MUSIC REVIEW: GIRL BAND AT ELSEWHERE, 09/10/19

As I watch four young well-dressed men make harrowing noises on a darkened stage with a velvet curtained background, Jameson in hand, I’m wondering what the fuck is wrong with me. This. This evil noise that Girl Band tap into, the metallic clash of the guitars, the headachy drums, the anguished screaming vocals. If I’m really honest with myself, being in a room where people are making this kind of sick music is my favourite thing about being alive. It’s fucked up that of all the things that you can experience in this world, this is the one for me.

It’s not even about camaraderie. Of course I’ve had those beautiful Glastonbury, singalong, we-are-all-one-big-happy-human-family moments and I cherish them. This is different though. Watching Girl Band tonight, or Pissed Jeans earlier in the year, or Yes I’m Leaving in Sydney, or Nine Inch Nails last year, or Shellac anytime at all, I guess it’s what you would call catharsis. I don’t really care if anyone else is in the room or not, let alone anyone I know. Happy is not quite the word. It is in these moments where I feel the most complete, the most understood. Is this what my soul sounds like? Why?!

Girl Band were brilliant. Elsewhere is a big of a strange venue (too glitzy), and Bushwick is not my favourite neighbourhood (too far and trendy), but Girl Band were brilliant. They’ve just released their new record The Talkies which if anything is more sparse and brutal then their 2015 record Holding Hands with Jamie. Many of the songs are short, sharp, almost like a one-liner joke. If you were watching the show with the sound off you would never guess what they sound like. They are four presentable guys, guitar/bass/drums/vocals, and they barely move at all during the performance. There is literally no stage presence or energy to speak of.

If this sounds like a criticism it’s not. If there’s one thing that ties together so many of the bands I love of their ilk it’s this refusal to cultivate an image, or put on a performance. Don’t get me wrong  – I do love theatrical bands like The Knife or Goat or even Amyl and the Sniffers, but there’s something particularly chilling about a bunch of guys who look like bank tellers calmly making music that twists your stomach inside out.

Frontman Dara Kiely is the guy you had a crush on in High School; blond and angelic of face, but he’s been through some shit. I don’t say that flippantly – Kiely has had well documented mental health struggles and has at times spoken openly about them in interviews. His ability to channel his experiences into the music is part of what makes it so powerful. Alan Duggan is one of my favourite guitarists in the world right now. More than any other band tonight they remind me of Nine Inch Nails and that is due to the literally industrial sounds that Duggan makes with his guitar and large collection of pedals. He and bassist Daniel Fox, and drummer Adam Faulkner, avoid the conventional rock band format, there’s no real verse/chorus/verse, and in this way they are almost closer to dance music. Aphex Twin comes to mind. Also, another one of my loves, Suuns.

I miss long-form music journalism. I would love to read a really well researched and in-depth piece about Girl Band, their influences, their processes, where they fit in on the musical timeline, and how the fuck four clean cut dudes from Dublin came to make some of my favourite sounds on the planet. The Talkies is highly deep-divable.  The song ‘Aibohphobia’ is written entirely in palindromes, and the song’s name refers to a fear of palindromes. For real! The brutal ‘Shoulderblades’ references Edward Mordake, an urban legend of a figure who was said to have two faces, an extra one on the back of his head. Ahhhh! See more here.

The crowd at Elsewhere doesn’t quite know how to respond to Girl Band; there are a few failed attempts at crowd surfing but the music is not suited to that. Seeing them live is a reminder of how brooding, dark and moody their music is, and only occasionally does it bubble over into moshable punk riffs. Funnily enough the most danceable moment is ‘Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage’, their 2015 cover of a dance track (by Blawan) that has one line in it.

If you’re like me, this is your idea of a straight-up dance floor banger.

Pho is my crutch and my comfort food

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Even though now it makes more sense that I am obsessed with pho – because my Dad lives in Vietnam, because I have very real memories attached to it – at the beginning I don’t know what got me hooked. But I’ve been obsessed for a long time. It’s my comfort food, it’s my hangover food, it’s the one thing in this world that ALWAYS makes me feel better.

Snapshots of Brooklyn: Month Three

 

 

Woaaah so this is a week or two late if the goal is to check in every month, and really reflects how loco things have gotten. Everyone knows how big and busy NYC is but guys, it’s really big and busy! Traveling about an hour to get anywhere every time I left my house seemed sort of cute at the very beginning and it’s really, really, not so much right now.

I envisioned days off (ha!) would involve trips to Queens to eat interesting food, taking the ferry, seeing art exhibitions, getting to know Manhattan, going to the movies during the day, wandering around aimlessly for hours and finding new favourite corners of the city. No, that has not happened. I have mainly glimpsed the city through the corner of my eye, through sweaty disheveled hair as I rush through the city trying to find the right subway entrance, often while lugging a heavy bag of mezcal. Because of the nature of my jobs I rarely have a full day off, and when I do have windows of time I am generally buying the groceries, doing the laundry, cleaning the house, trying to keep in touch with friends and family overseas, and keeping up with errands. I said this to a friend lately and he said, “but isn’t that just being an adult?”, and he does have a good point. How do people do this AND have a child or dog?? Or even just lots of plants? I have like four and they are always living on the edge of death.

