Sunday, 19 July 2015

Panda Bear is listened to in this house

I find myself returning to the ‘new’ Panda Bear album again and again – it’s kind of rolled around my soul for the last month or two or three. There’s something euphoric and utterly bleak about it at the same time. It’s all that cracked beauty that’s getting me – you getting me? I’m not sure how I arrived at Panda Bear – it was through a chance encounter with Animal Collective possibly or a mention in Mojo (oh no) about Person Pitch that probably got me started.

It was either Bros or Comfy in Nautica that did it.

I love that cacophonous sound of digital and analogue breaking down and spinning round and round with reverb drenched falsetto like a future Wilson brother hooked up to Detroit and trance. I still have a whole heap of equipment lodged around the house and in various buildings – old synths, drum machines, 8 track recorders, echo units, drum machines, sequencers and laptops with part finished songs and unfinished beats. I sometimes think I might set it all up and record an opus – you know Wilson meets Detroit.

But Panda Bear got there first. Oh he was way out in front.

I don’t listen to as much electronica as I used to. There’s not much room in the day for beats and bleeps when you’ve the madness of young minds running rings round mine. As I said most of the time electronica is confined to solo car journeys – but I can sneak Panda Bear in on the pretext that the kids love The Beach Boys.

So what to say of Panda Bear meets the Grim Reaper – a title already intriguing –like a hallucinatory dub album with dark over(under) tones. Now hear this! Noah Lennox, a.k.a. Panda Bear, a.k.a. one-fourth of the founding members of Animal Collective, sees it like this,  ‘[as] more comic-booky, a little more lighthearted,” he says. “Like Alien Vs. Predator.”

It has that sci-fi/ lo-fi  - oh why appeal. Within the ‘soup’ there are ever morphing sounds and feels – cycles and loops – textures and tones coursing throughout the whole thing. It was made with the collaborative soul of aka Pete Kember (everyone’s got an aka these days) Sonic Boom. A sonic alchemist from way back when who blended psychotropic drugs with paeans to the almighty channelled through electrical velocity, hum and drone.

What’s strange is that this wholly unique and striking long player is ripped from the heart of those sample packs available for all to use. But it takes a sense of the unknown to transform them beyond the usual and make it unusual, “I got into the idea of taking something that felt kind of common — the opposite of unique — and trying to translate that into something that felt impossible,” he says. The textures for the album came together everywhere from El Paso, Texas, to a garage by the beach near his home in Lisbon, Portugal, where he has lived with his family since 2004. I‘ve put a couple of these stretched out electronic psyche numbers on a compilation for the kids (my kids – that’s who I’m doing it for) and it’s clearly Mr Noah that gets us all going – all nonsense shout outs and something like a ‘big chip on her leg’ – well that’s what we sing.

 It’s electronica sending out viruses to infect the brain.

(won – won – won) Wonderful.

I’m not in the mood for a full review – I just need to get back to writing somehow – somewhere – but I want to put down a few thoughts about ‘Tropic of Cancer’.

 “Some of the songs address a big change, or a big transformation,” And here is the central song about death. That’s the one I keep returning to (it’s on the kids compilation – we sing it together – maaaaaan.)  It’s truly heart breaking – truly heart breaking – with its repetitive sample of harp from The Nutcracker Suite and utter openness about the devastation of losing someone ( you won’t come back – you can’t come back – you won’t come back to it) “It’s sort of marking change — not necessarily an absolute death, but the ending of something, and hopefully the beginning of something else.” All somewhere over the rainbow - but it's a place you don't want to go. Saying that I always felt that song had a sinister edge. A little too much 'survivor soul' in it.

I know Noah keeps on getting compared to Brian Wilson – but you can trace it right back through his Panda Bear work – introspective – open – real. Tropic of Cancer is ‘In my Room’ – an honesty so much missed in this calculating unforgiving modern austere times (perhaps I wasn’t made for these times and nor was Noah) There’s fragility in his words and harmonies that sink into the psyche – it gnaws away at you – like his subject matter.  And he couples this with genuine psychedelia – colouring sound and song in modern ‘far out’ ways.

Panda Bear meets The Grim Reaper and comes out on top. It’s a wonderful long player from a wonderful talent.

You know Wilson’s getting on – Noah’s still young. Let’s book some time for him at Ocean Way Recording, Hollywood.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Another response to (Sleaford) modernism Part 2

Arriving in Camden Town the rub and mix of London smashes against the senses - all nose, eyes and ears. I am making my way down the High Street to Koko - London's hip hangout for NME youth and groove (I've got a Brit Award) to see Sleaford Mods - Nottz (with a Z you cunt) upstarts  - emperor's new clothes or the real thing ?  (just so you are aware of this - the are the real thing - and i've never thought otherwise)

There's something about Sleaford Mods that brings out the bile in people - they either get it or fucking hate it - with a passion.  A real passion - trying to drown out one of the most authentic voices in rock n roll this decade. I don't know why the man (that's the 'man on the street) thinks like that - perhaps he's a wanker.

