Monday, November 29, 2010
CAPITOL RECORDS (EMI)
Danger Mouse! No one's raged as hard against EMI since the Sex Pistols. First, they tried to squash his 2004 art project The Grey Album - a mash-up of Jay-Z's Black Album and The Beatles' White Album. Then, in 2009, due to undisclosed legal reasons, EMI choked Dark Night of the Soul, Danger Mouse's latest collaborative project, this time with Mark Linkous (aka Sparklehorse), David Lynch and whoever else would return their calls.
At first, Danger Mouse released the album's "visual narrative" - a booklet of photos by David Lynch - with a blank CD-R saying, "For Legal Reasons, enclosed CD-R contains no music. Use it as you will." But now it's officially "out there," released in July on Capitol Records, a subsidiary of EMI. And the only way to describe it is moody, digital blues.
While Cee Lo Green, the other half of Gnarls Barkley, kept himself busy rediscovering his roof-raising gospel and soul roots, Danger Mouse stuck to what he knows best as well: hollowed out, dark, collaborative soundscapes. This time, working with an all-star cast: Wayne Coyne (The Flaming Lips), Julian Casablancas (The Strokes), Iggy Pop, Frank Black (Pixies), Gruff Rhys (Super Furry Animals), James Mercer (The Shins), Jason Lytle (Grandaddy), Suzanne Vega, Nina Persson (The Cardigans), Vic Chesnutt, David Lynch (on spooky vocals and visuals) and Sparklehorse.
What makes Dark Night of the Soul even more sinister and melancholic are the sudden deaths/suicides of Mark Linkous (shot himself in the heart with a shotgun) and Vic Chesnutt (overdosed on muscle relaxants). So it's not just a clever name then...
With such an eclectic assortment of personalities, Dark Night of the Soul is a real combination of flavours. Julian Casablancas' song sounds like a Strokes b-side. Wayne Coyne's sounds like The Flaming Lips. Vic Chesnutt sounds like a man on the edge of reality. And Iggy Pop sounds like Iggy Pop, complete with classic Iggy lines like "Good karma will not get you anywhere, just look at Jesus and his hair." What ties them all together is Danger Mouse's subtle drops of eerie misery. He's like a musical backlight.
Saw this on TV, made me laugh. It's gotta be the worst acting since Halle Berry slipped into a catsuit and thought, "what a purrrfect idea..." Why would anyone run to a fortune-teller just to burn her?
Thursday, November 25, 2010
I took the first eight. Not quite as hectic as the last eight...
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Balance and Composure/Tigers Jaw
No Sleep/Run For Cover Records
I got this split for Pennsylvania indie-punk geeks Tigers Jaw, but right now, Balance and Composure's owning it. I guess Tigers Jaw's more weak-wristed blend of hardcore, pop-punk and indie takes a while longer to sneak up. Balance and Composure's half of the split's right in your face. Right from the get-go!
So first off, thanks to Tigers Jaw for leading me to Balance and Composure - the point of any good split, really.
With a gruffer - but equally as thoughtful and intelligent-sounding - approach, Balance and Composure remind me of New York's Polar Bear Club. Their tempos dip and the melodies get washier and more delicate, but they're always followed by hair-raising tussles with reality and highly-detailed, atmospheric "post-hardcore" sounds that wash over 'til the next explosion.
Tigers Jaw's half is more of a grower. Where Balance and Composure hit you in the face with solid heart darts, Tigers Jaw wipe you down with a damp cloth, offering washy, gently-crafted guitar sounds and ultra-sensitive, awkward-sounding Get Up Kids-ish vocals.
Tigers Jaw's last song, "Dent," is their best. The guitars suddenly step forward, the drums pound harder and the music backs up the vocals perfectly, giving the song more feeling than their previous three. With Balance and Composure, every song's a winner, especially track one, "Kaleidoscope."
Balance and Composure on MySpace
Tigers Jawe on MySpace
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Photos © Lauren Keogh
Brixton Academy, 17 November
Claudio Sanchez’ hair is just as crazy in person. So’s his helium-laced voice. And so’s his fucking band! Coheed and Cambria go on early – damn early! Needless to say, pushing my way to the front isn’t a problem.
