Sunday, June 01, 2008

Weekender : we make our own mythologies

- "ghosts n vodka, friday 6pm - saturday 1pm, the stupidly pretty girl from the ub40 show (says lex, we don't collectively hang out these types of places in general (i saw her like, 2years later, she lost her glow)), the combination of amoxicillin n paracetamol, longpigs (both albums, yeh?), staring vaguely into middle distance, liking someone so much you cant meet their eyes, kel moving heavy amps whilst the guys blag free tees from the other bands, standing alone in festival crowds, the calming presence of lea room, the ibanez tubescreamer ts-9, nearly falling asleep in metal pubs, actually needing a ponce rack, that night kelly showed the academy her arse, talking the proverbial shit, sorry alexei likes (sleeper), no-one knowing the answer to my dynasty warriors 5 question cos no-one else plays it, alexei and ryans 7 year plan, feeling you should really be somewhere else, the big ass emulator discs 1 and 3, hiding from bayliffs, remembering that it used to be called college rock, sub of the day, shocked elevator family, dead relatives you hate talking about, good concierge, bad concierge, good taxi, bad taxi, good soundchecks, bad soundchecks, good customs, bad customs,not being violently sick all day, laura who never added us". This is just a small selection of the 278 bands, experiences and detritus of life Johnny Foreigner cite as influences on their Myspace. And they list all of it because they care. They care about the precise messthetics of the music they make, a music that gets compared curiously often to their mates, ex-tour accompaniment and occasional public tryst partners (note: world's smuggest look to camera at 0:35, and it's not even intentional) Los Campesinos! but bears more resemblance to some mutant child of any number of modish defunct American bands - Dismemberment Plan, Cap'n Jazz, Braid, Pretty Girls Make Graves, Minus The Bear, Pavement, that sort. There's an exuberance and a preciseness despite the all over the place garnish you can't manufacture, and that is why we've been going on about the impending nature of Waited Up 'Til It Was Light for months. Then there's everything else - the volume, the smart quotable lyrics, the incessantly detailed references to Birmingham ("some say Shaun Walsh saved our city" perhaps even too specific for purpose), the awareness that this should be pop all along, albeit not in any sense mainstream pop understands and played with a zest that shames plenty of others. Best British rock album of the year so far? We'd doubt the 'British' and 'so far' bits at this moment in time. Over at a better run place, you can read Alexei explaining why they named a song after their tech, the Craig Finn influence and their "Blues Brothers song".

- Another band who know a thing or two about counter-melodic dissonance and turning up the volume while stamping on every distortion and feedback unit to hand foot are the Manhattan Love Suicides, two of whom we hadn't realised until comparatively recently had spent the early part of the decade as the underrated Pop Threat, an even more apt name when you think about it. Burnt Out Landscapes is a compilation of their four limited edition singles, US radio sessions, obscurities and buried somewhere in there four new songs. This whole post-Jesus And Mary Chain feedback pop plus tribal drums thing is making a huge comeback at the moment everywhere from Glasvegas to A Place To Bury Strangers but we reckon none do it better than MLS with their collections of Velvets, C86, garage rock and girl groups to go at as much as their pedals.

- And while we're talking pedals, here's an album named after two distortion units. Superfuzz Bigmuff reputedly sold dreadfully on first release but is now routinely lazily labelled as grunge's great precursor, the first record to successfully marry Nuggets-via-SST wanton energy, Stooges primalism and fuzz tones. Twenty years on, the same age as the Sub Pop label it brought into focus, it's grown singles, demos and live and radio gubbins. Mudhoney are also releasing a new album, The Lucky Ones, this week as they're wont to do whenever repackaging their back issues, but even Mark Arm probably doesn't care that much.

- In a week that sees both a stream of new releases and a concurrent litany of disappointing albums (Ladytron, She & Him, Lykke Li, Oppenheimer, maybe the Notwist but we've not heard any of it yet), Shearwater keep up their end with Rook. Jonathan Meiburg has worked long and hard to pull his project away from the Okkervil River sideline it was long seen as - indeed he's just announced his departure from that band - and he managed it with 2006's Palo Santo. Rook is described as a meditation song cycle on man, nature and the relationship thereof, more muted and expansive, emerging from the previous John Cale/Talk Talk ingredients into more pastoral, falsetto folk-rock waters.

