It was once said “Those who can — do. Those who can’t — criticise.” Well you’re not going to be able to level that charge at The VPME as we have invited a panel of people who do actually “do”, to “do” reviews of this months new releases. As well as overusing the word “do” we will be trying to discover, if music is indeed the food of love ,who on earth is the indigestion?
This month we are joined by
REBECCA STEPHENS: The artist formerly known as Riot Becki, alas she can no longer lay claim to the title “Our Favourite Pipette” due to the fact that she’s left The Pipettes. She’s now working on new musical projects, which are a bit secret at the moment, but won’t, I imagine, involve wearing bunny ears. 😉
DOGWOOD: Presenter of “Music Hall Memories” on Cheambeat Communications Radio, Dogwood doesn’t “do” gadabouts or gasbags. He’s also the new face of the anti-circus league “Don’t be a clown, settle down” Have a listen to the old fellow, you might learn something!
LAURA TROUBLE: There may be trouble ahead. Well that’s ok as long as it’s Laura Trouble, front women of the Screaming Ballerinas who makes a welcome return to the panel.
(Screaming Ballerinas Interview)
LILY RAE: Singer songwriter Lily is making quite a name for herself, she’s been called “an angry Kirsty MacColl” so what better way to let off steam then review some singles!
(Lily Rae Interview)
PENNY BROADHURST: Penny’s a poet and a singer, the Guardian described her as “the Joyce Grenfell of bedroom electro” She’s a self confessed geek apparently and her work is dusted with more than its fair share of Doctor Who references. Oh and she’s from Yorkshire, so watch out.
ANDY VON PIP: Your Host…Imagine Tom Selleck in a thong (You can’t get it out of your head now can you? Secretly you quite like it…)
LINDA HOLLYWOOD; Linda’s band Havana Guns are ace, she has also won the coveted VPME quote of the year (2007) with this statement “Kaiser Chiefs just scare me. Every single one of them looks like a weird scary ventriloquist dummy. Specially the little man with the hat.” (Havana Guns Interview)
VOTE SHOWPONY: Miss Show Pony does eccentric but utterly danceable pop, and claims Showpony is her real name, we’re not sure about the latter, but we are a big fan of her saucy disco vibe.
(Vote Showpony interview)
LUKE TAYLOR: Often called “Son of Morrissey” Luke’s the lyricist and guitarist with the ace Hot Puppies. But one bands never enough these days, so now he’s formed another one, Hemme Fatale, and he’s been joined by two Hip-Hop princesses from Cardiff in order to help produce their “Funky Uber Sleaze” 😉
(Hot Puppies interview)
FOXBORO HOT TUBS – “MOTHER MARY”
DOGWOOD; “When youngsters get this riotous my usual instinct is to open the window of Dogwood cottage and throw a bucket of water over them. This usually elicits the response of an instant siege with all manner of animal matter and fireworks being poked through my letter box. There’s something altogether Cliff Richard about all this exuberance, no Carrie does not live here anymore thank you very much, no forwarding address, not after that episode where she burnt down the local comprehensive by mind power alone. I just don’t know about this song, in my minds eye I’m seeing Lesley Judd and The New Generation doing the hippy hippy shake in mustard slacks – a trifle unsettling. But then I took a look at their myspace pictures and was suddenly beguiled by monochrome photos of the sort of women that you just don’t see at the local butchers anymore. So these American idiots have won a reprieve. On the power of the leggy fifties/sixties ladies on display – Dogwood is willing to accept an apology for the music and let this lot in.
LAURA TROUBLE (SCREAMING BALLERINAS) : Green Day were my fave band when I was little, I don’t know if that’s embarrassing or not. I’m proud of it. Ha. I had pink hair and chains on my jeans. Nice. So they are branching out and experimenting, which I can imagine is a lot of fun. I kind of like the 60’s vibe of the production and the oooo’s and aaaa’s are kind of cool but I think the fact that Billie Joe is singing through his nose spoils it, hahaha. It’s probably something he finds hard not to do! It’s his trademark! I think he should have experimented with the delivery of the song to give it more depth. And I can’t really see the relevance this kind of music will have in 2008. It leaves me cold and bored to be honest. Time warp. Wakey wakey! But it will be massive no doubt. I used to draw pictures of me and Billie on our wedding day! Hurrah. I like it more and more now. . . . Ha.
LINDA HOLLYWOOD (HAVANA GUNS): This is a really sweet and very retro track, a potential summer hit with all the sure-fire ingredients. Singing about drinking too much wine and holding hands, Foxboro Hot Tubs’ “Mother Mary” makes me long for lazing in sunny parks and jumping around in sweaty clubs. That they’re the not-so-secret-anymore side project of Green Day is information better left ignored. Band members and catchy tunes aside, this is very different – in a good way. This song may not move mountains but it will fill dance floors and perhaps set a few hearts on fire.
REBECCA STEPHENS: “Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it Jet? Oh, no. Just when you thought modern retro had almost left us (sadly The Fratelli’s are still hovering), Green Day have filled the gap temporarily left by The Strokes/Hives/Vines etc, and operating under the nom de plume Foxboro Hot Tubs, are here to remind us why the aforementioned were never quite going to fill the gap left by The Kinks and The Stooges. Mother Mary dips into 60’s garage rock and offers . . . well that’s about it. There’s nothing new or exciting here; mix Jet and The Libertines and you’ve pretty much got it. Green Day fans will probably love it, as there are the usual Billie Joe references to religious imagery and rebellion and also his distinctive vocals. However, will it pull in non-Green Day fans? Is it even meant to be taken as anything more than a band locked in a room with too much wine? Do we even care? Only time will tell.
