Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Crystal Castles = Thieving Bastards?

A video here
A weblog there
An even older weblog there.

So Crystal Castles have been copping 8-bit songs wholesale, not crediting samples, and one of their t-shirt/album cover designs hasn't been paid for after they discovered who the artist was. Even on of their early logos (Chanel) and their name (an excellent old computer game) are taken from other sources. It begs the question 'Has anything Crystal Castles created been their own work? '

And yet no questions have been answered by the band. They've made statements about the t-shirt sales in Vice (rebuked by the artist in the blog above), but nothing about the music has come up yet. One of the songs they've lifted has been recredited to the original creator in a roundabout way on Myspace (Crystal Castles versus Lo-bat), yet other songs which have been made commercially available have not. So they've made money from the work of others that they've repackaged as their own.

Part of me suspects the music press doesn't want to pose the questions. They'd would be showing themselves as fools for being duped by a band who once claimed they got their 8-bit sound from wiring an Atari sound chip into a keyboard. The other part of me wonders if they don't want to slaughter the fatted calf. Crystal Castles have been hailed in some parts as genuine contenders, a real hot new tip. To shoot them the poison arrow doesn't benefit the industry, who presumably have spent some serious cash to get this band the insane level of exposure they've had over the last couple of years. They've been everywhere, even getting a guest spot on oversexed, overdrugged, overcut teen drama Skins.

And if you damage bands that have cost a lot of money to build up, you lose access to other bands in the future. Everyone keep smiling, and don't ask those questions in the interview or they'll walk (good on Vice for having the stones to sneak it in at the end of the interview).

I hope I'm proved wrong here, and that the music press steps up to openly ask the questions. But the more time that passes, the less interesting the story is. Are the band just waiting it out?

So, while not too many people outside the 8-bit community seem to give a toss about this story, I have to say it's something I feel very strongly about. Not only is theft of this kind wrong, but it damages the rights of artists who choose not to copyright their work in order to allow non-profit creative collaboration and use. The Creative Commons licensing system is only as good as the weakest link, and if Crystal Castles can get away with this level of alleged thievery there is a strong chance CC licences won't be worth the pixels they're displayed with.

Come on Crystal Castles, 'fess up!!!
Come on, indie press. Have some stones! Do your job!!!

Monday, 26 May 2008

Shearwater - Rook

Shearwater were considered sort of an Okkervil River side project, as the band contained both Jonathan Meiburg and Will Sheff. I say were, as although the two bands still have much in common, Meiburg has pulled out from Okkervils' touring commitments to work on Shearwater full time. And their sounds are very different. Okkervil, while having the odd sad moment, rock much harder. Shearwater, while occasionally rocking hard (with massive open chords annihilating all that stand in their way), are quieter, heartbreaking pastoral sadcore.

This separation is already to the benefit both bands. Okkervil have amped up their already righteous show by adding Wrens guitarist Charles Bissell (who has fitted in perfectly to their live sound, adding signature touches on guitar and slightly more sympathetic backing vocals). Shearwater are going to be able to up the number of shows they play, and that's a very good thing. Their new album, Rook, is the best album I've listened to over the last couple of months. They'll get a lot of Talk Talk references (Meiburg's voice is key to that), but they're different from Talk Talk, in that they somehow sound more genuine. Listen to the mesmeric vocals on Rook's opening track 'On the Death of the Waters' and hear the difference.

Rook is available from your record shop on the 2nd of June, and Shearwater are playing the Four Points of the Compass festival with David Thomas Broughton + Revere @ Bush Hall in on the 17th of July. It's an £8 ticket. Get in!

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Evil Don't Look Like Anything

I saw Okkervil River this week at the Borderline. They damn near put my face in my lap. Got introduced to this band by a girl I swapped (actual real, physical) mixtapes with, and for her I have nothing but praise. Easily the best band I've seen in the last year, and that's a decent amount of bands that they've clawed their way over to get on top. Here's a Youtube video taken from the table nearest the stage (the best spot for watching a gig, ever. You just have to get there early). I don't endorse Youtube live vids from gigs, as often this means some schmo is spoiling your view with their lit up camera phone. And the sound is usually pretty bad. This one of them performing 'Plus ones' from The Stage Names is pretty good, in that neither of those things have happened (no-one's view is obscured, sound is C).

And here is the sampler I was talking about. Most of these tracks have been cribbed from other blogs, and really are only here for sampling purposes. I heartily recommend you get a ticket for their UK tour later this year, and/or pick up their albums (start with The Stage Names and work backwards).

1. The President's dead
2. For Real
3. Our life is not a movie or maybe
4. John Alleyn Smith Sails
5. It ends with a fall (Live on WOXY)
6. Plus Ones
7. Westfall (my favoutite song at the moment)

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Friday, 16 May 2008

The devil is behind you (Dirty Mys**ce repost)

A place to bury strangers were shit. Their whole 'we're the loudest Jesus and Mary Chain covers band' shtick didn't wash. Me and Davo ditched three songs in, got expensive snacks upstairs. Weak gig. But that isn't the reason I'm writing. Last tube creaked into Waterloo for 12.30. Train to Lewisham came in at one. Get into Lewisham at twenty past one.

