vendredi, décembre 31, 2004

Stone Roses

No second coming as Squire's attack on Ian Brown kills off talk of a Stone Roses revival

By Louise Jury, Arts Correspondent

31 December 2004

A bitter attack on the former Stone Roses front man Ian Brown by the band's guitarist, John Squire, looks to be the final blow to hopes that they might reform.

Fans of the band, whose eponymous first album in 1989 put them in the forefront of the music scene, have long lamented the split in 1996 after a schism between Squire and Brown.

They were thrilled this year when a tour by Brown saw him eschewing the solo material he has produced in recent years in favour of performing favourites from the Stone Roses back catalogue instead.

But Brown's fierce insistence that he wanted a Roses tribute band, Fools Gold , as support was evidence that tensions remained. He claimed the band had received offers of £1m to perform in 2005, but that he would not do it "just for the cash".

A scathing attack by John Squire in the latest issue of Q magazine looks set to dash the fans' hopes for good. Brown has previously blamed Squire's use of cocaine for problems during the making of their second album Second Coming . But the guitarist now insists his intake was moderate. "If I had been strung out, I couldn't have made that record," he said.

Instead, he attributes the difficulties to Brown's fondness for marijuana, claiming Brown was almost incomprehensible at times. "Ian smoked too much dope. When he was stoned, he was at best a tuneless knob and at worst a paranoid mess," he said.

The Stone Roses had descended into rock excess after winning fame and fortune at the beginning of the 1990s. As legal proceedings to release them from a poor record deal and sign them to a bigger label dragged on, the band slowly fell apart and never hit the musical heights again.

©2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd. All rights reserved

jeudi, décembre 30, 2004

Linkin Park

Linkin Park Donate $100,000 To Tsunami Victims and Families

by Paul Cashmere

30 December 2004

Linkin Park has formed 'Music For Relief', a charity to raise money for victims and families of the Tsunami which torn through South-East Asia on Sunday.

'Music For Relief' will donate all proceeds to the Red Cross to assist with relief efforts.

The kick-start the appeal, the band has donated $100,000 towards the cause. "We are fortunate to be in a position to help, but this needs to be a broader effort -- both by our fans and by other musicians" says LP's Brad Delson. "If one of our fans can donate $10, then that's going to help. We are also going to appeal to our musical peers by asking them to donate as well. The bottom line is the more we can do, and the quicker we can do it, the more lives we can save."

Linkin Park played in some of the devastated areas earlier this year. Their shows in Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia were the biggest rock concerts in those countries in the past 10 years.

Delson says "The outpouring of emotion from our fans there was overwhelming -- it really affected us. We opened 'Music For Relief' so that our fellow musicians and fans can give in this time of need to the families of the over 70,000 people who have perished. This money will also be used to aid the millions left homeless by this natural disaster, it's our way of giving back to the people who so desperately need it."

Fans can donate to 'Music For Relief' at

Fiona Apple

Fiona Apple Fans Petition Sony

by Paul Cashmere

30 December 2004

Fiona Apple fans are pissed off with Sony for not releasing the singer's third album 'Extraordinary Machine'.

Despite her two previous albums going Platinum for sales of more than 1 million in the USA, 'Extraordinary Machine' was shelved with producer Jon Brion even stating that it had no obvious single.

Her previous albums "Tidal" (1996) and "When the Pawn..." (2000) were major successes for Sony 'Extraordinary Machine' is considered "too experimental" and will not be released.

Apple fan Dave Muscato, himself a musician, has started the Free Fiona campaign to petition Sony to put out the record Fiona completed in 2003.

"Sony has a responsibility to its shareholders, but it also has a very important responsibility to the art of music itself," he says in a statement at "They should focus on the real problem - file sharing - and not some short-sighted and very harmful way to raise profits."

Muscato has started the website and so far has gathered more than 13,000 signatures protesting the non-appearance of the album.

mardi, décembre 28, 2004

The Concretes

A woozy, boozy way with sound

A Swedish art-school group is taking a softly-softly approach to songwriting

By Kevin Harley

28 December 2004

The Concretes are the finest pop package to come out of Sweden since The Hives, with the music of the Stockholm octet recalling everything from The Ronettes and Dexy's Midnight Runners to the Velvet Underground. They've even skirted the seasonal-pop pitfalls of a Christmas-themed release with the Warm Night EP.

"Christmas songs are one of the few nice things about Christmas," shrugs Lisa Milberg, the band's drummer. "The first cover version we ever did was Elvis Presley's 'I'll Be Home for Christmas'. The EP tracks don't sound like Christmas songs, though. They're just songs, really."

She's right, of course. It's a winningly soft oasis that should prompt you to pick up their doozy of a debut album: a languid, lovelorn art-pop thing, which sets a mix of honey-warm soul, fizzy girl-pop and fuzzy 4am balladry to a woozy wash of sound, led by the sleepy-cat croon of their wig-wearing, interview-shy singer, Victoria Bergsman.

Like the sometimes orchestra-augmented Tindersticks, The Concretes use a host of contributors - eight core members plus 12 "honorary Concretes" - to rich effect. "I don't think we made a conscious decision to say, 'Let's keep it quiet'," says Milberg. "I just think everyone is modest, no big egos, and ready to step back."

Playing quietly for The Concretes is about dynamics. "Everything becomes more important," says Daniel Värjö, one of the guitarists, "because when you play something, you really hear it. And to make a decision to not play is also to play, actually. The silent parts in music are still music."

The Concretes were surely noisier as a three-piece a decade ago. When Milberg and Maria Eriksson (guitars) met Bergsman at art school, The Concretes were born. "We played rockabilly songs then," says Milberg. The band evolved into their present form in the late 1990s, when musicians moonlighting from other bands for one gig winded up staying. "I think we were scared to play in front of each other," says Milberg, "so we just drank lots of wine and beer and jammed for hours drunk."

But if Eriksson pitches their sound as "drunken pop music", it's more about prioritising feeling over proficiency than drinking. You won't catch this band using click tracks to fix a tempo. "I blame England," says Milberg. "Here, more than anywhere else, everything has to be perfect: no mistakes."

But while they have a flexible approach to rhythm, the eight members are the archetypal art-school concept band when it comes to controlling all their bases, setting up their own label, and designing their artwork and videos. "We pay a lot of attention to the artwork," Milberg nods. "People make fun of us because of where me and Victoria met. 'Surprise! They met in art school!'"

The 'Warm Night' EP and 'The Concretes' are out now on Licking Fingers. The Concretes support St Etienne at Shepherds Bush Empire, London W12 (0115-912 9000) on New Year's Eve

©2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd. All rights reserved

vendredi, décembre 24, 2004

You rock my world

Who are the artists' artists of the year? From Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand to the R&B singer Jamelia to the chanteuse Françoise Hardy, the stars reveal to James McNair the records that have been the soundtrack to their past 12 months

24 December 2004

Elvis Costello, singer-songwriter

Real Gone by Tom Waits

This is my absolute favourite. This one lets us see Waits detached from the words "gravel", "gutter" and "gin-soaked". Behold the righteous anger of "Hoist That Flag", the Turkish mystery of "Trampled Rose", the mad roll call that closes "Don't Go Into That Barn", and the frightened sanity of the soldier in "The Day After Tomorrow". There is real beauty in this record; the elusive ear of Kathleen Brennan [Wait's wife and musical collaborator] in the heart of the words; son, Casey, on traps; and the untameable guitar of Marc Ribot, who once described a track as, "like rock and roll after America has been conquered by a Small African Republic". It's all here, and "Horse Face Ethel" and her marvellous "Pigs in Satin".

Mel C, solo artist

Happiness in Magazines by Graham Coxon

Sometimes I have to rack my brains with questions like this, but this year it's easy: Graham Coxon, Happiness In Magazines. It's had the monopoly on my iPod. I'd heard his earlier solo stuff, but this was the first album of his I really got into. When he was still with Blur, I think he was a bit overlooked, but on this record everything seemed to come together. The songs are great, his voice is great, and the recordings are great, too. There's a lot of humour in a song like "People of the Earth", so it was great to see someone with so much credibility just having fun. It's the perfect song to dance to drunk at a party. Overall, it's quite a rocky, poppy album. You can really hear how influential he was in creating the Blur sound.

Robert Plant, singer

Rubber Factory by The Black Keys.

"I like my coffee in the morning, I'm crazy about my tea at night. Sugar mama, where'd you get your sugar from?" Skip James, Jack Owens and Bentonia Mississippi come screaming out of this collection. Praise the Lord.

Tom Chaplin, singer, Keane

Want One by Rufus Wainwright

Near the beginning of the year, I was introduced to the Rufus Wainwright record Want One. I immediately fell in love with his melodies and arrangements, but most of all with his beautifully observed lyrics, from acutely personal love songs like "Vibrate" to world-weary songs of loss like "11:11". The journey was completed later in the year by seeing his live show at The Barbican, in London. In a year of personal highlights for me, it has been great to discover that there are songwriters who can still inspire and move me in such a strong way.

Jared Followill, bass guitarist, Kings of Leon

Hot Fuss by The Killers and Antics by Interpol

The thing that I've been listening to most is The Stills' Logic Will Break Your Heart, but maybe that came out at the end of 2003? As a band we really liked Hot Fuss by The Killers and Antics by Interpol, but The Stills' album is the one that's constantly been on my stereo. It's an awesome record that's brilliantly recorded. It always puts me in a happy space, and it reminds me of being home in Tennessee driving around Nashville or going to parties with my friends.

Baxter Dury, singer-songwriter

The Libertines by The Libertines

I've chosen this mainly because that's the album I was closest to. They are friends of mine and I know the uncut, un-tabloid story behind them, so I listened passionately. "Music When the Lights Go Out" is dark and poetic and beautiful. I love "What Katy Did", too. It's a great rock 'n' roll tune. As musicians they can be great and terrible, but I like the honesty of that. They were writing brilliantly about chaos as they were going through it, and that's quite a skill. As an album, it's the musical equivalent of war journalism. People are genuinely worried about those boys.