BOOK REVIEW: Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. by Viv Albertine (+ Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon)

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It’s funny, I happened to read Viv Albertine of The Slits’ book (released 2014) right after I read Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth’s book, Girl in a Band (released 2015). Purely coincidence, but actually they make great comparison pieces if not companion pieces. Both books are about clothes, music and boys.

Kim Gordon is now 65, Viv is 64. Kim was hugely important in the New York no wave scene in the 80s and 90s, Viv of the London punk scene that preceded it in the 70s. There is not a lot of overlap. While Viv was just a teenager when she started running around with the punks who would become the The Clash and Sex Pistols, and her band The Slits had split up by 1982; Sonic Youth formed in 1981 and had a long and influential career until 2011.

TOOL: A PRIMER

Welcome to the primer you never knew you needed for the band called Tool.

Tool

Tool is the most famous band you’ve never heard of, or perhaps you’ve heard of but you can’t name a single song of. Tool are just days away from releasing their first album in 13 years. This primer is intended to be your cheat sheet, a beginner’s guide, a sketch of a roadmap so you won’t embarrass yourself around the proverbial water cooler.

Snapshots of Brooklyn: Month 2

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People like to say they do or don’t like cities, or that they’re city folk or non-city folk, which kind of suggests that cities are all the same. That they are passive. People also like to say, ‘a place is what you make of it’ which, while I get the sentiment, I don’t totally agree with.

Of course you can make the best or worst of a situation or a location depending on your attitude. But I also think a city is kind of like a person, with character traits and personality quirks that either gel with you or not. You can have a gut feeling about a city, good or bad, and you can fall in love with a city the way you do with a person. I can anyway. Sometime it’s quick, sometimes it’s gradual. Sometimes your relationship with a city can completely change. Just like with people.

Movie Review: Wild Rose, and the ‘unwritten poems that took a backseat to polished floors’.

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In many ways this movie is like so many others, but in other ways it is like no other. Or, as a pithier writer would say, and in fact did say, on the Roger Ebert site review: “Wild Rose may sound like a familiar tune, but you’ve never heard it performed quite like this”.

In short, Wild Rose is the story of a young Glaswegian singer with an intense love of – and talent for – American country music. She wants to go to Nashville and become a star with every fibre of her being, but she keeps getting in her own way. She is recently out of prison, has two young children who barely know her, a put-upon mother (Julie Walters) who is running out of patience, and shows no signs of growing up any time soon.

FILM REVIEW: Midsommar, and the horror of the domestic

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Hereditary felt like a revelation when it came out last year partly because it was a real movie, with real actors, and real depth and complexity, which happened to be a horror film. As a massive fan of the horror genre, I can tell you that films like that don’t come along all that often. Other films I can think of in that category in recent memory are Let the Right One In, Mandy, The Witch and Get Out. All of which you should watch immediately if you haven’t already. Hereditary was also something of a crossover hit and was talked about and seen by way more people than a horror film usually would be, probably because of the presence of – and incredible performance by – Toni Collette.

The thing about Hereditary is that the most horrifying parts of the film have nothing to do with the supernatural. In a way it almost feels like two movies. The most visceral and memorable moments of the film are rooted in things that are very much of this earth: grief, trauma, blame, guilt, mental illness. Themes that are familiar and awful parts of the human experience. Filmmaker Ari Aster has an incredible gift for conveying the emotion of sheer sickening dread that I’ve rarely seen done so well. Maybe the only other film I can think of that gave me that feeling of a full-body blow is David Fincher’s Se7en from back in 1995. Or the Tim Roth’s film The War Zone, and some films by Lars Von Trier. For me, the satanic and creepy elements of Hereditary even felt a little weak in comparison.

Snapshots of Brooklyn: Month 1

BrooklynBy snapshot I definitely do not mean photo because anyone who knows me, knows I consider taking photos some kind of punishment. I once spent six months in Africa and didn’t take a single photo. That is not a brag, it’s actually pretty stupid and embarrassing. I only joined Instagram a few months ago. Words are my preferred medium OK!

I do however want to capture these initial impressions I’ve had of living in America, before they start to seem totally normal and not worth even noting. It’s already starting to happen.

Music Review: Pissed Jeans at Brooklyn Bazaar 30/06/19

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I know, I know. No one writes music reviews anymore. See depressing musings on that topic here and here. I used to love reading them as much as I loved writing them. I wrote so many live music reviews in my time. I would stand there with my little notepad, trying to be discreet – writing snatches of lyrics to songs I didn’t know the names of that I would google later. I took it so seriously, and now it has all but disappeared as a genre. Oh well. Like so many things, I’m glad I got to enjoy it while it lasted.

In other news, oh my god I love Pissed Jeans. I saw them at Lee’s Palace in Toronto many moons ago and I never got it out of my head. Ever. Their onslaught of tight tight heaviness. The insane slinkiness of their singer (Matt Korvette). There was something so sick and yet so magnetic about that band. They lay dormant in my mind but I never crossed paths with them again – until now!