Thursday, 30 June 2011

july skinny!

The Skinny

and it's not even july yet! madness!

as you can see, united fruit are on the cover, as part of a run down of the bands playing T-break at this year's T in the Park. Plus interviews with tom vek, leftfield, and that lovely fella from IT crowd.

and my input, you ask?

- the pains of being pure at heart live review (read here!)
- MEN live review (read here!)
- tune-yards live review (read here!)
- over the wall live review (read here!)
- danananaykroyd review july's singles (i'll have this up on the site in two shakes of a lamb's tail)
- benjamin francis leftwich - 'last smoke before the snowstorm' album review (read here!)
- diva - 'the glitter end' album review (will be up soon!)
- junior boys - 'it's all true' album review (read here!)
- gardens & villa - 'gardens & villa' album review (read here!)
- shonen knife - 'free time' album review (read here!)
- richard youngs - 'amplifying host' album review (will be up soon!)
- foster the people - 'torches' album review (read here!)
- cell 211 film review (read here!)
- the great white silence film review (read here!)

loooooooads basically.

Monday, 27 June 2011

reviews: benjamin francis leftwich, puzzle muteson, gardens & villa

Benjamin Francis Leftwich - Last Smoke Before the Snowstorm

Benjamin Francis Leftwich - Last Smoke Before the Snowstorm (***)

Two warmly-received EPs aside, Benjamin Francis Leftwich is best known for an appearance on Dermot O’Leary’s Saturday Sessions, the radio slot responsible for Athlete’s God Only Knows (egads) and Orson’s take on Hall and Oates (shudder). Leftwich’s Arcade Fire cover was meek, insipid and reminiscent of every acoustic guitarist who’s ever claimed an open mic free pint via a wet ‘reinterpretation’.

Thankfully, his own material is considerably better; what was trite on Rebellion proves affecting here. It’s occasionally a bit O.C. soundtrack, although Leftwich balances out the clichés: when he croons “I’m yours tonight” on Don’t Go Slow, a moody montage of Seth and Summer gurning with desire dances to mind, but lines like “my bones were wrapped around you” locate a more interesting lyrical angle. Musically, a gentle folk waltz reigns uninterrupted, but the likes of Atlas Hands have a redemptive grace, keeping Last Smoke Before the Snowstorm enjoyable throughout.

Out 4th July

Puzzle Muteson - En Garde

Puzzle Muteson - En Garde (**)

There are positive ways to be musically ground-breaking; by pushing things further than anyone previously dared, for example, or innovating something brand spanking new. There are also negative ways: for instance, redefining the limits of boredom, as Puzzle Muteson threatens to do on his debut. Thirty seconds into opener I Was Once a Horse and the record has exhausted its range: though gorgeously rendered, the remaining forty one minutes barely shift its stresses, with only the title track rustling up a second gear.

It’s the equivalent of Shakespeare jotting down ‘If music be the food of love…’ then forcefully underscoring it hundreds of times with his quill rather than playing on; a shame, since Muteson’s tremulous vocals and gossamer melodies contain the seed of something enchanting. Take a slender slice of En Garde and you might fall in love; consume the whole thing and you’ll more likely fall into a coma.

Out Now

Gardens & Villa - Gardens & Villa

Gardens & Villa - Gardens & Villa (**)

Gardens & Villa’s debut album is frustratingly half-baked, rendering successes such as Thorn Castles’ Shins-esque ditty and opener Black Hills’ Yeasayer-style atmosphere ultimately moot. First, the good: Orange Blossom is excellent, its peculiar timbre topped by an unlikely flute solo. But when the flute later resurfaces for Sunday Morning, the rot has long set in, yielding uninspired, plodding prog-lite.

The Californian quintet’s biggest foe is their lack of consistency, which produces an accumulative cloud of boredom despite the aforementioned flashes of inspiration. Chemtrails barely holds together, its echoey sighs recalling early My Morning Jacket to substantially lesser effect (Tennessee Fire’s rare beauty is leagues ahead of this bundle of nothingness), while Carrizo Plain could be rechristened Band of Geldings, such is its dulled placidity. Luckily, closer Neon Dove restores some spark, so while Gardens & Villa is an undistinguished first effort, they’re not to be written off quite yet.

