Sunday, December 07, 2008
Last night was quite possibly one of the most brilliant nights out I've had in London. It's the run up to Christmas and what better way of spending it than to kick back with a greasy taco and a frozen margarita, with your squeeze sat next to you in the front row of a Mexican wrestling night at the Roundhouse. Life really doesn't get much better than this.
From the moment the evening starts you know this is not an event for the PC-bound or faint of heart. I mean they actually refer to the mini wrestlers as dwarfs, and that spells Christmas. The closest you get to Snow White, apart from in the toilets, are the fabulously foxy juanitas marching around the ring holding up the signs indicating what round it was - like we gave a fuck!
This has a part for everyone. There's pantomime, there's cartoon world, there's drama and there is endless supply of frozen margaritas. Oh yeah, heaven. So the night kicks off with what I guess you'd call the clown element, like a circus. Only these aren't clowns. These are mini dudes who have muscles where most of us have fat. They spin, they throw themselves through ropes, over each other; they rock. I have heard that they tend to score very high on the pussy card as well. Featuring stars from Mexico like Octagoncito and Pequeño Pierrot this four way tag event sets the tone of the evening. Fabulously clad and honed to perfection my only thought was one of them looked like just a small bloke, not a dwarf (as they were announced). Mind you the wonderful MC, Gregorio ‘El Caballero Ingles', voiced similar thoughts.
You then have various bouts featuring the glorious Exoticos, Cassandro and Ruby Gardenia. Two cross dressing lovelies who most assuredly would not be hassled by queer bashers on Clapham Common as they would be perfectly capable of ripping off the arms of said scum and beating them to death with the soggy end. They were marvellous. In fact the main bout would have been something of an anticlimax had it not been for the appearance of El Hijo del Santo.
El Hijo is a superstar in Mexico, a god. Even we Londoners, starved of sun and magical realism, have heard of him. He comes on for a three-way tag event. Now I am ringside for all this, surrounded by ankle-biters all screaming and shouting and calling out for the good guys. The technicos are the good guys and the rudos are the bad guys. It's all pretty straight forward and traditional. It's Christmas, it's pantomime and, fuck me, Mystyco de Juarez has just landed in mine and my partner's lap. We spill our margaritas and we scream with laughter. Who cares? I have shaken hands with Hator, the heavy metal wrestler. A rudo. My hero.
Next time these guys are in London you have to go. If you don't then you will never know just how much fun can be had watching big blokes in masks throw each other around. It is raw.
On top of that the music is incredible with down and dirty mixes of all kinds of Latin American funky stuff, from grooves you know to new sounds all spun in with excellence by DJ Toy Selectah of the Mexican super group Control Machete.
If you don't get there next time then you have no taste.
Friday, October 31, 2008
This is brought to you by the Musicgoulash Good Shit Alert.
So forget the rubbishy bubble and squeak music beloved of ShoHo's geek-pie sporting fraterinty and Go West young folk.
Monday, October 20, 2008
What struck me, and my brother-in-law who is a Parisian music journalist, was that the audience was comprised mainly of extremely hip young things. Quite possibly this was because Manu’s appearance had been flagged up in the media prior to the gig and this scion of French music is the biggest draw there is, but the fact remained that the audience loved and understood the whole thrust of the music; and what wasn’t there to love?
Amadou plays guitar like a cross between Carlos Santana and John Lee Hooker. His sense of dynamics is in a field of its own. Add to this the vocal inflections of his wife, Mariam, with a tonal quality that seems to move from Arabic scale to Western scale with ease, depending on what she feels would best suit that part of the song, and you have a recipe for a music that defies pigeonholing.
Now when Manu Chao came to produce this album he didn’t approach it as a Westerner with an almost reverential, but patronising, view to African music; he approached it as a musician, as someone who makes genre defying music himself. He rolled in several of the techniques he uses on his own albums and in doing so he created the most successful album ever by an African artist. Some mariachi horns here, some spun in samples there, it didn’t matter as long as the overall effect was enhanced and expectations surpassed.
