Saturday, 15 December 2007

Mobile Act Unsigned/Poppy & The Jezebels: Take Your Chances...

Has anyone caught any of the Mobile Act Unsigned programme on T4? I’ve been watching it develop over the weeks (not religiously, but it always seems to be on just as I’m getting up), and wow, how dull are all the bands? I know some are the judge’s choice and some are picked by the public, but none of them seem particularly interesting or exciting in any way. And some of them I actually really want to like! It’s just all so samey, and they all sound like so many other bands (especially the indie boy four-piece… I forget their name). Plus Mancini... if it wasn’t for the fact that their frontwoman is stunning, they wouldn’t have been given a second look. I just don’t understand how these bands could be seen to be creating new music, when it just sounds so rehashed or just plain terrible. It’s embarrassing that they represent the cream of new, unsigned music in this country.

Anyway… let’s not get all negative. At least it beats watching the X Factor.

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This week I’ve written up a profile piece for my magazine on the rather amazing Poppy & The Jezebels, four brummie girls who are still at school, but write lush, warm pop melodies and wear fabulous vintage dresses. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly who or what they sound like… their influences include Patti Smith & The Slits, which you can definitely hear in the way the songs are put together, but the overall sound also reflects Joni Mitchell and the Raincoats. Then there’s also Electro Bitch, featuring a heavy dose of theremin and lyrics like, “Electro techno bitch, I’m a bitch for you”. And it actually sounds good. Basically the Jezebels are a mish-mash of everything good that has been written in the past 40 years, without sounding too much like one artist in particular. It’s also pretty hard to believe that they are still in their teens (apart from Poppy Twist, the rest of the band didn’t have time to answer my questions as they’re revising for GCSE mocks!). They’ve just signed to Mute Records and have a new single coming out in January, so keep checking their site. At the moment they have one EP available, Follow Me Down, which really is worth a listen, and try searching for 'Painting New York on My Shoes' on MySpace videos, which isn't on the EP but is a lovely, pretty ditty. The interview will be published in the first ‘proper’ issue of my magazine, Shebang, which is due out in April.

Poppy & The Jezebels MySpace

Thursday, 29 November 2007

The Teenagers: Oh My God, I Think I'm In Love...

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The Teenagers are one of those bands you smugly drop into conversation with a 'Jeeves' (a phrase coined by a friend to describe those people who like to think they know everything about every band that's ever graced the earth. Also referred to as know-it-alls and/or wankers). In most cases, you'll most likely be met with a blank expression or confused look. Ha! However, on the off chance anyone actually knows of them, you're probably guaranteed a friend for life.. or at least someone you can sneakily steal some more musical tip-offs from.

Or maybe that's just me.

If you're not familiar with the Teenagers, now is the time to correct that. They tick all the right cool boxes (french: check, young: check, the word c**t in songs: check, obsessed with sex, celebrity and, er, ham rolls: check) but do actually have the songs to back them up. I've heard mixed things about their live shows, but they are perfection on record. Their unique blend of laid-back storytelling, simple, plodding basslines and hilariously honest lyrics ("sometimes, when I wake up, it's a circus in my underwear") work so well, it's a wonder they aren't more well known.

Anyway, this week upon opening NME (which I only buy for my Journalism dissertation research, honest) I turn to their "What to wear to look cooool/new rave/whatever!!!" page, and see my beloved Teenagers shirt staring back at me, worn by some geeky NME writer. I cry a little, mainly because wearing the tshirt will now look like a declaration of love for NME's fashion expertise, rather than the Teenagers. OK, I might be being a little dramatic here, but that was my favourite tshirt, and now it's been NME-ified. Next thing you know, the Teenagers will turn into those nothingy bands that people never even bother admitting they like, simply because everyone else and their gran is also a fan.

So on this dark day, let us remember the Teenagers' golden, pre-NME years, before they get given some obscure genre made up especially for them (Parisian perv-poppers already seems to be a favourite) and are used to advertise iPods.

(all ysi)

Sunset Beach mp3
Homecoming mp3

Teenagers' MySpace

Their new single, Starlett Johansson, is out now on Merok. Buy it here.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Control: The Edge of No Escape

Film : Control

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Directed by Anton Corbijn.

OK, so I'm sure this has been covered to DEATH in blogs and review pages already (no pun intended, honestly), but seeing as Control was possibly the best film I've ever seen, I feel the need to yet again confirm just how incredible it is.

Oh my. Where to begin? There's so much I want to tell you about this film, but I'll try my best to keep it short so as not to give too much away. I went to see it with my housemates, who all had varied knowledge of Joy Division. I'd read the book, Touching From a Distance by Ian's wife, Deborah Curtis, that the film was based on, so was pretty clued up on what the plot would be like. On the other hand, one of my housemates didn’t even realise Ian Curtis was dead, so the levels of fandom were very, very varied! Despite this, every single one of us came out of the cinema in awe of such a fantastic portrayal of an incredibly interesting life, and talked about it for the rest of the evening.

