Kanye West, Hammersmith Apollo

In his solo show at the Hammersmith Apollo, Kanye West was weird, extraordinary and oddly disturbing

Kanye West performing at the Hammersmith Apollo

Kanye West performing at the Hammersmith Apollo
Neil McCormick

25 Feb 2013

There was a moment towards the end of Kanye West’s solo London shows when I thought, this is the future, and it is even weirder than I would have imagined.

A lone figure is standing in the midst of an arctic wasteland, wearing a white designer sci-fi straitjacket, a glittering, skin-tight crystal bondage mask obscuring his face. He is singing into an autotuned microphone set to maximum distortion, his digitised voice bending and fluctuating like a robot choir. Single icy synth notes blast out over a sub sonic bass more felt than heard. A crowd of thousands stand rapt, filming him on mobile phones, as the sounds grow ever more twisted and distorted, circling around and constantly returning to a beautiful, tortured melodic refrain, in which he sadly lists his all too human flaws and urges loved ones to “run away as fast as you can”.

This was not some obscure, left field electro art rock performance. This was one of the biggest pop stars in the world right now.

read more via The Telegraph

Filed under: Review

Thom Yorke: why should we care?

Atoms For Peace: Amok (XL) review
Conflicted: Thom Yorke fronts Atoms For Peace

GMT 22 Feb 2013

Before Your Very Eyes, the opening track of Thom Yorke’s latest side-project, cascades from the speakers in thrilling style, interweaving a jittery, propulsive afro-rhythmic bass with hi-life guitar, fizzing futuristic electronica, shuffling percussion and one of those ethereal, floating Radiohead melodies that seems to be moving at half the pace of the rest of the track, crossing the up-tempo groove with a ghostly sadness. As it segues from a rumbling, subsonic bass note into the nervy, morse-code synth rhythm and desperate, yearning melody of Default, the sinuous mix of electronic and analogue sounds suggests Yorke has found a new way to mesh rock’s visceral live attack with the shiny, digital beats of our computer world. Young musicians should grab a hold of an album with enough ideas to launch a hundred bands. But over the course of nine tracks, familiar problems start to manifest. Like: what is Thom Yorke singing about? And why should we care?

read more via Telegraph

Filed under: Review

Brit Awards: the triumph of the bland

GMT 21 Feb 2013

Welcome to the new boring. Emeli Sandé, Mumford & Sons, One Direction and Ben Howard: these are the new stars of British music. All – to different degrees – extremely talented, vibrant, emotional, committed, entertaining musical performers beloved of enormous audiences. And all as dull as dishwater.

“We love being British, and we love going out in the world and telling everyone we’re British,” gushed Marcus Mumford at last night’s Brit Awards, while his Sons looked on admiringly. David Cameron should get them out to India forthwith, I am sure they could do a better job of flogging helicopters than he has.

(From left) Country Winston, Ben Lovett Ted Dwane and Marcus Mumford of Mumford and Sons with their Brit for best British Group (PA)

The whole world loves the Mumfords. They love their banjos and their passion and their cute British accents. And why not? As we saw from their virile performance, they are purveyors of strong, meaningful songs delivered with great gusto. The Americans love them so much, they gave them the ultimate Grammy for Album of the Year (or the “Best of a Poor Bunch”, to give it its unofficial title). Britain wasn’t quite prepared to go that far for a band still patiently awaiting their first glowing review.

read more via The Telegraph

Dave Grohl’s Sound City Players, The Forum, Review

Dave Grohl and Rick Springfield of the Sound City Players

Dave Grohl and Rick Springfield of the Sound City Players Photo: Getty Images
20 Feb 2013

“I can’t believe we’re back at the Forum,” gasps Dave Grohl, before adding, comically, “We used to play really big places!” The 2,300 capacity Kentish Town venue was packed from the front of the theatrical stage to the beer-sloshing bar with rock fans drawn by the prospect of seeing superstars up close and personal.

By the end of a two and a half-hour, 30-song gig, Foo Fighters were on stage with representatives of Nirvana, Cheap Trick, Queens of the Stone Age, Fear and Masters Of Reality in a messy celebration of rock ‘n’ roll fraternity, in which bald, bearded, overweight men commemorated their rebellious youths. The audience seemed to be enjoying themselves too, even if not quite as much as the musicians.

