Sunday, November 26, 2006

Ben Kweller @ Shepherd's Bush Empire

You could tell what sort of night this was going to be like as soon as the crowd went crazy for the first song Ben Kweller played off his debut album Sha Sha. Having already played three or four songs of his later two releases to admirable and pretty good receptions, the first few chords of Walk On Me set the room off and from then on the night was his.
He seemed really excited about being
back on stage in London, which he exclaimed a couple of times, but his whole demeanour expressed this, he looked like he was having a great time up there, as did the rest of his band. The set was a collection from all three albums, with tracks off the new self-titled record getting played a bit more, which just lead to his earlier material getting an even better reaction from the audience, tunes like Falling and The Rules were just lapped up. BK just has a knack for writing cheery, catchy, pop rock songs that are so easy to sing along to. Even on the new album, which has lost alot of the quirkiness of the first two, has all the best qualities of a Ben Kweller's work.

Halfway through the set, the band left the stage, leaving Ben to entertains us sololy, which he did aptly, playing some of the slower, more poignant songs like On My Way and Thirteen, which kept the London crowd silent for the entirety. Then before we knew it, the band had rejoined him and were again rocking out. The best receptions of the night came for Hospital Bed with its oh so catchy chorus and, probably, most famous song Wasted & Ready, which closed the set perfectly. There was such a party atmosphere at the point that i wish he played it earlier or carried on playing because it was such a good feeling.
There were a few glaring emissions from the setlist, with the likes of How It Should Be and Lizzy, especially, not getting any airing, which i was a little pissed about but all in all it was a super fun night of singing, dancing and grinning.

Ben Kweller - Wasted & Ready
Ben Kweller - Hospital Bed
Ben Kweller - Run

Cheers to dogfacedboy for the great photos

Friday, November 17, 2006

Sad Times Always End In Happiness

I just found out today that one of my favourite British bands, thisGIRL, have split up. The band left a message on their Myspace blog on Monday informing fans that they are no more, but to look out for new projects from members of the band in the future. ThisGIRL were really underappreciated, although getting some critical acclaim, the four-piece never made any in-roads into becoming a successful band. Its very hard to see why this happened as they were so inventive in the creation of music, fusing many genres together in the space of a 3 minute song, and when the band took to the stage, their kinetic, energetic and fun sets were the some of the liveliest i've ever seen. Lead singer Liam Creamer (still don't know if thats a joke name or not) was unstoppable in the live arena, who hardly ever stopped moving during a set. Having played over 1000 shows in around 7 years, the band have built up quite a fanbase, who are all sad to see these guys go. Go and check them out. RIP

In happier news, the new album by The Evens is awesome. I haven't heard their debut yet but Get Evens is right up my street. It probably helps that i adore Fugazi as some of the tracks sound like they could have been Fugazi songs but the simplicity of the duo brings out a new and different element to Iam Mackaye's songwriting. There's a tenderness that i hadn't seen before through Fugazi's layers of musical brilliance, but still with political gusto and a tad of aggression, and Amy Farina's vocals, both when backing and taking the lead, are outstanding, as well as her drumming. This could well make it onto my top 10 album of the year list.

thisGIRL - Using Radars To Communicate

thisGIRL - We Have Fangs Too
thisGIRL - Hallelujah

The Evens - Dinner With The President
The Evens - You Fell Down

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Jack Lewis & The Cutoffs + Chris Maher + Noah & The Whale + Felix @ Bunker's Hill

Bunker's Hill is a funny venue, old man's pub downstairs full of smoke, seats and ale and upstairs is where the kids play music, full of cakes, comics and merriment. This atmosphere is reflected in the music played tonight which harks back to traditional roots but is being created by young and very talented people.

First up is Felix. Just a pretty girl behind a piano and a indie-looking guy wielding a guitar make up this local band, but they create some beautiful and atmospheric sounds. The pretty girl, Lucinda is her name, sings in hushed tones, sometimes mumbled and it sounds a bit like Cat Power singing Regina Spektor songs, the classical piano parts enforced the Regina comparison. The guitar was mucked around with, very experimently, as if the player had never picked one up before but somehow managed to produce noises that complimented Lucinda's playing and singing very well. Unfortunately i can't find any mp3s of them to offer you so just check out the myspace if they sound like your cup of tea.

I'd heard a bit about Noah & The Whale before this gig as the wonderful Emmy The Great sings backing vocals for them, although tonight she was on tour with Scott Matthews so couldn't contribute but the duo that played were capable of holding any audience capivated by themselves. Consisting of just one guy singing and guitaring, who looked like a young Lou Reed, and other playing a very stripped down drumkit, just bass and snare with a variety of percussion. Their songs capture a melancholy that i'm sure exists in everyone, i think it comes from the lazy sounding vocals, but they also contain such hopefulness, a reassurance that things will get better no matter how shitty you feel and that made the performance work so well. After twenty minutes i felt happier than i had done all day. Definately worth checking out.

