Friday, 27 June 2008

See you in the next life

I thought about Suede a few weeks ago, and remembered that they'd left many tracks off Sci-fi lullabies, their B-Side collection. I thought, "I've got all of those tracks". I was wrong. I'm missing nine tracks from their early years. Hardly salty tears before bedtime, but still... Nevermind.
Below are eleven non album tracks from the prime period of their first three albums.

Painted People (on the Animal Nitrate single) and Dolly (on the flipside of So Young) really should have been on Sci fi Lullabies. they're good nu-glam stompers that got played quite a bit on the first Suede tour. This world needs a father (available on The Wild Ones CD single) is the most obvious absentee, a stand out track from the Dog Man Star sessions. It's a T-Rexesque epic, with a massive Bernard Butler guitar line, and mentions Sci fi Lullabies in the lyric. Sam (B to Beautiful Ones) also has a nice downbeat 70's acoustic Bowie feel to it, even if the lyrics seem a bit throwaway at points. All these songs fit the criteria for their b-side collection (not a cover, not a remix or alternate take, not a live take, not a single), and frankly could have pushed some duffers off the end of the second disc.

The other tracks wouldn't have been eligible for inclusion. Rent (from the Filmstar single) is a live cover of the Pet Shop Boys song, with Neil Tennant on vocals. The Drowners was taken from an Radio One Evening Session album, Brass in Pocket from the Vox Haute Couture cover CD, and Shipbuilding was drawn from Assorted, a Q compilation. The other live tracks are from a bonus disc that came with limited early copies of the US edition of Coming Up. There are a few other tracks on the live disc, and they may get put up in due course should I be able to get my hands on their other rarities. The last track (kindly donated by Steve) was a bit of a cheat. It was never officially issued, and is an alternate instrumental version of Still Life taken put out as a hidden track on Suede's last single, Attitude. It just shows what Dog Man Star could sound like with a decent remaster. How that album must dream of decent levels, a nice clear mix, with separated channels glimmering as crisply as they do on this version. It's still a great album, obviously, but time is proving a harsh mistress for it. Sony are usually extremely fond of the cash raking Britpop reissue, so hopefully that'll happen at some point during my lifetime.

Suede - Painted People

Suede - Dolly

Suede - The Drowners (Radio Session)

Suede - Brass in Pocket

Suede - This world needs a father

Suede - Shipbuilding

Suede - Sam

Suede - Rent (Live featuring Neil Tennant)

Suede - She (Live)

Suede - By the Sea (Live)

Suede - Still life (Orchestral version)

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

What are you doing after The Holocaust?
My Bloody Valentine at The Roundhouse

I've been to more gigs than I can actually count. I've seen a few hundred bands now, and lost the actual number some time in the late Nineties. Some were good, some were bad, some so good that they made an imaginary top twenty in my head, some so bad that I ditched their records afterwards. But many were somewhere in the middle in an almighty scrum of grey, so-so time changes, predictable choruses, middleweight softcore euphoria.

Perhaps My Bloody Valentine were never going to fall into the middle category, but in my head, I wasn't sure that they'd crack the top twenty. Even three shows into an extensive comeback tour, they still seemed a little edgy, ring rusty if you like. A false start three songs in gave them away, puzzled glances to Colm the drummer as he counted them in again.

Kevin Shields had shirked off the portly country bumpkin look he'd affected during his stint with Primal Scream, and looked as healthy as I could have imagined him. His haircut has improved dramatically, and this has taken years off him. The rest of the band have also aged suprisingly well, but I felt for the drummer as he hammered away through the set. He dropped a beat here and there, and looked relieved to see the final song roll into view.

What people will tell you about the MBV live show is that it is Loud. And they're not lying, because it is. Very. It's also not ideal for a photosensitive epileptic, with strobes and films with repetitive sequences timed to the tempo of the song they accompany. There's a particularly jarring one half way through for featuring a girl running from what appears to be an orgy, down a hallway and dropping through a hole in the floor. Sometimes the film is flipped 90 degrees when she falls, causing her to fall through the right of the screen. As a spectacle, it's beautifully done, creating an uncanny event that can't be looked away from. Just this one impressive visual separates their show from the coagulating mass of bands in my head. It was not alone, with many expertly crafted audio visual experiences scattered throughout the set. Add to this a revered band with really solid back catalogue to draw from, and the fervour of the crowd, and you have a fine show in the offing.

