Tuesday, 31 January 2012
It’s no secret that I love Jack White, his playing, song-writing, production whatever, he’s a badass. He is one of the only artists that I can think of that has yet to make a truly rubbish song. Whether it’s his work with The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather or even singing backing on ‘Danger! High Voltage’ for Electric Six it’s all good. When I heard that a solo album was about to be released (well April 23rd anyway) it did set my fuzzy heart a’flutter.
‘Love Interruption’ is the first release from his debut full length Solo album ‘Blunderbuss’ and although missing the heavy riffs of his other work it instead leans more towards his classic song-writing of previous tracks such as ‘You Don’t Understand Me’ (from The Raconteurs) and ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You’re Told)’ (from The White Stripes.) Ok firstly from a geek point of the view, it’s a great recording, listen with headphones, mile wild stereo panning, everything sits perfectly, acoustic guitars, sped up backing vocals, harmonium, and dry as a bone. A ‘Son of a Preacher Man’ type chord sequence cradles his voice(s) here with an old style narrative about heartbreak, death (this is the blues after all.) Although never one to explain his lyrics and inspirations in too much detail I’m sure that the recent divorce may have stoked the fire inside him away from his more playful side of writing. A great introduction to an album although from history it proves never to try and second guess what the rest of the songs will sound like although if he’s going back to the country/blues roots rather than another bombastic rock album then lucky for us.
‘Love Interruption’ is the first taste of Jack White's forthcoming debut album, Blunderbuss, out April 23/24 on Third Man Records/XL Recordings/Columbia.
Pre-order your copy of the 7" vinyl featuring non-LP B-side "Machine Gun
John and Yoko sure have a lot to answer for. By crossing over the worlds of experimental and avant-garde performance over to rock and roll the world of music and indeed entry into the world stage has never been easier, talent be damned. The premise that anyone of a creative nature should have the platform to perform their art in front of a paying audience and should then be taken seriously and appreciated as such without sniggers and giggles is one I can’t quite bring myself to agree with.
Tonight’s show was performed by Petra Jean Phillipson, a performer that releases an aura of someone that has been told their whole life that every burp, fart and spilled drink is a personal expression of their own creative genius and should be treasured and treated as such. Elements of Gothic wordplay and Kate Bush falsetto runs appear throughout as well as some microphone/delay fun and games i.e “tut-t-t-t-t-t-t-t”, “wah-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a”. Attempting something new and trying to break sonic ground is one thing but titting about like a 5 year old with a reverb pedal is another.
Songs are performed quietly and thoughtfully although no one stands out enough to dare take the spotlight off of Miss Phillipson who holds the reigns very tight throughout. Moments of complete silence in the arrangements which began as light and shade to the music slowly became proof that complete obedience is demanded from the crowd and that even within silence the attention is never shifted from our headliner. Jaw droppingly enough tonight’s piece ‘Notes On: Death’ took 6 years to complete which for something like Zappa’s ‘The Yellow Shark’ or Brian Wilson’s ‘SMiLE’ you could envisage such a task and time frame, but for some slow acoustic based 3-4 chord ‘picking and a grinnin’ it seems that 5 years and 11 months may have been spent deciding on the wardrobe for the group over the music within.
The songs tonight are well crafted and performed sympathetically by the band keeping the mood easy and light with some punctuated fuzz guitar and a strangely misplaced 10 minute bass tuba introduction, kudos on the lung power but like someone who can eat lit cigarettes, its not how are they doing it but simply why are they bothering?
Support was given by Phillipson’s husband M.N Hopwood and a 2 piece group (including some excellent guitar and backing vocals) and with elements of Cohen and Mercury Rev his short set was in my opinion the highlight of this evening’s performance and whose recorded output I will definitely discover in more depth.
Tonight’s show was part of the Southbank Centres ‘Death: Southbank Centre’s Festival for the Living’- “4 days of talks, music, performance and poetry that gently life the lid on the subject of death”.
Many thanks to Rhianon Davies at 9PR
'originally posted on the 405'
Thursday, 26 January 2012
I definitely feel I’m walking into a firing line here but what the hell. I don’t get Lana Del Rey, or more specifically I don’t get what the big deal is with her. I’ve listened to the releases including the fabled ‘Video Games’ and just thought “ok, is that it?” After the massive hype and expectation, even winning the best single of 2011 in at least 2 music magazines I will still none the wiser. Are we that starved of good music that mediocre tracks have to be bumped up a peg or ten to convince the herd that music is on the up and up? There are plenty of good bands around as well as solo artists. Female Solo artists such as Anna Calvi and P.J Harvey both made outstanding work in 2011 although nothing as good it would seem as some slow mumbling dirge and ‘youtube sensation’ offered. I will listen to the album in it's entirety before I make the final judgement but from this angle the Emperor (or Empress) definitely seems to be missing a few layers of clothes.
