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Forthcoming Live Reviews

Our intrepid team go forward into the night later to bring you reviews of the hottest act in space rock, The Phantom Band, and the hotly tipped septics Vetiver.

Sadly, we couldn’t get anyone to do The Wombats. You’ll just have to learn to live with disappointment.

Extreme Listening Mode’s Extremely Brief Guide to 2008 – Albums

Well, that was the year that almost certainly was. If anything, it proved that we do indeed live in historic times, and one suspects that when historians look back on this year they’ll conclude that it was the year when, pretty much, everything got fucked. It wasn’t all bad, of course. Barack Obama’s incredible rise to end the year as President Elect gladdened the heart. Oh, and Euro 2008 was good. That’s about it, really.

But at ELM, we’ve never allowed ourselves to be cloaked in the darkness enveloping the world, preferring to maintain a healthy glow of optimism. Except about Razorlight, obviously. And musically, 2008 has seen some absolutely beguiling sounds in amongst the murkiness. Here a selection of a few of our favourite things;

Barroom bohemia was very much back in vogue this year. The Hold Steady played pretty much solidly through 2008 in support of their superb ‘Stay Positive’ album. When the dust has settled, it was a consolidation album, but still widescreen enough to elevate it above most other releases this year. The Gaslight Anthem were like their younger brothers, no less enthralled by the Great American (Rock) Songbook but still with that splash of idealism that manifests itself in anger and accusations. We were much taken with their ‘The ’59 Sound’ album.

For those who like their Americana more dustbowl-baked, Lambchop’s ‘OH (Ohio)’ was a stunningly beautiful piece of work. Ryan Adams returned with ‘Cardinology’ which had its moments, but fell short of his turn-of-the-century high water mark. We also liked ‘Rustbelt Sun’ by The God Fearing Atheists, a gritty slice of UK Americana, if that’s not too great an oxymoron.

Elbow’s ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ seems to have come out a thousand weeks ago, but still remains one of the years best work. Nice to see the perennial underachievers get some mainstream success, although, of course, we’ll all pretend not to like them come March. Sigur Ros were at their unsurpassable best on ‘með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust’ which, while difficult to pronounce, was pretty easy to love.

Santogold provided us with possibly the year’s finest debut. From the savvy pop silverdust of LES Artistes’ to the new wave sheen of ‘Lights Out’ to the unbridled mentalness of ‘Unstoppable’ it really followed the three-ring circus theory of music; something for everyone. The Ting Tings proved that a couple of classic singles don’t always mean they are the advance guard of a classic album.

Ida Maria was an early live favourite of ELM, but her debut album lacked the earthiness of her early demos, instead settling for a Radio 1 friendly production sheen that actually pushed her towards MOR territory. Still, as she had hacked about every support slot going for 18 months, you can’t blame her for wanting to see a few records, but what could have been a deranged pop-punk classic instead disappointed.

Jenny Lewis returned with ‘Acid Tongue’ which, sadly, wasn’t as good as her debut ‘Rabbit Fur Coat’. Less time hanging about with the celebrity mates and more on writing decent songs might be the order of the day next year.

Growers were the first albums from Vampire Weekend and MGMT. The VW album in particular revealed itself slowly as an excellent piece of work. The MGMT album was at times guilty of over-ambition and an inability to just let things breathe, but when they got it right – such as on the classic trio of singles ‘Time To Pretend’, ‘Kids’ and ‘Electric Feel’ – there was a feeling that they’d made the kind of electro-pop shudder Alex Chilton may have done had he had access to samplers.

In terms of success, you had to hand it to Glasvegas, who sold many an album but never convinced us at ELM Towers. The next album will be the one that determines if they are one-trick ponies, as we suspect, or truly Spokesmen for their Generation, like the NME does. No matter what, he still came across as a dick on Never Mind The Buzzcocks.

For slightly left of centre treats, can we push you in the direction of Marching Band’s ‘Spark Large’, a lovely collection of harmonious, almost childlike acoustic joyousness. Army Navy’s album was also very worth checking out.

A late mention to the lovely Laura Marling for ‘Alas, I Cannot Swim’ – folky, sweet and very addictive. Bon Iver deserves similar praise, though despite many attempts at it, I just could not get into Fleet Foxes. Different music but similar result was the new Portishead effort. Best of the old stagers was Spiritualized with their ‘Songs from A&E’, the same album they always made but done with polish.

