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Dot Dash Interview

The new album is out nowUS powerpop masters Dot Dash are back with their new album Half-Remembered Dream this month. For those of us who like ringing guitar lines spiralling up into clouds of classic melody, they’re a corkingly great band to stick on the stereo. We caught up with them to ask how things were going as the album hit the shops.

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Keith TOTP And His Minor UK Indie Celebrity All-Star Backing Band – TOTP 2

TOTP2Howlin’ Whippet looks at an album that could only have come from Blighty.

It’s a lengthy moniker, I’ll give you that. So, for the purposes of brevity, we’ll call him Keith TOTP.

Recorded, apparently, in a one day studio session, Keith TOTP’s second album serves up a slew of indie musicians as sidemen (and women)  for the second album from our titular hero.

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New to You – Humphrey Milles

It’s cold at this time of year, but people are generally warmer. Holidays coming up, one year ending and the next beginning, there’s something in the air and it’s good. Well, so long as you aren’t one of these curmudgeons who willfully hate Christmas just because, of course. But if you are looking forward to the next six weeks as the traditional end-of-year blow-out, then then you’ll know what I mean.  And you’ll need a soundtrack. Well how about Humphrey Milles‘ new single  “Not Enough”? It’s soft and dreamy, like a hot latte after a day trudging round the shops. The single is out on December 3rd.

Head’s Up – Johnny and the Giros

Johnny and the Giros is a very punk name, but the Scottish band’s stock in trade is a blend of danceable indie which has seen them compared to Foals, Two Door Cinema Club and the Rapture. Where the punk spirit does shine through is in their riotous live shows. Trust me, they are genuinely mental. It’s like someone has nailed four speedfreaks together, put them in a bag and thrown them into an ocean of Tennents Lager.  A fun night out, no doubt, but there are some musical chops behind the frenetic moves as you can hear on new single  ‘I Don’t Need A Lover’, released October 5. Have a listen and let us know what you think.

I Don’t Need A Lover

 

It is available to

The Northwestern – Captain’s Rest, Glasgow

TNWBlame Punxatawney Phil if you like, but Groundhog Day has overtaken deja vú as the phrase you use when you’ve seen it all before. It happens a lot in music, it being the carnivorous cyclical beast that it is. Everybody has influences. Everybody has heroes. Everything is derivative of something, pretty much.

What is odd about tonights gig, though, is that it isn’t just the audience who feel like they’ve been here before.

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The Cribs featuring Johnny Marr, Glasgow ABC

Cheese on a burger. Fish partnered by chips. Ernie Wise stood next to Eric Morecambe.

Basically, some things make so much sense when you see them that you wonder why no-one has tried it before. thus it is with Wakefield’s finest all-brother trio being joined on stage by the walking legend that is Johnny Marr. Live, their sheer energy has usually pulled them through, but a three-piece is a three-piece and no matter how good will always be hampered by having to make an approximation of their records. Adding another guitarist is a good idea. Adding one like Johnny Marr – well, it was just destined to be good, wasn’t it?

The Cribs have always been a somewhat formulaic band – you get thundering guitars, inspirational drums and intelligent lyrics, usually a ‘woah-a-oh-oh’ singalong bit and then on to the next one. And what of it? It’s a great formula and they are very good at it. But, unsurprisingly, adding the definitive ‘indie’ guitarist has added colour to the palette. there’s more ambition, more scope and more verve. Some things never change though – Ryan Jarman appears to be as refreshed as a newt, but that’s part of the appeal; the Cribs are a great band to have a drink to.

There are many highlights, but in ‘Don’t You Want To Be Relevant’, ‘Our Bovine Public’ and the exquisitely loud ‘Men’s Needs’ they have three of the best songs in the genre since Blur called it today. The crowd reaction is proper, old school mental – the mosh pit goes all the way to the back of the hall, a fairly cavernous venue at the best of times. It’s well-judged 90 minute slot and when it goes, the audience reaction says that nobody has grudged the ticket price.

The Cribs, by sheer scope of ambition and interest in moving on, remain one of Britain’s potentially superb bands. A bit like Elbow before them, you have a feeling that one day they are going to deliver a really classic set of songs to consolidate themselves as one of the best of their generation. They have improved album upon album, a rarity in these days of instant gratification, and looked poised to get even better.

Ladytron – ABC, Glasgow

ELM’s resident curmudgeon Vespertine checks out the hotly-tipped electro act;

I approached this gig with an open mind. I knew a few Ladytron songs but had no in-depth knowledge of the band or the set they were likely to play. But the company was good, and I was able to have a few pints and a lift home! Sometimes going in blind is a good way to evaluate a gig. Sometimes it isn’t of course, but live music is an experience in its own right I suppose and differs from the guarantee that playing a CD, MP3 or vinyl record brings with it.

First, the downside of the venue, a venue I really like. To reach the smoking area you leave your drinks on a small table and then go outside. Upon return my pint had been lifted. I assume it was by some large haired student arsehole who has a constant hard-on daydreaming about Peaches Geldof. There were far too many fashion victim types, readers of The Face and id magazine. Rant over.

The band emerged wearing black, to a dimly lit stage. The impression they give is of electro goth and guess what? First impressions arecorrect! It is hip swinging, groovy and funky but it’s goth at heart. And this is strangely unsettling. The image one has of the band is one of bacofoil suits, laser beams, tinkling synths and vast projections of the planets. To find the reality is closer to Curve (google them kids!) is a tad odd. The live set up seems to have been geared towards a more ‘rock friendly’ sound with bass, drums and guitar being added to the keyboard. It is a very common move for electro bands, but has its own problems. Should such a band, whose image is so striking, be ‘reduced’ to something akin to indie rock? Is the need to promote the album reducing the scope of their ideas?

A second quibble is the sound: the vocals are too quiet. That is never good at any gig. Glaswegian Helen Marnie is the ‘front woman’ such as they have one, but she struggles to make herself heard at times. She does dedicate a song to her 83 year Gran who is in the audience, a nice touch!

However the songs themselves are often very good; from huge, brooding, dark opener ‘Black Cat’ sung in Bulgarian by Mira Aroyo, through to pop/electro/goth stormers such as ‘International Dateline’ and ‘Runaway’. There are moments that show the band could break free of their self-imposed ghetto: ‘Ghosts’ is simply a very, very good song and ‘Fighting In a Built-Up Area’ is a superb shimmering slice of funk. Great songs give any
band hope of a breakthrough. They have some great songs and so the future they often allude to in image terms is still up for grabs for them.

My gig partner was delighted when they ended on ‘Destroy Everything You Touch’ – another excellent track. It brought the short gig to an end and we emerged into howling wind and rain. Ladytron weather perhaps? They don’t strike me as a sunny afternoon festival band.

Overall a mixed bag: perhaps a lack of variation in their sound, and the need to get their songs across in a live setting has reduced the impact of the idea they had. Too often volume and crunch replaced soft caress of their sound. Four albums and a decade together must also dilute that initial impact to match minimalist synths, jump suits and dystopian lyrics. It’s hard to dream of a soundtrack in your head when the bills need to be paid. They are the kind of band you’d almost rather didn’t play live but instead transmitted their songs from an orbiting space station.

But when they are good they are very, very good and could move the feet of a corpse. The gig worked for me in the most crucial sense: I will be buying downloads and exploring their work further. That is a result for someone who came as a casual listener.