Thursday, 28 July 2011

reviews: blood orange, warm brains, the war on drugs

Blood Orange - Coastal Grooves

Blood Orange - Coastal Grooves (***)

After Test Icicles disintegrated, Dev Hynes claimed he never liked the music anyway. With the inauguration of new project Blood Orange, it waits to be seen whether any of his work as Lightspeed Champion will receive a similar dismissal. The style shift is less pronounced this time, but is sufficiently distinct from his other endeavours to warrant cordoning it off.

Coastal Grooves is true to its title, locking into danceable grooves rather than flying off on forced-wacky tangents. As a result, it has less character than, say, Lightspeed debut Falling Off the Lavender Bridge, but the quality is less erratic. Oddly, his time spent writing for Solange and X-Factor’s ‘indie, honestly’ flameout Diana Vickers (amongst others) seems to have reduced the number of hooks and pop twists in his music; as a result, the parts don’t distinguish themselves from one another with any great conviction, though the whole stays classy.

Out 1st August

Warm Brains - Old Volcanoes

Warm Brains - Old Volcanoes (***)

For a man who once went by the name Raaary Decihells (whilst one third of Test Icicles), Rory Attwell’s debut as Warm Brains is surprisingly grown-up. A trio of guest vocals aside (from Roxanne Cliffords of Veronica Falls, amongst others), Attwell is responsible for every other note heard on Old Volcanoes, from writing to recording to production: every distorted riff, tom roll and cymbal splash.

Warm Brains is, by Attwell’s own admission, deeply indebted to a certain vintage of mid-nineties US college-rock, but with definite home roots; lead single Let Down, for instance, sounds of a piece with Blur’s eponymous 1997 album, which tried to capture a similar transatlantic aesthetic. Graham Coxon’s solo work is also broadly kindred throughout, from the punk fuzz guitars to the endearingly-struggling vocals. Moreover, there is a pleasing diversity, with the dreamy drift of closer Stone to Sand to Glass an indicator of yet-to-be fully explored breadth.

Out 1st August

The War on Drugs - Slave Ambient

The War on Drugs - Slave Ambient (***)

When Kurt Vile left The War on Drugs to do his own (absolutely spiffing) thing, he appointed fellow War founder Adam Granduciel a Violator, took him on tour, and inadvertently added years to Slave Ambient’s gestation. Granduciel’s return to his first band (sans Kurt) has much to recommend it, despite occasional stumbles like stupefying non-starter City Reprise #12.

It combines rock 'n' roll classicism in the seventies AOR mould (think Tom Petty and Dire Straits) with a psychedelic vapour, and tracks like the lushly-layered opener Best Night are pleasingly laidback. Urban Hymns-period Ashcroft is a less welcome echo, with the similarity most apparent on drifting bores such as I Was There, where all momentum is lost. On the plus side, the missteps ensure late-stage pop trip Baby Missiles is all the more appreciated, though ultimately Slave Ambient remains a league below alumnus Vile’s most recent work; inconsistent, but nonetheless impressive.

Out 15th August

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

reviews: adam stafford, the last battle, moonface

Adam Stafford - Build a Harbour Immediately

Adam Stafford - Build a Harbour Immediately (****)

Build a Harbour Immediately
is filmmaker, music video director, ever-inventive musician, and regular Renaissance man Adam Stafford’s first studio release under his own name. The qualifiers are necessary – between Y’All is Fantasy Island and various other projects, he’s amassed quite the discography. This surely ranks high amongst them, with tracks frequently setting off in one direction, before Stafford whips around to challenge assumptions.

Take Shot-down You Summer Wannabes: what begins a kind of esoteric loop experiment sheds its layers to reveal a shiny pop core. A similar trick is pulled on Frederick Wiseman, an uncluttered, melting R&B whisper which sets up the closing ambient drift of A Vast Crystal Skull. Elsewhere the font is more familiar but no less successfully channelled: Fire & Theft opens the album with Kinks-y swing, while Cathedrals is a barely-there gossamer ballad. All in all, great enough to de-glum those disappointed by YiFi’s disbandment earlier this year.

Out 22nd August

The Last Battle - The Springwell EP

The Last Battle - The Springwell EP (****)

The Last Battle’s latest EP offers an accidental word of warning for rollover Euromillions winners Chris and Colin Weir. “Spend, spend, spend… everything was all downhill from then” croons Scott Longmuir, with Flora McKay’s evocative cello supplementing the pathos.

The track in question is Viv Nicholson, a gorgeously simple ode to the housewife who won a bundle on the pools and lost the lot, and it makes for a splendid centrepiece. But there’s better in store in the form of The Last Dance, which nails a low-key anthem sound with the slenderest echo of Band Aid in its melody and a curious blend of lo and hi fi production, before seguing into miniature coda Lost, But Not Forever.

