Wednesday, 31 August 2011

the bronx/ mariachi el bronx @ the garage, 26th august

While it is promotion for Mariachi El Bronx’s recently-released second album that presumably motivates this double-header tour, they’re first up tonight, closing their set at a time when other venues have yet to start tearing ticket stubs. Though nominally the LA punks’ gentler outlet, it proves a false reputation: when Silver or Lead is introduced as “a bit of a rattlesnake”, make no mistake – it’s the bit that bites. Look beyond the charro suits and focus on their smiles: not tongue-in-cheek smirks, but genuine joy. It’s enough to make you wonder if – aye carbumba! – the running order might end up reversed on future tours…

Then the band reappears as The Bronx, and the pecking order is emphatically restored. Shorn of greco getup, Matt Caughthran spearheads an intense sixty minutes, that, though not immune to punk cliché, hits hard. Only Notice of Eviction quells the raucous pace, which peaks when a request for “bodies on bodies on bodies” results in dense waves of crowd-surfers being plucked from the air by harried security. Let’s hope their fans’ enthusiasm doesn’t come back to bite the band – if the going punishment for trying to incite a riot is four years in the slammer, The Bronx are amassing multiple life sentences.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

this new poster is OUT OF THIS WORLD!

this rather lovely design is the work of Dan Burgess. Check his stuff out at:


Monday, 29 August 2011

reviews: ganglians, cant, shimmering stars

Ganglians - Still Living

Ganglians - Still Living (***)

While pleasant, there was a perceptible cooling in attitudes towards Fleet Foxes when Helplessness Blues appeared earlier this year: the traits that first brought them acclaim just seemed too polite to warrant the same enthusiasm a second time. Still Living is less hotly anticipated, but Ganglians win the newly-invented prize for ‘best second album by bearded outdoorsy Americans with a hankering for harmonies’ hands down by keeping the edges rough, even if its unwieldy length makes it dificult to take in with a single sitting.

While the extended duration deadens their impact a mite, individual tracks have a grace and lightness of touch: Jungle’s bouncy Beach Boys gait and Sleep’s electronic flourishes stand out, as does atmospheric lynchpin Bradley, which portions the album in two. Its twelve tracks are more variations on a theme than divergent experiments, but they’ve got a charm that, appropriately enough, gets under the skin.

Out today

CANT - Dreams Come True

CANT - Dreams Come True (****)

Dreams Come True is a collaboration between Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear and George Lewis Jr. of Twin Shadow, and it sounds – hold on to your hats! – like a cross between Grizzly Bear and Twin Shadow. The fusing of their talents may not have produced some alchemic bolt from the blue, but it more than lives up to the high standards set by their respective past pedigree.

By combining the intricate ambition of Veckatimest with hints of Lewis’s nostalgic, electronic brooding, Taylor has birthed a mesmeric jewel of a record, rich with glittering textures. Reportedly written and recorded in a just a week and a half, it sounds like the fruits of more prolonged exertion, with pace and sequence expertly judged. Too good to be eclipsed by Taylor’s day job, this is his Atlas Sound, his Mt. Eerie – a counterpoint that drains the epithet ‘side-project’ of any subtle pejorative.

Out 12th September

Shimmering Stars - Violent Hearts

Shimmering Stars - Violent Hearts (***)

Shimmering Stars arrive to the reverb/Spector/dream-pop party fashionably late, with a record that makes no qualms about lifting hooks from bygone hit parades. Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Wild Nothing are already inside making themselves at home, flicking through the Jesus and Mary Chain vinyl and pouring cocktails, and initially, Violent Hearts doesn’t measure up, a humble wallflower by comparison.

First impressions paint it too slavishly indebted to teen idols of the fifties and sixties, with drum-beats borrowed from The Ronettes and harmonies from Del Shannon. But the trio avoid becoming redundant pastiche or, worse, mere genre roughage (the grey bulk that pads the ranks of any popular style) through sheer sincerity. They nail both indie-disco slow-dance and up-tempo rock n roll, with an average track length around the two minute mark – borrowed nostalgia perhaps, but well observed borrowed-nostalgia, chock full of string bends, echoes and melancholy.

