Thursday, 30 December 2010

bye bye christmas hello new year

feel that sad lump in your chest? that's the last globule of christmas making its way southwards. but just because the Day of Turkey and Presents is over doesn't mean the Season of Fun and Happiness is anywhere near concluded. tomorrow is new year, and all the cool cats will be here:

yep, after last year's drunken debacle, 50% of bottle rocket will return to sleazys for NYE fun. gonna be aaaaaaaaaaace.


Thursday, 23 December 2010

bestest films of 2010!

i mentioned a few posts back that i'd voted in the skinny writer's top films of 2010 poll. while there was a fair amount of match up (in obvious areas like toy story 3 and the social network, but also with less obvious choices like white material), there were, inevitably, points of divergence. i've repeated my top 10 here, and expanded it out to a top 20 since there were a lot of good movies this year. now for the excuses: i didn't see uncle boonmee, dogtooth, the headless woman, carlos, winter's bone, another year and probably a bunch more critically acclaimed flicks, so their absence is unfortunate but unavoidable. i didn't think a whole lot of the kids are alright, the ghost or enter the void, so they're oot too. here's what i did rate:

1. lebanon (dir. samuel moaz)
one of four films in this top twenty that i caught at the glasgow film festival back in february. that trumps berlin (1) and edinburgh (0). not bad considering their respective sizes and reputations. the ryan reynolds showcase buried seems to have ended up in a few best-of-year lists already, but moaz's film is easily the more claustrophobic and unsettling viewing experience.

2. a prophet (dir. jacques audiard)
it always feels strange championing a film that had its moment in the spotlight a full year ago. but uk cinemas only recieved this remarkable film in january, so it's a 2010 film in my book.

3. exit through the gift shop (dir. banksy)
either the best documentary of the year, the best faux-documentary of the year, the best practical joke of the year or just the best comedy of the year. like double take, banksy's film debut explored the divide between truth and fiction, yet it never alienates or bores with high-falutin ways.

4. the social network (dir. david fincher)
i'm sitting with a copy of time magazine beside me. it's emblazened with mark zuckerberg's face: he's their person of the year, the esteemed publication's most important person of 2010. but all i can think looking at his intense, straight-to-camera stare is: 'what a douche'. thanks sorkin...

5. toy story 3 (dir. lee unkrich)
it's just not a top ten list without a pixar entry.

6. double take (dir. johan grimonprez)
here's a review i wrote back in may.

7. how i spent last summer (dir. aleksei popogrebsky)
i had to leave this off the list i submitted to the skinny as it hasn't yet had its uk release. i caught it at berlin, where it's 2 leads jointly won the best actor award. i'm not sure if a release is on the cards, but if it does make it to our isle, you'd be a reet fool to miss it.

8. city of life and death (dir. chuan lu)
another GFF movie, and another film that subsequently seems to have disappeared. it's not an easy film to watch, but nor should it be.

9. inception (dir. christopher nolan)
move over donnie darko: adolescent film buffs have a new favourite film to high-mindedly debate between class.

10. white material (dir. claire denis)
denis's last visit to africa resulted in the indelible puzzle beau trevail. white material is an equally enigmatic creation, tight with tension and boasting an incredibly subtle central performance from isabelle huppert.

11. samson and delilah (dir. warwick thornton)
12. still walking (dir. hirokazu koreeda)
13. bad lieutenent: port of call new orleans (dir. werner herzog)
14. shutter island (dir. martin scorcese)
15. ajami (dir. scandar copti and yaron shani)
16. rare exports (dir. jalmari helander)
17. somewhere (dir. sophia coppolla)
18. kick ass (dir. mathew vaughn)
19. green zone (dir. paul greengrass)
20. monsters (dir. gareth edwards)

close but no cigars for a single man, my son my son what have ye done, the maid, scott pilgrim versus the world, the princess and the frog, let me in, four lions, the killer inside me, we are what we are and the secret in their eyes.

right, i'm off to see tron legacy.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

december playlist!

saturday twas lovely - we were rather keen on the improvised lighting arrangement (those wee desk lamps really caught our best angle), and the christmas songs went down a treat. not with everyone mind - as one girl inquired bluntly, "why christmas?". the explanation that it was the season for such things did not suffice apparently... ach well, you can't please every last tom, dick or ebeneezer; here's what the rest of us danced to:

1. au revoir simone - fallen snow
2. clap your hands say yeah - in this home on ice
3. sally shapiro - anorak christmas
4. ballboy - i wonder if you're drunk enough to sleep with me tonight
5. talking heads - burning down the house
6. of montreal - i feel ya strutter
7. the supremes - santa claus is coming to town
8. the beach boys - little saint nick
9. rem - gardening at night
10. the drums - i felt stupid
11. saint etienne - i was born on christmas day
12. the flaming lips - race for the prize
13. jimmy eat world - last christmas
14. twin shadow - shooting holes
15. chromeo - don't turn the lights on
16. new order - sub-culture
17. mariah carey - all i want for christmas is you
18. hello saferide - ipod christmas
19. best coast - boyfriend
20. edwyn collins - do it again
21. the vaselines - i hate the 80s
22. summer cats - plastic christmas trees
23. abba - super trouper
24. belle and sebastian - i could be dreaming
25. the ronettes - frosty the snowman
26. the concretes - can't hurry love
27. felt - the day the rain came down
28. the beastie boys - ch-ch-check it out
29. jackie wilson - higher and higher
30. the jam - strange town
31. asobi seksu - merry christmas (i don't want to fight tonight)
32. idlewild - when i argue i see shapes
33. deerhunter - revival
34. tom petty - american girl
35. wreckless eric - reconnez cherie
36. kurtis blow - christmas rapping
37. the waitresses - christmas wrapping
38. le tigre - my my metrocard
39. pulp - misshapes
40. low - just like christmas
41. david bowie - modern love
42. the pretenders - kid
43. julian casablancas - i wish it was christmas today
44. echo and the bunnymen - lips like sugar
45. associates - party fears two
46. ladytron - playgirl
47. sparks - something for the girl with everything
48. the beatles - paperback writer
49. the go-betweens - bye bye pride
50. the wedding present - step into christmas
51. franz ferdinand - ulysses
52. frank alamo - je ma bats ganier
53. jose feliciano - feliz navidad
54. the flamin groovies - paint it black
55. twisted sister - i saw mommy kissing santa claus
56. the national - bloodbuzz ohio
57. elvis presley - teddy bear
58. fucked up - do they know it's christmas?
59. the pogues and kirsty maccoll - fairytale of new york


Thursday, 16 December 2010

le film reviews

last month i watched and reviewed a couple of films that were screening at the french film festival in glasgow. the first has just been put up at - neither was 'best-of-year' material (i will be doing the whole list rigmarole shortly, honest), but they had their moments...

