A while ago I wrote a blog post about how much money it was worth paying to go to a festival. This was in response to the Matador records 21st anniversary festival that was held last year in Las Vegas. It was not just an event filled with some of the best acts in alternative music, but it was also the most luxurious festival I’d ever heard of. Suffice to say I wasn’t able to go due to the expense of the event.
Now an even more luxurious festival event has come to my attention, the Weezer cruise. The cruise takes place January 19th to 23rd 2012 (taking in my 40th birthday) and sails between Miami and Cozumel in Mexico whilst Weezer and a host of other bands play on board.
Weezer are one of the most successful crossover bands of all time, no other act spans the geek pop, indie rock and classic rock as well as they do. It is no surprise to see them collaborating with the Flaming Lips, sharing a bill with Slipknot, co-writing with Ryan Adams or supplying the song for a Disney/Pixar film. Rivers Cuomo is a smart songwriter and a master of pop hooks, and over the last 17 years they have produced dozens of great singles over eight albums.
Even keeping this versatility and individuality in mind the concept of the Weezer Cruise is an inspired, if odd, idea. The band play with a selection of their favourite acts for your pleasure as you enjoy all the fun and luxury of the on-board cruise ship activities, with dinner included in the price. Had enough of slacker act Wavves? Well then hit the casino, go for a dip in the pool or play some bingo. In lots of ways it is like a super-deluxe ATP on a boat.
The line-up is an interesting one featuring a mixture of acts that came out of the late 1980s including Dinosaur Jr, Sebadoh and Dean Ween as well as some more recent acts like Yuck, Book Bip and Antlers. The bands will play more than once so you’ll get a chance to see each and every one of them at some point during your time on board.
OK, all this luxury and indie-rock cool has a big downside, the price of entry. At the time of writing (with a number of cabin options having sold-out) the cheapest option is $599 per head for a verandah interior five berth. Add to this the price of flying to Miami and back and the cost of carbonated drinks and alcohol (not included in the price on board) and you are looking at getting little change from £1250 before you take into account activities when you go ashore in Cozumel. At it could cost a lot more if you decided to go the whole hog and opt for one of the suites.
So, short of getting an unwise loan or re-mortgaging, I’m not going to be able to afford to board the indie-ship in January. Not unless Weezer decide that a Neon Filler review of the event is important enough to send us some tickets, which seems unlikely. But hey, you never know, that Rivers Cuomo seems like a really really nice guy, and did I mention it was my birthday?
Sub Pop’s Eric D Johnson has been building a small but steady following as well as a fine body of work since Echolocation, his 2001 debut album under his Fruit Bats moniker.
Tripper, his fifth album as Fruit Bats, is designed to be like a road trip and bring out the best of his work as a solo artist and with a full band (those he has worked with include The Shins and Vetiver).
With production by Thom Monahan, who is best known for his work with Vetiver, Devendra Banhart and the Pernice Brothers, the end result is mixed.
The full band tracks, which feature Fruit Bats regulars Sam Wagster, Ron Lewis and Graeme Gibson, end up being the best and are gathered in the first two thirds of the album. Highlights include the Pernice Brothers-esque country twang of ‘Shivering Fawn’ and the early 1970s John Lennon sounding second track ‘So Long’, which is resplendent with harps.
Obvious single ‘You’re Too Weird’ is another great track but ‘Tangie and Ray’ is my standout, bringing out Johnson’s great rock vocals to full effect. It could have been written any time from the late 1960s onwards. It is this track more than any others where I realised who Johnson reminds me of. None other than Gaz Coombs from Supergrass. In fact the whole production on these tracks on the first two thirds of the album is reminiscent of much of Supergrass’ work. A kind of folk, country Supergrass is the end effect and one I like.
Unfortunately not all the album keeps up this high standard. By track eight ‘Banishment song’ things become more solitary for Johnson on this road trip. The band move on leaving Johnson and Monahan in control and things become more lonely. As a result this slowest track on the album with its folk guitar intro and piano body jolts a little with the feel good vibe on the opening half. The orchestral instrumental ‘The Fen’ offers little improvement.
