Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I had high expectations for tonight’s gig. But those expectations were mixed with concern at how a band who recorded their last album of huge guitar space-rock on Led Zeppelin’s mixing desk and how Danish effect-laden post-rock were going to sound and fit into an upstairs room of a folk bar in Chorlton, Manchester. And that was before I found out there was another band on the bill too.

It was no surprise to find that the performance end of said upstairs room was crammed with more kit, instrument cases and back-packs than I'd seen in that small room before. When the five-piece Alcoholic Faith Mission came on, they and their instruments and effects pedals were literally over-spilling the edges of the carpeted riser stage, on to beer crates taped together to provide some precious extra floor space. (And later they revealed that they had even left some pedals in Cardiff by accident and had to cut short their stay in Manchester to return to collect them. Confirms that life in a touring band is just not fun).

This was a short set – only six songs which a brief seventh acapella number to finish – but maximum marks to the band for effort and for perspiration.

After first song ‘Education’, singer Thorben shouted (to himself? To the crowd?) “that was fucking brilliant” and he was not wrong. The delicacy and atmospheric spookiness of some of the songs on latest album “Let Tonight Be The Last Night We Care” was replaced with a thumping energy and forceful delivery: shouts, howls, emphatic claps and nods accompanied each song. The album is shaping up to be one of my favourites of the year and this confident if swift set was a joy to watch. By the time you are reading this the band will have left the UK for a short European tour. Come back soon Alcoholic Faith Mission – and next time please stay for longer.

The Set List:

My Eyes To See
Season Me Right
Nut In Your Eye
Got Love? Got Shellfish!

I hadn’t listened to Wolf People before tonight and my main reason for attending was the other two bands on the bill so I didn’t give them a fair listen. They clearly weren’t born then but 1972 is a key year for them: the four-piece from London, recently signed to Jagjaguwar, play heavy psyche-rock delivered with impressive precision and concentration. They got a good reception tonight but my attention was elsewhere.

Did someone mention 1972? Because next Mott The Hoople’s Ian Hunter walked on stage. Well clearly not but Jace Lasek, one half of the husband-wife team behind The Besnard Lakes, could play him in a biopic. Striding on to the tiny stage, he is a formidable six-foot-plus presence, dressed in black long-sleeved shirt with embroidered red roses, aviator shades and shoulder length curly hair: “Hi we’re The Besnard Lakes from Montreal... and let’s dim the fuck out of those lights!”. Dulcimer’s exposing orange glare suddenly turned to relative murk – and more murk was to come.

Opening song “Like The Ocean, Like The Innocent” starts quietly so it was several minutes before I realised just how loud and monumental their sound was going to be in this setting. There was a widescreen power and intensity that was surprising from just a four-piece. It was so loud and intense (and Olga Goreas vocals so low in the mix initially) that I didn’t even recognise second song “Devastation” until it was halfway through. And as I did recognise it, the smoke machine kicked in. If it had been murky-dark before now the band and the room was smothered in thick white fog. The Besnard Lakes were playing a small pub room to a sell-out crowd of about120 people but were treating the occasion like they were at Wembley. It was insanely exciting.

I nearly didn’t add this video of ‘Albatross’; it just does not do justice to the song but hopefully gives a flavour of how intense and foggy an experience this was in such an intimate setting (especially compared to the ones above taken in the same spot only an hour earlier).

The Set List:
Like The Ocean, Like The Innocent
For Agent 13
Land of Living Skies
Chicago Train
Glass Printer
And You Lied To Me
Rides The Rails

So two contrasting performances but both with an energy and a confidence that was inspiring with neither band making any concessions to size or limitations of the setting. March has been full of great gigs in special settings - and this was another to add to that list. April just won't be the same.

