April 30, 2004

right at this very minute beat “Ch-Check It Out”? It reeks of Summer stereos and Hip-Hop that you can smile whilst listening to.

Scott McKeating | 12:35 pm | Comments (6)

April 27, 2004

I find it slightly unsettling that with all the characters in all the movies I have seen, none has a taste in music more closely related to my own than Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs. In the precious few moments the viewer has with Bill in his basement, he is treated to nothing but the highest ’80s quality.

The absolute first song is unintelligible, but sounds like either the Cure or the Smiths (although neither band appears on IMDB’s track listing), either way I’m sold. The follow-up, however, is as unmistakable as the scene it accompanies. Bill puts on his woman suit, and then puts on “Goodbye Horses”. The only song released by German pop one-offers Q Lazzarus is an absolutely great piece of synth pop. The lead singer’s deep voice is haunting and unforgettable (I thought she was a man until further research). The final song unleashed upon the audience is “Hip Priest”, from my favorite era of the Fall. Perfect frantic music to disorient an FBI agent. . .”Hip Hip HIP HIP”. So there you have it, 3 for 3, and if that weren’t enough, he tried to kill some dumbass girl from Tennessee who was blasting Tom Petty! I mean, can Buffalo Bill do no wrong?

Now does this mean I have about T-minus 13 years before I go crazy and start skinning people because I can’t get a sex change? Let’s hope not.

Kevin Worrall | 11:03 pm | Comments (2)

Trap Muzik is an album about “The Trap” – a literal location where the dealers deal, where the crackheads seek crack and where T.I. “makes a million” – and it is also a metaphorical concept, a psychological prison of limited opportunity. The Trap is the world to a dealer, the beginning and end of life for a young man with no future. The Trap is possibility, money, drugs, and ultimately death or imprisonment – an idea which takes on added resonance with T.I.’s recent sentence.

It’s really quite unfortunate that T.I.’s been sentenced to three years because Trap Muzik has become one of my favorite albums of 2003 – 16 tracks, nearly 70 minutes, but a surprisingly consistent album of funky southern hip-hop. Although David Banner, Kanye West and Jazze Pha show up for several joints, this album is really rooted in the vibrato-ringing organ and twanging-guitar sound of southern legends like UGK and Southernplayalistic-era Outkast. T.I.’s voice has this slurred, accented charisma that holds the album together; his lyrics are on point throughout. “Rubber Band Man,” as everyone probably realizes by now, is a brilliant David Banner-produced pop single – the horns, the children singing, and T.I.’s chorus - “Rubba Band Man, wile like the Taliban!” I love his accent! Southern comfort. “24s” is pretty cool, some aggressive crunk shit, although I often find it hilarious when rappers brag about how they buy clothes – not specific clothes, just sort of generally, “Cars and clothes.” (Like when the Big Tymers discussed how their cars had “head rests.” My mom’s volvo has head rests too.) Anyway, “Doin’ My Job” has some great sax-driven Kanye production, and T.I.’s voice molds perfectly around the beat – “we ain’t out here threatenin’ your lives, rapin’ your children/ we just out here stayin’ alive, makin’ a million.” His voice on this track is comforting, and on “I Still Luv You” it’s filled with empathic pangs of regret and inner-strength – “You prolly never knew, cuz hey I never said it/ But pops I’m jus like you, I’m stubborn and I’m hard-headed/ But now yer dead in the ground, don’t need me tellin’ you now, but all I wanted was for you to be proud.”

The last three songs in particular stick with me – there are no superstar producers on these tracks, just some funky guitar-and-organ meat-and-potatoes soul. “Kingofdasouth” comes up first, and T.I. claims his place on top with a laconic verse - “I’ll set the city on fire and you SEEN that shit.” And you believe him. “I’m the best thang left blowing breath on the mic.” Hot.

This is followed by the uplifting redemption of “Be Better than Me,” a “do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do” track that is wonderfully motivating – “shorty them streets ain’t the place to be/ I’m telling you cuz its too late for me / …So be BETTER than me!” “And don’t be buyin’ none of that bullshit that they sellin’ you shorty!” “Don’t be listenin’ to them dope boys in the trap.” And with this exclaimation, T.I. rejects the trap. He warns his charges to escape – there is no hope for them in the literal and psychological dead end dealing blow. “Cuz shorty its too late for me” – ominous words for a man on the verge of blowing up in hip-hop only to find himself imprisoned.

The final song on the album is the existential day-in-the-life drama of “Long Live Da Game.” It begins with the opening squeal of an organ, and mere seconds later T.I. rips through the track; his voice speeds up and slows down along with the pace of the song. He is driven by pure adrenaline, slows down to rest, increases his speed as the tension builds - and he arrives in the Trap intent on selling his product, only to find it “swarming with cops.” With a swift, echoing shot, the song ends abruptly. There is no hope for the future generations as on “Be Better than Me.” T.I. meets his own end in the Trap, a metaphorical end that unfortunately took on real-life connotations with his recent arrest.

But hey, they signed Shyne for a couple mil, and he’s in the clink til 2010. So there’s always hope. Trap Muzik is a truly beautiful album.

David Drake | 3:00 am | Comments (3)

April 25, 2004

Not since I discovered the Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights” have I been this addicted to a song so far from perfection. Like “Such Great Heights”, “Don’t Say No” suffers from extremely trite lyrics — beginning with the lines “I used to say, “just follow your heart” / But my heart always led me in circles / I used to say, “just follow your dreams” / But my dreams always led me to murder” — but what it lacks in lyrical grace, it makes up for with the most compelling goth/electronic/folk arrangement of the year.

