Sunday, October 26, 2008

Weekender : hitting and hoping

- There's some huge releases over the night few weeks, as previously noted, but according to our crib list as far as the schedule for new albums goes, assuming new label Anticon don't get the due on November 18th in North America new Anathallo album (better than Sufjan, says one early preview) out in Britain in time, tomorrow we settle all family business. With that in mind, let us gingerly approach the vexing issued of We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed. Actually, as you'll know if you've been following this development, this whole 'album' bit is something of a sore point with Team Campesinos!, who are insistent that despite being ten tracks and roughly 32 minutes long this does not qualify as the second LC! album, merely just another 'record'. As point of reference, according to an interview in a magazine the identity of which we've forgotten locally celebrated studio owner Mark Foley calls it an EEP - extended EP (extended extended player?) - and as we know from another Cardiff band Mark Foley was right, so there. It's still given us a proper dilemma with regard to how to deal with it when it comes round to our albums of the year countdown(s), but that's for another time. Specifics? Well, there'll be one run of CDs ever, apparently, in a big old box accompanied by a poster, a self-auteured DVD documentary on their weekends at festivals in August and a 30+ page booklet featuring contributions from the likes of Xiu Xiu, Grandaddy, Menomena, Parenthetical Girls and, somewhat less cross-culturally avant-garde, Paul Heaton. There's music in it as well, and what music it is too. Many have commented with furrowed brows about the three months between Hold On Now Youngster's release and the sessions with John Goodmanson that led to the alb...record coming into surprise to everyone being, and it's really the best of both worlds in terms of development - it won't scare the horses if you rightly adored that first/only album, yet it's darker, more wracked, more beaten down by life, love and not being a a faux-Irish striker who'd turned into a free-scoring French Ligue 2 star, an album that allows itself to be more of a coiled spring grower rather than the bouncy castle indiepop of HON,Y... People will miss this up and down the country - congratulations already to Simon Price, who reckons it sounds like a cross between Helen Love and Bis (somewhat overlooking Ollie, the band's actual non-machine drummer, we feel) - but there's too many ideas continuously coming off the band to allow them to get bogged down preaching to the converted. Musically it seems so much tighter now they're a proper consistently touring outfit, the violin and synths make more of an appearance and Between An Erupting Earth And An Exploding Sky is a 75 second reminder that the founding trio initially thought they'd be a post-rock band. Yes, of course it's stunning, but more than this Los Campesinos!, two al...collections of songs in, have already done it - they sound like nobody but themselves. More power to their fourteen elbows.

Apparently Gareth's taken to slipping the first verse of Kenickie's Millionaire Sweeper into You'll Need Those Fingers For Crossing live. Good work, sir!

- There was supposed to be a new MF Doom album out this week - we suspect the fact we were lining up to write about Born Into This, which is what it was due to be called, will surprise enough of you but whitey here will gladly use all sorts of post-ironic middle class outmoded fake street slang about Madvillainy and MM...Food - but it's been delayed indefinitely. You look surprised. So what else? Ah, Bloc Party, a band whose critical status has been gradually eroding and heading west over the last year and a half or so. They'll never be the wiry, angry band they were for Silent Alarm, too bogged down in the self-inflicted need to get away from a post-punk image that was set for them by others and too wound up in that whole, again unnecessary, believed notion of bold statements about modern life that in retrospect ended up getting wrapped up too often when it looked like it was getting somewhere in reminding us that Kele is part of the London star life by choice, no matter how much he tried to make us believe that he was only doing so out of spite. Kele Okereke - he ordered the foie gras and he ate it with complete disdain. Perhaps as a consequence Intimacy's CD issue seems to have approached without anyone noticing, but it's so nearly there trying to make that ground back up. They've learnt how to carry off an emotional slow love song and they're learning how to mesh their guitar sound with electronics, but the killer rhythm section is still reduced to being recorded through a wall and it's still more concerned with trying to bridge the gap between newness and what we already know of them. Can we blame the unimaginative bringing back for one last go round long spent force Paul Epworth and never started Jacknife Lee, the producers of both their previous albums? Yes, of course we can.

