Thursday, September 28, 2006

Aliens and holidays

This was meant to have been posted on Wednesday. But a combination of problems with Blogger, EZarchive and me leaving the country means that it's now coming to you on Sunday morning, live and direct from my hotel room in Taormina, Sicily.

I was going to announce that after the frenzied blogging over the last couple of days (i.e. Tuesday and Wednesday) that there would be a break for a week, but neither of these are now true. This and the previous two posts are coming today, and there's no week break thanks to this horrendously expensive internet connection I'm using.

Anyway, I had the pleasure of going to see The Aliens and Jeremy Warmsley on Tuesday night at the Barfly in Camden, with Neil from Music Like Dirt. That's obviously where these photos come from. It was a good gig. I'll have a few more words to say about it when I get back. And since it was one of these Xfm X-posure live gigs, there'll be some live mp3s as well (unless someone's else's beaten me to it). In the meantime, you can see Neil's superior gig photos here.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Endings... part 2

It’s over. An ending I'm genuinely sad about. After four years or so, The Blue Room has come to an end. For those who don’t know it, it was a late night radio show running from 5am till 7am on Saturday and Sunday mornings, hosted by Rob da Bank (Sat) and Chris Coco (Sun). It was much more than a post-clubbing ‘chill out’ show. Their unique blend of house, electro, folk, reggae and indie rock was for me the perfect radio programme. It was the only one that I listened to consistently. Hardly ever when it was actually on, mind. But due to the wonders of the BBC’s listen again function, it was the soundtrack to four hours of my working week, making the days go past in a happier way. So farewell then boys. Rob da Bank has a new programme on Sunday nights, Chris Coco is off somewhere into the sunset, maybe to continue his slightly dubious other job as Robbie Williams’ tour DJ. They introduced me to a whole heap of great music that I heard for the first time on their show. Here’s some of them, just to celebrate.

Download: The Go! Team – Everyone’s a VIP to Someone
Download: The Electric South Featuring Bob Lind – Sing!
Download: J*Star – Tooting Gangster
Download: Sebastian Tellier - La Ritornelle
Download: The Shortwave Set - Is it any Wonder?
Download: Max Sedgely - Happy (Spiritual South Go Happy in Rio mix)

You can still listen to the last Blue Room shows on the BBC website. You should.

In their time in the Blue Room chairs, Rob ‘n’ Chris put out a couple of spin-off compilation CDs. I have neither, but the tracklistings look pretty fine. Check them out: Buy Blue Balearic and/or buy Listen Again.

Endings... part 1

I’m way late with this valedictory post. Everyone else has posted about the demise of Arab Strap already, but I thought that it would be churlish for their departure to go unremarked on The Daily Growl. I guess my lack of urgency is something to do with the fact that I wasn’t their biggest fan. I only saw them once, playing third on the bill under Super Furry Animals and Mogwai, back in early ’98. They were pretty boring, with Aidan Moffat sitting on a stool, mumbling incoherently and inaudibly as guitars crashed around him.

But they were still a quite unique band, and there’s a little bit (even if small) in my heart for Moffat and Malcolm Middleton. They did what they did pretty well – ploughing their singular furrow of Scottish miserabilism (I’m a bit partial to some of that y’know). So here’s tae ye boays – all the best for the future. No doubt Middleton will continue with his acclaimed solo work, and maybe Aidan will do more work under his Lucky Pierre guise (see here for a previous post with a Lucky Pierre track).

So, here's a song from my only ‘Strap album, Monday at the Hug and Pint. And I can’t leave off the song which introduced the Falkirk boys to a slightly bemused indie scene, way back in 1996.

Download: Arab Strap – The Week Never Starts Round Here
Download: Arab Strap – The Last Big Weekend

The next goodbye goes out to a band who had only recently come into my consciousness, and were hardly even full fledged when they decided to quit. Whatever they were, Les Incompetents gave us at least one cracking single in the shape of How it All Went Wrong. Surely an indie disco floor-filler if there ever was one. They actually rose to national awareness in July when lead singer Billy Leeson was brutally assaulted in a street attack in North London. Thankfully now he seems to be on the mend, but apparently even before the attack the band had decided to split. There is one final gig though - at the 100 Club on 7 November. Should be a good 'un.

Download: Les Incompetents – Where it all Went Wrong

Everything comes back to Pavement

Here's a new thing on The Daily Growl. A guest post! Oh yes. It's the first in which may be an occasional, or even regular thing (a column?) from 'reverend war character'. You never know. Here's what he suggested.

