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  • The New Pornographers, 93 Feet East

    21 jun 2007, 10:16

    Wed 20 Jun – The New Pornographers, The Little Ones

    I almost didn't make it to this one. After a long day and rubbish day at work, coupled with the late news that I would actually be seeing the gig on my own, I spent a fair amount of time wondering whether I could be bothered with it or not. (Plus I was already pissed off at missing the Smashing Pumpkins at Shepherds Bush the night before, thanks to yet another case of most tickets being bought purely to be resold on eBay for five times the original price. Still really hope that ticket touts die of a painful and disfiguring tropical disease).

    After eventually deciding that I love the New Pornographers too much to miss any gig of theirs over such trivial matters, I headed over to 93 Feet East, getting there just in time to catch the last minute of The Little Ones set. Oh well, Were they any good? I'd never heard of them before.

    Anyway, the NP's arrived onstage about half an hour later. Excellent set - plenty from the superb Twin Cinema, and a good amount of new stuff too (which sounds pretty great. I haven't heard the album itself yet). It was a shame not to get the 'full' experience afforded by having the likes of Neko Case there, but they had at least recruited what appeared to be a professional Neko Case impersonator - with your eyes closed you'd have struggled to tell the difference. Some funny onstage banter as well, especially the excellent, apropos-of-nothing question: "Do you guys have trouble understanding Welsh accents?" I know it's perhaps a bit obvious of me, but the highlight of the set came at the end with the double whammy of Sing Me Spanish Techno and The Bleeding Heart Show. The latter in particular must be one of the best songs ever, and sounded incredible in the flesh. They returned a few minutes later to take a couple of requests, and ended up doing My Slow Descent Into Alcoholism and I can't remember the other one.

    Only regret is that they didn't play Letter From An Occupant, but then again, I think I'm in a bit of a minority in thinking of that one as one of my favourite New Pornographers songs.

    Excellent gig though, and far better than sitting in front of the telly, which is what I'd probably have done otherwise.
  • The best kind of Tarantula

    3 jun 2007, 22:48

    I'll probably write more on this in a few weeks when I've heard the new album, but I couldn't not say something right now.

    I've just listened to Tarantula, the new single by The Smashing Pumpkins. It is fucking awesome.

    The intro is breathtaking - a long but energetic drum roll accompanied by a Zero-ish harmonic run that has you bouncing excitedly in your seat after only a couple of seconds. Then it launches - explodes - into the first verse with a brilliant guitar riff and the most enthusiastic vocal Billy Corgan's delivered in a decade, which even manages to overshadow the awfulness of the opening lyrics ("I don't wanna fight / Every single night". Seriously, that's how it goes - the first Pumpkins material for seven years and the first lyric we hear is that. Honestly, if the music around it wasn't so powerful, I might have given up there and then).

    It sounds like a tour-de-force through Corgan's entire discography, and consequently feels like a reminder - "Remember us? We split up at the end of last millenium, but this is what we sounded like". There's the previously mentioned Mellon Collie-era harmonics, the Gish/Siamese Dream crazy guitar solos, and there's even a breakdown at the end that puts you in mind of Geek USA. But despite all this, it never sounds like they're ripping themselves off - it's like Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin are re-acquainting themselves with the band they used to be. (Incidentally, that's another thing - as expected, you don't notice the absence of D'arcy or James Iha at all. Live, however, that might be a different story).

    I'm still a little nervous as to the rest of the album, and I would normally distance myself as far as possible from a record that contained songs called things like For God & Country and United States, but after hearing the single, I'm nowhere near as apprehensive as I was about the quality of the music itself.

    Fucked if I know why it's called Tarantula though.
  • Arcade Fire - Brixton, March 15

    17 mar 2007, 11:53

    Thu 15 Mar – The Arcade Fire, Patrick Wolf

    Ok, first up, a complaint. Brixton Academy is an absolutely fantastic venue and I really like seeing gigs there, but it's a shockingly badly run place. Considering that it's owned by a beer company, they could improve the bar quite substantially (£3.30 for one beer? From a can? Gee, thanks mister!), and the security is just crazy. I've checked into airports with less security checks than Brixton Academy. My friend inexplicably had his pack of chewing gum confiscated at the door, but was allowed to take in his fags and lighter, which I would have naively assumed you could do more damage with. Never have I been made to feel so unwelcome at a gig, and I can't be the only one feeling like that.

    But anyway.

    The Arcade Fire are the only band in the world for me at the moment. Funeral has become one of my favourite albums of all time, and Neon Bible looks like it's creeping up there too. I'd never seen them live before, and I'd been more excited about the event than any other gig in years.

