Archive for the 'live' Category

14
Nov
09

When They Were Emperors: Duran Duran’s Collector’s Edition Rio and Live at Hammersmith DVD

Duran Duran Rio Collector's Edition

Many shy away from admitting they enjoy some Duran Duran; the fact they had thousands of teenage girls screaming for them for a few years somehow degrades their pop value (teenage girl fans are apparently credibility-suckers – another argument for another time). As a band, Simon LeBon and Co generally take the flak for the sins of the 80s: excess, commercialist greed, hyperbolic style, etc. I, myself, was a teenager in the 90s when I first heard Duran Duran, and while listening to songs like Planet Earth, Girls on Film, Hungry Like the Wolf, and The Reflex, I became a fan. Later, as I realized that I was really only interested in the first few Duran Duran albums and that the band had disintegrated quite spectacularly by the time I was halfway through high school (I distinctly remember Electric Barbarella playing on the radio then), I became more interested in their contribution to early music videos. Should you so choose, you can click here to read an undergrad essay I wrote about the post-colonial issues in their Rio-era videos. So, I suppose I could add post-colonial imperialism to their list of misdemeanors, but for some reason, as you can see, Duran Duran never left me. At least, the original incarnation of Duran Duran never did. And with EMI’s release of the Collector’s Edition of Rio coinciding with the release of a DVD/CD combo of their 1982 gig in Hammersmith, I’m starting to reflect on the insane success and inevitable decline of the band and what exactly appealed to me when I first heard them fifteen years ago.

Rio, like its bookends, Duran Duran and Seven and the Ragged Tiger, appealed to me because its lyrics largely didn’t make sense. Let me explain. Like abstractions of a dreamworld, Duran Duran lyrics were often so oddly phrased that they seemed extraordinary – sure, a vague plotline that might involve pursuit of romance/sex was present, but the metaphors and diction weren’t straightforward. Examples in Hungry Like the Wolf include: “Dark in the city night is a wire/Steam in the subway earth is afire,” “Smell like I sound I’m lost in a crowd,” and “Strut on a line it’s discord and rhyme.” When the ostensibly awkward lyrics collided with the music, the songs became otherworldly. Their blend of disco, post-punk and New Romantic synthpop still stands up today; the crisp, clean drums and glacial synths glide over the organic groove, making the music feel like it could simultaneously shatter in icy shards while undulating under that elastic bass rhythm and wailing sax. Their self-titled debut leaned more heavily on cold electro and spiky punk energy to fashion a strange alien glamour that drew from the past and future at the same time, a feature that they absorbed from New Wave and blew out to its extremes. Rio, in particular, takes exoticism to new heights; not only do the videos for the record signal this quite clearly, but take the example of Save a Prayer and its bizarre ululating synth that mimicks Tarzan’s call. And my all-time favourite Duran Duran song, The Chauffeur, happens to be the finale of Rio; the haunting, Teutonic coolness is still tempered with what sounds like South American pan pipe sounds, and it continues to give me chills like creeping shadows.

The Collector’s Edition of their 1982 record is just that: for collectors. The first disc is the digital remastering of the original tracks along with a Carnival Remix of My Own Way and US album remixes of Rio, Lonely in Your Nightmare, Hungry Like the Wolf and Hold Back the Rain. It includes a second disc of bonus material, including Manchester Square demos (recorded 28 August 1981) of Last Chance on the Stairway, My Own Way, New Religion, and Like an Angel, and various b-sides and remixes. It is best enjoyed by Duranies and those who never got a hold of these alternate tracks or b-sides via other channels through the years. The problem with this re-release, as it is with many bands I’m sure, is that there just isn’t much point digging into the back catalogue for alternate versions when differences are often so subtle that it takes either a really dedicated fan or a really trained ear to care. For instance the difference between the original Rio and the US Rio is that on the latter track, there’s a looser snare and a shorter intro of TARDIS-like noises; in the end, the US mix feels softer, but I only realized this by flipping back and forth between the two until my brain smoked. Yes, the second disc of demos are more clearly differentiated from the originals, but are likely most interesting for hard-core collectors (and of course for me, I was most drawn to the alternate acoustic version of The Chauffeur). For a Duran Duran completist, this edition would be useful, and if you don’t already own a copy of Rio, you could spring for this one as something beyond the regular; however, then you may as well go for the similarly priced Collector’s Edition vinyl.

Duran Duran Live at Hammersmith

Now, to the Live at Hammersmith ’82 DVD/CD. I’ve never seen Duran Duran live, and at this point in both their history and mine, I don’t think I want to. However, I do admit to enjoying the early live footage of tours and performances, and this Hammersmith gig is one of those. What strikes me the most about concerts like this one is the feeling of witnessing a band at their zenith. One can argue about when exactly Duran Duran peaked (the end was definitely with Live Aid), but I would contend that 1982 was the moment. They were worldwide superstars with two successful albums and videos in high rotation on MTV, the absurdity hadn’t quite overshadowed them yet (as it did in a video like Wild Boys) and the jaded strain hadn’t gotten to them at this point. It is the MTV-darling, visual component of their identity that makes these live performances worth watching. Because I’m personally drawn to androgyny and glam style, Duran Duran’s image would have always been attractive to me; the band was aesthetically pleasing, especially Nick Rhodes and his David Sylvian-pilfered look, moving like a beautiful automaton over his keyboards.

