vendredi, octobre 26, 2007

Arcade Fire

The bitter taste of success.

They've crashed into the mainstream and Hollywood adores them, but Arcade Fire aren't happy. Alexis Petridis meets a band trying to make sense of their ascent to stardom

Friday October 26, 2007

The Guardian

Randall's Island sits in the middle of New York's East River, a vast, characterless, landfill-augmented field, surrounded by straits given the kind of alluring names that New York's outer boroughs seem to specialise in: to the east there's Hell Gate and to the north, Bronx Kill. If it's not quite as ghastly as the waters around it suggest, Randall's Island certainly doesn't exude much in the way of charm, even in the sunshine of an unseasonably hot autumn afternoon. It is, concedes Richard Reed Parry - Arcade Fire's affable red-headed multi-instrumentalist sometimes known to play a crash helmet with a drumstick onstage - a far cry from the venues at which the band are renowned for performing: the churches that seem to echo the quasi-religious fervour in their music, the "aesthetically inspiring" spaces in which Parry has claimed they play their best. "We wanted the whole place hung with carnival lights," he sighs sadly, "but the city wouldn't let us do it." Instead, for the event they are headlining, Arcade Fire have attempted to stamp some quirky personality on the field by erecting a small stage to its rear on which a mariachi band play unamplified. Alas, the mariachi leader ends up singing his heart out and talking about how grateful they are to be here to a scattering of nonplussed punters, pausing only momentarily on their way between the hot dog stands and the Portaloos.

But if you wanted an indication of the magnitude of Arcade Fire's rise since the March release of their second album, Neon Bible, then Randall's Island and the nonplussed punters would do nicely. A couple of years ago, Arcade Fire were a critically acclaimed seven-piece, alt-rock act, albeit one noted for the intensity of their live shows, their frenzied, evangelical cult following, their penchant for dressing like 19th-century American farmers and for the fact that their two central members were a married couple, Win Butler and Regine Chassagne: the former the son of a wealthy Texan oilman who had moved to Montreal to form a band, the latter the daughter of Haitian refugees who had landed in Quebec in flight from "Baby Doc" Duvalier's dictatorship. They played the kind of venues that critically acclaimed alt-rock acts perform in: when asked by U2 to support them on a handful of Canadian stadium dates, the band viewed the shows, Parry says, with the bemused detachment of people who weren't really supposed to be there, dumbfounded by what he calls the "huge, ginormo machine of a production". "It was," he recalls, "like, whoah."

And yet, here they are, barely two years later, performing to 22,000 people, a crowd, Parry notes, that is "as big as one of those U2 shows". They are at the end of a vast American tour during which they were feted not by the kind of rock aristocrats who have queued up to garland the band with praise since the release of their debut album, Funeral, (David Bowie and David Byrne have both performed with them, while earlier this year a journalist at a New York show reported, aghast, that he had seen Lou Reed actually smile at the conclusion of their performance), but by a rather different kind of celebrity: Scarlett Johansson, Drew Barrymore and James Spader all turned up to see them in Hollywood, as did Rod Stewart, an artist whose love for apocalyptically inclined, anthemic baroque art-rock had previously gone strangely unnoticed.

The audience thronging Randall's Island, meanwhile, is conspicuously light on the kind of whey-faced indie-kid blogger whose early support earned Arcade Fire that most noughties of labels, the Internet Phenomenon. Instead, there are baseball caps and shorts and Gap casual wear in profusion: this is very much a mainstream American rock crowd.

It is all evidence of success of a kind that should, theoretically, cause headaches and hand-wringing in Arcade Fire's ranks. This is, after all, a band who zealously guard their independence and rigorously shun the celebrity that seems an inescapable by-product of your second album reaching the Top 10 around the world. "The song is independent of my face and what I look like," says Chassagne. "I know in pop music people are really used to, like, relating it to the person who made it and what they eat and what they do every day, but to me it's just independent." Nor could you accuse them of rapaciously pursuing global domination: earlier this year, Butler was heard to bemoan,"bands who think in terms of, 'I'm going to be the biggest band in the world, fuck all those bands who've got no ambition,'" as "a total crock of shit". Then there's the fact that Arcade Fire thrive, according to Parry, on "playing small rooms where you can really get in people's faces and connect with them and wrestle with them".

