Matmos at Donau Festival

Matmos, along with Jay Lesser, will be playing at the Donau Festival in Austria in a couple of weeks time. 

What kind of festival is it? Well, it's being curated by David Tibet, so I imagine it'll be very similar to Lollapalooza. The website is here.

 

EDIT: Actually guys, I've never been to Lollapalooza. Fennesz, SUNN O))), Nurse With Wound, Khan, Six Organs of Admittance – it's all that kind of thing, right?  

EDIT: Oh, maybe a more accurate comparison would be like a more fun No Fun Fest. So, fun, then. 

EDIT: By 'fun', I mean PUNISHING NOIZE. And The Notwist.  

Cat Power in Europe (April/May 07)

Yes, we have the dates you've all been waiting for….it's Cat Power and Dirty Delta Blues in Europe.

wed 25th – April: Glasgow The Ferry (actually this is a solo show)

fri 27 – 29th April:  All Tomorrow's Parties Festival, Minehead

tue 01 – May: London The Forum
wed 02 – May: Brussels Royal Circus
thu 03 – May: Eindhoven Effenaar
fri 04 – May: Heidelberg Karlstorbahnhof
sat 05 – May: Luzern Boa
sun 06 – May: Milan Magazzini
mon 07 – May: Bologna Estragon
tue 08 – May: Rome Piper
wed 09 – May: Madrid Joy Eslava
thu 10 – May: Dublin Tripod

These will all, without exception, be fantastic.

The Ponys @ The Barfly, Camden

What nobody told me is how loud they are live. Seriously, they are fucking loud. And I spend most of my time at noise shows.

The Ponys took the stage a little late but promised to 'keep making noise til they pull the plug on us', which was still nowhere near long enough for me. Concentrating mostly on material from 'Turn The Lights Out', songs collided into each other, a blur of feedback, furious riffing, and psychedelic bizness that I don't know the correct term for. And then in the middle of all that, they drop in a jaunty keyboard tune, and before you've even finished scratching your head, they're back to the hard stuff, pummeling you with all sorts of garage-rock goodness. I was beaming from burst eardrum to burst eardrum.

Ponys in the UK

Yay folks, we're as excited as some excitable people – The Ponys are doing three shows in London. This marks the first time I'll have ever seen them live, which by all accounts is quite the experience.

The dates are:

February 20th: Camden Barfly

February 22nd: 'Sonic Cathedral' @ The Legion

February 23rd: 'Dirty Water Club' @ The Boston Arms

You can get tickets here

I have a feeling this is going to be one of those 'Oh, The Ponys? Yeah, I saw them in 07 supporting Troubles at Sonic Cathedral. I was there' -type deals, so get your skates on. 

Cat Power vs The Divas

That's right, peoples. Cat Power has been nominated for a BRIT Award in the Best International Female category. For our US readers, the BRIT awards are kinda like the UK version of the Grammys. Traditionally the domain of millions-selling pop stars, Cat Power has manged to get onto the nomination list by…..well, we're not sure. We're not in the habit of assuming that artists deserving awards might actually get them. We're dumbfounded, in fact, given her competition.

She's up against: Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, Pink and Nelly Furtado. 

Surely it can't be that industry bigwigs have finally realised that they should give awards to, y'know, really great artists? I mean, what are the chances of that? The only explanation I can think of is voodoo. Practised by members of the Cat Power bulletin board. We salute you, harbringers of dark magick. Well played. 

Matador Movie Club: Old Joy

I've been lazy in documenting all our recent activities, but here's a quick recap of the Matador Movie Club's movements over the past month or so:

  • 20th December: Screening of R Kelly's 'Trapped In The Closet Pts 1-12'. This was a disaster. I expected loads of people to come and enjoy Mr Kelly's melodramatic opus, but sadly it was the worst-attended screening I've ever been to. And I once saw 'Robin Hood' (the Patrick Bergin version) halfway up a hill in Donegal. Disappointing. Still, Mike and Lucy were impressed. 
  • 21st December: Pre-Beggars Xmas Party, the Matador Movie Club got ourselves in the party mood by going to see 'Zidaine',  a 90-minute art film consisting of 17 cameras all focussed on Zinedine Zidaine during a football match. Do any of us like football? No. But we love Mogwai, who provided the soundtrack. Indeed, the sound is the most impressive thing about 'Zidaine', particularly on a big loud Cinema sound system. Otherwise, it's a thought-provoking, but difficult piece of work – I felt like I'd learnt something about Zidaine by the time the film was over, but to be fair I didn't know anything about him before I went in. Now I know he's a footballer who scowls a lot. The poor guy looks like he's got the weight of the world on his shoulders. For 90 minutes. If that sounds like your kinda movie, it's out on DVD here in the UK this week.

