Tuesday, 23 June 2009

The Dead Weather

The Dead Weather performed on music producer Nigel Godrich's 'From The Basement' on show on Monday. Apart from it being the debut British performance of Jack White's new band, it was quite a big deal as the gig was broadcast live online and represented the first performance of Godrich's show in this format rather than on his slot on the Sky Arts channel. Now that 'Later with Jools Holland' is little more than an industry showcase evening for whatever rubbish major label act is deciding to inflict the world with another dose of lifeless music, 'From The Basement' is the only great music programme out there.

So as I mentioned The Dead Weather are Jack White's most recent band in which he drums alongside Alison Mosshart from The Kills who sings, some guy from Queens of the Stone Age on guitar and the bass player from White's other band The Raconteurs. I don't know whether to think White is wasting his talents behind the drumkit or whether it's cool that he's not hogging the limelight once again. Judging by the 'Basement' performance I think the band set-up works just fine. White's a good drummer, it's a bit like he wants 'in' on a piece of the action in this group rather than wanting to push his own agenda.

As would be expected given the people involved, The Dead Weather's sound is quite Led Zeppelin-esque, a bit bluesy and a bit groovy. My brother pointed out that some moments sounded a lot like Clutch, whereas other moments sounded like Zeppelin's 'When The Levee Breaks'. I wouldn't say they're contrived as the songs they played the other day were quite exciting and varied in styles. Alison Mosshart's voice might take a bit of getting used to, but she's a great frontwoman.

I think it's in the arrangement of the songs where The Dead Weather are interesting. You don't quite know where the song will go next or whether you understand the idea behind the songwriting. Have a listen to 'Hang You From The Heavens' and see what I mean. If you ask me it's weird, quite daring songwriting for a rock band. It takes risks and at least that makes you think about it.

As is standard with anything Jack White is involved in, the presentation was brilliant. Wearing black always looks cool and juxtaposing that black with white guitars and white flexicord guitar leads is great. At least they're gonna look good.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Bill Fay

Now for something old.

Bill Fay was an English singer-songwriter who released two albums in the early 1970s. Both records pan out like an (albeit short) story of Fay's fairly traumatic experience of life around that time.

The story begins with 1970s 'Bill Fay', an album recorded in just one day with an orchestra. This album documents Fay's retreat from the world around him, Fay opens the album with the intention of 'planting myself in the garden', a metaphor for Fay's intention to step back from the world he is dissatisfied with. 'Believe me' instructs Fay, upon making this claim. Fay's simple piano playing often gives his songs a hymn-like quality whilst Fay's voice is rather detached from the rich orchestral backing, which highlights Fay's own feeling of detachment with what surrounds him. It makes him sound like an observer of the world around him, recreated so well by the orchestra. On 'Gentle Willie', Fay sings of a man intent on getting away from it all amidst suffering from an identity crisis. 'Willie' ends up buying a watch tower, only for him to discover that the tower looked over a battlefield, whereupon Willie laughs, then cries. 'Be Not So Fearful' featuring only piano, drums and voice seem an odd inclusion amongst the orchestration, maybe Fay felt that that version captured the mood he intended for the song, without the need to coat it in an elaborate arrangement.

Album number two, 'Time of the Last Persecution' documents Fay's experience now that he has set out to do what he wanted to do and retreat from society. Fay sounds distressed, almost apocalyptic (the album's title and front cover both suggest something dark is going on). He sings that 'all my time is lying on the factory floor' and that he will be coming 'when the air is black'. Fay's music on this album is sparse, often backed only by a jazz guitarist like on 'Don't Let My Marigolds Die'. Apparently he was influenced by the biblical writings of ministers from the 1800s he found in a book in a jumble sale around this time explains the sometimes prophet-esque subject matter of the lyrics.

'From The Bottom Of An Old Grandfather Clock' is collection of Fay's demos made around the time of his albums but released in 2004 (the cover is great, who is that guy on the left?!). I guess Fay couldn't find a place for these songs and so ditched them. 'Camille' and 'Maxine's Parlour' are both brilliant songs off 'From The Bottom...' and rank among Fay's best work. Fay's songwriting is distinctly English, whether it be the orchestral backing conjuring up images of English countryside or lyrical references to marigolds, rivers and English phrases such as 'Tally ho let's go'. Fay's songs are also short and consise, as if he doesn't want to linger on one subject too long.

This is getting to sound a bit like an essay, never mind. Fay disappeared from public view after the release of 'Time of the Last Persecution', evidently choosing not to play out any more of his life on record. Apparently he became a swimming pool cleaner at a school, maybe he still is? Pretty cool.

Here's one last great song, 'Sing Us One Of Your Songs May'.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Future Of The Left at The Harley, Sheffield

As expected, they were brilliant last night. Andy Falkous's voice might even be better live than on record. Here's a photo from Drowned In Sound:

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Deerhunter - Rainwater Cassette Exchange

Deerhunter are a pretty rad band from Atlanta, Georgia in the USA and after watching them twice in one day a few weeks ago at the Deaf Institute in Manchester, I feel compelled to talk about them. Handily, they've just released a new E.P too so what better time than now to show them some love?

People like to label Deerhunter a 'shoegaze' band. Calling a band's music 'shoegaze' usually implies that said band employ a lot of fairly unnecessary noise as a substitute for good songs (My Bloody Valentine - you're rubbish). I guess I can see why Deerhunter might be subjected to such lazy categorisation, there are some noisy elements to their sound and the whispered vocals and weird sound effects on 'Rainwater Cassette Exchange' are reminiscent of 'shoegaze' bands. The main difference is that Deerhunter's music is rooted in 1960s pop music and krautrock and thus the noise elements, rather than act as the basis of the song, make the music sound modern and thrilling.

