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Archive for October, 2005

BLOOD RED SHOES – EP (Jonson Family)

Posted: October 9th, 2005, by Marceline Smith

Girl/boy duos, is there anything better? Especially when they both sing, the boy’s drumming and the girl’s playing guitar. And the boy’s our own Stevipus. This is one of Steve’s new projects now that Cat on Form are sadly no more and my lord are they great proving that, really, drumming is just all about hitting stuff with enthusiasm. Blood Red Shoes take the violence and playground poetry of Huggy Bear and team it up with the interlacing duelling vocals of Sleater-Kinney to create basic, thrilling songs. With repeated statements of intent over jagged guitar, there’s no mistaking their aim. The taunts of “I hate you” in Don’t Always Say Yes are delivered with matter of fact bluntness and a glint in their eyes. Stamp it into black and red swirled vinyl and package it in screenprinted cardboard and it’s like riot girl never ended. Which it didn’t, not in our hearts.

Blood Red Shoes
Jonson Family

RACHEL STEVENS – I Said Never Again (But Here We Are) (Polydor)

Posted: October 9th, 2005, by Marceline Smith

1-2-3-4! I’m trying to remember the last time I bought a pop single. It’s probably not since they stopped releasing them on 7″ vinyl. CD singles have always seemed an enormous rip-off to me – horribly packaged and taking up way too much space in my collection for one song since the b-side is usually a dodgy remix or – woo – an instrumental version. However, the main reason for this purchase (well, apart from feelings of slsk guilt and some kind of wish to make Rachel Stevens not feel like a failure come Sunday evening) was the fact that the b-side is amazing and bizarrely has been left off the album. Waiting Game is co-written by Rachel Stevens herself and while it’s not the most innovative song ever recorded the “no, no, no-no-no-no” bit at least should win some kind of catchy pop award. With lyrics consisting of a stream of pop cliches and a bassline with the snap of elastic it harks back to those classic S/A/W album tracks, the ones maybe lacking that extra spark that makes a pop hit but still pressing all the right buttons. The a-side you must have heard, a drum-heavy Adam and the Ants style stomper glittered up and filled with enough gleeful energy, whoa-ohs and hey-eys to get anyone singing along. Just give in.

UM – Africa Is A Fridge (Strange Lights)

Posted: October 9th, 2005, by Marceline Smith

This is the sort of thing that sounds wrong whatever speed you play it at. And yet so, so right. These short songs delight me in their oddness and madness and cleverness. Holy Fire is my favourite, all sped-up banjo, tinny beats and droll vocals. At times Um is a Fisher Price Beck, Syd Barrett thrown blinking into the sunlight and Dawn of the Replicants trapped in their bedroom for a month with nothing but a box of toys and some sherbet. You can probably get a good enough idea of the brilliance herein from the list of lists on Um’s website which include ‘Things I’m A Bit Kinky About’ and ‘A List Of Businesses On Mill Road Who Wouldn’t Hide You From The Nazis’. On this evidence Um is almost a reason to visit Cambridge.

Um
Strange Lights

Go!

Posted: October 9th, 2005, by Alex McChesney

I went to see The Go! Team at the QMU last night. I was going to write a full review, but what can I say about how great The Go! Team are that hasn’t already been said, and better, by someone else? Suffice to say, they make me grin from ear-to-ear; quite an achievement at the best of times.

I do have to wonder, though, how much of their appeal is simply down to them knowing how to press my particular generation’s nostalgia buttons. Will they have the same effect on someone who wasn’t born in the seventies? Someone who didn’t grow up watching The Littlest Hobo and the A-Team? Who didn’t drink from a Sodastream? I suspect that it was an over-14’s night, based on the little yellow wristbands they were giving out at the door to anyone who was over 18 and declared that they would want to buy alcohol once inside, but I didn’t see too many people who looked more than a few years older or younger than me in the crowd.

Or am I thinking about it too much, and they’re just a good band with good tunes which just happen to be cannibalised from the pop-culture of my childhood? Is the fact that they make me feel like I’m eight years old just a happy but unessential accident?

I dunno. But I do know that I want “Everyone Is A V.I.P. To Someone” played at my funeral, just as my coffin is moving down the conveyor-belt towards the crematory flames. There won’t be a dry-eye in the house.

