Archive for January 3rd, 2006

2005

Well, seeing as everyone else with be doing their that was the year, that was type thing, I might as well join the bandwagon. However, unlike everyone else, I’ve actually waited until the year was over to get round to it. And, indeed, a year in which I have started a blog.

For me, the most interesting thing about posting this blog has been the correspondence that I’ve received as a result of it. And, the sheer venom of a lot of it. Quite amusing. (There was a time if you type “mysoginistic fuckwad” into Google I came out top of the search.) There must be a fair whack of people out there who just spend the day searching the web for their own names. Seething balls of inadequacy just waiting for someone to validate their existence by telling them they’re as great as they think they are. Well, here’s the news: You’ve got my money, I’ve got your product. Now, fuck off! Assholes. Just because you’ve sweated for years over a frenzied keyboard/fretboard/surfboard (couldn’t finish that) does not mean I am obliged to enjoy your output. And, if I buy said output and it I think is crap I have every right to share this information. Why to het up about the opinion of one lone corner of a very large web?

I also get accused of only ever slagging things off. This, I know is complete bullsplat. But, again, I wonder why you are so bothered.

I have no idea how many hits this site has taken. I have no interest. Although it does always please me to hear from people that have stumbled across it and read something (no matter their take on it). It surprises me to see external links. A surprising number of people I know drop comments on stuff in it. I hope that they’re all getting something from it. My intention in starting this was really a training exercise. To practice putting what I was thinking into clear and cohesive words for others to understand. I’d spent so much time on the internet being willfully misinterpreted (by the kind of person that would sum up this paragraph by picking out the words “I was thinking”) that I felt I needed it. (It is this singular purpose that is the reason for my not including comments on the site, to answer anyone that’s interested. Although, I do intend to have them on the music part if I ever post older music or even make any more – one more resolution buys the farm.)

But, I will say this to all of you: Remember it’s all just one man’s opinion.

And so, without further ado, onto my Things of The Year:

10. Yamasuki – Le Monde Fabuleux De Yamasuki
Pleasant surprise of the year. A record with just so much sheer joy packed into the minutes than most other artists can’t even put into a whole career. A year packed with great Japanese related music.

9. Howl’s Moving Castle
It was tempting to put Sin City in here. Though looking back at what I wrote at the time, I remember just how disappointed I was in it. So, instead we go for the equally visually stunning Howl’s… More making-me-grin Japanese stuff. Is there a theme going here?

8. UKNova
Just about the anniversary of 9/11, I needed to buy a new telly but instead took the decision to chuck the damn thing out. I was spending way to much time lying on the couch watching the same episodes of Frasier over and over again. However, this year there was finally something on that struck me as event telly, a definite must-see: Chris Morris‘ new sitcom Nathan Barley. So, I introduced myself to the wonderful world of bit torrent and in particular the site UKNova. So, in addition to this excellent (and much under-rated IMO) sitcom, I also enjoyed Julia Davis‘ excellent dark Nighty Night. Well, the first series. The second was absolutely awful, sub-Benny Hill gross out. Very sad. Another great new sitcom was Armando Iannucci‘s The Thick Of It featuring the excellent (if currently slightly cloudy) Chris Langham. I got to see the all new Dr Who. Thought Eccleston was excellent and have high hopes for David Tennant. And, at the other end of the scale, the epic adaptation of DickensBleak House – perfectly pitched and cast, the kind of thing that the BBC deserves it’s reputation for.

I did watch some real shit as well, though.

7. Flying Matchstick Men
Decent local band shocker! Three gigs, all terribly exciting. Looking forward to them taking the world in 2006 (and, hopefully supporting Sparks). Which is nice.

6. Kung Fu Hustle
Cartoon madness and overt sentimentality. Oh, and completely hilarious.

5. Ian MacEwan – Saturday
This book blew my mind kinda like tripping of a sign that reads ‘Genius At Work’ and falling into the arms of the woman you love. Since I first read it, themes have kept coming back to me. The main once being that of lives invaded. It’s not a pro or anti war piece, it’s much more humane than that. It just asks questions without taking a stance. Or, if you’d rather it’s deep personal dreams. Full stop.

It also, got me digging out some Greame Greene I hadn’t read yet and scouring charity shops for others by him. I fear I may in a year or two have read his complete output. ‘Fear’ purely because I can’t imagine a world without uncovering another that I haven’t. (A bit like when Vonnegut goes.) I also came across (as part of May We Borrow Your Husband? And Other Comedies of the Sexual Life) that wonderful story bout the boy whose father is killed by the pig falling from the balcony. If this was not in your high school reader, I can only recommend searching it out.

