If you go down to Topshop today, you’re sure of a big (freakin’ awesome) surprise. As the nights are drawing in closer and with December just around the corner, Oxford Circus’s flagship store has been paid a visit by someone a little better than Santa. Wait, did we just say that?

Emma Cook, the long term Topshop collaborator-who could forget those boots-has worked with the brand to come up with a Winter Wonderland like no other. No sign of the usual red and green, the range is instead awash with pinks, purples and plenty of photo prints.

Think stocking fillers like soap-on-a-rope (a bunny in a crown), wall mounted deer heads (that double up as vases), notebooks and bedding, plus cosy knits and a delicious satin party dress (depicting scrunched up foil wrapping). But that's not all, head in-store for the surprises we haven't told you about. 

The collection is also available online at www.topshop.com.

To a generation of Scottish clubbers, Death Disco has become a rite of passage.

Hosted in Glasgow venue the Arches, the night has launched careers, kicked off relationships and entertained thousands upon thousands of fans. On December 7th, though, all this is set to come to one final, explosive finale.

Deciding to quit while the going is good, Death Disco draws to a halt with a guest slot from Jacques Lu Cont, an appearance from Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shaears and much, much more. By way of a tribute, ClashMusic asked some of the team behind Death Disco to provide ten classic tracks to outline the history of the night.

– – –

Niall Walker, Arches Marketing Manager and one of the founders of DEATH DISCO:

1. Justice vs Simian Mobile Disco ‘We Are Your Friends’
Justice DJed at DD back in 2006, just as this tune was breaking commercially and just as the night was really ballooning in numbers. It just felt so right when they played it and every chanted along with their arms in the air – like one big happy family of friends.

2. Friendly Fires ‘Paris (Aeroplane Remix)’
The ultimate summer tune from a few years back – when Aeroplane played this at DD in June 2010, every single face on the packed dancefloor had a huge beaming smile. ‘One day we’re gonna live… in Paris’ they all sang along to the words, but they were thinking ‘Right now, I’m happy right here….’

3. Mylo ‘Drop The Pressure’
Okay, it got overplayed, but at the time, when that bass kicked in I swear even the concrete floor of the Arches was bouncing up and down.

DJ Mingo-Go, DEATH DISCO resident DJ:

4. I strongly consider the Skatt Brothers 'Walk the Night' to be THE Death Disco signature tune. I'm the only standing original resident from the club, and I first enjoyed this song when I was 10 in 1979. I realised that it was becoming a scene hit when 2 Many DJs played it at a club I residented with them in London. They were in shock to see actual vinyl of it. And when they played the first sold-out DD, they invited me up with them to play it. One of the best DJing moments of the club, and, of my life!

5. Glasgow dance merchants DEN HAAN and 'Release the Beast' is another one that in the past few years always got a huge crowd reaction. Anything that has chants like "HOOO HAAA" in the middle just makes it that little more camp which goes down with the DD camp.

6. PATRICK HERNANDEZ 'Born to be Alive' has also got to be an anthem for the club. People shout it up to me, and I've had it requested in other clubs because people realise I'm the Death Disco DJ…that always is a wonderful thing to experience. And….it's another song I've been dancing to since I was in single digits!

7. ELO 'Don't Bring me Down'. Again, it's caused some outrageously singing along with the crowd. Whenever the crowd is singing and shouting along when you're DJing, you know you're on to a winner. DD has always been SONGS rather than BEATS orientated in my opinion. And this band is one of my absolute favourites!

JOHNNY WHOOP, DEATH DISCO resident DJ:

8. Blackstrobe – Italian Fireflies
This tune was out a few years before I landed a residency at Death Disco, pretty sure I heard countless guests play it countless times at DD and it always got the right reaction. Black Strobe played live at DD one year, and if I remember correctly their set in the main arch was wild!