Now many “World Music” purists were unsure of all this. I remember one major figure in the UK world music scene telling me that he wasn’t that sure of the album that somehow it didn’t ring true; it was too produced. I argued why shouldn’t it be? What stops African musicians from being allowed to embrace the same techniques and technologies as any other musician in the world? It seems to me to be some weird kind of reverse prejudice.
As a body of work Dimanche à Bamako was easily the best album released in 2005 and Amadou and Mariam went on to achieve sales and exposure comparable with a successful Western act, as well as winning several prestigious awards. Now they have a new album coming out, Welcome to Mali, and I bet you can hear a big “BUT” coming down the road.
The album kicks off with the Damon Albarn produced Sabali. My initial thought, and I do mean initial – like the first 40 seconds or so – was, hey this is happening, this is good. But then it goes all Phil Oakey, all Never Ending Story; in fact it doesn’t really go anywhere. It seems as if Albarn had a spare fifteen minutes and a backing track left over from some other side project and decided to bestow his munificence upon them.
Now this is really disappointing for two reasons: one, Damon Albarn is one of the most consistently creative forces working in music today and he should have done better, as evidenced by the second track Ce N’est Pas Bon, that was recorded merely with his participation; and two, Amadou and Mariam deserve better.
I say that not from the position that most of the journalists who write about them seem to always take, namely that they are both blind and oh isn’t it amazing how the dear things have achieved so much; that information is of public record, it seems to have been the only topic pursued by lazy writers since they broke through in 2005. Let’s move on shall we? These two musicians have done far more in their lives than merely been blind, they have achieved more than the majority of musicians who try to make a living in the music industry regardless of race, continent or disability.
Amadou and Mariam deserve better because they are a huge talent. They are the money!
So onto the rest of the album. Magosa, Djama and Djuru are solidly in their magic territory. The rhythms and melodies intertwine, organ lines bubble up and disappear showing Amadou’s love of 60s r ’n b and its textures. The chops are loose and liquid, they move you viscerally as if your kidneys, liver and spleen feel the need to acknowledge the groove. Then we start the various “guest” appearances. A couple of them work because the guest doesn’t really get in the way, like Juan Rozoff and ~M~. A couple of producers and dance artists who add a little club magic to the mix but not in a way that has a cluttering effect.
Then we have K’naan and Keziah Jones. Frankly these are embarrassing. K’naan showed loads of promise early in his career but his ineffective copying of an out dated US rap vocabulary on Africa makes his contribution clumsy and sad. Keziah Jones brings little to the party. If that all sounds a little harsh then so be it. But wait until I get on to I Follow You.
Now if I decided to make an album of German tunes I’m sure I would sound ridiculous. The language doesn’t come easily to me and anyway I don’t need to prove anything. The same goes for Amadou singing in English. Here’s a guy who can probably speak several more languages than I will ever get round to learning but, given his French accent, singing in English was not a smart move. I mean we laughed at Maurice Chevalier and Johnny Hallyday for christsakes! Also the lyrics aren’t any good, they don’t really say anything and the result is a track that leaves a genius open to derision from morons in the Anglo music industry who will point to this and claim that is the reason why they can’t promote “foreign” artists, when said artists have sold far more than the shitty little indie band from Camden they have just signed for an inflated advance will ever, ever do.
Once that is out of the way it’s back to business and the last four tracks, including the so called hidden track Boula, will just blow you away. Sebeke and Batoma are possibly the most exciting and vibrant pieces of music I have heard for a year. The guitar lines, the breaks, Mariam’s voice, the majestic sweep of the music enthral, exhilarate and transport you to the finest dance bar in the world where the beer is always cold and the music is always hot. God these are great tracks.
