Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Year. Interlude 3: Free Download

((To take you through this, Brian Kelly a.k.a. So Cow. The man needs no introduction, but if you need one, try here. See what I did there?))


Dublin Duck Dispensary - Luanqibazao

Rack and Ruin

Luanqibazao was the best Irish album released this year. I think. Not many will agree. But then they will have had both the advantage of actually listening to a lot of Irish music (I don't really bother keeping up anymore, save GPO and Adebisi) and they will most likely have had the disadvantage of not even knowing this collection exists.


It's been tagged as no-fi. Incorrect. This is fi. It's pop-fi and it's smile-fi. It's gallop-fi and it's fist-fi. It's a selection of timeless pop moments run through a single adventurous, curious mind, that of Bobby Aherne. This isn't about your Times New Vikings and your Lovvers', this is about your Abbas (Mamma Mia!, not Mahmoud) and your early Beatles singles. Peg it with Slanted and Enchanted if you must indie-schmindie it up, but it's far lovelier.


I can't claim to have any idea what Aherne is singing about. I'm content not knowing either. It's his world, after all. The arrangements on these songs are ridiculously more interesting than most others I've heard this year. There's thought going into this, people. Original thought in that most played out of musical arenas.


There are standouts. Happy Holidays fizzes and spazzes. Break A Leg falls over itself in restrained giddiness before becoming something really quite beautiful. Roald Dahl is perfectly-judged childish pop dramatics. Brain Damage shames and embarrasses most contemporary bands in its 25 seconds.


Then again, I think Deerhunter and Beach House suck shit, so what do I know.


((I play in Bobby's live band, so I felt awkward posting about the album, but I couldn't let a list of 25 go without mentioning it, purely for the way it got into my head and fucked shit around this year. You can still get it for free on Rack and Ruin, along with acupofteaandasliceofcake and They Do The Police In Different Voices))

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Year. 15-11.

15. Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion
Model Citizen
A disclaimer: I know the production is dodgy. I know Something Global sounds bizarrely like Avril Lavigne. I know all that. It took me a month to get over minor differences in inflection on the songs that were on the EP. But I got there in the end. And as a collection of songs, it'd be remiss of me to leave this out just because it wasn't the album to put Dublin on the world indie map. So many of these songs are undeniable. Lend Me Your Face, Jake Summers and Do You Karate are all the pulse-raising clumps of alternapop they were last year. But it's heartening to note that the rookie Digifucker is, in all its abstraction, dejection and aggression, probably the album highlight. And Tie Me Up With Jackets, the lyrical high point of the Apes so far, wraps up a Side A that could fight almost anything and win. The second half is patchier, but that's forgivable. Hot Press insanely said that it was the best thing in the world in 2008. It's not, but it's a remarkable display of off-kilter songwriting ability, and I have a feeling it will still stand on its feet in ten or twenty years because of it. Now, who has Steve Albini's phone number?
MySpace, or if you're interested, this is a blog named after a line from Jake Summers.


14. Roots Manuva - Slime and Reason
Big DadaHaving watched Dizzee Rascal and Estelle zoom past him to worldwide audiences and financial reward with half the lyrical talent,‭ ‬it would be easy to forgive Rodney Smith some bitterness.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬Slime and Reason's opening line,‭ "‬A lot of people don't know about Smith‭"‬,‭ ‬seems more like a simple statement of fact than a complaint.‭ ‬This album doesn't acknowledge anything in its surroundings.‭ ‬Rather,‭ ‬it is the newest chapter in an isolated musical portrait of the artist.The music channels the place-in-time feeling of Jamaica's Studio One recordings from the‭ ‬1960s and‭ ‬1970s.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬the dancehall carnival feeling is skin deep only.‭ ‬Smith is one of the difficult school of rappers that fight with their demons on acetate for the world to hear.‭ ‬Consistently throughout,‭ ‬but especially on closer‭ The Struggle‭‬,‭ ‬we find him enumerating the difficulties of balancing artistic advancement and the need to provide for others.There are few rappers in the world who can deal with real internal turmoil and lyrical skill in a successful way.‭ ‬Nas is one.‭ ‬Roots Manuva is another.‭ ‬There is enough universal wisdom in Slime and Reason to make it one of the most vital hip hop albums I've ever heard.
This review originally from Analogue. The video to Again and Again is pretty excellent, and you should check this uninformed review against that of the experts.


13. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Real Emotional Trash
Domino"Of all my stoned digressions, some have mutated into the truth". That's the first line of Real Emotional Trash, and that's the premise. Follow the music where it wants to go. Wait for the beauty to reveal itself. In a world of indie rock that Malkmus perceives to be divided between the Gang of Four devotees and those who love Pavement, an album in the milieu of long-deleted 60s bands in the psychedelic slipstream of the more cocksure likes of Hendrix and The Doors is likely to be a curveball. Many felt it didn't work, but my gut feeling is that comparative listening is hurting Malkmus. You can only judge an album on its own isolate merits. And Real Emotional Trash is not devoid of those, even if they are longer and a little more esoteric than those that preceded it. Simply following the music where it wants to go paints pictures with subtle and novel shades. But it is the clearings in the dense forest of fretplay that provide the true transcendence. When Out of Reaches or Gardenia pop out of the furore, context makes them something strangely, and differently, beautiful.
SM is at least my second favourite interview I've ever done. This video might be better though.


12. Wolf Parade At Mount Zoomer
Sub PopSpencer Krug is a font of genius. This is a truth self-evident. Picture his input to anything as a white light. The question is not whether or not the germ of inspiration is going to be there, the question is how it's going to translate to music. In front of the white light, you could put any number of things. You could have slides of colour, or you could cast shadows, or block it off, or whatever. That all comes from the context. How do you listen to a new Wolf Parade album when the guy who wrote almost all of the truly great songs on the last one has spent the last three years taking his music into new, complex and much more developed regions with a different band? You just have to go with it. It works, too. It's not quite the opus that the unjustly underrated Random Spirit Lover unfolded into, but the spidery, proggy character of Mount Zoomer stakes its own claim. It's surprisingly unified for what is now essentially a side project for both primary songwriters. Songs such as Boeckner's bare, aching Fine Young Cannibals and Krug's more knotted but equally aching Call It A Ritual sit well together and create a slightly gothic feeling that evokes the wildness that the title describes.
Dan Gray did an interview which was pretty good, and Pitchfork did several.


