mercredi, mai 31, 2006

Futureheads live

The Futureheads, Carling Academy, Glasgow

Past success sits heavily on shoulders of the Futureheads

By David Pollock @ Independent

If the Futureheads don't beware, they may find that the hounds they've created come back to bite them. Their inspired version of Kate Bush's "Hounds of Love", retooled into a shouty post-punk rocker, was entirely responsible for their rapid ascent to indie-pop stardom.

The problem is, the band may have an uphill struggle on their hands creating a song of their own which combines such dramatic pop urgency with song writing of such simplistic universality. Without, of course, adapting another song as their own.

More than many other flavour of the fortnight guitar acts, the Sunderland quartet are endearing for their sheer vivid energy and reassuring lack of pretension. Clad in monochrome trouser and shirt combinations, their visual style is a refreshing change from the self-conscious rock star peacocking of contemporaries like the Kaiser Chiefs. Yet, for various reasons, their whole persona suggests they're speaking directly to their young audience, rather than down to them. Many new bands with more apparent egos but not much more to say would do well to take inspiration from the Futureheads.

It would be patronising, of course, to suggest that the fact singers Ross Millard and Barry Hyde use their own accents so explicitly is reason for this rapport with the ordinary fan. Yet the very best songs in the field the Futureheads operate work precisely because their crowd pick up the lyrics easily and join in with an affirmation of youthful communality.

So the fact that the four might end up with a lasting legacy which stretches no further than one perfectly-pitched cover version doesn't really bear thinking about at the moment.

In this live context, they're simply an engaging and fun spectacle.

When Millard announced the last track with a resigned "Alright, here it is" before a note had been played, it felt like the band were in acceptance of their ensuing greatest hit's singular legacy. Had they closed the show at that moment, however, the crowd should not have felt short-changed.

© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited

mardi, mai 30, 2006

Beth Orton

Off the record

Beth Orton's music earned her the title of the 'comedown queen' for a generation of ravers. But, she tells Laura Barton, she has always felt there is more to life than music

Tuesday May 30, 2006

The Guardian

Beth Orton. Photograph: David Levene
'Longhand ... that's my big dream' ... Beth Orton. Photograph: David Levene

'I was thinking about Hay-on-Wye, and stories, and books I've loved reading, and it sent my mind all whirring." In the British Library cafe, Beth Orton's long-limbed sentences clamber across the table with an unmannered, coltish glee. "Because when I started to get into music it was always through stories," she says. "My brother used to play music and I always used to listen out for the story. I liked the Clash cos they had stories and the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix, the Cockney Rejects, Joni Mitchell and Rikki Lee Jones. It didn't really matter what genre it was, as long as it was telling me something, as long as it had a story."

Orton is very excited about playing the Hay Festival on Friday. "I remember when Pulp did it and I thought wow, that must be a pretty interesting piss-up. Cos you imagine all those amazing literary types when they have a few drinks, just sitting around talking."

Besides, she loves books. For a long time she was what she describes as an "autumnal reader. It was a phase I'd go through - autumn would come round and I'd just start reading loads." She doesn't know why. "But it is my favourite time of year. All the seasons are better in Britain. I live here for the seasons. And I don't think anywhere is as beautiful in terms of countryside - not even America with all its mountains and its this and its that. I mean, their autumn is bright orange! Just calm down a bit," she instructs America, sternly. "The thing about Britain is, it has every shade of green. You can stare at those trees and there's big buds of green and all those shades are right in front of you. You don't get that anywhere else in the world." Now living in the thick of London, she has to make an effort to seek out her fix of greenery. "I go to Norfolk. But that's more for the soul. I plug into some little 'neee'," and she mimes a high-pitched frequency tuning in to her brain.

Orton lived in Norfolk, first on the north coast and then in Norwich, before moving to London in her teens. She returns to the county often, but largely tries to sidestep the city. "Norwich used to be beautiful. It did, it did," she says with a mournful droop to her voice. "All cobblestones, very authentic. And now it's like a big old shopping mall. I feel like I'm indoors there. I feel a little bit claustrophobic." Instead she heads out towards the coast. "You just drive out a little way, or hitch as we used to, and suddenly you're in the most gorgeous rural countryside in the world; the wheat fields in the summer and all the mist that would come up off them, I never forget all that. I think nature is one of my biggest inspirations," she buckles into a half-embarrassed smile. "Really! I get out in nature and it doesn't matter where I am in the world - as long as there's natural landscape, trees and all that malarkey, I just get all lit up."

Indeed, Orton's most recent album, Comfort of Strangers (the title not altogether uninspired by Ian McEwan), is threaded with a rural, alt-folk sound, pruned back to the bare branches of her voice and guitar, and produced by Jim O'Rourke, whom one might unsatisfactorily describe as an experimental noise musician. "He is one of the most humble people I've ever met," says Orton, "and one of the most talented. He's got a touch of genius. I'm sorry - I have to say it." She pauses. "He really has, though."

It is a stride away from her earlier work, a sort of folk electronica, curated by William Orbit and the Chemical Brothers, that earned her the title "the comedown queen". "With dance music I was so shocked and horrified at all these people monging out," she recalls soberly. "I thought it was a government ploy to just numb everyone's brains, carpet-bomb them with ecstasy, and make them loving when really it's a massive holocaust. I thought: WHAT is going on? This is awful! I was a terrible snob. And then I met William Orbit, so that's how I started to find out about that kind of music, I started to become a bit intrigued; I went to a rave, and it was shirts-off sweaty geezers and it really scared me - it was like the modern age and what's it coming to? This is the beginning of the end and the apocalypse!"

She wanted, she says, to be "the voice of reason in all this madness." When Orbit asked to work with her, she thought, "It could be subterfuge, get in there when people were wide open and put beautiful thoughts in their heads. It sounds terribly arrogant but I really felt a passion for it."

Over the past 10 years Orton feels she has "done my learning", and she works differently now, enjoys the times when she is "thinking songs, not writing them", which can sometimes last months at a time, "and then sometimes I'll realise [what I was thinking] was a song after all and I have to live with it a while, like a new pair of shoes you need to wear in." She also harbours a dream to write books. "Longhand," she calls prose. "That's my big dream - I would love to go and study literature and creative writing." She has contemplated applying for the famed creative writing course at the University of East Anglia. "It's the best creative writing course," she says, "but I'm in a bind cos I'm like, shit, it's in Norwich."

Today she is itching to talk about books. "I've made a list!" she announces, fishing a piece of A4 out of her handbag and unfolding its quarters to spread it flat on the table next to her soup bowl. "Anne Tyler ..." she reads, "... Paul Auster ... Bukowski over Henry Miller, can't get into Henry Miller, they're similar, but Bukowski's just filthy." She smiles. "Sylvia Plath, she does my head in, got to be honest, but The Silent Woman by Janet Malcolm is about Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath and that's good." She recalls a boyfriend she had when she was 18, whose dad was an antiquarian book collector. "I loved going to their house, it smelled of books!" she gushes. "I used to get up in the night when everyone was alseep. Their house was like their cat - they had this really old cat and you picked it up and it would just mould into you, and their house was just like that. I'd pad around and and I read all their Graham Greene."

