Sunday, March 23, 2008

Weekender : got offered a Steve Winwood interview this week

- If you pay more attention than we do to our collected opinion, you'll know we have much love for early 80s pop, kind of what has become known as New Pop but expanding its reach to the general air at the time that with punk's ideals learnt and improved and the style press not caring about anything that didn't happen in two or three London clubs the possibilities seemed endless. Our problem with a lot of this 80s Revival hype package is that those involved have always zeroed in, most likely in a post-ironic sense, on one aspect of the time at the expense of celebrating the liberation that actually made those bands what they were, which is where you get idiocy like Chromeo from. Maybe in retrospect the Mystery Jets' Making Dens reflected as much from that as they did from the prog pinpoints that littered its press, but 21 is where the connection becomes explicit. You'll hear in here the Associates' synth dramas, Squeeze's structures and kitchen sink concerns, Japan's stripping down of melody, uncoiled bass-driven pop imported from The Sound Of Young Scotland, ABC's modernism and on Two Doors Down a proper sax solo. Alright, maybe that last one isn't so welcome, but the point is that with all this absorbed it still finds a way to sound like a 2008 off-kilter indiepop band, doubtless with Erol Alkan's guidance, rather than a wholly retro exercise. Wonder what Paul Morley thinks of it.

- You can see why people dislike Foals. There's the hype, for a start, coming for a band whose quoting of Afrobeat and Steve Reich doesn't tend to square with a lot of those who court the press. Then there's Yannis Phillipakis' baiting of scenesters, claims not to know how to play a straightforward open E chord (which might explain why the acoustic sessions they've done for BBC radio have been rotten) and that cameo in the special Skins edition. And then there's a lot of what's claimed around them ("one of the most astonishingly original records of the past decade" - Independent). So what is Antidotes if not the record that's going to change the face of all music forever? Well, it's a curious beast - it likes to dance with its shifting dancepunk organic DFA beats and early 80s A Certain Ratio percussiveness, but it's capable of going for long atmospheric walks to stretch its math-rock legs, although calling this math really bears about as much core similarity to Kinsellacore as rave does to scrappy guitar bands with a synth. Basically, Antidotes is how The Rapture should have turned out and is all the better for it.

- Guillemots' Through The Window Pane was our number two album of 2006, a slow working entreaty of cracked balladry and jazzpop triumph through adversity. What came through is that Fyfe Dangerfield, who had previously been equally at home with writing choral mini-concertos and "Cure-meets-Manics" (label description) rock for a Fierce Panda EP, is no dilettante. The accepted line on Red is that it's "all R&B", as though widening what was already quite a wide scope is automatically a bad thing. It's less carefully orchestrated and more about creating beats and steering electronics parallel to the Xenomania path, true, but Dangerfield still knows his way around both an enclosing ballad and a pop shape. You'll either discard it in a week or see it creep up the end of year list.

- Our album of the year for 2007 was Okkervil River's The Stage Names, and you've not stopped thanking us since. Not about The Stage Names, mind you, just generally so. The album before that made it into our 2005 top 20, Black Sheep Boy moving decisively away from their country folk-rock origins to open up its heart of dark glass with passion and careful craft while Will Sheff tells involved, rhythmic tales like people think Conor Oberst does. This release is the Definitive Edition, appending the original album with its Black Sheep Boy Appendix mini-album follow-up.

- When not alerting a newly won over public to back catalogue charms, reissues generally these days come for anniversaries. Beck's Odelay, the album that launched him from slacker one hit wonder to eclectic joker, celebrates its tenth birthday, albeit a year and a half late - maybe he had stuff to do - in a Deluxe package which for some reason re-edits and remixes a couple of the original tracks as well as the B-sides, remixes (Aphex Twin and UNKLE included) and previously unreleased songs plus Thurston Moore and Dave Eggers booklet contributions. Meanwhile, why do we need a Joy Division Best Of? Don't ask us, we're mere punters. We do know that there's a second disc of BBC sessions, though, in case Heart And Soul and The Complete BBC Sessions aren't on eBay.

- Zavvi may not believe in singles any more but we do, and two singles out this week believe in the political messaging nature of the single more than most. In the middle of a set of blogs about their South By South West experience - not, it's safe to say, slanted in the same way as MGMT's might be - Simon Indelicate describes his band's new single America as being about "the European left's willingness to find accommodation with religio-fascists as a consequence of their dogmatic anti-American position". Well, that and everything else it touches on about right-wing definition and societal nature. And all that in four and a bit minutes of low-budget bombast. Across the political spectrum we find M.I.A.'s base camp as best thing on Kala Paper Planes comes out about three months later than originally planned on 12". Maya? "Really the worst thing that anyone can say [to someone these days] is some shit like: ”What I wanna do is come and get your money.” People don’t really feel like immigrants or refugees contribute to culture in any way. That they’re just leeches that suck from whatever. So in the song I say all I wanna do is [sound of gun shooting and reloading, cash register opening] and take your money. I did it in sound effects. It’s up to you how you want to interpret. America is so obsessed with money, I’m sure they’ll get it." Right you are, then.

