Archive for July, 2005

DVD Review: James: Seven… The Live Concert

James were one of the first bands that I was every really passionate about. When I say that I love them, I mean it in the same sense that I love my parents or my cats. As they (by they I mean the record company) have finally released the Seven Live concert video on DVD I bought it, like the little James lemming that I am.

First of all, the first time I ever saw James play live was on the Seven tour. They hadn’t been to the U.S. before that. It was probably the gig that had the most influence on me. [Read On…] »

Posted by JustHipper on 31st July 2005 at 6:10 pm | comments (10)
File under Reviews.

Sony’s Payola Settlement

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has actually listened to their radio in the States that payola is alive and well. I mean, what else could explain the atrocious stuff coming out of the speakers? But, Sony has just been forced to pay a settlement of $10m for offering radio stations incentives to play such “brilliant” artists as Celine Dion, Duran Duran and Good Charlotte. The wonderful BoingBoing have put up a link to a document containing Sony’s memos on the subject. Or, you can just go straight to the 59-page .pdf file of the Sony payola memos themselves.

Posted by JustHipper on 28th July 2005 at 8:34 am | comments (3)
File under Random comment.

The Smiths to release a new single…

…and other stories at a genius spoof website of our national disgrace of a weekly music paper

Posted by The Ledge on 26th July 2005 at 10:20 pm | comments (2)
File under Random comment.

Gig Review: The Library Trust, Briton’s Protection, Manchester, July 23, 2005

We are, at the moment, seriously getting sucked into the big black hole of singer-songwriters. Pretty soon Ledge and I are going to grow our hair long, start wearing birkenstocks, wooley sweaters and begin debating whether or not the definitive version of “Hallelujah” is by Leonard Cohen or Jeff Buckley and whether Dylan destroyed his own reputation by going electric. It’s worrying me, to be quite frank.

Last night we went to see an up-and-coming Manchester artist by the name of Robert Edwards, a.k.a. The Library Trust. It was a launch party for his new EP, Build Your Own Snowglobe. [Read On…] »

Posted by JustHipper on 24th July 2005 at 2:36 pm | comments (4)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.

Gig Review: Catching up with REM in Sheffield and Manchester

REM‘s February gig at Sheffield Arena (reviewed here) was postponed due to the hospitalisation of Mike Mills and was rearranged for 15th June, just two days before we were due to see them again in Manchester. [Read On…] »

Posted by The Ledge on 21st July 2005 at 8:59 pm | comments (4)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.

Book Review: Frederic Beigbeder – Was 9.99, Now 6.99

The back cover of this book compares it to Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho and it wouldn’t be too far off. In fact, it’s kind of the bastard child of American Psycho and Naomi Klein’s No Logo. Beigbeder was a respected advertising executive when he wrote this fictional condemnation of his trade and of the materialistic culture of branding that it supports.

This novel tells the story of Octave, a successful, 33-year-old advertising executive earning a ridiculous amount of money for selling a lifestyle to the world for his clients. He has just dumped his girlfriend, who is carrying his child. He has a terrible cocaine habit, a very bad attitude and he has decided he wants to get himself fired. Of course, he doesn’t actually manage this, not even when he runs out of a meeting with his most important client with a massive nosebleed caused by his drug intake and uses the blood from his nose to write the word “pig” all over the walls of the client’s toilets and hallway. In fact, he gets a promotion instead. [Read On…] »

Posted by JustHipper on 21st July 2005 at 8:48 pm | comments (10)
File under Book Reviews,Reviews.

Get some Indie Cred

I’ve found this very simple guide to faking your indie cred at SoYouWanna.

I’m actually appalled that someone may have got wise to us.

It was never going to fool all of the people all of the time. Oh Well.

Posted by JustHipper on 18th July 2005 at 8:52 pm | comments (1)
File under Random comment.

