Tuesday, 31 March 2009

G20 summit poses questions

So tomorrow the City of London braces itself for the arrival, and resultant protest, of US President Barack Obama and the rest of the leaders in the G20 (which seems to expand and retract from the G7, or G8 when Russia can be bothered, almost weekly).
The advent of the so-called ‘summit’ brings mixed feelings to ShadowPlay towers. On a personal note I have family who work in the City (who aren’t greedy wankers but hard-working people by the by) and do not, as you or I do not, deserve to have to face possible violence merely to journey to work and return.

But really the protests, and the boarding up of every building in sight in the City, are indicative of how wrong it is possible to get things. To make things clear I agree with many of the issues being raised by the protestors on an incredibly large range of issues from human rights, nuclear disarmament, anti-war and even the pretext the summit is based upon – fiscal policy. The idea of protestors playing a giant game of Monopoly outside the London Stock Exchange is perfect, smashing windows, attacking people and getting involved in altercations, however innocently, with police is not. The line between protestors and anarchists is a thin one easily crossed and, although it proved ultimately ignored, the fact one million people marched to try to stop the UK entering Iraq in 2003 showed how to protest in a way that was universally noticed and astonishingly disregarded. To put it into context as a young man from Nottingham it’s not too hard to imagine a scenario where a drunk bloke in a short-sleeved shirt is drunkenly shouting at me outside a Yates’ and then smashes something. Now, am I more or less likely to listen to him than the still drunk but talkative bloke at the bus stop causing no harm? Transpose the boozers with the protestors and you see that smashing up the Starbucks opposite the RBS building near Liverpool Street (that’s my bet for taking a beating) is of little use.

With more than 2,000 protestors set to march on the Square Mile tomorrow I would just say that direct action does not necessarily lead to direct action – given the barrage of words Those of the Overblown Egos in the G20 are used to dealing with – maybe fight them at their own game. That soapbox is quite unsightly, let’s get back to the music…

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Fight Like Apes // Dananananakroyd: Live at Camden Barfly

There’s something about the Camden Barfly which makes you feel a bit like when you turn up at your Nan’s – it is a bit old and crusty but you know it can produce treats and has one hell of a history. Tonight XFM, the inconsistently excellent capital station which has birthed the likes of Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Steve Lamacq, host with its X-posure night. ShadowPlay bustles through the door just in time to spill some lager on new shoes, take up a position with said shoes locked to the floor, and still be blown away by Dananananakroyd. Well, kinda pushed a bit further back.

The Glasgow six-piece are full of such exuberance that, while other bands so in your face would be accused of arrogance, the youthful sextet prove merely endearing and, well, fucking tuneful. At times they step intothe realms of hardcore, some vocals barely distinguishable between that of a human voice and a shredder with a wadge of particularly guilty invoices. But for the most part they’re punk with great riffs, their determination to jump into the audience, make everyone hug each other in a barn dance style pair-off and make even the most cynical little faux-editor put a sweaty paw around a young man from battered Mars Bars Mecca. Glorious.

It says a lot about Fight Like Apes, having only just released their excellent debut album Fight Like Apes and Mystery of the Golden Medallion, that tonight the doors are locked tight shut as it’s a sell-out in some demand. Led by extreme-bonneted femme-fantastique ‘Mackay’ the Apes are a rare breed in being able to execute sarcasm and, strangely, not being cunts. So while they play up to tonight’s radio audience giving mums shout-outs and chastising all before them the Irish wizards underly this with a visceral, convincing display of brutal prowess. The genuine passion in this band bristles, even before amusing synth player Pockets (aided by a Gandolf the Grey-esque superfan) battles with his mic long enough to say he’s decided he is enjoying himself.

Fight Like Apes are in possession of some incredible tunes – Digifucker, the bellowed Lend Me Your Face and Lumpy Dough at a glance – which resonate around the small venue and are the main reason that most of those assembled were once failed beam away from finishing their pogoing in the bar below. The real belter tonight comes in the form of perfectly formed single Jake Summers in which Mackay shouts in her cheeky American-accent-tinged tone “hey, you, get some graceace, you’re driving miss daisy all over the place/ hey you you’re taking up space and you’re a fucking disappointment to the human race” – I love a singer who doesn’t mince their words and, in Mackay, the Apes’ adoring following have so much more.

February Reviews Round-Up

So ShadowPlay’s first foray into Oh-Nine-Online comes in the form of our reviews collection, a chance to round-up and rinse out the music that’s been passing through the ever-changing letterbox of 1 ShadowPlay Street. Kicking off this month is Stonephace, I’m not sure when it became cool to replaced Fs with PHs or if it even ever has been but my guess is that the 24-year career of member Larry Stabbins who waqs in Working Week and has worked with Robert Wyatt, was in music at the time. This is a relaxed, spacey kinda record, beginning uptempo with inflections of jazzy sax before the sax takes hold and guides the record through its Sunday morning feel. Some offbeat electronica spices things up at time but for the most part its enjoyable if over-trippy fare from the Tru Thoughts act.

