Well that’s November been and gone.
The queues in the shops are starting to get longer as desperate parents realise that perhaps leaving things to the last minute before venturing near Toymaster was a slight mistake…
Still, the new releases are flooding in and the journey to and from the office stereo is providing some much needed exercise ahead of the mammoth booze-bout that we at Clash like to call ‘Christmas’.
Under the critical microscope this week are Kid Sister, Ian Brown, Buraka Som Sistema and a furiously impressive band from New York by the name of The Drums…
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Single Of The Week
The Drums – I Felt Stupid
Boy it’s freezing. Like, REALLY COLD. On the way to work today I saw a man in UGGs, braving outright humiliation in a desperate attempt to keep his feet warm. The Drums are here to help us all, though, with their sun kissed pop inspired by the endless blue seas of Florida. Following on from their debut EP ‘Summertime’ this is yet more bittersweet pop that is at one self-effacing and earnest. Instantly catchy ‘I Felt Stupid’ is the sort of thing indie dancefloors were built for, back in the days when people still danced to guitars. Ending with vocals collapsing over one another like exhausted kids in the back seat of the car, ‘I Felt Stupid’ surely marks The Drums out as one of America’s brightest hopes in 2010.
And the rest…
Kid Sister – Right Hand Hi
Aided by the Swedish House Mafia, ‘Right Hand Hi’ is another dancefloor rocket in the making from Kid Sister. Rave synths blaze through the vocals like day-glo effects, while Kid Sister herself makes a stylish and provocative entrance. Sure, it’s a little on the slick side but Kid Sister could set the charts on fire in 2010.
Buraka Som Sistema – Restless
The international language of bass continues to twist and turn to fit new tongues. Hailing from Portugal, Buraka Som Sistema have a tough job following up their startlingly energetic debut album ‘Black Diamond’. However this is a good start – ‘Restless’ is a belting track that seems to take all the energy of their full length debut and distil it into a four minute blast of seismic tribal percussion. As good as this is, something tells me the best is yet to come.
Johnny Flynn – Sweet William EP
Deeply English, Johnny Flynn seems to embody something of the true spirit of traditional music. Far from professional, what the singer lacks in technical prowess he seems to make up in heart. Cutting deep into the traditions of English music Johnny Flynn has found something vital and affecting. Stripped bare with minimal accompaniment, ‘Sweet William’ is an enticing yet bewildering release.
Pearl Jam – Got Some
Alright so ‘Bleach’ is a good reminder that grunge was one a good and creative force in the musical universe but the continued career of Pearl Jam has done a lot to counteract that notion. Taken from their new album, ‘Got Some’ is all fuzz and bluster – sure it’s not the worst thing they’ve done but against the startling backdrop of their early material it falls short.
Sad Day For Puppets – When You Tell Me That You Love Me
Swedish indie poppers Sad Day For Puppets are blessed with some of the sweetest harmonies around right now. Soft enough to make Brian Wilson blush, new single ‘When You Tell Me That You Love’ is enough to turn the biggest brute in the most humble of gentlemen.
Newton Faulkner – Over And Out
The ginga rasta returns! But sadly we’ve heard this all before. Over and out, Newton.
Ian Brown – Just Like You
It’s a hard old job being an Ian Brown fan. The sporadic solo career, the wayward singing voice and the odd bit of onstage nonsense means that at times ol’ Brownie can be a difficult man to defend. That said, recent allegations of assault against his wife could land the singer in pile of horse manure so deep not even The Stone Roses legacy could pull him out. A half decent track from his half decent new album, I sadly can’t bring myself to listen to his music right now.
Motorhead star and former Hendrix roadie Lemmy has claimed that he was inspired to form a band by none other than Cliff Richard.
On the surface, Lemmy and Cliff Richard would seem poles apart. Lemmy is a leather clad rocker who role in Hawkwind and then Motorhead has marked him out as one of music’s greatest outlaws.
Cliff Richard meanwhile is a Christian pin up, a man who has shunned sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll for more meaningful pleasures such as underlining passages in the New Testament.