The jury is out on track ten ‘Wild Honey’, which is mainly Johnson, piano and subtle guitar. I have a nagging feeling that this is a grower and may become my favourite over time.
Final track ‘Picture of a Bird’ picks things up a little. Still among the solitary tracks, but it crucially has a great, almost Van Morrison-esque hook to keep my interest.
Despite the dip towards the end this is overall a fine album showcasing Johnson’s great voice and offering a largely successful mix of folk, rock and ballads.
Given the aim is to recreate a road trip and a sense of being increasingly alone and further from home, it is perhaps no surprise that the opening segment of his journey, full of hope and excitement, is more appealing than the final, lonely third.
While bands hog the limelight we thought it about time to pay tribute to those hardy souls sitting behind the mixing desks, dealing with all the tantrums and egos and helping to create some of our favourite indie and alternative albums of all time. This bunch of super indie producers have even managed to turn the most rough and ready artists into successful chart acts while ensuring they retain credibility.
Ladies and gentlemen, pull up a Phil Spector biography, sit back on the mixing desk chair, twiddle some knobs and enjoy Neonfiller’s Top Ten Indie/Alternative Music Producers.
10. Clive Langer/Alan Winstanley
Clive Langer (right) and Alan Winstanley (left)
These guys have been around for ever, well since the mid 1970’s anyway, and have worked with more artists than it’s possible to list here. They are best known for a 30 year association with Madness for whom they have produced 8 albums. Other career highlights include two early 1980’s masterpieces, The Tear Drop Explodes’ seminal 1980 classic Kilimanjaro and Dexy’s Midnight Runners 1982 celtic blockbuster Too-Rye-Ay. Kevin Rowland and Julian Cope are two of the real ‘nutty boys’ of English pop quite capable of giving Brian Wilson a run for his money in the eccentric genius stakes, working with them may not have been easy but must have been rewarding.
Add to the mix production credits on albums by Elvis Costello, Morrissey and Aztec Camera and Langer and Winstanley are worthy entries on our list of Top Ten producers.
9. Sean Slade and Paul Q Kolderie
If you listened to American indie-rock bands from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s then it is pretty likely you owned something produced by Sean Slade and Paul Q Kolderie. Working out of the legendary Fort Apache studios they produced a number of genre defining albums including the Lemonheads’ Lovey, Hole’s Live Through This, Buffalo Tom’s Let Me Come Over and Morphine’s Cure For pain. As well as this Belly, Big Dipper, Firehose and the Gigolo Aunts all had albums produced by the prolific pair.
If you add their engineering duties to the list you can include the Pixies, Throwing Muses, Dinosaur Jr, Come and The Blake Babies to the list. Added together a pretty comprehensive list of American alternative rock from the era. They didn’t only record out of Fort Apache and decamped to Chipping Norton to work with Radiohead in their nascent form. The pair produced the debut album Pablo Honey featuring ‘Creep’, the song that would break them in America.
8. Martin Rushent
Martin Rushent tragically died earlier this year (2011). He left behind a legacy as being the go-to man for punk and new wave bands wanting chart success. Among those he helped into the charts were the Buzzcocks, Human League, Altered Images and The Stranglers. His work helping the Buzzcocks to create their stellar first two albums Another Music in a Different Kitchen and Love Bites (both 1978) is among our key landmark in his career.
But arguably he is more famous for turning the rather dour electronica of Human League into one of the most successful bands of the early 1980s through his production of their breakthrough 1981 album Dare. He died while working on a 30th anniversary edition of this seminal album. Other notable landmarks in his career are The Stranglers’ 1977 album No More Heroes. His workload slackened off towards the end of his life, but he still found time to work with Carl Barat and The Pipettes among others.
7. Jim O’Rourke
Jim O’Rourke is another producer who has a relatively small body of work behind him, but his work as a musician means that producing albums is purely a part time vocation. He has released a number of solo albums as well as records as part of Loose Fur, Gastr Del Sol and famously as the fifth member of Sonic Youth for six years up until 2005. His leftfield musical style is informed by jazz and electronic noise as much as indie rock music and that has informed his collaborations and production style.