A simple guitar melody opens “Don’t Say No”, then a dark 4/4 beat transforms it into Depeche Mode-style dance, before “Where Is My Mind?”-esque vocals enter, the electronics become more complex, accordions join in, and the song enters distinct Patrick Wolf territory: urgent, unique, and stunning. Awkward lines like “If you’re brave enough you’ll just let it happen / If you’re brave enough you’ll just succumb” are soon redeemed by the commanding chorus of “Don’t say no to it / (Can’t say no to it)” and the listener is hooked.

Patrick Wolf is not the genius his press releases glorify him as — his romantic tales of escape, solitude, and lycanthropy (the title of his first full-length, which roughly means “the process of transforming from man to wolf”) are often ridden with cliché — but he is a unique voice, joining his Irish blend of folk with a mix of 80s-style dance music and current laptop electronica to magnificent effect. “Don’t Say No” merely suggests what Wolf has to offer.

Kareem Estefan | 12:06 pm | Comments (2)

And so, 7 years on, and the man himself returns. What he returns with is curious: commentary on the political/social status of the UK; our national identity, national pride (or lack of it) and the relationship between modern day politics and the politics of the 17th Century. Nothing curious about that, you might think (and you’d be right), Moz has been treating us to his staunch views on this stuff since “Still Ill”, from the first Smiths record.

What I find most bizarre is Morrissey’s Englishness. Here he is, passing comment on a country he hasn’t lived in for years: Arthur Scargill representing the hopeless miners of Barnsley from his Communist mansion in the sky, trading his C&A suit for one bought with the money of his supporters - you have to look like the big boys before you can talk to them, you know.

I guess it’s admirable, and typically quirky of Morrissey, to have maintained that same well-pronounced accent, the one he stole from the landed gentry and took all the way back to Ancoates all those years ago. You’d think he’d have developed that LA twang (Robbie Williams is slowly getting his, and I’m sure Tim Burgess will follow), but no, Morrissey retains at least some Englishness and as such this is his cultural passport, the one that gains him access to recording studios to make records like this.

And quite a record it is. Sure, spitting in the face of Oliver Cromwell, denouncing Labour and Conservative alike and urging people to reclaim the Union Flag is all in a day’s work for our Steve, but never before with this much vigour. Sounding dangerously hard-rock, for a stocky, greying man in his 40s, he’s certainly saying something.

To me his refusal to accept England’s two major political parties strikes a note, and maybe this really is the “time” that Morrissey swears he’s been dreaming about - maybe we will abandon them. Having just turned 18 myself, I sure as hell don’t know who I support, I don’t trust that Blair’s even healthy enough to do his job anymore, and I certainly don’t trust Michael For-The-Fourteenth-Time-Please-Answer-The-Question-Mr-Howard Howard.

Has Morrissey chosen to say all this, at this time, for my benefit? Almost certainly not. But he always had a habit of saying what other people were thinking, didn’t he? He was never a voice for everyone, speaking on everybody’s behalf, sure, but I think “Irish Blood, English Heart” and the album that follows could well restore him back to his former glory. Ad if it does, I’d like to be there to congratulate him.

Welcome back, Spokesman for the Disaffected.

Colin Cooper | 6:10 am | Comments (3)

I just saw Terry Gilliam’s Brazil for the first time tonight. I am having the hardest time wrapping my head around it in terms of forming an opinion. First off, whoever the fuck says anything about its darkly comedic elements being like Dr. Strangelove is flat wrong. Brazil’s humor falls largely into the category of, “Oh wow, how much Bureaucracy can poor Sam get mixed up in?!?” As a result, I found the comedic parts repetitive and predictable mostly. That said, DeNiro’s character (approximate screentime 10 minutes) and performance was top notch and definitely funny.

I liked some aspects of the film, it was thought-provoking and put a rather interesting spin on the dystopian material I scarfed so hungrily in high school. I guess I’m just trying to come to grips with people calling it a classic. As I said it’s thought-provoking but anything with as many disparate elements of fantasy and reality flying off the screen prompts one to use the ol’ noggin just to figure out what the fuck is happening. And then comes the tiresome (because the direction was purposefully muddled in this respect) debate, “is it happening in reality or in his head. . .or maybe the whole thing is in his head!” I welcome a little ambiguity, but if discussions like that and a bleak vision of the future is what makes Brazil crack IMDB’s top 200, I guess I didn’t miss the boat. I don’t mean to bash, because Brazil isn’t a terrible film, but based on shared opinions (with other people on other films) I was supposed to love this movie. I’m just trying to understand where the disconnect occurred.

Kevin Worrall | 5:29 am | Comments (10)

April 19, 2004

Why did no-one tell me that the video for “Bat Out Of Hell” is complete cinematic genius? I saw it this evening as part of BBC2’s exciting ‘let’s continue to make Top of the Pops look rather bad’ campaign (ie; Top of the Pops 2) and was, frankly, stunned.

At first I wondered if Dave Vanian had been at the pies (ho ho, do you see? because Meatloaf is fat!) but was fairly swiftly distracted by the noticeably horrendous tape quality. You know how desperately worn out the Star Trek theme tune sounds these days? “Nuuurrh… nuh… nuuurrrgghh nurrggh nuh.. nuhh nuuuhhh NNUUUH”, it goes. Err… well, like that. Unless they were just using some kind of amazing tremolo piano for the shoot, of course. In which case I retract all my comments. Except for the impression of the Star Trek theme–I’m quite proud of that. Sadly.

