Archive for July, 2006

This Date In History Dept.

By Gerard on Monday, July 31st, 2006

Were they still alive, today would mark the 74th birthday of Ted Cassidy (“Lurch” from the Adams Family) and the 62nd birthday of Nico.

Former US Secretary of Education William Bennett, however, celebrated his 63rd birthday today. Presumably, he’s not touched the milk money, though it is a very special occasion.

A whimper

By Ruairi on Monday, July 31st, 2006

Emma Forrest once argued that Top Of The Pops was a massive cultural force simply because it had no editorial policy. It was reportage; if a record was high enough in the charts, it was on TOTP. They were just presenting the facts. The general consensus is that TOTP’s failure to be objective over the last few years has led directly to it’s demise – and by failing to be objective, I mean their chasing of the youth demographic for the past 4 years was about as subtle as a brick in the face. And the thing is, theres one fundamental aspect of Top Of The Pops that is increasingly alien to that demographic, and indeed the rest of us: TOTP was the very definition of appointment television. Until a few years ago, I made sure that I was free to watch TOTP because, God help me, I actually cared about what was going on in the charts, and the state of pop music in general.

In the documentary ‘The Story of Top Of The Pops’, everything seemed to be going fine with TOTP until mid-90s producer Chris Cowey arrived. Now, theres nothing wrong with Cowey. Dude looks like the Aphex Twin, and he really does love pop music with all his heart. But the BBC gave him carte blanche to do what he wanted to TOTP, which could have been madness in the wrong hands. And after Cowey left, the BBC wanted someone who could steer TOTP towards the youth market that seemed to be drifting away from them. Enter Andi ‘Wrong Hands’ Peters. The documentary implied basically that the shows sharp and massive decline was all his fault, and given that he didn’t show up to present a defence, I can only assume it’s true. At the very least, I find him deeply annoying. And so began an era of exclusives, songs that weren’t in the charts yet, moves to Sunday nights, ‘archive’ clips, interviews in the artist bar etc. They tried to turn it into ‘Heat Magazine: The Musical!’, and predictably, it was shit. So very shit.

Watching the final ever TOTP on Sunday was gut-wrenchingly awful. Absolute unmitigated arse water, the lot of it. Instead of having some all-star blowout, they went down the clip-show route of budget TV. First, playing clips of old TOTPs robs them of their context, like watching a greatest hits of News At Ten, evocative but remote and arcane. Showing Nirvana’s performance of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ doesn’t make half as much sense as when you first saw it alongside the other 25 minutes of chart pop that week. Secondly, the hour-long parade of clips implied that the show had a rich and varied history, which only begs the question ‘How did you fuck this up?’. Popjustice succintly summed it up as ’60 minutes of us telling you how proud we are of something we don’t care about’. It really was like watching the ghost of a suicidee enthusing over how good the turnout was for his funeral. When they actually got around to the final ever top ten countdown, Shakira was no.1 with her frankly bizarre new single (sounds like outsider music. Really), and SHE WASN’T EVEN THERE TO PERFORM IT. ON THE LAST EVER TOTP. No fucking effort whatsoever. Post credits, Jimmy Savile did the symbolic thing and turned off the studio lights, dolefully shaking his head. As did I, thinking ‘Saville outlived Top Of The Pops. I miss John Peel so much.’ And thus ended the most pathetic piece of television I think I’ve ever witnessed.

Apologies to US readers, for whom this post must be completely incomprehensible, not to mention totally irrelevant. Sorry.

Yo La Tengo Vs. Sea Of Humanity

By Gerard on Monday, July 31st, 2006

Jennifer O’Connor has far better photos of Yo La Tengo at the Pitchfork Fest (Union Park, Chicago) but if I can’t pull rank every now and then, where’s the fun in this job?

Even by the usual zero-attention span standards, the claim by one local jackass that Yo La Tengo were “so quiet ’til the last song I did not know they were playing” is kinda off the charts. Never again is the word “quiet” likely to be employed when describing songs like “Pass The Hatchet” or “Watch Out For Me Ronnie”, though I can’t deny even the loudest of bands come off as somewhat muted for someone whose head is up their ass.

Special recognition for the weekend goes out to the straw hat-wearing, backpack-wielding, hygiene averse dude (and when I say “dude”, I really mean “fuckface”) who put his paws upon me while trying to prevent entry backstage. You’d think this city would’ve learned a valuable lesson from the Democratic National Convention of 1968, but alas, how quickly they forget.
That said, the psychic blow delivered from spotting SS Decontrol’s Springa onstage during Mission Of Burma’s set is not one I’ll soon recover from. Time constraints (if not straw hat-wearing, backpack-wielding assholes) prevented an encore of “How Much Art (Can You Take)?”, but there’s always Coachella next year, right?

