Archive for March, 2008


Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and…Well, Friday I’m in Love: Weekly Mix #10

I recently read an editorial column on a music Web site that expressed surprise at the fact that few political and protest songs were being made right now. It was a sentiment that I was wondering about myself. Considering the present circumstances of the world, one would think that artists would have more than enough to write about and against. And I’m not talking about the shallow “politics” of American Idiot. While the ’60’s saw numerous protests and demonstrations for civil rights and anti-war statements, there just doesn’t seem to be enough protest coming from anywhere these days. No one’s calling for impeaching an American president who is also a war criminal. No one’s kicking up enough fuss about anything political. The biggest kerfuffle was created by a band like the Dixie Chicks, and that ultimately went nowhere. Why are most artists remaining so silent? Why aren’t more musicians challenging their audiences anymore?

“Can anyone make a difference anymore? Can anyone write a protest song?” – Let Robeson Sing, Manic Street Preachers

Even those I would depend on for some sort of political commentary have backed off. Disappointingly, the two truly political songs off the latest Manics album, Imperial Bodybags and Rendition, weren’t released as singles. I continue to hope that there will be far more political songs on their next album, but they very likely won’t be singles either. The Manics, who used to be so outspoken about the state of world affairs, and who used to court disfavour with their critics and the mass public, have retreated behind anthems of nostalgia. There’s such a gap in the music world right now for intelligent political commentary. Are musicians suffering from the same ostensible feelings of apathy and impotence that the rest of the population are?

If you stop and think about it, a lot of the world’s problems could be solved if we just got rid of oil and the need for it – alternatives to fossil fuels are possible, but no one is willing to challenge the big oil companies and their backers or sacrifice any of their own comfort. The war in the Middle East could stop and the environment could be saved. But people are too comfortable, too complacent, to bother thinking about it. Instead, they would like to put more smiley-face band-aids on a gaping wound by holding Earth Days or Live 8’s. Feel warm and fuzzy for one day to absolve yourself of forgetting about the problem every other day. Or maybe it’s just a fundamental human flaw to build a wall against reality to defend our sanity so that we only face a problem once it’s gotten so bad it can’t be ignored.

A few of the songs on this mix are directly addressing the current state of affairs: Neil Young’s brazen call to impeach President Bush; Billy Bragg’s exposure of the War in Iraq’s true motives; Bright Eyes’ brilliant attack on the President’s hypocrisy; Bloc Party’s slightly more subtle and veiled commentary about Bush; Arcade Fire’s song of the current American climate of fundamentalism and fear. And then there are songs that are more generally about politics and the ills of capitalism. I’m going to call this mix Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say.

Let’s Impeach the President – Neil Young

Price of Oil – Billy Bragg

When the President Talks to God – Bright Eyes

Stop, Hey, What’s That’s Sound – Buffalo Springfield

Spanish Bombs – The Clash

Helicopter – Bloc Party

Guns Before Butter – Gang of Four

The Prole Song – Snog

…And We Thought Nation-States Were a Bad Idea – Propagandhi

Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayitsworldwouldfallapart – Manic Street Preachers

Last Day of the Miners’ Strike – Pulp

You’ve Only Got Yourself to Blame – Stroszek

Intervention – The Arcade Fire

Write to Your MP Today – McCarthy

Margaret on the Guillotine – Morrissey

War on Want – Johnny Boy

Celebration Guns – Stars

Shenandoah – Paul Robeson

Weekly Mix #10 (Megaupload)


I Miss Joe Strummer: Julien Temple’s Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten

After waiting for a year, I finally got to see Julien Temple’s documentary Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten, and it was definitely worth the wait. A bricolage of interviews, live performance footage, random archival footage, Strummer’s sketches that had been animated, and voiceovers pieced together from earlier interviews was stitched together with Strummer’s London Calling World Service broadcasts. It took me until the near end of the film to understand why most of the interviews with friends, family and celebrities, including John Cusack, Johnny Depp, Bobby Gillespie, and Anthony Kiedis, were conducted around campfires – in the latter years of his life, Strummer used the campfire as a metaphor for unity and harmony. In fact, the Christmas card that Strummer designed a few days before he died featured a Christmas tree and several little islands with campfires on them with boats of people heading towards the beacons of light.

