Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Fall, Epic Studios, Norwich

The recent publicity for the 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles "Love Me Do", and subsequent re-visiting of all things mop-top across all forms of media, called to mind a comment made by a pre-fame Kurt Cobain, some twenty-odd years back.  Cobain's assertion that the Fab Four wrote every pop song it was possible to write, and that all subsequent acts have merely re-hashed the Lennon/McCartney back catalogue, is difficult to argue with, and it is clear that the Beatles continue to cast a long shadow over the world of popular music.  To give the Nirvana frontman his due, he more than most in recent years manged to put a different spin on the songs that changed the world, and one always had the feeling Lennon would have approved of Cobain's music and refusal to abide by industry rules.  In his short time as the frontman of the world's biggest band, Cobain constantly sought to reinvent his band's sound and had no interest in standing still.  "In Utero" was a long way from being "Nevermind II".

But to find a band who have truly continued to push things forward, eschewing all claims to commerciality whilst honing a sound that is uniquely their own, one would have to go a long way to touch the majesty of The Fall.  That they can pull this number of diehards to a former TV studio (the home of Trisha!) in the heart of Norwich on a wet midweek evening, with no new material to push, is testament to their continued appeal.  That the sound continues to be this uncompromising, yet still undeniably pop and in thrall to the sounds coming out of Liverpool half a century ago, offers proof of the genius that is Mark E Smith.  Yes, genius is a much over-used word, but an hour in the man's company leaves you in little doubt.

Tonight, Smith is on imperious form, prowling the stage, microphone in each hand, twiddling with the amps and driving his tremendously well-drilled band to new levels of excellence.  Of course, the lyrics continue to be as unintelligible as ever, but that voice is now so iconic that just the fact that sounds are emerging is more than enough.  The set draws mainly from more recent material, with "Bury Parts I and II" from "Your Future Our Clutter" providing a clear mid set highlight, but it is during a much deserved encore that things go stratospheric.  Smith performs a blistering "Reformation" from behind the speakers at the side of stage, looking at once both ridiculously like a scalded schoolboy and like the coolest man alive.  Near-hit "Theme From Sparta FC" keeps the pace at furious levels, before a final, triumphant run through "Mr Pharmacist" sends the faithful away ecstatic and reminds all just how long The Fall have been cranking out shit this good, constantly at the top of their game.

If The Beatles truly did write all of pop music, then better The Fall continue as the keepers of the flame, rather than the dullards regularly foisted on us as the next big thing by the music media.  We will never see their like again.  Enjoy them while you can.

The encore of the Fall gig and an interview with MES can be viewed HERE


Monday, 22 October 2012

GNOD, Goat, Teeth of the Sea The Lexington, London

I’ve been looking forward to this one. Three of my favourite bands of the past few years courtesy of Rocket Recordings, the coolest label around with great ears for some of the loopiest psych, prog-post-rock electronics this side of 1998. Oh and their records look lovely too.

So arriving just as GNOD start their psychedelic 45 minute spin out over waves of effects and a backdrop of audible moon dust, I realise I have no idea what the members of Gnod do or look like. Apparently people slip-in and out of the band when they like and the jam-style nature of their live set means you aren’t going to see the same Gnod twice. Tonight however they are a fairly conventional band set-up fronted by a bowl-cutted singer who looks like an Inspiral Carpet inside the frail body of the boy from the Secret Garden. In a paisley shirt. Tomorrow night the frontman will probably be a pile of Hawkwind records and a bong.
Although improvisation sounds a little dirty and indulgent in 2012, Gnod make their sludgy psychedelic space rock sound less like a stoned jam but a genuine attempt at treading new sonic ground. The primordial drum beat leaves the entire audience spellbound, apart from the few who are as high as a kite and plod out a trance like dance. Last track Tonys First Communion which is played over spiralling stained glass visuals, threatening organs and samples of a Catholic church service, makes the transition from last years InGnodWeTrust LP very well, and confirms for me that Gnod are one of the most exciting bands around.

