Antony and the Johnsons ~ Another World EP

27 11 2008

The pre-cursor to Antony and the Johnsons new album The Crying Light, due for release in 2009, is the 5 track Another World EP. Following on from 2005’s Mercury Prize winning I Am a Bird Now, Anthony Hegarty has kept us waiting for 3 years before giving us a taste of what’s to come. 

The title track to Another World is a delicate, heartfelt ode to our planet, that somehow doesn’t smack of insincerity. The intricate detailing of each and every thing that Hegarty will miss is beautifully portrayed as if it were a retrospective and regret-filled letter to a  past lover. For one so cynical as myself, this track really does break down those barriers that I have built up in response to pious environment songs by hypocritical ‘Save The World’ campaigners who’s ‘carbon footprint’ is bigger than Michael O’Leary’s. And I think that that’s due to it’s simplicity. No telling us that we need to ‘heal the world, make it a better place’, rather it simply makes us see all the beauty that we have already destroyed – like Marvin Gaye did with ‘Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)‘. I think that it’s this hindsight that makes the song all the more poignant, coupled with anguish so apparent in Hegarty’s voice.

The rest of the EP is compiled of the complicated soul/tortured genius material that comes with Antony and the Johnsons, with soft piano accompaniments and reflective interludes. Shake That Devil, the third track, breaks away from this format though with obscure lyrics (“That dog had his way with me, shake that dog out of the tree…. Shake that dog! Shake that pig!”) and a saxophone/drum snare combo reminiscent of a New Orleans blues club. 

Ok, so you’re not going to stick it on while getting ready on a Saturday night. Nor is it dinner party music. In fact, It’s one of those pieces of art, as opposed to just a cd, that you really have to give your full attention to. By no means is it easy-listening but this really is a beautiful and tentatively thought out EP that is more rewarding with each play. 

 

another-world-ep-cover-art

Another World EP

One thing that I feel needs to be mentioned here is the cover art of the EP. It depicts a Japanese performance artist in full drag with a shocked expression, as if having just unearthed some horrifying revelation. The cover has been interpreted as a longing for ‘another world’ that is more tolerant of the trans-gender community. What I find striking is the fact that the performance artist, who is dressed in old-fashioned and elaborate ladies clothing, and therefore a woman by all aesthetic purposes, appears to have just noticed the portrait of a woman some decades his junior hanging on the wall beside her. To me, the cover art seems to capture that moment when we realise that it is too late, that we have let everything that we took for granted slip away unnoticed. Whether that be our world or our youth or anything else that we undervalue. This more-so than the lyrics seems to Hegarty’s outlet for ‘the message’ to appreciate what we have before it’s too late, leaving the song to focus on mourning the impending loss. Just like she has realised too late that she will never be that young, beautiful woman in the portrait, irrespective of gender. This of course is just my humble interpretation and is probably way off the mark – but isn’t that what art is there for?

 

Clip for ‘Another World’ below. 

 





Orbital to Headline Electric Picnic ’09?

25 11 2008

And it seems like only yesterday that I legged it over to Oxegen’s dance arena to witness the historic event that was Orbital’s last ever Irish gig… ah fond memories. Although it was only 4 years ago. In the current climate of ‘Reunited’ tours (Any takers for Boyzone’s cover of the Tom Baxter ‘classic’, Better? Anyone?), it’s nice to hear of one reformation that doesn’t make you want to camp outside Louis Walsh’s house with a harpoon.

It was announced last week that brothers Phil and Paul Hartnoll (…and together we are Orbital) are to play a gig together called “20 years after Chime” at The Big Chill Festival 2009, sparking rumours that the duo will carry on across the water for Electric Picnic, which is fast overtaking Oxegen as Ireland’s most popular music festival. In a statement released by Orbital, Phil Hartnoll said “It’s not an exercise in nostalgia, the time just seems right. Everything just seemed to fall into place”.

Phew, well that’s alright then Phil. There’s nothing worse than organised nostalgia, is there Louis?

 

Clip below: ‘One Perfect Sunrise’ by Orbital (BBC footage) at their ‘last ever gig’, Glastonbury 2004.





Warm Feeling

24 11 2008

Like ReadyBrek in audible form for a cold Monday Morning… 

 

 

James Yorkston “Woozy With Cider”.





Im a failure…

22 11 2008

failure4Ok so I was adamant that I was going to survive this whole ‘No Music Day’ malarkey… in fact looking back at my previous post I was quite ‘haughty’ about it. Well… I can humbly admit now that I am a complete failure. In my defence, I survived the whole day without listening to the radio or slyly fluting about on myspace in work. The problem was when I got home. I hopped out of the shower and resisted my hand’s natural reaction to flick on the radio until I realised what was on the fancy USB yoke that I have hooked up to my fancy stereo. A few days ago I downloaded Van Morrison’s classic album Astral Weeks and had NEVER listened to it (I know, sacrilege, blah blah). So I battled with my will power for a (very short) while and then decided to justify my weakness by allowing myself to listen to only ‘QUALITY’ music for the rest of the evening – still no Phantom FM or ‘zany’ DJ duos allowed. Oh it was so good. I felt so satisfied. Until I got in the car and realised that my car radio (not so fancy) doesn’t have a fancy USB port. Dilemma. Silence? Phantom? Oh no…. Sitting beside me on the passenger seat like a shining beacon of hope was the beautiful monochrome digipack containing my just-purchased copy of Organic Sampler by the afore-raved about RSAG. No downloading for you my sweet, you get actual hard-earned cash for your talent (in fairness, Van has plenty of the stuff up there on Cypress Hill or wherever it is he lives). Oh happy day. So on it goes and Sweet Jesus what an album. I don’t know if it really was that good or if my pathetic attempt at abstinence just made me lap it up like a hidden track on a Joy Division album but good ‘oul Jeremy Hickey’s still up there on my list of Geniuses of the Year.

