Song, by Toad

avatar

The Ambiguity of David Thomas Broughton

The Ambiguity of David Thomas Broughton (teaser trailer1) from Greg Butler on Vimeo.

I suppose this would be a good idea to quietly mention the David Thomas Broughton and Juice Vocal Ensemble album we’re going to be releasing in September (there’s a track from it on our current sampler). And perhaps subtly hint at the trans-continental triple vinyl which is being brewed for 2015.

But for the meantime those are yet to be formally announced and are officially a secret, so in the meantime, let’s start with this:

This is a trailer to music documentary currently being made about the eccentrically surreal performer and heartbreaking musician and songwriter David Thomas Broughton.

The film is in the early stages of production and this trailer was created after conducting the first five interviews. Since the trailer was first put together 12 interviews have been shot and included contributions from Shearwaters Jonathan Meiburg, Sam Amidon and David Shrigley. Many other interviews have been lined up over forthcoming months including Beth Orton, Liz Green and James Yorkston among others.

A crowd funding campaign is about to get underway so please pledge some money if you are fan of David’s work at all (from 23rd June on Indiegogo) So far I’ve put purely my own money into this project and I need some help if I am to make something really special and make the film that that David’s talent deserves.

The film should be completely shot by September and edited by the end of the year. Let me know if you can help me in any way shape or form, any help would be much appreciated and maybe even rewarded in a small way.

info@theambiguityofdtb.com

avatar

3rd Song, by Toad Split 12″, with David Thomas Broughton, Jonnie Common, Siobhan Wilson & Sparrow and the Workshop

SbTR-A-026 Outer Sleeve v2

This is the first song from our third Split 12” – Dear God by Siobhan Wilson. Pre-order the album on clear yellow vinyl here.

The third in our Split 12” series seemed set to be rather different to the first couple.

I was talking to Gordon from the Insider Festival in the Bailie in Edinburgh and he talked about collaborating on a vinyl release. Recording a Split 12” up at Inshriach House, on whose grounds the festival is held, seemed like the obvious option, but it also raised some questions.

Our house is such a strong part of the identity of these Split 12”s that I wasn’t sure what moving elsewhere would do the visual identity of the record, but more importantly, we are used to recording there. We know how to make the room sound good, and it’s our house, so the bands tend to be relaxed and therefore they usually play well too.

Still, we found four bands on the bill we really wanted to record with, and arranged to record David and Siobhan on the Friday and then Jonnie and Sparrow on the Saturday, so we figured we’d just head up there, adjust to whatever we found and try and make it work.

What we didn’t expect to find, however, was somewhere so similar to our living room in Edinburgh that it was basically like a home from home: a Georgian living room, full of old carpets and furniture, a large fireplace, with three full-height windows on one side and a door in the middle of the opposite wall. It was basically identical to the room we record in back home.

Nevertheless the process wasn’t without its problems. The festival was buzzing around us as we worked, and the bands’ live schedules put a bit more pressure on getting things done within a certain timeframe, and we had more nerves and more false starts than we’ve had before, as well as more songs retroactively rescinded by the artists as they weren’t happy with the takes, so this has meant a rather tougher post-production process than any of the other Split 12”s.

The album we’ve ended up making, however, is one of which I am really proud, as well as a lovely record of the Insider Festival itself. I love small festivals, as opposed to the trampled wastelands of the bigger ones, and this is one I’d been trying to get to for a few years now, so never mind recording, I was happy just to be able to go.

The setting was spectacular, and Nic, Rory, Neil and I slept on the floor of the room in which we were recording, meaning we woke to beautiful Highland scenery and really good coffee every day. Everyone who was based in Inshriach House was so incredibly friendly and so positive about the idea of making a record that we felt at home pretty much immediately, and being up in the Highlands away from normal working chores made it a surprisingly peaceful way to work.

And the unique working environment is probably why this album has worked out so nicely. I think it’s an unusual, but fantastic addition to our Split 12″ collection.

avatar

Ten Years of Song, by Toad – Why Do I Fucking Bother?

media-image-346120-article-ajust_930 First things first: the answer to the above question is that I have absolutely no fucking idea why I bother.

