Sunday, 30 November 2008

Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, The Troxy 29 November 2008

The idea of Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds playing in revamped East End Art Deco ex-cinema The Troxy was too delicious to ignore. So we went and had a gander at the pastel colour scheme, flower-shaped glass lamp shades and woeful lack of 'facilities' (did they not need to wee in the thirties or what?) And the band, obviously. This is what we beheld:

Being wedged into the crowd packed dahn the front before the band come on is like being at a nice dinner party. Middle aged ex-goths chat amiably with strangers about the marvels of 'the Cave'.

Stalking/thrusting about in his skinny three-piece suit and splendide moustache, Cave is a vaudeville villian. It's genuinely thrilling when he gallops over to our side of the stage and peers at us from beneath beetling brows.

Mr Cave is underwhelmed by the exciting venue: "So this is The Troxy. It's a funny colour"

A photo pass only allows the photographers to spend the duration of the first song in the pit. Snap for your lives! As the song ends, security forget to move the photogs out, but Nick's quick to send them packing, "Shouldn't you lot be leaving now." He pulls some additional outrageous rockstar poses for them before they have to sheepishly creep out. Still, Bob Underexposed gets one good shot (see above).

On discovering he's been sporting a dry-cleaning ticket on the back of his waistcoat all evening, Nick is aggrieved: "You could have told me it was there. It's so undignified."

As the usual shouts for songs rend the air, "We'll just play this one then we'll be taking requests. As long as they're on the list. And in the right order."

I can see Nick Cave's socks!! They are red with black check, fine 'gentleman's socks'. From a posh shop probably.

If you ever wondered what a crazy cave-dwelling hermit/wizard type man would look like after a rock 'n' roll make-over, look to Warren Ellis (see left).

A maraca twirls through the air high above the stage, before crashing to the floor. I suspect Conway Savage is responsible for this percussion abuse. He looks like a mad scientist crossed with a feral magician.

They do 'Nature Boy' I dance happily. This live version is apparently a 'work in progress' as they have had probs getting it to work.

'Deanna' - with extended clap-along bit - is a fiery highlight

'We Call Upon The Author' is so ferocious Nick starts bleeding from above the eyebrow.

'Stars' spotted marvelling at 'the Cave':
Kate Jackson no longer of The Long Blondes
Bobby Gillespie
Ricky Maymi of The Brian Jonestown Massacre snuggling up to...
...Kevin Shields!

All in all an excellent night's entertainment, Though a shame that there was no sign of the Wurlitzer that used to rise out of the floor. Or the revolving stage.

Monday, 17 November 2008

The Anoraks From Hell (whatever happend to?)

Aha!! I’ve been looking for this cutting from an olde issue of The Face for aages and today I finally tracked it down. The article initially grabbed me because there was a mention of Bobby Gillespie (exciting stuff for a Jesus And Mary Chain fan in the days when Gillespie wasn’t tabloid fodder) and then I was thoroughly inspired by the whole piece. ‘Tambourine bands’, ‘having acid trips without the acid’, Happenings that drew on the Exploding Plastic Inevitable crossed with the ‘spirit of punk rock’; it all sounded perfect, and it was my introduction to the concept of an indie-pop scene (tho it wasn’t really called that then). Up until then I’d been enjoying the worlde of ‘alternative’ music e.g. The Smiths, The Cocteau Twins, The Jesus And Mary Chain, er, The Monochrome set, um, Doctor And The Medics, and whatever I taped off John Peel. This piece provided me with a handy cut out ‘n’ keep guide to which bands I should be investigating. After it appeared, I set the controls for the imaginary guitar jangling, fringe-swinging, pop art indie planet that the writing conjured, hoping to crash-land in a fireball of feedback, sixties frocks and shaggy hair. Hurrah!

The Face, September 1985 (INTRO section) Joanna Rahim

Your mother would probably like them. They don’t take drugs, very few smoke and they all have smart haircuts. Hardly a week goes by without one forming or disbanding at a Happening in one of Glasgow’s music venues. Over a live band or a taped disco covering anything from The Clash to Love, lights swirl and the audience stare at the walls, having acid trips without the acid.

Most of the better quality bands hail from Alan McGhee’s Creation stables, and many, though not all, are Scottish. The other common factor is their deployment of that staple of the school orchestra – the tambourine. The Pastels, Primal Scream, Almost Evening, Big Flame, The Loft (now known as The Weather Prophets) and The June Brides all combine elements of Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable (film, lights, dancing, whips) with the spirit of punk rock (yes, they can’t play their instruments…) and it’s loud.