This gig is also an energetic, lean performance, by which I mean the setlist didn’t contain much filler (when a band only has two albums to draw from, it’s can be expected to be tighter). Even when doing the slower, slightly darker numbers, they appeared to come from some place of fantasy and youthful exuberance – they couldn’t believe their good fortune, and took you with them on that ride to the top. I will also say that I hadn’t been aware that Duran Duran did a cover version of Cockney Rebel’s Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me), which they do quite admirably in the encore of this performance.

As bonus material, this DVD features the Rio-era music videos and TOTP performances, and oddly enough, I don’t remember having ever seen the video for Lonely in Your Nightmare before – it would have been helpful for that essay on visual rhetoric and post-colonialism. These videos, more than the others from Duran Duran, remain iconic in their imperialist adventurer guise, and remain fascinating to me precisely because they were shot with epic budgets on location in “exotic” locales. It becomes incredibly difficult to dissociate the songs from the video imagery, and I think it’s interesting to compare and contrast these videos with other iconic New Romantic videos like those of Adam and the Ants; by drawing on the past images of Victorian and Edwardian dandy dress, they inherited notions of British empire by proxy. And if I combine that with an appropriation of “other” musical sounds from those who would have been conquered by the British, I’ve got an extension for my original essay. Again, an argument for another time.

Despite the fact they came from a legitimate background of punk/glam rock and despite their former massive popularity, why were/are Duran Duran so denigrated? Perhaps, unlike their heroes David Bowie and Roxy Music, their artificial glamour ceased to be a pose. They showed off a little too much, they seemed to be wrapped up in their own hyperbole and absurdity. Maybe their collective pretty boy image also made it less likely they would be taken seriously by critics. And then, there were those armies of hysterical girls.

Considering the massacre that was Red Carpet Massacre and the second departure of Andy Taylor a few years ago, Duran Duran’s music now sounds like middle-aged desperation. Their breathless courting of producers like Timbaland and Mark Ronson depresses me because it signals quite clearly that Duran Duran no longer know who they are as a band and are aching for someone else to tell them who to be. All that had once been fresh energy and style has leached away into hollow attempts to stay current and hip. It’s not as though they’re the only band in this situation; not too many artists sustain a high level of interesting musical output beyond a decade or so. Being boxed in by those heavy 80s brackets doesn’t help. And so I prefer to turn my attention to twenty-seven years ago when Duran Duran were emperors of their own paradise.

The Chauffeur (Sing Blue Silver Version) – Duran Duran

Rio (Live at the Hammersmith ’82) – Duran Duran

15
Oct
09

Fixin’ to Thrill the Non-Masses: Dragonette at the West End Cultural Centre

Dragonette 1

It could be that the Manics show last week blew all of my fuses, or that my whirlwind weekend wedding trip to New Hampshire scrambled the last scraps of mental focus I had left, but I ended up a wee bit blasé at the Dragonette show on Monday night. I couldn’t even blame it on tryptophan-laced turkey because I didn’t make it home in time for Thanksgiving dinner. No doubt Dragonette played well with a ton of energy, but the venue was much less than full and after experiencing the surreal gratitude-fuelled lovefest with the Manics fans, the show just didn’t hit any peak for me. It also didn’t help that I didn’t have time to listen to the advance copy of their new album, which I had received a few weeks ago (it’s always nice coming into a show knowing what the songs might be).

They opened with I Get Around, which is one of my favourite Dragonette tracks, however, some of the really powerful groans of synth got lost in the live mix. Gamine frontwoman, Martina Sorbara, danced, rocked and pouted her way across the stage throughout the gig, making being a tomboy glamourous; as the liveliest member of the band, she translated the sexy playfulness of the lyrics through her breathy, child-like vocals and cheeky grin. Occasionally bassist/keyboardist/producer Dan Kurtz joined her at the front of the stage, playing bass while guitarist, Chris Hugget, stayed utterly expressionless even when playing solos. They also played Take It Like a Man and Competition off their debut album, but the majority of the show came from the latest record, Fixin’ to Thrill, including the title track, Liar, Pick Up the Phone, Gone Too Far, Stupid Grin (during which Sorbara tried to lead the crowd in a call-and-answer), and a rather tender, blue-light-bathed performance of Easy. At some point in the middle of the set, they threw in an unreleased song that didn’t make it onto Fixin’ to Thrill – Sorbara said they kept playing it live because they enjoyed it so much. The keywords in the song were ostensibly “summer” and “sex,” and while I can’t actually recall any melody at this point, I believe it to be a fairly decent track, which will hopefully get a release in the future.