So that’s about it really. Except to say that what is missing here is that little bit of extraordinary production that Manu Chao brought to the party. Not that I want all of life and music to remain in a state of stasis but there are producers out there who have similar outlooks, people who could bring an extra side to what is already wonderful music. They add an extra element that defines the album as something that transcends the pigeonhole so many writers and critics want to place music into; coming from Africa is hard enough without having your music explained away as somehow a marginal activity when compared to such towering no talents as Coldplay and Razorlight.
I reckon next time they should work with Thom Yorke.
Last week I went to the Barbican to see Amadou and Mariam as part of the Africa Now series. The night before they had made the Africa Express night at Koko's their own. I couldn't make it to Koko, maily because the gig is the most disabled unfriendly gig in London, but apparently it was a madhouse of magic. At the Barbican, given the nature of the event, they came on to perform three songs. Obviously exhausted from the night before they performed Sabali, Ce n'est pas bon and Dimanche à Bamako. Damon Albarn came onstage for Sabali and the song made a whole load more sense when it was just Mariam, Damon and his melodica. After seeing the performance I couldn't help but wonder why they hadn't recorded the track like that instead of ladeling on the extraneous keyboard stuff.
The night was a bit of a curate's egg to be honest. The idea was to emulate elements of the East-West collaborations of Africa Express but only with African artists. Like I said, on the whole it was great. maybe a little exessive on the Toumani Diabate front but in all honesty I had gone for Amadou and Mariam and the legendary Rachid Taha.
Unfortunately Rachid didn't get onstage until gone 10.30 pm. Whether this was down to his enjoyment of backstage facilities or because of politics a lot of people had already left by the time he came on to play a short set. I noticed that when all the sub-Sahara acts had been playing there was a lot of interspersing of musicians, a general good vibe jam session quality to the event but when Rachid came on there was a marked absence of guests appearing with him. I have no idea why but I hope there wasn't any weird reason for it. Also who ever Rachid has playing guitar for him at the moment is a complete knob, more suited to some covers band from Colorado Springs than the true heir to The Clash.
Next time Rachid is in town you really need to go and see him. There are no British or American bands that come close to his elemental power, the only artists in the same league at present are Tom Waits and Nick Cave.
Anyway rock on Amadou and Mariam
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
A lot of people confuse the chronology of punk. It's quite common. There's the idea that punk happened during the winter of discontent and that it was the restless, revolutionary youth who helped bring down the corrupt and hidebound Labour administration and then took on the Tory fascists waving the flag throughout the years of mass unemployment. On paper that looks pretty good; but it's not true.
The purists argue that Punk was all over by mid-77. Others claim that it staggered on for a couple more years. Others say "who gives a fuck!". When The Specials released the epochal Ghost Town in 1981 unemployment hadn't even reached its peak. A year later it hit three million. There were no jobs and Tory politicians continued to demand greater and greater repression of the unemployed; demanding they find non-existent jobs in a moribund economy.
Well here we are again. There's a looming crisis, only this time the unions are emasculated and the cause of it lays at the feet of bankers who owe more to Rumplestiltskin than Keynes or Friedman for their economic philosophy. That said, if we are to compare the times then punk will have passed by now and we are in some grim industrial post-punk world peopled with bands like Prag Vec.
There are projections of six million unemployed in the UK by the end of the year, which is absolute bollocks; but a recession is upon us and can we all hope for some fantastic surge in music to complement these new old hard times. Well let's look and see what the soundtrack was for the last one....
Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Kajagoogoo, Phil Collins. It was a world of Anthony Price suits with the sleeves rolled up, of young bepermed men sitting on yachts and that great left wing thinker, Paul Weller, forming a band called The Style Council. In a word the last recession gave us some of the most insipid, spineless music that our music industry has ever come up with. Limp pop stars conspired with the most repressive government we had ever had (until Blair came along) to sell us an idea that somehow we could all live the dream merely by wearing nice suits.
