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   Friday, October 31, 2003  
"We've never done this before," announced (high and?) mighty indie music site Pitchfork on Tuesday, "But we're choosing to re-run this review. It's only recently that so many of us realized what an incredible record it is, and what a shame it would be if you missed out on it just because we dropped the ball." But you, loyal reader, can relax for you have not missed out, the 'incredible record' in question being Sufjan Stevens' Greetings from Michigan which this blog urged you acquire back on July 4. What's that? Still haven't got round to it? Step lively, people...

Sufjan and a ten-strong troop recently performed at the CMJ Music Marathon in New York where they apparently 'put on one of the strongest shows of the marathon..the entire ensemble performing clad in faux-Boy Scout uniforms'. Crazy name, crazy guy, as they say...

And if Pitchfork's in a revisionist mood it could do with nudging it's mark for Centro-matic's latest, Love you just the same, up a point or two. Holy handclaps, Batman, it's a bit of a belter! Anyone who's already familiar with the Denton dynamos won't, of course, be particularly surprised by this. Actually, they won't be surprised by anything on the whole record since it's really more of the same which, when sitting in judgement, is often an automatic demerit. But not in this case.
The crashing, sparking scrapyard guitars and drums, Will Johnson's instantly familiar vocalisms, the handclaps and tambos, they're all here present and correct much as before. So why cut them so much slack? Well, the totally unpredictable (and sometimes unfathomable) lyrics might have something to do with it. Here's the great opener, The mighty midshipman in it's entirety:

Reminding himself and fighting off the beasts
The easterly sun remains headstrong
Held within some castle fighting off the years
Conventional hassles they are all gone
He's constantly caught and constantly traumatised
He's the mighty midshipman
He's totally motorized and constantly caught
So he empties out his papers counting all the coins
Telling himself to strap upon his head

This fascinating, if opaque, use of language lends Centro-matic's songs a depth and longevity even while the music carrying them remain much the same. However, as previous album Distance and clime showed, it can't rescue it all the time (this listener's interest always flagging about halfway through). No such problems with LYJTS; no sooner are you dropped from the reverie of one cracking melody when in storms another.
It's certainly the band's most consistent set to date. Sonically, the (still wonderful) lo-fi thrills and spills of yore are very very gradually giving way to a more modulated experience. Musically, what's not here is the big beat beauty of Huge in every city and Members of the show them how from 2000's All the falsest hearts can try nor the galloping magnificence to be found on Static v. the strings (Repellent feed, Keep the phoenix, etc).
It's a number like the latter's Curb your turbulence which points the way. Great, mostly mid-tempo, tunes laced with upright piano, killer unvarnished harmonies, tambourines, and the fuzzy bombast of electric guitar crashing through with deeply satisfying regularity. Small but telling arrangement details abound: the call-and-response of rattling good rocker Breathe deep, not loud, the classic AM Radio false ending of Picking up too fast, the accapella peak of tumbling beauty Flashes and cables. With at least another 4 or 5 tracks also duking it out for 'Best in Show', it really is a case of Love you just the same, only better and more so...

Hurrah! Turns out reallyrather didn't miss Damien Jurado after all. Well, not 'Hurrah' exactly as it seems he was laid low by sickness and had to cry off. But it means we all get another chance to go along, the following dates having been re-scheduled for next year:
Mon 23 Feb London 12 Bar
Tue 24 Feb Dublin Whelans
Wed 25 Feb Belfast Aunties Annies
Thu 26 Feb Glasgow Nice and Sleazy
Fri 27 Feb Manchester Tmesis
Sat 28 Feb Leicester Leicester Arts Canter
Sun 29 Feb Brighton The Hanbury Ballroom
Mon 1 Mar London The Water Rats
reallyrather is aware of at least two disappointed fans who turned up for DJ's show in Glasgow unawares; he does right to go back there. One of this blog's biggest regrets of '03 is missing The Tyde's short summer tour, the highlight of which was apparently their night in Glasgow. "Eugene Kelly from The Vaselines was there and we met Frances [McKee] as well," band leader Darren Rademaker explained later to Soundsxp. He also said this:
"I want to avoid being called Americana. I don't want to be compared to Ryan Adams, who's totally lame, he sucks. I met him one time and he was a totally cool guy and gave me all this bullshit: "I wanna hear your music. Can you drop it off to me?" So I went to the trouble of dropping it off and I never heard from him again. In America he has a reputation as a 'guy slut'. It's when a guy chats up a girl and never talks to her again. It's like that but he does it to guys. So I got burned. He's not, like, horrible but I'd almost go see Sheryl Crow than listen to Ryan Adams."
Now Twice is already up there as an '03 contender but bonus points are accruing all the time...

