Sunday, 27 April 2008

Carla Bozulich / Magik Markers


Tonight is an Upset The Rhythm night at Cargo. The evening is running late, which is going to cause difficulties later on. But spirits are high and I’m delighted to see Nikki Colk (ex-Kaito) in the crowd. This is generally a good sign because Nikki is a keen fan of the more experimental and interesting U.S. bands.

First up we get Evangelista, the latest incarnation of maverick singer Carla Bozulich. Her band play a fractured post rock and showcase the cello of Andrea Serapiglio. At first it seems as if Bozulich is going to content herself with sitting on the floor and picking at a guitar, but soon she is on her feet proclaiming like a prophet, while the band woozes psychedelically around her.

She is a mesmeric performer, and the room takes on the aspect of a bad acid trip back to 1968. The spectre of Patti Smith stalks the stage. Some of the songs are much shorter and punkier, but Bozulich always returns to a quasi-Biblical ranting style.

Next up are the band that I’ve really come to see – Magik Markers. Tonight they are a duo, mighty singer/guitarist Elisa Ambrogio and drummer Pete Nolan. They make a fine racket, but there is a sense of something wrong, something missing.

Ambrogio stops at one point and says that the band have just recovered from “dysentery”, apparently contracted in Portugal. Either way, they are not really at it tonight, aside from a fine version of “Last Of The Lemarch Line.”

As the clock approaches ten to eleven, with the stage set up for Old Time Relijun, but no sign of the band themselves, I decide to cut my losses and leave. A quick chat with the lovely Nikki indicates that she will soon be back in a band, which is the best news of a slightly weird night.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Camden Crawl: Day Two - Saturday

Bookhouse Boys pic by Emily Tedrake

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. So on Saturday afternoon of the Camden Crawl, it’s straight back down to Tommy Flynn’s for more decent bands.

We walk in to find Lion Club halfway through their energetic rawk act. They have plenty of swagger and know that pub tables are to be walked on. Except, they aren't Lion Club, but another band who are filling in. A pity I didn't catch their name.

Next up come Six Nation State, who have lots of fans in the place and are a raggle taggle bunch of goodtime rockers who have the whole joint jumping. Yesterday they were on the Crawl proper. They may have played somewhere bigger on that occasion, but a rammed bar such as this is their natural milieu. Very enjoyable.

A bit of a disappointment next, as The Indelicates have belied their name and cried off sick. They are replaced by a faintly amusing guy with a guitar calling himself Beans On Toast. We drink up and leave.

After yesterday’s abortive attempt to get in to see Ladyhawke, we determine not to be thwarted today. The crush inside the Cuban Bar is horrendous, and I am balanced half on a table and half on someone’s foot. Is she worth it? – in other circumstances maybe, but it is just too uncomfortable to put up with more than about twenty minutes of her 80’s inflected electro. Another time maybe.

Due to the marvel that is MySpace, one of our number has listened to The Bookhouse Boys that morning and is raving about them. So we duly trot along to Dingwalls. And have our socks blown off. The Bookhouse Boys are a mighty amalgam of the best American gothic of the Bad Seeds coupled with the ghost surfers in the sky twang of Gallon Drunk. With some Tindersticks thrown in for good measure.

They look the part too, nine musicians going hell for leather in a glorious riot of beards and western clobber, contrasted by the splendid figure of Catherine Turner – all raven hair and ghostly pallor.

The blazing mariachi of songs like ‘Dead’ and ‘G-Surf’ set us up for the night. The first previously undiscovered gems of the Crawl so far.

It’s a tough act to follow, but we don’t do too badly. Back down the road we catch Lykke Li roaring out soulfully while her band lay down a minimalist, ticking electro beat. It works really well, and Lykke herself is good company. And we get double Swedish value for money when top disco diva Robyn joins in for an unrehearsed but joyful finale.

In high spirits we head into the Black Cap, which is a jam-packed deafening throb of gay men, star struck teens and minor celebrity. It is unbelievable, uncomfortable and absolutely exhilarating. When the next band appear, they struggle to catch the attention of the seething mass of humanity.

In truth, Metronomy do a pretty decent job, with their tricky beats and flashing lights, but they cannot compete with a growing need to get the hell out of there before I, like, die.

Queues and exhaustion prohibit further Crawling, so I call it a night.

