Tuesday, 28 July 2009

some reviews: lovvers, jay reatard, mariachi el bronx + more...

a bunch of reviews have been added to the skinny's website over the last few weeks, including these written all by myself:

The Dead Weather - Horehound (****)

It’s natural that Jack White has dominated discussions of the Dead Weather. With two bands already under his command, the unveiling of a new blues-rock combo featuring his talents was inevitably seen as just another outlet for its ringleader’s voluminous talents. Some commentators have weakly bandied around the ‘supergroup’ tag to highlight the presence of The Kills’ Alison Mosshart and Queens of the Stone Age’s Dean Fertita, but regardless, most will come to The Dead Weather with White‘s career as their guide, anticipating an album timed to replace The White Stripes (till Meg returns to work) and the Raconteurs (while Brendan Benson goes solo again).

A first listen won’t really challenge this opinion. The distorted guitar underpinning much of Horehound revels in the same old-school blues riffs that have always influenced White’s style, and only Mosshart’s seductive vocals distinguish some songs from the likes of Icky Thump. Except that a) The White Stripes and The Raconteurs have never sounded quite so filthy and b) that ain't White playing guitar. If White drives the Dead Weather, he does so from the drum stool rather than centre stage, his drumming carrying a great deal more weight than your average Meg paradiddle. Guitar duties are handled by Fertita, as are the voodoo-Doors-esque organ lines that help give tracks like So Far From Your Weapon their fuzzy, skuzzy atmosphere, while credit goes to Jack Lawrence (of the Greenhornes/Raconteurs) for the rattling bass lines gracing Rocking Horse et al.

And then there’s Mosshart, specialising in two types of vocals on Horehound. The sultry delivery of the first will be familiar to any Kills fans, all sighs, wails and pouting attitude (see opener 60 Feet Tall and New Poney, amongst others). The second type is best exemplified by Cut Like A Buffalo, a peculiar beast which marries reggae-syncopation with Ray Manzarek-like organ to produce the album’s one genuine diversion from the band members’ various day jobs. Here the vocals are layered and multiple (White may be relegated to the back of the stage, but that doesn’t keep him schtum), not so much in harmony as bellowed together in a vaguely similar register. It's a style that just about works on Buffalo but which sounds uncomfortably close to 90s rap rock cliché on Treat Me Like Your Mother.

So it turns out that Jack White’s new band isn’t ‘his’ at all – it’s a co-op, with all four of its members claiming ownership over its successes but also sharing liability for its occasional failures. Some tracks peter out long before their running time expires; others simply rehash old ideas. But the Dead Weather is the sum of its parts in the best way possible – four skilled musicians working together without anyone (i.e. Mr White) dominating. If the band prove to be temporary, then they deserves more than pithy dismissal as a side-project, or a footnote in White’s career. Chances are, unfortunately, that’s exactly the short shrift they’ll receive.

Asa Ransom - An Asa Ransom Release (***)

Relocating to New York must have been a no-brainer for Asa Ransom, hailing as they do from Marion, Indiana, whose only recent(ish) claim to fame has been hosting Julia Roberts's union with (now ex-) husband Lyle Lovett. The Big Apple, by contrast, is so adept at incubating dance-rock-garage hybrids it could no doubt churn them out in its sleep (which, as Frank Sinatra once revealed, it never, ever does). Borrowing copiously from the local aesthetic, the band's playful mix of Rapture grooves with The Walkmen’s spiky alt-rock boasts liberal song structures which journey into all sorts of unexpected but exciting places. The Luck Of Stoney Bowes combines taut Wire-y guitar with muttered whispers, while The Way We Go, mostly consisting of the title repeated over a Clinic-al backbeat, sounds simultaneously like an invitation to dance and a threat. And they aren’t out of ideas yet, having already begun their follow-up. An-other Asa Ransom Release? I look forward to it.

