Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Celebrity Playlist #5: Gossamer Albatross

And so, part one of two of our Playlist preview of This Ain't No Picnic, which due to response times and so forth comes in the week following Smalltown America's weekender, arrives in the shape of Gossamer Albatross, the Hereford largely teenage collective whose baroque folk has been much admired here for a while and will be so by more people when their debut 7" is out on October 27th. This is the music that made them:

(from Lewis)
This Ain't Vegas - Short Term Long Term
Absolutely one of my favourite songs ever. The drums, bass and guitar are so muscular but it’s counteracted by the singers vulnerable and uncertain lyrics. Every drum fill, bass note, guitar strum and vocal strain is needed. The chord sequence in the chorus is also insanely good. It gives me goosebumps.

Bright Eyes - Bowl Of Oranges
It’s perfect apart from the couple of minutes of noise at the end. His lyrics are the bomb and this song is one of the best examples of amazing lyrics coupled with a beautiful little melody. “And every time you feel like crying, I'm gonna try and make you laugh!” Yes Conor!

Death Cab For Cutie - A Movie Script Ending
Possibly my favourite Death Cab song. I’m a massive Death Cab nerd and love just about everything they’ve ever released. Ben Gibbard is a genius and along with Conor, John and Sufjan make up my favourite song writers.

R Kelly - Ignition
Me and Ben (our bass player) were singing this song in the pub last night to the utter dismay of all our friends. It was awesome. This song always puts me in a good mood. Sliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiick. It’s the freakin weekend baby I’m about to have me some fun!

50 Cent - Candy Shop
Really fucking dirty beats. They’re my favourite. This song is awesome.

(from Geena)
Coco Rosie - Werewolf
I absolutely adore this song, with its haunting father/lover parallels set against an achingly beautiful backdrop. Lyrics are a very important part of music for me, and without sounding like some arty prick I love this song even more for its parallels with Plath's 'Daddy', which is one of my favourite poems.

Tunng - Bullets
I find Bullets so bittersweet, and love the irony of searching for insight through religion, through pain just to forget and repeat old mistakes.

The Microphones - I Felt Your Heart
This song makes me tear up in the most fantastic way. Despite being only 1:56 long, Elvrum manages to squash, sit on and tie my heart into a figure-of-eight knot within the duration of this song.

Aphex Twin - Avril 14th
It's sounds so simple, and sends me into this dream-like state. I just think the piano sounds beautiful.

Final Fantasy - The CN Tower Belongs To The Dead
Best thing I've seen live to date, literally grinned ear to ear from start to finish. The string arrangement at 2:00 is just to die for.

Belle and Sebastian - A Summer Wasting
About two of the best things, summer holidays and spending it with friends. I think the mistake 'seven years of river walk ways' instead of seven weeks is deliberate because the song is about the wasted summer holiday that was seven weeks. Its like when The Beatles recorded the wrong name in their song Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da but left it as it was as recording can be so time consuming and expensive.

(And one from Reuben)
Yeasayer - 2080
Couldn't really say what I like about it exactly, the harmonies are perfect, I think I just like the way they use such a ridiculously diverse set of influences and still manage to make it sound amazing!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Weekender : 'fresh' from This Ain't No Picnic, greatly enjoying the eccentric stapling of the programme

- After the still astounding war on post-Strokesism that was The Rat, and the highly impressive Bows + Arrows album it came encased in, The Walkmen seemed to lose their way a bit with 2006's A Hundred Miles Off, like they'd worn themselves out with all the energetic intensity they'd put into that earlier record. The track by track cover of Harry Nilsson's Pussycats album that followed did nobody any justice, except perhaps Mama Cass and Keith Moon (look it up). It's good, then, that whatever mojo went missing in that excursion into post-OC Latino influenced flatness they've picked themselves up, given themselves a shot of adrenaline and come back with You And Me. Don't think The Rat in terms of this album, more the fuzzed out widescreen of We've Been Had or New Years Eve; the early morning after the night before with just the memories and mistakes to go on. Hamilton Leithauser still sings like a man harbouring a personal grudge against the world and the music follows him introspectively down, again dropping in retro influences most of their contemporaries wouldn't touch but so subtly so as you almost don't notice. Finally they've found a side that does their post-Rat ethics justice.

- It seems like most of our life has passed since we first mentioned that the Hot Puppies had recorded an album called Blue Hands and had it ready for release whenever someone was ready to do the deed. The first single King Of England in fact came out last July, but this week that second album, or third, or first proper, it depends on which calculation you're using, lands and while hardly anything's worth that wait it's still as glamorously sophisticated as you'd expect from a band who tote their references. In terms of influences it screeches from early 80s electro to Kate Bush to New Pop to Bowie to the Cure while remaining as a whole, and while we can't claim they all come off with the same style at least they're giving it a go and coming up trumps more often than not, elevated even more than on Under The Crooked Moon by Becki Wood (nee Newman)'s dramatic soaring voice. Wood is eight months pregnant, by the way. What was that about release timing? (Also worth a glance this week: Mercury Rev got lost in a decade of over-emoting trying to follow up Deserter's Songs, so Snowflake Midnight stripping things back a bit comes as a welcome move)

- Good selection of singles this week, with Elbow on a download only unnecessary prop-up of the newly reinvigorated Seldom Seen Kid with The Bones Of You, while Those Dancing Days for some reason pick out one of their album's lesser lights, Home Sweet Home, and Kingston upon Thames trio Tubelord lay down further foundation evidence of their position as much touted "neo-emo math-punk-hardcore" (thank you, This Ain't No Picnic programme - god, we hope the bands followed our example and didn't get given a copy) contenders with I Am Azzerad. We'd like to guide you, moreover, towards Nat Johnson, formerly of Monkey Swallows The Universe, whose demos showed great wide ranging promise and chooses to start properly with the earworm-ridden jangling rockabilly of Dirty Rotten Soul. The B-side is a tearful folk rendition of a Cake song, if you can imagine such a thing.

- The Clash are about as anthologised as they were self-mythologising - Westway To The World and The Future Is Unwritten on screen, Last Gang In Town and Passion Is A Fashion in print. This month, however, the legacy is really being mimed with a CD and DVD next week helping ensure Don Letts need never go hungry again, and this week The Clash documenting the interviews Joe, Mick, Paul and Topper gave towards the making of Westway To The World, inevitably heralded as "in their own words for the first time". No, that was Westway To The World itself. Unseen photos and historical documents too? Well, obviously.

- On the other end of the scale, The Rough Guide To The Best Music You've Never Heard is a hand-sized documentation of the underachieving and cult artists and lost classics that haven't yet ascended to the status of genuine lost legends a la Drake or Buckley. The only artist mentioned by name in the blurb is David Ackles, which is fine by us. There's also tales of scrapped albums and side projects that never got off the ground, as well as "contributions from music industry insiders including Bat For Lashes". Hold up a bit, Natasha's not that influential a name yet.

MYSPACE INVADERS: Many moons ago it was Song, By Toad (see sidebar) that put us onto the great Broken Records, and they've recently repeated the trick with another set of emotionally charged Edinburgh types. Meursault, who've just released an album called Pissing on Bonfires/Kissing with Tongues, available pretty much only through the usual PayPal link on their Myspace. Theirs is a possibly unique when deployed in this way combination of lo-fi but defiant electronica, modern folky standbys of accordions and ukeleles, and Neil Pennycook’s cracked howl at the world, a fearsome and fearful lyrical content to match. It comes across like Band Of Horses taking on the Postal Service only to do it wrongly, on purpose. Where does it fit in? Well, apart from the odd wade into Jonquil territory, it doesn't, and that's all you really want.

