Thursday 24 July 2008

Duchess Says - Anthologie des 3 Perchoirs

Duchess Says: Anthologie Des 3 Perchoirs

Being part of an occasional series in which new albums get some serious love…

Duchess Says hail from Montreal and deliver an album of such raw energy and power that it not only makes you sit up, it will seriously disturb neighbours five blocks away. This album buzzes like a jar of wasps. Singer Annie-Claude may look as though butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, but her vocals are furious, deformed beyond all normal recognition by electric hiss and static.

The band often sound as though they are (being) torn in two, a Cabaret Voltaire style primitive crackle and hum of electricity fighting tooth and claw with flailing guitars and pounding drums as band mates Phil, Simon and Ishmaël fight for supremacy. No wave lives!

The album purports to be a document referencing a religious cult known only as The Church of Budgerigars. Its origins are shrouded in mythology but are said to extend back to the turn of the last century. 'Duchess' is the spiritual budgie that speaks to us all.

Opening track 'Tenen No Neu' features percussive vocal explosions that mirror the music beneath. Tcha! Tcha!

'CCut Up' starts off deceptively quietly before a majorly dirty guitar riff kicks in. All accompanied by squealing vocals and electronic feedback. An absolute killer.*

'La Friche' has a prowling bassline and initially seems more straightforward, until the screamed chorus.

'Aeae' sounds like earlier experimentalists Chrome. It has a series of descending scales and a false ending, with the track then starting up again and heading off into a different direction.*

'Rabies (Baby's got the)' features the band name checking themselves before there is more vocoder work and screaming. A more conventional song taken very fast.

'A Century Old' starts with electronic hum and crackle complete with 50’s sci-fi theremin type effects. Vocals are breathy, gradually being drowned out as the buzzing gets ever louder and more distorted.

'Melon' is like a twisted version of ‘My Sharona’. Once again the guitar line and vocal synchronises, but this time there are synthetic hand claps, more distortion and another false ending.

'I’ve Got the Flu' is a percussive electro hissing that could almost come from the Eighties. A quieter, but no less disturbing, song than most on here.

'Black Flag' is the track that has gathered most attention elsewhere. Almost a ‘straight’ dance tune, it nevertheless raises eyebrows with its vocals that equate dancing in a club with religious mass. Even this track ends with an ear piercing electric shriek.

'Ch.O.B.' is almost a throw away, a minute long 100 mile an hour punk thrash. It leads into 'Les Résidents,' which is slow, dark and doomy. Sinister as hell and featuring the most treated and warped vocals yet.

'Lip Gloss Babla' is characterised by an eerie scraping sound and something that resonates like a battered trumpet. This is punctuated by occasional machine noise. It’s almost mellow in the context of everything else here.

The final track is listed on the album sleeve as ‘Prologue’, but comes up as ‘Gilbert’ on my ipod. Either way it is a five minute jam session, with the whole band thrashing out a noisy but rather aimless motorik.

Despite often being brutally uncompromising, the songs here are rooted in a pop sensibility. They are fun to listen to, even if they do often sound like body parts caught in a car engine. At a time when others seek to conform, Duchess Says are doing their own thing, with spectacularly effective results.

Strongly recommended, and available to purchase here.
*Can be heard on the band's myspace page

Oh, and here's a video of non album track 'In Serial'

Friday 18 July 2008

Metro Week: The Duloks, Rochelle, Attack + Defend, Les Gars

This is the second night in the Metro in a row.

I’m feeling flush because I’ve just offloaded two Ladytron tickets to a tout for the princely sum of a fiver. NB: There were special circumstances – these were tickets that had been used at the previous Astoria gig which was halted because of technical difficulties. There are many rumours about how long Ladytron played that night, but I certainly felt as though I had pretty much got my money’s worth when they ground to a halt and tonight’s rearranged gig clashes with my other plans. But generally kids, stay away from the nasty tout man.

Entering a largely empty Metro, I find Canada’s Les Gars in full effect. I’m impressed with this three piece power trio, who genuinely ROCK and are clearly slumming in a place and time slot such as this. Singer/guitarist Vello Verder has black shades and throws his guitar around like a seasoned pro. The bassist too is much more dynamic than many of his ilk, leaping about and acting as foil. They remind me of a much rawer sounding Ash, which is no bad thing at all. They have a song called ‘Minimum Wage’- wow! Social commentary! Joking aside, Les Gars have got a residency down here, and are worth checking out.

