Sunday 31 May 2009

The Breeders - King Tuts Wah Wah Hut Glasgow 19 May 2009

While the band strap on guitars and reposition themselves in a somewhat uncomfortable manner, I almost expect lead singer Kim to announce that this is their first gig. Instead she mutters something about a drum, addressing their drummer, and between them they rather limply attempt to convey what they must consider the humourous story of buying a drum from a homeless man for $5.

This is hardly what you'd expect from the spin-off project of Kim Deal, a hero in the grunge world for playing bass in stadium-filling alternative rockers The Pixies, now struggling with issues like guitar-strap twisting and microphone positioning. The band have appeared on stage for their first of two performances at a packed-well-beyond-fire-safety-limits King Tuts Wah Wah Hut, with both equipment and crew borrowed from Scots indie daddies, Teenage Fanclub, and no support act. It will be a few songs into the set before the crowd grow accustomed to the erratic but none-the-less charismatic and adorable stage presence of the Deal sisters and their band, The Breeders.

The powerful bass and splashy drums get the sardine-packed venue dancing in the square foot of room they have each to move. The distorted vocals, guitar slide and new wave catchiness of 'Cannonball' definitely makes it a fan favourite. The otherworldly vocals on 'Safari' are a demonstration of the Deal sisters' musical imagination. The band also perform 'Tipp City', the one single released by Kim Deal's third musical project, The Amps. And of course there is a great response to the appearance of Kelley's violin to perform the halting call and response riff on 'Drivin' on 9' - gimmicky but pleasant.

Instead of the usual Set/Encore breakup, Kim requested a five minute break three quarters of the way through to "splash some water on my face". The band's casual 'living room' performance style made for a comfortable audience. Although critics may point out a lack of professionalism, showmanship, technical skill and overall tightness of the band, there was definitely a lovable relatability to the group as they made friendly but meaningless observations to the audience and to each other, reminiscent of parents at their children's high school "soccer game". The informality allowed for audience members to shout out their requests. Most of which were ignored, except for one man who added "please" and got his song played right away.
Myke Hall

Thursday 28 May 2009

ATP vs. the Fans: The Fans Strike Back 2009

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone
Kinda like hitting the demo button on a Casio keyboard, but not as good. Rather dull, think I may have preferred it if he didn't sing. Though I have to say the last few tracks when he was joined by the full band were pretty fun. I may have danced.

Jeffrey Lewis and the Junkyard
Some really cool music and some smile-inspiringly clever lyrics, were somewhat spoiled by Jeffrey’s whiny nasal voice. I liked his battered, stickered, overdriven acoustic guitar though.

A guy and girl looking at each other over an array of synths, sequencers and other gadgets. Mostly instrumental. Very stylish and dancey. I especially enjoyed when the brought in low-end guitar riffs.

At the time when Devo were first popular, prog-rock was something new and futuristic. The silly hats, costumes, and dance routines fit with the quirky originality of their music. Nowadays, especially at ATP, their music seems mainstream and dated. The lyrics are quirky and pointless, culturally irrelevant or lack real depth, and... Let’s call a spade a spade; they're a bunch of middle-aged guys dancing around in their boxers shouting "whip it good".
Still, full marks for effort, they were damn entertaining. And the tune 'Uncontrollable Urge' really stood out for me.

Pink Mountaintops
This is apparently the solo project of the guy from Black Mountains. Although why the chief-songwriter and co-lead singer needs a solo project too is beyond me. These guys were actually really good. Mixing some Western and southern rock (South Western?) with some experimentalism and some great guitar-play. One of my favourite acts of the weekend.

Cave Singers
Rootsy western of the style of Seasick Steve, but there were three denim-clad rednecks up there. Still pretty minimalist and usually acoustic, they had a sincerity that is achieved through the rawness of their tunes.

The Acorn
The Acorn are a soft, folksy group whose' understated music is likable but (evidently) forgettable.

Grizzly Bear
A bit catchier than The Acorn, the tunes are bouncy and the vocals are ethereal. Like psychedelica but a bit tougher and edgier but equally floaty and intelligently constructed.

Strong, classical vocals over trumpets and accordion. Definitely some eastern European folk-dance influences. The frontman is lovable and some of the songs are particularly romantic.

Definitely good to see Scottish bands on the bill. Their slightly tongue-in-cheek electronic post rock didn't have quite the kick I was hoping for, but certainly had an atmosphere.

Jesus Lizard
A little bit punk and a little bit grunge, the band clearly loved themselves to pieces. I did not share that love, they were OK.

Somewhat indie, moody, fantasy experimentalism. Nice way to start a Sunday. Kind of a male equivalent to Bat for Lashes.

Future of the Left
My discovery of the weekend. Hard rocking, microphone screaming, sweets tossing, instrument thrashing, crowd surfing, banterous, Welsh/Geordie power trio. Loved them. "There's a band on the other stage called 'chik chik chik' (!!!). I'm not making this up, that is actually their chosen moniker!"

Funky and groovy. Synthy in a kind of 80s underground kind of way. The front man was a bit too Har Mar Superstar for me, but the rest of the band were great to watch, and the entire room was dancing. The beat wasn't too intense but it was powerful enough that you feel stupid standing still.

Parts & Labor
Indie and electronic sounds, with a healthy dose of crazy too (see the rock-out that is New Buildings). The vocals do kinda let the side down on this, which is a recurring theme this year, but these guys were enjoyable to listen to.

Definitely chillout music, it’s hard to get excited about it, but the swells and treads of this many-instrumented post rock is unquestionably the soundtrack to lying in the grass. Or in the case of this particular festival, lying on the green felt carpet.

School Of Seven Bells
Fairly decent tunes, Interpol support veterans, hot identical twin girls. It sounds good but their live show left something to be desired. It’s called performance.

The Mae Shi
Take musical toys, synths and guitars and a sparkling sugar high and mix them all together. You get The Mae Shi. I would like to see more of these guys.

Top Five Recommendations:
5. Cave Singers
4. Beirut
3. !!!
2. Pink Mountaintops
1. Future of the Left
Myke Hall