VISUAL AID: We're always keen to find a US kids' show that blurs the boundaries between mainstream and just odd looking, and previously Pancake Mountain has more than fulfilled our needs with its Metric and its Subways and its Go! Team. However, that show is only on public access TV in Washington, whereas the manic felt world of Yo Gabba Gabba! is on Nickelodeon, and we believe it's on Nick Jr over here. Creator Christian Jacobs is also leader of oddball faux-superhero ska-punks The Aquabats and as such has his connections - Biz Markie and Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh appear in occasional slots while the odd band has been in the studio, including The Shins with a specially written song, Hot Hot Heat in some sort of Monkees-esque outdoor hootenanny, a far too chipper for their own good Jimmy Eat World and Cornelius launching Count Five Or Six at ver kids, with a bit of Biz at the end. Low didn't appear in the studio - that would have been just too bizarre - but they did lend Family Tree to an animation. We gather Scott Mills has done some sort of Yo Gabba Gabba/That's Not My Name comedy mashup, but frankly we can go one better than that with said band actually on a forthcoming show issuing a version, in the same way the seige of Stalingrad was a version of normal Russian city life, of Altered Images' Happy Birthday. Emote on those drums, White! (And yes, apparently that is John Reis from Hot Snakes and Drive Like Jehu, but we suspect you'd better know as Speedo from Rocket From The Crypt, introducing them)

* Pushed for time and short of stuff this week, but any time is the right time for a blog like Pyrolyse Bred, which is digitising all its vinyl and old cassettes, including, in the last few days, Kenickie's Catsuit City.

* Meanwhile, some people you may know have been to Japan.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Weekly Sweep

  • Absentee - Boy, Did She Teach You Nothing [YouTube]
  • Dananananaykroyd - Pink Sabbath [YouTube] (We see. You'd have thought they'd have stretched out the whole film thing a bit now they've got Bill Murray on board. We think if you listen carefully to the bit where they keep in the talking you can hear him pass official comment on the name.)
  • Elbow - The Bones Of You [YouTube]
  • Eugene McGuinness - Moscow State Circus [YouTube]
  • Future Of The Left - The Hope That House Built [mp3]
  • Gossamer Albatross - The Ground Will Take Us Down [Myspace]
  • Guillemots - Kriss Kross [YouTube]
  • Hello Saferide - Anna [YouTube]
  • Jeremy Warmsley - Dancing With The Enemy [Vimeo] ("I wanted be the world's first philosophical detective. I was going to put an advert in Loot saying "Problem Solved" and leave my number." Just liked that line from an interview - yeah, we allow him to provide content for other people too - we came across in the week.)
  • Laura Marling - Night Terror [YouTube]
  • Los Campesinos! - Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #1 [Myspace] (Soooo.... it's where you wanted LC! to go once Hold On Now Youngster... finished, taking the same scrappy gang show of the self-lacerating horizontally in sociological as well as musical terms so it's mostly for those who are already converted but not so much as you can't imagine people finally falling one side of the debate or the other on overhearing something from it)
  • M.I.A. - Paper Planes [YouTube]
  • Noah & The Whale - Shape Of My Heart [YouTube]
  • Okkervil River - Singer Songwriter [Myspace] {Another one streaming their whole new album)
  • Popular Workshop - Reptilians [YouTube]
  • Sky Larkin - Fossil, I [YouTube]
  • Those Dancing Days - Home Sweet Home [YouTube]
  • TV On The Radio - Dancing Choose [YouTube] (Soooo.... it was inevitable that they were going to do a modern soul/funk record before we all got too old, with fewer showy electronics and barbershop harmonies and more Prince slipperiness and more than a little Marvin Gaye at times. Beyond this and Golden Age we're not sure it's an album that's served well by individual cuts either, which is why it's lucky the whole thing's still streaming over yonder. 91/100 on Metacritic!)
  • The Walkmen - In The New Year [Myspace]
  • Wild Beasts - Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants [YouTube]

    (Weekender will appear here on Monday. It's just the way things are.)
  • Friday, September 26, 2008

    What are you doing this weekend?

    Well, you're wrong. If you're near London, we'd hope you'd be at Kings College London for This Ain't No Picnic, a two day, 34 band "urban festival" curated by the great and wonderful people of Smalltown America, the natural successor to their former Alldayers. Headliners are Future Of The Left on Saturday and, playing their only British gig for the moment, Polysics on Sunday, while the bill includes many a STN favourite - 4 Or 5 Magicians, Gossamer Albatross, Gindrinker, Bearsuit, Superman Revenge Squad, Popular Workshop, The Strange Death Of Liberal England, Cats In Paris, The Young Playthings, Chris T-T, Fighting With Wire, The Deirdres... the list goes on. Why, it's a bill we know so much about, they asked us to edit the programme, and we hope to see you all diligently taking it in, even the bits STA staffers penned. There will also be a seperate bar with a film programme of punk rock and DIY music films, plus there's entry to the venue’s regular clubnight to 4am on Saturday. All proceeds to Cancer Research UK and The Connection At St Martins. Tickets are about £25/£15 on the door.

    (We asked Andrew Ferris of Smalltown America and Jetplane Landing to do a Celebrity Playlist for us as a tie-in but he got snowed under by all the stuff the label is involved with this week, that's what the holdup of the last few days was about. We'll try and get some off him in the future. There's a reason to stay reading.)

    Planes speaking

    What on earth is going on with the new radio edit of MIA's Paper Planes? Alright, so children's chorus/gunshots is a bit of a sore point these days in Britain, but the gunshots have been replaced with something that sounds like heavy artillery, the till effect has been changed, and bafflingly the word 'records' (in the line "I've got more records than the KGB") has been cut in half, presumably deemed far more offensive than the line that follows it but one, "some I some I some I murder", which has got away untouched. Was it being edited at random?

    Thursday, September 25, 2008


    What are you listening to of late, reader?

    (Actual content tomorrow, hopefully)

    Monday, September 22, 2008

    Listening party

    Hidey-ho, mp3 time again, and a good selection since the start of the month of labels and artists forwarding their stuff on. Not least Bailiwick Recording Company - based in Guernsey! Ace! - who wrote to inform us that they're putting out a Gossamer Albatross 7" on October 20th, sent us the tracks from it and said "go on, post one". Alright then:

    Gossamer Albatross - Elizabeth, Queen Of The Sea

    We haven't been as constantly vocal about them as we have with others, but wiry, spry London trio Popular Workshop are a band we've had a lot of time for over the last year - featured in Weekender as a Myspace discovery over two years ago, in the Class Of '08 covermount right at the start of the year and quite a few different tracks in the Weekly Sweep. Now they've got an album ready, We're Alive And We're Not Alone, out on October 6th and recorded at Electrical Audio, Chicago with all that entails. Sounds like it was, too.

    Popular Workshop - Her Birthday

    Laura Wolf was in the Sweep a few weeks ago. Heartbeeps filled the H requirement in the A-Z of Myspaces from a couple of months back. And when they met, it was Internet Forever, fuzzy guitar plus lo-fi keyboard alternapop. RIYL Times New Viking, UltCult, a Los Campesinos! affected by the credit crunch.

    Internet Forever - Break Bones

    Sunday, September 21, 2008

    Weekender : Tony Cascarino circa 1995

    WHAT CD?
    - This is the week when the autumnal burst of massive releases kicks off, but never mind your Kings Of Leons and your Katy Perrys, because there's an album that we have a real sense of excitement and foreboding about. TV On The Radio, see, have made two proper albums and they've both been our album of their respective years (Desperate Youth Bloodthirsty Babes predating STN, obviously, but we have notebooks). Now comes Dear Science, universally described as "their most accessible record to date/fulfilling their potential" as if those first two works were noise projects. Although they often weren't very comfortable listening, we'll grant you. The whole thing's currently streaming on their Myspace, which is handy as like the puffs we are we haven't actually brought ourselves round to listening to it yet. You know, "just in case". Lot of fucking help we are, we know. Look, it's TVOTR with a Princely pop edge, what more do you need? See you at the end of year list.

