• Interview: Patrick Tape Fleming of ‘Gloom Balloon’.

    Dic 29 2013, 12:21

    Originally published here: http://joup.co/gloomballooninterview/

    My sneeze echoed off the funeral home, reminding me I was still alive on the night Lou Reed died. Recently I’ve been given to checking out the heavens. Kicking the tyres on the sky. Sometimes when I see that white-hot sun burning through fast moving cloud in a cold sky, I wonder what would happen if my life’s console was compromised, deleting all you NPCs and leaving just me.

    Me and that accusative-looking cyclopic sun.

    Supposedly meaningful scenes shot at dusk or dawn just don’t cut it anymore, and you get to thinking Hotel bibles are only ubiquitous as the management’s selfish attempt to stem the inconvenience of a suicide clean up. Someone who knows a thing or two about peering into the void, and finding it too indifferent to humour you in a stare-out competition, and the malevolent limbo of Midwestern Hotels is Poison Control Center and Gloom Balloon’s Patrick Tape Fleming, who, when faced with an apathetic sky, decided to Fix the Sunshine.


    Chester Whelks: Patrick, under the auspices of your ‘Gloom Balloon’ moniker you’ve released a sumptuous debut LP called ‘You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Disaster/Fix The Sunshine Pts 1- 7 (An Ode For Bill Doss)‘ which showered a flourish of candy coloured kisses onto my auditory cortex when I discovered it last week. It’s a difficult thing to make such ambitious, independently recorded music sound so Technicolour. Was the recording process as painstaking as it sounds, or is that just the serendipitous end product of the muddied love that went into the conception of the record?

    Patrick Tape Fleming: Well Gloom Balloon started as a painting, and we went about recording the record much like painting a picture. We just kept throwing colors onto the canvas, and seeing which ones worked well together and which ones we thought we should paint over. Home recording gives you the freedom to do that, without anybody really looking over your shoulder, telling you that you can’t or shouldn’t do something. I’m not a good painter so when I started to dabble in it, it felt like what I felt, recording on a 4-track for the first time. I have no clue what I’m doing, but it’s exciting and you get hooked.

    CW: I find alot of modern music angering me due to its superficiality. This record delivers that rare combination of immediately accessbile melodies with a solid emotional core, the integrity of which is simply undebatable. Obviously Bill (Doss of The Olivia Tremor Control) was an enormous influence on you. I don’t need to probe you on what his passing meant to you – that’s evident enough in your art – I know that you managed to grind him down and play ‘Jumping Fences’ live with you. How was the Bill you met compared to your expectations of him, and what does it mean to you to know that ‘The Same Place’ is on it’s way next year?

    PTF: Bill was the kindest most humble person I have ever met. I think he could tell that I was a rabid fan of his music and instead of scooting himself away from the conversation he gave me time to ask him questions and gush about how his music changed my life. He didn’t have to be so kind. I got the opportunity to give Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel a 30 minute ride to an airport last year and we talked about the new music Olivia Tremor Control was making when Bill passed and he was so excited about it. When I met Jeff, I told him that OTC was my all time favorite band and he said to me, “they are mine too.” that was a pretty special moment. When I dropped him off, I said to him “promise me you will make those OTC boys finish that record…” He promised.

    CW: I know you went through a hard time which culminated in the inflation of the Gloom Balloon. I think when you wind up *there*, in that particular place, it’s hard to take seriously the notion that anyone else you know has ever been there, feeling as bad as the bad in which you stabbed your flag. How did you transform what should have been a greater blow to your mental state, Bill’s passing, into a catalyst for living, and not only living, but creating so exuberantly again?

    PTF: Wow thanks for this question. For me I was in the worst place in my life, I had a job that I could not stand, that I thought was unethical, which put me in hotels in small Iowa towns and let me tell you there is not much difference between a jail cell and a small town hotel. The only thing you can really accomplish there is thinking, and when you are already in a pretty bad state, thinking might not be your best option. I had written about 2 albums worth of songs, for what would become Gloom Balloon when Bill passed. I was in shock that morning, I have never lost someone who had such an impact on my life, who I knew personally. The first thing I did was cry, the second thing I did was call my friend Jason NeSmith from the band Casper and the Cookies who is a great friend of mine and he was good friends with Bill. He really comforted me and he said, “I just wish I could have told him, I loved him.” So later that day I wrote the song, Fix The Sunshine where I say… “Don’t forget to tell your friends, you love them every time, one of your meetings end.” I then decided I needed to make something for Bill, to give him and honor him, because I felt he had given me so much in my life. And now him passing had giving me reason to get my shit together, even if it just meant to get it together so I could make some music to dedicate to him. He saved me. And I do try to tell my friends, I love em all the time, and it gives me life.

    CW: Probably overthinking it, but is the line “I’m not a seagull I’m a brokenhearted black crow…” a reference to Chekov’s ’The Seagull’?

    PTF: You can never overthink song lyrics, but it’s actually a reference to the Poison Control Center song, “Seagull.” but I’m glad you got Chekov out of it. The song, “Some Place to Land,” is all about the Poison Control Center.. And probably best represents how I felt in the months after our 13 month tour ended.

