Thursday, September 29, 2011
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
I used to feel intimidated coming to the Old Blue Last. Underdressed and over-nourished. Now I couldn't give a fuck. Watching them all, in their Sonic Youth shirts and Rick Moranis frames, feigning an interest in dubstep, mouthing the words to Nirvana. Another thing the Old Blue Last always delivers is good bands (and tinnitus)!
First up, mysterious Dorset powerviolence outfit Witch Cult. The vocalist has a Black Flag tattoo on his ankle, a Minor Threat patch on his cut-off jean shorts and straightedge crosses on both hands. He tears around the venue, rolling into ankles, spilling drinks and inadvertently attacking photographers (I assume).
Witch Cult's stage show is beyond intense. Like a punch in the throat: one minute stabs of orchestrated chaos. Their heavily-tattooed, Rip Offs-looking, ski-mask-wearing guitarist rolls around the floor, screaming into his guitar like a man possessed. Which is weird. Because after the show, unmasked, he sits quietly in the corner of the room. Legs crossed. Placid.
Over an hour later, hyped (and progressively brutal) Californian hip-hop trio Death Grips hit the stage. Vocalist MC Ride de-hoods, revealing a body of cryptic-looking tattoos and sinewy muscles. Drummer Zach Hill, with his odd combination of rusted drums and broken cymbals, is a maniac. And his moments of madness blend perfectly with Death Grips' programmed beats and other catastrophic electronic noise pulses. MC Ride leads the assault though, menacing, in a trance.
By now, Old Blue Last is fuller than your local kebab shop at 1:00am on a Saturday morning. The dude-heavy front half of the dancefloor is pumping. Literally lost in the moment: shirts off, bodies intertwined, sweat exchanged (needless to say, I keep a safe distance to the side).
And that's that. Back out into the fresh air, ears ringing, senses overloaded, kebab craving initiated...
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
To celebrate its 20 year anniversary, Spin Magazine has put together a Nevermind tribute album called Newermind, which you can download for free here. Contributors include: The Vaselines, Meat Puppets, Surfer Blood, Foxy Shazam and Titus Andronicus...
Monday, September 26, 2011
When I read that Brian Fallon was swapping his Springsteen denim jacket for a Tom Waits fedora, I feared the worst. Truth be told, the last two Gaslight Anthem records were both pretty boring. I tended to latch onto one or two hit songs and ignore the rest - not for lack of trying. But when it comes to The Horrible Crowes, Fallon's been scoffing soul food again, writing off-the-cuff, "night time" music with guts and feeling, not let's-play-dress-up, working class rock for the masses.
The leap from Sink or Swim to The '59 Sound was a huge one. Gaslight Anthem's sound seemed to age a decade in one year. But, unlike Gaslight Anthem's sudden-found, smooth-edged bravado, Elsie is dark, moody, and uncertain - a heart-sapping ballad for the brokenhearted. Atmospherically, it reminds me of Gaslight Anthem's 2008 EP Senor and the Queen; painting a picture with feelings, textures and unforced emotion.
At times, backed by co-pilot and guitar tech Ian Perkins, the album skirts the dark, sombre territory inhabited by suited Ohio indie rockers The National. I picture a hand clenched into a fist but never striking, just smothering a rush of blood to the head and waiting to turn back into a hand again.
But overall, it's just a surprisingly solid (and interesting) collection of songs, from the tempered pop sensibility of "Behold the Hurricane" and the Clash-inspired reggae grooves of "I Witnessed a Crime", to the soulful gasps of "Go Tell Everybody" and howling garage jam "Mary Ann".
"Sugar" and "Blood Loss" remind me the most of Senor and the Queen. "Ladykiller" houses the Fallon rasp that seemed all but diluted. And "Behold the Hurricane", a catchy pop song with an open wound, sounds like The Gaslight Anthem, only better. Mostly, I feel sorry for the rest of his day job band. It seems like Fallon held his best songs back. Or maybe it's the influence of Perkins that threw caution to the wind...