And last night, the first Matador Movie Club outing of 2007 was to see a screening of 'Old Joy', which was scored by Yo La Tengo (meaning they did the music, not sorted out the tickets for us. I'm using film terms, keep up with me now). 'Old Joy' is the first film I've seen by Kelly Reichert, but I had been informed her style was in line with those of Harmony Korine, Vincent Gallo or Gus Van Sant's slower flicks (some of you have already started falling asleep, I'm sure). But I like films by the aforementioned auteurs, so I was psyched for another film where nothing happens for a while. Artfully. 

'Old Joy' stars Will Oldham (yeah, him) as Kurt, the kind of guy you used to hang out with when you were a teenager and probably wouldn't be that surprised if you found out that he was now homeless. Kurt calls up his friend Mark and invites him on a trip to the woods, where he's heard theres a really good hot springs. So they go. Uh-huh, that's the plot. But the plot's not that important, it's a film about the nuances of friendship, how it deteriorates and the emotions surrounding, to paraphrase Will Oldham himself,  'the letting go' of a relationship. To tell you any more about the film would probably involve me spoiling all the beautiful little details therein, and over-analysing it WAY too much. Will Oldham and Daniel London are effortlessly believable in their roles, relatable but distant in a very real way. The photography's wonderful – I love films that capture the universiality of working-class towns. And, of course, Yo La Tengo's score compliments the mood of the film perfectly – mournful, but strident. The twanging guitars took me back to 'Return To Hot Chicken' from 'I Can Hear The Heart Beating…', so I was very happy indeed. 

In essence if you think you can handle a very slow film in which not a great deal happens, you'll be rewarded with a gentle, contemplative film about friendship and growing older. And you get to see Will Oldham in the nude, if you're interested in that kind of thing. Hot!

 

Girls Aloud get political

Girls Aloud interview for The New Statesman 

link via Popjustice 

My beloved Girls Aloud get their Noam Chomsky on:

Nadine: "You know that basically Labour is the working class and the Conservatives are the really, kind of, upper class, and then everything else is . . . I have no idea."

Foolhardy Nadine later has an awesome rant about footballer's wives, momentarily forgetting that her bandmate Cheryl is one. 

Their Greatest Hits album, out now, is disappointingly low on Billy Bragg covers.  

Matador Movie Club: Take 2

will.jpg

(struggling with the chords to "I Could See The Dude", but he'll get there eventually)

After the inaugural meeting of the Matador Movie Club to see Mission Of Burma's 'This Is Not A Photograph' a couple of months ago, we reconvened to check out our beloved Britt Daniel's contributions to the soundtrack of 'Stranger Than Fiction'. The Spoon mainman was working with Brian Reitzell on the score, who also worked on Sofia Coppola's 'Virgin Suicides' and 'Lost In Translation' with Air and Kevin Shields. That man is so hip and trendy, even knowing who he is makes you feel like you're Piers Martin. Aside from instrumental snippets of 'My Mathematical Mind' and 'I Turn My Camera On', the new Britt pieces are unobtrusive in the same way as Kevin Shields' were in 'Lost In Translation', and just as lovely. It should be noted that a flattering comparison to the quality of Kevin Shields' music is just about the highest praise I can offer. 

As for the film itself, the Matador Movie Club give 'Stranger Than Fiction' a cautious thumbs-up. Mike and Lucy had problems with the film's ending, and we were all a bit perplexed at how Maggie Gyllenhaal would ever find Will Ferrell attractive (but, having said that, who is good enough for Maggie Gyllenhaal? She's awesome). The Kaufman-esque plot of a man discovering that he is actually a character in a book that is being written that will end with his tragic death isn't really exploited for all the brain-warping potential that idea has; in fact certain ideas that are central to the plot at some points (the narration, the fact that Crick cannot control his own fate) are bandonned at others. But maybe we're being too critical of what is actually a very much above-average comedy – it does have Maggie Gyllenhaal in it, after all, and it's nice to see Emma Thompson in a dramatic role again. Dustin Hoffman was…Dustin Hoffman, and Buster from Arrested Development was in it as well, proving conclusively to me that no matter what role he takes from now on, he will always be Buster from Arrested Development (I mean that affectionately). Marc Foster's direction seems shaky, to be honest, there's no massive tonal shifts or anything, but there are certain points where the film forgets that it's a comedy – but maybe that's meta and intentional. But despite our misgivings, 'Stranger Than Fiction' is a sweet little film that you'd have to try very hard to dislike. With a wicked soundtrack, natch.

