Thursday, 31 May 2012

film review: the turin horse

Over two and a half portentous hours, Béla Tarr’s swan-song proves as vexingly enigmatic as his fans no doubt hoped, and his detractors might have feared. As an unnamed man and his daughter persevere wearily with joyless routine, an unspoken apocalypse insidiously creeps in to steal away speech, appetite, even light. The crisp cinematography is stunning; the soundtrack is an evocative loop of haunting post-rock; and every utterance is pregnant with precise, unquestionable purpose – but it’s also exhausting. However, were its sequences trimmed, its ascetic tone softened, or its obscurities given clarity, the potency of its metaphor would be diminished, making it a wholly worthwhile endurance. 

There are echoes of The Sacrifice (the film with which Andrei Tarkovsky concluded his similarly-feted career) in the sparse despair and unfathomable bleakness, lending added poignancy to the quiet desolation at its core: the end of a pioneering filmmaker’s career, mapped onto the end of the world.

In cinemas 1st June

Sunday, 27 May 2012

dvd review: crime or punishment?!?

Take heed of the title’s interrobang: Crime or Punishment?!? is a bewildering creation. In a similar vein to circular, multi-strand narratives like Go or 11:14, writer and director Keralino Sandorovich pins peculiar vignettes around the central story of dejected model Ajame (Riki Narumi), caught shoplifting and sentenced to a day’s community service as chief of police. In the station’s cobwebbed corridors, Ajame becomes entangled in inexplicable bureaucratic webs; to make matters worse, her ex-boyfriend – a serial killer as well as a cop – has been assigned to her command. Elsewhere, inept crooks taser one another and plan a heist, and myriad quirks layer like sediment over its busy 110-minute duration. Yet for all its eccentricities, Kera (as the director is also known) might have benefitted from visitations to even more outré territories, the frenetic tone peaking several notches below, say, Miike at his most manic. Nonetheless, its synthesis of Kafka, screwball comedy, and offbeat thriller, though lightweight, is thoroughly enjoyable.

Out Now

Friday, 25 May 2012


hahaha that's may playlist silly...

1. the sensational alex harvey band - faith healer
2. of montreal - the past is a grotesque animal
3. django django - storm
4. talking heads - this must be the place (naive melody)
5. simple minds - promised you a miracle
6. twin shadow - five seconds
7. the magnetic fields - andrew in drag
8. the beatles - drive my car
9. jackie wilson - baby workout
10. janelle monae - come alive
11. del shannon - runaway
12. dent may - best friend
13. cloud nothings - understand it all
14. team band - your arms around me
15. jay reatard - wounded
16. real estate - it's real
17. yazoo - don't go
18. a sunny day in glasgow - drink drank drunk
19. the shirelles - will you still love me tomorrow?
20. bis - everybody thinks that they're going to get theirs
21. bleached - searching through the past
22. guided by voices - back to the lake
23. sonic youth - purr
24. violent femmes - blister in the sun
25. orange juice - falling and laughing
26. comet gain - strength
27. ?
28. imperial teen - ivanka
29. azaelia banks - jumanji
30. beastie boys -sabotage
31. beastie boys - intergalactic
32. the cure - just like heaven
33. best coast - the only place
34. the go-betweens - spring rain
35. taffy - so long
36. manic street preachers - take the skinheads bowling
37. kate bush - wuthering heights
38. alice cooper - i'm eighteen
39. sparks - beat the clock
40. donna summer - i feel love
41. patti smith - till victory
42. supergrass - caught by the fuzz
43. ash - kung fu
44. adam and the ants - antmusic
45. t rex - jeepster
46. prince - i wanna be your lover
47. the kinks - powerman
48. the angels - my boyfriend's back
49. van morrison - the way young lovers do
50. the clash - rock the casbah
51. the spinto band - oh mandy
52. alphabeat - fascination
53. david bowie and queen - under pressure
54. adam and the ants - stand and deliver
55. presidents of the united states of america - lump
56. manic street preachers - motown junk
57. the smiths - this charming man
58. the four tops - loco in acapulco
59. the skids - working for the yankee dollar
60. paramounts - poison ivy
61. love - my little red book
62. fleetwood mac - everywhere
63. mcalmont and butler - yes
64. the wildhearts - i wanna go where the people go
65. the ramones - blitzkreig bop
66. blondie - denis
67. kirsty maccoll - they don't know

Thursday, 24 May 2012

film review: cafe de flore

 If you're quick, you might still be able to catch this before it exits cinemas.  it's.... alright. 

After a brief sojourn into British period drama with The Young Victoria, Quebecois Jean-Marc Vallée returns home for Café De Flore, and in the process recoups his flair. Vallée juggles parallel plots with dazzling style; though they take place on opposite sides of the Atlantic, forty years apart, there’s a fluidity to their non-linear organisation that very nearly manages to gloss over the incredulity provoked by their climactic intersection. In 60s Paris, Jacqueline (Vanessa Paradis) devotes herself wholly to her son’s happiness and protection; in present-day Montreal, DJ Antoine (Kevin Parent) leaves his wife for a younger woman and frets about the consequences. Vallée interweaves these geographically and temporally disparate lives via audacious editing and a particular emphasis on music’s indelible ability to trigger memory; unfortunately, the overlaps eventually expose a flawed and difficult-to-swallow core, the conclusion’s mystical overtones muffling each individual strand’s emotional impact. But by almost any other yardstick – visually, editorially – Café De Flore is a revelation.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

may skinny

yeah, yeah, i know it's been out for ages...

what's that? you want to know what bits i wrote?  why, this:

- 'noise of summer' - preview of the summer's music festivals (read here!)
- 'q&a: the unusual suspects' - wee q&a interviews to accompany the above article.  written with dave kerr, it features paws, aidan moffat, new order, mastodon, we were promised jetpacks, the pictish trail, mogwai and remember remember (read here!)
- 'the inbetweeners' features - new blood profile of french wives (read here!)
- graham coxon @ the garage live review (read here!)
- butcher boy @ cottiers live review (read here!)
- it hugs back - 'laughing party' album review (read here!)
- taffy - caramel sunset' album review (read here!)
- french wives - 'dream of the inbetween' album review (read here!)
- admiral fallow - 'tree bursts in snow' album review (read here!)
- cafe de flore film review
- crime or punishment?!? dvd review
- lucky luke dvd review (read!)
- griff the invisible dvd review
the other few reviews will be up on the blog later in the month!

