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Archive for January, 2006

BOB MOULD – Glasgow ABC, 26-01-06

Posted: January 28th, 2006, by Alex McChesney

In the case of most gigs I go to, I do so because I’m genuinely interested or excited by the music. There are a handful of bands, however, whose shows I attend more out of a sense of duty than anything else. These are generally artists who were extremely important to me when I was much younger, but who don’t play locally too often. While I might not actually listen to their records much any more, it would seem wrong to let them pass through Glasgow without making an appearance, for old time’s sake.

Bob Mould is one such artist. I was too young to be into Husker Du (And no, I can’t be bothered scanning the character map for a “u” with umlauts. You may draw them in yourself, if you wish.) while they were still a going concern, but the brief NME-lead hyping of Mould’s subsequent outfit Sugar provided a gateway to his back-catalogue which, as an angsty teenager, I devoured keenly.

My tastes have moved on, as tastes tend to do, and I didn’t really bother with his last couple of solo albums, so I wasn’t expecting to know too much of the set last night. It was surprising, then, that it was largely made up of older material. Lots of old Huskers songs (“Hardly Getting Over It”, “Chartered Trips” and “Celebrated Summer” being particular highlights), and a large pile from the first few solo records and his Sugar output comprised the bulk of it. In the end I counted only two that I didn’t know, despite not having purchased a Bob Mould album in years. One has to wonder if this indicates a lack of confidence in his newer work, or simply an acceptance that his audience largely consists of aging Huskers fans. His recent electronic sideline warranted not even a mention, despite the fact that the format of this tour – just Bob on his own – might have been the perfect opportunity to bring both facets of his output together without having to dismiss a band from the stage when it came time to do some laptop-twiddling.

For nostalgists, then, this gig is about as perfect as could be expected without the Huskers getting back together and the associated freezing-over of hell. (Though a recent charity appearance with Grant Hart suggests that hatchets may have been buried in that area.) The songs, and Bob’s voice, have both aged well, and his performance is a pleasing reminder that he is a songwriter who can endow his lyrics with a rare sense of originality and honesty, even while allowing himself a relatively narrow thematic palette. It’s incredible how many songs the man can write about relationships going wrong, without sounding like a one-trick pony. But I can’t quite decide whether to be disappointed that someone who tried so hard in recent years to reinvent himself seems to be so dependant on his past in order to keep an audience, or to take it as a sign that he’s more at peace with his own history and be happy for him. It’s possible that this tour is just one step in a larger game-plan – a clever reclaiming of goodwill after a long absence. So while this was a night of retrospection, for the first time in years I’m curious about what Bob Mould will do next.

AT THE LAKE – These Days (Pop Fiction CD single)

Posted: January 23rd, 2006, by Simon Minter

The mainstream-ish independent plundering of eighties style continues apace; here come At The Lake with two extremely Bunnymenesque mini-epics of swooping, reverb-laden indie rock. I’m jaded by the constant reminders of music gone by than I hear in so many ‘new’ songs, so all I can genuinely muster about this is to say that it’s not bad. It pushes some buttons, venturing slightly into early Stone Roses territory in its guitar lines, but I’m struggling to hear anything new or truly dynamic at work. Of course, the Stone Roses weren’t entirely new and dynamic themselves, and maybe At The Lake are just in the wrong place at the wrong time – for this is perfect early-nineties indie disco music; fodder for grown-out fringe-bobbers and hands-behind-back swayers. The finesse and sheen that these two songs display is arresting enough to provide a pleasant diversion, but give it ten minutes and I doubt I’ll be humming them to myself.

Pop Fiction
At The Lake

Screaming Masterpiece

Posted: January 23rd, 2006, by Alex McChesney

About three-quarters of the way through “Screaming Masterpiece”, we are introduced to “Nilfisk”. They are a teenage punk band who practice in a garage and all live in a tiny, remote village on the south-coast of Iceland. (“There are only three girls in this town – and everyone’s been with them.”) After bumping into Dave Grohl, they landed their first ever gig – supporting the Foo Fighters.