However in a new interview Lemmy has claimed that he was first inspired to form a group after watching Cliff Richard shake his hips on British television. “I got my first record in 1958” the rock icon told Vice.
“I was pretty young then, and I saw this English singer, Cliff Richard, who is still going but is very different now from what he was then. He was on TV, surrounded by chicks trying to pull his clothes off. I said, “That’s for me. It doesn’t even look like work.” I found out later that it was, but it does have its advantages over working at the washing-machine factory.”
Continuing, Lemmy reminisced about his first guitar. “My mother played Hawaiian guitar, right, but there was really bad action on it, if you know what I mean” he claimed.
“Nevertheless I put strings on it and took it to school during the week after exams, when you don’t do anything… And I was immediately surrounded by chicks. It worked like a charm, and I couldn’t even play the fucking thing”.
Lemmy’s life is set to be turned into a forthcoming motion picture. Roadie with Jimi Hendrix the rock icon played bass in British counter culture stars Hawkwind before forming Motorhead.
Still rockin’ after 35 years, Motorhead are a British rock institution. Lemmy’s biopic should be released next year.
British space rockers Spiritualized have spoken exclusively to ClashMusic about their forthcoming album.
Emerging from the rubble of Spacemen 3, Spiritualized have gone on to become one of the country’s best loved groups. Through their orchestral diversions, interest in freeform jazz and of course the raucous garage rock elements the band have delighted and confused fans for almost 20 years.
Since 2008’s ‘Songs In A&E’ however the trail has gone cold. Spiritualized seemed to be taking time off to reflect, with the band currently gearing up to re-visit their classic 1997 album ‘Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space’.
Speaking to ClashMusic about the forthcoming re-issue, lead singer Jason Pierce claimed that the band have “got a good piece of the next album together already”.
“We’ve been allowed to do the whole ‘Ladies And Gentlemen…’ thing without getting losing sight of the album. I think it’s good to look back from time to time, get a whole load of where you were at.”
Continuing, the singer claimed that the new material could see a return to the vast orchestral style that marks ‘Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space’.
“I like the idea of an album being a record of your indulgencies. They’re records of your obsessions and that’s what you get down. If that’s what you’re obsessed with at that time then that’s what goes down on the records.”
Look out for the full interview with Jason Pierce soon!
The expanded version of ‘Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space’ is out now.
It’s 1am at one of Reykjavik’s busier live venues and Örvar Þóreyjarson Smárason is jerking around onstage in his underpants. This may come as a surprise to followers of múm, his folky, sometimes electronic, always elegant collective; but then Smárason is a member of several other bands as well, as is often the case with Reykjavik’s musical royalty. This one is called FM Belfast, a frenetic dance outfit who do shouty, chant-along anthems, as far removed from múm as you can imagine. Their most popular track is called ‘Underwear’. Hence keks round ankles.
Much earlier in the day and Örvar is feeling a lot less uptempo. “Today has been a bit of a disaster so far,” he groans, as Clash pitches up at a favourite coffee shop. Now back in the Icelandic capital after years living in Copenhagen, Prague and Berlin, he’s just returned from a lengthy touring stint but is having a few problems settling in. “I bought a big piece of furniture, but we can’t get it in the house, it won’t fit through the doors. So I’ve had to call my dad…”
Smárason has a bit of a mixed relationship with this remarkable city. For first-time tourists, Reykjavik reminds you of that old Wizzard song: it really is like Christmas every day. The world’s northernmost capital is far enough removed from mainland Europe to defiantly do its own thing, while still offering a welcome much warmer than the weather. It’s also surprisingly small though, numbering only 200,000 residents, all of whom seem to know each other. For ambitious creative types, that warmth can be a little smothering.
“Claustrophobia, cabin fever – everyone gets it here,” says Smárason. “A lot of people have a love-hate relationship with this town, it can really drive you mad. One of the best things is the tight community, but it’s also the thing that inspired me to move away.”
