Sunday, 24 February 2008

Live review: Vampire Weekend @ Oxford C***ing Academy

indie rock band pose #6

Touted as an odd-but-compelling blend of the Strokes and Paul Simon’s Graceland, as a live act the badly, irrelevantly-named Vampire Weekend owe more to the amphetamine-eating mod bands of the British invasion. They play with the same intensity and taut energy, and have the same knack for blending catholic musical tastes into clever, memorable three-minute pop songs. Their chief selling points – fussily melodic afro-pop guitar lines and clattering, complicated drum patterns – are leavened out by rhythm-and-blues organ riffs and 2-tone bass-lines. Predictably, a socially-exclusive education has bequeathed an incapacity for onstage banter, though the presence in their short set-list of a song with ‘Oxford’ in its title provides opportunities for some cheerful, winsome dialogue.

If the internet hype-cycle is to be taken seriously, Vampire Weekend are simultaneously atop the crest of a blog-fuelled rise to glory and in the depths of a critical backlash against their class, dress sense and influences. Neither of these pop-culture ripples seems to have had much of an impact on the band, whose confident, playful, nerdily enthusiastic set recalls early Franz Ferdinand shows. The danger is, like Franz or other post-Strokes hype-disasters like the Bravery, the band will start to take itself seriously. But on the strength of a song debuted tonight and reportedly featuring on their second album, chances are they’ll avoid that pitfall.

here's that song they were so excited about, live at amoeba records:

Saturday, 23 February 2008

quid pro quo

do you remember the other day, when i posted highlights from a wu-tang radio show from 1997? you're not concentrating, are you? it's right here.

anyway, in that post, i mentioned a 1994 set, also on radio one (mark tonderai's show), that was floating around. the good people of wu-tang mountain, who were paying attention, have dug it up. here it is. if anybody has audio of the wu at brixton academy in 1998, i'd just about go ape!

while i'm at it, berkeley place has the wu live in 2007. that's just last year!

more links? hip hop is read has been making compilation albums out of all the tracks sampled on various classic hip hop records, which is a great idea and a lot of work. plenty of wu-solo albums in the list. they've been hitting about one a day, and so far james brown is winning, with 'nautilus' by bob james getting more play than the guns of navarone on a bank holiday.

from da bricks did the same for illmatic over at oh word, along with a lot of background info on the originals and their use by nas' small army of super-producers.

how's about a video: 'protect your neck' live in 1993.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

"let's have a heated debate"

i wrote a successful post once, concentrating while i was writing. it pitted wilco against bright eyes. here it is! maybe i should think about writing another.

now the good folks over at the forum of the website of the studio of the frontman of shellac of north america have turned it into a poll. here it is! thanks guys! it is mostly guys, i'm thinking.

wilco are winning, and votes have flooded in for slint, which is only right. conor oberst has been threatened with a cockpunch, and bloodsport has been invoked. i'm all choked up.

here's another heated debate, courtesy of alan partridge:

Monday, 18 February 2008

wu-tang clan live in 1997

the video for the new wu-tang clan single (assuming it gets a physical release) is about the most half-assed rap video i've seen in a long time, which is saying something (though not much).

it's chiefly notable for the misspelling of 'raewkwon' and 'ghostface killa', the two most vocal critics of 8 diagrams. crivens! how will rae and ghost respond to this new form of diss? perhaps they'll deliberately give u-god the wrong directions to their house party, or swap some condiments around so inspectah deck pours salt into his cup of tea. at any rate, ghostface's video for 'we celebrate' wins this round, despite being silly:

anyway, here's some music from back when the wu could direct their internecine quarrels towards positive ends: battling, cheeky antics, and freestyling over each other's beats, on the westwood radio show in 1997. the first track features rza, odb and method man over the 'big beat' sample later popularised by jay-z and dizzee rascal. rza does a decent impression of slick rick's 'children's story' over the 'c.r.e.a.m.' beat.

wu-tang clan - 'big beat freestyle' [live on radio one, 1997]

wu-tang clan - 'guillotine swords (remix)' [live on radio one, 1997]

wu-tang clan - 'c.r.e.a.m. (remix)' [live on radio one, 1997]

wu-tang clan - 'liquid swords (remix)' [live on radio one, 1997]

for the whole show, including phone-ins, interviews, and imaginative use of the term "hornswaggled", head to the wu-tang mountain.

there's an earlier westwood show (1995?) kicking around somewhere, which is even better - method man and ghostface striving to outdo one another, stopping the others from getting a word in edgeways, and airing out a long-suffering dj for spinning inadequate tracks. if i find it, it'll end up on GMS sometime. at one stage, meth claims to be "dirty like harry, death wish like bronson, got it going on, i'm a don like johnson". a fine sentiment!

in other wu-related news, shyheim is releasing a mixtape called enter the bottom, a taster for a forthcoming album, the bottom chamber. just thought i might mention that.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

doing the decent thing

a quick head's up about a tasty british mp3 blog, two headed boy, which has some cracking live shows for download. a quick two-heads up, then. he commented on my kick-ass blog, so i reckon he's alright. if you like tindersticks, magnetic fields, red house painters, jens lekman, nick cave, or mordant wit, ch-ch-check him out.

and here we have the dresden dolls, who are pretty good, covering neutral milk hotel's 'two headed boy'. coincidences keep happening.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

godspeed shenanigans and a free live album by a silver mt. zion

"i felt a great disturbance in the force, as if a million souls cried out in torment and were silenced at once"

that quote from some movie just about begins to describe the earth-shuddering impact of the recent news about canadian post-rock anarchists godspeed you! black emperor.

