Latching hold of our ears earlier in the year with their double EP release Colour Your Life/Vampires With Dreaming Kids, Long Island’s Twin Sister had secured a place on our date card long before their they announced their first UK tour. Sneaking across the pond in October, we’d caught the band supporting rising stars, The Morning Benders at the Music Box in Los Angeles (apologies boys, I owe you one live review) and were suitably impressed. Jaded beyond jaded as the years drag on and the revolving floorshow of new bands yawn in our faces with old ideas, it was refreshing to witness a band breathe colour and life into their music.
You’d be forgiven for having a sense of déjà vu here. Is it 1989? Did The Primitives and The Darling Buds really both play London within a week of each other? Having been absent from the live scene for most of the '90s and all of the past decade, for both bands to surface at the same time is unthinkable. Unthinkable, but pretty damn cool. It brings back memories of a time when the music magazines invented a scene called ‘Blonde’, where bands were lumped together purely based on the colour of the lead singers hair. Which by their way of thinking meant you were either a Blonde, a Goth or in Fairground Attraction.
Touring off the back of their third studio release The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night, the Quebec-based The Besnard Lakes returned to London to treat us with some more of their epic Beach Boys meets Spiritualized jams. Given the massive sound present on ...The Roaring Night, there was some anticipation in how the band were going to pull this off as a four piece. With the newer tracks being a lot denser and harder to recreate live without either a 10 piece line up or a maze of effects and loop pedals, assistance came via laptop, which helped embellish the sound and keep true to their recorded material.
Releasing their soundtrack to 13 of Andy Warhol's screen tests was an opportune moment for ex-Galaxie 500/Luna star Dean Wareham to fully express his love for Velvet Underground and the stars of Andy Warhol's Factory. The screen tests alone, wavering between the visually arresting and the arrestingly mundane, were elevated into a new realm with the musical accompaniment provided by Wareham and partner Britta Phillips. Bringing the 13 Most Beautiful show to London (having frustratingly been given its UK premiere in Dunfermline last year) was a long-anticipated occasion.
“Give me a minute and I’ll blow your minds“. The crowd laughs, so does the man who just uttered those words. The mood, somewhat quiet, respectful, shiftless, is lightened, and Mark Kozelek begins another master-class in tinkling the nylon strings of his Spanish guitar like Liberace would the piano. “I’m old” he breaks the silence again, “I’m fat, I need water, I need lyrics to my songs”. From my pew to the right side of the stage I have to squint to see if it’s not Neil Young sitting there complaining about his arthritis. To Kozelek’s credit, he’s still as ageless as ever, and that gut you were grabbing at? I’m pretty sure you’ve been carrying that for a while now.
As anticipation mounts for the release of their upcoming third album The Suburbs, Arcade Fire commence on a brief hit-and-run tour of intimate and out-of-the-way places in Europe, somehow finding themselves performing on a moat in the middle of a limestone quarry in Sweden. For a band like Arcade Fire, such inventive and idyllic surrounds seem apt, but it only poses the question -- How hard can a quarry rock?
I’m a band purist at heart. You can cut off all your fingers, but you’ve still got a hand. If you cut off all your band members and keep cutting and cutting and cutting, you can't expect your audience to comply with your decision or to even recognise the music you make. What was it John Peel said about The Fall? "always different, always the same". Well, yes, but... no. Mark E. Smith is The Fall, but The Fall isn't just Mark E. Smith.
What a wonderful world we live in where The Primitives are able to tread the boards once more. A delightful, decorous blend of '60s op-shop pop fronted by the delectable Tracy Tracy. One certified chart smash with “Crash” and some near misses along the way, The Primitives were one of those bands that were championed and loved (the old chestnut about Morrissey being a big fan is worth repeating) but never fully met with pop's good graces.
"You must be the most attentive audience, ever" joked Chris Thile, during his performance at LA's gem Largo at the Coronet, "It's not often that you can hear the performer's water bottle snap back into place." And it was true -- in this intimate setting of about 75 people (including fan Minnie Driver), Mr. Thile was the center of everyone's attention. There was no heckling or chatter between songs, just enthusiastic, almost rapturous applause for this mandolin virtuoso.
A great band once sang “I’m beginning to like country music. They say that’s the first sign of age” and during the last few years I have seen more and more friends go over to the side of banjos, boots and beards. Maybe age is catching up with us but it could also be that country has sneaked its way into the indie scene more and more, being mixed with folk, rock and pop.
Musicians die. Sometimes quite unexpectedly, most before their time, but not often enough for your brain to idle between song, between string changes or tunings to wonder “will this be the last time?”. You don’t, because you’re too busy enjoying the moment. Having witnessed Jay Reatard play what would be his last ever show in London, he was anything but the vision of a man kicking out the last of his jams.
A first (and probably last) for Webcuts as we jump in the back of a tour van and hit the road with ex-Brisbane trouble makers, now Sydney's problem, The Scare, as they attempt to corrupt the people of Melbourne with their new 'voodoo, and nothing, not even the death of Michael Jackson, was going to get in their way.
Pretty in black and pretty and back, The Raveonettes rolled into London this week to play a one-off gig showcasing their forthcoming album In and Out of Control. It wasn't all rape, guns, suicide and stealing cars, but it was near enough.
The third day of Sweden's 2009 Way Out West is a quieter affair but we still manage to squeeze in Patrick Wolf, Jenny Wilson, Vampire Weekend, Wolfmother, Lily Allen, My Bloody Valentine and Deerhunter.
Ipso Facto recently trimmed the fat, excising keyboardist Cherish Kaya in favour of the perfect rock triangle. The sound is now suitably streamlined, focussed and finessed -- the girls now move a like well-oiled, well-coiled machine.