About Me

My photo
Give me music and give me noise....

Thursday, 27 December 2012

My 20 best gigs of 2012

So, welcome to my humble contribution to the end-of-year round-up genre. Yes, it's a tired-to-death format. One which I berated only recently. Really I should ignore this year-end listing obsession. But no, bleedin' hippo-critter that I am, I've decided that when it comes to my take on the year's gigs, then a retrospective review is in order. So, settle down for my 20 good gigs gone by during 2012. Here they are ....

I'm Being Good - Chameleon, Nottingham, 20 January
These were definitely one of the better bands from the "post-hardcore" (or somesuch) scene that I saw this year. Some unmistakably "grungy" riffs to make proceedings swing a little and plenty of the usual intensity you associate with these bands (they ARE a serious bunch aren't they!). I perhaps also liked them because they didn't seem quite as identikit as some other bands from this scene.

Little George Sueref - The Apple Tree, London, 12 February
A cool geezer, this chap sings the blues with a lovely clear voice (a tenor?) and has plenty of rhythm to spare. There was a mellow quality to this gig - partly the effect of Sueref's voice - but, to judge from YouTube, he also knows how to rock as well. I'd like to catch him again in 2013.

Little George Sueref

Fountains - The Windmill, Brixton, London, 14 February
"Indie-Shoegaze" apparently, but don't let that put you off! They were a nifty indie-rock band in my book. The sort of outfit that could have had a session on John Peel at any time between about 1982-1992. It's a sound that's almost unfashionable now, with its earnest vocals and "polite" arrangements, but I like this "classic" indie approach. Forget Crocodiles, listen to Fountains!

Klangabusus - Hafermarkt, Flensburg, 1 March
Straight away a distinctive gig because: (1) people were smoking at it (bloody Germans!), and: (2) one of the band was wearing a joke shop Giant Quiff (the same sort I'd seen in a shop window that very day!). Otherwise, it was grindcore-y stuff played with enough variety and humour to keep it interesting.

A Fat White Family - The Social, Fitzrovia, London, 20 March
An excellent gig from a band that I missed more than any other in 2012 (ie despite being on their Facebook invite list for about 10 gigs, this was the only one I actually made it to). As I was saying in a post about them at the time, this gig had plenty of their trademark twisted-out-of-shape, off-kilter blues-grind beating time to a singer who likes to writhe about on the floor with his top off. I also had them in my best gigs of 2011. Hey, they must be good!

A Fat White Family

Dolfinz - The Windmill, Brixton, London, 3 April
Intense stuff from a two-person unit who often sound like there must be twice as many in their ranks. They've got that rather epic Marychain-meets-Spectre sound, which must be a lot harder to pull off than you'd think. It's sort of "spirit of C86" - in other words, a pretty good thing.


Slowcoaches - The Windmill, Brixton, London, 3 April
Same gig as the Dolfinz one, but ... I'm doing 'em separately! Quite an odd set actually. This band's brand of punky pop didn't initially do it for me. For about 20 minutes of their (fairly lengthy) set I was unimpressed. "Yeah, OK. Bit so-so though" etc. But somehow they seemed to get better. Maybe my tired old ears were deceived, but their five or six closing songs began to take on a Buzzcocks-like buzzy-pop quality. They chimed, they charmed. Slowburners!

Oh! Gunquit - The Windmill, Brixton, London, 4 April
Kings of hula-hoop rock! This band's jivey rock and roll is a winner I reckon. Lots of excellent punk-funk saxophone, a rocking singer-guitarist and a nicely deranged-in-a-B52s-sort-of-way singer: Oh! Gunquit just ... er, won't quit. The singer's (amazing) hula-hoop dance usually gets the audience going (it is good!) but actually the band are good in general. After the gig I saw some of the band plodding through the rain in Brixton, one of them carrying the hula-hoop. Rock 'n' roll eh?

Stanley Brinks & The Flying Kaniks - Taylor Johns, Coventry, 11 May
A return to form from Brinks if you ask me. In recent years I've been finding the ultra-stripped-down, unadorned stuff from Mr Taciturn a little hard to take. Where was the rhythm? The variety? The life? Well, The Flying Kaniks' gently swinging folk rock did the job. Here Brinks could skulk around the stage, tapping a triangle or blowing a clarinet while the gig still rocked (sort of). And his plaintive, keening vocals still worked. 

The Juneau Brothers - Hare & Hounds, Birmingham, 7 July
A cool, rather slick outfit who created enormous layers of pummelling electro sound and then added to the effect by turning on strobe lights until everyone in the audience was thoroughly blasted. For example. I saw The Big Naturals at the same venue the year before and they produced a similar effect on me. My top 2012 band for sheer brain-bashing bravado.

Weird Menace - Old Blue Last, Shoreditch, London, 8 August
Slightly anonymous in places, this band's drone-rock sound can maybe come across as a little "ordinary" at first, but I reckon there's enough going on to make them interesting. In particular, they had one tune that I totally dug as soon as they began to play it. Actually, I'm including them largely because of this fact. Is that allowed? Yes! It's my list ....

