Sunday, August 31, 2008

Weekender : still waking in cold sweats

- It's when you're watching one of the schmindie music channels on Sky Digital and wincing at what we're presented as the hippest new things you all need to know that you realise how much people like us need to act as a proactive buffer for new music consumption. As White Lies' Editors B-sides follow Iglu & Hartley's MGMT-meets-Hard-Fi-played-by-men-without-tops follow Ida Maria's artless shouting follow that new Santogold single that sounds like Jane Wiedlin, it's refreshing to find a band that don't try too hard. Admittedly that actually is an accusation that's been directed towards Thomas Tantrum, and in particular singer Megan Thomas, whose singing voice, which she assures is much like her speaking voice, plots a path between Clare Grogan and Life Without Buildings' Sue Tompkins, more than one track even borrowing Tompkins' rhythmic word association for what passes for a chorus. Their self-titled debut album, released on their own Sindy Stroker label, produced by Richard McNamara off of, of all bands, Embrace and currently Myspace streamable in full, is the sort of record you can imagine having come out around the turn of the century and being feted by a select and cultured few to this day, exhibiting trace elements of post-punk but very much awkward, hook laden and of the indie pop milieu. It's the sort of adventure through youthful self-investigation of personal parameters joyfulness you only get in bands who haven't had the time to work out what they do yet, and it remains cherishable.

- If Fujiya & Miyagi are one trick ponies, it's a mightily impressive trick: motorik grooves, now driven by a real-life rhythm section, taken through a roundabout route that takes in not just Talking Heads but solo David Byrne, the Tom Tom Club and Jerry Harrison's keyboards for the Modern Lovers, while David Best breathily recites streams of consciousness. The Lightbulbs press release namechecks James Brown, the Human League, Serge Gainsbourg and Wire, but that's what press releases are for. It does its job, at least. Also believing in the Neu! is David Holmes, who returns from soundtrack curation and makes a well reverbed vocal debut on single I Heard Wonders. Also in the single racks are Slow Club, Charles and Rebecca inviting their friends round for the choral joyousness of Let's Fall Back In Love. Album any time soon? Attempting to make Johnny Flynn into a crossover star was always going to be a loss leader but the singles are still affecting things, Brown Trout Blues the latest.

MYSPACE INVADERS: There's not a lot of biographical detail we can tell you about Hajen. She's from Gothenburg, her Myspace has been up for about two months and has garnered 86 friends and 1617 views as of Thursday night, she's actually called Amanda, and she claims as influences Bob Dylan, Cat Power, Neil Young, Radiohead, 16 Horsepower and The Mars Volta. Ah, copy and paste. In fact Chan Marshall's last three albums would be a very good comparison to her spare, piano-based despair and soaring, heartfelt vocals, as would Stina Nordenstam and Regina Spektor. Only one other blog, and that Swedish music specific, has covered her as far as we can tell, but we certainly won't be the last.

VISUAL AID: He celebrated his fiftieth birthday on Friday with his status as an icon and a trailblazer for black people in his particular area of entertainment secure, even if he hasn't lived up to his 1980s heights in recent years. Here's his seminal video for Thriller.

* The Pipettes - you remember, they're like the 60s - are coming back with free gigs at The Fly in London over each of the next three days - try Tuesday, Restlesslist are supporting then - and a small scale tour in October. They'll be selling a remix CD at the latter dates, and as is now the way with such things they're inviting any passing herbert to put together their own mix for it, and as such are giving away the vocal parts to The Shoe That Fits as Myspace downloads. Yeah, that's an invitation to remix a song nobody outside the band has properly heard, and presumably thanks to the passage of time and members there won't be a lot of tracks from the first album being reworked for it either. Either common sense has taken its leave or there's some evil masterplan to all this. Anyway, best of British. In other news, our favourite music-as-magic comic Phonogram is heading towards its second series, The Singles Club. Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie have set this series in more contemporary times than the Britpop-centric Rue Britannia, which we discussed with Gillen two years ago, which means fewer Kenickie references but more like issue 1's club flyer inspired cover art on a Pip-theme. We're assured it will remain of a similarly high quality, current ETA being December. Would it be improper to round this bit off by linking to a new and interesting interview with the de-polka'd Rose Elinor Dougall? Yes, it probably would.

* It's three girl rhumbas all the way this week in this section, we tell you. ITV are currently running a series of online mini-documentaries entitled Web Lives, "a series of short documentaries following people whose lives are shaped by the Internet". The current subject in the Cyber Celebs section is some podcasters, and before them a comedian. And before him, the Duloks. Now, Mina, Mira and Mar are many things, but "web 2.0 superstars" isn't one of the first that springs to mind. Yet here they are advertised as an "unsigned trio (who) are slowly building up a Myspace fan base where they control everything without middle men getting in the way" - like most unsigned bands, then - and generally doing what they do in the gear they do it in and with the peculiar elan they exhibit while doing it. The editing must have been a nightmare.

* Nothing gladdens the heart and confounds the synapses like an indie queen on a kids' TV show. So, from Canada, Stars and Broken Social Scene's Amy Millan, plus country-jazz singer Christine Bougie and an excitable chef puppet.

* And a round-up of what else has caught our eye this week: the Wave Pictures' productivity rate has been covered on here before, but their turn on Bandstand Busking features an obscurity (2004's David's Evening On Wheels) and two brand new songs; our occasional series of blogs started by sometime major online music magazine players continues with Mike Diver, who we met three weeks ago and who left Drowned In Sound last week - are these events connected? We think we should be told - and who's for the time being marshalling From Sinking; meanwhile Marcello Carlin, who's been all round the place but (inevitably) mostly Stylus, goes for the album version of Tom Ewing's Popular number ones project (that one's in the sidebar) on Then Play Long, while Music Sounds Better With Two takes on the number two peaking singles from the chart's history. And here's Those Dancing Days covering Toxic.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Weekly Sweep

  • The Acorn - Crooked Legs [Myspace]
  • Bloc Party - Better Than Heaven [mp3 from Cannibal Cheerleader] (Early impressions? Not quite the post-Silent Alarm coming together we'd hoped, but better than A Weekend In The City. Might not age well. We'll see.)
  • Dananananaykroyd - Pink Sabbath [Myspace]
  • David Holmes - I Heard Wonders [YouTube]
  • Final Fantasy - Ultimatum [mp3 from Stereogum]
  • Fujiya & Miyagi - Knickerbocker [YouTube]
  • Future Of The Left - The House That Hope Built [Myspace]
  • Guillemots - Kriss Kross [YouTube]
  • Jason Lytle - Flying Thru Canyons [Myspace] (Former Grandaddy leader returns at last)
  • Johnny Flynn - Brown Trout Blues [YouTube]
  • Johnny Foreigner - Salt, Peppa & Spinderella [YouTube]
  • Land Of Talk - Some Are Lakes [Myspace] (Produced by Bon Iver!)
  • Mystery Jets - Half In Love With Elizabeth [YouTube]
  • Okkervil River - Lost Coastlines [Myspace]
  • Slow Club - Let's Fall Back In Love [Myspace]
  • The Spinto Band - Summer Grof [YouTube]
  • Superman Revenge Squad - Pupkin [Myspace]
  • TV On The Radio - Golden Age [streaming from homepage]
  • The Walkmen - In The New Year [Myspace
  • Wild Beasts - Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants [Myspace]
  • Wednesday, August 27, 2008

    Sweeping The Nation Covermount 14: It's A London Thing

    So, that's the Beijing Olympics done. The world records and gold medallists are in the books, the imagery committed to video library, and the flags and the honours have been passed on for London 2012 after a closing ceremony demonstration of the country's legacy in pop (Jimmy Page, Leona Lewis), sport (David Beckham), nostalgic culture (a double decker bus) and comedy (Bori...come on, you could see that punchline coming, couldn't you? The Now Show, you know where to find us)

    When better time - apart from in 2012, but we've got this together now - to pay tribute to the history of London as the muse for a whole host of songwriters - its areas, its riches, its deprivation, its Tube system, its party culture, its stay at home attitude. London has a place in popular music we reckon not even New York or Paris can match. It becomes part of band's stories but it makes its own mythologies. It creates genres and sounds that only really exist or thrive within its boundaries. There are songs here by lovers and haters, storytellers and detractors. A creative, financial and often psychological hub, the musical capital gains are endless, and here's 74 minutes or so of them.

    It's A London Thing

    Ian Dury - The Bus Driver's Prayer
    Right, we'll try and get through these twenty without leaving in confusing syntax or horrible factual errors, unlike the last Covermount (we're not sure we'll ever let ourselves forget confusing Cath Carroll for Cathal Coughlan - they're not even the same gender!) It's not actually a Dury original - the writer is unknown but it's been around since the early 70s - but you can see how Dury, who slightly changed the words, would be attracted to a song that namechecks various stops in Greater London. Here he is doing it on So It Goes.

    Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine - The Only Living Boy In New Cross
    The clips on YouTube of Carter USM's 'final' (as in they're playing two more in November) gig last year made it seem more like Sodom & Gomorrah than a last hurrah for a band that slipped through the critical net and turned up on every other T-shirt in the early 90s. Rock-fisted as they were, we wouldn't mind an issues band like them now, this being equally about HIV paranoia and celebrating South London lowlifes.
    From 1992 - The Love Album

    Girls Aloud - Swinging London Town
    This isn't issues led at all. In fact, it's a fairly open pisstake of ligging debutante partygoers who are always pictured pissed in expensive dresses in the celebrity magazines. You might like to stop for a moment here and consider the irony of Xenomania writing a song on that subject for the members of Girls Aloud to sing.
    From Chemistry

    Good Shoes - Morden
    A band that got swept along on the south London straightforwardly rattling indie-rock 'thing' that got the Maccabees noticed, although before then they'd played at the Mystery Jets' Eel Pie Island hullaballoos. All the members are from the Borough of Merton locale, although title aside it could be about any average urban small town.
    From Think Before You Speak

    Blur - London Loves
    Parklife, however, was as chirpy Cockerney as they come. Well, so cliche had it, the album's character sketches in retrospect being as paranoid and alienated from the party life as celebratory. This, as an example, is generally about empty lifestyles and the subject's ignorance of "the way people just fall apart".
    From Parklife

    Squeeze - Piccadilly
    Difford and Tilbrook wrote a lot about London life and urbanity - certainly you can't imagine a lot of other places packing in those locales in 1982.
    From East Side Story

    Pulp - Mile End
    Jarvis was living in London during Britpop and partaking well in the self-celebratory nature of the scene, as he would document in his comedown album This Is Hardcore. This came a couple of years before that, on the Trainspotting soundtrack, documenting the seedy underbelly of the area Cocker first moved to when coming down from Sheffield.
    From Different Class Deluxe Edition

    David Devant And His Spirit Wife - Pimlico
    And then there's the vaudeville angle. We've discussed DDAHSW back on C97, since when The Vessel, who now appears to be referring to himself as David Devant in contravention of naming convention before (actually no he's not - see the comments), has formed Glam Chops with fan/kindred spirit Eddie Argos.

    Elvis Costello - London's Brilliant Parade
    Although occasionally referred to as a Liverpudlian Declan grew up in Twickenham and spent very little time in Birkenhead when the family moved there before going back south, working at the Elizabeth Arden factory and writing a song about the former Hoover factory in Perivale. Fair to say he wasn't impressed by its postcard image.
    From Brutal Youth

    Madness - Primrose Hill
    Madness borrowed as much from music hall and Ray Davies as ska, and 1982's The Rise And Fall was their version of a concept album based on their childhoods. Being on the side of Regent's Park and next to Hampstead and Camden Town Primrose Hill's place in the band's psychogeography was assured.
    From The Rise And Fall

    Lord Kitchener - London Is The Place For Me
    In 1948 the Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury, Essex carrying nearly 5000 Jamaicans starting a new life abroad, marking the start of the modern era of multicultural relations. Among them were calypso musicians Lord Beginner and Lord Kitchener, born Aldwyn Roberts, who between them helped spread their indigenous music to Europe. This song gave its title to a series of Honest Jon's Records compilations of 1940s and 1950s calypso.
    From London Is The Place For Me

    Smiley Culture - Cockney Translation
    The second generation of the Jamaican immigrants were exemplified by David Emmanuel, who would go on to break the top 20 with Police Officer but had earlier had a minor hit and Peel attention with this comparisons and confusions of East End and West Indian slang, one of Michael Rosen's Desert Island Discs and a song Simon Reynolds has argued facilitated the leaking of black terms into general East London slang.

    Saint Etienne - London Belongs To Me
    Regular Covermount contributors, Bob and Pete (and probably Sarah too, to be fair) have had a long affinity with the sociology and landscape of London, producing the films Finisterre and What Have You Done Today, Mervyn Day? This takes a different tack, documenting love in Camden Town while namechecking World Of Twist.
    From Foxbase Alpha

    Richard Thompson - Sights And Sounds Of London Town
    Tales of prostitution, homelessness, drug dealing, Soho wheeler-dealing - the cheery stuff - from Thompson's 1999 early folk revival-themed album.
    From Mock Tudor

    Tori Amos - London Girls
    Being the iconoclast, North Carolina born Amos has covered two Chas & Dave songs, on the B-side of her Caught A Lite Sneeze single. One was That's What I Like Mick, and is absurd. This is at least more universal in lyrical tone, despite references to a geezer and getting a round in.

    Robyn Hitchcock - Trams Of Old London
    Onto the Tube now, with the eccentric English songwriter's eccentric English songwriter imagining the journey of the ghost of a derelict tram.
    From I Often Dream Of Trains

    Elliott Smith - Waterloo Sunset (live)
    Calexico - The Guns Of Brixton
    Two of the most quintessentially London bands of them all, two of their most capital specific songs that every one of you will know, both subject to stripped back covers by Americans.

    Hefner - The Greater London Radio
    Obviously it's about love dashed on the rocks, but despite being from Essex and Kent Hefner were always metropolitan at heart. This is the next album due on Darren Hayman's extension and reissue series.
    From We Love The City

    Catatonia - Londinium
    And eventually those who move to the city hoping the streets are paved with gold get fed up, or filled up, and decide to leave. Cerys Matthews' party lifestyle and attendant issues are well documented, but this was written by guitarist and Cerys' former paramour Mark Roberts and it was rumoured Cerys wasn't overly keen. Christ, she's not still dating Marc Bannerman, is she?
    From Equally Cursed And Blessed

    Monday, August 25, 2008

    A journey of discovery

    As record companies lose money and bands look for new ways of getting their music to the people quicker blah blah drone zzzzzzzz. Someone has to put the fun back into the way music is presented, so it might as well be The Wonderland Project. A duo originally from Brighton and Oxford, they match wistful life vignettes to offbeat keyboards and beats, somewhere between the Postal Service and Pagan Wanderer Lu. Their new album The History Of Science & How To Mend A Broken Heart is out today and is available from Amazon and iTunes, but they're hoping that's not the way you pick up on it. Instead from today they're distributing a number of limited edition, numbered CDs in random places around the country, the hope being that whoever picks them up listens, rips them if they want and then leaves the CD in another place where it can be passed on. Those who pick them up will also be asked to tell the band via their website where the CD was dropped, so the individual journeys can be plotted on the roving album map and they can see how far the records have got. We're not sure how much of a response it'll really get, but it's definitely worth a shot.

    The Wonderland Project - A Sense Of Community

    While we're about it, let's delve back into the promo pile for something we've had lying around for about four months now and never got round to posting from until now, for which we apologise. Stars And Sons is Mike Lord, who also plays in the live incarnation of our old friends 4 Or 5 Magicians and on his own produces infectious keyboard-led melodies with an ambitious sweep that recalls Ed Harcourt and an air that is positively Canadian (which Lord's not, he's from Brighton via Colchester, but there's echoes of Owen Pallett and Spencer Krug at large) The Goat Show EP is available on an honesty payment system from Myspace; if that's too much effort, 14.28571% of it is below.

    Stars And Sons - Fights Already Fought

    Finally we continue our recent co-option of Project Notion, a band who when first brought to your attention we commented upon the top line of their Myspace friends and now find ourselves on that same top line. If you're coming fresh to these five teenagers-and-thereabouts from Melton Mowbray, and if you aren't thanks to what we've written about them before you might recognise a lot of this paragraph, they trade in a complexity that defies most attempts at pinning them down. The guitars are math-rock tappy, the rhythms from the better end of jazz-rock, Tori Maries sounds like she's come hotfoot from a trip-hop recording session, and there's an undertow of folky acoustics and percussion. They're mesmerising live, where the intricate Tim and Mike Kinsella-esque guitars (although we do actually doubt they'd claim Cap'n Jazz and their ilk as influences the way they use them) really take off, and while they've claimed influence from Anathallo and Califone and longtime local scene trustee Kevin Hewick reckons "The Sundays crossed with Durutti Column and Discipline era King Crimson", really there's nothing immediately coming to mind that accurately nails their style. This is from The Ethereal Apparatus, a six track EP they're currently giving away to anyone who sends their snailmail address to the email address in their Myspace blog.

    Project Notion - Castles In The Air

    Sunday, August 24, 2008

    Weekender : more confusing than the Madison

    (1500 EDIT)
    I've never been happy about personalising a blog like this, which is why I always refer to myself as 'we' despite the name at the bottom always being the same, but I've just found out that Mathew AKA Tree, an old cyberfriend and contributor to my football site It's Up For Grabs Now around the turn of the decade, died last night aged 35. We never actually met face to face beyond many times spent facing off across the ether, but as well as his sense of humour, sense of the absurd, endless creativity - in the early days of STN I advertised a shortlived DJ venture he had set up - willingness to speak the truth and sense of principle-driven kindness, he was also tremendously enthusiastic about music, leading me to seek out the likes of Mew (pre-Frengers), David Ackles, Stina Nordenstam, Blonde Redhead, Emiliana Torrini, Jason Molina, the Notwist etc. etc. In fact, although we hadn't made contact for a while I kept meaning to mention End Of The Road to him knowing his love of Molina, Mark Kozelek and Akron/Family (although it's since turned out he knew about it anyway) but never got round to it. RIP Mathew.

    WHAT CD?
    - Back at Indietracks, Gordon McIntyre pondered on how he's often asked rhetorically why his band ballboy (that's how you properly put it) are tiny while Coldplay are huge, surmising that you merely get what you're dealt in life. But then, taking the assumption that most people reading this know a lot about music, we're all aware of a songwriter who hasn't been anywhere near as handsomely rewarded by fate and/or sales as their abilities would suggest. The fifth ballboy album I Worked On The Ships is by and large reflective of the first four, mixing haunting melancholy with upbeat indiepop whimsy and allegory, all lyrically buffed to a shine if more on the reflective side and playing with structures this time around. This early on we're not sure it's as strong as their standout The Royal Theatre, but the lyrical twists still have the capacity to take the listener aback and, being ballboy, there's still a slew of great song titles (Songs For Kylie, Disney's Ice Parade, We Can Leap Buildings And Rivers But Really We Just Wanna Fly, Godzilla Vs The Island Of Manhattan (With You And I Somewhere In-Between))

    - There's a bit being written at the moment about how Manchester is on the upswing again, but they tend to go on at length about post-Oasis knuckle draggers like the Courteeners and Twisted Wheel. Inevitably that's the very thin end of a creative wedge at the fatter end of which sit Cats In Paris. Courtcase 2000 is what you'd hoped the Ting Tings sounded like before you heard them, only smashed to pieces and reassembled by a madman - disconnected lyrics, structure all over the place, moments of gorgeousness next to complete breakdowns, psych-prog-pop easily distracted and falling apart at the seams through overpacking. It might give you a migraine, but the moments before it will be bafflingly fun.

