Monday, 28 February 2011

untitled, 2011

an untitled piece by bottlerocket, depicting a vase of plastic flowers against a neutral background.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

GFF review: Son of Babylon

last day of the film festival today folks. here's a review of something i saw waaaaay back at the start, which, handily, is returning to the GFT next week for a couple of days...

Mohamed Al Daradji follows Ahlaam’s flashbacks and dreams with a straightforward road movie of sorts. In Son of Babylon, a young boy and his grandmother search for his missing father, aided by, amongst others, a cigarette-selling street urchin and a repentant former member of the Republican Guard.

In a newly post-Saddam Iraq, they naturally encounter American soldiers as well, but the occupation is far from the focus. Helicopters buzz overhead, while fires and debris scar the streets of Baghdad, but the war is a background inconvenience at most – Al Daradji’s evident anger is directed elsewhere.

This devastating indictment of the former dictator’s legacy – a million missing; 250,000 bodies dug from the earth thus far – is desperately sad, the soundtrack filled with the anguished ululating of grieving mothers and widows, the character’s journey a series of mass graves. But the sadness has purpose: visit the Iraq’s Missing campaign to find out how you can help.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

GFF feature: The Good, The Bad and the Morricone

In 2007, Ennio Morricone was presented with an honorary Academy Award for his indelible contribution to cinema. It was an overdue reward for a five-time nominee yet to be recognised with an Oscar of his own, though Celine Dion did her best to scupper the moment’s poignancy by warbling a version of 'Deborah’s Theme' from Once Upon A Time in America beforehand. Morricone was presented the statuette by Clint Eastwood (who stuck around to translate the Italian composer’s speech), helping to cement an already-firm association between the twin icons of the Spaghetti Western: the latter’s squint and poncho the genre’s visual paradigm; the former’s guitar twangs, whistles and marching trumpets its aural counterpoint.

The wide popularity of the soundtracks to The Good the Bad and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West and other opus oaters potentially obscures the breadth of the octogenarian’s work. With nearly five hundred film credits to his name, he’s proven as comfortable scoring pastoral dramas (Days of Heaven), gruesome science fiction (The Thing), political thrillers (The Battle of Algiers) and horror (in collaborations with Dario Argento for The Bird With the Crystal Plummage and The Cat o’ Nine Tails) as he is accompanying the exploits of six-shooting outlaws. Not to mention Mario Bava’s camp classic Danger: Diabolik, which screens at this year’s GFF as part of its Superhero strand (if you plan to make a day of it, Mondo Morricone ticket-holders are eligible for discounted entry to the Saturday showing). His popularity is as strong among consumers as it as among the filmmakers vying to employ him; his Platinum Collection is permanently nestled in Amazon’s bestselling soundtracks chart, holding its own against Glee compilations and Disney behemoths.

On Saturday, Mondo Morricone will celebrate the composer's career further. First performed in 2000 by Davie Scott of The Pearlfishers and Duglas T Stewart of BMX Bandits, the cast assembled to recreate Morricone’s beloved soundtracks this time is impressive: as well as Stewart and Scott, ex-BBC Scotland presenter Peter Easton returns for a second time alongside Mick Slaven and Jim Gash of Deacon Blue, folk singer Jo Mango, jazz musicians Brian Molley and Allon Beauvoisin, The Wellgreen’s Marco Rea, Sarah-Beth Brown of Born By Wires, Gareth Perrie of Randolph’s Leap, and Stevie Jackson of Belle and Sebastian, each contributing their respective skills to an exciting pool of talent. The contents of the set are under wraps, though Stewart has been sharing some of his favourite Morricone tracks online, so 'Ecstasy of Gold' is a likely bet from the Western contingent, while 'Rabbia E. Tarantella' (written for Allonsanfan but now better known for its appropriation by Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds) and the beautiful Metti, Una Cera a Cena score may also creep their way in (and, if non-soundtrack-work qualifies, a version of Mina Mazzini’s astonishing 'Se Telefonando' wouldn’t go amiss). Of course, if the song selection process is democratic, all bets are off; find out what does make the cut tonight.

Friday, 25 February 2011

GFF review: Griff the Invisible

another film festival review, originally written for yesterday's cineskinny...

