Sunday 24 February 2008

My Sad Captains / Fireworks Night / Gold Sounds – 18th February 2008, Hoxton Bar & Grill

We have been feeling bad. Dark times upon us. So what better way to demolish the demons than to venture out into a fog furled February night for some Pop Times? And who better to provide those Pop Times than the ever-reliable Fortuna Pop! Yes.

We are dahn the Hoxton Bar and Grill, but don’t worry, there’s a very low level of Shoreditch twattery, it being Monday ‘n’ all, and out back where the gig action is the pop kids are gathered. First on, Gold Sounds (Pavement fans, perchance?) who gladden our hearts with a spot of glintily melodic Americana by way of Nottingham. They are charming and cheering and they’ve bought their embarrassing friends with them to dance over-enthusiastically wedding reception style at the front. Aww.

Fireworks Night (good name) are a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. Their sound wraps a velvety cloak (probably with curious symbols embroidered on it) of mystery and drama around proceedings, enveloping us in their Angela Carter ‘Nights At The Circus’ world. With a dual viola/violin attack providing shivers down spines, they create an atmosphere of Eastern European folk-tales and gypsy dances; of ‘30s Berlin hedonism, and sinister soul-searching nights. Excitingly, the first swaggering shanty of a song sees violin girl beating the crap out of a cardboard box with a wooden spoon. The introduction of the aforementioned string instruments to the sound creates a droning kosmiche element to the second song, which is mighty fine. The set dips slightly in the middle – it’s all too much, a little samey, plus the singer has distressing hair. Happily, the final song is a chilling epic balancing on the eerie lament of a musical saw, wailing and searing and exhilaratingly dark. Brrr.

And so to My Sad Captains, who, as a friend comments, have turned into the kind of band you’d pay to see. They race through their psunny psych popsongs, sending out honeyed good vibes. Around them flit the ghosts of The Go Betweens, The Flaming Lips, Grandaddy, even The Bodines here and there. My Sad Captains seem to have gorged themselves on all manner of jangley goodness from the pop music larder, chewed it up and spat it back out into the world (in a lovely way). Their pop is brimming, gloriously twisted, afloat on melodies that corkscrew merrily round your brain. Last year’s single ’Bad Decisions’ shines brightly, a familiar face in the crowd, addled by ‘ba ba bas’. Forthcoming White Heat released tracks, the happy heartbreak spiralling of ‘All Hat And No Plans’ and the twinkly, glowing, harmony heaven of ‘Great Expectations’ are new friends we know we’re going to love. Brightness shines. Yipee!

Monday 4 February 2008

The Clientele / The See See / Le Volume Courbe / The No Sorrows - 25 January 2008 – Buffalo Bar

Sean Fortuna Pop! has played a blinder with this month’s Beat Hotel line-up and everyone wants a piece of tonight’s West Coast / psych-folk action. The place is sold out and sold out and sold out. Many-hued indie folk queue anxiously, waiting to be greeted by cheery door-girl Mar Dulok. David Luxembourg drifts by, ticketless. We go for a pre-gig snifter in the pub and nearly choke on our cheap vodka when we realise Kevin Shields is sharing our table. Then we really do choke on our cheap vodka when Terry Hall strolls in to join him. Terry Hall is a bona fide proper Popstar, not a person out of an old indie band. He must be a popstar ‘cos we knew who he was in Primary school. We have to keep glancing at him. Later, when we get our hands stamped with ‘Too Much’ on the door, we remember Fortuna Pop events used to offer a twin stamp that said ‘Too Young’ (I think it’s lost now), how great would it have been to offer Terry Hall a choice between the two? Very great, obviously.

Anyways, it turns out Terry Hall’s son (who we observe asking his Dad for crisps in the pub - sweet!) is playing guitar with Le Volume Courbe. Charlotte Marionneau is Le Volume Courbe adding extra players as and when needed. She has a naif-ish waif-ish charm, cracked, girlish, heavily French-accented vocals and is clearly not that comfortable with being on stage. Full marks to her for braving the crowd and for managing to play a Swanee Whistle on one song with cute dignity. Accompanying Charlotte, alongside the aforementioned guitar are a drummer and Mel from The Clientele – sweeping the group along with elegant dips and glides on violin. The songs are tremulous and delicate, some scant seconds long. ‘I Killed My Best Friend’ is eerily jaunty and spookily enchanting. They end with a whispy, whispery, banjo-pluckin’ version of ‘Freight Train’

Before any of this The No Sorrows play a splendid set of psychedelic space-folk. They fill my head with visions of owls and witches and make earthily mournful music. ‘Wild Sun’ sounds like racing chaotically over green and brown fields and I thoroughly enjoy their haunted songs. Even better, the band’s folksiness is tempered with some good old noise, one song coming on like Dinosaur Jnr’s ‘Thumb’ with distorted guitars bleeding through. The No Sorrows are that rare thing – an intriguing discovery.