The Besnard Lakes
The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night [BUY]

Alcoholic Faith Mission
Let This Be The Last Night We Care [BUY]

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Long-standing, distinguished and with well-hewn features. Although it applies to the gothic magnificence of Manchester Cathedral, I’m actually thinking of the appearance of Tindersticks. Seven men, clearly not in their twenties (or thirties) anymore but wearing their age well: greying at the temples, but looking elegant and dapper in their suits (except guitarist Neil in open collared shirt who clearly missed the dress code briefing). The band are wearing dark colours in the main: browns, greys, blacks. And so are most of the audience. Tonight was one of those occasions when the audience, predominantly male, predominantly of a certain age, closely resemble the band on stage. Without the hand-made suits.

However if the dark colours and gothic setting make this sound unremittingly gloomy you’d be wrong. There were splashes of colour from the lighting and deft changes of pace and mood from a set stretching across the band’s near twenty-year career.

The ornate altar in front of which the band perform is lit in a variety of bright colours – rich blues, bright golds – and occasionally the tall columns and gothic roof above are festooned with swirling patterns of light. It is unspeakably beautiful.

The seven members cover a variety of instruments seemingly with ease – drums, keys, bass, lead guitar, guitar/xylophone/triangle, sax/clarinet/cello with Stuart Staples on lead vocal/guitar/tambourine. This gives a rich depth to the songs, whether gentle instrumentals, moody ballads or noirish swing numbers, and the setting is perfect: both monumental and intimate, allowing the mood to switch from delicate and ominous.

Staples may have mumbled his ‘thank yous’ between songs but his vocals were the clearest I have heard – it felt like they were personally addressed it was so intimate and direct. Singing with eyes closed, swaying slightly, you’d be forgiven for seeing an almost religious quality to his delivery. It’s a captivating central performance.

So a ninety minute set that took in ‘Marbles’ and ‘Tyed’ from the first record through to many songs from new album “Falling Down A Mountain”, finished energetically with ‘Harmony Around My Table’. The band then made the appreciative audience work hard for three encores (‘No Man In The World’, ‘Can We Start Again’ and ‘My Oblivion’).

It’s wasn’t just the setting. It’s wasn’t just the music that made tonight. But the fusion of the two created a very special event. One to treasure.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Catching a glimpse of the set-list before the start of a gig is always a dangerous thing. What?! No ‘Ban Marriage’ or’ I Believe In The Good Of Life’?! Maybe they’ll be the encores...

It was a diverse set of folk of all ages assembled in the Deaf Institute to see Canada’s indie-poppers The Hidden Cameras. Tonight I spoke with both someone who fell in love with the band “listening to them on the way to school” (first album came out in 2001) as well as someone who’s favourite gig was Genesis performing The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway in 1974. As I say diverse. You certainly can’t stereotype a Hidden Cameras fan.

It was a busy but not full night. Which is a shame: given their broad appeal as suggested above and their exceptionally good tunes (‘gay church folk music’ comes close but doesn’t do it justice) the place should have been packed out. The set leant heavily to last year’s “Origin: Orphan” album but included a few from first mini-album ‘Ecce Homo’ and all points in between. The seven piece – drums, guitar, bass, violin, trumpet, keyboards with Maple Leaf flag, and leader Joel Gibb on guitar/vocals centre and front – took up every available bit of the Deaf Institute stage. And if it wasn’t busy enough they brought up some local support for some of the songs – on flute and on tambourine/percussion duties respectively.

They started with the stirring and grandiose title track of the new album (written largely in Berlin where Joel has been listening to German orchestral music apparently). Partly live, partly played over the PA it acted as an overture before the full live sound took over. The set was constructed as a series of peaks it seemed to me – highlights including frantic renditions of ‘B-Boy’ and ‘The Little Bit’. And a particular joy to watch is barefoot violinist Jamie McCarthy who sways, swoops and leaps throughout. There was less movement from the band than I have seen before/on video – probably because of the limited space - but towards the end of the set, Joel freed of guitar moved and jumped around across the width of the stage and the band swapped instruments.

This was a great and a fun gig by a band who deserve more acclaim (If you don’t know the band start with ‘The Smell of Their Own’). I pretty much missed the encore but fairly certain it was ‘He Falls To Me’ before the curfew stopped the band. With a bit more time to pursue the abandon they showed at the end of the set and a few more old favourites too this would have been exceptional night.

Final UK dates include Cardiff, Leeds and London - those and European dates here.

