Monday, August 26, 2002
So it kicks off with an eminently skippable 8-and-a-half minute track apparently recorded in the back seat of a moving car. So plenty of the other tracks crack six minutes and have that 'sung in the bathroom' quality or are tricked out with fake vinyl crackle. So the quavering, sometimes frantic vocal can only just carry a tune but hardly ever shuts up. So should you bother with the latest Bright Eyes album? reallyrather votes 'yes'.
posted by SMc at 1:03 PM
Re-tracking Lifted or.. to exclude aforesaid opener, the unwelcome Brit-prog-folkisms of Don't know when but a day is gonna come and the 7mins+ of goodtime shambling country-rock that is closer Let's not shit ourselves, reallyrather is still left with almost an hour's worth of darn good stuff. An at times barely mediated splurge of indie-pop-twang, Conor Oberst's back at the wheel and veering all over the shop, getting it all off his chest just in case he dies tomorrow. After the dodgy opener, militaristic drumming propels the great clanging pop of Method acting. This is instantly trumped by the nostalgic string-driven False advertising which taps into the same '50s kitsch as Richard Hawley's stuff. Like quite a few releases this year, both You will and the jaunty Bowl of oranges tip a hat to The Cure while the plaintive slow waltz of Laura Laurent and hopalong twang of Make war drag us back to the dustbowl. Amidst all this sits the swoonsome knock-out punch that is Nothing gets crossed out. Oberst's..er..'singing' voice is a distinctly limited instrument most at home urgently tumbling out his reams of verbiage. When things calm down a bit and the tune's laid bare he could do with a bit of help and on Nothing.. he's mercifully (and quite wonderfully) assisted by Azure Ray's Orenda and Maria. It's another 'Blue Velvet' retro moment with some choice guitar building on the vocal waves. However, even in this sublime situation Oberst still manages to get a little stressed out but all is calm at the resolve. Sometimes raw, superficially difficult, musically and lyrically fearless - it's a wild ride but then the driver's still only 22. Get onboard and chuck the guide book out the window...
Rather brilliantly the Bright Eyes UK tour features Azure Ray in support tho' their wispy, hush-hush sound - recommended somewhere as perfect music for cats to sleep soundly to - will severely challenge the usual throng of bar-dwelling gasbags who prefer the sound of their own voices to the acts they've paid to see. Those dates:
5 Brighton, Komedia
6 Leeds, Joseph Well
7 Glasgow, King Tut's
8 Belfast, Queens University
9 Dublin, E Whelans
11 Manchester, Night and Day
12 London, Dingwalls
Sadly, reallyrather won't be able support The Tyde at the Water Rats on Tues (27) due to a prior committment elsewhere with The Polyphonic Spree. But anyone who can get there will be richly rewarded with a glistening West Coast take on '80 Lloyd Cole-esque UK indie-pop. At 93 Feet East last week they raised the bar way too high for notional headliners Beachwood Sparks to surpass (despite the bands sharing half the same members). In the face of a less than ideal sound system which overemphasised the shrill top end of 3 guitars and a moog synth and buried the harmonies, the sturdy knock-out melodies of stuff like All my bastard children, Strangers again and North County Times could not be diminished. Perfect sounds for a balmy summer night - only a shame it was London E1 and not Highway One...
Saturday, August 17, 2002
"Stunning," said The Times
posted by SMc at 10:08 AM
"Compelling," says The Fly
"5 stars," said the LA Times
"Almost perfect," says Mojo
"Quite possibly the album of the year,' said someone else whose details have been lost..
If we're to believe everything we read, it's Album of the Month for August at the very least. 'Springsteen, surely?' you cry, but you're wrong. James Taylor?, you jest! Wrong again. Er.. maybe those Coral geezers? you proffer, faultering now. No, no - it's the indie Ryan Adams, Conor Oberst aka Bright Eyes' latest, Lifted or The story is in the soil, keep you ear to the ground. Less encouragingly from this blog's perspective the reviews also contain phrases like 'emotionally wracked,' 'eight minutes long,' and 'Bob Dylan'. Still, the avalanche of positives has proved compelling and the order's in...
