Monday, November 21, 2005

Julian Cope - Dark Orgasm

Dedicated to Freedom & Equality for Women

Death to Monotheism
Death to Corporations
Death to invisible Gods
Death to organised religion

Julian Copes second album of 2005 finds him re-visiting familiar territory – hard rock, paganistic religions and an appreciation of the female as divine.

Of course he does so in his own unique way that belies any notion of hippy drippy shit or Lilith tour tosh. Oh no – this album positively rocks. Cope has never made any secret of his love of Kiss and seventies rockers like the Groundhogs, but not even on the Brain Donor albums have the Alice Cooperisms been as apparent.

Guitarist Doggentank has really got the Michael Bruce/Glen Buxton sound down pat, throughout the first cd (the album is split into two cd’s despite it only being 50 minutes long, another glorious throwback to the seventies there). From the opening bars we are thrown straight back into the glory days of glam, it’s even as if some of the lyrics are deliberately trite, Christ everyone knows you should never listen to metal lyrics, and there is no change form that principle here. On White Bitch Come Good we have the positively Urban Guerilla’y ‘Im a dancer, necromancer, I’m a chancer, necromancer’ – yeah, go do it in the road Julian!

Then, for subtlety, there’s Mr Invasion ‘Mr Invasion, you’re killing their workforce, Mr Invasion, you’re killing their workhorse’, which can only be topped (ahem!) by the stunning line in the ‘tender love song’ I’ve Found A New Way to Love Her – ‘just like Ken Bigley, I’m losing my head on account of you.’ Let’s hope Dorian appreciated the sentiment at least!

Somehow I doubt an Ivor Novello award is in the offing. And we better not get into any detailed analysis of She’s Got A Ring On Her Finger… (& Another One Through Her Nose) beyond saying that clearly JC hasn’t fully grasped the contradictory nature of women’s life in Islamic societies.

But the lyrics aren’t the bloody point anyway. The point, is how, and to what extent, does it rock?

To which the only answer possible is: ‘Like A Motherfucker’. This is the best heavy rock album out this year by a mile, every track on the first album gets heavier and heavier, a glorious mix of cabaret and rock ‘n’ roll, theatrical, amusing and deadly serious. She’s Got A Ring…. is great early Sabbath, Mr Invasion pure Alice, with just a hint of Iron Maiden.

CD 2 is one long psychic workout – The Death and Resurrection Show. Overall, I don’t think Copes voice isn’t really a brilliant hard rock singer, but it’s at its best here. Death… most sounds like something off Jehovakill with it’s almost Neu! like clashing guitars and keyboard and pounding drums. This is, of course, a bloody good thing. I can hardly wait to hear it played live, in somewhere like the Rescue Rooms, it should be positively terrifying: intense; claustrophobic; strangely sexy. It works like a mini-drama in its own right, from a curtain-burning down opener, up through slower, darker, times, to a somewhat creepy middle section, before resurrection kicks in and the light returns, culminating in a glorious and joyful finale that will see people leaping around venues across the country next Febuary.

Until then, insert into CD player, sit back, and turn the volume up to 11…

JC on tour:

13th Feb - Junction, CAMBRIDGE
B/O No: 01223 511 511

14th Feb - Zodiac, OXFORD
B/O No: 01865 420 042 /

15th Feb - Opera House, BOURNEMOUTH
B/O No: 0870 830 1414

16th Feb - Koko, LONDON
Ticket info line is 0870 4325527

18th Feb - Rescue Rooms, NOTTINGHAM
B/O No: 0115 958 8484

19th Feb - Wulfrun Hall, WOLVERHAMPTON
B/O No: 01902 552 121

20th Feb - Academy, BRISTOL
B/O No: 0117 29 9008

22nd Feb - Northumbria Uni, NEWCASTLE
B/O No: 0191 261 2606 / 0191 233 0444

23rd Feb - Metropolitan Uni, LEEDS
B/O No: 0113 244 4600

24th Feb - Academy 2, MANCHESTER
B/O No: 0161 275 2930

25th Feb - QMU, GLASGOW
B/O No: 0870 169 0100

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Explosions in the Sky/Four Tet - The Plug, Sheffield. October 31st 2005

The Plug has been open about a month, so it's my first visit, tho the venue (formerly The Unit) I've been to many a time. This time is strangely remiscent of the first time - we get inside, and go 'is this it?'. Back then (at a drum 'n' bass club five years or so ago) we simply didn't realise there were any doors out of the initial bar area and spent an hour surrounded by gurning 16 year olds before managing to find the main arena.

