Brody Dalle performs at the Electric Ballroom, Camden

Music: Brody Dalle at the Electric Ballroom

Last night I saw Brody Dalle play the Electric Ballroom and can now finally die happy.

Brody Dalle performs at the Electric Ballroom, Camden 24 April 2014

I’d given up hope of ever seeing the Distillers live. The band imploded in 2004 shortly after the release of Coral Fang at the height of my fandom, which sucked but also probably boosted my obsession.

Then Brody seemed to go off into the musical wilderness (in real life having a couple of kids with husband Josh Homme from Queens Of The Stone Age). Her next project with Distillers guitarist Tony Bevilacqua, Spineerette, was short lived; they released an EP in 2008 but have been quiet since.

I wondered if she’d ever tour again and whether she’d ever perform the Distillers. I figured maturity would mean she wouldn’t want to play songs written by her 22 year old self battling a meth addiction and an unhappy marriage to Tim Armstrong from Rancid.

But last night she played all the best off Sing Sing Death House (2002) and Coral Fang. There was less of the snarling and posturing that made me fall in love with her – she’s more grounded and calm, but she still blew me away.

She seemed shy – she hasn’t performed live much since 2010  - not once looking into the crowd, but she still owned the stage with an incredible vocal range that has changed little since the days of the Distillers. You wonder how she’s still able to sing with such ferocity when it sounds like her vocal chords have been steeped in ethanol.

One thing that was depressing, though. The crowd was shockingly tame. There was a limp mosh pit and the few true punks seemed to want to nurse a cold beer more than throw it over anyone. I felt like we were letting Brody down in the worst possible place, Camden, the home of punk.

Whatever has happened to music is a sign of an apathetic culture. It felt like no one in the venue had any punk spirit in them, no fight to give. Brody can explain:

I was so lucky to grow up in the ‘90s. It was the revolution, it really was. There’s such a fucking plethora of amazing music to pick from, from Hole to Bikini Kill to L7 to Babes in Toyland to Elastica. There was Kim Gordon. There were so many women. It was just such an awesome time. I really hope that happens again.

I think it’s been a good twenty years, so, usually things go in cycles. I’m hoping that maybe in the mainstream, female-driven rock ‘n roll or just rock ‘n roll in general kind of gets its place again.

You know? It’s been dominated by dance music and I agree with Shirley Manson actually, she says it’s because of 9/11. And that’s absolutely where things kind of changed. We all got very PC and didn’t want to rock the boat and just wanted to hear meaningless fluff, I guess. I don’t know. I would think that people would run in the other direction.

Where’s the counter culture gone? We’re living in dispossessed times, but that’s what punk was born out of. We need a return of the Riot Grrrls. With feminism becoming part of the mainstream, the timing would be perfect.

Brodie quote from an interview in Bust Magazine.

SABRINA-2

Music: Sabrina Altan

There are rumblings afoot in the bars of Brighton that one of their best-kept secrets is about to explode all over everyone’s face whether they like it or not. Sabrina Altan is a singer songwriter with an impressive voice that gives vent to frustration and heartache without beating you over the head with it. She’s got a fresh clutch of songs available to listen to on her new website, and I think they’re pretty goshdarn good.

Originally from the glamorous climes of Loughton, Essex, Sabrina bid a not-too tearful farewell and developed her own unique sound through constantly writing, recording and performing in her adoptive home.

It could be said that Sabrina has her fingers in musical pies of many flavours. Recently she has been touring with Karl Phillips and the Midnight Ramblers providing some soaring dance vocals for their track ‘Dangerous’ on sold-out gigs around the UK, playing the odd solo jazz gig and performing with her new all-girl group. Her own style is a mixture of jazz and soul with a bits of Pixies-ish edge thrown in for good measure. Oh yes.

Before the launch of her site we had a brief natter:

How would you describe the sound of your new tracks?
The ‘sound’ of them? Like a pissed off Turkish essex girl. Who loves R&B/Soul and everything in between.

What would you say your main influences are?
Well I learnt how to sing to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and The Writing’s On The Wall by Destiny’s Child so I’d say they were the biggies. What inspires me to write is annoyance and a need to express it. I like creating something pleasurable to listen to and I feel like I’ve done that with these recordings.

How has it been touring with Karl Phillips and co..?
Uhhhhhhhh. Interesting. Between the incessant banter, swearing on air, stage ceiling destroying, and endless boozy nights it’s been cool! I love those boys and playing with them is a blast. I get to party whilst they play then perform to an electrified audience; best of both worlds really.

