Friday, 29 June 2007

The Compact

Now. I’m in a bit of a shit mood. I haven’t left the house today, I am wearing yesterday’s clothes and I’m sick of watching the news because it reminds me that people like to pour hydrochloric acid on other people’s faces. There is a muscle having an epileptic in my left forearm, and I can feel the fat cells gorging themselves on my lunch. I’ve got my ring stuck on the wrong finger. I have the mean reds (and if you think that means my period, you can just stop reading now).

I know most people come here expecting music. Well, today I woke up expecting to be 5’10 with thick wavy hair and a waist roughly two thirds my own. I have a feeling that today you and me both will experience some disappointment.

I do have something serious to discuss. The Compact. It’s old news I know, I know, but I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and have decided my position on it.

The Compact started some time ago, at least 18months, but probably a bit longer in San Francisco. Quite basically; they do not consume. They buy nothing new , and only buy second-hand what is necessary. They do buy food, although, you see, people need food to live. Organisations like Freecycle are supplying this demand for non-consumerable living, by providing a forum for people to trade their goods. There are free markets in San Fran, like normal markets, but free.

I like The Compact. I love The Compact. The Compact is maybe what the world needs to stop its disgusting self combustion and might just stop us from vomiting dust and smoke and rubbish enough to choke ourselves. Might.

Although you see, here’s the tricky thing. Shopping makes me happy. Buying silk blouses at extraordinary prices makes me happy. Checking the time on my Longines watch? Yep, happy. Even imagining myself making tea in Limoges tea cups makes me happy. And I know other people, people I admire and love and like, I know people who can be made happy with material things. In the very purest sense, beautiful objects hold joy.

So you see, my gripe with consumption, is not consumption per se, but rather, the mindless trash that is produced for the mindless public. Cheap, ticky-tack, poor quality and in poor taste annoys me more than Comsumers. For example: killing innocent children in the street is wrong, but, if I had the choice, alone in a room with a man (or woman) who abused an animal, or child (but especially an animal), I would, had I the strength, beat him to the end of his life. Killing is wrong. Some people are worth the effort. Mechanical consumption is dangerous, and more than certainly immoral. A chair by Charles Eames is a work of art. A shoe by Marc Jacobs. A dinnerset by Kate Spade. Even an Elle McPherson bra for His sake. You can get veritable beauty in bought objects. Yes - not all my clothes are works of art, I’m sure if I sat my (generous) bum down right now on a city corner and put up a sign ‘HUNGRY’ not a passing person would think about doubting I was homeless. I usually buy second hand books, for monetary reasons, and the rest of my books come from libraries. I prefer to eat what I’ve grown, which means I spend a lot of the winter months eating broad beans, but that’s ok. I don’t eat meat, I do buy leather, I drive a car but I never take plastic bags from shops. I recycle everything.

So. Here we are, I’ve run out of steam, and all I want to say is this. I can’t give up everything. I can give up a lot, but not everything. If you can Compact, do it. Try not to buy. Try not to buy new. Try to grow your own food. Try to buy local produce. These are some good people and I respect them. Ideally, we don’t need to stop buying, we just need to stop buying so much. But really, in reality, some people are too thick to understand that. So these Compacters are giving up things on their behalf. On your behalf. They’ve given up everything that I still can’t manage to. They’re stronger than me. If you’re strong, then please, do what you can. Or think about it at least. I know, if you’re here, you’re probably music people. Music is good. Buying music is fine. But just think. Sometimes. Please.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

View Monday: robots, dogs, balaclavas, seagulls and a bit of pork.

We’re well and truly into festival season now but, considering that festival season now stretches into late September, we’re still relatively in the starting blocks. Which must a bit of a bummer for nearly every musical act on Earth who aren’t Daft Punk, because they’ll have a hard time doing much better than this performance from last weekend’s Wireless festival. Parts of this are so euphoric i sat weeping with joy, and i imagine the people who described it as six of the best minutes of their life may well have done similar. So when’s Electroma out lads?

From what might be described as a more 'sedate' festival - i.e. it's inside - here's some footage from last weekend's 'Forest Of No Return' segment of the Jarvis Cocker-curated Meltdown festival. Here, ‘Home Sweet Home’ is performed by the aforementioned Jarv, Pete Doherty, Shane MacGowan and Nick Cave. So in other words they’re howling like dogs for a prolonged period of time.

