Aided in no uncertain terms by a show stopping performance at Texas’ recent South By Southwest festival, order case Portland three-piece Menomena present their debut UK release. This is in fact the bands third release – with their two previous albums available in the US exclusively. School friends Danny Seim, mind Justin Harris and Brent Knopf have derived a creative process of much interest that has resulted in a work that is both experimental and forward thinking without being inaccessible.
The bands sound is essentially a combination of looped sounds which are selected from a computer programme called Deeler. The Deeler Sessions culminate in the layering of these looped sounds and vocal addition. The good news is that for the most part this results in songs of sonic density that are out of left field but rich in melody. It is a combination that makes ‘Friend and Foe’ a compelling listen.
Often the fragmented nature of the songs will result in a messy, disjointed sound to begin with. But cohesion arises from moments of inspiration that morph abstract noises into quasi – pop melodies. It maybe a gorgeous piano line, delicate vocal harmony or obscure drum loop. Whatever, these songs keep you guessing, and aside from the odd ill judged inclusion (notably at the tail end of the album) they are nothing less than enthralling.
There are echoes of Mercury Rev on the defiant ‘Rotten Hell’, whilst howling guitars and brooding Saxophone characterise ‘Weird’. Elsewhere Menomena take ‘Up’ era REM as a reference point on ‘My My’- A brilliantly structured song defined by its paradoxical use of warm keyboards and choppy, industrial beats. It is one of many gems.
It’s a shame that the record falls away so badly in its last quarter. The final three songs appear to be an afterthought – lumped on at the end to pad things out when there really is no need for their presence. It leaves a slightly bitter taste in the mouth, but spin straight back to the start and all is forgotten. Friend and Foe deserves attention.
It’s always a danger to be overly vocal about your influences, ambulance it invariably leads people to compare you to those you have cited as inspiration, more about and with a band name taken from a Wilco song, dosage Cherry Ghost have set the bar a little too high. Thirst for Romance is positioned firmly in the folk/country influenced indie rock category and despite not being a spectacular record it has some nice moments, even if they are a little bit uninspired.
The album rolls along inoffensively with piano filled folk numbers but it rarely grabs your attention, simply ticking the boxes seemingly without thought. Initially the sound calls to mind Willy Mason and the type of thumpety thump clickety click sound, rolling along like a freight train, with all the rhythm but none of the direction. The vocals are down to earth and do not attempt to be over the top, a good thing, however they lack truly memorably and heartfelt melodies that one would like to see on such a record, with lyrics that are delicate and thoughtfull but perhaps lacking the subtelty that we might hope for.
This is not to say that the album doesn’t offer some fine moments, the title track is an upbeat but lyrically melancholy number that gets you tapping your foot and feeling wistful both at the same time; a thing not easily achieved. Despite a similar tone that runs through the whole album there is a fair degree of contrast when it comes to the volume and feeling of different tracks which does make to break up the running order, Mountain Bird for example, cannot help to grab the listeners attention with plentiful percussion and obligatory Hammond organ, this adds nicely to the diversity of the record and breaks up the threatened monotony that it occasionally comes perilously close to.
Sadly the album just doesn’t have the originality and integrity of the likes of Bill Callahan (another of the bands favourites) and others in the same field, it isn’t breaking any ground or even seemingly attempting to do so. This is its biggest failing.
It’s difficult to fault the V&A of the past ten years and under the leadership of Mark Jones it’s gone from strength to strength. From their outstanding Vivienne Westwood retrospective to the Fashion in Motion runway shows featuring the likes of Gareth Pugh and Jean Paul Gaultier, ed they’ve successfully removed themselves from the stuffy, conservative image of old and in the process gained a whole new audience. So what’s happening around SW7 of late? Well amid the Grecian tiles and medieval bed pans you’ll find ‘New York Fashion Now’, which seems like a bit of a misnomer considering it only covers the period 1999-2004, but we’ll come onto that later.