Skirt Day (dir. Jean-Paul Lilienfeld, starring Isabelle Adjani, Yann Collette)

In 2008, French teachers protested budget cuts that had stretched education resources to breaking point. Skirt Day therefore couldn’t have been timelier: a harried, barely coping teacher, worn down by taunts from students and an unsupportive bureaucracy, takes her class hostage in a moment of desperation. But timing apart, the film is a disappointingly mishandled muddle. As the handgun exchanges hands several times during the siege, it prompts multiple plot twists that are either overly obvious or unconvincing, while the sheer quantity of socio-political issues paid lip service (most awkwardly racial tensions in the banlieue), causes its fragile frame to buckle. The supporting cast are resultantly marginalised, rendered two-dimensional stereotypes of the kind the narrative otherwise makes motions to critique. But there is significant salvation in the form of a committed lead turn from Isabelle Adjani, which won her a record-breaking fifth Best Actress Cesar. Her unexpectedly complex performance earns an A+ in an otherwise D standard film.

Imogene McCarthery (dir. Alexandre Charlot, Franck Magnier, starring Catherine Frot, Lambert Wilson)

Haggis for tea, a wee dram at every opportunity and tartan togs across the board: welcome to sixties Scotland, home of unlikely spy Imogène McCarthery (a game turn from a sprightly Catherine Frot). Charged with delivering top secret plans to the Highlands, patriotic Imogène battles dastardly Reds and deceptive double-agents with a mix of pluck and good fortune. There’s amusement to be had viewing Scotland through the eyes of our continental neighbours (alcoholism and xenophobia remain our shorthand stereotypes it seems), though generally the humour is far from mean-spirited; instead, it seems oddly nostalgic for a fantasy ‘foreign’ past. But the Egypt and Brazil-set OSS 117 films do a similar thing with greater conviction and more consistent laughs, and by comparison Imogène’s sleuthing feels pedestrian. No matter where Jean Dujardin’s spy visits next, his adventures will likely be worth following.; take Scotland away from Imogène and you’re left with the lightest of farces, attracting only the mildest of interest.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

a bottle rocket christmas

this saturday bottle rocket has its annual christmas party - or as fellow rocketeer michael has decided to call it, our secual non-denomenational winter fest. we tend to have it at this time of year so as not to confuse anyone. michael, care to introduce things further?

Ho ho ho everyone,

Being the kind of club night that makes its own organic pesto from scratch, writes po-faced letters into The Guardian about the horrendous carbon footprint of its travel correspondents, and sternly lectures all the other club nights down the pub about how it recycles its own faeces to make vegan shoes for orphans, Bottle Rocket is aware that Christmas is a deeply offensive team of year. It is yet another exampl...e of western cultural imperialism and should, of course, be abolished. However, it is responsible for some damn fine music which overrides everything else, and this is what we'll be celebrating down at the Latter Day Church of Bottle Rocket on Saturday the 18th of December. So if you fancy a wee yuletide celebration featuring the usual mix of indiepop, rock n roll, postpunk, motown and the like, but with a with a festive slant, get your dancing skis on and head down to Nice 'n' Sleazy. There may also be balloons, decorations or Christmassy treats if we get round to it, but no promises like. Happy holidays!

*11:30pm - 3am!
*£3! (or free if you're in the bar by 11:30)

Tell you what, as a gift from us to you, please stick any requests in the usual place. No, not THERE; on the facebook wall... (find it here)

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

decemberrrrrr skinny

gosh damn it's cold. if, for some crazy reason, you're actually walking around outside in weather like this, you should undoubtedly pick up a copy of the latest issue of the skinny. it'll totally warm you up (figuratively, not literally - it really is rather cold).

amongst the words and pictures are the following pieces written by yours truly:

- fence halloween @ stereo live review
- les savy fav @ oran mor live review
- randolph's leap @ captains rest live review
- electropapknit vol. 1 album review (album of the month)
- sophie's pigeons - 'names and pictures' album review
- various artists - 'forest records presents' album review
- the scottish enlightenment - 'st. thomas' album review
- seafieldroad - 'there are no maps for this part of the city' album review
- the savings and loan - 'today i need light' album review

there's also the skinny's top 10 albums of the year - quite a few of my personal votes ended up in the final list. i'll post my own favourites later in the month; here's what the skinny as a whole decided on:

1. joanna newsom - have one on me
2. the national - high violet
3. caribou - swim
4. arcade fire - the suburbs
5. the phantom band - the wants
6. beach house - teen dream
7. pantha du prince - black noise
8. lcd soundsystem - this is happening
9. the books - the way out
10. deerhunter - halcyon digest

the film team also put together a best of year list - again, my personal list would differ somewhat, and i'll no doubt put that up in a few weeks' time. in the meantime, here's the skinny's combined top, er, eleven:

1. the social network
=2. bad lieutenent: port of cll new orleans
=2. inception
=4. a prophet
=4. toy story 3
6. dogtooth
7. four lions
8. the ghost
=9. mary and max
=9. scott pilgrim vs. the world
=9. white material

you certainly won't see the ghost so high in my personal list - i'm a little baffled by the love it's received. but that's democracy for you...

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

skinny album of the month: electropapknit

here's my review of the nifty new compilation from electropapknit, which has been made the skinny's album of the month for december...

In the first of what will hopefully be a lengthy run, Glasgow-based DIY promoters Electropapknit deliver a stock-take of the Scottish underground, a perfect complement to Predestination Records’ similar ventures. Several participants need little introduction, having been praised at length in these pages before: Eagleowl proffer the stirring title track from this year’s superb Into the Fold EP; Jesus H Foxx are represented by J & J’s delicate album taster, while Deathpodal pluck the gnarly Every Superstition Shall Be Removed from their Exu Wow EP (the label’s debut foray into the record-releasing racket) to up the rock quotient.

But the secondhand nature of these tracks shouldn’t put you off, not least because the download won’t cost you a penny: this is an exciting collection that will almost certainly add at least one new name to your radar. In this writer’s case, that honour goes to Noma’s peculiar chopped-organ soundscape, Detail’s ghostly prog wig-out, and the abrasive barrage of noise churned forth by Public Spaces. The latter ply their squall at the launch party later this month, where those so inclined can drop some change on a limited-edition physical copy of this vibrant, if necessarily fractional, guide to Scotland's musical fringe.

Monday, 6 December 2010

question: so you're only a few hours away from 2011 and you need something AWESOME to do - any ideas?

A: come to nice n sleazys for your NYE kicks, where 50% of bottle rocket will be spinning party-time tunes in the upstairs bar till the very late time of 4am (by which point he will be most likely be filled to the brim with beers and alcohols).

hip hip HOORAY

Friday, 3 December 2010

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

reviews: the scottish enlightenment, the savings and loan, sophie's pigeons

The Scottish Enlightenment - St. Thomas (****)

The Scottish Enlightenment echo winter well, with skeletal guitar lines as brittle and bare as tree branches and a settled pace as quietly insidious as snow fall. They won’t change the world like Hume and the gang, but they’ll soundtrack many a crisp walk, ensuring every footstep quivers with drama. Bad Seeds menace and Low-like minimalism join post-rock crescendos, but just when you start to worry the tone’s too oppressive to be enjoyable, a lighter side emerges.

