Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Of Monsters and Men / Mugison @ The Institute, Tuesday 26th February 2013

For a relatively small country...just 321,000 or so inhabitants apparently...Iceland’s been fairly influential, musically speaking at least (not so hot at the financial stuff but we’ll let that lie eh?), producing The Sugarcubes, Bjork, Sigur Rós and now the chart gobbling Of Monsters and Men. It’s been an impressive couple of years since the band formed back in 2010 with the last 12 months alone netting them a top 10 album (Into The Woods) and single (Little Talks) pretty much everywhere on planet earth.

First up tonight though two sets...yep...count ‘em...from fellow Icelander Mugison kicking off with his alter ego Monkey Man. I think that's what he said anyway, the permafrost from the frankly Icelandic weather outside still hadn't melted by this point. Sat hunched over some kind of electronic gizmo he created a kind of Walter/Wendy Carlos soundtrack for a magical land inhabited by fairies, pixies and hobgoblins. At least that’s what it sounded like. Sort of. He disappeared offstage for a moment or two then re-emerged to deliver an impressive set of Icelandic blues...pretty much the same as other sorts of blues but just a bit colder. A one man Beck meets Black Keys meets Bonnie Prince Billy. This rather magical track is nothing like what he played tonight but he seems gloriously oblivious to genres so what the hell... 

“La la la la la li la la la”...Of Monsters and Men do love a good sing-a-long, so much so that pretty much every song contains at least one section for the audience to “La la la” along to. It’s all part of their charm though. An Of Monsters and Men gig is a truly communal thing and, on top of the “La la la” bits, the band repeatedly whipped tonight’s packed Institute audience into a clap along frenzy.

Audience participation aside they more than justified the love, kicking off with the distinctly Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros-ish Dirty Paws (with added “La la las” obviously). In Mountain Sound (“Hold your horses now”) and Little Talks (bonus points for the glorious trumpet solo this evening) the band’s got a brace of festival slaying hits, practically genetically engineered to get a crowd going and tonight both tracks took a healthy number of people dangerously close to ecstasy. It's music for ripping your clothes off and running naked through a forest to. Not recommended in this weather...bits are liable to drop off...but wait until the me...this stuff's the perfect soundtrack.  

It’s the interplay between the Bjork haunted vocals of Nanna (previously a solo artist who apparently put the band together) and Ragnar (who sounds like a chilled Maverick Sabre) that’s the magic ingredient though, with a particularly stirring King and Lionheart standing out as one of the tracks of the night. If they're not already a couple they really should get it onnnnnnnnnnnnn. La la la la lovely stuff. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Fantan-San Cisco

Awesome Aussie indie poppers San Cisco pop in to Birmingham (yes...even I’ve dropped the whole B-Town thing now) for a gig at the Institute (Temple venue I think, the one at the top) this Saturday night 2nd March courtesy of our chums at Birmingham Promoters - tickets right here right now. By one of those divine coincidences the band’s just been interviewed by our other chums over in the US, Kids Interview Bands too. Hurrah! So to get your indie pop juices flowing (hmmmm...that sounds a bit wrong...don’t one noticed) here’s a couple more San Cisco hits together with Kids Interview bands' Connie and Olivia finding out just what makes San Cisco's Jordi and Josh tick...

Friday, February 22, 2013

Suuns shine...

Strictly Canadian's Suuns are back with a new album trailed by the single 2020 which sounds uncannily like Vanishing Point era Primal Scream having a nervous breakdown or two. Sweet. For some reason they've done a video that's pretty much guaranteed to bring about a severe attack of epilepsy too. Maybe it's a Canadian thing?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Semi Regular New Music Roundup 19th February 2013

Hola, time for another completely random mix up of tunes piling up steadily in the old Hearing Aid in-box and first up the winner of oddest video of 2013 (I know it’s only February but you’d have to ingest some serious chemicals to come up with something weirder than this) from Susanne Sundfør. She’s big in Norway dontcha know, I can see why too. Vocally she’s a mix of Kate Bush, Tori Amos and, more recently Lana Del Ray. Musically it’s a beautiful mix of harp, giving way to lush orchestration and sparse electronica. The video might just freak the bejesus out of you though...

