended, nor were they aware of a similar spate of bands at the time. “When people started saying we sound like other bands coming out right now, we were completely oblivious to other bands doing a similar thing. Even now I don’t know what we sound like, to be honest.” Laura pauses before further

adding insight to their original intentions. “I mean I listen to a lot of heavy, heavy music – music like Boris. Now, we sound nothing like those bands and people are always really surprised to find that out.” So is there anything stopping No Joy from heading down the road of screeching noise? Because, let’s face it, some of ‘Ghost Blonde’ does have its fair share of feedback. “I’d love to, I really would. But I just don’t think we know how to make that kind of noise! I don’t think we’re that skilled. Those musicians are really talented. I think when we started writing it was more like our interpretation of what was heavy. I’ve been told we’re very loud live.” It’s representative of current times in that there is very little room for expansion or the comfort of time. It’s undeniably a constrained and constrictive environment that No Joy currently inhabit, but one that they have flourished in, and there is no doubt that they have been pushed to their maximum musical ability, which has in turn resulted in a gripping debut album that plunders deep sonically and texturally. It’s a curious paradox. No Joy are a fascinating insight into the structure and nature of the modern day music industry. So important is time, place and speed that bands are not so much thrown in at the deep-end, but rather have their heads rammed in and held down until they struggle for breath. Artistically, it has proven interesting, forcing bands to think on their feet and adapt their sounds, skills and thoughts as they move along at frantic pace. It’s a dizzying, whirlwind of an existence, but No Joy have proven that solace and coherence can be found within it.

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MAFIA L I G H TS C’MON. HOW LONG DID YOU REALLY THINK IT WOULD BE UNTIL A NEW BAND RELEASED AN EP ON VHS? PHOTOGRAPHER -

LEE GOLDUP

WRITER -

Hot New Bands. Hot, young new bands.We love them, but interviewing them can be a nightmare: a thirtyminute attempt at drawing blood from a characterless Y-Generation stone. However innovative the music, however great the haircuts, in person they tend to be quite boring. Personality gets easily castrated by selfconsciousness and apathy; features which, despite their recent fucking up of the system (and its favourite West End shops), are still typical of anyone under 25. We’re spending the evening at Hoxton’s Macbeth (a factory of young new bands if there ever was one) with Joel and Cameron, the creative control centre of Mafia Lights. They’re a band who’re young enough for Louis Walsh to be interested, new enough for you to have no idea who they are but who, miracle of miracles, seem to have a pulse. As for temperature, you can gauge it yourself; their first EP is available via their Blogspot. In five tracks of trailblazing electronic-leaning pop, the band manage to shit on voguish styles of the past few years while also proving clever enough not to ignore them; assorted ‘-waves’ and ‘-steps’ have been siphoned into a summery, contemporary-sounding debut. Accompanying its digital release are 50 copies of it in VHS format; a hazy, tripped-out video accompanying each song. Who’s idea was that? Joel: “We played In The City last October and it was a

complete waste of time except for this guy Max saw us and he was thinking of setting up his own label [called Teeth Records]. We wanted to put something out and because we make a video for every song we do – that’s the idea, to always have an audio visual aspect to it – he was like, ‘Well, why don’t we do it on a VHS?’ and I was just like, ‘ha- ha–ha –ha. Oh I dunno, alright,’ and then that was kind of it. He said to get the songs together, so we did and two days later, he’d made it.” Cameron: “I suppose most of the reason we did it was just for attention, hahaha! Cause we were like, ‘VHS? Ooh, cool, I like that.’ Obviously the tracks are pretty lo-fi. They’re not really good-quality recordings, so that kind of goes with the VHS thing as well. It’s not like we’re gonna be selling hundreds of vinyl’s at this point.” J: “Exactly, we’re not even nearly at that stage of thinking about an actual release. Like, this is a release but we’re not gonna be pressing up 500 vinyls. It’d just be a waste of Max’s money.” This kind of approach – DIY, sure, but, more importantly, done with a sense of realism and honesty – is the exact reverse of the bands that grind Mafia Lights’ gears: ones who get signed with zero fans and rely on advertising to shift their records. The subject crops up when discussing guitar pedals.

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EDGAR SMITH

C: “You need a phaser after seeing Tame Impala... I

watched them in Manchester at The Ruby Lounge a few months ago. It was so good and after seeing them I was like,‘Right, I’ve got to go get a phaser pedal,’ because that sound is so sick.That’s a band. Everyone’s going on about the fucking Vaccines – if you want to hear guitar music, fucking go see Tame Impala.” There’s general agreement. J: “Last night I was in Soho and we walked past that

band Brother, and I literally had to hold back about four of my friends –‘it’s not worth it, leave them alone!’That’s what it’s come to – hahaha! But yeah, there’s something very sinister about The Vaccines. I’m not sure what it is. I can’t put my finger on it, but I want them gone. We met some publishing guy today actually, and we were talking about PRS and they were in this magazine and I realised they’re signed to like Global Talent, is it? Something like that. They basically own XFM and all these things and play their own music on their own radio stations… some guy from XFM told me once, it’s some really sinister back-story and The Vaccines are part of that.” There’s general disgust, but when not on the subject of faceless rock memes, Joel and Cameron beam with semi-permanent enthusiasm. There’s more than a chance that this, along with the proficiency and inventiveness you can hear in their music, has something to do with growing-up out in the sticks. Recent L&Q pin-ups Clout (also a hot young band, of course) were raised in and around Southend, and a standout of the forthcoming Let’s Wrestle album is ‘In the Suburbs’, a kind of love song to Muswell Hill.Things move slower out there and, while kids in inner cities spend all their time and pocket money on going out, stabbing pensioners and sticking it to Fortnum and Mason’s, somewhere leafy there are others quietly perfecting their craft. How was it growing up so far from anything interesting or fun? J: “Yeah we’re from Surrey. Where we live, it’s hard to

explain, because there’s no distractions, all you ever do is do what you want to do, nothing really gets in the way of us doing music except for maybe the distance between our houses.” C: “Being in the countryside as well, it is pretty fucking nice. Like the other day, we went on some fucking adventure up some fucking...” J: “… some mad walk.You can do that kind of stuff and then come back and write a song. I do like London. I could live here, but I think I probably wouldn’t write as good a song...That sounds silly but I need my space.”

C: ‘There is a lot of boring fucking people around as well though... a lot of like boring, middle class, annoying fucking cunts. Apart from them it’s cool.” J: “The only bands in our area are us, then there’s Vondelpark, there’s a band called Auction... and there’s Disclosure – and he’s in Auction and then Amusement who’re also in Auction. Like, it’s basically just ten of us making up the bands.” C: “And we’re all fucking good mates and stuff and we’re all deeply competitive as well so shit gets done.” J: “There’s just us. There’s absolutely no scene, there’s absolutely nowhere to play, nothing to do... but focus on music... or climb trees.” This image of directionless abandonment is a bit misleading though. J: “We’ve got loads of plans. Me and Cameron have been the most pro-active that we’ve ever been in the last three or four months. We’re going to go to Los Angeles next week, booked two flights today to go suck up some rays – hahaha! We’re obsessed with the sun at the moment, it just looks wicked and it represents… I think


“LAST NIGHT I WAS IN SOHO AND WE WALKED PAST THAT BAND BROTHER, AND I LITERALLY HAD TO HOLD BACK ABOUT FOUR OF MY FRIENDS”

a lot of our music at the moment is quite orange-y.” C: “We all worship the sun. I’m taking my video camera, gonna get bare more video shots and use that to kick start some music as well.” J: “It sounds like quite a ridiculous thing to do, to jet off to L.A., like overly salubrious, but we’ve spent the last year just saving up so we can just do stuff ‘cause everything we do is going to end up being reflected in the band.” C: “We work part-time as well.” J: “Yeah we’ve got jobs.” C: “We’re not louts. I work in an office and it’s shit, but it’s only three days a week. It’s like administration stuff. Timesheets come in from engineers and I have to put them into a database. We employ contractors to fix nuclear warheads and stuff. It’s a bit weird.” J: “I just work in a really posh golf course near where I live. I do very, very little work there but everyone’s safe so it makes it all worthwhile. It’s pretty chilled, just doing like food and stuff. As nice as everyone is, it’s nothing I really want to carry on with… longer than...

tomorrow.” At some point in the evening, they mention a Horrors gig at Underage Club as being a hugely formative musical experience, aware that it sounds like an absurdly recent point of reference. Those club nights and their imitators got a fair bit of media attention and, however tired a mention of them might seem now, their importance wasn’t illusory. Mafia Lights’ generation of 16-24 year-olds (it’s mine too in fact) had an abnormally large share of the total population. The size of the demographic contributed to a blossoming (definitely the wrong word) of youth-culture and helped to sweep away the mediocre, lazily post-modern late ’90s/early ’00s pap that came before it. It’s also a contributing factor to youth unemployment; Mafia Lights, with parttime jobs and bright prospects, are something of a rarity. These are the precociously enterprising minds that the government want to get out there, start businesses and rescue us all from a NASDAQ shitstorm. Instead, they’re making music. Good call.

