Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Mixtape Ahoy!


Back by dope demand, bitches!

  1. Jamie Holden - Lump (The opening track from Holden's mini-LP, The Idiots Are Winning is as wigged-out and subtly psychedelic as we've come to expect from the Border Community man. It's also insidiously infectious and as moreish as crystal meth pringles.)
  2. The Beta Band - To You Alone (I've recently been dipping back into The Betas' catalogue and 'To You Alone' is one of my favourites. A twinkly groove with elements of r'n'b thrown into the mix, alongside a percussive freakout bit that Animal Collective would be envious of.)
  3. Magnus International - Onkel Reisende Mac (New on Prins Thomas' Full Pupp imprint, this is a very nice touch of starcrawling disco, with a bottom that's deeper and fatter than the one currently sported by Eamonn Holmes. When that 4/4 kicks in, it's heavenly. The Swedes amongst you will have clocked already, but for those at the back, Onkel=Uncle, Reisende=Travelling and Mac=well, uh, Mac, which must be what the Swedes called him. Silly creatures!)
  4. Isolee - Hermelin (Predictability is an oft-underrated virtue. Take the work of Rajko Muller, for instance; while you could never say that the intricate twists and turns his music takes are easy to track, one thing you do see coming when there's a new Isolee release on the horizon is that it's going to be excellent. This is no exception. I bet you'll be humming it for weeks and there's not many minimal house musicians you can say that about.)
  5. Moby feat. Debbie Harry - New York, New York (The Emperor Machine Extended Mix) (Okay, so the original's an absolute dog, but it turns out that you can sprinkle gold dust on a freshly-laid dog's egg and call it a Faberge. Debbie's voice, which has been gravelled a little over the years, pretty much sounds as great as it ever did and works as a fabulous counterpart to Andy Meecham's cosmic funk backdrop. This is what Ana Matronic thinks her songs on the new Scissor Sisters album sound like.)
  6. Lexx - Sirocco (Bear Funk bring the goods again here. Who knows when the beardo-disco bubble will burst? In fact, I bet there's lots of you out there who didn't even notice it inflate. Long may it last.)
  7. Hipnosis - End Title (Blade Runner) (Italo, squelchy-synth robo-cover of Vangelis' classic piece that closes out one of my favourite films of all time. "It's too bad she won't live. But then again, who does?")
  8. Little Beaver - Concrete Jungle (Questionable name aside, Little Beaver certainly brings the funk to the disco table on this pearler from Stateside's recent T.K. Disco compilation.)
  9. The Shins - Sea Legs (This is where we might get into trouble. Sub Pop are currently prowling the blogosphere, caning the backs of bloggers' legs for putting new Shins tracks up for download. Let's hope this slips under the radar. 'Sea Legs' is one of the highlights from the patchy Wincing The Night Away. Enjoy it while you can.)
  10. The Blood Arm - Visitations (TBA's album, Lie Lover Lie is the most fun you can have without flouting decency laws, but no-one seems to have noticed that. Grab this as a taster, then go out and buy, buy, buy! Just remember to keep your clothes on.)
  11. The Long Blondes - You Could Have Both (Without a shadow of a doubt, 'You Could Have Both' is the best song that The Long Blondes have thus far committed to tape. If the spoken breakdown doesn't send a shiver down your spine, then you must be dead.)
  12. Pavement - Grounded (Now that Wowee Zowee is being remastered and reissued, we can take a little time to assess its less obvious charms. The hidden brilliance of 'Grounded' is easy to miss when you first fall for the album, leaving you asking some of the more instantly gratifying moments to dance. Make sure you check out the unassuming wallflower over there though, who's clearly a stone-cold fox under that floppy fringe and the librarian glasses.)
  13. Jarvis - I Will Kill Again (Bitter, acerbic, yet beautifully tender, 'I Will Kill Again' makes you wonder just how long it will be before we're looking at Sir Jarvis. A national treasure.)
  14. Metallica - Enter Sandman (Ending it here with this behemoth, purely because I watched Some Kind Of Monster immediately before compiling this. "Exit light...")

Pop's Yer Uncle Volume Two (Zipped and Megauploaded)

More tomorrow, when I'll fill you in on just what the hell I've been doing for the last few days.


Saturday, October 28, 2006

"Lie back or cross the great divide"


I've got the blues. I'm not going to go into the whys and wherefores, but I am feeling a bit sorry for myself at the moment. Even United winning 4-0 today, away to Bolton hasn't really shaken my current funk. I went out last night and that didn't help (I think it even made it worse, actually) and even though I had a bit of a chuckle at QI earlier (especially at Sean Lock's Beachy Head story), the 'D' topics that they covered included death and depression, so it wasn't the usual laughfest it normally is.

Saturday night TV doesn't help either. All Star Family Fortunes' double-whammy of annoyance in the form of Vernon Kay and Chris Fucking Moyles made me want to pour turps into my eyes, while the usual X Factor bollocks made me lose faith in the human race, as it does everytime I catch it. Ten contestants and not a single ounce of personality between them. Why watch then, I hear you cry. Well I guess it comes from my instinct to wallow, to not even try to cheer myself up. I guess this is the point where you stop feeling sorry for me, if indeed you even started.

I'm not looking for sympathy here (although it would be nice, I guess), I'm only really mentioning it because it's affecting my writing. I don't write good when I'm down, so if you've noticed that the posts are few and far-between, given my usual output and that the writing isn't up to the usual standard (which, I'll admit, ain't that great anyway), this is the reason why. That and the fact that I'm getting a cold as well.

Anyway, enough boo-hooing, I'm going to at least try to write a bit.

One television series that I am really enjoying at the moment is Brotherhood (currently showing in the UK on FX on Monday nights). It's the story of two Providence, Rhode Island-dwelling brothers, Tommy and Michael Caffee (played respectively by Jason Clarke and Jason Isaacs) who have taken very different career paths. Tommy is a respected politician and Michael is a career criminal. Brotherhood then goes onto show the similarities between the siblings in highlighting the contrasts.

It really is intelligent, gripping television, the likes of which we're starting to expect from the US cable network, Showtime, which has often been HBO's poor relation but has grown in stature in recent years thanks to programmes like this, Huff, Sleeper Cell and Weeds. Okay, so it still kind of pales in comparison to the HBO behemoth, but in Brotherhood, it looks like Showtime have finally got their own The Wire.

The similarities between the two shows are stark. For instance, they're both set in underused, but fascinating locales, which are characters in themselves. Both Providence and Baltimore are multiracial communities that are distinctly unharmonious. Both shows are also underappreciated but have both been given backing by their networks, despite getting disastrously low ratings.

While Brotherhood isn't quite in the same realm as The Wire (officially the greatest series in the history of television) yet, it's still early doors and the signs are extremely encouraging. Despite being decidedly humourless, Brotherhood is uniformly expertly acted. Isaacs displays the kind of powder-keg intensity that he rarely gets to show in his Hollywood roles as the token British villain. His character spends half the time lying to his family about being a changed man since his seven-year exile and the other half cutting off people's ears and generally being a total fucking hardarse.

Annabeth Gish impresses too as Tommy's wife, Eileen, who leads a double life. One moment she's your typical bored, repressed housewife, a slave to their children and to Tommy's ambitions, while the next she's getting stoned and having loveless sex with the local postman. Gish plays her like she's playing two parts; one buttoned-down and frigid, the other free-spirited and vampish. It's to her credit that they occasionally bleed together in unexpected, subtle ways, like the scene in episode three after she's accompanied Tommy to a stalwart politician's house who is trying to persuade him to run for congress. Eileen gets loaded on Margaritas and throws up in the car on the way home, with Tommy looking on in bewilderment, obviously never having seen his wife act in this way before.

The acting laurels, however, go to Jason Clarke. An Australian who has previously appeared in the likes of Home And Away and Heartbreak High (which just makes his performance all the more impressive) he imbues Tommy Caffee with an almost scary drive and unwavering devotion to his job. So unwavering in fact that he often greases the wheels and bends the rules to get what he wants. His relationships with his family don't differ from those with his colleagues, his relationship with his wife being particularly businesslike and sexless. While his brother is all animal magnetism and simmering violence, Clarke makes Tommy just as dead-eyed and cold, yet somehow even more morally ambiguous. He's clearly a star in the making.

Make sure you catch Brotherhood, because if you don't, you'll be missing out on the most deliciously brutal and intense programmes on tv right now. Just to show that Yer Mam! hasn't mysteriously changed into a television blog overnight, if Brotherhood was a song, it would be this one...

Parts & Labor - A Great Divide (mp3)

There was some other stuff I was going to write about but this has took me so long (I kept getting distracted), I've canned it until another time. Mixtape tomorrow, I promise.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

"Myyy faaaavvvouuurrrittte sooooonnnnggg!"

Hi everyone!

I know I've been AWOL for a few days (not counting my King Creosote/Jeremy Warmsley review from yesterday) but when you're not really feeling it, then it's best not to post just any old thing.

The juices are starting to flow again though, I can feel them, so let this be the start of some more regular blogging activity. The new mixtape is ready and should be up over the weekend at some point. Tomorrow might be a bit of a goner, as I have a few social engagements to attend to, but expect at least something on Saturday and Sunday. Depending on how I feel of course.

Anyway, I bet you're absolutely dying to find out what my Single Of The Week is...