Anyway, yes. The sound is wobbling all over the place, the sub-Thunderbirds set on the ‘outside’ cuts is wobbling all over the place, Meatloaf is wobbling all over the place (ha ha, because he’s a big fat fatty you see! oh god, I’m so clever) and I’m starting to wonder if I can risk switching over to Channel 4 without catching a glimpse of “REALITY SHOW X: MORE IDIOTS TALK ABOUT NOTHING. FOREVER. UNTIL YOU DIE.”

I can’t, of course.

Gradually though, it starts to win me over. There’s something about the way Meatloaf is waving his red hankie around the place like a gigantic fop (literally gigantic, because he’s such a blob! am I right?!) and something about the way in which the mysterious woman in all-over white lycra slowly grows visibly concerned by Meat’s increasingly manic antics as the track progresses. Something, even, in the way the track gamely manages to continue for fully nine hours.

So I salute you, “Bat Out Of Hell” video director person. I salute you for listening to the song and thinking “Hmm.. I think we can best depict this by sticking the band in a shed and having some bloke scoot past it a few times on a motorbike”, I salute the props department for bravely spending an afternoon churning out some headstones with nothing more than a few sheets of cardboard and some magic markers, and I salute Meatloaf for giving an epic, larger than life performance (not much larger though, or he’d crush the band.. eh, EH? oh fine, fuck off).

Wait, wait… I’ve thought of a great one! “Fat Out Of Hell”!

Oh heavens, my sides.


Peter Parrish | 6:47 pm | Comments (1)

The marketing of this film was inspired timing; it would’ve never got a quarter of the interest if not for being released a few weeks after the UK got to see the Dawn of the Dead remake. Horror movies are now being assailed by instant parody. even the total genius of Simon Pegg’s Spaced TV series didn’t make him a household name.

Mildly amusing with enough laugh out loud moments and lines to repeat all day to people at work which they do not find funny at all, but a times it hovered dodgily between black comedy and farce. More Bad Taste offal moments of gore would’ve been appreciated.

The most interesting scene to me, a musical fanatic, was when Shaun and Ed were discussing which piece of vinyl to use as anti-Zombie throwing star. I actually let out an audible “Oh No!” as he revealed the floppy disc sleeve of the recently smashed “Blue Monday”.

Scott McKeating | 12:34 pm | Comments (2)

April 18, 2004

As incredibly flawed as A Grand Don’t Come for Free is, the last track on the album (the secret alternate resolution song) made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

Am I a big softy? Did I get sucked so far into the concept LP’s story even though it was rubbish?

Scott McKeating | 9:02 am | Comments (1)

BBC Radio Devon (god save me from this godforesaken little patch of land that sticks into the sea and that I love so much APART FROM THE BLOODY PEOPLE) recently polled thier listeners via the internet (I know, crazy huh, that all these people who are waiting to die have net connections?!) to find out “Devon’s Top 50 Albums” which is a bit like asking for “Alaska’s Favourite Pig Farms” or “Zimbabwe’s Favourite Dry Ski Slopes” only MORE INSANE.

Anyway, I can’t actually bring myself to say anything about the contents, but here’s the list anyway…

1 Simon & Garfunkel Bridge Over Troubled Water
2 Dire Straits Brothers In Arms
3 Meatloaf Bat Out Of Hell
4 Pink Floyd Dark Side Of The Moon
5 Beatles Sergeant Pepper
6 Abba Gold
7 Fleetwood Mac Rumours
8 Queen Greatest Hits
9 Eva Cassidy Songbird
10 Eagles Hotel California

11 Carole King Tapestry
12 Queen A Night At The Opera
13 Norah Jones Come Away With Me
14 Paul Simon Graceland
15 Jeff Wayne War Of The Worlds
16 Beatles Abbey Road
17 Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here
18 Elvis Presley Golden Records Vol 3
19 Michael Jackson Thriller
20 Simply Red Stars

21 Beatles Hard Day’s Night
22 Show Of Hands Country Life
23 Elton John Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
24 Beach Boys Pet Sounds
25 Coldplay Parachutes
26 Jimi Hendrix Electric Ladyland
27 Beatles Revolver
28 Pink Floyd The Wall
29 Elvis Presley Blue Hawaii
30 U2 Joshua Tree

31 Frank Sinatra Songs For Swinging Lovers
32 Eagles The Very Best Of
33 Blondie Parallel Lines
34 Dido No Angel
35 Peter Gabriel So
36 Neil Diamond Hot August Night
37 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin IV
38 Fleetwood Mac Tango In The Night
39 Supertramp Breakfast In America
40 Robbie Williams Escapology

41 Rod Stewart Every Picture Tells A Story
42 Carpenters The Singles 1969-73
43 Dire Straits Love Over Gold
44 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin II
45 Mike Oldfield Tubular Bells
46 Robbie Williams Swing When You’re Winning
47 Enya Paint The Sky With Stars
48 Bob Dylan Bringing It All Back Home
49 REM Automatic For The People
50 John Denver Rocky Mountain High

Who the fuck are Show Of Hands??!!