Out 4th July

Sunday, 26 June 2011

reviews: foster the people, junior boys, shonen knife

Foster the People - Torches

Foster the People - Torches (***)

Foster the People’s sudden popularity and indie-disco affinities have prompted comparisons to MGMT, a resemblance sustained by their debut’s lop-sidedness. Just as Kids and Time to Pretend enveloped everything in their vicinity, lead single Pumped Up Kicks (already a sizable hit in the US and enjoying considerable radio play here) has the potential to extinguish the rest of Torches. It’s a cracking summer jam (if you overlook grim lyrics detailing a Columbine-style massacre), and is comfortably Foster the People’s choicest four-minutes. But, also like MGMT, the Californians deserve credit for not clinging too tightly to a tested template, with Helena Beat rocking a Peter, Bjorn and Justice vibe; Don’t Stop (Colour on the Walls) recalling The Kinks at their most perky; and Call It What You Want entering Scissor Sisters territory. Sadly (again, alas, like MGMT), their debut is ultimately underwhelming, but they’re nonetheless off to a decent start.

Out 27th June

Junior Boys - It's All True

Junior Boys - It's All True (****)

It’s All True was written and recorded in Shanghai, Berlin and Hamilton, Ontario. Hamilton goes without saying; it’s the town the Boys call home. Berlin too: what electronic artist hasn’t spent time in the city? (Incidentally, Kick the Can echoes Krautrock stylings to great effect). Shanghai is a less obvious locale, though its influence is felt on opener Itchy Fingers, particularly a middle-eight featuring Chinese musicians that interjects novel textures to the shuddering synth and bass workout.

The globe-trotting is typical – Junior Boys have never stood still. Their influences are legion, and their ability to amalgamate sharply-honed. It is therefore unsurprising that Playtime jumps track, and though its minimal, morose ballad is less immediately satisfying that the opener, it establishes the album’s scope. But the real highlights are left for last: ep ploughs a seductive soul groove, while single Banana Ripple shimmies through nine opulent minutes of premier disco-pop.

Out 4th July

Shonen Knife - Free Time

Shonen Knife - Free Time (****)

Despite multiple line-up changes, Shonen Knife’s set up and style has been unswerving across their thirty year existence: three girls, three chords, and an irreverent streak a mile wide. On An Old Stationary Shop, remaining original member Naoko Yamano mentions buying a notebook so she can write down lyrics, and they’re keepers alright – her first all-English set, they’re characteristically bizarre and childishly charming. “Rolled cake, I want to sleep in it” goes Rock n Roll Cake, while Monster Jellyfish turns the tables on their kaiju foes by recommending “the more you chew them, the more flavourful they become.” Amongst such fluffy nonsense, the title of Economic Crisis stands out, but fiscal soothsaying is swiftly quashed by a riff cribbed from Ace of Spades and some rough feedback. They continue to be deep as a puddle, but stupendously so; here’s hoping that they refuse to grow up for another thirty years.

Out 11th July

Saturday, 25 June 2011

dvd review: the great white silence

When an earlier cut of Herbert Ponting’s remarkable record of the British Antarctic Expedition was screened for George VI in 1914, the king declared everyone should see it so as to keep “the spirit of adventure” alive in the nation’s youth. Jokes aren’t Ponting’s strong-point (“an epidemic broke out on board” an intertitle announces, “…of HAIRCUTTING!”), and the anthropomorphised penguins expend their appeal, but in all other respects, Bertie’s recommendation remains valid. The tragic outcome of Captain Scott’s ill-fated venture is well-known, but it’s never been so vividly presented as in this excellent restoration: Simon Fisher’s exceptional score enhances both the wonder and dejection of Scott’s extraordinary journey, with tinted stock emphasising the otherworldliness of the terrain. The first iceberg encounter is truly breath-taking, while the excitement felt by crew-members watching the iron hull shattering ice flows is keenly felt. But the fascination is as much in the details, with sub-zero soccer matches as unforgettable as the grim conclusion.

