Friday, February 29, 2008

Friday Video - Betamax Format, 'The Knife'

"Betamax Format are the video dead"

"...with a name that suggests both the 80s and a taste for the alternative, [Betamax Format] played a great set from beginning to end"

You might have seen me writing about this band in my piece about the Village on New Year's Eve, where they were one of the support bands. Apparently they also played support for the Liars in 2005, which as good as FLA are, probably makes it a step down. Anyway, on the night that I saw them, they were very impressive. Not least, for their visual show.

Somewhere between 'Electro/New Wave' (their Myspace description), 'electro-emo' (Unarocks in the Tribune) and "Sallynoggin Psych" (again from their Myspace), Betamax Format play moody, downtuned electronic rock with actually quite a nice line in melody. The song from the video below, 'The Knife', isn't as strong in my opinion as 'You Are Welcome in My House' which you can hear on their Myspace as well. In fact, Betamax Format I don't think have put out anything physical yet, although I think they are in the process of recording an EP.

They have released their T-shirts, though, the design of which you can see at the top of the post, by Artur Arbit ( a NYC artist who also does work in Berlin and Dublin. (The actual shirt, which I haven't got, only comes in black... naturally)

Random atmospheric photograph...

(Sallynoggin Church, Dublin, March 2007)

Killian Broderick who edited the footage (from Quentin Tarantino's Deathproof) for this video, also directed and edited the videos for Ham Sandwich's 'Keepsake' and 'St. Christopher' (see end of the post here). Not that there's much musical similarity between the two bands, but it's nice to see some semblance of a 'scene' in Ireland.

Finally, it is mostly for the purpose of self-indulgence that I post about local/national bands, but it would be interesting to know what the readers of my other posts think about this stuff:

Monday, February 25, 2008

A.V. Club Blog: Vinyl Retentive


"First, a note: I received a USB turntable for Christmas. After a couple months of software hassles (which continue), I finally started ripping some of my dormant old vinyl. My collection is small to moderately sized and overwhelming dominated by obscure ‘90s punk, but there are noteworthy gems hidden in there—and in the collections of my fellow A.V. Clubbers, covering all genres. Here’s the first write-up of what we find while crate-digging in our own houses…"

Just when I think things couldn't get any better, a new feature at the Onion A.V. Club turns up this morning. The A.V. Club Blog is where a lot of the really interesting stuff on the site turns up: Permanent Records (see my previous post here), Noel Murray's Popless.

This feature reads actually like an amalgam of those two, with an in-depth description of the band and the scene it came from, a sample track and at-a-glance descriptors ("File Under: The sound of a dam about to burst"). A cool thing is that he puts in the 'Vinyl Inscription', which is something I've only found out about since I started buying vinyl. I am definitely looking forward to more of these.

As for Pinhead Gunpowder, the only release of theirs I have is the album Shoot the Moon. This sounds a lot more hardcore; and I guess linking it makes up for leaving the band out of my top Mike Kirsch band poll last year. The winner of that was of course "the popular melodic post-hardcore band" Fuel. And also, I'm a major Green Day fan, in case you didn't know.


Talking of other cool things that happened today (and this fits in very well with the rest of the post) I found a package from 3819 Beecher St. NW waiting on my doorstep. So far I've bought mailorder from Polyvinyl (they put in a candy bar) and No Idea via Interpunk (that was coloured vinyl, so it was cool in itself... and the inscription on Fuel For The Hate Game was pretty funny) but this was the first thing I got from Dischord so far.* Two Crownhate Ruin records, the Intermediate 7" and Until the Eagle Grins. The package was brown cardboard, rather than the white stuff I got the other times, and the address was handwritten (and the return stamp had a name written above it too). And inside there was a little handwritten note, which I scanned in above (it kinda had my name on it, but I blanked it out before posting it onto the interweb).

I know this is the kind of thing you'd expect from Dischord Records, the greatest independent punk label ever, but it's still a very nice, personalised touch.

Thanks, Dischord!

* Dischord have, quite properly, released pretty much all their catalogue on eMusic, the independent download music site, so, pre-vinyl, I've never really needed to mailorder anything from them since buying Repeater + 3 Songs in a store over here.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ham Sandwich - Live @ Whelan's, 23/02/08

Ham Sandwich are this year's Fight Like Apes, pretty much. That's despite the fact that Ham Sandwich have been around longer, releasing the single 'click... click... BOOM!!!' yonks ago, and the fact that Fight Like Apes were still playing two of their best live songs at 12.05am on January 1st, the band from Kells are taking the limelight now.