Before The Cutoffs finished off the night, Chris Mayer, one of their guitarists, played a short but very enjoyable set of his own material. It was very anti-folk, you know; basic chords, scratchy, untrained vocals but an wit and an energy that was so entartaining and watchable. He sang of lazy days on the streets of New York, love equations and ways to deceive and not for one second did i think of getting another drink at the bar or how much work i had to do the next day, Chris had me enthralled throughout.
He was then joined on stage by Jack and the rest of the Cutoffs, which consists of Jack on bass, Simon (from the Wowz) on the other guitar and Raphi on the drums. They play lo-fi noisy shit about parties, graffiti artists and The Unicorns and they also play quite a few songs by other people. Jack's voice is very raw, it sometimes goes a bit out of tune but he puts everything into it so you can't really fault him, and luckily he's backed by some nice harmonies. The band were told they could only play half a set amplified, due to demanding neighbours, but they take full advantage of it while it lasted with a good few loud numbers, then halfway through the set, the amps are switched off and the band take to the centre of the room to close with set of acoustic tracks, a few Wowz songs, one written by Jack and Jeff, one by the Wave Pictures, and the whole room silently watched them perform their magic. A trumpet appears out of nowhere and accompanies a nice song sung by Jack, it really is proper DIY, nothings pre-arranged or organised, the band didn't even have a place to sleep that night and guess who offered them their floor, oh yes... moi (they were really cool guys).

Noah & The Whale - Death By Numbers

Chris Maher - mE=mc2
Jack Lewis & The Cutoffs - Graffiti Artists Bombs
Jack Lewis & The Cutoffs - Kids On Tour

This review is pretty poor but luckily the photos are awesome, there's more here, thank you Toby Price :)

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Switch Has Melted

Eighth Day Descent (you may have read my live review of them here) have just self released their second ep, The Switch Has Melted and i have to say its mighty good. Its better produced and recorded than their last effort, which is good thing as the band play at such a ferocious pace at times, that the better quality allows the listener more insight into the music. Technically and experimentally the band seem to have progressed as well with lots of changing speeds and moods. Desert Of Winter serves as a great intense opener which just bursts out of your speakers like an angry party popper, Timmy O Toole, about being stuck down a well, is Roadrunner fast and doesn't hold up to let you catch your breath, Tony Pandy slows down a bit in the middle but its moody and atmospheric and it kicks off again at the end and the title track contains some phat riffage, like all the tracks some mental drumming and, surprisingly enough, a few handclaps.
Its a very accomplished record from some very talent guys, and although it may not be everyone's cuppa tea at least give them a listen, you may be quite surprised.
Check out their myspace for all information and downloads and most importantly to buy a copy of the new ep and here's a track off it:

Eighth Day Descent - Desert Of Winter

Friday, November 10, 2006

"England Steals All The Credit, Thats How It Goes"

One of my favourites things about seeing Jeffrey Lewis live is his lectures in rhyme. The first time i saw him, at 93 Feet East, he performed a "low budget video" about the history of Communism in China (which i just found a awesome video of), which was just him standing on a chair, with a large, wonderfully drawn comic book in hand which he flick through while narrating it with witty and beautiful crafted poetry.
The History Of Punk On New York's Lower East Side, 1950-1975, is probably my favourite. Altho Jeff doesn't use a comic book to illustrate and compliment the words, he inserts snippets of songs from the artists he mentions, which makes for a very interesting listen. Having grown up in the Village, Jeff seems very passionate and knowledgable about this subject matter, The Fugs are one of his major influences. From Harry Smith's anthology of American folk, through The Velvet Underground, David Peel, The Stooges, The New York Dolls, all the way to CBGB's and The Ramones, Jeff covers it all, i don't know how he didn't stumble over any of the words. The last bit about England stealing the credit i'm not entirely sure on, as UK and US punk are quite different things or were at the time, but Mr Lewis sure does have the punk attitude of being totally unique. I can't wait to catch him in December!!!

Here's the lecture and some of the originals as well:
Jeffrey Lewis - The History Of Punk On New York's Lower East Side, 1950-1975
William & Versey Smith - When That Great Ship Went Down
The Holy Modal Rounders - Euphoria
The Velvet Underground - I'm Waiting For The Man
The Fugs - Nothing
Iggy Pop &The Stooges - 1969
Patti Smith - Gloria
New York Dolls - Personality Crisis
Richard Hell & The Voidoids - Blank Generation

If anyone's got any David Peel, Silver Apples or more of The Fugs, i'd love to have a listen, cheers.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