So down a hot high street of cheap plastic and chicken. With carrier bags, skateboards and mental health, crab eyes and rage I make my way to the Palais - a venue steeped in tradition and history - comedy ( the last Goon show was recorded there) and music hall - cheeky songs and bawdy crowds. 

How times have not changed.

The concert is an early one - doors at seven - Vic Goddard and his Subway Sect on at 7.30 - and Sleaford Mods at 8.30. We all have to get out by 10 so NME people can set up stuff and groove. Me I like the fact it finishes on time - clocking in and clocking off - I know my hours - work like. But this concert is far from work like - it feels like Sleaford Mods are on the verge of that bigger breakthrough - new songs from 'Key Markets' have creeping claustrophobic choruses - there is a difference in the air. And I'll return to this later.

So Vic gives a pleasant set of post punk scratchiness and hollers and shakes - you get the lineage (from here to where we'll be going with Sleaford Mods)  - the ranconteur - there's a story about this one and that one - the audience peppered with beards and loss of hair  - young ones and old ones - they are receptive. I am receptive to these sounds too - it reminds me of The Only Ones  and Orange Juice - The Jam and The Buzzcocks - it has its place because Goddard was a face then and he is now. Good stuff.

So myself and Andy B (a long time friend and with an open mind to music and the masses) snatch a cheeky pint or two and position ourselves in the crowd in readiness for the band. And they are a band comprising singer/ poet Jason Williamson and musician Andrew Robert Lindsay Fearn - oh but it's a lap top and he doesn't even play owt. Get awwt of it. Of course he fucking plays it - he plays it every night - without that stance and shake at the side to Williamson's frenetic peacock strutting - head shaking - hair brushing - tourette's ticking I think it wouldn't work. Fearn has this 'lad on a bike outside the off licence asking you to buy fags' feel about him - even though he could get his own.  It's a likely alliance of minds  - words and bass - beats and politics - it's a Pet Shop Boys borne out of Poundland and Bargain Booze - Kwik Save and Frozen Foods - of small market towns - concrete slabs and orange fluorescent haze as days became dazed as life present just fuck all to do - day in day aawwwwt.

I think I've been waiting for Sleaford Mods for a long time - saying that they've been going for a long time - anyway - I like a rant - an incoherence - a 'I just can't fucking believe it' strop at life and here is Williamson and Fearn to articuate this in brutal inarticulation - with bellows and burps - raspberries and grunts - this peppered spastic magic - sums up the state of the nation aptly - white British rap music (perhaps?). Williamson arrives after Fearn has set up - a few thumbs to the full hall and they are in and on it for the next 80 minutes. Williamson's lyrics depict the frustration and pointlessness to modern living - puncture the ideology of musical acceptance from the masses - he attacks bosses (sack the manager) - sees the ugly overbelly of being a citizen in the streets.

Williamson struts and juts - there's a camp element and theatre to it all (apt in this music hall setting)  - seeing it in the flesh he reminded me of Iggy Pop - all command and freak - everyman and star rolled into one - all stage glory as this nation turned Tory. What's your story? Delivered with wit not banter, shouts and stutters of tales of real life gutters and nutters on trains and buses and in shopping centres (the Vicky Centa)  I lived in Nottingham for eight years - it gets under your skin - I can see this midlands mentality wrapped round these visions.

These are true modernists.

You get a sense the audience are shifting in their demographic - there's a fella holding a wine glass ( i mean him no harm) but you know what I mean - all middle class elbows and A roads. English Heritage visits and cheese - mixed with fixed stares and potential threats of violence.  I guess Sleaford Mods have mortgages to pay with their faces of rage. And that doesn't matter - your music moves with you - you can tell on these new tunes - there's a temperance in his temper. Andy B even suggested that Sleaford Mods music would appear in advertisements - he thought  Homebase - I'm not quite certain about that.

But I feel I am witnessing a band of the (no) future. They mean it man. We mean it maaaaaaan. The band continue with abuse - sonic shakes and bass (rowche) rumbles - the aural equivalent of a gang of hoodies showing cheap youtube clips of spits in playgrounds and accidents and precinct fights - all hot headed and lairy - not scary. Cunt this and that. Rage about those times- i fucking hate these times and here is the idiocy articulation of fear and loathing - we don't know what to think - shut it aawt mate - shut it awwwt.