Jamelia, R&B singer

Scissor Sisters by Scissor Sisters

This is an amazing album. It's on my iPod all the time. They write really great songs. There's definitely something for everyone on the album. No matter what sort of thing you are normally into, there will be at least one song you will love.

Tim Burgess, singer, The Charlatans

Five Guys Walk Into a Bar by The Faces

If someone else has picked The Libertines album, I'll choose The Faces box-set reissue, Five Guys Walk Into A Bar. I was fortunate enough to get my copy as a signed present from Ronnie [Wood, ex Faces guitarist], so that meant a lot to me before I'd even played it. I had all the individual albums already, but hearing the out-takes and everything made me realise what a fantastic band they were. They were on fire, and nobody had a voice like Rod Stewart's. The haircuts, the ciggies, the clothes - so many bands have tried to base their look on The Faces. And any group with an instrumental called "Oh Lord I'm Browned Off" has to be worth a listen.

Christine Tobin, jazz singer

Egypt by Youssou N'Dour

Back in the spring, I heard a snippet on BBC Radio 3. The combination of his voice and the Egyptian orchestra is amazing - the scales and harmonies are very evocative. I was a fan of Youssou's before, but I hadn't heard him in such a traditional and moving context. I got goose bumps down my arm, and thought: "I have to get this record." There's a quote on the back of the sleeve which says love in Islam is not intellectual, but visceral, and that's how the album hits me. It gets you in the guts while putting over a lot of compassion. When he performed the album at The Barbican, I was in the second row. I wanted to make sure I caught everything. The audience was really moved. You could see it.

Grasshopper, guitarist, Mercury Rev

Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

The production and the use of the gospel choir is very powerful, and I think "Breathless" is an amazing love song. A friend of mine thinks it's a love song to God, but I'm not so sure. Nick's a great lyricist, and Warren Ellis and Mick Harvey are fabulous musicians. I really liked [former Bad Seeds guitarist] Blixa Bargeld, too, but maybe his departure lead to new ways of working. We toured with Nick, and it was really intense. He had the gospel singers with him, and every song he did from the new records worked perfectly. I also loved Real Gone by Tom Waits.

Ian Broudie, songwriter and producer

These Were The Earlies by The Earlies

I always liked The Beta Band, and to me, The Earlies' album had that kind of vibe about it: free-spirited, with interesting soundscapes. They're really on to something. These days, I'm into hearing strong group performances rather than constructed records, so I liked the Bees' Free The Bees album as well.

Dizzee Rascal, MC and producer

Showtime by Dizzee Rascal

Nothin' else even comes close.

Graham Coxon, singer-songwriter

The Libertines by The Libertines

Pumpin' hearts worn on bloody shirt-sleeves. The sound of brogues a-stampin' and drums a-poundin', drivin' ciggie-ripped voices to the confessional. And sweetness, too. Tenderness to the brim. Peter and Carl, England's most precious for 20 years.

Grant Nicholas, song writer, guitarist, Feeder

Talkie Walkie by Air

I got into them after hearing "Sexy Boy", which I instantly loved. I like their romanticism and melody, and they have a unique way with textures. Talkie Walkie was a return to the more direct sound of Moon Safari, which was probably the most overplayed lift music ever, but still undeniably great. Their attention to detail is never diluted. French electro at its best. Love it.

Rachel Stevens, singer

Scissor Sisters by Scissor Sisters

I loved Scissor Sisters, especially "Return to Oz", "Laura" and "Take Your Mama Out". It's just the right mix of trashy disco - perfect for getting ready for a night out with the girls. They've got a great look and I think they're a breath of fresh air. I'm going to make a point of seeing them in 2005 as everyone who has seen them live has said they are amazing.

Andy Scott, guitarist, The Sweet

Smile by Brian Wilson.

Having been a Beach Boys fan for many years, I found it incredible that they were going to re-record an album that had been shelved for so long. I'd heard snippets of the original recordings in bootleg form, but to hear it in its entirety was wonderful. He was working with huge vocal swathes almost in a choral way, and some of the record is really off the wall. I bought it on the day of release and I've been playing it in my car ever since. Back in the early Seventies, when The Sweet were mixing harmony singing with hard rock, Brian Wilson's vocal arrangements were definitely an influence.

Liela Moss, singer, The Duke Spirit

Fur by The Archie Bronson Outfit.

I found it very inspiring. They make tense, raw, brutal blues music and their drummer Mark writes all the lyrics. The song titles and their use of imagery really turn me on. They have this song, "Armour for a Broken Heart", and I liked that idea of having to bolster something that's been shattered, and the idea of the song being a kind of armour in itself. They also have this song called "Blood Heat" with a very menacing groove. Their music obviously dwells in a dark place, but it never comes across as a clichéd, Gothic thing. There's a yearning about it and it's totally honest.

Will Young, singer

Aha Shake Heartbreak by Kings of Leon

My favourite of 2004 has been the reissue of John Martyn's 1977 album, One World. The production is really special, and it sounds totally unique for that time - I love it. What's so great about John is that he never sounds the same from album to album. The other band that I've been into this year is Kings Of Leon. Aha Shake Heartbreak is fantastic.

Richard Jones, bassist, Stereophonics

Aha Shake Heartbreak by Kings of Leon

This was the first album in a long time that I instantly liked. Good songs that take you through different moods, and a big step on from their first album. "Milk" was totally unexpected and blew me away! "The Bucket" was a real stand out single, too.

Estelle, singer-MC

College Dropout by Kanye West

This was my favourite because it had consistent bangers that were about more than who was having sex and who had the most diamonds. It is a good barometer of how complex life is right now for a young person.

Jamie Cullum, jazz singer

Strangers by Ed Harcourt

This works effortlessly on many levels - as a pop record and something rather more rewarding. Tracks like "Born in the '70s" glisten with pop hooks while transporting you somewhere with imagery and poetry. The instrumentation is varied (with Ed playing many of the instruments himself) and the performances mostly sound like fresh, first takes. This is a near-perfect album from a UK songwriter who deserves a worldwide reputation. I am totally inspired by his work.

Françoise Hardy, singer-songwriter

The Girl In the Other Room by Diana Krall.

The tunes are of excellent quality and she plays piano with great sensitivity. My performer of the year would be the beautiful Katie Melua. I saw her play "The Closest Thing to Crazy" on French television, just her and her guitar. Très minimalist and completely mesmerising.

Glen Tilbrook, singer, songwriter

Who Killed The Zutons? by The Zutons

No one else has nominated it? I find that really strange. I saw them supporting The Coral at Lancaster University about three years ago and thought they were fantastic. The album seemed to take ages to come out, but when it did I was delighted with it. They take a disparate bunch of influences and create something that's completely their own and they have nothing to do with what's going on in the mainstream. That's a Liverpudlian trait, which I endlessly admire. When I saw them at the V Festival last year they were wearing weird yellow outfits, which is always good.

Aidan Moffat, of Arab Strap and L Pierre

Thunder, Lightning, Strike by The Go! Team

There are too many great records to pick one true winner, so I'll choose the most mood-altering - The Go! Team's Thunder, Lightning, Strike is by far the happiest album of the year, and I would defy anyone not to smile when it's on. Its highly illegal sampling lends it a rock 'n' roll attitude and displays a very eclectic palate, too. It's a perfect morning album and a perfect night-out album and it makes me want to jump about and hug people. I can only hope they'll be enormous next year and do a Christmas single.

Cheryl Tweedy, singer, Girls Aloud

Floacism "Live" by Floetry.

The dynamic between the two girls is amazing and I think they have a unique style combining singing and rapping - so much more exciting than all the samey R&B that has been around all year. The singer has an incredible vocal range and is probably one of the best soul voices from the UK. I can't believe Floetry aren't bigger in this country. I've been playing the CD on our tour bus a lot. "Say Yes" and "Headache" are my two favourite songs.

John Yates, singer, songwriter, Ella Guru

Micah P Hinson and The Gospel of Progress by Micah P Hinson

The sound of lost Texan soul let loose in England, with great arrangements by our new friends The Earlies. It is a collaboration fitting for the album's bleak but strangely positive outlook. Warm, comforting, honest songs.

Jimi Goodwin, singer and bass guitarist, Doves

Bubblegum by Mark Lanegan

My favourite album of the year without a doubt is Mark Lanegan's Bubblegum. The flow of the album is great and I think he's got the most blinding voice.

Matt Hales, singer, Aqualung

A Ghost Is Born by Wilco

I was introduced to Wilco last year while working on my second record. Their Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album blew my mind, showing me that the combination of Jeff Tweedy and Jim O'Rourke could produce miraculous music. When A Ghost Is Born came out, I rushed out to buy it, which is not something I often do. Everything from the typeface on the cover to the music within is so tasty you feel you could eat it. It's slightly austere, yet fascinating, and almost sculptural in the way they work with sound. It's been a constant inspiration.

Laura Veirs, singer-songwriter

The Milk-eyed Mender by Joanna Newsom

My favourite album of 2004 was - hands down - Joanna Newsom's The Milk-eyed Mender. Her lyrics are masterful, deep and strange, her voice is unusual and elf-like, her harp (harp!) playing is polyrhythmic and wonderfully complex, yet so simple at its root. I was baffled seeing her live: she was part mysterious forest creature, part dextrous musical prodigy, part classic American songwriter. She reminds me of a fresh, organic Northern California salad. Full of wild, colourful, delicious things.

Alex Kapranos, singer, Franz Ferdinand

Bomb Romantics by The Blood Arm

The album we've been listening to this year is by the Los Angeles guitar band The Blood Arm. It's called Bomb Romantics, and it's only out as a limited release at the moment. We've played with them a couple of times in LA and they are highly original and innovative. If there's any justice they'll get the acclaim they deserve in 2005.