Friday, 24 June 2011

tune-yards @ captains rest, 15 june

Thousands’ dual acoustic lullabies evoke gentle breezes, sun-dappled lakes, and other lovely things that unfortunately, placed against the abundant personality of tonight’s headliner, try patience interminably. File under: wrong time, wrong place for an introduction.

Do You Wanna Live? opens tUnE-yArDs’ set raucously, with a packed Captain's Rest responding to every variation of the question with affirmative bellows. “You are a party in a can” Merrill Garbus croons, a sentiment handily reversible: few performers are so inherently likable, whether appropriating wallets or admiring Glasgow’s rhythm. Saxophone stabs and loose bass runs build the revelry, but the most important instrument is Garbus herself, who plies her malleable voice in remarkable ways.

The musical exuberance is reflected sartorially in face paint and feathers, evoking a child-like joie de vivre. But to infantilise would be to overlook how sexy these songs can be: for instance, the Prince-like groove of Powa, or the sassy odd-funk of Es-so. Bizness predictably prompts the loudest squeals, but selecting highlights from such a consistently excellent set is somewhat arbitrary. The final lines tonight goad us to ‘watch me, watch me, watch me more’; if only that were an option.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

reviews: driver drive faster, elan tamara, trapped mice

Driver Drive Faster - Open House

Driver Drive Faster - Open House (***)

If Open House sounds extraordinarily professional for a self-funded debut, it’s worth noting that three of Driver Drive Faster’s four bodies formerly performed as Polytechnic, who graced 2007 with indie-pop gems like Pep, but ultimately lacked the depth of material to build on such sprightly foundations.

Now the trio (plus drummer David Schlechtriemen) prove themselves as proficient penning dream-pop as the snappy indie nuggets of yore, with first single It’s All Over It’s Everywhere a well-chosen calling-card, breezily recalling nostalgia-loving Aussies The Sleepy Jackson.

Elsewhere, Missing Out’s Bowie-inflected lilt impresses, charming to its final deadpan line, but unfortunately, like their former guise, Driver Drive Faster eventually settle on the solidly unspectacular, albeit with greater potential for future brilliance: if they can achieve this in shared digs off their own steam, they’ve surely got the chops to turn heads on Driver Drive Faster 2: Driver Drive Fasterer.

Out Now

Elan Tamara - Organ EP

Elan Tamara - Organ EP (****)

Elan Tamara is a Brit School graduate, but try not to hold it against her. Seems despite the institution’s strong track record for cultivating chart monsters – Adele, Winehouse, Jessie J, er, Dane Bowers – there’s often a kneejerk suspicion towards its precocious progeny. Organ’s press release counterclaims that Tamara stands out from any crowd you care to place her amongst, with a degree in ethnomusicology and a passion for Balinese music offered as proof of wider horizons, but if a cloud of suspicion still lingers, this third EP does a spiffing job of vaporising it. Tamara manages to evade pigeonholing while remaining broadly accessible, with opener Runaway the boldest realisation of her burgeoning sound. Top of the class, Miss Tamara.

Out Now

Trapped Mice – Waving and Pointing EP

Trapped Mice - Waving and Pointing EP (***)

After Portrait of the Great Father saw Edinburgh’s Trapped Mice set out a confident but fairly conventional indie-rock stall, Waving and Pointing sees the quintet open out their sound. The title track’s jaunty synth riff helps counter its somewhat plodding pace, though the EP may nonetheless have benefited from a few more ups and downs.

Which is why final track Ghostwriter Blues is the obvious stand-out: its raucousness isn’t entirely convincing, but as it’s the first time the Mice have bared their teeth on record, it’s a notable development that bodes well. “Make me famous!” lead mouse Ian Tilling roars sarcastically, and while they’ve a way to go, Waving and Pointing makes their real ambitions that little bit clearer.

