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Saturday, 31 January 2009

kaput: drouthies, thu 16 0ct 2008

A few videos of three of the five songs we played at our gig in Drouthies back in October. Only just got the files to put online this week. We're playing at Fat Sams on this coming Friday (6th Feb), should hopefully get that filmed too.

1. "Happy Birthday"

2. "Captain Capo"

3. "Eyes Like Palaces"

Monday, 26 January 2009


I have to admit I'm sometimes not sure why I'm writing this blog, or what to write about. I'm torn between trying to alter it to have some kind of specific theme, or just continuing to write about random things that take my fancy. If the blog has any purpose, it's to get me to write about things on a regular basis in an attempt to keep my brain working and expand my vocabulary a little. As for reviews, I'm just wanting to try and be able to actually explain why I like things, rather than just saying "it's good". I'm pretty bad for that. I'm constantly thinking about music/films/whatever in my head, but I can never articulate those thoughts very well. I would like to get good at it. I'm not expecting there to be an audience, this is a fairly solitary pursuit. All the same, I have no intention of writing about my life. It's just not interesting.

I'm feeling pretty inspired though by Tom Suttcliffe's piece on The Wrestler, from Friday's Independent. I agree with the points he made, some similar interpretations had been swimming about the murky depths waters of my mind, unable to break for surface. It's all practice though, I'm not expecting to get to pro-standard, but would like to be able to write well.

I'm toying with trying to write at least a few lines about every record I buy this year, but don't know how workable that will be, we'll see. Digging through my CD collection while I rip it all on to my PC has thrown up a few interesting things as well, something may come of that.

Off to see Frost/Nixon now.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

the second hand marching band - a dance to half death

The Second Hand Marching Band are a 22-piece collective strewn accross the Central Belt of Scotland from Fife to Glasgow, featuring moonlighting members of various Glasgow/Edinburgh bands. 'A Dance To Half Death' is their first release, a six song EP appearing via Wishaw's Chaffinch Records, who have previously released material by King Creosote and Lucky Luke.

Opener "Mad Sense" is a short, mournful, burst of what sounds like a harmonium and vocals. It's quite slight, but the layering of female vocal over the male lead is quite pretty. Second track "Lies" brings in marching drums, brass and choir vocals, and acts largely as a bridge into the EP's two undeniable highlights - "A Dance To Half Death" and "Don't!".

"A Dance to Half Death" sounds like Beirut, there's no getting away from it, but (a) sounding like someone else is never a crime, if (b) the song itself is as beautiful as this. The brass section on its is brilliant as the second half of the song sways woozily and wistfully, barely buoyed by accordian and percussion. "Don't!" is more excitable, coming on like Architecture in Helsinki if they'd been from the Highlands & Islands rather than Australia.

"Not Yet" is more downbeat, starting as a finger-picked lament before building up again towards the end, while "We Walk in the Room" seems broadly to be a theme song for the band. Musically it's a more subdued sibling to the EP's title track, but is lovely in it's own right.

I've not had a chance to see the Second Hand Marching Band live yet, but on the basis of this EP they're shaping up to be something quite special indeed.

'A Dance To Half Death' is available direct from Chaffinch, or alternatively from the fine gentlemen of Norman Records.

[Stream] The Second Hand Marching Band - A Dance To Half Death

white lies - to lose my life...

So, White Lies, one of the first big hype bands of 2009, voted #1 in the BBC's Sound of 2009 poll and tipped everywhere else that requires an opinion. Like Duffy last year, there must be too much money riding on them for failure to be an option - at the time of writing the album is on course to debut at #1 in the album chart this coming Sunday. Of course, there's nothing to say that most of those CDs won't be in the second-hand racks in a few months if it's no good.

It seems so far that White Lies are more so defined by who they sound like than what they sound like. That sound being the gloomy, atmosperic mid 80s indie rock. Think Julian Cope fronting Echo & the Bunnymen. Grey raincoats and messy dyed black hair. The Cure. And, likely through accident more than design, The Sound (former label-mates of the Bunnymen and one of the most unjustly neglected bands of that time - I'm sure Bono and the Edge were taking notes though). "E.S.T." nods heavily in the direction of stadium-era Depeche Mode, while "From The Stars" cribs from Joy Division's "Atmosphere".

Listening to 'To Lose My Life', it's clear that it's made by a young band in thrall to a particular sound. That's not to say it's bad, far from it. The opening tracks, and former singles, "Death" and "To Lose My Life" both actually sound much better on the album than they did on the radio. The whole album hangs together well as an entity, so individual songs benefit from being placed in some sort of context.

There's not much in the way of obvious, mainstream, anthemic crowd-pleasers - though there's hardly anything all that challenging either. Most of the songs are mid-paced, slow burners, which is really my one major criticism of the album - there isn't much variation in tempo throughout. Eventually, it all starts to blend into one somewhere after the midway mark. The adolescent angst and forced gloom of the lyrics gets a bit grating after a while too.

There's definitely a lot of potential here, and hopefully 'To Lose My Life' will do well enough to allow White Lies a second album, and more importantly an opportunity to forge a path of their own out from under the looming shadow of their influences. Still, it worked well as a starting point for U2...

[Stream] White Lies - To Lose My Life... (full album)
[Video] White Lies - "Death"

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

recent films round-up

Watched a few things lately that I thought I would write about before I forget. Looks like my Cineworld card may earn it's keep yet...

