More on my favourite MEN…

the words about JD Samson’s MEN in this month’s print copy of The Fly are mine. cool:

Men
London, The Lexington
08/02/2011

Poster girl for uniqueness JD Samson springs passionately into mid winter London sporting block colours and buckets of enthusiasm for her performance/art collective, MEN.

The guitars are sharp, the bass is addictive and the Brooklyn trio’s accessible funk-disco gives JD’s niche lyrics about liberty and sexuality a mainstream audience.

It is the genuine onstage energy that sets MEN apart, proving that passion for a cause is the best way to pop.

‘Off Our Backs’ slickly blends into the bluntly-worded ‘Credit Card Babies’ and after just three songs the stage is invaded by excitable fans who become impromptu backing dancers (and singers).

Social commentary with a bounce .

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looks better than it sounds

a review of sunday girl (not the blondie song) i did for the fly:

Sunday Girl
The Garage, London
06/02/2011

Her namesake may be a first class pop song by Blondie but Sunday Girlhas picked synth over guitar and is more like Ladyhawke than Debbie Harry. Actually, she looks more like Mischa Barton from The OC doing a Chanel advert, but her music is supposed to be the focus tonight, so the details of her modelling/blogging/London Fashion Week DJing career can wait.

Taking the headline slot upstairs at The Garage on, funnily enough, a Sunday, she has a tough act to follow. The small crowd are still catching their breath after a hauntingly beautiful acoustic set by Emma’s Imagination, so when 22-year-old Jade Williams – Sunday Girl is a nickname from her days as a weekend assistant in a pet shop apparently – appears with a pair of unnaturally good-looking male guitarists wearing Italian suits, the crowd are caught off guard. The stage is decorated too, with a couple of carefully lit vintage display cases containing mounted butterflies, making the show look more like a Hugo Boss advert than a gig. But there is (a bit) more to it than just pretty faces. The band launch into a punchy guitar-backed synth feast and William’s soft, almost slurred, vocals lazily float above the music.

Opening track ’24 Hours’ is quickly followed by Sunday Girl’s Diplo-produced first single ‘Four Floors’, as the band charge through a short set with barely a moment for a “hello” or “thanks”. Her latest single – a cover of Laura Branigan‘s spooky 80s power ballad ‘Self Control’ – is quickly recognised by the crowd, but sadly falls rather flat being nowhere near as good as the original version. Sounding like a less-quirky Alison Goldfrapp means that Sunday Girl is not a bad musician and is actually quite pleasant to listen to live. But she blends in far too easily with the growing bunch of fashion-conscious female-lead pop acts doing the rounds right now. Her “scruffy Chanel” chic may have got her voted Company magazine’s ’19th coolest girl’ but for now she’s struggling to match that musically.

boy meets girl

another wee review for the fly, this time HAIRCUT 100 (amaze):

Indigo2, London
28/01/2011

Resurfacing exactly 30 years after the release of their massively successful‘Pelican West’ LP, new wave funk-pop crooners Haircut 100 are back. Whilst, these days, they look more Gap advert than early 80s hipster, musically they sound like they never *ahem* parted.

Followers of indie bands of the moment blessed with good-looking and over-styled lead singers – take The Drums and, a few years before them, The Libertines – should look up Haircut 100. The guitar-led funk-pop outfit had a fleeting moment of en trend brilliance circa 1981-2, releasing four top ten singles and posing for numerous American Apparel-influencing cover shoots for music magazines. Lead singer Nick Heyward – who thirty years ago looked like a smooth-skinned, better behaved Pete Doherty – persuaded the world that polo boots, rolled-up chinos and baseball caps, combined, were cool. Then he vanished amid rumours of self-destruction. Sound familiar? And Haircut 100’s music remains equally relevant with traces of the Haircuts’ sound reappearing through bands such as Two Door Cinema Club and The Rumble Strips.

Heyward cradles his guitar at chest height and his finger-splitting funk is as sharp as it ever looked on Top Of The Pops tonight, even if his floppy fringe is now swept to the side and there’s not a deck shoe in sight. ‘Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl)’and ‘Love Plus One’ bounce around the Indigo2 with all the excitement you would expect of the 19 year-old boy who wrote and sang them to crowds of swooning girls three decades ago. It is impossible not to smile and even Heyward swaps his trademark poster boy pout for a satisfied grin, as he sings ‘Fantastic Day’. Backed by a brass trio and bongo drums, the show is a genuine celebration.

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.


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.

ma ma ma telephone

i wrote this for the fly:

Lady Gaga
O2 Arena, London
16/12/2010

Lady Gaga‘s festive freakshow rolls into London’s O2 Arena for two days entertaining girls, geeks, gays and even a few family units. The singer hops from Karen O-style studded leather jackets to Madonna-inspired breast cones complete with live fireworks, taking just over two hours to perform eighteen songs.

Most popular music cynics make an exception for Gaga whose brand of surrealist-shock chic has both enamoured and bonded an army of odd-balls, using collective appreciation of wacky hats and haircuts, pork product dresses and gender obscurity but perhaps most importantly, the love of a truly great pop song. And Lady Gaga well and truly proves her pop credentials tonight by firing out crowd pleasing treats such as ‘Bad Romance’, ‘Let’s Dance’ and ‘Poker Face’, mobilising the assembled devotees at this opening night show. Despite carting her crazy array of costumes and charisma around the globe for more than 150 dates (The Monster Ball tour began way back in November 2009) the Lady displays no sign of weariness as she grabs the O2 by the balls and entertains.

With only one full length album released she necessarily deploys a hefty dose of chat to fill her arena slot but cleverly mixes pensive life stories with filthy monologues and queasy videos to create a theatrical grand gesture. This is no ordinary gig. There’s a touch of Tim Burton to the sets and the audience anticipate the next costume choice as much as they do the next hit to be played from Gaga’s ‘The Fame Monster’ LP. Revelling in her position as pied piper for the socially awkward she sports a succession of oversized capes, leopard print leotards and boxy dresses as she looks out at glammed-up O2 Arena audience who have ‘got their Gaga on’ by wearing all manner of wigs, weird sunglasses and OTT dresses. On the odd occasion when she’s not hiding behind masks, monsters and costumes, and relies solely on her voice to grab attention, she proves to be a delicate human being, just like everyone else. And it is this rare flash of reality that keeps Gaga close enough to the ground to make her relevant. Seated at a piano she gives a haunting performance of album track ‘Speechless’ giving a glimpse of the inner Gaga and proving that she can sing and play her instruments, too.

‘Alejandro’ gets the full performance package with boy dancers kissing, but it is the perfect pop of ‘Poker Face’ which commands the loudest roar of approval. For ‘Paparrazi’ she fights with a giant monster, getting floored before rising from the bowels of the stage with fireworks exploding from her cone-shaped breast plates. Lady Gaga has already inspired a generation and the endless energy and enthusiasm of her performance means that no one goes home feeling short-changed by their trip to the Monster Ball tonight. Despite the incredible sets, wild hairstyles and provocative fashion, underneath it all is a genuine musical talent and a girl with a very relevant story to tell.