And that’s the Camden Crawl. Some good, some bad, some indifferent. It is still not really worth the money, and some of the timing issues need to be addressed. But it is a uniquely London event and I suspect that I’ll be back for more next year.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Camden Crawl: Day One - Friday

(Esser: Messy but marvellous)

The Camden Crawl breeds mixed emotions – on the one hand, it is not technically worth the money (some £50 for a two day pass), but on the other, it does generate a lot of fun ad excitement.

Despite the organisers pleading with folk to come along early because of loads of wonderful afternoon activities, in truth, there isn’t much on the official Crawl route to occupy the daytime. Hurrah then, for Tommy Flynn’s, an Irish bar between Camden and Mornington Crescent, that has billed itself as the “Camden Crawl Fringe” and packed itself with bands playing short sets all afternoon.

And on Friday, favourites Death Cigarettes have the four o‘clock spot and are absolutely blindingly good. The crowd don’t now what to make of a squalling, shrieking girl, walking like a zombie, climbing on the tables and generally freaking out. One of the guitarists has hand scrawled ‘Unmarketable’ on his T shirt – a reference to the rather non media friendly nature of their noise.

They go down a storm, and draw baffled and astonished looks from people stuck on a bus outside the venue.

This year the Crawl organisers seem to have decreed that punters should shuttle in and out of two main venues, and try to squeeze into small places where all the bands play at the same time.

We start off in the Electric Ballroom to see the heavily touted Sam Sparro. It’s an inauspicious start – the guy shows us his bottom before the second number and delivers a routine of Jamoroquai –lite souly jazz. We depart after about three songs.

We trot over the road to the Underworld for Ipso Facto. They certainly look the part – part Ladytron, part the backing band in Robert Palmer’s ‘Addicted To Love’ video. They are so mannered and reserved that it is difficult to warm to them, despite the rather pleasing way that they sort of undulate in unison. Good, I think, but an acquired taste.

Esser seems bound for world domination – if such can be achieved by writing songs that are so catchy that they stick in your brain for days. God help us if he ever gets used by an advertising agency. A fine percussive performance, marred only slightly by a sound mix that has decided that the bass player has the most important instrument and microphone.

An abortive attempt to get in to see Ladyhawke leads to us going off-Crawl again to head to the Proud Galleries. After some confusion on the door, we wander in and are literally ambushed by Kennedy singing in a vast open space, to a very small group of people who are doing their best to ignore him or to keep out of his clutches. The guy is a trooper and deserves better than this.

The Galleries themselves are worth comment – converted stables that have retained the individual stalls, which can be hired for the evening for parties. There are also performers – actors in fancy dress of a vaguely Versailles cut, wandering about being ‘decadent’, in a rather polite manner.
We use the opportunity to sit and rest, hoping that The Clik Clik will perform. Sadly, they don’t and we get the gung ho professional Irishery of Kid Harpoon instead. Very accomplished, and go down a bomb with the crowd, but they are not for me.

Having quickly listened to some of the bands online this morning, I head off to see what Make Model are like. There are plenty of them, and they make a big and rousing noise, but I find them to be the Scottish equivalent of Kid Harpoon. They are too Celtic for my tastes.

Fatigue sets in and with a full day tomorrow, I call it a night.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Call Of The Wyld: Muxtape One

I don't know whether Muxtape is old hat or what, but it seems pretty nifty to me. Here's a quick sampling of fresh UK talent. Enjoy.

1. Sidecar Kisses - Austere

2. Pop Fosters - Firing Line

3. Kaputt - Family Tree

4. Fake Fang - Dial W For Warhol

5. Death Cigarettes - Bleed You Dry

6. Esser - Headlock

7. Cobra Dukes - Science Fiction

Friday, 11 April 2008

Battlekat: Cross Kings

Battlekat pic courtesy Sarah E. Kosminsky Film & Photography

When were you last truly happy?

There has been a lot of stuff written recently about how, despite generally living in the lap of relative luxury, we are all apparently deeply miserable and apt to throw ourselves under a train at any moment.

Well boo bloody hoo. Last night I had more fun at a gig than I have had in absolutely ages, even though, with my hand on heart, there was only one act that I unconditionally loved. It was one of those mad evenings, when great stuff just kept happening, gathering its own momentum until I just stood there drinking it all in with a big, stupid pissed-up grin on my face. It was ladies night, and the feeling was right, oh what a night (etc).

To be honest, the female theme of the evening started even before we got to the venue, as we enjoyed a few liveners in the Lincoln Lounge. There we were mesmerised a barmaid of such Amazonian magnificence that it was hard to have a conversation with anybody who was looking at her, because they tended to go deaf and drool in an unfortunate manner.

