Friday, 22 February 2008

Unsightly musical overspill (vol 1.1)

I made even myself a bit nauseous with that Smashing Pumpkins blog. I mean really, what gives me the right, eh? Anyway, I have decided that rather than keep putting up posts containing my opinions on bands, thus ridiculously weighting this blog towards being, in essence, an extension of my dayjob, I shall instead whack up a monthly compendium of my thoughts on the popular music. Because that's really much more appealling, isn't it? Anyway, I shall keep it short, I shall probably update during the month, I shall start a new one next month, it's basically just an excercise in egotism, but I shall try and post some links to free downloads and such in order to make it vaguely worthwhile to you, dear reader. Anyway...

Matson Jones - Have just been listening to them yet again, and fuck me... the cliche great lost band is thrown around with gay abandon, but if it hadn't been for Rough Trade putting New York City Fuck off on a compilation album, I think only about five people outside of whatever dreadful Colorado hamlet they crawled out of would ever have heard of them. Really violent cello rock (as in: two cellos, no guitars) is the only way I can describe them without getting wanky about it... you'd think in the age of instant overexposure something more might have happened for them in their lifetime, but nope.

Here is a link to a free download of New York City Fuck Off, muthafuckaz! Seriously, give it a listen: (um, when I say a link, it's a link to a blog by some dude who appears to be not only a much more important music journalist than me, but also infinitely more technically adept. NYCFO is the very botton link)

Does It Offend You, Yeah? - If you like the singles, you'll love the album, blah blah blah etcetera etcetera etcetera... EXCEPT there are a couple of horrble ballads on there that are completely incongrous and sound like they were knocked off by The Twang in their lunch hour. Probably, I've not actually listened to anything by The Twang, mostly because I'm afraid they'll sound like 'Epic Last Song' by DIOYY?

The Long Blondes - The new single, 'Century', is fantastic, Donna Summer meets Bowie's 'Repetition'. The album, is, um, less so (on early impressions). It tries to carry on with the Summer thing but it kind of veers between sexy'n'sophisticated and frighteningly dull. It's restrained, and it was kind of supposed to be about the drama with them, surely? That said, Kate Jackon's vocal sound infinitely less smug, which is good.

Crystal Castles - Don't think I've ever seen a frontperson radiate pure violence in a way even remotely comparable to Alice Glass. Even the sort of ambient dancey ones she still looked like she was liable to fight, well, everyone, basically. V excited about alb, haven't heard it yet, though NME appear to have, pah.

Gary Numan - I sort of assumed even his classic albums would be shit, but I got the reissue of Replicas and it's reet good, like.

Fuck Buttons - see them live, fools
The Ting Tings - really are as good aas everybody says they are. And by 'everybody' I mean the people who like them, obviously. Though robably if you don't like That's Not My Name you are an actual replicant.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Alerting the blogosphere to a hot new band

With lumbering and entirely predictable sarcasm, I jest. Though I might as well take another opportunity to big up Fuck Buttons.

(big up)

In fact I'd like to extol the charms of Machina II/The Friends & Enemies Of Modern Music, a seven and a half-year-old album by popular musical combo Smashing Pumpkins. Daddy. Cool.

I'm guess most people have heard of it, but I have a suspicion that like me until recently, not so many have actually gone through the fairly simple motions of downloading it for free from I could be wrong, it could slyly be the most popular album of their career, but I think history has kind of left it loitering in the curio zone, mostly, I imagine, because everything else Billy Corgan has put his name to since Adore has basically been horrible. In fact lots of people (fools) would say Adore is pretty weak. And come to think of it most people would agree the second half of Mellon Collie is a bit of a mess.

So despite allegedly being a companion piece to the first Machina - a record that's so little fun I wonder if the Taliban might have permitted it to be sold in Afghanistan back in the good ol' days - what I'm basically waffling about is that Machina II is really, really, really good and you should, like, totally check it out.

Kind of, anyway. It's subdivided into two sections, and the first half, which was supposed to comprise three EPs, is a bit meh, though it does include an alternate version of Heavy Metal Machine that doesn't make you want to set fire to your own face, which is nice. But the second, which is the actual core album as Corgan imagined it, is genuinely fantastic - blackly savage guitar rock mostly, but raw and exciting and leavened by some heavy, hazy ballads (the last track Atom Bomb is gorgeous). A sort of starker, rougher cousin to Siamese Dream, maybe. Anyway, if you hate the Pumpkins don't bother, but if you like 'em, give it a listen, like.

