Category Archives: Manchester Scenewipe

NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL||ALBERT HALL||17/5/14

Saturday’s sunshine has seen a mower Holocaust wrought on many a lawn. These outdoor carpet-barbers spent the good weather making their immediate outdoors looking good for the inevitable deluge next weekend, and I suppose the bees still made honey in 1945. On the top deck of this bus there’s a several-headed Cerberean man-boy in Jacamo clothing, his alcohol deafened heads vocally overcompensate, amplifying their laughter to an inner-ear blasting level for the rest of us, making this comparatively brisk trip through the Curry Mile feel like a marathon.

“FUCK OFF!”

One of the heads pokes out of the window slit and shouts at what he believes to be Iranian and Iraqi flags.

“SLING IT…FREE DENMARK!”

“…and you can stick your oil up your arse, an’ all!”

“Indians are okay, it’s their neighbours that are the knobheads, innit, eh?”

(Reticence from the rest of his heads.)

‘Look at it, I just hate that they’ve made it their gaff.’ it says, before making plans to come back. Yes, the racists are returning to Rusholme later on for “a Ruby Murray”.

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(Chief UKIPPER: Nigel Farage)

Nigel Farage’s bulbous eyes watch all this on his underwater crystal ball as he re-hydrates in an attempt to counter this midsummer in May, and in readiness for his upcoming assault on Europe. His fish lipped, upside-down clown mouth tautens into that delighted/gag-reflex combination of a laugh he has.

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(A young Russell is schooled by a man doing anything it takes to inherit a fortune)

Meanwhile, Revolutionary-Jester Russell Brand feels a tingling sensation in his winkle, something markedly different from the chlamydial tickle to which he’s become accustomed. No, this urethral twinge seems to herald something of colossal import as the political philosophy he was schooled in by Richard Pryor in ‘Brewster’sMillions’, later spouted-out of his well-practised mouth looks to be yielding unexpected results as credulous good men prepare to do nothing.

“It Can’t Happen Here.”

“…But then they buried her alive on evening, 1945…”

I’m thinking about Godwin’s Law in the Albert Hall. You know, that old “internet adage that is derived from one of the earliest bits of Usenet wisdoms, which goes “if you mention Adolf Hitler or Nazis you’ve automatically ended whatever discussion you were taking part in.” I’m thinking about how, ironically, God-win will see Devil-Prevail, and possibly be responsible for the next rise of fascism, or at least result in everyone being too cool to object or protest. The atmosphere inside isn’t quite as I had anticipated; rather than the clamour that surrounded the announcement of the tour there’s a sense of expectance and entitlement rather than jittery disbelief of what is about to transpire, which admittedly flakes away somewhat for unbridled adulation as the band take the stage.

Jeff Mangum looks like he just this morning crawled out of the self-imposed-exile-from-the-public-eye that characterised him in the early 2000s, his lengthy grey facial hair far out-stripping the many checked-shirted competitors in attendance. Mangum slowly walks across the stage strumming the introduction to ‘King of Carrot Flowers Part 1’, and the band file-in behind.

‘…Part 2’ comes banjo-crawling over an impression of a cornfield, the audience break into a communal declaration of love for the undiluted idea of Christ, and two-dimensional hand-painted cardboard cut-out plants and flowers rise behind the band and out the pipes of the now ornamental wall-organ that makes up the back of the stage their inseminating stamens also sprouting out of the bells of the muted trumpet and French Horn, snaking their way up toward the sunlight dying behind the stained glass, and the Singing Saw’s ascending, whistling pitch of the impending ‘…Part 3’ propels us “Up and Over…” into the stratosphere. When it ends, burning up on re-entry they launch straight into the galloping ‘Holland 1945’.