"everyone's rightly getting steamed up over the new irs REM compilation. let's acknowledge that all things ultimately come back to pavement by posting their classic 'unseen power of the picket fence'. lyrics below.

Some bands I like to name check,
And one of them is REM,
Classic songs with a long history
Southern boys just like you and me.
R - E - M
Flashback to 1983,
Chronic Town was their first EP
Later on came Reckoning
Finster's art, and titles to match:
South Central Rain, Don't Go Back To Rockville,
Harbourcoat, Pretty Persuasion,
You were born to be a camera,
Time After Time was my least favourite song,
Time After Time was my least favourite song.
The singer, he had long hair
And the drummer he knew restrait.
And the bass man he had all the right moves
And the guitar player was no saint.
So lets go way back to the ancient times
When there were no 50 states,
And on a hill there stands Sherman
Sherman and his mates.
And they're marching through Georgia,
we're marching through Georgia,
we're marching through Georgia
They're marching through Georgia,
we're marching through Georgia,
marching through Georgia
and there stands REM
(Aye Sir, Aye Sir, Aye Sir they're coming, Aye Sir, move those wagons, Aye
Sir, Artillery's in place Sir, Aye Sir, Aye Sir, hide it, hide it, Aye Sir, run, run.) "

As you can probably guess, he's a big Pavement fan. But it's a good tune. And any excuse to post Pavement, which I don't believe I've done yet. Off the Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain special edition. Check it.

Download: Pavement - Unseen Power of the Picket Fence

Monday, September 25, 2006

End of the Road Festival - Sunday

Sunday morning started bright and sunny, in contrast to the grey skies of Saturday. The sun kept shining until just after I’m From Barcelona’s set, which seemed appropriate, given their sparkly day-glo pop music. In the hands of one man and an acoustic guitar, these songs would be insufferably twee, but coming from a 29-piece all singing (literally), all dancing (yep, that too), all throwing-confetti-around, and generally riotous and fun Swedish band, they sound just right. Coming on a bit like the Polyphonic Spree, without the cultish overtones, and with better tunes, they were the perfect start to the Sunday, drawing one of the biggest crowds of the weekend to the Garden Stage at the improbably early hour of 12pm. They’ve got a charismatic frontman in Emanuel Lundgren, who makes regular forays into the crowd, whilst being backed up by his gang of super-enthusiastic friends. They’ve got way more people on stage than is necessary, but they just use it as an excuse for a big party! They seem to have suddenly sprung into the public consciousness fully formed and larger than life. And we’ll no doubt hear a lot more about them in the near future.

Download: I’m From Barcelona – Tree House

Next up in the Big Top, I was keen to see Jeremy Warmsley live, after recently getting into his music. In a perverse way, he was the perfect artist to follow the exuberant Swedes, mainly because rather than three-chord singalongs, he specialises in an altogether more complex type of pop music. He has a great vocal range, as well as an impressive range of musical styles, often within the same song. From solo numbers on the keyboard, to full band wig-outs. I’m not sure if the bass was meant to be so high in the mix, but with his brilliant bass player these songs sounded almost funky. He’s an exciting new talent, and I’m already looking forward to his new album next month.

Download: Jeremy Warmsley – The Boy Who Cried Love

It was fantastic to see Tilly and the Wall again, especially since their last show I went to was so marred by bad sound. Today, they sound perfect. I think in the few months since I last saw them, they’ve become an even more accomplished pop band. Whatever, their wonderful harmony-fuelled, tap dancing-driven pop still thrills the soul, and leaves us with big smiles on our faces, wanting more.

Download: Tilly and the Wall – Sing Songs Along

From the Big Top, it was a short walk across to the Bimble Inn to catch Emmy the Great. She arrived with Jeremy Warmsley and other friend called Charlie in tow, to act as her band. Collectively they were called Emmy and the Whale, at least for that day. I bet there’s not going to be many gigs Emmy plays where she has to contend with small children throwing coins onstage, but she weathered the storm to play another stunningly good set of folk-pop gems. She really is brilliant. Her way-too-short set was rounded off by an amazing cover of Where is my Mind?, with Warmsley on banjo and Charlie on ukulele. A Pixies cover to rival, or maybe even surpass TV on the Radio’s reworking of Mr Grieves. And because she had time to spare after she finished, Emmy generously handed the stage over to some performance poet. Now these two words would normally have me running for cover, but this guy was hilarious, with his physically enhanced poem about a crap night out in an English costal town. Who is he? I need to know.

