Monday 30 March 2009

Tame Impala – 11 March 2009, The Lexington

This is all rather odd. We’re at a gig and there’s nobody here we know. Just lots of Australians. Oh hang on Delia’s doing the door. Hurrah! Seeing her familiar smiling face makes us feel less bewildered.

This is Tame Impala’s second UK gig (I overhear the drummer saying “This is my third day out of Australia” – bless) and it seems to be a sort of record company (Modular Records) showcase – no support bands, no advance tickets, an eager crowd who break all the London gig rules by being excited and enthusiastic, clapping and whooping and generally acting like they’re enjoying the band. Pretty shocking stuff, but the band ARE enjoyable. Tame Impala play prog jazz hippy wiggy wig outs but with TUNES and funkiness. They have a Crybaby wah wah pedal, shaggy hair and teenage prodigy guitar fingers. Their songs conjure flickery sunlight through dappled leaves and super nova sunspots. Dazed and confused psychedelia for metal kids with mellow smiles.

Tame Impala are usually three, but are supplemented live by an extra guitar pixie boy in a far out hippy top. He’s the only one wearing shoes, the rest of the band are in bare feet. As it says on their Myspace they ‘like to play gigs in paddocks and other large areas of grass in the sun’, which is all very well, but this is London in Feb, so respect to Tame Impala’s dedication to the hippy way.

The bass player does some excellent hair swinging and at one point rips into a deeply growly bass riff that’s almost as good as Dungen’s ‘Du E For Fin For Mig’ a track that always makes me laugh out loud so good is its bass crunch. Ah, Dungen. The mention of their name in a Tame Impala review is what initially piqued my interest, and there are some definite Dungen-y moments tonight, the swirling ‘Desire Be Desire Go’ being the most obvious example, as well as the space jazz blissed-outness, the expanding midsong thousand-yard-stare jams, and the flowery reverbing across the cosmos.

We get seven songs from Tame Impala (though they’re all pretty long, what with the wig-outs and the, gulp, drum solos and all – value for money, innit?) including, quite madly, a sunfried, stoned psychfunk version of Blue Boy’s ‘Remember Me’…gan gaga gaga gan gan ga gan etc. The set ends with what seems to be regarded by this audience as Tame Impala’s ‘hit’. ‘Half Full Glass Of Wine’, a hip swinging chunk of riffalong catchiness, swoops all before it into an eight armed multi-coloured embrace of crunchy psych-rock. Num!

Sunday 29 March 2009

London Popfest Alldayer - 28 February 2009, The MacBeth

London Popfest is a skillz idea – four days of indiepop fun brightening up dull old Feb. So big cheers to Spiral Scratch, Fortuna Pop! And WIAIWYA for putting the whole shebang together.

Fearing we might come over all unnecessary if we overindulge in the pop, we confine ourselves to attending the centrepiece event, The London Popfest Alldayer. We’re in The MacBeth, The Pete Green Corporate Juggernaut have just kicked things off, playing at least two songs that feature the bassline from ‘Never Understand’. We are surrounded by familiar faces with nary a Hoxton twat in sight (that comes much later when we have to negotiate the Sat nite streets of Shoreditch. The buggers are even spilling down Bethnal Green Road now!) There’s a (yum!) record stall and a mix tape CD swap and up on the smoking roof The Loves are trying to recreate a Monty Python photo.

Ahh, The Loves. They’re on tip top form today, maybe because this is bassist Danielle’s (sob!) last gig, going out with a krang! blamm! sprang!! not a whimper. These Loves are goddamn nasty, crunching out a v. rock ‘n’ roll set sprinkled with Simon’s amusingly offensive banter. They start with a two song mash-up: ‘The Sound We Make Is…Little Girl Blues’ and crash through a popart set: ‘Ode To Coca Cola’, ‘Xs and Os’, ‘Bubblegum’. Simon slathers on the geetar, pulling his finest, windmillingest rock moves all over The Loves’ delirious freakbeat psych out mod pop topping it all off with Os Mutantes’ ‘Bat Macumba’. Yeah!

Prior to this we are rocked in a very bubblegum punk way by Town Bike. The key to Town Bike is the ‘High School Musical’ sticker on Janey’s bass and the fact that they have a song that is an ode to Dougie from McFly. They are the essence of pop encapsulated in its simplest form; fast and fun. They even have a song pointing this out, “Three chords, three notes. That’s all we wrote.” At one point drummer Gabby is called upon to perform a drum-roll. She looks most surprised to have carried it off and it makes us feel good to have witnessed it – twice! Town Bike are tumultuous and gleeful and you can either let yourself get swept along in their enthusiasm, or you pretty much have to fuck off.

