Monday, 16 March 2009

Stockholm Syndrome

Peter, Bjorn and John with First Aid Kit
Kings Cross Scala, London
Thursday, March 5th 2009

Taking to the stage of the Scala in knitwear cardigan and hand-me-down plaid shirt, First Aid Kit look a bit like two girls in a school music act. But there is a buzz floating across the audience. Despite their youthful appearance, teenage sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg from Stockholm have a sound so seemingly developed they can comfortably sit alongside the cream of the current west-coast folk revival groups.

It’s their voices that first blow you away. Guitarist and lead vocalist Klara penetrates the audience’s soul with her powerfully delicious delivery, complemented beautifully by harmonies from her organ-grinding sibling Johanna.

The fabulous Not Coming Home Tonight is a paean of infidelity in a relationship gone sour over the years, a probable personal reference to the girls’ parents owing to the pain felt in the lyrics: “# Yeah you cooked his dinner and you raised his children / But still he’s not satisfied #”. Considering the dark subject matter, the song finishes brightly upbeat: “# The ship is sailing, I’ll meet you on the other side / The future is unclear but hopefully it will be fine #“.

A fine rendition of Fleet Foxes’ Tiger Mountain Peasant Song is included in an eight song set that sits perfectly amongst other expansive and harmonious First Aid Kit songs, including the fantastic closer I Met Up With The King. Baroque ‘n’ roll.

There’s something of a crime of fashion contest in Kings Cross tonight, as Peter Bjorn and John appear with Peter wearing what looks to be Rick Astley’s suit circa 1987, along with rather fetching cravat. I like to think he pulls the look off.

At least it fits aptly with the 80s influenced direction the band is taking. Kicking proceedings off with an instrumental of synth-infused notes, Peter whips the crowd up into dancing along with pop-tastic moves that Abba would be proud of, before moving into the first song proper.

The night is very much a showcase for material from their forthcoming album ‘Living Thing’ on what was the band’s tenth anniversary. So, to really move the party up a gear Lay It Down is introduced. It’s a song which has been garnering internet popularity thanks in part to its great video and catchy, yet risqué lyrics about getting drunk at a party. It sounds something like X-rated S Club 7, and the chorus is bound to become a fans’ favourite: “# Hey, shut the fuck up boy / You’re starting to piss me off / Take your hands off that girl / You’ve already had enough #”.

Next up is the superbly danceable Nothing To Worry About, which contains the PB&J © stamp of low tempo beats and grimy melodies. They’ve been hanging around with Justice of late (according to Twitter, anyway) and the Parisian duo’s style has clearly rubbed off somewhat. The video of Japanese break-dancing rockers is pretty special too - a must see.

The Swedish trio play an extended version of Amsterdam before returning for a crowd pleasing encore of songs from their 2006 album Writer’s Block (including the ever popular Young Folks), finishing with the cracking Up Against the Wall.

words: Andy Fairclough

Living Thing by Peter Bjorn and John is released on March 30th by Wichita Records. Drunken Trees by First Aid Kit is out now.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Interpol announce they are rehearsing fourth album

Interpol have spoken to fans via their website about their their fourth album. In the piece NYC's finest describe themselves as "feeling like a new band...And without going into too much detail, the songs sound vital".

The full except can be read below:

It's been a long time. We shouldn't have left you...

After the touring for OLTA came to an end, we all dispersed to tend to our individual personal lives.
...And to get our ducks in a row.

Now the band has reconvened, and we are rehearsing new songs.

We find ourselves marveling at the tremendous focus
that has defined our early rehearsals for this, our 4th effort.

All kidding aside, we feel like a new band.

Once again, we have no concept to this batch of song-writing.
(We are often asked about our intentions when we set out to write music.)
There is rarely any intention to this process.
We just make the music.

And without going into too much detail, the songs sound vital.

It's as though we've hit upon a balance between our urgency and
our calm. And true to our better work, this is music that unravels over time.

We anticipate that, once it's done, you high-minded folks will welcome the music...
into your swagger and breathe...

It's still early, yet, though. We will keep you posted.

