Monthly Archives: January 2009

Dan Smith – Alchemy

Dan Smith – Alchemy (M17)

Dan Smith

Oh God, I do want Alchemy right out of you, Dan Smith! But where is it? Why are you defending yourself? Ack, what frustration.

Smith paddles in similar pools to those of Kate Nash and the lamentable Luke Leighfield, albeit with a degree more nous and skill than either of those. Alchemy is a lazy song dressed up as a not-lazy song, all massive chord changes (though not nearly enough of them) and terrifyingly hackneyed magnificence, from the Muse-thieving-which-is-actually-already-classified-as-Bach-thieving-even-though-that’s-a-lazy-comparison to the horrible lyrics that stink of the common room. It’s all a faux-accomplished nightmare, with widdling arpeggios and chromatic runs that honestly aren’t all that difficult to perform bogging down the whole affair until its tastelessly overblown ‘dub’ breakdown and shocking climax (which, for the record, is the most potent example of ‘epic for the sake of epic’ heard in some time).

Then, Dan Smith, what have you gone and done? You’ve included a really interesting second song! That’s nuts! Why didn’t you just abandon the ridiculous first song and let people have a go on this instead? Flurrisome words fly out and sound reasonably intelligent on Words Are Words, the piano juxtaposes perfectly by plonking unobtrusively and the myriad changes in the feel of the beat are a real step on! Jesus! Why not stick with this one?

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Alchemy is out on February 2nd via M17 records. That’s Monday. Go here if you want some Dan Smith noises. No offence, but I’m using the case from this single to hold my promo of the new Bill Callahan record, ‘cos it’s watermarked and came in the flimsiest envelope imaginable.

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The Rapscallions – Suck EP

The Rapscallions – Suck EP

Oh, for God's sake...

“Wiiiiva lil’ bit… wiiiiva lil’ bit…” etc etc. Genius. The Rapscallions bring to mind that most outrageous and far-reaching beat combo The Libertines, but possess little of their wit. Which wasn’t much anyway. Seriously though, Daniel F. Churchill and Reece McLaughlin’s duelling vocals share with Doherty and Barat an admirable kinship, but one ultimately lampooned by their main influence’s mere existence. While those two are in living memory, no other barrel-boy bastards can get a look-in, deserving or not. And also, this Mighty Boosh-loving, Dickens-referencing mush of a scene fell to pieces in about 2005, didn’t it? Where are The Holloways now? And The Metro Riots? Anyone?

Their Suck EP certainly does suck, though, hackneyed and faux-rock ‘n’ roll clichés spun out beyond hilarious levels. Comfort Zone is a song written in precisely that area and focussed on the most mundane of subjects. “You’re living at home, you’re in your comfort zone” they shrilly impart over a Clash-lite backdrop. This might well be a worthy topic for discussion, but for Christ’s sake man it up a bit, yeah? Make it a little deeper than blanket anger at not much, or make that anger entertaining enough to warrant our attention at least.

The asinine, relentlessly dullardly Revolting Bar Stewards fares little better, having the sheer laziness to rhyme “they sing, they fight, they’re hardly polite”, and seriously includes the “oi!” with no irony. The icing on the cake is that it’s delivered amidst reggae backbeats and clangy guitars, playing immediately to the stereotypical “we should enjoy reggae, shouldn’t we?” mindset of the most absent-minded modern punk thinkers. Relief comes in the surprisingly sprightly beginning of Capital Punishment, but it’s smashed to bits by all the cretinous observations within, and I can’t be bothered to finish writing about it.

Should you enjoy having your ears mangled by the vicious pummelling you’d give yourself on hearing this EP, then visit the band’s MySpace. The EP is available at Rough Trade and online from March 2nd.

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Enablers – Tundra

Enablers – Tundra (Exile On Mainstream)

 enablers-tundra

In a manner befitting the most stately and stubborn of rock ensembles, Tundra refuses to be anything more than the sum of its parts. This is hardly a criticism, for Enablers elements are strong enough on their own. Thoroughly depressing monologues are told in gruff tones amongst gentle, trebly, clean guitar melancholia, veering in character from quietly morose to outright furious. So far, so Spiderland, you might think – but Enablers are different. Rather than wallow in their introspection like Slint so entertainingly and affectingly did nearly 20 years ago, Enablers reveal a strong resolve to act on their anger.

The punishing climax of the title track shows this resolve to be their primary trait. Those guitar growl in unison, and Pete Simonelli broods methodically. He doesn’t start quietly with his doomy intimations, he accelerates from an already-accelerated tension point and gradually increases in size with his band behind him every step of the way. The climax of the second verse involves a bartender haunted by the image of a woman’s body (it’s not clear whether or not she’s alive or dead), and Simonelli wonders where she’s gone. “WHERE?!!” he shouts. “WHERE’S SHE BEEN?!!” he continues. He does this with a subtlety previously seen in punches to the arse and, again, the band follows him. Beautifully voiced and balanced chords of only-slightly distorted (but wholesomely punished) guitar and cymbal crashes warp the time signature and provide a much-need synchronisation of previously free-form vocals and ensemble. Then they chuck it all in the bin seconds later by ending on a quiet “or not…”, like skill of that worth is an everyday experience. A clever and exacting thrill.

