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Dinosaur Jr – Roundhouse, London (March 23, 2018)

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Dinosaur Jr – Roundhouse, London (March 23, 2018)

Posted on 28 March 2018 by Joe

Thirty years have passed since Dinosaur Jr got together. Since then they have split up, reformed and are still selling out venues, with this London gig no exception.

Having seen them at the Reading Festival back in the early nineties, it was an interesting contrast, and a reminder of why I had mixed feelings about them last time.

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Dinosaur Jr’s lead singer and chief guitar noodler J Mascis is, if possible, even more static that he was back then. He seems an isolated figure onstage, and not helped by the contrast between him and the more exuberant performance of bass player Lou Barlow.

This juxtaposition makes this seem like a solo act with the drums and bass as back up musicians. This is not to underplay the contributions of drummer Murph and Lou to the band’s sound, but the rather odd impression created by the onstage dynamics.

I’m guessing this is unintended rather than planned. J is clearly friends with both support acts and presumably the other guys in the band. His is undeniably, however, a somewhat awkward stage presence.

Ironically, he seemed much more relaxed when strolling on to play guitar on the last song of opening band Easy Action’s set.

Their frontman, hard-faced, angular veteran punk rocker John Brannon, cups the microphone in his hand whilst spitting lyrics at the crowd, mixing hardcore, punk and metal with an industrial edge; they are enthusiastically received by those who arrive in time to catch them.

I catch five of their songs, their final song on which J plays guitar, is the shortest of an excellent, rather intense set and like all of tonight’s bands they are great.

Easy Action are there to remind us of the hardcore punk influence inherent in Dinosaur Jr. Meanwhile, next on the bill,  Stephen McBean from Black Mountain, gives us a taste of J Mascis and co’s  West Coast Country psychedelic roots.

When McBean first came onstage his rather shambolic appearance and lack of introduction made me think he was the roadie tuning up for him. He proved be a far more engaging performer than J and played a solo set using a mixture of backing tapes and looping delay effects to build psychedelic country soundscapes that belie his mild-mannered appearance.

His voice, crystal clear, is youthful, like a garage band from the 1960’s, and some of his songs are stunning. I particularly liked his second number with its Byrds-esque guitars crashing in like broken glass onto the sun-kissed vocal melody.

Dinosaur Jr arrive onstage with the classic Thumb, reassuring their fans that there will be plenty more good songs to come. It’s mid pace melancholy wrought through the band’s virtuoso musicianship, and only held back in my opinion by the venue’s rather indifferent sound (this was something of a bugbear for me).

The vocals weren’t clear enough for any of tonight’s acts, and I would be reluctant to come here to see a band again. Next time I’ll see Dinosaur Jr in a venue with a low ceiling and a solid sound system. That being said, they are still fantastic.

There’s an amusing interview with J on YouTube where a seven-year-old child asks him if he is a “guitar god”. J says, “No”, but based on tonight’s performance it would be pretty difficult to disagree.

J plays guitar like few others, intricate and effortless, it really is something to see. I can’t think of a better guitarist I’ve seen.

Lou Barlow is all hair and beard, the two merging into one shaggy head. Lou wins the Dorian Gray award for looking at least ten years younger than J or Murph. Maybe that’s why they kicked him out back in the 90’s?

Murph, the ever present with J throughout Dinosaur Jr’s history must be the hardest working drummer in show business, rock solid all night without missing a beat. His lack of hair perhaps a sign that there is some stress in slackerdom.

Dinosaur Jr play three of four songs from the new album (all very good), before misfiring the start to “Feel the Pain”, and then going into “Out There”. The crowd go nuts.

And, there is an odd contrast between the Droopy inspired stage persona of J and the hundreds of middle aged men going ape-shit for his music.

As one of those middle-aged men, hearing “Out There” played live makes me feel thirty years younger and want to cry simultaneously. It is a masterpiece and the only song to beat it is the next song, the previously teased, “Feel the Pain”.

It’s wonderfully crafted, with its jarring opening allied to its heartfelt lyrics and swinging bassline and the sheer abandon of the chorus make this song a masterpiece. I glance bemused at the crowd surfing and moshing to my left.

From there the band revisit their back catalogue, with songs from Green Mind, Bug and You’re Living All Over Me, with the latter dominating the selection, particularly the encores.

