Wednesday, 21 November 2007

jazz, delicious hot, discusting cold

rare it is, that a band is greater in the flesh than on the disc.

before cutting the vinyl you can bend and sway the voice, edit the eclectic keyboard, re-drum the faulty drum. steppe by steppe you can piece together a puzzle of good versions with a PC or MAC until your track be perfect. e'en a bad lady recording of girls out-loud miss-firing and stuttering like a spoilt collection of old bangers can be spoon fed into a computer box like an EVENTIDE MODEL H3000-B, H3000-B+ and B/LT ULTRA HARMONIZER®, and everything can be pitch-perfecticided.

this happens pop-freaks. deal with it.

but the run-of-the-mill can be replaced. thankful, i am. now & again you can be jumped upon by a pack of musical hounds with talent falling from every stitch. duke special runs and jumps into this category with by far the best live act i have come across. whilst their music on the compact disc is a fine rendition, you haven't grasped the duke and his merry band of merry men until you've merrily leaned upon their stage.

i miss them when they're gone. i first encountered them at a little known music festival in cheltenham about 4 years ago and desperately attempted to get everyone i knew to join me as the gig slid. they couldn't. some of them were hundreds o' miles away. but then begun my love affair with duke special.

duke special is led by himself, the duke. strongly irish husky tones surrounded by eyeliner and dreads atop a bright red military coat, pouring out unique rocky folky da-da and a hint of mesmerinsing heart. the duke is backed up by a tiny plethora of personable musicians each more talented than the man before and after him; and picking up more than their body weight in different instruments over the course of the evening. a recent addition to the team is that of ben castle on soprano/alto/bass saxomaphone, trumpetteering, clarinet, vox and all round gentrification. yes, he is roy castle's son.

for me personally, and not surprisingly most other audience, the shows are completed by the drummer. no ordinary drummer this. a man who has taken to calling himself "temperance society chip bailey" fulfils the da-daist regions this band ventures into. a phenomenal drummer and percussivist, with a set of snares and toms and cymbals and woodblocks and weird hitty things that would rival a dusty bric-a-brac shop, this ol' chap performs the music.

duke special on stage is an act of theatre.

and there is the music; opening up a soul-wrenching world of fantasy, original, orchestral walls of noise, playful to the end, cutting lyrics and - dare i say it? - beautiful tales of love and hope and the people who have both and neither.

i love this band. go and see them. buy and hear them. they are like nothing you've seen before or will ever see again and they make the world a little bit better.


why is the most beautiful girl in any club trying to sell me a small
expensive drink?

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

new slang

the shins' albums are a collection of songs that can envelop you and coax you into feeling all warm & cosy with wistful unexplainable melodies and nostalgia and thoughts of charlotte from your year 9 art class whose eyes were like moonlit lakes. listen to them and "they'll change your life" as natalie portman's character says in Garden State.

the shins hardly ever tour, and tickets to their gigs are as hard to come by as a date with the aforementioned charlotte (or natalie portman for that matter - even more's the pity). However my good buddy 'the whackwit' fluked some earlier this year & I managed to step out of work early enough to sample a pint of swedish pear cider before they played.

much as i love their recordings, i have to say i was a little disappointed by the live show. i suppose i was hoping for that enveloping sound, i was hoping to stand in a room of music swaying slowly with my eyes closed in a room of sober, like-minded individuals. not so my friend, not so.

there seems to be a tendency that when bands like the shins perform live, they feel they need to 'liven' up their music, make it noisier and apparently more exciting. it's a shame, because the reason I like them is precisely for the mellowed demeanour of their recordings. if you distort the guitars and put the volume to 11, you destroy the mellow, and replace it with something resembling a bad cover band. though I hate hate hate to say it about a band that I otherwise love, that's a bit like what happened here.

perhaps slightly more unforgivable was the performance itself. the chaps pretty much bluntly refused to engage with the audience, simplifying the show to standing there and churning out the music with next to no personality showing through, bar david hernandez on guitar who jumped about a bit. i love this band, but sad to say it, left this gig feeling a little bit cheated.

Friday, 2 November 2007

working nine to five

just a little message to all my loved ones:

i'm sorry i haven't really been very responsive of late and haven't replied to any emails or text messages very much or at all. it's not that i'm actively ignoring you, it's just that i've been at work. "at work?" i hear your questions, "but surely there are evenings and weekends that you could've spent not ignoring me.."

nope. i've been working evenings and weekends too. it's stupidly busy here at good old central hall, busy like a hungry cannibal in an asylum. unfortunately the stupidity will continue for about another four weeks, but after that i'll be able to have some sort of social life again and actually meet up with you. so that'll be nice. if you do happen to see me please forgive the way i look, i probably haven't slept.

hope to see you soon, i miss you all. cheerio for now.