Tuesday, September 19, 2006A Song Too Dreary To Be Sung
The Low Miffs are Scotland's best new band. Well, it isn't The View anyway, because the world doesn't need more pop-punk Libertines clones. The world quite possibly needs the Low Miffs; they are intelligent, awkward, intense and theatrical. They also played their second and third London shows last weekend. I managed to catch them at the Barfly on Friday, before flying home to Edinburgh where I am for a week of no gigs and seeing friends. The night was a Drowned in Sound club night, which was thoroughly mediocre but for the Low Miffs appearance.
The Glasgow-based five piece took to the stage shortly before midnight, immediately drawing the unfamiliar crowd forward with their opening song. Their singer, Leo Condie, an ex-classmate of mine from school in Edinburgh, is an enthralling performer. He, most importantly, posesses a strong and unique voice that swoons along with feeling, but captivates the audience like very few frontmen with his cocky, cabaret-esque strut. These performances have lead them to be described as in keeping with the traditions of Brechtian theatre and, though Leo cites Brecht as a favourite writer of his, it is not so definitive an aspect of their essence as it is for The Dresden Dolls. I wait for NME to hail the rise of the New-Brechtian movement when New Rave goes tits up.
The Low Miffs have got two singles coming out in the coming months, Also Sprach Shareholder on White Heat Records and Early Grey/ This Is The New on Art Goes Pop. The two 7"s will be sure to set dancefloors alight over the country, setting up t'Miffs for the same kind of cult-following The Long Blondes secured with early classics like Giddy Stratospheres and Once And Never Again. The songs on their MySpace speak for themselves really. Don't delay. The Low Miffs are playing lots of shows this autumn, don't miss them.
Thursday, September 14, 2006British Sea Power
I saw British Sea Power once before. It was Reading 2003 and I'd just seen the Yeah Yeah Yeahs play second top of the bill on the NME stage. YYYs drummer, Brian Chase, told me later that was one of only two shows where they'd just come off stage and wanted to cry. For me it was the first time I saw them and though it was chaotic, detached, squashed and sweaty, I thought it was amazing. I had no desire to see Metallica or the Music, so wandered into the Carling Tent and British Sea Power were there with foliage on the stage, a big cult following and tunes that swept me away and had me grinning all thee way back to the campsite.
Three years later and I saw them again, this time playing the Camden Barfly (where The Low Miffs are playing FRIDAY 15TH!), a crazily small venue for a band with as large and dedicated a following as British Sea Power. I was only there because my boyfriend is a superfan and I thought it had the potential to be a memorable gig. Memorable it was. The merch desk was not your average £18 over-sized fruit of the loom T-shirts, no way. Staffed by a tall woman wearing an early 20th century bathing suit and swim cap, it sold soaps and hair wax (named Brilliantine Mortality after a lyric in one of their songs). Biscuits were also on offer. How excellent. The band played an exhilerating set with hits off their albums The Decline of British Sea Power and Open Season, rare B-sides and some new songs. I was amazed at their intensity and, dare I say, eccentricity. Singer, Yan, wore a black tunic and white trousers with gold trim at the bottom, looking somewhere between a pashmina'd out gap-year student and a crazed Monk. On the right was Noble, who took to the stage in thick winter socks and a frilly shirt, a strange and electric connection present between them both for the whole set. The set concluded in an insane meltdown, guitars were flying, bodies were flying, one of the support band's players took to the stage in a cape and played his trumpet. There was total chaos.
The crowd were ecstatic and jumped around more than at any other gig I've been to recently. It's sometimes strange going to see a band and everyone else is a bigger fan than you, but it really helps to understand that passion and I'm sure I'll be doing a lot more listening to BSP in the coming months. Photos coming soon.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006Busy doing nothing
Love Is All played a second London show in as many days last night, this time a headline show at Kings College. The gig was a promo for the Iceland Airwaves Festival (give me £500 and I'll go!) and had Tilly and the Wall and Icelandic teens Jackobinarina also performing. So all very good value for £9! Jackobinarina were interesting, big-framed Nordic boys playing slightly psycobilly tinted rock music. They introduced one of their songs by saying "We love British bands like Coldplay and James Blunt..." to which the audience laughed and then they said "This song is called Nice Guys Don't Make Good Music", winning the sleepy Tuesday evening crowd over. Their performance was explosive, all of them severely "rocking out" even though the music wasn't necessarily as explosive. The singer and keyboard player ran into the crowd and started moshing. It made me think about what it must be like growing up in such an extreme place as Iceland, where there is only 4 hours day light for 4 months a year, no darkness for another two months, geysers, glaciers, insanely high taxes. wildernesses...it must be amazing and strange. I want to go there.
