Archive for October, 2005

A comic after my own heart

Yes, it’s more gig etiquette, this time from Questionable Content in the strip entitled Number 16: You’re Ruining the Moment.

If you like that, you should also have a look at Diesel Sweeties which is also brilliant.

Posted by JustHipper on 31st October 2005 at 9:39 pm | comments (8)
File under Random comment.

Single Review: The Library Trust – Build Your Own Slow Globe EP [Static Caravan]

library trust
We went to the “launch” party for this EP at The Britons Protection back in July and now, after an unexplained three month delay, the record is finally in the shops on trusty old 7″ vinyl. The Library Trust is Lancastrian singer/songwriter Robert Edwards, a man who has realised that calling himself “Robert Edwards” would see himself lumped in with the current morass of male singer/songwriters by lazy journalists everywhere. The Library Trust is a very apt moniker if the quiet, introspective musing of his debut EP are anything to go by.

Opener “Eveline” clocks in at barely a minute but is a great introduction for the rest of the EP with Edwards’ fragile voice floating forlornly over a spare acoustic backing. “A Shove In The Mouth” builds from a simple acoustic strum, adding slide guitar, cello and a smattering of snare to produce an eerily intense backing to the EP’s stand out track.

Though “Harbour” and “Beyond Blue” on Side B offer no further surprises musically, it’s Edwards’ songwriting prowess that grabs the attention. The lyrical themes are familiar ones of unrequited love, loss and depression but there’s a refreshing simplicity in the melodies which draws you in and leaves you wanting more. The lo-fi production values – it sounds like a home recording with chairs creaking and all sorts in the background – lend the songs an intimacy akin to that of the Britons Protection gig: it’s like The Library Trust are playing in your front room. An excellent debut which gets better and better the more you listen to it.

Posted by The Ledge on 20th October 2005 at 11:51 pm | comments (0)
File under Reviews,Single Reviews.

Ever Get the Feeling You’ve Been Cheated?

Once upon a time, the way things worked was you’d hear a song on the radio that you liked. If you liked it enough you might go buy it as a single (and the single would have four tracks and cost about £1.99, but that’s another rant). Eventually, the band would release a second single. Again, you’d hear it on the radio, probably on John Peel’s show and you might even hear it done in a session. It’s also possible that you might manage to catch the band in question on tour, either their own or opening for someone else.

All of this activity, then, would lead to an album. And you’d go out and buy the album in the first couple of weeks after its release. You might even go see the band play live, this time definitely headlining. There might be a third, or even fourth single. You might buy them, you might not, depends on which tracks were released and what reviewers said about the b-sides. After 8 months or a year (or 18 months) the band would disappear back into the studio and start working on a second album.

Does that sound familiar?

Not anymore.

Yes, this week has seen the re-release of Bloc Party’s excellent debut album Silent Alarm. The re-release comes complete with two extra tracks not on the original release as well as a DVD. Yes, you heard it right. All those people who waited a year to buy the album have just been rewarded. For the same price you paid back before Bloc Party were playing large venues, the latecomers have been rewarded with two extra tracks and a DVD. To add insult to injury, fans who purchased the album before this travesty have been given the chance to purchase the DVD (yes that same DVD the noobs are getting for free) for £4.99. So, having spent hard earned cash to see Bloc Party when they were still in toilet venues, having bought the album on the first week of release and having told everyone I know to check them out, the band’s record label have rewarded me by allowing me to buy a DVD people who have contributed less to their bank accounts are getting for free.

Maybe it’s just me, but that doesn’t seem right.

Now far be it from me to come out as a full-on indie snob. I think Bloc Party are a fantastic band and the more people who discover this the better. Bloc Party deserve to be playing massive venues to huge acclaim. They’re interesting and intelligent and rather good songwriters. But I do feel a bit like the record label are biting the hands that feed them a bit.

Now, Bloc Party are not the only band to have done this. It’s really quite unfair that I’m poking them with my big stick. In recent memory bands who have pulled a similar nasty stunt include The Libertines, Elbow and Morrissey. At least with Moz the extra CD only had b-sides he’d already released so if you’d bought the singles, like most Moz fanatics, then you were ok.

