Friday, 31 August 2007

'97 mentality

There's a prunes-based joke to be made here


Exhibit L

More half-crazy, half-brilliant ranting from KRS One, over at the Megatron Don.

As well as contradicting himself in every other sentence, in his usual, passionate, entertaining way, KRS gives his take on the '97 mentality. Back in '87, he says, 1977 was the golden age. In '97, everybody loved rap from 1987. Today, 1997 is considered hip hop's last great year.

But wait (he continues)! London has crack, guns and bling - it's recreating 1997! Europe has b-boys, graffiti and lyricists - they're recreating 1987! Africa is putting out groundbreaking stuff, like in 1977!

All of which begs the question: by Malcolm Maclaren's theory, years ending -7 bring with them musical revolutions - post-war pop boom in '47, rock'n'roll taking off in '57, the summer of love in '67, punk in '77, acid house in '87. in 1997 the world changed again: epoch-making releases include limp bizkit's 3 dollar bill y'all, insane clown posse's great milenko, and this.

so, is 2007 the dawning of a new age? having listened to kanye west's graduation, dallas penn thinks so. perhaps - it's a pretty great pop record. but when did daft punk, whose influence is all over it, release their debut album? 1997.

More gems from KRS - try to keep up:

"i am very impressed with hip hop today. it's moving forward. it's better than it's ever been"

"hip hop has had its day, it's going to taper off"

"for my kids, the Disney channel is their hip hop"

"hip hop is America's foreign policy"

"classic rock was once the hip hop of this country"

"hip hop is becoming American classical music"

"the whole music industry is over: death to the music industry, and I'm with it. I carved the RIAA's tombstone back in the 80s"

"even Floridians don't get in the pool"

"the crew of the Queen Mary is all hip hop"

Previously on '97 mentality
reviews KRS One live in Oxford


yup, forgot one.

charlie louvin (feat. will oldham) - 'knoxville girl'
(from Charlie Louvin)

Buy Charlie Louvin

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Will Oldham antics round-up

Once upon a time, keeping up with multiple-monikered beard-wearing folk behemoth Will Oldham meant paying over the odds for 7”s at the record fair, occasionally checking the Royal Stable, and hoping he’d put out another Lost Blues comp to make things simpler. But this is 2007, and Will's on a mission to become known as the alt-country Lil' Wayne, so you need Google Reader and shit. I bet you’re glad GMS is here to make things easier though?

Will dances on a tractor to Kanye West! But you already knew about that.

Will covers Mariah Carey! This is "bad music", I'm told.

Will collaborates with Mark Lanegan, covering Neil Young on the Soulsavers record! This scores highly in Top Trumps. No sign of Greg Dulli, though.

Soulsavers (feat. Mark Lanegan & Will Oldham) - 'Through My Sails' (Neil Young cover)

Will (who's previously covered 'Ignition') acts alongside R Kelly in chapter 15 of Trapped In The Closet!

We already know Will’s been bothering Jeffrey Lewis.

Will also played a great hometown gig in 1999. Get it at Captain’s Dead!

Will sings in French with Soy un Caballo!

Will repaid the favour to Valgeir Siggurdson, who produced The Letting Go, by providing vocals on one of his songs!

Evolution Of Waters-Valgeir Sigurdsson & Bonnie Prince Billy

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Will chats awkwardly about Cuba with Nation Of Ulysses / Make Up / Weird War legend Ian Svenonius!

Will acts some more, in Old Joy, which has a Yo La Tengo soundtrack! Did anybody see this? It looks a bit “low key”: no vampires or explosions.

Will duets with Scout Niblett! This is probably the pick of the bunch. Apparently they did this live on Will’s last British tour, which I wish I’d seen.

Scout Niblett (feat. Will Oldham) - 'Kiss'

Any I've missed?

