Thursday, 25 April 2013

Edwyn Collins @ O2 ABC, 18th April

When Edwyn Collins walks onstage, the lights are still up and background music continues to play quietly through the PA. Yet his supporting cane casts a distinct silhouette, and even those far from the front clock his presence immediately – and (to paraphrase a line from Edwyn himself) what presence it is.

“Are you ready to rock and roll?” he asks, perched on an amp and smiling broadly. The answer is affirmative, and a marvellous career-wide retrospective set commences, reaching from Orange Juice cuts through to latest recordUnderstated.

The latter is his third album since 2005’s life-threatening brain haemorrhages, and though his speech remains hesitant, Collins chats and jokes regularly between songs tonight. His singing voice, meanwhile, is positively strident, his smooth baritone feeding the audience both hits and should-have-been-hits, from a warmly rendered Ghost of a Chance to a funky Rip It Up (“30 years – imagine that!”).

Midway through, Edwyn’s son William joins the band, supplying backing vocals for Too Bad and subbing for The Drums on In Your Eyes – a touching family moment amidst the indie-soul anthems. With Blue Boy and Don’t Shilly Shally rounding out the set, tonight is affirmation of both Collins’ stellar career to date, and his on-going capacity to impress.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

P-L-A-Y-L-I-S-T (for april)

1. St. Vincent and David Byrne - Who
2. Harry and the Potters - Song for the Death Eaters
3. Archers of Loaf - Harnessed in Slums
4. The Thermals - Born to Kill
5. They Might Be Giants - You're On Fire
6. Why? - The Hollows
7. Animal Collective - My Girls
8. Tom Tom Club - Wordy Rappinghood
9. Au-Pairs - Set Up
10. The Cure - A Forest
11. Still Corners - Berlin Lovers
12. Talking Heads - Girlfriend is Better
13. The Phenomenal Handclap Band - 15 to 20
14. New Order - Regret
15. Sparks - Happy Hunting Ground
16. Dolly Parton - Jolene
17. The Honeys - He's a Doll
18. Aretha Franklin - See Saw
19. The Flatmates - Shimmer
20. Fleetwood Mac - Rhiannon
21. Martha and the Muffins - Monotone
22. The Human League - Mirror Man
23. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles - Going to Go-Go
24. The Four Tops - Something About You
25. Chuck Berry - Roll Over Beethoven
26. The Stooges - I Wanna Be Your Dog
27. The Black Keys - Have Love Will Travel
28. Weezer - El Scorcho
29. Veronica Falls - Broken Toy
30. Scott and Charlene's Wedding - Gammy Leg
31. Pavement - Gold Soundz
32. Cake - Short Skirt/Long Jacket
33. Morrissey - First of the Gang to Die
34. Neon Neon - Mid Century Modern Nightmare
35. Bearsuit - Princess You're a Test
36. Idlewild - Little Discourage
37. The Replacements - Alex Chilton
38. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - 2 Kindsa Love
39. Violent Femmes - Blister in the Sun
40. The Stranglers - Go Buddy Go
41. The Hollies - Bus Stop
42. Orange Juice - Rip It Up
43. TLC - No Scrubs
44. Andrew WK - Party Hard
45. Franz Ferdinand - Take Me Out
46. Meatloaf - Dead Ringer for Love
47. Madonna - Into the Groove
48. Kate Bush - Hounds of Love
49. Bruce Springsteen - Glory Days
50. Deacon Blue - Wages Day
51. Depeche Mode - Just Can't Get Enough
52. Prince - I Wanna Be Your Lover
53. Hefner - The Day That Thatcher Dies
54. The Sonics - The Witch
55. The Ramones - I Wanna Be Sedated
56. The Police - Message in a Bottle
57. Buzzcocks - What Do I Get?
58. Pulp - Babies
59. Sly and the Family Stone - Everyday People

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

film review: Olympus Has Fallen

Over five flicks of decreasing quality, Die Hard’s John McClane has found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time with great regularity, lucklessly embroiled in nefarious plot after nefarious plot. But it could be worse: he could be in Olympus Has Fallen – a movie that looks like a Die Hard film, feels (sporadically) like a Die Hard film, but lacks the wit and coiled adrenaline that made that series’ debut a classic.