In his career he has produced albums by Sonic Youth, Stereolab, Superchunk, Quruli, John Fahey, Smog, Faust, Tony Conrad, The Red Krayola, Bobby Conn, Beth Orton and Joanna Newsom. As a producer he is probably best known for his work with a fellow Chicago act Wilco, and was a big part of their move from being a popular Americana act to achieving widespread critical acclaim. It was his mixing work that gave Yankee Hotel Foxtrot the left-field sound that alienated the band from their record label. O’Rourke returned to produce A Ghost is Born, the album that won Wilco a Grammy Award for the best alternative music album in 2005.
6. Don Fleming
Don Fleming is one of the peripheral figures of alternative rock music. His work with Velvet Monkeys, B.A.L.L and Gumball is not widely known and his collaborations with bigger artists have garnered him with little attention. As a producer he hasn’t got a huge body of work to his name, but in his case it is quality not quantity that is the significant feature.
First off he produced ‘The Wagon’ the greatest single that Dinosaur Jr have released, and one of the best singles in the history of indie rock. He has also produced music by a number of other alt-rock acts such as Sonic Youth, Hole, Screaming Trees, Peter Yorn and (ahem) Midway Still. However, his greatest contribution to music is producing the two best power pop albums of the 1990s, Bandwagonesque by Teenage Fanclub and Frosting on the Beater by The Posies. In those two near perfect sets of indie rock perfection he has a place in musical history.
5. Gil Norton
Gil Norton has had an incredibly prolific career. He’s from Liverpool and worked with fellow Liverpudlians China Crisis on their 1982 debut album Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms, their synth pop sound beautifully illustrated by their second single Christian. Among his best work has been with Boston indie rock acts the Throwing Muses, whose eponymous debut album he produced, and the Pixies, for whom he produced their classic 1989 album Doolittle that includes the tracks Debaser and Monkey Gone To Heaven .
But we, and he, don’t just dwell in the 80’s. Bringing you right up to date in 2011 Gil has worked with the Futures on their forthcoming debut album and Scottish alternative rock act Twin Atlantic.
4. Phil Ek
If we may have strayed slightly towards pop territory with some of the other producers in our Top 10 we’re firmly back in the land of indie with American producer Phil Ek. He is the man behind both Fleet Foxes critically acclaimed albums as well as work by Modest Mouse, The Shins, Les Savy Fav and Built To Spill. As a young man he moved to Seattle just when Nirvana were helping to establish the city’s musical reputation, as The Beatles had done with Liverpool several decades before. It was here that he began to learn his trade and build connections with the Sub Pop Records and Up Records labels whose artists helped define his career.
3. Dave Fridmann
Fridmann is another musician who decided to spend more time behind the mixing desk. As bassist and founding member of Mercury Rev his place in indie and alternative music history is already assured. But it was his decision in 1993 to focus on producing that gives him a special place in our hearts. Described by Mojo as “the Phil Spector of the alt-rock era” his focus is often on big epic sounds, with The Flaming Lips, MGMT and Sleater-Kinney among those that have worked with him.
Fridmann is not without critics. His Grammy award winning work on The Flaming Lips At War With the Mystics (2007) sparked a fierce debate about loudness in mastering. But his work on The Flaming Lips’classic Soft Bulletin (1999), Ok Go’s best album Of The Blue Color Of The Sky (2010) and Tama Impala’s wondrous Innerspeaker (2010) more than make up for this blot on his otherwise superb CV.
2. John Leckie
By far the most mentioned producer in our Top 100 albums of all time list is the eclectic and prolific John Leckie. His work with XTC’s psychedelic alter egoes Dukes of Stratosphear, The Fall during their mid 1980s heyday, helming Radiohead’s breakthrough album The Bends and his innovative work behind the decks on the Stone Roses’ debut album means he has a deserved place in our list.
His ability to find the best in each band he works with, whether its honing the indie rock of Radiohead or allowing The Stone Roses’s creativity to shine, is perhaps his greatest talent. To this day he is still working with a diverse range of artists across the alternative and indie music world. Among our highlights from the last few years has been My Morning Jacket’s Z.
From the Pixies to Nirvana, from Wedding Present to PJ Harvey, Steve Albini is perhaps the most prolific producer in alternative and indie music. Part of his popularity is his lack of ego as a producer. He prefers either no credit or to be credited as recording engineer and his hallmark is to ensure the album is a reflection of the band’s true sound without interference. He encourages bands to play live as much as possible and achieves a warmth to the recording though a careful attention to mic positioning.
As a former member of Big Black and more recently Shellac Albini is very much a musician and a producer, which adds to his popularity among the bands he works with. Those such as David Gedge and Jon Spencer often returning time and again to Albini, who each year produces between 10 to 20 different albums. The sheer range of artists and ground breaking albums he has worked on, including Pixies Surfer Rosa, Mclusky’s Mclusky Do Dallas and PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me, make him for us the greatest indie and alternative producer of all time.
Compiled by Martin Burns, Dorian Rogers and Joe Lepper
Former Green on Red guitarist Chuck Prophet’s decision to assemble some of San Francisco’s best musicians to perform The Clash’s London Calling is pretty brave.
The 1979 album that heralded The Clash’s rise from punk band to one of Britain’s best rock groups is just about perfect as it is in the way it blends punk, rock, reggae and even jazz. What on earth can anyone, even a man of Prophet’s skill, add to an album that we recently named the top alternative album of all time?
Catching Chuck Prophet and the Spanish Bombs set at the low key, friendly and packed Polish Club in Bristol I felt assured that the band, which features members of The Park and unheralded power pop songwriter Chris Von Sneidern, would at the very worst produce a competent tribute show.
Thankfully they offered so much more as a key reason for touring the album was not just to belt out some Clash songs but to revisit the tracks and draw out the American culture that so influenced it.
Written in part during The Clash’s visits to the US in the late 1970s the album is in many ways a classic US rock album. For example the cover of Vince Taylor’s 12 bar blues track from 1959 ‘Brand New Cadillac’, the references to Hollywood stars like Montgomery Clift (‘The Right Profile’)and even the American murderer Stagger Lee, on a cover of The Rulers ‘Wrong em Boyo’ were a world away from the west London landscape that features on some of London Calling and especially their self titled debut album.
For those unfamiliar with the album they witnessed a passionate performance by one of Neonfiller.com’s Top Ten guitarists of all time. Those that know the album well, and judging by the largely 40 to 60 year old audience that was the majority, appreciated the changes Prophet brought to the album.
The most notable difference was to strip away the reggae and Jamaican influences. This transformed ‘Guns of Brixton’ into a fast paced rock song. This ethos also placed rock firmly back into ‘Revolution Rock’.
With the Jamaican swagger discarded ‘ Wrong Em Boyo’ could be belted out full throttle. The encore of The Clash single ‘Bank Robber’ was another that free from the slow reggae bass line became a fast paced rock track. All were magnificent and given a new lease of life.
‘Brand New Cadillac’ was among many highlights, with Prophet getting so excited he broke his D string mid way and used the opening jam by the band through Jimmy Jazz to change strings.
Less effective was the track ‘London Calling’. It’s so iconic, so British sounding, that even Prophet couldn’t repatriate it. Nevertheless the band still did it justice.
Throughout the gig Prophet’s humour, including inviting the whole audience back to the band’s hotel and chastising then ironically praising the UK for failing to join the Euro, kept this hour and a half set alive. Von Sneidern, who provided the support act, also deserves credit for handling the Mick Jones vocal parts well, especially my favourite on the album ‘Lost in the Supermarket’, written by Strummer about Jones’s tower block childhood.
For The Clash fans present this was also a very special night with the band’s former road manager Johnny Green introducing the Spanish Bombs with anecdotes from the time about how London Calling was recorded and the influence that the US had on it.
The Bristol location also gave the night an added sparkle. The Clash’s Joe Strummer spent the last years of his life in Bridgwater, just a few miles down the motorway. Some of those there had met him and clearly felt an extra special connection with the music and Strummer due to this.