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BLONDE

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PHOTOGRAPHER -

TOM COCKRAM

WRITER -

STUART STUBBS


AMBITION

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Y

oung. Shy.Your best.There are certain things it’s hard to feel when sat opposite Smith Westerns. Even at 15 I’m pretty sure I looked more haggard than they do, and they’re entering their twenties in a touring band that “get fucked up” as early in the week as Wednesday morning. “The drive from Glasgow to London was pretty easy,” says singer Cullen Omori. “I had some Valium left over so I’d, like, close my eyes for a second and lose three hours.”They dress better than most people too, and most bands. When we meet up four days after our photo shoot in Manchester, Cullen gets away with keeping his sunglasses on indoors. His faded Star Spangled Banner waistcoat is wildly brave. On the wrong back it’d be proud American tourist uniform, in need of a fanny-pack full of traveller’s cheques and tube maps. It’s the shy thing that’s really impossible to entertain though – if you don’t speak, there’s nothing, just the sound of your background, which in this instance is Camden High Street. It’s understandable enough. The band are in the UK to promote an album that they’ve already released back home, earlier this year and to frenzied acclaim. ‘Dye It Blonde’ has recently had them finally complete their first headline tour, and now here they are, opening for The Vaccines and schlepping around Europe ahead of the record’s transatlantic release in May, back where they started, answering all the same questions they were asked in December. “I would like to think that with it being out already in America, and that being so positive, it’d be like that here,” says Cullen, “but of course that’s not the case. We have to do the whole process over again.” “We have got a new member though,” says Cameron [the band’s bassist and brother of Cullen], “so we’re playing the same songs live that we were playing a year before it came out anywhere, but with a new keyboardist we’re still trying out different things live, and that’s tiding us over for now.” Cullen says that the increase in venue size helps too, and when the band return home they’ll play some of their largest shows yet, touring with Yeasayer and Wilco. “I think I’m more in love with the record now,” he says. “I didn’t like it in the beginning. For some reason, in my head I thought it was going to be the greatest record of all time, but then, after time constraints, our playing ability constraints and my singing ability

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IN A WORLD WHERE MOST BANDS ARE HAPPY TO SETTLE FOR THE LO-FI AESTHETIC, SMITH WESTERNS HAVE LEFT BEHIND THE SCUZZY SOUND OF THEIR DEBUT ALBUM AND MADE A SOPHISTICATED COLLECTION OF TEEN ANTHEMS

constraints were all factored in, I was like,‘ahhh, this isn’t that good.’ But then I took a break from it and when I went back to it I really felt like this was a real band playing – it didn’t sound like our home recordings or anything like that.” Not like the band’s eponymous debut album of 2009, which was recorded in guitarist Max Kakacek’s basement and instantly gave the US lo-fi scene its very own scuzzy version of T-Rex. So full of Bolan pomp were tracks like ‘Girl In Love’ that the band never challenged such comparisons; they courted them. It was a fair cop, and besides, ‘glam pop’ seemed far more desirable than ‘Nuggets-esque garage band’, which is what Smith Westerns were being called before. Really though, the star of ‘Smith Westerns’ wasn’t Cullen’s camped up, androgynous purr, or its overall shag-me swagger – it was its cover artwork: a bold pirating of Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ laid over a painting of the Virgin Mary. “The way I’ve always viewed it is: if we do get sued for it, we might get to meet Courtney Love. That would be pretty cool,” Cullen told Papermag.com last summer. Apart from that, and an undeniable sense of youthful enterprise, it rarely stunned, and was a record received better than it should have been. Now, with the far superior ‘Dye It Blonde’ in their cap, Cullen considers their first album “more like an EP or something.” “Y’know, there’s certain bands and you listen to their very first album and it’s, like, the worst thing ever,” he says. “I don’t think it’s the worst thing ever,” says Cameron. “Not the worst thing ever, but you listen to early Clash and it sounds nothing like the later stuff they’re known for.” “It was a logical progression,” says Max. “The first one sounds like shit but the songs are there and if you could pump them up with real production I think they would be just as good as the songs on the second album.” “I don’t think we planned on anyone hearing the first record,” says Cameron.“We made that on our own and I would have been happy if a hundred people heard it, so it went a pretty long way for something that was thrown together in our basement. So when people are like, ‘Oh man, it sounds like it was recorded in a trashcan,’ that’s like, not insulting, but I know it doesn’t sound good.”

“It’s a silly thing to pick up on,” says Max. ‘Lo-fi’ was a tag that the band were quick to shake off (“We wanted to get away from that immediately,” says Max). Having signed a record deal with US indie Fat Possum – and with Cullen dropping out of college and Cameron graduating high school – finally the band could do what they had always wanted to – get inside a studio. “We always wanted to make this second record sound as produced as we could,” says Cameron. “I never understood why bands would go into a studio to record a lo-fi sounding record. You do it out of necessity. A good way to gage a lo-fi record is if you were to take away all the noise and were left with the songs, would they be good enough to stand on their own?” In terms of production value, ‘Dye It Blonde’ is a giant leap forward for Smith Westerns, not unlike the progression from Wavves’ reverb-dependent, tedious debut to last year’s hi-fi sounding ‘King of The Beach’. It’s made everyone think differently about the band and has vanquished not just the term ‘lo-fi’, but also ‘garage band’. Where ‘Smith Westerns’ channelled the sassy ghost of Marc Bolan, ‘Dye It Blonde’ largely reaches early ’70s-era John Lennon. Cullen’s besotted vocals – no longer rasping with fuzz – certainly play their part, as do the recurring, solid piano chords, and a track called ‘Imagine Pt. 3’, but it’s Max’s bending guitar strings that makes a song like ‘Still New’ sound so much like Lennon’s ‘#9 Dream’ or ‘Mind Games’. They swoon similarly on ‘All Die Young’ – the kind of slow motion ballad solos that can only be played with closed eyes. Cullen says that they knew their new, polished sound would probably alienate their existing fans (“They were going to hate it anyway,” he says, “so we chose to not care.”), but there’s still plenty of T Rex to go round, namely in a number of kazoo-like, glam rock guitar licks. Mott The Hoople get a look-in too (‘Imagine Pt. 3’ being more than a little ‘All The Young Dudes’), and Queen, thanks to ‘All Die Young’ – rather aptly – beginning like ‘Who Wants To Live Forever?’, and ‘Smile’ featuring a decidedly May-esque solo, which is only fully realised when I see the band perform live some hours after we meet. In short, ‘Dye It Blonde’ proudly features the kind of anthemic rock tunes that punk gleefully stamped on and made shameful for bands as young as Smith Westerns. For all bands.


“WE WERE REALLY TIRED OF SEEING ONE-MINUTELONG SONGS BANGED OUT ON A LO-FI GUITAR AND EVERYONE’S SHITTING THEIR PANTS ABOUT IT”

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“Music now, if it doesn’t speak to you in a catchy form within twenty seconds, people turn it off,” says Cullen, “so we run the risk because a lot of the best songs on the album take a long time for people to get. You need to listen to them two or three times and have it unfold upon you, and if you’re not paying attention you’ll miss the transition from one thing to the next. Plus, also, we were really tired of seeing one-minutelong songs banged out on a lo-fi guitar and everyone’s shitting their pants about it, so we wanted to use a little more finesse. Since the early 2000s everyone’s been trying to be minimalist like Jack White, so we were like, ‘let’s just overload everything, but in the most tasteful way.’”

Q

uietly sipping on Bloody Mary’s in a north London pub, it’s when I ask the band what they don’t like that they’re most animated. The subject is ‘Undesirable terms used to describe Smith Westerns’. Cameron starts with ‘garage’. Max quickly adds ‘ramshackled’, and then ‘jangly’. “Youngsters,” continues Cameron. “Brats or bratty youngsters,” say Cullen. “Upstarts.” “Snot-nosed,” says Cameron.“All of those things just suggest that we stumbled upon what we’ve made, like we just fell on our instruments and made this music by accident.” At nineteen, twenty and twenty-one years old, such

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hyperbolise are difficult to avoid when discussing this band though (kinda like talking about The Rolling Stones without saying “dinosaurs” or “old-timers”), and while they’re not fans of such buzzwords, they’re rarely used to derogatory effect. Sat in a line, the band shake their heads. “We’ve not had any bad reviews of the album,” says Cullen. “Our only bad reviews, really, are live reviews, and then it’s because we don’t look like Slash and David Lee Roth, because of the guitar shredding thing. It’s weird when you’re singing about love but it’s still a punk show,” he ponders. “People get pissed off when you tell someone in the audience to fuck off.” (Later that night I see Cullen do, more or less, just that when he introduces ‘All Die Young’ by saying, “This next one is depressing – it’s a real wrist cutter, so you people at the front who look really fucking miserable, you can cut your wrists to this one.”) Unless you’re Radiohead or Natalie Portman, the world won’t stay smitten forever though. Right now, on April 7, 2011, Smith Westerns are a band that can do little wrong, but back home in Chicago there are some who’ve started turn on them. “That’s the only place where we’ve experienced a backlash,” says Max. “And I don’t know why that is,” says Cameron. “They’ll be like,‘those guys don’t represent the Chicago music scene, there’s so many better bands,’ and I’m like, ‘okay, I like music, show me these bands and I’ll go and see them.’ It’s a weird thing in Chicago, because the press there can sometimes really be on one local bands’ side, and they come after us the more poppy we get, which is kind of ridiculous. So that was weird – going from barely any Chicago exposure to getting exposure within the music scene to having the papers ragging on us.” This isolated experience of “ragging” perhaps explains why the band are so coy when we first meet, as

well as the fact that they’re on a promotion merry-goround that they’ve ridden before, and that yesterday was ‘fucked up Wednesday’. We’ve completely fallen for ‘Dye It Blonde’ over the last month or so – its intrepid approach to stadium rock indulgence; its brazenly teenage themes that make songs called ‘Falling In Love’ feel so rightly placed; its unapologetic ambition – but they don’t know that. I could be just as flippant as the guys back home. Cullen seems especially concerned about a Cold Cave album review that appeared in last month’s issue. “Oh wow, Cold Cave got slammed,” he says as we sit down to begin the interview. In his louche Midwestern speak, it’s difficult to tell if he agrees with the 4/10 mark or not. And later, when he reads the review midinterview, nudges Max and signals the brilliantly schoolboy wanker gesture, it’s not much clearer either. Perhaps a few green-eyed naysayers in their hometown has made Smith Westerns weary of the written word, but Chicago is almost certain to be a blip, and one that could well be amended when the band tour with Wilco. “Jeff Tweedy is the like the king of Chicago where music is concerned,” says Max, “so a pat on the back from him means that people will be like, ‘Oh, if Jeff Tweedy likes them they can’t be that bad.’” “It’s like being knighted,” says Cullen. Where Smith Westerns have really succeeded – beyond any doubt, and even personal taste – is in their ability to follow their scrappy debut album with the record they promised to make. The lo-fi excuse has always been,“If only someone would give us a chance to record our songs properly,” but it’s often an empty threat – heaven forbid if most DIY bands were slapped in a proper studio to make an album as lush sounding as ‘Dye It Blonde’ turned out to be. It’s a record of anthems that it’s ok to like, and when did you last hear of an album like that?