From an unfinished synopsis, it feels natural to compare Griff the Invisible to Mark Millar's fellow self-styled superhero Kick-Ass (with a slither of Millar's Wanted in the juxtaposition of a monotonous office job with the secret thrill of life as an action hero). By day, Griff (True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten) lives a lonely, mundane life; by night, he’s a daring Batman-modelled vigilante, complete with red phone with a direct line to the commissioner and a Joker-like nemesis.

The latter scenes mimic the flat-panel colouring of comic art, echoing Dick Tracy’s production design on a budget, as Griff stomps out crime and catches the eye of fellow misfit Melody (Maeve Dermody). Yet, without spoiling anything, similarities to Millar’s creations are ultimately slight. Unfortunately, the film only finds a stable tone in the last half hour, closer to quirky sad-sack indies like Garden State than the Dark Knight’s night-watch. But in that final third, it finds a poignancy that no amount of street justice can effect.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

GFF review: Cell 211

In a film full of lobe-searing scenes, Cell 211's opening – in which a tormented prisoner improvises a blade from a cigarette butt and opens his arteries – burns itself in the mind particularly strongly. It sets a visceral tone that never lets up, as rookie guard Juan Oliver (Alberto Ammann) finds himself caught up in a prison riot ahead of his first day on the job. Disguising himself as a prisoner, he quickly earns the trust of chief con Malamadre (Luis Tosar), while wardens and politicians try to protect the father-to-be and rescue the ETA terrorists being held hostage.

The results are morally complex, a quality obviously appreciated by The Goyas, who showered the film with eight awards (and if there was a ‘best casting director’ award, it would have been a shoe-in for that too – the prisoners are terrifyingly believable). Any dips into melodrama are levelled out by its unpredictability, sympathies shifting multiple times in a kaleidoscope of greys that refuses to settle into blacks and whites.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

GFF feature: Creation of a Legend

here's another film piece, used in yesterday's cineskinny and also on the festival's blog.

Creation Records' legacy is in danger: not of being forgotten, but of being dominated on one front by their most-cited signing, and diminished on another by its founder’s propensity for letting his ego do the talking. Upside Down: The Creation Records Story aims to redress the balance, reminding people that a) the label had a formidable roster long before Oasis appeared on the scene to lash its reputation to Brit-pop lad-culture and b), Alan McGee is one canny operator.

Launching with a £1000 bank loan, McGee swiftly amassed a raft of impressive signings, whose collective work has stood the test of time and then some: Teenage Fanclub, The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Saint Etienne and Super Furry Animals, to name a few. And, of course, the Gallaghers, whose signing has long passed into Glasgow lore (try finding an introduction to King Tut’s that doesn’t mention the association).

By 1995, McGee had been anointed Godlike Genius by a suitably-impressed NME (reflecting a level of popular renown rarely acquired by a label boss) and by its demise in 1999, Creation had had a significant hand in shaping the decade’s popular musical landscape – an influence its founder was more than aware of, even at the time. “I was absolutely delusional” he explains in Danny O’Connor’s documentary. “I thought I was up there with Beethoven or Shakespeare, that I was creating metaphysical history.”

While his more recent cause célèbre haven’t come close to defining the zeitgeist a second time (Semi Precious Weapons anyone?), his professed love for Errors and Avi Buffalo suggest he hasn’t lost his ear for excellence quite yet. Nor his opinionated disposition: whether appointing the “true successor to Sly Stone” or rating Charlotte Church “on the same level as Kevin Shields”, McGee’s remains quite the contrarian.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

GFF review: Cold Fish

The Glasgow Film Festival is about half way done at this point. I've been watching as much as i can find the time for, and reviewing most of it for the skinny and its wee daily cineskinny edition. here's one of those reviews:

For a film in which giggling killers mock the size of a severed penis, Cold Fish is surprisingly restrained – at first. Passive family-man Shamoto (Mitsuru Fukikoshi) is disrespected by his daughter, ignored by his wife, and ashamed of his modest aquarium business; Muratu (Denden) is his polar opposite – warm, funny, successful... and a serial killer on his fifty-eighth kill, looking for an apprentice. For forty-five minutes, the only blood spilled onscreen is by a piranha devouring its prey, but it soon gets gory thanks to a thorough (and thoroughly unpleasant) method of disposing of corpses.

