The-Flaming-Lips-flaming-lips-287447_901_901

“The Flaming Lips are in town, THE FUCKING FLAMING LIPS ARE IN TOWN! “ Was my reserved reaction to the prospect of seeing the Flaming Lips at the Edinburgh Usher Hall when first announced many months ago. Now that there are no more days to tick off the calendar, my excitement is more a less tangible!

It’s nearly impossible* to not be drawn into the carnival atmosphere of a Flaming Lips performance. It certainly crossed my mind that the confetti frequently sprayed into the crowd must have something lined on it as it’s rare to be anywhere which has such a jovial air as this. Alongside this is the fact that you know where a lot of your money is going, in an age where solo acoustic performers can charge over £20 for a show** it’s nice to see no expense spared on the decorations this evening.

Wayne Coyne, the voice and ringmaster of the Flaming Lips came onstage in what appeared to by a skinless human onesie encased in a jacket of glitter, which was one of the more normal things to be seen at the show. There were monsters, cages, lights a million and mind swirling projections! Normally with such a stage show I would be suspicious*** that this was covering up a lack of substance in the songs being played but the Lips are the special oddity , it really seemed to enhance it all, and what a set it was.

Despite the image put across of fluctuation and just going with the flow, the set list must have been painstakingly mulled over as it expertly walked the tightrope of new tracks to old. Tracks from the new album ‘The Terror’ were mixed in with little heard gems and a collection of some of their biggest** hits. An audience chorus to ‘Do you realise?’ was not exactly unexpected but this didn’t stop it from being utterly wonderful for the majority of those who participated****. The monsters, creatures and cuddly things***** onstage and many of the audience bounced about to an uproar rendition of ‘Race for the Price’. Whilst ‘A spoonful weighs a ton’ from breakthrough album ‘ The Soft Bulletin’ proved a fine closer to the main set.

Coming back for the encore the band played their twisted take on ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’, which was interesting but lacked the strength of the material that had been played throughout the main set. But that kinda sums up the Flaming Lips for ya, why go the easy way when you can take a risk, although it may not pay off it adds to fabric of the show as tonight can testify to.

*With the possible exception of the stony-faced gent just up from myself.

**I realise this is due to less folk buying music and using online streaming and the like but you can’t help feeling short changed at points, even when you know the reasons.

***Except AC/DC, they are exempt from this rule… because their AC/DC!!!

****I’m calling out you stony faced bastards that I noticed.

*****Including Wayne Coyne.

jsbxpromo-stefanogiovannini-3

Touring on the back of last year’s album ‘Meat and Bone’ the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion are back in Scotland! There was little press to promote the show which made it even more impressive to see the Glasgow’s Classic Grand filled with this rock n’ roll preachers flock.

The hiatus of the Blues Explosion has led to their strongest release since their heyday, as their output got weaker it looks like a break was what was needed. Recalling earlier triumphs such as Mo Width, the new record provides a rollicking blast of energy that was sadly absent from recent** albums ‘Plastic Fang’ and ‘Damage’, even though during this period their live shows maintained the potency that those albums lacked.

With minimal back drop, lighting and equipment there with little to distract the audience from the band, not that anyone would have noticed if there was as each member proved to be a mesmerising figure. The band hit into the set with gusto, where it was just song after song after song with only the rare breather to interrupt proceedings.

“One more tune”, “Only one more?”, “Twenty Nine more!”, “I’ll see that, and raise you”. This was the banter from the hip-shaker, rock n’ roll preacher Jon Spencer after the opening barrage of tunes only breaking to retune before continuing their onslaught of salivating rock n’ roll beauty*.

And he wasn’t far off either as we were treated to over 30 songs from their catalogue featuring favourites such as ‘2 Kindsa Love***’, ‘Bellbottoms’ and ‘Son of Sam’ whilst throwing in a scattering of new tracks and those from the latest album.

