Tag Archive | "Pavement"

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Brighton Concorde 2 (October 25, 2018)

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Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Brighton Concorde 2 (October 25, 2018)

Posted on 01 November 2018 by Dorian

I don’t feel like I’ve seen Stephen Malkmus play often, but counting through the times (Pavement at Reading 1992 and their ATP in 2010, with The Jicks at Reading 2001 and three times in Brighton) this is my 6th time seeing him play live.

Stephen Malkmus 1

I’ve also never seen him play a bad show. The reunited Pavement shows may have been done more out of duty than love, but the songs were great so I’ll take it. Given how much I enjoy his work it is odd that I only really keep half an ear on his solo recordings. I enjoy them a lot when I make the effort but I don’t rush to listen to them.

Here on the Concorde 2 stage in Brighton he plays a set that draws heavily from his recent albums and it sounds great from start to finish. Tunes like ‘Middle America’, from Sparkle Hard, may lean towards his more laconic side, but they are so well constructed that I’m happy to sit back a bit with them.

He throws some more upbeat tunes into the set, personal favourites ‘Stick Figures In Love’ and ‘Jo Jo’s Jacket’ both get an airing and they really highlight what a great band he has backing him.

Stephen Malkmus 2

One thing that really strikes you watching Stephen Malkmus live is what a great guitar player he is, and what a confident stage presence. His days in Pavement may have left him with the reputation of being a slacker with scrappy musicianship, but this is far from the truth. As he throws his guitar behind his head, never missing a note, you can see how skilful he is.

He’s witty too. St one point a scuffle breaks out in the crowd, some people a little inebriated causing problems. The band reprimand them, Malkmus standing statue like displaying two peace signs. The scuffle ends and the crowd calms. He leaps into a boxer’s pose, hands clenched. “Save your fists for the class war!” he proclaims.

He has also softened in his stance to nostalgia and his old band, he is clearly at ease with his musical legacy and what the crowd wants to hear. When the band return for the inevitable encore he launches into a raucous version of ‘Stereo’, the crowd (inevitably) goes wild. Last of all he appears to deviate from the planned final song, responding to requests from the crowd, and plays early EP track ‘Box Elder’.

His European tour is almost over, you’d need to head to Paris on Saturday to catch him before he returns to the US, but I’d recommend catching him next time you can. in the meantime, give Sparkle Hard a listen.

By Dorian Rogers

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Top Ten Olympic Songs

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Top Ten Olympic Songs

Posted on 23 July 2012 by Joe

With Olympic fever taking the UK by storm, we thought we’d run another of our topical top tens featuring our favourite indie and alternative Olympic and sporting  themed tracks. Sit back, order a McDonalds, drink a Coca-Cola or other Olympic endorsed junk food product and enjoy Neonfiller’s Top Ten Olympic Songs

1. Flaming Lips – Race for the prize

 

2. Belle and Sebastian – Stars of Track and Field

3. Pavement  – Gold Soundz

4. Gene – Olympian

5. Super Furry Animals – Rings Around the World

6. The Vatican Cellars – A Palpable Hit (features on the WAIWYA compilation It’s The Taking Part That Counts )

7. Foals – Olympic Airways

8. Sparklehorse – Gold Day

9. New Order – Run

10. Aztec Camera – Jump (Van Halen cover)

Honourable mentions: The National – Racing Like a Pro, Queens of the Stone Age – The Bronze, Guided By Voices – Keep It In Motion, LCD Sound System – Sound of Silver, The Decemberists – The Sporting Life, Beck – Loser.

Compiled by Joe Lepper, Dorian Rogers, Rob Finch, Vanessa Thompson, Barnaby Salton, Nick Parker and Leon Cox

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Silver Jews – Early Times

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Silver Jews – Early Times

Posted on 28 May 2012 by Joe

This year I gave my first ever 10/10 review for a new album, to UK band Tigercats’ debut Isle of Dogs. This year also marks my first ever 0/10 which goes to this appalling collection of cobbled together band practices from cult US act Silver Jews, which disbanded in 2009.

For those that don’t know about the band, they started as a trio in 1990 of David Berman and Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastonovich. Berman remained the only constant member of the band that later also included his wife Cassie, who played bass.