The Matador Movie Club's third outing will actually be an office screening of R Kelly's opus magnus 'Trapped In The Closet'. My critical faculties generally leave me around the point in part one where R Kelly sings 'I quickly tried to put on viiiiibrraaaaaatttte'. Slays me every time.

Kenny gets grief

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The Late Late Show is an Irish institution (like the Magdalene Asylums) which was presented first by Irish broadcasting legend and brave-name-haver Gay Byrne, then latterly by Pat Kenny, the presenter being harassed in this here clip. Of course, the Irish stereotype of the literate drunk irks me somewhat, but I can't help but applaud this heckler. He's hammered, and he still manages to articulate in a concise manner what most right-thinking Irishers think of Pat Kenny.

 

Black Dawn

Black Dawn

After a long and frankly depressing day, I arrived home at about 9 last night intending only to slip into a slow catatonia in front of the TV, but found my only real non-involving option was the new series of 'I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!' – not sure if you have a variation of this in the US, basically a bunch of people who quite patently are not celebrities are sent to Australia to eat insects or something – which didn't really seem like an option at all, despite the presence of smiley cello-playing, astronomy enthusiast Myleene Klass (she seems nice).

So instead, I decided to watch the new Steven Seagal opus 'Black Dawn'. I don't know if you've been keeping as close a watch on Seagal's recent activities as I have, but post-'Executive Decision' his films have gone from straight-to-video to straight-to-cable TV in Estonia. And then eventually, DVD releases. How can straight-to-DVD feel cheaper than straight-to-video? I don't know, but it fucking does. Anyways, theres a few constants in the last 12-odd films that he's made:

  • In the international world of espionage, nobody is what they seem. Apart from Seagal. He's ex-CIA, he has a daughter and he just wants to live his life normally in Japan where people think he's a native because of his quiet restraint and knowledge of local customs. But the FBI keep trying to FUCK WITH HIM.
  • Seagal is mainly filmed from the waist up. The reasons for this are sadly obvious, particularly when you notice that he's holding his coat together in every scene. Just buy a bigger coat, Steve.
  • Speaking of which, he's abandoned the totally ridiculous coats of his early films – the ones that are three times as big as him, and have a wealth of tassles. Theose coats had a really great kind of 'Fuck you, it's a Native American thing, I'm going to wear a big coat and that's that' kind of vibe. I miss them.
  • Beacuse of the only-filming-above-the-waist rule, theres a whole lot of hand-to-hand combat, even when a kick would be more useful. Hand-to-hand combat is, of course, just slapping someone very quickly. Seagal uses a gun a lot more these days too, cause actually running after someone would tire him out very easily.
  • The baddies are always international terrorists. Their cause is often unclear, but their aim is always the same: kidnap Seagal's daughter. Not sure why they think this is a good idea, to be honest.
  • Mystical shit. It used to be that Seagal would sneak in some philosophical elements to his Waner Bros. era films, most notably in 'On Deadly Ground' where he breaks somebody's neck in a bar fight, and then asks the horrified onlookers 'What does it take to change the essence of a man's soul?'. I had a few sleepless nights with that one, let me tell you. But Seagal has abandoned philosophy like he abandoned his big coats. Now his films have all kinds of weird mystical shit in them. Case in point: In 'Belly Of The Beast', Seagal takes time out from a car chase to visit a woman in the back of a shop, who takes her clothes off to reveal a message in chinese lettering glowing on her breasts. Then they disappear. I am not making this up.
  • Seagal's one-liners are nowadays the kind of thing your mate's alcoholic dad used to grunt. 'You're a real piece of shit' was a highlight in Black Dawn.
  • He generally runs into a protege of his during his adventures. She will be 20 years younger than him, and they will have sex. Of course you won't actually see this, but there again, why would you want to?

So, the one I watched last night was 'Black Dawn' and almost all the ingredients were there, save for two essentials: no kidnapped daughter, and no mystical shit. The plot concerned Seagal….oh, I can't remember, there was some plutonium being stolen and I think the Russians were the bad guys. At one point their evil leader says 'Don't dilly-dally' which makes me suspect that the actor playing him may not actually be russian. Anyways, a redeeming feature was just how degradingly cheap the thing was. There's some incredibly bad blue-screen work here that has to be seen to be believed – mostly during a scene where Seagal and his protege are escaping in a truck, and it looks like the background is a photograph that's being waved about by some hapless runner. During the truck chase theres a point where its fairly noticable that Seagal's stunt double is a) wearing a wig, and b) black, which kinda ruins the gritty realism of the piece. The big finish concerns Seagal throwing a nuclear bomb into the sea from a CGI helicopter, and the whole thing looks like a demo for the Sega Megadrive.