    - They never come up in conversations about favourite British independent labels - come on, you all have them - but the self contained Memphis Industries' roster has always been a byword for interest beyond the "will this do?", and it's telling that their two big hitters, the Go! Team and the Pipettes, have both returned after dalliances with major labels, as did the Brewis brothers for their projects after the last days of Field Music contained what seemed to us to be some none too subtle hints in interviews about the label's leading role in their putting the band on ice. Absentee, despite being lured away into more glamorous pastures by a place on the recent Transgressive tour through that label controlling their publishing, are a typical MI band, getting on with the job at hand irrespective of which way the pop world is leaning. With Dan Michaelson's Cohen baritone to lean on they're only ever going to sound one way, and on second album Victory Shorts they repeat the trick of matching buoyant dark pop to Michaelson's Smog-recalling doom and damnation. Also out this week a couple of slightly disappointing sophomore albums, Cold War Kids' Loyalty To Loyalty and the Spinto Band's Moonwink.

    - And in singles.... you know the theory that every artist has one good song in them? Crystal Castles' isn't even theirs, it's HEALTH's, but still the 8-bit mutant disco of Crimewave has to come from somewhere. Guillemots' spectacularly underwhelming Red at least gives up its best track Kriss Kross, while east London power (tools) trio Popular Workshop's claustrophobic anxiety of Reptilians previews next month's debut album.

    MYSPACE INVADERS: Fancy something all gothic and dark folkie? Euchrid Eucrow is, well, the mysterious Euchrid, plus Caroline Weeks from Bat For Lashes' band and Abi Fry of same plus British Sea Power. That he/they are named after the lead character from Nick Cave's novel And The Ass Saw The Angel is some indication of just how desolate it is, but in there are echoes of the accordion-led Balkan music appropriated by A Hawk And A Hacksaw and, if even just in Eucrow's keening voice, of some place you wouldn't dare go on a misty night, or at any time.

    VISUAL AID: "Hop around, lose all your junk!" Reginald Bosanquet was main ITN anchor between 1974 and 1976, famous for his slurred delivery and alleged drinking habit. His Wikipedia entry contains the line "He also reached the headlines for breaking into his ex-wife's flat, an offence which got him thrown off the judging panel for Dustman of the Year 1975." In 1980, he made this... would 'song' be too kind? It's called Dance With Me, it was voted 'top' of Kenny Everett's Bottom 30 after its 1980 release and it makes you wonder if the Disco Demolition people at Comiskey Park had a point. It's not even ironic in the illfated way of the Jim Bowen Rap, more in the lineage of Larry Grayson's Shut That Door or John Inman's similarly catchphrase heavy and similarly enlightened effort, and especially Rising Damp, wherein over similar wine bar disco funk Leonard Rossiter freestyles a set of Rigsby one-liners. Even Frank Carson was guided studiowards in the 1970s, slipping into a transatlantic accent on the chorus. And then there's Tiswas' Four Bucketeers...

    * Inevitably, while we've been away essentially everything has changed, not least that we're now contributing long form reviews for The Line Of Best Fit. Do have a look.

    * After a hiatus Welcome To Our TV Show! is back. No Warmsley in this one, being on tour and that, but Fay takes up the slack with Ontario-originating nut Mayor McCA, the burlesque Etta James of Paloma Faith and three songs in five minutes from Jay Reatard. Full band, too. The next TV Show, in what is unlikely to be an unconnected development, has been recorded elsewhere.

    * So Los Campesinos! are going on this frankly ridiculous tour with No Age and Times New Viking, and fair to say they're well prepared for an online run on it. That it has its own site is a good start. That it has a Twitter - well, it's the modern age. Brilliantly, it's also having a YouTube account dedicated to it, at the moment harbouring merely an introduction from... well... it's a Los Campesinos! event. Take a wild guess. (Note the expertly placed At The Club poster) We'd be happier if they were playing somewhere we could easily get to and back from on a weekend, but you can't always get what you want.

    * Remember the run of band specific blogs from a while back? One such, the REM-centric Pop Songs 07-08, finished a little while ago... until Michael Stipe came across it and expressed an interest, so much so that he's now taking questions about the lyrics and related issues.

    * Label news, and Wichita want your email address. In return, they'll allow you access to a fifteen track compilation including Los Campesinos!, Sky Larkin, Les Savy Fav, Those Dancing Days, Conor Oberst, Peter Bjorn & John, Euros Childs, the Dodos, Her Space Holiday and Simian Mobile Disco. Meanwhile Smalltown America, a label you'll be hearing more about on here later in the week, have gone into podcasting, the first three 'casts featuring songs variously by such young shavers as 4 Or 5 Magicians, Superman Revenge Squad, the Chiara L's, Ice Sea Dead People, Applicants, Tubelord, This Town Needs Guns, Calories, The Kabeedies, Alan MX, Brontosaurus Chorus, The Retro Spankees, The Light Sleepers and Lovvers.

    * And some updates on bands previously covered on STN: the ace one-man band Superman Revenge Squad has an eleven track CD which can be ordered for £3 through his Myspace; and The Wonderland Project write after our coverage of their CD dissemination plan to say that records have already made their way to Nova Scotia and Bridlington (which is namechecked in one of the songs), and you can keep track of their progress on this map. Meanwhile the first issue of Phonogram: The Singles Club, as mentioned a couple of weeks back, has a landing date of December 10th and therefore can now be pre-ordered from your local comic stockist. "Penny B wrestles with the big questions: Will she get the boy? Will the DJ play her record? Why was her gin and tonic so expensive? In a world where music is magic, she’ll discover just how deep shallow actually gets." Apparently.

    * Who wants to go see some television being filmed in Manchester? No, scrub that: who wants to see Johnny Foreigner for free in Manchester this Wednesday? They're recording a live session for Channel M at 2pm, and if you email guestlist@channelm.co.uk they'll let you know if there's any spaces left. If you prefer Fujiya & Miyagi you're mad, but if you want to see them a day later under the same circumstances go through the same procedure.

    * Finally, a note to bring to wider attention the fact that the B-side to Cliff Richard's new single is called Mobile Alabama School Leaving Hullabaloo. Mobile Alabama School Leaving Hullabaloo!

    Saturday, September 20, 2008

    The Weekly Sweep

  • Absentee - Boy, Did She Teach You Nothing [YouTube]
  • Crystal Castles - Crimewave [YouTube]
  • Dananananaykroyd - Pink Sabbath [Myspace]
  • Elbow - The Bones Of You [YouTube]
  • Eugene McGuinness - Moscow State Circus [YouTube]
  • Future Of The Left - The Hope That House Built [mp3]
  • Guillemots - Kriss Kross [YouTube]
  • Jeremy Warmsley - Dancing With The Enemy
  • Land Of Talk - Some Are Lakes [live YouTube]
  • Laura Marling - Night Terror [live YouTube from the Mercury Music Prize ceremony]
  • M.I.A. - Paper Planes [YouTube]
  • Parenthetical Girls - A Song For Ellie Greenwich [mp3]
  • Popular Workshop - Reptilians [YouTube]
  • Sky Larkin - Fossil, I [YouTube]
  • Those Dancing Days - Home Sweet Home [YouTube]
  • Tubelord - I Am Azerrad [Myspace]
  • TV On The Radio - Golden Age [streaming from homepage]
  • The Walkmen - In The New Year [Myspace]
  • The Week That Was - The Airport Line [Myspace]
  • Wild Beasts - Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants [YouTube]
  • Thursday, September 18, 2008