In the other two cases, however, if you wanted the extra CD or DVD you needed to either buy the album a second time or at the very least shell out a few extra pounds for the extra CD or DVD.

The problem here, though, is that hardcore fans are likely to spend that extra money. So record labels know they can take advantage of that.

I remember about 15 years ago a band called James released an album called Goldmother. Subsequently they also released two singles that sold by the bucketload. You might have heard of them. One was called “Lose Control.” The other was a little-known ditty called “Sit Down.” Subsequently the band re-released Goldmother with a different tracklisting. They removed two songs, “Hang On” and “Crescendo,” and replaced them with the aforementioned singles. Fans were aghast. They complained in droves, so the record label allowed fans to exchange the original for the re-release, should they so desire.

Now, call me crazy but an album with a changed tracklisting, I’d buy both in order to have all four songs. But in the case of adding entirely extra discs to a package, why shouldn’t fans who can prove they’ve bought an album be given the extra disc for free as a thank you for their loyalty? Or even better, start a fan club, charge a nominal membership fee and send the fanclub the free disc. Then, instead of giving it out to latecomers, just drop the price of the CD by a couple of pounds into the mid-price range. Either way, fans won’t feel they’ve been screwed.

I’m sure this is going to fall on deaf ears because record labels know they’re onto a winner. People who might not have bought the album will because they feel they’re getting something for nothing. At the same time, the hardcore will go out and buy the package a second time. Result.

Personally, I think it’s time for the bands to stand up to this, take control of what is done with their songs and just say no.

Posted by JustHipper on 19th October 2005 at 9:21 pm | comments (8)
File under Random comment,Rant.

Gig-Goer of the Week, part 2

Yes Ledge, I do have something to say about the guy sat behind us at the Eels gig. Now, as Ledge pointed out, Eels gigs are a very special thing. They happen only rarely and usually Ledge manages to do something stupid which keeps us from getting tickets (“It won’t sell out, we’ll get tickets when we get back from our honeymoon dear….”) which means they are even rarer if for us than most people.

My guess is they’ve been playing SEATED gigs for a reason – they’re doing the songs acoustically, they want people to pay close attention to the instrumentation and the audience, for the most part, appreciated that and was sat in SILENT reverence. Except one guy. He was sat behind us, naturally. He was singing LOUDLY, not only all the words, but the instrumental bits as well. Yes, this jackass was singing along with the guitar parts. How big a dickhead does that make him? Plus, as he recognized each song at the start he kept screaming “Yeah! Alright!” and clapping really loudly and woo-woo-ing. Like, is EVERY Eels song his favourite?

Thing is, anyone who’s as into a band as this guy clearly wanted the entire audience to understand he was, would probably know that the band in question, for about three years, has tended to do a final encore AFTER the lights have gone up and half the audience has left. This fucktard bolted for the door the moment the lights came up. Idiot.

Now, it may be just me, but it would seem that if you’re the only person in an entire audience behaving like you’re behaving – be it moshing, singing loudly, whatever, you should perhaps take the time to consider whether, perhaps, your behavior is going to annoy, injure, or generally piss off those around you.

So another rule of the gig:

If nobody else is doing it, and if it will affect those around you – DON’T.

Posted by JustHipper on 15th October 2005 at 4:28 pm | comments (11)
File under Gig-goer of the Week,Random comment.

Gig Review: Eels, Manchester Apollo, 13th October 2005

eels pic

We missed the Eels gig at Bridgewater Hall on this very same, very long, “with Strings” tour back in May so were very relieved when this date was announced a few months ago. See, Eels live is a must: they do things different every tour so that it all sounds fresh, and now they’ve got an additional 33 songs in their canon thanks to the excellent Blinking Lights double album.

The set last night was the perfect mix of Blinking Lights material and older favourites. A breezy “Fresh Feeling” got things underway and was swiftly followed by an equally perky “Packing Blankets”. The band consisted of a double bass player (didn’t catch the guy’s name), multi-instrumentalist Chet on guitar, keyboards, pedal steel, drums etc., and four piece string section (though we could only see one of them thanks to our position close to the stage but at the end of a row). And of course, E, looking every bit the Victorian gentleman with suit, hat, cane and bushy black beard.