Still, it's Seagal, and I can't stay mad at him. At the end of the film, his protege answers a phone call inviting her to be honored by the President of The USA for saving the world and that, and Seagal, knowing that his work is done, waddles off into the sunset. He'll be back, and God help me, so will I.

…and the cunted circus leaves town

So I sequestered myself in an elevated position at the Scala, good view of the stage, thinking 'Finally, I'll be able to take a decent photo for the Matablog', and my camera/phone died as I attempted to take my first picture. It would appear I am cursed.

I was at the Scala for the London date of Arab Strap's farewell tour. Those of you who only have a scant knowledge of Arab Strap's ouevre might imagine that it's basically two dudes; one plays some sublime post-rock guitar figures against tinny disco beats, while the other rambles incoherently about sexual dysfunction and bathroom troubles. And you're kinda right. They were one of our greatest ever bands. Malcolm's compositions were constantly surprising, from the guitar and house beats of first single 'First Big Weekend' through to the doomy full-band cacophony of 'Fucking Little Bastards' – breathtaking low-key sadness abound. Yes, they had a song called 'Fucking Little Bastards'. The profane griminess of Aidan's lyrics were revelatory to most, and too tuthfully ugly to bear for everyone else. Whoever it was that said 'Profanity is a crutch for the inarticulate' has never heard Aidan spit 'This cunted circus never ends' – it's all in the delivery. I thought of trying to argue that Arab Strap are a romantic band, but I'm nowhere near that clever. Pretty much all their songs deal with relationships, and there is hope and happiness in there, but Arab Strap were at their most incisive when railing against romance – the tone and delivery always suggested to me that they were men who believed in love, they just believed that it was faintly ridiculous and harrowing. Pragmatists – I'm surprised how few of them there are in music. But talking about Aidan's lyrics is pointless, they're as naked as he was on the front of 'Philophobia'. Essentially, everything I've ever been told about the Smiths is more true of Arab Strap. Their songs are better, they're funnier and infinitely more incisive. 

But anyways, the gig. They were in their current 5-man formation for most of the show. Aidan told the audience a couple of times that this would be the last London show, once at the start (the crowd boo, Aidan says 'Well, it's happened. Nothing you can do about it'), and once at the end ('This is our last song, and then….that's your lot'), but apart from that it felt very much like a typical Strap show. I've really enjoyed them live in recent years, and they raise a pretty fierce racket on the noisier songs, which is awesome, but the real treat was the end of the show – Malcolm and Aidan alone doing 'The Shy Retirer', as fitting an end point as there could be, I suppose. 'We'll all be here….until the pigs chuck us out', and then they were off. Sad as I am to see them go, Malcolm and Aidan are too talented and, y'know, interesting for this to be the end. Arab Strap, I salute you. 

Cat Power at the Roundhouse

I tells you what, if theres one thing you can count on in one of my Matablog posts, it's the consistency of my photography. They're either rubbish or not there at all, and today it's the latter (the above was taken by Carlos – thank you Carlos).  But believe me, the Roundhouse is a lovely venue. It's only recently reopened, and it feels like one of those all-purpose venues, equally adaptable to band shows or yr more esoteric fare. Another nice thing about the Roundhouse is, being newly reopened, theres no stigma in regards to what sort of venue it is. Cat Power's June show at the Barbican was going to be a seated, serious, classy affair cause that's what you get at the Barbican. It became apparent fairly early on that this show would be pretty different – the standing audience rapturously getting into the Memphis Rhythm Band's pre-Chan soul workout set the tone for the evening. Everything seemed a little more pronounced to me, as if Chan and The MRB didn't think they had the crowd in the palm of their hands, and were playing harder than ever to win us over. I've heard all the amateur psychobabbble from journalists over the last few months over how audiences now feel 'proud' of Chan etc etc, but I did get a wee bit emotional when they played a taut, muscular version of 'Cross Bones Style' (with added 'Nude As The News' lyrics) – for some reason, I thought I'd never see her perform that song live. Elsewhere, it's business as usual: 'Where Is My Love?' is still arrestingly beautiful, and 'Love & Communication' is as rousing a finale as you could hope for. It seems like every show is different, and happily they're getting better and better.