This time, I thought I knew better. The lack of drum kit told me there must be a different stage, but all the doors were barred! This was it!!

Until, suddenly, a side door somewhere was opened and everyone streamed through a narrow corridor to a pretty good sized hall. Bar at the side, easy trigging to work out how to get back therefrom, bogs readily available...looking good.

Still another half hour before Explosions in the Sky come on, but what the hell.

It's crowded as the band come on and start on their take on that quiet quiet LOUD LOUD guitar thing - very crowded, which seems to take EitS by surprise. The sounds rather crap unfortunately, way too much reverb during the quiet bits which makes them come over dull as hell. For the second track guitarist & bass player are sat down on the floor - we're trying to work out if they're just being hip, or doing something artistic, or are simply trying to gaffer tape down all over the show. Turns out its the latter. The sound doesnt improve really, until they get to the loud bits, which are magnificently loud, and all three frontfolk are throwing themselves against their guitars. At first it looks like they're just pissed off with the crap sound, and are hitting things annoyedly. But then there hands are rising in unison and being smashed down like hammers over and over again till the walls are shaking and everyones guitar straps have fallen off and they cant hold the instruments anymore. Fuck the crap sound, these guys are awesome.

And they get to play for over an hour too, very good news. The problem with bands like these is that I tend to have them on download and/or mp3, so I haven't really learnt what the tracks are actually called, or even what the album I'm playing is called, so god knows what they played. Maybe if I see another review I'll rapidly go away and copy it and pretend I knew all along. By the end of their set, they've won almost everyone over anyway, a stunning show that will be very hard to beat.

How can you top it? Kieran Hebden clearly has a simple plan - dont even try. A couple of laptops, a turntable, and that seems to be it on the stage now as he starts his peculiar set of electronica. What will we get tonight? The jazzy stuff, the folky stuff, the tuneful stuff? No, we get some wanker making whale fart noises and throwing 'crazy' sounds together to make....mmm, a fucking mess really. There is nothing positive about this kind of shit at all - it reminds me of the kind of thing that the Orb used to really piss everyone off with by playing in between the actual tracks. That and the kind of thing a precocious 14 year old would make after owning the relevant equipment for three months - after six they'd actually have made some fucking tunes. After twenty minutes there's a piece I recognise off Pause, its a pleasant twinkling folky tune. It lasts ninety seconds and its the whale farts back again.

After half an hour there's a steady stram of people leaving - I am very tempted to do the same. I haven't left a gig early in over twenty years, but nothing has been this utter shit. But Alison has half a pint left, and they are serving me a decent pint of guinness in an actual glass! So I make do with another pint and determine to give him another half hour. Which is actually more than he 'plays' for. Al goes for a pee as he walks off stage, so I wait for her to return before we leave, but as he returns for the encore, he chooses She Moves She - not only recognizable, but still retaining an element of its original beautiful tune! Here I can see just where it's going well and badly, its a fairly straight rendition of the track, the bleeps and the buzzing coming in just as it did on Rounds. But the mix is still poor, the harmonies aren't built up, and it just sounds a bit of a mess. If I didn't already know it, and know why I liked it, I doubt I'd be very impressed.

Two years I've been trying to see Four Tet, failed due to floods, shift swaps, gigs suddenly becoming DJ sets, and family bollocks. So aint it typical, when I finally manage it, they're crap.

Anyone else with tickets for this tour - get in good position for EitS, and then retire to the bar/another gig.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Echo and the Bunnymen - Siberia, Sheffield Leadmill, October 24th 2005

Finally, I am going to manage to actually blog this gig - having missed out on the last two due to excessive drunkeness at one (The Fall - it seemed appropriate) rendereing me incapable of remembering much about it, other than it not being that good, and a second because, well, I don't really want to admit to paying to see the Magic Numbers.

Oh, damn.

Anyway, there's a new Bunnymen album out, and as I was going to see them, it seemed not unreasonable to actually buy it - my first Echo purchase for about 15 years! And a very rewarding experience it was too, the best album since, the last one I bought probably! It's all very familiar stuff, maybe something to do weith being re-united with producer Hugh Jones for the first time since Heaven Up Here. Opener Stormy Weather is a typical bit of Bunny's, driving guitars over a seemingly forlorn lyric that turns into something really quite wonderous and even hopeful. All Because Of You Days isd the passionate Mac that makes you remember why you could nrever not love him, arrogant tosser tho he may be. Scissors in the Sand has a very familiar riff, but that's no bad thing, and it's powerful and charmingly weird, full of childhood (mis)memories. title track Siberia is the other stand out piece, dark and again initially depressing but full of a peculiar beauty and some great lyrics. Another very fine addition to the canon of liverpudlian psychedelic gothiness.

