Alternative music reviews

October 30, 2008

We Are Not Other People by Paul Hawkins & Thee Awkward Silences

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We are Not Other PeopleSometimes there’s an assumption that Rock/Pop music can only be made by good looking young people with tuneful voices, when the truth is most are not worthy of cleaning Mark E Smith’s toilet seat. A lot of people will find it astonishing that Paul Hawkins is allowed to make records with a nasal whine that hits few notes. But, the truth is that he is one of the few original voices in music today and what’s more…he even writes about Real Life (or something pretty close to it).

There is an honesty about Paul Hawkins’ songwriting that marks him out as different. While earnest singer/songwriters write songs that show how sensitive and intelligent they are, Paul almost revels in portraying himself in a harsh light and is not afraid of appearing a complete arsehole. It was an approach used by Patrik Fitzgerald back in Punk times. There are musical parallels with Punk in songs like There Ain’t No Carrot, There Ain’t No Stick but mostly it is in the in-your-face vocals and fearless lyrics that the Punk spirit continues. As an album, We Are Not Other People is uneven and can annoy, amuse or fascinate at different times – but it just won’t allow itself to be treated as background.

I Had A Friend In Sarah Vincent is a near ten minute song about murder and betrayal set in the early years of the 20th Century. Throwing in the claustrophobia of village life, animal passion, unrequited love, and jealousy, Paul Hawkins leads you into a story that ends in a hanging, like all good stories do…

I Had A Friend In Sarah Vincent by Paul Hawkins

I Had A Friend In Sarah Vincent by Paul Hawkins & Thee Awkward Silences (clip)

On The Battle Is Over Paul comes right up to date and sings about a soldier returning from a war in foreign lands. Problem is his wife won’t have him back. The song contains some great male:female duelling vocals – courtesy of Diana De Cabarrus from Candythief – with lines like “I went and fought a war for you” vs “Well I never, ever asked you to” and “I defended my country in it’s hour of need” vs “It was hardly on its knees”.

The Battle Is Over by Paul Hawkins

The Battle Is Over by Paul Hawkins & Thee Awkward Silences (clip)

Big Dave described this track as “like Jilted John trying to do Nick Cave with a backing by the Invisible Girls”. I think he meant it as a criticism – but I’m quite happy with that as a description of Paul Hawkins & The Awkward Silences.

Paul Hawkins & Thee Awkward Silences

October 27, 2008

Not quiet enough…

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David Eugene Edwards often throws in a cover version on an album. I well remember 16 Horsepower doing Dylan’s Nobody ‘Cept You on their “Secret South” album in 2000 – my first reaction was nausea. Later this would lead to abject horror as I realised there was not one single redeeming feature of the song and this is perhaps the reason why I didn’t buy the follow up “Folklore” until this year. I did however get hold of two live albums in between times, both of which featured Joy Division covers and found both 24 Hours and Day Of The Lords magnificent.

I’ve been listening to the David Eugene Edwards latest release: “Ten Stones” by Woven Hand. It’s a very good album full of accomplished menacing Gothic. But it does have one track, Quiet Nights Of Quiet Stars, that is a cover of a song once performed by Frank Sinatra. Look, it’s a great album but this particular part is a real stinker and has even reminded me of ‘Big Band Night’ on X-Factor.

Quiet Nights Of Quiet Stars by Woven Hand

Quiet Nights Of Quiet Stars by Woven Hand

October 24, 2008

Scotland’s Shame – Mogwai, Manchester Academy, October 23rd, 2008

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When I grow up, I’d like to be in a band. That band would be modest, humble yet personable, and make epic sonic soundscapes that move from quieter than a frozen leaf in winter to an aural assault that would bring down the walls of Jericho. Simple yet complex. Slow yet fast. Quiet then loud (and then louder still). That band would be Mogwai. I can’t remember the last time I saw a band where every second of every song banished all extraneous thought (actually, it was probably the last time I saw them) and where for 90-odd minutes I just lived for the moment. Maybe in my advanced years I should have left for a cocoa and a chocolate hobnob rather than stayed for the encore and emerged bleeding from all orifices after a double whammy of ‘Like Herod’ and ‘Batcat’. (‘Mogwai fear Satan’ has now been downgraded to earlier in the set…).

I have a problem with Mogwai and song titles, and tend to refer to them as ‘that one’ or ‘this one’, but have managed to remember that my new best all-time fave track is ‘Scotland’s Shame’. This was my personal highlight. It demonstrates the later maturity of Mogwai’s work – in contrast to quickfire quiet/loud/quiet/loud contrasts, this builds from a simple keyboard motif, growing in stature and grandeur as the various instruments are introduced and make their presence felt, over a thumpingly martial tom-tom/bass beat growing to a crescendo before gradually fading away to leave a final plaintive keyboard. No lyrics? None needed. Currently number one on my funeral playlist.

Oh, and the Fuck Buttons? Sounded like the early Human League, or Dave and I pissing about with our synthmaker packages for half an hour. Inoffensive, unoriginal, nothing to get excited about. And that name’s not big or clever…

Review by Big Dave

October 20, 2008

Ten Kens

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Ten KensThis is the debut album for Toronto’s Ten Kens on Fat Cat records. They produce a BIG sound, particularly for a three piece, and work in an area where the music is more important than any singing, as with Arcade Fire. They are not afraid to mix radically different styles whether it be the clear melodies of Prodigal Son, the Duanne Eddy guitar on Alternate Biker, or the twisted Tex-Mex shout and singalong of Spanish Fly.

Spanish Fly by Ten Kens

Spanish Fly by Ten Kens (clip)

There are many incredible sections of sound on this album but, for me, not one track that is wholly satisfying. This perhaps reflects my own love of the narrative ‘song’ as much as the Ten Kens penchant for mixing everything up. I’ve got this funny suspicion that Ten Kens are going to make a great album and that this debut is going to be loved in retrospect, like Bleach was after Nevermind with Nirvana.

The Whore Of Revelation by Ten Kens

The Whore Of Revelation by Ten Kens (clip)

Ten Kens

October 13, 2008

Acedia by History Of Guns

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Is not acedia the original perception of alienation and revolt against complacency and the burdens of culture? Is it the angst of Kierkegaard, the “nausea” of Sartre, the alienation and revolt of existentialists from Camus to Marcel? Acedia is never without a sense of guilt or complicity, not as sin but as complicity in the horrors of contemporary life. To the modern mind, acedia remains real and relevant. It is a personal statement against the contrivances of culture, the hypocrisy of public morality, alienation from the natural patterns of nature and simplicity.


AcediaStrangely enough the quote above just about sums up what History Of Guns seem to be saying on this their latest album. Rather than ponder the condition of Acedia from a religious hermit’s point of view, they stamp and rail against the world, spitting venom on everything around them. It is a hopeless and loathsome album in the sense that it is full of loathing and offers no hope of a solution. It is this purity of thought, coupled with complete control over exactly how much noise to make that makes this a great, if uncompromising album. There is the tension between the electronics and those angry strangulated vocals topped off with some vicious guitar playing.

Empty Eyes by History Of Guns

Empty Eyes by History Of Guns

This concentrated bleakness of vision makes it History Of Guns’ best and most disciplined album so far. The enjoyment I get from it is similar to that of albums like Unknown Pleasures – it isn’t pleasant but it takes me into a world I recognise and need to explore. There are a few moments of quietness but even the piano breaks in …I’ll Be Waiting are threatening like the Halloween theme tune.

…I’ll Be Waiting by History Of Guns

…but I’ll Be Waiting by History Of Guns (clip)

If you have ever felt that life is about being born, brutalised, bought then buried, then you need to feed the paranoia with this album.

Empty Eyes and …but I’ll Be Waiting are available for a limited time as a free download at Lineout records where you can also order the album.

My Ringtone

Filed under: ramblings — @ 6:19 pm Comments (1)

I thought I’d post my mobile phone ringtone because the bastard contraption rarely plays it (defaulting to the Nokia craptone). It gives me a chance to hear it and anyone who reads this blog is welcome to guess what it is

Guess What


October 7, 2008

The Nature Of Genius – Townes Van Zandt

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I have spent a lot of time listening to Townes Van Zandt and recently watched the film “Be Here To Love me”. He was an American Singer/Songwriter who played Folk/Country/Blues music from the late 60’s to his death on New Years Day 1997. He became famous through other people’s covers of his songs – Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard and Emmylou Harris had hits with his work. The reverence in which he is held is best expressed by the much repeated Steve Earle quote: “the best songwriter in the whole world and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that”. If you delve in fans’ reactions then you will find many people who learned to understand their own torments through his work.

He led a troubled life with addiction to drink and drugs, and even electroshock treatment at one point, until he got help from a Behavioral Health FL rehab center. All of these experiences were expressed in his songs and you can feel the pain and the use of the pain to produce great art. The trouble with Townes’s music is that he seemed to care so little about recording that many tracks were spoilt by over-orchestration (of the slightly cheesy sort). But if you dig deep then I would reckon that he wrote/played 10 of the greatest songs ever written (Marie, Flying Shoes, Nothin’, Waiting Around to Die and others).

Despite all my obsession with the doomed Rock Star, the part of the film that most affected me was the recollections of his six year old son’s trip to see his father. His son JT rang home to his mother at two in the morning asking to come home – the much anticipated experience turned out to be too disturbing for this youngster. As a father myself, I just thought give up your genius and become a good Dad. As a postscript, JT has become an artist and does a mean version of his father’s songs.

Be Here To Love Me Trailer

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