Earlier the evening had been opened by the highly talented Josephine Onimaya accompanied by guitarist Matt (“this is the first time we have played together”). Josephine’s influences as listed on her MurdochSpace include Odetta, Joni Mitchell and Johnny Cash - which is a pretty accurate summary of her sound: catchy and captivating bluesy numbers delivered with a stunning vocal.

The Hidden Cameras Set List (correct order I think):

Pencil Case
Colour of a Man
Kingdom Come
Mind, Matter and Waste
Fear Is On
Ode to Self-Publishing: Fear of Zine Failure
Heaven Turns To
He Is The Boss Of Me
Walk On
Do I Belong?
Follow These Eyes
In The NA
The Little Bit
Death of a Tune
Silence Can Be A Headline
He Falls To Me

The Hidden Cameras
Origin: Orphan [BUY]

The Hidden Cameras
Mississauga Goddam [BUY]

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Queueing to get into church? Doesn’t happen much these deeply secular days. But tonight a long line snaked around the outside of Manchester Cathedral waiting patiently in the rain to take a pew to see The Magnetic Fields.

This we were later informed by the friendly-but-formal introduction from the Verger (?) was only the second “contemporary popular music act” to perform in the Cathedral in its history which stretches back to 632AD (the first was Grizzly Bear). So a historic and reverential setting plus a sense of occasion greeted the packed audience once inside.

The Magnetic Fields seemed to sense this too: “We’ll try not to swear” promised keyboard player Claudia Gonson. The band were seated in a straight line: Stephin Merritt on ukulele on a high stool, Sam Davol on cello, John Woo on acoustic guitar, Claudia on vocals/keys/percussion and Shirley Simms autoharp/vocals. There was a precision to their arrangement that matched the setting. The audience was sat on chairs (not pews sadly) arranged in fan-shape in front of the band and slotted between enormous stone pillars, all beneath the high and cavernous vaulted roof. The audience’s quiet patience in waiting to enter the Cathedral turned now to a polite and hushed reverence.

The set was performed in two halves with a short interval. It started almost without me realising - I thought the band were still tuning up and they (gently) launched into ‘Kiss Me Like You Mean It’, Shirley’s countrified twang sounding great in the echoling space. I much prefer the acoustic chamber music end of the Magnetic Fields spectrum as opposed to the synth-pop one. And the former was delivered perfectly in such a grand but also intimate setting (although interestingly a song from ‘The Charm of the Highway Strip’ got one of the biggest cheers of the evening).

Across two hours the band played songs from (I’m fairly certain) every Magnetic Fields album plus songs from side-projects The Gothic Archies and The 6ths. The droll wit and clever wordplay of the songs really stood out particularly in The Nun’s Litany (drowned in distortion on record) and the rendition of The Gothic Archies (how appropriate) ‘Shipwrecked’. Plus in their occasional self-deprecating sarcasm (“this is another depressing song”).

The only downside was the echoing clatter of empty beer bottles on the marble floor often at the quietest moments (“Drinking in Church!?”). Other than that I thought this was a beautifully nuanced and magical performance in a special setting. I’m not sure all those attending would agree – I heard the odd mutter about ‘crap venue’; I’m not sure what sightlines were like if you were at the back or sides; and there was an odd system of having to leave the building to buy a token to return to exchange it for a beer or glass of wine (it was a Cathedral I suppose). Clearly the Cathdral is a building not regularly set up to host events like this but the above I thought were minor quibbles and I was more than happy to forgive them especially given how special the performance was.