    CW: The album is ultimately a testament to the love of music. It’s a concept that has been made fun of as a laughable Fanboy conceit, but I’ve experienced greater feelings of love for albums or artists than I have people I was meant to care about! It’s clear from your stage presence that you live for music, has your mind ever been so diseased as to conceive a world without it? Do you think even the greatest Sci-Fi minds of all time could envision such a dystopia?

    PTF: Music takes my body and mind over, every time I hear it. It’s the most powerful and moving thing in the universe and if it did not exist, I wouldn’t see much point in existing either.

    CW: Your album manages the enviable task of reconciling the worst of human emotion and experience with the greatest of them, while being a celebration of music itself both via the inspiration you got from Bill, and the resultant creation of this particular music. There have been albums that explore lost love, a lost love of life, and lost loved ones, but this album does all those things successfully simultaneously, while managing to come out the other side as ultimately uplifting, and doing so in less than half an hour! Was the conception of the record as deftly balanced as the end product, or is that more result of putting the pieces of the whole picture together in post production?

    PTF: Amazing question, Side one.. You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Disaster was actually going to be a 7inch record, but then Bill passed and I wanted to do something so badly for him. So I thought to myself I would make an experimental track that had all these parts in it, but would be one big song. And that’s how Fix the Sunshine pts 1-7 came about. I wanted to use pieces of the stuff we recorded for the You Make Me Feel side, so I Incorporated pieces of it, much like the Olivia Tremor Control’s concept on Black Foliage. That’s why there are recurring sounds and themes on both sides. At first we were just going to give away the Fix the Sunshine piece for free with the 7inch as an mp3, but then I started thinking, why don’t we just make an LP of it. And try to tell the full story, of when I was really down, and you get that on side one, and then this happened and it made me realize that life is pretty special and I want to feel alive again and hopefully that comes across on side 2. Originally I didn’t know if I wanted to release it, because it is so personal, but I think the fact that I wanted to make something for Bill made me put it out there.

    CW: Finally, are there any better pleasures in life than sitting on a floor and recording into a Four Track?

    PTF: None, that you can do by yourself. Putting on headphones and stepping through the portal of your imagination is something everyone needs in their life, it’s magical.

    ‘You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Disaster/Fix The Sunshine Pts 1-7 (An Ode For Bill Doss)’ is available for download from Gloom Balloon’s Bandcamp https://gloomballoon.bandcamp.com/album/you-make-me-feel-like-a-natural-disaster-fix-the-sunshine-an-ode-for-bill-doss-pts-1-7, or in the physical object of your choosing over at the Maximum Ames Store http://maximumamesrecords.com/2013/09/gloom-balloon-you-make-me-feel/. (Physical object of your choice limited to shiny rainbow disc, or larger, black disc with small hole in it’s center, and surrounded by soundwaves engraved into it’s very face. If you cannot afford any of the aforementioned formats, I will buy it for you. It’s that damn good.
  • Amanda Palmer and The Grand Theft Orchestra || The Ritz || 11/7/13

    Lug 17 2013, 20:31

    Thu 11 Jul – Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra, Amanda Palmer, Jherek Bischoff, The Simple Pleasure

    You're lucky tonight, fortunately she's fine with stuff like this" says a doorman after the obligatory rifle through my bag in which I routinely point out the camera that I've used without let or hindrance at every venue I've patronised in this City.

    I've risen from a sweat-soaked impression of myself on the sofa after a bout of food poisoning from a 48 hour-old takeaway that I should have known better than to tangle with, expelling out both ends like a dying star periodically while playing 'The Last Of Us' for almost two days straight. I'll try to reign-in my delirium so I don't mistakenly punch a performance artist at the bar. Lord knows there's going to be at least one of them in here tonight. It's been a career defining year for Palmer for all the wrong reasons, if she had a dollar for every bit of criticism she's received in the last 12 months...oh, wait a minute, she has. You've read the blog posts, the Steve Albini 'Idiot' declaration/retraction/­reaffirmation, or maybe you were just one of those numerous wide eyed acolytes that contributed to the infamous 1.2 MILLION Dollar Kickstarter that was also inadvertently the best advertising campaign other people's money could pay the subject rather than an agency.

    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, while I'm shadowed by a genetic mainstay. My brother is my +1 and I thought he would have been a little more interested having seen The Dresden Dolls at Life Café on Peter Street nearly ten years ago, but his mile-a-minute-mind is preoccupied by the more pressing matter of his own musical aspirations, resuscitated after a decade on hiatus while he took a job in the (bleuch) music business.

