Saturday, 3 September 2011

chad vangaalen does the dirty dozen

so i met up with mr vangaalen last month and played him a bunch of songs - the idea being, he'd review them for the skinny's singles column. here's how it turned out!

Coercing Chad VanGaalen into dissecting the month’s singles is no easy task. Not only is he less than thrilled at the prospect of passing judgements from the gut, but there are also sound checks and food orders competing for the amicable Canadian’s time and attention. But with steely determination we plough forward, diving into the promo pile feet-first.

“It’s crazy that you have all these on CD! I haven’t seen a pile like that for years,” he exclaims as we settle into the quiet confines of his tour van and begin. “Sorry in advance if I’m, like, the worst music critic in the world…”

Anna Calvi – Suzanne and I (Domino, 12 Sep)

After moody drums and string bends set the track’s timbre, Calvi muscles in doing her best Shirley Bassey impression.
Chad: Are these guys from here? She sounds Scottish, no? Maybe not…
The Skinny: How does her high drama style sit with your usual tastes?
C: To tell you the truth, I don’t even listen to that much music. I mean, this sounds good – I can understand it – it’s got big production, and it sounds like they spent a lot of money. I like it – it’s definitely not bad.
S: Marks out of ten?
C (after much contemplation): 9.9

Make Sparks – Your Heart’s on Fire (Mountain Halo, 5 Sep)

C, clearly unimpressed: Are all of these going to be indie bands? This is pretty big production as well, but it’s a bit too… orchestrated. It feels horrible to judge though - I don’t know if I feel comfortable with this. I mean, I’ve already forgotten the name of this band, and I’m giving their song 1 out of 10…

Warpaint – Billie Holiday (Rough Trade, 19 Sep)

C, seconds in: Yeah, I like these guys, these guys get 10 out of 10.
S: Do you already know them?
C: No. I mean, I’ve heard of Warpaint but I’ve never heard what they do. But yeah, these guys are good, 10 out of 10. Right, what’s next?

Teeth – Flowers (Moshi Moshi, 5 Sep)

C, barely a minute in, his binary scoring system now locked in place: Yeah, ten out of ten.
S: What is it you like about it?
C: I don’t know, it just sounds good. They sound like they got robots to make the song, but whatever man – you do what you've got to do.

Cymbals Eat Guitars – Keep Me Waiting (Memphis Industries, 12 Sep)

C: Woah! These guys are good. It’s nice that they’ve got a bass player – 10 out of 10. Next!
S: Would I be right in guessing that nothing we’ve heard so far would be the kind of thing you’d usually listen to?
C: Honestly man, I listen to what my daughter tells me to and that’s about it. When I’m at home, I listen to drone music and Abba, seriously. I’m absolutely the wrong person to criticise any band. Especially when you don’t know what motivates someone to do a particular style of music – it’s hard to criticise someone when you don’t know what they’re aiming for. I have no common sense when it comes to that.

Sarabeth Tucek – Smile For No One (Sonic Cathedral, 12 Sep)

C: That better be a real fucking piano, that’s all I can say.
Passing band member: He gets angry when it isn’t a real piano. Then he pisses himself.
C, after careful consideration: Yeah, it seems like everybody knows what they’re doing.
S: That’s pretty faint praise…
C: I guess… OK, 1 out of 10. I think I’ll go full asshole – everyone’s going to hate me.
S: Your scores are all or nothing, full marks or one. Apart from Anna Calvi’s 9.9 that is…
C: Yeah, about that – I’d like to change her score to a ten as well.

Austra – Spellwork (Domino, 5 Sep)

S: Austra are nominated for this year’s Polaris Prize…
C, after a sharp intake of breath: 1 out of 10, we don’t even need to hear them. It’s automatic. (Chad’s been nominated twice without a win, while latest album Diaper Island didn’t make this year’s shortlist) Seriously, I don’t want to hear it!
S: Don’t take it out on Austra…
C: Ok, fine, I’ll hear it… (thirty seconds later) Oh, I like that… I’d vote them down from the Polaris nomination though. They really like their fart-synth sounds. It sounds like British electro. 10 out of 10.

Snow Patrol – Called Out In the Dark (Fiction, 4 Sep)

S, while cueing the track: Are you familiar with this band?
C: I’ve definitely heard of them but I don’t know whether they’re known in Canada really.
The song begins…
C, instantly: No, no, no. No. No, 1 out of 10. His voice, oh man… 1 out of 10, turn it off.

Pusha T feat. Tyler, the Creator – Trouble On My Mind (Decon, 26 Sep)

C, scanning the sleeve: I don’t even want to hear this one, it already gets 10 out of 10. Seriously, I don’t want to fucking hear it, just looking at this picture I know it’s 10 out of 10. He’s there, doing stuff… getting high on jenkem or something (Wikipedia: “a hallucinogenic substance created from fermented human waste”). He’s a jenkem addict, so 10 out of 10.

The Duke Spirit – Surrender (Fiction, 12 Sep)

C, miming and singing bass riff: Bam, be-bam bam - can I give this 1 out of 10, and 10 out of 10 please?
S: Only if you can explain why…
C: But I don’t know why… It’s like, I like that bass line, but maybe I’ve heard it too many times or something. I like it, but maybe, like, Soundgarden did it, and then Nirvana did it, and so on, y’know?
S: So is it a 10 for the bass line and a 1 for everything surrounding the bass line?
C: Precisely.

Martyn – Masks/Viper (Brainfeeder, 19 Sep)

C: This is good, 10 out of 10 again. Actually, this one’s really good. Minimal techno… I like it.
S: If there’d been more of this kind of thing do you think your scores would have been any different?
C: I doubt it – I’ve already given out a lot of 10s…

The Twilight Singers – Blackbird and the Fox (Sub Pop, 5 Sep)

C: This is pretty classy. Yep, 10 out of 10 for this too.
S: Usually it’s easy to identify a single of the month, but you’ve given just about everything full marks…
C: Well, I really liked the Martyn one, but I’m going to go for Warpaint. I like the Martyn one a lot, and can appreciate where it’s coming from, but Warpaint seemed more original. Sorry, I was the worst critic in the world, wasn’t I?

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