Here’s a heart warming tale, well sort of. It is eventually. Charles Bradley spent most of the first 62 years of his life struggling to survive, with a spell on the streets sustained only be New York’s soup kitchens marking his lowest point. A couple of years back he was heard performing a James Brown song in a bar and whisked off to the 21st Century home of soul n’funk, Daptone Records. This new cut is taken from his second long player Victim Of Love. Great stuff. The Godfather would be proud.

While we’re in a Daptone mood here’s a Gospel banger from The Como Mamas. Holy shit that’s some shit...

Like great American indie pop? Step right up for TheTorn ACL’s new one then. A little bit of Weezer, a touch of The Decemberists and a dash of punk it.    

Right, I’m posting this partially because it’s yet another beautiful tune from The Irrepressibles and partially because You Tube have seen fit to make this video “age restricted” because it features two men kissing. Er...this is 2013 right? Good grief.  

Monday, February 18, 2013

Patrick Duff / Gerard Starkie / Chris Tye (with Jayne Powell) @ The Yardbird, Sunday 17th February 2013

Free gigs, open to all comers, are always tricky blighters. Inevitably if it’s being held in a bar you’re going to end up with some people who are just there for a drink, in fact they probably haven’t got the faintest idea who’s playing, perhaps they’re even unaware that there’s a gig going on.  This was, in part, the story of tonight’s gig. A remarkable night from an equally remarkable artist.

Opening act Chris Tye (backed by Jayne Powell) started things off in a mellow mood with the Jack Johnson-ish Walking In The Sun really hitting the spot, partially courtesy of the rather striking ‘appreciate what you’ve got’ lyric “Even a blind man can tell he’s walking in the sun”. Wise words. By the time Gerard Starkie came onstage the bar was busier...and noticeably noisier. Let’s face facts, this isn’t the perfect backdrop for an acoustic gig and whilst Gerard got on with it the more respectful atmosphere that such material demands was distinctly lacking. As the former lead singer of late 90s alt rockers Witness Starkie’s an experienced performer with some decent songs and a cover of that band’s single, Scars, plus the solo The Kid Got Electric both somehow made it through the chatter.

On then to Patrick Duff, an artist I’ve personally admired for almost 20 years now. If ever there was a life story worth telling, then Patrick’s is it. A former busker he was spotted on the Bristol streets, joined a band called Strangelove and went on to chart success and sell out gigs at the London Astoria and Shepherds Bush Empire. 

At that point they seemed destined to make the leap to stadium status but the band split with Patrick battling alcohol and drug addiction. Then he went to live in a forest. For two years. Lord knows what hell and heaven he went through there but he was eventually tracked down by Thomas Brooman and coaxed back to perform at Womad (the festival Thomas had co-founded with Peter Gabriel). In the space of a few years he’d gone from playing to thousands to performing for a handful of people in a tent. It was here though that he heard an 81 year old African artist called Madosini who, despite the huge generational and cultural gap connected with him like no one else had. Before long he was living with her and her 11 grandchildren in a “cement box” in the Cape Town township of Langa. Back in the UK he released a solo album on Harvest Records (home to one of his musical heroes Syd Barrett), Luxury Problems, then self released The Mad Straight Road. Both remain lost classics ripe for discovery. Nowadays he plays live sporadically and I make a point of seeing him every time I can. Why? Some years ago Richey Edwards, the missing Manic, carved the words 4 Real into his arm with a razor blade during an interview with Steve Lamacq. Shocking images of the resulting gore were splashed all over the music press. On the one hand Richey was clearly deeply troubled. On the other however it left you in no doubt that this wasn’t an act. For Richey music wasn’t a way of earning a living, it was life itself. This total belief and raw, sometimes painfully so, passion is rare. That’s not to dismiss other performers at all. You can still put on an amazing show, you can still care about your performance but it’s not the be all and end all of existence. With Patrick however the feeling’s different. You really do get the sense that this is someone who is literally pouring his heart and soul into every single note. And, if you choose to listen, it’s simply one of the most powerful performances you’re ever going to see.  