In buoyed spirits we repaired to the Cross Kings, where we had been promised a four-band bill topped by popular favourites Battlekat.

There were lots of people milling about, and we sold our souls by taking a flyer from one of the support bands to get a pound off the entrance fee. The band in question were Sinking Cruise Ship Rescue Drama, who had pulled out all the stops, even though this was apparently their first ever gig. They were giving away sets of themed badges (Mine says ‘Rescue’) and had decorated the stage with dozens of facsimile Evening Standard newsstand posters with real headlines, among which were the name of the band. The stage was strewn with lights, and, in a worrying development, there were four chairs on the stage.

And my forebodings were justified when SCSRD started up. What they do is instrumental post-rock and I am sorry, but that is the one genre of music in which I can find very little enjoyment. If I go to see an act, I want to be entertained – and guys on stools playing scales don’t do it. I can just about hack this kind of stuff as background noise, just don’t expect me to stand around in awe and admire your virtuosity. An ‘A’ for effort for trying to make it interesting, however and I should also say that the place was very busy and most of the people there DID appear to like it.

Beating a retreat to the other bar, we were picking through the various flyers on display and found some that appeared to be for this venue tonight, but with an entirely different line up of bands. Checking with the guy taking money revealed that the Cross Kings has a second, underground, club in its basement.

We had been to the venue before and assumed that the entrance to this was a door to an upstairs Comedy Club…but not a bit of it. We headed down the steps into what appeared to be the depths of Hell, a subterranean cavern with devils and flames on the walls; but then entered what is pretty much my idea of heaven.

We were greeted at the door by a posse of delightfully vivacious young ladies, who were running a rock night and were very happy to see us. They are Chog Town Music and they have got a terrific set-up down here. The basement bar is just right for loud, filthy music and, at least tonight, was empty enough for you to wander about as you liked whilst still being pretty full with an astounding audience. In the dark of a corner, a gang of impossibly hip Japanese kids lurked, with lap top computers and electric bird's nest hair. Among them a stunning girl dressed as a 1920’s flapper, shimmied in a golden dress. Elsewhere a tall blonde shrugged off her top to dance in a torn T shirt.

The first band were Class Of 1984, a power rock trio with occasional prog tendencies. This kind of music only makes sense in places like this, but right here, right now, they are just what the doctor ordered. Great fun. And once more, great hair.

Following on, and apparently filling in at short notice, are Melody Nelson, a more rootsy, blues rock kind of act, who once again, sound terrific. As the increasingly surreal evening progresses, Sheridan Smith, the stunning and gifted young actress from Two Pints of Lager and Love Soup, comes bounding in, in wonderfully uninhibited mood, hugging everyone and saying “It’s OK, cos he’s my brother.” By now there is so much happiness in the room, that you can almost taste it.

However good it was downstairs, we still had duties in the other venue, so we piled back up to catch the new-look Battlekat. Pouting, preening foxtress Mimi Muller is attired in tight leggings with solar systems on them, a waistcoat fashioned from a Kiss jacket and a Sally Bowles type bowler. Quite the picture, as ever.

The set list seems mostly new since the last time we saw them, and it looks from the rest of the band that there may have been at least one change in the line up. But some things never change – Mimi spends only the barest minimum of time on the stage, and the maximum time among the crowd, toying with them like a cat does with a shrew. I’m just a complete sucker for bratty girlie rock pop and Battlekat never disappoint. Although, I am slightly saddened that they seem to have jettisoned some of their more outré earlier songs such as ‘Sweet Ass Battlekat’ in favour of more straightforward numbers.

After a triumphant show, I briefly head back down into the inferno for a quick blast of the Chog Town DJs, before heading off deliriously into the night.

Girls and rock music – you just can’t beat it.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Hearsay: Holy Fuck @ 100 Club

Free Blood pic courtesy of

Last night I was due to see Holy Fuck at the 100 Club. Unfortunately, I had another appointment at Stamford Bridge and couldn't make it. But no matter, a crack team of experienced gig goers went without me.

The reports for the 'Fuck are not the kind of thing that the band will want to put on their posters (assuming they can find somewhere that will let them display their name in the first place).

Holy effing Sh*te is what they were (Or rather Wholly effing S** with no redeeming qualities whatsoever)!

Ok, that's a bit harsh.

Somewhat disappointing compared to expectations - the motorik groovefailed to materialise to any great extent and they looked (bunch of lads hunched around each other with few vocals) and sounded more like Battles than Neu!. Still pretty enjoyable but not the world-beaters I had hopes for.

