Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Top Tracks # 11 Julian Casablancas – 11th Dimension

Well, it’s nearly over…both the year and the decade. It’s sort of fitting then to feature a Top Track from a member of a band that helped to define the musical landscape at the start of the ‘noughties’. The Strokes were cool. Hip young things from NYC who swept aside the dying embers of what people called Brit Pop, shagged models, got drunk and looked all moody n'stuff in photographs. Of course it couldn’t last. After one stand out album they kind of lost their sparkle. Now, seemingly on a long term hiatus from the group, their lead singer’s making a bit of stab at solo stardom. Despite hearing only good stuff about the new material I’d not listened to anything until this track cropped up on the wonderful Pig Radio. Poppier (musically at least) than the Strokes stuff it’s got some nice Peter Hook style bass together with a bucket load of 80’s synths. 11th heaven…

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Raveonettes / The Northwestern @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath Thursday 17th January 2009

The Raveonettes are Danish, right? It gets pretty damn cold in Denmark, right? Well they should be right at home in Kings Heath tonight then. Yep, it’s cold enough to freeze mercury (and the rest of Queen) out there, but here in the Hairy Hounds a capacity crowd soon help to thaw out my extremities (it was touch and go for a moment though…if anyone finds a finger tip it’s probably mine…pop it in the post, it’ll be fine) just in time to catch The Northwestern

featuring ex Hope Of The States-ers Sam and Simon.

Some of their stuff has a country tinged Americana flavour, other tracks a more indie rock vibe, throughout they seemed to have some decent lyrics and tunes though. Perhaps a little chilled in places to open for The Raveonettes for me, they really hit their stride more towards the end of the set with ‘Red Threads’ (which built nicely into a full on rock out) and a track that may have been called ‘A Million Pieces’.

NB: The band’s recorded a Christmas song in aid of the sound guy from Hope Of The States who’s suffering from a terminal illness. All proceeds from the download will go to him and his family.

Headliners, The Raveonettes, have been around for ages (since 2001 in fact…that’s ages in this disposable throwaway society we’re all stuck in isn’t it?) and over the course of four albums they’ve established an impressive reputation for straight up, no nonsense rock n’roll…albeit with the occasional cheeky shoegaze garnish. I’d not seen ‘em live before but I’m the proud owner of two of their albums (Chain Gang of Love and Pretty In Black which features the darn fine ‘Love In A Trashcan’). Some bands just drip cool and The Raveonettes, Sharin Foo (blonde bob, ‘60’s chic…the sort of woman Andy Warhol would jizz himself over) and Sune Rose Wagner (not blonde, but cute in a garage rock band kind of way…probably the kind of guy Andy Warhol would jizz himself over too) tick all the right boxes here. The music’s just as hip, a fusion of The Cramps, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Velvet Underground, surf and garage rock in unholy matrimony.

Ascending the stage Sharin and Sune (plus a couple of other dudes and a dedicated lighting man who tried his best to send us all into a mass strobe induced epileptic fit) were bathed in dry ice…or that might have been the breath of the crowd…like I say it was pretty cold…before launching into ‘Gone Forever’ from new album In and Out Of Control. There’s a ‘Phil Spector-ish’ wall of sound to this, and a whole bunch of their other stuff too. It’s raw sure, but the (without going all muso on you) drums and guitars just sound a whole lot grander and fatter than you’d expect. The drums in particular are all echoey, like they’re being played in a huge empty hall rather than the upstairs of a pub. It suits the material (lost love, found love, regret, anger, failed relationships etc…all the things that make up life’s rich tapestry) perfectly. Then there’s the guitars, veering from the sweet and twangy to the downright dirty and scuzzy (ooooh you dirty, dirty guitar), the band tease a hell of a lot more from their instruments than many groups. Sharin’s got that uber cool slightly Nico-esque way of delivering a song as though it’s as effortless as breathing too, which, combined with Sune’s sweetly blessed out vocals again created that layered effect throughout the set.

