From the dusty crates #6: My Vitriol

Unlike some of the other bands mentioned in here thus far, My Vitrol were actually from London, and as such, there was an eighteen month period when they were always around. I'm sure I've seen them like ten times, supporting Mansun, King Adora, JJ72, Feeder, at festivals, at random headline gigs... and I don't even like them that much. What's most significant about why I kept coming back to My Vitriol despite my, at best, kinda liking them, was that a) two of them were Indian (possibly Sri Lankan?), and b) their PR guy pushed them REALLY heavily. As in, I'm sure I received their album - and their subsequent and entirely superfluous album reissue - at least three times. They put out a string of singles that were okay, with 'Always Your Way' being a favourite that was released twice. The band's primary influences appeared to be My Bloody Valentine and Nirvana. Vincent Gallo appeared in the 'Grounded' video. Wait, what was that last one?

Once, at the insistence of said PR guy, my friend Natan and I went to interview the band, prior to a gig at Shepherds Bush Empire, supporting Mansun. We went to a pub around the corner, and half the band couldn't be bothered, and went off to talk with their mates. So, Natan and I chatted with Carolyn and Seth, the bass player and guitarist. I thought it went rather well, both were very nice, and just to give you an idea of how long ago this is, we discussed Zach de la Rocha's "imminent" solo album. Yikes. I was happily typing it up the following afternoon, and their PR guy called me up, saying that the band had complained about us, that we'd been really horrible, and that we're never allowed to talk to My Vitriol again. That definitely was unexpected, and took a little sorting out.

That mostly turned me off the band, although our paths continued to cross for a while longer. As far as I can tell, they still haven't put out a second record. Apparently, they are on the covering-Crazy-bandwagon, and were the last band to rock the Astoria before the Man won.

[download My Vitriol - Always Your Way]
[download My Vitriol - Falling Off the Floor]

The Rakes break up

It's that time again, another band I quite like have called it quits.

A statement from the band explained that their hearts just weren't in it any more. "The Rakes have always been very adamant and proud of the fact that we give 100 per cent to every gig we've ever played," the statement read.

"If we can't give it everything then we won't do it. That was the rule we set ourselves from day one. After much deliberation we have come to the shared conclusion that we can't give it 100 per cent any more and regret to announce that The Rakes are calling it a day."

Play it loud, play it proud.


[download The Rakes - Strasbourg]

From the dusty crates #5: JJ72

I'll admit it. JJ72 was one of the first bands I really fell in love with from the ground floor. First heard about them in Select, interviewed them before they headlined the Barfly, wrote some overly sycophantic reviews about their live shows, left the country right before their second album came out. Incidentally, that show of theirs where I interviewed them was when the Barfly was still at the Falcon, before it moved. Supporting them that night were My Vitriol, who may also appear in this column at some stage.

But JJ72 were a three-piece from Ireland who were only a few years older than me, had a sexy bass player, and knew how to do choruses. Also, the singer kinda sounded like a girl. I read a review at the time that said "This is the first band to listen to 'Everything Must Go' and think "Yeah, we can do that"", which probably explains their appeal to me at that time. In a few months, I saw them a lot of times and fell in love with them. Their faster songs were, and remain, okay, but they wrote some really great slow and pretty songs, that still hold up. Supporting the Dandy Warhols at the Astoria, the Reading Festival, two nights at ULU, a couple of other times that I can't remember. I was head over heels. The rest of the world, not as much. I remember other writers for my site saying "The guy sounds like a girl and all their songs sound the same" which was a pretty valid criticism. Also, when playing live, he'd always - always - smash a guitar at the end of set closer 'Bumble Bee', which came off as contrived after the seventh time of seeing it.

By the time they headlined the NME Tour (supported by Amen, Alfie and Starsailor - yikes) even I had grown bored. Or more likely, found a newer band to get behind. The band's second album 'I To Sky' came out very soon after I left for the U.S. and after that they broke up. Mark Greaney started a new band called Concerto for Constantine, with a dude who was in Idlewild, but I don't know anything about them.

[download JJ72 - Undercover Angel]
[download JJ72 - Willow]

Just don't put that calzone in your pillow

I've been meaning to write about Matt Braunger's standup album 'Soak Up The Night' for a while, but didn't get around to it, what with the packing, moving, and unpacking. And then I saw him last week on Conan and thought "Damn! If I write about it now, people will think I only heard about him because of his appearance on national late-night television" and that's not the case. It is terribly important for me to be seen as cool and ahead of the trends at all times, so there.

