Friday, August 31, 2007

Read is murder

What's happening now is we're working on a big feature that'll be running Tuesday to Saturday inclusive, so hold on to your hats. In the meantime, it's 21st February 1985 and Paul 'Hill Challenge' Coia is manfully working his way through a stilted new produce review in esteemed company. What's that he's suggesting about Sexy Shorts?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The music that moves you

We know we said these would be up on Saturday. Things happened. OK?

Shearwater have made three albums before 2006's Palo Santo, reissued by Matador this week in 'Special Edition' guise (an extra CD of out-takes and demos, everything else remastered and/or re-recorded), but this is the one where they've broken free from the looming presence of Okkervil River, the band Jonathan Meiburg and Will Sheff began collaborating in. While Sheff continues sharpening his lyrical nous with that band Meiburg, who has also been out playing piano with Bill Callahan this year, has taken them in a dissonantly elegant direction, and if that sounds like a horrible contradiction it's the best way of summing up how the album, dedicated to and apparently inspired in whole by Nico, sounds, ranging from Talk Talk serenity to folk to John Cale to full-on histrionics.

Shearwater - Nobody

Reading's SixNationState have toured with the Maccabees and the Holloways but don't particularly share that much Libertine DNA with either. Studio guests on Dermot O'Leary's Radio 2 show last week, they've been compared to the Coral and Zutons by, erm, us, when we saw them at Truck last year, and they've been invited back for this time round. Their self-titled debut, issued on the reactived Jeepster Recordings on 24th September and produced by Iain Gore (Brakes, Rumble Strips, Larrikin Love, Blood Red Shoes, Les Incompetents), is full of darkly summery moods inflected in ska and dub as much as the sheer contagiousness plenty now strive for and few achieve. Or something.

SixNationState - I Hate The Summer

Alexandria Quartet went down in STN folklore when they became the first band to send us badges with their CD, one of which reads 'I'm here tonight 'cos the zeitgeist couldn't be bothered'. It's a lyric from their EP The Daydreams Of Youth, released in June on Walker & Orfing Records, which either deals in poetic folk balladry or, as here, trousers-on-fire railing against the day's ills in a style that reminds us of the Pogues and Whipping Boy. Which in itself is interesting, given they're North Londoners rather than Irish.

Alexandria Quartet - Through The Back Door

Monday, August 27, 2007

Weekender : lying on the couch with Lucozade and a hot water bottle

FREE MUSIC: Could it finally be time for Les Savy Fav to make a move towards the common concensus in the UK? Come on, let's get them on the Album Chart Show and watch Tim Harrington make Sara Cox wet herself in fear. The reliably hopeless ContactMusic describes Let's Stay Friends (September 18th America, 1st October UK through Wichita) as "the Kaiser Chiefs with Pistols and Arctics character". You be the judge of that by listening to The Equestrian.

HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: Cats On Fire - not to be confused with Cat On Form (Steven Ansell's band before Blood Red Shoes), Cats And Cats And Cats (highly rated post-rockers) or the Stray Cats (nobody will ever confuse them with the Stray Cats) - are from Finland but with their guitars set to 'summer meadow' and inscrutable lyrics would fit comfortably in the nascent Sarah Records sound revival, although they're more like Felt, the melodic Aztec Camera end of Postcard Records and the new wave of post-twee Scandipop. And anyone who reminds us of the Monochrome Set has automatic pride of place round here.

VISUAL REPRESENTATION: "Lead singer Charles has just been voted the roundest person at the band's record company!" This week's YouTube yomp is courtesy of some sort of genius going under the handle 23Daves, who not only kept a VHS of Chart Show Indie Charts between 1989 and 1994 but has uploaded a great wodge of them to the 'Tube. Some of our favourites: July 1989 with the Cowboy Junkies and, as they seem to be in every chart from this period, Birdland at 2; February 1991 in which Video Visuals decide the only way to get kids up and ready to go on a Saturday morning is with My Bloody Valentine and Spacemen 3; September 1991 with Mega City Four, Chapterhouse, clips of the Moonflowers and Thousand Yard Stare, and a Family Cat video with a guesting pre-Dry Polly Harvey; May 1992's celebrated, fan-converting play of "currently on tour supporting Kingmaker" Suede's The Drowners; November 1992 with the Drop Nineteens, the Boo Radleys' original video for Lazarus with Alan McGee cameoing (what happened to the promised all-star tour video?) and Pavement's Watery, Domestic EP at number one with a picture that excludes Steve Malkmus; March 1993 with a top two unilaterally banned by the show and Huggy Bear's Her Jazz at 3 played at the wrong speed (is it just us who'd like to hear it all at that Beefheartian No Wave pitch?); November 1993 featuring Aphex Twin atop, someone called Seaweed covering Go Your Own Way and Chumbawamba next to Codeine; and March 1994, with Jacknife Lee's old band Compulsion and still hanging on in there at the top, Senser.

FALLING OFF A BLOG: Bloodshed In The Woodshed actually makes us feel better about our own critical faculties - not that they're a bad writer (they very much aren't), but we've always had a concern that we reference people and bands in posts that the layman might have to have a glossary handy for. That was until we saw the write-up on here of Minotaurs, whose singer is described as having "reminded me of Paul Smith (fine so far) initially, and then Jason Bavanandan". Jason Bavanandan from Battle being used as a marker! That aside they've got a keen ear for new music and you might learn something new.

EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: Øyafestivalen is an annual Norwegian festival which is growing in stature year on year, and for 2007 they've uploaded a number of performances from the likes of The Jesus & Mary Chain, Primal Scream, Roky Erickson, And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Gogol Bordello, Architecture In Helsinki, Lady Sovereign, Justice, CocoRosie, Eagles Of Death Metal and the Melvins.

IN OTHER NEWS: Another tribute album! Dig For Fire: A Tribute To Pixies, released in America in November, isn't the first and doubtless won't be the last, but with a contributor list including Mogwai (Gouge Away), British Sea Power (Caribou), Joy Zipper, The Rosebuds, OK Go and They Might Be Giants it has more potential than most.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

In bed tomorrow: 27/8

Quick one today, as we're laid up with a bad stomach bug. This is the sort of commitment that'll get those BT/DMA voters going, we tell you. So top singles are the return of cynical Brummie nuts Misty's Big Adventure with double-A side I Can’t Bring The Time Back/Serious Thing and energetic young scamps Cajun Dance Party's Amylase. Not too sure they're got that much past this, but that's their problem. Slim album pickings, including the Super Furry Animals' slightly below form (which of course is well above most people's top form) Hey Venus!, Blue States' return from indie-dance trio to Andy Dragazis' downtempo mood music favouritism on First Steps Into and a second CD being grafted onto Shearwater's gem Palo Santo. Warning: half the album has been re-recorded.

The Weekly Sweep

  • 4 Or 5 Magicians - Forever On The Edge [Myspace]
  • Emmy The Great - The Woods [mp3 from The Daily Growl]
  • Foals - Mathletics [YouTube]
  • Future Of The Left - Small Bones Small Bodies [live YouTube]
  • The Go! Team - Doing It Right [YouTube]
  • The Hot Puppies - King Of England [Myspace]
  • Huggy Bear - Her Jazz [Myspace]
  • iLiKETRAiNS - The Deception [YouTube] (Featuring the voice of ex-Radio 4 announcer Peter Jefferson, something you'd only ever get in an iLiKETRAiNS project, and properly filmed performance footage, something we surely never expected to see in an iLiKETRAiNS project. If you're keeping score it's about Donald Crowhurst)
  • Jens Lekman - Friday Night At The Drive In Bingo [mp3 from The Glorious Hum]
  • Kitchens Of Distinction - The 3rd Time We Opened The Capsule [YouTube]
  • Les Savy Fav - Raging In The Plague Age [mp3 from The Rawking Refuses To Stop!]
  • Lucky Soul - One Kiss Don't Make A Summer [Myspace]
  • M.I.A. - 20 Dollar [mp3 from Get Weird Turn Pro]
  • Miracle Fortress - Maybe Lately [mp3 from Comfort Radio]
  • Misty's Big Adventure - I Can't Bring The Time Back [Myspace]
  • Okkervil River - A Hand To Take Hold Of The Scene [mp3 from polaroid > un blog alla radio]
  • The Rumble Strips - Girls And Boys In Love [Myspace]
  • Sonny J - Can't Stop Moving [Myspace] (A mysterious funk cut-up maverick, apparently, who essentially sounds like if Ian Parton had never discovered Sonic Youth. Even the video resembles a Go! Team collage, unsurprisingly apparently made by the same people too)
  • Spoon - Black Like Me [mp3 from KEXP]
  • Those Dancing Days - Hitten [YouTube] (Back as they've been picked up by Wichita for the UK, although this is being held back for 2008 single release)
  • Saturday, August 25, 2007

    Knowing your audience

    According to their TV adverts, The Star on Sunday is aimed at people who love barrel-scraping celebrity tittle-tattle, girls in their smalls and Premiership football, apart from the difficult to explain stuff.

    According to their weekend TV advert, tomorrow they're giving away a Best Of Echo & The Bunnymen. What are the disco bunnies going to make of that.

