Sunday, February 25, 2007

Spinning bird kick!

I want to talk for a moment about Hadouken! Admittedly, I know very little about this hot new band, but I feel like I know enough about them to detest them with every ounce of my being. Isn’t that the first blogging commandment anyway? Thou shalt feel no qualms about writing large, misinformed tracts on the latest new thing, even if what thee knows about said band could be written on a postage stamp? I’m merely exercising my rights as a Web 2.0 arsewipe.

Every time I turn over to MTV2 at the moment, the new Hadouken! Single, ‘That Boy That Girl’ is obnoxiously squawking away like a needlessly lurid cheese-induced nightmare, all day-glo and in danger of bringing on seizures. In fact, as I type, I’ve just turned over and, guess what, it’s on! The fuckawful video wouldn’t gall me as much if it were actually a good song. But it’s not. It’s terrible.

I hear a lot of bad music in my role as a blogger, but this is, quite possibly, one of the worst things I’ve heard in a decade. At least the worst thing I’ve heard since Fergie’s ‘London Bridge’ anyway. A triumph (if that word can be applied here) of style over content, ‘That Boy That Girl’ is supposed to be a reaction against bland, laddy Britrock like Kasabian or The Kooks, but in actuality, it has less to say for itself than anything by The View. As an opening gambit by a new band, it’s certainly a statement, but what it says about Hadouken! is "We’ve got absolutely nothing to contribute to the musical landscape but we’re going to do it in the most insufferably garish way we can".

Like I said at the start, I know next-to-nothing about Hadouken! but everything I do know from their unspeakably hip, zeitgeist-shagging name (complete with unnecessary exclamation mark that serves to make every sentence you write with their name at the end read like you’re shouting it) to their Carri Mundane sponsored threads makes me want to punch each one of them repeatedly in the stomach for a whole day. I don’t care that my knuckles will be red raw and bleeding, it’ll be worth it.

They’re today’s (Saturday 24th) single of the week in the Guardian Guide (Why Guardian Guide?! Why?!)and there’s a press shot of the band accompanying the fawning review. In the press shot, one of their number is wearing a Big Black t-shirt. Just by looking at him, however, I can tell that should he ever actually hear Songs About Fucking he would be cowering in the corner, crying and covering his ears by the midway point of ‘The Power Of Independent Trucking’. It’s this kind of hollow proclamation that makes me wonder whether this isn’t some sort of industry joke. Especially when a band like The Whip, who do the dance/rock cross-pollination thing approximately a million times better than Hadouken! ever will, can’t seem to catch a break.

If we believe the hyperbole that Hadouken! are the future of music then, frankly, we’re all fucking doomed. If they are successful and we get the mandatory wave of imitators then us music hacks will be stuck for anything meaningful to say about them. Of course, music isn’t anywhere near as linear or clear-cut as that and there’s always going to be people making great music, irregardless of what’s fashionable or in and that’s why I love it so much. It’s equally edifying to have something to hate and that’s why, perversely, I’m glad that Hadouken! exist. I’m just hoping that they don’t stick around for too long.

In the meantime, download the new single by The Whip, available for a limited time only, then go out and buy the fucking thing. Also, you could do a lot worse than watch the video here. I was there, you know…

The Whip - Muzzle No. 1 (mp3)

