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Wed, Jul. 16th, 2008, 08:07 pm
Wooden Shjips @ Cargo, London 13/07/2008

Finally I get to see psych mammoths Wooden Shjips live. Never been to Cargo in Shoreditch before, it's quite a big place under rail tracks, which makes for great loud acoustics but also makes for one hell of a sweat box. Heads were co-headlining on this short tour and opened on this night. They put on a generally entertaining show which improved on their albums. I've always found their vocals modest and unassertive and that was also generally the case live. However there were nice moments with some good feedback laced jams.

Wooden Shjips were great, and somewhat of a surprise. While I kind of expected the songs to be laid back blissful psyche jams but from the moment they got on stage you could tell they were there to boogie. Highlights included "the Shrinking Moon for You" with alto trumpet accompanimen and "Death's Not Your Friend." The two bands also pressed a special tour-only 7" for this short Euro tour which is great (and likely to cause another frenzy on Ebay).

Couldn't make it to Fucked Up on Monday, had to save my energy for My Morning Jacket last night at the Kentish Town Forum. FU will be back in August so all is not lost. The question now is whether I should risk going back to the Forum next week to see the original line-up of the Butthole Surfers play for the first time in almost twenty years. Reunion rock is always risky, especially when you've ingested as many substances as those guys.
Thanks to this person for the above pic btw.

Fri, Jun. 20th, 2008, 05:39 pm
Sparks 21 x 21

For the last month, Sparks played 21 shows in London, each show a complete run through of one of their albums, in chronological order. They began with their first album, originally released in 1971, Half Nelson on May 16th, and finished last weekend with their new record Exotic Creatures from the Deep. Twenty of the shows took place at the intimate Carling Academy in Islington, and the final show was at the Shepard's Bush Empire, debuting the new record and ending with a set requested by the fans. This adventure might seem crazy, grandiose, or silly but this is Sparks we're talking about; a band who has constantly changed it up and changed the rules as they went. Every record is different, and every one deserves attention.

Unlike some, I didn't buy a gold ticket and attend all 21 shows. I'm not sure how people could afford to do it or have the time. For my obsessiveness, I attended six shows: Kimono My House, Propaganda, Big Beat, Angst in my Pants, Hello Young Lovers, and Exotic Creatures from the Deep. I had no idea what to expect, and going in I slightly feared that the shows could be a bust as 21 shows in a month could take its toll on a pair of oldies like Ron and Russel Mael. However...In short, it was amazing!

Kimono was packed to the brim, you could hardly move. What a way to start a show with their biggest song "This Town Ain't Big Enough For the Both of Us." Any worries that Russel couldn't hit the high notes anymore were eased immediately. It was good to get the big hit everyone knows over with in a way and move on to the other great tracks; a chance to hears songs you'll only get one opportunity to hear. By night four, with Propaganda, the band really hit their stride, and the place went nuts from start to finish. "Reinforcements" was everything I wanted and they nailed the tough songs like "Bon Voyage." With a back up band of veterans like Steve McDonald from Redd Kross the band never missed a step (I only saw them screw up once, on a tough/rare b-side on Big Beat, which had crazy time changes) and that's saying something considering how many chord changes, lyrics and notes they had to remember. over 21 shows of never playing the same song twice.

Big Beat was great and under-appreciated in the Sparks cannon. Containing such classics as "Throw Her Away (And get a new one)" and "Big Boy," it was classic from start to finish. Angst in my Pants was a last minute decision for me to attend and i'm glad I did. "the Rise and Fall of Me" was probably my favorite performance of all the shows along with a couple others, and while they said they'd do it again on the final night, they didn't end up doing it, proving how unique each night was. With the final night in Islington, with Hello Young Lovers, the band received an ovation that easily lasted 10 minutes. People were so grateful that something like this could have taken place and knew it wouldn't happen again. Young Lovers was perfect evidence that little had changed in over thirty years. Easily one of their best records, Young Lovers was a treat to hear live with songs like "Dick Around" and "Waterproof" charging the room.

The final show was crammed with a few thousand fans. I was a little iffy on the new record because I felt it dragged a lot in places and lacked tempo, but seeing it live put that all to bed. "Lighten Up Morrissey" was amazing, and the dance moves for "She Got Me Pregnant" were unforgettable. The second set contained tracks throughout the spectrum of albums, with a horn section making "Get in the Swing" stand out and the amazing "Goofin' Off" making for the highlight of the show. Russel stated at one point that no other band would be dumb enough to try this, and he's right. I'm just glad I was there to witness it.

