Monday, 27 April 2009

On Screen: Best: His Mother's Son

Best: His Mother's Son (shown yesterday evening on BBC 2) follows briskly on the heels of Clough tragi-comedy The Damned United (article here) and reveals the dark, destructive story of 1970s football legend George Best and his mother, Ann, both alcoholics. At an hour and a half long, the film has enough time to make a presence felt, but its menacing coldness means viewers were left with little feeling at its close. Thank god we had Adrian Chiles and his West Bromwich jokers to lighten the mood directly afterwards...

Directed by Colin Barr (Maxwell, The Lavender List), the film is faithful to mid late 60s, early 70s Belfast (riots and unrest puncture shots in and around the Best household) and is pitched directly to tug at our heartstrings. The addiction that plagues mother and son is well buffeted with brooding character shots in dreary locations like the Best family kitchen and George-funded chip shop.

Michelle Fairley's performance as a stricken mum is moving and at times unsettling, while Lorcan Cranitch is brilliantly restrained as George's father Dickie. Problems arrive in Tom Payne's portrayal of Best; never moving into second gear, he gives a restrained, lazy act at odds with his mothers angry emotional state. Early on, a 15 year old George is told by his family that a move to Manchester is "Your chance to be yourself", and later his mother snarls "Yes George, the whole world revolves around you."

Bored after reaching superhuman heights on the football pitch, GB hit party hot spots and gossip columns with unshakable zest. Back in Belfast, his mother crumbled under her son's media attention and found solace in drinking with girls half her age, eventually frightening off daughter Barbara and causing anguish for loyal husband Dickie.

Dickie is a hard working, proud man who at first comes across as a disciplinarian (on George being late for training he crows "He's a footballer, not a pop star") but as the film progresses his demeanour softens as his wife's condition deteriorates. He's ambivalent to George's self-inflicted demons (GB first retired from football at the age of 27), preferring to force his elder daughters and their estranged mother together.

In a sobering postscript, the film reveals that Ann Best died at 54, after just 10 years drinking. Her son lasted just five more life years, but his abuse took place through his fall from grace; from teenage heart-throb to TalkSport studio dweller.

As a spectacle, Best: His Mother's Son is a mix of 70s nostalgia and cold anguish; the film equivalent of Joy Division's deathly but daring, post Ian Curtis album Closer.

Watch Best: His Mother's Son on BBC iPlayer, until next Sunday (3rd May).

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Video: The Horrors - Who Can Say

The Horrors release second single 'Who Can Say' from new album Primary Colours on May 5th via XL.

We recieved the album t'other day and it's one of the best we've layed ears to so far this year - check back next week for a full review.

Read our verdict on first single 'Sea Within A Sea' from last month.

Proof not to judge a book by it's angsty, dodgy goth cover?

Cheers to Big Stereo for the video tip.

Friday, 24 April 2009

On Screen: Tony Manero murders the dancefloor

Tony Manero is the new film directed by Chilean Pablo Larraín, and was the winner at last year's Torino Film Festival, as well as being submitted to the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language film. A chilling, unforgettable piece of work, Tony Manero is notable for it's authenticity and strong character performances, not least from main protagonist Raul (Alfredo Castro).

Raul is besotted with John Travolta's character (Tony Manero) from late-70s blockbuster Saturday Night Fever; aping his every move in practise and performance, stopping at nothing to appear on a national TV competition as the 'Chilean Manero'. By nothing we mean murder (stealing a television from an old lady before feeding her none-too-wiser cat, before hitting a local labourer for glass to light up a dancefloor) and family betrayal (whilst his daughter gets caught up in political strife with police, Raul hides in a cupboard) to make his dream performance.

Castro's performance is nothing short of mesmerising; equal parts schizophrenic and camp, his manic, piercing eyes and brooding expressions mark a definite parrallel to Tony Montana of gangster epic Scarface. Indeed, there's also violence, vulgarity and seediness to add to Castro's unmissable performance. Surrounded by women in the household, Raul is a frustrated performer on the dancefloor and in the bedroom. He's the complete antithises to Travolta's dumb twinkle toes, as Saturday Night Fever's North American ideals clash against the brutal politics of 1978 Chile in the midst of General Pinochet’s dictatorship.