Ed Harcourt, singer-songwriter

Bubblegum by Mark Lanegan

This is my album of the year. Listening to this feels satanic and angelic at the same time. It makes me want to make better records

Mylo, electronica producer

Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned by The Prodigy

When it came to rock records there were two that stood out - The Killers' Hot Fuss and Franz Ferdinand's eponymous debut. Both are exciting guitar pop albums with no discernible filler. My favourite electronic albums of the year were Air's Talkie Walkie and The Prodigy's Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned, both striking returns to form from two of the genre's biggest acts. There were also two double mix CDs I loved this year: Optimo's Kill the DJ compilation, and Tiefschwarz's Misch Masch. Optimo is a Sunday-night club in Glasgow and indisputably the best club in the world right now. The mix is cacophonous but fabulous - imagine an esoteric version of 2manyDJs' monster, As heard on Radio Soulwax part 2, and you wouldn't be far off.

Colin Macintyre, songwriter, The Mull Historical Society

Fly or Die by N.E.R.D.

Because I made an album this year that was pretty much all my head's internal radio could take, but Fly or Die by N.E.R.D. broke through and has often been playing at home. I love the diversity of what they do. I have some other records they've made, because, as a producer, I need to steal (maybe I mean "learn", or maybe "borrow") from other places. It's not as good as the first N.E.R.D. album, but they keep challenging and changing and that's the only way to go as far as I'm concerned. But I think they can do better still across an entire album.

©2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd. All rights reserved

mercredi, décembre 22, 2004

Psychedelic Furs at Work

Eighties pop band readies first new album in more than a decade

After more than a decade away from the studio, Eighties pop act the Psychedelic Furs are at work on a new album.

"We didn't want to go out and tour on old music because we haven't been writing," frontman Richard Butler explains. "We want to be a band that's a band, not one that's just touring."

The group -- which also includes Butler's brother Tim on bass and guitarist John Ashton -- has been writing material for the past several months. They might have gotten started sooner, if not for Butler's commitment to his side project, Love Spit Love, and an in-progress solo record, a collaboration with longtime friend Jon Carin (Pink Floyd, the Who, Bryan Ferry). The band members, who share songwriting responsibilities, have been communicating ideas via tapes while Butler wraps up his project. "We use whatever seems to fit," Butler says. "It's a question of whether it fires anything in me and makes me want to sing."

The Furs are road-testing a few songs on their current tour -- which wraps on January 29th in Anaheim, California -- including "Cigarette," "Wrong Train" and "Alive." Playing new material live, Butler confesses, can be nerve-wracking, eliciting "not as good a response as something better-known." "It's a lot of fun playing when the crowd is enthusiastic," he says. "But it can be a bit daunting when the crowd is standing there with a huge question mark over their heads."

The Furs' album will be recorded and self-produced at Ashton's home in New York State. But don't expect it to hit stores until late 2005 or early 2006 --especially considering that the band has not yet signed a deal for its release, planning to remain as independent as possible. "We don't need the advance," says the veteran pop singer. "We paid for this ourselves."

Christina Fuoco. Rolling Stone

mercredi, décembre 15, 2004

Throbbing Gristle: A taste of P-Orridge

Throbbing Gristle, and their transgender front person, have reunited for a last bizarre hurrah. Emma Field braces herself

10 December 2004

The reappearance of Throbbing Gristle in 2004, 23 years after they split up, is something of a curiosity to many who remember their notorious presence in the late Seventies. Breaking from their separate music and art projects, the four-piece regrouped this year for a short performance in London for ticket holders of a cancelled gig at Camber Sands in June. They then reorganised that show, playing at last weekend's All Tomorrow's Parties Nightmare Before Christmas festival, curated by Jake and Dinos Chapman. That was officially TG's last ever performance, and all four members appeared for their last interview as TG at the festival before playing the show.

It was strange to find them lounging, resolutely calm, in a Camber Sands chalet, especially as their presence was anything but intimidating. The formidable Genesis P-Orridge is now a woman with a blonde bob and breasts, but that's hardly a shocking transformation for such a character. With all four members - P-Orridge, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Chris Carter and Peter Christopherson - in one room, the conversation was slightly slippery. They have a chequered history, of which there have been many misinterpretations, so they were steering the conversation around the big cliffs.

It was during the Seventies that two young misfits from Hull, then named Christine Newby and Neil Megson, embarked on a journey along the boundaries of art and performance that would eventually send the UK press into uproar, see them banned from art galleries, and eventually lead to the expulsion of Megson from the UK. Amidst a trail of confusion, myth, offence and awe, Newby and Megson, along with Carter and Christopherson, created a new set of sounds to form the beginnings of industrial music (Megson is credited with having coined the term with Monte Cazazza in 1975) and had a significant influence on punk and acid house music. It was only when they had split up in 1981 that TG's "sick" performances were reappraisedas art.

Christopherson says that rather than being a comeback, the decision to regroup for the gigs was a response to the current music scene. "It was much more to do with the fact that the English culture at the moment - of music, and the way that music is used by people - has a tendency to go through periods of crisis. TG was started in a period of crisis when contemporary music was not doing any useful motion in the direction of getting people to think or getting people to analyse what they were doing."

Discussions between the former members of the band after a retrospective exhibition of TG ephemera in 2001 had led them to realise that they were again motivated by similar concerns. Tutti explains: "There was a lot of interest in TG, a lot of bootlegs of TG, a lot of flak directed at us because of the bootlegs, and a lot of misinterpretation of what we did and why we did it, how we did it, and so on. We've always been with Mute since we ended and we suggested a few years back on the 20th anniversary that we do the box set. The whole thing really was to take control of the legacy that was TG because it was in danger of being trashed. We hadn't decided then what we were going to do, other than the box set until someone approached us and said would you do an exhibition and the exhibition was pinned around the box set."

P-Orridge says: "Through the exhibition and through communicating with each other about details of that we found that we were drawn to experiment with seeing each other again - not for sentimental reasons - but because the cultural environment is decaying and at the same time becoming polarised. And it is very much like Reagan and Thatcher's era."

Performing one last gig was later suggested by Mute and was a conclusion to this process of setting the record straight and responding to the present.

The members of Throbbing Gristle have a complex and interwoven history. In 1969, Megson and Newby formed COUM Transmissions with Carter, who was from London, and was also to become a member of TG. Gradually, COUM's "street music" and acoustic improvisations developed into more involved and grotesque performances. Megson changed his name to Genesis P-Orridge in a self-originating gesture that also hinted humorously to a deconstruction of religion. In a similar vein, Newby changed her name to Cosmosis and then to Cosi. The two were a couple until around 1978. According to Simon Ford's biography of the band, Wreckers of Civilisation (Black Dog, 1999), Cosey Fanni Tutti, the name Newby took permanently in 1973, was a burlesque send-up of the title of Mozart's opera (it has been translated as "They are all the same," "Thus do our women" or "All the women are at it"). Cosi has worked as a striptease artist, and appeared in erotic films and magazines from 1974. Much of COUM Transmissions and TG's work was to challenge preconceptions of proper or pleasurable sexual behaviour. Their work sometimes involved themes of explicit nudity and pornographic sex, violence and coercion and subtly evoking such taboo subjects as serial murder.

Clarifying what he sees was a misinterpretation of TG's motives P-Orridge explains: "Shock was never a primary concern of what we do - it was an accidental by product of one or two songs but..." Tutti rejoins, "What we did, we never thought it was shocking... If you go for a reaction you can be disappointed."

COUM's infamous retrospective exhibition at London's ICA in October 1976, entitled "Prostitution," is generally acknowledged as a formative moment for Throbbing Gristle. The press were outraged at the nude magazines, the erotic pictures of Cosey, and the used tampons on display, while discussions of the event in Parliament described the group as "wreckers of civilisation". The controversy led to P-Orridge and Fanni Tutti's Art Council grant being terminated and they were banned from exhibiting in the UK. Self-consciously pursuing an idea of "unpopular music" and given some useful publicity by the outrage, Throbbing Gristle then fully launched themselves as a musical outfit with P-Orridge on violin, vocals and bass, Fanni Tutti on guitar, cornet and effects, Carter on synthesiser and rhythms, and Christopherson on tapes, processors and trumpet. They formed their own label, Industrial Records, and recorded most of their jams, rehearsals and performances. After self-releasing their work on cassette, the group hit number 37 in the UK independent charts with a club hit single "United" in spring of 1978. Sporting army style black garb and having designed their own swastika-like insignia, they were accused of being a neo-nazi cult. In response they launched their most accessible album, in 1979, the ironically named Twenty Jazz Funk Greats, and began wearing all white.

"I think with TG in our own ways," explains P-Orridge, "We have been committed to the idea of evolution on some level, and change on some level - that human behaviour may not be changeable but one has to try and be optimistic and work towards content that might signify change." Tutti adds: "What is important is that it is an individual responsibility to do that. It's not done en masse. When we formed TG we never wanted people to follow as TG followers but as themselves, but with a like mind. As soon as people started wearing a TG-type uniform we stopped wearing it - we wore white."

While only the first track of Twenty Jazz Funk Greats had a funk feel, the album reached number six on the UK Independent charts. Soon afterwards David Bowie told US radio that TG was the most important thing happening in the UK. The band lasted another two years before they decided the project had run its course. "We were already, in 1981, bemoaning the fact that people were using certain accessorised ideas and images that they connected with us - sort of strange buildings and neo-fascist regimes and the 'dark side' of human culture," says P-Orridge. "We'd touched upon it at times, it's true, but people grasped on that and thought 'well if I mention this, this, this and this, then that must innately make me intelligent and creative' - which, of course, isn't true and isn't the point. That was depressing for all of us and it was one of the reasons we stopped because it became this supermarket of ideas."