Since I was already familiar with the story of The Clash, I learned the most from the film about Strummer’s early life, including his time as a hippie, and his post-Clash life. For example, I hadn’t been aware that he moved on a whim to Newport before he was in the 101ers or that he was one of those who broke into abandoned council buildings and squatted there. I found it interesting that in many respects he returned to his hippie roots later in life, attempting to reconcile the punk and hippie countercultures. I also hadn’t realized how distant his relationship to his parents was. There were also some great humourous anecdotes that I hadn’t known about, like when Topper Headon tells the story of how he called Strummer “Woody” when he first met him because Strummer’s ears reminded him of Woody Woodpecker, completely unaware that “Woody” was the name associated with Strummer’s past hippie persona; Strummer told him to “never fucking call me that again” and Headon wondered at Strummer’s sensitivity.

One of the main things Temple’s film achieves is painting a clearer picture of who Joe Strummer was, flaws and all. He was independent and tough, partly due to his nature, but also very likely because of his early separation from his parents and loss of his brother. At the same time, he could skillfully avoid confrontation, for which he was alternately labelled Machiavelli and a coward. As tough as he was, he was also sensitive, crying when he found out that news stations were playing Rock the Casbah over footage of Americans bombing Iraq. He was passionate – that was something that came across throughout the film, whether he was living life to its fullest by sleeping under the stars unnecessarily or preaching politics with The Clash or bringing people together around campfires, he was always honestly passionate. He was also a compassionate person who tried to look after others the best he could, giving fans money or a place to stay for the night, worrying about humanitarian causes, chastising the audience for booing Grandmaster Flash, and even looking after a young Courtney Love at her time of need. At the same time, he could be distant and unneccesarily cruel, shedding friends when they no longer suited him and often retreating from his children. Throughout the film, I grew to admire his courage as he faced traumatic experiences over and over; when the end of The Clash could have completely broken him, he did eventually fight and regain his footing. Just as intelligent as he was about world politics, he could be stubbornly silly about smoking, saying that non-smokers shouldn’t be allowed to buy things that smokers had made. All in all, he was a rock ‘n roll hero. And a human.

This film also made me agree with Bono for once: The Clash should have survived. When I look at the mistakes made by all parties involved, it makes my heart ache with the tragedy. Of course, at the same time, The Clash puts forth a conundrum that I’ve never been able to work out: when your band is based on being equal to your fans and your message speaks to living like a common person, how do you cope with massive success? It happens over and over again with bands, and generally the solution is either to implode and break up or to explode and lose credibility. In a sense, The Clash did both of those things. I guess I just wish The Clash could have found the magical answer to this problem and could have stayed together. I’ll admit I nearly cried when I saw the footage of Strummer and Mick Jones playing White Riot for the Fire Brigades Union benefit, reuniting for the first and last time since The Clash. And it served to remind me of how much it hurt when I found out Strummer died just before there would likely have been a reunion for the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. The remaining members posing for photos for the Hall of Fame honour seemed like a pyrrhic victory.

I left the movie theatre with a mixed feeling of triumph and sadness. After all the events that occurred in Strummer’s life, many of them negative, Strummer’s belief in humanity shocks me. I don’t think I could have lived like he did and still come out the other end feeling that way, feeling that humans are inherently good. But in that way, Strummer inspires me. Though many people out there have probably already had the opportunity to see it, I highly recommend it for those who haven’t seen it yet. And for those who have seen it, see it again.

More than anything else, this film made me realize how much I miss Joe Strummer.

