Friday, 28 September 2007

"one of the benefits of global warming and international terrorism"

another cracking pop video from richard hawley, for his "breezy" new single, 'serious', off lady's bridge.

to continue our trend, this is directed by a semi-famous tv and film chap (shane meadows this time), and has a concept tenuously reminiscent of a nice bit of comedy nonsense (this time alan partridge, trapped under a cow on the norfolk waterways).

Monday, 24 September 2007

egg with soup?

spot the difference time:

here's the new super furry animals video, 'run away', courtesy of the people behind garth merenghi's darkplace. like the latest SFA album, hey venus, it's good in a sort of furries-do-richard hawley type of way, but it lacks a certain something.

that something is richard ayoade rapping in a trilby, from darkplace. compare and contrast, folks.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

'97 mentality

"do hard jigsaw puzzles with strong jaw muscles"


Exhibit M

Street Census has compiled Canibus' top ten verses of 1997, his breakout year. Though he's still worth a listen from time to time, he seemed to pay more attention to the beats back then, clipping his verses and coming across a bit like Big L, rather than letting his paranoid conspiracy theories and pseudo science spill all over the track. Maybe it's just because the beats are better - most of them seem to be dark, jazzy DITC-style numbers.

Anyhow, has anybody had this good a run of guest spots and mixtape appearances since 1997?

Street Census: Top 10 Canibus Verses of 1997

Previously on '97 mentality

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Verse of the week: Wu-Tang Clan – ‘Watch Your Mouth’

A new Wu-Tang track from the 8 Diagrams album emerged this week, so all other nifty verses will have to “clear the way, make way, yo, open the cage” (here’s looking at you, Percee P).

‘Watch Your Mouth’ features all eight members, each with eight tight lines (except for Raekwon and Masta Killa, whose verses are slower and more disjointed). The beat’s a grower – a bit like Kanye West’s ‘Barry Bonds’, it seemed static and simplistic at first, but with repeated listens sounds deadeningly heavy and malicious. As a full posse cut to lead off the album, it’s not exactly ‘Triumph’, but it’s better and more consistent than I’d expected, given the allegedly parlous state of the recording process: all eight members sound pretty much on the same page. It works as a statement of intent, tersely dismissive of the current rap scene, with a single-minded determination to reclaim the dark, threatening and mysterious elements that used to characterise the Wu. It’s self-mythologising without being self-aggrandising.

Of the eight MCs, GMS gives the ‘verse of the week’ award to Inspectah Deck – his precise, focused battle-rhyming, enlivening posse cuts like this, is his greatest strength. Plus he’s been under the radar for the past few years, as I tend to avoid his solo stuff. Like most Deck verses, it’s not about anything, beyond inventive boasting and polysyllabic rhymes, but it fits nicely with the song’s self-reliance and hostility to “frauds”:

This is boulevard hard, larger than your black car
Camouflage rap guard, I stomp the yard
I.N.S. spit monster bars, split long cigars
My clique dodge, bitch y’all are frauds
I get it in like Tim off the glass, spreading my name
I’m like the Pres sending men off to blast
What I spit make ‘em spend all they cash,
I’m so Wu, so new, that I ain’t rip off the tags

Of the others:

Raekwon slows his flow, which initially sounds half-assed, but ends up entirely unsettling, sort of like on ‘Heaterz’ off Wu-Tang Forever. Best lines: “I’m from a boulevard where n****s get jabbed and peed on”, “You know we hungry and talk funny.”

Masta Killa does his usual abstract, disjointed stream-of-consciousness. Probably the song’s weakest verse, but I like the line “We keep it ninja, take money, stay ninja.” Good attitude, Masta Killa.

Method Man’s verse is straightforward corner-boy drug-pushing stuff. Maybe he thinks appearing in The Wire means he can bridge the gap between the Wu and the Clipse. I prefer more stoner / comic book geek nonsense from Meth, but he sounds lively and reinvigorated. Plus he follows Masta Killa with the line “Garbage, ya time’s up, go finish them rhymes up”, sort of like how Ghostface followed Masta Killa on ‘Triumph’ with “Ayo fuck that!”

