Monthly Archives: August 2010

Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood @ Glastonbury 27.6.10

I can’t think of a better time to put this up than late August.

When Radiohead hit Glastonbury it’s huge, summer-defining stuff. The 1997 set is engrained in Glastonbury folklore and 2003 isn’t far behind. So when people say that the best rock band in the world is playing Glastonbury this weekend, you wonder how people knew they were turning up, (well, half; the important half)because they obviously don’t mean Muse.

There are the usual whispers around all Park stage’s infamous guest spot. The most outlandish suggests none other than Paul McCartney is going to show up. That would be nice; it’s just that the memory of waiting for something big – if not necessarily good – like The Libertines or Coldplay to show up last year and just escaping a Klaxons show still haunts me. In troubled nights I can still hear the obnoxious punctuations of ‘DJ!’ (Oh! Oh! Oh!) and air-sirens as I fled past those less fortunate.

This year, spying the stage with trepidation from a casual distance, sharing Twitter intel with others, it soon becomes clear the Radiohead shout has some weight. The quiet corner the Park Stage occupies starts to get awfully crowded; a Gibson EG gets pulled out and set up, followed by a sunburst Telecaster. It’s on.

Eavis comes on to seal the deal and suddenly they’re playing Idioteque as sunlight splinters over Glastonbury and the heat finally relents. It’s a wonderful, euphoric moment you can’t help but grin even after the giddy excitement of the reveal has died down; the enthusiasm is such that a well-versed crowd shows a keen ear and voluntarily fills in Ed’s absent groans in a performance of Arpeggi and launches into the reverie-like refrain of Karma Police (For a minute there, I lost myself) unprompted after a rousing performance, much to Thom’s amusement who seems more than relaxed, playfully remonstrating with himself (declaring ‘Fucking amateurs’ after stumbling over the Black Swan intro) and grinning at the audience.

It’s half a Thom Yorke solo show and on paper they better as Radiohead at Reading last year, but it doesn’t matter. After seven years absence it’s the spectacle of a seminal band reasserting themselves at the start of another decade of Glastonbury that trumps it and produces a spontaneous and truly communal event. The special, surprise nature of the show, taking place in the one of the quietest, sequestered corners of Glastonbury, only adds to the spectacular nature of the proceedings.

Naturally, it’s over too soon and a deliriously happy audience filter back into the body of the festival. Outbursts of song ripple through the crowd and people share breathless reviews over the phone like excited schoolchildren. It’s hard to imagine a mightier Glastonbury performance this year. Furthermore, it’s hard to imagine them more awe-inspiring in ’97 and ’03.

MP3: Radiohead – Permanent Daylight
MP3: Radiohead – Karma Police


Tame Impala @ Cargo 17.08.10

The audience at Cargo tonight is way out of step from what you traditionally expect from a recently BNM’d band. Sure, a few horn-rimmed glasses and fauxhemians have crept in, but for the most part it’s a comparatively un-Pitchfork crowd. There’s plenty of earnest facial hair on display, quite a few lank, greasy haircuts; I even hear a few people having an entirely enthusiastic conversation about Muse, plus there’s Led Zeppelin shirts galore on display. All things that would never occur or be present at a typical buzz band show – at least not sincerely.

At first, Tame Impala take to the stage and perform at a strange 3/4 speed, maybe more like 9/10th, as if someone’s lightly pressing their finger down to slow down the record as it spins or maybe the band didn’t fully charge before coming up. It’s down to jetlag, apparently. It’s a rare excuse, but the band are from the other side of the world so it seems fair enough and apart from a few instances of the rhythm section falling apart, or at least, appearing to fall apart, it could have been considered, proggy stops intended to jar, the band soon picks up momentum after a few songs and much riguorous head-nodding is indulged in.

The band perform a few left-turns: there’s a cover of 90s dance classic ‘Remember Me’ (in the Impala style) and a few b-sides/EP tracks dotted amongst the setlist. If they’d had two hours or so to fill then I’d understand such measures, but they weren’t and it feels a bit unnecessary. They already do a great job of adding organic and deliciously meandering grooves to their existing numbers and could have quite happily of played their more-familiar album from top to bottom. The cover’s quite good though and the approaching-ten-minute, Cream-vibing, gig-stealing juggernaut of Skel/Half Full Glass of Wine has something of a real classic about it – in fact much of the crowd is so familiar with it, I presume it’s a cover of a classic rock staple I’ve overlooked, which is always a good thing to have to say about an EP track.

It all gives the sense that Pitchfork has actually just discovered this band; they’ve clearly already got a sizeable and appreciative fanbase who can sing EP tracks with as much enthusiasm as the singles and it’s a nice feeling to have, especially about a band so far outside of the website’s ‘norm’ and so close in style to my musical first loves.