Out Now

Monday, 20 June 2011

june playlist

the music played on saturday night in nice n sleazys is as follows:

1. wild beasts - loop the loop
2. solange - stillness is the move
3. over the wall - shifts
4. gil scott heron - the revolution will not be televised
5. foster the people - pumped up kicks
6. okkervil river - wake and be fine
7. teenage fanclub - about you
8. television - see no evil
9. joe jackson - happy loving couples
10. elvis costello - pump it up
11. men at work - down under
12. architecture in helsinki - contact high
13. future islands - before the bridge
14. caribou - odessa
15. tv on the radio - caffeineated consciousness
16. the beastie boys - so whatcha want
17. the strokes - machu pichu
18. devo - peeakboo
19. bill butler - right track
20. the velvettes - needle in a haystack
21. lucky soul - white russian doll
22. the primitives - crash
23. the b-52s - 6060-842
24. lush - single girl
25. eux autres - salut les copains
26. buzzocks - why can't i touch it?
27. roxy music - angel eyes
28. belle and sebastian - come on sister
29. the lemonheads - if i could talk i'd tell you
30. elvis - burning love
31. janis and her boyfriends - bang bang
32. ersel hickey - you never can tell
33. outkast - ms jackson
34. janelle monae -cold war
35. tune-yards - bizness
36. jackson 5 - i want you back
37. toots and the maytals - broadway jungle
38. jimmy cliff - the harder they come
39. the velvet underground - what goes on?
40. associates - that first impression
41. prefab sprout - faron young
42. modern lovers - i wanna sleep in your arms
43. felt - the day the rain came down
44. depeche mode - i just can't get enough
45. patti smith - rock n roll nigger
46. idlewild - roseability
47. kenny rogers and the first edition - just dropped in
48. bruce springsteen - badlands
49. fleetwood mac - go your own way
50. charles and eddie - would i lie to you?
51. andrew wk - i love new york city
52. dananananaykroyd - muscle memory
53. r kelly - ignition (remix)
54. david bowie - sound and vision
55. peter gabriel - sledgehammer
56. prince - when doves cry
57. dead kennedys - too drunk to fuck
58. abba - lay all your love on me
59. blondie - call me
60. magnetic fields - california girls
61. sam and dave - can't you find another way
62. the supremes - you can't hurry love
63. pavement - gold soundz
64. paul simon - you can call me al
65. spin doctors - two princes
66. ivor cutler - badabadabada

r.i.p. clarence

Friday, 17 June 2011

pains of being pure at heart @ the arches,

Last time Wake the President supported Pains of Being Pure at Heart in Glasgow, the former’s debut was only a few months old; two years later, it’s time to showcase its forthcoming successor. On tonight’s evidence, the band has corn-fed existing strengths and added moxie, rousing Potus not with a gentle nudge but an almighty clatter.

The headliners have already taken the sophomore album plunge, and the unfolding performance confirms they’ve successfully sidestepped any would-be slump. Nothing lifted from Belong jars when set against Young Adult Friction et al, but the newer material nonetheless carries a distinct charge: brighter, bolder and evidencing sharpened song-writing skills. Beneath surface noise they wring fresh excitement from decades-old inspirations, with the likes of Heavens Gonna Happen Now a nigh-perfect refinement of their talents.

Closing the main set with This Love Is Fucking Right, they re-emerge almost immediately to append one final slice of textbook indie-pop and invite the Arches for a post-set White Russian or two. There’s no attempt at any pre-encore ‘will they/won’t they come back on’ nonsense – a lack of pretence neatly indicative of their unfussy aesthetic more broadly.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

MEN @ nice n sleazy, 9th june

Last year, Michael O’Neill discussed MEN’s live aspirations. "We believe a live show should be much more than playing songs on a record," he declared, promising "multi-media, mostly in the form of visual sculptural elements." Presumably plans changed en route to Glasgow; a cardboard house-hat and natty homemade threads aside, tonight’s entertainment is firmly conventional.

With support acts AWOL and the room half full, spectacle might have helped spark the evening into life a little more promptly, though with hooks galore, it’s only a matter of time before limbs loosen. A midway Who Am I To Feel So Free feels like the turning point, with Credit Card Babies building the momentum and being duly rewarded with copious shape-throwing. JD Samson and co close with a cover of Bikini Kill’s Double Dare Ya – a respectful nod to fellow Le Tigre member Kathleen Hanna which unfortunately highlights this evening’s comparative lacklustre.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

over the wall @ nice n sleazy, 3rd june

It’s day 78 of Over the Wall’s ‘Around the Isles in 80 Days’ tour, and there’s a suitably congratulatory atmosphere building. John Knox Sex Club open tonight’s homecoming in fine fettle: Sean Cumming’s patter is equal parts hellfire-evangelist, bothy-residing bard, and electrifying beat philosopher, and just when their brooding demeanour threatens to become overly serious, he ventures forth to distribute hugs – casting the devil out but putting a little love in its place.

Over the Wall take to the stage to boos, geniality temporarily suppressed thanks to an introduction from Richard Todd, whose dubious potted history of the band’s adventures to date includes the tragic tale of a spatula-headed boy’s cruel dismissal at the hands of Gav and Ben. But the negative vibes are in jest: Shifts disperses the mock-jeers and we’re off, through spiffing mini-epic A History of British Welfarism 1945-1984, all the way to consummate closer Thurso. As chants of ‘ONE! MORE! TUNE!’ morph into ‘KEY. BOARD! HEAVEN!’, the duo reappear to give the people what they want. “We’re having an Arab Spring right here!” declares Gav, as their ode to deceased Casios concludes the evening’s journey victoriously.

Monday, 13 June 2011

james blake @ oran mor, 2nd june

Here's a wee live review written for the skinny...

Unluck opens tonight’s headline set with such bold, crisp precision it instantly silences the room. The same courtesy wasn’t extended to touring support Cloud Boat (**) earlier in the evening, the crowd’s chatty disinterest likely a combination of unfamiliarity (the duo are yet to press their first wax); flat and quiet sound; and a lack of diversity, with every song built to roughly the same spec.

No such hurdles beset James Blake: any fans lost by his album’s stylistic about-face have been replaced several times over; the volume’s been whacked up a couple of notches at least; while his aesthetic range mocks any lingering attempts to fix him exclusively to dubstep’s canon. He’s Autotuney and the Johnsons on Give Me My Month’s simple piano ballad; a male Deradoorian when looping Never Learned to Share’s poignant refrain on multiple vocal registers; and a cyber-soul Bon Iver on Lindisfarne’s austere highlight. His heartfelt sci-fi gospel (Blake’s Heaven?) clicks and pulses beautifully throughout, culminating in Limit To Your Love (superior in its bassy live rendering than on record) and The Wilhelm Scream’s immersive synth wash. If a (second?) backlash is due, count me out.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

party hard

In lieu of the usual blurb, we’d like to prepare you for bottle rocket’s 35th edition with some extracts from the musings of Mr Andrew Wilkes-Krier,* a man whose dedication to partying has proven a steady source of inspiration at bottle rocket HQ.

AndrewWK, 10 hours ago: DON’T FORGET TO PARTY.

Oh, we won’t Andrew – in fact, we have one scheduled for Saturday 18th June!


Well, in these grim economic times, that sure is good advice Andrew, thanks! Here’s another tip: arrive before 11pm and you’ll pay nada; arrive after and it’s a mere £3 entry.


Actually, Andrew, that’s not strictly true – our hours are 11:30pm to 3:00am.


Sure, but let’s break it up a bit: we’ll play all sorts of pop, rock n roll, indie, soul, new wave etcetera etcetera etcetera. Think: The Isley Brothers, Pulp, Bruce Springsteen, MEN, Danananaykroyd, Fleetwood Mac, The Go! Team, Heavenly and Bowie. If you’ve any requests to add to the list, stick them on the facebook page!

Bottle rocket!
Nice n sleazy!
£3 or free before 11pm!

* well, his tweets – incidentally, follow us @BottleRocketGla – we’re lovely.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

june skinny is all over the place

The Skinny

As well as Battles chatter, there are interviews with Sons and Daughters and Ladytron, plus some things written by yours truly, like:

- damon & naomi @ captains rest live review (read here!)
- 'stranger than fiction' EIFF documentary strand preview (read here!)
- patrick wolf - lupercalia album review (read here!)
- jacob yates and the pearly gates lock pickers - luck album review (read here!)
- white denim - d album review (read here!)
- chad vangaalen - diaper island album review (read here!)
- armadillo dvd review (read here!)

