Monday, October 31, 2005

record round-up

A quick round up of records which I haven't got round to talking about:

Field Music – Field Music
I've been really obsessing over the details in this lovely record since I bought it a month or so ago; it's perfectly executed, a gentle, pristine pop record with strong echoes of Steely Dan and XTC. Every song is a complicated gem, bursting with interesting melodies, impossibly sweet chord changes and the same geordie lilt that makes The Futureheads and Maximo Park so enticing. It's the kind of record which is so subtle and lovely you start to really worry for their future – Field Music are the kind of band who could slip under while less deserving band claim attention. This record proves they don't deserve to.

The Fall - Fall Heads Roll
Which is certainly the best Fall record in many years, possibly since the early 90s. For the first time in an age, Mark E. Smith's boys really sound like a band, and Smith's willingness to let some of his younger colleagues contribute songs which fearlessly deviate from the Fall sound (some are improbably melodic, although Smith's vocals are not) sounds positively revolutionary given that progression is not quite what one associates with Peel's fave band – Mark E. Smith did after all proclaim that the ethos of his band was the three 'R's – repetition, repetition and repetition. Here The Fall sound energetic, youthful even. 'Blindness', with it's savage churning bassline, really is up with the group's very best songs. 'What About Us', meanwhile, finds Smith aggrieved that, er, Harold Shipman wasn't a bit more generous when he was handing around the morphine – the chorus is a wondeful chant of "What about us, Shipman?". Only MES.

Rakes – Capture/Release
A surprising record this, because on first lesson it sounds kind of impressive, until you dig a little deeper and find there's nothing there. I picked this up the same day I got Art Brut's magnificent debut album, and it speaks volumes that I took this long to mention it. In fact, it's a record which, a couple of admittedly great songs aside, I've really come to dislike. It's odd, because 'Strasbourg', with it's bleak soundscape and (for once) interesting lyrics ("I'll meet you in West Germany / October 1983") and the super-immediate '22 Grand Job' are super. But the problem is, in affecting a comparable tone to that employed by Art Brut's Eddie Argos, (ie – snotty indie brats writing about their lives) Rakes completely fail where Art Brut suceed; they don't manage to be likeable. The lyrics are fatuous, unimaginative and absurdly sexist - what a bunch of dickheads. That, coupled with the suspicion that, having written a couple of great singles they didn't bother much with the rest, makes for a distinctly underwhelming debut. A shame.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

brakes live in brighton

Brakes, the band who bring together members of Brighton's Tenderfoot, Electric Soft Parade and British Sea Power, played one of the best live sets I've seen all year at the Concorde 2 earlier this week.

They were preceded by the odd and interesting Chris TT, who we unfortunately only caught a song and a half of, and only the half close enough to the stage to hear his witty, satirical lyrics breaking through a pleasent if not groundbreaking Badly Drawn Boy / Elvis Costello-esque stew. The most memorable lyric being "No-one's got any good red songs anymore / and Billy Bragg has gone fishing in his 4x4". You suspect that Chris TT occasionally ends up rubbing people up the wrong way with his sarcasm, but on the evidence of a song and a half he might be worth looking into a little further.

I wasn't sure what to expect from Brakes; I'd heard roughly half their debut album and was impressed by bits and unsure about others. At times they seemed to veer slightly too far to the 'in-joke' category of indie rock. And yet they were really fine live, much better than I anticipated.

Like !!!, who played a riotous set at the Concorde a few months ago, or Maximo Park, who played a stunning, rousing version of 'Apply Some Pressure' on TOTP last week, Brakes are overflowing with enjoyment with their lot. Clearly pleased to be back in Brighton, they seemed instantly relaxed, inviting friends out on stage, tearing through the shorter numbers a couple of times, throwing in a couple of great cover versions, mucking about between songs and playing half a dozen numbers which clocked in at under two minutes. Several were under a minute.

