Dirty Three

May 11-17, 2003, UK
So you pack your little sandwiches and climb into your little car and put your little foot down hard on the pedal with Houses of the Holy blasting really fuckin' loud. You can't go south from Brighton on that beach with all the little pebbles because you'd drive into the sea so you head north and soon your little heart is pounding and your little sandwiches are all eaten up but at last you've driven "1000 Miles" and the last sound you hear is your little heart exploding with joy because you know at last you are exactly where you need to be. And where I needed to be was on the Dirty Three UK tour because a band that can alternate tears of sorrow and joy and exhilaration so rapidly is a rare thing indeed. Rumours that violinist Warren Ellis was a little fed up of touring meant that I wanted to make the most of this as they might not be back for a long time. In the end I made it to four shows in Brighton, Leicester, Leeds and the second smaller London gig, skipping the big London gig in favour of Calla who I'd never seen before and who were unfussily majestic and almost as intense. I also missed the Glasgow date as I headed into London that day to see the last gig on the Noxagt tour, another idiosyncratic trio who are rather more brutal.
Warren Ellis is a seasoned raconteur with hilarious tales to introduce each intense instrumental beauty. These are loose and shift shape every night around a similar theme. In Leicester heckles diverted some of them off track into even more oddly comedic angles. So Warren might tell a silly story of how their Ocean Songs album was inspired by the smell of urine in a landlocked Chicago heavy metal studio. Then the four of them kick into some deleriously gorgeous yet robust and hard edged rock, shaped in chemical moulds that only years of playing together can bring. Four? Does that make them the Dirty Three Plus One now? Relative newcomer Martin Casey who plays alongside Warren in the Bad Seeds seemed unsurprisingly a little more tentative in Brighton but fit right in with the others, and Warren and the utterly individual and ever more awe inspiring loose limbed drummer Jim White seem to have a particularly telepathic understanding of those ecstatic places they can open up and bleed. Some tunes got pushed into extended foraging forays that upped the intensity ante some, and in Brighton and London when they ran down "Sue's Last Ride" the levels and layers they built and built just seemed like they couldn't get any higher and just kept on reaching for the sun. Warren reckons guitarist Mick Turner regularly walks on water in hotel baths, but he certainly has developed a highly original and utterly distinctive style of playing that seems to reflect the wide open desert shores and burning sun of his former homeland Australia. If Warren's violin is a skyburst of emotive colour and Jim's drumming skitters like pebbles pulled by roaring waves on the beach, then Mick is probably painting in the desert lands and mountain ranges in the heady elemental dirty brew. What was really nice about seeing the band a few times was the way they just seemed to get better every night, although the Leeds show at Brudenell Social Club won out over the last sold out London show at the dark and dingy Barfly due to better atmosphere and sound in a nicer venue. The Brighton and Leeds shows were a contrast being all seated theatres, making Warren's habit of spitting high into the air as he bows his little violin and kicks his leg backwards seem slightly incongruous and transgressive. In Brighton Clogs played a pleasantly engaging set of what you might call chamber rock if you were feeling lazy after an alcohol fueled road trip holiday. But at least I didn't compare them to Rachel's like I did at the gig. In Leicester and Leeds Mr Cardboard Boxman were as much a revelation as two scruffy Australian guitar twangers with an array of looping gadgets and weird junk shop instruments could be, playing part improvised cutout sundown reflections. But it was Dirty Three who had the songs for the ladies with the darkness in their hearts. 
6875 Hits