..and he's bringing a big band over here in the Autumn, apparently. In the meantime Bright Eyes tours the US in the rather more restrained company of M.Ward, a very attractive ticket. Almost as compelling as a recent show in Houston which had reallyrather idly toying with the flight schedules to Texas. Taking a break from touring with Bennett & Burch, Will and Matt reconvened Centro-matic for a date with fellow Denton-ites Little Grizzly. 'The group's last album, I'd Be Lying if I Said I Wasn't Scared, is a near-masterpiece,' said St. Louis' Riverfront Times in a preview of the band's show there last week. reallyrather stops short of that assessment, but not by much. Having had it for a year, it seems to have rarely left the 'still playing' pile, the two George Neal-solo numbers Charlotte and a brilliantly stark unnamed end track - Rape, death, etc maybe?!- receiving most attention. Says the Riverfront Times, 'Live, the quiet parts are even more eerie and the rock parts rock even harder, with guitarist Matthew Barnhart in particular almost flying off the stage in abandon. Little Grizzly's show at Frederick's last spring was inspiring and energizing, a strong contender for show of the year. Don't miss.' Alright, alright, don't rub it in...
Admittedly Little Grizzly's sound doesn't aspire to universal appeal; it's a bit scruffy and singer/writer George Neal's relaxed attitude to nailing the the right notes mightn't charm everyone. An acquired taste, but hey, as the man said, there's nothing wrong with acquiring taste. 'Rather not work that hard for my musical kicks, thanks all the same,' could however be your not unreasonable response. Less demanding than Little Grizzly but equally satisfying, this blog would point those nonetheless curious towards the more conventionally-shaped rootsy guitar pop of Boston's Lemonpeeler. Earlier this year reallyrather heard Micheal and Jim from the band busk a new song called Morning jitters in the studios of the now sadly defunct RadioBoston. 'Another belter,' was the hasty first impression; spinning the new The Woolly Sessions EP, rr is pleased to confirm - a rock-solid, 24-carat, copper-bottomed belter! Not that Lemonpeeler is doing anything revolutionary. Rather the opposite, in fact - this is song-oriented melodic pop-rock ranging pretty sure-footedly across the Replacements-Crowded House spectrum. And while they don't always hit home - the boogie of Up all night doesn't travel the Atlantic too well, for instance - when they (mostly) do, it's just great stuff. And distinctive, too. The peculiarly complimentary sounds of mainman Michael Hayes' voice and rhythm guitar burnish classically-structured, deeply satisfying tunes like Northbound plane, Take me back, Automatic and Annabelle's design, standouts on debut album The first Time. And Morning jitters is at least as good as any of those; distilled essence of Lemonpeeler complete with deftly-arranged harmonies, organ and - always a good sign - tambourine. Worth having for this track alone...
Saturday, August 03, 2002
Actually Monday, August 05, 2002...
posted by SMc at 12:00 PM
Aside from interesting movies and being able to get something decent to eat pretty much whenever you want it, the other instantly attractive thing about returning to London from time elsewhere in the country is the live music on offer. reallyrather spent Sunday afternoon at the Golden Lion in Camden where Pete Krebs and Horse Stories' Toby Burke did short solo sets before The Arlenes performed about ten numbers with full band. Actually, Stephanie was upstairs feeding her and Steve's 8-week-old daughter and so missed the first couple of numbers, a happenstance entirely in keeping with the relaxed, good-natured vibe they've created at Come on down and meet the folks (and which is surely entirely unconnected with the fact that it's absolutley FREE! Don't tell your friends, it's quite popular enough already...)