Nick Southall | 5:42 am | Comments (3)

April 16, 2004

I was digging through my albums the other day and I noticed the eclipse-of-the-sun cityscape album cover for Primal Scream’s Vanishing Point. I hadn’t listened to it for a while. I remember calling my local record store a couple of years ago and asking about. The clerk said, “Yeah, we’ve got a used copy. That’s the one nobody wants.” Literally. I still don’t know whaddafuc he was talking about. Long considered one of their also-ran albums next to Screamadelica and XTRMNTR, I think it gets roughed up unnecessarily. There’s more here than just “Trainspotting,” though admittedly that is the landmark of the album. Between the bouncy opener “Burning Wheel” and the nails-on-the-blackboard of “Kowalski,” it keeps moving without getting too rough or caustic. Sure, I can do without “Medication,” but to finish off with two straight tracks as compelling as “Trainspotting” and “Long Life,” for my money, it’s more interesting than XTRMNTR. It lacks all of the keyword cache of the other albums, but it’ll always manage just fine in my own private circulation.

Derek Miller | 2:35 pm | Comments (14)

April 15, 2004

(part 6 of a series that’s starting to settle into a nice regular pattern now)

CAST - Beat Mama

Ah, Cast. When people go a-binting about how shit Britpop was, there is usually the concession that so-and-so had the odd decent tune. Not with Cast, though. The endless ’sad bits in football’ montages that have featured John Power bleating “Gorreh wauk away, wauuk away, wauuuk awayyy… thass what they say-eee what they say-eee what they say-eee…” have done rather a lot of damage to most people’s opinion of them, not that those opinions tended to be favourable in the first place. You never even hear ‘Walkaway’ (two separate words, is that too much to ask?) on those montages anymore, cos now we have Coldplay’s songs that have pianos on.

This might be the bit where you’d expect me to say I actually really like Cast. Thing is, though, I don’t. The Liverpewl accent has never, ever sounded quite so dreadful as when it comes out of John Power’s mouth. Never, never, never. Then, dear lord, there’s the songs. At the height of their fame, Cast had six top ten hits in a row. These were (gracias a Everyhit):

8 Sandstorm Jan 1996
9 Walkaway Mar 1996
4 Flying Oct 1996
7 Free Me Apr 1997
9 Guiding Star Jun 1997
7 Live The Dream Sep 1997

All of these songs are godawful mawkish hippy-dippy bull-SHIT (I am aware that they turn the guitars up on Sandstorm and Free Me – THIS CHANGES NOTHING) wherein Power’s mewl expresses sentiments along the lines of “You’ve got to flah-hahh, you need to flah-hahh” and “Somebody’s after me, I can’t pretend to be, something I know I’m not.” To be fair to the rest of Cast, they might have been OK had they not had Power as a singer. Unfortunately, they did, so they were bloody dreadful…

… except, yes, for ‘Beat Mama’. ‘Beat Mama’ is not just better than every other Cast song ever, it’s actually quite good on its own. Cast, for no apparent reason, decided to put out a song that was actually a bit light, dear lord, maybe even a bit fun. The central riff sounds like a slightly dodgy ice-cream van in a slightly dodgy seaside town – definitely ‘seaside town’, by the way, not ‘beach resort’, in case you’re in any confusion. When the sun is out, it just sounds bloody wonderful, this irritatingly perky “De-nee-der-nee-derneeder!” jangling about from around 1974 or sometime around then. Someone decides to make John Power’s vocals sound like they’ve been lifted off some old vinyl too, and he doesn’t sound that much like he usually does either – I mean, obviously it’s still John Power singing and so on and so forth, but somehow he’s a lot less irritating than usual.

Then the chorus, wherein Power gets swamped entirely by the rest of the band yelling his pseudo-mystic ‘Toploader belongs to me’-isms along with him. You wonder why Cast never thought of this before, because their lyrics are far less irritating when sung/yelled this way. In fact, they’re really very catchy indeed. “JUST! TURN IT ON! TURN IT ON DON’T TURN IT DOWN! AND YOU WANT! TO BELONG! TO BELONG FOR HIGHER GROUND! DO YOU BELONG FROM HIGHER GROUND! DO YOU BELONG FOR HIGHER GROUND!” They’re still not any good, but coupled with the whole song’s general chirpiness, they work fantastically.

I saw Cast do this live on the telly once. The chorus was stripped of the yelling, with just Power singing it. It sounded fucking awful. ‘Beat Mama’ would be their last dalliance with the top 10 (#9, May 1999). Their next single sounded like Starsailor and ended up at #28. Then, after attempting a ‘new more dance-influenced direction’ which made no impression on the charts at all, Cast fucked off for good. After ‘Beat Mama’, it’s the second best thing they ever did.

William B. Swygart | 10:10 am | Comments (2)

April 12, 2004

So much of my listening habits these days start at the computer, with Soulseek or sample mp3s on websites, that I forget what a magical place the record store can sometimes be. The one I frequent, Music In Orbit, is small and doesn’t have the greatest selection, but the guy who runs it will order anything for you if you’ve shown you’ll buy it and most of my purchases are made there. Like all music stores, good or bad, there’s always something playing when you go in.

Last time I was there, this song was playing. I was so intoxicated, listening to it rattle around the nearly empty store, that I bought the album immediately. It was one of those quasi-stereotypical moments, the listener at first affecting a level of cool appraisal, nodding head appreciatively. Eventually it’s too much and they invariably gravitate to the counter to ask what’s playing. I’d heard of The Unintended before a “supergroup”(?) consisting of Rick White from Eric’s Trip and Elevator, Greg Keelor from Blue Rodeo and some of the guys from the Sadies, and so I bought it.

