Motivational Jumpsuit is the first Guided By Voices album since “drumgate” and as such slightly less of a classic line-up album than their previous post-reunion releases. Changes on the drum stool aside this is an album that continues the general style of the last four releases and may well be the strongest of the bunch.
At first I struggled with the album, it seemed very straight and focused but lacking in anything to really grab my attention. Coming back to it a few weeks later my response couldn’t have been more different. To start with the album opens with ‘The Littlest League Possible’ a perfect 80 seconds of psyche-punk-pop reflecting on being a cult musical concern. It is followed by ‘Until Next Time’ which proves to be one of those proper lo-fi low off-key gems that could be on pretty much any GBV album since the band started.
Importantly, because it indicates a confidence in Pollard’s writing, this album has a couple of bona fide classic singles. ‘Vote For Me Dummy’ may be the albums key track and sounds like a lost recording from the ‘Earthquake Glue’ album. (It is the common wisdom that the original “classic line-up” albums are where to go when listening to GBV and that things went downhill after that line-up split. I tend to disagree. Sure Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes are brilliant but I love Mag Earwig, Isolation Drills and Earthquake Glue almost as much. I’d take them over the last classic line-up album, Under The Bushes Under the Stars, any day of the week.)
The other great pop single on the album is ‘Planet Score and even has a video starring Breaking Bad’s Matt L. Jones. This song is one of those alternative reality chart hits that makes me wish I had control of the Radio 1 playlist.
Tobin Sprout also has a lot to offer, he has fully settled back into his role on these albums, playing Colin Moulding to Pollard’s Andy Partridge. The wistful 60s influenced ‘Jupiter Spin’ alone makes his contribution worthwhile. His songs add a balance to Pollard’s tracks and that is one good reason why this line-up of the band works so well.
Even as a committed fan I sometimes struggle to keep up with, and process, Pollard’s frenetic output. There are likely to be more GBV albums coming this year and keeping up is my problem and not theirs. If the next album is as engaging and fresh as this one then bring it on.
We are delighted to see the return of globe-trotter Paul Coltofeanu, last seen in his Android Angel guise, as the panda-pop genius that is Free Swim. The new video, below, for the song Transatlantic Tumnus is the first taste of their new EP due out later this year.
The track really is about a Black Bag, being filled by Robert Rotifer during a clear out, and features Paul Rains from Allo Darlin’ on lapsteel.
Queen’s Drive, about a Finsbury Park hotel, features Will Glanfield in saxophone. We are informed via their press release that this track is set to herald a danceable, “dare we say funky” new direction on Rotifer’s next album.
Black Bag is released on January 27 and can be preordered from i-Tunes here.
Former Death in Vegas and Thrashing Doves man Ian Button has been better known to us over the last year or so as drummer and guitar effects chap with Rotifer.
Turns out he’s also been spending his time on a solo project under the name Papernut Cambridge. His forthcoming album Cambridge Nutflake (released on November 4th) features some great guitar sounds as you’d expect from Button all behind his whispery Gallagher-esque vocals.
Here’s an alternate version of one of the album’s tracks Ink Run. The archive inspired video is by Darren Hayman, who also plays synths on the track.
To order the album (which also comes with an EP) visit here, or to buy the digital version visit iTunes.
Here’s a short film Neonfiller.com’s Joe Lepper made of his time at Indietracks 2013. No words, thought it best to use the excellent track Tut Tut Tut by The Tuts, one of the highlights of the event. Thanks so much to The Tuts for letting us use their track.
Set at the Midlands Steam Railway Centre, Derbyshire, the event spans four stages: an outdoor stage, a train shed, a steam train and the station chapel. The clip below features a host of bands including The Magic Theatre, Bis, Camera Obscura, Owl and Mouse, Enderby’s Room, Fever Dream and of course The Tuts.
Neko Case is a bit of a Neon Filler favorite whether that be with her role in the New Pornographers, playing wonderful live sets or on her own solo albums. The last of these was Middle Cyclone which made it in to our top ten albums list when released in 2009.
So we are very excited that she is back after more than four years to release The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You via ANTI on the 2nd September. Case says of the album:
“My brain wilderness is more dense and dangerous than I thought,” says Case. “It was an embarrassing and hilarious march, but I now feel like a more streamlined being. It’s a good feeling. Four years of my life took ten years hostage, then gave me back twelve.”
The album was executive-produced by Case and recorded at Wavelab in Tuscon, as well as Portland, Los Angeles and with Phil Palazzolo in Brooklyn. Tucker Martine, Case and Darryl Neudorf mixed the album, with backing by guitarist Paul Rigby, bassist Tom V. Ray, vocalist Kelly Hogan and multi-instrumentalist Jon Rauhouse. Other guests include M. Ward, Steve Turner, Howe Gelb, and members of The New Pornographers, My Morning Jacket, Calexico, Los Lobos and Visqueen. In addition to eleven new songs written by Case, The Worse Things Get… features a cover of ‘Afraid’ by Nico.
