Posts Tagged ‘Echo & The Bunnymen’

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Ex(x) Lover

Friendly Fires and The XX at The Phoenix in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangWhen I caught Friendly Fires at Lee’s Palace back at the end of March, they were here as support for White Lies and their high-energy disco party easily stole the show from the angst-ridden headliners. And while their profile has since grown to the point that they were able to play their fourth local show in just over a year on Wednesday night at the Phoenix, buzz-wise the shoe was on the other foot – the gig was sold out, but that was largely because the show also marked the Toronto debut of the astonishingly-hyped (including in these parts, yes) London outfit, The xx.

The band’s narrative had taken a turn over the past month, gone from focusing on their slinky and skeletal blend of R&B and indie rock to the departure of guitarist Baria Qureshi and their subsequent reconfiguration as a trio, not that any of the off-stage drama had dampened anyone’s enthusiasm for the performance. Very few were playing the “show up late, nuts to the opener” game this evening and when The xx strode onstage, you’d be forgiven if you thought, from the response that they were the main attraction. Coming in, I’d heard that the band were both extremely dull and amazing live – and I can see how both points of view could be reached. To the former, they don’t really do much. Jamie Smith perches behind a DJ booth emblazoned with glowing band logos working the sampler and drum machine while Romy Croft and Oliver Sim stand on either side with guitar and bass, respectively, and do their sleepy, seductive thing. The thing is, what should they be doing? Their music isn’t the sort that requires a lot of visual accompaniment, and if either of them were to act out, it would be completely at odds with their aesthetic. No, gentle swaying and the occasional sideways glance was pretty much what was demanded of them and their performance matches the atmosphere of the music perfectly.

Musically, they struck a perfect balance between reproducing the spaces and textures of XX and stretching out a bit – when you’re working with structures as minimalist as they, moving something around a little makes a big difference. Obviously I’ve no point of comparison, but it was hard to imagine where Qureshi’s contributions would have gone – Croft seemed able to cover all the necessary guitar parts with no problem, and intertwined seamlessly with Sim’s basslines and Smith’s real-time drum machining (is there a word for that?). Playing the triggers live rather than relying on loops or samples kept things from feeling overly mechanical, for as much as technology underpins their sound, the net result is wholly organic. Their set ran just over half an hour – short and efficient, but not unreasonable considering the amount of material they had to draw on – but most importantly, it established that they could weave the same magic live as they do on record. Definitely looking forward to their April 20 return engagement at the Kool Haus in support of Hot Chip.

I’d heard that at other stops on the tour, much of the crowd cleared out after the opener and left no doubt who they were there to see. I was pleased to see that that wasn’t the case here, because really – even if you wanted to see The xx, you paid for the ticket, were already here and unless you were truly committed to the art of the mope, you couldn’t not enjoy Friendly Fires live. As they did in March, they delivered a set that was absurdly tight, pure discofied fun though this time they brought along a little extra in the form of a horn section to go with their manic percussion, synth and guitar maelstrom. In addition to extra players, another benefit of the larger tour was the real estate – frontman Ed Macfarlane took full advantage of the larger Phoenix stage in busting out his uniquely undulating dance moves, all shake and shimmy and equally awesome and ridiculous to behold.

Like the openers, their set was brief by conventional rock show standards – 50 minutes including encore – but in that span they put more sweat and kinetic energy they put into their performance than most bands do in twice the time. And anyways, they played the entirety of their Mercury-nominated self-titled debut plus latest single “Kiss Of Life” – pretty much their whole repertoire. I’d challenge anyone complaining about the length of the show to tell me what else they’d have expected to hear, but really, I don’t think I’d have been able to find anyone complaining. Come for The xx, stay for the Friendly Fires, leave completely satisfied.

Panic Manual, Exclaim and eye were both in attendance and have reviews. has an interview with Friendly Fires while AUX.TV has a video interview, eye, Metro, Time Out and Rolling Stone print features and MPR a streamable session.