One couple I spoke to were due to meet Strummer at a party held by a mutual friend on 22 December 2002. Strummer never showed up as he suffered a fatal heart attack that night just before he was due to head out.
If he was still alive I’m almost certain Strummer, who never denied the huge influence America had on his music, would have made the short trip up the M5 to see what Prophet had done to his masterpiece.
Rob Jones, aka the Voluntary Butler Scheme, is one of the UK’s most inventive, most eccentric musicians, in the mould of Ray Davis, Damon Albarn and Neil Innes. He should be nurtured and his talent should be allowed to grow. It is therefore with a very heavy heart that we find ourselves unable to recommend The Grandad Galaxy, the follow up to his excellent 2009 debut At Breakfast, Dinner, Tea.
To be blunt as an album it’s a bit of a dud. It’s got two stand out songs in ‘Do the Hand Jive’ and ‘To the Height of a Frisbee’. In fact they are possibly two of the finest tracks by a UK artist this year. But across the other 13 the majority are dull, mainly instrumental, fillers or lacklustre melancholy pop ballads.
The problem is that Jones has forgotten what makes him and made At Breakfast, Dinner, Tea so good. He is a master of the pop song, can create an original, catchy melody at will and has a fine ear for timeless production. He’s a fun guy as well, but you’d never guess it on this album.
This is such a shame as he had built up a considerable amount of credit in the review bank following his debut, which from ‘Trading Things In’ to ‘Multiplayer’ to ‘Tabasco Sole’, was part Kinks, part indie pop, part mainstream chart music, part Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band and teaming with great, potential singles. Even the fillers like the 40-second ‘Dancing With Ted Danson’ were great (listen to this and imagine Ted Danson dancing and we challenge you not to at least smile).
With The Grandad Galaxy he’s sought to create a similar running theme of timelessness but using less accessible sounds. Using a mixture of old 1940s recording techniques, 1960s pop and 1990s ambient dance music, most notably the Orb on ‘Sky Shed’, it sounds like a wartime wireless that’s been shot into space and then retrieved from the ocean depths where it fell back to earth. The only problem is that a soggy wireless is not a pleasant listen, even if it has had an adventure on the way.
This makes the two standout tracks ‘Do the Hand Jive’, with superb vocal effects and harmonica and ‘To the height of the Frisbee’ with its 1960s northern soul feel, so remarkable. I’d have liked to have heard more like this. As At Breakfast, Dinner, Tea shows he’s more than capable of producing an album full of great tracks.
‘Don’t Rely on it, Don’t Count on it’ and ‘Shake Me By the shoulders’ are the nearest to these two tracks, but lack the inventiveness and sense of fun that I know Jones is capable of.
For us it’s time to move on from this mess, have one final listen to ‘To the Height of the Frisbee’ and hope that Jones returns to form for album number three.
Neonfiller will be attending this year’s Watchet Festival in West Somerset for the first time to mark an expansion of this eclectic event.
This year the site, situated on the North Somerset coast near to Minehead and Exmoor, has been expanded and includes four stages with around 40 acts performing.
Taking place between Friday 26 and Sunday 28 August the event is headlined by indie veterans Dodgy, Dreadzone and the Wurzels, who in recent years have bizarrely included a cover of Oasis’ Don’t Look Back in Anger in their set.
The line up also includes X-Factor winner Leon Jackson, who after being dumped by his record label is now exploring a “Scottish folk” direction.
Others playing at the event include Glastonbury indie popsters All About Flux and country rock singer Mireille Mathlener.
Weekend Tickets with camping are £50 (Adults) and £30 (Youths 13-17). A Family Ticket for 2 Adults & 2 Youths is £110. Weekend Tickets without camping are priced at £40 (Adults), £20 (Youths 13-17). A Family Ticket for 2 Adults & 2 Youths is £ 90. Day Tickets are priced at £15 per day (adults) or £10 (youths). Under 12’s are free.