Particularly effective are Taxidermy of Love’s clàrsach flourishes and the faint Yule-ness of The Soft Place, which prove important leavens in an otherwise po-faced mix (though any Christmassy atmosphere in the latter is probably accidental, dealing as it does with the decidedly un-festive topic of transplant surgery). Such careful balancing culminates in a majestic finale reminiscent of Hope of the States at their most haunting – chilly, yet warming in its emotional openness.

Out 13th December

The Savings and Loan - Today I Need Light (***)

The Savings and Loan aren’t looking for an It’s-a-Wonderful-Life, community-spirit bail-out on their debut – just a stiff drink. As a guest turn from Glaswegian poet Tom Leonard monologues a lengthy booze order, the sombre Catholic Boys in the Rain unfurls like Nick Cave circa The Boatman’s Call – quiet, dangerous and likely to sink deep into your brain.

Singer Martin Donnelly’s lyrics aren’t always as sharp as might be expected of a published poet (“Where the ATM’s churn out the deficit, and where every breath on Hope Street promises death” is a line for the times, but not for the ages), but his rich baritone gives everything he utters an evocative glaze. The likes of Pale Water recall the glum majesty of The National – a band routinely tagged with the epithet ‘slow-burn’ both in relation to career path and aesthetic. The Savings and Loan’s flame may burn even slower, but it glows bright nonetheless.

Out 6th December

Sophie's Pigeons - Names and Pictures (***)

A curse on you, Urban Dictionary. we could have happily lived our lives believing the only definition of ‘trunkle’ was ‘tree monster foe of Mario’. Instead, we have to contend with a second definition featuring the words ‘rectal prolapse’ (whilst wishing this wasn't researched on a work computer). Hopefully Sophie Nelson and her Pigeons have their own meaning in mind on their debut’s opening track Monkeys Trunkle, which – potential inappropriate-internet-usage-sackings aside – constitutes a charming introduction to Nelson’s cheery pop sound.

Names and Pictures gives extra legs to the ongoing vogue for slightly eccentric female pop-stars (Marina and her Diamonds, Florence and her Machine), with Elevating and Impatient proving delightfully moreish. Best of all is It’s Gonna Bite, a smartly constructed, retro-styled would-be chart-hit that identifies Nelson as a performer to keep an eye on – if only to make sure her band don’t shit on your car.

Out 6th December

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

reviews: gregory and the hawk, the forest cafe, seafieldroad

Gregory and the Hawk - Leche (****)

Type ‘Gregory and the Hawk’ into YouTube and, alongside self-uploaded videos and phone-shot live clips, you’ll find an inordinate number of fan-performances – multiple pages of acoustic-toting adolescents mimicking Meredith Godreau’s style and evidencing how personally effecting it can be.

The twee vocal affectations and pizzicato melodies of Landscapes suggest a contracted Joanna Newsom, chopped down to bitesize dimensions and occupying a breezier milieu (it’s hard to imagine, for instance, Newsom dropping Cutting Crew quotes, as Godreau later does). But Godreau is a canny operator, sifting the seriousness into delicate pop on the likes of the springy uke-led Olly Olly Oxen Free and injecting Over and Over with an echoing counter-melody that reverberates across acoustic arpeggios.

A sweet syrupiness can occasionally encroach (Soulgazing is particularly saccharine on first listen), but Godreau is largely successful at balancing flavours, soaring from feather-light whimsy to more emotive territory with flair.

Out Now

Various Artists - Forest Records Presents... (***)

Whether you’re a patron of the place or not, the news that Edinburgh’s Forest Cafe might be on the ropes is surely cause for concern. The hippy vibe might not fit all tastes, but as an independent open-doors venue in a city whose music scene is already reeling from the loss of the Roxy, its survival is undoubtedly worth supporting. This lengthy compilation leaps from bright and catchy chip-tune, pseudo-Dashboard Confessional cack, big-band pastiche and wet folk wibbling, suggesting the record's vast discrepancies in tone, genre and quality – but then you’d expect nothing less from the Forest. It’s undoubtedly patchy, but there’s no need to pick on the weak links here: in the thumbs up camp are Enfant Bastard’s 8-bit bleeps, Robin Grey’s lovely string-backed balladry and Danseizure’s light, fresh electro. If you couldn’t care less about the Forest’s future, buy a copy anyway. If you do care, buy two.

Out Now

Seafieldroad - There Are No Maps for This Part of the City (***)

Swimmer One’s appeal largely lies in their imaginative genre combinations and ever-varying aesthetic, with this year’s Dead Orchestras an impressive case in point. Seafieldroad – the solo project of the Edinburgh band’s frontman Andrew Eaton – therefore initially disappoints due to its relative straightforwardness. The full-spectrum experiments of Swimmer One seem drained to monochrome, and this reduced ambition prevents There Are No Maps for This Part of the City from generating the same levels of excitement as his principal band. But once you adjust to its narrowed pallet, it provides multiple pleasures: for instance, Brian Wilson Karaoke makes for a gently amusing opener, while The Truth’s delicate arpeggios are combined with building strings (arranged by Pete Harvey of Meursault) to form a striking whole. Overall, there’s less to love than on Eaton’s other release of 2010, but there’s majesty enough to keep Eaton strides ahead of the curve.

Out Now

Monday, 29 November 2010

november skinny...

...has been out for ages already, making this post pretty redundant (unlike the rest of this blog's content, which is SOLID GOLD ESSENTIAL STUFF).

the cover looks like this:

and inside our these things i typed oot:

- shugo tokumaru - 'port entropy' album review

- gregory and the hawk - 'leche' album review

- the flowers of hell - 'O' album review

- '45 a-side records presents the glad cafe' album review

- yusuf azak - 'turn on the long wire' album review

- twin shadow - 'forget' review

most of which are up on this blog already. twas a good selection of promos this month - expect a couple of them to appear on bottle rocket's best of '10 list

Thursday, 25 November 2010

jimmy eat world @ barrowlands, 19th november

Tonight’s topped with two cuts from Bleed American and tailed with three more: you certainly can’t accuse Jimmy Eat World of misreading their fans’ desires. By privileging their 2001 classic so matter-of-factly, they temper any potential accusations of decline – an accusation that has felt overstated in recent press, premised on a false history of the Arizona soppy-rockers that willingly omits their long-held tendency towards corniness.