    Come, come to the Larmer Tree: End Of The Road Festival Sunday review

    Can we share our own plans? So we were planning in the few days before EOTR to do something with whichever artists we could back into a corner to tie in with this here blog, without actually thinking what that one thing would be. Having seen someone touting a signed blow-up banana around Summer Sundae we considered getting as many performers as possible to sign something and then give it away on here, but the only things we had to hand that we could carry in our bag for the duration were a 50p notebook and the back of an eight pack of Duracell (AA size, for the record). Then there was the thought of getting personalised video or audio messages, but our camera's video option doesn't record sound and our phone sound recorder didn't come with a USB cable. Eventually a lightbulb appeared - there's plenty of people we like around, why not collect some Celebrity Playlists? Unfortunately we came up with that one halfway through Sunday, so it was a bit late, and as up to that point we'd seen out with the plebs such luminaries in our world as Jeffrey Lewis, Martin Noble, Tom White (although we think he hates us - long story), Marc Beatty, Dave Tattersall, Darren Hayman, Robin Ince, Josie Long (those three in conversation, which seemed right and proper), the aforementioned Richard Hawley and, in a surprise cameo, Aleks Campesinos, while the only person of note we saw with the hoi polloi after that point was the bass player from Absentee, who was ahead of us in the organic burger queue late on Sunday, it all seemed more than slightly forlorn. Next year. We'll get our name around. Make up a T-shirt if we have to.


    Sons Of Noel & Adrian, a ten-strong baroque chamber folk collective drawn from that Willkommen Collective we discussed yesterday, open up the Garden Stage with their expansive, brittle and doomed sea shanties, shifting from wistful picking-led melodies to washes of controlled noise and choral vocals with subtlety and grace. Not, as demonstrated by Bon Iver yesterday, that they're all bad, but it's interesting how the populace will fall for any American folkie outfit with a hint of foreboding while this sort of thing remains unbidden, taken up only by those willing to make the effort to dig it out. It feels at once universally sourced and yet a solely British take on what modern folk should mean. Maybe it's because some British bands are too much in thrall to the American traditions to think outside that box - case in point Congregation in the Big Top. Victoria Yeulet has a fine set of hollering blues pipes, working against Benjamin Prosser's 12-bar slide guitar and simultaneous bass drum kick playing, but there's little variation and nothing there to suggest it's going to come soon.

    Last year The Wave Pictures packed out the Local tent with fans well before most people had come across them, so obviously they had to get the promotion to the Garden Stage this year. That they don't look overawed by the experience, in fact quite the opposite, is testament to the trio's abilities to wring peculiar gold from the Richman/Hayman template and, live at least, whack in a dollop of compacted Neil Young soloing. They're getting a very odd reaction at the moment, with reviewers comparing them variously to The Enemy, Ocean Colour Scene and assorted other landfill indie acts, but you know Steve Jones would run a mile if confronted with this level of ability and lyrical dexterity (yes, of course the sculpture/marmalade line gets a crowd singalong), not to mention this level of self-deprecation, especially when Dave Tattersall lays into his own mother's meterological reading skills before bashfully realising exactly who he's talking about. It's pretty much a straight up hits set including one new song and a vocal turn for drummer Jonny Helm on Now You Are Pregnant, and it strikes a fine chord.

    Given the roots of New York anti-folk were in simplicity and musical regression and the Moldy Peaches specialised in a child-like wonder at adult themes, it's not entirely surprising Kimya Dawson's new album is for kids, and given the family nature of EOTR it's not surprising she plays bits of it in her set. Her grown-up songs are, well, more of the same, except about relationships rather than scatalogical, but Dawson has a charm that means these ideas come across all the better. Moving from US anti-folk to British blues-folk might have seemed retrograde were it not for the abilities of Liz Green, the reticent young Mancunian whose acoustic jazz influenced take sounds like she's inherited the direct spirit of those captured by Alan Lomax's sound archive, aided by John Fairhurst's nimble fingerpicking. Not at all overwhelmed by the space of the huge Big Top, Green has enough projection in her to go far. Also having a go on his own, his Magnolia Electric Co on hiatus, is Jason Molina on the big stage, in good voice and impeccable suit but with a set that washes straight over us. Maybe it's the fact that we didn't know a lot of these songs, or maybe it's because after two and a half days of general aimless trudging we're for the time being out on our feet.

    "Welcome to our festival!" What could revive us? Well, some ragged three-chord garage punk led by a man in military uniform and handlebar moustache, for a start. Billy Childish, possibly the only man in rock who would call a heckler "you silly sausage", and his Musicians of the British Empire are doing what he's been doing for three decades now - raw, scorching beat group/power trio pre-punk with Nuggets/Who/Sonics/Kinks riffs, a Thames Estuary accent and a healthy disregard for everyone else. It's not professional as such - like some self-parody he stops one song because he claims he's forgotten its fourth chord and later spends some time retuning before realising he didn't need to for the next song, while bassist Nurse Julie seems to spend the majority of the 45 minutes giggling even when not forgetting the words to one of her two vocal leads - but it all adds to the gaiety of this bracing racket, and he becomes the first artist we've ever seen fully fill the Big Top. Long live Billy Childish, still doing his own cussedly raucous thing in the face of fashion.

    Speaking of anti-fashion... "All weekend people have been coming up to me wanting me to do some of my new stuff" deadpans Darren Hayman at the outset. This is in fact Darren & Jack Play Hefner Songs, the occasional (although the suggestion is this is the last time) roundelay in which Hayman and Hefner multi-instrumentalist Jack Hayter...well...play Hefner songs, here aided by Franic (who gives Amelia Fletcher's vocals on Don't Go a shot, Hayman's first choice Emmy The Great being unavailable) and Jonny of the Wave Pictures. Quietly Hefner's direct riffs and unstinting lovelorn lyrics have become an influential band on a great swathe of the modern indiepop scene, not to mention bred a coterie of slowly ageing fanboys that enable Hayman to step away during the very first song A Hymn For The Postal Service and everyone to shout back the '2, 3, 4..." from the middle of The Hymn For The Cigarettes, which Hayman promptly forgets the words to. Heavier on the early songs, you get the feeling Darren and Jack could have continued all night if they wanted; how they actually finish is a rousing The Day That Thatcher Dies closing with Hayman, Hayter and Dave Tattersall exchanging solos three times over "like on Let It Be".

    Jeffrey Lewis also takes the wide angle on his career, but such are his storytelling skills that we even trust him when he leaves one song to Jack. No comic book displays, but there's a new song about how much better Herman Dune were when both brothers were in the band - a very Jeffrey Lewis subject - another elongated version of The Last Time I Did Acid..., that man Tattersall pops by on ukelele for a couple of songs and there's the now obligatory closing with two Crass covers, the last of which, Do They Owe Us A Living, seeing John Darnielle run on to contribute backing vocals. The Garden Stage overrunning means we did what we feared we might not get to do and see the last two songs of Tindersticks' set. They're in particularly velvety form tonight on this short evidence, if by all accounts mostly the new material from The Hungry Saw, a string section aiding these smoky song noirs of experience go over.

