Monday, 28 February 2011

Le Tigre - Who Took The Bomp?

The Le Tigre members have been throwing hints about this for a good while now, but finally the Le Tigre tour DVD, Who Took The Bomp?: Le Tigre On Tour has a release date - June 7th (the day after my birthday. How convenient!)

The documentary follows the trio on their 2004 world tour for their last release to date, This Island. I went to the London date at the Forum with a weird mix of my Dad and two friends who didn't really know each other (and were both Le Tigre newcomers). I can't recall who the first support was (a woman with a laptop? I don't think I ever caught her name) but I remember Gravy Train!!!! bouncing around the stage in tiny shorts, gyrating against each other and shaking pom poms. I think my Dad might have wondered about my music taste at that point... to confirm his fears, a few months later I took him along to see Peaches live. I think he secretly enjoyed it after he'd popped his eyes back into their sockets.

Seeing my teenage heroes in the flesh was mindblowing - all three in matching outfits, singing at the top of their lungs and grinning throughout the synchronised dance moves while images and homemade videos flashed up on the screen behind them. At one point I swear Kathleen flashed a smile my way (maybe because no one stood near me was moving and I was probably jumping up and down like a red-faced enthusiast). I left with a bag full of merch and felt invincible, returning to school the next day with this huge secret about a band no one else seemed to care about.

(Footage from the Forum show)

Beastie Boy Adam Yauch's film company Oscilloscope Laboratories is putting out the release. Director Kerthy Fix previously co-directed another indie rock doc, Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields.

The film premieres at next month's SXSW festival, and will also screen at New York's Museum of Modern Art on April 4. Neither of which I will be going to, so I'll find a trusty friend to report back.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

John Stezaker at the Whitechapel Gallery

“Mary, a word. A simple word. Are you there in the cold country? Mountains in your eyes like a tunnel. Your mouth still full, Horses galloping through your pages.” - Lee Ranaldo, To Mary

The imagery in these lyrics always conjures up Stezaker's work in my mind, especially the 'Mountains in your eyes...' line. Stezaker's subjects are a joining of the figurative and landscape, forcing the viewer to look a little closer at what initially looks like a very simple positioning of two images. His interest in found imagery is limitless as he manipulates, slicing and inverting pictures to create unique new compositions, often adding a haunting or ambiguous quality.

In his Masks series, the silent, glamorous movie stars from bygone eras with seemingly featureless faces take on form and expression through the rushing rivers, craggy mountain tops and overhanging branches placed over their posed smiles. The collages give a new meaning, altering the initial focus and subject of each piece.

In other works a rectangle is cut out of the photo; a large, white space, often central to the image, is suddenly desolate and draws the eye towards the outer borders which would have been previously overlooked. Stezaker encourages the viewer to consider the art of looking, and the subtle shift in power that such fragmented images can summon.

His exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery tracks his work from the 1970s to the present, and is on 'til the 19th March. It's also totally free (with suggested donation) - I'm already planning to head back for another look this week. For more information just click.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The Racket - New Boyfriend

New track by The Racket up on Bandcamp!

Listen here

Poly Styrene: Get Well Soon!

Today I heard the terrible news that Poly Styrene (frontwoman of the brilliant sax-punks X-Ray Spex) has been diagnosed with cancer. Fans will know that she's been gearing up to release solo material in 2011, and looked set to take the world by storm yet again.

While her album Generation Indigo is still being released on March 28th, she's currently unable to commit to any live dates while she gets better. But with her fighting spirit she'll no doubt return to the stage soon... oh cancer, up yours! Get well soon Poly, we're all thinking of you.

And as a reminder of just how commanding and fearless she is, here's some vids of X-Ray Spex in their heyday:

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Wild Beasts - Smother

Wild Beasts have let slip that their third album (the follow up from 2009's beautiful Two Dancers) will be released on May 9th and will be called Smother. I've been a huge fan of theirs since I first came across the track 'The Devil's Crayon' from their first album, and it'll be interesting to see how their sound has developed in the past year.

For now, a small taster has been leaked, though to be honest, it doesn't really sound any different from 'The Fun Powder Plot' so we'll see how the album takes shape when a full length song is available for streaming. The band will also be touring the album in May - the dates can be found here.

Monday, 21 February 2011

PJ Harvey - Let England Shake

I've been spending the entire weekend incessantly and somewhat obsessively listening to Polly Jean Harvey's new album, Let England Shake. So much so that informs me that I've listened 92 times in two days. I think that might be a new record - it's certainly been a long time since I last got so stuck on an album by an artist who didn't stop making music in the Nineties.

