Manchester Stirs, The World Slumbers

Manchester - So Much To Answer For

Photo: Neil101

Within a week, two of the biggest bands of my teenage years announce new singles and albums. The Verve return from their extended hiatus with Forth, to be realised August 18th. Lead single Love Is Noise is currently doing the rounds on the web, and you can find a link below.

Oasis, or to be more precise the hulking shadow of what used to be Oasis, kick out their latest offering on October 6th. Dig Out Your Soul is the Gallagher’s seventh LP, and depsite all the usual bombast surrounding the release I think we all know what to expect. The Shock Of Lightning (“a demo” according to Noel) precedes it on September 29th.

What makes this all the more sad is that the two of these used to be great, and would have represented big red circles on my calendar. Now I couldn’t be less bothered.

The Verve – Love Is Noise


Glastonbury 2008: Best Of The Line-Up

Sunset at Glastonbury

There’s little under ten hours to go until the gates open at Glastonbury. For the first time in over fifteen years the festival hasn’t sold out in advance. Michael Eavis claims it is due to the dreadful weather of the last couple of years, but most would put it down to a lacklustre headline and main stage lineup. As always though, the undercard is where most of the highlights are to be found. Here are my ten picks for the festival, with some tracks to whet your appetite…

1. Edwyn Collins, Friday – Park Stage (A Girl Like You)

2. Massive Attack, Saturday – Other Stage (False Flags)

3. Black Mountain, Sunday – Other Stage (Wucan)

4. Holy Fuck, Saturday – John Peel Stage (Milk Shake)

5. Elle S’Appelle, Thursday – Left Field (Little Flame)

6. Six. By Seven, Saturday – Glade (IOU Love)

7. Lykke Li, Saturday – Park Stage (Breaking It Up)

8. Martha Wainwright, Saturday – Pyramid Stage (So Many Friends)

9. Hercules & Love Affair, Friday – East Stage (Blind)

10. My Morning Jacket, Sunday – Park Stage (Look At You)

Photo: Gilberts

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Live Review: My Bloody Valentine @ The Roundhouse

My Bloody Valentine\'s Kevin Shields (pic by me)

Ive seen Mogwai 32 times” starts a conversation pre-set in The Roundhouse. The chap who said it then proudly displayed to me his Mogwai tattoo and we discussed the potential for this coming October’s ATP gig to be great. There is some sort of kudos that goes along with seeing Mogwai live, a renown for being loud…

The air of expectancy in the Roundhouse is palpable. This is after all, My Bloody Valentine’s first tour in so many years. Their first ‘proper’ gig that is, following the phony war of the previous week’s two ICA warm-up shows. There’s a generation gap in the audience, those old enough to remember the last time and those not. I’m firmly in the latter camp. There’s free earplugs on the door.

I decline. We miss Le Volume Courbe, one of Shields’ productees, and mingle into the audience about 15 minutes before the band come on. When they appear they utter not a word of greeting, not a shred of recognition towards the packed auditorium. There won’t be one word the entire performance. Not that anyone would have heard, for once the band start to whirl their twisted melodies you can’t hear the words in your own head, never mind those coming from the stage.

The music erupts from the stacks with a force and ferocity that completely belies the activity onstage, Shields and Butcher restrict themselves to about a metre square either side of the stage, whilst bassist Googe stands half-turned away from the crowd towards Ó Cíosóig’s kit. All seemingly completely oblivious to the waste they lay before them. Behind, psychedelic images and looped films play, transforming and shifting along with the music.

And all the time, the sonic maelstrom shifts and deepens, and inexplicably gets louder. The vocals are so low in the mix that I could only tell that they were being sung was by the movement of Shields’ lips. The noise seems to envelop the crowd, bouncing off the venue’s industrial walls. The physicality of the sound grows and grows, and by the time the instantly recognisable riff of Soon hurls into the room, it’s pushing me back onto my heels.

Crowd reaction to closer, You Made Me Realise

Photo: Dan’s Photos

I’ve never thought of sound on this level, sound you feel as well as hear. There’s people around me with not only earplugs, but fingers in their ears. Resisting the temptation to sully this sonic storm, I keep mine unbound, and gladly. Closer You Made Me Realise ratchets the intensity further, drowning us in a morass of feedback, glacially getting louder, heaping crescendo on crescendo until you feel the entire mound crash down. A tsunami of noise, shrieking, piercing, puncturing.

And then it finishes. No goodbyes, no encores. The crowd stands there, more through dumbstruck awe than expectancy. There’s a ringing in my ears that won’t disappear for a couple of days. I’m dazed but elegiac, unbelieving of what I’ve just experienced. I see the Mogwai fan again. “32 times” he says, “32 times and I’ve never heard anything like that.” I doubt we ever will.

Probable Setlist (thanks to
Only Shallow
When You Sleep
You Never Should
(When You Wake) You’re Still In A Dream
Lose My Breath
I Only Said
Come In Alone
Nothing Much To Lose
To Here Knows When
Blown A Wish
Feed Me With Your Kiss
You Made Me Realise

My Bloody Valentine – Soon

A full recording of the show is discussed here, I don’t have the bandwidth to host it!

