Archive for May, 2009

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ATL: Sons & Daughters, Frightened Rabbit & The Lowly Knights live review

May 9, 2009

The third ATL review I’ve done so far, the link on their site is here.

frightened rabbit
Frightened Rabbit

SONS & DAUGHTERS, FRIGHTENED RABBIT, THE LOWLY KNIGHTS
CQAF MARQUEE, BELFAST

The Lowly Knights are introduced by Gary Lightbody, compere for the evening, as “my favourite band from Belfast”. It’s a bold statement to live up to, but the Knights give it a fair old bash. Whilst they recently suffered by appearing between the technical noise onslaughts of Adebisi Shank and And So I Watch You From Afar, they look much more at home tonight on the Marquee stage. In fact, they seem to be having inordinate amounts of fun, which is just as well since their music is so uplifting. ‘Devotion’, ‘Where Are You Now, Jesus?’ and the raft of new songs sound bright and alive and are delivered with a fervour that is almost religious. They may actually be a Christian band, but if so we’re talking Sufjan Stevens levels of subtlety. There’s still the sneaking suspicion that the sprawling line-up (there’s 10 of them tonight) is a bit unnecessary – do they really need a drummer AND a percussionist? – but the ‘choir’ is sensibly stripped down to three and the instrumentation – including at various points a cello, mandolin, oboe and double bass – augment the songs beautifully rather than cluttering them up. They’re may not yet be the finished article, but they’re certainly getting there.

From the sacred to the profane, as the extremely sweary – but sweet – Frightened Rabbit appear to a heroes’ welcome. On their previous visits to Belfast, they’ve been intense, serious and even a bit strung-out on stage, but tonight frontman Scott Hutchison is positively glowing with positive energy, flashing his rapier wit at every opportunity – not least when a fan from their home town of Selkirk throws a scrawled-on T-shirt on stage and is met with bemused ridicule. When it comes to the songs, however, the jokes are left behind. Hutchison’s heartbroken lyrics are red-raw and he positively howls them out over the swirling guitars and boneshaking drums, particularly on ‘Square 9’, ‘The Modern Leper’ and the desperately sad ‘My Backwards Walk’. By the end, you feel battered and bruised, but strangely energised from having withstood the full force of the Scots’ folk-flecked fury. It’s a cathartic experience.

So how do you follow that? You can’t. Or, at least, Sons & Daughters can’t. Not so long ago, they were one of the most exciting new bands in Britain, but on this evidence their best days are behind them. That brooding, sexy mixture of gothic country, blues and spiky rock has been replaced by something disappointingly mundane. Latest album This Gift is a polished effort, but this band never used to be about polish. And the live show makes the point with searing clarity – older songs like ‘Johnny Cash’, ‘Taste The Last Girl’ and the dark and dangerous ‘Rama Lama’ are so much more exciting than newer efforts such as ‘Iodine’, ‘Darling’ and ‘House In My Head’ that it’s almost embarrassing, and the set drags as a result. At one point, David Gow stands on his kick drum to lead the clapping, but it comes across as the act of a desperate man. Whatever it was that made this band interesting has all but gone. Let’s hope it returns before it’s too late.

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AU56: And So I Watch You From Afar live review

May 1, 2009

ASIWYFA Mandela April 2009
Pic by the incomparable Matthew Alexander Patton (www.pavelware.com)

AND SO I WATCH YOU FROM AFAR
MANDELA HALL, BELFAST
APRIL 4 2009

The last time ASIWYFA played this hall as part of their A Little Solidarity festival in November, they left Fighting With Wire’s headlining set feeling like an anti-climax. No such worries this evening – this is unequivocally their night and the bar just keeps on rising. We are gathered – packed in, actually – to celebrate the launch of ASIWYFA’s debut album, and after support slots by Adebisi Shank (incendiary on the big stage) and the Lowly Knights (a bit bland if we’re honest, as much as they look the part) the four horsemen of the the apocalypse stride on, each freshly tattooed with the band’s iconic new logo, to run through the album in sequence.

As good as that new record is, it’s no substitute for seeing this band live, and tonight is the absolute epitome of what they are all about. Think about it for a second – this local instrumental band has packed out the 750-capacity Mandela Hall, before they’ve even released their debut album proper. The balcony is closed to accommodate close friends and family, but they surely could have filled it, too. And the huge crowd isn’t just here out of curiosity, either; this is their band and they are ready to let them know it. The moshing starts with track one, ‘Set Guitars To Kill’, and hundreds of people join in with the joyous “woo!” in the middle of the song. And so the album continues, fierce and spectacular, complemented by an awe-inspiring light show, a feeling of sheer joy amongst the crowd and the always-entertaining sight of the seemingly possessed dervishes on stage.