Frank Fairfield - Taylor Johns, Coventry, 24 August
A real one-off. Fairfield's speciality is the so-authentic-seeming-that-it-can't-possibly-be-authentic backwoods US folk-blues. It's 2012 going on 1842 with Frank. So, plenty of feel-bad murder ballads from the killing fields of the Wild West. And lots of whoopin', hollerin' and foot stompin' (check out the very last minute of the gig here). Also, impressively pacey violin and banjo playing, and a clever way of ensuring it doesn't become tiresome bluegrass-style "party" music. Cool.

King Lemon & The Slim Customers - Paper Dress, Shoreditch, London, 6 September
Quite a rum gig this one. The singer seemed to be half battling the soundman in this improvised venue (an east London clothes shop-cum-cafe). Anyway, the singer's shirty behaviour seeped into his performance in a way that made the band's primitive swamp-blues look and sound more "punk". Check out my (also very primitive) video.

Theee Bat - The Windmill, Brixton, London, 10 October
Chaos! An acquaintance of mine recently described a Damned gig from 1980 as "totally mad" and this gig was maybe the latter-day equivalent. These dudes go in for surf-rock played so fast that it starts to implode (or something). Very entertaining. Not dissimilar, actually, to the equally entertaining Sundae Kups. Theee Bat wear plastic old-style police hats, which only adds to the madcap atmosphere. Krazy kops.

Anarchistwood - Taylor Johns, Coventry, 13 October
The best of several pretty good bands at a feminist riot grrl night (although I also liked Skinny Girl Diet, not least their amazing screaming).  But Anarchistwood: quite a rocky take on punk 'n' roll. Very energetic vocals from a sort of mutant clown-woman who was one part comedy MC, one part political ranter. Best use of politics at a gig for some time in my book.


Josephine Foster - Taylor Johns, Coventry, 1 November
Fantastic warbly neo-operatic voice (vibrato, apparently). Foster's music was previously known to me only in the form of two excellent songs (Sangre Colorado, Child Of God). If I'm honest the gig didn't transcend the promise of those two tunes, just sort of consolidated her in my mind. I sense she's getting plenty of critical acclaim already, so I won't bang on here. Good gig though.

Tenebrous Liar - Ort Cafe, Birmingham, 3 November
I've liked this band since seeing them in east London about five years ago. This was slightly too "rocky" for my taste in parts, but the doomy washes of vocals against the driving guitars and percussion still worked well enough. Here the small venue - some kind of community cafe carved out of an industrial unit - improved the overall listening experience (as they often do). 

Gateway Of Trance Illusion - Enjoy, Leeds, 23 November
There was a nicely "experimental" feel to this gig, not least because it was in a small art gallery (I wish more gigs were). Drum machine, laptop noises, guitar and - best of all - saxophone played in a sort of Sun Ra-y way. Their long, improv-type compositions weren't exactly rock and roll, but then I don't want the same food at every meal.

Gateway Of Trance Illusion

Sixteen & The Sidewinders - Indo, Whitechapel, London, 28 November
Stompin' rockabilly! This stuff will never cease to be good (well not if it's played with this much twangtastic energy). Featuring stand-up bass, stripped-down drums and an excellent, hip-swinging singer-guitarist, they did two sets at a free gig at one end of a narrow Whitechapel pub. Even when the power went off they carried on. Electric!

Tigercats - Chameleon, Nottingham, 8 December
Something of a surprise. I went expecting twee-as-fuck "cardigan indie" in the style of Esiotrot (the singer's former band) and got ... well, a sort of shimmering, pulsating fusion of Talking Heads and The Four Brothers. Very relaxed-looking playing, long songs, some excellent lyrics. And pretty funky! If they can somehow keep it sharp and dark, they could be really good.


Well, there you have it. My 20 best of the year. Of course, it's all alarmingly arbitrary. Probably I've forgotten a couple. (Whoops). And then, as ever, I went to gigs in my usual semi-planned, semi-unplanned way. On a whim or not at all (last-minute faint-heartedness). So, please don't assume that these WERE the 20 best gigs of 2012. That would be preposterous ...

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Vinyl bores: please change the record!

Ah, the lovely crackle and hiss of the stylus on the vinyl. There's nothing like it, is there? 

Vinyl's where it's at. Fuck your MP3s, your FLAC files, your crappy CDs or, god forbid, your cassette tapes. No, real music fans like vinyl. And if you don't ... well I feel sorry for you. 

Such is the attitude among a fairly influential group of music critics, DJs and musicians. These days you can be made to feel distinctly second rate if you're not a vinyl man/woman. There are online forums dedicated to discussing the merits of vinyl. There are sites that feature DJ mixes of vinyl ("without mixing software"). There are numerous DJs who advertise the fact that their sets are "vinyl 7"s only". And of course there are simply people banging on about how great vinyl is in comparison to all other formats.

Papa's got a brand new pile of records

Well now. I'm no vinyl hater. I've got a little bunch of the bulky, heavy, dust-ridden things, and I regularly play them. I buy them as well. Not, perhaps, in the approved "vinyl junkie" way - picking up purchases on eBay or in connoisseur shops. No, afraid not - just a few ratty second-hand things from the odd charity shop. Nevertheless, my haphazard charity shop buys - no more than about 50p a time - have included The Rolling Stones' Satisfaction, The Modern Lovers' Roadrunner, and Simple Minds' Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call. Hey, don't knock Simple Minds! Their early stuff is pretty good.