- A good crop of singles this week, although answers on a postcard if you can explain the reissue of Vampire Weekend's A-Punk. About a month ago we confidently stated to a friend that if Hereford's teenage chamber English folkists Gossamer Albatross's debut 7" The Ground Will Take Us Down, produced by Jonquil's Hugo Manuel, got airplay and attention from the right people the classical ambition on show could properly help them take off, such is the evident ambition and ability in these days when much lighter folk (not including Laura Marling, who puts out Night Terror) is given a far easier ride. We sit here on the eve of said 7"'s release with it being given bugger all coverage. It's us, isn't it? It's always us. Anyway, it's wonderful, and so are they. (Not that all that stuff is any less great or true, but Bailiwick have got in touch to tell us that production difficulties have delayed the Gossamer Albatross 7" for the time being) We still can't work out what to really make of Eugene McGuinness' album, so gradually does it unleash the charms that take the young Liverpool-based singer songwriter with thousands of ideas from post-Arctics strummer to preconception shattering stylistic mix-up. Moscow State Circus won't help that status much, as it's all of those things and more within four minutes. On download come the Hot Puppies, whose album ended up being a little too eager to flaunt the breadth of its low-rent glamour influences, both musically and namecheck-worthy, but Clarinet Town was where they got it just right.

After this point follows more reissues, repackages and compilations then you ever knew numbers of albums existed.

- Robert Wyatt is someone who's probably never been given enough due, meandering down his own path these last three decades uninhibited by fashion, backed by style shifting ensemble playing and teetering on his depictions of life real and imaginary, while ensuring that trite statement that pop and politics don't mix is ground into so much fine dust. Domino are reissuing most of his back catalogue, some in mid-November and the second, third and fourth releases now. Rock Bottom is his masterwork, the first after the fall that lost him the use of his legs, an intense, personal affair that lets its sometimes sparse, jazzily impressionistic charms spread slowly but surely, and ends with some glorious Ivor Cutler. Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard rewrites earlier, more out-there songs, and Nothing Can Stop Us is all covers but for one track, covering Strange Fruit, Chic's At Last I Am Free, The Red Flag, Ivor Cutler and left-wing acapella gospel standard Stalin Wasn't Stallin'. All unique in their own ways.

- Also bringing out three old albums for new inspection this week are Buzzcocks (like Pixies, everyone assumes the 'the'), all remastered and with an extra disc apiece of demos and live cuts. Buzzcocks have become known as punk-pop's foremost singles band and the one place everyone says you should start is Singles Going Steady, which is fair enough, but these first three albums have their buzzsaw charm. Another Music In A Different Kitchen features I Don't Mind, Orgasm Addict and What Do I Get?, Love Bites Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've), Love You More and Promises, while A Different Kind Of Tension was the last album of their first phase before innumerable reformations. A word for Martin Rushent, the producer whose guiding hand gives these songs their melodic tension and pinpoint accuracy and would also work to similar effect in their own ways with XTC, Generation X, the Stranglers, Altered Images and The Human League, for whom he produced Dare! before a row with Susanne Sulley led to him walking out and going into semi-retirement, the big jessie.

- Now that everyone has GarageBand or somesuch everyone does remix competitions in these Web 2.0 days, and nobody really listens to the results unless out of a tremendous sense of self-satisfaction. In 1983 all anyone had was turntables, tape and razorblades for cutting purposes when Tommy Boy Records held a competition to find a remix of a track by some long forgotten Afrika Bambaataa proteges. New York early hip hop collectors Steve Stein and Douglas Di Franco, working as Steinski and Double Dee, entered, and the results changed the genre's history. Although Grandmaster Flash had already done his work, Steinski is widely credited with being the first to explore the possibilities of cut and paste sample collages, stringing together song slabs, breakbeats and out of the way vocal samples into what became known as Lesson One, the first of three Lessons that showed what time, effort and ultra careful tape splicing could do for music, a lesson gladly taken up by everyone from Prince Paul to DJ Shadow to Girl Talk. What Does It All Mean? 1983-2006 Retrospective starts with the three Lessons and cherrypicks from everything except his brief spell on a major label, including the celebrated JFK commemoration The Motorcade Sped On, while a second disc is a top notch mix constructed over the course of a year and a half for Coldcut's Solid Steel radio show in 2002. (Our special agent has gone into this in greater detail for TLOBF)