Out 5th September

Sunday, 28 August 2011

interpol @ O2 academy, 23rd august

In case anyone isn’t au fait with Interpol’s recent line-up shifts, tonight’s bass-heavy mix draws all eyes to new face Brad Truax. Replacing David Pajo (who in turn replaced Carlos D), the long-haired Truax stands out a mile in such coiffured company, but musically he slots right in. Yet despite his efforts, the night carries a slight air of disappointment.

It would be convenient to blame a preponderance of new material (most would), but Our Love To Admire and Interpol chip in at least one highlight a piece in the form of Rest My Chemistry and Memory Serves; and besides, when even recent single Barricade doesn’t make the cut, they can hardly be accused of flogging what is, to many, a dead horse of a record.

Conversely, it’s cherished cuts from Turn on the Bright Lights and Antics that struggle most, thanks to wayward tempos. Songs like Slow Hands and Say Hello to the Angles are rushed, a haste likely prompted by their tardy arrival on stage. They still manage to squeeze in nineteen-songs, ending on a magnificent Obstacle 1, but generous quantity can’t disguise an occasionally below-par quality.

Friday, 26 August 2011

GFT programme note: the skin i live in

Pedro Almodovar's latest film is in cinemas today. It's pretty darn excellent, but it's difficult to say much about it without giving away bits of the plot... These notes avoid the big twists, but i reckon you're still better off putting your fingers in your ears and going 'lalalalalala' until after you've seen it. Then come back and read!


Please note that this article contains spoilers.

The Skin I Live In has tied reviewers in knots, as they attempt to engage with its rich thematic melange, whilst diligently refraining from any ‘spoilers’ that could damage appreciation of its serpentine plotting. These notes will maintain this discretion by keeping key revelations veiled, but in order to say anything of substance, some of its mysteries must be partially unpicked. Hence the opening disclaimer: not all films require (or are afforded) such closely-guarded secrecy, but The Skin I Live In’s tale of vengeance is best encountered as cold as possible.

Much has been made of the reunion between director Pedro Almodóvar and erstwhile muse Antonio Banderas, a reunion from which the latter would appear to benefit more. Since the actor first honed his craft in several of the Manchegan’s early films, from Laberinto de Pasiones (Labyrinth of Passion, 1982) to Átame! (Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, 1990), his Hollywood career has wobbled. For every success – whether commercial (the Zorro franchise) or cult (Desperado) – there’s been a costly flop (The 13th Warrior) or a critical whipping (the Spy Kids sequels being a pertinent example, what with a fourth instalment – in scratch and sniff ‘4D’ no less – having entered cinemas almost concurrently with The Skin I Live In). It’s little wonder that, at a Cannes press conference, Banderas described working with Almodóvar again, after more than two decades apart, as a homecoming.

Banderas is not the film’s only link to its director’s past. In fact, few filmmakers are so brazenly self-referential, making Almodóvar perhaps the quintessential modern auteur. Familiar themes – including sexual deviance, shifting identities and family secrets – are sutured to much-discussed external inspirations, ranging from Georges Franju’s Eyes without a Face (1960) to H G Wells’ The Island of Dr Moreau. Both these sets of influences – mad scientists of page and screen, and Almodóvar’s own oeuvre – are explored thoroughly in the September edition of Sight and Sound, in articles by Kim Newman[1] and Paul Julian Smith[2] respectively, and so will not be pored over further here.

For all its continuities, The Skin I Live In manages to take Almodóvar into fresh territory, constituting his first foray into science fiction – though only nominally so. In 2012, Robert Ledgard (Banderas) specialises in transgenic research, splicing animal and human DNA to create heat-resistant synthetic skin – a process not as far-fetched as it might initially appear. Only this month, the Netherlands Forensic Institute reported ‘bulletproof’ skin made from a combination of human epidermis and silk harvested from genetically-engineered goats;[3] while in July, researchers at the Hanover Medical School suggested using more traditionally-sourced spider silk as a base for synthetic skin genesis.[4] Though neither involves human transgenesis, both announcements nonetheless contribute a veneer of scientific plausibility to a plot constantly (and no doubt deliberately) on the cusp of ludicrousness. But, as ever, no single genre can contain Almodóvar’s ideas, resulting in a trans-genre fusion of body-horror, melodrama, psychosexual thriller and more.

