Friday, 29 February 2008

Domino - All The Rage

Album review for The Skinny

V/A - All The Rage (Domino Records sampler) (***)

The purpose of Domino’s All The Rage showcase CD seems somewhat usurped by MySpace, since multiple tracks from any artist on any label on the planet are now available for free trial. Anyone whose interest is piqued by the Animal Collective, Sons & Daughters, Adem or the Arctic Monkeys knows where to go to peruse further, making even this budget-priced purchase seem a five quid extravagance. But then, like any compilation, the real worth comes in discovering new acts you might not have otherwise known to look for. The ludicrously camp Wild Beasts, whose Assembly is a cavalcade of guffawing effeminate clowns; and Pram, whose horror-themed dreamscape Moonminer is a gothic Cocteau Twins nightmare, are the best new finds on All The Rage, both being conspicuously more left-field than the likes of Lightspeed Champion or The Kills, who’re good nonetheless, if not spectacular. But then, when even the lesser-known bands get name-checked in reviews like this, there’s nothing to stop people sampling them for free online. Sorry, Domino.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

There Will Be Blood

Film review for you-hoo-hoo

There Will Be Blood (fucking good)
(oh and There Will Be Spoilers too)

There Will Be Blood is an oil story starring Frank Zappa as a right cunt:

also starring Win Butler from the Arcade Fire as:

well, Win Butler from the Arcade Fire.

Finally it also stars Nick Cave:

as Frank Zappa's brother, Henry. At the weekend there, Zappa won an Oscar for Best Actor

The film isn't really about blood, but about oil. Perhaps that is an analogy. Zappa is an oil man, y'see, so excuse him if he prefers to speak bluntly. Set at the turn of the century a century ago, he's a mean-hearted capitalist who priorities money over everything - everything except, perhaps, his wee boy. But when his wee boy has an accident and goes deaf, Zappa wants Win Butler to heal his hearing. Despite all of Win's impassioned and well-intentioned bleating (and his recent 87 Metacritic score), the wee boy's hearing never returns, and it kinda sends Zaps spinning into a psychosis, since he's unable to communicate with the only person he really cares about. Zaps resents Butler hugely, and grows to resent his kid too, and becomes terribly conflicted about what to do and how to feel. Ultimately his psychosis, alcoholism and megalomania get the better of him and he becomes not just a blood-sucking capitalist but also a bit ae' a bitter maniac.

That's the plot, but the film isn't really about the plot, the plot's a bit ae an indistinct cloud. Really it's a "character study" about Zaps' character (whose name is Daniel Playfair, I think): how he struggles to earn a crust and then learns to manipulate people to perpetuate that; how he struggles to love his son when communication breaks down, so you wonder what the nature of his paternal love was in the first place; how he seems to place competitiveness above all else, even when he has no need to be competitive; how in the end he seems to come to terms with his own character flaws, resolving his internal conflict by just being a bastard cos it's easier. It seems that he developed a ruthless determination when he just struggled to get by that he wasn't able to moderate later, instead developing it further at great cost to the welfare of others. But even that's a simplification - as it should be, since it's impossible to capture every shade of a personality within a few lines.

OK so, Daniel Playfair's character is phenomenal, his dramatic realisation of Scarface or Taxi Driver standard... and Jonny Greenwood's soundtrack is tremendous too!

Now, I am not a movie reviewer - chill out Roger Ebert, your job is safe for now - but any fan of Frank Zappa or the Arcade Fire (who all make appearances throughout the film), or fans of Radiohead, or frankly anyone at all whatsoever (unless you're under 12, and if you are, you're wondering what a left cunt is, aren't you?), should go see it. Agreed?

