Friday, June 30, 2006

PJ Harvey - Please Leave Quietly DVD

It could never happen. We know that. PJ Harvey could have a meaningful romance with Truth or Beauty or Eternity or Death (or Nick Cave), but not with a mere mortal, a mere lovelorn indie boy. To us, she must remain a mystery.

But to every mystery, there are clues – and this DVD, released last month, is full of them. Look, there she is, drunk on tequila; or making a dirty joke about 'muffed-up plucking'; or getting the giggles for no apparent reason during a performance of 'Down By The Water'; or proving that the way she sings (part sex pather, part mournful wraith, part dictator addressing her troops) isn't the way she talks (more Dorset milkmaid). For once, the real Polly Jean! Sigh.

That's in the all-too-brief behind-the-scenes interludes, which capture, as PJ herself puts it, the 'ramshackleness, the brokenness, the changeability' of touring. Most of the rest of the DVD is cut together from several gigs on the 2004 Uh Huh Her tour. Unfortunately the footage, directed by long-time collaborator Marie Mochnacz, is often very murky, and the sixteen songs themselves never stray too far from the album versions, although you do get two decent new ones. If you want to pretend to yourself that you went to a PJ Harvey gig, this DVD is no good. But if you want to pretend to yourself that you met her backstage afterwards and made her your bride, this DVD is a start.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

LOVE IS ALL, CARGO, 28.6.06

The saxophone is my most hated instrument. I can’t stand it’s strangulated squawking. But for some reason the fact that Love Is All have a sax player doesn’t bother me, not even when he does all that jazz-style twiddly stuff. There was a lot of twiddling at tonight’s performance at Cargo, both from saxophonist Frederik Eriksson and lead singer Jospehine Olausson, whose vocal style is somewhere between Bj√∂rk and Fever To Tell-era Karen O. Nicholaus Sparding’s jittery guitar and Johan Lindwall’s revved-up drumming are no less frenetic. It’s like they’ve drunk ten Red Bulls. All four ping around the stage like pinballs yelping, screeching and jerking, and the unfettered energy is thoroughly infectious. Talk Talk Talk Talk, Ageing Had Never Been His Friend and Busy Doing Nothing are so twingingly exciting, you could listen to them again the moment they finish. This was a thrilling gig. Watch out for Love Is All in issue three of Dummy, due at the end of August, complete with sax.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Shoegaze Will Never Die

With all this rave nostalgia on the Dummy blog recently, I think it's time someone spoke up for the other great scene that rose and fell between 1989 and 1991: shoegaze. Sadly, there'll be no BBC2 documentary to tie in with the release on Monday of Like A Daydream - A Shoegazing Guide, but the compilation proves that someone, somewhere, remembers The Scene That Celebrate[d] Itself. I don't remember it - I was too young - but I wish I'd been there. Shoegaze actually has a lot in common with rave - it's dreamy and druggy, soaring and sexual.

We shoegazers are not a happy lot. We wake up praying in vain that Kevin Shields will finally have got round to releasing the remastered, expanded box-set of early My Bloody Valentine EPs that we've been promised for years. We turn away in disgust from nu-gaze bands like Joy Zipper and the Engineers that replicate the sonics but neglect the song-writing. We beg our friends to buy Loveless or Nowhere, only to find they spent their money on the Hard-Fi LP instead. We are mocked and misunderstood.

And this compilation is not going to change that. The basic problem is that 90% of shoegaze, like 90% of any scene, just wasn't very good. (Apparently it was trendy back then to get a lead singer who couldn't actually sing for toffee.) So there's no reason to buy Like A Daydream, with its tepid contributions from obscure chancers like Revolver and Moose, when you could instead get, say, the brilliant two-CD reissue of Slowdive's Souvlaki. Also, there's nothing here from bands that weren't strictly part of the scene at the time but are inextricable from it in hindsight, like the Jesus & Mary Chain or the Cocteau Twins.

Still, I'm glad Like A Daydream exists. 'Hardcore Will Never Die!' swear the rave nostalgists. Well, neither will shoegaze. Not while I'm around.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Ellen Allien & A Parrot?

Just got back from Barcelona where the Sonar festival was taking place. As well as 15,000 plus making the trek to the official Sonar party just outside of the city all the clubs in town - and the bars on Marbella beach - were hosting label nights and special events of their own. My highlight was watching Ellen Allien performing her Orchestra of Bubbles album with collaborator Apparat. Sonically it sounds a lot like the techno of her formative years when the Berlin wall came down: super melodic and trance tinged. Ellen is one of the most enthusiastic people on the techno scene and it shows when she performs - especially when she stepped out front to sing 'Way Out' (which has a lovely New Order-ish outro). I was enthusing about the show the following day and noticed the person I was speaking to looked a little confused: "So Ellen Allien was performing with a parrot? What was it sitting on her shoulder?"