They sold us out then and they will sell us out again. Anyone who dreams of some pop singer to deliver a coherent critique of the current political malaise is deluding themselves. If Das Kapital can be compressed into three verses and a snappy middle eight then we might get somewhere. There have been moments when bands have articulated the intense feelings of the age and the moment, but these are happy coincidences. Those bands who have ploughed that furrow have only been recognised as visionary many, many years later.
The reality of the moment is dictated by the charts and these were the charts in the dark days of 1983. Makes you feel proud doesn't it?
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
First off the new opus from Mr Scruff, Ninja Tuna, available on the ever wonderful Ninja Tune label. A label so irredeemably lovely that they would have to release racist skinhead bands for me to go off them, or Clive Dunne's back catalogue. Whether or not the album is named in tribute to the label I dunno, but hey; who cares?
One of the things I like most about Mr Scruff isn't the music but the cartoons. Cartoons are great and the world needs more of them. That said the new album is as esoteric a mash up as you could imagine, veering between the almost soul-jazz of Music Takes Me Up (I know, I know - soul jazz *shiver*) and the hip hop shapes of the opener, Test The Sound, that should have stuck around for longer in my opinion. The Roots Manuva featured track, Nice Up The Function, is another treat but large parts of the record seem to drift off into wibbly wobbly shapes that might sound lovely in the background of a wine bar or something.......that said this track is scrumptious.
The other album that's been playing wildly in Suburban Mansions was last heard in 1951. Unfortunately I was only sent the available-only-in-Walmart shorter edition of the 3 CD box set of Hank Williams - The Unreleased Recordings. This is a fucking goldmine. The tracks were all recorded for an old radio show that was sponsored by a flour company for a radio station in mid-Tennessee; it's a snapshot in time and believe me, you don't have to be a god botherer to hear the absolute joy in tracks like Dust On The Bible. This particular track is a blue grass traditional that Hank makes his own but weirdly the lyric could have been written today with it's references to books and magazines and such. There's a lot of similarities between this breed of country and present day RnB with the constant referencing to god and the battle in the personality between doing the right thing and wanting the wrong thing (see Jerry Lee Lewis); but Hank was the daddy of them all.
There are tracks here that have never been available before, like Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain and Cherokee Boogie, that make you wonder what the guy could have achieved if he'd lived longer than 29 years. Songs like The Prodigal Son and the lachrymous Searching For A Soldier's Grave might not be everyone's idea of cutting edge but you just have to hear the yearning in the strained voice, the bruises and callouses in every note and you start to realise why he died so young. Nobody can carry that much pain and emotion and be untouched. Hank Williams was the yardstick by which every modern country artist should be measured, and from where I stand most of them don't even figure.
In my humble opinion everyone who claims to love music should have at least on Hank Williams album in their collection. If you like RnB, if you like reggae, even if you like big rock then you will relate to Hank.
Hank is cool. Hats off to Hank. Watch this clip - it's awesome.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Most people probably haven't heard of Psapp. They'll know the music of course; every time they watch Gray's Anatomy and go "oh I like this theme tune" they are psapping, to use the proper verb. That said any American fan of the band would have been sorely tried by the band's refusal to play said song on their last tour of the States; something that may well have undermined their push for the peak of Commercial Mountain.
That said this band is wonderful. Like a cuddly puppy that bites, or your favourite woolen pullover that always smells of home and baked bread and cigarettes. Their first outing, Tiger My Friend, was a lo-fi delight that heavily featured squeaky toys and off kilter melodies. It owed more to the worldview of songwriter Galia Durrant, a poet and beauty of some renown, who's illustrations have adorned all the sleeves for their albums. Their first album for Domino seemed to be a more desperate affair, as if they were trying just that bit too hard to be grown up. Who the hell wants to grow up?