We saw them live in 2008 at Explosions in the Sky’s ATP Festival and they were one of the highlights. Mixing Americana and indie rock the music was enthralling, the lyrics clever and in Berman they had one of music’s most engaging and witty frontmen.

So why is this release of their early work, featuring Berman, Malkmus and Nastonovich so appalling and deserving of such a low score. For a start it’s recorded on boombox mics making the production value non-existent and most of it pretty much inaudible. Sure lo-fi can work, just look at the Mountain Goats John Darnielle’s early boom box releases. But this worked for Darnielle because the home made amateur feel brought out the intimacy in his songwriting, vocals and simple guitar playing. For this release the lo-fi recording just makes it unbearable to listen to.

What has been released here is essentially a series of  bad band practices, full of background giggles, poor playing and pretty much no artistic merit. The songs here were originally released on the Dime Ma of the Reef 7” and 12’EP the Arizona Record. They are essentially barely audible pieces of drivel that surely even the most ardent Silver Jews fan will struggle to listen to. When you can just about make out a tune it sounds a little like early Pavement with bad drumming.

What angers me most  about this release is that some people may actually waste their money on it. Please, I implore you do not. This is not a lovely curio from the past, this is about someone, somewhere, trying to release, quite frankly, any old shit and hoping it sticks to someone. Well, no siree, this brown stuff will not stick with this website.

The press release tells us that there may be an additional release of “rare and unreleased” early recordings in the near future. On this evidence I hope that is a joke.

0/10

by Joe Lepper

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Top 10 Disappointing Follow-Ups

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Top 10 Disappointing Follow-Ups

Posted on 16 January 2012 by Dorian

The Godfather Part Two is one of the finest films ever made, even better than the excellent first film in the series. The Godfather Part Three is not a terrible film, but after seeing the first two films in the series it is a pretty miserable way to spend more than two and a half hours of your life. In music hearing a bad album is no big deal, you put it aside and forget about it, but hearing a favourite act follow up a classic album with a bad one is a dispiriting experience.

Here we present our Top 10 Disappointing follow-ups.

10. Pavement – Terror Twilight

Pavement Terror Twilight

Up until this point Pavement had a pretty much blemish free copybook, a set of challenging singles and four brilliant albums to their name. Brighten The Corners in 1997 was as good a set of off-kilter indie guitar pop as any released in the decade and looked close to breaking the band to a bigger audience.  The quirky charms of ‘Carrot Rope’ two years later raised my hopes for the follow-up, sadly these were dashed on hearing the full product, Terror Twilight. There are good songs on the album, notably the singles ‘Spit On A Stranger’ and ‘Major leagues’ but it is a strangely flat record. The production by Nigel Godrich is cold and lifeless, something that can be said about the majority of the songs here. Spiral Stairs never wrote songs as great as Malkmus, but the lack of any of his songs here is another missing piece of the Pavement puzzle. The band would break up after touring this album, but they had started to give up even before it was recorded.

9. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Some Loud Thunder

Some Loud Thunder

In 2005 Clap Your Hands Say Yeah looked like they could be a real band to watch. Their self-titled debut was over hyped but it contained some brilliant songs and was one of the most promising debuts of the year. Two years later they released Some Loud Thunder and proceeded to rain on the musical parade. The album was produced by Dave Fridmann and it is hard to tell if it is his fault or the bands for the first song on offer, which is pretty much impossible to listen to. I tolerate a lot of difficult production from a band, but the remaining songs on the album, whilst perfectly well produced, are just not very good at all. The band play around musically all over the place, but they seem to have forgotten that a good song needs to be the basis of their instrumental indulgences. The band wisely retreated after this and it would be another four years before they released another album.

8. The Strokes – Room On Fire

The Strokes - Room On Fire

How do you follow up an album that throws you on the cover of every music magazine and spawns half a dozen instant indie-disco classics? The answer The Strokes had for this question seems to be producing the same album again, but with worse songs and the vocals mixed absurdly low in the mix. There are a couple of half decent singles on Room On Fire, but beyond that I can’t think of one interesting thing to say about it.