VOTE SHOW PONY: Oh Gosh, well people may hate me for writing this because it’s a nice upbeat number but……The first thing that I thought was, have I heard this guitar riff / bass riff / slash drum beat before? Unfortunately due to this every-time I listened to the song I was distracted by trying to work out if it had been used on a sync or it was just quite similar to things I have heard before. Just a bit normal for me. Sorry!
LILY RAE: “Despite being the fruit of a side-project by internationally successful eyeliner-wearing garage-punks Green Day, Mother Mary is totally indistinguishable from anything else on the tiny XFM playlist at the moment – astonishingly unmemorable, it’s just another American garage rock single to be scissor-kicked off the conveyor belt. The only difference is that it sounds like it’s desperately trying to be British. Alright, so the production has quite a nice colourful sixties vibe and a good dirty guitar sound that, at a push, could make the track reminiscent of some of Green Day’s finer moments – but it doesn’t stop poor old “Mother Mary” from sounding like a Fratellis b-side (or indeed, any other poor attempt at disguising a blatant Libertines rip-off.) “
LUKE TAYLOR (HEMME FATALE/HOT PUPPIES); I like the drums, was actually thinking of sampling (thieving) one of the fills. But ultimately I think the song can just f*ck off. If people will insist on playing meat and potatoes guitar music I wish they’d play early heavy metal like Saxon and Judas Priest. That stuff was fun and had guitar solo’s and S*tanism in it. I know NO ONE in the world except maybe the one from East 17 who got fat and bitter agrees with me but…I just think garage and punk(except Devo) is sh*t. I love early rock n roll and the 70’s were amazing with prog, disco and Krautrock. But everything went shit after the New York Dolls. Thank god Trevor Horn came along and automated it out of existence. Anyway, f*ck off this song!
ANDY VON PIP: This isn’t so much punky, as jaunty, it did have me drumming my fingers on the table top, a strange idea though, a multi-platinum selling garage band , pretend to be um, a garage band . But it’s jolly enough without being anything spectacular. I quite like the bouncy guitars but it never really takes off , albums pretty much the same, its ok but it’s more Beige Day than Green Day….…Still I shouldn’t really do what everybody does and compare this to classic Green Day, seeing them live “Dookie” era still remain some of the most exciting live gigs ever. Yes “American Idiot” was a trifle bombastic, but it was actually a top quality album, I can’t be arsed with this “sell out” rubbish people bandy about, or the guitar band backlash that’s a-coming, as people start to look to the 80’s for inspiration (wrong decade kids) Anyway this is initially a little uninspiring but played loud in your convertible on a hot summers day it becomes strangely thrilling. It actually made me want to get a tattoo of a waitress, thankfully I remained resolute. (7/10)
PENNY BROADHURST: What is this FOR? Crappy garagey Strokesian power pop we’ve heard a million times before with obnoxious vocals. Look, members of Green Day, you’re supposed to use side projects to do something MORE interesting than your day job. McFly do this sort of thing 5000 times better and with more humour. Go away.
RICK ROLLERZ “Never Gonna Give You Up”
LINDA HOLLYWOOD: Considering their name, The Rickrollerz are, seemingly, a one song band playing on that tired Rick Astley web-prank. Funny maybe, but not enough to make me want to listen to this song from beginning till end. In da club, at home or on the tube – this remix doesn’t do it for me and, to be fair, neither does the original.
LUKE TAYLOR: “I actually really love the original; Stock Aitken and Waterman are a Hemme Fatale favourite. It’s sort this years “the Hoff” isn’t it? F*ck it, I actually quite like it, and the other remix on the myspace is mega. Greed, Tories and Rick Astley all making a comeback this year. Looks like the 80’s are back (again). Shame there’s no more mines to close.
DOGWOOD: “Where’s my bloody axe? I need to excommunicate someone’s excessive quif from the owners numbskull scalp. Now I never did Astley the first time round, I find gormless Hull soulboys gadding about in Farahs and chains trying to look vaguely attractive to big bosomed shop assistants from Penrith at Haven, Prestatyn Sands a sight likely to induce both moral and physical outrage. This demonstrates the utter futility of life under Gordon Brown. Why else would someone want to resurrect something so utterly Thatcherite? Greed is good? Eastenders? Wogan chat shows? T’pau? Who else thinks the eighties were a good idea? Come on, out you come; I’ve a Bren gun with a full magazine and an itchy trigger finger. My favourite Rick Astley moment was on “Vic Reeves Big Night Out” when he stepped out and started singing in a sheepskin jacket and then I realised that it was Bob Mortimer. You see, the point about a vacuous Max Bygraves clone with a ginger quif from Hull, is , that there is no point and tw*ts that feel the need to come up with this sonic earache deserve to be accused of witchcraft and suffer trial by ordeal. Dogwood as Matthew Hopkins in destructive witch-hunting mood.”
LAURA TROUBLE: “I don’t understand why I’m reviewing a lazy terrible remix of a classic dancefloor tune. Why why why why the need!?”
LILY RAE: “What I can only assume started as a sozzled brainwave is now an aneurysm-inducing gimmick that dance-producers the Rickrollerz have seen fit to inflict on the world. It’s actually pretty convincing as a late-nineties house track – it could’ve been a contender at the time. The fact that it’s a new (disturbing) take on an old (even more disturbing) song just means it’s OK to dance “knowingly” to it. You have to give them kudos for making the best of a bad situation, even if you start worrying that they’re actually doing it in earnest. Astley probably doesn’t mind though. Consider thyself rickroll’d. I, on the other hand, never, ever, ever want to hear Never Gonna Give You Up again.
VOTE SHOW PONY: “Being a child born in the 80’s I LOVEEEEEE me a bit of Rick Astley. Even the crazy fading in & out over kill can’t ruin this song for me & I’ll tell you why!!! Because it is a remix of one of the best pop songs ever written. Who doesn’t want to do a flip off a wall when listening to this???”