One, the delightful 'Cheney' was under 8 seconds long. Lyrics in full: "Cheney, Cheney, Cheney, Cheney, Cheney, Cheney, Cheney, Cheney, Cheney. Don't be such a dick!".

There aren't all that many bands who can get away with playing a Jesus and Mary Chain song (albeit a lesser JAMC song - in this instance the still pretty lovely 'Sometimes Always') and trump it with several brighter, better songs. Brakes managed by balancing the short, punky tracks with surprising gorgeous, graceful - if no less enthusiastic - numbers, brimming with memorable, chugging guitar lines, exciting breaks and even melancholy country rock melodies. I was briefly transported to a pre-britpop time where British bands as often as not took their lead from American indie rock rather than home-grown heroes. There comes a time when even I tire of hearing another guitar record with a New Order bassline.

That said, when they played 'All Night Disco Party', which I hadn't heard before, me and Vic swiftly concluded it was another cover. "That's why it's so much better than the rest of the set". But it turns out we were wrong and it's their own song. It is indeed one of their best, recalling the early 80s punk-funk sound recently recycled by the likes of Radio 4, or late Graham Coxon era Blur when Graham would wilfully destroy live renditions of 'Girls and Boys' with blasts of feedback.

When they played their new single, Pixies/Roxy Music hybrid 'Ring a Ding Ding', Vic turned round and said 'this is such a joyful song'.

Go and see Brakes if you can; they're excellent - spirited, imaginitive and joyful.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll

Sunday saw the first installment of a new four part documentary series on BBC2 entitled 'Girls And Boys - Sex And British Pop', and rather good it was too.

Beginning in the 1950s with the advent of British rock 'n' rollers like Billy Fury and moving on to consider The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Jimmy Hendrix amongst others, the programme traced the way in which pop impacted upon culture (and particularly gender and sexuality) and vice versa.

There was much to enjoy, not least the odd assortment of talking heads - everyone from Cilla Black to Yoko Ono - and the original footage of gigs like The Stones' triumphant 1969 Hyde Park show, a few weeks before the nightmare of Altamont. It was fascinating to learn that the whole industry in Britain was set in motion by a few ambitious and flamboyant entrepreneurs with an eye for a pretty face (the music business consequently becoming one of the only spheres of life in which attitudes to homosexuality were more liberal), as it was to hear how the carefully construction and manipulation of stars' public images is not at all a new phenomenon.

What emerged was a sense of the profound radicalism of songs overtly about sex and of men having long hair and wearing make-up, a radicalism which has dissipated. By wearing dresses on stage in the early 1990s, Kurt Cobain and Nicky Wire weren't so much being radical as harking back to a time when such gestures were novel and had a much bigger impact.

Certainly the next three episodes promise much.

The broader theme of the series - how music influences society and culture, and vice versa - is one on which I've been focused of late, as I've made my way into 'England's Dreaming', Jon Savage's dense chronicle of The Sex Pistols and the British punk explosion. Malcolm McClaren actually appeared in 'Girls And Boys', and the night of the programme I read a section of the book in which Savage quotes McClaren enthusing about Billy Fury's manager Larry Parnes, in Savage's words "the most outrageous, flamboyant Rock 'n' Roll impresario of them all" and "the creator of what we today understand as the English music industry". Thus far, 'England's Dreaming' has been a gripping if occasionally bewildering read.

Sweet sixteen

Issue #16 of Skif's marvellous Vanity Project fanzine is out now, complete with very minor contributions from him and me. The cover star is cantankerous git Russell Crowe, and the issue packs its usual punch, featuring:

Interviews: Itamar Ziegler

Label profiles: Moshi Moshi

Album reviews: The Fiery Furnaces, Ian Brown, Deerhoof, Scout Niblett, Ween, The Rogers Sisters, The Young Gods, Bardo Pond, Oceansize, Architecture In Helskinki, Bearsuit, Red Letter Day

Single reviews: The White Stripes, The Decemberists, Stereolab, MIA, Cherubs, Aberfeldy, Battle, Helen Love, King Biscuit Time, Film School, This Et Al

Live reviews: Devendra Banhart, Laura Cantrell, Misty's Big Adventure, Luminescent Orchestrii

Head thisaway to read it all online or to find out how to procure yourself a paper copy.