The Set List

Kiss Me Like You Mean It
You Must Be Out Of Your Mind
The Luckiest Guy on The Whole East Side
Better Things
I Don’t Want To Get Over You
Acoustic Guitar
The Nun’s Litany
I Don’t Love You Anymore
I Don’t Know What To Say
Suddenly There Is A Tidal Wave
I’m Sorry I Love You


We’re All Having a Hootenanny Now
The Doll’s Tea Party
Wi' Nae Wee Bairn Ye'll Me Beget
Always Already Gone
All The Umbrellas in London
The One You Really Love
The Flowers She Sent and the Flowers She Said She Sent
Night Falls Like A Grand Piano
Fear of Trains
Summer Lies
100,000 Fireflies
From A Sinking Boat
I’m Tongue Tied
Papa Was A Rodeo

The Magnetic Fields
69 Love Songs [BUY]

The Magnetic Fields
Realism [BUY]

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

PICASTRO's 'Become Secret'

Picastro are a Toronto-based collective centred around frontwoman and song-writer Liz Hysen. “Become Secret” is their fourth album but my first introduction to the band. I was partly led to this record after reading the press quotation: “somewhere between the Dirty Three and Electrelane”. What’s not to like?!

Picastro deliver a brooding avant folk-rock akin to Godspeed You Black Emperor! backing Cat Power at her most forlorn. In addition to Cat Power, listening to “Become Secret” I am reminded of other vocalists dealing in melancholic nocturnes like Lisa Germano and Nina Nastasia. This is telling because over half these songs are instrumentals and when Hysen does sing her contribution occupies only a small portion of the song’s length. As with her band - cello, acoustic guitar, drums and piano – Hysen knows precisely how to gain maximum, often unsettling, effect from using her voice and those instruments sparingly.

This is dark chamber music built around repeated patterns of piano or cello, with equal nods to east European folk, post-rock and cinematic soundtracks. In fact if Nick Cave and Warren Ellis hadn’t delivered on one of their soundtrack commissions, Picastro’s ‘A Neck in the Desert’ would perfectly fit the bill as a replacement for one of their windswept, plaintive instrumentals. But with added eerie intensity.

I’m not normally taken by fan videos but this one from riderofheaven has the right amount of spooky minimalism and can’t-quite-see-what-it-is qualities to accompany ‘Pig and Sucker’ beautifully.

“Become Secret” is bleak, unsettling, melancholy but never alienating or obscure. Only 29 minutes long but its sombre intimacy and intensity make it utterly compelling. And next week the band are in the UK and Ireland for a tiny handful of gigs:

24 Mar Cafe Oto, London [BUY TICKETS]
25 Mar Dulcimer, Manchester [BUY TICKETS]
26 Mar Whelan’s Dublin [BUY TICKETS]
27 Mar Jolly Roger, Sherkin Island [BUY TICKETS]
28 Mar Crane Lane Theatre, Cork [BUY TICKETS]
(last two dates with Adrian Crowley)

Become Secret [BUY or BUY]

Monday, March 15, 2010

ALCOHOLIC FAITH MISSION'S 'Let This Be The Last Night We Care'

My introduction to Alcoholic Faith Mission was one of those great moments of serendipity. In the week I was recommended them, I also realised they had been added to the bill for The Besnard Lakes show in Manchester which I’m going to. And then later that week a copy of their album “Let This Be The Last Night We Care” came my way.

This is the third album from the five-piece from Copenhagen via New York. So I can’t compare it to 2006’s “Misery Loves Company” (recorded as just a duo) or “421 Wythe Avenue” recorded at said address when the newly expanded five-piece lived in Brooklyn. But after hearing “Let This Be The Last Night We Care” I know I’ll be going back to fill in those gaps in my musical knowledge.

“Folky post-rock” is an appropriate but quite reductive summation of the Alcoholic Faith Mission sound. It doesn’t truly convey their trick of making the intimate sound epic, of making introspection sound universal and gloriously anthemic. Their sojourns in the States have clearly brought a widescreen Americana influence into the mix too.

The twelve track album opens with the rippling and echoing piano of ‘Put A Virus In You’, adding in clattering wooden stick percussion and fragile, yearning vocals. The song keeps building in intensity, volume and grandeur with massed, almost choral vocals by the end. This approach is typical of many but not all the songs. The National-esque shuffle of ‘Got Love? Got Shell-Fish’ alternates a Matt Berninger-like wounded croon from Thorben Seierø Jensen (“I get love from everyone / But you”) with a double-tracked girly-squeak vocal from Kristine Permild and with uplifting whoo-whoos from the whole band. If I’m making it sound too cheery then come wallow in ‘Sobriety Up and Left’ – all hazy heartbreak and one-last-solitary-drink-before-closing sadness and solitude.