The Bookhouse Boys - The Bookhouse Boys (***)

“A soundtrack for a film that doesn’t exist” is up there with “voice of a generation” in the big book of irksome review clichés. But in this case, it’s so apt I’ll not only use it, I’ll go one better and specify the feigned film. With its Morricone crescendos, surf-guitar riffs and, on Tonight, an introduction identical to Urge Overkill’s Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon, the first half appears specially commissioned to save Tarantino the hassle of hunting through 7”s for Kill Bill Vol. 3. Nick Cave is a clear non-cinematic influence, with I Can’t Help Myself sounding awfully like The Curse of Millhaven with less interesting lyrics (which isn’t an insult – most songs have less interesting lyrics than Cave’s blood-drenched ditty). Unfortunately the standard later dips, with too many lulls killing momentum and leaving the Bookhouse Boys an intriguing prospect, but not yet a fully-formed one.

Jay Reatard - Watch Me Fall (***)

Despite spending his teens in lo-fi garage-punk bands, Jay Reatard’s solo work is unashamedly pop. There are no attempts to undermine the hooks running through Watch Me Fall with noisy outbursts: Reatard instead offers up twelve no-nonsense, instantly memorable slices of power-pop which shimmy, shake, rattle and roll through a hit-parade of influences. Past comparisons to Guided By Voices and Supergrass don’t quite convey the enthusiastic brio with which Watch Me Fall crackles - imagine instead if Andrew W.K. chose to emulate Ash and Weezer rather than soft-metal and motivational speakers. So why the subdued score? Because, for all their individual charms, over the course of several listens many songs lose their sheen; chord changes start to sound overly obvious and there’s only so many way/away-type rhymes one can take before craving something a little more ambitious than a three-minute earworm. In moderation, however, Reatard is a happy, catchy treat.

Mariachi El Bronx - Cell Mates (****)

Unless The Jonas Brothers are anonymously working on a double album of folk-inspired death metal, this is undoubtedly the most unusual musical alter-ego of 2009. A world away from the noisy hardcore sound for which they’re known, LA punks The Bronx have transmogrified into Central American doppelgangers Mariachi El Bronx, swapping crunchy detuned guitars for chirpy brass, frantic bass-drum rhythms for a summery latino sway and rock-n-roll howls for sweetly sung jail-based pining over absent sweethearts. Such a major stylistic shift might have an air of novelty were it not for Cell Mates straight-faced sincerity and wonderfully upbeat flourishes. Even if the Bronx have thus far left you cold, the summery warmth of the Mariachis may change your mind.

Lovvers - OCD Go Go Go Girls (****)

The plot of Dan Brown’s forthcoming crime-against-literature/bestseller is top secret, but I reckon I’ve figured out the subject of investigation: the origins and meaning of the mysterious double ‘V’. While it hasn’t reached the ubiquity of ‘Crystal’, Lovvers are the second band (after Wavves) to debut lately with an elongated middle, and it seems an awfully big coincidence that both peddle a similar brand of fuzzy guitar-pop. What connects ‘VV’ and broken-amp-core? No idea. What I do know is that a) Lovvers beat Wavves into a cocked hat, sounding more vibrant, ferocious and tuneful and b) OCD Go Go Girls (that’s one less ‘Go’ than the album title - a clue??) is an ace summer sing-a-long, or at least would be if the mumbled lyrics were audible. So, conspiracy theories aside, Lovvers’ debut rocks - though if a re-branded Times New VViking emerge anytime soon, we're declaring this an epidemic.

and be sure to have frequent peaks at the skinny site for plenty of other spiffing music/film/stuff coverage!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

july snaps

Ok folks, get out your reading glasses, it's time to play the "is that... wait, is that the back of your hea...ah no that's whatsername, isn't it? oh forget it i can't see a thing in these ridiculous photographs" game!

if anyone has any photos from the night that they want to share with the world then our facebook group (bottle rocket dancing club) would be happy to accomadate em!

Monday, 20 July 2009

bottle rocket radio will return!

yep, when term recommences and subcity resumes its transmission, bottle rocket will be there once again! don't know what day/time or nuffin yet, but i'll be sure to keep you in the loop...