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
It's not just mega-talented, multifaceted stars like Lindsay Lohan, Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers that think they can do it all. Long before Russell Crowe, Steven Seagal and Jackass clown Steve-O released solo albums, wrestlers like Macho Man Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan and Tatanka (who?) were selling sex rhymes by the pound...
MACHO MAN RANDY SAVAGE (2003)
First up, Macho Man Randy Savage, who I just found out died of a heart attack in May. So before we get started, rest in peace Bonesaw!
Okay... Unlike a lot of the other wrestlers mentioned in this article, Macho Man Randy Savage was no dabbler. On the back of a critically acclaimed, no type-casting-in-sight Hollywood acting career (also known as a five minute run in Spider-Man 1), Macho released a full length rap album called Be A Man in 2003.
The title track is a straight up whack attack on once bitter rival Hulk Hogan, featuring poetic outbursts like, "They call you Hollywood? Don't make me laff, 'cos your movies and your acting skills are both trash. Your movies straight to video, the box office can't stand, while I got myself a feature role in Spider Man".
Next up, the Hulkster himself...
HULK HOGAN & THE WRESTLING BOOT BAND (1995)
In the late '80s and early '90s, Hulkamania was bigger than Eddie Murphy. So a career in music was only natural, right? Hey, it worked for Chris Waddle and Glenn Hoddle.
So.. in 1995, as Hulkamania peaked like an orange, bloated, spindly-legged old sun set, Hogan and his travelling band of minstrels (Jimmy Hart, Linda Hogan and John Maguire) released their seminal debut album Hulk Rules. And you thought Brooke's last album was bad?
Hulk, naturally, wrote all his own lyrics; "Whoops there it is, whoops there it is, wha-wha-wha-wha-wha-wha-wha-wha-whoops there it is". Great stuff from the Hulkster...
WRESTLEMANIA: THE ALBUM (1993)
Okay... Now for a share-the-blame group effort of epic proportions! In 1993, to capitalise on the popularity of his burgeoning wrestling empire, Vince McMahon released the so-90s-it-hurts-your-eyes-and-ears rock compilation Wrestlemania: The Album (seriously, how much were they paying those copywriters?).
This track by Bret 'Hitman' Hart (co-written by Peter Waterman and Mike Stock) is a total winner. The only ones doing any singing are the backups...
And check out this choice cut by the Undertaker. It's like necromantic spoken word poetry with Rick James doing the music. Super freaky! And again, still no sign of any actual singing...
THE WRESTLING ALBUM (1985)
The Wrestling Album (again, imaginatively titled) is another compilation album released eight years earlier, in 1985. The aim was to launch Vince McMahon's empire into mainstream pop culture. And, to be fair, it worked.
Mostly, it's just goofy commentary by McMahon himself, a bunch of goofy songs sung by goofy wrestlers and the single "Grab Them Cakes" by Junkyard Dog. Now that's '80s. Who knew he could spell?
PILEDRIVER: THE WRESTLING ALBUM 2 (1987)
The sequel, Piledriver - The Wrestling Album 2 (now those copywrite brains are turning) spawned this hit single by boss-man himself Vince McMahon. Warning, includes Hulk Hogan on fake bass solo...
JOHN CENA (2005)
And don't forget John Cena. Because, "in addition to his wrestling and acting career, Cena is a rapper and a hip-hop musician". Wikipedia's obviously playing fast and loose with the words "acting," "career" and "musician"... Anyone seen The Marine? Me neither.
Cena released his debut rap album You Can't See Me in 2005. And the world exhaled...
What I want to know is, why do wrestlers always choose rap (or spoken word '80s cabaret in the case of Hitman)? Is it because they can't sing and think rapping's easy? I can just imagine the process: "Hey, I can rhyme words, turds... Now package that shit and sell it!"
INSANE CLOWN POSSE (2011)
Last and definitely not not least, how could I not include Insane Clown Posse? Check out their new collaboration "Leck Mich Im Arsch", with Jack White and Mozart... "230 years in the making".