Waiting for the N136, I see a man, a little black guy, five foot seven, skinny, doing high kicks towards the bus stop. About thirty yards away. He's wearing an olive army jacket, blue trousers, some kind of Adidas deck shoe. Has a rough scraggly beard. He's carrying a can of White Ace. 69p of white cider magic. Take no notice.

He walks up to the near side of the stop where I am, and aims a couple of high kicks near where I'm standing. Then he flips one for the side of my head, and I block it. I like to challenge myself, he says to me. Again a kick. Block. He walks up to the far end of the bus stop, bums a light from some guy. Comes back.

The devil is behind you, he says. If I look around, he's going to tag me. When I don't look, he tries anyway. Soft connect to the shoulder. No strength in it. The devil is behind you. I'm thinking he's schizophrenic, off his meds, with the cider making him hyper. He keeps trying to hit me. Enough. Enough I say, and he still tries, this weedy little fellow. 'Enough' again, looking him in the eye. And he stops, becomes calmer.

What are you listening to, he says. He grabs for an earphone; I hand it to him, and we listen to 'The sweat descends' by Les Savy Fav. We're half a yard apart now, me with the right headphone, him with the left. It's good he says. I'm shaking a bit, partly through adrenaline, partly because he's got a hand in his pocket, and I'm thinking maybe there's a knife in there. He would have pulled it by now. I hand him the other headphone for when the chorus comes in.

I get both headphones back, and he asks me the name of the band. Les Savy Fav. Talking fast, I give him their brief history, tell him the ULU story. You're cool, he says. What do you listen to, I say. Reggae, he says. Dillinger? He mishears me, thinks I said ganja, but we clear that up inside a minute. He doesn't listen to Dillinger, but knows of him. Good music is good music, he says.

"What medicines you take?"

Maybe he senses a kindred cracked spirit, or just figures I've taken some shit and not gotten angry. He can talk to me. Either way, I lie and say I still smoke cigarettes. It's a medicine, he says. Drink? A little, I say. He offers me some White Ace. I don't drink that stuff, I say, risking umbrage. I hold myself back from saying 'It hasn't even seen an apple'. He puts the can on the floor, hops on the bus I'm getting on.

He prowls the top deck, but doesn't talk to anyone. He gets off at Lewisham, and starts making faces at the bus, cursing it, dancing with his arms making a 'push away' motion. I wave goodbye weakly, the motion of acquaintances parting. A big wave of sadness hits me as the bus pulls away. That guy was all of 25 and he's totally gone.


So, anyway, I'm posting 'The Sweat Descends' as a song to save your life. And some other stuff that isn't really related at all.

Tracklisting below

1. The Widow - Thurston Moore
(great guitar instrumental from a hard to find compilation)
2. Screen - Brad
(Saw Shawn Smith, the singer of Brad in the week. He is my hero, and he signed my stuff)
3. The Sweat Descends - Les Savy Fav
(An incredible track. Even the clinically insane recommend it)
4. Pretty Mary K - Elliott Smith
(The best track from what I still rate as his best album, Figure 8)
5. Teenage Dream - T- Rex
(This is the glamour of Glam Rock was all about. A Marc Bolan mini-opera)
6. Forever Free - W.A.S.P
("I ride all alone, I can't see.. the road to nowhere anymore". I've got to stop, I'm tearing up)
7. The Lonely One - Wilco
(A maudlin classic from 'Being There'. Lyrically, close to perfection)

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Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Found sound

I've changed my mind on re-issuing the stuff of old. It's all new from here.

As many music obsessives know, the highlight of going round to someone else's gaff is pillaging their hard drive for Mp3s. Being a lover of hoarding shiny objects, I was a bit slow on the mp3 uptake (I was under a 1000 until last month), it's great to find a few gems from the collections of others nestling in your folders after a few months.

Here are a few I've found kicking about, and a Ben Harper CD single from the nineties that deserves some more love (upon request).

Random mix

The Secret of my endurance - Charles Bukowski
Knowing me, knowing you - Evan Dando
A nanny in Manhattan - Lilys
The man comes around - Johnny Cash
That's all it took - Gram Parsons
Wicked man - Ben Harper
Ground on down - Ben Harper
Fire not Ice - Ben Harper
If I could hear my mother pray again - Ben Harper
Look what the cat dragged in -Poison

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Monday, 5 May 2008


Welcome to my new blog. Those are five terrifying words for any prospective reader. But don't be worrying too hard. I've got form from writing on here (before Google ate Blogspot) and from the Myspace, which I used to write on a lot, but hardly touch these days. Before that, I was a student journalist. Before that, I was a writer anyway. And I read a lot of books. Some of the good stuff might have rubbed off. I live in hope.

My first few posts will be a 'greatest hits package' from the last few years of MySpace, and anything else of note from the archives. There'll be a lot of changes to the appearance as I go along, too. This is a chance for me to relearn HTML, and pick up some XML tricks too.

Then it's going to be regular weekly posts, sometimes featuring MP3s, the majority of which will be encoded to a reasonable level (192 kbps up). If something is very good, and I have it at 128/160, I'll still post it. To be honest, no-one can really tell the difference; it's a concession to people as anal as I am. There'll be a lot of music talk, and live reviews on here, and be expecting shakycam pics galore from gigs as well.

A feast is on the way. Lick your lips.