When I saw them in Manchester they were much rockier than I expected. It made me think about how cool it is to build upon what has been committed to record and not just recreate its sound perfectly when performing live. There's a real pace to Deerhunter's songs when performed live and the more rocky elements of their songs emerge. Their bass player is great. It's the contrast between the two different settings for their music that makes them such an interesting band.

'We are a Romanian sound collage' is a great lyric, sung by one of the guys from the Black Lips on Deerhunter's last album. Other than that, I don't really know what they sing about. I think the singer is into introspection and stuff, it doesn't really matter to be honest.

Deerhunter's myspace is here. Currently there are no 'Rainwater...' songs there but 'Never Stops' is a great song to start with. 'Rainwater Cassette Exchange' can be downloaded here.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Future Of The Left - Travels With Myself And Another

It is probably a good thing to start this blog with something contemporary and this album isn't even out for a couple of weeks, is that new enough for you?

Future Of The Left are a very funny, noisy Welsh band. They're funny in the sense that they don't take themselves or the world around them very seriously - I've heard people complain that they're something of a joke band because of this, but who cares? Who wants to take music that seriously anyway? Song titles such as 'Stand By Your Manatee' and lyrics such as 'what kind of orgy leaves a sense of deeper love?' and 'Morgan Freeman would roll in his grave if he were dead' suggests a worldview far removed from such 'serious' lyrics you can find on an album by Coldplay. Indeed, as most things have been written or sung about the world we live in, such lyrics almost celebrate this fact by singing about the ridiculous. A great deal of music lacks a sense of humour - why should this be the case?

I feel that my description of the style of music this blog will cover in my last post was a little too vague. A person's appreciation of music will change over time, and I want this blog to reflect my own current outlook, one that is influenced by my situation and surroundings. As a recent graduate and one that that is currently about to (hopefully) enter the world of work I like my music to reflect how I feel about this. Future Of The Left are a great example of this.

Back to the music, I was told that the bass was so loud during the recording of this new album 'Travels With Myself And Another' that crockery rattled on the other side of the building. The bass is indeed one of the many great elements holding this album together. The music is vicious but clever and clocking in at just over 33 minutes long it is a very concise piece of work. Everything seems considered and well thought out, there is very little filler on this album. It makes you realise that most albums should end at around the half hour mark.

Judging by this blog post, singer Andy Falkous would personally come and give me a good hiding if I posted a download link to 'Travels With Myself...' on here - it's not really fair to either. The album's out on June 22nd, go buy.

If you need any further persuasion, check out the band's myspace page here.

'Arming Eritrea' and 'you need satan more than he needs you' are personal favourites.

Sunday, 7 June 2009


Testing...testing...is this thing on?

Hello, this marks the beginning of my first ever blog, a small place on the Internet that I can call my own. I've finally resigned myself to the idea that blogs are a good thing, and that I should embrace this medium and the Internet in general and do something worthwhile with it. I've also got a great deal of time on my hands at the moment (i've just graduated) and I've managed to convince myself that doing a blog constitutes being creative and is in some way wholesome. I've come across a few blogs in my time as an Internet surfer, they seem fine. This blog will be about music, mostly music which falls under the description 'rock'. But rock music covers a lot of ground, right? I don't really care for the huge number of descriptions for music out there, the lines are so blurred between 'indie', 'rock', 'blues' etc that it really doesn't matter and it's pretty irrelevant. I also don't think a lot of people care for labelling in music, ask most people what music they listen to and they'll more than not say they dislike such a question and explain that they listen to a wide range of music. Most people don't really identify themselves as a fan of just one style of music and don't want to, but I think 'rock music' covers enough styles of music to describe what sort of music this blog will be about. I think more people should use the term 'rock', I think they're worried they will come across as a fan of Nickelback, Eric Clapton or The Enemy.

What matters is if something is good or not (that's pretty obvious).

I'm not quite sure where I stand on posting 'rapidshare', 'megaupload' or whatever other filesharing web links up on this blog. In some ways I think it's fine to pinch music off the Internet, the music industry has been ripping people off for decades now and it's pretty funny to onserve the state of panic those in charge of such a changing industry seem to be in at the moment. Downloading music from the Internet for free gives people a chance to find out whether or not the music is right for them which is great. Music blogs are great places for people to read and discover new music. Without the ability to obtain music for free, people would listen to a lot less music and wouldn't be willing to take a chance by parting with money for music they might dislike. In short, I think the Internet allows individuals to gain a broader taste in music, which must be good.

I also think however that it would be quite nice for my favourite bands and artists to be able to eat and support themselves off the great music they make. I think people should act at their discretion regarding this, buying a record by a small band probably means a lot more to them than it would do to Green Day or dead people such as Hendrix, Buckley etc, etc...

So yeah, I don't know my stance on this and I'm beginning to care less and less about the subject. It isn't up to me to figure out how to solve this problem so for the mean time I'm going to do what I feel is fine. I thought it would be best to explain how I feel about such a matter before I inevitably start posting links to downloading websites.

You might or might not be wondering about the name of this blog. It'll probably make more sense when there are a few more posts on this blog but basically, 'rad' is a great word to describe good music and 'Radstock' is a place in Somerset that me and my friend drove through once. 'Radstockistrad' is a reference to the band Pavement's 'Pavement ist rad' slogan. I'll try not to use 'rad' too often.

My name is Tom by the way. As I said, i've just graduated from Sheffield University and I'm currently watching the world go by in the great void one finds oneself in post-university. I plan to go and live in Leiden, Holland in August with my band Hyperbowl. More on them later...

As for now, I'd better go and listen to a record...