But the book she remembers most fondly is the one given to her by her mum when she was little, "about this little boy who drew a lion and then the lion came to life, and the little boy was really timid and the lion made him do loads of really brave things, like save a girl's football out of a tree. And when he got home he realised that his drawing book and his pencils were in the dark room where he couldn't reach the light switch. But he tapped his back pocket, and he felt his lion there, and he thought, 'I'll be fine'. And when he went back to his bedroom with his drawing book he pulled out his lion, and it was an apple! And the lion had written on it 'You know how to be brave on your own now - you don't need me'." She sighs. "I loved that story."

I wonder if, before she goes on stage, she ever pats her back pocket to check for her lion. "I do feel a bit like that," she laughs. "Somebody said this brilliant thing to me recently: 'Do you think music's like an invisible cloak? Do you think it's something you can put over yourself that means you can stand on stage and say anything you want?' So yes, yes," she nods, "I'm going to be there at Hay, with my cloak and my lion".

· Beth Orton plays the EOS Marquee on Friday.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

PJ Harvey live

PJ Harvey

**** Guardian festival, Hay-on-Wye

Ian Gittins
Monday May 29, 2006
The Guardian

"I've never played the piano in front of people before, so I'm incredibly nervous," says Polly Harvey. "Every time I play a duff note, I'm going to pull a face like Les Dawson."

Few people would compare Harvey to the late rubber-visaged comic but she remains one of rock's true chameleons, and tonight's solo show - her only European festival appearance of the summer - sees her unveil another tantalising musical change in direction.

Clad in a demure black dress ("my 1940s war look"), Harvey fires straight into some of the most casually apocalyptic moments of her stellar 15-year career. Early nuggets Dress and Man-Size remain curt, vengeful blows to the solar plexus, Harvey still looking frail yet heavy with gravitas as she wrestles with her guitar for solutions to intractable problems.

Her music invariably throbs with a ferocious, militant honesty, and Horses in My Dreams evokes Patti Smith not just in the lyrical echo but via its visceral urgency. Then the serrated Who the Fuck? from 2004's Uh Huh Her sounds colossal, a feral, inarticulate tirade spat from the end of her tether.

Yet it's the new material that intrigues. Harvey says she has written an entire album on piano and moves to the feared instrument to deliver The Mountain, a volley of loaded melancholy and spectral, treated vocals. Bitter Little Bird is even more haunting, recalling Liz Fraser's elegiac reading of Tim Buckley's Song to the Siren. An album in this vein would be a remarkable addition to her canon.

There's even time for comedy: when her vintage organ ("£50, it cost") squeaks to a halt, Harvey deploys her best Pam Ayres tones to instigate a deadpan routine with her roadie: "Shall we turn it off, and turn it on again?" Maybe those Les Dawson comparisons weren't so far-fetched after all.

dimanche, mai 28, 2006

Scritti Politti

Hearts and flowers

It's seven years since Green from Scritti Politti released an album - time spent boozing away in self-doubt. So what brought him back to his current, glowing form?

By Simon Reynolds @ The Guardian

Scritti Politti (Green Gartside)
Back from limbo ... Green Gartside.
Photograph: Tom Sheehan
'It was in Marylebone Registry Office, because that's where McCartney got married," recalls Green Gartside of his wedding a couple of months ago. "We chose the shortest service, just a couple of sentences, and we didn't really tell anyone, so we had one witness each. But this pudding of a teenager, with two different speech impediments, officiated. We couldn't really stop him as he lisped his way through it. But, no, it was a very lovely thing. I think I might even have had a tear in my eye."

White Bread, Black Beer - Gartside's fabulous new album, released under the Scritti Politti name that brought him fame more than 20 years ago, and his first release in seven years - is radiant with love and gratitude. The pioneer of the self-deconstructing love song that reveals amorous language to be a delirium of superstitious nonsense, the melodic genius who placed scare quotes inside The 'Sweetest Girl' to indicate his "deeply mistrustful" feelings about love, has found the One. Turns out she was there all along. "We've known each other 20 years, but we haven't always been together through those 20 years," says Gartside. "But we're together now."

Even as he has found contentment in personal partnership, Gartside has made his most solitary record. Hitherto he's always had collaborators and creative foils: bandmates Tom Morley and Nial Jinks in the original Scritti Politti, whose fractured postpunk was exhumed for last year's Early compilation; David Gamson and Fred Maher with the hit machine Scritti of Cupid & Psyche 85; dancehall ragga stars Shabba Ranks and Sweetie Irie on the brace of 1990 singles that turned out to be Scritti's last hits; and a raft of New York rap MCs on 1999's not-quite-a-comeback Anomie & Bonhomie. But White Bread is a solo album in effect, even though he's still trading under the Scritti Politti brand. He played every instrument, sang every note, and produced the whole thing in his house in Hackney. In a weird way, it's like a return to the DIY ethos of the early Scritti. Except that "the advent of affordable home-recording technology", Gartside says, meant White Bread could sound as slick as Cupid, which cost a fortune and took years to make.

The new album weaves together elements of everything Gartside has ever loved and revisits every stage of his nearly five decades-long journey through music. The Beatles are here, there and everywhere on the record; T. Rex and the Plastic Ono Band meld on the deliciously stompy anti-Jesus ditty After Six; Gartside's pre-punk passion for folk-rock and traditional English music is audible in his guitar playing; and there is hip-hop in the beats and R&B in the production's gloss.

There's a sense in which there's always been a kind of war inside Gartside's music - a conflict between his musicality and his intellectual and political concerns, which were in a sense imposed upon the music. You could hear that struggle at its most ferocious in the DIY-era music - Gartside's innate pop sensibility colliding with his ideologically-driven suspicion of beauty itself as somehow counter-revolutionary, bourgeois in its analgesic and soul-soothing effects. In the 1979 song Bibbly-O-Tek, with its multi-tracked Gartsides singing different melodies simultaneously and its collapsing rhythms, his compulsion to tamper with conventional structures interfered with - but didn't wholly thwart - a pure loveliness of melody and voice.

In those days, Scritti were the postpunk underground's leading theorists of a wilfully fractured style of rock that Gartside dubbed "messthetics". The group championed the notion that anyone can do it, an egalitarian principle that incited all manner of slender talents to pick up instruments and put out 7in singles of barely-music. "On one of the early songs, PAs, I even sang 'Good tunes are no better than bad tunes'," Green chuckles. "A devoted fan told me he had heard the line as 'Good shoes are no better than bad shoes,' which led to him neglecting to buy any decent footwear for an unfeasibly long time. But it's true, I was mistrustful of melody as representing something that we were against." But tunefulness "always did sneak in" and now, with White Bread seemingly freed of all the extraneous conceptualisation, we are left with the pure gift for melody and harmony.

White Bread is different to anything Gartside has done before in another way: it's highly personal. Until now, his love songs have had a depersonalised abstraction; they were about love rather than being in love. Hence The 'Sweetest Girl', with its urge to find "the strongest words in each belief/and find out what's behind them", or The Word Girl, an auto-critique that he wrote when he realised how many songs he'd written featuring "girl". But White Bread has plenty of visual images and place names, which suggests his writing now draws directly from real incidents. "I've always disliked confessional songwriting," he says. "But I've allowed myself more space to move around in lyrically this album than I ever have before, including not feeling uncomfortable about making quite specific references to my ... self."

If he is yet to write a song entitled Alice for his wife, she's in these songs. Take Snow in Sun, a shatteringly pretty tune redolent of Ticket to Ride, where the epiphany of seeing snowflakes falling on a sunny winter day makes Gartside ponder: "How brave you are/And how come I have strayed so far/And why everything came apart".