Photos: Friendly Fires, The XX @ The Phoenix – December 2, 2009
MP3: Friendly Fires – “Jump In The Pool”
MP3: Friendly Fires – “Paris” (Aeroplane Remix)
MP3: The xx – “Basic Space”
Video: Friendly Fires – “Kiss Of Life”
Video: Friendly Fires – “Skeleton Boy”
Video: Friendly Fires – “Paris”
Video: Friendly Fires – “Jump In The Pool”
Video: Friendly Fires – “On Board”
Video: The xx – “Basic Space”
Video: The xx – “Crystalised”
MySpace: Friendly Fires
MySpace: The xx

The Village Voice talks to The Big Pink’s Robbie Furze.

AUX.TV has a video interview with Florence Welch of Florence & The Machine, The Irish Independent a profile.

Lots of new videos coming out of the UK – Richard Hawley has one from the second single off of Truelove’s Gutter

Video: Richard Hawley – “Open Up Your Door”

The Twilight Sad have released a new clip from Forget The Night Ahead.

Video: The Twilight Sad – “Seven Days Of Letters”

Have a first look and listen at Lightspeed Champion’s next album Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You, out February 16.

Video: Lightspeed Champion – “Marlene”

Good news – Fanfarlo has released a new video from Reservoir. Bad news – both Canadian dates have disappeared from their tour itinerary. Actually, make that “terrible news”. The only upside is that I can now go see Blue Roses at the Drake that night, but it’s small comfort. Boo. The Houston Chronicle interviews bassist Justin Finch.

Video: Fanfarlo – “Harold T. Wilkins”

Liam Gallagher tells This Is London that he may well continue on with Noel as Oasis. An album’s worth of Liam compositions. That can’t possibly go wrong.

The Age talks to Patrick Wolf.

They Shoot Music has a video session with Camera Obscura. The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, Jackson Free Press and St. Louis Today have interviews with various band members.

Despite having their Fall US tour scuppered by the IRS, Echo & The Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch tells Spinner that they intend to return to this continent in the Spring and following the success of the Ocean Rain shows, perhaps play both Crocodiles and Heaven Up Here in their entirety. If you’re a fan of Porcupine, however, you are SOL. Sorry.

Adam Franklin & The Bolts Of Melody have scheduled a North American tour, including a January 31 date at the Drake Underground, that’ll probably cover their 2009 release Spent Bullets and their just-completed new record I Could Sleep For A Thousand Years, out sometime in 2010.

Friday, November 27th, 2009

7 & 3 Is The Striker's Name

Paul Weller teams up with Kevin Shields for new single

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangComing via The Guardian, here’s an unexpected collaboration to wind out the week – Paul Weller has completed work on a new album entitled Wake Up The Nation and while a release date is still forthcoming, the first single from has been released and it features the fruits of a collaboration with none other than My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields. “7 & 3 Is The Striker’s Name” pairs the Modfather with the godfather of shoegaze (Shields doesn’t have a catchy nickname that appropriately describes his stature) and while the tune is a bit out of Weller’s typical wheelhouse, it’s still pretty recognizable as him – even with Shields layering jet plane noises overtop.

The tune is is available to download for 99p via 7Digital, or you can just watch the trippy albeit Shields-less video. NB – The one on Weller’s own website has better audio and video quality than the YouTube one linked.

Video: Paul Weller with Kevin Shields – “7 & 3 Is The Striker’s Name”

On the subject of My Bloody Valentine, both and CDWow has the long-rumoured, oft-delayed reissues of Loveless and Isn’t Anything available for pre-order with a January 4 on-sale date noted. Could these finally be coming out?

Ian McCulloch of Echo & The Bunnymen submits to a Q&A with New York Magazine.

Spinner reports that Graham Coxon hopes Blur aren’t done for good, just for now.

Both eye and NOW welcome The xx to town for their first-ever Toronto gig at the Phoenix next Wednesday with Friendly Fires. Their second-ever Toronto gig is already scheduled for April 20 at the Kool Haus in support of Hot Chip. The Seattle Times also has an interview.

Also making their first visit to Toronto is The Big Pink, who are at the under renovation Lee’s Palace on Sunday night. NOW has an interview with the English duo.

Florence Welch of Florence & The Machine tells BBC that she’s preparing to start recording the follow-up to Lungs in January of the new year. In the meantime, the super-deluxe version of her debut is coming out next week and she’s released a second video for “You’ve Got The Love” which also functions as an advert for Stella Artois. But is a cool video first.