LORD OF THE DANCE DAN DEACON’S EXPERIMENTAL PARTY MUSIC HAS ALWAYS BEEN BEST EXPERIENCED LIVE, WHICH IS WHY DK GOLDSTEIN SPENT AN EVENING WITH HIM AND 500 NOISE FANS IN A SOUTH LONDON DESERTED FACTORY PHOTOGRAPHER -

Dan Deacon is a noise musician, comedian, playwright, promoter and all-round party don. He makes chopped up electro beats and is a cult hero in DIY circles, but you’d never know this to look at him. In his dragonemblazoned T-shirt and oversized blue specs, Deacon is an unassuming character who’s extremely polite and jolly. Listening to his erratic recordings, you wouldn’t put the two together and you certainly wouldn’t imagine the sheer madness that this man can evoke during a live show. But the thing is, to appreciate Deacon’s music, you can’t just sit back and relax, you have to witness the frenzied explosion of noise jar against the manic throng of people who lose all survival instinct as they happily fall on top of one another, while everyone’s sweat mingles with the grime of the floor. So with this in mind, we decided to spend an evening with Deacon, the electronic genius and grassroots beacon, on one of his rare visits to the UK, at the old Bussey sporting goods factory in Peckham. After he’s set up his table and duck taped everything together – only to be laboriously untaped and ripped apart after the show – we head to a gazebo in the courtyard and chat while Deacon works on a light fixture that usually forms part of his set. “It’s four lights that go doog, doog, doog…” he shows us, indicating the way they change from red to blue to yellow and green with his fingers and by making odd noises. “You’ll see, I have three others,” he adds before trailing off and muttering something about needing a longer screwdriver and peering even closer at the exposed wires, while a whiff of burnt plastic emanates from the casing.We’d be offended that we weren’t getting his undivided attention if it wasn’t for the fact that he keeps apologising and promising he can listen and work, followed by a series of innocent smiles. Having studied music at the State University of New York, Purchase, Deacon is something of an old hand at modifying, tweaking and fixing electronics nowadays. He did start out on acoustic-based music, but it wasn’t instant enough for him, and as we’ve already worked out, Deacon is a man who needs to be occupied all the time – waiting around isn’t something he’s prepared to do.“I was writing computer music in my spare time,” he says of his early stages at university, “but I started getting more into it than I was into acoustic music. I could just write something and it existed. If I wrote a piece for a cello I had to find a cellist and at my school there weren’t a lot of cello players that were into experimental music, so it was difficult to get the ideas from paper to reality, but with computer music it was instant.” Once Deacon had found his oscillator in the bin, which creates and bends repetitive electronic signals, he

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OWEN RICHARDS

says he was drawn to the physicality of changing the pitch. “From there I started getting more stuff to augment or modulate the sound – a pitch shifter, a harmoniser and a delay pedal – and those were my first main things.Then I picked up a vocoder and everything fell into place.” Taking influence from Devo and Talking Heads – “I feel like they both had really unique approaches to sound and performance” – Deacon became engrossed in the aesthetic of his live shows as well as the music. “I didn’t like the way performances went with computer music, they were boring,” he explains,“and I wasn’t into IDM [intelligent dance music] or techno shows, where someone just sat behind a laptop. I was much more in line with a wild, visceral show.” And what a show. From the safety of the stage – because Deacon is on the floor surrounded by people – we witness the raucous energy first-hand. All lights are turned off bar Deacon’s fluorescent strobing skull, a bare light bulb clipped to the wires spilling from his table of equipment, which he considers a whole instrument, and the flashing lights he was telling us about earlier that make the room appear as though we’re looking through old-school 3D specs. Considering the chaos of ‘Of the Mountains’ (during which Deacon gets his friend Severin Most to do an elaborate, choreographed Mexican wave-styled dance with the entire audience), the naming of Lion King characters, the tables and window sills lined with people by the time the hyper-synth echoes of ‘Crystal Cat’ comes around and the search for shoes, caps and jumpers after Deacon closes with the blip-heavy ‘Wham City’ (named after the Baltimore art collective he helped found), this has been a pretty tame show for Deacon. “Once I was playing in Chicago and the whole floor collapsed,” he elaborates later on, once his table of equipment is packed away and his crowd are busy swaying drunkenly to ’80s classics. “Luckily it was only a six inch drop and it was during the last song.The venue wasn’t very pleased, but it wasn’t my fault,” he grins with flushed red cheeks and a sheen of sweat across his face from an hour spent hunched over his workspace, spellbinding his audience. “And this one time on my first tour we stayed at this crazy noise house – a house where noise people live,” he laughs – a deep, joyous John Goodman kind of laugh – when we ask what a noise house is. “Well, I’d call it a noise house,” he states. “Anyway, this ex-con had just moved in and he was real weird. All that night he just talked about how he wanted to beat us to death and it was frightening.The next morning, when we listened to the recording of that night – because we’d recorded our set – he had been standing next to it talking about how

he fucking hated us and wanted to kill us.” There may not have been any death threats tonight, but Deacon wasn’t 100 per cent happy with the performance. “I got into it by the second half,” he confesses, a little disheartened, “but at the beginning there were some people who were really inebriated at the front. They were falling into the equipment, unplugging cables and screaming in my ear. I know when I play on the floor I’m opening myself up to a lot of risk, but I also expect a lot from my audience, especially the people who fight their way to the front. When people don’t get it or they’re just too fucked up to stand it’s depressing because I don’t write my music to be escapist and I don’t like music that’s strictly Dionysian. I want it to have meaning, a positivity and a safety. I think when someone’s that fucked up the people around them don’t feel safe, I don’t feel safe, and it’s hard for me to get lost in the moment. But by the second half I feel that those people either had to go vomit or passed out,” he says, slightly more sprightly, “because in the second half it was fun.”

I

t’s been just over a decade since Deacon began pursuing this direction of music and he’s proud to inform us that he’s never had a day job. Well, except when he got addicted to raw milk.“It was the only time I had a job,” he chuckles, “to pay for my milk habit.” He insists it’s good for you, but it’s illegal in his state of Maryland and therefore not so easy to find. “I had to buy it from this weird dairy share and it wasn’t expensive but it was another cost and my budget at that point of my life was no cost. I didn’t buy anything,” he says, astounded.“If a piece of equipment broke and I couldn’t fix it I just couldn’t use it. It was exciting. Like, when I was on tour and the car broke down – it was an eightweek tour and we were four weeks into it – I’d profited $400 but I couldn’t fly home because I didn’t have an ID and the train was too expensive.The bus was $400 to get home, but it was also $400 for a 30-day pass. So I could finish the tour, but it would mean 20-hour days on the bus, but I did it and it was the best choice I ever made in my life. It solidified that I would be doing this for a very long time and it’s a long story, but long-story-short, I haven’t had a day job…other than those two weeks when I had a milk habit.” For now, Deacon will finish the tour – of which Peckham was the only UK date, but he’ll be back in May at the Barbican’s Reverberations show – and get


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back to working on the film score he’s writing with Osvaldo Golijov for the new Francis Ford Coppola film Twixt Now and Sunrise. “It’s a gothic romance horror movie, so it’s a very different kind of music to what I’m used to writing,” he reveals.“It’s dominated my year and pushed my album plans back a few months.” So, despite having two LPs worth of music ready for his third album proper, he hasn’t even begun to think about how he’s going to record it, or whether he’ll use any innovative instrumentation like, for instance, the MIDIprogrammed player piano that featured on his last record, ‘Bromst’. The piano delivers a saloon-esque sound and mechanically plays itself, which Deacon had it do at an incredible speed and can be heard best half way through ‘Slow With Horns/Run For Your Life’, in which the piano part was split into 24 separate lines and pieced back together. However, he always makes sure he has time for his arts collective. Deacon tells us that as soon as he gets back from touring he’s performing at a Wham City comedy event. “We did the Wham City comedy tour a few months ago,” he says, “and we’re in the process of making a weird TV show. Plus, I wrote a play for the 10minute play festival and I still help on the record label that doesn’t really exist, but does in some capacity.” Comedy is an aspect of performance that Deacon loves, but doesn’t do all that often as he tries to put the majority of his focus on music.“I think within a year I’ll have more,” he affirms. “I have one video online called ‘Drinking Out of Cups’ [a short monologue by a crude, know-it-all lizard] that is pretty popular in the viral realm. I think a lot of people get it for the wrong reasons, but I think it’s pretty funny. A lot of people think I was on acid when I made it, so it takes away from the creative element that went into it, because people are like, ‘This is funny because some guy on acid made it’ rather than, ‘This is funny because someone’s brain came up with it’, you know what I mean? But I have another video in the works called ‘Cool Shoes’, which is going to be pretty good, I’m excited about it.”

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Something else that’s coming up for Deacon this summer that he’s neither excited nor unexcited about, as he’s professed he’s not a fan of birthdays, is the big three oh, but one thing is for sure, he’s not scared about turning 30. In fact, he laughs off our suggestion that he might be. “I’m pretty happy with how my life’s turned out,” he beams. “A lot of people reach 30 and question what they’ve done or where they’re going and I’ve never been concerned with that. Maybe it’s because I went bald when I was 18.” Here we’re treated to another Goodman chuckle before he continues. “Not as bald as now, but I started going bald when I was 18 and it made me question age and think about it a lot. “Also, that’s the benefit of starting in composition

because most of the composers that you really like get better as they get older. A lot of pop musicians lose their fire after a while because they’re so obsessed with youth culture, but I hate youth culture so it doesn’t matter,” he jokes. “No, I don’t hate youth culture. Again, I don’t really think about age as a construct.” He goes on to tell us that he always wanted to be an actor or a comedian when he was younger and started studying music on a whim. “I was just going because it seemed like that’s what you’re supposed to do with your life; go to college, but I didn’t think I’d be here doing this. I never thought I’d tour Europe,” he admits, still surprised after eleven years in music.“Maybe I’d be a little more worried about turning 30 if I hadn’t made it here yet.”


