diskant is an independent music community based in Glasgow, Scotland and we have a whole team of people from all over the UK and beyond writing about independent music and culture, from interviews with new and established bands and labels to record and fanzine reviews and articles on art, festivals and politics. There's over ten years of content here so dig in!

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Posted: May 22nd, 2007, by Mandy Williams

Directed by David Fincher, of Fight Club and Se7en fame, Zodiac documents the infamous unsolved crimes of the serial killer who plagued California in the late sixties and early seventies. With these credentials and the heavyweight casting it was obvious this film was going to be an interesting prospect.

Following a spate of brutal murders of couples in the Bay area, the attention-seeking culprit teases police and reporters with cryptic codes about his identity. Four men find the case of the Zodiac taking over their life: Robert Craysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a geeky cartoonist on The San Francisco Chronicle who, although not assigned to the investigation, becomes sidekick to Robert Downey Jr’s beleaguered crime reporter Paul Avery, to whom the killer sends his code. At the same time homicide detectives David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and William Armstrong (Anthony Edwards) are investigating the apparently unrelated murder of a taxi driver in San Francisco, when it becomes apparent that the murders are connected.

It’s an engaging performance by Gyllenhaal, in the role of the young man becoming steadily more obsessed with his quest for the truth. Ruffalo performs the part of a world-weary cop frustrated by the obstacles that get in his way to perfection. Downey Jr plays to type as the compelling drug-fuelled hack, whose life is threatened then heads on a downward spiral. The years go by, and although they all have their superstitions, the disparate characters get no further in their search for the elusive killer. No-one was ever charged with the murders, but Fincher makes his own conclusions. There is a scene where Craysmith finally manages to look the man he believes to be the killer in the eye.

The cinematography is excellent, whether it be the panoramic shots of San Francisco and the surrounding area or the brief but harrowing scenes of slaughter. It’s also a great period piece, bringing the frustration of the lack of technology scuppering the police investigation to life. It accurately evokes the terror that the community must have felt at the time. At two and three quarter hours, this meticulously-researched crime story could do with a bit of trimming. However, like a jigsaw Fincher painstakingly assembles the pieces of investigative journalism, composing a cryptic puzzle of a film that both grips and entertains.


Posted: May 16th, 2007, by Mandy Williams

I picked this CD up at a gig where Mendicant were supporting The Rumble Strips and I had managed to miss them. They say ‘Mendicant are a religious South London experience that will leave you begging for more…’

On listening, I found myself tending to agree. The nearest comparisons you can make to their sound is that it lies somewhere in the land of Beck near Mogwai. An experimental band of brothers and sisters who mix pop, old folk, rock and blues, aspiring to give an acoustic twist to urban music.

The ‘hick-hop’ of Pass That Whiskey is a steel banjo twanging danceable ditty. Next is the story of Lucio Conuela, with his steel toe high heels and silver rapier in his amber-handled cane. “I have seen and I have tasted all the things in store. I have seen and I have tasted and it left me wanting more,” Barnaby Cole and Simone Clark declare, over a plethora of skirmishing instruments played by cellist Jakob Kaye and a collaborative of varied musicians. The bluesy, brassy Butcher boy is more of the same eclectic unorthodox sound mix.

No three chord wonders these, but classicly trained multi-instrumentalists who have been playing music together for years. They employ guitars, banjos, violins, flute, cello, bass, organ and piano in their musical street fight. Mendicants are folks who rely exclusively on charity to survive. Help support their cause!


PETER AND THE WOLF – Storyteller (CD, Skinny Dog Records)

Posted: May 16th, 2007, by Mandy Williams

Liverpool acoustic folk trio Peter and the Wolf are comprised of a double bass player, a girl drummer and a lead singer. Their mini album Storyteller was recorded in singer Marc Sunderland’s bedroom studio.