- All of which brings us to the Radiohead Best Of. People will argue back and forth forever about Best Ofs - the whole Nirvana furore, anyone? - and its performance in the charts will be fascinating as Tesco browsers get their own one-stop shop on the days when they by and large had melodies about them. More worthwhile is the accompanying Best Of DVD, which is their always fascinating videos, even Pop Is Dead, and moreover the ultrarare Pulk Pull Revolving Doors/Like Spinning Plates.

- Loads of singles to go at this week, two of which we particularly commend. It feels at times that before sundry excitable Cardiffians and Brummies arrived Jeremy Warmsley was premier totem for Sweeping The Nation, so much did we bang on about him, although we still argue The Art Of Fiction justified all that. While he still gigged here and about and in the last few months has established Welcome To Our TV Show Warmsley spent most of 2007 working on a second album with Marcus Dravs, collaborator with Arcade Fire and Bjork (and co-producer with Eno of the new Coldplay album. Move along, nothing to see in these brackets), and occasionally unveiling some even more packed out dramatic new songs. They will appear in September's second album; before then two non-LP songs previously debuted as his in-house soirees are soldered together on a double A side. The Boat Song is a poppy tale of imagination co-written by and featuring backing singer to the gentry Emmy The Great (whose own album is released at about the same time), Temptation a more arrythmic number written by Sumner, Hook, Gilbert and Morris. Yet more J-Wo news will follow shortly.

- It's a question that's bothered self-regarding scholars ever since 21 was released - exactly who does the Mystery Jets' Two Doors Down sound like? "Something from the Eighties" does for most people, but such imprecision doesn't wash. So it's not Johnny Hates Jazz as Zane Lowe reckons, but then it's not really Aztec Camera either. For what it's worth we're pitching our stylistic tent towards Popjustice's suggestion of Prefab Sprout, with nods to Squeeze's Black Coffee In Bed. Whatever, it actually transcends mere "the shoulder pads!" ironic nostalgia by being a great little pop song and a sautory reminder as the Here & Now tour resumes that Eighties pop was for the main part so memorable not because of School Disco post-modernism but because compared to what has been sold to the mass market since it was so offbeat and remarkable.

- What else? Restlesslist's Butlin Breaks, the sound of Anticon making a 60s spy theme with a mariachi band next door, and Fighting With Wire's Everyone Needs A Nemesis, essentially Biffy Clyro having their faces ground in the dirt, have both been previously discussed when their initially published release dates came around, but that's labels for you. Laura Marling seems to have carried on just below the radar even after the release of Alas I Cannot Swim, which is what suits that album's porcelain construction. Cross Your Fingers is the wise single choice; an inevitable single choice is One Day Like This, Elbow's only real attempt to trade on past glories on The Seldom Seen Kid by streamlining Grace Under Pressure's choral alternative anthemry. Joyous multi-handedness comes in the varying forms of the Young Republic's brass and woodwind aided download only Paper Ships and The Strange Death Of Liberal England's further adventures in overwhelming quasi-atonality Angelou.

COMING SOON: Also out this week is Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea, the sixth album by Silver Jews, who actually seem to have now stabilised around central presence David Berman. It's almost a summery West Coast album as Berman has learnt to straighten out and enjoy himself on songs like Strange Victory Strange Defeat, although obviously there's still the baritone wry poet in there. Note how, like Bill Callahan, he refers to 'squirls'.

MYSPACE INVADERS: We're going to have to pretend we ever listen to post-hardcore soon if we continue to post gossamer-light playful indiepop. Cassie And The Cassettes (current Myspace quote: "Doing A-levels, back soon". Gah, not you as well) are one of those female-fronted band that roll around in the softest cotton wool musically, all fluttering keyboards and upbeat, tender lyrics with drawing pins sequestered in the group hug. Two Of A Kind even sounds a bit like Kate Nash's cabaret piano without preceding killing sprees.

