Tuesday, 24 March 2009

VG 4 SL-When we say we're in love, you best believe we're in love, L.U.V

When you spend enough time with someone who, like Cher, would rather ‘Turn Back Time’ than let's say, ‘Push Things Forward‘, like Mike the Brummie your gonna start investing your ear time in music that’s old. Of course, when your passionate about music the origins of your favourite new bands influences are just as important as their own releases.

Which is why, when the Vivian Girls hit up our record shops, stages and blogs in late 2008 the influences behind their Surf Rock, harmony led Girl-Group vocals were an intriguing insight into what shaped their self titled debut LP.

Now Vivian Girls, it must be said, have had ‘Is There Anything…’ in a bit of a pickle of late. On record, in interviews and in pose form, we love em'. Live however, we were turned to cheddar and our big, yellowy, dairy filled heads were grated right off our considerably chipped shoulders.
When they supported the Black Lips back in February we did our homework. As each day passed their Brooklyn-baked output only served to heighten our excitement. 'Tell The World' had us transfixed as if we were driving down a pitch black, deserted road 10 hours into a mammoth road trip, while the sweet, honey-glazed 'Second Date' made for a perfect swoon. All was gearing up for a perfect night, until, that is, they plundered the stage, pins in hand, bubbles in sight.

The performance came and went with much monotony. Barely a pulse was raised, hardly a swoon in sight and neither knees nor hearts were swayed. Vivian Girls clarity and sun-soaked cooings never pierced the fuzz and drone of reverberating guitars and stark, bare and bruising beats. AND as for the banter, stopping the start of a song to ask someone to show a 1000 strong crowd a Japanese handkerchief the size of a...well, HANKERCHIEF did and still does makes my teeth do a grind of nails-on-chalkboard severity.

In other words, we were bitterly disappointed. But in all reality, the worlds fatality is in no way threatened because Vivian Girls had an off night on stage. And lets be fair, it could have just been an off night. There is, as in most cases, a silver lining. They still sound great on record and more importantly we've been re-introduced to one of a our favourite bands of all time thanks to the girls influences.

The Shangri-Las. The portrayers of teen drama induced pop of an all-girl variety. Formed in the 60's the Shangri-Las sound tracked millions of teenage lives and broke hearts the world over with 'Walking On The Sand' and ‘Leader Of The Pack'. The influence they had on a generation of adolescents was obvious, the influence on today’s bands however, not so.

The most obvious is the Vivian Girls. The harmonies and tambourine glistened drums are a direct connection to Shangri-Las, in particular 'Tell The World'. Perhaps not so obvious is the sway the band has on the likes of the Black Lips, The Horrors and a whole host of punk bands dating back to the 70's.

'Good Bad, Not Evil', the 4th LP released by the Black Lips takes it's title direct from 'Give Him A Great Big Kiss', a song which includes the line 'When I say I'm In Love, you best believe I'm In Love, L.U.V', the same line used in 'Looking For A Kiss' New York Dolls 1971 recording.

With regards to musical output, the Black Lips have used '200 Million Thousand' to showcase their influence further. 'I'll Be With You' is more than just a nod in their direction, as is the continual use of a Shangri-La-like drum beat, so beloved of everyone, throughout the record.

As for Blondie, they twice covered 'Out In The Street'. And most surprisingly of all is the pull the Shangri-Las have on The Horrors. Sited as an influence even before 'Strange House', the promise from the band and hacks alike, that the new record is peppered in Shangri-La kissed tambourine and spoken vocals is in equal parts bewildering and brilliant.

So beg, borrow or steal a copy of 'Leader Of The Pack' and it's quality and legend will hit you in the smacker. The class and panache that glistens throughout will leave you in no doubt that the Shangri-Las are a class apart. Hell, if this post and it's ramblings of quality bands don’t, nothing ever will.

Don your Canadian Tuxedo, Mika Miko are coming to town.