Dragonette 2

It seemed that the band and select members of the audience were having a very good time (Sorbara and Kurtz were smiling their faces off at each other…stupidly grinning, perhaps – even if you hadn’t already known they were married, you’d guess it by the end of the show), but it felt like a relatively short gig without any real definitive moments. The encore was a mere one song “hoedown” (I suppose any band that uses the verb “fixin'” would be up for it). I wish there had been at least one more song (it was probably too much to hope for their cover of Calvin Harris’s The Girls, and perhaps I’m the only one who likes Shock Box so much). Now that I’ve had some time to listen to the latest album both live and on CD, I think it’s a much more even record than Galore was; there’s a strength and vibrancy to it that pulses through each track whereas Galore sometimes dipped and weakened for me.

The opening act, Ruby Jean & the Thoughtful Bees, who came all the way from Halifax, was impressively brilliant (so much so, I bought their album after the show). I marvelled at the frontwoman, Rebekah Higgs’s confidence in the face of a distinterested, rather paltry crowd – looking like a Pre-Raphaelite hurricane in a child’s party dress, she managed to get people participating halfway through their set (as puzzled as people were with her French refrain “Danse Danse Resolution”). There’s a fantastic funky electro thread to their music that just violently thrashes around in your head long after the music stops (they also had a bit of a harder, manic edge akin to Duchess Says, often with unintelligible lyrics), and the screeches and warped reverb on the vocals sound like a brain holocaust. And any band that has a guitarist who wears leather shorts, a leather vest, a thong and a gimp mask is bound to endear themselves to me (I couldn’t help musing whether one of the guitarist’s legs was bigger than the other).

Overall, it was a fun night, and I feel as though there were a lot of external factors weighing in on my less-than-ecstatic reaction (probably unfairly colouring my experience). I would definitely check out both bands again, and both albums just may make it into my year-end countdown. In the face of a small crowd, each band tenaciously entertained.

Fixin’ to Thrill – Dragonette

Pick Up the Phone – Dragonette

Girls You Love – Ruby Jean & the Thoughtful Bees

07
Oct
09

Love’s Sweet Exile: Manic Street Preachers at the Phoenix Concert Theatre

Manic Street Preachers - 010 - JPEG

Ten years is a long time to wait for anything. So when the Manic Street Preachers finally returned to Toronto, it was tough to predict quite how it would go down. I, myself, had only waited nearly two and a half years, which felt quite long enough for me. My very first post on this blog was a review of the Manics’ second show at the Cardiff Student Union in 2007 as part of the Send Away the Tigers tour. For many of the fans at the Phoenix on Sunday night, this was their first time witnessing their musical heroes play live. If I hadn’t been fortunate enough to be in Cardiff in May a couple of years ago, I would have been one of them. People travelled from all over the country to come to this gig (some from just south of the border as well), and several had either already seen gigs on this tour or were going to follow the Manics through the next cities. The dedication, passion and community to be found amongst Manics fans always inspires me and bolsters me after spending most of my time being a Manics fan on my own.

I couldn’t help but make a comparison between this gig and the Cardiff Student Union one. What remains quite fascinating to me is how much shorter this gig felt – despite the fact it was one song less than last time (21 instead of 22 songs). I suppose the Manics have such a large back catalogue now that no matter how many songs they play, it’s never enough, especially for their die-hard fans. While this long-suffering group of fans weren’t quite as flamboyantly attired as their UK counterparts generally are, their enthusiasm and utter gratefulness were overwhelming. Yes, people in the crowd called out the usual requests for songs and the occasional “I love you Nicky/James,” but what was so much more touching and indicative of the atmosphere was the fact that so many people kept shouting “Thank you!”

Manic Street Preachers - 036 - JPEG

I sort of pity any band that has to open for the Manics; no matter who you are, we just don’t care. And in this case, I saw the majority of the crowd look alternately bored and impatient as the opener played. But as the lights dimmed and the Manics came on stage, the audience exploded. And I pulled on my hand-painted black tuque with “JAMES” emblazoned on it a la James Dean Bradfield’s balaclava worn during that performance of Faster on TOTP (I was going to wear it even if I died of heat exhaustion). Against a simple backdrop of the Journal For Plague Lovers album cover, they opened with my favourite Manics song, Motorcycle Emptiness. The power of the music crashed into the roar of the crowd like a sonic boom, and James was a joy to watch for his intricate guitarwork, sending out those whining chords of desperate melancholy, and for the beautiful violence of his hits to his own head and face as he sang, “All we want from you are the kicks you’ve given us.” They kept the soaring anthemic feel going with No Surface All Feeling, which I saw as a solo acoustic performance by James last time. Prefacing the next song with an acknowledgement of Mr. Richard Edwards and his brilliant words, the band clattered into the first song to be played off the latest album: Peeled Apples. It was a cathartic performance that brought my singing closer to wild, frenetic shouting – the raw intelligence that the Manics represent simultaneously appeals to my logic and my emotions in a way no other band does.

