Thursday, May 28, 2009

Stag & Dagger Glasgow review pt 1

Mika Miko & Black Lips: Classic Grand, Glasgow, Saturday May 23

It's tempting to mythologise Mika Miko, portray them as the super-cool LA girl band from some imaginary '80s teen movie. And certainly, they're perfectly happy to humour such notions, asking us if we've seen Valley Girl, starring a young Nicolas Cage. I haven't, but then it wasn't a big hit over here, despite having a ridiculously awesome soundtrack, including Sparks' 'Eaten By The Monster of Love' and Josie Cotton's 'Johnny Are You Queer'. Truth be told, though, Mika Miko have more in common with California punk and rrriot girl than the poppy New Wave. Having last seen them two years ago in a Glasgow basement bar, I wasn't sure how their energetic punk show would translate to the larger, and altogether more plush, Classic Grand. Not to worry: these chicas shred it. Jennifer Clavin and Jenna Thornhill's vocals strike the perfect balance between dead-eyed punk yow and hyperactive teen yelp, finding a tone that's simultaneously knowing and party righteous. An underrated guitarist, Michelle Suarez spikes her power chords with angular Wipers riffs and mutant rockabilly X licks, while the rhythm section drives it all forward with an infectious groove. The slam-dancing bozos down the front don't quite it, but Mika Miko make punk rock to dance to. Clavin and Thornhill have some good moves: twisting on one foot and flapping their arms like Ari Up doing the funky chicken, and a hybrid hop-skip that's both charming and so utterly right. Towards the end, Thornhill whips out a sax for some Lora Logic skronk action, and me, I couldn't be happier. My only question: what happened to the telephone mic?

After all this Black Lips prove to be rather charmless. Their joyless simulacrum of '60s garage and '90s grunge makes you want to hit them over the head with the Nuggets boxset, or better still, a Billy Childish album. This is how it's done, bozos: catchy riffs, barely contained sexual tension, biting lyrics and infectious beats. Black Lips bludgeon when they should swing, plod when they should stomp. The atmosphere turns slightly unpleasant when bassist Jared Swilley stares out a stage jumper. “One of us is gonna get hurt and it's not gonna be me,” he whines while giving the over-excited punter the evil eye. What humourless, macho nonsense. Get me outta here!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Plan B R.I.P.

I'm very sad to hear that Plan B magazine is to close. As others have pointed out, it wasn't the web that necessarily did for Plan B: the advertising recession meant it was no longer possible to keep the magazine going without cutting staff, pages and print quality. They did the right thing to quit while they were ahead: nobody would want something as special as Plan B to fall into terminal decline like Melody Maker or other magazines. It's a serious blow for music journalism. Plan B allowed its contributors the kind of freedom that had all but disappeared from the mainstream music press, and its passion, wit and intelligence was a joy to behold, even when you disagreed strongly with a writers' opinion. It looked amazing too, with beautiful photographs and illustrations that captured the personality of the music.

This feels like the end of an era. I first picked up Plan B's predecessor, Careless Talk Costs Lives, when I moved to Glasgow to study journalism in 2002. Increasingly frustrated by the NME and a bit bored of Mojo's dad rockness, I needed something that directed me to the world of possibilities I sensed was surely out there. Meeting my Beard co-conspirator Neil Jacques, and discovering Stephen Pastel's then recently opened Monorail record store were important factors in my awakening, but CTLC played a huge role in my exploration of unknown realms. At first it seemed infuriating. I'd never really been a big Melody Maker reader, so I was perhaps unprepared for Everett True's wildly opinionated and personal writing. This was not how we were being told to write in journalism class! But I soon came to love the magazine's approach, and came to trust its writers' integrity and passion. CTCL tore the retrogressive bullshit of NME's trumpeted New Rock Revolution to pieces, all the while pointing me to the good shit. The magazine also had a strong sense of underground music history, and with Neil's record collection and a shop like Monorail at hand, it wasn't difficult to access the likes of Daniel Johnston or Jad Fair - indeed, both artists performed wonderful shows in Glasgow during the summer of 2003. CTCL was the first place I read about Peter Brotzmann, thanks to a free jazz roundup by the excellent Jon Dale. The striking illustration (apologies, I don't have a copy at hand to credit the artist) of a walrus 'tasched bezerker made me think, 'I wanna check that crazy motherfucker out'. I didn't actually get round to that for another few of years, but a seed was planted.

