Sunday, 17 May 2009

LIVE: Bishop Allen, David Cronenberg's Wife, A Classic Education. The Windmill, Brixton, 10th May, 2009

The best thing about the Windmill isn’t the ramshackle barbeques, the affable crowd or even the headline acts that squeeze into this tiny venue, it’s the fact that no matter who it is you go there to see, there will always be a surprise gem to take home. Last night that crown fell on A Classic Education, an Italian alt-pop band touring their recently released single, the excellent Jeremy Warmsley produced ‘Best Regards’. With swathes of epic, American styled orchestral indie, they are a fun, dark and beautiful bundle.

David Cronenberg's Wife, up before the headliners, are another one of those great bands that not nearly enough people know about. Sounding like they've been transported from the 80s, their macabre lyrics are smoke tinged with a bitter, honest, comic edge.

Before heading back to America tomorrow Bishop Allen have just one last show to play and it was a treat to have them play it at the Windmill. Live they have boundless energy, relentlessly playing song after song without pausing for breath. With each new song they flutter between emotions – boisterous; angry; poetic; melancholy. The new songs sound bigger than they do on the stripped-back-to-the-bone sound of ‘Grrr’ and they delved into their past with oldies like ‘Busted Heart’ and a few tracks from their EP collections.

Bishop Allen are not big on banter, speaking only to introduce themselves, but that didn't make them any less charming and the little area in front of the stage was packed with a satisfied bunch of people by the end. It's just a shame they don't come to these shores more often.

Claire Evans

SINGLE: Lily Allen -Not Fair (EMI Records)

How do you review a song about premature ejaculation? The whole idea of it ends up outgrowing the song itself so every time I listen to it all I can think about is how it’s Lily having a good laugh at a guy who can’t hold it in. One thing that ‘Not Fair’ makes really clear is what a good songwriter Lily Allen is – the lyrics flow so easily you’d assume that she talks in songs and the deadpan delivery adds even more ironic hilarity to some already hilarious lyrics. Add the instrumentation which sounds like backing track to some low-budget western and the single has me bursting into near-lethal giggling fits. Even if you’re not taken in by its catchiness you have to respect her talent with words and unflinching honesty.

Ollie Khakwani

SINGLE: The Siegfried Sassoon - Muscle Beach/The Al Gore Rhythm (feat. Laura-Mary Carter) (Natural History Records)

A-side ‘Muscle Beach’ is perplexing – running from chorus to different chorus and patched together by completely different sounding verses, which while all well constructed individually (especially the counterbalancing of guitar chords and bleeps at the beginning), makes the song a bit hard to follow at first. Then again, the first chorus where the mariachi trumpets and harmonies come in is charming enough to win over the hardest-hearted of listeners. Still, it leaves you with a ‘what the hell just happened there?’ feeling.

AA-side ‘The Al Gore Rhythm’ is more of the same, featuring at the beginning a vocal battle between the lovely Laura-Mary Carter (of Blood Red Shoes) and what sounds like Wall-E, which in case you’re wondering is something definitely worth hearing. The once again crazy irregular beat and erratic guitar lines give the song a School of Language intelligent guitar pop feel, which if not catchy at first is at least pretty intriguing.

Ollie Khakwani

SINGLE: La Roux - In For the Kill (Polydor Records)

Holmes: Wow, for once the NME wasn’t bullshitting. This has 80s written all over it – mechanical drums, floaty retro synths and production so shiny you can see your reflection in it.

Watson: The vocals are amazing. Well either that or horrendously annoying. Or maybe part of that weird hinterland where the two exist at the same time. So…is it good?

Holmes: That depends on whether you think the 80s were good or not. Actually, let’s look at this more carefully. What happened in the 80s? AIDS, acceptable use of leather trousers, Thatcher, Tiananmen Square and Bon Jovi. Bad, bad, bad, bad, actually quite good.
Watson: Really?

Holmes: No.

Watson: Well I suppose at least it’s catchy.

Holmes: But the 80s were when the current generation of middle-agers were young. This is either going to get them bitching about how much they miss Saint Etienne or doing the robot or whatever atrocity they did in the 80s.

Watson: Oh. And the instrumental b-side was totally pointless.

Ollie Khakwani

Monday, 4 May 2009

FESTIVALS 2009: The Great Escape, Brighton, 15th-16th May

Brighton’s Great Escape is in its fourth year and already it is a highly anticipated event. Set against a seaside background, with plenty of ice-cream, fish ‘n’ chips and the pebbly beach at your disposal, the Great Escape festival rivals the Camden Crawl and has been described as the UK’s equivalent to Austin’s SXSW with its party atmosphere and music loving crowds.

This year is bigger and better than previous years with the seaside town hosting 300 new local and international bands across 34 stages inside and out as well as holding themed parties and club nights so you can enjoy yourself through the night as well as the day.

One of the best things about having a festival here is that gigs are relatively intimate and allow you to get up close and personal with your new favourite artists. And as it’s a student town, you can get great offers on food and drink. Bands on the bill this year include Metronomy, Patrick Wolf, Peggy Sue, Micachu and the Shapes, Brakes, Chairlift, Gang Of Four, Holy Fuck, Noah and the Whale and Johnny Flynn . Our recommended highlight will be The Maccabees show which will see the five-piece return to the place where it all began for them after the release of their second album.

So get yourself down to Brighton between 15th-16th May and witness some spectacular gigs within one of the most memorable backdrops.

There are still day and weekend tickets available.

Stacey Evans

Friday, 1 May 2009

Protest Songs For the 21st Century

After the nth argument with my Thatcher-cheerleader parents about why people can have other people to blame for being poor, I thought having hippie parents would be the coolest thing ever. And then I came to my senses and realised that more localised ranting about how the closest this generation gets to revolution is wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt that was probably stitched by 4 year olds held at gunpoint. But even if ideals have degraded to the point that Akon jingles about being locked up and not let out (for totally legitimate reasons) count as astute political commentary, in an effort to prove we’re not totally incapable of anarchy in the UK, here’s a rundown of the great protest songs of the 00s (minus Akon). It is MayDay, afterall:

Bloc Party – Hunting for Witches
Yep, back in the day Bloc Party lyrics were actually quite good (although compared to ‘at your funeral I was sad, so sad’ anything would be, but still). Add a killer guitar riff to a good old rant against the Daily Mail and everyone, except the neo-Nazis, are happy.

Rilo Kiley – It’s A Hit
There are lots and lots of brownie points for bands that can refer to their ex-President in a song as a monkey throwing his own shit at the enemy. Extra points if they sing as well as Jenny Lewis.

Metric – Succexy
Quite a few songs from Old World Underground are brilliant anti-war attacks on the Bush administration, but apart from its stroke-of-genius video, for once the left-wingers attack themselves for being so passive.

Sleater-Kinney – Combat Rock
The American government were lucky not nearly enough people listen to Sleater-Kinney because they’re more than persuasive enough to incite civil disobedience. A comprehensive attack on wars for oil, consumerist culture, use of arguments involving ‘patriotism’ to silence any dissent and a killer guitar hook on top of that.

M.I.A. – Paper Planes
Sampling/stealing from a Clash song about immigration (Straight to Hell), having a chorus of gunshots and a ka-ching! sounds, and attacking the perception of immigrants?! M.I.A. is a genius.
Green Day – American Idiot
Well, yes, in one way it was selling out, but seeing their cover shot on Q will make you yearn for the good old days of 2004 when 12 year old girls were suddenly ready to burn the good old stars and stripes.

Gossip – Standing in the Way of Control
Even if their 15 minutes of fame barely spanned an undeserved cover of the NME and being used on Skins, their breakout single buzzes with righteous rage about the American ex-government’s abuse of their Constitution by refusing to legalise gay marriage.

Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Thou Shalt Always Kill
3 minutes where pretty much everything wrong with the world gets attacked: Coca Cola, Nestle, not liking bands just because they become popular, making generic music, the NME etc.
Ollie Khakwani