This, the band’s first album is a little unfamiliar to me, and perhaps a number of their fans, certainly the tracks from Green Mind and Bug, get a better reception from the audience.

Perhaps the band like playing these tracks as they remind them of more innocent times, or perhaps they still have a few copies of it they’d like to shift taking up scant storage space in their houses, and they figure playing tracks off it at their shows may stir their fans to seek out these unsold copies.

If the Greeks have taught us one thing, it is that Guitar Gods are likely to be capricious tricksters toying with mere mortals, so either could be true.

The crowd at the show are an interesting one, there seemingly aren’t that many lively bands going about any more, and whilst I am not tempted to join in, it’s great to see the crowd respond to the band with the heady release of a stag weekend.

Just before the encore, I saw a guy staggering about looking for his mates with four pints of beer in his hands. Thus, tracks like Freak Scene and The Wagon get rapturous receptions.

Before the final encore, Lou Barlow, tongue in cheek presumably asks for requests.

If you shouted out for “Raisans” then you got your wish. I heard a lot of people shouting for “Get Me”, and on that note there weren’t many slow songs, I was rooting for “Not You Again”, but at times you just have to take what the Gods give you.

By Gavin McGarvey

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The Bevis Frond – Miasma and Inner Marshland Reissues

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The Bevis Frond – Miasma and Inner Marshland Reissues

Posted on 05 June 2015 by John Haylock

Guitars, guitars, guitars – our lives wouldn’t be the same without them, whether acoustic, electric, big, small, bass, left hand, right hand, amped up to eleven or gently strummed, we love them all. Every piece of music that you cherish probably has a guitar in there somewhere, power chords to the left of me, guitar solos to the right, here I am stuck in the middle eight with you.

Nick Saloman alias The Bevis Frond has been in a long term serious relationship (bordering on the psychotic) with a huge number of guitars, he regularly takes them into his bedroom and has been having his wicked way with them for years, he’s a one man lo- fi unsung genius who for over three decades has been quietly creating a large body of self penned work that once heard becomes an obsession.

He takes psychedelic music to the cleaners, brings it home from the cleaners, squeezes it through a cosmic mangle, dries it out, puts it on a washing line then gets out his lysergic ironing board of love and puts creases in it where creases shouldn’t be.

Cherry Red Label has now secured his fairly huge back catalogue and will be releasing it in chronological order over the coming months, complete with additional tracks and sleevenotes by Mojo magazine’s Dave Henderson.

miasma

As a result these early albums are thankfully now available to mankind at reasonable prices as opposed to the exorbitant rip off prices asked for on Amazon etc. So what we have here are debut album Miasma and Inner Marshland both released originally in 1987. The first thing you’ll notice is the decidedly primitive (as compared to today’s) recording quality, understandable really when you consider these were literally made in his bedroom on a Tascam Porta One four track.

Never expecting anyone to be interested he released these albums as a labour of love on a wing and a prayer and was as surprised as anyone when by word of mouth alone, folks started picking up on a singer-songwriter from the wilds of Walthamstow. The titles are frivolous and playful, the guitar playing undeniably aggressive and at times over abundant but many of the songs are little crackers, you’ll find snippets of studio conversation, an appearance of Harry Corbett from an early Sooty show, poetry, a snatch of The Goons, messy feedback, controlled feedback, cheap organ accompaniment and lots of echo.

It comes together to forge a tiny self contained bedroom of sound that totally ignores the mainstream, in much the same way  as other great british underground icons such as Robyn Hitchcock Andy Partridge Nick Nicely and Syd Barrett have created their own idiosyncratic musical universes.

Miasma merely hints at the promise of future recordings, containing boisterous pop psyche tunes like She’s in Love with Time, The Newgate Wind and Wild Mind. There’s a very short but nevertheless very cool FX laden number called Wild Afternoon, but best of all is Splendid Isolation. Ever wondered what REM would have sounded like with Hendrix at the helm instead of Peter Buck? Try this.

Seven extra tracks are included, perhaps a little too much for the initiate but intriguing nonetheless.

bevisfrondmarshland

Inner Marshland came quickly on Miasma’s heels, it fizzes along amid much explosive soloing, Window Eye and I’ve Got Eyes in the Back in My Head are two dynamite rough and ready rock songs.