I went back to Brighton on Friday to stay the night, and Let England Shake kept me company on the various trains and tubes there and back again; punctuating the background tube station hum with PJ's throaty, enthralling voice and atmospheric portrayal of all that encapsulates the history of England.

Written with her head full of images and focus on the First World War, the damp trenches and bloody impact of war are beautifully captured, with delicate melodies and stripped-down instrumentals that summon up a nostalgic battlefield of suffering, death and homeland pride.

This is easily one of her most accessible albums to date, despite being anything but straightforward. Songs such as 'Let England Shake', 'All And Everyone' and 'England' are fragile, wiry compositions that are seeped in memorable melodies and emotion. The thudding drums in 'The Last Living Rose' and 'The Glorious Land' conjures up imagery of desolate greenlands and flowing streams, with trumpets filtering through the whimsical harmonies of PJ and the many male voices that are reminiscent of soldiers marching to war.

I didn't sleep at all last night thanks to a mix of insomnia and flu, and the chorus of 'The Words That Maketh Murder' rang through my fevered dreams, circling my bed in a vivid whirl of anguished narration. It was quite a surreal experience, and in some way adhered to the strength of the emotive language that PJ is able to summon in her music; creating entire landscapes using only her powerful voice, traditional instruments and bewitching lyrics.

This is one of the most captivating releases I've listened to in many months, and is another reminder of why PJ Harvey is one of the greatest songwriters of all time (and I don't use that phrase lightly!).

Let England Shake is out now - more information and the short films that accompany each song can be found here.

Film: Brighton Rock

"If you're looking for me, looking for me, I'll be down there on the beach..."

So sang David Feck of Comet Gain, of Brighton's seaside charm and the pull of that pebbled shoreline. As a previous resident of Brighton, it's a place very dear to my heart and so I was especially interested in watching the movie adaptation of Graham Greene's novel to see if it captured any of the memories of my old home.

But Brighton Rock is certainly no Quadrophenia, despite being set in the same swinging Sixties era of scooters and blues. The shoddy mob led by Pinkie Brown (played by Sam Riley) live in a city of mistrust, murder and malice, where the sun rarely shines and love is only used as a weapon to exert power over the weak.

I thought that he carried off his role as Ian Curtis in Control with unflinching precision, and Sam Riley's portrayal of such a different kind of mixed-up character defines his ability to embody all that makes up a person; from his hunched, square silhouette to a soft, muttered dialogue and distant nature. We are so used to the whole 'bad guy does good' plot twist in films that when a character is so devoid of any emotion and warmth, it comes as quite a shock. His controlled presence is chilling.

And Rose, played by Andrea Riseborough, makes an ideal accomplice; naive, trusting and besotted with Pinkie. The great lengths she goes to to avoid seeing the brutal truth of their situation is at times almost painful to watch.

What struck me most was how bleak the pair's relationship is from start to finish, never touching on any form of love (despite the trailer hinting at a tale of a Romeo and Juliet-style doomed romance). Helen Mirren's tough portrayal of Ida pertains to the hopelessness of their destructive bond, as she still stands in a powerless position, informed and yet seemingly unable to shake any sense into Rose, with failed attempts to break Pinkie's spell.

Although I've read many mixed reviews about this film, I was gripped the entire way through, and the plot themes really stayed with my after the credits had rolled. Perhaps it helped that I saw it hungover on a miserable, rainy Friday afternoon in the city itself, and walked out of the cinema into the chilly evening breeze with the storyline still playing out in my mind, and all the way back on the train to London.

Unfortunately, Brighton's appearance in the film is fairly fleeting as most of the scenes are filmed in Eastbourne, but the creak of the boards on the pier and the familiar turquoise railings leading to the beach provide an apt setting - anyone who's spent the winter months walking through the wind tunnels of the South Lanes in the lashing rain can confirm that Brighton isn't always sunbaked and bright. And the fading seaside glamour just adds to the eerie shiver of the underbelly that lurks beneath.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Record Store Day 2011

Record Store Day is every music nerd's wet dream; our favourite bands and labels cut 7"'s of previously unreleased tracks in very limited numbers, sold to the earliest birds who've patiently queued up in the dewy morning with carefully scribbled shopping lists of their desired purchases.

Last year's RSD I got to experience the event from the other side of the cash desk. I'd been working in a record shop in Brighton for nearly eight months and though I'd already seen my fair share of music fans' geeking out (the tears of joy and the tantrums in equal measure), nothing had prepared me for the huge line of people snaking down the street as I turned up at half eight on RSD morning. The weeks before had been spent ordering and planning, with mini rushes of hysteria downstairs in the basement every time a new box showed up to add to our treasure trove of RSD delights. The night before we'd stayed at the shop 'til midnight, manically stuffing goody bags and organising the wall displays. And despite the lack of sleep the night before, the whole day passed in a heady blur of chatting with customers and trying to ensure everyone left as happy as possible (having to break the news to people who'd queued since 7am that the last copy of the much-coveted Blur single had just sold to the person in front of them wasn't my favourite moment).

Although it was one of the most exhausting days I've ever worked, I felt really lucky to have been a part of such an important event. We're always told that no one values owning a hard copy of a release any more, but the fans waiting outside at half six on a chilly Saturday morning said otherwise. If they'd stayed in bed instead then by midday the music would probably have made its way onto the Internet anyway (as mp3s or at an extortionate price on eBay - shame on you!), but that wasn't the point; this was the opportunity to recapture some of the spirit of previous eras, before album leaks spoiled the surprise.

This year I'm based in London and no longer directly such a part of Record Store Day (taking place on April 16th this year), but I'm already booking my train tickets to head down to Brighton the night before. Just take a look at what's in store for 2011 - the Beth Ditto EP, Panda Bear, Deefhoof split, Syd Barrett double album and Toro Y Moi / Cloud Nothings split are already sitting at the top of my list.

For more on Record Store Day, visit the official site.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Chalk Circle - Reflection

I'll admit that Chalk Circle are a totally new find for me, but after The Girls Are reported that the 'strictly women-only endeavour in an overwhelmingly male hardcore scene' from the early Eighties were officially releasing their recordings for the first time, I had to check them out.

Made up of Mary Green, Sharon Cheslow, Anne Bonafede and alternating bass players Jan Pumphrey, Tamera Lyndsay and Chris Niblack, the band played between '81 and '83 in Washington, DC and according to their Myspace, were the first all-female punk band to record and play in the city. They have a crazy amount of links to other bands - Henry Rollins was originally considered as their drummer but decided to pursue fronting a band instead, John Waters showed up at one of their first gigs and members of the band also went on to play and collaborate with Lydia Lunch, Lesley Woods from the Au Pairs, Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill/Julie Ruin/Le Tigre) and Tim Green from Nation of Ulysses, amongst others.

The new release, entitled Reflection, is an anthology of live recordings, compilation appearances and unreleased material, and is being put out by Post Present Medium and Mississippi Records. The release will be out on the 29th March, but for now you can listen to some of their tracks here.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Video: Vivian Girls - I Heard You Say

I was lucky enough to interview the Vivian Girls (as Katy, Cassie & Ali) many years ago, before their first Brighton show at The Freebutt. They were a really fun gang of friends, sharing sweet stories about their school days together and how they were still star-struck from when Thurston Moore watched their set from the side of the stage. They are also the single reason I started to change my mind about the appeal of tattoos:

Two and a half years later and Ali has left for Best Coast, replaced by new member Fiona Campbell, and it looks as though the messy, fuzzy garage of old has also developed into slicker, dreamier pop with more focus on the harmonies (though this could just be down to the production of the new record). Either way, it's still sounding pretty sweet.

The new album, Share The Joy, is out in April and is available to preorder here

Book: Just Kids

The only New Year's Resolution I made for 2011 was to read more. And this was a good way to get started; Patti Smith's Just Kids, written about her close friendship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe from her late teens and beyond. Don't worry, this won't be a review or give away any of the stories as I'm only halfway through, though I'm having trouble getting anything else done with it sat next to me on my bedside table, creeping into my vision every time I try to finish chores.

Unsurprisingly, Patti's stories are as beautifully written as her songs. I've always felt that she has the rare ability to express herself in so many different ways, through her art, music and poetry, and to do all three so extremely well is a very special talent.

She talks about her childhood, of playing soldiers with her siblings, and later of her move to New York - completely alone - with nothing but a waitressing uniform given to her by her mother, and her wild imagination. Unafraid to be brutally honest but never scorning her younger self, Patti takes us back to her young awakening; an understanding that companionship and creativity meant much more than the amount of change in her pocket.

I'm now on page 112 and she's only beginning to talk about music in terms of the maker rather than listener. Despite knowing how it's all going to end, as Patti's fascinating stories swerve between good and bad luck, Seventies' New York climbs out of the pages in all its dark, hopeful, all-consuming brilliance.


After lying dormant and neglected for nearly two years and with some newly-found time to kill, I thought it was time to resurrect my old music blog. The only thing is, it looks as though the log-in details have been lost somewhere between broken laptops and moving cities and chucking out old notebooks.

So, devoid of any past embarrassments that are better left forgotten, here's the new dress up to mess up. She's a little older, definitely not any wiser and still obsessively collecting coloured vinyl and ticket stubs.