The show in Whelan's was the album launch for their debut release (aside from about four different singles over the last couple of years) Carry the Meek. I managed to catch their instore in HMV last Friday when the album was released, and from that intimate gig (well, in a basement with a lot of Xbox games) and from listening to that album over the last week, I knew it was going to be a great night.

Carry the Meek just gets better with every listen. It's a perfect punk-pop album in terms of length, with just 10 songs, and not an ounce of filler. That's not to say what it sounds like, though. Coincidentally I went back to listening to Green Day's Dookie this week, and parts of Carry the Meek replicate the honest intensity of that album. At other times, it delves into the shimmering beauty of post-rock and indie (mmm... Editors) hung together with the male and female vocals of Podge and Niamh. Those are the real secret of the band, the combination of the low and high registers; mostly it's Niamh singing. Since it's the usual topic of this blog, I guess it's a little bit 'emo' too: the opening to 'Keepsake' reminds of a Promise Ring guitar line, and if you don't think 'Click Click Boom' has wonderful dynamics, you're an idiot.

The short set in HMV ran through all the band's 'singles' songs: the opening pair of 'St. Christopher' (containing the album's title line) and 'Keepsake', 'Never Talk', 'Words', and I think 'Broken Glass', finished by 'Click Click Boom'. On purchasing the album, I was a little surprised to find all those songs heavily - that is to say, completely - weighted towards the first half of the album. Having the last four or so songs pass without recognition, it took a while to knowingly appreciate them but when I did, I realised they were less immediately poppy than the ones before and contained more space for the band to work in, creating what are all truly absorbing indie songs.

Ham Sandwich are a band both of complexity and of simplicity. Complex, because of the span and the depth of the songs as is evident on this album; and simple, because Ham Sandwich are still a catchy 3-minute-long-song band. Scroll down below for the acoustic performance of 'Click Click Boom' on The Last Broadcast show last year to see a perfect example of that combination, in a two-minute song. Dynamics!


'click... click... Boom!!!' (acoustic): Live on The Last Broadcast

Promo video for 'St. Christopher':

Promo video for 'Keepsake':

Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday Video - Ultimate Reality (2007)

"A mandala projected from the third eye of suburban back yards, cracked drive ways, and dusty VCR's. The wizards of Baltimore and Wham City deal powerful magic, we'll need it soon, the dawn of this post-postmodern age is upon us." - J. Roche

TRUE LIES and CONAN psychedelic subversive conceptual Mash-Up

I picked this up by chance a couple of weeks ago; having read about it, seen this YouTube excerpt, and not expecting it to be widely available, it was immensely gratifying to just pick this up off the shelf as I walked by in Tower (to hell with purchasing a sensible amount of things at a time - this is special).

Ultimate Reality is a video collaboration between Dan Deacon and Jimmy Joe Roche, who previously created this video for Deacon's song 'Crystal Cat'. As far as I know, Dan Deacon's current US tour, if it's still going, is entirely this production rather than any of his other work. Before his gig in Dublin last year he brought his Ultimate Reality show to Sligo (think: Oregon, or maybe Seattle), to a modern arts centre there.

Ultimate Reality comes in three movements (each about 10+ minutes long) and an epilepsy warning:

"These films may cause seizures, if you suffer from seizures or epilepsy, please show this DVD to your doctor before watching"

(Not to make fun of epilepsy, but I'd love to sit down with my advanced-in-age GP and watch this video! And I'm not sure if there's such a thing as aural seizures, but this production is as likely as anything to cause them if they exist)

I guess there's a delicious irony in the creation of a project entitled 'Ultimate Reality' using the distorted images of that monosyllabic and monolithic icon of American culture, Arnold Schwarznegger. Plus it's pretty fucking cool. Especially the bit in this excerpt where he stares at his clenched fist, like he's wondering what to do with it...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Guyver-1: The Bio-Weapon

I don't know all that much about this band, except that they were another good mid-90s screamo/hardcore band. And what more could you want?

Fourfa has Guyver-1 at the end of his list of the best 'hardcore emo' records for their s/t 7", which he describes with extreme concision as:

"a little late in the game, but still fantastically good hardcore"

The rest of that list, by the way, is made up of such other fantastic hardcore records as Heroin, Swing Kids, Reach Out and Mohinder. So whatever you may think of Andy Radin's arbitrary classifications, and interpretation of scene history (personally, I think it's a great resource and very excellently written), you should get a good idea of what the band sounds like.