Meanwhile, I've got a friend who buys a lot of reggae 7"s on mail-order. Mostly on Jamaican pressings, some of it off-centre, crackly and all of that. There's some phenomenal music to be had from Dub Vendor et al and I appreciate that vinyl is often the best way to get the choice cuts. OK rasta, nah problem.

But still, modern snobbery concerning vinyl is ... er, clogging up my stylus man! Do we really need websites with titles like "Fuck CD DJs. Real DJs play vinyl"? No, I think we do not. It's about the music, not the format, fathead.

OK, I confess: I don't actually know whether vinyl's acoustic properties are generally - or always - superior to CDs or MP3s. Certainly I can hear the difference with lower bit-rate MP3s, but generally I'm agnostic about this (albeit that it's an article of faith for some).

No, give me The Butthole Surfers on CD rather than The La's on record. Or Lee Perry on MP3 over Zion Train on 12".

Vinyl fetishists are no more interesting than any other kind of elitist obsessive. They should put another record on their turntable. Here. Let me grab that stylus arm. Scr-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-tch!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Two pieces of research, Podcast #88 (Nov 2012)

Atmospheric background hiss courtesy of a TDK D90 tape, the latest product of my unstinting musicological labours has arrived. Yes, it's podcast #88.

Rest assured, all this music is fully evidence-based, with extensive data to back it up.

Track listing here: 

1: The Mother Folkers, Too much time
2: DJ Haram, Batman is haram
3: Two pieces of research
4: Old Wars, Mighty
5: Thad Jones, Zec
6: 93 Million Miles From The Sun, ? (Chameleon, Nottingham 24/11/12)
7: Studio One Musicians, Sky rhythm
8: Rachel House, Plastic punk
9: Sanmi, Requiem for victims of east Japan earthquake
10: Sixteen & The Sidewinders, ? (Indo, London 28/11/12)
11: Life might have been lost
12: Marc De Blanchard, Descendre
13: Abstract Random, OBMG’s cowboy remix
14: Mary Love, Think it over baby
15: Skinny Girl Diet, Douche bag (Taylor Johns, Coventry 13/10/12)
16: Lougow, You’ll live and die by those little dogs
17: Roland Alphonso, James Bond
18: Resistencia Chaco, Gato negro
19: Pray with you
20: The Jerry Spider Gang, When I get off
21: Gateway Of Trance Illusion, ? (edit) (Enjoy, Leeds 23/11/12)
22:  Joe Nez & His Trio, Nsonma nneme
23: The Jesus And Marychain, In a hole
24: Lowpines, ? (Windmill, London 30/10/12)
25: Not a big problem
26: Squire Of Gothos, Gimme dat!
27: The Heavy, How you like me now (Joker remix)

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

End the end-of-year lists

End of year lists, eh? Fantastic aren’t they? All that vital information, condensed down to a handy “Top 20” format. Brilliant.

Er, well, no. The opposite. Browsing other people’s annus mirabilis reflections is … activitus horribilis. C’mon! Do you really want to know if someone thinks Kate Bush’s “long-awaited” long-player is “album of the year”? (Actually, that was last year, but you know what I mean).

OK, this year I see that one august music journal believes a certain Australian rock band (Tame Impala) has produced the year’s best collection of new songs in a CD-type format. Hmm. Funnily enough I caught two of their world-beating tunes on (whisper it) the Jools Holland show the other week (don’t be disturbed dear reader, it was a purely accidentally bit of viewing). Jeez ….

No, whether or not you think this particular brand of retro rock is any good (I don’t, personally), surely we can do without the hyped-up listing approach. Even “quality” publications like WIRE seem addicted to the habit. The current issue has several pages of lists (a top 50, individual contributors’ lists). I even came across a website that aggregates lists into a list of end-of-year lists. (Soon we'll have lists of lists of lists). It’s list-mania. What would Franz Liszt have said? (Sorry).

 I've got a little list

In Ye Olden Days Of Merrie John Peel his show also suffered, I thought, when he plodded through that festive 50 nonsense (the all-time top 50, dominated by The Sex Pistols and Joy Division, was even worse). Basically, he placed the show in a format straitjacket and as a result it sounded … crushed.

No, lists should be consigned to oblivion (or at least Radio 1). I have a sneaking suspicion that lists are deliberately designed to play well with the obsessive collector, the compiler-type. The psychology of list formation is akin to the Discocogs-type record collector. All that stuff about “wantlists”. It’s music criticism in the service of consumption as a habit. It reeks of payola and cynicism, while attaching itself to the music consumer’s darker unconscious desires. Buy, buy, buy. Collect, collect, collect. Just one more to complete the set …

Woah. I’ll stop there.

No, junk the lists. Listen to what pleases you. Buy (or don’t buy) anything you want. New or old.

And naturally, none of the above applies to the one end-of-year list that truly matters. The one they all look for, pore over, and quote among themselves for the entire year ahead. Yes, that’s right. It’s the Niluccio on noise 20 Best Gigs Of The Year list. 2012's coming soon …

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The lost art of gig photography

The lost art of gig photography has, I'm sure you will agree, been recaptured in this shot of The Lost Rivers splashing about in their gales of sound in Nottingham last night. Stay tuned to this blog for more "click and hope" snaps of this calibre ... 

The Lost Rivers:
Chameleon Arts Cafe, Nottingham 24/11/12

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Richter scale

Girlfriend has had this on the piano of late. Clearly she's been practising her scales. In fact, I reckon she's hit no.4 on the Richter scale. (Ahem). 

Hush yo mouth: stop banging on about loud gigs

The other week The Guardian had one of those oh-so-clearly-brainstormed "ideas for a blog": What are the loudest gigs you've been to? Go on. You know you want to ...

Nope. I'm not getting drawn into this mine-was-louder-than-yours macho nonsense. High-decibel gigs are often rubbish anyway, and the sort of people who like this "louder than bombs" stuff are ... well, probably not the sort of people I'm going to have much in common with musically. Stay away from the speakers you big idiot ...

Anyway, as it happens in recent years some of my best gigs have been easy-on-the-volume ones. Especially good have been the really tender moments in low-wattage performances from George Thomas, Turner Cody, David Tattersall, Josephine Foster, David Thomas Broughton, Jeffrey Greene, Herman Dune, The Santa Dads, and ... er, lots of other people who don't hide behind their oversized Marshalls.

Josephine Foster behind a big speaker in Coventry earlier this month

Shhh! Quiet music being played. Shut your motherfuckin' mouth. No, I also like the stomach-pulsatingly loud gigs. I'm not ... er, dead. But the web traffic-generating idea of discussing loud concerts I've attended with a bunch of people reminiscing about "The Ramones at the Barrowlands in 1982" (or somesuch) is making this blogger reach for the kill switch. [Off]

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

How things are, Podcast #87 (Oct 2012)

Ban the bomb, I say. Or at least drop the bomb (in a Trouble Funk sense only of course).

No, what I mean to say is, get thee behind me satan, because papa's got a brand new podcast.

1: Simon Love’s Cock & Balls, Motherfuckers
2: Tunji Oyelana, Lisabi egba
3: The Very Things, The bushes scream while my daddy prunes
4: Apes On Tapes, Quarter pounder with jizz
5: Earl ‘Chinna’ Smith, Whe me dib?
6: Mother Cunt, Suk my hole
7: Small Radio, Leaf shaped feelings (Coco Bryce remix)
8: A very long time
9: Cats On Fire, Poor students dream of Marx
10: Collection Of The Late Howell Bend, Splendor
11: The Pharmacy, Coldest morning light
12: Theee Bat, Batman (Windmill, 10/10/12)
13: Burl Ives, Billy boy
14: Kissed my mother’s forehead
15: Crash Paris, Vogue India
16: Athletico Spizz 80, Clocks are big
17: The New Mystical Troubadours, Chamber blues’ tidal band …
18: How things are
19: The Ikettes, Blue on blue
20: Jesus & His Judgemental Father, Cunt
21: Noun Verb Adjective, Everything’s not perfect
22: Bad Habit Vs Strange Rollers, Ghost town
23: Anarchistwood, ? (Taylor Johns, 13/10/12)
24: Linval Thompson & The Upsetters, Fu Kung man
25: The Decapitated Head, We r going 2 die 2 nite
26: Brain Washington, ? (Windmill, 10/10/12)
27: Alex Chilton, Bangkok
28: Doesn’t just fill it
29: Not Right, Balls

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Punk 365: that essence rare

It's undeniably compulsive. I spent a couple of hours yesterday slightly obsessively going through Holly George-Warren's Punk 365 photo book

It's one of those chunky brick-books. A sort of modern variant on the coffee-table offerings. But yeah, as I sip my own coffee here and now (a drop of espresso seeing as you ask, not as nice as in Italy, but OK ...) I can only reflect - for the 127th time - that this is a major part of what punk has become. Another product ...

Slap that down on your coffee table 

But then again, punk itself always knew that, was that, played with the idea of being that. It's a form of poetic justice. Like those Sex Pistols badges and cash-in albums after Sid Vicious' death. Capitalism's revenge, the market having the last laugh - it's all part of the story of punk, but it was also part of punk as well and it wasn't always clear what was subversive, playful or cynical. Either then or now.

So, on the one hand it's nice to gaze at pix of Tom Verlaine or Richard Hell strolling along St Mark's Place in New York in 1976 (not least because Hell in particular is amazingly good looking). And you get little bursts of info about the bands and the context along with the photographs. Fine. But at the same time it's a downer. St Mark's Place is more or less a tourist trap now, flogging posters of "classic" punk bands or Nirvana gear. Punk has eaten itself.

Richard Hell, complete with branding 

This doesn't matter in itself, but the merchandised depiction of a "scene" through tourist paraphernalia is all too similar to what's going on with the book. The book (being a book) contains only the faintest traces of the energy of the music (despite all those miraculous images of people like Jimmy Pursey jumping a metre and a half above the stage during a performance) and instead you get a lot of the back-stage "manner". Bands with bottles or cans in their hands. Fags. Attitude. Trying to look surly or - more ridiculously - pouting or doing a Billy Idol lip snarl. It's OK up to a point, but it's also wearing and somehow depressing.

On this blog I've often found myself railing against the impulse to reduce punk to any one thing or set of things. On the one hand Punk 365 is a prime example of reductionism - snap, snap, snap. But to be fair, its sheer volume means there's enough variety to avoid this. Sort of. As I was saying recently about Simon Barker's exhibition of punk photos, there's always something haunting about images of people frozen in time (something the French photographer Jean-Loup Lafont alludes to here), and the book conveys some of this. Not only that, seeing things like Bowery street scenes outside CBGBs is itself interesting (cars - and indeed early 70s hairstyles - straight out of Scorcese's Mean Streets).

I think Richard Hell's two-page intro to Punk 365 gets it about right though. "Punk is an idea, not a band". It doesn't matter how many photos you see of The Ramones or The Clash, these are not going to give you much sense of what punk was - or is. There's no "essence" here. Hell goes through a list of attributes as if to convey the spirit of punk - "honesty, anger, frustration, obnoxiousness" etc - but even as he does so he's basically saying that no list is going to do that. 

When I first opened Punk 356 I thought I'd found that essence rare. ("It's what I looked for / I knew I'd get what I asked for"). Except, I didn't.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

I didn't used to be punk rock ... but I am now

I know it's only a joke but the "I used to be punk rock" meme is the final straw ....

Been there, bought the book

That's it! These knowing, tired-of-punk remarks - or too tired for punk remarks - remind me of the way that the former "gunslingers" of punk journalism went on to dismiss punk ("vile white-thrash cacophony" and the like).

Over the years it's been a mini-trend in its own right. And it seems to have fed into a tendency within contemporary music journalism: yeah, punk was basically awful. Sometimes it's punk's former luminaries disparaging the scene that helped make them famous. Sometimes it's modern commentators acting as if it's now virtually a given that punk amounted to no more than a dozen or so decent records, a mouthy TV confrontation and a teen craze for drainpipe trousers and putting food dye in your hair. A kind of Kenny Everett Sid Snot reduction....

I'm not trying to pretend that punk was all great. There's plenty of second-rate stuff: a lot of The Clash, The U.K. Subs, Generation X, 999, The Ruts, The Jam, you name it ... (though, with The U.K. Subs, for example, I still like Warhead and Stranglehold (among others): even the "lesser bands" often produced one or two goodies).

And I'm also not, I don't think, a punk fundamentalist (ie I don't decry post-punk music as "lightweight", I don't hate dance music and I don't refuse to listen to modern stuff. Au contraire, my sceptical frères ...).

I'm simply making a very modest appeal for an end to the renunciation, the downgrading and the general condescension toward punk.

And we could start by ditching the "I used to be punk rock" thing. Yes, it's an insider-y joke: it's only because I am fairly hip - for my age - that I can make this joke; and anyway, at least I saw the Ramones. But, to use a nice punk Americanism, it still sucks. Or, as Samuel Johnson nearly said, those who are tired of punk, are ... well, just very tired.

Speaking for myself, I didn't used to be punk rock. But I am now ...

Friday, 19 October 2012

A bath of red and blue

Though big stageshows totally repel me - for my money in any given situation the number of stage lights will generally stand in inverse relation to the quality coming from that overlit stage - a bit of lighting is er, a good idea.

Rebecca Mayes: Pop In, Paris 18/10/12

A splash of, oh I dunno, red and blue - can be kinda nice. With the Rebecca Mayes/David Beauchamp gig pic here, the lighting was low-key (more than the photo suggests). But it was enough. Add in a bit of (literal) glitter on Mayes' cheeks (this revival of glam-rock styling always works quite well I reckon) and Beauchamp wearing a groovy red and black hat-tie combo - and bob's yer uncle! 

I could probably bang on about how costumes on stage - animal face masks, military uniforms, slogans written on clothes, etc - are generally A Good Thing, but ... another time. For now, I'm just going to sink into a relaxing bath of red and blue....

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Anarchistwood's arrest warrant

Holding up posters that say "ICC Arrest Warrant" alongside pictures of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is not typical rock band behaviour. Then again, Anarchistwood are not your typical rock band.

Stop clowning around! Watch Anarchistwood, listen to Corelli ...

Anarchistwood: Taylor Johns, Coventry 13/10/12

Release Theee Bat

Cheapo iPhone videos can never capture the intensity of any decent live musical experience - and this is no exception - but it's nevertheless fun trying. Theee Bat at the Windmill in Brixton last week, complete with upside-down filming technique ....

Friday, 12 October 2012

The power of persuasion, Podcast #86 (Sept 2012)

When we get to Alex, I'm going to skip the glass of lager and listen to this refreshing new podcast instead ...

1: Beacon, Girl in a coma
2: Jealousy Mountain Duo, Leaf kickers
3: Millionaires, And the rains came
4: C-Doc, Livin’ the Amerikan dream
5: Fat History Month, Nudity
6: Oldest ally in the Middle East
7: Rail Band, Moko jolo
8: Ergo Phizmiz, Dear Mr Cameron, dear Mrs Clegg
9: Black Everest, ? (Hafermarkt, Flensburg 22/9/12)
10: Fat Larry’s Band, Here comes the sun
11: Hello Skinny, Black space
12: The Agrarians, The free times blues equation
13: The rights of churches
14: Errol ‘Flabba’ Holt, Super special dub
15: Every Hidden Color, I (excerpt)
16: The power of persuasion
17: Hammer Of The Working Class, Live to die
18: Pete Seeger & Oscar Brand, Hieland laddie
19: Everlone, Landlock
20: Death Grips, Get got
21: Freschard, S.Brinks & W.Pictures, ? (Windmill, 14/9/12)
22: Duassemicolcheiasinvertidas, 33 anos
23: Monty Reynolds, My dog can’t bark
24: Tronslard & Pantrel, Snieznydzien5
25: UB40, Dream a lie
26: Morsa, 80.657417-102.624289
27: Jack Ruby, Hit and run
28: Vesme Dreamchatcher Kiong, Birds

Friday, 5 October 2012

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Noise hits back!

There I was, complaining (sort of) about the lack of diversity in the hardcore/noise scene - too white, too male, too ... tattoo-ed - and blow me down if the very next band I see isn't We Came Out Like Tigers. 

No tattoos (that I could see), a black bassist, and (another bugbear dealt with) the lead singer-screamer playing that not exactly heavy metal instrument, a violin. Damn! All my petty preconceptions confounded ... (There's a not-bad The Quietus review of the band from 2010 here BTW, but, as John Peel might have said, that's not how you spell principles).

We Came Out Like Tigers at The Old Blue Last, London 2/10/12

Anyway, lest I be thought anti-tattoo and, god forbid, anti-noise in general, let me just say that I don't dislike tattoos and all the rest of it, just that it can get a bit predictable. But WCOLT are, no doubt, representative of plenty of other noise-y bands happy to try something slightly different. 

Noise v Niluccio - and noise hits back! I'm not complaining.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Bring me noise boys

Yes, it's Niluccio On Noise ... on noise! It had to happen. 

Well, these are merely the ill-formed ramblings of my disordered and noise-polluted mind - the rough recordings, the demo tapes. Anyway, as we all know, noise annoys, or has the capacity to. But it's also what it's all about. Decibels, clatter, amp stacks, sirens, feedback. Throw it all in.

But, re noise the genre. Is it my imagination or are there a lot of hardcore/noise/screamo-type bands around at the moment? Lift up any rock and they come teeming out. Hey, I don't mean that pejoratively. I like a lot of this music. In fact I nearly always like it. Up to a point ...

I must admit, though, I do sometimes think the genre's unduly conservative. Three or four youngish men (virtually no women), blasting out metal-tinged rock, those rapid drum-cymbal "bleats", a guy out front growling down the mic, a huddle of fans nodding away in (attempted) beat-synch, and a plethora of hoodies and tattoos among performers and their audiences. An almost cosy, content-with-itself scene.

Noise-y types Black Everest at Hafermarkt, Flensburg, Germany 21/9/12

But, it's also got to be said, the eco-system seems to be a thriving one. There are masses of outfits and new recordings on Bandcamp, and plenty of well-attended gigs. In a word, it seems to be an "indie" scene worthy of the name. I'd personally like to see/hear more variety - different instruments, women, black musicians, bills that aren't so "uniform", some humour - but overall I still reckon it's A Good Thing. A plethora of lively young bands playing, fast, intense, loud and (sometimes) exciting rock music. That's a plus in these dark and dreary times. So I say: bring me noise boys!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Do the Suplex!

One from the archive ... the mighty Atomic Suplex, in Brixton on the satisfyingly digital date of 11/11/11. In one of his typical poses, I can only assume the singer is DOING THE SUPLEX!

Friday, 14 September 2012

They choke animals, Podcast #85 (Aug 2012)

A sizzling new podcast to get your juices flowing....

1: Hammer Of Hathor, Dancing with triangles
2: The Yes Sirs, The rats are here and they’re biting
3: Super Diamond De Dakar, Soweto
4: Fancy cars, fancy villas
5: MFC Chicken, ? (Paper Dress, London 9/8/12)
6: Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, It’s hard, ain’t it hard
7: Squinancywort, It’s a nuisance isn’t it
8: Woollen Kits, Shelley
9: The Royals, Pick up the pieces version
10: Hedgefund, Weltchmertz
11: Texture, Vilnius colony
12: Chilly nights
13: Weird Menace, ? (Old Blue Last, London 8/8/12)
14: Matheus, Shitwaves
15: Tha Silent Partner, Beantown cha cha
16: They choke animals
17: Mutwawa, Skrull eternal
18: Odetta, Chilly winds
19: Prince Far I, Mansion of the mighty
20: Suppression, Cowboys from Yale
21: Sam Egan, None of these songs is copyrighted
22: Frank Fairfield & partner, ? (Taylor Johns, Coventry 24/8/12)
23: Baboon, California dreaming
24: Blue Minkies, Tough punks are square
25: Dave Gerard & The Watchmen, Hesitate
26: Rhodri Davies, Questions of …. middle distance

Sunday, 9 September 2012

King Lemon v The Soundman

Video clip of King Lemon & The Slim Customers at Paper Dress in east London on 6/9/12. One of the absorbing things about this gig was watching the low-level feuding between the singer-guitarist and the soundman. "We'll go on in five minutes, OK?" "No, you need to go on now". "Oh man, I need to have a cigarette. Just two minutes, yeah?" "No, it's got to be now." And then recurrent sound problems raised the temperature .... (An odd feature of my iPhone video is that the sound drops out on the recording at almost exactly the time the guitarist's amp goes down at the gig for the first - of several - times. Spooky).

