Saturday, 30 May 2009

The Killers play for Jonathan Ross: World swoons

And the Best living Pop Rock band award for 2009 goes to:


Last night Vegas wideboys The Killers performed for Jonathan Ross, a suit wearing man whose 'comedic value' recedes with each flick of his mop. Kudos to Wossy's team for pulling in Brandon & Co to replace the AWOL Katie Price: playing four songs in front of a whooping BBC crew audience.

If you're stuck for something to do before Britain's Got Talent's finale it's worth I-Playering: only if you're willing to sit through Jon's inane chat with three Irish vicar blokes who scored a record deal and Joanna 'can I run the whole country?' Lumley.

Thank the lord for YouTube!

Now follows a snazzy video log we learned during 3 years hard graft obtaining a 2:1 in Media Studies:

0.00-3.10 = 'Human': peachy.

2.54-3.02 = Drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr (yes, Vannucci) does his best 'sex face'

3.23-7.10 = A new song we're not particularly fond of.

7.10-finish = 'Mr Brightside': the best 'indie-rock'n'roll' tune ever written.

As an extra treat here's some 'footage' of the bands performance of 'When You Were Young'. It's a wonderful insight into the anonymous director's worrying case of shakes and the absence of a volume button on his Goodmans.

What a gem.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Video: Royksopp - The Girl and the Robot (ft. Robyn)

The Girl and the Robot is the second single from Royksopp's lauded new album Junior. The highly stylised video features Swedish diva Robyn frolicking around with a Robot, while Royksopp main men Torbjørn and Svein turn in a brief cameo half way.

Robyn's star turn is a lesson in ice-cool, uncluttered electronic pop. Or, to paraphrase Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove: How I Learn To Stop Worrying And Love The Robot...

Video via Pitchfork.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Get your Kraut on: Oasis, Sonic Youth, Foals dig NEU!

Krautrock (German rock music primarily made in the late 60s to 70s) has become an increasing influence on popular alternative music: name checked heavily by new artists, while its original bands glaze in the glow of renewed interest in their genre-defining exploits.

As Julian Cope of 80s saviours The Teardrop Explodes gushed in his out of print 1995 book Krautrocksampler, German rock and electronica of this period oozed sonic ideas and out-there journeys of musical brilliance that sound fresh to this day. Alongside NEU!, a duo who released three essential studio albums in the early 70s are Can (arguably better, druggier and artier), Faust, Cluster and Harmonia (who featured Michael Rother of NEU!).

On Brand NEU! released this week on the Feraltone label, Oasis pop up with b-side 'I Can See It Now' which detects basic, monkey-like traces of NEU! but not much - we suspect their involvement ties in with marketing initiatives, while Primal Scream's 'Shoot Speed / Kill Light' reminds us of 2000's XTRMNTR album that made them briefly the most vital band on planet earth. Of the new breed, Foals, Holy Fuck and School of Seven Bells pull in admirable NEU! aping tuneage, while Cornelius' 'Wataridori' is a real find:

Overall the track listing is varied, listenable and accessible for the uninitiated. However, we're left wondering how the project would've unfolded with artists covering NEU! songs rather than presenting their own, and (hypothetically) how self-confessed NEU! disciples David Bowie, Pere Ubu and Stereolab may have interpreted NEU!'s considerable influence.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Video: May 68 in session, unveil new track My Ways

Following our intro to May 68 last month, we've picked up footage of the Best New Pop Band in Manchester in session for Channel M Music (one of the last ever performers).

Listen to 'My Ways', a new demo track streaming below. Tight and sleek, glamourous yet accessible, it's one of their best efforts yet. More please!

With industry buzz picking up pace and gigs booked throughout the summer, we recommend dashing down to a show quick sharp, live dates on May 68 MySpace.

Download 'My Ways'

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Festival report: Futuresonic09 (part 2)

Following yesterday's intro report on Futuresonic, here's our summary of the musical output of the festival, written originally for NME.