It's typically abrasive-yet-melodic hardcore emo, yet with a certain twist. Here's blend's description of that 7" from Zen and the Art of Face Punching:

"Super frantic early screamo from none other than San Diego. Very similar to Swing Kids, Antioch Arrow, Clikatat Ikatowi and Heroin (theres gotta be something in the water there). The funny thing about this record is the Grandmaster Flash and Sugar Hill Gang records playing in the background of the recording... Very similar to the Indian Summer song Angry Son, with the Bessie Smith record playing... Funny, and then the band cuts your entrails out with a swift razor sharp blast and youre not laughing anymore.... until the next break when you can hear more old school hip-hop. Yay."

Download: Guyver-One - 7"

Now, while the 7" is an awesome record - "balls to the walls" to use blend's words again - Guyver-1 did also have a full-length record, entitled Obsessed With.... It's nowhere near as good as the 7", but I really don't think it's all that bad, and in fact it's quite good.

I can't say all that much about it now because - ironically - the burned CD copy I have won't play in my stereo at the moment, but trust me that it's worth a listen. I guess I intended writing a sizeable apologia for the album, yet for now I can't offer much more than a vague description

Obsessed With... lacks a lot of the focus and energy of the s/t 7", but that's not to say that it doesn't have its moments of viscera and punch. At times - and indeed, often - the abrasiveness gives way to a lot of quiet, instrumental passages, including, in one case I think, a piano. I rememeber listening to this a while ago and thinking that Obsessed With... represented accordingly the valuable progressive trend in hardcore - that is, the willingness to bring in different artistic styles to aid the expression of what, in essence, is a very singular, intense sound.

Unfortunately this occurs at the expense of Guyver-1's characteristic, and musically impressive, intensity. Maybe this particular of hardcore is best listened to only on 7"s - there are other albums which wander a little bit too, like Merel's s/t, or Clikatat Ikatowi's Orchestrated and Conducted.... The Swing Kids disco provides a kind of half-exception to that rule, as it works as an excellent, cohesive (albeit very short) album, but it is actually only a collection of 7"s and parts of 7"s. Equally, the lengthy Mohinder discography delivers the Guyver-esque abrasiveness in a long sequence of bursts. You can judge for yourself whether Guyver's attempt to translate abrasive and intensive mid 90s hardcore into a real album works or falls flat...

Download: Guyver-One - Obsessed With...

Edit: go here for scans of all the artwork from the 7"

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Abilene - s/t - (after

Some post-hardcore Hoover expansiveness...

It would probably be a while before I got round to posting this, if I waited until I could put together my own words to describe what is an absolute beauty of an album. So for the moment at least, I'm lifting this part of a post from Egg City Radio, formerly Post Punk Junk. It's not too much of a crime, I think, as most of it is lifted from other reviews in the first place. Of course, there are a few words I will say anyway:

Namely that Abilene, the most recent of Alex Dunham's post-Hoover bands, is a tale of two groups - essentially, one with Fred Erskine, and one (of this album) without. I think to explain the difference it would be easiest to direct you to tracks #6 and #9 of the Hoover mixtape. Personally, although I discovered the second album Two Guns, Twin Arrows first, Abilene is the subtle, slow-burning winner of the contest between them. Just about.


“Presumably named for the central Texas town, Abilene is a Chicago trio with a rich, deep sound. Their songs focus on the fluid, dynamic interplay between guitar and bass. The bass provides a comfortable, sidling groove for the guitar(s) to dance around; sometimes it’s a slow waltz, sometimes an amphetamine-fueled breakdance, but regardless of the mood, that assured bass groove keeps things smooth. Busy, syncopated percussion makes these songs intensely rhythmic. Occasionally singer (and guitarist) Alex Dunham adds bleak, muttering vocals, but the words are spread sparsely throughout Abilene’s songs, as the band members are more interested in their instruments’ quiet synergy. Every so often, Abilene builds to a rough, angular crescendo that seems to release a bit of the boxed-up electricity of their moody pieces, but for the most part their songs are all about low-tempo restraint that places equal focus on each instrument…(t)he members of this trio are all accomplished musicians, as a look at their respective resumes will indicate: Dunham formerly served in little-known post-punk greats Regulatorwatts and Hoover. Bassist Craig Ackerman was in Lustre King and drummer Scott Anderson was in Chisel Drill Hammer.”

- Jesse Ashlock, Epitonic

"The above description might make the band sound like a ton of other post-rock combos from the same era, such as the incredible The For Carnation, but a strange devotion to the emo leanings of its own yesteryear, coupled with dense and focused composition, sets Abilene apart. I always love to highlight songs that make for great bike ride listening, since I do spend an hour each day as I ride back and forth from work, and the Abilene song “October” is a killer. A reviewer named Jim Steed at put it best:"

“…the guitar and bass parts are much more interesting, following a swirling pattern for a very hypnotic effect. The payoff here soars, the guitar changing sound, turning into an approaching pack of jet planes poised for attack."



