Stepping out just two days after winning the prestigious Mercury Music prize, PJ Harvey was greeted by a rather enthusiastic crowed in Manchester. If she was still giddy from the award, she managed not to show it, choosing instead to embody the sombre character befitting of her recent material.
Refraining from speaking throughout the entire first half she produced an atmospheric performance bathed in the illumination of only a single beam of light. This proved especially impressive during Uh Huh Her’s “Pocket Knife” where her movement between the darkness and light added a sinister edge to her seductive dancing. When she did speak, her thanks seemed genuine and heartfelt and possibly reflected the good cheer due to recent accomplishments.
Her backing band included long term collaborator John Parish (who always looks like the happiest person alive) and bad seed/composer Mick Harvey. Mick’s deep voice is perfect accompaniment for Polly’s and weaves the same magic live as it did on record. Parish was as reliable and wonderful as ever. He is often considered a muse to Polly, and it is almost telepathic how they exchange looks when performing together on stage. Rather oddly he appeared to have his own throne in Manchester, which he used for sitting between songs.
Let England Shake was played in its entirety, but there were also plenty of older songs scattered througout the 90 minute set. Some of the more mainstream fans may have felt a twinge of disappointment at the lack of Stories From The Sea material, but this left room for some great versions of songs from the superior “Bring Me Your Love”. A particular highlight of the older material, along with the previously mentioned Pocket Knife, was a stunning version of Angeline from underrated (and personal favourite) album “Is This Desire”.
A spectacular gig then, and proof that Harvey is as creative and wonderful 9* albums into her career as she has ever been.
*Not counting the two essential calibrations with John Parish, and the (also essential) compilations “4 Track Demos” and “Peel Sessions”.
11:38 am • 10 September 2011 • 4 notes
The 10 Best Live Performances at EOTR*
- Okkervil River
- Joanna Newsom
- Laura Marling
- Beth Jeans Haughton
- Lykke Li
- Josh T Pearson
- Jolie Holland
- Zola Jesus
*My opinions, obviously. A bit of an cliched selection, but the headliners really were the best!
10:59 am • 6 September 2011 • 2 notes
End Of The Road Festival Review
It has long been my opinion that a festival’s success lies more in its atmosphere than the quality of the music. I have had some wonderful times seeing absolute bollocks at great festivals, and an awful time seeing great acts at terrible ones (Leeds festival, always the Leeds festival). A good lineup is needed to tempt the crowds, but it is the good vibes that their satisfaction ultimately rests upon.
This was my first time at End Of The Road, a festival that has been running since 2006. The atmosphere was definitely one of the best I have experienced. The beautiful setting of Larmer Tree Gardens and the sunshine helped a lot. Folk-tinged Indie fans are generally a very jovial bunch, far removed from the “Kasabian/Kings Of Leon loving” piss chuckers at Leeds/Reading. The ever-present family atmosphere proved to be more pleasant than irritating, and most people seemed to feel safe enough to spend their time napping in the sunshine.
Obviously I’m not going to claim that music doesn’t play an important part in obtaining these required good vibes. The music I experienced at EOTR was (almost always) brilliant. Headliners Joanna Newsom, Beirut, Mogwai and Okkervil River are already among my favorite artists and they all consistently delivered. Other artists I like such as Lyyke Li, Laura Marling, Zola Jesus and Josh T. Pearson all turned in great sets. The only musical misstep were the bland Midlake, who sounded particularly dull next to the extra quirky Joanna Newsom. There was nothing particularly offensive about them, but nothing particularly memorable either.
One of the best things about a festival, the bit I look forward to most, is discovering great new music. Beth Jeans Houghton, James Yorkston and Jolie Holland are all artists I will be checking out in the future. I can go even further and say that I enjoyed every artist I saw on the scenic Garden Stage and spent most of my time sat there watching, reading and drinking festival ale. The number of CD’s I will be purchasing will stretch my usual budget to breaking point!
EOTR is deservedly bucking the festival trend by increasing in popularity and profits. This was definitely one of my highlights for this summer, and a festival I will consider again next year.
10:46 am • 6 September 2011 • 2 notes
Arcade Fire caused a storm of controversy upon winning the Grammy for “best album” last year. The “spoon fed pop chart loving” masses took to the internet to vent their frustration at an “unheard of band” beating 10 minute idols such as Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. The triumph of talent over corporate sponsored music is not only something we shouldn’t celebrate, but something we should condemn at ever opportunity. Who needs talented artists when Katy Perry has a multimillion dollar marketing team?