It’s a great story, but like most of the film, it doesn’t do much to dispel the image of Icelanders as hardy eccentrics, clinging precariously to a mid-atlantic ice-cube, a situation that’s granted them an intense tenacity. The movie is full of shots of hot springs, helicopter flyovers of frozen tundra, single lonely buildings perched on icy cliffs, but never, for example, the streets of downtown Reykjavik. Repeatedly, the point is made that Icelandic musicians are inspired primarily by the dramatic environment in which they live, and by the nation’s long folk-song tradition. You can’t blame the filmmakers for trying to find a common thread with which to link the musicians that their film showcases, and I’m hardly qualified to suggest that these things don’t loom large in the Icelandic psyche. But beyond a brief mention of the 1970’s punk scene, many of the interviews in this documentary would have you believe that the Icelandic music scene is built upon glaciers and beardy folk-singers alone.

Happily, most of the interviews are kept fairly succinct, allowing the music to speak for itself. It does so more eloquently and interestingly than most of the musicians who channel it, and it should quickly become clear that environment and tradition are only part of the equation. Screaming Masterpiece’s strength is in the great diversity of music that it promotes, from the obvious “big hitters” like Björk and Sigur Ros playing to massive stadium audiences, to tiny inner-city clubs hosting hip-hop, electronica, death-metal and all points in-between, and if the aforementioned big names get a smigeon more time that could maybe have been better used to crowbar in one more lesser-known artist, then it’s hard to complain given the exposure that their success has given the scene. Indeed, Björk is one of the few interviewees who doesn’t play the “landscape” card and has something more interesting to say about Iceland’s artistic output and the search for a national identity in the years since they became independent.

But who cares, when Screaming Masterpiece does the bit that’s important – the music – so well. Each act is captured in a live setting, and their performances are afforded the same high production values whether they’re selling out shows in New York, or playing in a corner of a mate’s house. Worth seeing in a cinema with a decent sound system, or, if you’re at home, with the DVD plugged into the stereo and turned way up, it’s as much a mini all-Iceland music festival as a documentary, and well worth the ticket price whether you’re looking for horizon-expanding, or just some ace tunes.

DEADLOSS SUPERSTAR – Fear Stalks The City (In Tranquillo)

Posted: January 14th, 2006, by Marceline Smith

A blast from the past if ever there was one. Deadloss ‘Motherfuckin’ Superstar were one of Aberdeen’s top local bands back in the days when I lived there and responsible for all manner of rawk-related shenanigans. And these days they’ve even been joined by James and Neal from Aberdeen’s much-missed nu-metal Busted, TAR. All it really needs is a song entitled Fit like? and pictures of them hanging out in Drakes and I’d sink into some kind of nostalgic stupor. Anyway, unsurprisingly, this is RAWK with a capital GRR and I don’t read Kerrang! enough to make any meaningful references, but this kicks the ass of a lot of stuff that passes for popular rock music these days. There’s some howling impassioned vocals, lots of riffing and the sort of tunes that make The Kids throw themselves around in crazed abandon. All it needs now is a ridiculous video of them playing in a desert and they’ll really be on to something.

Deadloss Superstar

My A to Z of 2005

Posted: January 13th, 2006, by Chris Summerlin

(Each has a link enabling you to waste literally hours at work flicking through them all for your amusement)

A is for ASTRA, my new car. I was trying to work out why a family estate car would have completely blacked-out windows then I found out the previous owner was an ‘adult entertainer’. And there was me thinking the smell of cum in the car was coming from my trousers. I am trying to avoid searching the internet for dogging videos with the previous owners name in the credits – but it’s only a matter of time before curiosity gets the better of me.
B is for CHARLIE BROOKER and his book Screen Burn, a compilation of all his TV review columns for the Guardian. I write reviews infrequently because I simply run out of ways of expressing my raging anger and/or abject misery. Brooker doesn’t suffer such a problem. He is a master of description; example: baldy bad guy Ross Kemp’s tendency to nod to emphasise key lines is described by Brooker as looking “like a testicle bobbing in the bathtub”.
B is also for BILGE PUMP. It must stink to be an American touring band and look at your itinery and see you have Bilge opening for you. I wouldn’t even bother showing up. I love this band.
C is for CITY COUNCIL who I have managed to last a year as an employee of without being fired which, frankly, is amazing.
C is also for CHONG, an amusing term for a bifter, a doobie, a jazz cigarette etc.
D is for DAMN YOU’S 100TH GIG. Our little gig-putting-on collective was 100 gigs old in November and we celebrated in style with a huge show at Nottingham Trent University with Melt Banana topping the bill. I even got interviewed in Nottingham Evening Post. Made my Mum happy anyway.
D is also for, like, DUDE, a word that totally saw increased usage in 2005.
E is for the EARTH which I found out is hollow with a population living on the inside of the planet, drawn to a magnetic centre somewhere in the crust and illuminated by the molten core which operates as a second sun, held centrally in the hollow core by the equidistant gravitational pull from all sides. It’s true. It explains Heaven, religion, sea monsters, the Bermuda Triangle, Nazi UFOs, compass problems at Magnetic North or South, Atlantis and the Northern Lights. Ask me about it sometime.
F is for FAHEY BLOWS HIS NOSE, the outstanding track from this year’s Live John Fahey CD The Great Santa Barbara Oil Slick.
G is for GUITARS. It’s been a quiet year, I only bought the one guitar (a see-through Dan Armstrong like Greg Ginns) which I have subsequently sold because I couldn’t justify owning it. What’s happening to me? Am I getting sensible? I did find myself shopping for Stratocasters on Ebay and I borrowed a Gibson off a friend and though it sounded good. I am worried.
H is for THE HOLD STEADY. I am a chump for forgetting this from my albums of the year. A friend did me a CDR of their second album and what struck me as being a little too stadium rock and a little too cheesy and American to begin with quickly wormed its way to my heart and became the “CD most likely to be reached for”. I keep blathering on to Coogan about this and how much he’d like it and then we both found out that we once told the guitarist off like outraged parents for playing piano in our old house at five in the morning when he stayed with his old band. Oops.
I is for IAN SVENONIUS, who really likes this muuuu-sssssic.
J is for JAY: JAY HOWELL and NEGATRON, a wonderful book from the Sacramento-based artist. Includes the hits ‘Now, I Spank You’ and ‘Sheriff Horsey’s Got A Big One’. Available from Gringo.
To call Jay an American underground rock version of David Shrigley would be wrong. So I won’t. But if you look at his ‘This boner is sincere’ drawing in Punks Git Cut and don’t double over laughing with snot flying out of your face you have no sense of humour and no place in my life! And: JAY DEAN and OLLIE TOOGOOD at Dubrek Studios for their patience, humour and ideas in the recording studio which made what could have been a nightmare (recording an album) one of the most fun experiences of my life.
K is for KATHARINE ‘EVA’ BROWN
L is for LORDS SUPPORTING THE MAGIC BAND. A truly cosmic experience.
L is for LEO – both Ted and Chris. Ted for one of the most uplifting gigs of the year when he ruined his vocal chords and brought the house down at Sneinton School Hall and Chris for the better-late-than-never release of his first novel, White Pigeons and accompanying CD of the unreleased Lapse album which I think was my album of the year back in 2001.
M is for MEGADETH who simultaneously made me feel really young and really old at their Rock City show.
N is also for NOVEL, something I started writing and then got bored of. I need to motivate myself. The plot premise is a winner though. A supernatural story of suicide and scheming with an elasticated time frame.
N is also for NOTTINGHAM. 2005 was better than 2004 for me but in terms of how I feel about the city I live in; new depths have been excavated. I find I am increasingly busy and so the idea of over-analysis is not an option to me. Nottingham seems to have suddenly become packed out with people who over-analyse everything and I mean EVERYTHING. So the days of going out and having a good time are numbered. You might value the 3 hours on a Friday you’ve allocated to get hammered and forget about work etc and be with friends but you can bet someone will want to discuss the gig they saw in great detail or why Sub Pop isn’t a credible label anymore or why using an electric guitar tuning pedal is not ‘real’ or what the best Sonic Youth album is etc etc (all of those are genuine topics I’ve been party to heated discussions over). I blame art students and their complete lack of being able to grasp the difference between living conceptually and living to pay your rent. In 5 years they’ll have burnt out their creative urges by thinking about everything too much and I’ll be able to discuss my mortgage with them in Nationwide.
O is for OFFSPRING. Everyone is having them! Congratulations to Simon & Sarah, Chay & Jodie, Tom & Amy, Greg & Val.
P is for PROPERTY. I had a real pain-in-the-arse experience this year when I went to get a mortgage for the first time. Amazingly I managed to get one after much mathematics and bending rules only for my landlady to decide she didn’t want to sell after all. I was nearly a homeowner.
Q is for QUAGGA a recently extinct member of the horse family of Southern Africa. Q is also for QUADRIVIUM – a course consisting of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music. Q is also for QOTSA – get it together Homme, how hard is it?
R is for JOHN REIS who was a guitar revolution to me this year when I saw Hot Snakes play a couple of times. The man is a downstroke riff machine. A god of the chug and the klaaang.
S is for DAVID SHRIGLEY. I am smitten by this man’s work, thanks to Lady Lucky Chua bringing me up to speed with what’s hip in the art world. Or at least what was hip 2 years ago. Shrigley frequently makes me piss my pants only to burst into tears one page later.
S is also for THE STOOGES who blew my mind at their Don’t Look Back performance of Funhouse. So much so that S is also for THE SNEINTON STOOGES, the Xmas Stooges tribute band I was involved in. I got to pull rock poses, wear a Nazi cap and shades, play through 2 amp stacks and use a wah wah and it was allowed because it wasn’t me it was Ron Asheton! Brilliant. It was one of the most fun things I have done, I’ll post some pictures when I get them as the costume Gaz (Iggy) had on was unbelievable.
T is for THIN LIZZY, a band I’ve always liked but never loved – until 2005. Watching Lizzy Live & Dangerous on video you really get the sense that this is a band that, at their peak, were indestructible. It’s amazing to think Brian Robertson was 18 when he joined Lizzy. I guess it explains a lot in a way. The Jailbreak album will always lift my spirits no matter what mood I am in.
U is for UNWOUND who should get their fucking shit together and sort it out.
V is for VALVE AMPS. 2005 was the year of the amp blow-up. Over and over and over again.
W is for the WHISTLING MOUNTAIN BEAVER’S REGGAE LOCKDOWN, a true life event that should really have come from Curb Your Enthusiasm. My friend The Whistling Mountain Beaver had been harbouring concerns that she was living 10 years in the past. This manifested itself in lots of chance meetings with Britpop B-listers. She also hates Reggae. She rang me early one Saturday morning to inform me she had woken up in a strange flat following a large night out. After much detective work she realised she was at the abode of Skin, former lead singer of Skunk Anansie. This is hilarious enough but on top of that she couldn’t actually get home because she was in Notting Hill and the carnival was on. She was literally TRAPPED IN THE PAST BY REGGAE.
X is for XMAS – not bad for once, very relaxing, got to hang out with Ross, Kai and Kevin lots. Also my Mum got me the Harry Smith Anthology, my girlfriend got me a Don Van Vliet exhibition book and my Dad got me a camera – RESULT!
Y is for NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE and specifically Don’t Cry No Tears which is such a brilliant Sunday morning song whatever the weather. Like Lizzy, Neil Young has been something of a revelation this year – a rediscovery from my existing record collection. I recommend Zuma for the recently broken-hearted. Uncle Neil’ll sort you out.
Z is for ZZZZZZZZZ which is something I got about 6 hours of in 2005. Hallucination through sleep deprivation is an interesting experience. I thought I was being attacked by very small people. It’s almost been something of a competition this year to see who is most tired:
“How are you?”
“I’m just really tired”
etc. My New Year’s Resolution is to go to bed earlier. And stop wanking.
Actually, they’re kind of connected.

diskant’s end of year roundup, finally

Posted: January 12th, 2006, by Marceline Smith

Okay, the diskant top ten albums and films of the year articles are finally online. Every year I start things off earlier and every year we still manage not to get things online til mid-January when everyone is sick of end of year roundups. This year has been the most difficult yet – I almost ditched the albums poll at one point when there was so little agreement in the voting that we couldn’t even come up with ten that had 2 or more votes, not to mention the fact that zero of my picks had ended up in the top ten. Thankfully some late votes fixed this and the resulting articles are full of the usual enthusiasm and disdain from the diskant team. I hope you enjoy reading them and discover some new records to seek out. I’m certainly itching to hear more of them. Feel free to comment below.

As an extra bonus this year, you get to see exactly who voted for what as I’ve published everyone’s individual top tens.

If I get a chance I’ll post up some thoughts on why everyone else is wrong and my picks were actually the best ten records of the year but we’ll see. It’s probably more pressing that I dig into that pile of review CDs by my stereo.

WEST END GIRLS – Domino Dancing (Columbia)

Posted: January 11th, 2006, by Marceline Smith

I think I’ve found my favourite band of 2006 already. Is there any way this could be better? Two teenage Swedish girls covering Pet Shop Boys songs in an electropop style. Not only would the PSBs approve of this, it’s almost surprising they aren’t behind it. The styling is perfect – all very futurist industrial. The video for Domino Dancing has them wandering morosely through corridors sporting silver spraypainted hardhats and their press photos are all modern architecture, leather and dogs. So in concept it’s brilliant, in musical reality it’s even better – Pet Shop Boys crossed with Robyn and tATu. Domino Dancing itself is a very odd choice for a debut (their cover of West End Girls, also awesome, is out next), not being one of the PSB’s more well-known singles but I’d forgotten how good it is. There’s something heartbreaking and poignant about the young female heavily accented vocals replacing Neil Tennant’s English reserve, adding even more layers of ambiguity to the song. And the handclaps are the best thing I’ve heard so far this year. I cannot wait for the album (please have Heart on it, and I Want A Dog).

West End Girls

SENNEN – Widows (Hungry Audio CD)

Posted: January 10th, 2006, by Simon Minter

If diskant operated any kind of ratings system for its reviews, this album would get the five star treatment. For a debut, this is incredibly competent and confident music. It’s as if they’ve drawn up a list of the musical buttons to push in order to get me going, and worked out how to combine their effect into a 45-minute mini-epic which I’m fast becoming obsessed with: Spacemen 3; Stereolab; The Velvet Underground; The Workhouse; Slowdive; Galaxie 500. I’m not interested in any accusations of throwback shoegazing copyism which could be levelled at this album, its quality transcends any such shallow and lazy comparison. Over a relentlessly repetitive backdrop of monochord guitar mantras, Sennen build up textured and whirling melodic sounds which are constantly one step away from breaking free into beautifully chaotic noise. Some perfectly-pitched West-Coast-bliss lyrics top this off, resulting in timeless and affecting music. The depth and quality of each and every song on this album will, I hope, see Sennen propelled to the eager audience they deserve.

Hungry Audio
Sennen

THE ROCKER

Posted: January 6th, 2006, by Chris Summerlin

A little late but Jan 4th was the 20th anniversary of the death of Phil Lynott, a man worth remembering if ever there was one. Ever read John Lydon’s book “No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs”? Lydon felt hard done by because he ticked one of those boxes, imagine being black and Irish 30 years ago. Lydon threw his rattle out the pram, Lynott partied in the face of it. Cheers Phil!
Here is an unofficial page worth a peek.

NATE DENVER’S NECK – No one is coming to help you (Rock is Hell LP+10")

Posted: January 4th, 2006, by Simon Minter

Pointless review of the year, number one…

…because I doubt this release will still be available by the time you read this, being a limited edition of 33 copies! It’s a one-sided 12″ LP with a beautiful etching on the flip, along with a lathe-cut 10″, packaged inside a card envelope tied up with twine. You have to love those production values. And what of the music, you ask? Well, for the most part it’s inept death metal recorded, seemingly, on a very cheap four track, and for the rest of the time a combination of dumb low-fi hip-hop and out-there folk which makes Sentridoh seem like the pinnacle of recording finesse. Is it any good? Well, who knows. Maybe if you’re in the right mindset (that mindset being drunk, angry, alone and in need of some light relief). It does include the lyric ‘You’re gonna break your back / You’re gonna break your back / I hope you break your back / DIEEEEEEE’… which has to count for something.

Rock is Hell
Nate Denver’s Neck