ANDY VON PIP: If there are three things that are guaranteed turn me puce with apoplectic rage, its Stock Aitken and Waterman, and this remix has about as much point as Jade Goody. Utter tripe, an unsubtle and crass attempt to cash in on the “hilarious” internet phenomenon called “Rickrolling”, maybe if you’re a 6th form media student, or find the “situationalist” comedy of Bobby Davro a real rib tickler, then this would have you wetting your corduroys with unbridled mirth, but in reality it’s about as funny as having your teeth removed with a spoon. I couldn’t stand this auburn hued cherubic moon faced man-boy the first time round, it seemed that poor Rick’s gonads hadn’t just dropped, they’d positively plummeted. I also had trouble with the fact that this chubby little office tea boy, gave the impression he’d just stepped out of the local John Colliers shop window, bedecked in a blazer , beige slacks and brogues. Furthermore he appeared to have been possessed by the voice of Paul Robeson. In the Eighties many people were convinced when they heard his thick as treacle “man-voice” that he must be a black soul singer. Problem was, as with all of S.A.W.’s protégés, they lacked that one essential ingredient, namely “soul”. Then of course there was Rick’s stupid little self conscious dance, he looked about as comfortable as somebody whose just done a pudding in their kecks and is trying to discreetly hail a cab. Last and very possibly least there’s the song , a fine example of how irritating the 80’s could be (and believe me it was….Timmy Mallet, Rusty Lee, “Einstein A-Go-Go” anybody ? ), these remix folk (who I imagine are student types) have done what I thought was neigh on impossible, and have turned the aural version of pig swill into something even more unpalatable, proof positive that you can’t polish a turd. Yes folks this time round it’s even more annoying! Its not kitsch, its not knowingly tongue in cheek fun, it’s not ironic, or iconic, it’s quite simply sh*t. (Or to use the annoying habit of putting super in front of every bloody thing these days , it’s Super F***ing sh*t). I bet Jeremy “Hairstyle like a dinner-lady” ” Clarkson liked Rick Astley, I bet he found him harmless fun, and a little bit funky! “Now that’s a tune” he’d say”…the C*ck ! … Miles Hunt said it best, “Astley in a Noose”… Next (Minus 100/10)
PENNY BROADHURST: “All novelty and “ironic” records and remixes must die. Cash-in bollocks for the terminally thick. It’s not like the old days when there were only 3 new releases a week to potentially spend your money on. Save up and buy your mum a Wii Fit instead.
POPPY AND THE JEZEBELS -“UFO”
LILY RAE: “Now here is a rare and wondrous thing – a 2008 track that’s just on the right side of retro. UFO might have Debbie Harry’s fingerprints shamelessly smudged all over it, but it’s still merry and fun – note the lack of a capital F – with a good splash of irony to help the eighties tick-tock rhythm go down. The worst you could say about it is that it’s inoffensive and it gets a bit dull after a while but hell, it’s charming, and less ego-driven than Girls Aloud.”
REBECCA STEPHENS: “When a young band appears, from the depth of music cynicism, it’s difficult to stop lingering on the age and just concentrate on the music. However there are many young bands out there making music that others would happily call their own; Operator Please, Smoosh, Those Dancing Days to name a few. So onto the music. The quirky intro of swirling, space-age noise and keys sets the tone nicely for a song entitled UFO, before the reggae-esque stylings and monotone vocals reminiscent of The Slits, anchors this song from flying away into a blaze of effects and Wurlitzers. The chorus doesn’t quite offer up the pop expectations of the introduction and verses, but is catchy enough to carry the song and avoids the dead pan emotion of The Organ. There are the obvious Slits influences, maybe self-consciously so at times, and I have to say it didn’t quite hit the spot for me. Not that I can rule them out. Will I be checking out their progress? Most definitely! What remains to be seen is whether these girls are able to make a dent in a densely populated male music scene that appears to have garnered all recipes for success.”
VOTE SHOWPONY: This song made me think if the Bangles were teenagers from Birmingham would they sound like this? And then I thought, probably not but I still like it a whole lot.
DOGWOOD: “I suppose having vaguely swirly noises playing behind a plinky-plonky melody is somehow redolent of a vague sci-fi theme but I don’t think it would be enough to get Venus from Fireball XL5 up on the dance floor. She’s hard enough to please that one without trying to tempt her with a tune that sounds like it’s been worked out by lasses from the Gas Board on their dinner break. When the plinky bits dissolve into the chorus it all becomes a bit listless and despite the fact that they are four young lasses who would, if they could, gad about in a Mary Quant time machine of Chelsea Girl and Jackie fuelled nostalgia, it’s like listening to your older sister when you were 13 and she was 16 and she had her mates round. There you were straining for a glimpse of lacy knickers from her tasty looking best mate or maybe a sly elbow brush against lace brassiere and what happens is that you get sussed out, get clouted around the head and get a reputation as a pervy peeping Tom. Not that that happened to me you understand. The idea is better than the reality. Four young girls in go go boots singing about space craft – yes please I thought but, no, it was a bit of a let down. Dogwood contemplating the endless frustration about failing to manage expectations about the female species and their promises of tantalising excitement.”