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Danny Boyle's new film, set in Mumbai, telling the story of Jamal Malik and how he found himself one question away from winning the Indian version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire". Jamal finds himself under police interrogation when he is suspected of cheating, so proceeds to explain how he came to know each answer. Through the flashbacks we basically get his life story, growing up on the streets as orphans with his brother and his search for the girl he loved and lost.

The poster quote ("The feel-good film of the decade!") is probably a little misleading - the ending may be (mostly) happy, but quite a large part of the film is more downbeat, even grim in places. Still, there is also plenty of humour to be found along the way. The 3 main characters have been well cast at the 3 different age points, and the actors are well transitioned. Dev Patel (Anwar in "Skins") was especially good as the 18yr old Jamal, bewildered and unsure of everything but his feelings for Latika.

The Wrestler (2008)

"The Wrestler" has been widely hailed as Mickey Rourke's big comeback and "the Rocky of wrestling". The film is centered around Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a former top professional wrestler whom we see 20 years later back at the bottom of the ladder, still fighting on the independent circuit and still a favourite with the fans, but barely getting by and in poor health. The story follows his attempts to adjust to life after wrestling when forced to give up, as well as his attempts to rebuild his relationship with his estranged daughter and his attempts to forge a relationship with a stripper. Ultimately, the lure of one final fight proves too much.

I'm generally not the biggest fan of wrestling, but I think the fight scenes do look good. The film seems quite respectful toward the sport, and all the fellow wrestlers in the film are wrestlers in real life. I'm also not normally particularly squeemish, but the scenes centered on the extreme wrestling match against the Necro Butcher had me turning away. Rourke is nothing short of excellent as The Ram, much has been made of his own "wilderness years" so it could be argued that maybe the role isn't all that much of a stretch, but his portrayal is sympathetic and fairly understated, while physically looking exactly the part too. I don't think first choice Nic Cage would have been right for the role, but then I don't think there are any other actors I have such an irrational dislike of.

Probably my only complaint is that the storylines regarding the love interest and the daughter are both maybe a little under-explored, especially the daughter. However, maybe I'm asking for too much, I've been spoiled lately by watching TV series on DVD, with the extra time that offers to explore much more background. All the same, it's an excellent film.

For those that have been counting, those were the 14th and 15th films respectively that I have seen on my Cineworld card. The coming week should see me fitting in numbers 16 and 17, with both Frost/Nixon and Milk opening on Friday - I'm especially surprised/pleased that the Dundee Cineworld is showing the latter.

On top of my cinema-going, I've been trying to tend to the ever-growing DVD pile. Finally watched Red Road (2006) last night. It's quite tense viewing, and possibly not ideal for bedtime! Apparently the first Scottish film shot under the Dogme principles, and the first of a trilogy involving differing configurations of the four main characters. It's probably a bit tricky to describe the plot quickly without basically giving everything away, so will just refer back to the IMDB link. Did actually enjoy it and would recommend it, but be warned it's a little on the bleak side.

Also finished watching season one of Mad Men, a drama set in the world of advertising in New York in the early 1960s. It's quite slow burning and did take me a couple of episodes to get into it, but I felt my patience was rewarded - patience is required as the show is light on action and heavy on detail and subtlety. Now I'm just waiting (im)patiently on season two making it to the UK, much like with the excellent Californication. Nevermind, in the meantime I have the complete Sopranos box set to get started on...all 86 episodes. I may be some time...

Monday, 12 January 2009

king creosote - "twin tub twin" (live)

In honour of the amount of laundry I've been doing over the last few days, here's a YouTube video of King Creosote performing "Twin Tub Twin" at the 2008 Green Man festival. I've long wished that he'd record a studio version with the band in the style of the live version, but I know that's pretty unlikely. There's an edited version with slightly better sound here. The original version of "Twin Tub Twin" can be found on the album 'Rocket D.I.Y.' (Fence/Domino, 2005).

In the summer I had the idea of a laundry or housework themed CD, but got pretty stuck after this song so had to give up in the end.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009


This is what happens when you forget that your phone is in your jacket pocket, then proceed to leave said jacket behind the goals while you play 5-a-side. Disaster. I am going to buy a replacement screen online and have a stab at fixing it (photo guide!) - I have an MSc in electronics, so it shouldn't be impossible...

Update: Replacement screen + tools purchased from eBay for £20.98 inc. shipping. Hopefully that'll do the trick!

Monday, 5 January 2009

top 23 (minus 2) albums of 2005

I recently re-discovered a list of my 23 favourite albums of 2005 and thought I'd post it here. Technically it's only a top 21 as the Owen and Styrofoam albums actually came out in November 2004, but I've left them in - I even suspected I was wrong at the time.

In alphapetical order:

Alfie - Crying At Teatime
Bloc Party - Silent Alarm
Broadcast - Tender Buttons
Cut Copy - Bright Like Neon Love
The Frames - Burn The Maps
Richard Hawley - Coles Corner
Hood - Outside Closer
Hookers Green #1 - On How The Illustrious Captain...
Jamie Lidell - Multiply
Low - The Great Destroyer
Mice Parade - Bem Vinda Vontade
Owen - I Do Perceive
The National - Alligator
Kate Rusby - The Girl Who Couldn't Fly
Shout Out Louds - Howl Howl Gaff Gaff
Sigur Ros - Takk
Spyamp - GTi
Stapleton - Hug The Coast
Stars - Set Yourself On Fire
Sufjan Stevens - Illinois
Styrofoam - Nothing's Lost
Vashti Bunyan - Lookaftering
Why? - Elephant Eyelash

I think the list holds up pretty well, I don't think my tastes have changed all that much since it was compiled. The only thing I'd quibble with now would probably be the Vashti Bunyan album.