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In honour of the new Sonic Youth LP, The Eternal, I decided it was time to pay tribute to the great and perhaps slightly overlooked songwriter, Lee Ranaldo – a man destined to play the George Harrison role in SY, to use a slightly tenuous metaphor.  Thurston and Kim don’t really equate to Lennon and McCartney in any way, but Ranaldo is much less of a ‘box office draw’ than the frontline husband/wife couple.

You probably wouldn’t get Ranaldo, who always looks a bit like a university lecturer, modelling for Calvin Klein, it’s fair to say. That’s OK, though, he’s far too busy creating superb guitar and fitting words to those ornate, huge, brass picture-frame structures he fashions for Sonic Youth.

Here are some particularly superb examples of his craft, drawn from the Sonic Youth back catalogue – plus a couple from the new rekkid:-

In The Kingdom *19 (Evol) – The first time I heard that scream, in this spoken word car crash narrative, it terrified me. This interests me far more than JG Ballard’s ‘Crash’.  I couldn’t read that, but I can’t stop listening to this.

Pipeline/Kill Time (Sister) – ‘Stretch me to the point where I stop / Run 10,000 miles and then think of me / I think I know the place we should meet / Don’t worry if it’s dark and I’m late’.

Eric’s Trip (Daydream Nation) – One of the highlights of one of the greatest albums ever.  Pretty good, then.

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Hey Joni (Daydream Nation) – At this point in time, SY were finding a sound that simultaneously satisfied their artistic impulse, whilst also rocking so emphatically, that it eventually allowed a wider audience in.  ‘Hey Joni’ is a particularly piquant example, with its tumbling, cascading guitars and solid bass core, all behind one of Ranaldo’s most authoritative vocal performances.

Wish Fulfilment (Dirty) – Butch Vig’s production made this sound extremely expensive, which it doubtless was.  It also made the SY guitars sound monstruously powerful, whilst still ensuring they serve the song, rather than overwhelming it.    Great structure, great, yearning, heartfelt lyrics. Even if it cost $1,000,000, it was worth every cent.

Hoarfrost (A Thousand Leaves) – Just a lovely, meditative, graceful, pastoral piece.

Karen Koltrane (A Thousand Leaves) – Heavy, brooding, pensive, unforgiving territory, this.  Headache-nasty guitar interventions.  ‘Karen Koltrane’ rewards persistence with a mournful, minor-chord beautfiul middle section – and some divine SY riffing that drops in out of nowhere, about five minutes in.

Karen Revisited (Murray Street) – Epic 11 minute monster, commencing in a relatively straight-forward manner before disappearing off over the horizon, with a superb, reverb-soaked, ambient mid-section.

Rats (Rather Ripped) – Absolutely beautiful.  Sometimes, Ranaldo reveals a sensitivity and warmth that isn’t always available from Thurston and Kim.  ‘You can let it shine / Keep that in mind… You can move a little closer’.  All over a strangely swaying, woozy, beautiful chord change – the piercing, simple lead guitar is reined in to serve the song, with a similar sort of clotted sound to that aching, genius guitar motif  on Bowie’s ‘Heroes’

Walkin Blue (The Eternal) – Draws a little from that oceanic ‘Rats’ prototype, its verses burble in a supremely soothing manner, before a sideways shift into an almost Pavement-style pop-rock chorus break.

What We Know (The Eternal) – ‘It’s not a quiet meditation’… Quite. More a full-bodied, satisfyingly chunky stomper.

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I still can’t kick the progenitor.  Sonic Youth still have That Guitar Sound. Thurston is still Thurston, Lee is still Lee, Kim is still Kim, Steve is still Steve,  They’re still Sonic Youth and they never really stopped being fucking amazing.  Virtually every ‘pop’ album they’ve done is worthwhile and most go way beyond that.

This one doesn’t do an awful lot in the way of straight innovation, but does reacquaint the fans with virtually every angle of their attack, as well as providing a few tantalising echoes of their past glories.