The remainder of the album doesn’t quite match the fury of those moments, but there are floating textures and rumbling menace throughout that, like few other acts, fits Enablers like a glove. To brood is the right of many bands, but to brood with such undiluted and focused continuance and still make it an entertaining experience is rare. If anything, the monologues would hold up fine on their own, but it’s taken instrumental ingenuity and a sense of placement, restraint and dynamics to make them as unsettling as they are.

Tundra is released on Exile On Mainstream records on 26th Jan (two days ago… whoops). More here! You can also read this review over at Artrocker.

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Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern – Rough Trade In-store 26/1/09

At the risk of turning PM into a Hayman-only devotion zone fixed with Hefner curtains and pictures of his dogs everywhere while we mark homework that doesn’t exist for children that may or may not have crushes on us in the glow of Teen Wolf coming from the TV, here are some pictures of last night’s Rough Trade East in-store gig.

Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern

Hayman proved that, though he is wont to forgetting even his most recent and cementing lyrics, he has a surprising kineticism on stage. His records hardly plod, but you’d be forgiven for thinking that, live, they might accrue some of the gentility heard on disc. What we’re met with is a smart-arsed and thoroughly noisy, scratchy and impassioned yell through some of his finest moments. Caravan Song from Table For One gains new buoyancy here, even though he confuses the lyrics again, and the overwhelming impression is one of righteous desires sung by a man who’s continually ashamed of every one of those desires he has. 

Darren Hayman

Tunes from his latest concept album Pram Town (reviewed) are not dwelled upon, but they are all efficiently and sensitively performed. Big Fish is a minor beauty, its small-time sentiments played with maximum scope for emotional indignity – something Hayman has perfected more than maybe any songwriter of the last few decades. The only gripe (and there shouldn’t really be any, it’s free…) is that the audience laugh when Hayman compares far-off locales to his own Walthamstow. Why laugh? It’s sung with such earnestness.

Visit Darren here. You probably already have, he’s just the best… You can also see what he’s been up to this past week in a wee chat we had.

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How’s Your Week? – The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

This week, PM catches up with Kip from The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. See what we thought of their debut record here (it’s aces, anyhow), then see what Kip & co. have been up to…

the pains of being pure at heart

In a word, how’s your week?

Fun!

What did you get up to last night and how was it?

Peggy and I went to Daddy’s (a bar in Brooklyn) and had a great time. We saw a lot of friends and drank a lot of drinks. One of the guys from Cause co-MOTION was DJing and I met this guy who had just gotten out of a relationship of 5 years and was sad. But we sang along to all of Teenage Fanclub’s The Concept – I think we were a little wasted… but it was really fun.

What’s for dinner tonight and who’s cooking it?

I’ll probably make tomato soup and saltine crackers – I’m totally addicted, and have been eating this every day for the last week.

What have you listened to today and did you like it?

I listened to Tough Alliance’s New Violence and Gentle Touch’s Once You Used To and liked them both.

What’s your favourite/least favourite thing that’s happened this week?

I really liked going out last night – I saw so many friends. But tomorrow is Kurt’s (drums) birthday party, and I feel like that’s going to be insanely amazing! I can’t wait!

(Kip answered these questions on Jan 22nd)

Is there any cuter image than members of The Pains confiding newly sad with a sing-along of an entire Teenage Fanclub classic? Nope, sir. Have a listen to The Pains at their MySpace.

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Silver Jews Disband

The Silver Jews have officially split up, according to statements on the band’s bulletin board. David Berman looks like he might move into screenwriting, so all is not lost.

PM was very lucky to have seen them twice in their relatively short performing career, both at festivals playing excellent sets. The thrill of hearing Smith & Jones Forever live is a real and visceral one, surprisingly butch and swaggering. Here are some videos to console you (more me, really…).

RIP Joos.

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How’s Your Week? – Darren Hayman

In another new series for PM, we find out just what the stars are up to THIS WEEK. It’s called “How’s Your Week?” Good, eh? This week, we kick off with Darren Hayman, who’s album Pram Town is excellent and reviewed.

Darren Hayman

In a word, how’s your week?
 
It’s ok, slightly better than average I would say.
 
What did you get up to last night and how was it?
 
I was working for a friend and had to cycle a long way home. My wife and her friend Amy were studying Latin when I got in. My wife had left me some Pasta to eat. We watched The Witchfinder General on DVD. An old British film.
 
What’s for dinner tonight and who’s cooking it?
 
I’m working for my friend again so my wife said she would cook fishcakes.
 
What have you listened to today and did you like it?
 
I’m listening to Rendezvous by Luna, its pretty good.
 
What’s your favourite/least favourite thing that’s happened this week?
 
My new record’s going well with reviews and stuff so that’s the best thing. The worst thing is I’m having trouble getting paid quite a lot of money from someone in another country and that’s getting me worried.
 
Nothing serious though. It’s all good.

You can find out more about Darren and his new record here. You probably should do that now.

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