The sonic dementia of the set proved to be more important to the band than the clarity of what they were playing though no one seemed to be adverse to this. With the encore lasting about half as long as the main set when the band were, what seemed like to be, forced to abandon the stage they still looked like they could play for another couple of hours nae bother.

And that was it – 3 men playing their guts out, putting on the best show that they can! Who cares if the songs become indistinct from one another, who cares if the songs don’t sound like they do on the album. It’s about the fucking experience and having a good time, something that the Blues Explosion deliver without a doubt!

 

*Yes I am a fan.

**recent in comparison

***A favourite on my wedding playlist

Drive-By Truckers

With ten albums worth of material* to choose from for an evening’s set list, a Drive-by Truckers show always holds a certain mystery and anticipation for those in attendance with regards to what they shall be serenaded with. Being, by far, one of the most solid and consistent recording artists of the last couple of decades** there is certainly a wealth of top dollar material to be heard but will you hear that one tune that you are frantic to hear live?

This, almost bi-yearly, appearance at Glasgow’s ABC is brought to us by the release of new album ‘English Oceans’***, which presents another slice of their trademark Southern rock and soul shenanigans. With another change in line-up since last time on these shores, the band is a mixture of familiar and new faces but all are equally greeted with rapturous applause from what seems like a bustling crowd****.

Hitting out with a couple of tracks from the aforementioned new record, it doesn’t take long for the crowd pleasers to be tendered out, with ‘Gravity’s Gone’ providing the first instance of hopping about*****. The remainder of the set delivers highlights from throughout their career going as far back as their first two, lesser known, albums showcasing tracks ‘Uncle Frank’ and the fabulous ’18 Wheels of Love’****** which delighted pockets of liquored up folk within the mass.

The real elation for most though kicked in for the closing tracks of the main set from breakthrough albums ‘Southern Rock Opera’ and ‘Decoration Day’. The sumptuous tale of the feud between Lynyrd Skynyrd and Neil Young, ‘Ronnie & Neil’ was a mighty ruckus of a tune which had the audience bellowing along, whilst closer ‘Hell No I Ain’t Happy’ proved a nice, and ironic, way to end the set as there wasn’t a frown to be seen.

With the traditional ‘Let There Be Rock’ heralding the close of the evening, not before hearing new track ‘Grand Canyon’ which fit in nicely with the more weathered material, the evening was at an end. It took a fair few minutes for all present to leave as the round of applause that bid farewell to these performers seemed to be undying. It’s a testament to the Drive-By-Truckers professional uninhibitedness that keeps the crowds coming year after year******* with the feeling that the next show may just be their best yet.

 

*I ain’t counting live albums, B-side collections, greatest hits, or solo material. Just so you know.

**At least…

***What seems like a wee bit of a retreat to the position that they’re used to, instead of the Soul vibe of previous record ‘Go-Go Boots’.

****Considering how difficult it was to get a beer at points I’m gonna guess that it was.

*****Cue several spillages of pints held aloft in the air.

******Including myself.

*******This would happen to be my ninth visit.

Dumpster (Dylan Johnson)

WOW! There’s a new band that’s demanding people’s attention and they are from Brooklyn, NYC. This news always comes with a certain sense of déjà vu and more often than not culminates in over hyped poppycock for those that were eager to grab an early taste of the metaphorical bagel. So what am I doing this evening…? I am going to see a band from NYC that is quite hyped and I’m eager to grab an early taste of the action, and that band is Big Ups.

Now Monday night is never the optimum day for a gig as most have spent their due earnings on the lavish weekends leaving one to slowly settle into the hum drudgery of the week. This was very much evident in Edinburgh’s Sneaky Pete’s this evening as myself and my friend in tow were 2 of what seemed like 6 paying punters*. For once the tiny interior of this particular venue felt cavernous, which left me a tad disappointed in my city, who knows how Big Ups felt themselves.

