Friday, April 27, 2007

News: Interpol, Babyshambles, Pharoahe Monch, Beasties, Kraftwerk

Last month the tight-lipped boys in Interpol claimed that they were close to finishing their new album but revealed nothing more, but this last week has seen a torrent of new information spew forth from the NY indie rockers. Entitled ‘Our Love to Admire’ the LP will be released via Capitol on July 10th and will be preceded by single ‘The Heinrich Maneuver’ on May 7th. Full info.

Babyshambles’ follow up to their 2005 debut ‘Down in Albion’ looks to be on more of a collaborative tip than the previous effort. Currently in negotiations with Happy Mondays frontman Shaun Ryder and good pal Amy Winehouse bassist Drew McConnell explained: “(Amy’s) a friend of ours. The Shaun Ryder one is in negotiation at the moment. Our people are talking to their people hopefully… we’ll see what happens.”

Legendary ex-Organized Konfusion MC Pharoahe Monch also has a new album scheduled for a summer release. The long awaited follow up to 1999’s superior Internal Affairs will be released via SRC/Universal on June 26th. Entitled ‘Desire’ the LP features production from Black Milk, Alchemist, vocal spots from Erykah Badu and with a brilliant cover of PE’s ‘Welcome to the Terrordome’ Pharoahe’s got his Chuck D impersonation down to a fine art.

There must be something in the water this week as the Beastie Boys have also unveiled details of their forthcoming album. Fans disappointed with their last LP’s stripped down old skool hip hop stylings will be happy to hear that they’re heading back in more of a rock direction this time round, harking back to the style of Check Your Head. Speaking to NME Mike D explained: "We play instruments on the whole album, as opposed to sampling. There's more rock on there. If you know us you can trace the influences and they're not completely surprising… It might make you flip your wig right off, or your hairpiece, if you're a casual listener.”

Kraftwerk are offering a free download of their classic track ‘Radioactivity’ in support of the Stop-Rokkasho organisation. The anti-nuclear campaigners are spreading awareness of the dangers imposed by nuclear reprocessing, specifically Japan’s Rokkasho-mura reprocessing plant. The track can be streamed and downloaded from Stop-Rokkasho’s website and is also available via the Stop-Rokkasho Podcast on iTunes.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

News: Russell Simmons, LCD, Cooper Temple Clause, Sebadoh

Hip Hop mogul and Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons has announced that three specific racial and sexist epithets – ‘Nigga’, Bitch’ and ‘Ho’ - should be removed from all clean versions of hip hop records. Most clean versions already have these words edited but quite often they slip through the net and Simmons is calling for an official ban. Speaking to Associated Press he said "We recommend these words are always out, this is a fist step. It's a clear message and a consistency that we want the industry to accept for more corporate social responsibility." His call-to-arms does not seem to include homophobia or glorifying violence for some reason.

James Murphy has roped in some very cool pals to help him out with the next LCD Soundsystem single. The Neu!-esque ‘All My Friends’ will be released via DFA/EMI on May 21st with two cover versions of the track performed by Franz Ferdinand (produced by Erol Alkan) and John Cale. Also on the B-side will be a cover of Joy Division’s ‘No Love Lost’ by LCD themselves.

Following two no-shows at last week’s Camden Crawl festival, Cooper Temple Clause have decided to call it a day after five years and three albums. First to leave was Daniel Fisher who, speaking to NME, explained “In the wake of this decision the rest of the boys agreed to call it a day and pursue other interests. Friendships are well and truly intact and the love very much remains within the camp.”

Details of this year’s Ivor Novello award nominees have been released with nice surprises among them. Artic Monkeys are up for ‘Best Song Musically & Lyrically’ with ‘When The Sun Goes Down’ whilst Hot Chip and Amy Winehouse will be battling it out for ‘Best Contemporary Song’ with ‘Over and Over’ and ‘Rehab’ respectively.

Finally, fans of the mighty Sebadoh can finally put their battered vinyl and tape cassette copies of their classic debut LP ‘The Freed Man’ into storage - unless they want that real lo-fi authenticity - as Domino will be reissuing the album on CD from July 10th with 19 extra tracks – that’s 52 tracks in total!

