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.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

All Tomorrow's Parties, 2000

Fortunately Sunday offers Sonic Youth’s, Steve Shelley the chance to save face, as the droning of his other band, Two Dollar Guitar, and the laconic drawl of their Harry Dean Stanton lookalike singer gently ease you back into another day of music. Which, after having shared an invigorating absinthe breakfast with Bearos Records (or rather, sat in the sun with Bearos while taking advantage of the kind offer to drink their absinthe), is a good way to kick things off. Unless, of course they happen to followed by the Bardo Pond, which they are, who seem determined to mess with your head once more as their shoegazing cacophony meanders about for a bit before realising that they would have been better suited to 1989, and buggering off back to their time machine.

After Sonic Youth you could be forgiven for turning your back on instrumental music, but Papa M are all that it takes to show you that true beauty can be achieved without words. Whereas Thurston and his cronies were content to ramble tunelessly for an hour and a half, Dave Pajo understands the need for a driving force in the music to take the place of vocals, and therefore the instrumentation is always building towards a specific point, the guitars working off each other to create a new eloquence, and as such, even their 15 minute rendition of ‘Turn Turn Turn’ sounds as articulate as the original.

It’s a rare occasion when Pajo can’t be considered the most influential musician on the bill, but Wire not only can be held responsible for shaping the sound of as many of this weekends bands as Sonic Youth or Slint, but have been around long enough to have been an influence to those bands themselves. Following the blanket slagging of their recent Royal Festival Hall gig you’re expecting to be disappointed, so what follows is nothing short of a revelation.

Maybe they read the reviews, maybe they saw Sonic Youth and felt the need to prove that middle-age doesn’t necessarily make you artistically redundant, but Wire take to the stage as if they believe it’s 1978 and they’re at the 100 Club for the first time. In short, it’s like punk is still happening, and right before our very eyes Wire are taking steps towards injecting it with an art-school sensibility. Shorn of the ‘80’s detritus that they relied on a month ago, much of the set is drawn from ‘Pink Flag’ and ‘Chairs Missing’, as the syncopated beats, awkward riffs and robotic drumming immediately dismiss any notions of granddad rock, and the crowd are left mesmerised by Colin Newman as he screams and rants his way through their very own definitive history of art-rock.

You’re left wondering just how Mogwai are going to follow that, how Stuart Braithwaite’s mob can justify their position as headliners, and what the cheeky little scamp is going to have to say for himself tonight. Fortunately they seem to have risen to the occasion, and are filled with a much greater sense of purpose than when they last dragged their bloated forms around the country, as if the string quartet have forced to them become more disciplined, and any feelings of awe they may have playing to so many of their idols are soon put behind them. ‘Christmas Steps’ and a reworked ‘New Paths To Helicon’ are devastatingly brutal, building in volume to levels that would have Kevin Shields reaching for the earplugs, but they still find themselves hamstrung by their tendency to draw songs out for too long, until ‘Ex-Cowboy’ finds itself flailing about pointlessly going nowhere.

Yet the new songs are capable of keeping people riveted for half an hour at a time, recalling the Omen’s sinister score as the strings ricochet off the dense barrage of noise, it’s just a shame that, just as we were beginning to forgive him for being such an arse all the time, Stuart then goes and ruins it all by calling Ken Livingstone an evil cunt. But then ‘Fear Satan’ brings the weekend to a final close, and it’s time to grudgingly admit that there may be life in the cretins yet. If only Stuart can learn to keep his mouth shut long enough to prevent anyone from kicking the crap out of him first, it’s just possible that we may fall in love with the stupid buggers yet.