    - And also: Mechanical Bride has been touted for a good two years now without ever threatening to get the extra push that would take her icy electrofolk (not folktronica, that's different) to a wider audience already softened up by Laura Marling. Her EPs, including a stripped back cover of Umbrella, are gathered on Part II EPs. At the other end of the career spectrum Squeeze reach a Complete BBC Sessions, which doesn't answer the question of where the promised Difford and Tilbrook solo albums supposedly out this year have got to. The songs therein stretch from Peel 1977 through Kid Jensen, Richard Skinner, Nicky Campbell and, wow, Emma Freud to Simon Mayo 1994.

    - Singles: we didn't mention the album at the time, but The Chap's Mega Breakfast is a bloody strange postmodern electropop proposition that's sure to figure in our end of year list if nobody else's. The single Proper Rock is out on 7", and the band descrube it thus: "a very camp-sounding fire fighter's choir fronting some kind of fierce sci-fi indie rock combo, demanding “Proper songs about girls and clubbing”" Plus there's a minimalist cover of What's Love Got To Do With It? on the B-side wherein they forget the words. You'd never catch the Mystery Jets doing that on record, not with their friends round, Half In Love With Elizabeth's six track EP coming with a Disco Version featuring Kate Nash, Flakes with Florence of And The Machine fame on vocals and a sumptuous strings-driven version of Two Doors Down from that den of musical iniquity, the Radio 1 Live Lounge. Having no truck with flashy extras, Fujiya & Miyagi do their surrealist mumbling over motorik schtick - it's much better than that, we assure you - on first single off new album Knickerbocker.

    - New Video Works nearly blows it with the press release, which starts "As mainstream pop music drifts further into antiseptic, programmed posturing, a new generation of DIY anti-heroes have kept busy in their hives" Yeah, alright, you're not Keane, we get the picture. What this is is a two hour DVD full of live footage of assorted LA experimentalists, rickety indie rock types and ne'er do wells, starring BARR, No Age (Dean Spunt's video label is releasing it), Xiu Xiu, Mika Miko, Deerhunter, Abe Vigoda, Erase Errata, High Places and hundreds of other scene bands whose T-shirts Gareth Campesinos is doubtless saving up for even now.

    MYSPACE INVADERS: Were they British, Native would have to be from Oxford. There's no two ways about it - there's Youthmovies interplay and tempo changes and This Town Needs Guns tapping plus switches into pure hardcore like a math Meet Me In St Louis. Big Scary Monsters are already across them, which figures. They're actually from Indiana and are great believers in just getting in the van and Doing It, and if they get spotted by the right people doing that the following could really take off.

    VISUAL AID: After last week's blowout we'll keep it quick and simple this week. Ever seen Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson duetting on Folsom Prison Blues?

    * Hello, Poindexter! is a spectacular example of taking music blogging down hitherto unknowable side roads. Heather d'Angelo is one third of lissom keyboard botherers Au Revoir Simone; she's also into science and astronomy and is, it says here, "gradually laboring on an Astrophysics degree from Columbia University at the assiduous pace of one semester every two years, which incidentally, correlates with our album cycles". So yes, it's a blog which combines the disciplines of being in an internationally recognised indie band and the intersection between art and the sciences.

    * This doesn't comfortably follow on from that in honesty, but it feels right coming next. When we interviewed Dave Tattersall not long ago he said the Wave Pictures were already deep into their next two albums, and on top of that they've just announced the recording of a new EP for digital release on 6th October. What makes this noteworthy is they're trying to make it the lowest carbon footprinted release ever, taking place in a solar powered studio this week and with no CDs, paper press releases. Band and engineer will even walk to the studio.

    * This isn't a new link at all - posted in January 2007, in fact - but we only saw it this week and it's about a subject we're greatly interested in and through posting it hope you will be too, the extraordinary pop art-inspired sleeve designs for, among others, Elvis Costello, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, the Damned and Hawkwind of Barney Bubbles, as compiled by another artist/sleeve designer, John Coulthart. Image intensive, as you'd imagine. A book of his work, Reasons To Be Cheerful, is published in November. (And according to his Wiki and backed up by the Music Video Database he directed the famous Specials Ghost Town video)

    * Big Scary Monsters records get their second mention in this Weekender as they're giving away a Summer Collection digital label sampler, featuring This Town Needs Guns, Secondsmile, Blakfish (with Jeremy Kyle Is A Marked Man), Pennines and Mimas.

    * And finally, returning to our occasional series of carefully curated Myspaces for largely forgotten late 90s bands - Gel!

    Saturday, August 23, 2008

    The Weekly Sweep

  • The Acorn - Crooked Legs [mp3] (In truth we've only heard two songs from this - oh look - expansive Canadian collective but are very excited on that basis. Think Sparklehorse, think Fleet Foxes, think what the influence of traditional Honduran music on those might sound like)
  • ballboy - Godzilla Vs The Island Of Manhattan (With You And I Somewhere In-Between) [Myspace] (No Honduran music for Gordon McIntyre and co, just good honest poetic love songs to an indiepop beat. Dammit, he gets us every time with that one.)
  • The Chap - Proper Rock [mp3]
  • Cold War Kids - Something Is Not Right With Me [Myspace]
  • David Holmes - I Heard Wonders [YouTube]
  • Fujiya & Miyagi - Knickerbocker [YouTube]
  • Guillemots - Kriss Kross [YouTube]
  • The Hold Steady - Constructive Summer [Myspace]
  • I'm From Barcelona - Paper Planes [Myspace]
  • Johnny Flynn - Brown Trout Blues [YouTube]
  • Johnny Foreigner - Salt, Peppa & Spinderella [YouTube]
  • Laura Wolf - Love Was Dead [Myspace] (To be honest, we don't expect universal support for this one. Her Myspace quotes a review (from Death To Music, we think) referring to her as "a cross between Lily Allen and Casiotone For The Painfully Alone", which sounds about right)
  • Mystery Jets - Half In Love With Elizabeth [YouTube]
  • Okkervil River - Lost Coastlines [Myspace]
  • Slow Club - Let's Fall Back In Love [Myspace]
  • Stereolab - Three Women [YouTube]
  • This City - We Move [Myspace]
  • Thomas Tantrum - Work It [YouTube]
  • TV On The Radio - Golden Age [streaming from homepage]
  • Vampire Weekend - Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa [YouTube]
  • Friday, August 22, 2008

    If this is dancing about architechture, please welcome Fiona Phillips

    Seriously, is it us? We post essentially bemoaning the state of modern print music journalism, and broadsheet writers promptly spend the week in some sort of competition to see who can write the most pointless, horribly written article.

    The Independent set this year's gold standard with its curiously celebrated "those commercial indie bands are a bit uninspiring, aren't they?" piece, which hardly required Woodward and Bernstein levels of elucidation and stealing the "landfill indie" phrase from The Word in the process. Last week's 'Mikachu: wacky pop for now people' headline was bad enough never to make you want to hear her work, never mind that the piece misspelt Michachu's name throughout. This week, they've spotted that digital downloads don't tend to have cover art. With less pedigree, The Times had to have a couple runs at it to get it right, the first a piece about the rise of Ibiza club culture and its commercialism which, yes, was apparently filed this week rather than being a commemorative ten year reprint. There was this half-year's 'the girls are taking over' piece which skilfully ignores how if Santogold and Lykke Li were to have struck a commercial blow for females (this being so much more important to such writers than mere critical acclaim), "the Arctic Monkeys" skilfully Biro'd over where "the Kaiser Chiefs", "Coldplay" and "Travis" have been sequentially Tippexed over, they'd have done so by now with all the build-up, and shows up its own lack of knowledge by asking the not exactly short of angles herself Camille about Carla Bruni and starting a paragraph "Naturellement..."

    The Guardian, printing so much more music pieces than their direct competitors, are particularly prone, but yesterday touched some sort of bottom. There is plenty to be said, thought and debated in the wake of the story about Babyshambles being banned from Moonfest because they might have overexcited the crowd. While you'd like to think it'll open a debate about police powers and the post-Criminal Justice Bill potential for a swingeing clampdown on entertainment, what it's actually done is encourage articles like this. Textbook work from Tim Jonze here - self-denial (Tim, we know you also work for the NME. There is no earthly way you're unaware of Babyshambles recordings), cliche aided pot shots at people that have nothing to do with the issue at hand (what have ATP ever done to him?), betrayal of lack of knowledge based assumptions (in what way are Holy Fuck a noise band?) and the season's favoured clipboard cut and paste. Yeah! Take that, commercial indie and your being "not the best place to catch discussions on the work of Michel Foucault", because of course that's an entirely natural and helpful thing to say about any music.

    No, we haven't taken the Telegraph to task, but Neil McCormack manages that for himself every time he sits down to write anything.

    And for god's sake, who really voted in, or indeed believes a word of, this arse?

