Friday, 24 October 2008

Oh, so you think I've been slacking off

Well, maybe a bit. Most of the promo stuff I've been getting through has come from DiS, and anything I get from, I'm writing up for them.

The Clash: Live at Shea Stadium
Such a crunchy picture. That's what happens when you resize a low-res image, eh?

Jenny Lewis at Koko (Excellent photo by Lorne Thomson)
Pleased with this, had to edit it a lot once it went live.

Guitar Hero World Tour
Chris Alcxxk looks at the merits of the forthcoming Guitar Hero game, and I hit the button marked 'In-depth comparison test'. If the footage of me singing Living on a prayer on stage at the Electric Ballroom goes online, I'm going into hiding. That said, I did nail it. Mostly.

Shearwater live review pending in Beat Happening, with photo. I'll link it when I've got it.

My Vitriol's shhhhsecret Manchester show, more Shearwater and Future of the Left lined up for the end of next month, Cranes farewell tour next week, hopefully the odd freebie in between.

It's all go. Really!

Monday, 13 October 2008

Smashing Pumpkins rarities unearthed in dream

This isn't technically news, but I had another record collecting dream. At a record fair, I found a box full of unreleased limited edition Smashing Pumpkin triple CD single sets for 'Stand inside your love'. Wrapped in paper, originally slated for a Valentines Day release but shelved. Inside the sleeve, a little mini cake of CDs. Live tracks from the Mellon Collie era. Quality.

This is the second record collector dream I've had. The first one involved an unreleased Aerosmith box set. I'm trying to think about what the symbolism could mean here. I think it means I should have more interesting dreams.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

While the rest of the world continues to not give a shit

I'm still quite upset that Marion have been forced to cancel both their UK shows due to poor health. Management quote follows...

"It is with great regret that Marion have had to withdraw from their planned shows at the Academy in October and the Metro in November.

Jaime was admitted to hospital a few days ago with severe chest pains and breathing difficulties. His condition has now stabilised and he is receiving the very best treatment possible.
During the weekend Jaime was diagnosed with Pneumonia and is likely to remain in hospital for several weeks with an expected 2 to 3 months full recovery period.

Being forced to make this decision at such short notice is extremely disappointing. Rehearsals were going well and we were looking forward to taking to the stage once again, but I'm sure you'll agree, Jaime's health and well-being is of the upmost priority.

Unfortunately, at this time i cannot confirm the shows will be rescheduled. (People who bought tickets through Townsend Records should expect an e-mail to confirm this statement).

On behalf of the band and myself, we are very sorry to those of you that had made arrangements to attend the shows from near and far. Thank you for your tireless faith and support, and we hope to announce further news in the near future."

I feel bad for Jaime, who has had some serious health problems in recent years. Last year's heart surgery, and now this. For a guy in his mid thirties, these are not good signs. Hopefully, his recovery will be swift and sure, and we'll get some more news before Christmas.

Friday, 3 October 2008

We're Alive, And We're Not Alone - Popular Workshop

I've been keeping an eye on Popular Workshop for a while now. No phone tapping, no telephoto lenses, no glasses against walls, or hiding in bushes. But I've been aware of them since the demise of the lead singer Gypsy's first band, Querelle. I'd heard their demos while doing work experience at a record company, and saw them live a couple of times. They were a band with enough quality to succeed. They had the attitude, the looks, and they were incredible live. I felt sure they'd 'make it'. But their brand of fiery yet articulate indie rock, with its roots in Sonic Youth and Q and not U, was sadly out of vogue at the time. Coldplay were selling all the records, and while all the big A&R had a sniff around Querelle, they were never going to put any money into something that wasn't going to have a chance of coffee table domination. Even though they managed to release a decent mini LP, which is more than some similar bands around that time did, it was too little, too late.

There are traces of the former bands sound in the debut Popular Workshop album. Gypsy's voice is the most obvious point of reference, and his guitar is brutally flayed in a similar way. The three piece band set up is the same, and as a result the song structures occasionally recall former works. But PopShop are a better band now than Querelle (last mention, I promise) were then for a few reasons.

1. The guitar sound has been tweaked to near perfection.

2. The band is less a battle of wills and more an organic mix of people fighting for each other.

3. They've a very distinct identity. Before I could listen to the stuff of old and pick out points where their influences overwhelmed the songs. Here they've carved out their own dynamic blend of razor-edged attack and release. The songs feel messy, but in a good way, like hair you've been working on with several types of product until it is just so.

4. The songs are uniformly excellent. It's a really good sign that the album feels short. The first time it finished, I actually did want more.