The Long Blondes - Once And Never Again (Rough Trade)

Probably the jangliest song in their repertoire, this still bears all the hallmarks of The Long Blondes' sound. Kate Jackson's lyrics are as tart and acidic as ever, if a little more world-weary than on their other singles. Her words are counterbalanced by the music, which is clattery, yet clean and more than a little reminiscent of The Housemartins, in my opinion. It's not even their best song, but it's still better than anything else released this week. All hail the best new band in Britain!

This past week, a lot of my time spent listening to music has been devoted mainly to one piece of music; LCD Soundsystem's 45:33, created for Nike's Original Run series of unique pieces created to soundtrack a workout. Anything new from the DFA and particularly from James Murphy's LCD Soundsystem is greeted with rabid fervour by me and I'm sure by many others too. This is no different.

While it's a little wide of the mark to say that this is just one long track, as it is really a series of movements mixed into one seamless whole, it's best listened to in one go. Which is how I've been taking it in all week. It really is a brilliant piece of work, just viewed purely on its own terms. In fact, I have no idea how good it is to workout to, as anyone who knows me will attest to me not being the most active of people and I'm pretty sure I'll never find out. However, as a new, one-off work from one of the most consistently thrilling bands in the world right now, it's pretty jaw-dropping.

A little different from the usual LCD fare, the vocals are sparse and far between and aren't very Murphy-esque when they do appear. In fact, the whole thing brings comparisons to the likes of Arthur Russell, Brian Eno and Manuel Gottsching, whose E2-E4 is the most obvious influence, despite the title's cheeky nod to John Cage. The ambient coda, with the spectral voices and the heartbeat backing is one of the most singularly beautiful things I've heard all year and kind of makes me want to get my trainers on and use it how it was intended, just so I can crash out to it at the end. Something tells me I'd have probably given up long before then though.

This is normally the point where I post some kind of mp3, but seeing as it is all one track and I'm way too lazy to start ripping out excerpts, I'll just post the itunes link where you can purchase it from.


Back with more over the weekend,


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

"No, I never was going to be six, seven, eight foot tall"

King Creosote/Jeremy Warmsley @ Sheffield Plug (22.10.06)

Sheffield is, apparently, a bit of a hip and happening place these days. There's the global domination of Arctic Monkeys, the glamourous new wave sexpots, The Long Blondes, the twisted DIY electro-pop of Kings Have Long Arms and all the upcoming bands that are sending A&R men and the more excitable areas of the press into fits of apoplexy at the moment (Ape Drape Escape, Bromheads Jacket, Little Man Tate and the like). So, even though this was a wet Sunday evening, I still kind of expected Sheffield to be a thriving lively place. What do I find? A few transients, shadowed by the night and one really scared cat.

So it was a bit of a disappointing start to the night, but it got better. I'll admit to not being an authority on either of tonight's acts' music. I know more about King Creosote than I do Jeremy Warmsley, but my knowledge of both is pretty scant. Going to the gig in the first place was a bit of a favour to a friend, so my expectations were low-to-non-existent. This is how everyone should approach every gig they go to, as every highpoint is a little surprise along the way.

Starting with Warmsley; his delicate, intricate songs may seem at first to be hard to translate into the live arena, but Warmsley sidesteps this by amping up the intensity inherent in his music with a full band joining him a few songs into the set. Although his vocals are somewhat strident from time to time, that's led to some writers likening him to Rufus Wainwright, the fact that there's something of the showtune about the songs validates the over-enunciating he indulges in.

'I Knew Her Face Was A Lie' is the most startling of his ballads, with Warmsley's voice taking luscious soars and dips that help the song rather than being just window dressing. The more upbeat, 'Dirty Blue Jeans' is also impressive, displaying a restless energy that most young upstart punk bands could learn from. The twists and turns in closing new song, 'Craneflies' bode well for the future too as it already sounds like it should be soundtracking the swoons and heartbreaks of awkward teenage girls and boys the length and breadth of Britain.

Jeremy Warmsley still has a bit to learn though, with his truncated support set sometimes suffering from pacing problems and an unwillingness from Warmsley himself to really capture his audience's attention. Once he learns how to do this however, we could have a genuinely brilliant talent on our hands.

King Creosote mainman, Kenny Anderson is a slight, diminutive, unassuming fellow. What he lacks in physicality, he makes up for in pure charm though, as he grins his way through a set full of songs most of the small crowd know, but can't resist tweaking them just enough to keep it fresh for himself and for the hardcore. Rocket D.I.Y. opener, 'Twin Tub Twin' is the first indication of Anderson's joy in deviating from the blueprint. The live version sees Anderson thumping his acoustic for percussion, with guitarist, Pictish and bassman, Le Baron Rouge (not their real names) joining him on slightly mistimed claps, before letting fly for the denouement.

The real change from KC's recorded output to their live show though is the dourness of the albums (and that's not to say that they're not good, just not always a barrel of laughs) is dropped in favour of a possibly liquored-up enthusiasm and rambunctiousness that gives the likes of 'Klutz', 'Bootprints' (with Jeremy Warmsley on guitar) and a ramshackle run-through of The Aliens' 'The Happy Song' that closes the set a somewhat festive edge.

It's a shame that not more Sheffieldians (did I just coin that?) turned out for the gig as they would have seen the raw promise of one of the UK's rising stars before he most certainly delivers on it and then seen that followed by one of the most jovial, fun sets I've seen in quite a while, performed by one of Britain's most overlooked singer-songwriters. So the South Yorkshire city wasn't all it cracked up to be, but if they sleep on talents like Warmsley and Anderson, then they're welcome to their ghost town.

Photo from here.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

"Is it a solar fever?"

Alright you 'orrible lot!

I had to make probably one of the toughest decisions I've ever had to make last night. Okay, it wasn't really life or death, but choosing whether or not to go and see Sparklehorse (for free, I might add) was a real toughie.

I chose not to go. My reasons for this were purely fiscal. I'm skint and while I wouldn't have paid anything for the ticket, there's no such thing as a free gig. You have to pay for beer, cigarettes, taxis etc. and it was money that I just don't have. So I decided to go to the pub with my work colleagues and get drunk for free (such generous, altruistic people they are).

I'm kind of gutted today that I missed the opportunity to see the author of one of my favourite albums of the 90s (Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot) play songs from that album and his other excellent records in the flesh and in the swish surroundings of Manchester's own Royal Northern College Of Music. The new record, Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain isn't their best. The songs are as strong as ever but Danger Mouse's production dulls the rougher, fuzzier edges of their sound that made previous albums such brilliantly unsettling listening experiences.

This doesn't mean that a surfeit of new songs would have put me off the gig, as I know that even if they didn't do many more of my favourites, at least 'Rainmaker' was in the set. I don't even want to know if they did 'Cow' or 'Spirit Ditch' to be honest. Anyway, I just had to write something about this, if only to put any regret, that's led to me slapping my own forehead at intervals through out the day, to bed. Here's a little something off the new record.

Sparklehorse - Ghost In The Sky (mp3)

Bands must get pissed off when their new album leaks early, but with Of Montreal's latest, Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?, early seems like a bit of an understatement. The album has been around for about a month now, but it's not even out until early next year. Whether the leak was unintentional or if it was done to generate buzz, it matters not as the word is out; Hissing Fauna is the first great album of 2007.

A giddy, thrilling psychedelic disco-pop opus, Hissing Fauna... has nary a bad moment and certainly no duff tunes. From the pressure-drop lo-slung bassfest of 'Gronlandic Edit', or the operatic pop of the opener, 'Suffer For Fashion' through to the manic, high-tension new wave dance of 'She's A Rejector' and the disjointed, but intriguingly so 'Bunny Ain't No Kind Of Rider', the album is chock-full of addictive songs that practically urge you to hit repeat.

Although this is possibly Of Montreal's most accessible release to date, it's still shot through with the Elephant 6 collective's sense of adventure. No more so than on the stunning album centrepiece, 'The Past Is A Grotesque Animal'; a highly impressive, head-spinning twelve minute goth-disco epic that is probably the most intensely dramatic things I've heard in a while. Steve Barnes fills the song with evocative lyrics about not letting past relationships inform your present ones (I think?), peaking at around the five minute mark with Barnes near-screaming "Let's just have some fun/Let's tear this shit apart/Let's tear the fucking house apart/Let's tear our fucking bodies apart/Let's just have some fun" in that manner where he manages to sound both unhinged and disinterested. It's sure to be one of the musical moments of next year.

So while I don't condone illegal downloading in any way, you need to hear this awe-inspiring, dizzying record as soon as possible. In the meantime, here's a little taster.

Of Montreal - The Past Is A Grotesque Animal (mp3)

I'm off to Sheffield tomorrow to see King Creosote and Jeremy Warmsley, but I'll be back on Monday with the singles reviews and there's plenty of other good stuff to come through the week in the form of a new mixtape and my thoughts on such records as LCD Soundsystem's 45 workout mix for Nike, The Shins' newie, Wincing The Night Away and Pavement's special edition of Wowee Zowee among others no doubt.



Thursday, October 19, 2006

"I don't want it unless it's brand new"


A couple of things to go through today, so let's crack on straight away, shall we? By the way, all the mp3s are on Megaupload today because it seems to be the only hoster I can get to work.