Scene after scene is supremely built, Raul's dancing scenes particularly potent alongside his criminal, brutal acts. The grace and delicateness he shows on the 'floor contrasts wildly with the overly masculine bravado and brute power displayed out on the streets.

Our favourite quote bookends the film, as first a television producer then the studio host ask Raul - "So, what do you do?" "This", he replies, meaning he'll go to any means to perform, to be Tony Manero.

A must see, though you'll never look at John Travolta the same way ever again.

Tony Manero was showing at the Cornerhouse in Manchester.

Live: Whitest Boy Alive in Manchester

Whitest Boy Alive
Manchester Ruby Lounge
18th April

Whitest Boy Alive
front man Erlend Øye is a happy soul tonight; making no effort to disguise the geeky grin he sports throughout his bands 90 minute set. Back in the North where he spent six months living in leafy Chorlton (being Manchester, Erlend still got attacked) Øye barely moves two feet all night, such as his comfort and calmness these days.

Fellow white boys Marcin (bass, cracking 80s perm hairdo), Daniel (keys, outstanding player) and Sebastian (drums, hidden from our view by a speaker stack) are consummate musicians, driving songs forward with minimalist precision and a whole lot of funk. First song ‘Keep a Secret’ starts inauspiciously but gathers momentum with Øye’s prickly guitar line and weaving keyboard stabs. Each song is performed effortlessly; studied, piercing eyes glare from Marcin while Øye continues to flip a manic grin. No instrument dominates, and tonight’s sound mixing is near on perfect.

New songs flirt with old in a crowd pleasing set list. New songs are nailed and performed by seasoned pros; ‘Dead End’ picks out new-wave riffs as Øye laments lost love, while ‘Intentions’ sounds like Steely Dan after a visit to the Hype Machine. ‘Golden Cage’ pretty much lifts the roof off the Ruby, sparking furious dancing in the sweaty front rows. The brooding ‘Timebomb’ offers a change of pace before the band launch into The Prodigy’s ‘Out of Space’ to the crowds delight.

WBA aren’t just here to sell their new album, there’s more joy in the scratchy funk of ‘Above You’ and the pop perfection of ‘Burning’ from 2006 debut Dreams. We haven’t seen a better live performance this year, and it’ll take something special to top Erlend and his boys on this form.

Written originally for Clash Music. The Whitest Boy Alive's new album Rules is out now, via their own label Bubbles - order here.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Live: And You Will Know Us By the Trail Of Dead in Manchester

And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead...
Manchester Academy 3
April 16th

“God bless Conrad Keeley” reads a text on our mobile minutes after the gig. The And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead front man hasn’t aged a bit since his band’s visceral breakthrough in the mid-90s, and almost 15 years on, he’s leading punk-rock brothers to nightly mass. Tonight Trail of Dead are on fire, catapulting a noisy, rattling hour of new and old tunes. They may look like a bunch of down and outs, but the six piece are still one of the most important touring rock groups alive today.

As expected, new album The Century of Self is well represented and there’s a healthy number of classic Trail of Dead stomps thrown out along the way. New songs are performed with vitality and immediacy; ‘Far Pavillions’ is heavy, druggy psych-rock, ‘Isis Unveiled’ is rocket fuelled punk; Keeley barks cult leader words over post-rock guitars and hell raising instrumentation in a frantic, incendiary outro. Proggy, other worldly lyrics continue to be explored, but with there’s a fresh musical agenda for Trail of Dead these days.

Re-energised after ditching their un-supportive major label, golden oldies ‘Mistakes and Regrets’ and ‘It Was There That I Saw You’ are played with much verve; breathing new fire into their genre-defining bones.

The transformation from the stressed, bored men this writer observed at the same venue two years ago is a revelation. Great to have you back, Trail of Dead.

Written originally for Clash Music. Props to Coterie Music Blog for the Trail of Dead image.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Video: Passion Pit - The Reeling

'The Reeling' is the lead track from Passion Pit's debut album Manners, released on May 18th through Columbia. Currently the cover stars of Clash magazine, the 'Pit are set for a busy summer as indie's next big thing, 2009s hybrid of prep-boys Vampire Weekend and West Coast dudes MGMT.