7. The Pixies – Bossanova

The Pixies - Bossanova

Including the Pixies in this chart is going to seem like sacrilege to some readers, this is after all one of the most beloved of all the 1990s acts. The thing is, I love the Pixies and even love a number of the songs that are featured on this album. The surf-rock instrumental stuff is cool, ‘Dig For Fire’ is a great single and several of the other tracks are as interesting and exciting as anything else that was released that year. The thing is though that this album followed Surfer Rosa and Doolittle, two of the best records ever released. In that context it couldn’t fail to disappoint, it is just nowhere near as good a record as either of its predecessors. It also differs from these two classic albums in that it is quite dull in parts, it just feels a bit flat and lacking in the excitement I’d come to expect from this most singular of bands. Trompe Le Monde would step things up a bit a year later and (without any sign of a new album) Bossanova remains the worst record in their back catalogue.

6. Elastica – The Menace

Elastica The Menace

The five years Elastica took to release The Menace was longer than the post-punk period they thrived to emulate and marked them as millennium’s first has beens. Their album Elastica was the fastest selling debut ever, spearheading a savvy guitar pop which oozed suave lo-fi and visceral sophistication. It was urban and reinvigorating, an essential classic. The Menace, however, is drowned in the fug of brown sugar, banker talc, scrapped recordings and litigation.  When it’s not pandering to Casio bedsit clichés Justine Frischmann rejects angsty vocals for shouting “Your Arse My Place”, relying on Mark E Smith to add oral quality. It’s a disjointed album, much of which had already appeared on an EP, from a one trick band sacrificed to drugs, arguments and time.

5. Blur – The Great Escape

Blur The Great Escape

Parklife was a brilliant era defining guitar pop record, a huge leap forward for a band that had started life as an identikit baggy outfit. It was witty, melodic, and despite being heavily influenced by classic British pop (XTC, The Kinks, Madness and Julian Cope all spring to mind) it was a record that was very of its time. If you were to have described the album to a set of suited music executives and asked them to reproduce the record what they would have come up with would be The Great Escape. The same ground is covered, the same style of songs are featured and the same tricks are trotted out, but in all cases they are not as successful. On Parklife Phil Daniels provides guest vocals, on The Great Escape it is Ken Livingstone. On Parklife the videos are colourful and fun, on The Great Escape the colourful video for ‘Country House’ is embarrassing (Graham Coxon looks filled with self-loathing in that one). Albarn is too good a songwriter to produce a total stinker, and there are some good songs on here, but on the whole it is a pretty charmless record.

4. REM – Monster

REM - Monster

REM are one of the most important bands ever, it is as simple as that. They enabled many alternative acts to make the popular crossover and  produced music that influenced more bands than almost any other act. In 1994 they were at their commercial and critical peak, thir last album, Automatic For The People, was their most popular yet and the reviews were uniformly positive. Two years later their response to this was to produce their worst album to date, an album of murky rock that failed to play to any of their musical strengths. ‘What’s The Frequency Kenneth?’ was a brilliant lead-off single, but a misleading example of the overall quality to expect. The album as a whole is murky, underwhelming and seldom rises above being ordinary. People may listen to the album and wonder why I’m making a fuss, it is a decent set of melodic alt-rock right? But to me it was the sound of a band moving from essential to irrelevant in the space of twelve songs.

3. Bon Iver – Bon Iver

BON-IVER-BON-IVER

For Emma, Forever Ago was a good album with an interesting back-story. Frustrated love-lorn musician Justin Vernon retreats to a cabin and records a sparse, haunting and subtle album with beautiful yet simple arrangements. The critics went wild for it and a new hero of American music was born. It seems that the critics were so enamoured that when it came to reviewing Vernon’s self titled second album they chose to ignore what a bad album it was, perhaps they had written the reviews in advance of receiving the album. These same critics were clearly too embarrassed to admit their mistake and forced to include Bon Iver high up in their end of year charts. Our review of the album damns it with faint praise and comparisons to Toto and Enya are accurate, this is an album that is overproduced and uninteresting.

2. Primal Scream – Give Out, But Don’t Give Up

Primal Scream

When Bobby Gillespie’s Primal Scream released Screamadelica it shocked the critics by not just being a great album but by perfectly marrying rock and dance music in a way that no other artists had managed to achieve up to that point. So, how best to follow up this feat? A by-the-numbers rock and roll album that is the aural equivalent of a pasty faced man in leather trousers dancing out of rhythm. The playing is fine, the music passable with some pretty terrible lyrics and vocals all adding up to a truly mediocre album. You are left wondering whether the success of Screamadelica was really down to Primal Scream at all or more to do with the various DJs and producers who peppered the album. A subsequent career veering between the average and the un-listenable has done little to quell this notion.