Followers of our blog will know we kinda dig Mika Miko. We've got History. It started when I wrote an article on The Smell, continued when 'C.Y.S.L.A.B.F' and '666' blew our socks off and stepped up a notch when shows at The Dome and Bardens Boudouir saw us take to the stage and divulge in a two hour long cock-block of a conversation that left both of us steaming if not for very different reasons.
So you can imagine the excitement when we heard the news yesterday that not only is a new record on the horizon but so too are UK dates. And when we then found out those UK dates will be in support of the BLACK LIPS we vomited, pissed, shat, orgasamed, hyperventilated, died and was born all at the same time.
The tour kicks off at the Luminaire, London on May13th and comes to an end at the Electric Ballroom, London on May26th. You can also see the girls take to the stage in Glasgow, Brighton and all thats in between throughout the month.

The album, We Be Xuxa, released on Post Present Medium, will hit the UK on May 4th and the US on May 4th.

KASMS, here to Bone You. PT1

Back in the heady days of 2008 this very blog predicted big things for a scene of the very darkest nature. A scene we brilliantly called Dark Wave. Basking in the cast of it's gloomy shadow, we marvelled at the brilliance of Televised Crimewave, S.C.U.M, Lord Auch et all. One Dark Wave band however were and are firm favourites of 'Is There Anything...' and that band is Kasms. As spell-binding as they are scintillating and as seedy as they are sultry, from day One,
Rachel Mary Callaghan (Vocals), Gemma Fleet (Bass), Scott R Walker (Guitar and Drums) and Ex-Testicicles Rory Brattwell (Drums and Guitar) captured our hearts, made love to our ears and made us weak at the knees.
Dabbling in the dark arts, Kasms have emerged from the scene as the main pretenders. Cross breading post-punk with sharp and sensual shriekbeat the London 4-piece are stealing a march into the spring of 2009.
With their already finished and as of yet untitled debut album due for release before the summer Kasms are preparing themselves for a busy year of ‘ones to watch’ proportions. Already headlining gigs across Europe, including Paris and Milan the band are playing gigs throughout the months of April and May and are taking in two festivals in that time, Camden Crawl and The Great Escape.
We caught up with the band in the new year at a deserted gig in North London to talk albums, ex-bands and Echo and the Bunnymen.

It must of been weird tonight, sparse crowd?
(Scott) Yeah it was a little bit quite. I feel like we didn't do much to publicise tonight so its our own fault really.
(Gemma) It's a full moon so its a very strange night.
(Rory) All our friends were down the road watching a band called Vivian girls. They’re really good you see and way more important than us. Everyone else was watching Coldplay at the O2 arena.
(Scott) Actually Shakin Stevens was playing the O2 I checked earlier, not that I wanted to go(Laughs) So all our fans were down there. Shakin stevens at indigo. Kasms 0 shakin stevens 1. Or 2000 really.

Tonight must have been a perfect opportunity to try new stuff out and experiment a bit?
(Rory) Yeah it was. I enjoyed tonight as it goes. We got the chance to play a new track, we haven't named it yet but it was good to give it an airing. We kind of umed and ared about it anyway and we said we’d see on the night. So it all came good.

Was it a track off the new album?
(Scott) Yeah its the last track on the album and the last we recorded.

It must be harder to play in front of a crowd like tonight than a packed venue in a way?
(Scott) It was horrible. We all said it was a bit nerve racking before we went on and that doesn’t normally happen to us. I used to get nervous but now I'm just eager to start but tonight i felt nervous. Which is strange because your more nervous when there’s less people. I suppose its that impending feeling you get when there’s a lack of sound after each song. You just go oh god I'm gonna tune my guitar in total silence. When we first started we played some really small, quite gigs and everyone seemed to really hate us. They were the worst ones, nothing like tonight though.
(Gemma) Your making us come across really well in this interview!
(Scott) Its a day of honesty. And i suppose that's what kasms are all about. Its true we've played some brilliant gigs and some big gigs but there's also been times when we could have walked of and no one would have cared. At least tonight we weren’t shit.
(Rachel) Yeah we’re not completely shit anymore.

