Archive for February, 2007

Gig Review: Voxtrot, Manchester Night & Day, 22nd February 2007

Voxtrot @ The Night & Day, 22nd Feb 2007When we saw Voxtrot at this same venue last August we also had the misfortune to see The Zetlands, a dire blues outfit who should only be allowed to play weddings, albeit ones that I’m not attending. I don’t know who did the booking that night but, sandwiched between the The Needles and Voxtrot, The Zetlands were plain wrong. Well, the same person must have booked the support for last Thursday’s gig as well because The Troubadours (yes, The Troubadours – if you can think of a less inspiring name for a band then I’d like to hear it) were shocking. The Liverpool music scene is stagnant, and has been since the early Eighties. Since then the likes of Cast, The Coral, The Zutons and The Dead ’60s have all had varying amounts of success but have drawn heavily on the past and offered little in the way of originality, or even decent tunes. The Troubadours are the epitome of everything that’s wrong with the Liverpool music scene. We could tell where they were from after hearing just a few a bars of the Coral-esque opener. There was a song that sounded like Cast and another like The Zutons. It was grim stuff and the fact that the singer managed to get the worst sound I’ve ever heard coming from an acoustic 12-string made it almost unbearable. The icing on the cake was the last song, “My Generation”. Yes, you heard right, they did a cover of “My Generation” a good ten years after the Gallaghers consigned that song to the thou-shalt-never-cover-me-again bin. It went on for ages and at one point the singer cleverly changed the lyrics to “just because we shag around”, the wag. I sat, head in hands, unable to even look at the debacle occuring on stage.

I was so numbed by The Troubadours that I barely remember the second band on, including their name, but I do remember that they were so bland that we were having trouble thinking of any musical reference points at all.

Voxtrot @ The Night & Day, 22nd Feb 2007Voxtrot were great; they had to be, it would have been a really depressing night if they had been anything but. Starting with the three title tracks of their EPs was a great idea and “Mother, Sister, Daughters & Wives” sounded particularly good. Despite the occasional technical problem and the odd mic stand with a mind of its own, Voxtrot played with a great amount of joy and enthusiasm, bouncing around the stage with all the energy that their sprightly songs demand.

About three songs in events took a comedic turn. A tall, drunken guy made his way clumsily through the sparse crowd and pushed right in front of the small girl standing at the front to JustHipper’s immediate right, leaving the poor girl exasperated that all she could see now was the back of a grubby white shirt. JustHipper, who is very small and is regularly pissed off by really tall men standing directly in front of her at gigs, acting like she doesn’t exist, began remonstrating with the guy, asking him if he realised what he had done and why it was wrong. The guy thought she was having a go at him cos he was dancing, which was not the case. Just as “Raised By Wolves” was ending she was raving at him and when the sound died the entire venue could clearly hear the words “…and that makes you a big cock!”. The band briefly looked to see what was happening before sadly deciding not to get involved and carrying on with some new songs. The guy sloped off during the next song, tail between legs.

The three new songs the band played, all of which, Ramesh claimed, might make the album, were typically dense, literate and poppy, so no great departure there, and all three augur well for their debut when it’s finally released. They also played a great version of “Soft And Warm” with Ramesh playing keyboards and closed the set with a decidedly Cure-esque “Missing Pieces”. Hopefully next time they’re over here they’ll be playing to larger crowds and have support bands that actually have something in common with them.

Voxtrot – Soft And Warm

Posted by The Ledge on 28th February 2007 at 6:39 pm | comments (11)
File under Gig Reviews,mp3,Reviews.

The Ticketmaster TicketExchange – New Ways to Get Your Cash

Scarlet Mist has a blog post up on their MySpace page about Ticketmaster’s new Ticket swap facility. If they’re correct, then anybody who wants to can purchase a ticket via Ticketmaster, decide after a couple of days that they don’t want it, and put it up for sale via Ticketmaster at whatever price they choose using their new TicketExchange.