Ghostface is good at rapping. Best line: “Got a bathtub full of white, lay in it like sand”, making a claim to be the Brian Wilson of the Wu.

U-God gets a lot of stick for not being as stellar as the rest of the Clan, but like Deck, he’s a strong team-player and I’ve got a lot of time for his rich, deep voice and his unusual rap vocabulary. Especially when he’s saying things like “I’m like the Grouch, my mouth’s a circus”, and “I’m a good learner”.

RZA packs a lot into his verse: killer bees, numerology, a nod to the Gravediggaz, and money-under-the-table record deals, before taking it back to the, er, essence, with references to Wu clothing and Raekwon’s ‘Ice Cream’.

GZA finishes off with typical authority, composure and economy, again referencing old songs, talking about hunting for 45rpms in attics with RZA, acting as usual both as a member and an observer of the Clan, and delivering one knock-out line: “You can roll as a whole, they’ll send you back in fractions”.

More fun:

Status Ain't Hood heard more of 8 Diagrams

Sit Down Stand Up spoke to Masta Killa

Floodwatch talks about 'Watch Your Mouth' and has an mp3

Buy Wu

Monday, 17 September 2007

Six degrees of Kevin Ayers

Posh-voiced Soft Machine member and legend of British psychedelia Kevin Ayers has just released his first new record in 15 years, titled The Unfairground. Like everything he ever did, from what I've heard it's pretty damn good. But hark at this, readers! Collaborators on the record include Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake, former Gorky’s frontman Euros Childs, Neutral Milk Hotelier Jeremy Koster, BMX Bandits’ Francis Macdonald, Roxy Musician Phil Manzanera, illustrious Scottish jazzer Bill Wells, up-and-coming indie soulstress Candie Payne, beard-wearing coke-rapper Rick Ross, Trashcan Sinatras’ Francis Reader, Psychedelic Furs’ keyboardist Joe McGinty, most if not all of Elephant Sixers Ladybug Transistor, Noonday Underground and Morcheeba vocalist Daisy Marty, as well as Canterbury scene fellow-travellers Bridget St John and Robert Wyatt. Pizazz!

In honour of this ridiculous embrace of social networking, GMS takes you from Kev to the subject of our last post, Richard Hawley, in six fun steps. Watch out for ‘bangers’ along the way!

1. Kevin Ayers’ Unfairground has backing vocals by scouse Dusty Springfield revivalist Candie Payne

2. Candie Payne’s new single, ‘One More Chance’, was produced by transatlantic myspace enthusiast Mark Ronson

3. Mark Ronson’s debut single ‘Ooh Wee’ featured a verse from brolic-armed shoe-fetishist Ghostface Killah

4. Ghostface recorded an unlikely cover of the Beatles’ ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, a full version of which will appear on the forthcoming Wu-Tang Clan album, 8 Diagrams, with axework by John Frusciante

Ghostface - 'My Guitar'

5. John Frusciante also did the wibbly guitars for his band, Red Hot Chilli Peppers’, god-awful chest-beating smack whinge ‘Under the Bridge’, semi-famously covered by sulky combat-trousered girl group All Saints

6. … the guitar solo of which was played in the video by a young lady, but in "real life" by none other than jobbing northern guitar-hero Richard Hawley

As there were only a couple of cracking songs in that pointless excursion, here are Gorky’s paying tribute to the man himself.

Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci – ‘Kevin Ayers’ (from Tatay)

Gorky's Zygotic Mynci - 'Why Are We Sleeping?' (Soft Machine cover) (from Llanfwrog)

And here’s, urr, the man himself, doing the same, in 1972 ... and with serial collaborator John Cale, doing 'The Howling Man' in 1981.

More fun:

Hear bits of The Unfairground at Kevin Ayers' website.

Or buy it.

