Sunday 29 June 2014

Mixtape - April to June 2014

Once a quarter I inflict a mixtape on my friends and acquaintances. These are some of the goodies that reflect the state of Call of the Wyld in April to June 2014

Tacocat – Crimson Wave

Ravioli Me Away – Cat Call

Strand of Oaks – Goshen ‘97

Eliza Rickman – Pretty Little Head

Charli XCX – Boom Clap

Timber Timbre – Run From Me

Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence

Echo and The Bunnymen – Lovers on the Run

tUnE-yArDs – Water Fountain

Sunday 22 June 2014

Autobahn, Jeffrey Lewis and the Jrams, Bad Wolf - Camden Crawl 2014 - Day Two - 21 June 2014

Autobahn at Lock Tavern :pic by Keith Knight (after JJ Abrams)

Day two of the Camden Crawl starts in fire. It’s blisteringly hot outside the Camden Brewery and a small crowd is sweating in front of a tiny stage awaiting Jeffrey Lewis and The Jrams.

Jeff is in festival mood. After an extended workout through ‘Water’ he praises Letitia Sadier and leads the band through a Stereolab number. Later on, he’ll smash through an enthusiastically haphazard version of The Fall’s ‘Cruiser’s Creek’, with bassist Caitlin Gray doing the Brix Smith yelps.

A highlight is an impassioned version of old favourite ‘Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror’. It’s a great start to the day.   

Rather strange scenes follow at the Roundhouse Studio, whereThe Magic Lantern (musician Jamie Doe) is trying to entertain a crowd with his sweet voice and affable folksiness. For reasons known to themselves, the venue is now set up with rows of seating. People come through the door, can’t find anywhere to sit, stand around awkwardly, get moved on by ushers and generally disrupt the mood in their confusion.

I head to the Monarch for Kinnie the Explorer. They are the first band of the day, but are so late coming onstage that I only get a chance to nod past them as I press on to the Enterprise for Primetime.

To say these four women are shambolic would be to do them a service. This is real old school crash bang wallop with two drummers and frequent collapses into fits of giggles, missed intros and good natured confusion. They are shouty and silly/serious and I like them a lot. This is also the only gig I’ve seen temporarily stopped while a drummer decides to fix her hair.

From here I pile into the Lock Tavern for my secondencounter with Autobahn. In this confined space it’s like sharing a room with a Saturn V rocket.

Craig Johnson is a natural front man, expansive gestures, full-on howling. The stage is so cramped and hot that the drummer has his tongue out panting like a puppy and at least one of the guitarist looks set to pass out. The band roar through tracks like ‘Ulcer’ and ‘Seizure’ and there is nothing better in the world than being right here, right now.

After a quick break for food in Camden Market (I had the “chicken”) it’s down to Beatrice for Farao and her band. This is a gentle Norwegian singer and right from the off it becomes clear that this is not the best venue to catch her. It’s all very well being wistful and sensitive in the corner, but this is a busy pub that is full of people shouting their heads off. She’s all but inaudible and doesn’t have the stage presence to make herself the centre of attention.

So I head to Koko for the last half of Steve Mason’s set. He’s bold and confident and has a real swagger. His band look as though they may have played at Methuselah’s wedding, but with age comes experience and this is as professional and well done as you could possibly want.

This show illustrates what may be a financial problem for this year’s Crawl. It should be one of the biggest draws of the night, but I doubt this big venue is even a quarter full. Whether it’s the World Cup, ticket prices or the death of indie music, but there are very few people about. It was even less busy on Friday.

I finish off the night in the sweltering hell hole that is Belushi’s to catch rock trio Bad Wolf. They are very loud, very heavy and are playing to a small, very drunk bunch of family and friends. The band aren’t subtle, but it would be hard to find a room where people are having as much fun.

Singer/guitarist Simon Harris has a cheerful desperation about him. He knows that everything could collapse in chaos at any second but will hold everything together through sheer enthusiasm. Where the band score is that through their bombast, they have some proper tunes not least of which the big finale ‘Bull Jazzed Up’, which sees Harris off the stage, instrument and all, his microphone wrangled by members of the audience.

Today started in fire and ends in sweat and a puddle of alcohol. It’s been a great Crawl. Roll on next year.