So to sum this up, Ticketmaster have decided that if the touts are making money off their tickets they want part of the profit. They’re helping the touts out by giving them a way to prove the tickets exist, and the touts are giving Ticketmaster a fee for their troubles, because Ticketmaster is charging the seller to resell the undispatched ticket. Not only are they charging the seller, though, they also charge the buyer which means they’re getting their service charge paid a second time on the same tickets, even though they’ve already put a service charge onto the inital cost of the ticket. Finally, they’re charging for the delivery – this is also for the second time because that will have already gone on the purchase price. This delivery fee includes the standard £2 for printing your own ticket from what’s displayed on the screen on your account.

So how does this help the fans? How does this help stop the touting problem?

The issue with which they are ostensibly dealing is touting – the ever-worsening scenario of businesses and individuals buying scads more tickets than they need for a show or an event, stopping people who do want those tickets from getting them at the price at which the artists and promoters intended them to have them – and reselling them on often at 200% or 300% markups, thereby pricing most people out of the market and stopping kids from getting to go see their favourite bands. So how is setting up a facility to enable this, to even help it along, doing anything about the situtation? As far as I can tell, it’s only helping Ticketmaster make sneaky extra money off tickets they’ve already sold once, so why wouldn’t they want to encourage the touts to use their service and to hike up the prices as much as they choose?

Ultimately, I don’t think anybody but those of us buying the tickets really cares about this problem, although they should, because if it carries on people are simply going to stop going to gigs and festivals because of the prohibitive costs.

Once again music fans, don’t let them do it. If you don’t get a ticket at face value, don’t go. When venues start to have noticibly huge gaps of seats for ostensibly sold-out shows, the artists will maybe start to stick their necks out for us. And if you don’t have to, don’t use Ticketmaster. We’d recommend We Got Tickets, they use e-ticketing and don’t add idiotic service charges to print your own tickets.

Posted by JustHipper on 27th February 2007 at 10:39 am | comments (8)
File under Rant,Tickets.

Gig Review: The Hold Steady, Sheffield Leadmill, 21st February 2007

To say that I was looking forward to this gig would be an understatement. Having missed last week’s Manchester gig due to an unforseen international call up by my employers, and having heard how great that gig was from various reliable sources, not to mention the fact that The Hold Steady have released three of my favourite albums of the last few years, I was positively salivating at the thought of finally seeing and hearing them in the flesh. For the week beforehand I became more and more obsessed with the band; Separation Sunday was welded into my car CD player, I bashed out the riffs to “Stuck Between Stations”, “Banging Camp” and “Your Little Hoodrat Friend” endlessly on my Telecaster with the amp turned up to, er, 4. These great great songs played over and over in my head as I tired to get to sleep at night. It’s been years since I anticipated a gig quite so feverishly, the Arcade Fire gigs in a couple of weeks don’t even come close. Surely I was setting myself up for a major disappointment.

The Leadmill is a great venue, much better than Manchester’s Club Academy, but we arrived to find the main stage cordoned off and another stage set up in the cosy environs of the bar area. The two support bands both played rock ‘n’ roll. The Checks, from New Zealand, were uninspiring, playing what sounded like a bunch of Rolling Stones cast offs and one song which was slightly better and sounded like The Strokes, while The New York Fund, from London with a Glaswegian singer, were bottom of the bill but much better, with a more subtle sound leaning towards Americana.

I realised within seconds of The Hold Steady launching into their opening track, “Stuck Between Stations”, that this gig was going to more than live up to expectations. Whether or not this was a reaction to the fact that this long-awaited gig had finally started, and with such a great song, I don’t know, but I soon became hypnotised by the magnetic presence of frontman Craig Finn. Bearded and much shorter than I’d expected, Finn was right in our faces, leaning over us, inches away, regularly showering us with drops of spittle, living every line of the songs, having the time of his life. After each line he’d repeat the same line off mic so that only the few of us close enough could hear. At other times he clapped along like an excited little kid. He worked the front of the stage, staring people straight in the eye until a connection was made but never lingering long enough to appear intimidating. And behind him, all the while, his band played a blinder, laying into their instruments with broad smiles on their faces and with the same enthusiasm as their singer. He called them the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world – nobody there could disagree – and said that all he did was talk shit over the top. It’s the shit he half-sings over the top that makes the band so special; the druggy narratives, the recurring characters and locations: Holly, Gideon and Charlemagne; Penetration Park, Ybor City, the banks of the Mississippi River; the killer parties, the songs scratched into your soul. They were all there on the night, it was Springsteen shot through with the wasted spirit of The Replacements.