Friday, September 16, 2011
Hmm... a music video in a junkyard? Not sure... How funny is the beginning, where Francois has his hands on his hips until the director obviously shouts, "Action"? And the strip show's gotta be some kind of 'inside' joke, right? Still, it's great to hear recorded evidence of shredding newbies Jason Oosthuizen and Jedd Kossew. And the song's pretty cool as well.
So I finally got around to watching Jim Fields and Michael Gramaglia's acclaimed 2003 Ramones documentary End of the Century. And, like all great rock 'n roll bands, the Ramones were a gang of dysfunctional, trailblazing cowboys functioning at the highest level. Their story's got a bit of everything: love, betrayal, drugs, booze, tragedy and, finally, redemption (albeit posthumously)...
"Like white heat. You couldn't put a cigarette paper between one tune ending and the next beginning" - Joe Strummer.
Everyone had a role to play in the Ramones. Johnny was the Nazi. The rule-man. The right wing disciplinarian. The "glue" that held them all together. It was Johnny's band and he ruled with an iron fist, from creating and enforcing their iconic "uniforms" to hitting Dee Dee in the head backstage if he'd had a bad show.
Joey was the eternal optimist. The genuine weirdo. The heart of the band. Dee Dee was the band's chief songwriter and talisman. Their rascal. Tommy was the orchestrator (at first). And Marky kept the ship from sinking - even though he sank himself a few times.
And let's not forget Arturo Vega, the New York artist that came up with the band's logo and put a roof over their heads early on.
The saddest part of the story is the rift that developed between Johnny and Joey, who didn't speak to each other for nearly 20 years and never got to make up - not that Johnny ever wanted to. And the idea that, just before he died, Joey refused to let doctors put tubes down his throat because he didn't want them to damage his vocal chords is heartbreaking.
Joey literally worked himself to death for the Ramones, but when they were inducted into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame, Dee Dee, Johnny and Marky didn't even mention his name. Dee Dee's speech is a bad joke you can write off to heroin addiction and Johnny says, "God bless America and God bless President Bush", when he should have said, "God bless Joey Ramone!"
Still, it's an interesting and candid look at one of rock 'n rolls greatest, hardest working and most under appreciated bands. Ramones forever...
Friday, September 9, 2011
Nerds and sneakerheads have been waiting almost thirty years for these bad boys, and they're finally here. Well, sort of... The down side? There are only 1500 pairs in the world - apparently there's a pair going for $11,000 on eBay right now - and they don't power lace (not until 2015). The up side? Nike are donating the proceeds to Michael J. Fox's Parkinson research.
Still no news on those hover boards then...
Lagwagon frontman Joey Cape's a songwriting machine - except when it comes to Lagwagon. This time he's teamed up with fellow Scorpios, and bearded, acoustic guitar addicts, Tony Sly (No Use For A Name), Jon Snodgrass (Drag the River, Armchair Martian) & Brian Wahlstrom.
The Scorpios' debut album is already up on their site as a "pay-what-you-want" download.
I wonder what '90s, SoCal, punk-rock-jamming Joey Cape would make of all these old dudes in flannel shirts - gnarly?
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Dead Island: out September 9
Gears of War 3: out September 20
Batman Arkham City: out October 21
Gears of War 3: out September 20
Batman Arkham City: out October 21
Get ready, those lovable, cousin-fucking, Australian retards Frenzal Rhomb are back. And, I'm happy to report, they've rediscovered their golden touch! Frenzal's 2003 album Sans Souci was an instant winner, packed with wall-to-wall punk rock anthems and a wicked sense of humour. After that, a messy b-sides album, Jackie O-gate, an uninspiring full length and a five year hiatus left the band's future in doubt. Until now!