Far and away one of the strangest moves ever by a leader of the opposition occurred today when Conservative head honcho and all-round paragon of all that is yoof-related, David Cameron met with Chi-town upcoming hip-hop star, Rhymefest for a "cup of tea". The reason for this was because Cameron had said something like, "Yo, kids! This rap music leads to a life of crime. It's totally wack. You best check yourself before you wreck yourself, yo!" and then tried to make a 'w' with his fingers, but it looked more like the Star Trek 'Live long and prosper' hand symbol.

Anyway, 'Fest then challenged Cameron to a rap battle that took place today at the House Of Commons, with the guys calling an amicable draw after 30 minutes of sick flow and some truly breathtaking human-beatboxing from Cam'ron (as he now likes his name to be spelt). 'Fest took Cam's "Yo Momma's so big, she's got her own MP" jibes on the chin and proclaimed that the Tory leader should make an appearance at next year's Scribble Jam.

Seriously though, what the hell kind of world do we live in when our politicians are meeting up with MCs to discuss their lyrical subjects? The two should never mix, but it did lead to a rather amusing piece in today's Mirror, where the massively misinformed Rosa Prince writes that Rhymefest "refers to women as bitches". Correct me if I'm wrong, but I can't think of a Rhymefest track where he calls a woman a bitch*. He uses the word occasionally in reference to his detractors, but there's not really much mysoginy to be had in his debut album Blue Collar. Anyway, that's The Mirror for you, so you shouldn't really expect anything different.

What I really didn't expect though was to turn on my television and see 'Fest stood outside the House Of Commons reciting the lyrics to 'Bullet'. It pretty much made my day though. What price a meet between Jack Straw and devout Muslim, Lupe Fiasco?

To read what actually happened, go here.

Rhymefest feat. Citizen Cope - Bullet (mp3)

*Other than 'Brand New', of course! Forgot about that.

Possibly one of the most eagerly-awaited debuts of the year, The Long Blondes' Someone To Drive You Home has surfaced. Well, I'm pleased to announce that it's an absolute delight and a real contender for the best British release of the year. It pretty much delivers on the promise shown by the demos and the early singles with the kind of aplomb you'd expect from seasoned pros, rather than keen young turks.

Someone... is packed with the kind of dramatic, literate pop that you don't hear enough of in British music today. In fact, if this album doesn't manage to sell double what The Kooks' album has already sold, then I'm fucking off to Finland or somewhere. The newly-recorded versions of the singles improve on the versions that we've all already played to death, with 'Giddy Stratospheres' in particular taking on new dizzying heights.

Of the songs that you may not be all that familiar with, 'In The Company Of Women' is a fantastically tart and acidic treatise on why women can be so bitchy sometimes, 'Swallow Tattoo' wraps a tale of jealousy around a giddy, sugary hook and 'Lust In The Movies' shows their adeptness at shoutalong choruses. The instant album standout though is the jaw-droppingly hubristic epic 'You Could Have Both' that has one of the best spoken breakdowns in years.

It doesn't all hit home, token ballad, 'Heaven Help The New Girl' just plain doesn't work. What The Long Blondes have done here though is set the benchmark for any upcoming Brit bands planning their debut as Kate Jackson (definitely one of the sexiest women in music right now) and her crew have gone and set the bar pretty high.

The Long Blondes - Swallow Tattoo (mp3)

More tomorrow,


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

"If I was a dancefloor, would you shake your thang?"

The Lemonheads @ Manchester Academy 2 (16.10.06)

I make no secret of the fact that I'm a big fan of Evan Dando. As far as I'm concerned, the man can do no wrong. In fact, my Evan worship stretches to wanting to call my first-born son after him. I can't see me having kids for a while yet, but the kid's going to have that name for the rest of its life, so it has to be a good one and it has to have some kind of meaning.

The root of my Dando fandom lies in the fact that he is a survivor. I've got a big admiration for people who go through the usual rock 'n' roll mill of drug/drink addiction and bad times and come out the other side pretty much unchanged and seemingly unaffected by what they've been through. They don't go on about it and they don't let it inform their output any more than it already did anyway. I have the same admiration for Nick Cave.

While Dando is not in the same songwriting league as Cave (not many working writers are), there's still a certain affable effervescence and youthfulness about his music and live performances to suggest that he'll probably carry on doing this for many years to come. And tonight's gig was a fine example of said effervescence as Dando and his bandmates (the rhythm section from The Descendents) rattled through hit after hit after hit, halting the momentum every so often to plug the patchy new record.

Of the ones we know and love, we were treated to the likes of 'Down About It', 'The Great Big No', 'It's A Shame About Ray', 'The Outdoor Type', 'Bit Part', the list goes on, the crowd singing along with every word; a fact that Dando clearly enjoyed, going off the dopey, stoner smile he sported all night. He even livened up the much-maligned acoustic bit with a blast of 'Into Your Arms' and the obligatory Gram Parsons cover (a beautiful 'A Song For You').

The band broke the curfew with an extended encore that contained a fiery 'Rudderless' and a bouncy run-through of 'If I Could Talk I'd Tell You'. It was a joyous set from a man who, despite his age and his troubled past, is clearly revitalised and loving not having to prove himself anymore. I may not be the best person to view a Lemonheads gig from a critical standpoint, given my confession at the start of this review, but with music this vital and life-affirming, you have to admit that it'd be pretty impossible to fuck up the live show. Disappointment was never an issue and tonight was certainly no letdown.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

"See you next Tuesday, you is a punk!"

Well, if you haven't already heard, either from me or via Manchizzle, I am currently feeling rather pleased with myself as last night, Yer Mam! was named Best Arts & Culture Blog at the Manchester Blog Awards. Yep, it really did happen. The whole night was a little on the surreal side. Everything started with some very heavy poetry, courtesy of the good people at Verberate!, which was, well, a little on the serious side.

This led to me drinking like a fish with a right old thirst on, which is never a good thing. By the time the actual awards came around, I was starting to get a bit buzzy. We'd been treated to some excellent readings courtesy of Geoff from 43 and The Airport Exile, which I'd enjoyed so much that I completely forgot there were awards being handed out in a bit. Factor in that the Arts & Culture category was the first to be presented and you will realise that I was in no fit mental state to go up and give anything approaching what you would call a 'speech'.

Yer Mam! is announced as the winner and I amble up to where the lovely Kate, from Manchizzle is stood in her position as MC. "Aargh! A microphone!" is all I can think of, but I somehow manage to ask Kate whether I'm supposed to say anything. She gestures towards the mic, so I offer up a simple "Cheers" before retreating back to my seat and nuzzling into the neck of my Beechwood-aged comforter.

If I'd have thought about it, I'd have quoted the title of this song...

Robyn - Konichiwa Bitches (mp3)

But I didn't think of it, so a bit pointless me mentioning it really. A good night was had by all (I think) and I urge you to check out the other winners, who were...

Blog Of The Year: 43
Best Personal Blog: A Free Man In Preston
Best Political Blog: Normblog

Also, take a look at my fellow Arts & Culture nominees, Ready Steady Book and Bitter And Blue, both of whom would probably made more deserving and, indeed, gregarious winners than I did. I promise you, dear readers, that this accolade will not change me, as I'm already hooked on cocaine and strippers. However, if my new-found celebrity status (within the blogosphere) does somehow lead to kinky sex with Lindsay Lohan, then I welcome it.

Anyway, back to business...

The Knife - Like A Pen (Rabid)

A tap drips on the floor of a disused warehouse somewhere in Gothenburg. The sound then transforms from the cold-sounding drip-drip-drip into what can only be described as a ping-pong ball bouncing around inside that cube from the film, er, Cube. This is how 'Like A Pen' starts and it's one of the most ominous, brilliantly portentous openings of a song all year. What follows is a fantasticaly dark slab of house-pop that has a playful edge that would sound great on Hallowe'en, which makes it perfectly timed too. Also included are some disappointing remixes and an even darker, tracky demo version of the single that is brilliant in its own way. You can find it over at 20JFG.

I'm not doing the rest of the singles for two reasons; they're a bit of a rum bunch and the United match is on.

More tomorrow in the form of a review of The Lemonheads at the Academy 2 last night. Yes, it was a busy night.


Sunday, October 15, 2006

"A pair of shoes, some old reviews that you kicked behind the door"

Hi all!

How is everyone this Sunday evening? I'm good, if still a little hungover from last night's frivolities, a little bit about which you can read, if you point your eyes below the blurry, mobile phone pic of Jeremy Greenspan from Junior Boys.

Hot Chip/Junior Boys @ Manchester Academy 2 (14.10.06)

Junior Boys and Hot Chip both make electro-pop with soulful flecks, so it was no surprise to see them on the same bill. What is surprising is that they couldn't be more different in their approach to their music. Junior Boys make seemingly irony-free, often lovelorn mini-epics that deal in earnest emotions, while Hot Chip prefer irony over sincerity. Maybe it's the ocean that separates them that makes the difference, but there definitely feels like Junior Boys just take their music that little bit more seriously than those Hot Chip jokers.

