Friday, 30 January 2009

Grand Duchy - Petit Fours Album Review




"My oldest boy, he likes his tomato sauce with pasta so sometimes I've got to make it really quickly but I don't like using jars of sauces. So the first thing you need is an iron skillet." So said Frank Black when he contributed to our Rock'n'Roll Cook Book last year; proof, if it was needed, that the Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV of 2009 is a domesticated creature.

It makes his latest joint venture, Grand Duchy - a band comprised of Black and his wife, Violet Clark - a little less surprising. It's a move that will no doubt engender nay-saying, most likely from dyed in the wool Pixie-ites, who after 20 years are still hanging onto the coattails of Tame or Monkey Goes To Heaven in the unlikely hope that history might decide to repeat itself. Well hey, it probably won't, and certainly doesn't with Grand Duchy.

Sure, there are shades of Doolittle basslines and Black's trademark sneer makes the odd cameo (opening track Come On Over To My House being a prime example), but let's dispense with nostalgia and focus on the here and now: Petits Fours is an exceptionally tight and accomplished album. But rather than a safe, family outing, we get an exciting blend of 80s synths and enjoyably uncomplicated indie-rock anthems (Fort Wayne). It's fused with a chemistry and sense of playfulness perhaps normally akin to fledgling lovers, rather than the bearers of a five-strong litter.

Crucial to the longevity of marriage and ultimately the success of Grand Duchy is Black's willingness to share the limelight: this is far from a solo record, and on more than one occasion Clark's vocals usurp those of her more illustrious paramour - mischievous, sassy and devilish. Lovesick reveals the frustration that no doubt comes with Black’s jet-set life, the abandoned Clark giggling frivolously at her husband's skittish attempts to instigate phone-sex. Throughout the album, we get glimpses into the alternative lifestyles both lead – with album highlight Fort Wayne offering an account of life onstage in Indiana by contrast.

That the first collaboration between the couple was a Cure cover (A Strange Day - for a tribute album last year) proffers a fair indication as to the stylistic quality of Petit Fours: always hooky, sometimes kooky and unashamedly pop-based. Hell, sometimes they even venture into AM-friendly territory. But ultimately, Petit Fours should appeal to Pixies diehards and indie kids alike. Black & Clark join Ike & Tina, Win & Regine, and Johnny & June in adding another string to the already tuneful bow of matrimonial musical history.

4/5

Originally published here: http://www.theskinny.co.uk/article/44778-grand-duchy-petit-fours

Monday, 19 January 2009

Ross Clark - You Brought Evil Album Review


A brave, enjoyable and refreshing debut

Whether Ross Clark has even crossed the Atlantic in his short life so far is unknown, but on You Brought Evil, he sounds as though his formative years were spent feasting on fried green tomatoes and Hank Williams records. Almost bizarrely, this results in an accomplished and enjoyable Americana record, albeit one emanating from somewhere in the southside of Glasgow. Clark's marriage of country, blues and even gospel styles is nigh on expert and seamless: this is atmospheric, graphic and impassioned stuff. His often desperate, reverb drenched vocals dominate every track, from the opening lament to dreamless nights (Three Blind Wolves) to the concluding ode to a companion (Chewin' On Bones). Clark's solo debut recalls genre-defining artists like Bright Eyes and more recently Bon Iver, but kudos must be offered for his successful endeavours to create his own individual sound, particularly when many more celebrated artists are content to use such yardsticks as templates.

4/5

Originally posted here: http://www.theskinny.co.uk/article/44625-ross-clark-you-brought-evil

Check out Ross' MySpace site at: www.myspace.com/electricpolyester

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Party Music - How To Please All Of The People, All Of The Time??






I've been in Edinburgh for about 3 and a half years. In that space of time, I have lost count of the amount of parties I've been to, hosted, or had hosted in my flat on my behalf (thanks everyone, donations to the Cullen Property embezzlement fund are more than welcome). Perhaps the continual success or longevity of these things is that they've always just fallen into place. With notable exception (Clanefest 06, Ginge's Doo), there has been very little organizing. Ad hoc has served us quite well.

Now it's probably not irony, but I'm sure it's something along those lines, that as I prepare to leave Edinburgh, for the first time, I am trying to organize one of these things in advance. I booked the room, I set up an event page on Facebook and, um, well that's about it, but in this day and age, need I do anything more?

The main bone of contention (in my own mind anyway), is the music. I toyed with the idea of having a dj. Come to think of it, I've always fancied myself as a closet Jimmy Saville, however, the venue (The Cuckoo's Nest) is quite small, my skimpy vinyl collection wouldn't last us past 10pm, and since I flogged on my Stagelines about 6 years ago, I have a distinct lack of decks. That's not to mention the notable absence of a shimmering shellsuit.

And since I'm hoping everyone attending the party is doing so to get well and truly langered, it would be a shame to thrust anybody upon the wheels of steel (although it's not too late to volunteer)

Which leaves me with one option.

An iPod, hooked up to their sound system.

What I am suggesting, is that everyone planning to attend (fuggit, even those who aren't coming) suggests ten tracks (this time for free, beat that Rupert) or more if you like. These will be fired onto said iPod, which should hopefully result in a pretty decent party playlist.

Otherwise, it's gonna be my Townes Van Zandt Live At The Old Quarter album on repeat.

