Thursday, December 30, 2004

Beard awards 2004

My albums of the year list is still being refined, so for now, here are the unique Beard awards!

Song of the year: Yeah (Crass version) – LCD Soundsystem

Beard of the Year: Devendra Banhart

Beard and ‘fro combo of the year: Kyp Malone, TV On The Radio

Crappiest beard of the year: David Blunkett

Spellbindingly beautiful gig of the year: Brian Wilson, Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow

Freaky gig of the year: Magic Band/Fire Engines, Arches, Glasgow

Non-reformed band gigs of the year: Wilco, QMU, Glasgow
Sons & Daughters/Delgados, Barrowlands, Glasgow

Festival of the year: Le Weekend, Stirling

Not quite a gig, not quite an installation of the year: Sachiko M & Anthony McCall, Kill Your Timid Notion, Dundee

Dodgy goth bollocks gig of the year: Current 93 at Instal, Glasgow

Most overrated comeback: Morrissey

Most overrated thing of the year: Lost In Translation

Best TV: Peep Show, Power Of Nightmares, Sopranoes, that Gram Parsons documentary.

Best films: Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, American Splendor, Incredibles, Hero

What is this shit award 2004: tied between Keane, Razorlight, The Others, The Libertines (bar Can't Stand Me Now).

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Uter-ly brilliant!

These puns are getting worse. No wonder I didn't get that subbing job. Anyway, I've been sent a few records over the past couple of months and have been meaning to get round to reviewing them. I'll rework these for Beard 3, but for the meantime, let's get blogging. More reviews to follow over the next few days, but for now, let's rock with...

Any band with an umlaut in their name is worth a listen and Glasgow lo-fi electro pop trio Uter are no exception (if only I could work out how to get an Umlaut in Word!) The six track CD I’ve been sent isn’t a commercial release, but it includes the singles Vibrato and Tomorrow’s Clowns, alongside Jesus And Mary Chain and Kraftwerk covers.
Tomorrow’s Clowns, which appeared on Optimo’s OSCaar label earlier this year, sounds like collaboration between New Order and Kevin Shields. Melodic, driving bass and dinky Kraftwerk machine beats underpin a quite beautiful haze of bleached out guitar noise and glassy synth. The 12” is still available from Optimo’s online shop – I’d advise you head over there and snap one up pronto.
My Little Underground is cleverly reworked, with the vocals and synths sounding as if they’ve been recorded through thin walls, while pristine surface of Kraftwerk's Ohm... is dirtied by fuzzy guitar and crescendos.
Vibrato recalls Neu! in their more reflective moments, albeit transported to a post-techno landscape, while Accordination has the sort of rushy synth sequence that could see it remixed into a Detroit dancefloor monster.
Tramapoline has the kind of rinky dink organ line you’d associate with ? & The Mysterions, but far from being a departure into garage punk, this sleekit wee beauty glides off down the autobahn to some gleaming metropolis. And if they never get there? Well, that'll only make Uter’s journey all the more interesting.

Uter are on the excellent new label Asking For Trouble

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Sine of the times

If you've managed to get past that groaning pun, you might have noticed that Beardblog has been updated, with new links and a counter. That's about 60 since the weekend, which is quite a surprise. Thanks for reading, we love you all xxx

Is This Music? sent me off to Kill Your Timid Notion in Dundee last weekend. A festival of experimental music and film, it was quite an experience. Film screenings during the day, including avant-classics like Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising (gay bikers polishing their engines and cavorting orgiastically in a church to the sounds of The Supremes, Bobby Vee and Elvis: tremendous stuff) and Invocation Of My Demon Brother (A bit silly. It might have been sinister in 1969, but now it just looks like a bunch of junkie dilletantes prancing about in daft costumes pretending to be evil nazi satanists). More about the other films in a few days.
The big name was Lee Ranaldo, performing with Text Of Light. The idea is to improvise as Stan Brakhage films are projected onto the exhibition/performance space.
This was my first encounter with Brakhage, but his films were beautiful, bringing out the beauty in everyday life through brilliant use of colours and light. The most affecting film was of a girl on a swing. Some Brakhage buffs have problems with the idea of music being added to the films, and it has to be said that the droney feeback workouts added little to the movies.
Tabula Smaragdin: Jurgen Reble + Thomas Koner wasn't one to see standing up. The trick is to lie down, propping your head up on your jacket and immerse yourself in the minamalist laptop rumble and glimmering, shimmering visuals. As the rumble build to a intense static buzz it was all red stars, with amorphous forms appearing through the haze, like a dancing human figure, or a woman floating by, like the drowned Ophelia. Who needs drugs eh?
What Sachiko M + Anthony McCall did was closer to an art installation than musical performance, but then the whole point of the festival was to blur the lines between the forms. At the centre of the room Sachiko sat hunched over a basic sampler, playing high pitched sine waves that modulated throughout the space, which at first was virtaully pitch black save for a touch of dry ice. Two projectors beamed white light from wall to wall, gradually forming a circle on the surface. You could stand in the beam, which gradually formed a tunnel of light. Everyone just strolled around, waving fingers, and poking heads through the surfaces of the beam. Despite the dark and eerie sine waves the atmosphere was one of relaxation and wonder.