The record as a whole I’m still making my mind up about, but this song is a beauty, sinuous and smoky, White’s quasi-whispered vocals brushing up against the foggy background. But unlike most of the songs here there’s bunched muscles underneath, propelling the whole thing forward. The band ably handles the de rigeur section where everything goes chaotic for a while just so it can all come back together, and I could listen to “So Long Goodbye” on repeat for quite a while.

But, of course, it’s never quite sounded as good as it did in the store.

Ian Mathers | 9:41 pm | Comments Off

April 11, 2004

No one would have believed, in the first few years of the 21th century, that gig goers in Newcastle Upon Tyne were being watched from the land of Shaolin, otherwise known as Staten Island.

No one could have dreamed that we were being scrutinized by members of the Wu (GZA and Masta Kill)a as someone with a microscope studies creatures that swarm and multiply around pints of cider. Few men even considered the possibility that they would come to play a show at Newcastle University Union on 11 May 2004 19:30.

And yet, across the gulf of space, minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded this place with reddened sleepy eyes, and slowly and surely, they drew their plans to totally rock the crowd.

I got my tickets.

Scott McKeating | 3:37 pm | Comments Off

A few weeks ago I was honored to be invited to a magazine launch party. Normally I shun these types of industy-esque type events, but in this case the magazine in question features Stylus writers and contributions from the site. Most notably, Nick Southall gets a shout-out in the table of contents for his takes on M83, Four Tet and Manitoba on the inside of the magazine. Other contributors included Gavin Mueller (Dizzee Rascal), Olav Bjortomt (Arab Strap), Clem Bastow (Warren Zevon), Lisa Oliver and Todd Hutlock (Top Ten Artists to Namedrop).

Measure Magazine impetus is described by its editor, Ben French, as such: “I basically wanted Measure to help nurture that same musical zeal I see through NATN’s small collective of outspoken enthusiasts. I hoped that by connecting a number of NATN-minded publications to one another for solidarity’s sake we might be able to bring some new blood, show folks there are other magazines to buy, other sites to visit, and most importantly, other bands to discuss.”

Something on the order of 20-30 publications contributed to this compendium of music writing and it features some rather fascinating interviews, features and reviews that I would’ve never gotten the chance to get to otherwise. What I was perhaps most amazed at, though, was the way the magazine was put together. It’s organized as a hefty zine with numerous pictures and stunning design. Ben and his designers did a great job with this essential aspect, especially since many of the items weren’t written to conform to word-lengths.

Copies should be available at large record stores in major cities (Reckless, Other, Amoeba, Sonic) and online at insound.com.

Todd Burns | 7:45 am | Comments (1)

April 9, 2004

So, yeah, I’ll be up front about it. I’m the jagoff who paid over $30 including shipping to lay my hands on this thing, and I was drooling to have it. Ten tracks, including one previously available remix by Four Tet which is really the rallying point of my yelps and squeals this morning. I can put up with the fact that several tracks are simply live tracks of HTTT-era songs and earlier, and the fact that Fog (Again) removes the stuttering percussion and twisted atmospherics I liked so much from the version available on the Knives Out single. I can handle the naggingly mediocre Los Angeles version of I Will (what is it about that town that sucks the blood from the lives of outsiders?). What really pisses me off is the audacity to forcefeed clearly helpless fans such as myself with the noxious, screaming static on Four Tet’s Scatterbrain remix. It only happens four times total, but each repetition carves out your eardrums and leaves a hollow ringing inside. For the dear price clearly paid by fans far outside Japan (and here’s to betting the Japanese may not pay the lion’s share of the booty for this album’s take), could this not have been rereleased at a later date, with corrections made? I wanted to hear this, indeed needed to, but I could have waited. I’m sure we all could have, considering the availability of most of this material anyways. For shame, and a pox on all your houses, dearest Radiohead!

Derek Miller | 9:38 am | Comments (3)

April 7, 2004

(part 5 of a suddenly not-so-occasional series)


Mark & Lard did their last show on Radio 1 a couple of weeks ago. This was the second song they played. I was beaming from ear to ear through every second of it. Cos, y’see, I was there (well, listening anyway) when they played it for the first time, too…

A-Level English Language Conference, Friends’ Meeting House, Euston, London, England, sometime in early 2000. Probably February. It was a Monday, I can remember that much. Our school’s group decided to get back a bit late from lunch, because the lecture after lunch had bugger all to do with what we were studying (something about creating believable characters for crime novels. Fuck that). We get back while the lecture’s still going on and are sat outside being ordered not to talk. As such, I put my earphones in and listen to Mark & Lard for a bit. They announce that their new Record Of The Week is ‘The Facts Of Life’ by Black Box Recorder.

My previous knowledge of BBR was sketchy. I had half-remembered reading about them being the alter-ego of a miserable git called Luke, and they had a song called ‘Child Psychology (Life Is Unfair, Kill Yourself Or Get Over It)’. For some reason I used to think it was Luke Sutherland out of Long Fin Killie and Bows as opposed to Luke “Pleased To Meet You Mr” Haines. They were a band that were always described as being ‘depressing’ and ’scary’, and as such I tended to stay away from them, due to the fact that I really don’t like being scared very much. I probably thought they were like The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown or someone.

