Monthly Archives: November 2009

So Cow In The Sitting Room

Eight months ago, So Cow made an excellent covers EP (in a shed) and put in online for free, showing an ear for a lesser-spotted tune and applying his own stylistic brush to what he came up with. Now, he’s done another one.

Here’s what’s on it:

1. queen of eyes (the soft boys)
from Underwater Moonlight, 1980, matador records.

2. lee remick (the go-betweens)
from ’78 til ’79 the lost album, 1999, jet set records.

3. runaway (del shannon)
from any number of compilations of the greatest songs of all time.

4. meet the beatle (tall dwarfs)
from the sky above the mud below, 2002, flying nun records

5. laundry service (local living guy)
http://www.myspace.com/locallivinguy

6. manekin (amature amplifier)
from soo sung land, 2009, http://amatureamp.wo.to/home.html

7. jenny (i love jh)
from I Love JH, 2006, espousal records

8. animal song (shonen knife)
from burning farm, 1983, oglio Records

Click to download

 

Oh and also… first all-new So Cow studio album since 2008, Meaningless Friendly, is out in February 2010 on Tic Tac Totally.

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The Year. Prelude.

Once a year, there comes a special time different to all others. A time when families re-unite, when people give to charity, when gifts are exchanged and movies on television get intolerably James Bond-based. While all of this lovely stuff happens, the ears get pinned back and I spend 100% of my time either listening to and reviewing albums or complaining about what I’ve got myself into to anyone who’ll listen. Time for the end of year list, ladies and gentlemen. Here’s some bullshitty stuff about how I’m going to approach it, influenced by the time my history tutor in college told me that “prefaces are all well and good, but you also have to read the actual book”.

Frank Sinatra – It Was A Very Good Year

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Q0.5 How are you?
You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting for you to ask that question. I’m very well, thank you.

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Time may heal wounds, but I will kill you.

“Late again, Karl. Well, at least you showed up today. Did you take a wrong turn or something?”

I’ve been late with everything lately since I took a six day chunk out of my life to go visit my friend’s floor and drink the whole world in Vienna last week. This Jay Reatard review, for example, is a full week late. But then again, unlike the two-hour Medieval Dublin class I keep missing on Thursday mornings, I pretty much set my own deadlines here, so I’m going to let myself off with a warning.

There’s also the fact that I was standing beside someone who already reviewed the gig elsewhere. Briefly though, here’s what I thought.

It was great. If you’re a sneering hipster, incapable of motion during a punk gig, Jay Reatard will kick you in the face. If you decide to suck it up and stand front centre, singing along and getting into it as much as you can, Jay Reatard is going to respond to that. It’s punk music. It’s about an exchange of energy between the band and the crowd, and the accident of Jay Reatard P4K-approval doesn’t change that.

“GOODCROWDTONIGHT, FEELNPRETTYPUMPED”

Jay doesn’t do banter. He shouts the names of songs while the noise of the previous song is still hanging around, and then he plays those songs with breakneck energy, with his new replacement Scandanavian backing band.

And Blood Visions is one of the best albums of the last decade. And the Singles are great, and his new album is pretty good too. Songs like Blood Visions, It’s So Easy, It Ain’t Gonna Save Me, My Shadow, See Saw, Trapped Here… they’re vitriolic, they’re fast, they’re catchy and they’re brilliant.

It’s straight up, three-piece, sped-up versions of great songs. There’s nothing more you could possibly ask for.

+++

AU’s Irish Albums of the Decade

As you may have seen on every other blog on the Irish internet, AU magazine are compiling a reader-voted list of the best albums to emerge from the smaller island of the Northeastern Atlantic Archipelago in the past ten years. Voting closes on Monday, but if you haven’t voted, you should.

Reasons:

  • AU stands from Alternative Ulster, which is a Belfast publication. Stop the list being Nordy-skewed by voting for your favourite artistes.
  • Every time you vote for someone other than Glen Hansard or Damien Rice, the country edges karmically closer to the end of the recession.
  • Represent the people who made the best albums but won’t be recognised as much as they should!

Those Geese Were Stupefied particularly recommends voting for So Cow’s I’m Siding With My Captors and These Truly Are End Times, Mumblin’ Deaf Ro’s Herring and the Brine, Patrick Kelleher’s You Look Cold and, despite its still stickly Ashlee Simpson production values, Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion.

Send your list, whether it’s just one album or anything up to 20, to chris@iheartau.com

Patrick Kelleher live outdoor doo-wop set

This is one for collectors. It’s a bootleg of a doo-wop set by Patrick Kelleher at the all-day 10th Box Social over the summer. It might be the moment ghost-wop was formed. Picture’s a link.

From Digestion Machine, which is the blog of a man you might also know as Porn On Vinyl/Hipster Youth.

Interview Project #17: Not Squares

notsquares

Not Squares are a three-piece from Belfast on the Richter Collective label. If you don’t know yet, that’s kind of like being stamped as “deadly and slightly weird”. They’re at acute angles and they play synths and DFA-esque drums and shout while you dance. This is the sound of smart people ignoring their head and following their body. They have one single out on the RC singles club called Aye Yo Pa, and the Asylum single will be out early in 2010, but they’re one of the best live bands around, so if you can get out to see them, do it.

Not Squares – Asylum (BBC session)

Q0.5 How are you?
[no response]

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Some reviews from print.

This year I edit the music reviews in Trinity News. I also write them sometimes. Totally Dublin album reviews are only 75 words, and this blog is rangy at the best of times, so I enjoy a good old-fashioned 300 word explication from time to time. Here are two from Issue 1, which would have been out in Fresher’s Week, around the 20th October.

HEALTH – Get Color (City Slang)
healthalbum

It’s striking that a band making what is essentially loud, esoteric experimental music would decide to name their album Get Color. Colour is what you associate with pop music, summer music, beach music. Happy music. Colour is catchy and accessible to everybody. HEALTH tick none of those boxes. They’re danceable, yes, but it’s the kind of post-apocalyptic dancing you do to music that uses peals of feedback as its melodic hook. So why Get Color? Why not Get Black? Get Dark? Darkness seems, on the surface, like HEALTH’s forte. “Nice Girls”, built over an intense, tom-heavy drum beat, approximates a particularly dead-eyed version of Liars, and the robotic/military sound of “Death+” is as ear-numbing as industrial noise can get.

The lyrics are never audible. But that’s part of the charm. Because the songs aren’t so much narratively about things as they are complete auditory experiences, as pretentious as that undoubtedly sounds. You can describe something to someone with as many words as you have in your head and they’ll still translate it back into picture using their own set of prejudices. It’s better to show them. That’s what HEALTH do. They take things like urges, aggression, fear and joy and turn them into slabs of danceable noise.

The key is “Die Slow”. At once both the most accessible and the best thing the band have ever done (imagine that), “Die Slow” is an undeniable giant. Driven along by a continent-sized bassline and BJ Miller dominating his drum-kit, it’s a statement in itself. You can have hypnotic, feedback guitars. You can have shoegaze vocals. Progressive is fine. Experimental is fine. Go that route if you like, but if you do it right, even the most close-minded club attendee is going to be sucked magnetically from wall-propping position to the middle of the dancefloor.

That’s what Get Color means, then. Get Color in the sense of hewing pop music from slabs of noise, but also Get Color in the sense of bringing a whole new palette into play, of bringing innovation to dancefloors whether they want it or not. You won’t hear many albums as simultaneously abrasive and immediately appealing as this, so my advice is to put it on in the dark, as loud as it deserves, and get a little colour yourself.
I (5/5)

Jay-Z – The Blueprint 3 (Roc Nation)
bluepritn-3

Alarm bells should be ringing when any artist releases an album entitled The Blueprint. It’s hubristic for a musician to set their music on a pedestal above predecessors and peers. It turns it into a competition. But that’s what mainstream hip-hop is all about, being the best right now, and it’s something to which Jay-Z has held a roughly recognised claim to for nearly a decade. After all, The Blueprint 3 is part of a series, the third in line after 2001’s original (triple platinum after its release on the day of the World Trade Centre attacks) and 2002’s three million-selling Blueprint²: The Gift and the Curse. Since then, Jay-Z has retired and returned, transcended musical prejudices with a headline set at Glastonbury and, historically, played at the inauguration concert of the President of the United States. It’s fair to say that if anyone can claim to know what the blueprint for a hip-hop album is, it’s Shawn Carter.

It’s a pity then that this album is so unsatisfying. With a cast of guests ranging from Rihanna to Young Jeezy to Luke Steele of electro-pop duo Empires of the Sun, Jay-Z has no material barriers to making whatever music he wants at this point in his career. However, fifteen years on from his debut, it’s not clear that he knows what he’s trying to say. One song that instantly sticks in the craw is the ham-fisted “D.O.A. (Death of Autotune)”. Claiming itself to be “practically assault with a deadly weapon”, “D.O.A.” sets its sights on the hip-hop zeitgeist with a sharp tongue and no pitch correction. But over a staid guitar line and without any of Jay-Z’s truly cutting lyrics, it simply comes off as too calculated and, let’s face it pop fans, not half the tune that some of T-Pain, Lil Wayne and Kanye West’s singles are.

Oh yes, Kanye West. A man whose last album consisted of little more than auto-tuned vocals and 808 kick drums. And one who also features on The Blueprint 3, one whole song after “D.O.A.” Huh. “Run This Town”, the track with West and Rihanna, is actually quite good. So is much of the album. “Empire State of Mind”, an ode to New York with Alicia Keys over some ringing grand piano, would stand up against anything Jay-Z has done. But the problem, as the man himself calls it on the opening track, is thus: “I don’t run rap no more, I run the map”. Jay-Z’s more important right now in the grand scheme than he is, strictly speaking, musically relevant. We’ll find out soon if the two can be mutually exclusive for the Noughties’ greatest.

II.2 (3/5)