Now it looks like Miss Del Ray is on the edge of the precipice and can go one way or the other. A missed London gig last week can be forgiven but if any diva like behaviour continues I’m sure it won’t be long before this weeks Sex Pistols are last weeks Showaddywaddy.
Other news this week has been the hinted and confirmed line ups for both the Camden Crawl and Field Day with Franz Ferdinand making a return as well as The Vaccines countering on their 2011 successes. Only the Great Escape is to be announced and that is the one I feel will be the ticket of this side of 2012 as everything just looks, feels and sounds better in Brighton.
Anyway back to the grindstone, take 4 of these and see the Dr in the morning.
Temptation Is Hard To Find - George McGregor & The Bronzettes
You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks - Seasick Steve
Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues – Bob Dylan
The Ha Ha Wall – The Libertines
Tuesday, 24 January 2012
After initially starting off as a purely studio band Alex Shields has turned A Grave with No Name into a formidable live band, and gaining new fans across the country with recent support slots with The Big Pink and Sebadoh. Taking time off from the recording of the new release from the group the usually introverted lead singer/guitarist/songwriter/producer of the collective answered a few questions for your reading pleasure dear followers…
You seem to have a very un-traditionalist way of writing songs, instead of playing a couple of chords then moving on to a chorus etc. You seem to prefer to build a piece up as a whole, almost like creating the whole song at the same time with layers of reverb and echo. Would you say this is the case or do you sit and worry about the ‘definitive middle 8’ as much as the next band?
On my first album ‘Mountain Debris’ I was simultaneously learning how to write songs and record. In most instances, each song would start with a very simple motif; a manipulated drum loop; a single chord; a keyboard drone or texture, and then I would build, sound-upon-sound until I felt I had a song. Reverb and delay are very easy ways of filling up the stereo-field, and smearing sound so its faults are less apparent, so I was reaching for them consistently, to hide my lack of confidence in my singing and musical and technical ability in general. For the most part, the tracks on that record are all experiments of some sort as opposed to “songs”. Since I have become more familiar with the recording process, I have been writing songs with more traditional structures, just to see where that leads me. I think some of the people who liked ‘Mountain Debris’ could potentially be alienated by the record I am making at the moment.
Are effects and sound altering equipment integral to the bands sound or do you think if you broke the songs down to acoustic instruments they would still have a life of their own?
My second album ‘Lower’ was pretty much written using acoustic guitar and piano, and recorded on a 4-track. Layering loops distorted guitars and reverb had become limiting for me, so I thought the best way to push myself creatively was to expose myself and the songs. I started recording my third album last week which again is a reaction to what went before it, so this time I am playing at the idea of being a traditional rock band, recording in a proper studio and tracking all the songs without effects, but once I move onto the mixing stage, I’m going to take these relatively straightforward songs I’ve recorded and fuck them up.
Have you ever experimented with different alternate tunings within your playing and writing as bands such as Sonic Youth would appear to be bunched in with your many influences?
I am not a very good guitar player, and I frequently find myself intimidated by the instrument, so at this stage I wouldn’t feel comfortable experimenting with different tunings as I do not feel I have uncovered its potential with the standard set-up. Part of me thinks that some lesser bands use these alternate tunings at the expense of satisfying melodies or interesting sonics because it’s a convenient excuse for not writing good songs.
Would you say your music and writing is strictly melancholic or is each song a freeze frame of your mood at the time?
My natural disposition tends to be inward-looking and melancholic, so it’s a constant presence in my music, even when I am trying to write more uplifting songs or explore other moods. It’s not always intentional, but it always creeps in there somehow. ‘Lower’ specifically explored melancholy, but the new album I have finished writing, and have started recording is way less defined by that mood.
Who influences your writing/production ideas?