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Live review – KRS One and (not) Marley Marl @ Oxford Coven II

KRS One: rapper, teacher, activist, mime artist

Say what you like about the guy, his commitment is ridiculous. KRS One has lost his other half, DJ Marley Marl, who is recuperating from a heart-attack. He’s just suffered a tragic personal bereavement. Rappers have a reputation for cancelling gigs if there’s a movie on Sky Movies that they could be watching instead. But here he is, after more than twenty years’ working with (and influencing) the biggest names in hip-hop, playing a tiny club in the middle of England, at half-past one on a Thursday night. And giving it his all for ninety minutes. That alone makes this one of the most exciting gigs I’ve seen in a while, and something I’d recommend to all fans and (like my accomplices tonight) folks who pretend to like hip-hop. Incidentally, your reviewer displays the same level of commitment: GMS has been flooded, is in the process of moving house, and could do without staying out ‘til 3am on a weeknight. On top of that, this being a British gig, UK hip-hop has to “represent” and “do its thing” for several hours first.

After just missing an act described by the host as “Abingdon’s finest” (y’all rewind this), we get a full set from Lowkey and his friend Logic. They keep shouting “New World Order”, so either they are the New World Order, or they dislike the New World Order intensely (or they dig Hollywood Hogan). Either way, there’s lots of political fury and syllables, and they bring a global perspective that's often lacking in American 'conscious' rap. They’re quite nifty when rhyming a-capella, but there’s not always much connection with the beats.

New World Order - 'Home Is Where The Heart Is'

Next up is Yungun, who gives a much more assured performance, sitting back on the beat with ease, authority and charisma, coming across like a younger, lippier Guru (who, incidentally, features on a track on Yungun's myspace). However, there’s a lack of content to enliven Yungun’s slow-flow approach: “hands up if you hate paying council tax”, he suggests at one point. Motherfucking taxman and shit. He’s backed by Scratch Perverts member Mr. Thing on the decks, which is nice to know.

In real life, Yungun is a trainee solicitor. Fact!

KRS One runs to the stage through the crowd, flanked by heavies who make sure they give everybody within five metres of the MC a careful shove (5m being about the width of the venue). Perhaps they were members of the Zulu Nation. Perhaps I will add the tag “Galactic Mystery Solvers: possibly shoved a bit by the Zulu Nation” to my kick-ass blog. He’s absurdly energetic, marching around the tiny stage while his henchmen huddle in a corner to stay out of the way. This energy sometimes comes across as hyperactivity: I’m not asking for a hallowed, Don’t Look Back-style recreation of Criminal Minded, but packing that whole album into a five-minute megamix is a little frustrating, as there’s nothing in his catalogue (except maybe ‘Sound Of The Police’) that gets the crowd reaction of ‘9mm’ or ‘South Bronx’.

Boogie Down Productions: kids!

Of course, KRS is a born contrarian: he has a history of contradicting himself, and of doing and saying absurd, provocative, offensive or just plain dorky things in order to spark debate. When acting as a self-appointed spokesman for hip-hop in the media, this is a canny strategy: he stays in the spotlight because he always makes good copy; he uses his status as an agent provocateur to draw cynics, sceptics and opponents into debate, before revealing how articulate, knowledgeable and passionate he really is. Onstage, KRS is just as compelling, but his perplexing and frustrating side also comes to the fore.

Just as I’d expected more Criminal Minded, I also anticipated more from Hip Hop Lives. The album is hectoring and self-serving in its conception and lyrical content, but KRS also sounds re-energised making stentorian pronouncements and playing the cultural juggernaut over crisp, crackling golden-age New York beats. It’s a combination that should work perfectly live, but aside from the title track and ‘Kill A Rapper’, the material is overlooked.

I’d also anticipated more onstage chat from a guy who styles himself ‘the teacha’ and borrows riffs from motivational speakers (check this half-inspirational, half-icky video, taken a couple of weeks ago in Brooklyn). But KRS’ banter is limited to tedious repetition of the assertion that this is, and we are, real hip-hop. Nice to know: perhaps I will add the tag “Galactic Mystery Solvers: real hip-hop, because KRS said so” to my kick-ass blog. Equally oddly, when KRS signals the intention to go “off the dome”, he proceeds to deliver about the worst freestyle I’ve ever heard, rhyming “I’m an MC” with “this is the DJ standing behind me”, or something similar. Almost as clunky is his attempt in the encore to marry ‘You Must Learn’ to a piece of classical music (a “treat”, apparently).