Wire

April 24, 2003, Hoxton, UK
Walking into an East London pub and seeing Wire on stage soundchecking is a good sight for these eyes! Bassist Graham Lewis had informed me that there would be a secret warm up gig for their Flag Burning event at the Barbican two days later. There, the plan was to play the entire iconic Pink Flag album and then after an interval play some of their current material much of which found its way spitting and snarling onto the new album Send. Rhodes had been billed as support to Klang, but didn't show, although Wire in their stead was more than adequate recompense for just about every alien on board. They'd been billed on the venue's website as The Pink Flags so it might've been so obvious. The amusement factor of Wire playing "Three Girl Rhumba" whilst supporting a former Elastica guitarist's new band was not lost on any who could spot the connection. Besides the few who'd sauntered in early and heard them play "Reuters" and "Ex Lion Tamer" for soundcheck, I only knew around twenty people who were aware that they were about to hear the most interesting band of the punk-rock-77 era play the best version of their first album from points A to B (again avoiding C, D and E where you play the blues). However I'm sure there were a few more than that in the know and there was much excited dancing towards the low stagefront and a real party atmosphere in one of the hottest gigs I've been to in a long time. In fact it was so hot that my friend Aneeta and I left before Klang even played, but were later told by Wire fans that we hadn't missed much. Lets face it, when your favourite band play one of the most special gigs you've ever been invited to, not much is going to seem like a worthy follow up. Aside from Bruce Gilbert fluffing the second chord of "Mannequin," no doubt muttering too-many-chord curses, the band were in fine shape and played the album very faithfully. Some songs had more venom and precision, especially "Surgeon's Girl" with the hilarious Lewis nonsense back up shouting at the end. "First Fast" seemed to have bled back into that one. "Pink Flag" was pretty much returned to its original drum rolling shape but with less jovial vocals from Colin Newman than on the album it seemed harder and more compacted. "Reuters" on the other hand had an extended intro and some added updates on the mythical weapons of mass destruction from Lewis. "Champs" had lost the splanging guitar overthrubs. Colin Newman downed guitar on several numbers and seemed to be really getting into singing the odd old songs. They might've even lopped a few seconds off those songs that are short because they aren't long like "Field Day For the Sundays" and "Different To Me." What was very apparent when they played "Lowdown," "Strange" and "12XU" was how much they've improved as a live band since the first retrospective at the Royal Festival Hall back in 2000. I was double glad to have witnessed this unique event as the sound at the Barbican was just not loud enough and the experience was so much more of a rush and roar in an intimate sweaty pub. After by far the best live version of "12XU" I've ever heard them pull off, some monkeying heckler couldn't help but shout, "You Can't Leave Now!" but of course they were gone.
6940 Hits

Low

Friday, February 7, 2003, Manchester, UK
"I had so much to say."
First time I saw Low they were supporting Come at the London Garage and Kramer was doing their sound. They were enjoyable but I didn't feel motivated to rush out and buy their records. Since then they've just kept getting better and better, growing ever more assured, confident and orgasmic. Last week Low played the best gig I ever saw them do. The sound was perfect, immaculate, accentuating their pin drop precision, and the large crowd was held enraptured in awe. From the opener "Candy Girl" it was clearly the perfect fuck music, tragic make out make up for the last fling before she flies over the ocean. It had all the controlled intensity of their spartan Joy Division "Transmission" cover that had held the Star and Garter so enraptured on earlier trips to Manchester. The way Alan Sparhawk turns and strums at Mimi Parker and the way she taps calm heartbeat assurance is PURE SEX. It's so obvious Mimi is his his candy girl, and this is the sweet molten core of Low's slowburning genius. Alan and Mimi (ahem, and bassist Zack Sally) have fashioned a music that twists and turns with all the ups and downs of an intensely consummated relationship. "Candy Girl" also shows that maybe Steve Albini has had a little more influence on Low than just recording them. Alan throws out subtle jags of guitar skree at oblique angles to the heartbreak beat. The song cuts dead and they launch into the Peel-popular "That's How You Sing Amazing Grace" and the relatively stompin' "Canada" single. How can that Sparhawk dude sing "In the Drugs" without bursting into tears? It surely is one of the saddest songs I ever heard. Then there's the spaghetti western malevolance of "John Prine," a dark ode to revenge so quietly fiercesome it could ignite blue flames of paranoia in anyone who ever crossed a softspoken Duluth musician. Low can even make dear ol' drippy Roger Waters seem profound, with their majestic cover of "Fearless." On the way to the gig I was almost run over by a speeding car escaping gross corporate slavewage superstore. I had been moderately distracted by Come in my headphones, which would've been a fine thing to hear with my dying breath, but it was no time to leave the planet. A glimpse of mortality is always a lever for heightened sensuality. Don't waste your days with mediocre piffle. You might die tomorrow. Hurry up materialise, don't just threaten to. Flirt, take drugs, booze, shoot the shit with the people who are worth the effort. Soundtrack it with a band that fucking matters, and then some! Low are serious as your life.
"Now I'm gonna make them pay." 
7060 Hits

Cabaret Voltaire, "Live at the Hacienda '83/'86"

Months of wrestling with a DVD player which didn't initially read this disc has finally paid off and the results were well worth all the fuss. The first DVD to surface from Cabaret Voltaire takes two aural/visual snapshots of only slightly different periods in their evolution, recorded live in Manchester's infamous club.