Anyway, they played it… and I spent the next three and a bit minutes creasing up while trying to stay silent for fear of getting castigated by terrifying Quaker meeting house security men.

The genius of ‘The Facts Of Life’ lies in how it takes on the UK pop-soul ‘temptresses’ at their own game, subverts them, and then knocks them for six. The message at the heart of the song - “You are a teenager. You’ve never had any. You aren’t getting any. And you never will.” The joy of that first time was hearing this smooth, All Saints-style swingbeat-lite poppy number not telling you the many ways in which it is going to sex you this evening, or how great it thinks you are at sexing it, but rather:

When boys are just eleven
They begin to grow in height
At a faster rate than they have done before
They develop curiosity
And start to fantasise
About the things they’ve never thought of doing before
These dreams are no more harmful than
The usual thoughts that boys have
Of becoming football stars or millionaires
As long as the distinction between fantasy and fiction remains
It’s just a nature walk

It’s just the facts of life
There’s no master plan
Walk me home from school
I’ll let you hold my hand
You’re getting ideas
And when you sleep at night
They develop into sweet dreams
It’s just the facts of life

A boy sits by the telephone
Wanting to call a girl
But not daring to because she might say no
At last he summons up the courage
Phones her and discovers
Someone else has asked her first and she said yes
Now’s time to deal with the fear of being rejected
No-one gets through life without being hurt
At this point the boy who’s listening to this song
Is probably saying it’s easier said than done and it’s true

It’s just the facts of life
There’s no master plan
Walk me home from school
I’ll let you hold my hand
You’re getting ideas
And when you sleep at night
They develop into sweet dreams
It’s just the facts of life…

Why do edited highlights when you’ve got that, hmm? (I’m aware the third verse is missing, though. That’s cos it wasn’t in the radio edit…)

Anyway – lyrics and production two parts. Third – Sarah Nixey. Sarah… Nixey. See, if Luke Haines were singing this song, it would just sound fucked. Ditto for John Moore. No, songs about how puberty screws y’up but-you-may-get-over-it-one-day require a woman’s touch, and that woman is Sarah Nixey. I really ought to tread quite carefully here, cos whenever I write about Black Box Recorder it usually just turns into an elegy on how pretty she is. Well, maybe elegy’s overstating it. She is pretty though.

But she’s one of very few people that could get the Black Box Recorder canon right on, which she does here. Her voice is near monotone, but with enough flicks and fluctuations in it to set off the shivers. Is she cold? Is she warm? Dunno. But it hurt, somehow, hurt beautifully.

Those early months of the year 2000, presumably March & April, were commandeered by BBR. I can remember nearly skipping across the road to Brixton tube station on the way to school trying to remember how the chorus went. The mild outrage I felt at Nixey being voted only eighth in Melody Maker’s poll of the sexiest women in rock, behind (and I might have misremembered some of these) Hillary Woods (out of JJ72), Cerys Matthews, Sophia Churney (from Ooberman), Charlotte Hatherley, Justine Frischmann, Shirley Manson, and Mew out of Elastica. (note however that five of the seven were in bands that have since gone south, and the other two are in Ash and Garbage, so, er, hah. No, let’s not bring the question of how many people are aware that BBR are still together into this. No, let’s NOT.) The way I began to think Alexis Petridis’ attempt to relaunch Select magazine was really great if only due to the fact that every month was guaranteed to feature Black Box Recorder in some capacity, whether it be John Moore’s interview with Daphne & Celeste or just another photo of Sarah Nixey included for no better reason than Sarah Nixey frigging rocks

And then – the payoff. April 2000, ‘The Facts Of Life’ enters the UK top 40 at #20. A delirious Mr Swygart decides to tape the moment for posterity. He also decides to do it in a really clever manner, yeah, by taping the version Steve Lamacq played on the Evening Session, resplendent with third verse (“A family car, a disused coalmine, a rowing boat, or a shed”) and then recording the ending off the top 40 version, just so he could get Scott Mills confirming that yes, “it’s a new entry for BLACK-BOX-RECORDER, in at number twenty with THE-FACTS-OF-LIFE”. The following Friday – Black Box Recorder got on Top Of The Pops. The performance was slightly odd, in that it became rather obvious that none of the band bar Nixey had ever planned on getting this far, which resulted in her wearing rather too much eyeliner and Haines & Moore looking like Very Seedy Old Men Indeed. At the end, Luke Haines broke into a fit of giggles.

And then… The follow-up single, ‘The Art Of Driving’, was the first single I ever bought, CD1, featuring ‘The Facts Of Life’ remixed by Jarvis Cocker and Steve Mackey from Pulp and an ultra-gorgeous cover of ‘Rock & Roll Suicide’ recorded for the Evening Session. It didn’t make the top 40. The album went top 40, though, at #39, and it took bloody ages for me to save up enough money to buy it (tip: if you are the world’s worst poker player, do not play poker. Ever). BBR played Glastonbury, and Nixey wore a white PVC catsuit. The BBC decided to show Moby’s performance instead. Jesus probably wept.