    Palmer's bandmates momentarily punture the chatter of southern girls with smoky vocal chords & troublesome housemates called Izzy, before Palmer herself comes striding out onto the stage, arms outstretched, basking in the unadulterated adulation of her sycophantic fans, topping off opening song 'Do It With a Rockstar' with a spot of crowd surfing (that's 'surfing', not 'sourcing'). There's a very distinct, palpable atmosphere of reverence for the enigmatic Amanda. I've seen her speak of the reciprocal nature of this relationship with her salivating fanbase, but I'm not necessarily seeing how that relationship is a two way street on tonight's evidence. At the Kickstarter party in Berlin after having achieved her goal tenfold, Palmer stripped and, in an act of implicit 'trust' allowed attendees to daub her naked body with whatever came when inspiration bade their hands to brandish their markers. She offers this as a TED Talk climax example of how she rewards those who oblige her simple act of asking. Amanda Palmer may allow fans to superficially imprint upon her nakedness, the way she might autograph them - the difference being, when Palmer marks a fan, they go away and get it tattooed. Palmer marks her fans in deeper ways than they do her. Grateful she may be, but If she thrives on the adoration, and is being commissioned by fans to indulge her every creative impulse and whim, where's the trade-off? The whole thing stinks of the fetid residual smegma that betrays an oft inflated, masturbated ego.

    Amanda Palmer and The Grand Theft Orchestra: 'Do It With a Rockstar', resplendent with drag queens, some precision hipster-lynching satire ('Pave-Ador' = Pavement + Matador!), and some gratuitous nudity/lipstick-lesbian simulated sexiness thrown-in for whatever reason.

    Palmer's set is initially heavy on original material, an uninspiring generic, stadium Goth Rock with risqué subject matter, before fragmenting into banter, cover versions and a self serving song about uke-fucking-leles. She treats us to a musical safari of our own City via the well reported Liam Gallagher Glastonbury anecdote, and a cover of The Smiths' 'Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want', which is the evening's emotional highpoint considering the lack of anything from her repertoire to stack-up to the likes of 'Me & the Mini Bar'. Speaking of which, the highpoint of the entire night is the Encore's rendition of The Dresden Dolls' 'Girl Anachronism' which still sounds more groundbreaking and exciting than anything to come out of the rest of the setlist. This gets my brother's attention, as he breaks off from describing how he's ploughed £2,000 of his own money into his own musical ambitions, while I further deplete my own paltry resources buying another extortionately priced drink from the bar in furtherance of my unpaid literary inclination.

    While appreciating their somewhat subversive existence, I always found from personal experience that Goths and their ilk turned out to have profoundly dull names or personalities, and their outward appearance to be a tragic substitute for any actual substance of character. While Palmer isn't exactly a Goth, and you can't exactly accuse her of being devoid of personality, the overall package is undoubtedly style over substance, all vaudevillian medium and no message, and as such about as relevant as the aforementioned pasty-faced subculture, and latter theatrical genre. As much as Palmer professes to be an artist, the more it just seems like a flimsy excuse for selfishly pissing people off, and not actually offering any explanation as to why you did it other than "It's art, dahling.". Which is my polite way of saying I didn't really care for the elbow length gloves, black basque-clad, Bullet-Belted, Am-Dram fucking flim flam of Amanda Fucking Palmer.
  • Iceage: You're Nothing

    Apr 30 2013, 20:27

    You're Nothing
    Matador 2013

    'New Brigade' came pounding out of darkness to your door, before
    flailing around your house like an amphetamine-addled Warsaw during
    one of Ian Curtis’ epileptic fits. I can’t remember a debut sounding
    so menacing and energetic; Guitar like it’s being played with a cheese
    grater, bass superficially compliant, but on closer examination,
    psychotically off-kilter. Meanwhile, the drummer packs-in more hits
    than a one-man-band hurtling down a a chalky Møn cliffside into the
    indifferent (have you ever slapped damp) sand(?).

    Whose (and how many) bones were you lending a hand in applauding the
    crushing certainty & permanence of the world at the expense of a
    futile millisecond of your own virility?

    Vocal delivery on album opener 'Ecstacy' is a little more deceptively
    affected amid the familiar squall, like Julian Casablancas' Roller
    Disco in the Inferno, until:


    Oh, Gød, his voice has this rusty diameter facillitating a noxious honk
    like he has mufflers for lungs.


    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.


    <i>"A young moose (Alces alces) has in the summer 1999 swimmed across the
    narrow strait between Sweeden and Northern Seeland. It has been wandering
    around in the area and has also been spotted in South Seeland. A few times
    in this century this has happened, but the moose has mostly been shot due
    to its danger in the traffic in the high populated areas on Seeland. Only
    once a single moose has been living for some years in the big forests in
    Northern Seeland. This time the moose will be allowed to live if it doesn't
    mess around in the traffic. There have been rumours about a second moose,
    and may be they can settle down in the big forests in Northern Seeland and
    breed in some years ?

    There has never been a wild population of moose in Dennmark, but the
    species is common in Sweeden.

    Latest news: The single moose has now been killed by a train."<i>


    There are flashes of clarity on 'In Haze', their clearest ditty yet - your Dad might try humming-along before making some irrelevant comparison to a band that his age gives him a certain authority-on,
    but you know he never actually liked. 'Morals' has this little spotlit
    piano in the background as though it were a mimetic indication of the
    fact that Iceage actually have some.

    It is truly beautiful...