In the meantime, a couple of us have kept ourselves busy with extra-curricular activities. Carlos has made a film called My Friends Told Me About You
and Sam has released a record with his band Magnetic Morning .

And we hope that you're all weathering well the turmoil of the age.



Wednesday, 11 February 2009

O. Children - interview 17th January 2009

O. Children frontman Tobias holds out a massive hand as I greet the band in Brixton’s dingy Windmill venue on a cold January evening. I had heard and read the man was tall (he’s around 6’6”) but his strikingly angular facial features coupled with a sizable frame gives him an aura to behold.

Sitting in a stark East German style backstage shed, somehow befitting of a band that could accurately be described as having early 80s post-punk roots, I set about finding out why exactly they hate been compared to the British forefathers of the genre, Joy Division…

O. Children frontman Tobias holds out a massive hand as I greet the band in Brixton’s dingy Windmill venue on a cold January evening. I had heard and read the man was tall (he’s around 6’6”) but his strikingly angular facial features coupled with a sizable frame gives him an aura to behold.

Sitting in a stark East German style backstage shed, somehow befitting of a band that could accurately be described as having early 80s post-punk roots, I set about finding out why exactly they hate been compared to the British forefathers of the genre, Joy Division…

Starting at the beginning, the band are a combination of Tobias and drummer Andrew’s ex-band Bono Must Die (who counted Peaches Geldof among their trendy/wannabe fans, and they quite reasonably call her “a psycho”). The controversy of that name led to a subpoena being served by a record company and disbandment, “We were playing gigs we didn’t like – I promised I’d never be in a band again” says Tobias.

This all changed after Bordeaux-born guitarist Gauthier was introduced to Tobias via a friend. “At first I was like ‘oh he’s French,’” says Tobias, “but it turned out he was really good at guitar and we liked the same music”. Bassist and down-to-earth Yorkshire lad Harry met Tobias at a “rad” party where they ended up chatting about music whilst listening to Rage Against The Machine until 7am, after Harry spotted “those legs…” walking into a room. Previously Harry had been putting on house and techno club nights on his arrival in the capital after dropping out of Durham uni.

The band were briefly called Sex Pest, “but we thought ‘we can’t call ourselves that’” for some unknown reason., so the boys adopted their current moniker after bonding over a love of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, thus adopting the Aussie musician’s song as their title.

O. Children are keen to point out their influences are wide and varied, ranging from 70s disco and Donna Summers, to Birthday Party and Susie and the Banshees. Their fusion of disco and synth backing tracks from an iPod, layered under Gauthier’s John McGeoch inspired guitar, results in an edgy early-80s electronic sound. While this is not unique, it is certainly made more interesting following the addition of Tobias’ definitely-not-Ian Curtis baritone vocal. Early comparisons to Joy Division annoy the band, which is fair as in fact they are more New Order than the Manchester band’s ancestors.

Drummer Andrew is keen to dispel any Joy Division comparisons: “We’re not a Joy Division rip-off, we’re a pop band with edgy dance tinged elements. Live we play with a backing track and it works. It helps we’re not like Japanese Girls who plug into a laptop and shout ‘penis, penis, penis’ while people dressed as cardboard robots dance around!

Tobias does admit to a similarity in the early days of the group, however, “I was thinking about this today and thought, yeah maybe at first, I could see it. My voice is kinda deep so I can see the association with Joy Division. But on the otherhand, Ian Curtis did not invent the baritone vocal. The more we’ve played the more our music has matured from making a specific sound.

The band have been playing in and around London for the past few months, perfecting their sound in gigs to uber-cool East London crowds, although they are keen to broaden their horizons. “We don’t just want a bunch of hot checker babes from Shoreditch knowing who we are,” says Tobias in is Miami/California meets London accent. “The scene is cool, but we have much more musical clout than the scene itself.”

We want to get into people’s heads, play to everyone. It’ll be a beautiful thing,” Gauthier adds poetically.

They come across extremely ambitious and plan to play Europe soon. “Italy have wanted us to play for a while,” says Andrew, while Harry adds “my friend went to Japan recently and all the girls had our CD” (previous release split single with S.C.U.M.). Plans to tour will have to wait as Tobias mysteriously has had his passport taken away by the law owing to reasons that we can’t go into on these pages. O. Children are playing the long game and have no plans to release an album during 2009 until they have found the perfect record deal which gives them artistic freedom in true punk ethos, plus the bonus of lots of cash “then we’ll sell out and buy yachts!

