Tuesday, September 23, 2008

New Blogroll

How fancy is the new blogroll thing? Does it in order of the most recently updated. That's going to make things so handy for me. I can finally delete half of the myriad live and dead bookmarks on my Firefox. Bit of spring cleaning.

I will start going to gigs again soon, I promise. Maybe starting with Our Brother The Native on Sunday.

Then I can hopefully knock the video for The Rat down to a place where it doesn't wreck the Blogger theme, and get back into the right way of doing things around here.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Rat.

Tried to post this on the Analogue blog a while ago but I don't think it worked.

No words can express how deadly I think this song and this performance is. If words could express it, the words I would choose would be: violent, frenetic, energetic, frantic, fast.

I wonder if the Walkmen ever resent Vampire Weekend for leapfrogging them.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Statement of intent

Here's some gigs I want to go to.

Our Brother The Native
Holy Fuck
Times New Viking/No Age
Port O'Brien
Vampire Weekend
Story of Hair/So Cow
Roots Manuva
The Walkmen
TV On The Radio
Jay Reatard
Built To Spill
Wolf Parade
Beach House

Never going to get to all of those.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Special Bulletin

Started listening to Fight Like Apes' album as soon as it went up to stream.

One-listen verdict:

guarded expression...

cautious smile

wide grin!

Gareth wanted me to link to his exclusive review of it, for some reason possibly relating to a belief that Fight Like Apes fans read this blog because it's named after them. So go there, read it, then go to entertainment.ie and compare notes with newly ebonics-employing Analogue web supremo Gareth Stack.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

music scene is crazy, bands start up each and every day

A summary is a shortened version of the original. The main purpose of such a simplification is to highlight the major points from the genuine (much longer) subject, e.g. a text, a film or an event. The aim is to help the audience get the gist in a short period of time.
Groom - Not impressed. A little bit OK Computer-y at times, but way less cool. And the song of theirs that kept coming on between bands is something I cannot imagine anyone who doesn't watch rom-coms without irony ever liking.

The Hot Sprockets - I was expecting "folky" and "a whole different buzz altogether", because the girl from Muzu said they'd be like that. But they weren't.

Holy Roman Army - This band needs to get some visuals going, and figure out a more exciting way of playing live. Granted, they were on way too early for the kind of music they play, but being soporific is never a good trait in a live band.

The Vinny Club - Man pressed play on iTunes, then arses around.

Foxface - Their blurb was about ten times as exciting as they were.

Noise Control - 90s rap rock? Seriously?

Heathers - Can't see why everyone is so impressed by these. They have a couple of lyrical turns that make you go "hmm", but if you do everything using terms of reference derived from female American singer-songwriters from the 1990s you're never going to be able to be new or impressive. I also couldn't stomach the fact that they literally did not stop harmonising once in the first four songs.

Carly Sings - Too quiet, venue too loud. Couldn't hear, had to leave.

So there you have it. Hard Working Class Heroes 2008.

One Big Stormcloud In A Duffelcoat

Apologies to MC Aoife Mc for shamelessly pilfering this image, but it's the best one on the first page of Google Image search and my camera was stolen in Munich so that's where I have to go for pictures.

It came from the West, with a "strange American accent that I really didn't see coming". So Cow has been to Dublin before, at Dame Lane for Loreana, in Anseo for Hefty Horse and at somewhere else for some Korean thing during Electric Picnic. But So Cow has never been this deadly, at least while I was there.

Seriously, when did this happen? So Cow has made two excellent albums in These Truly Are End Times and I'm Siding With My Captors, and played fairly good live shows. But the live shows have always been approximations of the recorded material to some extent, because they've been to backing tracks or with under-rehearsed bands. This time, with a drummer capable of bombing a Middle-Eastern city with only his sticks and two tins of biscuits, and a bassist with a beard, So Cow turned into some kind of breakneck proto-punk garage trio. It doesn't sound like an effort to be like what's in Brian's head or on his CDs any more. It sounds outside that, better.

It was breakneck. It was slightly out of tune at points. Songs like Moon Geun Young and Casablanca from the first album got garaged up and spat out so they'd sit with the stuff from the second album. And the second album stuff, like Greetings and Normalcy, got a serious shot in the arm, infused with all kinds of aggression and energy. Most solos were substituted with simple rocking out. Some chunks were added, like the metal intro, or various outro messes. The whole thing, being "SO COW 2008! PLAYING THE HITS!" went by way too quickly and left me feeling like I'd been hit by a fish or something equally unexpected.

