I’m Scared of Vinyl

Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion

Posted in Albums by Catriona on February 27, 2009

Animal Collective

Merriweather Post Pavilion

Domino: 2009

I’ve been listening to this album quite a bit since it came out – it’s been hyped for so long that it feels ridiculously outdated to be writing a post about it in February, but I find that it’s only been in the last couple of weeks that I’ve really got into it. The best part of Merriweather Post Pavilion is that it just keeps giving – the excitement at the first track “In the Flowers” stays right the way through to the final track “Brother Sport”. There’s a distinct difference in the sound of this album compared to 2007’s Strawberry Jam – the overall sound is more synth based, presumably inspired by the departure of guitarist Josh Gibb – since his departure the band have been performing as a three piece. The pared down sound doesn’t detract at all – the overall result is an album that is eminently listenable and well worth the attention it’s been been getting.

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Pete Doherty Interview Transcript

Posted in Interviews by Catriona on February 25, 2009

Here’s a transcript of the interview that Pete(r) Doherty did at Trinity College recently. It’s as accurate as I could manage, but he moved around quite a bit, so the recording was slightly blurry in places. It’s the best I could manage, given the circumstances. I was supposed to get a chance to interview him afterwards, but that interview isn’t worth mentioning at all, since it mostly consists of screaming girls launching themselves at Pete, whilst I frantically attempt to ask him questions, and he attempts to flout the smoking ban. Fun times.

Here’s the transcript of the public interview – bits of it were reprinted in The Ticket and NME, but there’s still quite a bit of previously unpublished stuff here:

You’ve been here before for the Trinity Ball?

Yeah it was a bit of a disaster, that one. My guitarist got the fear mid-way through, he said I was looking at him funny and threw down his guitar and ran off… terrible night it was.

Shane McGowan, how did you first meet?

Honestly, it was on the floor at a party. He said, “congratulations, you’re now the most obnoxious man in pop.” Those were his first words to me.

Played with McGowan

We’ve done some music with him, we tend to do Dirty Old Town

Big Wilde fan?

I am, yeah, I am… it was always my dream to study literature and to write. It fell by the wayside a little bit, but yeah, amazing writer and amazing inspiration.

Wasn’t McGowan a bit of a literary influence?

Yeah, he’s always got books and films and that. It’s hard to understand what he says a lot of the time but when you do work it out, it’s generally quite insightful and yeah, he’s taught me a lot. He’s quite into his history as well.

Recent stay in Paris

I always thought I was going to end up there – Paris or Moscow – it was self-imposed exile. I was there for about a month in November, but I’ve lived there before.

Yeah, it’s a magical place. I tend to get left alone there a bit more than in London, I’m free to walk about, apart from when the school’s are out, it’s half an hour of chaos.

Stuart Clarke mentioned that the year got off to a good start with him playing with Roger Daltrey – how did that come about?

He got in contact with me through the Teenage Cancer Trust, he’s quite heavily involved with that. A couple of years ago he said something quite hurtful. He said I was a waste of space, and I wasn’t big or clever and it had all been done before and all this. And then he phoned me up after I’d been to the funeral of a young man, who’d died of cancer, and he said, Well Pete, I don’t take back what I said, but you’ve proved yourself now in my eyes, what sort of man you are, so if you need anything, anything, just call me. So I said, ‘can you do a gig with me?’

(more…)

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Pete Doherty

Posted in Interviews by Catriona on February 15, 2009

Pete Doherty came to Trinity to give a talk at the University Philosophical Society – here’s the piece that I wrote for Trinity News on the visit. I’m also going to do a post of the full transcript of the talk… since I’ve gone to all the bother of typing it out. Here’s the TN piece, anyhow:

Despite the two and a half hour delay, Pete Doherty’s appearance at the Phil still caused quite a stir. The prospect of seeing the ex-Libertines and Babyshambles singer created the biggest queue since Al Pacino paid a visit to Trinity, with the line of people stretching all the way from the steps of the GMB to the Dining Hall.

This wasn’t Doherty’s first trip to Trinity, as Babyshambles, along with Kate Moss, made a memorable appearance at the Trinity Ball back in 2005. According to Doherty it wasn’t the best of nights: “it was a bit of a disaster, that one. My guitarist got the fear mid-way through, he said I was looking at him funny and threw down his guitar and ran off… terrible night it was.”

