Thursday, May 31, 2007

There's a new music taking over the country and it's called indie

You'll be glad to know tomorrow the begging stops (actually it doesn't, as we still have just under half the run unfilled - anyone else, then?) and More Songs To Learn And Sing begins. In the meantime we've earned a taste for letting others do all the hard work on our behalf and channelled it into The Art Of Noise's 5x5 feature in which we located five of what are currently known as buzz bands, sent an mp3 of one each of their tracks with no tags or markings to five of the site's correspondents and posted up their blind reviews to see what the public really make of the hype machine. It's also acting as an indirect exercise to see if band names really can get any worse.

Meanwhile, coincidentally as Popmatters revisit the Wedding Present via their Peel sessions, the whole of John's This Is Your Life has turned up on YouTube. Embedding's been disabled but this stuff can't be left stewing:

Part One: Aspel turns up at John's first Top Of The Pops in years, video messages from drum'n'bass era Bowie and Kenny Dalglish in an actual boot room
Part Two: Texas memories ("He's What's Happening Baby!"), a rather too joyful welcoming of Tony Blackburn, Ed Stewart, Alan Freeman looking about 130, Billy Connolly on tape, Andy Kershaw in lumberjack shirt discussing the Isle Of Man TT, Richard Branson pre-recorded ruining the next surprise, which is...
Part Three: John Walters, Mark E Smith fortunately not in the studio, David Gedge fortunately is, Paul Whitehouse for no good reason, a former radio colleague is the climactic surprise

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ditto marks

We're still trying to get our head around the cover of this week's NME (NSFW, just to be on the safe side) and what it all means - unfortunately we didn't have time to go to our local WH Smith at lunchtime today to see how the public reaction of the gaggle of Nuts readers thereabout were reacting. It certainly looks airbrushed enough for the less salubrious weeklies - look at the unnatural for the size skin tone, and compare the dimensions to the recent beunderweared live photos.

While it's easy to go "OMG THE FAT BIRD!!!!1111", and indeed many a message board is, we've long been flagging with the whole Beth Ditto thing in general. When the Gossip were on Tonight With Jonathan Ross it seemed like a bolt from the blue, an injection completely from left field into your comfy Friday night viewing. But it was later a hit off the back of a Channel 4 programming trailer. You don't build a pop career off that sort of thing, especially in the way that Ditto has seemingly grabbed every potential outlet with both hands. What is the point of that Guardian column? We suspect it's meant to be homespun leftfield philosophy, but a) why would you ask Beth Ditto? and b) doesn't this just pigeonhole her as Offbeat Wacky Overweight Pop Star Writes Just For You? It reinforces this idea that the band is just her and she's the great one - Nathan and Hannah seem to have been written completely out of this story, the footage of Standing In The Way Of Control from the Radio 1 One Big Weekend on BBC2 not featuring a single shot of them apart from a very wide shot from the back of the tent.

As for the other party, the NME has a surprising recent history of missing the initial shots in the hype war on various acts - they missed the Arctic Monkeys right up until Fake Tales Of San Francisco by which time everyone knew the words - and making up for it later both in promoting anyone they set eyes on for a few weeks at a time and in going big on those it didn't initally see coming. They did run a piece on the band last summer, but it didn't feel like much beyond their usual passing acquaintance. As surprising as her Cool List elevation was, if overshadowed by, ironically, the debate about the cover of that issue, it was still a phoney war of a Cool List and at a stroke debased the Kill Rock Stars post-riot grrrl icon in waiting that she's always looked on the verge of becoming into the sort of cartoon the British music press specialise in, that of Fifteen Stone Former Squirrel Devouring Lesbian From The Deep South Beth Ditto. (We find it helps to read that in the voice of Gordon Burns announcing the current leader at the end of a round in the Krypton Factor.)

So, the cover. We suspect this will lose a lot of you. It's brave, we'll give them that, in a "we're so good at publishing" sense, but we're not sure what it proves about anyone. As against the NME grain as it is, Conor McNicholas would probably argue the case for it being in the same ballpark as the famous PJ Harvey topless back cover in 1992, as some sort of 'feminist reclamation', which ignores that Harvey did the cover...well, partly because they'd just done the same with Morrissey, but also because it was directly meant to cut her away from being lauded as a feminism espousing singer, a cause she's been quoted since as seperating her style from. Steve Albini, although he's expressed sympathy with the movement was hardly regarded for his credentials in the area at the time, having come from Big Black and Rapeman. Ditto would probably argue it proves she's "comfortable with my body" and is a strike against "societal norms" (which of course reinforces those norms) - indeed she's done this before, a couple of years ago for an American gay magazine - which is fair enough in context but not, say, using your body to sell yourself by, I dunno, putting it on the cover of a top selling magazine. What is the point actually being made? That this is not an unclean state? Because it veers dangerously close, also given Ditto's stage presence, to showing off - who else in the paper's catchment area would do it? Can you see it from Karen O, Lily Allen, Kate Jackson, Lovefoxxx? We can't, regardless of size, and that the paper would be accused of sexist imagery (and no, we wouldn't feel much better about it if they did - you should have experienced our inner torment when Cerys Matthews was on the cover of FHM, and that was just a sliver of breast shot) whereas at least here they can try and claim it as living art or somesuch. Is it really being the oft-quoted 'positive role model' to aid a photographer and publication in being indiepop's own fat-related sideshow? Isn't the whole fuss just trading off her looks as much, in the opposite direction, as when Kate Moss won Sexiest Female at their awards anyway? (Her first words in a recent Vogue interview: "This is probably the first time a chunky person has made it into Vogue, right?" Well, who can say?)

Oh, and if anyone says it's striking a blow against size zero culture we'll be striking a blow against their temple. Perhaps really we just miss the days of Godspeed You! Black Emperor covers.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

This is turning into a regular feature itself

Erm... More Songs To Learn And Sing. As we type, we have five write-ups to launch with plus two more promised. This still doesn't add up to twenty, so our plan to launch the idea a little earlier so we didn't have the scrabbling around for correspondents of last time has gone spectacularly awry. They'll be laughing at us.

So yeah, another last call for anyone who wasn't among the original thirty and wants to contribute, or indeed if you want to pass the message on to anyone who can string a few hundred words together. You know the drill - write about the song that everyone needs to hear, we'll hopefully do the mp3 end, and it starts, ooh, on Friday. Email and Myspace on the right.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Weekender : still reeling from the discovery that Patrick Wolf is in a Kenickie video

FREE MUSIC: The Takeovers are Chris Slusarenko, formerly of Sub Pop band Sprinkler, and Robert Pollard, never a man short of songwriting or assorted partnerships post-Guided By Voices. Bad Football is actually their second album, featuring Stephen Malkmus, Decemberist John Moen, Dan Peters of Mudhoney and Tad Doyle of Tad. What does it sound like? It's Cap'n Bob, what do you think it sounds like? Fuzzy semi-obscure post-Britbeat with solos, yes. My Will is the best of the four tracks currently available for free download.

HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: Leeds' Tigers That Talked have pulled off that trick which you don't get as often as you'd imagine of sounding vaguely of a piece with recent bands but not really immediately fitting in as The Next... anyone. There's hints of the Cure, Arcade Fire, Elbow and Ryan Adams to name a few in there immediately, trading in smart lyrics over powerfully haunting and interlocking backing, replete with circling violin and dramatic arrangements. Further point of note: singer Jamie credits 'baritone and soprano ukelele' among his instruments.

VISUAL REPRESENTATION: WFMU's Beware Of The Blog once posted a set of John Shuttleworth songs under the precis that they were a hoax demo tape sent to major labels some time in the mid 90s. For those of us long aware of Graham Fellows' creation this was mystery upon paradox - as The Shuttleworths had started on Radio 4 in 1993 presumably someone had got hold of some of his recordings (or just taped the radio show) and passed it off as a fraud within a fraud, the technicals of which make our head spin. Anyhoo, he's on tour now, so - Incident On Snake Pass, Austin Ambassador Y-Reg, Christmas Orphan alongside Vic & Bob, an appearance on early Paul O'Grady vehicle Lily At The Lilydrome and, whyever not, Jilted John. Not the same person, apparently.