I’m influenced by everything I hear to from the throb of sounds and feeling that occur in day-to-day life; the albums I am currently listening to; people talking in the street, music on the radio. It’s all sonically fascinating to me, and accordingly it all makes its way into my records. A few artists such as Mickey Newbury, Sparklehorse, William Basinski, The Microphones, and the production of RZA and Dave Fridmann provide constant and profound influence. There’s also a fifteen year old kid from Indiana called Trevor Fitzhugh who has recorded under the name Natural Numbers whose music I think is amongst the best ever made. He’s made a staggering amount of amazing music for someone so young, and that’s something I always find myself absorbed in. I’m really digging a record called ‘Constant Comments’ by a guy called Keith Freund recently too.
You’re known for your incredibly short live sets, some early shows never creeping past 20 minutes. Do you think this can limit the type of gigs you can play or get offered as even the most ardent promoter would expect a minimum of half an hour for a support slot let alone a headline spot?
It was never intentional, it’s just that when you are a new band, you only have a limited amount of songs, and when I started out, it was impossible to recreate some of them live because of the recording process I mentioned earlier, so that limited the length of the sets. I also think playing live is stupid and I get bored after 20 minutes most of the time when I watch other bands, so I guess I never put the effort into working out more songs as it just doesn’t interest me. Now I have accumulated more songs, I think I could probably play for longer, and when we supported Sebadoh on their UK tour, we were playing for 30 minutes each night, and could have done more. I really don’t care if promoters don’t want to give me shows – I turn down most of the ones I am offered anyway.
Are there any bands you have seen on the circuit or played with that you feel are on the same wavelength or journey as you that you could name?
I connect with Daniel (Blumberg) from Yuck on a very deep personal and artistic level. We met a few years back, and became soul-mates instantly. His girlfriend is always joking that I am stealing him away from her. I think Yuck are one of the best guitar bands around, and his solo project Oupa shows another side to his creativity. I’m also really in awe of Trailer Trash Tracys who I am friends with and have played with about a million times, even though they are really on their own wavelength.
The studio seems to be your haven as opposed to the live shows. Would you say you were a technology kinda guy or is the technology and equipment simply a means to an end?
I’m totally a means-to-an-end kind of guy, I like my equipment but my emotional connection to it is very non-committal, it’s just there to help me record my music, and look cool.
You have links to Brooklyn bands such as A Place To Bury Strangers, would you say your music is more American that strictly British in its overall sound?
Much of my music is an attempt to transcend my surroundings and, although I have lived in London all my life, my mum is Canadian and my Dad is from Austrian Jewish heritage, so I have no real cultural connection to Britain, in fact I feel totally dislocated from it and don’t find it inspiring as a source for my creativity.
A Grave With No Name are headlining CAMP Basement on the 17th February and are currently in the process of recording a new album which is due to be released later in the year.
Monday, 23 January 2012
As we approach the end of month 1 2012 I must note that my new diet/new health regime has managed to stay on course throughout and its fruits are beginning to flower. The alcohol is still here and unless my liver finally packs in I doubt it would be something I would abstain from after all in a world of many, many vices a nice glass of whiskey/brandy and a cold coke isn’t too much to ask.
I am boosting my intact of raw and whole foods such as Goji berries though which although look like strange animal food actually have a intriguing enough appearance to shovel a palm full in my ever chewing jaw for my lunch times to break the banality of late. The introduction into choosing certain foods were brought to my attention from an interview I read with Vincent Gallo. Probably one of the few people I would actually like to interview/chat with even if it was declined and ignored immediately after. Gallo is one of the true renaissance men out there. What does he do? Well where do you wanna start buddy? He’s a film make first and foremost, writer, director, star of ‘Buffalo ‘66’ and the infamous ‘The Brown Bunny’ but he is also a painter, male model, multi-talented musician, and architect. Basically if you need someone to strip build your stereo system from scratch, paint a picture of it then write, direct and star in a movie about the whole process while recording and performing the soundtrack he’s your guy.
So while I digest the Goji, fruit, granola and chicken ballet I wonder has everyone out there seen ‘Buffalo ‘66’ and if not, then why not? With the world of limitless possibility and choice available to your pudgy overfed fingers what reason could you have to download the last 2 million episodes of 'Lost' and not sit down watch a true masterpiece?
Right here are some tunes to help the day go by and aide digestion.
Green River – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Big Bird – Eddie Floyd
Vega-Tables – The Beach Boys
Hot Burrito #1 – The Flying Burrito Brothers
The Onion Song – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
Friday, 20 January 2012
The long greasy pole of success is something that only a certain percentage of people are interested in climbing, mainly due to the uncertain road ahead and general vacuous nature of the business in the public eye. I would say that although I want to be successful in any venture or path I take I don’t believe I’m cut from the same cloth as someone that wants to be ‘papped’ within an inch of their life from morning to night.
