I was first alerted to Swedish pop sensations Those Dancing Days some 20 months ago by the gentlemen who run Tack! Tack! Tack!, a club night, specialising in Swedish Indie, pop and dance music. From the first moment Those Dancing Days infectious tunes found their merry way into my appreciative lug-holes I realised here was a young band with huge potential, producing a sound, which Nick from T!T!T! astutely described as “wonky pop.” Their song “Hitten,” Swedish for “The Hit”, created a huge buzz on the internet and Those Dancing Days rapidly became one of the most talked about acts to emerge from Sweden in recent years. The sound is a delicious mix of Northern Soul and C86 Indie Pop driven by jangling guitars and a pounding Hammond organ, that induces the desire to “dance like a stoned penguin” as Jason from T!T!T! once put it.
Initially I was under the misapprehension that the band derived their name from part of the title of a W.B. Yates poem which starts “Come, let me sing into your ear; /Those dancing days are gone/ All that silk and satin gear.” Thankfully old W.B. had got it completely wrong, Those Dancing Days aren’t gone, far from it, in fact they have only just arrived “carrying the sun in a golden cup and the moon in a silver bag” (to paraphrase Yates.) Continuing in a poetic vein I think it’s only appropriate that I also list my initial reaction to the band and their tunes in a somewhat lyrical, rhythmic fashion, therefore it would be fair to say I was “smitten by Hitten,”“had great fun with “Run Run” and of course am “full of praise for Those Dancing Days.” But maybe I should leave the poetry to the experts, eh?.
The truth is Those Dancing Days are a great pop group and their debut long player “In Our Space Hero Suits” is a vibrant, effervescent, dizzyingly exciting affair. The band have succeeded in building on the huge promise of their early demos/ EP and delivered a sparkling pop album that has enough Indie cool and pop hooks to satisfy music fans of every persuasion. The production is subtly employed and whilst it has undoubtedly expanded the bands sound it crucially retains their edge, and captures their spirit, energy and personality, factors that are sadly often sacrificed on the over-produced, soulless, conveyor belt of modern chart bound pop. Linnea’s voice has a richness and effortless style that belies her years, and possess that magical quality that would drive many to engage in Faustian pacts to attain such natural melody. In fact it would be no stretch to say that her voice contains more soul than an all-nighter at Wigan Casino or a haunted house on Halloween, it is in fact, way cooler than a cryogenically frozen James Dean and his cucumber. The album itself is a triumph containing, not even the merest hint of a duff track , it’s one of those wonderful albums that reveals a new delight upon each play, tracks like “Run Run”,“Hitten”, “Home Sweet Home” and “Actionman” are proof positive that Those Dancing Days are “living for music” and provide “music for life.” The band were in London last week and I spoke to guitarist Rebecka on t’phone prior to an in-store performance, about the band who have justifiably been touted as “ Sweden ’s next big thing”
VP: How did you all meet and how did the idea for a band come about?
REBECKA: Myself, Cissi and Lisa were in a band beforehand, I’ve known Lisa like forever, but we wanted to do something different and a bit happier so we asked Mimmi to join on bass. Lisa used to play bass but hated it! Linnea was in the same class as Mimmi, who told us she sang and we asked her if she’d join and sing for us.
VP: Where did the name come from? Is it from the WB Yeats Poem “Those Dancing Days” ?
REBECKA: The name actually comes from the Led Zeppelin song “Dancing Days,” Lisa is a big fan and we went through our I-pods looking at titles. “Dancing Days” came up and sounded good! Eventually it became “Those Dancing Days” which sounded a big name for such a little band, but we are now growing into the name maybe? The fact that’s it’s from a poem is good thing, poetic maybe!
VP: Over the last year or so there’s been a steady “buzz” growing on the internet. Is the “net effect” a huge help to young bands?
REBECKA: Yes the internet really did help us, I don’t know how it happened, and I don’t know how you got to hear about us, but we suddenly had fans helping and people talking about us. It was very strange but really good. Myspace is a great way to get your music heard, and it’s free!
VP: Your debut album is out soon, “In Our Space Hero Suits” what’s the meaning behind the title?
REBECKA: Yes the albums out in October, the title is from a line in a song originally. We kind a felt it suited how we felt, it reflected our mood, we don’t mean like heroes ourselves, but as a band when we finished the album we felt on top of the world, and very proud.
VP: You should be proud, the albums really is great..
REBECKA: Really? You think so? Oh that’s great, thank you
VP: So do you all like the same kind of music or do you have different tastes?
REBECKA: Well we all like some things, but also different music too. We are five different people and maybe we all bring something different to the band.
VP: Ever argue abut music?
REBECKA: Not really, we respect each others taste, although sometimes we may say to somebody “Wellllll….maybe you like that a little more than us,yeah?” it’s good to have different musical taste I think.
VP: So who are your favourite bands/musical influences?
REBECKA: My favourites are The Smiths, I’m a big fan, I love Johnny Marr, we met the Smiths drummer once one drunken night! It was very cool.
VP: What do you think it is about Sweden that enables it to keep producing great pop music and bands?
REBECKA: Sweden ? I don’t know, maybe because when you are young you are encouraged to get into music and there are lots of lessons and access to instruments. And maybe we have a good heritage from Abba! Maybe also because Swedes are very shy and music is a good way of expressing emotion?
VP: Had any weird moments with fans yet?
REBECKA: I still find the weirdest thing is having fans, haha, I still can’t believe it. Like when we walk out and people recognise us and shout “hello girls.” But weird experiences? Well there was one guy in Germany who wouldn’t leave us alone, he was like “can I buy you a drink?” And we said “no thank you, we’re fine” But we wouldn’t leave us alone, he followed us everywhere, but we could handle him!
VP: Have people finally got over the age thing now?
REBECKA: I hope so, I think too many people talked about our age at first. People would say “yeah, they are young and are girls and cute” and I don’t really know what that had to do with the music. Maybe when we first started it was an issue as in some venues we were asked if we were old enough and our parents had to come with us, but we are nearly 20 now! I hope now people will talk about the music.
VP: And finally five words to sum up the album?
REBECKA: Err… Ok… mature, good, different, emotional and erm one more, its good to listen to whilst travelling, like in a car or on a train soooo…
VP: Mobile maybe or Roadtrip (is that two words?)
REBECKA: Hope to see you at a gig soon , thank you.
“In Our Space Hero Suits” By Those Dancing Days is released in the UK on 6th October 2008 on Wichita Records and can be ordered here
Unofficial Hitten Video ( This was actually TDD’s first presence on youtube, in Feb 2007, however it got deleted for some obscure “youtube ” reason. Happily now it’s back as a piece of musical history ;). As you can see I had a huge budget, but I did hear my ideas may have influenced the official version. So that means I’m like, great ! ;P
“Together We’re Both Alone” By Nicole Atkins And The Sea
New York based chanteuse, Nicole Atkins’ full length debut“Neptune City” is a luscious, brooding album that challenges your expectations, and takes the listener on a breathtaking musical journey, stopping at some unexpected places en route. Literally, in my case! Whilst enjoying the myriad of delights on offer within “Neptune City ” via my trusty I-pod, I inadvertently missed my bus stop, the result being, I found myself on “the wrong side of the tracks.” I surveyed this bleak, desolate landscape with much trepidation, the risk of attack by the local banjo-playing savages seemed imminent as I discerned within their hostile eyes, an empty, dead malice of a kind that I’d only previously experienced within the realms of a George A. Romero movie. I beat a hasty retreat as demented shrieks of “I bet you can squeal like a pig, boyyyyy” rang in my ears….. But I digress.
” Neptune City ” is a wondrous album, full of lush strings, swoonsome vocals, and heralds the arrival of a major new musical talent; Atkins has been likened to a female Roy Orbison, and has also been compared to the likes of Amy Winehouse, Jenny Lewis, Chrissie Hynde, Janis Joplin and Regina Spektor. Yet while there are elements of truth in such comparisons, she remains very much her own person with her own distinct style. Unlike Winehouse, Nicole’s music isn’t suffocated by her influences, nor does she indulge in the bonkers “other worldly kookiness” of Spektor, what she does do, is to take her influences and use them to construct something incredibly innovative and fresh sounding. The debut album is described by Atkins as “the history of my town; it’s the history of my family and friends in this town.” It’s certainly not what you’d call a “genre specific” work as it encompasses many elements and styles, which in a sense, perhaps truly mirror the eclectic nature of her home town. “Spectorian Goth” is one phrase that popped into my head whilst playing the album, which is a hugely atmospheric affair. Yes it doffs its cap with the right amount of deference to its many influences, but it does not define itself by these influences alone, and is imbued with a truly timeless quality. Whilst you may on occasion detect the spectre of..um..Spector,(Phil) and whilst it may occasionally invoke the spirit of girl-groups past, it also manages to sound unlike anything else you’re likely to hear this year.
