Wednesday, 30 December 2009
TOP TEN ALBUMS
1. Deaths And Entrances MY LATEST NOVEL
2. Harem Scarem JOE GIDEON & THE SHARK
3. Two Dancers WILD BEASTS
4. Tarot Sport FUCK BUTTONS
5. Union THE BOXER REBELLION
6. Sun Gangs THE VEILS
7. Other Arms REDJETSON
8. The Bachelor PATRICK WOLF
9. Primary Colours THE HORRORS
10. Origin:Orphan THE HIDDEN CAMERAS
Love Songs For The Chemical Generation DANIEL LAND AND THE MODERN PAINTERS; 3-D SPC-ECO; Songs SONGS
TOP FIVE SONGS
1. Sea Of Regrets I LIKE TRAINS
2. Sun Gangs THE VEILS
3. I Declare A Ceasefire MY LATEST NOVEL
4. Sea Within A Sea THE HORRORS
5. Papillion EDITORS
TOP FIVE ARTISTS OF THE YEAR
1. Joe Gideon & The Shark
2. I Like Trains
3. My Latest Novel
4. The Boxer Rebellion
5. The Horrors
TOP FIVE INTERNATIONAL ARTIST GIGS
1. My Latest Novel @ The Deaf Institute, Manchester, UK
2. Joe Gideon & The Shark @ The Lexington, London, UK
3. I Like Trains @ Concorde 2, Brighton, UK
4. Edwyn Collins @ Assembly Hall, Edinburgh, UK
5. The Lotus Eaters @ Royal Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, UK
TOP FIVE AUSTRALIAN ARTIST GIGS
The Shiny Brights at The Great Escape in Brighton played the only gig in the UK by an Australian artist this year that I’d even mention in an end of year poll
TOP FIVE RADIO SHOWS/PODCASTS
1. Adam & Joe (BBC 6Music)
2. Marc Riley (BBC 6Music)
3. John Kennedy (XFM)
4. Steve Lamacq (BBC 6Music)
5. Gideon Coe (BBC 6Music)
TOP FIVE TV SHOWS
1. Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle (BBC Two)
2. In Treatment (HBO)
3. Misfits (E4)
4. Harry Hill’s TV Burp (ITV1)
=5. Battlestar Galactica (Sky 1)
=5. Generation Kill (HBO)
TOP FIVE ONLINE DESTINATIONS
1. Guardian Unlimited – guardian.co.uk - for Charlie Brooker if nothing else
2. BBC News – news.bbc.co.uk
3. Wikipedia - en.wikipedia.org
4. Digital Spy – digitalspy.co.uk
5. Dan’s Media Digest – danowen.blogspot.com
THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES AWARD (MOST OVER-HYPED)
Lazy Galah (Lady Gaga)
THE HINDSIGHT AWARD (ALBUM THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN IN YOUR POLL LAST YEAR BUT WASN’T)
The Guilty Office – THE BATS; The Unruly Imagination – JULIAN COPE
HIGHLIGHT(S) OF THE YEAR
Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Charlie Brooker, reunions
QUOTE OF THE YEAR (DON’T FORGET THE SOURCE)
'I will call on my fully sick boys, eh'. And then they pulled out a gun and just went chk-chk-boom!" - Clare Werbeloff – Nine News May 17 2009
BEST MEDIA MOMENT
Kings Cross shooting video – as above. That and the whole HHIS blackface incident meant a lot of clarifications on the differences between British and Australian cultures were needed from me.
PREDICTIONS FOR 2010
Ride reformation leads to shoegaze going mainstream; debate over whether to call new decade ‘The Teens’; regime change; comedy goes viral.
TOP FIVE ALBUMS OF THE LAST DECADE
The trouble with the noughties was that we seemed to spend the whole decade looking backward, not forward. Pop was literally eating itself. So no! Can I give you five albums to look forward to in 2010 instead? No? Ah well then – Funeral by THE ARCADE FIRE then
TOP FIVE SONGS OF THE LAST DECADE
MOST EMBARRASSING MARK LEFT BY HUMANITY ON THE LAST DECADE
Wars, greed and reality TV
IF THE NOUGHTIES WERE THE DECADE OF WASTING TIME SOCIAL NETWORKING, THE NEXT DECADE WILL BE KNOWN AS…
The decade of multiplatform slacktivivism AKA fiddling while Rome burns
© James McGalliard 2009
Sunday, 15 November 2009
London Palladium, London UK
Sunday 15 November 2009
Playing big, one-off event shows can be a bit of a gamble. The successful ones become significant occasions, talked about in revered tones for years to come, but ignominious ones may become just as famous. In the years since I saw that Patrick Wolf supporting Arcade Fire, he’s matured immensely, both as an artist and a performer. Tonight there’s a feeling that this gig is drawing a line in the sand as a summary of all that he has achieved over these past few years.