    Friday, August 24, 2007

    In new music we tryst

    So with Corporate Anthems not really doing much and midweek things being slow around this end we thought we'd re-amalgamate the two and, as we have a stack of new stuff to post, do mp3 posts every now and again, when something of interest crops up. Fine by you?

    First, M.I.A. It's interesting to note that, for all of Arular's column inches, controversy, blog posting, discourse and general hoopla, neither it nor any of its singles made their respective format UK top 75s. Kala should change that at least but at the moment it only looks set to scrape the top 40, which is an interesting reflection on someone who enjoys/endures such a critical profile, this album being lauded with hosannahs pretty much across the board last week. This one samples one of our three favourite Clash songs and is one of three tracks on the album touched by the baile hands of Diplo.

    M.I.A - Paper Planes
    From Kala

    Miracle Fortress is from Montreal, but then so is everyone these days. The alter ego of one Graham van Pelt, by day a member of fuzzpop outfit Think About Life, it's in the same Brian Wilson-appropriating ballpark as Panda Bear's lauded Person Pitch, sending the arrangements and harmonies even more spaced-out wayward, bringing in Kevin Shields' studio play, and there's essences too of White Album Beatles wooziness, Mercury Rev's calmness and and fellow travellers Stars. Amazon says it's released through Rough Trade on 24th September but our promo literally has that crossed out in marker pen and 'August 27th' written underneath, so mind how you go.

    Miracle Fortress - Little Trees
    From Five Roses

    Finally, Leicester's Redcarsgofaster are leaving the world with a farewell gig at the Charlotte on September 8th. Their incendiary live show was, inevitably, never quite captured on their three singles but their Sonic Youth/Bloc Party/Ikara Colt-referencing wall of artnoise was pretty damn essential if you like that kind of thing. Guitarist Matt's valedictory blog post is well worth reading. This is a new track which we believe will be on an album they're selling at their last show.

    Redcarsgofaster - Demagogues

    More new stuff tomorrow.

    Wednesday, August 22, 2007

    All my people right here right now

    It's not even a cover, is it, it's just A Mess Of Things. Note Bonehead playing the big Chubb key - hilarity! - as if it were a guitar, and the big calendar, apparently there to emphasise that this was A Historical Event In Popular Music History.

    Oh, and it was.

    696,000 copies in three days in the UK and a reported 8m shifted in total worldwide (more than Definitely Maybe) later, Be Here Now, ten as of yesterday, has become the great British music millstone, the sole release that ended a signpost genre and changed the fortunes of Oasis forever. There are much better places to read about its protracted conception after a Morning Glory campaign that had ended up buckling under the strain and difficult coming into being, not least Creation and Ignition's genius thought that holding back information and radio play for as long as possible might quell some of the post-Knebworth anticipation for new Oasis material, even to the extent of barring midnight store openings in case the hypemen of the press pack turned up (they turned up to see the 9am queues instead). Famously Steve Lamacq had advance plays of album tracks withdrawn as he hadn't spoken over them enough, which led to John Peel, seemingly without explanation as this hadn't been made public at the time, playing Radio 1 jingles throughout the following night's handover.

    We've never quite seen a convincing explanation as to why the reviews were uniformly uber-positive, besides some sort of reaction to the faint praise Morning Glory had received and wanting to keep in with the biggest band most of those journalists would have ever seen. We now know even Creation insiders, including Alan McGee, had bad feelings about the sound, but literally nobody went against the Britpop grain for about three months. Bear in mind that this was also the year of OK Computer, Urban Hymns, Homework, Blur, Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space, Fat Of The Land (similarly hyped and denied in retrospect but still the band's commercial high water mark), Dig Your Own Hole, New Forms, Vanishing Point, If You're Feeling Sinister, Buena Vista Social Club, Mogwai Young Team, Time Out Of Mind, Homogenic, Radiator, Either/Or... not exactly a short year in terms of moving forward and planting your flag on the landscape (or back on it in Dylan's case), so not a lot to hide behind when popular opinion turned. Either way, it was a permanent mark in pop culture, and not one that anyone would really like to return to if given the choice.

    Or is it? Be Here Now currently has a 4 star rating on Amazon from 96 customer reviews and even Noel Gallagher, one of its hardest critics, said in the NME earlier this year of their next album (reportedly they're esconsed in Abbey Road as you read this) that "I really fancy doing a record where we just completely throw the kitchen sink at it. I'd like to get a 100-piece orchestra and choirs and all that stuff". Presumably Noel Gallagher is one of the few people in Britain concerned that the production on Be Here Now, notoriously helped along by the rows, fights and immense amounts of marching powder all concerned were nose-in-trough into during its recording and mixing (Owen Morris, whom Alan McGee later described as "out of control, and he was the one in charge of it", didn't work on a notable album again until The View's Hats Off To The Buskers), might have been a little underwhelming. Still, there's a definite sway back in its favour going on, so on this most notable of anniversaries a decade on from the death of Britpop and that movement's concurrent destruction of what we know as indie there was only one thing to do. Get hold of a copy, sit through its 71 minutes 38 seconds for the first time since our solitary previous hearing nearly ten years ago and annotate it as we go to see just where it actually lies here in August 2007.

    D'You Know What I Mean?

    0:00 Right, so this is where it all began. We remember listening to Jo Whiley as she gave it its first play without build-up (it had in fact been leaked in advance by a Scottish independent station and a playable copy had been couriered round to the BBC) and Radio 1 proceeded to play it in its entireity for the rest of the daytime schedule, interspersed with B-sides and so forth. Such was their sway over the populace at the time that Noel says he fully expected the call for a radio edit to come in and was surprised that nobody requested one.

    0:24 Planes! Rushes! Morse code! Scratchy rhythm guitar in the background! Feedback! It's Apocalypse Now! Only with, for once, less drugs!

    0:42 Christ, put those drums a bit further back in the mix, especially when they're only competing with acoustic guitar. Noel's backing vocal gets cut and sliced. Presumably this is psychedelic.

    1:20 "Fool on the hill and I feel fine". We see.

    2:29 Well, it's a strutting, cocksure Oasis starter, and as we hit the first big beery singalong come-together chorus it's a more effective one than Hello. The drums are sampled from Straight Outta Compton, although it sounds like a fairly standard loop.

    3:56 This "I met my maker...listen up pal" business - Liam believing his Messianic press, or believing his struggles (having cocaine, marrying actresses) are those of the lord?

    4:56 You can step away from the amp now, Noel.

    5:17 For a change, the slowdown followed by big wah-wah-aided solo sounds like a filched idea from The Queen Is Dead's title track

    6:30 Everything disappears into a Leslie rotating speaker cabinet of backward vocals and playing with even more bloody feedback. Our temples are starting to throb, but Vietnam has been cleared.

    7:42 It'd be an all time high water mark if they'd thought to compress its running time down a bit, but it sounds like a great big production mess of an album by the contemporary cocks of the walk should start. Better than the demo-esque The Hindu Times at least.

    My Big Mouth

    0:06 It's an army of Dave Hills! The bovver-boy glam riffs are nothing new, the sheer scale of them meant to bludgeon people into submission. Maybe that's what the reviews were about. And they seem to be playing several slight variations of the riff. Eat shit, Glenn Branca.

    1:04 At least they hide the fact this bit up to the chorus is stolen from Soul Asylum's Runaway Train.

    1:58 More talk of God and heaven. We know they were brought up good Catholic boys, but it's not something you'd connect with them at this point.

    3:07 "My Big Mouth, my big name/I'll put on my shoes/While I'm walking slowly down the hall of fame". Either it's the most self-aware album in history, or the most ironic, or he genuinely hasn't got a clue.

    3:35 Bit more bass in the speakers, please.

    4:25 Distorted guitar overdubs! That's just what the song needed.

    5:02 Oasis have always had long, pointless Noel solos at the end - it's what briefly got him a tag of the era's great guitarist and gave him a dirty great cameo on a track on the album that saw Goldie's career off - but it's difficult to see what he's doing here. It's a throwaway pop-rock song, and it's slathered in layers of production, all of which actually might be turned up to eleven.

    Magic Pie

    0:00 A what?

    0:20 Morse code! Maybe there was meant to be a theme running through the album, although this comparatively pastoral effort suggests it's not essentially a musically architectural one.

    0:37 Sing properly, Noel.

    1:08 As if on cue, half a verse in the amped-up cavalry arrive.

    2:08 As much as Noel possibly denies it, there's definitely a framework in this song for much of what has followed. The second part of the chorus is a first go at Where Did It All Go Wrong?, for a start.

    3:45 He's clearly meaning whatever he means about it from the heart, and then he's gone and called it Magic Pie. This is why you need a clear-headed second voice in studios.

    4:18 A Mellotron arrives to not much garnishing effect. Solo two!

    5:08 Seriously, Noel, just making that noise on what must be an expensive instrument to maintain these days won't do much for this extended coda... oh, you're going to sing the chorus half a key higher. That's a studio tack-on.

    6:04 Is it finishing?

    6:11 Oh, no, he's going to stick in little riffs and vocal improvisations for a minute.

