Friday, March 07, 2003

Donald Duck-hunter

How ironic (if also predictable) that French opposition to Bush's moves towards war with Iraq has precipitated a surge of virulent anti-French feeling amongst American right-wingers. Here, for instance, you can find a few "hilarious" racist jokes, including one adapted from a comment made by the US Defence Secretary himself, loveable warmonger Donald Rumsfeld, that going to war without the French would be like going duck-hunting without an accordion. And, of course, this follows all the Republican and media references to "cheese-eating surrender monkeys". And then the same people demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of why anti-American sentiments exist in the first place. Quite staggering.
Know Your Enemy #2

By far the best email I've had in a long while - a friend on Gareth Gates:

So what it was, see, I'd had a few and then this competition comes on
the telly. The winner gets to meet Gareth Gates. To enter you have to
text in why you'd like to meet Gareth. My text: "I'd like to meet
Gareth Gates so I can fuck his stupid face up with a crowbar".
Who thinks I'll win?

Reasoned, subtle, witty...

Thursday, March 06, 2003

Word of the day

In normal circumstances the word "proactive" practically makes me wretch (like "multi-tasking" and "thinking outside the box" - it's all wanky business-speak), but I was quite happy to hear Hans Blix's adjective of choice, used to describe Iraq's recent behaviour, being bandied about freely on last night's news programmes. A spanner in the works of George 'n' Tone's well-oiled-and-ready-to-go war machine?
Criminal records

Wahey, another new feature! Please excuse the lameness of the title, and allow me to explain...

Anally retentive music lover that I am, I'm preparing a list of the ten songs which have been most influential in the direction and development of my musical tastes (ANOTHER imminent new feature!). In the meantime, in an act of humiliating semi-public self-flagellation, I thought I'd share with you those evil, evil songs which have over the years somehow found their way by stealth into my music collection, predominantly via recorded tapes, and which, if unacknowledged and accidentally chanced upon one day by some unsuspecting friend, might bring the whole carefully constructed edifice of my tastes crashing down around my ears, with all the shame and anguish that would ensue. Hopefully this will prove to be a cathartic experience. And if you find yourself tempted to laugh, mock and ridicule, then just remember - I bet you've got some horrific skeletons in your closet too.

Anyway, given I've already posted about them once today, I might as well start with...

1. 'Local Boy In The Photograph' - Stereophonics
"The new Manics", I read somewhere in 1997. At least the Manics started off as exciting, spiky, politically-charged, sloganeering, before taking a wrong turn and finding themselves flabby and prematurely middle-aged and waddling around aimlessly in an MOR muckpit. Stereophonics started off in the pit, and the muck level has just risen and risen, as correspondingly have levels of tedium among right-thinking individuals the length and breadth of the land. Let's dissect them, shall we? (Metaphorically speaking - although if anyone has access to a scalpel and knows where they live...) There's the frizzy-haired muppet with the inane grin on drums. There's the beanpole bassist who's such a dumbass that he got his name tattooed on his neck so he'd be able to remember it, and then discovered that, no matter how hard he tries, he can't actually SEE his own neck without the aid of a mirror. And lastly but not leastly, there's the poisonous little runt with the persecution complex up front. 'Local Boy In The Photograph' recounts the harrowing tale of a young lad who commits suicide by jumping under a train. Give me the three band members bound and gagged and take us to a highspeed railway line, and I'll gladly help them towards a more empathetic understanding of the situation.

(Thanks to Mike over at Troubled Diva for inspiring me to come up with some ideas, however cliched, both for waffling about music and giving a sense of structure to my ramblings)
Know Your Enemy

What will be a new regular feature, with any luck. Because everyone loves a spectacularly snide and spiteful put-down.

1. "that egregious confraternity of rhymesters"

No, not Kim Howells on So Solid Crew but in fact Thomas Love Peacock on the Lake Poets in his 1820 essay 'The Four Ages Of Poetry'.
Text message of the day

"Cheating Smoggie motherfuckers" - Paul

Well, that lacklustre no-show rather pissed on our championship chips, didn't it?