Foals and Bonde Do Role at The Spitz

Apparently, East London arts institution The Spitz, like so many of the more cottage industry enterprises that give that part of London its character, has been served notice by its landlords. But nobody told Foals that this was a wake as they ripped through yet another stunning set at the venue last night, following a clutch of dates in the capital that have seen them leave jaws agape from King’s College to the Camden Crawl.

They didn’t actually make the stage until 11, in which time an influx of characters from the Arctic Monkey’s single “Brianstorm” arrived to watch recent Domino signing Bonde Do Role run through their party set. Like a favela funk take on the hip house of the early 90s, they jam together crude combinations of party beats and none-more-obvious classics from AC/DC to Cybertron. The result is probably too sophisticated to be strictly favela funk, funk Carioca or funk do morro (take your pick) – it really is more like a world music version of Doug Lazy. Great fun, anyway, with more energy than a Tuesday night deserves. There’s no point trying to analyse Bonde given the charm of funk Carioca itself, like most booty musics, lies in its crude energy.

Foals, of course, are an altogether different proposition, refreshingly smart in an era in which Brit rock is in danger of becoming a retrogressive embarrassment in the eyes of our American cousins. There’s no shortage of Devo and the like – channelled through Don Caballero - but what’s really interesting here are the more modern impulses. Techno is a big influence and it reveals itself in the complex oscillating melodies that chime between the two guitarists; ironically, it’s the guitars that bleep here more than the keyboards.

Facing each other on the tiny stage they jerk through precise, looping, ultra-clean and layered tracks that seem like the meeting point between math rock, minimal techno, punk funk and Timbaland. (In fact, I think someone in the crowd was shouting for a track actually called “Timbaland”, which would make perfect sense.) Ultra-tight, they play with the instinctive communication of a jam band and yet you know that there’s not a note out of place. And there’s a heaviness that a casual listen to current single “Hummer” won’t prepare you for with hardcore fans thrashing about at the front. An ace band. Here’s a clip of them in full flow at one of the showcases they performed at the South By Southwest industry shindig earlier this year…

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Albums: Simian Mobile Disco & New Young Pony Club

Two debut albums are sitting neatly back-to-back on the stereo this week from what’s been nominally lumped together as New Rave: Simian Mobile Disco’s “Attack Decay Sustain Release” and “Fantastic Playroom” by New Young Pony Club. Essentially both London bands, there are other good reasons for the pairing, particularly the fact that both have been around a while in other guises and chosen to reinvent themselves on the crest of the dance resurgence infiltrating UK indie.

James Ford and Jas Shaw of Simian Mobile Disco you’ll remember as half of Simian, the act that Ford helpfully summarised in our recent interview as a “psychedelic pop” band. Simian disbanded amidst musical disagreements and he and Shaw kept their occasional DJ moniker for their own acidic electro excursions. NYPC have a less documented history but you get the impression from talking to unusually switched-on front woman Tahita Bulmer that both she and Andy Spence have been around the industry block a few times.

So, it’s safe to say the key players here have more than a few years on the average punter at Fabric’s New Rave shindig, Adventures In The Beetroot Field. Unlike the sugar rush thrill of the Klaxons, both are possessed of a knowingness that’s something of a mixed blessing.

Beyond SMD’s previous twelve-inch releases - “Hustler” and “Tits & Acid” which are compiled here - “It’s The Beat” is the highlight from “Attack Decay Sustain Release” precisely because it’s happy to wear it’s love of Technotronic’s ’88 hit “Pump Up The Jam” on its sleeve. And NYPC would, ahem, be something of a one-trick pony if the only song they could write was a version of their brilliant debut single, “Get Lucky”. “Ice Cream” is arguably little more but at least the Bangles-esque “Hiding On The Staircase” chances it arm outside of the usual Tom Tom Club/ESG/Blondie flashpoints.

Both acts, though, struggle to elevate their sounds beyond their obvious mastery of style. Whether they like the comparison or not, SMD ultimately feel like a second coming of the Chemical Brothers for the Franz Ferdinand generation. The pounding 4/4 of each track thickens like porridge after a few listens, and sounds a little rudimentary at a time when European techno is finding increasingly deft ways to take percussive flight. Don’t get us wrong, we’re over the moon that SMD are injecting some fun back into the Brit indie scene and this is clearly an exciting release, in that context. But “Fantastic Playroom” is perhaps the more complete record, even if the sex-shtick and nonchalant vox start to grate after a while.