Mangum presses his hands together as though to pray, bouncing them off his heart and out towards the audience with a humble shake of his grateful head, and gets respite from the ‘Aeroplane…’ by landing ‘On Avery Island’ for ’A Baby For Pree’ and ‘Gardenhead’, hushing the majority of us up for a few minutes. Julian Koster acts as the band’s mouthpiece, and speaks, dresses and behaves like a 15 year old, beautifully so, and after Mangum has sung himself into a potential heart attack during ‘Two Headed Boy’ and excused himself from the stage to exorcise the tightness in his chest, Koster regales us with half a joke about a man who has half an orange for a head. When Mangum abruptly returns Koster promises us “the other half later on”, which we never get, making this unforthcoming “other half” of a Two Headed joke a sort of a punchline in itself.

Our alternative Albert Hall repetitively combusts with imaginary confetti like the Last Night of the Indie Rock Proms, climaxing with the ineffable majestygasm of ‘(Untitled)’ and shudders and sighs through the laconic crescendo of ‘Two Headed Boy Part 2’ and ‘Engine’. Unlike their contemporaries’ re-treads of former glories, Neutral Milk Hotel in 2014 are still as incandescent a conduit for beauty as they were when they called it a day. They visibly and audibly enthuse at this music that has transcends adulation, criticism and even its creators, almost as much as we do.

I walk toward home through the Tuxedoed Lizards smoking E-Cigs outside the Midland and wonder if I’ll be unlucky enough to get on the bus ferrying the Curry Mile Hydra, my synapses still crackling with a Louisianan crackpot’s Anne Frank wank fantasy.

Please take a vote away from a racist today.

Setlist

The King of Carrot Flowers, Part One

The King of Carrot Flowers, Parts Two & Three

Holland, 1945

A Baby for Pree

Gardenhead

Everything Is

Two-Headed Boy

The Fool

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

Naomi

Ferris Wheel on Fire

Oh Comely

Song Against Sex

Ruby Bulbs

Snow Song, Part One

(Encore)

Ghost

[untitled]

Two-Headed Boy, Part Two

Engine

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Bob Log III, The Ruby Lounge, 24/4/2014

“N. Senada’s (Bavarian Composer -1907-1993) “Theory of Obscurity” states that an artist can only produce pure art when the expectations and influences of the outside world are not taken into consideration.”

I shouldn’t have to be writing this because you should have been there yourself. Luckily for you, Bob is a natural phenomenon that, like some integral celestial body circles the Planet Earth every year, so you can ensure you don’t miss him next time. Though maybe it’s us that orbits him. Anyway until next year…

Bob Log III isn’t that lanky guy that soundchecked. Bob was shot from an Arizona flag emblazoned cannon out of a Jack White nightmare or Evel Knievel wet dream into being. Bob knows he’s the finest thing in all Creation and has deigned to share his preordained greatness with you; so clap your tits, sit on his knee, put shit on his leg and your boob in his scotch – walking through the audience, balloons tethered to headstock and bridge, Bob plays his way to the stage…

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“He’s looking right at me!” Balloons, purty ladies, hard liquor. He’s a professional. He lives in a car.

Despite an appeal via Twitter, no one brought along a rubber dinghy tonight for Bob to surf the tide of bodies, so instead he’s offering to hand out balloons to those who sufficiently lose their shit during each number. It’s shit-kicking, boot stomping Rock N’ Roll via an amphetamine addled spectre of the Delta Blues. While there’s undeniably a tongue lodged firmly into a chewing tobacco-browned cheek beneath that visor, he’s in no way defamatory about the tradition he’s entered into and expanded upon. The Dadaesque shroud of anonymity might be a concession to initially wrong-foot and ultimately win over any cynics who think they’ve heard this all before, but it’s better not to over-think things in such terms – there’s a gathering as diverse in age and cultural affiliation as I’ve seen at any gig in recent memory, all involuntarily entering into a rhythmic conniption fit for a guy with a telephone receiver jammed through the visor of a glittery crash helmet playing a style of music over a Century old.