So what have I learned from my experiences?

One: I have the willpower of Kate Moss in a crackhouse. Two: If it takes trying to abstain altogether to ignore the constant drone of repetitive shite in the background and actually take note of and absorb the music that we are listening to then I’m all for it. I may have failed dismally but at least I fully appreciated the two fantastic pieces of work that I did listen to yesterday, and not a Crystal Castle or Kaiser Chief in sight. Result!





No Music Day

20 11 2008

poster-copy1

Tomorrow is No Music Day. No Music? Why, in the name of god, it’s madness. Or maybe not. The brainchild of KLF founder Bill Drummond, No Music Day is akin to a 24 hour fast for the ears, to make us stop and take stock of what we’re piping into our heads via our ears everyday and appreciate that there is quality to be found buried amid the big pile of commercialism that’s literally shoved in our faces, or ears, everyday. The 21st of November holds significance as it is the day before St. Cecelia’s Day – patron saint of music.

When I first heard that a bunch of people were swearing off music for the day, it took me a while to grasp the reasoning behind it. Music is something that plays such a huge role in so many of our lives and penetrates every facet of our day – and perhaps therein lies the pickle. We as a society, now more than ever, consume music as if it were going out of fashion. Nobody does this more so than those in the music industry – always looking for ‘the next big thing’, always striving to satisfy some driving aural hunger within ourselves by shifting through a constant stream of sonic piss that has no place on our airwaves or in our heads. Well Enough! I will be taking part in No Music Day, having my own reasons to not just mechanically accept whatever it is that Phantom and the likes decide to bestow upon us daily. Bill Drummond’s reason’s can be read in this wonderful article, with the following hammering home how his unquenchable thirst for QUALITY music proved exasperatingly unsatisfactory….

Some years ago I walked into HMV Oxford Street. I wandered around rack upon rack of thousands upon thousands of CDs. There must have been every form of music that ever existed there. I wanted something new. Something that would make me go, ‘Yeah, this is it. I’ve never heard anything like this in my life.’ There have been so many times when I have read a review of an album telling me how great it was so I would go out and buy it, only to get it home to find it sounded like something I had already heard. There was nothing in HMV Oxford Street for me.

So I went home and searched every corner of the web for something new, fresh, exciting. Something that would make me hear music in a different way. Something that would open a door to a room in my head which I had never been in before. But even in those furthest corners I could find nothing that did this.

Whether you decide to participate or not is your own business, some may decide that it’s the most idiotic thing they’ve ever heard… but it’s certainly food for though.

Full details of No Music Day can be found here.





R.S.A.G.

18 11 2008

rsag

There’s been a quiet buzz rising since late Summer about R.S.A.G (Rarely Seen Above Ground) AKA Jeremy Hickey, Kilkenny multi-instrumentalist/singer/producer/latest Irish prodigy providing an alternative to the stale taste that the ‘indie scene’ has left in our mouths. As per usual, those intrepid heavyweight bloggers got the skinny on him months ago but as yet he’s still not a household name. Hickey’s debut under the R.S.A.G. psudonym Organic Sampler recieved rave reviews from those in the know. Everyone from Talking Heads to Zeppelin to The Chemical Brothers are sited as influences but the most prominant sound is one not dissimilar to a young Ian Curtis.

R.S.A.G plays Kennedy’s Underground and Andrew’s Lane in December with stints in Tralee and Tullamore before Christmas too, details of which can be found on his myspace page. The clip below is a bit tinny sounding but does the job, some great songs up on said myspace page too. More to follow regarding my latest obsession very, very soon….





Cold War Kids @ The Academy

14 11 2008

Last week’s Cold War Kids gig at The Academy was predictably filled with the neon wayfarers brigade. Whatever, they’re unavoidable, I have faith that someday soon they’ll realise that they’re not MGMT. That aside, once the music started all eyes were firmly fixed on the stage and what followed was an obscure musical extravaganza that Cold War Kids have perfected to a tee. Admittedly, I haven’t listened to their new album, Loyalty to Loyalty, more than a handful of times so wasn’t over-familiar with some of the newer songs, but the band have an energy, or a ‘pull’ of some description, that makes it impossible to look away. Their playfulness and willingness to stretch traditional conventions of what a typical four piece should be is mesmerising. Rather than your standard set with a couple of guitar changes and maybe a foray onto the piano by the lead vocalist, they chop and change instruments with the energy of a 5 year old on blue Smarties, introducing a plethora of inanimate objects that suddenly transform into melodic instruments. And it all suddenly seems so simple – remember when you used to bang pots and pans together as a child and drop marbles into the sink just because you liked the sound of it? Ok maybe that last one was just me, but you know what I mean. At one point, Jonnie Russel bangs a drumstick against an empty wine bottle whilst a drum cymbal is haphazardly thrown on the floor and tossed like a frisbee as the crowd delight in the richness it adds to the beautifully off-key songs.

I’m not going to go through the set-list song by song because to be honest there’s no point, one song led excitedly into the next. Highlights for me were definitely the sublime Hospital Beds, latest single Something is Not Right with Me and encore St John but there was no particular ‘best song’.

Their ethos shows that music is there to have fun with and take delight in. Delight in discovering new sounds and new formations, not just sticking your standard ‘verse verse chorus verse bridge chorus’.
Throughout the whole gig, a bouncer resembling a bulldog stood arms folded at the front of the stage looking physically in pain. To me, he summed up the Cold War Kids – you either get it or you don’t.