But he still retains his love of the surreal so the aforesaid Sooty puts in an appearance on Once More, there’s an incredible wig out with Nick’s good friend and equally talented guitarist Barri Watts, and Termination Station Grey emerges as a pop song but one deep fried in acid batter.

There’s six bonus tracks on this one, all super duper, best of which are a gently undulating (at least until the gripping guitar solo comes in) Walking in the Lady’s Garden. Parapsynquiry on the other hand could be a number from any one of  Lenny Kayes. Tremendous Nuggets compilations, total freakouty goodness.

If like me you are enamoured by the weird and wonderful, the strange and sublime or just love a bloody good guitar solo these remastered recordings will send you into paroxysms of delight. I urge you to vote Bevis Frond, ladies and gentlemen I recommend Nick Saloman to the house.

By John Haylock

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Glastonbury Festival 2013 Preview – The Best Acts To Watch Out For

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Glastonbury Festival 2013 Preview – The Best Acts To Watch Out For

Posted on 04 June 2013 by Joe

The choice of music at the Glastonbury Festival can be bewildering: from the well known Pyramid Stage, which forms the bulk of the BBC TV coverage, to the smaller stages and bar venues.  To help out we’ve compiled our list of the key bands to watch out for, many of which have already impressed us live. It’s worth noting that the BBC Introducing tent line up had not yet been announced at the time of publishing and we urge you to check out that stage as well to find your new favourite band. It was one of our favourite locations when the festival was last held in 2011.

Dinosaur Jr

The Park Stage is shaping up to be one of our favourite line ups this year especially with indie rock veterans Dinosaur Jr making the Friday line up. Don’t expect witty stage banter from the maudlin J Mascis and the band but do expect some of the best guitar soloing and all round fret noodling you will ever hear.

Django Django

Django Django will have fond memories of Glastonbury having played the BBC Introducing Stage long before the release of their critically acclaimed, self-titled debut album in 2012. Back with a Friday evening Park Stage slot they are now highly experienced at delivering a stunning festival set with their idiosyncratic take on the notion of indie pop.

Tame Impala

They played twice at Glastonbury 2011 but mud and life conspired to ensure we missed them both times. Not this time as we will ensure we see this Australian act’s very modern take on psychedelic rock. Their Friday, Other Stage slot shows the wide appeal for their two stunning albums Innerspeaker and Lonerism.

Portishead

We champion local acts in our key areas of Brighton and the south west of England and they don’t come bigger for us than Bristol’s Portishead. Back from a hiatus in 2008 with the stunning album Third they are one of the most innovative acts in the UK and not to be missed live when they grace The Other Stage on Friday night.

Billy Bragg

Billy Bragg at Glastonbury Festival 2011

Billy Bragg at Glastonbury Festival 2011

At the last Glastonbury festival in 2011 Bragg was headlining and organising the Leftfield stage. He proved once again what a consummate festival act he is. Armed with just his guitar, voice and wise words he provided this reviewer with shelter from the rain and one of the highlights from the festival. He’s back again at the same venue on the Friday night, this time with a full band. As an indication of how high his star is once again rising he has also bagged a Saturday afternoon Pyramid Stage slot, where he will bring his songs about love and a politics  to a wider TV audience.

Bridie Jackson and The Arbour

Bridie Jackson and The Arbour at the Glastonbury ETC finals

Bridie Jackson and The Arbour at the Glastonbury ETC finals

This year we were among the judges of the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition (ETC) which was won by this north east of England  folk act. They quite simply stole the show at the finals of the competition with their haunting, stunning interpretation of English folk. Their prize is to open proceedings on Saturday at the Acoustic Stage, one of the most warm spirited venues at the festival.

Calexico


Another of our favourite acts is Arizona band Calexico, who put in a superb festival set at Pavement’s All Tomorrow’s Parties in 2010. Expect to be dazzled by their excellent blending of indie rock and mariachi music as they play tracks from the past and last year’s excellent album Algiers  at the Park Stage on the Saturday night.

First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit at Bristol O2 Academy, 2012.

First Aid Kit at Bristol O2 Academy, 2012.

If you want stunning vocals from tiny Swedish women then look no further than sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg, aka First Aid Kit. We caught their set at Bristol’s 02  Academy last year and were struck with the power of their vocal talents. Their cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s America is not to be missed should it make their set. It is an indication of how far they’ve come since we first saw them in a pub in Brighton many years ago that they now have a Sunday afternoon Pyramid Stage slot.

