Monday, 7 September 2009
Sunday, 30 August 2009
I originally carried out this interview at the end of last month for a freshers' magazine for Cardiff University Students' Union. I feel, though, that Turner was intelligently articulate enough, with enough interesting ideas, to warrant a re-print in transcript form, rather than as part of an article:
You’ve been touring an incredible amount recently - how’s that been going?
Touring is my favourite thing in the whole world, so I always get to the end of every year and look back at the number I’ve shows I’ve done and feel like I could have done more. I’ve just been out with The Offspring doing an arena tour in the States, which was pretty intense and weird.
You’ve done that tour with The Offspring; you’ve done a split EP with Jonah Matranga - do you find all this sort of thing a case of “pinch me!” or do you just get used to it?
I hope I never get too used to it. When I was out with The Offspring I ended up meeting the guys from Converge, who are one of my favourite bands of all-time, ever, so that was a big deal. And meeting Pennywise and The Offspring and that sort of thing - it’s always fun. It’s always cool. The Jonah thing is funny; I’ve known Jonah for a long time now, and I count him as a close friend, but I do occasionally have to pinch myself when we’re hanging out
Do you find that there is a different atmosphere when you’re playing your own headlining shows?
They’re different things but they’re challenging and rewarding in different ways. The satisfaction you can get from playing as a support act when you start with three-quarters of the crowd not really knowing who you are or giving a shit, and ending up with a sizeable chunk of them cheering - that’s a really, really good feeling. It’s kind of like: “I’m achieving something with my life!’ But headline shows, for me, it’s important to try and make sure people are going away thinking “it was the best gig I’ve ever been to.” It’s like the stakes are upped somewhat.
Do you find there’s a difference in general with playing different types of shows, for example different areas of the UK, or university towns?
A little, but I try to be quite egalitarian in my approach to the show. I want to play and do the best gig I can, regardless of who’s there and who’s watching.
You seem to be quite egalitarian, as well, in the way you approach your music in general. You seem to be making folk music in an almost ‘punk’ way, keeping yourself very open and accessible: is this a conscious decision, or just something which comes out of having spent a few years playing in Million Dead?
It’s a conscious decision. My favourite thing about punk rock was the kind of iconoclasm, you know? The idea of a rock star is illegitimate; there shouldn’t be a massive divide between people who listen to music and the people who play music, and if there i,s the music in question becomes boring and irrelevant. Also, the minute I finish playing a show, I’m just the same as everyone else at a gig, so if people want to get in touch, my email address is on the website and I hang out. The whole Led Zeppelin approach to musicians always grated with me slightly; it’s not how I was brought up by my mum, to put it that way.
Your lyrics also have quite an open-book quality about them. Is that something, again, that you try to keep?
I don’t get too analytic about songwriting and lyrics - I just try to write the best stuff that I can, however that comes out. A quality that I like in music that I listen to is honesty, and I guess that will come across in the stuff that I do, as well. It’s important for me to point out that I’m not quite one of those people who puts their entire life on the internet or whatever. There is very much a line between my personal life and what gets said in public. I have a secret enclave that’s left, which is actually my personal life. But I do think that you should write about what you know, and that’s how it comes out for me.
There seem to be quite a lot of literary influence at play in your lyrics, as well.
Well spotted, thankyou! I’m not particularly well-versed in poetry or anything like that, but I like reading Philip Larkin and T.S. Eliot, stuff like that.
Do you have specific influences shining through into your lyrics, and are they as important to you as musical influences?
Yeah, I’d say so. Aside from particularly Larkin, who I’m very interested in, there’s a lot of other lyricists who mean a lot to me personally, whether it’s Craig Finn from The Hold Steady or Bruce Springsteen or whatever. I’m a lyrics guy when I’m listening to music, so yeah, I pay a lot of attention to that kind of thing.
Do you think your influences have changed over time, or do you find they’re still the same as when you first started out solo or were playing with Million Dead?
Yeah, my influences change, partly just through hearing other music. I had this thing about two years ago where I suddenly ‘got’ Bob Dylan; it was really weird. I’d kinda not really got Bob Dylan before, and I woke up one morning and raced down to the breakfast table shouting “I’ve got Bob Dylan! I understand it now!” so I’m on a big Dylan trip right now, Things kind of move on - when I started playing solo stuff, I think Neil Young was the single biggest single influence for me on what I was trying to do, but that’s certainly changed over time. Springsteen’s loomed large in my music taste of times gone by.
