…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. 

A Most Incendiary Act Of Civil Disobedience

"I too love God and Country, and feel called upon to serve. I can only hope my sacrifice is worth more than those brave lives thrown away when we attacked an Arab nation under the deception of 'Weapons of Mass Destruction'. Our interference completely destroyed that country, and destabilized the entire region. Everyone who pays taxes has blood on their hands."

"What is one more life thrown away in this sad and useless national tragedy? If one death can atone for anything, in any small way, to say to the world: I apologize for what we have done to you, I am ashamed for the mayhem and turmoil caused by my country. I was alive when John F. Kennedy instilled hope into a generation, and I was a sorry witness to the final crushing of hope by Dick Cheney's puppet, himself a pawn of the real rulers, the financial plunderers and looters who profit from every calamity; following the template of Reagan's idiocracy"

The above is culled from the suicide note of Chicago free jazz archivist Malachi Ritscher, who committed suicide this past Saturday.  The Chicago Reader's Peter Margasak has the full scoop

Another Side of Jennifer O’Connor

JOC-emusiceMusic is now selling an exclusive EP called "Another Side of Jennifer O'Connor". As you might have guessed, it starts off with a cover of Dylan's "To Ramona" and features 3 brand, spanking new songs.  This is being released to commemorate Jennifer's performance tomorrow night at the Bob Dylan tribute concert at Lincoln Center in New York City.  She'll be joined by both Ramblin' Jack Elliot and an able back-up singer by the name of Patti Smith to perform "Knockin' On Heaven's Door".   The event is a benefit for Music for Youth and complete details here.  Here's the tracklisting:

1. To Ramona
2. I Never Loved You
3. Waste My Time
4. (Take Me On A Ride Around The) Sun

Click here to get it (requires a subscription).

Tom In Non-Sucking Shocker

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(he could really go for some bones right about now)

From FMQB (link taken from Vinyl Mine)

In the era of MySpace, having an easy-to-find page is key to a band's success. Baton Rouge-based indie rock band Bones lost their MySpace URL to the Fox TV series of the same name. Not so coincidentally, MySpace owners News Corp. also own the Fox network. However, after the story became public, the band was given their URL back by MySpace founder Tom Anderson.

"Tom" wrote the band, saying, "I heard about what happened with your URL. I gave it back to ya…Sorry about that! As we grow in size, sometimes people make decisions I don't know about. This was obviously the wrong decision. The Bones URL is yours once again. 🙂 "

"We're shocked!! And grateful," said drummer Scott Campbell.  "Not only did Myspace give us back the www.myspace.com/bones URL, but we received a huge outpouring of moral support from the whole indie rock community over this. It went from being a really horrible experience, to really amazing, and we just want to thank everyone. See you on the road!"

"Losing our URL was a complete surprise to us," Bones singer/bassist Michael Miller said yesterday. "We logged on one day and found David Boreanaz staring back at us. It sucks because we've used that URL for almost two years to build our band name and fan base, and it's on all of our product and posters. We're as indie as it gets and can't afford to reprint everything.

If only all MySpace related disputes could end so happily.

Cat Power in Paris Nov 5

Le Grand Rex in Paris is a glorious example of the extravagant art deco picture palaces that were built in the thirties to impress the general public with the magic of the moving picture and the fantasy of exotic places. Worlds away from production line, snack dispensing, surround sound cinemas we have now. The Rex, like others of the era, takes the term picture palace literally and the three tiered auditorium is themed around an Alhambra styled Moorish castle. All the public areas outside the have beautifully preserved wood panelling and chrome detailing. This is not a regular rock circuit venue and only the lucky properly feted musicians get to grace its stage. Cat Power is such.

The set starts very much as the recent London show. The Memphis Rhythm Band ably warm up the audience and the sound engineers with their sinuous funk. Chan kicks off with the Greatest which has now cemented its place as her theme tune. Having pulled rank for a photo pass for the first three songs in a vain attempt to get something adequate to illustrate this dispatch, the first section of the show passes in a flash (not photographic however as these are barred).

Chan is on top form. She later claims to suffering nerves. Perhaps it is playing in Paris or the venue size but her nerves are not apparent in her vocal performance or her playful onstage manner. One of my favourite moments is her miming swimming strokes and surfing a board in the introduction to "Islands". The slightly fractured grain of Chan's voice in "Where Is My Love" is immensely powerful and simultaneously very sensitive. In a slightly self mocking move Chan holds her lighter aloft to symbolise an ironic power ballad nature of the song.