    ...then 'Everything Drifts' drills a singular guitar string into your eyeball, and bores dress-making pins deep into pretty girls' foreheads. Johan Surrballe Wieth deigns to coalesce with Elias's vocals in a couple of brief hot-footing stepping stone interludes for what could be considered a catchy chorus, while 'Wounded Hearts' boasts a lackadaisical arms round shoulders "nuh, nuh, nuh-ing" sing-along moment from the whole band, and 'It Might Hit First' certainly does - like a procession of punches showering down on the brainpan.

    The similarly brief 'Rodfæstet' is completely delivered in Danish, and along with final tracks 'Awake' and 'You're Nothing' propel the record hurtling toward the finish with a defeatest positivity that make me
    imagine what an embarrassment it must be to have to compete with this
    band. It'd be hackneyed of me to finish this review with the
    accusation of the title track - as I'm sure has been done elsewhere to
    better effect - but ultimately it's only fitting.
  • Maria Minerva || 6/2/13 || Kraak Gallery

    Apr 30 2013, 20:23

    Wed 6 Feb – Maria Minerva

    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.


    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.
  • Daniel johnston: Space Ducks

    Apr 30 2013, 20:05

    Many of us are familiar with the story by now. Been there, done that. Others pretty much skipped it and just bought the 'Hi, How Are You?' T-Shirt.

    My staunchly atheistic Dad always warned me as a kid, NOT to fool around with the occult.

    "You don't believe in spirits Dad, you dick. Fuck it, let's commune with Lucifer via the medium of this deck of playing cards."

    As I got older, I realised that he didn't have to believe in anything, he'd just seen enough to know how easily a fertile mind could quicksand up to its nostrils in shit.

    Despite having decoded this warning, I unwittingly waded into the disquieting tape hiss of Daniel Johnston's expansive back catalogue around the same tender age he was swept away by the 'Laughing Rapids' of the aptly-named fairground ride he compered at Astroworld aged 22: 'The River of No Return'. Daniel inadvertently documented his descent into mental breakdown on the Yin & Yang of his cassetteography - 'Yip/Jump music' and the notorious Hell Ride 'Hi, How Are You?'. Ping Pong-ing in and out of success and failure, depression and mania numerous times over the ensuing 20 years (including rampaging around New York 'King Kong'-style pursued by babysitters Sonic Youth, signing briefly for Atlantic Records in '92 and exorcising an old woman right out the window of her 1st floor apartment), the greying Daniel, belly pregnant with Psych Meds, defied his Demons and the name of the aforementioned carnival ride managing to find some of the adulation he had always sought, and more than deserves. Which unfortunately, as with everything in Daniel's life, comes at a price.

    The 'Space Ducks: Soundtrack', is yet another entry in the well-meaning, family-mismanagement of Daniel's still considerable, albeit now diminished talent. Unfortunately this is probably the only version of his now fading incandescence we're ever going to get, and the price we pay for him staying alive, productive and comparatively sane (his webstore sells iPad cases for practically the same amount I paid for an original piece of his art ten years ago).

    Despite having written and illustrated his own comic books since childhood, 'Space Ducks: An Infinite Comic Book of Musical Greatness' was released only last year, funded by a Kickstarter campaign. Added into the bargain of an online pass to view a digital copy of the comic for minimal contributors was the download of MP3s of "accompanying songs". Tellingly, the extent of these songs' relationship to the 'Space Ducks' comic book, seem tenuous at best. Other than the title track and a few of the guest artists' songs' celestial preoccupations, this doesn't seem to be the concept album about a troupe of anthropomorphic ducks liberating Space that you'd be forgiven for assuming it is.

    Which isn't to say it's all that bad; Daniel seems to be enjoying himself, when he's involved that is, being as this album echoes so much of his recent appearances/output in that he's being steadied by famous friends (Johnston's contributions account for 7 amid a tracklist of 12 on the US release, 14 on this, the 'European Volume'). Thankfully Daniel's recordings seem a lot less patronised production-wise than on recent releases. Adrian Quesada of Austin Texas's funk/mambo/merengue/cumbia band Grupo Fantasma ironically seems to 'get' Daniel's necessity for a Lo-Fi environment better than Mark Linkous, who incongruously saw fit to sonically dress the mad and flabby Daniel in the Disney Cinderella mess of 2003's 'Fear Yourself'. Given that he eventually did himself in, you'd have thought he'd have known better.

    So idiosyncratic and baggage-laden is Daniel, that the appearance of these other contributors - Fruit Bats, Jake Bugg, Eleanor Friedberger, Die Mason Die, Lavender Diamond and Deer Tick (Unknown Mortal Orchestra are exempt because their 'Satanic Planet' just sounds like a fucking awesome, galloping outtake from the sublime 'II') is more than a little diverting, (especially considering Daniel is absent for the last four tracks) despite Quesada's admiral attempts at keeping proceedings cohesive. While not a bad addition to Daniel's modern output, a concept album this isn't. Which is especially apparent given how it pales in narrative-comparison to the bulk of his discography; itself a series of living concept albums fleshed-out with fully formed bit part characters, an angelic love interest and the eternal (internal) struggle between good and evil for their larger than life protagonist.

