Monday, 31 May 2010

dvd review: departures

here's a review i wrote last month - forgot to post it at the time so here it is now...

Departures (dir. Yojiro Takita)
When newly-unemployed cellist Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Matoki) answers an advert titled ‘Departures’, he’s unsettled to discover himself not in travel and leisure, but a funeral home (“It’s a misprint – it’s ‘the departed’” explains stoic boss Tsutomu Yamazaki). Kobayashi dedicates himself to his new art, his face a mask of concentration and respect whether the body he handles is hollow wood or the flesh of the dearly departed. The wordless scenes of Kobayashi and his mentor preparing bodies for cremation highlight the intimate relationship between funeral professionals and their corporeal subjects, with lingering close-ups of expert hands cleansing the deceased and making them glow with the echoes of lives lived. That the film can project gravitas and beauty, yet find room for a pre-title cock-joke illustrates the confident tone of Yojiro Takita’s lyrical Oscar-winner. The discovery that, like life, death is multifaceted –bittersweet, tragic, cathartic, amusing – is handled delicately, and the results are genuinely moving.


Friday, 28 May 2010

reviews: loch lomond, teenage fanclub, jamie lidell

Loch Lomond - Night Bats EP (****)
Portland has roughly half a million inhabitants, and surveys reveal that approximately four-hundred thousand of them are in dead good bands (citation needed). Should Loch Lomond tire of Stumptown’s crowded music scene, they’d fit in nicely on this side of the Atlantic – and not just because of the Scotphilia hinted at in their name. Their chosen aesthetic is rife these days: taking cues from Loch Lomond’s fellow countrymen (and touring partners) The Decemberists, pocket-orchestra dramatists line the cobbles of Edinburgh, and Night Bats would establish an expatriate Loch Lomond’s credentials perfectly. The opening Ghost of an Earthworm (incidentally, Best Enigmatic Metaphor of 2010 thus far) stomps in tenderly, while Wax and Wire wanes out splendidly – taking our affections with it.

Out Now

Teenage Fanclub - Shadows (***)
Teenage Fanclub are a reliable bunch, in the sense that even if the overall quality varies from album to album – though even here they’ve proven remarkably consistent over the years – their gratifyingly hook-filled, summery aesthetic stays pretty much the same. Though Shadows proffers few surprises, it does make small gestures towards extending their trademark jangly, guitar-pop harmonising with the odd digression, most notably on the Euros Childs-featuring Dark Clouds, a refreshingly guitarless ballad lifted by sombre piano from the guesting Gorky. Elsewhere it’s business as usual, but while the likes of Baby Lee and Shock and Awe would fit nicely on any Fannies Faves mix-tape, their eighth album ultimately underwhelms. It’s amiable and pleasant, but there was a time when a new album from The Bellshill Beach Boys promised so much more. With past pinnacles like Grand Prix to compare to, Shadows only musters enough lustre to potter off the starting grid.

Out 31st May

Jamie Lidell - Compass (***)
Jamie Lidell hasn’t been typically ‘Warp’ (if the label can still be said to possess a core sound these days) since solo debut Muddlin’ Gear: Multiply tempered its electronics with smooth soul licks, while 2008’s Jim was a Stax-channelling rock ‘n’ soul retro-riot. But halfway through Compass opener Completely Exposed – all muffled bass and modem dialler-pips – a sea-change suggests itself. A point chalked up to innovation isn’t always a point for enjoyment, however: the cut-up aural soup can occasionally leave the plastic-soul vocals sounding incongruous and cheap (Jamie Lidl?) where once they aped Otis Redding expertly. But as Compass stays its course, the pieces fall into place, with the final tracks holding the aces: Gypsy Blood’s TV On The Radio-style fuzzy funk, Coma Chameleon’s midnight blues, the Feist and Beck-featuring Big Drift and You See My Light’s aching gospel together burn brightest amongst Lidell’s tweaked take on his neo-soul formula.