That, or the end-theme to “Taxi”.

RACHEL STEVENS – Come And Get It (Polydor)

Posted: October 7th, 2005, by Alasdair R

A thirst for adventure can be great thing. Sometimes a quest to try something new can push you into places and situations that you might never have expected. You can find yourself pulled towards the unknown and the familiar in unequal measures. Sometimes you find yourself where you least want to be, and savoring every moment despite yourself.

Finding yourself liking the new Rachel Stevens album can be like that, if you let it. I think I can pretty safely assume that the bulk of the diskant massive will be quick to dismiss the ice cool pop confectionary that is “Come And Get It” – to do so would be like standing up blind date that could have led to a love affair.

A small army of competing producers and writers have put together some of the best pop songs of the moment. Each aims to win you over with cool hooks, lines and electric melodies. This is not the MOR drivel of Atomic Kitten or the needless bleatings of Geri Haliwell, this is cutting edge electronic pop without a hint of the hyperactive desperation of Lisa Scott Lee.

Separation of singer from song writing means it is hard to describe this as Rachel Steven’s album. She has become a character in her own story, an at turns cynical and charming caricature of a modern pop star. The Rachel Stevens of ‘Come And Get It’ holds on to a fist full of broken promises and unfulfilled dreams but enjoys the uncertainty and intensity of trying to make them come good.

I’m not going to try and pretend that there are no cliched lyrics or deny that at times an over-reliance on the mixing desk can leave the listener cold. But then Stevens is not straining to be earnest and when compared to the emotional pornography of Coldplay and James Blunt, the very idea of a modern pop artist that is not trying to raw or ‘real’ is invigorating.

The sound of Rachel Stevens is not that of a heart breaking, it is of moving on and enjoying the adventure of modern life.

The Official Rachel Stevens

THE MAGIC NUMBERS / M. CRAFT / MISTY’S BIG ADVENTURE – Glasgow Barrowlands 5/10/05

Posted: October 6th, 2005, by Alex McChesney

Evil. Funny how attractive it is when you’re not the victim, at least in it’s more dramatic forms. Enough too keep the horror movie and serial killer book industries quite comfortably afloat, anyway. It’s even more potent still when it’s pretending to be its own polar opposite, though not hiding so well that we can’t spot it and pat ourselves on the back for being savvy enough to see through it, while still being affected by the contrast.

Misty’s Big Adventure have a song called “Evil.” (Look – the point! At last!) It’s introduced as being about GW Bush and his cronies. Ho-hum, so what? Bush is a cock, and it’s not like anyone really needs it pointing out any more. But what would otherwise be fairly inconsequential indie-pop tunes that can only snipe at easy targets they know everyone in the house will agree with (Because, yeah, discos are rubbish, aren’t they?) are saved by a vein of the black stuff which hints at something far nastier. Of course, the creepy Bez-as-satanic-clown character they have jumping about and beatboxing while covered in blue paint and rubber gloves might have something to do with that. (One has to wonder what a Top of the Pops appearance would be like, given the fuss over The Magic Numbers and the fact that they – shock! – have a few extra pounds on them.) But even taken on a purely musical basis, there’s something ever so slightly wrong about this band, but it’s this wrongness that makes them good.

But there is an evil that is any many ways worse than anything hinted at by Misty’s. “Big” evil – the sort that bombs civilians – tends swoop into your life and fuck it up in a sudden and devastating way. It’s awful, but at least it’s quick, and you are usually aware of it when it happens. Far more insidious are life’s many subtle, everyday evils – commercials for hair products, soul-crushing office jobs, ITV sitcoms – that slowly grind us down and leave us dull and soulless before we’ve even noticed. It gets under your skin and seeps out your pores and affects those around you as well. It’s this far more awful evil that seems to have gotten to M.Station. The usual sensitive white boys with guitars (and white girl with keyboard and xylophone, though they were so low in the mix it’s hard not to jump to the conclusion that she’s only in the band as eye-candy), the majority of their set had already faded from memory a few moments after they left the stage. Undoubtedly competent, but dreadfully dreadfully unexciting.