In addition to the quality of the songwriting, the two aspects to this record that make it distinctive and so appealing for me are the vocals and the shifting moods. Sometimes male, sometimes female, sometimes solo, often massed, the voices can be brittle and fractured, or squeaky almost cartoon character-like or ethereal and floating. And most songs are lovingly draped in a beguiling array of atmospheric touches and crackles.

“Let This Be The Last Night We Care” blends wounded melancholia with quiet folkiness with a sweeping Nordic grandeur. As was said to me "epic introspection never sounded so good". A highly, highly recommended buy - and if you need more testaments to its quality try reading this or this.

Alcoholic Faith Mission are playing three UK dates this month (other European dates here). I can’t wait to hear this record live (a taster from the second album follows below).

27 March - Camden Barfly, London [BUY TICKETS]
29 March – Dulcimer, Manchester (supporting The Besnard Lakes) [BUY TICKETS]
30 March - Wilmington Arms, London (with support from the excellent Deer Park) [BUY TICKETS]

Alcoholic Faith Mission
Let This Be The Last Night We Care [BUY or BUY]

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


The Miserable Rich were the band I saw live the most last year including last May at this venue when they supported Woodpigeon. But that wasn’t going to stop me seeing them headline tonight on this tour to promote new single ‘Somerhill/Bye Bye Kitty’ (and no doubt I’ll be back again when - as promised tonight - the band return to promote new album “Of Flight and Fury”. Whenever that is finally released).

First up was the antique blues guitar rags of Jamie Harrison. Seated centre-stage and delightfully engaging, he alternated finger-picked instrumentals with often witty and fast-paced songs. Definitely want to hear more.

There was then a quick turn around for Sara Lowes. She has one album out (on Red Deer Club – same as Jamie Harrison) and like The Miserable Rich a new one due soon. And like them she was unclear about exactly when. She swapped between guitar and piano both seated (apparently she stood up last week: but went all “elvis leg”) accompanied by drummer and multi-instrumentalist Gareth. Very engaging and likeable like Jamie, what really impressed was the versatility and great sound from the duo: Sara played kazoo on one song whilst strumming guitar; Gareth played keyboards whilst still drumming one handed. There was a delightful moment when he finished one song playing trombone from behind the drum-kit – and then much shared laughter when it took him five attempts to work a loop pedal properly to record said trombone for their final song. The music didn’t grab my attention as much as Jamie Harrison but she got a great reception tonight.

So an evening of likeable, good looking folk led us to the likeable, good-looking headliners, here playing as five-piece. They started with ‘Early Mourning’ – but something wasn’t quite right. Was it the very apparent amplification on the strings sounding too raw? Was it the band were a bit tense? Was it an effect of a decent-sized but less-than-packed Deaf Institute audience putting too much distance between themselves and the stage? Possibly it was none of these – maybe I have just been spoiled by the ultra-intimate and magical setting of Sacred Trinity Church in Salford last year.

With the mirrorball switched off and the band caught in two strong spotlights, the Music Hall feel of the Deaf Institute was really made plain. The Miserable Rich clearly didn’t enjoy the distant audience so asked for people to move closer from the stage. And things definitely got better from this point. There were the new songs that we heard played live last year but also two new-to-me songs including their ‘grunge’ song (it’s not). By the end of the main set and on familiar territory they had truly hit their stride with a beautifully delivered trio of songs from the first album: ‘Poodle’, ‘Monkey’ and ‘Pisshead’. During the three encores we also got a polite plea to help save 6Music: “if you want a chocolate bar, you got out for one. If you want to keep this radio station, write a letter”.

I’ve seen other performances from The Miserable Rich that have been more ‘special’ but after a nervy start this was still a great set from a group of consummate professionals. I picked up a neat package of the 7” single + CD of ‘Somerhill/Bye Bye Kitty’ + postcard + poster in hand-painted sleeve on the night. Sadly the waiting game for new album continues - it will be out “in a couple of months” not ‘March’ as expected around these parts.