It’s as if he’s determined to throw off all expectations, all context, all pretensions, and boil the live experience down to its essentials – rhyming over beats. Once the shock of his baffling set choices passes, this strategy pays off: he fills the set with stunning, unstinting displays of technical prowess, going back and forth with the DJ over a constantly shifting backdrop of rhythms and samples, combining incredible energy with complete control. It’s this mastery, rather than the cultural baggage tiresomely stated on songs like ‘I Was There’, that ensures KRS One remains one of the most thrilling, intriguing spectacles in rap.

More fun:’s interviews are second to none. Here they are talking to KRS.

Boogie Down Productions member D-Nice has an excellent photoblog, from which I yoinked the BDP photo.

Buy Hip Hop Lives

Rakim, Kanye West, Nas, KRS One & DJ Premier – ‘Classic’

Friday, 24 August 2007

Don’t be coming round here in no fancy car

Snoop de Ville

Who has the best car songs – rockers or rappers? One day I may have to put it to the test – science-style – and publish the results in a blog post. But for now, two tunes for a Friday.

Gram Parsons, the Tupac Shakur of alt. country, has new material on the way. Here's his mighty fine cover of the country standard ‘Long Black Limousine’, which is all about resenting a local boy made good, sort of like how Gillie da Kid feels about Cassidy, in pointless rap news.

Gram Parsons – ‘Long Black Limousine’ (from The Gram Parsons Archives, volume 1)

Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci paid homage to the sentiments of the original on their 1998 single ‘Sweet Johnny’, which is also mighty fine.

Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci – ‘Sweet Johnny’ (from Gorky 5)

Gorky’s frontman Euros Childs once told me not to sell out to the man. I like to think I took that concept and ran with it. He’s about to release his third solo album of first-class psych-folk in 18 months. Here he is, talking about Welsh language pop. How’s about buying his records?

Verse of the week – Killah Priest and Canibus, ‘Inner G’

"I kick arse for the Lord"

Thank God for Killah Priest: firstly, he made me thinking of posting the above video; secondly, if I’m going to keep this half-arsed feature running, his new album, The Offering, has enough quality verses to do the business for the next couple of months. Standouts include ‘Salvation’, in which Priest addresses troops in Iraq over a sample from Ennio Morricone’s Once Upon A Time In The West; ‘Gun For Gun’, where he and Nas trade verses pondering Malcolm X’s final thoughts; ‘Essential’, which provides a Wire-style overview of a city’s criminal underworld, the narrative running from the maternity ward to the cemetery in the course of a night; or the apocalyptic closing posse cut ‘Till Thee Angles Come’.

I’ve gone for the album’s centrepiece, ‘Inner G’, featuring the Four Horsemen, a supergroup of Priest, Canibus, Rass Kass and Kurupt. Kass’ verse is alright, if slightly flippant, while Kurupt sounds like he’s freestyling drunk, which is no way to follow Canibus. Having Priest and Canibus share the credit works for me: I bought both rapper’s debut albums in the late 90s, then stopped following them after they severed ties with their more famous patrons (the Wu in Priest’s case, Wyclef for Canibus), and started putting out low-budget albums with hideous cover-art. So I couldn’t say whether The Offering marks a return to form for KP, but it does mark a reunion of sorts with the Wu (he’s appeared live with them, and 4th Disciple provides a beat), and it's one of the best rap records I’ve heard all year.

Still with the ugly cover-art, mind you

The verses here are more battle-rap than is the norm for most of the album, but as it’s Priest and Canibus, you still get references to John Merrick, the first African Pope, a couple of hypothetical planets, and a US army tactical field manual. Enjoy.

[Verse 1: Killah Priest]

I hide my face like the elephant man
Follow you, reach out of long black sleeves with skeleton hands
Touch rappers, watch them rot, their skin falls off
Boils in the pavement or on the cold boardwalk
Laugh like the jungle while pissing on ‘em
Then I put all my hood weight on the next corner
The next victim
Look in his face with tears in my eyes that crystallize
And turn to stone before they fall from my dome
Like an avalanche
The way I spit sound like an African chant
Priest run through MCs like I’m travelling ants
Peep the form: it’s a Vatican Stance
The Pope Victor the First
The flow spit with the curse
The sicker the verse
The more bodies you stick in the dirt
Wait around I’ma pick you a hearse
I like the long black ones
Drive around while spinning on two wheels
Whatever you feel
It’s blue steel
On black days, silver clouds when the mac spray
Turn rappers into clay
My mind’s a museum filled with microphone exhibits
Of rhymes that I write look like pictures