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Selected Releases: Monday 23 June

Big Blue Ball
Big Blue Ball
MP3: Habibe
Sigur Rós
Með suð í eyrum við
spilum endalaust
MP3: Gobbledigook
Wolf Parade
At Mount Zoomer
MP3: Language City

There is an amazing record getting a physical release this week in the form of the Big Blue Ball projects’ self-titled LP. The album brings together almost 18 years of open-studio recordings at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studios in Wiltshire. A collaborative effort, featuring names like Natacha Atlas, Jah Wobble, Tim Finn and Sinead O’Connor, helmed by Gabriel and Karl Wallinger. The music itself is like the entire catalogue of Real World records, a mix of superb instrumentation and strong, haunting voices all melded together onto one LP. So impressive is the end product that it may have a shout for album of the year.

Sigur Rós return with their fifth LP, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, translated as ‘With A Buzz In Our Ears We Play Endlessly’. Expect the usual melodic epics, bursting with slow burning crescendos and, for the first time, an English language track. This is a good, rather than great, album but definitely warranting further investigation. It’s streaming on and their Myspaz.

Canadian quintet Wolf Parade unleash their follow up to 2005’s Apologies To Queen Mary with this fantastic effort. A real mix of accessible stuff, such as the track provided here (via SubPop), and the more experimental gear, it’s a record that bears out repeated plays.

The Presets
MP3: This Boy’s In Love
White Denim
Workout Holiday
MP3: Let’s Talk About It
Universe In Reverse

There’s an old saying that runs along the lines of “talent imitates, genius steals”, and two of these three records prove that saying is completely bunk. For the new albums by Aussie group The Presets, and the sophomore record by Infadels, are completely derivative yet only someone with a complete lack of cognitive functions would call their creators geniuses. Some tracks of The Presets record are alright, just nothing special. Universe In Reverse is just fucking dreadful, I mean their debut was bad (it lasted all of three days in my record collection before it was unceremoniously flogged on ebay) but this ramps the shiteness to a new level. Rabble-rousing tosh. White Denim provide some much needed respite on our second-tier releases this week with the accomplished Workout Holiday. A noisy, DIY-sounding record, this treads ground that is well worn, but manages to find its own charm and niche.

The Beep Seals
Things That Roar
MP3: I Dreamt A Metal Hat
(They Came From The Stars) I Saw Them
We Are All In The Gutter But Some Of Us Are Looking At…

Releasing their second album this week are London’s Semifinalists, whose debut was solid if unspectacular. Graceful indiepop with decent vocals. Heron Recordings, home of The Beep Seals claims they sound like “pure pysch-slacker pop”, and who am I to disagree? I’m also not going to disagree with the world’s best record shop, Norman’s, who have named They Came From The Stars as owners of album of the week. I’ve included it here as it is basically demented bastardpop. Check out the Myspaz, the sound is pretty spectacular.

The Rascals
The Legend Of Yeti Gonzales
Cage The Elephant

The Rascals are the Arctic Monkeys’ best mates, and to be honest that is the only reason I can think they got a record contract. Deltasonic are the offending label, the band sharing a Merseyside heritage with their lead names The Coral. Unlike them, or the Monkeys they have no spark of originality and no charm. Bland indie-rock for the lads. As, unfortunately, is Yeti’s effort. Yeti feature former Libertines bassist John Hassall who aptly shows that he wasn’t the creative driving force in the Libs. And finally this week we end with live mavericks Cage The Elephant. For all the hype surrounding their gigging prowess the record is stodgy sub-Stooges schtick.

You can vote for your favourite release of the week over in the left sidebar!

The results from the last poll were:
=1. My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges
=1. Lykke Li – Youth Novels
3. My Brightest Diamond – A Thousand Sharks Teeth

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Liverpool: England’s Most Musical City?


A recent Arts Council poll claims that Liverpool is England’s most musical city. The current European Capital of Culture took the win with 49% of votes cast, ahead of Sheffield in second and Manchester in third. What a load of utter tripe. In my opinion, there are several things wrong with this.

Mainly, I have a problem with Liverpool’s continued reliance on their Beatles heritage as a starting point for any contemporary cultural relevance. Take their status as Captial of Culture, featuring concerts of pop and classical from Paul McCartney. How exactly does that demonstrate cultural development, a stated aim of the event? All those shows demonstrate is cultural retardation, a nostalgic, safe view.

Obviously the Beatles had a massive influence on musical culture worldwide, but by the same token you would not refer to Memphis as the greatest musical city in the USA just because that’s where Elvis lived.

A lot of the musical schedule for the year follows a similar format, there are also weekly concerts featuring other Mersey-beat bands from the same era, along with a one off concert of 80s washouts, headlined by Paul Young. Appearances by Ali Campbell, The Yardbirds, The Zombies and TV trash Shayne Ward, Journey South and Connie Fisher also litter the programme. Really progressive stuff, this.