The highlights for me were a deliciously sneery ‘Love In A Trashcan’, ‘Boys Who Rape’ and ‘Aly Walk With Me’(which descends into a brain splintering wall of heavily distorted guitar noise)…all of which came one after the other…proof that garage rock has a lot more in common with buses than we first thought. Possibly. A three track encore contained the twisted OD love song, The Last Dance (again from the new album), replete with whoohoohooo singalong chorus.

Words from the band were few and far between, but Sharin voiced her approval of the enthusiastic dancing down at the front (even I tapped a toe here and there…yes I know…how rock n’roll am I eh?). Personally I was quite happy for them to let the music do the talking. Long may they rave on.

For proper pictures of this gig you can shortly hop over to my other home at Gig Junkies where the fantastic Mr Fox will no doubt have 'done the business'. ShakeyPix and Andy from Drw-Images were there too so it was a something of a snapper orgy!

Kidkanevil attempts something really dangerous…

Kidkanevil's new album is a strange one and no mistake. Opening with ‘Bakusha 1’, featuring a slowed down voice basically telling us that our whole lives are worthless against a background of a low industrial hum, the rest of this album’s a little a soundtrack for some kind of weird Japanese sci-fi movie. Dubsteppy beats, atmospheric samples (sound du jour ‘8-bit’ makes an appearance all over the place too) and the odd moment of utter mayhem make this an album to play late at night with the curtains drawn, a bottle of Jack Daniel’s on the go and just your own troubled thoughts for company.

Dark and deranged ‘Drunken Master’ (track 6) is clearly the product of a damaged mind…music to serial kill by? Skittering 8-bit samples and Japanese cymbals kick the track off before the whole things descends into maniacal laughter and more random bleeps. What does it all mean? “I was watching a lot of Japanese cinema, listening to a lot of out-there, classical music, going a bit loopy really,” Kidkanevil explains “that was the starting point”. Ahhhh, right…er...now I get it.

You have to wait until track 11, ‘When Doves Bounce’, until you hear something resembling a, let’s say, conventional tune. Some more of those slowed down vocals set off with pounding (Japanese?) drums and squelchy synth sounds…the sort of thing they’d have on a remake of Blade Runner perhaps? It all goes decidedly oddball again with ‘The Whistling Of Wintry Wind / Lantern 2 / Bokusha 3’ (that’s all one track by the way) which is just like being locked in a Japanese cinema with a bunch of escaped lunatics, a pair of turntables and some obscure crate digger’s record collection (and I should know, it’s happened to me on more than one occasion).

You can’t accuse this record of being boring or conventional, which is a real positive in this bland age I guess. Whether there are that many people out there who want to listen to 21st century schizoid J-noise is another matter. A brave record to make though and well worth a listen if you want to expand your musical horizons.

Basho Basho is out on First Word Records on January 18th 2010…a free Psychotherapist comes with the first 500 copies (actually I made that bit up…or did I? Whoohahahahahaha…darn it I’ve been listening this record too much myself now).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sage (and onion) Against the Machine

Unless you’ve been living under one of Marilyn Manson’s many hats for the past few weeks you’ll no doubt be aware that someone’s decided they’ve had enough of the X Factor winners getting the Christmas number one and are urging us all to download Rage Against The Machine’s seminal ‘Killing In The Name Of’. I wouldn’t be surprised if Simon Cowell’s behind this little wheeze though. After all, what’s better than getting to number one? Yep, that’s right, getting to number two as well. Who knows, maybe he’s bought the rights to the song…in fact maybe he’s bought the rights to every bloody song ever written or recorded and maybe he’s planning to re-record them all with a whole aircraft hanger full of dreadful wannabe poptarts who’ll be dropped faster than a Tiger Woods sponsorship deal once the public get bored with them (that’ll be January 2nd then). If it can happen, it will happen. Anyway, if nothing else this gives me a reason to post ‘Killing In The Name Of’ which gave me many happy minutes of entertainment whenever the chance to play it in the office cropped up. There’s nothing quite like blasting out the words “Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me…”in a business environment you know...

PS: Buy this track if you like (unless the Machiavellian Mr Cowell is actually responsible…). I fear it will make little difference but the band have promised to donate some of the money to real up and coming bands here in the UK, which can’t be a bad thing.

PPS: I don’t know why the X Factor winds me up so much…I really shouldn’t give a toss…but it does. It really does.

