11 May 2007

Live Review: Syd Barrett Madcap's Last Laugh at London Barbican - 10th May 2007

Author: Dollyrocker

SydWhat hasn't already been said about recently deceased reclusive guitar legend Syd Barrett? Probably really nothing noteworthy since about 1975, when Roger as his family call him completely packed in music and headed home to Cambridge. So, following his sad passing away last year, Joe Boyd has spent the past six months planning a tribute night that would really just concentrate on the guys music. This, after all is what made Syd a legend. His Pink Floyd were responsible for the birth of Psychedelia in it's most intense form. About as far away from the jangly US sunshine pop as you could get in '66, Syd married his echo slide effects and fuzzy noize to trance like organ twiddles and oil projections to mindblowing effect. Without Syd, there may have been no Rave, and god knows what Rod Stewart might have got away with..

The tribute show was put together at the London Barbican Centre, a very suitable venue as it was all seated and by miracle, the last minute tickets I managed to blag on the day were in the very front row bang in the middle. NICE! The people performing Syd songs were mainly made up from well known Syd devotees, Kevin Ayers, Damon Albarn, Andy Bell, Captain Sensible, Robyn Hitchcock and many others which will be reviewed in this piece.

The show opened with an interested accapella version of 'Bike' from Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, performed by Sense Of Sound Chior, which went down fairly well, although I'm surprised they didn't do 'Golden Hair' or something that would have allowed them to flex their wonderful harmonies. Captain Sensible fronted the house band for the evening, performing a really amazing version of 'Flaming' with Andy Bell, aka 'Oasis Bloke' on bass. Original projections from the early Floyd era were shown throughout the night, adding a great deal to an already generous show.

Kevin Ayers was there to show tribute to his old friend, slightly crowd shy but performing a moving version of a track written for Syd years ago, called 'Oh, Wot A Dream' which quite a few people seemed to sing along to. He also did a great version of 'Here I Go' as well, bringing quite a swing to it and even having a little dance. Cute. Damon Albarn came on and did a very touching little talk on Syd, inviting Syds's nephew onto the stage to say a few words about his uncle. What was hilarious though, was that Damon blatantly passed him some spliff before he took the mic which meant that his nephew was well cained and a little erm, 'overwhelmed'. Class. Damon performed 'Word Song' on a mini keyboard, bringing some excellent humour to the show and a genuinely good interpretation.

Robyn Hitchcock played a beautiful version of 'Terrapin' on acoustic guitar, and a not so great version of 'Gigolo Aunt' which frankly, would have been better of covered by The Bees. The Bees played an outstanding and downright funky version of 'Octopus', bringing their live bongos and feelgood vibes to the show. Chrissie Hynde played a nice take on 'Wouldn't You Miss Me?' and a great cover of 'Late Night' too, with some great slide guitar. Eager rumours that Roger and Nick were backstage were flying around too, oh my.

So, before the first interval Roger came on and did a really heartfelt talk on Syd, and sat down to perform and sing one of his own songs 'I Shall Be Moved' and it was just so beautiful. I was actually thinking that he might have written in especially for the show as I didn't recognise it, but maybe not. 'Pink Floyd!!' shouted a guy at the back, completely unsuitably, and when Roger replied with 'later' I figured he might come back with Nick and done 'Wish You Were Here'. Sadly not though, Pink Floyd were introduced to end the show but without Roger, and with MR FUCKING OASIS on bass. Good god. How wrong was that? Also, they covered 'Arnold Layne' which was just done without any soul, and Dave barely even sang the words. So, nice that they decided to appear, so sad that they obviously couldn't see fit to perform with Roger. That sucked. Big time.

Still, overall, a really really good and well put together evening, the visuals were ace, the various interpretations were mainly fantastic, and it was a touching tribute.

Thanks Joe. x

07 March 2007

Classic Albums: Supergrass - I Should Coco

Author: Dollyrocker

Supergrass'I'm not really entirely sure what would fill the criteria for 'classic album' as such. Many polls seem to focus on sales, or how much a particular album may have influenced a generation or whether a particular album was written in x key of melancholy from some tortured soul or other, but the classic albums you tend to find in top ten polls tend to lack one key ingredient. Fun.

Cue Supergrass, a band who burst onto the indie scene straight out of Oxford in 1994, a town previously famed for such illuminaires as Ride and Radiohead. The three members were pretty young at the time, Gaz Coombes the bands frontman and main songwriter being just 18. Danny Goffey the drummer just behind at 19, and Mickey Quinn being the wise old man at 24. A single called 'Caught By The Fuzz' came out in late '94, and people began to take notice. Essentially a punk / pop / thrash song about being nicked for smoking dope, it was about as far away as you could get from Dad Rock as you could get without nicking his car.

So lets fast forward to the album then, that's really the purpose of this review, to try and make your spring as mine was 12 years ago, thanks to this record. May 1995 was the release date, and I remember going into HMV the morning of release cos I had heard that the early pressings of the LP came with a limited 7" of a Hendrix cover - Stonefree. I asked the guy behind the till if the LP had been selling well so far, and I remember him going; 'Oh yeh, flying out the door' really sarcastically. Odd, as it went to number 1 that weekend. Obviously hadn't reached Maidstone then.

Right, music. Opener 'I'd Like To Know' pretty much sets the pace for most of Side One, with a youthful 'one, two, one two three four' before Danny's huge drum roll bring the tune crashing in. It's cute looking back now at how innocently simple Gaz's lyrics were.. "I like to wake up on a Saturday, say 'Hello you' - A cup of coffee and I smoke a cigaretta or two". At the time as well, the chord changes and melody were pretty out there, as well as each of the band members being just amazing at their instruments, in the same way that say Bloc Party are, but just on a totally happy trip rather than a despairing one. 'Mansize Rooster' was a track that a lot of people knew, kicking off famously with a drum beat stolen point blank from 'House Of Fun' by Madness, the song then takes a life of it's own and causing mass pogoing in indie clubs from here to god knows where. 'Alright' had already been hyped up by Gaz earlier in the year as a country meets disco song, which made absolutely no sense at all until you heard it. This was then released in July as the summers PROPER feelgood hit of the summer, I think that most of the cool kids were too blown away by this to even notice Blur vs Oasis..

Side two eases off a little bit with tracks like 'She's So Loose' which shows the bands influence by bands like Hendrix and Led Zep, but the difference with Supergrass though, was that they, whether they meant to or not, added such a unique take on their influences that the sound totally became their own. Gaz decides it would be funny to speed up the track 'We're Not Supposed To' to make it sound like they were singing on helium, and 'Time' and 'Sofa Of My Lethargy' are just beautiful, and would show the direction Supergrass were already planning on going in later in their musical career. The album closes with 'Time To Go', a kind of fitting end to a perfect album.

If you have forgotten how good this album is, go and re-visit it. If you have never heard it, risk the fiver. If you like the current wave of bands like Kaisers, Arctic Monkeys etc, go and listen to the original young fresh punk pop band and tell me you don't love that, as Dizzee Rascal would say...

26 February 2007

Live Review: Long Blondes at London Astoria - 20th February 2007

Author: Tom Mitchell

The Long Blondes'I dunno. Watching in the Astoria, I thought 'cloying'. I thought 'Hello. There's something cloying about The Long Blondes.' And when I went home, I looked 'cloying' up in the dictionary to check if I were right. 'To cause distaste or disgust by supplying with too much of something originally pleasant, especially something rich or sweet; surfeit', it said.

And, goddammit, I think I was right.

Take the band's hair. Much has been made of lead singer Kate Jackson's glam look. And her barnet was looking supermodel-lovely on Monday night. A bit like Karen O's. All perfectly moulded fringe and glossy sheen. Dressed in shorts, tasty blouse and neck scarf (she was only missing a beret for full-on pretentious-art-student-look), she'd thrust out a hip and point up to the lighting rig, wiggle about, and still the hair would return to its original perfection. Quite amazing.

Fair enough, you might say, why can’t a girl take pride in her locks? But each one of the four members possessed interesting cuts: the bassist (accompanied by a wonderfully static cool/bored expression throughout) plucked with her Lego hair atop; the male guitarist’s pouted with a Rod Stewart head. The cutesy bow of the female guitarist and the solid fuzz of the drummer’s must have taken ages to position and groom so …. trendily.

I might be labouring the point about the hair, but it's symbolic of a greater monster. However much I enjoyed jumping about with the rest of the crowd to 'Lust in the Movies' (and I did), the Blonde's shtick, the whole package, is almost scarily considered, as if designed by some Sheffield Ministry of Cool. Take 'You Could Have Both'. It's a great song. Jackson manages to whine, sing and breathe its lyrics, often all at once. The new wave guitars manage to spread the contagion of dance to the whole Astoria. Great. But its lyrics check both Morrissey and Scott Walker and 'C C Baxter in Wilder's Apartment'. And the deliberate nature of this, a kind of cultural tick box exercise, turned my lager sour. It's the pickle in the proverbial burger.

The stage patter too. Before 'Once and Never Again' ("19? You're only 19 for God's sake! You don't need a boyfriend!'- sanctimonious big sis advice as annoying as a wet sock), Jackson purred 'anyone here 14? 15? 16? 17? 18? Well... this is for the nineteen year olds!' and launched into the number. Hmmm, I thought, Hmmm. How smug are you, young lady?

But, at moments, I did forget my prejudice. It may have been the £3.30 Red Stripe surging through my brain (again), but when 'Swallow Tattoo' was flung from the stage, I smiled and nodded my head and didn't mind even when the wash of teenagers exploded in stupid dance all about me. It's a great song. That urgent thrust of rhythm guitar is married beautifully to the desperate lyrics concerned with a dodgy tattoo. The song opens with 'Give me a good film noir and a bottle of gin, I'll be happy just to stay inside'. Yeah, great, and suddenly it's Debbie Harry on stage, singing the literate and witty (witerate?) words of our mate Jarvis or Morrissey. Trendy cultural references aren't crow-barred in and the song is all the better for it. I'm ignoring the echo of Moz's track 'A Swallow On My Neck' to make my argument neater. And the way Kate Jackson sang 'goodbye happiness, I hardly knew you' made not only my hair stand on end, I can tell you. It was as sultry as Marlene Dietrich smoking from a cigarette holder in your darkened bedroom (with a bit of mood lighting too).

And then I noticed The Long Blonde's sign. A kind of black and white ironic tribute to Tom Cruise's Cocktail logo, it was, and sunk under PURPLE lighting. Maybe it's because I don't read the NME and I don't understand (and even though 'only' mid-twenties, I was easily in the top quarter of age range down Astoria), but soon resentment at the group's calculated cool was jumping about my tummy once again.