Next week: I bring you the full lowdown on a hot new website called MySpace

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Student drinking holes of Leeds; taking pointless lists to brave new levels

So you went to university in Leeds at the same time as me? You want to know what's happened to your favourite boozing shacks in the five year interim?

No??? You simply have a burning desire to read my decontextualised thoughts on a bunch of shabby pubs you've never heard of in your whole life? Well that is just about the most flattering thing I've imagined all night. Thank you.

Anyway, I went back Leeds the other weekend so that me and my ex-housemates could slope back into our pasts and indulge in a sort of crude regression therapy. Only with beer. Here is a list of my findings.

The Royal Park: Deary me, it's shabby. Given I spend most of my final year of uni here, I don't really remember the seats all being riven by abyssal gashes every millimetre or so. The Roy Castle room has a slightly mausoleum-eque air to it, what with the smoking ban, though I suppose there's no point getting nostalgic about somewhere I don't think I ever had a pint. Basically it hasn't particularly changed apart from maybe to crumble a bit. I quite like it, though some of the charm has ebbed away now that - in the day's cold cold light - it's fairly apparent that the owners are skanky at best, kind of mid-level con artists at worst.

Jacksons: Not a pub, but I feel impelled to note that it's become a Sainsburys local. Very sad. The Jacksons FM airwaves are empty and a small part of me weeps for a younger generation that will never know the joys of suspiciously discounted Oranjeboom. Hell, they may never know the joys of Oranjeboom fullstop - I'm not entirely sure I've ever come across anywhere else selling it. Probably all good supermarkets, but it was just so delightfully obvious at Jacksons.

The Hyde Park Social: So imagine if you went back home and, I dunno, your mum got married to someone else and she didn't tell you, or your beloved family pet had been replaced with, like, a horse. Er. I'm gibbering here, but it's quite hard to adequately express in words what has happened to the place. Basically the staff, the prices and the membership thing are the same, and everything else is the exact opposite - it's turned into a swanky, expensively kitted-out sports bar full of rahs. It's a bit weird, because some of the more overtly hippy dippy things about it pissed me off (notably the belief it was reasonable to play jungle on a Sunday evening. Or ever), and the sofas probably were carrying quite a lot of diseases or whatever, but wowzers, it's like stepping into a parallel dimension. Somebody in charge must have been nurturing a powerful grudge against hippies. My gob is smacked.

The Old Bar: Somebody who may have been famous once probably said something along the lines of 'you can never go back home.' Not true. Or at least not when it comes to the only real constant in my lift throughout four years of Leeds. I'm nearly 27, I'm not a student, I've even lost my definitely not uncool liftime LUU membership card; frankly The Old Bar should be unrecognisable, and our wandering in there should have been treated with the same revulsion of, I dunno, a committee of paedophiles (it's the collective noun, or it should be) turning up and having a kickaround with Maddy McGann's severed bonce. Instead we sauntered in, stuff looked the same aside from an airhockey table, and there were even two of my old managers still working there. Weird.

The Dry Dock: This is more like it. After the Quids In night was deemed illegal by our out of control constabulary and the hugely impractical central bar was moved somewhere where it was less of a menace to staff and drinkers sometime in the bowels of 2000, I can't help but feel the Dry Dock lost some of its charm. Probably something to do with it being painted a lurid yellow and turned into a quasi-rock pub in order that it might better accommodate the clientele of Star, probably the most overrated 'we all know it's a bit shit, but really it's fun' night that ever there was. Now they've painted it turquoise-ish and there are maybe some fairylight on top. Poetry.

Fab Cafe: Didn't really seem to have changed to me, though it was always a fairly late addition to the Leeds drinking roster. It's a bit 'meh' really, not especially sure why we used to drink in here so much. Diabolical G&Ts, plus the giant Darth Maul was a faux pas in 2002; not it's positively hateful.

Carpe Diem: Completely forgotten this place existed, but doesn't seem to have changed a bit. Shall forever associate it with hanging out with a bunch of people who would go on to be minor indie icons that I should probably have sucked up to or something. I am, tragically, not referring to anybody from The Tennessee Traincrash when I say that...

The Faversham: I dunno, I was pissed, looked the bloody same to me.

And there we go. 90 per cent of those places I will almost certainly never visit again... farewell teenage years! farewell early 20s! I give you a 7.7.