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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!

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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!

Can you recognise what film this image is from?

Can you recognise what film this image is from?

It is with the advancement of age, I did hit my 30’s this year, that one begins to realise that he or she no longer has their finger on the pulse of what is going on and if he or she does then it is on its last few beats before becoming a corpse.  Sometimes the corpse does reanimate in a few decades… but I’m veering off topic here.

No content to deal with just that one I have realised that I’ve not listened to a great deal of stuff that is pre-existing… the classics or the wonderfully bad or the vast amount of material that is in the middle. I have stuck to certain genres of music more than others; you know I have hit my 30’s now so does that mean I should be into Jazz? Or should I be eyeing up that King Crimson box set on Amazon or is it something far worse?

Well in order to combat this complacency I have set myself a challenge that I’m calling ‘100 albums in 100 days’. For the next 100 days I will listen to a punk rock record every day and I will post my thoughts on these albums every Monday or Tuesday of the week. I will revisit favourites, give albums I thought were pish the first time round a second chance and listen to stuff that I have never got round to listen to or really never wanted to.

A few things to note before I set sail on this adventure in sound; I will be picking albums that I consider punk, be it pre-punk, post-punk, hardcore, post-hardcore, riot girl etc. and I will not always be picking the most obvious of choices.

Feel free to offer suggestions or just lambast my thoughts- both are welcome, enjoy!

rftc3

It was a dark and chilly night when John Reis, known as Speedo to you and me, the ringleader, high heid yin and tamer of the beast that is rock n’ roll, couriers the Kings of said genre Rocket from the Crypt to the ravenous hordes tightly packed into Newcastle’s the Cluny*.

Speedo was out front and centre – banter filled and raring to go, acting more like a pastor than a lead singer, filled with holy word that is rock n’ roll which had his congregation** enraptured before any notes had even been played. But when they were played, starting with ‘Sturdy Wrists’ from their breakthrough album ‘Circa: Now!’. Well the place fucking erupted into a sea of jumping, shimmying and some dubious dance moves***.

But all the audience excitement so far seemed to be a prelude to the moves that were thrown on hearing the triple header of ‘Middle’, ‘Born in 69’ and ‘On a Rope’ back to back. By this point RFTC had really hit their stride and the evening continued at a blistering pace with highlighted cuts from throughout their more a less impeccable career****. With sweat beginning to drip off the walls and the general populace of the venue becoming clammy, one gentleman at the front of the stage discarded his top which in turn aroused the respect and fondness from Speedo where he commended the man for his practicality. Due to this, that topless gent got his pick for the next song which was a rousing ‘Dick on a Dog’*****.

Each member of the band was given their time to shine as the evening was coming to an end****** and they took to the opportunity with relish. Upon leaving the stage the audience roared for more only giving the band a minute to compose themselves before they returned to finish the evening with ‘Come See Come Saw’ and ‘Young Livers’. With genuine thanks they left to the cheers, applause and shout outs from a grateful and gratified audience where no one was in rush to leave.

As someone that has waited around 17 years to see this band live having just missed them in my (relative) youth******* there was a level of anticipation for this show that I do not normally have. But when this occasionally does occur I am always cautious that these things rarely live up to the wants that one has, so before entering I was excited but ready for disappointment. Luckily, or should I say thankfully, I needn’t have worried as they more than surpassed my unrealistically high expectations very much helped by the wonderful audience that attended. To RFTC please don’t fucking quit again guys!

*And what a lovely venue it is, it’s nice to have a stellar pint whilst watching a gig instead of the stuff that I wouldn’t even call cooking lager.

**That would be the audience… I think that was clear.

***It wasn’t just I.

****I even love ‘Camp X-Ray’!

*****They were going to play it later anyway.

******Which for the sake of flow I have left out of the main text but each one deserves their due so here they are… Petey X (bass), ND (guitar), Apollo 9 (sax), JC 2000 (trumpet), Ruby Mars (drums) as well as Speedo (vocals and guitar).

*******As good as seeing Hot Snakes was I really wanted to see this band since I first saw them on the Chart Show whilst staying in Barra – I think they melted my brain.

shellac 1

It has finally arrived; Shellac at the Edinburgh Liquid Room. I have been counting down the months and days as to see this band in a club without having to make the yearly pilgrimage to Barcelona Primavera Sound is beyond excitement. The fact that this is a true occasion of momentous proportions due to the lack of coherent touring schedule from the band has meant that good dose of Edinburgh folk are here*.

Possibly due to the fact that the band were competing with the Pixies in Glasgow, attendance figures were not as high as it could have been with the balcony closed off and getting to front left of the stage proving to be no challenge. Despite this, there was no mood damping as the level of anticipation in the room was palpable so me and my partner in crime** with pint in hand settled in to be blown away.