Some tonight were listening. Others were not. Like I say this was an open gig and whilst every artist deserves respect the nature of this kind of event was never going to result in the most attentive audience. Patrick, clearly sensing this, began with a speech about his grandfather and father who gave him his love of poetry and music, dedicating the gig to them. On paper (oh alright then, screen) this seems an inconsequential thing really, people dedicate gigs and songs to others all the time but the passion that burned...almost literally...when he spoke these words was frankly unbelievable. Note by note, song by song this passion continued to build throughout the set, with some in the room still oblivious to what was going on. I’ve never seen an acoustic guitar played with such force, it was like that moment Hendrix set fire to his axe, but still the talkers chatted away whilst a man was up there giving everything he had. Dead Man Singing remains one of Patrick’s most powerful solo songs and there was something even more poignant and heart breaking about hearing it performed against the background noise. An impassioned...and thoroughly well deserved in my opinion...speech against the chatter eventually silenced the room, leaving us to enjoy Maria and a totally acoustic, unplugged Thank You, with Patrick standing on the edge of the stage...literally and, I guess, metaphorically too (NB: video below taken from a previous performance).  

Music’s sadly littered with people who didn’t receive the appreciation they deserved until it was all too late, Nick Drake, Gram Parsons and Syd Barrett spring to mind (although Barrett perhaps had the opportunity eventually but, for the sake of his own sanity, chose to reject it). Patrick Duff is up there amongst them. One day, if there’s any justice in this mad old world, his time will come. For now though for those of us who know a great thing when we hear it he remains one of music’s best kept secrets. A truly special night from an equally special human being. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Dutch Uncles / Coves / Victories At Sea @ The Hare and Hounds, Friday 15th February

For some of us they may have seemingly sprung up from nowhere recently, Zebedee like, but amazingly Dutch Uncles are actually already on their third album. Sadly neither of the first two seemed to shoot them to instant fame and fortune but in a classic case of ‘third time lucky’ the new one, Out Of Touch In The Wild, seems to be tickling hipsters’ tastebuds nicely as tonight’s ‘sold out, sell your own kidney / grandmother’s kidney / grandmother to get a ticket’ gig clearly showed.

First up though Birmingham’s own Victories At Sea, still carefully navigating their way through the music biz’s choppy waters. Just this week they earned a much deserved slot on NME’s Radar Bands to Watch list thanks in part to their current single Stay Positive and tonight’s set was another fine display of atmospherically rich, multi layered music with a healthy nod towards some of the better alternative 80s bands (echoes of Killing Joke in one or two tracks for instance). Over a tsunami of reverb drenched guitar lead singer JP pours out heart and soul, pausing only to launch into some ass shakingly infectious riffs. Stay Positive’s a frankly epic track, cleverly marrying the aforementioned alt80s guitar sound with a subtle dance beat in the background wrapping you in a glorious blanket of noise that’s as hard to give up as a duvet on a cold winter’s day. Success from here just seems like plain sailing...  

Next up Coves, a boy / girl / boy combo with 60s meets 80s garage / dream pop leanings. One of the dudes plays twangy guitar, the other stands up beating three flavours of hell out of a simple drum kit and the girl channels her inner Kate Bush with some particularly impressive arm waving. A breathy snail’s pace rework of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game (hardly a party banger to begin with) makes you feel like you’ve just smoked the largest joint on planet earth whilst the self penned set closer No Ladder’s the kind of track that could give shoegazing a good name. I half expected them to launch into Julie Driscoll’s trippy take on This Wheel’s On Fire midset but sadly they resisted the temptation (shame, I think they’d nail it).

Time for Dutch Uncles then, a quintet from Marple (it’s outside Manchester apparently, just in case you fancy stalking them...and now I think I do). With admitted influences ranging from New Wave kings of pop XTC through to Prog experimentalists King Crimson t’Uncles are clearly plugged into the good stuff and this shines through during the entire set. Not for the first time this week the lead singer’s rocking the falsetto (see also Everything Everything and’s probably down to all that horse meat we’ve been scoffing), but unlike most other lead singers Duncan Wallis is a nifty mover, serving up the kind of twitchy dance moves that normally require a taser to achieve. In fact not since Ian Curtis has a frontman been quite so animated. It’s all the more surprising given his geek chic geography teacher outfit (brown brogues, blue slacks, red cotton shirt). It’s all part of the understated charm of this band though, reinforced when Wallis reaches beneath his keyboard for a cup of tea instead of the traditional alcoholic on stage refreshment. “It’s Friday tea though” he offered apologetically. Awwww bless him.

Coming to this gig a relative Dutch Uncles virgin tonight’s obvious highlights included the two most recent singles, the glockenspiel powered punningly titled Fester (Dutch Uncles...Uncle Fester...geddit?) and its string driven younger sibling Flexxin. They’re both Class A earworms, exhibiting the same clever clever pop nous of ‘boffin rock’ peers Everything Everything, Wild Beasts, Hot Chip and Alt J. 