Stealing Sheep

Stealing Sheep at The Fleece, Bristol, 2012

Stealing Sheep at The Fleece, Bristol, 2012

The best support band we have ever seen. A packed Fleece in Bristol was left in awe last year when they supported Field Music. Now they headline in their own right and are firm favourites on the UK festival scene with their wholly original merging of indie folk bizarrely reimagined as a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack. Their Sunday afternoon slot at the Park Stage is well deserved after a busy year for this Liverpool band.

Matthew E White

Matthew E White at Thekla, Bristol, 2013

Matthew E White at Thekla, Bristol, 2013

Matthew E White skips across genres effortlessly, from gospel to funk to soul to country to rock. The eclectic West Holts is therefore the perfect venue for him to showcase tracks from his debut album Big Inner. We caught his set at Bristol’s Thekla this year and were left impressed not only with the quality of the music but his witty and engaging stage banter. Not to be missed when he takes to the stage on Sunday afternoon.

Phoenix

One of the best pop acts around. Following the success of 2009’s superb album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix they are back in 2013 with the release of Bankrupt! With a Sunday headline slot on the John Peel stage this French band will be primed to show Glastonbury how guitar pop should be played.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

The Pyramid Stage line up is arguably the most impressive it has been in years, offering a great mix of old and new artists. Last time we attended in 2011 we managed to avoid the stage entirely. This time we’ll be regulars at the venue with Sunday’s set by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds among those not to be missed. They and Cave in particular have still got it as a recording and live act all these years on. A true legend. Just watch the clip above and brace yourselves for amazement.

Words and pictures by Joe Lepper

 

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The Weezer cruise

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The Weezer cruise

Posted on 31 July 2011 by Dorian

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 Cruise

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?

Find out more at http://www.theweezercruise.com.

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Top Ten Alternative Music Videos

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Top Ten Alternative Music Videos

Posted on 21 September 2010 by Joe

Our selection of videos have been picked because they are creative, engaging and different. They may be funny, or visually interesting, but they all have one thing in common – a great song. No amount of money spent on a promo can disguise a bad song and, although there may be better videos out there, these represent how good a video can be when partnered with good music.

1. OK GO – ‘Here It Goes Again’

OK GO prove here how a good simple idea, well executed is much better than an expensive and complicated idea could ever be. They also saved a lot of advertising “creatives” considerable time and effort in thinking of their own idea. See the clip here.

2. New Order – ‘The Perfect Kiss

At nearly 10 minutes long this is the longest video in our selection, it is also the oldest. Directed by Jonathan Demme it is a demonstration of how a video can be simple when accompanied by a near perfect pop song.

3. Dinosaur Jr – ‘Feel The Pain’

This video is not the best known of Spike Jonze’s pop promos, but in my view it is the best. Also one of the best Dinosaur Jr songs from their brief major label career.


4. The Shins – ‘New Slang’

Probably the best known of The Shins songs, and the video has a perfect melancholy feel. It is also a chance to see the band act out a number of classic album covers. How many can you identify?

5. Yo La Tengo – ‘Sugarcube’

Very funny story video from the Hoboken drone rockers. Not a band well known for their pop promos, but this video shows the band’s playful side.

6. The White Stripes – ‘Fell In Love With A Girl’

Back before Jack White was a guitar god superstar his band were producing punk pop genius like this. This lego style video was directed by Michel Gondry who made lots of excellent pop promos before moving into feature films.

7. Okkervil River – ‘Lost Coastlines’

This video, of the first single from The Stand Ins, is another example of how effective a simple idea can be when done well and accompanied by a great song.

8. Hefner – ‘I Took Her Love For Granted’

This is probably the oddest video in the selection. How the idea of the band running, in strange body stockings, has anything to do with the song is anybody’s guess. But it is certainly memorable.


9. Guided By Voices – ‘Bulldog Skin’

An unusually polished promo from the Dayton Ohio rockers. Features a quite charming story and an excellent Doug Gillard guitar solo. “Maximum Riffage” indeed.

10. Field Music – ‘In Context’

This could well be the lowest budget video in our selection, but it is no less effective for that. It stands as the perfect accompaniment to this song from the bands second album, Tones Of Town.

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