The Arcade Fire have taken all of this the best way possible….by finding it hilarious. In fact they find it so hilarious that their new tour tshirts mock the whole controversy with the tag line “Who The Fuck Is Arcade Fire”. I think that is a “burn” to all of Lady Gaga’s “Monsters”, Katy Perry’s “(Evangelical slags?!?)” and Eminem’s “Wiggers” that complained.
PS. I actually like Eminem’s early stuff. Everything after the Eminem show has been abit wank though.
3:59 am • 1 September 2011 • 6 notes
“My Obsessive Fan Moment” featuring Sonic Youth.
My most “obsessive fan moment” came in 2007 when I travelled (aged 19) from Leeds to London in order to see Sonic Youth. At around 16 I had produced a list of the bands/artists I wanted to see “before I died” and (along with Nick Cave, The Stooges, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and others) Sonic Youth were right at the top.
As cliché dictates Daydream Nation was my favourite album and the fact that they were set to perform that in its entirety was an opportunity I couldn’t miss, no matter what obstacles were in my path.
The first problem with this was that the tickets were sold out. Now, aged 19, I was in my first year of University, I had received my student loan and I was (and still am) terrible with money. A quick Ebay search allowed me to blow my cash on an over priced touted ticket for one, although this did leave me with scant money to actually reach the gig. This was easily overcome by the gloriously cheap megabus, but the problem with this was that I had to spend the night alone in London.
After a 7 hour bus journey, was the gig worth it? Absolutely. Sonic Youth were fucking brilliant. The musicianship was still combined with a breathtaking spontaneity, and Thurston Moore amazed the crowed by appearing not to have aged since his 21sh birthday. Upon leaving the gig the plan was to sleep in the train station until my 6am bus, and this would have worked out fine if not for one snag. The 7/7 bombings meant that all train stations in London close down after 3am.
My first attempts to sleep (before realising this) were quite amusing as I was accosted by a group of THE poshest UCL students in existence. They were pissed off their faces and carrying with them a bottle of (assumedly) very expensive champagne that they had swiped from a private school reunion party. After a few amusing exchanges I spent the next 20 minutes sharing their drinks and trying to work my way around their drunken gibberish. They were eventually moved on by a very amused police officer, a fate I managed to escape by protesting (in a very broad Yorkshire accent) that I obviously wasn’t with them.
It was at this moment that I was told that the station was closing in 15 minutes, not something you want to hear at 2.45am. My first instinct was that I could drunkenly wonder round London for 3 hours, killing time until the bus station opened. This idea suddenly seemed very bad when, upon leaving the station, I was confronted by a huge pool of blood and a group of panicking police officers and medics. So I thought to myself ”Shit, I need a hotel”. A quick phone call to the bank of mum and dad and some money was hotwired to my account. This wasn’t the end of my troubles though….
There were a few hotels around, but these were all fully booked. I did notice a smaller, grottier looking “hotel” down an alley though. A handwritten note above a doorbell read “ring at any time” and, thinking to myself “why not”, I rang it. A weird looking fat bloke dressed in piss stain yellow answered and told me that they did have a room free, and how long did I want it for.
“Just tonight please” I answered.
“No, how long?”
“Umm, what do you mean?”
“Hours, how many hours”
“Oh, 3. I leave at 6”.
Now he charged me £30 for this (in cash) and then lead me to a rather horrific looking room. The bed was covered in technicolour stains, the curtains had inexplicable holes in them and the carpet looked like it was washed in coffee. Now I’m not claiming that it was a place people brought hookers, but the room next door to mine did seem to change guests every 40 minutes. It was better that been on the scary streets though, and I did manage to grab a few minutes sleep (I was drunk afterall). In case you were wondering I slept on the floor. No-way was I going to climb into the cum stained sheets I had been provided with.
The return journey was long but luckily incident free. Thinking back the whole experience was just a farce of epic proportions. To go to London by myself, totally disorganised without any cash was a stupid thing to do, especially when I was only 19. Despite the blood, discomfort and accidental brothels though the trip was totally worth it. It could have been much worse and the situations I ended up in were more amusing than truly dangerous. I can’t wait for Sonic Youth to tour again, though hopefully it will be more incident free.
* I’d like to add that I’ve since moved onto Washing Machine. That’s my favourite now….or maybe Sister. Hmm.