Action Biker has laptop probs for ages, but eventually gets things going. She stands alone centre stage looking gorgeous in a fab dress, swaying and dancing to her blippy beats, singing sweetly along to the pattering, twinkly, glowing songs. After a while we have to go for a bit of a sit down. It’s tiring work all this Popfesting.

The Smittens aren’t afraid to call their music ‘tweepop’. And Goddamn they’re twee. Twee enough to turn one into Steven Wells, or at least make a shy bald Buddhist reflect and plan a mass murder. Today The Smittens are just three-strong, and incredibly smiley. In fact they’re insanely happy to the point of being sinister. I find their hyper saccharine playgroup pop a little hard to stomach, but there are two boys at the front of the crowd jumping about, hugging each other and singing along soo ecstatically that it would be churlish to begrudge them their pop joy. And slowly, I’m won round, especially when 6 ft 4 Max gets on the mic and sings in a bottom of yer boots voice. There are some intriguing pop gems to be found amongst the candyfloss here, and by the end I’m singing along merrily with The Smittens’ cover of Beat Happening’s ‘Cast A Shadow’.

Help Stamp Out Loneliness provide us with a big pop rush. I’ve only seen the band once before, so I’m surprised to find their songs bounding up to me like long lost friends. Cor, they’re catchy. Big, shiny tunes that recall the best kinds of eighties pop. The kinds of tunes that are ubiquitous and eternal and crucially still cool, like stuff by Blondie or The Pretenders. There’s also a bittersweet yearning to the songs that recalls The Organ and by extension The Smiths. Singer D.C. Lucille radiates fuck you poise and glamour and is wearing an excellent pink mini dress that even the Sounds XP fashion correspondent couldn’t object to. There should be a legion of teenage girls styling themselves on Ms Lucille, in the same way that lots of mini Kate Jacksons erupted in the wake of The Long Blondes. Meanwhile, the rest of the band hammer out the songs with gusto. So much so that the drummer nearly dislodges the fake stone wall (MacBeth – castle, see?) behind him. Sterling work.

Milky Wimpshake generate a crazy popkid moshpit with their songs. A band of boys and girls all babble the lyrics, fluff the words, punch the air and land heavily but happily. It’s sweet and communal and makes The MacBeth feel even more of a tiny indiepop microcosm swirling in an unlovely world.

Comet Gain are a beautiful chandelier in our hearts. At least that’s what David Feck would like us to think. He says as much as his band’s set rapidly crumbles around our ears. And in a way they are, albeit that chandelier on ‘Only Fools and Horses’ that crashes to the floor and breaks into smithereens because Rodney’s holding the blanket to catch it under the wrong one.

The band have brought a wee bloke with an oil slide projector with them who busies himself in a corner dropping ink onto the slides to little effect as the projection is kind of blotted out by the band. It’s the thought that counts though. The first time I saw an oil slide projector in action was when Pink Floyd, I mean Felt played the Doin’ It For The Kids Alldayer, their track ‘Ballad of the Band’ being one of the highlights on the accompanying compilation LP. Spookily, Comet Gain start their set with a rather fab cover of ‘Ballad Of The Band’, “Sometimes I feel like giving in” sings Feck, perhaps ominously.

A few tatty but happy songs later, things is going wrong, but Comet Gain don’t give in. They plough on through a set that rapidly becomes an insane car crash shambles even by their standards. And we can’t look away. In my notebook I have written “Slade’s look of surprise”. I can’t remember what this was referring to now, but really it could have been any one of a host of things, not least his guitar packing in. Meanwhile Rachel in best show-must-go-on style, dances and claps, hauling the crumpled wrecks of songs along in her indie testifying wake. She is a star shining amidst the rubble.

Towards the end, with any hope of playing actual songs with notes in the right order gone, Feck is just going wherever his shellshocked ‘muse’ takes him, wittering out indie savant bollocks, “I can go on singing like this all night… I know lots of records…Godstar, Godstar, uh oh oh oh…And that’s just Psychic TV’. This is clearly poetic licence of a genius kind and certainly a memorable end to an oddball day.

Monday 2 March 2009

You Leave Me No Choice But To Plot My Revenge – Fave Tunes Jan/Feb 2009

Half Full Glass Of Wine – Tame Impala Twangling geetars ‘n’ head banging in the desert heat

Gentle Sons - The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart Cavernous drums, feedback wailing perfectly. Turn it up!