Battle was the working title for his last album, and it feels as if there’s an internal conflict between the serious artist and a spoilt prodigy who is want to throw his toys out of the pram. As he stands heroically astride a slowly revolving mirrorball atop a podium, stripped to waist and covered in glitter, a pair of wings attached to his back, it’s hard to avoid using the adjective ‘flamboyant’ which he hates so much. He’s supported by a tight band, and the added strings and voices compliment the usual arrangements and allow songs such as Damaris to acquire a majesty rarely found in pub gigs. Marc Almond may have cancelled his guest appearance due to illness, but his influence and theatricality can be felt strongly throughout. In his place Florence (& The Machine) Welch appears to perform The Bachelor as a duet, while the statuesque figure of Gwendoline Christie provides ‘The Voice Of Reason’. Most impressive is Alec Empire, whose contributions raise the energy, particularly his freewheeling solo improvisation which provides one of the highlights of the evening.
The Bachelor is the centrepiece, as virtually the entire album is played, but the expanded line-up allows songs which are rarely performed to get an airing, as well as highlights and obscurities from his career to date. But a sit down concert such as this exposes any flaws in execution, and restricts the audience from really taking part in the more uptempo numbers. The venue presents other problems. In the cramped confines of the upper circle the sound is disappointing, vocals being lost in the mix for the first section. Such a long show would have benefited from an interval, and removed some of the pauses needed for costume changes. And while there’s no denying that he did put on a spectacle, sometimes this came at the cost of the music (such as when he was so determined to change his jacket before a song ended, he fluffed its ending).
Throughout the evening, there are many moments here to admire. Wolf demonstrates his skills on a variety of instruments, and his talent shines through, taking advantage of a unique opportunity to do things that wouldn’t be possible in a normal gig. And while tonight included an apology for past bad behaviour, it also had a somewhat self-congratulatory edge which left a little bit of a sour taste. But there was also a sense that this was a victory in the battle for the more mature Patrick Wolf to step forward. I’ll be watching.
© James McGalliard 2009
Wind In The Wires
Oblivion (with Gwendoline Christie)
Theseus (with Gwendoline Christie)
The Bachelor (featuring Florence Welch)
Count Of Casualty (featuring Alec Empire)
Battle (featuring Alec Empire)
Hard Times (featuring Alec Empire)
The Sun Is Often Out
Wednesday, 13 May 2009
“We might be dead or dropped in a year; then these songs will make sense.” Finn Andrews reflects upon The Veils new album Sun Gangs with James McGalliard in Reading
“When [debut album] The Runaway Found came out, I felt like the success we had that early on, I really didn’t deserve. And I think that was part of the reason for dissolving that line-up. I didn’t feel ready to be playing to that many people, and in some parts of the world out of nowhere it was a thousand people showing up. And I didn’t feel up to it at all. I was just scared by the whole thing”
Finn Andrews, singer, songwriter and founder of The Veils is someone who lives by his feelings in the present moment, and knows that these diverse impulses will make some sense in the future. In his work and in his writing he trusts his inner voice; the world will catch up in time. So to talk about their third album, Sun Gangs, we end up talking about its predecessor. “It seemed odd with this album [Sun Gangs] coming out and people were talking about Nux, and ‘oooh Nux Vomica - a hard act to follow’. It just seems so bizarre because when it came out no one seemed to give a shit... I was so excited about that record and it came out and waiting for what’s everyone’s reaction gonna be. There was a kind of shrug until about a year later…”
“With this one I feel so proud of it, and when we finished it I was so overawed with just everything that had gone in to it. It just reminded me of this whole time - it’s just so personal. I don’t really care anymore or keep track of it anymore what people are making of it. It is really complimentary and humbling if people compliment you on it.”