I’m guessing you’re more settled with a backing band now, and your new single [The Road] seems quite band-driven - is that reflective of the new album as a whole?
Yeah, I think so. Yes, it does. In a way, what happened was on previous albums I played most of the instruments myself, apart from the drums, and then I’d go and teach them to the guys in my backing band, who are all much better musicians than me, and we would end up playing live version that sounded better than the recorded versions. It seemed pointless to do that again, not least because the lineup of people in my backing band stabilised about six months ago. It’s still my songs that are written in the same way, but this time round we’ve rehearsed them before going into the studio and then played them on the record. I think the record does sound a bit more band-orientated. The other thing I think is that whether you’re conscious of it or not, for me anyway, when you write a song there’s an imaginary room in your head which you’re gonna be playing it. On the first album the imaginary room in my head was a pub or a bar or something; for the second album it was maybe a club with like 200 people in it; now the last few shows I’ve been doing have been a bit bigger than that, so I think that naturally my inclination has been to try and have a bigger sound and to write bigger songs. Having said all that, every song on the new record can be played solo with just me and a guitar if the need arises, so that kind of dedication to the solo thing remains.
So when you’re writing a song, do you try and envision it played solo as well, or do you write it for a band?
I believe that songs are like bodies in the sense that they have a skeleton which is basically a chord sequence, a melody and a set of lyrics, and you can present that in a number of different ways. Certainly a good song should be versatile, you know, it should have that skeleton, that sort of soul, and you can dress it up in a number of different ways. So yeah, it’s important to me that songs can survive in different versions and I think it’s interesting and fun and artistically valid to mess around with songs and play them in different ways.
Is that skeleton something you look out for when you’re playing covers? You seem to have done a really diverse range of them - do you just go with what you like?
Yeah, it’s the same thing. My main concern in life is songwriting. I’ve long ago accepted that I’m not some kind of super-progressive musicologist or anything like that: I just like good songs. My taste in music is basically defined around whether I think people write good songs, and I don’t really care what scenes or trappings or assumptions might come with any band; if they write good songs, I’m interested. I think Abba wrote good songs, I think Springsteen writes good songs - they way they’re presented is less important to me, and I think that playing covers is a good way of drawing out the skeletons of songs.
Are you going to be playing many covers on your UK tour this autumn?
Maybe one or two, but we’re at the stage now where I’ve got three - well, three-and-a-half, if you count The First Three Years - albums of my own material, so I think I’ll probably concentrate more on my own stuff.
Do you try to keep a mix in your setlist of older and newer stuff, or is it going to be more focussed on the new album?
I got to shows as much as the next person, and I know how annoying it is if you go and see a band that you love and they don’t play any old songs - it can be really disheartening, so I try and write a crowd-pleasing setlist. At the end of the day, I consider myself to be an entertainer above and beyond being an artist, and my job is to make sure that if people pay their money to come and see me that they have a really great night out. I don’t want to be one of these artists who’ll show up and play an entire set composed of b-sides or entirely new material. Obviously I want to play quite a lot off of the new album on this tour, because it’s more fresh and interesting to me, but I’m still obviously going to play ‘the hits’.
Finally, with regard to the new album, are there any particular lyrical themes which are coming through on it, or is it a mixed bag?
It has its offshoots, but the essential heart of the album came from Beans on Toast - my friend Jay, who’s an English folk singer. We were having a conversation about an older songs of mine called ‘The Ballad of Me and My Friends’, which is quite a pessimistic song; he was asking why I felt like like. as the song says, we’re all going to have to give up doing what we love in time and move on, and I didn’t really have an answer for him. That paranoia about what he’s said kind of spiralled out of control and became a whole album’s worth of lyrics. I guess the theme of the album is trying to grow old disgracefully and romantically and adventurously.
Friday, 14 August 2009
Monday, 27 July 2009
Tuesday, 21 July 2009
Saturday, 4 July 2009
Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Friday, 12 June 2009
Thursday, 4 June 2009
Big Brother's star is very much on the wane; for all of its self-hype, it has simply become a parody of itself to many. I remain staunchly loyal to the franchise; I bloody love it. All of the reasons which people now use to criticse it are simply reasons which increase my enjoyment of it.