    6:42 Oddly, for such a meticulously mixed album, the drums sound hollow and slightly tinny.

    6:48 Now what the fuck have you found?

    7:07 And out, just in case it needed to be any longer, with what the trade knows as 'pissing about'.

    7:19 Even at the time this must have come across as Oasis Lighters Aloft Anthem By Rote. Like driving a coach and horses through Champagne Supernova's bridge.

    Stand by Me

    0:00 The second single

    0:17 Already sounds like Northern Uproar.

    0:41 Alan's had a word and now the drums are mixed higher in the verse than the guitars, strings and everything.

    2:02 So much for the old Motown maxim of hitting the chorus within 50 seconds.

    2:51 Has Noel ever said this is a song for Meg Matthews? From half-inched title downwards the subject of wanting a loved one by your side through thick and thin is horribly hackneyed.

    4:48 We're never quite sure what to make of Liam's mid-paced vocal - of course he has the Northern Lydon sneer to take him through
    and everyone remembers the falsetto he hits in Live Forever even if he can't reproduce it live, but this sounds like the aural version of a two week beard and parka. That held note on "away" is just out.

    5:36 Handclaps?! Note that the strings are kept subtle rather than over the top.

    5:56 Well, that was relatively painless. It definitely sounds like something from classic rock playlists we can't quite place, though.

    I Hope, I Think, I Know

    0:00 4:22! It's virtually the Ramones.

    1:02 It'd probably only be B-side quality an album earlier, but at last it's back to Faces-esque straight up snotty barnstorming. How come, by the way, they never properly followed up the post-baggy angle suggested by Columbia?

    2:48 "You'll never forget my name" is the hook line. Not short of self-confidence, this lad.

    4:22 Well, it's Oasis rocking out. What more do you need to know?

    The Girl in the Dirty Shirt

    0:19 Already it can't decide whether it wants to rock out or be Fade Away.

    1:11 This is definitely taking liberties with some other tune, and we suspect it's another Oasis song.

    2:13 It's another song about how great Noel's new wife is. Tip: never do this if an acrimonious divorce is in your future.

    2:52 As Alan White makes like he's Keith Moon in power, it occurs that it's actually not that far removed from Stand By Me, especially in the rhythm guitar undertow.

    3:54 "God Be Here Now is sure a great album. Hey oasis arent only good with the hit single !! Usually their b sides are even better !! This is one of the proof !!!!! Start posting to their other song peeps !!" It's not even a B-side, SongMeanings' 'milhouse4'. Anyway, it's not helping with the tunejacking thought.

    4:26 The sort of electric piano sound you only otherwise hear now on Paul Weller at his most cod-soulful turns up.

    5:28 Not for the first or last time, there's no need to keep going for this long.

    5:49 Not even the apologists can work up much enthusiasm for this one, by the looks of it.

    Fade In-Out

    0:20 Odd one, this, as it's clearly an acoustic campfire lament, with tambourine in the mix, that's been overdubbed to cod-blues Chris Rea drivetime hell. Johnny Depp is on this. Johnny Depp.

    1:14 And then Liam starts bellowing as if it's a Sex Pistols tribute in his headphones.

    3:06 Too much splash cymbal on this album by far.

    3:10 And then there's a ridiculous filtered scream and it turns into an attempt to match D'You Know What I Mean?'s sound on bottlenecks which can't quite let go because it's still driven by that acoustic guitar.

    4:20 Noel, from Wikipedia: "Liam does the best singing I've ever heard from him. I pushed him to the limit on that. I said, Pretend you're a black man from Memphis." No. No. Noel, just... no.

    5:13 And this is this track's point where the extended nature of the outro begins to really tire as Liam repeats the title almost endlessly and Johnny and Noel play the same bits they've been playing for the last two minutes/months.

    6:13 Fade, you bastard.

    6:52 At least it's not got the steamroller production of most of the album, which is about all you can say for its attempt at getting the blues. Mark Ronson has more natural R&B (old definition) energy than this.

    Don't Go Away

    0:00 This was an American single, but it was talked up at the time as the album's big Wonderwall moment.

    1:03 And you can see why. Though everything's quite subtle, including the vocals, and the mix is condensed down - there's cellos aplenty but they're only helping things on rather than stuck over the top - and there's a definite emotional touch that actually isn't quite there on Wonderwall and the like because that seemed so much like Guitar Band Arena Hit by committee.

    2:53 Except now it's turned into Slide Away.

    3:56 And maybe that's what really stops it going over the top - it's trying to catch a point between the first two albums, the lager-louts-have-feelings-too air of Definitely Maybe and the national unification of ...Morning Glory.

    4:00 And we know this album too well by track eight to know that just because the flangers have been turned off that the song's not finished for a good minute yet.

    4:48 Apparently it's about family health traumas in the band, which might be why it catches the unaware listener right there. But crossing over into the homes of the nation? Stop Crying Your Heart Out did it much more effectively through force of nature, despite being rubbish bellowing. An emotion in search of something new and solid to attach itself to.

    Be Here Now

    0:18 Odd keyboard effect and shaker give way to pub rock. Ah, here we go again.

    0:55 Is that whistling or a really cheap keyboard?

    1:01 "Your shit jokes remind me of Digsy's". Note - never cannibalise yourself when you're in this precarious a position.

    1:33 "Sing a song for me/One from Let It Be". Goodness' sake.

    2:52 God, listen to that little riff there. Noel adopted the 'Quoasis' jibe as a T-shirt, but it really is like half speed Quo without the sense of fun or humour. Everyone seems to be knocking this out in a trance.

    4:03 Most bands would finish here.

    4:22 The "yeah yeah yeah"s from quite a few previous songs of theirs make a cameo appearance. Otherwise Liam's just repeating "come on, come on" to mark out time, perhaps thinking he's Richard Ashcroft.

    5:13 Seriously, you didn't have to put a stodgy rock song on just because you're Oasis.

    All Around the World

    0:00 Right, let's steel ourselves. All Around The World is the song Noel says he wrote when he was 17 and they played live early on but decided all along to save for album number three when they could afford to give it the grandiose orchestral treatment.

    0:04 Just because it starts acoustically means we cannot assume it continues like this. We have learnt this from Coldplay over the years.

    0:24 And we're off.

    0:49 See, the strings are there but aren't really doing anything, they're just there stabbing away or playing whole notes as filler between the acoustic and electric guitar tracks.

    1:16 Rhythm from Wonderwall, drum fills from Don't Look Back In Anger. If we knew anything about chord sequences they'd probably be copied over too.

    2:46 And the Hey Jude "na na na"s are underway as if to signpost for even the thickest where the inspiration comes from.

    3:20 Key change, roaring strings, more guitars. The words run out here.

    3:35 Even more violins playing basic notes. Fully trained professional orchestra, remember.

    4:22 Horns and repeated shouting of "it's gonna be OK". The effect seems to be some sort of tempest of strings, like George Martin might have arranged.

    4:46 Seconds over halfway, key change two. OV now well in the red.

    5:34 Isn't that horn arrangement from Echobelly's unashamedly Sgt Pepper-esque I Can't Imagine The World Without Me?

    6:15 It's at this point you get the impression they've barely touched the surface of what they think is possible.

    6:44 Noel thinks of something else: "Please don't cry, never say die!" The way he sings it it's unfortunately sounding like "pigs don't cry" to us.

    7:20 You start thinking the guitar solo, going nowhere but mixed up well over everything else, is going to go on forever.

    7:57 Key change three.

    8:22 See, if only all these millions of string sections and trumpets could have clashed then we'd have had some quasi-avantgarde thing going on to keep attention levels up this far into it, but they're all playing the same bloody thing.

    9:20 A fadeout, giving the impression that even this far down the line they might still be there, playing at a pitch only dogs can hear and Liam's still going "please don't cry, never say die" at the end of each bar. It's not so much that it's nine and a half minutes long, it's that it's nine and a half minutes with no message, no surprise, no insight, no valuable arrangement and in which nothing happens. It's an epic pop song filled with helium when it should have been hewn from marble.

    It's Gettin' Better (Man!!)

    0:01 As if to realise what they've just put us through, a phalanx of guitars arrive once again to...erm...

    0:23 To be the Faces, apparently. This is one of the tracks that was previewed in live form on the night before release's fawning puff piece on prime-time BBC1, so clearly they valued it.

    2:00 By the way, the best Oasis song is Some Might Say B-side Headshrinker, which actually achieves their much vaunted 'Pistols with Ron Wood' ambitions and then some.

    2:45 And at least it goes somewhere having decided on its intentions early, unlike this. It's as if the band are so much out of puff after the longeurs of All Around The World that they don't appreciate being roused to record this.

    3:35 Halfway through the song, Noel's forgotten to write the rest of the song again. Morrissey used to be mocked for this, but at least he kept it to three and a half radio minutes.

    4:45 And yet more title repetition designed to hide the fact that they've got tape spare and nothing much to do with it except keep playing this mini-solo.

    6:33 Fucking hell, he's still doing it! Noel meanwhile launches into full throttle in the hope it makes it sound more energetic.