“You should listen to the band I’m considering signing”, McGhee declares gleefully. “They call themselves The Anoraks From Hell and they make a noise like nothing on earth.”

You won’t catch Clare Grogan or any of the other pop socialites attending the Splash-1 Happenings which are masterminded by Bobby Gillespie, drummer with The Jesus And Mary Chain and lead singer with Primal Scream. Half the audience tend to be close friends of the band, the rest are either friends of the friends, or else friends of the support band, and audience participation is strictly encouraged; within the past eight weeks alone this INTRO reporter has been invited to shake her tambourine with three entirely different groups. “Hell, don’t knock tambourines!” McGhee squeaks indignantly when informed of this fact. “You don’t understand tambourines are punk. They only cost £5.00 and literally anyone can shake one. Tambourine bands are simply taking the punk concept to its logical conclusion.”

On a good night, when the tambourinists and the whippers overflow off the stage, the dancefloor will be packed with Ray-Banned boys in their roll-necked sweaters and duffle coats sweating it out with some sweet young thing in pigtails and an anorak. Bobs a la Mary Quant, black and white striped mini-dresses and large chintz affairs also feature prominently among the girls. One word of warning though…any miss with feet larger than a size three could end up finding herself an outcast. (Start Rite kids shoes don’t come much larger).

If the requirements for social acceptance seem a little harsh (anyone looking older than 14 is strictly out) consolation may be taken from the knowledge that what Tambourine Bands and indeed Happenings prove is that there’s hope for us all. Even if you can’t sing, play an instrument or move to the beat, you too can have your 15 minutes of stardom on stage; ‘harmonising’ with a Stylophone, whipping the band or the duffle-coated audience, even just by shaking your tambourine…

Alan McGhee’s Top 10 tambourine tracks

1. Rolling Stones Around And Around (Decca)
2. The Chocolate Watch Band Medication (Eva)
3. The Shangri-Las Out In The Streets (Phillips)
4. Primal Scream All Fall Down (Creation)
5. The Byrds Mr Tambourine Man (CBS)
6. Anoraks From Hell Wailing On Napalm (unrecorded)
7. 13th Floor Elevators You’re Gonna Miss Me (CBS)
8. The Pastels Surprise Me (Creation)
9. Sonny and Cher I Got You Babe (Atco)
10. Vic Goddard Stop That Girl (Rough Trade)

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Pelle Carlberg / The School / Arctic Circle / The Noughts And Crosses Band – 6 November 2008, The Windmill

The Noughts and Crosses Band’s first and last songs are reminiscent of Talulah Gosh! with sweet girlish harmonies, plenty of ba ba bas and tumbledown, runaway melodies. In between they go folky dolky with recorders, ukulele, a drummer girl and g-a-s-p MELODICA DUETTING! Truly, the instrument of indie is being utilised in mysterious new ways. Fashion news: the three Noughts and Crosses girls (there are boys too) wear skinny braces to hold up their breeks, but weirdly they’ve got them clipped onto their pockets rather than their waistbands. Is this the hip new way to wear braces? Those crazy kids!

Arctic Circle are another ramshackle crew playing eclectic, lemonade fizzing up yer nose pop songs, with plenty of random percussion and swapping of instruments.
A girl sits thumping a rattley rhythm on a snare drum. A bloke looking like University Challenge circa 1972 twiddles away on guitar, on occasion cranking out oddball solos. A feisty wee girl sings and dances in a mildly confrontational manner at the front before scurrying into a corner to bash the bejesus out of a glockenspiel and the surrounding area.

They have a song that sounds like a bit of ‘Blister In The Sun’ which eventually descends into the bass line of ‘My Sharona’ and finally descends into total wrong-ending chaos. It’s good. ‘Prancing Pearl’ features janglingy funky guitar that wouldn’t be out of place on a Postcard Records release, and clattering beats courtesy of the snare, with celebratory mid song, arms-aloft ‘ah ah ahs’. There’s a lot of celebratory-ness (that is a word, yes) in Arctic Circle’s music. Like a biscuit tin Animal Collective, the band gleefully pound out a set of curious, upbeat, fit-to-burst melodies. ‘Shipping Forecast’ races into its glorious “Let’s not go to sleep just yet” refrain pulling you along in its helter-skelter wake. ‘Mother’s Ruin’ features the keyboard bloke singing sweetly against a tinkling, jittery groove and sounds like dancing through raindrops. Arctic Circle are like the other school band; the one raised on Belle and Sebastian b-sides and kept locked out of the music room because they’re misfits. But misfits with excellent tunes.