Secondly: I have absolutely no idea if I’ve been doing this for exactly ten years, but I know it’s roughly there or thereabouts. It may not have a date stamp, but the first review I ever wrote was of Modest Mouse’s Good News for People Who Love Bad News, and that was released in April 2004, so I guess ten years is a reasonable guess.

It’s not strictly ten years of Song, by Toad either, because when I first started writing about music on the internet I didn’t call it Song, by Toad and it wasn’t a blog, initially. I just fired up reviews on a static site which nobody read.

I only discovered blogs a couple of years later, and realised that I was actually writing one already, so I moved everything over to Blogger and suddenly there I was, writing a blog like so many others. And the rest, of course, is history – if you know about the site you probably know it all already, and if you don’t then you probably don’t care.

I suppose I have to mark a (vague) ten-year anniversary one way or another though, and I suppose I’ve lived through the full cycle of blogging as it emerged, peaked and now seems to be petering out somewhat.

I say that, but people who talk about the death of blogging annoy me now as much as journalists who, back when it first emerged, would say that blogging was killing journalism. Blogging is simply a form of writing, and any good writer should be able to write a compelling blog. Blogging itself has simply been incorporated into mainstream journalism, and there are also more and more ways for amateur enthusiasts to get involved these days, so it would be daft to say that blogging is in decline.

What is in decline, though, is the sense that blogs are the drivers of the broader music conversation*. Back in about 2007 or 2008 they – or we, I suppose – seemed to be where an increasing number of fans went to read about new music. But that audience seems to have wandered off recently and blogging has diffused into dozens of different variations, from online magazines like Drowned in Sound, which publishes plenty of bloggy pieces but is still basically a magazine in digital form, to Twitter, which is published fan participation at its most minimal.

If you think about it, back when they first began to rise to prominence, blogs were the embodiment of the promise of the internet. Interactivity, amateur involvement, instant reactions… all the things we still talk about now. But back then there was no social media, for example, so all the silly conversations we see on Facebook and Twitter now actually used to take place in forums and in the comments sections on blogs.  The informal nature of the writing was a welcome change to the rather stuffy world of real music journalism as well, but they learned their lesson pretty fast, and now professional journalists (being talented writers, generally) write some of the best blogs out there.

Most prominent bloggers with ambition either parlayed their status into jobs in the music industry itself or turned their blogs into online magazines, and the emergence of these has filled a large amount of the space between the amateur and the professional music press which bloggers had briefly threatened to overrun on their own.

 

Random chatter has now moved to social media as well, and as a consequence not only have blogs’ readerships declined, but that argumentative bickering in the comments section has moved elsewhere as well, and with it the obvious evidence of an engaged audience which made blogs so enticing to a music industry which, in 2009, had pretty much no idea where its audience had gone.

Nowadays, we know. Music fans are all over social media, they supply all their listening stats on Spotify, and with Soundcloud and YouTube embeds it is pretty easy to gauge exactly how much traction a newly released song has gained. Blogs somehow seem so old fashioned these days.

Partly, they have destroyed themselves, I must say. Posting and re-posting all the same old shit, regurgitating press releases, needless click-baiting, it all seems a bit passionless and craven.  Some people made a real name for themselves with their blogs and it seems a lot of people are entering into the field with that as the goal from the start, rather than just for the joy of writing.

Back then, people blogged for loads of reasons. Some of those reasons are better served by social media these days, and others by other forms of participating in the music industry. Not all that many people wrote blogs for the particular joy of writing, or even because they thought of themselves as writers. They weren’t, they were music fans, blogging was just a way of enjoying music.

But I think that’s why I am still going some ten years later, when most people have a two or three-year trajectory from starting off to petering out. As well as music, I actually love writing and I always have. Song, by Toad isn’t just about reviews or finding the most acest new music ever, I just enjoy sitting down at the keyboard and wondering what nonsense is going to emerge this time.

It’s a pretty standard artistic cop-out to say that I don’t really expect people to read this blog, but I don’t. I’d like people to read it of course, but it’s not something I expect. There are more informed and analytical writers out there, and god knows what most people make of my music taste.