    7:00 Shame, we thought we remembered that one as quite the rabble rouser. Right, how are we finishing?

    All Around the World (Reprise)

    0:00 Oh shite.

    0:03 And it's not even a literal faded back up reprise, it's just the strings to show you how little they're actually doing at those different keys, the trumpets playing all the main riffs and loads and loads of cymbal, with backing walls of guitar just to remind you what you're missing. Which is, of course, their dealer's number.

    1:36 Before breaking down into piano, feedback and, thank goodness, not cheering and clapping as you might expect but footsteps away from the mike and a door slamming, somewhat spoilt by the fact they start before the music has faded out.

    2:08 So, what have we learned about this greatest of time-addled follies? Erm... not a great deal. Clearly there's songs in there, but they're so weighed down by the crushing weight of the production mix and the need to carry them further than surely possible because these are songs of great import from our one true working class genius (self-appointed) that any benefits are automatically made negligible. (Can we not pay someone to do a Let It Be...Naked on it?) It's like someone attempting to be Oasis in 1996-97 with wannabe anthemic chants for choruses but lacking the seige mentality and spark of boggle-eyed intensity that marked Oasis well apart from the pack in the first place, worn away by their sheer scale. This world out here of record buyers was not their world of Supernova Heights and Johnny Depp on slide guitar cameos any more. They couldn't be that band on Definitely Maybe any more; what Be Here Now showed was that, in their desperation to make the enormoalbum for all time, they were the last to know that. Even after this album Noel could never resist adding a couple of useless minutes onto the end of potential crowd-slayers.

    In summary, to anyone who may be time travelling and be reading this in early to mid August 1997: please don't put your life in the hands of a rock'n'roll band.

    Tuesday, August 21, 2007

    Be Here Now is ten years old today

    More on this tomorrow, which would have been tonight but our computer's throwing a hissy fit. Unlike this well presented young man who will surely be no harm to a fly in future years*, we won't be taking the Umberto Eco view.

    (* Insert joke about how Eddy Temple-Morris went on to condone the dark art of mash-ups on his XFM show here)

    Monday, August 20, 2007

    Weekender : on a stick

    FREE MUSIC: Victoria Bergsman's last appearance with the Concretes was on Friday Night With Jonathan Ross, which seems to have been more of a springboard for more high profile things for her then for the band. Young Folks is pointlessly coming back round again, while Bergsman's own Taken By Trees project, a loose collective which on album Open Field brings in Bjorn Yttling of Peter, Bjorn & John as producer. It's not too far removed from the Concretes' best moments, airier maybe, with overtones of Camera Obscura, not unlikely as not only is she best mates with them but Tracyanne Campbell wrote Lost And Found.

    HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: Michael Knight, in a long lost grand tradition, are a band, a Dublin-based trio who really did name themselves after the Knight Rider character. Please, keep reading Having released an album, Youth Is Wasted On The Young, in 2005 and currently preparing a second, there's the same airy, erm, air of a lot of those Irish bands who briefly came to prominence at the tailend of Britpop, they exist not too far from Belle & Sebastian's rarefied atmosphere (leader Richie Murphy hates the comparison, but that's just artist inevitability) but have also clearly taken account of the Magnetic Fields' dreamy writing, Bacharach structures on a tight budget and more than just the Beach Boys' harmonies, although the female rhythm section provide those to a T. They've recently played with Suburban Kids With Biblical Names, which if you remove their electronic elements is a fair enough comparison.

    VISUAL REPRESENTATION: As promised last weekend, this week we take a proper look at the Tony Wilson legacy through Factory Records. The Factory cataloguing scheme is one of our favourite music industry idiosyncracies ever, containing doublings up, special numbers reserved for landmark albums and catalogue numbers granted for everything from Rob Gretton's molar reconstruction work to a bet between Wilson and Gretton in which Wilson put the future of his chairmanship of the label on New Order's Round And Round going top five (it didn't, he did, albeit temporarily). FAC 211 was a two part documentary on Joy Division for Channel 4's Wired which also acts as a Factory history primer, featuring Wilson, Gretton, Peter Hook, Paul Morley and Alan Erasmus. Also on the books, FAC 6 (OMD's Electricity), FAC 13 (Joy Division's Tranmission, from the BBC's Something Else with John Cooper Clarke introducing with a snatch of Evidently Chickentown), FAC 34 (ESG - You're No Good, live at last year's Primavera Sound), FACT 210 (Cath Carroll's Moves Like You), FAC 222 (Happy Mondays' Lazyitis with Karl Denver live at the G-Mex in 1990) and FAC 329 (The Other Two - Tasty Fish), not overlooking the Durutti Column (rarity Marie Louise Gardens) and A Certain Ratio (Shack Up, never properly released on Factory). FAC 51, The Hacienda, was still the subject of pilgrimages up until its closure in June 1997 but looked in much better shape when the Stone Roses and New Order played there.

    VIRAL MARKETING: We'd watch out if we were you around the 24th September, because we're already coming over all unnecessary about Future Of The Left's debut album Curses. Had we been at this gig at the 100 Club in February we might have not recovered yet, frankly, as one person recorded forthcoming single Small Bones Small Bodies and another got Wrigley Scott and My Gymnastic Past. When you've gone and done all that, Too Pure's podcast page is full o'Falkous in top form in discussion with Huw Stephens.

    FALLING OFF A BLOG: The Plastic Floor has existed for about a month, but starting with Zappa, Edan and a summer mixtape which includes perfect barbeque accompaniment Faust, Black Mountain and Herbert is as good a way as any of marking yourself out.

    EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: WinAmp, which we play CDs on our PC through, has stopped scrobbling track and artist titles (do drop us a line if you know why), which means our isn't as completist as we'd like it to be. If yours is, find out "How eclectic is your musical style?" Ours is 83%. We are better than you.

    IN OTHER NEWS: Does anyone else have the sinking suspicion that Cadbury bringing back Wispa bars - and we don't recall anyone being a fan of them at the time, so away with your Internet petition irony - was entirely brought about by that banner brought on by some of the Stooges stage invaders at Glastonbury?

    Sunday, August 19, 2007

    In shops tomorrow: 20/8


    And, as if to signify how much the pressure is on now we've been namechecked in a big paper that people read, after quite a few lean weeks the release schedules are packed once again with much goodness. Is it really more than a year that we've been banging on about Emmy The Great for? Wherever you choose to start it is, with her first single out last April, our first proper mention being at Truck in July and our genre war-starting Friendly Chat this week last year. It appears word has got out too, 300 of the 500 7" run of the home recorded My Bad EP being sold by the start of last week. Collectors of the demo mp3s will need to know it features The Easter Parade, MIA (timely, as you'll see), The Woods (featuring Lightspeed Champion somewhere) and City Song, plus Aiko if you're of a downloading bent, but it doesn't matter that much, one gorgeously sung, intimately played, wryly and intelligently written slice of her work is much like another, if you see what we mean. With post-rock's desire to ape Mogwai/Slint sounds by turning up the distortion pedal settings now out of fashion what we suspect we'll get a lot of in due course is bands working their intricate guitar pummelling into reshaped song structures and finding themselves heading for a groove. And so it is that two of now defunct expansive Oxford trio The Edmund Fitzgerald now form the creative mailine of Foals, who've been out in America recording an album with TV On The Radio's David Sitek they describe as more influenced by Terry Reilly and Afrobeat. In the meantime Mathletics is a second proper attempt to take the math-rockers to the dancefloor. Elsewhere on the dancefloor are Australian teens Operator Please, who are in the loose recent lineage of Antipodeans cutting and shutting together all sorts of influences and sounds in order to make the kids boogie on down, prevalent in everyone from Architecture In Helsinki to Cut Copy. Just A Song About Ping Pong finally gets a 7" release having spent most of the year on the release schedules, sounding like the Avalanches producing Be Your Own Pet, and not at all like the Arctic Monkeys comparison a couple of online writers have come up with. We genuinely have no idea. Our own roudy youths like to mess about too, such as post-twee standard bearers Bearsuit. The look this season is sailor suits with caps; the sound is the usual mess of noise and melodies with horns rather than violins, More Soul Than Wigan Casino another quality product of Fantastic Plastic Recordings. Jail Guitar Doors is a charity which aims to help prisoner rehabilitation by giving them musical instruments while inside; Billy Bragg has spearheaded the campaign and raises money for it with Old Clash Fight Song, released under the name Johnny Clash ("what would you call someone inspired by Joe Strummer who does gigs in prisons?") on 7" and download only available from If you think you've seen well connected laid-back Brightonians Actress Hands' Come The Summer Days listed before you have, twice, in June, but they put it back to the other side of the brief summer heatwave for the year. If you think you've seen The Twilight Sad's monumental And She Would Darken The Memory Of Youth before you have, about every bloody week. Maximo Park release the song on Our Earthly Pleasures that sounds like what people think they sound like rather than what they do do on the album, Girls Who Play Guitars. You could never accuse Dinosaur Jr of not sounding like the marker they set down for themselves nigh on twenty years ago, although limited edition 7" for their Carling Weekend appearance Crumble has the air of that period when Lou and Murph were long gone and J decided he'd much rather be more cheerful about things. The rarely cheerful Brakes are even in that wistful summer mood, releasing the title track of Beatific Visions on download. How does that work, then? Hasn't it been available on download since the album came out in November?