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RE MAY VI 11 EWS AL BUMS 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25

ANR Austra Barbara Panther Calton Melton Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi DELS Dodos EMA Gang Gang Dance Girls Names Idiot Glee James Pants Jamie Woon Let’s Wrestle Love Inks Mick Harvey Planningtorock Please / Spin Spin the Dogs Ra Ra Riot Tennis The Feelies Times New Viking Various Artists Wet Paint Wild Beasts

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Let’s Wrestle Nursing Home (Full Time Hobby) By Mandy Drake. In stores May 16

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London trio Let’s Wrestle always wanted to be Hüsker Dü (they even had a song telling us so) but the idea of them actually putting out more than a couple of 7-inch singles always seemed far fetched. ‘Nursing Home’ is their second album. It was produced by Steve Albini in Chicago. Consider yourself told! What got the legendary Nirvana and Pixies engineer involved with this group of punk dossers is no doubt the very same thing that has steadily fuelled Let’s Wrestle since they formed in a garden shed in 2005 – their impressive knack for writing naggingly catchy songs that remain resolutely indie and wittier than Stephen Fry Night on DAVE. None of that’s changed (singer Wesley Gonzalez asks “Aren’t you a bit wrinkled to be a nymphomaniac?” on ‘Bad Mamories’, while the opening ‘In Dreams (part 2)’ lends itself perfectly to lyrics of punching a

Pokemon and copping off with Queen Victoria), it just got a hell of a lot louder. Volume is an easy fix though, and beneath that loud grungy fuzz you can tell that something else has changed. Gonzalez has become a better lead guitarist, for a start. ‘Dear John’ illustrates it best – even the childish refrain, “You look like a crooked sparrow” can’t pull focus from the pro squeals that bridge one cuss to the next. At times (like through ‘There’s a Rockstar in My Room’) the singer forces out a gruff growl rather than his usual, dopey half speak too, and everything has a definite gloss that debut album ‘In The Court of The Wrestling Let’s’ was without. So there’s a handful of progressive modifications here, even if the band’s constant daftness does a pretty good job of masking them, making ‘Nursing Home’ sound like another Let’s Wrestle album of put downs, uninterested girls and wild dreams. Where it leaps away from the band’s previous work is in its willingness to occasionally slow down and say something really quite touching,

like on ‘For My Mother’ – a track through which Gonzalez lists things he’ll do to look after his grieving mum, with a guitar set to ‘clean’, distant drums and the simplest of basslines.The piano-led ‘I Am Useful’ is even sadder; desperate and insistent like only a song of unrequited love can be. And ‘Getting Rest’ the album’s closing track - is the band’s most delicate song yet, too caught up in its own wistful melancholy for its instruments to be raised above a tickled hush. It’s an extremely important step in Let’s Wrestle’s evolution: being confident enough to let it all out instead of hiding behind nob gags and fuzz-tone. And while the title ‘Nursing Home’ suggests silly irony from a band so young, there’s no doubt that they’re growing up fast. It’s documented here in these ‘serious’ songs.They are, of course, still outnumbered by the crass and dumb and unapologetically youthful, but they are here nonetheless, and album number three could very easily be full of poignant ballads; another page from a maturing man’s diary.


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Wet Paint

EMA

Love Inks

Girls Names

Austra

Woe

Past Life Martyred Saints

E.S.P.

Dead To Me

Feel It Break

(Records Records Records) By Matthias Scherer. In stores May 2

(Souterrain Transmissions) By Sam Walton. In stores May 9

(Hell Yes!) By Polly Rappaport. In stores May 2

(Tough Love) By Nathan Westley. In stores Apr 25

(Domino) By Chris Watkeys. In stores May 16

The worst thing about being the victim of a burglary isn’t the loss of material possessions, but the fact that someone has been in your house without you knowing it. That nasty sense of insecurity is hard to overcome, unless you move house.Wet Paint singer Babak Ganjei, presumably, still lives in the Hackney flat that got broken into, and, maybe not coincidentally, his band’s new record trembles with agitation.The guitars flutter and stutter, convincingly mimicking Pavement’s looser moments as Ganjei sounds defeated through lines like “Bringing you down/ Writing me off/Never knew how” in ‘Uptight Casuals’. His slightly off-key lisp works best on ‘Life’s Disappointments’, a noisy but melodic little snipe at small-town indie geeks.There’s a bit of tuneless filler on the first half of ‘Woe’, but it’s worth sticking it out for the snarling slo-mo ‘Lynchstrumental’.

EMA is Erika M. Anderson, whom attentive fans of lo-fi American noise will know as the former leader of Gowns - a band so drugfucked they made Spacemen 3 look like The Monkees. But where her previous band was an unmitigated wreck of feedback and opiates, her debut solo record is more strategically catastrophic, picking its moments of abandon for maximum impact. Accordingly, ‘Milkman’ – a trashy romp that sounds like Patti Smith fronting Sleigh Bells – is flanked by the quietly resigned piano of ‘Anteroom’ and the astonishing grunge/chain-gang a capella of ‘Coda’. In less confident hands, it would surely be a mess, but Anderson steers the album with a slow swagger and skill, and frequently picks a melody, arrangement and delivery to rival Sonic Youth or Spiritualized at their most visceral.

If Love Inks’ main aim was to keep things uncomplicated, mission accomplished. It’s a self-recording, incorporating only electric and bass guitars, a drum machine, and vocals (with occasional guest appearances from a vintage synth). This type of pop is definitely an acquired taste, with lyrics that tend towards a series of vaguely disappointing, obvious rhymes that sometimes sound cobbled together just for the sake of it, and repetition, both lyrically and melodically, that is guaranteed to either lull or grate... or both. Single ‘Blackeye’ consists only of the repeated words “You’ve got black eye on your eye/Tell me was it from a fight?/Did it happen last night?”.The only standout track is ‘Rock On’, which is light on the percussion with a teasing bassline and sensual vocal harmonies. If you don’t love this record, you’ll either switch it off or fall asleep.

Ask people in the street to name a band from Northern Ireland and after thirty seconds of umming and ah-ing they may stumble upon Ash, and although Girls Names may be similarly armed, the sound this trio creates is quite a distance away from ‘Girl From Mars’.The ten tracks on this, their debut album, firmly pins them into the same ballpark as fellow modern day sixties revivalists Crystal Stilts. Like those New Yorkers, Girls Names have strong Velvet Underground elements at their core, flourished with hints of The Jesus and Mary Chain when they are at their most poppiest, twisting out three minute drone-hugging, reverb-heavy slews garnished with Orange Juice styled jangling guitars.This record will probably slip under the mainstreams radar, but it certainly proves that Northern Ireland has far more to offer than one popular threesome.

Austra’s founder, Katie Stelmanis, was apparently all set for a career in opera before a change of heart saw her get into bands instead. Judging by this debut, we should be thankful for that generic u-turn. While Katie’s vocals owe a heavy stylistic debt to Kate Bush, Austra’s music nods towards the best slices of Bat For Lashes,The Knife, and defunct Canadian miserablists The Organ. On ‘Darken Her Horse’, soaring yet strangely dispassionate vocals are bolted to cold, bright synth melodies. It’s exciting and engaging stuff. Much of the rest of the album is similarly constructed. Two-thirds of the way in, however, the cold sterility of the production and the lack of a throbbing, organic heart all start to have a numbing effect, until the slower and more sparse ‘The Noise’ provides a less clinical release.This is conspicuously arty, yet beautifully accessible music.

Wild Beasts Smother (Domino) By Reef Younis. In stores May 9

08/10

From the superlative praise for the raw but captivating ‘In Limbo, Panto’ to the perplexed cynicism that inevitably met follow up LP ‘Two Dancers’,Wild Beasts and, specifically, Hayden Thorpe, divide and conquer opinion more than most.Three albums in, he’s still intent on being the troubadour storyteller, twisting and twirling prose to match his similarly grand operatic vocal. It’s easy to be drawn to this ranging, choirboy register alone, but it’s also been Wild Beasts’ fatal attraction as well as their greatest lure. On ‘Smother’,Thorpe’s vocal is still as rich and tremulous as ever, but there’s a new refinement that doesn’t overbear. ‘Plaything’ is energising in its simplicity, unashamedly giving Thorpe the spotlight in its musical scarcity, but where Shearwater’s Jonathan Meiburg is similarly grandiose, it would be a cruel disservice to understate Thorpe’s enthralling, if histrionic, presence. This time, it’s not the ostentatious one-man show it could have been, and it’s all the more riveting for it.

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AL BUMS 05/10

08/10

07/10

07/10

06/10

Idiot Glee

Various Artists

James Pants

Times New Viking

Barbara Panther

Paddywhack

Tape Fear

James Pants

Dancer Equired

Barbara Panther

(Moshi Moshi) By Tom Goodwyn. In stores May 2

(Fierce Panda) By Stuart Stubbs. In stores now

(Stones Throw) By Nathan Westley. In stores May 2

(Wichita) By Matthias Scherer. In stores Apr 25

By Daniel Dylan Wray. In stores May 16

Idiot Glee is the pseudonym of James Friley; a 22-year classically trained pianist who is a bit too in love with Brian Wilson. He’s quietly built up a reputation as one to look out for over the past fifteen months with some well-received singles, and this full length LP doesn’t deviate from the Wilsonian formula that first got him noticed. Though sparser and more disparate than the Beach Boy’s classic joyfulness, this is an album completely indebted to the eccentric Californian genius of Wilson.Take ‘FOE’, for example, which has the rolling drums, lovelorn lyrics and wistful sensibility that brings to mind sunshine, sports cars with the top down and lazy afternoons. As an album, it’s passable and it’ll even make you whistle if you’re so inclined, but, for the most part, this album strays into rip off territory rather than a loving homage.