Anyway, I'm not sure if it was generated by nicotine frustration and the bother of technical glitches, but the singer's stroppy intensity definitely gave the performance edge. Enjoyable.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

White light goin' messin' up my mind

A segment from the super-intense strobe-lit part of a Juneau Brothers gig at the Hare & Hounds in Birmingham on 7/7/12.

Drone-noise and strobe. An unlikely combination. Or is it? Must admit, I disliked it at first but quickly began to dig it. All they need to do is add a few squalls of feedback and they'll have the perfect crowd-pleasing formula ....

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Frank's footdragger blues

The last 55 seconds of Frank Fairfield's gig at Taylor Johns in Coventry on 24/8/12. Among the many excellent things about Fairfield is the way he drags his left foot on the hollow stage while his right foot taps out the rhythm. The left foot drag sometimes sounds like drum brushes. Nice!

Friday, 24 August 2012

Losing my edge to anti-hipster prejudice

For how much longer will people sneer at “hipsters”?

You’d think, um, it’d maybe go out of fashion or something. But no, it’s still with us. It’s the new cultural prejudice that's safe to indulge. Even revel in. Supposed “liberals”, who'd studiously avoid crass remarks about race, gender, disability or age, will go out of their way to insult small pockets of people they've decided deserve it.

Should a conversational opportunity present itself - usually all it takes in London, for example, is for someone to mention Dalston or Shoreditch - then you'll usually hear the anti-hipster sneerers piping up immediately. “Oh, it's all hipsters in Dalston. Let's go somewhere else”. “God, I'm so sick of the skinny jeans and all the silly hipsters”. Or you’ll see self-satisfied hashtagged tweets from the sneerers describing something they’ve seen and immediately pigeonholed with a knowing #Shoreditch. (You're the Boss, the Neutral Observer, immune to all this immaturity and amused by it in your laconic way, but always ready to chop it down to size).

Yes, the put-downs are fun (supposedly), they’re easy. And they’re er, what? Funny? No, not really. Or maybe just moderately, to the confirmed anti-hipster, but even then only in an excruciatingly grim way (like racist jokes). So they’re group-confirming or something? Perhaps they bind a litle cohort together with a shared idea of what’s “normal” or “valid” or “fashionable without being ridiculous or contrived”. Hmm. Well it’s certainly true that anti-hipsterism is shared and is sort of revalidated by people laughing (ie sneering) along with the joker.

Hipster attacks are supposed to be wonderfully watertight, insulating the attacker from any suspicion of hipsterism and immediately placing them in a “safe” zone. And I think there’s a double game going on here where the anti-hipster brigade likes to feel hip enough to be in fairly close proximity to their targets while retaining the right to slag them or their locations off whenever the urge arises.

All in all it’s a nasty business. It’s a sort of cultural racism for the urban middle classes (or rather, a superior, smug subset). Every time I weave through Shoreditch on my way to a gig I recall the anti-hipster put-downs. Small-minded liberals betraying their own illiberality and insecurity. It makes you warm to people who are their targets, possibly playing in a band that night ...

And in the end, apart from the fact that some people simply get a kick out of putting other people down, I reckon anti-hipsterism is about insecurity. As LCD Soundsystem’s superb Losing My Edge has it, the anti-hipster bigots might simply be afraid they’re losing their edge to “the kids ... coming up behind .... to better-looking people with better ideas and more talent”.

Ah, but then again, James Murphy is a New York hipster, so what does he know?

Monday, 20 August 2012

Thursday, 16 August 2012

The creeping menace of Rock God-ism

“You’re in the crowd / And I’m in the band / You are a clown / And I am the man … You’re  on the floor / And I’m on the stage / You’re really poor / And twice my age / You earn in a year / My weekly wage / You’re on the floor / And I’m on the stage”.

Busted! 4 Or 5 Magicians’ excellent slow-noise jam I’m In The Band is surely one of the most coruscating attacks on Rock God superiority ever written. Yep, they’re rich, hip, and up on a lofty, bouncer-patrolled stage near year (viewable for a hefty entrance fee). They’re looking down on you – and not only because the branded altar of their stage is considerably higher than you are. But you don’t mind (or even notice) because they’re heroes. Your heroes.