    In this glasnost age of music review, the quality of the music is fast becoming the least important facet of a critical review of an album. Layers need adding just so you don't have to glimpse the kernel of what the thing in question sounds like - layers of personal history, political history, perception of the person within, socio-economical factors, anthropology and anthropomorthy if necessary. Nothing is just good because it's good any more, you need to quantify whether that's all you can think about it under the default principle of suspicion - who the label are aiming it at, who might listen to it, the motivation behind the artist as to what level of - ugh! - popular acceptability it might have its eye on, the motivation of everybody involved in the 'project', which is by the way the new marketing rebrand of the concept 'person', as to what markets they can hit and which people they can fool some/all of the time, even when everything is being conducted transparently, in which case you're all cheaters and Judases and we want our money back before you spend it on the military-industrial complex. As long as it places you above the plebs, it's worth running with. Like 'political correctness', 'hipster' is a term only ever used as a derogatory by people who assume that everyone else uses it as a positive. This, then, is what music criticism is in 2007, a literacy Rorschach personality test.

    M.I.A. has a new album out. It's called Kala, and it's bloody great. Even the cover won't give you migraines like Arular's did. This is important, apart perhaps from that last bit, in terms of writing about someone who has more footnotes and get-out clauses attached to her than anyone we can remember in the last few years, which are frankly other people's arguments and you're welcome to them as long as you explain why you don't make the same issue about Philadeliphia-born, Brazil-flavoured Diplo, who returns briefly here. She's moved up in the world from Steve Mackey and Ross Orton, Timbaland producing one track not too well, the hotly touted Switch taking the bulk of the production, and she's ditched the short filler tracks. What results is a sound that takes inspirations from her international tours but always remains within touching distance of that electro-favela rooted Arular sound and cultural/political references (Lost namecheck and quotes from Roadrunner, Where Is My Mind and Straight To Hell versus junior gun-running and Darfur) while never being a direct replica, modernist hip-hop that, in a climate that's building Kano up for something big now he sounds like an American artist, recognises that there are possibilities outside what sells. Like PLO her all round upped game don't surrendo. Naming your albums after your parents is slightly sappy, not a characteristic we imagine has often been put to Maya's father before, but naming your fourth album eponymously does suggest a running out of ideas. Ideas are something Liars have never really had at a premium, emerging as the Pere Ubu equivalents from the early US end of the post-punk revival with their theories, industrialism, minimalism and plans to issue a limited edition vinyl single on edible paper with a design of a hardcore gay picture onto which the members' faced had been Photoshopped (did that ever happen?) There's no concept this time and it's easier to get into but no less compelling or experimental in the sense of throwing stuff at a studio console and seeing if it all works. Dan Snaith also likes to work with and against a studio, his albums initially as Manitoba and latterly as Caribou experimenting with introducing electronica to shoegazing and making them feel neatly at home with Krautrock. Andorra, apparently named after he visited the country and decided to theme an album about how he imagined it'd be instead, takes it even further into the three-dimensional dreampop/psych-pop realm. Given time it could be this year's Grizzly Bear. What we could really have done with as an antidote to such witchcraft trickery is some good old fashioned American indie power-pop, but unfortunately both its main protagonists have albums out this week that come up short to previous efforts, the New Pornographers subdued by their own standards (and their own side projects?) on Challengers while Rilo Kiley seem distracted by the commercial breakthrough possibility on Under The Blacklight, which sounds like a grown-up's version of Hole's Celebrity Skin. This is not a good thing. California's The Softlightes know their way around summery indiepop too, Say No To Being Cool Say Yes To Being Happy sounding like the Postal Service producing The Boy Least Likely To. You know that Cinerama Peel Sessions three-disc box set we mentioned the other week? Yes, yes, of course it got moved back. Clearly it's no less worthwhile a document of the sumptuous stuff, twelve sessions' worth, that David Gedge did in the Wedding Present's otherly hiatus. Rob Da Bank's nascent series of themed compilations continues with A-Z of Kitty Daisy & Lewis, not an album from the teen rockabilly revivalists - that's early next year - but an alphabetised compilation of their influences. Da Bank's fellow eclectist Tom Middleton has his own Various Artists idea, Crazy Covers Vol.2 staying largely out of Jo Whiley Live Lounge hell but remains an uncomfortable blend of tracks you never want to hear (the Puppini Sisters' I Will Survive), those you wanted on CD eventually (Dawn Landes' hoedown Young Folks) and songs you know you have to hear if only once (For What It's Worth by Sergio Mendes).

    The Weekly Sweep

  • Beach House - Apple Orchard [Myspace]
  • Blue States - Allies [Myspace]
  • Dirty Projectors - Rise Above [mp3 from The Runout Groove] (A cover, of sorts, of the Black Flag song, from an album of the same that forms part of the Corporate Anthems Week Of New Stuff We Haven't Previously Had Time To Blog About (title to be finalised) starting on Monday)
  • Emmy The Great - MIA [YouTube]
  • Foals - Mathletics [YouTube]
  • Future Of The Left - Small Bones Small Bodies
  • The Go! Team - Doing It Right [YouTube]
  • iLiKETRAiNS - The Deception
  • Jens Lekman - Friday Night at the Drive In Bingo [mp3 from The Glorious Hum]
  • Kevin Drew - TBTF [mp3 from The Daily Growl] (The first in the Broken Social Scene Presents... series, which sets them up as some sort of Montreal collective musical version of The Comic Strip)
  • Les Savy Fav - What Would Wolves Do? [mp3 from Battle Of The Midwestern Housewives]
  • Liars - Plaster Casts Of Everything [YouTube]
  • Life Without Buildings - PS Exclusive [odd YouTube]
  • Los Campesinos! - Knee Deep At ATP [live mp3 from The Daily Growl] (The ballad, apparently, which also gives us a chance to mention ContactMusic's review of You! Me! Dancing!, in which LC! apparently make "a tasteful sound similar to The Strokes, The Thrills, Bjork and Bell-X1")
  • Lucky Soul - One Kiss Don't Make A Summer [Myspace]
  • Misty's Big Adventure - I Can't Bring The Time Back [Myspace]
  • Operator Please - Just A Song About Ping Pong [YouTube]
  • The Rumble Strips - Girls And Boys In Love [Myspace]
  • The Strange Death Of Liberal England - I Saw Evil
  • Wild Beasts - Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants [YouTube]
  • Wednesday, August 15, 2007

    Summer Sundae 2007 roundup

    Even before we'd collated these we'd already had a band wanting to take issue with a write-up, so let us make it clear that all opinions expressed are those of Sweeping The Nation and do not necessarily reflect those of Blogger. Or something.

    And if you do like this work, vote for us in the BT DMA Awards People's Choice blog category via the icon on the right hand side. Let's see if we can beat last year's 34th place finish...together.


    Photos, the latter part of the general Summer Sundae STN set (caveat: our camera is useless in darkened conditions, so a lot of what we wrote about isn't represented)

    It's all good: Summer Sundae Sunday review

    Day three begins with the locals. We'd always had festival perennials Pacific Ocean Fire down as dusty Americana mainstays, but live they're a louder, more scuffed-up proposition, reminiscent of briefly hyped but long lost indie alt-country crossovers Lowgold with hints of Calexico, Sparklehorse and Modest Mouse, joined on two songs by Liam from now defunct rodeo sweethearts The Have Nots and for their final song by a small child carrying maracas who suffered an unfortunate bout of stagefright not even his mother could help him out of. Andy Bell is a professed fan of London's The Lea Shores and so he should be as they're much like Ride, mixed with another band Bell has recently played live with, their former touring partners the Brian Jonestown Massacre. A decent, and decently hirsute, frontman marks them out but it's difficult to really mark them out what with all the nu-shoegaze stuff going on. Toy Heroes have meanwhile got green T-shirts with cartoon characters' names on, which is actually just about all that's memorable about their standard power-pop.

    Vetiver are pretty standard as well for what they do, especially emerging from the Newsom/Banhart freak-folk brigade (leader Andy Cabic is Banhart's musical right hand man), but their country blues-folk is just right for the weather, which has gone all clammy again after early light showers. In fact there's hardly anyone standing up even though the gardens are packed as Cabic's fingerpicking plays off the aspirant Flying Burrito Brothers meets Vashti Bunyan nature of this most delicate of sons of California Americana.

    The band on next in the Rising tent are neither delicate nor easy to sit down to. When The Strange Death Of Liberal England came up with their USP of replacing audience banter with placards, we wonder if they ever thought they'd be fielding requests for them. Adam Woolway's accusatorial, quasi-sloganeering vocal style may be their Marmite, but his yelping calls to arms befit the stridency of their work, starting somewhere near fellow wild-eyed historical referencers British Sea Power, progressing through Arcade Fire's apocalyptic choral shouting and terminating at Montreal's post-rock home Constellation Records. They've found a way to never let the energy sap even when everyone's instrument swapping - four of the five have a go behind the drumkit - and create a hell of a controlled racket that marks them out as potentially triumphing where many, most prominently Hope Of The States, didn't quite manage to balance post-rock with vocals. At the end, as Woolway takes his guitar pedals to task, two members smash the hell out of the drums before one of them flings a stick arrow-like into the crowd, missing our camera by literally an inch. It's called making an impression.

