Thursday, 18 December 2008

Podcast No. 3 - Christmas

It's cliched to be cynical at Christmas, but that isn't going to stop us. Here's Podcast No.3, cashing in on the seasonal stupidity, if only there was anything to actually cash in. So it's all vanity and bullshit, but it's ours and if you click the right button (that's to say, the one on the left) it can be yours too. And that don't cost a thing (just like our Xmas album, available from here).



Tracklisting:
1. Arab Strap - "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)"
2. Galaxie 500 - "Listen, The Snow Is Falling"
3. Favours for Sailors - "Hanging On Your Christmas Tree"
4. The Walkmen - "No Christmas Whilst I'm Talking"
5. Slow Club - "Christmas TV"
6. The Waitresses - "Christmas Wrapping"
7. The Long Blondes - "Christmas Is Cancelled"

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

The Year In (More) Lists

Close friend, long time supporter and Tough Love DJ, Liam P. Manley has been good enough to send me his choices for album of the year. There's a few in the list that I myself managed to miss, but listening to them now (Harvey Milk in particular), I'm wondering just what it was that made me pass them over

Roots Manuva – Slime And Reason(Big Dada)
Rodney Smith stepped back into ’08 with this collection of bangers, bouncers, winders and grinders. Slime And Reason finds him chatting direct over the perfectly skewed production of Metronomy and Toddla T, at once both precise and, in Smith’s words, wonky. At ease skipping between raconteurish lechery (“It’s the whisky man, the frisky man”) and the trials of fatherhood (“you gotta learn, dude/be careful what ya sperm do”), this is nothing less than a triumph of honesty and wit.
Download
Roots Manuva - "Let The Spirit"

The Walkmen – You & Me (Fierce Panda)
Last heard covering Harry Nillson’s Pussy Cats, NY’s finest washed up on shore of this summer, half-smiling, half asleep: “There is still sand in my suitcase/There is still salt in my teeth”, they croaked. Sun-bleached, crumpled and curled-at-the-edges, You & Me amounts to a travelogue of hazy, drunken episodes half-remembered yet lovingly sketched in sepia tones. Singer Hamilton Leithauser’s hard-worn vocals are the ideal instrument to relay these tales, carefully balancing the celebratory moods and their woozy aftermath. Forget labelling them one-hit wonders: hit singles are immaterial when faced with the fourteen sublime chapters presented here.
Download
The Walkmen - "I Lost You"

Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours(Modular)
Summer 2008 will not be remembered as a summer of love, but rather one of tragically dull inclemancy. Regardless of this, these Aussies reminded us of better times: a time when The Pet Shop Boys covered Elvis or sang with Dusty; a time when New Order were arguably the greatest band alive and not just arguing. Concerned first and foremost with the matters of the heart, be it longing ("Far Away") or fledgling romance ("Unforgettable Season"), In Ghost Colours carefully married pure pop with 80’s pre-hyphenated house. P!ss poor weather aside, the real tragedy would have been if nobody fell in love with (or to) this dazzling record.
Download
Cut Copy - "So Haunted"

Fucked Up – Chemistry Of Common Life
(Matador)
Less concerned with burning down churches than the hypocrisy of the pious (be it punk insularity or right wing evangalists), Fucked Up burst through like a gang of punk-rock Richard Dawkins. Bridging post-hardcore elements with Stoogified space rock, they tear up the template, happy to fuse flutes, loops and drones with vocalist Pink Eyes’ invective, like Iggy vomiting lava. The choice is simple: either wait around for the rapture or get Fucked Up and go to heaven (before you die).
Download
Fucked Up - "Twice Born"

Harvey Milk – Life... The Best Game In Town(Hydra Head)
A celebration of mortality where life is for the living and death our reward, Life... came without warning and even less expectation. Equally blistered and blistering, Harvey Milk never once resort to the advocation of lunk-headed hedonism or self pity, preferring instead to wallow in glory and splendor. Ever ambitious, starting with a Christmas choir before unleashing a skip load of sludge and hot tar into unsuspecting ears, you’d be hard pushed to find a more fearless statement than opener ‘Death Goes To The Winner’. Fittingly ended with the theme from Looney Tunes, this is a record determined to die smiling.
Download
Harvey Milk - "Motown"

Friday, 12 December 2008

Records of the Year - Part 4

So, this is my last say on the matter of 2008, but I'll be posting some contributions from others connected with Tough Love in the next few days. They have the gift of brevity, whereas I like the sound of my own voice (even when typing), so will be posted in one sitting. Wow, content!

My four selections will also be published on Rockfeedback on Monday in their annual Best of the Year feature. I'm unsure where exactly they'll be in the list though. Publish and be damned, indeed.

And so...


Silver Jews – Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea(Drag City)

18 years since their debut single, 2008 finally saw D.C. Berman publically realise what the best of us had known since forever: he’s an outright, bonafide superstar. Last year Silver Jews broke their live show freeze-out and Berman began the unenviable task of having to deliver a canon of songs that had for too long belonged wholesale to the fans. And the pressure showed, not least in his tentative stage manner and on the relatively straight-laced Tanglewood Numbers.

But Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea - and the heart stopping, life affirming shows that accompanied its release - was Berman embracing what for so long he had feared. His struggles with the Nietzschian black stuff have been well documented, but having come out the other side, Berman now has wisened perspective to match his always-inventive cryptic word play.

In amongst the twisted narratives of “San Francisco B.C.” and “Party Barge”, this is Berman with his aim set firmly to true. “Strange Victory, Strange Defeat” and “Suffering Jukebox” are perhaps the best double team one-two to ever address the internal paradox of fame and its vicissitudes, while “What Is Not But Could Be If” has Berman enunciating like the University Don he could’ve easily been (just as much as he could’ve be the drunken bar room sage spouting pseudo-philosophical epiphanies into an unappreciative breeze, had events taken a different course).

But it’s on closer “We Could Be Looking For The Same Thing” that the raw humanity of The Joos truly shines through. Sharing vocals with wife and seemingly eternal muse, Cassie Berman, they blissfully chime in unison “we could belong to each other” and it’s pure unfettered Country drama, albeit in a softened new wave skin. This was as direct as Berman has ever been and as gauche as it may seem, if you’re not moved by that, then frankly, you’ve nothing in your hollow chest.

Many silvery moons ago on The Natural Bridge, Berman somewhat disingenuously claimed “now that I’m older and subspace is colder, I just want to say something true”. On Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea, that’s exactly what he did and it was glorious.

Download
Silver Jews - "We Could Be Looking For The Same Thing"

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Records of the Year - Part 3


Hot Club De Paris – Live At Dead Lake (Moshi Moshi)

End of year lists are frustratingly tautological. They’re merely a(n) (in)convenient summary of what’s already been echoed a million and one times that past year and, as such, are mainly in service only to the retail sector and the goldfish among us. But with Hot Club De Paris, there’s (sadly) undue cause for concern on that front. Their second album Live At Dead Lake was released to little fanfare mid-2008 and despite the passing of time, I’ve still yet to work out why exactly, let alone witness anyone try to readdress this critical imbalance.