The set was mostly Boys And Girls In America material along with “Stevie Nix”, “Hoodrat” and “Multitude Of Casualties” from Separation Sunday. It seems they did a better set than this on every other night of the tour but it didn’t matter one bit as the experience was a celebration of life, of music, and of being in the bar at Sheffield Leadmill on 21st February 2007. After the raucous singalong of “Southtown Girls” had seen out the main set and a drunken Finn had almost done himself a serious injury falling off the side of the stage, they returned and finally calmed things down with a beautiful rendition of “First Night” before playing “Girls Like Status”, a Boys And Girls outtake but easily worthy of inclusion on that album.

During the closing “Killer Parties” Finn began to grab hands and haul people up onto the stage with the band. One punter, who looked like he’d just stepped off the golf course, had already taken Tad Kubler’s guitar and seemed to know what he was doing while Kubler settled for playing harmonica. First JustHipper and then myself were pulled up on stage by Finn and about 15 of us stood with the band, jumping up and down in celebration, while Finn stood in the crowd, singing and evangelising about how music has the power to bring people together and how we, the audience, are just as important as the band and that we are all The Hold Steady. When the song finished audience and band members shook hands, embraced, as if the final whistle had blown and we’d won the cup. We left elated with expectations exceeded on a night I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

The Hold Steady – Girls Like Status

Posted by The Ledge on 26th February 2007 at 11:57 pm | comments (12)
File under Gig Reviews,mp3,Reviews.

Gig Review: The Killers, Manchester Evening News Arena, February 17, 2007

Well the wait is finally over and the ticket touts of last year a distant but still painful memory as I started my first of two nights of The Killers. Fresh on the back of their Brit Awards appearance this week, The Killers came to Manchester. The question is though: did the crowd come with them?

Faced with a white curtain, the crowd were shown images from Sam’s Town in a very DHARMA Initiative way as ‘Interlude’ played meticulously in the background before the white sheet dropped to expose the band exploding into the full song shortly followed by ‘Sam’s Town,’ and even at this point the crowd showed some familiarity of their current album. The crowd were showered with bright, shiny confetti and it was amazing to watch from the dizzy heights of row P upper stand. They continued the set with another track from the new album, ‘When We Were Young’ followed by ‘Bones’. At this stage, after hearing such bad things about Brandon Flowers’ ability to sing live, I did wonder if he was miming to a backing track as he hit all the right notes and sang faultlessly. After a few seconds to towel down, Brandon, dressed in his uniformed Sam’s Town white shirt, black waistcoat and pants, took the crowd back to the days of Hot Fuss with ‘Somebody Told Me.’ At this point I think the crowd were louder than The Killers and it was excellent.

Clearly out of breath, Brandon thanked ‘Manchester’ which turned out to one of many times he did in the evening. Then told us a story of his friend ‘Jenny,’ into which he put his full vocal range to the test with a few impromptu “Whoa’s” as he asked the crowd to join in. As Brandon worked the stage, he brought the level down a little to play ‘Uncle Jonny’ followed by ‘Read My Mind’, ‘River is Wild’ and ‘Bling.’ Continuing to tell the crowd how he loves Manchester, we were treated to ‘Glamorous Indie Rock n Roll,’ and for the first time ever I was glad I was out of the way as the crowd lifted high in the air while chanting along.