The first song from the album. ‘Man’, featuring M.Ward on guitar, is available to view below and gives good reason to be excited about what is likely to be one of the best albums of 2013.
The Great Escape is a multi-venue music festival that takes part ion Brighton each year in May. Firmly established as one of the best events in the musical calendar it offers up the chance to see some of the 350 bands playing across the 30 venues involved.
Getting to see even a fraction of the artists you want to see is a challenge, as clashes and geography get in your way. Equally, with so many new and emerging artists on show it can be a challenge to work out who your should be trying to see. Below we feature ten of the many acts that we will be trying to catch across the festival weekend.
1. Billy Bragg
Billy Bragg played at the first music festival I ever attended, Reading in 1990, and is a stalwart of the festival circuit. Strangely, despite always being a fan of his music, I’ve not seen him live once in the intervening 23 years. He is always great value, a first rate live act, and has a great catalogue of songs at his disposal.
His set is one of the Dome shows (requiring a top-up on the standard ticket price) and I recommend taking in one of the three nights there if you can. BRIGHTON DOME FRI 17TH MAY 21.30.
This band, essentially the work of Matthew Houck, came to our attention through shows at the End of the Road festival and their album Here;s To Taking It Easy in 2010. The brilliant Muchacho earlier this year was equally impressive, and added some new sounds to the expansive country he had become famous for. This is very likely to be one of the most popular sets of the weekend, and my advice is to get there early on the night.
DOME STUDIO THU 16TH MAY 23.30
3. On and On
This trio, from Chicago and Minneapolis, are brand new to me, and although Nate Eiesland, Alissa Ricci, and Ryne Estwing have played in various bands for more than a decade I first heard them via the Great Escape Spotify playlist. They have a dreamy washed out sound that could be pretty perfect for a midnight gig.
COALITION FRI 17TH MAY 0.00
4. Sweet Baboo
Sweety Baboo are (is?) a Marc Riley favourite which (Mumford and Sons excepted) is normally a good sign. Stephen Black plays songs that are funny and tender, and manages to be quirky in a good way (something hard to achieve). Flitting between folky and poppy he delivers a pretty varied song palette and promises a very enjoyable set.
GREEN DOOR STORE SAT 18TH MAY 22.00
5. Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Another act getting Radio 6 evening airplay is the eccentrically named Unknown Mortal Orchestra. UMO is the work of multi-instrumentalist Ruban Nielson and play a music that has been described as junk-shop break-beat and having an “ intoxicating, opiate groove”, neither of which seems to sum up how they sound at all well.
COALITION FRI 17TH MAY 22.15
6. Parquet Courts
New York punks Parquet Courts are one of the more hyped bands coming in to the Great Escape this year. Their second album, Light Up Gold, has received glowing press in their native land and has recently received a full UK release. Their shows at SXSW festival were some of the most talked about in the programme this year. Their clash with Sweet Baboo gives us a scheduling problem before the festival even begins.
THE HAUNT SAT 18TH MAY 22.00
7. Three Trapped Tigers
Instrumental rock music can be a difficult thing to wholly buy into. The lack of lyrics can lead to a lack of emotional investment in the band. Three Trapped Tigers play an intense music that draws equally on electronic sounds as it does noise rock structures. Their Saturday evening slot making our list of early clashes even longer.
CONCORDE 2 SAT 18TH MAY 22.00
Drenge (a name I’m not certain how to pronounce) are a young guitar and drums duo from the Peak District that play a stompy blues music that belies their age. Place them min your heads somewhere in between The White Stripes and The Bad Seeds and you’ll not go too far wrong. The band (like many acts) offer you two chances to see them over the weekend.
CORN EXCHANGE THU 16TH MAY 21.15 THE HOPE FRI 17TH MAY 22.15
9. Girls Names
A four piece from Belfast, Girls Names have a sound that is more than a little bit influenced by the post-punk sounds of the early 80s. They have been favourably compared to The Cure and, with two albums under their belts (signed to the excellent Slumberland records in the US), they have started to develop their own sound.
COALITION THU 16TH MAY 19.30
10. Melody’s Echo Chamber
Melody’s Echo Chamber produce sweetly sung pop music that, in a very very rare moment of perceptive YouTube commenting, has been described as like a female version of Tame Impala. Whether this accurately sums things up is arguable, whatever the comparisons this is blissful softly psychedelic pop music.
Darren Hayman is releasing a new single ‘Old Man, Don’t Waste Your Time as part of wiaiwya-7777777 2013 (that’s seven 7″ singles, released on each day of the week, on the 7th of the month throughout 2013). His song, with The Long Parliament, harks back to the guitar pop of Hefner and comes with this excellent video recorded in Sidcup Working Men’s Club.
We appear to be in the midst of a bit of a golden age for music documentary, with films about interesting and surprising subjects coming out or being announced with increasing regularity. The reduced cost of making films in the digital age and the new crowd sourced methods of getting funding make creating a film about a relatively obscure artist achievable without the need for cinema showings or guaranteed DVD sales to support the endeavor.
