Monday, 25 October 2010

Later With Jools Holland

Throughout its 18 year history, Later with Jools Holland has given me as much pain as it has pleasure; and this week's instalment was no exception. Appearing for the pleasure principle this week, we had the bastard sons of Bruce Springsteen and Jesse Malin, The Gaslight Anthem, ripping through a couple of songs from their raucous second album - American Slang. Alongside them, there was Marques Toliver, who for the first time since the spending review announcement, made me stop thinking about the odious sight of the Coalition government laughing and cheering as The Gidiot (thanks to The Guardian's Lucy Mangan for coming up with such a wonderful nickname) announced his malicious plan to wipeout the poor and the vulnerable. Toliver, could well be the most enchanting thing I have heard all year, and is another great example of Later's ability to unearth hidden gems (see also Bon Iver's 2008 appearance). A link to Marques Toliver's blog, which features his appearance on Later, can be found in my blog list.

The pain this week, surprisingly, wasn't actually inflicted by Welsh warbler, Duffy, who with a new album to promote, performed three songs and had a cosy chat with Later's portly presenter. I often wish that the producers of Later would drop the excruciating 'interview' section of the show, as it would allow more time for live music, and the viewers and studio audience wouldn't have to listen to Holland bumble his way through a series of terrible questions that have been designed as a link to a piece of archive footage of the interviewee performing on Top of the Pops or The Old Grey Whistle Test.

The pain (and remember we're all in this together) came from the abominable Crystal Fighters, who brought an uncontrollable urge in me to kick through my television set and go out and do something less boring instead. A crustie/rave hybrid, taking the worst bits (which doesn't leave much else) from The Levellers, Jesus Jones, The Klaxons and the cast of Tomorrow's People; Crystal Fighters are a band straight from the imagination of Ben Elton should he decide to write a musical interpretation of the Battle of Beanfield.
The music itself was bad enough, but what really tipped my scales of vexation, was the 'bandmember' slumped up against a monitor, whose only contribution to the performance, was to stare out across the Later studio, looking as if she had just necked her mother's secret stash of temazepam. Now I appreciate she isn't the first member of a group to stand on stage and appear not to be contributing to the sound emanating from the speakers , but at least some of them had the temerity to shake a fucking maraca!

In a week of pain, Crystal Fighters were the painful cherry on top of my pain filled gateaux.

Pass the morphine!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Cool for Cats

She may have been denied the Mercury Music Award, but Laura Marling is the one having the last laugh, as today, the NME have named her the coolest person in music. Beating current hipster favourites Janelle Monae and Darwin Deez into first place, Marling joins Jack White, Alex Turner and Justin Timberlake who have all topped the 'cool list' in previous years.

And that sound in the distance? The Nu-folk brigade choking on their Ruddles, as they hear the news that their beloved Marling has been elected the Queen of Cool by the indie peasants.

Off with their heads!

Heaven 17 - Temptation

Remember the Eighties? Do you? Yeah! Great weren't they? Thatcher? Yeah! She was great! The Iron Lady? How about the Falklands War? Yeah! Remember those mass graves full of British soldiers? Yuppies? Oh Yeah! They were great! Weren't they? Yeah! The Yuppies. No queueing up outside soup kitchens for them. The Yuppies. No standing on picket lines for them. No standing around waiting to hurl abuse at strike-breaking miners for them. Not the Yuppies. No. They were all down at Annabel's. Strutting their stuff to Duran Duran. Remember them? The Duranies? Remember them on their big yacht? Remember the Spans? Yeah? Spandau Ballet? The Spans? Wham? Culture Club? The Thompson Twins? Kershaw? Jones? The Eighties. Yeah!

Walk into the nearest HMV and seek out the compilation section. Pick up the latest Sony/BMG release that has pulled together all the greatest hits of the 80's and have a quick read through the tracklisting. They're all there. Along with the likes of Kajagoogoo, Tiffany, Bros. The list is endless. But what you won't see, are the bands who made the 80's one of the greatest decades for music. No REM. No Echo and the Bunnymen. No New Order. No Husker Du. No Happy Mondays. No Stone Roses. Where are The Fall, The Wonderstuff, The Smiths? What about The Blue Aeroplanes, A Guy Called Gerald, De La Soul? All these artists, and many many more, made records that have stood the test of time, and for any discerning music fan, defined the decade more than Curiosity Killed the fucking Cat ever did.

Like Manchester and Liverpool, the city of Sheffield produced some of the greatest bands from this period. Pulp, The Human League, ABC, Cabaret Voltaire and Heaven 17, who with 'Temptation' made one of the greatest pop songs of all time.

Heaven 17 - Temptation (live on later)

Monday, 18 October 2010

Caitlin Rose - Shanghai Cigarettes

The next official Velvet Owl gig takes us to the Brudenell Social Club in the heart of Leeds' studentville, to see Caitlin Rose. Sounding like a female Ryan Adams when he allowed his honky tonk leanings get the better of him, Rose has been building a steady UK fanbase following several festival appearances this summer.

Caitlin Rose - Shanghai Cigarettes

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Black Mountain - The Hair Song

6 Music are all over this like a cheap suit at the moment. Is it me, or does it sound a little like Tim Burgess on lead vocals?

Black Mountain - The Hair Song

Thursday, 14 October 2010

British Sea Power - Tokyo Nightclub, Huddersfield

'I rode over mountains to Huddersfield, a wilder people I never did see' John Wesley, 1757

The Huddersfield landscape has changed quite considerably over the past 250 years (though Merrie England Coffee Shop on a Saturday afternoon can still be quite raucous), but despite its recent cosmopolitan face lift, the town is still without a recognised live music venue, the type that attracts the calibre of bands that are regulars on the 6 Music playlist or current darlings of the NME/Uncut/Q/Mojo (delete where appropriate).

Though the history books will show that during Christmas 1977, Huddersfield played host to the final shows The Sex Pistols played in the UK; over the past thirty years, the town has become somewhat of a popular music wasteland, and can only lay claim to be the hometown of indie landfill founders, Embrace and for the local College being the further education alma mater of Justin Hawkins from plastic metallers The Darkness.

So it came as some surprise, that British Sea Power (on their night off from supporting the Manics on their UK tour, no less) decided to rock up to Huddersfield to perform an intimate gig at Tokyo's nightclub.

With new e.p. Zeus and album Valhalla Dancehall to promote, not to mention a fine line in quirky merchandise, the band performed a raucous set to a small but appreciative audience. While the band seemed very much at home with performing the new material, it was old classics such as Carrion, Waving Flags, Louis and set closer Lucifer that had the crowd (especially the two Reni look-a-likes from Lincoln) punching the air with delight.

With The Bluetones and The Sunshine Underground up next at Tokyo's, and the Holmfirth Picturedrome continuing to attract acts such as The Fall and Badly Drawn Boy, Huddersfield appears to be finally shaking off the ghosts of Christmas past.