Sunday, May 04, 2008

Weekender : still not quite believing the Macy Gray booking

- We love Elvis Costello, as we've said often in the past. He has a new album out this week, Momofuku, with The Imposters (the Attractions with a different bassist, you may recall) which features Jenny Lewis on harmony vocals and co-writes with Rosanne Cash and Loretta Lynn, and is rumoured to be a return to his guilt and revenge angry guitar man days that's still the recommended first port of call for the Costello newbie with the latterly requisite soul and country influences. Thing is, we can't tell you any more than that because it's initially being released on vinyl only and without a leak to crib from every review we've seen consequently spends paragraph after paragraph talking about its inability to be transferred onto iPod and having to get up to turn the record over, with a sentence that reads "it's great, it's a bit like My Aim Is True" in the middle if you're lucky. We know this album's has been marketed to an extent to take advantage of the element of mystery and surprise, but we didn't think it'd be like this.

- There is, as you'll doubtless be aware as regular Weekender readers *cough*, a corner of a domestic field that will forever be lo-fi. There's just not the money or commitment for studio sheen, but they always say it's the chances and mistakes that don't get ProToolsed out that make a record. The Wave Pictures recorded Instant Coffee Baby (and not Instant Coffee Morning as Amazon thinks) in the basement of the Duke Of Uke music shop on Hanbury Road, East London, and it's got twice the heart and soul of the vast majority of other British bands. You know already where they're coming from, Dave Tattersall bearing a certain Darren Hayman (an occasional onstage colleague) quality to his vocal stylings and the band often making like an electrified Herman Dune (yes, them too) with an occasional flashy solo and a lyrical intrigue that matches up to a British take on, say, the Mountain Goats' John Darnielle (oh, this is getting silly now), the overall feeling being a hats off to Jonathan Richman (not yet, but give it time) from some people born in Wymeswold, near Loughborough - there's a song called Friday Night In Loughborough that's more specific about its location than the Young Knives' Loughborough Suicide - latterly based in Cardiff for a bit and now residing under the yoke of Johnson. People will fall headlong for this band, and we aren't planning to stop them.

- But even this is a record we'd been anticipating as a great step forward from when we came across their limited release last album Sophie. How great the power of music still to surprise this jaded amateur hack, though. See, if we were to make a list of British bands caught up in music press bandwagons of a couple of years ago who we'd never expect to see again Duels would have figured fairly highly, very much New Yorkshire types caught up in the post-Kaisers wave with a yen for glampop, critically acclaimed by quite a few but never catching on round here. If we were to make a list of bands least likely to make a second album full of dark brooding stratospheres they might have figured somewhere too. And yet The Barbarians Move In is that sinister a record, somewhere close but not too close to Matt Bellamy bombast at times and fairly in thrall to Nick Cave's dark ages but still knowing its way around a dramatic melody, a deployment of a modish choral vocal and a sky-reaching guitar figure. They're now not going to be the next big thing and more and they know it, and even if an illness has metaphorically pervaded their homes such euphoric starkness on the road to Valhalla suits them to a T.

- Leeds-based Bad Sneakers records are getting a decent reputation at the moment, giving us Wild Beasts and The Lodger, but their ace in the pack may well be The Rosie Taylor Project, whose eight track mini-album This City Draws Maps arrives just in time for the warming up process of the year. Wistful without being twee, intricate and delicately played without being too folky, these songs uplift like an introvert staying out for the summer. Both well accomplished and massively promising.

- Singles. Fresh from turning up on stupid fashionista blog Face Hunter, which we only mention because they clearly don't know who he is and it's reassuring to know he always wears that Davy Crockett hat, Lightspeed Champion throws out Galaxy Of The Lost again; now The OC's over Death Cab For Cutie are justified in completely wrongfooting the kids with an eight minute part-motorik unrequited paen which Ben Gibbard doesn't appear on for half its length in I Will Possess Your Heart; Fighting With Wire kick a hole right through ten years of Foo Fighters ennui and drag out the entrails with the huge sounding Everyone Needs A Nemesis; and Noah And The Whale consolidate their advance with Shape Of My Heart.

COMING SOON: What do you want from news of a commercially released Les Savy Fav show? Visuals, obviously. You want to be able to sit a safe distance away at home and watch Tim Harrington in a cape, riding boots, briefs and facepaint molest everyone within reach while hanging off the balcony. That'd be great, wouldn't it? Unfortunately After The Balls Drop is CD only, recorded at a 3am show at New York's Bowery Ballroom on New Year's Eve/Day just gone. In mitigation it does feature covers of Pixies, Nirvana, Misfits, Love and Creedence Clearwater Revival and the rest is still LSF songs like The Sweat Descends. It came out last week in America, no word of a UK release as far as we know.

MYSPACE INVADERS: Vengeful alt-countryites Absentee return next month with a new EP, the press release for which has to state that they haven't actually split up. Well, clearly they haven't, they've got a new EP out, but the reason for the doubt is a number of side projects emerging of late from their members. The most notable are Wet Paint, featuring that band's guitarist, bassist and keyboard player plus one of psychedelic surf outfit Economy Wolf. They have connections too, their first single featuring a Lightspeed Champion B-side on the cover and recent work commenced with Andy Dragazis of Blue States. They say it sounds like "PIXIES-DINOSAUR JR-PAVEMENT or other bands that sound a bit like them"; we say more the latter of those three with a streamlined hint of the second, and certainly fitting well next to whichever player from the mid-90s American 'scene' you might wish to play alongside.

VISUAL AID: Just the one this week, and it's here because while it's nothing outlandish there's something about the setting and the performance that appeals to us. It's Mike Scott of the Waterboys doing a solo Whole Of The Moon in 1987 to an Irish school assembly. It may be an effect dulled by aeons of listless rote emotion at boy bands, but when the kids scream upon recognition of the song it's warming. Is Scott wearing a visor or a jockey cap?

* Charity news first, and Doing It For The Kids is a 66 (SIXTY SIX) track compilation album for £6.49 sterling in aid of Yorkhill Children's Hospital in Glasgow. An intriguing tracklisting includes Ballboy, Ed Harcourt, Wake The President, Edward Ball, Slow Down Tallahasse, David Ford, The Coal Porters, Alex Lowe (ex-Hurricane #1), Daniel Wylie (ex-Cosmic Rough Riders) and David Westlake, all providing new or rare tracks.

* Meanwhile, Lucky Soul chanteuse Ali Howard is running the Cancer Research Race For Life on 7th May. As of Friday night she was only a tenner short of her fundraising target, but every donation helps.

* Charity... charity beginning at home... stuff recorded at someone's home... Welcome To Our TV Show! As another month turns up so does another soiree round Jeremy and Fay's, this month with Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit, frYars, Matthew Saunders (we hadn't either, but his booking for this is proof of worthiness enough) and mein host Warmsley himself. Part one; part two.

* "For the first-time ever, Manchester’s music blogging community unites to play the sound of their blog to a local and global audience simultaneously. The world will look in as we broadcast the event live to the planet. A live feed will deliver the sound of Manchester globally, inviting real-time participation from all corners of Earth." Yeah, alright, you've bought a webcam and put on a DJ event, calm down. It's called Bloggerpalooza; it's happening on 4th May THAT'S TONIGHT from 6pm at Contact Theatre, Oxford Road, Manchester, and those taking part include the STN-approved Yer Mam!, The Indie Credential and Black Country Grammar.

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