So do you feel like you’ve improved as a band then? It's been over a year now since your first gig.
(Rory) Yeah when we first started we were all quite novice. Rachel hadn’t sang in a band for 4 years, I hadn’t drummed in a band before. Scott hadn’t played guitar for about 40 years(Laughs) and Gemma had never played bass before. So we were a little bit shambolic but shambolic in a good way.
(Rachel) We’re never going to be a really tight band.

Is that a conscious decision?
(Rachel) Yeah it is. When we get to a point when we feel we’re getting tight we mix it up a bit and try something a bit different (For half the gig Rory and Scott played each others instruments).
(Scott) I think if one of us makes a little mistake or if we decide to deviate from the original path we’ve got to the stage as a band were we can carry on or pull it off. Before, it would be more obvious and we’d have to start again because we couldn’t finish the song. We all definitely feel more confident playing these songs and being members of Kasms.
(Rory) Absolutely. Because of the album we’re much more confident and its made us better as a band especially live. I think we’ve improved a great deal in a year.

And how has your first year together been?
(Scott) Yeah its been good fun. I was saying its definitely just something we do that’s fun and that’s how it started. Just something to do and enjoy.

So Kasms isn’t a career?
(All) No.
(Rory) In the sense that it has gone quite well and very quickly we’ve been lucky really because very quickly we got a label, we played New York, Milan, Paris and everything sold out, including our first singles and EP. We all started the band not really knowing how to play instruments and we instantly sounded good. Even with the new record everything was really quick. During the recording of the album we wrote two songs.

Do you have a process of writing? Do you all have a go at it?
(Rory) Yeah we do. In older bands there was a process but not in Kasms. We kinda just turn up and someone will play something then we’ll repeat it, add to it and we’ve got a song.
(Scott) It all feels a bit too easy at the moment. We have rehearsals and when we need to write a song we always do.

Maybe that’s a testament to how good you are as a band. How close you are. (Scott) Yeah maybe we don’t want to admit how close we are but yeah I guess it does. We all live together, we’re like a family.

How did you meet?
(Gemma) Dancing! I met Rory on the night I met my boyfriend dancing at a New Years party. I met Rachel dancing and I met Scott at a party.
(Rory) And I met Scott at a gig. We got banned, injuring people, wind milling at the front, bring back those days!
(Rory) Gemma, tell him how you met your boyfriend?
(Gemma) Oh I was at this New Years party, all my mates we're off with there boyfriends and I was bored so I saw this boy and just asked him if he liked Echo and the Bunnymen (giggles all round). As soon as he said yes I just jumped on him. We've been together ever since.

Echo and the Bunnymen are one of your influences are'nt they?
(Gemma) Yeah I guess so. They’re a bit noisy but we definitely take influences from them.
(Scott) It’s funny when you say influences because I don’t really think we sound like them and we don’t go out of our way too. We just take inspiration from them.
(Rory) I like more heavy punk bands, American post hardcore stuff, not really heavy but a bit darker and soggier.

Obviously tonight was hard to gage, whats a normal kasms gig? And is there a typical kasms crowd?
(Scott) Well we usually have more people, honest (Laughs). We really haven’t had a quite night like this for a while. I don’t know what our normal audience is but all these trendy Shoreditch kids that are supposed to like us just stand arms folded looking a bit bored. But when we play to men with suits on they go mental.
(Gemma) Yeah business men. I don’t want all these trendy cunts dissin us i want bald business men saying we make them feel like they’re 17 again and are having the time of their lives.
(Rory) At 93 feet east we had business men going nuts and these 3 dreadlocked French dudes telling us they were our biggest fans. Its normally the gigs we think are going to be great when we fall flat on our faces and the gigs we think will be rubbish that end up being mental.

Keep checking the blog for part two were I discuss with Rory his former band, Testicicles...
Oh, one last thing. The photo's were taken by fellow blogee Richard Anderson. We all think they're ace which is why we made em large. Just look how friggin good they are...

