Friday, September 15, 2006


This blog is going to go through a bit of a quiet patch. Through no fault of our own [i.e. no-one we want to see touring] Goth Girl and I have no gigs in September and only one in October - the NME Rock and Roll Riot Tour. Normal service will be resumed in October, unless someone can furnish us with tickets to the following gigs which somehow happened to mysteriously sell out before the tickets officially went on sale:

Scissor Sisters
The Killers
Panic! At The Disco
Maximo Park

Saturday, September 09, 2006


The posts below are reviews of all of the bands I saw at this year's Reading Festival. I've omitted those I only caught brief moments of, like Franz Ferdinand, Fall Out Boy and several others. I've also omitted Klaxons, who I only saw from the outside of a tent because I couldn't get into it!

If you only have time to read a few, my favourite bands of the weekend were:

1 The Automatic
2 Maximo Park
3= Bromhead's Jacket and TV On The Radio

The list goes from the bottom up, with one glaring exception. As ever, all comments are welcome.

TV On The Radio

There's an argument for saying that I saved the best for last here. However, there is a better argument for saying that I screwed up and forgot to include them when I posted the reviews from Saturday night at Reading. Which is a shock even to me, because they were definitely one of my finds of the festival.

You know you have seen a good band when the end of their set comes far too quickly, and so it was with TVOTR. 40 minutes just flew by and it can't just have been the shock of seeing four black New Yorkers (and one white guy) playing the sort of avant garde college swamp rock beloved of the likes of Pretty Girls Make Graves. Tunde Adimbimpe is one of the most compelling frontmen around, totally commanding the stage (although I never did work out why he was alternating between two microphones). Beside him, the massively afro'd Kyp Malone adds searing guitars to the mix, whilst bassist Gerard Smith plays almost the entire set with his back to the audience. Unfamiliar to most of the audience, songs like 'Wolf Like Me' and 'Staring At The Sun' soon have the tent moshing without even realising it.

If TVOTR don't become as huge as Malone's hair then there really is no justice in the world. How can a band whose stage manager is a tall black man with bleached white hair and an ankle length tartan kilt NOT be successful?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Maximo Park

(Ok, so I can't do the umlaut in their name. Shoot me)

Every festival has to end somewhere. This one ends with strobe lights, cannons firing glittery paper and five Geordies playing their hearts out. Those who doubted that Maximo Park (there goes the umlaut again) could carry off a headline spot somewhere like Reading are proved wrong over and over again. Kicking off with "Signal and Sign" and ending with the brilliant 'Apply Some Pressure", the pace never lets up, even during new songs like 'In a Fortnight' (the chorus to which is, bizarrely, 'Five times five equals twenty-five).

A year or more on the road has turned Maximo into a taut live act and if, in the meantime, Lukas Wooler's crown as 'maddest keyboard player in the world' has been stolen, flung around and jumped on by the Automatic's Alex Pennie, it makes no difference, this is still a performance to remember.

Pearl Jam

One of the things that Eddie Vedder has always been known for is his sheer arrogance, so it is no surprise when he is at it again tonight. Before Pearl Jam play a note he's announcing that the band will stop playing if it looks like anyone in the audience are getting hurt. He lied. Within 15 minutes my ears were screaming for him to shut the f*ck up, but he kept on torturing them for another two hours.

The simple fact is that, a long long time ago, Pearl Jam made an almost decent album. Since then, they have released several sh*t ones. Obviously, over a couple of hours, you have to sift through a lot of sh*t to find the *ahem* pearls. Add to this a tedious tvvat of a guitarist who surely should have been arrested for what was little more than public masturbation with a six stringed instrument and you can imagine how tedious this was.


Placebo are a bit like the mole that lives in your garden. The more you try and crush him, the more he comes back at you, digging holes and reminding you he is there. It is therefore unsurprising to find them as the penultimate act on the main stage, still churning out approximately the same sound in 2006 as they did when they released 'Placebo' in 1996.

But whilst a decade of live experience can leave you equipped to handle a lot of things, a catastrophic amp failure is too much and the band leave the stage after only 10 minutes. This leaves entertainment in the hands of the audience themselves and a number of well-endowed young ladies are happy to oblige. Goth Girl, meanwhile, heads for the toilets.