The set was predicable and the tracks just kept coming and despite my earlier observation of how perfect the singing was, it became quite patchy but nowhere near bad for ‘Why do I Keep Counting’ which seemed to be a well-deserved break from the performance they were putting on. Next, we got the track that I truly believe made The Killers and will stand the test of time (well for a few more years at least): ‘Mr Brightside.’ It was then that the little small-town boy from Las Vegas really came into his own as he took to the stage with more strength and purpose than at any other point in the evening.

With a quick shirt change to black, Brandon came on for his first of two encores with ‘My List’ followed by more admiration for Manchester and telling of his love for Joy Division before singing one of their tracks. ‘Shadowplay.’ At this point I couldn’t help feel a little disappointed as I thought he could have chosen a better track and it was rumoured ‘Juliet and Romeo’ from their Abbey Road session. Surprisingly, they pulled it off before I got my favourite song, ‘For Reasons Unknown,’ in which they could do no wrong and reminded me of the delights I had coming in the way of front row tomorrow at the NEC. For the last song of the evening The Killers delivered ‘All These Things’ and Brandon exited stage. Briefly returning ‘Exitlude,’ after taking a bow and waving goodbye to the crowd, drummer MyNameIsEarl™ threw a few drumsticks into the crowd.

Overall, the show was merely good but this was due to my rubbish seat; however, I gained the knowledge to know where to stand at the NEC to get the best view in Birmingham, so come on Killers!

Posted by Bricking Chick on 25th February 2007 at 11:06 pm | comments (2)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.

Gig Review: Jarvis, Manchester Academy, 19th February 2007

Jarvis @ Manchester Academy

Though Jarvis Cocker made a welcome return to action last year, his album didn’t strike the chord with me that I’d hoped it would. Though there’s plenty of good songs on there, there was nothing that really jumped out and grabbed me, which is not something I could say about any of the Pulp albums from His ‘n’ Hers onwards. So, while I was quite looking forward to seeing Jarvis again, I can’t say that I had any great expectations of the gig, my thoughts for the past week focussed solely on The Hold Steady’s upcoming gig at Sheffield Leadmill a couple of days later.

Pre-Jarv we watched the Beep Seals (not the Deep Seals, as advertised on the running order, but a shitty name all the same) who started with a decidedly retro track which, while pleasant, sounded just a little bit like Teenage Fanclub playing The Byrds. As did the rest of their set, except for the last song, which sounded like Teenage Fanclub playing Led Zep. At least the singer wore his second-hand influences on his sleeve in the form a t-shirt covered in big stars. It saddens me to see such a young band drawing so heavily on the past while contributing so little in original ideas. And they’re not even from Liverpool.

I needn’t have worried about Jarvis ‘cos he and his excellent band put in a storming performance during which everything that was good about the album seemed magnified many times over. “Fat Babies” was the perfect opener to get the crowd going and gave the Jarv ample opportunity to leap off the drum riser and show us all the new crappy-yet-endearing dance moves he’s been working on for the past few years. “Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time” was equally great, benefitting, as did the rest of the set, from a rare night of excellent sound quality at the Academy. Songs from the album that had yet to really register with me were now bludgeoning me around the head, demanding my attention. “Big Julie” sounded huge while “Tonite” and “I Will Kill Again” had an epic swagger to them that is missing from their recorded versions. Even “Heavy Weather” sounded good, though “From Auschwitz To Ipswich”, clunky chorus and all, couldn’t be saved.

Jarvis @ Manchester AcademyJarvis himself was more animated and talkative than I remember from his Pulp days and spent time between songs running through a list of things that bugged him that he’d written for a magazine earlier in the day, including a hilarious rant about a certain brand of toilet roll dispenser. The crowd hung on his every word, girls squealed, a bra was thrown on stage, “You can collect it from the lost property box after the show” joked Jarv. A career in observational comedy awaits.

The main set ended with a stunning version of “Black Magic” which allowed our hero to leap off the drum riser many more times and had enough drums fills to ensure that his thrusting of arms and elbows went into overdrive. He returned to play “Running The World” and a cover of Magazine’s “Shot By Both Sides”, which was a brilliant closer despite the fact that he was clearly reading the lyrics to the verses from a sheet taped to the floor in front of the monitors. A great gig, a great performance, and not a Pulp song in sight.

