Tag Archive | "Beck"

Festival Number 6, Portmeirion (Sept 5-7, 2014)

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Festival Number 6, Portmeirion (Sept 5-7, 2014)

Posted on 09 September 2014 by John Haylock

Situated near Porthmadog on cliffs that tumble down to Cardigan Bay, Portmeirion started life in the 1920s as the whimsical vision of Welsh architect Clough Williams Ellis.  Since then it has provided the real life surreal backdrop to 1960s TV show The Prisoner, is one of the Wale’s oddest tourist attractions and each September is the setting for the music, arts and literature focused Festival Number 6.

Parade

Now in its third year, the festival, which is named after the hero of The Prisoner,  is getting into gear, with the previous two events marred by bad weather. Thankfully though Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, who were among the performers, brought her Heatwave with her and the event was blessed with torrential sunshine. Sunday was especially sun soaked with the location mirroring the town’s Italian Mediterranean inspiration perfectly as festival-goers took to boarding, swimming and sun bathing.

Among highlights of the Friday bill were a rockin’ teen combo called Childhood. These ex-Nottingham University chaps certainly have a classy set of self penned tunes; melodic with fits of noise. Apparently they are bemused by comparisons as they are so young and are not familiar with half of the references, but older listeners might like to think Teenage Fanclub meets The Byrds.

performers

Down by the sea, in a small marquee we cross paths with the bearded and dishevelled post punk singer/songwriter/Krautrock afficianado and now novelist, Julian Cope. He spends an entertaining hour telling us how great his new book is. You do not disagree with Julian, although toward the end of the interview a guy decides to have a go at him for not being green enough by writing paperbacks and using up trees. Sadly though this exchange was cut short by a guy from Cope’s publisher Faber and Faber and Cope’s declaration that, “I’m sorry but the trees must fall, my book must be read by everyone.”

It’s an incredible 14 years since Damon Gough, aka Badly Drawn Boy released his Mercury prize winning album Hour of the Bewilderbeast. I am happy to report that he’s still a magnificent live draw as he played to a packed crowd on a small stage in the woods. With the sun shining and the atmosphere electric he proved to be an absolute top bloke with an arsenal of fine, memorable tunes and a deadpan wit that the crowd just loved. Anyone who can deftly drop in a cover of The First Picture of You by The Lotus Eaters three numbers in, is a bloody star.

Tom Hickox

Tom Hickox

Manchester poetry mafia takeover in the afternoon with a great in-yer-face performance by Mike Garry. He swaggered, shouted, swore and even got people to dance to a poem about former Factory Records boss the late Tony Wilson.

London Grammar headline Friday night and we ask ourselves, ‘why?’You know that point in the evening when you want nothing more than a groovy, happy stupid dance; when you want to get down with your bad self and hug a complete stranger? Well, if that’s your bag don’t book London Grammar.

Fortunately Andy Weatherall and his DJ chums were on hand until 4 am and thankfully groove is in the heart people. We find a castle with a bar and watch old Welsh farmers get pissed and sing songs about sheep.

Saturday is a blur of carnival colour, intimate gigs in a quiet rooms on shiny wooden floors, in particular the great Steve Mason playing a set of his songs with arrangements by composer in residence Joe Duddell. This took place in a hushed packed room of about 50 of us, listening intently as he sang accompanied by a string section. With the sun flaring in through giant windows behind him it was a beautiful experience.

John Shuttleworth

John Shuttleworth

From the sublime to the ridiculous. Less than an hour later and barely 200 yards away John Shuttleworth, aka  Graham Fellows, blows London Grammar away with hilarious renditions of his classics Can’t go back to savoury now, Two margarines on the go and Pigeons in flight.

On the main stage a gentleman by the name of Tom Hickox is a discovery, playing piano and delivering his songs with a deep, not unpleasant voice somewhere akin to David Sylvian and Nick Cave, he captures an unsuspecting crowd and goes down a treat. He mentions a debut album produced by Richard Hawley, must investigate.

Peter Hook

Peter Hook

Peter Hook, along with his band The Light, continue to uphold the Joy Division back catalogue since his acrimonious split with New Order. Despite his voice going he makes a bloody good fist of it and manages to capture some of the Ian Curtis in the songs. And what songs they are: 24 hours, Isolation, She’s Lost Control and of course Love Will Tear Us Apart. Supplemented with a smattering of early New Order and you have a gem of a set.

Beck is an elusive enigmatic individual not prone to hectic touring schedules. It is something of a coup that Festival Number Six secured him as Saturday’s headline act. His was an astonishingly good show, perhaps the best performance of the weekend, with a visually stunning light show and a six-piece band of dynamite players. He looks dapper in his little black hat and seemingly not aged in the 20 years since he burst onto the scene with the fabulous Loser.

Beck

Beck

A big guitar chord heralds the arrival of Devils Haircut, a deranged riff of epic proportions ensues, the crowd go bonkers, superb as that is, the next hour or so remains equally delirious, he gives us Black Tamborine, hell yes, New Pollution, Loser, (a version that will remain with me forever) as well as a covers of I Feel Love, Blue Monday and The Rolling Stone’s Miss You. For the encore there was Sexx Laws and the fantastic Where It’s At, mindblowing.

