Archive for November, 2005

Music Blog-lish?

The Observer has written an article about how music blogs have developed their own language to describe bands. It’s actually quite interesting, suggesting that we, as bloggers have the power to alter the English language by setting up our own distinct subculture.

They also reckon that we’re going to be the driving force in breaking new acts from now on, stuff like The Arcade Fire, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! and the Wolf Parade (who Ledge saw last night after reading about them on another blog).

Yay to bloggers!

And to the guy from the Village Voice who has now coined the terms “turbochoad” and “pre-market cum,” you may have just about managed to one-up the inventors of “fucktard” and “cuntingly hip.” Now if someone will just provide a definition for “turbochoad” I can start using it in conversation….

Posted by JustHipper on 27th November 2005 at 3:45 pm | comments (2)
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Gig Review: Forward Russia, Manchester Music Box, November 24, 2005

Forward RussiaI’d not been inside the Music Box since the first week I spent in Manchester over eight years ago so it was surprising when they suddenly decided to start putting on bands I’d heard of and actually wanted to see. Frankly, it’s a terrible venue so another 8 years wouldn’t be too long to go again, but if they can continue to get bands as good as iForward Russia! then I suppose we’ll have to tough it out like we do the Roadhouse.

The first band on call themselves the KBC and, much like the headliner, play angular, choppy, scratchy, lo-fi post-punk that’s a bit Joy Division, a bit Bloc Party and a bit Birthday Party. They were a lot less Birthday Party than either of the other two influences, however, unlike Forward Russia. They were certainly worth watching and while it wasn’t the most immediately original thing I’ve ever heard, I’d be interested in hearing a bit more.

Next up were The Tommys. Now the Tommys are a group of seventeen year old girls. The Tommys also have the distinction of being the most contrived thing I’ve ever seen in a live setting in my life. What they were doing sandwiched between the intensity and honesty of the KBC and Forward Russia is beyond me. Their manager must have friends in high places, as it were. Now to give a picture, as Ledge didn’t want to waste memory or battery on them, think Josie and the Pussycats (the movie), think the female Busted. Think four young girls dressed up in clothes from H&M to look semi-punk but then without a hair out of place, and Avril Lavigne-style perfect charcoal eyeshadow and powder and pink lipgloss. If they don’t have a manager, a stylist and someone making their songs sound like a teen movie soundtrack for them then I’m Simon Cowell. They didn’t look comfortable with themselves. They sounded like their songs had been polished with high sheen gloss and they appeared to have had their “moves” choreographed. Ugh.

Thank goodness then for the passion of Forward Russia! They are all sharp beats, angular guitars and screaming noisy intensity. Their songs don’t have names, only numbers. They’re up to 18. For anyone who’s keeping track, they did brilliant renditions of 18, 17, 16, 14, 4, 7, & 9. Possibly 12 and 13 as well, I lost track and I’m not that familiar with their material yet. This was a mission of discovery after hearing their session on XFM. It was all sweaty youngsters packed in tightly near the stage either staring with total reverence or jumping up and down dutifully. I was actually expecting a much wilder reaction, but mostly I think people simply couldn’t take their eyes off the band. It was a young crowd and maybe they’re used to seeing the blandness of bands like the Kaiser Chiefs. Maybe they were genuinely surprised at the ferocity of the performance. They must have been because I heard several girls in the toilet saying The Tommys were dead good. Either way, it’s always impressive to venture out to see something new and be rewarded with a lot of fiery energy to go with the tunes. They sound mysterious, angry and lo-fi on record. Live they were a fireball. Now I’m going to have to shell out a fortune to get the early singles off eBay. All for a good cause though.

Posted by JustHipper on 27th November 2005 at 2:08 am | comments (3)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.

Gig Review: Catching up with Richard Hawley, The Decemberists, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Richard HawleyWhat a week (or eight days) of lovely indie sweetness! We’ve been on a gig odyssey starting with the Wedding Present and ending with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! which should make any self-respecting female completely weak at the knees. I think the only way it could have been made any more delectable would have been to throw in a gig by The Shins, Morrissey or both.