They fairly rattled through the set with the Blinking Lights material being as rapturously received as everything else. “From Which I Came/A Magic World” and “If You See Natalie” were particularly great and were well suited to the lush orchestration. The absense of regular drummer Butch, while probably lamented in some quarters, was a blessing in disguise as the other instruments were allowed the space to bring a new dimension to some of the songs. A warped version of “Flyswatter”, with Chet on saw duties, descended into a free form jazz improv session which then, thankfully, morphed into a bruising version of “Novocaine For The Soul”. The pace and the quality never dropped with E’s deadpan, witty asides, mostly directed at Chet, whose mother was in the audience, punctuating the setlist in all the right places.

The closing “Climbing To The Moon” was probably the highlight for me, though “I Like Birds” ran it pretty close. They returned for two encores which included the excellent “Hey Man (Now You’re Really Living)” and “Things The Grandchildren Should Know” and disappeared into the night. Now, us and the cool kids know that’s not true and in true Eels tradition they returned once more, a full ten minutes after the lights went up and with most of the audience already on the way home, to perform a cover of Prince’s “I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man” and an instrumental “Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues”. In their pyjamas.

So, a great gig. My only gripe would be the relatively poor sound quality of the Apollo. I can only imagine how great they must have sounded at the Bridgewater Hall back in May. Also, to the guy behind us: what’s with the singing along, mate. It wasn’t one of those gigs, it was a gig for hushed reverence and hearty applause. I can feel a JustHipper rant coming along.

Posted by The Ledge on 15th October 2005 at 2:06 am | comments (5)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.

Gig Review: Editors, Manchester Academy 1, September 28, 2005

So, about 10 months ago we saw the Editors at the Night & Day with at most 28 other people. At the time I thought they showed some real possibility and Ledge was only vaguely interested. So here we were, not a year later, filing into the Manchester Academy 1, the same venue where we’d seen such big-name acts as Doves, PJ Harvey, Suede, Interpol and Franz Ferdinand in recent years, only one step away from the Apollo. That is an incredible rise in such a short time, to be sure.

Before we could get on with the good stuff, we had to endure the requisite two opening acts. I’d dragged Ledge down early just to be certain that We Are Scientists were as lame as I thought they might be, and we ended up having to endure part of a set by The Cinematics. Basically, The Cinematics heard the Editors and though “I bet we can do that too” only to end up producing a bunch of songs that sound kind of like the headliner, only not as good, and in only one tempo. Half a set was enough, thank you very much. They can go away now. Forever. Really.

And then came We Are Scientists. Now this lot are being touted about the music press as the next best thing since The Strokes to come out of New York City. I think some music journalists must have gone deaf, dumb and blind. And by dumb I don’t mean mute. Ok, they have a couple of catchy tunes. But every single one of their catchy tunes sounds pretty much like either some second-rate Britpop act (think Menswe@r, think These Animal Men…) or one of their contemporaries (think Hot Hot Heat, The Killers, Kaiser Chiefs, Editors…). What I’m saying here is these guys wouldn’t know an original idea if it chopped their heads off. Plus they had really bad facial hair. And one of them had an afro. And he looked like the guy out of the 118 adverts. And they kept cracking really poor jokes. I didn’t like them and I liked the squealing teenage girls even less. I even had a little sigh of relief when they left. And I have yet to stop worrying that we’re about to be smack in the middle of a Britpop revival led by Americans who were probably about 10 years old when Suede released “The Drowners” and who think “Song 2” is what Blur have always sounded like.

Rant against We Are Scientists and their over-rated-ness finished it was time for the Editors. Singer Tom said that this was their biggest gig to date (I assume he means besides festivals, as the NME tent was packed at their Leeds Festival performance) and they certainly weren’t going to let the crowd down. They’ve only got one album and a handful of singles, so the set was pretty much what we’d come to expect. The highlights were “Camera” as always, “Munich,” “All Sparks ” and the brilliant “Fingers in the Factories.” One thing about Editors, as opposed to a lot of their contemporaries, and one of the things that marks them as a notch above a lot of the emerging guitar bands, is their ability to write and perform both stomping, noisy, angry songs like “Bullets” as well as to embrace the quiet tenderness of their ballads. It reveals a depth to their songwriting that they will hopefully be given time to explore.