New Rave just like old Rave, you suspect, is destined to have a troubled relationship with the album format.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

News: Snoop, DMX, Caribou, Lollapalooza

The art of keeping it real whilst trying to remain upstanding citizens is proving to be quite a hard task for US rappers at the moment. First off, taking time out from his little league coaching for under-privileged kids, Snoop Dogg has managed to get in trouble with the authorities again. By pleading guilty to firearm and drug charges in a California court, Snoop, aka Calvin Broadus, has narrowly avoided a prison sentence and ended up with five years probation and eight hundred hours community service - half of which will consist of his coaching.

DMX has also got himself in trouble by failing to turn up to two court appearances in separate cities. Not quite as thug as Snoop’s offence, the rapper was arrested for speeding, dangerous driving, not wearing a seatbelt and driving with a suspended license. A new warrant has now been issued to the AWOL rapper for the no-shows.

Electronic popster Dan Snaith, aka Caribou and Manitoba, is ready to unleash his latest organic noodlings upon us. Leaving his previous homes Domino and Leaf, the album, Andorra, will be released on Merge in the US and City Slang in Europe on August 21st.

The nice people at Lollapalooza are not only nice enough to provide an excellent line-up of cutting edge new artists and old favourites from the world over but are also asking festival goers what they want to ‘see, hear, eat, feel, drink, buy or hug’ so recommend your favourite artists and eateries and your wishes may be granted. The gargantuan line-up so far includes: Modest Mouse, Interpol, CSS, MIA, TV on the Radio, !!!, Kings of Leon, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, LCD Soundsystem, Muse, Hot Chip, The Stooges, Daft Punk, Kanye West, Snow Patrol and that’s just a taster. The festival takes place in Chicago’s Grant Park on August 3-5.

Finally, Foo Fighters have asked Nine Inch Nails to join them for their forthcoming show at Marlay Park near Dublin on August 22nd along with Silversun Pickups. They will also play together at the T on the Fringe show at the Meadowbank Stadium in Edinburgh.

Wilco – Sky Blue Sky

A few dispatches have already hit the net concerning the new Wilco album, the gist of most centring on its comfortable orientation at the ‘adult’ end of the rock spectrum. Absent are Krautrock freakouts a la “Spiders (Kidsmoke)”, along with the lengthy passages of feedback that characterised the albums made with Jim O’Rourke. In fact, “Sky Blue Sky” shares more with the classic pop of 1999’s “Summerteeth” than either of the last two albums, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” and “A Ghost Is Born”.

None of which should suggest that this is a disappointing record. Quite the contrary, it’s clearly amongst the band’s best, if yet to prove quite the equal of the last two, especially for those who saw the tension between traditional song craft and avant-garde impulses at the core of their appeal.

In retrospect it was clear on “A Ghost Is Born” that – with a couple of obvious exceptions – Wilco were beginning to incorporate their experiments into deceptively straightforward songs. Listen to “Pure Bug Beauty”, a half-time instrumental version of “Company In My Back” taken from the CD accompanying The Wilco Book, and then listen to the version of “Company In My Back” on the live album, “Kicking Television”. Clearly, it’s open to interpretation (by both listener and performer) as a straight vocal or more textural, experimental piece. (You can hear it on this podcast from Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche)

On the more complex tracks from “Sky Blue Sky” – “Side With The Seeds”, “Shake It Off” – these mutual influences within the band have merged still further, becoming less casually identifiable to we glib commentators. Elsewhere there’s definitely a prioritisation of the song over the skronk - so less tension-release and more purity of flow, for want of a clearer musical expression. There’s even a pursuit of the tone of classic 70s AOR. Warner, you suspect, were rubbing their hands with glee when they heard “Hate It Here” and “What Light”.

Most likely “Sky Blue Sky” simply reflects a harmonious mood within the band. In particular, oft-troubled frontman Jeff Tweedy who, after his successful emergence from rehab for addiction to the painkillers that treated his chronic migraines, is clearly in a more harmonious place himself. "Trading your health for creativity . . . it's a common mistake,'' he commented in a recent interview with the Herald Sun. "People have had it beaten into their heads that some struggle or suffering must go with the creative process. I'm convinced that is a self-perpetuating myth.”

