The inspiration of gig promoters Barry Hogan andHelen Cottage, the All Tomorrow’s Parties festivals atCamber Sands in Kent have been notable for avoiding theline-ups typical to ‘corporate festivals’.
Choosing as curators artists of whom they personally admired(Mogwai, Tortoise, and Slint topname but three), the idea has now been expanded thisautumn to London’s Don’t Look Back festival, which runs from 30 August to 5 October 2005.
Some of the famous men praised may be predictable(Jagger / Richards, Dylan, Reed) but with a mixture oftraditional numbers and assorted faves, Chanre-organises each into the bitterest of sweetnesses.
Only during Wild Is The Wind does Chan struggleunderneath the historical weight of the song,resulting in a by-numbers recitation of the NinaSimone standard. But everywhere else, she showsherself to be a masterful interpreter, beating a clearpath to the inspiration of the You Are Free a fewyears later.
Making all other covers albums sound like theexercises in stalling and contract fulfilling theyreally are, the only question remains is will theever-unpredictable Chan keep to the Don’t Look Backscript. All bets are currently off.
Expect similar lack of activity at your local turfaccountant at the likelihood of the an ex-Calvin Kleinmodel not yelling BELLBOTTOMS like Screamin’ JayHawkins at the witching hour come September 21st.
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion‘s Orange (Koko,Wednesday 21st September) was the band’s thirdhonest-to-gosh long player on Matador back in 1994.Hailing from the Exile On Main Street-worshipping NYnoize band Pussy Galore Jon Spencerkick-started the Blues Explosion in 1991 withguitarist Judah Bauer and drummer Russell Simins.
Rescuing the blues from beer-commercial hell a gooddeal earlier than Jack and Meg White, Spencer ‘ssuper-charged goofball rock’n’roll and his BigBopper-on-Viagra growl were just getting into itsstride when Orange was released to growing criticalappreciation. Flat-out party guitars and none of theself-immolation of Grunge or the spandex sheen of G’n’R,Orange saw The Blues Explosion as Huey, Dueyand Luey to Keef’s Mickey Mouse.
With strings straight outta Sigma Sound(Bellbottoms) and a guest rap from Beck(Flavour) not all of Orange’s baroque touches will benecessarily reproducible live, but Spencer & Co arepromising some special ‘mixes’ for this one-off show.Best catch him now. He is the son of Sister Ray afterall.
And returning to remind us that love will get youlike a case of anthrax, come the name-drop band dujour, the original King / Gill / Burnham / Allenline-up of Leeds post-punkers Gang Of Four. Onthe eve of an American tour the band take time-outgive their first album Entertainment! (Barbican,Saturday 24 September) a full public airing.
Though the oppositional neo-Marxist politics havebeen left on the filter paper when bands like FranzFerdinand and The Kills have nit-picked forsounds, styles and poses, the Gang Of Four’s uptighttake on funk has found its way into the tensebass-lines of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, andare now feted by all alleged seditionists from Bono toMichael Stipe.
Garlands aside, Entertainment is as firm a recordof the disquiet of the increasingly marginalised leftof the early ’80s as can be found outside of TariqAli’s memoirs. With lines predicting that ‘guerrillawarfare is the new entertainment’ and ‘repackaged sexkeeps your interest’, the quartet also specialised inJG Ballard-style prescience. But perhapsEntertainment’s greatest returned gift is beingsingle-handedly responsible for provoking the word’angular’ into the Music Hack Thesaurus (1982 and 2004editions).
Ah, Belle and Sebastian. The masters ofexpressing teenage angst, even though they were wellbeyond that phase when If You’re Feeling Sinister(Barbican, Sunday 25 September) was released in2000. Take Seeing Other People. “We lay on the bedthere/ kissing just for practice / could we please beobjective? / Cause the other boys are queuing upbehind us…”.
Why is Stuart Murdoch’s wispy voice even appealing? How do they create their strange little tunes, withunlikely rhythms and odd lyrics, so that they sticklike limpets in your brain? And why isn’t thatannoying? And is it true that their trumpet tunes,injected into songs like bursts of sunlight, are thebest of any band? Well, if you haven’t got a ticketalready it may be too late as the performance ofMurdoch & Co’s early meisterwerk sold out early on.(HW)
After spending much of the spring touring Europewith Jello Biafra, The Melvins bring theirunforgiving pummel to Koko’s sound system. Anothergrateful, if temporary, beneficiary of the success ofNirvana, Houdini (Koko, Tuesday 4 October) was TheMelvins first album of three for major label Atlantic.It also represented something of a shift for thisWashington state trio of King Buzzo, Dale, and abassist called Lorax who just happened to be thedaughter of Shirley Temple.
Though the Sabs-like metal furnace is all presentand correct on tracks like Copache and Night Goat,Houdini is host to less ear-worrying textures. PearlBomb is all onamatapeiacally sustained menace, whilefinal track Spread Eagle Beagle’s dives gleefullyheadfirst into the avant-garde. Gig-goers attending onpure word-of-mouth might think the in-house janitorsand the roadies have teamed-up to jam halfway throughthis 10-minute epic of the sounds of industrial siteclearance.
Hovering benevolently over this festival is theghost of the one the noise gods saw fit to call KurtCobain. Fans should note that Cobain contributedguitar licks to Sky Pup, and ‘additional percussion’to the aforementioned Spread Eagle Beagle.
Another spirit hovering over the festival, althoughpossibly less benevolently is, still alive and well,Steve Albini. His 1999 produced album, TheDirty Three‘s Ocean Songs (Barbican, Wednesday 5October) begins the second Don’t Look Backdouble-bill. Ocean Songs represented theMelbourne-formed trio’s second album for Europeanlabel Bella Union.
As famous for their collaborations / guest-spotswith artists such as Nick Cave and WillOldham, as they are for their own material, MickTurner, Warren Ellis and Jim White’s mournful paradeshould be the downtempo highlights (if that’s theword) of the whole series.
Lacking a vocalist in the strictest sense doesn’tstop Warren Ellis’s eloquent violin speaking volumesabout lost dreams and the heavy-hearted solace ofcontinual travel. Long-form circumspections AuthenticCelestial Music and Deep Waters will make you wish theBarbican had a skylight.
Ending the series on an appropriate low note is theperformance of Sophia‘s The Infinite Circle(Barbican, Wednesday 5 October). Essentially thework of ex-God Machine mainman Robin Proper-Sheppard,The Infinite Circle was Sheppard’s first recordedoutput since the sudden death of his bass-playingpartner Jimmy Fernandez. Bleak tracks like Woman, andBastards will make the rest of the Don’t Look Backfestival sound like the soundtrack from Hair.
If, as seems likely, Don’t Look Back is successful,All Tomorrow’s Parties organisers Hogan and Cottage arelooking to turn the idea into an annual event. Goodnews is that ATP are open to suggestions. However,advocates of such magnum opus as Bon Jovi‘sSlippery When Wet or MC Hammer‘s Please HammerDon’t Hurt ‘Em might be wise to look elsewhere.