Wednesday, November 24, 2004A Pure Glasgae Kiss, likes
Glasgow is the place to be right now, apparently. It's always been pretty cool (and this is coming from the perspective of an Edinburger!), but over the last few years a very vibrant and exciting music scene has been developing in a place named the Chateau - an abandoned art deco warehouse used by a group of artists from Glasgow School of Art. Well, the scene didn't develop in a warehouse, but lots of creative types hung out and had great parties. Among those creative types were a band called Franz Ferdinand who proceeded to take over the world this year after signing a deal to Domino in August 2003. To cut a long story short, they had some talented friends from the Chateau scene who were in a band called Sons and Daughters who were so talented and exciting that when Domino heard them, they were signed immediately.
At present they have a mini-album, Love the Cup for sale at about £7 most places. It is foot-stomping good. You just can't help it. Similar to the Franz, their incediary rhythms make you want to march. Left! Right! Left! Right! Banjo! Yes, they have a banjo. There is a folky twist to the punky-funky-angular-loud-then-quiet style, which gives it a nice Scottish twist. Singer, Adele, has a lovely broad Glaswegian accent when she sings. When Abstractboy saw them at ULU, he got strong homesick pangs. Sometimes it is necessary when you live in London just to hear a Scottish accent every now and then - it reminds you what you love about home. It keeps you grounded and puts a warm smile on your face. There is something wonderfully familiar about Sons and Daughters. I can imagine dancing next to them at Edinburgh's Only Decent Indie Club, The Egg, or maybe grabbing a vintage shirt from Scott in Armstrong's.
They put on a great performance live. Adele is a wee minx, a wee vixen, with a cheeky smile and a deepfatfryer full of attitude. She is pouting one minute and screaming like a hex the next. And Scott is just fit. I mean, Scott is really well dressed. Or Scot is very good at guitar. He makes menacing eye contact with all the audience, which seemed to be about 50% photographers and couples. And he dances like Nick McCarthy whose favourite animals are badgers, so there really is nothing to fault about him. They played a lot of new songs and they are even better than those on the rather perfect mini-album. So great things are happening in the Sons and Daughters camp right now and it looks like they are only going to get better. See them before they get as big as Franz Ferdinand, which, if there is any justice in the world, should happen. They finish off a short UK tour this week and play a date in Edinburgh on 30th December. I'll be sure to go and drag as many people as I can with me.
Monday, November 08, 2004New York Cares
So far, Abstractboy's search for Bands To Believe in has been rather UK centric - it's fairly rare that American bands on the up get much attention at the moment with the current climate of creating a Marketable Scene (see NME's Libertines Soap Opera, co-produced by Alan McGee) in London/ all of the UK. One band that I have seen recently has been impossible to blog about due to a total lack of press coverage and a fairly empty official website. This band is the Prosaics and it is very hard to understand why they haven't had the NME slobbering all over their well-cut black suits. SO I will instead.
The Prosaics are a three piece, formed two years ago in New York. They are Andy Comer (guitar/vocals), Bill Kuehn (drums) and Joshua Zucker (bass). None of them are actually from New York, but then again Jonny Borrel is from Winchester, so the fact that they fled their middle-american roots in search for Something Bigger, Something Brighter shows that they have the right ideas. Their sound is dissonant, melodic, empowering, grand, sweeping. It sounds like a more grand, but slightly more abstract Interpol. They have that same sort of urgency and anguish that accompanies most of Interpol's debut album, but the vocals are more drowned in the heavy and powerful, Joy Division-esque music. The sound created sounds like it must be from a much bigger band than the three piece that they are and when they play live it sounds just as powerful and impressive as on their just released debut EP, Aghast Agape.
This EP is really quite excellent. It is a bargain, first of all. Five songs for £2.99, not a single dud track. Singer, Andy Comer, sounds like Morrissey at times, which is also very good. And the melodies in songs like Now the Shadow of the Column are blissful beyond belief and the basslines are just wonderful. Crawling is more angular and could be one of Bloc Party's finest moments. The Prosaics manage to sound both very very now and relevant, but also timeless. Like Joy Division, or even perhaps Interpol, this is so elegant and wonderfully crafted that you can imagine people finding it just as excellent in 20 years time. Their label, Matador (same as Interpol) has kindly put an mp3 of Teeth for you to download here.
Sunday, November 07, 2004What you waiting for?
It's been a varied ride for Gwen Stefani of No Doubt. She has been (in order) a tomboy icon, a pink haired glitter queen, a peroxide blonde mix'n'match glamour/bling icon, a starlet, an actress, a fashion designer and it would now seem she has incarnated herself as one of the most interesting modern pop icons of recent years. In 2000 she and No Doubt were irrelevant. Their excellent Return of Saturn album sold only 32,000 copies in the UK in its first year of release, but 2001's Rock Steady put the band back on the map internationally and Gwen's star was reborn. A singles collection released in 2003 confirmed No Doubt's status as a super group, selling millions worldwide and opening up to a wider audience. By this stage Gwen was well underway with her side project.
This side project (not a solo album), titled Love Angel Music Baby, has been one of the most hyped and anticipated pop albums this year. Gwen has collaborated with Linda Perry, Dr DRE, New Order, Andre 3000, Pharell Williams, Eve, Tim Armstrong, Mary J Blige, Dallas Austin, and some of the biggest names of those didn't even get their tracks on the album. The theme is 80s dance, the concept is fun, disposable but enjoyable. Security has been tight on the album and with only two weeks until its release, only one song other than the lead single, What you waiting for? has been leaked. So not even the journos really know if it will meet the expectations of everyone or whether it will be a victim of its own hype. What you waiting for? is a stonking, beat driven pop classic already and if the rest of the album is as exciting as it then there is no way it can be a disappointment.
The only album track to have been leaked, Harajuku Girls, however, suggests that Gwen may be beginning to lose it somewhat. It sounds like a Hollywood high school essay on why Gwen digs the style of the girls who hang out near Tokyo's Harajuku bridge. It is embarassingly self-referential with lines like "A ping pong match between East and West, and have you seen your inspiration in my latest collection, just wait til you get your little hands on l.a.m.b, cuz it's super kawaii, that means super cute in japanese". When Abstractboy was in attendace of her CD:UK performance, her whole backing band was Oriental and she had four Harajuku girl backing dancers who giggle and wear short tartan skirts and fluorescent colours and according to a recent interview on Capital FM, she has named them Love, Angel, Music and Baby. Though she is probably getting lots of brand new fans in Japan (as desired in you Waiting for?), it is hard to feel that this is the most sincere way of paying homage to Harakuju, but then again, this project is not neccesarily about sincerity.
One thing that is certain though is Gwen's ability to perform. She is definitely the most captivating and interesting performer Abstractboy has ever seen. She is a character of great contrast. On stage she can be lovely, warm, smiley. She waves at her awe inspired fans, she points at their home-made t-shirts, she is so full of love for where she is and those who support her. And it is genuine, undoubtedly. But in a split second she is a praying mantra, stalking madly around the stage in a pair of hotpants, ten inch platform heels, pouting, gyrating, squealing - she is a caricature, part Tank Girl, part Marilyn Monroe, part Betty Boop. She'd eat you for dinner, but you probably wouldn't complain. It is somewhere in this contrast from which the essence of her iconic presence derives. Like Madonna, she is painfully aware of her abilities, her sexual appeal, her toned body.
It will be interesting to see what the following few years holds for Gwen Stefani and No Doubt. Will her status as a global superstar change things for No Doubt? Will they be able to keep up with the wave of success? Will she have the baby she has always wanted and how will that affect the music No Doubt makes? Love Angel Music Baby will push Gwen into the superleague for sure and let's hope it lives up to its expectations.