"I eat pieces of shit like you for breakfast!"

Read Olav's assessment of one of the finest films ever made.
Just cooking

According to that champion of cutting-edge sounds Kelly Jones, the forthcoming Stereophonics album (no, don't run for the hills just yet, there's a punchline coming...) features a couple of songs which are "a bit like Massive Attack, with more electronic sounds". So, that'll be the usual tough-as-old-boots meat and potatoes but with a sprig of parsley on top then?

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Premium quality rock 'n' roll: last seen headed this way

Some of the upcoming gigs at Nottingham's Rescue Rooms which have caught my eye:

16th Mar THE KILLS
19th Apr RADIO 4

It's all good...
Quote of the day

"I'm 27 and that's the year of rock 'n' roll death. I guess I'm just going to try to get through this year without dying" - Jack White

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Why not turn off the TV and go and do something better instead?

Why not indeed? These days, the majority of my energy seems to be expended in procrastination and avoiding anything remotely approaching productive or constructive activity. Last night (as is becoming distressingly common), I found myself unable to switch off the TV and consequently numerous pressing tasks were carelessly laid to one side as I feasted upon a smorgasbord of light entertainment, only becoming satiated and nauseous around 2.30am. To give you some idea of what was on the menu:

'Never Mind The Buzzcocks' (BBC2)
It struck me even more powerfully than ever just how indirectly proportional Phil Jupitus's wit is to his bodily mass, and as such is dwarfed by that of Bill Bailey, a man who resembles a disorientated and ever-so-slightly senile Viking.

'Shooting Stars' (BBC2)
George Dawes: "Knock knock"
Bob: "Who's there?"
George Dawes: "George"
Bob: "George who?"
George Dawes: "What, you blanking me now, eh?"
Only Vic and Bob could leave Penny Smith rolling around on the floor in a giant pigeon costume.

'V Graham Norton' (C4)
Pamela Anderson brought a touch of gravitas to proceedings by being interviewed wearing a bikini, which also left the audience and viewers in absolutely no doubt as to the attributes which have secured her lasting fame. In the second half of the show, it emerged that Duncan from elephant-loving boy band Blue suffers from a pathological fear of logs following a recurring childhood nightmare. Who says TV isn't educational?

'The Book Group' (C4)
A repeat of the last in the series, and - as ever - quite brilliant. Roll on series three.

'Classmates' (C4)
The cameras followed a reunion for the former pupils of an exclusive Surrey sixth form school. Oh how I wanted them to be uniformly twattish, arrogant and ostentatiously monied - and some of them were. But gradually I felt myself being lured into the mawkishly nostalgic love-in. TV be damned.

'Together Again' (C4)
The concept: bring a couple back face-to-face with each other years after they separated so that they can work out their relationship issues and come to some kind of closure. The reality: emotional pornography for the voyeuristic 'Big Brother'-watching curtain twitcher in all of us. Once again, I was watching despite myself.
St Bernard

After three fabulous free-flowing exhibitions of power, pace and skill, it was inevitable that sooner or later we'd have to grind out a result - and that's precisely what we did on Saturday when Chelsea were the visitors to St James's Park. Something of a bogey team for Sir Bobby, but at last he got one over them, thanks to a gutsy and determined display from the team and an excellently taken goal by Olivier Bernard following some wizardry by the returning Viana. If we can get one over the Smoggies tomorrow night - and the Riverside has been a happy hunting ground for us in the past - then we really are cooking on gas.
Quote of the day

"I do not believe in love ... I never could believe in anything I cannot experience" - D H Lawrence

Monday, March 03, 2003

Yeah Yeah Yeahs: OK

And in filed the Nottingham Socialites two by two, with their asymmetrical hairstyles and "individual" approach to clothing - for two hours, at least, they could go to Rock City safe in the knowledge that they wouldn't have to couch their enjoyment in irony or mingle with The Great Unhip. Karen O's got a lot to answer for.

