Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Mojave 3 and Mark Kozelek @ Conway Hall

This was the gig of tuning problems. First up, Mark Kozelek, who had a little mid-set difficulty in tuning his guitar. But unlike most gigs, there wasn't the impatient shuffling and outbreak of loud chatter, just a reverent hush from the true believers who were there, I guess, as much to see the 'support act' as the ostensible headliners. I have to admit, I was really there to see Mojave 3. I'm a bit of a Mark Kozelek novice. OK, I'd heard of the Red House Painters, way back in my student indie days, but that's about it. But I was pretty impressed. None of the songs have stuck in my head, but they were lovely to experience - more a musical texture of acoustic guitars and vocals than something with immediate hooks or melody. But very fine all the same, particularly the last two songs before he went off (and then unexpectedly came back on for an encore). I'll definitely check out more of his stuff.

Kozelek's tuning difficulties were nothing compared with Neil Halstead's. The Mojave 3 main man, sporting a beard which should make us take him seriously as a country music singer, had a bit of a nightmare time, and just couldn't seem to get his tuning right. I'm not sure what was wrong with Neil on Friday, but he seemed a bit flaky, and couldn't seem to get it together (I’m not a musican, but how hard can it be?). On one occasion, the band filled in Neil's 'tuning gap' by enlisting some would-be ‘funny man’ from the audience to tell a dodgy joke. Then, two songs from the end, he gave up and went offstage to retune the guitar in private, leaving Rachel Goswell and the rest of the band to awkwardly apologise for not having rehearsed properly and take what seemed an unplanned exit. But despite sounding a wee bit rough at the start, (and after all they hadn't played a live gig for a couple of years) they sounded fine together, and made a wonderful noise. It was just erratic old Neil and his tuning. One blogger recently claimed that Halstead “will be praised in 20 years as one of the greatest English songwriters of all-time”. Well, maybe that’s overstating it a bit, but he does write a mean tune, and at this gig, the songs brilliantly shone through any irregularities in the performance. So in the end, Thames Valley's finest alt-country band triumphed against adversity and we went home happy.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Is iTunes killing record shops?

The Guardian yesterday told us that:

Lovers of the old-fashioned record shop should think about going into mourning - an online music store has outsold two of its high street rivals for the first time.

But then we find out that the 'old-fashioned record shops' are Tower and Borders! I think lovers of music, and old-fashioned record shops will actually be quite heartened to see iTunes overtake a souless emporium that doesn't sell records anyway, and a bloody bookshop!

Old-fashioned record shops are more like this, and there'll always be a place for them, as long as there are music lovers. We'll continue to buy our records and CDs from shops like this, and buy songs from iTunes and the like. I don't really mind if Borders concentrates on selling books - that's what they're good at. Who buys CDs from there anyway?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Psycho: the rom-com?

There's an article in Time Out magazine this week about how marketing for films can be misleading. Really? It's a real shame for the poor fools who go to see a film based solely on the poster. Take for instance the person who went to see Dark Water expecting a 'supernatural frightfest' and got "a load of sickening twoddle about a mother and daughters relationship" [sic]. Well, if you don't bother to look further than the wall, you shouldn't get too upset mate.

However, the best thing about the article is the reference to some people who have taken this misleading advertising to the next level and created 'cheekily reconstituted trailer(s) in which moments from the original movie are cunningly slotted into a new an decidedly contrary context'. Unfortunately TO didn't say where these were, but a quick Google found them. Check out The Tattered Coat for a good set of posts with links to most of these.

There's 'The Shining' (or rather 'Shining') as a nice family film - maybe as redone by Nora Ephron. There's Psycho as a rom-com ('meet Marion' and 'meet Norman', two people brought happily together in a rainstorm), and 'Titanic' as a teen slasher flick. Lots of fun to be had there. I'd be happy to see some more of these from elsewhere too...

PS. There's a great mock-up of a 'Taxi Driver' poster above the TO magazine article, which shows the smiling faces of Foster, De Niro and Shepherd, with the line 'sometimes it pays to go that extra mile for someone you love'. Very nice. Wonder if there's a scan of it anywhere?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Kristin Hersh at the Scala, 21 Nov 05

Way back in October, I had a choice of two gigs this week. One was Kristin Hersh at the Scala and the other was Clap Your Hands Say Yeah at ULU. What to do? Wallow in nostalgia for a music that (for me) represents another age, or go with the hipsters to check out the latest word-of-mouth sensation straight outta Brooklyn. While I dithered, the choice was made for me. Due to the bloghype (and the bandwagon-jumping hype from the UK music press) CYHSY sold out quite quickly, so Kristin it was. She was playing two shows at the Scala – one on Monday where she was doing the songs of Throwing Muses, and Tuesday where she was performing her own solo stuff.

Throwing Muses were never my favourite band, but they were a pretty important group for me. Way back at the very start of my obsession with music, in early ’91 I got turned onto ‘The Real Ramona’ by a late-night indie programme on BBC Radio Scotland. It was a formative time for me – the Charlatans ‘Over Rising’ EP, Primal Scream’s ‘Higher Than The Sun’, and Teenage Fanclub’s ‘Starsign’ along with ‘Ramona’ were making an impression on me and shaping my musical tastes for the next 14 years or so. I hadn’t heard anything quite like them before – there was something discordant, dirty and exciting about them, compared with the chart fodder and Madchester goonery I had been listening to.

My Throwing Muses obsession pretty much remained there too. I never bought any more of their albums, though I came across various tracks over the years. So it wasn’t so much an exercise of wallowing in nostalgia, as discovering a whole heap of songs I had never known.

But what of the gig? Well, I kinda enjoyed it. My qualification comes because it seemed to me that a combination of her rasping vocals, lots of loud strumming and a lack of tunes in some songs made the transition from rock to acoustic a bit boring in places. Some songs really soared and benefited from an acoustic re-interpretation (like ‘Counting Backwards) but others, like the delicate ‘Two Step’ felt like it had been bludgeoned.

One of the great things about solo shows like this is that there feels like there’s much more of a direct link between the artist and the audience. I really liked the few occasions when she’d tell the story behind the song she was about to play. But given the setting, it would have been better if she could have done it more, since she was so assured and charming as she ‘chatted’ with us.

Overall, there were enough good tunes to keep me into her performance, particularly when she brought on cello and violin backup for her encore, which really enhanced the last four numbers. Her second 'encore' was a quick look out to wave holding her son who looked a bit bemused by it all. Rock 'n' roll eh?

So in the end, I’d probably have preferred to have been with the hipsters at ULU, but to be hip, you’ve got to be quick. Instead, I was left with my slightly over-inflated nostalgia, which on balance was no bad thing.

Picture from OldKing on flickr. It’s from a gig in NC, USA. Couldn’t find any of the Scala show yet (despite the amount of digital cameras in evidence), but this is pretty much what she looked like on Monday. Except with slightly shorter hair.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Test Posting 2

Today is 9C and cloudy.
Not much else happening at the moment

Test Posting

This is a test post