More festival fun in a couple of days. In the meantime, party on and be excellent to one another.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Magazine junkie

In my bid to make this blog halfway interesting, I thought I’d introduce regular overviews of the music press, gigs, TV etc. So here’s my roundup of the latest pop mags.
For a similar exercise, albeit with some priceless quotes from the latest issue of Terrorizer, pop over to Stereosanctity for our buddy Ben’s comments.

Bloody hell, Dylan’s on the cover of Uncut again. Alan Jones really needs to get some fresh ideas. You can choose from two CDs, one of songs from artists inspired by Dylan, and one, rather cumbersomely billed as Dylan songs, covered by artists inspired by Dylan. Well, duh. Scanning the tracklisting I’ll admit there are undoubtedly some gems there, but they did this whole thing two years ago.
It’s a shame Uncut is playing things so safe, cos they certainly have a pool of great writers, including old Melody Maker favourites like Chris Roberts. The Pixies interview in last month’s issue was great, but they should have put them on the front cover. I’m sure it would have attracted far more readers than yet another Neil Young cover.
The current issue does, however, contain one small moment of subversive genius: Bob Stanley awarding the new Girls Aloud album four stars (and quite right too). To paraphrase the Girls, what will the dadrockers say? Next month’s letters page should be a hoot.

The latest Mojo has been out for a couple of week’s, but it’s another cracker, streets ahead of Uncut. The mag has gone quite a long way in dispelling its fuddy duddy image, thanks, in no small part, to them allowing Stevie Chick room to punt new bands. Hell, they even had Lloyd Bradley writing about grime a few issues back, putting it into the context of hip-hop and reggae culture to help readers understand where this strange music comes from.
The interview with Mike Love is a real scoop. Given the opportunity to dispel the commonly held notion that he’s the biggest asshole in pop history, Love puts across his side of the story well enough, but neither the writer or reader is entirely convinced.
Much of Mojo is devoted to a Peel tribute. There’s a lovely interview by Max Decharme, where Peel tells a hilarious anecdote featuring The Bay City Rollers, Tony Blackburn, scores of teenage girls, frogmen and a racing track. He then rounds it off with a withering one liner. It’s classic Peel and another sad reminder of what we’ve lost.

The most luscious of all pop mags, Loose Lips Sinks Ships returns for its fourth issue. The fold out covers feature typically stunning Steve Gullick photographs of Todd, The Hunches, and Har Mar Superstar, the latter draped with fairy lights and, er, preserving his (im)modesty by tucking away his tadger in a Silence Of The Lambs stylee. Zoinks!
Reading Sophie Headwood’s Har Mar interview, I’ve gotta say I really warm to the little fella (if not his little fella). My initial kneejerk reaction to Har Mar was that he was a fashionista in joke, but here, he comes across as an intelligent, sincere artist, disillusioned with the rock ‘n roll lifestyle. The sort of interview that’s all too rare in these PR controlled times. Bravo.
Stevie Chick is on terrific form in his Hunches and Todd features. There’s a lovely line about the “lunatics-are-driving-golf-buggies-all-over-the-asylum mania” of the Roobarb and Custard theme. Apparently Todd’s Sedan sounds like a metal version of that. Well, I’m sold.

Sister publication Plan B is also out, and a lovely thing it is too. Beard’s own Mark Connolly supplies a way cool double exposed Park Attack pic, among other things, while Andrew Clare’s illustration of a ninja slicing some poor chap in half manages to be both wonderfully cute and poignant at the same time. As always, some of the writing strains too hard in a sixth form creative writing manner, but it’s cancelled out by the brilliance of a Neil Kulkarni rant on pop versus rock. He avoids taking a reductive rockist or popist stance, instead aiming his ire at the mediocrities who make music that has none of the joy of pop, or transcendent head-fuckery of metal, punk and the avant-garde. In the process, he uses the adjective “cunting” twice in the space of a paragraph, which can only be applauded, particularly when he’s referring to Robbie Williams and U2. Sorry, Robbie Cunting Williams and cunting U2. Go on, let it all out, you know it feels good.

I intend to update this post with an appraisal of the latest Wire. The latest Wiretapper CD should be worth a listen, while their cover feature on The Riff oughta be good for a laugh. Being Wire, I doubt they’ll be extolling the virtues of Smoke On The Water or Whole Lotta Rosie. In fact, I hear they’ve got an article slagging off metal and punk! Pah! Those gits are welcome to their ridiculous Current 93 records. Let’s rock!