OK, to the music. Whereas other cities had the pleasure of witnessing the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Ikara Colt together in an art-trash marriage made in heaven, us East Midlanders were deprived even of supposed support act Cranebuilders. Instead we had to make do with a fat moustachioed Ron Jeremy lookalike who eventually stripped to a pair of blue Y-fronts and whose stageshow consisted of lyrical muckiness, prodigious perspiration and proclamations of his own greatness at the end of every song. Yes, it could only have been Har Mar Superstar. By the end of a half-hour set, his one joke (being a parodic smuttily unwholesome male Peaches) had worn extremely thin, with a Stevie Wonder cover, new single 'Power Lunch' and a track co-written with The Faint leaving me, well, flaccid. Beck did the whole 'postmodern white-boy-does-Prince pastiche' thing with far more wit and panache on Midnite Vultures ('Debra' is a particular favourite of mine), and look what happened to him - he was crucified for it. Still, this guy's got guts (as well as a large gut) - ritual humiliation every night must be hard to take.

If only the Yeah Yeah Yeahs had been as unequivocally and resoundingly good as their moniker promises. The 'Master' EP remains for me one of the best singles of last year, and they rampaged through all five tracks. On first listen 'Bang' and 'Our Time' in particular sounded brilliantly fresh, announcing the arrival of an exciting new talent - and live they were thrillingly primal and raw. 'Art Star', though, lost what (admittedly) little subtlety it has on record. Karen O might have an, ahem, "unique" vocal style, but she was a magnetic presence onstage, one minute with her hands on hips, the next bouncing up and down shrieking lines like "As a fuck, son, you suck" over tribal drumbeats and the abrasive arty Blues Explosion riffs of Nick Zinner, who looks like William Reid of The Jesus & Mary Chain if he'd been locked in a cupboard without food for a week. But the suspicion persists that the new material due to appear on forthcoming album Fever To Tell isn't quite in the same league as the likes of 'Miles Away' and 'Machine', and playing 'Our Time' as the single encore song simply underlined my feeling - it might well be their time to be hated, but, with just two singles under their belt, it's not their time to be trying to blow people away as headliners in Rock City's main room, especially when they don't seem to know how to end any of their songs. You've got to learn to crawl before you learn to walk.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Mariah: Christ!

According to the official Sonic Youth website, the band have recorded a new song for a split 7" single with Erase Errata, to be released on Narnack Records. Details are scant, apart from the fact that Kim takes vocal duties and that "it's a rocker folks, so be prepared". Oh, and the track's called 'Mariah Carey And The Arthur Doyle Hand Cream' - proof positive that old punks never die, and no matter how far and often they might threaten to disappear up their own arses, they never lose their sense of humour either.

Two more very readable blogs to have caught my attention:

Hipster Detritus
Little Red Boat
Bye bye Bayer

Last night we put a very sorry and shambolic Bayer Leverkusen side to the sword for the second time in a week, this time the damage being inflicted by the returning Shearer who filled his boots with a first half hat-trick. He's coming up on the rails to overtake Hughie Gallagher as the club's third highest ever goalscorer, now just two behind. Dyer was once again bursting with energy and Ameobi skillful and tricky, while Speed controlled the midfield with ease and Kerr put in a good shift on the right. The tenacious tackling of Griffin, Bramble and Bernard also deserves a mention. It's all still in our hands, but thanks to Inter's draw with Barcelona we really can't afford defeat in Milan in two weeks' time - a tall order, but not impossible given the current spirit and will to win which will hopefully prove a valuable asset during Saturday's crucial league match against Chelsea.