A romance between Carter and Tutti had crystallised by the time TG disbanded; P-Orridge married his then girlfriend, Paula, two months before. (Incidentally, and revealing that their uncanny nerve was never simply a public performance, a song TG released in 1978, after P-Orridge and Tutti had split, called "Death Threats", is said to be comprised of phone messages left by Carter's wife who suspected his involvement with Tutti.) Carter and Tutti went on to form the Creative Technology Institute (CTI) and Chris and Cosi, whilst working on their own individual art and music projects, while P-Orridge, Christopherson and Paula went on to form the acid house innovators Psychic TV. The late Jhonn Balance (aka Geoff Rushton), who died this year, also became a member of Psychic TV and went on to form the industrial band Coil with Christopherson. Both P-Orridge and Tutti collaborated with the film-maker Derek Jarman, and P-Orridge also collaborated with William S Burroughs and Timothy Leary. In 1999 P-Orridge formed Thee Majesty, a spoken word and ambient music performance group. P-Orridge and Paula were later exiled from the UK after being dubiously accused of child abuse amongst other allegations surrounding his Temple of Psychic Youth order that was responsible for organising rave parties and supporting squats while championing the use of psychedelics and sexual freedom.

Reflecting upon today's music and culture, Tutti suggests that it is gratuitous for all the wrong reasons. "When you look at the culture now with people going into excess with sex and everything else, people think it's liberated and over the top, but it's not at all because, again, you've got this very safe thing going on and there are certain boundaries there."

This is almost a matter of commitment or concentration. Tutti adds: "People never remain long enough with one thing to understand and savour it. Its almost like 'tick that box: what's next' which is a real shame. Because ultimately if you don't spend time on something that area is never allowed to develop... so it's a homogeneous thing our culture."

P-Orridge muses that in relation to the extremities of TG's behaviour in the past, as far as today is concerned, less is more. "We are in a moment where intelligent subtlety is the more shocking strategy than gratuitous actions because the media have already trumped everything you could do as a performance with so-called reality. The potency has gone from certain strategies."

He later observes that, "The status quo is presented as something to aspire to, whereas for us the status quo was something we wanted to shatter in order to create the space for people to choose for themselves."

Music remains a uniquely powerful social force for P-Orridge. "The fact that we've all played in literally dozens of countries and cultures and had a very positive response means that there is some other language - a non verbal language. Sometimes it's as simple as helping people to feel less isolated. If somebody's in the middle of Ohio or Cornwall and there is no local shop and finally they hear some kind of music they think 'That's like me' and they feel that bit less isolated." Tutti then elaborates: "That works on a popular culture level anyway when people get really into the most mundane love songs going, its like desperation you know. They are so empty but they want someone else to say it for them. They want to put on a CD and stand next to it - it's our quick-fix culture. They would feel much better if they found some way to express themselves."

A fan of a live performance he saw of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, P-Orridge would like to see a more open-minded and flexible live scene. "Bands should try to create a temporary situation where the audience feel relaxed enough to let go of whether they look cool or whether they know the correct response and for a while, whether it be an hour or two, they feel liberated enough to surrender to the experience of the sound rather than analyse it or critique it or want it to be exactly like it was before."

Their simple word of advice to aspiring artists is to be honest - something very few people actually manage to achieve. "And I think one of the gorgeous things about TG is that we will go from something amazingly serious and important and significant in terms of the world and life, and then do something ludicrous and absurd," adds P-Orridge.

"We take every aspect of our lives and then magnify them because it's interesting and puzzling and baffling all at once to go through each day."

© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

samedi, décembre 11, 2004

The Dresden Dolls

The Dresden Dolls : The Dresden Dolls

By Tim Cashmere

9th September 2004

Boston-based The Dresden Dolls have been around since 2001. This quirky duo is a delightful mix of gothic European imagery and early eighties punk rock galore.

Donning makeup that at times makes them look like members of the Cure and at other times makes them look like members of the circus, Amanda Palmer (piano, vocals) and Brian Viglione (drums) take you on an hour long musical journey.

The Dresden Dolls more often than not sound like they've composed their album to sound like the soundtrack to a b-grade horror movie, with the recurring themes of love and death constantly popping up through the album.

While they've often been described as a punk rock cabaret act that does seem like a tacky quickly thought of description. With elements of both of these genres shining through, they have created their own sound deriving from whatever elements of music they could get their hands on.

This is a fascinating album for those who want something a little different, but not too "out there".

Track Listing

Good Day
Girl Anachronism
Missed Me
Half Jack
Coin-operated Boy
Bad Habit
The Perfect Fit
The Jeep Song

vendredi, décembre 10, 2004

Unlocking Zappa Treasures

Preservation and restoration results in releases from legendary Zappa Vault Laurel Fishman

Under Frank Zappa's family house in Los Angeles, the "Vault" is jam-packed from floor to ceiling with every possible recordable audio, video and film media. Within its concrete walls, the temperature-controlled Vault contains literally thousands of tapes, all neatly organized and labeled. "The Vault is infamous among Zappa fans as a treasure trove of material," says Joe Travers, official "Vaultmeister." Bit by bit, the gems are emerging.

These jewels represent the late Zappa's prolific output, spanning 30-plus years and musical genres from doo-wop to classical. Decades before the global economy, Zappa was selling out international venues that other popular musicians of the time never even dreamed of playing. From his early days around Los Angeles in the 1960s with the original Mothers Of Invention, to world tours, experiments on the Synclavier, and his orchestral works, Zappa relentlessly recorded his musical adventures.

The limitations of existing technology made it generally prohibitive for most artists to do so, but Zappa used mobile recording gear to capture his lengthy concerts. Travers learned how to "bake" the resulting tapes, heat-treating them in a convection oven at 130 degrees for four to eight hours. "Baking the tapes secures the oxide to the tape's backing so it won't shed when it's being played back," Travers explains. "If it sheds and turns into gummy residue, it's gone forever." So far, Travers has baked about 100 tapes.

When he started as Vaultmeister in the mid-'90s, Travers' job was to identify and catalog the material. He created a database, designating Zappa's ever-changing band personnel and determining song titles and which material had already been released. Travers pored over documents, publications and Web sites, and talked with the musicians involved.

Inside the Vault, Travers also found "a helluva lot of film and video, from 8 mm all the way up to one- and two-inch masters." Travers says there is early-'60s footage of Zappa's original Studio Z and from later years at the family house. There are outtakes from Zappa films Uncle Meat and Baby Snakes, and Zappa concerts on Halloween 1977 and live at the Roxy in 1973, and more.

The Vault also houses rehearsal tapes, Zappa interviews, trim reels and other remnants. "After Frank got a mix using razor-blade edits, this was the stuff that didn't make it onto the record," Travers says. "There are a lot of rough mixes and versions of albums before Frank ripped them apart. I get to hear the missing pieces of the large puzzle."

Prior to becoming Vaultmeister, Travers already held some of the pieces. A drummer who played with Zappa sons Dweezil and Ahmet in their band Z during the mid-'90s, Travers was a serious Frank Zappa fan from an early age. "I had a massive collection," he says. "I read every book and had every Zappa record, dozens of bootlegs. And this was before eBay!"

One day in 1995, Joe requested a tour of the legendary Vault. "Just by looking at the names on the boxes," Travers remembers, "I knew more about the contents of the Vault than anyone working there at the time," including various audio experts. "The staff went back and told [Frank's widow] Gail that I knew more about what's in the Vault than anybody else. She said, 'Great, he's the Vaultmeister.'"

Before 2003, Travers focused on refining his digital editing skills while cataloging and baking the tapes. Then the Zappas refurbished the recording studio adjacent to the Vault, allowing Travers to "dive into other tape formats with the best possible technology," he says.

In EQ-ing and mastering Zappa's music, Travers is salvaging arcane nuggets to appeal to hardcore Zappa fanatics, "material that otherwise wouldn't find a home on a major Zappa release." These obscurities are becoming the "Joe's" album series, starting with the current Joe's Corsage , whose title is a play on Zappa's 1979 Joe's Garage albums.

Joe's Corsage includes Zappa demos from 1965, '60s interview snippets, and perhaps the rarest of all Zappa rarities, a love song: "I'm So Happy I Could Cry." In typical Zappa fashion, it later mutated into the irreverent "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance" from the classic Zappa album We're Only In It For The Money.

Starting in 2002, Vault packages are being released on the Vaulternative label, created by Gail Zappa. Among its live concert recordings, a possible documentary and other as-yet-unreleased projects, "we're working on four different albums right now," Travers says. "I submit material to Gail and Dweezil for them to decide upon, or they come to me and say, 'We need material from this-or-that era.'"

While Dweezil Zappa concentrates on remixing his father's recordings into surround sound for future Vaulternative albums, Gail Zappa is instituting a subscription service for purchasing Vault releases. "There are most likely 40 albums that can come out of the Vault, not including the series I'm doing," says Travers.

"There's so much I don't even know about yet. The more I dive into the Vault, especially in the formats I wasn't able to document or play before now, the more possibilities keep coming up."

(Laurel Fishman is a writer and editor specializing in entertainment media. She reports regularly for, writes the EducationWatch column, and is an advocate for the benefits of music-making, music-listening, music education, music therapy and music-and-the-brain research.)

mercredi, décembre 08, 2004


Imagine: two new Lennon songs to be performed on Broadway

By Andrew Buncombe in Washington

08 December 2004

Almost 25 years after John Lennon was shot dead outside his New York apartment, two of his unpublished songs are to be performed on Broadway in a show celebrating the life of the former Beatle.

Lennon's widow Yoko Ono said she had given permission to the producer Don Scardino to use the tracks in his forthcoming musical, Lennon, to open next spring. The tracks were written by Lennon in the late 1970s.

One of the tracks "India, India", recalls the Beatles' visit to India in 1968 where they spent time at the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The second, "I Don't Want to Lose You", is a slow ballad, presumably dedicated to Ono.

In an interview with The Independent this year, Ono spoke of her efforts to protect Lennon's legacy. She said: "That's the responsibility he gave to me. I am honoured to do it, because we were partners and we are still partners."