Smoko and the Pet Food Factory opens with ridiculous first single "Bird Attack", a one minute and fifteen second joke that went too far. And it's an awesome re-introduction. After that, things get a bit more serious. "Mummy Doesn't Know You're A Nazi", "5000 Cigarettes" and "Cockroach Light Switch" are all under two minutes long. And all instant classics. Track five, "Knuckleheads", is when you realise it's time to sit back and just enjoy the (twenty six minute) ride.
"You fucks have been my enemy my whole fucking life", sings frontman Jay Whalley, combining his jaded sense of humour with real emotion and feeling. Who else could harmonise "knuckleheads" on a chorus? Who else even uses the word knuckleheads?
Recorded at The Blasting Room in Fort Collins, Colorado, and overseen by Descendents drummer and punk rock producer extraordinaire Bill Stevenson, Smoko at the Pet Food Factory sounds amazing. Drummer Gordy Forman's a modern day legend. And here, he sounds better than ever.
That said, Frenzal Rhomb's technical prowess (and wit) is often overshadowed by their abrasive outspokenness and seemingly uncouth approach. But Tom Crease is an excellent bassist and Lindsay McDougall's a shredding lead guitarist and talented backup vocalist. In short, buy this record now!
Monday, September 5, 2011
Thursday, September 1, 2011
In a move that doesn't seem to jar as much as Sex Pistols: The Perfume, stylish Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas is the new face of Decibel, a new men's fragrance by French Line Azzaro. As if he'd be caught dead crowd surfing...
© Rene Ehrhardt Photography
Walking the now routine trail from the main entrance to the arena, I can’t help wondering why the entrance is so damn far away. Surely they could have put a gate nearer the stage? Still, I always arrive thirsty... On a side note, the £10 programmes I walk by every morning are a cheek! Weekend tickets cost £200, you’d think they could slip in a few free programmes…
“They try and squeeze you for every last Pound”, I hear a girl complain into her phone. And sure enough, I spot an opportunistic mobile phone re-charging van: £5 for an hour, £8 for two.
I hear Frank Turner on the Main Stage from the bar then head towards the Lockup Stage for Pennsylvanian punk rockers The Menzingers.
It’s early and the crowd's pretty empty, but everyone knows the words. It’s an intimate performance and super easy to get right to the front. The Menzingers sound awesome; folk-rock inspired punk rock with soul, screams and quivering indie appeal. At one point, guitarist and co-vocalist Tom May rocks out so hard he falls right on his ass in the middle of the stage.
By now the stage is lined with punk rockers, including the token beard, flannel shirt and cap guy. At one point, ex-Pennywise frontman and current Black Pacific guitarist and singer Jim Lindberg pops his head out for an inspection.
At the NME/Radio 1 Stage, Kentucky rock band Cage the Elephant have pulled a massive crowd. And so has Fucked Up frontman Damian Abraham over at the NME Signing Stand.
Another strange recent development is the hipster embracement of hardcore punk bands like Cerebral Ballzy, Off! and Fucked Up. And back at the Lockup Stage, Los Angeles punk rock “supergroup” Off!, featuring Circle Jerks frontman Keith Morris, have packed the tent.
Meanwhile, on the Main Stage, hard-rocking UK genre hoppers Enter Shikari are about ready to explode. The band hits the stage in a flurry, looking like they’re sponsored by JD Sports. Vocalist Rou Reynolds looks like Wayne Rooney and drummer Rob Rolfe looks like Frank Lampard. But their live show is intense!
Reynolds hops around like a madman, climbing amplifiers, throwing himself on the floor, bashing amps over and, at one point, inserting one of Rolfe’s cymbals into the crowd. People are crowd surfing, building human pyramids and standing on shoulders everywhere. A guy in a Dalmatian suit crowd surfs in a rubber dinghy. A girl flashes a boob on the giant screen... It’s all pretty breathtaking.
Reynolds asks everyone to pick up a paper cup and throw it into the air as the next song kicks in. And suddenly, the sky's littered with (empty) paper cups. It actually looks pretty awesome.
On the Lockup Stage, Bedouin Soundclash wrap things up with a guest appearance by Hot Water Music guitarist and co-vocalist Chuck Ragan. Then it’s time for the mighty Gainesville legends themselves. And they sound awesome!
Chain-smoking ‘til the bitter end, with a bent peak and a worn flannel shirt, Chris Wollard looks like a character from My Name Is Earl.
“Trusty Chords”, “A Flight and a Crash” and “Rooftops” knock my socks off. And their last song, a cover of Bouncing Souls’ “True Believers”, inspires a mass sing-along by all the hangers-on watching from the side of stage. Ragan and Wollard look moved by the crowd’s response.
Later I catch a bit of Panic at the Disco from the bar. Then a bit of Death From Above 1979’s two man, black-and-white-suited, garage rock, scream, fuck rock. Before heading over to the Festival Republic stage for a glimpse at Bloc Party bassist Gordon Moakes and The Automatic guitarist Paul Mullen’s band Young Legionnaire. Who end with Mullen smashing one of drummer Dean Pearson’s cymbals with his guitar.
Back at the Lockup stage, the hardest working man in showbiz, Frank Turner, is on stage playing his second show of the day when the second hardest working man in showbiz, Chuck Ragan - making his third appearance of the day - comes out for a cover of Billy Bragg’s “The World Turned Upside Down”.
After that I get to the NME/Radio 1 Stage just in time to see The Streets main man Mike Skinner mount a monitor. “I came here to die”, he keeps saying. “We are gonna die here together”. Turns out it's the band's last show ever - talk about melodramatic...
Like the records, the new songs lack the punch of classics like “Blinded By the Light” and “Don’t Mug Yourself”. And for some reason, Skinner keeps screaming “Reading, you look like you’ve been rocking for days!” and “Can you see my hand? Can you see my hand?” over his backup singers’ sweet melodies.
“Are there any gangsters in the house”, he asks. “Where’s all the real g’s. I need some drugs!” The live show’s awesome with a full band but Skinner’s a pretty annoying character on stage.
Unlike Flogging Molly frontman Dave King, who points to a kid in the front row, “Look at this guy in the Descendents shirt!” he says. The crowd cheers. “No, wait…” King continues. “He’s wearing sunglasses and it’s dark. So he’s either blind or he’s an arsehole”. You’ve gotta love anyone that quotes Larry David.
On the other side of the arena the Main Stage is draped in a giant curtain - just like the Wizard of Oz - as the entire festival makes a mass exodus towards it. The amount of people on the move is pretty overwhelming and festival closers (on the Main Stage) Muse look set to host the largest crowd of the weekend.
The draw about tonight’s Muse show is they’re playing their 1991 album Origin of Symmetry, song by song, from start to finish. And when the curtain drops, the display is unbelievable. Sculptures of the giant, contorted tuning fork aerials/rugby posts from the album cover dwarf the three band members, a giant video screen beams UFOs across the stage and lights and lasers illuminate the sky like it's the Apocalypse.
Muse sound incredible, showing up on time - like true professionals - and tearing their way through the album with minimal chatter. On stage, guitarist, vocalist and piano playing virtuoso Matt Bellamy is phenomenal, and ten years ago, Origin of Symmetry captured him, drummer Dominic Howard and bassist Chris Wilstenholme at their hungry best.
During album closer “Megalomania”, fire shoots from the front of the stage. Great balls of fire, bellowing up into the sky. And I have to wonder, “who pays for all this shit?” If Muse fork the bill, they wouldn’t make anything. So logically, they must design their set, lighting effects and pyro and send Reading the bill (on top of their performance fee). Incredible!
Muse come back out for a multi album-spanning encore. Bellamy even has time to play the intro to Deftones' "My Own Summer" before "Stockholm Syndrome".
The last band I have time for before it’s time to say goodbye is Californian punk rock legends Descendents. Drummer Bill Stevenson is an animal with style. What a drummer! And frontman Milo Aukerman sounds like he got his voice back…
Then, suddenly, it’s time to leave. And I must admit, I’ve had a wicked weekend away...