Sister Ray – Soon To Be Gone?

Sister Ray - End of an Indpendent Era?

Sister Ray - End of an Indpendent Era?

Another of London’s rare independent record shops is feeling the one-two punch of illegal downloads and the credit crunch…  Sister Ray this week announced that it was heading into administration. Since the news washed in a few days ago I’ve been trying to pin down why exactly it saddens me to such an extent. I mean, there’s bigger indie shops in London (Rough Trade East), HMV and subsidiary Fopp have reduced their vinyl prices to more or less compete, and a fuller range is stocked by online funboys Norman and Boomkat

I guess it’s the ever diminishing experience of being surrounded by good music, and people who love good music. Not that I ever spoke to many people in there, I once recommended a chap TV On The Radio’s Desperate Youth And Bloodthirsty Babes as he had a crisis of confidence at the counter but that’s about it. I have, however, got some of my most treasured records from there. It always annoys and astonishes my girlfriend how I will take a good look in the windows of Sister Ray before heading into it’s dark and familiar interior, only to reap more frustration in the haphazard way I’d take to browsing their racks.

Of course the store is not yet bound for closure, the owner is hopeful that the store’s reputation will find it speedy investment. Nor is it perfect, their second hand selection is limited and often over-priced. The offers are never that extensive or special. The pricing is average. But, and it is a big but, they were independent. Run by folks who value selection and variation over profit lines and charts. They’ll be a big miss for me, the particular location having stared at me since 1995 and the cover of Oasis’ (What’s The Story) Morning Glory, the shop hosted my first London record shopping visits when I moved there in late-2001. Hopefully they’ll manage to pull it out of the fire – it’s a long way over to Rough Trade!

Velvet Underground – Sister Ray
Joy Division – Sister Ray (Live)

Live Review: Cornershop, John and Jehn – Amersham Arms

John & Jehn live at Amersham Arms

There is a sign outside the venue that reads ‘Cornershop live tonight…yes, that Cornershop‘. It shows the abyss of public awareness that Tjinder Singh and his merry band have fallen into of late. After all, it’s been six years since Handcream For A Generation graced the album charts back in 2002. However, with the promise of a cracking support from London-based French duo John & Jehn, the trip was made to my original London stomping ground. The gig is a warm-up for their Wireless show the next day, and their first gig seemingly since a mini-tour in November last year.

The Amersham Arms is barely full when John & Jehn take to the stage, their first words enticing the crowd closer. They launch into a taut set, John throwing all kinds of angular shapes with guitar and body, Jehn starting out hunched over an organ but soon taking to bass. The tunes are an amalgam of Stereolab, Velvet Underground and The Raveonettes, all hatchet guitars, pysch-synths and loaded stares. Unlike the Raveonettes, the drum machine clanking away doesn’t detract or become repetitive. In fact, there is so much to enjoy in their all-too-short set that I’m left wanting more. Another debut album to track down.

Cornershop live at the Amersham Arms, 4th July 2008

It isn’t long before Cornershop make their way onto the cramped stage. Launching straight into Sleep On The Left Side, it becomes obvious that this South London pub is about to be treated to the very best that the band can offer. They follow the opening salvo with the bouncy Lesssons Learnt From Rocky I to Rocky III, one of the most bewilderingly unappreciated singles of the early 2000s. The set continues at that pace, drawing faux-Bollywood moves from the front row, and head-nodding from the less dance-inclined. There’s new songs premiered, single-to-be The Roll Off Characteristics Of History In The Making the most memorable. There are also a couple of choice covers, Norwegian Wood with live sitar is a sound to behold, and a cheeky take on The Mighty Quinn brings ear-to-ear smiles. A breezy run-through of Brimful of Asha is followed by the spectacular 6 a.m. Jullander Shere, perhaps the band’s best track. The band leave the stage one by one, with Singh unsurprisingly the first to go. Five minutes later, drummer and percussionist are still at it. A short set, obviously made for festivals, packed full of quality, fun and tunes. Wireless is in for a treat.

John & Jehn – 20 L 07
John & Jehn – You Far Away
Cornershop – Battle Of New Orleans (Peel Session)
Cornershop – Topknot (MIA Remix)
Cornershop – Hot Rocks

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 www.mybloodyvalentine.net)
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
Thorn
Nothing Much To Lose
To Here Knows When
Slow
Blown A Wish
Soon
Feed Me With Your Kiss
Sueisfine
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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Coldplay Announce UK Tour

 

So, Coldplay are getting round to touring their Ricky Martin inspired fourth LP, Viva La Vida. Whilst this has been getting a kicking in most places, the lead single got a 2/5 in the Observer Music Monthly for example, they are still a huge live draw. Arenas it is then!

The tour runs:
Birmingham NIA: December 1-2
Glasgow SECC: December 5-6
Sheffield Arena: December 7
Liverpool Echo Arena: December 10
Manchester MEN Arena: December 11-12
London O2: December 14-15

Tickets on sale, at vastly inflated, making poverty for Coldplay history, prices on Friday, 9am.

Plenty of space in there for extra dates, spinning this out for longer than needed or necessary.

Coldplay – Viva La Vida
Coldplay – Violet Hill (Nikolai Levey’s Floating in Space Remix)
Coldplay – A Spell A Rebel Yell

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Live London: 27 May – 2 June

Show of the Week: Maxïmo Park, Blood Red Shoes, Mystery Jets & Pete & The Pirates, May 28, Kentish Town Forum.

A special charity show in aid of a couple of charities, and some fantastic bands playing. Gotta be a winner from all angles.

Paul Smith from headliners Maxïmo Park says “When someone you know is up against cancer it makes sense to give them your full support. Since that is currently the case, and that person is being treated at The Royal Marsden hospital, which was recently damaged by fire, we decided to do what we can as a band. What we do best is play concerts and we intend to give all profit from our gig at The Forum to help rebuild the cancer unit where they not only look after sufferers but continue to further our knowledge and treatment of the disease. We’ve never been a preachy band or asked people to shell out daft amounts for tickets, but this show will be well worth the entry fee for a number of reasons.

For three further reasons, listen to these:

Maxïmo Park – Apply Some Pressure
Blood Red Shoes – ADHD
Mystery Jets –  Young Love

Here are the best of the rest…

May 27
Sennen @ Dublin Castle
Tom White / Chris TT @ Upstairs at The Enterprise
Bob Mould @ Koko

May 28
Paris Motel @ Bush Hall
Tapes & Tapes @ ULU

May 29
The Black Keys @ Astoria
Silver Jews @ ULU
The Futureheads @ The Electric Ballroom
Ice, Sea, Dead People @ Good Ship

May 30
Bruce Springsteen @ Emirates Stadium

May 31
The Owl Service @ RoTa, Notting Hill Arts Club
Ed Harcourt @ 12 Acklam Road

June 1
Grand National @ Amersham Arms
Lykke Li @ George IV, W4

June 2
Autolux @ Cargo
Sons & Daughters @ Koko

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