VISUAL AID: How many times have acts playing live on British television engineered a situation where everything has gone sideways? Hendrix on A Happening For Lulu, obviously, but then we're in a grey area. The Stone Roses didn't cause the power to go down on the Late Show and Shaun Ryder just swears anyway. No, it seems to be on American network television where British bands reserve their capacity to throw things into complete chaos for. Elvis Costello on Saturday Night Live in 1977 is the most famous such incident but that seems to be undergoing one of its periodical periods of YouTube rights exile and we've linked to it before anyway. Costello and the Attractions were only on SNL because the Sex Pistols pulled out, and when John Lydon finally got onto the network in 1980 it was Public Image Ltd on American Bandstand. Told they'd be miming Poptones and Careering Lydon took the art to extreme levels while the rest of the band swap or give away instruments and the audience relocate themselves in the frenzy. Moving on six years Fox trialled a Late Show rival to Johnny Carson's chat show pre-eminence, hosted by Joan Rivers but one week by sitcom actress Suzanne Somers. That was the week they had Wire on. And not any old Wire period, but when they were promoting Drill, set up so loudly it distorts in places. Keep watching afterwards for Somers' meeting of minds with Bruce Gilbert while Graham Lewis films the exchange while sporting one of fashion's least well aged hairstyles.

* We really thought the cupboard was going to be bare newswise this week until two live events of high priority flitted across our desk. The first came from the good burghers of Transgressive records, who have clearly forgiven our once sending them a desperate "send us some records, won't you?" email and wanted to pass on details of the Transgressive Hot Summer Tour 2008. Seven of the label's affiliate acts are being put on a rotating line-up, five a night, across the country over a fortnight in the month of July, beginning on the 4th in Oxford, ending on the 19th in Glasgow and hitting Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Cardiff, Bristol, Birmingham, London and Brighton in between. As is only proper Jeremy Warmsley is playing all nights, as is much touted electro-new wave, lyrically-obtuse, Popjustice-approved, no-mention-in-press-release-of-him-having-been-drummer-in-Ladyfuzz Esser. For the other three, take your pick from baritone-voiced suave dramatists Absentee (actually on Memphis Industries, but also Trangressive Publishing), looped-up chamber pop type and Neil's son Liam Finn, long gestating ethereal singer-songwritress Mechanical Bride, Metal Box as imagined by former Les Incompetents frontman melange Ox.Eagle.Lion.Man and recently mp3-highlighted Antipodean mess o'electronics So So Modern. In a move unconnected with this tour Warmsley, along with another outfit mentioned earlier in this post, has contributed to our SUPER SECRET EXCITING SPIN-OFF PROJECT, revelation of which very soon.

* While we're talking label awaydays, the lovely people behind Smalltown America have resurrected their September all-dayers of recent years only to find they've grown into a weekender, or "urban festival" if you're the person who writes this stuff. This Ain't No Picnic takes place on September 27th and 28th at King's College London, featuring roughly thirty bands on two stages plus a special bar with its own film programme and a late clubnight attached. All proceeds go to charity: bands confirmed so far, because we like this descriptive thing we started up there, are Falkous' revenge Future Of The Left, irked troubadour Chris T-T, everything-at-a-prog-wall Cats In Paris, playfully perverse power poppers the Young Playthings, Scottish Pavement/Sebadoh hybrid Copy Haho, ukelele touting lo-fi wordsmith Jam On Bread, lo-fi cut-up electronicist Alan MX, 'new Bearsuit' Antiques Roadshow-cameoing septet The Dierdres and Tropics, who we've never heard of before. *pause* Oh, right. Lively. Anyway, tickets are £20 until 27th June, £25 thereafter.

* Oh yeah, this as well, which we've known about for ages and then received a cajoling email about in the week. Music Spotlight Presents: Snapshots Volume 1 Compilation is a free downloadable compilation of eleven new bands, 4 or 5 Magicians the only ones we've featured, And So I Watch You From Afar and I Concur others that you may be dimly aware of, most worth the effort.

* A thing we noticed from watching television this week: As the Leicester players came out for yesterday's rugby union Premiership final, preceded by the sort of film that no footballer, or indeed anyone in any other sport, would ever stand for, they were accompanied by the Who's Won't Get Fooled Again. Does that really send out a fearsome message?

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