The Set List:

Early Mourning
New Song ['Everybody Knows It Grows']
The Boat Song
The Time That’s Mine
Bye Bye Kitty
New Song ['I Got High Again']
Chestnut Sunday

The Miserable Rich
Twelve Ways To Count [BUY]

Sara Lowes
Back To Creation EP [BUY]

Monday, March 08, 2010

TONIGHT IN MANCHESTER: Cate Le Bon + Lawrence Arabia

Well with Spring well and truly here, this August’s Green Man Festival seems just around the corner. And to bring a little of its Welsh mountain magic a bit closer here's a mini-trailblazer for the festival working its way across the UK currently. Tonight the double-header of Cate Le Bon and Lawrence of Arabia calls into the Deaf Institute.

I saw Cate Le Bon for the first time live at Green Man last year and then got the excellent "Me Oh My" album when it came out at the end of the year. It’s gorgeous psych-folk that works equally well as quiet ballad (like ‘Sad, Sad Feet’) or the full-band sound of the seriously spooky ‘Hollow Trees House Hounds".

I know little about Lawrence Arabia except he is from New Zealand and is recently signed to Bella Union. But the track ‘Apple Pie Bed’ has well and truly earwormed it’s way into my head. The press blurb says “Think Fleetwood Mac meets The Beach Boys with a dash of Bowie and White Album-era Beatles and you’re on the right lines”. Not sure this works for me but try the song below.

At each night on this tour there is a chance to win a pair of tickets to Green Man Festival in August. With Joanna Newsom and First Aid Kit added to the bill that already includes The Flaming Lips, Beirut and Billy Bragg, this is a good incentive to attend but the music is the main draw.

Remaining dates for the tour are:
Tuesday 9 March Harley, Sheffield
Wednesday 10 March Portland Arms, Cambridge
Thursday 11 March Lexington, London
Friday 12 March Louisiana, Bristol
And tickets for Green Man Festival 20-22 August can be bought here.

Cate Le Bon
Me Oh My [BUY]

Lawrence Arabia
Chant Darling [BUY]

Friday, March 05, 2010

'Mind Yer Head': THE LOUNGS "Big Wow"

First things first: the band name. I spent several weeks trying out to figure out how to pronounce The Loungs until I finally alighted on the helpful advice on their website: “Like Young. But with a L”. I was sent a copy of the band’s second album “Big Wow” last December by one Sidney P Walthamstein. Now unless the five-piece from St Helens are now managed from Los Angeles I’m guessing that is not his real name.

The band’s home-town of St Helens lies midway between Liverpool and Manchester, and is most famous for glass-making, rugby league and Johnny Vegas. Historically part of Lancashire, it is now part of Merseyside - and let’s be honest it is hardly the most fashionable of towns. Now The Loungs lean more towards Liverpool for their musical influences - a cheery mix of classic sunshine pop, rich harmonies and fuzz-pop psychedelic trimmings. And like their hometown they are refreshingly free of hipster moves or fadsterism.

First album “We Are The Champ” came out on Manchester’s Akoustik Anarkhy; “Big Wow” is released on their own label Fresh Hair Records. And it’s an invigorating blast of optimistic and jaunty pop. It won’t win awards for breaking new musical ground but it should win a few hearts with its timeless leaving-a-smile-on-your-face good-time tunes and homespun honesty. It doesn’t boast A-list production credits as the band explains "We're just like Radiohead basically....just on the level of The Frank And Walters....but without their budget".

But “Big Wow” contains a myriad of little touches that raise it above the lumpen masses: the uplifting bah-bah-bahs in ‘Honesty Box’, the acapella sections in ‘Mind Yer Head’, the elegance of the strings in 'Jupiter and Mars' or the joyous trumpet playing throughout. Eschewing auto-tune (remember what I said about not following fashions?) instead they also deploy Colin The Robot to simple but effective use:

I was sent the ‘beta’ release in December so some things might have changed for actual release this month - but I sincerely hope not. The album is out on Monday but this Saturday in Manchester there is a FREE entry launch party at Fuel CafĂ© Bar in Withington courtesy of Cloud Sounds. Or “you can get down to St Helens on Saturday where Kaleidoscope Records will exclusively be selling it early for the bargainous prix of £8”. Either way: get ready for a big wow.

The Loungs
Big Wow [BUY]

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

"Not Miserable Now": FRIGHTENED RABBIT's 'The Winter of Mixed Drinks'

Frightened Rabbit’s second album “The Midnight Organ Fight” was my album of the year at the end of 2008. It feels like a long time coming - heralded by singles in November last year and February this year - but the follow-up third studio album is finally here. So how does “The Winter of Mixed Drinks” compare to its predecessor?

Well the first thing to note is a lack, if not a complete absence, of any cussing or swearing. This is not a key factor for me in choosing what records to buy or listen to but there was something remarkable about how singer and lyricist Scott Hutchinson choicely deployed a f-word here, a c-word there to add a visceral punch to his bitter, angry songs. The new record you could play in front of your gran without fear of offending her - if she was partial to “self-deprecating indie-folk-rock filled with sexual jealousy, disgust and rancour” that is.

Because this hasn’t changed. The 2008 record was written on the back of a failed relationship and even though the 2010 record wasn’t, it still contains plenty of self-loathing and despair. The song titles alone tell you this: ‘The Loneliness and The Scream’, ‘Footshooter’, ‘The Wrestle’; plus the numerous references to collapse, failure, death or even “an eternity of suffering” in ‘Things’. True, towards the end of the album there is ‘Not Miserable’ (“most of the misery has gone, gone... no-one knows I'm not miserable now”) but c’mon they’re not fooling me for a minute.

Frightened Rabbit are now expanded officially to a five piece (with Gordon Skene late of Make Model joining Scott, his brother Grant on drums, Billy Kennedy on guitars/keys and Andy Monaghan on bass/keys). And this shows in the widescreen sound made even more epic as well as denser and more layered (please no Arcade Fire references again). But on a few songs like ‘The Loneliness and The Scream’ the earlier acoustic, almost folky elements are brushed out in favour of industrial noise such as the drone-like long intro ‘Skip The Youth’ or collective band chants.

It’s still a powerful listen and shows that no-one can make misery sound quite so appealing and anthemic as Frightened Rabbit. But I’m not sure yet if it is as heartbreakingly compelling as “The Midnight Organ Fight”. Also I know I need to get over my urge to will this record into being MOF2 - which it isn’t nor should be. So even with Spring coming, I’m looking forward to spending more time in “The Winter of Mixed Drinks” and hoping the rest of the record earworms its way into my affections over time in the way that first single “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” did.

And starting this week a short UK tour from Frightened Rabbit before they head to Europe and North America in April and May. At least one UK date has already sold out so don’t delay:

Thursday 4 Duchess, York
Friday 5 Club Academy, Manchester
Saturday 6 West End Centre, Aldershot
Monday 8 Bristol Thekla, Bristol
Tuesday 09 Academy 2, Oxford
Wednesday 10 Koko, London
Friday 12 Academy 2, Birmingham
Saturday 13 Leadmill 2, Sheffield
Sunday 14 Arts Centre, Norwich
Support from Airship. Tickets in advance here.

MY BACKWARDS WALK (Daytrotter Session)
Frightened Rabbit
[BUY "The Winter of Mixed Drinks"]

Monday, March 01, 2010


There doesn't seem to be a single day this March without a good gig happening in Manchester. I could easily have made at least a second if not third mixtape out of the rich material on offer. But somehow have managed to limit myself to 70 minutes. Link to mixtape [70 mins/ 79 MB] in the post following - enjoy. And if that wasn't enough read on for info on the Steve Gullick rock photography exhibition.

Girls Lust For Life [2.19] (2 Mar Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
The Loungs Annie Hall [5.44] (6 Mar Fuel FREE ENTRY)
The Hidden Cameras In the NA [10.04] (21 Mar Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
The Phenomenal Handclap Band I Been Born Again [14.54] (3 Mar Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Frightened Rabbit Swim Until You Can't See Land [19.09] (5 Mar Club Academy BUY TICKETS)
Archie Bronson Outfit Shark's Tooth [22.20] (28 Mar Academy 3 BUY TICKETS)
Kill It Kid Heaven Never Seemed So Close [25.42] (31 Mar MoHo Live BUY TICKETS)
The Besnard Lakes Albatross [30.20] (29 Mar Dulcimer BUY TICKETS)
Cate Le Bon Hollow Trees House Hounds [33.49] (8 Mar Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Tindersticks Black Smoke [37.26] (23 Mar Manchester Cathedral BUY TICKETS)
The Magnetic Fields You Must Be Out Of Your Mind [40.34] (19 Mar Manchester Cathedral BUY TICKETS)
The Miserable Rich Pisshead [44.17] (7 Mar Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Local Natives Sun Hands [49.03] (4 Mar Club Academy BUY TICKETS)
Lawrence Arabia Apple Pie Bed [52.30] (8 Mar Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Times New Viking Martin Luther King Day [55.13] (17 Mar Sound Control BUY TICKETS)
Alcoholic Faith Mission My Eyes To See [59.20] (29 Mar Dulcimer BUY TICKETS)
Picastro Spilt Head [63.31] (25 Mar Dulcimer BUY TICKETS)
A Silver Mt. Zion For Wanda [70.13] (21 Mar Academy 3 BUY TICKETS)

Not forgetting:
1 Mar dd/mm/yyyy Ruby Lounge / 4 March Brendan Benson Academy 2 / 6 Mar The Woodentops Deaf Institute / 6 Mar The XX Academy 2 / 7 Mar White Hills + Pontiak Ruby Lounge / 7 Mar Kaki King Academy 3 / 10 Mar Errors Deaf Institute / 11 Mar The Invisible Deaf Institute / 11 Mar Retribution Gospel Choir Ruby Lounge / 11 Mar Four Tet Club Academy / 12 Mar Blood Red Shoes Academy 3 / 12 Mar Alberta Cross Night & Day / 14 Mar The Joy Formidable Ruby Lounge / 16 Mar Lucy & The Caterpillar MoHo Live / 18 Mar Anna Kashfi Zion Centre / 18 Mar The Indelicates Ruby Lounge / 19 Mar Why? Deaf Institute / 20 Mar Wild Beasts Academy 2 / 20 Mar Two Door Cinema Club Deaf Institute / 20 Mar New Young Pony Club MoHo Live / 20 Mar Mount Kimbie Islington Mill / 22 Mar Emma Pollock + Josh Pyke Academy 3 / 22 Mar The Album Leaf Deaf Institute / 23 Mar Islands Deaf Institute / 24 Mar Youthmovies Deaf Institute / 24 Mar North Atlantic Oscillation Ruby Lounge / 25 Mar The Twilight Sad Ruby Lounge / 25 Mar Josh Rouse Academy 2 / 26 Mar The Jim Jones Revue Sound Control / 26 Mar Pete & The Pirates MoHo Live / 28 Mar Owen Pallett Deaf Institute

Retrospective exhibition by legendary rock photographer Steve Gullick.
"Featuring shots taken for NME and Melody Maker as well as his own publications Careless Talk Costs Lives and Loose Lips Sink Ships.
Its runs from March 12th til March 27th at the KRAAK Gallery, on Stevenson Square in the Northern Quarter, Manchester.

Thursday March 11th 20:00 - Opening party @ The Bay Horse. Live music from The Tenebrous Liar and Milk Maid plus DJs.

Saturday March 27th 15:00 - Steve Gullick will give a guided talk around the exhibition. Places are extremely limited. Email stevegullick@live.com to put your name down or for more info"

The exhibition will include photos of: Nirvana / The Jesus Lizard / Frank Black / Patti Smith / Bjork / Beck / Yeah Yeah Yeahs / Scout Niblett / Lou Reed / Mark E Smith / The Drones / Neil Young / Nick Cave / Richard Hawley / The Flaming Lips


Mixtape download here [70mins / 79MB]