Musicians from Liverpool tend to fit into two camps: those who love Love and stop at The Beatles, and those who are good. Thankfully and to their credit, Hot Club… (if I may) aren’t interested in exhuming any corpses, although they are distinctly Liverpudlian. Stretching arcs of influence across the Atlantic, they’re clearly tapping into both an American post-hardcore and post-punk lineage, even going as far to wear their hearts on their sleeve and cover the Minutemen. But then Liverpool always has been a port city after all…

But these aren’t strictly pastures new for Hot Club… On Live At Dead Lake they retain the tricky time-signatures and mouthful-of-ideas song titles present on their debut. This time out however they display a seemingly intuitive understanding of space and melody that indicates a band with an enviable sense of invention.

And it’s not just the music that resonates. Lyrically, Live At Dead Lake indicates an affinity with hip hop style wordplay that many of their peers dare not attempt (“ a real swimming-with-sharks type lover tough cookie with the impulsive streak of a streetwise rookie”/ “and that this thing forever seems to last forever if this thing forever’s going to last forever anyway”), twisting syllables and twisted syntax around the most breathless of parochial imagery. And they’re funny fuckers with it too.

Such is the transient nature of the music industry, where Hot Club… go after Live At Dead Lake remains a mystery, but without them 2008 would have been a little more artless and a little less interesting. Let’s not let them become a cult concern. To paraphrase one of their obvious antecedents: memories don’t have to wait…

Download
Hot Club De Paris - "I Wasn't Being Heartless When I Said Your Favourite Song Lacked Heart"

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Tough Love Podcast No. 2

Here it is, the second potentially-award winning Tough Love podcast. If it's half as much fun to listen to as it was to make then it will be OK-to-good. I'll settle for that.



Tracklisting:

1. Future of the Left - "Suddenly It's A Folk Song"
2. William - "South of the Border"
3. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - "People Aint No Good"
4. Nas - "Queens Got The Money"
5. Jean Grae and the 9th Wonder - "Don't Rush Me"
6. Bricolage - "Turn U Over"
7. The Empty Set - "You're The Top"

Friday, 5 December 2008

Albums of the Year - Part 2


Crystal Stilts – Alight of Night
(Slumberland)
For Crystal Stilts, nuance is key. From New York and expressing an obvious kinship with 80s Manchester, they sound for all the world as if they’ve never stepped outside of their own. Theirs is a sonic enclave informed by the acerbic chill of first and second wave post punk, alongside the monochrome intensity of Joy Division, Felt and Josef K. Hardly irregular touchstones admittedly, but on Alight of Night Crystal Stilts display a rare aptitude for refinement and subtlety that suggests a distinctive re-imagining of a previously well-trodden path.

Not simply well-studied appropriation, Crystal Stilts are an immaculately conceived entity, generating an aesthetic filtered through prisms of fractured glass to reveal the sparsest shades of primary colour. As with the post-punk austerity they’re clearly inspired by, it’s the shading that defines them, the minimal shards of light powerful in their economic elegance.

Eponymous opener “Crystal Stilts” is a perfect case in point; all black and white B movie intensity, until (twice) revealing a brief keyboard driven coda that shimmies with a rockabilly abandon. It’s an exercise in understatement typical of a band that clearly understands the distinction between formula and continuity. Take for example the swooning and loping “Prismatic Room” and “The City In The Sea”. While displaying the band’s more soporific leanings, they’re quite obviously the lovelorn cousins of their more kinetic, but never bombastic, counterparts.

Puritanical in its execution, Alight of Night showcases a vision as clear as its creator’s namesakes. Forget the egalitarian realism of much current indie; I want my stars not of this world. In forming their own beautifully nuanced aesthetic, Crystal Stilts understand the form and function of rock mythology and in Alight Is Night, have created a compelling document of why we should value them as such.

POSTSCRIPT: Slumberland really is a wonderful label. You could do a lot worse than invest in their most recent releases (I strongly recommend both Bricolage and Sexy Kids). It's also worth investigating their history too, for it's one that's clearly tied to the development of a particular type of indiepop music.

Download
Crystal Stilts - "The City In The Sea"

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Albums of the Year - Part 1

Oh great, just what the world (not to mention blogosphere) needs: another end-of-year list. I can't justify this with claims to a unique approach, or even if we'll be bucking the critical consensus with our choices. But we are fans of the slow-reveal, so we'll be posting our list of favourite albums over a period of time and in no particular order. This aint a competition, y'know. What anticipation, no doubt...


The Wave PicturesInstant Coffee Baby
(Moshi Moshi)

Music often provides a well-renowned catharsis for those racked with sociopathic impulses and The Wave Pictures are a perfect case in point, forming a distillation of the erudite neurosis of their chief songwriter, Dave Tattersall. By no means a car crash stumbling through illness and destitution ala Television Personalities, The Wave Pictures are a strange amalgam of the joyful and the socially perverse and with Instant Coffee Baby they’ve hit an apotheosis.

The Wave Pictures are driven by the same pop impulses as conceived by Modern Lovers and the Velvet Underground, and channelled by bookish but disarmingly seamy indie icons like Hefner (with whom all three of The Wave Pictures often play). Charged with twisted witticisms and a plague of failed and failing relationships, Instant Coffee Baby is buoyed by a charming power-pop simplicity, offset by an equally soured tongue that’s as sharp as cystitis.

As immediate and affecting as the song writing is here - and they’re certainly a band with the requisite chops, if chops is what you need - it’s the inventive wordplay that truly engages. Tattersall’s shrill whine is an acquired taste perhaps, but it’s pinpoint designed for the tales he weaves. The desperation of each failed sexual endeavour and ridiculous social indiscretion is present in the body of a voice that forever stretches and searches for a note technically better singers find in an instant. And as anyone that has witnessed them live this year will attest, Tattersall is by far the most proficient singer in the band. But it’s in this apparent ‘lack’ that The Wave Pictures shine; virtuosity supplanted (and thankfully so) with a yearning to be heard, suggesting stories that need to be told. It’s pure unfettered jouissance sidled with a literary bent and as such finds itself of a lineage shared with such luminaries as Richman, Bowie and Costello: a heady pantheon indeed.

As Tattersall insistently wails through “I Love You Like Mad Man”, evoking images slightly unnerving for their close-to-the-bone desperation, there’s nevertheless a pervasive and flagrant romanticism that still believes that hearts can be won, broken and fixed through the power of song. And in these cynical times, that’s a belief with which we can all sympathise.

Download
The Wave Pictures - "January and December" (early version of the song that later featured on Instant Coffee Baby)

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Sound & Vision (at last)

Maybe it's a money issue. Or a time issue. It could be a skills issue. Maybe it's an issue of all three. It seems hard to believe and slightly tricky to swallow, but in over three years, there's not been a video associated with one of our releases. It's like the 1860s round here. But just as that ridiculous monochrome train in Back To The Future 3 smashed it's way through parochial 19th Century Wild West life, we've a music video that startles us from our luddite slumber. And about fucking time too.

As with most of our firsts, it's Situationists that lead the way with this immaculately conceived one-shot take video for recent EP lead track "Onwards and Upwards". Directed by Nick Shaw, who's previously worked for both Xtra Mile and Moshi Moshi, I'm starting to think it was worth the wait. You can judge for yourself below actually...



