Friday, May 30, 2008

Review: Coachella 2008

It's about time I posted my coachella review. General laziness, fussing over my writing, and a trip to Denver and Salt Lake City to see The Cure really got in the way of a timely post.

Every year, I go through a Coachella process:

Initial excitement over rumored appearances that will never happen > Buy tickets right when they go on sale even if the line-up isn't announced > Feel disappointed when rumored acts don't materialize > Praise choice of headliners but exclaim that line-up for non-headliners is less-than-stellar > Threaten that I might not do this again and/or that the festival has finally jumped the shark > Excitement in the week leading up to the festival > Have a great time at the festival, wonder what all the complaining was about/how they will top it next year.

Complicated, right? I should just rest assured that the folks at Goldenvoice will go a good job like they always do. And this year was no exception. Sure, I have some quibbles: Jack Johnson isn't headliner material, Roger Waters is a hippie dinosaur and doesn't fit at Coachella, etc., but overall, the festival was a huge success. On with the review.

First up on the Coachella Stage (for us anyway; we can't be bothered to get to the field earlier than the first band we want to see) was The Breeders, whose live show always seems like it's on the verge of breakdown. I don't mean that in a bad way. There's something shambolic, messy, and fun about the way they play. We were treated to a bunch of songs from throughout their career including highlights "Overglazed" (my favorite song on Mountain Battles), "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" and "Iris."

Following all of the Breeders fun, we made our way to the Mojave Tent for Goldfrapp. We were a bit early and caught the last bit of Mum's set. I saw them once, years ago, and wasn't a big fan of their cute plinky-plonky glitchy electronic folk. So not much has changed.

There was a good energy in the tent by the time Goldfrapp took the stage and initial technical difficulties seemed to be resolved pretty quickly. I was a bit worried about how the new songs would fit into the live set with the old stuff, but it was all beautiful and flowed amazingly. "Little Bird," with its drawn-out psychedelic ending was particularly good. An almost country-stomp version of "Ooh La La" (with slide guitar!) really pleased the crowd. The set closed with an extended "Strict Machine" which left me wanting more. I really hope they come back and tour the US in the fall as rumored.

Our last band for the day was The Verve. I never really thought I'd get to see them after their break-ups in the 90s and when their reunion was announced, I thought there was no way they'd make it to the US. I was happy to be proven wrong. The Verve played a really solid set that entirely surpassed my expectations. Even the two new songs were pretty decent. I wish I could have heard something older than "This Is Music" but that's a minor complaint.

I started Saturday with The Teenagers in the Mojave Tent. I didn't know them at all but I thought they were fun and I may need to investigate them further. I then made my way to the Gobi Tent to see 120 Days. When I arrived Carbon/Silicon were still playing which meant that something, somewhere had gone wrong and they were playing past their scheduled end time.

120 Days finally came on after what appeared to be some technical issues (which seems to happen a lot in the tents). The band played a short set of mostly new songs until they had the plug pulled to get the stage back on time. Nice. Carbon/Silicon ran late but you didn't see anybody pulling the plug on them, probably because one of them is a deity from most-overrated-band-ever The Clash. Oh well.

I then had a very long wait for Kraftwerk in which I caught bits of a few bands. Bonde do Role was really, really bad. I don't understand the hype at all. It sounded like a bunch of shrieking women, basically. No thanks. Kate Nash was next. I'd seen the video for "Foundations" and found it really charming. Live, though, she came off as a bit too precious, banging on her keyboard in a too-prim dress and singing quiet songs that went on too long. Maybe it was just the wrong venue. In any case, I was compelled to leave a couple songs into her set. I stopped in for a bit of Erol Alkan after that but his set was ending just as I got there.

It was time to stake out a spot for Kraftwerk, Portishead, and Prince. This triumvirate was easily the biggest draw of the festival for me so I was a bit anxious for a good spot. Kraftwerk were amazing, as expected. Some songs were a bit changed up from the last time I saw them (Coachella 2004) and the setlist was changed up a bit as well. It seemed like they'd shortened the songs so they could play more of them which I thought was a great idea. It would be hard to pick a favorite moment, but "The Man Machine" and "Autobahn" both gave me goosebumps. It's a bit hard not to be overwhelmed by songs that are basically the template for everything that came afterward.

Then Portishead came on and completely tore it up. I can safely say it was one of the best performances I've ever seen in eight years of Coachella. They just absolutely nailed it. This was not just a nostalgia fest. Sure, they did a lot of old stuff (from Dummy, particularly) but they did new songs too and the whole lot of it was ferocious , intense, uncompromising, and beautiful. They were projecting the band on huge screens behind and beside the stage and it was very effective in setting a visual mood for the show. I was utterly floored.

