Sunday, 25 January 2009

U2 - Get On Your Boots

Brace yourselves. U2 are back and we all know what that means: Bono’s beady eyes and big ol’ snout peering out menacingly from the front of music magazines across the world, lifetime achievement awards limply handed out by Industry Folk and a plague-like saturation of radio stations and yer MTV.

This new single from those four salt-of-the-earth Irish lads is an inevitable rocker falling flaccidly from the Vertigo cast. Full of crunchy guitars and smug swagger we can assume this will be the least sanctimonious cut from the album as Bono sings I don’t want to talk about wars between nations (for all of three-and-a-half minutes). Also, try and listen out for the Arctic Monkeys-style drums - they stick out like Wayne Rooney in a public library.

Ultimately it’s an aimless exercise in Rocking Out but, dear reader, this is a warning: U2 are back and Bono is telling you to Get On Your Boots. I can only assume he means ethically traded, crafted-by-the-hands-of-self-sufficient-Peruvian-tribesmen boots.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

*Televised Crimewave *Popular Workshop *Section K - Moles Club, Bath - 22.1.09

Gigs are like a box of chocolates yada yada yada...

Section K baffled the audience before they played a note. With the guitarist in a lab coat, the bassist in full judo attire (only a red belt though) and chief synth/knob-twiddler dressed as Cruella DeVille’s sexually-confused nephew the audience braced themselves for some Uber-Eccentricity. Uber-Shite was unfortunately what they got. Clanking industrial drum-loops, vocal samples courtesy of some dull science-based radio broadcast circa 1954 and the murky guitar and bass sounding like incoherent tramps arguing over who gets the last can of Special Brew it appeared they were pretty much making it up as they went along. If you want to hear three mates fuck around I’d suggest this highly, otherwise just do it yourself.

Popular Workshop brought the audience in towards their warm, reassuring indie bosom with a jagged attack of feedback and askew, off-kilter guitar from their greasy-haired Italian frontman. Funniest moment of the evening: In an attempt to get the audience roused their singer/guitarist shouted defiantly into the microphone ‘BARACK OBAMA!’, only for the mike stand to impotently fall down.

Televised Crimewave's distinct brand of Northern-Goth-Nihilism evaporated any trace of the word ‘refund’ in the minds of paying punters. With a genuinely interesting frontman their songs are loaded with a hidden menace which always threatens to rear the ugliest of heads. Backed by a bowel-rattling drum sound and ersatz-50s echo these guys are Bloc Party’s Friends In The North playing their own soundtrack to a British horror flick not yet written.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

The Bohemian Embassy - The Horseshoe, Bath - 17.1.09

The Horseshoe is a pub about a hundred metres along the road from me and is about as traditional as it gets. With an interior that refuses to let go of the Seventies, the walls are covered with paintings often found plaguing car-boot sales, decorative plates and basically anything which can be stuck to a wall.

At best you can expect to see about a dozen people in there at any one time yet when I walked in to watch Bath four-piece The Bohemian Embassy I was greeted by at least 30 youths drunk on cheap vodka and lager. However, they weren't there solely to see the gig. They were from the local private school; the boys were getting drunk trying to forget the promises they made with their form-masters whilst the girls were dangerously drunk, dangerously blonde and dangerously young.

Eventually we were all let through into the pub's long, thin skittle alley where everyone was scratching their heads realising that this wasn't thought through. Because of the narrowness of the room people were finding it hard to get a glimpse of the band at the far end. 'It's my local,' I thought, 'to the front I go!'

As for the band themselves they proved good entertainment for the evening. With the singer/rhythm guitarist and lead guitarist looking like rejects from an indie Rocky Horror Show, the drummer as ostentatious as Keith Moon and, um, a bass player, their sound is of the punchy indie sort which doesn't seem to understand the concept of slowing down or pausing to think about trivial everyday things. Every chorus seemed to sweep you up in it's fiery wake before letting you tumble to the ground until the chorus mercilessly came back round again...