And as if one first isn't enough, there's a second. We've had printed 50 Situationists T shirts, which you can buy from our MySpace now. There's a picture of a beheaded Dan modeling the savvy designs below. As would be expected, they're selling ridiculously quickly and we wont be making any more of this design once they're gone...You know what to do.

Situationists T Shirt

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Tough Love Podcast No. 1

Boredom can be a dangerous thing. Once I was so bored I ate two dinners and would've gone for a third if stomach and fridge capacity allowed. So last Sunday we found ourselves in a similar situation, deciding instead to turn our attentions away from potential obesity and towards Garageband and the dreamwish of our very own Podcast. And you may decide that's what it remains. We're hardly au fait with the process of 'producing' media content of this kind, but everyone has to start somewhere and growing up in public is a common practice now. Whether this exercise has been successful or not is for you to judge, but it was certainly a lot of fun to make. Hopefully we'll become more slick as we gain experience. But there's also a very real possibility that we wont. Lo-fi, DIY; it's all kudos, right?

So here it is, the first Tough Love podcast: one take, unedited, ramshackle and unshackled.



Tracklisting:

1. Situationists - "Onwards and Upwards"
2. Aspirins - "Hollow Out"
3. Crystal Stilts - "Converging In The Quiet"
4. Scott Walker - "Plastic Palace People"
5. Honeytrap - "Little Blue Holes"
6. Favours For Sailors - "Erode My Empire"

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Sunday 9th November - in photos


FAVOURS FOR SAILORS

world in motion

all sweaty and thoughtful

posed to death

CALORIES

adventuring can be dangerous

"off we go into the sunset"

SITUATIONISTS

all-boy gang choir

jouissance

"we stood in silence..."

Monday, 10 November 2008

Let's Talk About Love


Tough Love is an appropriate name for this pirate endeavour we have here. When I think of love - and I mean love in its nascent stages - it's not the swinging round the lamp post exhaulted joyful type, or a cartoon like quivering of the legs swooning just the other side of lust. It's something that little darker. It's a slight sickness. That's a well known characteristic and let's not trot out those 'love sick' cliches. But it's also anxiety and possibility as one: exciting of course, but charged with fear, doubt and that crushing feeling that at some point soon you're going to fuck it all right up hard, fast and embarrassingly forever. Love is hard.

And so that's how i feel about this here record label. It's inconsistent short bursts of elation, constantly punctuated by a subtle frustration and worry. But it's worth it. Last Sunday night showed that, as we held the London launch for Situationists new EP at the Old Blue Last. It was an epically dismal Sunday. Rain lashed at an expectant but hungover body and I don't think i was the only one feeling that way. But despite the nightmare billing of Sunday evening malaise, post-alcohol come-down blues and the bleak insistent force of nature, people came. Quite a lot of them. And they cheered and smiled and generally weren't awful. It was a bloody revelation. Situationists were supremely confident, buoyened no doubt by the reception the new EP has received (and is still receiving). They even played a new song; all elegiac guitar lines intersecting like the cartographic wonderlands they've often romanticised about, alongside some fine American Football-esque melancholy. It's a perfect counterpoint to the indiepop precision of their more well-known songs. Exciting and excited in equal measure, i was spilling over.

Unfortunately, the EPs hadn't arrived in time from the Czech Republic, which was potentially embarrassing. However, Ralph's (Situationists drummer) spark of ingenuity and creative abilities saved face admirably and it was beautiful to see people still paying for music despite all that media scare mongering that seems to find residence in the less considered press on a weekly basis. And very good music, of course. There's a lot to be said for good taste and then knowing what to do with it.

And of course the night wouldn't have been what it was if not for the might and drive of Calories and the ramshackle powerpop charm of Favours For Sailors. And they're all, in one form or another, Tough Love bands. It's an exciting time, but one I'm fully prepared to see collapse into a mess of my own making. But that's the nature of this particular beast.

So, you can also purchase the new EP from our site here: www.toughloverecords.com/product.htm. We'll even send you free MP3s of the songs while you wait for the record to be delivered.

On a related note, Puregroove Records - that exceptional independent London record store (amongst many other things) - have included a free Situationists song as a free download on their site. Go to this link and download it now: http://www.puregroove.co.uk/itemview.aspx?item=674

So much more news to come in the next few weeks and i'll endeavour to document it here properly. Promise.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Don't Go Home With Your Hard On

Sunday 9th November @ The Old Blue Last, Shoreditch

Following 3 years successfully promoting the club night Don't Go Home... in Coventry we can now finally present Don't Go Home With Your Hard On in London. Having played host to Dananananaykroyd, Johnny Foreigner, Rolo Tomassi, The Wave Pictures and Youth Movies in the last year, it's a club night with a proven track record at hosting the best new bands in the country.

Rather fortuitously, the launch night just so happens to be the date before Situationists release the aforementioned pretty bloody amazing second EP. It's almost like we planned it that way. And it's free too. So, details:

Situationists (EP launch) www.myspace.com/situationists

Calories www.myspace.com/caloriesband

Favours For Sailors www.myspace.com/favours4sailors

The Aspirins For My Children DJs www.myspace.com/aspirins
Tough Love DJs

8:30pm - 12:30am
FREE ENTRY

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Dancing About Architecture

Last week, or so, I was sent a group email by Rockfeedback asking for contributions to their A-Z of Underrated Albums. Below is my reply, which sparked a lengthly discussion with friend, musical savant and Tough Love DJ Liam Manley. I thought it was interesting enough to copy in here, thinking it might inspire some of its own debate. Or maybe we are just invoking that famous Elvis Costello criticism. Or maybe it's incredibly self-indulgent (if i say that, I can't be criticised for it, right?)...You decide?



ME
Hi all,

Think this feature is a good idea, but i also think you need to be careful about what you choose. There does of course exist a popular canon as reinforced by Q Magazine (et al) list bore - ons, which includes the aforementioned Pet Sounds, London Calling etc etc.

But there's also another canon that's just as pervasive and I'd be tentative in reinforcing that. Pitchfork, DiS and their like, alongside the collective blogosphere have created their own sacred cows, of which band's like Dismemberment Plan [a suggested underrated band] are central. These sites have huge readerships and they're characterised by a fairly crippling critical consensus. Indie isn't really that indie anymore. There's nothing marginal about it.

And there's also retroactive canonisation too. On it's release, Six was, perhaps unfairly, maligned. But now, I think it's widely agreed by everyone to be Mansun's best album. It happens all the time - look at Joy Division, Kate Bush, Suicide, The Stooges, Velvet Underground, Sparks...

So, what I'm saying - asking - is what do you mean by underrated? Underrated by whom? I'm not saying we have to be willfully obscure or esoteric in our choices, just careful in what we choose to celebrate. I guess Tim's choices [Reynolds, Joeyfat] fall more in line with what I was thinking, mainly because I've not heard them. You can't get much more underrated than that (not that I know everything).

And my suggestions:

The Lapse - The Betrayal
Urusei Yatsura - Slain By...
Aerial Pink - The Doldrums

I've probably just contradicted myself now...