As with the record, there is slight lull in the middle of the set, but given the way it begins with four of the most stunning tracks you will ever hear live, there’s no shame in that. Later, Tony actually admits that they forget to play ‘If It Ain’t Broke, Break It’, but no matter. The main part of the set is completed with ‘These Riots Are Just The Beginning’ and a delirious ‘Don’t Waste Time Doing Things You Hate’, complete with Lowly Knights and assorted others forming a celestial choir high in the balcony. And then, all too soon, it’s encore time. ‘The Voiceless’ sounds as good as ever, while ‘Eat The City, Eat It Whole’ blends into old favourite ‘Mount Kailash’ for a punishing, gargantuan finale that feels like it is never going to end, but in a good way. During ‘Eat The City…’, an enthusiastic fan crowd-surfs his way into the less-than-welcoming arms of security, who try to strong-arm him out of the venue. Tony Wright stops the band and implores them, “He can walk, you don’t need to drag him!” Seconds later, he’s up on stage, dancing like a loon, before stage diving back into the maelstrom to loud cheers. After the song finally ends, Tony’s fellow guitarist Rory Friers executes a perfect stage dive of his own, and the band form at the front of the stage for a well-deserved bow. How they are going to top this is anyone’s guess.

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AU56: David Byrne live review

May 1, 2009

Just being at this gig was a dream come true. DAVID FUCKING BYRNE!!! It totally lived up to expectations as well. It’s a shame there weren’t more people there to see it.

Image306
One of the very few times I’ll use one of my own pics on here – took this on my phone and it’s been my phone background ever since.

DAVID BYRNE
WATERFRONT HALL, BELFAST
APRIL 7 2009

For David Byrne, performance is about so much more than just the music. The classic concert film Stop Making Sense – documenting a show on Talking Heads’ Speaking In Tongues tour – made that abundantly clear back in 1984, and the maxim remains true. On this tour, billed The Songs Of David Byrne and Brian Eno, Byrne is allowing his fans to wallow in nostalgia or – and this writer is in a minority among the largely middle-aged crowd on this one – to experience a raft of Talking Heads classics as second generation fans, perhaps led that way via the many modern acts that have drawn liberally from Byrne and co. As the title suggests, the set is, with a couple of exceptions, drawn from Byrne and Eno’s two collaborative albums, 1981’s My Life In The Bush of Ghosts and last year’s relatively genteel Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, as well as the three classic Eno-helmed Heads albums from 1978 to 1980’s near-peerless Remain In Light.

Happily, Byrne is generous with offerings from that record, the likes of ‘Born Under Punches’, ‘Once In A Lifetime’ and ‘Houses In Motion’ sparkling like new, augmented by a compact but crack band, backing singers and three energetic and acrobatic dancers. Most songs are accompanied by a choreographed routine, as the dancers bound across the stage, leap in the air and often involve the musicians and Byrne himself in their antics. It only adds to the spectacle and sense of occasion. By halfway through, pockets of the (disappointingly small – the balconies are empty) audience are out of their seats dancing. By the two-thirds mark, seats are deserted and a throng – your correspondent included – are dancing their asses off mere inches from Byrne. He may be 56 years old, white haired and well turned out in a dashing all-white number, but although he wryly admits in set opener ‘Strange Overtones’ that “This groove is out of fashion / these beats are 20 years old”, he could still teach the kids a thing or two.

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AU56: The Tupolev Ghost mini-album review

May 1, 2009

tupolev ghost

THE TUPOLEV GHOST
THE TUPOLEV GHOST
BIG SCARY MONSTERS

Cambridge’s The Tupolev Ghost have built their rapidly burgeoning reputation on the strength of their reportedly astonishing live shows, and it sounds as though they’ve succeeded in capturing that energy on this debut mini-album. This is prime Nineties post-hardcore in form, but where the band is most successful is their ability to meld the wild-eyed abandon and cathartic noise with a precision-tooled pop nous. There are plenty of hooks and melodies here, not least on ‘Zeroes And Noughts’ and the excellent single ‘Diagrams’. Meanwhile, the tumultuous ‘Giant Fucking Haystacks’ shows that they can let loose to thrilling effect when they want to. Hugely promising stuff.

8/10

DOWNLOAD: ‘DIAGRAMS’, ‘GIANT FUCKING HAYSTACKS’.
FOR FANS OF: FUGAZI, AT THE DRIVE-IN, LES SAVY FAV.

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AU56: Space Dimension Controller album review

May 1, 2009

SDC

SPACE DIMENSION CONTROLLER
UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OSCILLATOR
ACROPLANE

‘Electro’ is a word you tend to associate with synthy indie bands and hip Frenchmen these days, but there are still a select few carrying a torch for the sound of the early Eighties; those brittle beats, crisp hi-hats and primitive, acidic synth sounds that resulted when Kraftwerk said hello to funk. Jack Hamill, aka SDC (and RL/VL in another, entirely different guise), isn’t even old enough to remember the early Nineties, never mind his chosen genre’s heyday, but his take on it is almost worryingly convincing. This album, a free download from http://www.acroplane.org, starts off with a vocodered promise to “[take] you back in time”, but while there is a tongue-in-cheek element to much of this, it’s no joke project.