The three Thomas brothers, aka Attack and Defend have come here from Cardiff at the behest of the headliners. Their set is riotous, with multiple instrument changes, mechanical failure and singer Mark chatting non-stop, rolling on the floor and generally being very deadpan and very funny. Plus they have a key-tar, which is always good for larks. Their actual music is good too, and you can discern a kind of gentle psychedelia in tracks such as ‘Fascinated By Trees’. I would definitely defend rather than attack them. (Hangs head in shame at last sentence). Highly recommended.

I’ve seen Rochelle before, but I don’t remember them being quite as good as they are this evening. They are unlike many of the other bands on this gig circuit, and I wonder whether they should be concentrating on other arenas.

Their ideal milieu would be to play to a crowded dance floor in some drippingly hot nightclub somewhere around the Mediterranean. This is pure and genuine Euro-disco dance music, and it is immaculately performed by singer Lydia, who emotes as though her heart is breaking. The whole room throbs to their beat and the temperature seems to rise.

They don’t seem to have a weakness and, ending their set with the phenomenal track ‘Fer De Lance,’ would seem to have their futures mapped out. If they can just get out of lightly populated rooms such as this.

The Duloks are an uncategorisable act that have to be experienced live. Although they are nominally three girls playing keyboards and a mini drum kit, doing songs and singing and all that, what you get is a semi improvised troupe who are more fun than a bouncy castle and a big helping of jelly and ice cream afterwards.

Mira, Mina and Mar have decreed it to be ‘MC Hammer’ night, and are dressed up as the erstwhile huge-panted star of ‘You Can’t Touch This’ and literally several other videos back in the Eighties. Two of the girls are sporting moustaches, which are actually kind of cute.

Mira, a winning and instinctive comedienne, interacts with the crowd constantly, and seems to know most of them by name. A particular target is a young man who has allegedly promised them a trip to Dubai. Much pleading ensues, together with promises not to get arrested and beheaded.

Although much of the set is punctuated with several MC Hammer inspired skits and impromptu dancing, the Duloks do occasionally play songs that they may have actually rehearsed, including the excellent ‘Boom Boom’, 'Not My Scissors, Not My Sock' and the cautionary ‘Bad Vegetarian’, which chides the listener not to eat fish because it has a face. Just because songs are bubblegum confections doesn’t stop them from being good songs.

Purists will no doubt frown upon the Duloks as being very silly. Which they are. Purists can fuck right off. As they say themselves, it may be unfair on the other bands that something as daft as the Duloks get top billing, but then life isn’t fair. It's great entertainment though.

Thursday 17 July 2008

Metro Week: Royal Treatment Plant, Gloria Cycles, The Velcros

Royal Treatment Plant by Julius

I’m in a bad mood.

Having agreed to go and see Battlekat at Punk against my better judgement (nothing against the band, but my calendar is filling up alarmingly), we arrive at the venue at 8.30. Once inside, it is empty and we are told that it will not be open for another hour or so and that Battlekat are not due on until 11.30 – which is gig-speak for “not much before midnight”.

This is completely unacceptable and we leave. I’m very pissed off that this wasn’t advertised better – irrespective of whether this the fault of the promoters or the band. Rather than waste the evening totally, we divert to the Metro nearby.

The Velcros are about halfway through their set. It is fairly straightforward girl fronted indie rock. On this small sample it is hard to tell whether they have promise, but their final number packs a bit of punch and is a good song to finish on. [Subsequent investigation of their Myspace makes me wish I’d got here sooner].

Next up are the awkwardly named Gloria Cycles, who dress in skin tight preppy clothing and are exceptionally chirpy. Singer Kenny McCracken is so full of vim that he is almost bursting out of his green checked shirt. He has a strong Scottish voice and an air of such jauntiness that he can barely be contained. This contrasts with bassist Jen Dalby, who is so restricted in her stage clothes that it a wonder she can play at all.

McCracken’s bright enthusiasm eventually wears you out – any individual Gloria Cycles song is fun in a bouncy, Young Knives kind of way, but the relentless upbeat jauntiness has diminishing returns over the space of their whole performance. An occasional change in tempo might pay dividends.

Royal Treatment Plant (another unfortunate name) are a much more interesting proposition. Right from the start it is clear that their songs are more complex than is usual, often veering from an almost proggy keyboard twiddling to guitar thrash. You are never quite sure where a tune is going to end up, but the journey is enjoyable.

The focal point around which the band revolves is singer guitarist PP, who can wield a mean axe and boss a stage. She is an accomplished front woman and the only problem that she has is an occasionally weak voice. You get the feeling that the band are aware of this, and often double up with harmonies from jovial bassist DJ, who seems to be between different hairstyles this evening and looks…um…distinctive.