Cheers,

Stephen

LIAM
Fair point.

My personal contribution was going to be Leave Home by The Ramones. Chronologically, and in terms of canonisation, it falls between their self-titled debut (a supposed cultural landmark) and Road To Ruin (widely considered to be their best/most obvious attempt at pop). Their sophomore, Rocket To Russia, also happens to eclipse Leave Home in terms of perceived importance. I thought it would be interesting to talk about the album, not in terms of it's place in the canon or as any reaction to that, but in terms of its own musical merits. E.g. this is a good record because it has good songs and that.

So, what I'm saying is that it is possible to formulate a series of these reports/essays, just so long as it's not adding to any perceived canon or trying to react to any existing canon, which, as you've pointed out, merely results in the development of yet another canon...

I mean, every year there's another 'lost classic' unveiled, with bonus what-nots and 'unheard' versions (2008 model: Pacific Ocean Blue)... What's that Smiths song? “Paint A Vulgar Picture”???

ME
My take on that:

Music is populated by a series of canons, at once parallel and hierarchical. They accord with value systems - mainstream vs independent, authentic vs inauthentic, art vs commerce et al. In eschewing or debunking one, there's the process of constructing another. And there is the tendency to invoke that most peculiar of indie impulses to venerate the obscure, as if obscurity alone is enough to substantiate its quality. That's why rare records are worth so much. It's a false economy on which not only monetary value is predicated, but also subcultural capital.

There's no difference in terms of process between Pitchfork and Q, just battling ideologues, which at one point or another, assimilate eventually (see My Bloody Valentine).

So, I think your argument is most sound. Pick a record that exists within the oeuvre of an over-canonised band and assess its merits in that context. And on that criteria, what should i choose? Be Here Now, of course...


LIAM
The only problem with that is that you end up reacting to the canon, unfortunately. All I'm suggesting is that people write up an album that they like regardless of any parameters of taste/non-taste (that guilty pleasures stuff is inverted snobbery bullshit). Hang on, in trying to avoid parameters, is that not setting up a different form of parameter?!?!? Fvvvvvvvvvvvck!!!

Tom [Rockfeedback editor] wanted to talk about Sandinista – that album's already regarded as 'mad cap classic'...

I'm saying we should find an album we like and discuss its merits, regardless of any canon. Therefore, we should all be writing about Be Here Now.

Ps. We should definitely write about Be Here Now.

ME
When you stand for nothing, you stand for the people that stand for nothing. There's fences beyond (and within) the fences. You can't stand outside of the world when you live in it, I guess.

Let's write about Be Here Now. There's too much fun in that album to write it out or off. I want to dance the architecture out of that shit.

LIAM
Hmmm, I guess The Outsider's protagonist already tried that and failed.

There really is no room for subversion anymore, is there?

Be Here Now is quickly becoming my favourite Oasis album, for sure - I like it's big dumb face.

ME
Judging by everyone elses reaction, it seems irony is the only obvious subversion, which is a little galling. It's a weak reaction, because contrary to how its used, it shows no attempt to assert an individualised taste, but rather assimilate yourself into one discourse or another (just like canons, they're stacked: mainstream: indie elitism: anti-indie elitism: a fatalistic irony). Rude Box isn't underrated; it's shit. All the trite ironic 'student-y' assertions you can muster are not going to convince me otherwise.

LIAM
Irony shmirony. I’m getting a heavy sense of 'glibness'.

What exactly is fatalistic irony?

Did you read all of that 33 1/3 book about Celine Dion? The only reason I
bought it, really, was because I thought out of the series about albums I love (Daydream Nation/Let It Be/Notorious Byrd Brothers), it might actually offer the most insight it why we like things and how tastes are developed/manufactured/marketed.

ME
What I mean is that there's no sense to it. It doesn't achieve anything other than an enforcement of what it seeks to negate. Irony is fatalistic because it's hollow. There's no substance. It's the ultimate postmodern condition - a reaction that states no alligiance, that makes no commitment, that is worth nothing. Irony is never having to say you’re sorry, right? Does that make sense?

LIAM
Yep, that just clears it up for me – I don’t want to apply it if it can’t define it!!!

ME:
Anymore thoughts about what we were discussing yesterday? Canonisation is a strange process, mainly in thrall to commercial needs, but it's also very persuasive. Sometimes it's hard to separate what you really like from what you're supposed to like, no matter how much you think you're removed from or aware of the process. Pleasure is an intriguing position, because how much of it is conditioned and how much of it is negotiated or individualised? 



LIAM:
Hmmm... how much of your enjoyment is based on outside approval? Like peer pressure or the words of a supposed ‘influential webzine’, perhaps ?

ME
Well, there's more music than ever before and more people willing to espouse its virtues and flaws, so I guess some sort of critical barometer is necessary so we can navigate our way through it. But then that begs the question; who do you trust to get it right? Certainly not anyone in the mainstream (NME or Q for example) and Pitchfork can sometimes shoot themselves in the foot. I guess critics exist as a way in and then you devise your own opinions. But critical consensus can be quite persuasive.

Do you not find yourself swayed by it at times?

LIAM
Oh, totally. Totally... I’ll sometimes give things another go if a writer I’ve agreed with in the past has written something persuasive enough... it informs my opinion, in a sense, but it doesn’t replace it. It is possible to build relationships with writers and begin to respect their viewpoint above others – so much so that you’re more inclined to agree with them (Neil K, Simon Reynolds and Stevie Chick come to mind).

If critics are there as a way-in, how much is being left aside that you might also find interest in? I’m constantly plagued by the thought I might be missing out on something!!!

One thing I notice about NME and Q is that they seem to be controlled, to an extent, by outside interests – PR agencies, etc. Therefore, certain artists might not be being pushed solely on the basis of their musical merits (surprise?). The same, perhaps, may happen with Pitchforkmedia, but with the subtle difference being that ‘financial reward’ is substituted for some other nepotistic element.

I don’t know, it’s early and I’m trying to eat Oatibix, which is sometimes difficult. I’m also trying to write a review of Hawnay Troof which has taken a twist, as I finally see some of the genius behind it. His rapping is awful, but the hooks and musical arrangement are pretty sophisticated. I’m just trying to tell it like it is... like Sabrina before she became a teenage witch (Clarissa?).

ME
I think, to a certain extent, moaning about NME and Q (as examples of the mainstream music press) is a fairly redundant exercise. It's not like we're lacking in 'alternative' (whatever that term has been prefigured as now) media source outlets. You can find anyone, any source that will corroborate your view on the world, on a particular music. Don't like NME? Read Pitchfork. Don't like Pitchfork? Read 20 Jazz Funk Greats. And so on. They are all of course charged with their own orthodoxy - some could cast that as an aesthetic, others as a yawning predictability.

I guess that means that nothing is really, truly underrated. You can find something somewhere, if you look hard enough - although I suppose you need to know what you're looking for.

That means that the term 'underrated' is always constructed in lieu to seeking mainstream approval , or at least the recognition of a certain larger audience. And that's a redundant process too. Populist appeal is not vindication in itself. There's that classic indie response to quickly denounce something that transcends the indie ghetto, its position at the margins. We hate it when our friends become successful, right? So then why do we need canonisation, why do we need to speak in this language? Man is a herd animal, I suppose and music is social, even when it's an alphabetised bedroom wank fantasy...