Kicking Around – Superimposers Like sailing gently out to sea, sun glitter dancing on the waves

Summertime Clothes - Animal Collective Sounds squidgy and sweaty like a sweltering summer night

Path Through The Forest – Factory Chocolate Soup humming with electricity

Up Against The Wall – The Young Sinclairs Pretty much everything this band does is swirlingly wonderful, but this is especially dreamy

Jervington Jig – Wyrdstone Soothing, circling Watch With Mother folkiness

Pregnancy Scene - Shrag Poptastic droning undertow gets blitzkrieged with agitated SHOUTING

Young Adult Friction - The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart What if My Bloody Valentine had gone to a nice college instead of living in a Kentish Town squat with broken bannisters? Nice to hear a shout-out to microfiche in a pop song, too

When Tomorrow Hits – Spectrum Excellent fun to sing in an especially doomy voice whilst washing up

Sunday 1 March 2009

Spectrum – 27 February 2009, Sonic Cathedral at The Dome

Last summer we were cruelly tantalised by two Spectrum shows which promised to be amazing had equipment problems not cruelly eaten into set time and cut the band off in their prime. Tonight we get our reward. Spectrum are gobsmackingly fabulous. There are no problems, indeed the sound here in The Dome (where one thousand years of indie discos are engrained into the school-hall-tastic fabric of the room) is dashed excellent.

Sonic Boom looks pretty much the same as ever – the same as last year, the same as ten years ago, the same as the Spacemen 3 years – boyish, skeletal. He is the lightning rod at the centre of an electrical storm, calmly conducting the ebb and flow of noise from behind a keyboard and guitar. The songs build and burst into beautiful chaos -all meticulously controlled – no fret-board wankery here, the band drilled in the pureness of repetition driven by relentless drums.

K, D and I form a grand (old) ladies of drone-rock cabal in the corner – like the old ladies who sit in their special corner of a pub – seen it all before, but still game for some hair shaking.

Spectrum’s set is chock full of crowd pleasing ‘hits’ – all sounding MIGHTY. ‘How You Satisfy Me’ is less farfisa jaunty than on record and more borehole to your brain ferocious, ‘Transparent Radiation’ utterly luxuriant. ‘When Tomorrow Hits’ booms doomily, a narco thunderclap. Of course the set ends with ‘Revolution’, drawn out and teasing, before finally kicking into that angry white out of scrubbed guitar strings. And then there's an encore. A twenty minute encore of 'Suicide'. A pummelling, heart-seizing 'Suicide'. Half-way through the song, its machinery set to his satisfaction, Sonic strolls off to collect his 'special guests' MGMT. They seem a bit terrified. One of them (I don't what MGMT's names are do I?) is given a drum mallet which he uses to tickle a cymbal in a hilariously mimsy manner. The other is guided to the keyboard where Sonic, an avuncular sorcerer to a shaggy haired apprentice, shows him how to twiddle knobs, set phasers to stun, etc.

We bask in the fearsome squall eating up the entire room and inveigling our senses. It's heavenly. And Kevin Shields is nearby looking on. Just like the old days, eh? I said JUST LIKE THE OLD DAYS. Yes.

Crystal Stilts – 13 February 2009, Brixton Windmill

We all know there are too many ‘Crystal…’ bands at the mo. I especially get Crystal Stilts and Crystal Antlers confused because both involve appendages to the body, albeit at opposite ends. Crystal STILTS are the ones we’re concerned with here. The Mary Chainy, Velvetsy ones. You can put them in a little box tied with a bow (probably fashioned from a scraggy old Ramones tee-shirt) along with The Vivian Girls and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. All hail from New York bearing fuzzy, buzzy indie pop gifts. All of them make me go a bit nostalgic for late eighties feedbackery. Crystal Stilts are at the more garagey end of the fuzzpop spectrum and tonight I discover they’re a darn sight more POP! than I was expecting, not to mention irresistibly danceable. Hair swinging, Chelsea boot stamping danceable - the only dance it’s really possible to do in the confined space of a packed Windmill, although a couple of girls nearby do their utmost to really irritate everyone by doing ‘ooh look at me, I’m so free!’ arm wavey dancing.

The star of the show has to be Crystal Stilts’ cute (ex-Vivian Girl) stand up drummer Frankie Rose. She manages to be the most engaging member of the band despite being positioned in the far back corner of the stage, bashing away at a three piece kit providing the crashing backbeat that makes you move. Also she has a tiny dress on. Meanwhile, up front singer Brad seems to be having one long seizure, eyes three quarters closed and rolled back mumbling out the words in a sub-sonic rumble beneath the clattering cacophony of guitars ‘n’ swivelly sixties organ (played by Steph from Shrag).

Live, the ghost train reverb of Crystal Stilts album is less apparent, the Velvet Underground clackety groove bursting forth. To prove the point there’s an encore of ‘Temptation Inside Of Your Heart' which cranks along sweetly, tracing a forty year old trail of sticky footprints from Manhattan to Brooklyn.