Thursday, 19 February 2009

Black Box Recorder / Madam at Luminaire 18/2/09

Madam - a slightly quirky and bashful looking lady quietly strumming an acoustic guitar, backed by another on a cello. She has a great voice, no denying, and the Cat Power comparisons are justified. I just can't help thinking it's all a bit too stripped back and minimalist - one song, for example, being just a slow strumming of one single chord. I thought three chords was the well publicised minimum to form a band? Her playing style is actually the same for all the songs - the only real difference between the songs was a change in lyrics and it does start to wear on you after a while. Good sound and total silence in the Luminaire gives the whole show more of a feel of a classical recital than a gig. It was so quiet that the bar staff were whispering and gently squeezing the till drawers shut. (3/5)

Black Box Recorder - a real treat to see them at such close range after the long distance affair supporting the Jesus and Mary Chain at the tail end of last year where they were somewhat lost in the very empty (on stage at 7.30) Forum. Here though, it's up close and personal. Sarah Nixey is still looking fantastic and delivers her lines with no visible sign of emotion in her dead-pan plummy voice. Luke Haines still manages to look cool, despite his advancing years causing him to look like George Roper playing the part of Lee Van Cleef. Still, he looks a natural with the guitar and plays with feeling - unlike John Moore who, to be honest, does not contribute much to the sound and plays guitar like my eight year old niece. There were a couple of new songs and certainly a hint that there may be some more to come - though I think I had my fill last night.

Did anyone see Eddie Argos? With my current interest in Art Brut i'd like to downgrade him to Eddie Woolworths.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Women / Soft Pack at Madame JoJo's 18/2/08

A fully packed out venue to see Women. I'm already struggling to remember anything about Soft Pack... other than the guitar sound on half the songs had the sharp metallic sound of Steve Albini or Big Flame, and in the strokes-per-minute stakes David Gedge would be proud of 'em. A couple of OK tunes and some cool American swagger makes for a pleasant enough set.

Women though - Jeez. What a boring bunch of bastards this lot are. Just because you can play some fancy chords it does not mean you should be in a band. Random chords, pointless disjointed noodling... there is such a thing as chord progression, but these guys are blissfully ignorant. You'll get some songs that start in a Sonic Youth jangly style, but instead of crashing into Teenage Riot you just get even more random nonsense until the song ends. As for stage presence - forget it. All of this would be forgivable if they hadn't gone on quite so long. Top tip: if you've only got two songs, don't play ten. Some kids loved 'em - maybe they think they're the new Foals. They forget though, Foals had charisma. And some tunes.

As ever at JoJo's, the sound is great and the viewing area superb. As small venues go, it's right up there and even the most disjointed nonsense can give some pleasure.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Michael Davis of MC5 at Dirty Water Club Tufnell Park 13 Feb

This may have been a gig too far - but we were at Magazine just down the road and it was my birthday. There's not much you can say really - an overload of wah-wah from some retro youngsters, to be joined on stage by Davis towards the end for a blast through Kick Out The Jams. To be honest, this Davis character looks more like someone I should be getting a quote off to replaster my hall than standing on stage. It's all a bit of a blur to be honest, due in part to a mixture of Sambucas. Still, we were the last to leave even though the journey home was to be far in excess of most of the young whipper snappers who cried off early to catch the last tube. Luckily I was rescued and delivered to Forest Hill where I spent a merry couple of hours serenading a guinea pig with a miniature violin.

Magazine at The Forum, London 12/13 Feb 2009

It seems like many people have been waiting a long time for this, the Ultimate Reformation. And was it worth the wait? Ye Gods yes. Once you get over the similarities between Howard Devoto and the love child of Jasper Carrot and Mini-Me that is.

A totally charismatic front man whose bizarre mannerisms and behavior are delivered without hint of irony, every word preached with an almost demonic authority. When he reads "The Book" from a lectern stage front, it doesn't sound like a story any more - it is real. Jesus, poor Mr. Manifold, I really felt for him.

I was there for both thursday and friday - as I'm sure most of the (95% male, middle-aged, balding) crowd were. Maybe one criticism I would level at Devoto is my disappointment on the friday that the between song banter was quite so scripted - word for word a repeat of the thursday. And the complete omission of all but two tracks from Secondhand Daylight. How can Feed The Enemy not be included? What were they thinking of?
It seems that half the venues in town have now been snapped up by HMV who are obviously shitting themselves that CD sales are now so bad that they have to get into live music and have somehow ousted Carling from the sponsorship top spot. I'm sure as a result of this, I was threatened expulsion from the venue for using a "professional camera", despite being surrounded by people taking photos on "lesser" cameras or even videoing the entire show on their phones! This is the typical record industry behavior that has got them up shit creek in the first place - sheer greed. If I had a press pass I would have been in the press pit, NOT ten rows back straining over people heads to take a quick snap for here. Funnily enough my pictures are not good enough to sell to OK magazine. And here I am, promoting live music for all and encouraging people to visit HMV venues. Bastards. Anyway, three shots survived to tell the tale.