Matt Braunger - not be confused with Matt Besser or Matt Belknap, two other L.A. comedy types - used to be a cast member on MAD TV but I only heard of him recently, due to his appearances on I Love Movies and some other pod-oriented broadcasts to which I subscribe. The album, which was put out by Comedy Central Records, is pretty good. The comedian that Braunger reminds me the most of is Dane Cook. Wait, come back! It's mostly his style of delivery - very confident and with a bit of swagger - and the fact that there's quite a lot about drinking, and a bit about watching pornography. But even these are funny, so don't let the D-word C-word put you off, indie-comedy-nerds. That demographic will especially enjoy a bit that's entitled 'Lifting Weights to the Smiths'. Like me, Braunger doesn't like The Doors or 'Piano Man', but unlike me, he hates Cadbury's Creme Eggs, which, if I gave scores, would cost him some points. My favourite bit on the CD is here for you, and involves the guy with the funniest name in all of Portland. I laughed out loud, and hopefully you will too.

[download Matt Braunger - The Two Funniest Names in Portland, Rusty Nail]

[Matt Braunger - MATTs Radio/ twitter / tumblr]
[Listen to 'Soak Up The Night' at lala]
[Buy 'Soak Up The Night' (iTunes)]

From the dusty crates #4: Regular Fries

The other day I mentioned a genre called 'The Scene with No Name', which a) did, in fact, have a name, and b) it was a fucking stupid name. Well, today to (almost) match the inanity of that title, let me tell you about Skunk Rock. The Lo-Fidelity Allstars were the biggest names within this scene, and that ought to tell you something about it. Other bands in the bracket included Campag Velocet (starring the world's most handsome man), and London heartthrobs The Regular Fries.

Now, usually when you hear about bands with journalists in them, you think "oh, this probably won't be good", and that's what I first thought about the Fries. They were an eight-piece who put out a couple of insane EPs that were simultaneously funky and confusing. Seeing them live was equally mesmeric - there were grooves and beats and also camouflage netting and birdcages. They had a single called 'King Kong' which might have been a love song. And then came the album 'Accept the Signal', which paired some pretty great songs - witness 'Dust It', below - with some truly horrific lyrics. "Deep sea diver, dear Lady Godiva, lend us a fiver... the girls" went 'The Girls'. It got mostly poor reviews, but catching them at festivals and around London was always fun. I remember one time they supported Asian Dub Foundation at the Astoria, and it was a severe mismatch between the bands, and I was one of the few who enjoyed both sets immensely.

And then... somehow their second album, 'War on Plastic Plants' was MORE mental. For one thing, there was a song called 'Africa Take Me Back, which was incongruous coming from the whitest, palest men you will ever look at. But there's a track featuring their spiritual forefather Kool Keith, a man so nuts, he makes the Fries look like Dr. Stephen Hawking or something. My buddy Sal once wrote of the band, "they're what you get if an Ikea Store crashes into Cape Canaveral with 8 joyous, energetically manic Bez type people including a legionnaire, thrown in? That covers it pretty well, I feel.

I don't know what happened to them, I can only assume they broke up and did some more drugs. Here's a couple o'tunes for you.

[download Regular Fries - Dust It]
[download Regular Fries - Supersonic Waves ft. Kool Keith]

From the dusty crates #3: Crashland

Well, we moved into the new place. You know what's a whole bucket-ton of fun? Carrying eight car loads worth of stuff across a car park, up a flight of stairs, and down a hallway. Fortunately, it's done now, so I can return to the feature that internet denizens the world over are calling "instantly forgettable" and "more than superfluous".

Today, we're talking about Crashland, a three-piece who I believe were from the West Country. That's Bristol, not, like, Arizona. I may be wrong about that, though. For a very short time, they were a staple on Steve Lamacq's Evening Session, and every time, without fail, Steve would refer to them as "the tightest power trio in the country." The singer came off as arrogant in interviews, but they didn't get much press, and though their album 'Glued' was pretty good, they disappeared not long afterward, leaving very little impact on the music scene, and, as my research this evening concludes, even less impact on this Internet.

They wrote pretty straightforward indie-rock songs with big choruses which were, by and large, unremarkable, but struck a chord with me at the time, and 'Glued' remains a CD that stays (guess what word goes here) to my car stereo most of the time. The last song on there, 'We're on Fire', is especially lovely, although calling it this generation's 'Yesterday' may be pushing it, writer of Crashland's bio. I once saw the band open for Reef (Terrifying true fact: Reef had TWO number one albums) at Shepherds Bush Empire, and of course Crashland were vastly superior. After 'Glued', the band was dropped by Independiente and put out a pretty killer EP before calling it a day. When the EP came out, we went to see them at The Monarch, and it was one of those gigs. We got there (we being myself and Alex Wells), assuming that it'd be pretty empty, and it was a sellout, with every single person - band and crowd - being surprised to see so many fans for the band. Here's a couple of songs and the video for their first single, 'Standard Love Affair'.