Snow in Sun also contains a promise: "You will never need to doubt me/There'll be something good about me/Soon." As much as it is the rhapsody of someone reborn through true love, White Bread is threaded with leitmotifs of shame, unworthiness and stagnation. Gartside spent most of the 1990s bunkered in a cottage in the village of Usk in Wales, tinkering with hip-hop beats for a few hours a day but devoting most of his energy to drinking in local pubs. But there was a smaller lull in the years after Anomie, years similarly spent wandering the pubs of London. "There's so many of them," Gartside notes. "Just got to tick them off."

White Bread, Black Beer is riddled with references to booze and, here and there, powders of various sorts. The first single off the album, The Boom Boom Bap, contains the line "I've got bellywash blood in my heart" - an allusion, Gartside explains, to a genetic disposition towards hard drinking - but it's mostly about being a junkie for hip-hop. One verse consists entirely of the song titles from the first Run-DMC album. According to Gartside the song's about the thin line "between being in love with something and being unhealthily addicted to it".

White Bread's odd blend of joy and despondency suggest that the album documents both Gartside's (literally) wasted years and his rescue through the love of a good woman. Gartside, new to the album-as-autobiography game, prefers to describe it more abstractly, characterising its themes as "addictions and utopias, longings and loss". When I ask if he thinks he has an addictive personality, he emits a strange stammering gurgle of discomfort, then admits, "Yes, is the short answer," before adding with slightly forced brightness, "But I'm perfectly well!"

He is clearly in no hurry to join today's soul-baring gossip culture, where stars turn their dissolution and cleaning-up into the sales campaign for their new product. Then again, some of the references on White Bread are bizarrely autobiographical. Take the song Mrs Hughes, named after an old teacher of Gartside's. "I was ready to leave school as part of a political statement about education or something, but she told me to stay and do my A-levels. But she didn't say, 'You'll do brilliantly.' She said, 'I'm sure you'll do OK.' Which stunned me, the idea that I would do only averagely. I didn't like the sound of that."

In the early part of his career, Gartside came across as super-confident in his own pop genius, but it was clearly the brittle sort of self-belief that masks insecurity. The long exile in the Welsh countryside, and the shorter period of inactivity this decade, were partly responses to the blows to his confidence caused by the commercial shortfall of 1988's Provision and 1999's Anomie. "What will bring you to complete inertia is fear of the prospect that if you make a record, write a book, or do whatever, you'll get shot down in flames," he admits. "As long as you do nothing, you'll get neither praise nor condemnation." He talks of having been able to sustain "a kind of limbo existence, thanks to having earned a few bob in the 1980s", in which he didn't have "to risk how awful disapprobation might be. Generally, other people's opinion of me has been an unhealthily large concern."

His struggle to resist this tendency to withdraw from the rough-and-tumble inspired one of the best tunes on the album, Road to No Regret, which he describes as "a stop-running-away kind of song". Consulting a sheaf of lyrics he's had printed out to help him get through live performances (which he recently resumed after a gap of 26 years and still finds nerve-wracking), he reads the relevant lines: "Just another drink, another cigarette/If you never play your cards you'll never lose the bet."

Flicking through the pages, he also notes recurrent references to absent fathers. "The word 'daddy' or 'father' appears in about five or six songs." His biological father departed the domestic scene early in Green's childhood. "There's obviously something going on there, but I've no idea what yet! But it wouldn't, I guess be too difficult a conclusion to leap to that the approbation thing and the absent father is maybe ... oh, I dunno, it's too convenient a leap, maybe."

Gartside claims that he is "not one for regrets", but that seems more like a wishful statement of how he would like to be. Talking to him in 2005, he told me about having "a terrible memory, because I've trained my memory to be ruthlessly poor. Cos I'm best served that way. All memories are bad, really. Memories of good things are bad, because they've gone, and memories of bad things are bad because they were bad things. I don't like remembering anything, and I've become really good at that."

The final song on White Bread, Robin Hood, ends the album on a ringing note of positivity, something achieved by jettisoning the past and the future, nostalgia and dreams of a brighter tomorrow. In one breath, Gartside declares "All prophecy will fail"; in the next he vows "I'll never go back". But he says it is not specifically about the self-doubt and drowned sorrow that stalled his talent. "It's that Bob Marley thing, remember? An NME journalist went on the road with Marley. They flew into Miami, checked their bags at the hotel and then went to the soundcheck. And afterwards the journalist said 'Are we going back to the hotel now?' and Marley said, 'No, we're going forward to the hotel.' I always liked that."

Their site ===>

· Scritti Politti play at the Guardian Hay Festival next Friday (0870 990 1299). White Bread, Black Beer is released by Rough Trade on June 5

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

Parr Street

Rock star steps into the fray as one more music icon in Liverpool faces bleak future

By Ian Herbert @ The Independent

An unprepossessing 19th-century converted warehouse on Liverpool's
Parr Street has long been the unlikely source of some of Britain's most memorable musical creations.

Coldplay, Simply Red, Sophie Ellis Bextor, Badly Drawn Boy, Dove, Bjork and New Order are a few of the superstars who have used the building's recording studios, which are the largest outside London. Three Grammy winners have been fashioned there by Coldplay's producer alone, and many a career launched.

Now, just as Liverpool prepares to become the 2008 European City of Culture, the city has learnt the studios are to close. A company part-owned by the veteran rock singer Phil Collins is to sell the building, for possible conversion into 47 apartments with shops, office and leisure facilities. The building is not paying its way and part of it is derelict, says the company, Hit and Run.

Liverpudlians, still mourning the closure 18 months ago of The Picket, another of their iconic venues, are distraught, none more so than Ian McCulloch, lead singer of Echo and the Bunnymen. He called it a "sad day for Liverpool" and said he was dismayed that "one of the city's most successful cultural assets is being closed to line the pockets of corporate property developers".

The Coldplay producer Ken Nelson, with whom the band recorded the album X&Y at Parr Street, said many artists were dismayed by the closure of the venue, a stopping-off point for many on the musical tour of the city which centres on the Cavern Club in Mathew Street. "I love to record in Liverpool in a studio which compares very well with any studio in the world," said Nelson.

Other musicians who have used the three-studio complex in the past 12 years include Diana Ross, the Beautiful South, Teenage Fanclub, Barry Manilow, Howard Jones and OMD.

Parr Street has been credited with helping to resurrect north-west England's recording scene after the closure of the Strawberry studios in Manchester. The former Factory record label boss Anthony Wilson said its closure was a disaster for many prospective bands. "Parr Street was a lifeline," he said. "Studios are a difficult business but it is sad it has come to this."

The building also houses several design and graphics companies and the popular 3345 Parr Street restaurant. Efforts have been made to buy out the owners. A consortium including the musician Thomas Lang, who runs 3345, and other local businessmen have been in negotiations with Hit and Run since January.

Their bid failed on Wednesday, just as they believed they were about to exchange contracts, and campaigners have now been told the doors to the studios will be closed from next Thursday.

A Liverpool councillor, Steve Munby, who has also campaigned to save the studios, said there were now thoughts of visiting Phil Collins' home, in Geneva, to protest. "It feels as though we have been strung along on this," he said. "This is a real gem for the city and to lose it would be a travesty."
Hit and Run is co-owned by Collins and his former Genesis band members Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks. Parr Street is part of a £750m city-centre regeneration project by the Duke of Westminster. Planning permission for the apartments is expected to put up the asking price to £1.5m. The planning issue remains unresolved.

