Sunday, July 30, 2006


And what a fine record that is - one of the very few 7"s I own.

Anyway, issue #19 of Vanity Project is out now, featuring all manner of goodness (and a few reviews from yours truly). Inside this issue of the fanzine, you'll find (amongst other things):

Interviews: The Gasman, Zukanican

Album reviews: Scott Walker, Sebadoh, Mclusky, Robots In Disguise, TV Smith, Bardo Pond, Hefner, Boy Kill Boy, The Divine Comedy, Bearsuit, Magoo, Tender Trap, The Gasman

Single reviews: Ralfe Band, King Biscuit Time

Live reviews: Buck 65, Daniel Johnston, Robots In Disguise

Film reviews: 'The Devil And Daniel Johnston'

If you want to get yourself a copy free of charge - and let's face it, you do - take a trip to the Vanity Project website for details.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Loud is the new loud


That Newton knew a thing or two - and I'm not just talking about apples.

Take his Third Law, for instance: "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction". That would explain why, after spending time recently listening to a clutch of neglected indiepop bands (courtesy of Jonathan) and trying desperately to come to terms with Belle & Sebastian (courtesy of Mandy), I should find myself craving sheer volume.

Hence my turning to the post-hardcore of Yourcodenameis:milo and the gargantuan riffage of Japanese noiseniks Envy, and my desire to see 'Metal: A Headbanger's Journey'. And hence, too, my decision to spend a sweltering evening in the underground sweatbox that is the Barfly for a night of aural abuse.

First up are a local threepiece called Venus Elixir (though I could have sworn frontman Paul Van Der Kamp introduces them as "Wiener Schnitzel" halfway through the set - perhaps my ears are already going...). The majority of their songs sound like Placebo with a bee up their collective arse (no bad thing, either), but they're not especially tight and, to put it kindly, Van Der Kamp is not a great singer no matter how far you stretch your imagination. That said, the sound mix hardly does them any favours.

Far more impressive are Deguello. Taking their name from a 1979 ZZ Top album, they are perhaps the most unlikely-looking combination of musicians I've ever seen: a curly mop-haired bassist / vocalist sporting a Bad Brains T-shirt, a short incredibly enthusiastic drummer who - with his long hair, dodgy 'tache and skeleton print T-shirt - looks like a character from 'Heavy Metal Parking Lot', and a female guitarist whose presence would be remarkable enough (how many women do you know in stoner rock bands?!) even without her Topshop attire.

Whether or not they're a "drug experiment" (as one friend suggests), they rock - pure and simple. Winnebago Deal think enough of them to have produced them and brought them on tour (this being the last night), and for a while I'm wondering if it's a decision the headliners might rue. But there is something of a lull mid-set prior to the storming conclusion, so the threatened upstaging never quite happens. A close thing, though.

When another of my companions saw Winnebago Deal around this time last year, he was on a first date. Even better, she suggested it. As he put it, "I knew I was on to a winner"...

Last time I saw them, at Leeds 2003, they heralded the return of an awful hangover, and seeing them again now it's understandable. My ears are physically hurting after about twenty minutes of their hour-long set.

Playing to a disappointingly sparse crowd which includes a Gwar fan and all of Deguello, the two Bens rampage through track after track at breakneck pace. It's Motorhead meets Mudhoney, grunge kids discovering hard rock and playing it straight and fast and brutal without a hint of irony. It's not hard to see why they've recently been playing with ex Queens Of The Stone Age bassist Nick Oliveri in Mondo Generator.

As the set progresses, drummer Ben Thomas's T-shirt gradually changes from light to dark grey with sweat like one of those Global Technicolour T-shirts. I'm convinced they won't be able to maintain the intensity for the whole duration of the set, but they do. In there somewhere are 'With Friends Like These', recent single 'Spider Bite' and the title track from their latest LP Flight Of The Raven. The evening ends with a Black Flag cover - I'm assuming it's 'Revenge', as that closes the album. Deguello's bassist performs vocal duties with gusto in Oliveri's place, but not before lambasting us for being a "lame" crowd. All I can say in our defence is that just listening to this stuff is exhausting enough.

A note on the Winnebago Deal website about the recording of Flight Of The Raven says: "On the seventh twelve hour day of listening to brutally loud heavy guitars through studio speakers Jack Endino was seen holding his head, saying: 'It's punishing me....PLEASE MAKE IT STOP'". I know how you felt, Jack. My tinnitus is still with me nearly three full days later.

Back to the soothing sounds of Anathallo and Cat Power it is, then...

Jukebox jury

If you're not taking part in the belated annual Which Decade Is Top For Pops? feature on Troubled Diva, what on earth are you doing?

For details of what it's all about, click here. Then click here and scroll down, working your way through the numbers. You can still vote for each one - so no, there's no escaping Shayne Ward...

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

"Add another couple of strings and you confuse the guy"

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Take note.

"Weeks later—weeks during which I nearly die, become hideously deformed and then spend entire days crying like a baby—the wife and I are in the elevator in our apartment building when she opens the bill from our bat-shit crazy American insurance company.

"How much?" I giggle.