Here’s a clip that perfectly illustrates the working process on “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”, we’ll leave you to picture how things have changed to arrive at “Sky Blue Sky”.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

News: Glastonbury, Fridge, Lady Sov, Keith Richards

Now that we’ve all failed miserably to get tickets those swines at Glastonbury have started boasting about the line up… and what a line up. In addition to already confirmed acts such as Arctic Monkeys, Bjork, The Who and The Killers are Arcade Fire, Bloc Party, Amy Winehouse, Hot Chip, The Stooges, CSS, Paul Weller, Simian Mobile Disco, Pete Doherty, Kaiser Chiefs, Beirut, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Klaxons (who, we can exclusively reveal, will also be playing a special electronic live set in the dance tent). Full line up.

London post rockers Fridge – comprising of Kieran Hebden (Fourtet), Adem and Sam Jeffers – are taking a brief hiatus from solo success and have announced news of the completion of their latest album, their first in six years. Entitled ‘The Sun’, it will be released by NY label Temporary Residence (home to Explosions in the Sky, Tarentel, Grails and Cex, amongst others) on May 15th.


01. The Sun 

02. Clocks 

03. Our Place In This 

04. Drums Of Life 

05. Eyelids 

06. Oram 

07. Comets 

08. Insects 

09. Lost Time 

10. Years And Years And Years...

Poor old Lady Sovereign is in the wars. Not long since she last cancelled tour dates she’s been struck down again, postponing next week’s shows at Glasgow’s King Tut’s on April 10th and Birmingham’s England’s Academy 2 in order to undergo “treatment and recuperation”. In the words of the good lady herself: “I am gutted to have to postpone these shows, but I feel like shit.” Fair enough.

The Good The Bad & The Queen have picked the Tower of London as the venue for a special one-off show as a ‘celebration of London’s musical identity and history’. The gig will take place on July 9th and according to the band: “The album has been played live at many winter gigs around the UK and Europe but this Tower of London show will be the first outdoor gig in London, naturally the venue is of fitting historic significance sitting alongside the oft mentioned River Thames.”

Finally, Keith Richards – ever trying to up the ante when it comes to his drug intake – has admitted to snorting a line of his own dad! Talking to the NME he explained: "The strangest thing I've tried to snort? My father. I snorted my father. He was cremated and I couldn't resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow. My dad wouldn't have cared, he didn't give a shit. It went down pretty well, and I'm still alive." Rumours that Keef wishes his own ashes to be scattered from the side of speedboat in the Panama Canal, by DEA officials, remain unconfirmed.

Monday, April 02, 2007

News: EMI & Apple, The Fall, Devo, Summer Sundae, Monkeys

EMI and Apple’s Steve Jobs announced today that EMI will be the first major label to sell its entire back catalogue online without restrictive digital rights protection technology (DRM-free). EMI Group CEO Eric Nicoli also confirmed that this WILL include The Beatles back catalogue and Steve Jobs predicts that half of the 5M tracks on iTunes will be available DRM-free by the end of the year. This is good news for all online music fans who have hitherto had to endure the confusion of files that work on some devices and not others as well as music sites that work on, ahem, some operating systems and not others.

In more download news, If you can’t wait until April 16th to get your hands on the first Arctic Monkeys single from the forthcoming ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’ then you can download ‘Brianstorm’ today from Domino's website.

London’s famed Hammersmith Palais closed its doors for the final time last night but not without a raucous send off from none other than volatile alternative punk favourites, The Fall. In true Mark E Smith style there was no mention whatsoever of the venue’s closure which incensed some fans resulting in a couple of stage invasions and fracas with security. The set ended abruptly half way through new number ‘Reformation’ with Smith quipping: “Thank you for letting us into your security area.”

Leicester’s Summer Sundae festival is shaping up to be one of the best events this year. Acts confirmed so far include: Divine Comedy, Spiritualized Acoustic Mainlines, Magic Numbers, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Aliens, !!!, Kate Nash, Gruff Rhys, Spoon, Malcom Middleton, Two Gallants, Jeremy Warmsley and more. The festival will take place on August 10th-12th costing £85 for adults, £20 for under 16s and free for under 5s.

Finally, quirky new-wavers Devo have announced that they will play their first UK appearance in ten years this June. Tour dates:

Brighton, Dome – June 18th
Birmingham, Symphony Hall – June 22nd
Manchester, Apollo – June 23rd