New album “Hope Is Not Enough” gets a good airing, the track “Undercurrent” particularly standing out. I suspect they are going to get used to lazy comparisons with the band Metric. Well, here’s another one.

RTP have obviously practiced their stage moves and quite often amuse themselves with synchronised jumping or mock guitar duels. It all makes for a rousing show and they go down well with the audience. They are pretty good, all in all, and I shall investigate them further.

I leave feeling more chipper than when I walked in. The Treatment works.

Sunday 13 July 2008

Mindless Self Indulgence, IAMX at Roundhouse

MSI by Jason Cipriano

It is raining quite hard. I’m glad I’m not out in it. And yet, as I look out of the window of the pub, I can see a black and garishly fluorescent clad queue snaking up the hill opposite. Up and out of sight. The queue is not moving. It seems that everyone wants to be down the front when the Roundhouse opens its doors. In over an hour's time. I cradle my beer bottle, look at the weather and decide to let them get on with it.

When I eventually stroll into the venue, there is indeed a large throng down the front. But it is a big space and I‘m well placed.

When IAMX and his troop hit the stage there is a massed high pitched scream from hundreds of young female throats. It’s going to be a wild night.

Chris Corner is dressed in a costume that is as teutonically fetishistic as legal and taste restrictions will allow. He commands the stage a though declaiming at a rally, which I suppose he is. The young crowd lap it up.

The sound is a deafening, bass-heavy metallic crunch. It’s loud enough to make your teeth rattle, but there is a pop sensibility beneath the bombast. It all goes very well, and I’ll pretend that I didn’t see the straight armed salute that Corner throws mid-set. It’s only naughty fun.

Tension mounts as we wait for the next act. Suddenly, instantly, there is a whoosh of noise and movement and Mindless Self Indulgence are on stage and already letting rip at full throttle.

Although the rest of the band play their part in whipping up proceedings, particularly astonishingly powerful bassist Lynn- Z, this show is all about the stage presence and crowd baiting of front man Jimmy Urine. The former James Euringer is as subtle as his stage name.

This guy never stops for a single second. From first appearing running full tilt mid-air and mid-scream at a point ten feet above the stage, his spiked hair circling his head in a parody of the Statue of Liberty, he never rests.

Urine treats the squealing fans like dirt, and they love it. He calls them ‘stupid’ (they agree), he invites them to worship the very sight of him (they do) and at one point he refuses to continue until someone gives him £20. I suspect several stump up.

When he’s actually singing, it’s a hundred mile an hour misogynistic rap rock speed rant. He barely pauses to draw breath as he clambers on monitors, speakers and an elevated drum riser. The power of songs such as ‘Prescription’ and ‘Bomb This Track’ is overwhelming. There are no prisoners here, no light and shade just bam bam, crash bang wallop.

The crowd scream and dance and slam into each other. A girl is carried out past me. She is completely unconscious. And still this inferno whirls on.

Urine demands skirts and other items of clothing from the audience. He is then avalanched in underwear. Some of which he puts on. Tonight is a full-on extravaganza of teenage nihilism. It’s all mini-Marilyn Manson and as blackly entertaining as Max Mosley’s sex life.

The show ends with a virtually naked Jimmy Urine camply miming to a recording of Ethel Merman singing “No Business Like Show Business” and twirling a cane in approved Cabaret manner.

As we leave, our senses scrambled, a mate shudders “I just want to go somewhere normal!” I agree and we head to the no way normal crowds at Camden tube station.

Mindless Self Indulgence. They do exactly what it says on the tin.

Sunday 6 July 2008

The Favours / The Cherry Brakewells at The Ramshackle

Favours publicity shot (by Bratman)

Cherry Brakewells publicity shot

There have been a whole series of unrelated unfortunate events that have led to this band playing this gig at this time, and my being here to see them. But great things can be born from adversity.

The Favours are a band that I have championed for several years. I think that their combination of great songs, smart playing and (let’s be honest), extremely photogenic singer should have been their passport to the bigger time well before now. That this has not happened is a combination of bad luck, bad management and the startling indifference of the public at large, who don’t appear to recognise a good thing when they happen across it.

The band had been due to play the Borderline this evening, but suddenly found themselves without a record label after being unexpectedly and unjustifiably dumped. Their abrupt pariah status means that the Borderline wouldn’t touch them and they have had to come down to the newly-opened Ramshackle to play on a scratch bill of diverse acts.