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10745 Hits

holiday party idea for music nerds

It's almost a modification of the "exchanging of the keys" wife-swapping parties of the 1970s: Gather a bunch of friends, make a mix tape or mix CD, make an original package or creative concept and distrube randomly. Okay, so it's got nothing to do with wife-swapping but you can put them all in a basket like they did in that awful film, "The Ice Storm." Brainwashed staff and contributors cannot take credit for the invention of this party concept.
14293 Hits

bowling for columbine

I can safely say that this film has effected me the most out of any film I can remember in a very, very long time. Director Michael Moore has essentially taken aim on the culture in the country which both he and I live in that seems completely unstoppable. This film, however, is, deceptively enough, not an anti-gun, anti-NRA effort nor an anti-American government effort. Instead, Moore personally and graphically shows many close-up faces of the media, militia, criminals, victims, and organization leaders—all of which who seem to, as he would like us believe, unknowingly contribute to the biggest epidemic of all: fear. It's this all-encompassing fear which the media and advertisers prey upon, the fear that we are instilled upon from elementary school, the fear which our very own government shoves down our throat. This fear, he has deduced is what separates the US from a number of other countries who, like us, also have a history of violence and an abundant availability of guns, but have drastically lower amounts of gun murders. Ironically, he also perpetuates this fear by the mere existence of this movie—shoving loads of statistics down our throat which gives me a simply revolting feeling (even now, long after watching the movie), and adds to the number of reasons NEVER to have children in this country. As director, you can play god, especially in a "documentary." For example: I wonder how many people in Canada he asked said "yes, I do lock my doors," until he arrived at the handful of people whose footage he did choose who said "no." [I, Jon Whitney, have a number of Canadian friends, people whose houses I have been to, all of which lock their doors!] Positively, however, Michael Moore serves as an example of how things can actually get done if people try. I applaud him for the whole K-Mart stunt to get them to cease the retail of ammunition, however, I would really like to know the outcome, and feel the film needed some sort of factual follow-up. Embarassingly enough, I reluctantly admit that for the first time I think I actally possess some amount of respect for Marilyn Manson. He basically said what my friends are sick of hearing me say for the last few years: the fact that a big problem is that people simply don't listen to what other people are saying. Despite its arguable flaws, I highly recommend anybody with a thinking brain to see it and make up their own minds on the subject. Be warned, however, as you will see people being shot, people brought to tears on camera when recounting traumatic events, and world leaders, who, by their own words demonstrate how disasterously wrong it is for them to be in power.

 

9587 Hits

enough

Everybody who's reading this right now knows what happened a year ago this week. Rather than take the soap box again with ramblings, I want to share a web site a friend pointed out to me. This live journal web site I feel sums up what is on many people's minds. I don't know who this person is but I think what they wrote was well-said. http://www.livejournal.com/talkpost.bml?journal=vyoma&itemid=437161
12807 Hits

lightning bolt, "the power of salad"