    Although the conditions seemed right for it Cherry Ghost's laid-back anthemic pop just doesn't fit snugly, the country-rock ambitions crushed under the weight of Springsteenian guitars. Much less resistable in the clement condition is a bit of old school rocksteady, and so it comes to pass that El Pussycat Ska more than pack out the Rising tent with plenty of joyous bluebeat, crowd participation, uplift and an actual conga line or two during Enjoy Yourself. Nobody was likely to form a conga line during Koop's set, as their modernist electronically enhanced jazz of previous albums has been transposed for Blue Note-quoting 1930s swing, vibes solos and the air of exotic dinner jazz meets Acid Jazz. And there's your kicker - for all the sophistication, it's notable and never easy to shift from your mind listening to this that Rob from Galliano is on their new album.

    Spoon are playing two UK shows to support their Billboard top ten album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, one a sold out London Forum gig, the other here. This, then, is the sort of thing that makes Summer Sundae worthwhile year after year. There's precious little messing about here, one Motown-influenced keyboard-heavy punchy power indiepop hit-in-an-ideal-world after another in a way we apparently can't do in Britain without some higher calling towards 'raucousness' (oh yeah, the Pigeon Detectives played on this day too. We won't be mentioning them.) It doesn't quite find its groove until a roaring Don't Make Me A Target, but the album's highs are propulsively reproduced throughout alongside back catalogue favourites (The Way We Get By, I Turn My Camera On) and a lot of indieboy posturing by Britt Daniel. The only downside of watching their masterclass in this stuff was we had to miss Fujiya & Miyagi, although there was just enough time to see them finish up Ankle Injuries in a Kraftwerk/Krautrock style as someone who'd purloined one of TSDOLE's banners held up the reverse side, on which they'd written 'Get Your Owl Out'. It was turning into one of those festival days.

    Every day is one of those days, you feel, for Gruff Rhys, tonight in his live habitat of a giant cardboard Hitachi-style television set sat behind a desk with the origami figure from the cover of his Candylion solo album in the middle of a similarly large test card behind him. It's from here that he starts the set by building up a series of loops of vocal, guitar, vocal effects, percussion and all sorts of odd toys and gizmos, doing it again with even more to play with two songs later on Cycle Of Violence, ending in Rhys screaming into the mike several times and looping those as well. Around and in between Gruff and album sidewoman Lisa Jen plus occasional backing band tease out the folk and tropicalia elements from the psych-pop adventure of Candylion before it all goes nuts again as Rhys and Jen take to airline seats, Skylon!, already a fourteen minute epic tale on record, stretched and filled even further with even more musicians, a keyboard that lights up, Rhys in a air captain's hat and, of all people, Spacemen 3's Sonic Boom quietly turning up on Atari-style extra effects. Nobody quite knows what to make of it except to applaud wildly.

    This year's recipient of the already tradition Sunday night veterans slot is Echo & The Bunnymen, not only a band who come with their own vocal support but one who, on recent evidence, have finally realised that it's the classics people are here to see rather than much from since Nothing Lasts Forever. Time, though, is clearly not doing a great job on the two remaining original members, Will Sergent all over the mix - the epochal riff of The Cutter lost somewhere in transit - and looking like a binman while Ian McCulloch's vocals have lost much of the power and subtlety of what they used to be, even ten years ago. The 1981-87 catalogue is raided liberally and Nothing Lasts Forever is segued into a ice-cool take on Walk On The Wild Side, and despite already running over they get a one song encore, but it doesn't totally convince. In the hall Steven Adams of Cambridge's own The Broken Family Band, a man who not long ago penned a tribute to Radio 4's Today programme (21 minutes in) is the opposite of McCulloch's doleful presence, self-deprecating and not a little tetchy taking on a heckler. Musically his band have moved on from their Americana roots and now resemble Yankee Hotel Foxtrot-era Wilco if they'd first read through Our Band Could Be Your Life, refracted through Pavement, Mission Of Burma and Smog, and come across more raucous and lively then their recorded output suggests. Leicestershire's own blues guitar hero Aynsley Lister might want to take notes, even his Purple Rain cover dissolving into Claptonish extended fretwankery. How unlike Prince himself, eh?

    At 10pm we did a quick recce of the four stages, all of which simultaneously had something on for the first and last time all weekend. Duke Special indoors was half full, Chuck Prophet in Musician had about half that, while the main stage headlining Spiritualized Acoustic Mainline show had the lowest turnout for an outdoor headliner we can remember. Everyone else was packing out and around the Rising tent to see Seasick Steve, even his guitar changes getting cheers. We'll come back to him in a moment, but apart from his sheer magnetism the best reason we could see for why Spiritualized were losing people was that basically it's not a set made for a big open air festival stage after dark. Touring successfully last year around 400 seat venues, Jason Pierce and keyboardist Doggen face each other side on, with a string quartet and three piece gospel choir behind, to perform songs by Spiritualized, Spacemen 3 (so presumably him and Pete Kember get on a bit better now) and Daniel Johnston's True Love Will Find You In The End. While Pierce's love-as-loss-as-religious epiphany-as-personification of heroin lyrics remain oddly touching, the arrangements here are in danger of drifting off into the night sky or just were always meant to be electrified, while what should have been showstoppers, especially Stop Your Crying and Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space's blending with Can't Help Falling In Love, suffer from a mix that tends to mask the full impact. If he'd brought the full band and one of their famed light shows, especially with a new album on the way, we'd still be talking about it in August 2008, but as it is it's a chance missed due to circumstance.

    Stopping by to see a couple of songs by Chuck Prophet, an idiosyncratic and much underrated storyteller who told of one song being about the horror of moving back in with his parents, we closed our weekend by braving that Rising throng. There's always been an element of suspicion about the sudden rise to prominence of the former Steven Wold, playing his second set of the day, in that his hobo origins and original bluesman credentials are constantly played up, leaving out of official press releases that he also ran his own studio in Olympia, Washington for a few years before relocating to Scandinavia, producing Modest Mouse's acclaimed 1996 album This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About and working alongside Calvin Johnson's assorted pet projects. The history of popular music has always been about personal historical subterfuge, though, so it barely matters, especially as Steve clearly has what used to be called "the chops", belting out the rawest, most energetic virtuoso blues whether playing with six, three or one string(s) and keeping the packed tent hanging on his every move and story. Just like solo performers should do.

    Odd, isn't it. A weekend that started with hot new Garageband-aided Myspace talent Kate Nash ended with authenic blues grizzled veteran Seasick Steve. What a strange and wonderful thing music is in 2007, and indeed what a great thing Summer Sundae continues to deliver.

    Tuesday, August 14, 2007

    This thing is on: Summer Sundae Saturday review

    Despite reviewing the Displacements not two days previously at the festival warm-up show, where we relatively unfairly accused them of being just another View, it's only just occurred to us on seeing half their set again who they actually remind us of - nobody so much as Honeycrack, the post-Wildhearts Chris Evans-admired harmony-laden power pop outfit who had a couple of top 40 singles in 1996. All the same there's something very modern attitudinal Indie about them, and maybe a little of the new bracketing we're calling New Mod, which we'll expand on when we've thought of more than two other bands in its style. One certainly isn't The Falling Leaves, who sound more like a cross between Thirteen Senses and the Electric Soft Parade in their hitmaking days and bugger all like the "tremelo-gazed guitar...and an acid house backbeat" promised in the programme. In a surprisingly early Musician Stage set for her North American profile, Canadian Jill Barber's sumptuously crafted country folk is reminiscent of Lucinda Williams crossed with Martha Wainwright.

    What this spectacularly warm afternoon, a rarity for a Summer Sundae Saturday, really needs is something to dance to and get people going for a festival second day, and pompadoured teens Kitty, Daisy & Lewis have it in spades. Starting with Kitty and Daisy acapella, what follows is half an hour of skilled multi-instrumentation, songs both standards and what sounds like standards and most of all songs both performed and inherently containing bagfuls of rockabilly, rhythm & blues, early rock'n'roll, supercharged C&W and swing energy. Daisy's beatbox solo in Blue Moon Of Kentucky seems completely out of place but superbly so (as, actually, does seeing her at the bar a bit later on. It's alright, she's 18.) With the Queens Of Noize jiving away front of stage left and both Stodarts from the Magic Numbers visible at the back of the stage cheering on it's just what the day needed and a lot of people visibly concur.