I’ve no idea where I’m going from here, either. There’s no real sense that I want to stop, although I would imagine that it’s pretty obvious that the label is taking more and more of my time these days. But two things come together here at Song, by Toad – my love of music, which writing the blog has enabled me to explore to levels I never really imagined, and my enjoyment of the act of writing.

I rarely know what I am going to write about, and although I think about albums a lot before I write about them, I never really plan the actual thrust of a write-up or think about phraseology or anything like that, I just sit down and write. And it’s fun. And I guess that’s probably why I’m still going after ten years when so many people who started at the same time has quit.

*Awful expression, I know. Sorry.

avatar

Toadcast #299 – Eef Barzelay Toad Session

Eef Barzelay Toad Session from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.

Video – Vimeo – YouTube
Photos – Flickr
Session tracks Soundcloud – zip download (right click – save as)
Interview podcast – mp3 – iTunes – Mixcloud (playlist at bottom of page)

I first found Clem Snide back in around 2000 or 2001 when they released Ghost of Fashion, and have followed both the band’s releases and Eef Barzelay’s solo work ever since. I certainly never though back then that he’d end up staying in our house and that I’d interview him and record his songs in the living room one day.

For someone really quite shy in person Eef because incredibly chatty as soon as we turned the mics on, and the interview itself is probably one of the longest and most interesting of any of the Toad Sessions we’ve published yet. Fiona, who both filmed and photographed the session also made the most amazing cookies (see the front panel of the video above), and we fed them pheasant, of all things, before the Edinburgh show. Not your usual tour food, I have to confess, and I felt just a little embarrassed, but it was tasty, and at least better than the usual service station sandwiches.

As per usual we have the interview podcast below, freely downloadable mp3s of the session tracks from the Soundcloud player, and four individual song videos as well, before the podcast track listing at the bottom of the page. As well as Fiona, I was also helped out with filming and recording by Neil from Meursault.

Full interview podcast:

Toadcast #299 – Clem Snide/Eef Barzelay Toad Session by Song, By Toad on Mixcloud

Session tracks:

Session track videos

Podcast playlist:

01. Eef Barzelay – In the Service of… (Toad Session) (00.22)
02. Heligoats – Fishsticks (14.15)
03. Mark Woods – Giving Up (18.30)
04. Eef Barzelay – Nick Drake Tape (Toad Session) (31.43)
05. Lambchop – Nashville Parent (39.42)
06. Bill Callahan – Javelin Unlanding (45.37)
07. Eef Barzelay – Grace (Toad Session) (1.02.19)
08. Louvin Brothers – Satan’s Jewelled Crown (1.11.05)
09. Washington Phillips – Mother’s Last Word to Her Son (1.14.07)
10. Lydia Mendoza – Sigue Adalante (1.17.01)
11. Eef Barzelay – All the Way (Toad Session) (1.26.02)

avatar

Deathcats – All Hail Deathcats

deathcats In some ways I feel like a bit of a pillock writing a review of an album you can all stream for free simply by scrolling to the bottom of the page. I mean, it does seem a little redundant doesn’t it.

Still, fuck it, that’s the nature of media in the 21st Century I guess, and I write this blog because I enjoy writing it (yes, still, even after ten years) not because I particularly expect anyone to really read it or care about it. It’s just fun to do.

I love Deathcats, I have to confess. It’s funny when you find a band you like, sometimes you just jump in head-first dribbling about how they are TEH MOST AWESUMEST EVA!! but in this case, as sometimes happens, I thought ‘yeah, oh wait woah steady there, oh hang on no they really are ace’. If you, er, know what I mean.

You’d think that after ten years of writing about music I really would be a bit better at it by now, eh.

But my initial enthusiasm for the band was tempered a little as I tried to figure out exactly what they were all about. Initially I just heard the latest hipster guitar band out of Glasgow, basically. That’s no criticism, I happen to love hipster guitar bands as you well know, but it is still a fairly definite pigeonhole, and one which it turned out they didn’t entirely fit – just enough to be deceptive, though!

Initially I heard nasty, surfy garage rock all drenched in reverb. It was well done, with some absolutely ace tunes and an awesome live show, but the retro mixture informing a lot of these tunes has a slightly different makeup to a lot of the other hipster guitar music I am into, and that is British 90s indie influences. People think of British 90s indie as being mostly Britpop, and I suppose to a large extent it is, but it is most definitely not cool to be a Britpop revivalist.