VIRAL MARKETING: Ready, Art Brut? You can just about forgive It's A Bit Complicated, released June 18th, for sounding a bit more Weezery power-pop than Bang Bang Rock And Roll. While they probably never expected that album to sell outside New Cross, now Eddie and co's main following is in their huge cult audience in America. And Germany, let's not forget Germany. And what do you get with a cult audience? Lots of people with phone cameras in case they have songs on the setlist with new names like Direct Hit, St Pauli or Blame It On The Trains.

FALLING OFF A BLOG: Fucking Dance likes a live review and an mp3, and writes about them in an entertaining way, which in this section is the least you can ask.

EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: Top 10 Indie Covers Of Rap Songs! And R&B and hip hop, but let's not split hairs when it mixes the well beloved (Nina Gordon's Straight Outta Compton, Jonathan Coulton's Baby Got Back) with the new (Rock Plaza Central doing SexyBack, Port O’Brien taking on My Humps) and only one regrettable inclusion (Kooks' Crazy. Come on, everyone's covered Crazy, why pick them?)

IN OTHER NEWS: It's not true to say tape encryptions of John Peel shows are the new band-specific blogs, but two new examples of the former have come to our attention in the last week -
Fades In Slowly also includes related links and features, while Teenage Kicks features Festive 50 entrants. Speaking of which, we've been trying to track down Harvey Rabbit's 1995 Peel number 44 cover of Robert Forster's Is This What You Call Change? for a few years now. We think we've appealed in this way before, but...anyone?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

In shops that legislate for the Banking And Financial Dealings Act 1971 tomorrow: 28/5


We've got plenty on and there's nothing outstanding out anywhere this week (unlike next week), so we'll shoot through this today. James Murphy's existential mid-career woes propping up the thumping mini-epic of LCD Soundsystem's All My Friends, the kind of thing that over time and effort puts Sound Of Silver well ahead of its predecessor, and this has John Cale (like John Cale on DFA would sound, plus a touch Joy Division) and Franz Ferdinand (post-punk New Order crossover) covers on its B-sides. About a million years after it emerged Modest 'MARR OMG' Mouse issue Dashboard as the first single from We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank. It's the best thing on it, so fair play. Whether it's connected to the supposed/feared Pixies new album we can't say for sure, but Charles Thompson has gone back to using the Black Francis soubriquet on his forthcoming album and to the early days of the Frank Black solo material for the sound of 7" Threshold Apprehension.


We'd like to think Wheat had regained their Hope And Adams form on Everyday I Said A Prayer For Kathy And Made A One Inch Square, but advance word is not good. A shame, really, not least as it means the only two albums out this week worthy of STN endorsement are a mix set - DJ Kicks Mixed By Hot Chip - and a remix album, Stars putting Set Yourself On Fire to the swords of Final Fantasy, Metric, Broken Social Scene's Jason Collett, Junior Boys, The Dears, The Stills, The Russian Futurists, Minotaur Shock and others on Do You Trust Your Friends. Just one thing - Set Yourself On Fire came out in 2004 in North America. If this is a stopgap, that's a bloody big drop on the other side this is bridging.


Despite his associations with Hunter S. Thompson and the burgeoning 70s West Coast scene, famously being David Letterman's favourite musician as well as a Dylan and Springsteen touchstone, Warren Zevon's career path never reached the critical heights of fellow sardonically political traveller Randy Newman. What he did earn during his mid-decade heyday was the nickname F. Scott Fitzevon, a reference to Fitzgerald's shining talent cut short by alcohol. It was actually ended by cancer four years ago, but not before he'd instructed his wife Crystal to pen a no punches pulled account of his life. I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life And Times Of Warren Zevon is part oral history, part diary entries, all unflinching. High living, shall we very euphemistically put it as if our readership can't handle the concept of drugs, also plays a lead role in the early stages of Nick Cave - The Complete Lyrics 1978-2006 and forms the centrepiece of Johnnie Walker: The Autobiography. Walker's been sitting in for Wogan on Radio 2 this week, which by comparison must have sent waking souls comatose. Three more Popjustice Idols books hit shelves, A Boy Called Elvis, A Boy Called John (Lennon) and A Girl Called Kylie, thankfully none of them accompanied by the silly "it's a book about drugs for kids!" publicity around the Pete Doherty tome.

The Weekly Sweep

  • Art Brut - People In Love [mp3 from Mewzick]
  • Band Of Horses - The Funeral [mp3 from Jacob Sudol]
  • Battles - Ddiamondd [mp3 from Recidivism]
  • Blood Red Shoes - It's Getting Boring By The Sea [YouTube]
  • Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton - Doctor Blind [mp3 on DrownedInSound Records' Myspace]
  • Future Of The Left - Adeadenemyalwayssmellsgood [YouTube]
  • Go! Team - Grip Like A Vice [mp3 from Covert Curiosity]
  • Grizzly Bear - Knife [YouTube]
  • Interpol - The Heinrich Maneuver [mp3 from Sonorama]
  • Jetplane Landing - White Music
  • Johnny Boy - You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve [YouTube]
  • Les Savy Fav - Yawn Yawn Yawn [live YouTube, and frankly live is the only way]
  • Los Campesinos! - You! Me! Dancing! [YouTube]
  • Mission Of Burma - Academy Fight Song [YouTube]
  • Piano Magic - The King Cannot Be Found [mp3 from Coast Is Clear]
  • Sky Larkin - Summit [YouTube]
  • Stars - Your Ex-Lover Is Dead (Final Fantasy remix) [mp3 from The Yellow Stereo]
  • The Thermals - A Pillar Of Salt [mp3 from Music For Kids Who Can't read Good]
  • The Twilight Sad - And She Would Darken The Memory [mp3 from Song By Toad]
  • The White Stripes - Icky Thump [YouTube]
  • Saturday, May 26, 2007

    A good chart these days is hard to find

    Here's what's going down in assorted US radio airplay charts this week:

    Alternative National Airplay Top 20

    20 Three Days Grace - Pain
    19 Rise Against - Prayer Of The Refugee
    18 Sick Puppies - All The Same
    17 30 Seconds To Mars - From Yesterday
    16 The Almost - Say This Sooner (No One Will See Things The Way I Do)
    15 The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus - Face Down Red
    14 Chevelle - Well Enough Alone
    13 Green Day - Working Class Hero
    12 The Bravery - Time Won't Let Me Go
    11 The Used - The Bird And The Worm
    10 Red Hot Chili Peppers - Hump De Bump
    9 Nine Inch Nails - Capital G
    8 Finger Eleven - Paralyzer
    7 Incubus - Dig
    6 Breaking Benjamin - Breath
    5 Silversun Pickups - Lazy Eye
    4 White Stripes - Icky Thump
    3 Plain White T's - Hey There Delilah
    2 Papa Roach - Forever
    1 Linkin Park - What I've Done

    It's alright, not all of the ones you've not heard of will become short term smug power-punk annoyances a la Alien Ant Farm. Not least because of their terrible names. While no British hipster can look on with full conviction in our nomenclature superiority while Does It Offend You, Yeah? exist, what else was on The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus' list of potential handles? That Working Class Hero cover, by the way, is for Amnesty International’s Darfur benefit album which they've just performed on the American Idol finale. Much tongue/cheek interface there, we fancy.

