Saturday, August 27, 2005

Mogwai & The Blitzkrieg Bop!

Mogwai, ABC, Glasgow

A lot is made of Mogwai’s live shows being really loud, but what’s really incredible is how they manage to create some of the world’s most emotive music despite the abstinence from lyrical intimations and penchant for metal brutality. Cheeky grins, cheeky song titles and wide-o interviews aside, Mogwai are as serious as your life. They finish with Like Herod: of course you’re fucking terrified! You know it’s coming, you expect that explosion, but you just can’t prepare for such an incredible noise, such evil wailings from a place you don’t want to end up in. Bang! It’s as good as live music gets, and as close to genuine terror as a guitar song can get you.
Before that, though, you had bliss, ecstasy and pure joy from a 3-chord progression drawn out over some noisy guitar swathes over a 20-minute dance. Astounding control of rippling noise appropriated from Growing’s best Kevin Shields collaboration, building and evoking like it has no right to; it kicks as jetplane metal, fades out like Tortoise dub, sparkles and just dances to the short film of a beautiful life. Like Herod’s ying, Mogwai Fear Satan is just wonderful.
Before that, we had plenty of fun: 2 Rights Make 1 Wrong’s tragic happiness, Helicon 2’s majestic clarity and Ratts Of The Capital’s triumphant menace; harder, faster new songs indicating a shift from the wishy-washyness of Happy Songs For Happy People and lessons learned from contemporaries like Pelican or even Electrelane.
But what was before that? Well, life of sorts, all that genuine emotional stuff that Mogwai bring to a head. What does that make the ABC gig then? An end? Somehow, that makes sense. Live, Mogwai are like you’d want your death to be: dark, serious, wordless and emotional, but beautiful and ultimately worth it.
Gary Thom

Meanwhile, we'd like to bring this fine night to your attention. Some great bands and it's for a good cause! Hurrah!


at Oran Mor, Byres Road, Glasgow 8pm-2am

Featuring live music from:


DATA PANIK (Formerly Bis)

THE BEAT TRAP (Supported Franz Ferdinand and Kaiser *cough* Chiefs)

THE NEEDLES (If they're good enough for Mick Jones hell they're good enough for us! )

ALSO DJs playing the usual punk/post-punk/ska tunes - the most fantastic DOUGIE of MOTHER AND THE ADDICTS will get you dancing like crazycats until 2.

TICKETS can be bought for a fiver at Oxfam Music, Avalanche and (site also has forum/list/links etc)
Band/Promoter*DJ/Flying Monkey; email us at! x

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Free Songs of Astounding and True Beauty

To keep you occupied while we go off to Green Man this weekend our guest blogger Sean Michaels of Said The Gramophone fame has some tasty MP3s for you to chew on. See you next week with tales of hippies, cider and mud.

Okkervil River – For Real
A song full of such roaring life, covered in such black and flashing fur, that it’s hard to imagine it as a thing composed, the work of men in a room trying out parts and kicking at pedals. Okkervil River were a band of rustic mountain-men, Austin’s lonesome hermit poets, but here Will Robinson Sheff’s got teeth and a fever, he’s got claws, he’s got an electric guitar that shorts the lights. This is rock music for after you realise what you’ve done, or a song for running panicked through a field. It’s a track that requires a lantern – hold yours high.

Bishop Allen – Little Black Ache
Oh, the blues. The blues are so blue that sometimes they’re even black. And if we’re going to sing about the black-and-blues, not sing the blues but sing about them, - well, let’s make sure it’s a pop-song of modest majesty, of unabashed fun, of hip-hip-hooray. Bishop Allen are passing around Polaroids with The Kinks, Modest Mouse, The Shins; they’ve got mussed hair not from the stylist but from sleeping in; they’ve got a bathtub of tunes that could power a Volkswagen convertible. They’re from Brooklyn and they’re the best unsigned band in America.

Devin Davis – Iron Woman
If we bang the drums loud enough, the mics will clip. If we get a big enough choir, the roof will blow off. If we sing our hearts out, well then maybe we’ll explode. In some worlds, each of these would be bad things. Here, however, with only two minutes to run over a parade, with only two minutes to save Neutral Milk Hotel, The Flaming Lips and Ray Davies from an avalanche, well – it’s the best thing since sliced bread. Davis sings of “three ... weeks spent throwing matchsticks at the sun”, and I can imagine that, the matches thrown overhand into the sky. But I can imagine them, too, flaring into flame, fireworks, glad little explosions to accompany the electric guitar, the feedback, the maracas, the saxophones, the piano, Devin Davis’s fantastic Rube Goldberg machine.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Last night I went to see Richard Thompson in Edinburgh. He was fantastic. The nice thing about the Festival is that reviewers tend to be treated very well, so I got a great seat bang in the middle of the third row. My review will be up on the Fest music pages sometime on Friday afternoon, but in the meantime, you can read my Yo La Tengo review here!