    A confluence of events saw fit to deliver Daniel's back catalogue unto me at the right time and thematic juncture in my life as to be able to wholeheartedly empathise: Demon semen pumping through my temporal arteries, and deliberations on whether or not to lance my throbbing temples with Wilkinson razor blades, or snip my wrists with nailclippers. I heartily recommend the experience to anyone frivolously wearing a 'Hi, How Are you?' T-Shirt, or Jake Bugg and I'll even supply the lysergic.

    Suicide or survival could only improve the two immeasurably.
  • Iceage || Soup Kitchen || 23/11/12

    Dic 5 2012, 22:58

    Fri 23 Nov – Iceage
    ‘When I was seven years old, my father bought me a bicycle…’

    Not really.

    At least, I don’t think so. Over pre-gig drinks in The Castle, my +1 tonight used this as an example of the sort of tenuous intro Pitchfork writers use to start-off reviews. Being as the ceasefire was declared earlier in the week, and it was yesterday that saw slate-shaking winds coincide with the anniversary of JFK’s assassination – I’ve been robbed of some sort of relevant and pretentious metaphor in which to cosset flailing and abrasive Danish whippersnappers ‘Iceage’. So I’m afraid I’m taking the cycle-lane (sorry Mark).

    The soap opera writers of my life have been clamouring for ratings this year, hammering-out hackneyed tragedies straight out of ‘Eastenders’, leaving me hoping no one’s paying attention so they do a ‘Crossroads’ finalé come New Year’s Eve. Since I’m no longer seven years old, and hamstrung with this Y chromosome, anger seems more valid the path to catharsis. Once upon a time your Iceage’s found a sympathetic (if cauliflowered) ear with a subculture thumping the fuck out of each other in the confines of the sweat-dappled walls of some underground club. Today, they’re given an oasis of exposure amid the static of Pitchfork’s contrary currying of everybody’s favour. Unabashedly wearing their onesies to the apocalypse, Pitchfork brazenly gave ‘New Brigade’ an 8.4 the day before the 16 bit video game mincing of Handsome Furs’ ‘Sound Kapital’ scored an 8.1.

    Perhaps this disparity accounts for Elias Bender Rønnenfelt’s pained, pleading, even desperate expression at the half-hearted, intermittently jostling pocket-of-a quasi-mosh pit, as Iceage shake the paint off Soup Kitchen’s basement, while a handful of scenesters fill-out the periphery of the room in carefully picked-out T-Shirts.

    Having shed his guitar and black jacket a few songs deep, the only thing left for Rønnenfelt to take-off is somebody’s head, as he drops from the stage and shoves a good chunk of the front row, before hooking his arm around the neck of the fella next to me and hurtling him to the ground to the bewilderment of a young guy nearby in a Black Flag T-Shirt. Not knowing his name at the time, Rønnenfelt, cherubic but menacing, lurching his boyish frame around at right-angles in non-descript white shirt and black pants, earns from me the spontaneous nickname ‘VampiRimbaud’. Unfortunately a whole swathe of disaffected teens are probably at the Printworks watching ‘Breaking Dawn: Part 2’ tonight, rather than writing maudlin poetry or getting the shit kicked out of them by teenage Danes in the basement of a vegetarian cafeteria.

    It’s not that I’m averse to the co-existence of disparate records in anyone’s collection – God knows, I’ve wracked-up some poncey scrobbles – but I’m reminded of the earlier conversation in The Castle about how Pitchfork arbitrarily lauds the most willfully obscure genres, seemingly as a way to remain relevant. Like I said, there was a time when a band like Iceage was a reaction against something, and they don’t make for merry bedfellows with dance-floor filling gimmicky hipster outfits, which is why it’s all the worse to know that their stubborn unwillingness to support other bands is out of their hands and the knob-twiddling piss and dry-ice & DIsco lights of D/R/U/G/S is destined to put the full stop on the evening’s entertainment. Being ignorant to Danish culture, I can’t say what it is that Iceage are potentially railing against (maybe the fact that we’ve co-opted their dubious knitwear after watching ‘The Killing’), but I don’t doubt their sincerity. Having said that, I’m once again haunted by an earlier conversation, this time over a last minute cigarette outside the venue about the disappointment of witnessing what seem to be unique occurrences at gigs, only to later read a review from another date on the tour and find these ‘improvisations’ to be scripted.

    In the awkward aftermath of Rønnenfelt’s attack on his fans, he wades back-into the crowd, this time pressing his forehead against that of his earlier victim. Propensity for violence still emanating from him, he this time confines it to the mic, brokering a sorry animosity - soon thereafter an ambivalent Iceage file-out through the crowd, after a setlist seemingly shorter than their too-brief debut.

    There was a time when I unerringly believed in a band like Iceage. I still need to. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt that this isn’t some scripted improvisation. I need to believe he’s as pissed-off as me.