    Hot Adult Contemporary Top 20

    20 KT Tunstall - Other Side Of The World
    19 Avril Lavigne - Girlfriend
    18 Gym Class Heroes - Cupid's Chokehold
    17 Rocco Deluca & The Burden - Colorful
    16 Lifehouse - First Time
    15 Justin Timberlake - What Goes Around...Comes Around
    14 John Mayer - Gravity
    13 Kelly Clarkson - Never Again
    12 Snow Patrol - Chasing Cars
    11 Hinder - Better Than Me
    10 The Fray - How To Save A Life
    9 Pink - U & Ur Hand
    8 Nelly Furtado - Say It Right
    7 Carrie Underwood - Before He Cheats
    6 Rob Thomas - Little Wonders
    5 Daughtry - It's Not Over
    4 Daughtry - Home
    3 Maroon 5 - Makes Me Wonder
    2 Gwen Stefani - The Sweet Escape
    1 Nickelback - If Everyone Cared

    One thing you'll notice, remembering this is commercial radio, is how many of these tracks have hung around for ages. Chasing Cars, for instance, breaks fifty weeks in the top 30 this week. And you think you'd heard it enough on Virgin. Daughtry are fronted by the bloke who finished fifth in American Idol last year, whose album has inevitably been number one on the Billboard chart. He sang The Box Tops' The Letter at his audition, which instantly puts all the UK efforts to shame.

    Triple A Top 20

    20 Kaiser Chiefs - Ruby
    19 Feist - 1,2,3,4
    18 Modest Mouse - Dashboard
    17 Paolo Nutini - Last Request
    16 Augustana - Stars And Boulevards
    15 Wilco - What Light
    14 Snow Patrol - You're All I Have
    13 Norah Jones - Thinking About You
    12 Plain White T's - Hey There Delilah
    11 Shins - Phantom Limb
    10 Gomez - See The World
    9 Green Day - Working Class Hero
    8 James Morrison - Under The Influence
    7 The Fray - Look After You
    6 Tori Amos - Big Wheel
    5 Joss Stone - Tell Me 'Bout It
    4 Brandi Carlile - The Story
    3 Amy Winehouse - You Know I'm No Good
    2 Killers - Read My Mind
    1 John Butler Trio - Better Than

    The chart most likely to be the first to be entirely made up of songs featured on Grey's Anatomy, essentially. The John Butler Trio are a jam band, and thus of no interest over here. Gomez' continued US success constantly eludes British attention, largely, we imagine, because they stopped sounding indie-rootsy-bluesy-Bandy in about 2002.

    CMJ College Radio Top 20

    20 Idlewild - Make Another World
    19 Cocorosie - The Adventures Of Ghosthorse And Stillborn
    18 Grinderman - Grinderman
    17 The Blow - Poor Aim Love Songs
    16 Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Living With The Living
    15 Fountains Of Wayne - Traffic And Weather
    14 Rosebuds - Night Of The Furies
    13 Laura Veirs - Saltbreakers
    12 Patti Smith - Twelve
    11 Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Baby 81
    10 Elliott Smith - New Moon
    9 Dinosaur Jr - Beyond
    8 Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
    7 LCD Soundsystem - Sound Of Silver
    6 Feist - The Reminder
    5 Kings Of Leon - Because Of The Times
    4 Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare
    3 Blonde Redhead - 23
    2 Bright Eyes - Cassadaga
    1 Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank

    Was there a single review of the Modest Mouse Royal Albert Hall show that gave Isaac Brock, who is after all their singer and songwriter, lead due? And still it hasn't sold that well in Britain, as opposed to its #1 status on Billboard and here. On the same lines look at Blonde Redhead go, ahead of ver Monkeys all the way since release.

    Friday, May 25, 2007

    Brass in pocket

    The Central Band Of The Royal British Legion is the flagship band of The Royal British Legion. Active for 62 years, they play regularly throughout the year and have performed at Buckingham Palace, the Royal Tournament, the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall and Wimbledon among other grand venues. Their Myspace currently features big band arrangements of Catskills, Ragtime Babies, Ave Maria and Gravity's Rainbow.

    Yes, that Gravity's Rainbow.

    It sounds like this.

    Thursday, May 24, 2007

    Reynolds' girl

    Nothing really to this, but either they mean Simon Taylor of Klaxons or Lovefoxxx is actually going out with the highbrow music journo and blogger Simon Reynolds. There's a BBC3 sitcom in that.

    Oh, have an embed, then.

    Tuesday, May 22, 2007

    Rusty Cage

    For those wondering, which will be none of you, Corporate Anthems hasn't been abandoned, we've just had 'plenty on'. It'll come into its own before long, don't worry.

    Also, here's something for everyone who's come here on Record Collector's recommendation of our discussion of Brian Eno obscurities (well, we mentioned A Year With Swollen Appendices a month or so back, but that hardly counts) This is John Cage in 1960 (after 4'33 and his Experimental Composition classes) on CBS comedy game show I've Got A Secret. Presenter Garry Moore really isn't sure what to make of it.

    Monday, May 21, 2007

    Weekender : a tremendous winning situation

    FREE MUSIC: 65daysofstatic have been enthralling the increasing minority over the last few years with their post-rock glitch pummelling, but by the sounds of it they're reconfiguring it for new album The Destruction Of Small Ideas. Don't Go Down To Sorrow starts with mournful piano and slow burns its way through layers of muted mathrock, quasi-orchestral layers and a time change and eventually turns into Explosions In The Sky. And then it stops and you're left trying to work out what's just gone on.

    HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: It must be somewhere between accident and design that The Playing Fields are evading the wider critical radar. They call their sound 'Urban Desert', whatever that entails. In this context it's darkly, melodically enormous anthemry that strives less to follow Coldplay into arenas and far more to follow the audibly influencing likes of recent Low, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Wilco and hi-fi Will Oldham towards the ATP crowd, throwing in elements of Elbow's unpretentious widescreen and the Hotel2Tango post-rock brigade plus a lyric sheet of doomed poetry. Beguiling to the last.

    VISUAL REPRESENTATION: Before They Were Famous is our loose topic this week, brought forward from a planned future week by being tipped off about an extraordinary clip of a youthful, wedge haircutted, sports top-sporting, actually intelligible Pete Doherty interviewed while queueing for, of all things, Be Here Now. As it was WIP there's not a lot we've found so far, so do leave a comment if you know of any other YouTube clips in this sphere to match the none more 1985 electronic pop of Cleveland 'modern music' outfit Exotic Birds and their keyboardist Trent Reznor, French hip hop producers Tommy Hools' 2003 single Givin' Up featuring Contempo's Richard Archer and U2 doing I Will Follow in 1980 on Get It Together, the ITV kids' pop show fronted by Basil Brush's Mister Roy. Note Adam Clayton's transitional haircut and the then current vogue, often deployed by the Jam on Top Of The Pops, of sticking the drummer at the front.

    VIRAL MARKETING: While the Flaming Lips work on their new album, film, album and whatever else a live DVD, UFOs at the Zoo is coming out in July. A document of a spectacular gig at Oklahoma City Zoo last September, the trailer promises much - obviously there were unofficial cameramen capturing Wayne Coyne's arrival as well as the official Warner Bros ones - as does the state of the stage during She Don't Use Jelly.

    FALLING OFF A BLOG: In case you thought we'd got away without the usual Swedish element this week, Swedesplease is a blog full of the ever moving, never really able to tie down to one type Scand-scene.

    MORE SONGS TO LEARN AND SING UPDATE: Everyone who's volunteered or been contacted - can you get back to us now? It's ten days away and we've had all of two entrants (not the right term but it'll do for now) in. Almost inevitably we've not even got the full complement yet for the series, so if you want to write about the song everyone should hear, let us know.

    EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: And still those band specific review blogs keep on coming. Let's face it, whatever the credentials they're far more interesting than a thousand pieces about teenage bands using The Myspace Revolution to overhaul the music industry that somehow neglect to mention that Cajun Dance Party have just signed to the sort of major label they're portrayed as kicking against.* Anyway. As a sideline from the excellent Fractionals Ian Mathers is giving the back catalogue of Low (just added to the bill of Summer Sundae, Summer Sundae fans) a going over on Too Many Words, Too Many Words; I Got A Message For You prepares for the headache that will surely follow studying Robyn Hitchcock lyrics for too long; and as if inspired by Robert Pollard's own prodigiousness My Impression Now is the second Guided By Voices-only writeup anthology in as many weeks.