9. Krazy Baldhead – Crazy Moth3f2ck8z
This track has a lot of kick to it!! The first time I heard this Tommie Sunshine was guesting at DD. I'd done my warm-up set and was topping up on Jack D at the bar when I heard the kick drum drop, I nearly lost the plot. Then the 'Energy Flash'-esque synth hook came in and I pretty much did lose it! I got the name of the track from Tommie at the end of the night, which was difficult because of the numbers in the title and my intoxication levels, and bought it on Vinyl a week later. I partied on after that DD and I phoned Tommie to go to Optimo the next night but he declined. Boo. I still went…

10. Felix Da Housecat – Silver Screen Shower Scene
I couldn't have a list like this without having Felix in it, he is one of those guys like Erol and Optimo that pretty much wrote the script and paved the way for electroclash and for some of the foundations that nights like DD were built on. This tune still gets a reaction 11 years after it's release.

– – –

DD XXXMas – the final, ever Death Disco – takes place on December 7th.

Oxford has long been a breeding ground for exciting new music and the city prides itself on its rich musical heritage. Its credits include Foals, Radiohead, Stornoway and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, to name just a few. Tonight’s performance goes to show that Spring Offensive are clearly one of the best new bands to come out of the city and will be added to Oxford’s hall of fame.

St Pancras Old Church provides a stunning setting for tonight’s gig and one that suits Spring Offensive’s sound perfectly. Following a captivating and refreshingly original support set from fellow Oxfordians, Count Drachma, the headliners are ready to take the stage.

Dressed in shirts and smart sweater vests, in classic Spring Offensive style, the boys look as though they’ve come straight from the office. They open the intimate set with their latest single ‘Not Drowning But Waving’. Its dark narrative fuels the tension that the band create and frontman, Lucas Whitworth’s, fixated, vacant gaze adds to the stirring energy coming from the stage. They powerfully end the track without any mics, chanting the mantra-like lyric “I will be blamed for this”.

Spring Offensive manage to convey such emotion in their performance it’s impossible not to connect with their music – and not to liken them to recent breakthrough, and Sony-signed artists, Dry the River. Whitworth, himself, is also intriguing. He has an air of awkwardness about him, yet his enviable voice seems to flow from him with such ease.

Continuing along the water theme, Spring Offensive play out a rousing version of ‘I Found Myself Smiling’. The jolt of the rhythm is entrancing, coupled with menacing guitar riffs and bitter lyrics it’s impossible not to be swept along with the dark tone, “As the water rose around my knees, I found myself smiling”.

Perhaps it’s the setting but new, acoustic track ‘Red Oak’ seems to have a strangely Christmassy feel to it as the boys’ gentle harmonies fill the room with warmth. Whitworth announces that they’re going to “make use of the acoustics” and the band files down off the stage. To their credit, the impressively attentive crowd falls absolutely silent as they arrange themselves around the band members. ‘Carrier’ begins with just the aid of an acoustic guitar and the atmosphere becomes so delicate and beautiful that it’s breathtaking. The church setting couldn’t be more perfect for this staple-moment as the intricate decor is illuminated by soft candlelight and each individual voice resonates around the building.

The guitars bounce, the drums pace and “Oh me, oh my” fills the room. ‘Worry Fill My Heart’ re-awakens the crowd and is followed with the atmospheric ‘52 Miles’.

At times it’s frustrating to see the band’s seemingly formulaic approach to songwriting. The same elements appear time and time again, which has led to the tension/release technique becoming their signature style. Despite this, each track still evokes such a strong emotional response and has a clear narrative that they manage to find their own identity. And hey, if it ain’t broke, then don’t try to fix it.

 

Words by Sarah Williams

Photo by Alexa Gibben

Perhaps best known for his work with Gene, Martin Rossiter has remained a fringe figure for some time.

Working on the sidelines, though, the songwriter is ready to make his return. Working independently, Martin Rossiter seized upon a PledgeMusic campaign in order to fund sessions for his new album 'The Defenestration of St Martin'.

Out now, it's a beautiful return. Mixing the personal with the spiritual, the material teases apart the vagaries of theology to find something quite unique. Recently completing a solo tour, Clash tracked down Martin Rossiter to find out which literary influences are fuelling his quite unique style of songwriting.