Saturday, 19 May 2012




Friday, 18 May 2012

bottle rocket: now with 14% more bottle rocket

 it's stag and dagger tomorrow evening, and as a result bottle rocket will kick off a little earlier than usual. holy mountain finish at 11pm, we begin at 11pm.  how will we fill the extra time??

oh i see.

not really - we'll fill it with a baker's dozen of PARTY.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

errors @ the arches, 11th may

Though he’s appeared on many a bill in one guise or another, tonight is Lewis Cook’s first ‘proper’ Mother Ganga show. He’s off to a solid start: the ex-Yahweh man’s Not Not Fun-ish electronica is warm and wonky, its pop patina ensuring that, despite the early kick-off and yet-to-fill venue, plenty of heads are turned. But it’s up to Mermaids to get punters body-movin’, their dynamic mix covering all bases to build a substantial head of steam. By the time Errors take up instruments, there’s a veritable buzz in the air.

Tonight is the trio’s biggest Scottish gig to date; not for long, we’d wager. The opening run of songs matches Have Some Faith in Magic’s tracklisting and sets a stellar benchmark, the band translating Tusk’s bombast, Magna Encarta’s gently-mutating folds, and Blank Media’s melancholic drift with expert precision.

Though few in number, Steev Livingstone, Simon Ward and a silhouetted James Hamilton whip up a staggeringly big sound, most obviously on a supercharged Mr Milk – in the six years since its release, it's metastasised into an absolute beast, no mistake. But its ‘signature tune’ status is on the wane: with Pleasure Palaces on the scene, other tracks don’t get a look in when it comes to picking highlights. We’d be singing along if we had the first clue as to the words; instead, we dance – it’d be folly to resist.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

noise of summer 2, aka the bit with mastodon, pictish trail, mogwai, aidan moffat...

...and others.

as part of the may issue's festival preview of the summer's festivals, myself and dave kerr (the skinny's music editor) canvassed a bunch of bands to ask where they're going, where they've been, and what goes on in the VIP area...

Aidan Moffat
Which festivals are you playing this year?
Mostly little ones: Long Division, Applecart and we're doing the Mogwai I'll Be Your Mirror thing in London.

Tell us about your best and worst past festival experiences...
When Arab Strap used to do T in the Park, we always had a riot. I never saw any bands because I'd always end up on the waltzers at the fair with a handful of pills and a bottle of poppers. Good times!

And a secret about the VIP area?
It's mostly full of cunts.

Dream festival?
Heaven, Dusty Springfield, Otis Reading, John Peel compering…

Philip Taylor (PAWS)
Where are you playing?
We are really excited about The Great Escape. We played a show for Vice in Brighton at the end of March and had a total blast. It was our first time in Brighton and the whole town is awesome. It felt nice to be by the sea and everyone was so chilled. We are playing three shows at Great Escape and I am very excited about playing on the end of Brighton Pier.

Tell us a secret about the VIP area...
It's just a bunch of portakabins filled with drunk people.

There are festivals pretty much every weekend of the summer nowadays – golden age or overkill?
There are so many. Some of the big ones are so overbearing now that people are creating alternatives. I think it's a good thing. People are just starting small festivals all over the place, ultimately creating new platforms.

Johnny Lynch (The Pictish Trail)
Which are you playing?
Just played our own Eye O' the Dug, and now I've got Knockengorroch, Away Game, The Green Man Festival and End of The Road to look forward to. I think there's one called the Imploding Inevitable festival as well. We're thinking about doing another Fence bash in the East Neuk, but it might end up just being a piss up down the pub. WHO AM I KIDDING? Of course it will.

Best/worst past experiences?
The best always seems to involve The Flaming Lips and acid – a very good combo, and worth multiple attempts. The worst was holding in a jobby for four days cos I couldn't face the festival toilets.  Although the relief felt at the first service station on the journey home was up there amongst my best festival experiences.

Tell us a secret about the VIP area...
Clean toilets. Free beer. Naked women. Naked men. Drugs. It's where you can meet your heroes, and thoroughly embarrass yourself. I've accidentally harangued Thom Yorke, danced like a twat in front of Jarvis Cocker, and done the congo with Noel Gallagher. That's nothing, though. Kenny's brother once chatted up the tranny out of Hercules and Love Affair. Great days.

Go on, give us a peek at the Away Game line-up…
No.  I've given the exclusive to Topman Skinny Jeans in association Clash Magazine for a BBC 5Live podcast. Sponsored by Carling. It's going to be simulcast on Newsnight Scotland.

Darren Lackie (We Were Promised Jetpacks)
Where are you playing?
At the moment we're in Los Angeles having just played the first weekend of Coachella! There're also a lot of European festivals coming up over the summer, all of which have names I can't remember how to spell or pronounce.

Tell us a secret about the VIP/ backstage area...
Most of the time, it's a cold portakabin.

Dream festival?
Location: the roof garden outside my flat – I'd like to roll out of my bed and straight to the stage and back into my bed straight after. Bands: Explosions in the Sky, Dr. Dre and Snoop, Bear Hands – a nice small festival.

There are festivals every other weekend now: golden age or overkill?
It gives people more options. Some of the bigger festivals seem to have just turned into a big piss-up and people don't really care about the bands playing, so having a lot of smaller festivals with up and coming bands for people who want to avoid that sort of thing is good.

Stephen Morris (New Order)
Where are you playing?
Oh bloody hell... T in the Park, Sonar, Summersonic in Japan, a festival in Serbia, another in Italy… quite a lot! Can't remember them all, but I do like the element of surprise; you don’t want to lose that.

 Do you remember your first?
I do, it was Buxton, 1973. Hells Angels took the festival over and drank it dry. You had Chuck Berry and Alex Harvey playing – he was absolutely fantastic. Edgar Broughton was on. Wizzard were supposed to be on as well but they didn’t like it because it was raining.

Tell us a secret about the VIP area...
It’s bloody boring. Gillian [Gilbert, Stephen's wife and keyboardist in New Order] is good at it, but I always feel very insecure because I don’t know who half these people are. I can’t do names and faces, but she’s always going ‘d’you know who that was?’ I don’t know why she bothers, because I don’t. That makes me feel even more insecure, so I just go and sit in a shed on me own.

You’re in the Slam Tent as a punter, Blue Monday comes on: what do you do?
Think ‘oh, brilliant!’ We went on a boat trip in Australia recently and someone decided to play it on vinyl, which wasn't a good idea on a boat. That was quite amusing – everybody still tried to dance while it scratched and went ‘wrrrrreeekawhrrrrrt!’

Bill Kelliher (Mastodon)
Where are you playing?
Honestly dude, I don’t really know what we’re doing. To me, it’s like I’m going to Europe for the festivals this summer, [and] it’s all mashed up together to my old ass. I know we’re doing Reading and Leeds, which is pretty huge. Download snubbed us this year. There’s a couple we’re playing with Metallica… but let’s just say I’m looking forward to them all.