As youngster music was always a factor and Nicole’s musical diet (the Atkins Diet?) consisted of a healthy mix of The Ronettes, Johnny Cash, and the Big O, whilst she states her first musical purchase was “John Barleymow Must Die” By Traffic. Sundays’ songstress Harriet Wheeler’s vocal style was an early influence on developing her own singing style and Nicole claims her love of all things musical led her to build a huge shrine to Robert Plant out of hair, biscuits and an old mop-head. She has cited David Lynch as major influence which is no surprise; one could imagine a number of songs on “ Neptune City ” appearing on a Lynchian soundtrack, as Atkins sound definitely contains a sweeping, cinematic quality. “The Way It Is” is almost Bond-esque and is a far superior number than the not so golden, misfiring gun, that is the Jack White/Alicia Keys “howl-athon/warble-fest,” whilst title track “Neptune City” has a distinct “Twin Peaks” vibe. It’s also a track that could well be a gothic noir, 21st century flipside to “Old Cape Cod.” Where as Patti Page asked “If you’re fond of sand dunes and salty air.” Nicole tries to make sense of her hometown with “I’m sitting over Neptune City / I used to love it / It used to be pretty“ and laments “Our hearts are singing out just for you/ a cemetery song for summer.”
Nicole has played alongside the likes of The Raveonettes, The Pipettes, The Long Blondes, Clap Your Hand Say Yeah and Chris Isaack and her music has been steadily gaining an enthusiastic army of fans, which include in its number, David Letterman. After performing “The Way It Is” on his show, the toothsome host asked Atkins, “Wanna get some steak?” to which she could well have responded “Maybe?…. Tonight?” However the offer bore neither fruit, nor seared bovine flesh and Nicole later joked that she wondered if “getting a steak” meant something entirely different from what she’d envisaged!! As well as Letterman she’s appeared on the Conan O’Brien show, The Late, Late Show and recently gave a fabulous live performance in the UK on “Later with Jools Holland” alongside The Kings Of Leon, Metallica, and Carla Bruni. (One hopes there were no more misinterpreted remarks and Jools didn’t invite any guests for a spot of after show goose!) While she was in the UK we had a chat with Nicole about New Jersey mobsters, turning into Jack Torrance and hanging with “The Boss.”
VP: When did you first start writing music?
NICOLE: I’ve been in bands since I was twelve singing and playing guitar but I started writing my own songs after I graduated from university. I moved home to New Jersey and there was nobody left around so I started writing songs to have something to do.
VP: You’ve been described as anything from Janis Joplin to Tony Soprano but who would you say where your major musical influences?
NICOLE: Tony Soprano? Hahahaha! That’s a new one! My biggest influences if I had to cut them down to seven would be Arthur Lee from Love, Traffic, the Mamas and the Pappas, Angelo Badalamente, Roy Orbison, 1960’s musicals from Jones and Shmidt, and Wilco.
VP: You’ve said your sound is “pop noir.” Can you expand on that definition?
NICOLE: I thought my songs sounded pretty poppy or catchy but they were all about really dark things. So it just means, dark pop. Songs about dying that you can dance to!
VP: How did you find working with Tore Johansson on your album ” Neptune City “?
NICOLE: He was great to work with. He is a very abstract type that speaks in dreams rather than logic. He pushed me to take my arrangements even further than I thought I could. The only thing I didn’t like about working with him was being out in the Swedish winter, alone. I felt like Jack in “The Shining”. Just the isolation, not the murderous impulses, ya know?
VP: You recently appeared on “Later with Jools Holland” along side the likes of The Kings Of Leon and Metallica. What was that experience like?
NICOLE: That was the best night ever!!! I’m a huge Metallica fan. I met them that night and they were seriously the nicest rock stars I ever met. So down to earth and humble and encouraging. Carla Bruni was mad sweet too! We played with a string section that night, ughhh, I wish we could do that every night.
VP: You went to college to study illustration, is it something you still do, or don’t you have time these days?
NICOLE: I still do it, but mostly comics on the road. Any bigger illustrations and paintings are strewn around my apartment, unfinished.
VP: Has the internet had a big effect on your career so far?
NICOLE: Of course. The internet is a great way people can discover any music.
VP: What have been the highlights of 2008?
NICOLE: Hmmm, there seems to be a lot for me. I went on my first headlining tour, played the Conan and Ferguson shows in the states, Jools in the UK, recorded a song with David Byrne!, played all the major festivals in the U.S. like Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo and the like, did my first European tour and played Wireless O2 in the UK.. Did some TV in the Netherlands (3am! ew) I met and had a good couple hangs with Bruce Springsteen in my hometown (we live in the same hood), and meeting Metallica and Dennis Hopper was a highlight for sure! I also sang backup vocals on AC Newman (the New Pornographers) new solo record. It’s awesome!
It’s time again to dip our toe into the pool of pop and see what bites. Yes, it’s the logistical nightmare that is “the VPME review.” This time we are joined by a panel, who, if their combined brain power was harnessed, would make the technology used on the Hadron Collider look like something built out of lego by Happy Mondays resident performing chimp, Bez. So before there is any temporal distortion, earth engulfing black holes or leakage from other dimensions, we best press on.
JULIA AND SIMON INDELICATE : From the Indelicates, who have released one of the albums of the year in “American Demo.” A viciously original band, and one who should be on everybody’s “best band” list.. you can visit them here, don’t be scared they don’t bite and you might learn something!
DOGWOOD : A reguar on the panel, Dogwood has undergone a “10 Years Younger” style makeover at the behest of his employers at Cheambeat Communications Radio. They feel the public want a “younger Dogwood.” The results were harrowing but did manage to shave an incredible 10 months off the old fellow’s appearance.
PHILIPPE DE NERO : Of Rock City Sixteen, one of our fave bands around. Their cinematic cool has even led to band members taking iconic names after such legends as Robert De Nero, Jimmy Durante and even Hollywood itself .. Seriously, they are ace, check out their new material here
MISTER LION: “He’s big, he’s tall, he doesn’t like football” the angular Mister Lion returns, he has recently provided us with remarkable new logo, check out his site, here but be careful, as you may weep with joy. He is available for parties , weddings and bar mitzvah’s (high-ceilinged venues preferrable)
VON PIP: Inspirational lifestyle guru, and David Icke disciple.
DODDY: No introductions are needed, but did you hear he got arrested again? “Did he” – Erm No, Doddy. This is a prime example of the sort of humour that makes us scousers the undisputed funniest people in the world, like ever.
MATT GEARY: Joins the team again after impressing Dogwood with his no-nonsense views. Matt also plays for Brighton band The Lieutenant’s Mistress he is a veritable mine of information. In fact the things he knows about the local music scene would make your hair curl and turn you into a Leo Sayer look a like within seconds. He remembers when a certain panel member worked for a certain health food chain, yes he does.. 😉
On with the review, no conferring here’s your starter for ten….
Zutons -What’s Your Problem?
DOGWOOD: What’s your problem? I’ll tell you what my problem is lad – you’re crap, that’s my problem. I can honestly say, without hesitation, that I absolutely detest everything about The Zutons. Except the crumpet with the saxophone but even that wears a little thin on the millionth play of ‘Valerie’. This load of old tosh is living proof that it may well be possible for a room full of chimps to eventually type the complete works of Shakespeare but you could take forever and a warehouse full of Zutons and you’d never get a decent tune. Where does my prejudice derive from? Well, let me think, ah yes I remember…they’re crap. And the fact that whenever you watch one of those interminable festival highlight programmes it will always – without fail – feature The Zutons and The Kaiser Chiefs. So boredom through familiarity then? Well, yes…plus the fact that they are crap. This is the problem see. You go to some Scouse art school, round up the teachers, and give them a few instruments and…hey presto…you get The Zutons. This lot are like the sort of long hair, pot smoking nerks that used to hang around the precinct in Preston, shouting at me to lend them ten bob as I made my way from Baxters the Butchers to Foxtons the Fishmongers and then to Unwins the Undertakers. I find that having The Zutons to contend with is an added complexity and I don’t “do” added complexities, I find that it make things more involved than they need to be. You probably want to know what this song is like. Well, imagine going to a party attended by a mix of creative media and public sector librarian types, in other words money and stupid looking specs versus no money and washed out cardigans. This unedifying spectacle unfolds whilst you are in the kitchen looking for a can of Mackesons and having to make do with a can of Skol that hasn’t been in the fridge. In the meantime, a search for food uncovers a mushroom quiche that someone has taken a bite out of and then put back. To cap things off, someone has just put on ‘Tubular Bells’, there’s a load of hippy swaying going on in the front room and you’re cornered by some 20 plus stone crashing bore called ‘Kit’ who wants to talk real ale. That’s what this song sounds like. In other words, crap.
JULIA INDELICATE: Every single press photograph I’ve taken for a band with a girl in it brings with it the same dilemma – putting her at the front of the photograph, preferably in a short-ish frock, and no matter what she plays, is exactly what the band and the label are after, whether they’re an indie or a major. Despite the fact that better ideas and better artwork, coupled with a hype-on-hype press and marketing team can do this much more successfully (I’ve never had the luxury of the latter, but I won’t give up a good idea for ANYTHING, only the bad ones), they’ll continue to follow and judge by this conservative rule. For this reason I will never buy a Zutons record, particularly one that follows the music student formula of “rocking out”. What’s my problem? You’re just having too much ‘fun’.