The mysterious subject of Ledgard’s experiments is Vera (Elena Anaya), encased in a body stocking and locked in the surgeon’s opulent and remote Toledo home/clinic – a compound that architecturally transplants chrome and glass on to antiquated brickwork. The nature of their relationship – beyond that of test subject and medical researcher – is initially unclear, but repeated shots of insects come laden with metamorphic symbolism, as does a scene in which Ledgard bends wire around the limbs of bonsai trees. Ledgard spies on his patient/prisoner via a giant video display which allows him to look through a dividing wall; penetrating surfaces is, as the title might indicate, a recurring theme. The surveillance screen enlarges Vera’s image, placing her under a microscopic lens to be scrutinised, drawing parallels between the petri dishes in which Ledgard cultivates his revolutionary tissue, and the room in which Vera is confined.

The bioethics of transgenesis are given voice in an early scene in which Ledgard unveils his experiments to the scientific community, asking his peers (and the audience) ‘why not use scientific advances to improve our species?’ A series of tragic plot twists propose a firm counter-argument: such godlike power has the potential to corrupt, not only morally, but biologically. Julian Huxley’s notion of ‘transhumanism’, a term coined in 1927 and subsequently formalised as an ideology by the World Transhumanist Association (WTA), represents the optimistic counter-perspective on such genetic modification. The WTA’s Transhumanist Declaration envisions a technology-led utopia, with bodies bio-engineered to ‘overcome aging, cognitive shortcomings, involuntary suffering’ and more, in order to fulfil humanity’s currently-unrealised potential.[5] Theirs is either a vision of human perfection, or, in the words of Francis Fukuyama, the ‘most dangerous idea on the planet.’[6]

Almodóvar’s master stroke is to take such grand philosophical ideas and make them mere grist for the film’s melodrama. Ledgard’s motives and emotions are difficult to gauge and ambiguous to the end, but it’s safe to say that he is driven not by scientific curiosity alone, but something more painful; as his birth mother puts it, their bloodline carries tragedy in its entrails, with revelations of fraternal conflict, maternal abandonment and paternal wrath underscoring the notion of doomed lineage. Personal passions motivate actions more than academic progress: in The Skin I Live In, lust exerts a greater influence than the desire for knowledge; questions of identity are more pertinent than questions of morality; and blood is thicker than saline.

Christopher Buckle
Researcher and Journalist
University of Glasgow

[1] Kim Newman, ‘The Man with the Scalpel’, Sight and Sound, September 2011, p. 21

[2] Paul Julian Smith, ‘Mark of Identification’, Sight and Sound, September 2011 pp. 23-4

[3] Lynn DeBruin, ‘Utah researcher helps artist make bulletproof skin’, 21 August 2011, accessed at

[4] ‘Artificial Skin – Culturing of Different Skin Cell Lines for Generating an Artificial Skin Substitute on Cross-Weaved Spider Skin Fibres’, PLoS ONE Vol. 6 Issue 7, accessed at

[5] Accessed at

[6] Francis Fukuyama, ‘Transhumanism’, Foreign Policy, 01 September 2004, accessed at

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

august's rather fine playlist!

1. sunset rubdown - mending of the gown
2. comet gain - an arcade from the warm rain that falls
3. arcade fire - ready to start
4. clap your hands say yeah - maniac
5. prince - sign o the times
6. atlas sound - walkabout
7. weezer - el scorcho
8. allo darlin - kiss your lips
9. stephen malkmus and the jicks - tigers
10. british sea power - living is so easy
11. crystal stilts - shake the shackles
12. vampire weekend - holiday
13. elektryczne gitary - kiler
14. beastie boys - intergalactic
15. yacht - distopia
16. the cure - in between days
17. beach fossils - out in the way
18. the animals - we've got to get out of this place
19. xtc - life begins at the hop
20. gang of four - contract
21. the fall - hey luciani
22. the ettes - crown of age
23. sons and daughters - dance me in
24. the magnetic fields - when my boy walks down the street
25. the violent femmes - blister in the sun
26. roxy music - virginia plain
27. jens lekman - an argument with myself
28. paul simon - you can call me al
29. pulp - party hard
30. the felt tips - a life more ordinary
31. belle and sebastian - i'm a cuckoo
32. esg - what she came for
33. talking heads - radio head
34. m83 - midnight city
35. joy division - transmission
36. the strokes - machu pichu
37. the modern lovers - government center
38. the ramones - the kkk took my baby away
39. blondie - sunday girl
40. the primitives - lead me astray
41. css - let's make love and listen to death from above
42. prefab sprout - king of rock and roll
43. haircut 100 - love plus one
44. bruce springsteen - born to run
45. danananaykroyd - reboot
46. pixies - head on
47. dead kennedys - california uber alles
48. earth wind and fire - happy feelin'
49. the bandwagon - breakin' down the walls of heartache
50. dexy's midnight runners - seven days is too long
51. david bowie - suffragette city
52. pete townsend - let my love open the door
53. the clash - wrong un boyo
54. fleetwood mac - little lies
55. heaven 17 -
56. the smiths - the boy with the thorn in his side
57. aztec camera - oblivious
58. bon jovi - you give love a bad name
59. abba - sos
60. the beach boys - do you wanna dance?
61. pulp - babies
62. the bangles - walk like an egyptian