One man who has never had any interest in the vagaries of fashion in music is Nick Cave. Admirably old-fashioned and more concerned with making music that is timeless, he’s done it again with his new band project, Grinderman. Alongside Bad Seeds cohorts Martyn Casey, Jim Sclavunos and Warren Ellis, Cave has rolled back the years and recorded his most unforgiving, shit-kicking album since Junkyard.
A primal, stripped-down treat of an album, Grinderman is full of ballsy, manic garage rockers, with the odd pace-dropping moment thrown in for added light and shade. ‘Get It On’, the album’s opener, is a ferocious, wild-eyed statement of intent, a kind of theme tune that sees Cave telling of a man who "drank panther piss and fucked the girls you’re probably married to". Coming from a man once spotted on the tube, writing lyrics with blood from a syringe, it could be taken that the protagonist is actually Cave’s junked-up former self. Given that this is arguably his angriest, most nerve-jangling album in around two decades, that is most probably true.
While Grinderman is not his best work and doesn’t hold a candle to the likes of The Boatman’s Call, Tender Prey or 2004’s Abbatoir Blues/The Lyre Of Orpheus, it’s still a work of brilliance from one of music’s most consistently rewarding artists. Not to say that this is purely a Nick Cave album of course, as the other members play an equally important part as their ringleader, most notably Warren Ellis who doesn’t pick up a violin once, choosing to get busy with tons of percussion, giving the album a snake-hipped rhythmic drive that comes to the fore on the early-VU-like voodoo blues of ‘Electric Alice’ and the aforementioned ‘Get It On’.
This is yet another fantastic addition to the Cave canon, displaying his adroitness with his craft in the way he moves effortlessly from the louche, loungey ‘Go Tell The Women’ to the Cramps-esque, jet-powered thrash of ‘Honey Bee (Let’s Fly To Mars)’. It’s also absolutely hilarious, showing Cave to be the dry wit that we all knew he was anyway. On ‘Love Bomb’, he namechecks The Women’s Hour and Gardener’s Question Time, while on the absurdly funny ‘No Pussy Blues’, Cave documents his lack of skills with the fairer sex as a forty-odd year-old man in side-splitting manner.
At a time when Cave would be forgiven for mellowing out a little, he has chosen instead to grow old disgracefully. Long may he continue to do so if he keeps coming up with records as vital and raw as Grinderman.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The little heart beats so fast.

After an interesting start to the year in rock, with fantastic records thus far from Nick Cave’s new project, Grinderman, Animal Collective’s Panda Bear (inasmuch as you can call Person Pitch a rock record) and Of Montreal, I was looking for something from the world of dance music to knock me on my skinny white arse. I thought that maybe something meaty, beaty, big and bouncy might have come into my world and shaken me and my dancing feet to the very core, but that part of the musical landscape has been pretty quiet as of late.

There has been a few very good 12s hitting the shops as of late, most notably from Manchester’s Trusme (‘Brown’s’ on Still Love Music) and the hook-up between Steve Kotey and the Blockheads’ Chas Jankel on a sterling, discocentric cover of Giorgio Moroder’s ‘Sooner Or Later’ (every home should have one of these, seriously), but nothing much happening on the album front. Then, something happened.

Something happened that I’d had a nagging feeling would never happen again, at least not for a while and left me slapping my forehead thinking, “Of course! Why didn’t I see this coming?!”. A new, upcoming Kompakt release landed in my lap that wasn’t completely and utterly boring. A Kompakt release, very much in the realm of minimal techno, might I add, that didn’t totally suck arse (or for that matter, disappear up its own within the first few minutes) and wasn’t one of its many, admittedly pretty fine compilation albums. A Kompakt release of heart-stopping exquisiteness that should make everyone remember why they fell in love with the increasingly staid (despite that curveball from Partial Arts last month) German label. That’s right, The Field are releasing an album that is a serious early contender for the best album of 2007.

The Field are an act whose virtues I have extolled at length on these very pages in the past, which is why I shouldn’t have been surprised, but there was always a doubt in my mind that The Field’s love of repetition would bore over the course of a full-length. All misgivings, however, were assuaged within the first listen to From Here We Go Sublime (an apposite title, if ever there was one), as The Field’s intrinsic flair for the surprising and unforeseen.

Essentially, The Field pull the same trick ten times over on their debut album, but, as always with their work, the devil is in the details. Rather than taking the Villalobos tack of stretching the track out to the point where the rhythm and the melody become almost ingrained, as if you’re breathing them, The Field choose to lull the listener into a false sense of security before pulling the rug at the precise point where the listener feels comfortable and it’s a ploy that always works by virtue of their adroitness in this technique. The coup de grace is often something as simple as pitching the track up or adding another, as yet unheard layer, but it always, without fail, induces a sense of euphoria that’s sorely lacking in most minimal techno recently.