Opener ‘Sacred Trickster’ has a full-on, Dirty-sized chorus and Kim Gordon’s signature yelp sounds as powerful as ever. The great Lee Ranaldo barks out his beat poetry on ‘What We Know’, which possesses something of the ageless ‘Eric’s Trip’.  The final death-throes of epic album-closer ‘Massage The History’ drift teasingly into a one-note, chiming picked pattern that, combined with Gordon’s hushed delivery, take you right back to ‘Shadow of a Doubt’, from Evol.

Not that the production here is anything like as weird as it was back then, in those pre-Geffen days (this is, it should be pointed out, their first post-Geffen album).  Those enormous swathes of guitar have been harnessed, rather than tamed, to serve a set of woody, natural song structures.  Sonic Youth have always had an expansive, sprawling tendency, but here, that is largely checked, with a slight majority of tracks on the record coming in at under four minutes and most tracks boasting out-and-out hooks.

The sense of drama and impending crisis that was always present in 1980s Sonic Youth is gone now, replaced by a more knowing, gentle atmosphere – it’s fair to say that they’ve mellowed since their haughty, art-rock peak, but that’s not to suggest that they are mellow, by any stretch.

Like Neil Young, even when Sonic Youth are doing something overtly accessible – e.g. the positively playful ‘Leaky Lifeboat (for Gregory Corso)’ – there is a sense that violence and danger is merely being suppressed.  There could be an electrical storm around the corner.  You can see the steel in Neil Young’s eyes – you can hear grandeur and potency in even the most superficially gentle Sonic Youth guitar performance.

Neil Young - key influence on the Sonic Youth

Neil Young - key influence on the Sonic Youth

SY are an instituton now, in the same way that Neil Young is – and very much in the American tradition, just like their spiritual father.  They’re spacious and evoke open country, big skies and long roads, more than they  frantic, insect modern city existence.

Thurston’s slightly goofy ‘hey hey’s on ‘No Way’ – he was always the studious kid who wanted to be a fucking cool rocker and it comes across.  You just want him to be your indulgent uncle.  On ‘Thunderclap’, he and Kim manage to get away with bratty ‘woooaaaahhs’ and ‘yeeeaaahhs’ that people their age, in theory, should not be able to get away with.

(Then again, having seen Neil Young live, I now know that anyone who says they’re ‘too old for that stuff’ was always a fucking fake anyway.  Young gave the lie to anyone who ever got lazy, gave up, got dead.)

(I should also add that the fucking cool uncle Thurston sounds like he’s had one too many on Boxing Day on the excruciating ‘Sleepin’ Around’, which I rapidly deleted from my library.  Avoid – it’s this album’s one true clunker.)

Mark Ibold appears to be a full member on bass these days and SY tip him a wink by periodically morphing into Pavement during Ranaldo’s otherwise typically gorgeous ‘Walkin’ Blue‘ – a weird development, but kind of cool.  You just wish they’d got Malkmus to help on backing vocals.  It would have worked beautifully.

SY's newest member, ex-Pavement bassist Mark Ibold - it's not what you know....

SY's newest member, ex-Pavement bassist Mark Ibold - Why didn't I get the gig? I guess it's not what you know...!

I tell you what, I’m gonna put together a compilation of great Lee Ranaldo songs from the back catalogue.  How’d you like that?

The raging highlight of the album is the pristine Kim Gordon showcase ‘Malibu Gas Station’, which uses that wonderful, spooked rasp of hers to perfect effect.  I think it’s got a reverse reverb on it, perhaps a delay…. Fuck the tech womblings.   Gordon huskily staccatoes as Thurston Moore’s rhythm guitar chops in his signature style, whilst a delicious Ranaldo trem arm intervention in the other speaker finds just the right accent and completely melts me.   It hearkens back just subtly to those uncanny, warped and compelling pre-Geffen albums.

At their out-and-out best, Sonic Youth create an atmosphere, or soundworld, which makes you feel nostalgic for a time and place that doesn’t exist.  Ever since Bad Moon Rising, those silvery, subtly alien guitars have pierced minds and at their commercial height, with Dirty, they took their amp power and reverence for the garage rock canon and made something simultaneously avant-garde and classic.