Bizarrely, they both of us have been going to see the Bunny's for over 20 years, this is the first time that my brother and me will have actually seen them together - he actually moved to Liverpool to see them more often in 1979. As it's a Monday at the Leadmill we also get in early, as there's a 10pm curfew. It's a matter of debate whether this wil lturn out a good thing or not - it will mean Mac is far less likely to be pissed, but it could mean he insists on waiting until he gets pissed, and then they only do a short set. They arrive on stage at 9 - Mac's looking pretty sober.

And then it starts, with what sounds awfully like a tribute to Hawkwinds Brainstorm, it can only be Going Up. Immediately the fact that they're so late is dismissed as those guitars and that voice could play for ten minutes and I'd be happy (tho maybe not if I'd paid the £20 they wanted on the door!). Moving quickly through a stirring Stormy Weather, people are actually almost dancing for bring on the Dancing Horses. Almost is pretty much as close as we get tho - a crowd full of late 30's/40somethings cant quite be arsed to get jiggy this early on a monday night it seems. It's then a best of set, a couple more off the new album (including a great swirling Scissors in the Sand) but mainly songs we learned and sung (and even now I can't but help myself singing along). It's as if the last fifteen years hadn't happened, as we get a grand selection of the first four albums (actually, only three of them - nothing off Heaven Up Here!), Killing Moon, Back of Love, The Cutter, Rescue, as well as 'the besrt dance record ever made' - and it's hgard to fault his judgement when a magnificently jaunty Never Stop blasts out.

After barely 45 minutes they're off tho. Shorter than a glastonbury set! But they do, of course, come back, and treat us to a sublime Nothing Lasts Forever and an uplifting Lips Like Sugar, with Walk on the Wild Side thrown in the middle as well, before disappearing again. 10 o'clock, and the staff want to shift us, but at least Mac is an argumentative sod, so he insists on coming back for one last number, and turn out an untoppable Ocean Rain, its tender frame screaming from beneath the waves of Will's churning guitar.

Top stuff.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Gorillaz - Demon Days

When the first Gorillaz album came out I didn't realise how much of a Damon Albarn project it was, especially as the biggest single from the album was an Ed Case remix. Listening to Demon Days, the new album, it's pretty clear who's the driving force behind it. The third track, Kids With Guns, sounds just like a slightly dubby Blur, and not just because of his voice.

But it does get a bit more interesting. There are odd, dischordant samples, glitchy beats and squeaky bleeps, and Dirty Harry has some nice film-score-y strings. Feel Good is pleasantly summery and upbeat, and benefits from more rapping and less of Damon's vocals.

I've never been sure about the cartoon band schtick, but it's not referenced on the record, so you can just appreciate the pretty pictures on the cover, without feeling like you've got a children's TV show shouting in your ear when you listen to the music.

For me, the most interesting tracks are the ones where Damon takes a back seat, like All Alone, a stomping track with Roots Manuva on mic duty, and White Light, which sounds uncannily like XTRMNTR era Primal Scream, all distorted vocals, insistent basslines and fuzzy guitars (note: these are all good things).

Sean Ryder also features, less successfully, mumbling his way through Dare. He sounds half-asleep, half-hearted and disinterested here. Hopefully not a reflection of his state of mind generally. Not his greatest moment. But the album bounces back after this, with spoken word monkey fantasy, what I think is meant to sound like The Beach Boys singing about dead crackheads, and the title track, which starts off quiet and almost melancholic, and ends up big, triumphant and uplifting as only gospel vocals can be.

This is a good album. I look forward to what a few more listems might reveal, and I hope they get some interesting people in on remix duty. 7/10.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Glastonbury 2005 - Friday

6.30ish am - wake up to the sound of a thunderstorm outside. Thinks - good, it's getting out of the way while I'm still asleep. Return to slumber.

7.30ish - Al wakes me to say there's water leaking in. A half-asleep glance shows me she's quite right, so I chuck a towel over the wet bit, and slip off the blow-up mattress so she can carry on sleeping, and go right back to sleep.

9ish - woken up again, it's definitely still raining, and I need a piss. Sticking my head out of the tent whilst pulling some shorts on, Mick says it's rather muddy out there, tho our patch looks okay, so I head for the bogs by Gate D. Within yards it's getting boggier, the ground we nearly camped on hsa a couple of inches of water around each tent. By the time I get to the 'road' junctions - fuck me! The path to the other stage is like the Somme (a sick comparison maybe, but sadly the only one that seems appropriate) and the main road that is normally driven down is a fast flowing river. And not just any old fast flowing river, but one obviously full of shit and piss! Yummy - I just hope I haven't failed to spot some minor cut on my feet as I wade though quickly.