DODDY:I’m not tickled by this, missus, no not at all, the girl seems to be a focal point, and she does have cracking pins, but does it distract from the horrible noise made by the males? Reminds me of the one about the topless lady ventriloquist –she was rubbish but nobody ever saw her lips move! The singer sounds like that fellow Nobby Holder. No, it’s not for Doddy, this is like getting visited by the Inland Revenue on Christmas Day
PHILIPPE DE NIRO: “This is so middle-of-the-road that when I close my eyes I can see the house-band of a cruise ship playing the Saturday evening captain’s disco. Still, they all probably all have their own boats now that the royalties from the Ronson / Winehouse cover are rolling in: http://www.youtube. com/watch?v=lqSKVv6YO8g
VON PIP: Ha-ha The title alone is asking for trouble and as your asking I’ll tell you, lads and horn blowing lass with the nice legs; the problem is this load of old tripe. It sounds like Rod Stewart jamming with Wings. Actually it’s the sort of MOR, radio friendly tripe that the mauve bonced Sir Paul would probably say “rocks” whilst giving his trademark “peace sign” and doing a “wacky” little moonwalk to show off his trendy Converse footwear. Over the years the Zutons front man has developed a vocal style reminiscent of Brian Blessed, sadly constant “roaring” just offends the old lug holes after a while and this sort of overblown nonsensical stadia rock just gets on my dander, I don’t even know what the songs about, and quite frankly I don’t care. I did like odd parts of the Zutons first album when they occasionally avoided Merseybeat/Beatles clichés…but if they carry on like this, then asking the question “Who Killed the Zutons” will undoubtedly induce the response, “Dunno, but they deserve a medal”. 4/10
MISTER LION: Fair enough, it’s been established that the lady in the group looks nice in a little dress, but it by no means comes through in the music, and it’s far from enough to build a career on. What’s my problem? Well, songs about “nutting” other people and “starting trouble” for one thing. Why so violent? I’m afraid the lyrics are really putting me off. I can’t shake the image of loud, obnoxious sorts facing-off outside public house in the early hours, too inebriated to properly articulate the kind of insults they really want to hurl, instead opting to shatter bottles and commandeer pieces of nearby benches in order to continue their disagreements through the ancient medium of bashing the living snot out of one another. It’s all too Neanderthal for my tastes. It’s a strangely jolly ditty considering the subject matter, but my other problem with the Zutons, generally, is the fact that the singer sounds preternaturally constipated in every song. Please, somebody, get him to sort himself out before he goes into the studio, and perhaps he’ll be a bit more calm and relaxed when he gets to the microphone. The likes of Neil Hannon and Richard Hawley manage a pleasing timbre without resorting to this kind of straining, don’t they? Perhaps the chief of Zutons could be encouraged along similar lines. Next Please
SIMON INDELICATE : There are, in Russia, two scientists who believe that – when the first kinetically charged protons smash into each other somewhere beneath Switzerland – there will be created (along with a shower of quarks and bosons) a wormhole. This passageway – essentially a bridge between the opposite slopes of curved spacetime (a multidimensional structureoften visualised as a rubber sheet bearing lead weights that distort its shape) – would be the first step toward a workable system of time travel. Assuming that current theories of time travel are correct, that the ‘path of least resistance’ principle can be applied four dimensionally to rule out continuum distorting paradoxes and that humanity will eventually develop such a discovery into a practical method for intertemporal voyaging: it seems eminently possible (these scientists claim) that the first visitors from our distant future will begin arriving among us within a matter of weeks. If this piece of skull-deadening pretend-ska irrelevance is the best current music can offer – I can only hope that the Russians are right and that whoever turns up brings their record collection. That way, at least, we might have something new to listen to. Arse.
MATT GEARY: I don’t know whether to feel sorry for The Zutons or not. Over 50% of the population are familiar with a version of your biggest single, but 50% of those wouldn’t know that you wrote or recorded it at all. It’s got to be a little frustrating but I’m sure that they were a little less worried once Mr Ronson’s contribution to the royalty pot kicked in. The other reason that I tend to feel sorry for the Zutons is that I believe that Liverpool bands suffer from the same weight of expectation that dogs the England football team; at some point in the 1960s there was a group of people who lived their dreams better than they are likely to be able to do themselves and everyone feels it’s essential to remind them of it. The trouble for me is that the Zutons are a little safe and their songs tend to plod along. I own both albums. I like both albums. No doubt I’ll get the third. However, it still doesn’t change the fact that it takes something like this review to make me reach for the CD. If I’m honest, that’s how I feel about the track; it’s a little “by numbers” but certainly likeable enough. You’d never be confused about whom it’s by, but, even whilst writing this I’m struggling to remember any of the lyrics.
Hooverphonic in Bloom
MISTER LION: This is a new one on me. How has this lot passed me by until now? What does the opening remind me of? Bizarrely, I don’t think the melody is far from a Pearl Jam song. Can’t remember which one. It’s a wonderful sound, from when those chilling strings start at the beginning. It’s quite cinematic, it would be right at home on the soundtrack if Joss Whedon ever gets the cast of Buffy The Vampire Slayer back together for a film. Lovely and dark without straying into Evanescence-esque territory. I really like the vocals, and the lyrics are pleasingly taunting without being overt. Looks like I’ve got some catching up to do! I’ll eagerly chase some more of their stuff when I have a moment, I think.
SIMON IDELICATE: I actually quite like this. It’s got a good bit where they change the chord from the original and it makes it sound all spooky. I like that.
DOGWOOD: I have to say that as a rule I decided to opt out of the whole Grunge farrago back in ’91 and ’92. Preston may share many things with Seattle , a west coast bearing with its fair share of rain, although instead of coffee shops we had sweat shops and a jar of Co-op instant decaffeinated. However, plaid shirts worn loose from the trouser waist was only ever going to invite a chill in the kidneys so it wasn’t something that I did. However, I have to say that – although never admitting this in public – I had a thing about Courtney Love (just a mild fantasy, she did things to me, I did stuff back – let’s leave it at that) and through association I harboured an admiration for the works of her husband Mr Cobain. So I find that this little love puppet bursts on my tongue with something like pleasure. Imagine a fruit pastille that makes love to you, well it’s nothing like that but it does have a fulsome roundness that brings to mind, Tracy the barmaid from down the Crown. I can see her now, low slung jeans, love handles and a canvas g-string that leaves little to the imagination. This brings about both a rueful grin and a long forgotten stirring in the loins. Dogwood is prepared to use this particular Hooverphonic to give that neglected space under the chaise-longe the once-over, leaving carpet, furnishings and Dogwood with a zesty lemon fresh gusset.
MATT GEARY: Madonna’s ‘American Pie’, Alien Ant Farm’s ‘Smooth Criminal’ and Kid Rock’s entire career are clear indications of the reason why people say that classics should be left alone. Apparently, this adage never made its way to Belgium . I had always associated the Belgians with being world leaders at the classier aspects of life; luxury chocolates, specialist beers, and mussels for lunch. However upon investigation, musically, their role of honour extends to Soulwax, half of 2-Unlimited and the singing Nun. The signs were never good. Evidently, when a Trip-Hop band does grunge, it sounds like Limp Bizkit with a fragile female vocal and an organ solo. They have been clever in taking the quiet verse / loud chorus idea of the original and trimming it to a quiet verse / extremely quiet chorus but I’m still not sure that they’ve saved it for me. The other thing that, on a very basic level, really phased me was the drawn out “-awn” sounds in the chorus. I’m not someone who holds Nirvana on a particular pedestal, they were great but I didn’t scrawl their name on my school bag, take to baggy jumpers or get teary when Mr C. reached for the shotgun. I also like the occasional cover version – as long as adds something to the song or introduces me to a track or artist that I wouldn’t know otherwise. Even Nirvana themselves covered Bowie and both parties did pretty well from it. However, there are some things that you just shouldn’t do and this was one of them.
JULIA INDELICATE: The massive Buffy fan in me imagines this in a scene at the Bronze, with a beautiful femme lesbian witch giving me the eye from across the room, before Spike (when he’s still bad) brings the vampy sexy trouble that he does, and Buffy stakes some hearts. It’s my wet dream. It’s also a song by Nirvana, and they were really quite good. A nice cover though.
PHILIPPE DE NERO: Good song, of course. The arrangement sounds a bit too much “Avril Lavigne” to me. Still, if you like Nirvana covers, I can recommend this one instead: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_ciiCyxOJA
VON PIP: Crivens, Nirvana given a trip-hop treatment from Hooverphonic, the most stylish thing to come out of Belgium since Hercule Poirot’s ‘tache. This is just ace and definitely the best cover of a Kurt Cobain song I’ve heard in a while. Now if somebody had said to me “we’re going to cover Nirvana’s “In Bloom” I’d have chuckled and said “of course you are” whilst thinking they were barking up the cuckoo tree, but I’d have ended up with a large omelette on my face, as this works unbelievably well. They have replaced Nirvana’s noisy thrash and Cobains anguished yelpings with a sophisticated sound that is spooky atmospheric, sexy, yet sinister. A bit like me. I likes it a lot 9/10
DODDY: This perked up my tickling stick missus, even though I prefer songs about “Happiness,” didn’t this poor fellow blow his brains out ? Shame the situation couldn’t have been headed off… Very sad,my heart goes out to his family.. Sometimes I can no longer bear to think of the victims of broken homes, so I begin to think of the victims of intact ones.