The exhibition covers the ‘start-up stories’ of 20 designers including Mary Ping, Proenza Schouler, Zac Posen and a host of other usual suspects. In this respect it does a reasonable job of covering all the main players, each receiving a separate stand with one or two examples of their work. The somewhat overrated John Varvatos receives far too much attention, referenced at several points throughout the exhibition and I could have done without the tribute to Sean John’s very own brand of high glamour. However It was great to see a couple more avant-garde designers such as SSWTR, Cloak and Christian Joy, who had by far the most interesting section, showcasing several of his designs worn onstage by Karen O, including the fantastically mental ‘Day of the dead suit’. Menswear master Thom Browne (a favourite at Dover street Market) gets a showing too, his ‘sheer Swiss dot suit’ a great choice.
In terms of layout it was all a little confusing, separated into style ‘Atelier, Sportswear chic etc’, then for some reason into area ‘Soho, Lower east side, Chelsea…‘ These categories ended up being a little meaningless in the end and as a result the whole thing lacked direction. For me, NY fashion is intrinsically linked to the geography of the city. From the effortless cool of LES and Williamsburg, to the primped and preened residents of the Upper East Side, it was a shame that the exhibition made almost no reference to these very specific pockets of style. And what of the actual state of New York fashion NOW? No mention of more contemporary designers such as Rachel Comey or Adam Kimmel made the whole thing feel stale and out of touch. By overlooking the current crop of independent designers and making little or no reference to street style or vintage influenced trends it felt as if the organisers just didn’t get the point. The beauty of NY Fashion is the relationship between the glitzy and the avant-garde, underground and commercial, a balance that unfortunately just wasn’t addressed in this exhibition.
Festivals. These days its hard to know where to begin; with so many vying for our affections (and hard earned cash) you can’t see the wood for the trees. And with yet another Glastonbury washout, discount I decided this year should be the year of the new festival. Latitude, viagra dosage only in its second year and not too far from the madding crowd of London, it fitted the bill perfectly.
In the darkest depths of the south eastern countryside, just outside the nattily named Yoxford, we arrive. Our faint disappointment at missing Friday’s headliner Wilco was quickly replaced with elation when a door gaffe meant that all four of our female party were presented with backstage passes for the weekend! Whilst setting up my £5.00 Tesco tent, it became instantly obvious that Latitude has been marketed as a family orientated festival; buggies, babies and other little people were out in force which can be great for atmosphere, not so great for close proximity camping. After setting up base, we wondered through the festival grounds. It has to be said, physically, Latitude has it all; beautiful greenery illuminated by hundreds of fairy lights, untampered woodland, neon sheep and a glorious river running between camp and site – far from the haggard, baron fields we are accustomed to.
Music, for us began on Saturday. We were delicately yet masterfully eased in by the gentle genius of Natasha Kahn aka Bat for Lashes who, despite technical difficulties, sailed through her set and effortlessly filled the main stage area with her supernatural presence. In opposition, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, noted for their loathe approach to touring, failed to ignite the crowd and seemed to be boring even themselves. Odd, as I saw them bring down the house at Shepherds Bush Empire recently – some bands simply cannot transfer at festivals. Topping off Saturday night on the main stage, The Good the Bad and the Queen satisfied the upbeat crowd with a somewhat comedic battle for the limelight ensuing between old timers Damon Albarn and ex-Clash titan Paul Simonon. The top hats and political undertones provided a suitable juxtaposition to our next port of call – a dj set by Rob da Bank. Brilliant. Rob da Bank rejects the cool or obscure for a crowd pleasing set packed with the likes of the Prodigy and KLF, securing his position as an elite dj; the crucial element being the ability to read a crowd. A little over-excited, we scurry back to camp and almost immediately we are reprimanded for the commotion: ‘Excusing me, my children are trying to sleep!’ or ‘I have work in the morning’ became something of a motto for the croc-wearing liberals that seem to have forgotten the essence of the festival experience. They couldn’t dampen our spirits though as daylight beckoned.