In a bid to rekindle his love affair with Reykjavik, then, Clash has asked Örvar to take us to a few of his regular haunts, new and old, kicking off with this favoured café, Kaffismidjan. So how did the city shape his future career?
“I really didn’t start going to shows until I went to a school where they had a proper scene,” he recalls, having lowered his lanky frame onto a bench outside the shop. “They don’t do it anymore, but there was a part of the school that was completely student controlled and we had a venue in there where you could smoke and drink and go insane. They would get all these young punk and new-wave bands to come. The first show I saw there was [Scottish punks] The Dog-Faced Hermans, I was sixteen, it was the first show of the semester and they’d packed, like, four hundred people into a room that takes about a hundred, it was just insane. A lot of Icelandic bands have gone through that school: The Sugarcubes, us, and now Hjaltalin, Retro Stefson. Sixty or seventy percent of Iceland’s bands came from there.”
Smárason met fellow stalwart Gunnar Örn Tynes in a garage band a few years later, but the two then snuck off to form múm in Tynes’ basement (“people here quit bands and join bands all the time”). The line-up has varied across their five albums, as has the sound, from full-on experimental glitch to the gentler feel of the new ‘Sing Along To Songs You Don’t Know’ LP, and that fluidity is evident in much of the city’s music. Varies theories abound but Smárason reckons the distance from other markets is a major factor: global domination just isn’t on the agenda.
“I think people are pretty grounded here in what they do,” he says. “It’s a small town. I still think it’s the same way now, the young bands, they have exactly the same approach as we used to have. Iceland is very individual thinking.”
Indeed, and to further support that theory, he takes us to a tattoo parlour next. Kingdom Within has Sinatra on the stereo and a couple of friendly chaps inside: one topless and half-etched, the other waving his needle at us. Örvar had been under it the day before. “That was a guitar with lightning coming out of it,” he says, but shows us a previous effort instead, “a skull with saxophone horns”. We spend the next ten minutes talking about jazz pirates.
Next it’s off to Karamba, a splendidly quirky bar run by another member of FM Belfast, and regularly graced by Örvar’s DJing, if you happen to be passing of an evening. Not that his selections are to everyone’s liking. “I think he was upset that I didn’t play Phil Collins,” explains our guide, as he recounts a recent altercation and points to a big scar above his eye. Weekends in Reykjavik can get pretty lively.
Back onto the main drag – the Laugavegur – and a sudden burst of icy rain blows away the cobwebs before the sun shines again. Nothing here stays still for long. “One of the good things about the city, it keeps changing,” says Örvar. “I’ve been away for a couple of months and there are some new things I want to see…”
And with that we head into Havari, a trendy little shop that’s also a gallery, gig venue and base for gogoyoko, the forward-thinking website-cum-label that first brought us the new múm album. Several bands will play in Havari over the next few days as part of the new Réttir festival – named after Iceland’s sheep-gathering season – watched over by Smarason’s friend Svavar who plays in popular local outfit Skakkamanage when not running the shop. “This was a very famous bar years ago,” he says. “The bums come in here every day and tell me stories about how it was: drinking, smashing the windows.”
Our hike round Reykjavik is almost complete, but there’s one odd stop to negotiate. After the cool bars, record shops and coffee spots, we arrive at Bonus, Iceland’s answer to Netto. This is rather apt, says Örvar, because it’s the only store the locals can afford, since the recent crash. “The owner is one of the culprits of the whole mess that we have, so it’s a mess we have to think about every day we shop here,” he says. “We can’t get away from it.”
Smárason, like many of his Icelandic musical contemporaries, isn’t bashful about speaking up when dodgy deeds are afoot. The UK-versus-Iceland debt business is a particularly sore point, but a chap called David Oddsson is currently a more pressing concern. As Iceland’s prime minister Oddsson oversaw the privatisation of several Icelandic banks, and was forced out of his next job as governor of the country’s central bank when thousands took to the streets in protest. So it came as something of a surprise, the day before our meeting with Örvar, that he was appointed co-editor of the country’s only broadsheet, Morgunbladid. Imagine Mrs. Thatcher taking over the BBC – that’s how it feels to the average Icelander.