Ladyhawke All Night Long
JULIA INDELICATE: This is a bit too 80’s Stock, Aitken and Waterman for me. Is she from Brooklyn? The accent sounds like it, but seems British at points. Bah, who cares? Julia Indelicate thinks it is a bit boring, and a bit retro, and a bit ‘end of the disco, get out’ rather than the last dance, which is clearly so much better. Plus I generally loathe retro music videos, and being consistently reminded how shit women in music are, how little effort they have to make to be either ‘ethereal’ or ‘dirty’, with no thought for the possibility of another option, doesn’t really help anyone, least of all the argument that girls don’t get on in a ‘male dominated indie’ market. From what I can surmise, the idea is sod the message, all I’ve got to do is bring the F*CK. They seem to be ‘getting on’ fine to me, they’re just not very good. And neither is this. I am dulled to the tips of my bent little fingers.
MATT GEARY: Her name sounds like a classic metal group from the 80s, her voice sounds like Madonna from the (late) 80s and the backing sounds like the Pet Shop Boys’ from the 80s. So if Vogue to the tune of West End Girls sounds like something you’d like to hear then, I’d suggest this could be the song for you! On reflection, if I’d read that description I’d probably be looking elsewhere to swell my record collection but the track is strangely addictive. I saw Ladyhawke play at Lovebox this year and enjoyed her show. As soon as I played this track, I instantly recognised it and even where I’d heard it – which pleasantly surprised me. It’s got a memorable hook, just enough quirk and just enough pop about it to make it likeable but I can understand that, like the Ting Tings, Marmite and Fearne Cotton, it’s not going to be to everyone’s taste.
These days there seems to be more and more electro-tinged pop, and more and more pop using watered down electro tinges, but I’m not really sure that I personally like all of it. It’s probably how the “just like the Beatles” brigade viewed the 90s guitar bands that influenced me, but more often than not it’s a catchy motif that carries a very average track. That’s arguably the case here but there is something about it that keeps me from hitting skip, even if it’ll never be my favourite song.
MISTER LION: Ah, Ladyhawke. That was a fab film. I never really bought the idea that Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfieffer were a couple, but hell, he was a wolf and she was a bird, so I guess it worked out in the end. Anyway, yes, I must say that Paris Is Burning was an extremely promising start for this lass from New Zealand , but I have to say I’m a tad disappointed with this follow-up. Not that it’s bad, per se, it’s just not as good as Paris Is Burning. When it kicks off it has something of Running With The Night by Lionel Richie to it – and I assure you, this is no bad thing in my book – but it quickly plateaus and doesn’t really go anywhere after that, more’s the pity. It does have an abundance of synth whistle in there though, completing a very authentic eighties vibe.
DODDY: No Missus, no! Not what I’d listen to after a hard day down the jammy butty mines in Knotty Ash. Mind I had a terrible day today, me and the Diddymen just missed a marmalade seam before lunch break. I had a ploughman’s lunch…he wasn’t very happy. Anyway this one bangs on and on like the mother-in-law, mind, I haven’t spoken to her for 18 months – I don’t like to interrupt her.
DOGWOOD: Someone told me that Ladyhawke is a Japanese Mango Superhero. A superhero made from a mango that is Japanese, whatever next I thought. Then I was corrected and told that it was Manga, y’know ‘Marine Boy’ and all that cartoon nonsense. As it transpires Ladyhawke is nothing of the sort, it’s actually a Kiwi lass who likes retro computer games. I must admit that I quite liked her single ‘Paris is Burning’ it brought to mind the sort of caterwauling that you’d expect from the likes of The Slits coupled with a chorus that would have the gay cop from the Village People spitting out his frothaccino as he minced his way to the dance floor. I think if there is a problem with this it’s that it sounds like it’s travelled here courtesy of HG Well’s Time Machine from 1987. As people will know, I don’t do the eighties. The eighties, as today’s kids are prone to say, were gay and I don’t mean homosexy although there was a fair bit of that going on as well to be fair. At the risk of repeating myself, the eighties was having Ben Elton in sparkly suit and big glasses entertaining yuppies with his ‘Thatch’ rants whilst downing gallons of Lambrusco and thinking that T’Pau were a serious proposition. Shallow froth for the most part with the occasional weighty drama thrown in as ballast. That sums this up. Dogwood hears this and simultaneously thinks that its time to sort out the drains again.
SIMON INDELICATE: This has something of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven about it. A sensuously powerful evocation of the feminine imagination as a radically decentring force existing in opposition to the patrician hegemony. Simultaneously indulging in the submssive responses of a romantic heroine (the idea of a lone woman being terrorised by a ghostly, night-long campaign of aural intimidation is a clear reference to Emily Bronte’s Cathy) and undermining them with a pronounced upbeat musical lexicography, the narrative voice here is one of playful horror. Ladyhawke reclaim the Lovecraftian unnamed from it’s stylised male antagonists and return it to a feminist dialectic where the sense of foreboding is as much an internal play on the oppressive ‘hysterical’ narrative as it is a simple tale of sexualised fear. In lines like ‘Cool breeze down the hall/I can feel you breathe outside the door’, the narrator eschews traditional notions of rhyme, allowing her linguistic structure to break down around her even within so deceptively simple a metre. When she finally descends into repeating the meaning-stripped syllable ‘doo doo doo doo’, we are invited to enter a nonlinguistic, poststructural arena where her otherness achieves its own supremacy and her true subversive intent crystallises into a totemically transgressive parity. Oh no wait, hang on, it doesn’t. It is, in fact, just another f*cking nursery rhyme for grown ups who should know better.
PHILIPPE DE NIRO: While listening to this, I had to stop myself from singing the line “another one bites the dust” at the end of the each chord sequence. I think this would go down well at a beach party. I haven’t been to one myself, so I am not even sure if this is correct. Still, if you like 2008 disco-revival tunes, I can recommend this one: http://www.youtube. com/watch?v=Fb8S51M2GAc
VON PIP : I too quite enjoyed this young lady’s previous single “Paris Is Burning” as a bit of upbeat pop but initially this track left me colder than Margaret Thatcher’s embittered, frosty old heart. It sounds like The Ting-Tings covering that baldy clown and owner of the sweatiest top-lip in pop, Phil Collins. I’m once again scratching my head in utter befuddlement, why oh why do people seem to take the worst elements of 80’s music as a reference point; it wasn’t all synthie pop crap was it? However there’s a thin line between love and hate and I’ve a horrible feeling I’ll end up begrudgingly tapping my feet to this, the insistent chorus is already burrowing into my head …must…fight it ..If… I …can ..just…reach…the off..button ….It’s daft enough to be a big hit, I wager…. 6/10
Charlatans Mis Takes
DODDY: By Jove Missus, this makes me feel like shoving a cucumber through the vicarage letterbox and shouting “Vicar, Vicar the aliens are coming.” I like Wurlitzers, this ditty would give Richard Clayderman food for thought- Mind-bogglingly tattinormous missus!!
PHILIPPE DE NIRO: I like the Charlatans. Unfortunately they haven’t really produced anything truly great since this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOX-ksO8tC0
DOGWOOD: If someone were to tell me that in 2008 medieval chic would return I would have scoffed in a fashion that would have sent Edward the Confessor scurrying for his codpiece. And yet, here we are with young Master Burgess sporting the sort of hairpiece last spotted on Edmund Blackadder on the first (and best) series of Blackadder. I heartily admire his candour – real men do still wear monk-ish bowlheads. If you don’t believe me take a stroll down Clitheroe High Road on any day of the week. Amongst the stench of tripe, garlic and onions – an army of working class serfs with Burgess type hair are modelling the latest in Venerable Bead shell suits. Anyway, enough of all this – much as I approve, I’m here to talk about music and the music doth work, it doth. It truly doth. Verily, I downloaded the Charlie’s album when it became available and I think that it has helped to make this year of Brown and Darling and their ham fisted attempts at steering this country straight towards the iceberg of disaster, a bit more bearable. I like to wash my windows to this tune; it injects enough vigour to allow me to get a good head of speed on the old shammy and affords the cleanest windows in the Cheam district. For that I thank Sir Burgess and his knights of the Magic Roundabout. If I have one minor quibble it would be this. If you are going to flirt and even – let’s face it – sneak a French kiss with the whole medieval thing then let’s convey something in the lyrics. I think something like: ‘In days of old, when knights were bold and women not invented, they drilled holes in telegraph poles and they were quite contented’. That sort of profound insight would pay dividends. Dogwood, a fellow Lancastrian, is ready to kick some House of York buttock with this broadsword of a tune.
MISTER LION: Not my cup of tea, I’m afraid. I’ve never had much time for the Charlatans for all the years they’ve been going. And what about that name? A charlatan is someone who falsely claims to be more skillful or knowledgeable than they really are – I’ve never quite figured out what it is they’re claiming to be good at. Anyhoo, this sounds a bit like a Pat Benatar tune – you know, that one about love being a battlefield. I’m not saying they ripped it off or anything, I’d probably like it more if they had, but here is another bit of music that seems to have succumbed to that fashionable thing for sounding “a bit eighties” that everybody’s at these days. I think it’s an admirable thing to try to recapture, but too much of a good thing and all that. No, this is going nowhere. No chorus to speak of, lack-lustre lyrics and a plodding tempo. Bored now!