What the environment presented was that this may not be the rowdiest of shows, thus my expectations on what I was going to see took a sharp dip, thankfully was I proved wrong as the band delivered an exhilarating set proving that the hype may be true and due.

Lead singer Joe Calarraga prowled and shimmied around the stage like he owned it, recalling a younger Mark Arm of Mudhoney. Whilst Joe took control guitarist Amar Lal, bassist Carlos Salguero Jr and drummer Brendan Finn kept things tight throughout! Considering that they had only one album to get through ‘Eighteen Hours of Static’ the set wasn’t long but what it lacked in quantity it more than made up with the quality of that which was presented. ‘Goes Black’ and ‘Little Kid’ were particular highlights with the band’s sound in general owing a fair amount to a stream of early ‘Discord’ bands.

At the moment Big Ups very much wear their influences on their sleeves which isn’t a bad thing when your influences are of this quality. With time this may mould into something a bit more individual but hopefully maintaining the sarcasm and snot that they have at the moment. Whatever they do if it matches the sounds of their debut album, and if the calibre of their live performance is anything to go by then it’ll probably be fucking ace!

*I’m not positive if they were paying punters or the support band… as I missed them.

photo-2

The Edinburgh Leith Rock and Roll club* is playing host to a triple header this evening with Belfast’s the Bonnevilles headlining; showcasing their hybrid brand of bluesy rock n’ roll. The speakers are balanced haphazardly on a couple of tables, the cheap booze is pouring and you can barely part the crowd to get tae the toilet so it seems like a pretty grand atmosphere**.

First on the bill is Geek Maggot Bingo who were birthed from the ashes of well-known and well-appreciated The Acid Fascists***. Those in attendance are witness to a mash up of garage and surf punk dressed in the fashion of a disgruntled looking shaman on vocals and guitar who upon their exit song starts running into the mass of folk parting the crowd and who then precedes to kick the jams out amongst them. An early treat!

Secondly, and the reason for many being in attendance, is the last show for Edinburgh stalwarts ‘The Seafield Foxes’ who batter through their set with jive and swagger treating those who have supported them throughout their tenure to everything they’ve come to expect. The band oozed with self-confidence throughout, this proved to be a grand finale that lived up to its name!

And to the main event – the two gent’s Andrew McGibbon Jnr on guitar/vocals and Chris McMullan on drums dressed in their highly professional white shirt, black tie attire cascade through a mountain of tracks in their relatively short set time… and they are all immense. With said audience packed like a can of sardines and bouncing about, it doesn’t take long for shower of booze to rain upon everyone especially during ‘1000 days’ from the Bonnevilles most recent studio album ‘Folk Art & The Death Of Electric Jesus ’.

From listening to their discography some may have been lulled into a false sense of relief as there is a dash of lower paced tracks to catch a breather with but no such relief was on offer tonight. As those slower paced numbers on the record are a different and generally more fearsome beast live, so the energy of the set and those dancing**** didn’t let up at any point.

Things come to a close, the cheap booze is swiftly finished and everyone takes their wrecked bodies to the exit. When thinking of greaser Rock n’ Roll and the Delta Blues, my first thought would not be a couple of lads from Belfast. Well from the display tonight that may change from now on!

 

*That would be the Leith Links Cricket Club by the way.

**No jokes.

***Which is where I met my soon to be wife, so they were all good with me.

****If you can call it that?

Claudio-Simonetti-s-Goblin-No-logo

As part of the Glasgow Film Festival horror fans are in for a real treat thanks to soundtrack legends Goblin, or more accurately Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin* are providing a set filled with their perverse sounds to mixed audience of film buffs, metalheads and me.

Claudio Simonetti shuffled onstage appearing somewhat dishevelled in stark contrast to that of his smoothly and immaculately decked out backing band**. Claudio holds court to the side of the stage entrapped in a cage of keyboards and synthesisers, which is how everyone wants it I imagine.

What followed was a selection of some of Goblins finest pieces of work, more a less conducted in chronological order and each introduced by our leader leaving no mistake in what we were listening too which left little to surprise with.