Download: Emmy the Great – Paper Trails

Jolie Holland in the Big Top seemed like a good proposition, though it did take me a while to get into her lugubrious brand of bluesy alt-country, but eventually the songs won me over. She has a delivery a bit like Lucinda Williams, where she wraps her vocals round the words. Ryan Adams made a guest appearance on drums. I was almost sorry to leave the tent when it was time to go to see Richard Hawley.

Download: Jolie Holland - Goodbye California

Another festival, another Richard Hawley gig. However, this one was more satisfying than his brief Summer Sundae appearance. He had more time for one, so he and his fine band were able to wow us once again with songs from Hawley’s breakthrough album Coles Corner, as well as a good number of oldies to keep the old fans like us happy. I know Richard and band have been playing a lot of gigs over this summer, which may explain how they sound better every time I see them. The rock-out end to Run for Me is even more thrilling. And of course, as always, the songs were accompanied by Hawley’s own brand of bawdy humour and withering put downs. Much of this goes down well, though after seeing him a few times the jokes are much the same, and I’m not sure I’ll ever have the use for the phrase ‘soft as a bag of tits’.

Download: Richard Hawley - Run for Me

I had hoped to see more of Ryan Adams, but we spent more time watching his roadies set up than watching him and the Cardinals performing. He was due onstage at 10:15 but it wasn’t until almost 10:45 that they arrived. But we got four songs, including a fine country-rockin' version of To Be Young before heading back to the Big Top to see James Yorkston. I noticed that Jolie Holland repayed the drumming favour by playing violin with the Cardinals.

Download: Ryan Adams - To be Young

Adams was the big draw of the day, because James Yorkston must have only had about 50 people watching him play solo acoustic in the tent. In one way it’s a shame because he deserves more. On the other, it made the gig a very special intimate occasion, with Yorkston feeling at ease, chatting with the audience, and even taking requests. Things did seem to get worse for him when a bloke collapsed during the sublime Moving Up Country, Roaring the Gospel. James looked concerned, asked how he was, and seeming unsure of whether he should continue playing. But was urged on by everyone, including the guy on the floor as he waited for the medics to take him away.

“I don’t mean to be ungrateful, but when I did that song at Bestival, I got a Mexican wave” he said at one point. So in the end, we obliged, giving him several. OK, they were all prompted, but there was a lot of goodwill for the man from Fife in the tent. He asked us to dance. Mrs Growl and I complied by doing a few twirls. And he even was given extra time to play after the watershed by the compere. That went down well. All his songs – his older material as well as from his new album Year of the Leopard, sounded wonderful. His final song – Cheating the Game – lingered with me well into the next day, as a happy reminded of a wonderful evening. Ryan Adams – who’s he?

Download: James Yorkston – Cheating the Game

End of the Road Festival - Saturday

Saturday started for us with a bit of wandering and peacock-spotting, followed by at trip back to the Big Top to check out Metronomy. I liked them. They’re about as well-known for their remixes as their own stuff, but their compositions sound good. Live, they’re bound to get Hot Chip comparisons – except it’s only three guys with synths and keyboards, and Hot Chip don’t have a sax player. Or funny t-shirts with a big plastic balls on. Or choreographed jerky guitar movements. Their electro is probably also a bit dirtier and less poppy then their more famous peers. It’s a shame I had to leave them early to go to see Absentee.

Download: Metronomy - You Could Easily Have Me

I was keen to see Absentee again, even if only to introduce Mrs Growl to their rough-cut charms. She hadn’t seen them before, but I thought she’d like them. She did. In fact, I’m finding it hard to imagine why anyone wouldn’t. Unless they have issues with Dan Michaelson’s super-gruff vocals of course. Recently I’ve been finding that their Schmotime album is one I’ve kept coming back to again and again. And not just because it’s at the top of the artists list on my iPod. Live they’re a treat, with their harmonies and their fuzzy guitars and their parping horn section. Amongst the Shmotime faves, they squeezed in a new song which sounded mighty fine.

