Thursday, January 31, 2008Wolflike change
Patrick Wolf, where has your love gone?
I will never ever forget the day I fell in love with Patrick Wolf. I'm sure I've mentioned it before...I had missed my train up home to Edinburgh by five minutes and couldn't afford to get the next one. I sat in my room in halls of residence and listened to Lycanthropy on repeat and thought about adventure, my rapidly changing life and the propsect of the night Megabus back to an empty house in Edinburgh. I cried for the first time in ages, for myself, and for the sheer naked beauty of that album.
I'm not sure I could pinpoint the day I fell out of love with Patrick Wolf or, indeed, if I ever have. But I wasn't excited for his third album The Magic Position when it came out early last year. Nor could I be bothered getting tickets to see him play at any of his shows this year. When pictures of him arsing around with Peaches Geldof and the underage London party urchins started appearing in the trash press I felt disappointed that he'd seemingly lost some integrity. I later realised that you shouldn't wish obscurity and eternal leftfield undergroundness on anyone, especially someone with bags and bags of talent.
However, at his FINALE SHOW (of the Magic Position tour and he added a second date when this one sold out, so not so much of a finale!) I left feeling empty and unmoved. At previous shows I'd been struck by the intimacy, the drama, the sheer professionalism and how organic the whole thing was (not in the muesli mummy sense). But this context of The Patrick Wolf Show, costume changes, unadulterated egoism and hundreds of screaming 16 year old brats covered in neon and glitter...it's so alien from what I loved and hoped for from him.
The set was arrnaged with three sections; an acoustic first act, a flamboyant main section, and an out of this world encore. The first half was, admittedly, very good. Final Fantasy and Bishi joined him on-stage for duets and the older songs he played were great. The rest of the evening felt like one of those awful ITV 'An Audience With...', with Patrick performing his songs with all the sincerity of a drunken karaoke session. He seemed to lose concentration halfway through some songs and would forget his lyrics while his army of fangirls dutifully screamed the correct words.
Some people have commented that he is increasingly using ze DRUGZZZZ recently, something which he and his management have staunchly denied. However, anyone who had witnessed one of his magical performances around the time of Wind in the Wires could tell you that something is very different with Patrick this time around. I don't wish to comment on how people live their private life, but it saddens me that this performance, and numerous others of Patrick's in 2007, were not up to his previous standards.
Maybe it's healthier to think about it in terms of the bigger picture. The Magic Position is one album in a career of possibly dozens. Artists, especially soloists, go through phases and come out of them; maybe everything's a phase. And, without being patronising, Patrick is comparatively young; he has a lot of metamorphisising ahead of him. While this period leaves me cold, I know there will be great, great things to come from him.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008Ohmigod
The music press have been making patronising claims for years that each year is the 'year for women in music'. Seriously, I've read it about five times. But all sources would suggest that the industry think so too, with 'real' young ladies like Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen and Kate Nash being some of 2007's biggest success stories. I suspect that record companies were hesitant before, thinking young female buyers (historically, the most lucrative portion of the market) were more interested in male fronted bands. Without even trying I can reel off a list of several young female singers tipped for the top....Adele, Duffy, Laura Marling... and there'd be plenty more if I had my thinking cap on. Even Amy Studt is on the comeback trail...
Naturally this means that artists from my favourite musical region (Scandinavia) are being pipped for success. One of these ladies is Ida Maria, hailing from the tiny village of Nesna in Norway, though she cut her teeth in the music hotbed of Bergen on the way.
I went to see Ida's first show of a year of many, many shows. Though she was onstage at 9pm, the whole room was full and buzzing about her arrival. She took to the stage and strapped on a bass guitar and exclaimed something along the lines of 'this is the kind of music I used to play before this pop shit!' and proceeded to play a dirty, sexy, bluesy bass driven tune with rich, soulful vocals. Audience = thoroughly enraptured. After finishing she kicked off her (modest) heels and the rest of her band clambered on stage. It was time for 'shit pop music'!
Except Ida's pop music is the opposite of shit pop music (which she obviously knows is the case), it's feisty, punky, raw and highly energised, melody-driven pop music of the finest variety. Ida and her band only played around six songs, but there was a whole show's worth of energy packed into the 30 minute set. Louie bounced along with her powerful, but slightly cigarette-hoarse vocals full of cartoonish emotion. New single Stella had everyone bopping along and mouthing the words back at Ida, while the penultimate tune Better When You're Naked was so frantic that Ida needed to pour a bottle of water over her head and shake her hair like a wet dog over the crowd.