Since then, albums like A Thousand Leaves, Murray Street and Rather Ripped have, with differing percentages of either impulse, repeated the pattern – out-and-out noise has rubbed shoulders with the sweetest of alt-tuning melodic clouds.  Kim has alternated between that indignant rocker’s holler and a breathy, melancholy sigh.  Thurston has mixed profundity with gawkiness. Lee has just been Lee, enuncuating his closely-considered lyrics like he was reading them straight off the manuscript through a megaphone – he sometimes sounds like he’s attempting to conduct his family’s escape from an onrushing tornado.  Other times, he sounds tender, like he’s about to throw an arm around you and direct your attention to the stars above.

Back to The Eternal.  Thurston describes the band’s divorce from Geffen Records as a ‘liberation’ and it’ll be interesting to see what they do next, now they’re free of the commercial pressures of the label that once tried to sue Neil Young for making ‘unrepresentative records’.

Curse you, Sonic Youth.  Not only did Sister completely warp my musical taste, so that after a few months of listening to it and Daydream Nation, everything else sounded shit – not only that, but a decade on, you refuse to the decent thing and become futile parodies of yourselves.

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REM were OK with doing that.  Step aside!

Not a bit of it.

This Friday is a big day, not just for Manchester music, but for UK music in general.

They're BACK!!! Tha mutha-fuckin' LONGCUT!

They're BACK!!! Tha mutha-fuckin' LONGCUT!

The Longcut – one of this city’s finest bands – make their much-anticipated return to live duty with a show at The Deaf Institute, ahead of a second album that proves they’re here for the long haul.

Expansive, intelligent, potent and urgent, Open Hearts will delight exisiting fans and convert swathes of the uninitiated to The Longcut’s cause.

Open Hearts is an incredibly natural-sounding, confident recording, which demonstrates the strides the band have made since the release of debut album A Call and Response in 2006.

By turns searing, forbidding, meditative and reflective, its beautifully poised, occasionally ferocious sound is an inviting backdrop for lead vocallist and drummer Stuart Ogilvie.

Ogilvie’s voice has always split opinion. Fans love him for his impassioned, yearning delivery and candid, emotionally forthright lyrics, whereas others remain totally immune to his style, citing a limited vocal range.

The singer himself is aware of this.

“I’ve started to sing a lot more on this album, really trying to use the full range of my voice on a lot of the songs”, he explains.

“I think a few people are going to be a bit surprised.”

Whatever your opinion, it’s undeniable that Ogilvie has an instantly recognisable, easily mimicable tone, in the same way that Bob Dylan does.  And even his detractors will be unable to deny that Open Hearts shows Ogilvie to have developed exponentially since the last Longcut record.

His Bobness - Has his detractors

His Bobness - Has his detractors

Since A Call And Response, he has added more subtlety and variety to his core approach – the unmistakable, signature yowl that elevated the fearsome instrumental churn of early singles ‘Transition’ and ‘A Quiet Life’, songs which match anything produced in Manchester this decade for soul-stirring, anthemic fire.

It’s those mercurial, thunderous songs that never fail to incite their loyal hometown crowd, who never fail to see a local Longcut performance as an excuse to kick off in style.  So the group’s long-awaited return to live action at The Deaf Institute – itself developing a fine reputation as a live music venue – promises to make for a sensational night.

“We miss the madness and the adrenaline so much when we haven’t played in ages. We’re planning a pretty full-on set”, promises Ogilvie.

And why not, when their fans turn the floor into a writhing mass of sweaty excess every time they hit full speed?

“It’s just a shame we can’t get in there with the fans and properly experience it”, laughs Ogilvie.  “It looks like fun in there!”

Not that anyone should believe that The Longcut are simply a high-energy live act, intent on giving the kids what they want.

The lyrics to ‘Something Inside’, say, detail the aftermath of the hedonistic impulse, whilst its brooding bassline stalks the wired, distressed vocal.  Then the album’s title track features a tender vocal delivery and patient, unimpulsive, slowburn build.