I also had the privilege of watching a live performance of Your Love Alone Is Not Enough and La Tristessa Durera for the second time in my life (I always get a kick out of the lines that Nicky sings in the former). Then we got a second track from JFPL, Jackie Collins Existential Question Time, which has one of the most memorable melodies in the world and leads into what could be one of the best vocal performances by James with the lyrics “Situationist sisterhood, Jackie and Joan” – I felt my body tense in anticipation of those lines. At this point, they went into Let Robeson Sing, the only song that they would play off Know Your Enemy. Before careening into a blistering rendition of Faster, they pulled out a little bit of Rush’s The Spirit of Radio (the Manics have often stated their unabashed love for the Canadian band, and Nicky also quoted their lyrics before You Love Us in much the same way his brother quoted his own poetry before Love’s Sweet Exile all those years ago: “It’s really just a question of your honesty. Yeah. Your honesty. One likes to believe in the freedom of music. But glittering prizes and endless compromises… Shatter the illusion of integrity.”). During the maelstrom that is Faster, I felt my raised hand clench into a fist as James sang, “I am stronger than Mensa,” and I spat out every word along with him. After the slight reprieve of Tsunami, and in answer to many of our hopes, they then played my favourite track off JFPL: Marlon JD. We were then treated to two regular live standards, From Despair to Where and If You Tolerate This, Your Children Will Be Next.

Then as is the pattern, Nicky and Sean left the stage, allowing James to sing a couple of songs acoustically. Last time I saw them, James sang Yes and the aforementioned No Surface All Feeling, but this time he sang This is Yesterday and The Everlasting (according to the setlist, the latter was supposed to be Small Black Flowers That Grow in the Sky – I’m still hoping I get to hear that live one day). Perhaps what was so astonishing to the band, and even to me for that matter, was the fact pretty much everyone knew all of the words to every single song. This was really apparent during The Everlasting as James turned the song over to the crowd several times. And as one person, who was unfamiliar with the band but attended the show with a friend’s spare ticket, later commented, whenever James was too winded or lost some of his lyrics, the audience completely filled in for him.

Manic Street Preachers - 025 - JPEG

In my opinion, the next performance, Send Away the Tigers, was slightly unexpected, very welcome but unexpected – for some reason, I had assumed we’d get one of the radio-friendly SATT hits, either Autumnsong or Indian Summer. This was followed by You Stole the Sun, a song contemporary with the last time the Manics toured North America. Oddly enough, it continues to be a setlist staple – it’s definitely not among my favourite Manics tracks, but it does tend to get the crowd jumping for that chorus, and I’m more than willing to oblige. The next track, which I firmly believe must get played, Motown Junk, was as punk-rock as ever – I’m fairly certain that I, along with others, couldn’t help but automatically fill in James’s ellided “When Lennon got shot.” Interestingly, the setlist states “A or Motown Junk” – would the Manics actually have considered playing Autumnsong instead? I’m eternally grateful that they picked the classic Motown Junk.

The energy stayed high with Me and Stephen Hawking before two more old stormers were played: Little Baby Nothing and You Love Us. Both of them provided those extraordinary communal moments as all of us chanted and pointed along to the “you are pure, you are snow” refrain and the chorus of You Love Us, which had probably never been so true (the image of all of those arms pumping along almost made me cry). As A Design for Life struck up, it felt bittersweet – as always, it was an anthemic moment with James perched on an amp stack and Nicky up on the drumkit platform, but you always know that quite literally “this is the end.” No arrogant encore. No filler. No regrets.

In addition to scissor jumps and that rolling pacing that he does across the stage, Nicky Wire occasionally leaned over to say something in James’s ear with that maniacal grin of his, and the first time he did it, James playfully batted him away, slightly smooshing Nicky’s face in the process. It was one of those fantastic reminders of how close these guys are. James and Nicky took turns at banter, the former mock-wincing at the sheer loudness of the crowd and telling us how “mega” we were, and the latter making jokes about the size of The Opera House (where they first played in Toronto), asking himself “why the fuck they took so long to come back,” and praising us for holding our own against what he called our “Big Brother” neighbour to the south. All band members wore black, James in a basic military shirt with a few badges and an arm patch and Nicky in a rather subdued Sgt-Pepper-My-Chemical-Romance-type jacket with red details and the usual Urban Decay panda eyes (at one point he slapped on a captain’s hat, but unfortunately no skirt this time).

While I would have liked more songs from The Holy Bible and at least something from Lifeblood (in my opinion, highly underrated and more deserving than Everything Must Go and This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours), the fact we got four songs from JFPL, which are as close to THB as we’re ever going to get, made up for it. And considering I’ve witnessed Yes and Die in the Summertime live previously, I’m slowly getting a chance to hear THB live.

