Archive for January, 2006

Gig Review: Secret Machines, Manchester Hop & Grape, 19th January 2006

Secret Machines, Manchester Hop & GrapeSo, our first gig proper of 2006 is a sell-out performance by Secret Machines at the Hop & Grape, with no support band, presumably because there was not enough room on the tiny stage to fit one in. The stage is crammed with gear. At the rear are amps and speakers and lights where a drumkit would usually be. The drumkit is stage left, directly in front of where we’re standing, and it looks huge at such close proximity. Stage right is a mountain of keyboards, leaving a small gap in the centre of the stage for the guitarist, who, thankfully, is skinny enough to fit in there.

The three members of Secret Machines produce a massive sound thanks to myriad effects on guitar and keyboards, and to their drummer, who pounds away on his kit, non-stop, for over an hour. It’s an impressive performance; we rarely get to see drummers this close up – they’re usually buried at the back behind fat bass players – but Josh Garza is a revelation, relentlessly propelling the songs along; pounding, pounding, pounding on his snare, bass drum and cymbals, never missing a beat. It’s exhausting just watching him. When he finally gets a rest during the opening of “You Are Chains” he looks shattered, gulps down deep breaths of warm air, sweat dripping from every pore, but waiting, wanting, to start up again with the pounding and the pummelling and the hammering.

It’s a good gig. I won’t go overboard on Secret Machines; I like their Now Here Is Nowhere album but I’d put it down as a solid debut, hoping that there’s better to come. The new songs they play tonight don’t sound like much of a departure on first listen, but then there’s a samey feel to most of what they play tonight as the venue is clearly too small to cope with their gargantuan sound and instead turns it all to mush. Relentless, pounding mush. With great drums. Their light show (they brought their own) is impressive, but at times overbearing, the huge strobes disorienting JustHipper to the point of dizzyness. Again, too big for this size of venue. As for the songs, well, they keep coming in pounding waves of noise, occasionally outstaying their welcome, but, more often than not, hitting their mark. Old favourites “Nowhere Again” and the closing “First Wave Intact” stand out from the crowd, but new single “Alone, Jealous & Stoned” fails to make any sort of impression, probably due to the murky sound and a lack of familiarity with the tune in question.

Fortunately they’ve booked the larger Academy 2 for their next visit to the city in April but I’ll have to hear more of the new record before convincing myself to splash out on a ticket.

Posted by The Ledge on 21st January 2006 at 12:34 am | comments (2)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.

Gig Review: ¡Forward, Russia!, Piccadilly Records, 15th January 2006

forward russiaNot really a gig as such, but our first taste of live music in 2006 was a short in-store performance by ¡Forward, Russia! at Manchester’s finest independent record shop to promote the new single “Twelve” which hits the shops tomorrow (Monday 16th Jan). The queue stretched round the corner by the time the shop doors were opened shortly before 1:00pm and upon entering we were invited to buy the new single a day early. A space had been cleared in the far corner of the shop for the band and the crowd gathered round in a polite, orderly manner with the minimum of jostling. It was a curious set up with the band employing the minimum amount of gear to get them through but they put in an admirable performance with lead singer Tom his usual manic self, a jittering ball of energy, while we in the crowd merely bobbed our heads in appreciation. Well, it was early Sunday afternoon. They played the excellent “Thirteen” followed by single “Twelve” and its b-side “Four” and rounded things off with JustHipper fave “Nine”. The sound was subdued to say the least with the vocals and drums overpowering the rather limp bass and guitar but still, it was an engaging performance which ended too early but left us in eager anticipation of their next proper gig in the city, over the road at the Night & Day on 15th February.

The first gig we saw in 2005 was a band called Editors, playing in front of about 30 people at the Night & Day. Editors now have an advert for their album on the telly! Hopefully it will become an Indie Credential tradition that the first band we see each year goes on to wild breakthrough success. ¡Forward, Russia! certainly have the potential.

Posted by The Ledge on 16th January 2006 at 12:11 am | comments (2)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.

DVD Review: Low in Europe

The Ledge and I have this appalling habit of buying music DVDs and then waiting months, if not years, to watch them. We have yet to watch the DVD of Morrissey’s first Manchester gig in 10 years. We have at least 2 REM DVDs, a couple of Pixies DVDs and a Death Cab for Cutie DVD all in the “To Be Watched” pile. I find I have to be in the right mood to watch live music on TV. Last night we finally both found ourselves in that mood and decided to watch the Low DVD Ledge bought last year.

Now, it started out promisingly enough, with the band talking about how the band were the opposite of the rock n’ roll lifestyle, how they just wanted to make music that shocked and challenged people. It was nice. Then a performance began. And then, abruptly, 2/3 of the way through the song, it stopped. And so it went. The interviews were interesting, especially as I’ve never read an interview with the band in my life. But, it seemed, for a music DVD there was very little music. Bits and pieces of the band on stage in Europe but without a single song being shown all the way through. Now, I realise this isn’t meant to be a DVD of the band performing but it’s bad enough watching any live performance on screen. It’s worse when you only get tasters.

Herein lies the whole problem with the concert DVD (or CD, for that matter). If you’ve seen a band live, you’re never, ever going to be able to enjoy them on screen in the same way. A live performance should be raw, visceral and interactive. Often shows are made or ruined as much by the reaction and behavior of the crowd as the quality of the performance given by the band. A live gig is about participating via sweat and shoving and singing and shouting and your eardrums throbbing. Watching a performance on your TV is about sitting back and witnessing. It’s incredibly sterile. It’s also when you notice all those little imperfections and mistakes. I find that when I love a band and I haven’t seen them live yet I can’t get enough bootlegs to satisfy me. The moment I’ve experienced that live show, I can’t bear to listen to the bootlegs anymore. It detracts from the experience because it distills it down into a brittle shell of what it actually should be. You crack it open and there’s no substance inside.