Then there’s the superb, tech-pop swirler ‘Repeated’.  This stand-out track builds on the template of the underrated ‘Tried and Tested Method’, from A Call and Response – and when its chorus resolves itself into a moment of logical, inevitable glory, you’re left wondering how something so complex can sound so organic.

A Call and Response - top debut, topped.

A Call and Response - top debut, topped.

Simply put, it’s the human touch that Ogilvie’s, well, open-hearted delivery adds to the stern, almost Teutonic efficiency of the musical machine manned by bassist Jon Fearon and guitarist Lee Gale.

They’re a thinking man’s band, who use their brains first and hit the overdrive pedal second – and when it matters.

Perhaps fittingly for a group whose new record affirms their unique, groundbreaking sound, The Longcut have even handled the release of Open Hearts in a distinctive way.

The album is now available for pre-order, but fans who reserve it will be permitted to download the mp3 or FLAC files instantly, before receiving their CD or vinyl copy when it comes out on Melodic Records in October.

The reasoning behind this is linked to a major problem faced by bands in the internet age – the issue of advance ‘promo’ copies of albums being leaked onto the web, meaning that new records by high-profile bands are routinely heard by digitally savvy fans far in advance of official release date.

“Our biggest concern was people getting hold of a poor quality version of the record before it even came out”, explains Ogilvie.

“This way, we know that everybody listening to it, whether pirated or not, is going to be hearing it as it should be heard.”

“Almost every album that’s released now is out unofficially on torrent sites two months or so before it’s in the shops, so we’re allowing people to get a high quality version from us instead”, adds bassist Jon Fearon.

Are the band upset to think that Open Hearts – painstakingly compiled with production help from close friend David Jones, of Nine Black Alps – will be accessible to online pirates for free?

“It’s a problem you can’t solve without overhauling and limiting the internet, which isn’t going to happen,” considers Fearon.

“You have to be realistic that not everyone who likes you will buy the record, but personally, I feel a bit guilty if I’m constantly listening to a band that I’ve not supported in any way.”

“Worse piracy has happened at sea”, shrugs Ogilvie – but it’s a knotty problem and one that does impact upon the chances for artists, especially independently-releasing ones, to make a living from their music.

Piracy - "it's wrong... It's wrong!"

Piracy - "it's wrong... It's wrong!"

“Bands will always need investment from somewhere, so if there’s no money from records, they’ll have to sign away something else to get the cash that labels used to provide”, says Fearon.

“I do think bands should try and do things themselves and keep control as much as possible though.”

This last statement is not just rhetoric.

By recording Open Hearts independently, The Longcut have given the lie to the apathetic convention that bands can’t do anything without the help of major labels and a huge budget.

Parting company with their previous label, Sony, only seems to have galvanised and liberated the group as a creative force.  Such heavy blows have crushed many a promising British band, but The Longcut are made from steelier stuff than most.

As the oddly-titled, but scenic and impressive piano-led study ‘Boom’ prettily burbles from my speakers, I think about the hard graft that has gone into the making of Open Hearts – not just the recording process, but the construction of each song.

The sleek lines and watertight integrity of each structure leave me in mind of a monstruous, beautiful ocean liner, carving an inexorable path through difficult waters.

“I think we’ve become a lot more tight as a band.  There’s a few tricks on Open Hearts that we couldn’t have pulled a few years ago”, decides Ogilvie.

"We've become tighter as a band"

"We've become tighter as a band"

“I think on Call and Response, everything was just so intense that it could get a bit much at times. This album is much better balanced.”

Meanwhile, the very title of this album reflects the songs’ lyrical candour perfectly.

“I’ve tried to rely a lot less on metaphor to express my feelings on this album and I think that’s brought out an honesty and an emotional core to the lyrics”, says Ogilvie.

“There were times when I had to stop and question whether some of the words I was writing seemed too obvious or clichéd, but then I could never think of a better or clearer way to express them.  I hope that makes it easier for people to relate or connect to the songs on the album.”

The Longcut play The Deaf Institute on Friday June 12th, with support from Kingtree & The Roots.