    Anticipation, aided by a number of namechecks by everyone from Hayman to Charlie Fink, is at fever pitch for The Mountain Goats in the Big Top, and when Darnielle takes the stage properly he gladly acknowledges the reception, prepares himself... and breaks a string with the very first strum. There then follows a five minute hold-up for a replacement, Darnielle attempting to sing Regina Spektor's Samson over the top of drummer John Wurster (ex-Superchunk) keeping the rhythm of that first song, Palmcorder Yajna, going until being called away for running repairs. Just the fact they did Palmcorder Yajna was in keeping with the set, with a few from Heretic Pride mixed with some cherrypicking from the previous few albums, including a new arrangement of Dance Music and a particularly fine Have To Explode. Having played Sept 15 1983 to near silence Darnielle notes our being taken in by the performance - for which, it has to be said, the vocals weren't always audible, and in a Mountain Goats show that's really quite important - and promised "another song about child abuse", which turns out to be This Year, and on that song's rapturous reception he encourages us to sing along to closer No Children, an offer gladly taken up by many. Eventually, then, a triumph and another high water mark in a weekend already full to the brim with them.

    Only one thing for us to do now - watch Brakes. It's tradition. So there's all the old favourites, the usual slew of Brakes newcomers bemused and amused by the things everyone else is singing back to Eamon and the lengths of some of the songs - Cheney gets three plays - a couple of promising new songs, a new Tom White haircut (a kind of off-centre Travis Bickle with fringe) and the personal surprise of Isabel and You'll Always Have A Place To Stay, which by our reckoning means that in the seven times we've now seen Brakes or solo Hamilton they've played everything from both albums except Sometimes Always, and they only do that in Brighton for obvious guest reasons. The only guest this time is Hamilton's new wife - we'd thought she'd been introduced as Carla Bozulich, as in the ex-Geraldine Fibbers frontwoman, but checking facts, dates and likelihood we're not sure - who in marrying him has earned herself a lifetime pass of Jackson duets and, frankly, the pair of them making out like teenagers in front of all these people.

    And so, for another year, ends this most glorious of festivals, the right setting with the right people at, if not the right time - would you camp in a field in mid-September for anything less? - certainly the right atmosphere, this year enlivened by many properly memorable performances. We've already got our early bird ticket for 2009.

    Do you like folk music?: End Of The Road Festival Saturday review


    After the rains, the mud, an amorphous sticky gloop that keeps one of our shoes for itself twice and nearly makes a small part of the route between the two major stages and an area near the Bimble Inn impassable. Luckily not a single drop lands for the rest of the weekend, albeit six thousand people walking over it all over the following two days keeps it nice and rugged. Enough weather moaning, then, there's music to be watched.

    Absentee open the Garden Stage doing their alt-country-but-more-alt thing, about half and half split between first and forthcoming second albums and with Dan Michaelson's Cohen drawl - hurrah! - actually audible for the most part. There's a lot to be said for them, not least that they do get underrated a good deal, but they're mostly falling on deaf ears this early on and there's not that spark to win them over. Unlike, over in the Big Top, The Accidental. A kind of folktronica supergroup involving one each of Tunng, the Memory Band, the Bicycle Thieves and someone even less famous than the Bicycle Thieves, they exude the right amount of bonhomie and charm, laying aside any electronic leanings in favour of fingerpicked guitars, warm but dark undertones and four-part harmonies, a compelling experience that'd be joyful were it not full of songs about ghosts and bad pubs.

    Time to brave the Bimble Inn. Did we mention last year that we never liked the Bimble Inn? It's a teepee shaped tent with cushions and soft flooring down one side and a bar extending about two thirds of the way down, which means you're either stuck at the back unable to see (especially so this year with the wet floor precluding last year's bouts of sitting down) or, due to the talking at the bar, hear anything or you're right under the performer's nose. We're at the back for Threatmantics, so what might well be very loose folk is audibly trampled all over. Doubtless had we properly heard much more they'd have been better suited than Screaming Tea Party, here because their label Stolen Recordings, home to wasters Pete & The Pirates, have chosen this as the perfect spot for a label showcase and they'll bring their part-Japanese screaming noise-poppers featuring a thrashing guitarist in a gas mask and two others wearing golf visors if they have to. Keep the noise down, there's delicate acoustic guitars over there.

    And over there on the Garden Stage there's violins, glockenspiels and that bloke off that song off the radio with the odd Bristolian vowels despite being a Londoner. Noah And The Whale, bumped up - but not too far up - the bill in the wake of their top ten album success, aren't as gleefully overawed by the attention as they were at Summer Sundae in the week they broke big, and probably aren't as joyful as the best of their songs suggest they should be played as a result, but they're certainly going for it, and when Five Years Time finally arrives last there's children on shoulders doing the actions, as there should be. Stolen's Let's Wrestle will never get children singing along, or so you'd hope, but their ramshackle indie like mamma used to make has its charms, if not aided by Wesley Patrick Gonzalez being too low in the mix. Followers of their In Loving Memory Of... EP will be interested to know that the band had hired the self same Joe Reddington as their roadie, by which they mean appearing on stage mid-song to deliver a bottle of beer for the bassist.

    Because the one thing Brighton's music landscape could do with another of is a micro-scene, the Willkommen Collective is the name of a group of bands who share a folk outlook and personnel, and they've set up camp for an hour by the piano in the woods for each of the bands to have a go, although pretty much all of them are in the band that starts, Shoreline, in any case. Theirs is an expansive, swaying sound lifted by strings (Mike Siddell, who used to be in Hope Of The States and recently seen schlepping around in Lightspeed Champion's footsteps, is in them), banjo and harmonies, and here given further levity by the small boy in full Superman outfit who wanders into the area and stands puzzled in front of the collective for some time. By the time we return after a second, even more wayward set by The Young Republic which this time has the good grace to end on Modern Plays, Sons Of Noel & Adrian are bringing it to a close

    It is at this point that we wander down to the other end of the enchanted forest to the lit up dancefloor installed, like the table tennis table a bit further back, for no reason other than because they can. Three children are sitting on the branches of a low hanging tree. One decides to shake the adjacent branch. It near enough takes our head off at the nape of the neck. Their father has spotted this and warns them off trying that again. We turn round. It's Richard Hawley. It's that kind of festival. (Hawley, who we'd seen earlier in the organic pizza tent, dresses off-duty much as you'd expect him to)

    Justin Vernon, AKA Bon Iver, seems genuinely taken aback by the size of the crowd that's come to hear how he intends to rework the intimacies of his album to a setting fit for the open air. An hour later, everyone watching is taken aback by what he's done. It's a basic band set-up behind him, but the fleshing out of the songs in no way compromises the gorgeousness and personal touch of those songs famously worked up in a secluded log cabin, if anything enhancing their peaks and Vernon's swooping voice. Gradually Vernon came to know he had everyone at his beck and call, encouraging them to sing along to the end of The Wolves and then howl at the sky, and you don't hear an approving roar when an artist asks if we want to hear a new song much. That song, Blood Bank, has an understandably fuller side but is as raw, keening and loquacious as anything on the album, which bodes well. The other surprise, a cover of Talk Talk's I Believe in You, simultaneously sounded like an original and a faithful reading of the actual original, which takes some doing. The applause is long and heartfelt, and Vernon seems genuinely touched. No wonder. Bringing Bowerbirds on at the end for a heartaching harmony-driven reading of Nashville singer-songwriter Sarah Siskind's Lovin's For Fools put the tin lid on it and screwed it on with industrial force - an absolute, EOTR-winning triumph.

    Ah, the Third Battalion are here with their branches and their flags and their, um, Yoda on a stick. That must mean British Sea Power are around to maintain their 100% EOTR appearance run. Playing to what seems to mostly be their crowd BSP choose the cussed route usually only seen in radio sessions, opening with the not immediately obvious A Wooden Horse and later dropping in Like A Honeycomb, an often overlooked track from the often overlooked itself Open Season, and A Lovely Day Tomorrow, one of our favourite BSP songs and given a fine workout here if truth be told but, and there's no getting around this, a seven year old B-side. Otherwise it's the usual spiralling ambition set to socio-historical themes, and they're all the better for it. Overrunning means Lately/Rock In A has to be abandoned from the end of the set, but Martin Noble gives it a go anyway when his guitar packs in halfway through No Lucifer, instead choosing to go over the barrier and have several fateful goes at crowdsurfing, eventually returning with the owner of a meticulous banner heralding 'THE RISE OF IRISH SEA POWER', designed in the same way as their own first album cover. What had gone before demonstrated why people go to such lengths for this band.