The solo section features "House of the Rising Sun" and beneath the glorious deco arch and purple curtains Chan is bathed in blue and green lights making her seem to be underwater. "Wild As The Wind" has an exquisite beauty and as "I Don't Blame You" is sung the stage lighting evokes the light of a shimmering green forest. The audience listen in rapt silence.

"Nude As The News" was a minor hit in France and its opening is very warmly welcomed. The version is a little fast for me but builds into a compelling crescendo and then blends into a rocking full band version of "I Can't Get No Satisfaction". If you watch closely you can catch Chan  flapping her hands behind her bottom a la vintage Jagger.

After a surprising yet highly entertaining version of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" Chan starts throwing white roses into the audience. Has she gone all Morrissey on us? To dispel the image she launches into a long story about her childhood and it eventually evolves as an explanation about her life long love of Paris. And Paris loved her back.

World’s Greatest Record Label Vs. Sniveling Ingrates, Continued

From Billboard.com :

Victory Records has sued Virgin Records and EMI Music North America for interfering with its contractual relationship with the band Hawthorne Heights. Victory claims that the major-label "poached" the band from the indie even though the group still had two more records to deliver under its contract.

In the suit filed yesterday (Nov. 2) in the federal District Court in Chicago, Victory alleges that the band was happy with the indie until Virgin executives convinced them to sign with the major. The band then hired a national litigation law firm and a public relations company to help extricate itself from its contract with Victory, the suit says.

I find it disheartening to consider H.H.'s claims that Tony Victory dragged them into a race war and their chart numbers were "tainted like Barry Bonds' statistics" were in fact, the construct of a P.R. firm.  Can't anyone come up with a funny idea on their own anymore?

Madman Across The Water

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Elton John, at his concert last night at Nassau Coliseum in Hempstead, NY:

"Interscope is the worst record label ever"
"They spent not one penny advertising the album"
"They can fuck off"
"Please drop me from the label"
"Sorry about all that label stuff…. But I really hate their fucking guts."

(Words by Bernie Taupin)

His new album may not have a hit like "Island Girl" ("what you wantin' wid de white man's world…black boy want you in his island world") but it does feature Elton's dog Arthur and cowbell (more cowbell!) on the single "Just Like Noah's Ark", in which Elton sings about Interscope's radio team:

"Italiano promotion men/Chomping a big cigar/Slapping backs and making cracks/About the fags in the bar/Radio boss dipping his nose in a little white packet/You put it out son and we'll all back it"

Mona lisas and mad hatters, indeed!

The beginning of the end (of the year)

Not to toot our own horn too much but it’s been a bit of a bumper crop for Matador press in the music magazines this month.  First and foremost we’d like to congratulate CHAN MARSHALL on being ‘WOMAN OF THE YEAR’ in Uncut.  That’s right, she beat off stiff competition from Girls Aloud and the Sugarbabes to achieve what is, quite frankly, the highest accolade to be bestowed on a woman since Cilla Black was awarded an OBE.  It’s also no mean feat that her counterpart as ‘Man Of The Year’ is her favourite man, Bob Dylan and the legendary Neil Young is ‘Hero of the Year’, she’s in good company!

Accompanied by a 3 page feature with some spectacular photos by Pieter Van Hattem (some of which you can see here) CAT POWER’s “The Greatest” also ranks at number 14 in the end of year polls, which coming out at least a month before everyone elses, shows Uncut as a forerunner of good taste.  The list features no fewer than three Matador artists in the top 30.   Yo La Tengo are number 27 with their masterpiece “I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass”and the magazine calls Ira Kaplan “a truly innovative guitarist”. High praise indeed but not quite as great as To Hell With fanzine’s Bush Hall show review a few months back where they describe Ira as being “the best guitarist I’ve ever seen in the flesh. That might be a bold claim, but one I’d stay firm on, such is the power, spontaneity and energy of his guitar playing. It’s a dazzling sight.” And that’s from a new convert to the band’s awesomeness, long may they bring new followers into the fold!

For the full Uncut list you can try various blogs etc but this is one of my favourites (by Beggars’ own Annette Lee!).

Not forgetting one of the other great UK publications, Mojo features Dead Meadow in the Buried Treasure section. Ok, it’s not technically a Matador release as it’s a reissue of their first album originally on Tolotta and now available again through Xemu, but we’re not picky.  We *heart* Dead Meadow. The article is written enthusiastically by number one Dead Meadow fan Gruff Rhys from the Super Furry Animals and it is a WHOLE PAGE, which in these days of cutting space and copious advertising, is excellent coverage.

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.

YLT at the NFT

This year's London Film Festival has been pretty good – screenings for the new Lukas Moodysson, Lars Von Trier and Claude Chabrol films, as well as new American fare like 'Shortbus' and 'Old Joy', both of which feature soundtracks by our own Yo La Tengo. Acknowledging their awesomeness, the London Film Festival last night held an 'In Conversation' event for them to discuss their soundtrack work. 

After some introductory chit-chat, we were shown a clip of 'Shortbus'. This was slightly disappointing because a) there was no Yo La Tengo music in that particular scene, and b) it was the only 3 minutes of the film which doesn't feature WALL TO WALL SEX. YLT scored the following scene apparently, and James assured us 'It's really good', but we didn't get to see that. Dammit. 

We also got to see the opening 4 minutes of 'Game 6', which hasn't been released here yet – I think it's cause distributors assume Europeans are afraid of anything remotely to do with baseball (unless it features Kevin Costner). A shame too, cause the score sounded great – a claustrophobic krautrocky thing. My personal favourite are the scores for Jean Panleve's aquatic nature films – we saw 'The Love Life Of The Octopus'. Nature films from the 60s/70s are a bit seedy though – the colours, degraded film stock and inappropriate zooming made it look like vintage octopus porn. Happily, YLT's score raises the tone somewhat. We were also treated to the trailer for 'Old Joy' which Ira assured us 'implies more plot than there actually is in the film'. The trailer does kind of make it look like one of those naturalist indie movies where something horrible happens to ordinary people, Deliverance-style. Lucy's seen it though and informed me that this is not the case. And she was impressed that the dog that bonds with Will Oldham in the movie is called Lucy.

Of course, anyone who's ever read a YLT interview knows that they're great conversationalists, and they were very thorough and funny in explaining how it is that they came to do soundtracks, how they approach them, and the actual business of recording them. I was left with the feeling that they quite enjoyed having restrictions and deadlines forced on them – at one point Ira talked about how he enjoyed being told to specifically write a jazz piece, as if they went into recording their own work with that kind of mindset 'it would feel kinda indulgent'. Matador Records should probably take advantage of this latent masochism by making some ridiculous demands on the next record: 'We need it tomorrow. And if you could throw a klezmer jam and a cover of 'Laffy Taffy' on there, that'd be great.'

Anyway, it was a very illuminating evening. And I'm pretty sure that none of the other 'In Conversation' participants espoused love for the musical scores of both John Carpenter and Spongebob Squarepants.

Jennifer O’Connor: Always A Guest Blogger Never A Blogger (just how she likes it)

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If there's one thing Jennifer might say about her life to date with Matador, we keep the lady busy.  Not OSHA infringement busy, but busy.  Whether it's guest blogging on the Portastatic blog, espousing her love for Fiddy on her Popmatters tour diary, the post cards she's giving out on tour, or her upcoming eMusic EP (no link yet, stay tuned for more on that)…Jennifer manages to keep up with all this while playing just about every day for the past two months.  We got one word for that….Trooper!  So when asked to contribute her "weirdest concert experience" for Marathonpacks, Jennifer not only oblidged but penned up a hum-dinger of a Mark Eitzel tale (we all have at least one Eitzel experience we wish we could blog about, don't we?).  Hit up Marathonpacks for all the juice.

Ian Rilen, RIP

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Rose Tattoo bassist Ian Rilen passed away yesterday at the age of 58. 

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In addition to being the co-author of Tattoo's "Bad Boy For Love", Rilen was a founding member alongside guitarist Steve Lucas and drummer Cathy Green, of the Sydney trio, X, whose first two albums, 'Aspirations' (1979) and 'At Home With You' (1981) are as propulsive, jagged and wildly original as any punk recordings from that era. 

Dubious Benefit Gigs Of The 21st Century

From the Boston Globe's Joan Anderton.

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Staind frontman Aaron Lewis is performing a concert at his alma mater, Longmeadow High School, to benefit the creative arts department there. Tickets to the show, Nov. 4 at 7:30, are $100 (includes a meet-and-greet with Lewis) and $60 and are on sale now in the school office.

Lewis, while possessing all the talent and charisma of a cardboard box, is clearly a benevolent sort.  And based on his body of work, I think we can all agree that Longmeadow's creative arts deparment is sorely in need of help.  With that in mind, let's consider the ticket prices ; $100 to witness a solo performance by Lewis is quite reasonable (compared to say, a $600 toilet seat), so why not up the ante a bit?  $100 to enter, another $200 to leave early.  $1500 for Lewis' frontal lobe.  Either you're serious about helping the kids or you're not.