Out Now

Thursday, 27 May 2010

stag and dagger review

While not as dependent on the weather as its field-based brethren, wandering between city-festival venues is infinitely more pleasurable on a balmy, pre-summer's evening like tonight. It helps that Stag and Dagger strategically occupies venues within five minutes of each other (with a slightly further-afield Captains Rest outlier), while the scheduling - vastly improved on last year - diminishes the fear of fruitless queuing for over-subscribed headliners.
Of course, none of this matters if the acts on offer aren't much cop. Luckily, the line-up, if not quite exemplary, is pretty exhaustive. Squeezing in so many bands leaves some a little short-changed in terms of set-length, but the general brevity means motivated punters can pack a lot in to a single evening. Like the following, for example...
Being the first to play ABC's main stage tonight, you'd assume there was ample opportunity to calibrate sound levels for The Antlers' arrival. Apparently not - while Peter Silberman's vocals eventually manage to battle through the sludge, a persistent bass rumble judders throughout. Its ugle reverberations loom from the stage like (appropriately enough) angry Lost credits, and though their set is too damaged by the aural slurry to salvage full satisfaction, the undiminished appeal of their shoegaze melodies scrapes them a pass.
After recently visiting a friend with young children, the antics of Jaguar Love's Johnny Whitney feel familiar. Initially, he's charged to a "I wanna watch Spider-Man NOW!" excitement level, and his unbridled energy seems incongruous in a hot, lazy ABC2. Later, he drops a notch to a less volatile "fish fingers for tea! HOORAY!" kind of level, while the crowd start to shuffle their own excitement levels forward to meet him halfway. Their sound is dumb and often annoying (the majority plucked from their shark-jumping second album), but they skate through on enthusiasm. Now someone sit him in front of In the Night Garden quick before he faints...
While hardly veterans, We Were Promised Jetpacks are looking increasingly comfortable on large stages. Comfortable enough, in fact, to toss out album highlights early without risking losing a crowd habitually consulting time tables to find their next destination. With such maturation, a cracking second album could see them cement themsevles as something exceptional (as opposed to 'merely' Bloody Good). The only yime they look mildy uncomfortable is when the inter-song chat turns to the evening's football - to borrow a metaphor from the beautiful game, they won't require a hom gam advantage to thrill venues this size for long.
Despite appearing odd on paper - former Poison the Well guitarist plays metal-inflected blast-beat dance-rock while a tattooed Cleopatra coos pretty melodies - the sound of Sleigh Bells in the midst of a heat-wave proves less peculiar than expected. It's unrelentingly noisy but with a strong pop sensibility embedded throughout, and the forceful beats are lapped up by the art school's patrons. While perhaps guilty of spreading their (admittedly good) ideas thin, they're lean, fierce, and hard to resist.
Laptop electronics rarely equate to spectacle. Dam Mantle apparently used toys and broken radios to craft his samples, buy once digested through a Macbook's digital intestines, it boils down to CPUs and LEDs. Add the fact that his intricate, understated take on the genre isn't conducive to aural pyrotechnics and the slot seems destined to underwhelm. Except for the rather significant fact that Dam Mantle is ace. Ostensibly electro easy-listening (they apologise when a loud glitch accidentally escapes the speakers) yet excitingly complex, he doesn't shout as loud as others on the bill, but he has a lot more to say.
(you can read the full review of the festival - featuring Ryan and Ray's thoughts on Wild Beasts, The Unwinding Hours, Three Blind Wolves, Divorce and Titus Andronicus amongst others - at

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

university training courses took my radio away

unfortunately i won't be able to deliver the promised bottle rocket radio show tomorrow as i'll be learning all about academic recruitment instead. rock n friggin roll.

next week fo sho though...

Monday, 24 May 2010

reviews: the tivoli vs cabaret voltaire, cibelle, swimmer one

The Tivoli Vs Cabaret Voltaire - National Service Rewind (***)
Cabaret Voltaire don’t need much of an introduction – if they weren’t long-established scene vanguards, Blair Street proprietors might have looked to others for christening inspiration (and no one wants to dance in a venue called Throbbing Gristle). The Tivoli are more of an unknown quantity – an up-and-coming Yorkshire mob who impressed Richard Kirk so much he resurrected the Cab Vol name and invited them to collaborate. Distinguishing their respective input is difficult, so it’s hard to apportion blame for its datedness (Primal Scream circa Vanishing Point/Xtrmntr is a close comparison). One hopes lines like “We are the people/while children are dying on the street” are delivered with tongues in cheeks, but it’s not all so trite. The opening Amsterdam Sam is a well-chosen single, encapsulating all of National Service Rewind’s best facets: a darkly Unkle-like atmosphere, dub-thud beats and a building bombardment that softens the disappointments elsewhere.

