Monday, March 30, 2009

Redirect yourselves

Trying out Wordpress for a while. Stall it over and see how you like it. If I feel out of my depth, I'll bail back to the shambly safety of Blogspot.

Update your links and your bookmarks and your subscriptions!

Those Geese Were Stupefied

Sunday, March 15, 2009

What Road Records should do:

1. Get the stock right - I understand that it's a problem for a small shop to have a large amount of new stock, but to maintain regular interest in a shop that small, it needs to happen. I buy most of my CDs in Tower, not because of price or any other reason, but because they have more CDs I want. No amount of goodwill can get around that. The standard here is Rough Trade. That shop in Portobello in London is smallish, but their stock is unreal. I wouldn't trust myself to go in there and come out without something, ever.

2. Ditch the dusty stuff - Secondhand vinyl takes up quite a lot of space in the shop and - desperate as I was to find SOMETHING worth hearing - I couldn't find one record I wanted when I was in right at the start of the closing-down period. From my experience as in the bookshop near my house, I have some idea of what you buy in and what you sell in terms of secondhand stuff, and the stuff there has been stripped out already to the point where most of it will be there in twenty years.

3. Use the space for something else - like... more new vinyl? I don't know. Tower has got a new vinyl section that is very much the standard to aim at, and I'm not sure how Road will compete with this.

4. Ditch the dusty Irish stuff - I have nothing but praise for the fact that Road will stock almost anything independent and Irish, but there comes a time when a CD-R in a clear plastic sleeve that hasn't sold in five years has to be binned to stop it cramping the style of the Jape album or even the Ambience Affair EP. It brings the tone down.

5. Brighter lights - Is this reasonable? Dark and dusty shops are uninviting.

6. Let more people know it's there - One of Road's main complaints was that their old customers weren't being replaced by new, young customers. While point 1 (the stock thing) impacts on this, the fact that people don't know it exists has got to impact on it. I knew it was around somewhere, but it took going out of my way to find a Mumblin' Deaf Ro instore, I think, to actually figure out where it was. People have got to know. At LEAST put the logo on the bag. Even if people don't know where to find it, let people know that it's there to be found.

7. More reasons to go - Instores, compilations, something. To get people to make the leap between knowing it exists and actually finding it. To get people to go more often, once they do know it's there. Tower is in the kind of place where I can barely avoid going in once a day to at least browse. Road is not. So get me there somehow.

8. Modernise - That isn't a great title for this one, but what I mean is that Road is associated with a generation of Irish musicians that isn't exactly on the cutting edge. The benefit was played by Jape, The Jimmy Cake, Si Schroeder, Adrian Crowley and some members of the Dudley Corporation and Large Mound. Not that a lot of those bands aren't great. But that line-up could have been Jape, Fight Like Apes, Grand Pocket Orchestra, Katie Kim and Children Under Hoof. No need to cut associations with older musicians, but forge associations with younger musicians too.

9. Redesign the website - Just make it look a bit nicer. Surely in the current atmosphere of goodwill, someone will do this for free or at least cheap.

10. Have gigs - why not? Everybody seemed to have fun at the One For The Road thing, from reports. This is another way of keeping Road in people's consciousness after they're satisfied that they've done their civic duty and saved it.

I write this as somebody who shopped in Road reasonably often - say, second most of any record store in Dublin. I don't have any of the sentimental connections that a lot of people seem to have of halcyon days past or of a first break by stocking a homemade record. I'm just a consumer. Your average 20 year old who for one reason or another likes to buy a CD or a 7" every now and then. I'm just thinking out loud here, so don't wade in and tell me to shut up. I fail to see how any of the suggestions could hurt, anyway, and if Road is planning on continuing, it's clear that it's going to have to do SOMETHING, because it can't rely on the goodwill boom continuing indefinitely.

Photo by Naomi McArdle, sorry if it's not cool to nick it.

Keep it real keep it real shout out

This is a review that was meant for the ill-fated February issue of Analogue Magazine, which fell prey to tightening advertising budgets. It came straight out when I sat down to write it, and I'm quite proud of it in a round-about, I-realise-it's-gush sort of way. I gave it 1000% if you didn't guess.

Chemical or natural? There is a single moment on Merriweather Post Pavillion, after a few lush, watery minutes of introduction, where the music reaches out of the speakers and cracks open reality so that you can see inside, in a way that only Tibetan boddhisativas and LSD-devoted professors usually experience. That moment, called forth with an invocational ‘if I could just leave my body for a night…’ is a genuine landmark in the winding path of music’s history. There is a level of transcendence, of originality, of genius present in that moment on In The Flowers, and on Merriweather in general, that elevates it instantly to the realm of hushed tones. So, is it chemical or natural?

It doesn’t matter. It’s easier for once to talk about this album in terms of what’s it not, rather than what it is. It’s not a retread of anything that has come before. It’s not difficult to engage with, but it’s also not populist in the least. It’s never dull. In fact, over eleven tracks, it comes off as almost too short and leaves a small but inescapable feeling of disappointment that it’s over, in the way that all great albums should. But that’s not to say that it’s unfinished, or imperfect. It’s not. This is Keats’ well-wrought urn manifest, an album genuinely without low points or flaws.