Load Records
Peter Glantz and Nick Noe have managed to brilliantly document the worlds most phenomenal hardcore drum and bass duo on a brief 2001 streak across the USA. Providence, Rhode Island's Lightning Bolt have been playing and touring for only a few years but have built up a thunderous steam simply because their shows are beyond intense and their style is void of rock star attitudes and similarly retarted bullshit. Between songs and sets, this 75-minute film shows a window on the world of the smelly, loud, but charming and sincere world of the travelling Brians, playing in various rock venues, houses, and even somebody's kitchen in the sweltering heat of Lubbox, Texas nearly inside a refrigerator! If you're unfamiliar with Lightning Bolt's vicious onslaught, Brian Gibson's drums are fast and furious with a ratta-tatta-tap only matched by the precise execution of the heavily amplified three-string bass guitar by Brian Chippendale. A superb editing job by Nick and Peter effectively keep up with their ferver and make me long for the chance to see them again rather than sitting on my couch in front of the TV! I will even go as far as to say this documentary is miles better than a ton of things I've seen on the Sundance Channel, IFC, or the MTVs. Rockumentaries are not for the rich and famous any more thanks to the competitive digital video and DVD markets these days, and after seeing this, I'm completely surprised more indie labels aren't doing similar projects. I wholeheartedly welcome more adventurous labels and artists that want to share their personalities with their fans. With any luck, others will be smart and contact Peter and Nick to do the work... For a preview, check out Load's website.

 

9836 Hits

this week in music industry bullshit

(a.k.a. "Your major label dollars at work.")
The major labels have gone too far again. I realize this message has been repeated ad nauseam but this week, two major events serve as evidence to reinforce the hatred against the shitheads. On Tuesday, under influence from the strongest major record corporations, the RIAA successfully halted AudioGalaxy's current means of operating. What irritates me most is not their moronic self-imposed right to own the control of intellectual property after they "release" it (unlike the book publishing world), but because their battle-losing streak is hurting the people they are pretending to protect. Fact of the matter is that once AudioGalaxy is down, there will be another 10 to spring up. At the end of the day, the only people benefitting are the high-priced Beverly Hills lawyers since the music industry can only keep losing the battle against the file-sharing public. The majors have indeed LOST, but they can't admit they're the big losers, so they ass rape their own artists by not giving health benefits and employees who rarely make a living wage in the most expensive cities in the world.
Once again, I clearly state that not all indies are good but all majors can at least AFFORD to give benefits. The major labels have got so much fucking money that they will unhesitatingly step up to the plate every time and pay for the finest lawyers to stomp out whoever's violating them any week. AOL Time Warner, for example, owns most of the internet providers AND a large chunk of the most popular cable channels to boot (and also pays their cable tv employees benefits) while Vivendi/Universal is viciously trying to creep up to their size with recent acquisitions of more cable TV networks, themselves.
On Saturday, the United States Copyright Office decided to charge web broadcasters $0.70 per song, but I don't see any provisions made in terms of public, non-profit, or educational broadcasters, who are exempt from royalty fees on conventional radio. Kudos, motherfuckers. Next time the college radio rep from the Island Def Jam group calls up the college radio station I DJ for asking me to play their records I'll find it amazingly hard to refuse to tell him to go fuck himself and his major label brown nose.
Bottom line is this: supporting major labels only feeds the highest priced lawyers and NOT the artists they're pretending to protect nor the employees who can't make enough money to live in the parts of the world with the highest rents imaginable. The difference between them and the minors is that on the whole, they CAN afford to act responsibly but time and time again they choose not to.
The Brainwashed Brain will proudly ignore major labels until they finally give in and admit they're rapists, liars, hypocrites and thieves and happily take the time out to say FUCK YOU to them. We encourage everybody to spend their money and time more wisely. I also personally call upon any writer of any music publication who features major label artists to stop and think about what you're doing, possibly even remotely consider spending an issue making a concerned effort to focus solely on independent artists and labels.

 

12689 Hits

JAN FRIEDMAN, "ECCENTRIC AMERICA"

Bradt
When I graduated college I embarked on a cross-country road trip, stopping at numerous well-known sites that numerous people from all over the world experience: The Grand Canyon, Graceland, the Hoover Dam, Niagara Falls, Devil's Mountain, Mount Rushmore, etc,... In retrospect, yeah, that was an awesome experience but now my taste buds yearn for something more, something compltely off the wall, some things I've heard of and some that I've never even dreamed of. Take Carhenge for example, located in nowheresville Nebraska, replicating Stonehenge but with cars. The Corn Palace, with a new design every year made entirely out of corn. I want to swim with dolphins in Florida, I want to go potato wrestling in South Dakota, I want to visit the 24-hour Elvis Museum in Portland, Oregon and NOW I HAVE MY GUIDE!!! Lookout, because the next summer when I have a video camera, money saved and can convince Rob Devlin to jump in the car with me and two more unnamed travellers, this will be our book. From the Central Maine Egg Festival to Cow Pasture Golf in Arizona and oodles of weird places and festivals in between, this book provides an amazing beginner's list of some of the most bizarre places and events completely unimaginable. If anything, at least this book provides some interesting factoids about this weird country for the Nordic wanderer or armchair traveller in all of us.