Doherty also talked about his friendship with Pogues frontman Shane McGowan. When asked where he first met McGowan, Doherty replied: “Honestly, it was on the floor at a party. He said, “congratulations, you’re now the most obnoxious man in pop.” Those were his first words to me…. It’s hard to understand what he says a lot of the time but when you do work it out, it’s generally quite insightful and yeah, he’s taught me a lot. He’s quite into his history as well.”

Doherty has recently come back from a brief spell in Paris, which afforded him a break from the constant papparazi attention he attracts in London: “I always thought I was going to end up there – Paris or Moscow – it was self-imposed exile. I was there for about a month in November, but I’ve lived there before. Yeah, it’s a magical place. I tend to get left alone there a bit more than in London, I’m free to walk about, apart from when the school’s are out, it’s half an hour of chaos.”

Doherty’s year got off to a good start, when he played with the legendary Roger Daltrey, from The Who: “[Daltrey] got in contact with me through the Teenage Cancer Trust, he’s quite heavily involved with that. A couple of years ago he said something quite hurtful. He said I was a waste of space, and I wasn’t big or clever and it had all been done before and all this. And then he phoned me up after I’d been to the funeral of a young man, who’d died of cancer, and he said, Well Pete, I don’t take back what I said, but you’ve proved yourself now in my eyes, what sort of man you are, so if you need anything, anything, just call me. So I said, ‘can you do a gig with me?’

Doherty also spoke about his experience of interviewing Paul McCartney: “My mum had given me this chip fork to give him, ‘coz she’s from Liverpool and she was like, ‘what are you going to give to a Scouser who’s got everything – a silver chip fork’ and I was like, yeah that’s a great idea, mum. So I gave it to him all expectant and he just put it in his pocket and looked at me a bit strange…. I was asking him about some of the things they used to get up to on tour with the Beatles. You hear about the Rolling Stones and the total decadent rock bands, but the Beatles were the baddest of all, but it was all kept quiet… they were bumming everything in sight.”

When asked who were the people who have influenced him the most, Doherty replied:

Noone really, I’ve done it all on my own. I’m quite a lonely character. Most of my friends are dead and have been for hundreds of years. I quite like cats. (Pauses.) Do you know what, I don’t actually like cats so much… it started off fine but now they’ve just taken over, they’ve just expanded. It’s like lemmings- remember that computer game?”

“I’m trying to keep the population under control, it’s about 12 now. But I mean, they’re so smelly, it’s disgusting. I’m trying to get to grips with the philosophy of cats, as it were. I’ve bought a book about the psychology of cats, trying to get inside their heads, but they just piss on the duvet. They don’t care.”

Doherty was unsurprisingly quite reluctant to talk about his time in Wormwood scrubs, but said: “You’ve got to make the best of a bad situation. To be honest, everything I did write in there, or most of what I wrote, makes for pretty depressing reading, just self pity and wallowing in it, just sat on that bed all day every day and if you’re lucky you get strip-searched after dinner and that’s the highlight of the day really.”

Doherty also spoke at length about his music and his new solo album: “I’ve reverted back to where I came from, where I started out. Songs like ‘Albion’ and ‘Music When The Lights Go Out’, they were quite ballady and slow and they were the first songs. Then The Strokes came along and our manager said “Look, you’re going to have to speed everything up if you want to get signed.” So we did that.

When we first got in the limelight, we were so deranged and angry and a bit twisted, that we’d just get on stage and turn it up as loud as we could, whack it out and get off as quickly as we could. There was a lot of frantic, nervous energy and it was all a bit more aggressive and chaotic, and then we just calmed down a little bit, sadly.”

When asked what was his favourite song that he’d written, Doherty replied: “Maybe ‘Back From the Dead’, just because I tend to find when I’m lacking in inspiration I tend to go back to them chords, it’s just something about them… it’s just kind of mournful and sad and no-one’s worked out where I’ve nicked it from. And ‘Don’t Look Back into the Sun’ I quite like as well.”

Doherty also played a short acoustic set, which included “Last of the English Roses”, the first single from his new album, Grace/Wastelands.