Keys to Your Heart – The 101ers

The Magnificent Seven – The Clash

Johnny Appleseed – Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros


Dance Me to the End of the Tour: Sons and Daughters in Toronto

This past Wednesday at Lee’s Palace in Toronto I finally got to watch Glaswegian four-piece, Sons and Daughters, perform live. I became a fan in 2004 when I first heard their debut Love the Cup, however, I lost track of them over the last few years and missed the release of their second album The Repulsion Box. I became aware of them again last year as they began getting more and more attention for their latest album, the Bernard Butler-produced This Gift. When I finally took a listen to This Gift, I marvelled at the difference between it and Love the Cup, a much slower and folkier body of work. I can still reconcile the two by the thread of call and response vocals of Adele Bethel and Scott Paterson and the Celtic lilt of their garage rock, but I was curious about how the live show would go down. I was truly impressed by the energy and unadulterated joy they project on stage. Adele, looking like a cross between a disco diva and Wonder Woman in her blue eyeshadow, gold sequins, purple hotpants, and knee-high gold boots, stomped her feet and brandished her tambourine, leading the band through a breathless aural assault that had the energy of a punk show.

Notably, they played almost exclusively songs from their last two albums The Repulsion Box and This Gift, including opener Gilt Complex, Hunt, Dance Me In, Chains, Flags, Rebel With the Ghost, Taste the Last Girl, Iodine, Rama Lama, Goodbye Service, and The Nest. The only song from Love the Cup to make an appearance was Johnny Cash, and it was re-tooled into a faster piece from the version I remember, naturally to fit in with the newer sound. Their encore included a blistering performance of This Gift followed by the raucous House in My Head. Highlights included Chains, which shuffled along like a rockabilly song, propelled by Scott’s “whoah-oh-oh”s, Dance Me In, which felt like a Celtic jig played on speed, and the absolute insanity of House in My Head, where I was certain my own head would be shaken loose. Adele spun around, whipped her microphone cord and flung herself toward the audience, careening like a pinball into all corners of the stage, and at one point, she stood in a playful salute posture. Scott, in his sparkly black shirt and quiff, played his guitar in true guitar hero fashion, his face contorting with passion as he crouched and lurched or ran to the edge of the stage for solos. Bassist, Ailidh Lennon, was more reserved in her black dress and boots as she hung back and kept the rhythm pulsing like a racing heartbeat (her reserve could have some connection to her being sick with flu) while drummer, David Gow, kept a crazy pace through the entire set, heavy on offbeats, forcing you to dance, clap your hands and swing your head. Scott and Adele’s vocals are perfectly matched and blend in both sweet lilting and wild yelping. For a band who mentioned their love for Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Leonard Cohen, this newer incarnation doesn’t quite mesh with those influences anymore. Perhaps they never truly did. Oddly enough, seeing them live, I could now recognize The Smiths in some of the songs like two of my favourites, Darling and Iodine, and Taste the Last Girl – there was something Marresque about the guitar and melodies.

Adding to the overall charm of their show, Adele and Scott talked to the audience in between songs, revealing genuine down-to-earth personalities. Adele prefaced Dance Me In by telling the audience that it was an answer to Leonard Cohen’s Dance Me to the End of Love and how excited she was that he was touring again, and she introduced Taste the Last Girl with mention of a rubbish ex-boyfriend. She also joked about how the night before they played a song so fast she almost had cardiac arrest (with the alacrity they played this particular night, I could definitely see how that could happen). With self-deprecating humour, Scott prefaced Rebel With the Ghost with the fact the song was quite easy because it was all “nah-nah-nahs.” Close to the end of the show, both Scott and Adele talked about how happy they were to be heading home now because this was the last gig of the North America tour, leading into the catharsis and tour-end celebration of House in My Head. The band I loved in 2004 has changed, but they have convinced me to fall in love with them all over again in 2008.

Opening band, Bodies of Water, didn’t disappoint and definitely deserve mentioning. Having listened to a few of their tracks in advance, I was excited to witness their sound live. For only four people, they create a choir of voices, filling the small venue with waves of beautiful sound. Their songs are long and meandering, switching time signatures several times before ending, but it never gets tedious; instead, you feel like you’re accompanying them on a journey that no one has mapped out yet, but is bound to be filled with serendipity and wonder. Styles seamlessly moved from gospel to reggae to latin to operatic epic. Keyboardist and vocalist, Meredith Metcalf, hit spine-tingling heights in vocal range during It Moves – I will always remember that. They have that powerful organic feel of several people functioning as one like Arcade Fire or Broken Social Scene, but they accomplish it with far less people. They deserved far more than the small crowd that hung back from the floor in front of the stage. Truly impressive.

