Adrian Cooper has been unwell

Old reviews that are no longer available online, or from sites that no longer exist. The pen is dead, long live the camera.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Playwrights

There are bands that you always associate with the summer. Maybe it’s because their songs recall memories of warm, sunny days in the park, the feeling that the longer days bring with them endless possibilities and new hopes, or just because they sound great in the open air.

The Playwrights are all these things. Their debut album, ‘Good Beneath The Radar’, crept out with the onset of summer last year and proved to be one of the best albums of the year. Sonically, it’s a beguiling and effervescent mix of the Auteurs, Sea & Cake and the first side of David Bowie’s “Low”. If we can take time out to turn a hackneyed music journalist cliché on its head for once, the Playwrights sound like Syd Barrett on no drugs. Despite an edginess to the music that brings to mind the type of US underground bands in which Southern records specialise, there’s a peculiarly English sound to the Playwrights.

“The Englishness is something I’m really proud of,” says Playwrights guitarist Ben Shillabeer. “Hopefully we’re reflecting who we are and where we come from – in a natural way, in the tradition of bands like Crescent, Movietone, Hood and, more recently, Seachange. I’d like to think it’s got an integrity and isn’t a contrived Carry On, 'ooh how’s your Favver’ Englishness that some bands adopt.”

Far from sounding like another bunch of mockney chancers, the Playwrights approach to their music harks back to days where invention was more important than imitation and you are always more than just the sum of your influences. “I went to art school, and this background certainly informs my songwriting. It’s that sketchbook approach where if something resonates for you, you write it down or take a photo of it or cut it out and stick it in and use it for yourself. Stuff from books, films, photos, novels, newspapers, phrases heard on the television or radio; day to day experiences, things I’m exposed to and feel an affinity for get written down and turn up in a song.”

“Got a case of the dreads,
I’m a potential island here.
Screaming into a dead mic,
Just chewing the scenery.
Farmed out to private practice,
Firing a pistol into a blank wall.
Let’s look at the husks of our dreams,
Snapshots taken from too close a knowledge.
There’s something missing from this screen,
You lose control by degrees.”

(‘We Are The Stuffed Men’)

Lyrically, the Playwrights portray not so much of a sense of ostracism, of having been forced out from the crowd, but of a willingly chosen estrangement. Do you think that this reflects your outlook or attitude? Do you see yourself as an outsider?

“I’ve always felt on the fringes of stuff, somewhat detached and never fully involved – not comfortable with the really ‘straight’ people but not at ease with the really ‘out there’ people either,” explains Ben. “It’s a cynicism I guess; a self-consciousness that I carry with me in social situations. There's that Samuel Beckett quote: "he had an abiding sense of melancholy that sustained him through brief periods of joy.’ – I guess that sums me up. But the lyrics aren’t just from my own insecurities. It’s everyday stuff like how we interact at work, in our homes, in relationships, with our surroundings, with technology. It’s that feeling that when you’re talking with someone you’re having totally different conversations – symptoms of the modern age.”

“But I think collectively as a band we’re outsiders too, due to our sound. People can’t pigeonhole us. We get compared to a lot of ‘80s bands but I can’t really hear it myself, although I can see why people might lump us in with recent bands like Interpol or Franz Ferdinand. We definitely haven’t styled ourselves to be like anything, and some people aren’t quite sure how to take us. But I think we’re a fucking good rock band (albeit an art-rock band), without having any of that contrived rock ‘n’ roll, ‘five boys who are gonna change the world’ bollocks about us.”

Before the Playwrights, Ben played guitar for Bristol jazz-punk behemoths Soe'za, whose line-up also included Playwrights singer Aaron Dewey on cornet. Both Ben and Aaron have toured with John Parish and appear on his 2002 album, 'How Animals Move'. With so many other musical projects going on already, what motivated you to form the Playwrights?

“The band was formed when I asked Aaron to help work on some new songs of mine back in 2001. I’ve always written and recorded songs on a 4-track, ever since I first started playing guitar; but I’d never found the right outlet for them. My first band was just with college mates and we never did anything significant. Then I moved to Bristol and joined Soe'za, where I contributed parts and ideas but very rarely entire songs. And I’ve done a few projects here and there but never totally been happy with the outcome.”

“I found myself with this collection of songs taken from a box of tapes that I wanted to develop. Aaron and I share similar ideas and I knew his voice and musicality could enhance my songs in ways I could never achieve on my own and we could do ‘something bigger, something better’ with them. So we started out as a duo, playing practically everything ourselves. Now we’re a five piece, with Maff (Rigby, drums), Nathan (Edmunds, guitar) and Andrew (Smith, bass) all inputting ideas. I guess the motivation comes from the enjoyment of making some challenging music, with many ideas and sounds and influences whilst working in a pop framework. We’re trying to be the best we can be, making pop music that hopefully has a bit of depth to it and we’re having fun whilst doing it.”

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Monday, November 09, 2009


Fashion can be a fickle beast. Three years ago Fischerspooner could do no wrong. They looked fantastic, they gave good interview and they’d recorded a great debut album. In short, they were the favourites of journalists and fashionistas alike and the world was theirs for the taking.

But then, as is the wont in tales of this type, things started to go awry. They released an album, 2002’s ‘#1’, to a grand total of absolutely no sales at all. Not only did it fail to dent the chart, it barely even left a scuffmark on pop’s shiny surface. But that’s hacks and slavish fashion sheep for you. They might claim to like a record but that’s no guarantee that the majority of people making the assertion have ever heard it or even harbour the slightest desire to do so. Shot by the hand that feeds and all that.

Anyway, three years is a long time in music and an eternity in fashion. Which quite possibly goes in Fischerspooner’s favour. Last time around there was such a proliferation of like-minded bands that Fischerspooner were merely part of the crowd and probably missed out on a lot of the credit that they would have otherwise been afforded. But now, divorced from the vagaries of scene mongering and electroclash, it’s possible to judge them purely on the terms of their music, rather than as a prevailing trend.

And ‘Odyssey’ stands up to scrutiny very well. Their cover of Wire’s ‘The 15th’, on ‘#1’, should have suggested that there was more to Messers Fischer and Spooner than first met the elaborately made-up eye. Actually, Wire work well as a point of reference here. Much of ‘Odyssey’ is informed with a similar feel to Wire’s ‘154’, only run through a sequencer rather than bashed out with the more traditional drums, bass and guitar. If you take LCD Soundsystem as a barometer of modern post-punk, then, much as the likes of Q & Not U and Les Savy Fav are only a couple of steps more rock than James Murphy, Fischerspooner are merely one step less rock than the DFA boys.

In theory, ‘Odyssey’ represents Fischerspooner’s attempt to reconcile their music with their more traditionally rock based influences, including, at least according to the sleeve notes, the Stooges, Bowie and My Bloody Valentine. But filtered through a big shiny box scrawled with the legend dance-floor filler. In reality, this doesn’t make for any major sonic leap forward, or backward depending on how you look at these things, but it does make for a more coherent sounding record. ‘Just Let Go’ is probably the nearest that you’ll get to an ‘Emerge’ on here, all throbbing disco beats and pulsing rhythms, interspersed with stuttering guitars. ‘Cloud’ is closer to the electroclash (computer)blueprint, with its hint of Duran Duran, while ‘We Need A War’ takes a Susan Sontag lyric and turns it into a Pet Shop Boys classic that Neil Tennant forgot to write. And ‘Circle’ is, as much as this may take you by surprise, a Boredoms cover.

Three years ago, Fischerspooner came dangerously close to being written off as a pair of vacant performance-art chancers that had got lucky. ‘Odyssey’ shows that we should consider ourselves lucky that they bothered to stick around long enough to give it another try.

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Einstürzende Neubauten
Kalte Sterne, Tabula Rasa

Band names are shit. Think of your favourite band. What is it with that name? When you really get down to it, what the fuck is it supposed to mean? What does it say about the band? What does it say about their music? All too often, the answer is nothing, nothing at all. This is where German bands tend to have the advantage. Kraftwerk, Neu, Einstürzende Neubauten. All three names say as much about the band as the music itself.

Translated, more or less literally, Einstürzende Neubauten means knocking down new buildings. Colloquially, it refers to the knocking down of high-rise flats of the type erected in the housing boom of the 60s and 70s. The type of multi-storey prefab shit holes that you find in new towns across Europe. Heavy-duty construction turned back into destruction, and that’s exactly what Einstürzende how sound.

‘Kalte Sterne’ compiles the abrasive primal pounding rhythms and clanging guitars of their early (1980-82) singles, laden with the sound of power drills rasping metal. ‘Tabula Rosa’ (originally released in 1993), a far less punishing listen, sees them honing their electro-industrial beating into more traditionally-structured songs while exploiting Blixa Bargeld’s Bad Seeds connection to bring in Nick Cave’s former muse and paramour, Anita Lane, to provide the feminine touch.

So, to summarise, the Germans – good at band names, not currently so good at football.

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Pit Er Pat

Ever wondered what a supergroup comprising members of Blonde Redhead and 90 Day Men would sound like?

No? Neither had I before now but you could hazard a guess that this is something that has occupied the minds of Pit Er Pat recently. Should such collaboration ever take place, there’s a fair chance that it would sound quite a lot like ‘Shakey’.