John Donne up in this motherf***er

[Verse 3: Canibus]


The only MC on earth that did geo-physical research about the new rebirth,
The sun turned the earth to rotisserie dirt,
Listen ‘fore you start dissin me first, this'll be worse,
Twelve degree pole shift displace the ocean,
They send space probes in and come back broken,
Armageddon omen,
Planet X inbound they’re rapidly approaching,
None of us are chosen,
Field manual 20 dash 46 your life’s getting away, you better run for it,
Population reduction, mass destruction
The reset button is coming and some of us love it,
The return of Nibiru, we will prepare you,
Stay away from the media, they will scare you,
Rappers respect beef, tactics and technique,
I’ma show you how the best compete, let’s peep,
My verse on the mic is a surgical strike,
Of herb with the light with no personal life,
Live Saturday night, sacrifice, batter the mic,
Jab to the left, jab to the right.

Killah Priest (feat. Rass Kass, Canibus & Kurupt) – ‘Inner G’ (from The Offering)

More fun:

Iraq-themed fan video for ‘Salvation’

Buy The Offering
Buy For Whom The Beat Tolls

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Live review – Dead Meadow, Youthmovies, SJ Esau @ Oxford Cellar

Every record label has a folktronica artist on its roster these days, and you know what? I like them all precisely the same amount. “Uber-cool” brainy hip hop label Anticon has SJ Esau, who (his biog claims) used to be part of the Bristol rap scene that spawned Tricky and Massive Attack, before deciding to drop rhyming in favour of noodling. A one-man band, occasionally hitting a cymbal with the neck of his guitar for ‘rhythm’, SJ mixes Daniel Johnston’s na├»ve melodies with your usual wash of glowering Mogwai-isms, Four Tet flutes and syncopated drum loops. It’s far too quiet to be heard above the crowd. Here's a rather good video of his:

SJ ESAU the wrong order

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People tend to call Youthmovies (formerly, or perhaps still, Youth Movie Soundtrack Strategies) a math rock band. For me, math rock implies cleaner, sparser guitar lines and a refusal to acknowledge a world outside of ‘Spiderland’. Youthmovies are much more expansive. This is not, however, a good thing. It is a thing that brings to mind the term emo-jazz. Each song lasts about seven minutes, and contains about fourteen hideously complicated riffs – a musical combination of autism and ADHD. Like so many contestants on UK’s Got Talent, they need to know that because it’s difficult, doesn’t mean it’s good.

Stoner? Isn't that a bit extreme?

I’d have enjoyed Dead Meadow more if the Cellar didn’t insist on putting its headline acts on at midnight, and didn’t fill the intervening hours with weak cider and a piss-poor support act. On stage, the Meadow lose the Dandy Warhols psych-pop side they have on record, instead locking into a hazy, fuzzed out stoner groove. It’s a niche they make their own, distinctly different from the monumental sludge of Fu Manchu, the vicious drive of Monster Magnet or the desert-rock of Kyuss. The drumming is reminiscent of Mountain, and Dead Meadow could prove an equally attractive source of sounds for canny hip-hop beat-makers. However, the sound is so blunted as to be almost identical inside and outside the venue, while the pace of songs never varies. After a while I either need to be high on some crazy California drugs, or go to bed.

Friday, 17 August 2007

Live review – Stornaway, Secondsmile & Wintermute @ Oxford Cellar

All will become clear

So here’s a conundrum for thinking about with your brain. What is better: a great impression of something rubbish, or a rubbish impression of something great?

Tonight’s two support bands pose that quandary. Wintermute (from Leeds!) sound like Bloc Party. The review could end there, really. Their counter-melodic guitar lines owe something to At The Drive-In, and their rhythmic punch brings to mind the Futureheads, but that’s at a stretch. In fact, Wintermute are considerably better than Bloc Party – the vocals less irritating, the tightly-wound, off-kilter dynamics better handled. So, if you like Bloc Party, you’ll love Wintermute; in a logical world (though not necessarily a just one), they’d be critics’ darlings and sell lots of records too. For the record, GMS can’t stand (or understand) Bloc Party, so we’ll leave it there.

