Thursday, 8 January 2009

Less talk, more action:

Recent listens:

Crystal Stilts - Prismatic Room

Das Wanderlust - I Wish I Was A Robot

Pens - Live at Beyond Retro

Times New Viking - Drop-Out

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Girls On Top?


Slaves To Synth Guardian article

I stumbled across this piece on female electro artists on the Guardian website (posted 17-12-08), but felt it begs the question, why is it that women and men are still segregated in terms of music? As Caroline Sullivan spouts on about:

"this time the hottest prospects are women"

"They have pretty much nothing in common with the male guitar groups who are spending the final weeks of 2008 watching their much-anticipated new albums fail to sell"

"The male guitar band is dead. The future is electro, female, DIY - and very in your face."

... you have to ask WHY it always has to be male vs. female, as though one gender always has to beat or be better than the other one. Kings Of Leon have had one of the biggest selling records on 2008... are you still sure that the male guitar band is dead, Carol? Plus there are loads of talented male musicians that are all for equality - why should male musicians be demonised - you can happily declare love for a female musician without having to denounce men to prove your point!

All the women mentioned in the article are successful and may rely more heavily on synths than a 4 piece setup, but why lump all of these artists in the same group? Because they share a gender, which apparently makes it a lot easier to dream up a 'scene' that doesn't really exist; to join the dots between acts that aren't dissimilar, but that also should be considered in their own right, rather than linked by lady parts. It's lazy journalism, and it's dangerous. Music shouldn't be about gender, it should be about MUSIC; why is gender still such an issue? It's outdated and an excuse for people who know very little to write as though they are filling us in on a secret underground movement that is actually total bullshit.

La Roux, a so-called "cooler Sophie Ellis-Bextor" states: "Girls look a bit stupid playing electric guitar and drums. It suits blokes better. But girls look wicked playing synths. When they play drums or whatever, it looks a bit butch. I hope that doesn't sound anti-feminist."

Uh huh. Well, all female musicians are concerned with is "looking wicked", after all. Who exactly is La Roux basing this close-minded view on? Everyone who picks up a guitar plays it their own way, and how exactly does playing a guitar/drums though not having a penis make the person look "stupid"? Ladyhawke, who also gets a mention in the article, plays guitar, and she certainly doesn't look 'stupid'. If anything, she looks incredible; majestic, powerful, ridiculously cool and not at all 'butch'.
For someone apparently making such forward thinking music, it's odd that her mindset is so dated.

Let's stop all this men vs women crap, as long as the music's good, it shouldn't make a difference what the gender the person behind the instrument is.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Vivian Girls

Vivian Girls - Vivian Girls LP Review

Vivian Girls’ self-titled debut is a nonchalant hum of feedback-laden, muffled guitars and clattering drumbeats, juxtaposed with hazy, poppy harmonies straight from the sixties girl-group songbook. Not to be confused with the Australian band of the same name that was about in 2000, these three girls from Brooklyn create the perfect balance of sound; enough fuzzy, ramshackle beats and crashing uproar to please lo-fi, shoegaze lovers, but pressed up against assertive, chanting vocals and jaunty tambourine shakes to ensure that the boppy pop sensibilities stay on the straight and narrow. Instantly enthralling on the first listen and with their own solid, unapologetic sound, this record never falls prey to repetitive melodies but is a relentless spin through young love, heartbreak and all that goes between. Whilst every song stands strong alone, my particular first-loves are the woeful Where Do You Run To, the thudding urgency of Tell The World and Going Insane, an unabashedly shameless tracking down of a teenage love interest (“Does he know, does he know, that he’s going to be mine?”). Vivian Girls are creating the kind of music that requires your immediate attention; go and look them up right now and I can guarantee that your day will get brighter almost straight away.

Seriously, go!

Monday, 26 May 2008

The Great Escape Festival, Brighton

To celebrate finishing my degree, I skipped the light fantastic out of Cornwall to Brighton for the weekend, for a much-needed and very much missed live music hit. Now I’m used to the traditional festival-in-a-field set-up, and so The Great Escape was a very different experience. Each ‘day’ (or really evening, as most of the music didn’t kick off until 7pm) had to be carefully planned out beforehand in order to see the most bands in the smallest amount of time, which to be honest sometimes made the event more of a pain than a pleasure. But hey ho, live music is live music after all, and a chance to see some of my favourite bands for less than fifty quid isn’t offered very often. But then most people probably aren’t quite as geeky as me when it comes to music, so will take this time to relax, have some drinks, wander the streets and catch bands as and when they pop up, rather than turning it into an army-style plan of action (which didn’t always work anyway, as these reviews will prove!).