While ultimately I’ve never watched a live DVD that I’ve found particularly amazing, I’m sure we’ll continue to buy them, to maybe have the performances as a record of something that we experienced ourselves in a way, to remember the gigs after they’ve gone in the same way we take photos of them sometimes. But we’ll also probably continue to have an ever-expanding collection of those same DVDs that remain unwatched, or half-watched until some time in the distant future when the bands in question are only a memory that we miss so much that we’re willing to settle for second best.

Posted by JustHipper on 14th January 2006 at 3:06 pm | comments (4)
File under Reviews.

Morrissey in Manchester 2006!

The True-To-You website has the dates for Morrissey’s 4-night Manchester residency as:

  • 18 April…… SALFORD Lowry
  • 6 May….. MANCHESTER Apollo
  • 7 May….. MANCHESTER Opera House
  • 8 May….. MANCHESTER Bridgewater Hall

See you all there!!

Posted by JustHipper on 11th January 2006 at 12:46 am | comments (3)
File under News.

Hopes for 2006

As we’ve yet to attend our first gig of the new year or buy any new CDs (no, we’ve not bothered with the Strokes album for the time being), I suppose now is as good a time as any to reflect on the music I’m most looking forward to in the next 12 months.

So far there’s an impressive list of future releases. By far the ones that pique my interest the most are new offerings from current favourite The Shins, Morrissey‘s Ringleader of the Tormentors and the rumoured solo offering from Brett Anderson co-written with Fred Ball and possibly featuring an appearance by Richard Hawley. I’m also looking forward to hearing new releases from Belle & Sebastian, Neko Case, Calexico, The Dears, Jarvis Cocker and The Secret Machines. Not to mention the live CD/DVD from Eels. It should be a bumper year as these are only the ones I know about, and that from bands I already love.

Here at Indie Cred HQ we’re also already getting geared up for festival season. I know January (actually, December) seems a bit early, but a Shins-curated day at All Tomorrow’s Parties featuring in one afternoon not only The Shins, but also The Decemberists and The New Pornographers sounded like the best way to spend a day either of us could think of. We’ve never been to ATP before because we’ve never had friends willing (or, more to the point, able) to go with us so it would have been too pricey. Finally you can buy tickets in pairs and share a chalet with strangers. Daunting, perhaps, but so is sharing a field with loads of drunken teenagers prone to rioting and that always works out in the end too. Which brings us to Leeds Festival. I’d love to say this year that I spent a whole day in the New Bands tent. It probably won’t happen as there’s always too much going on across every stage, but it would be interesting. We’ll see.

We’ve also started ticket-buying for the next couple of months. I’m especially looking forward to seeing Nick Cave, Death Cab for Cutie, Calexico and Iron & Wine and Broken Social Scene. We’re also waiting in anticipation of Morrissey announcing that 4-night Manchester residency we’ve heard talk of as well as some proper tours from those bands releasing new albums. I’d love to see some more great up-and-coming bands and look forward to seeing more of the likes of Nephew and Forward Russia, amongst others.

Now is also that point where I can settle in with all the CDs I didn’t get to know very well last year. I’ve promised myself to give the proper time and attention to a number of CDs I liked on first listen but haven’t spent a lot of time with: Wolf Parade, Elbow, The National, Sufjan Stevens, Stars, Broken Social Scene, Iron & Wine, Calexico & Iron & Wine, Okkervil River and Andrew Bird. That’s already a long list and probably means I’ll be doing the same thing this time next year with 2006’s records. I’ve yet to acquire copies of the second Rogue Wave album and the most recent New Pornographers CD. Both were on my Christmas list but nobody saw fit to buy me any CDs this year. Not even The Ledge. Oh well.

I’ve also decided that it’s ridiculous that in our CD collection I can count on one hand the albums we own that were made prior to 1976 (unless you count Ledge’s impressive collection of Neil Young and Leonard Cohen CDs). My mission for 2006 is to start looking backwards a bit at some records that influenced the bands I love and try and improve my musical knowledge. So far we’ve started with David Bowie, and I am getting used to his voice, which is what kept me from listening to him in the past. Next up: Bert Jansch, Bob Dylan (that voice thing again!) and The Small Faces. It’s a tall order, but I figure if I superglue my iRiver to my person and just wear headphones all the time, it will all become part of my subconscious.

As for the wishlist for the blog, we’re still working on a design. The Ledge is fast becoming a CSS supremo and I’m pushing him on the issues of web standards, SEO and both accessible and usable design so at some point we’re going to launch a spiffy new redesign which should be (mostly) squeaky clean and lovely on any browser or device. We are also going to get some MP3 content up on the site for your listening pleasure.

So here’s to a industrious and glorious musical 2006!

Posted by JustHipper on 8th January 2006 at 2:20 pm | comments (5)
File under Random comment.

Music Blog Top 100 Albums of 2005

Indie For Dummies has posted the results of a fairly impressive survey of music blog top albums of 2005. A huge number of blogs, including The Indie Credential, were surveyed to yield the top 100 albums and the list is quite agreeable, to us at least.

Posted by The Ledge on 2nd January 2006 at 11:47 pm | comments (2)
File under Lists.