Off-kilter keyboards mix in with rapid-fire drumming, arrhythmic time changes and disembodied male and female vocals, with Fay Davis-Jeffers only a Japanese accent away from sounding just like Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino. However, the tone of much of ‘Shakey’ shuns the often frantic, high-tension sound of Blonde Redhead for a more laidback, slightly uneasy listening approach as voices and instruments entwine around each other to create an album driven by hypnotic drones and otherworldly sounds.

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Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain: LA’s Desert Origins

Let’s dispense with the dialogue. Pavement’s ‘Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain’ was one of the finest albums of the 1990s. Stop your internal debate. I’m right, you’re wrong. I can prove it on an Etch-a-sketch.

Admittedly, it has always been a moot point amongst Pavement fans about which of their albums is the better: Slanted & Enchanted’ or ‘Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain’. And the conclusion most commonly reached is that it’s practically impossible to decide. Personally, I prefer ‘Slanted…’ but not only is that neither here nor there, it also doesn’t mean that I think it’s the better of the two albums.

As with 2002’s ‘Slanted & Enchanted: Luxe & Reduxe’ reissue, the tenth anniversary of ‘Crooked Rain’ sees the release of ‘Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain: LA’s Desert Origins’. And, once again, the original album has been expanded into a veritable Christmas stocking of a reissue stuffed to the brim with bonus tracks, b-sides, demos, previously unreleased songs, oranges, Toblerone and those little chocolates that look like coins.

Chances are that most of you will already be familiar with the album itself but let’s recap anyway. ‘Crooked Rain...’ was, quite simply, one of the most perfectly realised records to be released within my lifetime. It was the moment when Pavement made good on all their early promise and proved that they could be consistently wonderful.

In essence, ‘Crooked Rain...’ is the encapsulation of everything that ever had been termed slacker music - Stephen Malkmus’ loquacious lyrics and nasal drawl, a barrage of unstable guitars and a rhythm section that sounded both ridiculously tight yet utterly laid-back at the same time. Never before had an album recorded by a band so heavily influenced by the Fall sounded so tuneful.

Nestling in the midst of this masterpiece were the triumvirate of drop-dead great singles - alt.pop anthem ‘Cut Your Hair’ (allegedly a parting shot at former drummer, Gary Young), the slacker-country jig of ‘Range Life’, and the quasi-existential bop of ‘Gold Soundz’ - each of which helped the album be so well received that some felt inspired to claim that ‘Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain’, much like New York before it, to be so good that they named it twice.

Once you’ve successfully navigated the album itself the good news is that it doesn’t end there. There’s that glut of extra tracks to get through. The rest of the reissue adds the b-sides from the ‘Crooked Rain’ singles, and the ‘Jam Kids’ / ‘Haunt You Down’ seven inch. The first disc finishes with a pair of tracks lifted from compilation albums released around the same time as ‘Crooked Rain’: ‘Nail Clinic’ from ‘Hey Drag City’; and the rollicking REM tribute ‘Unseen Power of the Picket Fence’, from the ‘No Alternative’ benefit album.

Unfortunately the ‘Crooked Rain’ b-sides don’t hit the mark with quite such the same regularity as those from later singles though ‘Camera’, ‘Jam Kids’, ‘Haunt You Down’ and ‘Nail Clinic’ are all worthy additions to the album, and ‘Unseen Power...’ is easily as good as the majority of the songs on ‘Crooked Rain’ itself.

As seems to be the norm with these reissues nowadays, the second disc is comprised of demos and previously unreleased tracks, which is where it all starts getting a bit patchy.

The demos include early sketches of a number of songs from both 'Crooked Rain...' and its 1995 follow-up, 'Wowee Zowee'. The most notable versions here are a bare bones take on ’Range Life', minus the Smashing Pumpkins diss, and a piano-led version of ‘Heaven Is A Truck’.

But, as usual, there’s a reason why many of the extra tracks on here never made it past the demo stage and that’s that they’re just not as good as other Pavement songs. ‘Rug Rat’ proves that the Fall influence can be taken too far, ‘Fucking Righteous’ is basically an uninspired Velvet Underground rip-off and ‘JMC Retro’ is little more than an unsuccessful Jesus and Mary Chain pastiche. ‘Flood Victim’ is barely even a song while ‘Colorado’ sounds like it was lifted straight from a John Carpenter score, only shorn of the sense of brooding menace that you would expect.

Fortunately, the balance is redressed by the ‘Crooked Rain...’ styling of ‘All My Friends’ and ‘Same Way Of Saying’ and the ‘Slanted & Enchanted’ nature of ‘Soiled Little Filly’ and ‘Hands Off The Bayou’ before things are bought to a close with the rather stunning jilted jazz lick of ‘The Sutcliffe Catering Song’ (which was eventually retitled ‘Easily Fooled’ and released as a b-side to ‘Rattled By The Rush’), which would have fitted perfectly onto the first side of ‘Wowee Zowee’.

Despite the filler overkill, ten years later and 37 songs richer, Pavement’s second album still sounds as much like a masterpiece as it did back in 1994.

‘Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain’: so good, they released it twice.

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John Cale

Recent musical history can be a horrible thing. Okay, so in the greater scheme of things it doesn’t really have what it takes to be classed an atrocity, but early interviews with the Stereophonics are at least a galling memory. But what really niggles here is not their ploddingly pedestrian rock, but the much more horrific realisation that they not only idolised Tom Jones, but were going to be largely responsible for yet another undeserved revival of his fortunes.

In this instant, they confirmed what we had already begun to suspect, that they were nothing but a bunch of musically stunted valley boy rock dullards in love with the idea of being in love with music, while having no concept of what being in love with music really meant. To them, it meant following tradition, being part of the pantheon of same old same old, rehashing the same songs based around the same chords that channeled the same sole emotion. But more than anything else, it meant challenging nothing. If they had had the slightest interest in breaking away from the established notions of music, then there would have only been one name that they could have mentioned, a musician and Welshman of whom they should have been proud. A man without whom the course of both contemporary and modern classical music could well have turned out to be very different. That man is John Cale.

But they didn’t even mention his name. Fucking numbnuts.

John Cale grew up in Ammanford, South Wales, just outside Swansea, which, as coincidence would have it, is where I went to university. Just before I graduated, BBC Wales screened a documentary about Cale, timed to roughly coincide with the publication of Victor Bockris’ collaborative effort with Cale, ‘What’s Welsh For Zen?’. Before this, I knew he was Welsh but didn’t know from whereabouts in Wales he came. The documentary showed the village, the street, and the house in which he grew up. I’ve never been one to idolise anyone, but, for the first time ever, the temptation to go and find this house arose. It would be one of those one offs – my friend, also a big Velvet Underground fan, and I would drive to Ammanford, find the house that Cale lived in, and leave it at that. Of course, given that we were students and that it was a rather pointless crusade on which to set off, it never happened. But the inspiration was there.

When you consider the distances involved, it was a rather pathetic cop-out on our behalf. We only had a thirty mile round journey to make. Cale’s voyage through music started in his rural Dyfed home, took in Goldsmiths College in London before heading to Boston and New York, where he worked with the composer LaMonte Young and formed his own avant-garde ensemble, the Dream Syndicate, before a session recording backing tracks for the Pickwick record label led to a chance meeting with Lou Reed.

General opinion has it that, despite now being a mild-mannered and patient man, at this time Cale was a cantankerous, belligerent and curmudgeonly individual, who also displayed a raft of other character traits that generally mark a person out as someone whose company you might not enjoy for a single minute. Thankfully, these were all the attributes necessary to make bearable spending more than a minute in the company of Lou Reed. If Cale had been a less domineering force in his early years, we may have lost out on some of the greatest music ever made.

Cale’s career since has been well documented, so let’s just skip briefly over the parts about the Velvets and Andy Warhol; the tales of suffering bone-crunchers after injecting water in vain attempts to catch any dregs of heroin left in their syringes (but remember, you read that first in Bockris’ biography of Lou Reed, just in case any lawsuits are pending); the inevitable fall out with Reed; the sessions spent playing guitar for Nico; the parade of solo albums; his work as a producer; ‘Songs For Drella’, the 1990 collaboration with Lou Reed recorded to honour Warhol’s death; and the horrendous and thankfully short-lived reformation of the Velvet Underground.

‘blackAcetate’, his 22nd solo album, continues Cale’s challenge to himself. Despite being a more traditionally rock record than much of his back catalogue, ‘blackAcetate’ is only the second album that he has recorded on ProTools and sees him trying to push the boundaries of how he writes and records music. Once again, the album jumps between styles and influences, always looking for a new way to express itself without merely repeating what has gone before. Which is a lot more than could be said for the last Tom Jones album.

As far as the land of your fathers, your daffodils and your pissing rugby goes you can stuff it all up your ass. It’s all about the Cale, and it always will be.

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The Magic Band
the Garage, London

You never expect to get to watch some bands. Sometimes they fall by the wayside before you get the chance to see them in the flesh. Sometimes you just have to accept that it wasn’t meant to be.

When a band splits about twelve years before you had even heard of them, then the chances of ever watching them play are, shall we say, quite remote. Which just makes it all the more astounding that I’m here watching a bunch of old men in varying stages of mid-life crisis, and that’s just the audience. Boom boom.

Bad jokes aside, it is worth taking the time to say that entering the Garage tonight felt like walking into a back issue of Q. The almost exclusively male crowd is easily the wrong side of its forties. Those of them that look like they earn a living appear to do so as accountants or finance directors of small, inconsequential companies. The rest of the crowd look as if they’ve never earned a living in their lives: pitiful little men with the faces of 50 year olds atop the scrawny bodies of malnourished children. Men who can be heard muttering, “think of all the girlfriends who never got Beefheart, who said it was all unlistenable shit, but they’re still going strong today, shows how much they knew about music”.