As hip as tape releases are, they’re never usually as good an idea as you first think. How are you going to fit it in your CD rack? What’s with the rewinding? How are you going to play the thing? It’s worth noting that ‘Tape Fear’ – a moulded plastic showcase for 18 new DIY bands from America – is also available as a download, but even if it weren’t it’d be worth downgrading your iPod for.The likes of Dum Dum Girls, Fools Gold and Real Estate are sure to help its limited run sell out in the time it takes to clunk down the eject button, but this is really a cassette of discovery, and it’s not all as poorly recorded or played as you might think. From San Francisco’s Weekend, who sound like a mixture of Animal Collective and No Age, to Colleen Green’s drum machine garage scuzz and the doom-gaze of Cleveland’s Herzog, ‘Tape Fear’ does analogue proud.

A self-titled singer/songwriter album usually gives clear indication that what is contained within is more than likely standard MOR Tesco-shelf-dwelling fare.Yet from the soulful Whitey-esque vibes of the opening ‘Beta’, it becomes instantly clear that James Pants, who has previously won praise from Flying Lotus and Erol Alkan, while also being cited as a major influence on main Odd Future beatmaster Tyler The Creator, is more than happy to sit on the outside of convention. By taking a kaleidoscopic approach to song creation, he has formed a varied album that switches from sounding like a restrained Late of The Pier (on ‘Every Night I Dream’) to a spirited version of experimental electro-renegades Add N to (X) (on ‘Strange Girl’). ‘A little bit Closer’ meanwhile recall David Bowie’s ‘Ashes To Ashes’ phase, making it certainly not pants.

You’ve gotta hand it to Times New Viking: the Ohio trio are nothing if not prolific. ‘Dancer Equired’ is their fifth album in six years, which is impressive until you remember that they have been peddling the same ultra-lo-fi, minimalist bursts of tinny racket on every single one of these records. On their latest effort, they have polished up a tiny bit. Not by much – there’s still no bass, no overdubs, and the longest track clocks in at 3:38 – but opener ‘It’s A Culture’ is still a stretch for a band whose hooks are usually buried beneath layers of rusty snare beats and shouting. Its boy/girl harmonies are reminiscent of Beat Happening, and the chorus is great. ‘Fuck Her Tears’ is another song that eschews shambolic clatter for a more conventional melody, albeit still featuring guitarist Jared Phillips’ post-punk informed licks. Still, it’s definitely their most fun record yet.

It’s strikingly apparent what this record wants to be, but what it aims for and what it delivers are two very different things. It’s a sloshing about of influences that are sometimes apparent to the point of emulation. At times it feels like it’s intentionally ‘quirky’ and ‘odd’, as though it’s something that can be constructed, instead of exuded, which means that the moments of sonic intrigue (and there are some) are quickly dissolved by the rampant lashings of manic synths and abrasive sounds that do nothing but alienate the listener. It’s when it’s not trying so hard that the album manages to succeed – when it’s meek and restrained.The balancing of the album is the problem, not necessarily the songs. It seems that in an attempt to create a musical persona, it often overshadows the most interesting aspect in the first place – its personality.

(City Slang)

Gang Gang Dance Eye Contact (4AD) By Chris Watkeys. In stores May 9

05/10

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The opening few minutes of ‘Eye Contact’ seem distinctly more laid back than much of Gang Gang Dance’s last experiemental dance album, 2008’s ‘Saint Dymphana’ – ‘Glass Jar’ is seemingly a fusion of ambient and post-rock, its synths washing back and forth, lapping gently at the ears. But then the pace picks up, the indistinct vocals drop in, and it’s business as usual for this experienced Brooklyn collective. Litigation fans will recall that it was from GGD’s ‘House Jam’ that Florence Welch pinched large chunks of ‘Rabbit Heart’, but our Flo will find little of worth pilfering here.While high point ‘Adult Goth’ scores with its dramatic, sci-fi vibe, there are more frequent passages – like ‘Sacer’’s dull and meandering synthwibble – that aren’t a million miles from ambient bores Zero 7.Though intelligent and well crafted, it’s difficult to engage directly with music which, like a film score, would seem much better suited as an accompaniment to something else.


07/10

04/10

07/10

07/10

07/10

Mick Harvey

Ra Ra Riot

Sketches from the Book of The Dead (Mute)

The Orchard

Please/Spin Spin The Dogs

Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi

W

Split LP (Upset The Rhythm) By Sam Little. In stores Apr 18

Rome (Parlophone) By Reef Younis. In stores May 9

(DFA) By Luke Winkie. In stores May 16

This latest instalment in Upset The Rhythm’s commendable split LP series might just be their best yet, because, largely, neither side brings the other down. On one is Please – a London trio of tight jammers who take their lead from skewed 70s psych prog and manage to make two minutes feel like two hours on the skippy, repetitive ‘Clothes’.The other side is home to the eccentric clunk-punk of Spin Spin The Dogs, who sing about jumbo jets and massive hands in a semi-moronic tone that could well be a joke. Apart from ‘Stupid’ (which is just that as it falls apart on its toy keyboard for 55 seconds), it remains good fun. Of course, you will need to choose a favourite side though, and the sensible will probably go for Please’s, thanks to the Wild West menace of ‘Harrow And Wealdstone’ and the almost pop ‘Pass The Apple’. It’s close, mind.

Not content with having formed one unlikely double act with The Shins’ James Mercer, Brian ‘Danger Mouse’ Horton’s latest project sees the producer working with Italian composer Daniele Luppi. Compiled from sessions over the last few years, and duly inspired by the work of Ennio Morricone and regular Italian soirées of their own, ‘Rome’ is sleek, stylish and effortlessly symphonic. An album “about love,” according to Burton, it’s also one of endurance and endearment. Luppi and Burton visited Italy every year to record instrumentals and in some instances capture moments of beauty with Nora Jones’ drizzling vocal. Cynically, it’s the work of a producer given carte blanche to satisfy his creative whim, but ‘Rome’ genuinely feels like a contented labour of love.That should make it worth a bit of your time alone.

Planningtorock is best known as a name that pops up next to The Knife rather than a producer.The enigma contributed a fair amount to the goth-blip duo’s somewhat misguided opera that found a physical release at the beginning of last year. His sophomore effort, ‘W’, takes quite a few cues from that endeavour (or maybe The Knife took cues from him), the shadowy electronic pop introducing darkened strings, sparse, violent drums and macabre vocal swoons. Most of it is cloaked in the same Castlevania goofiness that makes The Knife so irresistibly gaudy, and the chintzy, Atari soul of ‘I Am Your Man’ is among the most peculiar listening experiences this year. He’s mostly shuffling through a familiar deck, and although he unpacks solid songs, intricate beat-work and a few winning moments, he’s missing the weighty, miasmic density.

By Sam Walton. In stores May 2

(Brine & Barnacles) By Chal Ravens. In stores May 16

Being a former member of Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds and frequent collaborator and producer for PJ Harvey, it would’ve been something of a surprise if Mick Harvey’s (no relation to PJ) first fully self-penned record was full of light-hearted Brit School kitchen sink jangle. But even for something this gothic in title, this is a troubled time. Each song tells the story of one of Harvey’s close friends who has slipped off this mortal coil, painted only in shades of black, with plenty of macabre imagery and pregnant pauses. It’s frequently a beautifully sombre experience – ‘A Place Called Passion’ complements much of PJ Harvey’s latest LP – but Mick Harvey is, unfortunately, a more onedimensional songwriter than his famous collaborators: there is no Cave-esque dark humour, nor Peej-style weirdness – and across an entire album, it shows.

Ra Ra Riot’s latest actually came out in North America last August, but got its European crotch hooked by legal barbed wire as they fled the major label badlands. Sadly, in the era of instant gratification, six months is a mighty long while to be kept waiting – especially when ‘The Orchard’ sounds so much like an artefact from the recent past, with notes of Vampire Weekend,Temper Trap and New Pornographers infusing this sober collection of lightweight orchestral pop. Singles ‘Boy’ and ‘Too Dramatic’ typify the clipped, controlled style the band have honed with years of touring, but though their influences supposedly include big-hearted over-emoters like Arcade Fire, there’s precious little drama here. The rigid grip of trained musicians keeps every song on course to shape an underwhelming record of dorm-room schmindie-pop.

Planningtorock

Jamie Woon Mirrorwriting (Polydor) By Sam Walton. In stores Apr 18

06/10

Jamie Woon’s career so far has seen him produced by Burial and remixed by Ramadanman, which should have him tagged as a hardened UK Bass snob straight outta Croydon. But then again, he’s also a product of the BRIT School: the pop factory that provided the UK’s bored housewives with the likes of Kate Nash and Adele. It’s a schizophrenic existence to say the least, and perhaps goes some way to explaining the inconsistency of ‘Mirrorwriting’, an album that veers from foundation-shaking RnB (opener ‘Night Air’) to the kind of anodyne white funk that would shame Blue (‘Shoulda’), back to super futuristic New Jack Swing (‘Spirits’) and finally to an impersonation of Will Young in The Live Lounge (‘Waterfront’).Woon boasts that “at least four” of the tracks here are about going for a walk, and while there’s clearly the aspiration to capture such dreamy bucolic wonder, the general outcome, amongst the gloriously modern soul and the sorely misjudged cheese, is a bit bland.

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AL BUMS 07/10

07/10

08/10

06/10

07/10

ANR

The Feelies

The Dodos

Tennis

Carlton Melton

Stay Kids

Here Before

No Color

Cape Dory

Country Ways

(Something in Construction) By Tom Goodwyn. In stores May 2

(Bar None) By Polly Rappaport. In stores May 16

(Wichita) By Luke Winkie. In stores May 9

(Carmen San Diego) By Stuart Stubbs. In stores May 16

(Agitated) By Austin Laike. In stores May 9

Florida duo ANR – or Brian Robertson and Michael Hancock – have spent the last three years playing remixer to the likes of Kele, Hercules & Love Affair and The Naked And Famous.They like to ladle on layers of funk and fuzz to every track they’re handed by other artists, and they take the same approach when making their own compositions. Smouldering grooves are taken, and instead of being made into slick renditions, they’re rubbed with sandpaper and seemingly recorded on cassette. ‘Holes’ is Prince meets Dinosaur Jr, while the title track sounds like a Parliament that’s been handed to Sonic Youth. Initially, it’s interesting and intriguing rather than arresting and gripping, but ‘Stay Kids’ grows on you quickly with repeated listens. It’s well worth the time and effort. Maybe it’s time they stopped mucking around with other peoples’ songs.