Liz from The School is feeling a bit croaky. She’s been off sick all week, but as she says this doesn’t apply to gigs, and so The School are here to make the best of it. And brilliantly they do, spreading rainbows with their sunshine baroque pop.
They’ve even blown up a load of balloons to add to the ribbons ‘n’ bows ’n’ best party frock atmosphere, although they forget about these until halfway through the set.

Pelle Carlberg has prepared himself for the Swedish winter by wearing a vest. Unfortunately, it’s bloomin’ boiling in The Windmill and by the end of the set such is Carlberg’s enthusiasm for performing that the shape of his undergarment is outlined in sweat on his shirt. It’s quite good fun watching it slowly appear. But not half as much fun as listening to the music and watching Pelle enjoying himself onstage. You’d have to be a right miserable old sod not to be charmed by this show. In a softly Swedish accent that’s peppered with odd London glottal stops Carlberg tells us little stories to introduce the songs (e.g. how meeting Mike Joyce in Copenhagen was the inspiration for ‘I Touched You at the Sound Check’). He goes all self-deprecating (advising us that we might find ‘Middleclass Kid’ to be ‘old fart’s folk music’ – it isn’t, or at least we all enjoy it anyway). He does excellent little kicky dances that rival Stuart Murdoch’s soulboy moves. He strums away mellifluously on guitar backed by a be-quiffed drummer and the groovy cap ‘n’ moustache wearing bass player who we recognise from January’s Club 8 gig. He is an entertaining wee chap and no mistake.

I have been thoroughly enjoying Carlberg’s latest record, ‘The Lilac Time’, and am pleased when he begins with irresistible album opener, ‘1983 (Pelle & Sebastian)’, and then there’s the irresistible ‘Metal To Metal’, oh and ‘Nicknames’ and, and ‘Fly Me To The Moon’, all with killer tunes that lodge in your mind, dissolving like sugar lumps into your blood stream. Tonight I discover there are lots of older songs from the previous two albums that are equally instantly adorable; ‘Riverbank’ with its wistful verses and cheery ‘do do do do’ sing-a-long chorus, the excellently titled ‘Clever Girls Like Clever Boys Much More Than Clever Boys Like Clever Girls’ (also available printed on a special Pelle Carlberg tote bag, shopping fans!) and the infamous journalist-baiting ‘Go To Hell, Miss Rydell’ He even encourages audience requests, obliging with ‘I Love You, You Imbecile’.

At the end of the set, Pelle’s keen to carry on entertaining, apparently in his element clutching a guitar in front of an eager audience. As we reluctantly step out into the night, he’s embarking on a confused but cute version of The Darkness’ ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’. Now that’s entertainment.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Have You Ever Heard The Lovely Eggs? E.P. - The Lovely Eggs (Cherryade)

The Lovely Eggs strike again with nonsense lyrics that make you sit quietly and listen and ridiculous tunes that make you bounce around frantically. This e.p. is like a nursery rhyme record, the kind my nephews put on and throw lego to, only with more entertaining tunes. It’s story-time for sugar-crazed popkids with knives between their teeth.

‘Have You Ever Heard A Digital Accordion’ has the pleasing repetition of a children’s song, but manages to rhyme ‘digital accordion’, ‘Richard Brautigan’, ‘deadly scorpion’, ‘beef bourguignon’ and ‘Delorean’, which is clearly imaginative genius of the highest kind. ‘I Collect Snails’ sounds like kids riding their Ribena rush right into the music room cupboard and then hammering everything (you know, recorders, glockenspiels and shit) in there with utterly gleeful abandon.

‘I Want To Fall Off My Bike Today’ is a short but perfectly formed burst of punk rock in which the only lyrics are the title repeated over and over. On the other hand ‘I Want To Be In Your Fire’ is a terrifying tantrum of thrash, in which Holly seems to drive her vocal chords / lungs to the edges of their capacity – in a joyful way, obviously. Finally there’s the music-box lullabying of ‘Weird Heart’ which has just the right measures of soothing and spooky to be a modern-day fairytale for pop urchins. And when you get to the record’s end, you feel the need to go back to the start, just to check you heard it right. Again! AGAIN!