On the subject of reviews, my thoughts on The Graham Parsnip Liquidiser Torture Think-Tank (Project)'s performance at the Flapper & Firkin earlier in the month are now up on the band's site. And that's not all. Following an exchange of emails with guitarist Kirk, I can now bring you an exclusive revelation: "I think Graham Parsnip is our collective drunk mind, although he is becoming more and more elusive and only really hard drinking reveals the blighter nowadays". Remember - you read it here first.

Feel good hits of the 25th October

1. 'Somewhere In Texas' - The Raveonettes
2. 'Vampire / Forest Fire' - The Arcade Fire
3. 'I'm Your Villain' - Franz Ferdinand
4. 'Freakin' Out' - Graham Coxon
5. 'Chinese Rocks' - Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers
6. 'Apply Some Pressure' - Maximo Park
7. 'The Good Ones' - The Kills
8. 'Scrabble' - The Graham Parsnip Liquidiser Torture Think-Tank (Project)
9. 'Race' - Tiger
10. 'Interstate 5' - The Wedding Present

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Won't soul music change / now that our souls have turned strange?

"Where's the paper bag that holds the liquor", David Berman asks as the first chords ring out on the Silver Jews' exceptional new album, Tanglewood Numbers, "Just in case I feel the need to puke".

It sounds like Berman, the man who once sang "In twenty seven years I've drunk fifty thousand beers / and they just wash against me like the sea against the pier" has spent the time since 2001's understated, surprising Bright Flight doing what we know he does best; drinking. Well, that and maintaining his reputation as America's best lyricist and one of her most under-appreciated song-writers. And erm, he tried to kill himself too, but didn't succeed, thank god.

"There is a place past the blues I never want to see again / Black planet, black freighter, black sea"

The beers continue to take their toll on Berman's voice; he's gruff, clipped and uncompromising here, often mixed low in the mix behind Steve Malkmus's astonishing guitar playing, which is revelatory after his absence on the Jews' last outing, where Berman, keen to break out of his bandmate's shadow, employed traditional country musicians to back him up. This time, with Malkmus and fellow Pavement travellers Stevie West and Bob Nastanovich back, as well as Will Oldham, the Jews return to the bustle and noise of American Water and make arguably the best Silver Jews record yet.

"Ain't ya heard the news? / Adam and Eve were Jews"

Benefiting from one of the best production jobs I've heard on a record in recent years (it really captures what I imagine the Jews would sound like if they ever played live, which they don't, apart from that one time that Berman and Malkmus showed up on stage, played a Grateful Dead cassette through the PA, and improvised on top of it), and a sterling contribution from new addition Cassie Berman - who takes over from SM on second vocal duties - the Silver Jews sound simultaneously frenzied, friendly, tired, and drunk. It's a record that makes you feel like a participant, and summons up an extraordinarily vivid mental picture.

"Where does an animal sleep when the ground is wet? / Cows in the ballroom, chickens in the farmer's corvette"

Like all Jews records, it's an album that works on two distinct levels. It's a record packed with mournful and beligerant melodies and beautiful sounds, perfect for a late night beer before bed beckons, and it's also, of course, a headphones record, preferably with a lyric sheet to hand, as Berman throws a predictably gorgeous set of words over his shoulder into the mellee.

A beautiful record the match of anything else you'll hear this year. Or next. Apparently this might be Berman's last record, but we'll have to hope that's not true. If it is, he's bowed out with a classic.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

simon schama: down with the kids

When I was a teenager and used to read Melody Maker religiously, I used to pretend that I has been asked to take part in 'Rebellious Jukebox', a weekly feature where a hip indie rock star of the day was asked to name and explain the twelve records that changed his or her life. This was before Oasis and it wasn't fashionable to listen to the Beatles and all that sixties rubbish, so there was rarely a record chosen which pre-dated 1970, and everyone seemed to pick the same records anyway (Big Star, MC5, Sonic Youth). I suppose the reason I wanted to be on it was because I felt, stupidly, that my taste in music and predisposition to journalistic cliche was incredibly ahead of my time and that, given the opportunity, I could pretty much nail that top twelve. Well, they never asked.