Video: Florence & The Machine – “You’ve Got The Love”

The Sydney Morning Herald chats with Patrick Wolf.

For a limited time, The Futureheads are giving away a free download of a song from album number four. No dawdling. Emirates Business has an interview with the band.

BBC talks to White Lies about their plans for recording album number two.

RockFeedback has an acoustic video interview and session with Sky Larkin.

Tom Campesinos of Los Campesinos talks Romance Is Boring, out February 1, with Drowned In Sound.

Highland News talks to Frightened Rabbit about recent lineup changes and their forthcoming record The Winter Of Mixed Drinks, out on March 1. A Daytrotter session with the band has just gone up; only old songs, though – no sneak peaks at new.

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Walking In The Park

Review of The Clientele’s Bonfires On The Heath

Photo By Andy WillsherAndy WillsherMy trip to London last May yielded no shortage of fond and lasting memories, but one of the most vivid is also one of the most unremarkable and inexplicable. My plan for my first visit to the city was pretty much to pick a particular district or two for each day I was there and just wander – one day, the West End, the next day, Soho, Covent Garden and Westminster, the day after, the East End and Greenwich. Greenwich wasn’t a place I had any particular prior affinity for, but I was told it was worth the extended tube ride to get out of the city for a bit and the Royal Observatory, marker of the Prime Meridian, was worth a gander. So I went and did the straddle-two-hemispheres thing, and before heading back down, I stopped and sat at the top of the observatory hill in Greenwich Park, gazing down at the expansive park and the enormity of London behind it, and that image just burned into my mind.

The point of this little meander down memory lane being that if there was a soundtrack for that moment, or even the trip as a whole, it would be The Clientele. Not literally – I don’t really listen to much music when I travel – but there’s not really another band out there right now that feels more like London to me. And that’s interesting because they don’t evoke the typical images of the city, not the history, the culture or the energy – instead, they sound like a respite from all of that. A pause, a stepping out from the non-stop hustle and commotion and taking a moment to oneself in a patch of greenery, filtered through the gauzy haze of memory.

The band’s last two records God Save The Clientele and Strange Geometry are my go-to records for when I want to recapture that feeling of aimless freedom and their latest, Bonfires On The Heath, slides in quite nicely alongside them. It moves at an easy cadence, occasionally with an extra spring in its step or a Spanish accent, but throughout, Alisdair Maclean’s gentle vocals are buoyed by Mel Draisey’s backing vox over a shimmering bed of tremoloed guitars, tinkling pianos and spiraling trumpet, every note capturing the very essence of Autumn’s dusk. The Clientele indeed have a specific recipe they adhere to from album to album, but it’s one that transports me almost instantly to my happy place which, apparently, is the top of a hill in Greenwich. I had been debating whether or not I wanted to go back to London next Spring or maybe visit somewhere I haven’t been before (namely Tokyo) but I think I’ve just made up my mind.

MP3: The Clientele – “Harvest Time”
MP3: The Clientele – “I Wonder Who We Are”
Stream: The Clientele / Bonfires On The Heath
MySpace: The Clientele

And from one of my favourite English bands to another, Lucky Soul have begun streaming the a new taste of their forthcoming second album, still untitled but due out in the early part of next year. “White Russian Doll” will be released as a single on January 11 and, alongside “Whoa Billy”, make a pretty good argument for this possibly/probably being one of the pop highlights of 2010. Mayhap I should time any visits to the UK to coincide with some gigs? Wouldn’t be the first time I went out of my way to see them.

Stream: Lucky Soul – “White Russian Doll”
MP3: Lucky Soul – “Whoa, Billy”

SX interviews Patrick Wolf.

Interview has a brief chat with Oliver Sim of The xx. The band is set to start a North American tour tonight that hooks up with Friendly Fires in Austin next week and swings up to Toronto on December 2 for a show at the Phoenix. Things have been pretty quiet since the drama a few weeks ago with guitarist Baria Quereshi’s exhaustion forcing the cancellation of a few shows – can one assume that everything and everyone is back on track?