A spokesman for Hit and Run said: "We are looking for offers in the region of £1.6m and if the consortium wish to come back with a new offer, they are welcome to."
© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited

vendredi, mai 26, 2006

Muse news

Epic U.K. Rockers Muse Return With Cinematic New Album

Trio's "Black Holes and Revelations" features experiments with electronica and flamenco


Muse 344x344 Photo

Howard, Bellamy and Wolstenhome (from left)

Orchestral rock trio Muse return on July 11th with Black Holes and Revelations, the follow-up to 2003's Absolution. The lead single, the electronica-tinged "Supermassive Black Hole," has just hit radio, driven by singer Matthew Bellamy's trademark falsetto.

"That song is completely opposite to what the band has been doing in the past," says Bellamy of the first track off their fourth effort. "I like it a lot. It shows a different side of the band. It's got more of a groove element to it, and it's nice if guitar bands can steal back the dance floor a little bit."

In order to create Black Holes over the last year, Bellamy, drummer Dominic Howard and bassist Chris Wolstenhome teamed with longtime associate Rich Costey, who served as co-producer. Bellamy allowed his imagination to run wild lyrically -- "Glaciers melting in the dead of night/And the superstars sucked into the supermassive," he sings on the single -- and he found himself drawn to electronica, as well as harmonium and brass lines.

"I like trying to find inspiration from those more unknown areas of yourself," Bellamy explains. "The reason why the trumpets and some of the other stranger instrumentations came in is we didn't hold back in terms of taking a fringe idea to its full extent," says Bellamy, describing the resulting sound as "filmlike."

The cinematic feel of tracks such as "City of Delusion" and "Knights of Cydonia" might be due to the frontman's recent relocation from his native Britain to Italy. Not far from actor George Clooney's digs, the singer and guitarist immersed himself in local six-string music. "From living in northern Italy, I became interested in southern Italian music and music from the South of Spain, like flamenco guitar," says Bellamy. "When you hear it, it sounds like the music from the [spaghetti] western films."

The move sent him back in time musically, but when he set about writing lyrics, they came out brimming with modern topics. "Exo Politics" charts an "orchestrated alien invasion for the purpose of increasing military budgets and building space weapons," he says, while "A Soldier's Poem" is about fighting back. "I'm singing from the perspective of the person who's at the bottom of the pyramid awakening to the fact that they are being played as a pawn," Bellamy explains. "It's about wanting to fight against that and wanting to make a change."

Muse will tour the U.S. in July.

JOLIE LASH @ Rolling Stone

mercredi, mai 24, 2006

Girls Aloud

Yes, Girls Aloud...

Nottingham Arena

Sophie Heawood
Wednesday May 24, 2006

The Guardian

"I just can't believe that, four years on, we're doing an arena tour!" announces Nadine Coyle with genuine astonishment. She's not the only one. While such a comment from an indie band might refer to the alacrity of their success, when you're a manufactured pop band, formed by svengalis on a TV show, you start at the top and the only way is supposed to be down. Yet this is Girls Aloud's second such national jaunt, beginning in the same city and in the same month as last year's.
"We're so excited we can't breathe!" gasps Sarah, as they punch and prance through a demanding choreography routine for 18 songs. Nor can they quite handle their frequent costume changes. Cheryl loses a red stiletto while taking the song Jump literally, Nadine's hand tugs constantly at her bra strap, and Sarah struggles to keep her dominatrix bodice done up. A wardrobe malfunction seems imminent but they just about keep it together. Only Nicola seems to suffer no clothing challenges, but for her, exercising her reluctant smile muscles is work enough.

It's a saucy affair, all bras and hot-pants, and with songs such as Racy Lacy and Watch Me Go, sexual suggestions are everywhere. Yet with an audience made up of mums and their sparkly pink daughters, the level of suggestion is where the sauce remains. Each Girl is paired with a male dancer in a Guys and Dolls set-up, and to add to the Broadway feel they perform a medley of hits from Fame and Footloose, "because she loves musicals, does our Kimbers".

Nadine Coyle carries most of the lead vocals, but each Girl can belt it out when required. Footballer's fiancée she might be, but there's no Posh Spice-style miming in the background from Cheryl Tweedy. During a surprise cover of the Kaiser Chiefs' I Predict a Riot, it seems brave enough to give the famous nightclub brawler the lines about people getting lairy (the word condom is judiciously removed). When she decides to stop singing and start shouting, it's hilarious, and utterly brilliant.

· At Newcastle Arena (0870 707 8000) tonight, then touring.

Indie Summer Fest

Our guide to the best indie music summer festivals

With no Glastonbury this year, the London leg of O2 Wireless (Hyde Park 21-25 June) expands to five days. Its extensive line-up includes The Strokes, Belle & Sebastian, Goldfrapp and Beth Orton. The Leeds leg of the festival at Harewood House (24 & 25 June) includes sets from Goldfrapp and The Zutons, the latter among those playing support to decidedly non-indie legends The Who.

Much further north, The Isle Of Skye Festival (16 & 17 June) offers "the biggest party since Bonnie Prince Charlie returned claiming to be king". The soundtrack will stem from electronica ace Mylo, winsome pop act Aberfeldy, and the hotly tipped Young Knives. Rock Ness (24 June, Dores, Loch Ness) should be similarly picturesque and bangin' to boot. Fatboy Slim and Carl Cox headline.

For historical kudos, you can't beat The Isle Of Wight Festival (Seaclose Park, 9-11 June). Previously host to Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix, it has some serious indie talent lining up alongside yer Coldplays and Foo Fighters this year. The Prodigy headline on Friday, and there are sets from Maxïmo Park, Editors, The Rakes and (hurrah!) The Proclaimers.

Finally, a word about Benicàssim in Castellón, Spain. This much-loved beach festival (20-23 July) is a favourite with fans and artists alike, hence 2006 will see Babyshambles, Franz Ferdinand, the Pixies, Morrissey and Depeche Mode treading the boards. Put simply, this is the discerning indie fan's European festival of choice.

© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited

mardi, mai 23, 2006

The Strokes again

The reinvention of New York's coolest band

What do you do after being acclaimed as the coolest band on the planet? If you're The Strokes, you cut out the booze, grow up and try to achieve perfection

By Alexia Loundras @ The Independent

Published: 23 May 2006

Julian Casablancas is refusing to answer the question. Prone to sullenness and famously uncommunicative, The Strokes' front man is a notoriously difficult interviewee. Slumped defiantly in a Glasgow hotel armchair, tugging at the frayed sleeves of his black hoodie that peek out from beneath his old leather biker jacket, he looks to be living up to his reputation. "I don't usually tell women," he says. But then, smirking mischievously, he relents. "I only know really dirty jokes - they're just so disgusting," he laughs. "I've got a great one about Santa Claus..."

Who'd have thought it. Not only does Julian Casablancas have a favourite joke, but he giggles like a silly school boy as he reveals its decidedly lewd punchline. This really isn't the sort of behaviour we've come to expect from one of the coolest men in rock - more usually seen looking the epitome of a rock icon, in tight jacket and aviator shades, effortlessly holding court over roomfuls of adoring fans at sold-out shows.

From the moment the band crashed onto our shores in 2001 with the sonic slap-in-the-face of their debut, Is This It, they were hailed as the future of music. Impeccably dishevelled in their dirty Converse trainers and crotch-clinching jeans, the unassailably cool New York five-piece were embraced as rock gods and venerated as such. They had the tunes, the looks and in the case of drummer Fabrizio Moretti and guitarist Nick Valensi, the celebrity partners (Drew Barrymore and Amanda De Cadenet, respectively). The Strokes made guitars exciting again, utterly reinvigorating a stagnant rock scene. Five years and over a million record sales later, the band still command both curiosity and respect - enough to send, their third album, the muscular First Impressions Of Earth, to the top of the album chart on its release in January. In this fickle, big-today-gone-tomorrow climate (hello The Darkness!) that's no mean feat.

In person, though, The Strokes aren't as nonchalant as you might imagine. The band are in the midst of a 17-date sold-out UK tour and in just a few hours they're due on stage at the 2,500-capacity Glasgow Academy. But although the fab five are very pleased with the way their new songs are going down each night, Casablancas is taking nothing for granted: "I experience performance anxiety every night," he says. "Every night as I walk to the stage I feel, like, 'What the hell am I doing?' I feel like I'm being led to my hanging!"

Of course, come the show, Casablancas' nerves are imperceptible and the band look like they've rolled off their bar stools straight onto the stage. But the powerful show proves that The Strokes have raised their game. With Casablancas off the booze, drunken performances like their fist-bitingly bad V2004 appearance, are a thing of the past. Indeed, the band have recently taken to rehearsing before shows: tonight, they've managed to cram a drum-kit and a small forest of guitars into their tiny backstage dressing room.

Instead, Casablancas has a general determination not to rest on his laurels. "It's important to always know you can do better," he says. "You can enjoy your success, but I found that's very unhealthy. It's like the devil almost: it says, 'Look what a great thing you've done, relax, enjoy it,' but every second you waste doing that is a second you haven't put into doing the thing that you're really going to be proud of. Being over-confident only tricks people into being mediocre - you just end up screwing yourself up for the future."

Casablancas talks like a man singed by experience. The Strokes are aware that their highly anticipated second album, 2003's Room On Fire, failed to live up to expectation. It shifted 350,000 copies in the UK, hardly risible, but less than half what their debut sold. "We fell into a lot of traps making that record," admits affable drummer Moretti. "Not that we got lax, but in hindsight we were trying too hard to live up to the hype of the first album."

Room On Fire was almost like a photocopy of Is This It - largely similar and certainly not bad, but lacking the striking quality of the original. But the album's comparative failure sharpened the band's resolve. "We realised people couldn't avoid the sonic similarities of the first two records," says bassist and Casablancas' childhood pal Nikolai Fraiture. "We told ourselves that if the third album sounded like the first two it would give people the right to say: 'I told you so, they're a one trick pony.' We needed to make a third album that would open up the possibility of an actual musical career."

Nearly twice the length of their first two records, First Impressions Of Earth is very much the record they wanted - and needed - to make. Equal parts rock brawn and pop nous, it's the sound of The Strokes beefing up their taut garage-pop to almost Muse-like proportions. And while the album won't define a generation like Is This It did, it is the sound of a defiant band exploring their potential, flexing their musical muscle and proving their worth.

Not that there has been any popping of champagne corks chez Casablancas. "A few more songs could have been something special," he says, "but I didn't have the time to make them really live up to their potential." That The Strokes really care about their music has been well documented, but there's an ulterior motive to Casablancas' perfectionism that is less known: "I want to get better at my music so that I don't have to justify myself to journalists anymore," he says.

Casablancas finds interviews excruciating. "Doing press is like talking to a bunch of bad psychiatrists," he chuckles. "It's so draining when every time you're talking to someone you know what you're saying is being judged." Today, the band's management tell me, is an unusually talkative day for the singer. Forthcoming, honest and genial, he comes across as awkward rather than arrogant. Indeed, his long, meandering sentences make it abundantly clear that, off-stage, he's not your usual limelight-loving front man. "I'm not very good at banter," shrugs Casablancas. "People can say I'm vague and don't have anything to say and that's fine. But until I can express myself perfectly, I won't feel comfortable talking to people."

Is he happier now that The Strokes are no longer in the eye of the hype storm? "I don't know," he says. "I think we want that commercial success but... I don't know." He shifts in his chair, scratches his nose, crosses his arms and tries again: "I'm in two minds about it. Half of me wants to have some mega hit so that we can be legitimised. Like when people win Grammies - the achievement somehow says to the majority of earthlings, 'This is good music'. But in another way, my favourite things are usually underground things, so the other half of me feels that if we work hard and what we do is good, I shouldn't worry about that other stuff."

"I was grateful for all the hype at the time," explains Fraiture, "but I hope that now we're thought of as a band that make good records and play good gigs, rather than faces in magazines or people who wear certain clothes." Moretti agrees: "Without the frivolous hype we can build our niche and then maybe in the future we can be remembered for our music. We might not be a grandiose horse of a band, but we could be a pretty strong steed."

"People care about us in a different way now," continues Moretti, a man fond of his metaphors. "The way I look at it, it's like buying a new pair of roller-skates, the first day you get them, you're like, 'Wow, these are great - the wheels, they look beautiful.' And then maybe a year later, they're all scratched-up and they look like they've been through the ringer. But you love them almost more than you did the first day because they remind you of all your skating memories. That's us. We're roller-skates. But then rollerblades come along. Rollerblades were influenced by roller-skates - maybe they're like the Arctic Monkeys!" he laughs. "Maybe rollerblades will destroy us!"

Now that the fickle, fashion-led fans have turned their attention to the Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes have been left with a reduced, though still significant, army of what Moretti proudly calls "rock-steady fans". "They sing along to every single word," he says full of his puppyish enthusiasm. "And if they don't know the words, they pretend to! I can see them, mouthing randomly. It's very endearing."

Tonight, throughout The Strokes' mammoth 22-song set, the 2,500 rock-steady fans are in fine voice. As is Casablancas; where in the past his vocals could be muddy and undecipherable, now they're pierced with clarity. The venue bounces like one big indie disco and beer is spilt with reckless abandon. There's not much in the way of banter, just the occasional Elvis-esque, "Thankyouverymuch". But The Strokes, like their crowd, are glowing with exhilaration; by the end the whole band are jumping around and - get this! - grinning. It's abundantly clear they're having a whale of a time.

After the gig, wearing hotel slippers (his boots are wet) and nursing a beer in the hotel lobby, mop-topped guitarist Albert Hammond Jr is still buzzing. Shows in media hotspots like London, New York and LA are rarely as enjoyable as tonight's: "You can't really let go; you feel you're being judged," he says. One by one, his band mates join him. They tease Valensi about his sweet tooth - he's got a chunk of caramel toffee cake he's going to eat in bed later ("It feels less guilty that way," he says) and discuss how they'll spend their day off tomorrow. It's a toss up between getting some sleep and visiting some art galleries. Not exactly classic rock'n'roll pursuits.

The Strokes, it seems, are growing up. Moretti agrees: "A lot of things that were a lot of fun back in the day have changed," he says. "Like this feeling that we'd live forever, confidence in ourselves that's brought about by youth, stuff like that. We're a little bit more settled now, a little bit more responsible about ourselves, but we've kind of gone through certain challenges that have made us stronger. As a band. And as friends."

The five-piece realise they're not the white-hot property they once were, but as musicians - and as friends - they are tighter and, they insist, they're having more fun. And while they're genuinely proud just to have outlived their albatross-like hype, The Strokes' appetite for success is far from sated. "We've got so much left to do," says Casablancas. "We're still trying to get somewhere higher." The Strokes don't want to be remembered for being a hyped band or for being a cool band. They want to be remembered for being a great band.

'First Impressions Of Earth' is out now. The Strokes release 'You Only Live Once' on 10 July and play Manchester Old Trafford Cricket Ground on 18 June, Wireless Festival on 21 June, Oxegen Festival on 8 July and T In The Park on 9 July. See The Strokes for details.

© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited

lundi, mai 22, 2006

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Red Hot Chili Peppers Biggest of 06...So Far

Red Hot Chili Peppers (photo by Ros O'Gorman)

by Paul Cashmere @ Undercover

May 22 2006

Red Hot Chili Peppers ‘Stadium Arcadium’ is the fastest selling album of 2006 so far in Australia.

‘Stadium Arcadium’ sold a massive 52,800 units in it’s first week, beating Human Nature’s ‘Reach Out’ at number two with sales of 15,090 although with ‘Reach Out’ already 28 weeks into the chart, Human Nature have the biggest selling album of 2006 so far.

Although the Chili Peppers put in a magnificent first week effort, ‘Stadium Arcadium’ fell short of Human Nature’s Christmas week sales figure of 58,147 and just behind Il Divo’s Christmas week figure of 52,842.

‘Stadium Arcadium’ also topped the year’s previous first week best seller, ‘10,000 Days’ by Tool, which sold 39,278 on the May 8th chart.

‘Stadium Arcadium’ is now number one in 27 countries including Israel, Argentina, Finland, Slovenia, Czech Republic, South Africa and Greece.

The band will start their world tour in Barcelona, Spain on May 30th.

vendredi, mai 19, 2006

Foo Fighters

Pat Smear To Rejoin Foo Fighters

Foo Fighters (photo by Ros O'Gorman)

by Daniel Zugna @ Undercover

May 19 2006

Pat Smear will join his former band Foo Fighters during their upcoming American acoustic tour.

The band are undertaking an ‘intimate venue’ tour across several American cities, kicking off on July 11 at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre. Violinist Petra Haden also joins the tour, along with keyboardist Rami Jaffee, and percussionist Drew Hester.

Timmy Curran and Frank Black will alternate as supports for the acoustic tour, which will likely draw heavily from the second disc of Foo Fighters’ latest release, ‘In Your Honour’.

Foo Fighters Acoustic Tour Dates:

With Timmy Curran

With Timmy Curran

With Timmy Curran

With Frank Black

With Frank Black

With Frank Black

With Frank Black

jeudi, mai 18, 2006

Sum 41

Sum 41 Guitarist Quits, Seeks Metal

Millions sold, but Dave "Brownsound" Baksh departs for a heavier gig

Sum 41 Photo

Done with pop punk

Photo by David Atla

Guitarist Dave "Brownsound" Baksh may have surprised his fans last week when he announced through a press release that he had left Sum 41, but in an interview with Rolling Stone, he says the departure came as no surprise to the band members themselves.

Admitting he was "very distant" with singer-guitarist Deryck Whibley, drummer Steve Jocz and bassist Jason "Cone" McCaslin, the twenty-five-year-old Baksh says, "All three of them, when we actually spoke, said, 'We saw this coming.'"

As he built up courage to leave the multiplatinum pop-punk outfit he joined nine years ago, Baksh says he withdrew from friends because he didn't want to sound like he was complaining. "Let's just say I was pretty much your cookie-cutter depression case," he says of his mood over the last two years.

Finally, Baksh, based in Pickering, Ontario, decided to phone each of his bandmates and give them the news personally. He rang up Cone, in Toronto, and Whibley and Jocz, in Los Angeles.

"The biggest decision was whether I wanted to go out and be a detriment to this band and just be doing it for the fans," he says. "It would have been really unfair to go out and treat these guys that I respect in that manner. It would be totally rude and not like me in any way."

While it sounds like a cliche, Baksh claims he left because of the musical direction of the band, admitting, "As a guitar player, growing up I always used to practice the entire album of Symbolic by Death, you know what I mean?" While Sum 41 are currently at work on the follow-up to 2004's Chuck, Baksh hasn't really been involved, only writing a handful of guitar solos.

Clearly, the man had his heart set on something heavier. He has since connected with his first cousin, bassist Vaughn Lal, with whom he used to play before joining Sum 41 and continue to jam when he was off the road. "It was always a release for the two of us," he says, "where we could just get together and hang out and write songs and stuff like that."

Baksh says the pair is serious and has already dubbed the group the Brown Brigade -- complete with the logo of a brown knight. He's found a drummer, Lee Fairlea, and a second guitarist, "The Craigulator" (his guitar tech from Sum 41), and is now seeking a singer who lives in the Greater Toronto or Durham, Ontario, area.

"We're really just looking for somebody who fits the bill," says Baksh. "They have to be able to go from Death to Blood, Sweat and Tears at the drop of the hat.

It's me, so of course it's going to be heavy metal. But that's all I'm going to say."

KAREN BLISS @ Rolling Stone

mardi, mai 16, 2006

Wolfmother news

Wolfmother Debut At 22 On American Chart

Wolfmother (photo by Tim Cashmere)

by Daniel Zugna @ Undercover

May 15 2006

Stoner-rock heavyweights Wolfmother have made a significant impression on the American Billboard chart, with their eponymous CD debuting at #22 this week.

The album sold 34,005 copies in its first week. As a comparison, the debut CD of fellow retro-rockers Jet peaked at #26 on the same chart. ‘Wolfmother’ also debuted at #25 in the UK.

The rise of Wolfmother is showing no sign of abating. Their track ‘Love Train’ – a b-side to ‘White Unicorn’ in Australia, but an album track in the US and UK – features on the new iTunes and iPod ad. The band will also be supporting The Flaming Lips and Sonic Youth in Detroit, and have been included in the Netherlands and Belgium legs of Pearl Jam’s world tour.

lundi, mai 15, 2006

Thom Yorke

Thom Yorke Announces New Project

Thom Yorke (photo by Ros O'Gorman)

by Daniel Zugna @ Undercover

May 15 2006

Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke has announced details of his new musical project – just don’t go calling it a ‘solo record’.

The project will be called The Eraser, and is said to be an extrapolation of the electronics and beats which defined parts of Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’ and ‘Amnesiac’ albums.

Yorke enlisted the help of long-time Radiohead collaborators Nigel Godrich (producer) and Stanley Donwood (artwork) for the album which is due to be released in July by XL Recordings.

A message from Yorke to fan club members said:

yes its a record!
no its not a radiohead record.
as you know the band are now touring and writing new stuff and getting to a good space so i want no crap about me being a traitor or whatever splitting up blah blah...
this was all done with their blessing. and i don't wanna hear that word solo. doesnt sound right.
ok then thats that.

It is being reported that one of the tracks, ‘black swan’, will appear during the closing credits of Richard Linklater’s upcoming film adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel ‘A Scanner Darkly’.