In an air-conditioned dressing room backstage, however, Butler is inclined to disagree. Slumping his 6ft 5in frame into an armchair - somehow he looks even bigger in mufti than in his onstage costume - he protests that there has been little hand-wringing about Arcade Fire's burgeoning mainstream success: for one thing, he says, success means it's easier to refuse to do things you don't want to do. Nor is he particularly sorry to see the back of playing small venues: indeed, he prefers playing Randall's Island or the Hollywood Bowl to the euphoric, wildly acclaimed performances they gave at London's St John's Church and Porchester Hall in January. "This tour is the opposite of the sell-it-out hype thing. It's more about letting people who want to see us, see us. That feels really good. A lot of these shows have been more intimate than the warm-up shows we did in the churches because they were so overwhelming and press-centered."

Perhaps Butler's contrariness should come as little surprise. He is famously no great fan of the media, claiming never to read anything written about the band which means that this year he'll have missed both the appearance of a blog called Arcade Fire Stole My Basketball, on which an outraged fellow user of the Cal Berkeley gym baldly accused him of the theft alluded to in the title, and Arcade Fire being called the Greatest Band in the World by at least three different British periodicals.

You get the impression that being interviewed seldom constitutes the highlight of his day. Today, he's scrupulously polite and thoughtful in his answers, but you would never confuse him with a boundless font of easygoing bonhomie. "I don't like the process of having to promote an album and talk about it," he says, flatly, "and I learnt pretty early on that the artist always seems like the asshole in the situation, no matter what you do. Even if, like, someone was poking you in the face and you went 'fucking stop that!', when the article comes out, it'll be like that happened in slow motion." He mimes giving someone the finger in slow motion, then sighs. "You can't win "

Both he and Parry think Arcade Fire's aversion to celebrity may have something to do with their roots in Montreal. For one thing, there are arts grants available to bands that instil a certain anti-commercial sensibility in the city's musicians: "They encourage people to think that being an artist is a viable way of life, that doing something that won't necessarily make money is a worthwhile thing to do."

For another, there is the shadow of the French Quebec pop scene, packed with artists unknown outside of its confines, but who apparently "sell as many records as Arcade Fire do worldwide, just in Quebec". "In Montreal, we're not celebrities at all, those people are celebrities," says Butler. Parry nods. "Occasionally, we've noticed that people are kind of surprised, like, wow, you've done really well, you're nearly as big as Jean LeClerc."

But whatever the reason, Butler has gained the reputation of a prickly and rather difficult customer. His understandable desire to avoid what he calls "the hoops" of the music industry - "all the things that have nothing to do with playing your instrument or playing together that take up a lot more energy than actually playing music and connecting with people"- has occasionally shown a tendency to look more like unappealing petulance.

It was Butler who smashed a camera with his mandolin and stormed off stage during Arcade Fire's appearance on Friday Night With Jonathan Ross, apparently piqued because the band had to sit in the green room with the other guests while he wanted to visit a friend instead.

In fact, the ill-humoured appearance on Jonathan Ross was indicative of what was, by all accounts, a difficult summer for Arcade Fire. Despite the critical plaudits and commercial success, says Butler, "there have definitely been points in this year when we've been pretty down". Oddly, given their obsession with turning a live show into a communal experience in which the music invites a transcendent mass singalong, Parry came to the conclusion during a gruelling round of festival appearances that Arcade Fire were simply "not a festival band".

Certainly, their performance at Glastonbury, anticipated by many as the event's highlight, fell noticeably short of expectation: while no disaster, they didn't quite set the sodden environs of Worthy Farm alight in the way that their forebears Radiohead did a decade before.

For their part, Arcade Fire seem to have been faintly horrified by the Glastonbury experience. "There's something charming about how disorganised and hippy it is even though it's on that level," says Butler, his Texas drawl modulating into a tone that suggests he didn't think there was anything charming about it whatsoever, "but it was a fucking nightmare. It was like a mudpit. You have to drive your truck through the middle of the crowd of -" he pauses, as if grasping for the words to describe the ghastliness "- of shit," he finally decides.

"People are like, throwing up and hitting the doors and things like that. I get the appeal of wanting to get high for the first time and wanting to run round the fields, you know, but that's not necessarily the most engaging experience to me." Parry nods: "We were just, like, what in God's name is this?" "Why would I be here if I wasn't playing?"