    Wonders of a very different kind, and much less hoedownable, are going on indoors through Jeremy Warmsley, who opens solo with an acoustic slight reworking of 5 Verses. Bereft of the electronic trickery that permeates most of the best moments on The Art Of Fiction, the quality of the songwriting shines through, as does the often non-linear construction that's always marked Warmsley's work out for us. Segueing I Believe In The Way You Move into Dirty Blue Jeans would be good enough to end most people's festival sets, but Warmsley then immediately takes it back down with a piano duet alongside Tom Rogerson on I Knew Her Face Was A Lie. The highlight of the whole set might have been at the end, though, with Crane Flies, the third of the new songs played (one of which sounds like Hefner, which there's absolutely nothing wrong with, we hasten to add) which is mostly based around the same sort of delicate but intricate piano-led part but swoops and builds majestically and already sounds like a song to build the under construction second album around, doing his reputation round these parts as one of this country's very best no harm at all.

    See, this is scheduling - the intimate storytellers outside, the dance bands outside in the sunshine. All-star 'skazz' fusionists Jazz Jamaica recognise that most of the original rocksteady pioneers turned standards into ska/reggae big band floorfillers, with extended takes on The Liquidator and the James Bond theme before bringing on veteran lover's rock vocalist Myrna Hague for the latter part of the set, including a My Boy Lollipop that got most of the field moving. Inside, a very different type of guest vocal performance was going on - Cud's Carl Puttnam had been called away as his wife gave birth on Saturday morning but his bandmates ploughed on in his absence, pulling a number of blokes and a couple of women (plus a child) out of the audience to fill in with the aid of lyric sheets. A litany of amateur night dancing, Puttnam impressions of various levels and a general camerarderie followed, the show very much triumphing over its actual vocal quality.

    zZz didn't get going for quite a while as far as we could tell and when they did it was hard to tell, or at least hard to see what they did that Suicide haven't. Maps also had some technical issues to start with and never seemed to quite get going, which was a shame as we were hoping this would be the set which would tip our ambivalence towards James Chapman's Mercury-nominated album one way or the other yet didn't manage either in the end, the electro washed nu-shoegaze never quite clicking and coming over quite Curve-like, or to be more exact shades of Joy Zipper and M83. One band that do come across better in this setting than records suggest are Wild Beasts, clearly of a post-punk revival bent but taking the limber, fractured funk of Orange Juice and their Postcard Records bretheren and adding touches of soul and avant-jazz rhythms and, most pertinently, Hayden Thorpe's extraordinary vocal style, akin to Billy Mackenzie in the process of his voice breaking. Former single Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants (right) gets people properly moving.

    Are you a Rumble Strips fan who was at this festival? Did you think it'd be hilarious to chuck half a pint of lager over your mate and never mind that other bloke standing behind him? You are? Fuck off and die.

    Moving to the other side of the stage, we note again, as we did when we saw them support the Maccabees, how good old fashioned non-stop touring has helped The Rumble Strips build a huge fervent fanbase. That they sound not dissimilar to a well known Brummie mod-soul outfit of yore is well documented, right down to the newly wallet-less Charlie Waller's soul-punk lung-filling exhortations, but it's not all they can pull off, reflective at times of the energy of original rock'n'roll and new single Girls And Boys In Love based on a very new wave piano hook. It's not building great monuments to newness, but it'll more than do in the current climate.

    Martha Wainwright, returning after family problems forced a late cancellation last year, isn't carving a new furrow either, but then she barely needs to. Performing solo acoustically and endearingly bantering with overexcited fans between songs she still manages to project her songs of bitter experience and experienced bitterness to the back of the hall, her powerful voice laced with both sweetness and salty tastes, the raw emotion at its core drawing pretty much everyone in. Outside just afterwards, a very different kind of chanteuse, and while Sophie Ellis-Bextor's announcement, it's fair to say, split the advance audience it's visible that what starts out as a well-refreshed crowd going for it regardless is, if not totally won over, then certainly a lot less cynical then they previously were. For the band's local radio roadshow trappings (a pre-recorded doubletracked vocal raised eyebrows, although Sophie was clearly singing live) she's a proper performer, who's been doing this elegantly for years and still finds time to remark on how having a fish and chip stand in her line of vision is putting her off.

    That fairly unexpected triumph unfortunately means that the partly overlapping Low never really get more than half a hall full, and most of those not in the mood to cater for their famed minimalist slowcore. Their loss, frankly, as the beguiling, emotional pull of the songs bears the strain of picking out what's happening. The bleakness of Drums And Guns takes more of a lead role than the distorted, serrated edge that's crept into their last couple of albums. (That's How You Sing) Amazing Grace is a triumph that instantly quietens even the people at the back, while, while Alan Sparhawk screaming into his guitar pickup at the end of Pissing fair chilled the blood. Inevitably some of the intimacy that makes their approach work best was lost in this situation, but it wasn't for the want of trying. By the time they finished Simple Kid was still in his headlining spot in the Rising tent, and he's taking his Beckish hip hop/60s pop through a laptop meld literally, projecting images from it onto the back screen, whether it be the words to Ballad Of Elton John, the actual software loop display of Truck On or, impressively, a visual aid to his rendition of The Average Man to the tune of Black Sabbath's Paranoid.

    Guy Garvey, doing today's main stage announcements, pay tribute to Tony Wilson by telling of the time they met which inevitably ended Wilson calling his fawning "bollocks", introduces main stage headliners the Magic Numbers, but we're off to see the indoor headliners instead, because laidback harmony-laden summer anthems are all well and good, but there's one of the best live bands in the world on indoors. That'll be !!!, quite possibly the last band still flying the flag for New York disco-punk-funk and doing it in the quickest and most effective way possible - much percussion (four at once at stages), scratchy guitar, floor-burrowing bass and an unstoppable ringmaster. Nic Offer is all over the place, manaically convulsing and flailing around the stage, performing frankly lewd movements at the lip of the stage, flinging the mike about while keeping the songs together with his not quite singing, joined for half the set by almost as lively soul-voiced female foil Shannon Funchess. Just as they're enjoying themselves sweatily up there, so is everybody downstairs, a searing mass of dancing, moshing, generally completely out of it and of the moment bodies, eventually leading Offer to admit "I like you guys!" Many times better than their recorded output, packed as full as humanly possible with kinetic energy and unstoppable beats with barely a pause in between, certainly nothing you'd call a let-up, the only real complaint was the lack of an encore or Me And Giuliani Down By The Schoolyard or Hello? Is This Thing On? from previous album Louden Up Now, !!! live is an incredible experience, maybe even living up to the programme's "finest live band on the planet" second hand quote. A lot of people, ourselves included, must have feeling horribly sore the next morning. And even then the day had one surprise left - back out in the open air not only were The Magic Numbers still on, but they were rockabillying up with Kitty Daisy & Lewis for their last song, flanked by the enormous inflatable/model versions of their Pete Fowler cartoon likenesses.

    And the Sunday had to follow all that.

    Monday, August 13, 2007

    Something for the Weekender: Summer Sundae Friday review

    Actually, before we start this properly, a friend of a friend was in the cocktail bar (yes, outsiders, there's a proper cocktail bar, and it was adjoined to the real ale tent) on Friday night, he told us later, and one of the barmen apparently asked if he knew us and gave him a free shot for it. Now, while we knew people there none of them to our knowledge was working in any capacity at the festival. Was this you? Let us know, because as we'd never properly met this acquaintance face to face before we're completely baffled.

    So. Truth be told, there had been some concern heading into the eighth, and our fourth, Summer Sundae Weekender. With its ever growing reputation and critical acclaim for its consistently varied bill 2007 had a high bar set and on paper, despite some corking and clever bookings, it looked underwhelming in context, still a couple away from a befittingly special occasion. Rose tinted glasses and all that, yes, and at least everybody headlining was above Gomez's level, but a lot of people thought there was a spark missing somewhere, whether through festival competition or the air the area still has of being out the back of musical beyond. And following the strength of the previous Sunday headliners - Belle & Sebastian, Patti Smith, Air, the Emmylou/Baez/Hynde/Bragg/Earle Campaign For A Landmine Free World spectacular, there was some doubt in many quarters whether the headliners could carry off headlining a 6,000 capacity festival. Throw in the five pullouts in the last month, including the Hold Steady and Two Gallants, and things didn't bode as well as could be.

    Still, proof in the pudding and that.

    After checking our bearings, the first band we saw any of was Palladium, a band who, god have mercy on us all, work the post-ironic angle for all it's worth in white jeans, wifebeaters and visors playing what must have started out in the rehearsal room as attempting to make proper early 80s pop the way nobody does any more but got sidetracked down the alley in which lies Tango In The Night Fleetwood Mac and Daryl Hall T-shirts, 'yacht rock' as a not particularly successful Guilty Pleasures-style attempt at rebranding briefly had it not long ago. We had this all with Zoot Woman and that didn't work either. They had branded earrings to give away. Cheers, everyone.

    If Summer Sundae has made a habit of one thing, it's booking artists when they're just starting to make a noise for themselves which means that by the time they're playing low down the bill they're enormous. Following Keane, Kasabian, Editors and James Morrison comes Kate Nash, in front of a massive and well up for it audience, brandishing a teapot and herbal tea to combat some sort of ill effect. Problem is, there's already so much baggage to Nash's name that it's hard not to see critical review dissolve in a welter of scene references and monomanaically repeated biographical detail (broke her foot, you say?) So, what is she like? Many of her songs betray a curious musical/cabaret structure, much like some of the much namedropped by her Regina Spektor and certainly some distance from that other young 'realistic' female singer-songwriter. She's not quite at ease on the big stage yet but she's appeallingly surprised at the realisation that that's her songs that people now sing along to every word of. Ultimately, though, the problem lies in much the same sphere as our issue with her work to date - she's been harried along by an overeager UK record industry and, eighteen months after her first show, while there's a kernel of something there it's not going to be given much room to develop. Still, there are worse ways to spend a warm afternoon at a festival.