The pounding ‘Galactic Effector’, the aforementioned opener ‘Space Dimension Controller’ and ‘SH-8040’, with its churning bass and chopped-up vocals, are the highlights, but Hamill isn’t afraid to add his own twist to the electro sound. The beautiful ‘Title Sequence’ owes something to the wistful electronica of Boards of Canada, while the superb ‘VCOcation’ is a touch reminiscent of fellow Northern Irishman Boxcutter (who dubs it up on one of three remixes bundled with the release). Essentially, though, this is a straight-up electro record, and an enormously fun one at that. And it’s free, so no excuse not to give it a bash. Chris Jones

8/10

DOWNLOAD: ALL OF IT – IT’S FREE.
FOR FANS OF: AFRIKA BAMBAATAA, MODEL 500, BOXCUTTER.

Download the album for nothing from Acroplane by clicking here.

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AU56: Nathan Fake album review

May 1, 2009

nathan fake album

NATHAN FAKE
HARD ISLANDS
BORDER COMMUNITY

Young electronic producer Nathan Fake has taken a major left turn since his 2006 debut Drowning In A Sea Of Love. While its cute artwork and fuzzy, melodic sound evoked Fake’s upbringing in rural Norfolk, the years he’s spent in the gritty London borough of Hackney have clearly had an effect. As a result, Hard Islands sounds tough, uncompromising and ready for the dancefloor. There’s a claustrophobic, urban feel to Fake’s often pummelling acid techno that is quite at odds with his image and output so far, but once you get your head around that, it’s a little (at 33 minutes) belter of a record. Clark’s Turning Dragon from last year is an apt comparison, but while that record was so intense as to be overwhelming, Fake gets the balance between power and listenability just about right.

7/10

DOWNLOAD: ‘NARRIER’, ‘FENTIGER’.
FOR FANS OF: CLARK, JAMES HOLDEN, ELLEN ALLIEN.

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AU56: Most Wanted

May 1, 2009

Usually, the incomparable Ross Thompson does these, but occasionally editor Fra and I chip in. This was one of those times.

THE SPIN DOCTORS

Far into the future, when the dust finally settles on the New Labour years, Armando Iannucci’s BBC sitcom The Thick Of It will be revered much as Yes, Minister is now. Iannucci used every inch of his scalpel-like intellect and comedy chops on shows like The Day Today and I’m Alan Partridge, among many others, to craft a comedy that treated the viewer with intelligence and used farce, razor-sharp dialogue and the know-how of political insiders to strip away the polished veneer of Blair’s government. Star Chris Langham’s conviction on child pornography charges didn’t even derail it totally, as it returned for a bash at the Tories in opposition, and now it is back in another guise, with In The Loop, a feature film looking at the ‘Special Relationship’ between Washington and Whitehall, hitting cinema screens. Starring James Gandolfini and Steve Coogan and allowing Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison to reprise their roles from The Thick Of It, it may just be the British movie of the year.

IN THE LOOP IS SHOWING DAILY AT QUEEN’S FILM THEATRE, BELFAST, UNTIL MAY 7

DEACON’S CREW

Dan Deacon recently told AU of his plans to ditch the one-man show and put together an ‘ensemble’ to bring his weird, experimental, electronic pop to glorious life. And lo! he has done just that. Cuddly Dan is in the midst of a huge tour, which is due to make a stop at Dublin’s Andrew’s Lane Theatre on June 3. If you’ve seen Deacon live before, make sure you don’t miss this – it’s going to be entirely different to a ‘normal’ Dan Deacon show. And if you haven’t, you’re in for the mother of all treats. Bromst is a psychedelic wonder of an album, and the prospect of it being recreated live by a 15-strong group of musicians is absolutely mouth-watering.

DAN DEACON & ENSEMBLE PLAY ANDREW’S LANE THEATRE, DUBLIN ON JUNE 3

DEER, OH DEER

Irish fans have been waiting longer than they’d hoped for Atlanta, Georgia’s Deerhunter to make their return to these shores. The band were pencilled in for gigs in Belfast and Dublin in early March but these had to be postponed, and late this month the gigs will finally take place, at the Black Box and Whelan’s respectively. The band successfully followed up 2007’s breakthrough record Cryptograms with last year’s Microcastle, as satisfying an indie-rock record as 2008 had to offer. With a setlist taking in these two stellar records and more, and boasting one of the most intense and intriguing frontman around in Bradford Cox, these shows promise much.

DEERHUNTER PLAY THE BLACK BOX, BELFAST ON MAY 21 AND WHELAN’S, DUBLIN ON MAY 22

BOB, BOB, BOBBING ALONG

Since 1988, Bob Dylan has played well over 2000 shows on the so-called Never Ending Tour, and this month he’s back in Ireland once more, as he wraps up his current European jaunt with two shows at Dublin’s O2 (formerly the Point Theatre). Never afraid of playing the classics, His Bobness nevertheless has a penchant for fiddling with the songs, almost to the point of making them unrecognisable. So a Dylan gig can be as much an exercise in Name That Tune as anything else. But Never Ending Tour or not, it’s not every day that a bona fide rock legend turns up, so you’d be a crazy fool to miss these shows. You never know when the tour might end, after all.

BOB DYLAN PLAYS THE O2, DUBLIN ON MAY 5 AND 6.

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