And lastly, what are your hopes for your career?
My hopes for the future are to spread my groovy rage far and wide. There’s so much dance music around at the moment, and don’t get me wrong I love a good boogie but sometimes I just feel like we need to chill out!

GROEZ

Alkaline Trio at Groezrock 2012

Guest post by Nadia Ramoul 

Nostalgia has a lot to answer for. It means a great deal to me, like a big hug from a stinking cuddly dog when the real world is too disorientating and fast. It takes me back to simpler times before the weight of adulthood landed with full force on my unprepared little girl shoulders and accosted me with phone bills, rent and ceaseless responsibilities.

Nostalgia is also the reason why I dragged my pasty English ass to the sunny climes of Meerhout (that’s in Belgium, you philistine) to the Groezrock festival last week for yet another year of pretending I’m still wearing short trousers and listening to Rancid in earnest. Yes, as blighty lacks a sufficient amount of crusty punk, the only way to satisfy my raging inner child is to venture to the continent, trawl through fields of manure and poorly organized queuing systems to feast onEurope’s finest beer and revel in its foulest mud.

The eagle-eyed, all two of them, may recall I’ve written about this festival before but Groezrock itself is not the issue here. Suffice it to say a fun time was had by all, Belgiumfolk are lovely and polite and their deep fried ribs are delicious. My gripe for today is the crushing disappointment felt when you realize the rose tint you painted over your musical teenage memories was of industrial strength, not a tint at all but a great big hairy lie.

A lot like realizing Father Christmas is in fact your mum inexpertly falling down darkened stairs, the knowledge that once cherished bands are now actually pretty rubbish is a bitter pill to swallow.

I speak, dear reader, of Alkaline Trio. Fond are my recollections of standing outside the Astoria (God rest its soul) chugging tins of Stella for hour after hour before descending gloomy stairs and squeezing in front of the stage only to get beaten senseless by the elbows of large drunk men in the pit. Those were the days. We knew every word and jiggled around with cheerful intensity, emerging sweaty, beaming, planning how we would get out of school the next day. What rascals we were.

What I witnessed before me at the festival was a sorry sight indeed. The band has not aged well. Gone were the black-clad heroes of my youth, replaced by a tubby clutch of balding men, missing cues, muttering incoherently and bastardizing their own songs until they became unrecognizable. Matt Skiba resembled a bloated thirteen year old boy after his first trip to Camden Market, all poorly applied eyeliner and ill-advised clothing. The others looked very much as if going through the motions on the final day doing a job they hated, lifeless and bored, watching the clock. With the exception of one small huddle at the front, the crowd remained stationary, exchanging the odd look as if to clarify that this was actually happening.

The wise shuffled off in search of a better time while the foolhardy remained, steadfastly hoping for the set to pick up. It didn’t. The dogged determination in the eyes of my friends soon turned to defeat as we exited, grimacing into the sun.

No, it’s not a big deal at all but it does leave an odd taste in the mouth (that or the weak Jupiler) There is something comforting about the bands you grew up listening to, those you aren’t too ashamed to admit undying love for, like they’re somehow trapped in time to be always young and vibrant.

You want their shows to be like musical chicken soup, familiar and warn, not a grotesque parody. It’s true, bands  rise and fall, and while others at the festival sounded as vital as they ever did (hello Gorilla Biscuits, The Bronx, Dillinger Escape Plan) it is pretty sad to see a favorite group completely miss the mark by so far.

Jeff Mangum

Music: Jeff Mangum at the Union Chapel


On Wednesday I was one of  the very privileged people to witness Jeff Mangum of revered American Indie band Neutral Milk Hotel perform at the truly gorgeous Union Chapel. It was so nice for a split second I even considered joining a church. For those of you that haven’t heard of Neutral Milk Hotel their music often described as “fuzz folk” or “psychedelic” briefly during the late 90’s they were kind of a big deal. In 2010, Q magazine rated their second album ‘In An Aeroplane Over The Sea’ as the 16th best album of the past 25 years.

