Saturday, February 28, 2009

Fighting in the Apes

<a href="">Live Concert Video - Fight Like Apes</a>

What, you mean you've never seen a full Fight Like Apes gig?!

Well here's one in Holland to a crowd who clearly have no idea what the hell is going on.

Nothing provokes the nationalist feeling like a nice Lilywhite accent billowing off a stage towards Dutch people.

Filling in the Blanks

So, I don't know that much 80s music. But I'm trying. You can too.

Here's a library.

Television Personalities/Replacements/Talking Heads/Minutemen/The Fall/Husker Du/This Heat/REM/Missions of Burma/etc, etc. Fifty albums, fifty download links. Dig in.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Dulce et decorum est pro pornographia mori

A return to the no-fi phone photography method of documentation for a no-fi gig at the Joinery on Arbour Hill in Stoneybatter on Sunday night.

What's that, you say. a gig in Stoneybatter?! Yes. In a large room in what seemed to be a stripped-out former shop. What you might call a "space", I think. Bring your own drink. I didn't bring any, but some did and I'm sure they were delighted. It seemed to be some sort of Deserted Village buzz, and I have only nice things to say about that label, even though I've only got Thinguma*jigsaw's (awakeinwhitechapel) by them.

Their logo was a fetching road sign on that CD and they included the translation: Sráidbhaile Iargúlta. In one swoop, Deserted Village instantly rooted themselves in Irishness - for who else has such bilingual signs? - and that somehow made them seem all the more cool to me, because they were putting out a mortality-obsessed Norwegian duo and not trying to be too detached and hipstery. I don't know why that seemed important to me, it just did. It also might not have been anything to do with them, but there was a merch desk with non-performing bands' stuff, so I surmised.

So I missed Cian Nugent, and Laura Sheeran was essentially just thirty minutes of equipment failure, one stunning song, one alright song and a semi-sean nós a capella song about love.

Next on, Peter Delaney. Peter Delaney's Duck Egg Blue EP from a couple of years ago helped open up my conception of what music produced in Ireland could sound like at a point when I was still pretty fuzzy about the fact that it didn't have to be gig-focused and Dublin-centred. He's from Limerick and he plays the ukelele. Not in a jaunty sort of way, but in a deeply sad way which can only be created by an instrument with no natural sustain. Two ukeleles he had with him in fact. He played only three songs, concluding with an unpolished, melancholy epic called 'The Guest' which is, at some point, going to be spoken of with reverence. Probably.

After Peter came LITTLE MYTH EPIPHANYMPH, icily scouring the room with her silent death-stare and THE SEVERED HEADMASTER, presenting the merry morbid show to the gathered patrons. So comfortable did he feel in fact that he later introduced himself and his companion by their real names: MARTHA REDIVIVUS and SETH HORATIO BUNCOMBE.

Banjo in hand, Seth sang sanguinary songs about death, mortality, fatality and downfall with the peace-disturbing bowed-saw playing of Martha creating a bizarre, unsettling atmosphere in the background.

But here's a secret.



When the singer of Thinguma*jigsaw tells you that he is about to sing a song about a mortuary, you don't give off a relaxed chuckle.

When the singer of Thinguma*jigsaw tells you that he is about to sing a song called "Sweet and laudable it is to die for pornography or, in Latin, Dulce et decorum est pro pornographia mori"... that's not funny either! Internalise it.

Some woman hummed her way through 'Dulce et decorum est...' and in return had the last several lines of the song (which is about the production of snuff films) sung directly at her. She soon exited her front row seat, possibly to meet with early demise.

Highlights? All the new songs sound just as atmospheric and eerie as the first albums, and the show was mostly new songs. The Daniel Johnston cover 'Walking the Cow' and the (awakeinwhitechapel) opener 'Serpent's Apple', opening and closing the show respectively, were the equivalent of hits.

But in the end, the crowd in this bouncer-free, bar chat-free, cheap, communal space tainted the experience themselves. This is why we can't have nice things.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Catch-up: Cato mess with my concepts, my inner vision.

That's an insane picture. I got it from Of Montreal's MySpace, from an album called 'Of Montreal as mythology'. There were no other pictures in the album. I thought that it would be a reasonably good way to preface a review of a band I've talked about a million times before on this blog. Just click the 'Of Montreal' tag at the side to check them out...