Out Now

Moonface - Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped

Moonface - Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped (****)

Moonface is a non-de-plume of Wolf Parade’s Spencer Krug, adding another entry to a catalogue of acts long enough to fill this review’s word-count. While the tremulous vocals make it recognisably Krugian (the guy surely deserves his own adjective by now), it occupies an idiosyncratic place in his networked discographies.

Its five tracks (only one of which stops short of seven minutes) are played solo on (surprise) an organ, with the aid of loops and a digital drums, and what apparently started out as “lush and noisy” drone experiments has instead produced an off-kilter pop album unmoored to any specific period or genre.

Fast Peter carries a resemblance to OMD, Shit-Hawk In The Snow’s latter half invokes Ray Manzarek’s prog-years, while the whole’s simplified methodology bears comparison to aspects of Casiotone For the Painfully Alone. Even at thirty-seven minutes, the circumscribed aesthetic eventually exhausts, but Organ Music… is nonetheless an engrossing curveball.

Out 1st August

Sunday, 17 July 2011

third birthday playlist!

happy birthday us! we got birthday cake and everything, courtesy of lovely susan and her awesome baking skills! it put us in a right good mood, which we transferred to your ears via the following musix:

1. club 8 - shape up
2. radio dept. - why don't you talk about it
3. moscow olympics - no winter, no autumn
4. flock of seagulls - space age love song
5. beastie boys - ch-ch-check it out
6. sons and daughters - breaking fun
7. telekinesis - dirty thing
8. superchunk - pink clouds
9. rem - driver 8
10. the flirtations -nothing but a heartache
11. martha reeves - nowhere to run
12. idlewild - idea track
13. art brut - emily kane
14. they might be giants - can't keep johnny down
15. white denim - it's him
16. ben kweller - wasted and ready
17. david bowie - young americans
18. the go team - t.o.r.n.a.d.o.
19. clap your hands say yeah - same mistake
20. david bowie - sufragette city
21. lou reed - hanging round
22. the vaselines - overweight but over you
23. pixies - nimrod's son
24. yuck -get away
25. nirvana - smells like teen spirit
26. belinda carlisle - heaven is a place on earth
27. robyn - fembot
28. b-52s - private idaho
29. new order - ceremony
30. fleetwood mac - everywhere
31. billie holliday - ?
32. au revoir simone - sad song
33. lcd soundsystem - all my friends
34. billy idol - hot in the city
35. blondie - atomic
36. weezer - pork and beans
37. pulp - disco 2000
38. beyonce - crazy in love
39. the clean - tally ho
40. cake - short skirt/long jacket
41. franz ferdinand - the fallen
42. dexy's midnight runners - geno
43. talking heads - psycho killer
44. the rolling stones - start me up
45. echo and the bunnymen - the killing moon
46. pavement - stereo
47. abba - lay all your love on me
48. the smiths - bigmouth strikes again
49. stereolab - french disko
50. andrew wk - party hard
51. queen - fat bottomed girls
52. the clash - rock the casbah
53. elvis - blue suede shoes
54. the isley brothers - this old heart of mine
55. diana ross - love don't come easy
56. michael jackson - smooth criminal
57. the nerves - hanging on the telephone
58. abc - poison arrow
59. the mighty mighty bosstones - the impression that i get
60. elvis - baby let's play house

sorry bout the technical hiccups, no idea why but one of the cd players was being a TOTAL JERK. didn't take the shine off a top notch evening though. here's to year 4!


Thursday, 14 July 2011

Tin the Park review!

Last weekend i popped over to Balado for T in the Park and wrote about it for The Skinny - there's a massive review over on the site with the contributions of three other writers weaved in as well, but i've posted the sections that i wrote below:

We’ve seen the minds of a generation destroyed by tonic wine and overstimulation, hysterical and half-naked, dragging themselves through lagoons craving unsoiled beer tokens; girls in what first appear peculiarly-patterned tights, which are in fact bare skin caked in Sunday's mud; an ungodly swill that provokes declarations of eternal gratitude to the Duke of Wellington and his wonderful footwear. We’ve seen fools diving into the hell-soup, emerging smiling; a toilet policy best summarised as ‘stop and squat’; and fallen comrades with inflatable penises for headstones, passed out and awaiting a Monday morning resurrection.

