Sunday, April 20, 2008

Weekender : wondering whether a band without any original front line members is really the same band at all


- Tell us, how magnificent a prospect did it seem when the news broke last year that Mark E Smith was planning an autobiography? The day is finally here, and needless to say Renegade: The Lives And Tales Of Mark E Smith - he seems to have reneged on the planned subtitle The Gospel According To Mark E Smith - is no work of autobiography as Churchill might have envisioned, being a story of his life told in a linear pattern only up to a certain floating point. The rest is a morass of prosthelytizing, ranting, laying down of ground rules, words from the (un)wise, Northern sage insight and all points north. It probably won't make next week's Imperial Wax Solvent album, or the other twenty six, any less impenetrable, but things would be a lot less fun if it did.

- Since Grant McLennan's death two years ago Robert Forster has mostly been concentrating on his music writing, earning the Critic of the Year 2006 Pascall Prize and making it into the annual Da Capo Best Music Writing volume for last year. The Evangelist is his first solo record in twelve years, featuring three songs written by the pair - the other recent incarnation Go-Betweens plus a producer and arranger from their past are also involved - and while it's not up there with the best of the Go-Betweens' work its exquisite acoustic melancholy maintains Forster's reputation as a strong, sensitive writer. On the other hand, apparently Owen 'Final Fantasy' Pallett's got a side project.

- Singles are an interesting and mixed bunch, again presented in alphabetical order. 4 Or 5 Magicians, who we recently introduced you to at greater length, are making a habit out of writing songs superficially about music and its attendant cultural industries which aren't really about that and wrapping them in glorious GBV/Pavement/Sebadoh-nodding lo-fi, such as the double A side Change The Record/Ideal Man. dEUS have kept the same lineup for two albums, which is an achievement in itself, and preview fifth album Vantage Point with the jagged menace of Slow, featuring backing vocals from The Knife's Karin Dreijer Andersson. Make Model have been clocking up support act miles of late and give this major label life a good shot with a reissue of their first single The LSB, which reconfigures Broken Social Scene's art gang aesthetic in similar if more electronic ways to how Los Campesinos! do. Finally Deptford cosmopolitans the Shortwave Set's sample patchwork psychedelics gain an unfair advantage from fan turned producer Danger Mouse on No Social.

- iLiKETRAiNS also have a single out, the Salem Witch Trials lament We Go Hunting, but of more interest is the DVD Elegies To Lessons Learnt, a limited edition animated film of the current album from soup to nuts with a fluid storyline, all in stop-motion from the careful hands of their cornet player and projectionist Ashley Dean. A second trailer has emerged.

COMING SOON: And also out this week is Machine Gun, the forensically unlikely first single from the uneasy listening of Portishead's third album, erm, Third. They kind of ran out of titling inspiration once Dummy was in the bag, didn't they? At their ATP Nightmare Before Christmas they debuted a good proportion of it: Machine Gun itself, Silence, Hunter, We Carry On and The Rip.

MYSPACE INVADERS: Get in early, there's a head of steam building up around Manchester's The Vanguard at the moment having supported British Sea Power and got their producer Graham Sutton to record their demos. Duke Spirit fans should certainly be looking this way, but there's a seam of that peculiarly north-western trait of enormous effects pedal atmospheric guitar sounds and cocksure vocals, these respectively from V - just V - and Julie Reverb. Mr and Mrs Reverb, given of a daughter. While we wonder whether there's histories being hidden here, watch the labels come a-calling before too long.

VISUAL AID: Turns out Steven Ansell from Blood Red Shoes was once a member of a Big Breakfast Family Of The Week, and while there's no sign of them online that's all the geeing we need to search the surprisingly thorough online BB archives from when Bob Geldof had just had the nod from Planet 24. They, you see, did things differently, if not always originally, as demonstrated when, donning a mohican wig in the comedic name of introducing a new game, now Jonathan Ross radio fixer Andy Davies introduces the Lurkers, although clearly nobody on screen, and probably off, knows what they're quite there for. If you want to confuse a guest, though, send them up to Zig & Zag: Tori Amos is sanguine and playful in their presence, the Beastie Boys promoting Sabotage attempt to keep their poker face cool long after events have suggested this probably wasn't required at the time. Manfully controlling the chat in both is Mark Little, who solo got to talk to a typically inscrutable Bjork amid disco lights. If your PR department are doing particularly well you get to perform in the house, Lush donning huge nametags, Miki in the green dress she sported for virtually all 1996. It was when Johnny and Denise came in that things took an odd pop cultural turn, whether having Deep Purple in the garden or Johnny becoming untypically excited on receiving a fax from Spizz.

* We seemed to spend most of last year wading through a crop of bands and activity in Brighton, a place where there's clearly something in the air quite apart from that smell coming from Europe that you may have read about. How else to explain Manic Organic, an event held as part of the forthcoming Brighton Festival at the local Concert Hall, wherein the Dome's pipe organ is put to use by assorted leftfield types in various recitals, "a subversive new spin" as the blurb ungainly puts it. Chief among these is a set of "rave-era Happy Hardcore and publicly selected tracks from Brighton's recent musical output" by two concert organists, including a selection the public can make via that link from songs by British Sea Power, the Go! Team and Fujiya & Miyagi.

* It's a question you see almost as much as "whatever happened to Tom Vek?" on message boards - "whatever happened to Dogs Die In Hot Cars?" Well, they split. Obviously they did. However, singer Craig Macintosh, who apparently lives in Spain now - and they say there's no money in mid-ranking music - has dug out an initial four home recorded second album demos and put the component parts online for you, the Web 2.0 community or whatever it's called now, to put together and add to as you see fit, return to Macintosh and make a definitive DDIHC album, the reward being not only satisfaction but a portion of all recording and publishing royalties.

* We're not really sure what Oatmeal TV is, or why we're keenly linking to something that early on delves into 'look where we are and what we're doing!'-isms, but otherwise we think you might like to have a look at their three part coverage of South By South West.


James said...

I heart The Vanguard.

Is there going to be a new Songs To Learn And Sing? Your audience demands, etc.

Simon said...

I'd like to think there will be, but I've put two requests out since the ignominious end of the last one and been met by no response whatsoever. All channels are still open etc.

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