LIAM
The flipside of the herd mentality is the bedroom fetishist – they want something they and they alone can own – these guys (and they are predominantly, if not exclusively, men) will always treasure it more than anyone – they are the curators and anyone else is merely a dilettante.

I’m not moaning about the predictability of NME/Q, but the intentions and motives behind what they choose to champion. Do you not feel that most Internet writing, over time, becoming some sort of homogenous mass? For instance, like you’ve said before, the critical consensus taking precedent over everything else. There also appears to be very little real conflict, but is that a reflection of the subject in hand or, alternatively, a damning indictment of just how far critical faculties have slipped?

You’re right about the concept of what is ‘underrated’ and we’re pretty much agreed that this whole canonisation issue is redundant, to say the least, so what are we to do?

ME
Blogging and the like are all about cheerleading I suppose. Why bother writing and giving platform to something you dislike? There was a absolutely ridiculous article on DiS asking whether 'negative reviews' were relevant anymore in this digital age of self-publishing. That's a question that surely answers itself and it's obvious that considered and relatively objective (as much as is possible) critique is needed more than ever. Orson Welles said something about technological development and how it may change how we live our lives, but it wont change art. It will just create a generation of critics willing to tell us "this is art!". Well, i don't even think that's happening.

The blogosphere becomes this self-perpetuating solipsistic backslapping fest in which consensus accelerates under its own momentum. It's not a question of art, just a question of whether something is popular (within whatever sphere, big or small) or has the potential to be popular or not. It's like an anti-intelletcual self-importance that distills itself to a soundbite culture.

Isn't it weird how the process of writing/discussing something becomes informed by your imagined audience? We're doing it here, because we know this will now be read by others. It's like a form of self-censorship I guess...

LIAM
I just hope you edit out my grammatical errors. I said precedent earlier instead of precedence... if this is going to be blogged, I hope we're not just adding to the already thickly-streamed river of shit English that pervades the majority of blogs.

"It's not a question of art, just a question of whether something is popular (within whatever sphere, big or small) or has the potential to be popular or not. It's like an anti-intelletcual self-importance that distills itself to a soundbite culture" - Yeah, the whole 'one-to-watch' type of journalism falls into that category. That all smacks of self-satisfaction.

I guess our argument always comes down to quite simply ‘what is it worth? And what is your value system based on?’ – would you agree with that?

I’ve talked to Stephanie about ‘perceived audiences’... she says I need to bear it in mind more often. I just find it crippling to consciously attempt to perceive them, although I’m sure, on some level, I am, regardless. I think the best any of us can do is just try to make sense, because that notion self-censorship is ultimately defeatist and can breed dishonesty, which is something that should be avoided at all costs.

ME
That's the question I suppose - What is it worth? There's an arrogance in suggesting that our value system is somehow inherently superior to others. But that's our prerogative to make that call and you can do that within a relatively objective framework. I don't want to fall in to what's ultimately the most crippling of parallax errors, in which I can only see my position and perspective - our opinions change all the time. Just look at the Pandoras Box of musical atrocities that belong to our past. I think this discussion itself is an attempt away from that. But you have to remember, I'm tied to this industry, this culture not just as a consumer, but a producer too and that brings with it its own prejudices. And they're always subjective, even when informed.

Maybe we're dancing too much around the subject now. You know, there are people, believe it or not, who don't really care about music, or art and would see this as typical liberal hot air discourse. But then what kind of existence is that?

Monday, 20 October 2008

Situationists - Onwards and Upwards EP

We've been really busy since, well, since the last update. Apart from the aforementioned distracting lights of the Friday and London variety, we've been working frantically sending out press packs, finalising artwork and updating all the relevant social media with news of the Situationists Onwards and Upwards EP. Seemingly neglecting this one until now.

The EP, since you ask, is a 4 track vinyl and CD combination building on the sterling freshman effort This City Holds Us All. It contains "This is a Show" - which has just been added to the A playlist on NME Radio - "A Cold Front", "Fireworks" and title track "Onwards and Upwards".

Astonishingly, encouraging early orders have accounted for almost half of the limited 500 pressing. We really do recommend going to www.toughloverecords.com and clicking on that alluring pre-order button. Doing so will generate a magic code giving you instant access to the songs in MP3 format. All you have to do then is sit by the door waiting for the postman.

Launch nights will be held in Sheffield and at our new London-based club night at the Old Blue Last. Details? Coming soon.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

What A Way To Make A Living...

No recent posts doesn't mean no work, y'know. Tough Love isn't all days by the pool and champagne cocktails. In fact, quite the opposite. We don't even have a pool, although the bath is pretty big and has one of those retractable showerheads so you can wash your hair. Not quite pure decadence, but pretty hot for two twenty-something wage slaves. And so the point is, we've been busy with other things. I have been moonlighting at Rockfeedback, writing the odd review and receiving the odd brilliant record for my troubles. There's not really much more I want. 

If you're not a frequent reader of Rockfeedback, click on the links below to see what I thought to the new TV On The Radio, The Walkmen and Lovvers albums. It seems everyone loves these records and it's a rare occasion when the consensus is right...

I've also put together a 'mix tape' for the I Say Hi, You Say Bye blog-cum-radio show run by Matteo Disco Drive. You can download it here. Mine's accompanied by a picture of me and a big tree, plus some very kind words from my favourite Italian. It was my first time using Garageband and you now have evidence why I stand behind the camera, so to speak. My mixing skills are a face designed for radio, but the art is in the song selection and yeah, my taste wins.

And very soon, very nearly, the new Situationists EP - Onwards and Upwards - will be with us. It's sounding brilliant. They are brilliant. Self-recorded and produced, there's not much these boys can't do. They've even helped construct the artwork, along with the help of the impossibly talented Alex and Chris double team (see The Sequins, PopShop, Disco Drive et al). You're going to cry when you hear "Fireworks", unless of course you're an awful human being. There's also a Japan-only album imminent through 1977 Records (home to The Horrors and Rumble Strips amongst others). Exciting times. 

In less positive news, Katy Perry remains the musical incarnation of a Loaded magazine main feature interview. Well done turning on 14 year old boys and date rapists. It must have been a real struggle. 

Monday, 8 September 2008

Shit But I Know It?

Suffering from insomnia, it's good to have a hobby. Time stretches out to 20 infinities. There's more hours to fill in a day that constantly plateaus . And night is just a darkened room. Imagine that perpetual childhood wait for Christmas but without the pay off, because all a new day brings is a new 24hrs that you wish could be abridged to 16. But thanks to Friday Night Lights, this past week has distilled into a more bearable sequence of time. It's compelling and enthralling and immersive. I find it filtering into the broken fragments of sleep I manage to steal, dreaming of avenue plot lines, when not dreaming of not being able to sleep. 