Download: Absentee – Something to Bang

Next up on the main stage, Swedish chanteuse El Perro Del Mar came on with her big coat, her acoustic guitar and her band and played some lovely melodic acoustic music which washed over us as we lay on the grass. The peacock liked her too it seemed, adding its loud squaking to the polite applause that followed her first song. To be honest, not many of the songs really lodged in my memory but it was a nice way to spend half an hour or so. Here’s one track that did linger.

Download: El Perro Del Mar – This Loneliness

After a quick bite to eat, we headed to the Big Top to find The Boy Least Likely To already had started their set and had pretty much turned the tent into a bit of a kids’ party. It wasn’t just the BLLT balloons – they brought two large creatures (roughly approximating an elephant and a dog) to dance on stage with them. It was all very twee, which kinda goes with their music really. I heard their album a while back, but apart from a few stand-out classic pop numbers, it was all a bit dull. Live, they’re a much better proposition. They’re a tight band, churning out their breezy indie pop, and it’s all pretty hard not to like. Unless you’ve got an aversion to big animals and balloons.

Download: The Boy Least Likely To – Be Gentle With Me

I wasn’t particularly drawn to the Electric Soft Parade. But we were wandering around wondering where to go next, and we thought why not check them out. We hadn’t heard ESP before, but who knows, we might like them. And yeah, they were alright really. Decent guitar pop. One bonus was that they had a song that sounded just like Teenage Fanclub. Nice.

Download: Electric Soft Parade - Lose Yr Frown

We left the Garden Stage to catch Semifinalists in the Big Top. I was keen to find out if they really were rubbish, or if they were just seriously hampered by the crap sound at the Lumainaire where I saw them earlier in the year. And you know what? They were brilliant. I’m still finding it hard to believe they were the same band. They do have some punky, yelpy songs, but they seemed to be replaced by a set of electronic power pop, chopped up with lovely drawn out melodies. As I’ve said before, they’re an odd band. They rely a lot on backing tracks, and they all sing. They performed on a darkened stage, with a light show and a lots big shadows, which added to the atmosphere. Definitely one to watch, and I've since got their album, which is a treat.

Download: Semifinalists – You Said

As well as a few Swedish artists on various stages over the weekend, Saturday saw a big showcase of Swedish Bands in the Bimble Inn. We had to check out at least one of these. And that band was Suburban Kids With Biblical Names. I had heard of them at least (who wouldn’t forget a name like that). They were great. Sprightly indie pop, peppered with breezy harmonies, with a cheeky backing track propelling them along. It’s not music that will change the world, but it did put a smile on our faces. There were even people dancing among the sprawled crowd on the floor of the tent. I think they were Swedes.

Download: Suburban Kids With Biblical Names - Funeral Face

We briefly caught British Sea Power doing Remember Me as we made our way to the Big Top to see Simple Kid. They’re still doing that tree branches thing. They should really get some new tricks. We walked into the tent just as the Kid struck up his opening number King Kong on banjo. What a great start to the set! We knew next to nothing about the man known to his mother as Ciaran McFeely, but we left truly converted to the cause of the Kid. It was just him and his laptop, which regularly provided beats and other backing goodness, and opened the way for the evening’s special guest – Kermit the frog, who leant his own magic to a duet of It’s Not Easy Being Green. One of the easiest reference points for Simple Kid is Beck, and at least one track sounded quite like Loser, but the Kid has his own particular charm. The appropriately woozy set closer Serotonin (also his new single) was another highlight. So, a good discovery then.

Download: Simple Kid – The Average Man

After that, we couldn’t decide whether to see Badly Drawn Boy or Guillemots, and when we realised that neither of us cared too much about either of them, we headed to the Pavillion for a bit to sit around and hear James Yorkston play some old blues and reggae (nice work) then back to the Bimble Inn, where we settled into some big comfy cushions until the wee small hours, first listening to British Sea Power and their mates doing an extended jam session, then just chatting to friendly strangers whilst supping some of the Inn’s fine organic ale. The people in the tent next to us raved about Guillemots the next day, but we didn’t feel like we had missed anything.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

End of the Road Festival - Friday

After a spot of hammock-swinging, my musical day on Friday started with M. Craft in the Big Top, where I remained for the rest of the evening. One of the great things about End of the Road was that there was a deliberate intention to give bands longer slots than they nornally would have for festival gigs. So more music then.