Manic Street Preachers - 024 - JPEG

As the crowd reluctantly filtered out of the venue, they all just looked so sweaty, ecstatic and gobsmacked that I had to smile. The show had been one of mutual appreciation and gratitude – according to other reviews, we were possibly the largest crowd on this tour. Fans were still reaching out to each other after the show, one asking me if I enjoyed the show and another asking me about my Send Away the Tigers t-shirt. It had been all the sweeter for the long absence, our North American exile from the Manics.

When I wrote that review two years ago, I said, “My only regret is not staying outside after the gig to see if I could meet the band – who knows when I’ll ever, if ever, get to see them again, especially at such a small venue. But I suppose that just raises the bar for more dreams – after all, I never thought I would ever see the Manics live and even if I saw them live, I never thought it would be six feet away from them in the closest thing to a hometown gig.” The dream happened all over again, and this time, I got a photo taken of me with my guitar hero, James. It took a bit of speeding down sidewalks (admittedly, my sheer sense of mission took over any sense of tact, and before I knew what I was doing, I had grabbed James’s arm as he tried to get across the street to the tourbus, before asking for that photo). In the clamour of desperate fans surrounding him, begging for photos, autographs and even a tiny moment of dialogue with him, James was graciously patient (especially since it appears Nicky and Sean left him to fend for himself – next time, I’m coming for you, Wire). Amidst all of the demands and requests, James nearly signed the pieces of my writing about the band that I wanted to give him (who knows if they’ll actually read it, but it was worth a shot). Possibly my favourite moment was when a black man, who was begging for money with cup in hand and was inexplicably moving about on rollerblades, started shouting at James, “You’re the white street preacher, and I’m the dark street preacher!” Quite baffled, James just said, “I don’t have any money.” He should have seen the earlier “street preacher” who had screamed at us to repent as we stood in the queue before the gig.

Before they had launched into Let Robeson Sing, James remarked that most of their songs were pretty negative, but that this one was one of the more positive ones. I, and likely many Manics fans, just don’t see their songs that way; the Manics’ music reminds me of one of my favourite quotes from John Gray’s Straw Dogs: “The aim of life was not to change the world. It was to see it rightly.” The Manics didn’t set out to change the world or pretend that they could – their songs always just made you see the world rightly, and the hope and comfort were in that perspective. As is the tradition, the Manics added a quotation to the bottom of their setlist on Sunday night: “We are all modernisers today. We have no idea what being modern means. But we are sure that it guarantees us a future.” By none other than John Gray.

Little Baby Nothing – Manic Street Preachers

Send Away the Tigers – Manic Street Preachers

**NOTE** an extra special Manics-themed weekly mix is coming up.

18
Sep
09

This is the First Time: Keane at the Burton Cummings Theatre

Chaplin Close Up

All right, I admit it. I like Keane. Do I love Keane? Not really. I suppose it’s actually been quite some time since I last really listened to them. When Hopes and Fears came out and I first heard them on the radio while living in the East Midlands, I thought they were a nice, gentle sort of band, and perhaps they will forever be sentimentally linked to that particularly summer in England. Then they released Under the Iron Sea while I was living in Cardiff, and I remember being a bit surprised at the turn to a fuller sound of synths, and dare I say, an occasionally rockier tempo. I appreciated Tim Rice-Oxley’s frustrated sentiments on Is It Any Wonder and I still very much enjoy Atlantic and Hamburg Song (the latter of which revealed that singer, Tom Chaplin, wasn’t exactly as gentle and innocent as he looked and was slowly destroying the band). But I was definitely drifting from the band, especially since there were always more musical discoveries to be made, which were far more interesting. I grew away from Keane so much that when they released Perfect Symmetry last year, I didn’t take much notice. However, then I heard Spiralling, and I thought it was definitely another considerable step away from Hopes and Fears, and I also happened to think it was a lovely pop song. The rest of the album, sadly, didn’t quite live up to Spiralling – in fact, a lot of it seemed like back-pedalling. Thus, my relationship to Keane seems to be punctuated by pleasant surprise and tepid disappointment, but I still thought it would be worth seeing them live when they finally made an appearance in Winnipeg. And, admittedly, there’s nothing groundbreaking about Keane’s music, live or otherwise, but I was once again pleasantly surprised at how much fun I had and how much Chaplin seems to have grown into his frontman role.

I endured the abysmal teenybop band, Lights, who opened for Keane, only because I thought I could stay up front as I did with the Franz Ferdinand gamble. It failed miserably this time. The security guards were being particularly protective of the boys from Sussex (piano music may just make people lose their cookies), so it took quite some time before I could wheedle my way in front of a floor amp (I had a chuckle about the fact the roadies had stuck masking tape along the edges of the amp and a sign that said “Stay Inside”). The show began with Chaplin on guitar (a new development as of the last record) as they blew through The Lovers Are Losing for their opening track. It quickly became apparent that the band was genuinely shocked that this many people knew their music in an ostensibly god-forsaken corner of the world like Winnipeg. And that the theatre was packed for their first show here. Chaplin thanked the audience over and over again, and at one point, Rice-Oxley looked like he was going to cry. In turn, I discovered that Chaplin doesn’t look quite as much like a lollipop head in person (nor as much like a hybrid of an eight-year-old’s head spliced onto a grown man’s body as I thought he would). He likes dramatic gestures a lot, but they’re kind of endearing, and I also quite like watching Rice-Oxley lose himself in his playing, his leg pumping furiously.