Gig Review: Catching up on Art Brut, The Decemberists, The Futureheads, Smog, Television

There’s little more I can say about Art Brut at Manchester Academy 3 on 19th May 2005 that I didn’t already say in my previous review for their Roadhouse gig in February at The Ledge On The Edge. They still look (and sound) like they formed for a laugh, just to see what a band comprising a punk, goth, lumbering idiot savant, stockbroker and Ewan McGregor lookalike would end up like. And, against all odds, it works – if you don’t believe me then check out their excellent Bang Bang Rock And Roll album; hell, just listen to “Modern Art” for five days straight and try telling me that their existence is not justified.

Despite Eddie Argos being too ill for an encore, they played another blinding set which included particularly rousing versions of “Rusted Guns Of Milan” and “Moving to LA”. Lyrics were updated to keep things fresh: they’ve already written the song to make Israel and Palestine get along in “Formed A Band”, and in “Moving To LA” Eddie is drinking “sherry with Brian Ferry” instead of “Hennessy with Morrissey”. I bet he wishes he’d written that one before he recorded the album.

Eddie’s no-show for the encore prompted the roadie to cajole the crowd into singing the popular refrain of “Art Brut/Top Of The Pops” while the band flailed away at their instruments. Hopefully Art Brut can keep this momentum up and produce a second album to rival, or even better, their debut. However, when I think of Art Brut, I can’t help but think of Tiger, who, a decade ago, produced We Are Puppets, a rush of idiosynchratic punk pop not a million miles from Art Brut and an album of which I was rather enamoured at the time. Their second album Rosaria disappeared without a trace and couldn’t even find a place in my own CD collection. Fingers crossed that Argos and co. don’t go the same way.

Two nights later on 21st May 2005, JustHipper and I were in Toronto to see The Decemberists play a memorably theatrical performance at the Phoenix Theatre.

Kicking off with “The Infanta”, Colin Meloy and his merry band had the crowd in their thrall all the way through to the closing “The Mariner’s Revenge Song”, so much so that during a rousing “The Chimbley Sweep” Meloy persuaded the entire audience to sit down with a mere hand gesture, and then during “Mariner’s Revenge Song” got everyone to scream like little girls as guitarist Chris Funk, playing the role of the whale in the song, tried to eat us all. Scary stuff.

The Decemberists’ line-up has was augmented on this tour by the very welcome addition of Petra Haden on violin and vocals. She has a truly excellent voice and mesmerised the audience when she took lead duties in a faithful cover of Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights”. Hopefully she’ll become a permanent member, or at least stick around long enough to make it over to this side of the Atlantic when the band finally decide to tour over here again.

A week and a bit later we were in Atlanta to see The Futureheads at The Loft on 3rd June 2005. This was the second time we’d seen them in less than a month and was a better performance than at the Manchester Academy in May, mainly due to the absence of the legion of screaming girls that they seem to attract in Britain, and because there was a little less banter with the audience between songs to disrupt their flow.

Standout tracks on the night were “The City Is Here For You To Use”, “Stupid And Shallow” and the “Hounds Of Love” singalong. New track “Areas” failed to make much of an impression on second hearing. The gig was marred slightly by one idiot kid who, having already pissed most of the crowd off with his over-exhuberant moshing, found his way onto the stage and dived back into the throng. The waves parted and everyone watched, hoping that he’d land face first on the hardwood floor and do himself a serious injury. Alas, one person was unable to get out in time and took a mighty hit, breaking the idiot’s fall in the process. Barry Futurehead stopped the gig to make sure the guy who got hit was alright, pointing out that the stagediver wasn’t too clever landing on the hardest looking guy in the room (which he almost was). Unfortunately with all the attention on him the hard guy had to restrain himself from twatting the idiot and merely indicated that everything was alright, despite looking incredibly shaken up and pissed off. As the band recommenced the idiot was escorted from the venue by a leather jacket clad bouncer, hopefully to receive a good kicking outside. Not that I condone violence in any way, shape or form, of course.