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

may playlist!

we checked in with our may replacements who revealed the pop smash jamboree they treated sleazys to in our absence. It's rather good, no?

1. Twilight Singers - Teenage Wristband
2. The Go-Betweens - That's the Right Word
3. Surfer Blood - Swim
4. The Associates - The Affectionate Punch
5. The Meters - Cissy Strut
6. Blues Explosion - Hot Gossip
7. Fucked Up - Queen of Hearts
8. AC/DC - Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
9. Arab Strap - Don't Ask Me to Dance
10. New York Dolls - Trash
11. Sons and Daughters - Dance Me In
12. The Clash - Tommy Gun
13. The Smiths - The Queen is Dead
14. Radio Dept. - The Where Damage Isn't Already Done
15. Brenda Lee - Here Comes That Feeling
16. The Beatles - Taxman
17. Pixies - Debaser
18. Blur - Tracy Jack
19. R.E.M. - Driver 8
20. Jackie Wilson - Reed Petite
21. The Rolling Stones - Street Fighting Man
22. Camera Obscura - French Navy
23. Kate Bush - Hounds of Love
24. The Byrds - I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better
25. The Police - Roxanne
26. Talk Talk - It's My Life
27. Best Coast - Boyfriend
28. Bruce Springsteen - Badlands
29. The Rolling Stones - Monkey Man
30. Michael Jackson - Beat It
31. Creedence Clearwater Revival - I Heard It Through the Grapevine
32. David Bowie - Rebel, Rebel
33. Martha and the Vandellas - (Love Is Like A) Heatwave
34. Queens of the Stone Age - Go with the Flow
35. Stevie Nicks - Edge of Seventeen
36. Sons and Daughters - Johnny Cash
37. Bruce Springsteen - Dancing in the Dark
38. Roy Orbison - Drove All Night
39. The Breeders - Cannonball
40. Blondie - Heart of Glass
41. LCD Soundsystem - All My Friends
42. MGMT - Kids
43. Arcade Fire - Neighbouhood #3 (Power Out)
44. Simple Minds - Don't You (Forget About Me)
45. Fleetwood Mac - Everywhere
46. The Strokes - Someday
47. Del Shannon - Runaway
48. Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run
49. The Rolling Stones - Tumbling Dice
50. Ash - Girl From Mars
51. The Bluetones - Slight Return

Monday, 6 June 2011

dvd review: armadillo

Armadillo’s approach to the on-going war in Afghanistan is nominally non-political, but the film was nonetheless the subject of much debate in Denmark –from the press to parliament – due to the contentious actions of its subjects, the young soldiers of the titular Helmand base. Armadillo possesses the momentum of a tightly-scripted fiction; in keeping with the Chekhovian dictum that a gun shown in act 1 should later be fired, an early briefing regarding the ‘rules of engagement’ portends their subsequent (apparent) violation. This narrative economy, coupled with Lars Skree’s stylised cinematography, makes it easy to forget the genuine risks taken, but it does permit an expressionistic edge atypical of observational documentaries, producing one of the most potent edits of the War on Terror’s onscreen depictions to date: as an off-duty soldier ‘relaxes’ with a first-person shooter, the image cuts from his avatar lobbing a grenade to a real-life explosion, a bravura condensation of one of modern warfare’s most unsettling traits.

Out 13th June

Friday, 3 June 2011

EIFF 2011: Stranger Than Fiction

The Edinburgh Film Festival is just over a fortnight away. Here's a wee preview article I wrote about its selection of documentaries for this month's issue of The Skinny:

With the 2011 Sheffield Doc/Fest shifted from November to June, Edinburgh found itself in potential competition for titles this year, prompting a partnership which will “give documentary filmmakers greater access to industry and audiences,” whilst easing “the sometimes difficult process of selecting one festival over another.” And what’s good for documentarians is evidently good for festival-goers, with a strong selection of joint premieres, including: Hell and Back Again, which details a US Marine’s experiences both at war and at home; Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye’s portrait of Genesis P-Orridge’s explorations in gender identity; and Project Nim, James Marsh’s first documentary since the Oscar-winning Man on Wire. Fresh from a triumphant opening night showing at Sundance, it presents an unorthodox biopic of the splendidly-named Nim Chimpsky, the ape at the centre of experiments in communication at Columbia University in the 1970s; think the forthcoming Rise of the Planet of the Apes but with apocalyptic malice replaced by unexpected insights into the human condition.