'You made me realise' rolls around, after a sterling 'Feed me with your kiss' and 'Sue is fine' that I spend the majority of at the overcrowded, understaffed bar. The Roundhouse erupts with cheers, clapping, adulation expressed via traditional means. Then, halfway through their last song, the jam/sonic experiment labelled The Holocaust by old school MBV fans drowns everything out. For twenty five minutes, as is their custom, as is their way, My Bloody Valentine supplicate themselves at the altar of noise. As the band pound at their instruments, hitting the same notes repeatedly, getting a steady rhythm, a strange effect occurs.

The volume rises to the level of a plane taking off, and stays there. The repeated strokes on the instruments are translated into pure sound, percussive waves hitting your chest via airborne vibrations, bass rising up through your feet. Even with earplugs, the howling banshee attack left my ears ringing for a day. Looking around, members of the crowd are entranced, some seeming to almost meditate within a serene calm, eyes closed. Others without earplugs cover their ears as the pain kicks in. Everyone experiences this extreme volume on an extremely personal level, and as an event, some reviewers seem to regard it as bordering upon a kind of sonic epiphany. I can't say I share this view, but it does take their show to a level that other bands in the indie realm can't go. It's a further reason to set them apart from others, because the shows is an actual physical experience that places you squarely in one place, in one time in your mind.
You will always remember it.
Photo credits - Kevin Shields (Lucy Johnston / See other great shots from this show here ) Setlist held by Ally - Mine.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Holy shit - The new Cure tracks are EXCELLENT!!!

I wasn't blown away by the new material The Cure played when I saw them last, and their singles have left me a little cold (although I'm warming to The Only One), but the ones broadcast on FUSE from Madison Square garden are aces and spades!

Baby Rag Dog Book

Underneath the stars

Back in print / Secondsmile / Murder by Death

My reviews are in the PDF for issue two. Go team me.


Have been sent a few emails over the last week or so that had links to a couple of interesting tracks enclosed.
One of the better ones was from Secondsmile, a band on the very respectable Big Scary Monsters label. Their forthcoming album Years is on the way, and the title track is pleasingly epic guitar led indie rock from the old school.

The other interesting track was by a band called Murder by Death, who are on Vagrant. The press blurb said they sounded like Tom Waits and The Decemberists. The promo track they sent out, Fuego, sounded more like the Blasters, I thought. Their album 'Red of tooth and claw' was recorded with Trina Shoemaker, who has a pretty impressive CV (QOTSA, Iggy, and Emmylou Harris). They're touring over here soon, and I reckon their Borderline show on July the 15th might be a bit tasty. They'd definitely suit the venue.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

It was a simpler time - Sonic Youth in the 90's Part One

Back in the Nineties, there was a indie rock band called Sonic Youth. Because they had a stack of great old albums from the 80's (Evol, Sister, Daydream Nation), everyone loved them. And rightfully so, because they were awesome. They released a shitload of great albums in the 90's. Goo. Dirty. The very under-rated Experimental Jet Set, Trash & No Star. Washing Machine. Their name is legion, etc. Right at the end of the Nineties they went off the boil, and lost it for a few years. They got it back eventually. It's a happy story.

And what better way to illustrate some of that story than to give you a sweet, sweet taste?

Two choice cuts below
Skip Tracer ( from Washing Machine)

AND this hard to find non-album track
Dirty Boots (Rock and Roll Heaven version) from Kool Thing CD single (Out of print/Deleted)

Sunday, 15 June 2008

My dope is dialled in tight - New Muxtape

Looked over the hard drive this morning, and thought I'd make a muxtape.
Enjoy the near randomness!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Rival Schools - Kings, 11th of June 2008

It's been a long wait for this show. The last time Rival Schools hit the UK was six years ago. Murmurs about it began on Ian Love's site, when he suggested reformation was in the offing last year, and it was going to start at the end of March. Well, he was a few months late, but after 72 of them, what's a few more between friends?

I've noticed the emo crowd building up all day long while I've been out and about, but it crystallizes at one point. For a brief moment as I walk out of Temple tube at half six, I'm transported back to 2002. There's a boy in a Jimmy Eat World t-shirt and shorts opposite the entrance. There's a young man sitting on the stairs wearing what appears to be some sort of Jawbreaker t-shirt. A group of friends are huddled together, backpacks, t-shirts, Converse, Vans, beaded bracelets, some boys wearing beards that have obviously taken several months to reach wispy downlike fruition. It's so 2002 I'm wondering if they should be talking about the final season of Buffy, and cursing God and the studios for letting Roswell die on its ass.