Ten to twelve years on, I no longer dream about this, as I no longer have the confidence that I would sound on-the-ball and hip. I'm pretty proud of discovering a couple of records my friends don't yet own, like that record by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, which I actually know next to nothing about, but I think I'm probably behind the times elsewhere.

So instead I dream of being asked to take part in the Observer Music Monthly's 'Record Doctor' feature, which is really fantastic. Typically, a music fan whose finger has slipped anxiously off the pulse is asked to describe his or her tastes and then 'prescribed' a selection of contemporary or classic records to restore their faith in music and slide that finger back on the button. I like this for two reasons: firstly it tells me about stuff I don't know about so is useful, and secondly, it reassures me that I'm not quite as out-of-touch as the usual participant. Fine.

Today's guest was Simon Schama, and I am humbled. Not only does he namedrop Lydia Lunch within seconds of giving his feedback, the article casually reveals that "The patient is known to be fond of young New York rockers Clap Your Hands Say Yeah". What!?!? How long has he known about them? Damn it.

OK, so where I imagined myself as riding the crest of that particular wave, it appears that the Nation's favourite middle-aged television historian is every bit as cool in me.

In fact, if you read the article, you'll see that he's far cooler...

We Are Scientists and we are New

i keep hearing about a New Band called We Are Scientists and I have decided that they are probably cool because they are American and Punk and like cats. After some Feverish Anticipation, I read, their debut album is about to be released. I allow myself a little excitement. I've not heard them yet, but they sound good.

And yet there is a nagging uncertainty somewhere at the back of my mind which I can't translate. I expect it's like that thing where you hear about a New Band called the Arctic Monkeys who are supposedly really great so you have high expectations, and then hear them and they're not that good at all. So you feel a bit cheated.

But I examine the doubt and no, it's not that. Perhaps it's that thing where you're told about a New Band are you instantly think.... No, it's not that either.

Oh, I know. It's that thing where you hear about a New Band and the feverish anticipation surrrounding their debut album and you think, hang on a minute, I've already got an album by this band, which I never got round to listening to. And furthermore, that album came out in 2002. So I dig back into iTunes and note that yes, I do indeed have an LP called Safety, Fun and Learning (In That Order) from a few years back. I give it a try.

It's quite good, but I expect that one of the reasons it's been airbrushed out of their history is because the new stuff sounds different, or maybe they're just pretending that they're not as old as they really are.

The album is slightly anxious new-wavey indie rock with a strong hint of Weezer, Idlewild and Blur but more acoustic guitars than you'd expect. I particularly like 'Human Technology Will Render You Obsolete' because it is a hilariously undisguised melding of Blur's 'Advert' (in the verses) and Nirvana's 'About A Girl' (for the chorus). You can happily sing either song over the top, which is what I do when I listen to it. And there's even a guitar solo that sounds a bit Pavementy, so they're obviously going for my vote.

Actually, I don't much like the album, but if anyone knows what they sound like now, please let me know.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

"Un, deux, trois, it's tractor love!"


So, The Graham Parsnip Liquidiser Torture Think-Tank (Project), a band who have been labelled "the thinking man's Chas and Dave". As you might have surmised, they're not entirely serious - part Cardiacs, part I, Ludicrous and part 'Monty Python'.