Aside from an awkward attempt to explain the murderous ichthyologist’s psychosis as a product of childhood sexual abuse, this satirical stab at Japanese patriarchy (Muratu boasts maniacally “I may be a killer but at least I take care of myself!”) hits its mark. The climax is formidably bloody, but if you’ve got the stomach for it, Shion Sono’s ludicrous spectacle makes for compelling viewing.

Monday, 21 February 2011

aidan moffat's valentine revue @oran mor, 16th february

Though ostensibly a Valentine revue, Aidan Moffat ain't buying the billing. “Did ye have a good one?” he asks. “If ye did yer a fucking sucker, cos it’s a loada pish.” For the couples in attendance, this is practically therapy: the relationship-laureate chronicles the good, the bad and the desperately ugly, with heartbreak and the messy exchange of fluids as his muses.

Tonight’s trio of sets are, Moffat jokes, arranged like ‘the average relationship’ – beginning in a “relatively romantic” fashion; maturing in the middle’s collaboration with Bill Wells; before turning dark and lonely come the close. The first is a Best Ofs best-of, including Now I Know I’m Right’s itinerary of past mistakes. Later, the line “lift up your skirt and I’ll fill you with babies” prompts chuckles, but humour-wise, our host’s only getting warmed up.

While Moffat’s unmistakeable, candid style varies only slightly across the night, Wells’s classy piano-work helps distinguish the second set from its predecessor. The highlight is a spoken-word oddity that culminates in the perplexing non-sequiter “have ye had yer dinner?” – a question rarely met with such confused mirth.

“Now you’ve got me to yourselves you lucky fuckers” says Moffat before set #3, which brings carnal filth in spades (Double Justice’s depravity comes with the punch-line “and would you believe, my mum’s here tonight!”). A brace of Arab Strap tracks make the career overview even more complete, but it’s his promises (namely, the forthcoming album with Wells) that make Moffat so easy to fall in love with.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

february playlist

thanks a billion if you came down and danced with us last night! sorry to anyone we promised andrew wk to - a miscommunication meant we managed to forget the bleeder... (ditto any other requests squeezed out by a lack of time...). next time for sure. here's what we danced to (and only a handful were puns relating to the recent sauchiehall street fire - pretty restrained if you ask me).

1. the raveonettes - forget that you're young
2. wild nothing - golden haze
3. radiohead - bodysnatchers
4. crystal stilts - shake the shackles
5. radio dept. - i don't need love i've got my band
6. stevie wonder - i was made to love her
7. the knife - kino
8. dum dum girls - he gets me high
9. beastie boys - sabotage
10. the pains of being pure at heart - heart in your heartbreak
11. blondie - denis
12. frankie rose and the outs - little brown haired girl
13. the crystals - doo ron ron
14. camera obscura - french navy
15. parts and labor - a thousand roads
16. the cribs - we were aborted
17. the who - i can't explain
18. the strokes - under cover of darkness
19. arcade fire - intervention
20. frank alamo - heureax tous les deux
21. pixies - here comes your man
22. vic godard and subway sect - ambition
23. the organ - brother
24. the kinks - victoria
25. the magnetic fields - chicken with its head cut off
26. the cars - shake it up
27. devo - freedom in choice
28.talking heads - wild wild night
29. omd - enola gay
30. architecture in helsinki - contact high
31. tilly and the wall - pot kettle black
32. the hidden cameras - ban marriage
33. depeche mode - i just can't get enough
34. crystal castles - baptism
35. hot chip - one life stand
36. the cure - why can't i be you
37. elton john - i'm still standing
38. sebadoh - flame
39. kirsty maccoll - a new england
40. neon neon - i told her on alderaan
41. zoey van goey - robot tyrannosaur
42. the breeders - cannonball
43. bis - kandy pop
44. felt - penelope tree
45. fleetwood mac - everywhere
46. belle and sebastian - me and the major
47. sons and daughters - dance me in
48. abba - sos
49. aztec camera - oblivious
50. the smiths - william it was really nothing
51. b-52s - housework
52. garnett mimms - as long as i have you
53. bobby womack - across 110th street
54. prince - i could never take the place of your man
55. sweet - ballroom blitz
56. david bowie - sufragette city
57. the clash - janie jones
58. the white stripes - hotel yorba
59. the isley brothers - twist and shout
60. the tourists - i only wanna be with you
61. billy joel - we didn't start the fire
62. billie holiday - stormy weather

Saturday, 19 February 2011


ladies and gentlemen, come on down!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

reviews: the cave singers, sam kills two, luxury car

The Cave Singers - No Witch (**)

‘Authenticity’ is fetishised in folk and rock alike. It’s a vague, unempirical concept, the application of which relies upon a paraphrasing of Potter Stewart’s assessment of pornography: “I know it when I see it”. It can’t be measured, but those suitably steeped in a scene’s canon recognise it at once. The Cave Singers’ avowedly traditionalist debut passed the sight-test, but follow-up Welcome Joy faltered by introducing less convincing rock numbers.

Third album No Witch finds them move closer to the resolutely retro likes of The Dead Weather and further from the folk icons referenced at their outset. They mimic multiple Mojo cover-stars – Led Zep-esque blues drives Black Leaf, while Outer Realms echoes Summer of Love psychedelia – but no guise feels natural, save quieter moments like Distant Sures. They’re stretching their sound, but in the process they’ve diluted their identity, and it’s difficult to get excited by the residue.

Out 22nd Feb

Sam Kills Two - Pretty Ugly (***)

The chat surrounding Sam Kills Two’s 2009 debut tended to focus on the involvement of Dodgy frontman Nigel Clark, noting the absence of chirpy Britpop repeats amidst the London quartet’s melancholic produce. Singer/songwriter Fred Bjorkvall can’t have appreciated being overlooked, with his doleful delivery (reminiscent of Midlake’s Tim Smith) shaping Sam Kill Two’s sound a heck of a lot more than bucket hats and VW campervans.

Second album Pretty Ugly indicates an Elliott Smith infatuation both in its title and sombre atmosphere, and over the course of an hour the influence is successfully embodied frequently enough to stave off boredom. But there are production issues: the drums often sound flat, and the radar-like chimes in Bright Eyes come off like an interesting idea poorly executed. Factor in some pedestrian arrangements and Pretty Ugly goes down as a flawed effort, but a step towards brighter and better things.

Luxury Car - When I Was Good

Luxury Car - When I Was Good (****)

Biphonic seems an appropriate label for Luxury Car – partly because brothers John and William Robertson are audibly kindred with label-mates Swimmer One, but also because their sound sutures two aesthetics: plaintive ballads crooned by John, sewn to spiky electronics that have previously brought comparisons to Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada.

The result, on Discrete Packets, evokes an Angelo Badalamenti score left to deteriorate in the rain, allowing glitches and scratches to permeate its sophisticated membrane to settle at its core. The combination is novel yet familiar, and works well, though when the Perth duo claim zero affinity with the likes of Pet Shop Boys or Soft Cell, they may be overstating matters (for instance, there’s a definite echo of Depeche Mode in the chorus of new single I Play The Guitar). Affecting lyrics hit the heart while the electronics hit the rest, resulting in an intriguing synthesis worth multiple visits.

Out 28th Feb

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

nice n sleazy n still n one piece

good news! nice n sleazys is back in business as of today! nowt can stop bottle rocket now!

Sunday, 13 February 2011

glasgow youth film festival: boy

Here's a review of the new film from Kiwi director Taika Waititi (Flight of the Conchords, Eagle Vs. Shark). It broke all sorts of records in its native New Zealand, and very nice it is too. I saw it back at the 2010 Edinburgh Film Festival, but it's showing again on Wednesday as part of the Youth strand of the Glasgow Film Festival.

Nostalgia is pretty low hanging fruit; after all, evoking the past’s warm glow can be as simple as humming the Dogtanian theme-tune or bemoaning the inflated price of Chomps. For New Zealand’s Taika Waititi, childhood nostalgia takes the form of Michael Jackson, Dallas (the name of the title character’s cousin; her sisters are Dynasty and Falcon Crest), Michael Jackson, ice-pops and more Michael Jackson (most winningly evoked in an end-credits haka-Thriller fusion). Luckily, nostalgia isn’t the sole influence driving this sweet, biographical tale of misplaced admiration, puppy love and other coming-of-age staples.

Tone-wise, Son of Rambow is a close cousin, and this comparison is underscored by playful childs-eye-view animated interjections. The film’s greatest asset, however, is the director’s performance as the protagonist’s deadbeat dad. Expertly treading the line between two-dimensional goofball and sad clown, his scenes with eleven year-old Boy (James Rolleston, delivering the film’s other standout performance) are satisfyingly poignant. Beneath its period trappings, Boy’s tale is both broadly amusing and delicately moving.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

this fire is out of control gonna burn this city burn this city

Michael - would you care to introduce this month's bottle rocket please?

Well well, as we go to press there seems to have been a big fire above Sleazy's which might (but hopefully won't) have an impact on February's Bottle Rocket. It used to be that the 'nightclub fire' was only ever the kind of thing that would happen in Hollyoaks, when they wanted to purge a batch of vacuous posers and replace them with another batch of vacuous posers. It turns out they can affect all of us.

But for now, let's work... on the assumption that everything will be fine and the usual pop jamboree will be going down on Saturday 19th Feb, but with added DANGER.

This is all a reminder that life is fleeting and death, ultimately, will touch us all. In the event that Bottle Rocket doesn't go ahead, here are some suggestions for other things to do:

*Get your estate in order - draw up a will
*Call your family and tell them that you love them
*Plan your funeral (Note: Bottle Rocket can do funerals)
*Record a video for future generations of your family about life in 2011
*Go to Half My Heart Beats at the Flying Duck instead

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

NME Awards Tour, O2 Academy, 3rd February

Many have yet to arrive when The Vaccines (***) take the stage, the poor punctuality particularly pronounced when compared with previous NME tours, when the likes of Florence and the Machine and Franz Ferdinand made the first-on slot seem like a reliable kingmaker. But as they launch into ninety-second rabble-rouser Wreckin’ Bar, the much-hyped Londoners indicate they’ll graduate from the tour a similar success story. If they had the technology, this is probably the kind of band NME would grow Weird Science-style: little bits of Interpol, Glasvegas and The Strokes, swirled up with Britpop and offering instant appeal.

Everything Everything’s (**) allure is more difficult to grasp, though it’s evidently strongly-felt amongst the now-heaving Academy. They’re an awkward creation, born not of a Weird Science power-surge, but perhaps the body-fusing teleporter from The Fly: a mutant blend of Passion Pit and Polysics, more hectic than the former, yet not unhinged enough to contest the latter (matching jumpsuits aside). Yet, curiously, their synths and caterwauling eventually dispel reservations to prove oddly enjoyable.

With an array of electronics to rival Cape Canaveral, Magnetic Man (****) don’t do understated. The ground-shaking rumble that introduces Benga, Skream and Artwork (plus MC Dread) sets out their stall: when the first beat drops, the derisive scorn of a couple of cack-eared indie-faithfuls standing nearby is (thankfully) obliterated. Their album underwhelmed, but the trio nail it tonight, squelching and wobbling and building and releasing to exhaustion. The folks sheltering in the mezzanine listening to The Kinks sure missed out.

Having broken her ankle a few days earlier, there’s concern that Alice Glass will lack her trademark fervency tonight. By her well-documented standards she’s taking it easy, but still manages to repeatedly hoist herself onto monitors. Yet Crystal Castles (****) are more than an energetic front-woman: Ethan Kahn fills the room with unsubtle yet effective noise, the dark, intense Baptism and glitch-ridden anthem Crimewave standing as unrivalled highlights. If Glass’s enforced moderation constitutes a diminished Castles experience, they’ve confirm they can comfortably absorb the knock.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

allo darlin @ captains rest, 29th january

On their self-titled debut, musical-magpies Allo Darlin’ emerged thoroughly wrapped up in the cuddly cardigan that is indie-pop, quoting openly (a rhyme borrowed from The Smittens here) and contentedly recycling well-worn lyrical touchstones (references to Sweden there). If their aesthetic parameters weren’t clear enough, they’re currently touring with Sarah veterans The Orchids, who open tonight with a strong set incorporating material from their 1988 salad-days up to last year’s The Lost Star. From the latter, the likes of She’s My Girl prove their song-writing abilities have yet to dull.