Or buy some Gorky's.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Album Review – Richard Hawley – ‘Lady’s Bridge’

Richard Hawley's breakthrough record, Cole’s Corner, should have won the (increasingly inane) Mercury Prize. But the pressure to follow it brought the possibility that his particular charm appeal be diluted. Another cult favourite, Rufus Wainwright, suffered just that fate, releasing the worst material of his career just as he started to garner mainstream attention. While far superior to the latest Rufus record, Lady’s Bridge suffers some of the same problems. Musically, it retreads much of the ground covered by Cole’s Corner: the sound is bigger, cleaner and poppier, but basically unchanged. A few tracks add to the palette: ‘I’m Looking For Someone To Find Me’ mixes Dusty Springfield strings with uptempo British Beat / skiffle rhythms and Lee Hazelwood’s knowingness. It’s a polished set, but feels too much like two or three standouts, padded to album length.

Hawley’s first two albums, Lowedges and Late Night Final, succeeded because they created a sense of intimacy and self-containment: his private, personal passion for dated, faded music flew in the face of fashion, but for those in the know, that made his underdog charm all the more affecting. Cole’s Corner was a bigger deal, but it maintained that intimacy through a deliberate sense of time and place, while the strength of its songs made the crossover to the mainstream seem justified and heartening.

Hawley uses a location as an organising theme again. But where Cole’s Corner was a static location where romances were played out, Lady’s Bridge looks at a river – impersonal, always moving, leading him towards broader treatments of continuity and change. Occasionally this pays off: lead single ‘Tonight the Streets Are Ours’ addresses marginalised youth as a timeless group, with a gravitas and historical perspective that bands like the Arctic Monkeys could never approximate; Hawley does this without seeming preachy or smart-arsed, but with authority and passion, making it an absolutely brilliant pop song. Opener ‘Valentine’ could be an Orbison original, with sufficient weight and drama to invoke a timeless sense of romanticism. On ‘Roll River Roll’ the historical perspective is further widened as Hawley addresses the 1864 Sheffield flood – a Victorian Katrina in which a poorly constructed dam burst, claiming the lives of hundreds of local workers.

But as a whole, the dark, sombre and reflective mood that suffuses Hawley’s work suffers from a lack of emotional context: Lady’s Bridge is far less personal than his previous work. Pulp, for whom Hawley used to work, made stunning use of the river concept in ‘Wickerman’, the centrepiece of their final album: the song combines personal reminiscences and romantic regrets with a real sense of the changing face of Sheffield, as evidenced in the factories that line the Wicker, and in the urban myths that haunt it. Nothing on Lady’s Bridge comes close. You don’t expect it to: Hawley was never as open as Jarvis Cocker, hiding instead behind the glasses, the quiff, and the 50s reference points. But in reaching beyond his private world of romantic failures and late night café’s, Hawley has diluted the force of his music.

More fun:

Artist homepage

A fun bunch of rare Hawley, including great Jesus and Mary Chain and Everly Brothers covers, right here.

And even more Hawley on the Hype Machine

Pulp – ‘Wickerman’ (from We Love Life)

Jarvis Cocker and Richard Hawley – ‘Disneytime’ (live BBC session)

Previously on GMS

Buy Lady’s Bridge

Friday, 14 September 2007

Live review – A Mystagogue Expounds @ Etcetera Theatre, Camden

GMS rarely deviates from its tried-and-tested formula of making flippant comments on indie antics and scribbling half-baked speculations about unpalatable rap platters. Only two things cause us to veer off course: ukulele fun and the solving of galactic mysteries. The promise of both of these has led us to the theatre (albeit a theatre above a slightly shabby pub in Camden, the indie heartland of London town). The title of William Tombs’ one-man show, What the Lobster Shouted As It Boiled: A Mystagogue Expounds, could belong equally to an arch Morrissey tune, an earnest emo concept album, a thoughtful Sufjan Stevens excursion, or a playful, elusive Devendra Banhart number. This unusual, wilfully odd play combines elements of all four.