At the back, everyone orders beer in Deftones shirts and hoodies, pretty much oblivious to the New York progressive rock band tearing it up on stage. Near the front, a small group of dedicated disciples sings along, hands raised, fists punching the air. And Coheed and Cambria slam it right back in their mesmerised faces.
Halfway through, Sanchez puts on a hair-band and all of a sudden the dude has a face, as Coheed kick into “A Favor House Atlantic,” Sanchez’ vocals a perfect match of the recorded version.
Bull-necked guitarist Travis Stever’s back-and-forth guitar and vocal duels with Sanchez set the stage alight, despite the modest-looking setup, minimum crowd attention, lack of any kind of backdrop and short time slot.
And from the mystical Keywork symbol on Stever’s Les Paul, to Sanchez’ twin-headed SG and the sheer theatrics of it all, there’s an old-fashioned, Led Zeppelin, rock ‘n roll groove to Coheed’s swagger. Albeit, buried under reams of comic books and modern sweeteners. But surely the word “progressive” suggests leading somewhere, towards something?
Unlike their contemporaries, Deftones have aged fucking well – distancing themselves from the red cap, Adidas and Puma revolution with a less cartoon sort of ambiguity. Even a song as old as “My Own Summer” sounds fresh and just as relevant today as it did 13 years ago.
Rooted to the ground like Treebeard, swinging a shroud of almost knee-length black hair around, guitarist Stephen Carpenter is 100% metalhead. Frontman Chino Moreno is Deftones’ modern, genre-crossing face.
Last time I saw a photo of Moreno, he looked like a fat Mexican kid with Urkel glasses and knee-high white socks. Now, on stage, he looks lean and hungry, jumping from speakers, falling into the crowd and shooting his screams, squeals and knife-edge melodies around the room. The pants may be tighter, but the beard remains the same.
By the end, it feels like Coheed and Cambria played the night before. Basking in the crowd’s collective energy, Deftones’ set goes on forever. They stomp through all the classics, most of the new album, most of White Pony… They pretty much play everything!
“7 Words” is an epic end to a battling, one-hour-and-30-minute set. The crowd doesn’t even ask for another encore. They’ve seen enough. Brixton Academy heaves a collective sigh and exhales…
One Love for Chi
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
So I was paging through the latest issue of Kerrang and guess who turned up: ex-Durban/Ballito Blink 182 clones What Now! Seems like they've dropped Miamii, gone back to What Now and are doing pretty well for themselves here in London - they certainly look the part, anyway. Their "debut" EP Take Control is out now
What Now on MySpace
What Now on MySpace
Monday, November 15, 2010
Switching from black comedy to Monty Python transvestism and genuinely-spooky, creepy-as-fuck horror comedy, Psychoville’s more twisted than a bag of stale pretzels. It's like The League of Gentlemen and Little Britain meets John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer. Only this this time, six flew over the cuckoo’s nest.
First aired in June 2009, Psychoville was created by The League of Gentlemen members Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton – who pretty much play everyone. And the story revolves around six nutty lead characters and a mysterious Black Gloved Man.
Episode one opens with the Black Gloved Man mailing out "I know what you did" letters to ex-mental patients David Sowerbutts (a man-child obsessed with serial killers), Mr. Jelly (a one-handed clown often confused with his nemesis Mr. Jolly), Joy Aston (a lunatic midwife with a plastic-headed puppet for a son), Oscar Lomax (a blind toy - or rather, "commodities" - collector) and Robert Greenspan (a dwarf actor currently starring as Blusher in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs - "How can Disney copyright Happy?").
At first, it's all a bit peculiar (and still is, really). But soon enough, the plot starts to reveal itself as you learn more about the individual characters and how they all fit together (and fall apart). The humour's classic British comedy, albeit, buried under hook-handed, Pennywise-ish clowns, dwarf porn and excrement smeared on the walls. Mostly, it's the characters that make Pyschoville so goddamn addictive.