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

The Von Bondies

Live preview for The Skinny

The Von Bondies @ the New Stereo, 20 Feb

Detroit garage rockers the Von Bondies suffered a bit of a bad reputation because they emerged in the shadows of the Strokes and White Stripes way back in 2001. Often dismissed as slipstream riders who got lucky, their credibility took a further blow when singer Jason Stollsteimer got into a fight with everyone’s favourite Wacko Jacko lookalike Jack White, and lost. Despite the bad rep, the Von Bondies are a tight and thrilling live act, particularly when ripping through side A of debut LP Lack of Communication, which was produced by White. But they’ve never been the fastest of workers, taking three years to release second full-length Pawn Shoppe Heart, which means they’ve struggled to build and sustain any kind of momentum. Nearly four years later, after several line-up changes, and a short-lived marriage for Stollsteimer, comes third effort Love, Hate and Then There’s You. Expect sleazy blues riffing and a great big dollop of spilled beans.


Preview for the Skinny

Caribou @ Cabaret Voltaire, 20 Feb (Cancelled)

For a man with a PhD in mathematics, Dan Snaith’s music is reassuringly vague and fluid. Recorded under the name Caribou, his latest record Andorra was drenched in dreamy effects, but retained clear and catchy enough melodies to be considered a ‘pop’ record. Snaith may also be the only man in indie-pop brave enough to incorporate the much-maligned sound of progressive trance into his music, as in epic album closer Niobe. While the chiming Melody Day caught most attention as his first single, it’s the extraordinary ambition of Niobe that will keep fans returning to this LP in the long-term. If that’s not worth the price of admission alone, then the promise of material from 2005’s The Milk of Human Kindness and Up In Flames (2003, recorded as Manitoba) should seal the deal. Both are stronger full-lengths than Andorra, and neither threaten a surprise appearance from Paul Oakenfold.

Friday, 15 February 2008


I did this about a year ago, there's a big facebook group. The other day there was a BBC website news story about it! (they must be really desperate for things to write about in Wales).


dig the big cheesy thumbs-up (and the different colour of each hand)


Don Blackman looks cool as fuck but really he's just a slobby white boy going "whit you lookin' at ya dobber?"


who could tell, from the picture of buff Isaac Hayes wearing shades and tonnes of gold chains, that his bottom-half was wearing natty boxer shorts and sandals?

this is just what we came up with in 5 minutes. I will post up some of my real favourites another time, some of them are real works of art!

Super Adventure Club, Papier Tigre, Jacob Flynch (live)

Live review for The Skinny

Super Adventure Club, Papier Tigre, Jacob Flynch live at Henry's Cellar Bar, Edinburgh, Feb 6

By combining the aggression of harcore punk with math-rock structures, Jacob Flynch (***) technically subjected tonights Henry’s crowd to a night of hardcore-maths. But it’s much more enjoyable than school lessons, even if someone has to teach them to stop copying from Slint’s answer sheet so much. The intro to “1957” is a xerox of “Don, Aman”, before Jacob Flynch blow away any cynicism with a tightly-controlled riot, breaking down into Black Sabbath-esque riffs, and knocking the amplifier to the floor through sheer roaring power.
We’ll forgive Papier Tigre (***) the pretentious name, because they’re French, and they’re good too. Fresh from a tour of China, they’re more melodic than their predecessors and don’t rely on shifting meters to show off the talents of their drummer. It’s his ever inventive rhythms and the frantic guitarwork that provides most of the appeal, as the shouted American-English vocals are hit-or-miss on the hooks. If the Chinese weren’t post-hardcore fans before, they will be by now.

It’s been a good night, but Super Adventure Club (****) are the cream at the top of the bill. Their set is overflowing with ideas that veer in unexpected but entirely understandable ways, like stream-of-consciousness prose. These smooth transitions between structures, signatures and styles suddenly make Jacob Flynch’s earlier moves seem awfully clunky, but this is not wilfully difficult work. With soft choral lines and backing oohs-and-aahs, Super Adventure Club’s special brand of awkward pop is like the Fiery Furnaces without the constipation.