The Mercury 2011 nominations are now in. Those that have made the list include Adele, Elbow and PJ Harvey. It’s an eclectic, albeit safe, list again from the Mercury panel but here we list three albums that wrongly slipped under the judges’ radar.
Alice Gun – Blood & Bone
Recorded in London and the Lake District, there’s a real sense of drama and space to this debut album by Gun. This is created through a perfect, sparse use of instruments, mainly played by herself and focused around her cello and piano. The feel is eerie, almost scary at times, but beautifully matches her vocals to create something that could only really have come from a UK artist. Her similarities with PJ Harvey, who was nominated, perhaps put judges off. We think there was room enough on the list for both though, especially as Gun draws on far broader English folk influences.
Featuring former Broken Family Band singer songwriter Steven Adams this UK act hark back to a golden era of indie music from the likes of Teenage Fanclub and The Wedding Present. Underpinning this debut are some damn fine tunes with Adams revealing himself consistently as one of Britain’s great modern songwriters. Shame Mercury judges failed to notice this as well.
This very English indie pop act already have an Ivor Novello nomination under their belt and we had high hopes that this second album by the band would attract the attention of the Mercury panel. As well as some classic eccentric pop there’s once again a fine attention to production and detail.
Here’s the full list of those that did receive a Mercury nomination
Adele – 21
Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi
Elbow – Build A Rocket Boys!
Everything Everything – Man Alive
Ghostpoet – Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam
Gwilym Simcock – Good Days At Schloss Elmau
James Blake – James Blake
Katy B – On A Mission
King Creosote & Jon Hopkins – Diamond Mine
Metronomy – The English Riviera
PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
Tinie Tempah – Disc-Overy
During a weekend of rainsoaked festivals, from Suffolk’s Latitude to Dorset’s Larmer Tree, a rare few hours of clear July skies provided a welcome backdrop to this inaugural one day festival in Somerset.
On arriving at the 4,500 capacity ‘gathering’ my immediate thoughts were that it was well set out, family friendly and had attracted a good sized local crowd, from an area that is dominated by the Glastonbury festival in nearby Pilton. The core of local acts, most notably Somerset’s Reef, as well as a £2.50 cap on the price of a pints of beer and cider also helped boost attendance.
The Joe Public
First act on were Somerset based alternative rock four piece The Joe Public, who are signed to Saint Grace Music, have two EP releases and four Glastonbury Festival appearances under their belt.
BBC 6 Music presenter Tom Robinson refers to them as “like a cross between Brandon Boyd fronting Kings Of Leon and The Temper Trap jamming with Queens Of The Stone Age” and they played a solid, energetic set that was a good start as the crowd started building up.
Stringer Bessant's Jack Bessant
Next on to the Godney stage some more familiar faces in Reef side acoustic project Stringer Bessant, featuring singer Gary Stringer and the now incredibly bearded bassist Jack Bessant on acoustic guitar. Their calm brand of summery, acoustic surf rock is a world away from the more classic rock of Reef but nevertheless left the crowd impressed.
Speaking of classic rock, next up were three-piece band Rude Tiger, from Devon. Formed in 2005 they are still unsigned but perhaps not for much longer based on this energetic performance, including a stand out solo from drummer Dan Collings.
One of the major pluses of this festival is the range of music on offer, with eight-piece ska act Shoot the Moon on next. Their set, which included their track ‘I Can’t Make You’, provided one of the highlights of the night.
Shoot The Moon
Toploader were among the most hyped up acts for this festival, but were the only let down of the night. The atmosphere noticeably dampened when the 1990s band, which has recently reformed, came on.
While their set was tight and well played only a minority of the crowd really seemed to listened to them. Their set was saved by ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’, their big hit and now synonymous with the Jamie Oliver Sainsbury’s TV ad campaigns of a few years back. It was a song everyone knew so created a fair bit of singing along and dancing.
Toploader - Jamie Oliver's favourite
The performance by the headline act Reef, another act from the 1990s to reform, couldn’t have been more different. They gave it 100% from the first song onwards. They picked things up markedly after a disappointing set from Toploader and instantly lifted the gathering’s mood and energy.