Amongst this year-long splurge of detritus there a total lack of recognition for Liverpool’s other musical mavericks or indeed their rising stars. Throughout the reportage of this poll result, the two names consecutively mentioned are The Beatles and The Zutons. Is that the best the city has to offer? What about Echo & The Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes, Half Man Half Biscuit, Ladytron, Clinic, The Coral, The La’s, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and all the others? Sure, some of those are older but in their own fields, groundbreaking.

None get even a mention. The most relevant and contemporary item I can find in the schedule was a performance by Wiley: who isn’t even from Liverpool.

For my money, the greatest musical city in England is Manchester. And quite how London can be missed out of a top three is beyond me!

Anyway, here is my ‘Best of Liverpool’, not in any order.

1. Seventeen – Ladytron
2. Reward – The Teardrop Explodes
3. Walking With Thee – Clinic
4. Skeleton Key – The Coral
5. Lips Like Sugar – Echo & The Bunnymen
6. Two Tribes – Frankie Goes To Hollywood
7. Shot Shot – Gomez
8. Way Out – The La’s
9. Shipwreck – Hot Club De Paris
10. A Day In The Life – The Beatles

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Selected Releases: Monday 2 June

MP3: Deep Blue

Get Well Soon
Rest Now Weary Head
You Will Get Well Soon
MP3: Born Slippy NUXX

It’s Not Something But
It Is Like Whatever
MP3: National Prism

Rather obviously, album of the week this time around is Ladytron’s fourth LP, Velocifero. Following up on 2005’s album of the year Witching Hour was always going to be a thankless task, but the quartet have given it a great stab, and there are sections of the record that rival the very best of their work. Quite how well it stands up against the best of the year so far (Portishead, The Black Angels, Elbow) is another matter, but quite simply it blows everything else away this week. Runner-up is German artist Konstantin Gropper with his Get Well Soon project. This is maudlin pop, akin to Radiohead’s more balladic moments, shot through with Germanic sheen. The track featured here is what drew my attention to the album, a twisted and sombre re-rub of Underworld’s classic Born Slippy NUXX. The whole album is streaming on his Myspace, check it out. Also featuring on the top rung this week are Rock Action’s Glaswegian noisemakers Errors, with their debut It’s Not Something But It Is Like Whatever. Adding electronic swipes to label-boss’ Mogwai’s template this is accomplished electro post-rock, worthy of Mogwai themselves.

The Zutons
You Can Do Anything
MP3: Dirty Rat

Johnny Foreigner
Waited Up Till
It Was Light
MP3: Our Bipolar Friends

The Notwist
The Devil, You And Me
MP3: Gloomy Planets

Onto a poppier bent, and we have records from Liverpool’s The Zutons and Birmingham’s Johnny Foreigner. The Zutons certainly have a high workrate, this is their third LP in four years, their name kept in the limelight by a well placed Ronson/Winehouse cover of the otherwise dreadful Valerie. On first listens there isn’t much to even rival that on You Can Do Anything, nowhere near repeating the stomping thrills of Pressure Point or You Will, You Won’t from their debut. Brum’s JoFo have just released their debut, and despite getting decent reviews in most musical press, it just doesn’t do it for me. I saw them live too, and wasn’t impressed. Artsy-indie by rote. Different again are genre-hopping Germans The Notwist, formed way back in 1989. The Devil, You And Me is their sixth LP, one that took almost six years to bring to fruition. Continuing their trend towards electronic-inflected stuff, this effort is pretty tasty. 

Keyboard Choir
Mizen Head To
Gascanane Sound
MP3: Bugs

MP3: South Col

Look See Proof
Between Here And There
MP3: Obstruction

Sneaking into my attentions through a wonderfully titled album, Brainlove Record’s Keyboard Choir float their debut this week, initially digital only. A hybrid of found sound and electronics, they create intense soundscapes, interspersed with snatches of speech. There’s a couple of tracks available for download from their Myspace, however support the band and label if you like it: we need more like Brainlove! Okkervil River offshoot Shearwater release their fifth record this week, Rook containing some strong tracks, but overall the feel is a little been there, done that. The same feeling invades a lot of Look See Proof’s debut, Between Here And There. However, the difference here is that the songs just vibrate with energy. Enough, in fact to carry this album into distinctly enjoyable territory. 

Ravens & Chimes
Reichenback Falls
MP3: January

Paul Weller
22 Dreams
MP3: 22 Dreams

This Is Alphabeat
MP3: Fascination

Propping up the release schedule this week are big hitters from artists at very different stages of their careers. Paul Weller releases his latest effort with 22 Dreams, a surprisingly varied effort for an artist renowned for his traditional approach. If you fancy something with a bit shorter career span then latch onto Alphabeat’s album. This is pretty shocking ‘adult-pop’ ie, something shite that middle aged hags can dance around to at the local disco in some shockingly awful place like Stoke. Avoid. Finally there are NYC band Ravens & Chimes, whose Reichenback Falls is nice enough, just not spectacular.
Last week’s top 3 as voted by you were:
1. Spiritualized – Songs in A&E
=2. The Wedding Present – El Rey
=2. The Futureheads – This Is Not The World
Vote for this week’s best release over in the left sidebar.