9:33 am • 28 August 2011
Morrissey may have co-wrote Panic, but is he really the best person to comment on the recent UK riots?
He may have been compared to Samuel Beckett, Oscar Wilde and Philip Larkin in the past, but these days Morrissey sounds more like the local nutter shouting at passing cars. Lets face it, Morrissey is the worst thing to happen to his own legacy since the Ordinary Boys re-appropriated one of his song titles. His bitterness is obvious, but there is always something cynical about his timing. He does, after all, have an album to promote.
Apart from dickhead fan David Cameron, Morrissey’s primary audience is mostly made up of 20-40 year old liberal newspaper readers. Is he really “bringing out the stupid” for the sake of a few inches of newspaper print? During an interview in the 90’s he claimed that “stirring things up is the best way to get heard”. Are his recent comments the sound of a man trying to stir up a society that he is so very much out of touch with?
Maybe Morrissey really deeply believes some of the crap he comes out with. Maybe him and David Starkey should get together and bemoan how the violence of gangster rap is damaging the fabric of society. (A genre of music, let me add, that lost its popularity about 8 years ago). Or is Morrissey pro riots? He currently seems unable to differentiate between the student protest movement, anti-royalist feelings and looting. Maybe it is difficult to get a full grasp on a situation in a country you don’t even fucking live in anymore.
Other recent comments reinforce the view that he believes “all publicity is good publicity”. He has just claimed that there isn’t a record label that is willing to release his new album. Unless he has just produced a concept album based around themes from “Bengali in Platforms” then this is just bullshit. He has just played Glastonbury, embarked on a sold out tour and is fucking Morrissey for Christ sakes. No one is going to say “Sorry, we don’t think it’s going to sell. Try somewhere else”. This is just yet another case of Morrissey being, once again, the worlds worst self publicist.
Oh well. At least his recent comments have some wit. From now on I shall only refer to Camilla, Duchess Of York, as Camel. His last album was pretty good too, and his recent Glastonbury performance was well done. Morrissey is Morrissey after all. It may be becoming harder to forgive him, but we always seem to find a way don’t we?
11:15 am • 14 August 2011 • 16 notes
It was difficult to grasp what the point of “How Hip Hop Changed The World” (channel 4, 12th August) was.
The first problem is that the entire documentary felt aimed at people who’s knowledge of hip hop was based on what they hear on Radio 1. This meant lots of Tinnie Temper, plenty of pint sized cunt Dappy and an inexplicable moment when Jessie J (large forehead and all) compares herself to the great Lauren Hill. Not really hip hop then…more pop hop. When it did cover the classics of oldschool it did so with a staggering lack of depth. Where did these records come from, how did they effect people and what were they about? Don’t expect any more depth than “this was good”, “this was popular”, “this had a thing called a break beat in it”. Don’t expect to learn a fucking thing.
If this was a documentary on how Hip Hop has worked its way into all areas of modern society, it also failed. Unlike the fantastic “Where You’re At” by Patrick Neate it chose to focus more on “celebrity moments” rather than true fans of the genre. Patrick Neate travels to Tokyo and finds hip-hop festivals where local kids dress in Adidas clothes and rap in Japanese. Channel 4, on the other hand, has a video of Prince Charles looking confused next to a turn table. There are loads of interesting scenes that have formed across the UK recently with their own Hip Hop based rules. Rather irreverently this documentary has 5 minutes on how the new Olympic Logo looks vaguely like graffiti.
More than ever it highlights how alot modern Hip Hop is about making money. There is nothing wrong with this in itself, but there is something quite sinister about modern pop-rappers playing black stereotypes for the benefit of white kids. We get that hip hop has changed the world but if it was once about “creating something from nothing” its is now as manufactured as any other form of pop. Or so you would believe. There are plenty of great underground scenes at the moment, none of which were covered. Maybe this documentary should have been called “How Hip Hop Changed the Mainstream”.
Its not all bad though. Nas features prominently and its always nice to hear from De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. Better still the largely forgotten 80s British scene is covered in some detail. There is obviously a good documentary to be made about Hip Hop and its world wide reach, this just isn’t it.
8:13 am • 13 August 2011 • 3 notes
Like pretty much every geek out there I love making lists and now seems like the perfect time (IE. I am bored) to make a list of my favourite albums (so far) of the year. With the UK press hype machines cluttered with unoriginal landfill indie (Mumford and Sons, The Vaccines), Lady Gaga wannabes (Jessie J) and fat but not dead Amy Winehouse-a-likes (Adele) mainstream music seems stuck in the past. Despite this I feel this year has been an especially good one for music, which is what I will try and demonstrate now!
