Monday, 13 November 2017

The Genius of Nick Cave

#28: Night Of The Lotus Eaters [extended version]

One of Nick's most hypnotic and eerie songs, it's essentially based on Mick Harvey's three-note riff repeated over and over. Taken from 2008's 'Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!' album, it's credited to the Bad Seeds, but sounds more like what Grinderman were doing around that time. In fact, the line-up - in the video at least - features only three Bad Seeds: Warren Ellis and Jim Sclavunos were both in Grinderman with Nick, but here it's Harvey in place of Martyn P. Casey.

The meaning of the song is rather opaque. In Greek mythology the lotus-eaters were a race of people living on an island dominated by lotus plants. The lotus fruits and flowers were the primary food of the island and were a narcotic, causing the inhabitants to sleep in peaceful apathy. Nick uses chivalrous symbolism for the role against the "philistines and barbarians" - a heater is a kind of shield and a sap is a short club. Therefore are the lotus eaters the brainwashed materialistic masses "roaming the shopping malls"? Is he urging us to fight back against our "catastrophic leaders" to keep our honour and integrity? Or am I way off the mark?



Friday, 27 October 2017

Memories of 2017 gigs #9

Public Service Broadcasting
Colston Hall, Bristol - 23 October 2017
Support: Palace


You're probably getting tired of me writing about Public Service Broadcasting. The stats suggest you were never that interested to begin with.

Don't care!

Public Service Broadcasting ARE one of the best bands around right now. Their records are intriguing and original, and their concerts are something of an event. We first saw them four years ago - twice - in tiny Cardiff venues, around the time of their first album's release. Both dates were sold out, the venues packed. Back then, just Willgoose and Wrigglesworth were onstage with their visuals guy discreetly lurking in the shadows, projecting the cleverly put-together film clips and effects that illustrate the songs onto a big screen at the back of the stage and a stack of vintage TV screens at the front. We've seen them twice more since in very different settings (read here and here).

On Monday night, we travelled to Bristol to see them for a fifth time at the Colston Hall, one of our favourite venues. I had a feeling it would prove to be the perfect venue for PSB, and I was proved right. And my, how they've grown. The venues they're playing now are considerably larger, accommodating 10 times as many people - but they're still selling them out. The line-up is also greater; as well as the two mainstays and the visuals expert Mr B., they now have a full-time fourth member JF Abraham and a touring brass section (more on them later). The visuals and lighting are more ambitious and high-tech than ever too.

The show's intro music is David Bowie's Sound & Vision, an apt description of what is to follow. And what followed was 90 minutes of extraordinary sound and vision from a band I never grow tired of watching. Personal highlights for me were plentiful. The Other Side, the story of Apollo 8's manned mission to orbit the moon, was stunning. The bit where signal is lost with the spacecraft and mission control - and us - await to hear from the crew as they emerge from the other side of the moon is spine-tingling. There's near silence, the audience rapt and on tenterhooks as the tension mounts. From the new album, They Gave Me A Lamp was wonderful, the band joined onstage by Haiku Salut, the trio who provide the vocals and accordion on the record. All Out, the one about the miners strike, is a right rebel rouser. When the female voice utters the words "I was brought up to respect the police. I don't respect them now," I always smile. I don't know why.

For me, the biggest high point was the encore. The band emerged onstage with none other than James Dean Bradfield of my beloved Manic Street Preachers in tow. He proceeded to deliver a stirring rendition of his contribution to 'Every Valley', Turn No More (see pic). MrsRobster, who was never a Manics fan (to put it lightly), was cheered up by the next song. Gagarin was the moment on 'The Race For Space' when PSB got funky. The brass section shines on this one, especially when they launch into their impressive dance moves before being joined by two more dancers in spacesuits. This was the real fun moment of the set, although in truth, there's nothing that isn't fun about a PSB set.

It's been great seeing a band mature from the days of small, sweaty, dank clubs to theatres and mid-sized concert halls in such a short period of time. They will continue to grow, I've no doubt, and maybe I'll still be writing about them despite no fucker reading.

Don't care!