The Brakes were the main support act and The Long Blondes could allow the influence of this supergroup (formed from members of British Sea Power, Electric Soft Parade and The Tenderfoot) to pervade future songwriting. The boys performed a spunky session with a few songs lasting less than thirty seconds. They reminded me of the Pixies - roaring guitars, bald lead singer, and impenetrable lyrics. I'm a sucker for a bit of Frank Black (and there's enough of him, alright), so they went down well. The Long Blondes could do with a bit more Brakey fun - rock for rock’s sake - and a bit less desire to be a better dressed Pulp.

And so I left the Astoria confused. (And not for the first time.) The Long Blondes do produce an effective line in new-wave rock with witerate lyrics. But can I ever find love for such a perfectly dressed/haired/referencing band? Can I ever really enjoy a group that have performed in Selfridges?

I'm not sure I can. It's all a bit too much. It's all a bit too... cloying.

19 February 2007

Live Review: Jarvis at London Astoria - 17th February 2007

Author: Tom Mitchell

Soulwax'The Judie Dench of indie rock', says Jarvis, spitting the words out with disgust. "I'm not a middle-aged woman. I might be middle-aged. But I'm not a woman." And his angular body contorts as he strokes his flat chest to illustrate his lack of breasts.

Midway through his set at the Astoria, Jarvis found time to criticise The Daily Telegraph's review of a recent gig. And it was the comparison that offended. Outraged, was Jarv. And I could see why. Dame Dench doesn't spend much of Notes From A Scandal jumping about the frame with the abandon of a cider-drinking teenager. And when onstage at the National, Judy's bum doesn't provoke caterwauling. Jarvis's did.

Still, like Judy, our Jarvis has been around ever since I remember being alive and his impact has been such that even my Dad (number of albums owned - 1 - Dark Side of the Moon on cracked vinyl) was able to offer some comments. 'Northern Guy - showed off his bum, right?' said my Dad. 'Is he still going?'

The years have flashed by in an instant; it's ten of them since his Brit Awards stagecrash bumshow (he was nominated this year, but lost out to James Morrison - 'I was robbed', he said). But the passing of time hasn't rotten his caustic wit, nor his ability to polish off a hummable tune. Saturday's set was kicked off by 'Fat Children' - a frantic couple of minutes of punk guitar attack, sung with a palpable relish by Jarvis as he karate-chopped his way about stage - a bit like Vegas Elvis, but thinner and with longer hands. And these hands are still quite magical. It may have been the Red Stripe, but many a time I caught myself staring at their cutting of air.

'Black Magic' was another beauty. Its stop-start avalanche of drum/keyboard/guitar is well suited to live performance, and far more entrancing than listening to the album in your lounge as you stare at the internet. T-Rex-esque, it was, with a raucous bass that wobbled your eyeballs. Fab. And it even pricked my rhythmic swaying into a semi-dance.

Jarvis is an entertainer and he operates in the immediate. In 'Tonight' he instructs the listener to seize the day. This sentiment falling out of the lips of any other entertainer might seem trite. But not with Jarvis. Instead of frowning, I drank more Red Stripe to honour him.

There was almost as much joy to be had listening to his banter between songs as the music itself. Which sounds as if to say the music was rubbish, but it wasn't. Jarvis was just dead funny. From his opening gag about Sophie Ellis Baxter being found dead in a French flat (It was murder on Zidane's floor) to his awarding the crowd 'most inappropriate timing of balloon release', he had the crowd (strangely mixed between tubby thirty-year olds with interesting glasses and teeny NME readers) hooting. And I'm sure not many other entertainers would have responded with such good grace to the aforementioned escape of balloons the melancholic 'I Will Kill Again', but Jarv did. He even sat during this song, so it must be a sad one.

The ex-Relaxed Muscle man is better when avoiding such balladry, however. This was highlighted by the final encore of 'Paranoid' by Black Sabbath. It was sung with the venom of a rock-n-roller who'd been there, bought the t-shirt, and flashed the bum-bum. The was an appropriately rocking gesture with which to finish the gig.

I left found myself on Charing Cross Road, not thinking about the disappointing sub-Kate Bush support act Bat for Lashes, but wondering aloud when Cocker's next gig might be. My final words to my friend were that I wasn't gay, but Jarvis was lovely and delightful.

Buy his album. Go see him. He's back..

26 March 2006

Live Review: Fi-lo Beddow at Brixton Jamm - 26th March 2005

Author: Kate Milner

I have this feeling of deja-vu. Maybe it's the all-90s soundtrack. Maybe it's the venue that looks so like one of my teenage hangouts. Or maybe it's that this is the second time I'm watching Bluetones frontman Mark Morriss (aka Fi-lo Beddow) playing an acoustic solo gig in a pub in front of a handful of 20something Britpop survivors. Oh, and he uses some of the same jokes.

It's a cold Thursday in an obscure venue somewhere between Oval and Brixton. And Mark is in fine form. He's charming, self depreciating and scatters his set with remarks like "The other Bluetones wouldn't teach me their songs. They would tell me it was all jazz chords". He shakes his head ruefully. "When I hear those two words, I freak out".

His guitar playing really isn't that bad. But it's very cute that he keeps talking about it. In fact it's hard to get past the fact that Mark is just so darn lovable that the music is the least important thing about the set. But the music is actually pretty good.

He started off with one of the promised "Blue" songs – "Keep the Home Fires Burning". As a song, it translates well into the acoustic in a way that other songs wouldn't (Requests from the audience were met with answers like "I can't play that! It's a piano song." and "Do you have a saxophone?"). It was swiftly followed up by one of his solo songs – "Unwanted Friend" and then one of many covers.

"Do we have any Pixies fans in the audience. (yeahhh!) Oh well, sorry to all of you I'm playing it anyway...Gouge Away" ...which was actually a minor work of genius. It suited his voice remarkably well and he glossed over the incoherent mumbly bits pretty slickly. Next up was "Fountainhead" (another 'Tones number), more solo songs, more covers (Teenage Fanclub and some song called "Red Balloon"...disappointingly not the BDD classic "99 Red Balloons") and then...the request spot!

Now, with solo gigs, you have to be a bit sensitive. Singers aren't guitarists bless 'em and can't handle anything too tricky. Nevertheless, Mark was game to try anything shouted out to him.

"Oooh...'Cut Some Rug?' I'll play you the bit I know of that"

And he did. And a lovely intro it was too. Sadly he stopped before the vocal kicked in (playing and singing at the same time ?...not going to happen!). A particularly amusing rendition of "Autophilia" featured the audience on vocals, as Mark kept forgetting the words and had to be prompted. Round about the time he was trying to lip-read the line "it purrs just like a kitten" from Nathan, he gave up and refused to play the second verse.

Maybe I'm not selling this to you. But you have to understand that the whole thing was so modest and endearing that it was just fun and lovely. Mark doesn't know the words? Nathan'll sing instead! It'll be fine...

I shouted out for "Woman in love" because I knew he could play that and he granted my request over somebody else's because I was "technically louder". Go me!

He stayed on until his repertoire was exhausted, even chucking some Zepplin and a Keith Richards impression in along the way. The last song was "Harry Rag", an ode to the joys of smoking and then he was gone. Well, he stopped to pack up his guitar and have a chat first. And give us his setlist, complete with half-chewed cough sweet (we plan to create an army of Mark Morriss clones from the DNA). Really, no rock star pretensions here. And anyways, he turned up again half an hour later for a rather lovely DJ set. As the lights came up, he shook our hands and wished us a safe journey home.

He may not be the world's greatest guitarist but what does that matter when you have a little charm, and a lot of style?!

07 February 2006

Happy Talk!

Authour: R-dolly

Still without regular internet access... Not long now though, we move on the 17th Feb! Woo-hoo - can't wait!

Anyway in the meantime, come and chat with other Buttoned Down Disco-ers over on the messageboard until we're back and updating the blog!


13 January 2006

Happy New Year!

Author: R-dolly

Just a really quick note to say Happy 2006 and just to let everyone know this blog is not dead, although it may appear a little limp at the moment. This is because we are moving house and have very limited internet access, hence the lack of new entries. However, from late February onwards it will be make in action.

Until then, feel free to browse through the archives.


p.s. Also, look out for a some very special Buttoned Down Discos in the Spring/Summer ;)

10 October 2005

Album Review: Soulwax - Nite Versions

Author: Peter Muscutt

SoulwaxLast year saw the release of Soulwax's third studio album, the criminally under-rated Any Minute Now (released in between band members David and Stephen's stints as DJs with the outfit 2 Many DJs). Taking a vastly electronic swing (for the better) it added a brand new edge to their quirky indie style. With that in mind, the Belgian band take this one stage further, and with synths and drum machines under each arm, release Nite Versions, part remix project, part B-sides compilation, which features re-workings of material from Any Minute Now. Taking their cue from the style of remixes from 1980s pop and disco records, the Dewaele brothers Stephen and David cue up the selections here as a DJ set, mixing the tracks together to ensure this flows neatly when you play it at Auntie Edna's 90th birthday party.

Or not.

Things kick off with a cover of the Daft Punk track Teachers, in which they list their own musical influences over a stop-start guitar backing using filtered vocals. A more mechanised remix of Miserable Girl follows, turning what was a so-so album track into a stomping, glam-rock-synth monster, complete with snare drums, whooshing chords and a building computerised rhythm. The previously released version of E-Talking may be familiar to some fans as it was released as a B-side - a great extended version featuring hand claps and a slower paced build up, leading to the inclusion of vocals by sometimes Soulwax collaborator Nancy Whang.

The overall feel of this album was one that it is very much a grower. At first glance, these re-workings may not appear to be anything special, but on further listening, there is a deceiving depth to the tracks, and the majority are improvements on the originals. The electronically-enhanced Accidents And Compliments especially sounds a million miles from its previous incarnation. Also included along the way is a new track, I Love Techno, which begins like some long-lost Pacman computer game theme, and clearly shows that Soulwax are no slouches when it comes to tinkering with synthesisers (they certainly do love techno as well, fans lucky enough to have seen them perform live may have noticed their tendency to segue into the Alter Ego dance track Rocker during E-Talking). As well as remixing Any Minute Now album tracks Compute, Slowdance and KracK (with a building keyboard melody that sounds suspiciously like Trans Europe Express by Kraftwerk), the fantastic bootleg mix featuring the Lipps Inc disco track Funky Town is included, as well as the DFA remix of Another Excuse, as released on the NY Excuse single.

