Patti Smith-Live-London 27/01/2011


By Richard The Goth.

Patti Smith -Live London 2010

There are numerous Patti Smiths: the serious literary figure who writes and speaks of how true art “sings of God” and “belongs ultimately to Him”; the evangelical missionary possessed by visions like some misplaced Joan Of Arc; the sentimentalist whose eyes brim with tears as she recalls departed friends, family, and loved ones; the quick wit who can puncture a moment of pomposity with a deft one-liner. All of them are in attendance tonight at this, Patti’s third appearance in recent years at the small but perfectly formed Church Of Saint Giles in the heart of London.

Still ostensibly pushing “Just Kids“, her entertaining memoir of life with shockmeister photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, this “Evening Of Words & Music” consists of readings interspersed with a nicely chosen selection from her astonishing musical back catalogue. Her scratch backing band tonight includes her daughter Jesse at the piano, and there are some nice little moments between them. At one point, Patti tells how her daughter hates it when she shows her up in public but “I’m her mom, so I’m gonna do it anyway“, before talking of the final poignant picture that Robert took of them; Jesse as a baby in her mother’s arms,seeming to wave and reach out to Mapplethorpe, who already knew he was dying when he shot the photograph.  When Patti made her comeback shows in 1996, the deaths of Mapplethorpe, her husband Fred, her brother Todd, and her pianist Richard Sohl, were still very raw and at times she seemed almost overwhelmed with grief. Now, she seems to recall them with smiles and fondness, and the version of the memorial “Wild Leaves” that she and the band spectacularly f*ck up, is salvaged by a funny yet touching quip about how much Robert would’ve loved it because, even in the darkest moments of his illness, he would admonish her for her tearfulness, and he always “loved to laugh”. Still, she can go from a giggling mess to moments of pure poetic spine-chilling power in a heartbeat.

Along with the laughs, there are times in the performance where she reminds you exactly why she is still such an iconic visionary force in rock ‘n’ roll. A mesmerising take of “Ghost Dance” that truly summons the spirits of the ancestors, the uncompromising power of “Pissing In A River”, a fragile “Paths That Cross”, another song that looks to take the sting out of Death, and during “Dancing Barefoot” she finds one of those rare moments of improvisational genius and, perhaps inspired by her surroundings, starts riffing on “hail Mary, full of grace” and referencing the Annunciation. In the pantheon of rock, there’s pretty much only Patti who can get away with this kind of stuff, and she manages it through an intoxicating combination of humour, ego, sheer force of personality and her ultimate belief in the redemptive righteous power of music.

I never tire of seeing her perform, and on this freezing cold January night, in this haunting historic church, it’s a pleasure and a privilege to watch her making her eternal magic.

‘Dancing Barefoot‘ By Patti Smith


Songs To Learn And Sing – Video Villain – Fearless

Video Villain - Debut Single Fearless

‘Fearless’ By Villain.

Video Villain, rose from the smouldering ashes of electro art popsters Dead Disco producing skewed sci-fi Goth-pop electronica influenced by everybody from David Lynch to Trent Reznor to futuristic B-movies such The Demon Seed. We interviewed Marie and Lucy back in 2009, (HERE) and at last almost two years on the debut single ‘Fearless’, is to be released for download on February 21st. Hurrah.

There’s a video to accompany the single which the ladies describe thus;

“The whole idea is based around the feeling of change and uncertainty and traveling along a dark road – inspired heavily by David Lynch’s Lost Highway. Lucky for us we were able to work with Philip Clyde Smith who not only understood but embraced our unusual ideas and helped us take them one step further. “The whole video was filmed in one night on a very barren and cold moor-side which was unlucky for the three dancers we had in bikinis!

Sounds like ? A dark, edgy apocalyptic soundclash on the Yorkshire moors.