I have a confession. I'm not really big on films and am normally constantly checking my watch, waiting for the credits to roll so I can tick another film off my 'must see' list. Terrible, I know. But this time I found myself wishing history would be rewritten so that the story would be never-ending and I would never leave my dark, uncomfortable cinema seat. Shot in hazy black and white, Control is beautifully directed - each frame could easily be a stunning photographic image, capturing every moment, important or not, of Curtis's unusual life. Thick clouds of smoke swirl from lips in dingy gig venues and (playing Ian Curtis) Sam Riley's intense stare perfectly reflects the thoughts of a man left vunerable and confused by the life he has chosen (or chose him?). But then again, with such a renowned photographer at the helm, I wouldn't expect anything less.

But Control isn't just some aesthetic feast for the eyes. The plot is perfectly written, constantly keeping things moving on. For example, we rarely see Joy Division writing songs or going through the dull motions of initially forming a band. Curtis merely approaches the other members after a Sex Pistols gig, asking if they need a singer and -WHAM- the next scene, they're on stage at their first gig, the hype slowly closing in. I'll avoid mentioning much of the plot as this is a film that needs to be watched with a fresh view (after all, I think most people can roughly predict the main events that will be documented). But despite the tragic ending, there are many hilarious one-liners littered throughout, preventing Control being another doom-and-gloom biopic (Last Days, I'm looking at you). Riley's delivery of Curtis is exceptional, and in some scenes the resemblance really is uncanny (in others, he tends to look a hell of a lot like current 'troubled star' Pete Doherty... merely a casting coincidence? I'm not convinced). But Riley is not the only actor who actually looks the part... the appearance and mannerisms of the cast are so accurate that you can't help but believe you are watching real life as it happens, rather than a reconstruction.

Control really is a masterpiece and the most fascinating account of a band on the edge of fame and disaster that I've ever seen (and trust me, I may not be a film fanatic but I've seen my fair share of rock 'n' roll dramatisations). You owe it to yourself to watch this film at least once, although I guarantee you'll come back for more, no matter what your knowledge of Joy Division's music. Gut-wrenchingly honest, it is likely to hit a nerve in everyone, whether it be the painfully accurate spats between Curtis and his wife, or a shudder of rapture every time they launch into another timeless melody. This is one pleasure that should not remain unknown.

Official Site: Control

Florence & The Machine: Pretty Little Things

Florence & The Machine

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I first came across Florence & the Machine when I stumbled across their cover of Lightspeed Champion's Galaxy of the Lost, and that was it - love at first listen. Now I'm a huge LC fan, but there is something about Florence's cover of the song that rips out it's soft, syrupy folkyness and skewers it into a sharp, self-deprecating clamour of desperation. Plus they miss out the embarrassingly twee, "I feel better, now I've seen you..." introduction that makes my skin crawl for all the wrong reasons. Phew.

A bit of background for you... Florence & the Machine consists of 20 year-old Florence Welch on vocals and currently Dev (of Lightspeed Champion/Test Icicles) on guitar, although as the name "the Machine" suggests, a variety of disposable guitarists are on hand for different gigs. Comparisons between Florence & Amy Winehouse or whichever female singer is the current hot gossip are usually just lazy journalism bullshit, so don't trust the papers. Florence is like a mixture of all of the best bits of theatrical, hauntingly brilliant singers and songwriters. Her voice echoes the raw sorrow of Cat Power on the road to ruin and the strength of Patti Smith, lyrics that retreat into a compellingly dangerous territory (in Girl With One Eye she cuts out a female enemy's eye and heart as revenge for "making me cry") and harsh, dark melodies that stop you in your tracks.

Managed by the Queens of Noize, it won't take long before everyone cottons on to Florence. I just hope that when the demos are turned into an album, the music will stay as stripped down and brutally stark as it is now, and will avoid the over-produced Kate Nash treatment.

(all ysi)
Florence & The Machine - Galaxy of the Lost
Lightspeed Champion - Galaxy of the Lost
Florence & The Machine - Girl With One Eye

Florence & The Machine Music

For fans of:
Cat Power, Bat For Lashes, Laura Marling, Kate Bush, Duke Spirit, The Gossip (earlier releases), Lightspeed Champion, The Kills, Patti Smith
Hey. Hi. Welcome!

This is my first attempt at a music blog. This is pretty new to me.. so please forgive any mistakes. I wanted to start this up as a way of sharing music as it's released, without having to wait until I can afford the crazy printing costs for my magazine, Shebang (by which time the bands will probably already be in every newspaper and magazine on the racks). As every music geek knows, there's nothing worse than catching onto a band too late (especially if they've already broken up by the time you realise what's going on!)

I live in Falmouth, Cornwall. This is a problem. There is pretty much no live music that doesn't involve some kind of sea shanty or reggae or a tribute band (yawn). So live reviews might be a little thin on the ground until July...

So please bookmark this, keep checking back & enjoy! As it's getting started, all comments and criticism is very much welcomed.. oh, and any musical recommendations you think deserve a feature!

Contact either via this site, or my magazine's MySpace ( or e-mail