They have toured almost consistently since January, a schedule that proved so punishing Butler and Parry alight on the singer contracting an acute sinus infection in March as an unlikely highlight: "Even though I was recovering from surgery, it was great, we had a month with nothing to do." They talk with a contagious wistfulness about the pleasure of being in the studio - at one point, Butler offers a description of recording a track off their debut album called Haiti that's so detailed it borders on fetishism - of returning to the converted church where they recorded Neon Bible, of finding a way to break out of the album-tour-album-tour treadmill. "We're going to find a way," says Butler. "That's the next great challenge. It's not the best system for creativity, because that's not the way it works: be creative for two years, don't be creative for two years."

That night, as they take the Randall's Island stage, he announces with barely concealed relish that this is the last time Arcade Fire will play New York "for a couple of years". The audience hoot their derision. "Yeah," says Butler, heavily. "Boo. Hiss."

Road-weary or not, they are magnificent on the stage. By the encore, Butler's brother Will is hanging perilously from the lighting rig and Arcade Fire have genuinely succeeded in transforming Randall's Island into something magical: a sea of swaying hands, a vast choir of voices singing along to Wake Up's wordless chorus. At the show's conclusion, the band rush into the crowd where they perform a frantic cover of the Violent Femmes' Kiss Off, to the delight of fans within earshot and the visible horror of security. It is, as Parry would say, like, whoah.

Backstage, I see Butler and Chassagne talking with fans, still holding an acoustic guitar and an accordion respectively, distractedly picking out a tune as they chat. Then they slip away into the dressing room, still playing their instruments.

· Arcade Fire play SECC, Glasgow, tonight. Then tour.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

lundi, octobre 22, 2007


Nine tracks from Soulwax.

Alongside his brother Stephen, David Dewaele revolutionised dance music as Soulwax. Their work splicing together songs from unlikely sources (like Salt-n-Pepa with Iggy Pop) helped to give rise to the phenomenon of the mash-up, while their remixes continue to be the industry standard. Here David tells us about some songs that have influenced him

Monday October 22, 2007

Guardian Unlimited

David Dewaele
David Dewaele eats with Soulwax. Photograph: Alex Salinas

Rollin' and Scratchin', Daft Punk

This track came out in 1996, when I was 21, and at the time I was mainly into the Beatles and American west-coast rock. This track changed all that. It was the first techno song I ever liked because it was such a consciously stupid track, but so funky and soulful with its stupidness. I'm aware that Daft Punk didn't invent that style of dance music but the sound of this track is very extreme. I remember wondering "How did they make it so melodic?" And also, "How are they going to get royalties for that?"
Buy the track on iTunes.
Firecracker, Yellow Magic Orchestra

Simple yet melodic music by people who are obsessed with analogue synths - the Japanese Kraftwerk, if you will. At the time this record was made, electronic music was still something for high-grade, skilled musicians, rather than the sort of populist stuff you get now, and it was a better quality, too. I find that when something first arrives, in this case the electronica of Devo, Kraftwerk and the Yellow Magic Orchestra, it's at its best. That's when you feel like boundaries are being pushed.

In that way, I feel Soulwax or Richard X or Erol Alkan have all stood the test of time in a way that many of the current mash-ups and bootlegs will not. We always wanted to combine technical proficiency with melody, but now the technical aspects seem to be more important. Plus, the style of music is a lot more familiar to people; you can walk into a supermarket and hear Jay-Z mixing it up with Linkin Park. (Not available on iTunes.)

I Believe in You, Talk Talk

I continue to love and admire Talk Talk. Their album 1988 Spirit of Eden, from which this single is taken, was considered a flop commercially and critically, but in time it's become apparent that it is the influential basis for a lot of bands today, bands who make atmospheric, beautiful music like Radiohead or Sigur Ros. This track gives me chills every time I hear it.
Buy this track on iTunes.

Soft Machine, Les Rhythmes Digitales

It's an incredible tune, if not the most popular. Stuart Price (Les Rhythmes Digitales) was on the same label as us, so we were friends before I'd even heard the album Darkdancer. It is what I'd describe as an offbeat IDN (intelligent dance music) version of 80s dance music. There are fucked-up drumbeats with vocals over the top, which is difficult to pull off, but here it sounds fantastic. We've told him on several occasions he should do more of that stuff.
Buy this track on iTunes.

