In the days of X-Factor, truly nothing is sacred.
The flawless original:
The fine modern re-interpretation:
Saturday, 20 November 2010
I spoke to a number of people at the gig on Thursday, and the general consensus was this; The Monitor is the best album to be released all year, bar none. I don't expect to see it topping too many critics Best-Of lists, as there are too many other artists out there which seem to have reached a wider audience (Arcade Fire, Deerhunter et al), but those who have stumbled across The Monitor seem to hold it dear and know it word for anguished word. The visceral delivery of Titus Andronicus appeals at the very lowest level, but they offset this with passages from Shakespeare and famous figures of the American Civil War, and clever poetry ("reasons for living are seldom and few, and when you find one you'd better stick to it glue"). Placed in the cauldron of The Haymakers, and you had the makings of an unforgettable gig.
To say that the band didn't disappoint would be a gross understatement. Stripped of some of the embellishments of their records (no horns, no sax), the band let their sheer punk energy do the talking, and the crowd duly responded. Things really took off half-way through No Future Pt.3; Titus Andronicus cast out angst-ridden mantras ("The enemy is everywhere"/"It's us against them"/"Your life is over") like particularly tasty bait, and the crowd ate it up like bloodthirsty piranhas. The only let-up subsequently was on the histrionic ballad To Old Friends And New (the ever-affable Patrick Stickles joked that they would play slow songs for the rest of the night).
The only remotely anticlimactic moment was the lack of bagpipes on The Battle of Hampton Roads, but by the time the band had wound up a particularly explosive version of Four Score And Seven, my voice was shot and I was soaked in sweat (lord only knows how Stickles keeps it together). Over the last year the Haymakers has emerged as a terrific music venue in Cambridge, and this really felt like a gig for the ages.
Here's some pics; a special mention to the guy who responded to Stickles' comment about the brit who's done the most for the band with "what about Shakespeare?".
Monday, 15 November 2010
Spoon's 2010 album Transference is a much pricklier affair than 2007's universally liked Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, but there's no getting away from its fine closing track Nobody Gets Me But You. Here's its raw music vid:
Sunday, 14 November 2010
The Replacements did more than their fair share of jerking around on and off stage as well as on record, but they nonetheless had an innate ability to write a song that really connected with disaffected teens in a more earnest way than the likes of Nirvana et al ever could or would some 5-10 years later. Singer/songwriter Paul Westerberg's sensitive side is something which came through more and more with each Replacements release, but even as early as Johnny's Gonna Die from 1981 debut Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash!, Westerberg had a way with an affecting lyric.
The Replacements song that I adore above all others is Sixteen Blue from their undisputed classic album, 1984's Let It Be, a song about the sexual confusion and frustration which comes with being a teenager. To be truthful, it's a song I didn't listen to until I was 24, so I can't claim to be the song's target market, but such is the song's power, it almost makes me want to be sixteen again, just so I can connect with it that more resonantly. I love the way Westerberg takes on the role of a kind of sympathetic older sibling who puts his arm round you as the rest of the world seems to be mocking you ("You're looking funny/you ain't laughing are you?"). He's lived through it all, and throughout the song it's like you're confiding in him; "Your age is the hardest age/everything drags and drags" he tells you. The problem faced by the pained teen of Sixteen Blue isn't even as simple as getting the girl; "A girl and a man/a boy and a man/everything's sexually vague/now you're wondering to yourself if you might be gay". Nonetheless, there's a sweet naivety to the song ("You don't understand anything sexual") that no longer quite rings true in a time when teenage pregnancies seem to be ever on the rise.
The song closes with Westerberg howling as the late, great Bob Stinson delivers one of his most soaring guitar solos. Along with Unsatisfied (which, as the title suggests, is the Replacements' own anthem of (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction proportions) and Answering Machine (whose line "how can I say I miss you to an answering machine?" depicts the breakdown of one-to-one communication before the days of social networking), Sixteen Blue forms the heart of Let It Be, one which beats just as hard and heavy as it did in 1984.
Listen to Sixteen Blue by The Replacements for a limited time on the Hear The Secret player!