ANDY VON PIP: “I like this one it’s got a Shop Assistants/Belle Stars and even an Elastica feel to it, and before anybody starts chucking around Spice Girl comparisons lets be clear, this sounds bugger all like anything those talentless Thatcherite harridans have ever produced. Well, one of the lasses in this band likes the Spices but it’s not her fault, she’s got time to realise with hindsight what a monstrous cultural carbuncle they were… But it’s nice to know the band love stuff like The Cramps, Patti Smith and Nick Cave. This is the sort of cool popiness that credible indie labels used to issue in the good old days. I like this lots, even if they do make me feel positively geriatric.” (8/10)
LUKE TAYLOR: “Oooh, hard this. They’re only young and being negative about it makes me feel a bit like Cruella Deville. But I suppose I don’t want to be patronising to them and should just judge the song. It’s just a bit boring. It sounds like mid 90’s Brit pop. Which I think is the most boring music. It sounds like it’s quite expensively recorded. But just a bit lifeless. It’s not rubbish though. And that Cleopatra song is good, with good lyrics.
PENNY BROADHURST: “I like the synths, hate her voice…and can’t people copy a bit of the ’80s that other people *aren’t* doing or at least add SOMETHING OF THEIR OWN CHARACTER AND WRITE IDIOSYNCRATIC LYRICS? I’d get less bored.”
LINDA HOLLYWOOD: “What could be heavenly Blondie is more like Kate Nash on crack. And I guess the latter would be kind of cool if it wasn’t for this song being painfully mediocre. With better production and a catchier chorus “UFO” might have qualified as a Spice Girls album filler. But girl power it ain’t.”
LAURA TROUBLE: “These Brit Pop pixies will no doubt write many songs to rival this one in the future- But I do like it, it’s cute and slick. I think the actual song is quite repetitive for my tastes; it goes round and round and doesn’t go anywhere. But I like all the parts. I don’t want to be patronising and say the obvious “they’re so young! Well done girls!” thing, because that would be bullshit. They are young musicians who write songs and shouldn’t be given special treatment. Why are they singing in cockernee Laaandaaan accents when they’re from Birmingham? How strange”
MGMT -”Electric Feel”
VOTE SHOW PONY: Well Andy, as you know I mentioned this lot in our interview. This song is lyrically & melodically the best thing I have heard all year. In my humble opinion it should be a total hit, sigh, I wish I had written it. I want to weep with joy that there are still innovators out there writing truly wonderful pieces of pop music. It also makes me want to dance naked around a camp fire playing some mini bongos. Who’s in?
LINDA HOLLYWOOD: “Do you come from the land down under? Or staying alive perhaps? The influences may be wacky but the sunny surf sound of “Electric Feel” kind of works, however wrong it may seem. The radio remix is short and sweet and definitely morish. And if you’re not convinced, I’ve got a feeling there is more to come – “Electric Feel” is a mere taster of what is the strange world of MGMT.”
ANDY VON PIP: Oh is it my turn? I was just about to get some kindling for that camp fire… Ahem!….By rights I shouldn’t like this, on the surface it appears to be bohemian NYC electro arty foppishness at its worst, what some folk used to call ava nt gardener or something …However against all the odds I love MGMT’s album , “Pieces Of What” is one of the songs of the year, it’s melancholy, evocative and moving. I can imagine oxen headed BBC pundit, Ray Stubbs singing “Pieces Of What“, as he wistfully reflects on his lot during Euro 2008. A sad, lonely figure, reduced to bit part pitch side interviewer, whilst Lineker Hansen and Co. chuckle away smugly in the warmth of the studio. Another standout track is “Kids” which is like being on “E“whilst trying to escape from a bouncy castle, but “Electric Feel” always confused me… It’s a strange 1970’s disco affair, which has a familiar sound. Yet paradoxically, manages to seem wholly original at the same time. It definitely brings to mind a white suited Travolta prancing about with his absurdly bushy primate- like hairline and doing the sort of bizarre hip wiggling that no right thinking male would have the audacity to attempt without feeling a deep sense of shame. The poor lad looked like he was having some sort of bowel spasm, and lets face it , if you’ve got a dodgy bowel, white is not really the safest colour to wear is it ? Thankfully Travolta dancing was something I’d mentally filed away long ago under “disturbing.” There’s something about this track that makes me want to go to Studio 54 , “strut my funky stuff” whilst “shaking my thang” and then have gratuitous s*x with coked up long legged lovelies whilst groovy Mo’fo’s “get down” to a Tavares inspired soundtrack …..And I’m not quite sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.” (7/10)
REBECCA STEPHENS: “Set to be the song of the summer, Electric Feel is one of the more accessible songs from the Brooklyn duo’s debut album Oracular Spectacular. Drawing on the sweeping, melodic psychedelia of Mercury Rev and crunchy pop of The Flaming Lips (how can it not with Dave Fridmann producing), MGMT have created an album wherein every song creates a world for the listener. Electric Feel is a song that oozes lazy summer days. It’s a driving song that is equally at home on any dance floor. With the shimmering keys and funky bass, it’s a sexy song that hints at Prince and Gary Numan. Bringing a freshness and twist of the absurd (‘shock me like an electric eel/turn me on with your electric feel’) to 80’s electro, it’s hard not enjoy the journey MGMT are taking us on.”
PENNY BROADHURST: “I am too old and secure in myself to care whether or not I am “supposed” to like this. I remember the real 1980s; I don’t need the faux version currently storming the charts. That said, there are some tasty sounds on this. I just don’t really like getting the sense that I’m watching a romantic comedy from 1987 starring someone from a US sitcom, which is how this feels, only with “hipper” vocals. I’d rather jack.”
LILY RAE: “To me, Electric Feel is like a nice exfoliating scrub – the sexy, bouncing bass and chiming keyboard riff leaves you and your skin feeling fresh and rejuvenated, as though you’ve been covered in cucumber slices and told to dance like a stripper in the jungle. It’s already common knowledge that MGMT are too talented for their own good, and with a slinky production akin to Gnarls Barkley (or perhaps Peter Gabriel in his finer days) and layers of sound not dissimilar to Of Montreal or the Scissor Sisters, Electric Feel confirms their status as the long-awaited pioneers of decent electronica. God knows we needed some. These boys know what they’re doing.