We were not short changed – Steve Albini, Bob Weston and Todd Trainer established their positions on the stage; with the drums being front and centre and without acknowledgment they stormed into ‘Canada’ from debut album ‘At Action Park’. The powerhouse continued on with ‘My Black Ass’ and promptly settled into ‘A Minute’, leading to quite the audience participation in the first few rows.

What followed was an evening where all the boxes were ticked. Couple of “new tracks”, taking questions from the audience, playing tracks from every album, and their quintessential choreographed moves displaying that the band is not without their humour***. The crowd throughout lapped it up on the whole though some did prove inpatient when Bob got into a conversation about the resignation of Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein and the possible affect that this will have on the public transportation in the city. This led one audience member to tell them to move on, with Bob stating to them “Shut the fuck up dude! I’m talking to this guy”.

With the opening notes of ‘Squirrel Song’ causing recognition and exaltation the band continued on leading to the big hit**** ‘Prayer to God’ threatening to lead to the first instance of a united sing along this evening. The time left was cut short  due to this being a Friday night and the club needing to prepare for all the dancing stuff but thankfully we were treated by the band playing a masterful rendition of ‘Wing Walker’,  before ‘End of Radio’ and the incoherent but exhilarating ‘Spoke’ finished things off.

And that was that… the end. Everyone was happy while those dedicated few were off to see them again in Glasgow the next evening*****. Giddy and content I thought to myself that I will definitely be there when they decide to tour here again in about 10 years’ time.

*Seriously I bumped into so many people I know at this.

**She is the popular writer on this blog 😉

***Like that needs to be proven, all their songs are about Canada and Baseball.

****I believe that would be called sarcasm.

*****Guilty.

jonah 2

What is one to do on a cold and dreary Monday, well my first thought was to stay in but it seemed that Edinburgh’s Sneaky Pete’s was hosting an evening of acoustic punk* with emo god like figure Jonah Matranga headlining, with Oxygen Thief as support, which proved too enticing a prospect to pass up on.

Due to the lack of audience at the early point in the evening, Barry Dolan otherwise known as Oxygen Thief arrived on stage to little fanfare; however the same could not be said at the end of his electrifying set. Showcasing several tracks from his mighty fine début album ‘Destroy it Yourself’ which hosts defiant anthems in the waiting. Amusingly the signature time changes and stop/starts of the set had Oxygen Thief kicking against the pricks that were frequently in conversation early in his set until the aforementioned stop/starts led them to a further away part of the room. With the promise of a full band tour coming soon** left one rather tantalised at the prospect.

Jonah Matranga was sharp onstage with… himself and his acoustic guitar in tow, no backing to speak of. Despite their only being about 20 punters in the audience which made even this tiny venue seem somewhat sparse, to his credit, this did not seem to adversely affect Jonah’s disposition.  If anything it meant that it was a far more intimate experience for those savvy enough to be in attendance.

What followed was a set that covered all stages of Jonah’s varied career; Solo, Onelinedrawing, New End Original, Gratitude, Far and new project I is Another. With so much material to choose from it proved a highlight of the evening when Jonah asked for audience requests – which was greeted coyly as a test by some but as the first few were shouted out the man found himself inundated. This led to one of the odder moments of the evening as Jonah combined the polar opposite sentiments of songs ‘Are you Sure’ and ‘Fight Song #16,233,241’***, which we were told was the first time this has occurred.

Seeing Jonah cascade into a searing rendition of ‘We Had A Deal’ was not only a valiant display of why a solo performer doesn’t necessarily have to be the quiet, reflective song smith. Not only can they rock harder than a good dose of ensemble bands but can also remind you of why you go to see live music – where there is a moment that you are completely mesmerised, where all the other shit you carry is set aside for a few minutes****. This was one of those moments!

Greeted by the man himself after the show on exiting, more a less every member of the audience was treated to a hug and a short conversation. This cemented the fact that this truly felt special, that he appreciated us being there as much as we appreciated him coming to play. It makes me love punk rock and it quantifies why I love this guy and guarantees that every time that he tours I will make the effort of seeing him and will badger others to do the same*****.

*I hate to regurgitate that term as it’s just a bit shit but I’m at a loss to what else to call it.

**Touring but not in Scotland, unfair!

***That was I that requested ‘Fight Song’.

****Sorry to get all Meta on you.

*****Consider this you being badgered!

savages

Mercury music price nominees* and general darlings of the indie press for the past wee while, Savages have been adorned with a tremendous dose of kudos on a band so young. This packed to the rafters show, at Glasgow’s Classic Grand, was filled with that odd mix of a crowd that only occurs when a fringe band has dipped its toe into the mainstream. Your cider and blackcurrant drinking Goth crew rubbing shoulders with those indie folk and your Coldplay loving Uncles queuing up for the bar. Can you really please all spectrums?