SIMON INDELICATE: The Charlatans are one of those bands who make the application of proportional representation so complicated. It would be easy to devise a fair system of electoral reform if every party was someone’s favourite and if people’s second choices were distributed similarly to their first. As it is, though, parties like the Liberal Democrats are the favourites of few but the second choices of many. This means that any system of PR has to be oddly weighted so that the electing power of second preferences does not lead to a situation where middle ground parties achieve power despite being nobody’s favourite. I can’t imagine the Charlatans are anyone’s favourite band, they’re just alright, the Christian democrats of 90s indie music. I can’t hum any of their songs, including this one that I’ve just listened to. Stick it in the background of something and it definitely won’t spoil it. It’s fine. Just fine. Well done.
MATT GEARY: Really, really like it. As long as I’ve been conscious of music, The Charlatans have been there. They keep changing and developing, and despite being pigeon-holed in a handful of movements from Baggy to Britpop since 1990 they’ve outlasted all of them. In spite of being in their forties and having been together in one form or another for 18 years, they are still making fresh and interesting music. A great track and an excellent group.
JULIA INDELICATE: I find myself feeling sympathetic. It isn’t bad music, I’m not dazzled by the lyrics, I think ‘You Cross My Path’ is a better song lyrically than this one… But I’d probably listen to it above almost everything else here because it just sounds better, there’s more space to hear what he’s saying, and that’s increasingly unusual. We saw them briefly at Frequency in Austria this summer. He has a proper bowl haircut, Beatles style, which certainly caught my eye.
VON PIP: This is just what the doctor ordered to get Ladwyhakwe’s incessant banging out of my head. I have to say I can’t see the Pat Benatar comparison, to me it’s far more reminiscent of New Order with a bass so rumble-mungeous that I was half convinced The Charlatans had kidnapped Peter Hook and thrown him down a well. Nineteen years the Charlatans have been at it, and they’ve improved with almost every album, which is surely the point, I mean you don’t plan to form a band with a view to becoming progressively worse, do you? Unless you’re Bono. The Charlatans emerged at a time when any Tom Dick or Bez with a pudding bowl hair-cut, ill fitting jeans and the ability to say “sorted” in a vaguely northern accent were immediately labelled part of the Mad-chester scene. The fact that Tim Burgess is from Northwhich whilst the band originally formed in the West Midlands mattered not one jot, the press had em down as “baggy Mad-chester boys.” I’d always found them one of the more interesting bands from that era, I never got the Happy Mondays, they always looked and sounded like folk with learning disabilities who’d accidentally stumbled into a recording studio after giving their carers the slip. So following death, drugs, armed robbery and prison I wonder who would have put money on The Charlatans still being around after all this time. Nice to know the can still produce the goods. 9/10
Bloc Party- Mercury
SIMON INDELICATE: Mercury has had it rough these last few years. With the downgrading of Pluto to the status of ‘dwarf planet’, Mercury has gone from being a fairly well-regarded sphere to being the smallest real planet in the solar system. A dubious distinction at the best of times, one can’t help but feel that having already spent centuries being overlooked in favour of it’s sexier neighbour – the incorrigible Venus – Mercury’s career is at an all time low. Still though, it’s worth sticking with as, despite its comparative misfortunes, the innermost world holds a continuing fascination. Similar to the moon in appearance, Mercury’s cratered surface is radically jagged and angular recalling the landscape of the American west in its violent splendour. While unquestionably hot – it’s mean temperature is a scorching 442.5 degrees Kelvin – and lacking in any kind of atmosphere, at its deepest moments there is something really cool, even icy about the planet’s surface and this dynamic range is captivating for even the most jaded of observers. It’ll never be a big planet – or even much of a cult one – but it has survived everything thrown at it and time has revealed the broadness of its influence. Can you really imagine Greek mythology without Mercury? that you can’t is a testament to its value that speaks for itself. It also shares a name with a Bloc Party single; but what would be the point of reviewing that?
VON PIP: Bloody hell, my serotonin levels have been seriously depleted after listening to this mewling tommy rot, within seconds my interest was withering on the vine, as was my will to live – Bloc Party? More like C*ck Party. Apart from “Two More Years” I’ve always found this lot a massive, massive bore, and as soon as Obi One Kenobi’s (or whatever his name is ) trademark reedy vocals start to permeate my consciousness I normally start to feel drowsy and am oft lulled into a snooze that threatens to rival Epimenides’ fabled slumber. Apparently “Mercury” is being hailed as a bit of a change of direction, hmmm… irritating whine doesn’t sound like much of a departure from their usual output to me. What are they waffling on about? Freddie Mercury’s last holiday at a Baltic Sea port? Is it perhaps some sort of medical condition? What happens when ones Mercury is in retrograde? Does it hurt? Either way its guff, I feel like I’m wading through treacle and molasses whilst having my skull removed with a tin-opener, the only redeeming point is that it only lasts minutes, which really should have been the length of this lot’s musical career. There’s a window cleaning round somewhere with their name on it. 2/10
MATT GEARY: Bloc Party always surprise me and I don’t always like it. It’s a positive thing – I’d rather that bands develop than stagnate – but as a consequence of that, there will be songs that just don’t sit. Strangely enough, this one of those that became a complete grower and, although it sounds more like a remix than a single, if this is a taste of the future then I’m really interested to hear more.
DODDY: Now then missus, I like heavenly bodies as much as the next man, but this is a lot of cabbage. Mind you Mercury’s supposed to be nice, it’s got everything. Sand for the children, sun for the wife, sharks for the wife’s mother, that’s where I’d encourage this lot to go for a dip. Tatty bye -Doddy remains untickled and discomknockerated!
JULIA INDELICATE : Oh my god it’s f*cking horrible. F*CKING HORRIBLE. TURN IT THE F*CK OFF! TURN IT THE F*CK OFF NOW YOU F*CKERS STOP IT!! F*CK!!! F*CK!!! FUUUUUUU*U*CCCKKKKKKKKKKKIIIINNNNGGGG TUUUURRRRNNNN IT THE F*CK OOOOOORRRRRRRRRRRRRRRFF!!
OK OK, lemme have a go at this ‘Give me a job at the NME/ Q/ Plan B/ Guardian/ Independent/ Mojo etc, I’ve just left my band and I have to get something out of it’ trash. Ahem. Here are some words I might use to get said job: Accessible and kickass, truly daring experimental, sweeping, punchy pop, angular, a more accessible Kid A, the piercing intelligence of Kele’s voice, grime vocals, at home on any dance floor, with shimmering and elemental electro, OR SOMETHING, YEAH?
DOGWOOD: Never in my life have I come across such a bunch of joyless Puritans as this lot of moaning ninnies who go under the nom de plume of ‘Bloc Party’, presumably in honour of some former ‘Socialist People’s Entertainment Committee’ set up in Prague circa 1961 to investigate and discredit the notion of ‘fun’. Bloc Party appear to be the sort of band that bemoans the passing of Marxist texts in favour of Hollyoaks. Now don’t get me wrong, I think that Hollyoaks is the work of a Satanic diabolicist but the old sackcloth and ashes credo of the Party Bloc means that we just stand around eating dry stale bread and drinking tap water and even for me that gets a bit wearing. Come on Bloc Beat where are the tunes? Don’t fob me off with sixth form existential psychobabble about Mercury. I know what Mercury is thank you very much; I don’t need a load of jean wearing students to tell me. For those that don’t know by the way, Mercury is a planet (closest to the sun) and also a liquid metal. Also he was the winged messenger of the Gods. Can’t this lot think of something a little more original like ‘Let’s have a rock and roll party’ and throw some drape coats on? This shapeless, holey jumper, mock poverty Camden nonsense gets right up my crack it does, and when you’ve got a periodical bout of the Rockford’s, you do not want that sort of palaver, believe me. Dogwood thinks that this was written to appease the spirit of Oliver Cromwell but has only succeeded in getting that other ace Puritan Gordon Brown nodding in time whilst he knots his tie in preparation for another day of taking the country to the dogs.
PHILIPPE DE NERO: This quite a bold arrangement. The drums are driving my a bit crazy, but at least they are not scared of trying out new things. Does it actually get a bit drum’n’bass at the end?
MISTER LION: Ow. My ears! OW!! Stop that! Seriously, could somebody turn that off? I’m in proper pain here. Thrice daily, BBC 6 Music blares this cacophony of hatred and disharmony from its studios. I’m not sure whether it’s some kind of extremely unsubtle way of hypnotising the populace (a bit ambitious, 6 Music’s listenership is still counted in the thousands, rather than the millions) or that somebody decided the harsh, abrasive quality of this dirge represents an important step in the progress of popular music, but either way it’s an annoyance I could do without. It’s not irritatingly catchy. It doesn’t have some annoying hook that stays in your head for days. It doesn’t have a cool summer vibe that’s going to catch people up in its infectious mood. It’s just nasty. I dare say the music press will (or perhaps already have) fall over themselves to praise this “change in musical direction”, and true enough, this doesn’t sound very much like the familiar same ground Bloc Party has trod for the past slew of singles. But it’s unmistakably them. I remember that song “Two More Years?” I liked that one. Nothing else since has really won me over, and this new offering – despite being a different kettle of fish altogether – fails to do anything but make me wince, cower and frown. Horns. Everybody’s got those since Mark Ronson started working his “magic”. And somebody’s pressed the “sound a bit like the Prodigy” button, haven’t they? And what exactly is this song about? Is Mercury really in retrograde at the moment? I’ve never been much of one for astrology, but it sounds like these lyrics are stretching it a bit if the hapless vocalist is blaming all his current woes on the passage of a single celestial body in the heavens. And is that really, genuinely, a sample of Crazy Horses by the Osmonds at the end? Thumbs categorically down.