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

EAGLES OF DEATH METAL, ISLINGTON ACADEMY, 19.6.06

Jesse Hughes and Josh Homme made one 18-year-old Eagles Of Death Metal fan’s night tonight. “Help me wish this guy ‘Happy Birthday’,” said Jesse, who then led the audience in a celebratory chorus. “So you’re 18,” said Josh. “That means you can have sex with us.” “You ever been in the navy?” winked Jesse. “Wanna check it out, sailor?” Blimey. The performance was even more entertaining than the between song banter. No one does stoner rock better than the Queens Of The Stone Age extended family and EODM were actually better than QOTSA were the last time they played in London. Cherry Cola and I Want You So Hard (Boy’s Bad News) from the new album Death By Sexy were absolutely blistering and a cover of Brown Sugar played as an impromptu encore was more fun than a tossed off Rolling Stones cover has a right to be. They’re coming back in August. Go and see them.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

THE SUMMER OF ’89

Processed nostalgia isn’t normally my kind of thing, but I ended up watching The Summer Of ’89 last Saturday night. You know the kind of thing. Lots of talking heads reflect on the popular culture of the day with a bit of politics thrown in to make it seem clever (after all, it was shown on BBC 2). Much time was devoted to the M25 orbital raves that happened that summer. There can’t be many people who aren’t familiar with the story. Even my mum said, ‘Oh yes, I remember this.’ Indeed, the narrative ran on rails: dance music’s big, everyone’s taking ecstacy, promoters throw big parties, you have to ring up to find out where it is, big convoys of ravers circle the M25, and so on. However, in amongst the commonplace reminicences (did anyone really need to hear Lisa Loud explaining how ecstacy did more to reduce violence on the football terraces than the police ever could?) there was one gem. It was an interview with a farmer who hired out his field for a rave. The following day, his neighbours were mightly miffed. He remembered, with a somewhat hurt expression, that for a long time afterwards whenever he went in the local pub everyone else would move up the other end. “It was a nice pub, as well,” he said. But he added that in retrospect he didn’t mind because 20,000 people had a good time and he felt quite proud. Forget Anthony Wilson banging (again!) on about the ten year youth culture cycle and every youth movement having its own drug. The farmer summed up the spirit of the time better than anyone.

Friday, June 09, 2006

RAVE HEART

Last night, I was sorting through my records in preparation for a rare DJ engagement. I don’t get asked very often. I think perhaps it’s because I lack the ability to ‘please crowds’. Mindful of this, my girlfriend said: “You’re not going to play any of that weird rave stuff that sounds like aliens, are you?” I had to admit that it had crossed my mind. I’m sure that everyone feels the same way about the music they loved as a teenager, but there’s still something about early ’90s rave that gives me thrilling jolt. It’s like a Roy Lichtenstein painting – garish, dumb and above all fun. I didn’t play any rave records last night. Instead, I’ve compiled ten of my favourites here (see right). If, like me, you still want more, see the 50 Best Rave Records Of All Time article in the current issue of Dummy. Feel the rush…
Chris

Get Off

I've got a theory that the MySpaceisation of the world means that people really want proper object again - mixtapes (see Jamie T, Lily Allen) and fanzines in particular. I am a MySpace refusnik (although, err, now a blognik – thanks Dummy). Yeah, yeah, it's good for listening to music but I'm with a journo friend of mine who has virtually stopped emailing and texting her friends in favour of – shock – ringing them up. I can now touch-text. This is not a good thing.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Never Trust A Hippie

So, Sandi Thom’s Number 1 with I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair). Leaving aside the fact that her internet following was apparently a fabrication Link, what I want to know is what on earth she’s on about. Punks never wore flowers in their hair. It was glue. Or sugar and water. Basically anything sticky to make it stick up. It was hippies that wore flowers in their hair. And punks hated hippies. What next? I Wish I Was A Norwegian Death Metaller (In A Lovely Pink Frock)?

BEST CONCERT MOVIES EVER?

I watched two of my favourite concert movies back to back last week. Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense and Prince's Sign O' The Times. David Byrne's idea of building the stage and show from scratch before our very eyes is inspired. From just him, a beat box and guitar for the opening Psycho Thriller to the climatic version of Al Green's Take Me To The River, it just makes you gasp. Half way through when the backdrops are in place and the band assembled you think, 'What next?' And then he comes out in that big suit! The lighting is effective too and I thought that Damon Albarn must have studied this for his recent Gorillaz shows in Manchester. The Prince film - and they're both proper films that were screened at the cinema in the 80s - is a more straight up stage show. But what a show! Sign O' The Times remains his finest album and the Revolution my favourite band - Sheila E and Dr Fink are both present - but it's all about Prince, his then muse Cat and some incredible dancing and showboating. Seeing a bloke do the splits and then rise to his feet with ease in a pair of huge heels always makes me draw breath. The only thing that makes me feel glum when I watch this amazing concert is the memory that I had a ticket for the Birmingham show in 1987, row C no less. The tickets demanded the audience wear something peach and/or black and I brought a peach shirt especially for it. Then a few weeks beforehand the whole UK tour got cancelled! Whenever I watch this with someone I always end up muttering, 'Row C' under my breath. I never made use of that shirt either. I hate peach.

My new favourite music book

Someone lent me Joe Boyd's White Bicyles last week and I have come to agree with the Brian Eno quote on the front – "the best book about music I have read in years". What a joy! As well as brilliant tell-your-mates anecdotes about running UFO in '60s London and recording with Nick Drake, he's the master of insightful comment: he's got any number of interesting asides on why English people don't like English folk music (it's to do with the Norman Conquest). There's something special about listening to music once you've found out new stuff about the recording, even if you know the song back to front, and that's exactly how 'River Man' sounds now. Ah. Bliss.

My favourite pop cultural read since Fuzz One's Bronx Childhood.