Out Now

Cibelle - Las Venus Resort Palace Hotel (***)
Leading with a cover of Dr. No theme Underneath the Mango Tree, pop-nut Cibelle shares 007’s cosmopolitan internationalism. Born in Brazil and residing in London, her oddball compositions journey further still – into imaginary worlds, alighting on myriad genres. The variety is nice, but almost every track ends up sounding a little out of place, not least the guest vocal from Sam Genders of Tunng on The Gun and the Knife. Taken individually, their sinister duet is an eerie delight, but in a sequence that has previously touched upon laidback tropicalia (on Frankenstein), sassy sci-fi (Man From Mars) and sad piano ballad (er, Sad Piano) – and with brash sixties-style belter (Braid My Hair) and neo-folk doo-wop (It’s Not Easy Being Green) still to come – it sounds awkward. But Cibelle’s irreverence is infectious fun, so ignore the concept narrative and tackle Las Venus with the shuffle function on.

Out Now

Swimmer One - Dead Orchestras (****)
Shirking expectations multiple times, Swimmer One are as difficult to pin down as a greased-up eel with a mysterious past. What starts in a vaguely disco-Editors vein (if Editors were less pompous and more marvellous) ends in Blue Nile territory, spun around roughly midway by Here’s Your Train, Safe Home’s gentle, wheezy ballad. The trio’s bubbling creativity is best encapsulated by twelve-minute opus The Fakester Resurrection, which starts woozy with cider (its piano-backed spoken-word recalling James Yorkston’s Year of the Leopard cut) then blossoms with strings, only missing a step during a ‘mobile phone ad’ section of disembodied introductions over piano fills. Andrew Eaton’s Scots Bowie voice acts as a compelling anchor throughout Dead Orchestras, and there are similarities in approach and results to Super Furry Animals’ eccentricities (Ghost in the Hotel sounding particularly Radiator-like). Their diversity yields the odd dud amongst the triumphs, but their tech-packed noir-pop is frequently remarkable, glowing bright with intelligence.

Out 31st May

Sunday, 23 May 2010

mr david lemm and his splendid posterography!

here's june's poster:

it's another design by david lemm (check his stuff out here), and it rocks. hooray!

Saturday, 22 May 2010

may playlist

here's what mark and stuart played last weekend at bottle rocket!

1. creedence clearwater revival - heard it through the grapevine
2. broken social scene - forced to love
3. fats domino - hear you knocking
4. fleetwood mac - my heart beat like a hammer
5. meat puppets - magic toy missing
6. the doors - roadhouse blues
7. the byrds - i'll feel a whole lot better
8. sparks - amateur hour
9. ian dury & the blockheads - sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll
10. fairport convention - cajun woman
11. roy orbison - dream baby
12. neutral milk hotel - holland 1945
13. big star - in the street (single mix)
14. fleetwood mac - big love
15. seaweed - go your own way (fleetwood mac cover)
16. average white band - work to do
17. rolling stones - tumbling dice
18. arab strap - speed date
19. bruce springsteen - dancing in the dark
20. led zepplin - communication breakdown
21. the clash - safe european home
22. paul simon - diamonds on the soles of her shoes
23. the smiths - ask
24. joy division - shadowplay
25. sex pistols - no feelings
26. creedence clearwater revival - up around the bend
27. a sunny day in glasgow - shy
28. blur - tracy jacks
29. the beatles - and your bird can sing
30. r.e.m. - the one i love
31. stevie nicks - edge of seventeen
32. the doors - break on through
33. the blue nile - tinseltown in the rain
34. weezer - surf wax america
35. nirvana - aneurysm
36. velvet underground - waiting for my man
37. blondie - hanging on the telephone
38. orange juice - moscow
39. pavement - cut your hair
40. the smiths - what difference does it make
41. the who - i can't explain
42. ash - girl from mars
43. aztec camera - oblivious
44. my bloody valentine - i only said
45. kate bush - cloudbusting
46. rolling stones - rip this joint
47. george harrison - what is life
48. pixies - debaser
49. beach boys - wouldn't it be nice
50. marnie stern - don't stop believin' (journey cover)
51. the strokes - someday
52. the jesus and mary chain - just like honey
53. lcd soundsystem - all my friends
54. fleetwood mac - you make loving fun
55. shangri la's - give him a great big kiss
56. bruce springsteen - born to run

Friday, 21 May 2010

review: wolf parade @ oran mor, 19th may

“Where’s Spencer?” shouts a hil-arious (or possibly just confused) member of the crowd. “Er, he’s there” deadpans Dan Boeckner, presumably used to being overshadowed by his prolific bandmate. Despite Boeckner taking lead on nearly half of tonight’s set – including highlights Language City and Shine A Light – Spencer Krug’s reputation as savant songsmith extraordinaire ensures the Montreal muso takes centre stage (figuratively and, incidentally, literally).