Elsewhere in Edinburgh’s twin documentary strands, there’s Burning Ice, in which Jarvis Cocker, Martha Wainwright and famous friends witness the first-hand effects of climate change and sing some songs; Bobby Fischer Against the World’s study of the troubled chess prodigy; and warnings of impending doom in Countdown to Zero, Lucy Walker’s stark examination of the potential for global Armageddon due to too many nuclear weapons and not enough oversight – a warning supported by interviews with Pervez Musharraf and Jimmy Carter amongst others. Finally, terrifying in a somewhat more surreal way, Convento boasts one of the most arrestingly peculiar pitches in this year’s brochure: “a dreamlike documentary about an unusual family of artists who live in an old monastery with their robo-beast creations,” proving that life, as the cliché goes, really can be stranger than fiction.

see for the full brochure.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

reviews: black lips, patrick wolf, night noise team

Black Lips – Arabia Mountain

Black Lips - Arabia Mountain (****)

For a band prone to misinterpreting the spirit of rock and roll (examples abound online – being jerks isn’t the same as being rock stars, guys), Black Lips have no struggle nailing its sound. Asking Mark Ronson to produce your album isn’t very rock ‘n’ roll either, but it is, it transpires, inspired, with the chart-Midas a surprisingly subtle presence.

The quartet echo honky-tonk Stones on Dumpster Dive, The Ramones on Raw Meat and The Sonics on Time, confirming their continued indebtedness to figure-head influences, and while there’s zero progress to speak of, that’s OK. Arabia Mountain is more of the same in the way that every ten pound note is the same: its similarity to the last doesn’t prevent it being gratefully received, valued for what it provides. In the case of Arabia Mountain, the return is sixteen smiles; in the case of the tenner – if spent wisely – Arabia Mountain.

Out 6th June

Patrick Wolf - Lupercalia

Patrick Wolf - Lupercalia (***)

What’s in a name? In the case of Patrick Wolf’s fifth record, quite a lot. The Bachelor disappointed, its harsher edge simultaneously alienating both those faithful to his earliest releases, and newer fans enamoured by the upbeat pop of The Magic Position. It started life as a double album, and after splitting the material, Wolf announced part two - The Conqueror – would soon follow. But the sister release never materialised, instead reconfigured as Lupercalia – named after a Roman festival but with clear etymological ties to debut Lycanthropy. And, as the rechristening suggests, any trace of his belligerent cyber-goth phase is dissipated, with new single The City effectively demonstrating a ruling dynamic of simple melodies rendered in unashamedly anthemic fashion. This isn’t an attention-grabbing reinvention, but a natural step forward, and while it won’t please those still pining after another Wind in the Wires, it’s got class to spare.

Out 20th June

Night Noise Team - Slow Release

Night Noise Team - Slow Release (**)

Night Noise Team launch Slow Release with real gusto, singer Sean Ormsby promising that they’ve “got something for you” on opener The Gift. Thirty-six minutes later and you may well be looking for the receipt, as the Edinburgh quartet try a variety of styles but fail to fully nail any of them. All Brutal Common Sense stands out thanks to its comparatively light touch, refreshing amidst the portentousness of Burning or the over-eager Franz-lifting You Won. But it can’t heave Slow Release out of the doldrums alone; elsewhere, Doors Are Closed sews a decent chorus to a dog’s dinner of a verse; early single Menolick proves it hasn’t aged well; while Drifting is as aimless as its title suggests. Most worryingly, a fifty-three second, stripped-down reprise of 2008’s Rideau constitutes one of the album's few remaining highlights, suggesting that, to these ears, Night Noise Team are trending in the wrong direction.

Out 20 June