Wednesday, 20 February 2013

NME Awards Tour, Norwich UEA

In the run-up to this annual shindig, much is often made of the frequency with which the opening act goes on to grace the world's largest stages, with names such as Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys and, erm, Kaiser Chiefs regularly cited among those who stepped up to the big leagues on the back of the 7pm slot on the tour, a timeslot which, predictably, we managed to miss. Arriving ten minutes into Peace's set, however, it appeared to these ears at least, that a different band had turned up to the Peace we saw at the city's Arts Centre before christmas, as that Peace were a slightly ramshackle but genuinely exciting affair, the kind of band that could inspire stage invasions through a set that rattled along at a melodic lick.  This set sounded a little too cleaned up to me, and maybe the constant touring cycle has left Peace a little too polished for their own good.  There are still tunes, and some of them are bloody big ones, but a little more chaos wouldn't go amiss.

All of which made Palma Violets' job that little bit easier but, to be honest, they could have gone on stage after the Strokes circa 2001 and still given every act who ever appeared under this banner a run for their money.  Here was another band who have put the hard miles in in recent months, but their set maintained an edge that had been lacking earlier in the evening.  180 is shaping up to be the album that soundtracks 2013, and if songs such as Best Of Friends end up dulled through over-exposure, that shouldn't detract from what a blistering collection of tunes they are.  For thirty minutes or so, I more than anything wanted to be the bass player, singer, chief roadie, tee-shirt seller, anything in this band, and that surely is what all bands should inspire in their audience, right?

I don't want to be in Miles Kane's band though.  From the off, I always had Kane pegged as an odd choice for this tour, and nothing that happened during his set changed that opinion.  If I'd heard that he was on the bill with the Courteeners, the Strypes and Jake Bugg I would have understood (though not bought a ticket) , but I've always found his music a bit too Noel, a bit too Kasabian, a bit too bloke, and for me that wasn't what this evening was about.  And the leather trousers looked ridiculous.  Who in God's name holds up Bobby G as a style icon these days?  Inhaler is an IKEA classic, music put together from other bits of stuff that might look alright at first, but is likely to fall apart two or three listens in.  Like Macdonalds food, it starts out kind of alright, but soon leaves you a little bit angry with yourself for partaking.  A fellow Owl spent Kane's set listening to mbv through headphones, which should be the last word on the matter.

And the final word on the evening goes to Django Django, who brought Friday night, hands in the air good times to the youth of Norwich, thoroughly justifying their slot at the top of the bill and inspiring stupidly drunken grins from most of those present through a set of songs that took us up and then down in all the right places.  Spilling out into the cold air and predictably fruitless search for a taxi, it was, for the most part, heartening to realise that British music continues to be in safe hands.  Just next time NME, ditch the leather pants.


Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The Day I Gave Up On Primal Scream..

The new 'political' single from Primal Scream, titled 2013, is a miserable experience which even the guitar wizardry of Kevin Shield can't save. The chorus goes "Twenty-thirteen, twenty-thirteen, twenty-thirteen, all right". Honestly... 
So I'm through with them! Primal Scream have made three great albums with the last being thirteen years ago. They have also made some utter crap and I suspect that this years LP More Light will be, well, more shite than light. Three good albums is not a bad return but I'm sick of the PS quality being so yo-yo in its output. Imagine if between every Radiohead LP you slotted a crap Stones cover album? Wouldn't happen. Imagine if between every Kraftwerk album you slotted a Status Quo inspired pub rock LP? Wouldn't happen. Put simply XTRMNTR, Screamadelica and Vanishing Point are great, actually in many parts incredible and ground-breaking, but I would rather get a Shed 7 tattoo on my face than listen to 'Rocks', 'Jailbird' or 'Country Girl'... And as for the likes of 'Funky Jam'...


With 10 being a literally amazing album and 1 being the lowest dregs of recorded music (note how three LPs drop below this) here is my final visual word on PS.

 (Just realised Evil Heat does not deserve an 8 but can't be arsed to change it... 4 maybe)

Monday, 18 February 2013

Velvet Owl Single of the Week

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - So Good at Being in Trouble 

Taken from UMO's staggeringly good second album, this track will not leave your head all day once you hear it.

Don't say you haven't been warned. 

Friday, 15 February 2013

I Am Kloot, Leeds Irish Centre

I Am Kloot - Let It All In

The Irish Centre has long been an established live music venue in Leeds, and does ok in attracting some big names, especially when you consider the city also boasts two universities an O2 Academy and the marvellous Brudenell Social Club. Down the years, I have seen a number of bands there and have great memories of dancing like a funky chicken to the 'baggy' sound of Northside and looking on aghast as my drunk and lairy brother cadged a light from Richard Ashcroft during an Oasis gig and asked him what he was going to do now the Gallagher's had stolen his thunder. Indeed, in an interview with Q magazine a number of years later, Ashcroft claimed that this little exchange inspired him to go away and write Urban Hymns. I have never forgiven my brother for this.