You can’t beat a band in a mask. Daft Punk (always). Slipknot (hell yeah). Eminem (chain-sawing in 2001). The Manics (a balaclava-clad Faster on Top of the Pops). The list goes on, and GOAT are no exception as they greet the crowd like extras from Live And Let Die the musical. Despite the guitarists execution mask being a bit too creepy, they look amazing and his shuddering guitar sounds alongside the tessellating, kaleidoscopic visuals from their LP sleeve help provide a deranged atmosphere.
With this being Goats first EVER gig I naturally had a few doubts about how their fantastic debut would come across live. No worries there as Goats sound is rabidly high-powered and the strength of tunes such as Goatman, Let it Bleed and Run to Your Mama mean they just can’t fail. The singer and voodoo ‘Bez’ figure duel dance their way through the set with a vague suggestion they are referencing something more sinister, but more likely its the only possible way to do these bat shit crazy songs justice. By dancing.
I‘ve read quite a few reviews of Goats debut album but words only seem to further confuse, as it really is all over the place. Afrobeat? Psych-trance-metal? Krautrock? Some Stonesy bits. Some Disco bits. Ah, just go and get it. A large crowd of fans brandishing vinyl copies of World Music was a pleasure to see. I hope our paths cross again very soon as I get the impression that Goat, like many great bands, may not be around for that long. I haven't ever checked YouTube the day after a gig before but I really wanted to see these Swedish rockers do their stuff for a bit longer. Here is what I found.

So to finish, and following that onslaught those poor bastards TEETH OF THE SEA have a difficult task. But despite the room thinning out a little they do a mighty fine job of interpreting the ferocious atmosphere and electronic elements of their 2010 album You’re Mercury. It was this LP that helped me into discovering many delights from the Rocket Recordings roster, so I was pleased to hear elements of it tonight. The bands use of synths alongside live trumpets gives them an amazing sound which I’m reluctant to pigeon-hole as post-rock, but it certainly isn’t ‘rock’ of any kind I’ve heard before. What is remarkable about TOTS live is how they are seemingly in complete control of these sounds and unnerving noises, and produce a lion-taming display of raging, penned-in sonics, which is exactly what I want to be faced with on a Friday night.


Friday, 19 October 2012

Velvet Owl Single of the Week

A late contender for our albums of the year list, singer-songwriter Josephine Oniyama's Portrait is full of instantly hummable pop music that sounds perfect in the autumn sunshine. The new single 'Original Love' is released on the 22nd October.

Josephine - Original Love

Best Songs of the Nineties

Having been inspired to put together our favourite albums of the 90s following a chance meeting with Martin Carr at this year's Green Man Festival, the Velvet Owl have gone one step further and chosen their favourite songs from that decade too. I'm sure there are a few in here that will have you raging into the night and questioning our taste, but I'm sure you will get over it. 

