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Monday, October 30, 2006

Cornelius at Shibuya Apple Store

I'm not a fan myself but if you are, Cornelius will be at the Apple Store in Shibuya (map) on November 13th from 8-9pm. Entrance is free and he may play some tracks from his new album. Here are some nice apples that you won't be able to buy there:

Call Mulder and Scully

When I mentioned in the last post that Caucus sounded a little like St. Johnny it was the first time I'd thought about that band in a long time. I have one of their albums back in the UK but I haven't heard it in years and I suddenly wanted to. Yesterday I was out browsing through the huge Book Off (used book, CD and DVD store) in Kichijoji and guess what I found?

The album (Speed is Dreaming) is hardly groundbreaking but it's as good as I remember it being and it only cost 250 yen (just over a quid) so I'm not complaining. Now it's time to start thinking of obscure prog-rock albums that people like Steve Davis will buy for two grand, and hope the same thing happens all over again.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Amakudari (look it up)

Sometimes it's hard trying to find decent new music. You stand at countless listening posts, attracted to the albums by a half-remembered article you think you read in a magazine a few months ago, or you're dragged in, magpie-like by the nice shiny covers. These days we have tinternet, iTunes, radio, live 365,, etc etc, and they are supposed to make our lives easier but the honest truth is that you still end up panning through the darkest rivers, occassionally glimpsing tiny slivers of gold that grab your eye but offer only the same sustenance as the skinniest MacDonalds hamburger.

MySpace can be particularly heinous in this respect. Sure, The Arctic Monkeys might have made it big there through nothing more than word of mouth and good songs, but there's a ton of shite out there. One of the most dreaded emails in my inbox is the MySpace Friend Request. Nine times out of ten it's some pouting blonde bint allegedly called Nadine who wants to be my friend. Nadine and her friends say that they will happily gyrate in front of a video camera for me for free, but to guarantee that I'm old enough they need my credit card number. Sometimes though, the planets fall into alignment, Japanese restaurants actually take my credit card, and music from a stunning new source falls into my lap easier than a hostess who's just spied a platinum Amex card. Take Caucus. They wanted to be my friend. I thought, "Shit, it's some freaky politician who is desperately trying to cling to his seat and has decided that the way to garner votes is by snazzy web-based advertising" (rather than by trying not to be a venal, self-aggrandising, power-hungry cunt). Thankfully my cynicism was misplaced and this was no Nadine or Blair. Instead I was transported back to the time when I first started gettting seriously into music and I realised that guitars could be used in ways that Brian May had never even considered (my parents were big Queen fans). Caucus themselves admit that their influences are "80s~ indie guitar pop/rock scene (especially the early creation records... FELT, Weather Propets, and Pastels are the ones to name a few) + Johnathan Richman, Millenium, Judee Sill, The Byrds, Nagisa Ni Te, Flippers Guitar, and so on.." but the verve they bring to their music makes them more than mere copyists. Bits of early Teenage Fanclub, St. Johnny, poppy Sonic Youth, Fluf and lots more fly about in there and it sounds fucking fantastic. Hell, I'm giving this lot my credit card number.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Best is Coming, Limited Express (has gone?), Memory Lab

Formed in 1998 and imbued with the genes of the Kansai scene that produced Japanese indie luminaries such as The Boredoms and Shonen Knife, The Best is Coming! is a perfect example of the utter weirdness and fondness for noise that is such a large part of Japanese underground music. It's all here, present and correct: the screechy girl vocals, some in English, some in Japanese, all largely incomprehensible; the day-glo cover adorned with a naïve cartoon; the cacophonous three minute blasts of sound that start, stop, and skitter about like a drunk octopus on ice skates. But the question is, is it any good, or is it just another novelty that seemed like a good idea in the record shop but once home is akin to waking up next to someone who was the living definition of 'sex on legs' last night but in the harsh light of morning is as attractive as a Republican? Luckily this album stays true to the promise it showed on the listening post.

The band set out their stall right from the album opener Sacrificial Jesus Child and don't veer far from it over the next forty minutes. Given that they manage to cram at least three or four separate songs and styles into each track this doesn't mean that The Best is Coming! is boring. False starts and stops, and major changes in time signatures abound here, keeping the listener on their toes and at times driving a reviewer to drink – I lost count of the number of times I had to score out something I'd written about a certain song because said song would suddenly morph into something completely different making whatever I'd written redundant, before changing back into the song it had been before just as I'd finished writing something else. Bastards.