Tonight's gig pretty much refuted that last statement totally. Coming on at 8pm, Junior Boys were always going to have to work hard to whip the crowd into some kind of frenzy, but the lack of respect shown by certain areas of the hipsterish crowd was borderline offensive. I'm not one to tell people what to do, but if you're going to talk loud and at length, then you may as well not be in the hall. Just fuck off to the bar or something, just don't stand right at the front and do it in the band's face. Junior Boys' frontman, Jeremy Greenspan clearly noticed the chattering during the first half of their performance. Looking slightly perturbed by this, he trooped on regardless. Even the guy who greeted the band with "You fucking rock!" decided that he had no need to listen to the first five songs when talking to his friends was much more pleasureable.

In doing this, he, along with a pretty large portion of the increasing crowd, missed a sparkling 'The Equalizer' and a superb 'Like A Child' amongst others. It wasn't until a triumphant run-through of first album highlight, 'Birthday' that JBs finally got the attention and respect that they deserved, with most of the spectators indulging in a bit of frugging and handclapping. By the time they closed with a pulsing, up-for-it version of 'Under The Sun' that was almost unrecognisable from the one on Last Exit, most of the ignorant ones had either left or been well and truly converted. Job done for Junior Boys then.

Well, you'd think so, but I do have one gripe and that is that something is definitely lost in translation from studio to stage. The hushed grace of the records is kiboshed in favour of a more muscular, live sound. The meticulously programmed beats are replaced by a live drummer, who while actually very good, just can't bring some of the flourishes that pepper the beautiful, brilliant albums to life. While this lessens the effect of some songs though, it greatens the effect of others. The love-scarred, haunting 'Count Souvenirs' has its lyrical pre-occuations turned on its head with a stirring, sinewy backbeat that leads to an arresting directness, making it something like a deep house lullaby.

Greenspan mentions that Junior Boys will be back in Britain in February. I'll catch them again then and so should you, but, please, if you're going to talk, just don't bother, okay?

I miss the start of Hot Chip due to stupidity and actually wanting to sit down in the bar and have a drink, but as soon as I enter the Academy 2, to the thumping beat of 'Down With Prince', it doesn't feel like I've missed anything. The Chip are an odd-looking bunch in the flesh, decked out in the kind of wacky t-shirts often worn by students or Japanese kids (Al Doyle, in particular, looks a bit of a twat in his Hooters tee). This sartorial choice is what initially put me off them (I didn't really know what to make of them until I heard and fell in love with The Warning) and it certainly lends weight to the oft-held belief amongst detractors that they're just not 'real' enough. Over the course of the set however, the jokey facade slowly peels away to reveal hard-working revellers who sweat profusely to ensure that they bring the party in the best possible way.

'Boy From School' is the point where this hits home. Live, Alexis Taylor, Joe Goddard and crew stretch the song out and add new bits here and there, giving the ubiquitous track some much-needed freshness and a whole new resonance. They're really having fun too, gauging the crowd's reaction much like a DJ would. In fact, the whole set feels like a particularly good party mix, bringing the tempo down when needed and amping it up before they start to lose the throng. One of the songs where Hot Chip take it down a notch being a superlative, note-perfect reading of '(Just Like We) Breakdown', with HC realising that there's no need trying to improve on perfection and not tinkering with the song's blueprint in any way.

They also roadtest a couple of new ones. This can be a bit of a buzz-kill sometimes, but the songs sound so fully-formed and have future hit written all over them, so they pull it off expertly. 'Careful' and 'No Fit State' are turned into uproarious crowdpleasers, with Taylor throwing a few lines from New Order's 'Temptation' into the latter, always a safe bet when trying to hook a Manchester crowd. When they finally climax with a pumping, hands-in-the-air 'Over & Over', it feels like it's over far too soon. Hot Chip could have played all night as far as most of the crowd were concerned (even the guy I vaguely know who, despite the fact that I never have any, always asks me if I have any 'drugs'. He looks like he's probably had enough anyway), but the sheer effort that they put into every song tells me that their bodies probably wouldn't have been able to take it.

In the live arena then, both Junior Boys and Hot Chip veer from the path laid down by their excellent albums in different ways, with JBs clearly not taking themselves as seriously as their music suggests and HC working their nuts off to prove that they're more than just tech-geeks with a clownish sensibility. Pleasant and very much welcome surprises both.

Friday, October 13, 2006


Hello everyone!

This is just a post to see whether you can actually see this post. I'll explain; a friend of mine can't read any posts that I've done in the past week. I can see them. They most certainly exist (I know because I wrote them), but I'm thinking that maybe some browsers (my friend uses Firefox) might not be able to see any of my recent posts.

So can you please do something for me? If you can see this, leave a comment. More importantly, if you also use Firefox and can see this, leave a comment. If for some reason, you can't leave a comment, you can email me at norty.morty at gmail.com. Thank you in advance for your help.

In return, look! Treats!

The Blood Arm - Stay Put! (mp3)

Opening track from The Blood Arm's super-fun debut album proper (not counting demo album, Bomb Romantics), Lie Lover Lie.

Cobblestone Jazz - India In Me (Mix 2) (mp3)

Dark, minimal techno that will put you in a hypnotic stupor and have you dribbling into your tea. In a good way of course.

All Saints - Rock Steady (mp3)

The girls, sorry, women are back with a really rather good single. No shit! It's good!

Right, that's enough treats, you know what to do,


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Loose lips talk shit.

Yeah, you might well pull your face, you enormously bigoted hag! Let me explain. I've been off work for the past week and I've been watching an inordinate amount of daytime television. I'm the kind of person who likes to have something to be angry about. In fact, if I don't feel any anger at all, then I start to think that something's wrong. So while I'm off work and I haven't got the everyday trials and tribulations of the workplace to wind me up, then daytime tv has to plug that gap.

Thank the lord then for Loose Women. For those who don't know, Loose Women is an hour-long soapbox for opinionated harridans to spout objectionable, misinformed bullshit about 'issues', inbetween talking to the likes of Barbara Dickson and Deacon Blue about their new albums that no-one with half a brain gives a shit about. The kind of topics they like to wax lyrical about are things like asylum seekers, benefit cheats and teenage pregnancy. All topics which these moronic, hormonal harpies know pretty much next-to-fuck-all about. This leads to them sounding like female Jim Davidsons while the equally menopausal studio audience claps their every outburst like they've just got to the bottom of that whole meaning of life thing.

This week, I've been treated to Colleen Nolan (yes, one of the frigging Nolan Sisters!) saying that Muslim women who wear burkhas should just get with the program and wear normal clothes like everyone else because, and get this, "if they want to live in our country, they should observe our customs". What?! Okay, she was just siding with Jack Straw, in her mind at least, but I'm sure that she's missed the point somewhat, a fact that was picked up on by Loose Women's voice of reason, Kaye Adams (an oasis of intelligence in a sea of ignorance).

I thought this was the low-point of the loose wenches' lack of enlightenment, but today, the horrid, Carol McGiffin (pictured), a woman who makes me want to pour sulphuric acid directly into my eyeballs everytime she appears on screen, let fly with the most abhorrent statement that I've heard in a long while on tv. In fact, if you hadn't heard it yourself, you'd find it particularly hard to believe. When discussing the hot topic of whether Britain is a nice place to live, Jayne MacDonald (yep, the cruise-ship singer) not unreasonably asked "Well, if Britain is such a horrible place to live, then why do so many immigrants come here?", to which McGiffin replied, "So they can sit around on their lazy arses and let us pay for them"!

I beg your pardon?!

Seriously, Bernard Manning would have been proud for her. This was met by the usual cheers of approval and manic clapping from the audience, lapping up every prejudiced moment as though she was some kind of modern-day oracle. The Loose Women website calls her "the 'tell-it-like-it-is' element of the show". More like tell-it-like-you're-Oswald-fucking-Mosley!

I think that it's time we started keeping an eye on the housewives of this country as I fear they might be being brainwashed by these idiotic fishwives who are, apparently, immune to censuring by an kind of broadcasting watchdog. The next time an immigrant family moves in near your mother, keep watch that she's not cutting eyeholes out of white sheets or fashioning crosses out of that pile of timber in the backyard. If she is, do the right thing and turn the fucking tv over.

In the meantime, this is for the Loose Women...

Iggy & The Stooges - Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell (mp3)

And now for something completely different...

Music fans of the world rejoice! One of the finest British songwriters of the late-20th Century is back among us. Jarvis Cocker is back, back, BACK, with a whole new album of rather excellent pop songs, the likes of which have been missing from the musical landscape since 2001's We Love Life album.

The fact that Jarvis' debut solo album, simply entitled Jarvis is absolutely brilliant is one that was pretty much a given since everyone heard the fantastic 'Running The World' single. 'Running The World' isn't even included here (you can find it on the soundtrack to the film Children Of Men), so that should give you some idea of the strength of the songs that made the cut. Jarvis is no singer-songwriter-like whingefest, in fact it's quite the opposite. Cocker's sardonic wit is very much in full flow, but there's a streak of optimism that runs through the album that makes it one of the most enjoyable albums I've heard all year.

'Don't Let Him Waste Your Time' is a surefire future hit single, 'I Will Kill Again' is a pretty piano ballad that's both hilarious and heartwarming and the riotous 'Fat Children' will have you rocking out with willful abandon. In fact, this is as vital and life-affirming a record that you are ever likely to expect from a 43 year-old man. No doubt I'll write some more about this wonderful record in the not-too-distant future, but for now I'll just say that we can thank our lucky stars that the man has not lost it.