Taken out of their usual context of providing a soundtrack to (normally gruesome) images it is quite revelatory to hear the scattershot approach of the music which seems to encompass everything from prog, funk, disco and metal***. And for all of the jokes that can be made about the backing bands appearance****, they were more than capable of providing the bombast and technical prowess required from their Claudio in order to recreate these fevered compositions.

But though these tracks were created as technically as they had been on record, which is no mean feat, it really put into contrast that Goblins music, or more accurately their better known music, is designed for the screen and without this the set becomes incoherent and out of place. It is valiant to see a band concentrate on getting everything right on target when it comes to the tunes but when this means there is little energy on stage***** due to this concentration then it lacks something for the audience to connect with.

Despite this there was still entertainment to be had and I won’t lie and say it wasn’t a thrill to see the music of ‘Susperia’ brought to life. Also it’s the first time in years I’ve seen a guitarist mouth along to the noises his instrument is making****** and it was amusing to see Claudio’s attention focused on two young goth clad ladies near the front of the stage, should these be the highlights of the night though? I’m glad I went, and would be more than willing to see them again but only when providing a live soundtrack to one of the many gorgeously horrible films where they made their name.

*Don’t worry; refunds were available on the door if this fact did not please you… only time in my life where I found refunds to be so freely available.

**Seriously, these guys were pretty… like girl pretty.

***You know… all the cool genres… yeah?

****Well, the jokes that I made anyway.

*****Except for the occasional metal horn thrown out there.

******More than worth the price of admission.

BillCallahan_byHanlyBanks

Well it certainly is cosy down in Glasgow’s ABC for the concluding weekend of Celtic Connections which presents Bill Callahan and backing band to this capacity crowd. The lights are out, the bars are closed* and the band arrive onstage who all seats except for the namesake towering above them standing in the middle of the stage on an elevated pedestal**.

Although not widely known outside of ‘indie’ circles, Bill Callahan has built up quite the following over the years by sticking to whatever he wants to do, allowing people to take notice through their own will. Judging from those throngs of folk in attendance tonight this approach certainly seems to have worked for the man!

Opening with the first track ‘The Sing’ from ‘Dream River’, this seemed to forecast how the remainder of the evening would go as the majority of the set consisted of tracks from said album. Which the crowd seemed to deem acceptable with their polite ovations though it wasn’t until ‘Dress Sexy for My Funeral’**** from Callahan’s previous project Smog that he was met with an elevated display of audience appreciation.

At points the audience were so enamoured by Callahan’s baritone delivery that a whisper would came across as a shout. With little audience interaction except for the occasional sardonic banter which proved to be a highlight for me in what would have otherwise of been a sombre and serious evening***.

On the whole this was sober but soothing gig on the whole but with the intimacy of the show proving to be an odd counterpart to the size of the venue that it was taking place in. Not exactly a rousing Saturday night and not particularly mind blowing but still the man is good at what he does, just maybe not what I’m into. One man’s coffee is another man’s whisky after all*****….

*at the insistence of the man himself which led to bewilderment and resentment from more than one member of the audience.

**Soapbox anyone?

***It didn’t exactly lead to the most uproarious Saturday night but it’s the little things.

****The highlight of the night.

*****That’s if you got served before they closed the bar of course…

lau_band-640x462

When one discusses the merits of the “supergroup”, it is usually followed by the joshing of, not only, those that are part of it and those that actually choose to listen to them… well you know they do tend to be a bit shite. So trust the folk genre; commonly described as ‘traditional music’ to buck the tradition trend of the supergroup*.

 
With Celtic Connections in full swing and quite the selection of music to choose from it is a testament to the quality of their output that Lau, the abovementioned supergroup, are playing to a sold out crowd in Glasgow’s City Halls**. Comprised of fiddler; Aiden O’Rourke, accordionist/pianist; Martin Green, and guitarist/vocalist; Kris Drever***. With multiple awards under their belt and new album ‘Race the Loser’, released last year, expectations are high.

 
Beforehand though jaunty support was provided by Annabelle Chvostek, formally of the Wailin’ Jennys. Her uplifting traditional folky country protest music went down a treat and with audience participation high**** in the hall she certainly went down well with those that arrived early enough.

 
So to the main event which took a beginning, middle and end structure; with the middle being the highly publicised commission piece by Celtic Connections and the PRSF New Music Biennia. With Drever in the middle, Rourke to the right and the joyful Green to the right proceedings hit full swing right from the get go. Throwing in a cache of new tracks the highlight being the wistful and epic ‘Far from Portland’ it would have been more than a fulfilling show if that was all that we were to be treated to.

 
As we hit the middle of the set Lau are joined by The Elysian Quartet to perform ‘The Bell That Never Rang’ the piece commissioned for this very evening and a rare treat for everyone here to witness. Bringing forward all the strengths of each musician forward this was a wonderfully inventive bit of music that was not the norm for the respective genres of both sets of musicians.

 
Although this was a fine treat you could tell that that the audience were gagging to get back to some solo Lau action and they were not disappointed as there was a scattershot of tracks from the highly regarding first two albums ‘Arc Light’ and ‘Lightweights & Gentleman’ which led to wild applause and one audience member to shout out “You guys are awesome” which was swiftly replied to by Martin Green “Thanks Dad!”*****.

 
A wonderful show from start to finish with the limelight and adulation of the audience not resting solely on one member of the group but on Lau as a whole******! Thanks was given, applause was given and everyone in attendance including those performing left happy. Despite all that was going on this evening as part of Celtic Connections for those savvy enough to come here very much made the right choice.

 

 

*I realise I may be reaching a bit with this supergroup angle, but to the genre… well… they kinda are.

 
**Where they don’t allow you to take in a pint into the hall… sacrilegious.

 
***Check out all of their solo albums, you’re welcome.

 
****By that I mean clapping in time and shit…

 
*****I don’t think it was his Dad to be fair.

 
******But seriously check out all their solo material!

the-new-mendicants-1flow

It’s a Saturday night in Glasgow, which can be scary enough at points*, which is currently in the embrace of two inherently Scottish traditions this evening. Number one: Burns night, which means that celebrations are in full swing for the memory of our national bard… or more likely an excuse to consume one’s own body weight in whiskey. Number two: would be that of the Celtic Connections Festival which hosts several gigs for the Folk, Country and World music genres over the course of January. This is why I have found myself in the Glasgow Arches where the tartan shirts and trousers are oot** and my soundtrack to this evening is The New Mendicants.

 
The New Mendicants, the new project from Joe Pernice of the Pernice Brothers, and, more importantly to this crowd, Norman Blake of locally loved group Teenage Fanclub. After their aforementioned ‘better known’ groups played together several years back and finding themselves expats of their respective countries in Canada they ended up in a musical partnership. Somehow these guys found themselves working on the soundtrack to the film adaption of Nick Hornby’s ‘A Long Way Down’ ***. It turns out this was rejected by the film’s producers but the end product was that this new unit was born. With new album ‘Into the Lime’ coming out in the coming days, there is an expectant but unsure atmosphere amongst those in the crowd on what we are going to be treated to****.

 
The two arrive onstage in a slight rush, due to being told the wrong time, and settle themselves in at their seats having the barest of presence on the semi lit stage. The lighting funnily enough would prove to be the only form of distraction***** from the two men as the levels flickered throughout indicating that the mood couldn’t be settled on. However, the mood from the New Mendicants was set by their talkative nature and hushed tunes creating a relaxed and homely atmosphere.