The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel. Grandmaster Flash

When I was about 12, I saw a TV show about hip-hop in New York. I remember the producers visited LL Cool J's mum's house and things like that. Anyway, they get to Grandmaster Flash's house and he starts explaining how he DJs. He says that all he does is take the best bits of the records he loves and repeats them so people can dance. Which is a simple display of genius. The idea stuck with me and years later we adopted that approach ourselves for 2 Many DJs.
Buy this track on iTunes.

Afraid Himself to Be, Jason Falkner

Grammatically, incorrect; musically, very correct. Falkner is the sort of guy that pops up on the liner notes of all these great albums by bands like the Grays and Fabulon, but he releases a solo album and it more or less gets ignored. I'm OK...You're OK is an album of intelligent pop music with intricate melodies, in the vein of the Beatles or the Kinks. This guy is incredible and deserves popular acclaim.
Buy this track on iTunes.

Hard Times, The League Unlimited Orchestra

Human League released the album Dare in 1981 and a year afterwards they released an album of remixes of it called Modern Dancing. It featured extended minimal dance versions of their pop tracks and became the blueprint of everything we did on Night Versions. Modern Dancing was mainly the work of Martin Rushent - the band were touring at the time - and he used lots echo effects and repetitive basslines. We've made no secret of paying homage to his style.
Buy this track on iTunes.

Lord Grunge, The Frogs

The Frogs are two guys from Chicago, the Flemion brothers, who are renowned for their very funny, very dark albums. I guess they're not dissimilar to Queen in that respect, where you have brilliant music but funny Zappa-esque lyrics. The track Lord Grunge really stood out from the rest of their music and a bit of investigation showed it has been produced by Billy Corgan. Incredible pop music meets fucked-up lyrics about a band getting eaten up and raped by the music industry. If you find an MP3, well lucky you. It's great. (This track is not available on iTunes.)

Loose, The Stooges

When it comes to garage rock, no one equals this band. We've played with them at festivals - trust me when I say that they're phenomenal. The whole band are innovators. However good a band like, say, the Datsuns are, there's no way they can imitate them. When the Stooges are on stage you believe it and having seen them on the reunion tour it gave me hope for the future. Many reunions can disappoint you but this was inspiration.
This track is not available on iTunes.

As told to Paul MacInnes.

· Most Of The Remixes, a two-CD compilation featuring most of Soulwax's remixes, is out today. For tour dates, visit their MySpace page.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

dimanche, octobre 21, 2007

Girl Power

If you wanna be a pop star, you better get with the girls.

'Girl Power', once just a slogan, now dominates the pop charts. So what happened to the boys?

Kitty Empire
Sunday October 21, 2007
The Observer

As pop manifestos go, the one touted by the nascent Spice Girls in long-ago 1996 was more suspect than most. Girl Power was a cheeky, hen-night vision of feminism riddled with body dysmorphia and worse. It was all catchphrase and little artistic control, as Spice memoirs have laid bare. But a decade on, with the Girls reunited and retailing their forthcoming album in lingerie chain Victoria's Secret, it turns out that Girl Power was no eye-rolling matter after all, at least commercially.

As 2007 sashays to a close, pop has rarely been more female. A glance at the albums being released up until Christmas reveals a coven of pop high priestesses handbagging each other in pursuit of pop buyers' cash. Britney's comeback has been rushed forward to stave off internet leaks; Kylie's big, sparkly two fingers to cancer arrives next month. In pop, as in life, women seem to outlive men. Deathless disco mama Madonna has a new £60m deal and another pop confection due next year. British pop's most confounding triad, Sugababes, continue to have hits despite having their DNA frequently rearranged; they are the perfect example of a brand, rather than a band.

After a year cooking up her debut in the US, X Factor winner Leona Lewis's imminent album will try to establish her as an enduring pop force. Rihanna's 'Umbrella' was a rain dance so effective it changed the climate and stayed at No 1 for 10 weeks. And the most entertaining girl group of all, Girls Aloud, defy rumours of their demise with a new set, also out next month. We need no reminder that the biggest pop news this year was Kate Nash. Meanwhile, the wellbeing (or not) of Amy Winehouse (though her retro sound is outside the realm of pure pop) remains a national obsession, and her arrest last Thursday in Norway ensures the prurience will continue.