The best part for me, though, was To Do List. Like an oasis in a storm of ultra-tight garage mess, original So Cow and new So Cow drummer harmonised over a strummed ditty for a minute of so. Until... breaking into full band awesomeness and carrying the thing to a complete new level. One of those "Woah!" moments. Gig of the weekend this time, without a doubt.


Programmed To Destroy Us

So on to Sunday. The Judaeo-Christian God, who'd been letting the cistern fill up since mid-August, eventually opened the flood-gates and flushed his toilet once more onto the hapless Dublin. This had a fairly negative effect on Hard Working Class Heroes. Example 1: I got wet. Example 2: I had to wear an unfashionable anorak over my already unfashionable attire. Example 3: Fewer people showed up.

Robotnik though, was unmissable. If you were at Meeting House Square or Andrew's Lane at all during the festival, you've seen the video for Puddlestarter he did for Muzu, featuring an anthropomorphic horse with a rainbow umbrella getting super-soaked and making some of the greatest expressions ever recorded while battling Chris Morrin on the floor for supremacy during the instrumental section.

The horse was there again in the Academy 2. Robotnik is someone who does enough to be on the radar for a lot of people, but who doesn't necessarily fill them with childish joy and enthusiasm for his music. More than 50% of his appeal is in the drama and the visuals, in my opinion. Without the costumes, the supersoaker, the horse, he's just a guy. I'm sure people would still listen to a degree, but he wouldn't have the medium-sized status he has right now.

His set was good enough, for what it was. People Walk Away was a highlight. He has a tendency to sound a bit too influenced by the music of the 90s, and at other times he forgets melody. But with Robotnik, image is core. He sang a song about rain dressed in a raincoat. He did some other okay stuff. Then he played Puddlestarter and had an elaborate and slightly too violent fake fight with a horse, who tackled him after the fight was over and forced him to sing the last chorus from the floor. It was fun, not enough fun to make me want to run out and buy the album, but fun.


This banana could be you! Or me!


As Crawdaddy filled up for Fight Like Apes, there was a definite sense of anticipation. It felt weird, like on of the landmark shows people talk about - The Smiths in the Hacienda or Radiohead at Glastonbury 97 or whatever. The room was heaving. They played at the same time as the Concretes, but I can't imagine even having given half a thought to seeing that. It was like a big fight or something. Like when Bernard Dunne fought Kiko. It wasn't the title fight, but if he fucked it up (which he did) it was back to square one. Luckily, Fight Like Apes were not knocked out by a Spaniard in the first round. The opposite, really. Gig of the weekend.

That was this time last year. "Elephant 6 on punk rock tablets" I said. "Like a wall" I said. Various other universally positive things I said. It was definitely gig of the weekend. It was probably gig of the year, being honest. But obviously things have changed between my ears and Fight Like Apes in the interim. I'm one year less wide-eyed about the fact that an Irish band can actually be GOOD. And they put out a single I really didn't like.

So how were they in Meeting House Square, the damp towel of venues?

Great, actually. Unlike SEBP and Bats, they were sufficiently loud to connect (possibly to do with the pseudo-scientific "synths=full wave walls of sound" theory I invented out of my arse last year) even though they kept giving out to the soundman, who was probably on a drawbridge over a pit of Dublin City Council alligators.

The high points were manifold. Either I'm starting to appreciate the lesser spotted (non-first EP or Do You Karate?) Fight Like Apes songs more, or I'm just listening harder because I don't know them as well, but some of them really shined. Knucklehead is an amazing song, and must be feeling very unfulfilled that it wasn't the A-side to its Photoshopped cousin Something Global. Accidental Wrong Hole is still one of the best premises for a song in existence. The new one that's a letter to a roadie called Samuel, dispensing with his services with a double-suplex followed by a backbreaker, is power pop in a good way.

The new one with the words "lovely noise" prominent was alright... suffered from a bit of lyrical Something Global-ism in that it was very "you do this, we hate you for it". But y'know... who am I to judge, that's pretty much what I do on this blog (except it's usually love). And I hope they weren't trying to imply that Yo La Tengo aren't deadly.