That's a bit better.

Not sure what the others thought as they all left before the end, but Ienjoyed them. Not great but OK, ie I wouldn't kill myself to see them again but if they crossed our horizon I wouldn't say no either, if you get the drift.

Not quite a ringing endorsement.

Nicer words for support act Free Blood. He looks like he's escaped from Midlake - tall, beard, plaid shirt, cords, v-necked jumper. She looks like a librarian letting her hair down - page-boy cut, yellowdress. But most of their songs are erotically charged as it requires them to dance with each other to backing beats unencumbered other then with mikes. Pretty brave thing to do, but it worked for me.

I wish I'd seen them.

Thanks to Keith, Clive, Martin and Peter for their assistance.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Album: Killola - I Am The Messer

I’ve been a fan of Los Angeles band Killola for a couple of years now. Last Spring they cut a quick swathe across the UK and I was very happy to catch them rattling the chandeliers at the Café De Paris in London.

Anyway, I wrote the gig up in favourable terms and thought little more about it.

But they didn’t forget me, and have sent me an advance copy of their new album, I Am The Messer, to review.

The first thing that strikes the listener is how much more mature and varied this collection is compared to the espresso jolt of their previous release ‘Louder, Louder’. Sure, tracks such as Heartrate 160 and Strung Out On Sunshine are out and out rockers, but this album is not only an adrenaline rush.

The album starts with This Is How The World Ends, and straight away you have to adjust to Lisa Rieffel's extraordinary voice, which is best described as a bratty, snarling squeak. If Dolly Parton hadn’t been a country gal, but had spent her formative years drag racing down Sunset Strip, sassing policemen and getting drunk in public, then she might come close to matching this combination of friendly but fierce . This track also features some breathless panting, which is always welcome in my book.

All Of My Idols Are Dead is a power ballad about that moment when a girl takes down her posters and leaves childish things behind. A real ache in the throat number.

Is This A Love Song? is more of what I would call a traditionally ‘American’ sounding rock number which leads into a shorter, more experimental piece called ‘The Man From Kilmanjaro’. This doesn’t reference either Julian Cope or The Teardrop Explodes, but does feature some groovy Eastern strings.

We now get to the really meaty rock tracks on the album. ‘Personal Gravity’, a heavy track with an almost marching beat. It builds until all the instruments cut dead, leaving just the wailing vocal; closely followed by Heartrate 160, which chugs along before dying in a squall of feedback.

And here comes, what is for me, the best track here, Wa Da Wa Da. This has a classic, dirty rock riff that AC/DC would be proud of. It is a beast of a song, incorporating a passage where fans will doubtless be invited to clap along to the drums…and they will. This track is coming to a stadium near you.

You Can’t See Me Because I’m a Stalker slows everything down. A simple drumbeat, a mellow guitar and a lovelorn voice. It’s deceptively gentle and sweet, but the title gives the game away.

The record finishes with the manic ska-rock of 10,000 Pound Ego, the track that features the screams of “I Am The Messer” that give the album its title.

Killola have built on their previous work to produce an album that will sound great blaring out of an open-topped car travelling at speed. Is that a police siren? Who cares!

Saturday, 5 April 2008

2008 - The Story So Far: Jan To March

Death Cigarettes are good for you
Watching the Fighting Cocks in their stockings and skirts, huddled against the cold before they go to play a single song in a purple tent in the middle of Trafalgar Square. The singer then trying vainly to get a call and response going with a small group of tourists (and us).

The absurdly high leap that the acoustic Gideon Conn makes before unexpectedly jumping into the audience.

Mad, one-eyed dancing robots. Robots In Disguise.

The singer of Asobi Seksu grabs a broken, feedbacking guitar and waves it above her head, yelling “I don’t know how to play this but it’s really cool!” The band’s version of “And Then He Kissed Me”, the distortion providing their own version of the Phil Spector Wall Of Sound.

The members of The Willowz leave the stage mid-set, leaving the drummer. Who proceeds to do a five minute excruciating solo on a kit the size of a biscuit tin.

Vampire Weekend are about halfway through their set at ULU when all the alarms go off and we have to evacuate the building. It is testimony to Esser that it is his song ‘Headlock’ that I wake up singing for the next two days.

Gradually losing the will to live during the interminable drones of Alex & Stephen at The Forum, whist watching their videos of unexplained chemical reactions.