Echo & The Bunnymen’s North American tour, on the other hand, was knocked completely off track last week when they cancelled the whole jaunt on account of red tape and tax demands from the IRS. Glad we got them in town when we did. Ian McCulloch has a conversation with Spinner.

A trailer for the forthcoming Mogwai live documentary Burning, which premieres in Copenhagen this week, has emerged. It looks quiet. Then loud. And intense all the way through.

Trailer: Burning

Minnesota Public Radio is streaming a studio session with The Mountain Goats.

The Magnetic Fields have announced details of their next album, which will be entitled Realism and is due out on January 26 of the new year. Details, cover art and track listing at Exclaim!

Magnet plays over/under with the repertoire of The Flaming Lips.

NPR is streaming a live Mountain Stage concert from Yo La Tengo.

Beatroute talks to head Hidden Camera Joel Gibb. They play the Opera House on December 5.

Yeah he was just here on Saturday, but he’s coming back. That’s Justin Townes Earle and the date is March 1, 2010, at the Horseshoe.

MP3: Justin Townes Earle – “Midnight At The Movies”

This batch of show announcements didn’t even really need formal announcements, but consider them official – the Skydiggers holiday residency at the Horseshoe on December 18 and 19, Elliott Brood ringing in New Year’s Eve at Lee’s Palace and The Sadies doing the same at the Horseshoe – tickets for all shows $20 in advance.

The Word has assembled a really cool Google maps mash-up, marking the locations of dozens? hundreds? of the images found on famous and not-as-famous album covers. Consider your morning/afternoon/evening well and truly wasted.

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

The Right Place

Review of Monsters Of Folk’s self-titled debut and giveaway

Photo via Last.fmlast.fmUsually when you assemble a “supergroup”, you assemble top-notch artists for each conventional band position – kick-ass drummer from group A, shredmaster guitarist from group B, supreme bass-slapper from group C and a lead singer (assuming they’re not already one of A, B or C) whose usual bandmates are probably more than happy to get a break from and voila – a can’t-miss recipe that usually misses as often as it hits, if not more. Rarely, however, do you find multiple frontmen working together, with even the notion of managing egos and personalities enough to scare any right-thinking people away. The one notable exception being The Traveling Wilburys and the names involved there were so huge that it’s hard to imagine any of them really feeling insecure. Okay, maybe Jeff Lynne got tired of always being the last one to be named, but whatever.

While the principals of Monsters Of FolkMy Morning Jacket’s Jim James, M Ward and She & Him’s Matt Ward, Bright Eyes and The Mystic Valley Band’s Conor Oberst and Bright Eyes sideman and producer extraordinaire Mike Mogis – aren’t household names on the scale of the Wilburys, they are essentially superstars in the circles they run in. And while the first three’s getting together to tour as solo artists in 2004 made perfect sense, heading into the studio to craft a record of original material was less of a sure thing. After all – getting onstage to harmonize or tackle a cover is one thing, creating all new material together is quite another.

So the fact that the Monsters Of Folk self-titled debut, five years or so in the making, is pretty good on a universal scale can probably be interpreted as being terrific once the supergroup curve is applied. It achieves this largely by not trying to be much more than exactly what it advertises – James, Ward and Oberst contributing songs while Mogis ensures that while each composer’s tunes sound very much like they could have appeared on one of their own records, they still hang together seamlessly. James continues with the soulful excursions that marked the last couple of MMJ records, Ward’s pieces are rollicking AM radio revivals and Oberst still plays the moody, angsty card though he thankfully keeps his love-or-hate vibrato largely in check and doesn’t bring down the prevailing sense of fun that runs through the record as everyone romps in their common ground of classic rock, country, and yes – folk. No one would accuse them of saving A-grade material from their day jobs for this project, but nothing’s a throwaway, either. It’s a solid collection of songs from some top talent – nothing more, nothing less.

And it gives them an excuse to tour, as they currently are, and they’ll be in Toronto on Monday night, November 2, for a show at Massey Hall. Tickets are $36.50 to $49.50 with $1 from each going to Food Share, but courtesy of Against The Grain, I’ve got two pairs of tickets to the show to give away. To enter, email me at contests AT with “I want to be a Monster Of Folk for Hallowe’en” in the subject line and your full name in the body. Contest closes at midnight, October 31. Update: Special four-packs of tickets for the show are now available – buy four and they’re $25.50 each (plus $1 charity fee).