    Thursday, August 21, 2008

    We've been here before

    Another of our irregular dips back into charts of yore, and with The Verve reforming (and possibly splitting up again) we wondered what the scene was like in those less than halcyon immediately post-Britpop days when they first reappeared, 28th June 1997:

    40 Wet Wet Wet - Strange
    We don't keep lists of Men Least Likely To Be Harbouring Severe Heroin Addictions, but if we had around this time Marti Pellow wouldn't have had a look-in. Shows what we know.

    39 Travis - All I Want To Do Is Rock
    "...then All I Want To Do Is Rock went in at 39 and I thought, bloody hell, we'll have a number one in 38 singles' time!" Two years short of an almost personable if still dreck-ridden ubiquity largely forgotten now as Coldplay followed a year later.

    38 R Kelly - I Believe I Can Fly
    37 Toni Braxton - I Don't Want To
    36 Amen! UK - People Of Love

    35 Jon Bon Jovi - Midnight In Chelsea
    Everyone has written a song about Manhattan's Chelsea Hotel, and the Libertines recorded some of those regular sessions Pete gives away there, perhaps thinking it has some sort of residual glamour. If they'd actually read up about Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen, or more precisely heard Jeffrey Lewis' The Chelsea Hotel Oral Sex Song, mayeb they wouldn't.

    34 The Porn Kings - Amour (C'mon)

    33 Shola Ama - You Might Need Somebody
    Yes, they had new queens of Brit-soul back then too.

    32 The Cardigans - Lovefool
    Mark Lamarr, sitting in for Mark Radcliffe on the Radio 1 graveyard shift, played this without hearing it first as he loved their previous work, and didn't even wait for it to finish before laying into it. Then look what happened.

    31 Skunk Anansie - Brazen 'Weep'
    30 En Vogue - Whatever
    29 Supergrass - Sun Hits The Sky

    28 ETA - Casual Sub (Burning Spear)
    What a convoluted title. In fact it was a club tune called Casual Sub that sampled Burning Spear by Burning Spear, and presumably someone misread the bit about crediting samples.

    27 Olive - You're Not Alone
    26 DJ Quicksilver - Bellissima
    25 Foxy Brown Featuring Jay-Z - I'll Be
    24 The Charlatans - How High
    23 Depeche Mode - Home
    22 The Rembrandts - I'll Be There For You
    21 The Brand New Heavies - You Are The Universe

    20 Finley Quaye - Sunday Shining
    Our great lost... no, not talent, let us think about this for a moment. Eccentric? No, too kindly. Arse, that's it. He could have been as untrustworthy as Jamiroquai if only he'd stuck around for longer.

    19 Red Hot Chili Peppers - Love Rollercoaster
    Men in their pants, always amusing.

    18 Savage Garden - I Want You
    17 Az Yet - Hard To Say I'm Sorry

    16 Primal Scream - Star
    No, Bobby, no, it's not automatically dub if you get Martin Duffy to play a melodica and then put some echo on every now and again.

    15 Paula Cole - Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?
    Hugely odd Sheryl Crowesque part whispered thing from one hit wonder who sported a mask on TOTP. Wiki: "In 2008, on the eve of the NBA Finals, sports songwriter Ryan Parker did a parody entitled "Where Have All The White Boys Gone?", referring to how the Boston Celtics, who were playing in that year's Finals, had a significantly larger number of African-American players when compared to their successful 1980s squads." Is that not just slightly dubious?

    14 Rosie Gaines - Closer Than Close
    Speed garage ahoy! It's basically dubstep now, of course.

    13 Wyclef Jean Featuring Refugee Allstars - We Trying To Stay Alive
    No, go on, guess the sample.

    12 Sarah Brightman And Andrea Bocelli - Time To Say Goodbye (Con Te Partiro)
    Eat it raw, Jenkins.

    11 Celine Dion - Call The Man

    10 Mr President - Coco Jamboo
    Everyone forgets this Eurodance hit, probably because it was so much cribbed off the sound of all the others during the decade that it might well have been made by osmosis.

    9 Cast - Guiding Star
    Essentially as close as Cast ever got to sounding like the La's, although they'd still have been better off looking for a mixing desk with 60s dust on it.

    8 Echo & The Bunnymen - Nothing Lasts Forever
    The song that still convinces Ian McCulloch that coming back, and back, and back again is a worthwhile idea. Noel Gallagher's based the last three Oasis albums on it.

    7 Ultra Nate - Free

    6 Eternal Featuring BeBe Winans - I Wanna Be The Only One
    "You should be more properly dressed in the house of the lord!"

    5 Blur - On Your Own
    Just a... just a mess of Stuff. Blur hasn't all stood up well, in truth, but the best bits are better than ever. This isn't one of them.

    4 Ocean Colour Scene - Hundred Mile High City
    Britpop's own contribution to the R&B boom, a little late, cram several thousand riffs into four minutes. The OCS song it's OK to move your head slightly to?

    3 Hanson - Mmm Bop
    The drummer's a girl. Pass it on. Actually, this does give us an opportunity to float one of our favourite 'whatever happened to?' queries, namely Hillman Minx, who got brought in supposedly by the band as they didn't want to be supported at Wembley by B*Witched, and who can blame them, then got a lot of Mark & Lard play for list song single I've Had Enough, then were never heard of again. Worth a punt asking if anyone knows any more, s'pose.

    2 The Verve - Bitter Sweet Symphony
    The whole idea that the world had been waiting for the comeback of some pedal-friendly psychedelic shamanism to show us the anthemic way came entirely from History, their authentic Noelrock moment and thus the one that could be used as a demonstration of how they influenced Oasis while leaving out all the potentially difficult swirling long stuff. The video became famous because Ashcroft looked a bit moody and northern, thus Liam. The stage was set for lots of pointing outwards with the microphone, which continues to this day with whatever they're trying to pull off with the new album.

    1 Puff Daddy And Faith Evans - I'll Be Missing You
    P Diddy invents Kanye's rapping style on Through The Wire, only Kanye had a reason at the time to sound like that. People get to pretend Sting is trendy. Notorious BIG remains dead, and then gets even deader when Puffy samples Duran Duran's Notorious for him. Tell us, who really wins?

    Tuesday, August 19, 2008

    Oh arse

    Muxtape is down, as the site coyly puts it "while we sort out a problem with the RIAA." Now what do we do?

    (Nobody say Celebrity Mixwit, OK?)

    I write about the songs

    Have you noticed that the NME, in their latest set of infinite wisdom-driven cosmetic changes, have given Mark Beaumont a weekly column? Well, no, as nobody buys the thing any more, but the column contains about as much prose and pith as you'd expect. And there hangs an issue.

    It's widely agreed that the last great era of weekly music writing came in the late 80s and early 90s - the NME period under Danny Kelly's idiosyncratic stewardship is often celebrated, when the magazine took what TV Cream once called the "smoking jacket era" approach and spawned assorted future media nabobs - Stuart Maconie, Andrew Collins, James Brown, Steve Lamacq, David Quantick and the lingering ghost of Steven Wells well before he became the only man in Britain who genuinely believes that liking Girls Aloud is a revolutionary counter-cultural statement (and you can read his latest reordering of the same words in the Guardian and on The Quietus this and every bloody week) - before Steve Sutherland crossed the floor from MM and most of the staff left in protest. But then the Melody Maker itself has plenty of supporters from that same era for its no-nonsense stylings - Simon Reynolds, Chris Roberts and David Stubbs, and slightly later Everett True, Simon Price, Taylor Parkes, Neil Kulkarni and the Stud Brothers. Who, in the fifteen years since those little groups folded back into itself, has become notable for the quality of their printed writing? People have made a case for Alexis Petridis, but aside from him there's nobody coming to mind.

    Of course this new technology here has enabled such work to be democratised and blogs like (we hope) this one to offer a similar single voice, but if you've read this or anyone's blog before you already know the singular approach you're going to get, which isn't the same as having a group of trustworthy writers in the same place. It's been attempted online - Freaky Trigger approaches it on a more general scale, The Quietus actually employs some ex-MM people, but even with the big online names you don't get the same writer loyalty or even knowledge of their characters on Pitchfork (breaks bands, uses expressive language, all much of a muchness on the reviews side) or Drowned In Sound (however much Sean Adams tries all its fresh writing is seen as an adjunct to the forums). For our money the online music magazine that did the best job of fostering this idea of a group of writers unafraid of longform journalism with their own approaches was the now defunct Stylus, which successfully grew into its own smart, outspoken community, from Nick Southall to Ian Mathers to William Swygart to Dom Passantino to Todd Hutlock and the rest of them. We suspect that a large part of the reason why the NME gets kicked from pillar to post is it can't, unlike Stylus was at online liberty to, bring itself to stand aside from the critical and commercial morass and build its own internal logic driven world again. What's it going to do, affect sales?

    Monday, August 18, 2008


    Is this the lamest newspaper blog piece ever published?

    If you don't have time in your busy schedule, it's one John Plunkett being commissioned to write about Dave Pearce leaving Radio 1, realising too late that he's a dance DJ, filling most of their quota with hello-I-am-an-older-person-writing-about-dance-culture-look-at-me-ironically-using-youth-speak language, helpfully ending a tricky paragraph by remembering that funny old Tim Westwood is also a Radio 1 specialist DJ and ultimately forgetting what they were supposed to be writing about to begin with. Wisely, most of the commenters simply work around him.