 

11403 Hits

web broadcasters safe? for now...

This past Tuesday, the Library of Congress rejected a proposal by CARP (the Copyright Arbitration Royal Panel) which proposed a rate for internet-based music broadcasters to adhere to. They didn't however rule out internet music royalty collections alltogether, as a final decision on rates and such is yet to be determined in June. While a number of web broadcasters are crying that these royalties would "shut them down for good," I strongly believe there is justification in charging a fee, as there is in the radio and television mediums. In radio, however, only commercial stations pay royalty fees, while non-commercial, non-profit, and educational institutions are exempt. The mere notion to charge non-profit organizations who do not sell their content is ludicrous, as royalties were originally set up because commercial radio stations essentially "re-sell" the music (their 'content') to advertisers. To put it bluntly, commercial radio stations are basically making money off of other people's songs. It is by this justification of royalty payments that commercial "electronic" or "web" organizations who sell the content should, by all means, pay all applicable fees, and clear distinctions need to be made as to who is providing educational non-profit fair usage. A number of "internet petitions" circulate around about this issue but there's a lot of smoke being blown around by various groups on each side who have strong financial interests in the matter. In the end, be wary of these petitions, always question the motives of each group involved, and voice your opinions to your representative (if you have one) in Congress.
12058 Hits

EMI BUYS MUTE, SO WHAT?

This past week, the UK-based multimedia corporation EMI announced their purchase of long time independent record label, Mute. While this might initially send shivers down spines of faithful Mute fans or indie label advocates, I feel the need to remind some of us about previous deals between Matador and Atlantic, or even Matador with the EMI-owned Capitol records. Back in the early-mid 1990s, Atlantic thought Matador had something really big with Pavement and Liz Phair, so they decided to go in on a deal with them to put out all of their records. When the Atlantic realized that they sank more money into releases which weren't bringing the bucks into Time Warner, they decided to end the relationship. Shortly thereafter, Capitol did the same thing. While EMI would love to have Moby, does anybody with half a brain think EMI will even want to release albums from Diamanda Galas, Throbbing Gristle or Non? Sure, the aging post-smack fiends Nick Cave and Depeche Mode do okay and all, but if EMI paid millions to have Virgin sever their ties with Mariah Carey, a deal like this won't last. If it does, get ready for Cabaret Voltaire, Fad Gadget and Can records to go back out of print. According to reports, EMI will pay £23 million for Mute, plus up to £19 million of potential performance-related payments, over a period of four years. Couldn't they just have bought the rights to the music industry's biggest whore (anything for money Moby) and saved both the cash and the disgrace which will surely follow 18 months from now?
12544 Hits

101 Reykjavik

The biggest self-centered dirtbags always gain the most sympathy from an aduience when the story is narrative from their point of view. Such is the case of Hlynur, a young man around 30, living with mom in a tiny apartment, looking like an adult version of Max Fischer from 'Rushmore,' who rarely ventures outside the postal code of 101 Reykjavik and has absolutely no ambition to get a job and make something of himself. "We're dead after we die, we're dead before we're born, life is just a break from death," he claims, as the film centers around this young man's life who feels everybody dies every weekend after the parties are over. We often find Hylnur alone, falling asleep in the snow, almost longing for a death which never comes. Hylnur has a number of issues including pent-up aggression towards his family coupled with sexual/attachment issues that keeps him from sleeping next to a girl he's just fucked. All this changes when he seems to fall in love with his mom's new lover, a gorgeous Flamenco dance instructor from Spain. Basically while mom's dealing with the issues of coming out, Hlynur's dealing with issues of having sex with her new "lesbian" girlfriend. Toss in a psycho fling who's completely obsessed with Hlynar to the point of lying about a pregnancy and a bunch of drunken party scenes and you've got a marvelously entertaining comedy with a ton of really great, punchy lines from first time filmmaker Baltasar Kormákur Baltasarsson. My favorite scene has got to be the kids shooting fireworks at the Domino's delivery guy—easily one of the funniest scenes I've seen in a long while! Two years after its release, it's finally making some rounds in North America, best of luck trying to see it.