Yes, everyone who enters the hallowed house nowadays is simply doing so as a means of trying to win themselves a poxy 13.5 seconds of gossip-rag 'fame'. Yes, they are all now permanently aware of the fact that they are being filmed. Yes, they are all idiots. So much the better - it makes for more entertaining viewing.
Anyway, it's summer. What would summer be without its yearly freak parade? So,as per usual, there's a redesigned house (this year resembling the aftermath of an explosion in a Lego factory), a (much-dimished) crowd - one of whom, either through irony or genuine reverence, was brandishing an "RIP Jade Goody" sign - and Davina McCall in an ill-flattering black dress. And, of course, the freaks themselves, whose combined stupidity was as overwhelming as ever.
A few first impressions:
Freddie - token posh white-boy reggae fan whose assertion that "I vote conservative but I'm anarchist at heart" was obviously designed to shock Daddy. Could be a slow-burning dark horse in the charm stakes.
Lisa - looks like Kitten from BB5 crossed with Tourette's Pete and managed to irritate me within five seconds simply in her refusal to say anything other than "whhhoooooaaaaaaayyyyy!!!"
Sophie - Barbie Samanda who thinks that being clever and being able to hold a beer bottle between her breasts are her most interesting features. Not sure I've ever heard those two in the same sentence before.
Kris - fit-but-he-knows-it Brand lookalike. Seems boring but will probably endure for a fair few weeks, even if just because he is hot.
Noirin - probably put into the house simply as a result of her hints that she'll either get her tits out a lot or shag somebody in there. Claims to have kissed Russell Brand, so it could well be Kris that gets lucky - watch this space.
Cairon - his nonsensical rhyming probably makes him think he's an urban Auden, but it just makes me laugh. Nearly as much as his sillily-topiaried eyebrows did. He ain't gay, alright?
Angel - it genuinely took me until Davina introduced her to realise that she wasn't a man, and she seems genuinely slightly deranged. Her 'corpse of Sweeney Todd' aesthetic really does scare me a fair bit.
Karly - wanna-wag who will blatantly be duller than stagnating dishwater. I've almost forgotten who she is already.
Marcus - I think the fact that he proclaimed himself "cool as fuck" while sat in front of the electric fire in his mum's living room says it all. Wolverine would howl in shame at that sideburns-and-mullet combo.
Beinazir - amazing hair and looks like Amy Winehouse. One of the most normal in there and actually does seem relatively sane. Obviously slipped through the producers' nets.
Sophia - did the lupus she allegedly had as a child (and there was me thinking it was never, ever lupus) leave her with some form of brain damage which renders her unable to stop her sodding screaming?
Rodrigo - sweeter than a bag of puppies made of candyfloss. Blatant early favourite to win; I love him already. Plus, I think he looks like he ought to have popped straight out of a Manga book.
Charlie - oh my, more crazy eyebrows. Or rather eyebrow, given that the other is remarkably intact. He's lopsided; maybe Cairon can give him lessons in symmetry. Then again, maybe not, as the eyebrow-related speculation you can engage in is about the only attention-catching thing about him.
Saffia - if you're so keen to be a self-created 'bitch', why aren't you trying out for The Apprentice instead?
Sree - has everything chosen for him by his parents and can sport a hangover after just half a pint: he'll either be voted out with incredible rapidity or else get utterly massacred in the house.
Siavash - says his biggest regret is not having a bigger cock. Yeah, from his ridiculously flamboyant dress sense and constant moustache-twiddling, I had guess that he was over-compensating for something.
As well as the fun of making my first judgements (I maintain that this is what they've put themselves out there for, and so deserve them), I love the fact that Big Brother has actually started dishing out ritual humiliation this series. Making Rodrigo shave off Noirin's eyebrows and draw a pair of glasses and a 'tache on her in permanent marker may be harsh, but she did volunteer for it. Making yourself look stupid in the name of TV has never been taken so literally but hey, at least she's a 'proper' housemate now, right?
Wednesday, 27 May 2009
Illegally downloading music is, as the name suggests, illegal. So technically, it’s a very naughty thing to do. Steer clear or you’ll be made to go sit in the corner, etc. The thing is, it’s become such a widespread activity that, well, nobody really pays attention to whether or not they’re officially allowed to do it. It is, arguably, now somewhat equivalent in people’s minds to underage drinking or defacing a coin of the realm. No big deal.
There is often a sort of idealistic mentality which accompanies music downloading, as well; music will be more widely and freely available, and it won’t matter whether a band is signed to a major label, an independent, or even unsigned. The exposure will be the same for all bands; it will be a veritable musical democracy.