Tilly and the Wall were up next and left me a little cold. I like that they are all friendly and love eachother and are happy and can tap dance, but it was a little bit too happy-clappy and shambolic. It felt like more people were there to see them than Love Is All, which I find a little sad. I liked Tilly and the Wall much more when I saw them with Architecture in Helsinki in Berlin in May, but they do have some really nice songs.
Love Is All played last, but it wasn't quite right. Kings College has a very wide stage which doesn't suit the size of bands who play there. I like it when bands are on top of eachother, tangled in the intensity of their music and their call and responses. LIA's music is a chaos of sound and it's hard to re-create that chaos when they've got so much space on stage. At the previous night's Trash show it was there and it was so amazing, but last night's venue did not suit the band. They played a longer set, including Turn The Radio Off, one of my favourites, but the atmosphere and the sound...yeah. Moreover, people seemed to be there largely on "Checking out" duties, only a few people really seemed to feel it. I hope that people did not have their impressions tainted by this show and will continue to listen to the album and realise that Love Is All are a band to believe in!
I will start a campaign against medium-sized bands playings Kings College. Not only a rival of my university, UCL, but a not very atmospheric place to see bands. It feels like a 70s new build student union because it is a 70s new build student union and setting is very important. Yes indeed.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006Love is all you need
It's a rare occurrence these days that I like a band for ages before I get to see them live. Usually I'll find out about a band and then they'll play somewhere near me pretty soon after. Or I'll take a chance and see a band live before I hear them properly and it pays off. With Sweden's Love Is All, however, I'd waited almost a year to see them live, listening to their fantastic 30 minute debut album, Nine Times That Same Song to death ever since a friend sent me an mp3 of Make Out Fall Out Make Up. Last night they played at Trash as not-so-secret special guests. The place was rammed, though a fair proportion of the kids there were too busy thinking that looking moody made them look cool (wrong: it just makes you look moody) to dance to LIA's undeniable freak-out party songs. I danced, and I will again tonight when I see them at Kings College playing with Tilly and the Wall.
Singer, Josephine, is not your typical Scandi-queen, she's short with a mousey brown barnet - in fact, Love Is All, to all extents and purposes, do not sound or look like a Scandanavian band, but that's another story. She's a super frontwoman, energetic and a little crazy, but not overly sexual like CSS' Lovefoxxx. But Love Is All are all about their constituent parts, rather than a figurehead, as reflected by the production of the album, where all instruments (including vocals) are on fairly equal levels and it's more about the overall impact. They are all key players in the live show, the saxophones, the fuzzy guitars, they keys, the pounding rhythms, the sexy bass...it felt like a tidle wave of electricity. So I'm very much looking forward to tonight. Pictures to come later this week when I get the chance.
Album review I did for Wears The Trousers, whose Issue Four is now available to download.
Saturday, September 09, 2006Tired of being sexy
Goodness gracious. Last night was the debute London show for super hot Brazilian band Cansei de Ser Sexy, which literally translates as tired of being sexy. It might be the sort of thing you could imagine Paris Hilton saying, but these five riot grrrls and one riot boy are a world away from Paris' lip-gloss smothered radio-pop. They played at the Adventures Close to Home night at 93 Feet East, a nice small venue among the curry houses of Brick Lane. The advance tickets had sold out well in advance and the queue to get in was long. The band were scheduled to take to the stage at midnight, but technical problems with their monitor meant the stage time would be close to 1am. The anticipation levels were through the roof, the sweaty crowd chanting "C S S! C S S!" and hooting every time a member came on stage to see what the progress was.
It felt pretty historical that night, like I imagined the first UK Yeah Yeah Yeahs (who I coincidentally bumped into on Tottenham Court Road on Monday evening!) shows to be; the internet and the press had already brought the music to the people and anticipation levels were so high and this was the band confirming everyone's hopes that they were as amazing live as they were on record. The band were clearly awed by the response and kept coming back after the encore to say "thank you" and singer, Lovefoxxx, proclaimned she would never forget this evening.
Lovefoxxx is crazy - before the show she was lyng flat on the stage with mangoes stuffed up her top, wearing 4 layers of superhot vintage clothes (is it really that cold in Britain?) and throughout the show she was throwing toilet paper around, taking bites into the said mangoes and smothering them all over herself and spitting them into the crowd, taking my glasses off my face and wearing them for a verse and a chorus. She had the same mysterious and reckless abandon that Karen O had before they got so crazily popular, so much energy and passion and completely unpredictable to that. She is totally enthralling to watch for these very reasons, but at the same time, it's not the Lovefoxxx show - the rest of the band give it their all too, lots of gyrating, headbanging, sparkly shoes and enthusiasm.
They played lots of excellent songs off their album and also some new ones. The crowd sung along and followed Lovefoxxx's instructions for some Brazilian armswaying action straight off Copacabana beach. Though their music doesn't really feel like it's from Brazil it was noticable how the carnival atmosphere was 150% present in the room last night, lots of clothes flying everywhere, "arrribbarrriba"s and...well, Lovefoxxx took me up on stage for Alcohol and it was totally crazy, I had no idea what she was saying or what to say - she asked me my name and I think where I was from - I guess, becauswe I am 1/4 Brazilian 1/4 Portuguese and you can kind of see it under my British mannerisms, so I danced around for a bit then sheepishly went back down to the crowd. It's a total blur and I am sure I looked like a buffoon, but, well, I feel somewhat part of something special.
All I can say is you have to see this band, you have to listen to their music, they really will take over the world - everything is in place. I haven't been to such a good gig in a long time.
p.s. pictures coming soon!
Friday, September 08, 2006Anti-FNK
Lo-Fi-FNK are two skinny little Swedish boys (Leo and August) with one skinny Swedish girl playing bass for live shows. They play an uplifting blend of dancey electro pop which has that gallic Daft Punk sound going on at some points. They played a one-off show at London's finest night Trash last week, but because I've been busy moving house and not having internet, it's taken me this long to give my two-pennies. Apart from the bass it's totally synthetic sounds; drum machines, keys, samples, laptops. Not much of the performance was live and they didn't really have too much to say, but they really seemed to appreciate playing in London and seeing a whole room dancing to their tunes. And they seemed to like my photos, puting a link from their news page over to here. Thanks guys! Their album is called Boylife and was released on Monday on Moshi Moshi. They have described themselves as too gay to be straight and too straight to be gay, so I think that means they metrosexual with boy-preferences if the title of the album is anything to go by. They are supporting Hot Chip in Germany and playing some British dates towards the end of the month. Check out their MySpace for details and songs.
In very exciting news, Cansei de Ser Sexy are playing their first ever London show tonight and I've got my ticket. And even more exciting, Love Is All are playing Trash and Kings College on Monday and Tuesday respectively.
Friday, September 01, 2006Remnants of British Rail
Last week I found myself at a shoegazing club on Old Street at the Sonic Cathedral night at The Legion. I always forget that shoegazing music is pretty much 80% noise and feedback. This meant that waiting for iLiKETRAiNS to come on stage was a long and painful process and I sorely regretted my decision not to bring earplugs, just to reduce the music down a few decibels. The wait was worth it for iLiKETRAiNS, a majestic Leeds five-piece with a fixation on British engineering and human expedition. They took to the stage in train conductor's jackets, dressed as though they'd finished sixth form in 2000 and been cryogenically frozen since then, it was sweet. The stage was littered with FX pedals and instruments, but their sound was much cleaner than the amount of eqipment would have suggested.
Dave Martin's vocals are intense, powerful and fit perfectly with the music. A lazy (yet effective) comparison would be to Paul Banks of Interpol, they both have an inexplicable sadness in their deep, haunting voices. Musically, too, there are similarities which can be easily drawn; gloomy, poignant guitar-driven indie with nods back to My Bloody Valentine and Joy Division. But they are very much their own band, which is why they aren't being tossed in the bargain bin with all the other copyists. Their romanticisation of 20th century exploration and invention sets them out from the crowd and appeals to the many who also find these notions romantic. The Beeching Report, for example, is about Dr Beeching who was responsible for the Beeching Report which decided the closing of many of Britain's railways in the 1960s and 1970s in favour of the building of more motorways. The song is a bitter response to this, with a menacing and sad "reform, reform, oh you are taking apart what we made with our hands and our hearts" constituting the chorus, showing an attachment to the past and the efforts of the railway workers.
In some respects it could come across as a bit try-hard, a group of people trying to find a niche and, on paper, it could seem like it would be hard to relate to, but such is the sincerity of the feeling when they perform live, that you know, whatever it is that they are singing about, means a lot to them. They don't say very much, instead letting the music and the motions do the talking. They ended up with an orgy of noise and feedback, all pedals go, like the end of the world as they knew it.