Oh wait, I tag things in a completely senseless way, by venue and nationality. As if anyone ever wanted to check which Danish bands I'd seen or how many gigs I've been to in Crawdaddy since September 2007.

A better way to preface this review would be to go look at these incredible pictures at State and this interview at Aoife B's gaff.


I turned up at the Button Factory alone and stood around, trying not to look awkward while people arrived. Nobody I recognised. A weird sort of in-betweener crowd: half were comfortable, beer in hand, waiting around the back to step up when a band appeared. The other half were excited, on edge, 80% female and at the front. I belonged at the back. But I went to the front. Sorry if you were a short girl and I was standing in front of you. I've put in the same fawning hours you have, get off my back.

Casio Kids played first and I was initially thinking, "wow, Unicorns!". Then it all got a bit smoothed out in a sort of a Hot Chip vibe. But then, gradually, it became clear that Casio Kids are Scandanavian. A quick Google shows that they're Norwegian, but I could not stop hearing Swedish bands once I realised they weren't Anglo-American. The Shout Out Louds. Jens Lekman. Even fucking Dungen. It's something about the inflection when they sing.

They passed the time, and I like that they sing in Norsk, but nothing to write home about.

If you were about to write home, however, and you needed something other than "things good here, hope all is well at home" to tell the people in the old country, you wouldn't have had long to wait.

Enter Of Montreal. BP Helium in Eno-mode as in 2007 (rather than Low-era Bowie mode, as 2008, if I remember correctly). A tiger, a pig, a smattering of shadows, a diplodocus-headed gentlemen of some description, and a respectable family. And Kevin Barnes, character in his own postmodern fantasy. Much of the excitement of this show is in the insane, postmodern theatrics that go on, both behind Kevin and involving Kevin. An anthropomorphic tiger hunting to tense music is exactly that in this context - it's not a song with a theatrical accompaniment.

But I suppose I should mention music. Minuses first:

- He's not feeling the lyrics. But hey, who says every singer of their darker hours has to crucify themself on stage to satisfy me.

- As with every Of Montreal live show, the sheen is dulled a little in performance, and the backing tracks are always a touch busy... as if everything's not in its right place. Although maybe that helps.


Well, as Damien Hirst knows well, if you're just arranging diamonds, you're going to end up with something pretty valuable no matter what you do. Of new material, 'Triphallus to Punctuate' was my favourite, as it is on record, because of its bizarrely disco-fried "ah yeah" part as much as anything else. Of old material, 'Sink The Seine-Cato As A Pun' was pretty stellar, as was Gronlandic Edit, and though there was nothing further back than Sunlandic Twins, 'Wraith Pinned To The Mist' waved that flag fairly well.

Just a good show then, right? Just an American band, bigger than small clubs but smaller than big theatres. Same setlist all tour, even if it synchs with performance art. Worth the entrance fee, definitely.

Kevin smears himself head to toe in shaving foam and leaps into the crowd. You see a hand flailing so you grab it to right him onto his feet and feel you've done your part. Go home happy.

"Do you think they will do an encore?" I heard an obviously largely housebound fellow attendee ask.

'Suffer For Fashion', immediately weighing in on a level above the entire regular set. 'I Was Never Young', holding the fort. Then (you know this already if you ever wanted to know, so there's no point in suspense, especially in a textual medium where there is no temporal block on you) Smells Like Teen Spirit.

Which they apparently no longer issue the lyrics to at birth. But I bellowed them nonetheless. Leapt around and knocked the guy-protecting-girlfriend and the I-need-to-get-this-on-camera-phone and the lets-do-live-song-by-song-analysis people out of their comfort zones a little I hope.


It was great. Insane, but great. Five members and four actors on stage, blasting it out. Crowd giving it straight back. If you don't have 'em, steal 'em. The encore, as usual with OM gigs, lifts the show and makes the whole thing seem that much more epic.

So fuck you, the everyone I know who went to the last one but didn't go this time. This was great, even if I think I nearly killed myself sprinting up Dame Street for the last bus because of it.