Unfortunately for Psapp they had to go out and tour that album because that's what groups have to do when they get proper record deals, and believe me it's tedious to the max. Everyday you climb onstage and replicate the same set you played the night before to a different group of people. Afterwards there's always another party with a bunch of people who think they know you becasue they've read an interview and heard your singles. For artists who have a little more to say than the usual "we fuck girls we do" kind of rock or rap music it can be debilitating. There are moments onstage when a vocalist can find themselves thinking of doing the laundry rather than performing because the whole event has become just like any other job; one to be handled on auto-pilot rather than something that is an artistic statement. This is what happened to Psapp.
Galia came back to London completely disenchanted with music, and the business of music. Unfortunately for her she had believed that making music was an artform, which it should be, but in taking it out onto a gruelling set of tour dates her delicate, thoughtful, transcendent music became the soundtrack to people drinking, talking and requesting the TV theme. Those of us who know and love her wondered if she'd ever make music again. And she has, and it's great.
The Camel's Back is a better album than both previous outings. Carim Clasmann, producer and co-writer, has crafted a soundscape as beguiling as Tiger but with greater muscle; it puts flesh to the saying "the things that do not destroy me make me stronger". It's as if Psapp have rested, taken note of where it all went wobbly and thrown away any doubts or prevarication. This has original written through it like a stick of seaside rock.
From the life affirming I Want That, kicking of the proceedings, the album draws you in like a strip club barker. Songs like The Camel's Back, Screws and Homicide demand respect. This is an album of rare quality that deserves adulation and garlands. It probably won't get the attention it should because some dreadful fucking covers artist who has dribbled out of the X Factory will release their latest karaoke effort in the same week and Sony Warners EMI will put their millions behind safe pop. This, on the other hand, is real pop. Buy this, don't buy that. In fact buy it here at Domino. Belive me you'll love me for it.
Now all Galia and Carim have to do is turn down the demands to tour. What's the point? Play a few boutique shows and meet some beautiful people, go on telly or do interesting stuff; but don't go "on the road". You're not a rock band and you really don't need the hassle and the expense.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Before he turned Motown around he'd been a pool hustler. How cool is that? Without Norman there would be no modern urban sound, things would sound different in this world of ours.
His production techniques gave rise to the whole area of psychedelic soul that laid the foundations for Marvin Gaye's What's Going On and Stevie Wonder's immense trilogy, Talking Book, Innervisions and Songs in the Key of Life. He broke down boundaries between musical styles and along with Sly Stone opened the ears of the world to the wonders of the fuzz guitar.
The first time I heard the full length version of Rolling Stone by The Temptations I wept. It was the majestic sweep and the sheer beauty of the music, the cascading strings and the sublime vocal arrangements that tore a hole in my heart and opened my mind to music far beyond the confines of my teenage years. Though I already knew Motown's catalogue of glorious singles it had never occurred to me that these acts were "album" artists. I still have my original vinyl version of All Directions, and I still play it to this day.
And to think some penny pinching no mark treasury scum were pursuing him to the ends of his days.
Have a drink to him. Here's why he was the Mozart of Soul.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Now for too many of us middle class liberally types who are OK with US rap, because it's over there, but draw the line at grime, because it's over here and our tabloids say it's all about the crime, miss out on what is the definitive sound of the UK urban scene. It's not just black kids either. There is a whole scene of young folk looking for a definitive way to express whatever frustrations and anger they have with the way their world, both immediate and wider, is being run for them. For me it was punk, for my nephew it's grime. At the top of this scene, musical movement, whatever you want to call it is Kano, Wiley and Dizzee.
Now the UK music industry is notoriously racist, almost institutionally so. I'm sure that some over-fed label MD will splutter their disagreement, pointing out that Leona Lewis and Lemarr are both black. Yeah, they are; but their careers are controlled by stupid white men who's only connection to the street is through the rubber of the tyres of their BMWs. The music they make says nothing to me about our world or the times in which we live. They sound and act like the stage school stooges they are, and like Gareth Gates before them, they will be used up, wrung out and flushed away once the public moves on. Kano, Wiley and Dizzee will still be here.