7. Gillian Welch - The Harrow & The Harvest
I was worried that Gillian Welch and David Rawlings were taking so long (8 years) to produce this album because they were out of ideas. Luckily this isn’t the case and The Harrow and the Harvest turns out to be (along with Time) their strongest work. David Rawlings guitar work is (as you would expect) fantastic, and Gillian’s voice is as beautiful as ever. Extra points are also deserved for their fantastic work on the Decembrists latest (see album number 3).
6. Battles – Gloss Drop
Ok it doesn’t touch the first album, but then again it gains major points for not trying. It actually works better for not trying to emulate the styles of Mirrored and, taken on its own merits, Gloss Drop still very very good.
5. Yuck – Yuck
Ok. I don’t usually like “revival bands” and Yuck most definitely are one of those. I had the same complaint about the Horrors a few years ago (who I also enjoy) but Yuck somehow manage to dodge these complaints by being less cynical than competitors. It also helps that I have a huge soft-spot for 80s indie of the fuzzy slacker variety. There are plenty of great tunes on this album to lift it above it’s initial air of familiarity, and hopefully lots to build on for future releases.
4. Gang Gang Dance – Eye Contact
New York’s Gang Gang Dance’s lead track “Glass Jar” has echoes of the great 70s Krautrock bands such as Faust and Neu. At other times the album recalls electronic indie, “intelligent dance music” and worldbeat. By managing to be both experimental and fun at the same time, in the same way Battles did with Mirrored, Gang Gang Dance are bound to develop a huge cult following.
3. The Decemberists - The King Is Dead
Moving away from English folk music towards a more “Neil Young” style has really paid off for the Decemberists, especially after the lackluster Hazards Of Love. One of the most upbeat and joyfull indie bands of recent times, they have really built up a dedicated fan base of loyal fans. This, along with The Crane Wife, is one of their most essential albums and therefore one of the essential albums of the year.
2. EMA - Past Life Of Martyred Saints
Comparisons with Kim Gordon and PJ Harvey are justified, but this is not pure imitation. EMA is producing her own work, in her own style and it contains a personality that is uniquely hers. This is an album that is built around a very controlled atmosphere, but EMA never lets this atmosphere get in the way of great songwriting. Tracks such as the Grey Ship, California and Milkman are as varied as they are brilliant and the shear number of outstanding moments makes this my favourite debut album of the year.
1. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake.
PJ Harvey has long been one of my favourite artists. Since her debut album Dry I have loved, or at least respected, everything she has released. Renowned for her theatrical presentation and her Bowie-like knack for reinvention, she also must rank as one of the best songwriters we have ever produced in the UK. An artist 8 albums into their career is expected to reach a “middle age” where they fall back on previous styles and themes. The shock of this album is that Harvey not only manages to produce something unique within her catalogue, but that it also feels like a culmination of all of her previous work.
12:39 pm • 7 August 2011 • 2 notes
Why the Mercury Music Prize is Shit…and Who Should Win (but won’t).
There is a lot of confusion as to what the Mercury Music prize is. Some commentators claim that it is there to commend the “best album of the year” and others claim it is there to help boost “up and coming artists”. Other people insist it is to reward commercial success. To me its never really fits into any of these categories (fucking Gomez and Elbow have won for a start) and I believe even the organisers are confused as to what it is supposed to be about.
Fat Amy Winehouse-a-like Adele hasn’t produced a great album. Not by any stretch. But what she HAS produced is a commercially successful one. She is a perfect example of how modern record companies are aiming CD sales at the only people who still buy CDs, the Tesco mums. It is also a perfect example of how successful this business model can be.
Lets not take anything away from Adele. She has a great voice and some songwriting skills. She doesn’t have an award winningly classic album though, and if she wins it totally pulls apart what the Mercury Music Prize is supposed to represent. A win for Adele represents the Mercury Prize moving towards celebrating commercial success rather than pure artistry.
PJ Harvey, on the other hand, has produced one of the best albums of the year. If the competition is purely on merit Harvey will win hands down. To put my next opinion in context, she has produced my favourite album of both the year and her career. I don’t think she should win though. She has won the prize before, and she doesn’t exactly have a profile that needs boosting. The award is about promoting talent and I think it should promote someone new.