Jarvis - Fat Children (mp3)

Until next time,


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Mixtape Ahoy!

This week's mixtape has a new name. It's a bit of a crap name, but it's new all the same. Fill yer boots!


Disc One

  1. Isobel Campbell - James (She wrote a song for me! Squee! Anyway, 'James' appears on Isobel's new, low-key acoustic album, Milkwhite Sheets and it is a gorgeous, mood-setting instrumental, replete with lovely lashings of acoustic guitar, bongos (yes, bongos) and sweeping strings. Very nice it is too.)
  2. Klanguage - Chrysalis (I've been a little taken aback by electro-rock producer, Yuksek's band project, Klanguage, as it's nothing like anything we've heard thus far from Yuksek. His own stuff can be a bit too full-on, jackhammer nonesense for my tastes, but this track slowly unfolds, much like the titular pod to reveal the butterfly within the tough exterior.)
  3. 120 Days - Be Mine (Yet another buzz band from Scandinavia, but 120 Days are definitely worth a look-in. Theirs isn't the light poppery that we've come to expect from the fjords, but a narcotic, harsh buzz of gothic disco, Spacemen 3 atmos and Can's motorik. Very promising indeed.)
  4. The Killers - Bling (Confessions Of A King) (Don't look at me like that! This is actually a very fun, unpretentious, operatic pop-rock song, a bit like U2 used to do so well. A few more songs like this and, you never know, The Killers might well make their Joshua Tree next time around. Stranger things have happened.)
  5. The Changes - When I Wake (Back on the old blog, at the start of the year, I tipped these guys for big things this year. It hasn't really happened for them, but it should, as their album, Today Is Tonight is full of 70s-inflected, potential radio hits. Like Phoenix' new album? Try this.)
  6. Peter Bjorn & John - Amsterdam (Another funky pop confection from the Swedes, 'Amsterdam' proves that PB&J aren't one-song wonders. They're two-song wonders, at least.)
  7. My Bloody Valentine - Only Shallow (Possibly my favourite MBV song, 'Only shallow' perfectly encapsulates the beauty and the beastliness of this great band.)
  8. Mansun - Being A Girl (Part One) (I said enough about my secret love for Mansun the other day and this is one of my faves. Short, sweet and it says more about, y'know, stuff than any band today ever will do.)
  9. Glass Candy - Etheric Device (Glass Candy were on my mixtape the other week, but as long as they keep pumping out tunes as good as this, they can be on it every week. Come and play Manchester, please. And bring Chromatics with you.)
  10. Patrick Cowley - Mindwarp (Disco don, Patrick Cowley practically invented Hi-NRG and influenced some of your favourite bands along the way. 'Mindwarp''s sci-fi party vibes still sounds utterly contemporary, despite being recorded in 1982. Feel the mindwarp!)
  11. LSB - Original Highway Delight (Superb, laid back house music from Pete Herbert of Reverso 68. Came out of left-field on me this, to become one of my favourite tunes of the year. Got crossover potential too, but then again, it might be too good.)
  12. Lindstrom - The Contemporary Fix (Superior 12" version here. Better than the version on the It's A Feedelity Affair album, purely because it's got that excellent 303 line running all the way through it that makes it so damn addictive, especially when you hit that key change about two minutes in.)
  13. Kelley Polar - Here In The Night (The brilliance of Mr Polar's Love Songs Of The Hanging Gardens album only recently hit me, in the middle of a bus journey to work, with this track mainlining directly into my brain at full volume. It made me want to get up and do some really ill-advised dancing, but the fact that I'm British and, well, not insane stopped me from doing so. That would have been a sight, for sure!)
  14. The Orichalc Phase - Comatone (DC Recordings' Death Before Distemper doesn't have a bad track on it, so all that's left is to determine which are the best. At the moment, I'm repping for this slab of dark, psychedelic robo-funk, because it reminds me of early ACR.)
  15. A Certain Ratio - Flight (It wasn't exactly a massive cognitive leap to go from that into this, but then again, I'm not one to favour the obscure over the obvious really. An absolute, unsung Manc classic this.)
  16. Shitdisco - I Know Kung Fu (The jury's still out on Shitdisco as far as I'm concerned, but this is a charmingly slapdash percussive freakout that is better than their New Rave tag suggests.)

Disc Two

  1. Annuals - Brother (Current blog favourites and recent Ace Fu signings, Annuals take the rustic psych of Animal Collective or Grizzly Bear and marry it to an Arcade Fire-like directness, which means fist-pumping indie anthems with just a little bit of weirdness thrown in for good measure.)
  2. Mercury Rev - Chasing A Bee (Head-bending musical strangeness used to be the Rev's raison d'etre before they went all neo-classical and dumped David Baker in the process. The fact that they still do this live goes to show that they haven't completely forgotten where they came from and also acknowledges the fact that this is still one of their best songs.)
  3. The Walkmen - Subterranean Homesick Blues (The Walkmen's 'cover' of Nilsson and Lennon's Pussy Cats album has to be one of the most pointless releases of the year, but that doesn't stop it being occasionally a very fun record. Take this cover of a Dylan cover, where The Walkmen really cut loose with what sounds like all the band singing in unison, handclaps, sax and a kazoo. Crazy guys.)
  4. Klaxons - Magick (Ignore the NME-centric hyperbole and just focus on the music. With 'Magick', Klaxons let fly with manic drums and overdriven guitars before a floaty, quite beautiful breakdown. It climaxes with a feral intensity that belies their status as great white hopes. There's more at work here than the press would have you believe.)
  5. Joakim - I Wish You Were Gone (Dub) (Okay, so I passed on this when I first heard it for being more-DFA-than-DFA, but the more I hear it, the more it grabs me as a tune in it's own right. It still kind of feels like a DFA greatest tricks collage though.)
  6. Zombie Nation - Don't Touch (Whoo! Zombie Nation are back, baby! Funky electro-tech of the highest order.)
  7. Lordy - Off With His Head (Street-tough funk from Steve Kotey with a lo-slung disco edge. Superb.)
  8. Barfly - Heavy (The clue's in the title. Despite all the airy lasergun effects and peripheral sounds going off around it, the bassline anchors this track like a ten-ton weight.)
  9. Kate Simko - Strumm (Unai Remix) (Rising techno star and classically trained pianist, Simko gets the Unai treatment, which means that the remixer finds the heart in the machine and turns the original into a skittery, electro-soul blinder.)
  10. Dennis Parker - Like An Eagle (12" Disco Version) (The tragic story of porn star-turned-disco crooner, Dennis Parker is made all the more sad by the brilliance of this, the title track from his only album. Many, many thanks to Radio Slave for including this on his brilliant new mix, Creature Of The Night.)
  11. Of Montreal - Gronlandic Edit (Of Montreal have gone and made a weirdo-disco track on their forthcoming album, Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?. We always knew they had it in them though.)
  12. Prince - Raspberry Beret (12" Version) (Because you can never have too much Prince.)
  13. Field Music - In Context (I think I said pretty much all I have to say about this wonderful song the other day, so I won't say anymore, lest I ruin it for myself.)
  14. The The - Uncertain Smile (Slowed down to a crawl by Rub 'N' Tug on their Better With A Spoonful Of Leather mix from earlier in the year, nothing compares to the original from this most-overlooked band. A good place to end things, I think.)

Disc One (Zipped and Megauploaded)

Disc Two (Zipped and Megauploaded)

Bye for now,


"Put it in the pipe, then you fire it up, make you feel real nice!"


Just thought I'd waffle on about this record while I'm waiting for this week's mixtape to upload (it's a double). It's a rather excellent compilation that anyone with even just a passing interest in disco music, nay, scratch that, just music in general should fork out the cash for.

New on the excellent Stateside label is a compilation of superb disco-funk (No! Don't run away!) tracks, all originally released on the now defunct T.K. Disco. Disc One has been mixed by Bill Brewster, DJ historian and all-round good guy from Grimsby, while disc two is an unmixed collection. For those not in the know, T.K. Disco released such dancefloor classics as George McRae's 'Rock Your Baby', Anita Ward's ubiquitous 'Ring My Bell' and various stuff from K.C. And The Sunshine Band, among others. This comp takes some of the more obscure delights from T.K.'s back catalogue and throws them together in a delightful way.

T.K. was based in Miami and a lot of the records were informed by the exotic nature of the place. Artists and producers would take influences from nearby Cuba, leading to an more colourful sound than, say, Philadelphia International or Salsoul. Some tracks lean more towards funk than disco though, whilst always retaining that flamboyant, decadent disco edge, only amping up the taut guitar licks and electric piano.

There's not really much else I can say about this compilation as I'm a bit of a novice when it comes to T.K. myself, but all I know is that it's pretty much all I'm listening to at the moment, so I guess that's saying something.

Git some!

Mad Dog Fire Department - Cosmic Funk (mp3)

Wizzdom - Free Bass (mp3)

If you want to know a bit more about the T.K. Disco imprint, go here.

I also want to say a little more about this Manchester Blog Awards thing that I've been shortlisted for. I might have sounded a bit flippant when I mentioned it yesterday, but I didn't mean to. I am, actually, really fucking chuffed about this. It's nice to get recognition for doing something that I enjoy and am always surprised when other people say they do too. To be included in a shortlist of three out of all the 'arts and culture' blogs there are in Manchester (ie quite a few) is such an absolute honour that, even if I don't win, has already completely made my year.