Of course as we type Britain’s most lauded green-meets-greed clash of alternative medicines and mobile phone advertising, Glastonbury, is winding itself down to an inevitably muddy and plastic cup-strewn halt. The lack of telly and my computer’s unwillingness to stream BBC coverage means i’ve not seen any footage from this year’s event, but i think i’m safe in saying that none of the acts topped this performance, not even the band themselves. At seven years old i was probably too young to be allowed near a hippy at the time, let alone a filed full of them, but if anyone ever asks me which one single Glastonbury performance i’d want to have been present at, pressed against the bars and wailing like a banshee, it would probably be this one. i know this video isn’t the best quality ever, it’s slightly out of synch and it finishes a few seconds before the song does, but i still think it adequately explains why.

Meanwhile, away from the mud and back in this century (although only just), this week saw Skint Records offering a free digital ten-track sampler of releases they’re about to, uhm, release. i’m a big fan of Skint (not just because of the Brighton connection, or because their sponsorship of the Seagulls makes their team strip possibly the most amusingly ironic kit ever), and i think it’s unfair when people say their heyday is over, just because big beat fell out of fashion a long time ago and their most famous artist has released a few duff records recently. But if we’re looking at when Skint were at their peak, i wouldn’t point to the mid-Nineties, not in terms of creative peak anyway. i’d personally turn to the beginning of this decade, when the label released great stuff such as Halfway Between The Gutter And The Stars (still a forgotten classic, i feel…well, still a decent album, anyway), ‘(I Need The) Disko Doktor’ by Space Raiders, and a slew of great singles, performances and an album by the label’s head honcho, Damien Harris aka Midfield General. This is the video for ‘Midfielding’, titled as it is for its vocal contribution from one Noel Fielding.

And finally, news came this week that the rumours are true and ITV will be giving Stars In Their Eyes the axe. Although it probably ran its course a fair while ago, and i rarely understood the point anyway, as far as i can tell it was the place that Harry Hill got the idea to ‘do’ Morrissey, so i think that’s reason enough to mourn its passing. Remember it this way, seeing as Vic & Bob’s version of reality is usually much funnier than the real thing.

Still (y)our new favourite band


Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Annals Retentive: 2004 (part one)

2004 was a bad year for music.

Of course, every year has great music in it – don’t believe anyone who’ll tell you otherwise, they’re just not looking, or listening, hard enough – and 2004 was hardly an exception. Bearsuit released ‘Chargr’, for instance. 65daysofstatic released ‘retreat! retreat!’.
Art Brut released (the superior Rough Trade version of) ‘Formed A Band’. Fiery Furnaces released (the superior EP verion of) ‘Tropical Iceland’. The Concretes released ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’. Wiley - who is currently gracing front pages of The Wire, Plan B and One Week To Live, all worth checking out even if you have given up on the printed music press – finished what Dizzee’s Mercury win starting by dragging grime kicking and screaming overground with ‘Wot Do U Call It?’. Cornershop introduced Bubbley Kaur and released ‘Topknot’. Help! She Can’t Swim released ‘Bunty vs. Beano’. Ikara Colt released ‘Wanna Be That Way’. Biffy Clyro released ‘Glitter & Trauma’. The Broken Family Band released Jesus Songs. The Unicorns released ‘I Was Born (A Unicorn)’. Mclusky released ‘She Will Only Bring You Happiness’. The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster released ‘Mister Mental’. &c. &c.

But 2004 was the year that John Peel died. And, as you can probably tell, i’ve never really gotten over it.

There is an immense number of Peel-related weblogs about that either started before he went (Radio Plus being a personal favourite), or, more frequently, cropped up in tribute after his death (John Peel Everyday, Teenage Kicks, Right Time, Right Place, Wrong Speed, Kat’s Karavan, The Perfumed Garden, Fades In Slowly, Furtive Fifty, John Peel’s Record Box, Peel Acres, John Peel Pages and so on). But, although i can’t really speak for Bianca, my entire outlook on music, let alone my record collection, owes pretty much everything to him, so you can add my share of this blog to that list too. It’s quite frightening really, thinking of the bands that i really truly love, and realising how they were, with very little exception, either bands i first heard on his show (and, in many cases, nowhere else), or only gained access to wider exposure because of his patronage. He was the only person in Radio 1 – and, really, national broadcasting in general – with the courage, audacity even, to play whatever the hell he wanted knowing that the right people will eventually catch on, and genuinely caring about his listeners to boot, which was understandable given his immense belief in what he broadcast. But it is still very, very scary that alternative music culture (not alternative in the sense of ‘alternative’ music now, packaged and sold back to you, but alternative in the sense that it disregarded trends and market research for sheer throw-it-to-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks embracing of anything good, regardless of background) relied on one person so heavily. And now that one person’s gone i still feel lost.