‘Open Hearts’ is available to preorder on CD or vinyl from http://thelongcut.melodic.co.uk, with the digital download issued immediately.

It’s fucking good.

Feature to follow.  For now, here’s the link

'Open Hearts' front cover, by Liam Palmer

'Open Hearts' front cover, by Liam Palmer

The artist known for convenience's sake as MBAR...

The artist known for convenience's sake as MBAR...

MOST musicians are thrilled and excited to talk about the release of their debut album, but for the prolific Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, the situation is a source of befuddlement.

His as-yet unreleased ‘second’ album was actually meant to come out before his eponymous ‘first’ record – which was released this month.

“I’ve recorded the second album. That was done in December of 2007. I thought it was going to be my debut album,” says a bemused Robinson.

“The album I wanted to release as my debut has now been around for 16 months, while another one has snuck out of the gates and caused me all sorts of dizziness.”

Meanwhile, a third record is already written, too…

“The third one’s all written, but now I feel strange, because people are gong to look at the second album as a follow-up to the first one – whereas it really wasn’t,” protests Robinson.

Confused yet?

Chaos seems to have stuck to this 26-year old Brooklyn resident ever since he arrived in New York City with a desire to make music, but a college scholarship to make movies.

“I was a film major [at the prestigious NYU art school], but after three months I had no interest in making films,” he explains.

“They had a music recording studio that no one ever used, so I stayed around for that.  I recorded seven albums while I was there – really, my life was an incredible privilege to be able to do that.”

Of course, this rarefied lifestyle came at a premium.

“I’m in just the absolute depths of debt. Last I checked it was $80,000, but God knows what’s happened over the last couple of years… if there was a debtor’s prison, I would be in it”, Robinson admits, ruefully.

Not that such an eye-watering personal deficit bothers this singular songwriter too much.

“I doubt they’d come chasing me – I don’t own anything, so you know, there’s nothing to take. It’s like, ‘fine, take everything I have.  Would you like my used records? Cigarette butts?’”

This ‘let it happen’ approach to life is written all over Robinson’s debut album.

Nice album.  Produced by Chris Taylor from Grizzly Bear, in MBAR's front room.

Nice album. Produced by Chris Taylor from Grizzly Bear, in MBAR's front room.

It’s a sprawling affair, with touches of the acutely personal Elliott Smith brand of songcraft and echoes of the raw, scrappy sonic beauty of Neil Young & Crazy Horse.

And it was recorded in a suitably unconventional style by a man seemingly incapable of doing anything by the book.

Nice tats... And not a bad mate to have pop round your house to produce your album, either (Chris Taylor, of the awesome Grizzly Bear)

Nice tats... And not a bad mate to have pop round your house to produce your album, either (Chris Taylor, of the awesome Grizzly Bear, superbly photographed by Samantha West - http://www.samanthawest.net)

“With the first album, I paid my housemate’s rent for a month. We turned his bedroom into a control room and set up the drums and everything in my living room; we basically recorded the album in my living room.”

Not that Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson was likely to sound ramshackle, when the studious and highly-talented Chris Taylor – of world-class New York indie quartet Grizzly Bear – was on hand to produce the album.

“We had been playing shows together all the time, becoming great friends in the process,” explains Robinson.

“I hoped that [Grizzly Bear drummer] Chris Bear and Chris Taylor could lend their talents to some songs I was writing. I was about to ask Chris Taylor, when he said, ‘I really feel like you should do a solo record, I feel like that’s your strength. I’d love to produce’. So I gave him a bunch of demos.”

So you never intended to be a solo artist, it just, sort of, happened?

“My last band broke up because everyone started having infidelities with the other people in the band. I decided to quit bands forever,” reveals Robinson.

“The touring band I have at the moment are fantastic; if they didn’t already have obligations, I would love to call them my band forever, but I’ve learned my lesson with that. Everyone always leaves. We all die alone…”

A slightly spooked, bruised and emotional worldview comes across in Robinson’s lyrics.

Doozies like ‘I’m not sure that I want to stay alive / It’s so expensive…’ (from the suitably-titled ‘The Debtor’) rub shoulders with stark tales of drug addiction and its attendant malaise (“Met a girl who said ‘hey boy, you’re a death-head / I bet you’d be alright in bed / still, I’ll take sleep instead’”, from the excellent, stomping ‘Woodfriend’).

Then there’s a weirdly affirmative scream of ‘Believe me, I wish that I was dead’ on the grandiose and superficially joyous album opener ‘Buriedfed’.

There are contradictions all the time with Robinson – his music generates genuine vitality despite the constant shadow of depression. A wicked sense of humour emerges from the murky depths, whilst unbearable pangs of dissatisfaction emanate from a situation of genuine privilege.

But then, since when have people been logical?

TV On The Radio's Kyp Malone - he's got MBAR's back, yo.

TV On The Radio's Kyp Malone - he's got MBAR's back, yo.

Fortunately for a clearly volatile and mercurial young talent, a ‘big brother’ figure is on the scene, in the imposing figure of Kyp Malone.

Malone, instantly recognisable by his spectacles, monster Afro and equally impressive beard, sings in one of New York’s most celebrated bands, TV On The Radio.

And after Taylor introduced Malone to Robinson’s music, they struck up a lasting friendship.

“He lent me five CDs the first time I met him. And he’s become one of my best friends – like an older brother taking care of me at weird times in my life,” gushes Robinson.

“Kyp’s not actually related to me, he doesn’t have that obligation – yet he’s taken care of me like family for years. It’s amazing.”

Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson is out now on Transgressive Records.

I liked it. Click here to see the article on citylife.co.uk,

There’s something very special about Veckatimest.

In this era of illegal downloads and plummeting CD sales, it’s becoming increasingly rare for an album to arrive with a real sense of occasion, but Grizzly Bear’s breakthrough LP will rightly draw critical praise right across the spectrum and catapult this New York quartet to a new level of fame.

Named after an uninhabited island in Massachusetts, Veckatimest exudes quality.  Every note seems to have been closely studied and considered, before being painstakingly stitched into its proper place within a richly textured backdrop to the flawless vocal harmonies.

Acoustic guitars and swoonsome backing vocals breathe a wistful, time-out-of-mind atmosphere into opener ‘Southern Point’, before a series of powerful electric crescendos – best exemplified by the staggering, rollercoaster-drop chorus of ‘While You Wait for the
Others’ and the controlled, almost Godspeed! You Black Emperor-style noise classicism of ‘Fine For Now’ – force their way into the forefront of your consciousness.

The general sense of Veckatimest as a serious (important, even) record carries through into its lyrics.  Poignant, perceptive one-liners abound – “We’re all faltering / How can I help with that?” is a personal favourite, best heard in the context of its complex, soul-stirring ‘Fine For Now’.

Picking fault, their undeniable musical flair can lead them into some overly showy moments.  The falsetto backing vocals on ‘Two Weeks’ are perhaps a touch too theatrical – and there’s a hint of Arcade Fire at their more bombastic in ‘I Live With You’, for example; but measure that against the fact that the same song features gorgeous, sinuous horns reminiscent of the lunar, ebb-tide grace of ‘Art Decade’ from David Bowie’s Low.  The occasional ostentatious moment has to be forgiven.

Congratulations, Grizzly Bear.  Now, get yourselves to Manchester and take a bow….

veckatimest

Nightjars cover art by Sam Garrett

Nightjars cover art by Sam Garrett - click to view our discography

Hang on, hang on, hang on.

I started to crush violently on Deerhunter when I first heard ‘Strange Lights’ on myspace.  This beautifully judged, emotional pop, with big, star-scraping waves of guitar and artfully yearning vocals, was of a higher songwriting and musical calibre than anything else new I’d heard in a long time.  Here was a young band with genuine artistic talent and feeling for music – that rarest of occurrences in this Myspace era.

So within weeks, I had started to develop a concept of Deerhunter as ‘the new REM’ – surely, I reasoned, a band with this much ability were set for not only a lengthy career taking in many worthwhile records and doubtless some blistering live shows (see you at the Deaf Institute in March…).  I trolled off to Piccadilly Records to buy ‘Microcastle’ / ‘Weird Era Continued’.  The guy behind the counter told me reverentially that this was a brilliant album.