Tracks from Chase This Light and this year’s Invented may pack less punch, but they’re undoubtedly cut from the same cloth as undisputed highlights like evergreen emo-anthem Blister, aggro-pop bruiser Pain, and the aforementioned fourth album picks. At the outset, the pulverising title track coupled with a sentimental A Praise Chorus generates familiar exhilaration; at the close, an impeccable final trio (Get It Faster, The Middle, Sweetness) washes away any hints of blandness. Jimmy Eat World might be increasingly static, but they’re prevailing.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

randolph's leap @ captains rest, 18th november

To paraphrase one of their own songs, Randolph’s Leap very nearly had to cut crisps out of debut EP Battleships and Kettle Chips after a scary email from Kettle Foods arrived the morning of its launch. “Who knew ‘Kettle Chips’ was a trademark?” asks singer Adam Ross incredulously. “I thought it was a type – like crinkle cut…” But rest easy: masses of complimentary crisps are apparently now winging their way Glasgow-wards. If only all potential copyright infringements were resolved so amicably.

It’s fortunate the suits saw sense, as any bully-boy big-shottery against so enjoyable a bunch might have forced a minor, localised boycott. They charmingly twist folk-pop into odd knots, and though there’s faint danger the light-hearted results could be considered throwaway, trying to discard such witty ear-worms would be pure contrariness (as Kettle Foods no doubt recognised). Let’s just hope Hasbro don’t call dibs on the rest of the title.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Strange Powers round-up!

thanks to everyone who came out on sunday evening to see Strange Powers at the GFT, especially considering we were up against the krankies switching on george square's christmas lights.

I hadn't seen the film before sunday, so I was rather relieved that it turned out to be just as good as was hoped. I haven't yet received a final figure for the number of tickets sold, but i reckon the attendance must have been over two hundred since the lovely big cinema definitely seemed more than half full.

as i said in my wee introduction on the night, the film will be betting a digital release next year from the independent film company, so if you're kicking yourself for missing it, you'll get another opportunity if you're nice and patient. i don't know if anyone else had a similar experience, but i had to concentrate pretty hard to stop myself from applauding at the end of some of the live performances (particularly the lovely rendition of papa was a rodeo), which would have been a tad embarrassing... anyway, judging by the frequent laughter, i'm guessing it went down pretty well: here's the clip that prompted the loudest chuckles.

ah, mr merritt, you lovely grump.

Monday, 22 November 2010

november playlist!

what a cracking weekend that was. saturday's dancing club was jolly good fun, while the screening of strange powers went down rather nicely indeed (i'll post properly bout the latter tomorrow no doubt).

first, here's the cds we played tracks from on saturday in the order in which we played em:

1. the shins - strange powers
2. shugo tokumaru - rum hee
3. jonsi - animal arithmatic
4. marnie stern - transparency is the new mystery
5. sebadoh - flame
6. the yummy fur - fantastic legs
7. charles douglas - earlybird school
8. grandaddy - am 180
9. david bowie - ashes to ashes
10. twin shadow - at my heels
11. holy fuck - latin america
12. wire - 3 girl rhumba
13. the beastie boys - no sleep till brooklyn
14. future bible heroes - don't you want me
15. roxy music - over you
16. belle and sebastian - you're just a baby
17. the raveonettes - bang!
18. the shins - australia
19. kirsty maccoll - he's on the beach
20. the primitives - can't bring me down
21. new order - true faith
22. lacrosse - we are kids
23. young friends - downtown
24. sleeper - statuesque
25. the cribs - when the lights go out
26. apples in stereo - energy
27. the magnetic fields - long forgotten fairytale
28. joan jett - bad reputation
29. the pipettes - pull shapes
30. belle and sebastian - i'm a cuckoo
31. devo - gut feeling
32. blondie - call me
33. the walkmen - the rat
34. comet gain - love without lies
35. gang of four - i found that essence rare
36. buzzcocks - everybody's happy nowadays
37. bruce springsteen - dancing in the dark
38. modern english - i melt with you
39. fleetwood mac - you make loving fun
40. the 6ths - falling out of love with you
41. xtc - life begins at the hop
42. the national - lit up
43. prince - i could never take the place of your man
44. arctic monkeys - i bet that you look good on the dancefloor
45. pixies - gouge away
46. le tigre- deceptecon
47. the go-gos - head over heels
48. pet shop boys - it's a sin
49. omd - enola gay
50. the rolling stones - brown sugar
51. ivan - real wild child
52. the ramones - rockaway beach
53. the replacements - bastards of young
54. idlewild - little discourage
55. abba - lay all your love on me
56. the go-gos - we got the beat
57. b52s - 52 girls
58. violent femmes - blister in the sun
59. css - let's make love and listen to death from above
60. pulp - do you remember the first time?

Thursday, 18 November 2010

les savy fav @ oran mor, 13th november

One song in and Les Savy Fav’s mercurial frontman is living up to his reputation, swinging from lighting rigs and trying to grab his own tongue mid-lyric. This is a man for whom the verb ‘overshadow’ is neither a criticism nor an occasional trait but a natural state of being: Tim Harrington overshadows the same way the rest of us breathe or move. Hats off to Wichita, then, for finding supports capable of cordoning off their own patch of memory tonight. They might not share the headliner’s carnivalesque spirit, but Cloud Nothings knock out their art-punk power-pop with comparable energy. Their powerful rhythm section negotiate shifting time signatures without losing grip of Dylan Baldi’s canny melodies: think teenage Superchunk, and get excited.

Sky Larkin don’t offer the same surprises, but only because anyone with a taste for loud guitars and big choruses should be familiar with these premiere practitioners by now already. Katie Harkin is warm and funny between songs, punchy during them, and with Still Windmills as a parting shot, they’re developing quite the golden arsenal.

And then Harrington bounds on stage in a poncho, spitting and undressing and offering a trade – one manner of performance forfeited for another. Eccentricity replaces actually singing all the songs, but it’s a swap all are happy to accept. The rest of the band are steadfast and tight, ensuring Harrington’s antics don’t throw proceedings irrevocably off course as he bathes in beer and threatens a garrotting each time his mic lead wraps around the crowd. It’s visceral and exhausting without ever detracting from the exuberance of sing-alongs like Let’s Get Out of Here and howl-alongs like What Would Wolves Do. When we hit the curfew, Harrington remains amongst us, dishing out hugs and thanking people individually for coming – a civil sign-off to a rambunctious riot.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

casiotone for the painfully alone @ captains rest, 11th november

While Adam Stafford is pained by a sore throat tonight, his discomfort has no discernible impact on his performance; good thing too, since a lost voice would reduce much of his music to dead air. Larynx and loop pedal layer hoots and hollering over tongue clicks and self-harmonising, but while impressive, the results are difficult to fall in love with.

Owen Ashworth has no such problem, his introspective style naturally attracting devotion. But considering tonight’s significance (Ashworth shortly puts the Casiotone for the Painfully Alone moniker – and the songs written under it – out to pasture, making this their Scottish swansong) the half-full Captains Rest feels strangely subdued and reserved. Sad queries regarding his recording future are as emotional as it gets in an atmosphere of muted politeness.