For instance, the gorgeous ‘Sun And Ice’, from last year’s EP of the same name and also present here, flies ever upwards into the ether, its spinning, cyclical rhythm whooshing around your head. Then, right when you’re soaring along with the track, at the 4:46 mark, you hit an air pocket. There’s a crunch of static for a couple of seconds and a tangible sense of panic hits you square in the face before the track kicks back in, only it’s not quite the same as it was before. It sounds wounded and shaken up and the micro-bass thud is more timid than it was previously, as if your heartbeat has slowed. It’s extraordinary.

Similarly, there’s a surprise towards the end of the longest, most gratifyingly drawn-out track here, ‘The Deal’, which I don’t want to enlighten you on, in case I spoil it for you, but it will tingle your spine, each and every time. Also, as anyone who already has the Sun And Ice EP will know, ‘Over The Ice’ doesn’t even need to do that much to take you aback other than gently shift tone and pitch as it flits across the tundra.

I won’t say much more, as it will just descend into gushing hyperbole (as if it hasn’t already), but it is seriously refreshing to hear an artist on Kompakt intent on making delightful, soulful, beautiful music from the tiniest of elements, like blowing glass from grains of sand again, rather than just making everything so small and insignificant that even they lose sight of it, never mind the listener. From Here We Go Sublime is a triumph of widescreen proportions.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Junior Boys @ Manchester Roadhouse (15.2.07.)

Occasionally you go to see a gig where the band really deserve better and this was one of those gigs. Playing in front of south of a hundred people (in fact, probably only just north of fifty), Junior Boys still managed, like troopers, to plough through a classy set of electro-ballads filled with the kind of nuance and subtlety that demands a more appreciative audience.
Even though there was only a handful of people here expressly to see the band, Jeremy Greenspan and Matthew Didemus played an understated blinder of a set that was perfectly paced and, at times, wonderfully touching. Relying heavily on songs from their dazzling sophomore album, So This Is Goodbye, each song sounded like futurist neo-torch songs, pulsing with muscle and heart.
‘Count Souvenirs’ sounds more bruised and rueful each time I hear it and loses none of its exquisite splendour live. ‘In The Morning’ gets a small number of the assembled moving their feet with its thrusting, gently jacking beat. A devastating ‘Teach Me How To Fight’, from first album, Last Exit, is as teary-eyed and elegant as its recorded counterpart.

The best is saved for last, as usual, with a driving take on ‘Under The Sun’ that has the few souls remaining enraptured and dancing away. As for Junior Boys, thankfully, they look as if they exist in their own little bubble and don’t need to feed off the atmosphere coming from the crowd to play to their best. Once they start getting the respect that they warrant, then their audience might start to catch up with them.
See more photos from the gig here.

Bloc Party @ Manchester Academy 1 (14.2.07.)

The last time I saw Bloc Party and, indeed, the three times before, I bemoaned the band’s lack of confidence in their own songs and ability. As anyone who has ever seen a band who seemed ill-at-ease in a live setting will know, reticence does not become the showman. Bloc Party have always relied on the innate intensity of their output to radiate on stage, choosing not to try to kick it up a notch. In short, they have hidden behind their music and never really seemed to want to step out front-and-centre either.