At this point I’d to draw your attention to the header at the top of this page. The Magic Band. At the Garage. Not at Wembley Arena, Finsbury Park, Brixton Academy, or even the Barbican or the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, (the last two both venues that they played last year). This is the Garage. This is a world tour whose only UK date is a 500 capacity former sweatbox in North London. So let’s not get too carried away about their success. There’s a reason that Don van Vliet once sang ‘My Human Gets Me Blues’, and this may well be it.

Ah, yes. Don van Vliet, the man without whom none of this would be possible. An artist, musician and musical visionary. The man who locked his band in a house for three months while he taught them ‘Trout Mask Replica’. The captain that fled his ship in 1982, before it had even started to sink, so he could run off to live as a hermit in the desert and concentrate on painting.

Also, there’s a problem with the price here. The Magic Band may have become more than just a curiosity again, but at £20 a ticket, they’re still very much a luxury. Which is why the crowd tonight is so ridiculously homogenous. Why would you spend £20 on a ticket for a gig at the Garage, when you could take that money, go to Fopp, or wait for one of the more overpriced high street stores to have one of their countless sales, and buy Beefheart’s best albums for that same sum.

But anyway, 491 words in, and still no mention of the gig. I should get on. The most frustrating thing about all this is that we’ve reached a stage in musical evolution where the Magic Band actually make sense. In a time where free-jazz is no longer mentioned in the same sentence as the bogey man, where Radiohead reach number one with albums of unlistenable wibble and the best busker in London plays guitar like he’s David Pajo, I think that people are ready for the Magic Band.

During a set lifted largely from the ‘Clear Spot’ and ‘Trout Mask Replica’ albums, there are songs that sound as if they could have been released by any of the better post-rock bands in the last few years. ‘On Tomorrow’ wouldn’t sound out of place at a Tortoise gig, while Rockette Morton’s preceding bass solo (yes, I know, a fucking bass solo, but, man, you had to be there) could put Billy Mahonie to shame.

Obviously, on these and other instrumental songs, the absence of Don van Vliet is an irrelevance. Elsewhere, John ‘Drumbo’ French does such a Beefheart impression so convincing, even on the vocal only ‘Orange Claw Hammer’, that anyone not familiar with the history probably wouldn’t have guessed that French was only ever a drummer in the original incarnation of the band.

What is obvious though is that the Magic Band are still capable of knocking out the delta-blues-voodoo-stomp-swamp-rock better than anyone else. They lurch their way from one masterpiece to another, from ‘Circumstances’ to ‘Steal Softly Thru Snow’. Though they do then ruin things slightly with ‘Evening Bell’, a two-minute piece for one guitar that has no obvious rhythm and makes absolutely no bloody sense at all. But then, contrary bastards that they are, they follow this with ‘Electricity’ and ‘The Floppy Boot Stomp’ and everything is peachy again.

In the end, my only complaint is that I’d prefer it if Drumbo didn’t take so much time out to between songs to talk to the crowd (oh, and that they don’t play ‘Ice Cream For Crow’ or ‘Ashtray Heart’, but you can’t have everything). Okay, so he’s being polite and wants to tell people some of the background about the songs, but it would be good to hear this set played Blues Explosion style, with only a howled song-title and the occasional “1, 2, 3, 4” separating each track. Though obviously, the fact that a large number of Magic Band songs are either so syncopated or contain three different time signatures means that they’d be impossible to count in.

But as the band come back on to encore with ‘Brickbats’, any such grumbles are left far behind. The Magic Band still sound mighty and, against a lot of odds, I got to see the evidence up close and personal.

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Billy Mahonie, Trans Am
Islington Academy, London

There’s an odd crowd here tonight. It could be because most the press that Trans Am get is in the style magazines. Perhaps the Islington Academy just attracts a ridiculous number of people that just go there to be seen, rather than to see the bands. Or maybe Dave Stewart’s mates are just so old that Alzheimer type disease has set in, and they’ve popped in to see him, having forgotten that the aged duffer doesn’t own the place any more.

Whatever the reason for this bizarre mix of fashion victim and haggard former hippies, there’s a pair of white-haired sexagenarians eagerly pointing a range of cameras at Billy Mahonie for the duration of their set. The truly sad thing about this though is the fact that when they first launch into one of their many songs whose titles continue to elude me, there are very few other people paying any attention to a band who are quite possibly Britain’s best post-rock troupe.

Instead, while Mr and Mrs Fred Hale (the oldest man in the world, do try to keep up) work their through film after film, most of the crowd have a collective chat, a particularly loud chat that constantly threatens to drown out Billy Mahonie in a sea of babble. Seriously, some people just can’t recognise greatness even when it’s waving intricate and elegant interlocked riffs in their face. But as the volume builds, Mahonie start to win over the ignorant onlookers. By the time they go all Fugazi throwing an epileptic fit on their pugnacious closer ‘Düsseldorf’, they’re an angular and finely honed colossus that is impossible to ignore.

It could be because Mahonie were so good, or have something to do with me being so tired, but Trans Am don’t really cut it tonight. Each time I’ve seen them before, I’ve been transfixed by their barrage of droning synths, growling bass and staccato drumming, but right now, something just isn’t clicking.

The crowd has started to leave, taking the atmosphere with them. Trans Am bassist Nathan Means’ close physical resemblance to Vernon Kaye is getting to me more than usual (the orange mesh trousers aren't really helping), and the set is too repetitive, the songs too derivative of each other, to hold my interest for long. It’s getting late, I’ve got to get up for work in the morning, and I’m feeling dehydrated, and no matter what they do now, Trans Am aren’t going to escape the fact that they were outclassed and upstaged by Billy Mahonie.

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Blonde Redhead
the Scala, London

It’s nights like these that make it all seem worthwhile. I don’t really know how it happened but I spent the last nine months in some sort of musical coma, oblivious to all that was going on around me, with no idea what was happening, when albums were being released or who was on tour.

I’d become disillusioned with gigs and was finding more comfort in James Ellroy novels than in smoky, dank disgusting venues with shit sound and overpriced drinks. Then Blonde Redhead finally came to town. Having spent so much time on the fringes, I was almost unsure how to react. It had been so long since I’d felt the excitement, the anticipation of knowing that I was going to able to go and watch a band that I totally love.

And then, as the staccato twin riff of ‘Melody Of Certain Three’ kicked in, it was as if I’d just had witnessed an epiphany. This was what I had been missing. It wasn’t that I was just burnt out, or had seen too many bands. I’d just seen so many merely average bands, that I’d almost forgotten what it was like to experience such brilliance, such genius first-hand.

It’s there in the way that they fuse the art-rock styling of Sonic Youth with the fervour of Fugazi, a perfect mix of poise and passion. Music that not only sends shivers down your spine but raises the hair on your head and sends the endorphins coursing through your mind. And they don’t just pull off such a feat once, the exhilaration builds with every song, from the interlocked guitars of ‘Futurism Vs. Passéism’, through a super-charged ‘Maddening Crowd’ and into an especially sparse and haunting rendition of ‘In Particular’.

They even get away with an encore of ‘In An Expression Of The Inexpressible’, on the record the only of their songs that doesn't induce a feeling of blissful awe. Live, however, it’s a twisting spiralling juggernaut of a song, as Kazu Makino saves her best Yoko Ono howl for the finale, screaming her near inarticulate desperation over Amedeo Pace’s jagged, bruising guitar hooks. It shouldn’t work, it’s just too far from what even the more musically liberated onlookers would describe as accessible, or maybe even listenable, but tonight it’s the most mesmerising climax that you can imagine.

Blonde Redhead have set the standard by which I will judge every other band this year. As much as I’d like to proven wrong, there are few bands whom I can imagine managing to scale such heights.

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It’s good to see progress in action. When Electrelane first arrived back in 2000 they were an intriguing blend of space rock and film soundtrack, incidental music that was so disparate from everything else around that it was practically coincidental to fashion and trend. Their second album, ‘The Power Out’ and the preceding ‘I Want To Be The President’ EP, added muscle and greater substance to that equation. Not only that, but where some of the tracks on their debut, ‘Rock It To The Moon’, were too drawn out for comfort, ‘The Power Out’ was a leaner creature, stripped of procrastination that just hunkered down and got on with it.

Axes, the Steven Albini-produced third album, and first to feature new bassist Ros Murray, continues this evolution. Although it remains true to the blueprint laid down on ‘The Power Out’, the ideas contained within that album have been now been expanded upon, allowed to grow organically, and revel in their own glory, while simultaneously looking to the past and future for sustenance.

Once the thrash of opener ‘One, Two, Three, Lots’ has died down, a riff akin to Neu’s ‘Isi’ signals the beginning of ‘Bells’, a krautrocking epic that can stand proud alongside it’s Teutonic predecessor. The shuddering stop-start rhythms of ‘If Not Now, When?’ build on this promising start, juxtaposing gentle piano arpeggios with a driving beat that gradually becomes more and more insistent.

The impressions of perpetual motion and locomotive power increase the further into the album you get and become most apparent as the sound of faraway howling train horns ushers in ‘Gone Darker’. As the track gathers pace, the horns are replaced by the background squeal of distant sax, locking into the groove and dragging the song along with its discordant shrieks.