Calling all vintage American indie nerds: after a break of almost two decades, New Jersey underground rockers The Feelies have re-formed their 1986 line-up and are set to release a brand new album of original material.The appropriately named ‘Here Before’ draws together the different styles the band (and its various offshoots) have explored over the years.The album blends mellow acoustic guitars with their more aggressive electric cousins, ambling between almost whimsical indie and more up-tempo, post-punk-tinged tracks with confidence, ease, and a strangely wide-eyed quality one would hardly expect from a band whose heyday was some time before most of us (sorry, overthirty people) were born.The general ambience is bright, melodic, and slightly geeky.Time has been good to these guys – betcha they all sleep in Tupperware.

For all their avant-acoustic stunts and outside-the-lines arrangements, Dodos have always remained remarkably pretty.Two years after fumbling ‘Time To Die’, ‘No Color’ returns the band to a more focused place. Meric Long’s baritone croon hangs high above the clapboard drums, occasionally paired with Neko Case’s shining harmonies; that touted Vibraphone, which served as ‘…Die’’s de facto sonic touchstone is nowhere to be found, save for the brief, hyperactive intro of ‘Hunting Season’. But this is mainly a duo making a point after an awkward critical reaction. In interviews Long comments on his desire to craft an unambiguous sound with ‘No Color’, and you can hear the workmanship reverberating off the songs. Everything has been polished, obsessed over, and wonderfully produced. It’s the Dodos getting back to consistency.

Considering that Tennis’ debut album is a beach melodies/girl group hybrid of a record, it’s easy to be cynical of ‘Cape Dory’; easier still to not fall head over heels for it, especially if you already own your fair share of Best Coast and Dum Dum Girls.With love out the window, it’s still pretty hard to not at least like these ten tracks, their soppy charm intensified by the fact that Tennis are a married couple. If Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore aren’t still besotted with each other, they’re certainly doing a good job of fooling us here – him with a clean jangle; her with the voice of Ronnie Spector; the pair of them making the kind of gushing Sandra Dee pop from rock’n’roll’s candyfloss age. It’s sweet.The only problem is that while ‘Seafarer’ can be described as sounding “a bit too Pipettes”, little else here can be considered anything other than “nice”.

West coast psychedelia and expansive drone rock sure can test a man’s patience, but no one keeps you waiting like San Francisco space jammers Carlton Melton. Their second album, ‘Country Ways’, starts with a track that’s twenty minutes long, which never looks likely to awake from its ambient coma. And it never does – it just gets a bit distorted towards the end.There’s no blues influence, or groove, or vocals, like you get with Wooden Shjips, say – just trippy, endless noise. And the seven songs that make up this record don’t ever get any more ‘conventional’, which is precisely what, eventually, makes it so addictive... providing you’re a fan of drone. It’s certainly as selfindulgent as the unaccompanied guitar outro of ‘Harrington Fair’ suggests, but there’s little questioning how beautiful some of this hypnotic music is.

DELS GOB (Big Dada) By Stuart Stubbs. In stores May 9

08/10

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While Tinie Tempah has unquestionably done his bit to change UK hip-hop for the better, Kieren Dickins – aka DELS – has long threatened to give grime a much-needed overhaul. ‘GOB’ rebuilds the now predictable genre from the ground up, with the help of three producers – Joe Goddard of Hot Chip, Micachu and KWES. Against Dickins is his deep MCing tone, which happens to make him sound a hell of a lot like the far less inspiring Kano, but his boyish raps about being drunk at work (‘Hydronenburg’) make up for it, while the musical side of ‘GOB’ helps DELS sound like no one else.The usual wub-wub drops have been replaced by syrupy synths (especially on the Joe Goddard tracks, which include the Roots Manuvafeaturing ‘Capsize’ – Gorillaz at their brassiest) and on tracks like ‘Melting Patterns’ and the harrowing, stark ‘Droogs’ there’s an experimental, almost indie bent that goes with the rappers less silly side.That it never feels contrived makes ‘GOB’ honourably imaginative.


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LIVE

The New Black

COLD CAVE

The Lexington, Angel, London 05.04.2011 By Matthias Scherer Photography by Lee Goldup

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“Cold Cave?” asks a colleague upon hearing who we’re going to see tonight, “does everyone have to wear black robes and carry torches?” He doesn’t know the band or their music, and yet his joke isn’t wide off the mark.There are a fair few people at the Lexington tonight who look, for lack of a better word, like goths – that means black lipstick, black and white clothes, and dyed black hair.There are also, however, quite a lot of people who frequent the indie/noise pop gig scene in London and dress accordingly (there are no torches, which is a shame). Cold Cave, the gloomy synth pop project started by former hardcore singer Wesley Eisold, appeal to both those who, back in the ’80s, would have worshipped at The Cure’s altar, and those who are into bands leading the modern revival of the ‘cold wave’ trend of the same decade (Xiu Xiu, Former Ghosts, Zola Jesus). When Eisold and his band members (among them Jennifer Clavin, formerly of fabulous twee punks Mika Miko) take to the stage, we are

once more reminded of our colleague’s remark – the whole band are wearing black. Keyboarder Dominick Fernow’s black fringe starts to bob up and down as, after a short drone intro, Cold Cave launch into ‘Pacing Around The Church’. And within a minute and a half, we have heard all of Cold Cave’s favourite stylistic devices – the achingly nostalgic synth swads, a hollow, thumping drum beat like footsteps in a morgue, and Eisold’s great way with a lyric – “so much love to give/but nowhere to live.” Sometimes, as with this song, the hook is neglected in favour of an overall vibe, and Eisold’s vocals, in a live setting, don’t channel so much Robert Smith’s morose exhalations as Jarvis Cocker’s glucky wisecracks. There was a band doing a similarly effective (albeit less successful) emulation of their favourite gloomy pop band back in 2005. Nightmare of You (formed by former The Movielife guitarist Brandon Reily) made hundreds of pop punk kids listen to The Smiths

for the first time.Their first album was full of Marr-tastic songs, a feat Cold Cave matched with their 2009 debut album, ‘Love Comes Close’.Tonight, however, they only play songs from their new record, ‘Cherish the Light Years’. Not that that’s a bad thing – tracks like the danceable and urgent ‘Theme From Tomorrowland’ and the Suicide-esque ‘Burning Sage’ provide a great soundtrack to watching Eisold look at us like he’s seeing human beings for the first time, stripping off his leather jacket to reveal a sort of fishnet shirt. For some reason, the photographers at the front are pelted with bits of rubbish (one punter, in what is probably his own Wayne Rooney moment, even shouts, “photographer, fuck off ”), but after a while, a certain sense of inertia sets in, perhaps because we’ve all realised that Cold Cave don’t really have that great a variety in their sound. And when they bugger off after nine songs, nobody seems particularly bothered that there is no encore.


PATRICK WOLF Koko, Camden, London 29.03.2011 By Sam Ballard Photography by Lee Goldup ▼

As soon as he floats onto the KOKO stage, in full ornithological regalia, Patrick Wolf ’s crowd go gooey and are mush in his hands. An icon for the outsider generation, he continues to be the leader of the baroquepop fringe movement. His current tour, in preparation of his fifth album, ‘Lupercalia’, is undoubtedly Wolf ’s most concerted effort to enter a more mainstream space to date. And why not? To live like a bohemian costs money, and with his up-coming civil partnership, thoughts have no doubt turned to Mr.Wolf taking on a bit more responsibility. It seems the wolf in bird’s clothing is finally ready to dial down the brattiness… a bit. Forever walking the fine line between pretence and precociousness, he is anything but lacking in ambition – his most recent record was originally slated to be released as a double album, straddling the back of ‘The

Bachelor’ and marks a stark contrast to the desolation that pervaded it, with an optimism that is welcome, if not a bit much. Named after an ancient festival of love in honour of Lupa, the she-wolf that nursed Romulus and Remus, it is in keeping with Wolf ’s ties to mythology, not to mention a subtle nod to his stage name, and one that would have no doubt slipped us by before the era of Wikipedia. Tonight Wolf is brilliant, taking every opportunity to show off his multiinstrumental talents, from the electro-pop of ‘Together’ all the way through to the piano ballad of ‘Armistice’ – a range of sounds and moods that are focal points for the mental condition of Wolf himself over the last few years. The album (and performace alike) is the public record of a turn in Wolf ’s fortunes, and for his loyal fanbase who funded his last album through the BandStock webside – they’ve taken the entire eight-year journey with him. As one young gentleman standing beside me brags: “I’ve met him loads of times and we just speak about dildos.”That is a connection that most artists never even touch the rim of.

CRYSTAL STILTS Cargo, Shoreditch, London 30.03.2011 By Edgar Smith ▼

People have a slight problem with Crystal Stilts, and it’s interesting to see it lived-out a year and a half or so after a Bardens Boudoir show rammed with adoring hipsters. What naysayers take for aloofness we’ve been inclined to see as laidback realism, like they’re not prepared to be too into their own music.The impermeable quality to their personality gets tested at this show when a drunk girl (of your nightmares, not fantasies) gets on stage, dances awkwardly, fucks up some equipment, pulls off a monitor and throws beer over Brad Hargett. As he and his troupe – who, by the way, have been playing mainly new material (straight west-coast 60s grooves with Loveesque balearicisms and bouts of thundering guitar noise) – carry on and crack some goodhumoured asides – “I thought you liked us? I don’t understand the dynamic... did you call me a nerd?”, “You’ll be happy to know she’s French, not English.”The response to this and the tunes (paired with ace psychedelic visuals) is lacklustre. It’s not so much Stilts’ fault as it is gig-goers’ failure to devolve their opinions from the ups and downs of hype and backlash that (rather unfairly) determine the fate of groups like this.