    Words & Pictures Chester Whelks
  • Michael Joseph Jackson - Final Tribute

    Set 17 2012, 14:08

    Tue 7 Jul – Michael Joseph Jackson - Final Tribute

    Mariah Carey tried in vain with her right hand to scratch the notes she wanted to reach in the air with her pointer-nail, as if by doing so, the noises lurching out of her throat would take a hint, and play-doh themselves through the clawed-out holes.

    The Jackson brothers were cloaked in solidarity, wearing close approximations of the outfit Michael wore when he waved a sparkly glove ‘goodbye’ to them through the moondust, while doing that backwards-walk on the Grammy’s in ‘83.

    Lionel Richie flounced around, harping-on about Jesus, in a banal subterfuge designed to trick us into forgetting about that complete bitch he adopted.

    The Rev. Al Sharpton gave us all a good telling-off.

    Queen Latifah illustrated that Maya Angelou could queef-out a good poem at a moment’s warning.

    Martin Luther King Jr III babbled on about highly skilled-bushes and executive-streetsweepers while flailing-around for a metaphor, and a particle of oratory-credibility to lend himself in addition to his weighty-name.

    Jermaine charitably emphasised his brother’s talents by a controlled-honking of ‘Smile’, and thanks to the the grief-gun held to everyone’s temple, no one did.

    Those three kids gave a facial declaration to the world that they have been nowhere near their “Father’s” scrotum…

    ….at least we hope not.

    Little Paris gave her first audition, showing just how she is going to ensure she is kept in a mansion, flush with fashion-accessory dogs, and manipulative, meatheaded suitors irrespective of where Michael’s fortune eventually ends up…In short, our kids are going to have ANOTHER fucking Paris, Hog-Tieing feminism firmly in its stasis-place for another generation.

    While Stevie “sit back agog, and-” Wonder once again charmed his great hose-pipe leviathan of a voice, and knocked the fucker out of the park with his eyeball Alka Seltzering rendition of ‘Never Dreamed You’d Leave In Summer’.

    To Summarise. They should have had their private funeral, then sent Stevie up to to Staples, and left it at that.
  • Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks || Deaf Institute || 3/8/12

    Ago 10 2012, 22:00

    Fri 3 Aug – Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks



    Q.1: *"Daddy Malkmus, I like to think of death as something as incomprehensible and annihilating to the individual as a sperm's metamorphosis into embryo. But then I remember all the sperm that die along the way, ending up nothing. Do you have an indefatigable favourite band - A band that has never let you down, from whom no album passed you by? Can you describe what exactly it is about them that tessellates so deftly with your ineffable everything?"*

    This is the first question I wrote for an (as yet, but likely to remain) unanswered set of questions I sent to Stephen Malkmus last month, and serendipity has seen fit to land me the task of reviewing him tonight. For the best part of a decade Pavement were the ground beneath my feet, forming a path to David Berman and his Joos who swiftly became my Silver religion. Some bands are sacrosanct, while seeming like they never even tried to swim against the tide.

    The Deaf Institute has never looked more diminutive in it’s expectation of a figure with as increasingly hefty a reputation as Malkmus. In fact it looks almost like a model miniature as I perch upon the uppermost pew of its back wall's step/seats, imagining a little blue plastic underpanted Malkmus Action Man marionette, jumping and levitating across the stage, controlled by the real Stephen pulling its strings through the skylight until the puppet is swept aside and out of mind by Milk Maid's drummer
    doing some last minute twiddling with his Kit, allowing the early influx of punters to crud-up the front of the stage.

    Milk Maid butcher the first half of their set - by which I mean it pummels along like the unjust thumping of rusty knuckles into dead flesh (if you’ve ever known anyone who worked in an abattoir, or pet shop for that matter, ask them how their mentally questionable colleagues relieved the tedium) polarised by a second half sewn through with Technicolor threads of infective melody, perfecting an envious blend of crunching-but-hummable that the candy ass Vaccines might yet try to bribe Martin Cohen into writing for them once their pubescent demographic figure-out they've been shafted by discovering where everything was plagiarized from. This discernible upturn in Milk Maid’s set coincides with the inevitable injection of Malkmus fans vying for a decent spot in what are sure to be sardine tin conditions, and I almost trip over a wheelchair in an attempt at securing a spot for myself.

    Q.3: *“Stephen, I once had an acoustic guitar whose D & G strings I poked my flaccid 11 year old member between, thinking it an important bonding process that would last a lifetime, cementing my trajectory toward Rock Superstardom. Soon thereafter, I noticed a crack in the back of the top of the neck, and hid her (Greta) in my closet. I checked at regular intervals, and noticed the crack had widened each time, until one night there was an almighty twang, as the tension from the strings pulled poor Greta's head off. Describe your relationship with your first guitar. Do you still have her? Any indelible memories?”*

    While certainly not as boyish as he always seemed, Malkmus never seems to age so much as get slightly more defined. Like the sharpness knob is turned right up (you know, the kind you'd find on the odd better decked out VCR?). His temples give the impression of greying, but it could just as easily be the sheen from the stage lights. As if to dispel my investigation he launches immediately into his eponymous debut's ludicrous and juvenile tale of a teenage Steve Shanghaied by Pirates 'The Hook', before reeling us in with 'Mirror Traffic's instant classic 'Tigers', and soon thereafter the infamous but inexplicably heavily radio-rotated 'Senator', but the undeniable highlight of the night is the sublime, jittery time-signatured 'Stick Figures In Love'.

