Tag Archive | "Devo"

Documentary Special

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Documentary Special

Posted on 06 March 2013 by Dorian

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

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

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.

By Dorian Rogers

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Top 100 Albums (40-31)

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Top 100 Albums (40-31)

Posted on 29 March 2011 by Joe

We are entering the home straight and edging ever nearer the Top 10 best indie and alternative albums of all time.

We have been releasing this list ten at a time every Friday. We hope you enjoy this sixth instalment. The rest of the Top 100 can be found here.

40. Dismemberment Plan – Emergency & I

Pitchfork’s 9.6/10 score followed by the words “if you consider yourself a fan of groundbreaking pop, go out and buy this album right now. Now. Get up. Go,”  perfectly sum up the brilliance of 1999’s Emergency & I. The third album by this Washington DC band is packed full of creativity. As  another of the city’s key bands Fugazi did a decade earlier Dismemberment Plan took punk and pulled and stretched it this way and that.  Songs about growing up, about finding work and love in the city are strewn across the album but it’s the  song construction that is perhaps the most intriguing aspect. Across each track there’s a sense of chaos in the verse that eventually explode into the tightest bunch of anthemic choruses you will ever hear. As Pitchfork said in 1999, what are you waiting for, get out and buy this.

39. Devo – Freedom of Choice

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After their punky debut and scatter-shot second album Freedom of Choice showed Devo creating an album with a cohesive feel and a strong band identity. The guitars are still evident (especially on the genius pop opener ‘Girl U Want’) but this is the album where they became a predominantly synth based act. The thumping drums and pulsing synth bass-lines propel the album along at pace and add order behind Mark Mothersbaugh’s vocals and the effects heavy lead lines. Devo are a much more literate band than people give them credit and the lyrical themes of the human experience of life and relationships run through the album. ‘Whip It’, their best known song and biggest hit, looks at the relationship side and the title track explores people’s reluctance to exploit the freedom that modern life has gifted us. Devo are a band whose image and style has served to distract from their qualities as musicians and songwriters, if you want proof that there is more to them than radiation suits and flowerpot hats (or, to give them their correct name ‘Energy Domes’) then give this album a listen.

38.  Blur – Park Life


“For me, Parklife is like a loosely linked concept album..it’s the travels of the mystical lager-eater, seeing what’s going on in the world and commenting on it,” says Blur frontman Damon Albarn of the band’s third  and best album. We almost see what he means. The album does indeed feel like a journey through London, meeting its characters and experiencing their moods, from the synth pop hits of ‘Girls and Boys’ to the whirly gig instrumental ‘The Debt Collector’ through to the soulful ‘To The End.’ Nearly 20  years on it remains one of the finest English pop albums ever released, to be ranked alongside some of the best work of those that influenced them, most notably The Kinks and XTC.

37. Matthew Sweet – Girlfriend

Singer-songwriter Matthew Sweet was following a similar path to Teenage Fanclub in 1991 with his power-pop release Girlfriend, very much influenced by the jangle-pop of The Beatles, The Byrds and Big Star. Backed by an all-star band that featured (among others) Television’s Richard Lloyd and Lloyd Cole on guitar it is an album that is classic and timeless all at once. The melodies on the album are classic pop and work brilliantly against his slightly grizzled vocals, ‘I’ve Been Waiting’, ‘Looking At The Sun’ and ‘I Wanted To Tell You’ all stand out as instant classics. It is also very much a guitar album and he isn’t afraid to let the band rock when it suits, such as on the opener ‘Divine Intervention’ and ‘Evangeline’. It was a big hit for Sweet, despite having been dropped from his major contract prior to its release, and led to a string of successful albums in the 1990s. The 2006 release is worth seeking out for a host of bonus tracks and demo versions.

36. The Strokes – Is This It


Sometimes keeping it simple can be the most effective policy in music. The Strokes did this superbly on their stunning 2001 debut Is This It. Like a dirty punk Velvet Underground this is track after track of hook laden, simple guitar rock. It reinvigorated a genre of indie rock that was looking for a new set of faces and The Strokes were certainly that. With singer Julian Casablancas they were the personification of cool, street smart young punks belting out raw tunes all at around the perfect pop three minute mark. Since then they have failed to capture that sense of youth and energy, with even their comeback album Angles receiving lukewarm reviews. While ‘Last Nite’ is a particular highlight of Is This It, this is exactly the kind of album you can bask in from start to finish, marvelling at how effortless it all sounds.

35.  Felt – Forever Breathes The Lonely Word

When Lawrence Hayward (known only as Lawrence) formed Felt he announced  they would release 10 albums, 10 singles and spilt-up after 10 years, and that is exactly what they did. Their 6th and best album, Forever Breathes the Lonely Word, showcases a perfect indie-pop sound, a sound that epitomises the C86 era (although Felt weren’t featured on that particular compilation). You can hear the influence of the band on artists as varied as Belle and Sebastian, The Manic Street Preachers and The Tyde, and their sound is captured perfectly on the 8 songs here.The music is catchy pop perfection, and Lawrence’s vocals and lyrical themes are interesting enough to make it something just a little bit special. Any album that includes a song titled ‘All The People That I Like Are Those that Are Dead’ demands just over 30 minutes of your time surely?