I want a bounty - just a fucking bounty.

Sleaford Mods are the genuine article - not that they claim authenticity and all that shit - this is craft and graft. 

I am 44 next week and I have never been more excited in my life. Onwards and upwards - here's to the Sleaford modernists - you cunt.

Here they are. 

Friday, 5 June 2015

immediate response to Sleaford Mods Koko London

I will write a full review - these are just words for now- i have pictures - i have not put them up: 

this response will include swearing

chicken villa
hot streets
terrace banter
and mistaken identity

peacock shapes and stage glory
full houses and a nation turned tory
what's your story?

vitriol and rage and camp hand gesture and inarticulate mutterings

sex pistols and cusps of fame (but it's all so fucking boring)


iggy pop vemon
and songs turned up to eleven
wit not banter
shouts and stutters
of tales of real life gutters
and nutters
on trains
and buses
and in shopping centres
and streets
ram raided
and not faded denim
with faces past rage with mortgage
just simply stood and fed with invective
for minutes
or hours
because that's what we do
middle class elbows and
wine in hand
as we witness a band of the (no) future.
they mean it man
we mean it maaaaaaan
cusps of breakthrough
you discuss adverts and useage
the band continue with abuse
cunt this and that
i put the cunt in scunthorpe
i fucking rage about those times
i fucking hate these times
and here is the idiocy articulation of fear and loathing
we don't know what to think - shut it aawt mate - shut it awwwt.
I want a bounty.
just a fucking bounty
that's how we yell.
we demand
this is a band with politics and understanding
shout cunt
they get it
smash it - big up the riots

with a z u cunt

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

I have always liked The Fall

I have always liked The Fall.

I’ve written about those (various) times before.  It was my brother Paul who got me into The Fall. Not John Peel.  He bought a seven inch from a man in a market and we played it at home again and again.

 It was called Totally Wired.

I arrived at Brixton Electric as the doors opened. Various Fall t-shirts already assembled in the queue – anticipation for this dedication to the rigmaroles of RnR already there in the air – all high tension (line) and knowing nods that we were all Fall fans.

And 50,000,000 Fall fans can’t be wrong.

As I ventured round the building locating enclosed open spaces for my lungs (that’s the smokers corner) I arrived there alone. On my own with cigarette smoke for friends.  When through the door burst two wide eyed – wired fresh young things – all angular movements and rapid talk – they were singing Totally Wired.

You don’t have to be weird to be wired.

I’d learnt this much early on.  Scunthorpe streets weren’t so tolerant back then – or at least I thought the world was divided into the ‘Henry Afrika’s Scene’ a nightclub on Doncaster Road with outdated hairstyles and outdated moral views and those of the independent scene – all spikes and hair and leather and cider – and never the twain should meet. It wasn’t actually like that at all – but I grew up thinking I was an outsider. 

Turns out we were just conforming another way.

So here I am a 43 year old man (and I like it) holed up in Brixton with The Fall. It was a first for me. It was a good introduction to the rampant ramalamma of MES and assorted musicians.  So from Totally Wired singing openings and nods and charged glasses I was wished well and that this would be an intense night and was welcome to join them later in the heaving mass of bodies up the front. I said I’d think about it.

There seems to be lots of discussion and talk at a gig like this – what’s your favourite Fall song? When did you first see them? How did you get into the Fall? Lots of never ending questions about the North and whether they’d be good or not.

They were good. Excellent in my head. But I’ll tell you about that later.

I read a review on the mighty Louder than War website that at a recent gig they had played a 45 minute slowed down film of rock royalty – just to set the place on edge. I wasn’t sure whether we’d be treated to the film  - I quite fancied it to tell the truth. Instead we had two bands – the first were called Wetpig and they had a ramshackle repetition in the music (and they're never gonna lose it) appeal. Scratchy and catchy if you get me. Three strong women with post -punk riffage  - keyboard drone – motorik drums and funked up bass. They were good actually. It may have been their last gig. So there you go.

This was followed by some overblown shite from a band who took themselves far too fucking seriously. All hand gestures to soundmen and raging intensity – they even had a strobe to accompanying their Ride/ U2/ Coldplay mash up. You don’t have to be weird to be wired. But it helps if you’re wired from the start. They weren’t. They will not feature on compilations in people’s cars in the future.