Monday, February 11, 2008

Editors - The Racing Rats (vinyl rip + art post)


Apologies if my posting a lot of vinyl releases is taking away too much of this blog's focus on, er, mid-90s hardcore and post-hardcore that I heard a decade too late. But I think my nostalgic and not-so-nostalgic purchases still kind of link up with that whole line of music.

I think it's good also to take some of the focus off American rock bands and show some stuff more related to what's happening over here. Which is, mostly, a continued explosion of sloppy post-pop-punk or, as Jeffen from music ruined my life explains it, "The British need to crank out a recycled guitar-bass-drums pop band every fifteen minutes to keep the boys in the press happy". I'm looking at you, Arctic Monkeys, Pigeon Detectives, et al - plenty of bands with plenty of good points, but all together way too, uh, plentiful. (That said, their pressure on the airwaves seems to have reduced somewhat recently, thanks to sloppy Irish post-pop-punk - way to go Ham Sandwich!). Anyway, there are a few notable bands with a bit of class, like these chaps, Editors.

(Apologies, also, if the pictures slow your browser - I try to keep the self-serving, pretentious scans to a minimum but at the same time, I do need to show the full set.)

But if you're still looking for something more punk, check out this (coincidentally British) guy's blog, The Poet You Never Were, for lots of "emo, screamo, d-beat, emo-violence, post-hardcore", mostly on vinyl - and also check out a new, again also UK, blog, See the sticks you've thrown.


the sounds

The Racing Rats

Part 1: (Limited Edition Numbered Red Vinyl) Kitchenware Records SKX97, 2007.

Part 2: Kitchenware Records SKX972, 2007.

A 01 - 'The Racing Rats' (Live)

B 02 - 'Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors' (Live Demo)

A 03 - 'The Racing Rats' (Original Demo)

B 04 - 'A Thousand Pieces'


'The Racing Rats' is the third single from the Editor's An End Has A Start and is quite similar to 'Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors': slow, heavy rhythm alternating with frantic, high-pitched guitar. It's a good song, very effective and even a little dancey in parts. And it's got that one line that sounds really profound even when you haven't worked out what it means yet, 'If a plane were to fall from the sky/How big a hole would it leave/In the surface of the earth?'

'Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors' works very well as a live recording, too. Here the crystalline guitar is heard less flawlessly than on the album or single recording, which even gives it more feeling. Obviously 'The Racing Rats' and 'Smoking Outside The Hospital Doors' make a good pairing. Both the live recordings are of very good quality and any differences only add to the feel of the songs.

Conversely, the sparse sound of the demo 'Racing Rats', consists mainly (but not, I think, entirely) the vocals and piano of lead singer Tom Smith. Somehow, hearing the song devoid of the trademark post-punk revival guitar sound of Editors heightens the intensity of the rhythm and the lyrics. Sparser, but barely less accomplished than the full track.

Finally, the b-side 'A Thousand Pieces' is a little post-punk gem, a kind of simpler song but no less emotive ('Imagine how a father feels/to witness his son in a fight/London hides her starry night/she covers them all up with light'). Same, but different, kind of guitar riff and this kind of sense of joyous, slightly bittersweet movement throughout the song. In it you can hear strong echoes of the Smiths or even the Clash, mixed with Editor's unsuppressable brand of soaring indie rock.


the art

A large part of my fascination with Editors has to do with their artwork, all of which surrounding the album An End Has A Start is done by one man, artist Idris Khan. The pictures above are to show that the quality extends beyond the vinyl releases: the CD of An End Has A Start comes in a stiff (non-standard size) booklet, with silvered lettering on the back and a suede-like material on the front (hence the finger smudges) and the disc itself in a separate wax-paper sleeve. I suppose overall it's a little pretentious, but hey, this is an art-school band after all and it's gratifying to see some thought going to rewarding the consumer's purchase of their physical product.

Regardless of what you may think of the music, I'd be interested to know how the Editors aesthetic comes across, because I know there are quite a few people who read the blog with a background in art and design:

1978 born Birmingham, lives and works in London

Khan creates multi-layered photographs, often of appropriated art and books, in a way that both augments the aura of the original and reveals the idiosyncratic trace of his own hand. Khan's work explores the history of photography and literature, the beauty of repetition and the anxieties of authorship. "it's obviously not about re-photographing the photographs to make exact copies, but to intervene and bring a spectrum of feelings - warmth, humour, anxiety - to what might otherwise be considered cool aloof image. You can see the illusion of my hand in the layering. It looks like a drawing. It's not systematic or uniform. The opacity of every layer is a different fallible, human decision".