I have recently been hitting the job market hard trying to undertake the next step of my slowly unravelling semi-career as a music writer. If this was the 1970’s I may have a chance of moving up to a staff writer for a music rag although in today’s world of online journalism it seems that anyone with a passing interest in music has an opinion just as strong and valid as my own and has lovingly crowded the market 10000/1. One of the replies I got back turned out not to be a internship for a well known music and culture magazine as originally described but in fact an opportunity to appear on an upcoming TV show about burgeoning wannabe interviewers/journalist’s in the music and showbiz world. As the brief was scanned over and the introduction questions seated before me a shudder ran down my spine like a brick of solid ice slipping down a pair of broken braces. This is not how it should be or what I want.
I can imagine watching an episode of this new show in horror. Whether somebody is a good ‘character’ or ‘comes across well’ on TV is so far away from what is relevant for a writer of any genre. I understand if you want to be an actor or pop star then these things are important but to be a bone fide ‘backroom boy’ who gives a toss? Some of the questions are taking the word ‘banal’ to a whole new level. ‘Who is going to be the biggest star of 2012’? Seriously that is a question. In what respect do they even mean? I know they want me to say someone like “oooh let me fink…probably Lana Del Ray she’s actually betta’ dan The Beatles” when in fact come to think about it someone like Kim Jong-Un the new 29 year old supreme ruler of North Korea might pip them all to the post by declaring war on the free world at the flick of a button. It’s all relative. As a music writer I don’t think I’m in a position to follow trends or guess what’s going to be the new thing for the masses to like and appreciate, I just pick songs and albums I feel people would be interested in reading about and tell anyone that reads my page what I think about them. I get some sent to be that I’ve never heard of and some reissues that I have, either way I’m honest always. I think any in roads to the glitz would narrow the field of subjective creatively as I would be bound by favours and back scratching/stabbing while being denied complete editorial control i.e. “do you realise how much money label ‘X’ has put behind this artist, you can’t call their new single and ‘turd’ of a song about nothing, re-write it and give it a happy ending and we might get an interview out of it”.
2012 better have some goodies as with January nearly at a close the year hasn’t exactly got of to a belter yet, although with hopefully new albums this year from The Stone Roses, The XX, Peter Doherty and the ‘crazy psychedelic’ album of Noel Gallagher’s collaboration with Amorphous Androgynous hopefully it will pick up soon.
In the mean time pin back your ears, open up Spotify and tune in to these gems of audio perfection for your listening pleasure.
Needles in the Camel’s Eye – Brian Eno
Zen Archer – Todd Rundgren
Psycho Killer – Talking Heads
New Orleans – Gary U.S.Bonds
Friday, 6 January 2012
Twenty twelve is finally here and as flying cars and teleportation are still in their infancy we will have to amuse ourselves with other forms of entertainment. While I’m sure many great albums/tracks will be released before the end of the year as well as the return of The Stone Roses there are also some other events and reunion’s that I’m not particularly looking forward to i.e. The Beach Boys ‘Reunion Tour & Album’.
What the hell do they think they are doing? Haven’t they had enough of dragging their behinds across the USA back and forward killing their legacy year after year yet? Brian Wilson stopped working with them years ago and has made some truly outstanding work while Mike Love and the little of what remains of the original group (Drummer Dennis Wilson died in 1983 while lead guitarist and vocalist Carl Wilson died in 1998) have continued blindly touring the greatest hits, for no other reason than to keep the money machine and brand alive. I honestly don’t know why people can’t let go once a band has run its course. High fives all around for R.E.M who recently broke up not because of any inner band squabbling or ‘creative differences’ but just because there was nothing else left to do and the drive to actually bother attempting anything new had died. This option and path is honest and truthful to the fans that now have a wonderful back catalogue to treasure.
The Beach Boys were a great band. Brian Wilson IS a genius and while he is now 69 years old he is still creative and mentally able to create true beauty in the studio (a place where he always shined). The thought of him in some K-Mart Hawaiian shirt looking uncomfortable on stage while he sings back up to songs he wrote when he was in his early twenties seems a pointless task and approaching a circus side show and is something that is truly beneath someone of his talents. I’m sure the rent-a-crowd bunch of celebs and insane fans that can’t move on will be doing the twist and pretending their surfing for the twitter pictures but let’s cut the crap, it’ll be lame, half arsed and a total embarrassment to everyone involved.