LAURA TROUBLE : “I Love Love Love this album! It is a work of art! It’s such a relief to have someone doing something sparkly and new that I can dance to and that also chills me out and sends me to another world. This song is one of the albums highlights, disco-tastic, with gorgeous sexy vocals that sound neither female nor male. It shows that you can be inspired by an era without ripping a sound off completely. The MGMT album is flawless, original and timeless. It’s just a pity that they cannot replicate the songs live. That’s the problem with over produced music I guess. They spent their first shows jumping around to a backing track of their album, with a bottle of beer in their hand!”
DOGWOOD: “I think Peter Purves summed it up nicely when he said ‘And whilst Johnny (Noakes) is mounting Nelson’s Column/Jumping out of an RAF Hercules without any insurance at 20000ft/Riding the Cresta Run using his backside as a toboggan etc I shall be in the studio stroking Jason’. This has ‘camp nonsense’ shrieking out all over the place like some hysterical hairdresser who can’t find his cutting comb. I’m seeing camp types in flowery smocks, cravats and whatever else they wear in Greenwich Village these days. I like my music to be like a no-nonsense haircut – nothing complicated, a quick trim and maybe a whoosh of talc to ease that back of neck chaffing that you sometimes get when Nick the Barber forgets to strop his cut-throats. This lot not only want to shove a pack of novelty Johnnies in my hand but also can’t wait to get the perming kit on my otherwise regulation follicles. I can’t be doing with that – much too involved and will take too much explaining to the lady friend. Dogwood putting his cap on and walking away swiftly.
LUKE TAYLOR: “I’ve been listening to this song for a while now. I love it. It’s my fave single this year so far, well maybe this or “-Pro Nails” by Kid Sister. It’s dirty and funky and sounds a bit like Shakira in the middle. They obviously love tons and tons of different music. Not just Sham 69, like every band in Britain seems to at the moment. When this song is in the middle I already want to rewind to the start.
LATE OF THE PIER – “The Space and the Woods”
DOGWOOD: “This sounds like someone’s taken a Tubeway Army album track and played it at 45rpm. Now I didn’t’t do Numanoids the first time round, I find thinning dyed black hair, slightly goofy teeth and the eyelined eyes of a corpse a disturbing proposition when pushing a trolley down the aisle at Somerfield’s. This is yet more 80’s glorification for me, it lurches around trying to grab at every early eighties post punk/pop cliché out there even doffing its Robin Hood cap to cod-new romanticism. At the risk of repeating myself, the eighties were crap and only those that weren’t old enough to realise this fact will want to resurrect it. Let me try and convince you that this is a Stalingrad that we should never return to: Imagine entering a room where your hosts are bouffanted haired gadabouts with shoulder pads who point excitedly to their Eurhythmics CD on the coffee table, nudging cosily up to a Sade ersatz Jazz album. Meanwhile said hosts are trying to convince you that it’s great that Elton John and Phil Collins have had their careers given a rocket boost by a procession of vacuous stadium orgies of self-indulgence. The same orgies of self-indulgence where the likes of Bonio and Sting cut their politically correct teeth learning the pronunciations of every member of the African National Congress. You look to the TV for some relief only to be confronted by the sight of so-called everyday life in an East London hamlet where everyone is gay; straight; has HIV; is pregnant whilst still being a schoolgirl; is on the rob; has slept with their own sisters step son’s father; spends their entire wages eating in a ‘caff’ all day and then all night in a pub and so on. You turn over to the football only to find the likes of Chris Waddle with a ludicrous mullet and even more ludicrously small pair of shorts playing a game where Liverpool win 2-0 and bore everyone to submission. Yes, even football was crap in the eighties. Late of the Pier? Jump off the pier more like. Dogwood taking de-stressing medication to move away from the provocation of the 1980’s.”
VOTE SHOWPONY; “It’s got some nice fancy synth sounds & I like the lyrics. I think it would be great in a club.”
REBECCA STEPHENS: “Continuing on with the current 80’s electro trend of synth leaden, space-age pop, Space and the Woods is taken from Castle Donnington four piece Late of the Pier’s Zarcorp Demo. Here we have yet another song heavily leaden with multiple synths and vocals referencing ‘buzz’ influence of the moment Gary Numan. However, with new wave nuances, glam undertones and bass reminiscent of Death From Above, this sound is dominating ‘new’ indie music and unfortunately has been heard one too many times of late. It just seems to miss the mark.
LILY RAE: “The po-faced lyric “suicide is in my blood”, sung without a trace of irony, is surely in the top ten risky ways to start a song. It gets riskier still when you pile synth after synth on top of each other and create a kind of distorted synthesiser mayhem which ruins any chance Space And The Woods had of being a decent single (a shame, because it was halfway there). The deciding clinch arrives when you realise that the track doesn’t really go anywhere – you should never feel like you’re waiting for a song to get exciting. It sounds more than a little behind its time; the lack of any discernible tune combined with the overuse of ‘kooky’ keyboard sounds prevents it from being anything more than a potential 5 o’clock weekday gameshow theme tune. You can dance to it, I suppose, but only for so long. It fits in your laptop and does nothing.”
PENNY BROADHURST : “Hello Gary Numan. Wot? Wot? Wot? PS You are not American. Why do I just want to nick all the synths and bin all the songs in my “reviews”?”