But she said she had decided to allow Scardino to use the songs because she trusted him to produce them in a way she considered respectful. She told The New York Times: "They're very appropriate for the periods they are showing. People would say to me, 'What are you going to do about all of John's unreleased songs?' And I've always said: 'I will put them out, but I have to find ways to present them in the right way. For these songs, I thought the musical would be a very effective, beautiful way to do it."

The track "I Don't Want to Lose You" was among three Lennon songs offered to the surviving members of the Beatles in the mid-1990s when they "reunited" to produce the Beatles Anthology, Ono said.

The demonstration recording Lennon had made of the song was found to have an electronic hum on it which prevented the other three members from using it but they did take two other songs, "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love". With the help of the former ELO frontman Jeff Lynne they dubbed their own, new parts on it. "Free as a Bird" reached number two in the UK charts in December, 1995, and "Real Love" reached number four.

Lennon was killed outside his apartment in New York's Upper West Side 24 years ago today at the age of 40 by disturbed fan Mark David Chapman. The attack was witnessed by Ono, who still lives in the same apartment, in the Dakota Building.

Scardino said the musical, featuring 27 of Lennon's songs including "Imagine", "Give Peace a Chance" and "Whatever Gets You Through the Night", will tell the story of Lennon's life as a musician, as well as his activism. "I was after something that was very theatrical and that would, for the audience, really bring forward the real, living idea of John Lennon," he told, a website devoted to theatre news.

He added: "The idea is basically as if an acting troupe walked on stage, unpacked their bags and said, 'Tonight, we do John Lennon' just like the players in Hamlet [say] here's The Murder of Gonzago. Well, here's the murder of John Lennon, [or] the life of John Lennon. Doing so, the actors on stage all take up his voice and his time and be another facet of that personality and basically make up the measure of the man in the process, through the course of the evening.

"He always seemed to be ahead of the curve. Or ... the curve followed him. He was such a leader for a certain generation, particularly, that he's emblematic of the times he came through."

The musical, with 10 actors portraying Lennon at various stages in his life backed by an 10-piece band, is to have its world premiere in San Francisco on 5 April then move to Boston. It is to open on Broadway in July.

Chapman, born in 1955, is still in Attica state penitentiary, New York. He has been refused parole three times, the latest time in October.

© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

lundi, décembre 06, 2004


Slowdive. Catch the Breeze

[Sanctuary; 2004]
Rating: 9.5

Gosh does liking music make you feel prematurely old! Last winter, while browsing in a record store, I came across a compilation of shoegazer tracks, sitting there with all the finality of a collection of 60s garage. All of these bands with their echoes and their noise-- even Blind Mr. Jones! A few racks over-- you know, by the deluxe anniversary editions of Pavement records-- I got shaky. Is this what we're doing now: Packing up the 90s for posterity? And why should finality be a grave? Some reappraisal is necessary, and when it comes to those shoegazers, that goes double. As popular as the whole scene was, too many people have spent too many years saying nothing more interesting about these bands than that they weren't quite as good as My Bloody Valentine. And of all the bands that were stuck with that claim, Slowdive is the one for whom it was the most damnably untrue.

These days we all know that, in the end, Slowdive were hardly shoegazers at all. That didn't stop them from recording some of the classics of the genre, but still: There's something in this work-- from the earliest singles to the beyond-rock of their last album-- that's just singularly theirs, something that's made them as influential to today's electronic music artists (or, hell, to goths) as they have been for rock kids. Listening to Catch the Breeze-- which comfortably abridges a three-album career onto two discs-- you get an immediate sense of why. Frontman Neil Halstead's songs have a narcotic languor to them, a quality that makes them sound like he's constantly on the verge of drifting off. But there's something about the deliberate haze of this stuff-- the layers of echoing guitar they wrap songs in, the way the vocals emerge as distant angel moans-- that gives every word and chord a massive intensity. It's like watching film in slow motion: Everything goes watery-dreamy, but it also takes on a weight and a drama that can crush. And through every stage of their career, that's the heart of Slowdive. You're lulled into sleepy waves of melody, the hazy druggy beauty of it all, but just as you're drifting away, the whole thing squalls up into a big crushing storm or drops off into disorienting darkness. People try it with guitars and they try it with computers, and nobody does it quite like this.

So three albums, two discs. The draw for longtime fans is a selection of tracks from the band's earliest singles. This was as close as they came to sounding like a conventional rock band-- albeit a huge, deep, and sleepy one, with Halstead and Rachel Goswell already crooning with lazy grace. By my count there are eight tracks here that aren't available on the band's three albums (assuming you have the expanded U.S. version of Souvlaki), including a Peel Session cover of Syd Barrett's "Golden Hair"-- convenient enough if you don't feel like hunting down 12-inches. The band's first LP, Just for a Day, is underrepresented here, most likely due to its occasionally fluffy, over-prettified production; instead, things leap straight on to the band's two classics, starting with 1993's Souvlaki. Owners of that U.S. edition will find 10 of its tracks included here, and with good reason. This album is, dare I say, every bit as good as Loveless, and just as singular. What's amazing about it is the way Halstead's exquisite pop songwriting comes so strongly to the forefront of the band's sound-- and meshes, magically, with an even greater sonic ambition. The result is the reason critics started calling things "dream-pop," and the best songs here-- "Alison" and "40 Days"-- sound exactly like that: gorgeous traditional pop songs heard in blurry, dreamlike slow motion, sleepy and crushing at the same time. Even more ambitious are the tracks that stemmed from the band's collaboration with Brian Eno-- songs like "Sing" and "Souvlaki Space Station", which wash out into dubby groove and echo, with vocals pushed back into the role of instruments.

Two years later, the band released something else entirely-- a collection of songs recorded mostly by Halstead, with a sound that left the rock-band format behind altogether. The past few years have seen a huge revival of interest in this kind of thing: The "lost generation" of bands-- Bark Psychosis, Disco Inferno, Seefeel-- for whom Simon Reynolds coined the term "post-rock." It's in those terms that Slowdive's last album, Pygmalion, has come to seem like the best thing Halstead has been involved with. The highlight, "Blue Skied an' Clear", is worth the price of any collection anyone sticks it on: It's one of the most achingly pretty things you'll ever hear, milking incredible pathos from a shuffling drum loop, sparkling touches of guitar, and a chorus of ghostly half-moaning vocals. "Crazy for You" goes even further, constructing another rush of sound and then building it up and breaking it down like dance music. Catch the Breeze nicks a full five songs from Pygmalion, an album only nine tracks long-- and for Americans, it's more than worth it: This LP can be criminally hard to find.

And that's Slowdive, in a handy two-disc set, packed and packaged. There's a scent of finality about it. This, in most cases, will be all the Slowdive anyone needs. There's a quintessential Slowdive-listening experience: You lie in bed letting those waves of sound wash over you; you drift comfortably off into dreamworld, thinking of big pretty oceans; and then you wake up, minutes later, to find a big disorienting blur shooting out of your speakers-- so massive, so intensively vivid, or so dark and ominous, that you wonder how you could sleep to this at all. It's like taking a sleeping pill and waking up to find yourself frighteningly, alarmingly drugged-- an experience I wish, fondly, on everyone who brings this collection home.

-Nitsuh Abebe, December 2nd, 2004

Taken from Pitchfork

jeudi, décembre 02, 2004

Hey! Jingle jangle man

He was Dylan's guitarist and inspired a classic. Gavin Martin meets that tambourine player

02 December 2004

Years before he inspired "Mr Tambourine Man", the guitarist Bruce Langhorne attempted to build "a magic swirlin' ship" of his own. "When I was 12 I built a rocket. I filled it with magnesium and tried to launch it: it blew up."

When Langhorne greets me outside his home in Venice, California, I feel the three half digits on his left hand that were salvaged after the explosion. These fingers were responsible for the remarkable guitar style that illuminated the acoustic side of Bob Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home album. Langhorne's light but flowing touch also shone on countless recordings by Fred Neil, Gordon Lightfoot, Tom Rush, Hugh Masekela, Buffy Sainte Marie and others.

But back in Harlem in 1950, when his mother arrived to witness the devastation, a career in music seemed a long way off. The would-be rocketeer was temporarily blinded and blood was rolling down his face.

"My mother was horrified but, being a smart-ass kid, I said 'at least I won't have to play classical violin anymore'," Langhorne recalls. It was only thanks to sophisticated plastic surgery, pioneered in wake of the Korean War, that Langhorne's stubs and finger joints were saved.

But the accident was just part of what made Langhorne different. As a black man in the largely white world of the folk revival he was a singular figure and his musical background - classical, gospel, blues and latin - defied classification.

Although he turned 66 last May, he still possesses intelligence, humour, poise and playfulness. Parked outside the home he shares with his actress wife Janet and several dogs is a van he has customised for sleeping on a cross-country trip to attend the opening of the Experience music museum's Bob Dylan exhibition.

The museum features the battered Martin acoustic he played on "Mr Tambourine Man"; he will give a talk at the Dylan opening. But his life is certainly not centred around the Dylan industry; this week, with the release of his soundtrack for his pal Peter Fonda's 1971 cult western The Hired Hand, his multi-instrumental talents can be heard again in all their glory.

"The music for The Hired Hand is really simple; it distils the time and place it represents. I've written all sorts of music but that's the music I prefer, folk music - the basic aesthetics of the music of man."

"The injury forced me not to be a virtuoso so I did a lot more thinking about what I loved in music and how it worked."

It wasn't until 1985, in an interview included on the Biograph retrospective, that Dylan finally named Langhorne as the inspiration for "Mr Tambourine Man".

"I played a tambourine but it was massive, Turkish and had jingles on it. Bob may have seen me play it in Greenwich Village. I used to play pied piper, just walk the streets and have people following me and dancing, like Hare Krishna before Hare Krishna. I'd take it with me whenever I went on the road, it always got people dancing."