The headliners also keep things fresh, unveiling new tracks ahead of the recording of their second album in April. The new material indicates no great departures lie in store, though tonight’s support act have already demonstrated the merits of consistency over reinvention. The Orchid’s bassist Ronnie Borland guests on gorgeous duet Dreaming, while elsewhere My Heart is a Drummer and a solo ukulele Tallulah produce further highlights. But as the references accumulate – a Weezer chorus here, a Grease refrain there – it’s difficult not to crave a more singular, less citation-heavy, sound; they’ve much more to offer than an El Scorcho singalong.

Monday, 7 February 2011

bottle rocket gets its ya-yas out for gentleman's quarterly

If you pick up the new issue of GQ (it's got a nudey Naomi Campbell on the cover) and flick past about ten zillion pages of adverts for GucciPradaRalph-etc, you'll find a wee article on Strange Powers (i.e the Magnetic Fields documentary that Bottle Rocket screened at the GFT last year). And they've only gone and illustrated it with the rather nice poster that Edward McGowan designed for the event. neat, huh?

Sunday, 6 February 2011

reviews: zoey van goey, la sera, the luyas

Zoey Van Goey – Propeller Versus Wings

Zoey Van Goey - Propeller Versus Wings (****)

Expanded to a four-piece since debut The Cage Was Unlocked All Along, Zoey Van Goey’s launch Propeller Versus Wings with the atypically serious Mountain On Fire. It’s an unsettling opening; self-consciously ‘mature’ when Zoey Van Goey strengths have previously lain elsewhere. While not an entirely convincing facelift, other renovations are significantly more exciting. Robot Tyrannosaur is a noisy, punky bundle in the Bear Suit mould, undeniably twee, but unbelievably fun.

Other areas remain consistent: one of their best assets has always been the vocal contrast between Kim Moore (light, high, English) and Matt Brennan (smooth, deep, Canadian) – both pleasant individually, but bringing out the best in one other when combined (here, most splendidly, on The Cake and Eating It). In this way they echo early Camera Obscura and the sorely-missed Delgados, while also helping ZVG stamp their own name on Scottish indie-pop with equally persistent ink.

Out 7th February

La Sera - La Sera

La Sera - La Sera (***)

Some bands instigate scenes by inspiring others to emulate them; others simply go forth and multiply. The Vivian Girls seem to be inadvertently following the second route: Ali Koehler left to backup Best Coast; Frankie Rose assembled her Outs via a stint in the Dum Dum Girls; Cassie’s raising The Babies; while Katy Goodman (aka Kickball Katy) emerged last year under the guise of All Saints Day. Now Katy launches side-project number two, and if the bands just name-checked float your boat, La Sera should provide further buoyancy. This self-titled offering ticks off all the expected adjectives: dreamy, wistful and, er, Philspectory, but casual fans of the style may struggle to find grip-holds with which to anchor this debut’s pretty sounds. It might lack the playful personality that helped crown Bethany Cosentino last year’s ‘Queen of This Sort of Thing’, but deserves comparable adulation thanks to two-minute marvels like single Never Come Around.

Out 14th February

The Luyas - Too Beautiful to Work

The Luyas - Too Beautiful to Work (****)

Too Beautiful to Work’s dizzying title track sets out an impressive stall. “No one could follow” incants Jessie Stein over repetitive organ riffs. “She looked back to see there’s no one, nobody, not much to speak of”, lyrics that could be interpreted as a statement of confidence in her band’s musical trail-blazing. The Montreal quartet make unusual music with unusual instruments (as well as vocals, Stein handles zither duties), which in those quarters is fast becoming the status quo.

As the effervescent opener segues into the moody, trembling Worth Mentioning, they affirm their range: assisted by local heroes Owen Pallett and Arcade Fire violinist Sarah Neufield, album highlights include Canary’s chilly and sparse balladry, the murky mechanics of Spherical Mattress's reverb swamp, and the wonky dramatics of Gold Canada. Their hometown’s cultural capital has been high for some time; the Luyas gift the city one more thing to shout about.