11. No Age - Nouns
Sub PopI read a lot of magazines and blogs, and a lot of my friends do too, so I've slowly developed quite a stockpile of indie rock anecdotes. With some of them, I can remember the page and issue of the magazine it came from. With others, it's just a vague recollection, or something I was told in passing. My favourite No Age anecdote is one of the latter. I was once told that Nouns was recorded and mixed in full, then played through a guitar amp and recorded again with a single microphone. This recording is the one that ended up being released. I'm not sure if this is actually true, but it sounds a lot like it and it's a good story. It's loud and it's muddy. Everything is distorted. But it has more going for it than the half-attentive stoner shoegaze it might be, just on production values. Eraser bristles with static electricity before releasing it and heading into a hooky chorus. And Teen Creeps, as I have noted here before, is one of the tracks of the year. It's not often that music perceptibly explodes on your speakers, but this does.
Metacritic is an interesting one here for such a divisive record, but bring the band and you have two friends for life.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Year. Interlude 2: Homemade, stapled-together super-limited EP

((So Cow will feature on this list more conventionally, don't worry, but as well as the excellent I'm Siding With My Captors, his output this year featured another work worthy of note. Destined to be apocryphal, this CD-R in a hand-daubed canvas sleeve did not fit the mandate of the list. But, being Ireland's best ever musical product, it would be criminally remiss to leave anything he made out the yearly reckoning. So I asked the infinitely more qualified Bobby Aherne of HiFi Popcorn, State and Dublin Duck Dispensary to do it.))

So Cow - Wackity Schmackity Doo
Unreleased
Like Mr. McCausland before me, I shall begin this intermissionary kudos by speculating as to why our Stupefied host has neglected from including my assigned album on his rundown. Perhaps it's because the status of Wackity Schmackity Doo as an actual album is ambiguous; despite its 13 tracks, its creator instead prefers to refer to it as an EP. Or perhaps it's because it remains sinfully unreleased; its existence confined to 25 CD-Rs sold in Galway's Roisin Dubh on a night in early September. Another likely reason is that it would be slightly unorthodox and overly-enviable for one young man to hog two spaces on a 'Top 25' list for a year in which hundreds of very worthwhile albums reared their heads; a fact testament to Brian Kelly's high status as Ireland's Europe's very own Jay Lindsey.

Wackity Schmackity Doo (taking its title from a Patton Oswalt gag) was conceived and birthed in a single weekend in So Cow's garden shed. This might explain Kelly's less-wrought-than-normal lyrics, as well as some of the more off-kilter bits, but it does little to explain the colourful splashes of snotty yet adorable punk rock (like the any-other-band-would-kill-for 'Outskirts' or 'The 'You're Nice' Mysteries') or the band-jamming cohesion of this curt solo experiment as a whole. It may not be a concept album, but it does have a conceptual timeline: So Cow welcomes you to his radio station (102.4FM), So Cow wants to be your boyfriend, So Cow thinks he was a bad (shitty, even) boyfriend, So Cow gets bored singing about relationships and instead composes some R.P.G. video game soundtracks and strums a mandolin for a few minutes before returning with an earnest reimagining of the 'Only Fools and Horses' theme tune. The Wall it ain't, but these impromptu eccentricities are what make it - only twelve weeks after its creation - a lost classic.

So actually, in summation, the most likely reason that Those Geese Were Stupefied is omitting this strange and sparkling gemstone from his 'Best of 2008' list is so that he can feature its inevitably celebrated reissue on his 'Best of 2028' list. For those who wait, good things can't fail to come.

((Bobby is the default James Boswell to So Cow's Dr. Johnson, as proven by this interview. If you need this CD-R, your best bet is some sustained pestering.))

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Year. 20-16.

20. Port O'Brien - All We Could Do Was Sing
City Slang

You know how your English teacher in school told you not to start your story with waking up? Well, Port O'Brien don't care what your English teacher says. All We Could Do Was Sing opens with a fantastic, cathartic track called "I Woke Up Today", sung (or shouted) by everyone in the band in unison. It's one of those songs that turns into the only thing you can think about for a couple of weeks. Communal and celebratory. Other than this, Port O'Brien do a good line in nautically-themed folky indie. From 'Moby Dick' to 'The Old Man and the Sea', the ocean has always been an excellent paradigm for the more solitary emotions in the spectrum. Port O'Brien sell the sea myth pretty hard, but the fact that main songwriter Van Pierszalowski genuinely does commercially fish for salmon makes for heightened fascination with his lyrics. 'Fisherman's Son' is a particularly salient example of this, expressing the conflict that arises from having to drop real life and go to sea for several months. The closer, 'Valdez', is a short, sleepy ditty that begins with the line "Exxon, Exxon, clean it up" and sounds like it was recorded on a dictaphone buried under a large pile of laundry. The album is varied enough to be continuously interesting, and if ever you wanted a break from the stresses of real life, there are worse places to look for it than Port O'Brien.
This review differs to the others, and is kind of spazzy, because I did it for Analogue right after I got the CD. The original print review, a live review and a full length interview all archived on the Analogue site.


19. Parenthetical Girls - Entanglements

Slender Means Society

A sprawling orchestral pop album conceived and realised over the course of four years by a man who claims not to "know a G from an A". Worried? Don't be. The defining moment of this album comes at its very beginning, as if to rebut scepticism and speak for itself before anyone has a chance to second guess it. A piano key is tentatively struck. A few chords are sounded, as if to test not only the instrument, but also the ear of the listener. Then, a flourish of violins and Zac Pennington appears to take it the rest of the way. 'Four Words' is very much emblematic of the album as a whole - a vocal narrative of literate lust, familiar from previous releases, but carefully supported by an impossibly complex artifice of hundreds of individual instrumental tracks from bumbling brass to Andrew Bird-esque pizzicatos. One possible criticism is that the arrangements, while all orchestral or at least "big" in some way, don't necessarily follow any central theme, and the mood can swing between the baroque and the Disney soundtrack from song to song. But that is a small price to pay for a record of such sustained poise and elegance. And the pop tunes are here too, by the way.
Here's a music video, and here's a good interview from The Torture Garden blog.

18. Santogold - Santogold

Atlantic
So what is Santi White, if not a high-end cash-in on Maya Arulpragasam's adoption as culturally "important" in the UK, and as hot shit in the USA? What is this, if not M.I.A.-lite? Let's investigate - similar vocal style, similar sense of style writ large, but without the pervasive politics and fear underwriting the pulp tendencies. 'Creator' is the first single off the album, produced by Switch, the man responsible for much of Kala, and it very much recalls M.I.A.'s atonal sung-rap and dirty beats. But the true standout is the second single and opening track of the album, and it blocks that line of thought completely. 'L.E.S. Artistes' is three and a half minutes of perfectly juxtaposed artiness and emotion rolled into a pop song, and it casts its positive shadow on the rest of the album. It's not Maya A, it's... Karen O? 'Shove It' sees White ride a dub bassline into the future, and 'I'm A Lady' comes across like a new 'Gigantic' by the Pixies with Kim Deal's puerile lyrics subbed out for considered maturity and an updated genius pop chorus. The mish-mash of styles that makes up the album could make it awkwardly disjointed, but instead it creates what comes across as a fantastic extended demo-tape to spite the world. What Santi White is essentially saying is that she can do anything, and she can do it well. Compelling listening.
The magnificent L.E.S. Artistes from Pitchfork.tv, and the nuclear weirdness of an unrelated Santo Gold at his site.


