Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Nobody's Daughter

Just listening to the stream on The Guardian of the new Hole album, Nobody's Daughter. After a 12-year lapse, it was always going to be difficult to go back to the old moniker for Courtney Love (or is it Courtney Michelle?). And, indeed, to my ears, the record sounds in places like a bad Hole tribute band. What has happened to Courtney's vocals? I don't mean the raspiness that characterises them. I like that.

But, what's with the Dylan impression on "Someone Else's Bed"? Or the Billy Corgan-esque gymnastics on the otherwise standout "Honey"? Perhaps this is some in-joke between the two (before they fell out on Twitter.... again).

In any case, it's a record long on clever lyrics and overly-mannered vocals and a bit short on tunes. Much of it sounds like Celebrity Skin, which I found over-produced and rather drab. Perhaps this isn't a surprise, considering collaborators this time include Corgan and Linda Perry, not exactly grounded minimalists.

Perhaps it's too much to ask for Love to rise to the brilliance of Live Through This, though there are a few moments that recall its breathless mix of self-laceration and cattiness. It's good to have her back, and perhaps, with this comeback out of the way, she will re-discover her creative spark.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ether10: Berlin Sounds

Queen Elizabeth Hall, 23 April

Thomas Fehlmann DJ set at Berlin Sounds, part of Ether10 in London; photo by Val PhoenixA funny ol' evening, this. It wasn't clear until a few hours beforehand whether everyone had made it over from various locales, including Finland, for this celebration of Berlin music, owing to our friend, The Ash Cloud. But, happily all were present and accounted for: Vladislav Delay, Thomas Fehlmann, To Rococo Rot, and, of most interest to me, Greie und Gut.

The latest collaborative effort by restless creative spirits Antye Greie and Gudrun Gut, Greie und Gut--or Greie Gut Fraktion, as they also style themselves--gave the UK premiere of their intriguing concept piece, Baustelle. Inspired by the building work they themselves were undertaking last year, the piece comprises some nine parts, each on a theme: concrete, stone, etc.

Amusingly, they arrived on-stage in character, wearing boots and coveralls and with their laptops draped in safety tape. Unlike Gut's early band, Einstürzende Neubauten, they didn't take any heavy machinery to the stage. But, the screen behind them did show some building work in practice, artfully rendered in black and white. And, at one point, they did don hard hats.

It's intriguing to speculate on just who contributed what to the works. Greie handled most of the singing, with Gut contributing some understated (and sometimes inaudible) vocalising into two mics, one presumably with effects. Some of the pieces were more like tone poems than songs, but others were downright funky and poppy. Imagine that! They also covered "Wir bauen eine neue Stadt", by Palais Schaumburg, Fehlmann's old band. He kept the crowds entertained with a laptop DJ set in The Front Room after the main gig (see pic).

Very much looking forward to hearing the Baustelle album, which Gudrun handed me afterward. I had hoped to speak with GGF, but, sadly for me, Greie slipped away, tired out from her long day.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Cloudy, with a chance of ash

As time passes and the temporary closure of UK air space stretches into days and, quite soon, a week, I find myself pondering the awesome power of the Icelandic ash cloud that is making a slow, meandering, high-flying tour of Europe. Since exploding onto the scene five days, The Ash Cloud has succeeded in doing what successive waves of environmental campaigners, terrorists and various air mishaps couldn't do: grounding entire fleets of air craft and forcing everyone backwards to a time when we thought nothing of, say, setting aside 24 hours to travel from London to Prague. Sea Cats? Hovercraft? Trains? What are those?

Not only that, but this Cloud is oh-so-modern and tech-savvy, with its own Twitter page, which offers handy tips, messages in Icelandic and even a smidgen of post-modern soul-searching. Yes, this Cloud has feelings. Ash Cloud, I salute you. Hvað er að í himninum? Það er aska ský.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Record Store Day

One day to go until the 3rd annual Record Store Day (i.e., April 17), celebrating that rarity, independent record stores. I think record stores still have a role to play in the digital world. I can recall many, many happy experiences searching bins in New York, San Francisco, Berlin and other places, digging out obscure pieces of vinyl or CDs, chatting to other customers and the often incredibly knowledgeable and passionate folk who run these shops.

A good record store is as much a place of community as a place of commerce, and they should be supported or they will die out. I am still in mourning for my favourite shop in London, Totem, which is now a baby clothes store. (Not to mention I lost my £20 credit there.)

Among the treats on show for Record Store Day are signings, performances and exclusive releases spanning the globe from Australia to Brazil to Greece, though concentrated in the USA. Amoeba Music, in the San Francisco Bay Area, is pulling out the stops, with appearances by Charlotte Gainsbourg and Holly Golightly in its two shops.

Exene Cervenka is touring record shops between Los Angeles and Seattle.

In London, Rough Trade has awesome bills at its two shops, with appearances by Jesca Hoop, Magic Numbers and Laurie Anderson (!!!).

There are also special releases by, among others: Breeders, Sharon Jones, Hole, Joan Baez, Coco Rosie, Goldfrapp and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Definitely worth getting out of bed for on a Saturday.

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Queer Control Records compilation

Isn't that just the way? You wait ages for a free compilation and then two come along at once. Operation Download: Mixin' It Up is Queer Control Records' new free download. I've just given it a listen and it is a refreshingly varied compilation of music from LGBTIQQ artistes.

Yes, that's two Qs, which answers the question I posed recently about the ever-growing acronym list for the not-straight community. The second Q (surely Q² would be snappier) stands for "questioning". So, now I know. Anyway, the music ranges from hardcore thrash to dance to indie rock to folk, with many acts I shall be looking up, friending and playing on my radio show, among them The Degenerettes (featured in Riot Acts), Miss the Occupier and Harlequin Baby.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Kill Rock Stars sampler

Many records to review, but I shall hold off for now and instead report that Kill Rock Stars have posted a FREE sampler on their website, featuring old and new faves such as Gossip, LiLiPUT, Bikini Kill and more.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Evening Session revival

Just listening to the one-off Evening Session return on the (apparently doomed) 6Music as I set up my back room. I always liked the Whiley-Lamacq pairing and was a regular listener to the Evening Session in the mid-90s when I arrived in London.

But..... I can't say the music has aged well: 60 Foot Dolls, Ash, Sleeper, Ultrasound, Bennet, and the execrable Gene. Each and every one prompts in me no sense of "Oh, weren't those the good old days!". More like: "Christ, they were crap!" I always found Britpop a horrendously backward-looking trend. What about new music, Jo and Steve?