PPPS: Yes, I do know why...it’s the cynical manipulation of (seemingly) an entire nation wrapped up as a family friendly talent show that does nothing but dull the mind, suck out the soul and distract millions of people who could be out there supporting real musicians and performers...just to give Cowell and Co another few squillion. The chances are that the poor sod who won will end his days playing local pubs for packets of pork scratchings. What it’s doing to the musical tastes of the younger generation lord alone knows.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Marilyn Manson / esOterica @ The Academy, Sunday December 13th 2009

Marilyn Manson? Playing a gig on a Sunday? Isn’t there a law against stuff like that? Happily not. I was kind of expecting a plague of locusts to fill up the Academy though (hmmm I wonder how security would deal with that one eh?) or perhaps the good Lord would turn us all into pillars of salt or some other such biblical jiggery pokery. Clearly he had other things to do this evening though. Washing his beard perhaps? That must be a bugger to keep clean. Anyway, enough mild blasphemy for one night...arriving at the venue I was greeted by a queue so long it could be seen from space. After negotiating the throng and getting in, there was just enough time to grab a cheeky Strongbow (don’t you just love queuing at the bar…it really brings out the best in people doesn’t it?) before industrial metallers, esOterica took to the stage. Surprisingly melodic in places, recent single ‘Life is Lonely’ had some vaguely Middle Eastern / Afro rhythms in there and they made a decent enough noise to get the crowd going (despite one or two sound problems at the beginning of the set). The lead singer, a terribly well spoken chap (it’s always a little disconcerting hearing someone with a nice accent yell ‘motherfuckers’ at the crowd) did a lot of that 'put your hands in the air' kind of nonsense that makes the whole thing a little Butlins, but that’s probably just me being a miserable git. Well worth a listen if you fancy banging your head off.

Well, what can you say about Marilyn Manson that hasn’t already been said eh? From (allegedly) buying masks made of human skin (well, what would you do with all that money eh, once I’d got myself a nice motor and a posh crib I’d head straight down to World of Skin for some nice flesh coated knick knacks) through to collecting Nazi paraphernalia, from marrying a burlesque star (you would though wouldn’t you?) to beating up security guards, our Marilyn’s packed more controversy into his 40 short years than most. Yep, 40 years. Mr Manson turned 40 in January. Good grief. Over the years I’d count myself more as a casual fan and admirer rather than a hardcore Mansonite. I’ve always liked the way he plays up to his image and anyone who irritates those who’d censor anything more exciting than Last of the Summer Wine is alright in my book. I rather liked his covers of ‘80’s classics too, notably the unholy trinity of ‘Tainted Love’, ‘Personal Jesus’ and ‘Sweet Dreams (are made of this)’. Ooooh he did You Spin Me Round (like a record) too…can’t forget that one. But, I have to admit, I’d not kept up with his recent output. Just how would a 40 year old bloke in dodgy make up cut the mustard? Judging by some recent live reviews I’d read the signs weren’t that promising…

The set started with so much dry ice that we could’ve been watching Marilyn Monroe and we’d have been none the wiser. Mr M was also wearing some rather nifty gloves with frickin’ laser beams on the ends of the fingers that he used to permanently blind around 20% of the audience. I believe the opening track was called ‘Cruci-Fiction In Space’ and it pretty much set the tone for the rest of the show, growling, grinding industrial glam metal (some of the riffs bizarrely reminded me of Gary Glitter) with enough catchy bits for the faithful to stomp along to. That’s got to mess up your throat all that growling, no wonder he’s pissed off all the time. Strepsils, that’s the answer. He’ll be singing like Aled Jones in no time. After the first number the Birmingham crowd (a weird mix of the faithful and the curious) were praised for being better than his London audience. It seems that London is now “Birmingham’s bitch”. In that case I’d like London to pop up and clean my bathroom, they can get tea for me too while they’re here.

