Wednesday, September 24, 2008

National Meet Me In St Louis Day

Two posts in one day. Who'd have thunk it? But this one's nostalgic. It's to celebrate the one year anniversary of the sorely missed Meet Me In St Louis' debut release Variations On Swing. As Kev from Big Scary Monsters proclaims "we're encouraging people to bunk off work, put the album on, crank it up loud and celebrate that date every year!" Well it may be too late to bunk off work but you can surely listen to the monster of an album at full volume and don't worry if you don't have a copy (you should though) because its up on to stream in full and visit the BSM minisite for all your MMISL needs
In the mean time, here's my review of the album I wrote for Keep Hope Inside earlier this year.

Meet Me In St. Louis – Variations On Swing

Variations On Swing is an album for a close-knit community. Its intricate layers of morphing instruments and its fractured time signatures may put off, or even frighten, some listeners but those that “get it” will join the ranks amongst some of the most passionate and faithful of fans. This album, Meet Me In St. Louis' début and only full length release wouldn't have been possible without that legions of followers, who they won over during the untold number of shows in their unduly short, three year career. Their trusting fans helped finance the production of the album through generous donations and MMISL responded with equal passion and commitment.

The ideas displayed on “Variations...” are big and uncompromising. Standard song structures are completely abandoned as each member pushes their instrument, and themselves, past boundaries and into new creative terrain. Opener “ The Torso Has Been Severed In Mid-Thorax” explodes with feedback and distortion and its instantly clear that the band were determined to deliver on the trust of their loyal supporters. The intent in singer Toby's vocals is demanding. It's as if you were face to face with him as he repeats the line “And ones and zeros”, which you quite possibly could have been if you ever saw them live. That's the thing about “Variations...”; with the help of acclaimed producer Alex Newport, Meet Me In St Louis managed to capture the intensity and kineticism of their live shows on tape and it makes the album truly enthralling to behold.

Drum rhythms skip and stutter constantly on “All We Need Is A Little Energon And A Lot Of Luck” leaving the dual guitar attack to weave their way through the minefield left in its wake. While the rest of the band are battling against each other, its Lewis' bass that keeps the tracks on track. Equally steady and chaotic, it helps you navigate through the twists and turns of tracks like “Right This Way, You Maverick Renegade” and “Eins Zwei Drei Hasselhoff!” and drags the rest of the band, kicking and screaming, to each unpredictable and exhausting climax.

The surprisingly acoustic track “I Beat Up The Bathroom” shows a compelling and beautifully emotive side to the band, with Toby's vocals and the twang of the guitar being backed up by sweeping violin strokes and strange electronic knocks. It's a sign of MMISL's maturity that this slow-down in tempo feels congruous with the other nine tracks. “Variations...” is a more coherent, focused and concise collection of songs than their two previously released Eps, it has the feel of a band teetering on the edge of greatness. Maybe without the sudden departure of vocalist Toby, two months after the album's release in September 07 leading to the band's subsequent demise, this promise would have been fulfilled for the band and their loyal fans. But as it stands Variations On Swing is Meet Me In St Louis' grandiose parting gift to those faithful few who gave more than just time to the band. They “got” it and you can too.

Meet Me In St Louis - Eins Zwei Drei Hasselhoff


Having a cold is no fun, I've been coughing like a fog horn for over a week now.
Luckily in the last week or so I've discovered Marnie Stern. I heard her name bandied around a bit last year, I think Plan B magazine made her album In Advance Of A Broken Arm their fav LP of 2007, but never really caught on to her but now I have, I'm hooked.
Transformer is off her forthcoming release 'This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That' (great name) and is a giddy riot from start to finish. Tapped guitar notes crowded the sound initially, each one almost stumbling over the next to reach your ears. It's Stern's flambouyant guitar style that has gain her the most attention, her lightning quick fingers flit around the fretboard like a fly on fruit, but its the way she applies this technique to create pop songs, noisy ones to be fair, that intrigues me the most.
Her vocals invade the party after drums had added a crazed beat to the track, and the way they interplay with the intricate Jazzmaster sounds creates a sonic reaction thats as energetic and explosive as an A-Bomb. I love the way she sings "it's truuuuuuuuuuuuue".
Although it leaves you dizzy and exhausted, at only two minutes nine seconds long, Transformer is only a short hit of adrenaline and you want more. I guess you could just press repeat and listen again but luckily her new album (I can't be arsed to type the name out again), out on Kill Rock Stars in November, is a unwielding cacophony of innovative, six-string shred, wailed melodies and hasty action. Enough to feed the craving and its good against colds too.

Marnie Stern - Transformer

Oh yes, almost forgot. If you fancy voting for me in this BT digital awards thingy, then just click on the logo below or over in the sidebar. Cheers.

BT DMA08 Peoples Choice Nominee - Vote for me!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cats On Fire

Danish trio, Mimas, are new to the ever growing and ever grandoise Big Scary Monsters roster. Cats On Fire came out on BSM's free summer sampler (which you can download here).
The softly piped trumpet and throbbing bass of the intro gives way to a flittering guitar line and Gert's half spoken/half yelped vocals, the sounds build like the swell of a wave growing in the ocean. The intricacy of the guitar part contrasts with the stripped down rhythm section causing tension and suspense until the wave breaks on the shoreline and cymbals are smash, guitars pounded with power chord brutality and vocals chords are stretched to an inch of their capacity. Its an epic ending to an intriguingly track.
The video is an odd one too, sock gang violence and sock sex. Strange.

Their album 'The Worries' comes out on BSM on October 6th.

Mimas - Cats On Fire

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Dutchess & The Duke

Due to all the festivals and other matters, I haven't been able to tell you about The Dutchess & The Duke. Hopefully you spied them on other blogs but if not you're in for a treat.
I first heard Reservoir Park from some blog (I can't remember which...) and instantly fell for it. It possesses a quality that harks back to Dylan, The Velvet Underground, 60s pop songs... You get the picture. There's something in the vocals; a grainy clarity, if that makes sense, which I rarely heard in modern music. The production, the melody, the harmonies all contain nostalgic nods to those revered 60s musicians, I wouldn't have been surprised if the band had invented a Wellsian time machine to transport them back to 1965 to record their album She's The Dutchess, He's The Duke as it sounds so much of that time.
I know I'm labouring the point but this track really does feel refreshingly old for new music, in a very good way.
I'll shut up now and let you listen.

The Dutchess & The Duke - Reservoir Park

You can get She's The Dutchess, He's The Duke direct from Hardly Art Records.