Monday, February 26, 2007LISTEN UP!
Since I last saw The Gossip at a crazy gay warehouse party in Berlin last summer, they have been causing quite a stir in Britain. For years they had been coming over to play and meeting a muted and sometimes even nasty response from a closed-minded music press. Something happened - whether it was all the DJs spinning Standing In The Way of Control in every disco across the country, or a VIP like Conor McNicholas actually going to see one of their intense live shows before slating them, I don't know. But it happened and now that song is everywhere, notably on every advert for ridiculous but excellent E4 teen series, Skins, The Gossip have been on all the peak time TV chat shows and spread across the pages of every broadsheet colour supplement. They are everywhere. My boyfriend, who saw them for the first time three years ago at a party asked me if I thought they'd sold out. I replied with a laugh, and a "No". Their huge big sell-out gig at the Astoria on Saturday was a confirmation of this.
They opened with Listen Up!, Beth Ditto walked on stage wearing a cobalt-blue shiny cat suit with a bin bag over her. In her patent high-heel shoes she was a picture of uncompromising glamour, defiant, strong and not ready to take any shit. After the song she started to thank NME for making her numero uno on their 2006 Cool List (cue: everyone whooping and murmering about that being how they discovered the band) before going on for a scathing attack of how the NME chickened out of the women only cover for that issue at the last minute, puting safe-option Muse on instead. Right back at you NME! At your own fabled Awards Shows! Without much further ado, the band played on, Beth shedding the bin bag once the 20-strong photographer ensemble had left the photopit to reveal the full blue catsuit. She might not conform to catwalk standards, but Beth can walk/dance in heels with more confidence than most other women, and is more confident in her own skin than almost anyone. The catsuit was proof of that. And therefore she is undestroyable. No amount of hype or nasty fat jibes can break that.
All the attention has not changed the band whatsoever. They seemed so humbled to be playing to this huge crowd, with Beth saying that more people were in the (sold-out) venue than reside in her Arkansas hometown. But the crude onstage banter was at the same level as it was for the aforementioned 4am Berlin gay warehouse party...she spoke about her desire to have as big a Cameltoe as possible, sharing her and drummer Hannah's swamp-pussies resulting from long flights from their base in Portland, Oregon, to London, showing that they come as they are and you have to love them or lump them. Unsurprisingly the "checking them out" crowd loved them, though many were slightly bemused by the banter at first. I had expected the crowd to be a bit more moshy, but they were quite calm for a Saturday night crowd. I, however, was uncontrollable. The Gossip's music, old, new, present is so electric, deep-cutting and positive that I couldn't help but spaz out. I love them and I'm so happy that they have this platform now. I am sure they will use it wisely.
On a music front, they played three new songs; Tribal Best, Makeshift Promise, Spare Me From The Mold. All of them sounded brilliant. Slightly faster, slightly poppier, but strong, dangerous, confrontational and beautiful. They sounded finished - the Gossip have been in the studio and I'd guess they'll put a new album out before the end of the year. 2007 has their name all over it already.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007A Spektor is haunting Europe
I finally got to see Regina Spektor live last Friday after lots of failed/sold-out/clashing attempts. The wait was totally worth it. I hadn't really know what to expect - truth be told - I don't know her music so well, but I knew she'd be special. In preparation for her live set, the cluttered stage was transformed from a chaotic mess to an arena-like space in 30 minutes, with her beautiful grand piano right in the middle. She came on stage to screaming and the huddle of photographers followed her every motion. The screams died down and the only noises to be heard was her acapella rendition of Ain't No Cover and the clicking of DSLR cameras.
She spent most of the rest of the gig sat at the piano and was accompanied by a band for about 6 songs. I've never heard a big venue on a Friday night as quiet and respectful as they were for Regina. She had the whole room enchanted for her set's long duration. There were no lulls or fillers; every song, whether you knew it or not, was as laden with hooks, lovely and often funny lyrics, and her beautiful and idiosyncratic voice. You had no option but to listen intently. There is a certain darkness which looms under the sheer beauty of her songs, a hopelessness, a sense of being lost.
When I listen to Regina Spektor I like to think about her crazy life, her identity and how her exciting background (New York - Russian - Jewish - lived in the Bronx and Moscow) and how this marries with her incredible musical and song-writing skills to create such wonderful, personal, emotional and exotic music. I love her thick New Yoik pronounciation of every vowel and her totally un-Bronx demeanour. The last song of her five song encore was a country song called Hotel Room, where she finally got to stand up and dance and sing. Seeing her performing this completely different kind of song revealed a further side to her - a bit more American, brash, daring, loud.