This is, apparently, just idealism. Apparently, it’s not like this in real life. Boooo! Well, unless you’re already a big-selling artist, that is – according to a study carried out for PRS for Music by that well-known dream team of an economist and a media tracker.
They claim that big acts are just being made bigger by piracy, with smaller artists being left choking in the dust by the side of the information superhighway.
Talk about stating the obvious, to a certain degree. If a certain proportion of the population likes, say, the platinum-haired, teacup-wielding and slightly scary Lady Gaga, this proportion isn’t suddenly about to change just because the music is available for free.
Not to discount their point about popular artists’ popularity further increasing as a result of illegal downloads, but I doubt this is an accurate depiction of the full picture.
If people can get something for free, it’s more than likely that they will do so. You can deduce all you like from that about the bad side of human nature and how we always want more than we’re willing to pay for, but that’s, sadly, just the way it is. As such, it makes perfect sense that the most-downloaded songs correspond roughly to the most-purchased ones.
Exposure thanks to music piracy for smaller bands might not add up to more CD or download sales – for rock and indie bands it’s perhaps more likely to be seen in terms of concert tickets or merchandise sales. Music sales for these bands may not immediately increase, but there is the opportunity for a lasting fanbase to be built.
A new band might only receive X number of downloads, in comparison to the 500X downloads of a track by U2, but who’s to say that, without piracy, this new band would have reached X number of listeners? It’s difficult to quantify, but that’s not to say that the effect isn’t there.
IAMX, Laura Marling, Leonard Cohen, Belle and Sebastian – would I be listening to any of these bands if it wasn’t for the fact that I have, at some point, downloaded some of their music? Quite simply – no.
The industry might say no (of course they will, though; they’re out to protect themselves here) but it’s true that piracy does allow people to listen to music with no monetary commitment. What they choose to do afterwards is out of anyone’s control, but at least they’re listening in the first place.
The study was ostensibly carried out to see if the ‘long tail’ theory was actually much cop in terms of music piracy. The long tail theory being (bear with me here, as I’m not a business student) that if people are offered a greater amount of choice and the help to take said choice, they will do so. Survey says no.
I’m not entirely sure, though, where this “help” to take the choice of lesser-known music. There are music blogs, yes, which obviously provide a lot of exposure to new and lesser-known bands, but they are little contest for the likes of Radio 1.
The problem doesn’t necessarily lie in the habits of downloaders, but perhaps in the lack of variety offered by mainstream radio, instead.
The conclusion drawn by the survey was that the Internet, bizarrely, offers too much choice. I know – I was a bit confused by that one, too. Surely choice is a good thing?
Services like Spotify might be helping the crusade against illegal downloading, offering a literal library of music at users’ fingertips, but it’s doubtful that people will exhibit any different listening patterns here than they do when downloading music. After all, streaming music for free is only one step (if a great deal of legality) away from pirating it.
If the industry are this concerned about smaller bands, perhaps they should spend more on promoting them. After all, Jonathan from Spotify has a hell of a lot of ad space to fill.
Saturday, 23 May 2009
Ash are back! I'm sure that's a much-overused sentence but, damn it, they don't half have a penchant for disappearances and comebacks. They're also one of those bands who feel like they've been around forever. Hell, over the past 15 years Ash have practically written the textbook on summery boy-meets-loves-or-leaves-girl guitar-pop.
Sadly, they seemed to have meant what they said at the time of the release of 2007's Twilight of the Innocents: that it was their last album release in the traditional format. Fortunately, for those convinced of the imminence of a split, they've also stuck to their word that they would continue to release material online.
This week heralds the band's first release since TOTI, the free download 'Return of White Rabbit', which is...well, slightly underwhelming, frankly. It seems to mark a strange change in sound for Ash - almost as if their well-honed trademark sound is now being filtered through a post-new rave prism. The guitar is bit anaemic; the bass is a bit too heavy; the echoiness of the vocals falls slightly to the wrong side of Klaxons. Oh, and the pre-chorus "ooaah" reminds me too much of the titles from Gok's Fashion Fix. That last one is a subtle, but once you've picked up on it, it's impossible to un-notice. It's certainly no 'Burn Baby Burn'.