But where are the boys? Genders used to be evenly matched in the pop game. For every female artist, there was a winsome romantic beau, sexually unthreatening to pre-teens but just lush enough to inspire filthy home-made banners from fans on the way to the sold-out arena. In pop's heyday, the Eighties, the Whams and Spands and Frankies defined the age more indelibly and with more make-up than the girls, who have faded from memory (although it is nice when Kim Wilde crops up on a TV gardening show). In the Nineties, clots of chaps - Bros, New Kids on the Block, Take That, East 17, Boyzone, Westlife - ruled the arenas, a status quo that the Spice Girls overturned.

The demise of the boy band has been widely mulled over during the past few years. Even those notional saviours of the genre, McFly, have lost their lustre. True, the Take That reunion and the continued existence of Westlife mean that there will never be a national shortage of swollen multi-part ballads. The odd trouser turn-up does occasionally breach the frilly cordon sanitaire in place around pop - this year Mika was the exception that proved the rule that boys in pop are missing, presumed dead. And Robbie? His most heartfelt and breezy album tanked, making you feel almost sorry for him. Almost.

If boys in pop are all but dead, we know the execution date and the executioners. It was 2002, when two Pop Stars: The Rivals teams squared up. In the red corner, Girls Aloud with their strange, twanging single, 'Sound of the Underground'. In the blue corner, slushy boy band One True Voice, Svengali'd by pop puppeteer Pete Waterman. The smart money was on the fellas, but Girls Aloud staged a historic pop upset when they trounced the hapless, derivative guys and went on to be the most successful British talent show act ever.

What did the boys do in the wake of this symbolic defeat? They stropped. Busted earned the boy band a brief, riffy reprieve from obsolescence. Many more of them felt sorry for themselves, and learned how to play acoustic guitar. Where once a young man could prance under a hundredweight of hair gel and get rich, in the mid-Noughties it was essential to become a sensitive singer-songwriter to impress. What is Paolo Nutini but a lost boy band member trying to cut it as a troubadour? It would take a stylist half a second and some bicycle shorts to shear James Morrison of all his hard-conjured credibility.

Perhaps pop's gendercide is better explained as a diaspora: the cute boys and their ballads moved sideways, out of dance routines and on to guitar stools - or into R&B. In the US, male pop is a one-man show. Justin Timberlake presides over the most impressive post-boy band career ever. Like us, the Americans also have plenty of pouting male singer-songwriters who might once have been pressed into pop shapes; John Mayer sees himself as a serious blues guitarist but has he looked in the mirror? Jack Johnson - a buff surfer with an acoustic guitar - is one of the US's biggest draws.

But if you are looking for the love of a soft-hearted stripling, you will find it has become almost exclusively an urban thing. While our own Craig David is now a figure of fun, in the US, the loverman brigade - Omarion, Joe, Ne-Yo, Akon and Mario - are potent chart players. They take the schmaltz of pop and dress it up in the more attitudinal garb of hip hop. At heart, though, these are ladies' men. Antecedents aren't hard to find here. American music is stuffed with old soul lovermen, and the new breed draw deeply from the well dug by priapic teddy bears Luther Vandross, Alexander O'Neal and R Kelly. But rarely have soppy men appeared in such numbers, so consistently high in the Billboard charts. Usher remains the undisputed champion of this eye-wateringly tedious strand of R&B.

Why has the XY factor gone out of pop? It's not an easy question to answer. Gay men are the pivotal early adopters of all puissant pop outfits. Groups like Take That spent their early months touring gay clubs as well as schools. Have gay men given up on smooth-cheeked wannabes? They may well have ploughed all their cash into supporting needy divas like Madonna and Barbra Streisand instead. According to a tabloid, London's Soho is to erect a statue of Kylie, thanks to lobbying by fans: Soho's denizens are hardly campaigning for Gareth Gates on a plinth.

But the real culprits are probably youngsters. The rosy-cheeked masses who loved pop are fractured now. They are forming aesthetic judgments earlier than previous generations. Instead of being told what to like by Smash Hits and record companies, they are roaming the web, favouring outfits like the Kooks over cute boys with no guitars.

It is also the fault of the acts themselves. With every generation of British boy band, the output became more saccharine. Take That were feisty; Boyzone far duller. By the time the boy band franchise trickled down to Westlife, it was all ballads, all the time. They appealed to grandmothers.

