Monday, 24 September 2007

The Saddest Platform

Tired Irie/Rotary Ten @ The Charlotte, Leicester 8/9
Nathaniel Green/The Little Explorer/This Ain't Vegas/Spy Versus Spy @ The Cricketers Arms, Sheffield 9/9
Heart Yeah/Fury Of The Headteachers/So So Modern @ Corporation, Sheffield 12/9
Gossamer Albatross/Wow! She Must Be A Hundred Feet Tall/Napoleon IIIrd @ The Raynor Lounge, Sheffield 28/9

I've been avoiding updating this here blog for a couple of weeks. I'm not sure why - given that the Spy Versus Spy gig I went to was probably the best gig I've been to, you'd think I'd have some interesting things to write. But I don't. I'm literally without speech.

I thought about writing about "puzzle pop" which is a new genre the NME has invented. As far as I can see, it's code for bands what sound a bit like Battles or are a bit math-rock and have lots of equipment. So that's So So Modern (Time signatures + Devo + lots of keyboards), Tired Irie (Battles + expensive equipment - good ideas) and Foals (Battles + aluminium necked guitar + "American Don").

My other thought was to write about Spy Versus Spy being brilliant and a discussion on finger pointing and emo mosh. But I'm not going to. This is turning out to be a bad blog. My only excuse is that I'm ill. Which I am.

I shall finish with a request: if anyone reads this and plays the drum, email me.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Don't Look Back

Sonic Youth/Cars Sick Cars @ The Roundhouse, Camden 31/08
Rotary Ten/Battle/Kubichek! @ The Leadmill, Sheffield 3/09

The idea behind the Don’t Look Back gigs is a simple one: a band, possibly reunited, performs a classic album, from start to finish, for a one-off gig. So tonight we see Sonic Youth performing Daydream Nation in full – good idea on paper, not necessarily as good in practice.

Unlike most of the bands playing a Don’t Look Back gig, Sonic Youth are still together and releasing material, most recently 2006’s Rather Ripped. So it’s no surprise that during certain parts of their performance they look a little subdued, like they’re not really enjoying playing songs from an album released almost 20 years ago, some of which they’ve not played since recording. And sure, they may be rubbing their guitars on speaker stacks, but do they really mean it? They’ve already admitted that they weren’t keen on the idea and that they’re partly motivated by money (Daydream Nation pays rent), but will the performance equal the album as a “classic”? The unfortunate answer is, no, it probably won’t.

Certainly very few bands can start a set with such a one two punch as “Teenage Riot” into “Silver Rocket”, both with added noise parts, which see Lee and Thurston attacking the stage and each other with their guitars, but some songs, in particular a couple of Kim’s fall short of the mark, with sloppy changes and bored looks. Steve Shelley’s drumming drives the band through the whole set, bringing even the less rousing renditions up a notch. Both “Hey Joni” and “Eric’s Trip” see an animated Lee taking lead vocal, adlibbing beat poetry whilst Thurston plays his guitar with a drumstick, providing some of the highlights of the set. One thing that becomes more obviously when seeing Daydream Nation being played in a live setting is that it is a long album; however, album closer “Trilogy” provides as atrong a closer as “Teenage Riot” is an opener.

The encore sees a more talkative Sonic Youth (plus mark ibold on bass) running through the better parts of Rather Ripped. For a band that are more likely to be forward thinking than to rest on their past glories, the encore sees more smiles and talking than the previous 70 minutes. A final rendition of “Schizophrenia” and the Sonic Youth leave the stage.

Whilst not as great a gig as it could have been, Sonic Youth certainly didn’t disappoint; it was still better than what most bands manage on an average night. It’s worth bearing in mind that a Don’t Look Back gig isn’t a typical gig; the majority of albums aren’t recorded with the intent of being played live in exactly the same way so they’re best seen as a kind of one-off rather than a typical gig and when the audience can anticipate every song, chord, vocal or cymbal hit, having lived with the record and held it in such esteem is it really possible for a band to live up to such expectations. This also begs the question that given that the everyone knows what song will be first last and and in between, then why didn’t everyone go to the bar during “Providence”?

Sonic Youth - Eric's Trip
(This isn't from the Don't Look Back show, but I felt i should include an mp3 of some sort).