    After a failed attempt to make anything out of what Birdengine was singing and plucking and a visit to a piano set by Timothy Victor's Folk Orchestra, essentially a very British version of the Coal Porters school of bluegrass hoedown, Low came onto the Garden Stage to darken the mood in more ways than one. Time was when they were as quiet as they were slow, but Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker and whoever's their bassist this week have been upping the amplification for a while now and blazed through the likes of Sunflower, Dinosaur Act and Canada with malice - quiet, stark and careful malice, but still malicious nonetheless - aforethought, with little of the warmth some of their later work has projected.

    Now, a confession. We left early to catch the second Acorn set, which meant we missed the talking point of not just the set but the entire festival. Witnesses state that right at the end a string broke on Alan Sparhawk's guitar. Having already confessed to having a bad day, Sparhawk spectacularly lost it, making an attempt to break the thing before grabbing the strap, whirling it round hammer thrower style and launching it full throttle right into the crowd, to a complete stunned silence. Luckily it caused no injury, and the recipient seems quite pleased with his new slight seconds guitar, but you can imagine the pall that caused to fall.

    The Acorn, meanwhile, might have been even better in their enclosed space than before, their percussionist taking the advantages by using the Bimble Inn support beams as something else to hammer on as all around ratcheted up the tension and release in the music and there was barely room to breathe for the dancing and general enthusiasm, especially so when Rolf Klausener mentioned almost in passing a couple of minutes after a rapturous finish that they had some free promos of Glory Hope Mountain at the front. There'd have been less of a crush had he said he had free £50 notes to give away. It's not often that Jeremy Warmsley gets overshadowed in our view, but there he was, and he pretty much admitted so. Not that he was bad by any stretch, despite the best efforts of instruments that kept very briefly cutting out, reworking songs from The Art Of Fiction - I Knew Her Face Was A Lie, inspired by seeing a YouTube cover, solo on the piano a highlight, and previewing some of How We Became in its stripped down three-piece live version. The cover of New Order's Temptation makes for a rumbustuous closer, even more so than the still skyscraping Craneflies. Winningly, when he said at the end he had two CDs to sell afterwards, unlike The Acorn he actually meant he had two copies of The Art Of Fiction with him. (And he still had time to educate us in the finer points of high five etiquette)

    So out of kilter, despite the drummer's superb beard, with many of those around them they might as well have played Download they may be, but The Chap know how to bring the party. A very specific type of party, though, one that takes the stripped back punk-funk of a Talking Heads from any era you want, injects healthy electro beats and oddness and then slathers it in so much knowing, pop culture referencing archness it makes Franz Ferdinand resemble One Night Only. With judicious use of samples and the odd piece of choreographed shape throwing there's clearly something very wrong about The Chap, a band who could only be fronted by a man called Johannes von Weizs├Ącker who closes the set by attempting to destroy a cello only by the strength of manaical bow sawing (the horsehair gives in first), but at the same time something very right about their mutant art disco-rock, post-modernism coming right round the back and giving itself a kick up the arse. While dancing.

    It's very difficult to dance to Two Gallants, but it's also very difficult to ignore them when within earshot. The passion and righteousness in Adam Stephens' pained holler, while their death blues marches are pumped full of steroids, Tyson Vogel's imaginative drumming against Stephens' less than delicate fingerpicking emerging somewhere near acoustic Led Zeppelin. In the dark of a near midnight, and only just over half full Big Top, these redemption songs are almost terrifying, especially when Las Cruces Jail virtually raises the roof. Given we aren't going to get into the packed Local tent to see Shearwater and with the Modern Ovens (Hamilton and Noble BSP's Jonathan Richman covers band with Matt Eaton and Darren Moon of the Tenderfoot) still an hour and a half away, we consider that a good place to leave it for the second night.

    Wednesday, September 17, 2008

    Wiltshire music club: End Of The Road Festival Friday review


    Coming away from our first End Of The Road Festival this time last year (follow the tag link) we genuinely thought about not going back for the plain reason that they'd never top that bill and any further investment might dull the memory of what a wonderful thing had going on here at Larmer Tree Gardens. Then we decided we were being silly, as it'd be far better regarded among bands, bookers and potential ticket buyers after proving they could do it for a second year, and bought an early bird ticket. Eventually announcements started being made, and we felt smugger with each one. Then it sold out, and notwithstanding worries over space we were pleased. This, if we're honest, was the festival we were most looking forward to this year, and things looked even more up, overcast skies aside, when we clocked how many more stalls and food outlets they'd managed to fit into a relatively small space.

    In truth, those leaden clouds above would play a large part in the Friday proceedings, meaning that when Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin open the Garden Stage with their preppy, peppy 60s hooks in thrall to the Shins and first album Weezer, the combination of the conditions and the small, unenthusiastic crowd mean they pass by without making an impact. It's when we retreat to the Big Top that we realise that in those terms it's not going to be all plain sailing - the heavy rain that did for parts of Bestival in this area of Britain the previous weekend have left the entrance to the marquee muddy already, not to mention that sound problems mean a steward is still blocking the entrance more than twenty minutes after the first band are meant to have started.

    But when they're sorted, there are much worse ways of kicking off a stage for the long weekend than Gossamer Albatross. Showcasing a set of songs not even on the demo EP circulated at the end of last year, there's a confidence about their ability and Lewis Gordon's vocal and melancholic storytelling beyond their years, recalling not just the regular touchstones of Beirut (if Zach next chose next to investigate the folk music of Britain) and Final Fantasy but through to the lofty perch of Neutral Milk Hotel and the 'Big Music' of the Waterboys. Some of the intricacies, as well as Gordon's vocal in the mix, as lost when they introduce a rhythm section and rock out, as much as they do, but the towering ambition is intact and that they're about to work with Jeremy Warmsley makes sense given the similar construction of these apparently very new full band songs. You really feel that this is a band perched on the edge of having a great deal of national attention come their way and who are gaining the confidence to take it head on.

    Trying to work out who Cats In Paris take after isn't so easy. Not that there aren't touchstones, it's just they spread them out over a wide area and then attempt to cram them into the same four minutes, where analogue synths crash into pop hooks hiding in heavily compressed prog structures and emerge into the freak-folk undergrowth amid surrealist imagery. Comparisons to Deerhoof can be drawn, or perhaps Animal Collective if they'd first heard Bearsuit, but there's little so wilfully self-indulgent or atonal, except perhaps for the screaming bits, just the mere ADD musical schizophrenia as Michael Watson darts between synth, violin and mike as he carefully lays down his jigsaw piece of experimental cut and paste pop with harmonies that remembers it's still worth dancing to. It should be a mess, but as it is it almost demands you go away and think through what you just heard to see how it all makes sense.

    That this was all going off inside the Big Top was lucky, as outside it had started pelting down and will do for much of the evening, causing not nice conditions underfoot, puddles to form and everyone who had the foresight to bring wellies to don them (don't look at us like that). Many, however, still brave the rain for The Acorn, and it becomes apparent during the weekend's first, but not last, properly magical set that this is a band worth braving anything up to and including plagues of locusts to see live. Their album, Glory Hope Mountain (out in the UK in roughly a month's time), is an inventive work but one that needs time and effort; translated to the stage, though, it bursts into spectral life, a dynamic reworking of the album's pastoral themes that brings them into glorious rhythmic, energetic technicolour. Starting with its best song Crooked Legs helps, but throughout the Canadians' wealth of instrumentation and the sheer grace and power Rolf Klausener invests in these lushly arranged, meticulous songs of experience and hope alongside his six bandmates' invention, making these wide open Gardens spaces seem all the more intimate. It's a triumph, and if there isn't a wave of hype by the album's release there's something very wrong.