1. Stone Roses – The Second Coming

Listen up and listen good Stone Roses fans. Your adored band are crap. There I’ve said it. Yes of course their debut, self titled album (one of our top ten indie/alt albums of all time ) was remarkable. But that is less to do with The Stone Roses and more down to the direction of producer John Leckie (our top alternative music producer of all time) , who expertly mixed the band’s ballsy Mancunian live style with a 1960s experimental feel, some great tunes and wonderful guitar arrangements.  Under Leckie the band’s  major deficiencies were also masked, most notably singer Ian Brown being complete pants and  chief song writer and guitarist John Squire being some kind of megalomaniac, guitar riffing version of Mr G from Summer Heights High. On Second Coming, their atrocious second and final album, they parted company with Leckie and with it any sense of direction. All they were left with were their glaring deficiencies.  Ten Storey Love Song is probably the only track that emerges with any credit. Love Spreads, with its depressingly long guitar intro sounds like the kind of tired rock U2 were churning out on  Rattle and Hum. Begging You sounds a little like U2 Achtung Baby era but a whole lot more like Bobby Davro doing a bad impression of Primal Scream.

by Dorian Rogers, David Newbury and Joe Lepper

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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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Top 100 Albums (50-41)

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Top 100 Albums (50-41)

Posted on 29 March 2011 by Joe

There are some albums here you will have seen on similar lists before. But we’ve also opted for some obscurities with the aim of highlighting some different music for you to seek out.

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

50. Built To Spill – Keep it like a secret

Signing for a major label proved no bad thing for  Built to Spill. With some extra cash behind them this US band were clearly able to spend a lot of time getting their beautiful sprawling  guitar arrangements just right. On this 1999 album, which was their second for Warner Brothers, everything came together perfectly. Quality sprawling guitar sounds from frontman Doug Martsch coming at you from each speaker, brilliant hooks and all still with an alternative and independent edge, despite having the major label machine behind them. ‘Sidewalk’ is our standout on this collection of tight-as-you-like tracks as is the prog-rock-esque ‘Time Trap’. Other highlights are  ‘Carry the Zero’ and ‘Center of the Universe’, which were released as EPs.

49. The Kinks – Are The Village Green Preservation Society

This has proved to be the most contentious inclusion in our chart so far. The Kinks were a huge pop music success, one of the biggest acts of the 1960s, so what place do they have in an indie/alternative music chart? The hugely nostalgic Village Green Preservation Society sank like a stone on release in 1968 and didn’t spawn any hit singles. In contrast to this it has been a hugely influential album for alternative acts in the last 20 years. Album standout ‘Big Sky’ has been covered by Yo La Tengo as well as The Blue Aeroplanes, but the influence of the album goes further than that. It set the blueprint for a certain kind of Britishness that can be heard in albums by Madness, XTC, The Jam and Blur. Musically it is as inventive as anything that Ray Davies has produced through his career and the brilliant set of songs explains why this is the album of choice for Kink’s fans today.

48. The Fall – Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall


Picking an album by The Fall, out of the 27 released so far, was another tough choice in compiling our list. 1990’s Extricate has a special place in our hearts, as do more recent releases like  2010’s Your Future Our Clutter. But we’ve decided to narrow it down an era where we  first discovered them. An era in the mid 1980s, when thanks to the inclusion of leader Mark E Smith’s pop savvy wife Brix on guitar and production from John Leckie, they began achieving rare commercial and mainstream success. Ladies and gentleman we are proud to present 1984’s The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall. While the original vinyl version, with tracks such as the wonderful and bit frightening Lay of the Land, is great on its own the cassette and CD versions expanded the album further.  The inclusion of singles such as No Bulbs and C.R.E.E.P in these formats fit seamlessly among the album tracks and make this a great introduction to the band.