(Idris Khan at the Victoria Miro Gallery, London)

every... Bernd & Hilla Becher Spherical Type Gasholder, 2004

(Lamda digital C print mounted on aluminium)

The architectural works are a common theme of Editors covers, and like I said before they reflect well the kind of music and especially the post-punk aesthetic: industrial, structural, yet quintessentially historic and British. This one is not on any Editors release that I know of, and indeed it looks slightly different - colder somehow, more painterly.

every... page of the Holy Koran, 2004

(Lamda digital C print mounted on aluminium)

Probably sacrilegious, but fascinating all the same and definitely introduces the ghostly aspect of these layered images, kind of like an X-ray with the stark whiteness and shaded blurs, each character multiplied hundreds (thousands?) of times.

every... William Turner postcard from Tate Britain, 2004

(Lamda digital C print mounted on aluminium)

Sheer Britishness again, and probable effrontery to an artistic institution. Turner's watercolours are themselves simultaneously vague and blurred and packed full of detail and layered meaning: interestingly, it seems to me that the piece as a whole is most evocative of his best known work, The Fighting Téméraire tugged to her last Berth to be broken up.

Struggling to Hear....After Ludwig van Beethoven Sonatas, 2005

(Lamda digital C print mounted on aluminium)

Another textual piece, but appropriately musical. Each note layered until so obscured as to seem deliberately erased...

Friday, February 8, 2008

Friday Video - Skins Series 2 Trailer

josephlovesit over at Geek Down recently did a post about one of his favourite TV shows, It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. In truth, it's the latest in a long series of television-related posts, stretching back a while.

Personally I really like the idea of treating TV as a culture equivalent to music. As it's something I have a great deal of interest in, I'd add in literature. The best forms of each culture are all items of smart entertainment, whether it be a good album, a good book or a quality TV show. At the same time, the band, the author or the series all provide a focus for the shared enjoyment of the many of the one thing, the kind of ideal that turns something from entertainment into culture. Basically, it's culture if it's worth talking about, and telling other people about. (Can you tell I'm not a media studies student yet?)

I mostly use YouTube for looking at music videos, rather than fat kids making themselves look stupid (but if you want to see that, I recommend you go here). As such, the Friday Video is more than likely going to be the latest single from some hip, new-ish band, but equally it should encompass a broad range of audio-visual culture.

Also, this is the emo-est thing I've seen in a while.

Skins, by the way, is a British teen comedy-drama on E4/C4 (the channel that likes to shock!). The first series was introduced by a similar trailer which you can see here. Skins is really rather good, even if it is just the middle-class adaptation of the much better series Shameless, now on its fourth series, created by the same producers (but a different writer) set in a Manchester council estate (whereas all the characters in Skins are college-age suburban kids). Not surprisingly, Skins seems to be quite popular amongst all the college-age, suburban kids I know (including myself). But Shameless really is much funnier.


Skins Series II The Uncut Trailer!

Song: Nude by Radiohead

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Double Slowcore Post

slint, spiderland

codeine, barely real

Spiderland: Steve Albini sez (or rather, said)

"ten fucking stars" ... "Spiderland is a majestic album, sublime and strange, made more brilliant by its simplicity and quiet grace. .... Spiderland is flawless. The dry, unembellished recording is so revealing it sometimes feels like eavesdropping. The crystalline guitar of Brian McMahan and the glassy, fluid guitar of David Pajo seem to hover in space directly past the listener's nose. The incredibly precise-yet-instinctive drumming has the same range and wallop it would in your living room. .... Play this record and kick yourself if you never got to see them live."

Barely Real: rare etchings

Side A - "A piece of string walks into a bar"

Side B - "and orders a beer"

Go here to listen to 'Nosferatu Man' by Slint

Go here to listen to 'Realize' by Codeine

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Hot Water Music - 'Paper Thin' (video)

This is the third track on A Flight And A Crash, probably my favourite HWM album (just ordered it on coloured vinyl, along with Fuel For The Hate Game, my second favourite and generally considered their 'best' album - so I'm pretty psyched).

'Paper Thin' isn't necessarily the best song on A Flight And A Crash, but it's probably the catchiest and the best structured. Watching the video again, I feel like it channels a lot of the anthemic spirit of the band's preceding album, No Division, while also being a very smart, open-minded post-hardcore song.