GMS likes Cave In quite a lot, and where Wintermute excel in recreating a rubbish sound, Secondsmile do a pretty dreary imitation of a great band. Again, I could compare their sound to Oceansize, or countless other prog / emo / hardcore chancers, but basically what you get is Cave In circa Tides Of Tomorrow – urgent, constantly-building drum rushes, a wall of competing guitar lines, time changes, quiet / loud bits, lung-burstingly earnest vocals. It’s a sound that’s utterly fearsome when done right, but it’s also a difficult one to pull off: get it wrong and you sound like a preposterous sludgy mess. Like Secondsmile.

Anyway, for your viewing pleasure, here is Alan Partridge doing a Kate Bush medley. Depending on the angle of your dangle, this is either a brilliant version of something appalling, an awful version of something incredible, or a bit of both.

Stornoway wear their influences so lightly as to make quick comparisons pretty irrelevant. Not that this will stop GMS from making them: the band sound like what Bright Eyes was aiming at with Lifted, but without the histrionics, seriousness or ego, and with a broader palette of communal, open-minded indie-folk vibes. One quote on their website describes them as ‘hatpop’, which is spot-on, as well as being a brilliant concept. As a live band, Stornoway are made more compelling by being so unassuming: at one point they even get away with (urk) an indie-reggae moment, because that was where the song seemed to lead. The lead singer overcomes his shyness by having a set of facts ready before each gig. Tonight we learn that 19th-century Oxford geologist William Buckland once, lost in fog, established that he was in Uxbridge by tasting the soil, and also that he ate the embalmed heart of Louis XIV. FACT! Extra points are awarded for the trumpeter, who wears a horse’s head and a hat. GMS is all about horses wearing hats. The gig ends with a storming number about the right and wrong kinds of fish, which I believe conceals a political message, while also throwing in big-band flourishes reminiscent of Lou Reed’s ‘Goodnight Ladies’ or Tom Waits’ ‘Anywhere I Lay My Hat’ (to continue a theme). Go and listen to them on myspace.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Live review – Summer Sundae festival – Saturday

The UK’s averaging about three festivals per weekend all summer at the moment, which is pretty ridiculous: competition for punters is intense, line-ups tend to be broadly similar, and even established events like Truckfest are struggling to keep their heads above water, financially and literally (d’oh…).

Leicester’s Summer Sundae has a canny set-up, selling itself as ethical and accessible, with a line-up that’s eclectic but unthreatening. It’s in a large, attractive city park. It has an indoor stage, which is mighty civilised. It’s aiming to be a carbon negative festival, handing out free low-energy lightbulbs. Props! It’s also got a tie-in with BBC’s 6music, which ensures endless online and radio plugs. All said, it probably doesn’t need a sniffy review from an obscure blog, but that’s just how GMS gets down.

First up are teenage siblings Kitty, Daisy and Lewis. According to the brochure, they mix rockabilly, swing, country and western, surf, Hawaiian, and rock ‘n’ roll. If all these musical genres essentially sound the same to you, then that’s a fair description. Aside from a few clunky signifiers (at one stage, Kitty puts on a lei and starts singing about ‘Honolulu’), this is pretty narrow and unimaginative 50’s revivalism (strangely, they’re dressed in 1940s pachuco costumes). Musically, they’re decent and versatile, though not exactly great – there’s a trio of middle-aged men who play rockabilly on the street in central Oxford every Saturday morning who do this thing with much more verve. It’s also a nice, light start to a summer’s afternoon, making children, hipsters and middle-aged weekenders dance around; there are much less entertaining genres one could thoughtlessly ape; mum and dad help out on bass and rhythm guitar, which is sweet; but there’s no sense of why they’re singing about a ‘mean old man’ or ‘Louisiana swamps’, or that they’ve thought about the artistic, racial or gendered implications. Maybe this is asking a bit much of the kids, but once you lose sympathy, it does grate.

swing that mean thing daddio-wa-diddy etc.