There's no denying it. Regina Spektor is one of the most enigmatic musicians to come out of New York in a long time. Now she's finally getting the attention she deserves and it looks like she'll be around for the long term.
Sunday, February 18, 2007Busy Doing Nothing
Love Is All were back in town on Friday night for the NME Awards gig. Regina Spektor was headlining this early night night at the Astoria and Love Is All were second in command. Despite most of the audience not having heard the band, and them only having half the stage to play with (Regina's gigantic grand piano sat in the middle of the stage for the whole gig), the band impressed the crowd more than they did at their own headline show at Kings College in September. It made me realise how much better the Astoria is as a venue than that poxy student union!
Love Is All have lots of new songs to play too. My setlist has titles listed as New Bes, NYA and White Cats. They also played a cover of The Pastels' Nothing To Be Done, which they will release as a Double A Side (!!) with Ageing Had Never Been His Friend on 26th March. Around that time they will be supporting The Rakes on tour, as well as doing a couple of their own headline gigs. You'd be a fool to miss them!
Thursday, February 15, 2007Soy milk and TH(re)E SUGARS
This week The Sugars released their second single. It's also definitely the best song released this year so far. It is called Monsters and, yes, it is indeed one. You can hear the demo version of it (I prefer the demo) on their MySpace and buy the final version here. It's also available in real record shops on 7" and CD.
Their sound is very 50s inspired and their style and stage-show are, naturally, in keeping. I caught them supporting The Long Blondes the day my old camera died on me (hence lack of original pictures) and was blown away by their boy/girl call/response intense performance, with old-fashioned microphones, quiffs and attitude. They are playing next Thursday at Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes, so I hope to see them again then. With my camera.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007To The Graves
I didn't realise until today (the news is about two weeks old) but Pretty Girls Make Graves are splitting up! The Seattle five-piece had released three albums, the most famous was 2003's The New Romance. In 2006 they released Elan Vital which failed to live up to its predecessor's word-of-mouth success. This is somewhat typical of many bands which found success in the 2002-2003 wave of American bands, who were burried under the Franz Ferdinand (et al) fever which ensued in 2004. A glance at the NME's Best Albums of 2003 list serves as a reminder of all the bands that have since been forgotten. The New Romance is an excellent album. Here is All Medicated Geniuses from it:
Pretty Girls Make Graves - All Medicated Geniuses
Wednesday, February 07, 2007THE FEAR KEEPS ME MOVING
I am now free to blog. No more dissertation, no more job interviews for a bit, only 9 weeks til the next killer extended essays are due. So I will talk about the most amazing gig I've been to...The Arcade Fire at Porchester Hall last Thursday. Eliz had flown over from Berlin especially for it and we spent the evening prior to the gig lying on my bed and listening to the band's forthcoming new album, Neon Bible, before the rest of the world. That sent anticipation levels through the roof.
We headed over to West London (blergh!) at the respectable time of 4.30pm, expecting there to be a queue snaking round the block. There wasn't. We were first. An excellent feeling. After three hours we were finally let in and ran for pole position at the front of the stage, waited another hour and a bit and the band came on. The audience's reaction was a little bit more subdued than I'd have expected for a band adored by as many as the Arcade Fire, but they soon warmed up when the older songs were played. The show was so intense. I could hardly believe my eyes, seeing them all feet away from me, lined up along the wide stage, all showing their passion for these heart-wrenching songs in their own way. In the venue's ornate dim light I forgot that there was anyone else around me and dreamed I had my own private show.
Then this big, lanky object (Win) came into the crowd beside me and was playing his guitar with a fiery intensity against three of my favourite people. It looked something like this:
This kinda move comes across as gimmicky with most other bands, but not so with Arcade Fire. With so much power unleashed from their many instruments, a stage simply cannot contain them.
Regine's vocals throughout out were beautifully haunting, but her performance was amazing. She jerked with interpretive dance moves and stared around the audience with intent. She reminded me of Vaudeville/Cabaret performers and was utterly captivating to watch. One of the set's high points was Haiti, where she takes over the lead vocals. I've always loved this song - it stands out on Funeral as coming from somewhere else from the rest of the material, with it's sub-tropical, half-time feel. It did just that at the gig.
They finished the set by busking in the venue's foyer, Wake Up was the tune. I was still upstairs, but I heard it. And now thanks to YouTube we can all watch it!. Then they came upstairs again and played a spooky rendition of the Clash's Guns of Brixton, which you can download over at The Torture Garden.
I left the gig wanting more, but very, very satisfied. I wish I had tickets to one of the Brixton shows, or, better still, the Berlin show! But I will be in Montreal in June where I'm sure people only talk about Arcade Fire, and all over there are posters proclaiming them to be regional heroes. We can but dream.