Worse was to follow – BBR’s label, Nude Records, went under the following year. Their next album, Passionoia, had been recorded, but suddenly they found themselves plunged unto development hell. It didn’t come out until last year, on One Little Indian (the delightful Mr Murphy’s opinion here), by which time the mainstream’s focus had moved wayyy off them. Their one defender was Alexis Petridis, who by now had managed to run Select into the ground and moved his focus to the music section of The Guardian. He gave it three out of five. The first single, ‘These Are The Things’, got to #91. They then released a second single, ‘The School Song’, which didn’t even make the top 100. My last encounter with Black Box Recorder would have been around this time last year, when they played the Birmingham Academy 2 (like the Birmingham Academy, but smaller and uglier). It was about half-to-three-quarters full. I would go on to write a rambling, wankful review of it for the uni newspaper and comprehensively blot my copybook with more or less anyone who ever knew me there.

And you know what the weird thing is? Somehow, none of that actually matters. Cos they were happy. Sarah Nixey & John Moore fell in love with each other and got married. They had a child. As for Luke Haines, he’s probably still more famous for being the man behind The Auteurs. He’s got his cult following, enough to release his own little ‘Greatest Hits’ record last year (only songs he wrote himself, so no BBR cos they were all co-written with Moore). Everyone loves the miserable old bugger, unless, of course, they hate him.

I interviewed John Moore before the gig in Birmingham. He’s a lovely fellow - said he’d tried listening to Radio 1 to see if they were getting played, but turned off because he couldn’t stand ‘Pain Killer’ by Turin Brakes.

And now, I’ve no idea what they’re up to. BBR were always a band rather lacking in a target audience outside of, er, Alexis Petridis. No website has anything on them after June 2003 (don’t visit the One Little Indian site, it is fugly and has sound files that you can’t turn off). If anyone would care to make a slightly too-obsessive fansite about them, then please do. They really are worth it, y’know.

(N.B. as a starting point, try hunting down the B-Sides collection, The Worst Of Black Box Recorder. The other albums are all very good, but for some reason I like this best. The cover of ‘Rock & Roll Suicide’ really is very special)

William B. Swygart | 12:19 pm | Comments (1)

April 3, 2004

Call me stodgy, but I almost don’t even want to hear the guy. Oh I know he’s a genius. And a fascinating character. And for that matter, I’m sure I’d be sold on him in a second were I to actually hear his music.

But the thing is: after 700 articles, blog posts, reviews and ILM threads on The World of Arthur Russell, I could care less. Enough already.

Matthew Weiner | 1:59 am | Comments (4)

April 2, 2004

This new Prince album is stinkingly bad, the patter I’d heard so far was some sort of creative rebirth?! This is really averagely ugly. Song after song, I recoil like some Hammer Horror damsel from the sheer lack of anything resembling the vital spark that made Prince a bone fide genius.

Listen to “Cinnamon Girl”’s solo, ugh it’s fucking dreadful! The lyrics are actually sniggeringly funny, not just crap. “What do u Want me 2 do?” brings to mind a dog scrabbling in the rain at the back door, paws slapping against the glass, claws sliding up down, as prince tries to desperatly put together the stripped elements that recall the feel of the Sign o the Times days.

Any song containing the line “that’s when I’m going to lay her ‘cross my piano stool and sing to her” (“The Marrying Kind”) needs to be hammered and burnt. And by my beard, I would do it too, had this song not appeared countless times, in slightly different incarnations, across the last 3-4 Prince albums. And the guitar flourishes. Sweet Jesus NO!

D’Angelo!! Wake up and show him how its done.

Scott McKeating | 12:49 pm | Comments (6)

The best thing about Greendale, Neil Young’s concept album recently transformed into an arty feature film, is not the kick ass music (although the tunes do prove that Young continues to be THE man, even while becoming an old man). And it’s not the grainy Super 8 in which the whole deal is shot (although the gritty, jittery look does leave in one’s head a pleasantly off-balanced feeling when all is said and done). And it’s certainly not the earnest, lefty yearnings of our storyteller (although the fact that Young, who is pushing 60, still maintains such a hopeful idealism does inspire).

No. The best thing about Greendale is its depiction of the devil: perhaps the most odd and, I would claim, wonderful image of evil to grace the screen in years. Introduced as Young sings “The Devil’s Sidewalk,” this devil is no more than a very ordinary looking man behaving like a nerd, moving like an awkward teen, and dressed like a clown. And I don’t mean a Stephen King’s It kind of evil clown. I mean faux suave. I mean black pants, black shirt, bright red jacket, a panama hat with red stripe, and even brighter shoes made of, I think, cheap red plastic. He dances and walks like a mime trying to evoke the essence of “strut.” He carries on with the world’s shit-eatingest shit-eating grin. As far as devils go, Greendale’s is at once the least intimidating and most bewildering. Ultimately, I think that’s a good thing.

The devil’s role in the narrative is vague. He chills with a murderer wallowing in jail. He serves as the muse for a harmless middle-aged Winnebago-driving artiste. And I think he incites our young activist hero to move to Alaska. Of course, that last one is a noble pursuit, so I don’t what the devil was thinking there.

The guiding lyrics leave it ambiguous and weird: “when the red light shines/ on the streets of hate/ where the devil dines/ who knows what he ate.” Something spicy, perhaps.

It’s hard to say what Young was going for. Maybe by making the devil intensely average, Young is commenting on the evil present in all of us: heart of darkness, yadda, yadda. Maybe, by dorkifying the devil, Young hopes to defang the myth of evil, and return to us ordinary humans, the ability and obligation to make things right in the world. Sure, the whole shtick shouts “metaphor.” But metaphor for what?

Who knows? Maybe, Young was just hoping for a laugh.