    The Big Top still just about running late means we have time to catch the end of The Young Republic's set. Last year their careering multi-handed Americana was a joy, but despite the eight on stage clearly having a whale of a time there's little actual spark coming off them, despite a spirited run through Girl From The Northern States. Similarly, as the rain hits its worst, A Hawk And A Hacksaw's Baltic hoedowns struggle manfully to make an audience connection and carry lugubriously on for a trifle too long. Faring better inside the Big Top is Peter and the Wolf, against what it has to be said are some odds as despite the name it's one bloke, Red Hunter, mostly with just a ukelele and his plaintive vocals performing a couple of songs he claims to have written the other day in a quietly mesmeric set.

    Laura Marling, sporting a new fringe bowl cut as well as a suit jacket, seems to be in a Boris Johnson fashion phase. Despite not quite looking like she's got over the nerves stage of playing live to large audiences and barely saying a word from stage entrance to last song, she's far more composed than that, though, doing that whole effortlessly drawing the listener into her fragile world thing, aided by a fine band, not least in the all-round abilities of Marcus Mumford, possibly pop's only accordion-playing drummer. A new song confirms her advancing abilities with finding the key to the heart. The real deal? She's done more than enough to make such notions hackneyed. The rain chooses this moment to cease after a good twenty minutes of concurrent sunshine, leading to two rainbows. It seems to fit.

    What a thing of wonder is Warren Ellis - the man, the stare, the beard. Dirty Three's music may be instrumental, usually a signifier for members to concentrate on their instruments as if in open heart surgery, but while Mick Turner seems immoveable and Jim white looks imperturbable while playing complex drum patterns Ellis and violin are off all round the place, high kicking and swooping in on his bandmates' instruments. And while live instrumental music is often fated to dull longeurs, the pitch and yaw of Dirty Three's sound, Ellis and amp whipping bow across strings with virtuoso ease while making one violin sound like a roomful while Turner's guitar alternates between carefully picked out wonder and shoegazing noisescaping, is inescapably exciting. And then the song ends and Ellis sets off freestyling for a couple of minutes about what the next song may or may not be about, once announcing it to be Everything's Fucked with clear relish at the end of a spiel during which he detailed exactly how he'd caused the previous day's Channel Tunnel fire. Completely captivating, intense and unique, it's a rare object lesson in how music without words can be even more of a spectacle than with. The bit of Robyn Hitchcock we catch mid-set can't really compete. Almost completely alone this year - he invites his sisters on for some close harmony and later has another guitarist join him - and still able to construct a setlist half of which you won't know, such is his back catalogue (although closing with a fine version of the Soft Boys' Queen Of Eyes) and banter that makes Ellis' look monosyllabic and obvious, but it's not as engaging as last year with John Paul Jones.

    Somewhere among the talking in the expanded and moved away from the main stage from last year Local stage we catch the end of One Little Plane's set, Kathryn Bint delivering charming and slightly offbeat singer-songwriter fare in the Emiliana Torrini mode but with space still ahead of her to develop. Someone well developed in the art of standing out from the crowd is Mark Eitzel, and while we've never really got round to investigating American Music Club properly that's clearly very remiss of us on this form. The behatted Eitzel comes on like a preacher, passionately spitting out tales of betrayal and black humour in a crooning wild-eyed style which Nick Cave seems to have taken extensive notes from, the very apotheosis of this damaged emotional bar-room alt-rock. Following them into the Big Top come Akron/Family, the trio in their hooded, headbanded, robed finery and starting with some campfire ohm-ing that lasted for some time. And then some time further. And some more on top of that, so much so that we decided they were having one of those improv self-indulgence nights and left. It seems to have turned shortly afterwards into a feedback frenzy involving The Acorn and sundry audience members. Well, it had to happen.

    Tuesday, September 16, 2008


    Which is more disturbing - Zane Lowe's apparent belief that his whole listenership is hanging on his every word desperately hoping for news of the new Razorlight single, or that he might be right?

    Colin Murray would be a really decent radio host is he could just stop being "Colin Murray". In the space of his first link on Wednesday he stated an apparently genuine belief that the Mercury Music Prize was named in honour of Freddie Mercury and pretty much libelled Alison Krauss in the cause of dismissing her life's work in favour of labelling her a MILF supreme.

    Nobody believed us when we said in advance of the nominations that Elbow would win, when come the evening it was obvious - Radiohead wouldn't win with this when they didn't win with OK Computer, the panel would be subconsciously wary of garlanding another debut album with Myths Of The Near Future already ageing, while Untrue (odds on favourite!) is technically superb and reflects exactly where forward thinking British urban music should be, but it's not the sort of thing you'd put on for forty minutes' pleasure.

    We've worked it out. Oasis' The Shock Of The Lightning resembles a mashup in which Bring It On Down has been artlessly pasted on top of the intro to Stereolab's Wow And Flutter.

    Alright, Noah And The Whale reissuing Shape Of My Heart we can see the financial logic in, even if it is the next nearest they've had to a hit (and Rocks And Daggers seems to go down just as well live, although that could be because they played it straight after 5 Years Time and in that situation launching into the theme from Ovide would have gone down well). But Vampire Weekend supporting an October tour by re-releasing A-Punk? Fuck off with ya!

    Did anyone else hear the half-time 5 Live coverage of the Croatia-England game? Specifically, the bit where they replayed Alan Green's commentary of Walcott's goal preceded by a sizeable section of the intro to The Walkmen's The Rat. We genuinely thought for a moment we'd put 6 Music on accidentally.

    Given all most people knew in advance of the Large Hadron Collider was that there was a chance it'd end the world, we'd suggest CERN's scientific advance is somewhat tempered by their poor abilities at PR. (Yes, it does count, that D:Ream bloke, remember)

    Come on, Ovide? Some sort of cartoon duck? Went out early on in the Children's BBC slot and before Going Live? "More top tales of Ovide Video/The gang's all here, let's get on with the show, yeah let's go"?

    Being a rotten cash-in approximation of the Killers is one thing; being a rotten cash-in approximation of the Hold Steady another. To be both, and still end up sounding like American Hi-Fi, means the Gaslight Anthem are surely worthy of some sort of anti-commendation award.

    Even this far on, is September 11th really the best day to be playing Eels' Souljacker? We have a very distinct memory of E in full beard mode being interviewed about this on the Big Breakfast bed on that very morning.

    There is little more satisfying in life than watching the scrolling song display on a DAB radio slowly spell out 'Dananananaykroyd'.

    End Of The Road? Come back tomorrow to Friday inclusive.

    Sunday, September 07, 2008

    Weekender : a double dose from far away

    WHAT CD?
    - So actually out this week is the Thomas Tantrum album, for details of which see last week, as well as underwhelming albums from bands with good pasts (Emiliana Torrini, Calexico) and frankly uninteresting albums from bands with no pasts (trust us, you'll wonder what on earth came over you regarding Glasvegas in eighteen months). Top of our list, then, is The Holy Pictures, the latest departure in the never less than fascinating career arc of David Holmes, from atmospheric techno to field recorded imaginary noir soundtrack to distorted funk beats to the Free Association outing to everyone's choice of actual film soundtrack composer, is now dipping into krautrock and distortion territory with a debut shot at singing, the better to express some properly heart on sleeve lyrics. Also out this week is the second in the Broken Social Scene Presents... offshoot series, and while, like Kevin Drew's Spirit If from last year, now Brendan Canning's Something For All Of Us really make you wonder how these songs might well have been better with the other as a sounding board, this is still a fine set of low-key wonderments in the lower budget BSS sense, plus the odd funk, folk and dance curveball.