Of course, if it was 2002, Rival Schools would be the the hottest ticket in town. Tonight that honour is taken by Fleet Foxes over at ULU. The stiff competition is a bit of a moot point however, as Kings sold out within a week of the tickets going on sale. Rival Schools still have a solid live draw, despite only having one album and a handful of other tracks in their back catalogue of old. That album, 2001's United by Fate was such a classic debut, and their tenure so brief last time that they got missed by quite a few people who wanted to see them. I missed them last time. No-one, including me, wants to miss them this time around.

I'm worrying on the way to the venue. How will they work a 90 minute set out from that one album? I add up the tracks in my head, plan a setlist, think they'll throw in a couple from the new old album, work out potential covers (Quicksand, Smiths). I think about the crowd. Will they all be in their late twenties and early thirties, or will there be a few whipper-snappers in there (this is a 14+ show)? Will this just be a big jaggy hit of short term nostalgia?

Catching the tail end of the first band, a straight hardcore mob called This City roughing up an unresponsive crowd, I hit the bar upstairs at Kings. It's a great place for a drink, as the venue itself is four floors up, and given the extra two storeys added by the stairs, the bar is situated six floors above London. With KCLSU being well positioned by the Thames the views are very good, especially at night. Note it in your lizard brain: this is a good place to take a date.

The first band end, and a few minutes later, the other support, The Computers come on. They have a sense of fun over the speakers in the bar, so I wander downstairs to give them a quick look. O.K, in the inspiration stakes, they lack any real invention, but they are a poppy emo-lite band, and they're incredibly tight. Their main man is a good guitarist, and although there are no Pete Friesen foot on the monitor fret displays, he is enjoying playing to a packed room. He does a really sweet hammer on barre chord trick, and catches me checking out his chops. There is eye contact. I give him a wink. He laughs. Their drummer beats away in spastic syncopation, keeping time immaculately while giving the impression that he could at any moment go into seizure. It's a neat trick. They thank the headliners, and get better than polite applause when they leave the stage. They're aware that they're not the star turn tonight, but gave it a decent go.

I've got a little sportsman's bet that Rival Schools will open with 'Everything has its point'. They don't, and pull 'Travel by Telephone' to start off with, then the equally solid but faster 'High Acetate'. Almost everyone is singing along. And the show heats up. People dancing, arms flailing. Holy shit, is that some sort of mosh pit? Haven't seen one of those in a long while. We're glad they're back, and they're glad to be back. They're smiles all round, and When Walter takes a break to introduce Ian Love (who left the band to form Cardia), there's a distinct sense that all wrongs have been reversed, grudges settled, and they're back for the long haul again.

Realistically, that can't happen; the members are all mid thirties now, with family commitments, and other bands on the go. But in my head I see a path to glory for them, and epic levels of achievement. They joke about the six year wait for their next album, and new songs like 'Paranoid Detective' and 'Sophia Loren', while being more straight forward indie rock definitely have potential to spark a revival in their fortunes. There'd been talk of the "old" new album being overdubbed and remixed before being released, but as far as I know, two of the three new songs are brand new. They definitely sound fresh. It would be a shame not to re-record them properly with a line up that really wants to deliver a good record, rather than rehashing old pre-break up material. Hopefully, we'll get the former option.

As the set progresses we get the majority of United by Fate, and a quizzical but decent cover of 'How soon is now?' that dispenses with the jangling guitar line and instead serves it up as all American prime guitar beef. They've been rehearsing heavily for this tour, and it shows. Despite the love for their album, their reputation as a hit and miss live band has lingered on as long as the fond memory of their songs. Tonight they vanquish those old tales, and are as tight as a drum. 'Good things' is the single we get before the encore break, and at the end of the night we get, predictably but fittingly 'Used for glue'. The entire crowd knows it word for word, note perfect. Walter gets the now bouncing choir to sing him home, and is almost drowned out at points.

A great show then, and with any luck a sign of things to come for them. If Rival schools really were united by fate somehow, I can only dare hope they've been re-united by destiny.

Photo Credit: 333Bracket. See other great photos from the Rival Schools show here

I'm working on it!