– – –

What is your favourite book and why?

Laments for the Living—Dorothy Parker

This is a collection of short stories and was my introduction to the woman I’d like to be. Sometimes criticised as a mere witty observer of the foibles of the middle classes, Parker was so much more than that. Acerbic, damning and as witty as Wilde, she knew the truth that only camp can sometimes tell. Her observations on feminism and race were decades ahead of their time and her empathy for the oppressed and marginalised are testament to a large affectionate heart.

What other authors do you like?

I’m drawn to writers with heart and empathy. I want to read writers whose narrative expresses affection for those that life is cruel to. Essentially my favourite writers stand up to playground bullies. Dickens, J M Coetzee, Robert Tressell, Paul Monette and Jean Rhys spring to mind.

What draws you to certain books and do you read book reviews?

I would love to dedicate more time to books but I’m saddened to admit that I’m not as fully invested in the world of literature as I would like to be. I don’t read reviews and I’m reliant on a few trusted friends for recommendations. In an ideal world, there would be a second Martin who sits in a Victorian armchair with a vintage sweet sherry digesting his hundredth book of the year before Valentine’s Day.

Have you ever discovered a real lost classic? What is it and why?

There will of course be people who say this isn’t a lost classic and I dearly hope they’re correct. ‘Here I Stand’ by Paul Robeson is part autobiography, part philosophical and political statement. Malcolm X cited this book as an influence yet Robeson seems to have been forgotten as a pioneer of the civil rights movement. His passion and integrity are unquestionable but what impresses the most is the razor sharp quality of his reasoning. Robeson was the first Black Othello on Broadway, played in the NFL, left his career as a lawyer due to institutionalised racism, was fluent in six languages, was a Broadway and Hollywood star, campaigned for the Republican cause during the Spanish Civil War and was blacklisted and had his passport removed under the spectre of McCarthyism. This book tells that story.

Do your literary influences have a direct impact on your song writing?

Any art form that exists in isolation will die. Popular music needs to be careful, as it seems to only look backwards, constantly re-packaging what has come before. You only have to look at the X-Factor’s bland re-enactments of what has been, to realise that there seems to be a blind and unquestioning worship of the past. The food of great popular music is innovation sourced from other art forms and cultures, yet the gatekeepers of the industry don’t seem to realise this, like the Easter islanders cutting down the last tree thus running out of food and wood. In my own tiny way, I hope I’m fighting this by letting myself be influenced by the books that I read.

What are you reading at the moment?

‘A History of British Trade Unionism’ by Henry Pelling. I’m fed up of not having the facts to back up political arguments so for the last six months I have read nothing but political and socio-political books. What is the first book you remember reading as a child? I don’t have any specific memories. I was an unremarkable child; I didn’t stand out and didn’t want to. I was like most of the kids my age and for Christmas would get a Beano annual and if I was lucky, The Guinness Book of Records. It was only when puberty struck that I started to develop a love of fiction. Sadly, that relationship was short lived due to a particularly terrible English teacher who would criticise anything I wrote, irrespective of quality. As a result I rejected books until my early twenties.

Did you make good use of your library card as a child / teenager?

No. I truly wish I had because I have a constant nagging feeling that I’m always catching up with what might have been.

Have you ever found a book that you simply couldn’t finish?

Until recently, yes. I have owned ‘One Hundred Years of Socialism’ by Donald Sassoon for fifteen years. Until I finished it a couple of months ago, you could see by looking at the pages that my thumb had never touched a page numbered higher than fifty. It is approximately 350,000 words long and to be honest, at the time of purchase there was a small part of me that thought it would look good on my bookshelf. However, having finished it, I truly believe it was the best twenty quid I’ve ever spent. It is one of the few history books that truly deserves the adjective ‘comprehensive’.

Would you ever re-read the same book?

Forgive me, but I find the question baffling. Why on earth wouldn’t anyone revisit a great pleasure. Having said that, when given the choice of the new versus the familiar, it is hard to resist a virgin page. I have recently taken to reading with a fluorescent highlighter in hand to mark passages I feel I would benefit from re-reading. It’s a glamourous picture I know.