It’s certainly not all easy sailing, ‘Business Or Otherwise’ and its jerky spazz-jazz rhythm and lack of recognisable notes gives the distinct impression that someone foolishly let John Cage in the studio, while “these Pockets Are People’ and ‘Suitcase’ sound suspiciously Electrelane by numbers, though the former does serve as a useful, if perhaps overly long, intro by a heavy and punishing cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘The Partisan’.

If you can ignore its couple of minor shortcomings, your perseverance with ‘Axes’ will ultimately be rewarded. All we need to do now is see where Electrelane go from here.

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Catch the Breeze

Is a cliché still a cliché if it happens to be true? Similarly, do clichéd descriptions remain clichés when they are the most appropriate way to describe how a particular band sounds? Is it possible to talk about a Slowdive – shoegazers to a (wo)man – compilation which brings together highlights from their entire back catalogue, without using words such as transcendental (cliché #1), or celestial (cliché #2)?

Part of the then infamous scene that celebrates itself, Slowdive stumbled out of the Thames Valley area at the start of the ‘90s to make beautiful music laden with soaring (cliché #3) guitars and lots and lots of effects pedals. The likes of the eponymously titled ‘Slowdive’ and ‘Catch The Breeze’ do a pretty good job of setting out the initial Slowdive blueprint, hovering as they do around the point of equilibrium between the squally feedback (cliché #4) of Ride, and Lush’s ethereal (cliché #5) wall of sound (cliché #6), topped off with Rachel Goswell dislocated, elfin vocals. Elsewhere, their cover of Syd Barrett’s ‘Golden Hair’, from the ‘Holding Our Breath’ EP, takes the concept of building sonic cathedrals (cliché #7) to extremes, managing to sound as if there was got a whole chapter of Franciscan monks locked away with them in the recording studio.

After their early EPs and first album, ‘Just For A Day’, Slowdive began to refine that blueprint, and 1993’s ‘Outside Your Room’ EP and ‘Souvlaki’ album, which included the Brian Eno collaboration ‘Sing’, signalled a move away from volume and towards a gentler, more ambient sound.

By the time that the ‘Pygmalion’ album was released in 1995, Slowdive barely resembled any of the bands that had been considered their peers five years earlier. The percussion had been stripped right back to a series of minimal beats that were overlaid with sparse notes and spacerock drones. This change left Slowdive having more in common with Seefeel and other bands mining the seam between guitar music and electronica than with the likes of My Bloody Valentine or the Pale Saints.

Since the demise of Creation Records, much of the Slowdive back catalogue has been unavailable. ‘Catch The Breeze’ is the first step towards rectifying that, and should allow a new generation of effects pedal geeks to learn to celebrate the scene that celebrated itself.

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Delia Gonzalez and Gavin Russom
The Days of Mars

Not content with re-appropriating some of Can’s finer moments with LCD Soundsystem, DFA boss James Murphy has obviously decided that the label could do with some more groovy proto-krautrock, which is where Delia Gonzalez and Gavin Russom come in.

While LCD have become the sound of now (well, the sound of ten months ago anyway), ‘The Days Of Mars’ could have crept out on an obscure German label at any point during the past twenty years.

‘The Days Of Mars’ is one of those records that breaks free of such petty notions as trend, fashion or era. Much like an updated take on Tangerine Dream or a subdued Kraftwerk, its minimalist bleeps, looping motorik and melancholy soul mean that this record will still sound fresh this time next year and that’s not something that could be said about everyone on the DFA roster.

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A Way of Life, Why Be Blue?

Five albums in 28 years is not a very impressive record. To put it into perspective, it’s about 397 albums less than the Fall have released in a similar period. But that’s all that Suicide managed so far, and this could well be one of the main motivating reasons for the re-release of their rather modest back catalogue over the past few years.

Suicide’s third album, ‘A Way Of Life’, was first released in 1988, shortly after the duo reformed following an absence that spanned the majority of the 80s. Nowhere near as harsh or abrasive as its predecessors, it’s a still a fairly unforgiving album, full of repetitive dirges, atonal droning and spasticated rhythms, though lacking the strangulated screams that had made their 1977 debut album so hard to listen to on a regular basis.

Essentially, this is the sound of Suicide with the drama and aggression turned down. ‘Jukebox Baby ‘96’ sees vocalist Alan Vega overdoing the Elvis sneer and murmur in a manner that Billy Idol would pee his pants to mimic. ‘Surrender’ seems to be set to the tune of A=ha’s ‘Manhattan Skyline’ and is, bizarrely, the closest thing that you’ll find to a Suicide ballad, and if ARE Weapons ever take to covering the Jesus & Mary Chain’s ‘Honey’s Dead’ album, it would sound just like ‘Rain Of Ruin’.

‘Why Be Blue?’, originally released in 1992, is the more focussed, and therefore better, of the two albums, powered by heavy staccato beats and doom-laden electro-pulses that veer between the Fall’s experiments with electronic music, Cabaret Voltaire and the an abstract take on the clipped pop of the Pet Shop Boys.

While ‘A Way Of Life’ sounds a bit too much like a collection of ideas gathered together for posterity, Suicide’s fourth album appears to have been recorded with a more carefully thought out vision in mind, meaning that ‘Why Be Blue?’ makes for a more comfortable listen than your average Suicide album.

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Interlock, Kyberneticka Babicka, Plastic Mile

Bloody Stereolab. No sooner do they put out a compilation of all their hard to find EPs – saving you much eBay stress and money – they follow it with a limited edition triple seven inch. Fortunately, new fangled technology means that all six tracks are also available as a download. Unfortunately, Stereolab continue to follow their recent trend of always being good, but rarely being great.

Such normal service means that the perfect pop days of ‘Ping Pong’ and ‘French Disko’ are behind us, with four of the new songs content to amble along pushing all the right buttons without bothering to flick your switches. But just when you’re least expecting it, ‘Interlock’ pulls out most of the stops, sticks it to the man and reminds you why you loved Stereolab so much in the first place.

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The Dirty Three

You almost wonder how he finds the time. Despite having been a member of the Bad Seeds for the past few years and working on other solo projects, ‘Cinder’ is the seventh album that violinist Warren Ellis has released with the Dirty Three.

Much like the previous six albums, ‘Cinder’ is a tautly wrought with dueling violin and guitar, melancholic sounds and funereal longing. Unfortunately, with the exception of ‘Great Waves’ – on which Cat Power's Chan Marshall provides the vocal for the first Dirty Three song to ever feature lyrics – it sounds a lot like the previous six albums.

If you can ignore that fact that it’s also overly long, there’s nothing wrong with ‘Cinder’, it’s just that Ellis has done it before, and done it both better and more concisely.

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Juliette & the Licks
…Like A Bolt Of Lightning

History says that this should be terrible. Actors should rarely be encouraged to pursue a recording career. But, against all the odds, Juliette Lewis has not only managed to release a credible mini-album, but a rather fine one too.

‘…Like A Bolt Of Lightning’ is brimful of the sort US AM radio three-chord Joan Jett meets David Lee Roth’s ‘Living In Paradise’ turned 80’s new wave punk rock that you suspect that Juliette’s ‘Natural Born Killers’ alter ego, Mallory Knox, would have listened to while fleeing the scene of her recently butchered parents.

If Courtney Love hadn’t wasted her talent flashing her tits, beating up passers-by and making monthly court-appearances, if Hole were still be with us, this would quite probably be what they’d sound like now.

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Unlimited Edition

Quick wake up call for anyone that thought Krautrock started with Kraftwerk. It didn’t.

Can formed back in the late ‘60s and, along with the likes of Tangerine Dream, laid down the original blueprint that was merely updated by Kraftwerk a few years later. Originally released in 1976, Can’s eighth album, ‘Unlimited Edition’, was compiled from a series of recordings made over the previous eight years, and runs the gamut from nasty hippy music to juddering and heavily syncopated motorik.

Despite the vintage of ‘Unlimited Edition’, it’s obvious how influential Can still are. Just a single listen to ‘Connection’, recorded in 1969, shows that, at least in spirit if not actually in person, LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy really was there.

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Mission of Burma, the Playwrights
the Institute of Contemporary Art, London

There are few things as disappointing or soul-destroying as watching your luminaries embarrass themselves in front of your eyes. And few things are as likely to initiate a publicly humiliating fall from grace as a seminal band reforming as a way of dealing with their collective mid-life crisis.

The Velvet Underground were a bitter and petulant abomination of their past self, Arthur Lee has only managed to get away with it by drafting in a new band to pose as Love, and we’re all waiting with baited breath to see what happens with the Pixies. So when Mission of Burma got back together to play All Tomorrows Parties a couple of years ago, you may have feared that it was all set to go horribly wrong.

But before we talk about the old, let’s look at the new. While the Playwrights may not yet have broken into the public consciousness, with a Careless Talk Costs Lives tour behind them and high profile support slots like this, they’re making a damn good go of it. Where last years’ ‘Good Beneath The Radar’ was loaded with a post-folk air and chiming guitars, they’ve gone and got hard on our ass. The new songs punching out into the crowd as singer Aaron Dewey snarls his way through ‘Guy Debord Is Really Dead’ and guitarist Ben Shillabeer jerks around the stage, battering tunes out of his long-suffering instrument.

Having to follow such an adept performance, it seems even less likely that Mission of Burma will be able to pull this off. But age doesn’t seem to have taken its toll on them, and while Roger Miller spends the first of tonight’s two sets looking uncomfortable on stage, this is about as close to a triumphant comeback as you can get with the ICA’s dodgy PA system.