The band finish without indulging in the silly convention of a pre-meditated encore – though, on the quality of their performance and the crowd’s eagerness, they do have to point it out in a very un-rock’n’roll manner, but it’s commendable nonetheless. In the ear-ringing aftermath, a few men crowd around Parker’s pedal board with a mix of religious reverentially and scholarly interest, trying to trying to unravel clues as to how he gets that dream-like tone whilst the rest leave the sweaty venue in a hushed awe at having experienced something quite special from an excitingly young band on their way up.

MP3: Tame Impala – Jeremy’s Storm
MP3: Tame Impala – Half Full Glass Of Wine

Still Corners – Endless Summer

Yeah, that drum beat. But keep listening.


Matthew Dear – Little People (Black City)

I really like how this simultaneously sounds like someone trying to out DFA DFA, the nastiest piece of Balearic pop you’ve ever heard and something Berlin-era Bowie would come up with after emerging out of the studio with Brian Eno. Has a cowbell ever sounded more threatening?

It’s one of those special songs that plays with time and just doesn’t feel long enough despite being over nine minutes long. One to stick on repeat.

MP3: Matthew Dear – Little People (Black City)

New Band: Tennis

The music of Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore, better known as Tennis, is full of old ideas in the best possible sense: fey c86 melodies, dense, reverberating layers reminiscent of Phil Spector’s patented wall of sound, even the gently shuffling drums that propel their hazy pop songs is suggestive of the 60s girl groups that the producer made his name with.

The latest incarnation of the tried and tested husband-and-wife duo formula, their output’s back-story has a familiar ring to it, too. Fulfilling Riley’s childhood dream, the couple embarked on an eight-month sailing expedition along the Atlantic coast, isolated from the mainland physically as well as metaphorically. Upon returning the couple – frustrated by their inability to adequately convey their remarkable journey – reacquired the instruments they’d sold to fund it and, a few months later, Tennis and a smattering of impressive 7’s and EPs were born bearing the names of their journey’s destinations (“Baltimore”, “South Carolina”, “Marathon”) and, naturally, the name of their boat, the “Cape Dory”.

Having such a fantastical back-story infuses the track’s already memory-laden nature with a genuine authenticity that transforms them into heartfelt songs rather than indulgent genre exercises by a bored couple. It is all a little Bon Iver, but unlike that questionable Wisconsin log cabin exile the couple do have a blogspot ( detailing their nautical navigations should you want to investigate its truthfulness.

Despite the pair’s magpie tendencies, the influences are never overbearing. The songs out there so far retain a unique identity and an evident nautical theme. On Marathon, bobbing organs imitate billowing coastal breezes, reverby tremolo guitar brings to mind shimmering sunlight on gentle seas whilst Moore’s windswept vocals deliver poetic meditations that detail their voyage in a literal sense, but as with most journeys depicted in pop, the high tides and explorations offer oceans of more poetic interpretations for those less inclined to a life on the waves. It’s glorious sun-kissed surf pop, just a few miles off shore.

There’s news that the couple have scrimped and saved for another journey on the high-seas to find inspiration for the sophomore album, a proposition that brings to mind Sufjan Steven’s short-lived 50 states project. Though, if their much anticipated debut displays the same promise as these early MP3s, it’d be silly to begrudge their indulgence in other people’s ideas when the results are so watertight.

MP3: Tennis – South Carolina
MP3: Tennis – Marathon

Sleigh Bells @ Rough Trade East 10.08.10

Picture courtesy of Anika Mottershaw –

If you’ve ever listened to Sleigh Bells and know anything about instores, you’d guess that the two would be an awkward pairing. Instores draw to mind twee showcases of the latest pop sensation to get you, er, in store to buy their merchandise and raise the stature of the store. Despite its independent principles, the idea is the same at Rough Trade East and Sleigh Bells could comfortably be described as a pop sensation, only a band constantly geared at eleven doesn’t feel suited to thirty minute showcases. They’re a all or nothing sort of thing.

Beyond being set in a record store in the most peculiarly white corner of Brick Lane, the whole set-up is strange for a band that are constantly geared up to eleven. I wander in the store and they’re just there setting up, everyone acknowledges it but no one really reacts to it. Despite the breathless hype, the band isn’t quite ready for screaming mobs, sure, but if you looked up cognitive dissonance in the hipster’s dictionary you would find a picture of the pre-show scene at Rough Trade. It would be cool to have a picture of me and Alexis Krauss to post on Twitter. It would be very uncool to go up there infront of everyone and approach her as a fan. It’d probably be uncool to just acknowledge that I recognise her out of a band I like, Sleigh Bells got BNM’d like three months ago. Infact, it’s probably unspeakable to even think about acknowledging anyone in this store as another human being. I don’t want that picture anyway. It’s intensified when she browses the same shelves I’m disinterestedly passing by for the third time, waiting for a wristband. It’d easy to strike up a conversation. Oh, she’s gone. I wouldn’t of had anything to say to her anyway.