I knew ‘Cryptograms’, a generally ambient record with occasional, thrilling shots of more direct material – that was the ‘destined for stardom’ album – ‘Microcastle‘ had to be the ‘they deliver’ album.

And half of it is simply outstanding.  What a start to a record – ‘Cover Me (Slowly)’, a woozy, slightly staggering, short sprawl of an introduction to the truly beautiful ‘Agoraphobia’ – a guitar piece so perfectly judged, so intelligently restrained, so evocative, that the vocal (its lovely opening ‘cover me’ refrain aside) is almost superfluous.  Stop blathering, Bradford Cox, just listen to your band!  They’re incredible!  Then ‘Never Stops’, in which Deerhunter insouciantly steal the thunder of a whole generation of tremolo-arm bending bands of a sensitive disposition.  It’s my judgement call – they’re the best of any of them.  Then ‘These Kids’, which is really interesting – cutely assembled, shuffling, restrained (again – the musicians in the group don’t feel the need to impose themselves on every second of every track.  This leaves space and helps the overall sound).  From these four tracks, you get a clear picture of a band who are bursting with ideas, steeped in tradition, conscious and intelligent art-rockers.

Then they rather spoil it.  From title track ‘Microcastle’ through to ‘Activa’, not a great deal happens.  Effect pedals are utilised, fringes obscure faces, vocals are whispered, that consciousness appears to have become a defensive self-consciousness, a shyness about their own pop sensibility.

Jesus, lads, you’ve got it, flaunt it….  thousands of bands would crucify their own manager for a song as good as ‘Agoraphobia’, or the boisterous ‘Nothing Ever Happens’, or the supremely graceful, lilting ‘Saved By Old Times’ (with which brace they wholly redeem the album).  Less of the softly softly minutes of piano tinkle / echo box, I entreat ye!

‘Nothing Ever Happens’ – damn.  It’s arguably the only derivative number on the LP, with a blammo verse / chorus pattern ripped straight from the Robert Pollard songbook, then a bridge that must appear in a Buzzcocks song.  But then it just rips into a closing instrumental part that is all Deerhunter and no one else.  Fine, fine stuff.

‘Twilight at Carbon Lake’ is the LP closer and perhaps predictably for a band of this ilk, it starts slowly, dripping with melancholy before utilising the gift of the deranged guitar overdub to swell the song into a strong, sad end.  you can hear the songwriting underneath it – they never ditch that.

Some bands are song bands and should just do that.  Some bands are musicality bands and should just do that.  Some bands want to be greedy and do it all.  I personally believe that Deerhunter should focus on songs and leave the shoescapes to less able writers.

This album is half-perfect.

Here is a link to some features I wrote yonks ago – Bill Hicks, Pixies, Plans & Apologies, Johnny Domino, James Yorkston…

http://drownedinsound.com/users/owright

There were a lot more.

Tortoise “It’s All Around You”

http://drownedinsound.com/releases/3660/reviews/9476

Television live –
http://drownedinsound.com/events/1046/reviews/9905

I can’t remember what else.

But in the end, I stopped writing for them, for two reasons – 1) I’d formed The Nightjars and saw it as a conflict of interests.. 2) I fell out majorly with a guy named Colin Roberts, who was pimping Busted on the site. He turned out to become the next editor…  so I resigned!

I should probably give it a shout on here.

The latest is that Dan has left the group to concentrate on starting a career in journalism, so we have brought in Tom Mills, who plays keyboards, guitar, sings and I think can generally get a melody out of anything you give him.

The sound will change a bit as a result, cos all combinations are unique, but it’s still me, Phil and Sea, so the change will be subtle rather than seismic, I should think.

The artwork is being handled by Sam Garrett. I’ll stick a sneak preview of the front cover up when it’s finished. It looks fucking ace.

We recorded and mixed it all ourselves and I think we will be releasing it ourselves too. Kramer mastered it for us, otherwise, all our own work.

I think it will be out in April. These things take time.