    (EDIT: Yeah, we remember now that XL is an indie, having been under the impression that it was part-owned by someone else (and, in the original version of this edit, under the impression that it was V2. Really, we should have left this whole grey area alone. But the point about these innumerable pieces stands, largely on the back of one in yesterday's Independent that seemed to make out Pull In Emergency will become as big as Coldplay any second)

    IN OTHER NEWS: La Blogotheque's Takeaway Shows remain nigh on unmissable given the right circumstances, and you know STN well enough by now to know three songs outside a church by Jeremy Warmsley is very much a right circumstance. Since we first featured the Takeaway Shows they've also invited by The Shins, Andrew Bird and Alan Sparhawk of Low as well as uploading a first anniversary selection of previously unseen performances by Grizzly Bear, Guillemots, the Spinto Band, Jens Lekman, Cold War Kids and The National, all of whose full sets are archived.

    Sunday, May 20, 2007

    In shops tomorrow: 21/5


    Great tracks from great albums nearly all the way in this meagre week, by no means least the pipe organ-driven, and there's not a lot of bands you can apply that to, religious/political soliloquy the size of a city of Arcade Fire's Intervention. On this basis, you'd certainly fight for Win, Regine and co. We saw Grizzly Bear this week. Look at us. Yes, their live show is as superb as everyone says it is, and a review will appear in the usual channels in the fulness of time. To tie in with their short UK tour the Beach Boys-meets-Animal Collective wonderousness of Knife gets a 7" run despite sounding like a single cut in no conceivable way. Band Of Horses sound not unlike Arcade Fire themselves, their chief melodramatic Americana cut even being called The Funeral. Bet they're sick of people pointing that out to them. There's even a CD single of worth out this week, Dizzee Rascal returning from 'attempting to fit in' hell. "A UK half-brother to Jay-Z's 99 Problems" says the press release for Sirens. In a heavy duty scrapyard, maybe.


    Mark E Smith's collaboration with Mouse On Mars as Von Sudenfed shouldn't be that surprising - he added vocals to a version of a track from their last album, has gone through housier fall periods in the early 90s, provided vocals for the D.O.S.E. project (released on PWL!), worked with Coldcut and has always enjoyed an elongated cut-up on an album. What makes Tromatic Reflexxions, a title you genuinely wouldn't hazard to guess which half of the collaboration came up with, different is it fits its electro-dance around, rather than to, Smith's vocalising, making it the most attainable thing Mouse On Mars have done, well, possibly ever, it's just it's got the great impregnable singer on it. Not a great deal to mention this week otherwise, the only new releases of other note being the dark, downbeat Wicker Man folk noir of Fireworks Night's As Fools We Are - think Tindersticks, Bad Seeds and tales told on storm-tossed nights on the band's part-home the Channel Islands - and Candie Payne falling in with the Spectorfication we've often discussed in this bit over the weeks and years, I Wish I Could Have Loved You More imagining Back To Black produced by Geoff Barrow. As we've said before, while Amy Winehouse has spent the previous few months trailing shouts of "Motown! Wall Of Sound! Doo-wop!" it's actually Stax that her album is in thrall to. Maybe it just seems less glamorous, even if at its best the Memphis-based label was far more inventive than the vast majority of what Motor City was exporting. Their 50th Anniversary Celebration should put that well and truly to rights. First there was The Legend of Johnny Cash: Ring of Fire, which sold well (number 11 last year), now there is another one of it. The Legend of Johnny Cash: Ring of Fire Vol.2 sweeps up the pre-Rubin next best.


    Chris Lowe has noted that Pet Shop Boys gigs need to be huge production number costumed dancing extravaganzas because otherwise it'd be just some blokes on far too big a stage. Pet Shop Boys: Cubism shows the whole shebang off in Mexico City last November.

    The Weekly Sweep

  • Au Revoir Simone - Sad Song [YouTube]
  • Battles - Tonto [mp3 from Audiversity]
  • Blood Red Shoes - It's Getting Boring By The Sea [YouTube]
  • Broken Records - The Russian Song [mp3 from Song By Toad]
  • CSS - Let's Make Love And Listen To Death From Above [YouTube]
  • Frank Turner - The Real Damage [YouTube]
  • Future Of The Left - Adeadenemyalwayssmellsgood [YouTube]
  • George Washington Brown - It Still Rains [mp3 from Nothing But Green Lights]
  • Grizzly Bear - Knife [YouTube]
  • Interpol - The Heinrich Maneuver [mp3 from Sonorama]
  • Johnny Boy - You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve [YouTube]
  • Los Campesinos! - You! Me! Dancing! [Myspace]
  • Napoleon IIIrd - The Conformist Takes It All [Myspace]
  • Ola Podrida - Pour Me Another [mp3 from Lost In Your Inbox]
  • Piano Magic - Soldier's Song [mp3]
  • Sky Larkin - Summit [YouTube]
  • Strange Idols - She's Gonna Let You Down Again [mp3 from Green Pea-ness]
  • The Thermals - A Pillar Of Salt [mp3 from Music For Kids Who Can't read Good]
  • Those Dancing Days - Hitten [Myspace]
  • The White Stripes - Icky Thump [mp3 from Bedford Rockers]
  • Saturday, May 19, 2007

    Euro precision song contest

    In the spirit of European musical brotherhood, it's been some time since we had a shufty at another country's top 20 singles chart. We did Italy last February, but what the hell:

    20 Hilary Duff - With Love
    One of the reasons we persist with this is to check up on those bands who we're occasionally told do surprising big business elsewhere, in the vein of Dirty Vegas' claimed runaway US success or Art Brut supposedly being huge in Germany. Here we are in Italy, though, and apart from the cultural exchange wide enough to encompass Just Jack at 28 we find nothing of surprising UK interest in the whole top fifty.

    19 Neffa - Passione
    Sounds like the sort of wine bar plastic sophistication thing Tony Christie would be harvested if his label wanted him to make new music.

    18 Simone Cristicchi - Ti Regalero' Una Rosa
    Winner of the San Remo song competition, apparently. Why don't we have serious national song competitions here? Middle Europeans do this kind of urgent sing-rapping over lazy strings and acoustic guitar well - they all have that haircut too - and apparently it's actually about love and loss between mental hospital patients, which instantly adds another thousand layers.

    17 Paolo Meneguzzi - Musica
    Because Ronan Keating will always mean something to young Italian record buyers.

    16 Tiziano Ferro - Ti Scattero' Una Foto
    Heavy symbolism in that video, certainly. Latin American MOR singer who's duetted with Jamelia and even looks a tiny bit like Ronan.

    15 Timbaland - Give It To Me
    So here's the country where people still rate Timbaland's solo efforts.

    14 Sophie Ellis-Bextor - Catch You
    We noticed the other day that her live DVD includes three Theaudience videos but not I Know Enough (I Don't Get Enough), which was after all their biggest single. The best one of what is there is of course If You Can't Do It When You're Young When Can You Do It? for its occasionally flattering close-ups (1:33 no 2:28 yes), Hamleys ramraid of a set and Sophie on pink rhythm guitar.

    13 Biagio Antonacci - Lascia Stare
    "Biagio Antonacci's return after two years of silence. The endless and faithful fan base is already advised and ready to welcome him again with a big hug". Blimey, the love for mouse-worrying Totoalike AOR must be huge in central Europe.

    12 Gym Class Heroes - Cupid's Chokehold
    Hail the Len of 2007.

    11 Daniele Silvestri - La Paranza
    Another San Remo winner takes the run for summer hitmaking a touch too early. Best thing about this clip: in no way does it need a conductor!