Tombs, self-appointed mystagogue and native of rural Virginia, is given to seeing a universe in a grain of sand. It’s a strange, hostile universe, filled with sadness, absurdity and song. Faced with the challenges of adulthood, worrying but apparently unconnected considerations – the mysterious scream emitted by a boiling lobster, his younger brother’s impending marriage to a Mariah Carey fan, the indeterminate status of his vegetable patch – combine to provoke an existential crisis masquerading as a best man’s speech. Tombs’ illogical yet spirited response is to mount a philosophical quest, ukulele and crayons in hand, to discover the source of all the world’s sadness, and to speculate on the future of humanity (apparently there’s one of those techno-raptures on the horizon).

What follows is a strange, self-willed mixture – part stand-up comedy, part metaphysical lecture, interspersed with songs, and framed around the creation of a large artwork depicting the history of mankind, drawn from scratch each night. The delicate yet chaotic balancing act between the self-willed and the self-indulgent gives rise to much of the show’s humour. Tombs’ theatrical sense – combining energy, deft pacing and an arresting persona – convinces the crowd to buy into the quest; their indulgence is rewarded with inventive, daft, catchy songs about infinite bicycles, amoeba sex and the bombing of Nagasaki. Musical levity balances out the more serious implications of the explorations: Tombs bemoans the triumph of commerce and mediocrity, and the loss of respect for women, artists and mystics. Thankfully, the note of artistic self-interest is acknowledged, and the mystical-historical theorising is continually undercut by bemused excursions; at one point it is entirely abandoned in favour of an audience singalong.

It’s not an easy play to categorise or explain. Tombs avoids the conventional cynical, aloof, hostility of most contemporary stand-ups in favour of an air of naïve enthusiasm and childish wonder. He sets himself apart from the bulk of the Fringe theatre set, who tend to rely on sketches threaded together by smut, opting instead for big concepts and intimate revelations. His dark, ambivalent ending offers no easy answers, only admitting the essential silliness of the enterprise. But you’re left with a sneaking feeling that this might be what theatre is supposed to do.

Kyuss – ’50 Million Year Trip’ (live in San Francisco, 1994)

Go see the Mystagogue expound in London next week.

Even mystagogues hang out on myspace.

Friday, 7 September 2007

service interruption

i'm up out of this for a week, heading for the dirty south (of england, that is!).

in the meantime, head over to the new-look passion of the weiss for a harder, better, faster, stronger deconstruction of aesop rock's lyrics than i managed yesterday. jeff compared the def jux roster to the beat poets. personally, i'd liken to the early 90s WCW heel stable the dangerous alliance, with el-p as paul e. dangerously, and aesop rock as ravishing rick rude. but then i'm an ass hat. you knew that, right?

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Verse of the week – Aesop Rock ‘None Shall Pass’

Hairy-chinned nerd-rap figurehead Aesop Rock has an interview over at the Smoking Section on account of his new album None Shall Pass. It’s not tremendously revealing or diverting, but mister Rock does address critics who lazily refer to his dense, often-baffling lyrics as “stream of consciousness”. Quite right – his artfully-constructed verses have nothing of the unhinged imaginative mania of, say, Ghostface or the self-absorbed free-association of Lil’ Wayne. What he is aiming at is harder to define: are these elaborate puzzle-poems intended to reward repeated close listenings (and readings)? Or are they an elaborate formal exercise in disrupting meanings and statements, playfully inverting an art-form usually based around self-assertion and bragging? Or is it just “art college drop-out nonsense” as one commenter on TSS suggested? GMS is undecided: for my money his label-boss and collaborator El-P, while a technically inferior rapper, does this sort of thing in a more satisfying manner – his use of unexpected words and images works as a means of expressing complex emotional and political feelings in a manner that’s adequate, personal, and free of cliché. On the whole Aesop seems more interested in frustrating interpretation than in communicating, which makes it rather difficult to get through a whole album. That said, None Shall Pass has plenty of highlights – in particular the John Darnielle-assisted ‘Coffee’ and the title track, which sees to be something of a statement of intent by Aesop’s standards talking about fame, war, fake rap feuds and “rouge vocoder bliss”. Watch out T-Pain. It also has a bloody cracking video. Aesop Rock ‘None Shall Pass’ Flash that buttery gold, jittery zeitgeist
Wither by the watering hole, water patrol
What are we, a heart huckabee, art fuckery suddenly?
Not enough young in his lung for the water wings?
Colorfully vulgar poacher at a mulch like
“I’m-a pull the pulse out a soldier and bolt” (fine)
Sign of the time we elapsed
When a primate climb up the spine and attach
Eye for an eye, by the bog’s life swamps and vines
They get a rise out of frogs and flies
So when a dog fights hog-tied prize sort-a costs a life
The mouth’s water on a fork and knife
And the allure isn’t right
It’s gore on a war-torn beach
Where the cash cows actually beef
Blood turns wine when I leak for police
Like “That's not a riot, it's a feast, let’s eat.'”