Do you recall your first as a punter?
We didn’t really have many festivals in the States when I was a kid. We had Lollapalooza, that’s the first festival I ever went to, me and the wife used to go. I remember taking a bunch of liquid acid with her in '92 when Ministry were there playing on the Psalm 69 tour, one of the only times we ever tripped together.
We drove from my home in New York to Saratoga, about an hour away. When we got there, she, being the pretty girl that she is, asked some guy if she could borrow his ticket so she could get into the standing room. She snuck it to me through the fence, I grabbed it and went in; we ran up to the very front and as soon as we got there the barricade broke down and everyone came running up front. I just remember tripping hard, watching Al Jourgensen roar ‘SO WHAAT’. Those fucking songs, pounding into my skull. Two drummers, all those samples and some super heavy metal guitar player just going crazy. It’s a very vivid memory of mine. Really incredible. Back then, Lollapalooza was pretty much the only festival. You’d get to see Grateful Dead and stuff like that, but I was never into the hippy festivals – peace, love and all that horseshit.  

Tell us a secret about the VIP area...
There is no secret, it’s pretty boring. Just a bunch of dweebs waiting to play. Nothing too crazy: maybe a couple of sit-ups going on, a couple beers happening, some red bull and vodkas, some drummers warming up. It’s quite lame really; we’re not like Mötley Crüe back in the 80s. Bands just aren’t like that anymore, man. There’s a lot of hockey-watching going on. I’m not a big fan, but that’s the common denominator.

You’re possibly the heaviest band in T’s 18 year history, sharing a bill with Snow Patrol and Cher Lloyd… What advice do you have for the uninitiated?
That’s something to be proud of, that’s cool. They’re gonna hate us if they’re into that kinda shit. I would say bring some earplugs and a good book to read while we play.

Graeme Ronald (Remember Remember)
Where are you playing?
We’ll be playing The Insider festival in Aviemore, and Òran Mór for the last night of the West End Festival.

Will you take the opportunity to catch others on the bills?
Absolutely. Not many of the acts have been announced yet for The Insider, but I'm excited about the Optimo Espacio Presents stuff.

Best/worst aspects of festivals?
Being a little wimp geek, I hate camping. When All Tomorrow's Parties came along I finally found a festival I could enjoy, with the whole camping element removed. They should all be like that!

Tell us a secret about the VIP area...
There's NO coke or hookers, anywhere.

Barry Burns (Mogwai)
Where are you playing?
We're only playing IBYM festival in England, so far. After last year's ridiculous tour schedule, we are kind of taking it easy on the touring front apart from a bunch of Canada/US/Mexico and South American dates.

Will you take the opportunity to catch others on the bill?
Definitely. The bill for the whole thing looks great but especially our day with Codeine, Soft Moon, Antoni Maiovvi, Chavez and Floor. Too good.

Best and worst aspects/past experiences of festivals? 
The best thing is meeting all your friends in bands or music industry folk that you rarely see, plus we've had some of our best gigs at festivals in Spain and Japan. The worst thing is probably that a lot of people don't really see it as a gig (myself included sometimes) so it can be a bit odd. Music to me is best enjoyed indoors and many festivals are outside. The food is usually garbage bag or a dare.

Tell us a secret about the VIP area...
Vastly overrated area. They should, in fact, rename it the VOA. Apart from the abundance of actual seats, it's not so great. We've behaved rather badly in the past but we're a bit older now... (that's an Olympic-grade non-sequitur).

There are festivals pretty much every weekend of the summer nowadays – golden age or overkill? 
I remember when UK festivals had quite an assortment of bands that a varied demographic would attend but now it seems like most of them have become for people who like festival 'events' rather than people who like music. The selection is often nothing short of heinous but I think that's why ATP, Supersonic and other smaller festivals have popped up. You could say that the Leeds, Reading et al were like the Emerson, Lake and Palmer and then ATP et al are the punk movement, but you'd sound a bit daft if you said that. Jus' sayin'.

Headliners along with Slayer at ATP: IBYM  a match made (south of) heaven? At least some of the band are fans, aren't they...? 
I think Slayer will be very entertaining. I doubt I could tell you one of their song names right enough... I think Dom might enjoy it but most likely we all will.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

noise of summer: uk festivals 2012

Recent tourist board adverts have set out a persuasive argument for holidaying at home this year. “Where are the passports?” blusters a harried family man, rummaging wildly while Stephen Fry sips tea and scoffs from the side-lines. “It’s just not worth it you know?” sighs Melchett, with what seems a quite unreasonable level of disdain. In 2012, it seems, the very idea of travelling beyond our isles marks you out as a turncoat loon. “Green and pleasant land sums it up pretty well I think,” chips in Julie Walters from a country village so picturesque it might as well be a green-screened Pandora, while a ginger wizard jogs the chilly coasts of Anglesey with a rigor grin. Later, Rupert Grint proves himself a thespian of the highest calibre by delivering the line “and why go all the way to Bondi, when you can come here, to Bridlington!” without rolling his eyes even a little. National pride has never seemed so strained.

Yet there’s something missing from this rosy tableaux. When Fry crows of the “many events, all around the country” we have to look forward to, he’s referring to jubilee street parties and gargantuan sports days. But there are other reasons to take a stay-cation – to make pilgrimage to destinations where the miniature flag waving is optional and the sport more peripheral. We’re referring, or course, to the smorgasbord of music festivals stretching from now to… well, it’s not so much a summer-bound ‘season’ nowadays, more a never-ending succession of shindigs big and small: from city-set multi-pass events to middle-of-nowhere mud-baths; goliath bacchanalian weekends to more modest single day jamborees; tried and tested stalwarts, to the worth-a-punt newbies vying for your patronage. Our guide, it goes without saying, can’t accommodate them all – there’s a lot of ground to cover...


Even as recently as a decade ago, festival previews were a simpler affair, dominated by a handful of big names. In Scotland, the biggest was, and remains, T in the Park (6-8 July), which, in its 18th year, shows no signs of relinquishing top dog status. Saturday night headliners The Stone Roses have probably shifted more tickets than any other act this year, while reliable field-fillers Snow Patrol and Kasabian take top billing either side of the Manc resurrection. But while it’s business-as-usual in the upper echelons, the rest of the early announcements are a bewildering mix. Cher Lloyd, Mastodon and Simple Minds make unlikely bedfellows, but while cynics might cry ‘identity crisis’, others will throw themselves wholeheartedly into the eclectic array. With New Order, Florence & the Machine and, er, David Guetta also booked, organiser Geoff Ellis proves once again that few can match T for scale; our dance cards, meanwhile, have reservations pencilled in for Brian Jonestown Massacre, Orbital, and, assuming we’re drunk enough, The Darkness.

Since 2006, RockNess (8-10 June) has been T’s plucky pretender; though a fraction of the size, it frequently scores highly for both its atmosphere and stunning loch-side location. As in previous years, great swathes of the bill can be separated into two camps: broad-appeal dance and chart-friendly indie/rock, with Deadmau5, Justice and Mylo on one side, Biffy Clyro, Mumford & Sons and The Drums on the other. Our eyes are drawn to Hudson Mohawke, The Rapture and Chic – three somewhat different acts with a shared knack for persuading crowds to cut loose. A comedy selection topped by Tim Minchin, meanwhile, tenders mirthful alternatives to all that blooming loud music.