Oh the Horror...

is what I'm guessing your reaction to me posting about the Horrors was. Fair enough I guess. Unless your a 14 year old Topshop-goth with a penchant for hairspray and eye-liner the thought of wrapping your lugs around Rotter and the Gangs congealed goth-tinged garage mutant might send you running to the soft embrace of the podgy one out of the Wombats.
BUT, dear followers ,if you've actually clicked on the link you'll know something of a change is in the air.
Sea Within a Sea is by all means a departure of gargantuan proportions. I mean, it's all Shoegaze and that innit. And it's all, mature and stuff.
Now I know it's just one song from their immanent follow up to Strange House but as word goes, it's a fair taster of whats to come from Primary Colours.
Vice have already given the album a 10 out of 10, The Fly had this to say in their blog and the NME, perhaps giving the more detailed analysis said this...

New Horrors Album 'Primary Colours' - The First Listen
By Emily Mackay
Posted on 13/03/09 at 05:01:20 pm

Not much shocks us here at NME Towers. We’re all cool and cynical, you know? Slap us in the face with an echidna, we won’t even flinch. So the moment this album first hit our stereo like a blizzard in the summer, the dropped jaws and cries of "Shut up, this is NOT The Horrors… it can’t be!" were something to behold.
Here’s our first impressions of this year’s biggest surprise (due for release in May)…

Mirror's Image
Beginning with a low, ambient, throb that’ll make you check you haven’t stuck ‘Music For Airports’ on by accident, after a minute of gentle pulsing it kicks in with an impossibly sultry Mary Chain bassline, big Cult drums and Faris’ declamatory, goth vocal booming "walk on into the night" before a ‘Killing Moon’-ish guitar solo (really) shoots for the heavens. We are definitely not in Shoreditch anymore, Toto.

Three Decades
Ominous, doom-laden bass and clattering drums are swept up by a banshee wail of synth and swoony MBV-style guitars. Gothgaze? Shoekraut? Who knows, but it’s amazing.

Who Can Say
Geoff Barrow’s cavernous production is amazing, Faris' clean, shriek-free vocal cutting through rumbling, droney bass over a steadily driving beat as a high, sweet synth line like the ghost of lost love coos miles above, with the only trace of the band they used to be in a tambourine-kissed Shangri-Las spoken word mid-section.

Do You Remember
This one is again more shoegazey, with a gothy groove like very early Stone Roses, or Echo And The Bunnymen at their slinkiest. The romanticism of the lyrics is another surprise, Faris earnestly crying "I will cross the ocean, I will be with you soon".

New Ice Age
Probably the scariest of all the tracks, this dark psychedelic dirge recalls Bauhaus via the rabid aggression of Killing Joke, ending in a wash of funereal organ.
Scarlet FieldsWith a throbbing bassline oddly reminiscent of U2’s ‘With Or Without You’, this is romantic and shoegazey, with screes of MBV/Sonic Youth guitar textures, as sweet as they are scouring.

I Only Think Of You
With that BOOM-boom-boom-chick ‘Be My Baby’ beat so beloved of shoegazers the world over, this is a doomy ballad from the edge of obsession, Faris booming "you know if I lose you I’ll go mad" like a young Ian McCulloch.

I Can't Control Myself
An unstable psychobillyish cousin of Spiritualized’s 'Come Together', as sexy as it is psychotic.

Primary Colours
The most upbeat and traditional of the tracks, this has something of Interpol-via-Asobi Seksu about it, but much, much cleverer than that.

Sea Within A Sea
An eight-minute Spacemen 3-meets-Neu! odyssey of ominous motorik rhythms, Faris’ mournful incantations and an expanding starfield of synths.

So, as we click our Cuban heels into spring it looks like The Horrors have sprung the biggest surprise of 2009. Primary Colours is released on May 5th and with it I'm sure will be a whole host of opinions clinging to it's coat-tails. I'm fairly sure, judging by Sea Within a Sea it's gonna be full of bangers but as we're dealing with the most Marmityish of bands It will never to far away from it's haters, aint that right Richard?

