you’ve got a nerve

a wee review of the walkmen’s gig at shepherd’s bush empire, written for the fly last week:

The Walkmen
Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
25/01/2011

It is very hard if not impossible to go to a Walkmen gig and not spend a large part of the show anticipating the moment when they will play their 2004 masterpiece , ‘The Rat’. Which does a disservice to a band who having been together for the best part of ten years and six studio albums in, are on tour, basking in the critical glow of almost universally rave reviews of their latest LP, ‘Lisbon’.

Still, when lead singer Hamilton Leithauser unassumingly appears on stage, his lazy, nasally vocals floating out over The Walkmen’s trademark marching drums, there’s a flash of uneasiness to ‘Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Has Gone’, from 2002’s eponymous debut album. But the New York-Philadelphia five-piece quickly hit their stride with guitars taking hold half way through the opener, instantly engaging a well-filled Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Visually they are an unappealing lot, ambling on to a minimalist stage in the sort of casual suits more befitting suburban civil service workers than credibly cool NYC garage rockers. But this is a gig for music fans, not fashion followers, and anyone who agrees with the fine reviews of The Walkmen’srecent offerings is not disappointed by the display tonight.

Next up is a spine-tingling rendition of ‘Angela Surf City’ – one of the highlights of ‘Lisbon’. Clever guitar work and rhythm changes on the latest album are laid bare, loud and clear, on the likes of ‘Blue As Your Blood’ and ‘Victory’ as the first half an hour of music is pure immersive emotion. There is a definite lull in the pace midway as Leithauser croons his way through ‘Look Out The Window’ and ‘On The Water’ before taking a Pinter-esque pause with the reflective tones of ‘While I Shovel The Snow’. But a steady stream of 6Music airplay makes sure ‘Juveniles’ – the one that sounds eerily similar to Rod Stewart’s ‘You’re In My Heart’ – gets a warm reception.

Leithauser’s impassioned drawl shapes the band’s sound both on and off stage – drawing inevitable Bob Dylan comparisons – but their accomplished live performance is set apart by the slick guitar work and commanding drumming, which is less polished but no less brilliant when performed live. That is why The Walkmen are undoubtedly at their peak when playing full-throttle, as they show by launching into a sprightly and rejuvenated rendition of ‘Woe Is Me’ towards the end of the set. ‘The Rat’ is rather too predictably reserved for the encore but is no less exhilarating, sacrificing only a small amount of its drama to the audience’s lingering expectation. The only surprise, perhaps, is that it is not the final song.


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i live among the creatures of the night

laura branigan: highly likely to make you go a bit ‘kate bush’ on the dancefloor. even if you don’t remember it precisely you probably enjoyed listening to the soothing tones of ‘self control’ on steve wright in the afternoon at an early age in the 1980s. if you were lucky enough to do so the song would have imprinted itself on the back of your head, remaining there to this day, lurking, ready to provoke swirling arm movements and dramatic singing should you hear the chorus played at a disco.

this 1984 synth soap opera is everything a good 80s pop video should be and more. LB also sang ‘gloria’ as featured in the wonderfilm that is flashdance, thus making her officially all sorts of cool.

so, the news is that ‘self control’ has been covered by sunday girl, rather well, actually. i’m going to her gig on friday 21 jan at the nest in d-d-d-dalston. i live among the creatures of the night…

sunday girl’s previous releases ‘stop hey’ and ‘four floors’ while not as good are equally as en trend (i.e. pure synth pop with a pretty face and an acceptably lo-fi posh voice) so i’m sure she will be famous soon, or at the very least won’t look out of place in e8.

what were you listening to in 1991?

smash hits 1991 album sleeve cassette cd

this beautiful double cd arrived in the post a few days ago and is helping to brighten the grey abyss that is january in hackney. it will no doubt have an influence on the music played at the next dirtyconverse disco which is scheduled to take place on saturday 12 february…two days before Love Day 2011. pure disco love.

this brightly coloured package of early nineties treats was the first EVER album i owned (at the age of 10-nearly-11) and my original copy is the double cassette edition. it’s still intact and works fine on my jvc tape deck BUT disco practicality dictates that i must own it on cd if i am to share it with an audience. so i now own two copies. smash hits fan #1.

highlights from ‘smash hits 1991’ (as i remember them) include sophie lawrence’s cover of the donna summer classic ‘love’s unkind’ and ‘just another dream’ by cathy dennis. CATHY DENNIS!

(totp dance moves to die for)

back to 2011 and having listened to half of cd1, i’ve just reactivated an absolute belter of rock ballad by roxette, which is best described as the musical equivalent of a swoon. ‘fading like a flower’ was on repeat in 1991 and 20 (!!!) years later…stilljustasgood.

trust me – it’s worth braving the ten second emi-sponsored ad to watch the official vid on youtube. backlit blonde hair, 80s-cum-danny-zuko-grease dance moves and that leather jacket, marie fredriksson, you are Invited to our lovers’ disco…

full tracklisting:

  • 1. Good Vibrations – Marky Mark & The Funky Bunch
  • 2. Thinking About Your Love – Thomas, Kenny
  • 3. One And Only – Hawkes, Chesney
  • 4. Happy Together – Donovan, Jason
  • 5. Just Another Dream – Dennis, Cathy
  • 6. Fading Like A Flower (Every Time You Leave) – Roxette
  • 7. Get The Message – Electronic
  • 8. Over Rising – Charlatans
  • 9. Promise Me – Craven, Beverley
  • 10. More Than Words – Extreme
  • 11. I’m Too Sexy – Right Said Fred
  • 12. International Bright Young Thing – Jesus Jones
  • 13. Chorus – Erasure
  • 14. Love’s Unkind – Lawrence, Sophie
  • 15. Be Young Be Foolish Be Happy – Sonia
  • 16. Shocked – Minogue, Kylie
  • 17. GLAD – Appleby, Kim
  • 18. Are You Mine – Bros
  • 19. Footsteps Following Me – Nero, Frances
  • 20. Love And Kisses – Minogue, Dannii
  • 21. Baby Baby (I Know You’re A Lady) – Grant, Amy
  • 22. Charly – Prodigy
  • 23. Summertime – DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
  • 24. Everybody’s Free – Rozalla
  • 25. Now That We’ve Found Love – Heavy D & The Boyz
  • 26. 3am Eternal – KLF
  • 27. I Wanna Give You Devotion – Nomad
  • 28. Alright Alright – Urban Soul
  • 29. Winter In July – Bomb The Bass
  • 30. Pray – MC Hammer
  • 31. Peace – Johnston, Sabrina
  • 32. Do The Bartman – Simpsons
  • 33. Insanity – Oceanic
  • 34. Move Any Mountain – Shamen
  • 35. 7 Ways To Love – Cola Boy
  • 36. Gypsy Woman – Waters, Crystal
  • 37. Ring My Bell – Monie Love & Adeva
  • 38. Can I Kick It – Tribe Called Quest
  • 39. Call It What You Want – New Kids On The Block
  • 40. Crazy – Seal