    I once despised the obligatory pissed-up, incessant requester when I started attending gigs, standing sober at the back, waiting for it to be over so I could tick it off, band logged as 'seen', now I've become him - roaring myself hoarse with ridiculous suggestions of songs Malkmus claims no authorship-of and practically improvised into a Boom Box 20 years ago. A woman behind me shouts, as though to cancel me out "Play some of YOUR songs, play whatever YOU want!". In spite of her sucking-up, I think I might have managed to harangue him into closing the set with a predominantly instrumental rendition of 'Pig Lib's '1% of 1' which he sings the odd chorus over, away from the mic as evidenced in his pained face as he scrapes at the ceiling of his range. But I definitely prompt a somewhat bum-legged 'Speak, See Remember' as Malkmus mumbles "We can do that one." at my second time of asking, which the band seem to struggle to get to grips with during the Pink Panther jazz of it's pocket watch-spinning, finger clicking intro and verses, but soars once it takes off into it's developing coasts and raised sight-lines, even getting the cripple out of his wheelchair seat to repeatedly hammer a "you da man finger" at the singer from the perspex-fenced balcony. After being treated to a rendition of 'Forever 28' dedicated to The Cribs for lending the Jicks their gear, and a cover of Foreigner's 'Hot Blooded', the band vacate the stage.

    Upstairs in Fuel, one of the city’s most exciting prospects Young British Artistshave started a steady pound on the bass drum amid a Kevin Shieldsesque swirl of pink sonic soma, beckoning everyone upstairs. Statuesque brunettes sport stupid Crucifix tattoos on the back of their biceps. I get an email from David Berman about the “Pain Funnel” of For-Profit schools for my perusal. Veiny man-hands are cradling their denim-clad backsides. We got a lovely 'otherness' emanating from the stage, now with drums in more of a hurry. A queasy faced guy emerges from the toilet to his loved-up companion props him up and looks at him, heavy lidded like she wants to get him home and go ‘9 Songs’ on his vomity crotch.

    We ooze out Fuel’s vestibule like a spurious and scurrilous metaphor harking back to the intro of this review. Shell Zenner is flailing around, cackling like a Indie band fag hag, draping her outstretched arms around the nearest Young British Artist, whether they're in the band or not (She'll no doubt read about this when a Google Alert tips her off to it – “Hi Shell”). Lothario Jack from Ghost Outfit is suggesting he wants to extricate himself from the duo, and exorcise the band citing the sort of excuses you hear from someone who’s been labouring under label interference for a decade. Ben Ward, El Presidenté of Sways is ruminating on a trio of shows for the Fuhrer Bunker’s apocalyptic swan songs. I’m in the midst of the jism of the Manchester music scene. This might not be the best it gets for any of them, but it’d make me happy to know it wouldn’t matter to any of them if it is. It’s best not to decapitate your aspirations by sticking your dick in the middle of the strings.

    Q.6 *“Stephen, PAVEMENT: THE MOVIE (working title 'PAVEMENTIVM IN EXCELSIS') has been greenlit by Fox Searchlight. Naturally they have asked someone without a Heck of a Mexican Breakfast of an idea what they are doing to helm. They've cast a bearded and reticent Will Ferrell as The West, Jeff Daniels as Scott (naturally), Leo DiCaprio as easy-on-the-Ibold, the uncastable Nasty is played by a cartoon drawn by frazzled animators who previously worked on 'Schoolhouse Rock!', with your good self played by Robert Sean Leonard (Gary Young is played by a different psycho-eyed transient in every scene he appears a-la 'I'm Not There', with cameos from Michael Cera as a moderately surprised Beck, imaginatively coiffured John C Reilly plays Mitch Easter, Buzz Osborne as Lance Bangs, Tim Robbins as Rian Murphy, a Gas Station Attendant's shadow as David Berman and Tom Berenger as Bob Pollard at the Matador 21 show finalé). Your only input into this endeavour however is to choose which song runs over the end credits. Stephen, which song from the Pavement canon is most befitting it's story's end credits? (But if you care to, feel free to re-cast ssential cast members)”*

  • Silver Jews: Early Times

    Giu 22 2012, 11:02

    Originally published here: http://www.treblezine.com/reviews/4114-Silver_Jews_Early_Times.html

    In 2009, at the height of their acclaim and popularity, David Berman buried his Silver Jews 333 feet beneath Tennessee. Three years on, after little from the man himself, Drag City have excavated his Silver beginnings, sidling the contentious Dime Map of the Reef and The Arizona Record EPs up against one another for Early Times. These releases have been tricky to get one's hands on, and even harder to get-into since Berman erased certain indelible associations to a certain other band by relieving Bob Nastanovich and Stephen Malkmus of their musical duties during sessions for his second full length and name-making The Natural Bridge.