And finally, to this years musical nadir; we hate to say it, but The Feeling’s ‘Join With Us’ made us want to hunker down in the basement to create a new strain of a dreadful disease which rendered society in a permanent state of mental paralysis. It really is that bad. However, it seemed like too much work, so we just ended up down the pub. But we still hope their tourbus breaks down in a remote country and they are left there forever.

Here’s hoping we get a good crop of albums next year!

Ting Tings/Ida Maria – Hard Work Reaps Rewards

So, Ida Maria is back, and similar to The Ting Tings last week, not a conventional review as we have reviewed her live a few weeks ago. What did strike me is that, with both bands, the changing circumstances of when we first saw them. Ida Maria was a discovery by contributors and loyal friends of ELM, supporting Patrick Watson at King Tut’s. A few weeks later, she was supporting indie also-rans Good Shoes (and below main support Lightspeed Champion, who made up a good value bill) at a crazily early time. Then she had moved up to her first headline tour (see Reviews Section) before last night, the biggest date she has played in Glasgow. All this activity was in 6 months. Good enough if she was a local act, but she is Norwegian!
 
Similarly, The Ting Tings. First floated into our consciousness in February when they were fourth on the bill of the NME Shockwaves Tour (behind Does It Offend You, Yeah? And Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong, for crying out loud.) Since then they have made it back to Glasgow twice, to a bigger venue each time, I have to say, I admire their work ethic. There is something romantic about simply getting in a van and playing somewhere, anywhere that will let you. But it’s also demanding. You are not exactly wallowing in your own crapulence. It is a deeply unglamorous cycle of crap hotels (if you get a hotel at all), Pot Noodles, boring cramped travel and warm tins of Tennents riders. Yes, you get that one potentially glorious hour, but even then its a slog – you could be playing to one man and a dog or someone else’s audience….and come on, we’ve all been at a gig and given the support band precisely 46 seconds to impress, before deciding they were bobbins and talking to our mates. Loudly. For those who fight through that, I salute you.

So on to the aforementioned rockers. Both played very similar sets as to when they did a few weeks ago, more through necessity one would have thought. What was noticeable was that both had honed their sets – clearer sounds, added, extended sections and both had an air of confidence that hadn’t been quite so apparent as before. For The Ting Tings, the reason why was obvious – they were playing to a packed-out Saturday night crowd while sitting at Number 1 in the Charts (and about to debut at Number 1 in the Album charts.) There was a bounce to them, and a feeling that you were seeing them at just the right time, while it was still novel to them. in the end, they will be stars and this will be their routine. It wasn’t like that, and it really felt like sharing a very significant moment in the band’s career with them.

 

Ida Maria had brought out a very respectable Sunday night crowd, especially given the atrocious weather and the venue’s puzzling insistence on starting their gigs so late (acceptable Monday to Friday; wrong on a Sunday when public transport dies on it’s arse early doors. Some people in the crowd saw 15 minutes before having to head off. That’s unnecessary and easily rectified. Get it sorted, King Tuts!) She too has come on leaps and bounds in the last few months. There is no fat on these songs now – edgy, tuneful and slick, she rattles through a 40 minute set with aplomb, before agreeing she needs to write some new songs soon. It’s a set full of high octane pop songs, like Chrissie Hynde fronting the Libertines covering Duran Duran songs. She’s spiky and she’s great, and what is interesting is the wide cross-section she has attracted – everything from student indie kids to fortysomething dad rock fans to tattooed rock chicks.

So, Viva Evolution!

Women At Gigs

I first started attending gigs in the early 90’s. It was pretty much a male preserve at the time, to be honest. Women who attended gigs tended to be there with partners, and it was a fairly aggresive audience. Around about the time of Britpop, it became noticeable that the dynamic of the crowd was changing. The unreconstructedly sexist part of me, in my late teens/early 20’s, sneered at these women, innocently enjoying music and ignoring the tedious rituals ‘serious’ music fans like me went through. As I got older, I realised the benefits – they were much more fun to look at than snivelling acne-ridden indie males, they brought a good vibe to the gig and they danced unafraid, looking for all the world, to use a spectacularly wrong and un-PC phrase, like spastics eating a choc ice.

Last night, ELM Towers emptied and we headed off to see ELM faves the Ting Tings. No review coming, because we reviewed them six weeks ago and nothing much has changed, well, musically at least. What I did notice was that last night was the first gig I have ever attended where there were more women than men in attendance. This sea-change is, I think, a healthy one (so long as they made their husband’s dinner before they went out, of course). The ladies appear to have adopted ‘That’s Not My Name’ as some sort of sassy feminist anthem, and so of course there were the obligatory clichéd gays in the audience doing the same. They enjoyed the gig, they matched the boys for drunkenness (it was Glasgow, to be fair) and the old-school aggression of a live crowd (remember the dreary chants of ‘Here We Go’ at gigs and pints and pints of lager being thrown? Awful, wasn’t it?) was replaced by a much friendlier feel. I like the racket the Ting Tings make, but it’s clear they speak to somen in a way they don’t to blokes. It’s that Sex In The City vibe; most birds I know are positively moistening their thongs at the thought of that movie, while every fella would rather eat a horse’s cock raw than watch it; doesn’t mean it’s bad, just different.

So a positive move in the evolution of live music. It was perhaps inevitable, after all, we let them drive so this is just another step in that direction. They’ll be voting next. You heard it here first.

Shameless attempt to cash in on their success….

Seeing as they are doing so well…..

Here’s The Ting Tings on Jools Holland…..

The Ting Tings She be pretty…..

Greatest Fear Comes True – Band I like at #1

The Ting Tings, championed here on ELM, held off Madonna to hit Number 1 in the UK Pop Pickers chart yesterday. Which is weird, because the song (‘That’s Not My Name’) wasn’t exactly all over the radio, has been out before and it is a strange, arthythmic thing. ELM Towers are off to see the band at a sold-out but small venue on Saturday night and it is going to be a strange experience as it will be now filled with young people. Young people annoy me at the best of times, but at gigs? Fuck me. Get away from the bar! Shut the fuck up during quiet songs! Pull your fucking trousers up!

It also brings up the question – will we still like them now everyone else does? Let’s face it, we all deny it, but how many of you have never succumbed to the ‘big-is-bad’ mentality? I have metaphorically scratched the face off people for doing it in th past – ‘just like what you like, what does it matter if they sell a lot of records, you’re only saying it to be cool’….but, yeah, I have lost interest in bands when they’ve committed the mortal sin of, erm, making a good record and selling a few copies of it. Nirvana were a great case in point. As soon as we saw girls in school with Kurt Cobain t-shirts, then it was all Mudhoney and Dinosaur Jr. round our way. ‘Sell-Outs!’ we scream. And why? Because we are jealous that OUR wee secret has been found. We hate that people who don’t invest anywhere near as much time in music as we do can just come in and steal our bands. It just seems so…..easy.

So is this simply an unavoidable side-effect of being a self-confessed music snob? Is there anything which can be done for those of us afflicted, or do we simply clutch our impossibly cool and rare SST albums and accept our fate? Who knows. If my review says ‘Fucking Ting-Ting Sell-Out Cunts’ then you will know what has happened!

Why do indie bands feel the need to start ‘feuds’?

Coventry’s Jam-clone hobbits the Enemy are apparently locked in a feud with stunningly average Manchester Oasis-copyists the Courteeners. It is unlikely, I’ll grant you, that we’ll need to send Henry Kissinger in to mediate on this dispute, but by God its tiresome. You cannot open the NME these days without seeing some band slagging some other band (with the exception of the Ting Tings, because every other band secretly wants to shag them.) Why do they feel the need to do this? Does it lead to real aggro? Do these bands stand outside each others rehearsal studios inviting the others to come down for a scrap?

I just don’t reckon this would have happened in the 60’s. Can you imagine Brian Wilson listening to Sgt. Pepper and saying ‘right McCartney you cunt, me and you outside NOW!’? What is the point of it? Is it that all working class bands have to ape Oasis and find their own Blur to try to build up rivalries? It’s pitiful, almost as pitiful as the Enemy’s new single (note to Tom Clarke for future videos; you can’t do ‘smouldering.’ You look like a confused potato. Stick to riotous shouting like  ‘Away From Here’, suits you much better. Also, you can always tell when a record label are milking an album. ‘This Song Is About You’ should have been kept as an album track.)

Recently the Enemy were involved in a public spat with the bemusingly pointless Horrors. Stop it! It’s so dull. And there is no point to it. The Enemy are moving into arena territory. The Horrors would struggle to fill a toilet cubicle. (As an aside, I saw the Horrors supporting the View and genuinely thought it was a joke. If it isn’t, seriously guys, just stop. You know it makes sense.)

So c’mon. It’s time to wrap this juvenile shit and get back to making great music. Music should bring people together, contemporary bands should encourage and spur each other on to new heights, new dimensions, new achievements. Pissing contests about who is the hardest? Playground bullshit we neither need nor want.