In other news, some bloke has been pissing on Reagan's grave.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

A Sight To Behold

Better late than never, here's my Devendra Banhart live review!

Devendra Banhart
Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh

Tonight is all about Devendra and his sexy young folk chums. With his salt and pepper goatee and careworn hat, Sir Richard Bishop takes on the role of their cranky uncle. Taking a break from opium scented art-rockers Sun City Girls, Bishop has established himself as one of the leading experimental acoustic guitar players. But where Jack Rose is graceful and meditative, Bishop is spiky and mischievous. He has a light touch on the folk and blues numbers, but is unafraid to throw in Beefheartian dissonance, or cut loose on Indian and Arabic flavoured improvisations. Neither is Bishop an acoustic purist: he’ll crank up the volume and presence to add a woody percussive crunch to his more furious extrapolations, or conjure up dense layers of delay. Tonight, Uncle Rich showed the kids how to rock.

’ chamber folk has all the right elements - hushed vocals, crystalline guitar, a distant rumble of percussion, creeping organ – but it doesn’t quite convince. It’s all very pretty, but c’mon, captivate me! This is music so elegantly wrought it allows no room for blue notes or flinty edges. Much has been made of the olde worlde mysteriousness of their music, but like a PG cut of The Wickerman, there are only vague hints of dread here. There’s a much needed crescendo at the end, but it’s just not heavy enough. The cellist gamely grapples with her instrument, choking mangled notes from the neck, but the rest of the band seem reluctant to push the dial into the red. As Greg Weeks studiously adjusts the volume on his Farfisa I’m silently urging him to just turn it right up and fry us with waves of trebly minor chord fuzz. I want to see the percussionist batter his cymbals and the drummer pound his kit all the way to Stonehenge, but all we get is a mildly adventurous stroll off the beaten track.

So to our fuzzy faced prince. Devendra takes to the stage in a tartan waistcoat and tight flares, accompanied by his even hippier looking bandmates. Dubbed the Hairy Fairy Band, only the fresh faced drummer lacks a beard, although he straps on a green felt fake, which works itself loose as he plays. Nice try. The band stays in the background for the opening tunes, which include a gorgeous Spanish song from the new album, Cripple Crow. Come ‘This Beard Is Soibhann’, however, they’re stomping away like a hippy show band. Banhart clearly isn’t interested in being a serene, seated folkie tonight – he wants to take us to boogieville. He shuffles his feet, claps his hands, even does the chicken dance. Sho’ nuff, the boy’s got rhythm. It’s all very entertaining, but after a while nagging doubts creep in. New songs like ‘I Feel Just Like A Child’ are irresistible, but I could have done with more of Devendra on his own. It’s nice that Devendra lets his bandmates and a local singer-songwriter take centre stage, but when guitarist Noah Georgeson steps forward to do a cover of Lauryn Hill’s ‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’ I was checking my watch. I’m sure the cover was meant sincerely, but Georgeson’s hammy baritone – as ripe as brie on a sun bed - has an air of smugness to it. Happilly, towards the end the Hairy Fairy band put their boogie shoes away and provide unobtrusive accompaniment for two of Banhart’s finest songs. ‘Will Is My Friend’ might be stripped of its melancholy barroom piano tonight, but Banhart brings that sense of wonder to it nonetheless. ‘A Sight To Behold’ might not convey the same apocalyptic dread as on record, but it’s the one moment where Banhart truly unsettles the audience. Then there’s a scrumptious ‘At The Hop’, its lyrics amended to acknowledge the minor indie stooshie the song caused after being used in a – shock horror – cheese advert. “Won’t sell out again,” he coos, tongue half in cheek. Devendra is clearly preparing for stardom with his groovy new sound, but let’s hope he doesn’t forget what made him special in the first place.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Beard Files Vol 2

Some more stuff we couldn't fit in the current issue...

Elizabeth Anka Vajagic
Nostalgia / Pain EP

Something of a stunning if bleak chanteuse, our Liz: the hair-raising Croatian’s long, dark lamentations are expressed in a haunting, unsettling divergence of deep, yawning resonance and blistering shrieks.

Vajagic’s intoxicating sonic contortions are entwined by members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Silver Mt Zion and Shalabi Effect: Michel Langevin’s percussion impels and propels Vajagic’s orgasmic death-throes; Fluffy Erskine’s whistling, ephemeral, bowed miscellany incites an evanescent dread; while Sam Shalabi’s benevolent guitars deliver exquisite shimmers of hope. Vajagic’s primal, rasping emissions circumscribe the thrilling ebb and climactic resolutions of long-form mourning and instrumental overtures.