Onwards and upwards and with ‘Disposable Teens’, ‘Irresponsible Hate Anthem’ and ‘Dried Up Tied Up, Dead to the World’…the…er…hits kept coming. Like I said at the start I’m not a hardcore fan and I found some of it a little wearing, but there was enough there to keep me entertained which, for a non metal head, is a real result I guess. I also became intrigued with his hat changes (a new one for almost every song) and his hand towels. Throughout the night every time he used a towel to mop the sweat from his brow (or other parts of his anatomy) he’d lob it into the crowd like a BO stained Turin Shroud for the faithful to fight over. He must’ve got through around 100 of ‘em. Each time a new one appeared on stage courtesy of a Manson minion. Oddly (or then again, given the amount of dry ice on the stage, perhaps it was quite understandable) he seemed to keep puffing on an oxygen tank too (no doubt sponsored by O2...ho ho ho). Daydreaming for a moment I imagined how much fun it would be to replace this with a helium tank for a couple of numbers…although I can’t imagine that our Brian would get the joke somehow.

The latter part of the show was more my thing, starting with the dark, menacing ‘If I Was Your Vampire (replete with a microphone set into a carving knife blade…the perfect gift for Christmas…just £19.99 from Argos) and plenty of crawling about on the stage hacking at thin air. Then he prefaced the ‘Dope Show’ with a little speech on the evils of cocaine…or more specifically how we shouldn’t do HIS cocaine or he’d be forced to suck it out of our noses. Now there’s an image I’ll take with me to the grave. His cover of the Eurythmics classic ‘Sweet Dreams’ seemed to get the biggest cheer of the night, this was followed by the Patti Smith song ‘Rock n’Roll Nigga’ and (after the obligatory will he / won’t he do an encore) a thumping, ticker tape accompanied version of the ‘Beautiful People’ that ended the set on a sweaty high.

Appropriately enough (this being the festive season) it was pretty panto in places (notably the burning bible effect and the strange knife blade microphone) but it wasn’t as theatrical as I was expecting. Perhaps after the odd decade and a half he can’t be arsed with too much frippery and just wants to do the show then get back to “fucking lots of beautiful women”. Come on now girls, form an orderly queue. I’m sure there’s plenty to go round and at least he’s got his own oxygen tank if you feel a little faint...

Set List (I think…)

Cruci-Fiction In Space

Disposable Teens

Pretty as a Swastika

The Love Song

Irresponsible Hate Anthem

Four Rusted Horses


Dried Up, Tied Up, Dead to the World

Coma White / Coma Black

If I Was Your Vampire

The Birdy Song…no…that’s a joke…

The Dope Show

Rock is Dead

Sweet Dreams

Rock n’Roll Nigga

The Beautiful People

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Top Tracks # 10 – The Waitresses – Christmas Wrapping

I know that Christmas day is still a couple of weeks off, but what the hell, let’s have a Christmas themed Top Track eh? There aren’t that many cool Christmas songs, but I reckon this one, from 1981, makes the grade (no video sadly...not sure whether they ever made one?). The Waitresses were a new wave group from Ohio (hello out there the Bobby Dazzler) and this release was a UK smash hit reaching the dizzy heights of number 45 in the charts. It’s got just the right balance of cynicism and hope that a great Christmas single needs in my book, all set against some funky bass and kick ass horns. X Factor be damned. Bah humbug!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart / Depreciation Guild / Little Palm @ The Academy, Saturday 5th December 2009

Nearly Christmas eh? Done all your shopping yet? Nope, me neither…that list just sits there taunting me like a retail version of Dorian Grey’s portrait…whatever the hell that means. Still, what better way to take my mind off it all than a nice bit of imported shoegazing from the US eh? First up though some piano pomp from local girl making good Little Palm. I’ve only ever seen her in ickle venues before, so I was interested to see how she’d come across in the larger confines of the Academy 2. Rather well as it turned out. Her voice is even stronger than before and tracks like ‘My Sweet’ have fine touches of Regina Spector, Tori Amos and Kate Bush. As I’ve noted before though, she has her own style which seems to be evolving nicely. One thing that did come across tonight was that many of her songs reflected rather badly on men. One in particular ‘Pull Your Trousers Up’ was particularly scathing. As a (sort of) man this makes for uncomfortable listening. Clearly, if the songs are autobiographical, which they do seem to be, Little Palm hasn’t had the best of times with the opposite sex. I only hope that this, perhaps all too justified (after men, just like women, can be complete shits) sense of bitterness doesn’t overwhelm her as an artist and, more importantly, I hope that she finds true love somewhere, someday. This possibly wasn’t the best bill for her (after all the other two bands were distinctly guitar based and it was an early start too, so the room was pretty quiet to begin with) but she still has what it takes to be more than ‘A Minor’ success in my mind (see what I did there, clever eh? Oh alright then…I won’t use my, “If you want to see her in a small venue you’d better ‘B Sharp’” line again then either).