We start on Monday, November 14th at the Manchester Academy 3 with the beautiful Richard Hawley. How one gnarled Yorkshireman can produce such heart-stoppingly gorgeous, country-tinged, Sinatra-esque lovliness I know not. But, after years of not bothering to catch one of his solo shows properly we decided that, despite New Order playing an “intimate” gig down the road, we’d happily opt for the crooning.

And wow!

Opening with the classic “The Nights are Cold” Hawley segued neatly into “Cole’s Corner” with a funny story about how that particular location in Sheffield and the act of shagging had produced him. As he ran through a setlist of warm lovliness, he surprised me by being talkative, friendly, quite funny and dealing very well with some of the most amusing hecklers I’ve experienced at a gig in a very long time. Upon being propositioned by a female member of the audience he said he thought now was the time to come out of the closet whereupon he was propositioned by a male member of the audience and was left somewhat dumbstruck. Entertaining banter aside, Hawley’s songs are like a big mug of hot chocolate when you’ve come in from the snow, or a big wooley jumper in sub-zero temperatures. They’re soothing, sentimental and induce feelings of safety and comfort.

Next up was The Decemberists the following night also at the Manchester Academy 3. I was so excited about this gig, wanting to get a better view than I had in Toronto The Decemberistsback in May. When the band came out, the bass wasn’t working so we were treated to some impromptu showtunes as requested by the audience including the theme from Phantom of the Opera, the them from the Sound of Music, the theme from Star Wars and an audience singalong to “You Are My Sunshine.”

It was all very entertaining and once they got around to playing their own songs, it was even better! They started with “The Infanta” and went straight into “July July.” Highlights included “Lesley Ann Levine,” a celebratory version of “The Sporting Life,” “The Engine Driver,” “Billy Liar” which was brilliant to hear as it was not included on the Toronto setlist and “We Both Go Down Together.” Hell, everything sounded great. The only thing really missing was “The Mariner’s Revenge Song” as we really wanted to see the prop we’d read about, but alas, it did not happen.

It was a great performance though, delivered with much gusto from the band and although we’d been hoping to hear the band’s cover of “Ask” we were pleasantly surprised by Colin’s solo rendition of “The Bandit Queen” which sounded fantastic. Hopefully it won’t be too long before they come round again.

Finally, rounding off the indie drool-fest (I’m not counting The White Stripes or The National in this as, well, they don’t make me drool) was Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! at Liverpool Academy 2 on November 21. Why Liverpool? Because we just had to go see The White Stripes the night Clap Your Hands were in Manchester. I suppose it was worth it just to discover that I really don’t care for the White Stripes. I thought I did but it’s actually just a few of their songs. Most of the rest of what they do is actually rather irritating. But never mind. Clap Your Hands are not the White Stripes, and that is a very good thing.

Clap Your Hands Say YeahLooking somewhat dishevelled and unassuming when they finally came on stage, having taken a break after setting up their own instruments, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! were not very talkative, but full of geeky charisma, pelting through song after song after song from their debut album to an enthusiastic crowd that had mostly bought their tickets based on hype alone. The set pretty much comprised of songs from the album, with stomping versions of my personal favourites “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth,” “Over And Over Again (Lost & Found)” and “Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood” but also included a couple of new songs. It all sounded louder and rockier, with the vocals mixed very low, perhaps deliberately.

Against a backdrop of 3 helium balloons they were surprisingly full of rock moves, bouncing about the stage, swapping instruments and being pretty genial. With the sweaty crowd packed in so closely I was half expecting to find myself sucked into a giant pit of bouncing bodies, which, surprisingly, didn’t happen, but it was only after the gig that I realised the album isn’t out here til January and we were probably two of a small number who actually knew more than one song. The crowd certainly seemed taken with the band though, everyone was smiling and there was a massive queue for t-shirts. I should also point out how friendly the crowd was, with special thanks to the tall girl who lost her prime position and view of the stage by virtue of being kind and letting tiny little me in front of her so I could see at which point she was swept back into the crowd by jostling teenagers.

On the whole, what a great week for gigs! Bring on round two!

Posted by JustHipper on 26th November 2005 at 5:52 pm | comments (2)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.