Will Per second, per second, per second...Every second join the shortlist, reallyrather wonders, somewhat doubtfully. The third album from Massachussets trio Wheat, it finally emerges blinking into the harsh critical spotlight on Tuesday after four years of trials and, yes, tribulations. "I think Radiohead's had four records out since [our last one] Hope and Adams came out," drummer Brendan Harney tells the Boston Globe today. Having killed the time going back and forth to Dave Fridmann's place retooling and a-fiddlin', what emerges, according to the Globe, 'is a bold step away from the lo-fi languor and spangled haze that floated through the band's previous work...A honed collection of clever, thoughtful pop songs - ear candy gilded with luscious hooks but smarts as well, and primed for modern rock radio'. Another (faintly ominous) clue: they're on tour right now with Liz Phair. "For good or bad, we will never make the same record twice," Harney says. "You always risk alienating folks but the only way for the band to make it interesting is to make it a journey."
Please don't let it be crap, please don't let it be crap, please don't let it be crap...
   posted by SMc at 5:12 AM |

   Friday, October 17, 2003  
Of course, it was a all bit too good to be true...
Some dismal amendments to earlier gig announcements:
-Haley Bonar won't now be coming over "because the expenses weren't exactly equalling out", (which tips the balance against the Alan Sparhawk Arts Cafe show Oct 29). Still, you can go to her...
-and neither will John Askew aka Tracker presumably since the ticket was as support to Transmissionary Six, who have also cancelled...

-Adam Selzer's Norfolk & Western now appear with St.Thomas at The Spitz Nov 7, having been gathered under the ever-expanding Way Beyond Nashville umbrella | site | new sounds
-and two days later catch The Long Winters, dealers in bold power-pop of the right sort, at the same venue. They re-unite with Centro-matic for what promises to be a show-and-a-half save for the fact that two other performers - Gary Hilton, Warren Malone - will apparently be getting in the way. Sorry guys but come on, these bands surely deserve a full set each?!

It's probably just co-incidence but the Long Winters' sound is not a million miles removed from the more upbeat full-band moments on fellow Seattle-ite Damian Jurado's best album, Rehearsals for departure from '99. Jurado headlines another spiffing Spitz show this Wednesday (Oct22) where Julie Doiron and James William Hindle support. Sadly, a prior appointment with, er, The Darkness prevents reallyrather attending and so missing the opportunity to congratulate JWH on his latest album, Prospect Park [recommended here Sept 14]: 'This album does, in fact, rank right up there with some of the greatest pop albums of all time,' exaggerated LMNOP...

And, since it's unlikely this blog will ever get to see them, it would've been interesting to discover what Hindle thought of The Trolleyvox with whom he shared a bill last week in Philadelphia. Though the TV's latest, Leap of folly, does lend a bit of weight to the addage that you really can have too much of a good thing, Andrew Chalfen's supersweet electric guitar+tambo barrage is most definitely A Good Thing - check out the latest (albeit atypically polite) slice, the web exclusive Verlainesque, uploaded last month...

If the promoters of Way Beyond Nashville can stretch the 'Americana' label to include the Long Winters then how come The Belles haven't been roped in as well? Actually, it's probably because no-one here has ever heard of them (except, ahem, reallyrather - see Nov 30 '02). Right out of the blue this Kansas combo has been picked up by upstart UK indie label Eat Sleep and they're coming over to play the Camden Barfly Nov 3. Now this venue's hardly the biggest in town but from where this blog's stands the booking still looks a mite optimistic. What do they sound like? Well, if it means anything, kind of like Gingersol-meets-Oranger but not quite as sparky as either. (BTW, you can hear the brand new Oranger album Shutdown the sun in it's entirety down the page here.) The Belles showcase their mellowist(?) side on the 4-track debut EP which culls a pair of cuts from debut album Omerta (not the most obvious ones, interestingly) and has a pair of new songs which are at least as decent (notably Left arm tan). It's all most pleasant, unfussy and neatly produced, but quite how Christopher and Jake Belles have got their foot in the European door ahead of the likes of Gingersol's Steve and Seth say, or a sonically more adventurous duo like Slowreader is puzzling indeed...

At least Eat Sleep seem to be stumping up to bring them over, however. At the ICA earlier this month indie comets Broken Social Scene apologised for the no-show of the advertised support, dreamy fellow Canuks Stars, suggesting all complaints be directed towards the latter's UK label, Setanta. Hmmm. This is the label Richard Hawley has just parted company with and who, in the matter of tour underwriting, he described in a recent interview as being - if you please - "Tighter than a moth’s arsehole"...