Feeding fragility with fried foods seemed a wonderful way to start as we headed to the main stage for most promising line-up the weekend. First up, Hoosier. Granted, they gave it their best but no amount of Jeff Buckley-esque wailing could inspire the lethargic crowd. And then, the heavens opened. In the spirit of the festival and generally ‘wacky’ behaviour, we donned the nearest bin bags as makeshift ponchos and went about our business.
Blissfully, the sun broke through the clouds just in time for the limitlessly talented Andrew Bird who with his unique brand of tender vocals, charmed the seated crowd basking in the summer heat. Upping the ante, Cold War Kids stormed the stage with one of the most outstanding performance of the weekend. Their style of southern, bluesy rock really lends itself to the baking festival heat. And they’re not bad to look at either. Just in case things were getting a little too serious, The Rapture hit the main stage and chime through their greatest hits to the delight of the all ages crowd. Watching a middle aged bald man in a kagoul lose himself to House of Jealous Lovers was a truly heart-warming image.
Though we were all flagging, the music carried us through and on to the penultimate act of the festival, Jarvis Cocker. I have always liked Jarvis, mainly for his unabashed eccentricity but after the pleasure of watching him perform from the side of the stage – I am now a convert. The guy can do no wrong. Competently striding through his solo work, convulsing his body, using every inch of the stage and charming us with his wit – Jarvis, we were wooed even before your inspired cover version of Eye of the Tiger. With endorphins flowing we took our position for the universally adored Arcade Fire. What a climax. As a long time fan I was dubious that they might disappoint on stage. How wrong I was. Not only do they engage with the crowd, showing a playfulness which is not always found on their albums but they also play their little hearts out; bashing out each hit with passion and vigour fed off the crowd before them. The rain teased down again, but we cared not. We were dancing. Hats off to Latitude. I, for one will be back next year. But now the secret’s out….
Another dodgy-weather-weekend, medical another festival in London! This week the cool cats all bombed down to our beloved ask _East_London”target=”_blank”>Viccy P for Timeout’s Lovebox Weekender. Early shines were grim as the Hackney clouds amassed but the sun came out, sale the cheers went round and the Junior Boys continued their cracking set on the main stage like Hot Chip’s slightly dirty electro-bitch younger brother. Finally the scene was set, the punters were prepped with tinnies, tartiflette, falafel and another shits and giggles scenario began to unfold….
Beat boxing champion Beardy Man was our first host on Saturday keeping us entertained with vocal chord gymnastics through the classics. Patrick Wolf in all his beautiful insanity donned the stage; the skinny disco- violin- wielding- genius packed a rough, ready, steaming hot punch, wailing and screaming through a performance that set the bar very high very early on. With pre-song blurb relating his tracks to being held at knifepoint at Hackney Wick tube, East London’s favorite son forged a theme that lasted all weekend. This was a family affair; this was the Londoner’s festival.
Bringing in some Spanish flavour Ojos de Brujos had the Timeout stage in uproar in the early evening; we stumbled into the drunken mal-coordinated impromptu salsa class. They induced what was a truly seminal moment.
By the way… a few ciders on and nature takes its course so here’s a note for all the ladies out there who can’t wee standing and struggle to crouch in porta-loos! Lovebox provided the cleanest toilets I have seen all summer and with the boys and girls segregated you didn’t have to deal with the aftermath of the messier male contingent.
Cut-a-Shine had us pulling off a good old ho-down. Oh how we laughed, this lot sure know how to get the crowds moving…
Saturday night brought us Blondie, and thank God for it. Debbie’s legendary rock goddess status will always be safe as houses but on that fateful night she took herself to another level. The hottest person eligible for an OAP bus pass on the planet I fell in love with her all over again as she shimmied in a black and white striped number with rave Sunnies. The crowd was electric and I can say hand on heart I have never heard a rabble of people unified so perfectly in one voice as I did through Blondie’s show stopping rendition of Heart of Glass. I was kicked over by a giant Italian bunny rabbit and scooping me up we embraced and sang with all our might!