Fri, Jun. 20th, 2008, 04:41 pm
London Update....back after 32 weeks off

According to my profile page, I haven't updated in 32 weeks. Well what can happen in 32 weeks that's that big anyway?

So I now live in London, and moved here at the start of the year, so that's big I guess. Thus complaints and harangues about Vancouver have been quenched from my mind. This is not a temporary fling with the old world, i'm here for good, so it's time to start fresh.

My 32 weeks have been taken up with preparing to move, moving, settling in to East London, finding a job, and adjusting to living in a city that can actually handle (and not give a shit) hosting the Olympics. My last month has generally been devoted to the genius that is Sparks and their 21 albums in 21 shows. I will devote an entire post to this because the shows deserve it.

No longer working at a record store means I'm listening to and discovering music the old fashion way. After selling my entire CD collection before I moved and taking great strains to move much of my records, I swore i'd never buy a CD again. Taking that with my unwillingness to buy music online, and it's basically down to buying records when I can afford it. Here are a few releases i've listened to a lot on my hour long commute to work...

My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges 2LP (Rough Trade / ATO)

  • Of course I'm going to start with MMJ, i've been waiting on this for a couple years now. I had the pleasure of seeing Jim James perform these songs at the St. James Church a couple weeks prior to the release and was generally excited about how they'd translate with the entire band on the record. Reviews of this record have been luke warm to down right harsh (but how serious can you take a website that labels stories heckling bands like Mogwai, Wolf Parade et al for their new album artwork as "News" ?). For me, the album is definitely a mixed bag, and when compared to their other releases, it's a bit weak. After the title track, the next two songs "Touch Me....Pt. 1" and "Highly Suspicious" are very poor and should have stayed b-sides. The singles tracks (based on their SNL and other promo stuff) are a bit too straight-forward, however "Evil Urges" is a great Mayfield-esque soul tinged track with a great guitar breakdown and opening riff. At times James really alters his voice we're used to, and his cameo on I'm Not There must have rubbed off, as at times he clearly evoked Dylan's vocal style on Nashville Skyline. The second half of the record is solid throughout and that's where to find the best tracks on the record.
Times New Viking - Rip It Off  (Matador)
  • I was of two minds with their first release, but with their first release on Matador I was floored out how good it is. I was lucky enough to see them on a triple bill with Jay Reatard and No Age at Barden's Budoir in Dalston (see review), and they were great live too. There are so many great songs on this record, and while Matador and Vice appear to be buying up everything remotely cool and punky at the moment, it was a smart move by them to release this. My fav of the year so far.
No Age - Nouns (Sub Pop)
  • Pretty much a follow up to my thoughts on TNV, as this record is great too. Yet I wonder if my nostalgia for mild obsession with late '80s early '90s Northwest punk at the moment is tinting how I listen to this as it's very early '90s sounding. Oh well, that's not a bad comparison. Speaking of which, the new Mudhoney record isn't half bad. It's the same old Mudhoney, still kicking it from the basement, but it's a fun little record.
Cheap Time - S/T (In the Red)
  • Way too many dirty garage punk bands out there right now but this record is a gas. A little glammy Iggy/NY Dolls esque, the songs evoke the band's name with every song clocking in at a couple minutes, with tight and well crafted pop hooks.
Upcoming shows I'm excited about: MMJ in three weeks,  reunited original lineup of the Butthole Surfers in Camden, ATP Halloween with Om, Wooden Shjips and Shellac, ATP in Dec. curated by the Melvins, Sun Kil Moon next month, and the return of No Age! How to pay for all this.... I have no idea.

Wed, Nov. 7th, 2007, 03:41 pm
Stylus R.I.P

Another week, another label / publication has folded. In case people missed it, Stylus magazine ceased publication on Halloween, ending years of some of the finest writing on music and film found online. Explanations of why they folded were rather cryptic on the site, but it doesn't take much to do the math when one considers the current atmosphere in the music / periodical publication businesses (I still suggest you read the pseudo-eulogies on the site).

I have always found Stylus to be thoroughly thoughtful and insightful with their reviews, and their articles (revisiting old albums, pondering interesting themes with eclectic top 10 lists, and igniting debate with their compare/contrast pieces) are unsurpassed in the online music community. The loss is even greater in my mind when compared to the continued decline of critique and analysis found on the much vaunted Pitchfork. When I read a review on Pitchfork I find myself feeling the same way I do when I read a film review film in the Globe & Mail: "Hmmm ok, but did you like it or not?" Stylus was always clear and concise when discussing new records, and writers were never constrained in terms of embracing or lambasting albums and artists that didn't fit in with particular genres or scenes. Stylus's unpredictability and refreshing cleverness made it different.