Anyway. Rather than babble on about how much i like Peelie – which, i must admit, i’m considerably prone to doing – here’s a couple of absolute corkers that i first heard on John’s show in 2004. They’re both pretty epically lavish slabs of neo-psych-rock, in case you’re into that sort of thing. And both bands have particularly ace monikers too.

First is by Earth The Californian Love Dream with a song that i remember hearing John play a couple of times but somehow on both occasions – possibly because i was drifting in and out of slumber, although considering my sleeping pattern since then that’s unlikely – i managed to miss the name of both the band and the song, possibly even on nights when the highly useful tracklistings weren’t being written. Then, a few weeks later caked in mud on a farm near Pilton i heard the song again, only this time on a massive soundsystem in a tent as music to watch bands set up by. i rushed over to the sound desk and enquired, with some urgency, “do you know what this song is?”

“Earth The Californian Love Dream”, he said, for some reason not looking best pleased that someone was taking an interest in what he was ‘playing out’.

“…what?!”, i replied.

It turned out that this particular song featured on the staple of the festival, the annual Truck compilation, and hence was played regularly all weekend – also acting neatly as a reminder to catch their set. In a way, i’m kind of disappointed i did, as it turned out to be their only song of any considerable merit – the other songs just weren’t really that memorable, or were memorable for all the wrong reasons, like, for having lyrics such as “women fighting is what i like to see” and “fuck Ozzy, fuck The Queen” or having titles like ‘Porn Star’. But at least there was one very shiny gem in the middle of it all.

Earth The Californian Love Dream – In The Garden

The other is by equally well-named psych-punk overlords Marble Sheep. i remember Peel both starting and finishing a show with this track, which, somehow, kicks in with a tremendous amount of gusto, and yet seems to remain as energetic and charged all the way through, if not more – to the extent that you don’t realise it’s been going for eight minutes. i managed to pick up the Marble Sheep album (‘For Demolition Of A Spiritual Framework, released the year before in their native Japan) a matter of days later in a London record shop – for some reason, i remember it being the same day i bought Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone? and Huge Chrome Cylinder Box Unfolding, although that’s probably not very interesting – and believe me when i say that eight minutes is bestowed with a virtue of brevity compared to some of the other tracks. Apparently they’re ‘veterans’ of the Eighties new-psych improv scene, although seeing as they’re churning out tunes like this in the twenty-first century i’d say they’ve still got it.

Marble Sheep – Fla Fla Heaven

i would also like to draw your attention to another song that i first heard John Peel play in 2004, and another track that opened one of his shows. For that, though, i feel i should alert your attention to (for the second time this week) Teenage Kicks, and in particular this post because it holds within itself probably my favourite track of 2004. As you can see from my comment at the end of it, i really really was rather excited to be able to download this version of ‘O Superman (For Massanet)’ by the divine Laurie Anderson (remind me to do a blog entry on her at some point, she’s a fascinating artist and it’s a shame that her one big hit is remembered as a ‘novelty’ rather than the beautiful piece of music it is. It’s also a shame that a lot of her other work is so often overlooked, but it gives bloggers an excuse to complain about it, which is always useful.) Although John credits the track to ‘The X-Booty Crew’, i have a sneaking suspicion that X Booty is actually the label and that the remix is by Dan The Drummer, who i can’t seem to find the website for. Darn! Anyway, i was so excited about hearing it at the time that i remember writing a gushing blog entry elsewhere, claiming that it was a piece of such perfect simplicity, sticking Anderson’s sublime vocals over the thunderous ‘Funky’ by Henry Cullen and Julian Liberator, that it rivalled Duchamp going and painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa (although, in hindsight, it feels a bit more like the Mona Lisa is painted underneath the moustache, if Anderson represents the painting and Cullen/Liberator represent the rebellious act of ridiculous, almost eccentric aggression). Of course that’s debatable, but i think in terms of the bastard pop/bootlegging craze that had pretty much died out in terms of fashion/invention by that point, it was one of the finest meeting of minds. Anyway, get over there and listen to it already.

(And also, if you head over to the ill-ec-tro-nic blog right now you can download the new remix by M.A.N.D.Y. and Booka Shade...sweet.)

i’ve decided to do this Annals Retentive in two parts, as 2004 was a year that i also spent a great deal of time ligging around my hometown of Southampton, growing for itself as it was a rather envious local scene that seems to have withered considerably over the pas few years (with the exception of the forever ace-core Ejector Seat promoters), so i’ll save some of the better lesser-known tracks for then. But i will leave you with a track from another more celebrated geography-based scene of the time, the New Cross, which despite also fading away still sees its band offspring running amok in the playgrounds of pop. Nice to know that some of the bands (or ‘friends’) mentioned have gone on to greater things – i’m looking in particular at The Long Blondes but i also think that The Boyfriends, Ciccone and Luxembourg have made particularly brilliant records since, not to mention The Violets, Rhesus, Japanese Intellgence Mind Control and Since Last Summer. Oh and Art Brut have a new album out of course. It’s rather a shame, though, that since this recording the programme that they love has died.