From one legend, Shearer, to another, Sir Bobby Robson, whose life and career in football was celebrated in a BBC1 documentary on Tuesday night. This was fascinating partly as an insight into life inside the club, but mainly as a reminder of the 70-year-old's achievements in the game. Any manager receiving plaudits from Figo, Ronaldo and van Nistelrooy deserves great credit. The overall tone may have been hagiographical, but then I wouldn't have had it any other way. One of my favourite comments was Freddie Shepherd's observation that he's only seen Bobby speechless once, on the coach on the way back from an away match when a distressed Kieron Dyer suddenly blurted out, "We'll have to go back - I've left my earring in the dressing room". Bobby turned to Shepherd and, shaking his head, said, "You see what I have to work with?" His humour shone through even when discussing his brush with serious illness - upon being told he had a malignant melanoma in his face, he quipped, "I had no idea what that was. I thought he was talking about a right half from Bayern Munich". Long may he prosper at St James's.

(Apologies to the uninterested for the amount of my blog devoted to football-related matters in recent weeks, but you have to excuse me - it really is a great time to be a Newcastle fan and it's imperative that I crow about our current form as much as possible before it all goes horribly wrong...)
Satire: not dead

It seems that elephant-loving Lee Ryan of popular boy band Blue has penned an anti-war song.

(Thanks to Popjustice for the link)

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Lyric-that's-stuck-in-my-head-and-refusing-to-leave Of The Day

"I had seven faces / Thought I knew which one to wear; / I'm sick of spending these lonely nights / Training myself not to care"
'NYC' - Interpol
Black marks for The White Stripes?

According to this link old Jacky White could be in a spot of bother for borrowing lines from the cinematic classic 'Citizen Kane' for the track 'The Union Forever' from last album White Blood Cells. The news has destroyed much of the mystique of the song for me - once I'd progressed from playing 'Hotel Yorba' and 'Fell In Love With A Girl' on repeat to listening to the whole album (and it took a while), it was the spoken-word rant in the middle of 'The Union Forever' that really captivated my attention.

(Thanks to Deviated Septum for the link)

Monday, February 24, 2003

Dyer straits

Revenge is sweet. Another fabulous performance on Saturday to crush Leeds 3-0 without ever seeming to move out of cruise control, avenge an unjust 2-0 defeat at home earlier in the season, and cap a fantastic week for the club. Many more results like this, and we'll have to start hoping Arsenal and not Man Utd or Chelsea slip up.
Feel good hits of the weekend

The soundtrack to the best weekend I can remember:

1. 'Feel Good Hit Of The Summer' - Queens Of The Stone Age
2. 'Party Hard' - Andrew WK
3. 'Harmonic Generator' - The Datsuns
4. 'Cochise' - Audioslave
5. 'Teenage Riot' - Sonic Youth
6. 'This Charming Man' - The Smiths
7. 'Little Argument With Myself' - Low
8. 'NYC' - Interpol
9. 'Relax' - Frankie Goes To Hollywood
10. 'April Skies' - The Jesus & Mary Chain

When 'Feel Good Hit Of The Summer' started up in Rock City at around 1am on Saturday night, I was transported into a Dionysian frenzy and really did lose my mind for a few minutes. You should try it, it's refreshing.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Bobby dazzler

A fantastic Champions' League win in Germany last night, and three much-needed points. OK, so Bayer Leverkusen were abysmal and we showed a little naivety at times (especially Bramble and Jenas) - but don't let that detract from the first-half performance which won us the match. In the absence of Shearer and Bellamy, Ameobi and Lua Lua were brilliant - pacy, powerful, tricky, skillful, and far too much for a feeble Leverkusen defence to deal with. Although they can count themselves unlucky that the first-choice duo are likely to step back into the team for Saturday's trip to Leeds, as a fan it's reassuring to know that we have some talented firepower on the bench.

Happy birthday Sir Bobby.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Reading between the lines

I'm fast becoming a bibliophile-phile. Although I missed 'The Book Group' on Friday, I got to see the repeat last night - quite possibly the best episode yet. Absolutely brilliant, and worth watching for two things alone: the expression of glee and delight on Rab's face when he got to visit a farm, and the scene where Dirka and Fist were trying on dresses to show off their 'bumps'. As ever, the tension between Claire and Kenny was electric, and James Lance as Lachlan was fantastic - particularly his delivery of the line, "I need a poo".

Mike is once again indulging in his fondness for interactive blog fun by asking: Which Decade Is Tops For Pops? Get yourself over to Troubled Diva for more details, and remember - every vote counts!

Three fine weblogs to have caught my eye lately:

Deviated Septum
This Is Not An Exit
The Yes / No Interlude

Check them out, if you haven't done so already.
Birthday greetings

Congratulations to everyone's favourite wizened white-haired miracle-worker Sir Bobby Robson, who today celebrates becoming a septagenarian, and also to his dynamic midfield prodigy Jermaine Jenas, 20 today. A Champions' League victory over Leverkusen in Germany tonight would be the icing on their cakes...

Monday, February 17, 2003

Kings of the Stone Age

And so it came to pass that I enjoyed Saturday night rock thrills courtesy of Night With No Name. I arrived at Rock City a bit later than anticipated, just in time to see first band Phoenix Down finishing up. So, there I was, soaking up the forthcoming Burning Brides album (a cheeky bit of promotion for their upcoming NWNN gig, Mr DJ!) and wondering how the hell Rock City manage to make their Pepsi taste so fucking awful, when on came one of the oddest bands I've seen in a long while, Dureforsog (there are a couple of umlauts in there somewhere). Even three days on, I'm still not entirely sure what I made of them. They're Danish fruitloops, and played a sort of elasticated and surrealist post-punk, the singer wandering around in a daze clutching a bunch of balloons and howling intermittently. It might just be that I've been listening to Q And Not U lately, but they're the only band that even vaguely sprang to mind. The prevailing emotion amongst the audience was, I think, bewilderment.

Headline act Cave In, an unusual band in themselves, were an altogether more comprehensible prospect. This, I think, was especially evident in the material showcased from forthcoming record (and major label debut) Antenna. Tracks like 'Anchor', 'Youth Overrided' and 'Penny Racer' show that they've come a long way since their hardcore screamo days, and it's not that hard to see why Dave Grohl likes them so much - these songs are fairly short, fairly straightforward, muscular and melodic, following on from the likes of 'Brain Candle' from last full-length album Jupiter. But, it has to be said, not all that impressive. Fellow newies 'Joy Opposites' and 'Inspire' (Stephen Brodsky was begged for this by an internet bootlegger at the front) are more wholesome, but, for sheer depth and density, 'Come Into Your Own', 'Dark Driving' (both from last year's Tides Of Tomorrow mini-LP) and last year's single 'Lost In The Air' are a class apart. These longer drawn-out affairs are when Cave In are at their most interesting, because it's here that they really play with fire, performing almost impossible pirhouettes between post-hardcore and prog, and consequently it's here that the threat of failure and collapse is most real. Sure, sometimes it doesn't work, and the call to suspend disbelief goes unheeded - but then you can't fault them for being ambitious and audacious. Fittingly, the encore of 'Big Riff' steals the show, alternately drifting and bulldozing like all their best material, loud enough to leave me to stagger outside with a buzzing static headache. There are perhaps only two other bands that I've heard in the last year or so who are performing the same inventive experiments on rock and who actually ROCK: Queens Of The Stone Age and Sparta.