Plan B continued what CTCL had started, but thanks to the direction of Frances Morgan, developed its own personality. It was broader in scope, perhaps a little less cranky, but still hugely characterful. While indie-rock focused, it had the confidence to cover grime, techno, dubstep, noise, metal, experimental music and pop in a passionate, knowledgeable manner. As a poster on the Plan B forum put it, a magazine that can write about Keiji Haino alongside Britney is right up my street. I'm really proud to have contributed to recent issues, albeit in a minor way, and have my modest efforts placed alongside pieces by such intimidatingly great writers as Frances, Neil Kulkarni, Everett True, Joseph Stannard, Petra Davis, Kicking K, Lauren Strain, Miss AMP, Richard Stacey, George Taylor, Nicola Meighan, Daniel Barrow, Euan Andrews, Louis Pattison, John Doran, Matt Evans, Melissa Bradshaw et al.

The CTCL and Plan B forums have been lively and friendly places over the years, helping me through several crappy temp jobs and various episodes of personal angst. The forums introduced me to all kinds of amazing music, books and films, and, most importantly, to some wonderful people. It began for me when a few of us Glasgow posters realised we were all going to the same gigs. A meet up was surely in order. Good times and great friendships ensued, and various ATP's, Green Man's and other festivals brought posters from further afield together. We even ended up meeting some of the Plan B staff, who turned out to be as generous, friendly and righteous as their writing suggests. This open and good natured spirit continues. It's no great exaggeration to say that CTCL and Plan changed my life.

As the staff have pointed out, this is not the end, but an opportunity for new beginnings. I can't wait to see what its staff and contributors get up to next and wish them all the best for the future.

Finally, let me direct you to some excellent posts by Everett True, Daniel Barrow, Jon Dale and Ned Ragget.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Stag & Dagger

The festival season is already well underway, and Stag & Dagger looks to be a right bobby dazzler. Beard is particularly psyched about seeing Mika Miko again, following their legendary Nuts & Seeds gig with No Age two years ago. In addition to playing some of the most fun, danceable punk rock you'll ever hear, The LA punks tore up a Mika poster on stage: "That asshole stole our name!" What's not to like? Other acts we're looking forward to are The Mae Shi, Dananananaykroyd, Clark, Dolby Anol, Twitch and David Barabarosso, one of the chaps behind the excellent Curious Curious club night.




Glasgow Venues & Acts

Art School (hosted by The Skinny magazine)
David Barbarossa, Meursault, Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers, White Denim, Phantom Band, KONX-OM-PAX, Tim Exile, Clark

Art School - Vic Bar
Lemonade, Joy Formidable, Chew Lips, Record Playerz DJs, Art of Parties DJs, DOLBY ANOL

Nice N Sleazy
Boycotts, Findo Gask, Gay Blades, Cursive, Hot Club DJs

Captain’s Rest (hosted by NME Radio)
Over the Wall, Paper Planes, Tubelord, Miles Benjamin-Anthony Robinson, French Wives, Dananananaykroyd, The Mae Shi, NME DJs

Woodenbox with a fistful of Fivers, St Deluxe, BMX Bandits, The Aliens, Men & Machines, JD Twitch (Optimo)

Classic Grand (hosted by Simple)
Elvis Suicide, Gringo Star, Mika Miko, Black Lips

ABC1 (hosted by Firetrap)
Secret Guest, The Twilight Sad, Cold War Kids

Beard radio 18.5.09 - win tickets to Le Weekend!

Back once again with some hot new platters and a little hidden history...

Don't miss Omar Souleyman (above) and Group Doueh on the amazing Sublime Frequencies tour this week!

Joker - Do It, 12" (Kapsize)
Slayer - Psychopathy Red (Tour CD)
Divorce - Juice of Youth, 10" (Optimo)
Josie Cotton - Johnny Are You Queer? (Bomp!)
Trembling Bells - Your Head Is The House of Your Tongue, Carbeth (Honest Jons)
Wildbirds & Peacedrums - There Is No Light , The Snake (Leaf)
Abner Jay - I'm So Depressed, The True Story of... (Mississippi Records)
Sunn 0))) - Big Church, Monoliths & Dimensions (Southern Lord)
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Interesting Results, Grandes Exitos (Paw Tracks)
Omar Souleyman - Laqtuf Ward Min Khaddak, Dabke 2020 (Sublime Frequencies)
Spiritual Singers - Kimia, Ntsamina (Mississippi)

We also have tickets to give away for Le Weekend, Stirling's Out Limits Music Festival, taking place from Friday 29th to Sunday 31st May.