This may be a shite idea, and the chances are it will backfire on me (or nobody will respond), but I think the results could be pretty interesting. Leave your suggestions in the comments thingy below. Look forward to hearing some interesting selections (McNabb, no Rush).

In the meantime, I'll leave you with some Townes... be warned

Video: Townes Van Zandt - Pancho and Lefty


An Interview With Broken Records


If you've spoken to any follower of Scottish music recently about bands to look out for, the chances are Broken Records won't have been too far from their lips. The Skinny tipped them for greatness as far back as 2007, and through a series of positive single and live reviews have tracked their progress ever since. 2009 promises to be a huge year for the band, and they kick it off by playing a headline slot at The Mill. Finbarr Bermingham caught up with Jamie Sutherland and Ian Turnball to hear what pursuits have kept Scottish music's hottest properties busy.

Who are Broken Records?

The short answer: a much-hyped seven piece indie-folk outfit based in Edinburgh. Helpfully, Ian is on hand to provide the background. “Jamie and I played in a band together at university, and when we moved back to Edinburgh we continued playing acoustic shows with Jamie's brother Rory on violin. We met Arne, our cellist, at one of these shows and he joined us from there. In December 2006 we got offered a support slot with Degrassi at Bannermans and felt we really needed drums and bass to fill out the sound for it, so we roped in other some other university friends, Dave and Andy, to play piano and drums respectively. Jamie had been introduced to Gill through a friend and invited him to come and play bass, but I'd also been in the same music class as him at school years ago! It all seemed to come together really well from the first practice and it's been the seven of us ever since.”

What do they sound like and where do they fit in?

Many column inches have been devoted to this one. With their bohemian get-up, strings ‘n’ accordions and soaring crescendos, the Fourth Estate have happily lumped them in with the Arcade Fires and Beiruts of this world. While flattering, the band dismiss such comparisons as marriages of convenience. “It's just lazy journalism,” rants Turnball, “and frustrating for us when someone sees seven people playing strings, mandolins and accordions and calls us a Scottish Arcade Fire because we don't think our songs sound anything like theirs”.

The band may have to endure such scrutiny, with publications local and national hailing them as the “Celtic Arcade Fire.” The band's actual influences, though, range from Calexico, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Sigur Ros and Mogwai, to Philip Glass, Arvo Part, Neutral Milk Hotel and Yann Tiersen. Despite the band's music tastes having a decidedly international flavour, there is a tangible Celtic element to their music, something which has won the band admirers at home and further afield.

The band's frontman and lyricist Jamie Sutherland has earned plaudits for the diversity, literariness and originality of his songwriting. “I made a conscious effort not just to write about girls a couple of years ago, as the subject just bores me,” he explains when asked to identify his muses. “Certainly few things beat a well-written, personal song but I guess for me, only in moderation. I've tried writing about politics, yet have never had the courage to dive into it with any conviction. If you have a hard and fast political view, and feel obliged to pen it, you can find yourself looking pretty foolish pretty quickly, so I have found myself researching a few lyrics to make sure I get the tone right.”

Sutherland is clearer on what he won't be writing about anytime soon.

“Certainly the Arctic Monkeys style of observational lyrics has never appealed. I just take a walk down the Cowgate on a Saturday night to know how rancid it is. I always hoped that like Nick Cave or Tom Waits, the lyrics might take you somewhere you hadn't been before, stretched your imagination a little.”

Where can we hear the band?

Last year, Broken Records released singles on both Young Turks and Distiller Records and the good news is there's a debut album in the offing. “We were in a situation earlier in the year where a [record] deal fell through for various reasons and it caused us a few setbacks,” says Ian. “We're currently in discussions with who we believe to be the right label, and that's all we're going to say on the subject for now. But all being well, we hope to begin recording an album in January.”

What were the band's highlights of 2008 and what are their ambitions for 2009?

Having become fixtures on the nation's festival circuit last summer, it's unsurprising that some of those gigs feature heavily in Broken Records' 'Best Of...' list. “We had an amazing time at the Latitude festival. We were playing on the Sunrise stage which was an incredibly beautiful setting in the middle of a clearing in the woods. To get to the backstage area you had to get ferried across a lake on a little boat and the atmosphere for that show was brilliant. We also had a great time playing headline shows at Wickerman and Connect.”

Perhaps their most surreal moment of 2008 took place at Hyde Park, London. Ian explains: “When we got to our dressing room Portakabin backstage we found we were sandwiched between The Police on one side, and The Stranglers and Mick Jones on the other!”

As far as the year ahead, the band are understandably ambitious. “The main one at the moment is to get an album recorded and out on the shelves,” says Ian. “Then we're really looking forward to playing festivals again, and because we haven't managed to do it the last couple of years we'd really like to play at Glastonbury. We just want more and more people to hear the music.”

Jamie also admits that the transatlantic success of Skinny favourites Frightened Rabbit and The Twilight Sad is inspiring for Broken Records, too. “To tour the States has long been a dream of mine, so seeing these bands doing so well is really encouraging, in that people there might be responsive to what we do. We have already been offered a few shows in New York and the States, so hopefully we can get over there and try and make a name for ourselves as well.”

Watch this space...

Video: Broken Records - Slow Parade (Live at Rock Ness)



Originally posted here: http://www.theskinny.co.uk/article/44575-broken-records-the-mill-1112-feb