"I'm writing some rock songs right now for [my new band] River Bends," Denison Witmer tells Indieworkshop this week; "It's nice because it's giving me a chance to be a little less confessional and push my writing in a new direction. We're in the studio currently and we'll be finished with the disc by the year's end." Wahoo!, quite frankly...
   posted by SMc at 7:38 AM |

   Wednesday, October 01, 2003  
Heft. It's a good word not used half enough and one which this blog is only too pleased to press into service, capturing as it does an essential quality of the music of Nadine. Rusty, dusty pop-Americana anchored by a soft, weighty ache, this St.Louis band has quietly carved out a gorgeous back catalogue. Luminous, engagingly literate rock music unfussily rendered with acute rootsy instincts. And now finally, after what can only be described as bloody ages, the band's latest (almost year-old) recording has just emerged via nascent LA label Trampoline Records. Let's hope they know what to do with it because they've been lucky enough to have been gifted an album's that's, well, really rather fabulous. Fab-ulous, even.
Nadine are a band which has always sounded comfortable in it's skin. Those who might suggest it's actually often someone else's skin (a certain Mr N. Young) will doubtless say they're trying out that of others this time round (Mr J. Lennon & Mr P. McCartney). But, whilst Strange seasons undoubtedly carries some Beatle-y flavours - Bad at goodbyes and Got a feeling sound like they've been raised on the lush pastures of Strawberry Fields and Inside out closes out on a terrific 'Walrus'-esque vamp (probably a total mash-up live) - their core qualities, fundamental Nadine-ness, abounds.
How many of the 12 tracks here would make the 'Best of' compilation? Four, and that alone should be all you need to know to prompt immediate purchase. If this blog was given to star ratings, save the last track which reallyrather doesn't play (Something's gotta give, a distorted rocker slightly out-of-kilter with what's come before), nothing here would score less than 3.5.
The descending organ phrase about 50 seconds into opening track Friends and lovers immediately works it's reassuring balm. Add in the simple, heavy-footed percussive tread, the frazzled guitar fills, Adam's plaintive vocal...aah, the sheer Nadineness of it all. But this song is bettered in the medium-slow category by Rocking chair song which features another of Steve Rauner's beautifully spare Gizmo-aided electric guitar lines.
The other three 'Best of..' contenders here are all mid-tempo pearls: Poor man's vacation, complete with whistle solos just about the most straight-out pop thing they've done; a choppy, swinging beauty called Inside out featuring unmistakable vocal assists from Centro-matic's Will Johnson; and Different kind of heartache which is,well, damn near perfect in every regard. Classic, classic Nadine.
Recorded quite quickly using vintage kit, Matt Pence's immediate, relatively unvarnished production definitely plays to the band's strengths and keeps everything fresh and juicy. It's first-class rootsy guitar-pop awash with organ, tambourines and ear-catching lyrics ('Caught between a rock and a role that I was never really meant to play'). You should own it...

...and read more over at Playback magazine where Nadine are the cover feature for October...

Whether it was word-of-mouth, the Xfm promotion or just the fact it was Friday night reallyrather is unsure but how beautiful it was to see the Barfly in Camden rammed for the second London show of Rilo Kiley's debut European tour. More beautiful still was the band's decision to play With arms outstretched, inviting three or four girls up on stage to lead the community chorus. Almost regardless of who the act is, reallyrather must confess to finding those moments when an audience takes over the singing from the performer pathetically affecting. When it's a tiny 'unknown' band who could have little expectation anyone would know their name here let alone the words to any of their songs, well, let's just say it was emotional (and apologies to all those within earshot)...

And still their last album The execution of all things continues to pick up new friends - hey, so-called cutting edge UK zine Drownedinsound, where have you been?

Another helpful addition to the 'Ones to avoid' checklist courtesy of the Daily Telegraph's Neil McCormick: 'Jim Moray's debut the biggest leap forward in folk for 30 years'. Cough, splutter! Fair maidens+ambient beat-box=Great Leap forward? Er, no. Inadvertantly coming across Moray being (indulgently)interviewed on BBC Radio 3 a while back, reallyrather stuck with it hoping he might have more to say in his music than he did in his discussion of it. Halfway through a song called Longing for Lucy which sounded like a - whisper it - Hue & Cry reject, the off switch beckoned. But thank you to Neil for franking those suspicions...
   posted by SMc at 5:59 AM |