- When Paul Morley quit the NME in 1982 he wanted a new outlet for his ideas of the absurd and of making things happen. Trevor Horn, meanwhile, wanted to form a label. The result was Zang Tumb Tuum (taken from an Italian Futurism poem), ZTT for short, a label that took the in-house agendas and mystique of a Factory with the realpolitik of early 80s chart pop. Result: a lot of records backed with grandiose publicity and lengthy Morley sleevenotes for the likes of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Art Of Noise, Propaganda, 808 State, Shane MacGowan, Kirsty MacColl and Seal, all collected along with remixes and rarities in Zang Tumb Tuum: The ZTT Box along with a DVD featuring rare and otherwise videos and a 72 page book featuring interviews, photos and, whaddaya know, a lengthy Morley essay.

- And now, indie. Obviously not indie as Nick Grimshaw knows it, but proper lo-fi DIY indie that sees The Water Rats as ambition, although Comet Gain cleared that particular bar long ago. You'd do well to find a more cussed working British band than Comet Gain, from their famously ramshackle live outings to their Godard, Robert Forster and Kevin Rowland as mods worldview to the already celebrated Indietracks set where of the current six members one turned up with a scratch band (the official aftermath joke: "if I wanted to see a bunch of drunk people playing Comet Gain songs badly, I'd have gone to a Comet Gain gig") The Cribs are huge fans, inviting them as beer boy baffling support a few times and Gary Jarman sitting in on drums for a couple of gigs last year. Broken Record Prayers is, we suppose, as close as they'll get to a best of anthology, a twenty track modern history taking in only the period after the whole band bar frontman David Feck quit in 1997, a collection of A and B sides, Peel session tracks and three new songs. A week late, we know, but alongside this we must raise a flag for the Shop Assistants, a sweet and sour Edinburgh fivesome who were very much in the Jesus & Mary Chain's slipstream but equally at home with the shambling kids. Will Anything Happen? was their sole album, and the careful archivists at Cherry Red would quite like you to enjoy it all again.

- Echo and the Bunnymen's Ocean Rain, an album so off kilter with commercial possibilities of the time and yet so wide in its lush scope that it's influenced both Pavement and Coldplay, seems to be reissued on a bi-weekly basis, but we're assured this is the Collector's Edition with an extra disc of highlights from the band's two gigs at the Royal Albert Hall. The record buyers of the day didn't get it or their Machieavellian manoevures under Bill Drummond, made U2 huge instead and McCulloch's never shut up about it since And while we're about reissuing the stuff you might already have in new packages, Ian Dury's estate presents The Stiff Singles, The Peel Sessions & The Promo Videos, an eight disc box set featuring his seven Stiff Records singles in CD-sized replicas of their original 7" sleeves, the eighth being the first release of the Blockheads' only BBC session, for Peel, obviously. Also in there is the first commercial release of the band's six videos on a DVD and a booklet annotated by Chaz Jankel and Mickey Gallagher. And while we're about post-punk bands raiding those tapes that have been at the back of the drawer for two decades, Magazine start the clock ticking towards February's reunion gigs with the fifteen songs they recorded for The Peel Sessions, only previously issued as part of a long out of print box set and including covers of Sly and the Family Stone's Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again) and Captain Beefheart's I Love You, You Big Dummy.

- And after all that, time to sit down with a good book. It's probably a year or two too late to catch their moment in the zeitgeist, but Paul Lester's Gang Of Four: Damaged Gods is the first proper attempt to make out how they hitched left-wing polemic to a virtually entirely new post-punk palette, and had quite a few situations along the way.

MYSPACE INVADERS: Swanton Bombs are one of those increasingly popular setups, the duo, one of whom may also be in the Mules, these having played Latitude and Green Man and supported the Dodos, Cut Off Your Hands and Cajun Dance Party and are about to do the same with Eugene McGuinness. Every review you'll find calls them punk, which proves by and large that amateur reviewers have a really limited stylistic palette - there's an attractive raggedness about them, going from no-nonsense blues riffola to colliding fracturedness at a switch. They're doubtless full of energetic tension live and with production focus have plenty of potential to be eked out. So there.