This was the second time I've seen M. Craft at a festival this year, and thankfully I get to see more of him and his brilliant band than I did at Summer Sundae. The songs from Silver and Fire still sound great. His swinging folk-pop still charms. And the wobbly funk of You Are The Music still makes up one of my favourite songs of the year. This time he gets out his electic guitar for Lucille, which is probably the closest he gets to 'proper' rock. Good stuff. We even get a drum solo during an unexpected technical hitch (incidentally just about the only one of the weekend - the sound on all stages was pretty much flawless).

Download: M. Craft - Lucille (Where Did the Love Go?)

Next up in the tent is Kathryn Williams. She's someone else I last saw at Summer Sundae, but that was two years ago. Her style is a bit more stripped down. Just her, another guitarist and a cellist. I'm only vaguely familiar with her Little Black Numbers album, so most of her set is new to me, but it's all quite beautiful. She has a slightly hestiant Northern wit sprinkled between her songs. But largely she just gets on with playing her lovely music. If that sounds like I'm damning her with faint praise, I'm really not. I loved her set, and at a push I'd say it was my favourite of the evening. Her loop-tastic rendition of We Dug a Hole at the end was spine-tinglingly good.

Download: Kathryn Williams - We Dug a Hole

Micah P Hinson has a lot to live up to in my mind. The last time I saw him with a full band (most of The Earlies acutally), at the Scala two years ago was one of my best gigs of recent years. This didn't quite reach these heights, but that's a bit like complaining you've won a million on the lottery because someone else won two. He's got a new album to promote, so his set was drawn from both The Opera Circuit as well as 2004's Gospel of Progress. He's a gusty, soulful, passionate performer, often stretching his already gruff singing to a hoarse roar. All that smoking must help cultivate that vocal style. It's been a while since I saw someone do the old cigarette stuck on the fretboard thing. He happily swigs from a bottle of wine too, as he sings his lyrics of pain and sadness. He tells us about his back problems and operation. Maybe you'd write lyrics of pain and sadness too, if you'd been through all that in the least year. But in a perverse way, I'm glad he has. He's got an album that could well be up there with his stunning debut. Then he drinks some more, and rocks out again. Don't You Forget, The Day Texas Sank into the Sea and On My Way are monumental set closers. He's a talent to treasure. And hopefully, his still relative youthfulness means he'll be around for a while to come.

Download: Micah P. Hinson - Don't Leave Me Now

Back from the End of the Road

Just back from the first ever End of the Road festival. Well, I got back a couple of days ago, but I’m just getting round to posting now. What a brilliant festival! If I was wearing a hat, I’d take it off to the organisers Sofia Hagberg and Simon Taffe for putting on such a great event. But I’m not, so words of praise will have to do. And I’m not the only one speaking of it in glowing terms.

I feared a bit on Friday afternoon though. Things got off to a shaky start with queues of people at Salisbury station all waiting for one small 16-seater minibus. Needless to say we didn’t all get on. But a taxi shared with some friendly people was a nice start to the weekend.

The long waits at the station were the only hiccup in an otherwise perfect few days. The music was excellent (much more on that to come), the location was lovely, and the whole thing was quite intimate. I heard that nowhere near the allocated tickets had been sold. That wasn’t a problem for me – small is good in my book – but I hope the festival was more than just a success in the hearts of all who were there. It just has to be on again next year! It’s a real joy to have a festival which is all about the music (and other related fun) and not a huge marketing exercise to sell mobile phones or crap lager.

Apparently EOTR was inspired by the Green Man festival in Wales. Looking at the line-up, the influence is obvious. The majority of the acts here could easily also play at Green Man (or might even have already). But there are others like British Sea Power, Semifinalists and Metronomy, who I can’t really imagine at the Welsh festival. The dance tent till 2am probably makes it different as well. According to the couple I shared the cab with, it’s strictly lights out and shut up at 12 at Green Man.

The highlights were numerous. Larmer Tree Gardens are secluded, quiet and beautiful with a load of (very tame) peacocks wandering about (including cute baby ones). Don’t know if anyone saw the male birds do the full plumage thing though. The Garden Stage (above) was in a very fine setting – there’s a old 19th century stage with a big mural, which served as a big seat all weekend. Apparently the Gardens were created in 1880 for “public ‎enlightenment and entertainment”. Nice to see that tradition’s continuing.

There was good food on supply, most notably the ever-excellent Pieminister, serving up top-quality pies and mash – surely one of the finest types of British food. One visit was definitely not enough. Big up the Pieminister people who probably didn’t get much sleep over the weekend, keeping the masses happy with pastry, fillings and potatoes. All washed down nicely by some of the fine ales for sale elsewhere.