The bogs themselves are comparatively okay.

Wander back to the tent and try and dry me feet - why? Gawd knows. We amble into Mick n Dianes cos it's roomier, and they have Tea. We sit and watch the rain and the thunderstorms go by. Al says she spotted one of the dance tents being hit by lightning when she went for a piss (probably two entirely unconnected events), Radio Avalon is reporting the same thing happened to a beer tent, and that no stages are opening for quite a while yet.

We sit. We smoke. We drink tea. We watch lightning.

It's probably about two when we finally decide to brave the outside world. We've heard the Undertones kick it all off, so there's obviously stuff happening out there. Last night, it took about three minutes to get from ours to the Other Stage, today it's more like twenty! And it's not a pretty site when we get there. A veritable island in the middle of a lake. On we walk.

not quite sure how we end up by the main stage, but it's fairly dry where we are, so we hang around a while and hald watch the Thrills. First band of Glastonbury, but we don't really give a fuck. I think I must have eaten something funny cos my memory then goes a little awry...tho I recall having a long involved conversation with a bloke nearby with a Prisoner t-shirt on. I miss mine :(

There's a plan to relive the early nineties by going to see eat Static, Michael Dog & System 7 (stars of my first megadog in '93 or 4) but I'm not quite sure what happened about doing so. We definitely wandered into Dance East at some point and see some band with wibbly wobbly noises and repetitive beats, but I'm damnde if I know which ones! Not helped by being dragged out and having a row wuith Al about my apparently dumping her as soon as we got in the tent. Which I probably did.

At least the Dance village path is relatively clear back to the Pyramid where we get in plenty of time to see the band of the day, the mighty White Stripes.

And fuck, but are they mighty or what? Never could such a couple of distant pinpricks make such a noise. From the opening blasts of Dead Leaves & dirty ground we're moved to the swamps of the South. Despite the mud clasping our feet to the ground everyone sways and tries to jump as Jack and Meg bounce off each other. Blue Orchid gets people screaming out straight after and there's no let up as they blast through songs new and old - Hotel Yorba followed by Jolene, thank fuck it isn't really dry, or I'd probably be down the front getting crushed to death in a wonderous mania. At the end of the encore, those seven simple notes chime out loud and clear and there's a virtual fucking eruption as the armies of seven nations assaulat our ear-drums. Untoppable, everyone drifts of very very happy.

Before long we have to stop drifting and take careful charge of our crafts as we fight our way up through the rivers and streams which are still flowing strongly. Walking through the Dance Village there are massive queues for PROD and the Silent Disco so it's back to the tent for more mindless chat and booze, but thankfully no sound of the 'Thailand Twat' tonight.

Glastonbury 2005 - Thursday

Wake up at seven fifteen and crawl out of the tent cos it's far too bloody hot. For some daft reason, we only brought my tiny one and a half man tent and slept in one of the ones we brought down for the two late arrivals. This at least means that mne is still nice and cool comparatively, tho not that cool. I manage to fall asleep again with me head in the tent and legs in the bit of shade cast by it. Which is nice, as it means I've slept in it for every one of the nine Glastonbury's I've been to in the last twenty years. I fear it may be the littlest hobo's last visit to the festival, so at least it isn't just acting as a wardrobe.

Sometime between nine and ten I hear the one of the most dreaded sounds of the festival - the first inklings of the 'Glastonbury twat'. Some young tosser going on about his time in Thailand, and about how it was so amazing and spiritual, and...some other shit that I manage to close my ears to. When finally dragging myself out of bed at half ten, the whole group confirms that he is indeed a worthy contender - not merely talking bollocks, but crap straggly beard and hair as well, not to mention the guitar that is lying dangerously close to him. No sign of a jesters hat tho.

Bravely we ignore him and have a lovely cup of tea before going a-wandering.

It's the first time Al has been to Glastonbury, her only other festival has been Leeds (where we've both done Workers Beer for the last five years or so), and she's more than a little surprised at the size of the place - but how could you not be? The Pyramid Stage area is bigger than the entire Leeds site!