I need to stop rambling on so much in this blog, I used to have a kind of concise style and I avoided the word "I".

The middle-aged man who, last year, stood beside me and Bobby and laughed completely out of proportion to his increasingly piss-taking tennis jokes (they were wearing sweatbands) turned up again. Like, it started with "They must play tennis" "Ahahahaha!" but by the end it was just like "Racket!" "Ahahahahaha!"... "Andre Agassi!" "Ahahahaha!" He must be related to someone in the band, or work for HWCH. I hope he enjoyed it as much this year.

Did I? I suppose, in a different way. Some people I talked to didn't, but I thought it was really good. The way they play and act seems naturally more geared towards bigger stage and a bigger crowd now, and that helps in somewhere like Meeting House Square. They fought on the ground and threw a bass at each other. They played great noisy pop songs with intensity. Their album is streaming on entertainment.ie from tomorrow, and fickle as I am, I can't wait.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Dance of the Sugar Rush Fairy

Okay, back to do this after an absence due to dog ear haematoma removal. Let's do this shit.

Grand Pocket Orchestra
are back (i.e. I haven't seen them in a while), and they've evolved (like a Pokémon) into something essentially the same but intangibly better. Boat loads of songs I hadn't heard before were spilled out into Andrew's Lane Theatre on Saturday with maximum aplomb. It wasn't just that I hadn't seen them performed before... they were songs I hadn't heard before, a style that was new and different. Less finger-paint, more Jackson Pollock.

New single Ballet Shoes is an example of it, to an extent. Hearing that song makes me do the band-comparison stream in my head. Vampire Weekend? Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!? Built To Spill? Am I just going mad? Possible. But other songs, only experienced for their sub-two minute durations and then part-forgotten after they zoomed by, had even more of an impression. One of the songs, with no guitar in the intro, reminded me of something Sunset Rubdown might do. Another one didn't remind me of anyone from America, and I can't remember any details apart from thinking it was DEADLY.

In my last Fight Like Apes post, I finished saying something silly like "Grand Pocket Orchestra, step it up" or whatever. But I have to admit, as stupid a remark as that was, I was not fully expecting them to make a leap. I liked them, and I expected them to be as good as they were for a while yet. The kind of band I'd go to see at a festival, or at Whelans maybe if I had the money to spare. I'd buy what they put out, and use it in my CD alarm clock. But, to borrow Ian's expression... shit just got real, yo. Excitement is kicking in. Genuinely anticipating their next EP. Waiting on an album. Wanting to see the songs that they played so briefly again, and get to know them. I can't wait to watch this unfold.

Apart from intelligent and engaging new songs, Grand Pocket Orchestra still have: an ADD-esque mentaller for a singer, a lady with an octopus-like capacity for playing multiple instruments simultaneously, a vaguely unsettling guitarist and an excellent drummer with a mohawk. The live show has never been less than excellent with this combination. But imagine: GPO action figures... how is that not a good idea?


Winged/Wicked Things

Science in the lyrics, in the music and in the spare time. Dublin's most precise prog-hardcore band were unfortunately set-up in Meeting House Square on Saturday, thus negating one of their most prominent traits (the loudness) and leaving them a little disconnected. Bats are a band who generally successfully peddle a bag of metal, hardcore and prog tricks in a conscientious manner to people who would never dream of listening to some of the bands the members probably listen to at home. Not being loud enough makes this a little impotent.

Still good though. These Ones Lay Eggs (from 2007's Cruel Sea Scientist) is a bit of a magnum opus, flicking between rhythms and tempos like my mother with a remote control. You just get enough of each part to be interested, then it moves on. It's like this with most Bats songs, These Ones Lay Eggs is just particularly excellent.

Apart from that one, my highlight of the set was the singer (who is always recognisable in public because of the Anticon t-shirt that appears to have fused to his torso) dedicating a song to "the people at CERN who are doing an amazing job". To break the universal silence, I may have shouted "yeah!". And then looked up what it actually did when I woke up the next morning.

So there you have it. Bats. Pedagogical progcore.