OK, I’m laying it on a bit thick here. But even in the so-called “underground’ scene of small pub venues you get some of this. Things like: bands announcing on the mic that they’d like someone to get them a drink (get your own bloody drinks). Bands delaying their entrance at the start, and at the end retreating “back stage” (in reality a crowded kit room or pub toilet) before returning for their triumphant encores. And cornball stuff which they’ve got from bigger bands: using tired-out - and status-affirming - phrases like “Here’s one you might know” or “You’ve been a brilliant audience”, and throwing things into the crowd (yeah, that drumstick means so much to me …).

Ah, it’s all us and them isn’t it? The gig groundlings and the Rock Gods bestriding the stage with their Gibsons and their tight t-shirts.

Actually, most gigs I go to are not like this and the performers are often unassuming and approachable. “Come and talk to us after the show” is a common refrain (not that I particularly want to). And you get a lot of articulated gratitude (“Thanks for coming out tonight”); in fact too much (it’s boring).

But still, creeping Rock God-ism is everywhere … and until all small venues do away with (totally unnecessary) raised stages, dismantle the cheesy lighting rigs and rule the gear rooms out of bounds for the “encore walk-off” … it will always be a menace.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Chaotic lifestyles, Podcast #84 (July 2012)

Your life may be chaotic, but there's always room to listen to podcast #84 .....

(Note: links are live only for a month or so. After that, please leave a request for a re-up).

1: ProletR, Muhammad Ali
2: Austin Leonard Jones, No slow dancing
3: Sheikh Muhammed Mushtaq, Qasidah burdah (extract)
4: DZZ, Nightmares
5: Reykavik, Every day (Windmill, 3/7/12)
6: Chaotic lifestyles
7: Soom T & Disrupt, Puff the police
8: Chris Ibekwe, Ikoro kings special
9: Dress Up As Natives, You had to be there
10: Mitsuru Shimizu, Swim
11: Shepherds, Tears of a clown
12: Michael Evans & David Nuss, fuckin hippie shit
13: Silkworms, Tonight the stars (Windmill, 5/7/12)
14: Carl Dobson & The Liberals, Whoping mama
15: Imports
16: CHLLNGR, Desire (doctor echo dub)
17: Kind Eyes, ? (Old Blue Last, 25/7/12)
18: Famous Blue Diamonds Band, Ma eye me seesee
19: Deathly Dog, Down the drain
20: Gaylettes, Silent river runs deep
21: Alfredo Blessano, ? (Circolo Alessandro Volta, Milan 14/7/12)
22: BOK Darklord, Iced honey
23: Brenda (DC), Manatee
24: The Weekends, (Windmill, 18/7/12)
25: Les Halles, Radioakivität, AM radio
26: Brain Fever, You can take the love out of lover
27: EeL, A beloved child (Goodiepal remix)
28: Yeah Yeah Noh, Stealing (Hare & Hounds, Birmingham 7/7/12)

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Agggghhhhhhhh! Why songs are better with screaming

This blog is about noise and it’s about time I starting writing about NOISE.

Actually, screaming. For a long time now I’ve really liked songs that feature screaming. In my opinion piercing, pane-of-glass-shattering screams in a tune generally improve it (as is also the case with yodelling, whistling or animal noises …). Screams = serious, searing emotion. That's a powerful ingredient in a mere piece of music. Use it with care kids ... 

My favourite scream tune is probably the most obvious - Ralph Nielson & The Chancellors’ amazing Scream. Its screams are great. Very sustained and genuinely quite disturbing. But the rockabilly tune itself has a semi-demented and hurried-to-the-point-of-toppling-over quality which combines to turn it into a sort of frenzied fairground ride of a song. Kinda brilliant.

It’s not the only good screamo song though. One good modern one is by Codex Leicester, called (I’m guessing) Composition. I only know it as a live tune, but what I like about it is the way that the entire minute and half of the song is basically constructed around bursts of full-throated Aggghhhhh’s. (When this came on in the car the other day my mother apparently thought we’d driven past "an animal in distress” in a nearby field. Yep, it was that good).

The Beatles - not, I must admit, one of my favourite bands - probably helped popularise screaming with their (rather tame) quasi-scream harmonies on tunes like I Want To Hold Your Hand, but I much prefer the out-of-control screaming of the early "Beatlemania" teenyboppers themselves. Now that's screaming. Fab screaming!

Meanwhile, a lot of contemporary grindcore-type stuff is heavily based on guttural vocals that are, as it were, the subwoofer version of screaming. It’s not the real thing but it’s not bad and can be excellent when it works (“I bet his throat’s really going to hurt in the morning”, is my girlfriend's usual response to this music). I’ve said before that I think the grindcore growl sometimes becomes a little predictable and I quite like it when a band like Gurt vary things by switching from a dalek-throat voice to a normal one (or when a band alternates between the throaty stuff and grunge-type melody, as do the rather good Heck Tate for example). But I digress …

At the risk of taking this blog down a rabbit hole of self-referentiality, I want to end by mentioning how I recently caught a good “noise” band called Kind Eyes (the noise genre is obviously one I’ll have to try to do justice to in a future post). Suffice it to say that Kind Eyes had a good line in the strained-voice, near-screaming that’s fairly typical of the genre. I think some actual in-your-face Psycho-style screaming would have improved them though. 

Thursday, 19 July 2012


Two colours red and blue. Codex Leicester: Bugbar, Leicester 3/6/12