This lack of assertion was always what hamstrung Bloc Party from translating their excellent debut album Silent Alarm into the forceful live show it deserved. Now that they are touring a brand new album (the impressive A Weekend In The City), I was intrigued to see if this fatal flaw had been remedied. Well, I’m glad to say that it has, and then some.
Whether it’s the relieving effect of some of the new album’s lyrical themes or whether Kele Okereke and band just have more faith in themselves these days, I don’t know. However, something has changed in Bloc Party and, more importantly, in Okereke, turning them from reserved wallflowers into self-assured, swaggering stars. As soon as they kick the set off with a pumped-up, ferocious run-through of ‘Song For Clay (Disappear Here)’ you notice that you are now in the company of a band starting to grow into their skin and their position as one of the most interesting, forward-thinking groups in Britain.
This realisation is all but sealed when they sidestep the ignominy of having the worst roadies in the business by virtue of guitarist Russell Lissack, bassist Gordon Moakes and drummer Matt Tong rattling through instrumental versions of recent indie hits (‘Mr Brightside’, ‘Slow Hands’ and ‘Do You Want To?’) while Okereke wrangled with the crew over which was the correct guitar he needed for ‘Waiting For The 7.18’. Tong even told a really piss-poor joke (which I won’t recount), for god’s sake!
The capper comes during main set closer, ‘Like Eating Glass’, as Okereke jumps into the pit in front of the crowd before attempting to scale the speaker stack. This is not the Kele we’ve seen before. Imposter! This newfound cockiness means that the likes of ‘Banquet’, ‘Helicopter’, ‘She’s Hearing Voices’ and ‘This Modern Love’ are lent a new level of passion than the versions we’ve encountered live before.
However, this conviction doesn’t completely extend to the new album just yet, as only a handful of songs from A Weekend In The City get an airing. Sure, we get ‘The Prayer’, ‘Hunting For Witches’ and ‘Uniform’, but ‘I Still Remember’, ‘Kreuzberg’ and ‘SRXT’ would have been nice too. Still, the leap forward Bloc Party have made in the past year or so should mean that, by the next tour, they’ll be world-beaters. One of Britain’s best bands just got that little bit better.

The Hold Steady @ Manchester Club Academy (13.2.07.)

We party differently over here than they do in the States. Our highly defined sense of irony can’t help but get in the way sometimes. So when faced with the unabashed arena-rock of The Hold Steady, the temptation is there to sneer or worse, to pull our best ROCK shapes. We might look like we’re enjoying ourselves and for the most part we are, but there’s always that underlying insincerity, the willingness to mock in the face of pure, unadulterated conviction in what is a borderline anachronistic musical art form.

Not that The Hold Steady actually give a shit either way, they’re way too wrapped up in their music for any posed bullshit to even register. The Hold Steady live experience is an exercise in raw passion and fervour, with the band enjoying every moment of each perfectly-poised power chord in such a near-orgasmic manner that any tendencies towards derision are dashed and you just kind of get swept up in the whole thing. From the moment they launch into supercharged set opener, ‘Stuck Between Stations’, the band’s zeal and delight instantly rubs off on the crowd, with the hardcores towards the front going especially crazy.
The first thing that hits you about frontman Craig Finn (besides the fact that he’s a lot smaller in real life than you expect him to be), is that his stage manner is a lot different from the persona he projects on record. On their three albums, Finn comes over as sardonic, preacher-like and, above all, a wise storyteller. On stage, however, he leaps around like a sugar-addled toddler, grinning and clapping at the crowd, obviously revelling in the fact that he’s up there, playing his songs to people. He really is the embodiment of his music’s inherent joy and celebration.

Not that the rest of the band aren’t as charismatic as Finn; keyboardist, Franz Nicolay is particularly magnetic. All orchestrated hand gestures and sartorial elegance (he looks like a villain from a 1920s silent flick, more readily predisposed to tying women to train tracks than banging out rousing piano lines), he’s the band’s aesthetic focal point.