By the time Langhorne first saw Dylan at New York's Gerdes Folk City Hootenanny in early 1961, he was the musical partner of the club's MC Brother John Sellars - and a regular accompanist to Cisco Houston, The Clancy Brothers and Peter, Paul and Mary. "My first impression of Bob was - what a terrible voice. I didn't really start to appreciate him until after I started working with him. I started to realise this guy is a really good poet and the fact that he had such will, such a sense of direction."

On Bringing It All Back Home, the songs sound as if they are being heard and played for the first time. Langhorne chuckles. "Well... that's because that's just what it was - a bunch of studio guys hanging around ready to latch onto Bobby's telepathic thread. He'd start singing and everybody would jump in, it was just amazing."

'The Hired Hand' soundtrack album is out now on Blast First Petite

© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

mercredi, décembre 01, 2004

Midnight Oil

Peter Garrett Collapses On Sydney Beach

by Paul Cashmere for Undercover

30 November 2004

Former Midnight Oil singer and now politician Peter Garrett has been given the all-clear from doctors after collapsing on a Sydney beach on the weekend.

Tests done on the former rock star have come up negative for the cause.

At his official website, Garrett has thanked those who helped him.

"First, I want to again thank the lifeguards at Maroubra Beach, the assisting on-lookers, the ambulance officers and the fine staff at the Prince of Wales Hospital - they did a terrific job and I am very grateful for their help and professionalism".

"After losing all my energy and fainting after swimming at Maroubra Beach on Saturday morning, I spent most of the day recovering and having checks conducted at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick".

"I returned to the house at Mittagong in the evening and spent the rest of the weekend with my family, continuing to rest and recover".

"Tests done so far have proved inconclusive as to the exact cause of the problem which occurred on Saturday morning and I will have some more checks done this week. I expect to be back at Parliament in Canberra tomorrow, Tuesday".

"There is no indication from checks so far of any serious health problem. The checks have ruled many things out as the reason for what occurred, but have not ruled anything in as yet."

"(And to respond to some speculative reporting, there is absolutely nothing wrong with my right arm.)"

Garrett quit Midnight Oil in December 2002 bringing an end to one of Australia's most successful groups.

In June 2004 he announced he would take over the Sydney seat of Kingsford Smith for the Labour Party in Australia and in October 2004 won election in the area.

dimanche, novembre 28, 2004

Snow Patrol

The band who came in from the cold

After 10 years of trying, Snow Patrol have a hit album. But they're not rushing to cash in on it, they tell Alexia Loundras

26 November 2004

Black-jacketed and designer-jeaned, several glamorous blondes totter between rooms at a private East End photographic studio. As an electric heater maintains a tropical temperature, a photographer is shooting a spread for Vogue. Everything is pretty much what you'd expect of a fashion shoot, except for the presence of four musicians - the front man Gary Lightbody, the bass-player Mark McClelland, the drummer Jonny Quinn and the guitarist Nathan Connolly, collectively known as Snow Patrol.

Unlike bands such as The Strokes, Kings of Leon and Franz Ferdinand (who were also recently featured in Vogue), today's models don't look like a band: no skinny jeans, no chest-defining vintage tops, no distressed leather, not even a favourite old belt between them. Stripped of the dapper threads selected by today's stylist, they are almost mundane. Only Connolly makes any concession to style, dressed in a black suit-jacket which is fashionably frayed at the cuffs and lapels. "We're an indie band," shrugs Lightbody, wearing "model's own" Kermit-green T-shirt and grandad-brown jumper-with-hole. "And we've been an up-and-coming indie band for 10 years. We're not like those other bands, never have been. We don't feel comfortable with celebrity and having our photos taken for The Sun's "Bizarre" column. We like drinking in old men's pubs."

Yet, despite their protestations, Snow Patrol have been dragged off their comfortable bar stools and into a debauched rock'n'roll world. The Met Bar is keen for the band to make an appearance (as DJs, but it's a start), and, earlier this year, Mick Rock, the legendary snapper of stars, photographed the four-piece for a feature in Playboy magazine. "He's shot fabulous rock stars - The Rolling Stones and Bowie - and wonderful-looking women, and now us," says Lightbody, a more than a little incredulous.

Snow Patrol are genuinely having difficulty in acclimatising to the swift shift in their fortunes. Thanks to 2003's phenomenally successful third album, Final Straw, the band are enjoying the kind of success they've only dreamed of - and all thanks to their smouldering breakthrough single, "Run", which entered the charts in January.

In just 12 months they went from playing to 15 people at a sordid strip joint ("They had to unscrew the pole from the middle of the stage before we could sound-check," Connolly recalls) to headlining two nights at Brixton Academy, one of London's top rock venues. They have toured extensively in America ("Two months there is like being in the Army," says Lightbody), Europe and Japan, and they are ending the year with a triumphant 17-date, sold-out UK tour and a Hogmanay homecoming in their adopted city, Glasgow. Final Straw - one of the year's best-sellers, outstripping even Franz Ferdinand's debut - was nominated for the Mercury music prize. And just two days before our meeting, the band spent the day ("a most bizarre, amazing, potentially life-changing, odd day," Connolly recounts) with Sir Bob Geldof, recording the Band Aid 20 single alongside Keane, Busted, Jamelia and The Darkness.

But unlike both Keane and The Darkness, Snow Patrol did not find success with their debut album. At the start of October, they celebrated their 10th anniversary, though "celebrated" is perhaps an overstatement. "It was more like waking up after a big night out and thinking, 'how the hell did this happen?' rather than, 'hooray'," says Lightbody. The intervening months since "Run" reached the Top Five, propelling Final Straw to an extended run in the upper echelons of the album charts, have been like no other in the band's largely uneventful history. Snow Patrol (originally Polar Bear) formed, remembers Lightbody, "sometime during freshers' week" at Dundee University in 1994 when the Belfast-born Lightbody and McClelland bonded over their love of The Pixies, Dinosaur Jr and My Bloody Valentine. Quinn was next to join, followed by a succession of fickle guitarists before Connolly finally cemented the band's line-up just in time for Final Straw (the Radio 1 DJ Colin Murray, a long-standing friend of the band, still mockingly refers to Connolly as "the glory hunter"). Signed to the independent label Jeepster (home of Belle and Sebastian) the band released two albums, 1998's Songs for Polar Bears, and the well-received When It's All Over We Still Have to Clear up three years later. But, despite gaining what Lightbody calls "a small but fanatically loyal, great set of wonderful fans," Snow Patrol were dropped.

Aside from selling his kidney, jokes Lightbody, the 18-month no-man's-land they suffered between Jeepster and eventually signing to the Polydor off-shoot Fiction was their nadir. They offered themselves to just about every label, "but nobody wanted to sign us," he says. "After releasing two albums that didn't do so well, I think people thought we were damaged goods." Understandably, this was a frustrating time for the band, but Lightbody softened the blow of Snow Patrol's enforced hiatus by indulging his muse with a side project, The Reindeer Section, a Scottish super-group that pooled everyone from Idlewild to Belle and Sebastian to perform Lightbody's aching and tender songs of human imperfection. Highlighting Lightbody's ambition, the project numbered 26 musicians at the last count, with a combined weight of 297 stone. Their number is still rising: "Just because the second incarnation doubled in size from the first doesn't mean the next one won't number 112," grins Lightbody.

The uber-band released two critically acclaimed albums and, at a one-off show at the Royal Festival Hall, the excitement of fronting this veritable orchestra got a bit too much for Lightbody: "I took all my clothes off, didn't I?" he remembers, embarrassed. He did. And not content with getting naked, he jogged jubilantly across the stage in celebration. At least Lightbody can take pride in the fact that he's quite possibly both the first and last streaker to grace the hall's formal stage.

Snow Patrol could have jacked it all in but, says Lightbody, "belligerence kept us going. Not a lot of people credit belligerence, but it's a very powerful force," he smiles, puffing his chest out with schoolboy pride. "Sheer pig-headedness saved my life. We knew - or believed anyway - that we would make a great album if we were given a chance."

Of course, as it turns out, Lightbody's self-belief was not unfounded. The resulting third record has proved to be well worth the wait (for band, new label and public alike). But, at the time, the belief Lightbody speaks of was more blind faith than real confidence. "There's no real reason for that belief," he admits, "except that without it, what's left? If you don't believe in what you do, you don't have any energy, any inclination."

Final Straw slots snugly into the post-Coldplay world but it's no fluke. Lightbody has been steadily polishing his craft. Listening to all three Snow Patrol albums, it's clear there's been a gradual but consistent refinement of his songwriting. Not only have his raw, no-holds-barred tales of car-crash love sharpened into blood-drawing, full-colour focus but, sonically too, the grainy film that previously smothered Snow Patrol's songs has lifted to reveal shimmering pop beneath. Gone is the scratchy, don't-mind-me, lo-fi that characterised the band's first record, and the shy, almost-there experimentation of their second. Instead, with Final Straw Snow Patrol have emerged as a fierce and confident guitar-pop band, armed with searing melodies and powered by soaring guitars that wrestle the listener into submission like an unexpectedly pleasant aural Chinese burn.

It seems practice does indeed make perfect: "Final Straw is a progression," agrees Lightbody, visibly proud of his band's work. "It's fully formed, lucid and flows much better than any album we've made before. These songs sound like they belong together. We've worked really, really hard, and if you play together a lot, which we do, you get better." "After time," adds Connolly, "you just get to know the dynamics between people. It becomes like a third sense." Lightbody affectionately looks over at his band-mate, clearly wondering where the other three senses have got to, and stifles a giggle. "I've only got two," continues Connolly, suddenly aware of his gaffe. "Is that bad?"

Over the years, Snow Patrol have become a particularly close-knit band. "We're a very tight group of lads," confirms Lightbody. "It's like the band has become my wife!" He laughs, but he's only half joking. If his lyrics are anything to go by, his relationship with Snow Patrol is the only one he is capable of maintaining. Is that really so? "Yeah, and it's OK with me," he says. "I have a very loving relationship with this particular wife. But the knock-on effect is that there's no room for anyone else in my life." Lightbody shrugs. "People have said that I can't seem to let anyone else in. And they're right. I'm terrible, I talk myself out of everything. I'm not a grass is greener-type person, believe me, I would be a bastard if I were. But I'm an inadvertent bastard, which I suppose is a grade up from bastard. It's never the girl's fault - it's always mine. I'm just not ready - I'm terrified. I'm still a boy, a 28-year-old boy."

Lightbody doesn't seem like a bastard. He appears honest, unguarded and self-deprecating. He just feels strangely compelled to sabotage his relationships. But as unfortunate as his commitment issues may be, they make great ammunition for his songs and instalments for Snow Patrol album number four are slowly underway; the lyrics currently taking shape on the singer's mobile phone.

The band are in no real hurry to release another record. Considering it's taken them 10 years to get onto Top Of The Pops, this is a little surprising - you'd imagine they'd be anxious to capitalise on their current success, to make up for lost time perhaps. Yet rather than rushing out a record, Snow Patrol are adhering to the "slowly, slowly catchee monkey" approach to ensure they don't sell themselves short. It's certainly worked for them in the past. "If we'd written a song like "Run" on our first album," says Lightbody, "we would have been 'that band with that song'. The rest of the album just wouldn't have stood up to it and we would have collapsed, as Eddie Izzard says, 'like a flan in a cupboard'."

Instead, Snow Patrol seem humbled by their success. "This trip can finish as quickly as it began," says Lightbody sincerely. "We thought we were going to be massive with our first album, so when we weren't it was like being slapped round the head - our egos were instantly kept in check. I don't think anyone really imagined we'd get this far. We've been lucky and luck's a massive part of a band's career - bad luck will be the thing that breaks your back."

Having already survived their own spell of bad luck when dropped by Jeepster, Snow Patrol are finally enjoying the fruits of a decade's worth of dogged determination: what Lightbody calls, "a wee bit of disposable income." Despite the wink that accompanies his words, he's not being coy. Snow Patrol are not a band of extravagant means and when Lightbody says "a wee bit of disposable income", he does quite literally mean some extra dosh: "It's not as if we we're staggering around with pockets full of money - selling a million records doesn't mean there's a million quid in the bank - but being able to buy all the records you want every week is like a Holy Grail for me," he says, thrilled.

No doubt the royalties will arrive eventually, but at least these days the landlord doesn't come knocking for their rent, which makes a nice change. Yet Snow Patrol refuse to take anything for granted and their aspirations remain modest. "The important thing is that we go to our graves with our souls intact," says Lightbody genuinely. "We need to make sure we keep doing this because we enjoy it and not because we're compelled to by other forces. Making music, for us, is not a job. It's a hobby that went right - our album's just gone triple platinum, what's that all about?!" Lightbody looks like a lottery winner, gobsmacked by his good fortune. They may not be rolling in cash yet, but at least he won't have to face his family empty-handed this Christmas: "This year," he says through a grin, "there'll be Christmas presents - that's a start."

Snow Patrol tour the UK until 29 December SnowPatrol

© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

samedi, novembre 27, 2004

The Delays

Small-town romantics

The Delays' singer, Greg Gilbert, tells Steve Jelbert why he and his brother want to be the Benny and Bjorn of British rock

26 November 2004

The right sorts can find their souls stirred by any surroundings, so perhaps it's no surprise that the Delays, quite probably the only band in musical history to have received comparisons to both The Hollies and the Cocteau Twins, should have emerged from the unexceptional climes of Southampton.

"I got into trouble with friends for saying it was the most average place in the world," explains the band's 23-year-old singer and main songwriter, Greg Gilbert. "But I meant it was the most normal place. I judge everywhere by Southampton. It's the sort of place where you have to create your own drama, a blank canvas."

Craig David apart, the city has hardly produced a pop contender. Instead a search for reflected local glamour led the band to festoon the cover of their 2003 debut album Faded Seaside Glamour with images of the ocean liners that crowded the docks during the golden age of sea travel. The quartet are certainly unabashed romantics. "We had a long chat about what we're into, and I think we're a brave band, I really do. We're the complete antithesis of an angular garage rock band. There's a real romanticism to what we do," says Gilbert. "The sound is something we want people to get totally lost in. It would be easier to strip it down, but we want to inject colour."

Signed by Rough Trade after previous sporadic dabblings with the capital's music business had proved fruitless, a determination to work from their home town proved the right choice. "We made a decision not to play London any more on the off chance an A&R man would be in the venue that night. Having to keep picking yourself up afterwards was heartbreaking. We thought if anyone's interested they'll come down to us, and they did. We had to play a private gig for them though. That was nearly as scary as playing at my mate's wedding with an acoustic guitar," he says.

Though he suspects that his record company thought they were signing an act akin to the minimal guitar-pop style of The La's, the Delays turned out to be something much lusher and less focused, partly due to their own inexperience.

"The first album was fundamentally a bedsit record - adolescent, written on the dole and fantasising about not being a local band any more. Any dynamics from playing live didn't exist - our rehearsal space was so tiny - so we went into the studio without a live sound," he explains, "The Strokes and Libertines [both label-mates] have this fantastic live thing so they just try to capture it. But we didn't know what we were."

After three months holed up in rural Wales they came up with a "dense headphone record", including three outstanding singles in "Long Time Coming", the ever-so-Sixties "Hey Girl" and the distinctly feminine sounding "Nearer Than Heaven". (Gilbert might sound like Elizabeth Fraser at times, but he also nominates groaning former gas fitter Joe Cocker as an unlikely, but equally audible influence). The arduous experience taught them a straightforward lesson.

"Now we don't want to record anything until we've played it to death," says Gilbert, ruefully.

The sound of the ever benign Teenage Fanclub recording next door proved annoying, while Greg's younger brother, keyboardist Aaron, even started to experience auditory hallucinations of his own electronic sequences. Ironically their shared tune "Wanderlust" was penned after he forced his older sibling to join in, involuntarily. "He had his loops up so loud that I really had no choice but to play along with it through the wall," laughs Greg, who had been working at his own pace in an adjacent room.

Their fraternal relationship is inescapable and inevitable. "We do get at each other, but in a covert way, where you say the word which you know will get a reaction," admits Greg. "It's interesting to write with someone who knows you so well and can embarrass you at the drop of a hat. I don't know of many brothers who write together." He pauses. "I don't know if it's that healthy..."

Their personalities are certainly very different. Art-school dropout Greg still suffers a regular vision of "walking out onstage to find that only my family are there". He describes his apparently hyperactive brother as "completely the opposite of me. He likes to be the centre of everything while I prefer to recede into the background. It's handy, though. If I'm feeling insecure, I push Aaron up front."

There must be something in the genes. Their father worked for years as a guitarist. "My earliest memories are my dad going off and playing gigs in a function band when I was a kid. He's a great guitarist but it never occurred to him to write. But I only play to write," says the chip off the old block, proud of a circuitous connection with the late, great Curtis Mayfield after his dad backed a line-up of The Impressions on a European tour.

Their new single "Lost in a Melody" is a clear step forward from their debut, although no less catchy. Somehow managing to evoke the swing of Roxy Music's "Love Is the Drug" and Max Romeo's reggae classic "War Ina Babylon" ("I can hear that," says Greg, although it seems to have never occurred to him before), this very English piece of art-pop, in the vein of New Order or Pulp, bodes well for their next album.

"We want to avoid the cliché of becoming 'darker'. 'Darker' means 'not as tuneful' and we don't want to fall into that at all. It's not a different band. Aaron and I just want to be the Benny and Bjorn of British guitar rock," he jokes, although they'd seriously love to work with Abba's masterminds. They're unusually well versed in music history. Drummer Rowly (just Rowly) is the son of folk-loving parents who actually saw Nick Drake at one of his 20 or so live performances. (Apparently he hid his face, but was notably dextrous on his instrument). Greg drops unexpected names into conversation, not only referring, rather wonderfully, to Big Star as "the Velvet Underground of jangle" (presumably referring to the truism that though few bought their records, every one of them formed their own band) but even obscure names such as The Posies and the dBs, men now reduced to working for REM.

Being brought up in a town with no particular scene seems to have left him more determined to make a mark than contemporaries from places with a stronger musical heritage. Yet he appears unsure how to react to acceptance. "We're trying to find something that's absolutely ours. It's almost the opposite of wanting to embrace something. We're so far removed from what's going on that it's like a secret community. But it's growing," he smiles. "We have removed ourselves from outside influences. We haven't even moved to London."

A long American tour with Franz Ferdinand and The Futureheads made them aware that they're not alone. "I don't think Franz are overtly British, though. I wish there was a better way of putting it than 'go out and dance' music, but that's why it goes down so well there. I've got a bit of an outsider complex as it is, and I was worried about people disapproving, but there's none of that across the water.

"I still can't get over the novelty of going to another country where the people down the front know the words to your songs," he ponders, "I hope I never get used to it." It's his nearest and dearest who have proved most critical. "Adequate - that's the kind of compliment you get from friends. They never say 'you're good', they always say 'you've worked hard for it'. It's a barrier they can't get over."

It's hard not to warm to Gilbert. Few young rock performers think so deeply about their role, something which might even hinder his progress. His reasoning is undeniably acute though.

"The most valuable thing any artist has is their personality, not their clothes or posture. Even attitude is borne out of the current climate half the time. You need to put that in your music. We all write, because if you get more personalities involved then it will go somewhere you never expected. At the end of the day all that matters is the music." He stops himself. "Oh, I hate hearing those words coming out my mouth. They're so meat and veg."

He needn't worry. His culinary ambitions are grander than that.

'Lost in a Melody' is out now on Rough Trade

© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

vendredi, novembre 26, 2004

Jan Garbarek: Keeping it current

The saxophonist Jan Garbarek is a giant of jazz. So why is he experimenting with electronica?

By Martin Longley

26 November 2004

The Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek could be forgiven for taking six years to produce In Praise of Dreams, the follow-up to 1998's two-disc Rites. It's understandable that he has been distracted by the overwhelming cross-over success of his collaborations with one of the pre-eminent early music outfits, the Hilliard Ensemble. Their Officium and Mnemosyne albums have enjoyed remarkable sales.

The other reason for the slow progress has been the rude health of his touring diary, though the new album has no connection with his touring band of Rainer Brüninghaus (keyboards), Eberhard Weber (bass) and Marilyn Mazur (percussion). In Praise of Dreams has an electronic foundation, created by Garbarek's sampling and beat-programming, and with contributions from Kim Kashkashian (viola) and Manu Katche (percussion). His approach is similar to that adopted by John Surman, adding weaving saxophone to pulsating loops and repeated sequences.

Garbarek remains committed to his regular quartet when it comes to live work, but they will remain largely inactive next year while he renews his acquaintance with the Hilliard Ensemble. "We meet on 7 December for a concert in Moscow, and we'll discuss plans for future recording. Next year, we're mainly concerned with the tour."

In concert on the first night of his UK tour, the saxophonist's performance stretches right back to 1973's "Hasta Siempre", and forward to a new, as yet unnamed, composition. Yet a tour with Kashkashian and Katche doesn't look likely. "I don't think it's realistic," he confesses, "because the two other musicians are extremely busy and have their schedules for years in advance. The other thing is that there are a lot of electronic sounds. I would need to have quite a few other musicians on stage." And Garbarek doesn't feel comfortable around laptops in a live setting - he wants an audience to see musicians playing.

The album was co-produced by Garbarek and the ECM label-owner Manfred Eicher. "It was very prosaic this time," says Garbarek. "I just chose 10 different tempos and started to work on what sort of rhythms that would imply. Then I started to dress them up with harmonies, melodies and textures. I think of the electronics being brilliant for creating a sonority, setting the stage for the characters to emerge."

At the outset, Garbarek knew that Manu Katche would be involved. The percussionist has already appeared on four of the saxophonist's albums. It turns out that he frequently wound up laying his parts down on Garbarek's basic rhythm patterns. "Sometimes, he will simply say, 'I have nothing for this', either because they're complete, or he hadn't any inspiration to do anything at all. He wouldn't change the rhythms I had made, but other things.."

The mournful viola of Kim Kashkashian is certainly sympathetic to Garbarek's keening saxophone sound. At times, the twinned melodic lines swim together, inhabiting their own tonal zones. At others, they engage in a dialogue, equally sensitive in their deep explorations. Garbarek had already heard Kashkashian's chamber and orchestral work on several albums in ECM's New Series of modern composition. Their paths had also crossed on the concert platform, at the 1999 Bergen Festival. They improvised on an Armenian folk song, and composer Tigran Mansurian went on to write a new work for the pair.

"Her sound just simply stayed with me," says Garbarek. "But I actually didn't think that she'd be able to do it all." Acclaimed on the classical platform, Kashkashian is always solidly booked, but a call from Manfred Eicher secured her services. Garbarek had already used a viola mock-up in his initial arrangements, so he eagerly awaited the real thing. "Her whole personality, and the way she plays her instrument, just took over my mind, he says."

The album's title track has become a familiar part of Garbarek's live set over the last three years, and its melody is naggingly familiar. Garbarek mulls over his titles very carefully, needing them to sum up the mood of each piece. He'll often take his inspiration from novels or poetry. "Conversation with a Stone" sounds like it has been inspired by Indonesian gamelan patterns. "Not consciously," says Garbarek. "Even in the most narrow Norwegian valley, a folk fiddle player will have heard gamelan music, he will have heard a Brazilian samba. In my case, I've heard a lot of music from around the world."

The album's closing track, "A Tale Begun", adopts a markedly different approach. "It was an idea that comes from the underlying part of another track. It consists of several instruments that we wanted to blend. As we worked on that, it just took on a life of its own."

Garbarek credits Eicher with organisational, conceptual skills, admiring his talent for programming the music's logical development on the album: he has a vision for the complete work. Garbarek feels too close to his music, unable on his own to achieve the necessary perspective. Invariably, the final element to be laid on each piece is Garbarek's own saxophone solo. "It's very often a first or second take. Very often, I do one take of the whole piece, not bits and pieces. Usually, that works best. It makes for a very coherent effect."

During a recent Jazz Legends interview on Radio 3, Garbarek said he no longer considered his music to be jazz. He elaborates: "It's just a matter of definition, really. I don't see the need to call it jazz, but there is a practical reason. I wouldn't completely belong in the classical bins. I wouldn't belong in the world or folk type of bins. It's fortunate, in a way, that there is this category, although it's not perfect for me."

'In Praise of Dreams' is out now on ECM; Jan Garbarek plays Symphony Hall, Birmingham, tonight

© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

jeudi, novembre 25, 2004

Rocking the kasbah

From the Westway to the world: Joe Strummer's punk spirit lives on in the best of today's Islamic pop, says Tim Cumming

26 November 2004

Conceived before Joe Strummer's untimely death last December and dedicated to his memory, Rock the Kasbah - a musical contact sheet lifted straight from the diaspora of contemporary Islamic pop culture - features "Songs of freedom from the streets of the East", though it could just as easily be subtitled "Rebel music from the axis of evil" - if that axis slipped far enough to include the Westway during the last glimmerings of the punk era, when Strummer first penned "Rock the Casbah" after hearing about the suppression of music in post-revolutionary Iran.

It's a song that still rings loud and clear two decades on with its message of musical freedom, and the album opens fittingly with Rachid Taha's rousing cover version, for the original was not only a major influence on Taha, but a song he inadvertently had a hand in inspiring. Legend has it that The Clash cut the track after soaking up Taha's 1982 debut album, Carte de Séjour. Originally planned as a duet before Strummer's death, Taha's "Rock el Casbah" has a chorus as big as the Maghreb, and all the ragged urgency of The Clash's original battle cry.

Taha also appears with legendary rai singer Khaled and the young French star Faudel on a stunning live performance of Khaled's paean to the Algerian rebel leader Abdel Kader. Featuring a 70-strong Egyptian orchestra arranged by Taha's long-time collaborator Steve Hillage, it was a huge hit across Europe and the Middle East, and a classic example of how the popular music of the Maghreb has gone international without losing itself in the process.

Taha is not the only Clash fan featured on the album. Once the drummer for Southern Death Cult in the 1980s, and currently one half of the British-Asian underground act FunDaMental, Aki Nawaz is one of many artists here who count The Clash, and Strummer especially, as an inspiration. His collaboration with The Jesus and Mary Chain and the qwaali singer Nawazish Ali Khan - mystical praise singing drenched in Goth feedback - is one of the highlights of an album that also includes Asian Dub Foundation's pounding, polemical "Fortress Europe", a futuristic, claustrophobic take on economic migration from the other side of the tracks, its Arabic synths rising and falling like police sirens.

Refreshingly, Rock the Kasbah eschews the ambience of the chill-out room of many an Eastern compilation and puts the music back on the street and into a vibrant international context. This is world music of the electronic age, music that shows how East-West cross-pollination has influenced both cultures for decades, from the "Baghdad Beatle" Ilham Al Madfai who brought the electric guitar to Iraq with his group The Twisters in the early 1960s, to the band dubbed "The U2 of Pakistan", Junoon, Sufi hard rockers inspired as much by qwaali as Bono.

Drawing on a broad palette of international beats as much as from their own back yards, Rock the Kasbah is a rich and vigorous collection that reveals a music arguably more dangerous, outspoken and volatile than anything the West currently has to offer. An alarming number of artists in this musical interzone have suffered exile, persecution, repression, death threats and worse. They are also some of the biggest stars of the Islamic world, as a direct result of their outspoken stance and the dangers of standing up on stage and speaking out. Iraqi singer Kadim Al Sahir, the winner of last year's BBC Radio 3 World Music awards, and one of the most popular artists in the Arab world, fled Iraq in the 1990s after years of censorship, while the Iranian singer Dariush, whose songs were banned by both the Shah and the Ayatollahs, has spent years in exile in America.

But there is a new generation determined to tackle socio-political concerns without decamping to Europe or America. They include the Lebanese rockers Blend, one of the first true rock bands in the Middle East. Their track "Belong" mixes alienated, trippy beats with lyrics exploring the crisis of identity afflicting a young Lebanese haunted by memories of war. Western rock may be drenched in alienation, but in the Middle East it's almost unheard of.

Elsewhere, there's the young Syrian 12-piece Kulme Sawa, recently the phantom menace of a US homeland security scare when they were erroneously identified as the Arabian men acting suspiciously on a flight from Detroit to LA. The band is unique in Syria in that it includes male and female members, and Christians alongside Muslims. They reacted furiously by releasing a statement protesting their innocence, alleging a smear campaign, and reiterating their own belief that "only arts and music can realise peace between nations and societies, and bridge the gap between East and West".

Given that Rock the Kasbah predates Strummer's death, and in the words of the executive producer Adrian Cheesley "attempts to represent what he would have listened to, and hopes to meet with his approval", it's fitting to have one of Strummer's last recordings as the album's coda. His cover of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song", produced by Rick Rubin, is a spare, nakedly honest reading of an almost impossibly iconic song. But Strummer makes it his own by playing it straight and true, and with that one-on-one quality of singing directly to the listener that made The Clash so important in the first place.

For if Strummer and The Clash's punk spirit was about liberation and the destruction of what was binding, rather than destruction per se, then among these freedom songs are prime examples of the far-flung influence of that basic liberation theology, and how its restless, uncompromising spirit is still fighting oppression at a time where the demand for redemption songs is outstripping supply. It's safe to say that Joe would have approved.

'Rock the Kasbah' is out on EMI

© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd