Archive for January, 2008

30
Jan
08

Beginning 2008 Properly: Hot Chip’s Made in the Dark


London’s electro band Hot Chip has been one of the year’s first buzz bands with their third album, Made in the Dark, due to release on February 4 in the UK (EMI) and February 5 (DFA) in the US. I know because I’ve been specifically tracking blogs about Made in the Dark for my masters thesis (it’s a case study at the moment) and there have been loads of blogs about this album reaching as far back as early December. So, really this review is considered to be way too late in the timeline of the blogosphere. Yes, it’s still being written before the album is even officially released, but that’s just not fast enough anymore. However, I thought I’d weigh in on the Hot Chip hype because I’ve liked the band for a couple of years now.

In my opinion, Made in the Dark is a nice compromise between their first albums Coming on Strong and The Warning – the former was generally more laidback than the latter – but it also reaches out in other new directions. Hot Chip has always had a quirky groove to their brand of electropop and never quite fit with the New Rave (whatever that really means) label they were given after The Warning. They definitely don’t fit neatly into a Klaxons-like box. Their music seems to defy genre in that it plays with all sorts of rhythms and styles, including funk, soul, European electro, and electro punk. Vocals are always airy, even when the music beneath them is frenetic.

On Made in the Dark, the title track stands out as an unexpected piano-based ballad, but it works – its heartbroken delivery gives the likes of Badly Drawn Boy a run for their money. One of my favourite tracks is One Pure Thought with its great, memorable riff and a quasi-tropical beat behind it – it has been stuck in my brain for the last few days. Out at the Pictures begins with a low hum and a dragging beat, but one minute into it, and it becomes a syncopated jackhammer of a rhythm. Another minute in and the rhythm shifts gear again with what sounds like a sleazy horn backup – Mark Ronson would be proud. Shake a Fist, which has been around since last year, especially in remixed form, is another crazy collection of twists and turns that shifts from a flamenco beat into a laser war. Ready for the Floor, the first official single, is a breezy dance track with some bouncy flourishes that remind me of Of Montreal’s latest album. A few of the tracks also feature spoken word snippets, adding further to the pastiche feel of the album.

Overall, Made in the Dark diverges and converges, proving that electronic music can still be surprising and intensely creative. And it will probably be on the list of best albums of 2008. With the speed of the bloggers, it likely already is.

Made in the Dark – Hot Chip

One Pure Thought – Hot Chip

Out at the Pictures – Hot Chip

28
Jan
08

Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and Well…Friday I’m in Love: Weekly Mix #1

I’ve decided it might be fun to post a new music mix every Sunday. Frankly, it’s probably more fun for me creating them than it is for anyone listening to them, but it’s my blog and I can be as self-indulgent as I like. Although, this does put pressure on me to actually remember to do this every Sunday – I will probably remember to do this rather than real homework, mind.

This first mix is a purely fun one (no music snobbery in this one). It’s upbeat and largely electronic. While I have a serious side that loves political and dark music, I also have a side that wants to be an androgynous robot pulling shapes in a New Romantic club. In fact, I shall call this mix When the Humans Are Away, The Robots Play.

You can download each track separately (in case you disagree with any of the selections), or you can download the whole mix as a zip file.

Pull Shapes – The Pipettes

Beggin’ – Frankie Valli (Pilooski Edit)

We Are Your Friends – Justice Vs. Simian Mobile Disco

D.A.N.C.E. – Justice

Digitalism in Cairo – Digitalism

Atlantis to Interzone – Klaxons

The DJ’s Got a Gun – Robots in Disguise

Reality TV – Infadels

I Get Around – Dragonette

Gunshot Wedding Symptoms – Closethuman

Even If It Takes All Night – Paradise Boys

Ice Cream – New Young Pony Club

Standing in the Way of Control – The Gossip

Crime Does Pay (Renaissance Remix) – The Hourly Radio

We Don’t Play Guitars – Chicks on Speed featuring Peaches

Gonna Wanna – Chris Corner and Sue Denim

Girls in the Back – White Rose Movement

The Sound of the Crowd – Human League

Destroy Everything You Touch – Ladytron

Blue Monday 88 – New Order

Weekly Mix #1 (Megaupload)

22
Jan
08

Stroszek – Welcome to the Next Great Chapter in Scottish Music

Scotland has often been the site of a rich music culture. Many of the bands I love hail from north of the English border – Cocteau Twins, Orange Juice, The Associates, Josef K, The Skids, Simple Minds, Camera Obscura, The Jesus and Mary Chain, etc. And when you glance over the list, there’s a fair amount from the post-punk period (especially when you think of the Postcard label), arguably the richest musical era ever. MySpace helped me discover the next chapter in this incredible history: the Glasgow-based band, Stroszek.

Named after the Werner Herzog film (often famous in music circles as the film Ian Curtis watched before topping himself), Stroszek stood out from the glut of unsigned bands that fills the MySpace universe and caught my attention. Not only is their music going against the tide of the post-Libertines vanguard, but they write intelligent, political and confrontational lyrics of the type I haven’t heard from any recent band. Stroszek is: Richey James Robertson (vocals/synth), Doug Daniel (bass/synth) and Les Willox (guitar/synth/programming). A self-described “post-punk-electro-shoegaze” band, they produce a glacial, moody post-punk sound reminiscent of Joy Division, Josef K, the David Bowie Berlin trilogy, and Siouxsie and the Banshees, but with hints of gloomy synth-pop akin to The Cure and Depeche Mode and a textured melodic soundscape like Cocteau Twins. At the same time, the basslines recall the driving feel of Killing Joke and the groove of early Simple Minds. Richey’s vocals fall between the Ian Curtis tonality popularized of late by bands like Interpol and Editors and the low tremble of Richard Butler from Psychedelic Furs. Unlike their potential reference point Interpol, their melodies soar rather than drone (admittedly, Interpol’s last album appears to be taking a more melodic turn).

Because I’m a big fan of well-written lyrics, their lyrical content really impressed me. Their lyrics sit within the realm of the The Clash, Manic Street Preachers, McCarthy, and Gang of Four, placing them far above their peers in my eyes. Their MySpace page is littered with quotes from the likes of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Bertrand Russell, and Edward Said. Not since the Manics has there been such brilliant use of political and philosophical intertextuality. Stroszek often references Scottish issues in addition to more general statements about world politics, the role of the media, and history (the song Railway of Bones refers to the construction of the Siberian railway, a project of the Stalin era that remains unfinished, but was under construction for four years at the cost of ten people’s lives a day). It’s refreshing to hear meaningful poetry in lyrics which actually challenge you.

Last summer I was lucky enough to see Stroszek perform live in Manchester, and even though they were limited to a five song set, I was truly happy that I had been there to witness it. I wrote the following about the gig back in June 2007:

Because there were five bands playing that night, Stroszek only got to play a five-song set, but I was honoured to see it. They played three songs I already knew (“The Saltire,” “You’ve Only Got Yourself to Blame,” and “Dancing on the Motorway”) and two I had only read the lyrics to (“Burning Libraries” and “Let the Chaos Begin”). The true test of a band for me is whether I enjoy songs I’ve never heard before as much as the songs I already know, and Stroszek aced this test. They are simply a great live band, one that doesn’t need anything other than the music to blow you away. Richey sang with intensity, honesty and anguish reminiscent of Ian Curtis and James Dean Bradfield; Les’s guitar deftly danced through the pulsing rhythms of the programmed drums, weaving haunting melodies; Doug drove each song along in true Jah Wobble and/or Killing Joke fashion; and they all took turns playing the synth in a seamless, but intricately layered, wall of sound. And of course the lyrics gave me that triumphant feeling similar to the one I got watching the Manics – call me weird, but songs that mention Chomsky make my heart swell.

The rest of the bands that night didn’t really compare to Stroszek -Stroszek seemed to be at a more professional, fully-realized level. Probably one of the worst bands was the one immediately following Stroszek. They attempted to play some uninspired punk music with equally uninspired lyrics. Sadly, they seemed to provoke quite a positive reaction (which I can only attribute to either the masses’ stupidity or the fact they had a lot of friends in the audience). One song went thusly: “He’s a bastard (5X), he’s a wanker (5X), he’s a dickhead (5X).” They followed this vapid tripe with a song simply called, “Binge Drinking.” It was definitely our cue to leave the club when the final band came on with props: a chair and an electric fan (as Doug quipped, “their only fan”). The singer seemed like a drama student as she pulled horrific faces and dramatically lurched around the chair, her hair blowing in her portable wind tunnel.

For those in the UK, I definitely recommend seeing Stroszek live. I would be attending their gigs all the time if I lived over there, but alas, I cannot; however, I intend to see them again sooner than later. Their songs careen from atmospheric (ie: Dialysis) to propulsive (ie: You’ve Only Got Yourself to Blame) to danceable (ie: Dancing on the Motorway), and their intensity moves you.

Stroszek’s self-produced EP Demonstration includes the songs You’ve Only Got Yourself to Blame, The Saltire, Railway of Bones, and Dialysis, and it is available via their MySpace page. Now that Stroszek are on the roster of Flowers in the Dustbin, a Glaswegian multimedia collective, I hope that they will get more of the promotion they deserve. There are promises of a new release this year, and I’m quite excited about getting some new music that I know I’ll enjoy.

Unlike Scottish contemporaries like The Acute, who have been touted as the next Manic Street Preachers based purely on glamour and attitude, Stroszek have the talent, and more importantly, the intelligence, not only to fill the Manics’ shoes, but to take strides in different, meaningful directions.
Stroszek’s MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/stroszek
Stroszek’s Web site (currently under construction): http://www.stroszek.co.uk/
Flowers in the Dustbin’s MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/flowersinthedustbin

The Saltire – Stroszek

Appealing to the Senseless – Stroszek

18
Jan
08

The 2008 Brit Awards: Just Another in a Long Line of Disappointments

There’s absolutely no reason why I should ever even entertain the thought that awards shows of any kind could have any use whatsoever. Especially music awards shows. I know they’re all corporate brothels of mediocrity and drivel. I have effectively avoided most of them for several years now – I don’t even take note of who gets nominated or who wins or who performs. I think the last time I saw any portion of the Grammies was when it was a celebration of U2 (in all honesty, it could have been any year that U2 had an album out…or possibly any year at all because I’m fairly certain that they’ve won awards when they had no album out that particular year…or that they have collected awards over two years for the same album). Admittedly, the Brit Awards (the UK version of the Grammies) used to be a welcome relief from the bloated North American shows which featured more inane speeches than actual musical performance.

I know the Brits were definitely never the bastion of musical excellence either, but at least I used to see the odd band that I genuinely liked and the ratio of music to talking was the reverse of any North American slogfest of bland idiocy. There were also moments worth remembering (Jarvis Cocker waggling his backside during Michael Jackson’s performance in 1996 ultimately leading to the inspired “Free Jarvis” campaign, the Manic Street Preachers performing A Design for Life and also winning two awards in 1997, Suede performing “Animal Nitrate” in 1993, the Placebo-David Bowie duet in 1997, even the fabulously fun and over-the-top Scissor Sisters performance complete with giant puppets from Jim Henson’s Workshop in 2005). And last year, the Brits walked the fine line between credibility and vulgarity by choosing Russell Brand as host and it worked quite brilliantly. The Grammies show has such a very large stick up its arse it couldn’t even conceive of someone like Russell Brand let alone understand his jokes. And the MTV awards are too steeped in their own crap to comprehend anything less subtle than a fisting. Or a kiss between pop tarts of then and now. I will concede that the Brits are also filled with thousands of missteps (allowing flavour-of-the-year acts to perform or giving a lifetime achievement award to Oasis), but they were also the only watchable award show for me. However, judging from this year’s nominees and line-up of performances, I’m far more disappointed than usual.

British Male Solo nominees are: Jamie T, Mark Ronson, Mika, Newton Faulkner, and Richard Hawley. I tried to understand the Jamie T hype, but I still don’t get it. Hailing from the home of The Wombles and tennis, he smacks of the whole I-produced-an-album-by-myself-in-my-bedroom-and-write-true-to-life-lyrics-like-Mike-Skinner hype. At any rate, his music doesn’t make any particular impression on me – maybe because I don’t live the life he sings about. Then again, I’ve never seen a vicar in a tutu either. Mark Ronson is King Hype right now and the hottest producer going since his production of Amy Winehouse and the release of his own album of covers in which he mainly works on production and arrangement. Both utilize that sleazy big band retro feel, and have pretty much solidified his signature sound. Whether this particular sound will remain cool and popular in the future and whether Ronson will adapt or not remains to be seen. Mika…touted as a Lebanese Freddie Mercury. Well, he is from Lebanon. Anyhow, it was practically impossible to avoid his helium-inflected “Grace Kelly” for the better (or more appropriately worse) part of last year – it was like a saccharine viral brain worm. My only consolation is the fact he will one day take his place alongside Lieutenant Pigeon, Jilted John, and The Mock Turtles. I don’t know Newton Faulkner, but my assumption is that he’s that extra indie credibility artist thrown into the list for good measure, but who has no chance at winning anything. And Richard Hawley – the one I would want to win, but who very likely will not. He has been in two of my favourite bands (Pulp and The Longpigs), and he is a legitimate solo artist. Which means he will not win.

British Female Solo nominees are: Bat for Lashes, Kate Nash, KT Tunstall, Leona Lewis, and PJ Harvey. Bat for Lashes (real name: Natasha Khan) and PJ Harvey appear to be the token legitimate artists on this list. I haven’t even really heard much of PJ Harvey’s latest album, but I’m sure it’s miles better than that Mockney choking noise that Kate Nash produces. Even if PJ Harvey just stood there hitting a tambourine, it would be better than Kate Nash’s ramblings and pathetic rhymes (“bitter” and “fitter” anyone?). I’m more than just a little annoyed with Kate Nash because I’ve had to endure her music longer than other people in North America, having heard “Foundations” countless times over in the UK this past spring (and I never again want to see another featurette telling me that she found out she could write music when she broke her leg). KT Tunstall…hey, wasn’t she flavour-of-the-year a couple of years ago? What’s she doing back on the list? No one cares. Even her fans stopped caring after her two singles. And considering I don’t know who Leona Lewis is, I’m merely going to go with my gut and a visual rhetoric analysis of her photos and album cover and say she’s merely MOR/adult easy listening, and thus not worthy.

British Group nominees are: Arctic Monkeys, Editors, Girls Aloud, Kaiser Chiefs, and Take That. Arctic Monkeys already won last year, and I still like their first album much more than their latest effort. Maybe that pub/clubbing lad poetry of the everyman zeitgeist thing just gets old after one album. Editors are in the same boat as the Arctic Monkeys as far as I’m concerned – I quite liked their first album (a more melodic and danceable Interpol), but their new material leaves me underwhelmed. Kaiser Chiefs…see Arctic Monkeys and Editors. What’s odd is the one band that I think did just as well on their sophomore album as on their first album and fits into the same timeline as these bands is Bloc Party. For some reason, A Weekend in the City just didn’t get the support it deserved. Compare “The Prayer” to “Ruby” and you’ll see what I mean. Girls Aloud aren’t really worth discussing. Take That, on the other hand, are the perfect example of nostalgia gone rabid and mad. What I want to know is who is supporting Take That – if they’ve gained new fans, these fans must be insipid or under 18 and into watching old men perform dance routines, and if their old fans are the balustrades, they are having a serious attack of regression, which must cause blindness and deafness. It seems everyone likes a warm and fuzzy comeback story. Just not real music fans.

British Album nominees are: Arctic Monkeys’ Favourite Worst Nightmare, Leona Lewis’s Spirit, Mark Ronson’s Version, Mika’s Life in Cartoon Motion, and Take That’s Beautiful World. And so the repetitive nominee feature kicks in. Arctic Monkeys, Leona Lewis, Mark Ronson, Mika and Take That again. How wonderfully varied.

British Breakthrough Act nominees are: Bat for Lashes, Kate Nash, Klaxons, Leona Lewis, and Mika. Out of this nearly completely sorry group my only possible votes could go to Bat for Lashes and Klaxons. Considering the Klaxons already won the Mercury Prize, they probably won’t win this one. And let’s face it, if Bat for Lashes wins, it will only be because someone in the academy wanted to appear hip and credible. And I still don’t know who Leona Lewis is. But I still instinctually despise her.

British Live Act nominees are: Arctic Monkeys, Kaiser Chiefs, Klaxons, Muse, and Take That. All acts that have already been nominated except for Muse, who seem to be nominated in this category every single year. They also tend to win. Out of this bunch I actually wouldn’t mind Muse winning again. Although I’m glad I got to see Muse play an intimate venue in Winnipeg rather than some space invaders extravaganza at Wembley. I got to see Arctic Monkeys live this year in Cardiff and for me, they didn’t really sustain the excitement for the whole show. In fact, their finale was so anti-climactic I can’t recall what it was. Kaiser Chiefs are getting old pretty fast for me. I don’t think anything surpassed “I Predict a Riot” for me, and seeing them live probably wouldn’t save them at this point in my opinion. I saw them on every other British festival show on the BBC this summer anyway (merely proving the Radio One conspiracy that strictly promotes a specific list of bands decided upon at the beginning of the year), and I was forced to use the red button. Take That – four sad men in their 30’s attempting to dance (except for Gary Barlow who seems glued to his piano bench).

British Single nominees are: The Hoosiers’ “Worried About Ray,” James Blunt’s “1973,” Kaiser Chiefs’ “Ruby,” Kate Nash’s “Foundations,” Leona Lewis’s “Bleeding Love,” Mark Ronson’s “Valerie,” Mika’s “Grace Kelly,” Mutya Buena’s “Real Girl,” Sugababes “About You Now,” and Take That’s “Shine.” Has nobody but me noticed that “Worried About Ray” sounds like a sped-up version of The Turtles’ “Happy Together”? Oh, and James Blunt…pulling a KT Tunstall by being in this list. I didn’t even know he had released another song recently (until I had the misfortune of hearing it in a Quiznos yesterday). A friend of mine said that James Blunt made cardboard seem spicy and I agree wholeheartedly. All I can hope is that one day James will replace berk in cockney rhyming slang. My heart skipped a beat when I mistook Sugababes for saying Sugarcubes – then I realized that would be ludicrous with Bjork being a successful solo artist for many years. Although not as ludicrous as the Sugababes actually being nominated. And wasn’t Mutya Buena one in the long line of Sugababes casualties? All I can say is that “Real Girl” made me physically ill while I was in the UK last year. It’s sad when the best song out of all these is one that isn’t written or sung by the person nominated: “Valerie” featuring Amy Winehouse on vocals is of course a Zutons song, but it is better than the rest of the songs on this list. Take That’s “Shine” is even looking pretty good. That cheeky little Mark Owen. How he pried vocals away from Gary Barlow’s chubby hands, we’ll never know.

The performance line-up makes me even more depressed than the nominations: Kaiser Chiefs, Rihanna, Leona Lewis, Mika, Kylie, and Mark Ronson. I’m certain the Kaiser Chiefs performed last year – is it even allowed to perform two years in a row? They didn’t even let Robbie Williams do that. And I can’t bear to hear that “Umbrella” song again – it makes me want to use the handle of an umbrella like an ancient Egyptian brain extractor and self-lobotomize through my nose. At this rate, the only performance I’ll be okay with seeing is Kylie. The Outstanding Contribution Award will go to Sir Paul McCartney this year – they should just rename the award Old Overrated Git Award. And who is the host this year? The Osbournes. I thought the Osbournes were popular several years ago, but apparently this year has taken all the musical detritus from recent years and repackaged it, so it makes sense after all.

If I were in charge, which I’m not and never will be, I would have nominations for Patrick Wolf, Johnny Boy, Puressence, Siouxsie, Gruff Rhys, Bloc Party, The Good, The Bad and The Queen, and of course the Manics. And in the international category: LCD Soundsystem, Of Montreal, Bright Eyes, Justice, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Digitalism, and Interpol.

The only way Brits 2008 will be palatable for me is if during Macca’s performance, Jarvis Cocker ran on stage and shook his bum. Other than that, nothing can save them now.

The Prayer – Bloc Party

Drop Down to Earth – Puressence

Joyriders – Pulp

12
Jan
08

Music Can Be Funny and Comedy Can Be Musical: The Mighty Boosh and Flight of the Conchords

I’ve been an avid (read: obsessive) fan of the offbeat BBC comedy The Mighty Boosh, starring Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding, for awhile now. I’ve only just discovered the HBO series Flight of the Conchords, starring New Zealanders Jemaine Clement and Brett McKenzie. I feel like I’m a bit backwards (not a particularly uncommon feeling for me) in embracing the cult British comedy, which is hugely popular in the United Kingdom but far less known in North America, and only just discovering the similar Flight of the Conchords which is popular enough in North America to get slots on late night chat shows like David Letterman and Craig Ferguson (although looking at what I just wrote, I realize I’m such an anglophile that I type “chat shows” rather than “talk shows” without thinking, and suddenly my actions seem clearer to me). However, my point to this post is how brilliantly music can be combined with comedy. Both The Mighty Boosh and Flight of the Conchords have that incredible ability to perform this kind of alchemy and produce comedy gold.

The Mighty Boosh on a break from filming “The Nightmare of Milky Joe”

Anyone who likes one of these two duos is bound to like the other. Both are quirky and use equal parts surrealism and pop culture reference (especially musical ones that true music obsessives like myself can guffaw at). Besides mentioning music regularly, both duos also incorporate at least one sequence of original music into each episode. Flight of the Conchords, and, to a slightly lesser extent, The Mighty Boosh create a context for these musical interludes by being in bands in the show. Both pairs have a seamless rapport and true musical ability (more than I’ll ever have). Their music is far more creative than most of the tripe passed off as legitimate music, and they’re wittier and weirder than someone like Weird Al Yankovic. While The Mighty Boosh have Gary Numan flying them in his plane to the tundra (Gary Numan has a pilot’s licence…imagine that), Flight of the Conchords has insecurity-fuelled dreams featuring David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust days, Ashes to Ashes period, and even his stint in Labyrinth (a personal favourite of mine). Music deserves to be lampooned and these shows do it better than any other. In the process, it gives us pretentious music fans and hipsters something to truly laugh about. And I dare you not to laugh at (or at least be completely disturbed by) a Rick James-like transsexual merman who lives under the sea (see “The Legend of Old Gregg” by The Mighty Boosh – my favourite episode).

Flight of the Conchords in “Bowie” episode

Despite the pathetic state of television these days, both of these shows have definitely struck a chord with me (the bad pun wasn’t intended, but considering I refuse to re-write the sentence, I guess it is intended after all). I highly recommend purchasing the DVDs for the first season of Flight of the Conchords and all three series and the live show of The Mighty Boosh (The Mighty Boosh is only available in Region 2 at the moment, but they are worth buying a new DVD player for). While I may have been disappointed with the final episode of the latest season of The Mighty Boosh, the remainder of their work is so hilarious and mad that I already pre-ordered the latest season from amazon.co.uk.

I’ve included a track from each duo. The Bowie song by Flight of the Conchords still makes me have a bit of a Depends moment (“do you need my jumper, Bowie?”) and is one of the best impressions of Bowie I’ve ever heard. Bouncy Bouncy is off the Party episode of The Mighty Boosh – it is what Barratt and Fielding call a crimp – watch the show and you’ll get it.

Bowie (Live) – Flight of the Conchords

Bouncy Bouncy – The Mighty Boosh

06
Jan
08

The Alternative to Real World Is Just Time For Me and a Fantasy

Here’s one more old gig review. This is the last one. From now on there will be fresh ones as I go to more gigs (doing a Masters Degree takes up valuable portions of my time). I promise.

I’m also including the bonus track on the UK release of The Alternative album – the splendid string version of Spit It Out. I wouldn’t have thought it would work, but it becomes both ethereal and haunting.

The Alternative to Real World Is Just Time For Me and a Fantasy

An hour before doors opened at The Mod Club for the IAMX show back on October 20, I was just a tired, relatively introverted Masters student sitting on a hard bench, listening to my ipod. And Chris Corner was just a shy, diminutive man in sunglasses and a white jacket scurrying away from soundcheck with a quick nod to acknowledge my wave and “hello.” But when the show started a few hours later, something changed…

For those who don’t know, Chris Corner, formerly of the triphop band Sneaker Pimps, is now at the helm of a brilliant darkwave electro project called IAMX based in Berlin. With its glam flourishes and ambiguous, often deviant sexuality, it’s fitting that his project is based in a city that was known for its outrageous cabarets and the excesses of the Weimar Republic era. It’s also fitting because Berlin itself used to have a split personality between East and West.

Once Chris Corner hit the stage, it felt like a gothic circus had taken over the venue. I was swept up in the pounding beats and riffs of the opening “The Alternative” and mesmerized by Chris Corner’s alter ego, who moved about the stage like a possessed marionette, his kohl-rimmed, sequin-teared eyes often hidden by a glittery gold hat. He encouraged a feverish reaction by cocking his ear toward the crowd and beckoning to them, wanting to hear more screams. I admit that I screamed and sang like Chris Corner was pulling on my vocal cords, a master puppeteer of the entire audience. His extremely slender body, encased in a skin-tight, black bodysuit with yellow sequinned straps slung over it, alternated between fluidity and robotic movements. The chorus resulted in an explosion of jumping and arm pumping as the pure tones of Corner’s voice soared over the heavy, driving beats. The boundary between performer and audience dissolved in a sweaty madness and everyone began reaching out to him, the keyboardist, and the guitarist. In the frenzy, for some reason, Chris Corner chose to take my hand in his and hold it for a moment, but I almost forgot about my hand as the music and his hypnotic dark eyes dragged me into an underworld completely of IAMX’s creation.



As the show progressed, the band kept almost exclusively to upbeat tracks mainly from the latest album The Alternative (“Kiss and Swallow” and “Skin Vision” from Kiss and Swallow also made appearances). The entire band sustained an inhuman energy that rippled throughout the crowd. I lost myself so entirely, I can’t remember smashing my elbows on the monitor and giving myself bruises. What I can remember is actually grabbing a hold of one of Chris Corner’s high black boots and having the song “Venus in Furs” fly into my head. Other members of the audience, boys and girls, reached out and ran their hands over Corner’s legs, and he rocked his body so violently over the edge of the stage, his sweat rained on the front row. His bodily convulsions continued as he constantly fell to his knees and twisted through jumps in the air. He wielded the microphone cord like an S&M whip, nearly strangling the guitarist, and hanging it between his teeth. The band threw themselves into every song even though the pace never slackened, and Chris Corner’s voice cajoled and pleaded, dripping with dark purpose and freewheeling hedonism.



The encore was “Attack 61,” a song from the soundtrack for the French film Les Chevaliers du Ciel, an album that Chris Corner produced, and “Song of Imaginary Beings.” When the show ended, I was drenched in everyone’s sweat and genuinely understood what “After Every Party I Die” meant. Though the drummer and the guitarist hung around the venue after the show (the former eventually changing into track pants and the latter no longer bare-chested) and talked with the fans, Chris Corner had disappeared from the venue and into the tourbus before anyone had even gotten outside. I completely understood why. He had just prostituted his entire being for the fans and needed to shift back into reality. I, too, had to shift myself back into my own reality. If you never came down from all that, you’d probably go insane.


One of the girls I met after the show (while waiting for the manager to get our stuff signed by Chris Corner) asked if I would be interested in seeing IAMX again in two nights in Detroit. She wanted someone to split the gas money with her, and the trip was doable since Detroit was about four hours away. A large part of me really wanted to experience that incredible feeling again, that feeling of completely losing yourself in the music and performance – that was my own Mr. Hyde’s desire. The Dr. Jekyll, sensible side of me said that I had class the afternoon before the show and that I should be doing all the weekly homework required by a Masters Degree, so I should just forget about it. However, by the end of Sunday evening, Mr. Hyde won out and I followed IAMX to Detroit.

The Detroit show was at an even smaller venue than The Mod Club called The Magic Stick, and the crowd was also disappointingly smaller. I actually worried that the crowd wouldn’t be enough to support the alternative universe of IAMX properly. And in my crazed state, I somehow fancied myself a crowd leader. My metamorphosis happened all over again the second that IAMX took the stage, Chris Corner this time sporting a silver hat. Screaming like I was trying to exorcise my average persona, I couldn’t stand still and felt myself dancing in imitation of Chris Corner’s erratic movements, unbeknownst to me, smashing my knees into the stage in front of me. I have a feeling he may have recognized me from the Toronto show because he grabbed my hand multiple times and kept grinning at me, a twinkle in the event horizon of his black eyes. Even in my mind’s eye, his direct gaze in combination with his smile takes my breath away. After I had touched him, the rest of the crowd seemed more comfortable with doing the same, and the connection between the band and the audience grew with each song. At one point, Chris Corner grabbed the head of a guy who had also followed IAMX from Toronto to Detroit, and he roughly ruffled his hair. To the waltz beat of “President,” the audience swayed together like a pendulum, pacing out the perversity and drowning in the decadence of Chris Corner’s cadences, his voice wracked with desires that were tearing him apart.


The set was virtually the same as the Toronto set, but this time the encore featured “Your Joy is My Low” instead of “Attack 61.” At one beautiful moment, Chris Corner pointed directly at me as he sang the title line of the song. As ridiculous as this moment would seem from an outside perspective (and perhaps from my more rational brain), it was transfixing and enveloping while in that moment. And really all that counted was what was self-contained in that world of the stage.