(Spooky coincidence: bassist Caleb Scofield was wearing the same F-Minus T-shirt (green lettering with a green AK-47 underneath) as guitarist Aaron North from practically the last band I saw in Rock City's Disco II, The Icarus Line. And I was wearing the Icarus Line T-shirt I bought at that gig...)
Secrets and lies

I've just finished Donna Tartt's 'The Secret History', and, rather like the last work of pure fiction I read, J G Ballard's 'Super-Cannes', it's the sort of taxing thriller that doesn't make you feel like reading it is an insult to your intelligence. Indeed, in the discussions of the civilisation and language of Ancient Greece, 'The Secret History' is actually quite intellectual, perhaps at times irritatingly so. The story, though, is darkly engrossing and Tartt's writing enchanting and powerful. Another Christmas book purchase vindicated!
Sorry Mr Jackson

Michael, Michael, Michael. I'm sure that, after the indignity of the documentary and all the ensuing fallout about what a freakish caricature you really are, you're feeling rather vindictive and spiteful - but searching for "martin bashir PUNCHED" via Google is not the answer and will bring only short-term relief and satisfaction.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Super furry animals

News to warm the soul - Mogwai are back in the studio.
Diamond in the rough

A metaphorical pat on the back to our boy JJ for shining like a beacon in a sea of shite during England's miserable defeat at the hands of Australia last night - the first of many caps, I hope. That £5 million we paid Forest a year ago is starting to look like peanuts...
Remember the Dismembered

"I guess you could call it superpowers, but no-one is going to save the world with what I've got" - 'Superpowers'

Last month Eric Axelson, bassist / keyboardist with Washington DC's The Dismemberment Plan, posted on the band's official website the news that after four albums they had decided to split. What follows is part obituary, part personal appreciation, and part a critical and alternative perspective on Olav's response to the break-up not solely motivated by bitterness that he got to the 'The Dismemberment Plan dismembered' punchline before I did...

Of course, I should begin by acknowledging that he was instrumental in my discovering them. Having read some magazine article that sparked my interest, I found an MP3 of 'What Do You Want Me To Say?' on Napster and listened to it repeatedly over the summer of 2000. Back in Nottingham, I availed myself of 1999's Emergency & I LP, and then Change when it emerged the following year. This was around the same time that I came across Clinic and their Internal Wrangler record. Both bands struck me as remarkably similar in being completely different to anything I'd ever heard before, and in different ways. Clinic somehow fashion fantastically sinister pop music from surf guitar licks, avant-garde garage punk, Merseybeat and melodica, while TDP's songs are a riot of uninhibited and colourful ideas drawn from across the musical spectrum, a victory for playfulness and imagination over stagnation and narrow-minded parasitism. In an email interview early last year, Eric told me: "I think we're inventive and ambitious, but we don't sit around thinking how to be that way. We all listen to tons of music, everything from Top 40 to underground hip-hop to punk to alternative country music. Everything, literally. And I think that's what makes us sound ambitious to people. But that's probably what happens when you're trying to write songs that sound like Kylie Minogue and Roni Size and The Band all at the same time". Careless Talk Costs Lives and former NME journalist Stevie Chick has called them "resolutely out there", and their contributions to the split EP with Desoto labelmates Juno just about sums up what they're all about (as much as any two tracks possibly could): 'The Dismemberment Plan Gets Rich', a frantic seizure of a song with an entirely gratuitous disco breakdown and lyrics about drug-running, and a frankly unbelievable cover of Jennifer Paige's 80s hit 'Crush', which turns it into possibly the most achingly gorgeous torch song I've ever heard.