Following that, there was a long and excitement-deflating wait for Prince. When he finally came out, he gave the spotlight to Morris Day for "Jungle Love" and "The Bird" and then to Sheila E who did "The Glamorous Life." He then took the stage for early songs like "1999," "Little Red Corvette," "I Feel For U," (done in the style of the far superior Chaka Khan version) and "Controversy." I thought this boded well for his show, but things went downhill quickly. The band was soon playing extended instrumental funk jams, newer songs, and, oh sweet Jesus, Radiohead and Sarah McLachlan covers. The thing is, his show was technically good but it was far too clean and Vegas-y to me, and left me feeling nothing. We left early and heard the Radiohead and Sarah McLachlan covers on the way to the car.

We started Sunday late with Love And Rockets. I'd seen their warm-up show at The Glasshouse earlier in the week. That set had been fraught with technical issues and the band seemed a bit sloppy. Not so at Coachella. There, they played the same set (minus a pointless Clash cover) but much more tight and with more energy. On top of it all, The Bubblemen made an appearance during the final song for a pillow fight. Fun!

My friends wanted to see Roger Waters and I wanted to dance so we parted ways and I made my way to the Sahara Tent to catch Simian Mobile Disco. I've been a fan of their album for a while and really liked the way they did it. The songs were changed up a bit and the crowd were really into it.

Chromeo came next. I'd sampled bits of their songs and found that the songs sounded fun but that they were essentially regurgitating Zapp without adding anything new. I felt the same way after seeing them live. It's a novelty at best. Some of the neon-clad hipster kids seemed to be enjoying their set, but it was clear that everybody was just biding time until Justice came on.

I've spent the last year hating on Justice. I've called them "the aural equivalent of ADHD," I've said that their songs lack, you know, any sort of song structure, I openly loathe "D. A. N. C. E." and really dislike their record. So, why was I there? A) The alternative was Roger Waters, B) I really wanted to dance, and C) my roomie had been playing "DVNO" quite a bit and I found I actually liked it. I enjoyed their show immensely. Maybe I don't hate the current trend in dance music as much as I thought, or maybe it was just the right place at the right time for me. Something about being in a tent full of people who are dancing and having fun can certainly help you see the light. I'm not sure if I'll run out and buy the album though. Something tells me this experience will be enough.

So that was it. Coachella 2008 was easily among the best. Now it's time for me to start the process for 2009! I'd like to suggest that they start work on getting Roxy Music to headline.

Portishead performing "We Carry On" at Coachella. Jaw-droppingly good, basically:

Years Of Refusal

Many things are happening in the world of Morrissey:

I'm a bit late in reporting that the release of "All You Need Is Me" has been delayed until June 2. There has been some speculation that the label was going to scrap it altogether but since some stock had already been manufactured, they'd move out the release date and make it a one-week only release. Which means this one is likely to be pretty rare. My copies have been on order for weeks so I'm hoping I get them and don't have to turn to eBay. Not that I'm above it.

A video has been made for the single, in which we find Morrissey walking about a municipal garden with his gang of younger, somewhat tough-looking lads. Nothing new there then. Will someone please write the man a different treatment for his next video? [As an aside, do you suppose Boz feels just slightly intimidated by all of the tight t-shirts and muscle on display? Surely he must.]

Somewhat surprisingly, Sony-BMG are planning to reissue Southpaw Grammar - an album which didn't exactly tear up the charts on its initial release - as an expanded, remastered edition in July. This version will reportedly boast new artwork and three unreleased bonus tracks. No news on what they are yet, or if they are indeed unreleased tracks or whether "unreleased bonus tracks" actually means "three tracks already released as b-sides but which we are calling unreleased because nobody bought those singles anyway." So we'll see. Care to wager a guess as to what they'll be?

Years Of Refusal, Morrissey's ninth solo record, has been completed and is due out in September via Universal. It was produced by Jerry Finn, who previously worked on You Are The Quarry which, as you'll remember, was really quite good as it brought Morrissey back out of those cruel late-90s/early-2000s drought years and made a bunch of people (including the NME, for a while anyway!) remember how awesome he always was.

In business news, Morrissey has ended his relationship with manager Merck Mercuriadis, opting instead to go with ie:music who also represent, uh, Robbie Williams. And we all know how well he's doing under their stewardship. About the split, Merck said, "I believe my penance is complete and Saint Morrissey has granted my absolution." At least all of that time spent doing penance with Moz has reaped dividends in the skill of tart quips!