As for Sunday, Derry’s most famous sons The Undertones played a good set, minus Fergal Sharkey but still rocking. It was great to hear some of their early John Peel endorsed punk rock poppery, I Don’t Wanna Get Over You, Jimmy Jimmy, My Perfect Cousin and Teenage Kicks, the latter prompting hordes of people to descend to the front suddenly realizing who it was as they had been listening to.

Elsewhere on Sunday The Pet Shop Boys did a rousing version of Go West with the Brythoniaid Welsh male voice choir, ex-Fall bassist Steve Hanley talked about the writing of his new book, detailing his time in this most iconic of bands.  With the combined effects of heat exhaustion and rum at one point I nearly bought a bespoke jacket for £400, fortunately the price tag suddenly sobered me up. With aching feet we surrendered to the sun and listened to a bunch of DJs playing German techno on the seafront.
Checkmate  from The Prisoner

Festival Number 6 is all this but so, so much more. There was also comedy, street theatre, very, very hot curries, more authors, artists, the anti-pissing up fences police, real people chess and the lampshade ladies.

Clough Williams Ellis we salute you.

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes.

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Jackson Scott – Melbourne

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Jackson Scott – Melbourne

Posted on 13 September 2013 by Joe

With Melbourne, lo-fi wizard and college drop-out Jackson Scott has done his homework. His debut album offers a heavy dose of hero-worship. Laying down the tracks directly on tape, using a four track and doing pretty much everything himself, emulates Beck or John Linklaus.

Jackson-Scott-Melbourne

It’s not hard to see why. Scott recalls that “I remember riding in the baby seat listening to Nevermind – maybe listening to a junkie sing pop songs subconsciously influenced me as a four year old.”

At it’s worst, this album lays on the morose mimicry too thickly. Evie sounds like Scott’s put all of Radiohead’s in a blender and produced a sonic smoothie with an aftertaste of Paranoid Android and Karma Police. It’s not bad, just … too familiar perhaps?

Never Ever is a fat dopey psych rock wedge that’s so reminiscent of Syd Barrett you can almost smell the patchouli. Elsewhere the album feels like a more listenable Neutral Milk Hotel.

Sandy is the most emotional song on the album. As with much of the album, it’s still vocally deadpan, but it explores the recent Sandy Hook high school massacre in a way that makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

At his most poppy Jackson Scott’s That Awful Sound fuses a Monkees like vocal with yet another  Radiohead tune. Doctor Now is poppy in a different way. It’s like a morose heroin hit. Comforting and frightening. Uplifting and saddening.

Together Forever is all anthemic distortedly kaleidoscopic guitars and slacker lyrics. Its a fusion that works. It hints a little at Slowdive or early Boo Radleys.

It’s hard to tell whether Melbourne is a work of creative genius or Jackson Scott is a master forger. Either way he shows talent.

I think it’s an admirable debut, but a definite crowd-splitter. After my regulation three listens-through I still couldn’t work out whether I thought it was madness or genius. I’m now up to my tenth listen and I’m still not sure. But I am still enjoying it.

8.5/10

by Rob Finch

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Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Mirror Traffic

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Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Mirror Traffic

Posted on 19 August 2011 by Joe

With Beck at the helm Stephen Malkmus and his post Pavement band The Jicks have created their most focused and appealing record to date.

Gone is the meandering and squealing 70s rock solos of their last album, 2008’s Real Emotional Trash. In its place is a genuine warmth and commitment. Mirror Traffic  sounds like an album that Beck and the band have spent time on rather than just jumped in the studio, jammed for a while and then said ‘that’ll do’.

The most immediate improvement is the length of the songs. Take track eight ‘Spazz’ for example. At just 2min 30 sec it drives along neatly rather than careers and crashes as Real Emotional Trash’s tracks did.  It ends leaving you wanting more, rather than reaching for the fast forward button as an indulgent five minute guitar solo becomes too tedious to bare.

Another change is the lyrical focus, with Malkmus’s streams of consciousness seemingly making more sense in places. He’s still a silly man lyrically. But on stand out track ‘Senator’, with its chorus “I know what the senator wants, what the senator wants is a blow job,” the listener is left in no doubt what Malkmus thinks of US political corruption.

Beck has also brought a range of styles to the production table. It’s still an alternative rock album but on track two ‘No One Is (As I Are Be)’ the rhythm section sounds more like 1960s folk group Pentangle, with its soft jazz style and acoustic guitar. Beck’s fondness for the 1960s shines through further on the track as trumpets softly nestle in the background.

Among other standouts  is ‘Asking Price’, with its moments of Velvet Underground guitar playing. ‘Stick Figures in Love’ is as fine an indiepop track as you will hear all year.

There’s the occasional unnecessary moment. I’m not sure what value there is in the short instrumental ‘Jumblegloss’ for example. But its so short and inoffensive and the rest of the album is so good that it hardly matters.

We had the pleasure of seeing Pavement at their ATP Festival in Minehead in 2010. There all the band’s influences were laid out. If one criticism could be made it was that the line up was a little too guitar heavy, a little too full of fret wankery. Perhaps Malkmus thought the same too in preparing this album, which is one of those rare moments in music where the timing, the mood and the production come together just perfectly. Real emotion without the trash.

9.5/10

by Joe Lepper

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