This would all be just a conceit if it weren’t for the tunes though and watching The Hold Steady live is the best way to ‘get’ them. These songs, despite the narrative drive and poeticism that Finn gives his lyrics being somewhat lost in the fudgy mix, are built to be played live. In particular the songs from latest album, Boys And Girls In America, with the call-and-response of ‘Massive Nights’, the chiming singalong of ‘You Can Make Them Like You’ and the riotous, Husker Du-esque ‘Same Kooks’ all standing out.
The old songs are as integral a part of their live set as the new ones though, with ‘Stevie Nix’ providing one of the night’s big lighters-in-the-air moments and a closing ‘How A Resurrection Really Feels’ sending the assembled home with a tangible sense of communality and shared experience. So while the concept of party pits, penetration parks and hoodrats may well seem like artifice to us Brits and despite the fact that Springsteen as an influence is still not considered ‘cool’ over here, The Hold Steady make a winning case for hedonism and the unifying need to get loose and get down being relatable, no matter how you dress it up.
To see, among other things, me completely losing my shit to 'Chips Ahoy!', check out The Indie Credential's Flickr page from the night here.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Still breathing...

Hi all!

Just a note to let you all know that I'm still here, but also still without an internet connection. I've been spending far too much time in skanky, unhygienic internet cafes over the last couple of weeks but it shouldn't be too long now before I get back online at home.

Expect some gig reviews over the next week or so as I've been getting out and about quite frequently this week. Tuesday night I went to see The Hold Steady, last night it was Bloc Party and tonight it'll be Junior Boys. I'll be sharing my thoughts on all three with you guys pretty soon.

Also look out for my informed opinion on the Grinderman album, the new Dinosaur Jr. offering and, most likely, some other half-baked opinions along the way.

Hang on in there,


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Klaxons - Myths Of The Near Future

Klaxons’ debut album, Myths Of The Near Future is now here, so we finally have the chance to discern whether this much-feted band are either the best thing since sliced bread or just another chance for us all to cry emperor’s new clothes all over again. Well, in my opinion, Klaxons fall into neither of these two categories, but then again, music’s never as black-and-white as some areas of the press try to paint it.

Despite what Dom Passantino might think – a man often deployed by Stylus to tear the latest bright young Brits a new arsehole, as he has done in recent times to Lily Allen (undeserved) and The View (very much deserved and totally hilarious) – Myths Of The Near Future isn’t just another ham-fisted attempt by a British band to emulate the synergy between the dance and rock worlds that Primal Scream perfected with Screamadelica or The Stone Roses with ‘Fool’s Gold’. By claiming that they are no better than The Music by ‘cleverly’ embedding a YouTube vid of that band’s ‘Breakin’’ single at the bottom of his review (a move that you can imagine will give him a smug, over-inflated sense of his own intelligence for, ooh, at least the rest of the month), Mr Passantino, in one pithy pay-off, has completely bought the biggest misconception about Klaxons; that they are a rock band trying to make dance music.

Yes, there are a lot of songs on Myths Of The Near Future that you can conceivably throw some mean shapes to and yes, there are some big old signifiers that point to the influence of rave culture to be found, most notably in ‘Atlantis To Interzone’ and their cover of Grace’s ‘Not Over Yet’, but it is, essentially, just an indie rock album. An impressive, promising indie rock album, but an indie rock album all the same. There’s not a lot separating most of Klaxons’ oeuvre from the more cartwheeling, frenetic songs on Bloc Party’s debut or, say, Franz Ferdinand when all’s said and done.

Klaxons have actually pulled off a clever bait-and-switch on the music press by playing up to the conceit and smokescreen of ‘New Rave’, firstly by virtue of coining that much-derided term and, secondly by embracing the fluoro-drenched aesthetic of that nascent scene in their videos and Carri Mundane-designed stagewear. The fact that they’ve now released an album that has as much in common with Prodigy’s Music For The Jilted Generation as apples do with oranges just makes me like them all the more.

Alas, Myths Of The Near Future is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a perfect album. It’s an album that favours nail-gun bluntness over nuance and subtlety far too many times, mostly when it’s just starting to get really interesting, as on the infuriating ‘As Above, So Below’. The song starts off with a faintly psychedelic, 60s pop edge to it, but it’s not long before James Ford’s chaotic, over-production kicks in (come on guy, it’s not a Simian Mobile Disco record) in the form of overdriven fuzz guitar and way too much hissy hi-hat. The sickeningly crass ‘Atlantis To Interzone’ – a song so vomit-inducingly bad that I get a migraine when I even think about it – should not have been allowed anywhere near the album. Sure, it may well ‘work’ in a live setting or a dingy indie club, but actually listening to it at home is a kind of torture that I have no interest in subjecting myself to ever again.