So, the fact that the esteemed and discerning author of It Makes No Difference can glibly bracket TDP with such bands as The Promise Ring and Jimmy Eat World is, I confess, the source of some bewilderment. JEW deal in big-hitting emo tuneage. TPR's Very Emergency is packed full of sprightly and sparky punk-pop even leaner and cleaner than Weezer, although they threw it all away by changing gear too fast with Wood / Water which aims at sensitive reflection but sounds in the main listless and jaded. This much I agree. But both Jimmy Eat World and The Promise Ring (at their best) offer the listener the quick fix, the immediate turn-on, the instant gratification, songs that lodge themselves in your head on the first listen. All fine and well - but after a while they become too in-your-face, too shallow, too obvious. By contrast, the last two Dismemberment Plan albums are finely nuanced, rich, explorative collections which unravel seductively over time and, thrillingly, give the listener a glimpse of what music can be: "This is a life of possibility", sings Travis Morrison on Emergency & I's opening track. Olav, expressing his disappointment that Change "merely simmered", recalls the "heart-stopping anthems" of Emergency & I. No - they never stooped so low as to write anything as oafish as an 'anthem', and Change is, if anything, superior to its predecessor by virtue of avoiding, for the most part, songs which might potentially see them labelled, and thereby written off, as 'quirky'. The opening four tracks are stunning. The first line of 'The Face Of The Earth', "As kisses go, it wasn't anything out of the ordinary", itself isn't anything out of the ordinary, but the way Travis sings it gives me goosebumps every time.

What ultimately upsets and disappoints Olav is the band's failure to "capitalise" on the 'Weezer market'. It was "wasteful", he says. It IS, I think, "shallow and silly" to suggest that there is a link between this 'failure' and their decision to split up. Attempting to explain the decision, Eric wrote on their website: "The best answer we can come up with is that we felt like we'd accomplished all we could as a songwriting and recordmaking unit, and that we wanted - as individuals - to try things that can be precluded by living the lifestyle of the touring musician". The pressures of commercial 'failure' didn't come into it. The definition of success in commercial terms is a very narrow one. The Dismemberment Plan simply did not play the game and jump aboard the merry-go-round. Their major label career lasted one album. "If they weren't so damned up their own arse about it, both bands [TDP and TPR] would have had hit singles coming out of their nose" - who's to say? Who's to say if they'd had the same corporate money behind them and hype bulldozer in front of them as Jimmy Eat World, they wouldn't have become as widely popular? What can be said with some certainty is that, laudably, commercial success was not their whole raison d'etre. They didn't have hit singles and, more importantly, they didn't care.

So let's not lament wasted talent, or dwell on the 'tragedy' of their demise, but savour that legacy instead. I guess you could call it superpowers, but no-one was going to save the world with what they'd got. It's not their fault the world didn't want saving.


Interview with Travis Morrison in Stylus Magazine

Article on TDP and Juno including more from my interview with Eric

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Less is more

Low are a band whose music I've only had the sense to seize upon in the last couple of years, prompted more by friendly word of mouth, intriguing aural appetisers and personal recommendation than by any heavy-handed forcefeeding at the hands of the industry's hype machine. This seems to have been the way with many bands - The Jesus And Mary Chain, The Dismemberment Plan, Jane's Addiction, Juno, Fugazi and My Bloody Valentine, to name but a few. They've all gradually manoeuvred their way via my ears into occupying a secure place in my heart. Last night's opportunity to see the Duluth three-piece at the Birmingham Academy was not to be missed - and, in retrospect, not a gig to be forgotten.

Listening attentively to Low albums is a frequently awe-inspiring and spellbinding experience, and hearing the songs in the flesh is no different. The voices of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker dovetail as remarkably live as they do on record, Parker in particular cutting a figure somewhere between Nico and Mo Tucker, stood upright at the minimalist drumkit. This is a band for whom superlatives were invented. Pretention, glitz and showmanship be damned - this is all about the stark, the fragile, the beautiful. It's all too easy to erect a huge wall of noise on stage behind which to hide. Watching Low, that defensive tactic starts to smack of downright cowardice. This trio are, by contrast, courageous enough to leave vast gaps and spaces in their songs. These are artists who, in the normal course of performing their music on stage, must ritually leave themselves utterly exposed and defenceless - they play at such a low volume and slow tempo that the slightest murmurings of conversation in the audience would be fatal. They seem to have an innate understanding of the power of interweaving light and shade, tone and depth, music and silence; indeed, on songs like 'Closer' and '(That's How You Sing) Amazing Grace' the silence really does speak loudest.