If you're a fan of Soulwax's excursions into the world of electronics or are eagerly awaiting the next 2 Many DJs album, then this release is pretty essential stuff for tearing up a dance floor, or enjoying in the comfort of your own home with your pipe and slippers (although they probably won't stay on for long before you give in and start grooving!).

04 September 2005

Interview: Idlewild by Chris Spillane - 5th August 2005

Author: Chris Spillane

In the depths of London's West End, Chris Spillane has a drink with Roddy Woomble, the front man of Scottish Indie rockers Idlewild. They discuss the band's flirtations with the charts, the student lifestyle, the Big Apple and why Green Day sound like Nickleback.

The recent crop of chart hits and pop success can be delegated to one of three main categories caused by various musical infections (barring the crazy frog which can be accredited to someone who should be extradited for hate crimes against humanity). The first of these is a seasonal problem known as Rip-offus Maximus: Whereby victims strap on their Fender Telecasters and play angular riffs until another new trend sets in. Acquired Overproduced Pop syndrome is second in the deadly trio of infections: Sufferers are subjected to a change in lifestyle, which requires them to collaborate with Guy Chambers (of Robbie Williams fame) and write songs about the pressures of fame and being misunderstood. Symptoms often include a sceptical addiction to something ridiculous like gardening and a flair for meaningless tattoos. The third and most serious is commonly known as Torchsongitis: this plagues victims an overbearing sense of sentimentality, usually with a string quartet harping along in the background. Symptoms include looking intently into the camera with teary eyes in your latest music video, while yet another girl walks out of your life and adds a few million to your bank balance in album sales.

The music industry is a fickle business. Some artists, like James Blunt can rise from obscurity and embrace the spotlight effortlessly. Whereas others can tour for years, putting their hearts and souls into their profession with little or no commercial success. Hopefully in the growing world of music downloads and MP3's the talents of harder working, possibly more deserving acts will be recognised. Please welcome on stage Caledonian folk-rock outfit, Idlewild. Front man Roddy Woomble, lead guitarist Rod Jones and drummer Colin Newton who form the backbone of Idlewild met on a window sill during a party in their halls at Edinburgh University in 1995 where Roddy was studying Photography. Within hours of meeting each other they decided to start a band from their collective appreciation of REM, Sonic Youth and Bob Dylan records. One E.P, four albums and a few hit singles later Idlewild are headlining one of several Grolsch Summerset gigs at the opulent outdoor venue Somerset House, London.

Backstage at Somerset house is just as impressive as the architecture surrounding it. Whilst following the tour manager to Idlewild's dressing room, a slim and softly spoken man appears with a red toothbrush and toothpaste in hand mumbling something about his teeth and walks off for a few minutes, baffled, the tour manager walks off as well and I’m left in the dressing room with Rod and Colin. Colin recently became a father and is in high spirits "Roddy's brushing his teeth, it must be a big interview! Are you ready to hear all about his philosophies and thoughts on life? Where you from?" "Yeah, York Uni." I reply, "Ah well, you're in the wrong business, you want a beer?" as he points to bands rider. I oblige by taking the biggest bottle of Grolsch on offer and talk about drumming until Roddy returns. On Roddy's return, personal hygiene restored, we take a seat by a window overlooking the Thames and in his rich Scottish accent, he opens the conversion "Chris, can you confirm, are there flies flying over there or am I seeing dots?" Behind me there several flies moving in a haphazard manner, dryly I confirm that they are in fact, flies.

Slightly to the left of the mainstream with skirmishes on the charts with singles Modern Way of Letting Go and American English, Idlewild have been moving slowly, but surely into one of Britain's most accomplished and matured bands. The group's fourth studio album entitled Warnings/Promises, sets the premise of the album with Roddy quoting "It summed up what the record is about with it's contradictions." Idlewild seem eager to leave their roots, in particular Roddy who appears to be defensive when talking about their previous records "We're interested in different kinds of music now, we're not interested in the punk rock as we did that as well as we could do and I'd think it be really boring if we did the same thing over and over again." Hearing this may be a disappointment to those who are fans of Idlewild's earlier records, including the quintessential 100 Broken Windows, yet the newer albums still contain the Idlewild of yore "We always reference our past records, there are moments which harp back to what came before and that will probably continue on the next record." Confidence is high in the Idlewild camp as he talks about his aspirations on their next record "We can really do anything now, we can make a really folky record or a really rocky record." Nonetheless anything should encompass slightly more eclectic tastes, maybe some funky house or a dash of eighties romantic-pop. Maybe not.

"I don't really pay attention to them" is Roddy's response to the topical rise of bands such as Razorlight and Kaiser Chiefs, dismissing them for bands he does like. "Malcolm Middleton's record is great and lot of American stuff like The Arcade Fire, but as far as Razorlight is concerned (hesitates) I like the Bloc Party record." Surprisingly Roddy is a fan of stoner rock especially AC/DC and the earlier Queens of the Stone Age records, which from listening to Warnings/Promises isn't clear, yet it's a topic he talks of at great length "Collectively we didn't want to play music like that, but we are capable of it...We do a lot of covers and jamming in our practice space. At the time last year when we were writing and recording the record, what we were interested in was kinda like vocal harmonies and a rootsy sound with acoustic guitars and that's just what Warnings/Promises is about. It was a year of our life and that's the kinda of sounds we wanted to make...It's not pigeon holed as the sound we will always make, but that's what a band is, they go through stages."

Another topic that Roddy talks of with great fondness is folk music, he speaks affectionately of Jackson C. Frank and a whole reel of other folk acts from 60's and 70's who I've never heard of or can decipher from his accent. His folk roots were something that he tried to deny growing up as can be seen on Hope is Important and 100 Broken Windows, yet on the last two records Idlewild have moved and matured into a band not dissimilar to REM. Their sound has become more rounded, more harmonious, maybe more suited for the stadium environment that they've recently been subjected to on recent tours with REM, U2 and Coldplay. It would be easy to assume that Idlewild have compromised their sound for popularity, however Roddy coolly denies these accusations "We're not a complicated band, we're not doing jazz chords as the song writing is like rock music. We do make very melodic music, but we certainly don't sit around tables thinking 'lets get this [record] as radio-friendly as possible', we want to make music like that...Obviously because the vocals are very clear and there's lots of harmonies, it does sound whatever you want to call it, radio friendly. "I suggest that they sound 'big', which Roddy counteracts angrily "No it's not big. It's not like Matchbox Twenty or something. That to me is really radio friendly. There's still a roughness to the way we approach song writing...You don't see much slickness in Warnings/Promises what with all the dirt between the songs."

"We write the songs and we put them out on records and we can't control anything beyond that, but some songs become what they mean to people. We just hope that they've made a connection." says Roddy as he explains how the song writing process operates in Idlewild and that no one aims to write songs hoping for an anthemic quality. Roddy explains that the cover to Warnings/Promises was cryptically "finding your own truth" and represented by a light shining beside a book, which could be the reason why Idlewild aren't more popular. In all probability the single buying public don't understand them or are put off by their intelligence, Roddy continues "Our songs are about things, but there not psuedo-intellectual or anything, they are rock songs." "Are they autobiographical?" I interject, he responds readily "Anything you do is going to be autobiographical, your interview will be autobiographical as you will put some of yourself into it. So, of course they are pretty self-intimate, but not about specific people. They are more kind of ideas about things rather than like 'she was my girlfriend, she was a bitch!' I've never really been interested in that kind of stuff...It's more suggestions about things I've thought that people can take onboard or ignore." The subtleties that lie within the band's lyrics could prove to be a stumbling block in their popularity as I discovered when talking about potential single Not just sometimes, but always "It's a song about the life cycle" stresses Roddy rather ambiguously.

Speaking of his home life Roddy is happy to discuss his love of art, particularly photography which his parents helped develop by building a dark room in their house, yet he reflects on his University days with a sense of melancholy. He dropped out in the second year of his Photography course due Idlewild's hectic tour schedule "You can't really go on tour and study, but I was happy to drop out to be honest...I didn't like being a student, I found it really like school. It was really depressing, it was like the guys at school who had gone and left home for the first time, they thought it was hilarious to puke in the sink. Luckily my course was full of a lot of older people and foreign students, which was quite interesting." He continues at length, identifying the problems he faced at university "I've never really been a student-pub kind of guy, even when I was there I was thinking I don't like this, there's something about this I don’t like." I suggest that this is part of growing up, causing Roddy to act and respond nervously "Yeah, well, erm, I think that is a generalisation because you can choose not to be part of that. I'm not saying I criticise people who do that, far from it and when you ask me about student life, I have to say I couldn't wait to get away from it."

After mixing Warnings/Promises in New York Roddy relocated to the Big Apple for eight months, the decision to move was fairly simple and was met with no ill-feeling by the rest of the band "We were in New York and I wanted to stay there for a while. Have you ever been to New York?" He asks, "I've never been." My reply is met by a shocked expression and suddenly he becomes a spokesman for New York tourism "It's just a great place, it's unlike any city in the world. It just brings you to life...The thing about New York is that it has elements of London in it, in it's own fashion, it's nicer to look at for a start, architecturally and the way it looks especially the Lower East side where I lived. It's hard to explain, obviously you've been to London then you have to go there and you could see it's so different. It sounds stupid me trying to explain it but it's one of these places you do need to go sometime in your life." Eventually the comforts of home won him over "But ultimately it's one of these cities that you can always go there and I found out that I was missing being surrounded by my friends, so I moved back to Scotland." Roddy compares the UK and USA with a sense of diplomacy "There are places in America that I definitely prefer to the UK, but then there's places in Scotland I infinitely prefer to America. I prefer New York to London, but I prefer the Scottish highlands to the whole of America."

"Everyone in New York is in a band. The area I lived in, everyone is a band or an artist or a writer, is a painter or works in the media. It's one of these places that's quite cool to live in for a while because you're constantly surrounded by creative people, but it can get a bit much as most of my friends in Scotland are school teachers or social workers." laughs Roddy as he describes the environment of New York. I suggest that to an outsider it seems very pretentious, "Not as pretentious as London" retorts Roddy "But I'm from Scotland and I didn't grow up in that environment so I can delve into it for one night and not be like that. I can kinda laugh at it almost...I've been to a few parties certainly where I've walked into and thought 'I'm getting out of there' because they're not the kind of people I want to be surrounded by." However, any air of conceitedness disperses when we discuss Idlewild's third place in the 'Best bands from Scotland ever' poll after Belle and Sebastian and perpetual Indie moaners Travis. "Just a bit of fun really, you can't put music in a competition. I love Belle and Sebastian anyway, I think they deserve it." I suggest that Travis are boring, Roddy agrees yet his diplomacy shines through once again "People like them, competitions are stupid and it's just fun right?"