Nursing knee-cap-sized bruises, I’ve now gone back to my unassuming, regular life as a quiet graduate student in Waterloo just as Chris Corner retires to his tourbus every night and hides his bewitching eyes behind sunglasses. We all need a little escape from ourselves to keep sane. I have no need to reconcile the willowy man silently fleeing soundcheck with the ringmaster of musical fantasy. The beauty is in the division.

Missile (Acoustic) – IAMX

The Alternative – IAMX

Spit It Out (String Version) – IAMX

06
Jan
08

Starman

Forgive me for using older reviews of gigs that I did for my myspace page for my initial posts, but I’m still trying to sort through how I want to set this thing up. And these reviews are no less interesting for being older. People of future generations will hail these reviews as classic. I am the Lester Bangs of the Digital Age. I am John Peel without a radio show. I am also fairly delusional.

Anyway, here’s a review of the Patrick Wolf gig in Toronto this last October. It was a cracker.

Starman

A contingent of hardcore fans lined the front of the small, chin-high stage. They were encrusted with glitter – their hair, the bandit stripes across their eyes, the swirls on their shoulders. It could have been a Bowie concert circa 1972. But it wasn’t.

No, this was a Patrick Wolf show at Lee’s Palace in downtown Toronto last night. This fact makes it no less exciting. Nor does it make it any less mythical. For Patrick Wolf has already become myth at age twenty-four. He is otherworldly, much like a potent mixture of David Bowie and Kate Bush. He oozes both sex and childlike innocence and abides by no particular rules. His style changes just as much as Bowie’s has; one day he wears stegosaurus trousers, the next he wears an impossibly tight pair of aquamarine shorts and suspenders. And of course he can pull it off with the aplomb of an unabashed original.

I, myself, have been a huge fan of Patrick Wolf for a couple of years now. His first album, Lycanthropy, full of distorted beats and wolf-like howls, and stories of captured children and Peter Pan, captivated me. Electronic sounds and drum machines are seamlessly mixed with violins and accordian. Wolf isn’t his real last name, but it becomes a fitting moniker and persona for the fantastical being and his three albums to date. His second album, Wind in the Wires, retains the magic of his previous storytelling, but pairs it with a generally mellower and folkier sound. His latest LP, The Magic Position, his first major label release, is different yet again with its joyful gypsy-like songs. A theme of escape and heedless abandon runs through all three, a boundless energy that transports you from mundane realities into a fairy netherworld that exists in a twilight of dark deeds and festive flights of freedom. Needless to say, when I finally got a chance to see him live, I took it, three hours on a bus and all.

Even though I arrived more than an hour before the doors were scheduled to open, the glittering obsessives were already there, listening to Patrick Wolf songs from one of the fan’s stereo purse (songs which competed with the actual soundcheck taking place just behind a side door). They alternately sprinkled glitter over each other and blew bubbles with mini-bubble-wands. One wore a headband that looked like some sort of Egyptian headgear at first glance; on closer inspection, it was a headband with a tiny giraffe stuck to it (the giraffe – like the unicorn – being one of the beasts associated with the Patrick Wolf mythology). Some fans actually brought a bouquet of sunflowers and others brought their own special effects – in addition to the bubble wands, they also had streamers and maracas. As I soon discovered, the fans would time each use of the appointed props to specific points in songs, having a bit of a Rocky Horror Show quality to it.

During the palpable tension before Wolf came onstage, one fan asked another, “Is this your first time seeing him?” The other replied that indeed it was. The first responded with “Do you think it will be strange seeing him for real? It’s like he’s not real.” One fan was leaping and screaming in excitement far before Wolf was due to come on – it was as though he was exploding with Christmas morning anticipation; he also draped a sunflower over the monitor directly in front of Wolf’s microphone.

Wolf came on stage wearing a blond, curly wig and a gold collar akin to a disco Jacobean ruff. His body was awash with the same glitter as his glistening fans, giving him a magical, alien presence. His short cut-offs displayed long, sparkling legs with knee-high, nearly invisible net stockings and feet thrust into turquoise shoes reminscent of children’s shoes at the turn of the century. As the gig progressed, he lost most of his clothing, revealing the unicorn tattooed to his chest, and he ended up in just his shorts and stockings, his blond hair tousled and spiked with sweat. Someone in the crowd shouted, “Take your shorts off.” Wolf smiled and replied, “I can’t. I’m not wearing any underwear.” Perhaps as gender ambiguous as Bowie in the ’70’s, Wolf is astoundingly even more beautiful in real life than he is in photos.


As far as the song choices, he stayed well within the realm of his more popular and/or released singles (“The Libertine,” “To the Lighthouse,” “Wind in the Wires,” “Accident and Emergency,” “Teignmouth,” etc). He bounced from violin to ukulele to keyboards and back again, displaying incredible musical versatility. His accompaniment was an additional violin, drums, some programmed sounds, and an upright bass. It was a pleasant change to actually be able to hear a singer’s voice and lyrics so easily over the music – no distortion at all. My only complaint (and it’s a tiny one) would be that I would have liked to hear one or two b-sides and/or cover songs. I would have personally loved to hear him sing “Adder” or Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” live. I will admit that I danced, and jumped, and screamed with the best of them, feeling like a reckless child – I’m paying for it today, but it’s yet another price I’m willing to pay for Mr. Wolf.

During the final song (the propulsive “The Magic Position”) of the set proper, fans fired streamers onto the stage and Wolf ended up festooned in them. The whole show was truly like one big celebration as Wolf danced and jumped as much as the fans and continually smiled and laughed. Sometimes he would sit or lie on the stage and peer from behind the monitors; other times, he stalked across the stage like his predatory namesake. Between songs, he would talk to the audience, often making them laugh, and several of the songs were prefaced with self-deprecating banter that made him seem like a shy child ready to perform a recital. At one point, he suggestively unfolded his lanky body across the keyboard. The constant flux between a joyful innocence and a sexy suggestiveness created a mesmerizing, disarming duality. When he sings, “Come get lost with me,” you do.

He returned for two encores – the haunting “Magpie,” duetting with Bishi (his incredible opening act who blends sitar with electronic beats – highly recommended) and “Bloodbeat” – and nearing the end, he wore a disco ball-like beret. However, even after “Bloodbeat” finished, Wolf seemed reluctant to leave the stage and skipped and cantered about singing snatches of Whigfield’s “Saturday Night” and Gina G’s “Ooh Ah” – bizarre choices that nonetheless fit with his boyish exuberance.