Some of the blame can be ascribed, too, to the lack of imagination of producers and record companies. In R&B, as in pop, it is usually the female-fronted records that take the most musical risks. Producers have done immensely cool, creepy, daft and marvellous things with Britney, Amerie, Aaliyah, Christina Aguilera; Gwen Stefani's records do nothing but monkey about with pop convention.

The sexiness of these female stars - the crux of pop transactions - is a given. As long as they gyrate and smoulder, and some sort of hook is present, the rest of the record can sound like an accident in an electronics factory, and no one will bat an eyelid. Pop's men are more limited, crooning sweet nothings to a swell of synthesised strings. They lack topspin, winks, daring. You can count the men who have fronted avant-garde pop records on two fingers: Timberlake and Usher, whose icy crunk hit of 2004 'Yeah' was the torso-toting dullard's finest moment. Until the records get more exciting, male pop stars are doomed. (We await the new Duran Duran album - laced with collaborations with Justin Timberlake and producer Timbaland - with great interest.) And the new breed? Up 'n' coming foursome Palladium are making a valiant attempt at rekindling the male pop band. Their single, 'High Five', contains such charmingly pre-sexual pop sentiments as 'three kisses for me, and I know she's the marrying kind'. But rather than just dancing giddily, Palladium have had to resort to playing instruments to get attention. They sound like the Feeling with a few added riffs. If they are the best the industry can cook up, pop's men are going to be missing in action for some time yet.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

jeudi, octobre 18, 2007

Subways news

The Subways preview new material at Club NME LA.

The trio thrill the packed house.

The Subways
The Subways

The Subways previewed new material during their sold-out show at Club NME Los Angeles with Fred Perry Subculture last night (October 17).

The English trio breezed through crowd-pleasing favourites including 'Young For Eternity' and 'Rock And Roll Queen' in addition to new tracks 'Kalifornia', 'Girls & Boys' and 'I Won't Let You Down'.

"This is only the tenth show we've done this year, which is weird for us because we're used to playing a lot of shows, but we've been busy making our new record," frontman Billy Lunn told the crowd before launching into a new song.

The packed house, which included Art Brut's Eddie Argos, sang along to several tracks from The Subways' debut album and pumped their fists in the air.

"Thank you guys--you've been the best club we've ever been to -- ever!" gushed Linn at the end of their 45-minute set.

The band have been in Los Angeles for the past few weeks recording the follow-up to 'Young For Eternity'.

"It's nerve-wracking to play the new material for the first time, and I really didn't know what to expect from LA gigs," Linn told NME.COM after their set. "But it's been amazing and humbling to see so many people who know the words to our songs."

The Subways played:

'Turn Around'
'With You'
'Young For Eternity'
'Girls & Boys'
'Oh Yeah'
'I Want To Hear What You Have Got To Say'
'I Won't Let You Down'
'Rock & Roll Queen'

Club NME with Fred Perry Subculture takes place at Spaceland in the Silver Lake neighbourhood of Los Angeles every Wednesday night.

Next Wednesday (October 24), Air Traffic are set to headline Club NME LA with Fred Perry Subculture.

For more information, visit

--By our Los Angeles staff.

jeudi, octobre 11, 2007

Bat For Lashes live

Bat For Lashes preview new material at sold-out LA show.

Brighton band also cover Tom Waits.

Bat For Lashes
Bat For Lashes
Picture: Guy Eppel

Bat For Lashes previewed new material and covered Tom Waits during their sold-out show at the Troubadour in Los Angeles last night (October 9).

Brighton's Natasha Khan was backed by an all-female three-piece band who traded instruments throughout the night including violin, harpsichord, xylophone, flute, drums, guitars and keyboards.

The band created a mystical atmosphere with dark stage lighting and renaissance-style costumes replete with glittering headbands, which was mimicked by several girls in the audience.

"We're two weeks into our American tour and we just went to the Grand Canyon, which was amazing," Khan told the crowd, adding that she picked up a giant walking stick there, which she used as percussion on some songs.

Bat For Lashes
previewed an atmospheric untitled new song, which featured haunting harmonies and a heavy bassline.

"This is our second time in LA in two months and it's great to be back," Khan told the crowd, who cheered loudly in response.