17. The Mae Shi - Hllyh

Moshi Moshi

I'm sure there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for all of this. I just don't know what it is. You see, I literally walked in on the Mae Shi by accident, having been guestlisted for another band. I missed the write-ups, the historification by blog and trial-by-comments-section that usually characterise my introduction to an American band. So I'm not completely sure what I'm supposed to think of Hlllyh. All I know about their context is that one of them was wearing a No Age bandana, which he gave to Coady, possibly assuming it would be returned. This lack of grounding makes it very hard to know what to make of spazzy, synthy, poppy hardcore with very overt Old Testament rapture influences in the lyrics. It's more than influence, really. It's at the point of being a concept album. When the singer says, speaking as God, "they lost the scent, and I don't even care why they didn't repent/We need a new creation" on 'Pwnd', it's so left-field compared to anything else I've ever heard that I really don't know what to think. Maybe I'm supposed to be perplexed. I could do the research, but I'm not sure I want to, like the apocalyptic evangelists the Mae Shi reference/are. If missionaries put this kind of perverse pop punk energy into proselytising, I'm sure millions more would be saved.
Only a link to a
previous post here because, like I said, I'm not doing the legwork here.

16. Department of Eagles - In Ear Park

4AD

You know what? Grizzly Bear have taken way too long following up Yellow House. That album was, and still stands as, a work of singular originality and genius. But what do Rossen, Droste and company spend their time doing nowadays? Well, Ed Droste leaks Animal Collective songs. And Daniel Rossen? Well, he makes interesting albums with pre-Grizzly Bear bandmates. Much of Rossen's trademarks from the fatherband are still present: the guitars are split between folky fingerpicking and 50s palm-mute plucking, and the arrangements are largely no different. However, the influence of Fred Nicolaus adds a certain spice, and his Destroyer-esque voice is a welcome change of pace to Rossen's effortless drawl. In fact, Nicolaus' 'Teenagers' is a definite highlight. There is also, I fancy, a vaguely perceptible hint of GB touring partners Radiohead slipping into some of the lush arrangements. On the whole, though, the mood is the same as that of Yellow House - play this alone, late at night, and let it work its magic.
Plenty (including a rooftop P4K session and a Takeaway Show) to be had on the DoE site and then also a great Daytrotter to enjoy.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Year. Interlude 1: Compilation

((Some things didn't fit into my conception of this list. Compilations, EPs, other... surprises. So I'm bringing in the big-hitters to help me out. First in a series of linking guest-posts is Darragh McCausland, of Analogue, State, Asleep On The Compost Heap and his kitchen.))

Jay Reatard - Matador Singles '08
MatadorSo Karl is delegating out the artists who he doesn’t think fit the criteria for his albums of the year list. I don’t know whether to admire or worry about such fastidiousness. Any frozen heads in your fridge Karl? We shouldn’t give a fuck that Jay Reatard’s singles collection is not technically an album because

A: it sounds like one (a brilliantly coherent one too)

B: Jay certainly wouldn’t give a fuck either

For what it’s worth, the music on this collection of singles isn’t futuristic, world-changing or anything like that. It’s just a bunch of reatardedly awesome pop/punk tunes, which doesn’t for one second dip in quality, tempo or attitude. Jay is a rare creature in the current rock landscape, an old school songsmith who just gets on with the business of churning out these thrilling songs, hopefully oblivious to the hurricane of hype building around him.

((Watch this snivelling interview with Nitsuh Abebe and then watch the blistering live set, all on Pitchfork.tv.))

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Year. 25-21

25. This Is The Album Of A Band Called Adebisi Shank
Richter Collective

Adebisi Shank emanate from one of the most productive scenes in Irish music, that of bands who seem to have spent adolescence listening to metal but have now discovered their inner maths geek. What sets Adebisi Shank apart from other purveyors of spastic, geometric rock is the direct connection between feeling and music. It's like a print-screen of a hyperactive, manic depressive mind. They are not simply showing off rhythmic ability, rehearsing the different ways in which you can play fast in an unusual time signature. It's much more measured than that. While at points, songs can seem like the individual band members are battling each other with their instruments, the whole is as tempered in its way as a piece of classical music. Nothing happens for longer than it has to, and the result is something intensely expressive and almost incandescent. I also saw, while sharemining for new music, a post on an American forum saying that this album was fantastic, and I felt a little happier in the knowledge that a song called 'Mini Rockers' is getting onto Floridian iPods. Fitting ambassadors.
This picture pretty much says it all, and then this collective commits it to wax.


24. Correcto - Correcto
Domino

Indie rock from the island of Britain is in ebb at the moment, and the cartoonised post-punk sound that launched a number of bands to the mainstream in the first half of the decade has tainted everything with its own descent into pastiche. That's a pity, because Correcto, from Glasgow, make the kind of catchy but clever music that is almost ingrained enough in British music since 1976 as to be the new traditional at this point. On the upbeat songs, Danny Saunders' flawed voice rides large Buzzcocks-esque guitars to places at least as interesting as the Postcard Records offspring of Glasgow circa 1980, and on the quieter arrangements he channels the pint-and-a-bag-of-crisps-at-the-battle-of-the-bands style of Half Man Half Biscuit. Self-awareness is the order of the day, with the self-portrait 'Walking To Town' carrying the refreshing admission "I look like a fucking goon". Another perceptive observation on the next track: "No-one over thirty can do the Watusi". And 'Joni' is one of the most criminally-overlooked pieces of pop genius in the last decade. A self-deprecating running commentary on popular culture is a welcome respite in a world where much of the good music is coming from the no-child-left-behind sincerity of North America.
Check out Joni if you haven't heard its infectious strains, and then head to MySpace to commiserate with the band over the fact that no-one actually seems to care about them at all.


23. The Dodos - Visiter
FrenchkissI have never had much of a tolerance for Americana. Those straightforward, folky albums that tumble down through the filter of the make-or-break American indie axis have always been unavoidably naff to me, no matter how hard I tried to see what so many people were seeing. Years of this mean that I'm no longer excited by acoustic music. It needs to have a really big twist to win me over. The Dodos have. With an acoustic guitar and a drum kit, they paint layers and more layers, and then go digging in them for the elusive melody that no-one has found yet. The magically liberating tool that is the loop-pedal has been around for a while now, but few have avoided the potential for excessive meddling like Meric Long. His rapid strums, along with the outdoorsy drums of Logan Kroeber, provide a bustling backing for the introverted-extrovert songs he sings. The freak wins the battle with the folk, and the likes of 'Red and Purple' or 'Fools' are some of the most memorable songs of the year.
Ball it over to Pitchfork.tv for the fairly stunning video for Fools, and then stall the ball to Daytrotter for the old songs/new songs/demos/unreleased songs/explanations you've come to expect and love from them.