47. Calexico – Feast of Wire

Calexico were formed by the rhythm section from Howe Gelb’s Giant Sand and have produced a set of excellent albums mixing dusty border country with Mariachi sounds. Feast of Wire shows them upping the ante and has seen them described as the Tex-Mex Radiohead. There aren’t many similarities in the sound, but they do show a similar level of ambition and a desire to try out new sounds on the album. Waltz, country, jazz, electronica and, on ‘Not Even Stevie Nicks’, MOR pop all get an outing on the album and Morricone is clearly an influence on the arrangements. Despite the wealth of ideas and sounds it holds together perfectly as an album and stands as a high point in Calexico’s recording career.

46. Pretenders – Pretenders


After producing the Pretenders’ first single ‘Stop Your Sobbing’ in 1979 Nick Lowe decided against working with them again. He thought the new wave UK band fronted by American Chrissie Hynde, “wasn’t going anywhere”. Chris Thomas took over production duties for the band’s self titled debut and Lowe was proved woefully wrong as it achieved a Top 10 in the US Billboard charts and number one in the UK in 1980. Its success and inclusion in this list is not just because of great singles like ‘Brass in Pocket’, but also for its  ability to embrace a range of styles while sticking firmly to the band’s punk and new wave influences. From the reggae ‘Private Life’, to the hooky ‘The Wait’ through to the soulful ‘Lovers of Today’, this stunning debut’s variety is breathtaking.

45. The Afghan Whigs – Gentlemen

The Afghan Whigs time on the Sub Pop label and their penchant for R&B covers left them with the tag of being the early 90s token soul-grunge act. This label fails to take account of what an excellent rock and roll band they were, especially on their third album Gentlemen. Greg Dulli’s snarling vocals and dark lyrics fit perfectly with his bands punchy playing and the surprisingly ungrungey  production which Dulli handled himself. The album spawned three excellent singles ‘Gentelmen’, ‘Debonair’ and ‘What Jail Is Like’ all deserved to bring the band to a bigger audience but they and the album sold in modest numbers. In amongst the loud guitars and bluster is the beautifully sung (by Macy Mays) ‘My Curse’ which is the album’s standout track.

44.  Fugazi – Repeater


This first full length album from Fugazi shows the Washington DC band continue their mission to shelve their hardcore punk origins and search for new musical directions. Still with a punk heart through the vocals of singers ex Minor Threat frontman Ian Mackaye and former Rites of Spring member Guy Piciotto, the heartbeat of the band was the jazz rhythms of bassist Joe Lally and drummer Brendan Canty, who combined expertly with Mackaye’s dampened guitar style. On Repeater Piciotto gained a greater influence on the music as the band experimented more with guitar feedback.  Repeater remains the best full album by the band. Tracks like ‘Merchandise’ and ‘Turnover’ are among the immediate highlights, but the subtlety of styles on tracks like ‘Brendan #1’ show a band at their peak enjoying breaking down the traditional barriers of straight edge and hardcore punk. Repeater sold in its hundreds of thousands, but the band resolutely shunned major label interest, carried on playing in small venues and stuck with Mackaye’s Dischord label throughout.

43. The Auteurs – New Wave

The Auteurs were closely linked with Suede and the emerging Brit-pop scene when New Wave was released in 1993. Anyone who has read lead Auteur Luke Haines’ hilarious memoirs ‘Bad Vibes’ will know that he was too arrogant, mean spirited and unstable to play the game and become the star that he believed he should be. New Wave was nominated for the Mercury prize and was one of the best records released that year. Haines was right about one thing, he is a superb songwriter and the album is brilliant track after brilliant track. ‘Show Girl’, ‘Don’t Trust The Stars’, ‘Starstruck’, ‘How Could I Be Wrong’ and ‘Idiot Brother’ are all examples of great melody and interesting insightful lyric writing. Haines would record several other great albums, but his first effort stands as the best.

42. Pulp – His n Hers


Pulp spent most of the ’80s in obscurity, gradually building up critical acclaim but never quite achieving success. With the release of their fourth album His ‘n’ Hers in 1994 that all changed. This is one of the great breakthrough albums of all time as tracks such as ‘Lipgloss’ and ‘Joyriders’  brought them to a huge mainstream audience and the band started to emerge as the key act  of the Britpop explosion. By their next album Different Class, with singles such as ‘Common People, Pulp’s popularity had gone stratospheric. But it is here on His ‘n’ Hers where for us they were at their peak. This is both musically and lyrically through the bittersweet and at times downright funny storytelling of frontman Jarvis Cocker. This is especially the case with our standout track on this album ‘Babies’.