Jarvis – Fat Children

Posted by The Ledge on 23rd February 2007 at 5:00 pm | comments (2)
File under Gig Reviews,mp3,Reviews.

Gig Review: ¡Forward, Russia!, Manchester Academy 2, 16th February 2007

¡Forward, Russia! played so many gigs last year that I wouldn’t have been surprised to see signs that they had burned themselves out at their not-quite-sold-out Academy 2 gig last Friday night. However, it seems that a short break over Christmas, during which they recorded the new “Don’t Be A Doctor” single, has re-energised them, assuming they were worn out in the first place. On taking the stage they hurtled headlong into “Fifteen Part 1” and it was obvious that Tom Woodhead was as hyper as he’s ever been, his hair lank with sweat within minutes as he wheeled across the stage, chopping imaginary logs with an imaginary axe. One day that lad will do himself a bad injury.

The band set off at such a pace for “Twelve” that poor Tom was having trouble keeping up with them, gulping down air at every tiny opportunity, which, I imagine, was quite a difficult feat to perform whilst strangling yourself with a microphone lead. It was compelling stuff, however, and the energy never waned, not even during the three new songs they played. The new songs have proper titles now instead of numbers, something which disappoints me a little but which I’d suspected would happen one day, but not quite so soon. “We Are Grey Matter” stuck to the ¡F,R! formula and passed without incident but “Don’t Be A Doctor” was quite brilliant, a sprawling mess of a song that some idiot somewhere will call their “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Not me, though. Another newie, I didn’t catch the name, was equally impressive, its insidious hook peeping out from beneath the band’s sonic maelstrom.

They ended the set with a rare and magnificant “Nineteen” (only the second time they’d played it, Whiskas claimed) and returned for “Thirteen” and drummer Katie’s star turn, “Sixteen”, during which she thrashed the living daylights out of her drums while yelping out the numbers one to ten. It was thrilling stuff all round and hopefully the band will get some more time off soon to get down to recording the follow up to Give Me A Wall.

¡Forward, Russia! – Thirteen

Posted by The Ledge on 21st February 2007 at 1:12 pm | comments (2)
File under Gig Reviews,mp3,Reviews.

Gig Review: Bloc Party, Manchester Academy, 14th February 2007

What a romantic way to spend Valentine’s Day: watching Bloc Party emote angst at the state of modern society having been set up on a date with James Yer Mam! by my own husband…. Har har. Joking aside, while The Ledge was still galavanting around ruins of castles in western Germany, I headed down to the Academy to see how Bloc Party translated their fabulous new album in a live setting.

The last time I saw Bloc Party was shortly after the release of their first album in the same venue. We’d relished their live performance at the Night & Day a few months earlier where their awkwardness worked well in a small setting where their reticence came across as humility and genuine thanks for the rapturous reception from the packed crowd. A few months later and they were in a much larger venue but they had not had the time to get used to the idea. They appeared nervous and while the noisier, faster songs worked well, they did not seem to know what to do during the softer numbers, they seemed embarassed by the silences and gaps, worried that they had to fill the room all the time. They did not seem comfortable performing to the crowd, but by the time a band reaches a venue the size of the Academy, confidence on-stage is a must. They should have been already shooting for the Apollo by that point, but it appeared the rise was far too fast.

With that in mind, despite loving Silent Alarm and so far enjoying Weekend In The City, after only three or four proper listens, I was eagerly anticipating the gig, wondering how they’d be on stage after reading frontman Kele Okereke’s slightly awkward interview in The Observer in which he seemed more comfortable with his own talents and the recognition he’s receiving but still somewhat shy and defensive. I needn’t have worried because even though I could not see a thing from deep inside the crowd, halfway through “Song for Clay” it was obvious that the band had developed a newfound confidence in their own live performance. Even problems with Russell Lissack’s guitar didn’t phase the band as they entertained the crowd with a medley of tracks from bands with whom they’d toured – “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers, “Slow Hands” by Interpol and “D’You Wanna” by Franz Ferdinand.