There is a world of contrasts in both Andrews, and the music he and the band creates. Born in London, raised in New Zealand, his speaking voice is deep, and somehow both authoritative and uncertain at the same time. There’s ferocity in his onstage delivery, yet here in the real world there’s an indefinable vulnerability to him. But although seemingly conflicted, he’s honest and genuine throughout.
“It’s a huge gift to be able to do this, and a huge responsibility as well”. He continues, “It’s been the source of all the greatest joys of my life so far; you also have the burdens with that. I love writing and I will do anything to be able to carry that on. It’s an unsure time for everybody. Not just musicians. No one is quite sure what is around the corner. The last few years the whole time I have been writing I felt like there was kind of strange impending something…”
“There is just something about this [The Veils] that has never wanted to stay in one place. Whenever we’ve tried to tie anything to the ground, it just rips away the cord, and floats off. It’s a constant balancing act this band. I think that’s maybe a lot of the great things come out of. I think we are gonna be constantly pissing people off and making new fans and losing old ones.”
Both the weakness and the strength of Sun Gangs is its eclecticism. From its jauntier aspects to the vitriolic tirades, it’s a difficult album to categorise. Andrews explains, “I really enjoy albums where you feel you are just being led like a hound by a scent and you don’t really know where you’re gonna end up, but you’re just being carried through weird corridors and it’s a real little unexpected journey and I think that’s what I wanted to make and I don’t know if I completely succeeded in that, but that what I always want to make the experience.”
There are themes that unite these songs, but exactly how this works is elusive; it’s more like a feeling than an intellectual conceit. The album ends, ironically with Begin Again. “I like that song because it begins at the end and ends at the beginning. I love songs with incredibly pessimistic words sang in quite a merry way,” he tells me.
But centrepiece of Sun Gangs is the epic Larkspur. “It’s a song I enjoy playing more than any other song. Ever! I just get such a kick out of it. For me, it’s a song about everything I love about making music… It’s just about that urge to write things down, and to perform, pick up the guitar, bash the shit out of the piano; just all about that love and that need. It seemed right to describe it in few words as possible.” And how did you record such a beast? “We treated that like it was a real living entity that we had to really respect and not tie down when it wasn’t looking. We didn’t rehearse it... I knew the day we recorded it, it would just be me waiting for the right space… It was like being in a movie about The Veils… We just went in and played it in one take and there it was. That was my favourite part of recording the whole thing – it was so organic and so unforced.”
As Finn sings Larkspur later that night before a Reading scene there for the chat rather than the bands, his earlier words make sudden sense. His disdain, his anger, his aggression, his frustration, all expressed through the repeated three lines of the song. For live it becomes a living creature; the universe encapsulated. From the cheesy pick-up lines, to the background hubbub of the chattering classes, to the worries on the horizon, to the turning of the earth, it consumes it all.
There is change in the wind. For these recent shows, The Veils have added a new member – Louisa on backing vocals. And one day someone else will leave, and there’ll be another room to fill. So what does the future hold? “It’s all just about the songs for me. I don’t care about any other aspects of this; whatever allows me to keep writing. That still feels worthwhile to me because it personally helps me. If I couldn’t do that I don’t know what I’d do with myself…”
“Songwriting is so great like that – all of these things all at once. It’s such an unspecific part of your mind that you’re casting in stone. It’s not a journal and it’s not some dream description. It’s all these things, all at once, and none of them at all. So I don’t really know what this album means. We might be dead or dropped in a year; and suddenly these songs will make sense. Maybe I will be in the band of my dreams and everything will be fine.”
Sun Gangs is out now on Rough Trade through Remote Control
© James McGalliard 2009
This interview was published in Inpress # 1070 in Melbourne on 13 May 2009
I interviewed Finn pre-show in Reading on Saturday 18 April 2009
Monday, 9 February 2009
Islington Academy, London, UK
Monday 9 February 2009
There’s nowt wrong with Red Light Company, but they don’t give you many reasons for undying love either. They sound like the sort of band that A&R scouts sign up hoping to be the next big thing, who go on to release some moderately inoffensive radio fodder, and then disappear without trace at or before the second album. One song name checks Broken Social Scene, so in return I’ll namecheck them as a less imaginative Secret Machines, the prog replaced by Guillemot-isms with a pinch of Brian Molko. Expect them to be huge – briefly.
I don’t know what happened to Asobi Seksu tonight, but it’s hard to find positive things to say about their performance. From the flat vocals, to the keyboards that drowned out the guitars, to the lack of songs – it’s really just a tuneless mess. Then it gets worse, the sound is turned up to distortion levels, which fails to cover what just isn’t happening on stage. Near the end they begin to pull it together; their last track is C86 in feel, and has the merit of seeming to be going somewhere. Then they run out of time. If only more time had been spent on getting their live sound right and less on festooning the stage in fairy lights then everyone may have enjoyed themselves more.
When Howling Bells open with Blessed Night I think at last – a band! This is part of the NME Awards series of shows, and also the first gig for the new album Radio Wars. They use this to play all but one song off the new album, and it becomes a night full of surprises for band and audience. Juanita asks the audience to tell her something new, something she hasn’t heard before; “You look like a bloke” is yelled back. The highlights are from the new album; Golden Web is a genuine departure and all the better for it; the quiet allows the harmonies to shine through. Miss Bell’s Song is the sound of a band working together, and Digital Hearts is quietly subversive – the song builds, but doesn’t break.
Howling Bells have always been a competent enough live act, yet their shows have seemed to lack some intensity. Tonight is undoubtedly the best I’ve seen them, and for the first time I’m seeing them take some risks, but there are problems as well. Tying the song title Cities Burning Down to the Victorian bushfires was possibly misguided, and while Let’s Be Kids Again is better than the album version, it’s still childishly awkward. By placing so much focus on Juanita, there’s the risk of the rest of the band being seen as Sleeperblokes –anonymous and interchangeable male personnel behind the star. Setting Sun is a real mess, even after stopping it to try and get it right. I’m not sure they know how to read an audience either– the long instrumental lead in to Nightingale is really great; trying unsuccessfully to get the audience to clap along to the song proper isn’t.
They end with Into The Chaos, and I’m impressed, but their encore is so audacious I’m won over. They electro shimmer their way through Britney Spears' Toxic, and get away with it. Tonight shows a band in flux, when they take risks and break rules they’re genuinely challenging, at other times they feel as if they’re operating within fairly closely defined parameters. The question is, which path will they take?
© James McGalliard 2009
A version of this review appeared in Inpress, Melbourne, on 25 February 2009
Thursday, 5 February 2009
The Macbeth, Hoxton,
Thursday 5 February 2009
Sometimes I’ll be asked why I’m going to see a band play again. Yet one of the joys of seeing a band many times over a period of time is to see how they alter and change. While sometimes they may evolve away from your tastes, other times you get to see them become something on a higher plane than when you first saw them.
Five years ago I saw the first line-up of The Veils launch their debut album; and eight months ago I last saw them, playing the fourth and final week of their
But what a difference the intervening months have made. From the opening notes of Three Sisters, it’s clear that they are more focussed and driven than ever. It has a searing urgency, and Finn Andrews’ ever-more insistent refrains of Oh My God build powerfully, with an underlying sense of menace. Whereas before the band were still compensating for the loss of the keyboards, now there’s a sense that a balance has been achieved without them. The sound is bigger, but also breathes - like a Henry Moore sculpture, the gaps are part of the whole, and not a loss. More than once I’m reminded of The Bad Seeds under Mick Harvey. Not so much for their actual sound , but the feeling of determination and single purpose, where the gestalt is much more than the sum of its parts. Henning Dietz’s restraint on the drums makes his flurries all the more powerful, while Sophia Burn is totally transported as she plays. Daniel Raishbrook’s guitar line on The Letter is wonderfully catchy, acting almost as a vocal response to Finn’s words.
And it’s not just the new songs that have been reinvigorated. Advice For Young Mothers To Be no longer canters along merrily – its steel spine is now felt. Jesus For The Jugular sees Finn mangling sounds out of his guitar; this is for real. Yet it’s not without tenderness. Sit Down By The Fire reflects a gentler side, and when broken strings bring things to a stop, Finn fills the time with a solo rendition of The Wild Son. The band rightly ignores the calls for Lavinia, which come like alarm clock on snooze mode, and they’re right to. For they’re not that band anymore, and the newer songs are far superior; I’d have loved to have heard more of them. They finish with a fiery Nux Vomica, and Finn comes back alone for the encore, and plays what he tells us was the first song he wrote upon arriving in
© James McGalliard 2009
Advice for Young Mothers to Be
Jesus for the Jugular
Sit Down By The Fire
The Wild Son
Killed By The Boom
The Tide That Left and Never Came Back