Last year was a good year for the music documentary at both ends of the success and attention spectrum. At the top end was the Oscar winning ‘Searching For Sugarman’ which took an artists that was both obscure and hugely famous (depending on where you live) and coupled it with a fascinating story to great effect. Also notable was the epic homage to George Harrison, ‘Living In The Material World’, that was perhaps too comprehensive but was certainly a labour of love for Martin Scorsese.
TV has been another good source with BBC4 and Sky Arts leading the way in showing interesting and well produced documentary films on a wide range of artists. Sky Arts tends to show archive films but the BBC have made and shown excellent films on the likes of Squeeze, The Kinks and a surprisingly in-depth look at the work of Chas and Dave. They also have a film about David Bowie in the pipeline which features world renowned Bowieologist Nicholas Pegg in a consultant role.
Lawrence of Belgravia
Last year saw two of British music’s greatest curmudgeons celebrated in film, Felt/Denim/Go-Kart Mozart main-man Laurence and former Auteur Luke Haines.
‘Laurence of Belgravia’ was perhaps the better film and showed Laurence as an increasingly delusional figure, clinging on to concepts of stardom that would never come, although it is all wrapped up in a self-perpetuated myth by the artist himself. (You can watch a trailer for the film here).
‘Art Will Save The World’ shows Luke Haines as a figure who is increasingly affable and comfortable with his place in modern music. At odds with his (again self-perpetuated) image as the most evil man in Brit-pop it sees him moving towards becoming something of a national treasure. It is perhaps best viewed as a companion piece to his excellent memoir, ‘Bad Vibes’. (You can watch a trailer for the film here).
Pitchfork has also entered the music documentary arena and done some sterling work as part of their Pitchfork Classic series of films. These films are similar in concept to the 331/3 series of books focusing on a single album by the band in question whilst offering up some biographical details about them. These films to date have been of a very high quality and managed to get all the principle players interviewed for the films and included some excellent archive footage. Best of all is the recent film about Belle and Sebastian’s If You’re Feeling Sinister, and managed to make a brilliant record seem even better. (You can watch the whole of the film on the Pitchfork TV site here).
The Sad and Beautiful world of Sparklehorse
Below I preview four films scheduled for release, or in development, most of which have been made possible by crowd funding (the pros and cons of which I will not discuss here, although it is much debated).
‘The Sad and Beautiful World of Sparklehorse’ is a film about the music of the late Mark Linkous, one of my favourite recording artists. The UK interview filming has been completed and the producers are currently trying to raise funds for interviews in the US and Europe on this crowd-funding website. I have mixed hopes for this film based on the interviews captured to date, with some like-minded musicians such as Jonathan Donahue and Ed Harcourt included as talking heads. More worrying is the appearance of TVs Matthew Wright in the film, he may be a big fan but this doesn’t add credibility. Hopefully the remaining interviews will include collaborators like David Lowery, Dangermouse and PJ Harvey and the archive footage could be what lifts this film.
‘Song Dynasties’ has already managed to get full funding through Kickstarter and looks set to bring out the story of Kevin Barne’s Of Montreal on DVD later this year. The film has been put together from hundreds of hours of footage from throughout the band’s career and has been 16 years in the making. If it is anything like as entertaining as Of Montreal are live on stage then it will be captivating viewing. (You can read more about the project and watch a trailer for the film here).
In February we posted a review of a little-known (in this country at least) album by the South African punk band National Wake. We now have an opportunity to find out more about the African punk scene thanks to the forthcoming release of ‘Punk In Africa’, a film made by Deon Maas and Keith Jones in South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia and Kenya. (No UK showings of the film are currently scheduled but more details about the film and some footage can be found here).
Best of all is ‘Are We Not Men?’, a film about Devo. And if you watch the trailer (above) you’ll see what an exciting film it looks to be. Devo were colourful, subversive, different and had some ideology to support the ideas in their songs. The perfect subject for a documentary film and one that should appeal to those unfamiliar with the band as well as their fans. The film was made possible by a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $70,000 and is scheduled for a release in August this year.
If you have any favourite music documentary films, or know of any interesting projects in production, please post a comment below.
Regular readers of this site, and anyone who knows me, will realise that I have an unhealthy obsession with the music of Guided By Voices and their leader Robert Pollard. Recently I stumbled across a video entitled The Who Went Home and Cried on YouTube. It is a brilliant film in that it captures the most incredibly relaxed band rehearsal you will ever see. Also it features Pollard himself playing all the lead guitar (something you rarely get to see) and some great versions of lesser known songs.
One such song featured is ‘The Big Make-Over’ from his 1999 solo album Kid Marine. The song is one of my favourites and inspired me to put together an accompanying video for the album version which you can see below.
I’m no skilled film maker, my camera skill and editing are sorely lacking in finesse. However, I think that the rhythm, shaky camera and lack of obvious meaning fit with Pollard’s song pretty well.
Kid Marine is no longer in print, and as such quite expensive to buy, but can be listened to on Spotify.