I had been at the Wimbledon tennis championships and, because the weather was foul, was both at a loose end and in the area.

So here we all are. When I arrive, The Favours have already started their set. And once again, they are really good. And once again, there are very few people here to see them.

Diminutive singer / guitarist Sara Sanchez stands centre stage in a fetching combo of summer dress and big boots. She stomps around the stage, trying her best to maintain her temper. It is a very sticky evening, and the heat is certainly getting to all of us.

Bassist Martin Knight grins happily as usual, lending harmonies, and there is also a neat performance from newish guitarist Chris Marsay.

As ever, the songs are the thing, and old favourites like ‘Kill’ and ‘Sick Of It’ are alternated with newies such as ‘One Up On You’ which indicate that the now stalled prospective album is going to be a cracker, if they can get it out. This is pop rock at its pop rockiest, a guaranteed mood elevator. They end with a squall of feedback and clamber down off the stage.

The Favours are eventually replaced by The Cherry Brakewells, who are an entirely different kettle of kittens.

Here we have four gals who play a slow and sulphurous blues music that would sound great booming out over a Louisiana bayou, preferably accompanied by strong liquor. Hell, it sounds pretty damn good in a sweltering room near Putney Bridge.

Rhythm guitarist and nominal front woman Shay has a tremendous voice and an easy, languid movement that fairly oozes sex. She certainly gets my mojo working anyway. This is not to disparage the other members of the band – the tall and elegant Monique on bass and ex-model Chi on drums. You get the feeling that this band could sell posters if the record opportunities don’t materialise.

Tonight they are joined on a nifty lead guitar by a petite girl who is rather cruelly introduced as ‘Token’, and who is obviously slightly ill at ease with the slow bump and grind of the others. However, it is her solo-ing that adds the requisite edge to their sound and one hopes that she settles in.
The Cherry Brakewells peform a fine set, and the temperature, whch was high in any case, goes up even further.

The evening may have started in adversity, but it has been an enjoyable night. Two bands who are worthy of your attention.

Thursday 3 July 2008

Why? / Yeborobo / Munch Munch at Cargo

Yeborobo in full cry.

It’s a warm summer evening and once inside the venue it is extremely hot. And unbelievably smelly – as if all the competitors in the London Marathon had taken their shoes and socks off at the same time. Really nasty.

Munch Munch are on stage and the room is already crowded. The band gets bonus marks for having no guitars of any description, relying instead on a couple of drum kits and two keyboards. However, they also have very fiddly song structures which rely on many changes of pace and pitch, and which require a great deal of staccato shouting, much of it off microphone. Occasionally they get a good riff going, or hit upon a felicitous sound, but then they are off doing something else a second later and the moment is lost.

It maybe because they have already started and I’m still reeling from the smell, but I have difficulty getting into them. Another day perhaps.

Yeborobo are up next and from the first sight of them it is clear that they are either going to be fantastic or the worst abomination of the year. The singer is dressed up as a giant peanut. The bassist is dressed as a tiger. The second drummer is attired as a psychedelic Old Mother Riley. Fortunately, they are fantastic.

I realise we are in for fun when the singer straightaway sets his microphone stand up in the middle of the audience and gathers his loins ready to leap among us.

What follows is twenty minutes of weird and wonderful semi-improvised jazz punk freakout. Costumes are destroyed, the audience is chivvied about like hamburgers on a grill, drum kits are beaten almost to destruction. If this sounds fun – it is. If this sounds random – it isn’t. Yeborobo know exactly what they are doing, and every song makes sense and hangs together. You dance, even as you step out of the way of a lunging musician.

It all ends with an exhausted singer calling the crowd forward so he can perform a ‘lullaby’. This of course starts quietly and quickly degenerates into a screaming, flailing mosh pit. Top marks.

Why? are one of the many projects of Yoni Wolf, and are part of the Anticon collective of vaguely folky, kinda hip hop musicians who hang out in Oakland and occasionally produce work of real quality and interest.

Tonight the emphasis is firmly on the new album ‘Alopecia’, one of the best of the year so far. It should be great...

…and yet, somehow, isn’t. Whether it is because of sound difficulties that delay the start of the set, whether it is the heat and yes, the smell (both of which the band remark on) something isn’t quite right.

They do the songs well, with ‘Fatalist Palmistry’ a particular highlight. It’s just that their whole performance seems rather grudging and remote, a technical exercise to be completed rather than a celebration to be enjoyed.

They don’t seem happy, and at this time of night, I’m not going to suffer with them. I make my excuses and leave.