    And there are much worse ways to spend a warm afternoon in a boiling Musician Stage tent than locals The Dirty Backbeats. The Mark Lamarr favourites look like three bands compressed into one and sound like about six, to be precise the Sonics, the Magic Band, Tom Waits, the Doors, Love and the Cramps. All that injected with several bucketfulls of energy goes into making their uniquely riotous psychedelic circus mutant blues sound, all sudden switches and tightly coiled rockouts, yet what makes them such a live spectacle is frontman Grant, entering the stage in a fox mask and unable to go a second without some sort of twitch, gesticulation, gurn or jump, hanging from the PA and stage structure and heading deep into the full tent on a couple of occasions. This is the third time we've seen them and they keep getting better and better, but the array of stunned faces exiting the tent and making directly for the merch tent told its own story.

    Three years after their former band The Beta Band chose Summer Sundae for their final festival The Aliens had an inherent problem of being foremost a studio project and not quite working out how to transfer that sound organically, the harmonic psychedelia being better than reputation suggested but still not working all that well. By contrast, a healthy crowd including Kate Nash were in Musician for someone who doesn't need any studio trickery or backing. As well as looking exactly the same as he did in his punk poet heyday, John Cooper Clarke is equally a one-liner stand-up as poet these days, pulling routines about Burnley and media studies seemingly out of thin air as extended punctuation to the likes of Johnny Clarke's Haiku Number One ("to convey one's mood in seventeen syllables is very diffic") The digressions last so long that he ends up in competition with the Concretes on the main stage, yet he still turns it to his advantage by singing Who Loves The Sun to the tune of their opener and attempting to get some community singing going before climaxing with both Beasley Street and the souped up post-regeneration version Beasley Boulevard. Definite mastery at work, however he looks.

    As for The Concretes their newly reformatted line-up is missing a member as it is and appear underpar, seemingly now content to labour in the slipstream of near musical neighbours Camera Obscura with not a lot of their most recognisable songs in the set. Lisa Millberg still hasn't quite got the hang of the icy frontwoman business, and when she semi-apologises for Victoria Bergsman's absence it seems more apology than explanation. Inside the hall Candie Payne takes more assertive inspiration from the 1960s girl singers, in beret and short skirt every inch the ye-ye girl, but these well crafted songs suffer from being taken out of their intricate studio setting - not that Payne's voice is at all bad, but it necessarily misses the close-miked heartfeltness and the recorded post-Portishead flourishes sound more akin to Britbeat or commercial psychedelia. Quietly impressive for all that, though.

    What's in a name? When we passed The Buoys earlier there were fifteen people in the Rising tent; Modified Toy Orchestra fill it without breaking sweat. And they're just what it says on the tin, five besuited not entirely young men with rewired kiddie keyboards and discarded electronic toys making a curious form of madly organic early Hot Chip-like electro with odd warped noises therein. There was no way they could have finished other than to cover Kraftwerk's Pocket Calculator.

    While DJ Yoda fitfully entertained inside, getting the whole floor jumping to Dizzee Rascal/Dolly Parton segues, the grandiose outdoor finish to the day came from the current nine piece version of The Divine Comedy, Neil Hannon still carrying a louche debonair air and self-deprecating between songs even if he has started growing facial hair again, never a good sign as those who remember his beard phase circa 2001 will know. A slightly disjointed setlist draws quite a few tracks from their ninth, largely ignored by the world at large last album Victory For The Comic Muse while reaching as far back as Your Daddy's Car and Lucy from debut Liberation, not forgetting the big hits, National Express second out. A few technical hitches got in the way, but what stopped it from being an outright success was an air that this was a set for the hardcore rather than the festival casuals (no Pop Singer's Fear Of The Pollen Count?), even if they go to show the constantly ticking brain behind the lyrical expertise, Don't Look Down and Tonight We Fly closing the main part of the set very well while belying their origins on 1994's Promenade, while closing on the personal reminiscence turning into a huge sounding Sunrise was entirely fitting. Day one over, and with fears gradually dispelling we could only look forward.

    Sunday, August 12, 2007

    Factory closure

    The poster tagline for 24 Hour Party People, under pictures of the film depictions of Ian Curtis, Shaun Ryder and Tony Wilson respectively, read 'Genius. Poet. Twat.' According to Wilson, the original poster labelled him 'Prat', but he decreed that they should go for the full version.

    Anthony Harold Wilson, cantankerous git, serendipitous impresario, royalties drain, light relief local news reporter and ceaseless Mancunian flagwaver, has died. We hope the wake is assigned FAC 521 as befits catalogue number order. We're officially away festivalling, but not so far to be away from an internet connection, so here's a quick YouTube session of the man and his assorted works:

    * Starting at the end: a News 24 tribute, slightly different same and the Newsnight round table on his legacy with Paul Morley (who pays seperate tribute in the Observer), Richard Madeley, Stephen Morris and Peter Saville (part 1, part 2). Even in these circumstances there may be nothing more bizarre than Richard Madeley discussing Joy Division.

    * A proud Manc to the last, he took a televised wander round Hulme to discuss Factory in 1988, which although we're not entirely sure must be about the same time he interviewed Sonic Youth. We'll cover Factory more in the next Weekender.

    * He celebratedly remained a local news man, defecting briefly to the Beeb last year but a Granada man at some point throughout the last four decades. Here he is bringing Frank Sidebottom to the region in 1985, leaving the task of actually introducing him to Richard Madeley, although note Wilson dropping about a sizeable a hint as possible as to it being a Chris Sievey project at the end. Tony and Frank retained a healthy working relationship, as proved by this clip of Channel 4 quiz show Remote Control from 1991.

    * Five years ago to coincide with 24 Hour Party People Granada put out That Tony Wilson, an hour-long documentary that gave his life a localised slant, including this summation of his musical television work. On the same film subject, he showed up at the Cannes premiere press conference alongside all sorts of connected reprobates. Dubbed into French, unfortunately.

    * He kept himself busy long after his diagnosis, organising June's New York leg of In The City, associate producing the Ian Curtis film Control and holding court at a digital rights conference. That was mostly why he was at Coachella in April, although he also found time to introduce the Happy Mondays onstage. He continued presenting the BBC North West Politics Show opt-out into May, even if he was sometimes forgetful, and made his last known television appearance on North West Tonight in July discussing the problems funding the drug that could have prolonged his life.

    Thursday, August 09, 2007

    Simon - de Montfort

    All this time and that title had never occured to us before.

    So we're off for the next few days to Summer Sundae festival almost just down the road, as previewed on Corporate Anthems over the past three days, and preceded by a Fringe Festival Warm-Up show we'll be reporting back from in the other places we report back to. Don't forget, should you see us in the area come up to us and say "you are Kolly Kibber and I claim my five pounds". You might like to catch up with our reports back from De Montfort Hall and Gardens from 2005 (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) and 2006 (Friday, Saturday, Sunday). Who knows what'll happen, although it's fair to say little will be as chaotically magnificent as British Sea Power's Ursine Ultra-aided go at traditional set closer Rock In A two years ago:

    This means the weekend business is put on hold again, but if you can't live without knowing what's out on Monday 13th here's a quick look. Necessarily quick because the record labels of the nation have obligingly arranged for next to bugger all of interest to be released. Seriously, BPI, you didn't have to. Only two new long players are really worth your time, the better being the debut by Monster Bobby, a "musical activist" of the Brighton scene whose club nights and promotions helped launch many a local band into the indie stratosphere (including the aforementioned BSP) before deciding he might as well have a go himself and instigating the Pipettes, who are conspicuously not mentioned in any of the official press (although Hugh from the Kooks' delightful description of him as "a bit of a spazzer" is) for Gaps, which resembles the sort of overloaded offbeat yearnsome electropop that might occur should the Field Mice/Trembling Blue Stars' Bob Wratten have an album produced by Delia Derbyshire. See what we mean from Spin's free mp3 giveaway of Beyond The Reach of Arms. If Bob Wratten and Isobel Campbell had got together they might have sounded like Monkey Swallows The Universe's The Casket Letters, wherein the occasional Long Blondes, Camera Obscura and Richard Hawley support make like lyrically twisted, further minded elder siblings of Sarah Records refugees. Definitely one for the Obscuraites. Singles? Again, slim pickings, including weaker than usual comebacks for Super Furry Animals (Show Your Hand) and Rilo Kiley (The Moneymaker) and Kanye West's latest grower Stronger, but mostly a limited edition 7" debut from The Hatcham Social, the Tim Burgess-produced Till The Dawn/Penelope sounding like C86 Primal Scream on Postcard Records with the tweeness surgically removed.