Darling – Sons and Daughters

Chains – Sons and Daughters

It Moves – Bodies of Water


Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and…Well, Friday I’m in Love: Weekly Mix #9

This week is a mini-tour of duets. Like cover versions, duets can be novelty or create new meaning through strange pairings. Music award shows are fond of it – often bringing the new and old together in some attempt to bridge gaps while lending credibility to the newer artist and revitalizing the older one. Just like my tendency to despise award shows, I usually don’t like award show duets where everything seems forced and gimmicky. I still remember the ridiculous furore at the Grammys when Elton John decided to duet with homophobic Eminem or that bizarre group collaboration singing Across the Universe in 2005 which makes me physically ill to this day. Apparently, this year’s Grammys was no different, but I didn’t watch them. I merely heard that Kanye West appeared with Daft Punk in what was less of a duet than it was a live sampling, and some pairing of Tina Turner and Beyonce that was more like Beyonce introducing Tina Turner than an actual duet (I still can’t get over Jonathan Ross’s impression of Tina Turner – it was the funniest and truest impression I’ve ever seen). The Brit Awards this year also did its fair share of unlikely pairings like Rihanna and Klaxons, which more or less made the latter the former’s backing band, and the startling duet of Mika and Beth Ditto in the middle of his performance (as strange as the Sweet Dreams duet they did at T in the Park last year and just as bad).

In this particular mix, I’ve included some classic duets like The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl’s perrennial Chistmas favourite Fairytale of New York; David Bowie and Freddie Mercury’s anthemic Under Pressure, which has been pillaged for its bassline and covered over and over without ever coming close to the original; and Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel’s song of economic despair, Don’t Give Up. I’ve also included some fascinating cover versions by perfect duets – Bjork and PJ Harvey’s sinister take on The Rollings Stones’ Satisfaction; Ben Folds and Rufus Wainwright’s fun live version of George Michael’s Careless Whisper; Cat Power and Karen Elson’s gender bending cover of Serge Gainsbourg’s I Love You Me Either; and Jarvis Cocker and Beth Ditto’s funky interpretation of Heaven 17’s Temptation (a perfect blend with Cocker’s laconic low voice and Ditto’s powerful, soulful voice); and Morrissey and Siouxsie’s Interlude, a surreal blending of voices that somehow works to great effect. To round everything out, I added some of my favourite original songs performed as duets – Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue’s haunting Where the Wild Roses Grow with an equally beautiful music video; Gary Lightbody and Martha Wainwright’s Set the Fire to the Third Bar, in my opinion, the only truly moving song on Snow Patrol’s latest album; Patrick Wolf and Marianne Faithfull performing Magpie on Wolf’s latest album, the former’s higher, youthful voice contrasting wonderfully with Faithfull’s gravelly, deep voice; and the incredible lilting All Flowers in Time Bend Towards the Sun by Jeff Buckley and Elizabeth Fraser, a song I never tire of listening to.

I’m going to call this mix Dynamic Duos. These duets are a million times better than anything an award show can concoct.

Fairytale of New York – The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl

Burning Down the House – Tom Jones and The Cardigans

What Have I Done to Deserve This? – Pet Shop Boys and Dusty Springfield

Temptation – Jarvis Cocker and Beth Ditto

Well, Did You Evah! – Debbie Harry and Iggy Pop

Backlash – Joan Jett and Paul Westerberg

Under Pressure – Queen and David Bowie

Hell No – Sondre Lerche and Regina Spektor

Academia – Sia and Beck

Redemption Song – Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer

Satisfaction – Bjork and PJ Harvey

Nothing Compares 2 U – Prince and Rosie Gaines

Careless Whisper – Ben Folds and Rufus Wainwright

Don’t Give Up – Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel

Where the Wild Roses Grow – Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue

Set the Fire to the Third Bar – Snow Patrol and Martha Wainwright

Magpie – Patrick Wolf and Marianne Faithfull

Interlude – Morrissey and Siouxsie

All Flowers in Time Bend Towards the Sun – Jeff Buckley and Elizabeth Fraser

I Love You Me Either – Cat Power and Karen Elson

Weekly Mix #9 (Megaupload)


Dirty and Sweet: The Raveonettes in Toronto

This past Good Friday was indeed good with The Raveonettes’ gig at The Opera House in Toronto. I’ve never had the privilege to see the Danish duo live before, and I’m very happy I got to witness them on stage. Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo filled the vaudeville stage with incredible swathes of sound and intricately crafted noise, the stagefloor littered with effects pedals. Their guitars chirped, chimed, buzzed and bounced throughout the relatively small venue, producing a hybrid of a 50’s prom and a space age rave.

Image is just as intrinsic to The Raveonettes as the music – they are a fascinating combination of Europe and Americana. They come across like the aloof cool kids who somehow ended up presiding over a 50’s prom in the future. Their symmetry on stage is perfect – Sune stands stage right and Sharin stands stage left, leaving a fairly large gap between them with the androgynous female drummer standing in the middle of the gap towards the back of the stage. And the drummer does stand – she bangs away at the drums like one would in an orchestra rather than sitting behind a traditional drumkit, all to a perfect visual effect. Seeing her sticks come down on the drums in such an obvious way, further emphasizes the classic Ronettes drumbeat that runs throughout most of their songs.

Sune and Sharin contrast but match at the same time – he is slight of build with dark hair while she towers above him on high heels and sports a platinum blonde pageboy haircut. He looks fragile in his Endless Summer t-shirt and skinny jeans, while she looks austere in her sequined black and silver dress. At the same time, they both have the same aloof look on their faces as they stare out over the audience with their kohl-lined eyes. No matter how fast and danceable their music gets, they stay nearly motionless behind their microphones as their hands move in a blur over their guitars. Sometimes this stance is broken as Sharin gently sways her head to the beat and Sune backs away, sliding his pointy shoes around the stage, as he performs a guitar solo. But they always come back to formation, a repressed tension filling the space between them and crackling along with their reverbing guitars. None of this distance makes them appear rude or arrogant – when they speak to the audience in between songs, they appear quite soft-spoken and gracious; instead, they seem to have an inherent, effortless coolness that makes you envy them because you know they’re untouchable. You can’t take your eyes off them in their mesmerizing detachment.