41. Pavement – Slanted and Enchanted

Recorded by two Californian Fall fans Stephen Malkmus and Scott ‘Spiral Stairs’ Kannberg (with the help of anarchic drummer/engineer Gary Young) Slanted and Enchanted was the debut album by a band that would come to be one of the most important American acts of the 1990s. It is a lo-fi album, scratchy abrasive and hissy, but a collection of great songs sits behind the static. With songs like ‘Summer Babe’, ‘Trigger Cut’ and ‘Here’ (an oft covered classic) it demonstrated the quirky pop skills that would become a feature of their albums, but it also retained the esoteric charms of their early singles.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

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Billy Corgan Reignites 15 Year Old Feud With Pavement

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Billy Corgan Reignites 15 Year Old Feud With Pavement

Posted on 16 November 2010 by Joe

Uncle Fester lookalike and Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan is attempting to reignite a 15 year old feud with Pavement.

Years ago the two bands had a petty squabble, which appears to have been mainly of Corgan’s making and stems from a throwaway line in Pavement’s 1994 track ‘Range Life’ where they imagined being on tour with Smashing Pumpkins.

Corgan was so furious he reportedly managed to get Pavement removed from a Lollapalooza tour  and said at the time: “People don’t fall in love to Pavement … they put on Smashing Pumpkins or Hole or Nirvana, because these bands actually mean something to them.”

Billy Corgan

This week after discovering the two bands are on the same line up at a gig in Brazil he has sought to reignite the petty spat.

Via Twitter Corgan said: “Just found out SP is playing with Pavement in Brazil. It’s gonna be 1 of those New Orleans type funerals… I say that because they represent the death of the alternative dream, and we follow with the affirmation of life part… funny how those who pointed the big finger of ‘sell out’ are the biggest offenders now…yawn. they have no love… by the way, we’ll be the band up there playing NEW songs because we have the love xx”

Pavement frontman Steven Malkmus has been typically sedate about the spat in the past and so far has remained silent over this latest outburst.

He told NY Rock magazine in 1999 that, “I only laughed about the band name, because it does sound kind of silly … I like their songs – well, most of their songs anyway … I just dissed their status. I never really cared for the rock’n’roll lifestyle or being indie.”

What do we make of all this? Well, Smashing Pumpkins produced some fine albums in their early days but since Corgan is the only original member these days they are a long way from their best.

We at Neon Filler saw Pavement last year at their ATP Festival and they were amazing live. Playing highlights from their back catalogue is hardly selling out.

In contrast I saw Smashing Pumpkins in the early 1990s at the Reading Festival and it was without doubt the worst performance by any band I’ve seen. Corgan just ranted at the other members during a lacklustre, pathetic set. I’ll take Pavement’s brand of “sell out” anyday.

by Joe Lepper

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ATP Festival Curated By Pavement – Minehead, UK. May 2010

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ATP Festival Curated By Pavement – Minehead, UK. May 2010

Posted on 20 September 2010 by Joe

ATP is among the most remarkable of festivals. Since it started around a decade a go its crucial difference is that a specific band often  gets to choose the line up.

This tends to give it a greater sense of ownership for the band that curates and  for their fans, who get a greater insight into their tastes and influences. The holiday resort settings, of comfy chalets rather than tents and muddy fields, also help.

This time around it’s the turn of Pavement to curate an ATP event, at Butlins in the British seaside resort of  Minehead. Reunited for a nostalgia tour after going their separate ways in 1999, the band that was influenced by and have influenced so many has come up with a  line-up dominated by US guitar rock and punk legends, with the odd curveball thrown in.

Friday

Opening the festival in the late afternoon was Avi Buffalo, signed to Sub Pop, barely out of their teens and over here from their native California to promote their recently released debut self titled album. They’ve pulled the short straw getting to open the event as many are still arriving. They didn’t care, just pleased to be there. A short engaging set on the smaller Centre Stage was full of tracks from their debut album and ended on a high with ‘Remember Last Time’. The guitar solo on that track is as much a thing of beauty live as it is on the record.

