Saturday, October 31, 2009

Smooth trade...

I hate to say I told you so but I told you so... Rough Trade have just signed LA based quartet Warpaint - tipped for success here since I saw them last year. I was right about Warpaint, I am right about The Happy Hollows and will be right about the others... you read in here (possibly) first... Better than Bat for Lashes I said and I was right!

Monday, October 26, 2009

U2 and Black Eyed Peas at the Rose Bowl

Black Eyed Peas seemed to get a great reception which probably says more about the average concert goer in Los Angeles than it does about their performance, but I guess they were fairly entertaining if you like that sort of thing. The one great moment was a guest appearance by Slash for a version of 'Sweet child of mine' with Fergie doing a passable (despite messing up the words) impression of Axl Rose. Perhaps Fergie is Axl Rose - I've certainly never seem them in the same place at the same time...

I could rant about U2's carbon footprint on this tour but apparently you can offset this by inoculating a few dozens Africans so we're all good. The claw-like stage is certainly an impressive site and the light show excellent. The music sounded good - too many new songs for my liking and I'd assume the majority of the crowd felt the same way. There was genuine excitement for songs like 'Where the street have no name', 'With or Without you', 'Sunday bloody Sunday' and 'I still haven't found what I'm looking for' but these were balanced with periods of ennui in songs such as 'Get on your boots' and the uneventful closer
'Moment of Surrender'...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Echo & the Bunnymen at the Nokia Theater

Whereas LALive scored a victory with Club Nokia, I feel they have missed a great opportunity with the Nokia Theater... The theater is a huge, cavernous black box without soul or character, and had the balcony not been closed due to lack of sales we would have been at least 100 yards from the stage. As it was, we were relocated to the left side of the floor where there were many half empty rows...

Anyways, it's been 25 years since 'Ocean Rain' - the Bunnymen's seminal 1984 album, but it remains an important work of art. When the rest of contemporary music was embracing 'synth culture', the Bunnymen bucked the trend and released an LP full of strings and subtle acoustic touches. Indeed, it's difficult to imagine any of The Bunnymen's post-punk peers such as The Sound or Joy Division doing anything remotely similar... The LP has aged remarkably well and thanks to a timeless production, still sounds as fresh and vibrant as it did all those years ago. Live, the sound could have been better allowing the orchestral parts to breathe a little rather than being swamped by guitars, but I guess it was never going to sound as good as the LP. The stage lighting was a little boring - the dark oceanic blue lights only interupted by the occasional blast of strobes but the 'Ocean Rain' part of the show was accompanied by a stunning slide slow of black and white pictures of the early Bunnymen.

After 'Ocean Rain' the second part of the show was a best of collection which included 'The Cutter', 'The Back of Love', 'Zimbo (All my colours)', 'All That Jazz', 'Rescue', 'Villiers Terrace' and the brilliant 'Show of strength'... Only the second encore didn't quite hit the spot featuring a lumpy 'Nothing last forever' (except this song - thanks Sean!) and their biggest US hit 'Lips like sugar'...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Lloyd Cole at The Troubadour

I thought we'd arrived at a wedding when we walked into The Troubadour last night - the crowd was seated on white plastic chairs. Fortunately, we managed to grab the last couple even though I was sitting next to a guy with tourettes...

It's been 25 years since Cole released his debut LP 'Rattlesnakes' with the Commotions but he looked in good shape - a little heavier and his greying locks gave him a kind, Tony Hart look. He still seems painfully shy (although more chatty than I was expecting) and a little more interaction with the audience would have given the performance a more intimate feel...

Cole played two sets, both just him and a couple of acoustic guitars and he played selections from throughout his career. The voice was unmistakedly still there and the guitar playing was excellent. Highlights were everything he played from 'Rattlesnakes', especially the wonderful 'Are you ready to be heartbroken'... His music (Leonard Cohen meets the lighter side of the Velvets repertoir) has stood the test of time well although the lyricism is a little formulaic - namecheck an actress or writer, have a girls name in the song and get heartbroken. Are you ready?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

You (should) have been watching...

1. Synth Britannia: excellent BBC4 documentary on the rise and fall of electronic music in the UK. Some great footage of Walter (now Wendy) Carlos, whose 1971 soundtrack to 'A Clockwork Orange' is cited as a big inspiration, as were Kraftwerk, who were featured on a episode of sci-fi documentary 'Tomorrows World' in 1975. As electronics became cheaper and the DIY ethics of punk took over, pockets of electronic music were springing up around the UK; from Sheffield (The Human League) to Liverpool (OMD) to Manchester (Cabaret Voltaire) to London (Daniel Miller aka The Normal and founder of Mute.) Also featured from London are Throbbing Gristle and John Foxx whose Shoreditch bases were apparently on plague burial grounds...

Gary Numan bridged the gap between experimentalism and pop, opening the doors for bands such as Depeche Mode and a reformed Human League... As the 80's progressed pop music became dominated by the synth groups, and New Order pushed electronic in the direction of dance music...