'Blackadder'-inspired opener 'The Baby-Eating Bishop Of Bath & Wells' sets the tone for a set heavy on material from their Bordering On Pretentious LP. We're treated to songs about the Rowley Regis earthquake ("3.2 on the Richter scale!"), eating fruit to raise one's sperm count, and "the dark art of Scrabble", the latter culminating in the repetition of the line "Let me put 'quizzical' on a triple word score" to the tune of Olivia Newton John's 'Let's Get Physical'.* The undoubted highlight, though, is 'Tractor Love', a tale of agricultural-based lust which, in its references to erections, suggests that the penile problems alluded to in other songs can be overcome given the right stimulus.

But who exactly IS the mysterious Graham Parsnip? Is it the pony-tailed shirtless drummer? Is it the guitarist who laughs his way through the set? Is it the vocalist, dressed as though fresh from a hard day at the bank and leaping around in the crowd pretending to be a trout? Is it the bassist / keyboardist, clad only in grey socks, Phil Collins T-shirt and enormous green underpants? Or is it none of them? And does it matter?

Another question to ponder: is it foolhardy to take potshots at a band called When Bears Attack, one of whose songs, er, bears the title 'Rock Critic In A Pool Of Blood'? Oh well... They're really not very good. In fact, they're an unmitigated mess, veering wildly from straightforward punk into ska and indie, swerving from the lugubriously personal to Graham Parsnip-esque daftness, without any semblance of individual identity. Redeeming features? Well, there are some neat horn touches, and the bespectacled vocalist gives it absolutely everything, channeling attention away from his mostly static band members and coming across like Nicholas Lyndhurst on PCP. Now there's an image for you.

I've been rueing the fact that (Hooker), Manchester's answer to Sleater-Kinney, had to pull out of their headlining slot, and unfortunately their replacements 51 Breaks offer precious little in the way of consolation. If I had to pinpoint three things that immediately inspire me to take a dislike to them, it would be the bassist's Kasabian T-shirt, the guitarist's John Squireisms and, most significantly, the vocalist / keyboardist's gratingly Americanised James Blunt impersonation. The set is bookended by uptempo Stone Roses style indie, but it's the tracks which occupy the middle portion that suggest they know which way the money lies - ponderous piano-led power ballads that Keane wouldn't kick out of bed. Fair play to them, though - they do it very effectively, and who am I to stick the boot in? I'm not really paying much attention anyway, being mostly preoccupied with thoughts of passionate trysts with farmyard machinery.

* Call me pedantic, but being a bit of a Scrabble buff myself I thought I should point out that the word 'quizzical' contains two 'z's, and therefore cannot be played in a game featuring only one 'z' tile...

Other reviews: Parallax View, Andy Pryke

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Things I Have Learned From / Noticed In A Three-Week Old Issue Of NME, Having Not Read It For Ages

About time I acquainted myself with what's down with The Kidz, I thought - and so it was to NME that I turned. Never mind that you could have got a better dissection of the issue on No Rock & Roll Fun three weeks ago...

1. A message from editor Conor McNicholas: "WELCOME TO YOUR NEW NME! You'll notice that NME looks different this week. That's because we've been making loads of improvements all the way through the mag". Forgive me for saying this, Conor, but don't you trot out that breathless froth every fucking week? Accompanying the message is a picture of Mr (or should that be Master?) McNicholas, looking as big-conked and gawky as ever.

2. Alex Kapranos has quite incredible teeth.

3. Ian Brown has stepped in to sponsor London non-league side Chiswick Homefields. And I imagine that every single member of the team, from 1 to 11, is a better singer than King Monkey.

4. The Futureheads and Bloc Party bassist Gordon Noakes are among those involved in a John Peel charity single, a cover of The Buzzcocks' 'Ever Fallen In Love'. The single's to be released on 21st November with all proceeds going to Amnesty International. Marvellous.

5. Irish band Red Organ Serpent Sound, now signed to Vertigo, have just released their debut single, the excruciatingly titled 'In Search Of Orgasmuz'. Having seen them play with The Fiery Furnaces and Sons & Daughters last year, I won't be buying it.

6. Kasabian's Serge Pizzorno on the band's hopes for their second LP: "We're just going to try and make that Stones / Floyd record that you can't deny is a great album, whether you like us or not". Well, by the sounds of it I'm likely to be able to deny it, Serge.