It does still have the classic Ash hook, though, and a rather nice synth solo, so their future doesn't look entirely bleak. Excitingly, they've announced, alongside 'Return of White Rabbit''s release, that there is more to come. In September, the launch of the A-Z Series will begin.
The A-Z Series seems obviously designed to show off Ash's new way of going about things. Rather than release a single or two, an album and then another single or two, they'll instead be releasing a download/vinyl single per fornight on their own Atomic Heart label. For a year. Starting with 'a' and working their way right through to 'z'. Yes, that's 26 singles in 52 weeks.
I have to say, I'm pretty keen to see how all this pans out. In theory, I think the idea is a solid one. Fans will, in essence, have something new to look forward to every two weeks. Spreading the downloads in such a manner should also hopefully keep the cost of these singles down. The only worry is that the novelty will wear off - after all, half the fun of purchasing an album is the sense of occasion which arguably accompanies it.
For an act that have long been known as a "singles band", this bold move could well pay off. Ash may not be a new band, but it seems they're certainly not short on new ideas. Roll on September; I'm excited.
'Return of White Rabbit' available free at ash-official.com.
Thursday, 14 May 2009
It's got to be a tough life being Morrissey. After all, there are a lot of people that hate you with a startling amount of venom, the smell of burning animal flesh at festivals sickens you, and David Cameron has 'fessed up to being a fan. Oh, and you keep getting ill all the time. Heaven knows you're miserable now.
Morrissey seems to be gaining a bit of a reputation for illness these days. On Monday and Wednesday this week, he cancelled dates at London's Royal Albert Hall and Brimingham Symphony Hall - dates for which it is yet to be announced whether there will be rescheduling or not. This is on top of the cancellation of the start of his world tour in the US, and the three out of six shows at the Roundhouse which were cancelled last January.
This might not sound like too much, but 11 dates from a 100-odd date tour equates to about 10% of the tour being cancelled. It's little wonder that fans are unsurprised at every new cancellation which is announced, especially as the given excuse is usually "illness" or "throat trouble".
Granted he's getting on a bit in musical terms: the man is almost 50, so of course he's slowing up. He's not the only artist to be plagued with recurring health issues. But not all ageing musicians have problems performing. 51-year-old Nick Cave, for example, is still performing storming two-hour sets with seemingly no problem. And, as an ex-heroin addict, I'm sure he's ravaged his body far more than Morrissey ever has.
Everybody gets ill from time to time; I by no means dispute this fact. I do dispute, however, that it is the norm among artists to have cancelled four concerts within the space of 18 months within the same city. Maybe I'm cursed with bad luck (having travelled from Cardiff to London for this week's RAH show and the first of last year's cancelled Roundhouse shows, I have yet to witness Morrissey play a full set), but I do question why he bothers scheduling so many shows within a fairly short spaces of time when it's questionable that he'll be able to fulfil the commitment. Six shows within seven days is bound to strain your voice; if you're already prone to throat problems, why risk it?
I understand that days off on tour are essentially days for which crew are paid to do nothing; they aren't an efficient way of spending money. However, is it really any more efficient to try and cram in as many dates as possible, resulting in cancelled shows? Tickets have to be refunded and the crew still have to be paid; it's just as economically wasteful as a day off. I don't know much about venue protocol, but I'm assuming that the venue would also require at least some fee. So even worse than a day off, really. Maybe a few days off here and there to avoid tour burn-out aren't so wasteful, after all.
When it comes down to it, though, I guess his "people" can afford to take the chance - people will keep buying the tickets and taking their chances. Standing tickets for the Royal Albert Hall sold out in literally the time it took me to fill out the order form; I was unsuccessful in obtaining anything other than seated tickets, despite being online as soon as the tickets were released. The demand was obviously there, especially with Morrissey's frequent hints that he won't be carrying on in music much longer.
These threats may be no more than smoke and mirrors, but you can never quite be sure with him - almost every album or tour is invariably rumoured to be his last. With his latest single, 'Something is Squeezing my Skull', however, only reaching #46 in the charts (apparently leading to it having been dropped from his set) there has been forum speculation that the chart-obsessed Morrissey is sulking.
As for me, I'll be on eBay, seeking tickets for the London dates at the end of this month and praying it's third time lucky.
The Smiths - There is a Light that Never Goes Out
Oh, and kudos to anyone who 'got' what I was doing in the title of this post...
