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

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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 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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Ladytron Live Review: May 15, Astoria

Ladytron
London Astoria
May 15, 2008
Tonight is Ladytron’s first London date in some time, and a first time for the capital to hear tracks from he scintillating Velocifero live. The Liverpool-based foursome wase no time in airing Velocifero’s innards, they kick off with the trio of opener, Black Cat, first single Ghosts, and my highlight so far, Runaway. Warm yet distant, the new tracks exand Ladytron’s palette slightly, building on the more organic sound of 2005’s triumphant Witching Hour. A shame, then, that the sound in the Astoria is abysmal. Vocals drowned out by machine hum, bass lost amid a sea of mid-range. Biggest casualty is the opening of Black Cat, an intricate build to a delightful vocal break from Mira in her native tongue, bludgeoned by an unhelpful mixing desk.

The sound mess-up slowed the band’s momentum, as the opening triumvirate of newies segued well into older classics such as Seventeen, rendered tonight a breakneck speed. Live, the band have a strange sort of energy, almost mechanical. The new record certainly bears this out, a move towards their live sound. Older tracks are almost completely transformed, Blue Jeans moves towards the Stooges riff that drives at its heart. Something was clearly disrupting the band though, glances shot across at the mixing desk. And lo, roughly seven tracks in, clearly narked by the techical mishaps the band ceased. They only re-appeared to apologise and reassure that we’d see them again for a re-run. Somewhat ironically their last track before the fin was Soft Power

Here is what the band had to say on their Myspaz: “Hey, so we just got pulled offstage halfway through our set at the Astoria because the stage power had failed, no mixing desk and monitors. At first we were hopeful they would have a backup or somehow sort it out, but they couldn’t. So besides being fucking annoyed that we didn’t get to play all the set, we’re upset for everyone who travelled to the show and only got half a gig. Again sorry, we were standing there waiting to go back on, only for them to tell us it wasn’t possible. Sellout show and we could only play half. So as far as we aware the show is going to be rescheduled in July with original tickets valid. Hopefully there will be electricity next time, we’re getting in Nikola Tesla to do the power.

July can’t roll around fast enough, some ofVelocifero is just begging to be realised live. Particularly looking forward to Deep Blue and closer Versus. I left obviously disappointed, but also re-assured that the band had managed to engineer the new record’s sound into a live setting, whilst maintaining the precision and affected distance that originally made them so appealing.

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Live Review: Los Campesinos! at Kingston Works

First things first, The Works is a dive. Housed in a cavernous space in the centre of teen-drinking capital, Kingston, the club looks like it is more used to nights of ‘banging’ house and bland Euro-trance than be-cardiganned indie hordes. Because of this, the stage is cramped and the sound is truly dreadful. On the upside, big kudos to Banquet for trying something like this in the otherwise barren music landscape that makes up South-West London.The first couple of bands grab my attention, but in the wrong way. The openers, 4 or 5 Magicians unfortunately sounded too bland, and their banter went on too long. Next up were Johnny Foreigner, who to be honest weren’t much better. The four people I’d dragged with me on the promise of good music were distinctly unimpressed, and we retired halfway through their set to a nearby quiz machine…

My credibility as a font of musical knowledge lay squarely in the seven Welsh laps of Los Campesinos! who thankfully did not let me down. Barely fitting on the tiny stage, they set about making a mockery of the soundsystem, glockenspiel notes ringing clearly through the fuzz, Gareth and Aleks yelping and soothing the lyrics. Already leaked to the net, and the band not seeming too mind too much, a great chunk of debut LP, Hold On Now, Youngster, was played and devoured by the enthusiastic crowd.

The singles-so-far provided the obvious highlights, Death to Los Campesinos! and International Tweexcore Underground sounded fantastic, with the undeniable pinnacle being reached with the superb You! Me! Dancing!.  The band ended with old favourite Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks ringing through the massive space, triumphant in the knowledge that their album, illegally gained or not, worked wonders live.

MP3: You! Me! Dancing!
Download here / Buy here