Back in Blighty I went alone to see Smog at The Roadhouse, Manchester on 10th June 2005. Starting with “Say Valley Maker” they proceeded to play seven songs off the new A River Ain’t Too Much To Love album. For most bands such an opening gambit might lead to disgruntled murmurs and trips to the bar but such is the beauty of Bill Callahan’s latest offering that the crowd stayed hushed and reverent while Bill and his band, including The Dirty Three’s Jim White on drums, played with a quiet intensity. Bursts of wild applause and whoops of glee punctuated the songs with “The Well” going down particularly well.

The rest of the set was crammed with crowd-pleasers such as “Cold-Blooded Old Times”, “Bloodflow” and “Dress Sexy At My Funeral” as well as my personal Smog fave “River Guard”. The band played with an admirable restraint and Callahan was on top form, his deep, rich voice filling out the sparse arrangements. After 15 years and 12 or so albums, this is a man at the top of his game.

Television at Manchester Academy 2 on 23rd July 2005 was my first real chance to see the incredible guitar work of the legendary Tom Verlaine up close. I’d seen them at Glastonbury in 1992 but missed half the set after we turned up late on the Friday not knowing what time the festival started (we also missed The Breeders and The Blue Aeroplanes, the two other bands I really wanted to see that year).

Well, Tom was on fine form, in the guitar department at least, but his cohort Richard Lloyd was a revelation. I always thought that Lloyd did most of the donkey work while Verlaine did most of the intricate stuff but I couldn’t have been more wrong: Lloyd is every bit Verlaine’s equal. He got to do most of the soloing tonight (I suspect they swap the duties around a bit) and wowed the crowd with his speed and precision and relentless energy.

Much of the set I didn’t recognise, presumably new songs from a yet to be released album. They played a couple from their disappointing 1992 eponymous comeback but it was the Marquee Moon/Adventure material that the audience had come to hear. “Prove It” and “See No Evil” were pretty excellent but “Venus” stole the show. This song boasts one of the finest arrangements of a rock song known to man. I didn’t know where to look: do I watch Verlaine playing his superb arpeggiated chord progressions, or Lloyd and his effortless execution of the song’s brilliant descending main riff, not to mention Fred Smith and his anguine bassline, or even Billy Ficca, if only to wonder at how the drummer looks the same age as he did in the late Seventies while the rest of the band look very much in their fifties. It was easily the highlight of the evening but was still let down by Tom Verlaine’s vocals, which were a problem throughout the evening, the taut and edgy delivery of the original being replaced by a half-arsed whine buried deep in the mix. Verlaine has never been that good a singer but now he seems to have just given up trying. This is a minor quibble, however, as it was the duelling guitars of Verlaine and Lloyd that most people were there to hear, and, in that respect, no-one left disappointed. The main set ended with the inevitable, iconic “Marquee Moon”, ten minutes of undisputed guitar genius, and they finished off the encore with and excellent “Glory”, sadly the evening’s only offering from Adventure.

Posted by The Ledge on 17th July 2005 at 11:27 pm | comments (5)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.

Singer-songwriters – Does anyone really care?

I find the very idea of the “singer-songwriter” kind of offensive. As if the solo man/woman with a guitar/piano somehow has some sort of credibility beyond what other musicians may have. That by being a solo artist writing acoustic-y numbers they are somehow to be taken more seriously than bands, or solo rockers might be. Frankly, if you do a run down of singer-songwriters that are around right now – Tori Amos, Dido, James Blunt, David Grey, KT Tunstall – most of them are so boring, self-righteous or irritating that they make me want to chop off my own head.

Now, it’s funny, because the ones that disguise themselves with bands, artists like Mark Everett (or E), PJ Harvey, Nick Cave, Antony, Stephen Merritt, they are all, essentially, singer songwriters but somehow less offensive than the list in the first paragraph. Maybe because they don’t take on the hefty title to try and bestow themselves some type of undeserved gravitas. Or perhaps it’s because they’re capable of doing more than writing very self-aware lyrics with a bit of a pleasantly memorable guitar or piano riff behind them. They are the whole package – lyrics, vocals and very interesting music.