Finally, a little birdy told me that Morrissey was at KCRW's studio in LA last week doing "pre-taping" with Nic Harcourt. Is a Morning Becomes Eclectic session on the way?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Thirty Frames A Second

Simple Minds have announced that the original line-up of the band is set to record for the first time in 27 years. They're entering the studio for a week in June with the goal of recording two tracks for release later this year. There's no mention of how those tracks might be released - bonus tracks for yet another best-of compilation? I hope not - but I have to say that I'm just a bit excited that the line-up responsible for this:




is recording again. I just hope they can do something that somehow echoes their interesting, edgy roots and not the bloated arena rock that came later.

The band (not the original line-up, however) will play a short 30th anniversary tour in the UK later this year during which they will be perform the entirety of their era-defining album New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84). Man, it hurts to miss that.

Also being planned is a reissue of the Themes box sets to be released on 6/23 (UK). I haven't seen a final tracklist yet, but I hope they get it right this time (which isn't likely, since they will undoubtedly not include the early Zoom/Arista singles). Thanks, record company!

When I Return To The World

Lorraine. It's not the first name I'd choose for a band. It sounds too much like your grandmother, and not enough like a BIG! POP! OUTFIT! from Norway. Maybe Lorraine means something else in Norwegian. Something less old-lady-like.

Anyway, I've been reading about this band for a while now, but I've never been pulled in. I always felt like their stuff was a bit blah, if I'm honest. That is, until I came across their video for new single "When I Return To The World":

Wonderful, no? Is it just me, or does it sound like a combination homage to "Beautiful World" by Devo and "Living On The Ceiling" by Blancmange? I don't say this in a bad way at all. I mean:

Devo - Beautiful World

Blancmange - Living On The Ceiling

That's a compliment! "When I Return To The World" was released last week on 7" and iTunes, apparently. Lorraine have a bunch of older tracks streaming on their MySpace page (including a half-decent cover of "Heaven" by the Psychedelic Furs). Like I said, it's mostly blah but this new single definitely piques my curiosity about what they'll be up to next!

As an aside, watching that Blancmange video for the first time in a decade or so reminded me that I really miss 80s "on location" videos. A lot.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

One Of Us

Wire has provided a first glimpse into their new album with a download of a new song called "One Of Us." The band says: "in days of yore we might have considered this track the first 'single' from the album." So here you have it, the first 'single' from Object 47:

Wire - One Of Us

The song sounds to my ears like their more melodic, poppy work from the mid-80s. It's certainly miles removed from the thrash of Send, Read & Burn 1 and Read & Burn 2. No complaints from me! I can't wait to see what the rest of the album is like.

Object 47 is due out on July 7 in the UK. Festival dates in the US, Canada, and Europe are scheduled in the coming months with a US tour to follow in the fall. They're playing "Boiling Boy." Which is quite exciting. Why, here's a video of them playing it in Italy earlier this month. Awesome:

Monday, May 19, 2008

My Sunken Treasure

The second single from The Duke Spirit's sophomore album will be the 60s girl group flavored "My Sunken Treasure." The single will be available on CD, limited edition 7" and download formats on June 9th (UK). Tracklists are:

1. My Sunken Treasure
2. Do What You Love

Limited Edition 7"
A. My Sunken Treasure
B. Sovereign (Live At KCRW)

In other Duke Spirit news, F.Y.E. offered a presale of their new record that came with a bonus 2-track CD. Naturally, I found out about it after I'd bought my copy at another retailer. Being the collecting freak that I am, I placed another order assuming that the offer is still good because it's still up on the site. You know what they say when you assume... Seriously, though, if you haven't bought it, you should give the record a try. It's priced to sell pretty much everywhere.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Today I present Ladytron's "Ghosts" video, in which the Liverpudlians go kinda No Country For Old Men on us. With much better hair and shoes, obviously.

It's mere weeks until Velocifero hits the shelves. I've lived with it for a while now and I haven't managed to get into it. I don't hear any hooks, none of the songs really pull me in, and Ladytron continues to eschew their fun, poppier moments in favor of darker, more atmospheric songs. It just feels flat to me. I listen to the album and at the end, I can't really remember anything about it.

As with all of their albums, I think this one is too long. Also troublesome is that it features more songs that bring repetition to whole new levels. Remember "Seventeen"? Well, one track in particular ("Runaway") features the line "my little runaway" sung 32 times (yes, I counted), most of them IN A ROW. It's mind-numbing. A repeated phrase does not a good chorus make!