The Bimble Inn was a welcome addition to the festival. Not only did it serve as one of the stages for gigs, but it was a bar (with decent organic ales) and general hanging-out area with big comfy cushions and giant games. We spend a happy Saturday night here into the wee small hours…

Oh, I could go on, but I don’t want to bore you. It was a great festival, and I’d strongly recommend going next year if it’s on again. Just not too many of you, OK?

More music-related stuff to follow very soon. In the meantime, check out my growing collection of photos at my Flickr.

Someone else has been onto the EOTR blogging thing much more quickly than me.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Keep on going to the End of the Road

No more posts for a few days folks (not that I've been that regular lately anyway), as I'm off the the great-looking End of the Road festival. Thanks to the lovely people at ace London gig promoters Eat Your Own Ears, I won me a couple of tickets. So we're off again, to what is probably the very last festival of the season.

The line up sounds great. Daily Growl favourites abound. M. Craft and Micah P Hinson today. Absentee on Saturday. Emmy the Great, Tilly and the Wall, Richard Hawley and Jeremy Warmsley on Sunday. Elsewhere I'm looking forward to Jolie Holland, Kathryn Williams, Metronomy and I'm From Barcelona. Any many more. The main problem is the clash on Sunday night between Ryan Adams and James Yorkston. What will I do about that? We'll see. I'll be back with reports, pics and mp3s next week. See ya!

Keeping, the end of the road theme, here's Jerry...

Download: Jerry Lee Lewis - End of the Road

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I believe in the way you move

I've recently come to appreciate Jeremy Warmsley. I first heard about him because discovered he is a friend of Daily Growl fave Emmy the Great. Maybe that's an odd way to go about it, since JW is the signed artist with an album on the way, whereas Emmy isn't. But hey, the music world works that way sometimes. Jeremy and Emmy even appeared in one of the style mags earlier in the year (Dazed?)

Anyway, I did some research on the man who calls himself 'J-Wo' on his forum. If you're not familiar with him, in Jeremy's own words (or at least his website's) he "writes songs in his head and then makes them come out of a computer. Sometimes he plays all the instruments himself, sometimes he gets other people to play them, sometimes the instruments don't exist." In the words of Drowned in Sound, he "started making electronic music with songs in them in January 2005". And in the words of Wikipedia "his musical style has been described as Aphex Twin meets the Beatles". Which is just silly and tells you nothing. The Drowned in Sound boys made the bold claim on a recent podcast that Warmsley's forthcoming album is the best album released by a solo artist this year. So not much to live up to then? We'll have to wait and see on that one.

And now the reason for this post. He did a live studio session for John Kennedy on Xfm last week. He played four songs, backed by The Lemon Sharks, who are/were a band of his mates who had formed just for the occasion. And very good they all were. One of the songs was a cover of At The Drive-In's One Armed Scissor, which works surprisingly well as an acoustic track.

Download: Jeremy Warmsley - I Believe in the Way You Move (live)
Download: Jeremy Warmsley - If I Had Only (live)
Download: Jeremy Warmsley - Ooh Wah Ooh (live)
Download: Jeremy Warmsley - One Armed Scissor (live)

Buy JW stuff from Pure Groove.

Stop press: JW has been out doing the acoustic live radio thing again, this time tonight on 6 Music. Here's one that he played, which will be the b-side of his new single, I Believe in the Way You Move. BTW, the album's out on 9 October.

Download: Jeremy Warmsley - Ice River Cold (live)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Early Years / Serena Maneesh @ Madame Jo Jo's, 29 August

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a few months and have a good memory may sense a little déjà vu about this title. Yes I have been here before back in June, reviewing The Early Years at the White Heat club at Madame Jo Jo’s. However, this time is different. This time I am actually reviewing The Early Years, as opposed to indie dullards Amusement Parks on Fire. All is explained in the previous post and comments.

The Early Years aren’t really a cool band. But they’re good. There’s not much in the way of audience interaction, but they’re young and new, so I’m happy to give them the benefit of the doubt. I’m really reluctant to use the sh****ze word, but it does kinda apply to them. It was said that these early 90s bands weren't staring at their shoes - they were looking at their effects pedals. The Early Years look at their effects pedals a lot, but that's excuseable since they use them so well. They basically hit us with waves of layered guitar noise, through which we can discern some lovely melodies, for the duration of their set. There's not much variation in style, but I don't mind because it's working just right. From what I've heard of the new album (out 24 September) so far, there are some lovely quieter moments in the band's repertoire, but this being a noisy club night, they probably wisely chose to keep the volume up. I'll be eagerly watching out for more from Dave Malkinson, Roger Mackin and Phil Raines soon.

