Wednesday, 26 May 2010


Arcade Fire: Too many members to split royalties between. Ask lead singer guy in the stetson, he was thinking about it as this photo was being taken.

I'm pretty sure Arcade Fire songs are always growers. I can't really remember to be honest. I mean when did 'Neon Bible' come out ? 2007? Long time ago now. Do you even remember 2007? A quick recap: Foot and mouth disease was doing its not-too-nice thang, Chris Benoit was putting his skills to use a bit too literally, Miranda Lambert was kicking everyone's ass with 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend'. Back then, the Arcade Fire were a pretty big deal and man did they put on a good live show but that was then and this is now. Have this coterie still got it? I've listened to this song, 'The Suburbs', twice now and I'm, as the title would suggest, undecided. Picking splinters outta my ass from sittin' on this here fence etc. Can the AF put the game in the chokehold like they have done in the past? A headline appearance at Reading/Leeds (poor sods) awaits, and if they haven't won everyone back over by then, so probably do about 400 bottles of warm piss.

EDIT: Third listen. This is getting good now. The more familiar you get with it, the better it is. Bit like being held in captivity I suppose.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Rapper, Meet Dinosaur.

"Yeah Kweli. I totally like hadn't noticed you mention your album. At all."

So Talib Kweli is a pretty good rapper. 'The Beautiful Struggle' had us all thinking he'd go blow up everywhere but then the following 'Eardrum' was a bit like a glass of squash with not enough cordial in it. i.e. a little weak. Since that record, I've kinda fallen off with him in truth until he came to my attention again recently. See, Talib has a new record out soon with Hi-Tek called 'Revolutions Per Minute' which is a follow up to a record the two worked in '02 called 'Train of Thought' and he has been tweeting about it constantly. Now, I understand this form of marketing, don't get me wrong. It's cheap, very quick and sort of direct in a really indirect way (because that makes sense), however, sending a tweet out a hundred times a day pretty much always saying: "got a new album out soon. buy it and all that." gets a bit, well, annoying. Seriously, if as a @RealTalibKweli followers, the first fifty tweets don't pique your interest well can see where I'm going here.

So, the other day (Wednesday if you must know) I sent the following tweet @ Talib:

Being British I am of course a fine purveyor of the lowest form of wit as you can see. In fact, I've got real issues with sarcasm that I wish I could address. I'm sarcastic all the time, to absolutely everyone. I'm even sarcastic to my cat and he doesn't even have a proper voice. Just a moan that sounds like an ultra slowed down sound effect of a motorbike passing. "Meeeeuuuuooowwwaahhh" - bit like that. So I sent the tweet out and then just sat around and watched paint dry for a couple of minutes until.... there you go BAM! Talib replied!

I mean, Jay once rhymed "Skills sold, I'd probably be, lyrically, Talib Kweli" and here he was replying to me on twitter which is pretty cool. However, it would seem that rappers may have girls, cars and stacks but when it comes to sarcasm, those boys are more lost than an island full of black smoke and polar bear. Mo' sarcasm, mo' problems man.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The National - High Violet (4AD)

A Summer Lovin' Torture Party.

I've been holding out on writing this review for a week or so because this band are a prettay big deal in these indie circles where "earlier material" is king and a "pitchfork" is less a tool to toil the earth with and more a bible but I've listened to this album a lot over the past eight days and I feel pretty qualified to write so here goes.

Firstly, 'High Violet' is no departure in sound or even content from past National albums and more specifically the past two 'breakthrough' records 'Boxer' and 'Alligator'. Secondly, if you've heard one or both of those records you'll already know you're in for some next level shit. It's safe to say that both of those albums have a strong shout at being 'albums of the year' in the years they were released - 2007 and 2005 respectively. However, a more pressing matter is whether 'High Violet', come end of year time, will feature equally as highly on polls you'll no doubt read on blogs just like this one right hurr.

In short, it will. 'High Violet' is an immaculately crafted record that captures a special band on a run of stellar releases that I cannot recall being bettered by anyone else in a long time. The orchestration is beautifully measured, Matt Berninger's vocals are as monotone yet as emotional as ever and as always noted with albums from this band, the drumming is exceptional. Listen to the ghostly gospel backing of 'Afraid of Everyone', that two steps up and two steps down piano of 'England', the fact that Berninger seems to come in a little early on 'Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks' yet the song sounds heartbreakingly perfect. Everything is in its right place. Again, The National amaze me in the way they can create music that is both instantaneous yet has incredible longevity. In an instant and transient world of music, it's so refreshing to hear that someone is making music that is accessible on a commercial level whilst not sacrificing anything in quality or depth. You get the feeling that if this one doesn't shoot these guys to the big time then they might just be forever stuck in the barrel. They really couldn't do much more.

'High Violet' is eleven tracks long which some could say is a little short. However, such is the emotional investment required in listening to these songs as a complete set, I think that is just about right. Highlights can be found at pretty much every corner. I don't seem to adore 'Terrible Love' as much as many others which had me a little worried considering its the opening track but after that you're truly plain sailing. The second half of the record is arguably a little stronger than the first half but really, I'm already nit picking. If I had to pick, I have to say that 'Runaway' has become a go-to track for me. It's wonderfully paced and reminds me a little of 'Start a War' which I played (and still do) to death. Berninger switches between sounding defiant and desperate with equal measure as verse segues to chorus and back again and the effect is just stunning. "We gotta 'nother thing comin' undone and it's taking us over.," Ouch. 'Lemonworld' is another favourite that you could file under 'definitive National'. Again, perfectly paced with a wonderful set of verses delivered with that trademark detached passion that only Berninger can afford. As a songwriter, Berninger has grown and grown with each release and here his pen is more honed than ever. A master at employing simple sentences to devastating use, 'High Violet' is an album full of songs that'll have you visiting one of those virus and pop-up infested lyric sites in no time.

To pinpoint why this band are so good is, however, difficult. Sure they make great songs, nay, albums of great songs but there's more to it than that. I think the lack of pretense in which they go about this crazy business helps. Much is made of The National being "normal blokes" that (up until relatively recently I assume) had jobs in IT and stuff. Thing is, I don't find that fact amazing in any way. These songs are made for the everyday, they are made for the uncertainty of growing up in a time and body that you're not really sure how you inherited. It's about only being certain that you're uncertain, only knowing that you don't know. They aren't a band that sneer or posture, they are a extremely talented band that work hard and honestly at their art and because of this, they get exceptional results. For me, the thing that separates them from every other band working today is the way they can drape their songs with heavy amounts of melancholy, beauty and humour, yet never ever suffocate them. They simply never sound like they are trying too hard or like they are forcing anything and they always sound right.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Dinotour : Chiddy Bang - Bournemouth Fire Station - 10.05.10

Anyone got any slaves I can employ to do the technical side of this blog? Photo taking, picture uploading, cleaning the toilets around here. That kinda thing.

I only went to this gig last night! Quickest write up ever here guys. Way I see it - there's a lotta blogs out there so you gotta act fast if you wanna be the best man and that's just what I want to be. "May not be the best but just know that I plan to be." Young Jeezy said that and he could beat you in a fight/drug selling competition so listen up.

Chiddy Bang then. I wasn't going to go to this show in all honesty. When I saw that CB (Chiddy Bang not that wife beater Chris Brown) were playing locally I was all over it but you know how time passes and you get less bothered about things? Things like going to gigs, marriages, life. Well that started happening and I was set yesterday for another night of the normal - Call of Duty and deep Buddhist mediation but then a pro active mate got in the case and then BANG! we were Chiddy.

Firstly, I've gotta mention the crowd. By that I mean numbers thereof. I didn't actually count because I'd had too many drinks but with a conservative guess I'd go for about 31 people for Chiddy. The support act, The Constellations, I'd go for a concrete guess of 6. I know this is correct because being early on in the night I was sober and I counted. This number (6) was made up of my crew (3) and some other guys (3). The other guys were all doing that 'comic' dancing stuff that hasn't been funny since Screech in Saved By The Bell use to pull stunts like that. Dear other guys, heed caution when behaving like Screech because we all know what happened to him don't we? Yes, he got into loads of debt and made a sex tape, of course.

These Constellations guys were a funny bunch too. There were quite a few of them (seven maybe) and they were part Fun Lovin' Criminals, part Rage Against The Machine and part teenage kids jamming in the garage with egg case sound proofed walls. The lead singer looked a bit like Kid Rock and swore a lot but for all that, I sort of enjoyed them actually. They played on admirably in the face of, well, all six of us and for that I salute them. If I were in a band (I'm not) and I was playing a show (I never have) to only six people I'd probably just throw some obscenely offensive lyrics and shoutouts into the songs to try and provoke a reaction. Either that or have a nervous breakdown (I do, regularly).

The Constellations. Crowd members one, two, three, four, five and six out of shot.

Chiddy took the stage a little later looking pretty pleased to be in my lovely town. They looked pretty happy all night which is also a bonus. Don't you hate it when you feel you're wasting bands/artists time by paying to watch them play*, it's just ridiculous. Anyway, Chiddy's setup is pretty simple as you'd expect. One guy does the beats, another guy does the rhymes. That's about it. They've got a Mac up there too with some samples on it and stuff but I had a sneaking suspicion that Xaphoon (the beats guy) was on chatroulette the whole time looking at the CR standards. Y'know - Erect penis, miserable guy in some dark room in middle America or a still of the Jonas Brothers. In fact, funny I should mention popular-to-passing internet meme Chatroulette because at some point during the show I looked behind me and their was a guy holding a laptop above his head that actually was connected and on Chatroulette. Pretty strange I thought, no doubt the people on the other end were F9ing furiously either way.

I'll never take a good photo as long as I live.

Chiddy only really have a good little mixtape, The Swelly Express (download here), and an EP to their name so when it came to song selection - we knew what we would be getting. The Sufjan sampling 'All Things Go' was as good fun live as on the mixtape and 'The Opposite of Adults' was, or course, predictably frantic. "But I play Ron Burgundy I anchor on the track." At one point we were treated to a Chiddy freestyle (on topics of our choice) over the beat from Tinie Tempah's 'Pass Out'. It was here that, yet again, I dispaired at my peers. Here's why: Xaphoon asked for some topics for Chiddy to rhyme around and below were the (quite small mind you) audiences suggestions:

- Sex
- Drugs
- Sweaty bollocks
- Flintstones

May I remind you that this venue and area of town is dominated by students, y'know, like undergraduates reading various disciplines. Academics apparently. I don't know, you just expect better don't you. Chiddy rhymed on admirably and managed to cobble together a fairly decent freestyle considering. The Passion Pit sampling 'Truth' also zipped along nicely and after an hour or so they were gone. Essentially, it's hard to dislike a group that are such good fun. They use the right samples and have the right sound to get pretty big with young listeners I think. They aren't going to change the whole game or anything but yeah, what's wrong with just being fun anyway?

I'm going to round this review off here because I always always write too much and I'm trying write an essay for my degree too. Did I tell you all I'm studying again? Yeah man, if all goes to plan I will one day graduate and be a proud owner of a B(Hons) in Flintstones and Sweaty bollocks.

Somebody tell Roth that I don't love college.