1. Babies - Pulp

2. Straight to You - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

3. Dry the Rain - The Beta Band

4. Unfinished Sympathy - Massive Attack

5. Live Forever - Oasis 

6. Motorcycle Emptiness - Manic Street Preachers
7. Undone (The Sweater Song) – Weezer
8. Cut Your Hair – Pavement
9. Give Me Daughters – Jonathan Fire Eater
10. Kowalski– Primal Scream
11. Waitin’ For Superman – The Flaming Lips
12. Wishing I Was Skinny – The Boo Radleys
13.  Loser -Beck
14. Something 4 the Weekend – Super Furry Animals
15. Sabotage –The Beastie Boys
16. Come Together (album version) - Primal Scream
17. If I Can't Change Your Mind - Sugar
18. You Got The Love – The Source
19. Natalie’s Party – Shack
20. Alcoholiday - Teenage Fanclub
21. Someday I Will Treat You Good – Sparklehorse
22. All Apologies - Nirvana
23. Trigger Cut - Pavement
24. Blue Flowers – Dr Octagon
25. Olympian – Gene
26. Lazarus - The Boo Radleys
27. Cannonball - The Breeders
28. Common People - Pulp
29. Bill Is Dead - The Fall
30. The Asphalt World - Suede
31. Born Slippy - Underworld
32. Fanfare – Eric Matthews
33. Tonight we fly – Divine Comedy
34. Ice Hockey Hair - Super Furry Animals
35. For Tomorrow - Blur
36. Race For The Prize – The Flaming Lips
37. Ladies and Gentlemen We’re Floating in Space (Elvis version) – Spiritualized
38.  Dress - PJ Harvey
39. Fuzzy – Grant Lee Buffalo
40. Groove is in the Heart - Dee-Lite
41. Silver Machines – Cardinal
42. Birdy– 22 Pisterpikko
43. Lover You Should Have Come Over - Jeff Buckley
44. Regret - New Order
45. Why Don’t You Take Me – One Dove
46. Loaded - Primal Scream
47. The Concept - Teenage Fanclub
48. Waltz No.2 – Elliot Smith
49. Gepetto – Belly
50. Cigarettes Will Kill You – Ben Lee
51. Golden Skin – Silver Sun
52. End Credits - Laptop
53. Tomorrow – James
54. Friends of P – The Rentals
55. Inside story – Chris Knox
56. Another Day, Another Riot – The Toasted Heretic
57. Wise Up – Aimee Mann
58. Papua New Guinea – Future Sound of London
59. You Were meant For Me – Jewel
60. Superstar – Superstar
61. I Think I'm In Love - Spiritualized
62. Standing At The Doorstep Of Love - The Rockingbirds
63. Digital Black Epilogue - Urge Overkill
64. Don’t I Hold You – Wheat
65. Da Funk - Daft Punk
66. Higher State of Conciousness - Josh Winx
67. I See a Darkness Bonnie Prince Billy
68.  No Diggity - Blackstreet
69. The Man Don’t Give a Fuck - Super Furry Animals
70. Summer Babe - Pavement                                                                            

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Norwich Sound & Vision 2012

Today has been spent recovering from four days of live music across the fine city of Norwich. Presently without the stamina to write a comprehensive review of the events of the past few days (although one may follow) I can include links for the individual reviews I wrote over the past few days, moonlighting for the local paper.







Saturday, 6 October 2012

The Best Albums of the Nineties

Whilst enjoying a rare burst of sunshine at this year's rain-soaked Green Man festival, several members of the Owl accepted an invitation from a festival friend to birthday drinks in the family field.  Upon arrival at the host's camper van cum party venue, it came as something of a pleasant shock to some of our number to be introduced to none other than Mr Martin Carr.  It seems the chief Boo Radley and latter day Brave Captain is something of a fixture in the Brecon Beacons for the annual folk-fest, and as the Leffe flowed he proved to be sparkling company.  It all proved too much for your correspondent - a long standing follower of the Boos - however, and in greeting Carr with the words "you made the best record of the 90s", I managed to set the tone for much of the afternoon's conversation.  To his eternal credit, Carr responded to my fanish inquisition with grace and (I imagine, I was quite drunk) a good deal of patience, and the afternoon festivities drew to a close with warm glows all round and a promise made to myself that I would never wash my right hand again. A true gent.
The encounter also led to a somewhat heated debate over the remainder of the weekend between myself and other, more cloth-eared, members of the Owl fraternity who, for some inexplicable reason, do not quite share my view that the Boo Radleys magnum opus "Giant Steps" is the masterpiece I  have always believed it to be.  The debate raged and ultimately resulted in the list you are about to peruse below these words, a list which details the VO verdict on the best albums of the 90s.  And although a sea of support for The Flaming Lips and their career-defining long-player "The Soft Bulletin" saw them pip The Boos to the top spot, the top of the list in particular demonstrates that, in amongst the backwards-looking bulk of the Britpop output that dominated the charts in the second half of the 90s, there were some acts who were willing to take risks in the recording studio, in the process producing records as diverse and wildly imaginative as the top 5 listed below.
While the whole list culture has grown somewhat tiresome in recent years, there is still much fun to be had unpicking run-downs such as this one (can there really be people out there who think Oasis got better after 1994? Why no more SFA? etc) and if Mr Carr happens to be reading this, I hope he is able to take some satisfaction from his chart placing.  Like me, though, I suspect he knows that he really should be one place higher.  You can tell me I'm wrong, but I'm not.