Towards the end of the interview we talk about Live8 and Idlewild's absence from this event "We are one of these bands that exist on our own and we move at our own pace in our own world. All these new bands that are getting asked to do it are more on the radar and we're not on the radar." Roddy wasn't one of the three billion people believed to have watched Live8 as he doesn't own or watch TV. Surprised by this admission, conversation swiftly moves on and we discuss the merits of the music both on and off the radar with bands such as Wilco, Teenage Fanclub and Smog getting the Roddy Woomble seal of approval, but to add a hint of mystery he adds "There's loads of good stuff." Nonetheless more mainstream talents are met with a slight aversion and confusion by Roddy, as discovered when Allan Stewart (Guitar) and Gavin Fox (Bass) went to see Green Day "I can't offer an opinion because I've only heard that single that sounds like Nickleback!" Looking confused he starts to sing Boulevard of Broken Dreams to the tune of Wake Me Up When September Ends "It's an okay modern rock song but it's not that interesting."

As I leave with Grolsch in hand, Colin chases after me "Here, put your lager in this plastic cup before security confiscate it." Apparently fatherhood brings out the responsible side in someone, albeit alcohol related. About an hour later Idlewild appear on stage and play a storming set, effortlessly mixing old material with new thus elating just about everyone in Somerset House. From here it is easier to notice the transition that Idlewild has partaken, starting out as a shouty Scottish band with aspirations of breaking America to a melody driven five piece moving along at their pace. Idlewild have found their niche and will continue to develop and mature into one of the most respected bands around, maybe even knock Travis off the top of the Scottish music podium. Who knows. Where Warnings/Promises has been their Out Of Time, the next release could be their leap to the big time in the mould of their very own Automatic for the People. Where Warnings/Promises has been their Out Of Time, the next release could be their leap to the big time in the mould of their very own Automatic for the People.

03 September 2005

Live Review: The Tears at Reading Festival - 27th August 2005

Author: Kate Milner

The TearsThe music is loud, the tent is packed and fans scream as they passionately surge towards their idol. It's like Suede at the height of their debut album fame. And then Babyshambles finish and it all starts to go wrong. Unlike everyone else here, we are here to see the Tears. We stood through the quite frankly disappointing Babyshambolic set (although I did enjoy their latest single "If You Were Shagging A Supermodel, You'd Be Famous Too") and then literally strolled to the barrier through a tent full of people rushing the opposite way. The Foo Fighters were about to start and the massive Second Stage suddenly looked very big indeed. And empty. This was not good.

Last time we saw the Tears, Bernard had pouted his way through the set because someone had thrown chewing gum at him, while Brett had repeatedly told the audience off for talking during the quiet bits. So we're assuming they are not the most tolerant band. And playing the headline slot on the Saturday to a literal four rows of people would probably not be on the agenda. Luckily, the tent starts to fill minutes before (well, minutes after) they're scheduled to come on. One suspects that their publicists ran around the campsite and VIP area offering free drugs and badges to anyone who came to the Second Stage NOW! When at last we can't see the back of the marquee, the stage darkens and the session musicians (well, they might as well be) come on. Followed by Bernard, barely acknowledging the audience (after all that trouble to get him one). Finally, when the screams of the Brett Anderson obsessive to my right become just too much, Brett strides on, looking ultracool in a black leather jacket and shades. Ah, and Bernard has one to match in tan. So much for hating each other - they've clearly been to Topman together sometime in the recent past.

The stage stays dark as Brett hugs his microphone. Informed by Brett Anderson Obsessive Woman (henceforth known as BAOW) that this was "Asylum", the band start slowly, backing Brett's minimalist vocals. Make no mistake, this was a show for the hardcore fans. Anyone else can sod off and watch the Foos. Oh wait, they have. From this intense beginning, they thankfully rip into "Lovers". Brett bounces around, Bernard does that head-shaking thing and there is much swaying and singing along. Everyone here appears to be Old Suede fans and approximately half of them know the Tears' songs. I suspect the Tears have made few new converts but the old diehard fans are still as diehard as ever (take a bow, BAOW). The next song, "Imperfection" threatens to send those diehard fans over the edge as they scream "I want you to play with my hair in the morning". Do they not realise that Brett isn't actually as sexy as he was 15 years ago? There's a reason he's not taking those shades off.

There's a poignant moment as Brett dedicates "The Ghost of You" to his recently deceased father. BAOW looks like she might cry. Darn it, so does Brett. The whole song drips with feeling and I'm given a stern look from Boy because he thinks I'm singing the wrong lyrics ("And it's hard to get by...from the Ghost of New Suede" - it's a "Head Music" thing). As it happens, I'm so moved by the whole thing that I'm not only singing the right words but even starting to well up a little. That might just be the dry ice stinging my eyes. Or the fact that it's so frigging cold I can see my breath (now that's not the dry ice). Throughout the gig, the security guards stand in a line, taking a breather after the Pete Doherty inspired frenzy and waiting for something to do. Around this point, some of them start to go home. Tears fans are quite happy to stand and just look at the pair of them doing their thing. Except when they play "Refugees" when...look! We have a Crowdsurfer! Probably just trying to get to the Main Stage...

During "Apollo 13", Brett succumbs to the screams of BAOW and jumps off the stage for a wander along the barrier. To the soundtrack of hundreds (well tens) of girls singing "I will FOLLOW you, FOLLOW you!" he walks around, seeming to care little about the fans reaching to stroke him. It's as if he's just done this too many times. Back up to the stage for a "Beautiful Pain" and then they're off. Bearing in mind what Brett said at the last gig - when he explained that the band are going to come back anyway, it's doesn't matter how much you shout - we don't overexert ourselves cheering. Imagine our surprise then when the roadies come on and the house lights - such as they are - come up. A set list (seized by BAOW wouldya believe it) reveals that they had a B-side, "Southern Rain" lined up as an encore but obviously chose not to use it.

This left a strange taste in the collective mouth. Was it our fault? Were we not a good audience? Or just not enough of us? There was a definite sense of going through the motions but with the Bernard 'n' Brett show, even the motions are entertaining enough. And the tension between them is still tangible. So often, bands reforming seems like a money-grabbing gimmick but with Anderson and Butler, you feel that they really care about it. So much so that playing to a half-empty tent upsets them enough to stop them coming back for an encore. Still, I'm glad they're back together. They compliment each other like cheese and pineapple - just not so interesting when you break them down into their constituent parts. It's just a pity that it doesn't seem to be making either of them, happy.

14 August 2005

Album Review: Super Furry Animals - Love Kraft

Author: Dollyrocker

SFAThe sticker on the front of the lovely new SFA album has a few quotes on from various previous reviews ranging from 'Gorgeous' to 'Their most satisfying album to date', which is quite a big statement for a band on their seventh album in less than ten years. A lot of us will have grown up with the SFA, so if 'Fuzzy Logic' was the first night on the town whilst your parents were on holiday, this LP has to be a life defining stoned picnic on a beautiful summers day. No huge surprise that they roped in Sean O' Hagan from The High Llamas then, they are long time admirers of his ability to recreate the classic 'Pet Sounds' sound, this compliments the Furries sound incredibly well too.

'Love Kraft' opens with 'Zoom!', no not the Fat Larry's Band song, that was covered by The Boo Radley's years ago. No, SFA's 'Zoom!' is classic descending chord structures and Pink Floyd Fender Rhodes piano tinkles all the way, sounding absolutely gorgeous too. Hilarious lyrics in there too, classic SFA whimsy; 'Sold you a Dalmatian but the spots fell off, pooled them altogether as a hairy moth' - genius! 'Atomic Lust' carries on with a similar style to 'Zoom!' with a more psychedelic sound, not ones of the LP's stronger songs, but the night is young. 'The Horn' is absolutely gorgeous, a Dylanesque kind of waltz with plenty of 'la la la's'.

'Ohio Heat' is about as bright and breezy as it gets, like a kind of 'Love Street' re-written for the SFA sound. 'Lazer Beam' us the first single from the album, should have already hit the shops by the time you read this. This is without a doubt the albums most upbeat moment, features a kazoo and is classic SFA summer pop, a little like 'Play It Cool' or 'Golden Retreiver'. 'Oi Frango' is an instrumental which shuffles along brilliantly and really shows the High Llamas influence too with the Brazilian influences. 'Cabin Fever' finishes off an absolutely lovely LP, one which might slightly divide fans, there is little of the old skool wackiness of 'Radiator' or 'Guerilla', instead SFA have made a record that glides rather than soars and it sounds like it suits them. Bless their furry socks.

01 August 2005

Classic Albums: The Beatles - Revolver

Author: Dollyrocker

When it came to picking which Beatles LP to review as a classic album, I was left in a bit of dilemma. Y'see, I was such a big Beatles fan between the ages of 12 and 14, that literally all I did between schooltime and bedtime was listen to The Beatles. I don't count the first five albums, as (in my personal opinion) all of them bar 'Hard Days Night' were pap. By the time I had reached 13 years of age, I had listened repeatedly to all of the Beatles LP's that mattered, and was patiently waiting for someone (Hi Dean!) to buy me 'Revolver' on tape.

The very first Beatles LP I had heard was 'Rubber Soul', the 1965 masterpiece where The Beatles simultaneously discovered acid and decided to pretend to be black soul men. Maybe they should have quit whilst they were ahead. 'Revolver' was released less than one year after 'Rubber Soul', so you'd think that it would be roughly the same (lets face it, they hadn't exactly broken any boundaries with the progression through their previous LP's). Well, you would be wrong. And here is how wrong;

Taxman: I have to admit that although I am not a huge fan of this Harrison ditty about being robbed of his dough, it does make a BRILLIANT opening for an LP, and also gave Weller a number one hit 14 years later with 'Start'. The cheeky blighter...

Eleanor Rigby: I'm sure that some people would cuss me for this, but this is just f*cking dreadful to me, McCartney in a thankfully rarely to be repeated moment of drivelling misery with awful string quartet backing. Nice idea, but no.

I'm Only Sleeping: A Lennon song. I'm not such a big fan of Lennon as a general rule, but he really does save this LP with his tracks, as McCartney was obviously suffering from, as my friend Max would say; 'Too many bongs and not enough burgers'. This track is just superb, we have backwards guitars, Lennon as his wistful best... (loving the yaaaawn 2.01 into the track) and some really, really nice harmonies, some of which we will hear later again on the LP. Thanks for this John, we won't mention 'The Ballad Of John & Yoko' in this blog, promise.

Love You Too: Oh my good gawd. Harrison let loose on the sitar was never going to be a good idea. It kind of works later in their career, but this just sounds up it's own arse to be honest. If anyone reading this can enlighten me as to why we got this track on the album, can they drop me a mail and let me know.

Here, There and Everywhere: McCartney comes good, with a pretty little song about a loved one. Actually reminds me of "Rubber Soul" in spirit, or even something like; "If I Fell" off 'Hard Days Night'. Nice one Paul, this is one of the LPs brighter moments, and makes it all the more interesting for it. Nice fingerclicks too.

Yellow Submarine: I don't really want to talk about this, it's just too upsetting for words.

She Said, She Said: This is just brilliant, like really nice summer psychedelia about a girl who is doing Johns head in. Nice organ drones triggering off the wah wah guitar too.

Good Day Sunshine: This song opens Side Two, and is one of those summer feelgood songs from McCartney. Great piano build up intro too.

Any Your Bird Can Sing: A bit like a more upbeat take on "She Said", but much more uplifting. This is probably one of the last songs of this vain that the band put out, and this was also covered by The Jam.

For No One: McCartney was to extend the theme of female loneliness on "Sgt. Peppers", but not before penning this little ditty. It's OK, but when one of the highlights is the French Horn solo you know it's time to move on.

Dr. Robert: Lennon back on the mic here with a sped up version of "Taxman". It's got B-side written all over it to be honest. One of my old friends DJs under the name 'Dr. Robert' but he also wears desert boots so we'll leave it at that.

I Want To Tell You: I like this one. I'm not sure who wrote it, but I think it might have been George. You can hear practically hear Syd and the boys squatting outside the door picking up tips on psych vocal fade outs.

Got To Get You Into My Life: Nice bit of Stax rip off from Paul, the only saving grace he has is that he has a good song to pull it off. Nice ending too.

Tomorrow Never Knows: The real genius of Revolver lies behinf this track. This track still sounds modern today, as exemplified by The Chemical Brothers when they re-wrote it as 'Setting Sun'. A great end to a middling, yet somehow classic status LP.

There are some good tracks on this LP, it just baffles me how it gets classic status though, as "The White Album" and "Rubber Soul" just seem so much more interesting to me. One for the wish list rather than a cash purchase then.

31 July 2005

Live Review: Soulwax at London Wireless Festival - Thursday 30th June 2005

Author: Dollyrocker

Surprisingly, I had never actually seen Soulwax live before this gig, but had followed them around when they started out as 2manydjs, their dj side project which focused on mashing up electro, pop music and the odd bit of rock to dancefloor tearing effect. Soulwax were third down bill to Babyshambles and Kasabian at the final leg of the four day wireless festival and to be honest, with no disrespect to the organisers, the atmosphere when I arrived at about 6pm was pretty dead. However, huge tense rainclouds hovering over Hyde Park may well have been a factor, more about them later. I had been lucky enough to score some free tickets for this gig, so after meeting my friend and getting some drinks, it was just a case of waiting for Soulwax to come on at 6.30pm. Originally, I had got confused and thought that they were playing in the smaller xfm tent, but they actually were out on the outdoor main stage which was much better for a band with a sound as immense as Soulwax's.

They opened up with 'E Talking' and I couldn't resist getting down the front, as where it wasn't very busy the only people dancing were at the front. Soulwax looked great onstage, better than I imagined in fact. The first track was broken up with 'Rocker' by Alter Ego and it sounded AMAZING. 'Miserable Girl' followed and kept the crowd dancing, it was getting quite a lot busier by now as it became obvious that a lot of people must have decided to come down late. Text from my friends; 'BDD, we're in the Ladytron tent'. Oh well, would have been nice to see them as well, but Soulwax have got SO many anthems, I can't possibly leave now.

'Conversation Intercom' followed, we got all the other singles off the first LP too, 'Too Many DJ's' was cut into Daft Punk's 'Robot Rock' and then of course we got 'NY Excuse' at the end cut into Lipps Inc. I couldn't recommend seeing Soulwax enough, if you are a fan of the band, they give it their all live and their ability as DJ's really shines through too. Excellent stuff.

Classic Albums: Blur - Parklife

Author: Dollyrocker

For those of you who don't remember, April 1994 was a total musical wasteground. In all honesty, it had been coming for some time, the number of truly great new bands that had started up in that decade had so far only amounted to Suede, Manic Street Preachers, Saint Etienne, The Charlatans and Blur. All of these were British, as the american explosion of grunge had actually been carried over from the 80's, and other leaders of the indie scene like Pulp, Jesus & Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine had all been around long enough to have legally driven a sinclair C5.

Blurs output in the early 90's had gone pretty much from fair to middling; 'Leisure' was their 1991 debut LP, whose most redeeming feature was probably the cover artwork and 1993's 'Modern Life Is Rubbish' had some great tracks on it, the anthemic 'Sunday, Sunday' and 'For Tomorrow' both being GREAT singles, but as an LP it was hardly going to set the world alight.

I think there was only about a month or so between the suicide of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain and the release of 'Parklife' and I think that musically, and indeed socially, Blurs third LP marked a new beginning and a very exciting feeling as that summer began - the entire feel of the UK indie scene felt like it had been given a massive lift. There were a few other bands doing fairly well at the time, Elastica, Gene, Shed 7 and These Animal Men were making pretty heavy impressions on the 15 and 16 year olds at the time, but it was Blur, a little like Franz Ferdinand today, who stood out from the pack, with the unusual combination of songs, style, variety, intelligence and fun in pretty much everything they did.

The LP opens with 'Girls & Boys', which managed to unite clubbers, gays, indie kids, house heads, even a few die hard new romantics together, with their tongue-in-cheek ode to UK holidaymakers. The track still stands up very well today, when Erol played it out at one of the early Bodyrockers in 2002, it got as big a cheer as Miss Kitten, Dave Clarke, Moreplay and all the rest for sure. The band asked Pet Shop Boys to remix the track, which was a massively unusual thing for an indie band to do back then, with Ride and the like remaining firmly stuck in their wooly jumpers and Byrds LP's type vibe. 'Tracy Jacks' opens with one of Grahams 'Who' like power chords and has some really nice vocal harmonies as well. 'End Of The Century' is probably (in my opinion) one of the best songs of the 90's and was also the final single to be released of the LP. The song used to close Blur's live gigs at the time and has a really euphoric 'end of night' sort of vibe to it. 'Parklife', the title track features 'Quadrophenia's Phil Daniel with a running commentary on his fantasy day to day life. The whole LP has a very British theme to it, as shown on 'Bank Holiday', a one minute forty second punk type song dedicated to the UK bank holidays. "Bank holiday comes six times a year, Days of enjoyment to which everyone cheers, Bank holiday comes with a six pack of beer...then its back to work a.g.a.i.n."

'Badhead' is a beautiful song with Damon singing about the sadness of losing contact with friends and how people drift apart. There are some nice Roland horns on the chorus too, as Blur had clearly pushed themselves forward since 'Modern Life...'. Better production too. 'The Debt Collector' is an instrumental ditty, with a fairground/circus sort of vibe to it. 'Far Out' is a very short, dreamy Alex composition, and he sings on it too. To say that this track owes a lot to Pink Floyds Syd Barrett would be something of an understatement.

Side two kicks off with the lovely 'To The End', which is a kitsch, retro song with backing vocals sung on French by Laetitia Sadier. This was also a single off the LP, although a rather unusual single choice I think. 'London Loves' is London life through Damons eyes; "London loves - The way people just fall apart, London loves - The way you just don't stand a chance, London loves - The mystery of a speeding car". 'Trouble In The Message Centre' is the band back in XTC post punk mode, and this track is another conceptual story of being a manager in a mediocre environment. 'Clover Over Dover' is another lovely gentle song with some beautiful lyrics; "If that is the fact, Then in actual fact, I'm not where it's at and it's over." 'Magic America' is a track dedicated to America, presumably based on Blurs ill fated 1993 tour over there, which is where a lot of the ideas for 'Parklife' were spawned. 'Jubilee' is a track that I think should have been a single. Bizarrely, they did in fact perform the track live in 'Top Of The Pops' at the time, but was not released as a single. It tells a story of a teenage outcast unable to deal with day to day socialising. 'This Is A Low' is the LP's final proper track, and is by far the most beautiful in the LP. An ode to British life, it has some lovely guitar work and nice hammond in the chorus. The LP ends with 'Lot 105', a cheeky little ditty in a Blackpool pier stylee.

In short, no review could do this LP justice and mine has definitely not done so. No LP since 'Parklife' has had such a HUGE impact on the way that a generation thinks, the music they listen to, the clothes they wear, to date Blur remain completely untouched.

28 June 2005

Live Review: Wireless Festival at London Hyde Park - Saturday 25th June 2005

Author: Dollyrocker

LCD SoundsystemThere really wasn't a lot of competition for me line up wise between the four dates that wireless had announced. The Saturday one that I am about to review boasted a line up including Death In Vegas, MIA, Mylo, Basement Jaxx, LCD Soundsystem, Roots Manuva, Vitalic and erm, The Mitchell Brothers. Just to get it into perspective, the other three dates were headlined by New Order, Keane and Kasabian respectively. I guess they were trying to cater for all tastes?

Once inside Hyde Park it became VERY apparent that a lot of people were just there to see Basement Jaxx and have a few beers despite the other bands that were playing rather than because of them, but I was on a mission to see Vitalic. So, a quick beer stop involving me asking for a pint and being given two small bottles of Carlsberg for six quid and I scuttled into thelittle xfm tent to catch the last of a band called Gram Rabbit, who had a very enthusiastic middle aged bearded keyboard player and a small army of fans (mainly Japanese) at the front, dressed in, yep, bunny ears. It was pretty cool actually, and about a BILLION times more interesting than The Mitchell Brothers over on the main stage. 'Ere mush, it's that geezer outThe Streets innit, come dahn man'. Yeh, like really.

Vitalic was onstage getting applauded even while he was soundchecking. There were obviously quite a few people who (like me) were really excited about hearing 'OK Cowboy' played out live. I first wigged out to Vitalic a few years ago now when a lot of DJ's on the electro scene were thrashing out 'La Rock' to riotous reactions, so it was good to see the fella put anLP out and then it getting a lot of good press. Vitalic is not an egotistical man though, he looked very modest whilst playing a mix of electro, appegiated synth lines, downright groundbreaking beats and neo industrial techno. The atmosphere was electric and it was probably one of the first gigs I have been to where I have been like; 'Feck, is that the end?' when he finished a 35 minute set.

To be honest, I wasn't really in the mood for Death In Vegas who, lets get real, haven't put out a good tune since 'Dirge' and that was only good cos of Dot Allison's vocals, so I skipped over to get some beers to caine before LCD Soundsystem and watch a bit of Lady Sovereign whilst waiting. I'm sure that the ironic chav thing was wasted there though, so I went to get some sweets and managed to find some liquorice buttons in exact BDD colours, which was pretty cool!

LCD Soundsystem came on to a pretty small audience, mainly due to the fact that a lot of people had squeezed into the Mylo tent early. They played a brilliant set, playing a sped up version of 'Daft Punk Is Playing In My House', James banging two tambourines hypnotically into a microphone, an ecstatic 'Disco Infiltrator' (big cheers all round) and then changing the words of'Losing My Edge', (I'm losing my edge, to Mylo..). LCD work really well as a live act, James often going over and doing a bit of random drumming, the set ended with a long climatic version of 'Yeah' and then they were off. Destined for bigger and better things eventually, I'm sure.

By the time we got to the Mylo tent it was already completely rammed, even though he wasn't on for another 40 minutes, so we queued patiently. And then not so patiently, and then we just lifted up the side of the tent and stormed in anyway, genius! Mylo was on within 5 minutes, the intro to 'Destroy Rock n Roll' belting out of the totally inadequate soundsystem. It was finewhen we were watching Vitalic down the front but squeezed at the back forMylo, the sound was REALLY crap. Managed to get towards the front in timefor 'Drop The Pressure', which is without a doubt his standout track, theatmosphere was wicked.

Basement Jaxx arrived on at 9.00pm and I was really looking forward tothem, even though the last LP was pants, Basement Jaxx had been one of my'moving to London' type bands around the time of 'Jump n Shout' etc comingout, so I was really psyched out about seeing them. It seems like I shouldhave made the effort back then though to be honest, the tracks mainly hada self indulgent kinda feel to them live, the cover of Kylie was just insulting, and middle aged blokes standing around doing lines of coke is not my idea of a good time. There were still some great moments though, 'Do Your Thang' is the most infectious slice of disco house you can imagine, 'Red Alert' still sounded funky as hell, and 'Jump n Shout' still made me grin.

So, the overall experience? Good. Still, glad I managed to blag FREE tickets for the Babyshambles wireless date this Thursday, let's put it like that.

Live Review: Hard-Fi at London Wireless Festival - Friday 24th June 2005

Author: Claire Mackie

Hyde Park's Friday was an all-round mixed-bag. Characteristically wet, but just not as muddy as some other British summer festivals, the day offered a concoction of the unique and unconventional vs. the predictable and generic bands of the British music industry. Most notably, Hard-fi's performance was a highlight, excelling against other acts of the day. This predominantly owed to the bands ability to get the crowd going with an effective melting pot of dance, indie, electronica, punk, reggae, soul, and even jazz to make a poppy sound which seemed to embrace the whole of the audience packed into the buzzing tent.

These proud Staines lads did it all. They undoubtedly entertained but also seemed to deliver a message about the reality of life in working-class West London, punching their on-lookers with 'Does anyone 'ere 'av a sh*t job, I said does anyone 'ere have a shit job?' 'This song's for you.' Crowd-pleasing tracks included the The White Stripes 'Seven Nation Army' cover which differed from the original due to its eerily thuggish edge and their single 'Hard to beat' which seemed to please the street-chic expectations of punters. Whether the boys will follow in the footsteps of their evergreen street-savvy predecessors such as The Stone Roses or The Happy Mondays remains to be seen. What was clear however, was that their songs were enjoyed, their gritty message just may have been heard, and requests for a reprise filled the space as they made way for the next act, which made their performance in fact very hard to beat.

01 May 2005

Classic Albums: ABC - The Lexicon Of Love

Author: Richard Cosgrove

The funny thing about the most classic albums is that they very often turn out to be by the most unlikely of bands. Take The Lexicon Of Love for example. Who would have thought that one of the most perfect pop albums of the 80s, and in fact beyond, would have come from a Sheffield quintet whose lead singer had a Bryan Ferry fixation, used to edit a fanzine called Modern Drugs and was partial to wearing gold lame suits?

That's exactly what the Yorkshire synth pioneers ABC did though, enlisting the talents of a pre-ZTT Records Trevor Horn, whose only claim to fame at this point was having been one half of The Buggles (whose one and only hit Video Killed The Radio went to number one in the charts) and having briefly thrown his lot in with prog rockers Yes. This was a collaboration that was to make both of their careers.

Preceded by three hit singles, Tears Are Not Enough, Poison Arrow and The Look Of Love, the album was released in June 1982 and crashed into the charts at number one, eventually hanging around for some fifty weeks. For a band that just nine months earlier were virtually unknown outside of their native Sheffield, this was quite an achievement, and one that wouldn't be repeated with subsequent releases. However, with an album as strong as Lexicon, and a pop legacy that endures to this day I don't suppose they're too upset. Duran Duran may have been the MTV darlings of the 80s, but very few albums still sound as fresh and relevant today as Lexicon, so let's take a closer look.

From the outset this album wears its' heart on its' sleeve, opening with a gradually building orchestral fanfare that gives way to the power funk of Show Me, giving us our first taste of bassist Mark Lickley's smooth, hypnotic style, and laying the foundation for much of the album. Understated, yet such a vital part of the ABC sound, this is a masterclass in how the bass can lift a song by being omnipresent yet never actually in your face. Pure genius. Show Me shows us exactly where this album is going, all big choruses, plinky-plonky synths and Martin Fry's cynical and incisive observations on love and relationships. Happy music, but very bitter lyrics and what a potent combination it is.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Poison Arrow. "Shoot that poison arrow through my heart" - ouch! This was the song that catapulted ABC into the public's consciousness, with a sing-a-long chorus that just wouldn't leave your head and a bassline so funky that you couldn't help but tap your foot. The real genius of this song, though, is the breakdown in the middle that takes us from this fluffy pop song into a discordant middle eight with Martin revealing to his girl "I thought you loved me, but it seems you don't care" to which she replies "I care enough to know I can never love you" - again, ouch! You feel for the guy, you really do.

Many Happy Returns continues the albums cinematic soundscape, the opening sounding like the intro to some cheesy 80s soap opera, which in many ways it was. More busy bass work drives along a clever lyric from Fry which somehow manages to rhyme "axis" with "fascist" and get away with it. Towards the end of this track, Fry really lets rip and you can hear the venom in his voice, and the evidence that he really could sing.

First single Tears Are Not Enough follows, sounding musically like an outtake from a James Brown album, but with Fry's falsetto getting its' first airing on the album. The production on this track (particularly on the remastered version) is superb, with each instrument occupying its' own little space, distinctly separate, but meshing together as a whole beautifully.

By the time we get to Valentine's Day, it's becoming obvious that ABC have found a formula and are sticking to it. However, far from being a problem, this gives the album a wonderful sense of continuity. Whereas on some albums the change from one song to the next can be quite jarring, here it is a smooth as Fry's voice, taking us by the hand and leading us through their funky-dancey tales of heartbreak and cynicism. The song builds to a bitter crescendo that rounds off what was back in 1982 the end of the first side of the album.

Side two (as was) kicks of with The Look Of Love (Part One), the second of three songs that will be forever
associated with 1982s pop sounds. If Motown had been invented in the 80s rather than the 60s, this is what it would sound like. In fact Fry went on to honour his obvious influence on this album a few years later with the superb When Smokey Sings, and you can imagine Mr Robinson crooning this track. The spoken bit in the middle also breaks the audio equivalent of cinema's fourth wall, with Fry referencing himself. Effective stuff.

Date Stamp is up next, with its' ringing cash registers faintly reminiscent of Pink Floyd's Money. This is a classy bass-driven song with Fry trading lines with a breathy, dreamy female singer, again giving us the happy upbeat tune with a cynical "love has no guarantee" message.

This brings us to the album's jewel in its' crown. All Of My Heart is quite possibly the best ballad ever written, giving us heartfelt lyrics sung with an emotion-filled voice, while managing to remain firmly on the right side of cheesy and trite. Strings accompany Fry's woeful tale of a friendship ruined by romance. This is the song that those of a certain age will always remember as the soundtrack to those school disco last dances where you could never quite get up the courage to ask that girl that you fancied to dance. Duran's Save A Prayer may be the best remembered ballad of the early 80s, but All Of My Heart was shot through with ten times the passion, ten times the heartache and ten times the regret. A Classic. Period.

Just as we're getting all dewey eyed, 4 Ever 2 Gether crashes out of the speakers with the album's conclusion that it might just be possible to find that romance that Fry has spent the rest of the album decrying, but you wouldn't bet your shirt on it. Hoping for the best but expecting the worst seems to be the order of the day as the song fades and we get a brief orchestral reprise of The Look Of Love to round off the album.

So, the Lexicon of Love - triple word score or rack full of vowels? Definitely the former, and one of the finest examples of a pop album that you're ever likely to come across. The fact that it regularly crops up in the myriad of "Top 100" album lists is testament to its' staying power. This is an album that deserves to be in your collection..

20 April 2005

Live Review: Love at London Rocket - 27th March 2005

Author: Karl Coppack

Just imagine that Mark Chapman hadn't gunned down John Lennon in December 1980. John might have returned safely home to the Dakota Building and phoned Paul up. "Paul," he might have said. "Ten years is too long. It's time to get the boys back together and into a studio. Oh, and Merry Christmas." Equally, in the seventies John Cleese might have decided to get back in touch with Connie Booth and agreed that rather than stop at twelve episodes of Fawlty Towers they should push on to a century or so.

Would you be happy with either of these scenarios? Of course, you might be curious. Who wouldn't enjoy the anticipation of a new Beatles album? However, if you have a nagging doubt about the possibility it might be due to worry that they might be really bad. They might taint their previous work and be pained by re-appraisals. No, there is a natural end to things. I never saw the Beatles live and I've now got the chance of meeting only half of them but, as Uncle Monty says, there can be no beauty without decay.

Certain things should be left where they are. Do you remember the Velvet Underground get together in 1993? Now I absolutely adore VU so I duly scurried along to the Wembley gig with Whistling Al McKenzie, whose pithy words you can read within these pages. I can now proudly tell my kids that I've seen Lou Reed sing Venus In Furs in the flesh. They wouldn't enjoy the story though, as I would tell them that it was one of the biggest anti-climaxes since Let It Be. I sat in the audience and tried to feel overawed but as Lou missed lines out and hurriedly tried to include them into the next line I could tell that the snake should have been forever slain rather than merely scotched. Leave it alone and its memory can't be tainted.

This brings me to the Love gig at the Le Beat festival over Easter 2005. I've seen them earlier at the Forum and knew two things that would affect tonight's performance. One, Arthur likes to put a show on so don't think about getting the last tube home and, two, expect a lot of guitar solos. The first proclamation is realised, as they don't take to the stage until gone eleven. Arthur has to fight his way through numerous guitarists including Rusty Squeezebox and Johnny Echols, who's making his comeback. Arthur grins at the crowd from behind his dark glasses, looking not unlike Hendrix's uncle and sets about us. He nods around the crowd and delivers the opening notes of "Alone Again Or." Johnny gives him a hand and we're all in. Singalongs are sadly lacking from gigs these days but as the crowd is nearer my age than the average of an NME reader I'm more than happy that this is the case.

The second song reveals one of the more sorrowful affairs about reuniting bands - the need to do a blues rockout for no reason within the middle of a perfectly good song. In this case we're "treated" to a painful succession of guitar solos which are showy rather than necessary. I find my eyes becoming less bright and shoulders are slumping quicker than Viv Nicholson's bank balance. I nod appreciatively but I'm waiting for the next song. Nearby, some anal cock tells Buttoned Down Rachel to "smile" and attempts to charm her by "being whacky." I can't enjoy any gig where there is someone near me who has an IQ score similar to the alcohol volume of his glass so it's an unhappy couple of minutes. Hmm... Less cocks, more favourites please Art.

It's a challenge he's more than up to. "A House Is Not A Motel" roars from the speakers and I marvel that two men in their sixties can make music like that. From then on we run through the majority of Forever Changes and the odd slice of gold such as My Little Red Book and Wonder People. In between songs Arthur talks extensively to the crowd. He is witty, he is sublime and we can't hear a single word he is saying. Not a solitary slovo. There's some new material too. "Everybody's Got To Live" segues into Instant Karma and the better Flesh Against My Skin (I think it's called) sears those in the front rows. Say what you like about Love - they can bloody play. After the tedious business of introducing the band (tedious but forgivable so we can marvel at Echols again) they're off into the night. I'm left standing, hoping against hope that they do Seven And Seven Is for an encore. They return with it and send me home happy.

Complaints? Well, I would have liked to hear the beautiful Andmoreagain, which demonstrates Arthur's adaptable vocal range, but this is a petty thing. If you haven't bought Forever Changes or Da Capo then I'm deeply jealous of you, as you've got a fascinating new experience to look forward to. Vive Le Beat!.

14 April 2005

Music Feature: Exquisite by Karl Coppack

Author: Karl Coppack

I wonder if you've ever sat down and thought about why you like certain things. Why you listen to certain types of music, watch films, eat certain foods as opposed to others, why you choose to imbibe or take powders and resins? The obvious answer would be that you are unique and certain things appeal and others don't. You follow your tastes and ignore others. Thomas Hobbes simplified this, unusually for a philosopher, when he said that we are geared towards pleasure and avoid pain. This has been giving me pause of late. I, like you, prefer to listen to my own music and as my age marches on without me I find myself unable to listen to the unfamiliar. Why? Because I know what I like and I haven't got time to think about "things that I may like." Well, that and I'm a miserable old scrote.

Some of my closest friends love Primal Scream. Good honest people who stand their rounds and have sensible opinions on Eamon Holmes. They have shook Screamadelica in my face and implored me to open my ears. I won't have it. Why not? Because it's "dance". My door is closed to that. It's just the way I am. Let's get this down to cases. My friend Whistling Al McKenzie, who infests these pages with his pithy take on modern life, tends to speak nothing but sense. He's addicted to it. I turn to him when I seek sage. We have an understanding on certain matters, as we've known each other since the egg. At the age of sixteen he lent me the first Velvet Underground album on cassette. I can picture it now. A red Polydor tape in a clunky box. He told me that this was the sort of album that would make me sit up and pay attention. To be honest he was probably just trying to get me away from my Style Council records but I trusted his words and took the tape home.

I was dumbstruck by what I found. The sheer, sheer, sheer beauty of Sunday Morning, the rambling twelve bar of Waiting For My Man, the sleaze of Run Run Run, the mystery of All Tomorrow's Parties, the pain of Heroin and the haunted voice of Nico from atop an isolated tower somewhere in Narnia. I was shocked to the core, to the blood of my blood. Something wanted to get into my marrow and I let it sweep through my hall. That, THAT, is an album. What was Al's response when I saw him the next day? He was disappointed in me. Disappointed that I hadn't come to college wearing wrap around sunglasses and leather trousers.

My laboured point is this. We were seventeen in 1986 when this took place. I'm now staring at my thirty seventh birthday and still love that album but were Al to scream at me to buy another album of the sort I would take my time and begrudgingly get around to listening to it, probably considering it to be "an Al album" that lives outside the Venn diagram of our tastes. Can or Trout Mask Replica, for example. I'm now at the age where I understand me a lot better. I don't need further moulding and have long gone past the stage where I run into the groove of a certain genre. I'm happy with my own rut. So what do I do? I buy re-issues or the entire back catalogue of a band that fits my psychological profile. For example, a few years ago I went to the Fleadh festival to see Neil Young. I marched around the tents to get out of the rain and chanced upon Teenage Fanclub. I was awestruck. The Smiths meet the Beach Boys so therefore very much me. In less than three weeks I bought every album. My CD collection increases by the week but my tastes haven't. Is that a sad blinkered viewpoint or just basic honesty? Maybe both. Nevertheless I'm happy with what I've got.

Do you know what ecstasy means? Let me tell you in a condescending manner. It's a Greek word that means "standing outside of yourself". The idea being that something is so fantastic that it can lift you out of yourself and take you to places where things make sense or the opposite. Certain parts of songs do that for me. You've got your own lists but this is my article not yours so I'll go for;

Lonesome Tonight - New Order - the gasp at the end
The solo from In My Life
Rock and Roll Suicide - Bowie - YOU'RE NOT ALONE!
The opening of the Pixies "Where Is My Mind"
Walk On The Wild Side's "alright!"
The intro to Love's Old Man, especially when the bass drops in.
The middle eight of Joy Transmission - "People like you find it eaaaaasy."
The bit in Seven Nation Army where he plays the riff and octave higher.
The "yeah" before the solo in Cinnamon Girl.
The intro of The Chills' Rolling Moon
Ooh Child by the Five Stairsteps
The middle eight of Pure Shores
Deep Forbidden Lake by Neil Young
Nimrod from the Elgar Variations
The backing vocals of Fool To Cry
The refrain of Atomic.

Sometimes you don't need the whole song, just a bit which makes your heart leap and you stand outside yourself. That is the mark of music's capability. They're mine. I suggest you find your own. Oh, and buy that Velvets album. Your future mightn't let you.

19 March 2005

Album Review: Fischerspooner - Odyssey

Author: Dollyrocker

Before I start this review, I had better warn you that my views on Fischerspooner are probably quite different from most other peoples, especially reviewers and snotty nosed indie kids. But I have a copy of their new LP and know the truth. THIS, is the most exciting LP that will be released this year, and I'm gonna tell you why. First though, let's travel back into the dark depths of time, to say, ooh, 2002.

I could have some facts slightly wrong here regarding dates and figures, but Fischerspooner recorded their self titled debut LP in about 1999 or 2000. In 2001, they signed a deal with Ministry Of Sound and got a heap of cash that they promptly spent on stage costumes and wigs. Around the same kinda time, Electroclash was kicking off and DJ Hell, Erol and Larry Tee and all that lot would have been treating unsuspecting clubbers to their 'would-have-been-should-have-been' a smash; 'Emerge'. Which is roughly where I came in. I can't remember where I first heard 'Emerge' although I think it might have just been at home when I got one of the original release singles on Hell's 'Gigolo' label. At the time, the music press were falling over themselves over the band, calling 'Emerge' the next step from Donna Summer's 'I Feel Love' and New Order's 'Blue Monday'. All that was lies though, Fischerspooner were MUCH better than that. But, like all the best things in life, they weren't built to last. I think the whole thing climaxed in June 2002 with a show at The Bridge, a pretty big space in one of the arches under London Bridge. Now THIS is where it got mindblowing. Fisherspooner never wanted to be normal stars, they wanted to be REMEMBERED stars. The show they put on that night was out of this world, with glitter cannons, a wind machine, fake starts on 'Emerge', cross dressing dancers, it genuinely makes the hair stand up on my arms thinking about it. Like other things that weren't built to last, Pink Floyd at The Roundhouse in '66, Menswe@r at Madame Jo-Jo's in '95 etc, everyone in the building was totally blown away, no matter what they try and tell you in retrospect. Fischerspooner didn't sell many records, it wasn't a great album and people were still getting over The White Stripes (spit on the floor) and apart from an appearance with Kylie on TOTP dueting on her single; 'Come Into My World', they were soon to dissapear (almost) without trace. Oh, and they suffered breakdowns, nervous exhaustion, a lack of direction, debt and then got dropped by their label. It didn't personally matter to me, I had danced my arse off at their show, thrashed the LP to death and was given more joy in those short few months than most bands could give me in ten years and that they had the passion, creativity and most importantly, humour to survive. File alongside KLF and see what happens.

Soooo. Fischerspooner back in 2005 anyone? It's been a funny couple of years since they vanished, electroclash as it was known is deaddeaddead, and instead we have The Others and The Rakes. LCD Soundsystem are the saviours of dance music and Soulwax had a couple of good tracks on their new LP. Daft Punk release their most middling work to date and we have new acts doing very well like The Killers, The Bravery and Arctic Monkeys. Jesus, we REALLY need Fischerspooner back, you just don't know it yet.

Their new LP is called Odyssey. I think it's out in a couple of weeks, you'll have to check their site. HMV won't be heavily promoting this album and Fisherspooner aren't planning to come to the UK this year at the moment. So, we're stuck with the LP at home and in the clubs, there are worse places to be. The first track is also the first single to be released off the LP and is called 'Just Let Go', a pulsating bass driven stomper that is sure to set many dancefloors alight across the world and REALLY should be a smash hit too. Course it won't be though, not in this country anyway, not beery enough, too exciting...

