Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

CHELSEA LIGHT MOVING interview

June 4, 2013

Last time we encountered veteran noisenik Thurston Moore, he treated London’s magnificent Union Chapel to a hushed, blissful performance of his acoustic album ‘Demolished Thoughts’. Two years on, it looks as though the urge to construct walls of squalling, structured noise has taken hold once again – with Sonic Youth on indefinite hiatus, the iconic guitarist has returned with a debut album from a new band: Chelsea Light Moving. Loud, eponymous and relentlessly brilliant, it’s a welcome return for one of indie rock’s most enduring figures. So what better time to pose a few questions about poetry, heavy metal and starting afresh?

How does it feel to start out with a new band?

It doesn’t so much feel like anything new so much as how it smells. That smell of freshness, of baby powder sprinkled on a baby’s bottom. It can only become mannered and predictable and decoded with the relentless teaching of time and when that happens it will go away and I will start a new band called The Lonely Listener. I was thinking of actually starting a new band every year, or at the very least, a new band name.

What do your bandmates bring to Chelsea Light Moving?

Well Moloney is someone who can knock back a gallon of Guinness and five hits of mescaline and blast through a gig without anyone realising he’s titanically twisted (because he just is). Samara plays bass as if it’s an oversized violin turned sideways and she rocks it like a kosmische archer. Keith can play anything and everything and make it slay – he’s weaned on Minor Threat and Wizz Jones LPs. He should’ve got the Stones’ gig first time Woodsy dropped his pick.

Do you prefer to work with a female bassist?

If it was up to me it’d be a law – that ONLY females are allowed to play the bass in indie rock bands. Why? Because dudes think of the bass as a power thud and girls do not – they seemingly treat it as a cool beast to make the bad boys cry.

How did you choose the band name?

I just didn’t want to do gigs under my own name. Thurston Moore is not a good band name, I don’t think. Not as good as Dark Flight or Man Overbored. It’s a shoegaze title in reference to my desire to be a Londoner in my late 50s. But the gaze has lazer vision now and with it I plan to burn hot lines along Stoke Newington High Street from Jolly Butcher to Café Oto.

Did you consider that it might be less recognisable than your own?

No of course not. You think I know what I’m doing here? Moloney has to beg me to come to the rehearsal studio because I’m too busy looking for first edition Frank O’Hara poetry books but when I do comply it’s always a magic blast – all these songs were written in nine hours total.

How would you describe the record?

It reminds me of when I used to plug my brother’s Fender Strat into my family’s cheapo stereo system on top of our refrigerator in Bethel, Connecticut in 1973. I’d wire the guitar lead into the auxiliary input on the back of the console and the overdrive that would happen au naturel through the shit-shocked speakers was the defining sound of my artistic existence. So it’s nuthin’ new.

Is it a reaction to ‘Demolished Thoughts’?

Yeh. I’m ready to take my 12-string acoustic Martin and slowly grind it into the maw of a psychic wood-chipper.

Do CLM enjoy the same sort of musical telepathy as SY?

All groups NEED telepathy to even begin thinking about getting on stage. As Lydia Lunch has said, “Just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD” – magic, sound & vision, are key – otherwise it’s just a disco.

Has your writing process changed?

I make all the ultimate calls in CLM – so that’s pretty cool in a megalomaniacal way – but that does get to be boorish after a while so I’m thinking of throwing it down for a bit to concentrate on opening a poetry salon in east London (true).

(Originally published by The Fly, 27/03/2013)

 

Advertisements

IL SOGNO DEL MARINAIO – Liverpool, Eric’s, 05/03/2013

June 4, 2013

Things were different last time Mike Watt came to Liverpool, in support of his fourth solo album Hyphenated-Man. A collection of herky-jerky spasms in the vein of the Minutemen, his legendary 80s outfit that expanded the horizons of hardcore, the record was a simultaneous rediscovery and affirmation of the idiomatic singularity that defined his early career. With new ‘uns captivatingly despatched, we were then treated to an encore of fan favourites from his former band’s catalogue – a punk-funk dance party with nostalgia as the icing, not the cake.