The Vancouver Sun, The Chicago Tribune and Victoria Advocate have interviews with the Monsters Of Folk.

MP3: Monsters Of Folk – “Say Please”
Video: Monsters Of Folk – “The Right Place”
MySpace: Monsters Of Folk

Express Night Out and The Vermont Cynic chat with Annie Clark of St. Vincent.

Austinist talks to Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater about their forthcoming album The Golden Archipelago, tentatively set for a February 9 release.

Rolling Stone declares The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart to be a “breaking band”. Way to stay ahead of the curve, Rolling Stone.

The Aquarian interviews Charlie Fink, frontman for Noah & The Whale. A reminder that their double-header performance in Toronto this Saturday comes with a 12-hour gap – the in-store at Criminal Records starts at noon while their headlining set at the Horseshoe begins at midnight.

The xx’s remix/cover of Florence & The Machine’s cover of Candi Staton has been given an official video, which is itself a remix of sorts of the official video of Florence’s version. Good luck sorting out the royalties on that. Florence is at the Mod Club on November 2, The XX are at the Phoenix on December 2 – if they don’t burn out first.

Video: Florence & The Machine – “You’ve Got The Love” (The xx remix)
Video: Florence & The Machine – “You’ve Got The Love”

Ian McCulloch of Echo & The Bunnymen talks to Exclaim.

Radio Free Canuckistan has a fascinating conversation with to Stuart Berman about his Broken Social biography
This Book Is Broken, and the past ten years in Canadian independent music in general. Berman is being interviewed about the book in front of a live audience this Friday night at Harbourfront Centre as part of the International Festival of Authors – congratulations go to Janet for winning the passes to the event.

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Ocean Rain

Echo & The Bunnymen at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangSince the schedule for SxSW was announced way back in March, I had one particular showcase circled and immutable on my schedule – Echo & The Bunnymen at Rusty Spurs on the Saturday night. One of the perks of attending SxSW is the opportunity to see big bands in venues much smaller than they’d normally play, and though the Liverpool legends were playing some bigger shows during the festival, the opportunity to see them for the first time in a tiny Texan gay cowboy bar was too good to pass up. And while that show was fine, it was a mild disappointment relative to my tremendous expectations. I had somehow wanted an arena-scale show in a club-scale setting (even though Echo & The Bunnymen have never really achieved arena-scale success), and they delivered a good club-scale show. Classic songs for sure, but considering I heard that some of their larger shows during SxSW were epic, I had to think that maybe they were a band who played up – or down – to their environs.

From that point of view, it followed that this past Tuesday night’s show at the very proper Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto would be something special and the promise of an orchestrally-enhanced reading of the band’s highwater mark Ocean Rain all but clinched it. It had to be a fantastic show – it promised too much to not be, and considering the high ticket price, the 1000 or so folks in attendance would rightfully be expecting one. The show was divided into two sets, the first for “the hits” and the second for the Ocean Rain recital, and the former was largely as advertised, leaning heavily on their early material – their debut Crocodiles comprised a third of the set list – but also including highlights from the post-reunion records. Some might think that pulling two from their latest record The Fountain to be excessive, but the fact is that lead single “I Think I Need It Too” was one of the highlights, not least of all because it was written with lead Bunnyman Ian McCulloch’s reduced vocal range in mind.

Ah yes, the voice – let’s get that out of the way right now. PopMatters is correct when they suggest that Mac’s voice is a rough, gravelly shadow of the magnificent instrument it once was. He can’t hit those notes anymore, occasionally wheezes where once he bellowed and as such, some of those indelible melodies have been rejigged to accommodate the new reality – the chorus of “Bring On The Dancing Horses” now bows where once it soared. But the songs remain as potent as ever and Mac delivered them with a swagger and charisma that went a good way towards compensating for the years – and I mean that vocally, not physically. Echo & The Bunnymen live is a most stationary experience, with McCulloch’s repertoire of stage moves consisting of standing still at the mic, getting a drink of water and occasionally crouching down. But back to the voice – as I mentioned in the review of that show back in March, he still has reserves of that old power that he can tap into at key moments, as he did in the chorus of “The Cutter” and in doing so, by god, turned the clock back a quarter century for a few, brief shining moments.