5. Lyrical highlights run throughout.

"Number One: I make friends with all my demons.
Number Two: I stab them in the back."
X-Rays Confidential
Great line that. I'm even thinking it has front/back t-shirt potential.

"Every mistake is a little blessing."
Delivered in a faux cockney accent. Very clever, very modern. I can't figure out why this track was brought out as a single though. It just isn't one.

"She said I'm gonna kill myself tomorrow because I'm turning 23,
And then she looked into my eyes and said 'You wanna die with me?"
Her Birthday
Ah. Now THIS song is a single! Two minutes and a few seconds of nerve shredding indie magic.

5. They've gotten Steve Albini and Greg Norman to record them in a week at Albini's own studio, Electrical Audio in Chicago. That was absolutely the right choice, and recording quickly and live has kept the edge from their rapacious live performances. Another good move.

6. The sleeve is very good. I like the photo, and I like an aspect of it which I may (more likely) or may not be imagining. On the cover we see a destroyed room, maybe an art installation. You can see some yellow gaffa tape in the picture. I don't know if they're all going out like this, but mine came with a yellow gaffa tape seal. If they aren't, it's just a stroke of luck that's gotten my attention, if they are... it's a situationist device that makes you involved with part of the image. Clever stuff.

All in, this album has to be the best debut album this year. Expect to see it in a few of those endless best of 2008 lists. It'll definitely be in mine.

Tom Morello: The Nightwatchman

The header looks a bit messy, but I can't change that. Upside: Nice clean edit.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Tom = BAD

I've taken my eye off the ball. I'm sorry. I'm only human. I have needs, and those needs force my life to revolve around having money to feed them. So I've been applying and interviewing for jobs all around the last couple of weeks. That equals no posts, no gigs, no reviews, no life. Alright, fair point. I didn't have a life anyway, but you get the picture.

But reviews are coming. Records have arrived, and others will soon be arriving. A Tom Morello: Nightwatchman review is lined up for DiS, and I'll be editing the shit out of it if it goes up. Some of it is a bit sixth form; for a critic I hate being super critical. When I am, it goes a bit Harsh Shark. But some albums are musical landmines. You'll look down from 200ft and realise you've been blown away. Sometimes, you'll just step down hard into something you'd much rather not have stepped in. Can you guess which type of album the Morello effort is yet?

Have got the PopShop album today. Full review is pending on here, tomorrow, definitely.

In the meantime, here is the highlight of a charity shop trawl....

When I was a little kid, I had a deep and abiding love for American soft rock. I never got into class A stuff like Toto and Journey. But I was never far away. There were lots of rock compilations doing the rounds in the late Eighties and early Nineties. The Soft Metal series was a benchmark, and very few comps even got close to the love that one got on my sister's record deck. The hair band pictures on the sleeve were something to behold. I remember a picture of Ozzy doing that scary Ozzy face hid did, with mounds of bouffant hairnestling on his head. Poor bastard probably didn't even know what day of the week it was.

One of my favourite comps from this period (heheheh. ahem) was Rock of America. It nestled warmly in my unformed worldview. America was a good place, where nothing bad happened. The statue of Liberty did play guitar, everyone wore light blue denim, and loved Bruce Springsteen. Even though I didn't know who Bruce Springsteen was in 1989, I was sure they loved him. I often confused him with Rick Springfield. Did they ever confuse each other, some days waking up just to find they were living each others lives? Probably, probably. Perhaps they even left each other notes. "Loving your work, Big Man". "I want my life back, Rick!". Maybe Rick even woke up after having a dream, looked under the covers as sinister music played, and pulled out one of Springsteens hats. Maybe.

Regardless of this crossover potential, his big hit single in the states was one of the best things on this comp. "Jessie's Girl" is The Last Picture Show set to keyboard infused pop rock, a tale of a boy lusting after the girl of his best friend. Part of me wants to believe that Springfield pulled this from his own experience, and that he actually is a mixture of morally bankrupt toad and sleazy Patrick Bateman in real life.

Jessie's Girl - Rick Springfield

This whole comp was totally mint, with two obvious exceptions. Gary US Bonds' abysmal take on classic rock and roll, 'This Little Girl' is unworthy of any further discussion. And 'Rosanna' by Toto, the musical equivalent of a jam sandwich buttered with with lard. You get that sweet sugary taste, but, euurgh, god, fuck, someone has put lard in this sandwich! This song clogs arteries at twenty paces. This song kills anyone in earshot. It doesn't even care, and it goes on for about five minutes too long.

But it doesn't matter, because I had this on tape, and they'd gotten around to creating fast forward buttons for Walkmen by then. And you can see how good the rest of the tracklisting is...
Maneater - Hall & Oates
Centrefold - J.Geils Band
Some Weird Sin - Iggy Pop