Former Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighter leader Grohl has made a movie about LA’s Sound City studio, where a lot of classic US rock albums were recorded. It’s a friendly, baggy documentary which had its UK premiere on Monday, and Grohl’s superjam band have been popping up to drum up publicity. The London show is only their fourth gig and actually their least starry. America got Stevie Nicks, John Fogerty and members of Rage Against The Machine. We got Grohl’s old Nirvana bass partner Krist Novoselic and “Rick f—–g Springfield!” as Grohl repeatedly describes the American pop rock icon in tones of comical reverence. Or “Rick who?” as the girl next to me inquired of her mother.

read more via Telegraph

A Prince Among Stones: That Business With The Rolling Stones and Other Adventures by Prince Rupert Loewenstein

The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones
GMT 20 Feb 2013

Somewhat in contrast to the rags to riches narrative arc of most rock ‘n’ roll memoirs, Prince Rupert Loewenstein’s account of his adventures with the Rolling Stones is more of a gentle amble from riches to greater riches.

Lowenstein was the well-connected merchant banker who sorted out the Stones’s parlous finances in the early Seventies and went on to have a lucrative career as their business manager. In place of the usual sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, his memoir focuses on accounting practises and boardroom meetings, which is about as exciting as it sounds. To be fair to Loewenstein, he doesn’t get tied up in details, neatly summarising complex business arrangements with a cheerful clarity that has presumably served him well over three decades of dealings with the kind of clients who think nothing of turning up to meetings roaring drunk, accompanied by dancing girls, or peeing out of a window because it’s closer than the nearest commode.

Somewhere in this relationship between imperturbable aristocrat and reprehensible rockers you can sense the bones of a comical culture clash illustrating the shifting social parameters of post-war Britain. Unfortunately, the author’s snooty and self-satisfied prose lacks any alertness to the abundant opportunities for either satire or pathos.

read more via Telegraph

Filed under: Interviews

Alicia Keys interview: playing by her own rules

Alicia Keys:

Alicia Keys: “The possibility that you’re not gonna be perfect – that’s the thrill of it.”
GMT 17 Feb 2013

Alicia Keys arrives for our interview in London only days after performing at President Obama’s second inauguration ball. Seated at a piano, playing her recent hit Girl On Fire, she had laughed as she threw in mischievous improvised lines such as “Obama’s on fire!” and “Everyone knows Michelle is his girl / Together they run the world!”. In stark contrast with Beyoncé’s controversial rendition of the national anthem on the same day, there was never any doubt that Keys was singing live.

“That’s my style and that’s what I love,” she says, carefully avoiding criticism of her contemporary. “Even when I’m singing on record there’s a lot of times when I’ll fight for a bit of imperfection. I might not have quite hit the note to the perfect pitch but there was a soul in there and feeling that, to me, delivers the emotion of that moment. For me, doing a show, the excitement of singing live, and the possibility that you’re not gonna be perfect – that’s the thrill of it.”

There is a deeper issue for Keys, and one that she, as a pop star and public figure, feels keenly. “The problem is that we live in a world where everybody feels they have to be too damn perfect. You’re supposed to look perfect, sound perfect, act perfect, do everything perfect or God forbid. I don’t know where that kind of mentality has begun to leave all of us.”

read more via Telegraph

Kodaline – New Faces

Rock’s new poster-boys.

The band, Kodaline.

GMT 07 Feb 2013

Who are they?

A four-piece guitar band from Dublin with the sleek, widescreen rock songs to make them big stars in 2013.

How did they get here?

Singer and multi-instrumentalist Stephen Garrigan and guitarist Mark Prendergast have been friends since school, and had an Irish number one hit with teenage indie-rock band 21 Demands in 2007. The one-hit wonders formed Kodaline in 2011, with drummer Vinny May and bassist Jason Boland. Their romantic debut track All I Want has since clocked up a couple of million views on YouTube, no doubt aided by the fact that 24-year-old Garrigan looks as winsomely handsome as a member of One Direction.

read more via Telegraph

Filed under: Feature

Don’t Stop: the return of the Mac

With their 35-year-old album back in the charts, the Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood talks to Neil McCormick about its stormy story and long legacy.

Don’t stop… Mick Fleetwood behind the kit in 2009

Don’t stop… Mick Fleetwood behind the kit in 2009  Photo: REX
06 Feb 2013

‘It’s good therapy,” says Mick Fleetwood, settling back to talk about Rumours, an album released 35 years ago that continues to haunt the lives of everyone involved. “There’s still a fascination about it, it’s who we are and what we are, the reason why we made all that music. It forces you to think about yourself, how you’ve developed or undeveloped, screwed up or not, what you learnt from that, and whether you have truly moved on from the hurt, fear and loathing.”