Chaplin Guitar

They then played Everbody’s Changing and Bend and Break from their debut and A Bad Dream from Under the Iron Sea 9which featured Chaplin on a keyboard opposite to Rice-Oxley) before heading into newer territory again with You Haven’t Told Me Anything. Before things could get too slow, I was glad that they went into This Is The Last Time (which inexplicably was my favourite song from their first album) and Spiralling. Then the rest of the band exited the stage to leave Chaplin alone with an acoustic guitar to play Playing Along – it was a brave move and it worked well enough. The slow pace continued with Try Again and You Don’t See Me (the latter of which Chaplin deemed the most beautiful song Keane had ever written and dedicated to the audience). The tempo briefly increased for Is It Any Wonder before developing into a rather passionate performance of Perfect Symmetry. Strangely enough, Chaplin seemed to think Canada was quite environmentally-friendly and thus could better appreciate the sentiments of the song. It was the track that brought Chaplin the furthest off the stage – he actually stepped with his neon pink, yellow and gold sneakers onto the amp directly in front of me (he dutifully stayed inside the tape lines, mind). The set proper wrapped up with crowd favourites Somewhere Only We Know and Crystal Ball. During Somewhere Only We Know, Chaplin turned the vocals over to the crowd, and fortunately, a very respectable amount of people were able to sing along.

Rice Oxley

In a way, I enjoyed the low-impact exercise of the show – there was no breathless jumping or smashing of appendages. Having said that, it still was nowhere near as sedate as I would have expected a Keane show to be. There was very much a palpable energy in the theatre, which was consistently stoked by Chaplin’s cajoling gestures and requests to keep the cheers going. There was plenty of banter from Chaplin as he conversed with the crowd, including the typical disbelief at Winnipeg winter weather (he found it difficult to believe that it could go down to -52 Celsius here – apparently a roadie had recorded such a fact on a wall backstage). At one point, someone screamed out the ridiculously obvious point that Chaplin had an accent, and yet another added “It’s sexy.” I, for one, hardly think of Chaplin as sexy, and his reply was, “That’s nice because people back at home make fun of my accent.” I can only imagine. However, the teenage girls next to me definitely attempted to pull Chaplin off the stage by his sweaty hand, and I’m sure he appreciated it. I’ve also never seen someone throw out so many guitar picks into the crowd.

The encore thankfully included Atlantic, and oddly enough, I wasn’t surprised when they whipped out their version of Under Pressure (mainly because I was wracking my brain for what other high-energy pieces the band had). The encore ended with the interesting choice of Bedshaped off the first album; the show went gently into the night. Keane puts on a highly entertaining pop show, and as I’ve usually found with British bands playing Winnipeg, they were hugely appreciative of the audience’s enthusiasm and mere presence. It wasn’t the most exciting, nor the most memorable of the gigs I’ve been to, but it left me feeling happy. And sometimes that’s all you need.

This Is The Last Time – Keane

Atlantic – Keane

06
Sep
09

In the Dark of the Matinée: Franz Ferdinand at The Burton Cummings Theatre

Kapranos

My vindication has been three years in the making. Ever since I first missed out on tickets for Franz Ferdinand in 2006 (aka the Franz Ferdinand-Death Cab For Cutie Debacle – for further details read here), I’ve been bitter. Well, the bitterness has dissipated somewhat over the years (after all, Franz Ferdinand aren’t the Manics or IAMX), but when I heard the foot-stomping Glaswegians were coming back to Winnipeg, to the same theatre, this fall, I made sure I had a ticket. And thanks to my newly acquired skills of online ticket buying (including making sure I was actually at my computer at 10:00AM when the tickets went on sale and didn’t keep hitting refresh rather than wait), I managed a sixth row floor ticket. Not too shabby. However, being the ungrateful human that I am, when I actually settled down into my sixth row centre seat, I started working out the logistics of getting to the stage before Franz Ferdinand played. It wasn’t looking so hot, especially since I was hemmed in on both sides while the first two rows had much more immediate access to the small floor space in front of the stage. I remember having leaped over two rows of seating for Muse a few years back, but no longer am I as spry and vaulting five rows seemed impossible…without a pole anyway. I, then, hit upon a rather simple, but possibly effective strategy: get up there during the opening band (which happened to be the excellent Montreal band Think About Life – highly recommended).