Tuesday, 23 August 2011

chad vangaalen @ captains rest, 18th august

On arrival, Tesla Birds (AKA Steven Kane of Happy Particles) is already sat cross-legged on the floor, hunched over miniature keys like Schroeder made flesh, coaxing all manner of lovely ambience forth in the pale light of a Mac-screen. He’s no one-trick pony either, finishing with a reverb and falsetto-based ballad that transfixes all in attendance.

When Chad VanGaalen wearily confesses “we’re three and a half weeks into the tour now, and we’re so bored” he breaks one of the foremost gig commandments: flatter thy audience. Nurse! Administer a shot of adrenaline post-haste, before his candour is misinterpreted. Suddenly savvy to the potential faux pas, he quickly clarifies by professing love for Glasgow, but he needn’t have worried; the ennui ain’t catching.

Not with music as heart-breaking as solo-uke opener Shave My Pussy, as wistful as Sara and as invigorating as Do Not Fear coming out the speakers. But he’s evidently not one for hyperbole: early on, he jokingly bills the night as nothing but empty promises, while a cover of Here Comes Your Man is introduced with a shrugged, “because we get bored on the road”. The crowd has more than enough enthusiasm to go around tonight, but someone get the poor guy a DS already.

Monday, 22 August 2011

shonen knife @ nice n sleazy, 16 august

Even before a note is played, someone in tonight’s sold out crowd gives voice to the question on many a mind: Isosceles, where have you been? We get no definitive explanation for the hiatus, only the reassurance that it’s nice to have them back. Whatever its cause, the time-out has provided at least one clear benefit: the glut of art-school indie-pop types that swamped Glasgow post-Franz has since thinned, affording Isosceles a renewed freshness, their sound now borderline anachronistic in the best possible sense. Their new-wave-tinged set is flecked with hiccups, but none so distracting that they mar a delightful return.

But, as the band themselves note, they’re hardly tonight’s main attraction. That would be the animated trio unorthodoxly inquiring of Nice 'n' Sleazy, ‘Are you ready to sushi!?’ A large part of Shonen Knife’s appeal stems from the friction between their cutesy surface shtick and the bad-ass punk energy crackling from their amps. The scrappy charm of their earliest recordings is now fully metamorphosed into slick rock n roll, happily divorced from any musical developments out-with their day-glo bubble. Free Time features heavily, but it’s Super Group’s title track that furnishes the night with its highlight; until, that is, an Osaka Ramones encore, which sees them barrel through a trio of songs by Joey and the gang, hopped up, revved up, and ready to go.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

bottle rocket, man

When Princess Diana died, Elton John was moved to re-write Candle in the Wind in her honour.

Now Reg has decided to commemorate a far happier affair: the commencement of bottle rocket dancing club's fourth year!

take it away, Reg:

- - -

"We’ll pack our bags with songs, pre-night,
11:30, till 3:00am
And I’m gonna be druuuuuuunk as a newt by then.
We’ll play Pulp and Heavenly, and then The Knife,
Of Montreal and more.
And drink Red Striiiiiiiiiiiiii-iiiiiiii
​iiiipe till the music ends.

And I think we’re gonna have a dance to Bruce,
And Bowie, Dananananaykroyd too,
At three quid entry, it’s an effen steal,
Oh yes, yes, yes. It’s Bottle Rocket, man."

- - -

Thanks Elton!