HALLS Old Blue Last, Shoreditch, London 03.04.2011 By Chal Ravens ▼

Here we have a fledgling genre that seriously needs to get its fingers through its bootstraps. Lauded progenitors like Jamie xx long ago realised that a strict segregation of production work from live band duties is something like the Occam’s razor of postdubstep noodling: the simplest answer is most often the right one. But kudos to those still trying to blaze a trail by teaming live instruments and vocals with bassheavy laptop loops and itty-bitty synths. Mount Kimbie were one of the first, and you could count the reincarnated Darkstar and duo

Cloud Boat in that subspecies too. Some do it well, other should have stuck to Gold Panda’s route of trigger switches, loop pedals and computers. And now Samuel Howard, a 20-year-old unmistakably from south east London, presents his efforts to the class as Halls. He has gone for the riskier option – the one that involves real life stagehands. Roping in three more starvingDeptford-artist types on guitar, bass and extra laptop, Halls has taken up the gauntlet and put together an almost-live act for these subtle, ghostly tracks, which might otherwise be pure bedroom producer fare. But if that’s what you’re gunning for, son, step up to the spotlight and dare to give us a show! Not an eyes-to-the-floor mumble, sweet as it may be. Failing that, time to retreat to your artist’s garret and bookcase of Hotflush vinyl.

JOSH T. PEARSON Queen’s Social Club, Sheffield 24.03.2011 By Daniel Dylan Wray ▼

The new Josh T. Pearson record (‘Last Of The Country Gentlemen’ - his second and first in ten years) sums up a lot of emotions, but perhaps greater than any is that of desolation.Tonight, Josh stands desolate, alone, and stranded on a stage that creaks as the heel on his boots clip the wood. He wanders in circles with only his acoustic guitar for company.The crowd remain so silent that the air beholds that unspoken, quiet respect normally reserved for funerals.To witness a man expel his demons, spew out his soul and offer his crushed heart for thirteen minutes at a time in the form of song, is of unnerving proportions. He does lighten the mood between tracks, but they feel like wake jokes, serving to mask the suffering that burns within.The guitar strings ring crisp and clear through a hall in which nothing can be heard but breath and strained ears. His voice lingers almost endlessly as though it is still searching for something; loitering painfully and earnestly in our guts. To experience so much emotion in one evening is a rarity, to witness a crowd treat it with such respect is a sincere privilege.

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LIVE ▼

THE HISTORY OF APPLE PIE Bull & Gate, Kentish Town 30.03.2011 By Stuart Stubbs ▼

John Maus. Pic: Owen Richards

The Thermals. Pic: Kelda Hole

The Kills. Pic: Pete Mariner

One for the guitar geeks – the folk who ignored Ian Brown’s poetic tone but marvelled at John Squire’s bowl-cut; who shun a twitching Thom Yorke for Johnny Greenwood and his electronic, outer-space squeals; who ogle not Kim Gordon but Thurston Moore for the way he navigates his way around feedback and effortlessly makes sense of the noise. A band called The History of Apple Pie should be super twee and play four-chord songs, but, largely thanks to lead guitarist Jerome Watson (also of Hatcham Social), they’re already a mesmerising live band, and they’ve not even played ten shows yet. Of the above, technically-savvy musicians, it’s Squire that Watson physically resembles the most, with the coy, head-down stage presence of Graham Coxon. Sonically, as he grinds out distorted riffs and hammered chords with ease, he’s an impressive mix of Moore and Greenwood. His is a phenomenal sound, naturally (and enviously) delivered, but it does pull focus from everything else that’s going on onstage. And, while less ‘showy’, THOAP’s overall dream-pop take on My Bloody Valentine and other early ’90s bands, is almost as convincing. Singer Stephanie Min could do with looking less petrified and turning up her doeeyed sigh, but tracks like ‘You’re So Cool’ have them down as a fledgling hybrid of Teenage Fanclub and ‘Daydream Nation’era Sonic Youth. For now, Jerome is unquestionably the star, but given six more live shows there’s a good chance that the rest of THOAP will be demanding your attention too.

JOHN MAUS Bussey Building, Peckham, London 01.04.2011 By Stuart Stubbs ▼

Before now, John Maus of Minnesota has played with Ariel Pink and Gary War. And that makes complete sense. On April Fool’s Day we find him on the top

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floor of a deserted cricket bat factory in south London shouting, “I’m such a maniac!” – y’know, like Ariel Pink might – and forever making his voice go ‘blub-gurgleblub’ with the aid of an echo pedal that actually makes War’s underwater vocals sound crystalline. Maus is alone, and rarely plays any kind of instrument – he simply hits ‘go’ on his samplers (almost before the preceding track has ended) and he’s bouncing up and down again, shaking his head from side to side like a felt-necked Muppet character, aggressively screaming encouragement off-mic and inaudible glugging on into it. He is having a very good time. And, by all accounts, so are most of the people here to see his intense emo-tronic live show that has some labelling him an electro Ian Curtis.The reason he’s not largely lies in the fact that the sound is terrible, and it’d be wrong to level that at the factory acoustics or shipped-in PA. Maus is just so intent on cranking up his reverb and drum machine that his long set feels even longer as the delicacies that make up new album ‘We Must Become The Pitiless Censors of Ourselves’ are lost in one relentless slur.

LOWER DENS The Irish Centre, Leeds 29.03.2011 By Daniel Dylan Wray ▼

Anyone who absorbed the fragile delicacies of Lower Dens debut record, ‘Twin Hand Movement’, will know that some of its nocturnal stillness will be difficult to translate into a room full of people waiting for another band to come on. So instead, aware of the fact that most are here to see headliners Deerhunter, they flick a switch and out come another band – one that captures a range of swirling dualities and raging arpeggio of interwoven guitars. The album features a multifaceted display of sounds and tonight they are drawing on the ones most suitable for their environment to glorious effect. In many senses they play out like a female-fronted version of the band that everyone has really come to see.The inducing melodies groove you into a state of musical hypnosis and the

only thing that brings you back to reality is the haunting vocals of Jana Hunter.Texturally and atmospherically they are unable to recreate the album’s stark moments, but instead they forge a sonic concoction that makes it feel like you are witnessing something new altogether. At the finest moments, it’s a head rush of sonicnuclear explosions that transfix, absorb and distort, leaving one disconcerted and lured.

THE KILLS Heaven, London 31.03.2011 By Chris Watkeys ▼

With its black-painted walls and low lighting, Heaven is dark. And when Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince hit the stage, everything seems to get just a shade darker. The Kills’ music exudes pure rock’n’roll sleaze – a brutally low rumble over which Mosshart’s alternately vicious and ice-cool vocals slide, while Hince weighs in with his low vocal tones (and the odd barbed comment between songs). It’s good to see them back. Too often a band will shoot its load, so to speak, with their first album, before setting out on a path of diminishing quality for the rest of their career (hello,The Strokes). Not so with this duo, whose excellent fourth LP ‘Blood Pressures’ dropped earlier this month.The new stuff with which they hit the Heaven crowd is edgy, exciting and perhaps ‘poppier’ (or at least less wilfully inaccessible) than their debut material back in 2003; for new single ‘Satellite’, there’s even a trio of backing singers on stage. For the most part though, the space is commanded by Mosshart, who clambers up on the monitors to appear silhouetted, throwing rock’n’roll shapes against the purple light.The Kills are still viciously and brilliantly alive.

THE THERMALS XOYO, Old Street, London 01.04.2011 By Polly Rappaport ▼

Excuse me, folks, but this is Shoreditch, and here in Shoreditch we do not have mosh pits. Unless


the band on stage is The Thermals, obviously, in which case we go apeshit.There is a significant cult following for The Thermals on this side of the pond, and it’s not tough to see what the fuss is about, as, drenched in sweat, the band storm through a series of crowd-pleasing classics, Hutch Harris spitting his politics into the mic as his guitar screams its licks (don’t know what it ever did to him, but he’s getting his revenge, and it sounds amazing) over Kathy Foster’s robust, melodic bass lines.The sound is full and solid, nothing is shrouded in reverb; it’s all clear and present and in your face.Westin Glass (he and his drum kit have obviously had some sort of fight as well) pounds out his beats, keeping up the punk drive even when newer tracks come in, poppy and accessible and begging for handclaps. A few songs, like the hopelessly catchy ‘Now We Can See’, are re-played, and the crowd go wild, hanging on every syllable and screaming along. Dear the Thermals: Come back soon.

ODD FUTURE Don’t Mess With Texas, Austin 19.03.2011 By Nathan Westley ▼

It is in an open air setting on the outskirts of Austin,Texas, with the sun slowly disappearing from view that Odd Future further confirm themselves to be one of the most exciting bands currently emerging from hip-hop’s underground. Their speedy rise, fuelled by mixtapes and homemade videos, has seen them billed as the most essential rap collective since Wu Tang Clan, and helped them catch the imagination of the Playstation generation who have been raised on lame-arsed rappers who’s lines of braggadocio are centralised around candy cotton subjects with the end game of appearing on MTV’s Cribs.To people sick of that, Odd Future are saviours. Tonight their hard-edged words run riot as they cascade towards darker themes like rape and murder, and impact instantly on the frothing bodies in front of them. People push and invade the stage before diving off as if it’s 1990 and Nirvana are playing. It’s a fitting comparison, because in this moment Odd Future feel as essential as any great punk band.