Before you point out how mentally deficient I am, I will explain why this may not have worked. In the past, security has shunted people back to their seats after an opener played (I remember this happened for The Arcade Fire – although I managed to perform my invisibility spell through my mad ninja skills and never went back to my seat like others did). And if they did decide to send people back, this whole strategem would seem in vain. However, I took a gamble and joined the very small crowd at the front during Think About Life’s last song (their set was criminally short). The gamble paid off as soon after, security closed off the “pit” with me right against the floor amp. Still being rather ungrateful, I realized I had placed myself next to some of the most irritating girls in the world (one of whom couldn’t stop looking at her own reflection in her compact and kept arguing with security when she wanted to sit on the amp). Fate was still on my side as a security guard muscled into position right against the stage and forced those girls back, well behind me. And then, at about 9:15PM the show commenced…

A show, indeed. Admittedly, over the past few years, I’ve become less excited about Kapranos and Co. – the second album just didn’t do much for me apart from Do You Want To?, and while I’ve been enjoying their latest, Tonight, I wasn’t sure if I would still be a bit disappointed (granted, I hadn’t quite listened to Tonight enough to make a firm opinion). As I often am, I was proven wrong. Loudly. The best word to describe the show was unrelenting. There was absolutely no break for the audience or the band – the closest was when they played the arguably slower song Walk Away. The rest was a cardiac-arrest-inducing-dance-rock fusion that didn’t let up for an hour and a half.

McCarthy

Against a backdrop of the band’s stylized heads, which were consistent with their website aesthetic, they began the show with Bite Hard before quickly moving into one of my favourites, The Dark of the Matinée. With the alacrity of the music during the chorus, it really seemed as though we were hastily being dragged through endless corridors and factories, and the one-time movie theatre we were witnessing this show in made the song all the more present. It could have been partially because I was on the floor for the first time in quite some time, or the fact that all of Franz Ferdinand’s best songs are fast, or that the entire sold-out theatre was clearly up for it, but I was definitely the most winded and bashed up I’ve been at a show for this year. As per usual, my flailing knees made contact with the amp, producing nasty bruises, and I was a euphoric sweaty mess by the end of it. The set was pretty heavy on their debut album’s songs, which I was very happy about, and featured older favourites like This Fire, Tell Her Tonight, 40′, and Take Me Out. Perhaps Franz Ferdinand realized that their sophomore album just wasn’t as good as the other two. I remember one particular moment where I realized I was actually witnessing a live version of Take Me Out and it felt like I and the rest of the crowd were jumping in synchronized slow motion. In addition to Bite Hard, they also played No You Girls, What She Came For and Ulysses from the latest album. No You Girls is another one of those trademark Franz Ferdinand songs built for dance parties, and it got the audience frenzied.

Alex Kapranos and Nick McCarthy were at the forefront, as is the norm, the former often stretching out his arms like a plaid-clad messiah, involving the audience in numerous call-and-answers and commanding the audience to “rise,” and the latter often stepping out onto the amp in front of me with his stylish white shoes, swinging his guitar in sharp, high arcs from side to side, and shredding his guitar in the audience’s faces. They often met each other at centrestage or back at the face-to-face synthesizers; they also took turns climbing the amp stacks. At one point at the end of the show proper, during Outsiders, the entire band converged around the drumkit and picked up sticks and other percussion instruments to create a rhythmic fury. The trio of Ulysses, 40′ and Outsiders was a fantastic ride of alternating slow-burning-churning funk and sharp guitar riffs. And through it all, the acoustics were great from my vantage point, hearing every low, laconic, crooned note from Kapranos. And once again, there was a stage-stormer, a girl who leapt on stage and hugged Kapranos before jumping back into the pit (let’s hope she didn’t get a papercut).

Kapranos and McCarthy

The five-song encore, including Darts of Pleasure, Turn It On, Michael, Jacqueline, and Lucid Dreams, was one of the longest I’ve ever heard from anyone. I really enjoyed the ten-minute-plus jam of Lucid Dreams, fully appreciating the meandering interlude of synthesizers and drum machines, which made McCarthy and Kapranos, who were intently hunched over their respective keyboards, look like a Scottish Kraftwerk. The constant shift in melody and rhythm kept me slightly off-balance and sometimes in a droning trance. And to end proceedings, the band did their standard exit strategy for the tour, meaning each member drops out of Lucid Dreams and leaves one by one. At least it seemed standard until Nick McCarthy decided to leap stage right, gingerly stepping from amp stack to amp stack before neatly scaling the wall and hauling himself over the second-storey side balcony. It was a memorable moment, and thankfully not a catastrophic one (I believe I would have been in his direct flight path if he fell).

As with many bands I’ve seen in concert, Franz Ferdinand is best consumed live. My excitement has waned over listening to the actual albums over the years, but when they perform them live, there’s a whole new energy and freshness to these songs. I could feel every jab of angular guitar like a shot of adrenaline and let the heart-jarring vibrations of grooving bass and synths saw through me just as Kapranos allowed the buzz to shake him in one full-body-vibrating moment on stage. This gig reminded me how much I actually do enjoy Franz Ferdinand and their down-to-earth abandon and democratic hedonism. And when Kapranos mentioned the fact they had been in this theatre in Winnipeg three years ago, I didn’t even wince.

