Archive for July, 2009

London Gig Guide # 1

July 27, 2009

A selection of upcoming Gigs, London unless stated.

Thursday 30th July 2009
Goldie Lookin’ Chain and Los Mendozas in Kingston, Surrey

Friday 31st July 2009
Billy Childish and the Musicians of the British Empire at the Boston Arms
The Krak at the Good Ship

Saturday 1st August 2009
William at The Fox, Lewisham
The Krak at the Cavendish Arms Tuesday

Tuesday 4th August 2009
Exit International at the Buffalo Bar Saturday

Saturday 8th August 2009
Noisick at Underbelly, Hoxton Square

Remi Nicole

July 26, 2009

I’m not entirely sure how I missed Remi Nicole‘s first album.  Probably because I don’t religiously keep myself up to date with pop and corporate indie (for want of a better expression).

The first time I saw her was on the telly a month or so back playing ‘Standing Tears Apart‘.  Just her and a semi-acoustic.  I really did think she was superb.  Sweet-as-a-nut voice, beautiful to look at, she played a really nice song with a bit of a Libertine’s vibe.  Maybe that last bit’s just me, but I stand by it.  The Libertine’s were a great band.  At her best Remi Nicole has something similar.  Clearly less laddish, less masculine, but a similar vibe nevertheless.

She is sweet whilst not being kookie.  Her lyrics are to the point, without being stupid.  I like artists who write simple songs that tell it like it is.  She might not be revealing universal truths that have previously evaded mankind, but then again how many musicians really do?  I’m a firm believer that most of us appreciate the established themes, and most of us can do with reminding ourselves that (for example the old song “Fed Up”) people generally don’t change and if they are idiots who take the piss then you should dump them.  There are plenty of people out there who fail to remember things like that when it comes to making their own life decisions.

In fact that is one of the most fantastic things about pop and rock now I come to think about it.  With writing there is nothing but the words.  Any subtlety, any mystery has to come through the words (not my style, sorry).  With Rock n Roll the je ne sais quoi can come from the music as a whole or any part of it.  Which leaves the writer able to cut to the chase and give it to you straight when it comes to the lyrics.  That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate clever word play, or the odd lyric which confuses you.  But I want to hear a truth and think about it, I do not want to sit there thinking “what the fuck is this song about?”  Unless I am listening to the unbelievably good Future of the Left of course, but I’ll leave them for another day.

Anyway, I suspect her label still hope they have the next Lily Allen on their hands, though the relative lack of success for her last effort doesn’t bode well. She might yet become a damn fine pop artist like Allen has.  But at the moment I see someone who can write a song (the odd gem, a few pretty fine efforts – hopefully ‘Standing Tears Apart’ is a sign of her improving as a songwriter), possesses a very listenable voice, and has possibly the greatest gift in pop – an ability to get up on stage by herself, with an guitar and a mic, and play one of her own songs and sound fucking great.

I fear that in trying to fit a band around her, trying to produce her, the end result is a Lily-Lite, who is bound to fail to be as good at being Lily Allen as Lily Allen.  She is not new, she’s not fresh, she’ll not win over the indie crowd, but neither will she succeed like Lily as a pop artist.

Maybe the new album will be better.  If not then if she’s really lucky she’ll know that when she’s dropped it is an opportunity to go back to basics, with a percussionist and another guitarist at most, and make music for herself.  Raw and passionate.  And I hope she has some cash in the bank when it happens.  I really do ‘cos – and call me an old softy if you like, I don’t care – she does deserve it.

In Praise of Los Mendozas

July 23, 2009

I am not sure what is most beautiful about Los Mendozas.  Is it the music or is it the stage show, or is it even the history of the band, which whilst being tragic shows the power of a family sticking together?

Formerly pro-wrestlers in their home country of Mexico their lives were torn apart when their manager trainer and father, Vincente Mendoza,  was murdered by a rival tag team from Japan, The Japanese Tiger Masks.  Like all good Catholics they quickly decided on the best course of action – VENGENCE*.  But Japanese wrestling tag-teams are not stupid – they ran leaving Los Mendozas with but one option, follow them to England and finance their search for retribution the only other way they know how.  Rock n Roll.  A highly sophisticated brand of Rock n Roll influenced by the holy trinity of guitar gods – Satriani, Clapton, Gilmour.

So, with a segue as smooth as their voices, onto the music.  Los Mendozas have a motto.  ‘Subtlety, depth and musicianship’.  Well it’s actually “con sutilez, profundidad y musicalidad“, but I have faith in the limited intellect of my readers so I thoughts I’d get a mate of mine to translate it for me.  With every chord and solo, pulsing bass line and machine-precise drumbeat, Los Mendozas push the boundaries of progressive rock into directions that bands like Aphrodite’s Child, Caravan and Jethro Tull could have only dreamed of.  And EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM is better looking than Ian Anderson.  Especially in their rather fetching wrestling masks, and sexy trunks (stop it guys, I’ve got a fiancé).  Their main regret is that the shape of the mouth used to speak fluent Spanish in a Mexican accent builds up certain muscles in the lips more than others.  This has the little known side effect of making it impossible for Mexicans to become flautists, which is the main reason why you will never hear ‘Badinerie’ from ‘French Suite No.2’ by Johann Sebastian Bach played in a Mexican Concert Hall.  And the only reason that they don’t open and close their sets respectively with their instrumental and vocal versions of Witches Promise, which is brilliant save the absence of said flute.

And finally their live show.  I have literally never seen anything like it**.  It all starts with their extensive management team deciding which arenas and small stadia should be chosen to host them.  The venues agree immediately, tickets sell out within seconds and the team of lighting engineers begin on the latest extravaganza which is usually best compared to a ballet, with lights taking the role of dancers and the stories behind the songs brought to life visually for the audience.

As they take to the stage these 4 tee-totallers look like a cross between Hulk Hogan, Marco Antonio Barrera and 4 very good looking latino chaps.  In trunks and wrestling masks.  Perhaps the only disappointment is the tightness of the set, which means that it can sometimes sound like they are miming to their platinum-selling records.   The musicianship is incredible.

Their two best songs are ‘Over The Ropes’ (“unos, dos, over the ropes, arrrrhhhhh, yeaaahhh, screech, yaaahhhhh, wrestlemania, screech, over the ropes, you go, over the ropes, you go, screech…”) and ‘Get In The Ring’ (‘get in the ring, get in the ring, get in the ring, get in the ring, arrrrhhhhh, yeaaahhh, screech, yaaahhhhh, get in the ring, get in the ring, get in the ring, get in the ring, join us, the revolution is here, arrrrhhhhh, yeaaahhh, screech, yaaahhhhh,).  Maybe these are their only two songs.  Either way they are everything you could wish for in songs.  They are fast and you can understand some of the words.  And the guitars are distorted.

Historical Note –

Aside from their father, tragedy hit the band in 2007 when one of their more famous groupies, Mexican porn star Haley Paige, was found dead.  Rumours abounded at the time that she was secretly betrothed to Leo de Rey Mendoza.  Police suspicions that her death may have been linked to her husband, the Porn Director Chico “Wanker” Wang, were never proven, and his death tragically followed not long after hers.

* Their spelling not mine.

** Well, actually, literally I’ve never seen it at all but that is beside the point.  Call it poetic licence.

Super Furry Animals at Somerset House 18th July 2009

July 21, 2009

Musicians whose music bears little or no relation to what has come before are few and far between. Innovation is clearly a good thing, but it is not the only goal and almost always involves moulding different influences to create something that is an evolution of what earlier bands were doing. Musicians inevitably add their own stamp when copying their idols, and eventually, hopefully, they find their own voice. A great band’s own voice is something truly special and unique. Something new.

El Goodo are one of the relatively few bands who view music as a homage. Their songs are reasonable, their sound is pleasant on the ear, and they don’t exactly sound like anyone else. They do however sound like a late 60s band. Not any particular late 60s band, rather they sound like they have taken those little elements of other bands’ sounds that place those bands in the 60s, and have melded them into an uber-60s, country-pop behemoth. Only they aren’t exactly behemothic, they are less fragile and light than a moth but not exactly blessed with enormous power or size, though clearly that isn’t the point.

I thought of the Zutons, but the Zutons sound is more original, and downright better. Their myspace page lists them as friends with the Coral, which makes more sense. I finally concluded that they are more like “Scotland’s premier Garage/Beat group” The Thanes, whereby success is measured in the purity of the homage rather than critical acclaim or album sales.

I’m jealous of their ability to write a song, and to get on stage and play it competently, after all my abilities on the guitar are somewhat limited. But ultimately I am left sad that a band can show so little fight, so little desire, so little faith in passion and the future. Part of that may be the melancholy that they successfully evoke, but I fear that mainly it is the waste of talent doing something that is so relatively lacking in point.

I take in the surroundings, which are quite beautiful, however both clouds and a sign marked “Inland Revenue” hover ominously in the distance. I do prefer smaller venues, I do prefer roofs and ceilings and walls and toilets that are only 10 metres away and bars that serve beer in glasses. But even I have to concede that the sound is OK, and on a clear summers evening, or even in the summer sun, this would make a damn fine venue.

I’m no great Super Furry Animals fan. I think I have a couple of albums and ‘The Man Don’t Give a Fuck’ and ‘Golden Retriever’ are top notch songs. I’ve seen them once before, and back then their set which progressed from beautiful, practically-acoustic, pop, to a huge techno encore, via 30 minutes or so of the main set’s climax where they were one of the best rock bands I have ever seen. I might have been in an unfeasibly good mood having just witnessed Goldie Lookin’ Chain for the first time, but I was left with the impression that they were one of the best live bands around.

It is no great criticism of them to say that last night they left me less blown away, they would have had to have been better than awesome to have achieved that. They were, however, superb. They are so damn likeable, they are so irreverent but so unbeligerant. They write excellent songs and they clearly want to please a crowd. Their set had less of a clearly defined progression than the last time I saw them, and perhaps less variety as well, which perhaps meant that I was left with the impression that they are a very good band, rather than 2 or 3 very good bands as I was before.

In some ways their starting point appears to be the same as El Goodo’s, the Beatles and a golden era of country and guitar-pop, but they throw in hard rock, techno, kraut-rock, and Super Furry Animalness. They move effortlessly from one sound to another, all the while combining a variety of influences and retaining a clear sense of themselves. They are in many ways the complete opposite of El Goodo.

I think that many if not most of my favourite bands are fairly easy to define. They take a sound and hone it. Relatively few try to take a wide range of influences and mix them up in all sorts of different ways. You could say my tastes are simple, but I prefer to think that they are just fucking punk rock. Anyway, I think that explains why I don’t love the Super Furry Animals. It is more my problem than theirs, and it does not mean to say that I don’t like them a lot and have a lot of affection for them. I’m not going to buy their records but I sure as hell hope a load of other people do.

If anyone wants to know what songs they played: ‘The Man Don’t Give A Fuck’ was at the end; Golden Retriever was near the beginning; I’m pretty sure they played ‘Mt.’ off the new album (‘Dark Days/Light Years’ for those who don’t know how to use the internet).