The recent Mercury Prize nominee played every track from the debut album 'Fur & Gold', as well as a cover of Waits' 'Lonely' during their 75-minute set.

--By our Los Angeles staff.

vendredi, octobre 05, 2007


Sugababes, Robots in disguise

*** (Island)

Alexis Petridis
Friday October 5, 2007
The Guardian

The arrival of the Sugababes' fifth album is heralded with a set of gawp-inducing statistics. The trio are the most successful female act of the century. They have had more Top 10 singles with original songs than any girl group since the Supremes. They are the first girl group in 20 years to release more than three hit albums: stitch that, Destiny's Child and the Spice Girls.

But more gawp-inducing still is the fact that the Sugababes are still here. Normally, when a pop act releases a greatest hits album, it's a signal that the jig is up and the record company are filling out their contract with one last release. But a year on from Overloaded, their hits compilation, their single About You Now has just entered the charts at No 1. Normally, when a member of a pop band decides to quit, that's it: solemn press conferences are called, tearful announcements are made thanking the fans, distraught tweenage girls and gay men have to be talked down off high ledges. But the Sugababes shed members without denting their success. In early photographs, latest recruit Amelle Berrabah wore a weird, rigid, glazed expression that suggested solitary original member Keisha Buchanan might have finally opted to cut out the middleman and start replacing her departing band mates with shop-window dummies. But it seems Berrabah is very much alive: last month the tabloids were rife with rumours that she was for the chop as well.

The Sugababes' refusal to quit is starting to rankle in some quarters. Bands like them were supposed to have been bulldozed from the landscape long ago, to create more room for earnest singer-songwriters and mortgage indie, yet they cling on, like a doughty pensioner who refuses to vacate her home despite the fact that it's now encircled by motorways and there's a DFS where her back garden used to be. Radio 1 has offered few more delicious sounds this year than that of Jo Whiley huffily premiering About You Now, muttering darkly about not being a huge fan, before cueing up something really worthwhile from the Pigeon Detectives or the Hoosiers. If you didn't like About You Now before - perhaps your enjoyment of its fat-free construction and skyward-bound chorus was tempered by the fact that producer Lukasz Gottwald was essentially repeating the trick he minted three years ago on Kelly Clarkson's Since U Been Gone, that of turning out a zippy pop take on the Strokes' Barely Legal - here was reason enough to love it wholeheartedly.

Those baffled by the Sugababes' longevity might note their pragmatic willingness to shift with the times. They exploited the vogue for bootleg mash-up remixes by re-recording Richard X's We Don't Give a Damn About Our Friends as Freak Like Me. While R&B held sway among the nation's youth, they nearly did themselves a mischief trying to establish their gangsta credentials, knocking out songs called things called Nasty Ghetto and Buster. These days, with ersatz indie the basic currency of the charts, they've made an ersatz indie single. Change finds them still on the move, with their most celebrated collaborators relegated to the subs' bench. Xenomania, the team behind hits Round Round and Hole in the Head, get two songs - both Never Gonna Dance Again, with its lyrical nods to George Michael's Careless Whisper, and the propulsive My Love Is Pink are classy examples of their trademark clever, referential pop - and R&B producer Dallas Austin gets only one: understandably so, if the dreary AOR of Back When is the best he can muster.

One of their replacement collaborators is credited as Novel, thus raising the interesting prospect that Change may be the first pop album in history to be partly produced by a paperback book. In fact, Novel is one of the producers that Austin, in his legendarily chivalrous YouTube outburst, accused Joss Stone of "fucking for tracks". Regardless of his chequered past, Back Down is a pleasingly odd conjunction of reggae skank and synthesised squelch. But the rest of Change is indisputably a mixed bag: between beautifully-crafted bulletproof pop songs such as Denial, there are longueurs, during which one track after another seems to evaporate as it comes out of the speakers. The longueurs drag because they're characterless, but then so are the Sugababes themselves. They're famed for a certain reserved chippiness, but the rest is a bit of a blank, in sharp contrast to their great rivals, Girls Aloud. The latter's cartoonish personas seem to fuel their producers' creative spark, giving them something to play with, inspiring them to risky heights of inventive daring. That may be why they can do the one thing that the Sugababes, despite the impressive statistics and achievements, cannot: make a consistent album. In the greater scheme of things, perhaps it doesn't matter. After all, who needs character when you seem to be immortal?

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