Chicago – Lovely City Of Boat-Missers

By Gerard on Sunday, July 30th, 2006

And the cruise they skipped (most of ‘em, anyway) was the voyage of the S.S. Jennifer O’Connor, previewing selections from her forthcoming ‘Over the Mountain, Across the Valley, and Back to the Stars’ CD/LP at the Beat Kitchen. Were the town’s tastemakers and face chasers still overwhelmed from the Silver Jews and Futureheads sets in Union Park? Dwyane Wade’s All-Star Jam at the United Center? Or perhaps it was the mere fact that said gig wasn’t listed in the paper or on the venue’s website?

Regardless of the circumstances, Ms. O’Connor’s tuneful meditations on love, loss and other everyday topics were delivered with equal measures of humor and intensity. We’ve worked with a litany of talented lady-human singer/songsters at Matador Records & Filmworks in the past (Chan M., Liz P., Mary Timony, Barbara Manning, Thalia Zedek, Jean Smith, Sue Garner to name just a few) and I’m not just hyping-you-to-death when I say that Jennifer’s achingly beautiful songs are the equal of any of the above.

OK, I am hyping-you-to-death. But I’m telling the truth, too, and you don’t have to take my word for it. ‘Over The Mountains’ is out August 22.

“Today” (mp3)
“Exeter, Rhode Island” (mp3)

upcoming dates :

August 8 – Philadelphia, PA – The Khyber
August 16 – Raleigh, NC – North Carolina Museum Of Art (with Jeff Tweedy)
August 24 – NYC, NY – Joe’s Pub
August 26 – Brooklyn, NY – North Six
September 23 – Boston, MA – Great Scott (with Choo Choo LaRouge)

Dance Fever On N. Ashland

By Gerard on Saturday, July 29th, 2006

From left to right, Mark Lightcap, M.C. Schmidt, Drew Daniel. Matmos under the Biz 3 tent at the Pitchfork Festival, Saturday afternoon. Not shown : the guy who spilled his drink over my trousers, the former P.R. maven masquerading as a homeless person, nor Jeremy Piven.

Hanging On The Telephone

By Gerard on Saturday, July 29th, 2006


Geriatric rockers The Rolling Stones have hopped on board the mobile music train — sort of. Through a service called Listen Live Now!, fans will be able to listen live to their concert today in Paris via their mobile phones. And when I say via their mobile phones, I don’t mean some sort of streaming audiocast — they call in and get a feed from the mixing board piped across a standard phone connection to their handset. Sounds brilliant. But it gets better.

Users will be charged $1.99 for 7 minutes, and there doesn’t appear to be a way to simply buy the whole thing at once — so users who actually want to shell out the $40 or so to hear the whole thing will have to do it $1.99 and 7 minutes at a time. The Stones’ manager says the move will help deter bootlegging — seriously — and that “It’s passive income, and they’re helping fans enjoy the experience without affecting ticket sales.”

Once again, much like our terrific ideas for the “Brain Candy” ad campaign (ripped off by Paramount’s initiative for “World Trade Center”), Matador has been fucked over by The Man. Our own mobile phone-cast is ready to roll at this weekend’s Pitchfork Festival in Chicago, and we’ve been usurpred by the Rolling Stones.

(be patient — I might be getting a beer)

Anyhow, if you send me $20 via paypal ( along with your phone number, I’ll be quite willing to ring you back during Mission Of Burma or Yo La Tengo’s sets on Sunday. I can’t guarantee this scheme will work — for one thing, I might be on a more important telephone call at the time. But it is your chance to take part in portable music history, and a great way to show the Rolling Stones that we’re sick to death of being pushed around.

The Return Of Chavez

By Gerard on Friday, July 28th, 2006

Well, not really.  But we are putting out a CD + DVD set, ‘Better Days Will Haunt You’ on October 10. There’s only one unreleased track, but if you sing over the top of the rest of ‘em, it will almost be like a whole new Chavez discography.

If you’re just too cool for that kind of thing, well, I pity you.

Disc One

01 Repeat the Ending
02 Hack the Sides Away
03 Nailed to the Blank Spot
04 Break up Your Band
05 Laugh Track
06 The Ghost by the Sea
07 Pentagram Ring
08 Peeled out Too Late
09 The Flaming Gong
10 Wakeman’s Air
11 Relaxed Fit
12 The Nerve
13 You Faded
14 Little 12 Toes

Disc Two

01 Top Pocket Man
02 The Guard Attacks
03 Unreal Is Here
04 New Room
05 Tight Around the Jaws
06 Lions
07 Our Boys Will Shine Tonight
08 Memorize This Face
09 Cold Joys
10 Flight ’96
11 Ever Overpysched
12 You Must Be Stopped
13 Theme From ‘For Russ’
14 White Jeans


01 Break up Your Band
02 Unreal Is Here
03 Boys Making Music . . . Music Making Men (documentary)

Mann’s Ruin : ‘Vice Is Nice (If You Ignore Colin Farrell)

By Gerard on Friday, July 28th, 2006

I was begining to feel a little guilty about the totally gratuitious jibes aimed at thespian/cretin Colin Farrell in the latest edition of the Matador News Update. I mean, for one thing, we should be totally grateful that the producers of “Miami Vice” have chosen to showcase one of our fledgling artists (in this case, Mogwai) on a major label soundtrack album (one that features the former vocalist of the Vatican Commandos, too!). But no, I had to fuck things up for everyone by focusing on something completely besides the point — How Much Colin Farrell Sucks.