22. Ponytail - Ice Cream Spiritual
We Are Free
Ponytail are a band who have a lot of fun. This becomes immediately apparent at the 15 second mark, as Molly Spiegel releases forth a piercing, feral peal to conjure up the full glory of her Baltimore bandmates' instrumental assault. Ponytail channel Cool bands like Sonic Youth and their lesser-known (or simply lesser) comrades at times, but they bring an enthusiasm to the table, often in the form of simply playing fast, that makes this effectively instrumental 8-song effort excitingly original. There is also a definite Japanophile tendency that goes a ways to explaining the unselfconscious mentalness of tracks like 'Late For School'. It's also fun to see that, just like post-Strokes bands began to show up in the aftermath of Is This It?, there is such a thing as post-Deerhoof in the world today.The cover art, trippy and hand-daubed, is a pretty good indication of how this sounds. But the real tell is the exclamation mark snuck in at the end of the title. ! pretty much sums it up.
Check Ponytail out on, looking exactly like they sound, on MySpace, and then check out the perpetually useful about.com for advice on how to sport your own.


21. Marnie Stern - This Is It And I Am It And You Are It And So Is That And He Is It And She Is It And It Is It And That Is That
Kill Rock Stars

More notes required. Exponentially more drums hit per bar required. More words per title required. Marnie Stern's second album is an explosion of unrelenting excess from the first avalanche of music halfway through the opener 'Prime' to the last tapped arpeggios of closer 'The Devil Is In The Details'. On first glance, Marnie's music seems to reside in a bizarre psychedelic-perceptive cave within the milieu of Van Halen-esque classic rock, but better touchstones would be the life-affirming likes of The Mae Shi, the hemidemisemiquaver hi-hat proggishness of Battles, or the positive apocalypticism of Lightning Bolt. It's rather refreshing to see guitar virtuosity of this magnitude attached to someone with their head in the real world. And though she has a tendency to declaim the poetry of whatever comes into her head, her stream of consciousness aphorisms make it all the more urgent.
Read Matthew 'Fluxblog' Perpetua's interview with Marnie Stern at Pitchfork, then regret missing her kissing booth.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Housekeeping

Some odds, some ends:

  • Found this out while standing in Tower Records (if you're an employee of Tower Records reading this, I'm sorry I stand around in your shop whenever I'm waiting to do anything for any amount of time up to an hour) - for some reason I assume to be related to the release of The Sound of The Smiths, a shitload of Smiths 7" singles have been re-released. I'm going to buy as many as I can find next time I'm in town.
  • Kevin Barnes interview hangs in the ether - last Thursday, went to ghostly answering machine. Tonight, he answered, but very nicely asked to reschedule due to soundcheck. As the old saying goes: don't try to do a phone interview with your heroes.
  • Don't go to the Analogue site, it's afflicted with some sort of virus at the moment.
  • The programme on TG4 with the Kerryman who talks to his paintings while he teaches you to paint is my favourite programme.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Smash or Trash

I'm finished with college for Christmas, having accelerated through about 10,000 accumulated words of essays and assigments at an alarming rate, and have got down to the real work coming up to Christmas. Those of you who've been following this blog for a while know that I spent about a month and a half last December and January writing progressively longer, more complicated and more emotive reviews of the 25 best albums of 2007. Traffic actually spiked on the blog, and I had fun doing it even if it took over my life for a while.

Well, I'm doing it again. I have my albums, and it's just a matter of ordering them, and then writing about them. I've been listening back to the year, and what I originally thought was a weak year for music is opening up its folds to me. Vampire Weekend, Why?, Of Montreal, Times New Viking, El Guincho and Deerhoof all put out genuinely brilliant albums in 2008, and many lesser gods put in a good showing too.

But listening through this afternoon with my 15 year old brother in the room, I thought I'd take the opportunity to get his opinion on some of the tracks that make up what I consider to be 2008's best albums. I played a game. Called Smash or Trash. Conor likes Kanye West, reggae and ska and chart indie. He surprised me a little. But not much. Here's the data I collected:

Trash...
Adebisi Shank - Colin Skehan (comment: not that bad, but still trash)
Beach House - Gila
Correcto - Joni
Deerhoof - Snoopy Waves
Department of Eagles - Teenagers
The Dodos - Red and Purple
Dublin Duck Dispensary - The Last Bottle In The World (comment: Is this the song from the morning? Like, the alarm clock? Trash. Definitely trash)
Fight Like Apes - Lend Me Your Face
Fleet Foxes - White Winter Hymnal (comment: are you serious? What do you think?)
Jay Reatard - Always Wanting More
Jeremy - Beautiful Creatures (comment: is this Smokey Robinson?!)
Lovvers - No Romantic
No Age - Teen Creeps
Parenthetical Girls - Four Words (comment: likes arrangement, annoyed at voice)
TNV - Drop-Out (trashed immediately)
Wolf Parade - Call It A Ritual

SMASH!
CSS - Jager Yoga (comment: Sounds like Bloc Party. Did not recognise it as CSS, or who they were.)
El Guincho - Kalise (comment: thought it was hilarious, said "is he Mexican?")
Man Man - Hurly Burly
Of Montreal - Triphallus To Punctuate (said smash early, and began to regret it when the "I supporrrrted your kid" disco bit happened.)
Ponytail - Beg Waves
Santogold - Shove It (comment: sounds like The Specials at the start)
Vampire Weekend - Oxford Comma
Why? - The Vowels Pt. 2 (smash, thinks Joni's voice is hilariously weedy)


The picture is the submission of some O'Neill to some Lord Deputy and I have no excuse for its use other than it was on my desktop.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Pretend it's whales keeping their voices down.

Best album of the decade so far is... what? Hissing Fauna? Kid A? Feels? Don't hold me to this in the future, but I'm going to throw out Apologies to the Queen Mary as a candidate. For an album that the band immediately regretted releasing, it's pretty near flawless. From the anthem of Krug-ist ambiguity that is You Are A Runner And I Am My Father's Son to the Americana sincerity of Boeckner's This Heart's On Fire, the album does not drop the ball once.

"You're being ridiculous", I hear you legitimately say. Okay, hold on. Musical awakening was a slow process for me. No-one is born at 13 listening to Eno. It took me until the middle of my teenage years to accept REM, and they were the first band I ever got into that used clean guitars as anything other than a build-up to distorted guitars. And even with that "revelation", it took me a long time to get beyond the Q Magazine canon.