GO WILD OUTDOORS Avoriaz, Portes Du Soleil, France 02-09.04.2011 By Edgar Smith Photography by Andrew Childs ▼

In cool terms, skiing must have peaked in the 80s, when its fast luminous glam vibrated with the times and those who did it could enjoy a sport that is simultaneously a workout, tanning session and constant reminder of cocaine. Nowadays, skiing associates more with the image of Gortexclad families pahrump-ing down mountains into bars, barking for Jager-bombs and talking about crème fraiche. Unless we’ve got our readership very wrong, that’s not getting you all steamed up. Launched this year, Go Wild Festival is an attempt at rejuvenating the married-with-aVolvo image and pulling in a new kind of clientele; those who think the idea of a skiing music festival is far-out. The action centres around Avoriaz, a ski resort, although the nasty taste of that word doesn’t quite do it justice – this town was purpose built in the 60s by French postmodernist upstarts Jacques Labro, JeanJacques Orzoni and Jean-Marc Roques. Unsurprisingly, it’s won a truck-load of awards for its bold, angular mimesis of the mountainside surrounds. Imagine a collection of huge Frank Geary log cabins surrounded by archetypal alpine scenery and

you have the setting for this festival – beats the Stone Circle, doesn’t it? Surreally, gigs on the slopes are not much different from normal ones. Apart from the signs to ‘Take off your Skis’ it’s business as usual; superb soundsystems, photographers, skunk clouds and a tiresome security presence.The need of florescent safety staff becomes obvious once the first gig we catch ends. It’s Kesiah Jones (huge in Europe if not the UK, and pictured above) early on Sunday afternoon and the audience – drunk, stoned and screaming for more – have to negotiate a slush death-trap back to town. Jones’ solo show is a winner; Africantinged folk rock, played Spanish-guitar style on a fantastically filthy-sounding hard-body guitar that hits a driving pulse despite lacking a full band. His intention of “bringing some Africa to the snow” sounds fun but, because skiing is so drastically white, it adds to a slightly grating neo-colonial undertone. An antiphonal rendition of ‘All Along the Watch Tower’, phaser-happy suspended chords and slap-guitar played behind his back is enough to keep you distracted. The week’s other big-hitters are Jamaica, Kitsune-crowd Parisians.They introduce ‘Gentleman’ by letting us know it’s “pour un jeunne femme, c’est pour vous” – I didn’t see whether a particular girl in the audience was being pointed at or whether he meant all of us, but it was just one in a whole murder of clichés that the band pump with abandon. Think choruses of counting numbers, lyrics

involving X being at home and Y being on the phone, and ‘go’ pronounced ‘gowoahwoh’. ‘Short and entertaining’ is an apt description of their entire output, although they’re no Charlie Chaplin and their lack of imagination is underscored by their choice of encore – the single ‘I think I like U 2’ that they had played two songs previously, this time with heavier fret-wank moments and a Julian Casablancas-ish filter on the vocals. The other bands merge into one.There’s Madalena (French chanson with Latin flourishes), Joyce Jonathan (Nursing Home Radio-friendly pap) and more, but they all suffer from Jamaica’s illness; their command of the pop idiom (both lyrically and musically) doesn’t go further than trite cliché. It’s irritating to hear such able musicianship and sincere feeling applied to such a tasteless end product. In the case of Tafta (dire, dick-swinging keyboard rock), tastelessness defies gravity. They’ve a bassist that looks like meatloaf and, despite an average age that hovers around forty, they live up to the festival’s Go Wild moniker like there was no tomorrow; singing enthusiastically into each others’ faces and finishing songs by smashing real or airguitars. While the festival organizers clearly have to cater for the tastes of those just skiing-by as well as music fans, and can’t be expected to be too specialist, they could perhaps take a few more risks next year.

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CINEMA REVIEW

FILM By IAN ROEBUCK

SOURCE CODE Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan,Vera Farmiga Director: Duncan Jones

7/10

Anton Corbijn’s fine looking Ian Curtis biopic, Control

Cinema Preview The Music Biopics Are Coming! ---A somnolent sight, the music biopic has whored itself around Hollywood for the past few years honking on with misty-eyed nostalgia whilst clearly on a promise with the purse strings.Yes, it’s a bankable affair, embarking on a film with an existing fan base, but it hasn’t always provided modern sparks. Joan Jett promised but didn’t deliver in the Runaways, a lacklustre Lennon dozed through Nowhere Boy and Biggie bored in Notorious.The subject matter does allow for fleeting glows in the dark though; personal favourites include the beautifully photographed Control and the barbed realism of I’m Not There, but the problem seems to be that the talkies’ charisma and tone never quite hits the original protagonist’s personality. Wafting on the horizon though, are bios with promise; films with subjects and stars to match. Amy Adams is currently soaking up spoils for bagging the role of Lois Lane in the Zack Snyder/Christopher Nolan Superman: Man of Steel but before that she impressed in The Fighter, showing grit and a lightness of touch that will serve her well as Janis Joplin. With no director on board as yet the project, titled Janis Joplin: Get it While You Can, imagines just one day in the life of the artist – an intriguing premise, and she sung at the Oscars too, so that’s half the battle won, right? Amazingly Adams is 36, a benign maturity that Joplin walked and talked for years.

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Elsewhere is Peter Morgan’s next project. It seem that when he was asked to write The Queen he must have said, “Go on then, stick Helen Mirren in it, but only if I can write about the REAL Queen next,” because he’s on board to screenplay the untitled Freddie Mercury project. Adding a dose of pragmatism to a tale of English eccentricity, Morgan also penned Frost/Nixon and The Last King of Scotland, so expect serious drama with your cross-dressing, a very good thing when you consider the life and times of Mercury. Big heels to step into though and Sacha Baron Cohen looks to be the man to do so. After the brazen Borat and Bruno it’ll be fantastic to see the comedian’s take on a national treasure.We know he’s got the moustache, but has he got the acting chops? Roles in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo Cabret and Larry Charles’ The Dictator (as Saddam Hussein no less) should warm him up nicely. And finally, just take a glance down Al Pacino’s films of the last ten years; it’s a depressing sight, it really is. From Righteous Kill, to 88 Minutes, to Gigli; the man’s lost the plot, which makes him the perfect choice to play Phil Spector. Both 70 years old with small man syndrome, this looks to be a match made in heaven (if Spector used to walk round the studio making loud nasal noises at The Ronettes Pacino could be looking at an Oscar nod). HBO films are reportedly involved with Barry Levinson and David Mamet at the helm, so it’ll be interesting to see how they portray the murder of Lana Clarkson, although it will be more interesting to see Pacino sporting hair like Spector’s.

Is eight minutes enough time to write three letters? One for Duncan Jones, praising his existential bent in film, one for Jake Gyllenhaal (“best thing you’ve done since Zodiac,” his would read) and one for… errr… Michelle Monaghan… no, probably doesn’t deserve a note, best send one to Vera Farmiga. This may sound like gobbledegook but I’ve just watched Source Code: Duncan Jones mind-bending accompany piece to Moon. Like Bowie junior’s debut, it deals with issues of identity and sense of self, but second time around Jones has injected a blockbuster twist into the heady, thoughtful mix. Gyllenhaal plays Colter Stevens, a US helicopter pilot drafted as a test subject for a highly implausible scientific test. Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright are convincing enough as his suspicious military handlers to make you believe the premise though, which is – wait for it – Sliding Doors meets Strangers on a Train meets Die Hard. Gyllenhaal’s Stevens relives the final eight minutes as a passenger on a commuter train, which is destined to blow up in spectacular style outside of Chicago. His mission, of course, is to find the bomber and as he puts it “save the world!” With everything hanging by a thread, it’s only just pulled off. Jones direction is slick, quick and unfussy. Following Moon with Source Code pegs him as an ambitious director too, but so far his project choices have been his bravest moves, creatively. Gyllenhaal charms his way through 90 minutes, jumping from blind confusion to quick-witted cad in seconds, while the supporting cast is, unfortunately less than impressive – Monaghan is flakey as the love interest and although Farmiga and Wright are superb as shadowy military figures, the characters themselves are lacking any depth. Not to matter though, it’s a tense, sharp and surprisingly funny film with real backbone. It just turns out that I only really need write two letters.


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PARTY WOLF PHOTO CASEBOOK “The Persistent World of Ian Beale”

[ *sigh* A whole day sharking and I’m dateless again! Wonder if I’ve still got that number...

FIT!

GET THE LOOK Waasssaaaaaauppp! A friend once told me that denim doesn’t catch fire and ever since then I’ve worn nothing but the stuff when rocking out in the kitchen! Safe and stylish, you can get it in all sorts of colours (light blue, dark blue) and it never goes out of fashion. When Tony Blackburn first saw me in this jean waistcoat, for example, he said, “Blimey, you look like you’re in Skins!”We fell about. I mean, can you imagine it!? Me in Skins!!!?? They could never afford me.You’ve no doubt noticed that the denim shirt under the denim waistcoat is tucked into some denim jeans, which, again, looks good, sure, but it’s also another safety measure – you don’t want loose clothes dangling in your carbonara. But c’mon, enough of this foreplay! You know my ultimate accessory can’t be picked up off of a rack.That’s not how is works with tans. Mine is, believe it or not, completely natural, but if you can’t afford a villa in Portugal, get to a sunbed. Summer is coming and no one wants to pull a raw sausage.You don’t want to be on the shelf at 83 do you? Naaahh, it’s alright really...True!

Yep. Same address as before. Same price, right? Fish and chip supper

LONELY HEARTS It’s not weird, it’s sexy Facebook

45, looking for the top answer Area: Children: Diet: Employment:

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London Yeah Memories Quiz host

Bruno has this to say about Les: We asked a hundred people to name one thing they’d like to do to Les, given half the chance, and they said... well, it doesn’t matter what they said – some people were definitely just trying to be shocking. I know what they meant though, ladies – they meant they’d like to cosy up with him in front of the telly with a bottle of vodka and a pipe of Pringles to watch Challenge TV on weeknights between 7.30 and 8.30pm. And they’d be in luck, because that is exactly what Les loves to do... every week! Les responded by saying: No, it’s 7.00 til 8.00pm now. They’ve moved it forward by half an hour. Blame Catchphrase.

Disclaimer: The representations of the persons herein are purely fictitious.

( Check it out! It’s spinning... And the bowtie

Les

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Blimey! I’ve never seen THAT before!!!

GoOutWith MyFriend.com



Loud And Quiet 27 (May 2011)