Monday, 23 March 2009

Just a couple of things...


The Maccabees-No Kind Words

and this...

The Horrors-Sea Within a Sea

Yeeeeeeaaaaaahhhhhh booooiiiiii!

USA-The Underground State of America

There was a time last summer when you couldn't throw a half-eaten pretzel in Brooklyn without hitting a check-shirted Indie-boy square in the smacker.
Likewise, in LA you couldn't lob a diamante collared Chihuahua without flattening a Z-listed heiress.
From the outside world the parallels between the two cities seemed vastly different if not non-existent.
Brooklyn was rife with individuality and soon, musically, it became a hub of creativity. Band after band emerged from an underground scene laced with talent and broke into the consciousness of not just the industry but fans alike.
In the space of a few months Vampire Weekend, Yeasayer and MGMT all released critically acclaimed albums, played festivals worldwide and took American alternative music by the scrotum and gave it a lease of life not seen since the emergence of The Strokes circa 2000.
It was an extraordinary time for music and in-particular Brooklyn. Not for decades has a city reveled in such a rich vein of form when creating a vast array of music and bands of startling quality.
If the same was being said of LA however, it was being done by those in the know. On the surface the Plastics, Arnie's Army and those still clinging on to the hope 'Chinese Democracy' was on the cusp of brilliance were still polluting the Hollywood air.
Scratch below the surface though and it was evident something special was simmering. A community was forming; a creative community that was light years apart from the celebrity culture that filled the gossip columns and stunk up uptown.
At the forefront of the movement was The Smell, a community orientated art and music centre. Open to all ages and devoid of all alcohol, The Smell conformed to only its own rules and in doing so became a venue as vital as any in America.
Its sole purpose, to create an environment of creativity and artistic innovation and freedom meant it became a hot bed for raw talent to grow as artists and a place to hang for those disillusioned with a town teetering on the edge of tedium.
Founded in 1998 by Jim Smith, a union organizer, and two partners, The Smell took the occupancy of an old Mexican grocery store and dedicated its principles to the ethics of D.I.Y. Those ethics are still as much alive today as they were 10 years ago. Completely non-profitable, the venue is run by volunteers who have a hand in everything from working on the vegan stall to doing sound for gigs. This freedom, one that allows anyone to try their hand at anything, is inevitably why there's such a wave of creativity and diversity that submerges The Smell. And this creativity and diversity is no more evident than in the musical output it creates.
When classing The Smell as a community centre, which it is, the one thing you do have to consider is it’s like no other on the planet. In no other city in the US and in no town in Britain will you find a band better than No Age emerge from a youth club/community centre.
No Age are The Smell's darlings. Formed six years ago as Wives, a hardcore punk band inspired by LA's 80s hardcore scene, Randy Randall (Guitar) and Dean Spunt (Drums) played their first proper gig at The Smell as No Age in April 2006 and from there they grew from strength to strength as did their relationship with The Smell. Randall told music journo, Drew Tewksbury "The Smell is where we got to experiment and find what kind of a band we wanted to be. It pushed the boundaries of whatever ideas we had about music and we had the community to try these new ideas".
And these new ideas were unashamedly linked to The Smell in every which way. On March 26th 2007, No Age recorded five different limited edition vinyl singles and EP's releasing them on five different record labels. As well as being a different colour, the back of each sleeve portrayed a different letter that, when you collected them all, spelt out No Age. Within three months of releasing the singles and EPs the band released their debut album Weirdo Rippers, a collections of songs taken from the EPs and freshly recorded tracks. Released on Fat Cat Records, the cover of the album featured the exterior of The Smell, re-painted and re-designed to spell out No Age and Weirdo Rippers. Although never officially done as a gesture of thanks to the band, the act showed how tight the community and No Age were and still are. The exterior to this day still bares their name and with more and more exposure coming the venue's way Randall recently helped mine trenches in the venues concrete floor so that a second bathroom could be built to accommodate an ever expanding crowd.