Saturday 21 June 2014

Pins, Girls Names, Desperate Journalist - Camden Crawl 2014 Day One - 20 June 2014

Girls Names

It’s back! After a year away, the Camden Crawl has returned. It’s smaller than it has been in more recent times, and judging by the numbers of people that I see through the evening, not hugely well supported. But I love the Crawl and enjoy the way that it tosses you from venue to venue like a drunken sailor trying to find his way home.

I start off with Arrows of Love at the Electric Ballroom. They have clearly spent a long time in front of the mirror, perfecting just the right Mad Max post-apocalypse, dragged through a hedge backwards trash aesthetic. The problem is their music.

They can play instruments with their teeth, they can leap from the stage and wrestle around on the Ballroom floor, they can go through every rock cliché in the book – they are really dire in a true and deep sense. They are not having a bad day, their rottenness goes right to their core. They wouldn’t know a decent song if it bit them. To suck so heroically badly as Arrows of Love takes dedication.

I reel across the road to the Underworld to catch GirlsNames. This band hail from Belfast and within seconds I am in love. This is black as night guitar rock, propelled along by a bass line that moves your internal organs about.

Singer Cathal Cully mutters gloomily, wringing the neck of his guitar like he’s fondly killing it.  Claire Miskimmin pounds on her bass, producing a sound so deep and heavy that you can practically SEE it.

The crowd is extremely small, but absolutely loving this. The band play again later in the evening, and I’m tempted to follow them.

Instead I go across the road for Desperate Journalist at the Black Cap. The band are already well into their set and suffer slightly because my ears are still ringing from Girls Names and the Black Cap sound system isn’t up to much.

That said, there’s a lot to love here. Singer Jo Bevan packs a lot of anger and emotion into her twisted pop songs and gangly bassist Rob Hardy looms over her, his mascara smudged across his face. They virtually define the term ‘indie rock’ so I clasp them to my grubby heart.

Off down the road then to see Yuck at Koko. This is the first time that I’ve encountered the band since Dan Blumberg left.

In many ways, nothing has changed. Yuck are still fine purveyors of tunefully shoegazey dream pop. When they hit a decent groove they can lift you right off your feet. The tracks of the most recent album sound well up to scratch. You feel that all is well in Yuck-world.

Back then to catch Pins at the Underworld. They are in terrific form. They are powerful, feisty and fun. They know the value of rock bands in black leather jackets and that a sneer and a snarl can be just as sweet as a kiss. Much head nodding and leaping about ensues.

I bow out at this point, leaving my pals to head off to the Purple Turtle. Glad to be back on the Crawl. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

Thursday 19 June 2014

Broods and Conway at Madame Jo Jo's - 17 June 2014

Conway pic by Christie Goodwin

It's a bright summer's evening. The sun shines on the nudie bars and gaudily shirted fans making their way to Trafalgar Square to watch the World Cup.

I stride in the opposite direction, taking my position in the comforting dark of Madame Jo Jo's.

First up is Conway, a band from Los Angeles that is the vehicle for the singer Kassia Conway.

Kassia is dressed in black and immediately bounces into a set of choreographed calisthenics that is as inspiring for the unfit body as her music is fun for the ears.

Kassia is a taut pillar of muscle. Her's is a dancer's body with not an ounce of fat on it. Her strength and steel make you want to join a gym and actually go to it. And not just go once or twice and then sit at home on the sofa scoffing doughnuts. Hypothetically.

Her songs are good too. The band lay down infectious dance rhythms and sing along with a succession of tunes characterised by big choruses. Kassia prowls around them, either singing close up to their beaming faces or playfully planting karate kicks up past their ears.

Each song sees Kassia Conway performing a different, gruelling set of moves. She comes across as professional and as tough as nails, but is actually quite sweet and chatty when she breaks character between songs. She's all kinds of impressive and well worth checking out.

The venue is rammed this evening. The majority are ex-pats here to see New Zealand club act Broods.

Caleb Nott and his younger sister Georgia and sing and play keyboards. She's dressed in a black sports top and assays a series of dance moves. She's not quite up to the gym-bunny rigour of the previous act but is pleasant and plumptious nonetheless.