VON PIP: Well, well well, look what the cats dragged in, from the land of “best forgotten” it’s yet another band that were unconditionally crap the first time round ready for another bite at the cherry. NKOTB have a back catalogue that should be consigned to pop hell, because quite simply it sounds like Lucifer emptying his rancid putrid bowels, alas to marketing men, one imagines, it conveys the pleasing kerr-ching of cash registers. Releasing aural sh*te never stopped this band being successful in the past and those who have grown out of teen infatuation will take little convincing that NKOTB’s manufactured, anodyne claptrap was the “soundtrack to their youth.” Maybe it was, if so then you really do deserve this song, and if you liked NKOTB the first time round you’ll probably think this rank, musical pustule is akin to the second coming. Truth is it’s a depressing, musically kak exercise in corporate greed and deceit- but a fool and his money and all that….
As for the video- what’s the devil is going on with Donnie Wahlberg’s hair? Has somebody painted his bonce with Hammeright ? I was initially under the misapprehension that the hardest man in the world,like, ever, had decided to become a rappin’ rabbi and donned a Kippah to cover his balding noggin, well, as we have a band called Black Kids, Jew Kids On The Block definitely has a certain appeal? No? … Now I may be out of touch but is it really fashionable to have your hair painted on in a style that can only be described as Napoleonic? He looks more “Homepride” than “Westside.”
But it’s all good fun in the name of cheesy ironic pop, isn’t it? And these days’ students and hipsters find everything knowingly ironic, even things that aren’t. They will of course dance “ironically” to the reformed NKOTB, smart enough to know it’s crap, but cool enough to say “yes, yes its utter shite but hey, its fun and where’s the harm in that? ” Being bubbly and having a sense of fun, seems all one needs to put on a job application these days, and complicity accepting crap music like this is just another nail in the coffin of popular culture. It merely provides an unchallenging but depressingly befitting backdrop to the avaricious pursuit of the big dollar. I’d rather be filmed on “Springwatch” by Bill Oddie having my teds gnawed off by a rabid badger than view this w*nk again …. … Anyway back to the song and video- the short version??- “Horse c*ck!”
MISTER LION: Didn’t these fellows try to make a comeback a few years ago, renaming themselves NKOTB? Forgoing the usual acronymic etiquette for omitting initials for prepositive and conjunctive words of course, because otherwise they’d have been simply NKB. Which sort of looks like an anagram of “knob”. I digress. From what, I’m not entirely sure, but there’s certainly a significant advantage in stepping away from the full name of this band when you consider that they can hardly call themselves “new” after all these years, and to term themselves “kids” at their advancing collective age would be dipping rather greedily into the much-sought after and increasingly shallow trough of available “ironic” humour. That said, I’ve always seen as a trifle ambiguous the exact nature of the “block” of which their moniker speaks, so perhaps if you speak early nineties mainstream street-lingo, it all still makes perfect sense. The creators of this video have at least bowed to the possibility that we might not remember the band members’ names, handily introducing them at the beginning with a batch of sub-Guy Ritchie freeze-frames which serve to make them all look like benign gangsters in bafflingly exotic locales.
During the course of the action however, I did laugh out loud, twice. I don’t think I was supposed to, but I don’t think that matters. The first time was when the silhouettes of our heroes are seen cavorting against a dramatic sunset, a piece of iconography surely borne out of a more earnest time of old, when the year still started with a one and nobody had yet heard of digital television. The second was when their revealed shapes, all jauntily decked out in coordinated white office attire, appear to give up the ghost at the very end, turning on a whim and marching as one away from the viewer. One cannot really blame them for trying to get out of shot as soon as the thing was in the can. This is a dire and entirely uninteresting piece of celluloid tripe; the steadily increasing contingent of bikini-clad models doesn’t really serve to distract from the grinning, smug fizzogs and toned torsos of the “kids” themselves, and even by the time the entire group is surrounded by scantily-clad young women in the strange little beach hut they’ve all crammed themselves into, the gyrating on display doesn’t rival the likes of the bumping and grinding, barely-clothed daytime pornography that disturbingly saturates the music channels of today. The result is a sequence of images that matches the unmemorable accompanying song. Flat, insipid and uninspired, neither titillating (at least to this heterosexual male) nor entertaining (two unintentional laughs aside), I’ve really no idea whatsoever whether this tune has a chance in the hit parade, but I can’t imagine this video helping it on its way.
SIMON INDELICATE: Well it’s no ‘Hanging Tough’, but if they had to return the New Kids could have done worse. I think this the first song I’ve heard that convincingly uses the teenglish phrase ‘and now I’m, like…’ to introduce a chorus and that does make it impossible to hate. It isn’t as good as Jordan Knight’s solo single, and they seem to have forgotten about being ‘rough’, which is a shame, but at least when you look into their eyes you don’t see the eternal darkness of relentless artistic bitterness which motivated Hitler and which is horrifyingly present in the newly refamed Gary Barlow. Seriously, look into that guy’s eyes. When he says he wants to rule the world he really really means it. As for the video itself, its kind of like 24 only where, instead of Keifer Sutherland using dubious extrajudicial interrogation methods to prevent terrorist attacks, he just uses his residual fame from the Lost Boys to get off with girls on beaches. Who could have a problem with that?
PHILIPPE DE NIRO: Why didn’t they spend half the money it cost to hire that helicopter on a decent production? This sounds completely out of date; this could have been a Haddaway b-side. Seriously, aren’t these guys all millionaires? Actually, if you like 2008 boy bands, check out this one instead: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_oxm-MsD9xo
DOGWOOD: NKOTB, which sounds like a secret arm of the KGB, is actually American Boy Bland New Kids On The Block. Having thrown imaginary grenades at Bros, bayonet charged Boyzone, flushed Westlife out of the bunker courtesy of a flamethrower and napalmed Take That, I’m running out of viable options to destroy every five/four piece dance troupe that crosses my vision. NKOTB conform to every boy band template – the ‘hard’ one which in this case is Donny. Donny? I ask you, that sounds as hard as that bloke Jason who works down at the local Esso and wears a blouse and slingbacks. The only redeeming factor about ‘Donny’ is that he was also that sergeant in Band of Brothers. There’s normally a tall gormless one who stands at the back and doesn’t say much because he sounds utterly thick. He usually works out, is ripped and has myriad Celt type tattoos and ends up in a soap opera or some reality TV programme. There’s also normally a little monkey boy like Mark Owen or the little monkey one out of E17, with NKOTB this could be Donny multi-tasking or it could be one of the others. Apart from Donny, the rest are fairly non-descript – Joey, Jon , Jordan and thingy. It is Donny though, through his hip hop fashioned hardness that raises NKOTB marginally above Brother Beyond and slightly below Dean Friedman in the credibility stakes. The others flounce around in turtle neck sweaters but it’s Donny, whose shaved head and goatee resurrect memories of days in the Hood when he and the Bro’s (Mark, the one in Planet of The Apes) would be ‘illin’. The video is a shambolic cliché of excess and celebrity showing off that makes Hello magazine seem the model of restraint. Opulence and wealth abounds – helicopters, motor yachts the size of a frigate, limo’s and tailored slacks – and a few birds thrown in for good measure. All this to make it crystal clear to us plebs that these people are better than us because they are successful and rich and we are not. The song itself would struggle to make the b-side on a lift muzak dirge. The one reassuring feature with this whole bag of ill fitting spanners is Donny. Donny remains, as always, a reminder that drama school kidz from the hood can be both ‘hard’ and faintly ridiculous in equal measure. Hang on, I’ve just found a bazooka….
MATT GEARY: I always think that any TV programme that starts with “Celebrity” makes its claims more dubious by the fact that it needs to include their names on the opening credits as a reminder. It’s not a million miles away from the pantomime posters every Christmas that need to explain which soap their “star” appears in for a day job. This video introduces the band members and their millionaire lifestyles. Or, more likely, those of the record company executives who wisely closed the door on this experiment all those many years ago. The “New Kids” run through a series of clichés before getting invited to a party where there are no men other than those in the band, no girls old enough to remember the band and the dance move du jour is to stroke your own hair. It’s clearly not a great party as they leave to indulge in a spot of silhouetted shape-cutting on the sunset beach before the 10 seconds of choreographed dance routine. I would absolutely love to believe that the video is tongue in cheek, bearing in mind that the expected audience should be about 18 years older and wiser, because it really does seem like a poor parody. The thing that is making it difficult to believe is that surely, the track couldn’t be a parody too. Either way, it leaves me “like WA-OH” but not in a good way. Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear.