And with the folding of Stylus a questions need to be raised about how this reflects on the music biz. It is often argued by those unconcerned by the continual decline of record sales and the subsequent economic turmoil experienced by labels, distributors and retail stores, that this overturning in the industry is really revitalizing music by allowing music to flourish online cheaply and promoting more artists to hit the road to promote their music. Much has been said about Radiohead's revolutionary move with their new record, but as a study released today shows, Radiohead was bold and ambitious but in reality it simply is not economically feasible for most musicians to move in this direction at this time. This is not to suggest that there won't be a time where it is viable, but you have to wonder what these figures say about the music buyer/listener. Taking this into consideration, with the decline of one of the leading online music publications, and I'm not sure what to make of it all. As labels, magazines and stores continue to fold one is left concerned with what happens to artists who can't tour or artists/labels who don't have the financing/know-how to take their music online. I can't say either that Stylus's decline is directly linked to the music industry's troubles, nor do I think other online publications are going to start dropping off, but I do think some links have to be made and that's not even taking into account other economic factors like the inflationary pressures and tumultuous currency issues in the US that are affecting how music is bought and sold.

At least vinyl sales are up! And on that note....
On the Hop

Phosphorescent- Pride LP
  • Putting side the very strong resemblance to Will Oldham vocally, this record is really great. The most haunting and intimate lyrics and vocals of any album i've heard this year, this is a dusty ensemble chorus that at times rocks you to your core with the darkness evoked in the great tracks "The Waves at Night" and "Be Dark Night." Not ground breaking by any stretch, but still great.
Young Knives - Terra Firma 7"
  • They're back! Following up on their amazing debut comes England's best band with their new single. While other rock bands like the Klaxons, Enemy, and the Arctic Monkeys get the press and NME cred, the Young Knives are the real deal. Similar in style to their first record, "Terra Firma" continues in the tight angled Jam-inspired garage rock that typified the first album.
Heavy Winged - Feel Inside
  • Chaotic noise rock from Brooklyn, Heavy Winged is a band that is quite challenging but rewarding after a few listens Aside from some percussion that borders on aggravating at times, this band is seriously heavy and eardrum exploding, but not in the metal sense you'd expect (this is not Sunn 0))) or Corrupted). Take your time and give'em a chance, you'll be hooked:

Sat, Oct. 13th, 2007, 12:59 pm
Magic Bus

Shortly after the brilliant show in Seattle, Circle headed down the coast to play some special shows in Seattle. While Scratch boasts a deep devotion to these Finnish giants, Aquarius Records in San Francisco are fanatics as well and put on some greats shows as seen with these videos:

Sun, Sep. 30th, 2007, 02:58 pm
NWOFHM! It does not get better

Yes! the Circle show at Chop Suey in Seattle was bloody amazing, living up to all expectations and more. Sucks to be Grails or Assembled in Sunburst Sound and have to open for the mighty Circle because they have to play with a band that's on another plain. The band stuck mainly to their rocking material, some from Katapult, some new tracks from the new Ektro release I believe, and some older material. I still can't get over the guitar work, such stellar playing and a unmatched tone.  Assembled Head were fairly amateurish and played way too long and are the inevitable product of  the continued onslaught of psyche/prog inspired bands bursting up everywhere.

Saw Control the other night at the VFF. While a solid effort from a first time feature film director, with a great aesthetic and solid acting, it was quite procedural. There isn't a lot to take away really as a viewer, the script is not strong, and you get what you expect in terms of the story. I'd stick to 24hr. Party People to provide more thoughtful insight into the atmosphere swirling in Manchester at the time. Bring on the Scott Walker documentary!

On a fun note, I direct you to NME's list of top 10 Pete Doherty videos. The early clip of PD waiting in line for the new Oasis record is brilliant. New Babyshambles album comes out next week in the UK, and from listening to the new single (a total Kinks rip-off) it looks to be fairly solid. I say this taking into consideration that it can't be any worse than the first Babyshambles record and will likely never equal anything the Libertines layed down or any of Carl Barat's work since the breakup.