ANDY VON PIP: I don’t get this really, and whilst listening to it I too started to mumble “Here in my car I feel safest of all, I can lock all my doors, in cars” A sentiment that may not have been shared if young bequiffed tearaway, James Dean had been in the driving seat. But that lyric really did sum up the depth and range of Gary Numan’s emotive profound and often deeply moving song writing skills. Numan, a huge fan of Bowie was desperate to be regarded as the new Thin White Duke, but sadly he more often than not cut the more comical figure of “The Fat White Grub” and was also known as (by me at least) “Alfred Twitchcock or Flinch Eastwood” due to the bizarre nervous ticks that would suddenly spring forth without warning and make the audience in the front row feel decidedly uneasy. As for this lot, they really should leave the 80’s well alone, unless you consider shoulder pads frilly shirts and coating your face with more make up than your average clown, a good time. I’m with Dogwood , the 80’s were crap, in terms of fashion, politics and music, absurdly mulletted brickies called Barry dressed up in hideous shiny electric blue suits complete with tukka boots, watery McEwans lager, gut rotting Diamond White cider , Kevin “ruddy” Bacon, greedy yuppie toffs, legwarmers, aerobics, rah rah skirts which confused many an amorous young chap, secretly pinching your sisters eyeliner and lasses with so much gel in their hair that the romantic gesture of running your fingers through their hair was more treacherous than playing catch with a ball of razor-sharp barbed-wire. Yes we had the likes of The Smiths the Cure and The Mary Chain but these were shining beacons in a turbid sea of stylised manufactured crud. I know this because I was there. Anyway this song thumps, bleeps shrieks, and occasionally even throbs, but it doesn’t really get me excited, and rather like an episode of “My Family” it left me feeling vaguely bereft of joy. Maybe they have better songs tucked way somewhere. For proper electronic music you best listen to Ladytron (who are Gods) lads, not Numanoid hang glide guff. (6/10)
LINDA HOLLYWOOD: “This band’s MySpace page is unreadable: white font on light grey background. I have to “select all” to read it. The only text in sensible black is the description which states that Late of the Pier plays “music to have asthma to”. I know what they mean; “Space and the Woods” is thrusting heavily in different directions. And I like it, but mostly because it reminds me of TV on the radio and Clor. Not perfection but definitely going somewhere, I just need to stop and breathe before I can tell you where.”
LAURA TROUBLE: “Late of the Pier are a S.B fave. I saw them support the Cribs a year ago and totally fell in love with them. Their lead singer is so sexy and magnetic to watch. They were so confident and fearless with their show and their music, which is really inspiring for another musician. This isn’t my fave song of theirs but it’s great none the less. All their songs are like, made up of nine choruses just mashed together, and for some reason it works! Genius. ‘The space and the woods still know who I am!‘… I really want to know what he’s talking about!!!! Why can he talk to trees and I can’t? And how come he can sing higher than me? Not fair.
LUKE TAYLOR: Not my favourite of thier songs. But none the less really good. They look like they’re from space and sound all celestial. It’s a bit like Gary Numan and A-ha in places. But overall this reminds me of Faith No More. Which is a good thing.
PORTISHEAD- The Rip
REBECCA STEPHENS: “Having been away since 1999, allowing for a few intermittent performances, side projects and solo outings, I had no idea which way the wind would blow on the new Portishead record aptly titled Third. What has blown is this maudlin wonder The Rip. The sparseness of this song allows Gibbon’s enchanting melancholy to just be. It is tender and gentle, but don’t be fooled. Like a tributary running towards the sea, this song meanders, building up to near crescendo before settling down with driving beat as the vocal hauntingly holds; disappearing, before softly fading out. This is a tender song, less edgy than on previous records, but that definitely is a strength. It truly is gorgeous and shows that even after nearly a decade away, Portishead are still capable of creating luscious soundscapes.”
PENNY BROADHURST: “I rather like this. It starts a bit 2004 folktronica-ish (not that I like stupid genre names), so they’re clearly not interested in trends – a good thing. Beth’s voice, as ever, is the best thing about it. I’m glad it’s the single – it’s my favourite off the album. It could be dull, acoustic and soundscapey, but then it builds to the fully electronic bit with the sustained oohs and you get the lift when Beth comes back in properly. Tasty. I like the version Radiohead have been knocking about with, too.”
DOGWOOD: “I went out with a lass from Portishead – the place not the band – once and in the heightened throes of our heavy petting she would often start the sort of whimpering that the lass from Portishead – the band not the place – breaks out into on a regular basis. Invariably pop music makes me want to commit great feats of violence which my self-control always seems to reign in sufficiently to prevent me from being a danger to the general public. I have to say though that this song soothes me like a cold flannel after I’ve had a prolonged ranting session at the telly, probably at Anton Dec presenting ‘Britain’s got a load of deluded psychotics” and ITV feed us this televisual equivalent of Iceland food day after day and we just take it’. Portishead produce music that comes from a saner era of Cold Wars, Cambridge Spies and universal suspicion of anyone East of Berlin. I only wish the rest of pop music adopted these fine principles. Dogwood is standing on a street corner, reading a newspaper waiting for the Tulips to rise in Red Square adoring this song.”
LAURA TROUBLE: “How lovely this sounds; I would be interested in investing in their album after this, definitely. The track is delicate and beautiful, the PJ Harvey-esque vocals are macabre and soothing and I love the Radiohead-like shift half way through the song. Sleepy gorgeousness.”
LUKE TAYLOR: This one is beautiful. It has some of that sad intimacy that Leonard Cohen has. The arrangements are nice too. It has a bit of a Can feel. Gives me that slightly scared, slightly in awe feeling like when you watch nature programmes and a lion gets an antelope. Lovely.
LINDA HOLLYWOOD: Beautiful and dark are good adjectives to possess if you are a song. Scary and cold could go either way but in the case of Portishead’s latest it is undoubtedly good. Beth Gibbon’s haunting vocals accompanied by classic guitar picking introduce “The Rip”, but it is halfway through, when these elements morph into synths, that this song becomes special. It is lifted by the soft and feather-light electronic beats that suddenly sound fat and heavy, and dare I say, catchy.