Once the problem is resolved, the band return to play a truncated set which still manages to cram in favourites such as 'Nancy Boy' and the excellent recent single 'Infra-red', as if to prove that blowing up your kit is one surefire way to leave the audience wanting more.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Goldie Lookin' Chain

After the unmitigated sh*tstorm that was Hope of the States, the festival gets exactly what it needs - eight Welshmen in day-glo security vests bouncing around the stage like a bunch of toddlers on tartrazine. First up is 'Half Man, Half Machine', followed by 'Charm School' and it is like the whole tent has been shaken awake and placed into a giant - if somewhat obscene - kids garden party, with too many E numbers and extra bouncy castles. What's more, GLC themselves are clearly having a whale of a time. They give us all of the favourites and if a few kids go away singing "J-Lo means sh*t to me/P Diddy means sh*t to me/Jah Rule means sh*t to me/F*ck you, Alesha Keys" then the world is indeed a better place today

Hope of the States

Sandwiched between the sleaze of Dresden Dolls and the brilliant stupidity of Goldie Lookin' Chain come Hope of the States, on a mission to, well, bore the audience rigid.

A wilfully perverse set starts with almost nine minutes of 'Nehemiah' (it's OK, it only felt like two lifetimes) and fails to include either new single 'Left' or its predecessor 'Sing It Out'. Indeed, the only entertaining moment comes when singer Sam Herlihy's guitar breaks down at the start of the set, forcing the band to revise their running order. Unfortunately, this only leads to them playing a turgid, soulless version of 'Black Dollar Bills'.

Ten days after this, HOTS announce that they are splitting. This was the sound of them going out whimpering.

Dresden Dolls

And so to the last double act of the festival. Sunday afternoon is probably not the time to see the best of Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione, but they do their best to convince everyone that they are in a smoke filled after hours club in Soho rather than a huge tent near Reading train station.

Notwithstanding the inappropriate setting, it is hard to ignore songs like 'Girl Anachronism' or the brilliant new single 'Backstabbers'. There is something just so gloriously seedy about this band, it makes you feel bad but at the same time good.

Tapes n' Tapes

This Aussie quartet were the hot ticket at this year's SXSW mediafest. This just proves that there are WAY too many drugs consumed at that event, because these guys are terrible. The very first song steals it's bassline wholesale from the Beatles' 'Come Together' and it is surely only the thought of Heather getting her mitts on some of the damages that stops McCartney suing the skinny antipodean arses off this bunch of chancers. The moment they pull out a French horn, Goth Girl and I leave.


One of the features of this year's festival is the number of bands who seem to think that singing is an optional extra, that you don't need to have your mouth anywhere near the microphone (eg the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) or articulate the lyrics in any meaningful way (stand up, Giant Drag). Metric's Emily Haines takes both of those to a whole new level by doing them with her back to the audience. For most of the set.

This is a shame, because these are four very angry Canadians, like they have finally gotten sick of being mistaken for their bigger and wealthier southern neighbours and have decided to take it out on the whole world. Anyone who has heard 'Monster Hospital' (cleverly tossed off as the penultimate song here) should know that that is Metric chilling out. Anyone hoping for a chilled out start to their Sunday got a very rude surprise here.

The On/Offs

This is kind of sweet, but in a very wrong sort of way. It's like going back to being a kid and imagining that you were in the Jam, only these guys are doing it for real. And, of course, the drawback to this is that you were only ever trying to imitate the Jam. And so are they.

The Raconteurs

By contrast with the Fratellis, such is the hype surrounding The Raconteurs that the festival organisers really had little option but to give them a headline slot. But anyone who thinks they have come to see some wierd kind of Detroit vanity project is in for a surprise, because as a band the Raconteurs gel together really well. Too well, in fact. For example, 'Blue Vein' becomes an extended jam, for no good reason other than to show off some superb lighting and to remind the audience just how close to bedtime it is.

Unexpectedly, it is Brendan Benson, not Jack White, who seems to be in charge of the whole thing, proving himself a surprisingly charismatic frontman. He needs to be, because the other deficiency in the Raconteurs set is their lack of songs. This leads not only to an eclectic mix of cover versions, from Nancy Sinatra's "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" to "Teenage Kicks", but also to them stealing the Pixies trick of playing one song ("Store Bought Bones") twice, only at different tempos.

