All My Little Words

Yes! I Am A Long Way From Home

Posted in Uncategorized by domtetley on June 12, 2011

The night before I took the train down to Barcelona I went to Brighton to catch a Mountain Goats gig with my brother. They played in Coalition, which is a small club in the arches just at the back of the beach, and after playing a few of the songs off their new album (which I haven’t heard because their stupid new label doesn’t have stuff sorted with spotify) John Darnielle announced that, as they don’t make it to Brighton that often, if there was anything apart from the hits that anyone wanted to hear they should shout it out – so we got the kind of convivial, all in it together atmosphere that I loved the first time I saw them, but was maybe a little lacking when I caught them at Koko last year (although it could also be I was pretty pissed that time…). Mini Review in the Form of a Mogwai Song Title: Secret Pint.

Despite having very little to really do on the Thursday things somehow got late – and it was already well into Big Boi’s set before I made it onto the festival site. What I saw was a really enjoyable hip-hop set, playing the bigger tunes off Sir Luscious Left-foot. The surprise was that his biggest tune, Shutterbugg, was played towards the end of the main set, then Tangerine and Ain’t No DJ were played in the encore, but I guess Big Boi’s career is at a point where if people know his music they probably know the whole album, so he can keep excitement levels as high as they’re going to get by playing tracks in pretty much any order. MRitFoaMST: With Portfolio.

Grinderman make something pretty difficult look incredibly easy, presenting their blues rock with no frills (but tremendous beards), and playing it very, very loud. I’m now really lusting after an electric mandolin and a bank of fx pedals as long as the Barcelona seafront. MRitFoaMST: White Noise.

Interpol’s thing looks pretty easy too, and the sneaking suspicion is that that’s because it is. This doesn’t matter when they play anything off their first two albums: those are just incredible songs, but anything else just sounds like more of the same. MRitFoaMST: Auto Rock.

We arrive at Flaming Lips just as Wayne Coyne is setting off in his big plastic ball, and the chubby cheerleaders are lining up by the sides of the stage, and the first of many confetti-cannons is fired, and, and… wow. I don’t think the Flaming Lips have released a decently strong album since whenever Yoshimi came out (2002?), and you could argue that even Yoshimi and the Soft Bulletin are pretty patchy, but they’ve now got a set of anthemic, lived in songs that, even without the theatrics, actually build up a surprisingly hefty emotional punch. But then, who cares about that when you’ve got giant hands that shoot lasers? MRitFoaMST: New Paths to Helicon Pt II.

They switched up the start time of the El Guincho set, so we only caught two songs, and I don’t remember much about them. MRitFoaMST: I Can’t Remember.

Last time I saw Girl Talk the sound system was a bit underpowered, so the moments when the beat drops and the mix really kicks together, which are kind of the point of the guy’s music, didn’t really move me. This was not a problem this time round. MRitFoaMST: May Nothing But Happiness Come Through Your Door.

I don’t really get the National, and catching half an outdoor gig from the back of the crowd didn’t help me get them any better. I kept thinking, oh, here comes the good one, and it was just another one that sounded a bit the same as the last. We did hear the good one – Fake Empire – and it sounded as flatly uninspired as the rest of the set. MRitFoaMST: Music for a Forgotten Future.

I’m not the biggest Belle and Sebastian fan, but I’d heard good things about their live show, and was excited to finally catch up with them, so their bland and enervating set was particularly disappointing. When they eventually got around to something that I at least knew to be a good tune – The Boy with the Arab Strap – they seemed to play at half-speed, with Stuart Murdoch murmuring his vocals even lower into the mix than usual. The biggest cheer of the set came when their guitarist (who should never normally be let near a microphone) croaked out ‘sing along with the common people’, which was a bit sad. MRitFoaMST: Too Raging To Cheers/Scotland’s Shame (Yep, totally why I thought of doing this stupid gimmick).

We sat out on the edge of the concrete amphitheatre for some of Explosions in the Sky, which seemed like a fine way to hear them. Some music doesn’t necessarily need to make a huge impression to achieve just the right effect, and these guys were a case in point. Although I did then wonder off to check out the merchandising stall. Nothing really caught my eye. MRitFoaMST: Take Me Somewhere Nice.

And then came Pulp, and they were fucking magnificent. When I first got a tape recorder when I was about 11 Different Class was the one album I had to play on it. I’ve returned to it every few years since then, and it’s never failed to offer me something new. Tonight’s show was pretty much a run through of that album, with a few off His’n’Hers and This is Hardcore, and was as exciting, involving and emotional as I could possibly have hoped it would be. I shouted along with almost all of it, jumped up and down like a lunatic and couldn’t stop grinning. I loved being there. MRitFoaMST: George Square Thatcher Death Party.

After Pulp we stumbled down the steps to the Pitchfork Stage for Jamie xx and Lindstrom, who were both good for some silly dancing to take care of any remaining energy we might have had. I barely remember what either of them sounded like – I think Lindstrom might play electro-house? – but I’m pretty sure I enjoyed them. MRitFoaMST: for Jamie xx: I’m Jim Morrison, I’m dead (not in anyway appropriate, but an acknowledgement of Mogwai’s own tribute to Gil Scott Heron. RIP.) for Lindstrom: Rano Pano.

Got onto site a bit earlier the next night in order to catch Yuck. I lay down on a step for most of the show and felt thousands of tiny flies crawl all over me. Yuck sound a bit like the Silversun Pickups (so a bit like the Smashing Pumpkins), but, thankfully, less whiny. MRitFoaMST: A Cheery Wave From Stranded Youngsters.

Warpaint were nicely noisy, and, though it was hard work picking out anything happening on the stage as the sun went down behind it, I did some vigorous head nodding along with the songs, and really enjoyed the set. MRitFoaMST: Punk Rock:.

I have since read reviews of Fleet Foxes’ London shows, and apparently they have hugely beefed up their sound since their last tour, but even not having caught them back then I was surprised, and very impressed, by how forceful they sounded. My favourite songs off the first album were loud enough to shout along to from the back without losing any of their beauty. And they were polite enough to finish in time for Nick to get to the football. MRitFoaMST: Summer.

PJ Harvey arrives wearing something weird – a wedding dress and some birds on her head – and consistently fails to build an atmosphere. I’m not sure what she could have done to make her set more of a success, but her songs are basically too short. I found it a real shame as I like her new album a lot, but it didn’t really come across live. MRitFoaMST: Folk Death 95.

Mogwai do their thing. They do it well and they do it loud. There’s a surprising amount of beauty submerged in the noise, and their wordless songs pulled me in more than I expected. MRitFoaMST: Glasgow Mega-Snake.

After Pulp I was probably more excited about the Odd Future show than anything else this weekend, having loved the couple of Tyler The Creator songs available on Spotify, but it was a mess, succumbing to the two most common (though, to judge by Jay-Z, avoidable) problems of live hip-hop: their back beat reduced to a booming thump, while their vocals were lost in unintelligible shouting. Given that the power of their records derives from their steely control, this was a pretty much unmitigated failure. MRitFoaMST: 2 Rights Make 1 Wrong.

DJ Shadow would have pulled an El Guincho on us if Stefan hadn’t kept a weather eye on the interweb, but as it was it was the rest of the crowd that turned up late, and we got prime spots down the front. The visuals were great, he avoided The Outsider as far as I could tell, and I don’t know where I found the energy, but I really enjoyed it. MRitFoaMST: Thank You Space Expert.

On the beach the following afternoon we tried to think of reasons not to move to Barcelona and came up blank. We were further convinced of the city’s greatness by Mercury Rev’s after-party show, which was in the Poble Espanyol, a medieval courtyard, and possibly the most beautiful venue I’ve ever been to a gig in. the show itself was pretty good too, with Deserter’s Songs sounding much more muscularly psychedelic live. MRitFoaMST: I Love You, I’m Going To Blow Up Your School.

Gil Scott-Heron – A Poet Who Died Too Young

Posted in Uncategorized by nickchristian on June 12, 2011

In the early hours of Saturday morning, in front of the Pitchfork stage at Primavera Sound, I was dancing to JamieXX playing out his version of Gil Scott Heron’s “I’m New Here”. Several hours later we awoke to the news that the song’s author had died overnight. That a young musician has, by reinterpreting Heron’s first album in more than fifteen years, managed to successfully carve himself a secondary career as a DJ, is as fitting a tribute and as telling a testament to his relevance as there can be.

Although I’m New Here is unlikely to surpass The Revolution Will Not Be Televised as Heron’s most politically  “important” work, it can be reasonably regarded as its equal in terms of peer influence and critical reception. For a man who seemingly had, in recent years, very little interest in writing poetry and recordung it as music, it was a simply stunning production. Thoughtful, analytical, riddled with self-criticism and an appropriate level of pathos, I’m New Here was so much more than we could have expected it to be.

I have no idea if Scott-Heron was working on new material at the time of his death, or if the 2009 LP was intended to be followed by anything at any point. Still less can we know if the record that might never have been could have matched its predecessor in lyrical majesty and musical impact. But the very occurrence of I’m New Here, sixteen years after Spirits, is enough to suggest he could do it again. That is why Gil Scott Heron’s death means more.

It means more than if, say, Bob Dylan were to keel over tomorrow. Or Bruce Springsteen. Or Paul McCartney. For these men and their ilk, we can be sure, will never come close to recording anything the equal to  their most celebrated works, as influential as they still are, decades after being released. All of these might still be important performers, but their performances are of the songs and albums on which they originally made their names. While they might continue to write and record new material, the comparisons cannot be made and the public interest barely register. The Rolling Stones are, and have been for some time, no more than a Rolling Stones covers band.

There are contenders. Dave Gilmour and Robert Plant have in recent years bestowed on us a couple of albums which we should be very grateful to receive and that are really worth experiencing live. It would have been a great shame had we not been given On An Island or Raising Sand, but the Dark Side of the Moon or Physical Graffiti they are not and it is to those records we would turn in tribute if either men were to depart tomorrow.

Gil Scott Heron, for all his troubles, left us wanting more. His death, at 62 at full 35 years longer than musicians are meant to live, feels too young and leaves us bereft of what might have been.

One last tribute from Gilles Peterson:

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