Walter Carlos

2. How not to run a club (HMV exclusive DVD to accompany the Peter Hook book): entertaining 30 minute DVD featuring an interview of Peter Hook by Miranda Sawyer. Hook again talks frankly about the life and times of The Haçienda and there are also candid interviews with Fiona Allen (receptionist at the club), designer Ben Kelly and DJ's such as Mike Pickering and Jon DaSilva.


3. The Damned United: Michael Sheen gives a brilliant performance as legendary football manager Brian Clough, and the film features an excellent backup cast including Colm Meaney, Timothy Spall and Jim Broadbent. In 'The Queen' and 'Frost/Nixon' Sheen plays Tony Blair and David Frost expertly, but in 'The Damned United' he becomes Brian Clough. Great movie and Sheen deserves at least an Oscar nod...


RIP Liam Maher

Maher was the singer in Flowered Up, supposedly London's answer to The Happy Mondays... They weren't, but 'Weekender' (and the accompanying video) was a classic!

RIP Vic Mizzy

The composer of The Addams Family theme was 93...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Primitive Electric by Faris McReynolds

'The Primitive Electric' is an aptly named new exhibition by Los Angeles based artist Faris McReynolds. McReynolds paintings have two distinct styles; first a brutal, stark, somewhat Francis Bacon-esqe style which dehumanizes its subjects, and second, portraits that seen from a distance look almost like a re-touched photo. The latter, on closer inspection, are quite wonderful - the paintings seem to be melting in translucent impressionist blobs.

On a couple of paintings McReynolds distinct styles morph somewhat; 'Caveperson' is like the portrait style but the subject is caught is a blurred scream, and in 'Potato Eaters 2' the aggressive strokes are toned down, giving the painting more realism but the interesting use of color and placement makes the subjects in the background appear to be closer than those in the foreground...

'The Primitive Electrics' runs at the Roberts and Tilton gallery in Culver City from 17th October to November 14th...

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Haçienda (How not to run a club) by Peter Hook

The Haçienda (How not to run a club) is Peter Hook's wildly entertaining memoirs of being part owner of The Haçienda - Manchester's famous club. Hook's story weaves through the history of the club through the purchase and design of the club (mainly subsidized by sales of Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures), it's opening in 1982 through to it's eventual closure in 1997.

The fact that The Haçienda made it through 15 years is amazing as the club seemed continuously on the point of closure - either through financial difficulties in it's poorly attended early years or the drugs, gangs and violence that came with the acid house movement and 'Madchester'...

Hooky is full of great tales, most of which involved the drugs (of which there were plenty) and the violent Manchester gangs which made running the club on a normal basis impossible - indeed one of the gangs ended up running the door!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

RIP Al Martino

The Italian-American baritone was 82. The crooner was known for hits such as 'Spanish Eyes', 'Volare' and 'Speak Softly Love' and appeared as a wedding singer in The Godfather.

The Jazz Butcher Conspiracy at The Echo

Floods of biblical proportions and the (Mr) odd power cut or two didn't prevent me heading over to Echo Park to catch The Jazz Butcher Conspiracy. In 'Southern Mark Smith' Pat Fish sings ' California everyone's got a swimming pool in their back yard' - well, they do now... Anyway, the night was started in fine fashion by Downy Mildew who apparently have been around for ever - their quirky pop not dissimilar to the JBC but with shared boy/girl vocals with a hint of 10,000 Maniacs and early REM. Need to find out more about them...

Max Eider took the stage first and played 'My Other Life' and 'Kings and Queens' before being joined by Pat Fish and Steve Valentine for great versions of 'Who loves you now...' and 'Drink'. Next Pat did a few solo songs including 'Switzerland' from the Wilson arsenal before being joined by Max for 'La Mer' and then the full band (featuring Kevin Haskins!) steamed into the following:

Mr Odd
Sister Death
Southern Mark Smith
Caroline Wheeler's Birthday Present
Zombie Love

Great set and can only think of 'Just like Betty Page' and 'The Human Jungle' that I would have like to have heard...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Travis at Fargo...

Travis (or rather Fran Healy and Andy Dunlop) put on an entertaining show at Fargo. The acoustic tour, dubbed 'A Chronological Acoustical Journey Through the Travis Back Catalogue: Laugh Out Loud Stories, Scottish Accents, Handsome Scottish Men, Naked Torsos' featured most of Travis' best known songs plus enough obscurities to please the die-hard. Few bands could hold the attention for over 2 hours playing an acoustic set but Healy introduced each number with the story behind the track (complete with slide show) that made the show more like a play or musical, weaving a chronological journey through the story of Travis the band...

Also, interesting (and a great marketing ploy) was Healy and Dunlop returning the run the merch table which I'm sure added good numbers to the sales of T-shirts, CD's etc. This is valuable for a band like Travis, who rejected a continuation of their major label deal in favor of forging their own path. Indeed, this acoustic tour is probably a fund raising exercise to finance the next CD...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

RIP Stephen Gately

The Boyzone singer died after an evenings drinking in Majorca - he was 33. After Boyzone split in 2000 Gately starred in stage productions like Jospeh and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Boyzone reformed last year for a reunion tour....

Thursday, October 8, 2009

RIP Robert Kirby

The string arranger best known for his work on Nick Drake's 'Five Leaves Left' and 'Bryter Layter', has died at the age of 61. Kirby also worked on David Ackles' 'American Gothic', Elvis Costello's 'Almost Blue' and Paul Weller's 'Heliocentric'...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

ExDetectives at Silverlake Lounge

I enjoyed ExDetectives last night - a great set. Not that they had too much to follow - some indie en espanol from a band whose singer sounded amazingly like Enrique Iglesias (flat and Spanish) and a poor man's Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra. The latter (Colorada & Belle) murdered Nancy & Lee's 'Did you ever', raped Pink Floyd's 'Breathe' and pillaged The Stones' 'Wild horses', all while dressed as Gene Autry and his wife and doing a 'comedy' routine.

Anyways, ExDetectives played a couple of new songs of which 'Where you turn' sounded particularly strong. The set was well balanced and 'Closing Bell' is a great way to close. My only slight reservation was the turgid 'Return' but at this point only wild horses could drag it out of the set. Perhaps Gene Autry could help...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Thom Yorke at the Orpheum Theater

Thom Yorke and friends put on a great show last night in front of a packed house which included the likes of Toby Kebbell, Rhys Ifans, Charlize Theron and husband Stuart Townsend. I resisted the temptation of approaching Kebbell in the bar and asking "Dead Mans Shoes - what the fuck is all that about?" although a post show "job's a good-un" (from Control) would have been more applicable.

Yorke and Co ran through The Eraser from start to finish and everything sounded amazing especially the title track, 'Black Swan' and 'Harrowdown Hill'... Flea's percussive bass added an extra dimension to the songs, and combined with Nigel Godrich's sparse synths the music had an early Simple Minds or Japan feel. However, the layered percussion throughout was definitely Radiohead flavored.

The encore (Yorke solo for 3 songs and then the full band back for 3 or 4) was a little after the lord mayors show but short of playing some beloved Radiohead songs I don't think they could have bettered The Eraser part of the show...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

SLR & Brookline at The Dragonfly

I'd never been to The Dragonfly before but it's purple outside facade and velvet booths were familar to me - having been the location for the Hinged video for their song 'Crawl'... Hinged of course featured Sean Robertson... The Dragonfly (not unlike close neighbour Unknown Theater) has an unorthodox layout and disproportionately large stage...

SLR sounded good, bringing in 'Is a...' and a live debut for the brilliant 'Leave the light on' which closed the set at the expense of 'Venus de milo'... The sound for Brookline wasn't great but they played up to their usual high standards...

Saturday, October 3, 2009

'You're Entitled to an Opinion...' by David Nolan

 'You're Entitled to an Opinion...' (The high times and many lives of Tony Wilson, Factory Records and The Hacienda) is David Nolan's excellent and comprehensive biography of Tony Wilson.

The book covers Wilson's life, or rather his extra-ordinary double-life; by day a TV presenter at Granada Studios, and by night boss of perhaps the most influential record label of modern times in Factory Records, and the most famous UK venue/club in The Hacienda. Apparently The Hacienda only started booking DJ's as they were cheaper than bands and the rest is history! The music side of Wilson's life has been documented elsewhere but it was interesting to read of his sometimes fiery relationships with his Granada TV bosses, his later jobs with Channel 4 and the BBC.

Also covered in depth are his personal relationships, first with Lindsay Reade, then Hilary Wilson, who bore his two children and finally Yvette Livesey. Hilary Wilson was knifed on her doorstep by a crazed fan, which perhaps explains her virtual non-appearance as a character in the movie '24 hour party people'. Yvette Livesey shared Tony's love for music and still runs the 'In the City' music conference.

Wilson contracted kidney cancer in his final years and the disease had spread to his stomach and lungs by the time a prognosis was made. There was hope with a new wonder drug called Sutent, but ironically the drug was not available in Manchester due to it's high cost. Wilson campaigned for it's availability, not just for himself but others who suffered from the disease. Interestingly, the NHS value the cost of one year of life to be 30,000 GBP. Eventually, the drug was purchased anonymously for Wilson but it was too late and Wilson died August 10th 2007.

The last chapter covers the famous FAC catalog numbers, which include FAC61 - A lawsuit brought by Factory Producer Martin Hannett to get the label closed; FAC99 - Dental work for Rob Gretton (Joy Division and New Order manager) and FAC501 - Anthony H. Wilson's funeral and coffin (complete with silver FAC501 plate.)