For the uninitiated, FNL is a teen drama adapted from a Hollywood film of the same name, centred around American college football team Dillon Panthers in a football obsessed Texan town. Money and God are omnipresent concerns, family and football the bedrock of social existence. In many respects, it's standard teen drama, like Dawson's Creek, but filtered through American football rather than a thesaurus. But there's something more here. Something I can't intellectualise away and equally can't reduce to a guilty pleasure. It's not good per se, but its emotionally manipulative in a way that doesn't leave me feeling cheap or abused. It appeals on a base level, visceral even. I like winning. I like competition. I like sport. Just like the Panthers (ahem), FNL can't lose on those terms. And it elicits exactly the same feeling I have when listening to The Streets. 




I'm constantly surprised to experience the disdain some people - a lot of people - show towards Mike Skinner. Not feeling the same way, I find criticisms of him alien and unwarranted, often veiled behind what is essentially an inherent classism. Indeed, like FNL, Skinner's best (and worst) work reeks of working class sentimentality and the two new songs I've heard - "The Escapist" and "Everything Is Borrowed" - play true to type. 

Whereas Skinner has in the past consistently relied upon modern references - texting, Playstations, drug/drink/gambling culture - he's gone on record as saying that the new album represents a conscious effort to move outside of this comfort zone. While his lyrics have lost a certain amount of their characteristic parochialism in favour of a more ambiguous universality, his concerns remain reflective of that very modern twentysomething ennui. Skinner's perhaps used that excuse for a way of saying that his focus has changed, his muse a little richer in gravitas, or at least that's what he's striving for. The title of "The Escapist" is a give away, the song itself charged with alienation and uncertainty, but incongruently sacchrine sweet, coated rich in strings and a faux-soul leit motif with the faint whiff of ethno-yah! trust fund philosophy in the narrative (and that video doesn't really help). It's both predictable and moving in equal measure. 

Contrary to what my conditioned critical faculties suppose, I like it. It pulls my heart strings in the same way a Matt Saracen 40 yard pass with slow motion drama does and I make no apologies for that. But equally, there's the distinct feeling that it's  a crass, ill-advised mis-step, trying to say something "important" but just coming off stumbling and cloying and laughable. But that's the beauty of Mike Skinner. He does get it wrong, as cliched as he can be inspired. Just like FNL, I can't switch him off even though my inscribed cultural elitism dictates I should. I want to know where it's going and what he's going to do next, because it's stupid and compelling and funny. Given that I've not yet watched The Wire or listened to Burial, maybe this means nothing, but I'm eschewing critical consensus this time. Just this once, mind...   

Friday, 5 September 2008

iCon?

"Ever feel like you've been cheated?". Actually, yes, all the time. New technology is moving so fast, it's hard to know the difference between an iCon and a true icon. Here's some pretty bad offenders...

The term 'Bloghouse'

Is it OK if everyone stops using the word bloghouse to refer to electronic music that people who don't have less intelligence than a below average reality TV contestant like? Apparently. it's not 'proper' dance music if you have to write about it ZZZZZZZZ. Worse than The Enemy.

Lily Allen
And to think I own her album. On vinyl. Well and truly fucking iConned!

Blackberry
Great idea. Now I can never been anymore than no seconds away from my boss, from work, from having to do something other than nothing. Well done. You've just made a rod for you own back. And those twiglets used to poke the screen are about as cool as the Top Gear Cool Wall.

Celebrity Sex Tapes
Just like porn, except "I can't see anything, I haven't got a hard on and I want to cry". About sums it up.


Can you think of anymore?

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Waiting To Inhale


At the end of this month, Situationists are playing with Hot Club de Paris at Flux at the Yardbird, Birmingham. Flux is always a good night, always has well-considered bills, always accommodating and always DJ-ing our songs between sets. I like these people. I like their taste (it's called self-obsession, thank you). I even like the way Birmingham pours grey across grey in a desperate attempt to turn that "2" into a "1". And there's a few great bands helping turn some eyes the wrong way of the capital - Johnny Foreigner, Calories, Shocked Elevator Family, Bee Stung Lips.

But I'm digressing a little here (mainly as I wanted to mention those bands), because Hot Club de Paris should NOT be playing a venue as small as the Yardbird. Their debut album was, so I've been unofficially told, the biggest selling album on Moshi Moshi, and Moshi Moshi is a great label with some relatively successful acts. But you'd be forgiven for not knowing that their sophomore effort, Live At Dead Lake, has been out for nearly two months now. It's been pretty much ignored in most corners of the press, save the odd token review. Where are the interviews? Why aren't they charging out of the radio like idiots at a Next sale? Why haven't Drowned In Sound fallen over themselves trying to get them to write a tour diary? They're the perfect DiS band too. I'm mystified, like INXS.

So, what's going on? Maybe it's a shit record, right? Well, maybe you're a shit record. I've enjoyed few albums this year as much as Live At Dead Lake. At times, their debut left me cold, ambition not quite matching execution, a little too busy where I'd prefer they let one of the numerous riffs stick around long enough for me to be able to acknowledge its existence. But LADL is different. It fuses their more esoteric leanings - math-y, busy, ironic song titles, Minutemen - but remembers that pop music is the best medium for communication. There's no real verses here, no conduits to pay off, no filler. Just chorus after different chorus even if technically that makes no sense.

Most beautifully of all, they've something to say. Thoughtful, deeply parochial and often cryptic lyrics that some how possess a universal appeal are a rare commodity, but they're laced throughout here. They assume an implicit intelligence in their audience. "This Thing Forever Seems To Last Forever" is as near a perfect guitar song as I've heard since I last listened to Talking Heads. And the comparison is fair I think, because they've the same way of shifting the mundane into the fantastic, into the absurd and fashioning the utterly perfect encapsulation of what it is to be stupid, to be smart, to be confused and clear sighted and not even know the difference. The world is pretty fucking weird. People are pretty fucking weird. Pop music, at it's best, should reflect that and Hot Club do so with their spazzy riffs, sea shanty sing-a-long multi-part harmonies and funny weird/funny ha ha words. I guess Hot Club are pretty fucking weird too, but doesn't that make them the perfect pop band?

Intelligence and mass appeal are not mutually exclusive. In fact, their marriage should be the model, the ultimate artistic aspiration. And lots of great bands have achieved it - New Pop was predicated on that very idea. But then again, maybe I'm romanticising the popular. I'm looking for that 'prole art threat', in fact, I'm assuming it exists. And I'm also assuming that people want it. That Hot Club de Paris aren't the biggest band of their type in this country, or at least somewhere on their way to becoming it, means I'm probably a little naive and I'm also probably valuing my own opinion a little highly but... People aren't tricked by the media. Passive consumption is an out-dated concept*. We know what we want and we buy accordingly. We're an active audience. Not so much choosing freely, but free to choose, right? So stop making the wrong choices, please. Sometimes mark makers don't quite make the mark they should on the world...

*I'm putting a simplistic gloss on a more complex argument here, but I'd prefer to keep the anti-intellectual ZZZs to a minimum here.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Orange Crush



There have been lots of amazing songs this year (I'm looking at you "Black and Gold","The Devil's Crayon", "Sleepyhead"), but I think Camille may well have usurped them all. Never did I think I would write these words and at the risk of sounding like Jools Holland on a 'cool hunt', but the beatboxing at the start is brilliant. I guess that makes me a little too much 1998, but I don't care. And regardless, there are even better parts, such as from about 3:12 onwards, when Camille starts offering out Mariah Carey, in typical ingenue mock diva style of course. That's the "Money Note" right there. That ridiculous "F Sharp 7" has got me all crushed out. French, intelligent, funny and cute; I better slow down before I make myself a hernia baby.