The brute power of Big Linda, who are so loud it hurts. Not necessarily good, but deafening.

Possibly the worst looking band in the world, The $hit comprise elderly transvestites, fat rappers and a man in a kendo mask. I was trying to work out how much of their equipment was actually plugged in – possibly two microphones, and not the one used by the ‘singer’.

Death Cigarettes turn in a powerhouse performance, with the apple-cheeked singer dancing on the tables and mauling all members of the audience. I genuinely think they are my new favourite band.

As I stare into the wide eyes and gaping mouth of Mika Penetrator, guitarist with extreme Japanese noise outfit Gallhammer, I am hit violently in the throat. This later turns out to be a shattered drumstick that has flown from the hand of drummer Risa Reaper. I still have it.

I get the feeling that Black Kids are absolutely out on their feet. Their voices are completely shot. But they are still marvellous. And British crowds cannot dance to save their lives.

The Cure play for well over three hours at Wembley, even though I don’t stay anything like that long. It is like a cricket match – people wander in and out, go for food and a drink, have a chat - while the band rumble interminably on. You don’t actually have to pay them much attention.

While having a bit of a dance to 99 Red Balloons when we go to see Death Cigarettes again at Catch, one of our party attracts the attentions of an older woman. She takes some discouraging. She seems to be the mother of someone in one of the bands…

Future Of The Left are tremendously fierce at the Scala, but they just look like grumpy old men when Be Your Own PET come on and the whole place becomes a heaving moshpit of sweaty youth.

Client - Christopher D Ashley - KINDLE

Soho Revue Bar

It’s hot in here. It’s also 1983. In front of a screen showing air-brush vampire flick ‘The Hunger’, a stick-thin figure with Manga comic hair sets his synthesisers to stun and thrashes at a white guitar.

This is KINDLE and he looks every inch the cartoon hero, striking every rock star pose in the book. The electronics thrum and snap, the guitar distorts. The only thing that is lacking is a voice, as without even a snatch of sampled dialogue to cling to, each instrumental bleeds into the next and the show gradually becomes a soundtrack to the film.

If Kindle is an odd name for a single performer, then it’s even odder that Christopher D Ashley is two men. Together they lay down a wash of beats and while one twiddles with knobs and looks worriedly at a laptop screen, the other sings, his voice altered and beefed up by the machines. It’s pleasant enough in a Hot Chip manner, but the duo do go on a bit. And a bit. And a bit. Eventually someone appears from backstage, takes one of them to one side, makes a throat cutting gesture and mouths “Fuck off!” They look upset, but fuck off anyway.

I’ve long found Client to be rather a problem band. They write great pop songs, but to date (and deliberately) their demeanour has been as hard, cold and forbidding as the north face of the Eiger.

So it is astounding to find them toning down the antiseptic sleaze, and rocking out with cheerful abandon. Unusually for a predominately electronic band, they have completely re-jigged their sound, and songs such as “Money” and “Pornography” rattle along at least twice the speed of previous performances. The newer material from latest album “Heartland” sits well in a set that seems like a triumphant culmination of all that they have been working towards.

In deference to the band’s contrived penchant for anonymity I will say that the band have never been more animated, with Client A laughing like a drain at a keyboard malfunction that results in a sound like a knackered cowbell, prompting Client B to lead the crowd in staccato handclaps to fill in for the dying instrument. The impressively statuesque Client (letter designation unknown) models her bass guitar and slyly smiles at the sweaty throng in front of her.

The finale is a chaotic and gleeful rendition of the old Adam and the Ant chestnut ‘Zerox Machine’.

Client look to have put their former glacial chill firmly behind them. Who says that global warming is a bad thing?

Call of the Wyld - Clearing My Throat

This is an experiment that aims to show whether I can sustain my own and others interest in mostly music related guff. I apologise right now if work, gig-attendance and all-round idleness result in infrequent posts.

What you will mainly find on here are live reports from around the London music world, plus the odd album or single review.

I have written in the past for Artrocker, but feel that their priorities and my own have diverged to the extent where it is probably for the best if I try to do my own thing. But I love them dearly, and recommend that you leave this site straight off and head to for all your musical requirements.

What type of music will you find here? All sorts, but generally new, lesser known acts who are still playing in small rooms and need a bit of exposure. As I feel that very few bands deserve to be strangled at birth, comments here will generally be positive - I'm not going to waste everyone's time slagging off bands, as this is not what I'm here for.

This is very much a new venture, and will evolve over time. Probably. Let's go...