On the Hop
  • As I said above, there's a lot of psyche out there right now, and so far this year Holy Mountain is far and away my favourite label this year for churning out one good thing after another. After garnering great reviews (and ridiculous Ebay action, holy shit!!) with their 7" and 10"s, Wooden Shjips have released their full length. If it wasn't for a couple songs where it gets way to close to the Doors for my liking, i'd probably go even farther in my praise.
TYVEK - Summer Burns 7" EP

  • Rumour has it that the Black Lips are now contractually obligated to cut any of their notorious stage-craziness out of their act, but at least there's Tyvek. Hailing from the home of garage, Detroit, they bring the sloppy, shambolic exuberance  that a lot of the Goner/In the Red bands only strive for. What's Your Rupture is another label hitting its stride, with strong releases from Tyvek, Fucked Up and the domestic release of early Long Blondes material.
France Gall - 1968
  • A '60s freak beat classic and a big hit at Scratch right now. Another Gainsbourg protege, Gall also worked with other great French songwriters of the period, and dominated French pop. But with 1968, Gall ventures away from traditional pop to infuse her record with British psyche. Clearly she was listening to Revolver a lot and the session musicians provide a lot of jazz inspired arrangements to give the album such a bizarre and amazing twist on the usual mid-60's French pop.

Sun, Sep. 2nd, 2007, 04:03 pm
Formed a Band.....with ponytails

I've waited many years to see Devendra Banhart, but I must admit my interest has waned over the last couple years with the release of Cripple Crow and the various leaks of tracks from the upcoming album. And it was was with these competing feelings that I went to the Commodore last night wondering which way I'd come out......and I lasted about eight or nine songs and had to leave. It was crap. Why Devendra decided to move away from the sparse and exceptional style that exemplified his early works is beyond me. He's shifted from listening to the Basement Tapes to listening to Empire Burlesque. Forget freak folk, I felt I was at a block party on Commercial Dr. at points, with terrible derivative reggae rhythms and four dudes in pony tails providing unnecessary "oohs" with every chorus. Pass the dubage brah!..... Give me strength and a hippie club.

Makes me feel even better that I flipped my LP copy of "Oh Me Oh My" to buy Boris's Dronevil 2LP.

Sun, Jun. 24th, 2007, 02:14 pm
Tickets, Record Collections etc....

Haven't posted in a while so i'm not sure where to start.

I'll begin with a link to a complaint about rising ticket prices for shows in Vancouver and complaints about Zulu and Scratch being the cause of rising prices. The whole issue boggles my mind sometimes but my response  can be found in the comments section of the post.

On another note, a certain used record store in town that has a less than stellar reputation amongst vinyl buyers has bought a ridiculous collection of early '80s Vancouver punk, hardcore etc...which has caused several people to lose their minds and money. I restrained myself slightly but still spent a bit of cash, picking up Husker Du's "Statues" 7" and the Boredoms' "Soul Discharge" LP. The guy prices everything off popsike.com so there's no deals to be had.

While hardcore punk is rather laughable these days in terms of its wishy washy politics and supposed youth driven activism, I recommend everyone try to make it out to see Toronto's Fucked Up at the Ukrainian Hall on July 7th w/ the Tranzmitors. These guys are insane, and if you missed their last shows in town, this one shouldn't be missed (unless you're going to Seattle to see Sunn0))) and Earth at El Corazone).

On the Hop

Bishops - S/T
  • Best band in England right now, the Bishops are a tight three-piece outfit that, much like the Young Knives, are merging the fiery and raucous elements of bands like the Jam and Gang of Four with a '60s pop-garage sound. Unfortunately, i don't think they'll catch on here to warrant a stateside release. Pete Doherty's diary comes out next week, buy it and listen to this:
Neurosis - Given to the Rising
  • Neurosis have brought it this time, returning to the pummeling force that typified their early releases. While Isis kind of opened up on their last release and, especially with the lyrics, brought a lot of light to their songs, Neurosis have gone in the opposite direction to bring a crunching dread to the record.
Concretes - Hey Trouble!
  • After the Concretes lead singer left and their tour of North America fell apart I wrote this band off for dead and when I heard they had a new album with the other girl singing I thought it would be crap for sure. Wrong! This album picks up where In Colour left off, great pop hooks. Only available in Sweden at the moment but we got a copy in so i've been playing it a lot.

Fri, May. 4th, 2007, 01:18 pm
L'armee Des Hombres is Here!