[download Crashland - We're on Fire]
[download Crashland - Money Shot]

From the dusty crates #2: Ikara Colt

Since the inaugural post in the new series was a runaway, resounding success that people are still talking about worldwide in hushed, reverent whispers, it's time for volume two. Today, it's London's own Ikara Colt. For a while, the NME put them, the Parkinsons and some other bands that I remember even less than the Parkinsons into a sub-genre called "the scene with no name" or just "no name". This really did happen.

I first received the band's debut single 'Sink Venice' to review, and while the lead track, was okay and featured the lyric "two thousand damp bricks won't save you now" which is far better than okay, the b-side 'At the Lodge' really caught my attention. They followed it up with a couple of singles that were both stone-cold stunners: 'One Note' and 'Rudd,' and then the album 'Chat and Business'. A singer who couldn't really sing, some killer choruses and a ton of energy, they became a live staple in 2001, and I caught them at Reading and supporting my beloved Six by Seven (future candidates for this feature?) amongst other places. Glancing at old reviews, I noticed that my esteemed pal Olly Parker once said of them:

The Colt have a song, it is a fine song, tight, honest, rocking, catchy and cool. Unfortunately their insistence upon playing the song five times diminishes from the overall effect. They're a fine band but any longer than twenty minutes and you would see me expressing some entirely different opinions.
And that sums it up very nicely. Apparently, in the States they were on Epitaph, where I'm sure they didn't sit comfortably next to all those punk bands. I never listened to Ikara Colt's second album, and apparently they split in 2005. Remind me to ask Eddie Argos if IC were an influence on Art Brut - I definitely can hear the resemblance.

Here are two of their best songs.

[download Ikara Colt - One Note]
[download Ikara Colt - At the Lodge]

From the dusty crates #1: Audioweb

I'm moving house this week, and as such, cleaning out the existing house. Trying to get rid of stuff that I really don't need anymore, rather than carry it to the new place, and then the next place after that, and so on and so on until I become a prime candidate for 'Hoarders'. During this process, I've donated a load of old books to the local library, and made two trips - so far - to Goodwill, giving them a box of movie posters*, lots of old cassette tapes**, and most crucially, loads and loads and loads of old CDs. Most of these were things I got for free during my time as a music writer in London. So, there's a preponderance of British indie bands from 1998-2001 that nobody has thought about for years and years.

Looking through these CDs, I got a bit nostalgic and gave them a play. I thought it'd be interesting to write a bit about some of these bands, who are long forgotten, who I was into as a youngun.

First up: Audioweb

These guys were on U2's label, and even supported the Irish behemoths at Wembley Stadium once upon a time.*** They put out two albums, both of which I have, before calling it a day in 1999. Musically, they were pretty much a standard indie band, with decent riffs, choruses, etc. But their singer Martin brought an extra element, with a soulful voice (bear in mind: other bands around at this time were Space and Shed Seven), and he threw in some "lawdamercy" and skankin' over the songs. In hindsight, I think what appealed to me the most about this band was that they weren't just four identical looking white guys, like just about every band I was listening to at the time. Also, Ian Brown was a big fan, and as we know, that guy's judgment is top notch.

Here are their two "biggest" singles. I must confess: I heard their version of 'Bankrobber' before knowing that it was a cover. Imagine my surprise when I heard the Clash's original, which doesn't have any lyrics about cocaine. Also, 'Policeman Skank' from their second album, which is ace and tells the story of a fight in a courthouse.

Another forgotten indie band tomorrow, probably!

[download Audioweb - Bankrobber]
[download Audioweb - Policeman Skank]

* Including, but not limited to, Stealth, The Barbarian Invasions, War of the Worlds, Hustle and Flow, and Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress.
** Turns out, I did own 'Music Box' by Mariah Carey.
*** The lineup for that gig, amazingly, also featured the Longpigs.

If this is my public, I'm ready for you

My little sister, who is very busy and important, went to see Colin MacIntyre last week, here's her review.

Colin MacIntyre

The Living Room, New York
October 6 2009

The curly haired Scotsman from the Isle of Mull delighted the audience at the Living Room in New York’s Lower East Side on Tuesday night. Playing a mix of songs from his Mull Historical Society days to his new album, ‘Island’, Colin’s sensational voice and amusing commentary in between songs entertained the audience for the hour long set.