34. Radiohead – The Bends


Back in 1995 when Radiohead were just starting out on their road to stadium pomposity they produced this gem of an album. It came almost out of nowhere for this at the time barely passable indie rock act, who had previously only mustered one half decent single in ‘Creep’.  Clearly they’d been storing up their best stuff for The Bends. From start to finish it is packed with some of the most epic tracks in indie rock as the band revelled in discarding the grunge influence on previous album Pablo Honey and finding their own sound. It is no surprise that John Leckie, who so far is this list’s most prolific producer, was at the helm. He deserves high praise for The Bends, which features highlights including ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’ and ‘High and Dry’. The Bends impact on the band also cannot be underestimated. It gave them the focus to produce OK Computer, which is widely regarded as their masterpiece, and propel them to their current position as one of the UK’s biggest rock acts.

33. Yo La Tengo – I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One

By the time they released I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One in 1997 Yo la Tengo were firmly established as a trio with James McNew’s bass supporting the guitar/vocals of Ira Kaplan and the drums/vocals of Georgia Hubley. Yo La Tengo are the quintessential geeks indie rock band and it might surprise new listeners to hear what a varied and playful record this is. The dreamy instrumental opener ‘Return To Hot Chicken’ is followed by the funky ‘Moby Octopad’ before moving to the Sonic Youth meets shoegaze feedback and squalling guitars of the ‘Sugarcube’. The album features the usual selection of cover versions with the Beach Boys ‘Little Honda’ being a particular success. McNew throws in the acoustic gem ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, nicely breaking up the album at the mid-way point. It is an album of so many high points that it is hard to pick a favourite track, so I’m going to sit on the fence and pick two. The organ lead ‘Autumn Sweater’ is dreamy, melodic and evocative, ‘Center of Gravity’ is a lovely piece of kitsch bossa-pop with some great vocal interplay between Georgia and Ira. This album is an example of just how inventive, fun and exciting American indie rock can be.

32. Primal Scream  – Screamadelica


So many  indie bands, from The Soup Dragons to That Petrol Emotion, attempted to embrace dance music and the emerging acid house scene during the early 1990s. But while most failed Primal Scream’s Screamadelica was a shining example of success. With DJ Andrew Weatherall behind the desk for much of the album Bobby Gillespie’s Scottish indie rockers were transformed. ‘Loaded’ and ‘Come Together’ are among the most successful dance music influenced singles, but the album has so much more than simply merging acid house with indie rock. 1960s Psychedelia, gospel and blues are among other striking influences. Among our  favourite tracks is the band’s excellent version of The 13th Floor Elevators ‘Slip Inside This House’. The album deservedly won the 1992 Mercury Music Prize and brought success for the band that has continued to this day despite numerous line up changes.  Screamadelica was re-released in 2011 with a whole bunch of extras that are worth checking out.

31. Giant Sand – The Love Songs

The Love Songs was Giant sands 3rd album and stands as a high watermark for Howe Gelb’s oft-changing desert rock band. The band was made up of Green On Red’s Chris Cacavas on keyboards, future Calexico member John Convertino on drums and former Go-Go (and Gelb’s then wife) Paula Jean Brown on bass. Matched to Gelb’s dischordant guitar and husky vocals they produce a great sound that is constantly walking an attractive fine line between order and chaos. Listeners more used to Gelb’s recent output may be surprised by how rocky and catchy the songs are here. The bar room jazz elements are present but the guitar work wouldn’t be out of place on a J Mascis record. ‘Wearing The Robes of Bible Black’ (a world away from the version featured on ‘Sno Angel Like You) kicks things off perfectly and the songs thunder along nicely right up until the closing track, a wistful take on Lieber and Stoller’s ‘Is That All There Is’. An essential record for anyone who wants to hear how good country rock can sound.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

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Top Ten Indie/Alt Music Cover Versions

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Top Ten Indie/Alt Music Cover Versions

Posted on 21 September 2010 by Joe

Top 10 Cover Versions

In amongst the dross of X-Factor and American Idol the great art of the cover version is being lost.

Almost every note of ‘Flying Without Wings’ and high-pitched squawk of ‘I Will Always Love You’ by the show’s vacuous contestants is another nail in the coffin of the once noble cover version.

That ends right here, right now, as Neon Filler honours those in the indie, alternative music world who’ve not only delivered a great version of a classic but have made it there own.

1. Devo – Satisfaction

In many ways the perfect cover, a radically different version of a legendary song that is a classic in its own right. All jerky rhythms and fuzzed up guitar it takes the swagger of the Rolling Stones original and transfers that to an edgy, nervous and anxious look at the song. Frantic, frenetic and awkward, this is a definitive new-wave assault on a 60s classic.