Because they live in the moment, they control their destinies, they write music that says something to all of us, particularly to the unemployed, angry and exploited youth, the ranks of which will soon be expanding as once again the politicians let the moneymen fuck up our society without ever holding them to account. Now back to Kano's new tape.
Now I'm sure this will be coming out in CD form but whoever thought of sending it out as a mixtape should get a medal. Talk about old skool.
Kicking off with the title track you're straight into the first single, Hustler. Here's the excellent video.
I'm not sure whether the topless girls will be too much for the morality brigade but the point of the song is that music represents an outlet for people deprived of most standard forms of employment and enrichment, aside of drugs and prostitution. Following on from Hustler there's a roll call of blinding tunes - Hunting We Will Go, These MCs and Gangsta - the flow keeps going. Kano lays himself out there and the results are stunning.
Considering that his last album, London Town, was a genre defining moment it is both surprising and invigorating that he tops that with 140 Grime Street. It's time that the majority of our music journalists stopped referring to the US and their assorted X factorappers as somehow the start and end of urban music. Finally the UK can point to our home-grown talent as being far more relevant to our experience and society. On top of that Kano is releasing his new album through his own label, BPM Recordings, a move that should be applauded as so much of the UK music industry has no idea how to market a music that is recognised around the world as being a vibrant expression of the UK in 2008. If you want to know what's happening up East don't ask a major label exec based in London, ask a kid living in Buenos Aires or Toronto.
Now go out and buy the record.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Anyway this track is excellent. Hopefully Radio One DJs will play it to death with a knowing wink, with memories of their behaviour the previous night, as the lyric lays bare all the gnarly blaggy world of the professional party coke whore gimme a line please type person. The video isn't up to much but the song is ace.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Music played as big a part as you could hope for, given the, what seemed like, endless drives up and down France with the ipod blaring reminding me of all the good stuff I'd forgotten about and all the new stuff I hadn't written about. As well as hearing old stuff again I got to know such great new stuff (well new to me anyway) like Sir Victor Uwaifo's Guitar-Boy Superstar 1970-76.
Now given the modest nature of the title I didn't know what to expect but if you're going to buy one record, or CD this week make it this one. Admittedly people may get a little tired after track 14 or so, but hey, don't turn your nose up at great value. However this music glides, swoops and lifts the spirits so it was ideal for me. Having been around the Island offices back in the day, when they were releasing King Sunny Ade and hanging out with Jumbo from Mango I can't understand how I never came across Sir Victor before. In the early 80s I co-hosted a club where we featured African acts, like Prince Nico Mbarga, who were passing through London. On top of the live bands we were the first to heavily feature all this brilliant music on the decks, and I still hadn't heard from Vic.
There are plenty of other writers out there who could give you chapter and verse on Victor's astonishing life, the fine essence of his music and what corner of the field his roots came from but as far as I'm concerned that just obscures the wonder that runs through this album like the word FUCKING AMAZING through a stick of rock. Tracks like Kirikisi, and Obodo Eyo with it's honey sax, Idogo or Iye Iye, on and on and on. The locked rhythm section, the sway and swoon of the music, the exquisite guitar work and all this was in the early seventies. Come on.
Hats off then to this Living Legend and Music Superstar, this Sportsman and Philosopher, this Sculptor and Inventor (as he points out on his website). I get so much mocking from friends for championing music from other languages, or other continents; for so many there's some kind of mental block when it comes to lyrics being sung in a foreign language, much the same kind of fear folk have of watching films with subtitles! Heaven forbid! Try to remember what was the last, well made British film and then look across the channel to France, Spain or Germany and marvel at the myriad examples of excellence. Well, y'know, music is the same (not France though.....) so rush out and buy Sir Victor and open up a whole new dimension in your life.