I’m not gunna lie, my thoughts on the new Sergeant Buzfuz record, High Slang, wasn’t heading towards the glowing fires of over-exuberant adjectives until it hit Cockney Rebel – a Camden-bashing, speedy chuntering piece of Wave Pictures-esque lyricism which elevates them beyond simply the Sheffield-origins and nice minimalist artwork which had previously counted in High Slang’s favour. It’s a really varied record, steering from Cockney Rebel’s cheeky charm to some genuinely beautiful instrumentation, investigate. I’m not sure I’ve ever used the phase, a French Tom Waits, before but it has to be applied in the case of Le Skeleton Band who’s broken strings and gravely tones do actually merit the high accolade. Entertaining, dirty fun throughout for Waits fans who want a little more of the great man’s irresistible style. This is stark contrast to Smilex who show no style in thrashing out seven screamed pieces of filthy Damned-style rock which doesn’t do a thing for me except to realise how many English words rhyme but are completely unrelated. Likewise imagine this but at the other end of the scale, Unfinished Drawings are a sappy, over-ambitious version of this but I don’t like ripping into small bands so I’ll leave it there. Again The Curfew’s intentions seem good with their new record Inside but it’s attempt at early 90s style Massive Attack style slow-beat soaring female vocals just turns into ten overly-long songs which don’t add anything to the musical sphere worth keeping once its gone. The same can bee said of 28 Costumes who’s album sampler does little to whet the appetite with repetitive and quite irritating shouting.

An altogether more sprightly album presents itself in the form of Navvy’s Idyll Intangible – a perfect collection of angular pop from the Sheffielders which keeps ears on tenderhooks and the mind on edge. They’ve definitely got something, punky charm or nice heavy harmonies. Watch this space, then grab it up. Another enjoyable effort this month is St Gregory Orange’s Things We Said in Bedrooms which sails along a sea of reverb with a kind of distance, unreal sound reminiscent of Winter North Atlantic with its Boards of Canada-lite ethos.

ShadowPlay favourites Le Reno Amps have returned with their beautiful brand of punch-drunk indie pop in the form of new record Tear It Open funded bizarrely enough by the Scottish Arts Council so I guess they must be contributing more than ace songs to society. Teaming up with Brakes’ Marc Beatty you can definitely see the Brighton bands influence on LRA with some electrifying thrashy fun and bizarreness. Pick this one up on release in March.

As far as singles go it’s a breathless one this time as Light Sleep/Heavy Dreams’ Leon Millar gets all home-studio-y with the minimal crunching excellence of WILD (Wake Initiation of Lucid Dreams), Depth Charge up the anti on that Mecha Squirrel finally getting a release in all its razor sharp glory – a triumph of samplin’n’dancin’ from ‘burbs to bars. Vile Imbeciles double A-side Tramp and Jennifer teaches us to make a guitar squeal in many ways and is value for money with a 30 minutes racket, I mean, b-side. A real gem comes in the form of Cuddly Shark’s Woody Woodpecker/ Bowl of Cherries double A with the former a glorious tribute to our little blue friend even including a ‘peck peck peck’ refrain while the latter tears through its two minutes with venom, a great little band. As are Kids Love Lies who’s debut single Count in My Headhas some topsy-turvy charm though steers a little close to the Winehouse wind at times. Another debut is Siegfriend Sassoon’s Muscle Beach which shows just that with angular harmonies, the flip features Laura Mary Carter of Blood Red Shoes fame. Wakefield label Philophobia is also releasing the Rocket Footage EP featuring the Lapels and the Sponge Wings in March with the former fun little faux-American jobbie and the latter reminiscent of something from a musical of Kate Thornton’s life, yep that good. Finally The Ironweed Project reminiscent of Chicken Legs Weaver’s raw croakiness and Tenek's Submission is a bit mid-80s and underwhelming in it’s overarching attempts to be dancey get epic. And where better place to leave you than Herman Dune who’ve released Try to Think About Me from Next Year in Zion, one of the best tunes from the record it is a surprisingly hopeful song for the Swedes who simply go from strength the strength as the years go by. See you again soon, keep stuffing those ears fulla music.

Psapp: Live at Cargo, 11/03/'09

The audience rise as one as Psapp arrive on stage at Cargo, a venue which has long been a bastion for cutting edge music across all genres. And, despite the fact it’s largely because they have been mellow-ly, attentively waiting sat cross-legged on the concrete floor, you get the feeling Psapp have a standing ovation awaiting them from the start. Rarely does an act evoke such pure good feeling, without tipping over into anything sickly sweet, so instantly.
Lead singer Galia Durant displays an empathetic, shambolic charm throughout delving into a Poundland bag to supply the audience with sweets, toys and, bizarrely, vacuum packed pickles. Durrant’s bag of brilliance also features several medals (which may have been dog collars in a previous incarnation) which she readily dishes out. Unfortunately she gives the first out to one adoring fan, who sounds of Swedish origin, encouraging him to praise his parents in accepting the award only for the man to inform her that his father had died this year, a statement which leaves band and audience in slight shock until he sweetly states that his father would be enjoying the gig from heaven. A touching moment in an evening of similar emotions.
Material tonight comes largely from last year’s The Camel’s Back and 2006’s The Only Thing I Ever Wanted with delights such as Tricycle and The Monster Song enriching the quirky verve of the set. Typical eletronica style soundscapes are added to by much more natural sounds with Psapp – the two violin approach adds an immediacy to the tracks not found on record while made up instruments such as the boneafone, made up of bones procured from butchers by bluffing about non-existent dogs, add a 'unique' element to the night.
Last time Psapp did a gig in London Durant’s father got up and did a lecture on Darwinism and she baits her mother, in attendance, to talk on Middle East politics but in the end we get more soundscapes, more cats as instruments, kazoos and a farewell tinged with disappointment for fans who will have to wait till a sprog is popped before seeing the band in the capital again. Enjoy their increasingly illustrious back catalogue in the meantime.

ShadowPlay enters the nether regions...

Hmm, ok. Well we've been heading this way for a while and updated the website has become far too convoluted in terms of space (online) and time (mine) in the last couple of years so in the name of productivity and getting more reviews and updates online as regularly as possible we turned to the lowest form of online posting...but after ditching Twitter ShadowPlay arrived here! Hope you enjoy the higher frequency and check back soon...

Love & Rockets,