Rachel Unthank and the Winterset

Posted in Albums, Gigs by Catriona on February 4, 2009

rachel-unthank

 

Rachel Unthank and the Winterset played a set in the Douglas Hyde Gallery yesterday (Tuesday, February 3). Due to the unexpected snowstorm, I wasn’t able to go, although I have a feeling that I’ll regret that for quite some time to come. Folk quartet Rachel Unthank and the Winterset are fronted by sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank, who combine traditional folk music with a contemporary edge. Their debut album, Cruel Sister, was awarded Folk Album of the Year by Mojo magazine back in 2005, while their second album, The Bairns, saw the group being nominated for four BBC Folk Awards in 2008. Rachel Unthank and the Winterset are an incredibly original band, who take a traditional genre and stamp all over it – literally. Read the commentary by Rachel and Becky that accompanies the CD for The Bairns, it throws up some interesting facts about each song, such as Rachel’s comments on the accompaniment to “Felton Lonnin”, where she reveals that: “The ‘percussion’ is Becky in her high heels. Glamfolk all the way!”

Crystal Antlers

Posted in Gigs, Interviews by Catriona on February 2, 2009

 

Catching up with singer Jonny Bell of Crystal Antlers, shortly before their gig in Whelans on 2nd February.

 

crystal-antlers-2

 

 

You’re in the middle of a really long tour, how’s it going so far?

“It’s been a week since we started playing shows. It’s been really good, all the shows in London were sold out, or really close to it, the show in Belfast was a little slow, but it was in a really weird club, off the main track. Galway last night was beautiful though, there were lots of people and there was a really nice energy.

 

The band’s sound is pretty diverse; do you all have different tastes in music?

Yeah we do, but there’s some common threads and that’s what we basically sound like. We all listen to a lot of old punk music and old soul music and that kind of stuff, so that’s the common ground that we share. Victor’s got some cultural background, he’s from Mexico and his dad’s a Mariachi so there’s a little bit of that Latin element to his tastes. And Damian used to sing gospel in church, so there’s that kind of thing going on.

 

So how would you describe your music?

It’s noisy soul music I guess, by a bunch of people who used to be in punk bands.

 

What bands were your biggest influences?

Damian and Andrew used to play in punk bands, so I know that was a big influence for them. I’ve always liked Captain Beefheart a lot, he’s always been my favourite, but I dunno, lately I’ve just been into soul and stuff.

 

How did you guys get together?

Kevin and Errol – he’s our guitar player who’s not here- in Iowa, we went to high school together and were in a music class and I was a couple of grades older than them and the class forced different groups of people to play songs together and perform them and they asked me to sing a Misfits song with them, or something like that. So I knew them from that and I wanted to form this band and Kevin and Errol really stuck out to me as really talented people with a lot of ability. So we started playing and we recorded our first single “Parting Song for the Torn Sky” and then I also knew Victor from around that time and we asked him if he wanted to play. He didn’t know how to play organ, but his family’s very musical so it came kind of naturally to him. Then we were a four piece, because we had Victor, and then Damian toured with us, just as a roadie, I guess he just wanted to come along – he actually tried out to play drums too – he was another person who was kind of our friend from the punk scene. So he just brought his bongos and his percussion stuff up on stage and started playing one time and sort of joined from then. And then a year ago, Errol quit the band because he was going to move to Thailand for some reason. So Andrew joined the band and Andrew actually used to record Errol’s old bands, so they knew each other, which was a bit strange, and Errol very recently rejoined and started playing with us again. So now there’s six people.

 

Isn’t it a bit weird having a drummer and percussionist?

Yeah, there’s a lot going on with the rhythm section.

 

So Errol rejoined the band but he’s not on tour?

Yeah, he’s actually in Thailand right now again. It sort of just happened too late for him too late for him to come on this tour, so he’s just waiting in Thailand until we get back and then he’s going to meet up with us and tour with us from then on.

 

You recorded your debut album in a week, was it really stressful recording an album in such a short space of time?

Yes, it was very stressful. The last few days, I slept maybe an hour a night, just staying up and our engineer Joe, he just stuck with us because we knew we had to get it done. And it was also stressful because we went into the studio directly after a thirty day tour of the US without really taking a break at all and we also slept in the studio the whole time and didn’t really leave for more than fifteen minutes at a time.

 

Why did you have to record it so quickly?