The first thing you notice from the opening track Showdown are Sunderland’s distinctive, clear, Sting-like vocals. It’s a crisp sound that inflects up and down melodically through the songs. Drummer Donna Dosanjh populates the stop-start rhythms with her perfect percussion and ooh-ooh backing vocals.

Tommy is the tale of a space cadet who drew comets in his physics textbook. The victim of a social arrest, labelled as a broken misfit. Not much going for him you might think but Peter and the Wolf manage to make him sound appealing! In Mercy, the dual singers are accompanied by Hugo Harrison’s convivial double bass picking. Lover Scorned is a charming little torch song with a hand clapping backbeat. On Reason Sutherland declares “I don’t want a war with words or enemies. What gives you the right to speak out and slowly bring me to my knees?” Killing Time has a Feelin’ Groovy melody, backed by harmonica.

When you’re used to listening to murderous breaks and muffled lyrics, this piece of work is a real breath of fresh air. The carefully composed acoustic songs have a lovely retro feel; sort of Simon and Garfunkel meets the best of 10CC.

‘Storyteller’ couldn’t be more perfectly named. You feel you are thumbing through a child’s book, learning about quirky new characters. Musically, the bass and beats are always in perfect rhythm, they lull between fat blues and an intricate folk sound, both of which are quite irresistible. Who knows what we can expect from their full album – poetry akin to Difford and Tilbrook, with the intonation of Rufus Wainwright and the whispery offbeat loveliness of Elliot Smith, maybe? I hope so.

Peter And The Wolf
Skinny Dog Records

VATICAN DC – Make It Ride (CD, Red Flag Recording Co)

Posted: May 16th, 2007, by Mandy Williams

On starting to review this album, the name kept putting me off. I imagined some awful metal band, but when I eventually did ‘put the needle to the record’ I was pleasantly surprised. Don’t get me wrong, it is indeed hard-edged. Their sound is sort of rock mixed with electronic indie. A bit of Hard-Fi here, a touch of The Klaxons there and elements of the Kaisers, but mostly Kasabian, Kasabian and more Kasabian.

Tom Meighan could be on vocals on Wow, while Sparks is a more stripped-down sound. The incredibly catchy single Fountainhead boasts heavy Doctor Who riffs and soprano intoning, like Justin Hawkins at the end of every sentence. Keep on Cutting is like a goth rendition of a Buzzcocks song. She Takes Me Out is pure old style punk. It could be 1977: choppy riffs and simple lyrics. It’s likely to be a favourite with kids who haven’t heard the original material.

In contrast, Bugs starts off like something from Arcade Fire’s ‘Funeral’ before expanding into its own sound. It is by far my favourite track from the album, eschewing the heavy punk sound for layered melodies. “Flushed down the sewers of love, bugs caught in nets with spiders,” their singer spits. It’s anthemic and incredibly addictive.

The weakest song is the title track. The trite refrain “I don’t wanna live a back-seat life, gonna get a horse and make it ride,” is repeated annoyingly through the entire song which ends in distorted feedback. However, it has that stadium sound that will ensure it is a big hit…

Information has a bass-driven intro, then turns all electro with ooh-ooh lilts. By Danger to Myself and The End is the Beginning, Vatican DC are beginning to sound sure of themselves.

Vatican DC are hard to pin down. Their sound changes from song to song like they are trying to hedge their bets. Some tracks are potentially great; if they ditch some of the album fillers and develop their own style a bit more they could be onto a winner. Having toured with Bloc Party, The Rakes and The Kaiser Chiefs though, they shouldn’t have any trouble in getting to that next level. By the time you read this they could already be there.

Vatican DC
Red Flag Recording Co

DROPKICK – Turning Circles (CD, Taylored Records)

Posted: May 16th, 2007, by Mandy Williams

Turning Circles is the 5th album from Scottish four-piece Dropkick. Power-pop meets alt. Country with chiming, Byrds-esque guitars and harmonic vocals. They tell everyday tales of washing up, hairs growing from nipples, getting the bus to Aberdeen or falling asleep with the TV on.

Only For Yourself is a fabulous opener, lovely building melodies reminiscent of Teenage Fanclub. The hooky refrain is “Take a walk to clear your head, from hearing over what you said. Time would make you justify and if only for yourself you question why.” Give It Back has a rockier reverberating guitar resonance. It’s a “crash crash crashing sound.”

For me the stand out track is Avenues, a classic ballad. It possesses a beautiful acoustic guitar intro. “In the summertime people cut their hair and I don’t mind if I go to the chair,” their singer Roy W. Taylor intones in part Dunedin drawl, part mid-Western lilt. It builds while retaining the delicious melody. A thoroughly memorable tale of a city that warrants repeat playing immediately it’s finished.

In Rewind there is a melodic Here Comes the Sun harmony. To Get To You quite simply gets under your skin. The banjo twanging, rockier edged Lobster exhibits their comedic side. You have to love a band that manages to mention scampi and slippers in the same song!

In Wont be There and Wouldn’t Hurt To Wait low-key lilting harmonies are slipped in between the solid power pop riffs. Black book is a standout track from which comes the lyric “Why do you keep the black book with the hidden horrors and the hated of love life and level thinkers. The motherfuckers and the stinkers.” The closer Say Nothing features low key strumming that ascends in layers with a strong defining vocal.

The album lilts along beautifully, mellower tracks feeding their more powerful cousins. You never tire of Dropkick’s arrangements, Laurel Canyon loveliness. They produce an additional twist from somewhere just when you least expect it with their banjos and lap steels. They push the alt. country genre through the mangle, together with folksy quirkiness and amusing indie pop, to produce their own brand of Caledonian Californication.


ARMRUG – Girls, Etc (EP)

Posted: March 26th, 2007, by Mandy Williams

Like Art Brut’s horny baby brother, Armrug have burst onto the Preston gig scene. This Mancunian band are named after the singer Jamie’s hairy upper limb, and dub themselves indie-punk-disco-sex-rockers.

Now here’s the shocker: the currently unsigned trio have two guitarists and no bassist. You’d never know it; they make up for it with powerful riffs and frenetic drumming. The first track here ‘I Love You, Can I Go Down On You?’ revolves around the title’s repeated refrain. The owner of the armrug sounds like Graham Coxon as he performs his singalong terrace chant. “Hey you, come on it’s summer!” he rationalizes. What better chat up line could a girl ask for?

It’s a stabbing guitar that provides the foundation for ‘Meeting Up With Girls’. The chorus is all over the place, clapping, chanting and percussion that sounds like they got their mates round banging on dustbins and pans with wooden spoons. “Waiting for a girl, standing outside Boots, everyone around are rushing buying suits” is the short sharp shock lyricism you’d expect from The Rakes. Like Eddie Argos, Mr Armrug boasts “My voice is the greatest sound in the world, listen to it, I’ll sing it to you girl”. Orgasmic howls are backed with sharp guitar work that Wire wouldn’t have turned their noses up at.

The next track ‘Girls That Melt In Your Mouth’ mixes amusing phrasing like “why do hot girls seem to act so surly? Said this to her face maybe too early,” with the annoying “What a body what a body” refrain. Strangely, we are then treated to a rap section, somewhere between Parklife-Phil Daniels and John Cooper Clarke.

In the last track they rant “I guess I look good on the dance floor, ‘coz I sure cant play guitar”, mocking the haircut generation. You feel like you’ve been catapulted back Life on Mars-style to the ’70s. The laddish sexism does get a bit much after a while – you can literally feel the hormones racing through every song. Having said that, it exudes an erudite honesty by way of crisp clear vocals. Just don’t play it for your mum!


ROTATING LESLIE – Radio/Stop (7", Hand Made Rave)

Posted: March 26th, 2007, by Mandy Williams

Acid casualties, expelled from school, squatting and constantly dodging trouble: not the best recipe for success, you’d think. Move to a farmhouse in the countryside, form a band and channel that energy into constant gigging and you have a different prospect.

This wayward trio of schoolfriends are now Gary Crowley favourites and recently headlined the Isle of Wight Festival’s New Bands Stage. Hot on the heels of their infectious first single ‘Fire, Fire’, Rotating Leslie release double A-side ‘Radio’/’Stop’. Take The Rakes and set them to electro-pop, and you are beginning to get the picture. ‘Radio’ expounds sardonic art pop wit about being forced to “Talk for hours about pictures of flowers.” Gritty Buzzcocks-style pop song craftsmanship mixed with punk energy, there are hints of 80s metal in their hotchpotch of musical ingredients too. In ‘Stop’ it’s all jerky riffs, rapid-fire stops and starts, with wailing Larrikin Love junior vocals.

Britpopsters for the Skins generation, they have already supported The Paddingtons, Dogs, Queens of Noize and Goldie Lookin Chain. It’s a well trodden path, but one that seems to go down well. When they sing “playing our song on the radio, I hear it too much now,” you get a premonition of things to come.

Rotating Leslie

THE BUTTERFLIES OF LOVE – Orbit Around You/In a Blizzard in a Lighthouse (7", Fortuna Pop! Records)

Posted: March 26th, 2007, by Mandy Williams

Formed in 1998, underrated Connecticut rock/pop outfit Butterflies of Love continue the American singer-songwriter tradition with their hand firmly on the legacy of Pavement and The Silver Jews. Having suffered from difficult second album syndrome, this is their first single in three years.

Double A-side single ‘Orbit Around You’/’In A Blizzard In A Lighthouse’ is released on Fortuna Pop and is from their forthcoming collection of songs Famous Problems. ‘Orbit Around You’ features husky harmonies that stop just short of Tom Waits’ bourbon-soaked tones. They are buttressed with melodic backing vocals. Think Lou Reed intoning over pacy drivetime lo-fi guitar pop. ‘In A Blizzard In A Lighthouse’ possesses woozy swirling keyboards, giving it a more psychedelic, melancholic feel. The Velvet Underground meets Wilco. It’s introspective indie-rock that at times veers towards alt-country.

Personally and professionally, the songwriting team of Jeff and Daniel Green seem to be looking at the world through a more sardonic eye these days. The more you listen to these timeless tracks, the better they seem. Their laid-back charm ensures that they creep over you like a persistent ivy.

The Butterflies Of Love
Fortuna Pop! Records

THE ANSWERING MACHINE – Oklahoma/The Hold Up (CD single, High Voltage Sounds)

Posted: March 26th, 2007, by Mandy Williams

Someone told me last summer that this band were going to be as big as the Arctic Monkeys, just after I’d missed them at Cohesion Festival. Not much to live up to there then! Obviously I have taken an interest in the progress of the Manchester based trio ever since.

The Answering Machine are three ex students playing infectious pop songs that they wrote in their bedrooms. Formed just over a year ago, they now release their debut single ‘Oklahoma’/’The Hold Up’. ‘Oklahoma’ rattles along like a runaway train with bouncy basslines that interlace with catchy riffs. Their drum machine – nicknamed Mustapha Beat – gives the song a sharp dance edge. Fans of both bands, they succeed in sounding like a mini Strokes with the art-pop energy of the Shout Out Louds. When they sing “Oklahoma, she wont be your friend, she waits at the disco for her song to end,” it puts me in mind of The Sultans of Ping FC’s ‘Where’s me Jumper?’ “I keep on trying not to go harder, trying not to be smarter” is the catchy refrain.

In ‘The Hold Up’ they sound like a more upbeat version of The Longcut. Martin’s voice wails through Gemma’s insistent bass. It stops and starts, then ends abruptly. These succinct catchy little song tasters leave you wanting more. They mix up the appealing energy of The Wombats with the art-pop of Yeah Yeah Yeahs or The Long Blondes. An endearing, edgy debut from the Fallowfield freshers.

The Answering Machine
High Voltage Sounds