Old OM posts:
Fawning about Fauna
And about Skeletal Lamping
December 2007 in the Button Factory
The early 2007 show was before the blog, I forgot this


Monday, February 9, 2009

Catch-up: And you'd smile and say, "I like this song"

Went to London and spent a weekend in a penthouse apartment in Kensington with seven friends listening to Merriweather Post Pavillion. It's not like we didn't try to go out. We did. It just never worked. We nearly made it to a salsoul club, whatever that means. We did make it to an insane club that wasn't sure whether we were 'indie rock' enough to get in, despite the fact that the closest they came to indie rock all night inside was 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' by the Stooges, a drop in the gushing river of indifferentiable electro.

I bought records on Portobello Road and in Rough Trade. I bought clothes in (predictably) American Apparel. Took black cabs, saw Westminster, went the wrong way around the Circle line to get to where I was going. But the weekend was about Animal Collective. Every gap, while we were cooking or waking up or just hanging out, was filled with Merriweather Post Pavillion.

And then the weekend passed, and it was Monday the nineteenth of January and we went to the Koko in Camden to see Animal Collective.

This guy stood in our way for a while, singing Orwellian songs in a John Lydon-on-I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of here persona. Few support acts have been worse.

Then came Avey, Panda and Geologist. The set-list was as follows:

In The Flowers
Daily Routine
Also Frightened
New Song
Weird unrecognisable version of Winter's Love
Guys Eyes
Summertime Clothes
Lion In A Coma
Banshee Beat
My Girls

The rainbow strip lights were going and it was the first Animal Collective gig I've ever been to that hasn't had majority new stuff being passed down from the improvisational gods on high. It was mostly pretty cathartic.

Things that were off:

Winter's Love's only recognisable bit was ONE BAR of the drum loop from it, during a 5 minute long improvisation that was apparently supposed to BE Winter's Love

I think the bass was missing from My Girls, which robbed it of some of its finality at the end

I have a feeling they missed synching the beat in Banshee Beat, ironically, but it was still great as just an Avey strumathon.

Things that were on:

Everything. The guts of Merriweather Post Pavillion, which is probably the most perfect album I can think of, and I've been thinking for about two months.

Slippi, being off the cuff as it is, freewheeling along. Chores, starting in ultra-slowed down, lamenty Panda Bear mode, but eventually kicking in to its full-on frenetic brilliance.

Songs like Also Frightened and Lion In A Coma leaping off the page and being counted even more than they are on the album.

Brothersport, being an incomparable live experience.

Side notes:

met a man who was talking about government laws and saying "that's right yeah" every four mumbles on the tube, who seemed to know what he was talking about.

Read in 'The London Paper' (a free Tube-rag) that 'Josh Dibb and co.' were playing the Koko, Josh Dibb being Deakin who has been on hiatus since just before the release of Strawberry Jam.

It was a great gig. I'm sorry this review has no logic or structure, but it was quite a long time ago.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

And in conclusion...

So there you have it. That list was, to recap:

1. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
2. Why? - Alopecia
3. Of Montreal - Skeletal Lamping
4. Beach House - Devotion
5. Times New Viking - Rip It Off
6. Deerhoof - Offend Maggie
7. So Cow - I'm Siding With My Captors
8. Jeremy Jay - A Place Where We Could Go
9. El Guincho - Alegranza
10. Xiu Xiu - Women As Lovers
11. No Age - Nouns
12. Wolf Parade At Mount Zoomer
13. Stephen Malkmus - Real Emotional Trash
14. Roots Manuva - Slime and Reason
15. Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion
16. Department of Eagles - In Ear Park
17. The Mae Shi - Hlllyh
18. Santogold - Santogold
19. Parenthetical Girls - Entanglements
20. Port O'Brien - All We Could Do Was Sing
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
22. Ponytail - Ice Cream Spiritual
23. The Dodos - Visiter
24. Correcto - Correcto
25. This Is The Album of a Band Called Adebisi Shank

The figures:
Irish: 12%
By bands I was already into before 2008: 40%
Saw live: 48%
Reviewed for print: 32%
Interviewed for print: 12%
Owned on CD or vinyl: 40%

Might briefly review the Animal Collective gig I was at in the Koko in London in January, and the Of Montreal gig I was at in the Button Factory last week, for the sake of being complete. My main efforts, however, will primarily be going towards the study of dusty old books in the Ussher and Berkeley libraries of Trinity College Dublin for the next several weeks.

Like I said last year and probably this year before I embarked on that ridiculously overwrought top 25, I do it more for myself to look back on than for others to read. Let that explain the bits that got too obtuse, or the bits that weren't really developed enough to make sense.