Next up are Jazz Jamaica. According to the brochure, they mix … yup, yup, alright. Something of a supergroup, if you’re up on UK jazz: Abram Wilson, Soweto Kinch and Denys Baptiste all raise a flicker of recognition, though I couldn’t tell you who’s who. Unlike the previous act, they’ve got the integrity and the instrumental chops to let fly with crowd-pleasing Skatalites covers and a wah-wah trumpet-enhanced version of the Bond theme. Overall, the set pitches a little unsatisfyingly between energetic and arresting soul-funk numbers and languid, tasteful reggae-jazz noodling, never quite settling for one or the other.

On the indoor stage, bizarrely, are reunited late-80s / early-90s baggy-ish Peel faves Cud. Except not quite, as their singer is missing. Good sports that they are, the band invites a succession of ageing devotees onstage to do Bez dancing and Cud karaoke (they get lyrics sheets – I can’t believe that many people know the words to Cud songs). I saw Cave In do this a couple of years back, when Steven Brodsky’s voice gave out mid-set. It turned an above-average gig into an unforgettable event – not least because half the crowd were in bands themselves, loved Cave In, and could sing. This, as you might imagine, isn’t quite in the same league, though the joke is funny for a while, and though you get the impression that Cud’s heavy, funked-out indie wouldn’t sound too bad alongside people like the Klaxons and !!!.

Back to the main stage for former Arab Strap instrumentalist Malcolm Middleton. Pretty much what you’d expect – depression, mordant whit, decent sparse mid-90s indie sounds. Like Arab Strap but with singing instead of talking. Like Smog but with a ginger Scottish chap instead of Bill Callahan. Lyrically, Middleton turns Arab Strap’s miserabilist tales of drunkenness, failed relationships and low expectations in a populist direction, telling us we’re all pissing our money up the wall and listening to shite. There are moments when he seems undecided whether to slap a Snow Patrol-sized chorus on one of these and go for a money-making cross-over hit, or to stoke his sense of integrity in the hope that Silver Jews fans have ten quid to spare. I hope he goes for the former – hearing Middleton soundtrack an ‘emotional’ scene in an ITV drama would be funny as fuck.

Malcolm mulls it over

Indigo Moss have managed to remember a genre not minced up in Kitty, Daisy and Lewis’ throwback blender – bluegrass (you see … the name … it’s a play on words …). They’re also, in some ways, the opposite sort of band – less confident, less polished, but more talented, imaginative and interesting. They marry a Sons and Daughters-style mixture of bluegrass, skiffle and twang to the sort of light, wistful English romanticism peddled by Ray Davies, Pete Doherty and (occasionally) Morrissey. There are usually (I think) five of them, but they’re stripped down to a three-piece, which means that the bassist does little to help the sound, but the lead male and female vocals are impressive. They’re not quite there yet – some of the songs feel a little underwritten, and a reflective ballad entitled ‘England’ is rarely a good idea – but well worth keeping an eye on. Unfortunately, GMS has to report another fancy-dress mishap – the lead singer is dressed as a cheeky ‘40s tradesman, while his two lady accomplices are in prim dresses and feathered hats as if attending a flower show at the local rotary club: in the 1940s, the two classes would never have teamed up to put on a pop concert.

I’m glad I saw the Rumble Strips at Summer Sundae for two reasons. Firstly, they’re the sort of band who get a bit of hype and who I’d probably have forked out money to see if they’d come to Oxford. If I had done, I’d probably have been a little disappointed – although they have a bit of energy and a horn section to set them apart from the crowd, the songs aren’t up to much. Secondly, they sounded like Dexys Midnight Runners, but without any tunes, which reminded me to go home and listen to some Dexys. Huzzah.

Martha Wainwright seems to be a bit of a poster-girl for 6music. I’d hoped she’d be the person to inject a bit of bile and humour into a pleasant but underwhelming line-up, and she does, but only a bit. Her voice is incredible – live, at least, it’s better than Rufus’ – but she’s let down by the songs (most of which are new). The first time I saw her, she was all Tori Amos / Sandy Dillon raspy bluesy angry mad woman, which was good, if also slightly oppressive. The second, she was doing languid, drunk country stuff, like Cat Power but more compelling and witty. This time she seems to have swallowed one too many Ys (groan) – adding Joanna Newsom cutesiness to the end of her syllables, and generally aiming for songs so complex as to be formless. If this is what her next album sounds like, she’ll be head-to-head with Nina Nastasia for the token female slot in lots of end-of-year roundups. Nina wins, though.