But in amongst the surf and the typical US indie influences, these guys seem to have absorbed a healthy dose of British indie rock from that period as well. Ian, who helps me run the label, said to them after a gig a year or so ago that they sounded really quite like Ash at times, before hurriedly pointing out that in their early days Ash had done some really good stuff, and he wasn’t trying to criticise them.

I was maybe at my most uncertain about the band at that point, but then they released The Raddest EP a few months ago, and it was absolutely ace. A couple of their most ebullient pop songs and a surfy instrumental jam hinted just a little about where the band were going, and subtle variations of style aside, the EP contained plenty of strands which have come together so well in this album.

As well as Deathcats usual boisterous pop tunes, All Hail Deathcats is actually a really well-assembled album. There are two-minute belters like the awesome Danny Dyer – the kind of thing we know them for already – but then there are sludgey wig-out instrumentals, and the music drifts from surfy tunes to more British-leaning stuff like the album opener Solid. These variations mitigate the fact that the songs are all really short and pretty much all delivered at full throttle, preventing the album sounding a bit samey and making sure it doesn’t wear out your ears.

So it’s a really well-done album, this. And not just musically, but in every sense. Deathcats have never really been embraced by the Scottish musical establishment really, but instead of hopping up and down waiting to be noticed, they’ve just kept right on doing their own stuff and putting it out themselves. This is released on Fuzzkill Records who have also worked with Fruit Tones, Future Glue and CLEAVERS, but I think the label is just basically a pal of the band’s from uni.

So after ploughing their own furrow with a genuine sense of not giving the slightest shit about who else took notice, they’ve now gone all the way and released a really, really good album  as well. And finally, after GoNorth, I had Vic Galloway turning up at the Paws album launch in a Deathcats t-shirt telling me how awesome they were in Inverness, and asking if I had heard of them.  ‘Yes Vic,’ I said, ‘I’ve put them on in Edinburgh twice now. You should come to more of my shows.’

You should all come to more of our shows. They’re awesome. We put on bands like Deathcats.

avatar

Myriam Gendron – Not So Deep as a Well

well I’ve said before that given the absolute ocean of solo acoustic performers, I can find it hard to say what makes one particular performer stand out to me above another.

At the moment the best answer to that question seems to be ‘well, if they release with Mama Bird Recording Co…’ After ending with first Barna Howard and then Vikesh Kapoor in my top albums of the year list in the last couple of years, I would be amazed if this didn’t make it a hat-trick.

Myriam Gendron is a Montréal-based singer-songwriter, and this album is of songs made from the poetry of Dorothy Parker. I’ll admit to knowing pretty much nothing about either, unfortunately, although apparently Gendron has a bit of a track record when it comes to taking poetry and turning it into song.

Musically this may be, I suppose, unadventurous. I can see people who don’t like it just thinking ‘ah here we go again, vocal, guitar, a bit of self-harmonising – yawwwn’ and I suppose that’s inevitable when there’s so much of this stuff out there, but I really think this is special.

I don’t know what it is, particularly. I suppose having someone famous for their verbal skills in charge of the words makes a big difference, but the delivery is absolutely stunning as well. This is what I mean when I say that Angel Olsen should tone it down a bit and have confidence in her voice being great whether or not she accentuates her idiosyncrasies. Gendron is pretty much the embodiment of keeping your delivery straight, disciplined and modest, with confidence that if you have a voice as inherently warm and expressive as this then it will shine through just fine.

I say expressive, but she doesn’t even seem to try too hard to inflect her vocal or fill it with emotion, there is just something beautiful about the tone of her voice, and the calm, lovely delivery. It could have been recorded fifty years ago, this, and it would stand up against some of the most lauded performances from that era – and that was long enough ago that we really only remember the very best.

Given a lot of similarities of pace and arrangement there is a bit of a sense that this album sort of blends into one a little. I’d generally use that as a criticism, but in this case I don’t think so. The instrumental title track prepares you for the album to wind down, The False Friends sounds almost like Kimya Dawson, with just a little of what sounds like fairly improvised percussion lending the tune a bit of lightness and purpose, before Ballade of a Great Weariness descends into melancholy and a vocal which rises and falls so subtly that it has an almost drone-like quality.