Also, it's kind of validated this thing that I do and made me think that maybe, just maybe it isn't a waste of time after all. So thanks to the panel for deciding that I'm one of the three best arts and culture blogs in Manchester and, by extension, the best music blog in Manchester (Sorry Jon. Sorry Just Hipper and The Ledge.). That's an honour in itself, so as far as I'm concerned, I've already won just for being nominated and I say that with the most sincerity that I can muster.

Take the time to have a look at my fellow shortlistees...

Ready Steady Book

Bitter And Blue



Monday, October 09, 2006

"I'm reminded of something I never knew"

Hi all!

It's Monday all over again, so let's have a look at the singular delights that you can spend your money on this week.

Field Music - In Context (Memphis Industries)

Always willing to take influences from areas you wouldn't expect the average indie band to pilfer, Field Music here take the opening drum stomp from Timbaland's beat for 'Maneater' before taking many more unexpected turns. If a lesser band tried everything that Field Music do, there would be a serious case of over-egging the pudding, but FM approach songwriting like master-craftsmen, delighting in piling on the bells and whistles in such a meticulous manner that it makes you wonder why more bands aren't as adventurous. Violins tickle the senses, drums are played backwards and forwards giving the song a kind of push-pull dynamic, while the clipped, sustain-free bassline drives the song along before getting its moment in the sun at the song's climax. 'In Context' is, above all the multi-layering, essentially an excellent, catchy pop song and the fact that Field Music manage to be as thrillingly inventive within such a well-worn template is all the more reason to rejoice. One of the best singles of the year, just don't let it pass you by.

Archie Bronson Outfit - Cherry Lips (Domino)

Another excellent single from the massively underrated Archie Bronson Outfit, this will no doubt disappear without a trace again, while other, less-deserving bands take the laurels and the sales. 'Cherry Lips' is another example of ABO's patented, dark, taut, tense voodoo-blues rock, with bits of VU and Can thrown in for good measure. Doesn't half sound like they're singing "Terry lives!" though.

Badly Drawn Boy - Nothings Gonna Change Your Mind (EMI)

That Damon Gough is wildly inconsistent is something that's been evident since his second album. His latest, Born In The U.K. definitely suffers from hit-and-miss syndrome, but this is one of its resounding hits. 'Nothing's Gonna Change Your Mind' is an unapologetically heartfelt sliver of 70s radio balladry and it's all the better for it's retro-isms. Freddie Mercury or Elton John could have easily wrote this, but it ends up pure BDB. Lovely. The remixes aren't too bad either, with King Creosote's droney cover coming off best.

Beck - Cellphone's Dead (Polydor)

One of the better songs from Beck's extremely lazy latest album, The Information, 'Cellphone's Dead' finds everyone's favourite Scientologist (not an oxymoron) in fleet-footed magpie mode, throwing in hip-hop, tropicalia and raw funk to make a heady, infectious brew. It's a pity that in light of the album, it just sounds like a cathartic death rattle for Beck's talent.

Blood On The Wall - Mary Susan (Fat Cat)

Coruscatingly catchy, grungy noise-pop, the kind of which they just don't make anymore. At least until Pixies pull their finger out and make that new album anyway.

Bugz In The Attic - Don't Stop The Music (V2)

Funkadelic are back! Oh sorry, it's actually just Bugz In The Attic, marrying broken beats to slick soul and multi-coloured funk in such a danceable way that it makes you wonder why Basement Jaxx bother anymore.

Goose - British Mode (Skint)

These Belgians are getting lumped in with that whole New Rave bollocks that's going on and while they certainly fit in with that, there's nothing here that will start a revolution. The production is pretty good, but the leaden, wet vocal is just, well, shit. Someone make a dub, please!

Hot Chip - Over And Over (EMI)

I make it the third time this has been released (last year's 12" and this year's proper release already) and while it's ubiquity this year is still very much welcome, Hot Chip have other songs you know?! 'No Fit State' would have been nice, but if Hot Chip are going to have a big hit, it's going to be 'Over And Over'.

Jurassic 5 feat. The Dave Matthews Band - Work It Out (Polydor)

Anyone else remember when Jurassic 5 were good? If they keep releasing piddling, hip-hop-lite like this infernal collaboration then we're going to be closer and closer to erasing 'Jayou' and 'Conrete Schoolyard' from our memories forever. Avoid.

The Lemonheads - Become The Enemy (Polydor)

The received wisdom on The Lemonheads' comeback is that they shouldn't have bothered. Well, to those doubters, I say go fuck yourselves. This is a fantastically world-weary pop strum that won me over on the first note. Then again, Evan Dando could probably bum-rape my first-born child and I'd let him off. So yeah, it's great and I'm massively partial.

My Chemical Romance - Welcome To The Black Parade (Warners)

I'm still of the opinion that this is one of the most unabashedly fun singles of 2006. Completely devoid of irony and hugely self-important it may well be, but that's what makes it so good. It's a safe bet that I'll hate it this time next week, but for now, this gives me a broad, Cheshire Cat-like grin that only Prozac could match.

My Latest Novel - When We Were Wolves/Pretty In A Panic (Bella Union)

Not entirely different from MCR, My Latest Novel take an irony-free approach to their music that is heartening in these cynical times. 'When We Were Wolves' is a rousing tribal march of a song, while 'Pretty In A Panic' is a more understated slice of orchestral pop. It's hard to say yet whether they'll ever be more than ones to watch, but they've certainly got the songwriting nous to break out of the indie ghetto.

Placebo - Meds (Virgin/Elevator)

Does anyone remember when Placebo were good? No, me neither.

You may find it incredulous after all of today's amateur hackery, but I've been shortlisted for an award. How cool is that?! Colour me chuffed!

Hasta luego,


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Opinions Alert!

Hello you lot!

I've not updated for a couple of days, as I've been doing stuff. Well, I did stuff on Friday at least. Yesterday, I didn't get up until well into the afternoon and then just dossed around, occasionally pointing my eyes at the TV screen.

So yeah, like I said, I did some stuff on Friday and here are my thoughts on those things what I did.

FIELD MUSIC @ Night & Day, Manchester (6.10.06)

Field Music are a pretty special band really. In these days of British bands writing three minute punk-pop tunes that, while being occasionally brilliant, often sound so effortless as to be downright lazy. Field Music are that rare beast then, a band who painstakingly build songs from the ground up with an attention to detail that their peers could learn a lot from.

This was my third time of seeing Field Music live and everytime it baffles me just how little respect they get from flaky, attention-span deficient crowds, often waiting for the headline act. Last time I saw them, they were opening for fellow Mackems, The Futureheads and were hamstrung by an anticipant crowd of young kids (seriously, that gig made me feel really old). It's not that what Field Music do is not immediate, on the contrary, they make some very easy-to-like pop tunes, it's just that there's a muted humility about them that in today's rock climate is extremely admirable indeed.

Therein lies the rub, however. Because Field Music don't feel the need to shout their brilliance from the rooftops with their chests bared, it can be sometimes quite easy to miss that brilliance completely. Tonight's gig should have been a lot easier for them than any opening slots they've played before, as after all, they are headlining. That it was the biggest struggle I'd witnessed them face was all down to other external factors.

Tonight's gig was sponsored by Jack Daniel's, something to do with it being JD's birthday. It was basically just an excuse to try and trick stupid people into spending three quid a time on single Jack and Coke's in the name of a promotion. As with all corporate beanos, there appeared to be a lot of people there on a freebie and just as many people there for unimpressive (going off the ten minutes I actually caught) support act, The Zetlands. In the face of this, Field Music did the noble thing; they road-tested a whole bunch of new songs.

The new stuff was almost uniformly excellent, not straying from their debut's template much but with a more danceable side to them that should hopefully see them garner a few more admirers. Of the old stuff, live favourites like 'If Only The Moon Were Up' and 'It's Not The Only Way To Feel Happy' went down best, the latter being a pitch-perfect recreation of the studio version.

There is a problem that I have with Field Music in the live arena and that's that the basic three-piece setup often fails to do the sparkly, multi-layered pop symphonies they create in the studio justice. For instance, astounding new single, 'In Context' loses a little in translation as they ditch the floaty guitar line in favour of just the bass, piano and drums. And of course, try as he well might, Pete Brewis just can't play the drums backwards, so 'In Context' ends up coming across as a little flatter, a little more prosaic and just lacking that certain something that makes the single version fly.

But these are minor gripes when the real, essential greatness of the songs just can't fail to shine through. For all those chatting away at the back of the Night & Day, then shame on you. Like I said, Field Music are a pretty special band and they deserve so much better than this.

Someone asked me a few weeks ago why I don't do any film reviews, to which I replied, "Well, it's a music blog". Well, I have been known to do the odd one in the past and the whole "music blog" smokescreen is just that. There's no hard and fast rules for this kind of thing, other than the major cardinal tenet of Thou Shalt Post What You Want, When You Want. Follow Your Whims.

Anyway, in short, I went to see a film on Friday, so here's a review.