We had to go on another tour- this tour- and then we had some other shows and also vinyl production is backed up a lot. It takes so long to make it, that we had to turn it in quick in order for it to be released in April, and we really wanted to reach that.

 

I’m so sorry to be asking you this, because I know you must be getting this question from everyone, but are you irritated by the constant comparisons with the other “Crystal” bands?

No, I’m not irritated by it, not by the bands, it’s not their fault, it’s the press people asking the question. It was irritating, but now I’m just numb to it, it’s just like ‘okay, what a great coincidence’. But it seems like there’s some attention from that, to all three of the bands, Crystal Stilts, Crystal Castles and us, and I dunno, it might be helping us in some way.

 

I read in another interview that you all worked as chimney sweeps – seriously?

Yeah, when we were just a three piece we did, we all worked for this really crazy, acid-casualty guy and then I had my own company too. We still do it: when we’re not on tour, I still sweep chimneys to try to earn some extra money.

 

Is it difficult?

Yeah, parts of it are. I do full on masonry work too, so I can build a chimney, rebuild them and all that kind of stuff. It’s really hard work but I love it, it’s so rewarding to work for twelve hours and there’s this structure that could be there for hundreds of years.

 

Did you ever have any traumatic experiences with chimneys?

Yeah… so many, so many, especially because the guy that we were working for before was so crazy and just irresponsible, he was just like a child. He was kind of like a cartoon character in a way, once he was trying to get a beehive out of a chimney and started spraying a hose down the chimney. I should preface this by saying that he gets all of his work by going door to door and talking people into doing this, because it’s California and people don’t really use their chimneys so much. And so the customers are always a little apprehensive to begin with. And so he’s up there, spraying water down this chimney at a beehive and all these bees start flying out and attacking him and stinging him. He’s just rolling all over the roof, screaming. I was trying to spray him down with the hose and the customer’s out there on his front lawn and there was a school across the street and the school had just gotten out and all the kids were all standing there watching and laughing. (Pauses for effect) I’ve been attacked by a possum before too.

 

 

At this point, the tour manager decided that the ten minutes were up. It was probably a wise decision on his part, given the way the conversation was going. Crystal Antlers’s debut album, Tentacles, is due for release on 6th April.  

 

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Antony and the Johnsons – The Crying Light

Posted in Albums by Catriona on February 1, 2009

the-crying-light

 

It’s hardly surprising that everyone loves Antony and the Johnsons. There is such a disparate range of influences woven into their work, both musically, with their elaborate, almost orchestral compositions, and also conceptually, with each album staying true to a different theme that is at once complex and fascinating. For their last album, I Am a Bird Now, which won the 2005 Mercury prize, the cover featured an image of Candy Darling, one of Warhol’s tragic superstars. There was further reference to Warhol’s Factory with Lou Reed of the Velvet Underground doing guest vocals on “Fistful of Love”. Indeed, Antony Hegarty’s androgynous vocals are almost akin to Nico’s with their ability to fall between the masculine and feminine registers, with critics often commenting on Hegarty’s vocal resemblance to another well-known songstress, Nina Simone. On the track “Aeon” in particular, Hegarty’s vocals take on an incredible duality, sounding uncannily like a female gospel singer, especially when he repeatedly belts out the phrase “hold that man I love so much.”

According to Hegarty, the inspiration for The Crying Light came from Japanese butoh dancer Kazuo Ohno, whose eye-catching image appears on the cover. As a dance form, butoh explores grotesque imagery and taboo topics. It has no set rules, but rather exists as a purely conceptual form of dance. The parallels between Kazuo Ohno and the album itself are clear: the album covers a myriad of topics that range from the taboo to the surreal, constantly straying from the expected path. Although the album works best listened to as a whole, highlights include “Epilepsy is Dancing” with its delicate accompaniment of piano and percussion lending the song the air of an off-beat waltz (although the accompanying video has recently been banned from You Tube, for being supposedly “indecent”). Other stand-out songs are “Another World”, a melancholy lament for the world in general, at times evocative of Lennon’s “Imagine”, and the aforementioned “Aeon”.

Although the follow-up to I Am a Bird Now was always going to be difficult, Antony and the Johnsons have nevertheless produced another interesting and highly original album, full of beautiful instrumentals, strange lyrics and haunting melodies that linger in your mind long after the song ends.