Another book that I feel I must mention here, purely because it feels right is David Mitchell‘s The Cloud Atlas, a book with the dubious dual honours of being Booker Prize shortlisted and Richard & Judy‘s book of the year. But somehow that’s very fitting. elegantly structured (and, fairly gimmickily – but you all know I’m a sucker for that) it covers a lot of the same contemprary issues as McEwan’s book, if a little more clear on naming the villains. But, without pontificating. A staggering work of majesty, that would’ve got a much bigger piece had I got round to reading it earlier.

4. Team America: World Police
Released way back in January, and not bettered all year. Crude and rude to just about everyone. Also featuring the best parody of musical theatre since The Tall Guy.

3. Slim Cessna’s Auto Club in Denver.
In any other year – no, scratch that – lifetime both of these gigs would be sat atop any ‘best of’ list. But, 2005 was just so fucken great for live music. With a few exceptions (you know who you are Antony His The Voltas) all the gigs I’ve attended have been excellent. And, these two would be top of the pile – the creme de la creme – were it not for the simple fact of one all-time hero and three new ones.

2. Flannery’s Mounted Head.
Just nudging ahead of SCAC because of the complete emotional force of the night. I’ve heard none of the tracks from this again since, but it all still rings clear as a bell, and sends shivers down my spine. Album! Now!! Or at least a tour…I know a guy that sometimes promotes stuff…

1. Spookey
2005 – the year of the cat: the Spookey Cat!! Har-har. Three gigs, two compilation tracks, and an album. Really that’s what you want all bands to be putting your way in a twelve month period. The perfect embodiment of the if-they-play-go-see rule. Maybe if I’d had one more drink the night before I wouldn’t have grit my teeth and dragged my sorry ass to Stereo on as miserable wet Tuesday night in May. Thank god, I did, though. (What was it George Michael says about corners…) Everything that rock ‘n’ roll is about, a joyous rollercoaster ride. They better be back this year, I don’t think I could cope otherwise.

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Written by Tony Kiernan

03 January 2006 at 5:02 pm

Posted in Books, DVD, Film, Gigs, Misc, Records, Theatre

Slim Cessna’s Auto Club/Munly & The Lee Lewis Harlots – The Bluebird Theatre, Denver (31 December 2005)

Ah, no more jetlagged getting up at 5:30 in the AM and having to watch the local news network (oh, it is as bad as you’d imagine – but, not as bad as the national stuff). No, this morning was a proper missed-breakfast-completely-hungover one, and I felt great. So, after leisurely trip up the Rockies, to Red Rocks National Park & Amphitheatre (in glorious shirt-sleeve sunshine, please note all you folk that told me I’d have to wrap up very warm if I was off to Denver – and, cue me giggling to myself about the phrase Under a sky blue sky, but having learnt my lesson about how well humour travels so not sharing it); then, a brief feed and water in an oirish theme bar – where I got to toast New Year as all the folks (literally for me) back home; and, off again to the neo-temple that is the Bluebird Theatre.

Munly and(A small digression about the venue, methinks. Lovely early 20th century cinema/music hall type place. The kind of thing that over here would have been a bingo hall for years, but just might be getting reclaimed; like the Glasgow Academy. Only, much smaller. Kinda the same building with the Garage‘s capacity. It would be a nasty style bar in Glasgow. Erm, that’s ‘nasty’ as in unpleasant not as in get on down wit’ da nasty style)

Opening tonight we have Munly And The Lee Lewis Harlots. Despite Munly’s singular take on the world and particular style being so essential to SCAC, his records have, to date, kinda left me cold. (It’s quite telling that the bits I think work best on Jimmy Carter Syndrome are the ones that feature Mr Cessna. I just don’t think they’re for me. However, this bothers me as I can’t put my finger on just why.) However, following last night‘s blistering performance, and the complete revelation that was Tarantella (who I’d heard bits of previously but they never really clicked), I have great hopes for the live version of the band.

The Lee Lewis HarlotsBravely(?), they opt for a set tonight of mostly new material (I must state that this is pointed out to me, only recognising two songs seemed about right as far as I was concerned). And, it’s a juddering dark rockabilly noise that they make. Led by the man himself on a range of rather lovely vintage stringed things, soaring accompaniment from the harlots themselves, and some particularly splendid drumming. I am a sucker for a band with a decent drummer, and this great two floor-tom shuffle is among some of the best I’ve experienced.