While the new material sounded great, “Hunting for Witches,” single “The Prayer” and “Waiting for the 7:18” translated very well, it was the old songs that really made the biggest impression. They kept reeling off hit after hit even though I kept thinking they could not possibly have anything left to play off Silent Alarm. I had forgotten how many fantastic tracks they have. It was “The Blue Light” that was most telling though. The softer parts at the beginning had just enough space and that telltale hint of anxiety in the buildup before the band erupted into noise at the end. The sound of the crowd singing along to “Helicopter” and “Positive Tension” and “She’s Hearing Voices” really drove the atmosphere and despite the set still leaning towards the older songs this sounded like a confident and vital band, ready to drive their point home.

I can only wait now for the second leg of this tour to make its way back to Manchester when hopefully the band will feel their fans have had enough time to digest the new songs and we’ll get a few more off Weekend In The City.

Bloc Party – Waiting For The 7.18 (Black Session)

Bloc Party – This Modern Love (Black Session)

Posted by JustHipper on 21st February 2007 at 11:00 am | comments (3)
File under Gig Reviews,mp3,Reviews.

Gig Review: The Hold Steady, Club Academy, February 13, 2007

Hold Steady Ticket Numbers 1 & 2, Manchester 2007The Ledge would have been very impressed with himself last night. After pointing out how outrageous See Tickets markups on Hold Steady tickets were and alerting the promoter to the problem he managed to score us ticket numbers one and two. Shame he got sent away on business and Bricking Chick ended up with his ticket, because he’d have really enjoyed the gig. Turning up about an hour late to yet another impromptu Manchester Bloggers convention to find James YerMam! and Jon the Beef already well on their way to inebriation, we opted for a few drinks in the Student Union over the opening bands.

On making our way downstairs we were pleasantly shocked to find the gig had sold out and the place seemed rammed full of an audience that made me feel young enough to pass for being a student again. Nonetheless we still managed to walk straight up to the stage and plant ourselves in front of the keyboard player, which was an extra bonus for me as I had expected to see nothing at all in the basement venue with the low stage and the poor sound system. Apart from the poor sound system which often made it hard to tell what song they were actally playing, the gig was astounding, a fitting first show in Manchester from a band who have made a massive impression on me since I first picked up The Ledge’s copy of Boys & Girls in America back in early December and to whom I have been listening endlessly for the last couple of weeks as I’ve discovered Separation Sunday and The Hold Steady Almost Killed Me are just as great, oozing the ghost of early Bruce Springsteen with the lyrical stories about being young and stuck in a dead end, small town with nothing to do and no prospects.

The Hold Steady live in ManchesterThe band looked nothing like I expected when they emerged, surprised at the packed venue and screaming crowd. The bassist was shouting “How do you know you’re going to like us? Why are you cheering like that? We might be shit!” Bricking Chick gave the most appropriate description, telling me later that she reckoned that singer Craig Finn was “like a 7-year-old ADHD sufferer in the body of a 40-year-old man. The bassist looks like Stewart Copeland, poor guy, and the keyboard player thinks he’s Inspector Clousseau!” Delightfully quirky appearance aside, The Hold Steady are the real deal. I’ve rarely seen a band just relish being on stage as much as they did and I really wish the sound had been better because that may be the only thing that keeps it from making the list of all-time memorable performances.

