Final 1980 Forward gig at the Scala, and I still feel indulgent for liking Blonde Redhead, but I really do enjoy them.
Probably, I could analyse what I like. I might mention the self-consciously fragile and haunting lyrics, the hypnotic loops of rhythm or the perfectly-unsynchronised percussion.
Maybe what I like is just the fact that I haven’t quite deconstructed them yet.
They’re definitely a band I wouldn’t recommend, though. (Seriously; you won’t like them, and then you won’t trust me next time I try and get you to listen to Shakira or Fugazi or something.)
New album in 2006? Great!
After the last night’s all-Muses set, Kristin’s solo material was a little more conventional. Always great, though, and a good reminder that I need to listen to ‘The Grotto’ a lot more.
I’m not going to pretend not to love the old standards but it’s always more special, especially when you’ve seen someone a few times, when their string breaks and they end the song in fits of giggles. It’s humanising, and it reminds you never to take this stuff too seriously. And, luckily, it wasn’t during ‘Spain’ or ‘Me And My Charms’.
Kristin usually throws a few Throwing Muses songs into her sets, but this was a whole evening of them (even if, as she says, it’s not necessarily a happy thing to do).
I’m still a sucker for her stories, as well, and barely-but-still-tactfully suppressed slights at 4AD.
Like last time, she had The McCarricks as her band. (Relax, girls and boys – they’re married!) Strings complement her work wonderfully, without ever making things sound overly formal or arranged.
Anyone know what they’re building down at King’s Cross? It’s probably not a central London hangar for giant mythical creature autopsies, but it really should be.
Unfortunately, TV on the Radio cancelled their Scala show after the death of Tunde’s father. The rest of the band hung around for a free replacement show, put some tracks from the new album on the PA and played along with scheduled support act Celebration (like Blonde Redhead with a less-restrained PJ Harvey as lead - great!).
They also came out to explain why, understandably, they didn’t want to go ahead without their lead singer, and pretty much the whole audience cheered in support. Nice.
Just to make it up to everyone, the Breeders played a headline set. They included a couple of tracks from Kim’s underrated Pacer, and they had duelling mandolins and violins and it was a delight.
Look closely and you can see Kim Deal’s infectious smile!
Given Flogging Molly’s blend of traditional Irish music and modern rock, it’s reasonable to ask “Kind of like The Pogues?” Sure; kind of like The Pogues. They’re a great live act. I’m cynical enough to allow that bands can fake enthusiasm, but the audience mood and band response felt surprisingly genuine. (Pro tip: ‘Drunken Lullabies’ is exactly the right tempo for running.) They drink Guinness! They have a girl who plays the violin! They’re fronted by a wirey, swearing man who doesn’t much like the current government! That’s Ireland, right?
I got self-conscious back when iTunes showed that I’d listened to Millencolin’s “Kingwood” more than thirty times; is it that good an album? (Yes.) It’s textured, and it’s strongly produced, but there’s a transparency and a casual air, and an increasingly sophisticated idiomatic take on English by Swedes.
They played The Ballad, which gave me a great opportunity to stand around awkwardly listening to a song about social awkwardness. Thanks for the irony, guys!
A fairly rough crowd, but in a good way, and a much better performance than last time I saw them.
They’ve moved from skate-punk to rock, without any of the pretension of American bands in the same genre. It’s fun, y’know?
The New Pornographers inhabit the intersection of hipster and power pop, and that’s a pretty good place to be. They’re a supergroup with a vaguely flexible lineup which means that, for fans of slim, pretty, bored-looking redheads with pop-perfect voices, their first ever UK performance was with Kathryn Calder, also appearing as part of support act Immaculate Machine, rather than Neko Case. (Hear them both on Twin Cinema’s “Three or Four” and Know Pop.)
Debut-album title track ‘Mass Romantic’ was pretty much incredible. I defy you to describe how good this track is without invoking rollercoasters or being drunk.
Carl Newman is at the centre of it all, which shouldn’t distract you from the quality of the musician’s he’s brought together. Kurt Dahle is one of the best drummers I’ve seen live; he keeps the tempo, he knows his fancy fills, and he manages to drink with one hand and drum with the other.
Part of the magic is how well the synths fall into the mix. They never sound like a production cliché, and stand alongside the “real” instruments like rockism never happened.
They’re from Canada, eh, and kudos to the good-natured flag-wavers in the crowd. Obviously they’re too good to get really popular, so take the initiative and enjoy the mix of clever-clever wordplay and ruthless pop you so richly deserve.
After a couple of cancellations, the Misfits played at the Underworld back at the start of September. If I had a dollar for every gig I’ve been to this year where an original Misfit has performed ‘Skulls’, I’d now have two dollars, and you can’t argue with that. Jerry Only’s current touring band is Dez Cadena on guitar and Robo on drums, in case you’re keeping your Rock Family Trees current.
Something of a giveaway was the setlist being taped up before they started. Most shows fit onto a sheet of A4, but this was more like a full everning’s fax roll of two-minute tracks.
(It’s not that I’m slow, but I’ve only just noticed that my camera defaults to ‘Automatic’ for ISO when everything else is manual. Now I can tune that for sharper, grainy pictures.)
Packed venue, good crowd and some good stagediving, too.
I guess I got into Bad Religion fairly recently; they’re Old School Californian punk rock, and it’s rare to see an article about that genre that doesn't give them credit. (And it’s rare to see an online comic that doesn't comment on the lyrics.) They played two London gigs, and I hadn’t seen them before. Treat!