We got there early opting for seats in the front row of the upper chapel, sipping our coffees awaiting Mangum’s entrance. Excitement was rippling through the crowd. Mangum appeared wearing a flannel shirt any American rocker would have been proud of and straight away launched into a heart warming version of Oh Comely. I was instantly struck by the simplicity of the chord changes and more than anything the power of his voice. In the 14 years since the last NMH album Mangum’s voice has certainly not diminished. Throughout the set Magnum was regularly joined by NMH hotel member the ageless Julian Koster adding overtones with his saw and violin bow. In a set list comprising purely of fan favourites.

Magnum likened playing to the intimidate venue to when he used to go to friends houses and play songs for them. Although the cynic in me was thinking I bet they didn’t pay nearly £30 for the privilege. Saying that, I was glued from start to finish. A particular pleasing moment came during Two Headed Boy when members of the opening act Music Tapes including Koster came through the back of the chapel playing the drums and horns and marched onto the stage to join Mangum, I managed to grab a Soundcloud recording for you listening pleasure.

After Mangum left the stage the place erupted; the Union Chapel’s acoustics are second to none and Mangum reappeared for two encores, ending with the classic Daniel Johnston song ‘True Love Will Find Us In The End’. After the gig, my friend and I nipped over to the Library pub across from the venue and after a pint we realised that Mangum was standing behind us at the bar. We couldn’t resist saying hi and we exchanged a few pleasantries- he came across as a thoroughly nice guy. A pleasant ending  to a great evening of entertainment by still a undoubtedly precocious talent. Nice one Jeff.

Lana Del Rey

Music: Leave Lana Alone

It seems that we’re now living in an age where things happen so quickly online, it’s quite possible for someone to become a star, only to be torn to pieces by fans and critics, all before their debut album is even released. Lana Del Rey has received such a bashing on music blogs and in the media since her performance on Saturday Night Live, that many are quick to write her off before she’s even got started, with sites like Hipster Runoff featuring almost daily hate pieces. The site itself admits that “LDR was a blogosphere ‘passion project’ that we incubated, and got to ‘tear down’ for the sake of generating, controlling, and commenting on our own content.” They then go on to make fun of feminist bloggers defending Del Rey.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HO1OV5B_JDw

Is the story of Del Rey a feminist issue? Hipster Runoff admits that at first they enjoyed writing about her because her good looks made up for lack or substance. She has since been criticised endlessly for her overtly sexual appearance and the rumour that her sultry pout is not 100% natural. But hang on, how many artists can you think of right now who use their sexuality to get exposure or may have had cosmetic enhancement? So maybe it’s that her voice isn’t good enough. But then again, the same can be said for loads more artists who are also more style then substance. So what exactly is the problem with Del Rey?

It seems her lack of authenticity is the problem here. Del Rey sprung out of nowhere with this beautiful, haunting song Video Games, and what looked like a DIY video (which got half a million hits before being banned by YouTube for copyright infringement). Her gangsta Nancy Sinatra image was also spot on with the current fashion ideal. Now we find out that Del Rey actually had a huge record deal before any of this happened. Not only that, but LDR isn’t even her real name. It’s Lizzy Grant, and she had a failed album before all this happened. People seem to be angry because the freedom and democracy of the internet has been abused by record labels looking to cash in on the success of artists like Justin Bieber and Jessie J, who had a huge online fan base before they were signed after posting YouTube videos of themselves singing in their bedrooms.

Another score the ‘fans’ had to settle was the sheer amount of media coverage she has received.  Angry commenters on The Guardian’s website pointed out that a quick search comes back with 20 articles about Del Rey including New Artist of the Day. I mean this girl HASN’T RELEASED AN ALBUM YET. Ok so now the hipsters are angry about the PR machines that run the music industry. According to them, if an artist wasn’t accidently discovered performing in some dive bar then the music press are not doing their job.

The massive backlash is probably because the hipsters have been tricked into liking this female artist, she pushed all the right buttons for them, and now they feel cheated and don’t want to like her anymore. This seems like massive snobbery to me. It’s the age-old attitude of, “Oh I like them while no one else does, but when everyone else does, I don’t anymore.” If music lovers out there think any act or band gets to the top purely because of talent and not because of marketing and PR, they are sadly mistaken. Every act, whether an indie band or a pop star, uses these techniques to get noticed. How about we accept this and then judge them on their talent and how much we like their music.