Starring Evangelista, Trembling Bells, John Edwards, Drew Mullholland of Mount Vernon Arts Lab and Portishead's Adrian Utley, Eddie Marcon and an exhibition by Ghost Box's Julian House, it's another cornucopia of leftfield delights.

To win, simply answer the following question...

Evangelista's Carla Bozulich was a member of which '90s alt country band?

(a) Chickasaw Mudd Puppies (b) Uncle Tupelo (c) Geraldine Fibbers

Answers to

We will announce the winners on next week's show.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Beard radio tunes into cosmic frequencies on the Holy Mountain

Not the last show of the term after all. Hurrah! We're back with some truly beautiful music, as well as a truly stupid new jingle.
Cosmic free jazz, Zimbabwean mbira, Turkish psych, splatter beats and a truly remarkable Japanese psych-punk gem from 1983 that's been uncovered by those righteous doods at Holy Mountain records.

Old Time Relijun -Indestructible Life, Catharis In Crisi (K)
Erin Koray - Karl Dalar, Elektronik Turkuler (Dogan)
Margot Guryan - Love, Take a Picture (Oglio)
Thelonious Monk - I Surrender Dear, Solo Monk (Sony)
Shimat - Shut Up (Hellfish Remix), 200 (Planet Mu)
Mhuri Yekwa Chiboora - Ngoto Yakaipa, Mbira Singles Collection (Dandemutante Music)
Onna - Mune O Tsutsunde, 7" (Holy Mountain)
Nomeansno - It's Catching Up, Wrong (Alternative Tentacles)
Notorious B.I.G. - The What (feat Method Man), Ready To Die (Arista/Puff Daddy Records)
Noah Howard - Space Dimension (America Records)
Sugar - Come Around, Beaster (Creation)

This week's background music: Moog Party Time!

Pictured: Onna (above), Old Time Relijun's Arrington De Dionyso (below)

Monday, May 04, 2009

Eggs Eggs Eggs: Beard Radio gets sulphurous


Yes, it's another edition of Beard Radio, brought to you following some late night screenings of John Waters' trash classic Pink Flamingos. We open with a couple of glorious tunes from that film's wondrous soundtrack, and later on, drop an impassioned Ike & Tina number beloved of Baltimore's most famous son.
We've also got new tunes from Alasdair Roberts, Sir Richard Bishop, Mika Miko, Kode 9, and Yoshimi's latest project, OLAibi, as well as the incredible Egyptian surf psych of Omar Khorshid. We also pay tribute to the Scottish playwright, poet and counter-cultural figure Tom McGrath, who passed away last week. A life-long jazz fan, in 1973 McGrath brought Duke Ellington, Miles Davis and Mahavishnu Orchestra to Glasgow. So we've got some classic '70s Miles in there. I think next week might be our last show of the term. Don't quote me on that though!

Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers - I'm Not a Juvenile Delinquent, Pink Flamingos Soundtrack (Saliva Films)
The Nighthawks - Chicken Grabber, Pink Flamingoes Soundtrack (Saliva Films)
Alasdair Roberts - Hazel Forks, Spoils (Drag City)
OLAibi - Eisa, Tingaruda (PECF)
Miles Davis - Black Satin, On The Corner (Columbia)
Omar Khorshid - Raqsed Al Fada, Rhythms of the Orient (Lebanon/Egypt)
Sir Richard Bishop & His Freak of Araby Ensemble - Kaddak el Mayass, Freak of Araby (Drag City)
Ike & Tina Turner - All I Can Do Is Cry, A Date With John Waters (New Line Records)
The Ex, Getachew Mekuria & Guests - Eywat Setenafegagn, Moa Anbessa (Terp Records)
Mika Miko - Turkey Sandwich, We Be Xuxa (PPM)
Kode9 - Black Sun, 12" (Hyberdub)