Friday, 28 December 2007

It's Britney, bitch

From her legendary car crash VMA performance to her ill adivised hair makeover, Britney Spears has had the kind of year that serves to uphold the old adage that 'theres always someone worse off than you'.
The girls nothing if not unpredictable, but even by Britneys standards incorporating a grime/dubstep influenced track on her recent Blackout LP was something of an eyebrow raiser.
I doubt that if the instrumental got played on Rinse many people would realise, she should have of called Wiley to jump on it for a guest verse.

Britney Spears - Freakshow

And the unlikely union between Ms Spears and Grime doesn't stop there: Here's a mp3 of Jammer freestyling over Britney's 'Toxic' as featured on DJ/Blogger Prancehalls excellent free download mixtape Anger Is A Gift. Clearly somewhere within the crack haze Britney knows something we don't. Play this at a house party on NYE and if the reaction is anything other than riotous approval then your resolution is to find better friends.

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

I've got a sweet sugar but thats it

When Test-Icicles disbanded last year, buckling under the strain of a joke taken too far, it was Dev Hynes, the bands iconic visual centerpoint and general man about myspace who was earmarked as the defunct acts 'most likely to'.

Dissapoiningly most of his nu folky solo material (released under the moniker Lightpeed Champion via myspace and latterly Domino Records) has been largely forgettable, however latest offering 'Tell me What it's Worth' is a finely sculpted song that marks a significant leap forward from his previous forays into sub Bright Eyes territory. In fact so big is the aforementioned leap that I'd wager that this will be up there this time next year when every ones making their obligatory 'best of' lists. Great video too.

Apparently he was the support for Patrick Wolf's recent 'farewell' tour. Why does no one ever tell me these things?


Monday, 10 December 2007

Me = Lame, Mika Miko = Ace

Ok so I havent posted much lately, and my album of the year post last week was pretty lame (except the Bowie line, I was pretty pleased with that).
The lact of quality blogs is due to the fact Im currently in the process of moving to Manchester and havent really had much time to write, but when Im relocated, settled etc expect me to compose some suibtably amazing words about all girl LA punk outfit Mika Miko. Thats if someone buys me their C.Y.S.L.A.B.F album for christmas. Hint hint.

Mika Miko in Buisness Cats

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Album of The Year 2007 - of Montreal - 'Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?'

Break-up albums generally suck. This is because they’re usually either too bogged down in embittered spite to be listenable, or so self consciously whimsical they make you feel nauseous. However, in the hands of Kevin Barnes’ of Montreal breaking up sounds like Berlin-era Bowie on a manic depressive sugar rush. Album of the year.

Honrary Mentions

Patrick Wolf - The Magic Position
Burial - Untrue
Help! She Can't Swim - The Death of Nightlife

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Foals - Balloons Video

Directed by Dave Ma

We Don't Need Honesty

On Friday I saw London’s latest Post-Punk hopefuls ‘Electricity in Our Homes’ play 93 Feet East in Brick Lane. The sound was terrible but I got the gist of what was going on and liked what I could discern within the cavernous reverberant din of the venues band room. On their myspace they list Postcard Records as an influence but (save a riff lifted wholesale from Josef K’s ‘Fun and Frenzy’) EIOH are less the Sound of Young Scotland, more the sound of late 70’s Lower East Side NY, with DNA and Teenage Jesus and The Jerks offering more obvious points of reference for their taut and clipped No-Wave.
The bands combination of cut glass guitars, monotone vocals and shirts done up to the top button has been well worn (particularly in London) to the point of cliché, but the curiously tribal effect produced by the lack of syncopation in their rhythm section gives EIOH a distinct identity and a definite edge over their peers. By its nature the music is repetitive and discordant but no track is allowed to outstay its welcome; Electricity In Our Homes songs don’t so much finish as stop dead in their tracks the minute they’ve said all they need to say.
I’m still unsure whether closing the set with their deconstruction of punk standard ‘Louie Louie’ (a tribute undoubtedly to the famed ‘Jon the Postman’, who clambered on stage to sing the Kingsmans number at the end of Fall and Joy Division gigs) was inspired or one of the worst examples of self consciously referential art school cynicism I’ve ever witnessed.
Probably both, in which case all credit to them.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

And they've all got Misfits T-Shirts...