Remarkably these probably aren’t the bands strongest songs though. 2011’s Cadenza (from the album of the same title) is like the glorious love child of Sparks, Roxy Music and XTC whilst set closer Brio, from the new album, sticks Krautrock, prog and math rock into a blender and minces it all up to produce something utterly awesome.

The opening track of a sweat drenched encore, Face In, proves they’ve been producing great work for years now, dating back as it does to 2008, whilst frenetic set closer The Ink well and truly rams home the point for anyone still in doubt. Impressed? Oh boy, yes...just a ‘dutch’...

Setlist : Pondage / Bellio / X-O / Fester / Threads / Cadenza / Orval / Godboy / Phaedra / Nometo / Flexxin / Dressage / Brio

Encore : Face In / The Ink 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Darwin Deez / Electric Guest @ O2 Academy, Wednesday 13th February 2013

When he/they (it’s a band as well as a dude) first bounced into our lives a couple of years ago Darwin Deez seemed to have novelty act written all over him/them thanks in part to his/their habit of dancing like a loon to old pop hits. Yep, like this one...

Happily though he/they have hung around and building on his/their previously addictive singles, Constellations, Bad Day and Radar Detector, this year saw the release of the meatier, life affirming new one Free (The Editorial Me). Sure Darwin still looks a little like a skinny hipster Hasidic Jew but it’s a great track to blast out at the rest of the office on a Monday morning (which probably explains why I don’t work in an office any more). Funnily enough by a stroke of serendipity today, Wednesday 13th February, is exactly 4 years to the day since I was made redundant. I guess you don’t get much more ‘free’ than that eh?

First up tonight, and with a bit of a Gnarls Barkley vibe (no surprise as they’ve worked with Danger Mouse), Electric Guest bring a little soul, a little funk and a little hip electro wibble to the party. This is their first major jaunt to the UK apparently but many of their tunes have such an easy charm that the crowd were unusually receptive. They left out their awesome cover of Little Dragon’s Ritual Union but the northern soul / Smokey Robinson tinged This Head I Hold and the funkier Awake made up for it. 

More than welcome guests all round.

Darwin Deez is a real opinion splitter with some snotty reviewers (as if they know jack eh?) seemingly dissing him for his skinny hipster look, kooky personality or..shock horror...actually daring to have fun up there on stage. Balls. Music needs more fun in it these days. You want serious? Stick CNN on. That’s not to say that Deez is just playing it for laughs. The son of a mixed race psychologist his new album Songs For Imaginative People examines such knotty issues as existentialism and in a recent interview he even admitted to having the odd suicidal thought or two. Blimey. So beneath the frizzy hair, dance routines and catchy pop there’s clearly a lot more going on.

Coming on stage the current 4 piece line up kicked things off in traditional Darwin Deez style with a little dance routine, these are something that they dropped into the set throughout the night often earning as many whoops and cheers as the songs. Think Spike Jonze’s iconic Praise You video and you’ll have some idea of the level of choreography involved. The haters might not like it but it’s undoubtedly one of the highlights of the set. “Dance like no one’s looking” wrote Mark Twain and these little skits have that joyful, just don’t give a damn feel about them. Dance routines aside Team Deez were on fine form tonight dishing out all of the addictive hits from the debut album together with material from the hot off the press follow up. Free (The Editorial Me) made a welcome early appearance, on the surface a bouncy indie pop hit (part Ben Folds Five part Tom Petty), underneath an existential anthem...seriously. Neat. It gave Darwin an opportunity to showcase his growing axe skills too, something that earned the odd shout of “Hendrix” throughout the gig. Whilst Jimi’s not got anything to worry about just yet there were some pretty decent solos in there on stuff like Moonlit (the vid below's from another recent show...skip to 2mins 30 seconds in for the solo). 