Fleetwood Mac’s classic 1977 album is back in the charts, a reissued expanded edition going straight in at No  3 this week. “It’s this mutant thing, with a life of its own,” says Fleetwood about the enduring appeal of an album that has already sold more than 40 million copies. “It shaped me as a person, because we went through a damage, making that album,” admits the tall, hirsute, elegantly attired 65-year-old drummer. “I know it sounds like, ‘Oh my God, when will those people grow up?’ Well, the reality was maybe we didn’t actually ever grow up. But it’s never too late. We’re not finished yet.”

read more: via Telegraph

Filed under: Interviews

RIP Reg Presley, the original Wild Thing

It is strange to think that Reg Presley’s legendary status in owes itself as much to a comically inarticulate, bad tempered, foul-mouthed argument about recording as it does to his band’s prototype Sixties garage rock hits.

When I was a young punk, deliriously delving into rock’s rich and strange back catalogue, The Troggs Tapes held a near mythic status. A bootleg of out-takes from a 1968 recording session in which the four musicians argue with increasing vehemence in thick rural Hampshire arguments about how to produce a hit, it contains the now legendary Presley catchphrase “You gotta put a little bit of fucking fairy dust over the bastard, you know.”

Before the internet, The Troggs Tapes were hard to find, yet everyone seemed to know about them, an elusiveness that only added to their allure. I remember getting my hands on a copy in a Dublin flea market, then sitting around late at night with friends laughing ourselves silly at the inanity and palpable sense of frustration as the musicians fail to find a way to articulate and capture some sound idea, beyond the reach of either their language or their technical abilities. “Don’t just keep saying, ‘Ah, yeah, well that ain’t right’. I know that ain’t fucking right. I can fucking hear it ain’t right, you cunt.” Ironically, the song they were trying to record was called Tranquility, of which Reg pronounced “that is a number-fucking one, and if that bastard don’t go, then I’ll fucking retire!”

In truth, it is the kind of conversation you can hear every day in recording studios all around the world, but there was something liberating and myth-busting about the experience of eavesdropping on these unguarded musicians at work.

read more via Telegraph

Filed under: Blogs, Feature

My Bloody Valentine: the most bloody-minded band in pop history?

Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine performs on stage

Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine performs on stage  Photo: Getty Images
3:39PM GMT 04 Feb 2013

It has taken My Bloody Valentine 22 years to make a follow up to their classic 1991 breakthrough album, Loveless. They have become a mythic rock band in absentia, better known for what they haven’t done as what they have.

Over two decades, the four piece (guitarist Kevin Shields, drummer Colm ” Cíosóig, singer-guitarist Bilinda Butcher, and bassist Debbie Googe) have been in and out of studios, signed and dropped by record labels, sort of broken up without actually telling anyone, and sort of got back together without making a big deal about it.

Late on Saturday night, they suddenly released an album on the internet, available only through their website, timing that made sure it missed all the kind of news and music media outlets that might have been relied upon to spread the word. Rather than being an audacious act of media manipulation akin to David Bowie’s comeback, this was more an example of My Bloody Valentine’s careless relationship with fans, the industry and their own careers. True to their name, they may be the most bloody-minded band in pop history.

The group’s stubbornly slow approach reflects the temperament of their leader, Irish guitarist Kevin Shields. Often characterised as a “perfectionist”, he is the kind of musician who can spend days just setting up his amp. My Bloody Valentine operate in a space of total immersion, a fuzzy wall of distorted, repetitive sound and beats, where the focus is on subtle gradients within a kind of relentlessness of tone. They are known for performing at near deafening volume, conjuring up a giant buzz of sound that generates all manner of harmonic feedback. Certainly the only time I went to see them I had to retreat out of fear for my ears.

They were prime exponents of a short-lived scene known as shoegazing, largely because the musicians tended to stand around frowning at their feet as if utterly absorbed in the task of making noise. It was too undemonstrative for the mainstream, and soon swept away by Grunge and Britpop, yet its influence and mystique linger on. And no shoegazers were more influential or mysterious than My Bloody Valentine.

For that alone, its creator’s obstinate, contrary and idealistic perseverance has to be applauded. Now, where did I put my earplugs?

via Telegraph

Filed under: Feature