*11:30PM - 3:00AM!*

(put your requests on the facebook wall if you have any - we promise rocket man won't actually feature)

Friday, 12 August 2011

jello biafra & the guantanamo school of medicine @ abc2, 9th august

For those fond of syncopated, ultra-taut snare skin, Bronto Skylift deliver; in an unceasingly loud set, Iain Stewart’s forceful fills resound loudest. Despite the early slot, they make sure they’re impossible to ignore, though sometimes it would be nice if the punishing jams levelled out for more than a bar or two at a time – all that rhythmic turbulence is enough to give a listener heartburn.

As is P6’s customary get-up of pig mask, butcher’s apron, and a grimy aura that’s equal parts sleaze, banterful rakishness and theatrical malevolence. While DeSalvo have a habit of wrong-footing the uninitiated, the old-punk network encircling the stalking frontman isn’t shy about making its appreciation known.

It only takes two tracks for Jello Biafra to commence tonight’s numerous between-song micro-lectures, with David Cameron and Vodafone the first under the lens. Later, Utøya, Tottenham and Piers Morgan (the latter labelled “fascist scum”) are wrapped together in his forceful flow, but, as always, any sacrificed nuance is superseded by righteous fury. The Guantanamo School of Medicine back their volatile vanguard expertly, whether storming through their own material (Three Strikes, Electronic Plantation) or cuts from Biafra’s prior glories. Obama-baiting updates keep California Über Alles enduringly punchy, but, as Biafra himself notes with disappointment, it’s the ireful satire of Police Truck that resonates most with the UK’s unfolding headlines. Its surf-rock sting ignites the room, while an encore featuring Holiday in Cambodia sees the indefatigable rabble-rouser miming and gurning to the end.

Monday, 8 August 2011

film review: project nim

this film is excellent - go and see it, but be warned: you may well weep...

In 1967, The Jungle Book’s King Louie sang “an ape like me, can learn to be human too”. Six years later, Professor Herb Terrace indirectly put Louie’s proposal to the test, placing a baby chimpanzee with a New York family in a bid to teach the primate sign language. The ape was named Nim Chimpsky (after the linguist whose hypotheses the experiment was designed to test), and his story, as told in James Marsh’s unorthodox biopic, is poignant enough to open even the rustiest tear duct. Project Nim details the chimp’s tumultuous life using archive material and interviews with the humans to whom he was closest – the result is stylistically similar to Marsh’s previous documentary Man on Wire. Nim’s journey is profoundly moving, beginning with a bohemian Manhattan infancy, through idyllic adolescence as a scientific star, to a heart-breaking return to the enclosure in which he was born; and while his story does not end there, this synopsis will, so as not to spoil its impact.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

dvd review: the adventures of adele blanc-sec

Sold as a Romancing the Stone-style action-adventure pastiche on its cinematic release, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is closer in tone to its compatriot Asterisk films: silly and slapdash, with charm papering over the numerous cracks. The plot’s bewildering ingredients include an escaped Pterodactyl causing havoc in Paris; an elderly physician with miraculous powers; and walking, talking Egyptian mummies with mysterious healing abilities. Somewhere in the middle is the titular heroine (played with the perfect level of sanguine sass by Louise Bourgoin), who conducts disguise-based prison breaks and Pyramid tomb raiding whilst evading police and courters. Director Luc Besson fluffs both pacing and comprehensibility, but the result is so gleefully ludicrous it transcends its shortcomings: The plot is episodic, but all the better to emulate the serials on which it draws inspiration; the effects are ropey, but enhance its light-hearted appeal; and the humour broad, but well played by its game cast. Not extraordinary, then, but worth the time.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

attention! attention!

The Skinny

august's skinny is out now! it has many, many words in it, and i selected and ordered some of em, in the form of the following reviews:

- friendo live review (read here!)
- warm brains - 'old volcanoes' album review (read here!)
- astrid williamson - 'pulse' album review
- blood orange - 'coastal grooves' album review (read here!)
- adam stafford - 'build a harbour immediately' album review (read here!)
- ganglians - 'still living' album review
- the war on drugs - 'slave ambient' album review (read here!)
- moonface - 'organ music not vibraphone like i'd hoped' album review (read here!)
- in a better world film review
- project nim film review
- the extraordinary adventures of adele blanc-sec dvd review

anything not already up on the site should appear, AS IF BY MAGIC, over the coming days and weeks.