The Hold Steady Live, keyboardsOf the songs I could distinguish (or they introduced), the opener, “Stuck Between Stations” took me half the song to identify but the energy set the tone for the entire gig with every member of the band producing proper rock moves, jumping about, pumping arms into the air, hamming it up for the crowd in what I can only compare to a Guided By Voices-style performance – they look too old and too average to be moving around like that but the genuine nature of the performance made it work perfectly. “The Swish” appeared early on in the set and was riveting. “You Can Make Him Like You” had me singing and dancing along with glee. “Massive Nights” was in there, as was one I’d been praying to hear, “Your Little Hoodrat Friend.” “Party Pit” provoked massive screams from everyone except James who groaned a lot and complained about it before performing what he referred to as “mental cartwheels” at the inclusion of “Chips Ahoy” on which I could almost make out the vocals. They completed the main part of the set with “Southtown Girls” which James complained about again before hurling his fist in the air and joining Jon and I in screaming the chorus along with the rest of the crowd. The encore brought us “Some Kooks” which sounded growly and louder than on the record and the delight in the faces of the crowd and the faces of the band was magnetic, as Craig Finn came down to us, shaking hands and reveling in his enjoyment of performing and of the music.

I’m taking The Ledge to see them on Wednesday in Sheffield. I can’t wait to see them again in a venue with a good sound system. They should be massive.

The Hold Steady – Your Little Hoodrat Friend

The Hold Steady – Southtown Girls

Posted by JustHipper on 17th February 2007 at 4:53 pm | comments (5)
File under Gig Reviews,mp3,Reviews.

Gig Review: Guillemots, Manchester Academy 1, February 9, 2007

I think it’s time the Guillemots stopped touring their wonderful, Mercury-nominated debut album, Through the Windowpane. They must have been touring the same material for over a year now and it’s starting to wear on them. It’s patently obvious exactly how bored they must be of being on the road, of playing the same songs every night and how much they clearly would rather be working on new songs. Friday night was such astounding evidence of this that it makes me want to petition their record label to give them a holiday and then let them get on with recording a new record. Hell, I’m almost ready to start taking up a collection to send them somewhere sunny and quiet where they don’t have to even think about “Trains to Brazil” and “Made Up Love Song #43” ever again.

I’ve seen the Guillemots about 5 times now I think and I know how great their shows can be. Friday night was…it was massively disappointing. I thought at Summer Sundae it took them a while to build up momentum, but they came good in the end. Friday night they deliberately shot themselves in the foot and did not seem to care. Riding high on the back of “Annie Let’s Not Wait, ” a song I’m surprised they released seeing as how long the album has been out, how many times they’ve re-released “Trains to Brazil,” the fact that you rarely get a fourth single off an album at this point, this should have been glorious. Instead it was a gig with a terrible setlist and loads of unnecessary noodling and muso-fiddling about. They opened promisingly enough, and even the drawn-out version of “Through the Windowpane” which featured loads of unnecessary effects kind of charmed me. The fact that this set the standard for a gig which never picked up momentum as the band played b-sides, unreleased tracks and new songs, which, while promising, are surely much better sandwiched in-between crowd favourites, not in between b-sides and album tracks which were the moments when people chose to go to the bar.

“Redwings” seemed endless, “Made Up Love Song #43” was completely lacklustre, “Who Left the Lights Off Baby” failed to make an appearance and a Fyfe-only quiet version of “We’re Here” was barely audible over the crowd talking. Only “Annie Let’s Not Wait” showed their usual skill at charming the crowd. It’s not that they weren’t good as such, it’s just that they seemed to be messing around to amuse themselves, adding loads of unnecessary weirdness and noises to the songs which took away from their immediate charms and I can only assume this was down to the band being sick of performing them the same way every night.

When they finally picked up the pace with a track I will refer to as “They’re Coming” cause I don’t know the name but the manic refrain of “They’re coming, they’re coming and they want to take my face(?)” was another missed opportunity. The song has an underlying menace and was accompanied by MC Lord Magrao donning a white balaclava to go with his all-white costume and the arrival of two individuals decked out in black and red robes which completely covered their faces. It was creepy for 30 seconds until it became patently obvious that they had no idea what to do and they kind of milled about the stage.