    - Disturbing detail of the week: Johnny Foreigner, who we understand we ought to hate now, and Dananananaykroyd are prominently featured in the current issue of low grade not-quite-showing-breasts magazine Front. As far as extending the brand goes, extending it to the kind of bedroom onanist whose traditional serving between sessions of buffing the happy lamp is sub-Gub Smith attempts to catch the zeigeist of 1995 while blindfolded is a risky one. Berrow, Southern & Laidley, noisesmiths by appointment to the gentry, reach single number three from the no-seriously-why-don't-you-own-it? Waited Up Til It Was Light, the percussion (both natural and electronic) favouring Salt, Peppa & Spinderella, which comes on 10" with remixes from Bloc Party (Gordon, apparently), Dolby Anol feat. Acrnym (two variant pseudonyms for a mysterious moonlighting collective who might have already been mentioned in this bit) and Nibiru (some bloke who's engineered Sasha & Digweed, apparently). British Sea Power have a single out too, but it's just Waving Flags on download again and nobody's playlisted it this time either.

    - In 'other stuff': David and Stephen Dewaele have plenty of buttons to push, whether as Soulwax or 2manydjs, and Part Of The Weekend Never Dies, by Klaxons, Hot Chip and Janet Jackson video director Saam Farahmand, is by extension more than a live document of their club-friendly shows supporting their Nite Versions album, recorded over 120 shows with a range of off-duty footage and testimonies. While one 80s eccentric, archdrude Julian Cope, sees his solo and Teardrop Explodes video compilation Copeulation make it to DVD, another has his personality, opinions, lyrics and cultural reference points examined by Len Brown, the former journalist who has met the subject more often than anyone else in a professional writing capacity, in Meetings With Morrissey.

    - As for next week: Edinburgh raised singer-songwriter Kat Flint got fans to pay for the recording of Dirty Birds and she's repayed them with an album that's too slippery for that folky acoustic-toting female singer-songwriterly mode, dark, intelligent, captivating writing fitting off-melodic songs that unveil their full loveliness in their own time, aided with a warm, affecting voice and a knack for using unusual instrumentation in an unshowy way so you don't realise until much later that that's, say, scissors and a roll of sellotape being used there. Cold War Kids' pounding career high to date Something Is Not Right With Me leads the singles field that also features Bon Iver (For Emma), The Spinto Band (Summer Grof) and The Week That Was (The Airport Line), but the thing we'd most like to highlight from w/b 15th September is a book. Last year the Guardian's Dave Simpson set out to write an article about the Fall's celebrated turnover of members, in light of Mark E Smith's own autobiography plans. Simpson ended up spending two years attempting to track and interview all 55, with fascinating results documented in The Fallen: Searching For The Missing Members Of The Fall. It really is a wonderful and frightening world in there.

    MYSPACE INVADERS: Haven't had a Cardiff band for a while, so let's have one now. Joy Of Sex are a multi-gendered trio who sound like a wired, boggle-eyed take on the fuzzily taut Pixies/Wire dynamic with criss-crossing vocals, wrecked song structures and seeming stream of conscious while still meaningful lyrics, and if all that sounds familiar to long time STN readers then it should be clarified that they do indeed share a kinship with The Victorian English Gentlemens Club. And frankly, two bands mining this seam (not that they're a straight ripoff by any means, we hasten to add) is far better than none.

    VISUAL AID: So, what's this End Of The Road festival all about? Ooh, all sorts, and as we disappear ready for next weekend - come on, three day band of high pressure, just for us - these is the sort of places where you'll find us. There's the bands who seem to be making it a second home, like British Sea Power and the outfit whose frontman will inevitably join them at some stage during Rock In A, Brakes. Will this really be the sixth time in just over two years we've seen them? How many times will we nearly bodily run into Tom White this year? Place bet now! The Wave Pictures are back too and they'll doubtless be gadding about with friends Jeffrey Lewis and Darren Hayman, possibly even a revival of the latter's semi-secret Hayman Watkins Trout & Lee set from last year. Beyond those returning to the scene of past glories there's plenty of artists we'll be seeing for the first time - Mercury Rev are the most appetising of the headliners, but we'll be making sure we're present for the likes of The Mountain Goats, Tindersticks and Bon Iver, not to mention a host of new bands we've championed recently such as The Chap, The Acorn and Gossamer Albatross, plus, in a tent that won't be half big enough, Shearwater. Bon voyage!

    * A few quick things: Jeffrey Lewis' music store is selling City And Eastern Tapes, a new companion to his City And Eastern Songs album in that it's that album in early lo-fi form plus a few unreleased songs. Rhodri Marsden writes lucidly on 'The Futility Of Flogging Music', while in less intelligent spheres Weebl & Bob do Ladytron. Weebl as Mira Aroyo is just worrying. Right, we're out. Back on the 16th.

    Saturday, September 06, 2008

    The Weekly Sweep

  • Abe Vigoda - Bear Face [Myspace]
  • The Acorn - Crooked Legs [Myspace]
  • Bon Iver - For Emma [live YouTube]
  • British Sea Power - Waving Flags [YouTube]
  • Cold War Kids - Something Is Not Right With Me [Myspace]
  • Crystal Castles - Crimewave [live YouTube] (More proof that even the lamest bandwagoners have one great song in them? Well, especially if it's someone else's, s'pose)
  • Dananananaykroyd - Pink Sabbath [Myspace]
  • Final Fantasy - Ultimatum [mp3 from Stereogum]
  • Foals - Olympic Airways [YouTube]
  • Future Of The Left - The Hope That House Built [Myspace]
  • Johnny Foreigner - Salt, Peppa & Spinderella [YouTube]
  • Nat Johnson - Dirty Rotten Soul [YouTube]
  • Okkervil River - Lost Coastlines [Myspace]
  • Popular Workshop - Reptilians [Myspace]
  • Slow Club - Let's Fall Back In Love [Myspace] (Plus this, which is clearly a video for a Slow Club song but not the one it's titled as being)
  • Those Dancing Days - Home Sweet Home
  • TV On The Radio - Golden Age [streaming from homepage]
  • The Walkmen - In The New Year [Myspace]
  • The Week That Was - The Airport Line [Myspace]
  • Wild Beasts - Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants [YouTube]
  • Friday, September 05, 2008


    So, having failed to think of any worthwhile pre-scheduled posts to fill the next week efficiently enough with (or the last week, come to that) STN now takes some time away from our spam-filled inbox and our autosaves. There'll be the usual weekend stuff over the next two days and then we'll be back on, ooh, let's say Tuesday 16th with the start of our observations on End Of The Road Festival.

    So if you're going to EOTR, do say hello. If you don't know what we look like, guess. It might confuse people. If you're not, we'll again be texting our Twitter like billy-o from on site from this time next week. In the meantime, why not download the Covermounts and study everything in the Appendix.

    Monday, September 01, 2008

    Celebrity Playlist - the bloodening

    So since we liked Celebrity Muxtape as it took most of the work off us but Muxtape is pretty much killed off by The Man now, we've been forced into a change of plan.

    So please welcome Celebrity Playlist - the same format, twelve songs picked by people we like of the music that made them, as before, except just the words. We probably won't get a new one in before next week's pre-End Of The Road holiday - or ever, if our run of response walls of silence to this continue - so here's examples of what we've had so far:

    Jeremy Warmsley
    A Classic Education
    Sky Larkin
    MJ Hibbett