7. Rick Parfitt of Status Quo talks to Peter Robinson about the band's past: "It was all projectors in those days, and we'd project pornos onto the side of a white building. And we'd just lie there on the bed, collectively wanking. It didn't help when you were in your vinegar strokes if someone told you a joke. But that's all part of being mates in a rock band". I remember seeing Parfitt on BBC1's 'East Midlands Today' a couple of years back - he was being treated for Repetitive Strain Injury by Leicester City FC's physio. He claimed it was because of playing the same chords over and over again, but now I'm not so sure...

8. A guide to the free CD (the real reason I crossed the newsagent's palm with silver). The theme? "The soundtrack of your summer". The reason? "According to the results of our readers poll, 2005 really WAS the greatest summer ever for live music". Nice to see the magazine's continuing to encourage a startling lack of perspective. How many summers of live music have the majority of NME readers witnessed? Not many is my guess.

9. A band called The Arctic Monkeys seem to be the current can-do-no-wrong Next Big Thing. "There haven't been so many people trying to stuff into a tent at Reading since Foo Fighters in '95". I've never heard of 'em. Their contribution to the CD is 'Fake Tales Of San Francisco'. The merest whiff of Franz Ferdinand, but the almighty stink of The Kaiser Fucking Chiefs and their odious Britpop revivalism, plus a singer who sounds EXACTLY like Tony Wright of Terrorvision. It is rubbish. Rubbish name, too.

10. Ronnie Vanucci, drummer with "cover stars" The Killers, IS Johnny Knoxville.

11. The Killers' Brandon Flowers: "There are so many bands who write bullshit, and I don't know how they can play it every night without being embarrassed". Exhibit A, m'lud: 'Indie Rock 'N' Roll'.

12. Sweet relief - a pleasantly combative "interview" with Noodle of Gorillaz, whose cage is rattled entertainingly by Rob Fitzpatrick. At one stage she is goaded into declaring: "Gorillaz have never released anything musically, visually or in any other medium that has been anything less than superlative". I'd like to think there's an element of sarcasm in there...

13. A full page feature on Kanye West's declaration during the Hurricane Katrina telethon that "George Bush doesn't care about black people". No new quotes. Why not make it the main news item, rather than tucking it away deep in the magazine? Might it not be more worthy of inclusion there than, say, the massive picture of West with Franz Ferdinand behind the scenes on 'Friday Night With Jonathon Ross'?

14. Yet more slavvering over The Stone Roses and Spike Island. Yawn.

15. The new 'Help' album, 'Help: A Day In The Life', features new tracks by Radiohead, Maximo Park, Bloc Party, The Coral, The Magic Numbers and The Go! Team. Unfortunately, it also features Belle & Sebastian, Coldplay, Razorlight, Keane and The Kaiser Chiefs, the latter performing a cover of 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine'. For every swing a roundabout, eh? But then it's all for charidee - surely that can be the only reason for rating it a 10?

16. The new Ladytron LP Witching Hour makes Pete Cashmore want to have sex. A sweaty red-faced NME hack - what an unpleasant image.

17. "Tracks"? Of course, no "Singles" anymore. The Go! Team are acclaimed as "the most unabashedly fun band in Britain" - true enough. 'I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor' by The Arctic Monkeys - them again - pips 'Bottle Rocket' for the accolade of Track Of The Week. If it's anything like as bad as 'Fake Tales Of San Francisco' then that's a travesty. And they're signed to Domino?! What are they doing dirtying their hands with this sort of dross?

18. A new (to me) NME Classic Single Of The Week feature - 'The Weeping Song' by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, released in September 1990. "an, uh, audacious choice of 45 ... this is really an expensive folly considering the kind of people who will decide the fate of it on-air". 45s? The possibility of serious airplay for Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds? Very puzzling for the majority of readers, I imagine.