The Raveonettes’ fusion of distortion and Spector-like walls of sound and drums makes them undeniably like The Jesus and Mary Chain, especially the Psychocandy period. Other obvious reference points are 60’s girl groups like The Ronettes and the distortion of Sonic Youth; however, their light vocals meld into each other so gently that they sound like one androgynous, dreamy voice. It never ceases to amaze me that they can create as many songs as they do with the same sound, same chord progressions, same drumbeat patterns, but with distinctive melodies that constantly update their 50’s and 60’s simplicity with something intangibly original. Their songs have the magic to transport you back to an America of milkshake fantasy and arrested adolescence while creating an excitement and a spacey atmosphere that belongs to a future as imagined by the 1960’s.
Blowing through a set that mainly consisted of songs under three minutes, they played many songs off their latest album Lust Lust Lust, opening with Hallucinations, and going on to play Dead Sound, Blush, Lust, Black Satin, You Want the Candy, and The Best Dies. Faster songs like Blush and You Want the Candy soared through the venue propelled by drums and sweet melodies, and Sharin’s vocal on The Best Dies in tandem with Sune’s lazy lullaby of guitar strumming were entrancing and hypnotic. Sune, staring into the middle distance and flickering his eyelids in an idiosyncratic blink, often strummed while holding the whammy bar as his hand moved up and down the frets with a careless ease. In breaks from vocals, he would hunch over his guitar and lurch in time with the downbeats. Sharin, seeming to be channeling the spirits of Debbie Harry, Nico, and Agnetha from Abba all at once, strummed her guitar with the same abandon and characteristic staccato strums Sune did. They would trade off melodies and effects, taking turns holding down all the strings with one hand while shredding furiously up and down with the other hand. In addition to newer material, they played songs from Pretty in Black, Chain Gang of Love, and their EP Whip It On, including That Great Love Sound, Let’s Rave On, Noisy Summer, Love in a Trashcan, Attack of the Ghost Riders, and My Tornado. After the show, a bemused fan couldn’t get over the fact that Sharin had actually knelt next to her effects pedals to readjust the calibre of her “noise.” The pink and black colour motif that The Raveonettes often use is a perfect one to represent music that is both sweet like bubblegum and dark with dirty distortion, dissonant chords and Velvet Underground-like lyrics of decadence.
The climax of the show for me was the final song of the set proper: the first single off their latest album, Aly, Walk With Me. It’s droning darkness and the chiming dissonant guitar chords paired with their nearly monotone vocals makes the song both beautiful and unsettling live. At the end of the song, Sune and Sharin both turned their backs on the audience and hunched over their guitars to make a blazing cacophony of white noise. Their encore was a tender performance of Love Can Destroy Everything followed by a rendition of Twilight, which finally saw Sune and Sharin close the physical gap between them by facing each other and creating a mirror image as their hands flew over their guitars.

I have to mention the opening band, Black Acid, just because they were so terrible. They looked like an identikit indie hipster singer backed by four homeless men. I’ve never seen a more disinterested band in my life. The singer, wearing red pointy shoes, skinny jeans and a dinner jacket over a t-shirt, was probably trying to seem cool by being indifferent to performing and to his audience, compulsively drinking beer as he walked around the stage in lieu of playing an instrument, but instead he just came off like a boring jackass. His voice was so low in the mix that I could only catch snatches of it – good thing since he sounded like a chipmunk caught in a combine. And the songs they played were so repetitive and endless, I was ready to claw my way out of my own skin. In all their efforts to be as cool as The Raveonettes, they just ended up being their antithesis. And proved that The Raveonettes know what they’re doing.

All of my photos from this gig can be viewed via an album on my MySpace page.

