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New Rope for No Money: A November 2013 NARC Compendium

Posted on Monday, 4 November 2013 | No Comments

So the magazine what I done write for, NARC, is temporarily without a proper web home.

As such, here's a post to collect some of my pieces from this month's issue and give them a virtual place to stay. Read on for live reviews, record reviews and my interview with cult punk figurehead Vic Godard...

Live Reviews
Comanechi - The Dog & Parrot, 04/10/13
First things first: tonight’s promoters The Candy Vortex have to be commended for the impeccable detail with which they pull things of. For one night, The Dog & Parrot is transformed into a lurid, neon wormhole, with a huge projector screen playing suitably frazzled visuals and home-made t-shirts and artworks littering the venue. It’s a remarkable display of effort that truly makes the night.

Thankfully the music’s loud and crazed enough to rise to the challenge. Openers Lovely Wife offer pummelling stoner rock riffage, with their dual-drummer onslaught providing the motor propelling their chugging bass lines and winding guitar parts. More of this, please. Middlesborough’s J.B.B.S. meanwhile slam their way through a half-hour set of gnarly punk riffing that falls somewhere between tongue-in-cheek and the genuinely menacing.
Birmingham quartet Female Smell keep the onslaught going with their Stooges-indebted punk, with their frontman doing the decent thing and stripping to the waist and giving it the full writihing Iggy experience. Nasty, brutish and a hell of a lot of fun – make sure to catch them next time they’re up here.
Headliners Comanechi manage the almost impossible and pull off the most derange set of the night. Coming over like some alternative universe where the Yeah Yeah Yeahs used the noise section of Art Star as their career template, their ferocious songs strike the best when frontwoman Akiko Matsuura dumps the guitar to prowl the crowd. An uncompromising, strident end to a superb night of strange, skewed gutter art.
These New Puritans -  The Sage Gateshead, 18/10/13
The cabaret-style arrangement of Hall Two tonight may not be the most immediate aesthetic match for one-man laptop band East India Youth. No matter though, because William Doyle’s efforts easily demonstrate why critics have been playing a game of superlative top-trumps over him. Moving from tense drone to soaring synth-pop, his ambitious and intelligent set made a remarkable whole of sounds and ideas from across the electronic spectrum.
Now though, it’s time for the band that might have made this year’s finest release to take their bow. Field of Reeds might have proven too intricate for the charts, but as the stark refrains of Spiral creep out, it’s evident that what These New Puritans are offering right now is far beyond the complacency of the alternative mainstream.
As Elisa Rodrigues wraps her vocal around Jack Barnett’s hushed declarations, their current seven-piece live band mixes grand horn sections, ferocious percussion, classical piano and electronic manipulation to emerge with a startlingly complete and powerful new voice for the band. The older tracks tonight gain a whole new potency – Attack Music is a thing of violent beauty, while a comprehensively re-arranged Infinity/Ytinifni shows how far they’ve come from Beat Pyramid. It’s the new material though, like the powerful Fragment Two or the stunning coda of V (Island Song), that marks them out as such a remarkable creative force. If you won’t listen, that’s your choice – you will, however, be missing out on the best music currently coming out of these islands.
Album Review
Midlake - Antiphon
The last we saw Midlake, they had shrugged off the success that The Trials of Van Occupanther in favour of the gloomy, insular 70s folk served on their previous album The Courage of Others, a record where Pentangle overtook Granddaddy as chief inspiration.  It was a dark and knotty beast that refused to give up its pleasures easily, but those who kept at it found its pleasures.

For their fourth album Antiphon though, Midlake have undergone an even more surprising transformation. After two years of work towards the album, frontman Tim Smith decided to depart the band, leaving the remaining members to discard all previous work on it and to reconfigure themselves. It wouldn’t have been a surprise if what emerged from this period of tumult and change had been a confused or nervous offering, but instead Antiphon is a confident rebirth for the band.
Now stepping into the shoes as vocalist is guitarist Eric Pulido, and while he doesn’t stray too far from the kinds of melodic choices Tim Smith made, he does emerge as a sufficient substitute for the errant singer. While much of Antiphon’s contents don’t mark a huge step away from what has come before, what’s notable is how the emphasis has changed – where The Courage of Others was all about restraint and holding back, from the opening title track onwards this is a far more propulsive and expressive release where the rhythm section get to make their presence felt far more than before.
While the 70s remains a key influence, there’s several tracks here that suggest that the band’s work backing up John Grant on Queen of Denmark has had a dramatic effect on the band. The Old and the Young marries distant synths to rolling bass, and throughout the more purely folk numbers like Ages are broken up with shinier, poppier work.
It’s when they marry their new sonic palette to murky atmospherics as on The Weight that this new Midlake really shines: without resorting to pastiches of their previous work or needless gimmicks, they’ve pulled off the challenge of re-emerging with aplomb.
Interview - Vic Godard
As anyone who’s ever tried picking up a music magazine, watching BBC Four on a Friday night or been cornered at a gig by some old punk insisting that things were better in their day (which makes at least one thing they have in common with the prog dinosaurs they came to put in the shade), the punk explosion of the late seventies saw plenty of new, exciting, raw talent burst through into the national consciousness.
Amongst that initial wave was Vic Godard, who with bands including Subway Sect, Sex Objects and others, quickly set about taking the punk template into more literate and melodic areas. Veering from raucous indie rock, Northern Soul influences tracks and jazz experiments, Vic Godard has kept plugging away since, building up a diverse and delightful back catalogue. Ahead of a Subway Sect tour that hits The Star & Shadow Cinema on Friday 29th November, we caught up with Vic to talk about his current projects and his on-going pursuit of independence.
At present, Vic is at work on the forthcoming album 1979, Now, a new album of older material that follows the same concept of re-realised rare and unreleased material of the record 1978, Now. “It’s all the songs from the following year in one group – they’re all actually taken from one performance, with just one or two changes in the set list.” Alongside this, he’s putting together demoes for the next Subway Sect album of new material. “I’ve started on the next album after ’79, just getting three of four songs together for that. I haven’t played any of them to the band yet, as I’m still working on the four-track demoes, and I never like to take anything to the band until it’s finished. I don’t want to take a song in, then come back two weeks later and say ‘actually, the key’s changed…’”
There’s also the matter of a new career compilation on the horizon, 30 Odd Years.  “I’ve had quite a lot of input with it, not so much with the songs but the versions of the songs. We’ve not used the traditional version of Ambition, but a live version: we called it the Maggie’s Farm version, because it’s based on that rhythm with a new arrangement. It was a song that just worked live, and on that particular night [on the recording] everything fell into place.”
Following his collaboration with Irvine Welsh for the Blackpool EP, a project for which Vic put music to Irvine’s lyrics (“it’s really unusual to get someone whose lyrics work and that I can put music to, it worked with Irvine but I hadn’t done that before” says Vic), he’s also pursuing yet another band called The Independents. As Vic explains, “it’s all jazzy stuff and old standards. We’ve only done one gig so far, but we’re hoping to get together in the new year to do some more.”
It’s this project-hopping, genre-swapping freedom that’s perhaps Vic’s greatest strength. “One thing always brings you back round to another thing, and it brings you back with a fresh impetus. So you do the jazz thing, but then that brings you back round to punk. It does take different bands to do the different sounds though– the bands normally only like one of these things or another!"

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