The PA not only muddies the sound disgracefully, it highlights how much more interesting, and tuneful, Clint Conley’s songs are than Miller’s, and also how much better a voice he has. While the likes of Miller’s fast and rasping ‘Fun World’ start to blur into an almost unidentifiable mess through the distorted PA, Conley’s ‘Academy Fight Song’ and ‘That’s How I Escape My Certain Fate’ still sound great.

When ‘That’s When I Reach For My Revolver’ breaks through the fuzz and hiss of the overloaded system it still sounds as fresh and vital as it must have on it’s release 21 years ago. Mission of Burma have proved that it is possible for a bunch of middle-aged men to return without making tits of themselves. Let’s just hope that the Pixies have been paying close attention.

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Popular perception often says that in order for a band to have any chance of recognition that they either have to come from London, relocate to London, or play a London gig at least once a month. Now, this shouldn’t be the case, but as with all self-fulfilling prophecies, once something has been accepted as true, then it becomes true.

Fortunately, there are exceptions to this rule. Sometimes it’s possible to override the lazy and myopic views of both the industry and the punters and prove that it is possible to overcome such obstacles as an apathetic local population and put yourself on the map, no matter where you happen to be located.

Gather together enough like-minded and similarly determined people; form some bands and find a venue sympathetic to your cause, or at least willing to let you use its back-room for a nominal return, and all of a sudden you’ll find that other individuals and bands will gravitate towards you and, lo, a scene is born.

This is how things went in Bristol in the mid to late ‘90s. The Pull The Strings collective centred around a handful of bands – of which Soe'za were one of the more prominent – a local pub venue and a connection with Southern Records that allowed the added bonus of regular gigs from the likes of Les Savy Fav, Sweep The Leg Johnny and 90 Day Men.

Released in 2000, Soe'za’s debut album, ‘Founded By Sportsmen And Outlaws’ proved them to be the British contemporaries to the Check Engine; a record rammed full of jazz-punk licks melded with, and tempered by, hardcore tendencies that grew out from the taut cadence of dual drums and agitated guitars. But what really set Soe'za out was the way in which this was dressed with cornet and French horn, offering a glimpse of musical sophistication rarely encountered within the confines of your average provincial pub gig.

Then, as is so often the way, circumstances got the in the way of progress. Due to the rather incestuous musical environment in Bristol, where everyone seems to be in about eight bands at once, Ben Shillabeer and Aaron Dewey left the band to pursue their other commitments in the Playwrights, while other members disappeared on prolonged sabbaticals.

All of which means that Soe'za’s second album, ‘Why Do You Do?’, gradually assumed that often-dreaded mantle of long-awaited, while a low-key existence meant that they almost dropped off the radar outside of the south-west.

Thankfully, ‘Why Do You Do?’ has finally found its way out of the primordial fog, via Nottingham-based indie label Gringo, and set about re-establishing Soe'za’s profile.

When compared to ‘Founded By Sportsmen…’, Soe'za’s sophomore album strikes you as a different sort of beast, more restrained and less frenetic. Jenny Robinson’s move away from the second drum kit means that there is more opportunity for her softer, more soulful voice to provide a foil to Ben Owen’s rapid-fire undulating stream of consciousness lyrical flow. The scattershot drums remain, but they’ve since been joined by rolling rhythms that sound as if they’ve dropped straight off a Salaryman record, while album closer ‘Wounded Hounds And Their Treatment has more than a hint of Karate’s sparse notes and whispered vocals about it.

The only question left should by why do you do what? But once you’ve heard Soe'za, the only thing you’ll want to do is dance, and the reason you’ll want to do that is because it’s impossible to not do so. Time to get yourself both the albums, and put your dancing shoes on.

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Arts Cafe, Camden Monarch, London

There are two sides to every story. Newton proved the existence of equal and opposite reactions, Chinese philosophy gave us the Yin and the Yang, Freud based his theories of personal development on the twin drives of Eros and Thanatos, and Robert Louis Stevenson had Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Gravenhurst, as with many other singer-songwriters (sorry, I know that that’s a bit of a dirty word), deals with the age-old dichotomy between the acoustic and the electric guitar.

Maybe a brief history lesson is in order at this juncture. Once upon a time there was a band called Assembly Communications. Their sound was pitched somewhere between the desolate beauty of Red House Painters, the effects-pedal driven onslaught of Ride’s early singles and soaring vocals reminiscent of Art Garfunkel. They built themselves a solid fan base around their adopted hometown of Bristol, took In The City by storm and turned down record deals. But then, for reasons that won’t be entered into here, the band split.

After a while singer Nick Talbot started Gravenhurst as a solo adventure. The understated majesty of Assembly was still there, only this time the thundering guitars had been replaced by a lone, fragile acoustic guitar. But it seems that this wasn’t enough. Alongside the solo effort, a new electric Gravenhurst were also being assembled (ahem). So now, depending on the night, you can have either the solo acoustic Gravenhurst or the full electric movement of the three-piece Gravenhurst.

If it’s Tuesday, it must be the Arts Café. Full band, electric guitars and effects-pedals. Last time I saw the electric Gravenhurst, I wanted to cry. The music was just too beautiful, the longing so perfectly expressed. Tonight, however, the tears are nowhere near my eyes. They’ve been replaced with an overriding feeling of joy. This is music that moves me. Even though new songs comprise the majority of the set, there’s a welcome sense of familiarity to everything they play. I feel like I already know these songs, that I’ve lived with them, that I’ve already taken solace in them.

Whatever the reasons for the formation of a full band, it’s strange seeing the difference in Nick’s demeanour from one night to the next. With the band he looks relaxed, comfortable being on stage. But the night after at the Monarch, he seems nervous, awkward as he stands there alone, the subject of the crowd’s undivided attention.

Musically, there’s not a lot to choose between the two sets. The songs differ (only ‘Damage II’ and ‘Blacks Holes In The Sun’ feature in both), but this is mainly because there hasn’t been yet time to for the band to learn them all, or for the songs to be re-arranged. But, electrically, ‘Black Holes…’ is so mighty that as a set-closer it’s perfect. As Nick stops singing, the guitars arc into a crescendo of wailing noise, building louder and louder, almost in direct retaliation to the delicate sound that has gone before. ‘The Diver’ still sends shivers down my spine, but the spookiest moment of the two sets has to be Nick’s solo rendition of Hüsker Dü’s ‘Diane’. Originally a barked and frantic tale of rape, when stripped down to a single guitar, the song takes on a new, and somehow much more sinister, air, as if the victim’s suffering has been made more prominent by the reduction in volume.

It’s been said that there are two sides to all of us. If that’s the case, then surely there’s room in your heart for the two sides of Gravenhurst as well.

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Killing Joke

Following the acrimonious and very public dissolution of the Sex Pistols, John Lydon claimed that his new project, Public Image Ltd, would reject the notions of punk, instead replacing them with the bass-heavy throb of dub, frantic polyrhythms, and unstable frenetic guitars; in short, Public Image Ltd were going to deal in little short of anti-music. Unfortunately, no matter how good the rhetoric behind PiL, their first album still sounds that bit unfocussed and disappointing.

“This morning, shortly after eleven o’clock, comedy struck this little house in Dibley Road. Sudden, violent, comedy. Police have sealed off the area, and Scotland Yard’s crack inspector is with me now.”

Which is where Killing Joke come in. Formed by singer and keyboardist Jaz Coleman and drummer Paul Ferguson in early 1978, eventually filling the line up with Geordie and Youth (no real names around here), on guitar and bass respectively, Killing Joke sonically sat that much closer to Lydon’s concept of the death-disco, brutal beats pregnant with ominous pulsating keyboards and a snarling desperate vocal that carried lyrics that painted a grim view of the present and an even darker prediction of the future.

“I shall be aided by the sound of sombre music, played on gramophone records and also by the chanting of laments by the men of Q division. The atmosphere thus created should protect me in the eventuality of me reading the joke.”

Originally released in 1979 and 1981, Killing Joke’s self-produced first albums – the eponymous debut and the sophomore ‘What’s This For…!’ – laid out their uncompromising blueprint for all to see and hear. Often credited with being one of the instigators behind the nascent Goth scene of the early ‘80s, Killing Joke transcended the movement before it began, becoming ever more vicious and punishing while their black-clad peers slid towards humourless self-parody.

In fact, ‘What’s This For…!’ saw Killing Joke refining the post-punk elements of their sound. ‘The Fall Of Because’ is the aural embodiment of PiL’s ‘Metal Box’, ‘Tension’ is the bleakly claustrophobic cousin of the Knack’s ‘My Sharona’, the effervescence joy of the latter supplanted with paranoid sense of alienation and despair, while ‘Follow The Leaders’ sounds like nothing less than a dub version of Joy Division’s ‘Isolation’.

“It was not long before the army became interested in the military potential of the killing joke. Under top security, the joke was hurried to a meeting of allied commanders at the ministry of war.”

Not being a band to mess with a winning formula, 1982’s ‘Revelations’ takes up where ‘What’s This For…!’ leaves off, but benefits from a much cleaner, and therefore more readily accessible, sound courtesy of producer Connie Plank. Although it’s essentially business as usual, much of ‘Revelations’ hints at a new found urgency and a desire to heard, a feeling in part created by the simple fact that the vocals were just that much clearer in the mix.

“In 1945, peace broke out. It was the end of the joke. Joke warfare was banned at a special session of the Geneva Convention, and in 1950 the last remaining joke was laid to rest here in the Berkshire countryside, never to be told again.”

Around the time of ‘Revelations’, relationships in the band started to go awry, prompting Youth to abscond, leaving the way clear for Paul Raven to take his place. ‘Ha!’ – Killing Joke’s fourth album – was recorded shortly after, pieced together from live recordings taken from a number of shows in Canada. From here on in, infamy beckoned, but it was during this period in their early days that Killing Joke most mattered.

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Querelle, Controller.Controller
Barden’s Boudoir, London

Right now, I’m ready to worship Querelle. No one else seems to have lifted the best bits from two of my favourite bands – Sonic Youth and Blonde Redhead – and yet can be seen playing a 300 capacity in a basement underneath a carpet shop in Stoke Newington to celebrate their signing with the Sink and Stove record label. So it’s incredibly frustrating that whoever took their soundcheck tonight doesn’t seem to hold them in such high regard as I do.

And, judging by the mood onstage, it seems that I’m not the only person that has an issue with the muddy sound. Try as they might, there doesn’t seem to be anything that Querelle can do it. Things just aren’t going their way, all the low-end is bouncing back off the ceiling and walls and what should have been a smart, clipped sound is rendered flat and toneless. But even through the sludge, you can hear that there’s something beautiful trying to force its way out. It’s there in the way that ’Nothing Lost Nothing Found’ sounds like an art-rock onslaught on Joy Division’s ‘Atrocity Exhibition’, all cavernous drumming and a jagged guitar that keeps dipping tantalisingly into feedback without ever quite breaking the boundary that divides music and noise.

Fortunately things go better for their new label-mates, Controller.Controller. On record, they sound like Pretty Girls Make Graves car-jacking Lomax but live they mutate into a deep-down low and nasty ten-legged punk-funk machine intent on turning their crowd into braying slaves to their fidgety staccato rhythm.

Imagine what the Rapture would sound like now if, rather than getting all loved up and trancey, they had followed up ‘Out Of The Races And Onto The Tracks’ by filling out their sound and delivering on the promise that the Gang of Four stylings that that song had promised. If, instead of making their songs all polished and shiny, they’d unleashed a barely contained rampant beast and gone on to record the album of adrenaline-fueled disco-punk for which we’d all been hoping. That mythical album would sound just like Controller.Controller.

Not only that, but they’re every bit the real deal live as well. Okay, so the stage isn’t exactly on the large size, but it’s literally seething. Singer Nirmala Basnayake is careening across the front of the stage, shaking her ass to her band’s insidious and infectious rhythms. Behind her, jerking and lurching guitarists are jumping on and off the stage, trying to avoid a drum kit that is being played so hard that it’s bouncing across the stage. The drummer meanwhile, clad in a balaclava and goat mask ensemble, is smashing out the beat on the ceiling.

It’s as if you’re witness to a funk-punk Bacchanalia, there’s nothing that you can do to stop yourself from getting caught up in the heady exuberance of it all. It’s time to give in to the moment and lose all control.

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John Parish
the Spitz, London

John Parish has always been something of an enigma. One of those people whose name you’ve always known but, other than ‘Dance Hall At Louse Point’, his 1996 collaboration with PJ Harvey, very few people outside of his loyal following actually know anything that he’s done, a situation exacerbated by his seemingly random appearances of other people’s records.

Similarly, it’s also quite hard to know what to expect of Parish. Five years ago, he was playing with a thirteen-piece band, last time he headed off on tour he was down to just nine people. Tonight’s four-piece, including Parish, seems practically anorexic by comparison.

Another inconstant here is Parish’s musical style, which changes as regularly as the number of beds on his tour bus. ‘Dance Hall At Louse Point’ was a brash, howling translation of PJ Harvey’s solo work. He flitted through pared down rustic folk before adopting the expansive textural landscapes of ‘How Animals Move’. More recently Parish seems to have settled, for the time being at least, for an intimate-sounding barroom blues, in part reminiscent of Tindersticks, if they had stripped of their strings, horns and unfathomable vocals, or the ‘Sticks’ American peers, the National.

But this current incarnation of the Parish band demands an intimate setting, and that is the last thing that he’s granted tonight. A large part of the crowd is restless – that large part obviously not including the substantial number of people that leave before Parish sheepishly saunters onstage more than an hour later than expected. Although not quite an ungodly time of night, it’s far too close to the witching hour and the new go-slow stylings struggles to connect with those who remain. Proceedings also aren’t helped by the fact that the new electric line up of tonight’s support band, Gravenhurst, have just played a spellbinding and exceptionally loud set that is still reverberating around the venue.

In fact, when all these factors are put together, Parish is just too underwhelming tonight. Anyone that came along hoping for the six guitar art-rock ensemble of a few years ago has been left disappointed and unfortunately that seems to be the overriding emotion tonight. Looks like Parish’s enigmatic status is safe for the meantime.

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Secondhand Daylight

I have an admission to make. Maybe it says something bad about me; perhaps it highlights some inadequacy that I had otherwise kept hidden. It’s possible that I’m about to make a social faux pas equivalent to arriving at a Middle-East peace talk wearing nothing but gaffer tape and electrodes. But, I don’t care any more. It has to said. The time has come to get it off my chest.

I suffer from a near-obsessive need to regularly purchase vinyl that other people have already used for their own nefarious purposes.

Okay, so I may have misled you there. I’m not admitting to a penchant for wearing used PVC clothing. Just that I find it incredibly hard to go longer than a couple of weeks without buying secondhand records. I should maybe point out that when I say records, I don’t just mean records. I mean music in general. I’m not a luddite snob with an aversion to CDs. I just find it easier to class all music as records and I also think that CD is a particularly ugly looking abbreviation.

If you look at it from at the viewpoint of an evolutionary behaviourist, then perhaps it’s my preconscious mind expressing the primeval urge to be a hunter-gatherer, a deep-seated need to return home at the end of the day clutching my prize, the ultimate proof of my manhood – this would also offer a rationale for the surge of aggression & territorial possessiveness which I often want to direct toward any other shopper who should be so bold as to approach the section immediately to my right (assuming that with an alphabetically order shop, you work your way through the section from left to right), and he (and it is usually a he) dares to casually flick through a rack of records that I have not yet perused.

Of course it’s possible that, rather than being the innocent victim of an ancient innate male character trait, learnt during millennia of living in a harsh and hostile environment, I could just be a geek. But let’s not dwell on that for prospect for too long. It would rid me of a useful get-out clause. And anyway, if it weren’t for secondhand record shops, my collection would be sadly lacking in albums by Lou Reed, Blondie, Bowie and the Action Swingers. How could I be expected to survive?

But before we continue, I urge you to stop your internal dialogue. You have judged me without first knowing a vitally important fact. You have classed me as a record collector and, as such, unworthy of your time but I refute this libellous claim. I am not a record collector. Record collectors buy records simply the sake of ownership. I buy records for the sake of having the music to listen to as and when I please. For me, the song is the ultimate goal; for the collector the fact of ownership is more important than the music. I have not, and shall never, walk that long and lonely path.

But...back to my obsessive-compulsive disorder. I suppose it all boils down to the fact that I derive two different forms of pleasure from buying secondhand records. First, there’s the general pleasure from having purchased a good album. You know that you have will have this for years to come, and that the album will be there any time you want to have a listen. But you can get that satisfaction from any record, no matter where it was purchased.

However, with secondhand records, that feeling is intensified. This wasn’t just a record you walked into a shop and picked up from the shelf. This is a prize, a purchase to be cherished. While it may not quite be like finding buried treasure, finding a great album after an hour digging through the racks is at least akin to finding a forgotten twenty pound note in your pocket. Granted, it may be only be a short-lived cheap thrill but, while that feeling lasts, you’re the king of the world - bulletproof and indestructible.

Obviously there are different grades of secondhand record shop. You can’t expect to get the same return for your efforts at an Oxfam as you can from a specialist retailer. It’s not so much the effort that is required for a thorough search, more the fact that your average charity shop is full of battered copies of musicals and Brahms box sets from the Reader’s Digest. But, the occasional dip into their mucky wares can still produce small gems, especially when you find Kraftwerk’s ‘Computer World’ for less than £2.

The next level is the standard independent retailer with a small secondhand section, such as David’s Records in Letchworth. This sort of shop is the real teaser, the bait that first gets you into buying secondhand records. You’re looking for the band new album by some random US hardcore band, but then, out of the corner of your eye you spot Hüsker Dü’s ‘Candy Apple Grey’ in the secondhand section. Result. Before you know it, you’re checking the used record section before the new releases, just to make sure that no-one else picks up a bargain while you’re not looking.

Then there are the small, exclusively secondhand, shops such as Alan’s in East Finchley or More Music in Swansea. Shop where you the range of stock, and catchment area of their sellers, mean that you may not be finding the most treasured albums in your collection, but there’s a reasonable chance that you’ll find something that takes your fancy.

Larger shops can be divided into two categories. Firstly, there are those that specialise in certain genres, such as the excellent Replay Records on Haymarket Walk in Bristol, where I spent more time than I’d care to admit when in lived in the city. As they limit the sort of music they hold, it’s always worthwhile to spend a good hour looking through all the shelves, particularly as they’re very good at marking the price down on anything that hasn’t sold quickly. Any visit to my former housemates is usually accompanied by a trip to Replay and, more often than not, rewarded with a couple of bags full of very good, and very cheap, records.