9106 Hits

FRANK TOVEY (FAD GADGET)

I was excited when Frank Tovey's booking agency emailed me asking about suggestions or recommendations for concerts in North America. I had been a fan of Fad Gadget for nearly 20 years and have never even dreamed of seeing him live. The best thing I could think of was to contact people who owe their entire careers to this man. So I dropped emails to the bands (and booking agent of) The Faint, Adult and I am Spoonbender, but sadly got no response.

Tovey could very well possibly be one of the most important pioneers in post-punk electronic synth music. While he may have not sold as many units as label mates Depeche Mode or contemporaries like Human League or OMD who had to change their sound to top charts, he was demonstrating that synth music didn't always have to be happy pop anthems and love songs. Unlike Gary Numan or Kraftwerk, he didn't paranoiacally or idealistically fanticize a future world ruled by robots and computers, which has completely worked to his advantage, giving his songs an amazing timeless feel. While his tunes were undoubtedly catchy, futuristic pop anthems with sinister lyrics, his live performances were raw and vicious, often ending with large amounts of blood loss and paramedic assistance.

In a time where Fischerspooner can sign a ?2M recording deal, Tovey was poised for a strong comeback—he had been recording new material and played a number of shows in the UK and Europe. Unfortunately, the exponentially growing scene of these modern groups may never truly understand how much they really owe to Tovey. There's a nice picture accompanying a short obituary at mute.com as well as some recent live pictures at the French web site, fadgadget.free.fr. He will be missed. -
13349 Hits

Papa M, "Three Songs"

It's always weird writing about friends records. Papa M stayed with meon September 9th last year following the show with Pullman (Bundy K.Brown and Dave Pajo in the same room, it was once thought impossible).It was a Sunday night and I remember staying up and talking with Daveand his band partner for a bit. We may have had breakfast at theinfamous Arlington Diner around the corner the following morning.Monday night was their gig in NYC and they ended up staying overnightin Brooklyn. Tuesday morning, the western world changed forever.

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4155 Hits

Purrkur Pillnikk, "Í Augum Úti"

What we have here is a very important and amazingly entertainingartifact of early 1980s Icelandic post-garage rock and roll. It's nosurprise that Purrkur Pillnikk was invited at one point to tour openingup for The Fall, as lead singer Einar Orn Benediktsson (you mightrecognize his name as the -OTHER- singer of the Sugarcubes) fronted atactfully sloppy yet feverishly energetic rock band with bizarrescream/spoken storylike words.

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4891 Hits

Mouse on Mars, "Agit Itter It It"

There are no rules against having fun in the field ofcritically-acclaimed electronica. On Mouse on Mars singles, the duodefinitely let their hair out and try to have as much fun in as littletime possible.
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4605 Hits

HNAS, "Im Schatten der Möhre"

The first in a line of long unavailable HNAS LPs is finally availableon CD. Originally released in 1987, this was the fourth album releasedby Christoph Heemann, Dr. P. Li Khan, and Andreas Martin as HirscheNicht Aufs Sofa and is a must have for any current or future fan.
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12502 Hits

In Boston, There Is No Other

As last week's issue of "The Brain" went live, the folks at Other Music were moving all the stock from the Boston store back to NY. The unannounced departure of Other Music Boston is about as bittersweet as their shocking arrival, 16 months ago.

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12662 Hits

The Notwist, "Neon Golden"

In the four years since their last album, 'Shrink,' the members of this German group have kept active with numerous other projects, including two astonishing albums from Lali Puna; two incredible full-lengthers and a remix disc from Tied and Tickled Trio; plus notable LP, EP and remix releases from Console; and various appearances on others albums. 'Shrink' was probably such a phenomenal pop/post-rock electronic jazzy breakthrough that I may have been expecting something similar. 'Neon Golden' has far exceeded my expectations, however.

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4187 Hits