But even out of this consistent brilliance, there come peaks. Besides the aforementioned In The Flowers, My Girls is stunningly beautiful and layered in Panda Bear’s signatory reverb-drenched harmonies, erroneously attributed to the Beach Boys. Lyrically, it’s an affectingly earnest account of the responsibility of providing for family. The evident singalong qualities of the refrain create a strange feeling of intrusion into Panda’s ‘four walls and abode slats’, but the ability to get such basic, instinctive emotions into a song this catchy without coming off as cheesy must be marvelled at.

Summertime Clothes recalls the lyrically-evocative Animal Collective of the days before Panda Bear was a significant songwriting influence, painting a picture of happy and na├»ve summer days over a seriously danceable pulse. But the next track proves exactly why it was a good idea to give Panda equal air-time. Daily Routine grows out of individual organ squeaks into an arpeggiator-based piece of everyday escapism that dissolves eventually into a slow repetition that’s almost shamanic in texture. Which then gives way to the golden melodies of Bluish. Which then give way to… you get the picture.

It doesn’t let up. The album closes with Brother Sport, tropical and trance-inducing in a way El Guincho could only dream of. After a mid-section of ever-building rhythms and a screaming Avey Tare, the tumult reaches saturation point. The clouds part and a new day dawns. With one of the most smile-inducing melodies you will ever hear, Animal Collective give you two minutes to dance and forget your troubles before the album finally ends. Merriweather Post Pavillion is an album that effects emotions in a very real way, pulling you headlong through nostalgia, hope and the forty shades of joy. I can’t think of another album that is as perfectly executed, as plain perfect as Merriweather Post Pavillion. I would be extremely surprised if this didn’t turn out to be the best album of the year. Or the decade. I’ll stop at that before I say something I might regret later.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Aye from every angle he was the very image of England's greatest playwright...

Last week this blog got the most traffic since I started it. This was, ostensibly, because I posted more often than I normally do. Maybe it also has something to do with the fact that the posts were short, had something of a point, and weren't about events that nobody had been to.

Don't get used to it.

Anyway, to celebrate, here is a YouTube video of my favourite comedy sketch of all time. When I saw this first, it hurt my stomach. I don't know why, it just did. It's from Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews' surrealist sketch show Big Train, and it's about Portaccio, the greatest ever Shakespeare impersonator.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

America of the South

I don't normally do this sort of post, but then I don't normally do the sort of post I did the last three times I've posted, and I'm in the wilds of exam stress at the moment so I'm going to DO IT ANYWAY

Because this band is incredible.

America del Sur formed somewhere in America some time in the last few years. Then they broke up. When they did exist, they made an album on tape and for free download on the internet.

It's a synthesis of Grizzly Bear-esque unusual chordliness, Of Montreal-sque many-chordfulness, Tapes 'n' Tapes-ish energy, Pavement-oid guitar meandering and...

It's just fantastic, put it that way. It's the great lost American record, better than everything but maybe five albums I've heard in the past year. And it's legitimately free. You need to hear this.

America del Sur - America Del Sur (Rack and Ruin Records, 2008)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Robbert Bobbert and the Bubble Machine

So you're an original founder of Elephant Six. You've got production credits on both Neutral Milk Hotel records as well as work with Olivia Tremor Control and Beulah. You've made enough great albums with The Apples In Stereo to have a good shot at the Indie Rock Hall Of Fame, and on top of that, your solo projects Marbles and ulysses weren't too bad either.

What do you do next?

Write music for children educating them about science, maths and ethics! Make it into a cartoon!

That's the career path for Robert Schneider, aka Robbert Bobbert from Robbert Bobbert and the Bubble Machine. It's unclear who the Bubble Machine is as yet, but the bookies have thrown up the names of the bubble machine from the Flaming Lips at 3/1 and the bubble machine who formerly worked with Dublin Duck Dispensary at 10/1.

It makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Apples In Stereo + a straight admission that you're writing for children = Robbert Bobbert and the Bubble Machine.

But then, when you hear some of the songs about science, like 'Gravity', you'll realise that certain AIS songs, like for example 'Energy'... are exactly the same.

Check this one out:

Or if you want sound quality, try MySpace.

So Cow In A Shed

  1. Television Personalities - This Angry Silence (And Don't The Kids Just Love It, Rough Trade, 1981)
  2. Kim Jung Mi - I Wanna Enjoy The Warm Spring Breeze (Now, World Psychedelia [Korea], 1973)
  3. The Who - Boris The Spider (A Quick One, Reaction, 1966)
  4. Fiddle Bambi - Banana Uyu (Bambi Rocks, Beatball [Korea], 2005)
  5. Annie Philippe - On M'a Toujours Dit (Ticket de Quai EP, Riviera [France], 1966)
  6. Big Monster Love - Little Bear's Song (Perils of Internet Dating EP, Abomination, 2006)
  7. Tracey Ullman - They Don't Know (You Broke My Heart In 17 Places, Motown, 1983)
I think they call that crate-digging. Except internet age crate digging.

That's right.


It's great, too.

Download it here