It's a beautiful day and wandering around the Green fields and such like is lovely (tho who the fuck would possibly spend over a hundered quid on one of those massive pieces of ethnicy art??!!). We either meet up with Mick & Diane, or they came out with us anyway, and we find a nice looking cafe (Greenpeace one quite possibly) to break our fast in. Bloody hell - it's even more expensive then the service station was on the way down! The eggs are somewhat nicer, and the coffee definitely so, but £6 a meal, & £1.50 for a coffee??!! Glastonbury is no longer cheap by a big stretch of the imagination.

But wtf? It's nice food and sets us up for the day. We wander off to find Debi's stall (MsDiamante I think it's called, selling lots of semi-kinky plastic etc clothing that's not at all cheap (£650 for a silver chainmail skirt!), and far far too hot for this weather. It does look pretty good tho, but somewhere rather cooler methinks. I get a few bits of body jewellery off the nice woman and we stroll around Lost Vagueness, just seeing what's what and where and making plans for later. Time passes, as it does, and pretty soon we're sitting outside either the Tolpuddle or Bread & roses supping on some pints. And not just bloody Bud - but a quite nice pint of Guinness! Lovely stuff. Four pints later, it's probably time to go off and do something else. Buggerred if i can remember what tho.

Wander round some more, meet Steve (the eyebrows) Ian & Chris help them settle in - even managing to talk Chris into sleeping in my tent rather than the nicer bigger one! Life must be good. The weekend is looking good. Have a glance over the timetable, decide that I'll try and get up for Joolz and then amble around slowly tomorrow, but other than that it's time to drink and smoke. And amble some more.

And so it goes till about two, or something, when we decide it's time to make merry in the tent once more.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Glastonbury 2005 - Wednesday

Mick & Diane turn up at ten on the Wednesday morning, and Al & I are already ready. Astoundingly, we set off at 10.45, only 45 minutes after we had planned to! An easy drive as well, straight down, with no holdups whatsoever, and into the carpark right next to the entrance we wanted to go in.

Through the gates with no hassle too, the seemingly ridiculously OTT ticketing system worked fine and by 5.05 we were on-site. 'The green fields are closed' came the cry as soon as we entered, so we tried to think where else we should camp. Obviously we decided pretty much upon 'right here, then'. The former geographer amongst us kept going, 'no no, bit further on, this bit looks like it could get boggy if it rains', and, with only a wee grumble, we accede to her and walk on a little bit.

8pm, tents all set up (one takes quite a while as it belongs to a mate who is coming down tomorrow and we have no idea how it goes up, when we've finished we're convinced it's wrong, but good enough, so screw it.) - time to open the beer and have a barbie - the smoke from which obviously goes straight into our tents. Hey ho. Call charlie over and say hello, followed up by calling Debi (at her first Glastonbury too, working up in Lost Vaguenss) to have some lovely tea before wandering off to look around the site and find the cider bus.

That takes rather longer than expected, as I've never even tried to find it before, what with cider being vile & all, but tis not too hard. Pint in hand - rapidly made up to one and a half thanks to the addition of the pint of the only one amongst us who does normally drink the damned stuff - and amble around chatting to various peeps who turn up (including one Master Dub - the only Urbanite I manage to meet all weekend, slacker that I am).

Afore too long I realise that cider is not only pretty vile, it's also pretty good at getting one drunk, so I decide to amble back to the tent. Even more astoundingly than our setting off on time, I find my way straight back to our tent (via the Dance villagem, which looks pretty damned funky) and clamber in with my already sleeping beloved, and off we go.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The White Stripes - Get Behind Me Satan

another quickie as I've still only heard it two and a half times....

The Stripes seem to have wandered away from the Mississippi Delta a little for their fifth album. there's much less of the old fuizz and heavy riffs of the last couple of albums, but it's no worse for that at all. Knocked out in two weeks as well, apparently, with none of the songs actually fully written when they went into the studio.

There are still plenty of mid-south feeling to this album, and the, now semi-classic, silly and seemingly meaningless lyrics. My Doorbell is positively daft, but so goddamned funky, that anyone who cares is a soulless philistine. It's accompanied mainly by piano, and this album is noticeable for the far larger array of instruments the Stripes have used - there's piano all over it, bass, marimba, and a whole bunch of other things that you hit (percussion, right?) that i couldn't begin tob tell you the name of. Jack's dalliance with Loretta Lynn shows thru as well, especialy on the last track, which could be an out-take of her last album. Not that anyone should think there trademark heavy blues isn't represented at all, The Denial Twist, Red Rain and Instinct Blues will get those Glastonbury crowds jumping all over each other, and so they they bloody well should.

All in all, a bit of a change in direction, but nothing really drastic, and it's bound to please the fans, tho not likely to pick up (m)any new converts.