This time, Watt may be the draw, but whatever it says on the poster, he ain’t the whole of the act. Il Sogno del Marinaio’s Stefano Pilia originally approached San Pedro’s favourite son about the prospect of recording and touring Italy together way back in 2009, and it’s only now that we’re seeing the fruits of their endeavours. But that’s enough context – what does it do? Well, quite simply, as much as it possibly can. This is incredible music, lurching from dissonant post-punk racket to funked-out groove to free jazz-inspired dexterity and more. ‘Zoom’ rolls by on a gently loping bassline, while Pilia uses a bow to tease freakish atonality from his guitar, and Andrea Belfi skips subtly across the kit with elastic-limbed rapidity. ‘Partisan Song’ just plain rocks, sounding like a riff Tim Kinsella and Sam Zurick might have dreamed up for one of their mathletic Joan of Arc spin-offs. Every song gives voice to a collective imagination set free and doing what the hell it wants.

The effect is wonderful. Il Sogno del Marinaio project movies onto the canvas of my mind: one minute I’m in a scuzzy backstreet bar straight out of dystopian cyberpunk anime. Next I’m wandering the desert of a western as directed by Jim Jarmusch; poignant in its monochrome starkness. Suddenly I’m lying in a field, gazing at dark clouds overhanging the cold earth, feeling the rain tapping softy against my face. I’m Roberto Benigni singing sweet inanities behind bars. I’m Robert de Niro driving the diseased streets of New York. I’m everyone and everywhere, lost to the illustrative flow of the sound. See, this music is cinematic and visual, not just noise but allegorical narrative, as emotive and viscerally beautiful as any words or physical action. I am so fucking in love with this band.

They round things off with a blistering cover of The Stooges’ ‘Fun House’, which closes with the frontman holding his bass aloft to yell, “Start your own band!” You can practically hear hearts being crossed as everyone present mentally promises to do so, whilst also suspecting that it couldn’t possibly be as wonderful as what we’ve witnessed tonight. If Mike Watt wants to play songs from his formidable back catalogue, I’ll be there. But man, if he and his equally-impressive bandmates want to make new music as richly powerful as this, I’d almost be happy to never hear a note off Double Nickels On The Dime again. Il Sogno del Marinaio rule.

(Originally published by Get Into This, 10/03/2013)

ICEAGE – Liverpool, Shipping Forecast, 26/02/2013

June 4, 2013

Moody fuckers, Iceage. You can tell from the way they march sombrely onstage – no strut, no swagger, just unblinking, unsmiling purpose. Guitars are strapped on with no acknowledgement of the crowd, and with a swift ripple of drums, we’re straight into the first song. And what a fabulous din they make: solid sheets of freezing, isolationist noise, skirting the dextrous, probing jabs of their post-punk influences in favour of powerful, pummelling onslaughts. They’ve quite reasonably drawn comparison to Joy Division for the mechanistic nihilism of their recorded output, but tonight’s set calls to mind Moss Icon’s anguished howls, or even the prototypical emocore of Embrace (not that one) – punk that’s progressive with a small ‘p’.

The elephant in the room, of course, is the controversy over the Copenhagen foursome’s dabblings with far-right imagery – undetectable here (well, they don’t unfurl a giant swastika behind the Shipping Forecast’s tiny stage or anything), but still, there’s an element of freakshow in the air, the room full of typically-liberal hipsters. Will they address it? How will they deal with it? What will they do? Well, nothing, as it turns out. ‘Banter’ (ahem) is limited to song titles spat into the air with typical sang-froid, ignoring the fratboys’ relentless, drunken shouting (in mock-Scandanavian accents – nice). Difficult to judge, but when an excitable punk audience seems reluctant to punch the air, lest it be mistaken for sieg heiling, it seems fairest to cautiously accept the band’s official line: that their aesthetic choices are made with an apolitical approach, however misguided or naïve that may seem. Something tells us the debate will rumble on tediously.

Anyway, back to the music. It’s powerful. It’s punchy. It’s positively seething. It’s the familiar sound of youthful disaffection, crushed into jagged shards of thrilling brutalist sound. Hear that, Iceage? You’re something, alright.

(Originally published by The Fly, 07/03/2013)

I Break Horses – Hearts (Bella Union)

August 19, 2011

 

“I Break Horses”? Good lord. Ever feel like the well of decent band names has run dry? Still, this Stockholm duo’s English is infinitely better than my Swedish, so maybe that’s worth taking into consideration.