So there is variation here, although it is subtle and may take a while to sink in. Fortunately the whole sound of this record is so lovely that repeated listens are still a pleasure whether or not the individual tracks have come into focus yet, and playing it over and over is a pleasure. Instead of being bored by the quantity of acoustic music, I am amazed and impressed that someone can make something so lovely and with so much character with so few tools to work with. Gorgeous.

Pre-order your vinyl here – it’s currently being re-pressed.

avatar

Broken Records – Weights & Pulleys

BR weights Broken Records, like Paws, are my pals, and I have been following their respective careers pretty much since the start, so while I try to not to just blindly lavish them with praise you should also not expect an objective review on these pages. Not that any music reviewing is objective, no matter what the pretensions of the writer, but I thought I should at least flag them up early.

But you know the rules around here, if you’re my pal and I don’t like your record I just won’t review it, so the only reason this is hear is because I think it’s awesome.

Broken Records albums have always intrigued me, in the sense that I’ve always found myself wondering if it would reveal that I had significantly misjudged the character of the band. Listening to a band’s artistic touchstones at least suggests something about who they think they are, even if interpreting them is a bit haphazard.

In the case of their first album, we’d waited so long for it, and in the case of the second the rather extreme reactions to the first one (both from the press and, if I’m honest, from within the band) meant that I was truly intrigued by what I was about to hear.

In this case the three year gap since its predecessor has seen a lot of changes. Band members have come and gone, a record label – and a significant one at that – has come and gone, and the individual members of the band have seen some pretty significant life changes.

Opting for a self-release this time is not perhaps as big a jump as it might seem. I remember the first time I interviewed the band being told that Broken Records had originally been conceived as a sort of collective-cum-label, and I do know that a couple of members of the band also have their own solo projects, so this is something which must have been at least vaguely in the back of someone’s mind since the beginning.

So after a three-year break, who are Broken Records these days, then? Well the jump from album number one to two was pretty significant, but this feels less drastic. They’re a moody indie band now I suppose, in the broadest of terms, embellished with violin, piano and trumpet. Generally though it’s the rhythm section which controls the pace and feel of the songs, although that sounds like a rather redundant statement.

Still, if you listen to it, while there’s not really any shoegaze in the music per se, you can hear washes of what I am going to *cough* elegantly refer to as shoegazily played guitar – all shimmers and textures. It is the mood of the drumming and the density and darkness of these guitar textures which really seem to define the feeling you get from the music more than anything else – such as the light, borderline jauntiness of You’ll Be Lonely (in a Little While), the momentum of second single Winterless Son or the sense of yearning which permeates the gorgeous Toska.

Take a bit of time with this as well, because the first few times I heard this I thought little more than a generally positive ‘yep, this is good’ but on subsequent listens I like it more and more. Subtler parts start to really stand out too, like the rise and fall of the excellent guitar part at the forefront of So Long, So Late. or the touching vocal delivery of the lovely closing tune All Else Can Just Wait.

I suppose if I were to nit-pick I’d say that the choral vocals aren’t always entirely my cup of tea elsewhere on the album, although funnily enough, one of my other favourite moments is the big vocal end of Nothing Doubtful, a song which seems to hark back to earlier times. There are a couple of tracks like I Won’t Leave You in the Dark, I guess, which are decent songs but perhaps not much more than that, but in general this is a really good album with barely a weak spot, made by a band who seem to be on a remarkably even keel considering all the changes over the last couple of years.

They never got as big as people expected them to, and they never went away when people expected them to either, and now when people have stopped expecting anything at all they’ve come out with a fantastic record. You can buy one here, if you like.

avatar

BRAAINZZ

a0879236038_10 Umm, yes I am going to attempt to seriously review music which at times sounds like you’ve got the sample rate wrong on the mp3s and are listening to it at the wrong speed. Wish me luck.

This was another one of those occasions where I didn’t pay much attention the first time I listened to the EP they sent through – available as a free download from Bandcamp here – and it was a bit too weird and over a bit too quickly for me to really compute.