Monday, September 15, 2008

The Last Of The Famous International Playboys

David Turpin splits the ranks, I think. You either like it or you don't. I had no idea which camp I was in until I actually showed up at 4 Dame Lane on Friday. Some were convinced I wouldn't like it at all. Others were simply convinced that THEY didn't like it. Still others gave his music the fantastic description of being "suggestively electronic". And the resident Analogue pop-savant (who I still haven't met, though Indie Bar tells me he's AMAZING) wrung a great interview out of him. All of this made me more and more curious.

I admit I only saw the second half of the set because I was picking up gear, but I walked straight to the 'yea' side of the house. Being whispery and suggestive is not something that would ever put me off music after four years of Xiu Xiu, so I have to say I was enthralled. My head started to fill with names of other bands, which tends to happen when I get excited about something: Patrick Wolf, Jim O'Rourke, Antony & The Johnsons... but most of all...

I was that stereotypical teenage Morrissey obsessive, if you didn't already know. Turpin drips Morrisseyism. Not in his style of singing or his music, particularly. But just his manner. Complete self-assurance, and an eyebrow raised at all times, whether in reality or just in his head. So long live David Turpin.


Duck Duck Goose

This was a lot of messy, messy fun.


I spent the winter (not on the verge of a total breakdown or in Norway) on the floor of my bedroom playing a second-hand copy of Madden 03 for PS2 to the strains of Mcluskyism, (awakeinwhitechapel) and a copy of the Super Extra Bonus Party LP I adopted from the Analogue post-bag.

Of the three, it was SEBP that I least expected to get into. But lo! through the magic of the extra effort an actual physical copy of an album elicits in me, I found myself throwing it on every other night. I jerked my head to Mushie Shake, imagined I knew the words to Spanik Sabotage and appreciated the excellent foray into traditionalism that was Everything Flows.

Friday in Meeting House Square was my first time seeing them live, apart from a few flashing lights behind a few hundred sweaty backs at the very end of their set last year. It was good, but I can't help but think that it could've been better in a few ways. Not that any of those ways are in any way Super Extra Bonus Party's fault.

First off - low volume? Come on sound man! Jesus! If they want the drums turned way up, turn them way up. If music is supposed to grab you and make you dance or jump or nod your head, play it at a volume that allows that to happen. Fuck city bye-laws.

Then, from second- and third-hand accounts, the lights and visuals are one of the best parts of the set. Outdoors, lights are ineffective unless you're putting Radiohead or Flaming Lips money into it. And the screen for the visuals required a full 90 degree turn to see. So it was a choice between the band or the visuals. Not a choice that should have to be made, especially for integrated visuals (as opposed to simply playing the Robotnik video in the background).

Still, they made the best of it. It was a party. Feet were tapped, heads nodded. The band jumped, I wished the music was loud enough and I was drunk enough to jump as well. It's actually ridiculous that I haven't seen them, now that I come to think of it. I was at Club NME when they played, but I was playing elsewhere and only made it there in time for Cadence Weapon. Friends have gone while I was saving money or going to something else. I even won a free guestlist off Nialler9 once, but I was either at another gig or I didn't check it in time.

I will see them again though. Indoors, preferably


You! You work all night!

Over the weekend, I attended my second Hard Working Class Heroes festival. This time last year I was mulling over the experiences of the twenty or so bands I saw/noticed, and considering whether to start a blog to collect my thoughts. I decided to do it, and God help me, I live with that narcissistic watershed to this day. That was in the Pod complex, and it was great. This year it was in various venues scattered from Abbey Street to Andrew's Lane.

Obvious advantages of having it in Pod:
  1. So, so quick to get from venue to venue because a) everything is obviously connected, b) you don't have to get through the hen-stag traffic that clogs the arteries Temple Bar on the weekend and c) I only got asked for ID once over the whole weekend last year(as opposed to somewhere between ten and twenty this weekend - DO I REALLY LOOK THAT YOUNG?)
  2. You don't get the same bleed to surroundings. How many people missed (at least the start of) bands because they were getting food, or got delayed in a shop buying cigarettes, or something like that? In Tripod, it's a five minute walk to anywhere remotely worth being, so people tend to just stick around.
  3. It doesn't rain indoors.

Anyway, here's how I'm going to format this year's reviews. I didn't see as much as last year, and half of what I did see, I only saw some of, so I'm only going to do full reviews for a couple of bands per night, and then do a wrap-up. Sásta go leor?

Right. Better get to it then.