For the record, I have really liked LDR since I first heard Video Games and actually enjoyed her SNL performance. If other people don’t like her, then that’s fine but how about we leave her appearance and past alone and accept her as an artist who has created a persona (much like Madonna, Gaga and Bowie) as part of her act.

little-racer

Music: Little Racer

If, like me, the British winter is starting to get to you, the best tonic I could suggest right now is to close your eyes and listen to Little Racer’s new single Split For The Coast for some brilliant lo-fi surf and sun escapism. Having been signed by the Young & Lost Club, this Brooklyn three-piece is making waves on the music scene over there and look like ones to watch in 2012.

“We’re always borrowing, experimenting, and playing with different styles but keep a pretty upbeat steady feel to it,” the boys explain. “So If you like being surprised at each turn, if you’re not afraid to uncross your arms and move around a bit, if you smile, if you’re playful, you’ll probably get a kick out of our sound. Nothing makes us happier than watching crowds at our shows smiling, bouncing their feet, and dancing their arms.”

With clear influences by The Beach Boys, The Beatles and The Velvet Underground, the band clearly love good old fashioned pop music and cite everyone from Phil Collins to King Pepe as a source of inspiration. “If it’s pop music, we will probably find some genius in it and keep it in our back pocket,” they explain. “Also our jukebox hero is Michael Mcdonald. We were all lucky to grow up with everything available. There’s a lot of amazing stuff out there, the trouble is narrowing it down sometimes.”

Split For The Coast was inspired by heartbreak, when Elliot’s girlfriend left him. Yet from this painful starting point, the track still manages to stay deliciously upbeat “It was a way to let everyone know what hell I was in without bumming them out,” Elliot says. “Although it has melancholy origins, I’d like to think the song is medicinal in some way. The load I was carrying felt lighter after the song was written, maybe it could do the same for others.”

When the boys aren’t working they like to hang out in Brooklyn cocktail bars, drinking gin or hanging out in warehouses filled with ice-cream trucks (I like the sound of that). “And then it’ll be 4 am and we’ll be eating pretzels on a ferry wondering if it’s jewels we’ll find when we crack open this treasure chest,” Ish says.

So what’s next for the boys? “Everything is next,” Mike tells me. “We’re proud of what we’ve done in a relatively short time but look forward to taking the next steps to becoming a real group. We have a great deal of music on the sidelines that we can’t wait to get down after our UK jaunt.”

Kyla Photoshoot Rogue-158

Music: Kyla La Grange

I  first came across the haunting sounds of Kyla La Grange last month, when I caught her single release show at the Hoxton Bar and Kitchen. The East London venue had been transformed into a magical overgrown world filled with jewelled vines and hanging skulls, a hint of the ethereal and enchanting world of Kyla that we were about to experience.

“I just really enjoy creating my own little world onstage,” she explains. “My favourite way to perform is when you sort of lose yourself onstage, creating an atmosphere around me helps with that. Also I think it makes it a bit more special for the audience – they also feel a bit transported hopefully. I love tree and plant imagery. My Dad’s photographs that I use for my record sleeves are all of bodies in trees, and the house I grew up in is full of overgrown plants and strange objects that my parents have hoarded over the years. It feels like a part of me.”

Kyla describes her sound as a “sort of sad choral melodrama” and her debut single Walk Through Walls is a wonderfully euphoric track that, at first, can’t help but remind the listener of early Florence and the Machine but then moves into a rockier sound. Does it bother her that people keep making these comparisons? “Comparisons to talented musicians that you admire are always very flattering,” she says. “I don’t always see the similarities, but still! It’s nice. It doesn’t bother me at all to be compared to acts that have come before me. That’s what everyone does, in all spheres of art. It is interesting to compare what’s gone before with what’s just arrived. It’s just a part of how we talk about music.”

 

Kyla grew up in Watford before attending Cambridge University to study Philosophy, which may go some way to explaining her deep lyricism.  “I definitely never thought I would get the chance to go to Cambridge,” she says. “I went to a normal state school and lived in a boring bars and clubs sort of area. I think Watford shaped me as a musician insofar as I didn’t really feel like I belonged there, so I enjoyed being creative on my own rather than going out much, and Cambridge shaped me because it was where I first plucked up the courage to perform my own songs.”

Having already received significant attention on the blogosphere, is she wary of the over-hyping of new artists? “I suppose I am wary of ‘hyping’ artists too much, because then if people don’t like them they tend to be quite cruel and mean and write about it,” she explains. “People love to reject the general consensus, or what they see as the mainstream. But to be honest, I really feel like if your songs are good enough, and they manage to connect, then the opinion of the blogosphere, whether negative or positive, shouldn’t matter.”