The way this stuff actually sank in was due to the fact that I had a really limited amount of music on my phone for a good few months and never really made the effort to update it. Consequently, if I was doing work or driving or whatever I happened to be doing, I tended to just stick the entire lot on random and hope for the best. I didn’t recognise these tunes to begin with, but in the midst of all my nice sensitive indie music, every single time I pricked up my ears and thought ‘what the fuck is this weird shit?’ is was BRAAINZZ, without fail.

To give you  an idea, No Need 2 Thank Me (feat. Mrs. God) sounds like it employs a ukulele at first. And maybe it does. But I think they’ve actually recorded the song with vocal and acoustic guitar and just sped the whole thing up. The whole song. And of course it sounds like it’s being sung by The Chipmunks in that way that music played at the wrong speed tends to. But rather amazingly, it doesn’t sound like pointless nonsense, it actually sounds good. Really good. As in, good enough that I actively seek out their stuff and play it really quite a lot. Don’t ask me how they do it, because it really should be awful.

There’s a lot of time-shifting and vocal jiggery-pokery going on here in general actually, with heavy vocoder use and slight slowing of the vocal really quite common on the first BRAAINZZ EP. This one is a bit more chuggy, where The Drew Carey Show EP sounded more like the sproinging of mattress springs as they break, this is more like being in one of those dreams where you need to run and for some reason you can’t.

I have no idea what faint strands of pop music they have managed to retain to make this all sound good, but somehow they have. It can be like a more playful take on Dirty Beaches at times, I suppose, but I’m struggling to think of any other decent comparisons.

The band describe themselves, presumably more than a little facetiously, as Shroom Folk or Wyrd Pop. It may not be entirely serious, but it actually paints a fairly accurate picture. Victory H20, UT (before we left ‘bama) also features Mrs. God, who does seems to get about a bit, but perhaps sums up the band’s approach the best. Underneath all the fucking about, it actually sounds like a fairly sensible, melancholy acoustic tune. Once it’s been given the treatment, however, it sounds like you’re somehow listening to it before you’ve quite woken up properly.

They actually follow this with $iren$ of Titan (feat. Slide Show), which is about their most easily digestible song. It may still be hazy and hissy, but there is some lovely cello and beautiful vocal harmonies underneath all the mess, and it’s actually a lovely tune.

So they clearly like making a mess, this lot, but despite short songs which stumble to a stop before they even know that they’ve started, and despite a chronic inability to leave anything untreated, they have just hung on to that tiny shred of pop comfort needed to make this really rather good.

Tags:
avatar

PAWS – Youth Culture Forever

paws_fatcd129_cover Alright, this time, THIS TIME Paws’ album is bound to end up on the Scottish Album of the Year shortlist isn’t it? I mean, come on people, be sensible.

The disparity between the rest of the world’s taste and my own gets me down sometimes, but I think Paws might be the last band I really liked to come out of Scotland and actually achieve something. Their last album was great – joyous (assuming you didn’t listen to the words too closely) and exuberant, and a pretty accurate snapshot of the kind of energy, commitment and pop nous which made them such firm favourites up here, before relentless touring and the assistance of Fatcat Records introduced them to the rest of the world.

Oddly enough, for a band with such strong DIY instincts, their last album ended up sounding relatively polished. It worked just fine, but definitely emphasised the pop side of the band. This album is self-produced – a relatively bold decision, I suppose, for a fairly young band – and I have to confess I far prefer the sound. It’s denser and nastier and by the time the absolutely fucking awesome cello kicked in halfway through Alone I was pretty much punching the air with delight. In fact the whole van (I listened for the first time when on tour with one of our bands) pretty much all exchanged that ‘holy fuck, that is nasty‘ look in unison. But in a good way. A very good way.

As ‘difficult second albums’ go, in fact, this whole record pretty much laughs that whole cliché off as if the phrase had never been coined in the first place. Rather than difficult, this sounds like a band who have really worked out how they want to sound and gone about making a record of exactly that.

Oddly enough, though, I think that for all this is a better album than its predecessor Cokefloat, it may actually be a little less consistent. Tunes like Someone New and Give Up might be a bit lyrically obvious for my liking, and the trademark Paws arpeggiated chorus (whatever the technical term is) is perhaps a little too strong as well. That might actually be what makes these two of the standout pop songs on the album, but in personal terms they are possibly my least favourite.