Rival Schools live review pending, Suede b-side collection compiling.
It's an exciting time.
Watch this space.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Found SNESound - Legend of Zelda and Secret of Mana

I've always enjoyed videogame music, but I suppose I really got into it when I had my SNES collection going. Nintendo had the edge over Sega in the sound department in the early Nineties console war between the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) and the Sega Megadrive. The SNES had 16bit digital stereo sound, whereas the Megadrive operated with only 8 bit synthesized stereo. The SNES had 8 times the amount of dedicated memory for sound the Megadrive had. Also the signal to noise ratio was better for the SNES, allowing even clearer separation of the channels, and lower background noise than the buzzy Megadrive. But Nintendo wasn't just ahead in technical terms.

To exploit their advantage, Nintendo took a further leap ahead of their rivals by upping the quality of their compositions over their entire range of in house productions. A good example of this is The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. The Zelda games were exclusive to Nintendo, and had a team of classically trained Japanese composers writing the scores for them. And alongside the composers from the Japanese Square team (who wrote scores for games such as Final Fantasy and Secret of Mana), they set the benchmark for computer game music up to the present day. This isn't to say that Megadrive games didn't have great sound, or good people working on their games. But the palette and tools given to their composers were limited in comparison, and accordingly, stand out examples of their work are fewer in number. Even great examples of Megadrive music (Shinobi, Golden Axe, Sonic, Streets of Rage) sound dated now.

The lead composer for The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was Koji Kondo, who is arguably the best known Japanese game composer, being associated with the Marion and Zelda games. His Zelda score for the SNES, in turns pleasantly bucolic and grandly orchestral, gave the game a rich soundscape which complemented the gameplay well. The melodies (which cleverly implement the Golden Ratio) are inescapably brilliant, and I've lost count of the times I've found myself absent-mindedly whistling the theme music while thinking of Hyrule Castle.

Secret of Mana's team was headed by Hiroki Kikuta who isn't as well known, but who has a devoted fanbase in Japan and other parts of the world. On a personal level, I've always preferred the Secret of Mana over the Zelda and Final Fantasy soundtracks. It has haunting melodies, is strongly dramatic, and works perfectly with the game. It's an incredible piece of work that was issued a number of times in Japan, but is now sadly out of print. A devoted SoM fansite has uploaded the whole thing. Or for a taster, you could just download the magnificent opening theme 'Fear of the heavens' here. But it's really worth having the whole soundtrack. It's a masterwork.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Final verse from A Strange Day / Dodos + Port O' Brien

My head falls back
And the walls crash down
And the sky
And the impossible
Held for one moment I remember a song
An impression of sound
Then everything is gone


Sorry. It's been stuck in my head since I got up.

Pictures from last night. Top two are Port O'Brien, last one is they guy from the Dodos. Cracking show last night, with both bands on top form. Port O' Brien were the better of the two for me, songs and perfromance wise. Reminded me of The Meat Puppets at their most rocking. Two of their guitarists had excellent beards. And again, they had a beautiful girl keyboardist (not pictured). I think I have a problem with that. I'm a keyboard-fox-aholic. The Indelicates. Black Kids. M83. Port O' Brien. This is a recurring pattern that I may only be able to break by actually going out with a keyboard player. I chatted to one of their beardier members, Josh at the end of the night. He's a good sort. Said they might try to sneak in a festival at the end of the summer. Excellent.

Dodos were also very good, but felt forced at times. Technically, they were incredible; and the singer had an interesting two mic set up to let him harmonise his own vocals. And the percussion set up was also a bit odd. In addition to drums and other percussion, their percussionist kept rhythm by hitting a miked up bin, ala Oscar the Grouch. Very big booming sound he got from it too. And they held the crowd in the palms of their hand for ninety minutes or so. But they're not world beaters yet, they need more material. They'll hit full stride in the next year or so I think.

Earles and Jensen

While I'm not a huge fan of prank calls (apart from the Egyptian Magician: "I fill balloons up with deadly poison gas and then float them out over the audience."), or generic dancefloor tat, over the last few days I've become enamoured by Bleachy, a character from Earles and Jensen's Just for Laughs series.
He's four foot eleven, and he's just come back from being stationed in Germany...

Bleachy is Back in Town
- Earles and Jensen

and the magisterial club remix

Bleachy Tonight - Earles and Jensen

You can buy the album here should you wish to.