But of course everyone’s here for The Magic Numbers, and here they are with their happy songs about love and stuff. Woo! Yay! This is sunny pop music that it’s ok for indie kids to like. And that’s fine. They’re good at it. A reaffirmation of pop’s ecstatic and redemptive qualities. The crowd loved it. Drunk girls sang along at the top of their lungs. The forces of darkness were exorcised from the room. Hooray! Everyone was delighted, except possibly a few miserable old gits like me who have spent too much time sitting about listening to grim depressing music that we just don’t have the palette for something quite so sweet and innocent. But even if you spend every minute of the rest of your life listening to awful tuneless dirges made by beating the carcasses of dead dogs, you’re never immune to the power of a catchy hook. And you have to admit, The Numbers have one or two of those.

It could be argued that it’s only really in a live context that The Magic Numbers make sense. Their jolliness makes them seem like genuine children’s party entertainers, rather than sinister clowns, and as such they are exactly right for the depressingly interesting times in which we live.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a dead dog to mic-up.

The Magic Numbers
Music For Ears (Home of M.Craft)
Misty’s Big Adventure

RICKY – High Speed Silence (Beatcrazy)

Posted: October 5th, 2005, by Crayola

There’s a quote printed in BOLD on the press release that comes with this album.
The quote is this:

“I genuinely believe Ricky could be the new Oasis” – Pat Gilbert, MOJO Magazine.

A sentence like that fills me with dread.

There’s just nothing here.
It’s all half arsed string arrangements over Oasis-by-Alfie-by-Beatles-by-numbers songwriting.

Perhaps I just don’t understand.

DRAGON OR EMPEROR – 2 Songs (Demo)

Posted: October 5th, 2005, by Crayola

Dragon Or Emperor are a duo consisting of a couple of people out of Volcano The Bear.
There is absolutely NO similarity between the two.
Dragon Or Emperor are the East Midlands’ Lightning Bolt.
Drums, overdriven bass and vocals.
The drums are HUGE.
The bass is DIRTY.
The vocals are SLINKY.
But they’re not a Lightning Bolt covers band by a long stretch.
This is more Howling Wolf fronting the Oblivians.
Down and dirty blues really.
Certainly worth checking out.

FUCK-OFF MACHETE – If Gold Was Silver And Silver Was Gold (Highpoint Lowlife, HPLL016)

Posted: October 5th, 2005, by Crayola

It turns out this band already have an album out.
I guess you all know about it.
I’m behind the times.
Put it down to me being an old-timer.
“If gold was Silver…” is a 3 track EP and it ROCKS.
Granted it rocks in a slightly off-kilter 7/4 time kinda way, but then I like Dawson so what you gonna do?
FoM are ex-members of Ganger I’m told.
I’m particularly pleased that they’re ex-members as I was never much of a Ganger fan.
But I love this.
All sexy, slightly seedy sounding ‘little girl’ vocals. You know, 20% Polly Jean, 30% Bjork, 50% Polystyrene.
And the music jerks along underneath like a rather soiled but remarkably slinky big-toothed beastie.
The guitars are jagged, the bass is liquid and the drums are broken.
My kind of record.
I’m off to buy their album.