Hilarious Oscar Lomax (Pemberton) reminds me of blind vinyl doctor Lester Corncake, from The Mighty Boosh. Weirdo David Sowerbutts (Pemberton) is joined by his even-more-disturbing mother Maureen (Shearsmith) - a classic Monty Python, League of Gentlemen, Little Britain kind of "woman." Demented clown Mr. Jelly (Shearsmith) is every kid's worst nightmare. And Dawn French is proper batty as midwife Joy Aston. Highly recommended!
This October 31, BBC 2 aired an hour-long Psychoville Halloween special (which is floating around YouTube in four parts - Google it). And a second season's due out in February 2011. Can't wait...
We Are the Union
Great Leaps Forward
Paper + Plastick
It's not ska punk like you remember. It's not all upstrokes, fedoras and good times. With drummer Jim Margle setting the pace, We Are the Union blend ultra-fast melodic punk-rock, shredding riffs and Wonder Years-style pop-hardcore with Less Than Jake-ish horns, punchy lyrics and searing power melodies.
We Are the Union's second album's not just a clever title either. The Detroit band's done a lot of growing up since their 2007 debut Who We Are. They've been all over the world, from Muntadhar al-Zaidi), "Rearranging Deck Chairs On the Titanic," "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" and "What We Have Here, Is a Failure to Communicate" (Cool Hand Luke) show off the band's thoughtful, late '90s approach to songwriting. With bassist Brandon Benson adding a dash of Home Grown, Midtown swoon to guitarist Reed Wolcott's gutsy lead vocals and trombonist Matt Belanger's raspier, one-man-gang screams.
We Are the Union on MySpace
We Are the Union on Facebook
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Jimmy Kimmel: "Next Wednesday, November 17, I'm asking Facebook users to gather round their computers, go through their lists, determine which of those friends really are your friends, and eliminate the ones who aren't. In other words, I want you to kill people."
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Jack White joined Conan O'Brien on stage on Monday night for Eddie Cochran's "Twenty Flight Rock," to celebrate the launch of O'Brien's new show Conan, on TBS. Just look at him go! And damn that Jack White knows his way around a guitar.
Smoke or Fire
With his band falling apart around him and life of the road leaving a bad taste in his mouth, Joe McMahon's had enough. Smoke or Fire's third full-length The Speakeasy's crammed with bitter, cynical observations, washed down with the band's biggest melodies to date. It's a rare combination of hair-raising intensity and smooth pop-punk hooks.
This time, McMahon and guitarist Jeremy Cochran are joined by Darkest Hour drummer Ryan Parrish and Avail bassist Justin "Gwomper" Burdick. It's an unlikely team, but the new blood's injected even more intensity back into the band. Especially Parrish's busy reinterpretations.
Track one, "Integrity," starts with a bang. With super-catchy riffs and McMahon's signature shout-sing-melodies rasping, "When did the news become entertainment? You pick and choose which side you wanna hear to justify your opinion."
"Monsters Among Us" maintains the urgency, launching a scathing attack on white collar criminals and reaching the depressing realisation that "All of this is fake." McMahon's really matured as a vocalist, frontman and lyricist and "Monsters Among Us" is one for the Greatest Hits a few years down the line. Like a modern update on The Clash's "Koka Kola," saved from the depths of cliché by McMahon's sheer guts and honesty.
"There are monsters among us. There are some you can't see. They're disguised in the suits, nice shoes and ties and they take vengeance on ethics and honesty."
Things start off catchy and straightforward, getting more weighed down and punchy as the album builds. And overall, The Speakeasy's not as instantly accessible and sing-along as its predecessors. But in the long run, it's their most accomplished, complete release so far. The proverbial "grower."
The whole way through, lines like "Only death is certain," "My youth is slipping away," "The chorus is over" and "Everything falls apart, you've got to hold on to the memories" underline McMahon's bubbling intensity. And if you really listen, despite its up-tempo nature, The Speakeasy's a sad trip through the head of a troubled young man keeping things going the only way he knows how.
Order The Speakeasy from Fat Wreck for $10
Smoke or Fire on MySpace
Directed by Robert Rodriguez & Ethan Maniquis
"There's an interesting face," says Jessica Alba, reintroducing Danny Trejo as Machete after an intense intro sequence - now there's an understatement! If Planet Terror's b-grade, Machete's about a D+ (if that). It makes Grindhouse look like The Color Purple, or Schindler's List. But that doesn't mean it doesn't kick some serious ass.