No MP3s today. Instead, a couple of videos. First, I found PSB's performance of Go! in Leeds a few nights before the Bristol show:



And here's their latest single. Yep, the one with that Manics bloke. This was absolutely IMMENSE live.



Monday, 23 October 2017

"Dust turns into gold..."

One of my favourite albums of 2017 is 'Kinder Versions' by Mammút. It's their fourth album; the first to be released in English and the first to gain a release outside their native Iceland. Very, very good it is, too. They're playing Cardiff next month so watch this space. In the meantime, here's the new video for one of the record's best songs.



Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Memories of 2017 gigs #8

Nadine Shah
The Globe, Cardiff – 15 October 2017
Support: Life


On the eve of a hurricane hitting the British Isles, I was getting blown away in a small live music venue in Cardiff by one of the most powerful performances I’ve seen in recent times. Nadine Shah’s new album ‘Holiday Destination’ has become my favourite record of 2017. Tackling such themes as immigration, the refugee crisis and mental health, it’s an often uncomfortable listen, but incredibly forceful and moving at the same time. Its transformation to the live setting is nothing short of astonishing.

First off, a few words about the support band. Life don’t have a name that you can Google all too easily but if you’re searching for a new band with a bit of an edge in these dark times instead of the increasing torrent of insipid electro-pop dross, I think you may find solace in this quartet from Hull. To describe Life simply as a punk band is to do them a disservice, but their energy and attitude evokes a certain spirit that often emerges in troubled times. While their singer displays characteristics of a Jarvis Cocker bent, he can also bellow messages of anger, frustration and, most welcomingly, hope.  There were certainly a few memorable moments in their set and I, along with I suspect a few others, will be checking out their self-released album ‘Popular Music’. In fact, I spotted a guy I work with, who was also in attendance, clutching a vinyl copy at the end of the night.

Nadine Shah first came to my attention a couple of years ago when singles from her last album ‘Fast Food’ were getting regular plays on 6 Music. By contrast, I haven’t heard a single tune from ‘Holiday Destination’ aired by said station this year. That’s tragic. Not only do we need its messages more than ever right now, we also need to hear more music of such remarkable quality on our radios. It really is an extraordinary album, and we were treated to an opening salvo of its first three tracks tonight. The addition of the sax to Nadine’s sound is an interesting move, but it serves to accentuate the most menacing aspects of some of these songs.

‘Holiday Destination’ is a very rhythmic, percussive-sounding record that translates wonderfully to the live setting. As a result, the earlier songs that were aired were reinterpreted to fit this sound. They sounded all the better for it. Aching Bones and Runaway sounded fresh and reinvigorated, while Stealing Cars and Fool sit comfortably with the brooding, dark nature of the new songs. Nadine’s deep, tremulous voice rounds off the ominous, yet emotive feel of the whole set. Yet, when she speaks to the audience, it’s like the sun comes out.

You see, for all the darkness in her music, Nadine is actually very funny. There’s something about people from the north-east and their wit. Quick and incisive, Nadine lightens the mood with her tales of “Simpsons heckling” during Radiohead at Glastonbury and writing Fool about “a lovely, lovely fella” who she almost immediately reveals is actually a “total cunt”. She also informs us that ‘Holiday Destination’’s closing track Jolly Sailor was number one in the iTunes chart in Lithuania. “I don’t know what that’s about,” she muses. “I’ve got an ex-boyfriend there but he definitely hasn’t been buying it, cos he fuckin’ hates me.”

Yet when it comes back to her songs, the emotion and sheer passion comes flooding out. Speaking as a second-generation immigrant, she extols the virtues of immigration and being able to draw on different cultures to become a richer person, soaking up the bigotry and violence that often accompanies it. She speaks from experience, adding: “Anyone who reckons immigration is a bad thing is a fucking idiot.” That gets one of the biggest cheers of the night. The band then launches into Out The Way, one of the most rousing, yet abrasive songs of the year, and without a doubt my fave. It damn near set the place alight! The evening’s final song, new single Mother Fighter, about a Syrian refugee who goes back to her homeland to help fight for its freedom and provide a safe future for her family, is clearly one of the songs Nadine feels most strongly about. She gave an impassioned speech about the plight of refugees around the world and the seemingly non-existent coverage of the issue in our media. It looked for a moment like she was going to break down in tears as she spoke. The performance of the song was stunning and heartfelt.