Everybody loves fast-paced singalongs about American imperialism.
Strongly recommended, especially if you’ve heard about them but never managed to listen. It’s not like there's a bad place to start, although Suffer, Against the Grain and both of the most recent two albums are particularly good.
Queens of the Stone Age
I’m as big a fan of delayed gratification as anyone, and Queens of the Stone Age’s previous London cancellations (coughing up blood and some minor bombings, for a total of five shows down) left me all eager to see them. (No gigs since since NIN in July, either.)
You see that? That's a crutch. Josh had had surgery, but he’s a trooper. Late in the show he declared “I’m cured,” and threw it into the crowd.
The setlist was heavy with material from their eponymous debut album, which was great. It's not like they've ever had a pop phase, but it would be easy for a band to forget their rawer tracks.
At the back, to the left of this picture, you can see the brass section. Does your rock band have an occasional brass section?
He’s pretty much the only artist, along with Rammstein, who I’d recommend live to anyone. It’s hard not to be dazzled by instruments (acoustic guitar, accompanied by double bass) played so well, and there’s something delightful about being able to enjoy someone else’s lifetime of practice. So there's the classics, and the new stuff, and the singalongs, and it's all shot through with such a perfect blend of cynicism and sincere optimism backed by a real sense of cultural history. (And yes, he played The Hots For The Smarts, too.)
To humour an elderly relative, I went along to Patti Smith’s Meltdown 2005 performance of “Horses”. It’s odd to be taking in, for the first time, a work that so many people have a real connection to – can I ask for my money back if it doesn’t change my life?
She played with the ordering a little, but closed with Elegie, as one must. Flea played trumpet, John Cale sang, and drum kits were knocked over. For me, it worked really well. It wasn’t a start-to-finish clone of the album, and it wasn’t an indulgent reinvention. More of a celebration, and pitched just right.
There was a good turnout for London.pm this month, and I took the opportunity to grab a few photos.( Pictures after the cut )
I still find flash photography kind of intrusive, so I’m sticking with long exposures. (The ClamperPod works really well for this kind of thing.) All I need to do now is learn learn about white balance and composition!
I was looking for a few journals to read, and just wondering who turned up if I looked for the most popular people according to friends-of-friends. Okay, not just wondering, also researching. No fancy graphs, but numbers – to quantify just how special you are.( Precious numeric validation )
(I saw Danzig a couple of weeks ago, but no pictures due to the camera policy. Still, Danzig.)
More recently, They Might Be Giants:
Hey, it’s TV’s Jonathan Ross!
He was the narrator for a selection from Venue Songs, Their project to write a song for every venue they perform at.
As John said: “We haven’t played [The Forum] since 1990, so tonight we’re playing all new material.”
One day, I’ll get a decent concert photograph of Kristin Hersh, and it will be like the ravens leaving the tower.
Maybe in the process I can get some decent non-blurry shots of Bernard.
I haven’t even started on Rob Ahlers, but what do you expect if you’re going to sit at the back of the stage behind a drum kit?
Kristin Hersh, Camden Barfly; 200 capacity. I haven’t seen her since this 50 Foot Wave gig. And yes, her fans are enthusiastic. Those... other fans. It was good to hear people calling out requests: “Play whatever you want, Kristin!”
Replaced powdered ginger with fresh ginger, smaller eggs, honey rather than syrup, no cinnamon, added orange zest, pecans rather than walnuts, cooked for longer. Much better.
I think the idea with photography is that you take lots and lots of pictures, and gradually you get better. For now, here’s what The Arcade Fire look like, through a shaky zoom lens.
Okay, compared with what’s published at Flickr, there’s probably some room for improvement. And at least they’re a little less... abstract than they used to be. It’s so much easier with slow-moving, well-lit subjects. Here’s a picture of an in-development ginger carrot cake, just to prove that, under some circumstances and constraints, I can keep a camera still.
1. Total amount of music files on your computer?
iTunes says 3,231 songs, 8 days.
2. The last CD you bought was?
Arcade Fire, Funeral. It’s been subject to a lot of hype, but that doesn’t mean it’s not great.
3. What was the last song you listened to before reading this message?
4. Write down five songs you often listen to or that mean a lot to you.
A judiciously-pruned “Most Played” list, rather than any attempt to define myself through someone else’s vague poetry:
Groop Dogdrill, “Head of Safety”
“It seems to me like I’ve been waiting ages just to write my name”
It might be about dealing with bureaucracy, or that might be a metaphor.
Throwing Muses, “Teller”
“I’m afraid of meaning/Nothing, again.”
There’s something wonderfully encapsulated about the narrative here. It’s just a snapshot of thought and moment, really.
Queens of the Stone Age, “If Only”
“If only, we’re nothing at all”
Totally underproduced, from back when that didn’t seem like a contrivance. Relentless, too, and not necessarily in a positive way.
The Drum, “Reasons”
“A tear in the eye says so much on its way back down”
Part of the appeal here is the wilfully incoherent vocal mix. There’s a fairly coherent sense of anger, though.
The Distillers, “I Am A Revenant”
“Do you remember the rage? I remember the hate”
Positive and defiant, with some of my favourite integration of lyrics with screaming.
5. What three people you going to pass this baton to and why?
Oh, is this a chain letter? I guess I'm going to have to take my chances....