Weirdo Rippers received rave reviews and it wasn't long before a battle to sign the band materialised. Emerging from the scrap victorious was Sub Pop. Famous throughout the 90's for being home to Nirvana and the heavyweights of the grunge scene. From there No Ages popularity and abilities grew from strength to strength.
A 23-date tour with New York band Liars saw them play venues bigger than they've ever played and to crowds as far removed from LA underground scene as imaginable. And a return to their spiritual home saw the band showcase the scintillating shoegaze-punk sounds of Nouns, the bands eagerly awaited second album, with a gig at The Smell that will go down in LA music’s folklore.
In the crowd that night were The Smells new breed and a collection of bands that have grown with No Age amongst the confines of the venues graffiti strewn walls.
Mika Miko, Abe Vigoda, Health, BARR and The Mae Shi have all shared stages, record labels, tours and the success of being under the most prolific radar this side of the 21st century. While The Mae Shi have previously slipped under said radar, the growing success and emerging recognition of the venue means they could be on the verge of penetrating the underground, even though they're already 6 years and 4 albums into their career.
Abe Vigoda and Mika Miko on the other hand are, along with No Age, the scenes rawest talents.
Deeply ingrained in the fabric of what makes the LA music scene tick, Abe Vigoda and Mika Miko are the best punk bands coming out of the US let alone LA. And it's a brand of punk that could only ever be contrived from the reaches of the freedom and accessibility LA affords its young musicians and artists.
Abe Vigoda have been spreading their tropicalyptic punk nuggets to the deepest darkest parts of LA, taking in the un-traditional venues but always keeping the community allegiance with Mika Miko and No Age. A week rarely went by without all three bands sharing the same bill and even taking to the stage together. The sheer volume of videos on You Tube will pay testament to that.
Coming on like the demented alta-ego of Vampire Weekend, Abe Vigoda have ridden The Smell’s waft to Europe and beyond on the back of Skeleton, their third LP offering. Dense with atmospheric percussion, chilling ambience and a steel drum afro-pop layer, Skeleton has been Abe Vigoda’s golden ticket.
Opening for Vampire Weekend for their autumn tour, December now see’s them taking to the streets of London, Paris, Berlin and beyond for a much anticipated winter tour.
And following in their footsteps will be Mika Miko a bunch of girls as equally beautiful, brash and brutal as any you’re likely to see on the streets of LA. While No Age, Mika Miko’s self professed band of brothers, are the most accomplished band to come out of The Smell, Mika Miko are undeniably the most exhilarating live. Rarely comprehensible yet always mesmerizing. Their concoction of The Slits-cum-Germs scatter-punk leaves you on the verge of a panic attack but drags you back with its slick rhythm and driving raw power.
Formed in 2003, the band has gone through a number of line-up changes but has recently settled on group as tight as Beth Ditto in a sub-merged spandex g-string. Jessie Clavin, Jenna Thornhill, Jennifer Clavin, Kate Hall and Michelle Suar now make up the 5 piece band who, with Abe Vigoda, will be hitting up Europe this winter in the lead up to what looks to be an exhausting year of tour the world and releasing their third full-length LP.
So, move over Brooklyn. It seems there is life beyond Brooklyn Bridge after all.
When thinking of musical movements you’d be hard pressed not to reminisce. With alternative music now being so accessible thanks to the internet and the ever growing popularity of Indie music. It seemed impossible for another movement to ever capture the excitement and buzz the LA underground scene has today. In recent years we’ve had to contend with the bland schmindie of the Kaiser Chiefs, The Kooks and all those other dour lifeless bands that fill the supermarket shelves and blast out the Topman stereo. Now, thanks to the incredible spirit, work ethic and values of bands, promoters, venues and record labels we finally have a culture to be proud of and a movement we can relate to and submerge ourselves in.
If you ever thought anything cool could ever come out again? Or if you’ve prayed for a scene you can believe. The City of Angels have, in the most spectacular way possible, answered those prayers.

Daniel Wade