Born out of a spoof trailer for Rodriguez's 2007 Grindhouse feature Planet Terror, Machete: The Film simply fills in the blanks, turning a two-minute-and-20-second trailer into a full-length, one-hour-and-forty-minute, decapitation-heavy feature film. According to Rodriguez, he's had the screenplay shelved since 1993, when he first met Trejo on the set of Desperado and dreamed of a "Mexican Jean-Claude Van Damme or Charles Bronson."
Story-wise, as you'd expect, the script's about as thin as Jessica Alba. Lindsay Lohan plays a drugged up, sex-tape prone problem child with dreams of becoming a star (now that's a stretch). FBI agent Alba contemplates her cases naked, in the shower. Machete swings through windows on human intestines. And Steven Seagal does the worst Mexican accent since Charlton Heston in Touch of Evil.
It's all a guilty pleasure, really. A fun excuse to get stars like Robert De Niro, Steven Seagal, Jessica Alba, Don Johnson, Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodriguez and Lindsay Lohan together for a gruesome, b-movie take on illegal immigration and the Mexican workforce silently keeping America going. In the end, it all gets pretty ridiculous - as you'd expect. Perhaps, gloriously so...
Still, I couldn't get used to Trejo as a lead actor. It's great that his time's finally come, I just kept waiting for him to die, half expecting him to turn into a vampire or spit into a glass and serve up some dodgy whiskey. It's weird seeing his character develop, learning his (albeit superficial) back-story, seeing him use a computer and watching him hook up with Lohan, Alba and Michelle Rodriguez, just like a regular action hero. The dude's 66!
Machete's not Robert Rodriguez's best work - far from it. But for fans of Planet Terror, Danny Trejo and purposefully low budget-looking, badly scripted exploitation action flicks with a cheesy, slapstick sense of humour and stupid-as-fuck lines like, "Why do I wanna be a real person when I'm already a myth?," Machete's worth the ride. Guaranteed to kill brain cells...
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Monday November 8
HMV Forum, Kentish Town
Last night was an education. My first punk show in London, featuring Less Than Jake, We Are the Union and East London’s The Skints. And, unfortunately, So-Cal-it-hurts pop-punk granddads Zebrahead.
Queuing up for gigs here makes you feel like a volunteer paper recycler. And the bouncers are always a treat, right? “Stage dive if you want, keeps us busy,” said a rough-looking charmer near the front with a toothy glint in his eye.
By 7:00pm, the Kentish Town Forum was filling up. Studded belts, green hair, Mohawks and a few oldies. Detroit’s We Are the Union went on first. And their infectious, no-nonsense ska punk reeked of the road.
We Are the Union blend catchy, melody-hewn ‘90s pop-punk with ultra-fast, Fullblast-style drumming, a dash of trombone and some catchy nerd-core screams and gang vocals. Like old Less Than Jake meets The Swellers, Rehasher and Daggermouth.
Up next, The Skints slowed things down, transforming the Forum into a throbbing, dub-reggae dancehall. Fuzzy, non-stop-groove bass lines blended with treble-heavy dub riffs and so much reverb and delay, I can still hear them now.
Multi-instrumentalist Marcia Richards jumped from saxophone to keyboards, to flute, to vocals, offering some sweet melodies to drummer Jamie Kyriakides and guitarist Josh Waters Rudge’s King Prawn, Jamaican-styled dub vocals.
I wasn’t expecting much from Zebrahead. Their brand of pop-punk skirts the Bowling For Soup, toilet bowl side of the genre. 37-year-old lead vocalist Ali Tabatabaee hulked around the stage, getting the crowd to hug each other, sit down and “bounce” with him, like a clown at a kid’s birthday party.
Whenever Tabatabaee wasn’t singing, led by new backup vocalist and guitarist Matty Lewis, Zebrahead sounded much more likeable. Lewis had more of a geeky, pop-punk, Tom DeLonge vibe – a strange contrast next to his muscular, CK-model-for-hire counterpart.