‘The Eraser’ tracklisting:

1 the eraser
2 analyse
3 the clock
4 black swan
5 skip divided
6 atoms for peace
7 and it rained all night
8 harrowdown hill
9 cymbal rush

mardi, mai 09, 2006

Nick Cave news

Nick Cave and Australia's Bad Deeds

Rocker's screenplay for "The Proposition" considers Australia's "open wounds"


nick cave Photo

Where morality is a luxury

Photo by Barry Brecheisen

When director John Hillcoat asked Nick Cave to pen the screenplay for a western set in the Australian Outback, Hillcoat figured it was safe odds the country's infamously brooding singer-songwriter would spin a dark and violent yarn. The upset for writer and director alike was just how easily The Proposition, now in theaters in New York and Los Angeles, unfurled for the gothic troubadour.

"It was a mutual surprise," says Hillcoat, with whom Cave had previously worked as both actor, co-writer and soundtrack composer on the 1988 prison drama, Ghosts . . . of the Civil Dead. (Cave also penned the soundtrack for Hillcoat's 1996 film, To Have and to Hold.) Although Cave had previous experience as a writer -- his novelAnd the Ass Saw the Angel, was published in 1990 -- The Proposition was his first solo screenplay. And he dove right in: Cave's process was simple and aggressive, sending ten pages to Hillcoat by email every day. He was done in three weeks.

The resulting storyline attracted a cast of boldfaced names, including Guy Pearce (Memento) as one of a crew of outlaw brothers, with Ray Winstone (Sexy Beast) as a British captain and Emily Watson (Breaking the Waves) as his wife. John Hurt and David Wenham (Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) also appear in the film. Nick Cave does not.

"I don't think [Hillcoat] wants low-level, second-run, aging rock stars walking through his films," Cave jokes. "Both me and Johnny know that I can't act. Also, there was the [1973] Sam Peckinpah [movie], Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid . . . I think Johnny always felt that the one thing about that film that didn't really work was Bob Dylan being in it."

A western in the tradition of such films as The Wild Bunch and Unforgiven, The Proposition works within a classic set of archetypes. "I just took them and turned them on their heads," says Cave. The Outback of the 1880s was, Cave says, "an environment where morality is a kind of luxury that nobody can afford." Indeed, it's hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys, with all the characters embracing love and loyalty, as well as treachery and violence.

But while the American western romanticizes anti-heroes, the Australian western is that much more ambiguous -- on empire, racism and the law. "As Australians, we see the law as inherently bad," says Cave. "We have a real inherent distaste for authority in our makeup. Whereas America -- whether you should make peace or not, I think you've made peace with your past. I'm not saying this in a condescending kind of way, but it's quite simple: The making of America was a heroic thing. Australia has a much murkier, much more complex view of its history. It's just full of all these open wounds we don't really know what to do with. The whole aboriginal issue is still a kind of running sore in the Australian consciousness."

The film picks at Australia's founding wounds with gusto, portraying aboriginals who were criminals, aboriginals who were servants of the British and even aboriginals killing other aboriginals. Hillcoat and Cave were nervous about how people might respond to this: Some aboriginal tribes have a prohibition against images of the dead, whether a photograph or moving picture. (A disclaimer acknowledging this precedes the film.) But Cave says when the aboriginal actors -- several of them well-known veterans of such films as Walkabout and Gallipoli -- got onto the set, "They were like, 'Finally, we've got a film where we can fucking fight back!'"

Cave has already penned another screenplay, an "English seaside comic drama" set in his current home base of Brighton, the writing of which he said took just two weeks. Cave's also writing material for the follow-up to 2004's twin release, The Lyre of Orpheus/Abbatoir Blues. And truth be told, he thinks the day job is far more challenging.

That's probably because, while as a screenwriter Cave had nothing to lose, Nick Cave the songwriter is someone we expect great things from. "As a songwriter, I go into an office and I sit on my own and I never let anyone in on the songs," says Cave. "You just sit there with all this fucking shit in your head, nonsense and petty bullshit and all that kind of stuff. You have to try and work your way to doing something that's meaningful. It's really hard, actually."

(The Proposition, open in New York and L.A., will debut in Chicago May 19th, and around the rest of the country May 26th.)

JASON COHEN @ Rolling Stone

lundi, mai 08, 2006

Pearl Jam go Aussie

Pearl Jam Announce Australian Tour

Pearl Jam

by Tim Cashmere @ Undercover

May 8 2006

Pearl Jam have announced their return to Australia, hot on the heels of the brilliantly received self titled 8th studio album.

The band will hit Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide in November, with a Perth date to be added shortly.

While album sales have dramatically reduced for Pearl Jam over their career, the band continue to sell out huge stadiums wherever they tour and Australia will be no different.

Supporting the band will be young American rock band Kings of Leon, who were last here earlier this year as part of the Big Day Out tour.

Dates so far are:

November 7 – Acer Arena (Formerly Sydney Superdome), Sydney
November 10 – Entertainment Center, Brisbane
November 13 – Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne
November 21 – Entertainment Center, Adelaide

If previous Pearl Jam tours are anything to go by, more dates will be added as they sell out. Last time Pearl Jam sold 100,000 tickets in one week.

Their latest album ‘Pearl Jam’ this week debuted at #2 on the Australian charts.

dimanche, mai 07, 2006

Grant McLennan

Go Betweens Founder Dead At 48

GW McLennan

by Tim Cashmere @ Undercover

May 7 2006

Grant McLennan of Australia's The Go-Betweens has been found dead in his Brisbane home at the age of 48.

McLennan was a founding member of The Go-Betweens after forming the band with Robert Forster in the early 80s.

Despite never really achieving commercial success, their credibility was carved from their first album 'Send Me A Lullaby' in 1981.

With a firmly planted name in the UK market, the band became quiet well known across Europe but by 1989, it was all over … at least for a decade.

In that time, McLennan released solo albums including 'Watershed' which was given a 5 star review by Rolling Stone.

In 2000, the McLennan and Forster reformed the band and have continued to record annually.

Grant McLennan, born February 12th 1958, is survived by his mother, sister and girlfriend Emma.

Grant McLennan R.I.P.

On Saturday 6th May, legendary Australian singer songwriter Grant W McLennan died in his sleep at his home in Brisbane.

McLennan was one of Australia's greatest songwriters who created an outstanding musical legacy as a founder member of The Go-Betweens and as a solo artist. He was enjoying enormous acclaim for the band's most recent album Oceans Apart, which has received five star reviews around the world and won had a prestigious ARIA award.

McLennan was born in Rockhampton, Queensland on 12th February 1958. While attending university in Brisbane he met fellow student Robert Forster and together they formed The Go-Betweens. After releasing a string of singles the band recorded their debut album, Send Me A Lullaby, in 1981. The Go-Betweens recorded a series of exceptional albums that achieved widespread critical acclaim and were fundamental in bringing Australian music to a global audience. He was an unparalleled lyricist and a prolific and meticulous composer. His auto-biographical masterpiece 'Cattle and Cane' was recently voted by the Australian Performing Rights Association as one of the ten greatest Australian songs of all time.

In 1989 The Go-Betweens took a ten year sabbatical and McLennan recorded four powerful solo albums including the vivacious debut Watershed and the epic Horsebreaker Star as well as forming satellite groups like Jack Frost with Steve Kilbey of The Church and The Far Out Corporation with Iain Haug of Powderfinger.