    Sunday, August 17, 2008

    Weekender : saw the ghost of Lena Zavaroni

    WHAT CD?
    - As much as Peter and David Brewis - and Andrew Moore, but these few sentences are mostly about Peter and David Brewis' projects - want to disassociate themselves from the band with whom they made two excellent albums, both of their albums will be naturally compared to Field Music, in more ways than the Field Music Production they're umbrella'd as to show that all three still collaborate on each other's material in the band's own 8 Studio and on Field Music's label Memphis Industries. Helpful in some ways, as both are as detailed and retro-modernity melodic as the pair, but when you're striving for something different it can become a crutch when trying to move away, whether the cut and paste pop of School Of Language or the sheer ambition of Peter's The Week That Was, whose self-titled eight track album is out this week. It is, it says here, a concept album about the influence of mass media on modern society, structured as an imaginary crime thriller in the style of novelist Paul Auster, musically seasoned with the flavourings of a very particular type of early 80s pop, that of Japan, Talk Talk and Hounds Of Love Kate Bush, evoking expansive complex choral structures and textures with the aid of judicious Fairlight sampler and Linn drum in a less showy way but along the same lines as Yeasayer and without copying that era's ageing production techniques, while maintaining the vocal harmonies, upwardly mobile strings, spare piano and XTC rhythms of the band but in a way that take their own time to uncoil their full colours and features. If you loved Tones Of Town but didn't totally get with School Of Language's Sea From Shore, we say you'll have an easier time with this one but it's by no means stylistic stasis.

    - Briefly before we get on with talking about Stereolab's Chemical Chords, can we just rail against the occasional practice of edited advance copies? Yeah, rich of anyone who gets records sent to them gratis to be complaining, we know, but it has to be said that it doesn't benefit the listener a) if the label assumption is they're bound to be about to leak the thing and b) to have a set of songs that cut off halfway through. As for what we have, it's a very lounge pop-oriented Gane, Sadier etc. we find at the ninth studio time of asking. The songs are more compact and set direct for the summerhouse, there's oblique countercultural references next to ye-ye-isms, Sean O'Hagan's back to do his SMiLE arrangements thing and we hope someone types up Tim Gane's thorough evaluation of each track from the press release because it's an enlightening read. And yeah, you pretty much know what it sounds like from that, but that never stopped you sucking it all in before.

    - In singles, Vampire Weekend finally do the decent thing and drop the masses a Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa-shaped bone while the hipsters work out which bit of the gyroscopically rotating hype/backlash cycle we're now on. Still on the upswing and and harbouring no desire yet to make playlists is the kinetic jerky fuzz of Thomas Tantrum, who claim to be from Goatee Beach but probably aren't actually living in that actual small dockside area in Southampton. Apparently they started out as an acoustic folk duo, something you can't imagine in the slightest hearing the Altered Images via the Yeah Yeah Yeahs via Life Without Buildings rush of Work It. Unlikely as it seems, it's produced by Embrace's Richard McNamara, not a man whose back catalogue has suggested the fast and whipsmart.

    COMING SOON: Will Sheff describes The Stand Ins in terms of it being the answer record to The Stage Names, and there is some thematic transposition going on. What's also going on is an enveloping Motown-hued lusciousness that while acting as a piece with last year's STN album of the year reintroduces a countrified air reaching as far back as Down The River Of Golden Dreams. The whole shebang is previewed in this advertorial video directed by one David Lowery (the same one from Camper Van Beethoven? It's not clear), while they've dropped the odd hint during their recent festival rounds, such as Lost Coastlines (alright, lady, no need to scream that piercingly), Singer Songwriter and Blue Tulip.

    MYSPACE INVADERS: Not that there's ever really a lean time in Manchester, but there's an upsurge going on at the moment of high quality new bands from there. Everything Everything were described by the North West Evening Mail as "Mogwai and My Bloody Valentine mixed with The Beach Boys", which would be the greatest band ever if true. They aren't, so it isn't, but they're still pretty notable. You'll hear Wild Beasts' machine tooled indie-funk, first album Futureheads call and response harmonies, the wild eyed taut punk-funk of first album Liars and most of all the Cardiacs' sumptuous multi-angled madness. How it'll come across when supporting The Automatic in October (their demos were produced by Paul Mullen's former yourcodenameis:milo sidekick Justin Lockey, and we can hear elements of that band) is another matter, but please welcome another of that increasingly rare creature, an urgent new voice in the boys with angular guitar stakes.

    VISUAL AID: Revolution Grrrl Style Now! A very brief history of Riot Grrrl and women in punk and post-punk generally: part of punk's overhaul of rock

    standards of the time was getting women like Pauline Murray of Penetration involved, although the most famous, Siouxsie Sioux, really became so by being the de facto leader of the Pistols' Bromley contingent (term invented by Melody Maker journo Caroline Coon) and hence the woman Bill Grundy ill-fatedly attempted to chat up. Lydon's other mate Marian Elliott became Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex; the Clash's friends the Slits turned from being the new Shaggs to dub-punk trailblazers. The Slits' ex-drummer Palmolive moved onto Kurt Cobain favourites the Raincoats, while in America Lydia Lunch started her career as a literate No Wave nihilist with Teenage Jesus & The Jerks. There were a few keeping the flame burning in between, most notably C86's harder edge such as the Shop Assistants, but a subculture of female music, art and literature making coalesced in 1991 under a tag coined by Tobi Vail, later of Bikini Kill, who would start a fanzine of that name with bandmate Kathleen Hanna as well as Allison Wolfe and Molly Neuman of Bratmobile. Calvin Johnson's The International Pop Underground threw a special night called Love Rock Revolution Girl Style Now that August which Bratmobile headlined over Heavens To Betsy, whose Corin Tucker later formed Sleater-Kinney. The British kept their end up with Huggy Bear and Mambo Taxi, whose drummer later formed the Voodoo Queens. The usual mainstream co-option did for Riot Grrrl in the mid-90s, leaving traces behind in Le Tigre, The Gossip (you have no idea how long it took us to find something that pre-dated That Song) and Mika Miko. We're sure Britain will get back involved in all this at some point. Won't we?

    * So we've kind of come back to so much stuff it pains us not to mention half of it. We've had to force ourselves to stop looking at the main stage lineup for Offset Festival in Hainault Forest on August 30th-31st out of self-abasement; We've squirmed at the news that the Noah And The Whale single is being released in America as '5 Years Time (Sun Sun Sun)'; we've received the usual rounds of unique video performances such as Los Campesinos!' Take Away Show (those who haven't just skipped straight to this bit and are reading sequentially, note Gareth's T-shirt) and Martha Wainwright's and Wild Beasts' Black Cab Sessions; we've had a Myspace message that started "Hello to you "Both Bars On" blogger, I dig your blog, like your taste in music..." - clearly not that much; and we've found new blogs to exalt, such as Mike off Troubled Diva, the aforelinked William Swygart, Stylus' Nick Southall and, erm, some other people getting together and declaring themselves Rocktimists. Dom Passantino? He's over here.

    * And then there's the new songs. Los Campesinos!' How I Taught Myself to Scream, long rumoured as a Hold On Now, Youngster... outtake, has surfaced, and it's a time signature-shifting, pummelling, swaying powerhouse that would have fit on that work comfortably (what in place of, though? Ah, the rock star quandaries) Meanwhile, You Ain't No Picasso has unearthed six new Decemberists songs previewed by Colin Meloy on his March/April solo US tour, including a new three parter.

    * Here's an idea that beautifully melds new and old medias. Caramel Distro, set up by the duo behind Spiral Scratch club (and one of whom is in Pocketbooks), acts as a distribution/storage/clearing house for the indiepop fanzine revival, and they invite you to drop yours off similarly.

    * News now from the office of a Mr J Warmsley - no, not a TV Show just yet, but he's shooting a video on Wednesday in Petersfield, Hampshire and is looking for extras. Available and want details? If this isn't a rom-com, email the director.

    * And finally, to celebrate Madonna's 50th birthday, we present Garry Trudeau's magnificent flight of mistranslation fancy (no, it's not genuine, despite being quoted in many sources as such, Doonesbury creator Trudeau made it up for Time magazine in 1996)

    Saturday, August 16, 2008

    The Weekly Sweep

  • Broken Records - Slow Parade [Myspace]
  • Calories - A Bear A Bison [Myspace] (Calories were previously 75% of Distophia, a band that earned a huge following (not least from a certain other set of loud American influenced Brummies) but we never went for at all. This we very much are.)
  • The Chap - Proper Rock [mp3]
  • The Chiara L's - Eyelashes [Myspace] (They've been quiet since an ace double A side at the end of 2007, but now they're back with a set of demos exploring the point at which early Altered Images meet Helen Love)
  • Cold War Kids - Something Is Not Right With Me [Myspace]
  • David Holmes - I Heard Wonders [YouTube]
  • Erik Blood - Home And Walk [Myspace]
  • Fujiya & Miyagi - Knickerbocker [Myspace video] (This would probably be vying with JoFo and The Chap for top tune honours at the moment - still not enough people know about the blank prose motorik Brighton outfit approaching second album Lightbulbs, and that's very wrong)
  • Guillemots - Kriss Kross [live YouTube]
  • Johnny Flynn - Brown Trout Blues [YouTube]
  • Johnny Foreigner - Salt, Peppa & Spinderella [YouTube]
  • The Kabeedies - Palindromes [Myspace]
  • Mystery Jets - Half In Love With Elizabeth [Myspace]
  • Nat Johnson - Dirty Rotten Soul [YouTube] (Formerly leader of Monkey Swallows The Universe, now not averse to the odd lingering close-up)
  • Rose Elinor Dougall - Come Away With Me [Myspace] (Not a Norah Jones cover, but one of a very fine new set of demos from the ex-Rosay which come with a hint of a proper record in the near future. Brother Tom, who's on this, is guitarist with Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong, but we all have our crosses to bear)
  • Slow Club - Let's Fall Back In Love [Myspace] (Finally they upload it and you can hear it too. If anyone knows a direct link we'd appreciate it, but for the meantime we also recommend trawling the net for Rebecca's solo cover of the Mae Shi's Run To Your Grave)
  • The Spinto Band - Summer Grof [YouTube]
  • Stereolab - Three Women [YouTube]
  • Thomas Tantrum - Work It [YouTube]
  • Vampire Weekend - Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa [YouTube]
  • Thursday, August 14, 2008

    This dancing day: Summer Sundae Sunday review


    So we start a windy but almost dry day three with Charlie Jones, as mentioned in the Fringe bit two days ago. It sounds like journalistic laziness to say about a female singer-songwriter that she has a touch of the Kate Nashes about her, but there is insomuch as Nash's acoustic stripped down material shows a storytelling touch, if the odd rote rhyme, and Jamie T-like rhythmic vocal style which would be ruined if they had a full band behind (which, obviously, she's gone and done on her Myspace demos. Sigh.) For her last song, a fast bluesy number, she hands over the guitar to a male accomplice so as to be able to concentrate more on the kazoo. There's class.

