Tag Archives: Holy Fuck

All I know is that you’re perfect right now.

Coney Island’s great for a lot of reasons. It hosts the world famous Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, for example, the site of Takeru Kobayashi’s doubling of the original event record in 2001 and his ignominious fall to Joey Chestnutt is 2007 which ultimately led to his non-participation and bizarre Free Kobi campaign on this year’s July 4th event.

There’s other stuff, too. Candy apples. The “subway crowd”, according to a New Yorker who recommended keeping away. And once a year, for free, the Siren festival, put on by the Village Voice. To give a general idea of how great Siren is historically, here’s some examples of bands who’ve played since 2001.

2001: Guided By Voices, Quasi, Superchunk
2002: Sleater-Kinney, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Liars
2003: !!!, Modest Mouse, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
2004: The Fiery Furnaces, Blonde Redhead, Mission of Burma
2005: Q and Not U, Spoon, Saul Williams
2006: Tapes ‘n’ Tapes, Scissor Sisters, Art Brut
2007: MIA, Dr. Dog, Black Lips
2008: Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Islands, Times New Viking, Broken Social Scene, Beach House, Jaguar Love, Annuals (FOR FREE! Fuck sake.)
2009: Built To Spill, Micachu and the Shapes, Future of the Left.

This year was the tenth anniversary and it was pretty great too.

The first band I got to, having had to rouse a household full of hungover delinquents with nothing but bare willpower and a promise that they’d probably like some of the bands, was Surfer Blood.

Surfer Blood are a band I like an awful lot, but live sound got the better of them, and with unwieldily booming subwoofers hiding the guitar melodies and killing the groove, they were only okay, and probably would have been worse than okay for someone without the melodies burnt into their head already.

Ponytail, or the second half of Ponytail’s set, was next. Ponytail are a preposterous and excellent band, and having never seen them live despite being in Dublin at the time of their visit, I was excited to see what they were going to be like.

They were sparser than I expected, and more punk. Whilst on record it comes off as slightly more composed, in a live setting the irrepressible Molly Siegel seems to be pretty much exclusively a really excitable cheerleader for the band’s naive, complex music. It works pretty well, and a moshpit forms. Molly says things like “golly”. Cos she’s Molly.

Show of the day came from the Pains of Being Pure At Heart, up next. I know they’re divisive, but as the all-knowing life judge and stone-tablet opinion hander-downer, that’s ridiculous. They’re great. Their debut album could not be more full of great indie pop songs, and all it takes is not screwing it up to transform that into a live show.

They didn’t screw it up. They played the hits, and plenty of new songs, and seemed genuinely delighted to be playing Siren. Their enthusiasm was contagious, really, and even if a Pains crowd is never going to do more than dance lightly, it was an enjoyable light dance. Highlight, for me, was Come Saturday, but then that’s always been my favourite song of theirs.

The God of Musicians More Respected Than Good will have to forgive me for this one: instead of going to Ted Leo, I brown-bagged it for a while in the carnival, watching an Italian ice-maker make Italian ices grumpily and generally surveying the point at which the hipster Siren crowd meshed with the “subway crowd” (I’m presuming they don’t have subways in Williamsburg. Right? Am I completely right on that point?)

So this sets up Holy Fuck, with the sun going down and the risk of living a week the colour of a cherry slushie just for the sake of seeing a few indie rock bands waning. Safe hands.

If you’ve never seen or encountered Holy Fuck before, you’re missing out. Listening to them on record is something, but not enough. Much like HEALTH but a bit more amenable to normal people (rather than ridiculous people) dancing, they fashion their conceivably programmable beats from real instruments, some conventional, some silly. The drummer is the driving force, taking whole songs up and down with him as he sees fit. Then there’s a bassist and two sets of keyboard/sample self-facilitating media nodes, one of which features a 20 euro Casio keyboard I still have a home, the default beat from which actually forms the basis for a Holy Fuck song.

On Coney Island at dusk beside the beach and boardwalk surrounded by people looking happy, a rollercoaster and a carnival in the summer, pretty much everything was great, but Lovely Allen, with its swells and forget-your-troubles-esque euphoric moments, was always going to be the high point of the day.

As they finished, I got another beer (in another brown bag) and headed towards the beach, passing a man in a Fermanagh GAA jersey who turned out to be from Queens and was found immediately out of his depth after he walked foolishly into the trap of asking my GAA fundamentalist (and Nordy) companion if he’d watched the World Cup.

He hadn’t. We continued on our path to night beach drinking.

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Jiminy Jillikers!

On Thursday, I went to see Holy Fuck in Whelans. I’ve been an unlikely fan of theirs ever since Analogue dropped their LP into my bag for review purposes in October some time. Thing is, I’m a little non-plussed with the current trend for beeps, bleeps and beats. So I reckon if I wasn’t made to listen to it, I never would have. It was lucky I did. It landed in the top 20 of my overblown three-month attempt at an end of year list for 2007, and I reckon in retrospect it could have been higher. There’s something really frantic and tense about them that I really like. So I went along, as I said.

I don’t know whether it was the impending economic recession weighing on people’s minds, or the fact that forty-year-olds somehow infiltrated the front row, but the buzz was not as great as could have been hoped. Nonetheless, they came out with two wooden boards decked with toy keyboards, effects pedals, melodicas, mini-microphones, curious red buttons which may have been kill switches and an even more curious device along the lines of an enigma-machine which seemed to be a tape loop instrument of some description. They ran through most if not all of their LP, and some interesting new songs too.

Lovely Allen
was the best song on the night, probably because it is their best song full stop. Everything else was good enough too. There was something a touch lacking though. If you go to see Holy Fuck, you want it loud and dirty. Not Holy F*ck, as the posters compromisingly rendered it, but the full-blown, psychotic, scuzzy, thumpy, breakneck, dirt-encrusted semi-electronica band. There was a sense that some of their noise-play was just washing over the audience rather than properly getting in under their nails. I can’t think of a good metaphor, but there was something they forgot to bring.

No complaints here, for €13.50, but the energy their music carries never quite transferred to the room, to the chagrin of myself, my friend Kearnsey, Nialler9 and Aoife Mc and Ian. Could have been worse, but also could have been better.

Credit to Cáit for the photo, she has more too.

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The Year. 20-16

20. Sunset Rubdown – Random Spirit Lover
Jagjaguwar

Random Spirit Lover sees Spencer Krug split his time between being the demon ringmaster of some sort of keyboard-led musical circus noir and being the hilltop poet of both doom and everyday wisdom. I’ve seen reviews of this that haven’t gotten any further than the vaguely kooky sounds that pop up occasionally and I’ve seen reviews that haven’t got past the slightly bizarre lyrical tangents. More than both, I’ve seen ten legions of Sunset Rubdown reviews declare “when he’s not with Wolf Parade, Swan Lake, Frog Eyes, Destroyer, blab”. And I would like to congratulate those reviewers for knowing how to use Google. Sunset Rubdown does not deserve to be left as a part of the overall life and loves of a busy indie journeyman, because it’s too good for that. It always seems like the place where Spencer can do exactly what he wants with songs, where he directs things rather than just taking part, where he gets the most personality into his lyrics, where the songs sound like they do in his head. Random Spirit Lover sat on my desktop for about 5 weeks too long this year, and I regret it daily.
Jagjaguwar provide the hook-up, song-wise, but Spencer does not know Jeff Mangum’s name. You can be cool without trying. A revelation.

19. Holy Fuck – LP
XL

When I reviewed this for Analogue‘s latest issue, I said at the end that it was a dark horse for album of the year. When the time came to actually compile my own personal totally overblown Album of the Year rundown, things turned out a little differently. That’s more a testament to others than a sign of LP ageing badly in the six weeks or so since I passed judgement on it, because the things that made me put it on so loud that it shook shelves and made radiators resonate while I danced sadly alone one night not too long ago are still there today (do not tell anyone about that, blogosphere, I trust you). The beats are fortified, amped up and racing the keyboards to the finishing line. Holy Fuck make a sort of organised lo-fi amphetamine dance-rock chaos that you might find growing in a cave or somewhere. Or alternatively, live and improvised in a loft in Toronto. Or alternatively, on CD or mp3, recorded for your convenience in what proved to be a valiant though unsuccessful attempt at the best album of 2007.
A well-provisioned MySpace provides Bishop Gregory, Lovely Allen and other vital album tracks, while Coke Machine Glow lands a lower rating than I would’ve, but describes it well.

18. Handsome Furs – Plague Park
Sub Pop

Plague Park has all the hallmarks of a true side-project effort. Dan Boeckner is famous from collaborating with Spencer Krug in Wolf Parade. He decided to make an album with his wife. They wrote it at home. The only singing and real playing on it is Dan. If there was ever an album in danger of being a vanity project, this was it. It’s not though. Or if it is, it still sounds great. Proof that minimalism can sound rich, with the help of a mid-90s drum machine, occasional keyboards and his guitar dosed in Canada-sized dollops of reverb, Dan lets his lyrics and particularly his vocal range spread much broader than he did with other projects. He takes wings. The lyrical conceits are idiosyncratic at this stage. Love, nothing and modernity, swimming in these strange metaphors. Like Sunset Rubdown, there’s the feeling that this is how Dan would be doing things if every idea in his head came to full fruition. Every song in the album sounds like a constituent part of a whole scheme, and that whole is as dusty and spacious as the cover art. Marginally better than Spencer’s effort this year. Not that it’s a competition.
Here is what I said about Handsome Furs in Whelans in October, and here are two of the best tracks, What We Had and Handsome Furs Hate This City.

17. Patrick Wolf – The Magic Position
Polydor

This album came out early in the year and quite possibly leaked in 2006, so it didn’t appear on many end of year lists. That’s the only possibly explanation. The very idea that all the top 50s of the Educated in the world could have ignored The Magic Position is so offensive to me, that I can’t entertain it for a second. Especially seeing as they all hyped it when it was released. The album is a tapestry of swelling violin-led tracks, bouncing pop, fragile Antony-esque piano ballads and very slightly Depeche Mode tunes. There’s even a taste of Xiu Xiu on The Stars. It’s much, much better than anything Wolf has done before, and largely what establishes it are the singles. The Magic Position and Accident & Emergency as a combination make this album special alone. The rest of the salad bowl of sounds are tied together by Wolf’s occasionally breathy semi-croon, and they create a quite captivating and undulating selection. Pity everyone forgot.
The NME article where Patrick had a bit of a sulk, and a hotlink to the video for Accident & Emergency on his website.

16. Gruff Rhys – Candylion
Rough Trade

Another salad bowl of an album is Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys’ second solo album. Before we start talking about the music, if there were awards for best album art (and seeing as this is my blog, I may well invent one) Candylion would win hands down for its completely flawless cardboard rendering of what the combination “candylion” would look like. Not all of the album is as sweet as the cover, but the title track (which comes after an intro falsely declaring the album to be for voice and guitar) definitely is. It’s a knowing sort of sweet though, more Bassetts All-Sorts than WKD Blue. It’s mostly in English, with a handful of Welsh songs and one in basic Spanish for some reason. One of Welsh ones, Gyrru Gyrru Gyrru is the highlight, and one of the catchiest songs of the year. Many hours have I walked home from places sans mp3 player with a Welshman’s voice saying “gurry gurry gurry gurry gurry gurry” over and over and over again. Superb stuff. Apart from sweetness and infectiousness, there are slightly less saccharine tunes floating around too. Cycle of Violence sounds a bit like Pinky and Skylor! is a 14 minute behemoth that sounds a small bit like the Velvet Underground. There aren’t weak tracks. Wales is still a world power in music.
MySpace tells the story of Candylion, and YouTube has Gruff and Lisa show us how to make our own, ala Blue Peter.