Sunday, 19 July 2009

bottle rocket july...

was flipping ace! thanks to anyone who came down and filled up the dancefloor, it was one of the best in aaaaaages.

some thoughts:

a) michael jackson is really rather popular these days.

b) its nice when people request amazing songs that we want to play anyway - it makes us feel all chivalrous and generous an' that. it's also nice when people request songs that are pretty unlikely, but they ask with a little hint of awkwardness that says: 'yeah, i know you won't play bonkers or cotton eye joe, but thanks for hearing me out...'

c) atlas is a damn good song to dance to, though i'm gonna have to pace myself better on these seven minute choons - my dancing bones feel bruised. although not everyone is a fan, if i'm reading the mysterious note passed to us at the end by a drunken patron correctly: "why do you play battles?" it asks. "i move with the MOVEMENT!". indeed.

d) i probably should stop putting motown on the poster since i'm always woefully unprepared for requests from the genre... sorry.

e) elton john is really rather divisive.

here's what was played:

1. peter, bjorn and john - up against the wall
2. au revoir simone - shadows
3. club 8 - saturday night engine
4. juni jarvi - if we just want to
5. felt - the day the rain came down
6. shout out louds - very loud
7. suburban kids with biblical names - trumpets and violins
8. velvet underground - beginning to see the light
9. wedding present - come up and see me (make me smile)
10. talking heads - psycho killer
11. the fall - rowche rumble
12. manic street preachers - jackie collins existential question time
13. mclusky - to hell with good intentions
14. 80s matchbox b-line disaster - psychosis safari
15. tv on the radio - dancing choose
16. passion pit - sleepyhead
17. david bowie - let's dance
18. prince - kiss
19. the belle stars - sign of the times
20. public image ltd. - rise
21. the mae shi - lamb and lion
22. dananananaykroyd - watch this!
23. jimi hendrix - crosstown traffic
24. little richard - little bit of something (sure beats a whole lot of nothing)
25. chuck berry - johnny b. goode
26. camera obscura - french navy
27. martha reeves - heatwave
28. marvin gaye & kim weston - it takes two
29. the pipettes - your kisses are wasted on me
30. lucky soul - whoah billy
31. the lucksmiths - sunlight in a jar
32. fleetwood mac - everywhere
33. go-betweens - bye bye pride
34. blondie - picture this
35. le tigre - hot topic
36. christie laume - la musique et la dance
37. the lucksmiths - t-shirt weather
38. creedence clearwater revival - bad moon rising
39. otis redding - respect
40. aretha franklin - think
41. jackie wilson - higher
42. the kinks - lola
43. girls aloud - the promise
44. bruce springsteen - dancing in the dark
45. clap your hands say yeah - skin of my yellow country teeth
46. ladyhawke - my delirium
47. kirsty maccoll - he's on the beach
48. altered images - i could be happy
49. belle and sebastian - electronic renassiance
50. the housemartins - the people who grinned themselves to death
51. the smiths - ask
52. the police - don't stand so close to me
53. blur - mor
54. aztec camera - oblvious
55. abba - voulez vouz
56. elton john - crocodile rock
57. michael jackson - the way you make me feel
58. the strokes - new york city cops
59. lcd soundsystem - daft punk is playing at my house
60. the rapture - get myself into it
61. battles - atlas
62. patsy cline - walking after midnight

and we remembered to take pictures this month! they'll follow in the next few days...

Saturday, 18 July 2009


is bottle rocket. it is one whole year since we started. gosh.

you dancing? cos i most certainly am asking


Wednesday, 15 July 2009

T in the Park 2009...