Sitting solo on the stage, facing a dozen or so small round tables, Colin played two songs from his new album, ‘Island’ early on in the set: ‘Cape Wrath” and 'The Edge of Nearly'. Both are my favorites on the record, particularly because of the powerful violins which give each song an eerie complexion. That is what I love about Colin’s music. It’s hard to pinpoint, but there is something joyful and yet slightly haunting about it. His adaption of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s ‘Maps’ was a beautiful and touching acoustic piece. It truly tugged at the heart strings.

He played the next few songs with excitement and energy – stopping in-between to share some stories with the audience. He pulled out a music report card from his schooldays, in which the teacher wrote “Colin spends too much time showing off to ever make anything of himself” and sharing the inspiration for ‘Tree Scavengers’ – a trip to upstate New York where he felt as though turkeys were flying in the air. He was cheeky and charming, at one point mentioning, that he “really learn to play the guitar for this one” before starting one of his more difficult musical pieces.

But it was Colin’s performance of ‘Samuel Dempster RIP’ that was the most memorable part of the evening. Before he started playing, Colin explained that the song is about his great grandfather, a man who served in world War and never returned, or knew that his girlfriend was carrying his child, “the girl he’ll never know as his own”. It felt as though the entire room was moved almost to tears as he poignantly shared this tragic moment in his family’s history.

Colin closed the set on a high note with “You’re a star” – leaving the crowd head-bopping, fist pumping and grinning ear to ear. He even managed to squeeze in a Letterman gag mid-song when he sang, "TV hosts write their own epitaphs”. It was pretty amusing.

In summary, Colin is simply a brilliant musician. His beautifully written songs are moving, thoughtful and at times heartbreaking. He is tremendously talented and an absolute pleasure to watch. Thankfully, Colin mentioned that he married a New Yorker, so in his own words…he’ll be back soon.

- Anu Mathur

[download Colin MacIntyre - Samuel Dempster RIP]

He played 'Watching Xanadu'!

You've never won anything fairly

When I was in London in March, I had a conversation with my friend Tom1 about the big-screen adaptation of David Peace’s hugely acclaimed novel The Damned United. We played the parts of one of the film’s producers2 and an American studio executive. The role-playing went something like this:

American studio executive (ASE): So what have you got?
Damned United Producer (DUP): Well, it’s a British film about soccer.
ASE: Ugh. Well, Bend It Like Beckham did well enough. Go on.
DUP: This one is set in the mid-70s. In northern England.
ASE: …
DUP: It’s a biopic, about Brian Clough.
ASE: Who?
DUP: One of the greatest managers of the 70s and 80s. You know! Ol’ Big ‘Ead.
ASE: Never heard of him.
DUP: The guy from Frost/Nixon is in it!
ASE: (Momentarily interested) Frank Langella?
DUP: No, the other dude.
ASE: Oh.3
DUP: Did I mention, there are no women involved.
ASE: Thanks for coming by. We’ll… uh, we’ll call you. Good luck with that.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a harder film to market in the United States. I caught it today, and try as I might, it’s hard to detach it from the novel, which is terrific and dark and gets deep into Clough’s neuroses and psychoses. The film strips most of that away, and what remains is a solid story of a man addled by ambition and principle. It’s hard to talk about the film without getting into football philosophy, so I’ll try and keep it brief. Cloughy believed in playing attractive football and as an Arsenal fan, I can relate. In Arsene We Trust and such. His nemesis, Don Revie, succeeded at Leeds by having his player kick lumps out of each other and worse, once refused to shake Clough’s hand after a match.

Performances in the film are uniformly great, with Timothy Spall and Stephen Graham as standouts. Sheen himself didn’t work any miracles for me – maybe it’s because I’m only familiar with Clough as an older man and didn’t know him in 1974.4 As a debut feature, this was good stuff from John Adams director Tom Hooper – there was a nice combination of archived footage, the voice of Barry Davies, and Bowie5 over the credits. There’s definitely a gravity that the book had, that this doesn’t have. But the look and feel of the 70s, the sodden pitches, the ugliness of the game – and the players – come across very well.

I don’t think you have to be a football fan to really enjoy this film, though that’s easy for me to say, so hopefully it’ll catch on here in the States. But I wouldn’t put any money on it.

1 Not the Tom I mentioned in a previous post, but another Tom. What? I know a lot of Toms. Get over it.
2 For some reason, I played the producer as a bumbling, effete, Hugh Grant in Four Weddings type.
3 The suit actually thought the producer meant Oliver Platt, but that’s neither here nor there.
4 Or anyone, for that matter, for another nine years.
5 ‘Queen Bitch’, since you ask.

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