“It’s just seizing a grip on our newspaper,” sighs Örvar, revealing the underlying reason for his air of melancholy. “I’ve been a subscriber, I’m a newspaper addict, and like everyone, we had to wait half an hour to get in through the lines this morning, because a lot of people are giving up their subscriptions.”
Tour over, we let the múm man meet his dad, but cross paths again later on, and he’s looking a lot chirpier. They’ve had a brainwave regarding the cabinet. “We’re going to tie a rope to it and lift it up to the balcony,” he says, amused at the prospect. Then he heads off to soundcheck for a gig at which he’ll end up trouserless. They’re an interesting breed, your Icelanders.
Drink ’til you drop
“At weekends, there are no rules. On weekdays the bars are supposed to shut at 1am, but they took away the closing rules at weekends because everything used to shut at 3am, so all the people would pour out of the bars at the same times and there would be chaos, fights. I mean, you still get some fights, but you know which areas to keep away from. Also, it’s so bright in the summer, there is no night. It can get very confusing.”
“It’s only when I see how it works in other places that I realise how easy it is here. This is a complete do-it-yourself culture, the bands always put on their own shows, from putting the posters up to hiring the PA, every single thing. That’s also one of the things that’s good for Icelandic bands, because they know the whole process, they’ve seen it from A to Z. It’s very healthy.”
Defying the developers
“The worst thing about Reykjavik is that some people really want to change it, to completely change it into something it isn’t. It’s an old fishing village, but nobody wants to, er, smell like fish, so they want to do the whole thing over, tear everything down. There’s a big fight here to keep the city dynamic. They tore down a legendary bar called Sirkus, but because of the crash there’s nothing there now.”
Apparat Organ Quartet
Reykjavik’s answer to Kraftwerk: much hairier, with messed-up keyboards and a drummer. They recently reformed for the Réttir festival and caused some mighty queues.
Uncompromising collective who brought us The Sugarcubes, and thus Bjork, as part of a radical artistic manifesto. “Their way of looking at music, we come from that way of thinking,” says Örvar.
Reykjavik’s biggest sporting export, the ex-Chelsea and Barcelona star is now at Monaco. Hence Icelandic TV bought the French football rights, but only show games he plays in.
Geysers and Hot Pots
Natural volcanic springs supply much of Reykjavik’s power, and recharge the nation’s batteries. “The hot swimming pools are the things I miss most,” says the often on-tour Örvar.
AKA ‘fermented shark’, this Icelandic delicacy is exactly that: cured shark meat that’s been left to rot for several months. Rancid.
Reykjavik has a local airport near the city centre, which tends to freak out visiting New Yorkers.
Ólöf and Ólafur Arnalds
Gifted cousins with confusingly similar names: occasional múm member Ólöf makes quasi-traditional folk-pop, while former metalhead Ólafur is now a piano and laptop maestro.
The influential Icelanders have a studio on the outskirts of Reykjavik, which their redoubtable string section Amiina were utilising when Clash stopped by.
Splendidly-named venue which garnered some useful publicity recently by sticking pictures of prominent bankers and businessmen on each of its urinals. They sure help the aim.
Iceland has just started hunting them again, much to Örvar’s distaste. You can also go whale-watching from Reykjavik harbour… while stocks last.
Words by Si Hawkins
Photos by Helen F Kennedy
Glam rock heroes Mott The Hoople stole the show at this year’s Tartan Clefs in Glasgow.
In the era of instant access illegal downloading the role of music in society has been diminished. Pouring out of every bar, club, taxi and window it is often easy to take for granted the life changing role music can have.
Nordoff Robbins is a music therapy charity, an organisation which helps to encourage the development of often severely disabled children by using music.
In the past such stars as Paolo Nutini and Orange Juice have become involved with the charity, often leaving deeply moved by the hard work and dedication shown by those involved. Operating on a shoestring budget the charity held their massive fund raising event the Tartan Clef awards in Glasgow on Friday night (November 27th) featuring a star studded cast.