Comet Gain / Mathew Sawyer / The Good Gods – 18 October 2008, The Macbeth

This is all most irregular, we’re at a big fat indie bastard of a gig, but there are only four familiar faces here. Where are all the usual indie kids? They can’t all be dancing to ‘Fold Your Hands Child…’ being played in its entirety at How Does If Feel To Be Loved surely? Not when real live Comet Gain are playing?? Usually we see the same people we know and love/have assigned rude nicknames to at these events, but there are different people here. Who are they?

Never mind that, look IT’S JIM RATTAIL!! gliding through the crowd to peer serenely at the band, just like in the olden days! The band he is peering at, though who knows why as they are all men and none of them is wearing a short skirt, is The Good Gods. They are playing rattly, perky, janglingly itchy pop. Sounding like something I taped off John Peel in 1987.

I can’t concentrate properly on Mathew Sawyer as I’m feeling irked (yes, irked!) by the crowd, especially when a glass smashes directly behind me. It’s just off-putting. I catch Mathew’s plaintive voice telling sorry tales to a plucked, strummed, bowed backing. It sounds like hearts growing heavy with soaked up red wine.

Comet Gain are on top form, i.e. every single member of the band is here and on stage AT THE SAME TIME! Genius. They are here to ‘launch’ their new seven inch, ‘Love Without Lies’ which sounds pretty monstrous tonight, rumbling menacingly. Rachel squeezes her eyes shut to belt out the words, hopping about excitedly. David Feck can’t hear his guitar and so spends most of the ‘launching’ of the new song, looking bemused and fiddling about. C’est la Comet Gain. The band also have a new album coming SOON, ‘Broken Record Prayers’, a delicious mish mash hotch potch of odds and sods: olden songs, Peel session tracks and stuff – so that’s the set we get tonight, with them kicking their garage band-ness to the fore for much of it, sounding cranky and essential. There’s a shrugged off version of ‘You Can Hide Your Love Forever’, but we don’t get new dual ‘a' side the day-dreamy ‘Books of California’ as Feck claims to be unable to hit the high notes he needs to sing the song in public. Jon Slade lurks beneath a monstrous cap, but we can still see enough of his face to make our standard in-joke, ‘Look at Jon Slade’s eyes – he’s fucked!’ He isn’t fucked, but it makes us laugh. Excitingly, there are keyboards added to the ‘Gain sound now, with Anne Laure resplendent in a perky wee hat, rattling away on the ivories/plastics/whatever the keys are made of.

As ever it’s all over too soon, the band having to getoff! just as we’re all feeling good and ensconced in CG’s monochrome kaleidoscope world of clever snotty kids, books and poetry and films and punk and soul and the passion of pop and everything and nothing.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Who cares if there's a party somewhere. Fave Tunes Sept/Oct 2008

Valli Hi! – Stereolab Sugary sunshine clockwork pop

Come Saturday - The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart Joyful fuzzpop that makes you realise you still know all the words to ‘The New Record By My Bloody Valentine’

Nicknames – Pelle Carlberg Gleefully danceable Swedey pop

Lost At Ty Canol – Wyrdstone Perfect pastoral psych-folk with hints of Camberwick Green. Meltingly lovely.

Landscape Through Trees – Parking Non-Stop Epic, radiant and using a rhythm track formed from a recording of a nautical winch beneath Britannia Bridge – true fact!

Mina Damer Och Fasaner - Dungen Hazey sunspots and camera flare on long blond hair

Senses On Fire – Mercury Rev Heard this on t’radio and was thrilled. So bought the album and it ain’t all that. C’est la ruddy vie, eh?

You’re Too Much - The Eyes Whenever I click on Tapestry Club’s Myspace page this comes on and makes me happy, all freakbeat garage mod crunchiness

Flowers Of Ours – The Asteroid No.4 Swirling sepia-tinted dream-pop psych

Popcorn – Hot Butter Very ridiculous Radiophonic Workshop inspired hit of yesteryear that reminds me of being v. small

Pop Molecule – Stereolab Head-banging Kosmiche. Good title too

The Quarter After / The See See – 12 October 2008, The Apple Tree

The Asteroid no. 4 and the Quarter After are finally back touring the UK – hurrah! We, on the other hand are in an entirely different country. Doh! And so it comes to pass that we miss all of their gigs. There is a ray of hope, however, as Richard of The See See has persuaded The Quarter After to Come Down And Meet The Folks at The Apple Tree on a Sunday afternoon and play a wee set ON THEIR DAY OFF when they are COMPLETELY KNACKERED as they keep pointing out between songs.