    Setlist-wise, my only disappointment was that we didn't get to hear Neighborhood #2 (Laïka), despite seeing a couple of crash helmets get put out onstage earlier in the evening. Everything else about the setlist was perfect, though. The highlights were:
    1. Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) (the last minute or so of which is probably my favourite moment in musical history) being followed by:
    2. Crown of Love (my second favourite track from the album)
    3. Getting to hear all the best songs from Neon Bible and not having to sit through the least good - (Antichrist Television Blues), if you're wondering.
    4. The crowd continuing to sing Rebellion (Lies) long after the band had actually finished the song.
    5. Not being able to take my eyes off Sarah Neufeld, surely the most attractive violinist ever.

    Also, I actually thought that finishing with Neon Bible was really good. I seem to be in a minority about this (and also in loving the track itself), but I don't care. I like it when bands go against expectations and end gigs on a more subdued song - like in 2000 when Radiohead used to finish their gigs with Motion Picture Soundtrack - it makes the whole evening seem more 'personal' (for lack of a better word).

    Whenever I walk out of a venue after seeing an enjoyable concert, I tend to think to myself, "Wow, that was the best gig ever", and then I remember several others that I've enjoyed more. It's now two days since I saw The Arcade Fire and I'm still struggling to think of a better gig.
  • Somefing quite spectacular

    25 okt 2006, 19:53

    So last night I went to see Graham Coxon's gig at the Opera House in Bournemouth (incidentally, it's nice going to see a concert when the venue is only a ten minute drive away. Makes a change from travelling to bloody London). I'd been wanting to see him in concert for years, since the end of 1998 when I first heard his debut solo album.

    (Technically speaking, I DID see him in concert in 1999, but that was a Blur gig, so it hardly counts. Good show, though.)

    The support band were The Switches, who are apparently one of "the next big thing" type bands, but I was late and missed their entire set, so I can't confirm this myself. They've got a bit of a boringly shit name though, which makes me less inclined to look out any of their stuff.

    Anyway, just after 9.00 Graham and his band took to the stage, surprising pretty much everybody - the lights hadn't gone down, there was no intro music or anything. In fact, the crowd were pretty subdued for most of the gig, leading Coxon to actually comment on how silent everyone was ("Are you scared as well? I've been scared all day"), but the atmosphere did pick up as the show wore on.

    Anyway, most of the songs played were taken from the the recent, more popular albums (Happiness In Magazines and the superbly titled Love Travels At Illegal Speeds), but all of his albums were represented in some way. We got I Wish, Escape Song (which opened the set), and, brilliantly, one of his Mission of Burma covers, That's When I Reach for My Revolver, which were joined by the higher-profile likes of Spectacular and Standing On My Own Again.

    One of the best moments was a thunderous version of People Of The Earth. Whenever I listen to this one, I always smile to myself at the lyrics, and it was really nice to hear him close the main set with it.

    The biggest surprise and the absolute stand-out point of the night though was at the start of the encore, where we were treated to an extra loooooong and gorgeous version of Big Bird. Brilliant. Absolutely loved it, I could've listened to him play that one 20 times.

    A really good gig all told, though. Only disappointment was that he didn't play Empty Word, which is his best song (you know it's true). But anyway, go and see him if you get the chance and haven't been before. And if you have seen him before, then, y'know, go again. He won't mind.
  • I have not the words (except I do really)

    9 apr 2006, 21:33

    Just checked the UK singles chart for the first time in about 7 million years just to see where Wigwam ended up.

    Number 60.

    I give up - the charts get more and more full of manufactured and bland pop, and then when a pop song appears that's actually good (well, fucking brilliant actually, but we'll get to that in a second), nobody's interested. It can't be because of the image - have you SEEN pictures of Betty Boo recently? She still looks about 25. It can't be because of the song, I honestly can't recall a catchier tune since Kylie started "na-na-na-ing" 3 years ago (and before that, I can't remember a better pop song in years).

    So, what? Is everyone else stupid or something? Or what?

    Everyone, go and buy it. Go on. It's on iTunes - 79p. 79 pence for 4 minutes of utter joy that you can enjoy over and over again for the rest of your life. Anyone who doesn't consider that one of the best bargains ever could help me immeasurably by killing themselves. With a stone.*

    Oh, and unrelatedly, I finally got around to listening to a couple of tracks by The Violets, over a month after seeing them live. Really great, in a Yeah Yeah Yeahs kinda way.

    *Important side note: as you will discover from my own charts and stuff, pop music is not something I tend to listen to very much. But I've always believed that truly classic songs transcend genres - for example, see the overwhelmingly positive reaction to Hey Ya! a couple of years ago. Do you know anyone who doesn't like that song? Anyway, that's how good the WigWam song is.