Ledge commented on the way home that we seem to be attending a growing number of gigs by young British guitar bands, all with one album who have gone from touring tiny toilet venues to playing in front of massive crowds in just a few months. In the past couple of years it’s happened with Franz Ferdinand (first spotted opening for Interpol), Bloc Party (first spotted at Leeds Festival and then in the Night & Day), Kaiser Chiefs (Night & Day last December to the Apollo around now, not that we’ve seen them), The Futureheads, Libertines (opening for Morrissey and then headlining Brixton themselves shortly afterwards), ad infinitum. It used to be that bands would get a few albums to develop as songwriters and to build a following. Now if a band’s first single fails to create a buzz and the second single fails to chart it’s seen as a failure. What this means is a first album is often rushed, the band are subjected to a horrendous schedule of touring and the second album, rather than being created slowly, is rushed out and isn’t good. Ledge’s complaint is that with new bands these days, you get them touring the same songs over and over and over with no development for a year or 18 months at a time, rather than allowing them to get back into the studio to write new songs after 3 singles and an album. He certainly has a point.

Editors have some very strong songs and have released one of my favourite albums of the year. I have enjoyed them live, but while the size of the venues has grown, the band themselves seem to have been learning to cope with their newfound fame rather than working on developing their craft. This left me feeling that this was just another in a long line of great gigs that didn’t leave a hugely lasting impression because you get the feeling the band are being forced to deliver the same thing night after night. This isn’t me saying that the Editors themselves were uninspired or uninspiring; rather I have a sneaking suspicion that the delivery is probably some sort of recitation by now. Same songs, every night for months. This is a shortcoming in the way labels treat bands, not in the bands themselves.

In any case, it was a great gig. I expect more brilliant things from this band, I only hope the music industry gives them the time and the patience they need to become a truly amazing band.

Posted by JustHipper on 3rd October 2005 at 10:16 pm | comments (9)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.

Gig Review: Drowned in Sound 5th Birthday Party, Manchester Night & Day, October 2, 2005

Every year we tell ourselves we’re going to attend some of the In the City showcases, and every year we’re too busy. Seeing as we’d been to 3 (or 4, if you’re Ledge) gigs in a week, we only picked one day of shows. As the Night & Day tends to have pretty good bands, we figured we’d go for that. It wasn’t a bad choice, in the end.

I’d only heard of one band, Komakino, who were interesting enough at Leeds Festival to make me want to see them again. The rest were a mystery. We figured we’d skip the first couple of acts and get down a couple of hours after doors. Silly us. The music didn’t start until a couple of hours after doors. So we wandered in halfway through The Madelines. They are a pretty straightforward indie rock three piece who have some good tunes, but weren’t particularly original.

Next up came Action Plan, introduced by John Kennedy of XFM as one of the “next big things.” They played a particularly familar brand of noisy indie, somewhere in between rock and metal. It was unassuming, like the band themselves, and well-constructed I guess. It just didn’t excite me. The lead singer looked like a fat, scruffy version of Gaz Coombs as well.

Having looked at the lineup on the Drowned in Sound website, Ledge was very cynical about the next group, Folded Remediez who are a human beatbox duo from Manchester. It would seem they opened for Doves at the Apollo recently. I suppose we must have missed them. While I don’t think I’ll be rushing out to buy an album of 2 blokes making drum sounds with their mouths, it was interesting, and rather impressive, the range of sounds they create. The big finale involved inviting a singer all the way from Barcelona and a bassist on stage to recreate “Walk This Way” using just a vocalist, one instrument and 2 human beatboxes. If I hadn’t been watching it, I wouldn’t have noticed the lack of instruments. So, they are good at their craft. Expect them to start showing up soon as guests on loads of Hip Hop and Rap singles.

After the beatboxers came the first real gem of the day. Nephew looked very unassuming when they emerged onto the stage and proceeded to play a rather striking brand of folky, ballady pop complete with some lovely violins. It reminded me at times of both the Unebelievable Truth and Toad the Wet Sprocket. So it was sincere and poppy with undertones of folk and lots of acoustic drama. It was one of the more unusual sets of the day in that Nephew certainly seem to have their own style and while it’s not particularly trendy, it is definitely worth a closer listen.