The internet started making noise about Wolf Parade around 2004. An older friend included the six-song EP from that year on a data-DVD of music he thought I might not hate. While the likes of Clouddead or Tilly and the Wall took a few years to make an impact, Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts arrested me immediately. That song specifically. I listened to it over and over on the way to school. It became my most played song on the fledgling Audioscrobbler site. This feral man, speaking poetry over a darkened, muddy, organ-heavy backing. It all seemed to make sense.

When the album came out a few months later, I e-mailed their Yahoo address to gush. Arlen, the drummer, replied with a short note punctuated at the end with a smiley of some sort. "We are coming to play Dublin". The fact that this man, from the far side of Canada, and seeming so shrouded in mystery and genius to me at that time, could reply - it knocked me over. I ordered a fake ID. Two, actually, in case one wasn't enough (it wasn't). And I got into Whelans, first time ever in a club at the age of 17, to see the drunken gods of Wolf Parade perform. It was phenomenal.

Things are different now. I don't get as blindly impressed by music as I used to, which is a universal symptom of voracious consumption. I go to enough gigs that I have developed a dislike for large-venue shows because of the disconnect, but also because of the type of people who attend. I am, in short, a curmudgeonly and cantankerous grump. But Wolf Parade are back. And they're Vicar Street sized now, apparently. So I get myself to a Ticketmaster.

Giveamanakick support. They are not acoustic metal, they tell us. Right. Let's call them... stripped-down hardcore. They acquit themselves well, but it's just a distraction. People are talking, or shouting conversation more accurately, and much as I try to pay attention, it's tough.

Then Wolf Parade appear. Not like the men-apart that I saw in Whelans in 2005, but the Spencer Krug I saw stage-frighted and desperate for alcohol with Sunset Rubdown in Crawdaddy during exams, and the Dan Boeckner I saw, cocksure with sneaky-naggin vodka and orange in hand with Handsome Furs at Whelans. Sure, Arlen and Dante don't have any new associations for me, but the absence of Hadji Bakara, Wolf Parade's hyperliterate version of Bez, definitely helped make the experience seem slightly alien.

Until they started.

You Are A Runner. I don't want to lapse into just recapping the set-list here, even though if you're still reading you're probably not a neutral. Spencer put one knee on his stool and adjusted his mic stand (he did this every time he began to sing for the entire gig, Asperger's-style), and got to it. Maybe four songs in, he did the same again, but with the one-handed organ intro to Dear Sons And Daughters Of Hungry Ghosts.

Spencer looked like he was about to get sick the whole time. Dan looked like he was about to fall over and have a fit. But they both look like that all the time, so it's okay.

Songs off the new album came to life. It seemed to be especially Dan's songs that got a lift from the live environment. Soldier's Grin, the opener from At Mount Zoomer, was infused with energy. Language City was forgiven its awful lyrics ("Language city is a bad ol' place.../Eyeballs float in space") and made up for them with live brio.

The band seemed delighted with the size of the room and the traditionally over-enthusiastic Irish crowd. Dan in particular grinned at the end of every song, and even the fearful and moody Spencer managed a few "you guys are sweethearts". But of course the true critic does not factor that sort of thing into the equation, especially the critic who sees Bruce Springsteen for the dull dad-rock man he is (me).

What made this gig the best since Animal Collective in secret at Whelans came after the epic set-closer Kissing The Beehive. If the longer songs off At Mount Zoomer began to lag a little, the encore was the perfect riposte. The Grey Estates was The Grey Estates, quintessentially Boeckner. But it was the final pair that blew the thing up.

Spencer Krug, whom I later drunkenly declared to be "my second favourite man" to whoever would listen, put his shoulder to the yoke. He put a knee on the stool. He adjusted the mic stand. He held down a C chord for a few seconds. I didn't recognise it. Nobody did. It didn't seem like the band recognised it either until Arlen began the individual snare hits that mark the beginning of I'll Believe In Anything. Whether on Apologies To The Queen Mary or the first Sunset Rubdown album, it's one of my favourite songs, and it took me into the moment like nothing in at least the past year. It was cathartic, ecstatic, chaotic and all other Greek words that describe unbridled brilliance.

This was followed, with what seemed like Sisyphean effort on the part of Spencer, by Fancy Claps. Guess what it was like. Okay, I'll tell you. It was cathartic, ecstatic, chaotic and brilliant. "When I die, I'm leaving you my feet/When you die, you can stand up for me." Sung, or yodelled or bellowed or howled or whatever Spencer does, with the conflicted conviction of one of the indie world's few true geniuses.

It's gigs like this that make me regret how positively I review other things, because it was on another level. It's gigs like this that remind me what it was like when I heard things for the first time, or when I would commit myself blindly to bands. When they were mine, and I didn't just listen to them but I owned them as well. I don't know why I'm reminded of this, but I am:

Feed the gaping need of my sense, give me ad lib
To pray unselfconsciously with overflowing speech
For this soul needs to be honored with a new dress woven
From green and blue things and arguments that cannot be proven

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In keeping with the teetering tight-rope of legitimacy that this blog tip-toes constantly, I have taken this picture from the Flickr of HouseParade without asking. I hope the fact that we seem to have been near each other at the gig, and that it was a fantastic and communal experience, will stop him/her from pressing charges. Excellent picture, HouseParade!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wellllllllllll I got friends in low places.

High Places.

What they do is not so much performance as a sort of twisted midwifery to a very obscured and confused baby. Man playing very low-volume drum pads and a woodblock. Woman talking (not even backwards), or singing without enthusiasm. A table covered in wires acting as a barrier between uninterested band and uninterested crowd. There is no aspect of this that comes across better live than on record. In fact, the most impressive member of High Places, Sampler, would probably prefer not to tour at all.

The best thing High Places have ever done was appear on Bradford Cox's video guide to the Pitchfork festival. And I don't even like Bradford Cox. May this band go away soon, and may their mp3s languish unheard in the mysterious ether of a thousand hard drives till the Great Computer Virus of the Future removes them from recorded history.

No catchy bits. Even their "one good song" was drowned in its own self-conscious muck. This is a totem pole made of its own hype, and it should never be given the twelve euro tribute I foolishly gave it.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

A delicate mix of sweat and menstrual blood.

I've been listening to Parenthetical Girls since their first album (((GRRRLS))) came out in 2004, or pretty soon after. Jamie Stewart produced half of it (Side A and Side B are the same songs with different producers), so I decided to download it and see what it was like, if only because I was in the first throes of Xiu Xiu excitement and I was riled up to hear anything that had their name associated with it.