...was rather splendid all in all. after seven-ish years on the trot (they all start to blur together after a while) i skipped 2008 and didn't think i'd go back again (what with me getting on in years and all). its amazing how plans change when free tickets are on offer...

i'm still sunburned (my lips keep cracking every time i smile, which made bruce springsteen last night bloody painful), sore (for some reason i decided, two nights running, that the best make-shift pillow was a 2 litre bottle of lemonade with a plastic bag on top) and annoyed (at missing blur), but also chuffed i got to see a whole lot of top stuff, much of which i've written about for the skinny's website.

so head over for coverage of friday, saturday and sunday, where i've reviewed passion pit, manic street preachers, vv brown and, um, lady gaga amongst others, and other skinny-scribes have done likewise for vast swathes of the remaining bill. it's a jolly good read yknow.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

july skinny

i'm popping off to T in the Park on friday as part of the Skinny's bevy of journos, which reminded me i'm yet to plug this month's issue. it's been knocking around various venues for a while now, so if you haven't yet picked up a copy then you're a cotton-headed ninny-muggins. it looks like this:
inside there are interviews with cover stars TV on the radio, the horrors, of montreal and loads of others, plus a preview of the aforementioned Balado festival. all of which is obviously very good indeed. i had nowt to do with any of that though (apart from a teeny tiny preview of M83, who i can't bloody wait to see this weekend...), so here's all the content written by my fair hand, reproduced on bottlerocketglasgow for your reading pleasure...

album reviews:

6 Day Riot - Have A Plan (***)
Glaswegian singer/songwriter Tamara Schlesinger suffered a setback last year when half her band split on the eve of a tour. Luckily for us, ambition won out over apathetic resignation, and rather than mope about it she channelled her frustration into debut album 6 Day Riot Have A Plan. It’s a delightful introduction to her style, which echoes influences from out-with the usual suspects: lead single Run For Your Life and So You’re A Writer flow with a calypso rhythms, and the effect comes close to a sedate Mae Shi on an E-number controlled diet. The more straightforwardly folk-pop numbers are similarly successful, particularly Go! Canada‘s muted ukulele-led fanfare, and Be With Me, which starts a mournful ballad before giving way to giddy glee. Whether Schlesinger’s plan extends beyond getting these ten tracks into record stores and hearts isn’t yet clear, but it’ll be fun sticking with her to find out.

There Will Be Fireworks - There Will Be Fireworks (***)
There Will Be Fireworks seem designed for autumn, rather than the scorching heatwave into which they release their debut album. From their assertively-phrased moniker to the similarly-themed song titles (We Were A Roman Candle, Guising), they evoke shivers, not sunshine. Musically, they borrow heavily from peers and predecessors practicing in the nebulous field of ‘post-rock’: their dense crescendos and emotive vocals echo the Twilight Sad, the guitar lines sound borrowed from Explosions in the Sky, while the spoken-word poetry layered over Colombian Fireworks (see what I mean about the titles?) recalls numerous literary-minded acts. Yet, while too beholden to generic conventions to astonish quite yet, they show genuine promise, and on a personal note I look forward to getting lost in the album again when the clocks go back; a chill in the air should cast these thirteen tracks in a new, exciting and ultimately more flattering light.

Magnolia Electric Co. - Josephine (****)
Records borne of personal tragedy are an odd beast: tinged with pain, they’ll often contain heartbreakingly honest song-writing, but can become stifling over the course of an entire sorrow-filled album. Josephine is pitched by Magnolia Electric Co.’s Jason Molina as a concept album in commemoration of bassist Evan Ferrell, who died in an apartment fire in 2007, and the results are undeniably beautiful. But at some stage during its forty-six minutes the pervasive sadness is likely to stop haunting the listener and start to emotionally tire them instead, and despite its many successes - doo-wop waltz The Rock of Ages and Gram Parsons-esque ballad Whip-poor-will in particular - the funereal pace makes it tough not to crave more variety. But perhaps criticising a tribute to a departed friend for being too solemn is unfair; at its heart, this is achingly gorgeous country with only the most minor of faults.

and that's it!

over at theskinny.co.uk are other bits and pieces, including a review of Silversun Pickups at Oran Mor last week.

br x