CHILDREN OF MEN (15) (Dir: Alfonso Cuaron. Starring Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Pam Ferris, Chiwetel Ejiofor)

Children Of Men is set in London in 2027; a civil war-torn hellhole, which happens to be the last vestige of what's left of civilisation. In this pre-apocalyptic London, no children have been born for eighteen years due to unknown circumstances. Clive Owen's befuddled antihero, Theo Faron bumbles into being charged with helping a pregnant African immigrant girl reach safety in the form of the mythical, possibly non-existent Human Project.

If this all sounds like sci-fi guff to you, then you'd most probably be right, but the details are fudged only to help the bigger picture and in this sense, that bigger picture is that if you ignore the underexplained politics and psychobabble, then Children Of Men is an invigorating, surprising thrill-ride with pretentions towards social comment.

The casting, despite being occasionally a bit on the novelty side (Michael Caine as a weed-smoking drill 'n' bass enthusiast. Pam Ferris with crusty dreadlocks), is pretty much spot-on, across the board. Owen has a bedraggled, everyman quality, never showboating when a world-weary shrug will do. Moore is as watchable as ever in a slightly thankless role and Caine takes delight in playing air guitar and tricking people into pulling his finger. Ejiofor adds another solid performance to his growing CV and Ferris blends new-agey Earthmother with mumsy stoicism.

The acting takes a backseat to the story's machinations, however. An episodic, picaresque nature drives the narrative, with Owen and newcomer, Claire-Hope Ashitey at the centre, trying to hide her pregnancy from anyone with an ulterior motive, while trying to navigate the chaos that surrounds them. This leads to some superb set-pieces, which come along at alarming, bone-shaking frequency, adding a few well-timed jumps into the mix. Along with the likes of Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later and Zack Snyder's Dawn Of The Dead remake, Children Of Men is helping to forge a whole new look and design from the standard action-thriller template, one that has as much intelligence as the average dramatic fare and throws in elements of the horror genre to keep things thrilling.

As I said, Children Of Men has a few too many flaws to be considered a possible future classic, but as a white-knuckle rollercoaster ride with an often sharp, Swiftian bite, it's sure to stand the test of time. Do yourself a favour though and check it out now, before the world goes to shit.

That's it for now,


Friday, October 06, 2006

"And I know, it ain't gonna last"

Hi there!

Today's post is brought to you by the letter M and the concept of the Best Of album...

You know that Christmas is approaching when all the new Best Of compilations start to leak out. In the next few weeks, we are treated to hits compilations from Oasis, U2 (again?!), Meat Loaf, Girls Aloud (already?! Bet it's ace though), Sugababes and probably shitloads more. With this in mind, we here at Yer Mam! have decided to take a look at a couple of the better ones that your sixteen year-old nephew probably will actually thank you for buying them.

The Essential Mercury Rev - Stillness Breathes: 1991-2006 is a largely brilliant two-disc document of one of the best American bands of the 90s. Mercury Rev mined a stream of psychedelic strangeness, not dissimilar to fellow cosmic jokers, The Flaming Lips in the early part of that decade, before making the transition to American gothic neo-classicists with aplomb later in the decade. Stillness Breathes tries to give you a flavour of both sides of this band, but places detrimental emphasis on the newer stuff.

For instance, on the first disc, the 'hits', we get two tracks from the brilliant debut, Yerself Is Steam ('Chasing A Bee' and 'Frittering') and just one from equally impressive follow-up, Boces (the beautifully twisted 'Something For Joey'). We also get one-off single, 'Car Wash Hair' from this period, but the likes of 'Meth Of A Rockette's Kick', 'Bronx Cheer' and 'Coney Island Cyclone' (which is represented on the second disc in a slightly different form) wouldn't have gone amiss. Patchy, but infrequently excellent transitional album, See You On The Other Side is represented by two tracks ('Everlasting Arm' and 'Empire State (Son House In Excelsis)'), but the rest of the disc is taking up by their admittedly safer, yet often, in my opinion at least, better later material.

The problem I have with this is that, in Stillness Breathes' striving to cover all aspects of their back catalogue, great songs from certain albums are left off in favour of lesser tracks from lesser albums. Three tracks from last year's disappointing The Secret Migration, and while 'In A Funny Way' deserves it's place for marrying Motown to Nitzsche, 'Black Forest (Lorelei)' and 'Diamonds' pale in comparison to everything else here. The fantastic 'Vermillion' would have sat much better.

So, if we're knocking two of The Secret Migration's allotted tracks off the tracklisting, then we can find room for some more early stuff, or in fact, more songs from their career highpoint, 1998's Deserter's Songs. The omission of 'Tonite It Shows' and 'Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp' is glaring in light of The Secret Migration's heavy misrepresentation, although the inclusion of 'Goddess On A Hiway', 'Holes' and 'Opus 40' is welcome.

These are all minor gripes though, coming from a fan who already has everything that the first disc of Stillness Breathes has to offer and I have to agree that as a snapshot of a band's career, for a newcomer this will be enlightening, if perhaps slightly misleading. The album's second disc of rarities is there to ensnare people who have Mercury Rev's back catalogue already and is a fitfully brilliant listen, taking in rare tracks, covers and remixes in a wildly uneven, yet occasionally eye-opening (their version of 'Streets Of Laredo' is particularly excellent) manner. There's a part of me that wishes David Baker would have had some input though.

Mercury Rev - Goddess On A Hiway (mp3)

Fuck yeah! One of the most underrated British bands of the late-90s, Mansun have finally got a Best Of collection! Seriously, before Mansun's ambitions overtook their ability, their output was, by and large, superb. Legacy: The Best Of Mansun collates most of their singles and throws in a few album tracks for good measure. The only problem I have with this excellent compilation is the sequencing.

The album is frontloaded with most of their best stuff, leaving the second half to drag along with the likes of 'Getting Your Way', 'Fool' and the woeful Suede-pastiche, 'Electric Man'. Not to worry though, as the first half of the record is an absolute blast. Kicking off with 'I Can Only Disappoint U' (the only saving grace from shite final album, Little Kix) before taking in modern classics (honestly! I mean it!) like 'Legacy', 'Stripper Vicar', 'Being A Girl (Part One)', 'Wide Open Space' and 'She Makes My Nose Bleed'. The fact that the album runs out of steam towards the end is kind of symbolic of Mansun's career. They burned bright for a little while before their pretensions towards arena rock got the better of them. They'd have been better suited sticking to strange concept records. An absolute must either for those in the dark or those who followed the NME in dismissing them as proggy charlatans.

Mansun - Stripper Vicar (mp3)

While we're on the M theme, isn't this just the most preposterous and most fun thing you've heard in a long time?

My Chemical Romance - Welcome To The Black Parade (mp3)

Apologies for the shitty bitrate, but it was the best I could find. Also, apologies to people who expect better from me.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Top 300 Singles: 2000-2005 (140-131)

Yeah, this old chestnut again. Let's pick up where we left off.

140. Pulp - Sunrise/The Trees (Island, 2001)

Pulp's final (?) album, We Love Life was tinged with resignation and lethargy, but this lead-off single was a beacon of jubilation amidst the melancholy. 'The Trees' is the more indicative of Pulp's air of world-weariness of the two, displaying the wit of old, shot through with the sense of futility that pervades the album in the talk of "those useless trees". It's all underpinned with the sweeping, synthetic strings and Richard Hawley's magnificent guitarwork. 'Sunrise' is quite a different beast. Sure, Cocker uses phrasing like "overfill the ashtray of my life" in the song's early moments, before pulling the rug and with the aid of some gorgeous lap steel (Hawley again), moves the mood gently upwards until the skyscraping denouement where Cocker may as well be stood atop a mountain, baring his chest to the world (ew!), beckoning on all-comers to knock him from his earned perch. Awesome.

Pulp - Sunrise (mp3)

139. FC Kahuna - Hayling (City Rockers, 2001)

The strength of 'Hayling' lies in the fact that it's still occasionally used as incidental music on soapy American dramas (Nip/Tuck have used it before), Sky One 'documentaries' and sports montages. That makes it sound like mere background music though, which denigrates it a little. 'Hayling' is the perfect soundtrack to heighten those moments in your life where you think things just can't get any better. For instance, imagine hearing this in Ibiza, when you're laying with your favourite girl/guy outside Space, watching the sun go down? I'm way too cool to revel in something so conventional, a fact that my hackneyed explanation of it probably shows, but you know what I mean. The way the various, warm beeps, bleeps, electric piano and sampled drums, wind around Hafdis Huld's one-line vocal ("Don't think about all those things you fear, just be glad to be here") is just heavenly. A modern, chillout (yuck) classic.

FC Kahuna - Hayling (mp3)

138. The Beta Band - Assessment (Regal, 2004)

Where The Beta Band normally shuffled, here they strode. 'Assessment', the first single from final album, Heroes To Zeroes felt like The Betas turning over a new leaf, thus revealing the next chapter in their career. The fact that that chapter was to be their last only makes it seem all the more cathartic. Steve Mason's vocal rose above it's usual mumbly register to almost a bellow at points, while the delayed guitar and stompy drums marched towards the brassy climax with an ambition that they'd only briefly shown previously. A much-overlooked single from a much-missed band.

The Beta Band - Assessment (mp3)

137. Interpol - Interpol EP (Matador, 2002)

Three songs ('PDA', 'NYC' and 'Specialist') announced the arrival (okay, after the little-heard Fukd I.D. EP anyway) of one of the few bands to have come out of New York in the early 21st century who have managed to balance commercial success (albeit minor) with glowing critical acclaim. Referred to by their detractors as mere Joy Division copyists, they're so much more than that. They're Chameleons copyists too. I'm joking, but the three songs here were a startling display of raw promise, and promise that they've pretty much managed to deliver on. One you should definitely own.