Download: The Early Years - So Far Gone
Download: The Early Years - A Little More

In contrast, Serena Maneesh are a very cool band. But I'm not that convinced about exactly how good they are. All the ingredients impress - their style, all sexy posing and swagger, with added rock 'n' roll antics. The musical parts namecheck The Velvet Underground, My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and a host of scuzzy garage rock bands. No looking at shoes for this lot. More like playing the guitar on the ceiling of the venue. They do layered guitar too, but they also do pounding bass to rock the club. However their first few numbers seem to be all pounding bass and not much else, and they take most of their set to bring all the good component parts together to make a cohesive performance. When it eventually works, it's very good. Just a shame it took them so long to get there. I've since checked out their album and found much the same. I think I'm eventually getting it, but it's taking time. Should we have to work this hard with music? I'm not sure, and for now Serena Maneesh may or may not be greater than the sum of their impressive parts.

Download: Serena Maneesh - Drain Cosmetics
Download: Serena Maneesh - Sapphire Eyes High

Check out my gig photos on Flickr.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

If I was in Scotland last weekend...

…I’d have been at the Indian Summer festival. I’ve not been back in the homeland all year, but this could have been a good reason to go back. But I didn’t. However, BBC 6 Music were onto it, and spent the weekend covering the festival. So I spent a good chunk of Sunday cooking and listening to live music from the West End of Glasgow.

There’s all this talk about ‘boutique festivals’ this summer. The absence of Glastonbury seems to have encouraged even more festivals to be staged. Except they’re not going for the millions of people in a huge field thing. They’re much smaller affairs, for 5,000 to 10,000 people. A bit like my favourite Summer Sundae. In recent years Bestival has come along. This year, there’s been Indian Summer, Latitude and End of The Road (plus no doubt loads of others).

Now banish all thoughts of middle class-ness and hampers, these small festivals are a good thing! What would you rather have? Watching bands on a video screen from two miles away, whilst surrounded by 100,000 crowd, thick with thieves, arseholes and drunken kids being sick on your shoes? Or a close-up view of your favourite artist in pleasant surroundings, with a decent amount of time for them to play? Maybe if you’re 16, exhilarated at your first trip away from home, or only listen to music on daytime Xfm, the former may seems like the only reasonable choice. Me, I’ve long given up on the big gigs, let alone the big festivals. Plus the smaller events avoid the usual boring main stage line-ups and give newer and less well-known artists the chance to play higher up the bill. The fans are surely winners all round.

Anyway, enough blether from me, let’s have some music from Indian Summer. If I’d had been at the festival, I’d have been watching these guys:

Download: Camera Obscura – Lloyd I’m Ready to be Heartbroken (live)
Download: Tilly & the Wall – Bad Education (live)
Download: Tilly & the Wall – Reckless (live)
Download: CSS – Pony Money Honey (live)
Download: CSS – Off the Hook (live)

Colin from Let's Kiss and Make Up... was actually there.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Welcome to the Sonic Cathedral

I know I've mentioned it a couple of times on this blog already, but heck, here's another. What with the 'shoegazing revival' in full swing, it's appropriate . And it's a bit of an odd one too. A club that you can't really dance at. More like sway gently. Or nod. Or look at the floor a bit. Yep, it's London's first, but surely not last, club dedicated to everything early 90s layered guitar and slightly ethereal, and other music of this ilk. I went to Sonic Cathedral for the first time for the Fields / iLiKETRAiNS gig the other week. And guess what? Although busting some moves wasn't really on the cards, there were some top tunes played. Maybe it's just about hearing fine music. Stuff that if you're my age, you'll say, “Oh, I remember that!” or if you're not, you'll probably like anyway. Here's a few I can remember.

Download: Spiritualized – Electricity

Download: My Bloody Valentine – Soon (Andrew Weatherall remix)
Download: New Order – Everything's Gone Green
Download: Galaxie 500 – Ceremony (live)

You can be Sonic Cathedral's friend too, y'know.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Disco Pogo for Punks in Pumps - volume 9

It’s been a while since the last Disco Pogo post, so here’s volume 9. Another cracker. There’s not a duff track on the CD, but I’ve managed to select six for your listening pleasure.