Have you ever identified with a character in a book? Which one and why?

There was a minor character in The Bible called Jesus I was rather taken with.

Do you read one book at a time or more than one?

I contemplated lying about this, to paint a picture that I was some sort of all consuming bibliophile-a literature gannet. The truth is I don’t have the mental capacity to cope with more than one at a time. The danger would be that Jane Eyre would suddenly appear as a agent provocateur in the Bolshevik Revolution.

Is there an author / poet you would like to collaborate with?

I don’t feel I am qualified to clean the shoes of most of the authors I love. I don’t have the chutzpah to even contemplate it. Given the opportunity though, I would jump twice at the chance to have a pint with Coetzee and discuss animal rights.

– – –

'The Defenestration of St Martin' is out now.

If you go down to the woods today you’re in for a pleasant surprise… Well, only if you’ve never visited the fairytale-esque, slightly eerie and heavily woodland-surrounded nation of Luxembourg that is. The festival in question is Sonic Visions, and if you recall our review from last time round (of course you do), you’ll understand the kind of, perhaps, lesser-known quality waiting to be uncovered. However, the festival organisers do ensure they book their crowd pullers. This year they appeared the form of gloomy '80s something-or-other sound-a-likes The xx and also with the French four-piece turntable disco group C2C, who, with France being right across from the Rockhaul, seemed to summon half their nations gig-goers to change their surrendering ways and invade the Sonic Visions venue, such was the mass of people queuing out the door to catch a glimpse. Although to be honest, it wasn’t really to our taste, and after about two-to-three "songs" worth of head-pounding base, it was time for a visit elsewhere.

Back onstage, and before the C2C crowd had the chance to invade, Oscar and the Wolf were the first act to get the press pencils scribbling and punters' toes tapping with their smooth, gliding electro beats, not to mention a lead vocalist whose voice remarkably resembled that of Glasgow’s own Tommy Reilly (remember him!?). In a similar ilk, Canada’s Austra came with a further fusion of shape shifting electronica, the female lead vocalists seducing everyone in sight and pulling shapes from the most stubborn. One thing was becoming increasingly clear early on in Sonic Visions 2012 – fans of this genre were going to be spoilt for choice. The peculiar and intriguing sounds of Elektro Guzzi were picking the dancers up off the floor where C2C had left off.

On Saturday we were told to expect a much smaller turnout for the festival – fine by us, given that one of the UK’s most hotly tipped new bands Django Django were on the bill for later, and we had every intention of seeing first-hand what all the fuss has been about. Prior to that, Luxembourg’s very own Monophona proved to be another unexpected surprise of Sonic Visions 2012, albeit one we were actually told to watch out for – their lead singer was a kind of visual cross between French actress Melanie Laurent and Swedish songstress Emiliana Torrini for a start, and the band themselves offered a more relaxed alternative to most other goings on around Sonic Visions. Feeling almost ready for bed, there was just enough time to down another drink and make a dash for the Rockhaul Café to catch Say Yes Dog, another unexpected and welcome addition to the home-grown Luxembourgish talent here, playing as they did strange but infectious set full of weird little dance songs, a little bit Hot Chip and a pinch of the last Liars record, complete with a towering and hilariously "normal" looking frontman.

As the night drew to an end and that 10am flight back to the UK loomed ever closer, Django Django were already tuning their instruments for the steadily growing crowd in the Rockhaul’s Club arena. Much has been already said and written about this mish mash of ex art school students, a fact that’s an immediate turn off in itself, and now was the time to decide whether one was in fact "with" the critics or against them.  The term "unbearable lightness of being" springs instantly to mind when thinking about Django Django and their live performance; translated, they were faultless. Songs which would ordinarily take four or five listens on record immediately adapted to a live setting, recalling moments of artists like the Archie Bronson Outfit or the Beta Band in their prime. It would be crude to use the word "fun" when describing a band such as Django Django and how they came across, however that’s exactly what they were, and more to the point, they had the tunes to match. It only took a trip to Sonic Visions to find out, one of many worthy excuses. 