A leftfield mix of art, technology, debate and music, Futuresonic is an intelligent, demanding festival.

Now in its 14th year, Futuresonic will in 2010 transform into Future Everything. In between tech-focused debates at the cities Contact Theatre, we pinned down Drew Hemment, Futuresonic artistic director to discuss his favourite musical acts.

Thursday’s musical action kicked off with an astounding performance by electronic wizard Murcof, featuring jaw-dropping live visuals by AntiVJ (video footage on the way).

Venturing over to Urbis, we found leftfield hip-hop legends Anti-Pop Consortium arriving late onstage and performing only new material. Hitting form as their set draws to a close, the Radiohead-endorsed mavericks fired out bouncing beats and cutting urban rhymes.

On Friday evening, the Bjork-like Soap&Skin enthralled a tiny crowd at a Unitarian church near trendy Deansgate. Her set is taut with emotion and stunning harmonies, she sends daggers to an errant soundman before delivering a mesmerising finale on the chapel’s grand piano before exiting through church doors and into the night. Hauntingly special.

Saturday brings an all American lo-fi indie showcase and post Great Escape, the US entourage are a little worse for wear. Opening band Times New Viking impress both on and off stage. We caught them pre-soundcheck to discuss Manchester, electric toothbrushes and Joy Division.

On stage, they’re a rocket fuelled trio, high on Sonic Youth fuzz and art-rock melody. Drummer/vocalist Adam dedicates songs to Henry Rollins and Heath Ledger before performing a fiery new track name-checking Martin Luther King. Not afraid to bare themselves with a dozen tracks over a breakneck 30 minutes, TNV are our favourite band of Futuresonic.

Next! Crystal Antlers begin sluggishly, their swampy rock struggling to pierce Urbis’ questionable sound system. They recover with closer ‘Parting Song For The Torn Sky’ which shows that underneath the grizzle, there’s a potentially great modern rock band itching to emerge.

Tonight’s line-up is so hip that the soundman sports a Hype Machine t-shirt and crowd haircuts veer from the comic to severe. Marnie Stern provides an intriguing live performance, but her stop-start artiness means it’s hard for momentum to be sustained.

Later, headliners Ariel Pink begin inauspiciously but quickly fire out a curious mix of surf-garage, 60s pop and crunchy punk. ’22 Eyes’ sounds like The Fall minus the Salford accent, while new single ‘Can’t Hear My Eyes’ sees wired frontman Pink croon to lounge soul. It shouldn’t work, but there’s method within Ariel Pink’s wayward madness.

Reverential and arty, Futuresonic is unlikely to appeal to a mass musical audience, but organisers should be commended for pushing eclectic, worldwide talent towards futuristic celebration.

The Future is Everything.

* Photo and video content courtesy of Charlotte Dearsley

P.S. Try the F&L YouTube channel and our Flickr feed for more coverage from Futuresonic09.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Festival report : Futuresonic 09

Between Thursday and Sunday we sampled the annual Futuresonic festival, based in Manchester. Now in it's 14th year, Futuresonic is a leftfield mix of art, technology, debate and music.

We'll be publishing photos, reviews and more video content from tomorrow morning, alongside a link to our report for NME.

For now here is video footage from Saturday's show at Urbis featuring Times New Viking, Crystal Antlers, Marnie Stern and Ariel Pink.

Marnie Stern, live at Urbis, May 16th

Crystal Antlers, live at Urbis, May 16th

P.S. Try the F&L YouTube channel for more video coverage from Futuresonic09.

Friday, 15 May 2009

New In: Wilco stream Wilco (the album)

This week Wilco took the sensible step of streaming their new album Wilco on their own website following a full leak online. The band had clearly planned ahead and quickly moved to placate fans tempted by downloading the leaked tracks.

On first listen the new record is shaped by Krautrock structures, sparkling guitar interplay and as usual, highly accomplished instrumentation. We've yet to take in Jeff Tweedy's words, but it's safe to say that Wilco is a winner; proven by the band's eagerness to stream its entirety to the world, 6 weeks before stated release date. Now that takes some balls.