Out 21st February

Friday, 4 February 2011

The Dirty Dozen (aka The Skinny's singles review column)

not sure what to... well, not buy since no one buys singles any more (do they?), but stream online this month? then read this:

Giving the world's rock stars a month off to tend their flamboyant facial hair, Chris Buckle immerses himself in the seedy underworld of February's singles pile.

A preliminary rummage through the coming month’s singles unearths The Megaphonic Thrift, whose Talks Like a Weed King (****) impresses by resembling Silversun Pickups given a shot of Sky Larkin’s vitality. Equally pleasing is the airy and irresistible Sensations in the Dark (****), which sees solo Gruff Rhys land closer than ever to the odd-pop benchmark set by Super Furry Animals. The b-side better encapsulates its creator’s broad and explorative palette by resembling a Geisha dance played through underwater telephones.

Rhys might have built a career from the peculiar-yet-popular, but David Lynch has come to define it. Factor in remixes and Good Day Today/I Know (****) is over an hour long, though for a man who’s birthed radiator ladies and disturbing micro-pensioners, a disregard for conventional duration is a minor eccentricity. The director has prior form in the music world, but that doesn’t stop the assuredness of this new guise from astonishing.

Like Lynch, Villagers’ Conor O’Brien is a dab hand at strange and evocative imagery, and though Becoming a Jackal (***) is poetic and beautiful and so on, it’s also a re-release – an economy I’m going to hold against it whether it’s fair to or not.

Lykke Li’s own idiosyncrasies seemed to freeze her out of pop’s big leagues last time round, and though the Swede should theoretically find an indie chart full of Florence-fanciers more receptive, I Follow Rivers (***) offsets the advantage by being rather drab.

Fenech-Soler are surely only a marketing push away from chart success of their own, with Demons (**) typical of their hook-filled dance-pop. Calvin Harris has bought many a pair of daft glasses on the back of less, but bland catchiness shouldn’t be a raison d’être in itself. No, if you want innovation in your dance music, dubstep is officially this decade’s genre of choice. Magnetic Man are its de facto mainstream ambassadors, but when guest John Legend’s soulful vocals on Getting Nowhere (***) impress more than the production, something’s either amiss or being watered down.

L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N. (***) is O.K. – not high praise, but Noah and the Whale don’t lend themselves easily to grand declarations of love. Their comeback is a twee Walk on the Wild Side, and though it won’t reverse opinions, it should give the apathetic a nudge towards the thumbs-up camp.

Talking of grand declarations, the already-polarising Brother are up next. “It is what it is,” sings Lee Newell on debut Darling Buds of May (**), and it’s tempting to appropriate the sentiment and move on. But a shrug of “each to their own” won’t cut it in the presence of ‘the future of music’ – colours must be nailed to masts. So here goes: this isn’t terrible, but only because illiciting so strong a reaction as displeasure is beyond its capabilities.

Almost as un-Googleable are CD/EX, which handily extrapolates to Chris Devotion and the Expectations. I Need Your Touch (***) pushes all the right buttons, their proficiency with dirty, old school riffage already catching the ear of Rocket From the Crypt’s John Reis, to whom they pay an obvious debt. Exeter’s The Computers went one better and actually recorded Group Identity (***) in Reis’s Californian home, with a reverential recreation of Train in Vain on the b-side confirming their passion for punk kicks, but also verifying their lack of new ideas.


Renaissance man Chilly Gonzales will spend 2011 hawking not just new album Ivory Tower but a movie of the same name. The lead track from both earns him single of the month: You Can Dance (****) might epitomise breezy cool to the point of pastiche, but it’s pulled back by its effusive euphoria.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

feb ishoo aboot toon noo

As you can see from the cover, this month's skinny has several preview pieces on this month's Glasgow Film Festival, including my article on the Music and Film strand which was posted on this site (and over at earlier in the week.