 

Words by Ray Jackson

Photos by Gill Gordon

Whatever your opinion, 'Jagged Little Pill' was a phenomenal monster of a pop record. An album based on the end of an all-encompassing, wholly unhealthy relationship became both a burden and a virtue in equal measure. One that millions upon millions continue to buy, making it one of the biggest-selling records of all time, still, some seventeen years after its initial release.   

The purpose of this handful of tour dates is to promote 'Havoc and Bright Lights', her eighth studio album and the first since the birth of her child, since she shook off the last of the bad boyfriends and met her husband. One that she wrote feeling happy and "over it". Tracks within it, such as 'Celebrity' and 'Woman Down' are reflective on ex-lovers and life as a celebrity on a rollercoaster ride of emotions and pointless parties, but no longer from a disgruntled stance. 

Perhaps this is a naïve and predictable admission, but I saw tonight’s gig as a rare opportunity to relive an album I loved and listened to on cassette probably hundreds of times in the nineties, unwise about most of the subject matter and not fussed in the slightest that the song ‘Ironic’ should really have been called something like ‘Sod’s Law’.  

It would be safe to assume that most people are here tonight to hear the hits, too – from the thirty-somethings in commemorative '90s t-shirts, to the young fans who might have been handed down the album; a large proportion of people in the room are here, willing her to sing the big hits that are full of angst-ridden howling and the slanderous put downs to an absent perpetrator. You can’t help but feel that if the new out-weighs the well-known in the set list, the mood could turn decisively sour.  

The opening song indicates that we are in for a learning curve, as it is new track, ‘Woman Down’, a feisty number that exudes some of the Alanis we know, but not enough. The second track sees her get down to business: ‘All I Really Want’ including the harmonica solo that brings her to her knees, and the song has everyone rapturously singing along, the front row waving tissue paper hearts at her, welcoming her back into their broken teenage hearts.

Alanis is sporting that trademark mountain of wavy hair that she swishes and swings around during instrumentals, galloping about the stage in a child-like manner, losing track of time for the call and response in ‘You Learn’. It is a good ratio of newbies to hits, with only a few of the former, like ‘Receive’ and 'Woman Down' from 'Havoc and Bright Lights'. The final few bars of 'Mary Jane' consist of an ever so slightly cringe-worthy, barometer-spanning set of histrionics but, most pleasingly, the ultimate 'Jagged Little Pill' bangers such as 'You Oughta Know' get us all involved in a giant, cathartic wail-along. Across the arena, the crowd eagerly guessing the outcome of each cryptic intro that evolves into their favourite track. And she seems just fine about it. 

 

Words by Chloe Warnock

It's been many a moon since this Clasher saw Ben Howard strut his musical wares in the pubs of Cornwall. A humble presence who could play guitar with a thousand times more precision then many other bedroom poets, it's good to now see that the wider world has taken notice too. A sell-out tour and signing to Island has led to this: three sold-out nights at the O2 Academy, Brixton, and a staggering amount of screaming. 

First, however, is American singer-songwriter Willy Mason, a great choice of support whose laid back blues and country numbers help attendees ease into the evening. 'Oxygen' gets huge cheers while other quieter numbers are lost in a roar of banal conversation. An unfortunately common fate of being support, but we presume the chatter will die down soon. A short break is taken and a strange instrumental is blasted out before Ben Howard and cohorts appear accompanied by an ear-bleeding level of screeches. It's clear the crowd is leaning towards a female-heavy demographic, and there is a tangible air of Beatlemania going down. Things have gone well for this man.

The band explodes into action, Howard a far greater prospect in a live setting than on record. The sheer intensity of his guitar playing is jaw-dropping and made more impressive by the fact that over half of the set is played on an acoustic guitar. At this early stage in his career nearly all of his material is played, the plus being no favorite or roof raising single is missed. 'Only Love' and 'The Fear' go down particularly well, Howard's voice a nice mix of heartbreaking angst and mumbled soul. Still, between charming lyrics such as "Give me shelter or show me heart" we hear "Susan wants us to go to Marrakech next spring."