Secondly, there are the evil shops. By which I really mean the various branches of Record & Music Exchange in London, though there must be other similarly despicable outlets around the country. Mainly because they’ll quite happily sell you scratched records and CDs, won’t let you listen to them in the shop to see if the marks are merely surface damage or something more serious and won’t give you a refund when you discover that you’ve been conned.

Then, finally, there’s eBay, the big daddy of secondhand record shopping. eBay scares me. There are too many possibilities. I could live on eBay, spend entire days searching for records and placing bids. If the hunt for secondhand records is indeed derived from the repression of the hunter-gatherer instinct then eBay is its ultimate expression. A place where not only do you get to seek and succeed, you also get to fight for your prize, for the right to call yourself King Monkey. I fear eBay and yet I also bow to its superior power.

That feels better now. A weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I have had my confession and I feel stronger, purer, for it. Just don’t go getting me mixed up with Rob Gordon, the neurotic shop-owner and music obsessive from Nick Hornby’s ‘High Fidelity’. I’m not a geek.



Well, it was long time coming. Despite having been around for what now seems like years - as a remixer to the likes of Felix Da Housecat, Cabaret Voltaire and Fischerspooner, working alongside Zyntherius for the mighty 'Sunglasses At Night', and so many appearances at Trash that the term guest DJ no longer seems appropriate - it has taken three years for 'Sexor' to finally reach completion.

In some ways that may actually be a good thing. Back in the day, it was hard to know who to take seriously and who was just along for the ride, in it for the fame and out for kicks rather than to actually do anything as banal as add substance to the musical cannon of the genre. As such, Fischerspooner were often ridiculed and dismissed as thrill-seeking one-trick party animals and Peaches was hailed as nothing less than a spokesman for a new generation.

In the four years since the cold heart of electroclash not only seems to have warmed but also gain the ability to emote more than a superficial desire to buy Prada shoes, take coke and act as if you're too good to be seen to be having fun at Nag Nag Nag. Not only that but now that most of the feckless chancers have abandoned what they believed to be a sinking ship, it's possible to the more fresh and vital acts to stand out from the thinning crowd once again. And in such an environment, Tiga stands out like a beacon.

Given how fast music evolves and trends come and go, it's almost surprising how much 'Sexor' sounds like it could have been released at any point in the last six years. Had this album come out in 2000, it would have been proclaimed as groundbreaking, in 2006 it's merely very, very good. Maybe it's a result of having spent so long in gestation - 'Pleasure From The Bass' was recorded in 2002 and originally saw the light of day, or at least the shiny chrome-plated neonlicht of nightclubs, in 2004 - but when you consider that this has been spawned by a genre that wasn't expected to survive a year without imploding, Tiga has pulled a masterstroke by managing to divorce this album from the vagaries of fashion to deliver something that, if not exactly timeless, sounds just as at home on your stereo right now as it would have a few years ago and will still do so in a couple of years time. Just as Kratfwerk's gleaming exterior housed an emotive, progressive soul, the pulsating rhythms of 'You're Gonna Want Me' and the incessant motorik of 'Good As Gold' conceal the sort of humanity that electroclash's detractors could never have expected to find lurking within.

In fact, along with Fischerspooner's 2005 album, 'Odyssey', 'Sexor' is proof that, far from being dead and buried as many had predicted and hoped, not only is there life in electroclash, it seems that the genre may in such rude health that a resurrection may not be that far off.

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Chris Brokaw
Incredible Love

Some people don’t like to make a lot of noise, they’re not overly eager to draw attention to themselves, they tend to keep things on the quiet side. The career of Chris Brokaw appears to be a case in point.

Brokaw first cropped up in New York slow-core luminaries Codeine – a band so slow that glaciers can cross continents before a song reaches its chorus and narcoleptics could fall into slumbers between beats, yet still wake up in time for the next stroke of the drums. And as Brokaw was the man supplying that beat, you have to wonder if maybe the sloth isn’t the only creature that lives out its life at a fraction of the speed of the rest of us.

After Codeine’s ’Frigid Stars LP’ and ‘Barely Real’, Brokaw headed off to Boston, laid down his sticks for a bit in favour of a guitar and joined forces with Thalia Zedek in Come, a band only marginally less sedate than Codeine. More recently, Brokaw seems to be making something of a habit of playing in bands featuring other established musicians. He’s returned to the drums in the rather spectral New Year (alongside former Bedhead brothers Matt and Bubba Kadane), plays in Doug McCombs intricate post-Tortoise post-rock outfit, Pullman, and also in Consonant, the band formed by former Mission of Burma man, Clint Conley as well as making guest appearances on recent records by the likes of Evan Dando and Karate.

And if you think that that sounds like enough for most people, you may be surprised to know that he’s also found the time to hold down a solo career (though if that is the case, you’d perhaps also be wondering why this article existed in the first place). So it’s no mere coincidence that Brokaw is about to unleash his second solo album, ‘Incredible Love’.

You know the way that Bjork’s ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’ starts off all soft and tranquil, then suddenly shouts ‘arrrgghhhhhh!!!! I’m a bit loopy me’ in your ear just when you were about to drift off to la-la land? Well, ‘Incredible Love’ is a bit like that. OK, so it’s not like Brokaw gone and torn his larynx out screaming like a good ‘un or ripped the volume knobs off his guitar trying to turn it up further than it was designed to be played, but compared to what has come before, this still feels like something of a departure.

It all starts innocuously enough. ‘Blues For The Moon’ is a gentle and engaging number that nicely draws you in and leaves you with the false impression that this Brokaw is going for the less whiny Jeff Buckley aesthetic. All of which means that the opening bars of ‘Move’ feels somewhat like a slap in the face, as the volume increases and it all starts to get a that little bit rowdy, and it doesn’t end there. Things continue in this vein across the album – soft songs interspersed with hard-edged rock outs, gentle melodies begetting pounding drums and rough-hewn rockers, beefed up by the presence of Karate’s Jeff Goddard and former Rodan man, Kevin Koultas.

But the most intriguing thing about ‘Incredible Love’ is that when you go back for another listen, which you will many times over, you find that the majority of the songs are not actually anywhere near as loud as you first thought. So how you have just been tricked into thinking of this as something other than it really is?

The answer can only lie in Brokaw’s willingness to understand that delicate doesn’t necessarily have to equal indistinct, that it is possible to take intricate songs and record them in a manner that means that listeners won’t have to strain themselves trying to enjoy the album, that gives a depth and strength to the sound that most people would never think of using, something that has been apparent on nearly every record on which he’s ever played. And not only is ‘Incredible Love’ is all the better for it, it is indeed quite incredible.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

The OC

British youth soap opera/teen-drama. Just doesn’t cut it, does it? As if. Hollyoaks. Bunch of fucking crap. Why waste your time watching it?

No, if you want to while your hours away watching twenty-somethings playing teenagers, be it television or cinema, you have to turn to America. It seems that they’re just so much better at than we are. The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Pretty In Pink, Bring It On, American Pie (but only the first film, let’s put the kibosh on the sequels), My So Called Life, Buffy, the list just goes on. But – and it’s quite a big but – that list most definitely doesn’t include Dawson’s pissing Creek.

No, I don’t care who you are; it’s not worth trying to start this debate with me. You can’t win, so I won’t even bother listening to what you saying. Blah blah blah, like, whatever.

That’s not enough? You want reasons? Overly sentimental, unbearably saccharine sweet and twee, drawn-out long past its sell by date, smug as fuck plot lines, and I don’t fancy Katie Holmes. Sorry.

But of course, we also have to take into account the James van der Beek factor.

Mr van der Beek, please approach the bench. I present you with exhibit A, the lower half of your face. How do you plead? Guilty? Too fucking right you’re guilty.

Ok, so I had no problem with James van der Beek in ‘Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back’ or ‘The Rules Of Attraction’, but as far as Dawson goes, you’re having a fackin' laugh, guv’nor. Foolishly sensitive film geek fucks up his love life and loses his girlfriend to the US version Toady from Neighbours. Get over it. Move on. Look, she has. She’s screwing your best mate.

If I wanted hear about the trials and tribulations of being a movie addict trying to get by in the real world, I’d have a chat with New Noise’s very own Eddie Robson. I used to work with him. He’s a nice chap, once you get over his remarkable resemblance to Muse’s Matt Bellamy. And he’s got a book out about the films of the Cohen Brothers, which is more than you can say for Mr Chin.

Anyway, I’ve digressed enough. If you’re after non-patronising teen-drama, with geek-chic skateboard kids, hard-drinking beauties, philandering parents, a bitch queen royale, and a bloke that once died of a heart attack in Neighbours, all based around a reworking of the classic Pygmalion story, then there’s only one place for you to turn. And that’s Orange County, California, baby.

Yeh, you got it. Welcome to the OC.

We’re supposed to pretend that the series is all about Ryan. The Chino boy who was saved from himself just about in time to stop from him turning bad, but who’s still rough enough to punch out anyone that looks at him funny, burn down a house owned by his recently adopted mother’s business, and shag his newly acquired grandfather’s girlfriend in front of the girl he really wants. The perfect post-American Dream rebel with a cause. Like Jack Kerouac raised as trailer trash, but denied the opportunity to place his mother on a pedestal, left with no choice but to lash out at his tormentors.

But really, we know that he’s little more than a plot device. He’s only there so that situations can evolve around him. He’s a catalyst for change, a fulcrum rather than a focal point, and an excuse for a regular ruckus.

No, all the real fun is going on around Ryan. First off there’s Summer. The tart with a heart, only she keeps her heart well hidden behind a wall of vicious put-downs, scything glances and mini-skirts. She thinks she’s all that, and, truth be told, she probably is. Even if she isn’t I wouldn’t want to be the one to tell her. She’d probably have your balls off in an instant. Along with your bladder and lower intestine.

And there’s her verbal sparring partner, Seth Cohen. King geek extraordinaire, the Graham Coxon of US teen-drama. Let’s face it, he’s the kid that we’d all like to be. Good T-shirts, never falls off his skateboard, has hair that marks him out as being just that little bit different, and he’s willing to argue with the girl of his dreams when it comes to music.

And it that isn’t enough for you, he almost manages to pull off the perfect coup. Rolling around semi-naked with Summer in the pool house while he’s got another girl stashed away in his bedroom, playing with a toy horse.

Finally, we get to Marissa Cooper, the OC’s contender for the throne marked teen-drama goddess. A true challenger for the position previously held by Shannon Doherty and Eliza Dukshu. I’d marry her if we didn’t already share a surname.

Where do we start? She’s toying not only with alcoholism and drug abuse but also with Ryan’s heart. She tried to kill herself in a seedy Tijuana bar, is having to deal with watching her parents split up but also watching her mother chase Seth’s grandfather. Her ex-boyfriend is a jock twat who managed to sleep with half the female population of the OC without her knowing. Basically meaning that she gets flit between playing the nice girl next door one moment and fucked-up drug hoover the next. What more could you ask for from a leading lady?

OK, so that’s the kids sorted (well, all the important ones anyway), all you need know for a killer drama is a reasonably believable basic premise. Something along the lines of Ryan starting the series getting caught while trying to steal a car, or some other relatively minor act of juvenile delinquency. That should suffice.

Maybe then his mother and her abusive boyfriend do a runner while Ryan is in custody, leaving with nowhere to turn other than the kind-hearted community lawyer, Sandy, that was dealing with his case. Who then takes Ryan home to meet the wife and their seemingly socially-awkward son, Seth, who just happens to the same age as our lovably roguish Chino troublemaker. Sound good so far? Yeh? Good, then we’ll continue

Imagine for a moment that Ryan’s initiation into OC life doesn’t go so smoothly to start. He keeps getting into fights, usually with Marissa’s boyfriend. At the beach, in the diner, on the boardwalk; wherever Ryan goes, chances are he’ll be coming home with a shiner. And just to antagonise his new home life, each black eye invariably earns another black mark from Sandy’s immeasurably wealthy wife. But Seth doesn’t seem to be acting so introverted anymore, so maybe it’s all going to work out for the best. In fact, maybe they should adopt Ryan.

And once you’ve mixed that little lot together add a succession of parties, Ryan's and Marissa's on-off, should-we, shouldn’t-we, what about my boyfriend-sod him, he’s a lying cheating bastard anyway relationship and the gradual build up of sexual tension between Seth and Summer.

Then you’ve got the near-apocalyptic road trip to Tijuana which cumulates with Marissa knocking a bottle of pills down her gob, and the occasional sortie back into Chino – allowing for the use of grainier and less vividly-coloured film to further highlight the differences between the rich suburb and the scummy run-down poor area. But hey, at least Ryan’s growing up on the right side of the tracks now.

And there it is.. Everything you could possibly wish for from the perfect teen-drama. So next time bleak British teen-soaps are getting you down, just head on over to OC for some fun in the privileged sun because, as every easy-living, hard-partying California rich-kid knows, the future’s bright, the future’s Orange County.

The Make Up

"I wanna introduce four of the most generously gifted motherfuckers that I know. Straight out of Washington, DC…the Make Up. Let’s give it up.”
Introduction from ‘After Dark: Live At Fine China’

It’s not often that a band comes along that perfectly sums up everything that you want, and should demand, from a group. In reality, such an occurrence is so rare that should such a band come along, you’re more or less obligated to love them, obsess over them and stalker them like a nutter every time they set foot in the country as you. But unfortunately these bands come along so infrequently that it’s been years since we were last given the opportunity to express our love in such a drastic and morally dubious manner. In fact, it’s been eleven years since a new band came along and showed themselves to both the personification of our dreams and the realisation of our desires. It’s been eleven years since the dark underbelly of Washington, DC, spawned the Make Up.

The Make Up formed around the core of Nation of Ulysses, a DC area band that made like Rocket From The Crypt with an added socio-demographic political agenda and claimed an intention to “wreck society through direct action by destroying its institutions and the men who serve it, and by relying on the people's forces to spread the doctrines of P-Power and Ragnarok; to consolidate the New Nation, while never forgetting the need for constant purging”. As you may notice, they weren’t exactly your common or garden DC hardcore band.

Styling themselves as an international revolutionaries, the NoU not only declared themselves the first wave of the Ulysses Jihad and waged war on complacency and the US government – laying claim to a number of fictitious assassinations and embassy bombings – but pronounced these claims so loudly that singer Ian Svenonious believes to this day that the CIA hold files on him and regularly keep track of his actions.

When the time came for NoU to part ways, it was obvious that the nation had not fallen, that the masses continued to be repressed, and that there was still work to be done and from the ashes of NoU, via a brief sojourn as Cupid Car Club, rose the phoenix of the Make Up; bold, magnificent and ready to continue the good fight.

“Do not review if...the review would condescend to MAKE-UP's pretension of ideology and dismiss it as sophomoric and naive, as MAKE-UP recognise the unconscious ideology of insipid psychology undermine meaning through invisible propaganda for its father and benefactor, advanced capitalism…6) unless you understand that this is truth on tape…”
From the sleeve-notes to ‘Sound Verité’

Looking like a mix of a Maoist party conference, the Symbionese Liberation Army and the Black Panthers, the Make Up comprised three former Ulysses jihadees – the aforementioned Svenonious (now less a singer than an evangelical rock and roll prophet who could be found sermonizing his congregation as often as actually singing), bassist Steve Gamboa and drummer/percussionist James Canty (brother of Fugazi’s one and only Brendan Canty) – and Michelle Mae, formerly the bassist in proto-riot grrls, the Frumpies.

"Of all the sectarian developments stemming from Christianity in the former colonies, perhaps the strangest and most fascinating is the one called Gospel Yeh Yeh, which, though originating in Washington, DC, seems to be spreading elsewhere at an alarming rate."
From the sleeve-notes to ‘Destination: Love Live! At Cold Rice’

Sonically, The Make Up evolved drastically during their transition from the frenetic soul-punk revue of NoU. While none of the energy or fondness for zealous performance was lost, the Make Up’s mix of MC5, post-DC hardcore, Arthur Lee’s Love (even going so far as to write a protest song demanding his release from incarceration), gospel, rhythm and blues and punk – what they referred to as the Gospel Yeh Yeh sound – was the nearest thing you can find to an incendiary device in your record collection.

The band’s image and politics were echoed in every thing they did. Not only did they perform in matching black uniforms, they could be found arriving at their shows in matching daywear. Far from being the last gang in town, the Make Up projected the idea that they were the only gang in town, and you were welcome to join as long as you could prove your devotion during the gig. Make Up shows (the the prefix used to come and go depending at which record sleeve you happened to be looking, representing the band as both concept and a definitive article in their own right) were characterised by the ever more outrageous antics of Svenonious, often to be found in the midst of his disciples; braying with ruthless abandon like a revitalised James Brown, urging on his fans, pushing them to the point where they abandoned any sense of inhibition and became part of the spectacle itself. Early on it wasn’t unusual for the Make Up to be greeted with initial apprehension, only for this to turn to undying zeal and supplication by the end of the show.

The Hives and the (International) Noise Conspiracy may have lifted most of their ideaz straight from their copies of After Dark and Destination Love, but they were little more than inadequate pretenders to the Make Up’s throne. While repeated attendance at either a Hives or (I)NC gig quickly showed that Pelle Almqvist and Dennis Lyxzén were merely leading their respective bands through a series of rehearsed moves, loaded down with clichéd posturing and identikit rhetoric, the Make Up live experience was the real deal; insurrectionary, inspired by solidarity and a deep-rooted need to express the raw emotions that would have otherwise remained bottled up inside, as can be witnessed on the any of the three live albums currently available – ‘Destination: Love’, ‘After Dark’ and the soon to be released ‘Untouchable Sound’.

Since their demise in 2000 (it was, apparently, only ever intended as a five-year plan) the majority of their rank and file have since been found working under the monikers of Scene Creamers and Weird War, but regrettably that revolutionary spirit has never since been captured as perfectly as with the Make Up. By way of a legacy they have leave behind them, in addition to the live albums, three studio albums – ‘Sound Verité’, ‘In Mass Mind’ (the sleeve-notes to which featured a treatise on the industrialisation of the music industry); ‘Save Yourself’ (by which time the band also included Alex Minhoff, formerly of Six Finger Satellite) – and a whole host of seven inch singles, collected together on ‘I Want Some’.

The dream may be over, but the spirit lives on, on record and carved on the soul of their fans. But do not fear, these things are not meant to last forever, and we can at least look forward with hope for the next band to come along and grant our wishes.

"Dear diary,
We are crossing the country now, playing cities large and small and it seems that indeed the problems that affect us at home beset people everywhere. We will do our best to galvanise this discontent into a tight fist, to discipline these ragtag bands so they can properly be named an army, and they shall read Clausewitz and Guevara and all the various handbooks on martial concerns."

From the sleeve-notes from 'I Want Some'