Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Like Clockwork

I am in Switzerland for the time being. The German bit. I didn't think there would be any sort of culture shock - Zurich being the financial zenith/Hades (delete as is one's bent) of Europe, but a few things are a little odd to one weaned on an axis of English and Australian quirks. It would be churlish, presumptuous and perhaps wrong to say that a certain part of Swiss society is made up of uptight, emotionally stunted, unimaginative bureaucrats with hearts of cold, solid steel. So I won't, but I think maybe I've been hanging around the wrong parts thus far. I have press access to the quite fancy Zurich Film Festival, which might see more fun amid the glum.

One bright spot, mind you, has been seeing White Denim at Rote Fabrik. I don't think I have really banged on about them as much as I should have in the past - I interviewed them recently, here, but for some odd reason didn't pay much attention to the kafuffle that was made of them last year when Workout Holiday came out. It was probably because of the kafuffle that was made of them last year when Workout Holiday came out. Great band though, and live they are "everything I ever dreamed of", even if Zurich provided a staid audience that barely half-filled the venue. To be within spitting distance of the front of stage at a White Denim gig in London is an unheard of flight of fancy that would get you laughed out of Hoxton Bar and Grill with many a fist shaken at you. Here, you almost felt sorry for the Austin trio as they received no reaction whatsoever from a crowd who, in their defence, didn't have a clue who they were. White Denim always seem to be lost in their own little world when they play anyway, so they seemed happy. And I had a quick chat with their drummer Josh Block afterwards, who is vying with Alex Maas of The Black Angels for the title of Nicest Man In A Band in Austin, Texas. Tremendous chap. I shook his hand FIVE times.

Apart from that White Denim piece, there are a few other new things on my site, including interviews with Brendan Benson and Snowman, live reviews of Yoko Ono, Seven Worlds Collide, Cropredy Festival and The Welcome Wagon and record reviews of The Cave Singers and The Witch and The Robot.

Three songs: 'She Gets Remote' by Hello Fire, '(Ballad Of) The Hip Death Goddess' by Ultimate Spinach and 'Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)' by Melanie.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Knight Demons

Last week I adventured to the continuing transport black hole that is Stoke Newington in order to do some in-house editorial work at The Stool Pigeon. On one day I missed the correct bus stop and ended up in Tottenham, then on another I was traipsing Hackney's streets on foot utterly clueless in this maze of high-rise flats and, for some reason, honest cockney-jon, old-style bakeries. I had me a bagel.

Anyway, this work I would go as far as to say has reenergised me for this strange art of music journalism. Not only is the quarters of this very special publication an extremely fun place to be (literally half of one day was spent poring over this), but it was a timely glimpse and a vital reaffirmation of what it is to actually work for a proper music publication that is managed professionally, is completely independent and finally, shows respect for the writing - and therefore the people who do the writing - over all else. It also helps that everyone involved has a knowledge of music, across all styles, that borders on the terrifying at times.

There is no chaotic, mono-maniacial 'management' from ham-fisted bullies whose ignorance is only matched by their malice (like a certain publication I have previously had dealings with...in case that wasn't obvious), just a calm enthusiasm both for music and journalism. While the practice of writing about music still seems fatuous on a theoretical level, something I'll go into another time, at least some of the bitterness I previously held towards it has been removed by this realisation that it can still be done in a way that is truly critical, not hindered by cliche and without toadying to external influences (labels, PRs and the like). This revitalisation will probably last about three days, but nevermind; may The Stool Pigeon continue to prosper.

Elsewhere, 'in other news', Penrith Panthers got an unholy 35-0 twatting by Newcastle Knights, meaning that we finish 11th, firmly outside of the top eight. I hear Matthew Elliott is stewing on this, but to be fifth little more six weeks ago and then to finish eleventh, below Souths for Christ's sake, is shocking. Penrith have just had four players named in the train-on Australia squad for the four nations and have a bunch of young players the equal of most of other teams in the NRL, so it's a case of underachievement rather than 11th being their rightful place. The loss of Petero Civoniceva is the obvious main reason for this embarrassment, and no one foresaw the rampant rise from Parramatta. But still, 35-0 to Newcastle in a final game where everything was to play for... even the wooden spoon year of 2001 didn't sink that low. So Penrith's season, coupled with NSW's loss in Origin, equals a general disgruntlement with my league teams that stretches back to October when Australia dropped the World Cup. Miserable times. I'm now gonna go for Dragons in the finals series, or maybe Manly. Or Eels.

Three songs: 'When I'm Sleepy' by Wild Beasts, 'Just Ain't Gonna Work Out' by Mayer Hawthorne and 'Next Season' by Port O'Brien