Archive for April, 2007

Gig Review: Herman Dune, The Roadhouse, 17th April 2007

We both enjoyed Herman Dune at ATP last year. I think it might have been the beer and the sea air. So we bought their new album a couple of weeks ago. I finally managed to listen to most of it today in the car. We’d have been better off buying a copy of the original, otherwise known as Graceland by Paul Simon.

Tonight’s gig? Well. Opening band, no idea what he was called. Beardy Hippy Who Sounds Like Bob Dylan, I think.

Herman Dune? Well. Beardy hippies that sound like, you guessed it, Paul Simon. They were nice a bit. Then they were nice some more. Then they were nice some more. It was so tedious, and the smell of bodies lacking deoderant mixed with pot, patchouli and, oddly, mothballs (it was all the pensioners in pink golf tops I think) made me slightly nauseous, so by the time they started being, well, nice, I decamped to near the door where there was a breeze, and talking to distract me.

As for the set, umm, they played the one where he likes the girl and misses her. And then they played that other one where he likes the girl and misses her and hopes she waits around. Then the one where he likes the girl and doesn’t know if she likes him and he misses her. And the one where he misses both New York and the girl. And a few others.

Next time Herman Dune come to town I’ll try swallowing some razor blades instead. It will be more fun and seriously more exciting.

Posted by JustHipper on 17th April 2007 at 9:57 pm | comments (13)
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Gig Review: Polytechnic, Islington Mill, Salford, 23rd March 2007

Apologies for the sporadic updates. We’re not what you’d call natural bloggers. We’re lazy. We leave it almost three weeks to do a gig review. Well I do, at least.

So, almost three weeks ago we ventured into the industrial wilds of Salford to Islington Mill for some kind of XFM showcase gig. T’Mill had been spruced up a little since we were last there to see the same band, among others, last July. There were comfy sofas, coffee tables and a new, bigger bar where dope-addled bartenders would forget your drinks order as soon as they turned their backs to open the fridge. On our first trip to the bar we were assailed by a large, drunken bloke, or “lad” to be more precise, who proceeded to lavish enthusiastic praise on support band The Courteeners on the basis of hearing exactly three tracks on their MySpace page and reading a typically gushing piece of bullshit in the NME of the “best new band in the world” variety. The songs, said our hero, sounded like the Arctic Monkeys and The Libertines and Oasis and Oasis crossed with The Libertines. “Ooh, can’t wait” we deadpanned and left him and his mates to spread the word around the rest of the paying audience.

But we had to wait as The Whyers were up first after a lengthy introduction by XFM’s John Kennedy. Their brand of none-too-original punky, garagey rock ‘n’ roll was pretty good, if I remember. They had a great guitarist and a song that sounded exactly like The Libertines but were let down by a too cocky lead singer who looked far too pleased with himself after biting the top off his bottle of Becks.

The crowd swelled for The Courteeners and many of them seemed to know a few of the songs. Frontman for The Courteeners is one Liam Fray who seems to have given up on his solo acoustic career after the rise to prominence of another Manc acoustic troubadour who shares most of his name. This town ain’t big enough, etc. The band mostly played songs that sounded like the Arctic Monkeys but found time for some that sounded like Oasis and The Libertines and Oasis covering The Libertines and vice versa. To top it all off Fray seems to have the voice of Alex Turner trapped inside the body of Noel Gallagher, poor chap, though his eyebrows don’t quite meet in the middle. It was average and untimately annoying. As Justhipper said: “They’re not interesting enough to hate.” While they were on the lads who had collared us earlier in the evening were in the corridor haggling with a taxi driver, too pissed to even know what day it was.

By the time Polytechnic came on I myself was pleasantly pissed and, as such, don’t remember too much about it except that it was certainly the best of the three Polytechnic gigs I had seen. It was the guitars that got me: the constant, warm rhythmic chug that had me nodding my head in some sort of drunken reverie. It was the sort of guitar-induced contentment I get when I listen to Teenage Fanclub’s “Everything Flows”, which I don’t do often enough. They played “Pep” and its big brother “Cold Hearted Business” and lots of fun stuff from the forthcoming Down Til Dawn long player. They also gave a first live airing to their cover of The Shins’ “Caring Is Creepy” in which they stretch out the opening lines of the verses making it initially unrecognisable. It was good to see the band on such fine form playing their sprightly little pop tunes, especially after the abject mediocrity of what had come before.