Aly, Walk With Me – The Raveonettes

You Want the Candy – The Raveonettes

That Great Love Sound – The Raveonettes


Telling Stories, Feeling Human: Vanilla Swingers

Just over a week ago, I received an email in my inbox from Vanilla Swingers. To be honest, being new to the world of music blogs and not getting many artists contacting me, I almost deleted the message, thinking it was some sex organization for caucasian people. Thankfully, I looked at the subject line a little closer and realized that it wasn’t spam, but a message from a UK musical duo called Vanilla Swingers in which they offered me five sample tracks from their self-titled debut album which will come out this May. I was going to wait until I got the album proper before writing anything, but I liked these tracks so much, I figured I’d write about them now. I can always elaborate later when I receive the full album.
Consisting of Anne and Miles, Vanilla Swingers produce delicate, bittersweet music in a style similar to both Stars and Black Box Recorder with undertones of Pet Shop Boys. Their album was recorded with Ian Catt (Saint Etienne, Stars) and mastered by Kramer (Galaxie 500, Low) and it is a concept album that tells “the story of two people who meet, run away, go back in time, lose each other, and meet again in 2015.” I can’t say I hear too many concept albums these days, and I think this particular idea is an intriguing one for me. And I’ll tell you why.
Vanilla Swingers is largely based on John Gray’s book Straw Dogs, a piece of philosophy which questions the myth of Humanism and asks why humans believe themselves to be so much more superior to animals when they rarely achieve what they’re believed to be capable of. In essence, he turns the myth of human progress on its head. According to an interview done by Rock Sellout, Miles says: “lyrically, besides the story, you might say it’s about the differences between what people actually achieve, what they could achieve and what they believe ‘humanity’ can achieve. The idea of humans being the authors of their own destiny is a powerful myth, probably one that would be difficult to live without. Then there’s a bit of romantic love in there – another myth, if you like, and another one without which things would be pretty bleak. It’s a cliche but I hope it comes across that there’s redemption in beauty and in the whole mess of what it is to be alive and reacting to all the contradictory impulses that make us what we are.” So, it appears that Vanilla Swingers sets out to achieve quite a lot while knowing that their very achievement will be another myth. Heady, but brilliant stuff.
I’m hugely impressed by the lyrics of all of the songs, which you can peruse on their Web site. The first song, The Town, of which I only have the lyrics, already grabs my attention and my emotions with its bleak urban/suburban imagery. Echoing Morrissey’s apocalyptic seaside town, The Town reads: “There’s a cone in the river and a Safeways trolley overturned/By the pre-postmodern business centre someone forgot to burn down.” Thankfully, the music lives up to the promise of the lyrics as I listened to the next song, Like Straw Dogs. It obviously namechecks John Gray and Miles’ heartbreaking vocals begin the musical dialogue with “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” before Anne comes in with “Is it him, is it me/Or is there something only I can see.” The strains of a relationship wrought out of myths about identity are felt in every strain of the music and turn of vocal, and hesitant piano blossoms into hard guitars. In a reponse to and as a relief for these tensions, I’ll Stay Next To You begins with a crash of thunder, and then drives along to a bassline that mimicks the restless spirit of running away from the terrors and mundanity of reality, which could very well be the same thing. The end of the song echoes that deadpan observational rapping Neil Tennant does in West End Girls before it enters a jamming outro.
A couple of songs later, Danger in the Past begins with a sample from Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love and a host from Top of the Pops – a contrast to the gloom of the present, but also a reminder of the artificiality of romantic love mythmaking and the shiny false promises of the ’80’s themselves. Then the song kicks in with beautiful hushed vocals by Anne, who is soon joined by Miles in mourning infected hearts and careless memories in a hypnotic, lush melody. For the moody, swaying The Way She Walked Out the Door, Johnny Brown of The Band of Holy Joy steps in with vocals, words and melody, providing an interesting interlude between the lover characters from the other songs and almost acting like a narrator. In the second last song, Goodbye Lennon, against the ticking of a clock and a heartbeat, Anne sings, “It’s thirty years since ’85/Robbie’s dead but Pete’s alive/Or so the weblogs say/But no-one’s reading them.” The mechanics of humanity’s progress provide a counterpoint for its very heart as the world continues to lose itself in celebrity myths until it can’t be bothered to know anymore. And although everyone’s lost in this future, the lovers have lost themselves in each other amidst surging synths and chiming chords. Ultimately, we tell each other and ourselves stories in order to survive as a species.
I’m quite excited about hearing the full album. In the end, somehow Vanilla Swingers still make me believe in love. Even after they’ve dissected the myth and torn down what it means to be human, I feel more human than ever listening to it.

I’ll Stay Next to You – Vanilla Swingers

Danger in the Past – Vanilla Swingers

The Way She Walked Out the Door – Vanilla Swingers


Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and…Well, Friday I’m in Love: Weekly Mix #8

It was inevitable. If I made a St. David’s Day mix a couple weeks ago, I had to make a St. Patrick’s Day mix for today. Strangely enough, I discovered I didn’t own nearly as much Irish music as I thought I did. Music that came from Irish descendants, yes. Music that may sound like it could be Irish, yes. But music that actually came from Irish people, not as much. Unlike others making St. Patrick’s Day mixes, I didn’t want to include bands with Irish ties but which didn’t actually come from Ireland. So, you won’t find Flogging Molly or Dropkick Murphys. That would be making my life too easy. You’re all lucky that I didn’t get tired and didn’t just throw in tracks by Daniel O’Donnell and Ronan Keating.

