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Bob Mould – Oran Mor, Glasgow

 

“I didn’t want to play the songs/That gave people so much hope” sings Bob Mould on ‘The Descent’, the stand-out track from his latest album Star Machine. It sums up one of the contradictions of his fascinating career – a man never quite comfortable with his own achievements. He spent years running from his legacy as a member of seminal 80s hardcore legends Húsker Dú, only to find massive success with his next band, the mighty Sugar. But the Mould of 2013 is a different animal. relaxed and – whisper it – seemingly having fun up there, he’s delving into his unrivalled back catalogue and threatening to blow the fucking roof off this place.

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Grant Hart – Mono, Glasgow

You can’t help but feel Grant Hart’s life story will make a cracking film one day. After all, this is a man who inherited his drums from his brother when he was killed by a drunk driver. Openly gay in a blue collar US neighbourhood, he was drawn to the fledgling (and now legendary) Minneapolis punk scene. And he was the drummer and co-songwriter in Húsker Dú, the genuinely seminal hardcore band who helped define what the opposition to the mainstream was in the 1980s. His heroin addiction hastened their demise and almost killed him. He eventually recovered, making a clutch of great records, both as frontman of Nova Mob and solo. He’s like the Frank Miller version of Dave Grohl.

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From the vault – Húsker Dú

Húsker Dú were brilliant. They remain the greatest hardcore band who ever existed, taking melody and speed and blending them together in a sort of Electric-Ladyland-for-the-80s way. Their influence on everything from grunge to pop-punk to emo is obvious, even if they wouldn’t always appreciate the credit. Brilliantly, this clip is of them performing on the Joan Rivers show. The Joan Rivers show!

Mark Eitzel – Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh

Mark EitzelFor the truly great American bands of the 80s – R.E.M., Húsker Dú, The Replacements, Black Flag, Uncle Tupelo, The Pixies – success (or a relative of it) shined upon them at some stage, be it in those incarnations or for some of their members after the fact. For Mark Eitzel, it didn’t. American Music Club were as great, as cult and as important as anybody from those days, but no matter what he’s done he’s just found it that bit out of reach.

He’s never been an easy man to love, of course. Borderline alcoholic, gay and self-loathing for it, his songs have a vituperative honesty which make them more than a little unsettling. There is no varnish at all with Eitzel, yet tonight as he sings unadorned and accompanied only by sparse piano, his astonishing voice acts as a balm as his words simultaneously score your soul. Continue reading

Extreme Lovin’ Mode – Songs of Obsession

We’ve been enthralled round these parts this week by ‘Pins and Panzers’, the debut album by New York electropop Plushgun. It’s a shimmering slice of atmospheric quality pop, the kind of thing the Killers tried with ‘Dancer’ and obviously failed so miserably at. More specifically, we’ve been the smitten kitten about their song ‘Just Impolite’, which is utterly fantastic, the kind of storming electronic single that Mute records used to do so wonderfully back in the day. This is the point we’d usually stick a YouTube link in, but not these days while the PRS v Google battle drags on. So we’ll just suggest you hit their MySpace page instead to hear it.

It has a fascinating little lyric too, where the lovelorn singer tries to justify his refusal to let a relationship end by saying he’s not obsessed, just impolite. Yes, yes, he’s a stalker, but it’s still a cracking tune.

There is a proud tradition in rock of songs where one person just won’t leave the other one be. The most famous example is probably ‘Every Breath You Take’, Sting’s on-the-surface pretty little tune full of rhyming dictionary couplets until you realise he’s basically telling some poor bint she’ll never be shot of him. Imagine that – Sting in your life 24/7. Euurgh. Creepy Geordie Bastard.

Siouxsie and the Banshee’s ‘Obsession’ does exactly what it says on the tin, and is suitably claustrophobic. ‘Diane’ by Húsker Dú and ‘Polly’ by Nirvana are extreme examples, when obsession has given way to something a whole lot less wholesome. ‘Knoxville Girl’ is a traditional song with a fairly horrific ending. On a different tack, Springsteen captures the inability of someone to give up on a destructive relationship even though they know it’s bad for them in the searing ‘I’m On Fire’.

I blame romantic comedy films myself. In those, women love you to go to their work and sing. They want you to find out where they live and send hundreds of teddy bears. They smile when they see you’ve filled up their message machine. But you try it. Simply try breaking into the flat of a woman you fancy and writing ‘I’m Watching You X’ in lipstick on their mirror and they’ll have you slung in jail.

I know; it’s appalling. They set you up for a fall, they really do.

Anyway, let’s hear your creepy songs of love.

(By the way, I’ve just realised what sort of person we’re going to have on site if they’ve entered ‘extreme lovin’ into Google. Welcome, perverts!)

The Friday 5 – Totally Bono; Annoying Things In Music

People, as Depeche Mode once so sagely noted, are people. Similarly unarguable are the merits of the Friday 5. ‘Ver 5’, as no-one calls it, can cover pretty much anything; it’s subject matters are as free range as Jamie Oliver’s dream chicken. Today we felt we’d go a bit Yellow Pages and prove sometimes we’re here only for the nasty things in life (there’s one for the teenagers.)

Life is full of minor irritations, things which are sent to try us and bloody well do. Great artists, bad artists; they are two cheeks of the same arse. And while you’ll take the quid pro quo that for every Tom Waits there must be a Bono, it doesn’t make it any easier to take when the pious Irish pixie is warbling on about whatever good cause has fluttered into his inbox this week. But it’s not just people; fashion, genres, album artwork….there is simply no end of the amount of things which can get right on your bell-end and set up camp. Here’s a few of ELM’s favourite hates;

Chipmunk Rap Vocals 
Fucking Akon. I know that beginning is neither big nor clever, but it’s deeply apt. He achieved, along with whichever bright spark decided mobile phones should have speakers – way to go, you Nokia bastards – the almost impossible feat of making chavs more annoying. MORE annoying! It’s like making cheese more cheesy. Whereas before gangs of feral youths could be iignored, now they rampage round city centres and public transport blasting out drippy rnb which sound as though they are being belted out by Alvin and his brothers. His song ‘Lonely’ is beyond novelty, and instead lapses into sheer undiluted hate crime. The man should be beaten to a bloody pulp with a 1980’s mobile phone. That’d teach him.

All American Punk since 1992
American Punk was actually a really rather interesting thing back in the day. How could it not be? Ramones & Television mutating into Black Flag and Húsker Dú before we got Sonic Youth and Nirvana? Sign me up. But then, in the post-grunge explosion, it got bought, re-packaged and sold in much more agreeable sizes. Suddenly, you had a raft of big-short wearing, mohawk spouting arsewits complaining about having to do chores and girls called Julie who wouldn’t dance with them. Wheatus, Bowling For Soup, Angels and Airwaves – utter shite. The very worst thing about them is that they look at the pop charts – which they are in – and cock a snooky sneer at their compatriots. Listen guys, you are Leona Lewis with guitars. You are very popular, but so was National Socialism and that didn’t make it right.

Brandon Flowers
 If Bono is a pudding – and he is – then his tiresome mini-me is even worse. Strange as it is to recall, but when the Killers first emerged they were great. Huge tunes, plenty of genuine emotion, 80’s synths….magic. And then they got famous and fame shot like a bullet to the head of the world’s most rocking Mormon and, much as a real bullet would have, killed him. In his place came this walking cock, all gold lame suits, bad moustaches, dodgy pretensions and irritatingly certain of his self-worth. Perhaps not coincedentally, the two albums since issued by his band have been utter bilge, half-baked U2-meets-Springsteen begging letters to play stadiums. A man in serious need of a good slap and a pint.

Top of the Pops not being on anymore
In a fair and just world, this simply wouldn’t have been allowed to happen. I KNOW nobody watched it at the end. I KNOW they employed Fearne Cotton, a woman so untalented she makes you think they might have the right idea with Guantanamo Bay, just the wrong people. It doesn’t matter. TOTP should always be there, a great British institution, another in the endless line of things we never use but are glad they are there. Things like that are what made Britain great. Now, back to Fearne Cotton. What’s the fucking point of that woman?

Booking Fees
Now, I’m being harsh here. Ticketmaster are absolutely correct to charge us for the privilege of actually selling us a ticket. Just surprised it hasn’t caught on anywhere else. Imagine going into Tesco and the check-out girl saying ‘it’ll be 49p for the soup and 20p for me agreeing to sell it to you. Oh, and if you want multiple tins, there will be a charge on each one’? Seriously, I do wish ugly children and severe and uncontrollable anal leakage on every single Ticketmaster executive. They are such utter cocksucking little Satans, sent to suck the simple joy of gig-going away from you. Why do we put up with this?

Well, we try to keep it positive round here, but occasionally we get overwhelmed by the boorish ineptitude surrounding the world and today was one such time. however, TFI folks, TFI. Enjoy your weekend and we’ll see you back here next week. Let’s be careful out there….

Get me a bottle and a gun – Brilliantly Depressing Songs

Ah, music. Great thing for watching girls go by to, wonderous for getting jiggy with it on a dancefloor and capable of making you smash your cranium backwards and forwards in time with a sweaty loon’s drumbeat. But music is also brilliant for getting maudlin, mopey and downright miserable to. You can’t whack a tune which tries its damndest to make you weep. Here are some fabulous examples of the genre. Enjoy the misery!

Joy Division – ‘Atmosphere’
They just had to feature prominently in a list such as this. This track manages to be both beautiful and bereft at the same time. It’s a gut-wrenching four minutes of shivering pain.
Key Line – ‘Worn like a mask of self-hate, confronts and then dies.’

The Beatles – ‘Eleanor Rigby’
A song so brutal in its imagery that the UN should have dispatched a peacekeeping force to monitor it. Apart from the forthright frigidity of the strings, the detatchment and loneliness of the characters is total. The novelist AS Byatt said this song ‘has all the minimalist perfection of a Beckett story.’ Praise indeed and hard to argue with.
Key Line – ‘Father McKenzie, wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave, no-one was saved.’

The Smiths – ‘Asleep’
A lovely sadness indeed. This stark piano and vocal was, as befitting a band so prolific and brilliant, thrown away as the third track on a 12 inch single. Other bands must have looked on in awe. Morrissey’s voice has never, ever sounded so beguiling. Some people said it made suicide sound alluring. Not a good thing, but a terrific indicator of how powerful this is.
Key Line – ‘There is another world, there is a better world; well there must be.’

Wilco – ‘She’s A Jar’
A stunning invocation of an abusive relationship, made more powerful by the lack of histrionics. It’s the simplicity of the narration – and the most sumptous harmony vocals you’ll hear this side of the Byrds – that make it heartbreaking.
Key Line – ‘ You know she begs me not to hit her.’

The Hold Steady – ‘First Night’
Craig Finn’s tribe of fictitious flotsam and jetsam hit the lowest of lows after all the Killer Parties. Stunningly evocative imagery leading to an explosive climax which drips with scorn and rage.
Key Line – ‘She said words alone never could save us, and then last night she cried and she told us about Jesus.’

Leonard Cohen – ‘Hallelujah’
Ol’ Happy Feet really did deliver the world an eternal present with this. The Jeff Buckley version remains the definitive, his voice and ethereal guitar work taking it to a level where it escapes rock music and becomes, dare we say it, a hymn.
Key Line – ‘I did my best, it wasn’t much, I couldn’t feel so I tried to touch.’

Húsker Dú – ‘Hardly Getting Over It’
By Christ is this one to avoid if you’ve just got a parking ticket. Bob Mould’s rumination on death and, well, more death really is a six-minute yell for some catharthis. It doesn’t come.
Key Line – ‘My parents often wonder when they are gonna die, and what do I do when they die?’

Mercury Rev – ‘The Dark is Rising’
Now this is a heartbreaker. Basically, if you aren’t perfect, and you aren’t, you are doomed to fuck things up royally and spend forever wondering with your limited little brain how it happened. A self-motivation anthem it is not. But it is almost other-worldly in it’s tenderness and seamless beauty.
Key Line – ‘I always dreamed I’d love you, I never dreamed I’d lose you, In my dreams, I’m always strong.’

James – ‘Out to Get You’
How ironic that for all their leery stadium-pretention bombast it was this simple acoustic whisper which contained the resonance they craved. Apparently a favourite with paranoid schizophrenics. Seriously.
Key Line – ‘Looked in the mirror, I don’t know who I am anymore, the face is familiar, but the eyes, the eyes, give it all away.’

Lou Reed and John Cale – ‘Hello, It’s Me’
Genial ex-Velvet Underground members (who famously hate each other) get together to deliver a stunningly moving tribute album to late mentor Andy Warhol. It’s actually impossible to convey just how moving this song genuinely is. Possibly closest Lou Reed has ever got to apologising.
Key Line – ‘I know this is late in coming, but it’s the only way I know, hello it’s me, good night Andy…goodbye Andy.’

Well, I’m off to drink gin and run broken glass along my wrists while tearfully contemplating that ‘they’ll be sorry when I’m gone!’ Have fun doing the same.