The reading of Ocean Rain, however, was one sustained 40-minute shining moment. Supported by a 10-piece (I think) string section, Echo & The Bunnymen made a fine case for it as one of the best records of the ’80s and anyone hearing “Silver”, rendered as majestically as it was on this night, would have great difficulty coming up with an argument against it. It’s true that strings applied injudiciously can render songs cheesy or overly pompous, but here they were just perfect – if anything, they made me wish for more and wonder what these shows must have sounded like with full orchestras at the Royal Albert Hall or Radio City Music Hall. Performing in front of projected black and white images of the band in their youth, their crystal days, the proceedings had a lovely, elegiac tone and felt as much like a tribute from McCulloch and guitarist Will Sergeant to their former bandmates, the retired Les Pattinson and late Pete De Freitas. If there was any complaint, it was that the suite ran too short but the record clocks in at under 40 minutes – there’s not a lot that can be done about that, short of calling for an impromptu orchestra jam and no one wants that.

Though they could have justifiably called it a night after that – there’s no way to top the album’s title track as a finale – they still returned for a two-song encore, finally ending the almost two-hour show (including intermission) with “Lips Like Sugar”. Finally, this was the grand, epic Echo & The Bunnymen show I’d been hoping to see. If you get the chance to see them, choose the grandest venue possible and if they promise to bring the strings, don’t dare miss it.

The Toronto Sun, Chartattack, Exclaim and eye have reviews of the show while The National Post considers the trend of bands performing classic albums in their entirety, using Echo & The Bunnymen as a case study. You can also grab a track from the new record over at RCRDLBL, in addition to the one linked below.

And yes, the photos from the show are nigh pointless – Mac hates light, and the folly of it all was compounded by having to shoot from the back of the theatre. But that’s okay, I got him good back in Austin to check those out if you want to see how well he’s aged.

Photos: Echo & The Bunnymen @ The Queen Elizabeth Theatre – October 20, 2009
MP3: Echo & The Bunnymen – “I Think I Need It Too”
Video: Echo & The Bunnymen – “The Killing Moon”
Video: Echo & The Bunnymen – “Bedbugs & Ballyhoo”
Video: Echo & The Bunnymen – “The Cutter”
Video: Echo & The Bunnymen – “The Game”
Video: Echo & The Bunnymen – “Seven Seas”
Video: Echo & The Bunnymen – “Bring On The Dancing Horses”
Video: Echo & The Bunnymen – “In The Margins”
Video: Echo & The Bunnymen – “It’s Alright”
Video: Echo & The Bunnymen – “Back Of Love”
Video: Echo & The Bunnymen – “Lips Like Sugar”
MySpace: Echo & The Bunnymen

Out digitally this month in line with the UK release, Editors’ new one In This Light & On This Evening will get a proper physical North American release on January 19 and will yet-to-be-specified bonus material not available on the UK release. This news comes the day my import of the UK release arrives, of course.

altsounds talks to Charlotte Hatherley about her new record New Worlds. Stereogum also has a new song from the record available to newsletter subscribers and a brief chat with Charlotte about the tune.

The Quietus has an interview with Florence Welch of Florence & The Machine and walks away unimpressed. Massive commenting ensues. Florence plays the Mod Club on November 2.

Paste catches up with Alasdair Maclean of The Clientele.

The Daily Growl solicits a list of seven songs from Rose Elinor Dougall.

Spinner talks to The Horrors.

eMusic and Interview have features on El Perro Del Mar, who’s just released a new video from her latest album Love Is Not Pop. She opens for Peter Bjorn & John at the Phoenix on November 11.

Video: El Perro Del Mar – “Change Of Heart”

Chartattack, The Detroit News, Metro and NOW chat with The Raveonettes. They’re at the Phoenix tonight.

HeroHill gets five funky stories from Iceland’s Sprengjuhollin, who have two dates in Toronto this weekend – Saturday night at the Rivoli and Sunday at Rancho Relaxo.