Get your rocks off to 'Monday' from the recent Ashes of American Flags DVD:

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

On screen: Radio 1 Big Weekend in decent line-up shocker

Last weekend saw the annual BBC Radio 1 Big Weekend pitch up in Swindon. A quick flick through the online highlights revealed a none too shoddy line-up, and we were spared any contact with 'presenters' Edith Bowman and Reggie Yates = result.

OK, so obvious chart botherers Calvin, Dizzee, Lily, Akon, Kasabian, Franz and er, Chris Moyles all plugged their latest records/tours/weight loss but there were also sets from the very new Temper Trap, promising indie-geeks Bombay Bicycle Club and god-like disco boys Friendly Fires.

There's a ton of footage over at Radio 1's homepage, while we've scoured YouTube for embeddable highlights - enjoy...

Calvin Harris played his pop hit 'I'm Not Alone' - a chavvy rave-up with wayward vocals. Highlight comes 4m 10secs in; "Swindon, get ready to go off!!"

Dizzee Rascal
goes 'Bonkers'. Noisy:

Friendly Fires 'Jump In The Pool'. Yes please:

Is that Kings of Leon? No it's Midlands apes Kasabian easing through 'Empire':

Like your pop soppy? Getting wallowing with The Script's 'Breakeven' (SPOILER: it's a fan video):

Recession = the return of escapist, fantasy pop (see La Roux, Little Boots, Marina and the Diamonds). Lad rock is dead - try telling that to The Enemy:

Alesha Dixon's 'The Boy Does Nothing' still sounds fresh even with ropey dance moves:

White Lies. Immaculate on record, 'Fairwell to the Fairground' sounds a little tired here:

'Kingdom of Rust' by Doves. Nuff said, these blokes deserve every accolade they'll pick up via their new album:

P.S. Where were Great Britain's best pop band - A.K.A Take That?

Oh, found 'em:

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

"Jesus, £1?" The Charlatans get credit crunched

Whilst perusing the racks at Fopp HMV we came across this forlorn package retailing at £1. Live at Last is a visual document of The Charlatans' Brixton Academy show in 2004

£1 for a DVD?
After lengthy google-ing research we found HMV 85p cheaper than the miserly

The sales blurb from Play is wonderful garbage:

"This may be their first ever full length live DVD, but there can barely be a rock fan in the country that hasn't, at one time or another, experienced the pulsating power of the Charlatans in performance. A band for the big occasion, this DVD captures the band at Brixton Academy ; and as ever Tim Burgess leads the band in another monster rock groove that has become their trademark."

Poor Tim Burgess. We hope you actually sell your next album for real money (not give it away on the XFM website) so you can get to the barbers, mate.

The Charlatans at their mid-90s indie heyday:

How good is Melting Pot?

P.S. We wouldn't usually publish such awful photography but we had a bearded shop assistant chasing us around the premises so had to snap on the move.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Live: Ghostface Killah in Manchester

Ghostface Killah
Manchester Academy 2
May 10th

A leading member of hip hop legends Wu Tang Clan, Ghostface Killah (real name Dennis Coles) is a prolific album maker, with an eighth solo outing set for release later this year.

Live, he’s erratic; at a recent London show he was reported to have stopped rapping to hold a Del Boy style sales pitch to shift a few t shirts onstage. Tonight he’s half an hour late but starts strongly, firing hip-hop rhymed bullets to a Wu Tang adoring crowd.
Ghostface’s onstage presence is as big as his extra large DJ, and he continually bigs up the assembled crowd. Unfortunately his impassioned shout outs fall largely on deaf ears, as the three quarters full Academy crowd fail to drum up an atmosphere to suit the machismo-fuelled energy onstage.

As well as the best bits of his own solo career, Ghostface serves up off the cuff versions of hip hop staples such as ‘Pass Me By’ (The Pharcyde), ‘Method Man’ (Wu Tang Clan) and ‘If I Ruled The World’ (Nas). Like a well stocked human iTunes library, Ghostface talks up, then performs 90s classics, as well running through his own back catalogue, with ‘Ice Cream’, ‘We Celebrate’ and ‘Be Easy’ making for a smoking hot opening.

Flanked by two, sometimes three MC’s, Ghostface doesn’t hang around; bashing out expletive ridden snippets and rhymes at a frantic pace. There’s little let up until a hasty talent contest finds the best MC in the audience (local Hit & Run promoter Chunky won, X Factor style) and sadly, the shows momentum disappears as young females are tempted onstage to writhe with the MC’s. Occasionally majestic, Ghostface and friends left most of the crowd craving a little more, rather than meeting their high, Wu Tang Clan referenced expectations.

Written originally for Manchester Evening News / City Life.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Good cover: Wilco get the hump on new album art

We love the cover art to Wilco's new album.

Wilco (The Album) is out June 30 on Nonesuch.

Hear their tip of the hat, topical cover of Woody Guthrie's 'The Jolly Banker', below.

Download The Jolly Banker

Friday, 8 May 2009

Hit the North – What the closure of Channel M Music means to Manchester

Channel M Music (CMM) began in April 2006 with a skeleton staff of producer Daniel Parrott and a handful of camera operators. There was no grand plan, simply a desire to represent new talent from Greater Manchester and beyond, both in front of and behind the camera. Early shows mixed amateurish skits with curious Mancunian-humour (legendary comedy figure Frank Sidebottom has appeared since the beginning) with a larger than life Scot (Gerry McLaughlin) on presenting duties.

Within three years of broadcasting the music department has produced over 350 individual programmes dedicated to new artists. It gave TV debuts to national and international talent such as Friendly Fires, The Enemy, Noah and the Whale and Passion Pit, but it’s the department’s championing of Manchester bred bands The Ting Tings, Twisted Wheel, Delphic and The Answering Machine that represent the biggest achievements.

The news of the department shut down filtered through social networks on 27th April, with the formal announcement of 41 job cuts and a programming re-vamp (news and sport sections remain but no dedicated arts output) coming a day later. In recession hardened times, arts based programming is always in danger of being marginalised. But following yesterday’s news that ITV’s flagship arts vehicle The South Bank Show is to cease filming – we’re left wondering whether the arts will ever be well represented on television in the future. As a nation we’re bombarded with news and tacky late night quiz shows, so why isn’t more creative art programming being aired? Music’s growing online popularity suggests that an audience is ready and waiting to watch quality programming. In Channel M’s case, why get rid of something that was unique and worthy of anything MTV or the BBC have put their names to?

Parrott admits the CMM launch was “a struggle” but after a testing first year, “labels and bands were fighting to get on”. He added: “Through our locality, we were able to build the channel into the fabric of the music scene."

Without an industry recognised model to gauge city by city viewership, the channel’s failure to tot up audience figures didn’t help the music department’s cause; without a facility to count, it’s hard to gauge how many people are watching – only where they are watching. With little grasp of their own viewer demographics, evening advertising slots didn’t deviate from day time models; leaving an impressionable, younger audience unengaged by personal loans and double glazing.

Manchester journalist John Robb says the music department closure is sad, but somewhat inevitable. “The idea is great, but to make it work is tricky, especially when the channel is not widely available”. He added: “Music shows are expensive to make, and CMM was a cumbersome show shot at an expensive location (Urbis gallery).” Of the Manchester music scene it has championed, Robb sees strength. “The cuts won’t damage the scene heavily, but bands will miss out on the experience of playing on live TV, which is adds to new artists’ CVs.”

New artists provide the buzz and excitement in an often predictable music industry, and Gemma Evans, of signed Manchester quartet The Answering Machine, told us of her disappointment. “It gave us confidence and experience in a relaxed, supportive environment. Some of the staff also helped us make professional music video which definitely raised our profile.” Steven Griffiths of unsigned group Airship, who have appeared twice in session, told of the anger felt in local music circles. He said: “I’m shocked and sad. Since our second session, things have snowballed for us – suddenly booking agents and labels are getting in touch rather than the other way round. It has been a catalyst to interest currently around the band.”

Richard Cheetham, promoter at the Night & Day Café and owner of the High Voltage record label and fanzine feels the city has lost an important promotional outlet. He said: “Channel M on the whole seems disparate with conflicting adverts amongst programs, so making it financially viable must have been tough. That said the music output did a lot for Manchester in terms of showcasing new local talent and the pull of touring bands visiting the city.”

Jon Ashley, founder and editor of the influential web site Manchester Music attributed the job cuts to failings high up at the Guardian Media Group. He said: “It's sad - so much investment has been made in developing GMG’s support for the arts. OK, advertising is down but the Scott Trust (GMG owners) are hardly poor.” As an veteran of Manchester’s punk boom, Ashley has seen music programming come and go but holds CMM as the best platform. He added: “Before CMM, ITV made a couple of series based on local music, but they never lasted. CMM’s attention to detail and quality will be missed - it immersed itself in new music and showcased leading music production values - the sound recording was impeccable and as good as anything on the BBC.”

Arguably the biggest losers in today’s recession have been journalists, with redundancies and news room re-jigs across the industry, especially in the North of England and most pertinently at MEN Media, whose head of online editorial, Sarah Hartley this week stood down from her post. Ashley continued: “After the job cuts across MEN Media it's hard to distinguish the Scott Trust from any current high street bank. Manchester (home to the very foundation of the organisation) is being stripped bare of a prime resource and source of information for its public. It reminds me of Boddingtons closing down its Manchester brewery - it makes no sense in terms of commitment to the local community and local identity. CMM represented what we've achieved and how far we've come.”

Freelance video journalist and ex Piccadilly Radio journalist Gavin Hill was blunter when commenting on the cuts; “Channel M on the whole is massively under resourced and has under achieved from the outset. There is a business model there, but it might as well be done on the web with a lot less outlay. The venture lacked vigour and real innovative ideas. Did it really take what Manchester has and make the most of it? A world famous city with high crime, rich and poor and a trailblazing music scene deserves better.”

At the filming of the final CMM session this week, staff appeared bullish about their personal situations, preferring to take pride in the three years of hard work that helped put Manchester back on the musical map once more. Its dedication and support to local bands will be sorely missed, but so will the technical skill of individuals that made the department tick. It will be a crying shame if those workers de-camp to London to work on rival offerings in order to earn a crust.
That really would damage the city of Manchester and its creative community.

** Big thanks to Shirlaine Forrest for use of the photos and to the interviewees for their time.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Welcome back: Sonic Youth riot on Jools Holland

Sonic Youth return with new album Eternal on 9th June through Matador Records.

Last week the 'Youth appeared on Later with Jools Holland, with the chaotic 'Teen Age Riot' (our favourite alt.rock tune of all time) fondly reminding us of their life affirming Roundhouse show in September 2007.

Listen and download new free track 'Sacred Trickster' below the videos.

Download 'Sacred Trickster'

* Thanks to Andrew Kesin for the photo, via Matador

Friday, 1 May 2009

Video: RIP Channel M Music

This week saw the announcement of 41 job cuts at Channel M, Manchester's Guardian Media Group funded television station. The saddest cuts came in the music department, whose staff worked tirelessly from April 2006 bringing new talent to the screens (and later) laptops of Manchester; championing local talent in the same breath as international.

We are currently putting together an in depth piece on this subject, to be published early next week on this very blog. For now, we'll direct you to Megan Vaughan's hit-nail-on-head tribute and some choice cuts from Channel M Music's enviable session archive.

The explosive Dananananaykroyd, from last month:

Manchester's next big things, Airship

Interview with Nick Cave:

What do YOU think about the Channel M job cuts? How will it affect Manchester music? Leave your thoughts below...