So, it was with a great deal of skepticism I’ve caved in this weekend and bought my first Rufus Wainwright CD, mainly because if was only £5 at Fopp. While I’ve not been blown away so far, I have only played it twice. Firstly, I was struck by how much he sounds like Thom Yorke. Secondly, I was struck by the fact that it doesn’t sound like David Grey and it wasn’t altogether unappealing. It’s not even his most recent, the one critics keep saying is so far his best. So maybe I’ve actually found someone (beyond Elliott Smith, of course) that won’t offend my sensibilities by being labelled a “singer-songwriter.”

Maybe, just this once, the critics have gotten it right for a change.

I’ll get back to you when I can give the CD a few more listens.

Posted by JustHipper on 17th July 2005 at 10:08 pm | comments (0)
File under Random comment.

CD Review: The Decemberists – Picaresque

I am seriously developing an unhealthy obsession with the Decemberists. It all started innocently enough about 8 months ago. Ledge suggested we go see them performing with the Unicorns at the Night & Day. I was certain I’d heard one or two of their songs and I was somehow convinced that they were another of those bands that want so desperately to be Will Oldham that Ledge loves. But the Unicorns were charming enough so I agreed to go.

Now, if you’re familiar with the Decemberists, you’ll know how mistaken I was, as I was delighted to discover. They are more a fusion of indie rock, English folk and Americana which they combine together to create some of the most captivating and unusual songs I’ve heard in a long time. The gig was, needless to say, marvellous, probably helped by singer Colin Meloy’s obvious obsession with Morrissey. So we immediately purchased both Castaways and Cutouts and Her Majesty the Decemberists and took them away for perusal. Apart from loading the latter onto my MP3 player I really didn’t think much more of it, having about a billion other things to which I could listen.

Several months down the line we booked a holiday to Toronto and were delighted to discover the Decemberists were playing while we were there. So we bought tickets. This was the point at which I realised that maybe I should start listening to their albums. That and Ledge had acquired a copy of the charming 5 Songs EP and a copy of Colin Meloy’s rather remarkable collection of Morrssey covers. All I could think was, “Why haven’t I been playing these albums non-stop since we bought them?”

Maybe it’s the wistful depictions of childhood, or Meloy’s odd obsession with Victoriana and sailors, or his perfect voice, but this band cover territory probably not traversed since Herman Mellville and Charles Dickens. Furthermore, they do it with such charm and ability to get you singing along that I find it absolutely impossible not to love them, and believe me, I did try at the start, just to be difficult.

And this all brings us to their most recent creation, the wonderfully vivid Picaresque. This album is all the best things about the Decemberists condensed into one small package. It has soaring tales of mismatched 19th century love-leading-to-suicide, revenge on the high seas, giant whales, failed teenage athletes, and cold war espionage. It has accordians, violins, horns and some of the best harmonies on earth. And, it has some of the most original and triumphant songwriting you’re ever likely to encounter.

Just to give an indcation of just how much Picaresque has won me over: I haven’t listened to anything but the Decemberists in about 5 days. I’ve been going to sleep with their songs running through my head and waking up with their songs in my head. Yesterday morning I was walking around the house humming “The Infanta” and when I put on my MP3 player it was already cued up. Normally this non-stop echo in my head would have me tearing my hair out but I’m enjoying it. If I could have the album permanently beamed into my cerebellum I’d probably do it (although I suspect I would eventually regret it). Bands this unique and this captivating come along only rarely and we should take advantage of their genius when they do. So, to heed my own advice, as soon as I post this, I’m on my way downstairs to slot Picaresque into the hi-fi and superglue the lid shut.

Now I’m not sure whether this can really be classed as a review, but it does consist of the more coherent parts of my thoughts on the Decemberists. If you’ve not heard them, you really should. If you have, then you won’t need convincing anyway.

Posted by JustHipper on 16th July 2005 at 3:25 pm | comments (11)
File under CD Reviews,Reviews.