Sunday, March 16, 2008

Weekender : what do you think about the chicken with its big leathery skin?

- Last year Guy Garvey, as a 6 Music representative, did some of the main stage announcing at Summer Sundae (and we later saw him at the barrier engrossed by Vetiver, but that's not important right now) Clearly he hadn't really been briefed on what to say but knew he had a court holding image to maintain so couldn't just take the piss, leading to his declaration that "I can't think of anyone better to continue the music here at Summer Sundae", followed by his finishing and turning away from the mike wearing the sort of half-bemused half-embarrassed to practically soiling self levels that a man can only achieve when his neuro-linguistic reflexes have told him to tell the best part of 6,000 people that the next band on (the Rumble Strips, for what it's worth) are at the moment his personal apex of musical endeavour. But, see, that's Guy Garvey, and he can get away with that, in light of which Lancastrian booze-and-fags hail-fellow-well-met bonhomie, the bearing of which makes him seem older than 34, it's easy to take Elbow for granted. Then you remember that they've produced three outstanding albums, all slow burners aware of time and space, often downbeat but never weighed down by the darkness of their tales. And so it is with number four The Seldom Seen Kid, perhaps their slowest to grow but eventually revealing perhaps their fullest range and production (courtesy of keyboard player Craig Potter) It's elegaic, smart and while it appears their fanbase trajectory is levelling off just below the huge venues there's no thinning out of small scale wonderment.

- On the other hand, there's Be Your Own Pet. There's always Be Your Own Pet, and Get Awkward makes no apologies for not changing matters. Jemina Pearl has hit her twenties but still sounds like an alcopop-charged teen, and while maturity's melodies peek their heads around the door occasionally they don't stick around. At the other end of the scale we find Chris T-T, freed to some if by no means all extent from the 9 Red Songs solo political weight he's been carrying for the last two or three years and finally finishing the London trilogy started in 2001 with Capital, finding a home on Xtra Mile (Frank Turner, Dartz!, My Vitriol allegedly) for his skilled, observationally charged and no little angrily literate songs. Occasional guest Andy Burrows must dream his day job Razorlight was as good as this.

A very different type of well read and well spoken poet is Ivor Cutler, who worked as a teacher in a youth you can't quite imagine him ever having had given his bearing, despite a worldview that suggests a certain wide eyed wonderment. A Flat Man was his final album, released on Creation in 1998 and the first in hopefully a long line of reissues of long deleted corners of his work by Hoorgi House, established by Cutler's family "to maintain the availability of his recordings, and to extend the range of material available". Long overdue, we say.

- Singles? Guillemots, by all accounts set to unleash the kind of genre pigeonhole career underminer you thought had gone out of fashion circa Don't Stand Me Down, preview it with the tribal glam of Get Over It; We Are Rockstars is a career best great big jackhammer of modern dance that finally puts the name Does It Offend You, Yeah? in unwieldy lights; Bricolage bring the funk back to the Orange Juice influences with Footsteps (another single for Creeping Bent despite having signed for Memphis Industries a year ago - we know you don't care but we do, and too much at that); or why not partake in the fifth and final part of the Brainlove 7" Singles Club? As with the first four it's a four track, two band split, one side featuring the so-called 'swingdie' smarts of Friends of the Bride's You Can't Take Him Anywhere and Hey Buddy, the other Mancunian dark electropoppers Modernaire's Faites Vos Jeux and Taste.

COMING SOON: You'd wonder where Jonathan Meiburg finds the time. Having spent 2007 on manoeuvures with Okkervil River and Bill Callahan, June 2nd sees the release on Matador of Rook, the fifth album from main project Shearwater. The follow-up to the disarmingly good Palo Santo, it's previewed by Rooks' spooked Hitchcockian apocalypism, the dramatics matching the lyrical mood as well as they ever did on that last record.

MYSPACE INVADERS: Leeds' Dinosaur Pile-Up feature someone who used to be in Mother Vulpine, who had a reputation but not one we know a lot about, it's just all their press mentions it. The Young Knives like them and there's something of that carefully thought out fuzzpop about them, somewhere between them and Weezerish geekpop in a more lo-fi sense. They're playing the very good The Rosie Taylor Project's album launch on 16th April at Leeds' Brudenell Social Club and as part of Notting Hill Arts Club's RoTa free Saturday afternoon session on 24th May alongside Sky Larkin and Let's Wrestle, a Drowned In Sound-curated bill which makes us tempted to get on the train down for the afternoon ourselves.

VISUAL AID: Last weekend on American Idol a dreadlocked arse called Jason Castro 'did' Hallelujah to much praise from Simon Cowell, instantly sending Jeff Buckley's version, which Cowell carefully namechecked rather than any version not on BMG, to the top of the US digital download chart and even into the UK midweek top 60. Like New York New York, Halleujah is a song that has so transcended its origins that it's surprising how old it actually is. 1984, in fact, when Leonard Cohen, here nonchalantly performed on a European show of unknown provenance with a backing choir apparently arranged as a Sunday school version of Elvis' Trouble off the '68 Comeback Special, put it on his album Various Positions. The most famous version of all is Buckley' skyscraper from 1994's Grace, itself inspired by John Cale's live cover arrangement, as featured on Shrek - but not on the album, apparently due to label issues, which led to Rufus Wainwright's not dissimilar recording. Bob Dylan's had a go, as have Bono, kd lang, Regina Spektor, Damien Rice, Beirut's Zach Condon and even Starsailor. We've all heard that bloody secret chord now. Then Alistair Griffin off Fame Academy rewrote it for Mark Viduka - he does it live to audiences who clearly don't know what it's based on too, although he can do it straight as well - and that was the game well and truly up.

* Not a lot this week, only to mention that perhaps the most pointless release of all has come to our attention. At the end of this month, Warners are releasing The Darkness Platinum Collection. Even aside from the idea of releasing a Best Of for a band who released two albums, the tracklisting is 21 songs long. That's the whole of Permission To Land, the whole of One Way Ticket To Hell And Back and their Christmas single. Both albums, by the way, are seperately in stock on for a tenner apiece.

* Something more important and worthwhile that we've forgotten to mention since its inception a fortnight ago is an idea by The Vinyl Villain, especially for anyone who's been meaning these last few years to get into Orange Juice. Until the end of March he's offering a handmade personalised compilation CD of their work for £6, a fiver going to the Scottish care charity Quarriers.

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