A large part of the night is given over to tracks from forthcoming third album Expo 86, and while extensively previewing unreleased material is often cause for concern and trips to the bar, the six new tracks showcase a purified, exhilarating sense of purpose. In a way, they’re more ‘Wolf Parade’ than ever before. Krug’s various projects – Sunset Rubdown, Swan Lake et al – seem to be growing more distinct over time, with Wolf Parade now firmly the punchy pop wing of his empire.

It almost makes the closing magnificence of Kissing The Beehive sound anomalous, its baggy multi-part expanse newly suggestive of a Rubdown interloper (albeit one with a particularly funky coda). With only room for a handful of tracks from each of their previous releases, fans inevitably crave more, but leave disappointment-free.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

people are like songs its true...

huzzah! bottle rocket finally made it back on the digi-waves this afternoon after its stupidly long hiatus. it sounded like this:

- wolf parade - kissing the beehive
- meursault - new ruin
- club 8 - western hospitality
- she and him - don't look back
- the xx - shelter
- hello saferide - i wonder who is like this one
- spiritualised - come together
- surfer blood - swim
- broken social scene - kc accidental
- the clean - anything could happen
- pavement - trigger cut
- prince - purple rain

the listen again function should be available soon if ye click here.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

radio tomorrow? YES.

we've been here before. i know, i have tried your patience and tested your trust too many times already. i'm all like 'there's a radio show tomorrow!' and you're all like 'cool!' and then i'm all like 'actually there isn't' and you're all like 'bummer'. but this time there is. really, i mean it this time! so if you have it in your heart to forgive past disappointments, join me tomorrow on at midday, and i'll pump your ears full of the most wonderful topical sounds (most likely including a look back at the all tomorrow's parties festivals that kept me from the airwaves last week, as well as a bunch of new releases that have built up over the month bottle rocket has been off the air).

see you tomorrow! (fingers crossed ultra-tight)


Tuesday, 18 May 2010

gold soundz


it seems like aaaages since the last bottle rocket, when in fact it was only three days ago... probably something to do with the fact that i was at all tomorrow's parties the last two weekends, and therefore unable to be at my own bleedin' club. and to top it all off, we have unconfirmed reports of flight of the conchords ACTUALLY BEING THERE (my answer to the question "guess who was there saturday - think of the two people you would most have wanted to see at the club" was tommy wisseau and andrew wk. my second guess was the proclaimers. i was tired and hungover, alright?).

anyway, from the sound of things our replacements did a ruddy good job, and i'll post their playlist (if there is one) as and when i get it.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

review: the national, 'high violet'

The National - High Violet (*****)

There’s something strangely beautiful about an unexpected dusk: when you realise early evening has segued into night imperceptibly and without fanfare; its bold grandeur suddenly apparent having crept up subtly. The National have perfected such gentle transitions, exhibiting cool restraint with only rare exceptions (the cathartic Mr November rushes to mind).

Opening High Violet with typical command, Terrible Love shivers with talk of the quiet company of spiders before building gradually into a vast epic. On Sorrow, Matt Berninger sounds caught between weariness and untapped romantic hope, his rich baritone helping lines like “cover me in rag and bones… because I don’t want to get over you” convey heartbreak and tenderness, jointly and with ambiguity. Bloodbuzz Ohio, meanwhile, is a passionate centrepiece, the moment when High Violet makes another of those near-imperceptible shifts, this time taking their fifth album from fan-satisfier to classic.

The accolade is confirmed by standout Runaway: over bass-drum couplets that pulse like a heartbeat, Berninger lets emotions break through while brass builds with devastating beauty, multiple listens never paling their arrival’s impact. As Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks brings High Violet to its own beautiful dusk, the bold grandeur and breathtaking finesse of The National's current form is unmistakable.

Out 10th May

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

may skinny

the may edition of the skinny is oot and aboot scotland as we speak, and you'd be wise to pick up a copy i tell ye. why? i'll bloody tell you why...

first off, it has the national on the front (see exhibit a).

exhibit a

inside there are interviews with mike patton, steve mason, band of horses and faust amongst others, as well as a heap of reviews. some of which were typed out on this very keyboard by yours truly so, naturally, they deserve special mention here:

- film review of Departures
- ep review of 'Night Bats' by Loch Lomond
- live review of The Twilight Sad at ABC
- album review of 'Dead Orchestras' by Swimmer One

aaaaand my first 'album of the month' review, of the utterly splendid new album by The National, 'High Violet'. it's out on the 10th may and if you don't buy it you're a weirdo.

and if picking up a paper copy of the mag aint feasible, i'll post the actual reviews up in the next few days.