Gig Review: The White Stripes, Manchester Apollo, 17th November 2005

Since seeing their rather excellent performance at Glastonbury in June (on the telly, I might add) I had been very excited about seeing The White Stripes again, and for the first time in a non-festival setting. They didn’t disappoint; well, not me at least: JustHipper was rather less impressed, but that’s another story.

The opening sequence of songs was pretty electrifying with “Blue Orchid” blowing away any cobwebs anyone might have had and bona fide crowd-pleasers “Hotel Yorba”, “Jolene” and “Dead Leaves” whipping the crowd into a frenzy. Well, some of them at least. I was about 2/3rds of the way back and there was some definite head-nodding going on at this stage. Jack White, looking every bit like a Johnny Depp character in a future Tim Burton production, was an immense presence against the huge Garden of Eden backdrop and flitted from instrument to instrument with wild abandon as Meg gleefully pounded out her primitive rhythms. It’s amazing how two people can fill out such a big stage and produce such a huge sound. “I Smell A Rat” signalled the beginning of a run of lesser known songs and, back where I was standing, couldn’t you just tell. The level of chatter rose and rose as hundreds of people who had spent £32 per ticket chose to talk amongst themselves and ruin the momentum of the set for those of us who actually came to watch a gig. By the time the Stripes got to “We Are Going To Be Friends” they were all but drowned out by the din. Both this and “Ugly As I Seem” should have been special but were completely ruined by people with the attention span of a goldfish with alzheimers.

Thankfully with “Ball And Biscuit” these people were MADE to take notice such was its brilliance, and the following “The Nurse” with Jack playing some excellent marimbas was equally as good. “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” closed the main set and seemed more popular than anything with much of the crowd singing every word.

The encore was even better, with the fairweather fans finally realising that there wasn’t much time left to get their 32 quid’s worth so they’d better listen up. “Black Math” and “Hardest Button To Button” totally rocked while “Little Ghost”, the annoying bluegrass tune from Get Behind Me Satan was, well, annoying. Then came the set highlight for me in “Same Boy You’ve Always Known” which was followed by an exhuberent “Denial Twist”, the inevitable “Seven Nation Army” – dedicated to Liam Gallagher, though Jack’s attempt to mimic his accent sounded more like Alex Kapranos – and “Boll Weevil” which closed the epic two hour set in some style.

Posted by The Ledge on 25th November 2005 at 11:52 pm | comments (3)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.

Gig Review: The Wedding Present, Manchester Academy, 12th November 2005

I was gonna let JustHipper review this one as I’ve already reviewed the Weddoes twice this year and was expecting a fairly similar set to their excellent gig at Leeds Poly earlier this year. How wrong I was. For this tour Gedge and co. have boned up on a fresh bunch of old songs with only a couple from the recent Take Fountain album surviving the cull, so there’s no “My Favourite Dress” (boo!) and no “Kennedy” (yay!). They also seem to have ramped up the volume, or maybe that was our close proximity to the speaker stacks.

But first, a word about the support band Betamax Format. I’d downloaded a couple of tracks from their website earlier in the day and they were both disappointing sub-Add N to (X) garage synth instrumentals so I wasn’t particularly looking forward to them, especially after they had opened their set with a disappointing sub-Add N to (X) instrumental. The rest of the set, however, was rather excellent as the Irish four-piece raced through a succession of melodic, intense synth-rock numbers including one the lead singer described as an “ode to Tubeway Army” and which did indeed sound like an out-take from Replicas. And their closing sub-Add N to (X) instrumental sounded rather awesome.

The Wedding Present crashed straight into a super-charged “Corduroy”, blasted their way through “Suck”, and came out the other side with a yearning “Blue Eyes”. We barely had time to catch breath but the good-natured, predominantly grey-haired moshpit was lapping it up. The first big surprise was “Go Out And Get ‘Em Boy” which sounded better than ever and was followed by a manic run through “Don’t Talk, Just Kiss”. “Love Slave” was a disappointment but then it was always my least favourite of the 1992 singles and was followed by a show-stopping “A Million Miles” which more than made up for it.