Their live set is dominated by Tobias, complete with funk-dance moves and skinny jeaned long legs. Their live sound is different to their MySpace demos. It’s catchier and not quite as intense. Flanking the stage, Harry and Gauthier stand fairly lifeless in baggy sleeveless shirts and crucifixes adorning their chests. Performing to a subdued yet musically discerning South London crowd, O.Children rattle through a five song mini set including the eerie ‘Smile’ which is underpinned perfectly by echoingly deep vocals.

The upbeat ‘Ace Breasts’ seeing Tobias break out those surely soon to be legendary dance moves again, encouraging the paying punters to get their freak-on, which he is semi-able to manage. Their stand out song of the gig is ‘Dead Eye Lover’ with it’s beautifully 80’s synth backdrop, edgy beats and backing vocals that hang on the listeners lips after hearing. ‘Dead Disco Dancer’ is carried by Harry’s catchy, loose bass line at a pace some may find painfully slow, but stick with it and it reaps rewards. This is followed by a smack in the face with Tobias’ massive voice as he’s shouts poignantly, “I am the disco dancer’s son / and through my soul he’s going to linger on”.

With the snap of a guitar string O. Children march off in true pissed off rock and roll style, halting the gig to a standstill.

Live: 4 / 6

Next release: Dead Single EP (Dead Eye Lover / Dead Disco Dancer) - March/April
Label not announced.

Friday, 21 November 2008


Hafdis Huld – ‘Stop’

Released 24th November 2008

Given the current state of Iceland (economic meltdown, not to mention practical blanket darkness in winter) it’s nice to see a shining light of pop dazzle the eyes of the beleaguered island’s music lovers.

The track, taken from Hafdis Huld’s forthcoming second album, is already in the Icelandic top ten following an early release there, and should also chart respectively in the UK thanks in part to a beautifully delivered vocal and also to the widely spread publicity generated by Huld and her PR machine.

‘Stop’s’ lyrics are delivered with a vulnerability and innocence that perfectly fit the song’s theme of heartbreak and loss, which are sure to make the listener believe what they are hearing. Whilst in the background the gentle melody is pleasant enough, with its mix of strings and acoustic sounds, but falls short of blowing the mind.

Without trying to put all Scandinavian artists in a box, the vocal resonates of the Cardigans which is surely a good thing, while Hafdis’ striking looks won’t do her any harm in the marketing stakes either.

This cover of the “classic” 80s Sam Brown track ‘Stop’ has recently featured in a pan-European TV advertising campaign that sees the multi-talented Huld acting in the lead role whilst also singing the single in a cappella. Whilst there’s no doubt the advert has raised the profile of the song and Huld in particular, I refrain from saying she has ‘sold out’, specifically because she isn’t a platinum selling artist and therefore doesn’t have a massive reputation to lose. She can only gain from this exposure.

Hafdis evidently believes in self promotion through advertising to gain recognition, as her music has also featured for Reyka Vodka and Always Ultra - as well as producing her own series of video blogs on MySpace, where you can also learn about Elf-watching in Iceland would you believe! The fact that Huld was a guest vocalist on Tricky’s 2008 album ‘Knowle West Boy’ will add credibility to her bubblegum pop image.

28 year old Hafdis Huld spent her teenage years recording and touring with the Icelandic group GusGus, which led her to release her debut solo album ‘Dirty Paper Cup’ in 2006 on UK indie label Red Grape Records. In the meantime she’s been busy headling a UK tour, and has supporting Mika on the international stage, whilst making appearances at festivals such as Glastonbury, Camden Crawl, In The City in Manchester and SXSW, as well as numerous across Europe.