Papier Tigre MySpace
Super Adventure Club

Monday, 11 February 2008


Interview for the Skinny

Back in October, renowned New Yorker critic Sasha Frere-Jones provoked a bit of a storm by taking nearly four thousand words to explain a rather dubious theory about indie-rock being some-kinda-racist, because not enough white bands were incorporating elements of ‘black music’ into their styles. (Unfortunately, he neglected to mention the lack of twinkling harp on Akon’s latest album, and totally forgot about the scandal of Daddy Yankee’s missing power chords.) Even so, for that theory to emerge in a New York publication was especially puzzling: from Talking Heads’ work with Brian Eno in the late 70s, to TV On The Radio’s kaleidoscopic anthems of the new millennium, to Vampire Weekend’s 2008 afro-pop stylings, New York has a fertile and ongoing habit of merging traditionally white and black musical elements. Meet another Brooklyn band with an indiscriminate musical ear: this is Yeasayer, who released a debut album at the end of 2007, All Hour Cymbals, that was as colourful and colourless as the end of a rainbow, and just as packed with treasures.

Bassist and singer (they all sing) Ira Wolf Tuton explained: “I think we’re all interested in exploring as many avenues and flavours as possible, bringing it all into the pot. We like to keep an open ear and an open eye to different sorts of tones, styles, melodies and arrangements we can use, to keep it fresh and exciting”. Think of the rhythms and bassline of “You Can Call Me Al” - or anything else from Paul Simon’s Graceland – think of Fleetwood Mac, and Peter Gabriel; but insert steel drums, falsettos, chants and screams, handclaps, synths, keyboards and the apocalypse. There are guitars too, of course, they’re just not fetishised like elsewhere. “It’s a mixed-bag,” Ira says. “We all have our own home studios so we all write our own music and see how the others can improve it. It’s a pretty collaborative effort, and technology makes that possible”.

While there’s much scaremongering in the music industry about the advance of technology, there is a clear advantage to the proliferation of easily-available music that hasn’t been fully discussed. It makes sense that more informed musicians will have to stretch themselves further to find originality. Confusingly, Frere-Jones decried advances like MySpace for widening tastes but narrowing visions, as if fans of eclectic musical styles are incapable or unwilling to integrate them. Ira is convinced that the opposite is true: “It’s such an advantage to be able to so easily listen to so many different kinds of music, it’s at your fingertips all the time.” It doesn’t just apply to making music either, he believes: “I think it helps anybody to be exposed to as many things as possible. It can only widen your horizons and help you understand other people and other things more - and to understand yourself a little bit more, who you are and where you fit in. It opens your eyes to realise how many different things you can make of yourself.”

Yeasayer have already finished their first European tour, but promise they’ll be back soon. They’re yet to play in Scotland, despite having booked a gig at the Hive in Edinburgh last November. The gig was cancelled at the last minute because two different dates had been announced, with nobody really sure when it was actually going to happen. Ira perks up when the conversation turns to food, and reveals he’s looking forward to finally making it to Scotland and sampling some haggis: “Anywhere we go we try to eat the specialty. In Wales we had some meat stew, it was pretty delicious. We’ve had raw meat sandwiches with pickles and anchovies, that was pretty nasty. I grew up in Philadelphia where we have a very similar specialty to haggis, it’s pretty close to the cheese-steak I think.”

Whether it’s travelling the world to sample local food, or browsing the net to taste international musical flavours from the comfort of a home studio, Yeasayer display an open-minded tendency to try new things, compare them, mix them all together, and sing over the results. Haggis isn’t really like the Philadelphia cheese-steak, but we can forgive them the odd cultural stumble here and there. With more touring planned, videos to be made and singles about to hit the virtual stores, All Hour Cymbals could yet prove a 2007 sleeper that waits until 2008 to awake and take a stretch. “This album is about a lot of temporal things. Dealing with the here and now and issues of global conflict, the environment we grew up in. The themes are outgrowths of that. Some mythology too. I think our second album will be more love and relationships!”. Listen out then for oysters, chocolate and smooth jazz, but in the meantime rest assured: indie-rock isn’t as narrow-minded as some people seem to think.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Is This The Death of English Football As We Know It?

Football report for

The Premier League in England announced plans on Thursday for a shake-up of their Premiership league system, involving a new 39th fixture to the season which would be played abroad. The plan, which is still said to be in its early stages, would involve a draw being made so that 10 further matches can be played, possibly at the end of the season, for the normal 3-point reward. Cities worldwide would be able to bid to host two matches each, which would then be allocated to them after the draw, to be played on a Saturday and a Sunday. The top five teams in the Premiership would be seeded for the draw so that they would not be able to face each other.