Also, and I realise that this may be a rather esoteric thing to gripe about, the sequencing is just all wrong. Myths… is heavily backloaded, something that may well cause some listeners to switch off before the best songs hit. Within the first five tracks, there’s only really ‘Golden Skans’ that would count among their best songs and even that is placed too near the front to have the impact that it deserves. ‘Golden Skans’ would have been better suited coming in around the midway point where it would have acted as a much-needed pace-lessener.

However, Klaxons do achieve this effect with the deliciously odd ‘Isle Of Her’, the album’s proggy, Wicker Man-like centrepiece with its ominous, druggy, druidic stomp and faux-mystic lyrics that shroud an otherwise workaday tale of love and devotion in veils of witchy, medieval, fun nonsense.

This then gives way to a dazzling, careening second half of the record that takes in past singles ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ and ‘Magick’, alongside the aforementioned cover of Paul Oakenfold’s greatest pop moment. Touched up a little from the delightfully raw single version, ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ is lent an import and expanse that serves it well and proves it to be the futuristic neo-noir hyper ballad, kicked up to danceable speed, that we all knew it was in the first place.

‘Forgotten Works’ then slows things down a little and is a more upbeat companion piece to ‘Isle Of Her’ with the lyrics descending into more of that song’s winning mythic bullshit (“Light the bridges with the lanterns/You know something’s going to happen”), but with more lightness of touch than that song. Then comes the fizzing, hectic ‘Magick’, all rollercoaster percussion and itchy guitar, before their blissed-out, touching take on ‘Not Over Yet’ dashes any accusations of novelty with aplomb.

‘Four Horsemen Of 2012’ closes things out in suitably crunching manner; a song which, while it has more in common with the execrable ‘Atlantis To Interzone’ than anything else here, has a dangerous, violent edge that that song lacks.

So even though Myths Of The Near Future isn’t the unalloyed success that NME clearly wants you to believe it is, it’s not, by any means, a terrible album either. What it occasionally lacks in subtlety though, it more than makes up for with confidence, gumption, humour and smarts. Dom Passantino may disagree, but he also won’t be the only reviewer to confuse the image and the music. With this album, Klaxons are sure to end up the most misjudged band of the year, if nothing else.

Klaxons - Forgotten Works (mp3)

P.S. Apologies for the lack of a pic on this post, but Blogger's being awkward. I'll add one at a later date.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah @ Manchester Academy 1 (2.2.07)

Last night, the Unofficial Manchester Music Bloggers Coalition descended on Manchester’s Academy 1 to see if Clap Your Hands Say Yeah could translate their difficult (meaning awkward) second album to the stage. In attendance, along with me, was The Ledge from The Indie Credential, Jon from Black Country Grammar and she who never pays, Prudence. Despite the fact that the night took the shape of a traditional boozy gig-going experience, complete with getting beer spilt on my trainers and intermittently losing people, it couldn’t have been more Web 2.0 if we’d have spent the night communicating via MySpace messages on Blackberries. The Ledge was even wearing a sodding Voxtrot t-shirt, for fuck’s sake! At a gig where Cold War Kids were supporting nonetheless!

We managed to miss Cold War Kids, due to a lack of pre-gig drink synchronisation (at any given point, we all had wildly varying amounts of drink left), a fact that I wasn’t all that bothered about. I’ve made my thoughts on CWK public in the past and if I wanted to be hectored and mewled at by a religious guy, I’d go to the church over the road. All eyes were on Clap Your Hands Say Yeah anyway, to see if the strange, meandering, fuzzy new songs would stand up in the company of the immediate, loveable indie-pop of the first album.