DODDY : How tattyfilarious! By Jove, missus… what a day for waving your knickers in the air and shouting,“over here vicar, quick!” This is a nice melody which should do well on the wireless and in the hit parade. Mind you, missus, the video’s a little saucy. I hope they practice safe sex… I do, I have an Iron Bar around the bed!”
JULIA INDELICATE: It’s beautiful. See THIS is how you write pop. None of that ‘pure pop’ shit. You play it in the car when it comes out, you play it at the school disco where you get to grind for the first time. How can you do that to anything else? It’s got to be R&B, with the N to the K to the OTB. When i was at school it was Brian Adams for the slow dances with boys who would later turn into rapists, and people like the Backstreet Boys for the grind. It’s sexier, funnier, and sillier than anything else, which is exactly why it’s way better than anything else we have today reviewed. Oh, and I like the ‘oh oh’ bits in the background in the chorus. I could wave my arms in the air for that shit.
Erm …the winner, no idea, probably The Charlatans or Hooverphonic.
First things first, The Molotovs are not, as the name may allude, a band who deliver a crude, noisy incendiary racket. They are in fact a band who create a sophisticated cocktail full of doomed grandeur, delicious debauchery and “sweaty little tragedies,” residing somewhere between Noel Coward and Jamie T, Neil Hannon and Muse, Serge Gainsborough and Alex Turner. Explosive? Possibly, but without being in your face and obvious, in fact they seemed to have developed a sound that one imagines, would fit as comfortably into a chichi Parisian wine bar, circa 1920, as it does within 21st century Britain. Their songs convey a sense of elegant heartbreak conjuring up smoky cafes, absinthe, secret assignations in the shadow of Le Pont Neuf, covert gatherings in French brassieres, whilst the drunken squalor of Zola’s “L’Assommoir” is never far way. It’s the sort of music that could persuade one to wear a smoking jacket, drink four star brandy and embark on a doomed love affair with a delightful young thing from Les Folies Bergère, and to hell with the consequences!! The Molotovs on one hand can convey, musically, an atmosphere of seductive, faded glamour, whilst lyrically they deal in reality, and, amongst other things, the consequences of betrayal within relationships. Sex, drink, regret, drink, bitterness, drink, the guilty emptiness of the deceived and the deceiver, the cold grey ashtray fingers of dawn invading the soft fug of illicit post coital slumber, heralded only by the hollow clink of empty wine bottles, ….but enough about my weekend 😉 …..The Molotovs are currently recording their debut single, which, as their recent demos would suggest, should be nothing short of spectacular. We managed to catch Will in between fittings for a new smoking jacket and the warding off the attention of showgirls to find out where he, and indeed his head, is at…
VP: Let’s start with the obligatory how did you meet question. How did you meet?
WILL: Four of us went to school together. We were bored. My brother gave me a guitar, and there was an old room on campus which had brown carpet on the walls. We made a racket there, then all went to study in different cities. We then re-met at the end of last year, and tried to make a better racket in a room which is weirdly similar to the one at school, but considerably more expensive.
VP: Where did the name come from? Whose idea was it?
WILL: Our guitarist came up with it. For some reason we were obsessed with being an ‘explosive’ band when we first started tinkering about, and since Molotov cocktails are explosive, we called ourselves The Molotovs. It has nothing to do with the Molotov – Ribbentrop pact, in case that’s what you were thinking.
VP: You’re currently recording your debut single? What’s the name of the track?, when will it be released and what plans for an album?
WILL: Indeed. We’re off to mix ‘I Told You Before’ next week. A friend of ours, who does a lot of production in the studio below our rehearsal rooms in Old Street offered to do it, so we avoided the whole wandering into the studio with someone you may really dislike thing. It’s been fun – he’s got a real ear for harmony and structure, and has been involved in sorting the songs out, as well as recording them.
VP: So where did this decadent 1920’s French torch song vibe, that seems to laconically lurk within a number of your songs come from?
WILL: We all have pretty varied taste in music, and I think, alongside trying to orchestrate five of us without sounding muddled, that led to some sounds and ideas which allowed us to be inventive without being overbearing. “I Told You Before” is deliberately very stripped down, and you can only really get away with that if there’s something slightly different going on. Why that something different is persistently a touch French, I have no idea.
VP: A few of your songs seem to dwell on failed relationships, regret and alcohol. Anything you’d like to share with us on this subject?
WILL: I think regret and failed relationships are pretty universally experienced. But then again, so is missing the bus.
VP: What have been your highlights of your time together thus far?
WILL: Spending a lot of time in the studio has been great, as it allows you to really get to grips with your own songs. Playing Astoria 2 was good – we had a guy who came and shouted ‘let’s walk’ into our dressing room before we got on stage.
VP: What’s your take on the current music scene? Good, bad, ugly?
WILL: Some of the stuff which is going on at the minute is really exciting. The whole Brooklyn revival, with Yeasayer and Vampire Weekend is interesting, as is the fact that folk bands, like The Cave Singers, have come back into the lime light. The only ugly thing is that whole South London trash punk thing, where a bunch of kids who should know better don tight black clothes and make a right noise, all in the name of being trendy. Get yourself a guitar tuner girls and boys.
VP: Given that trite horse flop such as Kid Rock can get to number one, and given the small amount of sales needed to generate a number 1 single, should we scrap the singles chart? Is it still relevant? (Was it ever?)
WILL: I haven’t paid any attention to it for years. Although I do like that Kanye West tune ‘Take me to the beach, I want to see LA’, which was number 1 for a while right?
VP: Who was the last band/artist you all saw live that made you feel all aglow?
WILL: I saw Sigur Ros at Latitude, and their mix of theatre, music and atmospherics was pretty astounding.
VP: Five things you’d like to see happen in 2009?
WILL: A Molotovs number 1 in the meaningless singles chart.
The routemaster (come on Boris, you PROMISED)
A new Radiohead record
The return of the baggy jean
Alan McGee has described them as “the greatest Scottish band of the last 20 years,” Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand was recently quoted, reiterating,almost word for word McGee’s sentiments, a case of great minds think alike? Or fools seldom differ? It’s is great debut of that there is no doubt, although album of the decade might just be cranking up the hyperbole a wee bit too much, and place unnecessary pressure on the bands shoulders. The album itself discards the tired pseudo Beatles Oasis template used for so long by corporate Indie and harks back to a time before the mop-topped ones changed music forever. James Allan’s incisive, heartfelt lyrics address a wide range of issues which are very much of the here and the now, guilt, hope, regret, despair and provide a profoundly moving snap-shot of modern Britain today. “Daddy’s Gone” is a heart-wrenching indictment of the pain caused by failed relationships and absent fathers who seem to regard responsibility as tiresome, told primarily from the kid’s perspective “All I wanted was a kick-a-bout in the park/For you to race me home when it was nearly getting dark/How I could’ve been yours, and you be mine/It could’ve been me and you until the end of time”
When the guitars gloriously crash into “Its My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry” it provides one of THE most thrilling moments in recent rock n’ roll history. The song itself is an epic tale of self loathing, guilt and infidelity which makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and quiver “…me on my knees and wondering why? /cross my heart, hope to die/its my own cheating heart that makes me cry” Allan doesn’t tackle, what you’d describe as straight forward subjects, writing a song about a social worker friend, “Geraldine,” and her relationship with her client (“when you say that I’m no good and you feel like walking/I need to make sure you know that’s just the prescription talking”) isn’t what you’d call an obvious subject for a pop song. The fact that it works beautifully, is a testament to the songwriting talent on show, a poignant reverb soaked drama that begs to be sung along to. But as stated, Allan doesn’t do the obvious, he tackles difficult, emotive issues with honesty and empathy, and whilst lyrically, he wears his heart on his sleeve, is never overtly sentimental or mawkish. His wish for a better society in “Ice-cream Van”, which has an atmosphere of Billy Braggs “Tank Park Salute” ….“ bring back the glory days/active citizenship and pure community/freedom of faith“ ..is an ideal we should all relate to and crave.
Album opener “Flowers and Football Tops” demonstrates Allan’s rare gift of adroitly being able to deal with potentially difficult subject matter, which in less skilled hands could sound trite or clumsy. Based on a murder involving a stabbing near his own home it reflects what tabloids have labelled “ Britains knife culture.” (Allan:“I find it hard to get my head around how somebody else can harm another human”) . He also addresses within the song title, the compulsion people now seem to have to express grief publicly with vast floral tributes and football tops marking the scene of a tragedy. It’s really become a little voyeuristic, almost as if the depth of grief has to be expressed by the size of the bouquet. Private grief has almost become public property under the unblinking, puritanical eye of the media; it’s a rather disturbing trend. Look how disgracefully Kate McCann was treated by the media for not shedding tears on cue, how dare she! The GMTV viewers felt cheated, they demanded tears, real tears…she should feel their pain ! But Allan cuts through this sort of bullshit – “My baby is six feet under/just another number/my daughter without her brother/baby, they don’t need to show/its over, I know/baby, they don’t need to show flowers and football tops, I know/ my baby is gone” …. And that says it all, simply, yet beautifully.