Seemingly DD set himself the task of learning the six string guitar (trading up from his four string) a while back and a mere 500 or so hours later, voila. Speaking of learning things it’s pretty clear that Deez fans love his lyrics judging by the impressive recall many of them had. His  request for them to sing along to the lost love song Bed Space, dedicated by Darwin “To all the heartbroken”, received a particularly impressive response for an low key album track, so you can imagine the reaction the singles got. They’re freaking great too, kicking off first with the choppy guitar powered Radar Detector mid set with the star gazing Constellations and revenge anthem Bad Day bringing up the rear during the encore. Add this year’s Free (The Editorial Me) and you’ve got an impressive run of clever, catchy pop tunes. I’m guessing that’s not where he’s going though judging by some of the newer stuff, some of which included the kind of acid tinged guitar freak out solos that you might expect from Zappa or a Hipster Hendrix. There’s a more thoughtful, deeper and rockier vibe to this recent material and it’s not impossible to imagine the dude coming up with some huge great double concept album in a few years time. That’ll give the reviewers something to suck on. Like the other slightly more famous (for now at least) Darwin his evolution’s going to be every bit as fascinating...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Everything Everything / Outfit @ Institute, 12th February 2013

There’s a rich history of singing like you’ve just trapped your genitals in a car door (stranger things can happen), from Frankie Valli back in the 50s through to the Bee Gees in the 70s, on to Jimi Somerville in the 80s and, latterly that nice Mr Martin from Coldplay (more of them later). On top of the clever art rock electro feel of the music lead singer Jonathan Higg’s soaring vocals made Everything Everything’s 2010’s debut album Man Alive stand out and he’s wisely stuck with this winning formula on the new one, Arc (a top 5 album now no less), albeit with a noticeable shift towards a more epic stadium feel here and there.

Before all that though time for opening act Outfit to win over some new fans courtesy of  their own blend of sophisticated chill-synth with pleasing echoes of The Associates, fellow Liverpudlians OMD and early era Tears For Fears buried in the mix. Part soul, part synth, part Radiophonic Workshop 2012’s Dashing In Passing deserved to be a big hit and it’s frankly unforgiveable that they neglected to play it tonight. Boo! Hiss! 

Happily they did serve up enough musical goodies to do their sound justice though, notably bookended by the ghostly funk groove of Drakes and the naggingly insistent Two Islands.  

The last time I saw Everything Everything was way back in 2009 in a pub basement (with the much missed Findo Gask in support). Since then they’ve obviously stepped up a notch or two and tonight’s venue, The Library at The Institute, was stuffed full to its capacity of 600. It’s not the first crowd that’s turned out to see them today either, just a few hours before they played a profile raising live set on 6 Music before hotfooting it (well, cold footing it’s ruddy freezing up here) up to Brum. Two gigs in one day, impressive eh?
Both singer Jonathan Higgs and bassist Jeremy Pritchard have degrees in Popular Music (2000 words on The Semantics of Lady Gaga’s Minge...that’s my kind of course) which presumably explains why they’re able to seemingly pen numerous instantly addictive crack tracks. That’s not to say it’s all dumb pop, far from it as tonight’s somewhat dreamy opening track Undrowned proves. It’s a twisted lullaby, both musically and lyrically, with Higgs seemingly having a pop at celebrity culture, wars, Prince Harry, bankers and, quite possibly, himself, all delivered in that warbling falsetto of his. It’s an arresting opening number but the gig really starts to come to life with Kemosabe. The first single off the new album it’s classic Everything Everything, rich with singalong bits for the masses to get stuck into but still clever and odd enough for the cool kids to nod along to. It must also be the only pop hit in history to ever incorporate the word ‘genuflecting’.

The gig settles into a bit of a rhythm from here, with faster paced ‘hands in the air’ numbers followed by slower, more anthemic ‘lighters in the air’ ones. Of the latter new single, the cello driven Duet, sails close to Coldplay territory (depending on your view of Mr Martin and co this is either a great thing or a crime against music) but perhaps they’ve got their sights on the old arena market eh?  It’s certainly a ‘grown up’ sound, rejecting their edgier synth / math rock earlier leanings in favour of a more organic feel and it’s not hard to imagine it going down a storm in front of 70,000 cidered up fans at Glasto. It gets a big cheer from the crowd tonight too so it’s clearly got the makings of a true anthem but the biggest reactions are still reserved for the more upbeat stuff. “Time for a classic tune” announces Higgs before launching into the computer game bleeps and beats of Photoshop Handsome.  A frantic rock out at the end ‘gains an extra life’ for all concerned before they move smoothly into another mellow number, the hymnal The Peaks. A gentle ‘Shhhhh’ goes round the crowd and, remarkably, most people do indeed shut the fuck up for a change. Is this the same band that was jerking about like they were wired to the mains just a few moments ago? Yep. True to form it was followed up by early single Suffragette Suffragette replete with some free jazz style freak outs midway through before the main set concluded with Cough Cough. Hell, this can’t be an easy track to sing, what with the rapid changes in tone and the frenetic pace of the whole thing but Higgs pulls it off remarkably well (okay there are a few little pitch issues but it’s his second gig of the day, give the dude a break). “But I’m coming alive, I‘m happening now” he warbles as the crowd goes mental and, right there and then, he really is.