With Scotland’s two tent-pole fixtures addressed, we turn our attention to other home-grown offerings. For those priced out of T, charity-do  The Big Stooshie in Fife (4-6 May) features tributes to two of its headliners, with The Complete Stone Roses and Kazabian playing alongside James, Glasvegas and The Damned. On the same weekend, Aberdeen’s The Big Beach Ball (6 May) has put together a dance-heavy bill, with Derrick Carter, Mungo’s Hifi and Friendly Fires DJs amongst those dropping beats. There’s a midnight curfew, but if you’ve got the stamina, after-parties throughout the Granite City will keep things bouncing into the wee small hours.

Also this month is Brew at the Bog (5 May), hosted by beloved brewery Brewdog, who’ll be pitching tents and pouring pints on a farm just outside Inverness. The first half of their 'New Music, New Beer' promise is fulfilled by a line-up including Over the Wall, Washington Irving and Three Blind Wolves, while the latter half will be enforced by a ‘no alcohol unless it’s Brewdog’ decree.  A fortnight later in Glasgow, Stag and Dagger (19 May) takes over a bunch of the city’s venues to serve up a stellar platter including our frankly terrifying current cover stars Death Grips, flanked by The Phantom Band and Django Django. Moving into June, Kilmarnock hosts a Dirty Weekender (1-3 June) headlined by We Were Promised Jetpacks, Bombskare and The LaFontaines, with Carnivores, A Fight You Can’t Win, and former Inspiral Carpets member Tom Hingley also due to perform.

Less orthodox is The Insider Olympiad (15-17 June), which hosts an alt-Olympics in the forests of Aviemore. There’ll be fewer record-breaking displays of human endurance than the London boondoggle, but a better soundtrack: Remember Remember, Meursault, Dead Man’s Waltz, plus an Optimo stage take-over featuring Den Haan and Organs of Love. Sports-wise, they’ve scheduled a never-ending relay, tug-of-war contest, an egg and spoon race, and plenty more besides: champion. Should the ‘sport/music’ synthesis tickle your fancy, there’s also Downhill Downtown (9-10 June), which brings King Creosote, Admiral Fallow, Los Phantos and a whole lot of mountain bikes to the Nevis Centre in Fort William.

Less physically demanding is Solas (22-24 June), in Wiston by Biggar, which will stage debates and a late-night film club (in which they’ll flagrantly break the first two rules of Fight Club), alongside the expected musical attractions. Its theme this year is ‘Fields in Motion’ – a phrase adapted from a Bruce Cockburn lyric, and the basis of a specially-commissioned poem by Padraig O’Tuama. Does V festival have a specially-commissioned poem? No it does not. Music bookings include Admiral Fallow and Washington Irving – both of which are also slated for Heb Celt (11-14 July) a fortnight later: a four day folk-fest on Stornoway, with The Proclaimers, The Waterboys and Roddy Woomble earning the big font.

The island-hopping continues the following week, when Fence reacquaint themselves with Eigg for Away Game (20-22 July). After its 2010 debut sold out in minutes, this year’s tickets were doled out via a lottery, making it one of the most hotly anticipated events on the calendar. As per usual, the line-up is all very hush-hush, but we’d hazard a guess at a familiar face or two cropping up. Meanwhile, in East Kirkcarswell, Wickerman (20-21 July) has Scissor Sisters, Texas and The View pegged as headliners, with Human Don’t Be Angry, United Fruit and Martin John Henry putting meat to the bill’s bones; all that, and a ruddy great ceremonial fire. Over at Scone Palace, Rewind Scotland (21-22 July) offers the summer’s most boldly retro line-up, with Adam Ant, ABC, Altered Images – plus plenty of acts from elsewhere in the alphabet – generating a nostalgia extravaganza. Continuing in a stately home vein, Kelburn Garden Party (30 June-1 July) invites Them Phantoms, Miaoux Miaoux and Hidden Masters to the grounds of its colourful castle for another edition of a much-loved soiree.

Entering August, Belladrum Tartan Heart (3-4 August) offers Travis, Slow Club and Frightened Rabbit, with plenty more to be announced. The FRabbits were forced to cancel last year’s appearance due to US touring commitments, but are ready to make good on the promise-to-play this time around – what nice boys. Finally, Doune the Rabbit Hole (24-26 August) moves site this year, setting its moniker geographically askew, but promising something pretty unique. Upping sticks from its former home in Doune, they’ve secured Duncarron Fort – the replica medieval village under construction near Stirling – as replacement venue. The line-up is an expansive survey of predominantly Scottish talent, with the by now ubiquitous Phantom posse ensuring there's no way you'll miss them this summer, alongside Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat, Withered Hand, Sparrow and the Workshop and Holy Mountain. All worth storming the ramparts for.


So that’s Scotland in a nutshell, but there are plenty more festivals reachable without a passport (for the time being at least). Should Stag and Dagger whet your appetite for urban festivalling, Brighton’s The Great Escape (10-12 May) supplies opportunity to gorge. 300 bands in 30 venues is far too much to take in here, so we’ll just plug our own slice of the action, with The Skinny and the Scottish Music Industry Association putting on a showcase of PAWs, Admiral Fallow and Bwani Junction. Read about the other 99% over at

While it’s a shame Guided By Voices bailed, All Tomorrow’s Parties: I’ll Be Your Mirror (25-27 May) remains one of the year’s most interesting line-ups: Wells & Moffat, Wolves in the Throne Room, Death Grips, Dirty Three, Mudhoney… and that’s before we broach the headliners: Mogwai, The Afghan Whigs and Slayer, performing Reign in Blood in its entirety.

If that’s not heavy enough, Download (8-10 June) once again takes residency of rock mecca Donington Castle: Metallica (performing The Black Album), Black Sabbath and The Prodigy sit atop a bill of punk (NOFX), metal (Megadeth), and other genres guaranteed to startle your gran. Take her to Hop Farm (29 June-1 July) instead, which boasts exclusive appearances from Bob Dylan and Peter Gabriel, alongside fellow old-timers like Patti Smith, The Stranglers and Joan Armatrading. Later in the year, spin-off event A Day at the Hop (8 September) lands another UK exclusive in the distinguished form of Leonard Cohen; in fact, if you prefer headliners with a few miles on the clock, you’re spoilt for choice, with Green Man (17-19 August) topped by Van Morrison and Bestival (6-9 September) by Stevie Wonder (Feist, The Walkmen, and Of Montreal help fill out the former’s stages; The XX, Sigur Ros and Roots Manuva the latter’s).