It’s my first instore so I don’t know if it’s the norm, but some keen-eyed staff member delivers a snappy, comic denouement to the proceedings when he charges out of the store with a plastic bag full of wristbands held above his head and insists we follow him if we want one; most of the store clears out, people burst from corners of the shop I didn’t know existed. We were all in the store thinking the same thing; we all share sheepish look as we queue in the drizzle.

Whilst the audience and the venue aren’t the best, either is their performance. I don’t doubt all the breathless hype about their live show that really put them on the radar just as much as their volume, but something doesn’t quite connect. I’m only noticing it because the venue has no bar, – they only just rolled the shelves out – I’m sober and acutely aware that I’m at a 7pm instore, but one of the things that always gets mentioned in any précis of Sleigh Bells’ sound is how detached, cool, collected Alexis’ vocals are inbetween those crunk bass hits and roaring guitars. It makes for a great mental image of a unflappable frontwoman coolly riding the squall of noise or maybe a girl group singer laying down vocals for a song that she didn’t know would sound like this. That’s not something that’s easily kept up on stage especially when they’re trying as hard as they are to get a reaction – Derek prompts the audience to applaud, Alexis commends a section of the audience for dancing, etc – and when Alexis is so proactive and physical on stage regardless of the quality of the audience. As well as the unfortunate effects of the band’s physicality, there’s something just not quite right about the laptop backing track they play along to. I don’t know about you, but I always imagined Derek sweating over some Rube Goldberg type device that provided all the beats, vocal samples and well, pretty much everything. I was a little disappointed that they couldn’t at least get the laptop for him to press play on.

A final excuse to Sleigh Bells for the shittiness of the audience, (it’s us, not you) I think its reasonable to state that people are less open-minded about things in the public sphere. When I’m sat at home I’ll listen to most things and make an effort to go out of my comfort zone to do so; in reality, not so much. My comfort zone is broadly rock music and that translates to committing to music in a manner that doesn’t progress pass rigorous head nodding if I’m sober. Outside of festivals, I’ve not been to a gig with anything like moshing since my Muse days (and even then it was quite mild, tween moshing). Due to the Pitchfork/gvb effect, I imagine it’s the same for most Sleigh Bells fans and there’s interesting things to be written on the effects on bands live prospects if they get picked up by the wrong tastemakers that brings in the ‘wrong’ audience. Whilst it looked (mostly sounded) good on the webcast, I’m sure Big Boi’s show at the Pitchfork music festival was one of his tamer shows than he’s accustomed to; a more striking example here in the UK is probably the complete failure of Speech Debelle after winning last year’s Mercury Music Prize: she couldn’t even fill tiny venues in the wake of it simply because the audience that values stuff like the Mercury aren’t interested in UK Hip Hop. Sleigh Bells’ example isn’t quite as tragic as that, but I wonder how many shows they’ll play that’ll be populated by self-conscious introverts who aren’t the traditional audience for any of the disparate sounds they pull together.

MP3: Sleigh Bells – Holly
MP3: Sleigh Bells – Straight A’s

Kanye West – See Me Now

So the latest cut to drop (directly from Mr West himself) from Damn Good Job whatever his latest album is going to be called is being hailed as a return to that warm, soulful College Dropout-era vibe he had going on. I’m not sure how true that is and suspect that anything he releases from here on out will feel that way in the shadow of his previous album. On that subject, I still maintain 808s and Heartbreak had some interesting ideas in that were never really developed enough; I suppose that introspective furrow is being dug by rappers like Drake now anyway. Even if it is in a more R’n’B and radio-friendly way than something like, say, Say You Will which has become one of my favourite Kanye tracks over time – a sparse two minute outro takes guts to pull off in any genre, let alone mainstream rap. It doesn’t feel like he got enough credit for some of his bolder moves on that album.

Anyway, coming back to the song, on the first few spins it lacks a big hook and Kanye still seems like he’s run out of things to talk about outside of himself and his art. If you’re really inspired by Michelangelo and the like and drop other high-falutin, timeless stuff as your inspirations then perhaps it’s best not to tack on a wandering ad-lib at the end of your craft (one of which is him indulging in his own ‘Imma let you finish’ meme’) ?

MP3:Kanye West – Say You Will
MP3:Kanye West – See Me Now