Sunday, 10 May 2009
I went to see the new Star Trek film last night. It's normally everything I'd avoid in a film - I'm not generally a fan of sci-fi, couldn't care less about Lost and tend to think that if a film is genuinely good, it's able to carry itself without the need for excessive big-budget special effects. But back in November I saw a preview of some of the footage for Quench and wrote an article about it (available here). After knowing a fairly large chunk of the storyline, I had to see the film properly, simply to quell my curiosity.
I was surprised to say that I was moderately impressed with the film. It's probably not something that I'd watch again (because the film most likely wouldn't work properly on anything smaller than a cinema screen, if nothing else) and it doesn't do anything new within the sci-f genre, but what it does, it does well.
One of the most impressive things about Star Trek is how good the aesthetic is. It's simultaneously retro and modern, and colour is used really well. It looks sleek, and there are some incredibly stylish shots in it, particularly during the action scenes. And it's all set to a satisfyingly epic score.
Zachary Quinto is great, too; Spock could easily have been hammed-up or stonily monotonous, but Quinto manages to fall into neither extreme, instead playing the character in as convincing a way as is possible. Considering that Spock is an alien. Who meets his time-travelling older self who's come back from the future. And who is played by Leonard Nimoy.
That, actually, is one of the best aspects of the film: it's incredibly knowing, accepting the weight of the franchise that it succeeds and recognising that it will never escape it. It's arch, and funny in a manner which at times even approaches irony. It cracks out all of the classic, clichéd Star Trek lines, but manages to raise a laugh in doing so.
There could be more laughs, though. Simon Pegg is criminally under-used here. The man is a comedy legend; you'd think that if you'd managed to get him on board, you'd want to make a bit more of his part. As it is, he's a minor character, always vying for a little bit more attention than he's ever granted.
There's also a lot of the obligatory morality stuff, and the usual side-story about making a dead person proud. Not that you'd realise that Kirk's father was dead, because it's not mentioned at all. Well, not aside from a massively over-dramatic opening scene featuring baby Kirk being born as his mother is snatched from the jaws of death thanks to his father's courage and sacrifice. Completely overblown and slightly unnecessary.
Also a little overblown but rather more necessary is the plot. There's a lot of time travel; it all gets a bit Doctor Who? from time to time. It's one of those storylines that you can follow as long as you don't pay too close attention to it. It all ties up very neatly, though, and I guess that plausibility isn't an issue when you're setting a movie in space.
Overall, it's enjoyable. It's a semi-riveting way to spend two hours, and require no former Trekkie knowledge to understand. Think of it as Star Trek for beginners. It's hardly reinventing the wheel - or the spaceship, for that matter - but it does seem like JJ Abrams did good here.
Thursday, 30 April 2009
While I did love the first Gallows album, Orchestra of Wolves, and think that they're a brilliant, visceral live act, I have to say that Grey Britain - a "very scathing economical, social, political, historical review of the world to date" according to singer Frank Carter - sounds like it's going to be a bit, well, wanky in it's '4 REAL' insistences. If not wanky, at least a bit pretentious. It's album on which, apparently "nothing is fake". Including the sound of a dying pig. Nice.
Although, is it real? It's difficult to tell. At first, in a video interview on the NME website (available here), the band claimed that they rocked up to a Halal slaughterhouse and recorded the sound of this poor swine's dying breath as a sample to be used on the album. I'm not sure why the sound of a dying pig is relevant to a song (even if pigs are "a recurring theme on the album") and, if I'm being honest, my first thoughts were more along the lines of "euw, gross!" rather than "wow, that's dedication!"
But that wasn't a popular thing to have said, despite Carter's claims that "it's special" (it really isn't; it's just a dying animal). PETA, top of every farmyard creature's speed-dial list, issued a statement saying that the sample is likely to turn many listeners vegetarian. Personally, I think I'd just be turning the song off, but you never can tell how others will react, and apparently PEA have received lots of requests for vegetarian 'starter kits' since Gallows made their claims. A bit extreme, perhaps; I just thought it would sound a bit icky. And now my curiosity's piqued as to what's in a vegetarian starter kit.
Even though they're well punk rock and all that, and so should love pissing off all those wimpy squeamish souls, the band seemed pretty keen to do a handy little backtrack at this point. They issued a statement of their own in response: the sample was simply found on the internet, and the band were not present at its recording.
"We do not want to upset our fans who we consider intelligent enough to realise we didn't kill a pig or any other kind of animal to achieve the sounds on Grey Britain" - so why bother making the claims in the first place, espeically if they're not true? Surely upsetting people was the point? or is the latter statement the falsehood? Who knows. As Tim Jonze fantastically summed it up on Twitter: "Don't worry, that wasn't Frank screaming live...it was actually recorded from a live stoning in Iran."
If you're now worried about the authenticity of Grey Britain as a whole, fear not. Gallows even made sure that they traced the sample to Spain, "where they still use inhumane forms of slaughter." Because obviously potential animal cruelty is fine to be used, as long as it's at a few steps' remove.
Ooh, it's all so mysterious and 'edgy'. Or all lies. It just reeks, to me, of a cheap publicity stunt to drum up some interest about the album. Which is never a good sign.
Gallows - Abandon Ship
Monday, 27 April 2009
The point of an advert is to make people want to buy your product, to believe in your company. Not to make everyone within smashing distance of a television set take up their hammers and aim. That memo obviously bypassed Halifax.
It all started back in 2000 with Howard. Howard Brown, to use his full name; you probably knew him as something more along the lines of ‘that irritating twat off of the telly’.
Loveable Howard, singing like a sex bomb about how he’d give you extra. And it didn’t stop there, oh no; Howard was then allowed to bring some of his friends along for the ride. They were all sailing away to the happy land of cheap mortgages and and expontentially growing savings. Hah, they were wrong there. And not just in the fact that they were trying to use a building as a boat.
For a while, you thought it was okay to turn on the TV again – a bit like the aftermath of Jaws. Howard and co. had sailed away; the Bad Thing was over. Maybe you even got lulled into a false sense of security by that fun Barclays advert with the waterslide. Then it started again.
The latest Halifax advert has gone back to the normal ‘bank advert formula’. But it’s still excecrable, because now they’re using Bright Eyes as their soundtrack. My blood nearly began to spurt from my ears, but I eventually realised that it could have been worse – at least Howard ‘I sometimes feel like a popstar’ Brown wasn’t involved.
One can only assume that with the current recession, they can’t afford to pay their staff salaries for being both bankers and sham karaoke laughingstocks. Thank God for small mercies, eh?
No wonder the banks are so unpopular these days.
On the plus side, enjoy the original, untarnished Bright Eyes song:
Saturday, 25 April 2009
Isn't this just about the most incredibly, fantastically unbelievable thing since, well, The Enemy's claims about the recession? The whole idea strikes me as stupid on so many levels that (despite the fact I can't believe the fact I'm even bothering to blog about this) I actually feel compelled to order a few of them in list format.
1) The whole issue of the media coverage surrounding Jade's death has already been covered to hell and back by commentators ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime, to point that, as Brooker noted on Newswipe, it's become a self-sustaining entity. But if this isn't a step too far, then we may as well go the whole hog and canonise Saint Jade. Maybe we could announce a new bank holiday in her honour? After all, I'm sure it's what she would have wanted, isn't it?
2) "It was her dream as a child to be in a musical" is not an adequate reason for making a musical of an ordinary person's life. Using somebody's "favourite songs" is also a highly doubtful way of composing a musical; it will basically suck, as it will have no cohesion. That is the problem with using pre-existing songs. Even Mamma Mia! was, with the best will (and the most love for it) in the world, was less of a convincing plot and more of an excuse to string together as many Abba songs as possible within the space of 100 minutes. It was my childhood dream to be in a musical, too; I won't settle for anyone less than Lloyd-Webber to write mine, either.
3)What is this sudden obsession with letting the public choose the stars of West End shows? Getting people into the theatres? Well, I'm sure that The Sound of Music and Joseph had been doing just fine for years before the BBC snaffled them up, and News of the World readers will doubtless adore anything that Princess Jade's name is put to, regardless. The general public know next to nothing about casting for musicals: fact. Hell, I've loved musicals since I was a kid (it's a guilty secret which I blame upon my parents constantly playing soundtracks in the car when I was too young to protest, thus brainwashing me) and I'd have no clue where to even start. People demand so much control over broadcast output these days that I'm amazed they haven't just handed over the cameras to us and let us run riot.
I predict a backlash. Eventually.
Monday, 13 April 2009
Firstly, it's interesting to note the name this album has been put out under. While last year's record was put out simply as a self-titled Conor Oberst album, despite the presence of the Mystic Valley Band, here they get full credit in the band name. It's an obvious statement of intent, and signals what becomes immediately obvious from even a single listen: this is much more of a band effort than 2008's eponymous disk.
It would be very easy to join the wailing masses on forums, shrieking about how "CONOR DOESN'T EVEN SING ON HALF THE TRACKS ON HERE!!!!!" but that's petty, a cheap shot. The fact that Oberst's vocals aren't always present isn't neccessarily a bad thing in itself; the fact that three out of the other four vocalists' vocals (Rilo Kiley drummer Jason Boesel's aside) aren't in anywhere near the same league as Oberst's, however, is. It's as if Conor has handed over the microphone to his bandmates, surrendering his own ego as he lets them take the spotlight, yet paid no attention to the quality of their voices. After all, they're his friends, right?
This is a record made by friends, make no mistake about it. The predominant feel of the record is that of friends relaxing, having fun and making music together - from the handclaps on Nik Freitas' 'Big Black Nothing' to the irritating call-and-response backing vocals which prevent 'Ten Women' from being the touching lament which it rightfully deserves to be.
The influence of others upon the songwriting - a process usually dominated by Oberst - causes the album to take on a sprawling feel. While much of it is as country as it comes, Taylor Hollingsworth's 'Air Mattress' sounds like Blink-182, had they grown up in Tennessee, and 'Nikorette' boasts a piano hook which is basically the same as that used by the Scissor Sisters on 'I Don't Feel Like Dancing'. The godawful 'Roosevelt Room' sees Oberst seemingly trying to reinvent himself along the lines of a politically acerbic AC/DC, all fuzzy guitar soloing and lyrics about "barefoot dudes down in New Orleans".
It would be unfair to dismiss Outer South as a completely charmless record. Boesel's 'Eagle on a Pole' is perhaps the album's stand-out track, providing a curiously different perspective to Conor Oberst's track of the same name. 'To All the Lights in the Windows', too, plays on Oberst's typically dense use of Biblical imagery, and 'White Shoes' is stripped-down and classic: just vocals and a creaking guitar. Tellingly, neither of the latter would sound out of place on a Bright Eyes album.
While Oberst's versatility and scope is often to be admired, here it ultimately falls flat. What could, handled differently, have built upon the successes of last year's solo record proves frustrating and incohesive; it's too long by far and just doesn't hang together as a collection of songs. Ironically enough, it's summed up in a lyric from 'Nikorette': "they steal your bright ideas and they make them dull". Sadly, it seems that Oberst and co. have done that themselves here.
Saturday, 4 April 2009
So, it's two-and-a-half years later and Yeah Yeah Yeahs are about to release their third album, It's Blitz! While undoubtedly eagerly anticipated, the album has got people talking - especially as it's been streamed for weeks now on Spotify. Much has been made of the band's "new direction", and when I first heard it my response was much the same as many other people's: "but where are the guitars?"
Because the guitar sounds on It's Blitz! are sparse, even absent on some tracks. The songs are far more synth-driven than anything the band have released before. The question is: does it work? Well, yes - in parts.
The chorus of 'Zero' brings to mind Blondie, which is by no means a bad thing, and 'Heads Will Roll' takes their new "disco" aspect into a dizzying spin. Best of all, however, is 'Hysteric' - this album's equivalent of (you've guessed it) 'Maps' or the wonderful'Dudley'. It's yearning, with a crushed vocal and a spine-chilling guitar hook that I've been incessantly humming for days.
There's little all-encompassing guitar sound such as that which made Show Your Bones so fantastic. It's a shame, too, that the few guitar-led tracks on It's Blitz! are the dullest, the most Yeah Yeah Yeahs-by-numbers tracks present here, particularly 'Dull Life' and 'Shame and Fortune'. It leads you into a quandry: you reach a point where you've just had too much synth (it does, after a while, just get a bit samey) but when it drops away for a track or two, you're left reaching for the skip button.
It also feels like a bit of a waste, too; Nick Zinner is arguably one of the best guitarists around right now, able to handle delicate melodies and spiky riffs with equal dexterity. While Zinner claims that he was open-minded to this change in instrumentation, he has admitted that he was strongly encouraged, nigh on pushed, into it.
It's Blitz! is by no means an instant album. It's also the sound of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs doing something fairly different from what they've put out in previous releases. It's a grower, but I am left wondering if they've limited themselves somewhat in trying to broaden their horizons. It's not as good as Show Your Bones, but then again - what could be?
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Hysteric