VISUAL AID: Before all this Christmas in October nonsense we were diving into the world of long forgotten songs by celebrities, and with the topic very much of the day all of a sudden there's clearly far more to harvest. Not least that, while we throw our hands up in horror at Peter Kay signing a publishing deal, someone once put out a single by the Krankies and nobody batted an eyelid. Or bought it, come to that. Double-tracked Wee Jimmy, that's what pop's been missing! Bizarrely, the description claimed it's "BANNED FROM U.K. NO LONGER AVAILABLE" as if it were I Spit On Your Grave rather than leaden glam by a husband and wife children's comedy/variety team. It's entirely possible that, say, Roger Moore could get his Telly Savalas-esque monologue over strings banned by The Man, though. Terry Wogan's The Floral Dance isn't entirely unknown, but his Top Of The Pops performance with an unwise live vocal is worth a look just to wonder what sort of shop sells shirts of that design, and at least he didn't try and play it as the ironic crooner as Jasper Carrott did. But it's not as easy as that in the cut-throat world of cash-in vinyl. We mean, how would you explain to any passing 17 year olds who Lorraine Chase was at her height? And how come YouTube's clip of Alexei Sayle's 'Ullo John! Gotta New Motor?, not you'd imagine the easiest of songs to travel the world with, is from Australian TV? So yeah, we could go on at length about Cliff Richard and the Young Ones' Living Doll or the Goodies outwitting the Bay City Rollers, but let us instead consider the plight of the household name who thinks they can make a go of this. Tommy Cooper had had a minor hit in 1961 with Don't Jump Off The Roof Dad, a cover of an American comedy song, and fourteen years later was tempted back into the studio to lay down two songs based on catchphrases, Just Like That and Magic Magic. Listen to that xylophone! And that beery backing singer chorus! And the way the B-side isn't really anything but a monologue incorporating coining of Stu Francis' catchphrase at 5:00!

* It can't really be every week that we pass on an appeal from really rather good current subjects of the STN Gigging Curse 4 Or 5 Magicians for new members on the offchance, but sometimes it feels like it. Dan? "Drummer #1 left to concentrate on a Physics degree then moved to America. Drummer #2 went to Switzerland for a year. Drummer #3 quit to concentrate on his other band where he sings and plays piano (Stars And Sons, if you must know - ed.) Drummer #4 has also just moved to Swtizerland believe it or not... We need a committed drummer, either in London, Brighton, or the south-east, or willing to move there, to join up. You don't have to currently be at a completely loose end, but you will need to be able to play gigs in London and Brighton and the surrounding areas on any given night of the week, about once a week (on average) for the foreseeable future, and be willing to quit your job / university or whatever (should it not be flexible) should the opportunity to tour more frequently arise / be necessary at some point early next year." Don't contact us, because we're not them, message the band direct.

* So you may know about Train Driver In Eyeliner, the fantastic sounding bill at the London Forum tomorrow celebrating the life of Nick Sanderson (Earl Brutus, J&MC etc) featuring the Jesus And Mary Chain, British Sea Power and Black Box Recorder. As an extra source, BSP are auctioning off a 7" of Remember Me inscribed to and adorned in tribute to Sanderson via their forum, closing at 6pm Tuesday. As with the gig, all proceeds to Nick's family.

* Some downloads. Big Scary Monsters like to deliver the goods, and the latest delivery is their Autumn Collection of six songs, this one with the likes of Tubelord and This Town Needs Guns on it. Up the other end of the commercial spectrum James Masterton, who writes the chart commentaries for Yahoo! Music, also does a weekly chart podcast, and in a special edition Counting Down The Hits discovers the art and fortunes of the Sunday afternoon chart show rundown itself, including comments from the current and former Hit 40 UK hosts and Joel from previous Radio 1 incumbents JK & Joel.


Chris Brown said...

I could be wrong, but wasn't The Young Ones really massively popular in Australia?
Mind you, when I was six years old and that song was in the charts I wasn't allowed to watch the show anyway.

Other random thoughts: Are Bloc Party the first act ever to let Paul Epworth produce more than one album?
And is he really still calling himself "Joel Ross" again?

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