By the time they got to the encore of “Trains to Brazil” and “Sao Paulo” it was too late as they’d already lost much of the crowd, people had started leaving and the lack of enthusiasm was apparent by the fact that the huge gaps near the front were not filled at all, people weren’t trying to get closer to the stage by this point, they were making for the doors. The two songs sounded great, but even I had ceased to care. I feel bad, Fyfe did say that himself, Aristazabel and Greig were all suffering from food poisoning, but it wasn’t their enthusiasm that was lacking and the songs never sounded badly performed. It just seemed like they were trying to amuse themselves, keep themselves interested in performing the same stuff every night, and really didn’t care all that much about whether they took the crowd with them. When a fantastic live band such as the Guillemots reaches this point, it’s time they got off the road and recharged their batteries.

Guillemots – Who Left the Lights Off Baby

Guillemots – Blue Would Still Be Blue

Posted by JustHipper on 14th February 2007 at 11:50 pm | comments (3)
File under Gig Reviews,mp3,Reviews.

CD Review: Brett Anderson, Brett Anderson (Drowned In Sound, 2007)

I’ve received in my post bag a 5-track sampler from Brett Anderson’s forthcoming solo album (March 26, Drowned in Sound). Some of you may remember that I’ve been anticipating this record for a while as I was a huge Suede fan, I thought The Tears album was very good and I do genuinely think that Brett has a good album left in him somewhere. This record, however, if the promo sampler represents the highlights, is not it by a huge margin.

The lead single “Love Is Dead” is a soft, wave-your-hands-in-the-air ballad which reflects exactly the sentiment you’d expect from Brett and while it’s nice enough, brings nothing special or memorable with it. In fact the lines “plastic people wearing plastic smiles” is cringeworthy enough to make the rest of the song far from convincing. It actually gets worse from there. “One Lazy Morning” could not be more Brett-by-numbers if he retitled it “(The Litter Blowing past the Dust in the Breeze) One Lazy Morning.” It sounds like it was not good enough to even make the cut as one of the appalling Coming Up b-sides that make the second disc of Sci-Fi Lullabies such a disappointment. The chorus, “One lazy morning when life is a breeze am I gonna find Jesus in me?” is lazy songwriting of the most cringeworthy variety. This is after he discusses planes flying overhead leaving vapour trails. Musically, it’s sub-A New Morning, all acoustic guitars and string arrangements which are added to try and distract from the fact that far from being unremarkable, it’s so cliched Brett it’s like he didn’t even try.

“Scorpio Rising,” the track included in Brett’s acoustic YouTube series, is actually bearable if you discount the soft-rock leanings and the fact that it actually sounds a bit like “Winds of Change” by the Scorpions. While his voice sounds really fantastic, I can’t fail to disbelieve the over-earnest vocals that are laid over more post-Coming-Up-era slow balladry and it all blends into “To the Winter” quite blandly.

By far the most entertaining track, however, is the plodding rock thump of “Dust and Rain” which kind of reminds of me the abysmal “Streetlife” off A New Morning and boasts lyrics such as, “I am the dust, you are the rain. I am the needle and you are the vein; and this is the moment that words can’t explain….” And “And your love’s like an overdose with your hands wrapped around my throat, using sex like an antidote to the pain.” If this is all the energy he can emote for his music these days, either he’s gotten very old or he’s having the same reaction to his own songwriting that I am.

Brett himself has been describing this record as very raw and very personal but I just can’t see it. These tracks feel completely soulless, as if he’s scoured his back catalogue for every cliche that his fans might expect in hopes that he could disguise the fact that his heart really is not in this record. I think if he really made the record he would like this to have been he’d have had to open himself up far more than he’s managed since around 1994, he’d stop using the same tired cliches about rain and needles and dust and breeze and trees and beauty. I think that the album that he could make and should make about his life and world now wouldn’t still sound so firmly entrenched in the music he was making over a decade ago.

Brett Anderson – Dust and Rain

Brett Anderson – One Lazy Morning

EDIT: We’ve officially received our first “cease and desist” email from Drowned in Sound records who apparently don’t like us having them there. So, the MP3’s have come down as asked.

Posted by JustHipper on 13th February 2007 at 2:02 pm | comments (57)
File under CD Reviews,mp3,Reviews,Track Reviews.