Last night's set was comprised predominantly of material from last year's Trust LP - 'Candy Girl' struck the shivering, sinister opening note, the mood complemented later by 'John Prine' but alleviated by 'Tonight', 'La La La Song', brazenly brilliant single 'Canada' and a meanderingly beautiful rendition of 'Sunflower' from Things We Lost In The Fire. Highest points of the night were the awesome gospel blues song which closed the main set and which would make The White Stripes cower in admiration, and the two final encore tracks, 'In Metal' and 'Will The Night', the latter featuring the avowal "Tonight together would be divine". Thanks Alan - tonight together WAS divine.
Sweet salvation?

As of 22nd February, Nottingham's Social has serious competition in the cool intimate gig venue stakes, in the shape of the Rescue Rooms, situated next to Rock City. Time will tell if this town is big enough for the both of them, but the Rooms are already confirmed as playing host to (amongst many others) Burning Brides, The Libertines, Radio 4, The Rapture, Calexico and Soledad Brothers.
Page to screen

Intriguing news that a movie adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis's 'The Rules Of Attraction' is due to hit cinemas on 14th March.

(Thanks to Dead Kenny for that)
French toast

Sunday's match against league leaders Arsenal suggested that we've improved in the course of this season, on top of the massive strides made last year. March 2002: soundly beaten at home by a side on their way to the title. February 2003: creditable draw against a team at full strength, Ljungberg aside, achieved after playing over a third of the match with ten men. Laurent Robert at last showed evidence of real passion in scoring a very fine equaliser, but unfortunately his new-found willingness to get stuck in spilled over into overexuberance shortly afterwards as he was booked for a hefty challenge on Lauren and then shown the red two minutes later for blocking a free-kick from point-blank range. Bergkamp was sly, Robert was foolish and the law was followed to the letter. Most memorable moment of the match? A tie between Given's acrobatic headed save after Bramble's miscue, and Sir Bobby looking daggers at the substituted Bergkamp and shaking his head.

Mention should also be made of Sir Bobby's Manager Of The Month award for January and Jenas's call-up to the full England squad - both thoroughly well-deserved. JJ can count himself unlucky to have missed out on the Player Of The Month award, having found his scoring touch and made decisive contributions in games against West Ham, Bolton and Spurs which were worth seven points to the team. If our new-found defensive solidity (and Bramble's recent performances in particular) wasn't satisfying enough, there's also the reassuring thought that we've still got Woodgate to accommodate in the team. Things are rosy in the Geordie garden.

Of course, the satisfaction derived from our excellent run of form can only be increased by the league standing of the laughably woeful Mackems - bottom. I have so far refrained from commenting on the Wearside circus, but a few comments wouldn't go amiss, particularly given recent events. On top of Saturday's heavy 4-1 defeat at Spurs, the sour-faced hypocrites have been landed with a big fat FA charge for improper transfer conduct, having been found guilty of exactly what they angrily accused Man Utd of recently in the David Bellion saga. Who would have thought that, following the 3-1 home defeat by Charlton in which they managed to score three own goals, it could have got even worse for them? Well, certainly not the fans who tried to leave that match after 35 minutes with the scoreline at 3-0, only to be turned back by stewards and forced to endure more torment. If it's any consolation, lads, it's all tremendously entertaining for us black and whites, even if it's not for you. Keep up the good work!
Feel good hits of the 11th February

Tune in to the soundtrack in my head...

1. 'Canada' - Low
2. 'The Face Of The Earth' - The Dismemberment Plan
3. 'American Trilogy' - The Delgados
4. 'Hurt' - Johnny Cash
5. 'Goodbye' - The Coral
6. 'You're Pretty Good Looking' - The White Stripes
7. 'Into The Groove' - Madonna
8. 'A Song For The Dead' - Queens Of The Stone Age
9. 'Dancing Queen' - Abba
10. 'Close To You' - The Carpenters