Head jerking upward, side to side on the offbeat while his fingers molest the fretboard of his Silvertone archtop or electric Banjo at warp speed, Bob cuts an awesome if uncanny figure. There’s something about the inhuman helmet in juxtaposition with the skin of the plunging neckline created by the open zipped jumpsuit. He’s like an action figure or cartoon character – nothing should be inferred as being moulded or pencilled-in beneath that mask other than a fully formed, Universally understandable persona; this redneck overstuffed with a bravado that he unwaveringly, conceitedly believes you’re in complete agreement with. This assumption makes him hilarious, but also honest, as his proficiency with his instrument turns out to be undeniably awe inspiring.

Bob takes us on a travelogue of his back catalogue, interspersed with the standards (‘Boob Scotch’, Clap Your Tits’, ‘LogBomb’) and self aggrandising between-song banter that never fails to land a gut-punch guffaw, before languidly swaggering off through the crowd the way he entered, playing complex riffs with ease before disappearing through a backroom door. The music continues unabated, before Bob reappears stage left from having presumably passed throgh a backstage corridor without breaking his stride to complete this Kaufmanesque encore or ‘nonecore’, if you will.

Bob Log III must stoke doubt and embarrassment in innumerable affectation laden, self important, pouting musicians with the conceptual realisation, technical prodigiousness and unfettered joy of his act. At least he would, had he not simply been shot from an Arizona flag emblazoned cannon out of a Jack White nightmare or Evel Knievel wet dream into being. You aren’t even on his radar, chump.

Next time I’m taking everyone I know, and cajoling those I don’t, starting with you.

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METRONOMY ‘LOVE LETTERS’

That sad brass of the intro to the title track. Michael Parkinson trudges into frame, dragging his feet to each trumpet pulse under a solitary spotlight from stage left, head hung like a Trappist Monk, face nullified by shadow before he turns 45 degrees, tugs his trouser legs-up and sits amid the brown-carpeted artifice. Ever so slowly, he lifts his head to reveal the face of that Golden Clockwork Owl out of Clash of the Titans, (the proper 1981 one, with the woman’s bum coming out of the bath). His nasal Barnsley quack muffled under his golden beak…
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“…Hay-hees uhn Heh-huh-hen, Huh-hoh-huh-hee…” he manages, as the Yorkshire Television ‘Y’ flies up from behind and over the mottled brown background, looping in a hypnotic whirl like the Hanna Barbera Star, then swooping down, stabbing it’s unipedal prong into Parky’s head with such force as to send pink-mince glommed cogs raining over everything as ‘Love Letters’ kicks-in from the band sounding like The Demon Supremes with a ‘Keep Me Hanging On’ from Hell.

There’s something so beautifully askew about everything Joseph Mount has served up for us thus far; this retro assembly of familiarity, an almost taunting normalcy surreptitiously infused with this insipid dread, a gagged anxiety, as definitely present yet intangible as that bastard, baseless, sense of regret married to hangovers. ‘The English Riviera’ was a tourist board advertising hoarding for the breathtaking beauty of Metronomy’s vast talents, that three years later has fostered an anticipation that has in recent weeks seen a Michel Gondry directed video, Paul McCartney shimmying in his seat at the NME awards, and a zombie throng clogging their 6 Music Festival performance at Victoria Warehouse last Friday night.

But if ‘The English Riviera’ was meant to cue a follow-up heralding Metronomy’s ascent to Saturday Night Pyramid Stage headliners or suchlike, Mount never got the memo. He was too busy writing Love Letters. Whether a deliberate snub or simple self indulgence, ‘Love Letters’ is a blissfully intimate affair, at first seemingly devoid of many of the strengths that made its predecessor such a consummate success.

‘The Upsetter’ is the bearer of bad news for ‘English Riviera’ sycophants, insinuating in its spartan sound and opening lines that this album could be a series of demos from the road. In actuality Mount went one better and ensconced himself and the band in the Analogue-gasm that is Hackney’s Toerag Studios, and committed to 8 Track a series of minimalist ditties completely at odds with the promise of the oscillator holocaust of ‘The English Riviera’s full stop ‘Love Underlined’.