The Dark of the Matinée – Franz Ferdinand

Lucid Dreams – Franz Ferdinand

30
Jul
09

Pigs Are Flying Over the Icefields of Hell: The Manics Hit North America

Manics Black and White

It’s finally happened…the Manic Street Preachers are coming back to North America. In honour of the North American release of Journal for Plague Lovers, they will be hitting twelve cities in the US and Canada in September and October. It’s been ten years, but as the posts on the Manics’ official site show, their long-suffering fans on this side of the Atlantic are elated and willing to fly or drive as far as they have to in order to get to the lucky twelve cities on the circuit. I, myself, have bought a ticket for the Toronto show on October 4 (immediately following an email alert from a fellow Manics fan – thank you, evo). After seeing them in Cardiff two years ago, I didn’t know if I would ever get another chance, especially for this latest album (in case you missed it, I reviewed it here). The dates are as follows:

September
Mon -21 Seattle, WA @ Neumo’s
Tue- 22 Vancouver, Canada @ The Commodore Ballroom
Thu-24 San Francisco, CA @ The Fillmore
Fri- 25 Los Angeles, CA @ The Avalon
Mon-28 Denver, CO @ The Bluebird Theatre
Wed-30 Minneapolis, MN @ The Varsity Theatre

October
Thu-01 Chicago, IL @ The Metro
Fri- 02 Detroit, MI @ The Majestic Theatre
Sun- 04 Toronto, Canada @ The Phoenix Concert Theatre
Tue- 06 Philadelphia, PA @ World Café Live
Wed- 07 New York City, NY @ Webster Hall
Thu- 08 Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club

All I can say is thank you, James, Nicky and Sean.

All is Vanity – Manic Street Preachers

Yes (Radio 1 Evening Session) – Manic Street Preachers

31
May
09

Mind and Soul Music: TV on the Radio Live at the Burton Cummings Theatre

TV on the Radio Burton cummings

I think I’ve seen more live shows this month than I have in the last eight months. Despite my recent feelings of fatigue and the expectation that Brooklyn-based art rock band TV on the Radio might just be a bit too heady for my tired mind on a Saturday night, I was hugely engrossed with their performance at the Burton Cummings Theatre last night. While the opening act, The Dirty Projectors, seemed to lull me into a glassy-eyed trance with their seemingly endless experimental pieces, which caused my heart feelings of arrhythmia and made me wish I was hearing them on a stereo at home, TV on the Radio are truly a live experience. I’ve been aware of the David Bowie-recommended band for quite some time now, but their music, especially up to last year’s release, Dear Science, can be quite cerebral both musically and lyrically. Dear Science took them into more accessible territory, and perhaps that’s why they finally made it out to Winnipeg. Sometimes musical complexity can lead to a self-indulgent jam session that might be better left to crunch through with headphones, but TV on the Radio proved that they can both groove and rock. I’m not sure if it was my particular vantage point on the first balcony or not, but the acoustics seemed a bit muddy and vocals were difficult to make out, however, I still felt the power and interweaving precision of TV on the Radio’s music through the incredible rhythms bouncing through the theatre. The underlying groove to their mechanistic time-keeping kept the mathematic angularity grounded to an earthier, human pulse.

They opened the show with the unlikely choice of Wash the Day, a slower, fuzzed-out piece of soul. The entire set kept the crowd moving to those intricate beats, including The Wrong Way, Blues From Down Here, Halfway Home, Golden Age, Wolf Like Me, Playhouses, Let the Devil In, Dancing Choose, Golden Age, Crying, Red Dress, Shout Me Out, Young Liars and DLZ. Singer, Tunde Adebimpe, is a fantastic performer in that he embodies the music he’s a part of; his arm surfed the sonic waves in a loose fluidity, sometimes whipping away from his torso and flinging any percussion instrument with it, and his feet seemed to hover above the stage in perpetual motion, shunting him back and forth. The icy circuitry of electronics and fuzz paired with the freewheeling funk and soul to create a show to send paroxysms through the audience and practically tear the head off any head-bopping hipster attempting to keep up with it. The encore saw some members of The Dirty Projectors come out and participate in percussion during A Method, and it featured one of my favourite songs off Dear Science, Family Tree. The night ended with Staring at the Sun, which cauterized the memory of the whole performance with the searing energy of an overheated planet and a circuitboard meltdown.

TV on the Radio proved that they are just as dynamic and viable live as they are on their records. They may use technology and technique to blow your mind, but they also produce art to nourish your soul. And my mind and soul were duly taken care of last night.

NOTE: Once again, I had to defer to Winnipeg music blog Painting Over Silence for the above photo.

Golden Age – TV on the Radio

Playhouses – TV on the Radio




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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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You must let her go

She's not crying

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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