It's not all bad news though. There's one song I'm in love with called "Kletva" which is apparently a cover song from a 1970s Bulgarian children's film. It's rather noisy and beautiful and joyous and most importantly, it actually rocks and has some dynamics. I'm still hoping that eventually something will click and I'll get the album because I really like Ladytron.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Don't Know Any Better

The story of Manchester's Puressence is one of hard luck, label bullshit, and always living in the shadows of bigger, more popular, more mediocre bands. They soldier on, though, and released their fantastic fourth record Don't Forget To Remember late last year. It is well worth your time. The latest single is "Don't Know Any Better" and it will be released 5/19 in the UK. Here's what you're in for:

1. Don't Know Any Better
2. Bright Eyes (Pete Mitchell Radio 2 Session)
3. Sold Unseen (Pete Mitchell Radio 2 Session)

Autographed 7"
1. Don't Know Any Better
2. You've Already Said Goodbye

1. Don't Know Any Better - Directed & filmed by Paul Banks
2. Moonbeam video taken from Manchester Academy footage including Kevin & Jimmy interview
3. Exclusive live & studio recording footage
4. Special guest star appearances interviewing the band & telling the Puressence story

Watch the "Don't Forget To Remember" video:

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Review: 120 Days

120 Days, one of my favorite discoveries of last year, followed up their appearance at Coachella with a promotional event at the Viper Room last night. And this being a promotional event in LA - for Scion, no less - things were bound to get douchey. More on that in a minute.

Franki Chan of Iheartcomix opened the evening with a DJ set. I pretty much enjoyed the music he was spinning, though he did get a bit too fussy with the not so great effect. Just play good records, dude, and you won't need to embellish them with every trick on your mixer. One thing became clear rather quickly: the crowd wasn't into him, and probably wasn't there for the music at all.

120 Days came next and played a short five song set of all new material. Some people at the front of the crowd were clearly there to see the band but the majority seemed oblivious to the fact that a band was on stage and continued their conversations. Lead singer Ådne Meisfjord tried to engage the crowd and seemed a bit frustrated when that didn't work. Utter disinterest can't be a good feeling. I enjoyed their set of atmospheric, spaced-out dance music and am really looking forward to new material. The latest report is that they're recording, so hopefully something is coming soon.

Radioclit apparently closed the night but we left before they came on. It was 12:00 already, we were tired, and the crowd wasn't helping matters. Just before 120 Days left the stage, Ådne said, "We've been 120 Days, and you've been Los Angeles." Based on the crowd, one can only assume he meant it in the worst possible way.

Listen to a great new instrumental track that 120 Days recently posted on MySpace: 120 Days - Instrumental

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Nobody's Diary

So much has been going on with the return of Yaz that I've fallen a bit behind. Here's a little catch-up:

A 12" single of "Nobody's Diary" will be released in the UK on 5/12 in advance of the forthcoming box set, In Your Room. A digital single will also be released the same day but those of us in the US won't be able to download it due to territory restrictions. Mute Bank is offering a bundle with an exclusive download...which I would be excited about if I could actually order it.

The tracklists look like this:

A1. Nobody's Diary (Andy Bell & JC Remix)
A2. Nobody's Diary (Original Remaster)
B1. Nobody's Diary (Koishii & Hush Remix)

Digital Downloads
1. Nobody's Diary (Original Remaster) listen
2. Nobody's Diary (Andy Bell & JC Remix) listen
3. Nobody's Diary (Koishii & Hush Remix) listen
4. Nobody's Diary (GRN's 12" Remix) listen
5. Nobody's Diary (Soil In The Synth Remix) [exclusive to Mute Bank]

Remixes have also been done for Bad Connection, Situation, and Winter Kills:

Winter Kills (Electronic Periodic's Sub/Piano Mix) listen
Bad Connection (Subway Collective Broadband Remix) listen
Situation (Hercules & Love Affair Mix) listen

I wish that Hercules & Love Affair had tackled a different song. It's not even so much that I never need to hear another version of "Situation" again (though that is certainly true) but that I think they would have really been suited to one of the more obscure, quieter tracks. Having said that, I'm really pleased with all of these remixes. They seem to retain the original atmosphere and spirit of the songs and stay away from making them too clubby (let's face it, those 1999 house remixes by Club 69, Richard 'Humpty' Vission, et al were awful). I hope these get released in some form. The remix of "Winter Kills" in particular is a stunner.