Next up, straight outta Brooklyn, Noo Yawk (“Hey wha’ you lookin’ at buddy” etc) it’s Depreciation Guild. Trading in scuzzy, swirling guitars and Green from Scritti Politti style vocals (and lyrics for that matter) they’ve taken that distinctive mid to late 80’s Anglo indie sound and put their own little twist on it with the addition of some nice vintage arcade game style electro bleeps (although tonight this element didn’t come across quite as strongly as it does on some of their recorded tracks). One of my companions for the evening remarked on how weird it was that a young American band was so obviously enamoured with relatively obscure bands like Ride, but then I guess what goes around comes around and perhaps, culturally speaking, the time’s right for a little more musical introspection. In short, if 4AD’s your favourite record label and Hungry Horace Goes Skiing is your favourite computer game (on the ZX Spectrum, naturally) then Depreciation Guild could well be your next favourite band.

Finally, with a gentle nod (better make that a bloody big nod) to the indie pop of yore (Pale Saints / pretty much anything on the legendary Sarah records / the whole darn C86 movement etc) The Pains of Being Pure At Heart play the sort of jangly, staring at your shoes whilst gently swaying from side to side music that’s designed for lonely teens all over the world. Tonight’s gig had attracted a fair few of ‘em, plus, unsurprisingly I guess given the strong nostalgic flavour of their music, a fair few thirty / forty somethings wearing regulation Jesus and Mary Chain t-shirts.

At its worst this kind of music, not shoegaze in its strictest form, but with a ‘shoegazery’ element, can be a little dull and self indulgent. TPOBPAH manage to negotiate this tricky path though with more of a cute indie pop ethic that makes you feel 16 again (in my case that’s nothing short of a minor miracle). So, perhaps less shoegaze, more shoe glance then? The band even generated a few lively jiggling moments too – most notably on their more jaunty numbers like ‘Young Adult Friction’ (which really sounds like a Stars – one of the Broken Social Scene bands –track to me).

There were some sweet touches too, especially when keyboard player Peggy exclusively revealed that band’s guilty secret was an addiction to obscure Utah Saints tracks (she started singing one of ‘em to prove it) before doing the one thing that so many overseas bands do by asking asked if Black Sabbath were really from Birmingham (cue a rather well played snatch of the chorus to 'Paranoid') from lead vocalist and guitarist Kip. Peggy actually seemed even more impressed that Birmingham was also the birthplace of ELO, perhaps signalling the band’s future direction? I doubt it somehow, although I think some orchestral pomp might actually suit some of their songs. On top of the aforementioned ‘Young Adult Friction’ two other tracks really stood out for me tonight. The jangletastic ‘Come Saturday’, complete with its jolly ‘wooooooh’ bits (cue some more jiggling from side to side from some of the audience) and ‘Stay Alive’, which made the best use of Kip and Peggy’s sweetly blessed out vocals against a fuzzy wall of guitars. In essence it’s music that gives you a big hug and tells you it’ll all be okay and, with tracks like these, surely cult-dom beckons. Who knows, perhaps in 20 years time I’ll be standing (or maybe lying, dribbling) next to a bunch of thirty somethings wearing ‘The Pains of Being Pure At Heart’ t-shirts?