The memory of Zebrahead (and Tabatabaee’s waxed chest) soon faded as Less Than Jake took over the Forum. Instantly, their humongous personalities shrunk the stage down to the size of a plank of wood. Their enthusiasm was electric. The place was packed, all the way back to the cheap seats.
The Gainesville ska-punk legends blasted their way through a mammoth set of classics, thankfully, not dipping into their guilty-pleasure new TV soundtrack EP beyond the theme tune to Animaniacs.
Songs like “Help Save the Youth of America from Exploding,” “All My Best Friends Are Metalheads,” “History of a Boring Town” and “Look What Happened” haven’t aged a day. And Less Than Jake banged them out with the passion and flair of a new band, seemingly overwhelmed by the response they still enjoyed – almost 20 years after the fact.
“When I was 12 years old, my favourite band was Iron Maiden. And if you’d told me then that I’d play to an English crowd and they’d go crazy for my band, I’d have said ‘Fuck off, you’re crazy!’ So thanks London,” said guitarist Chris Demakes, choked up with his fist in the air. “Now, back to the dick jokes.”
Monday, November 8, 2010
Still waiting on a reply from OppiKoppi inc - I don't think they like 'em. Whatever... Check out the full gallery on Facebook or Flickr.
Friday, November 5, 2010
Photo by Michael Currin
Cape Town ska-heads Captain Stu have just uploaded their new video for first single "The Day," from soon-to-be-released new EP Free Music. They're launching Free Music tonight at Zula Bar with the Nomadic Orchestra. Then - if the title's anything to go on - it should appear online as a free download some time tomorrow night, as soon as the hangover cloud's lifted.
Directed by Richard Bolland.
Here's an emotional, bum-note-and-all blast from the past for you. Stumbled across a link to download once experimental Cape Town screamers Go Team's CD/EP This Is My No Heart. Here's a link to the free download. Not to be confused with The Go! Team - ever!
Monday, November 1, 2010
None More Black
News of Jason Shevchuk's short-lived new three-piece LaGrecia's demise was bittersweet. On one hand, it meant no more LaGrecia, but on the other, None More Black was reborn. Really, Shevchuk's a genius wherever he calls home. But Icons sounds all-out intent on setting the record straight: once you go None More Black, you never go back...
Track one "Mr. Artistic" explodes with an all-out-war dip into None More Black's heavier, more melodic-hardcore back catalogue. There's a Southern rock 'n roll swagger that reminds me of Durban hardcore heroes Go! Go! Bronco. It's harder than anything on previous album This Is Satire (2006). Still, the melodies are unmistakable.
"I'm Warning You With Peace & Love" is an instant classic: fast, loud and addictive. "Iron Mouth Act" starts with a dark banjo and slide guitar combo that builds into another lightning bolt of throaty, gremlin melodies. And midway through, "Sinatra After Dark" slides into a full-blown instrumental rock 'n roll jam that's all about the groove. Especially metalhead bassist Paul Delaney's contribution.
Overall, Icons is noisier and more volatile than This Is Satire. But "Backpedal" and "Here Comes Devereux" show off None More Black's softer side, with a distinctly LaGrecia-tasting flavour that blends perfectly with that classic "NMB sound."
Shevchuk sounds fired up and handier than ever with the tongue sword. Icons is dark, dramatic and intense, bubbling away beneath the surface. Just to give you an idea, on closing track "Budapest Gambit" (a chess opening popular in the '20s), Shevchuk sings, "But I still feel young. I've caught a bad infection. I'm aging in slow motion." And by the end, he's a snarling mess, yelling, "Blame it on the jester, the one who wears a frown. Blame it on the king, the queen and burn this kingdom down," like a lunatic spiraling out of orbit... Pity about the dodgy album cover.
Click here to download Jason Shevchuk's solo OnGuard EP This Has It's Price and That Price Has Been Paid.
None More Black on MySpace
Order Icons from Fat Wreck for $10
So I saw Alice Cooper (awesome) and Jim Rose (funny fucker) at the Roundhouse in Camden last night for Halloween. And in-between all the zombies and aging rockers there was a couple dressed as Wayne and Garth. Reminded me of this video. How funny is that shit?
Theatre of Death's on again tonight at Roundhouse.