 
The evening was certainly filled with entertaining banter, with both gents treating this near capacity crowd as if they were just playing the backroom of the pub, and with a group who started its existence thanks to their rejected works how could it not be. Sadly this was the highlight of the evening for me as the music left me somewhat wanting throughout. All the songs were characterised by pop hooks and hush tones with sing along choruses but it just felt like a poorer re-tread of their more famous works. There was certainly a lot of charm but charming music didn’t keep me entertained for any longer than 20 minutes.

 
Though the material may suit being further fleshed out in a bigger band setting******, with only 2 guitars and the occasional glockenspiel the material just didn’t seem strong enough for this barebones setting. At points it did seem that the audience’s initial attention was starting to wain but this was recaptured thanks to ‘I don’t want control of you’ from Blake’s Teenage Fanclub heyday… and then it was done. This allowed the audience to leave on a high but sadly the lead up to this was just a bit of a struggle and not terribly memorable… a shame really.

 
*I jest, calm doon!

 
**Not the punk kind either, I own a tartan tie but this feels like a bit much.

 
***Which is apparently awful as I’m told from people that I trust?

 
****Except those on the drams… their laldie at this point.

 
*****And it proved a welcome one for me later on.

 
******Like wae drums and bass and that.

"Hiya!"

“Hiya!”

Fuck to this noise.
AKA You HAVE to fucking see this shit.

A Less-than-critical journey through film.

What do you mean you didn’t like Reality Bites? Oh, okay.
Anyway. Enough of the shit talking and the “I hate life viewed through rose-tinted spectacles” nonsense. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is FUCKING HEARTWARMING.

Sean Penn as photographer Sean O'Connell, elusive buddy and spirit guide for Walter's wee vision quest or whatever.

Sean Penn as photographer Sean O’Connell, elusive buddy and spirit guide for Walter’s wee vision quest or whatever.

Yes, the film may spread the central message of “live your life” a little too thickly, but who cares? Sometimes, it’s just nice to watch some fun shit, and see someone rediscover all the things on the to-do list that got lost amongst the humdrum reality of the day to day.

On yersel' big man!

On yersel’ big man!

Who doesn’t want to skateboard their way to see a volcano erupting, and smash the fuck out of Adam Scott’s smug face?

That beard isn't even REAL, you bastard.

That beard isn’t even REAL, you bastard.

Yes, some of the real incidents that happen to Ben Stiller’s Walter are far more improbable than his action movie daydreams, but – once more with feeling – who cares? It’s escapist. It’s bloody nice. It’s God damn SWEET.

Cake. Wins over the toughest of rebels.

Cake. Wins over the toughest of rebels.

You can take your moans of music video sensibilities and over usage of Arcade Fire and shove them up thy constipated ass alongside those consistent wailings about that ship/shark escapade.

Kiirsten Wiig as Walter's dream woman, Rachel Melhoff. Her son has mad skills.

Kirsten Wiig as Walter’s dream woman, Rachel Melhoff. Her son has mad skills.

There is the obvious nod to the effect the internet has had on magazine publication, and old school photojournalism becoming obsolete – also Kirsten Wiig looks AMAZING as a brunette – but overall Walter Mitty is of comfort to the persistent daydreamers of this world. Of course, we should all be living in the now, but occasionally it really is the better course of action to zone out for a while and just visualize stabbing someone’s eyeballs out with a rusty fork rather than literally doing it. Similarly, fantasizing about going for dinner with Dirk Benedict from the A-Team may most likely turn out to be better than actually going for dinner with Dirk Benedict from the A-Team. I digress.

"eh-heh-heh"

“eh-heh-heh”

Oh, and if I see another film critic or blogger refer to David Bowie’s Space Oddity as “Major Tom”, I shall not be responsible for my own actions. Jesus, I know Walter gets it wrong, but there’s a lot he gets wrong in life. His job isn’t to research this shit, he’s a character in a bloody film. You, are not. Now get the fucking skateboard out, shave in a Mohawk and go have fun. It’s a nice day outside.

Space Oddity. It’s FUCKING SPACE ODDITY!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 476 other followers