Veteran double-header Reading and Leeds (24-26 August) proffer The Cure, Kasabian and Foo Fighters across three days and two sites, but it’s the de-mothballed At the Drive-In and The Shins that stand out most. Elsewhere in their respective arenas, the Lock-Up has assembled a solid selection of punk sorts, topped by Less Than Jake and Social Distortion. At the other end of the scale, both musically and size-wise, is Indietracks (6-8 July), which unites the complementary worlds of indie-pop and locomotives by setting up shop beside a railway station in Derbyshire, and bringing Veronica Falls, Allo Darlin and The Monochrome Set along for the journey.

And if you can’t find something that appeals amongst that lot, there’s always surfing in Bridlington – we hear the water’s lovely.

feature written for the skinny

Monday, 14 May 2012

perfume genius @ captains rest, 8th may

Cate Le Bon has a clarification to make: contrary to received Twitter wisdom, she is neither German, nor a Viking. We don’t know the context to these misattributions, but we’d guess the former stems from her bewitching vocal style; while Welsh vowels make her real home unmistakable, there’s something in her pitch reminiscent of Nico, albeit with the Warhol icon’s austerity replaced by genteel warmth and a fine-line in lightly-weird alt-folk. Nae idea about the Viking reference, though…

Mike Hadreas of Perfume Genius is a somewhat more reserved stage presence. Flanked by two additional musicians tonight, he has little to say between songs (“I mean, I’m happy to be here, I just don’t have any anecdotes” he endearingly explains after one abandoned attempt at audience interaction), but everything to say within them. Listening to such nakedly exposed song-writing feels almost voyeuristic, with the performance’s air of intimacy emphasised by pin-drop stillness from the crowd.

The only exceptions to the silence come when members of the congregation pipe up and quietly join in – an innocuous act that takes on vulgar shades when the sing-alongs involve such hauntingly personal confessionals as Dark Parts’ abuse-narrative. Of course, to label such quiet murmurings ‘vulgar’ is ludicrously over-sensitive, but heightened emotions are precisely Perfume Genius’s forte; that we spot more than one fan dabbing away tears comes as no surprise.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

bottle rocket?


WHEN 2: 11:30PM – 3:00AM

As per usual, requests belong on the facebook wall!

Friday, 11 May 2012

dvd review: an island

French filmmaker Vincent Moon specialises in unorthodox music flicks, but An Island is more unorthodox than most. The titular location is Als, the small Danish island on which Mads, Caspar and Rasmus of Efterklang grew up. The film, an ode to both band and homeland, opens quietly, with gentle waters breaking on a fishing boat’s hull, the waves and engine rumbles growing louder as it approaches shore.

On arrival, the band strike masonry and farming equipment, exploring their environment via sounds and textures. Rain drips into cupped hands; feet squelch in muddy fields – we are treated to ten minutes of such ‘music’ before a single instrument is unpacked. When they are, Efterklang reshape tracks from third album Magic Chairs in fresh ways, in locations ranging from remote woodland, to the school which Mads and Rasmus once attended.

While offered under a Creative Commons licence that permits not-for-profit copying and distribution of the film on the condition that you credit the creators, this limited edition physical release is desirable beyond its digital contents. From its exquisite hand-printed case and postcard art, to an hour of extras that extend the band’s musical experiments with outtakes and more, this is a beguiling film, presented beautifully.

Out Now at

Thursday, 10 May 2012

holy mountain, happy particles, body parts @ mono, 5th may

Raising a middle-finger to genre cohesion, Holy Mountain have invited two none-more-different supports to help launch Earth Measures. We don’t know much about Body Parts, but first impressions are favourable: sweet vocal harmonies plus guitar, violin and fluttering handclaps, with shades of First Aid Kit, a scattering of Tune-Yards and an ingenuously relaxed stage presence that goes a long way towards breaking through the room’s chitchat..

Outside, the night sky apparently hosts a ‘supermoon’ tonight; the phenomenon where the moon orbits closer to the Earth, and consequently appears brighter and bigger. For those fond of gazing skywards, we can’t think of a better soundtrack than Happy Particles' musica universalis. Steven Kane’s celestial falsetto holds attentions tight as the band float through sedately-paced selections from lustrous debut Under Sleeping Waves; utterly at odds with the sludgy barrage that follows, but brilliantly so.

From the divine to the ridiculously heavy, as Holy Mountain kick out jams straddling the vintage and the envelope-pushing. The trio know when to exert moderation and when to cut loose; coiling tight then releasing the tension in wild displays of abandon. Like Body Parts (who concluded with their take on JLS’s Beat Again), Holy Mountain close with a cover, but not one you could accuse of irony. Their faithfully-heavy War Pigs is a powerhouse marathon, signing the night off with a forceful dose of drama. Oh lord yeah.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

reviews: french wives, admiral fallow, taffy

French Wives - Dream of the Inbetween (****)

Glasgow five-piece French Wives describe Dreams of the Inbetween as “finally sounding how we always wanted to sound.” It’s how we want them to sound too: big and bold one minute, quietly coaxing you closer the next. They’ve taken their time getting to this point, but the patience has paid off, their increased confidence most apparent on the two re-recordings to make the album: Halloween cuts to the chase quicker, and consequently brings a greater impact; while Me Vs. Me slows a beat, slices off the ending, and surrenders its choppiness to unlock the song’s previously-compromised potential.

Throughout, tracks mesh satisfyingly, with motifs weaving through the record: The Inbetween, for instance, picks up on the melodies of preceding track Back Breaker while simultaneously foreshadowing Younger’s refrain, creating a rewarding sense of cohesion. Elsewhere in the same song, Stuart Dougan sings “it’s not a masterpiece / you will discover this.” Perhaps not, but it’ll do nicely.

Out Now

Admiral Fallow - Tree Bursts in Snow (***)

Admiral Fallow are a success story to warm the most jaded of hearts, their measured ascent possessing the kind of slow-burn, grass-roots momentum that can’t help but cheer those observing from below. Tree Bursts in Snow is a safely (but assuredly) judged next step, with a bid for the major leagues polish that ingrains some pedestrian elements, but otherwise brings out the best in them.

Louis’s lyrics continue to embrace a populist sentiment built for communal choruses, with The Way You Were Raised, for instance, anthemic in both message (onwards and upwards) and delivery (Springsteen via Auld Reekie). Elsewhere, key words include ‘conquer’ and ‘courage’, suggesting a band unafraid of aspirational urges. Musical affinities with Frightened Rabbit remain, and there’s a strong chance that the oft-remarked-upon stylistic comparisons will translate into similarities in success. When you consider the FRabbits’ profile leap from Sing the Greys to Midnight Organ Fight, Admiral Fallow’s triumphs seem set to snowball.

Out 21st May

Taffy - Caramel Sunset

Taffy - Caramel Sunset (***)

In the UK, Britpop’s spectre – not Pulp or Blur, but the bread and butter bands that once padded out Shine compilations – has kept a penitently low profile of late, with recent home-grown nostalgia hits chiefly inspired by the shoegazing late-eighties or alt-rock early-nineties (not that we’re complaining – the appeal of fuzzy guitars and sugary choruses of any vintage is ever-strong round our way).