However, while the Irish Centre holds a lot of great memories for me, I have never really warmed to it as a live music venue. The split-level room (standing area/dancefloor in front of the stage and seats and tables at the back) is set up more for a 'chicken-in-a-basket' bingo night than it is for live music, and while the sizeable stage and decent PA system tick the right boxes, the wide room and tall ceilings don't help to create an 'atmosphere' that audience and bands thrive on. This is a point picked up by Kloot frontman, John Bramwell, who teases those in attendance tonight for being a tad polite. Indeed, it is not until the back end of the band's set where the crowd start to get a little animated and provide hearty backing vocals on set closers Proof and Radiation.

The venue and the sedate crowd, however, don't appear to bother the band in the slightest. With a new album under their belt, the band look as if they're ready to shake off the shackles of the studio and have some fun. Of the new songs, a graceful Shoeless and a majestic Hold Back the Night are standouts, while Twist and the aforementioned Proof help to shake up the lifeless Leeds crowd. While a touching embrace between Bramwell and guitarist, Tom Knott, following the latter's spellbinding solo on Bullets helps to warm the heart on a cold and bitter evening. The Revolver-esque These Days Are Mine brings proceedings to a close, the band bid us farewell, and we make our way through the Irish Centre's corridors adorned with posters promoting karaoke and quiz nights and out into the night, and for this reviewer at least,  wishing we'd bought tickets for Manchester instead.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Velvet Owl Single of the Week

Foxygen - Oh Yeah

We've already highlighted our disliking towards the band's name, but we can't help but love Foxygen's quirky  
electro sound. This single is taken from their brilliant new album 'We are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic (album title of the year, anyone?) and is accompanied by this great video, that has the band titting about in what appears to be their nan's front room.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

15 Favourite Live Albums...

As the VO is primarily in it for the 'live' experience I have long considered compiling a list of my own favourite live albums and inspired by the recent Quietus list of the same thing I decided to give it a go. On first consideration I thought that I would only have a handful of live albums and rather than being a list of the best it would be a pretty lame list of every Live LP I own. But on closer inspection I have bunches of the things. Some of them are dreadful (where did Barclay James Harvest come from?) and most are barely even worth mentioning as their difference from studio to live is minimal to say the least (Oasis' Familiar to Millions?). I have decided to not include Peel Sessions (so no Fall) or 'Live Studio' albums as thats surely cheating.

So here is a list of my 15 (ten is never enough) favourite live albums. Please feel free to add your suggestions to this list below.


Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl

Bonkers level of screaming from the first second to the last and I doubt the man to woman ratio has ever been so skewed anywhere. Ever. I read an account of a guy who was at the gig who claimed the crowd was the loudest thing he had ever heard and that after the gig he had more sex than he had ever had before or since. Not sure what to make of that but its a lot more eventful than the usual VO night. The music? Sometimes you can just about make out some of the drums. The opener Twist and Shout is a highlight.
Talking Heads Stop Making Sense
Whilst this is undeniably all about watching the movie of the same name and its gradual on stage build up of musicians and sounds, the LP is a great art-funk addition. If you haven't heard the live versions of Psycho Killer and Once In A Lifetime I suggest you do so asap.

Radiohead I Might Be Wrong
Worth its inclusion in this list alone for containing their best non-album track True Love Waits which sees one of Thom Yorkes finest vocal performances. Also it’s never a chore to hear Radiohead's (other) finest moment Idioteque live in all its bleeping glory.


Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! The Rolling Stones in Concert
I’m not the biggest Rolling Stones fan but I do love this one, which is here as much as anything for the fun Jagger has with the screaming crowd between each song: “I think I popped a button on my trousers, I hope they don’t fall down. You wouldn’t want my trousers to fall down now, would you?” What a cheeky champ he was.
Street Fighting Man, Honky Tonk Women and Jumpin’ Jack Flash are three more good reason whys this is a truly, great live album.
David Bowie – Stage
This double LP of the 1978 tour covers the two (best) albums of the previous year, Heroes and Low, and also relies heavily on Station to Station and oddly Ziggy Stardust. About as good as it gets in my book.
The instrumentals from Low and Heroes sound incredible live and there is a great version of Station to Station, which apparently is made up from several different live recordings. This either shows how good Bowie and the band were live, or how slick Tony Visconti was at recording it as it sounds fantastic. The tracks are presented in a chronological order unlike the actual concert which began with Bowie entering the stage conducting the band into an epic Warszawa. Wish I was there.
Death in Vegas Satans Circus (live in Brixton)
I know they wish they were Kraftwerk, but so do I. Every single fucking day. This live CD that accompanies their (underrated) 2004 album is a great modern live electro album piping the likes of Justice and Daft Punk from my collection.