The new stuff seems a much harder more driving sound, and augurs well for the next album. Which I’ll definitely be picking up. So, they must’ve been doing something right. Unfortunately, it still doesn’t reach inside me and grab me the way I want it to. And, after this performance, I can’t help thinking that it’s me that’s lacking something. If that makes any sense. There’s no new clothes type thing going on here. I know I should be loving every minute of this. But, I’m not.

Maybe I’m expecting too much, too often. Or, just trying too hard. For once.

Slim Cessna's Auto ClubNew Years Eve 2005, and I’m – as can only be expected – several more sheets to the wind than the previous night. (Colorado is a brewing state, apparently. In addition to being the home of two of the biggest ‘beer’ companies in the world – neither of whom shall I name – they do a very fine range of pale ales that bear no resemblance to the anemic ‘Indian‘ stuff we get all over the place, proper tasty beer. All the pubs have Newkie on draught too. I’ve never even seen that in Newcastle itself.) I’m also near-praying than the previous night wasn’t a fluke (I’ve been told that, even for them, it was a particularly great performance).

Slim and OrlyTonight they start with SCAC 101 – one of the news ones. A braver step than starting with the show-stopper? Hard to say, it’s such a stonking track in itself. And, we go wild again.

We get a slightly amended set from the night before (including this time Goddamn Blue Yodel #7, which I seriously didn’t realise how much I had missed the night before) but jiggled about to quite an extent. Whether this was for fun or to facilitate ringing in the bells, who knows. Actually, who cares.

Ringing in the bells with Jello BiafraAnd, so it is, that just before midnight we get Jello Biafra back on stage again for another rousing turn around Jesus Christ. It could be more together, it might not. There’s certainly a damn site more farting about. It’s great.

And then, it’s 2006! Champagne is passed around. We do all the usual stuff, and I can’t help thinking that this might be the best way I’ve ever spent the new year. (No offense to those I hid in the woods with last year, but witnessing a bunch of my all time heroes having a rare tear on stage might just have pipped it.)

Dwight Pentecost on the banjoOk, I’ll try not to just keep shouting BRILLIANT!!!! in a Fast Show stylee. So what have we got? New song Americadia, with it’s refrain I apologise for your american ways might be deeply political, might not. But, it shit hot. My all time favourite Pine Box has been completely rearranged. It now embraces bass player Danny’s trumpet playing. The closing section (…so we were singing…) has now been replaced with a huge build-up six-part harmony of Hallelujah. Great stuff. And then there’s…oh, sod it…BRILLIANT!!!!

Bought a couple of t-shirts in a smaller size than I normally would, working on the “american sizes are bigger” premise. They may well have fit, but some maple syrup burst in my bag on the flight home meaning I had to wash them immediately. This resulted in typical Fruit of The Loom shrinkage, so I didn’t even get the chance to wear them the once. 😦

Roll on next year, the bookings are being made.

Written by Tony Kiernan

03 January 2006 at 4:47 pm

Posted in Gigs

Slim Cessna’s Auto Club/Tarantella – The Bluebird Theatre, Denver (30 December 2005)

NB: The pictures on this post are courtesy of Carole Kennedy. Hence them being better than my usual tosh.

So, what’s the furthest you’ve ever gone for a gig? Beginning to fear that I’d never see my beloved Slim Cessna’s Auto Club (SCAC from here on) anywhere near these shores, and having no life to speak of really (ok, and slightly buoyed by the takings from the Half Man Half Biscuit gig) I made a pilgrimage to their hometown of Denver, Colorado for their annual New Year’s bash.Tarantella, The Bluebird Theatre, Denver 30 December 2005

First night, and first up we get Tarantella. Like most of the groups around the city they seem to be comprised of a bunch of interchangeable musicians that all belong to the central pool that the city has. (It’s kinda like the Bellshill scene of the eighties, only writ larger – and a lot more country.) In fact, in addition to legendary local producer (and, guitarist, but I’m not so familiar with that area of his work) Bob Ferbrache, there are no less than three members of SCAC taking part here.

Initially it gets off to a very shaky start. Lead vocalist Kal Cahoone really looks uneasy. In fact, you can’t help think that she’d really rather be anywhere else at this moment in time. As the first song comes to a close, I’m more concerned for the poor lass’ welfare than I am disappointed in just how dull, how nothing, it was. The second track (no chat, not titles) picks up a slightly more sleazy groove. But, despite this – and, a particularly glorious swooping solo from violinist and Painted Saint Kelly O’Dea – still there’s something distinctly unconvincing and disengaged about what’s going on onstage.

Tarantella, The Bluebird Theatre, Denver 30 December 2005Then Kal straps on her squeezebox and things look like they could be taking a turn for the better (or at least more interesting). As they start playing, my heart sinks all the more: This is obviously meant to be the slow meaningful one. Kal starts mumbling away in spanish (I assume, could be portugese I’m not that hot on languages). And then, something happens and all the pieces just slip into place. The sound begins to gel and the band become, quite simply, mesmerising.

This is the kind of thing that gets called americana round these parts. Unlike many of the tedious wastes of space that embrace the term, it actually quite fits this lot. Melding together everything kinda bordertown and dusty (mariachi, porchsong, even dashes of western swing) they come up with something dark and brooding, but as majestically affecting as Ennio Morricone. (Every year or two, I’ll read something about some artist that you’ve never got – say Polly Harvey – and the journo manages to convince you that it might be worth checking them out again? Then you do and realise that they sill are a crap as you’d always imagined? Well, this is the kind of stuff they describe but it never is.)

I demand a recount! I want those first two songs all over again. Guess I’ll have to make do with the album…

Slim Cessna's Auto Club - damn fine rockin'And, so to the main event of the evening…

Tonight they – rather bravely, in my opinion – open with what I’ve always assumed is the ‘show-stopper Hold My Head. And, as a statement of intent it’s pretty damn fine. Especially if that intent is let’s paaaartty!!!!. I’d defy anyone not to just be lifted by the sheer electricity in the hall. Yes, it’s a special occasion and you can be fairly certain that at least about 99.9999% of the crowd are here for love of the band and a right good knees up. In fact, apparently that people have come from all over the country for this(!).

Munly Munly - The Anti-BezNow, I’d always had this lot down as Slim on vocals and guitar, and Munly on vocals, mandolins, banjos and guitars. Although this is strictly true, the fact that they seldom played any string instruments came as a bit of a surprise to me. However, the way they lead the band and play off each other is awesome. The performance is part spiritual revival with them summoning demons and call upon god (apparently in a non-ironic manner, too). Part old style variety; we get dance routines, we get burlesque mugging. I keep getting flashes of Eric Morecambe in Slim’s moves. This is, of course, makes him instantly endearing.

Oh, and they do that clever-clever thing that the Badseeds and their ilk do of actually being competent musicians and creating a unique sound – the sneaky beggars. We’ve already seen Rumley’s multi-instrumentalism with openers Tarantella, a trait he appears to share with the rest of the band (except the drummer, but aint that always the way – I always assume this is because no-one else can drum). Despite his double necked jesus-encrusted double-neck guitar, the Reverend (genuine) Dwight smashes another of my illusions about the band by playing more banjo than anything else; including through his distortion for a lot of the time. Awesome.

I couldn’t really choose any highlights. Each track recognised was met with a surge of ‘kinyesman!!! There’s more than fair sprinkling of new songs in there, all of which work. This bodes well for the next studio album, which unfortunately will be all too far off. In fact in this live forum, even Jesus Is In My Body, My Body Has Let Me Down from the live album makes a lot more sense. I really hope none of the shortcomings of the last studio album are repeated.

It might be because I haven’t slept in something like 28 hours, it might be the altitude, it might be the beer, but by the time the encores come round I’m definitely having a near religious experience. Eagerly anticipating just what they’re going to do to top everything that’s gone before for the encore (christ, what can they do to top it).

Slim Cessna's Auto Club & Jello Biafra - several heroes for the price of slightly lessThen they introduce special guest vocalist Jello Biafra and that near experience tips over to full-blown. He joins them for a rousing (if bizarrely chosen) version of Jesus Christ, which gives his trademark warble the chance for some full-blown yodelling. He fits rather nicely with the more ‘practiced’ frontmen’s two part take on it, too.

After about an hour’s adulation for the man himself, and expressions from the band that that has been a dream come true, the barrel through an insane version of Lethal Injection as it there’s no tomorrow. But, of course, the best thing is there is tomorrow.

Fan-fucken-tastic.

Written by Tony Kiernan

03 January 2006 at 1:35 pm

Posted in Gigs