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.

Friday, July 01, 2005

All Tomorrow’s Parties, 2001

It’s already been marked down as the musical event of the year; the post-rock party where everyone invited is a friend of Tortoise, a nirvana for people who used to listen to Nirvana. A lost weekend in a sterile holiday camp that, thanks to the inclusion of most of the Def Jux roster, has somehow managed to be more hip-hop than hi-de-hi. So much so, that if you weren’t there, you’re possibly already either fabricating stories so you can convince easily-impressed acquaintances that you were, or invent some watertight alibis that place you at some equally exclusive happening that very weekend.

So, maybe it’s time for those of you who find yourselves in this predicament to seek some consolation, to take heart that maybe you’re no the only ones constructing lies and exaggerating stories, because, when it really gets down to it, All Tomorrow’s Parties wasn’t actually very good this year.

Yeah, you heard that right. So perhaps some of you consider that blasphemous. That maybe it had nothing to do with the bands involved, but that maybe I just didn’t get it, that in the face of such illustrious heavyweights as Tortoise, Television and the Sun Ra Arkestra, I buckled under the strain of non-conventional chord structures, and gone running off to my chalet to play with the oven and sofa-bed.

Well, bollocks to the lot of you then. If that’s what you think, than so be it, just don’t claim to be anything other than narrow-minded, musically-elitist, post-rock wankers who think that the sun shines out of David Pajo’s arse and sets on Doug McCombs slap-headed dome.

Last year’s ATP was a celebration of alternative music that promoted the talents of brand new British music alongside their American brethren – led by a transatlantic triumvirate of Mogwai, Sonic Youth and the recently rejuvenated Wire. If you add the mostly excellent company of my chalet mates –including former Signal bassist James Dart, who at one stage managed to convince the lot of us that he was eating his own shit (it’s a long story, I’m not going into it here) – and it’s immediately obvious that ATP2000 was going to take some topping.

Unfortunately, what started out by looking like a promising line-up soon proved unable to rise to the challenge laid down by their predecessors. Instead of the 40 or so bands that showed up last year, Tortoise only invited their mates, which wouldn’t have been so bad, if only they actually had a reasonable number of friends to ask along. The late exit of ESG means that there were only 23 bands on offer here, and no one had been scheduled to take to the stage until 5 o’clock each evening.

To exacerbate matters further, some fool decided that we were bound to want to see every band that was playing, the running times were arranged so that while one band was playing upstairs, chances are that there was no one on stage downstairs. So if you happened to think that The Ex were nothing other than a piss-poor third-rate hardcore band, there wasn’t anything else to do other than go and sit in the pub. Factor in the large number of misguided idiots that ran away from the hip-hop under the belief that it wasn’t real music, and this suddenly becomes a very common occurrence over the weekend. In fact, if Trash can lay claim to have more people wearing Prada shoes per head than any club in London, then ATP2001 wins the prize for highest per capita incidence of people muttering about how it might not be necessarily be bad, it just isn’t their kind of thing.

But maybe I’m just moaning too much. It’s possible that I was alone in thinking that US Maple that, compared to the syncopated discordance of their early albums, were little more than bitterly disappointing pub-rock shambles; that the hip-hop should have been spread out over the entire weekend, instead of being lumped together on one stage on the Friday night; and that the Sun Ra Arkestra’s brand of jazz sounded about as free as an incarcerated paedophile.

I may also have even been the only person that thought that Lambchop really could have played some tunes instead of a barely audible dirge; that no matter how good the Sea & Cake are, we didn’t really want to stand still and watch them for two hours; and that Boards of Canada provided a worthwhile alternative to getting wasting on tequila and absinthe with the Doc from Birmingham’s Bearos record label.

Maybe everyone else thinks that Rick Rizzo and Tara Key from the normally enjoyable Eleventh Dream Day were anything other than excruciatingly painful to watch; and that, despite Television sounding surprisingly fresh and vibrant for a bunch of pensioners, waiting 90 minutes for them to play ‘Marquee Moon’ could have been more entertaining than watching Roman Polanski’s 1962 movie ‘Knife In The Water’ while finishing off the weekend’s supply of beer and pasta in a guacamole dressing in the comfort of a chalet. But given all this evidence, you’d probably have to be in Tortoise to have disagreed with me on every point.

In fact, if a passing stranger tries to tell that any of the bands other than Tortoise, Mike Ladd, the Def Jux posse, Yo La Tengo and Broadcast were worth seeing, chances are that either they weren’t really there to witness post-rock’s eventual post-mortem, or they’ve got their chin-stroking head stuck so far up their miserable arse that their opinions don’t really count anyway.