to whit: godpseed have been on "indefinite hiatus" for five years. efrim, godspeed's 'frontman' (pace bakunin) told website A why godspeed haven't done much (it's the economy, stupid, to paraphrase). website B reported this as an announcement that godspeed had split up. efrim told website C that this was a misquote, and that the 'permanent hiatus' was still in place. phew! back to critical but stable. beige alert. what a bumpy ride, though!!!

anyway, website D - GMS, that is - is sure that this wasn't some cunning ploy to get his band's name in the news ahead of the release of the new silver mt. zion album. this isn't radiohead we're talking about, people! but what the hey - in the absence of godspeed, who put out really good albums and did really good live shows, we have a silver mt. zion, who do the same, only with more blues riffs and gawky shouting about hangmen with hard-ons.

the zion's new record, 13 blues for 13 moons comes out soon. to whet your appetites, GMS has compiled a live version of the four-song opus, all from a 2007 show in brussels. it's top drawer, really.

a silver mt. zion - 'one million died to make this sound' (live)

a silver mt. zion - '13 blues for 13 moons' (live)

a silver mt. zion - 'black waters bowed / engine broke blues' (live)

a silver mt. zion - 'blindblindblind' (live)

even more fun:

here's the whole show in massive VBR format

and in modest 64kb format

or you can stream it here:

Monday, 11 February 2008

black francis on the streets of oxford

frank black, or black francis if you will, playing a "guerilla gig" for the benefit of the "youtube generation" right underneath the bridge of sighs in oxford. here i am uploading it onto my "mp3 blog".

for those of you following my every move, i reckon i was two streets away at the time, having a chat about william paley. judging by the light, and all. if i'd have been there, i'd have taken a picture with my motorola flip-phone. how'd you like them apples?

as it is, here's some alternative photo-reportage. some mushrooms, spotted near the thames.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

crank dat richard hawley

i went to see richard hawley play a pop concert the other day. it really was bloody good. if i get round to it, i'll write a review of it for my kick-ass blog, which will say that it was bloody good, except with more adjectives and the names of a couple of songs he played.

until then, two facts:

fact one - the merch stand was selling richard hawley's own-brand version of henderson's relish, named 'the hawley special'. this is pop brilliance, and deserves a pop prize. it's going in my next stew, a recipe for which might then arrive on my kick-ass blog.

fact two - there are three really good songs on hawley's latest album lady's bridge, and he's released them all as singles. they all have great videos, directed by shane meadows. here's the latest, the grandiose walker brothers-style 'valentine'. just in time for, well, you guessed it. watch this video now:

more, you ask? more! here's an interview and an impromptu version of 'ain't that a shame':

and here's 'tonight the streets are ours' from later ... with jools holland:

yet more hawley on GMS

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

a nice bit of low

their 2005 set from the paradiso in amsterdam, finishing a lovely version of 'two step', from secret name. there are lots more fantastic pop concerts where that came from. i might post some - it seems easy enough.

more low on GMS

Monday, 4 February 2008

Live review: Lightspeed Champion, Semifinalists, Jonquil @ Oxford C***ing Academy

here's a story about a pop concert i went to, and whether it was any good.

jonquil are from oxford, which doesn't usually bode well, but they're actually rather nice, in a sufjan-stevens-does-cheery-beulah-type-beach-boys-folk-meandering way. seven-strong, or thereabouts, the 'quil are strangers to fashion, which is endearing. their ponytail-sporting frontman occasionally sounds like late-period morrissey, which is unsettling. closing song 'lions' is a standout, featuring an accordion-and-voice breakdown that wouldn't sound out of place on the latest beirut album. this chap says they sound like grizzly bear, but i wouldn't know about that.

album review

semifinalists come on like billy corgan fronting the happy mondays, but are less oppressive than that sounds. plaid-shirted axe-shredding frontman chris steele-nicholson trades shrill vocals with freaky-dancing foil ferry gouw, while lightspeed champion's dev hynes helps out on gangly bass duties. or is he a permanent member? it all seems like a lot of fun. they may as well play the same song ten times, or not play any real songs at all - it's all a dizzy blur of goofy noise, which is fun to watch, though it bears little relations to their gentler records.

band blog

lightspeed champion last visited oxford with his abysmal, influential comedy-thrash-disco-troupe test icicles. although he doesn't apologise for that indiscretion, his performance goes a long way towards redemption. his cheery, self-deprecating manner and unchallenging, inclusive brand of indie pop make for an easy performance. it's not hard to see why he's attracted so much goodwill amongst fans, critics and fellow lo-fi musicians. backed by a full band and leaning more heavily on electric compositions than he does on record, hynes' songs combine buddy holly-style directness with melodies and lyrics that are often so artless as to verge on musical theatre.

reviews of his debut album, falling off the lavender bridge, have emphasised his debt to bright eyes, and the presence of an often-superfluous violinist adds to that impression. but hynes borrows more from weezer (including an original 'W' guitar pick, which he stops to boast about). like rivers cuomo, hynes plants introspective, self-loathing lyrics behind a sheen of brazen populism (both singers also indulge their tendencies to litter songs with sardonic hip-hop references). does he have a pinkerton in him? perhaps not. but it's hard to demand a tortured masterpiece from such a pleasant-seeming chap, what?

whole album streaming at myspace
band blog

lightspeed champion - 'galaxy of the lost'

Saturday, 2 February 2008

rap 'n' wrestling with louis theroux

like stephen malkmus, but on telly. and in prison.

hooray for google video. in your face, youtube. etc.

louis theroux investigates gangsta rap, designs a pen 'n pixel album cover, plays basketball with master p:

louis investigates pro-wrestling, trains at the power plant, is bullied by the sarge until he's sick:

more bodybuilders, hypnotists, white supremacists, survivalists, thai brides, televangelists and minor british celebrities here.

previously on GMS