Sunday was rammed and the proverbial belt of rules was tightened with booze being confiscated on the gates and police were making their presence felt around the Trojan stage. But we rocked on in our after-affects-of-the-night-before haze. Again an early performance in the day from Hot Chip deserved another cream-of-the-crop, hands-down-we’re-not-worthy award. Similarly The Rapture offered up some afternoon goods in the blistering sunshine.
One of my personal faves of the day was Mr. Hudson and the Library banging out some bouncy ska in the Bassline Circus Tent. Sounding like a cross between The Police and what we could assume Jamie T would sound like if he could actually sing the beats – being strung out by some great keys and a steel drum. Later Toots and the Maytals took their sweet time getting onto the Timeout stage but I didn’t hear anyone grumble. Sadly it was so good I had to leave after being mildly damaged in a reggae mosh.
But onwards ever onwards to the last act of the festival…Groove Armada. Not a cloud in the sky, dusk falling about our ears GA put on a stonking show more then worthy of their ultimate position in the line up. The goose-bump inducing At the River got everyone into the flow before we were all eaten by funk shaking our asses and boogieing like we meant business.
When I finally got into bed my feet ached from dancing and my mouth ached from laughing. Small, intimate with a perfectly crafted line-up, the highlight of my summer so far. The Lovebox is a little ol’ place where we can get together, so for the love of everything sacred, next year go!
Without any prior knowledge of Icelandic sextuplet Jakobinarina, viagra 100mg one would be forgiven for assuming they were some sort of experimental electro nu rave outfit; something the record labels have latched onto and have been forcing down our throats since 2005. Not so. Instead, I was treated to a nostalgic trip back into my teenagehood when for several years I only listened to aggressive ‘so-cal punk’ and dressed like a lesbian skateboarder. It seems Northern Europe has decided not to ditch this once vibrant and popular scene in favour of other forms of new-folk or computerized indie as de rigeur in the UK. The songs were fast, adequately aggressive and edged with fast riffs and throbbing drums. Unsurprising considering the band were formed from the ashes of former straight ahead punk band, Lufthansa.
With an average age of 17, these young upstarts look slightly reticent on stage this is not helped by the fact that Koko failed to draw a big crowd until past midnight for headliners Electric Soft Parade. This is shame as it is essentially one of the only weekly band nights that consistently delivers big names and new music. Lead singer, Gunnar Bergmann shows promise, delivering his shouty lyrics with conviction and confidence. While competent with their instruments the remaining band members could use a red bull or two. Although the punk undertones are instantly recognizable, it is difficult to pigeon hole Jakobinarina as the next Millencolin. Keyboards and samples flit in and out of the set but rather than dominate, they enhance the power of the guitars and aggressive vocals. Collaborations with Klaxons and Simian Mobile Disco also serve to make Jakobinarina a confusing yet exciting group. To hazard a guess at what the future might hold for Jakobinarina; perhaps a downsize and another solid year of gigging to reach a place of confidence and influence, capable of bringing this once thriving rock/punk genre back to the fore. In Iceland and much further beyond.
Velvet Voiced Joan Wasser pops up with new offering ‘Real Life’ following recent headline shows at Shepherds Bush Empire and an appearance at Lattitude festival. Having earned her salt as a band member backing both Rufus Wainwright and Anthony Hegarty – Joan As Police Woman have slowly accumulated a reputation of worth, price aided no doubt by a relentless touring slog. This stealthy progress appears to have stalled somewhat however with the dissapointing ‘Real Life’.
Sparse, click plodding piano features for the main part – and this would be fine if the lyric had something meaningful to say. But it doesn’t and this results in the instrumentation appearing lazy and tiresome. Sure, her voice is easy on the ear, pretty in fact, but it also lacks the substance needed to drag this out if the depths of mediocrity.
The final minute passes in a comparatively enjoyable fashion thanks to the much needed addition of strings that sit nicely under the mix in an understated fashion. But this is scant consellation really. A record that deserves little attention.
It’s been 3 years since The Go! Team charmed us all silly with their marvellous debut album ‘Thunder, adiposity Lightning, cialis 40mg Strike’ –garnering a mercury nomination in the process. This then, story is the first cut off their second long player ‘Proof Of Youth’ scheduled for release at the tail end of summer.
Initial inspection reveals a rather curious affair. ‘Grip like a vice’ seemingly does anything but what its says on the tin. It runs just shy of four minutes but fails to engage for the duration – for a comeback single this simply won’t do. But, thankfully, all is not lost as is a record whose true colours are slow in coming to fruition, but what colours! This is electro garage fusion courtesy of fly girl raps, howling keyboards, and mammoth drums. Yep, they still pack a punch, and then some.
Given a little time ‘Grip like a vice’ eventually serves as a lovely little taster of (hopefully) further good things to come. Welcome back The Go! Team.
A Herb Ritts photograph is instantly recognisable and admittedly my first thought on seeing his early work at the rather stuffy Hamiltons Gallery was, treat ‘It’s all a bit Athena isn’t it’. As obvious as it sounds there is something incredibly late 80s/early 90s about his work. Take ‘Fred with tires’, one of his most popular prints featuring a muscle bound mechanic looking intensely at well, some tires. Homo-erotic seemed to be the order of the day. In effect, his photography is so of it’s era that your immediate reaction is to be a bit sneering. The days of buff young oil covered men and girls in tennis skirts adorning our living room walls are well and truly over. The 80s have become just one big ironic joke.
However, it was time to stop being smug, the fact is I actually love Herb Ritts. This is the man that gave us a crotch grabbing Madonna on the cover of True Blue and the Mer-boy in the ‘Cherish’ video. Remember the genius that was ‘Keep it in the closet’ featuring Miss Naomi Campbell? Herb was perhaps the only man to make Michael Jackson look sexy in a video. The infamous ‘Cindy Crawford straddling KD Lang’ shot ….the list goes on. Rather than being some anachronistic relic of the late 20th century, Herb actually helped define the aesthetic of the time, making black and white indicative of all that was fashionable and cutting-edge. Perhaps it was incredibly commercial and a touch cheesy but it worked. So, as much out of nostalgia than admiration I actually started to enjoy the exhibition.
A collection of his most well-known work, it covers all bases from his striking figurative work, all intense poses and clean lines, to his adventures in the world of celebrity portraiture. Tom Cruise (1994) and Nicole Kidman (1999) never looked better. His work with the A-list isn’t about creating the definitive image of his subject but stripping away the glitz and glamour and finding something new. In addition his more surrealist side is represented with works such as Mask (1989) and Djimon with Octopus (1989) as well as his near obsession with the body, specifically ‘skin’ (covered in oil, dusted in sand, dripping with sweat…), present throughout the exhibition. A great collection that rarely sees the light of day, wherever you are Mr Ritts, I apologise for ever doubting you.
Trundling around a field in the grounds of a beautiful Georgian farmhouse, help surrounded by colourful tents, remedy tucking into an page ,1921908,00.html”target=”_blank”>organic pie and a pint of pimms– it doesn’t get much more boutique than this. Secret Garden Party won the Sunday Times Small Festival award in 2004 and now in its fourth year, this not-so-secret little festival delivered its usual feast of foolishness and decadence, and quite a lot of good music too.
Sliding through the muddy gates on a sunny Friday afternoon we were immediately transported into a weird wonderland of beautiful tents and flags. The Head Gardeners reduced the numbers and enlarged the area this year, and also rearranged a lot of the stages so, unlike last year we didn’t have to take to sliding transport in a huge bath to avoid falling over.
There were ten stages scattered around a huge lake- my personal favourite was the Pontoon stage right on the water where we spent many a happy hour dancing to reggae in ballgowns. There are tents for dancing and drinking, but much more common are those for dressing up, body painting, wearing orange, celebrating New Days Eve every night at 12, even a tent where outside was a sign reading “Warning- vaginas drying” with ten painted vagina moulds lined up neatly next to it.
There is so much going on it can be almost overwhelming and, compared with bigger festivals, there is a much stronger emphasis on the non-musical fun and games. You basically spend four days doing whatever tickles your fancy, and living in a world of expensive decadence that takes more than a few days recovery. When raving in the Remix tent got too much we simply wandered off to sip tea in Granny’s caravan. Sunday morning was spent in a hula-hooping competition with all the other overgrown children at the Kid’s Tent and then mud wrestling with the Suicide Sports Club.
Saturday night we speed dated in a horn shaped tube of wooden palettes. One enthusiastic participant ended up with his head stuck in a palette. Luckily a German in an all in one leotard was on hand to help. Art installations like this one were scattered around everywhere. A huge white box with a maze of passages inside it rewarded those sober enough to make it through with a panoramic view of the whole site. From here we watched the launch of twenty Chinese lanterns into the sky whilst a huge pink hand on a floating island was set alight on the lake.
For all the fun and games there was actually some music too. It’s pretty much impossible to get a handle on everything from such a long list of varied acts, and it is a testament to the Gardeners that you always know there’s something equally exciting going on somewhere else. The closest thing to headliners were Echo and the Bunnymen, who let us know before a magical rendition of The Killing Moon that it is “the greatest song ever written”. Any smidge of arrogance is most definitely forgiven as, dancing in the sun next to two six foot octopuses, it certainly felt like it was. New Young Pony Club were the next biggest attraction. They drew the biggest crowd of the weekend and while it rained, we danced and danced. Ice Cream got the crowd thumping but overall they were a little uninspiring, rushing through their set and looking a little bit pissed off the whole way through. The Noisettes and their should-have-been-huge single Scratch my Name pulled everyone to the front of the stage too, and much more deservedly.
It was at this point that I lost my friend to the Where The Wild Things Are tent for a set by Timid Tiger, who seemed to have blown him away when I eventually found him tucking in to a Moroccan feast in the food wonderland. He was happy as larry and assures me they’re worth a listen. People definitely weren’t there for the big names and the happiest times were spent abandoning the muddy set list and just seeing what you fell upon- be it Kate Walsh’s flowers-in-her-hair Norah Jones style sleepy magic, or the sarcastic sign outside the Living Room Tent telling us that Kate Nash’s ‘people’ unfortunately felt that small festivals weren’t really her bag. Her loss I’d say. Beans on Toast popped up on the stage next to me whilst I was reading Harry Potter in a hammock and armed with two litres of White Lightning he sang us through an array of topics – “Sex, drugs or politics?” he asked at the beginning of each song, and proceeded to let us know his opinions. If not the most accomplished musician, which he is first to admit, he drew a full crowd of giggling spectators. Sunday afternoon’s highlight was Peter and the Wolf, and sipping raspberry cider whilst listening to their energetic interpretation of acoustic- tambourines, double bass, trombones, recorders and violins all enter the mix, was near perfect. Alabama 3, Fugiya and Miyagi and the New York Fund all pelted the Main Stage with equal perfection.
As for dancing-till-the-early-hours music, Utah Saints’ breaks and beats on Friday got the Remix tent going with a promising set, until one Klaxons remix too many shunted off even the most inebriated. A bit disappointing, but we turned to the Looniverse tent for help the next two nights, and this was where the magic happened. Their upbeat brand of ska, swing, tribal beats, electronica, gypsy, folk and funk was much more in keeping with the spirit of us silly revellers, and we only stopped for a short break to watch the Feast of Fools perform an intriguing and surreal kind of pagan ceremony. Novelty festival hats off to them for keeping their performances going practically the whole weekend, and to all the organisers of the fun and frolics that got everyone involved- one intention of this small festival that was definitely achieved. Weird and wonderful, decadent and foolish, Secret Garden Party is something special. I’ll be coming back next year, as should you.
Categories ,Festival, ,Indie, ,Klaxons, ,Live, ,Secret Garden Party
- Secret Garden Party 2010: Sunday Review
- Festival Preview: Secret Garden Party
- Secret Garden Party: The Festival Preview Series
- Reading Festival 2010 Round Up