Monday, 25 August 2008

See You On The Other Side

Situationists on the BBC Introducing stage
Ryan enjoying free Alabama Fudge Cake
A genuine massage parlour and no euphemisms
Vampire Weekend

This weekend was a mini-landmark moment for Tough Love. With Situationists playing Reading and Leeds, it was the first time that one of our bands has played a major festival. Sure, HEALTH and Disco Drive have played numerous festivals and high profile gigs, but that had very little to do with us. We weren't integral to the process. We can't take credit for those achievements. This time it felt different, because both us and the band have grown together, somewhat organically these past six months. And it was a heart swelling feeling. It was a father's pride to see them grace that stage with such confidence, charm and above all, great songs. For them to be there it felt like recognition, like a nod in our direction, that people are paying attention. We don't need their sanction or approval, but it makes a difference when you have an opportunity to reach more people. They certainly received a warm response from the crowd too. I even saw one especially enamored fan request a copy of the setlist. That's fame right there. 

The BBC staff were horrendously polite and welcoming, interviewing the band and filming their set for streaming on the site (which you can access here). I'm gushing here, but the whole experience was characterised by friendly faces and open arms. At least at Reading - unfortunately a rather expensive snare was stolen on the Saturday in Leeds. Not cool. Hopefully the free booze and food supplied backstage compensated slightly for that misgiving. AAA passes were an unexpected novelty: a window into an alien world. But I still think I prefer ATP's more egalitarian set-up. I like being able to speak to Thurston Moore without him worrying if I'll steal all of his Doritos and green tea. 

Rather than slide too far in solipsism, we also took the opportunity to watch some other bands that I should probably mention here. Well, the good ones anyway. Pulled Apart By Horses were not only noble gentleman, but a fraught and aggressive live act, with a nice line in Bill & Ted phraseology. The lead singer played hard enough to projectile vomit, which is much better than shitting in a towel. 

Vampire Weekend were tight and absorbing, perhaps attributable to the fact that we were lucky enough to be stood about 2 metres away from them. From the perspective of the stage, thousands of people singing back every word in blissfully tuneless unison is both utterly terrifying and wonderfully captivating. The new song sounded a bit ropey though, like a poorly conceived version of their Discovery side project. 

Flashguns were of the same school of Bombay Bicycle Club (perhaps literally), but with a more engaging frontman. There's a tendency to fetishise youth, as if their tender years some how make the songs better, whilst condescendingly inferring that they'll only improve as they become more adult. It's their youth that instills the songs with charm. These songs couldn't be sung by a band of thirty-somethings. That would be disingenuous, whereas Flashguns have a wide eyed naivety that is tenderly compelling. Apparently Rough Trade have taken note too...

Friendly Fires were the highlight though. "Paris" is one of the pop songs of the year, or last year, or whenever it came out. The specifics are irrelevant, because it sounded as good on Friday as it did the first time I heard it. Ticker tape, a Notting Hill Carnival type troupe of drummers and two Vegas style peacock suited dancers were also instrumental in winning me round. And slinky hips. The lead singer has the most fluid hips I've seen since Boogie Nights. He might like to consider purchasing some clothes that fit him though. Exposed midriffs are so 90s. 

And that's about it. Most of the other bands I saw were terrible or unworthy of mention. But I was only there for one day. I'm making a trip to Offset next weekend, giving me ample opportunity to see all the great bands that were spread across the other two days (Wild Beasts are very high up that list). 

Situationists have promised to write a post assessing their experiences, replete with pre-requisite rock 'n' roll tales of debauchery I'm sure. Or not, given that they're not awful anachronistic cliches.   

Thursday, 21 August 2008

It’s Good To Talk

Whilst it’s never been our ambition to bombard you with posts, I am aware that “its been a while” since my last post. Stephen on the other hand is doing a commendable job and has become the Michael Phelps of the Tough Love Water Cube, nae blog. 

To keep you updated, we are busy plotting away in the newly relocated Tough Love Towers and we will shortly have some new releases to tell you about. We’re also in negotiations with a venue to establish Don’t Go Home…London. Here though is an update of some of our bands upcoming activities.

Situationists

Sheffield’s finest are playing the BBC Introducing Stage at this years Reading and Leeds Festival;

Reading - Friday 22 Aug - 1330-1355
Leeds - Saturday Aug 23 Aug - 1315-1340

The sold out This City Holds Us All EP will be followed by a second EP this autumn.

Honeytrap

Honeytrap are in a state of flux at the moment, with half the band in Coventry and the other setting down roots, and god knows what else, in London. The London branch are dusting themselves down - they are chimney sweeps now, you see - in order to play the Vyner Street festival this Saturday.

William

William would like you to buy their album, as would we, in order for the band to begin recording a follow up single/EP/album or tape. If you’re one of those people who need other people to tell you how good something is before you buy yourself then you’re reading the wrong blog. Here's what the press think:

"Blending Pavement with heavier bands that still know their way around a good pop hook 8/10." - Rocksound Magazine

"Rhythmic, overdriven guitars, from one hook straight to the next... and it's decent stuff."- Drowned In Sound

"William create the impression of a young, up-and-coming indie punk band that would be a live revelation." - Noize Makes Enemies

"Vocals that devour your defences and leave you admitting, yes this is a great pop record 4/5." - Subba Cultcha

You can buy that album and our T-Shirt here http://www.toughloverecords.com/

Fear of Music

Foals @ Cross Kings, London

There's that old adage that you should judge a man (sic) by the company he keeps. If I were to apply that same logic to music, Foals would have been dismissed before playing a note this evening . Playing what they admit themselves is their smallest show in a long time, the less than 300 strong crowd is comprised of the worst of people. Ignorant, fawning and identikit, alcohol bores through their bloodstream and I crave prohibition, or Ian MacKaye and a megaphone full of spite. Maybe I'm bitter or misunderstanding here, but at least I've still something beating in my chest. 

As the 'secret', or at least low-key nature of the gig suggests, it's a partisan gathering too. Foals probably don't have to do much tonight save turn up. The opening few songs confirm my suspicions, the crowd lapping up some relatively formless, predictable jams that I very much doubt will make the second record. Yannis himself even acknowledges that they're filler, which makes you wonder why they bothered.  That could be a concern for the band, but with the sheer volume of shows they've played in the last year it's hardly surprising they've had little time to write new material.

They do trot out the more well known songs in "Cassius", "Balloons" and "Hummer", but the stand outs are the album tracks that dispense of the clipped-guitar-bouncing-hi-hat formula and breathe a little. Fittingly, "Olympic Airwaves" is the first real highlight of the night, with a warmth and lushness not apparent in their more spiky dancefloor moments. It's songs like these, as with "Red Socks Pugie" that Foals remind just why everyone was so excited in the first place. I think they know it too, hence their decision to omit the popular early singles from the album. 