This, That And The Other

Hope everyone had a good fireworks night, i was working at Twickenham for the England vs All Blacks rugby international so i didn't have that much fun.
This week's Contrast podcast came out yesterday, the theme was songs with when in the title an dits one of the best collections of music they've had. I put Idlewild's When I Argue I See Shapes forward, its such a good track for jumping around to and shouting. Check it out here.
Idlewild - When I Argue I See Shapes

Also i receive in my inbox
yesterday an email telling me that All Saints are turning on the Oxford Street christmas lights this year and will then be doing a signing session at Virgin Megastore, Piccadilly Circus, tomorrow, so if you want to see some c-list celebs, who are trying to make a comeback, flick a switch and you're in London tomorrow, you know where to be. Here's a track of their new album, its got some nice drums at the start but then they start rapping and i start laughing.
All Saints - Chick Fit

Friday, November 03, 2006

Friday Face-Off : Round 6

Today's theme is quite random, it can be prime and imaginary, integer and decimal, triangular or square, thats right kids, its numbers, or more precisely songs with numbers in the title.

First up this week, i give you Neb

Texas Is The Reason - A Jack With One Eye

This could be a bit of a random faceoff i feel. Which is great because I get to pick a song from an amazing seminal band. You kinda got to make a slight effort to stick with this song at first, but then its a definite slow burner witha huge chorus, the effort's more than rewarding

And now its me

Venetian Snares - Twelve

This was quite a tough choice, i had the option of a zero, a few 1s, some 2s, a 4, a 13 and a 100000 but i decide to go with the uncompromising sounds of Venetian Snares ,aka Aaron Funk, and the number 12. He somehow makes dance music that you have no idea how to dance to and gives a innocent Seasame Street sample a whole other dimension that i'd never have guessed when i was 7. It also has some awesome beats.

ok voting time! Just leave a comment. lets see how high a number of votes we can reach, i'd say 4 this time.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Watching (Xanad)u

For my A-level English course i had to read A Handmaid's Tale and write an essay entitled 'Margaret Atwood successfully reflects the major concerns of our era in her creation of the dystopian Republic of Gilead. Discuss' If you haven't read the book, the world the characters live in is monitored through Compucheks, Identipasses and undercover spies called Eyes, which, in light of the reports in the last few days, seems quite fitting.
I'm not the most politically minded person, but my, well our, civil liberties are the one thing that i feel passion about. Hopefully i'll be able to communicate my thoughts, although usually it all gets jumbled up in my head and comes out in a bit of a mess, but there's alot up there, especially after just having watch Newsnight, where this topic was its main feature.
I can't really see how we've let it get this bad already, we let organizations and companies collect database of our own personal information, sometimes without any permission, and then we find out that through a lack of safeguards and protection, the data is very unsecure and could be easily infiltrated. You'd think that they'd take a bit more care over all this but then again i doubt if any of the leading figures have added their info to it, so what's the point in all the security. The main worry about these massive databases is when the info starts to get traded between them, i mean through supermarket store cards, Sainsburys, Tesco and Asda have a majority of the population's personal information on file and do you really trust a big business not to be tempted to sell it off for big money, they are a business.
And then there's the surveillance issue. We are the most watched nation in Europe with one camera for every 14 people but still we have one of the highest crime rates. Something's not right there! Soon we will be scanned while walking into shops by scanners hidden in doorways which read electronic tags embedded in your clothes and personalized adverts will appear for related items, yes that sounds like the technology in Minority Report but in under a decade in could be real life. With technology like this, everything we do could, one day, been tracked and recorded, from the items we buy to where we've been. The scary thing is this is happening now and no one seems worried about it. This is because of the fact that due to advances in technology cameras and scanners are so small and discreet, they can be hidden so people are unaware of the intrusion on their privacy.
The only way to stop this is for the nation to put their collective foot down and tell Parliament where we want the line to be drawn but the government uses our recent fears of terrorism to make it look like all this is for our own good, that all this extra surveillance is making the streets and country safer but the fear of crime is definitely at its peak. Most of my friends here in Nottingham won't walk the streets alone at night, afraid of being mugged or beaten up, even though there's a camera on every street, but what good is a camera, they can't stop the criminal or protect you, and where are they people who are meant to protect and serve, the local bobby on the beat? Probably either trying sort out a family tiff or filling in paper work on a fight outside the local pub from a few friday's back.
We really don't live in the best society and it needs sorting out but I really have no idea who is up to mammoth task.
Sorry, that turned into a bit of a rambled rant. If you want to read some more coherent and concise account of all this, go here, here, here or here

Thought i'd add a few tunes to remind you that someone's always watching:
Bullet Union - Close Circuit
The Beatles - I Saw Her Standing There
Mull Historical Society - Watching Xanadu
and a special bonus track
Plans & Apologies - Tony Blair:Fucknut

I'll leave you with the last line of my A-level essay,
'The frightening part is, we taking steps closer to a world created to warn us about getting there in the first place and we are just ignoring it'