But wipe the bilge from your brow and blink out the rain, because standard festival primitivism apart, T put on one heck of a show for Balado’s migrant population. There’s déjà vu in the choice of headliners, but you can’t accuse Foo Fighters or Coldplay of half-arsing what is now their bread and butter; and while there’s a sense that, in attempting to cater to every possible market, the organisers are stuck in a lucrative but generic middle ground which has space for more interesting bookings, but not always the crowds, such criticism is moot. Behold it as it is meant to be beholden; a behemoth in every sense, with a line-up of suitable proportions. Here’s what grabbed our attention this year…


While it means having to acclimatise quickly to the smell (rather than adjusting gradually in tandem with your own aroma’s maturation), Clanadonia make me glad I missed Friday’s fun: all T in the Parks should begin with tattooed, beardy mountain men bellowing at the crowd to ‘gie’s a hond’ with drum and bagpipe pieces with titles like ‘Hamster Heid’. Daft and disconcerting, they successfully break through the morning stupor.

When you’ve got half an hour to impress, at a time when most punters are yet to appear/arrive, a bold visual entrance helps focus attention no end. Fight Like Apes understand this, with three quarters of the band donning full body lycra before taking their place amidst painted mannequins. Part two of Operation Make Everyone Give a Shit is playing an in-your-face set that bounds about all over the place with enviable energy and cheeky lyrics; who wouldn’t get behind a song with the refrain ‘goodness me it’s fish n chips’?

Oh Patrick Wolf, you flirt – donning a kilt to appeal to national pride is one thing, but climbing the barriers to properly mingle with the great unwashed? Well that’s against protocol, leading to a swarm surrounding the showman to his evident delight. The Libertine is a low key highlight, but Lupercalia rules the roost, and its high-drama power-balladry proves strikingly effective in this context, with Bermondsey Street and a closing The City particularly resplendent. Also: bonus points for using an instrument that looks like the Cosmic Key from Masters of the Universe.

From their name to their lyrics to their look to their sound, Wolf Gang resemble the kind of artificial indie band that crops up in soaps and sitcoms: a barely believable pastiche of prevailing trends that conveys no real identity or purpose. While likable between tracks, during them Max McElligott succumbs to innumerable clichés; how he can sing Something Unusual’s itinerary of banality (“when we’re secretly unravelling, coming undone/ when you’re looking all around but you just don’t see”) with a straight face is an enigma to rank alongside the The Script’s baffling popularity.

Manic Street Preachers are sending T a message, opening with You Love Us, before declaring Your Love Alone Is Not Enough a track later. They’re right: the ecstatic reaction to open-goal tracks like You Stole the Sun and Everything Must Go doesn’t carry over into a brace from Postcards from a Young Man, which find comparatively few welcoming ears. But with A Design for Life in reserve, the adoration soon reappears to top a set that, while too short and early to match previous T glories, nonetheless affirms their continued excellence two decades after they first declared their voices for real.

For a ‘BBC Introducing’ act, it seems most are already pretty well acquainted with Aberdeen’s The Xcerts, as they fire out big riffs and gutsy melodies to a healthy turn out, wellies filling the eyeline as crowdsurfers sail stagewards. They sound very much like a product of their genesis (2001, high school), more in sync with Hell is For Heroes or earliest Biffy than anything that’s emerged since, but they do it with a passion that undoubtedly strikes a (power) chord.

The rain is well underway, Hugh’s lager has fostered a dense headache, and, in a cruel Sisyphean twist, the heavens keep refilling the cup after every gassy sip. A series of lacklustre tracks from Slash’s recent solo album aren’t helping improve the mood either; then he plays Nightrain, followed closely by Rocket Queen, and any malignant cynicism dissipates (though the woeful Starlight does its best to reawaken it). From Sweet Child O Mine through Paradise City, it’s nice to know that no one’s under any illusions about where Slash’s contemporary appeal lies: 1987 and proud.

Seattle’s The Head and the Heart seem to be enjoying their T debut greatly, particularly violinist Charity Rose Thielen, who positively radiates excited joie de vivre. This despite being rising stars back home, signing to Sub Pop and touring arenas with Dave Matthews (against which T-Break must look modest indeed). They’re a pleasant but uneventful listen, peddling an earthy, wholesome folk-pop sound that grows increasingly bland the longer you keep its company, but amidst carnival rides blasting N-Trance, they provide welcome respite.

Human pyramids are pretty tricky to perfect: today, soggy ground and drunken participants prove a less than solid start for a less than solid final result, but at least it momentarily stalls the tool-filled fight pit from involuntarily enveloping those on the side-lines. And all this while Jimmy Eat World play, a band who look like they’d get their hospitality tokens stolen by Coldplay if they collided backstage. The gulf between drippy exterior and rowdy crowd is clarified by JEW’s more-awesome-than-you-might-realise back catalogue, alternately inducing mosh-pits (Pain, Bleed American) and lighter-waving (23), to emerge as one of the day’s highlights.