It took me a while to work out whether or not it was ok to like Johnny Foreigner. On the one hand they make great, catchy pop-core that sounds like the bastard child of At The Drive-In and Los Campesinos. On the other there’s something I find irksome about bands like JF; bands that is who are so evidently in thrall to all things US indie that they find themselves not only appropriating the melodic sensibilities of their transatlantic counterparts but also, at times, lapsing into faux American accents.
In the end though I just went with it. The free 15 track demo 'I Like You Mostly Late At Never' (download here) contains the foundations for some of the finest boy/girl post-whatever since Pretty Girls Make Graves called it a day. Plus when I found out they came from Birmingham the American vocal inflections suddenly seemed a lot easier to bare. Upcoming sessions for Radio 1 and gigs for Vice, Drowned in Sound, XFM and Artrocker suggest the Brum threesome will be suitably massive this time next year, if not before. Apparently they also featured on a battle of the bands style TV show called 'Road to V' which is a shame, but I never saw that so couldn't really comment.
Be sure to download the 'Sofa Core' Mp3 below as it's ace.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Ballad of a Mixtape

There’s something about this time of year that makes me want to listen to Comet Gain.
Maybe the slightly autumnal title of their last album 'City Fallen Leaves', or perhaps it’s because they seem to be absolutely freezing cold in the video for the excellent 'Fists in My Pocket' (see below). Then again, maybe it's just because their records sound so reassuringly warm; all soul drenched organs, handclaps and lo-fi guitars, so gloriously analogue in their rendering that even the CD's sound like dusty vinyl LP's. Forget Vitamin C and extra layers of clothing, Comet Gain are just the tonic for these bleak autumn/winter days.

Comet Gain cut their teeth in the early 90’s alongside Riot Grrl trailblazers Huggy Bear (whose bassist Jon Slade currently plays guitar for the band) and their albums sound like compilation tapes made by someone in possession of an infinitely cooler record collection than your own. Taking in Northern Soul, 60's girl-group pop, garage rock and punk, as well the customary nods to The Go-Betweens, and The Pastels, Comet Gain draw from a diverse gene pool without ever managing to sound like anyone but themselves.
They released 2 albums on the impeccable Wiiija label during the nineties before the entire band, bar guitarist/singer David Feck, walked out to form under achieving indie-poppers Velocette. Unabated, Feck continued to record under the Comet Gain moniker with a variety of collaborators (including Kathleen Hannah of Bikini Kill/ Le Tigre fame) before settling on the bands current line up. They’re currently signed to Kill Rock Stars and their most recent album 'City Fallen Leaves' is surpassed only by their striking debut LP 'Casino Classics' in terms of quality. Check out the video and mp3 below and and get a taste of a band for whom ‘indie’ isn't a byword for overpriveledged kids in tight jeans.
A new album tentatively titled 'Broken Record Prayers' is being prepared for release sometime in the near future. Live dates, hopefully, will follow.

Comet Gain - Why I Try To Look So Bad

Video: Fists In The Pocket

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

The Cribs - Our Bovine Public

Conceptually The Cribs are something of a contradiction. One minute they're declaring war on the commercialisation of Indie, the next playing at the V Festival. A band that, for all their championing of labels like K Records and Kill Rock Stars are far more likely to occupy shelf space between Babyshambles and Dirty Pretty Things CD’s than behind obscure US punk 7 inches. Allegedly opposed to laddish Rock n Roll clichés, they’re still best known for guitarist Ryan Jarmans drunken dive (onto a nearby table) at the NME Awards. The tension between the rhetoric and the reality is undeniable. Our Bovine Public then is The Cribs attempt to set the record straight; to redraw the line between what they stand for and what they are against.

Attack is often the best form of defence: Within 13 seconds of the opening note they’ve spat out the first verse and hit the chorus running. The production might be cleaner than before, but it’s done little to temper their vitriol. Indeed, it’s the sheer bloody minded righteousness of Our Bovine Public that makes The Cribs case for the defence so convincing.
Naturally, there’s nothing adventurous in the format. This is the same verse/chorus punk rock we've heard a million times before, served up with the bands customary serrated guitar lines, pounding rhythms and bellowed choruses. It’s just The Cribs do this sort of thing so much better than everyone else, which is most likely the cause their ideological quandary; songs this catchy inevitably tap into a consciousness far beyond their idealised world of fanzines and obscure Punk labels. All the Jarman brothers can do is ride the wave as best they can.
Fittingly the track climaxes with the pay off 'I’ll never regret not one thing I've done, but you would never exist without maybe I do', a lambaste at the bands who’ve appropriated their sound but none of their ethics.
Who knows, if they’re that bothered maybe the next album should be the bands ‘In Utero’ or ‘Metal Machine Music’, a wilful self sacrifice to disassociate themselves from their legacy of The Pigeon Detectives et al. It would, afterall, be the 'punk' thing to do. Until then let’s just enjoy The Cribs for what they are: a band with a deft hand for crafting raucous indie-pop anthems, of which this is one of their finest.