Our quietness is rewarded with a set showcasing his lo-fi electronic melancholia at its best. The charm of songs like Young Shields bitter-sweetly underscores the disappointment their impending retirement will bring, but Ashworth isn’t about to reject his reputation absolutely. He promises to return under the guise of Advance Base, a name based on last year’s career-spanning compilation. With his rechristening reeking of continuity we leave reassured that, while Casiotone shuffles to the grave, Ashworth’s sharp talent lives on.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

all my little words

here's a wee news piece i wrote for the skinny about the forthcoming screening of Strange Powers. note: prof. martin cloonan is going to introduce the film!

The 2011 Glasgow Film Festival kick off their Music and Film strand early with the Scottish premiere of Strange Powers later this month. Organised in conjunction with indie clubnight Bottle Rocket, this documentary follows cult songwriter Stephin Merritt, most famous for his work in the Magnetic Fields. Merritt’s mix of misanthropy and romanticism has garnered celebrity admirers (Peter Gabriel, Sarah Silverman and Neil Gaiman all appear in the film to extol his virtues) and a reputation as one of the finest purveyors of pop working today. Especially beloved is his three-disc opus 69 Love Songs, which delivered love, lust, loss and lasciviousness, and prompted Pitchfork to remark at the time, “there’s only one question that really needs to be asked: is it a brilliant masterpiece, or merely very, very good?”

Having followed Merritt for over a decade, directors Kerthy Fix and Gail O’Hara have produced an intimate portrait of the notoriously grumpy/secretive artist, focusing in on his close relationship with collaborator and friend Claudia Gonson. With Professor of Popular Music Martin Cloonan providing an introduction on the night, Strange Powers promises to peek beneath Merritt’s sardonic façade to shed some light on one of pop’s most intriguing figures.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

knock knock who's there BOTTLE ROCKET NOVEMBER oh hello

november is freaking awesome for the following reasons:

1. the clocks have gone back, and while the shitty rain can do one, the early darkness is lovely (controversial?). screw s.a.d., i LIKE night.
2. when november finishes, it's pretty much christmas. you can put up your tree and everything.
3. bottle rocket has not one, but TWO events in its calendar.

let's focus on the latter of these points.

tickets for the premiere of Strange Powers (sunday the 21st november!) are on sale now from the GFT box office, and if yer a fan of stephin merritt and the magnetic fields then p-p-p-p-pick yours up now. the night before, bottle rocket will have its regular shindig at nice n sleazys, and you can bet your bottom dollar that merritt's music will crop up once or thrice or more in anticipation of the following day's cinematic feast. otherwise, it will be business as usual, and by business i mean:

11:30PM START!

so come along if you fancy a dance and a drink. need further persuasion? here's mr merrritt on the merits of booze:

"sober, life is a prison. shit-faced, it is a blessing
sober, nobody wants you. shit-faced, they're all undressing.
sober, you're old and ugly. shit-faced, who needs a mirror?
sober, you're a cro-magnon. shit-faced, you're very clever."

requests, as always, belong on the facebook event page which you'll be magically transported to should ye click here.

Monday, 8 November 2010

fence halloween @ stereo

Glittery globes and cardboard cacti transform Stereo and its half-finished lane-neighbour The Old Hairdresser into appropriately galactic settings for a Space-Cowboy Halloween; Buzz Lightyear and Marvin the Martian mingle off-stage, while Fence alumni thrill onstage. James Yorkston hasn’t played live for a while due to experiencing “the year from hell”, but he successfully converts an atmosphere of glum reverence into an airy pleasure, best encapsulated by a closing improvisation that has him sheepishly scrabbling for rhymes to the delight of the crowd.

Said punters have translated the costume theme in some unexpected ways, with Space-Prawn and Santa With Oven Gloves particularly perplexing. Glitter-trews aside, Lord Cut-Glass and band have interpreted the brief more traditionally. Their saloon band garb suits their sound: a solid mid-afternoon set that aids the knees-up atmosphere no end.

Across the alley, the mid-renovation Old Hairdresser hosts Randolph’s Leap, who sing about crisps and squeamishness and infect all in the vicinity with their twee wit and silliness. Upstairs, James Acaster reacts to fake doughnuts and wears the wrong day-of-the-week socks for our amusement, but the sound of The Pictish Trail starting up beneath us is difficult to resist. When we make it back through the courtyard, a solo Johnny Lynch is proving a stand-up hit in his own right, guiding us through synth presets and airing thirty-second compositions like the uncharacteristic noise-nugget Sweating Battery Acid.

Johnny pops up again during King Creosote’s second set of the day (his first lost out to humus flat-breads in the early afternoon battle for attentions), helping turn a high-energy Happy into today’s highlight. Kenny leads his band of udder-bearing man-cows and cone-headed wizard-creeps through a sterling set that could contentedly top the night if weren’t barely nine.

For a Halloween bash, there have been few spooks and scares – until we venture back into a deserted and dilapidated Old Hairdresser to find the Fence film playing to an eerily empty room. Back downstairs, John B McKenna reliably delivers further top tunes, though by now there’s a craving for something from outside the guitar-toting mould. Silver Columns sate the hankering with a brash set of beat-heavy electro-pop, with Johnny Lynch once again at the heart of today’s unqualified success-story. As he pushes the crowd through towards the final furlong, Fence adds another superb day to its events roster in style.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

reviews: yusuf azak, shugo tokumaru, twin shadow

Yusuf Azak - Turn on the Long Wire (****)

Yusuf Azak is a singer-songwriter without peer, thanks to a voice that proudly earns the epithet ‘acquired taste’. With each encounter, either in a live setting or on past EPs, his peculiar gasping sigh grows more fondly familiar and less curious, to the point where Turn on the Long Wire can be instantly enjoyed, without the initial moment of adjustment previously required.

Of course, if this debut album is your first Azak experience, his odd cadence and wheezy timbre might still surprise, but the songs herein are the finest, most accessible tracks he has thus far committed to tape. Strings are used more extensively than in the past, augmenting intricate guitar-work and fleshing out his gentle sound, while structurally, Azak’s grown incrementally more conventional, with verses and choruses where once there was mist. But such refinements are always to his credit, pointing Azak towards a peerlessness of a different sort.

Out 15th November

Shugo Tokumaru - Port Entropy (****)

Live, Shugo Tokumaru plies his trade with little more than an acoustic guitar and an effects pedal or two. It’s near impossible to imagine Port Entropy as the product of such modest labour; rather, it evokes some manner of elaborate clockwork contraption – a mechanical contrivance of finely-tuned percussion and alchemic music-box delights.

Turning Port Entropy’s crank animates pistons and cogs, causing beautiful harmonies to skip through tubes and pipes, delivering melodies that blend child-like whimsy with intricate musicianship, eccentric invention with dreamy nostalgia. While Tokumaru is evidently fond of the sixties Brit sound – Drive-Thru closely echoes The Kinks’ Picture Book – he successfully stakes out new ground. Tracking Elevator and Rum Hee offer two particularly transformational examples of his fourth album’s considerable charms, the latter managing to trump Jónsi in the day-glo elf-pop stakes. As the cogs settle with Malerina’s enchanting finale, Port Entropy begs to be wound afresh.

Out 6th December

Twin Shadow - Forget (****)

Like post-dawn melancholia after a glittering soiree, Forget is alternately bittersweet and euphoric. The debut album from Twin Shadow (AKA George Lewis Jr.) shimmers and struts with disco-flair one moment (on the funk-tinged Shooting Holes) before turning solemn and intimate the next. There are echoes of both The Associates’ brooding aesthetic and Saturdays = Youth’s nostalgic sparkle, but an ear for invention and the immaculate production of Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor ensure this is never a retro masquerade.

A clarity of vision cuts through the various stylistic detours; Forget might possess hints of yesteryear, but it never surrenders its steady sense of self. Whether sighing hushed come-ons (“as if it wasn’t enough just to hear you speak/they had to give you lips like that” Lewis Jr. purrs on Tyrant Destroyed), or howling denials of love on indelible first single Slow, Forget quietly but assuredly announces a singular new talent.

Out 15th November

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

reviews: charles douglas, the flowers of hell, the glad cafe

Charles Douglas - The Lives of Charles Douglas (****)

When Charles Douglas first sang the lyric “Made a record without even trying/ No one could find it so they thought we were lying,” it’s unlikely he fully appreciated its prophetic value. When the record subsequently disappeared following a cheap and limited US run in 1999, the irony was probably appreciated less still. Now, eleven years after it was committed to tape, the Moe Tucker-produced The Lives of Charles Douglas gets its belated dues, yet its convoluted journey hasn’t rendered it lost or out of time.
Douglas’ brand of fuzzy guitar rock marks him as a temporarily waylaid contemporary of Ted Leo, freely mining the classics for inspiration (Lou Reed is a recurring presence, while Baby Come On practically plagiarises The Angels). But despite the lost decade, it never feels like a time capsule – turns out one of the most refreshing alt-rock records of 2010 was made in the nineties.

Out Now

The Flowers of Hell - O (***)

The Flowers of Hell aren’t a band in the typical sense, their assemblage more akin to that of an orchestra. Greg Jarvis assembles a revolving line-up of talent around him, a congregation to which members of Broken Social Scene, Guided By Voices and Spiritualised have all previously belonged. Past releases have advanced an impressive synthesis of post-rock and neo-classical sounds, embellished with traces of shoegaze and an unorthodox compositional style.

O is something less conventional still: a single forty-five minute improvisation in which repetition of any sort is avoided. Its tongue-in-cheek working title was apparently Business Suicide, and it undoubtedly has a snow-drops chance in Hades of shaking free from its niche, so loosely arranged that it threatens to collapse for lack of structure. An accompanying DVD showcases Jarvis and co to better effect, with footage shot in less avant-garde days, before highfalutin artistic ideals endangered their enjoyableness.

Out 15th November

Various Artists - The Glad Cafe (****)

While Glasgow’s hardly starved for venues, those living south of the Clyde are generally underserved. Opening in early 2011, the Glad Cafe aims to rectify the situation. Raising both funds and buzz for the forthcoming arts venue and Southside “creative hub” is local DIY label 45 A-Side Records, who’ve compiled a diverse selection of central-belt talent.

Some listeners will gravitate towards the earnest indie of Barn Owl or Admiral Fallow’s low-key ballad Concrete Oaths, while Fox Gut Daata and Dam Mantle cater to the other end of the spectrum, the former serving up laidback glitch-ridden electronics and the latter an ominous collage of sampled shouts and squelchy beats. From the slow-build, delicate melodies proffered by The Japanese War Effort to Yahweh’s bubbling lullaby, fingers crossed The Glad Cafe will echo this dynamic curatorial approach in its bookings; with these thirteen-tracks as heralds, it’s off to a splendid start.

Out Now

Friday, 29 October 2010

strange powers - tickets on sale now!

the scottish premiere of Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields is just over three weeks away! got your ticket yet? why the devil not you numpty?! if you need a little push, listen to this - it's bloody marvellous...

tickets are available now from the GFT box office (

Thursday, 28 October 2010

reviews: katzenjammer, the sexual objects, snowblink

Katzenjammer - Le Pop (***)

Who are Katzenjammer? It’s a tougher question than you’d think: they’ve a German name, a French album title, Norwegian passports and a Balkan whirl of a lead single in the form of the Denmark-referencing A Bar in Amsterdam. Trying to take cues from the music leads to similarly dizzying disorientation: cabaret theatrics, weepy Dixie Chicks-country, carnival clowning, and an instrumental that resembles Flight of the Bumblebee adapted by Danny Elfman are only a fraction of its baffling variety: throw in nonsensical doo-wop, gypsy-chic, Shakespeare’s Sister goth-balladry, cutesy polka and more and you’re left with an album that all but defies categorisation. It’s like tuning in to an edition of the Eurovision Song Contest shorn of its cheesiest outreaches, a simile which might help subjectively answer the opening question: Katzenjammer are either your worst nightmare, or excitingly broad-minded – unafraid to mix up genres and spit in the face of fashion.

The Sexual Objects - Cucumber (***)

The Sexual Objects play Freudian games on debut Cucumber. The onanistic connotations of the band/album name combination, along with tracks entitled Full Penetration and Baby Wants To Ride, meant that the chorus of the opening Here Come the Rubber Cops was confused by this reviewer for "here come the rubber cocks" (making the implications of lines like “just want to spread my wings and make a mess of things” too rude to contemplate).

Davy Henderson’s new outfit are dirty in a different sense, sharing with his past acts The Fire Engines and The Nectarine No. 9 a rough-and-ready style, with bluesy licks riding raw recordings in a manner akin to Lou Reed’s post-Velvet Underground, pre-aural antagonism period. T-Rex and the Rolling Stones are echoed frequently also, but while hardly original, the Sexual Objects are doing what they do with sufficient swagger and sleaze to pull it off (snigger).

Snowblink - Long Live (****)

Long Live
first trickled into view in 2008, extolled by a handful of in-the-loop bloggers and publications as one of the year’s finest albums. Despite such early accolades, it’s taken some time for Toronto duo Snowblink to capitalise on the goodwill, with their enchanting debut only now acquiring a full release. Its tracks emerge from their hibernation undiminished, largely due to Daniela Gesundheit’s soaring vocals and poetic lyrics (“one little tremor as tender as a frost thawing into a pond” is a typically redolent simile). Ambergris is its pinnacle, its titular metaphor wrapped in an airy, Feist-y melody. It’s exciting to contemplate where the talents of Gesundheit and band-mate Dan Goldman have led them since, but such revelations will follow in good time. For now, they’ve likely found their way on to a few more ‘best of’ lists in the most understated manner imaginable.

Friday, 22 October 2010

badly drawn boy @ old fruitmarket, 20th october

"Not exactly playing the hits am I?" notes Badly Drawn Boy after airing tracks from 1997's EP1. That's not quite accurate - in tonight's mammoth set, a patchily-scattered Fruitmarket audience is trated to the Santana-cheese riff of Disillusion, Silent Sigh (given added guitar and oomph), and an opening run performed solo and acoustically which includes cuts both early (The Shining) and more recent (last year's Was There Nothing We Could Do).

Damon is on affable form, though the self-deprecating banter is in full flow (he introduces ex-ad track All Possibilities by apologising to "anyone who bought a shit product from Comet"). Later, he teases by alternating between intros for You Were Right and Once Around the Block but is forgiven since both get played eventually, while mixed-bag tracks from his recent seventh album are received politely. But while offerent value, his lengthy set could survive pruning - with an odd karaoke Thunder Road finale the first candidate for the shears.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Sunday, 17 October 2010

october 2010 playlist!

379 folks - weeeeeeeeheee! thanks to everyone who came down and danced with us to all these songs:

1. the radio dept. - the new improved hypocrisy
2. wild nothing - chinatown
3. veronica falls - found love in a graveyard
4. carly simon - you're so vain
5. frank (just frank) - couer hante
6. sambassadeur - kate
7. envelopes - free jazz
8. duran duran - girls on film
9. talking heads - new feeling
10. the get up kids - close to me
11. okkervil river - black
12. withered hand - new dawn
13. the zombies - time of the season
14. liliput - die matrosen
15. arcade fire - month of may
16. sparklehorse - ghost in the sky
17. shirley ellis - the clapping song
18. vince taylor and the playboys - brand new cadillac
19. chuck berry - never can tell
20. bruce springsteen - 10th avenue freeze out
21. neutral milk hotel - holland 1945
22. art brut - twist & shout
23. of montreal - first time high
24. the fall - hit the north
25. missing person - walking in l.a.
26. blondie - sunday girl
27. liz brady - bas les pattes
28. helen love - debbie loves joey
29. belle and sebastian - legal man
30. otis redding and carla thomas - tramp
31. mitch rider and the detroit wheels - jenny take a ride
32. lee dorsey - ride your pony
33. dire straits - walk of life
34. the lemonheads - luka
35. tears for fears - everybody wants to rule the world
36. madonna - into the groove
37. magnetic fields - strange powers
38. fleetwood mac - everywhere
39. the b-52s - roam
40. rem - catapult
41. white flag - wuthering heights
42. the rolling stones - rocks off
43. the police - i can't stand losing
44. the smiths - handsome devil
45. the go-betweens - streets of your town
46. the housemartins - five get over excited
47. tenpole tudor - wunderbar
48. joan jett - cherrybomb
49. pj harvey - this is love
50. aztec camera - somewhere in my heart
51. the go-gos - vacation
52. los campesinos - you! me! dancing!
53. the knack - my sharona
54. alice cooper - poison
55. orange juice - rip it up
56. toots and the maytals - country roads

nae bad eh

Friday, 15 October 2010

tömörröw night!

bottle rocket's 28th dance party is 29 hours away. you probably don't need to book your taxi quite yet, but failure to prepare is preparing to fail, innit. see you tomorrow!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

got your ticket yet?

tickets on sale from now!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

mudhoney @ the arches, 9th october

I’m not saying girls don’t like Mudhoney (***) – that would be a ridiculous and sexist generalisation. But judging by tonight, it’s fair to say that maturing male grunge vets definitely do like Mudhoney, constituting a fair slice of the crowd and ensuring that the heavy checked-shirt is tonight’s unofficial uniform.

Though mostly wrapped in toilet paper, at least one plaid collar can be glimpsed through the Andrex coating three quarters of Unnatural Helpers (****), who deliver loud riffs, big drums and the lion’s share of highlights. Their brisk set is part Part Chimp with pop highlights, shot through with a vitality that the headliners can can't quite match this evening.

That’s not to say that the Seattle survivors aren’t capable of teaching their younger label-mates a trick or two. The solos are loud enought to shake faces and, once freed from his guitar, Mark Arm remains an engaging stage presence. And then there are the songs: Into the Drink opens strongly; When Tomorrow Hits’ slow stoner jam segues instantly into the propulsive punk rattle of In N Out of Grace to hit the spot with sledgehammer force; while Touch Me I’m Sick is fired out early with controlled aggression.

But there are stretches of boredom, where the riffs grow stiff and the band seem distant (a disconnect noted by the band, who bemoan the “giant moats you have around castles in Scotland” in reference to the distance from stage to front row). They’ve still got ‘it’ for sure, its just a little less in our face than previous form.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

reviews: glasser, kurt wagner and cortney tidwell present kort, fenech-soler

Glasser - Ring (****)

Glasser is Cameron Mesirow, a precociously gifted songwriter who, in crude splicing terms, evokes a Bat For Lashes/Dirty Projectors love affair on her revelatory debut album. Mesirow has both musical and intellectual ambition, with Ring named for its supposedly ‘chiastic’ (that’s fancy-talk for ‘ring’) structure – a literary technique Mesirow encountered in reading Homer in which ideas are symmetrical and reversible, leading “bi-directionally toward a central idea.”

The phrase has an air of undergraduate pretence, and having messed with the album’s sequence a number of times, these ears aren't convinced the concept’s been carried through particularly thoroughly – though as the fifth of nine tracks, T makes a splendidly crystalline central hub. But the actual music proves an odyssey of riches, deeply layered and baroque throughout. To offer Glasser her own chiastic epithet (well antimetabolic epithet technically, but let’s not quibble), the marvellous Ring rings in marvels.

Out Now

Kurt Wagner & Cortney Tidwell Present Kort - Invariable Heartache (****)

As musical partnerships go, Kurts and Cortneys go together less like a horse and carriage than a horse and a grunge Yoko prone to worrying Twitter-spasms. Well no more: Kort represents a happier alternative: a honey-coated tribute to ye olde country and western, courtesy of Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner, solo chanteuse Cortney Tidwell and lashings of slide guitar and whiskey-pickled heartbreak. Tidwell employs her fine pipes in an appropriately conventional Americana style, but it’s Wagner’s idiosyncratic croon that steals the show. The album opens with his unadorned voice, echoing his day-job’s finest hour (2000’s Nixon, ushered in with similarly intimate fashion), while his precise enunciation of the lyric “little bitty tear” – all crisp consonants and debonair delivery – sounds slightly silly yet utterly charming. For every track straying too close to caricature there are a dozen moments of pleasure, making Invariable Heartache both a note-perfect tribute and self-contained delight.