Polytechnic – Fingertips

Posted by The Ledge on 12th April 2007 at 10:42 pm | comments (24)
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Gig Review: The Shins, Manchester Academy 2, March 27, 2007

Now I realised that this Shins gig was going to be different from previous occasions. The album, Wincing the Night Away, has received a lot of mainstream press and the landscape has changed a great deal since Chutes Too Narrow in 2004. I was not expecting to be stood amidst a lot of adolescent boys after The Ledge encouraged me to get to the venue early and get to the front so he could also have a good vantage point when he got finished playing football and finally joined me. I could hear the lads to my right singing the opening bars of “New Slang” as they waited, in between the opening acts. The mother of the teenage girl behind me held my place when I went to the toilet and I listened to them discussing previous gigs at the Academy 2 – it seems gig-going is a great family event for them. What a great family!

Needless to say, the crowd was amusing and unusual as we waited for The Shins to finally take the stage, after what turned out to be memorable appearances by openers Jeremy Warmsley and Viva Voce. The former started off his set like a skinny, British Colin Meloy before morphing into the Divine Comedy, then the Strokes and then back again. If he’s a little all over the place stylistically, he had a charming stage presence and some unusual subject matter including, but not limited to, a song about insects and a song about living in Jersey during The War. The closing song he played on the keyboard was brilliant even if it has faded from memory a little. There is certainly some potential there for some great songs.

Viva Voce at Manchester Academy 2Viva Voce, far from being merely charming, were quite an extraordinary sight to behold. They looked so innocuous when they came on stage, the slightly overweight, long-haired hippy drummer, smiling at the crowd as he settled himself, and the guitarist, looking every inch the primary school teached all dressed up for a “date” at her local Pizza Express with her live-in boyfriend of five years, the mid-level marketing guy. Then they started playing and she launched into the loudest, longest rock n’ roll guitar solo I’ve ever witnessed without wanting to kill myself. Seriously though, she was amazing. And she did it completely effortlessly while her drummer grinned and chuckled along. They sounded like a noisier, rockier Jesus & Mary Chain with female vocals and it was brilliant. The Ledge was also transfixed, not the least by the collection of guitars on stage which included a very cool Rickenbacker and a doubled-necked Danelectro.

Finally though, The Shins emerged, beefed up with a new stage setup and an extra guitarist/keyboard player as well as the occasional backing vocals from Anita from Viva Voce to help them achieve the sounds on the new album. They opened with a haunting version of “Sleeping Lessons” before getting straight to the two singles off the new album, “Australia” and “Phantom Limb.” I was struck first off by the newfound confidence of James Mercer as he stood right at the centre of the stage, where he used to hide to one side, letting Marty Crandall take centre stage and lead the banter with the crowd. Instead, he was forceful and outgoing and joking, taking the time to discuss dressing room graffiti which apparently read, “Hitler Dicks.” His simple philosophy for the night? “Fun good. Hitler bad.” Words to live by if ever I’ve heard any.

The Shins at Manchester Academy 2The setlist they played was as good a one as I could possibly have hoped. We got new songs, we got old songs. We got “Know Your Onion,” “Turn a Square,” “Gone For Good” and “New Slang.” We got “Caring Is Creepy,” “Girl Sailor” and “Kissing the Lipless.” It was all highlights. I was amused as ever as “Girl Inform Me” was sped up to a frantic pace while “New Slang” was slowed down to practically a torch song crawl, performed back-to-back. I do feel bad because from my vantage point I could read the setlist and told the young lad stood to my left that indeed, “Girl on a Wing” was on there. It was, but they skipped it and he was gutted. I could hear the crowd to my right and behind me singing gleefully and shouting requests, but to my left, but for that one lad, looking down the front row, all I could see were teenage faces looking bored and disappointed. I don’t know what they were expecting, but it clearly wasn’t the rocking glee of The Shins’ live experience. It’s remarkable how far they’ve come from that performance with The Stills at the Academy 3 back in 2004 when James Mercer looked terrified. Or the one a couple of months later at the Liverpool Academy where he practically hid behind a pillar on the stage. This set was emphatic and outgoing and the band seemed to be enjoying themselves even more than we were enjoying watching them in the crowd.