THE TELESCOPES / E.A.R / BOLOGNA PONY – Nottingham Social 2/10/05

Posted: October 5th, 2005, by Chris Summerlin

Nottingham’s Bologna Pony are interesting for 3 reasons:
1. They’re not bad
2. Their first record was their first practise which means they have evolved onstage over the course of the few gigs they have done and, as an audience member, watching a band evolve in front of you can be exciting
3. Their name throws up some eye opening shit if you type it into Google Image search.
Tonight the normally 2 piece Pony are 3 with the addition of drums and sometime accordion. The increase in quality is evident right off the bat. It isn’t so much that the drummer improves them, it was more that it seems to push them further towards what they rightfully are – a rock band – and so the guitar playing is more focused as a result and they seem to communicate slightly.
The only lull in the (long – for them) set is when the sound is stripped back to a single guitar in favour of some microphone feedback which only serves as some kind of reference to the type of band the Pony might want to be but aren’t. They don’t seem to know what they are or why they do it until it’s too late and their time is up. I don’t know if that’s a criticism.
But tonight when they let their uptightness go they are a thundering rock band. Imagine Sunn O))) without the schtick. Some people would say that’s the point of Sunn O))) but Bologna Pony seem to think otherwise, even if they haven’t worked it out yet.
Fuxa was supposed to play this evening but got involved in some government lockdown due to a lack of work visa, before being sent back to Detroit. Instead we get Sonic Boom doing his Experimental Audio Research solo work. I’ve seen him do it before and couldn’t immerse myself enough to dig it and I figure tonight will be no different, in the surroundings of The Social with me being very tired.
But it works. I think the reason is that he set up with his back to us so we could see what he was doing. If you’ve never seen EAR before then it’s worth saying here that Sonic uses oscillators and tone generating devices that are beyond my comprehension. On top of this add a circuit-bent Speak & Spell (actually a Speak & Maths I later found out) and what seems to be a reverb unit of some sort.
The reason I mention this is that when someone uses ‘magic boxes’ it throws up all kinds of complex questions about the validity of what they do and this can be applied to all 3 bands this evening. Is it ‘real’? How much involvement does the person have? I think this is because we analyse things that are musical on technical merit, even if we don’t mean to. There is still the question of spectacle in live performance – that is the spectacle of the virtuoso playing to the people and demonstrating a higher gift. So we don’t like people miming and sometimes the presence of ‘magic boxes’ makes things close to the mime.
Me? I just figure if it has human elements to it I don’t care if they’re miming or not.
Anyway, this relates to EAR, as by turning round you can see exactly what he is doing and rather than being fake because of the boxes seeming to play themselves it actually feels as if it were much more real somehow. I mean, drone music and music that uses tones as it’s basis is all about the ‘hang’ not the ‘attack’ so when guitars are used every effort is made to suppress that physical attack of a pick hitting a string and instead it concentrates on the point after that, the echo hanging in the air, the note left to linger. At that exact point, there is no human contact, it is the after effect of human contact you listen to.
So EAR is the purest form of this – it is just tones set up to oscillate against each other creating pulses and rhythms, it is the most direct drone, the most undiluted. It doesn’t matter that the visual side of things is non existent and you almost feel you need to move around when he plays, it’s just there and you get the feeling when the power is turned off the sounds are still there, trapped in the boxes until he lets them out next.
The Telescopes operate in the same field in that they work in the ‘hang’, although it’s tempered with the ‘attack’ more than with EAR. In fact they represent a half way house between the acts that open the evening. The type of pulses that subtly shift in and out of EAR’s set are used again but latched onto and built around until they become overpowering. The guitars linger for sure but at times it is at extremely loud volume.
The contrast between the 3 members gives it its vital human element. Steve appears wilder than the other 2 and constantly dissatisfied with the sounds being made, he seems itchy (and occasionally violent) in search of something he doesn’t have.
This contrasts perfectly with Jo, whose meditative guitar style adds a backbone to everything that happens around it and just shimmers throughout. Lorin exists somewhere between the 2 and it seems his activity defines the context that Steve and Jo are heard in. He batters bed springs, mics his projector, bows a bass in it’s stand and dances with a home made theramin. His role is that of the conductor, or better still – the translator.
It’d no doubt annoy them but in shaking free of the ‘shoegazing’ tag they have actually managed to condense the best parts of that genre into something new. I mentioned Sunn 0))) before and what their mission statement seems to be (condense metal into the rip of the power chord and the doom imagery) and it can be said to be the same here – except The Telescopes condense shoegazer music into a series of drifts, pulses, washes and fiery noise beats and clatters. They basically cut the chaff out of their own genre and in doing so now exist in this weird vacuum where old Telescopes fans are puzzled and people who might like what they do now wouldn’t necessarily think to seek out their music. Not that they care.
It’s worth pointing out that on the first night of the tour Lorin fell asleep at the wheel of the band car and ploughed into the central reservation of the M40 before executing several 360 degree spins and landing, with no lights, facing the oncoming traffic in a Ford Escort about 4 ft long and 2 ft wide. They all delighted in telling me how they thought they were going to die, how the doors to the car wouldn’t open and how they spent 2 hours wrapped in tin foil on the hard shoulder of the motorway. Steve was particularly impressed by the slow down calm of the car crashing itself. I think a recorded description of the event read by the band members needs to be played before each of their shows.
I reckon by accident (literally) The Telescopes may have found the perfect context for their music.