Hurrah Dawn Landes has released her version of Young Folks. Run as fast as you can to your compooooters and download it and make her a big big popstar. Here she is, she is beautiful and wonderful:
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
The video was shot in Paris, according to Promonews, and that must have been a blast. Somewhere between Vince Clarke's angry grandson and These New Puritans (a past favourite band of the week) they deserve to have their picture up on millions of bedroom walls. I notice that Joey, Mr Main WSM obv, plans on producing the first album himself. Fucking brilliant.
So many fat-sounding bands end up getting pushed into the studio with some engineer-producer who has absolutely no idea of the power and thrill of live music, being on stage, shagging groupies and being generally totally misappropriate in their youth. As a result they worry if the hi-hat is loud enough, does the bass sound as good as the last Coldplay album and talk reverentially about the guitar sound on the Duffy album. Fuck 'em. Bands should produce themselves and be really careful who they give their stuff too to mix. So We Smoke Fags why don't you get Vince to do a remix for you, anyone who can make Happy Mondays sound good has to be an expert.
These guys can do a 38 date tour, according to Rough Trade's review, without even releasing a record.
Monday, July 07, 2008
Sunday, July 06, 2008
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Having been accused too often of only liking bands because I want to be down with the kids (dahn wiv der kidz!) I can only point to CSS and say “Fuck You, I was there first”. I love this band. They are everything most British bands aren’t. That is influenced by things other than other bands, like art, life, literature and…er…other bands; at least interesting bands that don’t exist anymore like Death From Above 1979.
This gang of arty girls, and one guy, from
As far as I’m concerned the likes of Klaxons (who I also like lots) wouldn’t have happened. I mean, for fuck’s sake, look at the list of favourite bands of 2006 as voted on Jo Whiley’s show. It reads like a list compiled by some lower ranking civil servant of the most mundane things of the year. Sort of explains why popular taste should never be allowed to govern artistic choice; it’s just sooooooo safe. Anyone with any great interest in music, those of us who remember various golden ages as being the very apogee of music, should go back and see who the most popular bands of their particular era were. It’s quite a wake up and doesn’t explain history as we know it, Jim.
So from Music Goulash’s point of view CSS were the saviours of British music in 2006 and anyone who says otherwise should be locked in a room with their shitty Razorlight albums. Suddenly there was some colour in the sound, not that they ever got played on the radio, well not much anyway. And now they have a new album out and it’s great.
Donkey is a good title. It’s stubborn and doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. Sensibly the band went back to
From the kick off, with Jager Yoga, and into Rat Is Dead (a personal fave) that was given away as a free download the album announces it arrival with some force and focus. On their own, and in the ears of some humourless twats, some of the songs may be construed as naïve or simplistic, but this is an intrinsic part of this band’s charm. Lyrically songs like Left Behind are streets ahead of their musical, British born, contemporaries, like the Kooks or Fratellis, where the lyrics seem both lazy and inarticulate. Maybe it’s the Abba syndrome, where writing in a foreign language can appear simplistic on the surface but in the track the words are just so and seem to carry more weight than native born lyricists (The Day Before You Came).
So they are back and ripping up the summer months. I really hope that their planned relocations don’t have an adverse affect on who they are and what they do. They are global culture; they are the sense of humour in a corporate music world. Maybe they are the last gasp of the real art school band, which would be a disaster, but as Pete Brown once said The Art School Dance Goes On Forever. As Lovefoxxx sets up home with Simon Klaxon in London and three of the others also make the move, two of whom look like being my neighbours in Kensal Rise, which makes sense given the Little Brazil area of Harrow Road – one of the coolest places to go for a night out.
Tired of Being Sexy; I really hope not.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Here we are then, with our new very own Colonel Blimp stepping in to tell the Rise: London United anti-racism concert, held annually, that they need to drop the anti-racism bit. Has anyone told the acts who had agreed to play it? That'll be CSS, Jimmy Cliff, Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, Bassekou Kouyate and the Dub Pistols (with the legendary Terry Hall) to name but a few; all bands who have taken a reduced fee to play the event in solidarity with the message.