Rob Lott | 12:21 am | Comments (3)

April 1, 2004

So, I saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for the second time Tuesday. I don’t usually do this sort of thing. Given my post-graduate financial slump, that money could be better spent on a night of drinking (among other things). But something about it kept drawing me back.

I remember the first time I saw it I felt a bit depressed afterward (not that bad kind of depression, but a kind of introspective depression that feels oddly therapeutic). I recall feeling about the same after the first time I saw Lost in Translation which, considering my ultra-cynical attitude, I picked apart after the second viewing rendering it useless as a source of catharsis.

I expected the same thing to happen with Eternal Sunshine. I’d find problems with the characters or see how contrived the conversations really were when taken out of context. But miraculously that wasn’t the case. In fact, I actually walked out of it in a really good mood… and then went to drink.

Now, I’m not sure why I had the opposite reaction this time but I have my suspicions. Maybe it was because the first time I saw it, I was fighting (yet again) with an ex-girlfriend and I was on the losing end of that argument (a position, I might add, that I’ve grown accustomed to). Regardless, seeing it again made me realize the futility of those actions. As sappy as it sounds, I learned something from the movie which I probably should’ve known already. I’m not going to bore you with the details because 1.) I don’t know any of you personally and it would be quite foolish of me to reveal private stuff here and 2.) I really hate it when people discuss long-winded personal problems with me, so I would never think to subject anyone to the same (believe me, i’ve sat through enough of them, I know that disinterested look far too well).

Anyway, I seem to have strayed from my initial topic which I don’t really recall anymore. I guess I was just sharing with you all the effect this film had and to urge anyone who hasn’t seen it yet to see it as soon as possible. I know that kind of recommendation usually ruins the movie since it sets unreasonable expectations, but humor me and pretend you enjoyed it.

The only complaint here is that the ELO song Mr. Blue Sky featured so prominently in the trailer is absent from the film. Not that that matters really, but Out of the Blue is a totally underrated album!

Dave Micevic | 7:31 pm | Comments Off

Take four measures of good russian vodka and macerate with a handful of fresh mint leaves at the bottom of a coctail shaker. Add two tablespoons of honey, the juice of a fresh lemon, and enough ice to give the jitters to those scientists monitoring the polar caps.




Good? Aye, you bet. Now, another recipe:

Pre-heat your speakers to mark 11. Gently remove the hard, black innards of a Swervedriver’s virgin album, ‘Raise’, discarding the thin paper outer. Place the congealed vinyl mass onto a round platter, gently rotating all the while at 33.3 rpm. Taking due care not to spoil the vinyl, gently apply a pre-boiled needle to the outermost groove; if unsure, ask your record-shop technician to prepare it for you. If you’ve got things right, you’ll be greeted with a satisfying crackle of static - don’t worry, this is a mark of organically-farmed rock.

Sit back.



Good? Does the Pope have Parkinson’s?

Dave McGonigle | 6:00 pm | Comments (1)

Current Listening / Watching / Reading

Stewart Voegtlin
WOLFMANGLER, Protected by the Ejaculations of Wolves [Split CD w/ M0SS]
NEGATIVE PLANE, Et in Saecula Saeculorum
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Theon Weber
The Hold Steady - Seperation Sunday
Annuals - Be He Me
Talking Heads - More Songs About Buildings and Food

Ethan White
Bruce Nauman - Raw Materials
Ennio Morricone - The Red Tent OST
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Bryan Berge
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The Chap - Ham
V/A - Trap Door is an International Psychedelic Mystery Mix

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Brand New - Deja Entendu

Justin Cober-Lake
Stevie Wonder - Music of My Mind
Keith Moon - Two Sides of the Moon
Allen Toussaint - Life, Love and Faith

Ian Cohen
Maritime- We, The Vehicles
Mannie Fresh- The Mind Of Mannie Fresh
Lupe Fiasco- Food And Liquor

Elizabeth Colville
Magnetic Fields - Get Lost
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John Vanderslice - Pixel Revolt

Iain Forrester
The Dresden Dolls - Yes, Virginia...
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The Knife - Deep Cuts

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Andrew Iliff
Thom Yorke - The Eraser
Mr Lif - Mo' Mega
Tricky - Live at Leeds Town and Country

Thomas Inskeep
Cameo - The 12" Collection and More
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Panic! at the Disco - A Fever You Can't Sweat Out

Josh Love
Cassie - Me & U
Paris Hilton - Paris
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Evan McGarvey
Juvenile - Tha G-Code
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Ian Mathers
Muslimgauze - Lo Fi India Abuse
The Cure - The Head On The Door
The Wedding Present - Seamonsters

Sandro Matosevic
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Kashmere Stage Band - Texas Thunder Soul

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The Auteurs - How I Learned To Love The Bootboys
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Mike Orme
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Peter Parrish
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Mike Powell
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Tahiti 80 - Fosbury
Portastatic - I Hope Your Heart is Not Brittle
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Nick Southall
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Tal Rosenberg
Arrested Development Season 2
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Arthur Ryel-Lindsey
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Brad Shoup
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Alfred Soto
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Ethan White
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Elizabeth Colville
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Sherman's March


Elizabeth Colville
Swann's Way - Marcel Proust
The New Yorker, Sept 18, 2006
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Fanny, Edmund White
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Josh Love
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Ron Mashate
Samuel Beckett - Murphy
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Thomas Pynchon - V.

Derek Miller
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Jay Millikan
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Mallory O'Donnell
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Simon Frith - Music For Pleasure
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Peter Parrish
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