With our trusty timetables (that barely seemed to be relevant after bands had run over/under/not shown up/swapped slots mid-evening) and some cheap wine at hand we headed to our first carefully pencilled performance of the weekend: Eugene McGuinness at Digital. We missed the first couple of songs because of getting a bit carried away watching the seagulls on the beach, but as our eyes adjusted to the enveloping darkness of Digital we were caught off guard by Eugene’s clear vocals and slow-paced, pensive melodies. It’s no secret that he can write more than his fair share of dazzling songs, but seeing them performed live was an entirely different encounter. Shy, shuffling and softly spoken between songs, once the guitar was strummed his presence and luminous voice commanded the room.

Eugene McGuinness at Digital

We later wandered over to the Ocean Rooms to be wowed by Ladyhawke. After listening to her few leaked tracks online for months before the GE, I was expecting her to be a sassy, upfront and slightly showy, but found she was majestic and vunerable, clinging to her mic-stand as though she might topple into an awkward daze at any moment. Like a Kim Gordon and Stevie Nicks’ lovechild, Ladyhawke was incredibly imposing and glorious. Holding her guitar close and coolly reciting her lyrics with no hint of pretension, she occasionally let rip a jerky Angus Young-style guitar thrash, before quietly returning to the mic. Her accompanying band was tight and never missed a beat, and looked like they were having the time of their lives, the drummer grinning broadly every time he hit a cymbal. Besides well-known tunes Paris is Burning and Back of the Van, Ladyhawke proved she is no one-trick writer, and newer songs leant heavily on a disco and soul vibe, paired with her familiar eighties-inspired electro bops.

Ladyhawke at the Ocean Rooms


We then tried but failed to get into Peggy Sue and the Pirates at Hope, so called it a night (for the festival, anyway) and headed over to a local Dubstep night to finish the evening.


Determined to see Peggy Sue & The Pirates after the disappointment the night before, they were our first port of call at The Old Market. As Peggy Sue & The Pirates took to the stage, the sound guy kept playing whatever shite was coming from the speakers – I think it was Reverend and the Makers – prompting polite giggles, jokes about a backing track and eventually resorting to loudly ask him to turn it off (he didn’t, and we all had to listen to the track in its entirety. Thanks for that Mr. DJ). But this didn’t phase Rosa Rex and Katy Klaw, who launched straight into their hand-clapping, finger-clicking melodies. Their voices clash and compliment each other, yelling and screeching, whispering and buzzing through the speakers in a clatter of soulful blues and punk-sharp uproar. With quick-witted banter between every song, they frequently catch each other’s eye and laugh, taking turns to sit at the drums and bang along to frantic guitar plucking or a plinking toybox instrumental. Their best song live was Spare Parts, with its hiss-pop click of sounds and swirling harmonies.

Peggy Sue & The Pirates at The Old Market.



The on to the Honeyclub to see French favourites The Teenagers in all their pervy, teen-angsty pop glory. Their lyrics are often filthy enough to make an audience blush, but somehow singing them in a surly French accent disguises the narratives of fucking “American cunts” and “fuck Nicole”, making them sound positively romantic. This band are so hot right now, but don’t they know it. Singer Quentin purrs into the mic, coyly glancing at the audience and dancing and strolling around the stage, spinning stories of Parisian streets and French kisses. For Homecoming, the now-standard task of finding cheerleaders from the audience takes place, and Quentin and Michael head to the crowd for a massive group sing-a-long. Mainly opting for newer album tracks rather than older demos, the fury might have been slightly lacking but the filth was definitely still there. By far the most entertaining and fun band of the weekend, half an hour just didn’t seem long enough. I just hope they return to the UK soon for a full-length set.

The Teenagers at the Honeyclub

We then had drinks, and some more drinks, and eventually ended up watching Flight of the Conchords at home. Rock’n’roll indeed.


Aah the final day. And so far, we’ve seen 4 bands. Time to catch up. Straight over to Lightspeed Champion back at The Old Market to begin the proceedings. After nearly queuing around the block to get in, by the time we could squish ourselves through the door Dev had already been onstage for about 10 minutes. OK, now I don’t know quite how to put this after my declaration of love for him a few months back… but he wasn’t actually very good. At all. When musicians are referred to as heartbreakers, I don’t think they mean it in this sense. It was just a wail of messy feedback, with Dev frantically pounding at his guitar, never once looking up or interacting with the crammed-in audience at his feet. Occasionally he sung a few lyrics before returning to a self-indulgent proggy guitar wanking session. Maybe in his mind he felt like Hendrix. In reality, he just looked like a tit. We slunk off after 10 minutes, allowing some of the queuing outsiders to come in and be a part of this ear- and eyesore. In his defence, I’m sure that with a band behind him he sounds great, but standing alone on stage he was unable to do any of his fantastic songs any justice whatsoever.