Throughout its 4:16 ‘The Upsetter’ is unerring in it’s charity shop organ-sounding percussion accompaniment, the wheeze of sustained keys, and double tracked acoustic strum, but is astonishing in it’s affecting chord changes and mournful chorus. Similarly, Mount plays ostracised Phantom of the Opera on the ringing-in of ‘Monstrous’ with his Haunted House harpsichord, followed by a resulting song that never gets out of first gear, but swells magnificently in grandeur and narrative.

Fuller sounds emerge midway through with the urbane, winding, Joe Jackson progressions of ‘Month of Sundays’ and more markedly ‘Boy Racers’, which comes closest to the Metronomy of old – a globular, Jean Michel Jarre/Yellow Magic Orchestra-esque instrumental with crepuscular keyboard undercurrent-hum, oddball synth trills, ‘Low’ era Bowie guitar part and strangely creepy handclaps, setting the Golf GTImagination running wild with visions of synchronised machismo on twilit, rain-slicked English streets.

‘The Most Immaculate Haircut’, from composition to lyrics, is the album’s most immaculately realised piece of music, the key to understanding the barb-littered Love Letters of this understated masterpiece, and perhaps the greatest achievement of Mount’s already enviable songwriting career to date. ‘Reservoir’ is a plucky little organ-driven upstart of a postcard to the comforting conventionality of a former life, and about as upbeat as this record gets, while the desperate suggestions for relationship defibrillation in waltzing swan song ‘Never Wanted’ further cement the permeating sense that despite Mount’s apparently blissful, all-but-married living situation, these ‘Love Letters’ are anything but fawning.

The Gondry video seems to mock the notion of Metronomy taking the industry and culture by storm, and the album further attests to that. Should he be proven wrong by providence, it will have been against Joseph Mount’s intentions and in spite of the singular vision of his artistry. ‘Love Letters’ is potentially a painfully honest album, and most definitely a decided disavowal by this country’s quintessential band, informed by the cultural detritus that bore them. This might be where you abandon them for the banality of your Bombay Bicycle Club’s, and a sorry testimony as to the vapidity of your emotionally invalid, supposed-soul.

Adoringly Yours,

Chester
xo xo xo

Published here: Metronomy – ‘Love Letters’ Review

DYLAN CARLSON||SOUP KITCHEN||16/10/13

Carlson‘s guitar has already started when,
“Can you tell me, is there a band playing here tonight?”
I look down at the little glass pavement tiles that glow blueish green from the basement of the Soup Kitchen, then back at the presumably German guy and reply with a deliberation appropriate for his potential linguistic or cultural shortcomings.
Dylan Carlson, of a band called EARTH. He was Kurt Cobain’s best friend, and bought him the shotgun he killed himself with.”
“Ah! For a long time I have been a big fan of the grunge music.”
“Well, you can see the man who killed it.”
“Alszo..” his friend says, seemingly unimpressed “…do you know where is The ‘Common’ bar?”
I draw a mental blank, despite having been there on a couple of occasions a decade ago, misplacing its name among the dozens of similar locations that have sprung up in the area in the interim. We trade some inordinately polite goodbyes, the type reserved for distantly originating visitors to this City, before summarily remembering exactly where Common is after they’ve headed off far enough away for the realisation to be uncommunicable.
Down in the dark, Carlson sits pouring over the top of a Telecaster, the remarkable follicular juxtaposition of his grey/white chops sprouting out from beneath a still pitch black thatch providing footnotes for the simultaneously youthful and wizened figure he cuts.
“I don’t mind you guys taking photos, but please, no flash. It gives me seizures.”
I continue searching for a shot in the dimly lit conditions, mechanically dialling through successive settings, f-stops and film speeds, hoping serendipity will pick him out. Before the smattering of claps for the second song have dissipated, Carlson, shiny child-like eyes peering out from under his sporadically tattooed brow, pointedly announces down into the top of the microphone in his slightly helium contracted rasp…
“Alright, second time I tell you politely, third time…I can be a bit of a dick.”
The crowd look nonplussed at one another in the absence of any memory of a camera flash. Carlson continues open-tuning his guitar, before rethinking his threat and any potential animosity it might have begun to culture and clarifies…
“…it’s not because I’m a dick, just because…it’s a legitimate condition.”
I conclude that my camera’s soft green focussing light that kicks-in in low lighting must be culpable, but the lighting guy’s atmospheric swirling projections on the PA stage left cuts out too. Regardless, I respectfully abandon my camera despite momentarily wondering if acting as an epilepsy accelerant might result in a better photo op and review, considering such seizures have reportedly prompted in this particular sufferer sightings of ‘Fairy folk’ .
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“This song was released on a cassette only, in commemoration the 400th Anniversary of the Pendle Witch Trials.”
The cave in the bowels of Lancaster Castle/Prison is not too dissimilar a descent and right-turn-into as the Soup Kitchen itself, as I recall. Carlson and accompanying drummer launch into ‘Thee Betrothal of Alizon Device’, much as they have the preceding songs – Carlson twanging an open string as a foundation, then building swirling, repetitive, fretboard perambulations that constantly evolve into a squall of effects wisely applied at the right time, rendering the mutated basis of the song a frozen-numb and throbbing shadow of its former self, while Rogier Smal patters at the drums with his brushes, clinging sometimes tenuously to Dylan‘s semi improvised orbit, seeming not quite on the same page as Carlson, which is forgivable as few of us are.