Premiership chairmen were enthusiastic about the idea. Birmingham's David Gold said, "We are making history. The Premier League, which is the greatest league the world has ever known, is being adventurous. I find this amazingly exciting".

Premier League chief executive Peter Scudamore said, "I think it's an idea whose time has come. It's an exciting prospect. All 20 clubs will benefit and there is a huge element of solidarity about it. When the league does well, other people in the football family do well in terms of redistribution. You can't stand still and if we don't do this then somebody else is going to do it. Every time there is an evolutionary step, the reaction of the fans is not always great, but I would ask them to take a step back and look at the positives".

The reaction from fans wasn't great, and they weren't able to find many positives. In fact the plan was condemned in strong terms by every fan willing to express a view. Forums and phone-in shows have been inundated with messages expressing extreme disappointment and anger at the idea. Though American sports fans may be used to franchising, English football fans cling to the view of their football club being innately linked to their community. The thought of playing an important league game - if it is played on the final day it could be the most important league game - in a foreign city where none of the local fans of either team can watch the game is anathema to the entire spirit of community that fans feel, and that clubs foster. If a club played one game a season abroad and it was a success, why shouldn't they extend it to five games, ten games, or every game?

The devoted home fans feel rejected by their clubs, who have squeezed them for all the money they've got and now want to fly to Asia or the Americas for new fans to financially exploit. As I have written before, football is so hugely popular in Europe because of the deep emotional attachment fans feel for their local clubs, which makes it far more important than just 'any old sport'.

The plan makes a mockery of the league system too. A club might well be relegated because they have to play Arsenal three times while their nearest rival faces Fulham three times. Likewise, a club may well win the league because they play Derby three times while their nearest rival faces the much-tougher Spurs on three occasions. Of course, these kind of scenarios can be imagined throughout the league, where higher positions always give greater rewards. The counter-argument would be that every club in the league would be voting for this change, so turkeys cannot complain after they have voted for Christmas. But the voting would be conducted by the chairmen with pound-signs in their eyes, rather than the managers or players who actually want to achieve things on the pitch.

The plan would certainly inject many millions of pounds into the Premiership. But any extra money the clubs would make would go straight into the pockets of the new wave of foreign billionaire chairmen. The Premiership is already easily the richest league in the world, and the gaps between clubs are increasing: the Big 4 is significantly richer than the others, who are significantly richer than the relegation fodder, who are significantly richer than the teams in the league below, and so on. This plan would continue to widen these gaps, consolidating permanent top flight status for the incumbent sides regardless of meritocratic reasons, creating a closed shop. If the top five teams were seeded, this would just consolidate their positions as the top, untouchable teams in the country. Nobody would challenge for the league title except these teams, and whoever was relegated would bounce straight back up again because they would be miles richer than the Championship teams. Eventually, it's easily foreseeable that relegation would be scrapped altogether, leaving very little motive for competition, and just a parade of consecutive showcase friendlies played out between brands.

What's more, this plan makes it easier for corruption to engineer the result of a league season. In any sport, any structural change must be calibrated so as to leave as little room as possible for parties who have multi-million pound interests in the outcome to abuse the system. It is quite obvious how a draw involving seeded sides for the final game of a league season could be manipulated so as to give a preferred outcome. For example, if the bookies stood to lose millions if Manchester United won the title, their final game could be drawn against a team like Spurs while nearest challengers Arsenal are given Derby. We should not presume that fixing only happens in cricket, or in athletics, or in tennis, or in horse racing, or in cycling, or in the football leagues of Italy, Germany and Brazil - we should instead presume that there will always be the potential for corruption in any sector (sporting or otherwise) which involves vast sums of money. As the sums increase, so does the potential for abuse. This plan involves the dangerous combination of vast sums of money and an extra mechanism for abuse.