VOTE SHOWPONY: I listened to this song after a bit of a stressful day. Actually it wasn’t too stressful I was being a stroppy girl simply because I was having a bad hair day. But thankfully as soon as I put this track on I realized I was being a knob & all my stresses drifted away. There’s mention of a horse which, being equine I love, but all joking aside it’s so beautiful & eerie & has a lovely build that made me tingle. Welcome back Portishead.
ANDY VON PIP : I saw this lot performing this on TV a while back, and whilst the years had been kind to Beth, one of the chaps looked like he’d been on more than nodding terms with “Greggs The Bakers” during the ensuing years away from the music biz , I did wonder if they’d thought of changing their name to Portly-head. Now then, as for the song I do love this, its menacing, atmospheric , and reminds me of Stevie Smiths poem “Not Waving But Drowning.” If I was drowning I’d like to drown to this, not that I want to drown, this song ebbs and flows, and unlike the water around Merseyside is effluence free. Hypnotic, edgy, evocative and full of mournful beauty. This is also the best song on the album by far. (9/10)
LILY RAE: “I have to confess to not being entirely familiar with Portishead’s music, despite being repeatedly told that they’re “right up my street.” The Rip, the second single from Portishead’s forthcoming album Third, most certainly is – it begins with a haunting mixture of humming theremin and simplistic nylon guitar, accompanied by a whispering Emily Haines/Joni Mitchellesque vocal from Beth Gibbons. The vocal is the centrepiece of the track – glasslike in its fragility, yet it remains powerful over the gradual build-up of sound. It’s surrounded by echoing, home-grown drum and synth sounds and shimmering guitars which transform it from soft silk into dreamy trip-hop fantasy. It’s spooky. It’s melancholic and euphoric at the same time. It’s too beautiful.”
VIDEO REVIEW …..BJORK – Wanderlust
LUKE TAYLOR: This is, of course, brilliant and magical. It starts off sounding like two cruise ships having a conversation. It’s almost impossible to know what to write about this song. Which show’s how good and out there and on her own she is. Lyrically it’s like a tone poem or something. With really beautiful images in it. Musically it’s just a busy beat and some really strange horns. I wish there were more Bjorks.
ANDY VON PIP: I reckon if Bjork was called Agnes Drabblesworth and hailed from Dudley, people wouldn’t find her half so mystical and ethereal. Personally I think she’s about as wacky and interesting as a manhole cover… on a wet day….in February….in Congleton….on a Tuesday. I had the misfortune to see Bjork perform with the Sugarcubes years ago as a young egg. They were dreadful, she spent most of the time giggling into her hand, screaming for no reason I could see, talking utter bollox, and randomly skipping around the stage like some sort of demented imp .There was a young fan near the front of the stage who had taken a few photos and who had been spotted by Eeeyore (or whatever his name was) and Bjork, they very kindly offered to take the fans camera on stage and take some close ups of the band. The fan was clearly delighted and when they’d duly taken some remarkable snaps, with the band striking various poses, they looked at the fan, smiled, gestured to hand the camera back , but instead, they suddenly hurled it into the centre of the crowd, being Liverpool it wasn‘t too likely she‘d be getting the camera back……nice touch eh ?…….Bjork screeched with delight like a young Annie Wilkes, and excitedly started skipping around the stage at break neck speed whilst clapping her hands, meanwhile the whole band chortled with cold, malicious glee ..The audience weren’t too happy and started chanting “Puffin-eaters” at which point the band had a strop and walked off!! ….. So I have to say Bjork, gets right on my dander. All this irritating mystical elfin pixie nonsense and that ludicrously conspiratorial expression that she gets on her face as if she’s about to impart some sort of life changing secret to us all. But of course she never does, she just farts around with dead swans on her head , squawks, warbles, tells people to shhhh, then screeches, looks sagaciously at the camera and effects new age “wackiness”. This sort of damn fool behaviour would be annoying in a toddler, but is downright infuriating in a grown woman. She’s about as mystic as Mystic bloody Meg but without the cultural relevance. I tried to be objective, but as soon as I saw her little anaemic smurfs face I could feel my blood pressure rise, and then she started to sing and as usual she reminded me of Joe Pasquale with asthma breathing in helium whilst being kicked in the b*llocks by Sandra Dickinson. This is the sort of otherworldly claptrap that drama students, geography teachers, vegans and ageing Hippy chicks (you know those eccentric single ones, who still think “kooky” is endearing at 55, do tarot cards, prattle about karma and Hobbits, drink too much red wine and frighten young lads at nightclubs ) lap up as some sort of work of genius. She’s like a new age Annie Lennox for the bourgeoisie “Oh Tarquin have you heard Bjork’s latest CD , its just divine, she’s just like, so esoteric, she really is on an another astral plane“ …..… The video reminds me of those bizarre dubbed Czechoslovakian kids dramas which used to terrify me during the summer holidays. I watched it with the same sort of morbid curiosity that Sesame Street used to induce, irritating but impossible to tear your eyes away! She’s also responsible for the solitary occasion I laughed at Dawn French which is unforgivable………Oh and she’s got weird eyes too. Rant over! … (4/10)
LILY RAE : “ I’ll confess to feeling somewhat disenchanted with pixie-faced Icelandic siren Bjork’s latest album (Volta) on the first listen – but as with much of her work, it’s a grower, and Wanderlust is surely the stand-out track. Throughout her career Bjork has remained in a fairyland of her own, refusing to compromise to anyone or anything – so no-one should feel the need to ask why she opts to open a song with foghorns and seagulls. As the track progresses, she combines a chilling brass section with electronic dance beats, both of which compliment her trademark soaring, lung-bursting vocal. It’s a rich, life-affirming tune to get lost in, and the track most similar to her previous songs on Post and Homogenic. Therefore it seems quite fitting for Encyclopedia Pictura to bring it to life with a Where The Wild Things Are-esque video, using computer graphics and what-looks-like-plasticine-but-probably-isn’t to create bizarre imagery reminiscent of Michel Gondry’s colourful work on The Science Of Sleep. It begins with Bjork (wearing a huge yellow hat) surrounded by animated buffalo. As we later discover (as she rushes downstream on the back of a grumpy beast), she seems to be carrying a strange little clone of herself around in a rucksack. The highlight, though, is the emergence of what looks like a giant cat-God from a three-dimensional river (one of those things which must be seen to be appreciated). Bjork comes face to face with what seems to be her adversary, before collapsing into a waterfall and rushing through a tunnel of spectacular bubbling light – she is then met with a huge pair of human hands, and the video abruptly ends. The video could not be more perfect for the song, and the animation is certainly nothing less than beautiful; but what in the name of Gudmundsdottir does it mean?