After a memorable speech from fundraisers those in attendance at the SECC were treated to a vital performance from The View. Currently at work on their third album the band blazed through their recent single ‘Shock Horror’ before paying tribute to those involved in the charity.
Glasgow based hit merchants Lloyd Cole and The Commotions performed two of their classic hits before glam rock titans Mott The Hoople took to the stage.
Cult heroes in the early 70s the band are led by Hamilton born singer Ian Hunter. An inspiration to punk acts such as The Sex Pistols and The Clash, the band were on ferocious form.
First playing their classic hit ‘All The Way To Memphis’ the band then had the crowd on their feet for a rendition of the David Bowie penned ‘All The Young Dudes’.
Leaving to massive applause Mott The Hoople completed their first Scottish show in over thirty years by paying tribute to the work done by Nordoff Robbins.
Watch out for more interviews from the event soon! For more on the work done by Nordoff Robbins click HERE.
The Tartan Clef Music Awards were part of Homecoming Scotland’s Finale Celebration weekend, check out www.homecomingscotland2009.com for more information
The dance world has been rocked by rumours that manufacturer Technics could be set to stop manufacturing their iconic 1200 and 1210 turntables.
The turntable is one of the most significant cultural inventions of the past 50 years. As important to popular music as the electric guitar, it provided stimulus to club culture and acts as an instrument in itself.
Without the turntable hip hop, techno, house and more would simply not exist in the form they do. However music industry figures have been rocked by news that Technics could be set to stop manufacturing their iconic 1200 and 1210 series.
Launched more than 20 years ago Technics have become the standard kit for DJs across the planet. Spanning continents, genres and generations the turntables are so well known that ‘Technics’ have become an all encompassing term in the same way that Dyson and Hoover have in their respective fields.
Now it seems rumours are mounting that Technics are due to halt production on 1200s and 1210s.
According to In The Mix, a statement on Global Hardstyle claimed the company behind the production of the Technics turntables Panasonic announced that they would cease the manufacture of Technics turntables in February next year, citing an increasing decline in sales as the motivation behind the line’s demise.
Now the Australian arm of Panasonic have issued a similar statement:
“It is a sad day today but due to low sales globally in analogue turntables a decision to stop production has been made on Technics Turntables,” Panasonic spokesman Ian North explained. “For Australia this means we will receive our last shipment in March.”
Iconic British songwriter Paul Weller has added another date to his stint at the Royal Alert Hall.
Now well into his fifth decade, Paul Weller is showing no signs of slowing down. His recent concept album ’22 Dreams’ was amongst his most ambitious solo efforts to date while subsequent tours saw The Modfather play to ecstatic crowds.
Awarded ‘Best British Male’ at this year’s Brits the singer could barely keep a straight face when being presented with his trophy. Having sadly lost his father soon after, Paul Weller is bouncing back with another lung bursting British tour.
Closing the year with another bout of dates, Paul Weller has confirmed plans to open 2010 with some spectacular shows.
The singer last played the Royal Albert Hall with a full band in 2004, but is set to return next year for a series of shows. Already confirming two nights, demand for tickets has forced Paul Weller to confirm a third and final show.
Due to be spectacular events, Paul Weller has not confirmed details of tour support slots for the upcoming Royal Albert Hall shows.
The news comes as Paul Weller puts the finishing touches to his new album. Rumoured to be more straight forward than the sprawling epic that was ’22 Dreams’ a snippet from the new album has been placed on his official website.
Click HERE to hear it now!
Paul Weller has confirmed the following tour dates:
24 London Royal Albert Hall
25 London Royal Albert Hall
26 London Royal Albert Hall
American songwriter Beck has teamed up with actress turned singer Charlotte Gainsbourg for a spectacular new album.
Beck is nothing if not prolific. Back in his early alt folk days the singer could churn out an album a day, re-crafting American traditional music to match up with his own whimsically surreal artistic vision.
Earlier this year Beck re-launched his website with a series of new projects. Ongoing DJ mixes show where the songwriter’s influences are coming from, while Beck has also assembled a series of all star casts to cover a classic rock album in its entirety.