It also gives me an opportunity to go back and re-engage with albums that might have fallen by the wayside, which happens all too often when a set of mp3s falls out of my 'recently added' and off the 2GB mp3 player I carry around. I wouldn't have thought nearly so hard about those albums if I hadn't committed myself to actually reviewing them, rather than listing them. So I'm glad I did.

No album was as good as Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? No album was as good as Merriweather Post Pavillion. But it was about par for the course as a year. I'm looking forward to burying myself in comfortable, mostly older music for a while. At some stage I might take Merriweather out of my CD player (it's been a month), or Wire off my turntable... but not till I'm ready.


See you round.

Oh, thanks to Darragh and Dan for writing those interim posts, and to Bobby Duck Dispensary and Brian So Cow who so foolishly fell into the trap I laid for them to review each other's albums. Wouldn't have worked if I'd explained!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Year. 1. Occident, out on the weekend.

1. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
XLTake a simple, relatively formulaic guitar, bass and drums construction. Adds subtle keys and collegiate vocals. Tacks on an occasional baroque string flourish. And end up with what? Well, with the keys transformational steps in the process mired in the cloudy confusion that obscures the reasons for all great pop music, you end up with the best album of 2008. Nothing to it.

It couldn't have been any other way. No other album dominated my headphones like this one did, or wrapped up my consciousness in its deceptively simple folds. I first encountered Vampire Weekend late by blogger standards (having missed out on the blue CD-R and attendant hype), but early enough by normal person standards. Some time after Christmas last year, I saw the video for A-Punk and thought it was by-numbers NME bollocks. Then, after returning to college, I was handed a promo copy of the album, a white disc in a clear plastic sleeve. Thanks XL for splashing out there.

I was expecting it to be bad, to be honest. I convinced myself it was for a little while. But it's impossible to resist it. It's insidious. Once I'd heard it twice it would not leave the jukebox in my head. Waking up in the morning I would hear the harpsichords of 'M79', disembodied, and be unable to remember where I knew them from. Walking down the street, I'd tap the syncopations of the drum pattern in 'Mansard Roof' once it kicks in, subconsciously.

But the key song was one that doesn't sound a whole lot like the quintessence of the album - it doesn't have African rhythms, fruit-flavoured keys or particularly referential lyrics. Walcott. Sounds like the Walkmen if they'd had a wash. Perfect pop song, perfect length, perfect builds and breakdowns.

Then I saw it. It's like that all over. I listened again and again, so that it was whole verses, with the lyrics lodged in my memory, that would appear when I was reading newspapers or playing games or walking through college corridors. It became a daily thing for me, one of the few bandnames that survived the initial wearing-off of novelty on my mp3 players.

If they were slipping out of my consciousness towards the end of the year, the gig brought them right back again, and the fact of interviewing them forced me to look at them in different ways, to question different angles, to probe and see what happens. Doing a degree in English literature at the same time as writing for an indie music magazine probably leads to unnecessarily prosaic and theoretical approaches to things. But whatever.

I asked them about it, they told me what they thought, and I really enjoyed hearing it. It changed what I heard again. It became more African just because people elsewhere were talking about it being African. But the interview challenged that too:

"I think the idea that you can only appreciate African music by associating it somehow with poverty is just as ridiculous as saying you can only listen to African music if you’re some rich safari hunter. It really is nothing to do with it. I hope that people who listen to African music, just because they like the sound of it, would also take it upon themselves to be a moral, ethical person. But, you know, those are two separate things. I find that the people who get angry about an American band being interested in African music aren’t offering any alternative. They tend to be the people who exoticise African music, and ghettoise it, as something that can only be appreciated in this particular way."

And as if to pull things back out of the theory and back to the real world, they play a new song that sounds like Strawberry Jam and a cover of a Fleetwood Mac song at the gig. As if to say "we are a pop band, stop over-thinking it".

As I listen to it tonight, it's no less exciting than it has been in the year I've heard it. It might be, yet again, an overly subjective choice for best album, but I know other people think it too. And there's no reason to deny that I've listened to it most and enjoyed it more than anything else, more cerebral or more wrought, put out in 2008. I had it clamped to my ears for 12 months. When it wasn't, it was bouncing around my head. It even made me go to see a band from the Congo with my afro-enthusiast friend. That's something.