It may be a bit presumptuous to say at this early stage in his career, but I felt like I had witnessed something very significant, perhaps on par with Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust days. With his versatility, charisma, and massive imagination, I’m betting that Patrick Wolf will be renowned in the years to come, and these early days will be looked back upon with envy by those who weren’t there to see it firsthand.

When I left the gig at two in the morning, the sidewalk shimmered with both newly fallen rain and glitter, creating a path both urban and fairy-like at the same time. The mundane transformed into something magical.

Running Up That Hill – Patrick Wolf

Adder – Patrick Wolf




The Hype Machine
mp3 blogs
Add to Technorati Favorites

Blog Stats

  • 444,788 hits

Gigs Attended

Arcade Fire w/ Bell Orchestre + Wolf Parade (2005)

Arctic Monkeys w/ Reverend and the Makers (2007)

Austra w/ Young Galaxy + Tasseomancy (2011)

Big Audio Dynamite (2011)

Billy Bragg w/ Ron Hawkins (2009)

Billy Idol w/ Bif Naked (2005)

Bloc Party w/ Hot Hot Heat (2009)

Buzzcocks w/ The Dollyrots (2010)

Damo Suzuki (2012)

David Bowie w/ The Polyphonic Spree (2004)

Diamond Rings w/ PS I Love You + The Cannon Bros. (2011)

Diamond Rings w/ Gold & Youth (2012)

Dragonette w/ Ruby Jean & the Thoughtful Bees (2009)

Frank Turner w/ The Cavaliers (2010)

Frank Turner w/ Into It Over It + Andrew Jackson Jihad (2011)

Franz Ferdinand w/ Think About Life (2009)

Gang of Four w/ Hollerado (2011)

Good Shoes w/ The Moths + The Envelopes (2007)

Hot Hot Heat w/ The Futureheads + Louis XIV (2005)

IAMX w/ closethuman (2007)

IAMX w/ Coma Soft + The Hourly Radio (2007)

Interpol (2007)

Janelle Monae w/ Roman GianArthur (2012)

Joel Plaskett Emergency w/ Frank Turner (2012)

Jonathan Richman (2011)

Keane w/ Lights (2009)

Lou Reed w/ Buke and Gass (2011)

Manic Street Preachers w/ Fear of Music (2007)

Manic Street Preachers w/ Bear Hands (2009)

Manic Street Preachers at Wanaja Festival (2011)

Mother Mother w/ Old Folks Home (2009)

Mother Mother w/ Whale Tooth (2011)

Mother Mother w/ Hannah Georgas (2012)

MSTRKRFT w/ Felix Cartal (2008)

Muse (2004)

Nine Inch Nails w/ Death From Above 1979 + Queens of the Stone Age (2005)

of Montreal w/ Janelle Monae (2010)

Owen Pallett w/ Little Scream (2010)

Patrick Wolf w/ Bishi (2007)

Prince (2011)

Pulp w/ Grace Jones, TV on the Radio, The Hives, The Horrors, Metronomy, Devotcka, Vintage Trouble (2011)

Rufus Wainwright w/ Teddy Thompson (2010)

Snow Patrol w/ Embrace (2005)

Snow Patrol w/ OK Go + Silversun Pickups (2007)

Sons and Daughters w/ Bodies of Water (2008)

Stars w/ Thurston Revival (2006)

Stars w/ The Details (2008)

Stars (2010)

Steven Severin (2010)

Stroszek (2007)

The Antlers w/ Haunter (2012)

The Flaming Lips w/ Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti (2010)

The Jesus and Mary Chain w/ Nightbox (2012)

The Killers w/ Ambulance Ltd (2004)

The New Pornographers w/ Novillero (2008)

The New Pornographers w/ The Mountain Goats (2010)

The Ordinary Boys w/ Young Soul Rebels (2006)

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart w/ Suun (2011)

The Rakes w/ The Young Knives (2006)

The Raveonettes w/ Black Acid (2008)

The Stills w/ Gentleman Reg (2009)

The Subways w/ The Mad Young Darlings (2006)

Tokyo Police Club w/ Smoosh + Attack in Black (2008)

TV on the Radio w/ The Dirty Projectors (2009)

Yann Tiersen w/ Breathe Owl Breathe (2011)

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The only certain thing that is left about me

There is no part of my body that has not been used

Pity or pain, to show displeasure's shame

Everyone I've loved or hated always seems to leave

Photobucket

So I turned myself to face me

But I've never caught a glimpse

Of how the others must see the faker

I'm much too fast to take that test

The Smiths Queen is Dead

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're happy

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Oh, Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're wanted

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Keats and Yeats are on your side

But you lose 'cause weird lover Wilde is on mine

The Clash London Calling

When they kick at your front door

How you gonna come?

With your hands on your head

Or on the trigger of your gun

Photobucket

Charles Windsor, who's at the door

At such an hour, who's at the door

In the back of an old green Cortina

You're on your way to the guillotine

Here the rabble comes

The kind you hoped were dead

They've come to chop, to chop off your head

Photobucket

Then you came with your breezeblocks

Smashing up my face like a bus-stop

You think you're giving

But you're taking my life away

Photobucket

Won't someone give me more fun?