"We always sound good, but sometimes, you know, we sound fucking good," said Arnold's Phil Morris interviewed during their recent short West Coast jaunt. reallyrather is happy to confirm the accuracy of this admittedly biased view having joined Fran Travis and a goodly Monday night throng at The Borderline for the band's first UK show in ages. Sounding impressively tight for a band so apparently inactive, they roamed winningly through their back numbers as well as showcasing the new EP; with it's vaguely baggy beat, You're a star was an instant highlight. A thrilling-rendered Tiny car showed Radiohead how they could've sounded if only they hadn't gone off the rails. "See you next year," was the band's departing comment, so ending another gruelling Arnold world tour...
In today's London Evening Standard, Canadian journalist Leah McLaren recounts a recent blind date: "It turned out we both loved James Taylor but were slightly ashamed of it." Hmm...we've been this way before - just how big a club is this, I wonder? Happily, perfect therapy is no more expensive than the price of a CD. Leah, allow me to introduce young Mr Denison Witmer...
Say what you like about the Mercury Music Prize but it can often present a decent opportunity to plunder. Whether last year's 7/1 PJ Harvey coup can be repeated reallyrather is unsure but, looking at the list, as usual several nominations can be confidently struck out immediately. So farewell then Electric Soft Parade, Guy Barker, David Bowie, Beverley Knight and the talented but not quite interesting enough Gemma Hayes. The Doves' Last broadcast sits second in the betting but can pale indie-guitar rock triumph two years in a row? reallyrather would suggest not - off!. Also definitely off the list is The Bees' debut, Sunshine hits me. If there was a prize for most over-rated album of the year this may stand a rather better chance. They've got a sound but unfortunately it's a pretty dull, plodding one and the best tracks sound like parodies/homages (delete as applicable) - Curtis Mayfield/Impressions on This town and Burt Baccarach on Sky holds the sun. Sorry guys, but no. (Btw, the US has a little swarm of it's own - The Bees from Nashville feature various David Mead alumni, the drummer on Josh Rouse's albums David Gehrke and singer-songwriter Daniel Tashian. 'A crisp, no-nonsense pop band with punch and pathos,' apparently.) So, seven down, four to go...
UK ex-pats Minibar put their SoCal roots-pop credentials bravely on the line in September touring the States with the real thing - Gingersol...
"These songs could just as well be pop songs if there was slightly different instrumentation," said the Be Good Tanyas' Frazey Ford in The Independent recently, precisely echoing this blog's thoughts about the original compositions on Blue Horse. Therein lies much of their appeal round these parts - not concerning themselves with reaching a particular market, just writing strong, simple songs and pursuing a sound which happens to be based on 'trad' instruments but which isn't hidebound by that fact. This open-ended quality is shared by two other of this blog's records of the year, Starlings,TN's The leaper's fork and now - cue fanfare - The blackened air by Nina Nastasia. No idea if the Tanyas have heard this New Yorker's April release but on tracks like All for you, So little and Been so long they'd surely recognize a sister.
Employing the always admirable principle of 'less is more', Nastasia and band fashion 16 tracks precisely none of which fail to make their mark despite many of them not stretching much beyond a minute and a half. In place of the common critical encapsulation 'eerie noir-country' reallyrather prefers 'creaky, atmospheric folk-pop'. Standard instrumentation is enhanced with accordian, saw, cello and violin, each keeping it pretty simple and restrained; a spontaneous-sounding ensemble given plenty of room to breathe by producer Steve Albini. If the Grim Reaper were to take up drumming he'd likely produce the kind of sounds contributed here by Jay Bellerose. The beautiful vocal melody on So little is offset by a few electic guitar notes which spiral off into the spaces inbetween. Similarly minimalist amplified touches colour Little angels and That's all there is but as many cuts feature just Nastasia's voice and spare acoustic self-accompaniment. Her vocal takes on its most contemporary hue on Rosemary (rr would compare it directly to someone like Clare Burson but this would likely mean absolutely nothing to anyone except the Bostonian's friends & family). Whatever you want to call it, The blackened air is rivetting, indelible stuff. Buy it, and tickets for her shows when she's over in October (tbc)...
Islington's Union Chapel reverts to it's original function Aug 27 for one night only - praise be, it's the Polyphonic Spree!