Art Brut & Friends – Top Of The Pops

Sunday, 17 June 2007

View Monday: posted Sunday night so you get it on Monday. We ain’t feeling fashionable.

Hello. Wasn’t this simply delightful? Yes, yes i think it was.

My laptop’s thrown a wobbly and won’t let me get to stuff i’ve written for this blog, or a lot of songs for that matter, or the internet, so you’ll just have to watch some stuff again. Sorry.

Here’s a collision between two subjects that two of my personal favourite blogs have written about this week; Teenage Kicks wrote a commendable piece about grindcore, while Sweeping The Nation made me go all misty-eyed with Britpop nostalgia about mid-Nineties Radio 1, back when the station really was the nation’s favourite. (Really like the black and white Peelie footage.) You’ll notice of course that another annoying Chris was at the helm of Wonderful Radio 1’s breakfast show back then, and while the television programme that ultimately made him leave the station, TFI Friday, was often a monstrosity, anyone who puts Napalm Death on teatime Friday night Channel 4 isn’t doing everything wrong.

Meanwhile, it’s scary to think that something still as brutal and rarely-surpassed in the extreme rock scene as ‘Scum’ is twenty years old, but at least there have been many holding the heavy flame aloft. It’s often mentioned that they stamp on their fans’ heads, and of course there was the time that they chucked their own faeces at them as well. But under it all Dillinger Escape Plan are proof that math metal still carries the thrash heart pumping and bloodied in its tightened fist.

This’ll be the new single from Blood Red Shoes then, which – understandably, given the years they must have slugged it around Brighton’s narrow and ever-decreasing toilet circuit – is called ‘It’s Getting Boring By The Sea’.

Apparently Muse kicked it at Wembley this weekend, but did they destroy their instruments? That’s what i want to know. They may have been going since 1994 but when they hit their stride in 2000, i remember an interview where they winced revealing the bill for the amount of equipment they'd already completely obliterated, rocketing as it was into the tens of thousands. Nowadays i’d probably think it was a Who-copyist hollow statement of false showmanship, despite the strength of the songs, not to mention a waste of money and craftwork. But at the time i just thought: cool.

…and here’s what i think about every time someone mention’s buying Prince tickets, apart from the time i was lost and lonely and staring at a drawing of a unicorn in The Penthouse and suddenly, as it blasted through the speakers, i finally ‘got’ Purple Rain. But i can’t really embed that. Thankfully.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Miss Hilton, you must be worth a trillion bucks

Now. Before I begin, I realise that I have been, until this time, the silent partner. Which may be in the interests of my darling Hey Charlie! to be honest, because I’m not the most inspired person, I can’t even begin to loop a series of words together appropriately, and, really, I don’t have anything that comes even near to acceptable taste in music, what-so-absolutely-ever (Although I do have Thomas. He is Acceptable Taste In Music). Also- I lie. Like saying just then that I have no taste in music? That was a little porkie. I have no taste FULL STOP. I am currently watching The Simple Life with Paris and Nicole. And I’m up to my second episode. And I'm onto first name basis with Paris and Nicole. And I’m loving every trashy, tanned and plucked and rather slow minute.

Now: here’s the irony. I am watching Paris, who seems to be being eaten by a baby blue coloured fur sole (I’m being silly of course. It’s not EATING her. Someone’s killed the darling thing and REMOVED ITS FACE). Paris is having a 'serious' meeting with her publicist, or media relations manager, an orange man with blond tips and shiny nails and he says to her, “Paris, you need to hide your love away”. Very tactful.

And so we arrive at The Beatles (and Oasis, if you swing that way. They do a lovely cover). I don’t want to talk about The Beatles. They're just the bridge. They get us to who I do want to talk about. Not Paris. Not Paul, Ringo, John and George. But Hetty, Rachel, and Debsey. Is there a greater name than Debsey? If there is it’s probably Hettie and if there isn’t, then I’m glad we agree. And now we’ve arrived I don’t really have anything a lot to say about Dolly Mixture, except I love them, you’ll love them, and how come you’re such a hit with the boys Jane?

Oh. I’m lazy too. Here are links to the nutritional content of Dolly Mixture.