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Chris Wood’s Handmade Life @ Moseley All Services Club, Friday 4th December 2009

He might lack the ‘phwoarrr-ness’ of poster boy Seth Lakeman (don't we all eh?) but Chris Wood’s played an equally important role in helping to make folk a little more accessible in recent years, through his own fine albums as well as his participation in the Imagined Village project. The thing with folk as I see it (and I’m no expert) is that it’s often at its best when it reflects what’s going on today in our society, not just (although I’m all in favour of keeping the traditional songs alive too) looking back to the past. That’s why many of Chris’ songs seem to have a wide appeal. Take the Cottagers Reply for instance (one of the many highlights of tonight’s set), a tale of some city folk who pitch up to an old guys cottage and offer him a cool half a million quid for it. Let’s face it, many of our rural communities have been devastated by ‘incomers’ who use their quaint little cottages for the odd weekend here and there, leaving people who’ve lived and worked in the local area unable to afford a chicken shed. That’s the very real (and current) theme of the song (if you’ve not heard it before the cottager basically tells them to ‘4X4’ off).

Tonight’s gig broke with tradition (the last few times I’d seen Chris he played solo) by using a band (including a couple of Imagined Villagers). As before Chris came across as an incredibly amiable and relaxed performer, like a guy you’d see in a local pub somewhere, just sitting in the corner playing away to himself. That’s not a criticism by the way, far from it. It’s this, I don’t know…let’s call it blokeiness…that enables the songs to do the talking, with Chris’ warm vocal delivery helping to further break down that invisible barrier between audience and performer (the venue, a charming social club that had a real village hall feel helped too). I saw him before the gig for example, just chatting to a couple of fans at the bar, he was there again at the break, relaxed and happy to talk to all and sundry.

On stage he’s just as at ease, chatting away merrily about everything from why he didn’t want music played before he came onstage (“after all you don’t get a recording of Allen Bennett when you go and see some Shakespeare do you?”) to getting funding for the Handmade Life project (“You spend half your life going after grants then just when you’ve given up on it all they come after you”) from the Arts Council who wanted to “do something folky”. Each song had a little introduction like that, a musical amuse-bouche (good grief where did that come from...blame the red wine). Predictably in a two set gig there were plenty of highlights but, for me, two new numbers really stood out. First there was ‘My Darling’s Downsized’ in Chris’ words a “love song for oldies”, a charming tale of how love blooms once more when someone’s wife decides to cut back her hours at work and enjoy life a little more. Then there was ‘The Grand Correction’ written just as the ‘Credit Crunch’ was beginning, a kind of ‘bring it on’ message from someone who’s not binged on cheap credit and is actually looking forward to things getting back to basics a little more. Both songs bring me back to Chris’ key appeal again and the traditional role of folk itself in commenting on the issues of the day. You don’t have to be a ‘folkie’ to get it either. At its heart it’s decent, honest handmade music for decent, honest handmade people. Something the world needs more than ever right now…

PS: Congratulations to the good folk at Moseley Folk once more for putting on another top gig and for doing so much to keep the folk flame burning brightly. If you’ve not caught up with them check out their website for details of upcoming events and keep your eyes peeled for some exciting festival news soon too…

Friday, December 04, 2009

Paloma Faith / Josh Weller @ O2 Academy 2, Thursday 3rd December 2009

Retro pop anyone? Yes, tonight had a distinctly retro feel. Hop in your Tardis (other time travelling devices are available), flash back 30 years or so ago and Josh Weller’s brand of quirky New Wave would be perfectly at home. Hop back in and go back a further 40 years and you can just see Paloma doing her thing in some swanky Manhattan club. Tonight we were in the slightly less swanky (but still rather nice…boy is this an improvement on the ‘old’ Academy) Academy 2 as part of sell out crowd that literally ranged from 6 to 65.

First up, if you’ve not seen a photo of him before, Mr Weller’s a curious looking chap with enormous Eraserhead hair (tonight it was somewhat tamed though), a pair of Elvis Costello style specs and a penchant for bow ties and tweed suits. This evening he wore a rather snazzy white jacket with black lapels, a black shirt and black bow tie. Shut your eyes and, at times, you could almost be listening to prime era Elvis Costello c.1978. Like our Elvis, Josh has a nice line in, well, nice lines. Take ‘Down in the City’s’ warning that “nice girls don’t go south of the river…” make of that what you will (I think it’s less about geography and more about biology myself…think about it…innuendo ahoy). His single release, ‘Push’ has shades of classic tunes like ‘Putting On The Ritz’ and ‘Istanbul (not Constantinople)’ and conjures up (in my head anyway) images of huge great Hollywood chorus lines. Classy. It was an endearing performance, from leading the crowd in an arms aloft singalong to ‘Push’ through to beseeching us all to buy a copy of his CD to pay for his tea. Awww bless him. Remarkably he’s still unsigned, which says more about the sorry state of the music biz than the quality of his performance, talent and tunes.

On then to the divine Miss F who, quite frankly, came on looking like a million dollars in a big white dress, ruff around her neck, 6 inch Betty Page style white shoes and (to start with at least) a pair of silver shield/wing kind of things strapped to her arms. Why don’t we all dress up like that anymore eh? Whoops, I wasn’t here to come over all Gok Wan (thank God I got those words in the right order) now was I, how was the voice? Soulful, sassy and as classy as a dry Martina (shaken, not stirred). Boy does she have a big voice, ably demonstrated on opening number (and new single) ‘Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful?’(also the title of her debut album).Vocally, to me at least, she’s like a marvellous cross between Betty Boop (queen of the cartoon babes) and Bessie Smith (queen of the blues) - which is a pretty awesome combination in my book, although I’ve seen her compared to everyone from Amy Winehouse to Ella Fitzgerald. Tottering all over the stage and climbing up a pair of steps positioned at either side (a very brave move considering those shoes) she then gave us a belting version of breakthrough single ‘Stone Cold Sober’. Not a bad way to start a show eh?

After a couple of other numbers she picked up a tray of what looked like powdered paint and a powder puff during a slowed down cover version of the Akon/David Guetta track ‘Sexy Bitch’ and punctuated key lines in the song with liberal dabs of powder all over her lovely white dress, before resorting to drizzling the stuff over herself. It’s this focus on the theatricality of a performance that marks out Paloma as being a far more interesting proposition than your average artist and, I’m betting, as she gets bigger (which is a sure thing) the shows will get more and more outlandish. Bring on the dancing horses, fire breathers and sword swallowers that’s what I say. Or how about a fire breathing, sword swallowing horse eh? Over to you Paloma.

After a truly star making set (and a little tease about the chances of an encore being in the audiences hands) the last three numbers, if anything, took the show up a gear. As this was the last night of her tour Paloma promised us something special that she’d not done on any of the other dates and proceeded to sing a spine tingling version of Etta James’ ‘At Last’ (as seen on Later with Jools Holland). Joined by Josh Weller (now wearing a lovely tweed number) we were then treated to her Christmas tune from last year ‘It’s Christmas and I Hate You’ (a bitter sweet…actually scrap the sweet bit…it’s really bitter…little number). Check out the video at the top of this review. Finally she led us all in a spirited sing-along of ‘New York, New York’ which segued nicely into her own track about the big apple…handily also entitled ‘New York’.

Of course Paloma’s still right at the start of her career (even though she’s already been – in no particular order – an actress, a magician’s assistant and a dancer…good grief, makes me feel like lazy slacker). It’s a little too early to start gushing over her (and I’ve seen far too many artists fall or be dropped by the wayside before really fulfilling their potential), but Ms Faith, dare I say it, does seem to have the real X factor. Or, then again, especially given her early days as a performer at Burlesque shows, maybe that should be the XXX factor…

PS: At the end of the show I had the good fortune to bump into a lovely chap called Martin, the guitarist with brilliant late 90’s indie glamsters King Adora and can exclusively (oh yes…you read it here first) reveal that the band’s reforming for two special shows next April at the Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath and The Garage in London!

PPS: This review will also appear soon be appearing at my other home (Gig Junkies.com) accompanied by some lovely photos from Mr Wayne Fox Esq.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Top Tracks # 9 - The Very Best - Warm Heart Of Africa

I just love this track right now. The product of an inspired collaboration between Esau Mwamwaya and Radioclit (who form The Very Best) and Ezra from Vampire Weekend it's like a (much needed) blast of Summer through your speakers. It seems that there's a The Very Best album out now too (also called 'Warm Heart of Africa'). There's no video, just a pretty picture of the band, so you can shut your eyes and let the music do its thang. Either that or you can dance around in your underpants like me...oh dear...too much information again right?