Finally we have an album that shines like a beacon on the turbid sea of Indie -kack, one whose range, depth, scope and incandescent beauty should have the indie by numbers brigade hanging their heads in shame. This is music that matters and music that comes from the heart made by a band whose humanity shines through and who, as McGee says could well be the band who will “define a generation.”
The day after the album release I caught the band live in Liverpool, and they were on blistering form, just a pity about the venue (Yes I know Glasvegas are from Glasgow , but did the venue really have to provide a toilet that wouldn’t have looked out of place on the “Trainspotting” set? I half expected Ewan McGregor to suddenly pop up from the lavvy and say, as he wiped the shite from his eyes , “you got any skag, mon ?”) ….…. With a capacity of only 500, it wasn’t exactly the most comfortable of gigs, but from the moment the band struck the first chord, the less than salubrious surroundings were quickly forgotten as the audience were swept away in a swirling sonic rush of euphoria. Later, as I left the gig, I realized just how good this band are and reflected on the fact that it’s probably the last time I’d get to see them in a venue of this size… greatness beckons. On the evidence of the album and the live performances I’ve seen from them this year, it’ll be richly deserved . Viva Glasvegas !
Ps / The self titled debut album will not be the only release this year, as there is also a Christmas EP planned, which is, not surprisingly going to be released over the festive period. So far the only confirmed tracks are “Dream, Dream, Dreaming,” “Cruel Moon” and “F*** You It’s Over” (which Cliff Richard really should cover one year.) Allan explains “It’s not necessarily going to be “Merry Xmas Everyone” By Slade -It’ll be some of the moods of how I feel Christmas is for some people. There are people with different experiences at Christmas from a wide eyed kid to people for whom it is not so magical.”
Billy Bragg’s guitar apparently said“sorry,” Woody Guthrie had “this machine says kills fascists” emblazoned on the side of his guitar whilst Nigel Blackwell of Half Man Half Biscuit had a another slightly more domestic for his guitar which had “this machine kills wasps” scrawled across it. Meanwhile George Harrison claimed his guitar “gently wept,” Paul Anka’s idea of a romantic date was simply “A Steel Guitar and a Glass of Wine,” whilst over-s*xed, under sized love-god, P*ince took it a step further and seemed to allude to the fact he would actually be quite happy making love to his guitar!! One very talented young singer songwriter calls her guitar“The Caterpillar” (Lucy and The Caterpillar) and Slash from Guns N Roses is rumoured to have officially baptised his favourite guitar “Clive” in a bizarre ceremony in Vegas earlier this year. Aye, a strange lot are musicians! Attributing a personality to their guitars, scrawling slogans across them, or giving them pet-names and the like is fairly normal in their world; however in the real world such behaviour could well cause some eyebrows to be raised. Imagine if other occupations employed nicknames or attributed personalities to their tools of the trade, I mean would you hire a plumber who introduced you to “Darren” his favourite monkey wrench? Or the carpenter who found his “Wet & Dry Bench Grinder” a source of erotisism? Would the office worker who paints “This machine punches holes” with liquid paper on his paper (hole) punch be considered cool, or maybe just a little bit sad?
The truth is no matter how talented you are at “stapling” if you pick up a stapler, its still a stapler, it staples… that’s it! Yet in the right hands a guitar becomes transformed from an inanimate object to an instrument that can move the stoniest of hearts and can magically transport the listener to another world. American singer songwriter Katie Herzig is one such example, armed with a guitar and a stunning voice, she has won plaudits around the world and even picked up a Grammy nomination on the way. Her music is playful yet reflective, possibly somewhere between Shawn Colvin, Liz Phair, Laura Marling and Michelle Branch. She has recently released an album “Apple Tree” which can be downloaded for whatever you feel like paying, or for free if you email a few friends, from http://www.katieherzig.com/ whilst her music has been featured on hit TV shows “Smallville,” “Greys Anatomy” and “One Tree Hill”….. We caught up with Katie and asked her about free music, Willie Nelson’s tour bus ( Oh the fumes, the fumes! ) and on-line nudity!!!
VP: For those who are quite new to your music in the UK , how did you start out playing and performing?
KATIE: I participated in choir, band, orchestra and music theater in the public schools growing up. I played drums and percussion, made up songs on piano and sang. By the time I graduated from high school, i had a guitar i didn’t know how to play an went off to college. It was there that I really started to play guitar and write songs. Sophomore year I started a band with some friends and we fumbled our way into doing it professionally over the course of 8 years– band called Newcomers Home..
VP: You’ve spoken in the past that when your first band Newcomers Home decided to call it a day you felt a sense of relief, was it a case of it not being fun anymore?
KATIE : I was very surprised to feel relief because for so many years I worked so hard to keep the band together, as we all did. It was the first and quite a successful foundation we built. But I have since come to think the relief came because when something is no longer meant to be, there is tension in trying to make it last. So that tension came out in the tangible things like talking about money, scheduling tours, just how much to invest and give up and plan for in the future. Being in a band is such a commitment to the people you’re in the band with, when you’re not all on the same page anymore, you have to do whatever you can to get on that page or end it. We ended it. Luckily for me I’d already dipped my toes into being a solo artist and knew I could do that.
VP:Your latest album “Apple Tree” is available in a Radiohead style, pay what like offer, what was the thinking behind that?
KATIE: Well, honestly, friends of mine started the company Noise Trade (dot com) and I was one of the artists they asked to be apart of the testing phase. The idea is a follow up to my friend Derek Webb giving away his album a couple years ago and expanding his fan base completely. Because with the Free option, people are asked to recommend it to a few friends. My hope and experience is that the record becomes a bit more viral. At this point in my career, giving this record away for awhile … I have nothing to lose. It’s more of an investment in my long-term career. You hope that by giving something away (that isn’t junk) that you’ll get back. And I have completely! So many new people have found me by way of this.
VP: I don’t really like genres and labels, but alas without them the music press as we know it would surely collapse….sooooo….your music has been described variously as Pop, Indie, Alt.country, folk, bluegrass, but how would you describe it and who are your influences
KATIE: It’s a difficult question. I come from an acoustic, folky singer/songwriter background. But my songs have always had some sort of edge/darkness/quirk to them that pushes them around a bit, not knowing quite where that makes me. I’m lately pushed more into categories of pop, but I don’t even really know what that means. My influences have changed over the years. Artists i love… Shawn Colvin, Andrew Bird, Enya, Radiohead, Fiona Apple…. but honestly it’s songs and production I latch onto, so that has me attached to fewer songs from a wide variety of artists, which makes me vaguely familiar with artists stuff and not so much their whole catalogue.
VP: What have you been up to in 2008 ?
KATIE: I finished and put out Apple Tree on my own in May. I’ve toured off and on, about to tour lots more…. apart of the Ten out of Tenn tour, Hotel Cafe Tour…. and a bunch of opener stuff. I also have gotten more into writing and recording more specifically for some film and TV stuff. I also bought a house so i like to spend bits of time making it more homey.
VP: The “Ten out of Tenn tour??” Was there really ten artists all crammed together on Willie Nelsons old tour bus? ( hope he didnt leave anything behind ;))
KATIE: There really was. Most people I’ve ever toured with. Unfortunately Willie’s old bus has a problem spewing oil out the back of it but we made it! It was so much fun. The artists involved are some of my very favorite people in town. Anytime you bring that many talented people together magical things happen, and that’s what did.
VP: What’s all this about “nude email pictures” being sent to you ??
KATIE: Spam, spam, spam. I wrote a frustrated blog about it recently, so I assume that’s what you’re referring to. There was a couple weeks there that i was getting several emails a day with naked photos of Paris Hilton. It has nothing to do with who i am, just the fact i have an email address…
VP: What was the last CD you bought
KATIE: Actually it was a Talking Heads live cd and a Tom Waits CD. We were on tour and at an indie record store in Atlanta and I happened upon those in the used bin, thinking, I should know these. Like many, I’ve turned to itunes in recent years, so it was nice to a real record store and purchase real albums by really classic quirky artists.
VP: Do you have any gulity pleasures you could share with us ?
“Daydream” is not the sort of song you’d take to Mc Donald’s then ply with cheap cider in the hope of a drunken fumble, which ultimately would leave you feeling, empty, unfullfilled and a tad remorseful. No, no, this is the sort of song you’d take to the best restaurant in town wherein you would order the finest wines known to humanity, whilst being serenaded by the house violinist, before taking it home to cherish. You would also do well to regularly shower this song with flowers and fine Belgium chocolates, whilst regularly waxing lyrical about the affection you have for it. Yes indeed, this song is a keeper.
Whilst not quite as new wave sounding as previous Screaming Ballerina tracks such as Crucify and Poison, this is a dreamy Blondie/Spectoresque slice of pop which manages to embrace the 60’s and the 80’s in one fell swoop and reveals a mellower, poppier side. Front woman Laura sings her heart out to a tune that is as infectious as the flu in a call centre, (but is obviously a far more pleasant experience) and the Screaming B’s, sound, on this evidence, as tight as Dawn French’s tutu.
“Daydream” illustrates the promise the band have when it all comes together and it aptly demonstrates that Screaming Ballerinas have the potential to pull down pop music’s trousers and spank it’s smug little arse until it apologises for being just a bit crap lately…Just wish they’d release something official now !