Sunday, February 24, 2008

Weekender : send us stationery to make us horny

- We can't avoid this thorny issue any longer. It's been the one constant throughout the last year and three quarters of our little dog and pony show of a music blog, the one thing that has been namechecked, analysed and wept over more often than anything else, a band by the name of Los Campesinos! Do a Google site search for STN plus LC! and you get 99 hits. We were there virtually at the start, noted down from the speculative post on Drowned In Sound's message boards with which Tom Campesinos! hesitantly brought the band to a wider audience. "They're a band many will grow to adore", we accurately predicted. We also wrote they reminded us a little of Les Incompetents and the largely obscure Khaya, which was less accurate. We got Tom and Gareth to provide some cultural backstory, we mentioned them on The Weekly Sweep far more than anyone else and we greeted each passing single with levels of assumed infallibility that would make the Catholic church give up on the spot. Along the way we learned Gareth Campesinos!' favourite album of all time is At The Club, he owns more Xiu Xiu T-shirts than Jamie Stewart has ever brainstormed and his views on the potency or otherwise of commercial indie rock is, shall we say, somewhat trenchant. Clearly, this is not the sort of band who are going to hand themselves over without a struggle to T4. Indeed, as unpopular writer Kieron Gillen, who **SPOILER** gives the band a reference in the launching in the second half of the year if all goes well Phonogram II **SPOILER OVER** once put it to us, "did we dream up Los Campesinos! when we were drunk or something?" And now, an album, Hold On Now, Youngster... by name, and it was never likely to be anything less than an unapologetically wonderous purest sucrose rush of American lo-fi guitars, rushing glockenspiels, male-female interchanges, pop culture lyrical references, sarcasm, heartache and secret irony. Lest it be overlooked this, what with the Fieldingfication of "four sweaty boys with guitars" elsewhere, is not a record aimed at the mainstream in any way - never mind Whiley, Zane Lowe doesn't play them, and of the broadsheet Friday sections only the Guardian reviewed it. And they, like Pitchfork, tellingly thought the clearly Conor McNicholas-baiting first lines in And We Exhale And Roll Our Eyes In Unison ("It's bad enough you ever used the word as an adjective/But to suggest we do it in heels is really quite crass") are about sex. And the Guardian reviewer thinks International Tweexcore Underground is on the album, so sod him. No, Los Campesinos! are so cherishable because they are the anti-Joe Lean, no frontloaded commercial potential and plenty of 'you could do this too' vim that, while aware of popism, swerves the mainstream and catches the unwary (an indie record gets 9/10 off Dom Passantino? Are these the end times?) If you're of a similar mindset to us, and we're a broader church than it seems so we can accept such, LC! are our band, much like, well, Kenickie were eleven years ago. And who's to say that the album of 2019 won't be helmed by someone who feels no shame in declaring they were initially inspired by Hold On Now, Youngster...?

- While we're on an indie snobbishness tip, it may be explicable with their only recently gained NME profile but in these days of Wikipedia you can't get away with handing Les Savy Fav records to people who have no knowledge of their backstory. Comparing a record made by Americans in 2004 to the Young Knives and Ned's Atomic Dustbin is the very definition of wilful hubris. A seven inch ekes out in the wake of their NME-sponsored London Astoria gig with both LC! and Future Of The Left - when did we become big London venue bookers? - matching Let's Stay Friends' Patty Lee to the soon reissued Inches' The Sweat Descends. Unlike Tim Harrington, there's not an ounce of fat about it. Also in the singles pile, Vampire Weekend's A-Punk and XX Teens' Fox News-quoting How To Reduce Chances Of Being A Terror Victim.

- Imagine a singer-songwriter who specialises in jazzy piano-led heartfelt ballads, latterly souped up with orchestral arrangements. Moving into his mid-thirties, he moves to a major label, takes a side job as a film scorer and gets married. What would you imagine his next album would sound like? Well, obtusely wildly experimental gutter blues featuring surreal vignettes sung in an ultragravelly voice, with little in the way of categorisability or even roots beyond nods to Beefheart and Dr John, obviously. That's if the singer in question is Tom Waits, whose Swordfishtrombones joins the 33 1/3 ranks.

- We think we've seen off the Will Young fans by now, so let's move even further into cult realms. Dean Wareham will never receive the same level of critical acclaim as Waits, but through the atmospheric haze of Galaxie 500, the gauze dreampop of Luna and the kittenish Lee'n'Nancy of Dean & Britta he's attracted a substantial following. Black Postcards: A Rock & Roll Romance offers his history in both personal and cultural terms.

COMING SOON: Tapes 'N Tapes kind of got left behind fairly quickly, an example as to what can befall a band picked up early and pushed too far for that period by the bloggers seeking out the next big thing regardless of how good the actual record is. They've gone the Dave Fridmann route for second album Walk It Off, released 7th April and preceded by a single they've thoughtfully already stuck up for free download. Despite an audible Fridmann influence Hang Them All doesn't sound that different in structure, essentially sounding like a more post-punk version of The Loon's high points. Still, if that's what you like.

MYSPACE INVADERS: There's a bit of a thing for vocal post-rock going about at the moment - Grammatics, Kyte, Shady Bard, I Concur - and making a blindside run through the pack are Leeds' Vessels. In fact their year zero seems to be more Kid A and () in the way they mix up the noise and distortion structures with piano, beats, slow burn and assorted yearning and desolation. They're playing the Notting Hill Arts Club free afternoon RoTa event on 5th April supporting the mighty Broken Records, and you won't be able to move for A&Rs.

VISUAL AID: More for nostalgia's sake than anything, this week we alight on a three part debate on Central's old shouting shop Central Weekend Live about the dangers of rave culture and what became the Criminal Justice Bill 1994, which we highlight to the day-glo kids as this is how people on both sides of the argument used to talk.

* Quick stuff this week. Adam Gnade suggests music to write books to;

* DJ Food expansion mixes his celebrated history of cut-ups Raiding The 20th Century with Paul Morley reading from Words & Music;

* For those disappointed by BBC4's Caledonia Dreaming documentary, particularly how it spent a long time chasing the pointless cause of 'blue eyed soul', doesn't this look promising?

* And who could go wrong with some Barron Knights in their lives? Indeed, the ability for the worldwide community to watch Merry Gentle Pops must have been what Steve Chen and Chad Hurley had in mind when they legged it down the patent office.


Anonymous said...

Caledonia Dreaming was the biggest load of toss on telly on Friday night and that is saying something. This program was obviously made by people who grew up outside of Scotland. The Fannies were responsible for a lot of things but not Nirvana. Did the Jesus and Mary Chain come from East Kilbride or did I just dream that?
As someone who grew up in Lanarkshire during the '80's i never saw fuckin Pat "Armani Socialist" Kane outside Ravenscraig during the miners strike or at a CND demo at Faslane but i did see the Pastels play CND demos.
Still seething and it's sunday evening.

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