Inevitably their big hit ‘Place Your Hands’ provided a highlight of their hour long, high-energy set, which was a joy to watch.
So what is the future for the Godney Gathering? On the evidence of this first festival, with its warm, family friendly atmosphere and eclectic mix of bands, both old and new, I can see there being more in the future. Other than Toploader the only other flaw was that it was just one night.
First off, a confession, I didn’t have very high hopes for this gig. I love the first Tom Tom Club album, and seeing any of my Talking Heads heroes live is worth an outing, but I wasn’t convinced it would be a great gig. The band haven’t released many great albums, the line-up is entirely different from the first album (Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth the obvious exceptions) and I expected a rather indifferent show. The good news is that what I saw was a very well planned set, played really well, that was one of the most enjoyable I’ve seen in years.
The band kick things off with ‘Who Feelin’ It’ from 2000’s The Good The Bad And The Funky and the energy of the band and crowd alike create the feeling of being at a very enjoyable party from the outset. The set draws on the bands best songs from across their career and the energy levels don’t drop for one second.
The band, featuring a DJ complete with a BAD baseball cap, are excellent and add some real flair and energy to Frantz and Weymouth’s famously steady rhythm section. The utility player (keyboard and percussion) was particularly excellent and manages to achieve what several players did on the original recordings.
The big hits from the debut album are saved to late in the set with Genius of Love unsurprisingly getting the biggest cheer of the night. It is a real thrill to hear a song this familiar and influential played by the band that created it, and the party atmosphere reaches its peak. After a, slightly ill-judged, take on ‘I Believe In Miracles’ the band play the other big single from their debut ‘Wordy Rappinghood’ and finish the set to rapturous cheers and applause.
The inevitable encore is the bands master-stroke as they choose to play two Talking Heads tracks to the excitable crowd. They pick two songs from their former band, and wisely choose the songs that will highlight the lack of David Byrne the least. First is a take on Al Green’s ‘Take Me To The River’, sung here by the band’s back-up vocalist, a song that fits the party atmosphere to a tee. The final song of the evening is ‘Psycho Killer’, famously played solo by Byrne in Stop Making sense. However, hearing Tina Weymouth play the simple pulsing opening bass line, with her husband providing the distinctive drums, is pretty magical for a Talking Heads fan and rounds the evening off perfectly.
Former Ariel Pink collaborator John Maus has plunged deep into the murky waters of the early 1980s to deliver one of the most stark, fascinating and strangely enjoyable slices of synth pop you will hear all year.
There’s an overtly stern feel to the album as he expertly recreates the squelches and sombre electronic sounds of the era, but thanks to similarly austere conditions in the world economy of today it retains a contemporary feel. As unemployment rises, famine ravages Africa and the wealthiest take the cream off of the world economy the comparisons between then and now are pertinent.
On this his third solo album he reveals himself as one of the foremost practitioners of the synth pop genre. It is no wonder that he and Ariel Pink found so much in common.
Even though those that get some respectful nods include Joy Division and Gary Numan, along with more obscure music of the time such as the Kraut rock of Die Krupp, it’s not all bleak, grey urban landscapes. There’s some Ariel Pink style uplifting moments as well, particularly on, the practically jaunty for Maus track, ‘Head for the Country’.
It is this track and the bleeps and squelchs on others that lead us to confidently predict that if you liked Ariel Pink’s Haunted Grafitti’s 2010 album Before Today then this will appeal to you.
Maus’s vocals fit the mood well, even if he does sound disconcertingly like crazed dress making transvestite Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs. It almost sounds like he’s taking the mickey a little, even though we are given to understand he is extremely serious about his music.
Take ‘Quantum Leap’ for example, with its bass intro and gradual building up of keyboards. His Buffalo Bill voice jars a little at first, but once you realise its genuine the sound of this fictional killer fits perfectly in the retro soundscape Maus has created.
Another highlight, on an album without a single duff track, is ‘Cop Killer’, which could have come straight off a mid ’80s science fiction movie soundtrack.
Wonderous stuff from Maus, even if it is as bleak as hell.