There’s no better way to kick off an encore with a hit and MY KZ UR BF duly hits the spot, its skittering rhythms and glossy pop chorus earning one of the biggest singalongs of the night. Set closer Don’t Try is another of their stadium numbers, giving Higgs the chance to bang his own drum for a change (literally) and, given the vocal gymnastics he throws into every show, he deserved the opportunity.
Two albums in and Everything Everything clearly have their sights set on a arena near you. Given the strength of tonight’s show and the audience’s reaction they seem destined to get there too. Can they maintain that quirky inventiveness that got them here in the first place? Everything Everything’s possible...


Monday, February 11, 2013

The Gig-a-low Down w/c 11th February 2013

Right, it’s a busy one this week in B-Town so what better time to resurrect the Gig-a-low Down eh? Yes I know, your lives have been empty without it. Ahem.

Tuesday 12th February

Everything Everything @ The Institute (not the HMV Institute anymore, got it? Good)
Falsetto voiced art rock hob goblins deliver one addictive pop pill after another.  

Wednesday 13th February

Darwin Deez @ O2 Academy

The sexiest geek in pop is stepping up a gear if the frankly awesome recent Free (The Editorial Me) is anything to go by. Guaranteed good times.

Thursday 14th February

Villagers @ The Institute

If you’re not romancing the man/woman/ladyboy in your life Villagers are well worth a punt. Who knows if you’re single you might meet the man/woman/ladyboy of your dreams too.

Friday 15th February 

Dutch Uncles @ The Hare and Hounds 

Another art rock treat courtesy of the on form Stockporters. But it's sold out so er...sorry and all that...
Saturday 16th February

NME Awards Tour 2013 @ O2 Academy

Providing NME’s still around by then the annual NME Tour hits town with Django Django, Palma Violets, Miles Kane and local heroes Peace

Sunday 17th February

Patrick Duff / Gerard Starkie @ The Yardbird

Patrick Duff is special. That’s all you need to know. Be there. Oh yeah...and it’s FREE too.  Mo details from our chums at Birmingham Promoters

Friday, February 08, 2013

Thurston Moore / Michael Chapman @ The Glee Club, Thursday 7th February

Two genuine 100% guitar legends for the price of the one. Not bad eh? Whilst Thurston Moore, one of the poster boys of the alt rock scene and founder of Sonic Youth, might be the bigger name of the two Chapman’s been a folk hero for coming up to six decades now with none other than the mighty John Peel muttering his praises and playing his records (no doubt occasionally at the wrong speed) over the years. So what do you get when you bring a 70 something folk/jazz musician from Yorkshire together with an American noise rock icon? We had to wait until the end of the gig to find out...

First though Michael Chapman set the bar for all budding guitarists in the audience so high that they’d need oxygen to stand any chance of getting anywhere near it. Ambling on with a dour “I’m not Thurston Moore...honest” he launched into In The Valley showcasing the kind of richly textured nimble fingered playing that’s as much of a joy to watch as it is to listen to. 

Vocally he’s edging towards a Yorkshire version of late period Johnny Cash, gruff, well worn and shaped by a thousand and one late nights and undoubtedly more than a pint of ale or two. Like one of his peers, John Martyn, playing the guitar seems as natural as breathing, happily unlike Mr Martyn he’s still here and, on this form, playing better than ever. Each track came complete with its standout moments but the mind melting time warped slide guitar of Fahey’s Flag (dedicated to the song’s inspiration and fellow picker the late, great John Fahey) was the trippiest thing I’ve heard at an acoustic gig. Ever. 

Sadly far too few people know who the hell Chapman is but if you’re in any doubt of his influence take a listen to another of tonight’s highlights Kodak Ghost. Back in the day someone came up to him and said “’ere Michael, someone’s ripped you off...that Jimmy Page has copied your song Kodak Ghost on one of Led Zepplin’s tracks”. The name of that song? Stairway To Heaven.

After a brief intermission (beards were stroked, ale was supped etc), it was Thurston’s turn to impress. Anyone expecting a Sonic Youth greatest hits set (or even a sniff of a track) would’ve been out of luck. With the band on an indefinite hiatus (presumably exacerbated by the recent end of Moore’s 27 year marriage to fellow Sonic Youther Kim Gordon) tonight was more a case of, well...Moore. Like Chapman Moore’s clearly a master of his instrument and he manages to coax some truly impressive sounds out of what was, on the face of it, a pretty low key set up. His technique’s not as nimble as Chapman’s, veering between a more fluid style of playing/strumming and the odd burst of manic string melting ferocity that originally saw him lauded as a noise rock pioneer. Scattering the odd poem in amongst the songs, kicking off with She’s Crazy which is clearly about an ex (Kim possibly...hmmm), the set drew on his solo albums to date with one of the strongest being Space from the Beck helmed Demolished Thoughts. It’s a suitably floaty number, instrumental except for a brief piece of hippyish lyricism in the middle. Happily he’s not abandoned his edgier early self and Psychic Hearts from 1995’s solo debut was resurrected, much to the obvious joy of the super fans who clearly position Thurston somewhere above the level of God, Buddha or whichever made up deity takes your fancy. Thurston comes across a pretty likeable dude, revealing a delightfully childlike joy in discovering Oxfam Book and Record shops and filling the backseat of Chapman’s car / unofficial tour bus with a growing stash of vintage vinyl. It seems he loved Brum’s Custard Factory too...imagine the hipster heart attacks down there when Mr Sonic Youth wandered in...

Calling Michael back up on stage the show’s climax was, let’s say, a little more ‘experimental’ with Thurston brutally attacking his guitar with a screwdriver and tool file whilst Chapman laid on some (slightly) more conventional notes over the top. Suffice to say you’ll either love this kind of sonic terrorism or want to rip off your own ears and stick them into the bloody orifices. It’s certainly interesting to see just what sounds you can get from torturing a guitar and there’s a perverse pleasure to be gained from watching two accomplished players, separated by a couple of decades and the Atlantic but united in an obvious love for their instrument, rejecting all those hours of practice in favour of just letting rip. When it comes to how long this kind of thing should go on for though it’s possibly a case of less is Moore but the really hardcore fans lapped it up and would probably have been quite happy if they’d carried on playing until there was nothing left but bits of splintered wood and frayed G strings. The night overall? Cool as pluck.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Stool Pigeon flies no more...

More sad music news this year as Stool Pigeon (a rather fine free music newspaper distributed across the country) has closed down.

On top of being well written and featuring an impressive array of new, oddball and cool stuff it was all rather neatly put together too (the cartoons were particularly brilliant) and provided me with many happy hours of entertainment on the loo. Bugger. Still, it gives me an excuse to post a Kid Creole and the Coconuts vid. Who's next eh? My money's on NME...

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Miss Kitten - Bassline

La DJ Francais Miss Kitten c'est back, back, back avec un double album et voila la Okay, that's enough of that. I have enough trouble with English. Yep, Miss Kitten's unleashing this little beauty in advance of Calling From The Stars' release on 22nd April and it's a techlectro banger as the kids on the street say. Not my street obviously, they're too busy stealing mobility scooters and beating each other to death with bricks, but nice streets with trees and stuff...

Monday, February 04, 2013

Binary - You Need The Blue Key

It's Monday. You need a kickstart. Coffee's out 'cos Starbucks are evil tax dodging filth merchants. Sadly drugs are generally frowned upon in the office, so you'll have to give that a miss. And cracking yourself over the head with a mallet only works for so long. Happily here's a new tune that's pretty much guaranteed to shift that hangover/lingering depression/. Apparently Binary toured with Marilyn Manson recently and there's clearly a bit of an electro/rock/goth thang going on but it's dancier, trancier Enjoy.

Friday, February 01, 2013

God Damn - You're A Radar EP

This'll wake you up. Brum's very own purveyors of brutalist rock God Damn unleash their brand new cortex shredding  EP on February 11th and this little beauty's the lead track. They're supporting Bad For Lazarus in London tonight (at The Lux) if you're down that way, snorting coke off ladies / gents thighs and earning squillions of pounds running a hedge fund...whatever the heck that is. Enjoy.

PS: You can order the EP from our chums at Distorted Tapes right here for a mere £3.