I’ve been to Ireland once (during that famous backpacking trip around Europe in 2003), but I would like to go back and see more of it. I only managed to get to Dublin, nearby Dun Laoghaire, and Sligo. And I will admit that my experience of Ireland is heavily coloured by the raging sinus infection I had at the time. Dublin is a blur of painkillers and kleenex. I vaguely remember going to the museum and viewing Egyptian artifacts and an interesting exhibit on the IRA (as interested as I am in Welsh history, I’ve also always had quite an interest in “The Troubles”). I think I also walked along the shoreline in Dun Laoghaire in a medicated haze. Oh yeah, and I also remember being pelted by rocks by small Irish children. I enjoyed Sligo and Sligo County more despite having to take an afternoon off to sleep in the hostel. I still remember the sympathetic look from the guy behind the counter in a Sligo sandwich shop – I appreciated it considering I looked like Rudolph with the pox. By taking a bus tour, I saw the Isle of Innisfree, the Carrowmore megalithic cemetery, Dolly’s Cottage, and the Holy Well, interspersed with rattling along in the bus listening to Yeats’s poetry over the PA system. Unfortunately, my only experience of Northern Ireland was the ferry port in Belfast, but I hope to get back there one day.

As far as Irish music firsthand, I only got to experience some rather authentic Irish music in a Dublin pub. My awareness of popular Irish music probably began with U2 since my dad was a fan – in retrospect, as a child, I obviously didn’t know much about U2 as an entity and I liked what I heard from Joshua Tree (give me a break, I was a kid). Once I got a little older, I went back to the earlier albums of U2 and found several of their political songs appealing. Although I don’t particularly listen to U2 much anymore, I still think their first few albums were much better than the ridiculous caricature they became by the end of the ’80s. Back then, U2 was just another idealistic young band trying to say something important and get famous in the process – not such a different story from many of the bands I admire. So, I did include U2 on this mix, but I made sure it was an early track that reminded me of their post-punk roots and not overblown arena shows and Bono’s messiah complex.
From U2 as a child, on to my discovery of Irish music as a teenager. When I was about fourteen, I first heard I Don’t Like Mondays by The Boomtown Rats and Teenage Kicks by The Undertones, and I recall quite liking them, prompting me to seek out other music of that period (once again, at the time, I didn’t know Bob Geldof’s more recent history and the fact he didn’t really ever have another hit). When I was eighteen and living and working in Northeast England, I first heard Ash, watching the video for Girl From Mars on TV. From there on in, I became an Ash fan, and sometime after that, I found JJ72, a Dublin band fronted by a cherubic boy with a childlike voice that could explode into shrill beauty. Unfortunately, JJ72 disbanded after two albums, but singer, Mark Greaney, has now moved on in a band called Concerto for Constantine whilst bassist Sarah Fox joined industrial rock band Lluther. In adulthood, I got into The Pogues, My Bloody Valentine, Whipping Boy, and several others. However, I’m still surprised that there aren’t more Irish artists in my collection. If anyone out there knows of a particularly great Irish band or artist, I would love to hear about it.
All in all, this is a mix of well-known and not-so-well-known Irish artists from my collection. Admittedly, I’m not much of a Van Morrison fan, but I figured he should be included in an Irish mix. I would also like to acknowledge that I’m probably the only person in the world who liked Snow Patrol’s Final Straw album more than their latest because Chasing Cars just doesn’t seem to have an effect on me – thus, I included an earlier song on the mix. Also, you can’t get much more Irish than Gavin Friday singing a duet with actor, Cillian Murphy, for the Breakfast on Pluto soundtrack. I wish I had some more traditional Celtic music to add to the mix, but it will have to wait until next year. Regardless of my apparently meagre Irish music collection, I think Ireland is a country filled with art, history and beauty – had this been a literature blog, I would have had an endless list. (I don’t need people thinking that I hold my sinus infection against an entire nation.) I’m going to call this mix Hear Me, I’m Irish.

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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)

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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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it


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


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


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


Running on


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


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' 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


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


You must let her go

She's not crying



Feeling like I'm waiting

Modern times



Hating to distraction

Just leave them alone


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


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


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


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


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


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


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