When Robert Forster and Grant McLennan reformed The Go-Betweens in 2000, the band was greeted with adulation by a new generation of musicians like Belle and Sebastian for whom, their songs had been an inspirational teenage soundtrack. The three albums the band subsequently released were universally acknowledged as containing some of McLennan's greatest compositions.

McLennan was a passionate supporter of the arts, extremely well-read and maintained a keen interest in all contemporary music, cinema and visual art. He was an exceptionally charming and polite man who endeared himself to everyone who met him and was one of the rare individuals worthy of the epithet 'larger than life'.

His singular contribution to music and his commitment to his craft simply cannot be understated. He will be deeply missed by all who knew him. He is survived by his mother, sister, girlfriend Emma and lifetime musical colleague Robert Forster.

Bernard MacMahon, Lo-Max Records, 6th May 2006

samedi, mai 06, 2006


CNET editors' review


Reviewed by: Tim Gideon
Edited by: Jasmine France

Review date: 5/3/06

From London comes, a sort of cross between Pandora and Friendster. The short of it: Users create profiles and, as with Pandora, listen to radio stations customized to their tastes. The ghost in the machine then attempts to suggest new music to listeners who are game, as well as introduce users to other members and groups with similar tastes. It's an interesting concept, and like Pandora, it's free, which leaves little room for complaints. It's possible, though, that has bitten off more than it can chew by attempting to make the site a social network as well; only time will tell whether Friendsters and MySpacers have room in their hearts (and workdays) for yet another social networking site. The good news is that the social aspect is but one tiny facet of an otherwise extremely successful music service.

The home page is simply laid out, with a field to enter an artist or a band name in the center.

While is far more involved than Pandora, it is also far more popular. It's not the customized radio stations that make it better or worse--both sites produce pretty similar results--it's the ease of use and availability of options. For instance,'s player uses its own free software (which you must download), so if your browser crashes, your device still plays, as long as there's still an Internet connection. However, this also means you must download the software wherever you want to listen to, whereas you can access Pandora simply by opening a Web page on any Internet-connected computer.

If you choose to listen to an artist's or a fan's radio, this is what the player looks like.

Of course, offers a bit more in the extras department. There are artist-profile pages; lists of artists similar to an artist you like, based on the tastes of other users; and the excellent ability to tag a song. Tagging is just what it sounds like--if you label a song 80's new wave or Saturday Night, you can search your music picks by the tags you created (you can also give a song more than one tag). Users can also search other people's tags--and ogle other user profiles, if one so desires.

Once you enter an artist's name, you will be taken to their specific page, which lists similar artists and offers the ability to listen to their "similar artists radio" station.

Basic operation of is a piece of cake. Want to listen to artists similar to Deerhoof? Simply enter deerhoof in the large, blank field in the center of the home page, and immediately you will be taken to a page that offers Deerhoof radio, Deerhoof Fan radio (a radio option that lets you listen to fan picks), and all sorts of other options involving the band. The selections on Deerhoof radio were pretty dead-on, ranging from angular noise rock--which Deerhoof certainly meshes with--to jangly indie rock, which also works with the Deerhoof aesthetic. Occasionally, an unreleased song from a new artist may pop up because labels have paid for this privilege, and as points out in its extensive FAQ section, you can always skip the track if you wish, but this may be a band you'll be seeing in a few months, so it could be worth your time. Also found in the FAQ section is the adamant declaration that the software users must download to play with is not spyware. Still, it's worth noting that shares information about your listening habits with record labels. While we don't particularly like being monitored, this strikes us as a nonissue: It's not like the company has your credit card number, social-security information, or even your real name.

The software in question is actually the Audioscrobbler plug-in, and it's required in order for to make music recommendations. It's also integral to the overall operation of the service and the community aspect. The plug-in is installed within your media player(s) of choice and keeps track of the music you play. This data is posted to your profile page, which other users can look at and comment on, and it's used by to make music recommendations to you.

The community aspect of isn't entirely flushed out, since the user base is still relatively small, but the ability to view other members' most-played song lists and comment on their music tastes is a nice touch. The music service is a big hit, and the success of the networking portion of the Web site will largely be decided by users themselves. Regardless of whether you care to meet a Nirvana fanatic who hails from Brussels, we can certainly attest to the high quality of's radio services. What are you waiting for? It's free!

jeudi, mai 04, 2006

Radiohead touring

Radiohead Announce North American Tour

Radiohead (photo by Ros O'Gorman)

by Daniel Zugna @ Undercover

May 2 2006

Radiohead have confirmed rumours of an ‘intimate-setting’ North American tour, announcing a string of dates across the United States and Canada.

The Oxford quintet will play two theatre shows in each city they visit, kicking off at Philadelphia’s Tower Theatre on June 1–2. The band stated: “set lists for the shows will draw heavily on the newer material the band has been working on over the past months. The performances will take place in smaller than usual venues, and will feature appropriately scaled down staging and lighting design, creating a suitably intimate environment for the first ever airings of several new songs.”

Meanwhile, Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood have returned to the stage in London, a week ahead of the beginning of the European leg of the Radiohead tour. In a one-off show in aid of Friends Of The Earth, the duo performed a 13-track semi-acoustic set, which included three tracks from the band’s forthcoming seventh studio album. Two of the tracks are named – ‘Arpeggi’ and ‘Bodysnatchers’ – whilst the other remains untitled.

It has been confirmed by the band that their follow-up to ‘Hail To The Thief’ will not be released until 2007.

North American Tour Dates:

06-01 Philadelphia, PA - Tower Theatre
06-02 Philadelphia, PA - Tower Theatre
06-04 Boston, MA - Bank of America Pavilion
06-05 Boston, MA - Bank of America Pavilion
06-07 Toronto, Ontario - Hummingbird Center
06-08 Toronto, Ontario - Hummingbird Center
06-10 Montreal, Quebec - Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier at Place des Arts
06-11 Montreal, Quebec - Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier at Place des Arts
06-13 New York, NY - The Theatre at Madison Square Garden
06-14 New York, NY - The Theatre at Madison Square Garden
06-19 Chicago, IL - Auditorium Theatre
06-20 Chicago, IL - Auditorium Theatre
06-23 Berkeley, CA - Greek Theater
06-24 Berkeley, CA - Greek Theater
06-26 San Diego, CA - Bayside
06-27 San Diego, CA - Bayside
06-29 Los Angeles, CA - Greek Theater
06-30 Los Angeles, CA - Greek Theater

European Tour Dates:

05-06 Copenhagen, Denmark - KB Hall
05-07 Copenhagen, Denmark - KB Hall
05-09 Amsterdam, Holland - Heineken Music Hall
05-10 Amsterdam, Holland - Heineken Music Hall
05-12 Blackpool, England - Empress Ballroom
05-13 Blackpool, England - Empress Ballroom
05-15 Wolverhampton, England - Civic
05-16 Wolverhampton, England - Civic
05-18 London, England - Hammersmith Apollo
05-19 London, England - Hammersmith Apollo
06-17 Manchester, TN - Bonnaroo Festival
08-12 Budapest, Hungary - Óbudai Island (Sziget Festival)
08-15 Avenches, Switzerland - Rock Oz Arenes
08-19 Chelmsford, England - Hylands Park (V Festival)
08-20 Staffordshire, England - Weston Park (V Festival)
08-22 Edinburgh, Scotland - Meadowbank
08-24 Dublin, Ireland - Marlay Park