“Ah respect people like you” says the bleary fella next to me midway through The Strokes, “people that appresheate good music, not fuckin’ Beyonce”. Actually, having seen Miss Knowles power through Crazy in Love and Single Ladies, choosing to jump sets is a far from elementary decision, though Casablancas and co do a damn fine job of justifying the switch. They even seem to be enjoying themselves: as flares and green smoke turn front of stage into a scene from a Vietnam flick, the reconciled New Yorkers go some way to restoring a reputation that had started to lose lustre through years of neglect, with Last Night garnering a particularly wild response.

When Conor Oberst announced he would retire Bright Eyes once promotion for The People’s Key was concluded (a statement he has since backtracked on somewhat), fans were naturally disappointed. But perhaps it’s for the best; the Bright Eyes on stage tonight feels very different from the one responsible for chronicles of anguish like Padraic My Prince. Comparing his lime nail varnish to Beyonce’s; dancing like a YouTube meme; acting out lyrics with self-consciously silly actions – it’s all very entertaining, but disconcertingly at odds with the likes of depressing fuck-odyssey Lover I Don’t Have to Love. But his playfulness is infectious, with a terrific Shell Games the biggest benefactor of his new found lust for life.


My professional integrity has a price: one piece of home-made tablet. A slender slice of DIY confectionary is all it takes to secure Reverieme a positive write-up, though to preserve some modicum of objectivity, I should add that Louise Connell and friends are as handy on stage as in they are in the kitchen. Their set is pitched perfectly for an early-doors Sunday slot, and their low key charms are distinctly moreish – in fact, the tablet is merely the icing on an already pleasingly sweet cake.

The Skinny’s pick of T-Break’s many fine acts, United Fruit don’t disappoint, converting curious passers-by whilst thrilling those already familiar with their brash, raw sound. Red Letter is a howling juggernaut of traded yelps, while the closing Wrecking Ball borrows the propulsion of The Walkmen’s Little House of Savages and gives it a fiery make-over, closing an invigorating set that only stops short of its potential due to a mostly muted crowd. When they’re inevitably invited back to play larger, later slots, expect those reservations to melt away.

Opening with an All My Friends echo (titled All of This) and following it with Punching In a Dream, which has more than a molecule of MGMT’s Kids in its DNA, The Naked and Famous plunder with a smile. Only current single Young Blood indicates much individual spark, but while the band aren’t up to snuff, their crowd gets bonus points for the endless conga weaving around the cavernous Tuts tent; well, you have to find your entertainment somewhere.

Despite boasting (arguably) the most hit-filled set of the entire weekend (Call Me! Atomic! One Way or Another! Heart of Glass!) Blondie have a major hurdle to clear in the shape of angry storm clouds lashing the arena with sideways rain throughout. But they’re not about to be brought down by a mere fear of drowning, and a push-pull results, with every instinct to run and seek shelter countered by the arrival of another lightning bolt (figuratively, thankfully) from their back catalogue.

Here’s a riddle worthy of Dan Brown: how do Weezer manage to be all kinds of awesome when they play nowt from Pinkerton yet two from career nadir Make Believe? And then proceed to stuff their already painfully contracted set with unnecessary covers? They manage because Rivers Cuomo is an affably eccentric dynamo, roaming round the crowd in a poncho-cape, donning crowd-sourced headwear and doing everything expected of a front man faced with a field full of soggy semi-fans. And topping and tailing your set with Undone and Buddy Holly doesn’t hurt either.

“Can I hear you make some noise for Cast?” shouts anime-figurine Gerard Way during My Chemical Romance’s slick performance, a puzzling declaration of bonhomie towards the dog-eared Scousers’ ‘comeback’ that only makes sense when similar requests are subsequently made on behalf of the rest of the day’s main stage line-up. The Cast shout out is the set’s only real surprise, but their theatrical excesses nonetheless translate well to the occasion, with Welcome to the Black Parade a predictably bombastic highlight.

Pulp remember their first time: they were here in 1994, when T was eighty per cent smaller and had a Strathclyde postcode. Back then, sections of today’s crowd were yet to be conceived, and the year 2000 was an excitingly distant world. But as we all meet up in the year 2011, things feel comfortingly congruous, their Different Class-heavy set sounding as vibrant as ever. Jarvis is on raffish form throughout, sharing his sweets and celebrating the News of the World’s demise by wiping his arse with it, and by the time Common People brings things to a close, weather woes are long forgotten.

When Dave Grohl declares Foo Fighters’ intention to “play as many songs as possible until they tell us to stop”, it’s assumed to be part of his trademark crowd-pleaser shtick, not a literal plan of action. The set’s two-hour expanse allows for plenty of lesser hits amongst titans like My Hero, and Grohl is, as always, an impeccable host. I’d argue that their generosity bloats a set that might have benefitted from a trim, were I not wary of invoking the scorn of 50,000 evidently-delighted fans, who stick with Grohl doggedly through to the closing Everlong; “You’ve got to promise not to stop when I say when” taking on ironic meaning as their last chord fades into the fireworks.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

three sleeps till third birthday!

we will play:



and you'll bloody well like it


Thursday, 7 July 2011

friendo @ 13th note, 5th july

Neighbourhood Gout open tonight by thrashing and pounding and yelping and hollering all sorts of punk-tuned nonsense about tornados and the end of the universe. Their substantial geek streak (comparing songs to Dragonball Z attacks) makes their out of tune racket all the more endearing, with Sweat Box the clear highlight: imagine an angry Talking Heads covering J Geils Band’s Centerfold for a taste of its unhinged flavour.

Brighton’s Cold Pumas are less instantly enjoyable. Their steadfast formula – motorik beat, reverb-drenched, languid vocals, and guitars clad in consistently-abrasive distortion – is exhilarating, but gains little from repetition, and the set is consequentially prone to diminishing returns.

Calgary’s Friendo have journeyed from even farther afield, as they road test Cold Toads around Europe. The trio are muscling into a niche that’s far from innovative - sugary vocals from Nicole Greedy sit atop fuzzy guitars, echoing Vivian Girls and Best Coast amongst others - but which is nonetheless easy to get swept up in. Moonlighting from Women, Michael Wallace swaps drums for a six-string, leaving rhythm duties, for the most part, to Henry Hsieh – who, just to complicate matters, is usually a guitarist. From this, it seems fair to paint Friendo a holiday of sorts for all involved; certainly, their infectious levity is a world away from Public Strain. But that’s not to label them disposable; safe, perhaps, but certainly enjoyable.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

an indie pop gig for charidee

when not being 50% of bottle rocket, mike is in a couple of bands (the belle hops and the honeymoon period) that you totes should listen to. on the 5th august, there's a two birds/one stone style opportunity to see both perform live as part of 'enchantment under the sea 2'. actually, make that three birds/one stone, because tall tales (formerly the social services) are playing too, and they're great n' all. at four squids, it's cheap as chips, and the dough goes to cancer research uk.

for more information, visit their facebook event page

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

reviews: diva, richard youngs, richard anthony jay

Diva - The Glitter End

Diva - The Glitter End (***)

When Beth Consentino left Pocahaunted to start Best Coast, she revealed she’d never really liked the music made with the former, and was starting afresh with a style that mattered to her: a shift from hypnogogic drone to straight-up guitar-pop about boys. Diva Dompe joined Pocahaunted shortly after Consentino’s departure, but despite being in the band for only a brief time before their split, it’s safe to assume the ex BlackBlack girl doesn’t share Consentino’s distaste for their output.

The Glitter End is Dompe’s first solo record, and it orbits many of the same stars as her previous employers: Andromeda’s Lullaby is as ethereal as its title indicates, while Glow Worm would be the perfect accompaniment to a summer’s day were we to ever experience one. But despite multiple transient pleasures, the glittering whole never quite dazzles, inviting indifference long before its last rotation: promising, if not yet mind-blowing.

Out 25th July

Richard Youngs - Amplifying Host

Richard Youngs - Amplifying Host (****)

Over twenty years and a ton of releases (with scores of self-released CDRs supplementing every widely-released full-length), Richard Youngs has built a solid and diverse body of work that defies easy summation. In a typically contrary gesture, Amplifying Host casts out the electronic pop of predecessor Beyond the Valley of Ultrahits, adopting a wholly dissimilar, more earthy aesthetic.

Young’s incantations cast looping spells that homage conventional folk in the Richard Thomson mould, at the same time as invoking the outsider drones of Jandek (with whom the comparably prolific Young has collaborated on numerous occasions).

Repetition is integral to most tracks here, with Holding on to the Sea demonstrating the mileage Young can wring from a single phrase, the title’s enigmatic poetry swelling with every utterance. The album’s dense weave can be difficult to penetrate on first listen, but in the right frame of mind, Amplifying Host’s idiosyncrasies hypnotise.

Out 18th July

Richard Anthony Jay - Imperfect Beauty

Richard Anthony Jay - Imperfect Beauty (**)

During the recording of Imperfect Beauty, Richard Anthony Jay apparently had “music theory textbooks never far from his side”, which anecdotally indicates both the album’s strengths and its weaknesses. Jay’s classical fusion is precise and impressively composed, qualities that have led to soundtrack appearances and comparisons to Yann Tiersen and Michael Nyman. But there’s also an artificiality to its evocative qualities, which makes the title more accurate than was perhaps intended.

There is something off-puttingly aggrandising about its high-mindedness, with titles referencing dead French photographers and weighty single-word abstractions (Time, Silence). Announcing that The Tailor has “evolved into a short film” sounds impressive, till you realise it’s just another way of saying it’s got a video, while the music is similarly po-faced; all emotive strings and plaintive piano refrains. Max Richter may be the hip name to drop, but Mike Oldfield is perhaps more appropriate.

Out Now

Monday, 4 July 2011

uno! dos! tres!

we're almost three years old! bloomin eck, don't time fly! here are some words from michael designed to convince you that our celebrations are THE place to be on the 16th july...

Happy birthday to us, happy birthday to us, happy birthday dear Bottle Rocket Dancing Club, happy birthday to us.

Yes indeed, this month's BR is a very special third anniversary edition. I say special; it will be pretty much the same mix of indiepop, new wave, soul and postpunk we've all come to know and tolerate. Appropriately however, we share a birthday with fleet-footed Irish-American boogie-meister Michael Flatley (happy 53rd Mick). Come along to Sleazy's and pay tribute to the Lord of the Dance in the way he would want: by getting plastered on white russians and getting your groove on to the likes of David Bowie, Of Montreal, the B-52s and Belle and Sebastian.

11:30PM - 3AM!

Got requests? Facebook wall them. Birthday presents are optional but strongly encouraged by the way. We like cake, preferably with jam and buttercream in the middle thanks.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

dananananaykroyd review the singles!

David and John from Danananaykroyd came over recently to review 12 of July's singles for the skinny, and i recorded their thoughts...

John Baillie Jr: Let's go into it blind…

David Roy: What if we slag off someone we know, though?

Grinderman – Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man (Mute, 27 Jun)

John: He’s well ripping off Queens of the Stone Age.
The Skinny: Funnily enough, there’s a Josh Homme remix on the B-side.
David: Josh Homme was the first person to hear our new album…
John: …and we never heard from him again.
David: Is it pronounced ‘Grindermin’, like a guy’s second name? Like, ‘Alan Grindermin?’ This is rubbish. Seven for Alan Grindermin.

Mr Scruff – Wobble Control (Ninja Tune, 11 Jul)

David: It’s like an episode of Spaced.
John: It’s really dated. It sounds like me when I’m drunk, messing around – he’s actually recorded it.
David: I don’t mind it.
John: I’ll remember that when we’re recording our next album…
David: This is dance music for people who don’t like dance music, and since you do like dance music, you should score this one, John.
John: Two, and that’s generous.
David: I’d give it a ‘wub-wub’ out of ten.

Wild Beasts – Bed of Nails (Domino, 11 Jul)

David: Those drums remind me of Wild Beasts. It is Wild Beasts? These guys are absolute masters of their instruments. I’m not keen on the vocals though.
John: The vocals are my favourite part! He’s got a really good hold on what he can do, which I like, because I haven’t a clue what I’m doing.
David: But the drummer looks like the guy from the Bash Street Kids. That always ruins a band for me.
John: I’d score that high. Seven.

Verse Metrics – Modern Sleep/Oscillations (Self-released, 19 Jul)

John: This reminds me of Fickle Public, and I fucking loved Fickle Public.
David: This would suck if the drummer wasn’t pretty good, but he’s got a groove going there. These guys have clearly grown up listening to Joan of Arc.
John: It doesn’t dynamically take off…
David: This bit’s cool.
John: No, David, this is the shit bit. Six?
David: We’re being too nice, let’s tear someone apart…

Pusha T – My God (Decon Records, 25 Jul)

David: Now there’s a guitar sound you don’t hear every day…
John: What, a trumpet?!
The Skinny: This is Pusha T, better known as fifty per cent of Clipse.
John: He sounds like Kanye. I like southern rappers who sound really southern, like Yelawolf. He’s proper white trash and his whole rap is about, like, stealing couches and shit. He’s so southern you can barely understand what he’s saying.
David: This guy looks like he’s already rich.
John: He’s shit – what has he got to say? Away ye go: One.

Kid Canaveral – And Another Thing!! (Fence Records, 11 Jul)

David: I’m not going to slag off any Scottish bands. It’s very formulaic, but they don’t sound like they’re trying to be too cool. [chorus begins] Oh, that’s nice! I wonder if we know these guys…
John: Fuck them, it’s rubbish.
David: It’s not! That’s a nice chorus! Six, same as Verse Metrics.
John: No way, Verse Metrics was much better!
David: Fine, Five.

Maps of Columbus – Daisy (Too Pure, 11 Jul)

David: I don’t know how anyone could write that chord progression and not think, ‘hang on, I’ve heard that 14 times, yesterday.’ These guys better not be Scottish because this is truly awful; the sort of band you see supporting every band for a year…
John: …and they’re fucking shit.
David: Nobody wants to sound like the bands they grew up listening to anymore. They want to sound like bands that are cool. [Shakes fist] Grrrrrr! I bet they’re really nice guys as well…
John: They’re getting a one.
David: This magazine only comes out in Scotland, right?

Metronomy – The Bay (Because Music, 4 Jul)

David, immediately: Metronomy! See, they’re a great band. You can hear who they’ve been listening to, but they put their own spin on it.
John: It’s like Fleetwood Mac processed by some kind of devil machine.
David: I wouldn’t want to score this above Wild Beasts though.
John: Seven, then.
David: Yeah, it’s not something I’d listen to but I appreciate it. Man, we’re starting to sound like complete fandans…
John: Aye, we’ll slag the next one...

Cee Lo Green – I Want You (Hold On to Love) (Warner, 4 Jul)

John: …No we won’t, this is amazing! Immediately I can get with this. [vocals begin]. Ah, Cee Lo. This guy can sing, by the way, it’s ridiculous.
David: He’s the ‘Forget You’ guy right? Points off for that.
John: Points off?! That’s a great song!
David: It was, until he changed it. It’s like an overdub of an ITV showing of Beverley Hills Cop. I don’t want my music edited by ITV.
John: Did you see that video today of Amy Winehouse in Serbia? I love her. She’s got the most effortlessly amazing voice.
David: And she’s got that tragic side that’s always appealing. Cee Lo needs to get himself some heroin!
John: As he is, I’d give him a six.
David: Yeah, six. An enjoyable song. If it came on the radio, my mum would…
John: …give you a wee kiss?
David: …hoover like there’s no tomorrow!

Amon Tobin – Surge (Ninja Tune, 11 Jul)

David: I’m sensing emotional rain. If this isn’t hip-hop I’ll be disappointed.
John: It’s only got a minute left – this might actually be all it does. This is a single?
David: It’s a BMW advert.
John: Ah, Amon Tobin – I’m kind of surprised. For me, this kind of thing is done better by total freaks. I’m going to give it a three.
David: Yeah, it had some interesting noises.
John: We give it a three, and you think it had some interesting noises? ‘Aye, three, it was alright, eh?’

Glasvegas – Shine like Stars (Columbia, 18 Jul)

David, eyes to the CD player: I remember when you were in a fifties doo-wop band called Glasvegas, ya trumpet.
John: Trumped-up, self-important rubbish. He’s not yodelling enough; I like it when he yodels.
David: It sounds like a bad, Scottish Babylon Zoo. Or, what’s that band, ‘Baby, I’m Ready to Go’? Republica!
John: They recorded this album the same time as we did ours, just up the road in Santa Monica.
David: But we recorded ours in someone’s house, while they were in their studio going ‘Yeah man, make it sound like Republica’. Zero.
John: Ten!
David: No John, we’re making a stand, that’s a zero.


Linkin Park – Iridescent (Warner Bros. Records, 4 Jul)

David: I know who this is. Let’s just say there are a lot of baggy-jeaned morons crying into their ciders. C to F to Am to G: the most emotional of all the chord sequences.
John: This is gonna kick in right?
The Skinny: Something kicks in…
John: Please tell me it’s the rapper!
David: I think only whininess kicks in. I’m getting really angry thinking of blubbering girls weeping as they listen to this. Wait, here we go… [Choir 'kicks in'] Now it’s an anthem.
John: It’s like a baseball game.
David: I’m welling up here. This is the best song I’ve ever heard!
John: By the way, I really like this. This is pumping, it’s getting a Ten.
David: Single of the month!
John: Single of the year!
David: It’s repulsive but it reminds me of a simpler time… It might be the best song I’ve ever heard.

Friday, 1 July 2011

GFT programme note: Incendies

Incendies is out today at the GFT (and if you're reading this somewhere other than Glasgow, it's been on limited release for the last week). It's very good indeed; here's a note blethering why.


Appropriately for a film about the enduring legacy of formative experiences, Incendies opens with one of its most striking sequences. Though we do not yet know the context, the sight of tear-stained, blood-speckled children held still by soldiers while their heads are shaved is an indelible one. As their young faces convey a haunting combination of resignation and fear, Radiohead’s mournful 'You and Whose Army?' beckons 'come on if you think you can take us all on', pre-empting themes of animosity and intolerance. Gradually, one child is singled out from the throng via a close-up of his tattooed heel, the inked skin’s full, terrible meaning yet to be learned. In slow motion, the camera moves to meet the boy’s direct stare. His unflinching gaze appears confrontational and accusatory, until we get close enough to register the moisture in his eyes, signalling not only malignant hate, but a devastatingly deep trauma.