Its outlandish setup (in which North Korean terrorists storm the White House and hold Aaron Eckhart’s stoic POTUS hostage) is efficiently established, and the carnage is surprisingly unrestrained, with the President’s security detail cut down by a strafing gunship and the entrance of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue quickly reduced to rubble. But Gerard Butler’s McClane-lite ex-Secret Service agent Mike Banning makes for a bland hero, and his grim, ruthless dispatching of endless corridors of indeterminate bad guys swiftly grows tiresome. Some well-staged action early on saves its hide, but overall Olympus… scores a yippie-kay-nay.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Steve Mason @ King Tuts, 9th April

 By his own estimation, Steve Mason is operating at about 80% strength tonight due to a lousy start-of-tour cold. But, he adds, “that’s still enough to level most people to the ground.” The lurgy may steal away vocal range and leave the Fife songwriter gulping lemsips between songs, but it does nothing to diminish the set’s overall impact, with tonight packing more clout than most performers dream of.

Naturally, Monkey Minds in the Devil's Time’s wings are clipped for the live setting, the album’s sprawling outreaches trimmed to fit a four-piece band: that means no choirs, no raps, and no ambient stretches. But none of that diminishes the sweep of Oh My Lord; the tender pleas of A Lot of Love; or the flinty anger of Fight Them Back. Mason seems relaxed throughout, trading banter with a spirited crowd and just about keeping his coughs out of the microphone. If he really does have another 20% in reserve, his next visit should skirt magnificence.

Friday, 12 April 2013

British Sea Power, Casual Sex @ Oran Mor, 7th April

For much of their current tour, British Sea Power have been opening gigs with a bonus set of ‘mellow’ fan-favourites. Unfortunately, Oran Mor’s tight curfew prevents such an arrangement tonight – which is a shame, but an ultimately insignificant one. Because if anyone has turned up early on the off-chance of getting extra BSP-for-their-buck, support Casual Sex offer succourable compensation, their impeccably tight set snaking through styles superbly – from the penetrating groove of North to the choppy, wiry guitars of National Unity.

As is customary for a British Sea Power performance, tonight’s stage is bedecked with woodland paraphernalia, continuing a penchant for pastoral-theatricals dating back to their earliest shows. But while some things haven’t changed in their decade-plus existence, in other respects the band performing tonight seem an age removed from their erratic roots. The contrast is most strongly felt when a breathless, fitful Apologies to Insect Life veers forth towards the end, its idiosyncrasies standing out starkly against the more measured sounds – largely picked from new album Machineries of Joy and 2008’s Do You Like Rock Music? – that precede it.

Yet, while most of tonight’s highpoints have miles on the clock (most memorably a stunning rendition of Lately), the band BSP have gradually become are far from a disappointment – for instance, Machineries of Joy’s title track makes for a stately opener, while the buzzing rush of K-Hole can’t be faulted. And besides, it’s difficult to accuse a band of encroaching conservatism when their finale comes packaged with a dancing polar bear – a sure sign that their appealing quirks are far from exhausted.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

April Skinny


So the April edition of the Skinny has been out a wee while now, in both Scottish form (pictured above) and BRANDSPANKINGNEW north-east form. Get a copy why doncha.

My bits:

- 'Casual Correspondance: An Interview with Casual Sex' feature (read here!)
- Akron Family - 'Sub Verses' album review
- Trwbador - 'Trwbador' album review (read here!)
- Loch Lomond - 'Dresses' album review (read here!)
- PYYRAMIDS - Brightest Darkest Day' album review
- Dear Reader - 'Rivonia' album review (read here!)
- Roddy Woomble - 'Listen to Keep' album review (read here!)
- Aidan Baker - 'Already Drowning' album review (read here!)
- Frightened Rabbit / Wintersleep / Three Blind Wolves @ Barrowlands live review (read here!)
- 'Zaytoun' DVD review (read here!)

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

2nd last of these here thingymajigs

Mike wrote this facebook invite yesterday. It's a bit dated now obv, but WHATEVER...

Today we mourn the passing of a national treasure, cherished by all. But it's not finished yet - there are 2 more BRs left! And if there are any other significant events that you'd like to celebrate (can't think of any right now...), come on down to the penultimate event at Sleazy's and go WILD.

It'll be the same potent recipe as all the other Bottle Rockets. Expect a scoop of new wave, a dash of soul, a pinch of postpunk, served on a bed of pop. Splendid.

11;30PM - 3AM!
FREE BEFORE 11:30! (£3 after)

Want to hear anything? Whap it on the facebook wall.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Casual Correspondence: An Interview with Casual Sex

With a new single out on Moshi Moshi and an album on the horizon, we sit down with Casual Sex to discuss the band’s past, present and future.

Granted it’s usually intentional, but some band names make innuendo nigh impossible to dodge – Throbbing Gristle (snigger!); Helmet (tee hee!); The Strokes (Ok, that’s enough…). The latest act of naughty nomenclature to trigger titters is Glasgow-based four-piece Casual Sex – a straight-up mono entendre that’ll leave the bashful sheepishly clearing their search history after ever Googling. So, lest smut run rampant, we’ll get it out our system upfront: recently, The Skinny has been getting into Casual Sex. In fact, The Skinny finds the sounds of Casual Sex most enjoyable. So much so, The Skinny has decided that a first-hand introduction to Casual Sex is in order. “I think when we picked the name we kind of knew that, well, obviously we’d get some kind of jokes” says vocalist, guitarist and Casual Sex-instigator Sam Smith (known in a former life as Mother, of disbanded art-punks Mother and the Addicts). “I suppose with a lot of people, you say it to them, they go ‘hahaha’ and you’ve got their attention, [so] it serves its purpose at that level. My sister hates it though,” he laughs. “She’s a mother of two young children. She said ‘Sam, why can’t you call a band something nice like The Village’, which I think sounds bloody creepy… So yes, puns around the name are always taken in good humour [but] we just hope that when people eventually get over the ‘ho ho, Casual Sex!’ reaction, they’ll actually listen to us.” 

There’s plenty incentive to do so. Across their slim-but-ace catalogue of available tracks, the band have synthesised a thrilling mix of sounds, including rockabilly, post-punk, glam rock and shades of dub-indebted new wave in the Police/Clash mould. This medley is reflective of the diversity of tastes amongst the members (in addition to Sam, Edward Wood on guitar, Chris McCrory on drums and Peter Masson on bass), with dozens of acts and scenes dropped into conversation across the interview: Sparks to PiL; Detroit electro to northern soul. It’s a rich soup of influences, recut in vibrant ways: from the crisp space-surf of North to the strutting, sleazy come-on of We’re All Here Mainly for the Sex; the spidery guitars and motorik rhythms of National Unity to the disco-tinted groove of The Bastard Beat. Lean, arch and assured, the band’s appeal is immediate and infectious.

Casual Sex began life as a series of demos that Sam had worked on with colleague Emily MacLaren, a fellow engineer at The Green Door recording studio in the city’s West End. “We just muddled it together really,” says Sam, “and afterwards she was like ‘you’ve got a body of work here, it’d be a shame not to get a band together.’” Ed was brought in first, initially to do a drum session but soon switching to his six-stringed comfort zone. Chris and Peter, meanwhile, came into the fold via a course they were both enrolled on at Green Door. “When I was in the studio doing my session, someone let me hear what he was working on,” says Peter, “[and then] basically, whenever I’d see Sam out I’d be like ‘oh come on, let me come and play guitar’” With that corner already covered, the position of bassist was offered instead. “I just said ‘aye’, and then learned really quickly” say Peter. “I could play guitar, and imagined it would be about the same, but I remember at the first practices my fingers were getting really sore but I’d kid on they weren’t…” 

Almost immediately, Casual Sex shifted from being purely an outlet for Sam’s solo ideas to a fully-fledged collaborative affair. “As I started working with these guys, the majority of what I’d done [on my own] kind of got pushed aside” says Sam. “Originally, Ed was just coming in to learn the parts, but very quickly I thought ‘actually, this is fucking boring, all this stuff’s really old.’” As a result, “warm-up sessions became writing sessions,” with new material coming together fluidly. “One of the keys to our writing” reckons Ed, “is we’ve got such a strong rhythm section – like, Chris can pretty much play any style of drumming, whether he likes the style or not. So Pete will throw out a bass line and Chris will immediately pick up on the style, and then it gets embellished with guitars and Sam just drops lyrics on it – it seems to flow like that every time. Plus, our rehearsal room is a studio, so when an idea gets formulated it’s really quickly recorded and set in stone. I’d say that the majority of the tracks we’ve done in the last few years have been written and recorded in the same day.” Ed credits Sam’s foundational material as key to this healthy creativity. “The narratives of [Sam’s] early songs have pretty much been the platform for everything up to now” he states. “There’s a definite theme. Speaking for Sam, the majority of the songs are about past relationships and, well, casual sex…” He pauses, allowing Sam time to interject. “Not always...” the singer counters. “Sometimes I do just make stuff up…”

New single Stroh 80 certainly seems to have a few near-the-knuckle truths at its core, however. “It’s a very brutally honest track” says Sam. “There are people that at times think they know what it’s about, and I just kind of have an interior cringe.” If there’s a line between being honest and being a little too honest, Sam’s walking it gingerly. “Those are the trials and tribulations of dating people who write songs – the good stuff, sadly, is the stuff were you go, ‘I shouldn’t really write that, oh wait that works…’” The track – a lascivious blend of wiry guitar, louche lyrics and handclaps – is available now as a limited edition 7”, released as part of Moshi Moshi’ singles club and due to receive a formal launch later this month at Nice n Sleazy. The night will be hosted by Mao Disney, a branch of Glasgow promoters/label/arts collective We Can Still Picnic, with whom the band has a “really good relationship.” Run by brothers Bjorn and Erik Sandberg (of Wake the President), We Can Still Picnic have put out Casual Sex songs in the past, and Sam says the band are “still very much involved” with the WCSP network. Indeed, later this year Casual Sex will again tour with Wake the President and fellow picnickers POST – an arrangement that has some obvious logistical advantages (i.e. shared costs) but which seems just as driven by mutual enthusiasm for each other’s work.

When it comes to the launch gig, we ask whether the sense of occasion creates any additional pressure, or if, from their point of view, it will just be like any other show. “It is a bit more pressure, yeah” says Sam, “[because] you do get a bit more profile – and of course, as soon as you put something out to the public there are expectations, so you naturally think ‘oh shit, don’t fuck it up’… But I think the main thing is, if you feel that pressure, to just keep on doing it, keep on enjoying it.” Chris agrees. “We’ve put in so much work over the years, and I mean, we could be all rock star about it, but it’s nice just to get any sort of recognition. And that may make you nervous – it might, you know, put additional pressure on us – but ultimately, it’s just really great that people appreciate things that we’ve worked hard on.”

Having in-band producers and access to a full studio and mastering suite means that Casual Sex are ahead of the curve when it comes to putting together an album, with enough tracks for two already in the can. You’d think that might allow them to ease off the accelerator a little, but already they’re anticipating the next, hopefully more extended, period of writing: in an ideal world, two weeks in a cottage in the south of France with an 8 track recorder (“I just remember seeing footage of Brian Eno’s studio and thinking, ‘you lucky bastard’…” says Sam), though they’d settle for anything longer than the odd evening here and there. “But then again,” Sam ponders, “if you give a band too much time and you take away a certain amount of pressure, people just dig in. They start overthinking, and before you know it you’ve had six weeks in the studio and done nothing.” He stops and reflects. “Of course, there’s an argument that bands should never own their own studio for the same reasons…” In that case, received wisdom can do one: for Casual Sex, the regular recording time afforded by Sam’s day job is paying major dividends, and we look forward to hearing further fruits of their labours later in the year. In the meantime, we take Casual Sex outside to have their photographs taken: first up against a wall, and then down an alley. Oh, grow up… 

Written for the April edition of The Skinny

Sunday, 7 April 2013

NEWS (bad)

Sad news friends.  After almost 5 years, Bottle Rocket as we know it is coming to an end in May. We'd like to thank Sleazys for putting up with our questionable music and drunken dancing for so long, but time waits for no ramshackle pop club night. Sleazys is moving on and so must we.

There are two more BR's left at Sleazys (19th April, 17th May), which promise to be emotionally-charged affairs. It's been a pleasure to inflict our music tastes on you for the last few years, so thanks for humouring us. This won't be the end of Bottle Rocket however: we've had a few ideas bouncing around for a while, so with any luck we'll be back in some form or another in the coming months. Watch this space, i guess...

Finally and most importantly, we'd like to thank YOU: the beating, boogie-ing heart of Bottle Rocket. Unless you never came. In which case go fuck yourself. Or alternatively: come along for the last two!

Lots of love,

Chris and Mike

Friday, 5 April 2013

Film review: All Things to All Men

With a twisty plot involving dodgy diamonds, drug deals and double crosses galore, All Things to All Men strains hard to deliver on a suspenseful setup. As its cast of bent coppers, crooked businessmen and furtive thieves try to outmanoeuvre one another, questions amass: what does Rufus Sewell’s shifty detective want with taciturn safecracker Riley (Toby Stephens)? How is crime lord Joseph Corso (Gabriel Byrne) involved? And, most mysterious of all, how did such a poor script manage to attract the involvement of such a respectable cast?