The band, in their uniform of all black, played through their début album ‘Silence Yourself’ to gleeful adoration. Vocalist Jehnny Beth was a commanding presence throughout the show rousing the crowd effortlessly. Ayse Hassan’s bass was thick and punchy and pounding, Gemma Thompson’s guitar was the right amount of painful squall and Faye Milton’s drumming certainly hit the point home.

Proceeding to go through their rather excellent début, the band had the audience in the palm of their hand which reached its crescendo with ‘She Will’ and ‘City’s Full’. Proving that there is more to the band than just hype and that, my God, there might actually be some lasting stay power here**.

However despite the obvious professionalism at hand something didn’t site right with me about the show. Regardless of vocalist Jehnny’s singing, what should have been, a rousing rendition of ‘Fuckers’ upon the shoulders of a few lucky*** audience members, I felt oddly cold despite all the ingredients for a class act show being there; the crowd, the angst, the anger, the energy. That should have been what led to that moment but it wasn’t… It felt forced and somewhat staged as if it was always going to happen****.

Despite my feelings on it though, the performance certainly seemed well rehearsed and was done with the utmost of professionalism with the crowd, on the whole, lapping it up*****. But it lacked believability of emotion and was sorely missing that hint of danger that everything could implode; and who comes to a fucking rock show for that?!

*If you care about that kind of thing… I couldn’t give less of a shit.

**I certainly hope so as it’s a cracking album.

***If you think of that thing as being lucky… I do a bit.

****And as the great & wonderful artist Bobby Conn said at a show in King Tuts several years ago “Scotland does not stand for fakery!”

*****A real shame as I thought they were incredible when I saw them a few months back.

A Less-than-critical journey through film

Jesus H Christos Achilleos. Why the hell are people so cynical and so critical these days? Take that anger, take that hate, take that inability to have fun with an artistic endeavour and GO CREATE.
There are bigger fish to fry in this world.
Who am I and who do I write for?
I’m nobody any more, baby. And I write for me.

the-abominable-dr-phibes (1)

Behind every successful man is a woman.
Maybe. But shouldn’t that line include the added sentiment “ready to deal with all his shite and stresses, clean up his mess, and push him to get things fucking done when he’d rather masturbate over pictures of his dead wife and plaster his face with a cheap latex precursor”?
Anyway. Aye. Vulnavia. Tidiest of henchwomen. Glorious costumery, graceful dancefloor antics.

Vulnavia, beautiful assistant to the titular Dr Phibes, played by horror alumni Vincent Price.

Vulnavia, beautiful assistant to the titular Dr Phibes, played by horror alumni Vincent Price.

Doctor Phibes. Fucking love that guy. Suave bastard. Some cunts fucked up looking after the health and welfare of his wife, resulting in her untimely death.

Mad bitch Phibes want revenge, y'all. And he's schooled in the ways of the Old Testament!

Mad bitch Phibes want revenge, y’all. And he’s schooled in the ways of the Old Testament!

Bats, Bitch!

Bats, Bitch!

Frogs, bitch! (Technically death by frog mask, but you get the idea)

Frogs, bitch!
(Technically death by frog mask, but you get the idea)

Sprouts, bitch...wait. What the fuck? I know I start burning as soon as I enter church grounds, but I don't remember these green bastards being a plague?

Sprouts, bitch…wait. What the fuck? I know I start burning as soon as I enter church grounds, but I don’t remember these green bastards being a plague?

Ohh, right. That's why the sprouts are involved. Who knew locusts were such big fans of Christmas roasts?

Ohh, right. That’s why the sprouts are involved. Who knew locusts were such big fans of Christmas roasts?

Inventive deaths. Price with no face. Price with a static face. Price pretending his real face is made of plastic. Price with fake eyebrows and a frightwig. Price with a crazy voicebox. Price playing the shit out of a giant church organ whilst wearing an elaborate costume. Price doing fucking epic ‘Starey Eye’ acting, incorporating aforementioned fake eyebrows. Amazingly out-of-place but never-the-less wondrous dance sequences. A clockwork band. A CLOCKWORK BAND.

Wait a fucking minute? Is Vulnavia a fucking robot too? I'd buy that for a dollar.

Wait a fucking minute? Is Vulnavia a fucking robot too? I’d buy that for a dollar.

If you haven’t already encountered the disturbed mindscape of the Doctor, you fucking NEED to see this shit.

"So what? So let's DANCE!"

“So what? So let’s DANCE!”

True beauty is on the inside, bitch.

True beauty is on the inside, bitch.