I’d seen CYHSY a couple of times before and there was a marked improvement in stagecraft between the first and the second time. The band, most notably frontman, Alec Ounsworth, seemed to have grown in confidence in the four months that separated the gigs. At the Music Box in November 2005, Alec was a reticent, cripplingly shy presence, often with his back to the crowd, whereas the following February, at Academy 2, he was front and centre, often sporting a broad grin.

Last night’s gig was always going to be a different kind of show from the point it was moved up to the larger Academy 1, a venue more suited to rock bluster than intimate, winsome experimental pop songs and it was evident for most of the night that CYHSY may well become victims of their own success in that the halls they’re being booked to play are bigger than their own ambitions. Nevertheless, the room was packed with a mixture of hardcore converts and curious day-trippers, all eager to see whether this little band from Brooklyn could rock a room this size.

Well, the answer was yes, sometimes. Anyone hoping that this would be an emphatic, critic-answering return to the live arena would have been disappointing as it appears that CYHSY might take a little while to successfully weave the new songs into their set lists without them halting the concert’s momentum, or worse, jarring horribly. To be fair to them, this was the first night of the tour and they probably won’t hit their stride until a few more stops down the road, but it was sometimes clear that CYHSY don’t even know what their best songs are.

This became evident early on with the curious decision to fritter away the tempestuous, nervy punk-funk of ‘Satan Said Dance’ as the second song. By delivering this song at a point when the crowd are only just getting warmed up, it was stripped of a little of its inherent power to move people. A few hardy souls took to cutting a rug or two, but had it come much later in the set, it would have slayed. Also, ‘The Skin Of My Yellow Country Teeth’ was played about halfway through the set when in any sane world it would always be saved for the encore.

The songs from sophomore album, Some Loud Thunder that got an airing were often surprising and not always in a good way. For instance, ‘Love Song No. 7’ is a good album track, but its not conducive to trying to win an increasingly stubborn crowd over. The album’s title track, the recorded version of which has been the subject of much internet debate, due to the decision to drown its beautiful melody in fuzz and distortion (a move that took a few listens for me to ‘get’ but which now makes perfect sense), when stripped of the redlining drums and ear-bleeding guitars fell a little flat. Sure, it’s a nice little pop song but Dave Fridmann’s studio effects give it that added frisson that it lacks otherwise.

Less clunky were the likes of ‘Mama, Won’t You Keep Those Castles In The Air And Burning?’ and ‘Goodbye To The Mother & The Cover’. The lush strum of the former was a bit of a lighters-in-the-air moment, while the latter’s sharp arpeggios rang through the room with a resonance that was as chilling as it was edifying. However, why they chose to omit the album’s most immediate song, ‘Underwater (You & Me)’ is beyond me.

The songs from the self-titled debut were reliably rousing, especially ‘In This Home On Ice’ and ‘Upon This Tidal Wave Of Young Blood’, but by the time they encored with a bruised ‘Is This Love?’ and an ebullient ‘Heavy Metal’, the damage was already done. It’s not irreparable though and if I know anything about this band it’s that they’re still on a learning curve, refusing to stoop to complacency whilst making some of the most interesting pop music coming out of America. This willingness to evolve and change as per their whims is what stands them in good stead for the point where the hype dies away a little and they’re back to playing smaller venues to adoring devotees or, conversely, figuring out how to project their idiosyncratic indie to the back of halls the size of Academy 1.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Out to lunch.

Hi all!

Just a note to say that I'm going to be internet-less for the next couple of weeks. I'm switching 'net providers and have been quoted 15 days before I can get back on line. Bummer.

So anyway, the posts won't completely dry up in the meantime as I have plenty of friends and relatives that I can bum web access off (although at the moment I'm in the grotty EasyInternet Cafe in St. Ann's Square), they'll probably just be a little more sporadic than usual.

See you all at Get Girl, Kill Baddies, Save Planet on Saturday (don't forget to emither them and claim your half-price discount, as detailed two posts below) and the Clap Your Hands Say Yeah gig at Manchester Academy 2 tomorrow.

Talk amongst yourselves,