As the band exited through a fire escape into the raging night, everyone vacated the alley and returned into the heaving, pulsating bar. Managing to catch the landlord's eye the drinking began. Well, you have to support your local, don't you?

Sunday, 11 January 2009

BBC Omnibus: Cracked Actor

Filmed on David Bowie’s 1974 Diamond dogs tour, this 53-minute BBC Omnibus special follows the man himself as he floats around America, paranoid and uneasy, on a blanket of cocaine.

A brief history: Bowie had recently stuffed Ziggy Stardust back in his dressing up box and after recording the album Diamond Dogs embarked on a tour of America to promote said record. His new guise was that of a seasoned ‘showbiz’ performer playing Philly Soul complete with an elaborate stage show which gradually lead to his Thin White Duke persona.

Between footage of Bowie performing in the Universal Ampitheatre, Los Angeles, we get him coked up in his limo blabbering on or looking pensively out of the window, coked up at a service station and coked up backstage taking the film crew through his wardrobe and applying makeup. David’s dependence on the white powder at this time was huge and he is frequently seen sniffing violently, zapping up any stray flecks of coke which didn’t make it to his racing brain.

Like anyone who is on cocaine the man obviously loves the sound of his own voice and everything he says is so brilliantly Bowie: teasing, coy, confident, profound, bollocks. Crouching on a floor taking the film-crew through his cut-up method of creating lyrics (writing sentences, cutting them up and re-arranging them to create new sentences) he imparts with the gem: “I tried doing it with would predict things or tell me about my past.” (My italics, brother).

The concert footage is testament to his unparalleled innovation and artistic restlessness; gone is the sleazy lurch of Ziggy, replaced with a slick display of plastic showmanship and artificial pizzazz. Moonage Daydream becomes an excercise in funk; Diamond Dogs a power-gallop; whilst John, I’m only dancing is re-moulded into cabaret – Full-Blown Hot Night Cool Breeze Copacabana Malibu Cocktail Cabaret .

Bowie’s overhaul of his music and image to what it is here alienated a lot of his Glam disciples and made them cry tears of glitter yet it shows how utterly unique he is as an artist. To have an insight into his world is a treat which you can’t help but feel you don’t deserve but, hey, it’s decadence all the way in David's kingdom.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Late of the Pier - Fantasy Black Channel

It must be terrible being so darn creative. Just when you think it’s probably best to move back into a verse there’s Brian Eno dressed in a latex Devil's outfit perched on your shoulder whispering in your ear to double the tempo and go in for a flute solo.

Such is the dilemma on Late of the Pier’s debut album, Fantasy Black Channel. The thirteen songs here are as experimental and schizophrenic as you are likely to find yet it occasionally sounds like someone tripping over their own multi-coloured high-tops.

The album introduces itself with Hot Tent Blues, just over a minute of bloated synth lines which manages to sound like both a beginning and an end. It could well be pumped gloriously from the blood encrusted p.a. systems the day after The Revolution as it could be the soundtrack to the last days of Rome (2059 A.D.).

And then the odyssey begins. For that’s was this album is – an odyssey. We are taken through a universe where the clouds are matt grey and dangerously low whilst the horizon is an explosion of Technicolor; a world where the nihilism is crisp, occasionally sprawling and lasts about three-and-a-half minutes.

The highlights? Space and the woods is a futurist fantasy driven by thunderous, hi-energy synths whilst VW is an impressive nomadic electro journey sans lyrics; single Heartbeat is good value too with a most gloriously dizzying chorus.

A special mention has to go to the song Whitesnake. Whilst the notion of pomposity is intrinsic to the band it seems that when they try too hard it becomes plain embarrassing. Mining the quirkiness which made Sparks such an irritating band the song is avoidable at best but, if you’re like me and enjoy listening to the occasional song for it’s comedic crapness, then be my guest.

The kitchen sink mentality and lofty ambitions of the band can only be admired and provides an album which is never dull, yet this can be problematic in its own right. They probably won’t release a second album for a good few years because all of their ideas have been thrown into this long-player. It’s about pacing yourself and that would imply having one eye on the future – a place I thought the band couldn’t remove their gaze from...