And I will remember your name and face
On the day you were judged by the funhouse cast
And I will rejoice in your fall from grace
With a cane to the sky like “None shall pass.”
None shall pass, none shall pass

Now if he never had a day a snow cone couldn't fix
he wouldn’t relate to the rouge vocoder bliss
How he spoke through a no-doz, motor on the fritz
’Cause he wouldn’t play roll over, fetch, like a bitch
And express no regrets though he isn’t worth the homeowners piss
To the jokers who pose by the glitz (Fine)
Sign of the swine and the swarm
When a king is a whore who comply and conform
Miles outside of the eye of the storm
With a siphon to lure and a prize and award
While avoiding the vile and bizarre that is violence and war
True blue triumph is more
Like wait, let it snake up outta the centerfold
Let it break the walls of Jericho. ready? go.
Sat where the old cardboard city folks
Swap tails with heads like every other penny throw

Okay, woke to a grocery list
Goes like this: duty and death
Anyone object, come stand in the way
You can be my little Snake River Canyon today
And I ran with a chain of commands
And a jetpack strap where the backstab lands if it can. (Fine)
Sign of the vibe in the crowd
When I cut a belly open to find what climb out
What a bit of gusto he muster up
Make a dark horse rush like enough's enough
It must-a struck a nerve so they huff and puff
Till all the king’s men fluster and clusterfuck
And it’s a beautiful thing
To my people who keep an impressive wing span
Even when the cubicle shrink
You gotta pull up the intruder by the root of the weed
NY chew through the machine

The last refuge of the scoundrel

Hello there. The disturbingly idle amongst you may have noticed that a kick-ass new list of British music blogging types has appeared on GMS. Down a bit, and to the right.

In a fit of patriotic inactivity, your comptroller has been browsing blogs from home for a couple of weeks, and has compiled a fun clickable list. They’re a nicely diverse bunch, which is probably one reason most of them are under the US-dominated Hype Machine radar (though watch out, this one LOVES the hype machine). Only one blog is named after a Wilco song, only one after a Smiths lyric. Only one is completely, charmingly obsessed with Hadouken. You get the picture.

I might pick out a couple for honourable mention at some point. “Off the dome”, From Da Bricks (who is already famous), does proper writing about rap; To Die By Your Side does proper writing about indie gigs. Fat Lace is under the sinister aegis of Rawkus Records, but is also funny in an irreverent Viz-stylee that’s missing from a lot of rap blogging. Any of note that I've forgotten, drop a link in the comments.

Anyhow, in recognition of the nationalist agenda herein delivered, and of some other ‘ish I wrote elsewhere, here’s a song about a gay stripper from the incomparable Mark Eitzel.

Mark Eitzel – ‘Patriot’s Heart’ (live in Sweden, 2006)

Sunday, 2 September 2007

thomas truax - 'why dogs howl at the moon'

hark. a new thomas truax video this way comes. hornicator in full effect.

thomas truax lives here.