(and the skin flies all around us)

We kiss in his room to a popular tune

Oh, real drowners

Photobucket

Don't walk away

In silence

See the danger

Always danger

Endless talking

Life rebuilding

Don't walk away

Walk in silence

Don't turn away in silence

Your confusion

My illusion

Worn like a mask of self-hate

Confronts and then dies

Don't walk away

Photobucket

You don't want to hurt me

But see how deep the bullet lies

Unaware I'm tearing you asunder

Oh there is thunder in our hearts

Is there so much hate for the ones we love

Tell me we both matter don't we

The Associates Affectionate

I don't know whether

To over or under estimate you

Whether to over or under estimate you

For when I come over

You then put me under

Personal taste is a matter of gender

Photobucket

I wake at dusk to go alone without a light

To the unknown

I want this night inside of me

I want to feel

I want this speeding

I want that speeding

Photobucket

You'll never live like common people

You'll never do what common people do

You'll never fail like common people

You'll never watch your life slide out of view

And dance and drink and screw

Because there's nothing else to do

Vanilla Swingers

All I have is words, words that don't obtain

And I feel I'm a stain on your horizon

So I stay away - it's easier that way

And there won't be no-one I need to rely on

Is it him, is it me

Or is there something only I can see

How did I get here, why do we blow around like straw dogs on the breeze

I'm a special one, what they used to say

But I've to stay on, finish levels-A

You don't need exams when you've read John Gray

The Indelicates American Demo

And nobody ever comes alive

And the journalists clamour round glamour like flies

And boys who should know better grin and get high

With fat men who once met the MC5

And no one discusses what they don't understand

And no one does anything to harm the brand

And this gift is an illusion, this isn't hard

Absolutely anyone can play the fucking guitar

JAMC Darklands

And we tried so hard

And we looked so good

And we lived our lives in black

Photobucket

Plucked her eyebrows on the way

Shaved her leg and then he was a she

She says, hey babe,

Take a walk on the wild side

Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side

Photobucket

Hide on the promenade

Etch a postcard:

How I dearly wish I was not here

In the seaside town...that they forgot to bomb

Come, come, come - nuclear bomb

Photobucket

Back when we were kids

We would always know when to stop

And now all the good kids are messing up

Nobody has gained or accomplished anything

Wire Pink Flag

Prices have risen since the government fell

Casualties increase as the enemy shell

The climate's unhealthy, flies and rats thrive

And sooner or later the end will arrive

This is your correspondent, running out of tape

Gunfire's increasing, looting, burning, rape

Photobucket

Well, maybe there's a god above

But all I've ever learned from love

Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you

It's not a cry that you hear at night

It's not somebody who's seen the light

It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

Photobucket

And what costume shall the poor girl wear

To all tomorrow's parties

For Thursday's child is Sunday's clown

For whom none will go mourning

Photobucket

My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it

Photobucket

Oh it's opening time

Down on Fascination Street

So let's cut the conversation

And get out for a bit

Because I feel it all fading and paling

And I'm begging

To drag you down with me

Mansun Six

And you see, I kind of shivered to conformity

Did you see the way I cowered to authority

You see, my life, it's a series of compromises anyway

It's a sham, and I'm conditioned to accept it all, you see

Japan Gentlemen

Take in the country air, you'll never win

Gentlemen take polaroids

They fall in love, they fall in love

Photobucket

We just want to emote til we're dead

I know we suffer for fashion

Or whatever

We don't want these days to ever end

We just want to emasculate them forever

Forever, forever

Pretty sirens don't go flat

It's not supposed to happen like that

Longpigs The Sun

There's no perfume I can buy

Make me smell like myself

So I put on perfume

To make me smell like someone else

In bed

Calvin Harris I Created Disco

I got love for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

I've got hugs for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

Photobucket

Does his makeup in his room

Douse himself with cheap perfume

Eyeholes in a paper bag

Greatest lay I ever had

Kind of guy who mates for life

Gotta help him find a wife

We're a couple, when our bodies double

Simple Minds Sons and Fascination

Summer rains are here

Savaged beauty life

Falling here from grace

Sister feeling call

Cruising land to land

No faith no creed no soul

Half a world away

Beauty sleeps in time

Sound and fury play

Bloc Party Silent Alarm

North to south

Empty

Running on

Bravado

As if to say, as if to say

He doesn't like chocolate

He's born a liar, he'll die a liar

Some things will never be different

Photobucket

LCD Soundsystem

Well Daft Punk is playing at my house, my house

I've waited 7 years and 15 days

There's every kid for miles at my house, my house

And the neighbors can't...call the police

There's a fist fight brewin' at my house, my house

Because the jocks can't...get in the door

Johnny Boy

I just can't help believing

Though believing sees me cursed

Stars Set Yourself

I am trying to say

What I want to say

Without having to say "I love you"

Josef K Entomology

It took 10 years to realise why the angels start to cry

When you go home down the main

Your happy smile

Your funny name

Cocteau Twins Bluebell

Photobucket

Doesn't she look a million with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Yes, she's a beautiful brunette angel from heaven with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Augment a beautiful brunette

New Order Power Corruption

How does it feel

To treat me like you do

When you've laid your hands upon me

And told me who you are

Photobucket

You must let her go

She's not crying

Photobucket

Baiting

Feeling like I'm waiting

Modern times

Valentines

Hating

Hating to distraction

Just leave them alone

Whipcrack

Girls in the back

Girls in the back

Puressence Don't Forget

They say come back to earth and start getting real, yeah

I say come back to earth and start getting real

I know I can't

Photobucket

So I walk right up to you

And you walk all over me

And I ask you what you want

And you tell me what you need

Photobucket

The problem of leisure

What to do for pleasure

Ideal love a new purchase

A market of the senses

Dream of the perfect life

Economic circumstances

The body is good business

Sell out, maintain the interest

Photobucket

Sitting in my armchair thinking again and again and again

Going round in a circle I can't get out

Then I look around thinking day and night and day

Then you look around - there must be some explanation

And the tension builds

Psychdedelic Furs

India, India

You're my love song

India, you're my love song

In the flowers

You can have me in the flowers

We will dance alone

And live our useless lives

Ladytron Light Magic

They only want you when you're seventeen

When you're twenty-one

You're no fun

They take a polaroid and let you go

Say they'll let you know

Photobucket

No consolation prizes

Spit out your lies and chewing gum

Cut off your hair yeah that's it!

If you look like that I swear I'm gonna love you more

Photobucket

All the neighbors are startin' up a fire

Burning all the old folks, the witches and the liars.

My eyes are covered by the hands of my unborn kids

But my heart keeps watchin' through the skin of my eyelids

Photobucket

Prince charming

Prince charming

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of

Don't you ever, don't you ever

Stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome