Tuesday, 15 June 2010

:::::::::NEW BLOG::::::::::::::::

The Dalston Howl


Friday, 4 June 2010

Album Review: Woods - At Echo Lake

I should be freaking out about being practically unemployed. Instead I am joyfully sitting in the sunshine outside Cafe Oto in Dalston lingering over a latte and listening to Woods. It's almost impossible to freak out listening to At Echo Lake. The album is released on the Woodsist label, the same stable that brought us Real Estate, Kurt Vile and Blank Dogs. The words bandied about here are lo-fi, psychedelic and noise pop. It's all about the homespun vibe, with the label being one of the first to resurrect the cassette tape as a means of promotion and album covers embracing the 'look what I made at school mommy' aesthethic.

Unlike darker labelmate Blank Dogs, Woods eschew the more dirgeful sounds in favour of lighter, spanglier tambourine sounds. Although indisputably melancholic, it's a summer Pet Sounds kind of melancholy that we find here. Death Rattle contains the phrase 'god only knows' which I assume is a direct reference to the seminal Beach Boys album. The Brian Jonestown Massacre influence is also undeniable. The track I Was Gone commences with a count off that could have come straight off BJM album Thank God For Mental Illness.

At Echo Park really comes into its own when slides into psychedelic instrumental reminiscent of artists such as Captain Beefheart and Donovan. The track From The Horn is a perfect example of this, building slowly into sonorous psychedelic trip.

Lyrics like 'we can fuck ourselves to sleep'(if my ears serve me correctly)and 'who knows what tomorrow might bring?' set the narrative tone of the album.

Woods meld their influences to create a warm fuzzy lo-fi sound that evokes sea, picnics and sunshine. Job? Who needs a job?

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Micah P. Hinson @ Union Chapel 2/06/10

A frail troubadour wanders on stage sporting a white jacket and black glasses, recalling a young (but infinitely weirder) Elvis Costello. He moves with small jerky mannerism, perhaps a product of his degenerative back condition. He carries a small acoustic guitar with a piece of paper bearing Guthrie's famous words 'this machine kills fascists' taped haphazardly to the side. Also taped to the guitar is a photograph of a woman holding a gun. This, he explains, is Kitty LaRoux. She can be found on the cover of his new album Micah P Hinson and The Pioneer Saboteurs. She has nice boobies and more pictures of her can be found inside the record sleeve, as well as other 'sultry things'. He explains all this with mischievous glee of teenage boy who has just discovered his dad's porno stash.

When he opens his mouth to sing his first song of the evening 2's and 3's the sound that comes out is totally incongruous with his delicate frame. It's the kind of sound that can only come from someone strange, troubled and totally at odds with the world. So powerful is this sound that by the second verse I notice a single tear sliding its way down my cheek.

The next song Take Off That Dress For Me serves to further highlight the dichotomy between the manly voice and desire and the boyish frame and fragility. It is this contrast that makes Micah's music so powerful.

Hinson is a consummate raconteur filling the space between songs with engaging stories about his life, peppered with equal measures of humour and sadness. He explains that it is on this very stage at the Union Chapel that he proposed to his wife three years ago. His wife is sitting in the front row and the love between them is self-evident. As a testament to it he dedicates I Keep Having These Dreams to her

Other stories include an adolescent attempt to swallow bleach followed by a visit to the mental institution. He manages to somehow make this funny with a quip about another patient stealing his bacon and eggs with his bare hands. The song Seven Horses Seen Or Through The Hours, Still Comes Another Day is about a handsome young friend with blue eyes who 'got all the chicks' but spent his adolescence in an out of prison and ended up shooting himself in the face.

I read an article questioning Hinson's authenticity. The gist of it was that the writer believes that Hinson hams up his suffering and that, in effect, he hasn't actually suffered any more than any of us. He argues that dalliances with drugs and destructive romances are standard experiences and that Hinson is just playing at the role of tortured artist. While all this maybe true, for me, the authenticity comes not from his experience, but from his whole being. Some people are fragile souls, almost too delicate for this world. Micah is one of those souls.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Primavera - Day 3

Saturday morning found me a tad jaded. I'd missed a whole load of bands and the line up for Saturday night didn't look too hot. With Pet Shop Boys and The Charlatans headlining the main stage the festival was ostensibly over. Or so I thought...

What looked like a sparse line up on paper was actually a line up that gave us the breathing space to savour the bands who were playing. Starting with Atlas Sound, the side project of Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox, on the intimate Pitchfork stage, things were suddenly looking up. The Spanish sunshine married with his gorgeous, spangly, psychedelic sounds made for a blissful combination. Then on to Bundles who appeared to make no reference to the conspicuous absence of Kimya Dawson. The highlight was a Travelling Wilburys cover which was an optimistic allusion to the band's status as a supergroup. Credit to Jeffrey Lewis who got the weary crowd up and dancing.