I know that Wincing the Night Away has divided bloggers. Many people don’t like the new direction, but I think, especially on the evidence of this performance, that it is defiantly a great Shins record. All the lilting melodies, the captivating harmonies, the lyrical playfulness and the earnestness and seriousness of the subject matter are all there, with some new sounds to accompany. Underneath the bleeps and weird keyboard noises lies some of the most sincere and personal songwriting you’re likely to hear anywhere and live all the simple beauty of what James Mercer does with lyrics and melodies comes out and it is really a brilliantly uplifting sight to behold. If you missed them this time around, don’t make the same mistake again when they return.

The Shins – Girl Inform Me (Live & Acoustic at 6 Music)

The Shins – Girl Sailor

Posted by JustHipper on 3rd April 2007 at 6:08 pm | comments (10)
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Gig Review: Malcolm Middleton, Life Café, 22nd March 2007

Malcolm Middleton at the Life Cafe ManchesterIt’s been a while since we posted, bad old habits have returned. Yes, there was a bit of a gap between gigs for me, almost two weeks, having had not the slightest inclination to follow JustHipper down to London to see a band I’d given up on as far back as 1990. Then the Thursday before last my PC refused to boot up, kept logging off before it had properly logged on, and I approached the Malcolm Middleton gig at the Life Café that evening in a positively foul mood after a monumental and inconsequential bout of PC rage. However, I had a sneaking suspicion that that subjecting myself to an hour or so in the company of a a professional miserablist like Middleton while in such a filthy mood might actually cheer me up. I was right. Middleton’s lyrics might run the gamut from self-loathing through crippling self-doubt to mere self-deprication but he doesn’t wallow in self-pity, instead he wraps his words in vibrant pop melodies and sings them to us straight-faced, eyes closed and with no amount of irony so that we might enjoy them for being great pop songs rather than dwell upon the unhappiness of their creator.

On stage Middleton has a quiet Scottish charm. The first thing he does is ask politely if anyone will buy him a drink from the bar as the backstage fridge has broken down. By the end of the night he has four free pints, two of which find themselves sloshing helplessly about the effects pedals having being inadvertently kicked over mid-song. His four strong band do a decent job throughout the performance though there are various sound problems and some subtleties of the recorded versions of the songs are lost in the translation to live performance. One of the keyboards is so loud in the mix that it drowns out everything else in the chorus of the otherwise excellent “Loneliness Shines”.

The presence of Jenny Reeve is crucial and as well as playing keyboards, guitar and violin she, more importantly, provides some great backing vocals, especially on the new single “Fuck It, I Love You” and on the blinding duet “Fight Like The Night”. Reeve was also support, going under the monicker Strike The Colours, and her modern folk sound and breathy vocals certainly made an impression for the three songs we caught at the end of her set, the last of which was an excellent version of the folk standard “She Moved Through The Fair”.

Middleton has the crowd on his side throughout and it’s no wonder with cracking versions of “Monday Night Nothing” and “Break My Heart” from his Into The Woods long player playing alongside the more optimistic A Brighter Beat material such as the title track. But it’s the generous six song encore where he comes into his own. The first four are just him on his own with acoustic guitar and with Malcolm no longer able to hide behind his band things feel much more intimate and the crowd responds with an almost reverential silence for a charming “Devastation” while “Devil And The Angel” has us hanging on his every word and laughing along to the song’s dark humour. Even Malky cracks a wry smile. It’s easily the best part of the evening. The band come back for an almost joyful “Superhero Songwriter” to send the crowd home happier than they might have thought possible. I return to my broken computer with an almost zen-like calm. Ten minutes later I want to drop kick the fucker through the window.

Malcolm Middleton – Devastation

Malcolm Middleton – Fight Like The Night

Posted by The Ledge on 2nd April 2007 at 6:27 pm | comments (1)
File under Gig Reviews,mp3,Reviews.