Earth To The Dandy Warhols

Details of the new Dandy Warhols record are finally here. To start, they're no longer with longtime label Capitol and are self-releasing their new album, Earth To The Dandy Warhols on May 19 as a subscription service. The subscription "will include exclusive digital audio content for one year, including new b-sides and live tracks." It'll be interesting to see how this works for them. No word yet on whether or not there will be a physical release.

The first track from the album is available for free download when you sign up for their mailing list. It's called "The World The People Together (Come On)." Opinion on the net seems to be unsure at best, but I've played it several times and like it a lot. Hopefully it's an indicator of the album to come. I've always loved these guys.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

One Day Like This

Elbow have announced the second single from The Seldom Seen Kid. "One Day Like This" is released on June 2 and will be available in the increasingly common CD and double 7" formats. Each disc has an exclusive b-side and if they're anything like the "Grounds For Divorce" b-side "Hotel Istanbul," we're in for a treat.

I wonder if anybody has heard my cries for download codes for the 7-inches. Probably not.

Tracklistings look like this:

1. One Day Like This
2. Lullaby

7" #1
A. One Day Like This
B. Every Bit The Little Girl

7" #2
A. One Day Like This
B. Li'l Pissed Charmin' Tune

I will see Elbow live for what I believe is the ninth time on Friday. Can't wait!

So good: Elbow - Hotel Istanbul

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Only One

Surprise! There are only ten days left until the new Cure single comes out. It's called "The Only One" and will be released on May 13. The band will then put out another single on the 13th of each month until September 13 when...their 13th album (title TBD) is released. I sense a theme.

The singles will be available on CD, 7" and digital download and rumour has it that "The Only One" will come with a collector's box to hold all four singles. Here's a rundown on the singles so far:

May 13
A. The Only One
B. NY Trip

June 13
A. Freakshow
B. All Kinds Of Stuff

July 13

August 13

I'll be seeing The Cure four times in the coming months and have amazing seats for all of them:

5/21 Denver Red Rocks Amphitheatre 13th row
5/23 Salt Lake City E Center 9th row
6/1 Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium 5th row
6/21 New York Radio City Music Hall 8th row

The Cure's website is streaming a clip of "The Only One." Check it out. I think it sounds pretty Wish-era. That's not a complaint.

UPDATE - The word from the man himself on the rumored collector's box: "ANYONE THAT OFFERS OR CLAIMS ANY KIND OF "SPECIAL" VERSION OF THE FIRST SINGLE - WITH A BOX OR A FREE HOLIDAY OR WHATEVER - IS EITHER LYING OR STUPID OR BOTH." So there you have it. No collector's box.

It's Friday:

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Garden Of The Arcane Delights

The Dead Can Dance catalog is about to get a new life. Remastered editions of all of their albums will be released by 4AD on June 2 (UK; US date unconfirmed). The albums were remastered by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (which means they should sound amazing) and will be released on hybrid SACDs. Hybrid SACDs play in SACD players as well as standard CD players.

The eight albums and one EP will initially come in mini-LP sleeves and will be available in super jewel cases in August. A box set of the entire collection may be available at some point in the future. One assumes that will be a beautiful box indeed. Should you need a reminder, the titles look like this:

Dead Can Dance
Garden Of The Arcane Delights (EP)
Spleen And Ideal
Within The Realm Of A Dying Sun
The Serpent's Egg
Into The Labyrinth
Toward The Within

Watch the "Yulunga" video:

Remain In Light

David Byrne recently announced that he and Brian Eno are working together for the first time in nearly 30 years. Their last project together was 1981's My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, an album that set the template for much of what was to come in dance music.

The new album is slated to be released by the end of the year and was described by Byrne as "electronic gospel." A tour is also in the works, with 40% of the set dedicated to Eno-era Talking Heads material. Early reports said that Eno would be joining Byrne on tour, but that is not the case. Still, this tour will be a must-see!

Stormy Weather

Another show has been announced in Echo & The Bunnymen's 30th anniversary tour, during which they are playing their classic Ocean Rain in its entirety. With an orchestra. I just can't imagine.

Dates in London and Liverpool had been previously announced but the latest is on our side of the pond, at Radio City Music Hall on October 1. Sadly, this does not overlap with my scheduled trip to NY in June. Bloody hell.

There are rumours that they'll add an LA date, but I'll refrain from getting excited until I have some proof. It's nice that the Bunnymen have even scheduled a US date, though. Recent "we're playing an entire classic album" tours by Gary Numan, OMD, the Human League, and Simple Minds have been UK/EU only.