- Then again, you could just make a record to dance to. (Which you can to Paper Planes, but bear with us). Erol Alkan's other production clients of late are the Long Blondes, turning them into the hip-swivellers that was probably always going to be their destiny. In fact Century's Moroder Blondie dark disco is something of a red herring as to how "Couples" (the quotation marks are important, apparently) comes across, and the album version is far better at getting itself across than the single edit. Clinic also launch a new album with a 7", but being Clinic you pretty much know what The Witch (Made To Measure) sounds like already.

- With all the caveats that the phrase "narrated by Tim Lovejoy" bring, The Specials: Too Much, Too Young is an attempt to get down on film the legendary cross-cultural party of one of the great British bands of, well, the last thirty years, we say. All the videos, including those of the Special AKA era, plus actual documentary footage of two New York gigs of 1980, which gives away its origins - not even anything bought in from Dance Craze or the Specials Rock Goes To College which is floating about the etherweb?

COMING SOON: This biannual period's REM Return To Form is called Accelerate, and as a tie-in the band and Vincent Moon, the man behind the Take Away Shows, have launched an open source site named after the single Supernatural Superserious on which are twelve videos of the recording and arseing about processes for your own re-editing purposes; opening track Living Well is The Best Revenge uses more of the footage. Meanwhile, Stipe has an important announcement to make.

MYSPACE INVADERS: A slight apology required here, as the label arm of God Is In The TV sent us links to some Superman Revenge Squad mp3s a couple of weeks ago and we completely forgot to post them when we were last scouting for tracks to post, which is very wrong of us as we should have been talking this up long ago. If that name sounds like the name of an anti-folk and electronic inspired solo artist, you'd be nearly entirely right in that it's not electronic but it's very much one to one acoustic heart rending. What Croydonite Ben Park does have is a very smart, pop culture and cynicism referencing self-critically lyrical bent like a South London Jeffrey Lewis, although he claims greater influence from Will Oldham. Those mp3s? Oh, they're still there - this one's Idiot Food, this one Everyone's Dead. Yeah, the titles do kind of speak a lot for their content, although the acapella inserts on New Order's legacy and the shitness of Jack Kerouac respectively are nice surprises, as much as their content is 'nice'.

VISUAL AID: In the latest of our occasional series of Telly Music Shows From The Past, we alight on So It Goes, Tony Wilson's 1976-77 Granada TV series often credited with helping launch punk outside its London enclaves. And yes, it famously showcased the Sex Pistols first, and later the Fall, but at least in its first series you were equally likely to see the tail end of prog and what that strain led to - Kevin Ayers, Be Bop Deluxe and on the very same show as the Pistols someone called Gentlemen (see the comments for further information). Clive James contributed regular monologues to that first series, here disrespecting Charles Shaar Murray and interviewing Peter Cook to promote Derek & Clive. We've linked to this before but it's not got any less excellent, Ian Dury reading his poetry on the final show at Christmas '77.

* The estimable Matador Records are giving away their annual Intended Play label sampler for free this year, featuring spanking new Shearwater, Jay Reatard, Matmos and Jaguar Love (former Blood Brothers and Pretty Girls Make Graves members) plus Cat Power, Mission Of Burma, Stephen Malkmus, the New Pornographers, the Cave Singers, Times New Viking, Dead Meadow and 'others'.

* This Town Sounds is another of the growing number of blogs/sites that make a few phone calls and take a video camera to capture artists in performance and/or conversation. Currently available are the likes of Lightspeed Champion, Noah & The Whale, Laura Marling, Laura Groves, Vincent Vincent, Peggy Sue & The Pirates and Jay Jay Pistolet, with conversation pieces by Mystery Jets, Friendly Fires and so forth. Coming soon, they promise, is an even more stellar cast, if only from an STN perspective but then that's most important, including Los Campesinos!, British Sea Power, Black Kids, Those Dancing Days, Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit, Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip, Kid Harpoon, Operator Please, Youthmovies, Ipso Facto, Modernaire...

* Every so often we bring you an intriguingly pitched music documentary film, give a big long list of exciting contributors, breathlessly link to the trailer and then never hear of it again. What did become of that Joe Meek film? Better luck hopefully follows for We Dreamed America, a look at "the inspirations behind a new breed of British musicians, fascinated by the most American of genres, whilst examining the relationship and ongoing exchange between British and American roots music." This means footage and contributions from The Broken Family Band, Alabama 3, Kitty Daisy & Lewis, The Barker Band, Hey Negrita and Matthew Ord, plus input from the likes of Bob Harris, Guy Clark, Tom McRae, BJ Cole, Sid Griffin, Robert Fisher of the Willard Grant Conspiracy and some of Little Feat. And yes, there's a trailer.

* Finally, something fantastic we picked up while doing the rounds of favourite blogs. In 1991 Tottenham beat Arsenal in the FA Cup semi final, and to celebrate fanzine The Spur commissioned the Cocteaus' Simon Raymonde, Lush's Miki Berenyi and Chris Acland, and Russell and Kevin from Moose to record a flexidisc for the next issue. The result was And David Seaman Will Be Very Disappointed About That by The Lillies, and Because Midway Still Aren't Coming Back has encoded and uploaded it. The best thing is it sounds almost precisely like you'd imagine the Cocteaus, Lush and Moose coming together would sound, only with Barry Davies samples and for some reason a When The Saints Go Marching In quote.

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