With The No Sorrows and Le Volume Courbe in the bag, I can’t fail with The See See, ‘cos I love ‘em (that's me at the front wearing a See See badge like a saddo - look I forgot it was there okay, I didn't wear it on purpose). The band rattle through a rambunctious raft of songs that twirl and stagger between folk, country and psychedelia. Opener ‘Late Morning Light’ swirls sleepy-eyed and spectral into a monster of distortion. ‘Half A Man And A Horse’s Head’ (that would be a kind of inverted Centaur, I guess?) is toe-tappin’ and country-swingin’. ‘Up The Hill’ is hazy and laid-back, riding on sweet vocals and lazily jangled guitars. The See See have the whole ‘band as a gang’ thing nailed as well – they look like they’re enjoying themselves, enjoying playing off of one another – it’s a joy to behold. On top of that, watching Ben Swank’s drumming is a whole new spectator sport, I especially enjoy the bits where he stands up and slides rag-doll-like down the wall to hit the skins. Top entertainment all round.

The Clientele are one of those bands who’ve been knocking around on indie bills for years. I’m always pleased to see ‘em in a line-up, always buy the albums and enjoy them, although never in a this-record-saved-my-life! kind of way. Last year I looked the other way, and somehow The Clientele got mighty popular – hence the frenzied queuing tonite. I’ve tried hard to enjoy the band’s latest album ‘God Save The Clientele’– as everyone else seems to be raving about it – but it keeps skating off my ears. Singer/guitarist Alasdair is a virtuoso genius on the old twangling strings, though, and tonight’s set turns out to be pretty darn mesmerising.

The Clientele kick off with one of my faves, ‘Since K Got Over Me’, effortlessly sending out shimmers of sound like ripples on a lake. Theirs’ is a distinctive sound, full of floaty, reverb-ed guitar and Alasdair’s ghost-vocals, the songs sounding like out-takes from Buffalo Springfield’s orphan album ‘Last Time Around’. The Clientele are masters of their craft – a drifting, languid, filtered-sunlight West Coast vibe, but their set shows there are other strings to their bow. There’s the sudden, surprising funkiness of the feisty ‘Bookshop Casanova’, and ‘The Garden At Night’ breaks out the garage stomp for a brief but frenzied fuzz attack.
The piece de resistance is an epic version of ‘Lamplight’. As the song flickers, the room (cramped as it is) shrinks down to a pinpoint focus on Alasdair’s guitar which starts speaking in tongues, shivering and whirling out dervish music. It’s hypnotically beautiful.

To close, Lal from The Peoples Revolutionary Choir lurks awkwardly in a corner of the tiny stage to narrate his way through the short story prose-piece of ‘Losing Haringey’. He manages surprisingly well, but unfortunately all we hear is him muttering as the band chime through circling lullaby chords. It doesn’t really matter though, it all sounds so delectable.

Saturday 2 February 2008

There’s so many more colors / Without the dirty windows Fave Tunes December 07/January 08

There’s So Many Colors – Akron/Family Expansive space-folk hippy psych-jam. Just ignore the bad grammar in the title.

Shelter From The Ash – Six Organs Of Admittance Whirling, apocalyptic, manages to remind me of The Afghan Whigs and Godspeed! You Black Emperor simultaneously.

Stillborn - Sarah Tucek Insular, intimate. Sitting in a campfire glow, drinking whisky, darkness pressing in all around.

Mend - Sparky’s Magic Piano Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink electro indie-pop goodness.

This Year’s Beat - Japancakes Cinematic sweeps waltzing with languorous pedal steel guitar make me go all floaty.

Keytarded – Love Will Tear Us Apart Miaow / Miaow miaow miaow miaow miaow miaow / Miaow.

Colonise the Moon – Gruff Rhys Meditative mind-buzz, complemented by the lyrics ‘I vomited throughout your saxophone solo"

Shape Of Things To Come - Left Outsides Eerie/soothing folk-psych. The Left Outsides can always be relied on to transport you.

Frenchy’s - Holy Fuck Monster mongo groove bouncing round inside a stainless steel cell.

Shrinking Moon For You - Wooden Shjips Drone-fuzz, screechy madness. Spacemen 3 fighting Loop with chainsaws.

I Burn Myself On You – The Lionheart Brothers Norwegian dreampop boys being glidey and twinkly and a tad MBV-ish.

This City Holds Us All E.P. - The Situationists (Tough Love Records)

You’d think being called The Situationists would require a band to at least live up a little to the spirit of Debord – throw in a little discombobulating mischief, at least line their CD sleeves with glass-paper or something. But no this is the usual stuff; angular guitars, frantic vocals, young people being fake-earnest, pretending to be inspired by early-‘80s fractured pop, blah blah, Futureheads blah blah. Jolly enough popstuff for the kids, but not half as much fun as The Gandalf The Grey album I’ve just downloaded – the man’s wearing a cape and a pointy hat and singing about being bohemian in Greenwich Village through a Tolkien-ian filter. Ho, yes, ridiculous. Who’s the real Situationist here?*

(*Clue: Guy Debord, obviously, even if he is dead)