It was camper than anything I was used to. There was something about the sincerity in the stripped pop layers that took me by surprise. It was too keyboard-heavy and close-focused to fit in with vaguely baroque pop bands I was into at the time (Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens), and not nearly life-affirming enough to line up alongside the sunny indie (Architecture in Helsinki, Polyphonic Spree). Songs like Love Connection (which ended up covered on Etiquette by CFTPA) seemed to have a sort of body poetry that was different to anything I'd heard before. I'll block-quote some, seeing as I set the precedent with the Why? post:
Chapped lips, tongue kiss, insert expletive
Fluids of a summer night
With slight duress, forced imperative
Find me quoting Donovan
The delicate mix of sweat and menstrual blood
Seeping into trampled grass
Zac Pennington is the kind of self-obsessed, sex-obsessed, hyper-camp pop experimentalist I can get on board with. Strangely enough though, four years and two more albums after I first heard (((GRRRLS))), I had never actually seen what he looked like. So when he appeared, thin as a rake and bejumpered in threadbare blue, I was... no, I wasn't taken aback at all. He looked exactly like I expected. First time that's ever happened.

The set the ( ) girls played was short, with no encore, but it was heavy on old material and there wasn't a lowlight in the bunch. The revolving cast of Guy In Tight T-Shirt, Red Jumper Man and Kind Of Cute Girl took up duties on various synths, glockenspiel, drums, gamelan singing bowls, autoharp or whatever else, while Zac sojourned into the crowd, illustrating his every perfectly-enuniciated word with a graceful extension of his thin arm.

Among the finer expressions of love and lust was his index finger to index finger measurement of you- can-guess-what during the line "I felt his size, close to a dozen times" from Unmentionables off this year's Entanglements.

The undoubted highlight, however, was the medley of Love Connection Pt. 1 and Love Connection Pt. 2*. This was called in by Guy In Tight T-Shirt and met with an "are you sure?" from Zac, but they carried through with it and it made my night. Further sweetness was added by the fact that they apparently rarely play either of the songs, nevermind back-to-back with no gap.

The homely, fire-placed atmosphere of the upstairs venue in Whelans added a lot to the experience, as did the impressive Former Soviet Republic in support, and all in all, the gig was as good as I could have hoped.

I've been incredibly lucky with gigs lately, but before you say "But Karl, EVERYTHING gets a positive review", whet yisser appetites for the next post. Where did I go to escape the weekend Whelans crowd? Stay tuned to find out.

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*Love Connection Pt. 1 and 2 are on different albums, so it's not just like playing King of Carrot Flowers Pts. 1, 2 and 3 together. I hadn't even considered how they'd fit together until last night. Perfectly, as it turned out.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Lethal poison for the system

Full disclosure: before seeing Built To Spill perform it in its sprawling, magnificent entirety, I'd never head Perfect From Now On. I don't mean that I wasn't familiar enough with it, I mean I literally had never heard a note of the album, physical, digital or otherwise. How I could be so lax as to fail to prepare myself for the PFNO tour, I have no idea. But it happened.

Last time I saw Built To Spill was in McCarren Pool in Brooklyn, supported by Cat Power and Bob Mould from Hüsker Dü. The place, located in "romantic downtown Brooklyn" according to its website (it was a bit grimy), was roughly the equivalent of Marlay Park as a venue. And it was full, full of the kind of fist-pumping, soul-pouring fans that you get at Radiohead or Coldplay gigs there. The band played exactly that kind of set too, with such vastness and profundity that it seemed impossible that they'd ever have to play any lesser stage.

Two years later, Doug Martsch is literally within groping distance if I leaned, on the stage of Whelans. Whelans, the safety net for Saturday nights, the gig venue, the post-gig venue... It was almost like a culture shock, because of the magnitude of the associations I'd made for BtS in my head. Sort of profane.

Until the floating strains of Randy Described Eternity. The defiant resolution of I Would Hurt A Fly. It just snowballed, too. The band fed off the crowd, which led to the crowd feeding off the band, and the whole thing spiralled into one very loud, guitar-driven catharsis.

I suppose it might have been better if I'd been anticipating the next song like other people had, but for me it just seemed like a perfectly-measured set. I had some fun imagining that I was seeing this band for the first time, as a support act or at a festival or something. This "middle-aged farmer from Idaho" (thx Darragh, constant poet of the everyday), his middle-aged cronies playing essentially wanky guitar, with a cello in the background. The most unlikely thing ever, but it was great. Awe-inspiring at times.

Then the "encore", straight from the end of Perfect From Now On into Goin' Against Your Mind. That song is a gutfuck monster epic, and it had to be. Curfew at Whelans bumbling in to wreck things once more. It ended, and people shouted. "Carry The Zero", "Center of the Universe", "Big Dipper", etc. Not to be. Time's up, one more song.

Paper Planes.

Trippy.

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Video taken by Loreana Rushe about two places behind where I was standing at this, one of the best gigs of the year.

Friday, November 14, 2008

And your eyes are piss-holes in the snow.

"I'm just not used to being out and about this early on a Sunday. My body doesn't know what to do." - heard in conversation outside Twisted Pepper on Abbey Street whilst waiting for the fantastically devised stripped-down Why? matinee set, not so long after noon.

Thanks to the manoeuvres of LitSoc (who like Joni for his poetic lyrics), DURNS (whose RN stands for Rock Nostalgia, leading me to believe that they were drawn in by the MOR rock of Gemini Song), Analogue (because Bren was in a position to make the calls, and because Why? are our official collective ninth favourite band*) and Bodytonic (who I assume opened their new venue at a strange hour so that people would know it was there), this genuinely exciting prospect came to pass. There were probably somewhere a little above fifty people there, all seated, and they saw something pretty unique.

Are lyrics poetry? That can't be answered with a yes or a no because the definition of poetry isn't static, and the nature of lyrics is also pretty varying. If I was to be anal about the whole thing, I could mention that almost everything that pop-culture considers poetry is actually lyric poetry, from Shakespeare to Ginsberg. But I won't. I'll do it by experiment.
Here's
To inhaling crushed bones
through a dried up
white out pen
and riding the backwards racer
in hot June rain
in a matching blue and gold
plastic bag / poncho / raincoat.

It's a wooden coaster
with a medium hill height mean,
high hill to flat ground ratio
you know I'd sell my shingles
for a thimble dip of snow.
Back then I'd've sold my single
for a fingertip of glow.
That's the form of the first verse of Crushed Bones from the liner lyrics to Elephant Eyelash, by the way, I didn't just space it out so it'd look like that.

I personally think what Joni Wolf does is more lyrics-set-to-music than a contiguous rock and roll song type of thing. All of the lyrics (excepting maybe the few songs that are actually sung straight through) heave with internal rhyme, with perfect measurement and judgement so that there can always be a lot of syllables if there needs to be, without there ever being too many. These songs (they are definitely songs, even if you concede that they could constitute poetry) would stand alone. Take away the careful guitar and keyboards of Alopecia and Elephant Eyelash, or the bedroom fuzziness of Oaklandazulasylum and you would still have the skeleton of something genuinely excellent.