Songs To Learn And Sing – The Agitator – ‘Say No’

The Agitator - Say No! The Von Pip Musical Express

‘Say NO!’ By The Agitator

With some notable exceptions,(Frank Turner, The Indelicates, The King Blues) the protest singer and protest song seem to have been strangely absent from pop culture of late, odd given the current dire political situation in the UK.  Step forward 24 year old Derek Miens, accompanied by Robert Dylan Thomas and T-Train,  operating under the musical nome de plume of  The Agitator.  Mein’s  influences include George Orwell, Noam Chomsky, and  James Kelman, so far so good, the band also have strict  ‘no guitar policy’ – “Guitars are for decadent, capitalist sissies!’ Hmm not sure about that one but it’s an amusing quote and we rather like outspoken bands, unless of course said outspoken band happen to be the wretched ‘Brother.’

February will see the release of The Agitator’s third single ‘Say NO!’ A tribal call to arms, fused with Mein’s authentic rock n roll snarl and backed by thundering drums. It sounds genuinely angry, as you might expect from a band who list their best gig as one they played for students during the recent UCL occupation in December.  All in all ‘Say NO! Is powerful, stirring anthem for the disaffected and one which begs the question, do we dance or do we march?

Sounds like? Elvis meets Phil Ochs at the barricades to inspire  a new generation of dissent.

An Introduction to No-isim

Songs To Learn And Sing – Slow Down Tallahassee – ‘Knees As Sweet As These.’

Slow Down Tallahassee

‘Knees As Sweet As These‘ By Slow Down Tallahassee.

Today’s song is tinged with more than a little sadness, regrettably Sheffield’s Slow Down Tallahassee, haven’t so much slowed down as stopped.  Their second album ‘Curly- Cuh’ , which arrives some three years after their much lauded début, is sadly the final stop on their musical journey. Once again they demonstrate their uncanny ability to wrap dark, frank lyrics in a sweet, infectious pop confection. It’s an album that deals with sticky fingered love, kitchen sink heartbreak, missed opportunities and ultimately death.

Nicola from the band describes ‘ Curly Cuh ‘ as “Lyrically it’s our death album; it makes a kind of artistic sense to us that it is released posthumously.” We shall be sad to see them go, after all they were one of the very first band’s we blogged about way back in 2007 (HERE), but we wish them well.  As they fade into ‘The Beautiful Light’ they bequeath us an album full of eloquent lyrics combined with  bitter sweet musical kisses, heavy with the scent of  impending doom and suffused with  a vague  sense that things are slowly falling apart. And as a musical epitaph I’d say it’s pretty damn perfect.  (Album rating 8/10)

Sounds like?  : A sugar coated cyanide pill.

Thrill Seekers – Let’s Buy Happiness Interview

Lets Buy Happiness Interview on The Von Pip Musical Express

‘Devils Show’ By Let’s Buy Happiness.

‘Fast Fast’ By Let’s Buy Happiness.

Let’s cut to the chase and at the  risk of sounding like an M&S advert, categorically state,  Let’s Buy Happiness aren’t just a good band, Let’s Buy Happiness are a great band.  However there has been some debate as to whether they qualify as  a ‘thrilling’ band?   Drowned In Sound editor Sean Adams once  described the band as “One of the most thrilling new bands I’ve seen in years” whilst  over at the Guardian,  Paul Lester stated that ‘their music’s nice, some of it really nice, but thrilling? Hardly?’ So allow me to step into the fray and provide the definitive answer as to whether or not  Let’s Buy Happiness score highly on the musical ‘thrill-o-meter.’ I’m resolutely of the view that music doesn’t necessarily have to be incendiary or explosive to be termed ‘thrilling’ and will yield to no one in my view that understated is often underrated! For example many may find a gentle punt in a gondola exploring the meandering sprawl of canals in Venezia a far more thrilling experience than a white knuckle ride aboard ‘Nemesis’ at Alton Towers.  Besides the dictionary definition of  the word is ‘to cause a sudden wave of emotion’ and really,  if Let’s Buy Happiness’ gorgeous  shimmer of  flanging guitars allied to  Sarah Hall’s beautiful, bewitching, winsome vocals can’t induce sudden waves of  emotion, well I really don’t know what will.  So there you have it! Non scientific, totally subjective proof that Let’s Buy Happiness are indeed a ‘thrilling’ band.