1 – The Soft Bulletin - The Flaming Lips
2 – Giant Steps – The Boo Radleys
3 – Screamadelica - Primal Scream
4 – Slanted & Enchanted – Pavement
5 – Radiator - Super Furry Animals
6 – Summerteeth - Wilco
7 – Ladies & Gentlemen, we are Floating in Space - Spiritualized
8 – Vivadixietransmissionsubmarineplot - Sparklehorse
9 – Cardinal - Cardinal
10 – His’N’Hers - Pulp
11 – 41 - Swell
12 – Black Foliage : Animation Music - Olivia Tremor Control
13 – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain - Pavement
14 – Parklife - Blur
15 – Pills, Thrills & Bellyaches - The Happy Mondays
16 – Laughing Stock - Talk Talk
17 – Liberation - Divine Comedy
18 – Debut album (aka the blue album) - Weezer
19 – The La’s - The La’s
20 – Tindersticks - Tindersticks
21) Strangers Almanac – Whiskeytown

22) Grand Prix - Teenage Fanclub

23) If You’re Feeling Sinister - Belle & Sebastian

24) Dummy – Portishead

25) Grace - Jeff Buckley

26) Homework - Daft Punk

27) Blue Lines - Massive Attack

28) OK Computer - Radiohead
29) Endtroducing - DJ Shadow
30) Deserter's Songs - Mercury Rev
31) Agaetis Byrjun - Sigur Ros
32) Achtung Baby - U2 
33) What's the Story - Oasis
34) Bandwagonesque - Teenage Fanclub 
35) Definitely Maybe - Oasis 
36) Nevermind - Nirvana 
37) Automatic for the People - REM 
38) Exit the Dragon - Urge Overkill 
39) Ill Communication - The Beastie Boys 
40) This is Hardcore - Pulp 
Too vanilla? Check out Sammy Merry's alternative list:

Guilty Pleasures of the Nineties

Friday, 5 October 2012

Something for the Weekend #8

Hands up who likes My Bloody Valentine? Chances are you will probably like the new LP from Ringo Deathstarr. From the first listen it sounds almost identical to last year's Color Trip album, which in turn sounded exactly like New York self-celebrators A Place To Bury Strangers who themselves definitely sound exactly like My Bloody Valentine. But is that such a bad thing?

You can stream Mauve in its entirety  HERE and decide for your bloody selves.

With yesterday apparently marking the 50th anniversary of those ruddy Beatles releasing their first single, Love Me Do, it seems only fair to end this blog post with a tune from them. But which one?  Next Wednesday a few Norwich Owls are taking an outing to see the mighty Fall (and the Undertones and Bearsuit) as the curtain raiser for the Norwich Sound and Vision John Peel Festival which will be on all next weekend in the Fine City.  Set across  tons of venues and bars in the city it should be a great four days of live music. I'm personally looking forward to seeing Liars, Errors, Tall Ships, Public Service Broadcasting, Octagon Court, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and this week's NME cover stars Palma Violets.

I couldn't find a Fall cover of Love Me Do so you'll have to make do with this.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Velvet Owl Single of the Week

I Am Kloot - Hold Back the Night

Alas, not a cover of The Trammps 1976 soul classic, but a welcome return nonetheless for the mighty I am Kloot. Hold Back the Night is the first single from the band's new album Let It All In that is scheduled for release in January.