Next up Grizzly Bear. I have a complicated relationship with Grizzly Bear. The first time I listened to Yellow House I was in an art gallery surrounded by strange and macabre taxidermy. I'm not exaggerating when I say the combination sent me under for about two weeks. I'm all for melancholy but I found the album a bridge too grizzly. I was in two minds about going to see them on the Ray Ban stage but decided to give them the benefit of the doubt. What I discovered was that the recorded sound, which seemed to me so heavy and oppressive, was completely transformed in a live setting. With all the space of Parc Del Forum the melodies soared above the heavier elements of the composition and created the perfect juxtaposition of light and dark. The result was that I left Grizzly Bear feeling serene and euphoric.

Owing to my tranquil state I opted for Built to Spill over No Age. Built To Spill rocked the ATP like a gentle wave.

Next came Dum Dum Girls who, in their co-ordinating sheer tights, could almost convince me to give up carbs forever. With red lipstick, scant skirts and matching fringes they were an indie boy's wet dream. Frontwoman Dee Dee Penny's moves suggested an adolescence studying Blondie tapes but I couldn't help wishing that she'd channeled some of Debbie Harry's fire. The band name is a reference to Iggy Pop's Dum Dum Boys but I could never imagine Iggy being so passive. Although I love the sound I yearn to see some feistier females at next year's Primavera.

It was a long wait until HEALTH on the Vice stage at 3am but my final gig of the festival also turned out to be one of the greatest performances. HEALTH sound like no other band. Moving deftly between metal, rock, grunge and electronica it is almost impossible to classify them. With vocals reminiscent of PJ Harvey and moves reminiscent of 80s hair metallers it was triumphant close to the festival.

After HEALTH I stumbled off to the ATP stage where I found myself dancing until sunrise to a dj playing songs from Sonic Youth Kool Thing to Judas Priest Breaking The Law. If only everyday could be like this.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Primavera - Day 2

We've all heard the story about the fat kid who gets his hand stuck in the sweet jar because he's not willing to let go of any of the sweets. Well on Friday night I was that kid. The line up was epic and there were at least fifteen bands playing that I deemed totally unmissable but inevitably I had to miss some. So even with my handful of sweets I found myself pining after the sweets that were still in the jar.

Even though I saw some amazing things I still can't help thinking of all the bands I missed. The line up clashed horrendously, to the point where I thought the schedulers might have done it to deliberately torture me. At around 11pm Wilco, Les Savy Fav, Japandroids, Wire, Panda Bear were all clashing and overlapping all over the place. In the end I opted for Wire and Panda Bear as Person Pitch and Pink Flag are two of my favourite albums of all time. Wire delivered a pounding performance clad in 12 X U t-shirts but were reticent about playing the old stuff. Shouts of 'Start to Move!' and 'Three Girl Rhumba!' were met with 'We'll play what want' but what they wanted to play did not disappoint. Earlier in the evening I caught them doing an acapella number in the tiny acoustic tent. I lingered around because I wanted to tell them that this performance of Heartbeat is one greatest things I've ever seen on Youtube but then I bottled it and scuttled off to the next gig:

Panda Bear started out densely experimental and with my body full of beer I found him inaccessible. I had waited so long to see Panda Bear live and now here he was, and yet again, I had peaked too soon. With so many other gigs going on I headed off to find Les Savy Fav but by the time I got there it was game over. So I decided to return to the bean bags and regroup in time for Pixies.

A sea of people congregated in front of the San Miguel stage for the Pixies but as the band strode on stage I knew I was headed for disappointment. Yes - they sounded tight. Yes - the songs are amazing but no - they didn't rock my world. Watching them on the big screen (there was no way of getting anywhere near the stage) I could tell that their hearts weren't in it. They barely communicated with one another and there was a definite lack of passion. Black Francis's expression barely changed or registered an ounce of emotion during the entire set. I felt like I could have created a better Pixies experience for myself in my living room with a Doolittle record, a Surfer Rosa record, a bottle of tequila and ten of my closest friends. What's the point of a live performance if it doesn't bring anything new to the plate? Is it just so you can say, been there, done that bought t-shirt?

In the end, the unexpected highlight of Friday turned out to be Scout Niblett. I only own one of her albums and I confess that it never particularly grabbed me but when I stumbled upon her on the ATP stage I was completely blown away by her voice and her stage presence. She's 36 but on stage she looked about 21 and the strange mix of childlike innocence and womanly knowing made for a powerful combination. Laying haunting and ethereal vocals over metal and blues guitar riffs created a sound that was raw, dirty and beautiful all at the same time.