"$51,000," she snorts.

It might as well be 51 gazillion billion bazillion trillion. We both start laughing like hyenas on helium."

Every NME reader of a certain age remembers Steven Wells, or Swells as he was known then. Ranting, impassioned, hyperbolic, one of the best music journalists of his generation. Little did we know back then, him or me, that one day the NME would be a bland, uniform sack of shit punctuated by dazzlingly vapid and conservative writing, as it is now, and nor did we know that stuff like this happened. Well, maybe he did. I didn't.

Swells has been Unwell. Really really unwell. But he learned plenty along the way:

"No one ever "battles bravely against cancer." This is utter bullshit. You do your chemo, take your drugs and hang on for dear life.

Having a serious illness doesn't make you wise or nice or even remotely interesting. Trust me.

Humans are great. Except New Age types who suck, know fuck all and talk absolute bollocks—especially about cancer.

Oncologists are living gods.

My wife is the greatest human being who's ever lived."

A bloody brilliant article, and good to know he hasn't changed a bit.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

"you don't want to be defined while you feel you're evolving"

There's plenty of interest in the Sonic Youth interview in the latest issue of The Stool Pigeon, not least Kim Gordon's admission that she "hated" the V Festival last year - to which Thurston Moore protests: "But we got to hang out with Robert Plant! You don't get to hang out with Robert Plant every day"...

It wasn't until very recently that I discovered Jim O'Rourke, a full-time member of the band for Murray Street and Sonic Nurse, had left - the reason being that he relocated to Japan to study "film and language and culture studies". Apparently former Pavement and Free Kitten bassist Mark Ibold is going to be contributing both bass and guitar for their forthcoming American shows as a means of plugging the gap.

Naturally there's much talk of new LP Rather Ripped, which I still haven't got but which features like this just make me salivate even more. Moore claims it's heavily influenced by The Beatles, much to Gordon's surprise. "I've listened to The Beatles more in the last year than I ever have in my life", he says - not least because their daughter Coco loves them, and particularly Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band ("the most significant rock album in the history of rock!").

I'm guessing Rather Ripped still sounds like a Sonic Youth record though - as the article's author Natalie Moore begins by pointing out, it's always been the case with them that they are fascinated by both "high brow" art and "low brow" pop culture, and that both influences are absorbed, refracted and reflected while there remains at the core a sound that is distinctively and undeniably Sonic Youth.

Moore is often taken to task for his ceaseless gabbling about, and referencing of and endorsement of other bands (as well as artists and authors), but his response to the interviewer's point "You've always had a strong commitment to other bands and the underground music community" is that of a genuine fanboy who just happens to be in a hugely influential band:

"I don't ever see it as a commitment. For me, I just really like to see bands play. It's funny because I know most musicians don't so much. Sometimes I don't really have an interest in socialising or being in a situation with a lot of people, I just really like seeing a band. It's inspiring seeing what's going on withthe performance. I like to see how people actually PERFORM. Sometimes it's not even... I mean, it certainly is the music that draws me to a band, but sometimes I'm also drawn by personality or whatever is being physically presented on stage".

The interview concludes with Gordon's thoughts on a Gabriel Garcia Marquez quote, "In the end, it is impossible not to become what others think you are":

"I remember doing interviews years ago and somebody asking us what our record was like, or being kind of mad because somebody would describe or pigeonhole a song, or pigeonhole us in a certain way, but then, as time goes on, you kind of understand why they do that and why something becomes important or is analysed in a certain way. And you don't want to be defined while you feel you're evolving. But, at the same time, there is a point now where it is weird - you do get glimpses of, 'Well, maybe I AM that!'"

For someone like me on the other side of the fence from Gordon and Moore, it's really refreshing to hear someone in a band concede that pigeonholing is inevitable but also understandable and not always a negative thing. And at the same time I can appreciate that it must be frustrating to feel yourselves constrained by the labels those on the outside impose on you which you either don't think fit at all, or which don't fit any more because you've moved on. It sounds as though they've more or less stopped being concerned about the issue altogether.

Incidentally, this was the first issue of The Stool Pigeon that I've come across (in Fopp), and very impressive it is too: loads of good interview features including Arctic Monkeys, Mudhoney, TV On The Radio, Frank Black and Bobby Gillespie, plus news, a live section, comment and analysis and pages dedicated to other art forms. And all for nowt, too. If only they can resolve the issue of the serious quantity of ink it leaves on your fingers...

The end of the road

From the Sleater-Kinney site:

"After eleven years as a band, Sleater-Kinney have decided to go on indefinite hiatus. The upcoming summer shows will be our last. As of now, there are no plans for future tours or recordings.

We feel lucky to have had the support of many wonderful people over the years. We want to thank everyone who has worked with us, written kind words about us, performed with us, and inspired us.

But mostly we want to extend our gratitude to our amazing fans. You have been a part of our story from the beginning. We could not have made our music without your enthusiasm, passion, and loyalty. It is you who have made the entire journey worthwhile.

With love and thanks, Sleater-Kinney

And they were such rock 'n' roll fun too. We'll miss 'em.

(Thanks to Kenny for the link.)