    Mystery Jets' withdrawl due to Blaine Harrison's hospitalisation has meant a slight rejig on the main stage, and a chance to play to a wider audience for The Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir. The suggestion is they've been booked on the back of Seasick Steve's runaway success last year, and another growing audience fascinated by this authentic country-bluesy sound bears out the risk in elevating to the wider audience this sound founded on banjos, upright bass and a drumkit which features a huge bass drum facing outwards on top of the actual bass drum. Musically it's pacy Appalachian folk, stomping bluegrass and a touch of the Tom Waits, topped by a proper Delta blues holler and climaxing with a call and response version of John The Revelator.

    Somewhat more stripped back is another of the day's range of soloists, Ed Hamill AKA Hamell On Trial, one man, one battered guitar, an amp next to him and a whole lot of punk via antifolk testifying. Strumming ferociously, littering his set with jokes (and deliberate rock poses for the cameramen) and belting out stories telling it as it is on ageing, drugs and bosses, persuading the audience to yell "fuck it!" on command, although in doing so you wondered about the couple of kids at the barrier. Is it against the grain to call Hamill a showman? Because that's really what he is.

    How would you describe Hayden Thorpe, then? Wild Beasts, like fellow Kendal emigrants British Sea Power, come on to a tape of John Betjeman and proceed to assert their own lofty poetic range. Having watched their astro-indie funk close up we still have no idea how they do it, other than the combination of strutting rhythms, Ben Little's Postcard Records via Johnny Marr guitar and Thorpe's keening vocal, once the soundmen have located it, and odd chicken strut of a guitar playing stance shouldn't work but very much does. The album tracks retain their cabaret of the grotesque qualities and as with their underwatched set here last year Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants sees outbreaks of sporadic flailing dancing, while two men who have possibly indulged somewhat over the previous two days concern themselves with rave gurning over the barrier until the security girl breaks down into laughter. (That they then kept doing it for the next ten minutes turned them into twats, but for a moment it was a beautiful thing.)

    Another singer-songwriter who does things his own way is awaiting in the hall. Jeffrey Lewis' set, compared to End Of The Road last year, is lighter on the Crass covers, although there are a couple, and while there's a big space where Jack Lewis usually is and no Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror he still more than holds his own, using the hall's big screens to project The Creeping Brain's comic strip and having an extended run through the not exactly easy to begin with The Last Time I Did Acid I Went Insane. Outside, two years ago Jose Gonzalez played the main stage on an overcast day on his own to a large audience and it didn't quite work. This year he gives it another go and does no better.

    More palatable, in every sense, Swedes take to the Rising stage. Those Dancing Days are just what you need at teatime on the last day of a festival, as their infectious new wave girlpop (the new Kenickie at last? Discuss) rubs off on plenty. Enthusiasm over technicality they may be - bassist Mimmi really needs to work on a way of brushing her hair away without taking her left hand off - and the organ may be a bit too low in the mix but live their joyousness is the equal of their recorded vitality, and the new songs from October's debut album prove there's more where Hitten, here given a slow build-up first verse, came from. And while Linnea Jönsson remains the doe eyed, soul voiced, John McEnroe haired centre of attention, it's worth keeping an eye on Lisa Pyk Wirström, who switches between being a candidate for the most insouciant keyboard player we've ever seen and when not immediately required turning into a whirlish dervish of a dancer. Ending, as they should, with their eponymous song, the transmuted enjoyment is hard to shift... until we realise that it means we've missed almost all of Efterklang's set in the Hall. We enter just in time for the glacial Danish octet's last song, the sort of indefinably overwhelming choral stateliness, ending with a two-man horn section requiem, that suggests they deserve further investigation alone.

    While we're about it, on this evidence Cold War Kids's forthcoming second album might well be something worth shouting about where their first was taken beyond its means by an overexcited press. The new songs they play are darker, punchier and more insistent, Nathan Willett channelling his vocal ire into focused anguish in a set that backs up everything said early on about their live dynamism - some of them seem properly angry at us for some undisclosed reason, Willett occasionally resorting to artless piano bashing to make his point. Might they finally have the song consistency to match the adrenaline?

    Yet again, James Yorkston has fallen victim. Yorkston is someone who seems to be on the bill of half the festivals we've ever been to and we've never actually seen him. And we're not going to see him now, because as accomplished as he may be you don't get Elephant 6 members coming to Leicester every day, and especially not Kevin Barnes and Of Montreal. Sporting red patterned leggings and turquoise boots, Barnes and his four live bandmates' performance was as intense as they ever come, stripping the psychedelic electro-glam of their last couple of albums plus an Ariel Pink cover (no idea what it was, Barnes just said it was one) of all hi-NRG echoes into halluciogenic Prince territory, curious cartoon images on the hall's screens and even the performance art interludes going on around the music involving balloons and branches intensifying the experience rather than distracting from it. The culmination of the heightened sensory experience that passed for a festival set was a cathartic The Past Is A Grotesque Animal, Barnes striding the stage and ending up attempting to crawl across it before a cataclysmic noise climax backed with seemingly endless strobe light flashing, all followed by the virtual coasting home of a triumphant Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse. What it all means nobody quite knows, and from where we were most people seemed attentive but completely nonplussed, but you knew, as it turned out, that the rest of the day would be divided into people who saw it and people having what it was like described awkwardly to them. Highlight of the weekend? Experience of the weekend, no question.

    You could write a thesis on the fact that while all that is an American view of how to lift a show, the British idea of a frontman is one who shouts "are we fuckin' 'avin' it?" unironically. Reverend And The Makers have been indoctrinated into the 'landfill indie' scene through Jon McClure's friendship with Alex Turner, which may not be entirely fair - there's musical echoes of McClure's much talked about love of funk, dub and DFA - but the tales of Friday night life, love, local colour and where socially we're going wrong seem well played out. There's no doubt he's won an audience, as there's clearly plenty of devotees here who McClure plays up to, putting the mike out, commandeering a photographer's camera and most notably, if by now fairly unsurprisingly, jumping off the front of the stage once the set has finished with an acoustic and playing for a small audience upfield, albeit you can't hear a word more than three people away.

    Not that we can stop to try to listen, because there's another clash going on. Having put her first album in our end of year top twenty after a fine performance here in 2006 we've not said anything about Joan As Police Woman's follow-up To Survive, for the reason that while it plows much the same furrow it feels by comparison too clinical, too clean, too aiming for the broader singer-songwriter market. And so her live show feels much the same, the nuances and winning self-deprecation ironed out. It becomes more glaring when set against the Rising stage headliner playing to a packed audience that apparently includes Kevin Barnes (and definitely includes all of Those Dancing Days because we were standing next to them). Lykke Li is sporting a matching black singlet and cycling shorts and has at her disposal a drum and cymbal, which she smacks the life out of as a precursor to an energetic opening Dance Dance Dance, and a loudhailer, used at key moments throughout. Bouncing around the stage in evident enjoyment she and her band take songs that often fall flat on record and gives them life anew with vaulting electronics and plenty of percussion as Li hardly pauses for breath except when turning into a bluesy love crooner. As keen to head for the feet as the heart, she asks if we want to dance again and promptly drops in a cover of Vampire Weekend's Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa. Called back on for an encore by a probably physically exhausted front row, she apologises for her lack of her own material and instead offers a teasing Walk On The Wild Side bassline singalong before launching into A Tribe Called Quest's Can I Kick It?, complete with gutsily sung back call and response on the chorus before the band take it down to a standstill. Li's force of personality wins through to match the compere's expectations that we'd consider it a highlight of the weekend.

    Simian Mobile Disco brought their full light show to close proceedings on the main stage, but we really don't have the knowledge or vocabulary to review that sort of thing - there were beats, there were flashing lights, people got excited. On the contrary, our SSW finished in the Hall with 2008 festival perennial Lightspeed Champion. So much travelling around the country and continent has given Dev Hynes and his band a freer rein on their songs, which you suspect the metal guitar hero in Hynes enjoys as he gives Galaxy Of The Lost a full-on rock blowout intro. There's two new songs, one with a western theme element, the other rawer and faster than most, although the same could be said for the treatment meted to most of Falling Off The Lavender Bridge. The best was kept for last, a version of Midnight Surprise that starts with covers of both the main and Imperial Death March themes from Star Wars and ends some fifteen minutes later with Hynes at the lip of the stage giving it some Steve Vai.

    So, Summer Sundae 2008 was done. Another triumph for all concerned, and another indication that while assorted charlatans, fly by nights and credit crunchers may be conspiring to bring down the good name of the British festival, those who go about things imaginatively and in the right way will always prosper.

    Wednesday, August 13, 2008

    Taking a rain check: Summer Sundae Saturday review


    Notwithstanding last year's boiling points Summer Sundae has a history of dampness, and the year after a boilingly hot three days all week the weather forecasts had predicted that Saturday would be the wet day of the three. Having got away with only periods of overcast cloud on Friday, sure enough the heavens duly opened early in the morning. Playing first inside the spacious and, yes, dry Hall Maybeshewill must never have known they were so popular. It's certainly not the thing for all the family to bond over, unless the family is particularly experimental. They've done their British post-rock homework see, melding the build and release of Mogwai with the glitch come-ons of 65daysofstatic and the odd judicious film dialogue sample (ah, Peter Finch in Network, good to hear you again), and just when you think you've got them figured out they drop in some prog-metal riffage. When exactly did Leicester become the hallmark of forward thinking post-rock?

    Not wishing to risk pneumonia for the cause of watching people for whom Britpop never ended, we kind of hang around out of guitar's way for a bit because we're keen to be in the Rising tent to see how Project Notion come across live. Our thinking is that while in their nascent state as a live band you'd be forgiven for thinking they hadn't got it all worked out yet. Only, they very much have, and on reflection this seems to pose a bit of a quandary. Having received an email from them too late for inclusion in the Fringe fanzine, we know they describe themselves as "jazz fusion and folk". They aren't really, and having now heard their live sound we can only think it's the fact they want to retain a folk influence that's holding their recordings back a bit. From our perspective, imagine if a former trip-hop vocalist who only listened to jazz-rock kidnapped This Town Needs Guns and you'd be approaching what they do. There's a lot of dual guitar tapping that actually works, an assured, tight rhythm section lifting things at every juncture and up front in Tori Maries the possessor of a voice of fine clarity. You do tend to think that if they came from, say, Oxford, where this sort of thing holds sway post-Youthmovies, they'd be gaining wider attention already, as there's certainly promise and potential aplenty if they want to take it on from here.

    Tired Irie have long been one of the critical darlings of the county, largely helped by the time in which they've arrived as even their programme write-up acknowledges Foals comparisons. They're less Afro-math than that feted band, though, not to mention less ponderous about some of their build-ups and altogether more electronic, verging into OMD territory in places but buzzing with energy, awkward tempo changes and sheer danceability. They're not quite there yet, and the suspicion remains that their older material is better, but watch this space.

    The rain has eased off! Just in time for a Leicester call from the rolling thunder revue of Danny And The Champions of The World. Compared to Truck there's not quite the numbers, only managing thirteen on stage this time, but there's some of the personnel, including Romeo Stodart (whose first appearance with the Magic Numbers here three years ago stopped a day's torrential rain - can we have him on standby every year?), Indigo Moss, Robin and Joe Bennett, Y and, somewhat unsportingly, the Truck monster being brought to someone else's festival. There's still that communal hootenanny, though, with the still facepainted Wilson leading the extended folk-country jams with just as much life as on Steventon home ground, and the growing audience repay them in spades with singalongs and many children pointing in wonder at the vibraslap-toting monster.

    Never underestimate the popularity of ska at Summer Sundae. Usually relied upon to pack out a field/tent, the Leicester Ska/Jazz Ensemble have done just that to the Musician tent, meaning we're forced to beat a retreat. Still, there are worse places to be than watching another of Leicester's crop of hip young critically acclaimed things inside the Hall. We first saw Kyte towards the end of 2006 third on a three band bill in front of twelve people, and they sounded a bit like Hope Of The States. Now they're among Sonic Cathedral's bright post-shoegazing lights and being compared to Sigur Ros, which they don't quite manage but their floating glissando guitars and swooping, ethereal atmosphere building, enlivened by singer Nick thrashing away at a second drumkit on occasion. They're also one of the few bands who can use a glockenspiel in one of those aquamarine carry cases without making everyone dive for the 'twee' epithet. Outside, with the weather still merely cloudy, Dengue Fever bring the Cambodian pop party, not to mention the guitarist's tremendous beard. Maybe losing their instruments in transit compromised their apparently raucous live reputation in Los Angeles, but on this basis Jefferson Airplane had a far more pernicious influence on Khmer-language music than anyone suspected.

    Why is the barrier in Rising almost completely populated by squealing eighteen year old girls? Ah, that'll be the T4 influence. Well, kind of, as since winning their MobileAct Unsigned competition in December Envy And Other Sins seem to have dropped straight back off the radar. They've brought their full array of lamps and a stuffed pheasant as stage decoration, but there's something less charming than when we saw them at the festival launch party in March (supported by Johnny Foreigner, who having played an event previewing bands supposedly playing over this weekend have sodded off to Japan instead), not quite the Hoosiers-esque indie-for-people-who-don't-actually-know-what-indie-is-any-more reputation might suggest but not quite pulling off the Kinksian melodicism that set suggested. In the hall, meanwhile, are a band who will never ever appear on T4, Zombie-Zombie, the French duo who specialise in reimagining John Carpenter film soundtracks to an appropriately darkened hall. Etienne Jaumet operates what looks like a small telephone exchange while Cosmic Neman (whose somewhat unlikely on the face of it other band is Herman Dune) is sitting on his drums while playing them. Their interpretation of a Krautrock car chase theme gets a fair number of people dancing down the front.

    Camera Obscura will always gets people dancing, and their set is as swooningly likeable as it was at Truck, with the addition of another new song, French Navy's northern soul joined by Swans' Spectorish Postcard in what otherwise is pretty much the same set. At least they have their own instruments this time, and Lloyd I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken sounds accordingly show-stopping. The rain restarts the moment they finish, which is telling.

    With Friday being for getting one's bearings and Sunday for preparing to return to reality, the middle day of a three day festival is when everyone goes mad with face paints and costuming, and SSW clientele outdid themselves this year. The smurf returned, and Tracyanne Campbell made special mention of him, and a Mr Incredible and a lion also showed up as did someone who probably wasn't aiming for but could easily have passed off as Mr Monopoly, but full kudos to the group of people who between them managed the entire primary cast of The Wizard Of Oz.

    A combination of tipping it down and a full tent screw up our chances of seeing Frightened Rabbit, but it does mean we're able to share in the trad-folk majesty of Mercury nominees Rachel Unthank & the Winterset. While it has the air of recontextualising the classical past, there's something of the here and now about them too, the spare set-up of grand piano, cello and violin, plus accompaniment from "the ancient Northumbrian instrument, the high heels", emphasising Rachel and Becky Unthank's spectral harmonising against which you can hear a pin drop. Charismatic, indulging in plenty of banter between songs, they take this sound out of Waterson:Carthy territory and get it across to such an audience as this with the likes of a gorgeous cover of Robert Wyatt's Sea Song. Plus, clog dancing. Outside the rain's got heavier if anything, literally driving people back towards cover, which means the reformed and up for it Dodgy have their work cut out. Yes, they have the gall to still do Staying Out For The Summer, although it does - ha! - coincide with a slight let-up in the weather.

    Following the success of John Cooper Clarke last year a slot has been saved in the Hall might well become a regular spoken word set, and booked for the purpose is Henry Rollins, whose 75 minute set is very much the punk raconteur, starting with anecdotes from his rock career and seamlessly blending into impassioned and ultimately polemical spiel, concluding on a message of forming a community to take on the world, everyone hanging on every word. Well, every word that doesn't clash with something else, which in our case is Dawn Landes in Rising. Landes may be endearingly gauche but her songs pack a Feist-like straight ahead punch to match her lilting vocal ability, with the aid of the Noisettes' Jamie Morrison on typically full-bodied percussion. Roisin Murphy's live set-up is somewhat more complex - two men behind a console plus drum kit and an occasional guitarist aside, the stage is wide open for Murphy and her two backing singers-dancers to, well, sing and dance while Murphy changes pretty much after every song into a newly constructed costume. We have the same problem with Murphy that we had with Moloko, namely that they're always nearly there but not quite, and so her current stab at electro-disco proves in this arena. She's clearly a consummate show-woman, though, which in this condition is all you want.

    And in this condition, we're soaked and don't fancy seeing Tom Baxter, Natty or headliner Macy Gray (by all accounts a fine show including covers of Creep and Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?) so we go home. We'll make it up with a full Sunday.

    Tuesday, August 12, 2008

    In it for some money: Summer Sundae Friday review


    Firstly, a genuine thank you to everyone who picked up or at least hung around reading our fanzine - we know that of a total print run of 60 the remainder were comfortably into single figures by half past ten, which is far better than we'd expected, and we saw people completely engrossed in our blather, which only really having this very impersonal, indirect electronic connection at any one time with a readership pleases us immensely. Yes, should we all make it that far we'd like to do it all again for next year. And it got mentioned in the official programme, which somewhat made a mockery of our assumption that our work would get in the way of the festival's own publication. If you were there and had a look, drop us a comment or line.

    The downside was we didn't actually seem to see a lot, and when we did there was a noticeably different atmosphere without a lot of visible interest around us. Which you might expect for a pre-festival booze-up, but where last year there felt like a real celebratory communal atmosphere around the local music scene and the festival to come, this time there seemed to be more people hanging around in assorted stages of inebration outside the venues, especially the Charlotte, than inside and actual post-song interest registration was often at a premium.