Broods specialise in earnest, emotional dance music with a generally down tempo groove to it. These are epic songs of raw feeling that don't really have any life off the dancefloor.

The crowd are in raptures, joining in, calling out to the band and generally whooping it up. The Nott siblings are warm, friendly and slick, but possibly a little too generic to make much of a long term impression.

Coming out of the venue, I find that Brazil have drawn nil - nil with Mexico. It was the right decision to come here after all.

Saturday 14 June 2014

The Fall at Under The Bridge -11 June 2014

The Fall (pic from Cool Music Central - recommended Greek blog)

I'm a Chelsea fan. I've seen the team when they've been good, bad, poor and rich. I've seen them relegated, promoted and win everything available to them in the world of football. But I've never seen a gig at the ground.

I'm a Fall fan. I've seen multiple line ups, I've seen Mark E Smith on one, two or no legs, I've seen them awesomely good and just walk-out-and-leave-them-to-it bad. I've seen the band when they've been accompanied by ballet dancers, or when they've provided the live accompanimentto a play about a pope. But I've never seen them play under the stand at a football club.

Tonight, I marry these twin obsessions, I'm here to see The Fall play at Under The Bridge, a subterranean music theme bar in the bowels of the West Stand.

The venue itself reminds me of the performance spaces that can be found in Las Vegas casinos (or, more close to home, the Indigo Bar that is the smaller room at the O2 Arena). It is designed to look dark and grungy, but it is immaculately clean and ruthlessly efficient. There are scores of photographic prints of famous rock stars, all of which can be purchased online It's ersatz atmosphere, but it doesn't detract from the bands. In fact sightlines are excellent and the sound is spot on throughout.

The main support act are Sentimentalists, a band from Leeds who have a unique schtick which works very well for them. The easiest way to describe them is as a punk band that happens to play lounge music. And unlike the likes of Richard Cheese, this is all original material of an acerbic bent.

Phil Fowler laconically narrates tales of Northern desperation while the rest of the band tinkle away lightly in the background. He has the slightly shoddy charm of a 60's TV gameshow host. He's apparently sincere, but you don't believe a word of it.

More so than at any time in the Fall's illustrious history, Mark E Smith is a contented man. After years of sackings, recriminations and generally eccentric behaviour, he has settled on a team of band members that he is satisfied with. They are wonderfully proficient, as finely honed as a crack SAS squadron, and appear utterly loyal and dependable. Most importantly, they are content to exist in his shadow and keep out of his way.

Mark's looking good in himself too. He's finally put all his hip problems behind him, seems fit and in good humour. He's even attempting a rather sinister looking Roger Delgado beard.

Most of tonight's set is gleaned from their last album Re-Mit, together with tracks from the Remainderer E.P.  Powered by two drummers, the band fairly motor along. The sound is crystal clear. Mark E is almost utterly incomprehensible as per usual. You wouldn't have it any other way.

The key track that the Fall return to again and again through their career (and twice tonight) is their version of The Other Half's garage rock classic 'Mr. Pharmacist'. It's the track that defines the band - whichever tour they are on, no matter who is in the group or what material they are promoting, this is their touchstone. As uber-fan John Peel would say "The Fall. Always different, always the same."

The other old, old track disinterred this evening is 'Psykick Dancehall', another rattling piece of grumbling nonsense. The crowd hollers its approval.

Smith's wife Elena is also in the band. Playing away at a keyboard she has kept her coat on and keeps her handbag under her arm. While Mark continues his longstanding habit of fiddling with the band's equipment or wandering offstage, she often gathers up her belongings and beetles off after him. She (and the others) appear to treat Mark's interventions with good humour.

It's a rousing show. I've seen The Fall good, and I've seen them bad. I've now seen them at Stamford Bridge. This has definitely been one of the good times.

Saturday 7 June 2014

Loop and Godflesh at Heaven - 04 June 2014

Loop  -Then

This is a macho crowd. There are a very few women dotted about, but this is one for the short-haired older bloke, dressed in black, beer in hand. I fit right in.

This is the first of a pair of gigs that showcase semi-forgotten stalwarts of UK guitar rock Loop and Godflesh.

Tonight is Loop night, so it falls to Godflesh to open proceedings.