    10 Avril Lavigne - Girlfriend
    Presumably about to qualify as the new Kelly Clarkson.

    9 Mika - Grace Kelly
    Lollipop is still hanging around the bottom end of our own top 75 despite there being no plans to release it as a single. Do you need to know that much more about the British record-downloading public?

    8 Jennifer Lopez - Que Hiciste
    From her all-Spanish new album, which might as well be called This Will Not Sell Any Records In Britain. One can only assume the dancing-amid-flames video is postmodern in this sense.

    7 Dennis - Come Bambi
    Doesn't sound entirely wholesome, does it? It is, lyrically if not musically. It's The Fray with a drum machine, essentially.

    6 Nelly Furtado - Say It Right
    Having exhausted the new role of the asocial R&B Tori Amos you wonder where next for Furtado. We'd like to see her try to meld her hippie-folkie and dirty-beaty sides, because then the pop world might collapse.

    5 Michael Buble - Everything
    And to think they should know a thing or two about cod-easy listening in Italy already. His album is number one in their chart, which is also notable for Travis at 17, Patti Smith at 24 and Blonde Redhead climbing to 75.

    4 Fabrizio Moro - Pensa
    And another big shot from San Remo. What is the San Remo Song Festival anyway? Surely it's not beyond ITV to tell Nutini, Morrison etc. to write a new song for a prime time contest, although if they do we'll be out that night. And none of them would come up with a protest song about Mafia death. The advertisers wouldn't allow it.

    3 Linkin Park - What I've Done
    Less of the nu, luckily. Unfortunately, it's turned them into the heavy rock U2. This is what happens when you ran out of ideas a minute into your first single, and most of those were half-inched anyway.

    2 Dolores O'Riordan - Ordinary Day
    There's a reason why the latter Cranberries records sold bugger all, but if you want to continue sounding like them, Dolores, go ahead.

    1 Beyonce & Shakira - Beautiful Liar
    In which two ladies in figure-hugging decorated scanties dry hump a wall over some sort of tune nobody really recalls. The label sit back and rub their hands.

    Thursday, May 17, 2007

    Scooch on the rocks

    Thank goodness the Liberal Democrats have nothing else to worry about at the moment. Peter Bottomley signed it!

    The real problem with this year's Eurovision Song Contest was really a reversal of our received opinion about how the event is going - we all know the UK is one of the few that thinks it's all a bit of a lark, but it's one of the few that thinks voting is a serious business. We don't understand block voting in Western Europe because we don't experience the same sort of entente cordiale with our neighbouring countries, which before the great EBU influx we only ever saw when Terry piped up about Greece and Cyprus every year. The bottom three were France, UK and Ireland, all Western but also the latter was all out trad and the other two were probably the most all-out camp (only in the sense that product managers understand it, of course, ie nothing like what it actually is) of the competitors. As Sweden's Aftonbladet put it, maybe they should send modern pop songs instead of lowest common denominising. When did we start taking the UK entry so seriously, anyway? Nobody remembers Lindsay Dracass in 2001, or that Jessica Garlick came third a year later.

    And for the record Croatia, Macedonia and Montenegro did give Serbia twelve points, but so did Austria, Finland, Hungary, Slovenia and Switzerland, and indeed a poll solely of western voters came up with almost exactly the same top five. The UK gave them nothing, but we gave the instantly forgettable according to every live commentary we've seen Turks top marks. Of second placed Ukraine's five twelves only one came from another breakaway Russian republic. Friendly neighbours, by the way? Serbia haven't exactly been on constant cordial terms with all of theirs since Yugoslavia splintered, while Estonia gave Russia twelve points at the end of several weeks' high velocity sabre rattling.

    So what does it mean for Serbian music? It doesn't matter - we've hardly been overwhelmed by thoughts on the state of the Finnish scene in the last twelve months, and this is at a time when Scandinavian pop is on the up.

    One other thing.


    Monday, May 14, 2007

    We did it!

    Well, us and a few others, probably, but Johnny Boy did indeed get the vote for Radcliffe & Maconie's record of the week after our appeal last Tuesday. We are now Jesus, and this is our compound.

    Weekender : not sure it can agree with the Sunday Mirror's view that Scooch mean British music is "the laughing stock of Europe"

    FREE MUSIC: Dntel have more right than most to be reminiscent of The Postal Service given it's Jimmy Tamborello's own project. Second album Dumb Luck features guest spots for Conor Oberst, Jenny Lewis and Grizzly Bear. It's the latter whom the title track is most reminiscent of outside his own electronic worlds, coating an acoustic lament in waves of fuzzy sonics.

    HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: There's been far too much girly Scandinavian twee around here recently, which is all very well in its own pop way but occasionally you feel the direct need to hear a band whose top line of Top Friends includes Pavement, Sonic Youth and Guided By Voices and can justify such in sound. And as we know from this section's past, if they're from Brighton they're virtually a shoo-in already. Hence 4 Or 5 Magicians, whose leader Dan Ormsby clearly knows his Slanted And Enchanted and Alien Lanes as well as Sebadoh, Built To Spill and Bearsuit. There's a single pencilled in for July and a bucketload of potential beyond, if probably not a better opening line than Forever On The Edge's "I wasted my youth playing cricket".

    VISUAL REPRESENTATION: All rebellion gets emasculated by the mainstream, we know, but even we raised an eyebrow when Lust For Life, already being used to sell cruises, was cited as the inspiration for a Chelsea Flower Show garden last week. While we work out how that works, watch this plain extraordinary footage for the ages from 1970 if Iggy and the Stooges in Cincinatti, we're guessing from that year's Joe Cocker-headlined Pop Festival. It's the presenter that makes this, firstly with his astonishment that the kids and bands alike "do not go about this in a showbusiness way", then attempting to keep up with Iggy's crowdsurfing, peanut butter-immersing ways during TV Eye and 1970. While we're about it, here's his celebrated see-through trousers on 1995's The White Room and a short clip of he and Bowie on Dinah Shore's family oriented talk show in 1977.

    VIRAL MARKETING: We're really, really not sure about this whole Spinal Tap reunion for Live Earth, as frankly it does suggest making a mockery of the whole aim as well as giving piss-poor journalist carte blanche to refer to them as a real band in real situations as if nobody's had that idea before. (Yes, we're fully aware they played the Freddie Mercury tribute concert, but that wasn't planned to bring Freddie back to life) Also, who fondly remembers Break Like The Wind now? If we must have it, though, we might as well have a mini-documentary introduced by Guest-as-DiBergi to explain the reasoning behind it too. We fear Fearne Cotton declaring the excitement among the crowd is going up to 11.

    FALLING OFF A BLOG: Absonderpop has come up with a clever idea - a classic of its genre and as many covers of it as can be found or of similar value, as with the many versions of Jonathan Richman's Roadrunner.

    EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: And next up in the cult of reviewing an artist's entire oeuvre song by song, a real Forth Bridge of a project, A Pollard A Day, currently scheduled for over a thousand Robert Pollard-related songs. He'll have released another 300 by the time those have been worked through.

    IN OTHER NEWS: On the day Johnny Cigarettes turns up in the Guardian... How twee are you?

    Sunday, May 13, 2007

    In shops tomorrow: 14/5


    Now they've earned enough respect to gain proper press, CSS' press is entirely predictable. They're from an exotic country, they have a singer who dances about a bit and their self-mythologised attitude to carnality is in no way similar to that of Boy George. We get the picture. Apart from that it means daytime DJs having to explain who Death From Above 1979 were, there's no really good reason for Let's Make Love And Listen To Death From Above to come back out, especially not with a video that's exactly the same as the original one with all the good bits replaced with live clips, but as it was in our top ten singles of 2006 it's too late to really complain about it getting all popular. On big old 12"s come two bands graduating from loft spaces and underground parties to, well, street level in a sense, as !!! put the funk back into punk and let the rhythm take it all on the dark booty-shifter Must Be The Moon and Mouse On Mars fail to be sacked by Mark E Smith quite yet from collaboration Von Südenfed, whose Fledermaus Can't Get It sounds much as you'd expect it to, namely dirty mutant computer disco plus shouting Mancunian drunkard. On the smaller vinyl format we find another Grinderman single that sounds like the Birthday Party in a blender, (I Don't Need You To) Set Me Free, Liverpudlian speedy spiky pop from awkwardly named goFASTER>>, She Starts Monday, and next week's New Lily Allen, Remi Nicole, makes like a part-Trinidadian Kate Nash who's been kept a very safe distance from a Powerbook on Fed Up.


    The cover of Battles' debut album Mirrored is exactly what you want - a shop's worth of amps, keyboards and sundry kit arranged in the mirrored room seen in the Atlas video, John Stanier's big old cymbal stand standing true and proud. What were we doing when they were on at Truck Nine? (Actually, what were we doing? Consulting the stage time booklet reveals a good hour and a half's gap in our memory encompassing their set. Crumbs) Well, actually, we're comparatively late to the punch on their mad mathrock/jazz/metal/prog/avantgarde... thing, but we're glad we made it. This is an astounding work in many ways, the sort of sound that can only be achieved by alumni of the likes of Don Caballero and Helmet thrown together and overdosed on Ritalin to see what boundaries they can break between them. Leyendecker even sounds like a post-rock attempt at an R'n'B backing. You won't have a clue what it's about, but good luck getting your head around its Hampton Court maze of rhythmic gymnastics in any case. Two bedroom auteurs have a record's worth of material ready, and both are well worth a go. Most of the press attention has falln to James Chapman, AKA Maps, whose We Can Create takes the lysergic sound of superior shoegazing and melds it with lo-fi electronics, not forgetting that under all those layers were actual songs, before getting a mix off Ken Thomas (Sigur Ros, Clinic, Hope Of The States). The result sounds like Jason Pierce remixing the Flaming Lips' The Soft Bulletin, and it could well be one of this year's sleeper hits. To be honest we're not entirely sure Brainlove Records still have the 14th down for Napoleon IIIrd's In Debt To (see, Amazon haven't even listed it yet), but it's on the download doobries. How to describe it? Let's try DIY pop song-crafted electronica, a midpoint between a Warp Records supergroup and Brian Wilson mid-shock therapy. TIYL: Patrick Wolf, Super Furry Animals at their most electronically inclined, Jeremy Warmsley and the previously vaunted by us stablemate Pagan Wanderer Lu, whose last EP he produced. On the other end of the studio scale... it takes a special kind of person to recreate Judy Garland's Carnegie Hall concert, and that person could only be Rufus Wainwright. On Release The Stars - horrible font, by the way - he's gone all out for hugely orchestrated off-Broadway splendour at the same time as recruiting Neil Tennant to executively produce and Siân Phillips for a spoken part. Got what it sounds like in your head? Triple it, in all areas. Which is very much not the case with The Maccabees' Colour It In, it can only be said. Still there's charm of its own here, taking on the sound of but clearly a cut above the post-post-punk stew. The Young Playthings' Who Invented Love? is listed for tomorrow on their Myspace and press release but seems to have gone on sale last week. Well done, everyone. Whatever, Smalltown America's court jesters/goodtime fanciers are still worth the while should the idea of a Weezer/Superchunk-esque power-pop outfit reimagining a David Lynch soundtrack appeal. Which it should. Tremendous cartoon cover art too, which you'll have to trust us about as Amazon haven't been arsed to scan it in. Another singer-songwriter carving a specialised niche is Tom McRae, whose 2003 LP Just Like Blood we grew to adore after finding it in Oxfam for £1.99 a week after release. On the back of such prudence on our part we find ourselves duty bound to mention his fourth record King Of Cards, which sees his seething yet sensitive songwriting keep him well clear of the Morrison pack. Triumphant Sounds, whoever they are, is the latest label port of call for Bristolian melody warpers The Experimental Pop Band, although please note - you never get this with multinationals - Tinsel Stars is either out tomorrow or on June 11th. Whichever, this fifth album by ex-Brilliant Corners leader Davey Woodward is sure to take classy indiepop structures and do odd things to them. Tropicalia influences are promised, apparently. Band Of Horses' Everything All The Time was in our top 30 of last year, so you might want to read about it again now Sub Pop are giving it a full UK release. It's great, essentially. Can't help feeling that you're missing a great element of the Robert Pollard experience in a Guided By Voices live album (yeah, because Pollard really doesn't get enough product out these days), but here's one as part of a series of Live From Austin releases, this out on DVD too.

    The Weekly Sweep

  • Architecture In Helsinki - Heart It Races [mp3 from Fabulist]
  • Au Revoir Simone - Sad Song [YouTube]
  • Broken Records - The Russian Song [mp3 from Song By Toad]
  • Feist - I Feel It All [mp3 from Foxymoron]
  • Frank Turner - The Real Damage [YouTube]
  • George Washington Brown - It Still Rains [mp3 from Nothing But Green Lights]
  • Goodbooks - The Illness [YouTube]
  • Interpol - The Heinrich Maneuver [mp3 from Sonorama]
  • Jamie T - Sheila [YouTube]
  • Johnny Boy - You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve [YouTube]
  • Land Of Talk - Sea Foam [Myspace]
  • Los Campesinos! - You! Me! Dancing! [Myspace]
  • Napoleon IIIrd - The Conformist Takes It All [Myspace]
  • Ola Podrida - Photo Booth [mp3 from BiBaBiDi]
  • Piano Magic - The Last Engineer
  • Slow Down Tallahassee - So Much For Love [mp3 from Green Pea-ness]
  • Strange Idols - She's Gonna Let You Down Again [mp3 from Green Pea-ness]
  • Those Dancing Days - Hitten [Myspace]
  • The White Stripes - Icky Thump [mp3 from Bedford Rockers]
  • The Young Knives - Coastguard
  • Saturday, May 12, 2007

    Cassettes won't listen

    The news that Currys are to stop selling cassettes and their decks shouldn't have led to as much nostalgia-driven press as it did - after all, last time we were in one of their stores it was difficult enough to find a media centre that featured a CD player, and we can't recall the last time we saw a cassette for sale that wasn't in a charity shop or a pack of Maxell 4xC90s. Notice in that piece the assertion that, having withstood CDs and seen off MiniDiscs and the like, it's mp3 players that are the cause of its downfall.

    Even so, the downturn in the humble cassette's fortunes in the face of digital technology cannot pass without comment. They were, of course, clunky things on which it was impossible to gauge length of time passed by, and as well as the oft-experienced 'hungry cartoon snake' sound that could only mean the tape was wrapping itself round the left hand spool and you'd need to locate a pencil urgently, we can't have been alone in experiencing the physically implausible phenomena of the tape then somehow coming out from between one of the intricate set of holes on the bottom without breaking the plastic. The cases were far easier to break the connective tabs off than on CD cases too.

    Even then, though, starved of the glamour of vinyl and overtaken by the white hot heat of aluminium coated optical disc, there was something homely about the cassette. We're not among those who claim the sound quality was 'warmer' because, unlike analogue recording, it patently wasn't. But they didn't take up a lot of space (consider the loose tape against the jewel case), were the perfect medium for car stereos, were far easier, as a shelf in our bedroom will concur, to tape off the radio with and lent themselves to the pre-filesharing borderline illegality-riven mysteries of 'tape to tape' technology which meant you could get two albums onto one C90 from a mate (we had The Stone Roses and Sgt Pepper on one). Audio books are better on cassette. You can fit more onto them than a CDR. Nobody refers to mix CDs without sounding awkward. Spare cases were easier to locate. Kids are missing all this now with their quick digitally soulless technology.

    Where all the loose tape you see in country hedgerows and occasionally by the side of roads (a couple of months ago we saw a car trailing a massive length of tape from its exhaust) comes from we have no idea, though.

    Thursday, May 10, 2007

    Breaking kayfabe

    You might have noticed there's not been a lot of zip to this bonfire of the vanities recently, which is purely and simply down to a lack of immediate reaction stuff and, well, ideas. Not that we've been lazing it out all the time - as we're off out to a gig tonight that had its door opening time changed from 7pm to 9pm yesterday (and it's a good 45 minute drive away, so if any of our proper work colleagues are reading, sorry in advance for tomorrow's input) we thought we'd drop in a few lines about stuff coming up, in a kind of blog-within-a-blog sense.

    So, More Songs To Learn And Sing is going reasonably well - we had our first write-up in today and it's really good, and we've got another eight definites after that. Over the next few days a few of you reading this will be getting targeted emails, so just because you've been lazy there's no escape just yet. June 1st-20th, that will be running for, given we forgot to mention that in the last post. There'll be a new Covermount in the second half of next week, the last for a while, if we can bring everything we want together. There's a possibility of a new Friendly Chat before May is out too. There will probably be a thinkpiece before Sunday's weekly brainwrong too. Look at us trying to make this all sound exciting.

    Can we just mention the editorial in the new Artrocker which made us want to headbutt a wall, given it's a polemic about how Radio 1's playlist is getting tired and lazy (fair enough) and requires the station to take more daytime chances (yeah, we've argued similarly in the past) on the likes of Good Shoes and Shitdisco (fuck right off) as apparently this is what people really want to hear. No scenesters, the suggestion is, but the populace. Yeah. Maybe round Highbury Crescent, where LDN Is A Victim actually is funny and makes sense, they talk of little else*, but we're out here among the 59 million not in London, including the people in cafes and sixth form common rooms who actually buy records/downloads. And trying to tie it into the pirates is ridiculous - there are no pirates playing what you consider Your Music, or at least certainly none that have broken through. We're all over here on the Internet forming street teams for poor new bands.

    Oh yeah, and the editor of the New Musical Express doesn't call himself Conor NME, so you can cut that out too.

    (* Can we point out at this juncture that there's currently a news piece on the Artrocker website that dismisses the late Larrikin Love as a 'scene band', and a couple of updates up lauds a tour that includes Metro Riots and Scouting For Girls? (And XX Teens, but we like B54 so we'll keep that one subliminal))

    And while we're about, a celebration of the now defunct (again) New Order, with a typically ramshackle live take on Temptation from a Radio 1 session in 1984:

    Tuesday, May 08, 2007

    Last call (on here, anyway)

    Look over to your left and send us an email or message if you want to participate in June's continuation of Songs To Learn And Sing, because tomorrow we start contacting people who are completely out of our league normal contribution-wise and thus we're going to need backup at least. To answer FAQs: the criteria is 'the song you think everyone should hear and why', and you have until, well, the end of May to get your thoughts in to us.

    Also, if you really trust us, and you really care about this nation's radio, please go over here and vote for You Are The Generation... in your droves. Pass this message on, too. Nobody needs to be giving Editors more promotion in their attempt to turn into a Grey's Anatomy band, or Pepe Deluxe the time of day as they swing from just outmoded genre to genre, and the Ripps are OK but that's not what we're all here for.

    Monday, May 07, 2007

    Weekender : making the most of it

    FREE MUSIC: Some people have it all. Charlotte Gainsbourg is Serge's daughter with Jane Birkin and got the best of their respective genes, being a darn fine figure of a woman who looks coolest enjoying an arty Gauloise. From last year's 5:55 album, The Songs That We Sing showcases her interpretation skills, delicate if oddly Anglicised voice (oddly reminiscent of Sarah Nixey), David Campbell's way with a Sergeish string arrangement and Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel writing better than most of what they've done for Air recently.

    HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: Maybe there's a secret pop factory in Sweden that churns out bands who take lo-fi C86 twee as a starting point for modernist adventuring. Stockholm's latest buzz band are five teenage girls called Those Dancing Days, who bring to the fray the very essence of organ led '1997' (see posts passim) filtered through Northern Soul, Sarah Records and Blondie. They're all downloadable too - try Hitten, essentially Camera Obscura demoing Pull Shapes, or the eponymous track, which is reminiscent of Sophie Ellis-Bextor teaming up with the Duloks and the Stranglers' Dave Greenfield.

    VISUAL REPRESENTATION: Sweeping The Nation 101: anything labelled as 'high camp', 'kitsch' or 'so bad it's good' needs taking outside and shooting. We therefore derive most of our Eurovision enjoyment from lurking on message boards and watching people discuss which minor soap actresses the singers look like. And from old clips, obviously. The coolest entry ever? That'll be 1965's Poupée de Cire, Poupée de Son, written by Gainsbourg, sung by France Gall, covered live by Arcade Fire and Belle & Sebastian. This was for Luxembourg, whose 1979 entry is unremarkable but we're including for the magnificent intro clip. See, this is the problem on setting out to document Eurovision past - a lot of it is so unmemorable and set to type that it's no wonder everyone reaches immediately for ridiculousness like a 1980 tribute to penguins by, again, Luxembourg, Germany working the post-Boney M angle in 1979, Sweden's golden booted 1984 winners, Switzerland's 1976 clown, and last year's presumptious Lithuanians. Unfortunately Norwegians voted Rednex-via-Goldie Lookin' Chain Dusty Cowshit out at the national level this year, which is a shame if only because we will never know how Wogan would have approached them.

    VIRAL MARKETING: See, this is the sort of cross-media branding Popworld Pulp couldn't start to understand - Mark Ellen previews the new edition of Word by flicking through it in front of a digicam. Simple, but effective, even if it does seem to have been redesigned insomuch as the pictures now take up three quarters of the magazine.

    FALLING OFF A BLOG: Crying All The Way To The Chip Shop is an excellent title, as well as clearly stating that this is not a blogger who spends weekends at the Bowery. Usually long involved explanations and then something old in mp3 form at the end, currently, magnificently, hope-that-comes-up-on-Hype Machine-worthy, George Formby.

    EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: A few weeks ago we covered the REM-only blog, and now band specific writings are the average quality strappy top that might have been designed by Kate Moss of the internet. More Words About Music And Songs is now making its way through the Talking Heads back catalogue.

    IN OTHER NEWS: Buy Isaac Brock's shit! (insert We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank joke here) This is part of Celebrity Skin And Body Fluids, a site set up by "an anonymous collective of former Hollywood personal assistants" - completely beyond suspicion, then - that tries to flog bits of the stars to you, whether Conor Oberst's bacteria, Rob Halford's skin cells or Satomi from Deerhoof's saliva (never off the radar of Hollywood personal assistants, her). We're not sure whether they come with certificates of authenticity, but we doubt it.

    Sunday, May 06, 2007

    In shops tomorrow: 7/5


    Despite the major label deal Goodbooks are still operating just outside the commercial waterline, we suspect because in this morass of bands that are A Bit Like Orange Juice they've done something other than run off rapidfire hi-hat and clean guitar stabs. The Illness's subtly detailed layers mark them out and grow with every listen, and where the review comparisons with Athlete are coming from we're not entirely sure. Still want Passchendaele next, of course. The Maccabees are fairly straight-up post-punkers but man, the kids are going for the Maccabees. We were part of a sold out crowd a couple of weeks ago (refer to our Myspace blog and/or The Art Of Noise) and there were bodies, pits and pints flying everywhere right from the off. At least there's something about their singles like Precious Time which means they can't be fully discounted. Someone we reviewed this very week for the same outlets was Frank Turner, whose EP Campfire Punkrock gave himself the perfect label. The Real Damage is another five-tracker, wryly funny and irked in equal measure as ever. And Sea Legs is that rarity, a song about being on the road that inspires pity rather than chainsaw massacres. Re-release frenzy was taken to new heights not long ago when the planned reissue of Jamie T's Salvador was scrapped in favour of...a reissue of Jamie T's Sheila, which is to be fair the superior song and at least Radio 1 haven't edited out the Betjemen sample. Shame on Bob Hoskins for chickening out of miming "giggidibigidiup" in the video. Vinyl pleasures come from Feist, who won us over in an instant with the gorgeous My Moon My Man, Grinderman's typically rampaging (I Don't Need You To) Set Me Free and, oh go on then you've gone and won us over with your odd facial hair and male pattern receding hairlines and Americana intensity, The Hold Steady's small stage Springsteenisms of Stuck Between Stations.


    The big release of the week is the Manic Street Preachers album, but nobody really needs more variable arena rock that's not as good as when they merely hoped to play arenas. Someone must really tell Nicky Wire that at the third time of asking nobody believes him any more when he tells us they're making the punkiest album of their career. In fact, it's far from the best album James Dean Bradfield's been involved with that's out this week as finally - finally - Johnny Boy's self-titled debut, which he produced bits of, gets a fully distributed UK release on their own label (that'll be Johnny Boy by Johnny Boy on Johnny Boy, then), just the fifteen months after Scandinavia and Japan got their copies. No, of course nothing's as good as You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve three years after its cult success, but then some days we believe oxygen isn't as good as that song. The rest starts with lo-fi punk intentions and then, like Big Audio Dynamite caught on overhead power cables, piles genres, samples, breakbeats, walls of sounds, effects pedals, consumerist/populist lyrical seething and everything else they found in the studio cardboard box on top. It's a dizzying ride, and it's worth the journey. Bjork's Volta coming out this week has caught us by surprise given none of the papers thought it worthy of a review this weekend. There's instrumentation on it, which puts it one up on Medulla, and what instrumentation, Timbaland, Antony Hegarty, Konono No. 1, LFO's Mark Bell, Lightning Bolt drummer Brian Chipperfield, Malian kora player Toumani Diabate and avant-garde improv drummer Chris Corsano all popping by. It is, of course, like nothing else, giving human voice to programmed beats and electronic stamps to human emotion. Glasgow's Twilight Sad, if not exactly poised for a commercial breakthrough, then certainly are best positioned to deliver a sleeper hit in the way compatriots My Latest Novel did last year, cathartic debut Fourteen Autumns And Fifteen Winters bringing huge choruses to MBV dynamics and the Aidan Moffatt accent. Fountains Of Wayne are very definitely not as good as they used to be, but the further power-pop adventures of Traffic And Weather does remind us of how when Stacy's Mom got big one arm of Teletext labelled them 'the American Busted'. A group of late-30s Carsalikes who called their album Welcome Interstate Managers, the American Busted! The Elliott Smith cult hasn't quite taken off in the way many expected when he died but that won't deter the industry scraping for offcuts, New Moon a two-CD collection partly benefitting The Elliott Smith Foundation's associate charities of demos, out-takes and alternate versions. Rootless Eastern European folk via Americana wasn't just limited to Beirut last year - in fact we're among those who reckoned A Hawk And A Hacksaw (whose The Way The Wind Blows actually featured Zach Condon and proudly declared tracks recorded in Prague, Albuquerque and Enderby) were better, and Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost have got together with actual Hungarian musicians to produce A Hawk And A Hacksaw And The Hun Hangar Ensemble. The Fall reissue rotunda continues with the three Fontana/Phonogram Records efforts from a particularly strong period at the beginning of the 90s, Fall - Extricate (Bill Is Dead, Telephone Thing), Shift Work (Edinburgh Man, Idiot Joy Showland, 'notebooks out, plagirists') and Code:Selfish (Free Range, Birmingham School Of Business School). Like that? Get this: Dawn Of The Replicants - The Singles: Bust The Trunk, already reprinted from release last year but definitely worth your investment in the hugely undervalued Galashiels outfit's ten years of wonky artpop, including a DVD of rarely seen videos and the superb Skullcrusher remix by David Holmes and future non-LCD half of the DFA Tim Goldsworthy.


    The 33 1/3 series of books about celebrated albums are worth the time of anyone who really cares about this stuff. The latest, and for us one for the definites list, is Michael Fournier's look at The Minutemen's Double Nickels On The Dime, an album titled to take the piss out of Sammy Hagar and something that anyone who loves US underground rock should have. On a different tack we're intrigued by Julian Ridgway's Bandalism: Do Not Destroy Your Group, which we'll just quote the blurb of: "Bandalism is a self-help manual for bands. It guides you from finding the right members through to breaking up at the right time, taking in such crucial steps as avoiding 'nervous exhaustion' and how not to make a rubbish second album. Bandalism is an occasionally ranting, diagram-filled guide on how to avoid screwing up your group for the same old predictable reasons."

    The Weekly Sweep

  • Arcade Fire - Black Mirror [live YouTube]
  • Ballboy - I Hate Scotland [mp3 from Skatterbrain]
  • Bill Callahan - Sycamore [mp3 from Song By Toad]
  • Dinosaur Jr - Been There All The Time [YouTube]
  • Feist - I Feel It All [mp3 from Boule A Facettes]
  • Frank Turner - The Real Damage [YouTube]
  • Goodbooks - The Illness [YouTube]
  • Jamie T - Sheila [YouTube]
  • Jetplane Landing - Why Do They Never Play Les Savy Fav On The Radio? [Myspace]
  • Los Campesinos! - You! Me! Dancing! [Myspace, which has the non-YouTubed as yet video up now]
  • The Maccabees - Precious Time [YouTube]
  • Mark B & Blade - The Unknown
  • Modest Mouse - Dashboard [YouTube]
  • Ola Podrida - Jordanna [mp3 from Sound Gymnastics] (This turned up high in the Hype Machine's Most Blogged list last week and is well worth your time, a storytelling take on Iron & Wine-esque indie-folk)
  • Robert Forster - Is This What You Call Change? (Not on the forthcoming Forster solo compilation, for some reason. An appeal: does anyone reading this have an mp3able version of Harvey's Rabbit's cover which made the 1995 Festive 50? Let us know if you do)
  • The Rumble Strips - Motorcycle [mp3 from Nasty Panda]
  • Strange Idols - She's Gonna Let You Down Again [mp3 from Green Pea-ness] (Yes, we're late to this one, but it was always going to be our kind of thing, frankly - twee-influenced girl-fronted purest sunpop, produced by imagined Friend Of STN Gareth Parton)
  • Suburban Kids With Biblical Names - Loop Duplicate My Heart [YouTube]
  • The White Stripes - Icky Thump [mp3 from Bedford Rockers until the lawyers get it taken down] (Expect the Guardian to get Bill Oddie to review the album)
  • XX Teens - B54 [Myspace] (Used to be Xerox Teens until commercial lawyers got in the way; their first single was godawful but since then they've grown into something far ahead of their self-consciously hip Londonite siblings-in-post-Libertines-artrock. Not buying the Fall comparisons, though)
  • Friday, May 04, 2007

    'A' registration in Wardour Street

    Presumably Paul Weller prefers Daewooo

    You'll notice from this magnificent slice of puffery that Foxton and Buckler are now performing as 'From The Jam', the original plan to go in a Four Tops style without the most important original member having been hit by a sudden overflow of sense. Do you think Russell Hastings, once of The Paul Weller Council, actually said that last sentence verbatim?

    Wednesday, May 02, 2007

    She was only a grocer's daughter

    We know there are more pressing political issues to debate on this of all days, the tenth anniversary of Blair coming to power, but it follows on from a private discussion - how many songs are there that are unequivocally anti-Thatcher? We came up with Tramp The Dirt Down, Margaret On The Guillotine, The Day That Thatcher Dies, Stand Down Margaret and the Blow Monkeys' Celebrate (The Day After You), but surely there's more if you look outside full scale leftie-ism or two chord punk. Anyone?