It was all eardrum-ticklingly loud and the obligatory Cinerama cuts (“Apres-Ski” and “It’s Not You, It’s Me”) were beefed up appropriately to fit in withe the rest of the set. A welcome “Crushed” from Bizzaro was followed, improbably, by their cover of Julle Cruise’s “Falling” which, after an unpromising start, built to a devastating crescendo, with Gedge’s and Simon Cleave’s guitars meshing together to beautiful effect. Cleave’s guitar work was quite brilliant all night; he seems to have moved up a gear for this tour, or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention before.

The closing sequence of songs was as good as anything that went before. I hadn’t heard “Click Click” for years (my copy of Watusi having gone AWOL) but I was reminded that it is a stonewall Weddoes classic with Gedge’s and Terry de Castro’s vocals dovetailing beautifully at the end. An exhuberent “Brassneck” was followed by, praise be to God, a scintillating version of “Nobody’s Twisting Your Arm”. “Indie-tastic” as Gedge himself commented. They closed with “Heather”, which, like almost everything else tonight, was loud and brilliant.

Roll on the next tour and an all-new set list: “Octopussy”, “Anyone Can Make A Mistake”, “You Should Always Keep In Touch With Your Friends”, “It’s A Gas”, “Blonde”, “Silver Shorts”, “No”. Just a few suggestions there…

Posted by The Ledge on 13th November 2005 at 6:57 pm | comments (14)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.

Gig Review: Echo & the Bunnymen, Manchester Academy, October 27, 2005

Echo & the Bunnymen are one of those bands from my youth for whom no matter what they do or say, I will always harbour a soft spot. So, it was difficult enough at Leeds Festival to decide between the youthful Bloc Party and the beautiful Echo. Luckily the crowds made the decision for us and it was oh-so-worth-it. Worth it enough that Ledge and I decided we had to see them in their own right for the first time since 1997. In fact, the last time I was meant to see the Bunnymen, in 1998, Ledge ended up with my ticket because I had to fly to the States for a family emergency. So, it had been a while.

I wish I’d left it a longer while.

Now, I am fully aware that Ian McCulloch has his good days where he sounds beautiful, he’s happy, he sings the songs all the way through…. And there’s his bad days where he’s a little drunk and a little stroppy and he’d rather argue with the crowd and talk through the songs than sing them. I’d witnessed it once before at an Electrafixion gig. This was not, at least, as bad as all that. By bad I mean they didn’t finish a song because Mac was too busy arguing with the crowd, talking through songs and generally being unruly. At least they finished the songs.

I’m being unfair actually. The new material, off Siberia was pretty good. It was the first I’d heard most of it and I’m definitely considering buying the album now. “Bring on the Dancing Horses” was fantastic as was “Never Stop.” But the bastard decided to interrupt “Nothing Lasts Forever” with a monologue about Peter Crouch, he refused to sing “Killing Moon” while the crowd were singing along because apparently Mancunians can’t get the inflections right and we were ruining it (frankly I’d have rather heard him instead of the crowd, but the crowd were having a moment! Go with it!) and I don’t know what he was on about during “Villier’s Terrace” but I didn’t care.

It was annoying having three of my favourite Bunnymen tracks interrupted by a lead singer who wanted to moan at his audience, but, frankly, it is part of the Bunnymen experience and I do love Mac for his attitude (well, his voice and his songwriting more, but the attitude is entertaining). What was worse was the crowd. We were surrounded by people who, despite being 2/3 of the way to the front and in the presence of greatness, chose to talk from start to finish. “Killing Moon” – talked through it. “Back of Love” – talked through it. “Rescue” – talked through it. And “The Cutter” and “Lips Like Sugar” and even the gorgeous and moving “Ocean Rain.” I could have killed them all. I was wishing for a death ray to suddenly appear so I could smite the giant bastards. PEOPLE WHO TALK AT GIGS SHOULD BE TAKEN OUT BACK AND TORTURED TO DEATH!

So, on that note – Echo & the Bunnymen, they were ok, but could have been better. The crowd – die die die!!!

Posted by JustHipper on 8th November 2005 at 10:54 pm | comments (2)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.