We nearly left at this point to go get some food, but decided to hang around for Les Incompetents as Ledge had this idea they were a bit like Art Brut. I can see the comparisons as one of the 2 singers came across as a kind of hyperactive, less charismatic, desperately annoying version of Eddie Argos in shoes. They produced kind of wild pop songs with shouty vocals. I suspect that as we couldn’t understand a word of the lyrics we probably missed out on half the point. The annoying half of the singing twosome kept jumping off the stage, dragging loads of weird crap from under the tables into the crowd, including a vacuum cleaner, as the crowd backed further and further away. It was kind of funny. But in a sad, attention-seeking way.

I’m a bit sorry to say that we missed most of The Automatics, but got back into the venue in time to catch their last two songs. It was catchy and loud, much more I’m afraid I can’t say as we were too busy queuing at the bar. But I was tapping my foot along. Then it was time for the first band we’d been really interested in seeing, having played a track off their website earlier that morning. The Whip are a Mancunian band featuring an ex-member of Nylon Pylon who isn’t Stubbsy, also formerly of the Clint Boon Experience. They wear their roots on their sleeves as they don’t half sound like a New Order tribute act, with various songs sounding like “Ceremony,” “True Faith” and “Blue Monday.” They also at times sounded a bit like The Rapture and Depeche Mode. All of these things are pretty good in my book and their set was very entertaining with the songs being slightly repetitive lyrically but fairly memorable and very good for dancing.

Following The Whip came north-easterners Field Music who were kind of a slower, softer version of The Futureheads. Apparently they’ve been around long enough to have played In the City at a Liverpool venue, years ago. They were not very exciting live but they had a few decent songs, and Ledge seemed to enjoy them.

At this point I retired to the benches to rest my tired feet, in time to witness Redjetson who were far and away the highlight of the day. Falling somewhere between shoegazer and post-rock they created this luscious wall of guitar fuzz and noise and mesmerizing vocals. They only played 4 songs, which apparently was a truncated set, even though the songs all seemed to be around 8-10 minutes long. I was pretty much just lost somewhere in the middle of the effects and it was stupendous, even though I could only actually see one member of the band as there was a large pillar between me and the stage.

Local teen heroes Fear of Music came next and were what Action Plan wish they could be. With a singer that sounds a bit like Brian Molko, it was all sleazy metal-tinged rock and roll. Noise and riffs and some really impressive songwriting from what appeared to be a group of 15 year olds. Apparently they’ve been getting a bit of attention from the media and it’s pretty likely they will be one of the real finds of this year’s event.

Finally, after a stupid wait, came Komakino. I really wanted to like them because they named themselves after a Joy Division song. They put on a strong performance at Leeds Festival which made me think of Strangelove, Subcircus, Placebo and Muse at various moments. None of these bands are on my top ten list, but all do what they do very well. Unfortunately, I think I must have been delusional because all Komakino reminded me of this time was failed Manchester scenesters Marion. And they weren’t even as good. They were energetic and they had a clump of young girls squealing away for them, but alas, musically they were pretty uninspirational, just conjuring up the rockier side of the dregs of Britpop.

So, we slunk away before the encore, just as John Kennedy and some scruffy editor from Drowned in Sound began bleating into the microphone about being the saviours of indie rock and roll….

Posted by JustHipper on 3rd October 2005 at 9:43 pm | comments (10)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.

Gig Review: Spoon, Manchester Night & Day, 29th September 2005

amusement parks on fire picspoon picspoon picspoon river pic

Another night, another gig at the Night & Day. Opening last night’s festivities were Amusement Parks On Fire who were so good at the Leeds Festival a few weeks ago. They were almost as good last night but were hampered technical difficulties which saw their set disappointingly cut short. APOF deal in loud, blissful guitarscapes (wow, I made up a word) over which float Michael Feerick’s barely audible, er, ethereal vocals. Sure, it’s been done before back in the early nineties by the likes of MBV, Ride, Pale Saints and others but it’s good to have shoegazer back on the menu and this band are the best of the new breed.