In this day and age, when everyone wants everything quick, cheap and disposable, it’s becoming increasingly rare to find an artist who is so genuine and powerful as Nadine Shah. Making the album of the year is one thing, but to be so utterly convincing on stage, the hardest place to hide of all, is another entirely. A “wow!” escaped my lips at the end of the show. That hasn’t happened in some time.


Monday, 16 October 2017

The Genius of Nick Cave

#27: God Is In The House [live]

This just has to be one of my all-time favourite performances from Later... With Jools Holland. Nick and the Bad Seeds around the piano for an exquisite, intimate rendition of God Is In The House from 2001's 'No More Shall We Part'. There's a bit during the last verse where the camera pans in slowly on Nick as he practically whispers, hovering in closeup while he sings "If we all hold hands and very quietly shoouuut 'Hallelujah'..." before it retreats for the final few lines. I love that part. The song? A tale of a rather sinister-sounding Christian utopia sung in places with barely-concealed venom. Only Nick Cave is capable of a song like this, and the performance - simply stunning.



Friday, 6 October 2017

"Sinner I... oh oh oh oh!"

The Breeders have released a new song, their first in nine years! This is fantastic news of course, especially as it is the 'classic' line-up that recorded 'Last Splash' back in the day. Wait In The Car sounds like it would have slotted in nicely on that record, and it is the first of three 7" singles the band is releasing before the year is out. Is there a new album due as well? I dunno, but let's be grateful for this for now. Anything Kim Deal puts her name to is positively dripping with brilliance, and this song puts a HUGE smile on my face.



Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Tom

I wasn't planning on posting anything so soon, but I'm pretty crushed after hearing Tom Petty died. The first time I came across him was when this video was shown on a Saturday morning TV show when I was 13-14 years old.



It freaked me out a little at the time. He made a marvellously creepy Mad Hatter. I suppose my favourite Petty album has to be 'Full Moon Fever' because of those songs, but 'Into The Great Wide Open' was a huge store favourite when I worked at Our Price. It was hardly off the deck for the best part of a year.

Then there was his work with the Travelling Wilburys. Handle With Care is still a wonderful, wonderful tune, and reminds us, sadly, that three fifths of them are no longer with us.



Sensational.

Tom Petty was 66. Far, far, far too fucking young. A couple months ago he played Hyde Park looking fit as a fiddle. There are so many songs of his I could post, I love loads of them. But I'm going to finish off with this live version of Learning To Fly which has the added bonus of having Stevie Nicks on backing vocals. Let's face it, very few people could ever boast that!




Monday, 2 October 2017

Lose my mind

Estrons are probably Wales' brightest new hope. I've raved about them two or three times here already, but they still seem to be putting out songs of the very highest quality. There have a been three new songs over the summer, but we still await news of a debut album. In the meantime, check out the video for one of those new songs, the rip-roaring Strobe Lights. Great stuff this.


Monday, 18 September 2017

The Genius of Nick Cave

#26: Shivers

Now, the first thing to point out here is that Shivers was not actually written by Nick Cave. It was penned by Rowland S. Howard who brought it to Boys Next Door when he joined the band. The reason I'm including it in this series is because of Nick's vocal. My god, it's incredible, isn't it? This was released in 1979 when Nick was but a mere lad, yet it remains one of his greatest vocals. Shivers closed The Boys Next Door's debut LP 'Door Door', an album Nick once described as "complete wank." Certainly side one is the sound of a young band churning out basic three chord punk songs, but side two - recorded after Howard came on board - hinted at what would happen as they morphed into The Birthday Party.




Monday, 11 September 2017

Alvvays and forever...

Absolutely loving this new song by Alvvays. It's from their new album 'Antisocialites' and was apparently influenced by supporting the Jesus & Mary Chain. Which begs the question: if this is an ode to Jim, where's William's ode?