Who are The Beach Boys these days anyway? Mike Love is still there obviously gripping the reigns tightly while Brian (who has a successful solo career still going) will now be joining him/the group, after some very tense legal conversations I would assume considering the history between them (Love has sued Wilson numerous times in the past). The line up now includes David Marks (original guitarist for the group) and his eventual replacement and original-original guitarist (keep awake at the back) Al Jardine, as well as Bruce Johnston (Brian’s bass/keyboards replacement on the road that eventually later joined the group full time and writer of the lovely ‘Disney Girls’). This line up will then I presume be backed up by a bunch of bored looking session musicians bashing through the songs with one eye on their watch while the standard top 20 greatest hits are ploughed through, once again.
A new album has also been promised and this is the thing that is most troubling about the whole affair. The group that gave the world ‘Pet Sounds’, an album that is easily top 5 in any greatest rock and roll/pop albums list is now going to try and capture the magic once again? It is going to be awful. Yes Brian Wilson could sit down and write a chord sequence and melody that would knock your socks off and have everyone from Elton John to Burt Bacharach dribbling with jealousy, but what chance does it stand when Mike Love is obviously going to try and crowbar his way into the writing process. Do they really need another song about the “girls on the beach” and having “fun-fun-fun” like the 16 year old school kids on the first day of the summer? Is the world in need of another cliché ridden pop ditty about holding hands with the prettiest cheerleader at the prom etc?
To put things in perspective a little, this is the group that hung out with Charlie Manson and pushed The Beatles to make 'Sgt Pepper', you’d think a bit of maturity may have entered the fold and changed the horizon since then. Please let the sun set on The Beach Boys, the endless summer has most definitely walked its last mile.
Now instead of this tour how about Brian Wilson and his excellent group perform ‘The Beach Boys LOVE YOU’ album in its entirety? The album was, in my opinion, the last great record by the group and one that defines the term ‘Lost Classic’.
Thursday, 5 January 2012
2012. It reads and sounds better than 2011 already, possibly because of the “twenty twelve” pronunciation sounding better than “twenty ELEVEN” as you garble it out with a mouthful of your calorie controlled new years diet (yep we all have one.) Will there be any new musical movements or styles this year? I’m sure a couple, any good albums and singles I wonder? But scratch beneath the surface and the question from the mouths of the next generation is “will there be a band of MY generation this year?” Only time will tell, if you look at the timeline of music there is always a group that captures the majorities imagination right back to The Beatles, who will it be this time? For someone of my age group the 90s started with Nirvana and Grunge before a bullet stopped that in its tracks leaving the path clear for Oasis to pick up the baton and bring Brit Pop into the forefront. After the nervous breakdowns and drug addictions settled down, the 2000’s arrived and brought with them The Strokes and The Libertines to raise the flag and bring their own demons to the party and although since then there has been many great bands and some faddy little scenes (Nu-rave anyone?) nobody has yet to grab the bull by the horns and usher in a new ideal. This is when music, fashion, art, drugs everything gets taken and shifted on its axis once more.
Will the return of The Stone Roses began a new wave of baggy bands? Don’t tell me flares are making a comeback surely? Maybe full on Acid Rock, surely a new guitar god would be a good thing? Maybe it won’t be guitars at all; maybe the whole era of the golden electric phallic Stratocaster will be put to one side while the twin turntables make a comeback into pop culture? Maybe a whole new thing altogether will appear?
A few years back during the initial rise of the Kings of Leon and their effect on both music and fashion i.e. the skinny jeans, open laced boots combo matched with checked shirts along with their guitar based music it seemed that maybe the wheel had once again come back to Grunge (complete with facial hair) and that once again the working week proles wanted to kick out the jams loud and raw once again. This wasn’t to be though as KOL although possessing some great songs in their catalogue seemed to fall at the final hurdle by aiming all their songs purposely at the stadiums they were now playing and becoming so purposely commercial that even Westminster MP’s were now playing their album on their journeys to work in the mornings. This never happened with The Clash surely? Please don’t misunderstand, there are many great bands out there making great music and performing great gigs but there is definitely a feeling that there is an empty throne at the moment for the obvious ‘biggest band’ to appear on the scene. But who is it?
It’s only the first week into January so too early to guess but something is stirring in the air, oh to be 17 again.