ALOHA! and Sweet music on the Beach are probably the most straightforward songs on the album (in the sense that there are maybe only two separate songs duking it out in the mash up). ALOHA! takes the intro from The Clash's version of I Fought The Law and welds it to a swirling guitar part, while vocalist YUKARI yelps the title over and over. Of course, after a minute or so the scenery changes and we're plunged into a good old-fashioned hardcore thrash where guitarist Jinichiro Iida takes over hollering duties. Sweet music on the Beach is a dramatic change of pace, everything slows down and the spirit of Yo La Tengo seems to possess the band. The lyrics (shared by Iida and YUKARI) are spoken rather than yelled and sound like a stream of consciousness. The feeling of Yo La Tengo-ness is confirmed when the amps are turned up and the previously sedate guitars become a wall of distortion, before dying down and retreating once more into the background.

The stand out tracks on the album though are both towards the end. Stop Go starts off sounding like the intro to a James Brown song, visits dEUS territory, and has a brief flirtation with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's Spread Your Love (with a raver's whistle over the top for good measure) before going back to where it started. The military march and the phrasing of the vocals of album closer 2x5=10 make it a distant cousin to PiL's Rise, at least to begin with. As the song goes on YUKARI's vocals become increasingly unhinged and the instruments soon follow suit. It's as if the exertions of the preceding 11 songs have been too much and the band is making one final, demented lunge for the finishing line. It's draining but it's the only way an album like this could end.

The album also comes with a DVD containing promotional videos for Sacrificial Jesus Child and SPY, as well as live footage from both Australia and Japan. The SPY video is much better than the song – its swirling Warholian footage of the band playing looks like a projection from the loft part section of Midnight Cowboy. The live performances are the real gems here though as they make you realise just how adept and tight this band is. They may sound like three people who haven't been introduced playing completely different songs, but watching them live reveals this to be a fine piece of legerdemain on the band's part. Nothing in this apparently lunatic music is left to chance.

The Best is Coming! is not perfect: there are times (on SPY for example) where the 'throw it all in the mixer and see what happens' approach doesn't work and it starts to grate a little, but that's to be expected. Most of the time this album and band are fascinating, and each song reveals something different of itself every time you listen to it. A review of the most recent Mars Volta album said something along the lines that a band who use so many disparate ideas and styles in the space of each song may soon find their creative well has run dry. This is perhaps a problem that Limited Express (has gone?) could face in the future given that they often sound like a condensed Mars Volta, but one whose idea of an epic song is one that clocks in at six minutes rather than sixteen. The similarities are there – the prog rock passages, the changes in time signature, the jazz tinges (especially the drumming), and most importantly, the complete lack of fear and the willingness to try and shoe-horn 101 ideas into one song. This is what makes Limited Express (has gone?) so interesting and it may ultimately turn out to be their undoing, but at least they've got the balls to try. Surely that should be applauded in a world that is becoming ever more homogeneous and averse to risk?

Friday, October 20, 2006

A sudden increase in posting?

I actually got off my arse today and went and bought some CDs, so expect some posts that actually adhere to the original reasoning behind this blog.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Some Jokes

Some good, some bad, some ugly. It's a bit like having lots of emails from friends who have too much free time on their hands all collected in one place.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Live Music Archive

Read about this in Mojo and had a look at it last night - it's a remarkable archive of live music, all free, and all available to download legally. There's a huge range of stuff here, everything I've downloaded so far has been of good to high quality sound-wise, and there's bound to be something you like. Click on the link.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

James Blunt Must Die

This is a blog that I started last month but haven't really done much with yet. I want this blog to be a place where people can rant and rave about all the books, bands etc that they detest. Hopefully people will read these rants and be a) entertained, and b) able to avoid whatever has been written about. I've opened the blog up to contributions from anyone, so if you want to join in, please email me and I'll add you. Cheers.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Keiko's Homepage (click here and read it first)

This is a recommendation from Hurley who mentioned the website in a comment he posted. To expand slightly on what I said in my response I think there are a number of possibilities here:

1) She's for real.
2) The page is run by a pervert who wants pics of young white men under 35. Maybe he has a fetish for English teachers who will fuck anything, or maybe he read Charisma Man and wanted to see if these kinds of people actually exist (and we all know they do).
3) It's run by a fundamental God-botherer (doesn't matter what variety, they're all as bad as each other anyway) who believes he/she is on a divine mission to rid the world of sinners, fornicators, harlots, and lead us away from this modern day Sodom and back into the bosom of God. Of course, he (because it's most likely to be a man) has some serious sexual issues and probably partakes of the flesh of the sinners before he smites them, but this is just a further indication that the planet needs cleansing because even an upright, Godly man like himself can be tempted by these beasts.
4) It's being run as a joke to see just how many dumb men send their pictures in.
5) It's being run by the Yakuza as a way to get the personal information of people who would be very easy to shake down.

What do you think? Any of the above or something I haven't even thought of? Let me know. By the way, I realise this post has absolutely nothing to do with music but after looking at the website I felt it was something that had to be mentioned.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Any Recommendations For The Weekend?

Here we again, free from work for another two days and I'm not sure what to do with myself. I haven't looked at yet but has anyone got any recommendations for shows this weekend? (Disclaimer: I am aware that the point of this blog is to for me to try and find bands and report their existence to the wider world, hopefully bringing them fame, fortune, and all the Class A's they can handle. However, this hasn't been a great week and I'm not feeling so intrepid. Any help will be gratefully received and duly noted. Thank you.)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

An emotional rollercoaster

(Or how to go from hating Japan, to loving it, to loving it even more, all in the space of twenty minutes). Is this why I'm still here years after I said I would leave, because Japan keeps teasing me and playing strange games with my mind? I went to a fairly big chain izakaya for dinner and made the foolish mistake of trying to use my credit card to pay for it - flexible friend my arse. In certain places in Japan a credit card is about as welcome as a priest in a playground, and the local branch of this place is one of those places. After a good fifteen minutes of phonecalls, bowing, more phonecalls, more bowing, and numerous offers of a glass of water, it was decided that my credit card wouldn't work on their system (they're obviously using Spectrum 48k computers). Needless to say, I was not a happy bunny, and as sometimes happens at moments like that I was on the verge of an internal rant about why I hate Japan and why the sooner I get out of here the better, etc etc. I was forgetting one important fact here though - in Japan they trust people. They took a photocopy of my ID card and I went back and paid the bill tonight. No queries, no questions, no being made to feel like some kind of criminal. When we finally got out of the izakaya I remembered that I wanted to buy tickets for Mogwai's show in November. But it's 11pm. On a Tuesday night. In the 'burbs. Surely you have to wait? No, Japanese convenience stores actually live up to their name, and they must have upgraded to the Spectrum 128k, because a few minutes later I had to Mogwai tickets clasped in my sweaty paws, paid for using the very same credit card that flummoxed the other lot. Happy days.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Top 10 - September

Better late than never (as if anyone actually cares that much), here is the non-singing, non-dancing, completely feature-free Top 10 for September. It's in no particular order and it's basically the ten songs I've probably listened to the most in September (and not according to Last.Fm or they'd all be Tenacious D songs). Anyway, here you are:

1) Rod - Group_Inou
2) Like - Mosquito
3) Shoot Speed Kill Light - Primal Scream
4) Ping Pong Pang - Shift
5) Private Lesson 2 (Mix CD) - Various, mixed by ECD
6) Tributaries - Proud Simon (MySpace)
7) Sign - Keishiro Iwatani
8) It's Jesus On The Phone - The Future King of Scotland (MySpace)
9) H.I.L.L.T.O.P - Akai Giwacku
10) Half Past France - John Cale

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Not the film, but me. No posts for a few days, unable to make it to the Aloha show last night, and haven't done a Top 10 for September yet. Pretty fucking shoddy work - I could get a job at the new Wembley. Went to Taiwan at the weekend so that's my main excuse for the lack of posting over the last few days. Something unexpected came up at work yesterday, so no Aloha show - if anyone went, please tell us how it was. No Top 10 for September because... I just didn't get my arse in gear. I will do my best to rectify all this in the next couple of days (except the Aloha show, haven't got very far with the time machine yet).