I Met Her In The Bin

Pre are my favourite band at the moment.

If they look familiar thats because they count Akiko from Comanechi and former members of Todd and Seafood amongst their number. Featuring more basses than guitars, Pre's shapeshiting artnoise sounds a little like Black Flag re imagined as a No-Wave band; thunderous hardcore bluster colliding head on with arch art school aesthetics. Their debut album 'Epic Fits' barely incorporates as many minutes as it does songs and is one of the most viscerally thrilling records I've heard all year. Terrifying and danceable in equal measures, its delivered with a commendable enthusiasm for creating as loud a racket as humanly possible. The lyrics are predictably incomprehensible, but with song titles like 'I Met Her in the Bin' who really cares.
See below for the snappily titled 'Fuck is Fun' video.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Lonely Ghosts interview

Lonely Ghosts is the solo guise of Help! She Can't Swim co-vocalist and resident guitar mangler Tom Denney. Originally conceived as a means of killing the hours during HSCS downtime, Lonely Ghosts status has quickly risen way beyond that of your average side project. Listening to the ubiquitous myspace demo's it's not hard to figure out why; beneath the lo-fi guitars, distorted vocals and Casio keyboards lie some of the finest pop tunes I've heard in a long while. To date Lonely Ghosts have supported Final Fantasy and Bearsuit, toured the UK with The Tumbledown Estate and recently contributed a track to Volume 1 of the excellent OIB Records Split Series (along with Munch Munch, Gay Against You and the aforementioned Tumbledown Estate). I spoke with Tom to find out more...

1. Given you are already in Help! She Can’t Swim what were your motivations for starting Lonely Ghosts?

Just to experiment with different ideas that wouldn't really work within the band. Also to test myself and see just what I can do on my own without any other people to bounce ideas off. Last summer the band had a bit of down time because people were moving to different towns and travelling and stuff so I had the opportunity to actually give it a shot. I ended up writing a lot of stuff and I just decided to give it the name Lonely Ghosts.

2. Do you view Lonely Ghosts as a band or project? Are there any plans to recruit a permanent band line-up to play your songs live?

At the moment I guess it's a one man band. I have other people play live with me sometimes but I still think the live show is developing. I haven't decided on one way of playing these songs live so for the moment I'm going to try out different things. I think it'd be cool to get a fixed band together some time though... I just need to find people interested in playing my songs so if any one's interested please get in touch!

3. How does the writing process differ from your band stuff, do you find it easier or harder to write and arrange material by yourself?

I seem to write a lot as I record. I come up with the bulk of a song on one instrument and just record that and then I work around it, making up other parts and vocals and programming drums. sometimes it's easy and sometimes it's not... I was nervous when I started that I was going to suck at writing on my own but I think I'm getting the hang of it.

4. What do other members of Help! She Can't Swim think of Lonely Ghosts, have they been supportive or nervous?

They've been supportive, I've actually got Leesey playing clarinet and doing some backing vocals on my mini album.

5. How have the gigs been received thus far? Any particularly memorable experiences?

I went on tour with the tumbledown estate playing joint sets together and we ended up playing a gig at a friend’s house party in London in a tiny box room. It was pretty mental. we'd just done a gig in Luton and drove down to London and got there pretty late. The people in the house were moving out the next day and so they were burning their furniture in the back garden. Everyone was wasted and we played in the smallest room in the house and played all our backing beats through a stereo cranked up to the max. We even had a crowd surfer. It was a messy night!

6. How did you get involved with OIB?

OIB Records is a label that was set up by a few of my friends in Brighton and has turned into a little collective which I'm now involved in. OIB is great!

7. Are there plans to release more material following your track on the OIB split? Will you be releasing the myspace stuff or newer bits?

I recently finished recording a mini album which will come out early next year on OIB. I've also got a full album written which will also come out next but I haven't finished recording that yet. The stuff that's up on my myspace will come out properly on these records as well as a lot of other stuff. I'm very excited about the mini album coming out. I recorded most of it at home and then went and finished it off with Justin Callaway who recorded the last Help She Can't Swim album. I think it sounds pretty different to what I've done with HSCS. It's still indie and pop and noisy in places but just from a different angle.