Lake District writer and walker Alf Wainwright. Best Wainwright ever.

For the Low review, I’ll direct you to my last review of them, as the set was practically identical, not that there’s anything wrong with that, when it’s so much better than everything I’ve seen today. While I can’t find much to like about ‘Drums and Guns’ on record, it works well live, especially when it’s fleshed out and translated into the sort of gut-wrenching slo-mo blues that people like Codeine and Come used to do. It’s a shame they got such a thin crowd, as their only competition was odd-faced sub-Danni Minogue posh-pop shouting-catastrophe Sophie Ellis Bextor.

Headliners are the Magic Numbers, who are ideal for the sort of all-ages, all-tastes ethos that Summer Sundae aims at, especially as their debut remains one of the best indie records of the past few years – gloriously unfashionable, brilliantly composed, and packing an emotional punch. As everybody except the Magic Numbers themselves has noticed, the second album sucks. This is understandable – it’s clear when listening to old and new songs back to back tonight, that they spent their whole lives writing the first album, and twelve busy months writing the second – there are simply two or three fewer ideas per song. Frontman Romeo attempts to cover over the cracks with world-beating enthusiasm, celebrating the festival, the crowd, his band and himself. When they played a triumphant headlining slot at the Glastonbury New Bands tent two years ago, this was endearing and inspiring, but tonight it’s a little bit much, especially when Kitty, Daisy and Lewis, and inflatable cartoon figures of the Magic Numbers are brought onstage for an overwrought finale. Much better is their surprise collaboration with Martha Wainwright, paying tribute to Lee Hazlewood with a cover of ‘Some Velvet Morning’ that brilliantly exploits the contrast between Wainwright’s piercing, jazzy voice and Romeo’s soft, wistful vocals. A memorable festival moment at the last gasp.

Monday, 13 August 2007

“how high’s the water, momma?”

the old GMS stoop

Hello! My blog game’s been on hold for several weeks, in part owing to a tedious bonanza of floods. In the time off, I’ve done some thinking, and some growing. I think we all have. Hey people of the world, stop firing SUVs at the ozone layer! Anyway, peace to all flood victims, GMS readers and users of low-energy lightbulbs.

Here is a photo-documentary, from my extra lo-fi spy camera, disguised as a mobile phone. It's all enlivened by songs about flood-related issues! Enjoy.


Those Bastard Souls – ‘In The Wake Of Your Flood’ (from Debt & Departure)

Mark Lanegan – ‘The River Rise’ (from Whiskey For The Holy Ghost)

some folks just don't got no sense

Sandy Denny – ‘Down In The Flood’ (from North Star Grassman and the Ravens)

Delays – ‘There’s Water Here’ (from Faded Seaside Glamour)

taken from aston's eyot. the finest eyot in the whole of the o.x.

Bruce Springsteen – ‘Lost In The Flood’ (live, June 2005, original on Greetings from Asbury Park NJ)

Judee Sill – ‘Tumblin’ Down Comes The Waters’ (unreleased, I reckon; here's a comp)

"chant this anthem, swing like pete sampras"

Queens Of The Stone Age – ‘River In The Road’ (from Era Vulgaris)

Neko Case – ‘Fox Confessor Brings The Flood’ (live in
Munich, 2006, from the album of the same name)

locals recreate the opening credits of 'Gentle Ben'

Delgados – ‘Everything Goes Around The Water’ (from Peloton)

Andrew WK – ‘I Get Wet’ (from I Get Wet)

"rougher than how DeBarge is, catching charges"

Beck – ‘Fourteen Rivers, Fourteen Floods’ (live in London, 2003, original on One Foot in the Grave)

Phil Lynott – ‘A Little Bit Of Water’ (from The Philip Lynott Album)

south hinksey, gone all 'Spirited Away'

Doves – ‘Caught By The River’ (from The Last Broadcast)

Uncle Tupelo – ‘High Water’ (from Anodyne)