Clash puts it down to bad choice of standing area and – with other annoyed parties – move gradually away, to be treated with a conversation on the pros and cons of vodka and cranberry. With horror we realise it's unescapable. While the man on stage bares his soul during 'Old Pine', hundreds, nay, thousands conduct entire conversations throughout. Every delicate moment, every pinched harmonic is lost in a sea of natter. Even the sincere amongst the crowd ruin things by screaming uncontrollably during the song's sadder moments. 

Ignoring this unprecedented and truly baffling display of rudeness (to both artists and fans) 'Keep Your Head Up' shines through, a true sing along moment bringing huge wafts of countryside nostalgia and ending in a truly awesome crescendo. Top grade performance over, and Ben returns for a couple of acoustic encores, giving the newer EP 'The Burgh Island' an airing, and brings the band back for the very last number. "When I first started playing I used to be able to talk to people," says Ben, "now it's a bit hard, look at the size of this place!" Trust us Ben, engaging the crowd in conversation may not have been a success. A bitter-sweet night for many, a world class performance from the star. 

 

Words Sam Walker-Smart

Photos by Natalie Seery

It is, without doubt, one of the most dramatic settings in Europe.

Working on their fourth album, Frightened Rabbit decided to test out their material by heading North. Organising a tour of the Scottish Highlands, the band swapped O2 Academy venues for town halls, local pubs and ageing theatres.

Along the way, Frightened Rabbit were accompanied by Hand Held Cine Club. Shooting live footage, interviewing the band and soaking up the Highlands' beautiful scenery the results are gathered on a new short film.

'HERE' is a visually stunning document, with Hand Held Cine Club seeming to capture every hue, every details in the landscape. Containing some intriguing revelations, it's a loving portrait of a band who just seem to get better with age.

Watch it now.

– – –

Frightened Rabbit's new album 'Pedestrian Verse' on February 4th.

Massive Attack producer 3D has pointed fans to a mixtape he has made in honour of late soul singer Terry Callier.

Terry Callier was one of those rare, utterly idiosyncratic performers that only the 60s seemed to produce. Equally at home in a folk den and a soul club, Callier's effortless delivery was matched by a songwriting ability informed by Coltrane, Stax, Dylan and more.

Sadly passing away earlier this year, tributes immediately flew in for the charismatic performer. Now Massive Attack producer 3D has pointed fans towards a new mixtape, containing material recorded with Terry Callier at a studio in Bristol.

"Me and Euan reloaded the Terry Callier tapes from 2005" he wrote. "It felt right to honour the short time we had with him in Bristol. We created a 'mix tape' of the pieces I worked on with Neil and Terry.I also took the liberty of stripping them back to a more personal space and cut in alternative vocals and chuckles, in an attempt to share a little of the spirit of the great man".

At times quite intimate, the mixtape showcases Callier's wonderful voice. Opening in sheer blues style, the clarity of the arrangement lends a powerful sense of emotion. Ending with a glimpse of 3D's electronic background, it points towards the potential for a great lost album.

Listen to it below.

Throughout the thirty years since fronting rabble-rousers The Pop Group, Mark Stewart has never been backward in his forward-thinking approach to experimentation. Indeed ‘Exorcism Of Envy’ is in actual fact a radical – but only partially successful – reworking of his previous solo album, this year’s ‘The Politics Of Envy’. The new version of the ‘Stereotype’ single (now entitled ‘Sexorcist’) welds brilliantly ravaged electronic beats to Factory Floor’s intense paranoia, while ‘Gustav Says Dub’ is now a furious Goth disco banger. However, ‘Attack Dogs’ (morphed from ‘Automania’ and still featuring Primal Scream) is stripped of its previous viscera and rendered toothless. An interesting experiment.

6/10

Words by JOHN FREEMAN