This happens at a time of a rising presence of the BNP (British fascist party) and racial violence. Kind of makes you wonder how Johnson's spokesperson, and cultural advisor, Munira Mirza can spit the words out when she suggests that it's no longer appropriate for the Cuba Solidarity Campaign to take part. We talking Uncle Tom here? Maybe she should discuss it with the recently elected BNP assembly member just to test her theory that racism is exaggerated in the UK.
Whatever your political persuasion, unless of course you're a fascist pig, racism represents the nadir of stupidity and does nothing to improve the society we live in. To actively prevent this point being made is at least stupid and at worst criminal.
First off Dolby Anol's new track Puppies, that's coming out on Back Yard (the people who gave us Gossip), is the sound of several pieces of electronic equipment falling down the stairs. being as the guys are from Glasgow there's a stereotypical chance that alcohol is involved, being as that's all they do up there. That said this is a marvellous collision of hardcore retro beats from 88, how the PR people manage to squeeze "electro house" into the equation beats me as I've always found house to be kind of mellow and it tends to be made on electronic equipment. This is Teutonic and smells of amphetamine.
The second track that, like a swallow, heralds a summer of off-your-face-is-that-my-tongue-I'm-chewing fun is the wondrously named Fukkk Offf with their Rave Is King track on Coco Machete (a label I am particularly fond of). Fukkk, whose real name is Bastian, comes from Hamburg and probably wasn't around for the fun in 88 but that doesn't stop him using a computer generated voice, that sounds nothing like Stephen Hawking, extolling the virtues of alcohol, drugs,overdrive, noise, neon lights, party people, rave is king and then it kicks in with the fattest analogue sounding bass and pump that I've heard since I first was blown away by Material's Bustin' Out back in 81. Can you feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeel it???
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
I know, I know 30 million sales and counting; but I'd still rather have a Nick Cave album than a Coldplay.
My criticism of CTE is more a criticism of the herd mentality of the music industry. I have absolutely nothing against "kick ass rock n' roll", or "a great live show", but I do struggle with a music media and industry that is so desperate to discover some new messiah that they grasp at any weak straw or crumb of comfort. This has no benefit for the acts or the industry; when a band is pursued so relentlessly, with inducements and large cheques, the pressure on them to succeed from the off is intense and invariably leads to disappointment and career meltdown. I'm sure CTE are fine live but they are purely revisiting somewhere that has already been mapped out and rediscovered in a far more ground shaking way by the likes of The White Stripes or Black Keys.
And as for English fog, anonymous 2, maybe your stereotypical tornadoes has blown a huge new hole in your ass.
Monday, June 16, 2008
So I was round at Promonews.tv HQ end of last week and the main guy, Dave Knight, was in the process of putting up the new video by Cage The Elephant. Naturally I was interested as there's been words on the wire about this band with various people banging on about their hotness and general fabulousness. So I was pretty disappointed when I discovered that they were basically the new Gomez.
What I mainly got from them was a band who, as usual, wanted to be The Stones but were coming at it via Black Crowes or a band like that. So in effect they are copying a copy-cat band, in that sort of phoney rock 'n roll fashion.
I know, I know. Lots of people liked Gomez and they won the Mercury Prize blah blah blah but come on. They were one of those bands that people like my brother in law, who let punk pass him by as he was on the road with Mike Oldfield, would deem "real music". Oh come on. A bunch of white college boys trying to be all delta does not make it real. If I come across a bit like Steve Buscemi in Ghost World well so be it. I'm sure they're a great night out but it's all a bit too contrived for me. Mind you I like the Ami Barwell pics on their myspace.
Anyway file under whatever.
Friday, June 06, 2008
Now I'm here, and there as well, and plan on moving this forward as a place for slightly old farts to come for advice on what's good and what's crap. Believe me there is a lot of good music still being made out there but to read some of the "youth" mags you'd think that bands only had one good album in them - in The Twang's case not even the one (hey James, I thought they were the future of rock music!). So come back and check me out on a regular basis.