G.C. Green and Justin Broadrick are brutally minimalist and massively brutal. Two guys. One on guitar. One on bass. A pounding drum machine. That’s it. No frills, just thump.

The two bands tonight have some affinity, and have had members in common in the past. However, the two are very different in approach and it is clear from the reaction of the crowd stood around me that the reception they receive is quite mixed. The Loop fans appear underwhelmed by Godflesh. Tomorrow I’m sure the position will be reversed.

Godflesh have no embellishments. They thud along to their jackhammer beat. Video screens show images from Bosch and Bruegel of souls burning in the pits of hell. Godflesh chug through ‘Like Rats’ and whip up their own inferno.

I rather like Godflesh. I like their uncompromising nature. They have a sound and they stick to it. They take no prisoners.

I’m really excited to see Loop again. I caught them a few times back in the day, most memorably at ULU in May 1988, when they were just vague hairy figures moving through a fog of dry ice.

Tonight, the dry ice has gone, along with much of the hair. But the guitars remain.
They start off with signature track ‘Soundhead’ and I am instantly transported. Loop have a way of taking a riff for a walk, building layer upon layer of noise, usually topped off with a Robert Hampson guitar solo and vocal.

The crowd lurches and nods and follows the music down the rabbit hole. All the old favourites are here. ‘Pulse’, ‘Collision’, ‘Arc-Lite’. The guitars squall and even earplugs can’t prevent the feeling that the inside of your head is being pleasurably cored out.

What is remarkable about Loop is not just that they are still staggeringly good, but that they somehow never got the plaudits that they are due. In an alternate universe it would be My Bloody Valentine coming back from obscurity.

They end tonight with a version of Can’s ‘Mother Sky’, stretched out and distorted.
A truly extraordinary performance. A truly extraordinary band.

Loop - Now

Thursday 5 June 2014

Uplift Spice and Of Fire and Fate at Camden Underworld - 02 June 2014

Uplift Spice

This turns out to be one of the gigs of the year. Less than twenty four hours ago I'd never heard of either band. I doubt that there are more than forty people here tonight, including those hanging around the margins of the venue. So there you go.

Camden Underworld is so low key tonight that we're not immediately sure that it is open at all. But after a small delay we eventually find our way down to the bowels of the venue.

Of Fire and Fate are an Anglo-Japanese pop metal band who used to come here as punters and are now delighted to take to this stage as an attraction in their own right.

As a jaded old bastard, I get a lot of pleasure from bands who are almost indistinguishable from the audience they are playing to. In this case it is young people playing to other kids and it is the purest form of rock fun.

Singer Mark Turner chats freely between tracks. Then, with a spirited "1,2,3,4!" the hammer falls, the bassist jumps to twice his height and the two guitarists try to outdo each other in terms of velocity and axe posturing. There's so much hair flying around on and off stage that it is a mild surprise that band and fans don't get knitted together.

In the crowd we lurch and clap. A girl breaks out a few sparklers and their flickering adds a bizarre ritualistic feel to proceedings.

Of Fire and Fate are the pure definition of guilt free metal fun. I commend them to you wholeheartedly.

Uplift Spice are on a European tour. Back home in Japan they play to vast and enthusiastic crowds. Tonight the size of the audience may be vastly reduced compared to what they are used to, but in terms of sheer joyful mania would be very hard to beat.

Singer Chiori resembles nothing so much as a tiny ball of hair and teeth, grinning and screaming while the rest of the band thrash and crunch around her. She crouches down, braces her body and then just explodes all over the stage in all directions at once. The crowd go utterly ape and I'm sure that she would have come flying over our heads if they were actually enough people here to safely catch her.

She's so full-on that she takes her own breath away, let alone ours. During the second half of the set she is gasping like a stranded goldfish. She has virtually no English, but is able to communicate through the universal language of smiling and waving her arms about.

Bassist Kenji is pretty striking himself. Not only is he loud and fast, he sports a great mass of tangled hair that completely covers his face and his instrument. He must be playing by touch.

Guitarist Yookey is equally adept, contorting himself and seeing how long he can play with his instrument whirling over his head.

More sparklers are brought out and by now the whole venue is just jumping up and down and screaming. Me included.

Not bad for a Monday. Not bad for any night.