The Cramps – Smell Of Female
Possibly the finest charity shop 50 pence ever spent (aside from the Bowie LP above which was also purchased for 50p at the same time- someone obviously hated their live albums). six tracks of super-pumped and frantic psychobilly make this one of the most exciting 30 minutes of plastic in my possession and if these were in any particular order would probably be at number one. A live show that you really wish you were at, which is surely a live albums intention. Also one of my favourite album sleeves.
Throbbing Gristle - Heathen Earth
Christ knows what it was like to be in that room when they recorded this, but I have a (slow) growing warped fondness for this record and I think it does one good to dance like a demented loon every so often. Tracks like Don't Do As You're Told, Do As You Think make that quite easy, although most are a little harder to find a way into. The World is a War Film sounds like its title suggests and the words on the sleeve ‘Can the world be as sad as it seems?’ makes me feel sadder every time I look at it. Mint.
Pulp- This is Glastonbury
A fan club mail out mini CD from 1998, Jarvis is on fine form for these seven tracks. Highlights include the industrial opening guitar suspense of the Fear and a blinding version of Party Hard.

Raw & Alive: The Seeds in Concert at Merlin's Music Box
When the Velvet Owl Time Travel Gig Collective starts this will be the first stop. I think the Seeds made five of the best songs EVER made. (If you're interested to know which ones they are check out No Escape, Mr Farmer, Pushin' Too Hard, No Escape, Can't Seem To Make You Mine). EVERYTHING else they did sounds EXACTLY the same as these songs. in fact they ALL sound the same as each other. In fact the WHOLE live concert sounds like one 3 minute psychedelic garage pop song on repeat. But what a brilliant tune it is. Remember kids, No Seeds = No Fall. 
Hawkwind - Space Ritual
On my quest to discover the roots to something or other this gem came my way and it instantly made a large chunk of my CD collection seem a little pointless. For me this dispels a few prog myths as it isn't posh kids blending longwinded, rubbish re-writes of Beatles songs with even longer classical influences. Its far more interesting, in fact it's fucking bonkers. Who actually went to this gig? How do you recover from that and try to lead a normal life? My Dad once told me that when my Grandad was a milkman in the 70s, he met Hawkwind the morning after the night before on his rounds outside the venue they had been at the previous evening. Feeling somewhat indulged they shared a crate of milk and smoked some Woodbines. Cosmic.
DJ Shadow - In Tune and On Time
Bit biased as I saw DJ Shadow on this tour, but as far as I’m concerned this recording, just after his second album the Private Press, is James Lavelle at his very best.


Ash - Live at the wireless
One of the first CDs I ever bought. All the good un’s from 1977, plus (the best) Ash song Petrol and a blistering Ween cover What Deaner Was Talking About. Whilst Ash feel a little out of touch these days this makes me want to thrash about like a teenager in a way nothing else could ever do.
Eels- With Strings Live At Town Hall
Could be trimmed down a bit but does what I want a live album to do; something a bit different to the studio versions and its a good reminder of how many lovely songs Eels have penned.
Hookworms - Live Vol 1.
And something new! The mini-album recorded in Leeds in 2011. Five tracks of looping, psych-rock that when live sound transformed from the studio.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Velvet Owl Single of the Week

Granville - Jersey

When pop music is this perfect, who gives a flying onion if you don't speak the lingo. I bet you still throw yourself around the bedroom when Plastic Bertrand's Ca Plane Pour Moi comes on the radio. 

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Something for the Weekend #12 MBV

Sunday morning, Match of the Day re-run, cup of coffee, daughter quaffing Coco Pops and a fresh download of the new My Bloody Valentine album. Eh?

Yep, this isn't an elaborate hoax IT'S REAL. After hearing the news late last night I anticipated the website surge and thought I’d leave it until the morning. We’ve had to wait, so now they can. But I now have THE NEW MY BLOODY VALENTINE ALBUM playing before my very own (bleeding) ears with a slab of vinyl heading my way before the end of the month too.

So is it any good? As if that is important! Yet. No one SERIOUSLY thought Be Here Now or Kid A were better the first time, right? And although over time they weren't, the point I'm trying to make is just try to enjoy the moment. Next time MBV release I’ll be in my early 50s. But in answer to the question is it any good? Of course it ruddy is.

This is now the second ‘kid on Christmas morning’ feeling of the year with Bowie dominating my ear space for January with his gloriously stylish and actually musically impressive comeback. 2013 you are the year that just keeps giving. What next? Will Lee Mavers get his arse in gear and make the follow up to the Las debut?  No chance...

Whatever MBV turns out like (after the 50th listen) the cover, which incidentally looks like a still from the opening credits of the Bill, won’t be as good as this albums sleeve.

Sonic Cathedral, who brought us last years great Yeti Lane LP, have gone waaaay beyond with this compilation album: Psych for Sore Eyes. Double red and green vinyl, screen-printed kaleidoscopic Hawkwind-in-a-blender sleeve and a pair of 3D specs. The music isn’t half bad either with the opening track being from my current favourites, Hookworms (whose debut is out in March). This is from their 2011 EP...

...but this Spacemen 3 like lovliness from the Band in Heaven closes the LP, which also includes tracks from modern psychedelic loons Ttotals, The Vacant Lots, White Manna and Lorelle Meets The Obsolete.

If that wasn’t enough, buying the record (which is now sold out, suckers) entitles the owner to two tickets to see Hookworms and a bunch of others play at the launch night at the Red Gallery in London in a fortnight. Phew. And it’s a bring your own booze affair, psych for sore eyes indeed.