Formed on Tyneside  just over a year or so ago it wasn’t until James Hall bit the bullet and admitted, actually, his older Sarah was pretty cool, could sing a fair bit and really should join the band, that they became a fully formed entity. They self released their debut EP,  ‘No Hot Ashes’ in  late 2009 and it wasn’t long before the plaudits came flooding in with Sarah’s ethereal, haunting voice drawing comparisons to Liz Fraser and Harriet Wheeler . Since then the band has supported Idlewild, Sky Larkin, The Temper Trap, HEALTH, Vivian Girls and The Futureheads, whilst playing The Great Escape, Evolution, In The City, T4’s ‘Outside In’ Festival and the John Peel stage at Glastonbury. Their debut single, the exquisite ‘Six Wolves’ was released in October 2010 and served to confirm that the steady swell of praise that had been growing in the bands wake was more than deserved.

Ahead of the release of their new single ‘Fast Fast’ we spoke to Sarah Hall, and in an unusual first for us, conducted the interview with Sarah sitting on her doorstep, locked out of her house.


VP: Hi Sarah, initially the band consisted of the four lads, I’ve heard one version of the story about how you became the singer. So what’s the truth? Did you really demand to join the band or in reality did the lads beg you to join, desperate to utilise your undoubted lyrical genius?

SARAH: Ha, ha, really it came about after I did one song in the set. Initially it was that whole thing with my little brother that it wasn’t really cool to have his sister about, so I’d do the one song and then go about my business. But people seemed to like it and it developed from there, it was a gradual thing rather than my saying ‘I’m going to be in your band!’

VP: And is it also true you design all the bands art work and direct the videos?

SARAH: Yes, but at the moment we’re doing a new video and everybody’s having a bigger say in it,  making it a much more mutual experience. And of course it’s far less hassle for me, because last time doing all the art work, directing the video and appearing in it, meant I had to be in five different places at once!

VP: Where did the band name come from? Is it an indictment of the modern consumerist society we live in or something even more profound??

SARAH:  Mark the bassist came up with it; I think it’s from a book. At the time we needed a name and so we went with that one. To be honest we had arguments about it, because I really don’t like it! I do think it sounds like a kind of soapbox statement, and I’d much prefer a name that’s more abstract or decorative, but we are stuck with it now![laughs]

VP: Who writes the songs and how do you go about the song writing process?

SARAH:  We all write the songs, a bit here, a bit there, and then I come up with the lyrics, so everyone has their part to play.

VP: So do you have like, artistic differences, whereby somebody may come up with something and you say’ erm no!’

SARAH: All the time! We have so many conversations along the lines of ‘ Nah, I don’t fancy that’ But that’s normal…it all depends on how passionately someone feels about the song and how far they are prepared to fight for it ! But we do compromise because we all like different styles of music, we are quite eclectic. At the same time I think the differences benefit the music. So yeah when it comes down to fine tuning a song, there is a lot of debate, friendly debate though!

VP: What have been your highlights so far as a band?

SARAH:  It has to be Glastonbury to be honest, even though I was drunk at the time because I was so nervous. We were on the John Peel Stage which was amazing and meeting Michael Eavis was pretty cool too, he’s a really nice guy. It was so hot last year at Glastonbury and I don’t really ‘do’ summer clothes! But it was a great experience, even with the drunkenness!

VP: Is being in a band with your brother difficult, any sibling rivalry and fisticuffs ala the Gallaghers ?

SARAH: Ha, ha no actually it’s really nice because when we were young, growing up, me and my brother were best friends. I was conscious that things would change as we got older and we wouldn’t see as much of each other, so it’s really nice to have this opportunity to spend time with him. Obviously we have the usual sibling arguments, but it’s more over who sits in the front of the car than anything major. I really enjoy working with my brother.

VP: You’re vocal style has been compared to Harriet Wheeler of the Sundays and Cocteau Twin  Elizabeth Fraser, do you find such comparisons flattering? Are these the sort of artists who have been an influence on you?

SARAH: They have been an influence but to be honest I never thought I sounded anything like them! I suppose you never really know what you sound like as it’s coming out of your own head! It’s definitely a compliment even if I don’t really see it. When I was young I really wanted to sing but was told my voice was too weird! I’d be told stuff like ‘you’re hitting all the right notes but you just sound a bit odd.’ So when I was in the school choir I never got any of the main parts.

VP: You’re releasing a new single ‘Fast Fast ‘on February 28th , what’s the song actually about ?