The much documented conflict with David Sitek has shown they're focused and single-minded. Let's hope they can harness that stubborness and turn it creative on their sophomore effort. They're technically talented enough to do whatever they can imagine and their much cited influences alone show they've rich sources to draw upon - can there ever be enough Q And Not U? And it's still the best rhythm section to bother the charts in as long as I can remember. 

All attention was obviously on Foals tonight. Even Matt Horne was there, until he got bored four songs in. They went back to their roots (they do have indie kudos via Try Harder, after all) and waltzed through Antidotes with ease, earning sychophancy to spare. It was an easy victory, like Usain Bolt in a empty field. And well deserved, I'm sure. But, there's another aphorism I'm reminded of here: it's a fool that looks at the hand pointing at the sky. Foals reference a lot of great bands and at times they channel the same electric, ambitious impulses of their influences. Although the new material tonight doesn't make this apparent, the newer songs on the album suggest they're pushing in the right directions and stretching out their aesthetic. I suspect however that they might lose a few of the assembled bandwagon jumpers with their eyes fixed firmly on pointed fingers. And thank god.  Indie elitism I know, but I want music back. Most of these people don't deserve it. 

Monday, 11 August 2008

No Age/HEALTH/Lovvers



I've often commented on here about our lack of audience, as if we're firing shots behind a soundproof screen. However, on tonight's showing, I'm convincing myself that everyone in the front five rows tonight read my post and decided to prove me wrong. I'm self-important enough for that to stick. As the title of this post suggests, No Age, HEALTH and Lovvers played a gig together tonight at the Scala in London. What the title doest tell you was how excellent it was. 

On Friday's showing and with a warning that the sound in the Scala can be worse than terror attacks, I was bracing myself for another night of excellent music played in poor conditions. I needn't have bothered. Filling in for a passport-less and stranded in Portugal Dan Deacon, I arrived just in time to see Lovvers tear through "Wasted Youth" in their typically insouciant, bratty manner. Churning and sloopy, they stumbled and pissed their way through a set so nasty and brazen it could've fallen out of the SST West Coast scene sometime 15-20 years ago.  If they don't have a song called "19fuckin'91", then they should really try a little harder. But they do certainly try, as much as they probably like to pretend they don't and they're superb for it, even if the crowd do seem a little scared. There must be an album arriving sometime soon, surely? 

If Lovvers (and No Age) look to the past for influence, HEALTH have got their sights firmly on the future. Playing a set heavy on new material, they're the best I've seen them. The new songs retain the aggressive edge of the first album, but there's a little less calculation in their delivery, a little less mathematical in their formulation. Mid-set stand out "Party Zone" is a feel good hit of the summer, fall and winter in waiting, owing a little to Fuck Buttons in its dance macabre, but still undeniably HEALTH in its metallic spikiness. Their new T Shirts are also extremely excellent. They've got the whole Gesamptkunstwerk thing down, just have No Age have, with merch spilling over the table in the lobby offering a firm reminder of their aesthetic. Stood waiting for the band to finish selling to chat 12", I saw about 15 people buy T shirts and not one record was sold. Worrying? The mention of Fuck Buttons is important too, as both them and HEALTH are doing for noise what Mogwai did for post rock (and let's not forget that Mogwai always had great and extensive merch); dragging it into a wider frame of reference without diluting what it's about. It also helps that they look really good.

With HEALTH having played earlier than scheduled, No Age are given time to watch the venue fill and by the time they take to the stage, it's sardines. And this is when the unexpected happened. Gathered at the front are about 50-100 teenagers who precede to go Peter Buck-on-a-plane as soon as No Age start playing. Five songs in, their on stage, spilling beer (naughty naughty: they're all about 12), jerking like electrified synapses  and cutting out guitars. No Age love it and thank their "enthusiasm". It's amazing to see such willful abandon (even if it's a little "kneel down and you shall believe"), especially given the cold as ice reception of the too-cool-for-school bores on Friday. More gigs like this please. And when did No Age get so popular? It's deserved though.  

I was meant to post some photos of the night here, but as my camera doesn't have a USB port and the memory card doesn't fit in any other camera in the house, they're stranded on the shit thing. Technology really shouldn't be this hard. 

And one more thing to add: we just watched HEALTH at Rough Trade. The new songs really are as good as I thought last night. They need to take a rest from touring so they can get them recorded!

Saturday, 9 August 2008


Mirror! Mirror! played at the Old Blue Last (Vice owned London bar) last night and despite it being a free show, a Friday night, a very busy Friday night, the crowd reaction was a little underwhelming to say the least. It was like the 9/11 of enthusiasm. Dead-eyes rolling just enough to be able check if that was still the right thing to do. Such feigned indifference should perhaps be expected in a bar run by Vice, but at least that magazine is funny. I didn't see many people laughing last night. Maybe long time Londoners are spoilt by an embarrassment of riches? Maybe city life is too tiring to muster a simple clapped appreciation? And it wasn't the band's fault. They were typically awesome: the right combination of the visceral, aggressive and playful, fleeing the stage with bare torsos attempting to engage the crowd in some way, any way. And some down the front did dance, let their machismo spill over and got in a bit of a pissing contest. But as soon as the music stopped: silence, save the Tough Love contingent thrusting accentuated claps in annoyed faces. That was funny actually. 

I think people need to purge their tired notions of what they think is cool, stop being so self-involved, so self-conscious. I can't think of anything more redundant than pretending not to like something. What's to fear? It's a little ironic that the Vice sycophants (although they'd never like to be classed as such, as that would constitute stating a preference, an affiliation that could be shot down) are so willing to blindly fit a mold shaped by a magazine that coined it's own distinct sensibility. But I can't blame Vice for the hipster Stepford Wives. That's like blaming the Jews for Hitler.      

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Un-Repeater


William
Dananananykroyd

Honeytrap
Situationists
Popular Workshop

This has taken far too long. I should have posted these weeks ago. But it's here now. The best of times for sure. I can hardly remember anything from the night other than a vague feeling of elation (thank you, alcohol) and time has helped zero in elucidating the memory. Thank you, then to Gary Keenan for documenting what my brain was too weak to recall. Some truly fantastic images. Despite said memory lapses, I also somewhat hazily remember Dananananykroyd surfing the stairs outside Taylor John's, the lead singer of Mirror! Mirror! eating 4(!) burgers, a step ladder, the HOTTEST room in the history of temperature, the worst turn-ups and the longest long boat, and "Aperture". Thank you to everyone that came. We're planning on starting something new in London, but where and when is yet to be decided. I've also posted a link to Danananananykroyd's video tour diary, which includes some special footage from the birthday party, including said stair surfing. I wish I was able to use this blog properly and arrange the photos in some sort of order after this message, but I cant as I'm stupid....I feel obsolete




Friday, 18 July 2008

And now, buy the T-shirt

Tough Love now has it's very own T shirts.

If you like what you see (you should if you have eyes/taste), then you'll have to be quick as there's only 50. They're £10 and printed on American Apparel as only the best will do. And we're ethical, if that's still cool.

Thanks to Pea Math aka Patrick Mather for his awesome design work.

See you at the birthday party.