So, from my pen there is:

- 'Music and the Moving Image', preview of the GMFF
- Alastair Roberts and Muntu Valdo live review
- Trembling Bells live review
- the Dirty Dozen: reviews of new singles from Noah and the Whale, Chilly Gonzales, David Lynch, Gruff Rhys, Lykke Li and Villagers amongst others.
- Zoey Van Goey - 'Propeller Versus Wings' album review
- Conquering Animal Sound - 'Kammerspeil' album review
- The Cave Singers - 'No Witch' album review
- The Luyas - 'Too Beautiful to Work' album review
- La Sera - 'La Sera' album review

anything not already up on the blog will be posted in the coming days.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

twin shadow @ captains rest, 27th january

For a ‘bedroom artist’, George Lewis Jr is quite the consummate frontman, more confident than the relatively low-key romanticism of his debut album might have suggested. The principle hurdle in translating Forget to stage (we get all but one of its tracks tonight) is taking its intricate production and sharing duties with three others, but it’s leapt with ease, save slightly sloppy timing in Yellow Balloon.

When We’re Dancing is belted out firmly; the tempo is raised on At My Heels to produce the night’s most invigorating moment; Forget is a lush bubble of synths... it’s difficult to isolate highlights from such a consistently impressive set. Urged by a front-row fan, they encore with Slow, Lewis Jr remarking that this isn’t the devotee’s first request of the evening. “But I love you more than anyone!” the admirer rejoinders, perhaps unaware that behind lies a crowd full of competition.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Glasgow Music and Film Festival 2011 preview

the title's self-explanatory really; here's a preview piece i wrote for this month's edition of the skinny, outlining the treats that lie in store at this year's GMFF...

Gigs are conducted on stages in music venues; films are shown in cinemas. In its third year, the Glasgow Music and Film Festival takes such received wisdom and junks it: films will be shown here, there and everywhere; gigs will take place in swimming pools; bands and audiences will co-exist without hierarchy. When a performance by horror soundtrack icons Goblin constitutes the most conventional show in a line-up, it’s best to take a razor to your expectations and orthodoxies.

Admittedly, some prospects are more straightforward than others. If you caught their set of John Carpenter themes last year, ‘Zombie Zombie Score Battleship Potemkin’ (23 Feb, The Arches) will be self-explanatory, though no less tantalising for it. Fresh scores to 70s hippie sci-fi Silent Running and the rarely-seen Spanish-language adaptation of Dracula (filmed concurrently with the Bela Lugosi version in 1931 using the same sets) are also in the offing, the former handed over to intense noiseniks 65daysofstatic (19-20 Feb, The Arches) and the latter accompanied by Gary Lucas’ solo guitar work (21 Feb, O2 ABC).

The Memory Band will cover songs from The Wicker Man with the help of Fence Collective's Johnny Lynch (24 Feb, The Arches), while Ennio Morricone is paid tribute in Mondo Morricone: a multi-artist collaboration led by Davie Scott of the Pearlfishers and Duglas T. Stewart of BMX Bandits (26 Feb, The Arches). And of course there’s Goblin: coaxed out of a thirty-two year retirement in 2009, the Italian prog-masters – best known for their work with Giallo maestro Dario Argento on genre classics Suspiria, Profondo Rosso and Tenebrae – are sure to impress with their idiosyncratic sound, by now so indelibly linked to scenes of slaughter in the minds of aficionados that it’s essentially auricular gore (25 Feb, The Arches).

A more tenuous union of music and film takes place at North Woodside Leisure Centre: Wet Sounds’ “cinema of the ear”. One sound system will be placed above the water, another beneath the surface, with each playing independently and heard separately depending upon the individual listener’s degree of submergence. Eric La Casa, Adrian Moore and Joel Cahen provide the sounds; you supply the trunks (20 Feb).

Then there’s No Boundaries, No Hierarchies with Los Angelean avant-garde electro duo Lucky Dragons (22 Feb, The Arches). Organised in conjunction with local promoters Cry Parrot, the event comes with an adventurous remit: attendees are encouraged to submit short silent films in advance, with the promise that all will be used on the night. Conceived by Cry Parrot founder Fielding Hope as an explicit challenge to the conventional gig experience’s “cold, detached” divide between audience and performer, it cedes control of both music and film to the crowd. With interaction and participation its keywords – properties rarely associated with either medium – it’s a bold experiment worth getting involved in.

Finally, the National Youth Orchestra are staging an inter-disciplinary amalgamation of film, photography, animation, sound design, theatre and live performance, with ‘Vanishing Boundaries’ as the organising theme (21 Feb, The Arches). Getting a clearer idea of how such a combination works probably involves buying a ticket and heading along – advice worth applying liberally across the festival’s line-up.