The Band

Their Space

How Come You're Such A Hit With The Boys Jane?
Baby It's You
I love this version of this song. Apparently the girls didn't though, they thought the record company was trying to clean them up and sell them off as bright eyed, squeaky clean, come-home-and-meet-my-mother-dearest type girls and they disapproved. It is strange though, because when you listen to Dilly Dolly Dally that is exactly what they seem. All knitting and warm mince pies and firesides.
New Look Baby
Dilly Dolly Dally
Will He Kiss Me Tonight?

Monday, 11 June 2007

View Monday: Stuart Murdoch interviews a hatstand and other stories.


A bit of Hermeto Pascoal, evidently adored by them Avalanches. (No, not these Avalanches.)

Frank Sidebottom and famous pals doing justice to this lot. i've been waiting ages for an excuse to show this but now i realise i don't need one. However, tickets for Frank's gig at Bethnal Green Working Men's Club should be on sale by now, if you fancy it. There is yewchoob footage of another Frank doing 'How I Wrote Elastic Man' but frankly (arf) it's not as good.

The new Los Campesinos! single. Out last week. Buy it. Go on.

Finally (for now) something from fuggin' Ash, who apparently announced they've called it quits this weekend. i know it's like going to the wake of a childhood friend you've managed to avoid for six years - Free All Angels was the last time i ever considered them a properly exciting prospect - but the part of my pre-pubescent self still lingering inside, still finding immense joy in destroying floorboards to 'Jack Names The Planets' and still believing the act of burning 300 Westlife CDs to be an overtly political statement rather than an obtusely rockist one, is silently weeping, knowing that all things must pass.

Banks and banks of humming machinery

It’s a shame, really, how long some things take to reveal themselves. It’s been nearly a year that i’ve been residing in the seaside town of Brighton, feeling like the live music scene is not as impressive as its counter-culture aesthetic likes to make out (despite looking for it), and yet all that time there was such a fervent and thriving noise scene right on my doorstep. This time last week, for instance, saw another gig put on by promoters Psykick Dancehall, who also happen to be some parts of Brightonian free-range scatter “crude actionists” On Fire.

On Fire – Oh What A Shitting

(Apparently, though, they’re going to change that name, not only because when you Google it you just get a list of things on fire, but also because there is a band from the Netherlands with the same name. They also appear to have the catchphrase “get involved!” which, each time it was uttered, would remind me of this…

Grandmaster Gareth – Party Pooper)

Anyway, back to the gig, which was in a rehearsal space obviously not designed for dozens of perspiring young persons on a summer’s evening – the bands requested an ice bath, quite reasonably yet unrealistically – but it’s really quite perfect for the aural abstractions presented that night, with its maze of corridors and acute attention to acoustics. First on were Made Out Of Wool who came across, it must be said, as a band enjoying themselves more than the audience, which is a shame really because they nailed the whole freeform drone experimentation thing pretty niftily. i was assured, though, that this may have been because about half of the ensemble weren’t regular members, which various nervous glances during the never-knowingly-structured set attested. Admirable though, and pretty in the ear-bleeding sense. In marked contrast though was Ack Ack Ack who, with their distort-drenched yelping ferocity made Lightning Bolt sound like Kenny G and had a natty gasmask microphone contraption to boot. Their drummer, a recent addition who also finds home in Charlottefield, manages to be astoundingly good and yet look like one of the most bored musicians ever at the same time. Go here for more.
The headliners though were Portland, Oregon’s rightly-respected experimental kings Yellow Swans, who after six weeks of touring the UK were not only (understandably) shattered but also polite, warm and tremendously humbled by the positive reactions that they’ve been receiving. They decided to do a completely improvised set, split right down the middle, but if they hadn’t told everyone then we’d probably be none the wiser as their complex, cavernous, bone marrow-meltingly loud sounds already lend themselves to a thrillingly instinctive spontaneity. There was one point during the set where a guitar solo so electrifying flew out above the abrasive beats and concrete atmospherics, where it felt you were feeling this music rather than hearing it; it probably a bit of a wet, hippy-ish thing to say, that the noises they make are ‘experienced’ rather than heard, but it does apply as much to the way in which they engulf you as well as batter your body’s vibrating patterns something rotten. Anyway, try for yourself:

Yellow Swans – I Woke Up

(Un-expertly placed here from The Wire’s mighty mp3 library.)

And yes, we realise that the superlative 20 Jazz Funk Greats has already done a post about this gig this month, but that was before it happened. You should go and look at them anyway.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

(y)our new favourite band

i'm not even being ironic.


You can now see this video and others at Brainlove TV, including the stupidly good Fuck Buttons and the stupid-and-good Insectoid. Believe.