8. If you could take 2 bands of your choosing on tour with Lonely Ghosts who would you bring?

For a fun punk tour maybe The Thermals and Mika Miko. For a pretty/dark tour Xiu Xiu and Final Fantasy. For dream tour reform My Bloody Valentine and Neutral Milk Hotel.

Lonely Ghosts - 'Battle Ships' (Demo)

Volume 1 of the OIB Records Split Series features the Lonely Ghosts track 'Predictions' and is out now.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

'What the fuck is.. oh, it's the bass'

Despite the best efforts of the teenagers who served as babysitters for me in the 80's and early 90's, the hipper musical trends of the era generally went over my head. 'E' was understood as a prefix to a number to be avoided in my food products, rather than something you had to take to enjoy House music, so the thinly veiled drug references that frequented Top of The Pops at the time went over my head. Similarly, the whimsical melancholy of indie music, and in particular The Smiths, with their downtrodden tales of alienation and 'going home and wanting to die' somehow failed to resonate with me at the tender age of 7. Much to the frustration of my temporary teenage guardians, it was the sounds that emanated from my Commodore 64 computer that proved most stimulating to my musical palette, and many an hour between the ages of 4-10 were spent with my Fisher Price tape recorder pressed up against the screen compiling lo-fi mixtapes of 8-bit monosodium glutamate.

Its 2007 and things have moved on (I'm now a fully paid up member of the Morrissey fan club), but Freud would undoubtedly cite my affection for lo-fi boy/girl Canadian 8-bit duo Crystal Castles as a subconscious desire to regress to these halcyon times of youth. Regardless of such psychobabble, Crystal Castles are ace. I first came across the band via their track 'Air War' on a Rough Trade sampler sometime last year and I've been smitten with their distinct brand of glitchcore ever since. Whilst their 7-inches on the uberhip Merok label are now sold out, the Fisher Price can mercifully be left to gather dust as Hype Machine have enough of their material (as well as their remixes for the likes of Liars, Klaxons, Bloc Party et al) up for download to satisfy even the most ardent completist. Counting 'blank expressions on girls' and 'knives' amongst their influences, Crystal Castles sound like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs might if you replaced the guitars with gameboys- a violent cacophony of indecipherable girl shouts, Atari bleeps and 8-bit electro bass; punky in attitude, poppy in execution.

They're touring the UK in a few weeks on the Vice curated Unitaur with the similarly great These New Puritans, and since it's free there's really no excuse not to go see them.

Check out the live video of their excellent remix of Klaxons 'Atlantis to Interzone' remix below and go here to download more Crystal Castles stuff.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Instruments, Silver Rocket club, 21/09/07

Who said that we should count like cats?

Instrumental Post-Rock isn’t meant to be fun. Apparently though, it seems no one's told ascendant London four piece ‘Instruments’, for whose brand of sonic experimentation I’m stumped to find an adjective more befitting. Making their Silver Rocket debut tonight, Instruments have the guile to be bright, melodic, and well…fun. Frankly, in a musical world ruled by affected dissonance and technique over imagination, they’re a breath of fresh air.
The requisite pre-gig visit to their myspace page suggests a band in possession of some well worn Owls and Joan of Arc/ Tim Kinsella LP’s. However, from tonight’s opening note it becomes clear that there’s much more to the Instruments agenda than paying tribute to their musical forefathers. They might be first on the bill, but as the amps buzz into life a significant crowd has already formed, rapidly swelling to the venues capacity.
Initially the music teases, frequently stopping and starting before reforming anew, each dynamic twist bringing forth a fresh sense of melodic and rhythmic purpose. Onstage, the band clearly appear to be enjoying themselves. Their involuntary back and forth rocking, conspirital grins and general lack of self consciousness imbue the performance with the same easy charm as the music. It’s undeniably infectious. They might be without vocals (save the odd yelp), but each Instrument is in possession of an arsenal of riffs lyrical enough to carry any song in their own right. Clearly, they're musicians of some repute, (the relative ease in which they negotiate shifts in tempo and time signature is frightening) yet there’s no flabby self-serving indulgence on display here. Each part is given just enough time to etch itself into your psyche before it shifts off in a new direction. Label them ‘Math-rock’ if you really must, but such clinical terminology belies the intuitive, playful core at the center of their music. Ultimately, for all the technical prowess on display here it's not the bands minds, but their hearts which have duly charmed the crowd tonight. As their set draws to a close a cursory scan of the Buffalo Bar reveals the stock audience response of stroked chin and furrowed brow has long been ditched in favour of nodding heads, tapping feet and smiling faces. Relatively speaking, we’re dancing in the aisles.
Who said that instrumental Post-Rock wasn't meant to be fun?