SARAH: The song is basically about somebody over-thinking any given situation. I have a tendency to over-analysis things and dissect every tiny detail – ‘What did he mean by that’ etc and people will say ‘oh don’t worry about it!’ So yeah, basically it’s about anybody over- thinking something to the point of insanity! But I’ve analysed things by writing a song about it so I’m over it now. [laughs]

VP: Do you enjoy performing live, I saw an interview in which you said you didn’t really make eye contact with the audience, is that due to nerves?

SARAH: Well, I do still get nervous, but I’m getting better. Initially I’d enjoy the song writing process and rehearsals more than anything because I’d get massively nervous and be sick before performing live, but it’s getting easier now. We support each other and if I keep eye contact with the boys in the band then I can sail through it.

VP: As a young band staring off did you find local promoters helpful or were they more interested in how many people you could guarantee to bring along, than the quality of your music.

SARAH: It’s always a bit hit and miss, some were really good and would go all out and promote you and do the job properly,  whilst others basically expected you to make money for them and go out and do their job for them. I decided that dealing with promoters wasn’t really my forte and so I thought I’d just concentrate on drawing pictures and turning up to sing !

VP: Finally five words to describe your music?

SARAH:  Well everyone says ‘ethereal’, oh, erm, actually this is quite hard. ‘Multi-faceted’, can that count as two ?  Erm, ‘abstract’ . . .I can’t think, can you think of another one ? [laughs]

VP:  Haha, I’ll let you off, Ok,  I’ll give you another word, how about ‘seraphic.’

Fast Fast’ – the new single is released on Ghost Arc Records on February 28th, 2011.


Wallpaper/Larger Image.


Six Wolves’ By Let’s Buy Happiness.

‘Works Better on Paper’ (live at Maida Vale for BBC Introducing) by Let’s Buy Happiness


Songs To Learn And Sing – James Vincent McMorrow- ‘This Old Dark Machine.’

James Vincent McMorrow

‘This Old Dark Machine‘ By James Vincent McMorrow

Listening to Irish singer songwriter James Vincent McMorrow’s debut album you wouldn’t think he’d been raised on hardcore punk or found inspiration in the production of hip-hop acts such as The Neptunes and Timbaland.  His atmospheric vocals conjure up the ghost of Jeff Buckley and  today’s ‘Song To Learn And Sing,’ entitled  “This Old Dark Machine” showcases his gentle, airy soulful vocals combined with  dark poetic lyrics.

Like Bon Ivor before him,  James too found solitude good for the soul and retreated to an isolated house by the Irish Sea to focus on making a record. The resulting album “Early In The Morning” is a multi layered, atmospheric master class in gentle, lilting folk tinged ballads centring around ‘“the darker, less spoken about aspects of life, solitude and disillusionment.”    He also has a beard and often looks off wistfully into middle distance as if pondering the imponderable,  as all great poetic singer songwriters are want to do.

Sounds like ? –  The shyer silbing of  Messers Crosby  Stills or Nash singing the works of John Stienbeck.


Songs To Learn And Sing – VVolves – ‘Birds In Berlin.’

VVolves - Birds In Berlin

‘Birds In Berlin’ By VVolves

Ok, no idea how to pronouce today’s bands name, it has a double VV at the begining but that’s were the similarity to VV Brown ends (unless they all have incredibly nice legs!) To confuse matters their debut Ep is called ‘Wolves.’ Soooo,  that’s ‘Wolves‘ By VVolves.  I think it’s a Welsh thing designed to confuse the English, I had enough trouble withY Niwil and now this !  But it’s the music that matters and VVolves debut EP is a frenetic soundclash, mixing electro industrial with infectious hook laden, danceable pop, imagine if you will Daft Punk meets LCD Soundsystem on a sugar rush. Despite not yet being in their 20’s they take on all artistic responsibility for their output, from production to the artwork.  Bethan Eflyn has been tipping  for big things this year, and she’s not wrong,certainly ones to keep on ear out for in 2011.   Thier debut EP will be released on a  10” gatefold vinyl and as download on February 7th.

Sounds Like ? :  Non threatening youthful rebellion with a welsh accent.