Well, I’m not the only one. The New York Times’ A.O. Scott, while hailing Michael Mann’s “Miami Vice” as “an action picture for people who dig experimental art films, and vice versa,” also choose to single out one of the film’s stars for special praise. Colin Farrell isn’t one of them.

Mr. Farrell, however, is a movie star only in the sense that Richard Gephardt is president of the United States. He’s always looked good on paper, and he’s picked up some endorsements along the way — from Oliver Stone, Joel Schumacher and Terrence Malick, among others — but somehow it has never quite happened. Here he squints and twitches to suggest emotion and slackens his lower lip to suggest lust, concern or deep contemplation, but despite his good looks he lacks that mysterious quality we call presence.

Mr. Mann’s script has its share of silly, overwrought lines, but they only really sound that way in Mr. Farrell’s mouth. (Did he really say, “I’m a fiend for mojitos”? ¡Dios mío!) When he’s not on screen, you don’t miss him, and when he is, you find yourself, before long, looking at someone or something else. Gong Li. A boat. A lightning bolt illuminating the humid summer sky.

Headphones and headphone amp

By Patrick on Friday, July 28th, 2006

People are always asking my advice about audio equipment. A great way to get started is to pump up your headphone system. iPods and laptops have crappy little op-amps in them that can’t drive good phones accurately or to truly satisfying levels. I recommend the Grado SR-60s for rock in the under-$100 range, or if you have broader taste in music, the Sennheiser HD-600s (which list for $499 but can be found online for as little as $179) which are much comfier to boot. Both these phones are large and open; closed and noise-cancelling headphones are good for planes but little else, and personally, I can’t stand putting things inside my ears.

Then there’s the whole amp game. Without getting into huge amounts of detail, you need a LOT more power to drive Sennheisers than Grados, and a lot more power again to drive electrostatic headphones such as the AKG K-1000s or the legendary Japanese Stax line. However, even a little solid-state amp like Grado’s RA-1 ($349) will improve your Grado headphones to an extraordinary degreee. And it’s made of a solid block of wood – who can argue with that?

Myself, I prefer tubes, and have recently invested in the handbuilt custom amps from Singlepower, based in Colorado… incredibly nice guy, but beware of the prices. I got a fully tricked out Singlepower MPX3 Slam and it is blowing my mind. (And probably eardrums, but that’s another story.)

Mission of Burma Invade Genteel Lincoln Center, Hold Audience Captive

By Joel on Friday, July 28th, 2006
Well, we’re actually kidding about the invasion part, and maybe “genteel” doesn’t really describe what’s going on there these days (what with all that wacky “modern art”), but formal attire is not required for the upcoming awesome event at the Film Society of Lincoln Center:
If you haven’t had a chance to see Mission of Burma on their current, amp-smokin’-hot tour across the East Coast/Midwest, and you live in New York City, check this out:…photograph.html


Series: Play It Loud: RockDocs [Aug 2 – 10 2006]
Director: David Kleiler, Jr. & Jeff Iwanicki, Country: USA, Release: 2006, Runtime: 73

NY Premiere
In 1979 a group of young, smart artist/musicians formed a post-punk band The New Yorker would later dub “the most criminally undersung band of the 80s.” Mission of Burma — Roger Miller, Clint Conley, and Peter Prescott mainly — could have been considered ahead of their time, and this film proves that, although they were only together until 1983, their reach was wide: inspiring REM, Sonic Youth, the Pixies, as well as Moby, Nirvana, Blur, Yo La Tengo and Spoon, among others. Influential but not famous, a critical but not a commercial success, this sometimes-quartet (including the mysterious Martin Swope and later Bob Weston as “tape manipulator”) gets its kudos 20 years later when they reunite and play venues they would have never seen decades earlier. Why wouldn’t they reunite, cites one observer, “they all still have good hair.” Filmmakers Kleiler and Iwanicki give us the lowdown and treat us to an unforgettable onstage jam at Irving Plaza, featuring a who’s who line up of Miller, Conley, Thurston Moore, Lee Renaldo, Moby, Richard Baluyut of Versus, Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo, and Hugo Burnham of Gang of Four drumming alongside Prescott — a testimony indeed to the “best band you’ve never heard of.”

Not a Photograph is playing as part of the Film Society’s “Play It Loud: RockDocs06″ fest, which has many other films that are worth checking out, as well (I for one will be getting teary watching Roky Erickson tear it up). Screening dates and times for Not a Photograph are:

Saturday, August 5 at 6 PM
Thursday, Aug 10 at 9 PM

You can buy tickets by following that link up top. You might also notice that same picture of Burma on the front page of the Film Society’s site, as well. Not bad for “the best band you’ve never heard of” - though I think such a description might better describe the Endtables or somebody else a little more obscure.