“This is a version of ‘The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull'”
“…don’t applaud just yet.”
To attempt to describe Carlson‘s songs with the luxury of a copy for posterity is a deliciously self indulgent exercise in creative writing, but hearing alot of these solo songs for the first time live in such a setting is as decidedly temporal and hypnotic affair as hearing those we know. I take precious few notes and leave with only one articulable image – that of cattle in the shadow of a power plant.
The final song is the evening’s only floor filler (at least it would be if the floor weren’t already filled and anyone could muster more than an almost imperceptible sway or slowly pecking head), which a scrawl on an envelope (un)reliably informs me is ‘Green Smoke in the LZ (sic?)’ and has a riff that hot-wired a Buick in the 50s, circumnavigated our timeline and reconvened with us this evening.
Carlson thanks us and gets up to leave, a bumper sticker on the back of his Telecaster also inadvertently bidding us farewell.
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In The Castle afterwards, the back room’s stage is littered with Rorschach test-style paintings named after venerable dead poets, abandoned after whatever transpired while Carlson was communing with the nether-territories. A table of Germans schwatzen in the corner of the otherwise empty room, and I’m reminded of my meeting at the evening’s start, and its inevitable inclusion in a review I was hoping would avoid the obvious and remain a Cobain Free Zone. I approach the stage for a souvenir and pick up the painting nearest me.
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AMANDA PALMER & THE GRAND THEFT ORCHESTRA||THE RITZ||11/7/13

As a damage limitation sacrifice to wriggle out the other side of the barrage of swipes aimed at her credibility and integrity, Palmer swiftly reneged on the original intention of paying her pick-up musicians solely in “beer and hugs” and decided to pony-up the dough. Until the expiration of that particular tour, anyway. This incarnation of The Grand Theft Orchestra must have been surrendered to Police and become property of their finder after 90 days unclaimed, being as she has the four stalwart 1980s Australian-looking backing band that I seem to recognise from Glastonbury accompanying her tonight…

The rest: http://www.manchesterscenewipe.co.uk/reviews/amanda-palmer-the-grand-theft-orchestra-live-review/

ICEAGE: YOU’RE NOTHING

Electric guitar as-heard from inside an old can. Shards of YoYo-ing nickel off strings like Sonic Youth’s infancy: Inhuman, Creeping Hell & Freezer Burn. The Militaristic and ominous ‘Interlude’ provides momentary relief/pageantry like a Birchenau Stag-Do.

Oh, Elias ‘Vampire-Rimbaud’ Ronnenfelt; Little blood spots blossom on his school shirt, as he unclasps his interlocking, dirt-defined fingers to reveal a dead Løvsanger, or get his grubby, pulsating lob-on out under the desk to show Marija Henningsen.