To my mind the album on the list that best fits this category is the King Creosote and Jon Hopkins album Diamond Mind. I doubt it will win, but I think the large body of outstanding work Kenny Anderson has produced in recent years (including this) should be recognised. Then again, maybe the crazy Jazz album that always gets a nomination should be victorious? There is always one on the list, and it never wins. Maybe if it did the awards would become far more interesting than the current dull-as-dishwater two horse race
What I think the problem is is that the Mercury Prize often tries to be all of these things and ends up being completely off the mark. It will be interesting to see how it all pans out this year, but don’t be shocked if the results are predictable. Also don’t be shocked if, caught between polarised opinions of “artistry vs commercial success”, the judges pick someone unexpected instead. Wouldn’t that be nice?
1:14 pm • 6 August 2011
Awesome Free Music Alert! Featuring Moustache Of Insanity!!!!
Moustache Of Insanity have an attention catchingly awesome name which caused an immediate buzz at this years Indietracks festival. Their venue (the church stage) was immediately packed out, and loads more indie-poppers were queued/bunched outside listening through the walls. Post gig their t-shirt went on to be THE must wear item of clothing for the weekend, taking over from the obvious jumper/buttons combo tradition.
With a debut album due out soon, and a buzz built up by playing over 60 stops across the country, they are most obviously worth checking out. What’s so great about Moustache is that they manage to write lyrics that can be both funny AND touching in a way that is reminiscent of the great Jonathan Richmond. Musically they combine twee indie, noise pop, simplicity and lots of casio keyboards and videogame bleeps. They have the simple immediacy mixed with overriding personality that is found in only the very best pop acts.
A quick check of their website http://www.moustacheofinsanity.com/ gives you the option of many awesome downloads for anyone interested in free music. Why pay for the awful landfill indie splashed across the NME when you can get much better music absolutely free? The free EP Postcard To Strangers is well worth the download for your first taste of MOS.
Afterwards though you should check out the biggest treat of all, their “pay what you want” download “Moustache Dammitt!!!!” which was originally released on Fika records in a cassette only format. More intune with their love of Nintendo videogame beeps, it is a wonderful listen with some of their best recorded songs on. Some of the lyrics are just fantastic. A personal favourite describes how when Jad Fair draws a duck, its not just a dunk…but a fucking awesome duck.
Another great song describes how a teacher tells you to you can always “achieve your dreams with hardwork” before exclaiming how they “never dreamt of filling in fucking spreadsheets”. Already a cult band, but soon to be a very popular cult band…moustache are SO worth checking out. Please do.
4:03 pm • 2 August 2011 • 3 notes
The Hidden Cameras at this years Indietracks festival.
12:50 pm • 1 August 2011
Herman Dune at this years Indietracks Festival.
12:49 pm • 1 August 2011 • 3 notes
Suburban Kids with Biblical Names at this years Indietracks pop festival.
12:48 pm • 1 August 2011
The Math and Physics club, The Sweet Nothings and (i’ve forgotten who else, please educate me someone) sounding like trains at this years Indietracks Pop Festival.
12:46 pm • 1 August 2011
11 things I loved about Indietracks 2011….
- The Hidden Cameras keeping the show going, in the absence of electricity, with an acoustic performance for the people waiting at the front.
- The Moustache of Insanity having the best name (though there were loads to choose from with A History Of Apple Pie, Milky Whipshake, Anguish Sandwich and Ace Bushy Striptease coming close)
- The “5 Albums for £10” luck dip deal, meaning the Indiepop fun didn’t have to end on Monday.
- The community spirit formed around the rage generated by Morrissey “being a dick” about Norway.
- The “we’re all friends here” attitude. As awesome as the Herman Dune/Jeffrey Lewis collaborations were, it was the Math and Physics club joining the Sweet Nothings to whistle like trains which made us smile the most.
- The fact you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing someone humming the tune of “Never Met A Girl Like You Before”.
- The fact that Indie-pop kids STILL managed to wear Cardigans…even in the hottest weather. Dedication.
- Trying for the “world record number of people on a concrete horse” at 4.30am before being chased off by the security. There were 10 of us on there so someone MUST remember this…..
- The brilliant selection of the tastiest local beers.
- The fact Edwyn Collin’s drummer was dressed like a cowboy, but also had braces on. Unique.
- And finally…….the fact we didn’t see a SINGLE person all weekend who wasn’t smiling.
12:41 pm • 1 August 2011