Japan’s Taffy, by comparison, have a crush on the period’s produce and no qualms about showing it, creating an album with instant appeal that suggests it sometimes takes an outside perspective to pinpoint what makes a genre click. They pay particular tribute to female-fronted acts like Sleeper and Echobelly, with the chords of opener Between making a slight return to It Girl aesthetics, while So Long rinses great things in Iris’s candied vocals. Punkas at heart, Taffy are retrograde and proud; old-fashioned yet, somehow, never passé.

Out Now

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

french wives: the inbetweeners

Fifteen months in the making, French Wives release their debut Dream of the Inbetween later this month. “I’m sure the thought’s crossed all our minds already,” ponders frontman Stuart Dougan. “‘What if people don’t like it…?’”
French Wives formed nearly four years ago, when founding duo Stuart Dougan (vocals, guitars) and Scott MacPherson (guitars, vocals) met online. “It’s pretty embarrassing really,” winces Stuart of their MySpace-indebted roots. “We should just say we met in Sleazy's – everyone else does…”
The rest of the band – Chris Barclay (bass), Jonny Smith (drums) and Siobhan Anderson (violin, vocals) – were recruited through friends, and before long they were whipping up emotionally-charged indie-pop and gigging their way round Glasgow; a pretty straightforward origin story by all accounts. “I really wanted to say that we all had the same mother,” suggests Scott when asked if they’ve ever been tempted to embellish the story with lies, but Stuart displays stronger scruples. “I think we have given some nonsense versions in the past,” he says, “but generally we tell the truth.” While honesty is an admirable trait, it has its risks. “I don’t think any of us would have joined if we’d known at the time that you two met on MySpace…” deadpans Chris; Siobhan and Jonny nod their heads unsmilingly.

'I wish I had started younger,' goes the refrain of French Wives’ latest single, but when it comes to recording and releasing their debut album, quite the opposite is true. “For a couple of years, someone from Electric Honey had been in touch about putting out an album, but it never really happened,” explains Stuart. “And to be honest, we weren’t really in a position to do it before – we just felt we weren’t at that stage yet. Maybe in different circumstances we would have, but it wouldn’t have been as good as the one we have now, so I’m glad we waited.” When Electric Honey made enquiries again last year, the band decided they were ready to take the plunge, but rather than rely wholly upon existing material, they holed themselves away and wrote “Like we’d never written before,” as Scott puts it. “I think in those few months, our song-writing stepped up a level,” agrees Stuart.

The result, Dreams of the Inbetween, was produced by Tony Doogan, known for his work with Belle and Sebastian and Mogwai amongst others. “We made a short list of all the producers we wanted to work with, and he was near the top, but we never actually thought he’d do it,” says Scott. “I think it helped that he was a proper grown-up – generally speaking, if he made a suggestion, we listened to it. Whereas if it had been someone our age, we might have been a bit like, ‘naw, shut it’.”

“The guy’s a genius,” Stuart enthuses. “We’d play a song through, then sit and talk about it for two hours – to have someone like that talking you through your songs was really amazing.” Frustratingly, ‘administrative issues’ (“mostly on our part,” they’re quick to add) forced the studio sessions to a halt just one week in, leaving the band to unblock funding delays then reschedule wherever Doogan’s diary permitted. Gradually, over three or four sessions spread over twice as many months, the album took shape, guided along by their straight-talking producer. “I think it’s easy to surround yourself with ‘yes men’ when you’re recording your first album,” reckons Stuart, “whereas Tony is the absolute ultimate ‘no man’."

"You quickly learn that if Tony’s suggesting cutting out a big section of your song, that’s probably because it’s not very good.” Siobhan likens him to a strict teacher you don’t want to get on the wrong side of. “Oh definitely, you want to keep him happy,” agrees Stuart. “He came to see us live for the first time last week and said, ‘that was pretty good’. That’s really high praise from him!” Doogan’s input extended beyond his musical input. “Because we’re, as he puts it, ‘a little bit green’, it was quite good just chatting to him about the music industry in general,” says Stuart. “To be honest, we probably took so long recording because we kept asking him to tell more Belle and Sebastian stories...”

Only two previously released tracks – Me Vs. Me and Halloween – made their way on to the album, both in significantly re-worked recordings. “They both changed quite a lot,” nods Scott – a metamorphosis that necessitated a painful, but rewarding, letting-go. But the results, they insist, are far more faithful to their original intentions, the band “finally sounding how we want to sound,” in Stuart’s words. “We knew how we should sound, but didn’t know how, which is where Tony came in. Some people that have heard the album, if they have been quite attached to the old versions, don’t think the new ones are as good, but it would have been petty to make an album with this great producer, who’s been helping you with all your other songs, and then go, ‘oh no, not this one, we know better about this one, this one’s fine’”. Not everyone’s ready to say goodbye to the earlier versions (“My mum was gutted when she heard the new Halloween for the first time…” chips in Chris), but then again, we suggest, ‘preferring the early work’ scores instant indie points… “Aye, folk will be like, ‘I prefer the one with the hiss on it,’” laughs Scott. “‘The longer version with crap vocals, that’s my favourite…’” counters Stuart.

Earlier this year, French Wives came fourth in the inaugural Blog Sound of 2012 poll, positioned as an alternative to the BBC’s annual list. That must have felt pretty good? “The blog thing was really unexpected,” says Scott. “We didn’t even know it was running, to be honest, until we made the long-list, and when they said we were in the top 5 as well, it was a bit of a shock, because all the bands are quite big: Theme Park are doing well, Friends are doing well, and Beth Jeans Houghton, and Daughter, and then… us? They’re all much bigger names, so it was nice to be included in their company.”

“We’ve always had pretty good blog support,” considers Stuart. “There’re a lot in Glasgow especially who’ve been really positive about us and really stuck by us. We’re a really independent band – we don’t have any management, even the deal with Electric Honey is not a conventional record deal – so it can be hard to reach big press outlets and things like that. So having the support of bloggers is really important in getting us out there, especially down south.”

Earlier this year, they took steps towards extending that support base to further flung markets by flying to Texas for South by Southwest. “We’d heard a lot of different viewpoints about how and why bands should go to SXSW, but I think our main motivation was more personal – to take this band we’d worked on for four years over to America was enough for us. I think if we hadn’t taken the opportunity, we’d always look back and regret it. What if the album gets crap reviews, and we decide we hate each other and don’t want to be in a band anymore, and we’ve missed that chance?”