It might even be better.

Some of the time it was. The Fall of Mr. Fifths (off Alopecia) in particular came off amazingly, stripped of its organ and the cushion of reverb. The sight of Joni, microphone left on its stand, rhyming to the backing a single drum, conjures images of San Francisco beat gatherings to me. It's almost mesmeric.

I asked him awkwardly about this while I tried to jam the synth that I had to inexplicably provide back into its case after the gig had finished. He must do it often, I said. In exotic places like Oakland, coffee shop Anticon gigs must be the order of the day. He looked vaguely pitying and explained that he wasn't part of "that scene".

Another convenient imagined reality smashed. But really, that just made the Twisted Pepper set even more unique.

Some day, Those Geese, I will write an unreadable, 5,000 word post on Why? as poetry using academic standards. There's so much. The recurring obsession (or identification?) with Christ and Christianity in general. Bones, whether raped, snorted or inhabited. The bizarre images in general. It will be done. No it won't. Oh well.

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*This statement is not true.
**This picture was nicked off the Analogue blog, and was taken, as far as I can tell from the Properties, by the magnificent ivebeentired, whoever that is. Nice picture, yo.

And your eyes are slits in bags of fat

Disclaimer/Acknowledgement: This gig was ages ago. I have the same excuses every blogger has, so I won't bore you with them.

Why? at Andrew's Lane Theatre. Where have I heard that one before? Oh yeah, here. But lack of imagination notwithstanding, it was great to get a second visit off Joni and crew on what is essentially the same tour. Bands (Of Montreal, Deerhoof, Animal Collective) seem to have started skipping us over again this winter. Even if we've started to bleep on the radar of bands like this, the second sweep through Europe generally heads straight to the UK without so much as a cursory glance at "the best crowd in the world".

On the evidence of this redux, however, it appears that good behaviour (i.e. loud cheering) has indeed yielded us the proverbial "nice things". Hurray.

The set was essentially the same as last time, possibly in a different order. It's amazing how good it was, given that fact. These songs in their live format don't seem like they could ever be old. The arrangements are tense, much closer than the occasionally too-clean productions on the album, and needle-point tight. The clacking snare-rim beat of Crushed Bones (opening track on Elephant Eyelash), strewn with daydreamy arpeggios, provides the perfect tensile canvas for Joni to sing over. Or rap over? Speak over? Sing-rap-recite.

It's hard to tell exactly what Joni is. There is definitely a literary character to what he does, almost like a novel full of fictionalised diary entries but with no clear conclusion. Musically, indie rock cannot fully claim him, because of the clear hip-hop influences, for example on the drums. But hip-hop doesn't want him, as I found out on a rap forum I was lurking on while trying to find Pharaohe Monch's album*. "Pussy-ass Jew boy bullshit", or something to that effect.

It obviously doesn't matter where he's categorised. That's a job for people like me on the midnight oil, and has no actual importance. The gig was (almost) as packed as last time, and the people there were (almost) as zealous as last time. And what was last time? I believe I concluded by literarily calling it "deadly" at the time. This was deadly too. Real atmosphere, real chemistry. But above all, great songs.

I'll be right back with more Why?

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*the secondhand CD rack at ground level right in front of the counter in the new Freebird facing onto the Central Bank is THE source for every decent rap album since 1980.

**the picture is of Josiah Wolf, whose skill at playing glockenspiel and drums at the same time is beyond impressive***

***those two asterisks don't refer back to anything specific in the text.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Pussy and paper is poetry, power and pistols.

Last year, a nebulous personality in a waistcoat approached various youthful musical enthusiasts with promises of a land of milk and honey. He wanted to create the New Jerusalem. Where? 1995. The youngsters fell, one by one, for his charms. But now, as the stigma of talking about it reduces with every brave soul who comes out and tells the truth, it is time to give up hope. Following the lead of Ailbhe and Bobby, here's my not-actually-a-piss-take (though it was ripe for one) review of Me Against The World. It's shit, but everyone's doing it.

Tupac Shakur understands how to use a gun. He earns quite a lot of money. He also enjoys women, but only on a casual basis. He is at pains to stress to us that his flow in particular is somehow better than everyone else's. Especially his enemies. If it seems logical to you that the listener would be able to pick that out without help, then it's also logical to assume that you probably don't listen to a lot of gangster rap.

Me Against The World is guaranteed to sell millions. It would sell millions even if it was terrible. This is in part because it's probably the most archetypal record of its type so far created. But it's mostly down to the 2Pac myth. Like the gangster version of a bullfighter, 2Pac has become a legend in his own time for living in constant danger, but always coming out on top. If the album proves anything, it's his ability to create in the face of difficulty. Because if prison and a failed assassination attempt isn't difficult, it's hard to know what is.

When other rappers come in with guest verses, the difference between 2Pac and other gangstas becomes a little clearer. Even if he rapped about those things that would annoy anyone who doesn't make their living "hustling", his actual flow is eminently better than most. There are two variables in the term gangster rapper. 2Pac is a rapper who raps about his world. He's not a gangster who advertises that fact through rap. That's key.

So many of the songs are full of regrets, like “Dear Mama” about his mother, or “Me Against The World” which is basically the antithesis of ”It Was A Good Day” by Ice Cube. The production isn’t exactly groundbreaking. Soul keyboard loops and quasi-G funk beats, as standard. It’s a mood thing though. Easily forgivable.

"Young Niggaz" is a highlight, dealing with kids "murdered for hanging at the wrong place at the wrong time". It's strange to hear a man so far down the road into "Thug Life" to be telling the next generation "you could be an accountant, not a drug dealer". It's not affected though. It's part of the whole tapestry of the LP, 2Pac's battle between celebrating being where he wanted to be, and finding out that it's not the way it should be.

Song titles like "If I Die Tonight" and "Me Against The World" reveal a tattooed man with a gun down his trousers, but one who is acutely aware of how transient the world he has created is. As this CD reaches shops, Tupac Shakur is in Clinton Correctional Facility for sexual abuse. He's not a savoury character. As the Intro reminds us, he was shot five times last November. That's something it's impossible not to think of as the disc spins. There are people who are directly harmed by his actions, and there are people who would like to directly harm him too. Tupac lives in a sort of limbo, and he raps from there. This means that there is something very open-ended about Me Against The World. This is not the end of the Tupac Shakur story.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Catch up

Port O'Brien were a tentative plus. More, in a slightly less familiar tone than is usually taken here, posted at Analogue. They seemed tired, and they didn't play Pigeonhold, but it was still pretty good. I went to Whelans with a guy I know but hadn't seen in ages, his Nordy girlfriend, Zebedee and Joshua. They plied me with free rider wine and we discussed how Thin Lizzy definitely aren't the best Irish band ever, despite what (assumably) Mighty Stef fans shouted during the set. Zeb thought Van Morrison was the best if he counts, and he didn't hate U2. I withheld my opinion so as not to be rude. They were mad for the Guinness.