Very much still a work in progress, the Raconteurs entertained in places, but on the whole failed to live up to their headline status.

The Fratellis

Muse and the Arctic Monkeys are playing on the main stage. Over in the NME/Radio 1 tent, Coheed and Cambria are keeping legions of emo kids nicely moist. So why is the Carling tent not only crammed until it's seams are bulging, but overspilling a dozen people deep outside?

The answer is one of the quieter success stories of the year. With little fanfare of publicity, The Fratellis have become the band to see. By the time the band hit the stage the tent is already uncomfortably full and more people pile in as the set goes on (no-one leaves; even if they were mad enough to want to, there is no way they would be able to get out). From the opening bars of 'Henrietta' the whole tent is one seething moshpit and the pace never lets up. The only blemish are the johnny-come-latelys who spend their time calling for 'Chelsea Dagger' and who fail to take in the magnificence of the other songs, especially the brilliant set closer 'Sneaking Up The Back Stairs'. Tents are definitely way too small for this band.


Talk about going to extremes. Jet made one album stuffed full of straight down the line, hard edged, rock and roll songs. Then they suffered a bereavement, cleaned up and have now returned with, well, a whole load of pop ballads that even Elton John would turn his nose up at.

The last time I saw Jet, they opened with an intro so long that my partner had time to go to the Ladies and back before they hit the first verse. Today, they rip into what is basically a load of dross and don't stop being dross for what seems like hours. Goth Girl and I walk long before they finish.


If ever a band were a byword for soulless efficiency, it is Feeder. Nothing they do is ever offensive or dishonest, but a lot of what they do is just very dull. This was no different. From the opening bars of 'Come Back Around' to the dying notes of 'Just A Day', nothing happened that you didn't expect to happen. Everyone jumped along to 'Buck Rogers' (despite the sickly sweetness of Grant Nicholas dedicating the song to his 15 month old daughter), everyone became slightly subdued at 'Just The Way I'm Feeling' and Taka Hirose still played like a man wrestling a bass guitar and losing. It's not like Feeder ever give you anything to dislike, it is just you never feel very entertained, either.

The Automatic

"What's that coming over the hill, is it a monster?" Er, not exactly, it's much more likely to be the one man whirlwind that is Automatic keyboard player Alex Pennie. Brilliantly upstaging his bandmates at every turn, Pennie is a one man show laid over a show by three others. So, whilst the rest of the band lead the audience through 'Raoul', 'Monster' and 'Recover', Pennie is climbing speaker stacks, hanging off the edge of the stage, throwing tambourines in the air and giving a virtuoso display of microphone swinging. Oh, and playing keyboards, too. In fact, the only time it is possible to take your eyes off him is when all eight of Goldie Lookin' Chain join the band for a cover of Kanye West's 'Gold Digger'. Oddly, this is Pennie's only lead vocal, but no matter, the NME/Radio 1 tent has never been fuller and the throng have witnessed a one man show to remember for a long time.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Futureheads

There's not a lot that you can say about the Futureheads that hasn't been said many many times already. Songs in curious time signatures...four part've heard it all before.

On the other hand, what you might not have heard is just how this band seems to improve with every show. The new tracks from 'News and Tributes' now blend seamlessly into the more established songs from their eponymous debut album, where just a couple of months ago they jarred. Of course, most of the crowd just want to hear 'Hounds of Love', but that's the price you pay for making one of the greatest cover versions ever.

Tilly and the Wall

Forgetting to recruit a drummer and instead gettng a tap dancer is just plain silly. Or , at least, it is unless you then do everything else with an air of silliness, too. And Tilly and the Wall do more than that, there is something almost contagious about the fun that they are having and before either band or audience know it the tent is awash with balloons.

The only downside to all this is that every band needs some decent songs and T&TW just don't have them yet. Whilst the likes of recent singles 'Reckless' and 'Bad Education' jog along merrily, there is nothing to make you really take notice, nothing that makes you want to go out and tell people how good the music is.

Rumble Strips

There is something about Saturday afternoon which demands that you do something mindless yet energetic. Enter the Rumble Strips. Four childhood friends from Tavistock in Devon, Charlie Wheeler, Henry Clark, Tom Gorbutt and Matthew Wheeler bring guitars, horns, keyboards and drums to the growing party in the Carling Tent. Mildly infectious songs like 'Motorcycle' and 'Hate Me You Do' soon have the audience bouncing along, although it is a shame that so many people were watching the uninspiring throwback that is Wolfmother when they could have been watching a band that are really trying to be different.

Giant Drag

It's hard to know what to make of Giant Drag, the Californian duo of singer/guitarist Annie Hardy and drummer/keyboard player Micah Calabrese. Hardy has an enviable reputation as a songwriter and raconteur, but the simple fact is that she sings like she has a bucket full of marbles in her mouth. This means that, although everyone can hear her claim that Chris Isaack took her virginity, no-one can understand what the songs are about. Which is a shame, because it means that great songs like 'You F*ck Like My Dad' and 'Kevin Is Gay' are lost on most of the audience.

In fact, the real star of the show is Calabrese. The description 'drummer/keyboard player' above is entirely correct, as he somehow manages to do both at one time, without, it seems missing a beat. An awesome performance of dexterity and virtuosity which has probably never been matched at Reading.

The Morning After Girls

The Morning After Girls launch day two in a cloud of dry ice, feedback and, well, not a lot else, really. So Goth it almost seems to be hurting them, their music is so horribly formulaic that even Goth Girl can't take much of them.

Primal Scream

The great thing about Primal Scream is that you never know which version of the band you are going to get. Will they show up at all? Will they walk off after 20 minutes? Will Bobby Gillespie offer to fight the entire audience - again? Or will they refuse to stop playing?

In fact, tonight we get the Pop Primals. They open with 'Moving On Up' and follow that with new single 'Dolls'. There are a few tracks from the new album, including the insanely silly 'Suicide Sally and Johnny Guitar'. The sad thing, though, is that it is TOO pop, too bland and uninsipiring. I had time to work out that most of the songs have about 8 lines of lyric, whilst 'Shoot Speed Kill Light' contains only those four words. Even though they went for broke with a closing sequence of 'Kowalski', 'Swastika Eyes', 'Country Girl' and 'Rocks', for a headline set it was all curiously entertaining but uninspiring. The sound of a great band growing old, perhaps?

Kaiser Chiefs

When it comes to shameless showmanship, it is hard to beat the Kaiser Chiefs. They enter, centre stage, down a staircase built into the drum and keyboard riser. This is painted brilliant white, like something from a 1970s variety show. A giant, illuminated 'KC' hangs above their heads. But then, having set the scene, what do they go and do? THEY GO AND PLAY THE SAME DAMN SHOW THEY ALWAYS DO!

That's right, there is no intrinsic difference between this show and any other Kaiser Chiefs show you may have seen, be it in a small hall in Leeds, on the television, or at any of the myriad of other festivals they have played. They open, as they always do, with 'Na Na Na Na Na'. Ricky Wilson runs back and forth across the set, Simon Rix bounces around somewhere to his left, there's some banter with Nick Hodgson, Peanut stands immobile behind his keyboards and Whitey looks as p*ssed off as he always does. In short, just what everyone expected. Yes, there are some new songs (and 'Everything Is Average Nowadays', 'Highroyds' and 'Heat Dies Down' are among the best things they have ever done) and yes it is fantastic fun, but by the time the extended workout of 'Oh My God' fades away and the band wander back up their staircase, you are left wondering if, well, they couldn't have made something more of this.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Vines

Even now, there is something disturbingly wrong about watching the Vines. Part of this is shame at standing by and watching NME and the like try and turn Craig Nicholls into the next Kurt Cobain - glamorous but very, very dead. This is made worse by knowing that Nicholls was actually incurably ill.

Fortunately, Nicholls' Aspberger's Syndrome is now cured by medication. Presumably this accounts for his weight gain over recent years, rather than the fact that his diet no longer consists entirely of Fillet-o-Fish.

The sad truth, though, is that removing the element of danger from Nicholls' live performance has simply emphasised just how dull most Vines songs are. Even 'Autumn Shade' and 'Vision Valley' fail to stir the audience and it is a shame that they toss 'Ride' off after only 20 minutes because that is the cue to leave for most people.

Howling Belles

I so desperately, desperately want to like this band. For all sorts of reasons. But they suck. They suck harder than a hooker in a hoover factory. I cannot think of one redeeming thing about them. They have no stage presence, no personality and no good songs. I'll never get those 30 minutes of my life back again, you know.