We have James Yorkston providing guest vocals to thy Psychonauts’ nice slice of electro-folk and Calexico getting their Woven Birds given a suitably downbeat rub-down by Stratus. Elsewhere on remix action we have Soulsavers giving poolside vibes to Broadway Project. There are two fine pieces of hip-hop – Prefuse 73’s short and sweet The End of Biters and (a new one for me) Aceyalone’s fantastic Takeoff. It’s a shame that a track of that quality hasn’t led to a take-off for the man also known as Eddie Hayes. My selection is rounded off by Shaun Ryder’s 2003 odd comeback under the guise of Amateur Night at the Big Top (no I don’t know either).

In the magazine we hung out with Dizzee Rascal in his East London manor (mine too), and learned in the news section that he had go stabbed in Ayia Napa, as the UK garage (remember that?) feuds spilled from the streets of London to the Med. As you can see from the cover, there was a big feature on the 2 Many DJs boys. We had an audience with Shaun Ryder, went on the road with Prefuse 73 and Manitoba (before punk reject Handsome Dick Manitoba forced them to change their name), and delved into rap history with the hippy-hop of Native Tongues, A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. Album of the month was Echoes by The Rapture – how timely, eh?

Download: Psychonauts – Hips for Scotland
Download: Calexico – Woven Birds (Stratus Remix)
Download: Broadway Project – Sufi (Soulsavers Remix)
Download: Prefuse 73 – The End of Biters International
Download: Aceyalone – Takeoff
Download: Amateur Night in the Big Top – The Story

Monday, September 04, 2006

Best of August

Late as usual, here's August's picks...

Album of the month

Various - The World is Gone

It just had to be this album from the mysterious duo formerly known as Various Productions. It's fizzing and crackling with spark and genius. And the songwriting is almost as good as the production. I'll be surprised if this isn't in my top 10 at the end of the year. Check my review here (and I still have a couple Various posters to give away).

Download: Various - Hater

Buy The World is Gone.

Songs of the month

Lambchop - The Paperback Bible

The gorgeous opening track from their new album. I haven't listened to Damaged nearly as much as I should have. I seem to spend most of the time listening to this one instead. And rightly so.

Lucky Soul - Baby I'm Broke

A lovely slice of southern soul from erm, south London. Apparently Lucky Soul are headed into the studio to record their debut album. If this track is anything to go by, it could be a cracker.

iLiKETRAiNS - Rook House for Bobby

I just had to check out the debut mini-album Progress Reform after seeing the band with the most annoying typography last week. And no surprises, it's great. This is my current favourite track. It's about slightly crazy former chess champ Bobby Fischer, y'know. Apparently he wanted a house built like a rook. I guess that would be the chess piece, but imagine it was the bird! Mad, and good then.

Christina Aguilera - Ain't No Other Man

The album's probably gash, but I don't really care about that. This is a surely a top tune in anyone's book.

The Blood Arm - Do I Have Your Attention?

I'm so glad I was introduced to this lot earlier in the month. Their electrifying live show is well worth experiencing too. This is my favourite track from their sorta unavailable debut album Bomb Romantics.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Daily Growl belated Carnival soundclash

I've not been to the Notting Hill Carnival for a couple of years. So I was all up for going this year, then I only went and broke my toe a couple of weeks ago. It's still not quite right, and after having someone almost stamp on it at The Legion last week, I figured that I wouldn't risk getting it trampled on by the crazy crush at the Carnival. So I stayed at home and listened to reggae.

I actually meant to do this post on Monday, but y'know, one thing and another, and here it is on Friday. From my kitchen carnival soundtrack, here are a few tunes...

Download: Toots & the Maytals – Night and Day
Download: Lloyd Robinson – Cuss Cuss
Download: Toots & the Maytals – Funky Kingston
Download: The Upsetters – Live Injection
Download: Bongo Herman – Chairman of the Board
Download: The Cimarons – We Are Not the Same
Download: Morgan Heritage & Bounty Killer – Guns in the Ghetto
Download: Tiger Ranks – Party Wit Me
Download: Tenor Saw & Buju Banton - Ring the Alarm

These tracks are taken from the amazing Dynamite! Series on Soul Jazz Records. Mainly 100% , 200% , 400% and 500%. Click the links to buy.

Pic taken from aiaichristmas' photostream.