Interpol - PDA (mp3)

136. Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley - Welcome To Jamrock (Universal, 2005)

How refreshing was it to hear this furious blast of dub on national radio last year? Even hearing it blasting out of wannabe rudeboys' Golf GTis as they cruise past you put a little spring in your step, didn't it? It should have been something we'd seen coming, that the first person since Bob Marley to take true reggae back into the charts and into the public eye (even if it was only briefly) was going to be one of his many offspring. Damian went and ruined the good work he'd done here with that horrible Bobby Brown duet, but if there's more like this from him in the future, I'm sure we can forgive him even that.

Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley - Welcome To Jamrock (mp3)

135. Razorlight - Rip It Up (Vertigo, 2003)

Now that Johnny Borrell and co. seem content on peddling stadium-filling fluff our way, it's easy to forget just how good they are at dingy club-filling fluff. 'Rip It Up' is a prime example of this; direct, dumb lyrics ("Hey girl! Get on the dancefloor!"), undemanding, unshowy riffing and a vaguely snotty, punk-lite attitude. Now, I realise that I may not be making this sound great in my description, but it's all about hearing it in a club, at a gig, on the radio, wherever. 'Rip It Up' makes a beeline for your feet and makes you shake your head like a twat. For this reason and this reason only, I will love it forever.

Razorlight - Rip It Up (mp3)

134. Kanye West feat. Jamie Foxx - Gold Digger (Roc-A-Fella, 2005)

You can sort of pinpoint the exact moment that Kanye turned from being a producer-turned-rapper with a successful first album behind him into a bona fide worldwide superstar right down to the first few bars of 'Gold Digger'. The point where the drums kick in seals the deal, but you knew you were hearing something special from the first note of Foxx's Ray Charles impersonation. That this is still rocking the radio and clubs the world over ensures that West has pretty much cemented his status. He may be a little overbearing in his egocentricity these days, but if anyone deserves to be, it's him. And this is the reason.

Kanye West feat. Jamie Foxx - Gold Digger (mp3)

133. Rilo Kiley - Portions For Foxes (Brute/Beaute, 2005)

The latent indie boy in me absolutely fucking loves this song and I'll tell you why in just two words: Jenny Wilson. She may not be SuperVamp or anything, but her vocal on this song just oozes sex, in my opinion. Most of the time, I can take or leave her voice, I think that she can sometimes be a bit too winsome for her own good, but if you see her in the video for this, or even better, see them live, she switches from coy to aggressive to hurt, sometimes within the space of a line and it's a joy to behold. Also, when she screams "Come here!", I get a little, ahem, worked-up. I'm gonna go and have a shower.

Rilo Kiley - Portions For Foxes (mp3)

132. Franz Ferdinand - Michael (Domino, 2004)

There's a reason why this, alongside 'Take Me Out' is, and always will be Franz Ferdinand's student disco staple and that's because young men get a free pass at acting out their latent homosexual desires. They might pretend to snog their best friend, grind their hips against them and generally camp it up like "beautiful dance-whores" for three minutes and twenty-one seconds, before switching back to cocky insouciance for 'Last Nite', or whatever follows it, but in the course of those three minutes and twenty-one seconds, Franz Ferdinand have done more for the emotional wellbeing of young, male uni-goers than any campus counsellor could ever do. FF, we salute you.

Franz Ferdinand - Michael (mp3)

131. Bubba Sparxxx - Ugly (Polydor, 2001)

Bubba's Deep South, grits 'n' grime hick-hop may have stuck around about as long as a Post-It (at least with record-buyers, I know he's still doing the rounds), but 'Ugly' is one of those lightning-in-a-bottle moments (Sparxx himself admits that "this moment came from nothin'") that seem to come along pretty frequently when Timbaland's involved. I bet Missy was pissed off that he didn't give this to her, though. Timbo even rubs it in by mixing a little 'Get Ur Freak On' in at the end, as if to show that 'Ugly''s beat can just as easily stand up next to it. For the course of the track, Bubba proves an amiable tour guide around the tractor pulls and cook-outs of his Atlanta stomping ground, but this track, as ever, is all about the beat. Good job it's one of Timbaland's best.

Bubba Sparxxx - Ugly (mp3)


"This kind of experience is necessary for her learning"

Today, Jon over at Black Country Grammar posted a Pavement tune, just because he wanted to. So, in the spirit of just posting songs for the hell of it, here's this...

Brian Eno - Baby's On Fire (mp3)

Back tomorrow with something less brief.


P.S. Hang on! The Swan Lake track that I was asked, nay, commanded to take down last week, has now strangely appeared as a free 'exclusive' download at Pitchfork! I guess I should have seen that one coming.

P.P.S. Terrifyingsockpuppet made a fair point in the comments section that I've posted 'Baby's On Fire' before, so here's something else. It's from the same album, Here Come The Warm Jets, but I don't think I've actually posted this in the past. So, for Terrifyingsockpuppet and everyone else...

Brian Eno - Dead Finks Don't Talk (mp3)

Monday, October 02, 2006

"Let's drink, let's cuss, let's fight and let's fuck"


It's Monday October 2nd in the world of Yer Mam! and it's a pretty desolate week for new releases. Fortunately, what there is is pretty good, with a few exceptions, so let's have a butchers, eh?


A careworn, rough-hewn treat of a song that probably wouldn't have stood a chance at getting SOTW had the sun been shining. Luckily for Blood Meridian, it's absolutely miserable out, so this funereal, yet ultimately rousing, campfire holler is the perfect soundtrack to these grey days. It's doubtful as to whether Matt Camirand's Blood Meridian will surpass either of his other bands (he helps Stephen McBean out in both his Black Mountain and Pink Mountaintops guises), but 'Kick Up The Dust' goes some way towards evening out the deficit a little.

Bedouin Soundclash - When The Night Feels My Song (B-Unique)

Re-release from last year because it's on some advert for something or other. It was shite then and it's still shite now. White reggae=wrong, on so many levels.

The Black Keys - Your Touch (V2)

On which The Black Keys get jiggy with an 808, adding some Kasabian style beats to the mix. Only kidding, of course, as you and I both know that The Black Keys will never change, they'll just constantly ply their trade in electrifying blues-inflected garage rock, that often sounds too familiar to be awe-inspiring, yet bloody good fun all the same.

Cassius - Toop Toop (Virgin)

Kitchen-sink filter disco from the poor-man's Daft Punk. Bit harsh saying that, probably, as Cassius are good enough in their own right. 'Toop Toop' is the kind of tune that you might well dance to in a club and would sound good on daytime Radio 1, but listening to it at home might be a bit of a stretch.

Clinic - Harvest (Domino)

A bit of an odd choice for a lead-off single from the wonderful Visitations album, as there are plenty more immediate songs on there, but this is a fantastic, slow-burn, voodoo rocker that takes a few listens to get under your skin. Once it's there, however, it's mighty hard to dislodge.

Disturbed - Land Of Confusion (Warners)

Yes, that is Disturbed, the piss-poor nu-metal band and yes, that is 'Land Of Confusion', the Genesis song and, obviously, yes it is as fucking completely and utterly wrong on every conceiveable level as it sounds. Possibly one of the worst things I've ever heard.

Hot Club De Paris - EveryEveryEverything (Moshi Moshi)

Mighty impressive herk-a-jerk pop from these promising Scousers. Just when you think you've got hold of the rhythm and the melody, they slip from your grasp and race for the door with your wallet, grinning fiendishly, but impishly enough for you to forgive them. Excellent.

The Longcut - A Tried And Tested Method (Deltasonic)

One of The Longcut's strongest songs and one that, rather than pulling their usual trick of just building on a groove, lets the melody build right in front of you before the ineveitable climactic fireworks. Lush.

Love Is All - Make Out, Fall Out, Make Up (Parlophone)

Would have been a shoe-in for SOTW had it not been for the fact that I know it inside-out. One of my most-played songs of 2006 and probably one of the ones I've waxed lyrical on the most so, y'know, just buy it.

Razorlight - America (Mercury)

Lachrymose, wet anthemry from a band who really should know better. Johnny Borrell isn't really one for tempering his excesses with a sense of reality, so unless you can suspend your disbelief to the extent that Razorlight (fucking Razorlight!) are adept at stadium-filling, lighter-wavers, this might be a bit too rare for your tastes. Stick to the two-and-a-half minute pop-rockers, guys. Oh and Johnny, keep your fucking shirt on, eh. No-one needs to see that!

Serena Maneesh - Sapphire Eyes (Playlouder)

Serena Maneesh, despite overly decent critical notices and oodles of blog inches, haven't really caught fire with record-buyers yet and although 'Sapphire Eyes' is an awesome slab of psyche-drone-shoegazing, it's unlikely to change that. At least us cool kids are in on it though.

Van She - Kelly (Modular)

This is the second time this has been released and while it's still an impeccably unfashionable, 80s-leaning electro-pop blinder, it would be nice if they showed that they had something else to offer. Also, Van Halen would like that synth-lick that you stole off 'Jump' back, if you wouldn't mind?

That's it for now,