Raising the airfares with ceilidhs and benefit shows, the band followed Austin with a handful of gigs elsewhere in the States. “It was amazing,” Stuart says of the response. “No one has any cynicism or pre-conceptions, it’s just like [puts on American accent] ‘Oh hey man, what’s the name of your band? Fresh Waves, that’s awesome! I’m going to totally come and see you guys, that’s rad!’ And then at the end: ‘Oh dude, I am so fucking stoked, that was great, can I give you guys some money?’ There was no back-biting, or bitchiness, or anything like that.” A Scottish Showcase gig with We Were Promised Jetpacks and Django Django, amongst others, was particularly rewarding. “Because of bands like Frightened Rabbit, and going further back, Teenage Fanclub and people like that, a lot of Americans have this kind of emotional affinity with Scottish music,” reckons Scott. “We’re seen as a wee country with a lot of good bands, so that was a good card to have – ‘we’re Scottish, we must be good!’”

With US visas and album launch preparations monopolising the band's time lately, closer to home festivals have thus far taken a back seat: they’re sure they’ll get “one or two” lined up, but organising everything themselves makes forward planning tricky. “I think the nature of the industry is that it does take some people till after their first album to really establish themselves,” suggests Stuart, “so if the album does well and someone was interested in managing us, or acting as our UK booking agent or something like that…” He breaks off. “I’m putting those things very specifically…”

We offer our services as a go-between: French Wives, WLTM… “We should try that,” Scott laughs, “go on dating sites and look for booking agents…” Before we head off to draft the ad, is there anything else the band craves – for instance, any acts whose level of success they look at and think, ‘aye, that’d do nicely’? “We’re good friends with Admiral Fallow,” ventures Stuart, “and I still can’t quite comprehend how big they seem to have got. I played in a band at school with Kev [Brolly] called Ellroy. It’s crazy to think that we once did a medley of Hey Ya by Outkast and She Wants to Move by N.E.R.D. in a school hall, and now they’re headlining the Barrowlands. And it seems to have been quite organic for them – they released a record, people loved it, and now they’re playing the Barrowlands. If enough people like what you do, then you will always get to that next level.”

feature written for the skinny

Sunday, 6 May 2012

april bottle rocket was rad

i mean, look at what mike and mark played.  wunderbar.
  1. field mice - sensitive
  2. meat puppets - [something]
  3. manhattan love suicides - skulls
  4. associates - a matter of gender
  5. blue oyster cult - don't fear the reaper
  6. joy division - shadow play
  7. snow fairies - record shop
  8. the ettes - my heart
  9. thelma houston - jumpin' jack flash
  10. postmarks - 7-11
  11. lucky soul - whoa billy!
  12. blondie - hanging on the telephone
  13. veronica falls - my heart beats
  14. au pairs - you
  15. the jam - bitterest pill
  16. otis redding - tramp
  17. the meters - cissy strut
  18. the who - heatwave
  19. buddy holly - that'll be the day
  20. small faces - all or nothing
  21. the beatles - and your bird can sing
  22. average white band - work to do
  23. talking heads - pulled up
  24. squeeze - up the junction
  25. go team! - doin' it right
  26. lene lovic - lucky number
  27. jocelyn - nitty gritty
  28. ramones - beat on the brat
  29. modern lovers - someone i care about
  30. t rex - 20th century boy
  31. the attack - any more than i do
  32. adam and the ants - goody two shoes
  33. pavement - stereo
  34. nirvana - serve the servants
  35. rem - driver 8
  36. placebo - bruise pristine
  37. tom petty - american girl
  38. echobelly - great things
  39. idlewild - film for the future
  40. blur - tracey jacks
  41. iggy pop - lust for life
  42. prince - 1999
  43. roxy music - virginia plain
  44. smiths - ask
  45. super furry animals - guacamole
  46. b-52s - roam
  47. violent femmes - blister in the sun
  48. dinosaur jr - freakscene
  49. magnetic fields - i don't wanna get over you
  50. duran duran - reflex
  51. abba - [can't read my own handwriting]
  52. altered images - see those eyes
  53. talk talk - it's my life
  54. pixies - tame
  55. beach boys - wouldn't it be nice
  56. michael jackson - beat it
  57. fleetwood mac - lies
  58. the police - message in a bottle
  59. the clovers - rotten cocksuckers ball

Friday, 4 May 2012

GFT programme note: Goodbye First Love

Goodbye First Love is out today - it's pretty good. not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imaginatino (some of the dialogue is over-ripe to say the least), but it's worth a watch, particularly for anyone who caught and enjoyed Like Crazy earlier in the year. anyway, here's my essay-article-thingy on it, written for the glasgow film theatre...


 Director Mia Hansen-Løve Cast Lola Créton, Sebastian Urzendowsky, Magne-Håvard Brekke
France/Germany 2011, 1h50m, subtitles

Director Mia Hansen-Løve’s previous feature Father of My Children (2009) – in which an outwardly happy film producer commits suicide, bereaving a wife and three daughters – was a sensitive and complex study of emotional upheaval. Goodbye First Love initially seems concerned with comparatively trivial travails, as fifteen year-old Camille (Lola Créton) falls emphatically for nineteen year-old Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky), only for their relationship to crumble from a combination of juvenile thoughtlessness and time’s natural weathering effects. Yet Hansen-Løve recognises that what may seem histrionic and overblown from an outside perspective, is intensely felt by hormonal minds, and the aftermath of so-called ‘puppy love’ is potentially as destructive as the more profound loss detailed in Father of My Children.

Early scenes depicting Camille and Sullivan’s initial romance capture teenage amour’s fraught dichotomy: on the one hand free and easy, yet also dreadfully burdened, with very afternoon spent apart constituting a devastating betrayal; every disagreement, the eternal end of happiness. Eventually, the volatility prompts a desperate act, but, as in Father of My Children, Hansen-Løve is interested in what happens after, with the film making two relatively sudden jumps forward in time, picking up the story again three years later, and again, several years after that. With each, only the changing length of Camille’s hair initially orientates the viewer to the temporal adjustment.

Recent comments made by Hansen-Løve in Sight and Sound clarify the similarities with Father of My Children. She identifies both works, along with her debut Tout est Pardonné (2007), as a ‘sort of trilogy’, with several commonalities. Of these, ‘survival after mourning or a separation’ and ‘the passage of time’ resonate most obviously with the observations made above,[1] with the latter theme eloquently expressed by Glaswegian songwriter Matt McGinn, whose ‘Little Ticks of Time’ features on the soundtrack. ‘Those little ticks of time know no reason, know no rhyme/ they just ticky-ticky-tick-tick-tock the time away’ sings McGinn, playfully musing upon time’s impassive momentum, just as the film’s tri-part structure coolly foregrounds its healing capacities – the only guaranteed cure for adolescent heartbreak, Hansen-Løve seems to suggest, is the leaving behind of adolescence itself. Sullivan’s insistence on the importance of new experiences is initially framed as immature self-absorption, but the film eventually seems to endorse his message (if not its callous use as justification for deserting his girlfriend), with Camille’s maturation framed in terms of her vocational training as an architect, and her relationship with Danish lecturer Lorenz (Magne-Håvard Brekke.)

Throughout the film, the flow of water acts as a metaphor for the flow of time: parallel scenes set in the Loire valley chart Camille’s increasing independence; an embassy restoration is fitted with a fountain in which water is ‘channelled’ but ‘free’; while the theme is given its own soundtrack motif in the recurring form of Johnny Flynn and Laura Marling’s The Water (key lyrics: ‘please help me build a small boat/ one that’ll ride on the flow... I’m glad of what keeps me afloat’ – sentiments that also chime with the aforementioned ‘survival’ theme). In the closing scene, this dovetails with another key symbol – the straw hat given to Camille by Sullivan. Earlier in the film, Hansen-Løve irises in on the hat at the moment of purchase, then out again to show it atop Camille’s head – a flashy edit that prepares the audience for the prop’s subsequent symbolic importance, as it floats downstream in the ambiguous conclusion.

Another of Hansen-Løve’s noted themes is ‘learning to become oneself, and to be free.’[2] Personal development is self-consciously highlighted in a conversation with Lorenz, in which Camille declares ‘only the future counts. Those past years, up until we met, were nothing, a void. Just a lot of pain.’ ‘You shouldn’t reason like that’ counters Lorenz. ‘At your age, nothing is in vain. Life is never what you expect. Your fantasy-version of the world is doomed to failure. It’s up to you to create one that’s deeper, more… real. That’s how you become yourself.’

Goodbye First Love is essentially a dramatisation of that process – one with roots in the writer/director’s personal biography. There are overt parallels between Hansen-Løve’s own experiences and those onscreen – in particular, the relationship between Camille and older mentor Lorenz, which echoes aspects of that between Hansen-Løve and partner Olivier Assayas, who cast her in Late August, Early September (1998) when she was seventeen and he was in his forties (they became a couple three years later). Hansen-Løve has encouraged this connection, explicitly identifying with Camille: ‘Love was everything to me [as a teenager]’ she states in an interview with The Observer, sharing details of a ‘very powerful relationship’ that took place between the ages of fifteen and nineteen, the end of which left ‘a void’ in her; ‘yes, that’s me’ she goes on to unequivocally confirm.[3] Understanding the narrative’s autobiographical origins is not integral to an appreciation of Goodbye First Love, just as admiration of Father of My Children was not predicated on a familiarity with the sad fate of French film producer Humbert Balsan (who committed suicide aged fifty, and on whom the character of Grégoire was based.) But nor is it irrelevant, with the film’s bracing honesty (though not always, it must be admitted, its dialogue) ringing true in a way that’s difficult to feign.

Dr Christopher Buckle
Researcher and Journalist
May 2012

[1] Mia Hansen-Løve, ‘A complex simplicity’, Sight and Sound, May 2012, p. 53
[2] Ibid, p. 53
[3] Jason Solomons (2012) ‘Mia Hansen-Løve: the broken heart that made me a film-maker’, The Observer, 29 April 2012, accessed at

Thursday, 3 May 2012

dvd review: lucky luke

Though he’s been gun-slinging since the forties, comic-strip cowboy Lucky Luke’s golden age came under the auspices of Asterix creator René Goscinny. Released elsewhere in Europe back in 2009, it would have been a shame if James Huth’s inventive adaptation had shared the fate of the Gaul’s dire cinematic adventures by failing to find a British audience. But with The Artist raising its star’s profile (to put it mildly), a belated DVD release was inevitable, and though flawed, Luke is always enjoyable thanks to Jean Dujardin’s game performance. Twin stints as knuckleheaded super-spy OSS 117, plus the aforementioned silent Oscar-winner, have already confirmed him a comic talent par excellence, and here he uses his considerable charm to rise above frequently mediocre gags. Fortunately, for every two dud punch-lines a third hits its target (particularly Luke’s efforts to coax speech from his steed Jolly Jumper); an unimpressive strike rate by its titular hero’s precision firing standards, but an admirable ratio nonetheless.

Out 28th May

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

reviews: sea monsters 2, it hugs back, gringo star

Various Artists – Sea Monsters 2 

Various Artists - Sea Monsters 2 (***)

Brighton’s One Inch Badge follow last year’s Sea Monsters scene sampler with Sea Monsters 2, and like most sequels, it’s a bulkier beast. By adding an extra forty minutes of music and splitting the collection across double the discs, the label gives itself even more space to brag about their home town’s musical wares. While they don’t necessarily tick all genre boxes, they’ve squeezed in representatives of an impressively broad range, from twee-minded shoegaze to throaty sludge-rock.

There’re more highlights than we’ve space to blether about, but special mentions go to Tyrannosaurus Dead (who serve up fizzy fuzz-rocker 1992), Reslesslist (epic, kraut-prog instrumental Magma) and Heliopause (the gentle Try to Lose). Meanwhile, Us Baby Bear Bones win ‘most improved Sea Monster’, with this year’s contribution distinctively more promising than last’s. There are, naturally, less inspired acts bringing the collection down a peg or two, but as a single-city snapshot, it’s impressively vibrant.
Out Now

It Hugs Back - Laughing Stock (***)

As if It Hugs Back’s band name wasn’t misleadingly twee enough, Laughing Party’s title and colourful cover seem like a concerted effort to build up preconceptions – only to plough headlong through them with inventive and expansive opener The Big E. It takes confidence to open with a fifteen minute, space-rock goliath (the ‘E’ is presumably short for ‘epic’), though as it rides its hypnotic bassline through inventively noisy landscapes, it more than warrants its forefront placing.

While its density and energy is exhilarating, it’s an exhausting point of entry, and with fifty minutes of record hot on its heels, sustaining so high a watermark is a tall order. Against the odds, Laughing Party largely retains its composure, thanks to diversifying miniatures like Half American. But there remains an underlying feeling that, while there are more than enough ideas to sustain the album's duration, there’s not quite the stamina.

Out 7th May

Gringo Star - Count Yer Lucky Stars

Gringo Star - Count Yer Lucky Stars (**)

With track titles including Esmerelda and Mexican Coma, those new to Gringo Star’s schtick might expect their moniker to directly reference their sound: a Mexicali Fab Four, perhaps, trilling mariachi homages to Beatlemania (And Your Bird Cancun Sing? Taco to Ride?  Er, Tijuana Hold Your Hand…?). But no: while they plunder popular beat combos of the period (The Kinks seem especially beloved), they play their retro rock straight. Too straight: Count Yer Lucky Stars is consistently pleasant, with catchy hooks and an agreeable breeziness, but there’s a dearth of substance.

Fellow Atlantans The Black Lips dress up in robes of a similar trim, but where they nail their influences, Gringo Star largely re-hash rather than rejuvenate, and consequently strike gold less frequently. When you’re ranking second in the niche category of ‘best act with a name punning on everyone’s fourth favourite Beatle’ (Ringo Deathstarr ftw), there’s evidently work to be done.

Out Now

Tuesday, 1 May 2012