So let's have a flick through the LP then, 'Cloud' has Casey in dreamy mode alongside a hypnotic beat and lovely sawtooth synths. Think Soft Cell, think Human League, think STYLE dammit! 'Never Win' is quite a departure from their last LP, the whole affair is less dark, more poppy, it really suits them too. Although it isn't really dancefloor, my fave track on the LP at the moment is 'A Kick In The Teeth' which combines beautiful harmonies, optimistic lyrics and excellent melody. It's like a weird cousin (in spirit) to 'Wuthering Heights' by Kate Bush. But with synths and beats. 'We Need A War' pops a few digs at his home country (USA), and bounces along nicely. 'Happy' would make a good single, although whether EMI will grant the band more than one chance at a smash hit remains to be seen. The LP's closer; 'Circle (Visions Creation New Sun) is awesome. Like, Edgar Froese playing the hits of King Crimson. Or not.

Whatever. This LP is mindglowing. Bring it into your world.

Album Review: Daft Punk - Human After All

Author: Peter Muscutt

Daft Punk
Daft Punk are a curious bunch, never letting their faces be seen in public or in magazine articles (save for a black and white photo on their debut album in 1996). Instead, they have adopted the ploy of dressing up like a cross between sci-fi astronauts and robots. It's ironic then, that their third 'proper' album (i.e. not counting live albums and remix projects) in nine years - great hit rate there, is titled Human After All. The album feels like a cross breed of the previous two albums, the funky house of 1996's debut Homework, blessed with the more digital and futuristic sounding Discovery from 2000. Human vocals are a definite no-no on the album, as are conventional sounding instruments, although the album does have a definite bent towards using the guitar, as is proudly stated on the album sleeve - 'all guitars by Daft Punk' - well done! Although the album has received a very mixed reception, it's true to say this is far from Daft Punk's best work, but at the same time, it's far from their worst (that honour has to go, at least in part, to their involvement on some of the woeful remixes on the Daft Club remixes CD released in 2003). Opening track Human After All sounds like a potential single, opening the album with a crisp beat (reminiscent of the intro from Electric Light Orchestra's Don't Bring Me Down) and the synthesised guitar riffs that signal that this IS a Daft Punk recording - it just sounds like them, which is an enviable position for any band to be in, having carved out their own niche. Although the track is undeniably repetitive, with the repeated refrain of 'we are human after all', but it never jars or grates. The Prime Time Of Your Life, while opening with a moody, synthesised riff and vocodered vocal, descends into the mire of 'not really knowing how to end a track' and falls victim to the trick of speeding a song up until it ends. Depending on your opinion, this is either genius or not, but it doesn't stand well with the rest of the track, and feels like a bit of a cop out.

First single Robot Rock is a fairly standard chunk of what Daft Punk do best, an infectious disco-funk riff (that once you've heard, will stick in your head for days!) that again, doesn't get on the nerves even though it sounds like they've recorded the main riff once, left the keyboards playing, and occasionally battered the 'drum fill' button. Steam Machine marks the first real point where the album falters - a rather irritating and forgettable melody, with a whispered vocal implying the title of the track over and over. This shaky track however is redeemed somewhat by the laidback groove of Make Love (not a cover the Oliver Cheatham track...) a relaxed affair with elegantly twanging guitars and a subtle rhythm. If ever a song was crying out for a vocal track, however, it's this one - some lyrics would have improved this cut no end (it's perhaps worth mentioning that for those agreeing with this statement, there is a bootleg mix floating around on the internet featuring long-forgotten bad boy Mark Morrison's Return Of The Mack shoehorned over it). Sadly, Make Love is the filling of a rather bland sandwich, as the dire The Brainwasher assaults the ears. With perhaps the most annoying vocal ever committed to tape by the group (think a mad uncle trying to be scary and a Dalek and you're not far off) twinned with a rolling, predictable techno backing, and it doesn't really enthral. A brief television-themed interlude follows with On/Off, with the duo flicking through the channels, before returning to work with Television Rules The Nation - a rather dark sounding diatribe against the power of television. Although it's a long way from stone cold classics like Around The World and One More Time, it's a more rock-infused track featuring that guitar 'By Daft Punk!' (don't forget to congratulate them on that, will you).

The first bars of next track Technologic do not offer much in the way of faith, an almost child-like voice ranting on in a similar way to the chorus of Harder Better Faster Stronger, before an almost electro-esque beat comes in, and the track kicks off, although it does sound similar in style to Television Rules The Nation, which we have just heard. The album closes (after a rather short 45-minutes) with the gentle sounding Emotion - maybe an elegy to how human the band have become, layers of filtered vocals building up until a slower-paced beat envelopes them. It's a nice enough close to an album, nothing grand or epic, although again, it does tend to sound rather repetitive. For lovers of previous Daft Punk efforts, this album will be essential listening, although to the more casual listener of dance music, it may well baffle and beg the question 'what's new?'. In fairness, not a lot, although the duo did record the ten tracks on offer here in a single six-week period in late 2004.

Due to this, it has the feel of a stop-gap project rather than a fully completed album, but fans will hope this isn't the last we hear of the band for another four year stretch. This is an album that grows on you, and after repeated listens, is one that fares well in the review stakes - although not deep or offering much on repeated listens, it's an easily accessible dance album that doesn't hide what it is. Daft Punk want us to believe that, after all this time in the music business, they are human after all. They may well be, but with the mechanical rhythms, trademark disco style and overuse of the voice synthesiser, the music most definitely is not..

18 March 2005

Website Review: www.franzferdinand.org

Author: Aurliea Wilson

As a devout fan of Franz Ferdinand I search them often on the web. A delightful website by the name www.franzferdinand.org is the greatest fan community ever! Franzferdinand.org is loved for many reasons such as the close link between site and the band and the fantastic person running all of it: Mr. Graham Searle combined with the most enthusiastic fans. FF.org has everything from articles to pictures to news to a fan forum, making it one of the most informative, user friendly and well established fansites on the net. On having the opportunity to interview the site maintainer, I asked Graham the following questions;

Auriliea: How much do you think people benefit from ff.org?

Graham: I'd love to say that people benefit a lot from the site, but to be humble about it, all a fansite does is collate a lot of information from a wealth of different sources and present it to the fan-base. I'm proud of what we've created, and to think that people use it as their first point of call for information on the band is amazing. I'd never have dreamt that would ever be the case when I first put pen to paper and jotted down the first few ideas for the site. I've benefited a huge amount from the site myself... It's certainly opened doors that otherwise would have been closed. I've written an article for NME about the band, I'm in daily communication with the band and their management, I've made so many new friends and important contacts. The only downside, if I could ever call it one, is that now I'm writing so much for so many people and I've got projects on the go everywhere that I'm just insanely busy 24/7. I'll never complain though, I'm having too much fun. Failing my degree, mind...

Auriliea: Any partner sites? Which brings me to my next question…

Graham: Not as such. I experimented with a joint news service with another FF fansite, but our writing styles differed so much that it just looked messy on the eye, and hard on the brain. I'm looking to work closely with a new website which is hosting a huge amount of FF images, photos and scans. Kris who runs that designed some of our new artwork, so we'll be looking to give both sites a common template so it's visually connected.

Auriliea: Any other sites you maintain other than ff.org?

Graham: None whatsoever. I was approached by the band to redesign the official website, and I was working with another band on the revamp of their site too. But neither really came to anything. I've often been tempted to branch out a little, but I couldn't dedicate the time to it if it was to rival FF.org for content and updates.

Auriliea: Why do you start a fan site? (ok maybe I know the answer to this one...)

Graham: The band just blew me away when I first saw them. I was waffling on about them to anyone who'd listen for ages, but noone paid any attention. Then FF released 'Darts Of Pleasure' and went on a wee tour. I got to see the band live a couple more times, and it cemented it in my mind that they were going to be huge, they had to be huge! I had a poke around the net to find websites for the band, the official one was terrible. I eventually found another fansite, but by then I'd already started working on a design of my own. I thought FF deserved a fansite that could provide everything I wanted to know about the band. Noone was doing it, so I set about doing it myself.

Auriliea: How did you start it and how long has it been up?

Graham:I started working on the site in December 2003, trying out designs and gathering images and audio and biographical content to flesh it out. I had some spare webspace on a site I'd managed for an Irish Record label so I "borrowed" some of that, and published what I'd designed to the internet in early January 2004. By the time it took us to buy "franzferdinand.org" as a name and purchase our own webspace, we went live on 12 January 2004, the same day 'Take Me Out' was released.

Auriliea: Who helps you?

Graham: I've had help along the way from people who've contributed news articles or who translated our content into French, Dutch and German - something I abandoned last Autumn - but on a general day-to-day basis, it's just me who runs it. From top to bottom I'm responsible for all new content and updates. There are special people who've been major helping hands along the way, my former housemate James for one, who did a lot of technical work behind the scenes early on. And of course everyone who's ever donated to our server fund to help us stay online, launch a new design or expand the site. I just hope I'm providing what people want to see. It's amazing to get e-mails from people in Chile, Taiwan, Africa, and so on, who have heard about the band and have turned to my site for information, and they crave more! My daily e-mail turnover is huge, and for all the times something goes awry or I stare at a list of jobs that need doing, the thought that someone, somewhere is looking at my website cheers me right up and motivates me to always make the site better, bigger, faster, and more entertaining. Some of the feedback and comments on the forum are great to read, if a little embarrassing at times. It's great to know you're admired!

There's a long list of why the orgsters love Graham and some love the site even more. I asked a few people about the site and this is what they had to say:

"This site encompasses everything from Franz Ferdinand information, to the new indie music scene, to fangirling, to art and writing, to general amusement. It is fasinating to see such a diverse group of people coming together cohesively through the music of Franz Ferdinand." -Erin

"I like the fact that it has a very well updated news section, I love the stylish layout, and just the feeling of being part of such a diverse and interesting community." -Elen

"Loads of people united by the love of Franz" -Sarah

There are many reasons as to why FF.org has such a cult following. The news is very regularly, The music is excellent and the people are fantastic, the variety never ceases to please. The site has had many acclaimes including 3fm's Website of the Month, and a nomination for the Digital Music Awards being among them. The site has attracted attention from all over the world, and rightly so, it is a encylopaedia of Franzy goodness, and makes the girls want to dance almost as much as the music does.

Site: www.franzferdinand.org

Forum: www.franzferdinand.org/forum

Webmaster: Graham
Staff: Josie, Erin, Lisette, Ryan