‘Burning Hand’. He’s melting crayons on the radiator. Throwing peanut M&Ms at All The President’s Men. Moving Reece’s Pieces using telekenesis. Slapping dandelion clocks with the end of his cock. Ejaculating blood-streaked semen into your strawberry milkshake, after being locked into unconscionable congress with Torben the class tramp behind the half-demolished wall under the rope-swing where the never-frequented video-shop car park ends, and the backyard of his block of flats begins…

Read it all: http://www.manchesterscenewipe.co.uk/reviews/iceage-youre-nothing-album-review/

MARIA MINERVA||KRAAK GALLERY||6/2/13

Recycling Night. Highlight of the wheelie bins’ fortnight. I get a garbage guard of honour. The hot ticket tonight is unarguably Thurston Moore and Michael Chapman at Band On The Wall, but my interest was piqued by this hot shit, Pitchfork-adored, up-and-coming Estonian songstress whose alliterational name with its connotations of legendary greatness is never far from superlative descriptions like ‘sensual’, ‘dreamy’, ‘narcotic’, ‘hazy’ or even “libidinous swirl”. This being the week in which Kevin Shields refrigerated Hades, she’s going to have her work cut-out for her with this particular critic, whose two-day attempt at trying to review the solid gold soma of ‘m b v’ resulted in only 17 words squeezed out on Twitter:

There has never been a good enough word for love. Which is why My Bloody Valentine exist.

I’m propelled toward this particular gig on the pumping-blood chugging undercurrent and tremolo of tumultuous stomach butterflies born of pubic pupae. I feel like dropping to my knees, sobbing penitentially, and reciprocating this total blow job of my soul.

No.

Oh, the guilt of cum drying on one’s opposable thumbs. Surely we mean so much more than that? I’d forgotten there was music that could make my heart stop and hair stand-on-end, like damp lips exhaling hot minuscule droplets across my ear, and I can’t stop listening. Maria, this evening’s entertainment is going to have to be immaculately conceived. I’m not sure which way the waxed moustaches that are scattered around The Castle, are going to go – whether they’ve got their thirst-on for Moore, or Minerva.

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Kraak is in the thrall of Ruf Dug. For me, DJs have always looked like a man on amphetamine washing the pots with a phone nestled between shoulder and head, and require a similar amount of talent. Doug seems to be repackaging someone else’s efforts and sending the odd shout of “Yeah!” reverberating around the place aided by a heavy smattering of Dub Reggae-echo.

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Maria owns the stage with all the black-assed panache of a menopausal drama tutor, flailing the arm that isn’t operating her console around for emphasis. She soon becomes engulfed in a miasma of dry ice, and my attempts at picking her out with my sporadically flashing camera result mainly in some Lynchian shots of her killer-tits lazing mid ribcage, bound-up in black American Apparel spandex leotard.

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Sonically it’s akin the kind of music a vague acquaintance accompanied by three other student dullards with feminist pretensions would hijack the stereo of a shared house-with while you’re watching ‘Punch Drunk Love’ before cajoling everyone into smoking experimental-grade skunk and making you watch his Tesco DVD-R of ‘Zeitgeist’ with the sound turned-down.

One among their number has whiteyed-out on the only available bed.

Another of them, holding-out on a marginal amount of Ketamine until he has run himself a bath is cack-handedly trying to squeeze then suck-up the constituents of a smashed, desiccated insect out of the water into the butt hole of a rubber duck.
Mercifully, Maria’s set isn’t as long as such a scenario. I get on the bus and snuggle-up to ‘m b v’ sighing into my ear holes.

I’m jabbed in the arm by a girl in a ‘Don’t Look Now’ duffel coat, who scuttles off an empty bus, yanking me out of a concrete sleep two miles from where I need to be, an hour after I boarded. I skip my iPod back to the tracks that I’ve missed and saunter invincibly through the park the scallies like to frequent after dark.