Lightspeed Champion at The Old Market


Seriously deflated, my friend suggested Wiley. In honesty, his music isn’t usually my thing, but feeling bad for dragging her to Lightspeed I agreed, as good music is good music after all. But when we arrived at Revenge, there was no sign of Wiley and no one knew if he’d turn up or not. One very expensive drink at the bar later and we’re told by Bunny Rabbit that he’s a no-show. So we do what anyone would do in that situation: go to a friend’s house, get drunk and head back down to the beach to Digital to join the queue for the Erol Alkan and Mystery Jets gig (not linked with Great Escape). Photos (and pretty terrible photos at that) will have to say more than words now, as I wasn’t really in serious journalistic reviewer mode at that point. But the Mystery Jets were incredible, playing every single hit and favourite, including my favourite, Diamonds in the Dark, and Erol Alkan proved his title as DJ royalty, dropping tune after tune and closing with the Boys Noize remix of Feist’s My Moon My Man and Roxanne.

Mystery Jets at Digital

Erol Alkan at Digital
All in all a great weekend, though probably best avoided if you aren’t a fan of clashing band sets or organisation in any shape or form, and just want to kick back in a massive field and let the bands come to you.

PS. I know my photos suck.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Beach Break Live 2008

There’s something about the summer months that has everyone donning shades, bulk-buying suntan lotion, loading up their cars and heading down to the Southwest to catch some sun and surf. But if like me you’re not a huge water baby, fear not, for the Cornish coast now boasts more than simply crashing waves and shimmering, sandy beaches.


From the 9th to 12th June, Carruan Farm in Polzeath transforms from a traditional livestock farm into the 2008 Beach Break Live festival ground, hosting some of the biggest artists and bands of the year. There is something for everyone’s musical taste, as indie, break beat, folk, dubstep, ska, world beats, d&b, electro, reggae and funk blast out across 5 unique venues from midday to 5am. Indie fans after some guitar-led singalongs in the sun will find The Cribs, The Enemy, The Wombats, Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly., Noah and the Whale, Vincent Vincent and the Villains and Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong (to name but a few) are happy to obliege. For something a little more eclectic, Mr Scruff, The Scratch Perverts, Does It Offend You Yeah?, Sway, Team Waterpolo, Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip, Plump DJs and Stanton Warriors and many more will be joining the festivities, making this one of the biggest Cornish musical events of the year and definitely one not to be missed.


What sets Beach Break aside from the mass of music festivals popping up all over the country is not only its stunning location (a 10 minute stroll to one of the UK’s premier surf beaches), but the range of bizarre tomfoolery and entertainment on offer if your dancing feet need a break. Proving that there’s lots of fun to be had on the farm, sign up for the various livestock-related games taking place in and around the Barn in order to compete for The Mighty Cornish Goblet, a prestigious award given only to the worthiest farmyard competitor. Decorate an actual woolly mammal in preparation for The Pimp My Sheep Grand Prix or let off some steam veggie-style at the Cornish Fruit Golf Firing Range. If that’s still too relaxed for your liking, battle for glory at the Mud Hole Show Down wrestling pit or brave the Slippery Slide, a treacherous slope of doom holding various wacky races.


For a chance to catch the best fresh talent before they hit the bigtime, Beach Break has teamed up with Yougofurther, The Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) and Ubunto to present The Battle for the Beach at the ACM stage: a search for the best student band, judged by a panel including Groove Armada’s Andy Kato. And of course, a festival held in a surfer’s paradise can’t avoid a few surfing championships thrown in to the mix. Whether you’re a beginner or a self-proclaimed king or queen of the waves, the Beach Break Live Surfing Championships should wet your appetite (but make sure you contact BBL via the website before the festival kicks off to secure a place in the competitions).


All ending with a Masked Ball Fancy Dress Finale, the Beach Break literally caters for everyone, be it partygoers, music lovers, sporty types or simply those with a preference for the art of sheep decoration or pig chucking. For the student-friendly price of £79 for three days of fun and frolics, Beach Break is putting other festivals to shame and is set to be one of the events of the year. See you on the beach!

For more information, visit: Beach Break Official Website

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Kill Rock Stars: Listen Up!

This week, when spring cleaning my room, I came across my favourite Kill Rock Stars hoodie and saw that in the cold light of day, it’s stretched out hood and arms, various rips, faded colour and randomly splattered pink bleach spots (from the time we enthusiastically de-mildewed the bathroom) made it more of a museum item than a piece of clothing.
So, with the aid of my mum’s credit card details (note: they don’t accept debit cards), I headed over to the buyolympia website to get a replacement (and a few t-shirts while I was there, only to justify the postage costs of course *ahem*). And whilst scrolling through the merch section, I realised that I couldn’t remember when I’d last listened to my beloved Bikini Kill, Comet Gain, Gossip (early), Deerhoof et al. Most of my records are still in my old bedroom, stacked in rickety jenga piles at the top of a bookshelf, left unplayed and abandoned for the past two years. So I took the afternoon off dissertation-duty and got reacquainted with some old friends with the help of my housemate’s record player and the few 7 inches I’d thankfully decided to bring to Cornwall at the last minute. And at the risk of sounding like someone more accustomed to Werther’s Original and rainy coach trips than Riot Grrrl: they really don’t make them like they used to.

Bikini Kill


I remember first being aware of Bikini Kill when I was about fourteen and wanting them to be as cool as their name suggested. Luckily for me, they were beyond brilliant. Pussy Whipped crackled with fuzzy feedback shrieks and fast, cranky guitar powerchords, Kathleen’s vocals soaring between an adolescent hissy-fit and vigorous, bellowing commands, “I think I wanna take you home, I wanna try on your clothes, YEAH!”. Being a late-eighties baby I’d totally missed the riot grrrl-style revolution, but Bikini Kill were all the education I needed. Punk, politics and feminism clasped hands and led the record on a rampage, putting the world to rights on a soundtrack that makes the Sex Pistols sound over-produced. Rebel Girl (whch was released with New Radio on single, produced by Joan Jett) was an undeniable force of girl power (before the Spice Girls rocked up on their platforms and associated it with selling Pepsi and anything else they could get their paws on) and Blood One’s shaking bass and “I don’t owe you NOTHING!” yell nearly broke my speakers. But Bikini Kill weren’t all about fury and blaring rally cries. They were passionate, but not preachy, concerned but not needlessly critical.
And For Tammy Rae is one of the most beautiful songs ever written. It’s hopeful, a dreamy hum that blurs your surroundings and catches your heart off guard.

“Past the billboards and the magazines
I dream about being with you
We cant hear word they say
Lets pretend we own the world today
I know its cold outside
But when were together I got nothing to hide
Hold on tight I will never let you down
It cant rain on our side of town
Wipe the sweat from my hair
Tell me we’re not better off
Wipe the tears from my face
The sunnyside of the street, where we are”

Must-haves: Pussy Whipped, The CD Version of the First Two Records, Reject All American.

Random fact: Tobi Vail dated Kurt Cobain in the early nineties and scrawled "Kurt smells like Teen Spirit" on a wall, inspiring probably the biggest grunge record of all time.

Now: Kathleen Hanna went on to form Julie Ruin and later, Le Tigre, Tobi Vail is now playing with the Old Haunts, Kathi Wilcox plays in the Casual Dots and Bill Karren is in Boo-Boo and the Corrections.

Bikini Kill - For Tammy Rae

Gossip (pre-Standing in the Way of Control)


Since last year, it’s been impossible NOT to have heard Standing in the Way of Control in it’s various remixed forms. Great song, but the Gossip have a lot more than stomping dancefloor fillers under Beth’s sequinned dresses. Now they might be chucked into that sweeping, varied label of ‘indie rock’ but for years the Gossip have been blaring out urgent, dark basement blues, Beth’s vocals a force that demands your immediate attention; a crash on your chest rather than a polite poke on the shoulder. The Gossip are unapologetic, proud to distance themselves from trendy ‘scenes’ and stand up for the overlooked and the underestimated, while their fan base doubles and triples daily, and the mainstream press pants over their honest, dirty-minded and exuberant frontwoman.
Movement is my favourite Gossip record thanks to the gut-wrenching cry of Nite, No, No, No’s fastpaced, guitar-sped dirty choruses and the confident swagger of Don’t (Make Waves) (“It’s not like I could have stopped her, as a girl can’t be tied down”). Though the Gossip might now be the indie darlings of the NME scene, their ethics remain as solid as their songs and hopefully thanks to that Skins advert, downloaders might stumble across some of their early offerings, a reminder of the raw power that holds up the electro beats.

Must-haves: Gossip EP, Movement, Arkansas Heat

Gossip MySpace

Gossip - No, No, No

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Video Killed the Radio Star

The Cribs - I'm A Realist

MGMT - Time To Pretend (Live)

Laura Marling - New Romantic

Lightspeed Champion - Midnight Suprise (Full Length)