Download the Instruments track 'American Football or American Football?' here.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

I wanna fuck your mother

After 2 years of sporadic (but suitably deranged and devotedly attended) appearances, Brighton’s finest have returned full pelt to the fray with a new EP of material, and it's good. Not quite as vital, compelling and downright sexy as their debut, but far more sonically focused in its intent than the sprawling follow up Royal Society, which bodes very well for their upcoming third album.

Still, pleased as I am to see Eighties Matchbox return to form I can’t help but feel that the racket being made by former guitarist Andy Huxley's outfit (with co conspirators James Hair and Bertie Lean), ‘Vile Imbeciles’, offer an altogether more exciting proposition.

Like all the best bands they seem to have polarised opinion thus far (see the press cuttings on their myspace page). Personally, I loved them when I caught an early gig at Catch bar last year and thought that on record they sounded like Rock ‘n’ Rolls long overdue response to Aphex Twins 'Cone To Daddy'.
Their debut album '...Ma' has only been out a couple of months but they're already demo’ing material for the next one (a ‘proper commercial effort’ apparently), 4 tracks of which they've put up on their myspace page.
These new recordings are great- more refined and aurally articulate than '…Ma's' primal screams, Vile Imbeciles have evolved nicely into the realm of the listenable without sacrificing any of their uniqueness. Discerning ears might detect the faintest traces of Captain Beefheart, Melvins and The Birthday Party (<-seriously, check this link out) interwoven into their Gonzodeathjazzbeat DNA, but truly they sound like nothing else around at the moment. Exciting stuff indeed, but guys, more gigs please!

Vile Imbeciles Photo by Dave MA, used by permission

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Dubstep: A Casual Introduction

If you hadn't noticed, Dubstep is blowing up right now. Queues for the last FWD>> night at The End saw people queuing for upwards of four hours to get in, with many more waiting even longer only to never make it. Such has been the genres ascendance of late that you can now hear Skream's tunes on Channel 4's 'Skins' and catch Mala DJ'ing at Indie-scene haunts, while bands such as Dior Homme darlings and '08's most likely to' These New Puritans are referencing Digital Mystikz as an influence.

If you haven't seen this short documentary yet (its a bit old now) its worth checking out as an introduction to whats all the fuss is about.

Anyone looking to investigate further could do a lot worse than checking out the Eyes Down documentary and visiting who have a comprehensive archive of radio sets (both pirate and legal) up for download (I'd recommend Plasticians 2006 mix or Kode9's Burial set as good starting points). Also well worth checking out are Skreams ace refix of the Klaxons 'It's Not Over Yet' (effectively a cover of a cover) and Benga & Coki's tune 'Night', the biggest tune in the scene at the moment and undoubtedly one of the years finest tracks so far, irrespective of genre.
Just watch those bass bins, yeah?

Across the city we all sit and wait

Anyone unlucky enough to have listened to daytime radio of late could be forgiven for thinking that the art of crafting pop music that capitaves you for three magical minutes then leaves you gasping for more (see here) is dead. However there is hope- I've been unable to get Strange Idols C86ish single 'She's Gonna Let You Down Again' out of my head since I saw them play at The Old Blue Last a few months back. Why this song isnt all over radio and the band adorning covers of magazines is beyond me, it's my single of the year so far by a long shot. They haven't made a video for it as far as I can tell, and this live footage from Derbys 'Indie Tracks' festival doesnt quite do it justice (sonically speaking), but here it is anyway. Check Modern Pop Records to see if they have any copies left, listen to it on Strange Idols myspace or better still see them live (they're great) to hear it in its full glory.

A guy called Dan Deacon played at White Heat last week as the special guest. He managed to bridge a generation gap of about twenty years between himself and the average scenester in attendance on the night and caused all sorts of mayhem on the Madame Jo Jo's dancefloor. Good times. In my head this is what 'New (Nu?!) R*ve' should sound like, although I fear in reality this is not the case at all. It's the kind of music that makes most sense when experienced live, but this video of him on NBC(!) gives a taster of whats going on, just imagine it twice as fast and ten times as amazing.