The USB cable for my phone doesn't seem to be doing anything, so the era of the no-fi snap is dead and I'm back to stealing Flickr pictures from anyone whose Flickr I can find and Google Image searching "salmon of knowledge". Alas.

Why? was excellent if exactly the same as last time in Crawdaddy, and very much different but very interesting in the stripped down gig at Twisted Pepper. A review of both will be forthcoming.

It's that time of year to start thinking about a top 25. If anyone has any recommendations of things that they think are better than Vampire Weekend, Deerhoof, Of Montreal or Why?, tell me now while there's still breathing room.

New Analogue goes to print tomorrow with a 2,500 word Vampire Weekend interview (uaimse) and a similarly-sized Built To Spill piece from Darragh leading the troops to battle. This one appears to have been copy-edited hard, too, so prepare for new levels of free, mistake-free indie music journalism.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I see a salty message written in the eaves

Most of the time, I'm the kid. It's been like that for a long time, I don't know why. I was one of the oldest in my class all the way through school, but I ended up being the kid anyway. On my road, I made friends with people a year older than me, and I was always the kid. At school, when I was in Transition Year, I made friends with a couple of people in Sixth year and I was the kid in those relationships too. With Analogue and the people surrounding Analogue, I am a couple of years behind, so I can seem like the kid sometimes too, especially when I show up to interviews. The other night when I was playing a gig in Anseo, a woman was heard to say "he can't be older than fifteen" as I got behind the microphone. I'm the kid. It just ends up that way, I don't know why it is.

But last week, probably for the first time of my life, I felt old at a gig. At the age of twenty, I was suddenly the old curmudgeon, stuck in his ways with his headbanging and attempts at normal dancing. Around me were heaving swarms of underage girls being giddy about the band, and analogous swarms of underage boys trying to look cool in front of them. They pogoed. I tried to pogo too, but somehow, I was weighed down. I tried not to make a snide smile at their chants of "Ezra, Ezra" before the band started, but I couldn't help it. I tried to zone out everyone else, but extended arms with phones and cameras surrounded me and dragged me back to a world where fame is the thing and the fact of Vampire Weekend being on stage in the first place is two-thirds of the battle for enjoying your night.

Bah, humbug.

The band were a lot of fun though, I have to admit. They were feeding off the unselfconscious singing along (of the type I talked about before, with fists raised during lines about Peter Gabriel as if they were singing about world hunger), and putting the energy back into the show. The slightly more skeletal live approach worked really well, and songs that were skeletal to begin with, like Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa, probably came off the best.

I can't pick out any weak moments in the set. They played everything off the album and one new song that sounded like Animal Collective ("I can see that, yeah" - bassist Chris Baio, upon being quizzed on this matter), and even included an ill-thought-out but nevertheless not-terrible Fleetwood Mac cover as an encore. They don't simply replicate the sound of one of the year's best albums, but they don't try to mess with the formula either, and anyone with half a funnybone couldn't have failed to enjoy this.

Oh, and a postscript to the bottle-blonde gentleman who felt it necessary to make a low-res digital video of most of the set over my head while simultaneously dancing... I can think of a website you might like.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Trick or treat serial killer

In one of my multiple incarnations (hint: it's not history nerd, or narcoleptic) I've done a Halloween single. Listen to it here if you like. Then buy a ticket to the gig with the exciting How Will They Cope, the dynamic A Series of Dark Caves and the avian Dublin Duck Dispensary on Halloween night.

I'm only joking, you can't buy tickets. But this is my end of the promotional machine upheld.

Also:
I interviewed Vampire Weekend last night for Analogue. We talked about the validity or otherwise of rich-boy criticism, about ghetto-ising African music, about new songs that sound like Animal Collective and about Tina Fey backlash. Gig review will be done soon.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Wash away what we create

So I also went to that Drowned In Sound show at Whelans too, thanks to the beneficence of my lovely girlfriend, who pitched exactly right on what I would want for a birthday present. I won't bore you with the details of my Odyssean trek to the venue, because I probably already did between bands, but just remember never to get a 38 bus anywhere ever if you still have the use of your extremities and your critical faculty.

The mess that is post-rich Ireland's transport infrastructure meant that I missed all but the last couple of songs by Times New Viking. Close watchers will know that I also missed Times New Viking last time they played because I was at The Mae Shi and they went on early. Guess why I missed them this time? They went on early.

What sort of promoter puts on "motherfuckin' Times New Viking" (Dean Allen Spunt, No Age) at 8 o'clock? I mean I made it to the venue at about twenty minutes past eight and I only saw the last two songs. The ticket said doors at 8. I have never been to a gig where the band starts at the time the doors were supposed to open, because logically, there would be no-one there at that time. This is apparently what happened last night. I wouldn't know, because I wasn't there. Fuck everything.

Anyway, next tack.

No Age were incredible, thankfully. It was my second time seeing them, but my first time indoors, and my first time with a respectful amount of album-listening done. Last time was more fun in the sense that the Dutch punks at Lowlands were moshing enough to make my wobbly headbanging seem okay. Last night my wobbly headbanging seemed to be shared by only two or three acquaintances and the members of Los Campesinos! who were in the crowd.

The show, though. Very, very loud. Intense. No Age have some really great songs. Teen Creeps, for example, has got to be one of the songs of the year.

Strum, strum, strum. Dididi-deh-do-do - NOISE. Washes and washes of noise. Two guys just being honest about it, playing a great song at a volume that cannot be ignored. There aren't many better moments in modern life than the heavy bit kicking in. And that's what No Age are all about.

They had some new stuff (I think) which was more directly rocking and less obfuscated. I enjoyed this. I would like to see No Age at a house-party (maybe the Hideaway House as Adam said in a comment below) or somewhere less self-conscious and less full of LC! fans. Because they've got energy in spades and it's a pity not many were sharing in the loud, loud glory of it.

As for Los Campesinos, I didn't like them. I've never liked them anyway, but they were never going to beat No Age. It's their own fault for picking such good support acts. Their lyrics are so blatantly poserish that I'm surprised anyone except teenage girls can stomach it. "I was listening to music and reading fiction at the same time" or whatever. I mean, what the fuck is that? They play like a major label band on Letterman or something. There's no heart to it. They're just trying to be clever, and their songs aren't particularly good. They're the opposite of No Age's honesty, in my eyes. If they didn't have vaguely different instrumentation I don't think anyone would ever have thought of them as separate from the NME continuum in the first place. Because they're not. Death to Los Campesinos.

Long live No Age.

Times New Viking I am sorry please don't split up before I see you.

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