A valuable lesson was learned on Friday. Pace yourself. Stay off the Jager. And don't always pick the headliner. Luckily I implemented my new found knowledge on Saturday but more on that later...

Friday, 28 May 2010

Primavera Sound Festival - Day 1

It is inadvisable to read a Courtney Love biography on the flight over to a music festival. Tales of this formidable woman's exploits got me psyched up for danger and I could feel my inner Jager beast rising to the surface. It´s been a long time since something lit a fire under my ass and I was hoping Barcelona would be the place. Unfortunately, last night, my visions of bloody crowd surfing and tequila snorting did not materialise. Day one of the Primavera festival proved relatively tame inspite of a promising start.

First gig of the evening was Monotonix who put on a glorious floor show. Crowd surfing, climbing on drums and general acrobatics. Their front man had all the energy of Iggy himself and it was the most exciting thing I saw all night. However, there was a definite trade off between music and showmanship which is a shame because from what I could hear their music sounded bloody good.

Next The Fall. Mark E. Smith strode on stage looking like Del Boy Trotter at gurning contest but as always he delivered the goods. Their new material sounded brilliant. To quote the massively over quoted John Peel quote, 'always different always the same'. The only problem with such a prolific band is that you never get to hear the songs you really want to hear but they gauged the crowd perfectly when they performed their cover of Strychnine. Garage rock and proto-punk is big here in Spain.

My first ever encounter with The Smith Westerns was on the Pitchfork stage. Rudimentary indie from long haired adolscents who had me wanting to shout 'more than words!' owing to their uncanny resemblance to nineties band Xtreme.

Last night also saw my first gig encounter with Broken Social Scene and although friends have assured me of their brillance I somehow managed to miss the boat. Even when Spiral from Pavement join them on stage I failed to feel any stirrings.

The night culminated with Pavement. The atmosphere in the crowd was electric and by the time they played Cut Your Hair the crowd was in a frenzy but by then I had heartburn and was a little too drunk so I had to retreat to the bean bag area halfway through and only caught my favourite Shady Lane on a big screen.

Oh festivals, why do I always peak to soon? I bet Courtney would have never retreated to a bean bag. Still, there's always tonight.......

Friday, 23 April 2010

Let's Have A Party! Wanda Jackson At The Luminaire

In the late nineties Rick Rubin lifted the long forgotten Johnny Cash out of relative obscurity and thrust him back into the limelight with the American Recordings. Jack White is about to do the same for Wanda Jackson. Jackson will soon be releasing an album of cover versions including contemporary songs and classic rockabilly on White's Third Man Records. Wanda dated Elvis briefly in the fifties and she has been aptly dubbed the Queen of Rockabilly. She was keen to talk about her associations with The King during last night's gig at The Luminaire but in my view there are more parallels between Wanda Jackson and Johnny Cash. What I have always adored about Cash and Jackson is their ability convey their personalities in their music and their ability to inject warmth and humour into their songs. To quote The Man in Black,
“You've got a song you're singing from your gut, you want that audience to feel it in their gut...They've got to be able to relate to what you're doing.”

Wanda sings from the gut. In the fifties, an era when woman were expected to be coy and demure, Wanda was feisty, sexy and funny. Last night Jackson had the audience in thrall with her wonderful stage presence, her wit, her unique voice and her boundless energy. At 72 years old she look fabulous in white tassels and diamante. She was ably supported by the beautiful Imelda May and she joked that although her and May were both wearing tassels she has to have her tassels in different places these days.

Although she started off a little raspy with Mean Mean Man her voice soon returned to its fabulously expressive form. She sang hit after hit and engaged with audience all the way through. A spirited tongue and cheek cover of Winehouse's You Know I'm No Good gave a preview of what we can expect of the Jack White collaboration.

She followed it with another of the songs selected for her by White, a cover of Johnny Kidd and The Pirates' Shaking All Over and she sure did shake it all over.

When Imelda May's guitarist husband strapped her into her kitschy feminine pink guitar she quipped, 'He's cute. Watch out Imelda!'
The blushing guitarist was clearly chuffed to have a rockabilly legend flirting with him and Wanda proved that although she maybe advancing in years she still has no trouble charming the gentlemen.
She went on to explain her guitar was specially crafted for ladies with a groove 'in just the right place' she said, pointing cheekily to her bosom.

She invited Imelda May back on stage for Riot in Cell Block Number Nine. A song with controversial lyrics about female inmates eyeing up prison guards.

The set also included Funnel of Love, Rock Your Baby, Hard Headed Woman, Fujiyama Mama and and a rousing, if slightly evangelical, cover of Hank William's I Saw The Light.

The evening culminated with an energetic sing along to Let's Have A Party. After the show Wanda was gracious enough to stay and chat to fans and sign CDs and photographs. I predict that once Mr White has finished having his way with her she'll be far too busy for such things.