Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Friday, May 18, 2007
Only once on Ongiara, on the contemplative Passenger Song, is that voice left unchaperoned with an acoustic guitar; for the rest of the album, Dekker is backed by banjo, drums, double bass, organ, and/or string arrangements by Arcade Fire-collaborator Final Fantasy. The strangely stop-start, wax-wane pace of many of these songs reminds me of Nina Nastasia, with whom Dekker shares a country-esque stoical melancholy; but Dekker, described amusingly as a 'pine-gazer' on Allmusic, is more likely to let songs like Changing Colours and I Became Awake swell, often beautifully, into a proper chorus. And although we've seen everything here before, Dekker does it all exceptionally well. That also includes the lyrics, which are a long way above the folk standard 'Oh, it's winter, look at the crows' or 'Wasn't it nice back then with your lovely hair?'; Your Rocky Spine, for example, is an elegant and sustained metaphorical riff on woman's-body-as-mountain-range over an uptempo banjo melody that could be Seven Swans-era Sufjan Stevens. (Although I don't know whether Backstage With The Modern Dancers is just about a modern dance show or whether it's really about, like, regret.) 2007 has been a huge musical disappointment so far, but I don't mean it as a half-compliment when I say that Great Lake Swimmers' slow, moving third LP may be the best thing I've heard this year.
Out now on Weewerk.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Ned adds: You could characterise The Blow as a sort of anti-Hadouken. Like the castaway in Watchmen who sales home on a raft of dead bodies, Hadouken have achieved NME-cover/Vice-party success by reappropriating cleverly from the failed genre of grime. The Blow, too, are white people borrowing from black music - in this case The Neptunes' click'n'b - but while Hadouken will probably sell ten times as many records as JME, The Blow, of course, won't sell 1% as many as Chad and Pharrell. Producer Jona Berchtolt, aka Yacht, is stealing from success to enrich their failure, not the other way round. And so, while Hadouken just peddle a carrion gimmick, The Blow's pastiche beats become a way of consciously contrasting their geeky, self-deprecating indie-electro against all that Billionaire Boys' Club platinum-record pop glamour, resulting in a deadpan bathos which fits their purposes far better than an acoustic guitar ever could. 'I may look pathetic now,' Khaela Maricich is saying, 'but imagine how much more pathetic I look when I dance badly to r'n'b at a house party with a guy who's out of my league.' It's not about irony so much as agony.
It could be that they're the anti-Hadouken, anyway, or it could be that they just worship a hot beat. On the evidence of this gig, it's almost certainly both.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
My GCSE music teacher once told me that the structure of jazz is about 'question... answer... question... answer...' The problem with Deerhoof is that they're more 'question... answer... question... ELEPHANT!... PHOTON!... DIGNITY!' Their attention wanders so far and so frequently, it's probably discovered new planets. The San Francisco trio is one of those fun-loving avant-garde rock bands that America sprouts by the dozen but which we apparently don't make over here, and, like the Fiery Furnaces or Animal Collective, they put more ideas in each song than can possibly fit. On Friend Opportunity, their eighth album, which came out in January, this approach had great results: twee, elated, complex songs that drew on everything from Broadway musicals to seventies heavy rock.
But, live, it's not the same. A gig like this, craning your neck over a big crowd, invites full participation – you want the music to carry you along like an ocean current. But Deerhoof's constant chops and switches mean that every time you've started to enjoy part of a song, it's snatched away. The panicked riff from The Perfect Me, for example, drew a big cheer, but, too soon, it drops out, and singer Satomi Matsuzaki is cooing pleasantly away instead, and then before long that's gone too. This pinball quality is very entertaining, but at the same time it stops any real drama from building up, and it's pretty tiring after an hour – sometimes you just want some 'question... answer...', or, even better, some good old 'verse... chorus...'.
The band's skills still shine through, like Matsuzaki's surreal lyrics ('If I were a man and you a dog, I would throw a stick for you') and enigmatic hand signals, or Greg Saunier's frenzied drumming, but it's all just too alienating. I couldn't help comparing them to the brilliant Death Sentence: Panda!, who I'd seen a couple of days earlier and who come from a similarly childish, experimental dimension, but whose songs really felt like songs, not endurance tests. I'd still rather have one Deerhoof than a hundred British indie plodders, but, still: calm down, Deerhoof!
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Out now on BPitch Control.