The Nostalgia / Pain EP – excellent if harrowing value at over 30 minutes, and swaddled in utterly beautifully packaging – is the follow-up to Vajagic’s 2004 debut album. It resumes her unswerving, mesmeric passage through spacious noise and onerous improv: her custom-shattering, bleeding art is leaden as terror and bright as a pin.
Nicola Meighan

The Rogers Sisters
“Three Fingers”
(Too Pure)

In the midst of the great NYC indie-rock deluge of 2002/03, real-life sisters Jennifer and Laura Rogers, plus bass-slinging non-female, unrelated honorary “sister” Miyuki Furtado, were one of the few groups who managed to keep their collective head (and shoulders) above the ever-rising waterline. This was due largely to “Purely Evil”, a debut album which not only managed to ride the angular crest of the new New Wave of New Wave wave, but also, by virtue of it’s infectious unpretentiousness and righteous disregard for the vagaries of fashion, succeeded in showing up many of their competitors and contemporaries for the clueless, cripplingly hip style-mag photo-shoot extras that many of them undoubtedly were. Here was a group intent on bringing as much B-52’s as Gang of Four to the party, and managing to pull it off while sounding like they weren’t even trying. This stop-gap follow-up (it was originally released in the States as a 7-track EP, but has been expanded to 11 songs for the UK) sees the trio eschewing the ramshackle, lo-fi aesthetic of their first full-length for slicker production values courtesy of knob-twiddler Tim Barnes, but surprisingly the new sound dulls none of their spikiness, and indeed rather becomes the more confident and mature song-writing on display throughout. “The Secrets of Civilisation” finds room for a muted string arrangement, while “5 Months” sees them flirting with low-level electronica, and “Fantasies are Nice”, a blistering attack on the walking coma of aspirational avarice that constitutes much of modern life, boasts an ace blast of sax skronk. Why their label thought this excellent little record needed expansion remains something of a mystery; the French and Japanese-language versions “Fantasies…” and “45 Prayers” respectively positively reek of filler, though only a fool wouldn’t delight in the inclusion of their wonderful take on Capt. Beefheart’s “Zig-Zag Wanderer”. If, on their second album proper, the Sisters can reconcile the growing confidence and maturity of these songs to the sense of rambunctious playfulness that characterised their debut (and which, alas, is somewhat missing from this otherwise excellent set) then they really will become a major force to be reckoned with.
Ian MacBeth

Dead Fly Buchowski
Land Of The Rough
(Beggars Banquet)

Psychedelic blues-punk? Sounds promising. But sadly, Dead Fly Buchowski are about as psychedelic as a cup of Typhoo and as punk as Michael Howard. Land Of The Rough sits somewhere between the stadium grunge of Pearl Jam’s Vs and The Doors at their most flatulent. Roddy Campbell’s puffed chest growlin’ and wailin’ (one part Robert Plant to two parts Eddie Vedder) is amusing at first, but his continual roars of “whoa yeahhharrgh” soon sap the will to live. Straight ahead rockers like ‘Russian Doll’ and ‘Blackout’ are solid, but nowhere as heavy or sludgy as they need to be. When they attempt to do swirling and epic it all gets a bit Spinal Tap. There’s a song here called ‘Ground Nero’, about the sacking of Delphi. Need I say more?
Stewart Smith

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Palimpsest Festival

If you live down Cambridge way there's only one place to be this Saturday - The Palimpsest Festival. Organised by the good people at Harvest Time Recordings, this is an all day even of new music and outsider folk sounds it features Beard cover star Alasdair Roberts, Josephine Foster, Killa Mi And L'Au, Lionshare, Dan Merrill, Fuzzy Lights, UM and Djs including American Booze and Plan B's Frances May Morgan. There are even projections and a record stall. Wish I was there! It all takes place in All Saints Church, Jesus Lane, Cambridge and doors open at 2pm.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

World domination continues apace...

Well, kinda. The good people of Edinburgh can now buy Beard #4 in the excellent Analogue Books and Avalanche Records, Cockburn Street.

And they should be on sale in London and Manchester by the weekend...

In further Beard developments, I've now set up a flickr site, so everyone can have a look at lovely Beard photos. Not much on there at the moment, but it'll be particularly useful for festivals, gigs and behind the scenes scandal. And there's a link to Conn's far superior photos of course!

We've also finally arrived on myspace, just as Lord Of All Evil Rupert Murdoch has taken it over. Oh well, it hasn't stopped me watching the Simpsons I suppose.

Nothing to do with Beard, other than the fact we're all huge Johnny Cash fans, but here's the trailer for Walk The Line, starring Joaqin Phoenix as The Man In Black. He's too swarthy for the skinny, speed freak young Cash, but he's got the facial tics. Film looks a bit cheesy though, and why do they have pale cover versions instead of the real thing on the soundtrack? Hmmm. I'll still go see it of course.