However these developments have been overshadowed by news that Beck has teamed up with Charlotte Gainsbourg.
Daughter of legendary French lothario and singer Serge, Charlotte Gainsbourg is an acclaimed actress in her own. The French star won the Best Actress Award at Cannes this year for her role in Lars Von Trier’s controversial ‘Antichrist’ but has now returned to music.
Together with Beck the pair have crafted a new album. Recorded and produced by Beck in his own studio, the record unites two very distinct yet quite different artistic talents and disciplines.
Eagerly awaited by fans Beck and Charlotte Gainsbourg have confirmed that their album ‘IRM’ will be released on January 25th. Deluxe versions of the album will feature additonal tracks, remixes and extensive liner notes and photos.
Ahead of the new album Beck and Charlotte Gainsbourg will release their new single ‘Heaven Can Wait’, a sumptuous ballad due for release on January 11th.
Beck and Charlotte Gainsbourg will release ‘IRM’ on January 25th. Tracklisting is as follows:
1. Masters Hands
3. Le Chat du Café des Artistes
4. In The End
5. Heaven Can Wait
6. Me And Jane Doe
8. Time Of The Assassins
9. Trick Pony
10. Greenwich Mean Time
13) The Collector
Terribly posh trio Keane have firmed up plans for a brand new eight track EP due for release next year.
Keane are one of Britain’s most unlikely success stories. Coming from a rather privileged background the band had to battle against class prejudice in the music industry, which holds that those with nice accents can’t possibly rock.
After two best selling albums Keane were then rocked by news that singer Tom Chaplin had entered rehab. Returning with a renewed creative passion, the trio released their latest album ‘Perfect Symmetry’ last year.
A stunning success, it even breached the upper reaches of the American charts. Playing some sell out shows in the United States, Keane are now set to return with a shock new eight track EP.
Titled ‘The Night Train’ the new EP features some of the band’s most unusual recordings to date. Japanese MC Tigarah appears on ‘Ishin Denshin (You’ve Got To Help Yourself)’ while the song ‘Stop For A Minute’ is a collaboration with K’Naan.
Issuing a statement, singer Tom Chaplin revealed that “I think those tracks show us in a completely different light”.
He could be right. The new EP is available to pre-order from Keane’s official website on December 2nd, with ‘The Night Train’ due to be released on May 8th.
Keane have also confirmed details of a lengthy new UK tour. Playing a variety of forest venues, the band are set to unveil their new material with some epic shows:
10 Suffolk Thetford Forest
11 Kent Bedgebury Pinetum
18 Gloucestershire Westonbirt Arboretum
19 Nottinghamshire Sherwood Pines Forest
25 North Yorkshire Dalby Forest
26 Staffordshire Cannock Chase Forest
St Alban shoegaze gang Friendly Fires have confirmed plans for a forthcoming limited edition single.
Although Friendly Fires may appear to be an overnight success, nothing could be further from the truth. First attracting attention from mis-guided label reps as a nu rave act, they wisely shunned advances to focus on their sound.
Eventually signing with indie powerhouse Friendly Fires released their debut album late last year. A slow burning success, singles such as ‘Jump In The Pool’ showed an ambitious new sound.
Given renewed muscle by producer Paul Epworth, the band recently teamed up with the soundsmith again. New single ‘Kiss Of Life’ was born from a tour of South America and featured some tasty samba rhythms.
The band show no sign of slowing down, with work already beginning on the follow up to their Mercury nominated debut album. Sessions are under way, with Friendly Fires set to release a limited edition single.
‘On Board’ will be released on 12 inch vinyl at a forthcoming London gig. Set to play The Coronet on December 11th, Friendly Fires will release their single at the show before it becomes available at specialist record shops.
The release features the original version of ‘On Board’ alongside a new recording and a remix from Joakim. The London gig will also feature a DJ set from Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard, The Invisible and Holy Ghost.
Friendly Fires have confirmed the following UK tour date:
11 London The Coronet