Out 18th October

Fenech-Soler - Fenech-Soler - album cover

Fenech-Soler - Fenech-Soler (***)

Fenech-Soler have been attracting moderate buzz for quite some time, with recent single Stop & Stare thus far their closest pitch for the mainstream. Their eponymous debut offers nine more in a similar vein, with the likes of Lies sounding locked, loaded, and expectantly awaiting adoration. This is calculated stuff: shiny and exciting, with a retro ripple and hooks in spades. At times it sound a little too polished and plastic, like a boy-band take on Justice. But if there’s one thing the Peterborough four-piece have perfected in their years together, it’s the ability to write music that bypasses critical faculties; climbing into the listener and triggering twitching to their direct (if occasionally inane) pop skills. They offer electro-anthems with personality, just not necessarily a personality that everyone will warm to. But if you’re partial to the likes of Delphic and Cut Copy, Fenech-Soler’s flair makes them worth investigation.

Out Now

Friday, 8 October 2010

boooooooottle roooooooocket, 16th oooooctoooober!

hmmm, the title of this post was supposed to seem spooky to reflect the dead good (geddit? DEAD!) poster image. instead it just looks like it's pronounced "böttle röcket, 16th öctöber", and if that was the desired effect i'd sure as stanley have used umlauts in the first place. but i digress...

here's what mikey has to say about next week's dance party:

As you may have read in the popular press, the world is on the brink of collapse, what with all the civil unrest and budget cuts and questionable decisions on the X Factor. This is bad news friends, bad news. In the unlikely event that society remains intact until Saturday 16th October however, why not celebrate this achievement at bottle rocket? For a few glorious hours you can forget the travails of this hideous age by dancing away to some indiepop, soul, new wave, post-punk and straight up pop music.

So that's:

300p (or free before 11:30)

If you have any requests please stick them on the facebook wall, although with the impending apocalypse we'd ask that you make them particularly good. Godspeed.

i think that bout covers things - come an' have a dance folks!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


Well this is exciting. Bottle Rocket is proud to announce the Scottish premiere of Strange Power, an intimate documentary portrait of songwriter Stephin Merritt and his band the Magnetic Fields.

Here's the blurb!

With his unique gift for memorable melodies, lovelorn lyrics and wry musical stylings that blend classic Tin Pan Alley with modern sounds, Stephin Merritt has distinguished himself as one of contemporary pop's most beloved and influential artists. Both a prolific recording artist and composer of theater and film scores, he performs most famously as the Magnetic Fields, whose 1999 three-disc opus 69 Love Songs is widel considered a masterpiece of traditional songcraft and irresistable American synthpop.

Strange Powers explores Merritt's songwriting and recording process, and focuses on his relationships with his bandmates and longtime manager Claudia Gonson, revealing an artist who has produced one of the most engaging and confounding bodies of work in the contemporary American songbook.

The screening will be at the GFT on Sunday the 21st November, 7:30pm. Tickets are already on sale, and we'd suggest picking up yours sooner rather than later - chances are, Glasgow's got more than its fair share of Merritt fans, what with Scotland's long-term love affair with all things indie and lovely and wry. Visit the GFT box office at for more details!

Thanks to the Glasgow Film Theatre, the Glasgow Film Festival, Gail O'Hara and Kerthy Fix (the directors) and Edward McGowan, who designed the event poster. And of course, to Stephin Merritt for penning so much splendid music.

And you can check out more info from the filmmakers website!

film reviews: restrepo, south of the border

South of the Border (dir. Oliver Stone)

Leading with footage of Fox and Friends acting foolish, South of the Border seems to aim for populist agitprop a la Michael Moore. But Moore, for all his faults, is rarely sycophantic, and though this avoids Commandante's chummy pointlessness, Oliver Stone does little to restore his blunted reputation. If Stone's aim was to counter US attempts to characterise an uncooperative southern hemisphere as a threat, then he succeeds. But painting Hugo Chavez with the depth and nuance of a Che T-shirt hardly does the subject justice, nor do encounters with other South American leaders, so brief there's barely time to patronisingly ask Argentina's Kirchner how many shoes she owns or film Evo Morales playing football. We learn Chavez's baseball position (pitcher) and bed-time (3am), but the elephant in the room - Venezuela's human rights record - is ignored with a shrug that Columbia's worse; perhaps, but that doesn't absolve Chavez, nor does it absolve Stone of missed opportunities.


Restrepo (dir. Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger)

Considering the controversy surrounding last year's Associated Press photograph of a dying US marine (deemed appalling by the disgusted and insightful by the agency), it's a shock to see Restrepo's cameras pick up and hold in sight a fallen American soldier. While upsetting, it is just one of Restrepo's brave inclusions, which together constitute fresh insight into the lives of soldiers fighting in Afghanistan. The anguished tears shed by the deceased's brothers in arms highlights something frequently missing from war documentaries; a genre all too often preoccupied with either celebrating machismo or demonising and deploring its subject (this despite co-director Sebastian Junger's tendency towards a gung-ho, adrenalised style in his written work). These soldiers aren't adverse to knuckleheaded cultural insensitivity, nor uncomfortably joyous violence; moreover, the film itself provides little space for the Afghan perspective. But Restrepo gazes unflinchingly on those at the heart of a contentious conflict and renders their experience viscerally and - most importantly - humanely.


Friday, 1 October 2010

manic street preachers @ O2 Academy, 29th September

A boa wrapped around a mic stand, a white Gibson being tuned by a roadie, and an empty space to the left of the stage: the Manics don’t have to be performing for their presence to be felt. When the curtain drops it heralds twenty-three songs incorporating every stage of their double-decade career in ways both traditional (the defiant A Design For Life) and more infrequent (a dazzling Sleepflower).

While Nicky Wire skulks and jumps with trademark gangly poise, James Dean Bradfield proves himself once again an impeccable frontman: whether soloing through Motorcycle Emptiness or bringing his range to bear on impassioned cuts from their polarising tenth album -- roughing them up sufficiently to earn their place amongst prestigious back-catalogue peers -- he leads the trio through the ages and confirms they’ve stayed beautiful. Anyone still wishing they’d split-up after Generation Terrorists is an overly-ideological fool, and tonight delivers twenty-three reasons why.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

october skinny

looks like this:

nice eh? it's been through a redesign this month, and it's looking pretty spiffing. the phantom band have been sticking their oar in here and there with various bits of content, as well as taking the editorial reigns on occassion. music-wise, there are interviews with grinderman, yeasayer, team ghost, ice cube, swans, fever ray and more.

PLUS stuff i wrote, namely:

- a teeny tiny preview of the eastern promise festival taking place this weekend
- doves live review (click here!)
- wilco live review (click here!)
- jonsi live review (click here!)
- kurt wagner and cortney tidwell present kort - 'invariable heartache' album review
- glasser - 'ring' album review

and in the film section:

- restrepo film review
- south of the border dvd review

anything not yet on the blog will make its way there over the next few weeks. in the meantime, pick up a physical copy from loooooadsa places.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

october poster

thanks again to alex for providing the source picturograph