We appreciate the effort though, as they spangle out a hefty helping off jangle psych dreaminess. Today, it being the END OF THE TOUR, The Quarter After are rolling out their Byrds-iest moments, relaxing into the space-country rollicking end of their musical spectrum. This means we get a cover of The Buffalo Springfield’s ‘Go And Say Goodbye’ (much appreciated by the Come Down And Meet The Folks check-shirted massive). It also means we get to hear the Campanella brothers’ sunshine harmonies clear as a bell, and lack of (physical) space means paisley ‘n’ suede keyboard scarecrow Christoph forsakes his usual ivory-tickling for pure mandolin madness. The music is unutterably uplifting, West Coast melodies swirling, crystal chords hitting the spot.

Before The Quarter After we get The See See who as far as I can tell never do no wrong, even when they have to crank out tunes whilst being unable to hear themselves play. Hidden in a corner Ben does voodoo drum magic, looking tres old skool (as in like the old blokes down our street in the 1970s who were throw-backs to the 1950s even then) in Bryl-cream ‘n’ vest. Richard, Pete and Kevin wrangle bruised psych-country from their guitars, rampaging and rolling and warming our cockles with their blur of good-time sounds. It’s all about the tunes, right? And The See See done got ‘em.

Glamchops / Shrag / Ted Chippington – 11 October 2008, Buffalo Bar

We are teetering upon the horns of a dilemma. After a hard day’s graft, dealing with ridiculous people, it’s nice to relax by going to see a ridiculous band. But which one? On the one hand there’s The New Royal Family, on t’other there’s a Guided Missile night (ridiculous in and of itself) featuring Glamchops. In the end we ‘plump’ for Glamchops as a) we’ve yet to see them live, b) we prefer the Buffalo Bar to The Fly (where NRF are playing) and c) Shrag are supporting.

Shrag are aces – we discovered this at Indietracks and are keen to experience further aceness. Tonight they show they have a knack for indecently infectious pop tunes, ramshackling their way through a poptastically energetic set of squealingly exhilarating songs. ‘Ghosts Before Breakfast’ has a muscular, Fallish guitar crankiness that makes for jittery danceability, ‘Long Term Monster’ is a rackety rush replete with squiggly noises. The magnifique ‘Talk to the Left’, is interpreted in dance by The Panther Girls, catsuited up and clawing at the crowd. In yer face and fabulously catchy.

Before this popart explosion we get Ted Chippington. I know of Mr Chippington due to John Peel’s penchant for playing his deadpan renderings in the late eighties, and because of ‘The Vindaloo Summer Special’ a record upon which The Nightingales and We’ve Gotta Fuzzbox And We’re Gonna Use it joined Ted in performing the very silly ‘Rockin' With Rita (Head To Toe)’. It seemed brilliant when I bought it (1986). Guided Missile have winkled Ted out from somewhere (Torquay) to open the night with his ‘comedy’. This consists of him talking in non-sequiturs about his neighbours and stuff. He tells anti-jokes with no punch-lines in a weary, irritable manner. People shuffle nervously. It’s a bit scary. Then he grumpily ‘sings’ a couple of songs accompanied by a sort of mini-me John Cooper-Clarke on guitar and a drunk drummer. Odd.

And so to The Glam Chops, an unholy conglomeration of familiar faces reviving the ignoble art of glam rock. On drums it’s Stuffy of …and The Fuses ‘fame’, Tim Purr plays guitar and is the glam-meister of the band, also on guitar there’s David Devant (yes!) in a marvellous glitter catsuit and big hair. Paul Guided Missile himself is on bass. Honking and chirping away on sax and looking like he hasn’t realised it isn’t 1974 Arec is resplendently adorned with a dinner plate, knife and fork painted onto his forehead. Possibly the most familiar Glam Chop (to tha kidz anyway) is Eddie Argos who is leading the whole shebang with his rowdy singing, costume changing and general arsing about in a glam style.

Together, The Glam Chops blast merrily through a heap of songs that are chocka with glammy goodness: bits of Bolan ‘n’ Bowie, Slade and The Sweet and er ‘Spirit In The Sky’. My favourite is the one David Devant sings. Sort of like a crooning Alvin Stardust. But it’s all finger-pointingly, air-punchingly triumphant. Throughout, The Panther Girls boogie and high kick – they’ll have someone’s eye out like that! The final song sees Eddie mingling with the crowd, thanking everyone individually for coming. An appropriately communal ending to this big glittery ball of joyousness. Don’t be glum be glam!