Official website:

Thursday, 6 March 2008

"I am the Prince of Wales" - The Young Knives at the Astoria

The Young Knives are not only the funniest men in pop music, they're also the some of the most talented at the moment. For those not in the know, they comprise of Henry Darknall (vocals and guitar), The House of Lords (bass and vocals) and the pretty boy of the group Oliver Askew(drums). It's worth seeing these boys from the Roylist stronghold of Ashby De La Zouch for their onstage banter alone, with brothers Henry and House wit easily equal to that of the Chuckle siblings. To get to the point they're just about the best band in the UK right now. FACT!

The tweed clad thirtysomethings performed a blistering set that sounded a world away from the slightly awkward performance I witnessed in Sheffield at the Leadmill 18 months ago, a time when World Cup fever was in the air meaning most young men were sat in front of a TV set rather than experiencing the cultural wit of TYKs. Back then they wandered into the 40 odd people in the audience and chatted with us about the weather and other gloriously English things. But no, here at the Astoria in the capital they have clearly come on leaps and bounds, headlining as they were this NME tour with other new band, more of which I'll discuss later.

Songs were mainly plucked from the new album Superabundance, the follow up to 2006's debut offering Voices of Animals and Men, and quite frankly they sound rather splendid. The setlist included singles Up all Night, with its hilarious matrix-pastiche-poking-fun-at-electro-scenesters video and Terra Firma, with its surreal but brilliant lyrics ("fake rabbits / real snakes / terra firma, terra firmaaaaa"). Their sound has developed to a sufficient extent for the band to be taken seriously despite their definitely less than serious approach to the music industry (they worked in HMV in Oxford for a while and they're first E.P. came out six years ago...). Despite all this, the precosious talent of the

A smattering of songs from Voices of Animals and Men were included to keep those punters happy who'd paid money to hear Weekends and Bleak Days ("hot summer, hot hot summer") and the fantasmic The Rumour Mill concluded the encore. Final song Current of the River is an epic at around 10 minutes long, but after hearing it again in Rough Trade Records East at the weekend for a second time it truly could be a modern art indie classic and sums up The Young Knives to a tee. "I am the Prince of Wales, I'm the Prince of Wales and if all else fails, I am the Prince of Wales".

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Album Chart Show

I went to the Koko on Monday night for the filming of Channel 5's Album Chart Show. I must admit I wouldn't like to work on a TV music show like this as there is so much stopping and starting it drives you crazy. Anyway, to the music! The bands performed a three song 'mini-set' each, the openers Supergrass starting with the catchy glam-tinged 'Diamond Hoo Ha Man', followed by new single 'Bad Blood'. Gaz Coombs sounded excellent as always and it was good to see bassist Mick Quinn bending sexy basslines again after last year's freak injury forced the band to postpone their forcoming sixth studio album, which is due out 24th March.

Moloko's Róisín Murphy was next to enter the musical ring wearing a red boxing style robe that Mike Tyson would be proud of. I don't think her music would be his bag though somehow. She was accompanied by a strikingly beautiful (it would be crasse to write 'fit' I think...) backing singer who distracting slightly from Róisín's melodic meanderings, which sounded quite nice in her trademark glam '80s electro style.

We Are Scientists arrived with the Arctic Monkey's drummer Matt Helder in tow following the departure of Michael Tapper in November. The chemistry between the new trio was instant and thanks in part to Helders excellent stick-work, the sound was heavy and tight. Positive news for WAS fans who feared the band may quit last year is that the new material promises a rosy outlook for NY's coolest prep boys' second album.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Cold War Kids

Monday 21st May 2007

America's 'best new band' (according to NME) were in London for one night at possibly London's best music venue on a massive, yet brief world tour that is seeing plaudits hailed on them from all directions.

Lead singer Nathan Willett has a voice that could charm the birds out of the trees, full of guts and soul and also pitch perfect. The fact this set included blues, soul, R'n'B as well as rock covers (not to mention all but a couple of songs from the band's debut album 'Robbers and Cowards')

The really funny thing was that after the gig a friend and I bumped into the band at Mornington Cresecent tube station and found them to be thoroughly nice chaps who love what they do (well who wouldn't love to get paid to travel). They were off to Japan the next day to commence the Asia-Australia leg of their world tour the lucky sods. Oh and they got off at Tottenham Court Road and were staying at The Pheonix if anyone's interesting...