    This material has long divided even hardcore Silver Jews fans, the majority of whom look upon it as little more than a lark, and not — as those who might describe themselves as geeks would say — canon. "Frivolous" is a tempting conclusion to come to after only a cursory listen, and not helped by the chronological tracklisting decided upon here, but the loss of anyone sonically myopic enough to be incapable of listening through the hiss. Opening with Dime Map of the Reef's hilariously absurd "Canada," it's admittedly difficult to see this as anything other than ebullient, college-cocky kids, emboldened by cheap beer, jostling for improvisation time on the mic — Nastanovich literally hammering away on trash — but with Berman and Malkmus to fill in the blanks, this collection deserves more than to be dismissed as some half-assed band practice.

    The aptly titled "Secret Knowledge Of Backroads," far superior to that of the fleshed-out but ultimately uninspired and plodding Peel Session version that Malkmus brandishes on Slanted & Enchanted: Luxe & Reduxe, is as atmospheric and mordant as The Natural Bridge's most portentous moments, and a rain-mottled window into this collection as a whole. Heard as intended — as The Arizona Record's opener — an entirely different perspective on future stops forms. False starts like "Jackson Nightz" (which snaps in and out of existence as though someone tripped over the boombox)and "Can't Trust It To Remain" (which you can't trust to remain beyond its 40 seconds) are precious hints at things to come, and make sense in light of the shimmering heat of the swaying "The Wild Palms," whose cymbals spit as though smelting with every hit, while the eye-wateringly soporific ditty "Bar Scene from Star Wars," is a somewhat unexpected head full of bong smoke, and ironically more significant than such an experience or title might suggest.

    Rougher than anything recorded with the conceit of professing to be lo-fi, or any bootlegs you may have been burned by, Early Times pays dividends to those who've weathered the storm of Daniel Johnston's 1980s tapes, and exhibits a similarly thrilling spontaneity and artistic purity in its almost oblivious execution, and is indispensable to amateur Indie Rock historians. Chin-scratching Alternative this ain't, but from such inauspicious beginnings came the greatest in the trade.
  • Best Coast: The Only Place

    Mag 15 2012, 11:16

    Published Hyar: http://treblezine.com/reviews/4080-Best_Coast_The_Only_Place.html

    Bethany Cosentino bounces back into our lives all irrepressibly upbeat, and full of wonder at the "mountains, birds, ocean, trees," and having "fun, fun, fun," but there's no T-Bird Time-Out from Daddy for this California Girl. You Californians are so damn cheery. You've "got the ocean, got the babes, got the sun, got the wav(v)es." "Why would you live anywhere else?" Bethany questions. I mentally flick through alliteration-heavy, bile-coated put downs I've had time to amass due to a life predominantly spent indoors in one of the UK's rainiest habitations that chance has planted me, my only tan coming from glowering at your dimpled, sun-kissed mugs on TV, and I huff, and I puff, and get ready to give you and your monosyllabic California Tourist Board anthem what-for... aw, but who am I kidding? The best that Best Coasthad to offer has survived the promotional campaigns for multinational chains and arena rock support slots with their oblivious update on the ageless Pop/Rock phenomenon of the seemingly glib, but ultimately adroit emoting of what it feels like to be, like, young and in love but still sort of bummed-out by stuff.

    Consentino shrugs-off second album trouble by nonchalantly dropping conversational-style references to her mother's advice, friends' reaction to her success, and the drag and hang-ups of money, without it seeming either brag or bore in tracks like "How They Want Me to Be," and more immediately "Last Year." There's such a cool chug of a riff and blasé lyric in the latter about frittering her money away and the inevitability it'll one day all be gone and then she'll have to write another song (either that or cobble together a new line of clothing for Urban Outfitters, eh Beth?!), that the sentiments invariably hit the mark even if the palette employed is at first somewhat lacking for more seasoned listeners.

    Producer Jon Brion — exhalted soundtrack composer extraordinaire, overseer of Kanye West's golden years/Elliott Smith's embryonic shot at his swan song, as well as solid gold songwriter that's been too flipping busy to finish building on a single (self) release as a solo artist — ditches the reverb-foggy lo-fi of debut Crazy for You, exposing Best Coast's fundamental limitations and laying bare the simplicity of the songs. But, after all, it's that simplicity that's won so many over. Still intact is the lovelorn pop of its predecessor, albeit more delicate in the form of songs like the reassurance-seeking "No One Like You" which employs musical stylings that have a hint of an influence of those sentiments' heretofore best expression, in its waltzing, late '50s-tinged song structure.

    As the album winds down things recline into the unprecedented doze of more soporific climes via the aptly titled "Dreaming My Life Away" and "Up All Night" (briefly interrupted by first-half recap "Let's Go Home") hinting at perhaps a more considered approach by Bruno and Cosentino on future outings, with their more evolved approach to atmosphere. The Only Place isn't the be-all-end-all. Musically speaking, yes, there are far more interesting places to visit, but this certainly ticks a lot of boxes and is as good a place as any to indulge those simple pleasures that resonate with the many. This is the best Pop has to offer, soak up the serotonin and sunshine.