Breaking with their country’s long-running indie tradition of ‘twee’ (for want of a better expression) and powerpop, IBH favour an impressive blend of shoegaze and electro-pop, and the results are pretty interesting. In fact they’re somewhere between Julee Cruise, Jenniferever and M83; familiar dense waves of throbbing, textured electronic noise dripping with sadness and reverb. No need to dredge up those horrible ‘sonic cathedral’ cliches (whoops), but this is definitely the sort of thing that’s going to sound utterlyfuckingphenomenal through beerdrunk ears at live shows. At its best it’s utterly beautiful.

Not every track here’s a winner, but there are certainly no out-and-out stinkers. A pretty promising debut, all-in-all.

I sure hope they tour this record.

An explanation

June 4, 2011

Yes, the interview in the previous post originally appeared as a Q&A on The Fly website. This is just me playing round with stuff really. And adding other bits (the factfile and the discography mainly) so I can use them in my college portfolio.

So regular readers (er, that’ll be you, Peter) can rest easy in the knowledge that this isn’t a drastic new direction for WHTB by any means.

Phew!

“Purely for fun and artistic expression” – an interview with Bill Janowitz of Buffalo Tom

June 4, 2011

Bill Janowitz grimaces.

“Eurgh, that’s so sweet,” he says, his face a mixture of disgust and disappointment. “I had such high hopes for this ginger beer as well. That’s awful.”

This is Buffalo Tom’s first trip to the UK in four years, and this isn’t the best of starts. Fizzy pop is clearly a young man’s game. If that presents a challenge, how on earth will they cope with rock’n’roll?

*

First of all, let’s clear something up: this is not a Buffalo Tom reunion tour. Although the band made a conscious decision not to play together for the best part of a decade, they never actually split up. Having toured relentlessly from the late 80s, through indie rock’s overground boom right through to their 1998 album ‘Smitten’, a sabbatical seemed like the right choice for three thirty-something former college buddies.

Then, almost without warning, they re-emerged in 2007 with their seventh album ‘Three Easy Pieces’. Far more breezily upbeat than their later work, it appeared in the wake of well-received reformations from the likes of the Pixies and Dinosaur Jr. You could be forgiven for thinking the revered Boston trio were trying to cash in on The Great 90s Indie Rock Revival, but Bill’s keen to settle that score:

“We’re treated like elder statesmen,” he laughs, “but it’s not like we’re turning into this big popular band like The Pixies or something. I’d like that! But we’re very realistic. We’re doing it purely for fun and artistic expression.”

Buffalo Tom (l-r): Bill Janowitz, Tom Maginnis, Chris Colburne

Bands that realize they can carry on for fun tend to be the ones that continue to make good records, WHTB suggests.

“Yeh. I think a lot of it has to do with getting to a certain maturity level. When we were in our 20s, we were just figuring out life. But then we had modest goals. When we signed to SST, that was like putting up a gold record on the wall! We really had no idea that there was a chance for a band like us to make money.

“All those bands we played with, like Nirvana, who became the rock stars for a generation… that wasn’t even on our radar! We were always trying to keep each other in check.”

Despite their time off, Bill refutes the notion that the band are effectively starting all over again.

“It kinda feels as though there was never any time off the road,” he says thoughtfully.

“Very little has changed for us. We’re older, obviously, but we’re going back to places we were going to in our 20s.”

Talk turns to their latest album, the elegantly-mature ‘Skins’. WHTB remarks that it sounds like a band that’s comfortable with its sense of self, which suits Bill fine.

“I’ve always seen Buffalo Tom as a ‘mid-tempo ballad’ kind of band,” he grins.

It’s appropriate that Buffalo Tom should choose to return in the wake of Dinosaur Jr’s successful reunion. Furthermore, WHTB points out, a wave of punk bands has also emerged citing Buffalo Tom as an influence, including Bedford Falls and Cheap Girls.

“There was a period of time where Radiohead mentioned us, early on! I haven’t heard it so much lately.” Bill chuckles to himself at the memory.

“But it’s important to me to understand where music comes from.  Some people don’t really care if we were influenced by Hüsker Dü, but I think it’s really important.”

Buffalo Tom in 1993

Tom Willecome from Bedford Falls has said that Buffalo Tom “combine the sound of ‘classic rock’ with the brevity and punch of punk, and refine it to the point that punk becomes a distant memory but the brevity and punch remain”. Bill is interested that newer bands feel the same way as he did about his own influences.

 

“Hüsker Dü started out like a pure hardcore band, then they developed over the years to incorporate all these influences. It’s not like any band exists within a vacuum,” he says, launching into a history lesson.

 

“We first formed because Chris [Colbourne, bassist] and I would be going to Rolling Stones shows, Echo & The Bunnymen shows, Hüsker Dü, Replacements… we had the same taste in all kinds of stuff. Tom [Maginnis, drummer] as well.”

 

The personel of the band has remained the same since those early days, and Bill agrees this has been important.

“Well, I think the major thing is that we’ve never really broken up. We just stopped recording and touring, and that really helped. If we’d broken up then it might have been more lucrative! Who knows? But we needed to re-establish some balance in our lives.”

Bill’s an affable sort, and clearly comfortable recounting tales of days gone by. While he’s in his element, it would be totally remiss of WHTB not to discuss the band’s career-making appearance on early 90s teen-drama ‘My So-Called Life’. Perhaps inevitably, the band feel a personal connection to that period.

“We ran into this show where the creators were big fans. There were so few years between signing to SST [legendary LA punk record label] and being on a trailer on a Hollywood lodge with Claire Danes sitting on the floor, asking us for stories…

“You’d gotta be careful, because if you wanted to take on mainstream things, you risked alienation of your core audience. But we took it and it really changed our audience – not  that all of a sudden we sold millions of records, but it went from being all dudes at the shows to more younger women. And that was great, just to broaden it.”

Suddenly snapping back to reality, Bill smiles ruefully. “But now it’s gone back to the way it was…”

With the band now settling into middle age, WHTB asks how long Buffalo Tom can continue.

“I dunno, I ask myself that every day. Increasingly as I get older. I think of it as one step at a time: this may be our last record, it may not.”

If it came to that, the self-assured Skins would be a fine way to bow out. And perhaps a very grown-up way to bow out at that. Bill’s brow furrows at the suggestion.

“I’m the young guy in the band, and I’m 44,” he says, leaning forward. “We’re still jumping around and sometimes I just feel silly, but it’s pretty real. I’m not trying to put on a show. If I jump at the end of a song it’s because I’m happy to do it… and happy to still be able to do it!”

Cracking a smile, Bill Janowitz leans back and shrugs.

“I mean, we’re not that old.”

(Will  Fitzpatrick)

BUFFALO TOM FACTFILE:

  • The band formed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1986
  • All three members of the band were originally guitarists, with Chris Colburne and Tom Maginnis having to learn bass and drums respectively
  • Perceived early similarities to another Boston band saw them initially written off as ‘Dinosaur Jr junior’ in their local press
  • Their celebrity fans include Glee star Mike O’Malley, who wrote the press release for their latest album Skins
  • Buffalo Tom was the final band to appear on The Jon Stewart Show

BUFFALO TOM DISCOGRAPHY

  • Buffalo Tom (SST, 1988)
  • Birdbrain (Situation 2, 1990)
  • Let Me Come Over (Beggar’s Banquet, 1992)
  • Big Red Letter Day (Beggar’s Banget, 1993)
  • Sleepy-Eyed (Beggar’s Banquet, 1995)
  • Smitten (Beggar’s Banquet, 1998)
  • Three Easy Pieces (New West Records, 2007)
  • Skins (Scrawny, 2011)

New year, new start

January 5, 2011

“I’ll never know which way to flow, set a course that I don’t know” – Teenage Fanclub

A new start always seems like an empty promise. All those hopeful plans and ideas to change seem to fade so rapidly when faced with the humdrum day-to-dayisms that so easily get in the way. In a way it reminds me of that line in Come Out 2nite by Kenickie wherein the teenage narrator surveys the drunken, gleeful chaos of a girls’ night out and announces “I know we’ll always be friends”. It’s as hopeful and sincere as all of those new year resolutions, but equally tinged with a certain sadness when the listener realises that soon those girls will go to college, get jobs or do whatever people do, and the links of that friendship will evaporate, sadly but naturally. It’s a trueism for most of us.

So it’s refreshing that, for once, I’m stood on the precipice of a genuine change. At the start of February, I’ll be kissing goodbye to the deskjob and finally flinging myself at the mercy of the media industry. Well, sort of. I’m certainly ditching business support in an attempt to get paid writing work (rather than the sporadic, unpaid freelancing I’ve done for the past seven years), but before I do that, I’m going back to college.

You see, I never really thought about practical ways to go about becoming a professional music writer. Neither of the fanzines I edited saw the light of day. The student paper didn’t return my emails, so I never pushed them. Even when I started writing under a crap pseudonym for a local reviews site (long since decamped to London), I still didn’t go so far as to send my writing to bigger publications. Forever fearing rejection, I didn’t allow myself to make the effort to take those steps, because it would be easier to daydream than be told I wasn’t good enough. The problem with this sort of fear is that it breeds further laziness, and so by the end of 2009 I woke up to find myself typing my days away under a glass ceiling in a career I didn’t want in the first place. I was overweight, apathetic and miserable. Things had to change.

As 2010 began, I resolved to make those changes. I began using my gym membership more than at any time since being unemployed in 2006. I started to write songs for the first time in years. When the opportunity to join a new band presented itself, I took it, and before long my other band was also playing more shows. Suddenly I was playing music frequently for the first time in years. It was great, but I knew I had to make more of a plan for a life outside of what is essentially a hobby (a furiously passionate one, but a hobby nonetheless).

It was time to get serious about writing.

After some investigation, I formed a plan. It required the humiliating but necessary act of moving back in with my parents to finance it, but it was a plan nonetheless. And so here I am on the verge of it coming into practice. From February, I’ll be commencing my NCTJ diploma at my local community college. You might observe it’s a step I should have taken years ago, and perhaps you’re right. But as far as I’m concerned it’s a step I’m happy to be taking at all. Now I’ve seen what happens when I drift, I want to take control of things.

So 2011 is where things change. When people ask ‘what do you do for a living?’ I’ll have to start replying ‘I’m a writer,’ rather than explaining how I’m making ends meet and then dismissing my ambition with a ‘…but I’m also…’. It’s a big change, but it’s refreshing, and I’m genuinely excited about it. Come the summer, I’ll be searching for an actual job in this business. I’m on my way to being a professional writer.

Imagine.

After the self-indulgent and pointless way I’ve rambled on here, I’ll certainly have to become more focussed.

Anyway.

People in my chosen career tend to sign off the previous year by listing their favourite bands or releases, or prediciting the best artists of the next twelve months. This is an area of pop hackism that I’m looking forward to least, to be honest – the Nick Hornby-esque compiling of lists for lists’ sake. So for now I’m going to enjoy the blogosphere’s freedom to ignore that ominous future task, and instead just tell you about my favourite record of my best year in a long time.

Majesty Shredding is Superchunk‘s first full-length since the appropriately-titled Here’s To Shutting Up in 2001. Not that they’ve been resting on their laurels since then – singer/guitarist Mac McCaughan has been busy with his Robert Pollard collaboration Go Back Snowball, and the ongoing Portastatic project, drummer Jon Wurster has begun a career in radio comedy, and bassist Laura Ballance has run indie powerhouse Merge Records alongside Mac for 20 years. You might be forgiven for expecting this ‘comeback’ to be a cheap cash-in on the success of their peers Dinosaur Jr and Pavement‘s recent reunions. But it isn’t.

For one thing, Superchunk never actually split up. They just took some time out. As Pitchfork rightly pointed out, Majesty Shredding “sounds like McCaughan had another 11 Superchunk-sounding songs sitting around, and the band finally found time to record them.” And they’re all stormers. This may not have the same impact as 1991’s No Pocky For Kitty, or introduce unexpected dynamic changes like Foolish or Come Pick Me Up, but it does contain eleven great songs that… well, that just don’t let up. There’s the hook-tastic Digging For Something, laced with ‘woah-oh-oh’s and nagging guitars. Rosemarie reveals the reverse effect of the bands effect on 90s emo by sounding like the best song late-period Get Up Kids never wrote. Everything At Once resembles Slowdive being given a crash course in fizzy pop-punk and utterly joyous choruses.

Then there’s Learned To Surf. Technically, this isn’t a new song – it first surfaced on 2009’s Leaves In The Gutter EP. But I’m going to argue for its inclusion here by virtue of a) being on this album and b) being utterly superb on every level. It may not just be my favourite song of this year; I can’t think of many records I’ve liked this much in the last decade.

The same goes for the whole album though. It’s utterly wonderful.

No doubt I’ll keep you abreast of my progress with the course.

“I can’t hold my breath any more – I stopped sinking and learned to surf”

HNY, everyone

w x