It was perhaps inevitable that this was going to be suggested. When Abramovich bought Chelsea, his people told the press that he had recently fallen in love with the game and wanted a team to control, like a billionaire's toy. We all fell for it. Nobody asked any questions when Gaydamak bought Portsmouth, Glazer bought Man United, Lerner bought Aston Villa, Ashley bought Newcastle, Gillett and Hicks bought Liverpool, Magnusson bought West Ham, and Shinawatra bought Man City. When more and more billionaires bought Premiership clubs, we all just assumed they must love the game and want a toy.

That's nonsense.

We also know that running a football club is the quickest way to lose millions of pounds short of doing a KLF and setting it all ablaze. So what are these club owners doing? Where are the hidden or future revenue streams from which these billionaires are hoping to rake in the cash? Finally, the cat is out of the bag.

Ever since big money entered football, clubs and fans have been playing a mutually unspoken game. Clubs want fans because we give them money; fans give clubs money because we are helplessly devoted to them, brought up by our parents to invest our emotional livelihoods in the hands of the institution that represents our community. As long as the clubs don't make it too obvious that they're only interested in us for the money we provide, we'll keep providing it and we promise not to think about it any deeper. This plan is being wholly and unconditionally rejected by the overwhelming majority of English football fans, so here comes the crunch: if the clubs go ahead, they'll be starkly exposed as ruthless gold-diggers who are prepared to do anything for their next dollar or baht. We can live in denial no longer.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

John Lennon: "god is a cunt"

Let me get straight to the point: John Lennon called god a cunt, and nobody noticed. I'm not saying he said it when he was a kid, or in Yoko's ear so that nobody heard, but on this record that he released in 1970 when he was the biggest music star in the world... and nobody noticed! That's just too far-fetched to be true, leading me to conclude that everyone noticed and that there must be a Truman Show-sized conspiracy to keep me out of the picture. You devious scoundrels! I've got your number now, oh yes!

The album is John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970), released just a few months after the Beatles split up, and the song is "God". It's actually an incredible record - and not just because Lennon calls god a cunt on it - and I do intend to write a bit more about it generally soon. For now, let's focus on the cunt. Just to check I wasn't going mad, I've handed my headphones to all my work colleagues and asked them the simple question: what does John Lennon sing at the start of this song? What are the first four words?

Pause it at 17 seconds and he's quite clearly said "god is a cunt", as all both of my colleagues heard too. Of course, officially the lyric is "god is a concept... by which we measure our pain". But that only becomes clear after he repeats the line, where the "concept" is far clearer. It's deliberately unclear, and we know this because the full first verse goes:

"God is a cunt(concept)
by which we measure our pain
I'll say it again
God is a concept
by which we measure our pain".

Listen to both times he apparently says "concept" - he enunciates it much more carefully the second time, and the backtrack is even introduced by an admission of ambiguity ("I'll say it again"). The first time, his "o" sounds awfully like a round "u", he barely whispers the "ep" part of "concept", and the soft c and t merge together phonetically, resulting in a clear "god is a cunt" with only a little bit of contextual disguising so as to not kick off World War III.

Nice one John, very cleverly done. You're right, he is. That's not the shocking part. The shock is that nobody seemed to notice. Compare and contrast:

Results 1 - 10 of about 17,400,000 for "john lennon" (0.14 seconds)
So yes, the internet does know who John Lennon is...
Results 1 - 6 of 6 for lennon "god is a cunt" (0.27 seconds)
and only 2 of those 6 are referring to the song!
What is going on?
No-one's even posted it to Kiss This Guy!

Now, either there's a massive conspiracy around this whole shebang, or a lot of people have dirty ears, or I've got a dirty mind. I know which one I suspect to be true, and I'm not happy about it - you treacherous, lying bunch of toe-rags.


PS. This post was going to be titled John Lennon invented the Cookie Monster and called god a cunt, because in track 2 "Hold On" you can clearly hear Lennon go "COOKIE!" in his best gruff blue-puppet voice. Then I found out that the Cookie Monster was a 1967 creation! and not the child-of-the-80s that I believed. Still, as if Lennon's many musical talents weren't enough - and his calling god a cunt too, remember that! - he also does a Cookie Monster impression! Or did, rather. What a sad loss.