Wednesday, 10 November 2010
Anybody who has witnessed The Octopus Project live can vouch that they are about the most fun you can have with an instrumental band; theremins, instrument-swapping and big balloons are the order of the day when the Texas four-piece come to town. Their music too is never lacking in colour and vibrancy; with their amalgamation of post-rock with noisy electronics, the band occupy a similar musical territory to Toronto's Holy F*ck, successfully avoiding the po-faced pitfalls of many of their contemparies; their sugar-coated sound is as likely to appeal to fans of Deerhoof as Explosions In The Sky.
But on their fourth album Hexadecagon, the band have taken a turn for the serious. Comprising just eight songs, many stepping over the 6-minute mark, the album sees the band attempt more focused, patient song-writing, cranking the songs up gradually in true post-rock fashion. Don't expect to find any two-minute blasts of hyperactivity in the vein of Truck here. Not surprisingly, Hexadecagon takes a lot more listens to fully engage with, and annoyingly some of the material refuses to ignite at all. After the high-tempo and yet somehow tentative piano-led opener Fuguefat, Korakrit simply kills the initial momentum, never lifting itself beyond anything other than pleasant background music.
It's this lack of immediacy compared to their previous work that makes it all too easy to dismiss Hexadecagon on the first few listens - I know I nearly did - but sticking with it yields its rewards. Toneloop's ghostly wordless vocals and reverberating guitars are a reminder of The Octopus Project's ability to create haunting atmospherics. Both Glass Jungle and Hallucinists, the most inherently Octopus Project-sounding songs here, are rich with the usual twinkly effects and electronic pyrotechnics that suggest the band are still hitting the E-numbers pretty hard. Album centrepiece Circling peters out over its final four minutes, but not before delivering six minutes of jackhammer beats and rippling piano chords, and whilst the closing Catalog builds in logical fashion, its last few minutes of crash-bang-wallop still satisfy.
Hexadecagon sees the Octopus Project mature their sound, and for the most part it's a success. Its not without its growing pains, but a few different shades of grey amongst their broad pallette of colours hasn't caused them the harm you might expect.
Monday, 8 November 2010
Who's better, Blur or Oasis? The smart-arse (and in fact, correct) answer is of course Pulp, and the fantastic news is that next year they're re-uniting next year for a string of shows. Better still, it's the classic line-up that put out mid-90's gems Different Class and His' N' Hers, playing all together for the first time since 1996. So far, the only confirmed shows are next summer's Primavera and Wireless Festivals, but the band have confirmed that more dates are on the cards, and you can sign up for updates on the band's website; judging from the promo messages, they've lost none of their legendary wit.
Thursday, 4 November 2010
Tune into Cam FM Breakthrough on Sunday 7th November for an exclusive live session from Cambridgeshire musician C Joynes. Currently signed to Bo'Weavil Records, Joynes has been wowing audiences both as a solo artist and with a collective of artists known as The Restless Dead. Calling his technique “Anglo-naive and contemporary parlour guitar", C Joynes' masterful and highly unorthodox playing of the guitar, banjo, and anything else with strings is not to be missed.
Wednesday, 3 November 2010
The release schedule is showing clear signs of slowing down as we head towards Xmas and those Album of the Year listings, not to mention all those Best Of... compilations and the X Factor single (shudder).
Monday 1st NovemberAndrew Bird - Useless Creatures (Fat Possum)
Brian Eno: Small Craft on a Milk Sea (Warp)
Elliott Smith: Introduction to...Elliott Smith (Kill Rock Stars)
Monday 8th NovemberThe Concretes - WYWH (Friendly Fire)
Earth - A Bureaucratic Desire for Extra Capsular Extractions (Southern Lord)
Gary War - Police Water EP (Sacred Bones)
Haight Ashbury - Here In The Golden Rays (Lime Records)
Weezer - Pinkerton (re-release)/Death To False Metal (Commercial Marketing/Geffen)
Monday 15th NovemberJapandroids - Heavenward Grand Prix 7" (Polyvinyl)
Stereolab - Not Music (Drag City)