While the first two puzzles duly receive answers, the latter stays unsolved, with gaffe after gaffe chipping away at the film’s superficial slickness. Barely fleshed-out characters spout cliché-steeped dialogue; London landmarks are shoehorned into shot with absurd frequency; and sections of the story spark unflattering déjà vu – most notably when a plot point is seemingly filched wholesale from LA Confidential. Only Sewell escapes the affair unscathed, his wired performance in the final act rewarding those who stick around that long.

Out today

Thursday, 4 April 2013

DVD review: Zaytoun

A cross-conflict road movie set during the 1982 Lebanese war, Zaytoun gets plenty right. For one, it looks fantastic, with cinematographer Dan Laustsen lensing war-blasted cities and malignly mine-strewn countryside in ever arresting ways. Also earning kudos are the strong central performances: Stephen Dorff overcomes minor miscasting and an awkward accent to deliver a nuanced turn as downed Israeli pilot Yoni, while Abdallah El Akal out-thesps his older co-star as Palestinian orphan Fahed, assuredly segueing from childish bravado into confusion and sadness. Director Eran Riklis (Lemon Tree, The Syrian Bride) too earns commendation for tactfully handling Palestinian/Israeli tensions without pointing fingers or resorting to easy villains.

But while there’s no doubting Zaytoun’s good intentions, the parts don’t hang together as a believable whole with characters becoming conduits for unsubtle and corny moralising. Understanding thy enemy and dissolving hatred via extensions of kindness are solid lessons, but require a more convincing film than this to make them truly hit home.

Out 8th April

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

reviews: the ok social club, trwbador, aidan baker

                                            The OK Social Club – Nothing In Common

The OK Social Club - Nothing in Common (***)
Possibly not since The View’s debut has a Scottish band mined youthful, boozy nostalgia quite as doggedly as Edinburgh’s The OK Social Club. “Remember the old days?” sings frontman and songwriter Raff Eragona on Little Broken Bones; “do you remember…” starts the chorus to The Late 90’s; “What’s that song / it takes me back to the old days” opens Twisted Young Gentlemen – just some of Nothing In Common’s wistful appeals to free and easy salad days.

Bygone nights on the town / mornings in the gutter may not be the most diverse of muses, but it results in a punchy and accomplished debut, with the pluck of the lyrics matched by a bright and energetic indie-rock sound built from communal ‘woahs’ and exhilarating guitar-based melodies. The finished product may want for depth, but at their best The OK Social Club convey an enthusiasm that’s as hard to resist as it is to fake.

Out 15th April

                                              Trwbador – Trwbador

Trwbador - Trwbador (**)
Since forming in 2010, Carmarthenshire’s Trwbador (aka Welsh-Dutch singer Angharad Van Rijswijk and guitarist/producer Owain Gwilym) have forged a distinctive and often impressively inventive style, with whimsical vocals pinned lightly to toybox production built from glitches and loops, glockenspiel chimes and nursery rhyme melodies.

Unfortunately, unless your tolerance for twee and quirk is notably high, the effect is likely to irritate more often that it bedazzles, with the monotonous lyrics of songs like Sun in the Winter and Red Handkerchiefs not helped by cutesy delivery and an over-familiarity with the upper range of audible frequencies at the expense of anything deeper (in both senses of the word).

Despite these doubts, however, it’s easy to keep sight of the duo’s potential, with Rain’s sideswiping welsh-language rap (courtesy of guesting MC Odlgymix) showcasing the more positive results of the duo’s idiosyncrasies, and the crystalline cadence of Safe best indicating their compositional talents.

Out today

                                               Aidan Baker – Already Drowning

Aidan Baker - Already Drowning (****)
Those coming to Already Drowning via an interest in Aidan Baker’s work with ambient drone duo Nadja be warned: here be an altogether gentler creature, with only the slightest notes of distortion and discord occasionally wading in. Billed as a “a song cycle inspired by various myths and folklore about female water spirits,” Baker’s atmospheric slowcore opus is insidiously immersive.

An international cast of collaborators contribute vocals (and on occasion, translations into French and German) to compositions that are sometimes straightforwardly beautiful (for instance, the string-led sweep of 30 Days/30 Nights), sometimes challengingly veiled (e.g. the insectoid, free-jazz cymbal ripples of Mélusine), but always hauntingly evocative – provided it's approached with the right level of patience. Otherwise, much of Baker’s hard work will be for nought, with Already Drowning too carefully measured to impose itself on errant attentions, but liberally rewarding for those that commit time to its chilly virtues.

Out 15th April