I’ve downloaded a couple of Spoon tracks in the past and haven’t really been able to get into them but they seem wildly popular in the States and I was intrigued enough to check out their live show. Spoon play a very American brand of indie rock; the songs, bouyed by Britt Daniel’s chunky riffs, chug along merrily for around 3 minutes 27 seconds and then come to an end with the minimum amount of fuss. The formula rarely wavers but both “I Turn My Camera On” and “Sister Jack” sound rather lovely; these are the two Spoon tracks I’ve heard before. The rest is pleasant and listenable but nothing past these two songs really grabs the attention.

On this evidence I’m not sure it’s worth investing any further time, effort or money in Spoon.

Posted by The Ledge on 1st October 2005 at 5:46 pm | comments (8)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.

One Line CD Reviews: We Are Scientists, Richard Hawley, Clor, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Death Cab for Cutie, The Chalets

Welcome to the one-line (or so) CD review. These are just some of the albums and singles we’ve been inflicting upon ourselves recently.

We Are Scientists, With Love and Squalor – It’s the completely unnecessary bastard child of Hot Hot Heat, These Animal Men and Powder. Americans doing Britpop with noisier guitars. The world could exist quite happily without We Are Scientists. Best avoided.

Richard Hawley, Coles Corner – How lovely can one man be? This is Frank Sinatra meets alt.country as sung by a Yorkshireman. It’s like a big warm, fluffy blanket in the middle of winter. Nobody else does this and nobody else could.

Clor, Clor – Devo meets Gary Numan meets Wire meets Franz Ferdinand as interpreted by art students with a real feel for melody. It’s ace!

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – This is the sound of David Byrne fronting The Smiths. The melodies are so fabulous that the singer’s slightly trying voice doesn’t matter one bit. Buy this now!

Death Cab For Cutie, Plans – Death Cab sounding like themselves only even poppier. You can’t improve on a great formula, only throw some major label money into it to make it more radio friendly. I still don’t understand why people keep calling this emo. Yay for Death Cab!

The Chalets, “No Style” – This could be the Irish B-52’s without the nasal whine of Fred Schneider. It’s catchy, it’s upbeat, it’s clever, it’s got a great tune, some fantastic girlie harmonies and is simply three and a half minutes of pop perfection.

Posted by JustHipper on 1st October 2005 at 4:28 pm | comments (1)
File under CD Reviews,Reviews.

Gig Review: Battle, Manchester Night & Day, September 23, 2005

Battle on stage at the Night & Day I was very intrigued by Battle after seeing them at Leeds Festival. It was a strange performance in that the tent was mostly empty, it was the middle of the afternoon and although the band gave it their all, and I liked the songs, there wasn’t much atmosphere. So, Ledge and I were pleased when we discovered they were playing a proper gig in support of their new single, “Demons.”

I can’t say much about the support. I don’t remember what they were called and they didn’t sound good enough for me to care. The first band did have a hint of At The Drive-in about them, but not enough to be truly exciting. The second band had really stupid matching t-shirts proclaiming they were in the Limpets or something, except the singing drummer whose shirt said he was Stumpy or Stupid or something, and they were far too Britpop for my liking. I enjoyed Britpop the first time round. I have since moved on, however. Plus, a singing drummer? It can’t work. I give you Phil Collins as evidence.

Ahh but then there was Battle. For starters, big kudos to them for watching both opening bands, from the front of the audience and cheering wildly for them. And then there was their set. They sound a bit like the missing link between the Editors and Bloc Party, but there’s a real melodic side to what they do. A couple of songs, notably the guitars on the new single, really really made me think of ’80’s indie-goth such as Echo & the Bunnymen and the Chameleons. While they hint at the past, however, they have updated and modernised the sound and the result is emphatic and dynamic and a pleasure to hear and to see.

I’m very much at a loss about what else to say. I don’t know what most of the songs are called and I can’t find a website that can tell me. They’ve not been around long so there’s not much music out there yet but what has been released is hopefully a really good taste of brilliant things to come. I enjoyed the gig and Battle certainly seemed to mean what they were doing and to be a notch above many of their contemporaries with similar influences. So, hopefully their future is bright.

Posted by JustHipper on 1st October 2005 at 3:53 pm | comments (4)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.