The Criterion edition of Jean Pierre Melville's Army of Shadows arrived this week to my delight. While I already own a British edition of the film, the North American edition comes with several added goodies that make it a must to own. I can't say enough but how good this movie is. It's available for rent at Black Dog if anyone is interested, and I just convinced Rodney Graham to buy a copy which was nice.

Added to this great Melville news comes word that Criterion will release Melville's first major film Les Enfants Terribles to North American viewers this summer (it has been available in the UK for some time now). Also, Le Silence De La Mer will see the light of day in the UK this summer as well.

Ok enough of that.... Went to Jarvis Cocker on Tuesday and of course it lived up to billing. Jarv banged through the whole album pretty much with a b-side and a great Gary Numan cover. The guy is such an amazing performer; great banter and stage presence.  While I wonder how many people had heard the solo record, it was a testament to his skills as a performer that nobody was yelling out Pulp songs and everybody was lapping up the new material. As for the openers, the Choir Practice, words like dull, boring, and contrived come to mind.

Off to see the Arctic Monkeys tonight, which might seem lame but I have to say that I like the new record even though it's quite short.

On the Hop
  • Avey Tare & Kria Brekkan - Pullhair Rubeye (Paw Tracks)
    • There has been a lot of criticism leveled against this record so far and while I initially thought it was unfair I have slowly come to the inclusion that this album is a major misguided affair. I would likely not have come to this conclusion if I hadn't heard the original non-reversed version (which I think is generally excellent), but the whole exercise just seems ridiculous. Davd Lynch and Inland Empire aside, the whole record just sounds goofy, and after a listen or two I feel like I never want to hear it again. It doesn't help that Panda Bear's new album is such a triumph either.
  • Sister Vanilla-Little Pop Rock (Chemikal Underground)
    • Brand new effort from the Reid brothers of Jesus & Mary Chain, who have teamed up with their sister to create this new project. Overall, this is a solid record that sounds much like a new JAMC record with less distorted guitar and only a splattering of the brothers' vocals.
  •  Vanishing Voice-Nordic Visions/Stone Tablet (Important)
    • Great records to get me excited about the new Wooden Wand colab project, Vanishing Voice sans W.W. gets murky and misty, as if recorded in the darkest hilltops of Northern California.
  • Anne Briggs-The Time Has Come (Water)
    • My favourite album by leaps and bounds at the moment, the reissue of the second album by English folk singer Anne Briggs is utterly stunning. Yes, Linda Thompson, Vashti Bunyan and Shirley Collins should be given their due from this period, but for me this is the seminal album from the period, mixing stunning original tunes with contemporary covers. Water records just keeps on getting better with their reissues this year. First Kevin Ayers, now Anne Briggs, next...Soft Machine. Yes!

Tue, Mar. 27th, 2007, 04:08 pm
Off to Lily Allen...

Off to see Lily Allen tonight and i'm not sure what to expect as she has written lately that she is exhausted and growing tired of playing the same songs every night across North America. While this is an understandable gripe, one can't feel that sympathetic, as this is what happens when someone with one album gets big really quickly and decides they can headline a tour on ten songs.

The amount of new stuff arriving this week at work is going to be absolutely crippling and a real joy to deal with. The nice thing is at least the new Panda Bear and the Sunn0)))/Boris 3LP will be in the boxes (the extra LP track on the Sunn0)))/Boris is the true gem in an otherwise lack luster collaboration). "Build my gallows high baby"

On the Hop

Earth - Hibernaculum CD/DVD
  • The problem with Earth, the kings of drone, is that some of their records often descend into boredom pretty quickly with long winded instrumentals going nowhere (see Penastar). Yet i'm really pleasantly surprised with the quality of the four tracks found on the new CD side of Hibernaculum. 3 of the tracks are reworkings of old numbers, with a new twist I guess, creating a dreamy atmosphere accentuated by some great twangy guitar riffage. This hint of twang, so to speak, is what  separates Earth from the more brooding  drone metal groups like Sunn0)) or Isis.
Dean & Britta - Back Numbers
  • Galaxie 500 are one of my obsessions, a band that I never grow tired of. Luna on the other hand (Dean Wareham's next project) are a band I just don't get, a poor mans Galaxie 500 that make Damon & Naomi sound interesting (which they rarely are). Yet the collaboration between Dean and his wife/Luna bandmate Britta Phillips has achieved far greater things than their partnership in Luna. Their second release Back Numbers, is really an album to highlight Britta's vocal talents. You need look no further than the following:

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