    Still, we enjoyed ourselves, and briefly, because we know you want to know about the festival and not what we did with our night before: Love Ends Disaster! have swelled to a sevensome for the night, but the extra effort doesn't seem to be appreciated by their audience (one song doesn't so much as get any applause) which drags the set down a bit until Matthew Oakes vaults the barrier and beckons the crowd to come closer, which takes some beckoning. From then on their taut post-post-punk dynamics seem to become all the more assured but it's not all there until a coruscating closer. Herra Hidro are playing their first gig in seven months and similarly take their time to warm up. Odd band, Herra Hidro, occasionally sounding like they're trying to shoehorn Shellac cussedness into Enemy anthemry, but when they really spark up there's plenty of awkward life in them. Previous At The Drive-In comparisons may be ambitious, but there's definite echoes of yourcodenameis:milo and Jon Chapple's post-McLusky band Shooting At Unarmed Men, and the number of new songs denotes a band intent on striking much deeper this time. Pacific Ocean Fire have always echoed Neil Young and Sparklehorse equally but there's now an Anglicised Bright Eyes echo to their porchlit reveries somewhere among Firebug's murky sound, a sharp contrast to previous events there, that means you can't even hear the between song banter properly (apparently the mixing desk blew up earlier in the day). Charlie Jones, playing in the corner of the Charlotte, might just be 'another' female acoustic-toting singer-songwriter but there's a sharp lyrical voice in there. We'll come back to her. Then Tired Irie took ages to set up, and as we'll come back to them too we went down the road, where the Dandilions were taking even longer (at least 45 minutes, we reckon), so we cut our losses and went home.

    We know better by now than to write Summer Sundae off, after going in last year anxious over the quality and leaving in high spirits. Despite the proliferation of that horrible term 'boutique festivals' it retains wide critical acclaim for its reliability, perceived family friendliness and eclectic booking policy, which might well be to its detriment this year as a fine bill is more often than not topped by underwhelming headliners, the indoor Hall stage bill top suffering its own economic downturn this year. On the other hand, it's a great festival for what it is, and while it may not have the aura of the more openly specialist and curated events or even the undivided attention in these days of Field Day it still maintains its very....festivalness. It's not Zoo Thousand and never will be.

    That was something we needed to remind ourselves of throughout the twenty minute wristband queue, mind.

    Once that was negotiated, straight into the Rising tent we went for the first of the bands invited by the day's curators Drowned In Sound. Youthmovies have raised their game, seeming far more alert and tighter than at Truck, no doubt helped by the shortened set time and non-local clientele, but they're also in the midst of a clash issue that means we can't so much as stop by to see Adam Buxton doing a surprise set in 6 Music's mobile Hub area that was inaudible if you stood more than three people away anyway. Instead we head over to Phrased & Confused's tent, a welcome new addition for this year largely showcasing spoken word and an area we eventually got to on too few occasions this year, where Emma Pollock and Kenny 'King Creosote' Anderson were performing a joint acoustic set to an appreciative audience, Pollock, whose own set we failed to catch again for clash reasons, explaining that family members still haven't spoken since the phone call that inspired If Silence Means That Much To You.

    Out under cloudy but dry skies the outdoor stage segment of our SSW got underway with Fight Like Apes - not the first band you'd have in mind to fulfil the Summer Sundae ethos, but certainly one who expend a lot of energy on the small numbers who've so far turned out. If this is electro-punk, and there's really no way round the fact that it's spiky riffs played on keyboards, it's some distance away from the assorted idiocies latterly committed in the name of that cause. MayKay, sporting a short black dress with silver hot pants, is every inch the stage commanding vamp, even when merely sitting on a monitor the better to exude Jake Summers, while unpromisingly named keyboard player Pockets, clearly incapacitated by an ankle injury requiring some frankly unnecessary but for showmanship hobbling around the stage, acts out his own whirlish dervish routine and brings saucepans for percussive purposes. They may not do their occasional cover of Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues, but it's the short sharp shocks of McLusky the Dubliners are looking to translate into wonky keyboard action, not wholly successfully - the two singles are the standouts - but well enough to suggest in smaller venues there may be something going on.

    Friday, really, was all about smaller stage clashes. In the hall Errors' layered, pulsing loops of soundscaping are drawing quite a crowd, but while they sport a former Dananananaykroyd drummer an outfit who that band recently supported are tearing up the Rising tent with their own take on 'fight-pop'. The Mae Shi's music - often short and sharp bursts of what in America is delightfully entitled spazzcore, spiky shoutable bursts of hardcore-influenced complexity on nodding terms only with melody, always on the brink of starting to fall apart before just slamming into each other kinetically again, is notable enough, but their live show is something else, taking advantage of wireless technology to richochet around the place - guitarist Jeff Byron scales the side of stage scaffolding at one point - and variously screaming and whispering into mikes. The celebrated white tarpaulin Mae Sheet may be gone, but they still rustle up a small blue and yellow sheet that covers twelve or so people which three members climb under to attempt to get some small scale community singing going as the other wanders around the crowd. God knows how many songs they get through as there's far too much going on at any one time to attempt to keep up with, but the overall experience is akin to being force fed tartrazine by Refused in a hall of strobe lights.

    Which can never be used to describe Royworld, so we stay out of their way expecting, correctly, that the tent will fill up before too long for this year's band booked for too early a slot for their size come SSW weekend, Noah And The Whale. It's fairly apparent that most here are just waiting for The Hit and will amuse themselves until then, but to their credit N&TW pull off an assured set, featuring a two piece brass section plus Johnny's sister Lillie Flynn as an ersatz Marling, that brings a nu-folk dance joie de vivre to a record that can lapse on record, Charlie Fink's baritone perhaps in better keeping live. Then Fink straps on a ukelele, announces that "this is a love song called... Five Years Time" and the tent duly erupts. It's warming to see band members looking genuinely thrilled afterwards by such a response, which they carry through a triumphant closing Rocks And Daggers. Over on the main stage King Creosote continues to pretty much rock up his Fence Collective folky credentials, but something of the charm has been waylaid in the process. Whether this is what he's always wanted to do has long been discussed, but to us it doesn't seem to fit easily.

    Vignette. We're hanging around the Bathysphere tent attempting to look inconspicuous while wearing a Futureheads T-shirt (yeah, that was us, sorry). A girl with a French accent walks up. "Are you a Futurehead? I'm a Futurehead". This, it's fair to say, surprises us somewhat. It becomes clear in what passed for an ensuing conversation that she considered a 'futurehead' to be someone who keeps abreast of changing technology and electronic music and had never heard of the band. Wonder what her favourite chat-up line is.

    Meanwhile, now in Rising you'd be forgiven for thinking there's a rave going on. The lighting rig works overtime, 19 year olds are whooping, bouncing on the spot and gesticulating as only those 'on one' do; even a few middle aged women at the back are cutting a dash. What is actually going on is Fuck Buttons, who may well echo the crescendos and repetitive, escalating beats of club music, but do so via the medium of sonically huge washes of semi-industrial pulsing noise. Very different reveries in the hall, where Nina Nastasia is playing solo. Where others might have had problems getting themselves across in this cavernous space, Nastasia has the knack of making her heartfelt laments, soaring vocals and fingerpicked acoustic guitar seem all the more intimate and personal. There's far too few people in here appreciating this.

    According to the bill, this is The Coral's acoustic set. Why, then, have they brought some electric guitars? The tag of convenience since the departure of lead guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones seems to have been cast aside in spirit if not in name, and for the most part the sort of songs that make up this hits-and-favourites set are constructed around a very Merseybeat melodic template so it doesn't actually matter that much. We're not sure they even did Dreaming Of You but the songs radio loved - The Coral are one of those bands whose consistent hitmaking capabilities you forget until you hear them actually play them - work well around the downsized lineup and two new songs continue in much the same vein, the one they close with, so new they say it's not so much as got a title, particularly promising.

    We've talked about this sort of thing in the past, but there are certain bands who would on paper tick most of our boxes but leave us cold, and Howling Bells are one of them. A visit to see them headline Rising leaves us none the wiser as their dark riffs make no effect, if not helped by muddy sound. Instead we pop over to The Musician stage and find The Heavy have brought The Funk. Huge fuzztoned swaggering guitar riffs and dirty soul rhythms underpin shamanic Curtis Mayfield-chanelling singer Swaby bonding with the audience he refers to as "the wolves" as only a postmodern funk man can. The attempts to turn into straight up rock don't work, but when it clicks it really goes off and causes frenzied dancing in the half-full tent throughout.

    Startlingly, while waiting for our night's headliners the main stage PA plays The Chapter In Your Life Entitled San Francisco by the Lucksmiths.

    So to those headliners, Supergrass, fourteen years a hitmaking rock and roll machine, now swelled to three Coombes brothers, guitarist/percussionist Charly joining Gaz and Rob, Danny Goffey approaching justification for the Keith Moon comparisons that came his way early in the band's career, Mick Quinn an underrated bass player. The problem when a band like Supergrass are caught between promoting a new album and headlining a festival to a field full of people subconsciously awaiting Alright - which, as per custom of the last few years, they don't play - is that they have to demonstrate that they're still a going concern as good as ever if only in their own minds, while for the rest of us most of the newer songs show up the lack of dynamism in much of their new material. It's all very well starting with the cocksure Diamond Hoo Ha Man and Bad Blood from the new album but all too often the set lapses into autopilot lull that just demonstrates that the likes of Rebel In You and 345 are content to meander along in rote glam-Stooges riffs and extended outros, the type of which litter the evening to no effect. There's the odd bone - Moving goes down very well, and there's a lively cover of the Police's Next To You - but only at the end do they get things really going, finishing with Pumping On our Stereo and Caught By The Fuzz acting as something of a warmup for an encore of Sun Hits The Sky, Strange Ones and Lenny.