Main stage opener Surfer Blood (pictured above) is another up and coming new band, this time from Florida. Triumph of the geeks was how my friend described this motley bunch of fat, thin, weedy, bad jumper wearing young things that packed a real punch. Lead singer bellowing out tracks such as ‘Take It Easy’ from their debut Astro Coast as well as a new song, ‘I’m Not Ready’, which was full of their familiar catchy riffs. “Ever witnessed the pinnacle of a career,” says bassist Brian Black to lead singer John Paul Pitt in a self deprecating way. They know they are privileged to be here. What new band wouldn’t want Pavement’s seal of approval?

Calexico (pictured below) decided to play a set that they see is best suited to the rock festival audience, with a focus on many of the more conventional guitar lead songs from their catalogue. This was a mistake as it is the more atmospheric acoustic tunes that would have set them apart from the other ATP acts.

Nevertheless they are a very slick band, most of the group being in demand session musicians, and they produce a note perfect sound. Highlights include the mariachi blast of ‘Crystal Frontier’ and their covers of Love’s ‘Alone Again Or’ and The Minutemen’s ‘Corona’.

In sharp contrast at the same time on the Centre Stage was The Walkmen. Lead singer Hamilton Leithhauser has a voice to rival ACDC’s Brian Johnson and tonight they put in a killer performance. A minor bass amp explosion put them off their stride three songs in but only slightly. Showcased tonight were some new tracks off the new album, due out this summer, which sound in a similar vein as their excellent 2008 album You and I. ‘New Year’ from that album is now as big a crowd pleaser as ‘The Rat’, and both were among the highlights of a powerful, passionate set.

Friday’s main stage headliners Broken Social Scene are veterans of ATP Minehead now, having headlined the Explosions in the Sky curated event two years ago. They are now a different beast.  Leaner and showcasing tracks from their latest album Forgiveness Rock Record. Tracks from the hook laden first half of the album such as ‘Art House Director’, ‘Texico Bitches’ and ‘World  Sick’, went down particularly well. Although Forgiveness Rock Record dominated the gig, the biggest cheers still went out for classics such as ‘Fire Eyed Boy’ and ‘7/4 (Shoreline)’.

Couple of gripes, one being BSS’s Lisa Lobsinger. She follows in the footsteps of previous BSS female vocalists such as Leslie Feist but her voice is far weaker. Drifting on and off stage like Helena Bonham Carter,  she sauntered, whispered and vanished. Not even the glimmer of a smile, in sharp contrast to the energetic displays of BSS mainstay Brandon Canning. The other gripe was frontman Kevin Drew, who had the touch of the Bono about him tonight. “We’re all forced to love,” he glibly declared before ‘Forced To Love’. Er, no were not. Just play the song man and stop talking rubbish.
Special final mention must go to Mission of Burma and Quasi. Although formed originally in 1979 and looking their age MoB played with the energy and excitement of the new bands that started the day. Quasi rounded off the day for us at Neon Filler. They are musos with edge, the rock three piece to beat all three pieces and in drummer Janet Weiss, formerly of Sleater-Kinney, they have one of the stars of the festival.

Saturday

The day of Pavement’s headline performance starts in jovial fashion. Kentucky band Wax Fang, the lovers of the guitar, performed Purple Rain in its entirety  and perfectly with more than a little Prince tongue in cheek on the smaller Red stage.

Meanwhile over at the Centre Stage The Drones were justifying their reputation as one of the best live acts around. Lead singer Gareth Liddiard, who is vocally like an Australian Joe Strummer with a bomb attached to him, powered his way through the set that got better as it went on. Kept going by the rock steady bass and drums, the band allow his guitar work and vocals to shine. Sometimes it goes too far, too over indulgent, but on tracks such as ‘Shark Fin Blues’ all aspects came together perfectly.

Almost in anticipation for Pavement, whose frontman Stephen Malkmus is no stranger to guitar solos, it was a day dominated by the guitar, with Blitzen Trapper following on where The Drones and Wax Fang left off. Blitzen Trapper, from Portland, Oregon, is a strange act. Jack of all genres but masters of none and their  prog rock guitar work sadly became tedious after a while.

In the midst of  the predominantly guitar based acts of the day Mark Eitzel (pictured below) was something of an oasis of calm. Backed by drums and electric piano he presented an act that was more music hall than music festival and it was wonderful.