PR bumpf surrounding Manners:

"A real deal album in other words, one that delivers on the blissful and bright promises of early fan favorites like “Sleepyhead.” It took nearly two months of “explosive” off-the-cuff sessions with producer Chris Zane (Les Savy Fav, The Walkmen) to get there—everything was written and recorded on the fly—but 'Manners' is exactly that, an irresistible, filler-free glimpse into the mind of a man who’d like to unleash his very own Pet Sounds someday."

The Reeling
is packed full of jumpy synths, beats and falsetto vocals; helped in no small part by a Justice-aping childrens choir. See the grainy, 80s inspired video below:

Lengthy North American dates are on their MySpace page right now. Thanks to the Et Musique Pour Tous blog for the image.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

New In: Dirty Projectors Go Pop?

With fellow Domino Records companions Animal Collective scratching mainstream pop/rock culture, Dirty Projectors have been tipped to follow with a new, R&B influenced album. Bitte Orca is released in June, with lead single 'Stillness Is The Move' due on 18th May in the UK.

Now settled as a four piece, DP are led by the supremely talented Dave Longstreth, who made lo-fi indie records before developing highly sophisticated, almost avant-garde songwriting tricks. Us at F&L were first introduced in 2007 via Rise Above; a startling re-imagining of Black Flag's album of the same name. Longstreth's reputation as an iron-fisted dictator follow his name around the web (Ezra of Vampire Weekend was brief member) but the line-up now seems dead set.

In short, Stillness... is a revelation. Light, bright and compact, it's DP at their most accessible and yes, pop. Message board snipers have already starting whispering "sell-outs!" but we love the move into female led vocals and clean production.

Download 'Stillness Is The Move'

Bitte Orca
is pre-reviewed here by the reliable Stereogum chaps. Dirty Projectors tour North America in May and June, dates on MySpace.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Chart Attack: 14/4/09

Chart Attack: is our new, irregular glance at the official UK Singles Chart; specifically the week's Top Ten best selling singles.

As a kid growing up in suburban England during the early 90s, the Top 40 chart countdown was our passage to new music. Pre Internet and too young to see gigs or soak in the NME or Face magazines, and with a father reluctant to join the satellite dish revolution (no MTV), radio gave us ideas and musical awakenings.

Before discovering Peel and Lamacq, we'd regularly pilfer songs from radio onto our battered C60 cassettes to replay the next day. When you bought a physical single in the 1990s you felt you were making a difference; following the charts like a proud parent come Sunday evening.

Twenty years on, is the UK Singles Chart (listen back to this week's) a relevant barometer to the nation's listening? The chart, of course, caters largely for pop music (eg. commercially consumable, radio friendly R&B, singer-songwriter, indie-rock and dance) and rarely caters for genres such as classical, metal or, er, reggae. Unlike in the U.S., no airplay statistics are used for the official UK Singles Chart; meaning the chart often rewards commerciality and astute marketing.

Download sales now dominate the chart, meaning successful artists must build and cultivate a significant, commercial online presence in order to sell units. All of this week's Top 10 are signed to major record labels and employ marketers across radio, TV, online and print to maximise exposure. Above all this money ta£k, we find this week's Top 10 in decent health.

Calvin Harris
fronts the chart with his most commercial release to date, 'I'm Not Alone'. Described as a 'trance anthem', the track hit #1 through downloads alone - pointing to a sharp web presence. It's also a sign of Harris adjusting his musical template (eg. making shorter, more hooky singles) in order to placate a label still smarting about his under performing debut album.

Side-stepping the mega-stardom of Beyoncé (#7) and The Pussycat Dolls (#3), the preening, look-at-me! pop of Lady Ga Ga (#2) and the soppy Taylor Swift (#10) and we find two British acts, La Roux (#4) and Noisettes (#5).

'In For The Kill' is La Roux's first major label single and its lofty chart position delivers on Polydor's significant investment. Hype it seems, sells units.

'Don't Upset The Rhythm' re-enters the Top 10 after originally peaking at #2 at the end of March. Propelled by it's use in a Mazda 2 car TV advertisement, the track sees Noisettes take a clean pop approach to songwriting, far removed from the indie-punk of their debut album.

By far our favourite track in the Top 10 is penned by Los Angeles foursome Metro Station. A hit with teens in the U.S., 'Shake It' is their catchiest / most annoying (delete as appropriate) 3 minutes and brings together soft-rock, synth and emo into one fluffy pop track. It's short, easy on the ear, has a memorable chorus and a fantastically cheesy video.

Classic, modern chart pop then?

Leave your thoughts below...

Monday, 13 April 2009

Video: The Answering Machine - Obviously Cold

The re-birth of Manc scamps The Answering Machine gathers pace with their second "official" single 'Obviously Cold'.

We've always had a lot of time for these boys (and girl) and their time away from the spotlight seems to have done the trick. Hyped before they'd released a note of music, TAM have since changed management and returned to their bedrooms to write a dozen killer indie-pop tunes, if previous single 'Cliffer' and this new 'un are anything to go by.

Singer Martin Colclough is a stronger presence now, backed up by sharp guitar lines, gang vocal whoops and bold drum patterns. Their love of Scandinavian dream pop shines through, glued with a thoroughly modern indie slant. We can't wait to hear what's coming next.

The Mighty Ducks inspired video was shot in North America and directed by Zack Keller and Ed Skudder of Root Films.

The Answering Machine perform shows this month with Bombay Bicycle Club and Twisted Wheel in May. Full dates over on their MySpace page.

Obviously Cold is released on May 16th through Heist or Hit Records, pre order here.

*Photo from the Obviously Cold video shoot by Danielle Horn, nabbed from Facebook

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Mix me: U2 - Get On Your Boots (Justice remix)

If U2's blanket marketing for new album No Line on the Horizon hasn't left you cowering behind the sofa, then alert your ears towards Justice's remix of lead single 'Get On Your Boots'.

We hear nothing that resembles rocket science in the tap tap keys or dub back beat, but Bono's vocals are well reconstructed (ie. there's not much of them) and its a neat trick swapping The Edge's guitar motif for understated electronics.

Download 'Get On Your Boots' (Justice remix)

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

New In: Datarock go retro with Give It Up

Norwegian duo Datarock are back with new track 'Give It Up', ahead of their second album, Red.

It's four years since their debut Datarock achieved press buzz and highly acclaimed gigs across the world. While Norway's renaissance as a musical trendsetter gathers pace (read our feature here and here) founding members Fredrik Saroea and Ketil Mosnes worked diligently on new material.

The first result is the 80s indebted Give It Up; topped up by scratchy guitars, tight percussion and measured vocals. It's three minutes flash by and the strong hooks that characterised their debut album aren't immediately apparent. A remix or two may temper that; Weird Tapes' brash, Balearic remix is fun while Kissy Sellout's electro re-bash seems destined for a dance floor near you.

Download 'Give It Up' (Weird Tapes remix)

Download 'Give It Up' (Kissy Sellout remix)

Follow Datarock's live dates on their MySpace, and you can buy Give It Up now from Amazon and ITunes (US).

Good cover: Franz Ferdinand - Womanizer

Dodgy chorus aside, Franz Ferdinand's rock-ist take on Britney's 'Womanizer' makes us : )

Via Pitchfork and the BBC's Live Lounge.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Video: Delphic interview - Dummy

Those fine chaps over at Dummy have put their weight behind Delphic, and following our intro last month, here is a rare video interview with the Manchester trio.

Video: Phoenix on Saturday Night Live

Phoenix perform 'Lisztomania' and '1901' on Saturday Night Live, tx 4th April.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

New In: The Nightjars release debut album

Hard working, intelligent and unshakably their own men, The Nightjars have adopted a steady approach since emerging in Manchester four years ago.

Now a three piece, they've assembled a debut album with the experience of their Towards Light mini-album, which was one of the strongest North West records released in 2007. The world may have since gone nuts over The Ting Tings, but bands of The Nightjars' ilk remain unconcerned with fashion's empty vogue. Music comes first.

If Towards Light had an angry streak steaming through its 7 tracks, The Nightjars is it's wiser, more relaxed brother. Take the dreamy acoustic track 'Valentine'; a classic melody weaves around dual vocals from Ollie Wright (bass) and Phil Arnold (guitar) and we're transported to a hazy summer day in Chorlton Park.

There is plenty to be had in The Nightjars. 'Logic Has No Part In It' reveals throbbing rhythms and impressive instrumentation, 'We Fall' is a gorgeous, striped-back cry for help and the upbeat 'Machines Down' mixes Sonic Youth guitar fuzz with frazzled vocal shouts and more superb band interplay.

Streaming below is 'You In A Fine Light' the fine opener to The Nightjars. Reminiscent of Wilco's full on rock moments circa Kicking Television, it's The Nightjars going at full pelt.

You can now order the CD album for a very reasonable £6 here, from the band's own Nightjars record label (digital download scheduled for 27th April).

They launch the album at Chorlton Irish Club tomorrow, Friday 3rd April. They also play at Cafe Saki in Manchester on May 9th, keep an eye out for new dates over on the band's MySpace page.

Video: Handsome Furs - I'm Confused

Handsome Furs is the husband and wife twosome of
Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade) and Alexei Perry.

They make minimal, grey electronic noise to complement Boeckner's breakneck guitars and indie boy vocals.

Second album Face Control is out now on Sub Pop (buy from Rough Trade and Amazon) and we're completely taken by the simplicity of their zombie movie inspired 'I'm Confused'.

Handsome Furs are currently playing shows in North America, with lengthy European dates in April and May, dates on MySpace.

Listen to a recent session at Minnesota Public Radio here.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Interview: Thomas Mars from Phoenix

Last week we interviewed Thomas Mars from Phoenix about the group's rather ace new album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, released on 25th May.

We caught up with Thomas on the day of a video shoot for their next single 'Lisztomania', filmed at the plush Wagner Opera House in Germany. Below are a couple of excerpts from our chat. The full interview will appear in May's edition of Clash magazine.

On previous records, Phoenix have mastered an easy listening, indie-rock sound in tune with their time spent as live backing band to Air. Pleasant, cool and shy, only on their third album It’s Never Been Like That did they break free and create a distinctive sound of their own. Following on from the guitar heavy concert album Live! Thirty Days Ago, Wolfgang… is fired by opening duo Listzomania and 1901, their most direct songs to date. Thomas points to a growing confidence in the bands collective song writing as the reason for such energising new songs.

“Those two have really strong structures, are solid and dense and took a long time to finish. We love the rush and energy of them, it sounds like we’re in a hurry, I’m almost spitting the lyrics out."

Phoenix it seems, have manned up.

Download '1901'

Bloggers have frantically shared new songs, exposing the band to a new audience through MP3 aggregator The Hype Machine and downloads which enable to fans to remix 1901. Thomas says internet buzz has been a long time coming for his band, and we get the sense they were shackled by nervous record labels in the past.

“The era we live in is digital. What’s great is that decisions are taken by a bigger number and there are less and less people in between artists and fans.”

Was there a battle to get more of your music online?

“We could’ve given tracks away before, but it didn’t happen. We want people to be excited, to feel what we are doing now, not six months too late.”

There’s an almost gleeful, childlike excitement running through the new material; full of sparkling melodies and upbeat rhythms from four men approaching their mid-30s. In between the pop, there’s experimentation. Halving the album is ‘Love Like A Sunset Part 1’ and its sister track, Part 2. Leaning towards the industrial Krautrock of NEU! and Cluster and the minimalism of Steve Reich, Parts 1 and 2 mark a greater depth in Phoenix’s sonic template.

Again, Thomas hints of a new found freedom and collective confidence.

“We’ve wanted to play music like that for a long time; write songs on two levels and shift between them. We’re all attracted to art that uses repetitive patterns.”

Can we expect more experiments in the future?

“Those tracks are the most satisfying on the album for us, and we’re looking forward to playing them live the most.”

When we tell him we’re in love with Wolfgang’s considerable charms, Thomas is relieved.

“Only when you completely finish an album can I accept compliments or criticism. It’s like watching your child leave home for the first time.”

The child-like qualities of Wolfgang… extend to its cover art. A trio of cascading Dr. Strangelove inspired bombs rain down on an uneven, pink coloured backdrop. The sleeve’s intention is unclear, but Thomas reveals more as we probe the album title.

“It’s a child-like idea, like drawing a moustache on a Mona Lisa. We enjoy messing with something iconic that’s now almost empty of meaning – like Che Guevara t-shirts and posters are across the world.”

Are you trying to mess with your home town’s history then?

“Versailles, where we all grew up, has a great history. But future didn’t exist when we were young and we didn’t want to live in the past, we’d rather make it our own. Often the ugly side is the most likeable. For us, doing things in an amateurish way makes something unique and important. We’d rather make things ourselves.”

Download '1901' Nightwaves remix