At times, you'd be forgiven for thinking the performance was a bit over-played. Too much enthusiasm, too much quirk, too much energy...could it be insincere? I'm not sure sincerity matters so much when you have melodies as perfect as Ida does, when you can get a Tuesday night crowd in Camden Town bouncing away after playing just two songs and when you're clearly having lots of fun on stage. The closer, Oh My God, was packed with urgency, energy and angst. It starts off a bit like This is our Emergency by Pretty Girls Make Graves and builds up to a chorus which would have Courtney Love envious of croakalicious energy!
I hope that 2008 will be an exciting year for Ida Maria. She's got a crazy schedule already and I'm seeing her in two weeks with the Raveonettes. In the meantime, check out her MySpace and make up your own mind.
Monday, January 28, 2008Gift of the Gab
Sons and Daughters release their long awaited (by me, anyway!) third album today. It's called This Gift (very punworthy) and it's very good. It's bolder than their previous work; they have dared to finally embrace the classic pop that they referenced in the last two albums. But it is still dark, with urgent celtic twangs, pentatonic notes and banshee yells emerging above the twisted Americana and Garage Rock. And about 28% of the guitar sounds very Smiths inspired. In other words, this is everything at once while still being classic Sons and Daughters.
Their schedule is all booked up for the next few months. The chances are that they are coming to a town near you. I've been to see them an insane sixteen times now and I never get tired of seeing them. I read a quote the other day from Scott, who said they aim to make going to their gigs like entering into the Sons and Daughters world. I'd never thought about it that way before but I think it's precisely that mesmerising immersion in their music and image and energy which is so thrilling about the S&Ds show. They have so much integrity. They are officially the least lame band ever.
You can download live acoustic versions of Gilt Complex, Iodine and Chains from here:
thanks to Graham for these
(no substitute for the real thing though, mateys!)
Sunday, January 13, 2008Happy New Year! I have been ironing out some website/server issues and now I'm all good to go for 2008, a 2008 which will see me returning to blogging glory. Yes. This one is about Jens Lekman.
I’d been waiting ages to see Jens Lekman. Ages and ages and ages. I should have seen him in May 2006 in Berlin, but was in Hamburg watching Belle and Sebastian on that evening. But luckily Gothenburg’s finest son pencilled in a handful of headline dates around his support tour for Josh Rouse (I know, who?) and one of those was at the beautiful Luminaire in Kilburn. It was well over two years since Jens Lekman last played in London and this gig had sold out in just two days. Anticipation filled the venue; the crowd were restless during the average support bands and groups of friends could be heard enthusing over what songs he might play.
Jens’ entrance to the stage was very understated. He simply came out from behind the curtain, head down, and began to tune his guitar and test his vocals out on the microphone. He was greeted with a few cheers, but the majority of the crowd stood still, transfixed, attentive. There was no clear transition between Roadie Jens and Singing Jens; the tuning became plucking, which became his first song. He didn’t seem nervous but he did not look once at the audience. As the last note of the song resonated the loudest imaginable screaming came from the crowd, as though they had made some pact to make the most possible noise. After a couple further reactions, bemusement and shyness wore off and Jens was visibly more relaxed and happy to be there.
The set comprised primarily of material from this year’s Night Falls Over Kortedala, but with plenty of songs from the previous two LPs. The gig was so memorable as a result of Jens’ ingenious delivery of the songs. In A Postcard to Nina Jens introduced the song by telling the beginning of the story, which then slowly merged into the first verse. Subsequent verses and choruses were broken up with spoken interludes giving further detail to the story. On Sweet Summer’s Night on Hammer Hill Jens had the whole room making the ‘bombabombabbomb’ sounds and whistling with gusto, recreating the spontaneous party atmosphere of the recorded version.
Performing as a two-piece with his friend Tammy (who mainly did percussion), Jens was unable to re-create the songs with as lush and rich musical textures as on his album. But with technological trickery, Jens gave it his best shot. He re-created the sound of backing singers in Kanske Ar Jag Kar I Dig by recording vocal loops and layering them. For Shirin he ‘ooohd’ softly a harmony to accompany his singing and guitar strumming. Apparently when he tours with his full band he is better placed to emulate the slightly extravagant, romantic, crooner style of his albums, but the ‘stripped down’ version was uniquely magical and intimate. I don’t think it would have been possible to foster the special vibe at this gig with a full band, as annoying as that might be for Jens. I hope when he returns next that he is able to do his compositions justice with a full band.