The sequence segues to a record-filled office in Canada, where the central plot is initiated by notary Jean Lebel (Rémy Girard), entrusted with executing the recently-deceased Nawal Marwan’s (Lubna Azabal) last will and testament. Nawal’s twin children Simon (Maxim Gaudette) and Jeanne (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) are cryptically informed that their absent father is still living; furthermore, they have an older brother they previously knew nothing about. Two letters, addressed simply to ‘the son’ and ‘the father’, are presented to the grieving siblings; only when they are delivered will Nawal consent to burial. 'Childhood is a knife stuck in your throat,' their mother’s will continues, 'It can’t be easily removed.' Again, it is only in retrospect that the epitaph yields its full meaning.

Director Denis Villeneuve, adapting (and paring down) Wajdi Mouawad’s three-and-a-half hour stage play, admits that Incendies took him out of his comfort zone. 'The hardest thing was working in a milieu outside my own,' Villeneuve explains in an interview with Sight & Sound. 'I’d been to the Middle East before, but I still felt like a total tourist… I think that’s why I approached the story from the angle of the family: like me, the twins are outsiders in this Arab culture.'[1]

Their journey to the unnamed Middle Eastern country where their mother grew up is told non-chronologically, with scenes alternating between their present-day investigation, and vignettes from Nawal’s tumultuous life. At first, Jeanne and Simon’s discoveries precede their confirmatory flashbacks; later, secrets are revealed first to the audience, and only later to the twins, as the weight of their ancestry threatens to engulf them.

Though the country in question is evidently Lebanon, Villeneuve and Mouawad opt not to state so explicitly. Costa-Gavras employed a similar strategic ambiguity in his 1969 Oscar-winner Z, opening the film by stating 'Any similarity to actual events or persons living or dead is not coincidental. It is DELIBERATE.' Though manifestly a dramatisation of Grigoris Lambrakis’ assassination, the decision to avoid any categorical confirmation arguably broadened Z’s referential range, and, by extension, its political impact. Gavras utilised the technique again in State of Siege (1972) and Missing (1982), which obliquely depicted the 1970 kidnapping of Dan Mitrione in Uruguay, and the disappearance of an American journalist in Pinochet’s Chile respectively. Stamping either with a precise setting, Gavras argued, would render the subject matter local and historical, divorcing it from the here and now of the audience whom he hoped to enlighten and inspire.[2]

In the case of Incendies, the ciphered setting seems less politically motivated, instead indicating the film’s emotional, rather than intellectual, ambitions. To quote from another Radiohead song to feature on the soundtrack, 'while you were making pretty speeches, I’m being cut to shreds': it is not the angry rhetoric of the pulpit, courtroom or government chamber that gives Incendies its formidable power, but the arousal of empathy; not the persuasion of politics, but the immediate, visceral horror of murder, rape and torture. The abstraction also allows Villeneuve to allude to a complex history without risk of lecturing or polemic. By not subjecting the Lebanese civil war to direct analysis, he cannot be accused of failing to parse its vicissitudes. Instead, the film can be emphatically commended for its emotional resonances, of which little can be said here without spoiling the impact of the film’s carefully-ordered succession of grim revelations.

Incendies’ non-linear examination of history’s oppressive residue recalls the work of fellow Canadian Atom Egoyan – like Mouawad, an émigré from the Middle East. For example, Ararat (2002) probed similar themes of diasporic identity and traumatic heritage, and though Incendies’ core trauma is a more intimate event, on a smaller scale than the Armenian genocide, it is no less brutal and upsetting. To return to 'You and Whose Army?' (as the film itself does on multiple occasions), Thom Yorke’s weary admonition 'you forget so easily' has, by the close, been firmly corrected. For those exposed to a war in which buses are torched with their passengers still screaming inside; where orphanages are destroyed and their inhabitants trained to kill; where rape is used as a weapon against prisoners – for the victims, witnesses and perpetrators of such a war, there is no forgetting; nor for the subsequent generation left to contend with wounds both physical and psychological. Instead, the best that can be hoped for is understanding. As one character notes, 'Death is never the end of the story; it always leaves tracks.'

Christopher Buckle
Researcher and freelance writer
University of Glasgow
July 2011

[1] Tom Dawson (2011) ‘Blood Lines: Denis Villeneuve on Incendies’ Sight and Sound, accessed 27 June 2011.

[2] Constantin Gavras ‘Missing’ (1984) in Dan Georgakas and Lenny Rubenstein (eds.) Art, Politics, Cinema: The Cineaste Interviews (Pluto Press, London) p. 392