Monday, 28 January 2013

My Bloody Valentine dangle delights in tantalising tease

If David Bowie stunned the world of music with his sensational return on his 66th birthday earlier this month, My Bloody Valentine have proved similarly defiant in their explosion back into the musical consciousness. 

Earlier this month the dreamy Irish shoegaze band revealed a short tour in March to Birmingham,  Glasgow, Manchester and London. Preceding this, MBV played at the Electric Brixton last night and frontman Kevin Shields told the crowd the band's long awaited new album "might be out in two or three days". MBV's act, which was hastily tempered by their management who claimed a release date is yet to be confirmed, shows the same defiance to an ultra-organised modern industry Bowie showed. Like Bowie, the band are expected to release the new material on their website and had originally predicted a December release. 

More importantly, it whet the appetite of fans who have been waiting more than 20 years for a follow-up to 1991's Loveless. Much of the murky pink masterpiece's charm came from Shields' swirling, ethereal guitar work and Fact Magazine's assertion that new track Rough Song, debuted last night, is a "bouncy bit of neo-baggy, driven by a pastoral synth melody and chugging guitar work" suggests the band are true to previous form.

Fans will doubtless hope much of the release will echo the lush waves of roaring guitar work of Loveless, which took the band two years in the studio to make and almost bankrupted Creation Records, will re-emerge. It will be interesting to see if Shields has taken advantage of much of the new technology available at his fingertips to influence the band's sound. The band reunited in mid-2007 after Shields ditched several albums worth of material in their 15-year hiatus. Tunes such as Sometimes, and To Here Knows When on Loveless were rich with a druggy sexuality and if the much anticipated new record is to live up to its predecessor Shields will need to have channeled some of the chunks of confidence long-term collaborators Primal Scream throw into their dance-rocknroll Minestrone. 

One thing remains patently clear, MBV and Shields in particular are firmly intent on doing things their way.

Monday, 21 January 2013

How I discovered my perfect woman (or three)

There's a scene in my beloved Red Dwarf when Rimmer questions the Cat's attitudes to women and claims it's all about sex for the evolved feline. Dressed in an impeccable pink suit, the Cat replies: "Hey, I want to settle down. And as soon as I find the right small group of girls, the seven or eight women who are right for me, my wandering days are over, buddy."

Well, if I ever shared any of the large-fanged one's sentiments, then it's mission accomplished. Trawling some blogs for both inspiration for CD covers and a distraction from Jo Brand's cake version of Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the Great British Comic Relief Bake Off, I discovered Paula Bonet's collection of enigmatic ladies.

The Spanish artist's hive of portraits on her blog struck me as both incredibly simple but very effective. The collection of pencil, watercolours and collage are consistently striking, intriguing and clever. 

Bonet's women peer sideways out of pictures with aloof distain, accompanied by intense red patches and featuring heaps of character. There's a bizarre mix of women and animals which would make Hugh Hefner blush. Be it fish going through heads, a woman wearing a fox's nose or a portrait laid over a stag's horns, the combinations work well and prove lively. 

Perhaps the most striking image is that of a gagged redheaded woman with 'oh no', seemingly written on masking tape above her head. Bonet says: "What really interests me is the skin. I am interested in the skin and everything in it is readable." A perfect quality for a portrait specialist and there'll doubtless be plenty to come to leave me enchanted. 

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Defiant new David Bowie release shows who's in charge

David Bowie released a bolt from the blue today posting the video for new single Where Are We Now? online on his 66th birthday. The chameleon's deliberate surprise to the music industry shows how everything he does remains on his own terms.

The icon hasn't performed live since 2006 and has rarely appeared in public in a period when a swathe of his original contemporaries have reformed for moneyspinning tours as live music revenues improve. Mystique has always been his drug of choice (ok, one of many) and the burst back on to the world's stage was typical of a man who could nonchalantly stamp on the combined attention seeking of Katy Perry and Russell Brand. However, what some would claim is po-faced arrogance was dispelled by his hilarious appearance joking at the expense of Ricky Gervais' Andy Millman in Extras.

The song itself, released as a video directed by Tony Oursler on his website, is a typical Bowie ballad very much in the mould created by his last two albums - Heathen and Reality, his last record released in 2003. The slow, piano-led love song name drops Bowie's favourite spots across Berlin - his favourite city shared by one time collaborator Iggy Pop as well as Velvet Underground antagonist Lou Reed - while the video shows scenes from Potzdamer Platz to the Dschungel and Nurnberger Strasse. He talks of a "man lost in time", whimsical for his time in the German city. For much of the video, Bowie's face sings from a puppet of a monkey sat next to a woman who looks like Zoe Wanamaker in a set in his original Berlin studio.

The single comes two months before new album The Next Day is released. In London, a spectacular exhibition including films, music and photographs (see left) will also be unveiled at the V&A Museum in March and has had the media salivating in anticipation of one of the art events of the year. This may be no coincidence but if this was deliberate scheduling it has been made to appear a complete revelation. With 'brand Britain' riding a high in 2012, 2013 could well be one of the country's quirkiest quintessentials finds a new generation of fans. A live tour would be welcomed, but is not expected.

David Bowie is arguably the most influential icon in pop music. His records, including personal favourites Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders from Mars, have changed the face of British music and given listeners exhilaration, solace and a reason to get through the day in equal measure. His return, when so many had declared his retirement or worse, terminal illness, is a defiance worthy of the king of counterculture.

View the new single's video on Bowie's website.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

ShadowPlay's Comedy Cuts podcast hits the airwaves

Isy Suttie
As thoughts turn to going back to the grindstone after Christmas and New Year celebrations so luxurious and lavish that Pavorotti would've been left pondering whether to sign up to Fitness First, some light relief is in order. 

At ShadowPlay, our love of comedy, in particular British sitcoms, stand-up and spoof docs of the last two decades, runs deeper than a BP oil drill so we've decided to pop some of our favourites in one place. ShadowPlay's Comedy Cuts is new podcast featuring the best in new and old comedy from the UK and further afield. 

In this episode, Jim Campbell gives us a tour of Essex, Danielle Ward peak's into an adolent 's bedroom and we find out how Craig Charles made his name. The likes of Blackadder, Alan Partridge, Peep Show and Black Books also feature. Keep an eye on the blog for future episodes and tweet me at @alexshadowplay to suggest artists and clips to feature on the show. PLay from Mixcloud below or visit the Mixcloud page here