The Fall feature heavily on my car compilations. We as a family (my family- not the world) have listened to a potted history of The Fall over the years (yeah but what’s your favourite era?  I can hear you asking) So to eventually arrive in a building when I knew The Fall were going to play in was exciting for this old man.  So we waited - posters said 10pm The Fall - it would be considerably later than 10pm that MES and Frenz would walk on the stage. To a backdrop that simply read Dedication not Medication - You Decide on one half and The Fall (White on Blue) on the other  - microphones were set up and a moog set up right hand side with a chair - repetitive squelches and bass rumbles accompanying the roadies technical know how.

And then nothing. 

For forty five minutes. 


Two deejays playing vinyl - but no Mark E Smith. 

A can is thrown. 

Still nothing.

Conversations turn to Mark's state - is he too drunk to get it together? Is he actually in the building? Is this the way to start a UK tour?

And then an introductory tape - and the nucleus of The Fall arrive - Elena (Mrs MES) places her red coat and bag on the chair to the side of the Moog - Peter Greenaway turns up the guitar - Dave connects it all with his bass and then they lock down in double drum time (Keiron and Darren) and we wait for an entrance. At first a voice from the wings - and then the man - staring us down - prowling and stopping - gurning and growling. His door is always open. We welcome him en masse - we are suddenly under the thrall of Mark. He will command proceedings from now on.

And it's a whirlwind - muddy vocals and indecipherable sounds emanate from Smith - yet it mutates into a classic Fall sound.  Chugging and reverberating around - as Smith swithes stance and microphones - turns dials and creates art out of chaos. He's the real deal this fella - he's wearing suit - you know - he's made an effort (I remember an interview with Mark in one of music magazines and he was bemoaning the lack of getting dressed up for a night out - I think it was around the time of the rave explosion)but here he is like he's just got out the office - slipped the tie off and wandered on stage. Oh to work with a colleague like MES in the office - it would be great.

Hurtling through new Fall material - this juggernaut of a group pummel us with twists and snarls -  as Smith makes every part of the stage his own. There's new material from the much anticipated Sub-Lingual Tablet - I think Quit iPhone gets an airing as I snap cheeky photographs on mine at the side of the stage. A blistering Mister Rode and sonic exploration via Auto Chip 14 - 15 9 (another new one) So I'm there - and I'm getting it - not rushing like I did when I first heard Totally Wired - but all these sounds are falling into place and suddenly I have the revelation (to me - it may not be to you) that The Fall are direct (dead beat) descendants of The Kinks. Observational scowl and punk attitude - in your face - menance and grimace. The Fall are making art. They reflect and reinvent. They are incredible.

And then they are gone. 26 minutes in. They leave. 

The crowd seem bemused. The band seem bemused. MES has left the stage - so they do to. 

This could get ugly. But then from the wings - comes the crooning of Smith. He's back it's not exactly an encore more a light breather and then he's there - jacket off - back to get on with the show (and it is a show - studied rock n roll like Elvis' hips and legs) and we get four more numbers - including a song I think is called Stout Man - which the whole band seem to chant - in fact Darren the 'second' drummer may have had a run out on this one - adding more Smith like sounds to Smith's  microphone maelstrom. Darren gets to round off the evening too. He's pretty integral to this whole set up.  We also get Facebook Troll - a new song from the new album - as Mark commands from he front all open arms demanding that he 'wants a Facebook Troll'. It's brilliant. It's pertinent and it's funny. MES always in touch - always ahead of the game.

Four songs in they disappear again. The lights aren't up but people are unsure. It's 10 past 11. There's a scurry for (stale) air and I overhear a conversation - young lads - fred perrys and short sensible hair - moaning between themselves - and there's just one lad complaining - 'I can't understand him - it's shit - this is shit - I can't hear him - what's he on about - this is shit'.  This is a band still getting a reaction that's divided  - that's up for debate - 31 albums in.

And then they are back.

Two more tunes. Venice with the girls and Bury.  Darren gets brought to the front. Stood next to Peter and MES stands with them as they tell us - explain to us they are not from Bury. Things like that are important.  He's quite egalitarian is MES tonight - microphones are given to group members - all are encouraged to participate - including the audience.
Then they are gone. But not finished.

Suddenly as Smith is wont to do - they re-emerge and strike up a mighty Theme from Sparta FC - there's power in this longest serving line up of The Fall. And with Darren shouting Sparta, Sparta, Sparta to the crowd they depart. 

It is finished. I have witnessed (the fitness) of the mighty Fall.

I don't think I could have envisaged that The Fall would still be so relevant - so important when we first played Totally Wired back then in Scunthorpe bedrooms. But Smith needs more room (to live) in this world. He might not play the game for the industry but he is a role model for art. He creates an effect - he demands a reaction. 

He still makes me think.

I like that in my popstars.

I like The Fall.

It's Facebook Troll  - but you never know MES may be writing another song called Fibre Book Troll.