The consumate entertainer, despite a nervous twitchy disposition, preceded each song with  an entertaining (and often shocking) story. These stories moved from his time working at a Butlins holiday camp, to the death of his mother to his experiences with a heroin addict girlfriend and in the porn industry. Some were tall tales, others were clearly very real and personal.

The set mixed his solo songs with a healthy dose of American Music Club favourites, including ‘Nightwatchman’, ‘Johnny Mathis’ Feet’ and ‘Patriot’s Heart’. The songs are challenging in content and Eitzel voice is a very powerful instrument, easily the strongest vocalist of the weekend, and the songs have a real emotional impact.

Pavement (pictured above) proved to be the the perfect festival band. The excitement of seeing a reformed legend was matched by the quality of their set. No confrontational artists here, no set made up of new songs ands obscure b-sides. This was a crowd pleasing “hits” set played well with ‘Cut Your Hair’, ‘Stereo’, ‘Summer Babe’ and Spiral Stair’s ‘Two States’ going down particularly well with the crowd.

From the opener ‘Box Elder’ to the final encore track ‘Debris Slide’ the quality of the songs never dipped. It is easy to forget that, for all their slacker reputation, what an accomplished band Pavement were. There is a real variety to their sound, pop hooks, scuzzy no-wave noise, and balls out power chords all make an appearance. And in the soft and thoughtful ‘Here’ they have a candidate song for the great American songbook.

Malkmus is the star of the show, looking no older than he did back in the early 90s. His casual approach to playing the guitar, all loose hands and slinging it over his shoulder, belies his skills. The joker in the pack Bob Nastanovich is also excellent value jumping around, screaming and shouting his way through his vocal parts.

Throughout the weekend you got the sense they enjoyed their role of curators, popping up in the audience at the acts they’d chosen and holding court outside their VIP chalet. Drummer Steve West even treated people to a stone masonary display during the day, his other career outside drumming.

The end to the evening was another rare escape from guitar rock and proved to be the most eclectic segment of the weekend. Over at the Reds stage was the Syrian dance of Omar Souleyman, who worked the crowd into a frenzy while remaining calm and assured himself. Teenage geek tales from an acoustic set by Atlas Sound followed and then it was the turn of the best party band around San

Francisco’s Still Flyin‘. This 12 piece’s blend of West Coast indie music, ska and reggae was another highlight.

Sunday

Tim Chad and Sherry are made up of former Lambchop and Silver Jews members and put in a fun, laid back set blending funk, country and soul at the Centre Stage in the afternoon. But it was up to Wax Fang to continue the weekend’s love affair with the guitar. Top draw musicians, but by day three what the crowed perhaps didn’t want was another guitar solo orientated band, no matter how engaging.

Some of the most exciting bands across the weekend where among the oldest, just like Mission of Burma others such as The Raincoats and The 3Ds were also  class acts.

Terry Reid was also a fine advert for the older generation. Looking and sounding like a London cabbie who’d won the pools in his perma tan and Californian English accent. He’s a soulful, powerful singer, full of passion and showing he is an experienced performer but nowhere near a jaded one.

Then there was veteran Mark E Smith to round off proceedings on the main stage. With his band The Fall (pictured above) as headliners you never know what you will get. Luckily this was among the best Fall performances I’ve seen. Buoyed by what Smith describes as the best band “he’s ever had” and a great new album Your Future Your Clutter, which dominated the set, he was in jovial mood. Opener ‘Our Future Your Clutter Showcase’ was an early indication of just how good this band are. Each came on in turn sounding out the clear, crisp familiar Fall groove, then the man himself shuffled on. Looking 20 years older than his 50 or so years in crisp white shirt, leather jacket and suit trousers.

Smith belted out and mumbled track after track, all from the most recent few albums. Drifting across the stage, trying to put off his latest drones with his queen bee amp twiddling, retuning of instruments and  random mic switching. Creativity through fear and confusion has been his mantra for years. The band looked hardened to it though.

A highlight was the encore. “That’s it” Smith said after a short two song encore including ‘Reformation’. But as the lights went up and people departed he came back on. The look of joy on his face as the tired indie crowd is forced to run back humiliated to hear recent classic Sparta FC for a second encore was a thing of beauty, just like the guitar solo of Avi Buffalo at the start of the weekend.

Words by  Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

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