REBECCA STEPHENS: “Not afraid of fantastical videos, this video directed by Encyclopedia Pictura (Isaiah Saxon and Sean Hellfritsch), and shot in the popular 3D style, is mind blowing. Mixing special effects and animation we see Bjork become a nomad shepherding giant yaks through a kaleidoscopic landscape, which at times attack the senses but draws you ever deeper in. The video embodies the song, taking on a literal representation of Wanderlust (a desire for travel and new adventure) and what a journey. From the beginning of the video with Bjork’s decision to move the yaks or not through hydromancy, to her being pulled into the future by the Rivergod, it appears to reference her state of mind whilst writing Volta last year. Bjork has stated that she has periods of hungering more ‘relentlessly restless, restless relentlessly’, and sees Wanderlust as an extension of Hyperballad. I wonder how anyone can question anything Bjork does or touches, it’s all gold. Just watch it, listen to it, and enjoy the compelling ride.”
VOTE SHOWPONY: “Oh to be Bjork! Wouldn’t you love to get inside her head? Yet anther mesmerizing, but utterly bonkers piece. Lets start with the video. I’m a big fan of animation & I just love how well the visuals work with the story that’s being told. I’m a bit terrified by the person that grows from Bjork’s back pack though. In some scenes I had trouble working out if they were fighting each other or doing something rather risque! The Bison (at least I think that’s what she was riding) looked like a very trustworthy travelling partner but I’m not sure about the giant owl with the tongue sticking out. Is there something deep & meaningful with the owl that I’m missing? When you’re dealing with Bjork there doesn’t have to be a reason does there & that’s why I love her! Now onto the song. I adore it, I’m a big fan of the word Wanderlust, it’s such a great way of explaining the desire to travel & it sets up the rest of the lyrics beautifully. Bjorks managed to bring me on a lovely & magical journey once again.”
LINDA HOLLYWOOD: “I don’t get Bjork so I’m not going to review the song, just the video. And quite a video it is. It’s strangely modern while being really old-fashioned, you know, like “Lord of the Rings” but the other way around, sort of… This mythical landscape seems to be the perfect surrounding for Bjork; it blends perfectly with her persona. I just wish they made computer games like this!”
PENNY BROADHURST : “Look, children who do not remember the 1980s making music of the 1980s with all the tropes but none of the scope, this is not “quirky”, this is someone who is genuinely original and brilliant. THIS IS HOW IT SHOULD BE. More foghorns, brass and monsters in pop, please, and fewer cowbells. This reminds me of the Eastern European animations and ensuing dreams of my youth, in a good way. It’s more than just a distraction.”
LAURA TROUBLE: “Being part Icelandic and being a slightly barmy female, in my eyes Bjork can do no wrong. Her voice is literally from another planet, and reduces me to tears very easily. Her voice shook the earth when she performed wanderlust at Glasto last year; I pushed to the front all by myself and bawled my eyes out. She is a perfect alien queen. The video is totally nuts, and full of weird sexual things that you blink and nearly miss….. Like the monster with massive arses swinging in and out of its head like gills on a fish. What more could you ask for? Not much.
DOGWOOD: I suppose that there is out there, certain types – usually vegansexuals who read the Guardian arts supplement, choose their breakfast on feng shui principles, think that rocket and parmesan are yesterdays news compared to the new thing – spider crab and new cut grass, have a stupid haircut, wear even more stupid glasses and watch subtitled European films – for whom Bjork is part of their staple diet. Because they are terminally hip and she is terminally weird. Everything she does is weird so much so that she has become predictable in being predictably weird. Forgive me though, when behaviour becomes predictable does it not therefore become the ‘norm’. Being weird is normal for Bjork and that has made her a little dull. She would be more interesting if she did something mainstream – that would be a shock. So I approach this video and song with a weariness hewn from an expectation that she will be throwing images and sounds at me that will look and sound like the leftovers from a buffet of New Labour advent-gardists. I am not disappointed, after a minute of fog horns we’re into the usual ‘Tales From Europe’/’Singing Ringing Tree’ territory with a too-clever-for-its-own-good semi animated piece featuring a load of beasts from where the wild things are that makes little sense to the passing tourist. I sort of expect at the end of the video for Bjork to pop up and all smug-elfin faced and say: “Well, wasn’t that weird?” No, I reply, merely predictable. Dogwood a little tired of having to make small talk with the sun-dried tomato and toasted pine nut brigade.”
“Looks Like Portishead are the winners with “The Rip” , which is rather lovely. Thanks to all the guests, and check out their music too.
And here’s a little video that my chum Doggers and I filmed together at the Pinenut Studio sound stage in Cheambeat to promote the review. Cheers , VP x”