Available on Q. Are We Not Men? A. We are Devo

2. Ben Folds – Bitches Ain’t Shit

Fans of swearing would be hard pressed not love Ben Folds version of Dr Dre’s ‘Bitches Ain’t Shit’. With tongue firmly in his white, middle class cheek he offers an irrepressible take on this hip-hop classic. This is Folds at his sarcastic best paying tribute to the song and mocking its offensive, sexist, gangster loving bravado all at the same time.

Available on Supersunnyspeedgraphic.


3. The Gourds – Gin and Juice

Taking on Snoop Dogg’s ‘Gin And Juice’ in a full on bluegrass style could well have been a disaster. There is nothing less satisfying than a novelty record, particularly the 2nd or 3rd time you hear it. The Gourds avoid this trap with aplomb. They take the song straight, and play it well. It is funny sure, but never wacky, and it becomes something pretty unique. And it is a stormer, the style of music fits the song better than could be expected. The best bluegrass gangsta rap interpretation on record.

Available on Shinebox.


4. First Aid Kit – Tiger Mountain Peasant Song

Deep in the hidden recesses of Youtube, in amongst the clips of guitar wielding indie kids attempting to play their favourite track is this treat featuring Swedish duo First Aid Kit’s take of Fleet Foxes’ ‘Tiger Mountain Peasant Song’. After more than 384,000 YouTube visitors tuned in it was soon added to the reissue of the band’s debut ep Drunken Trees.  The youth of the plaid shirt wearing First Aid Kit, who were born in 1990 and 1993, the passion they put into this version and the clip’s location in a Swedish forest all merge to make this a true great among covers.

Available on Drunken Trees.

5. Ryan Adams – Wonderwall

Ryan Adams is another prolific coverer. His cover of the whole of The Strokes Is This It? remains unreleased. On his Love Is Hell record he covered the Oasis standard ‘Wonderwall’.  His version is far superior to the original, a fact acknowledged by none other than Noel Gallagher. He has stated his disappointment that his brother’s limited skills mean they can’t do the song justice, and he plays the Adam’s version in his live shows. Adam’s is a clever musician and you can never tell for sure whether he means what he sings, but he sounds like he does. When Liam Gallagher sings the song you doubt that he even knows what the song is supposed to mean.

Available on Love Is Hell.

6. Iron and Wine – Such Great Heights

Such Great Heights is an immediate classic, a great, heartfelt, tender love song. It’s been well covered but one of the best is by Iron and Wine, who strips the original by electro-indie popsters Postal Service down to its bare, acoustic bones. Iron and Wine’s interpretation is so good that many of those on website forums believe it is the original, surely the greatest accolade that can be bestowed on a cover version.

Available on Around the Well, release date May 19.


7. Dinosaur Jr – Just Like Heaven

This cover of the Cure’s ‘Just Like Heaven’ is pure Dinosaur Jr  – full on and with plenty of guitar. Where the original has a dainty pop chorus this cover adds a death metal roar and in genius slacker style Dinosaur Jr’s lead singer J. Mascis couldn’t be bothered to learn all the lyrics, or even make them up. So the song just stops three quarters of the way through. Brilliant.

Available on Ear-Bleeding Country: The Best of Dinosaur Jr.

8. Adem- Starla

Among the treats on Fridge bassist Adem’s 2007 acoustic covers album Takes is his version of  the Smashing Pumpkin’s B-side Starla. It starts with just voice and acoustic guitar, drawing out the emotion of the song and building up to a climatic string-section finish that knocks
several shades of the brown stuff out of the original. Adem even manages to merge in part of another Smashing Pumpkins track, Window Paine, at the end. It is sheer emotional, acoustic brilliance.

Available on Takes.


9. Futureheads – Hounds Of Love

This cover manages to straddle the gap between being immediately identifiable and yet hugely different better than almost any other. There is no mistaking the song, but hear them side by side and they are so different. The Sunderland band take Kate Bush’s plaintive original and inject their propulsive blend of XTC and Gang of Four into the mix. The backing vocals work brilliantly and are as much a part of the music as the guitars. And despite playing it very straight they somehow magnify the ridiculousness of the lyrics. “Take my shoes off and throw them in the lake”, indeed.

Available on The Futureheads.

10. Lemonheads- Different DrumA top ten of indie, alternative covers seems somehow incomplete without the Lemonheads take on the Mike Nesmith penned Different Drum, which was first recorded by Linda Rodstadt’s band The Stone Poney’s in 1967. Everything about this romantic break-up track fits with Evan Dando’s quirky attractiveness perfectly. The Lemonheads were serial coverers, of hits by the likes of Gram Parsons, Suzanne Vega and Simon & Garfunkel, but it is with the lyrics of ex-Monkee Nesmith where their true cover credentials come to the fore. No one can sing, “you and I travel to the beat of a different drum, oh, can’t you tell by the way I run, every time you make eyes at me,” like Dando.

From Favorite Spanish Dishes (currently unavailable).

Compiled by Dorian Rogers and Joe Lepper

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