19. The Duke Spirit are the stars of another new feature, Pub NME, in which a band plays a couple of low-key pub gigs. They already had Club NME, you see, so this is really clever (even though it makes for a pretty damn dull feature). A biscuit to Mr McNicholas or whoever came up with it.

20. ... and we're into the live adverts. Oh look, Kim Gordon was obviously left feeling so dirty by Sonic Youth's appearance at the V Festival that she was intent on making amends by collaborating with Tony Oursler and Phil Morrison on a film called 'Perfect Partner' at the Barbican, live soundtrack supplied by her, bandmates Jim O'Rourke and Thurston Moore and others. Normal service is resumed, then.

21. The Recommender - another new feature, and one we like. This week, it's Paul Smith of Maximo Park telling us he's been listening to everything from Joanna Newsom to Broadcast via The Blue Nile, Scott Walker and John Cage. His main tip are Field Music, who have Futureheads / Maximo Park connections: "They've recently made a gorgeous debut album which is sort of like chamber pop with strings". Sounds very pleasant indeed. And he also 'fesses up to a love of Prefab Sprout's Swoon. Oh dear, it was all going so well.

Postscript: a Guardian interview with The Arctic Monkeys that Jonathan's already commented on. It seems the name was used by one of their dad's bands in the 1970s - that doesn't make it any better, though. Their Sheffield origins would explain the Terrorvision thing. Frontman Alex Turner on 'I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor': "It's a bit shit. The words are rubbish. I scraped the bottom of the barrel. It could be a big song, like. But I'd hate to be just known for that song because it's a bit ... crap". Well, why release it then?! Try harder not to be crap! And if we are going to suffer the misfortune of you sticking around for the foreseeable future, please try harder not to be this fucking dull and say-nothing in interviews.

Monday, October 10, 2005

blood on the wall: awesomer LP

With the slew of good albums from British bands in the last few months, it's been easy to underestimate less immediate releases from America. Awesomer by Blood On The Wall is the latest in a run of slightly odd, left-field American records which has caught my attention in 2005. Like Wilderness and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, both of whom released peculiar, wonderful records this year, BOTW recall early nineties indie-rock, specifically Sonic Youth and Pavement, yet cook up a slightly more aggressive stew by ignoring the early 80s post-punk sound which propelled those records in favour of the more crazed influence of Suicide, MC5 and Minor Threat.

Awesomer is a kind of schizophrenic record; Courtney's songs displaying a controlled black, drone-rock nonchalance while her brother Brad's revel in a loose, scuzzed up 90s tunefulness which is most obviously indebted to SY, Yo La Tengo and Scott Kannberg's delirious, foggy contributions to the Pavement canon. At times, like on opener 'Stoner Jam' or 'Right to Lite Tonight' they spin a sharp riff into a clattering groove; elsewhere, on 'Reunite On Ice' they spin out into more imaginative guitar work into something more substantial. On 'Mary Susan' they even have a go at a pop song, even it's just a new version of Kannberg's infinitely more marvellous 'Kennel District'.

There's nothing earth-shattering here, but it's a disorganised, slightly crazy record with some marvellous moments of noise - passionate, scruffy and fun. Recommended.

There are a few MP3s to try out over at Dodge's My Old Kentucky Blog, should you be tempted...

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Testing, testing, one, two, three

Welcome to The Art Of Noise, a new collaborative blog from Jonathan and Ben that's all about the music, maaaan.

To call what will appear here "new", however, is misleading. The idea (at least at first) is that we'll publish the music posts which appear on our personal blogs - Assistant and Silent Words Speak Loudest respectively - on The Art Of Noise too. There may be content "exclusive" to this site in the future, as there may well be additional contributors - but for the moment it's just the two of us gathering together what we've written elsewhere into a single blog.

Though our tastes overlap in some areas, you can expect some differences of opinion - but that's what makes life interesting and hopefully it might help generate some healthy comment box debate.

Finally, a brief word about music in this inaugural post. The new Franz Ferdinand LP really is rather good, isn't it?