To balance that, of course, there are some of the best songs Paws have written, not least the absolutely fantastic 1-2 which starts the album.That glee I experienced when I first heard the cello in Alone was matched when I heard Erreur Humaine as well. I’ve said it about Paws before, but it sounds quite a bit like the unfairly unremembered Marcy Playground. It’s followed by Tongues, a tune which is also relatively gentle by Paws standards, and between them they may not indicate revolution, but they definitely make it pretty clear that this is a band developing from their early material and pushing on into new territory.

When a band have a such a knack for sprightly pop tunes I am always keen to see them show that they can do more. Not that I underestimate the skill behind a good pop song of course, but if you can blend them with a bit more then you have a band with genuine longevity, and it looks like that’s what we’re seeing emerge here: a band with real depth and range.

The epic wig-out track seems to be becoming quite common amongst bands I like at the moment, and Youth Culture Forever ends with one: the rather excellent War Cry. It’s a proper beast of a song and ends with Paws doing what they do best - absolutely fucking going for it. After an album which brilliantly shows all the other strings they have to their bow, this song almost reads like and big fat fucking ‘I told you so’.

There’s something in the mentality of the band – although maybe just in Phil Taylor actually – which seems to be drawn disproportionately to the doubters and the obstacles of a musician’s life. For someone whose band is a pretty big success by comparison to most of their peers you still get the impression that just participating in the modern music industry is something they don’t really relish. What they do like, though, is making music, and by the time War Cry is over you get the impression that’s what is being said. Fuck all the other stuff, we’re a band, we make records and here is what we can do – stick that in your fucking pipe and smoke it.

After all the feelings of self-doubt and not particularly generous self-analysis expressed in the record it seems suitable to end it with something of a war cry. This is what we do, this is why we love it, and this is why I love them.

Paws play Glasgow tomorrow and the Wee Red Bar in Edinburgh on Saturday. If you can’t make it along to either of these shows you can buy your copy of the album here. You won’t regret it.

Tags:
avatar

Wozniak – Pike’s Peak

I think that when I first wrote about Plastic Animals I said that I didn’t immediately think they were great – in fact I had my reservations about their very earliest recordings – but there was still a kernel of something there which told me to keep an eye on the band, and that they were capable of doing really good things. The fact that we are currently recording the band’s debut album should tell you all you need to know about how that worked out.

Wozniak are a band I think I would describe similarly. Their first recordings, rather than bowling me over immediately, had a glimmer of something I really liked about them, and like Plastic Animals every subsequent encounter has improved upon that impression.  New EP Pike’s Peak (pre-order here) is no exception: after their first single you can hear the band slowly coalescing into something more complete.

Basically this is shoegaze music, I suppose, albeit with touches of krautrock and psychedelia. There’s a lot of good stuff operating in that vague territory these days; for some odd reason shoegaze seems to operate on a much shorter cycle than the standard twenty year recycling towards which the fashion world tends.

Nevertheless, despite their kind efforts to make a radio edit of El Maresme, the song at the top of the page, there isn’t a lot of pop to be had here. A lot of it is heavily dependent on noise, and with music like that I tend to find it best to do something else and let it wash over me, then do the same thing the next day, and then the next. You find out pretty quickly that way if something is sticking in your head or if the whole thing just passes you forgettably by without ever making much of a lasting impression.

The problem with this method from a blogger’s perspective, however, is that it can be really rather hard to articulate what it is about a piece of music which makes it feel like it works. Particularly this kind of music. There aren’t a lot of tunes here, per se, instead you get lots of washes and thrums, and the odd descent into little more than feedback and guitar grumble.

Paper Hat is a little lighter, which is a good thing, because you can’t just hammer away at people like this with no respite, particularly when you consider that the final track Gesamtkunstwerk is basically a four and a half minute buzz (which strangely isn’t crap). Either way, they haven’t given much ground here. Not much quarter is given to the concept of ‘pop music’ and I guess this won’t make them famous, but to me it sounds like a band who started out with some promise, and are getting better every time I hear them. More please.

Tags: