Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Los Campesinos! - Hello Sadness

Wichita Recordings, Mon 14th Nov ‘11

It’s been said before that one of the reasons they command such a following is that many of their listeners have grown up listening to their music. I first heard Los Campesinos! in July 2007 in a field in Cornwall. Thanks to a friend and the best, free music podcast I’ve ever heard (indiefeed), I then spent the next few days of my holiday enjoying You! Me! Dancing! and We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives. The friend then took me to see LC! in 2008, since then I’ve seen them live many times and watched their music grow and change.
Lyrically, they’ve matured; Gareth’s metaphors have become even more vivid, visceral and dramatic. To Tundra elegantly creates a soft, romantic atmosphere with ease, different to the wordy lyrics of their first few releases. Although, in true morbid LC! fashion, it isn’t long before he’s slipping “down into pebbles and silt…and found the seabed the comfiest quilt”. The romantic summer’s day is left behind as he is almost howling, begging “take her body to tundra, just take me with you as well”. The eloquent extended, visual metaphors are one of the great things about Hello Sadness…..

Read the rest on GoldFlakePaint.co.uk

Monday, 14 November 2011

It's Over, For Good.

Dananananaykroyd - It’s a stupid name, no one can pronounce let alone spell it without practice. It belonged however, to the finest live band I’ve ever seen, and by all accounts they kept up the standard last night, at their final gig ever. I’ve been lucky enough to see them live twice, first time at SWN Festival ‘09, and the last in Cardiff a week ago. They will be missed, no band makes music in quite the same way, are as audience involving or, as lovely as Dananananaykroyd. Some of the individual members of the group have their own musical projects, but really, it’s goodbye forever to the creators of the wall of cuddles, and fight-pop.

Los Campesinos!, The Globe Cardiff - 10th Nov ‘11

The first act is something of a surprise. He’s called John Mouse, and was not mentioned in any of the publicity (that I saw) before the gig. He walks on stage alone, sings loudly “god” and then stops. There’s a slight sense of confusion from the audience, but completely undeterred he carries on, “god, put you on this earth. To save me”. He explains, with a strong Welsh accent, that normally he has a band with him, but they’re all in London and pretty miraculously for the first support act of an evening, silence soon falls as people stop talking and start to focus on him. Not afraid to make eye-contact, even during the hilarious track ‘Sex With You’, Mouse is brimming with confidence. His final two songs are especially daring, doing “karakoe” to his own songs, and unbelieveably it really works. He bounces off stage during ‘Got You Shaking Your Head (Like David Gray)’, disappearing upstairs and then reappearing at the back of the crowd. It’s a funny, endearing, entertaining performance, and the way he seemingly doesn’t care at all what we think, only adds to that.

Next up are Strange News From Another Star, who are fronted by Jimmy of Future Of The Left. They also take time to engage with the crowd, even leading in to ‘Tell Your Mother I’m Back. Again’ by asking one of the people I’m with, “what would your mother say if you brought me home and introduced me to her?”, to much amusement. At times their Mclusky-esque thrashing is verging on the overly testosterone fuelled, but that’s brought down with ancedotes, including a wry story about asking a member of Pret A Manger whether the cheese “is dolphin friendly”.

Los Campesinos! make their way on stage and with very little fuss start playing. The crowd remain mostly still, ‘no matter’ I think, things will pick up. Unfortunately they don’t particularly. Sonically, LC! are still very good, they’ve made some clever, slight changes to their older songs -  some really interesting syncopation on ‘Miserabelia’ and they get away without Harriet’s beautiful violin playing, replacing it with an echoing, stretched guitar melody that fills the gap without compromise. But something still isn’t quite right.
When they suffer a slight technical difficulty in between two songs, Gareth tries a little to keep us entertained, but seems mostly content with the silence. This happens a couple of times, his anecdotes and jokes feel a little forced and at one point, when he says, “I’m finding it hard to take this singing thing seriously” the ripple of laughter from the audience is more polite than genuine.

Again, I should point out that it was mostly of a very high standard, ‘To Tundra’ is as powerful live as you could hope, the sharp opening rhythm blares out, and the bass vibrates through the crowd, but there’s always been something more to LC! concerts than just how they sound. If I compare tonight to the (many) times I’ve seen them before, it just isn’t in the same league. I was expecting a sweaty, exhausting and amazing evening and I didn’t leave the venue, thinking ‘yeh, that’s why they’re my favourite band’ which is normally what happens. At times, things pick up and it feels more like all those other times. The inevitable crowd-pleaser ‘You! Me! Dancing!’ livens the pace, although the usual throw-away comment about beer is mumbled out, and they follow it up with ‘The Sea…’ which brings things right down again.

There’s an encore tonight, unlike on Sunday, when the applause petered away pretty quickly, so that’s a little reassuring, but even then, as “one blink for yes, two blinks for no” is shouted out, something still isn’t quite right. Personally, I love ‘Hello Sadness’ (read my review of it here for evidence), but I’ve seen a fair amount of people who haven’t. It’s been preying on my mind for a while, whether a band can remain as consistently good as they have done, let’s hope this is just a temporary blip.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Danananaykroyd, Cardiff Undertone - 5th Nov ‘11

Danananaykroyd are splitting up, if you didn’t already know. In fact, as of this Saturday they will be no more, (we assume) forever. The day we discovered that this band, one of the most interesting and fun collectives making music in the last five years, are no longer willing to continue was a dark one for the music scene indeed. They promised to “go out with a bang”, and well, that they did.

We arrive at Undertone, a tiny venue lurking underneath a bar in central Cardiff with plenty of time to take advantage of the comfy leather sofas they provide. These sofas are around the edges of what is, essentially just a room with a bar at the back, and a stack of speakers at the front - the monitors creating the “stage” space. It already seems a suitably intimate venue, enhanced by the fact that the group of people dancing around on the sofa next to us, are actually the band.

The support act begin playing without any fuss, the acoustics in the room aren’t great, and I’m still none the wiser about what they’re called, despite the fact they did say (if anyone can tell me I’d be very grateful EDIT: they're called Drains). They play a short set of noisy but rhythmic tracks and then that’s that.

Danananaykroyd make their way on stage well, in a way only they could pull off, the two lead singers Calum Gunn and John Bailie Junior hug their way along the front two rows of the crowd, before launching into the first track released from their second album, ‘E Numbers’. It feels a little strange to be standing so close to the band, and as the crowd get more into things the front rows are fighting not to end up the wrong side of the wires and monitors, to varying degrees of success (which is how I’ve ended up with very bruised shins). Calum Gunn and JBJ have always been charismatic front men, and they’re on form tonight, with jokes about knife fights in Glasgow being a more likely sight than fireworks in their distinctive Scottish brouge - and even managing to get the crowd to crouch down on to the floor before diving into ‘Think and Feel’.

The first half of their set is mainly newer songs, the band are clearly at ease playing them, with a lot of wriggly dancing to the beat. It’s when they start some of their older stuff that the crowd really gets into it. With much hand-clapping and roof-slapping (I did say it was a small venue) they work their way through the highlights of ‘Hey Everyone’. The humour evident in their (highly enjoyable) tour videos and irreverent blog posts comes through even on what is a slightly sad occasion, the last time they’ll ever play this city. Guitarist David Roy adds musical backing to the joking around, with an impressive ‘X Factor style’ version of Muscle Memory improvised. This comes about after they say, with mischievous straight faces, that they’re only splitting up so they can go on X-Factor next year under a different name. Waving, they finish on ‘Infinity Milk’, but it’s not long before they’re back. The set up of Undertone doesn’t really allow for tension building as we can see them standing slightly to the right as a chant of “Da - Na - Na - Na - Naa - Kroyd” starts up.

The famous wall of cuddles is not forgotten, and for one final time, JBJ and Calum split the crowd down the middle, egging us on as each singer says “my team always wins”. There’s a palpable irony in their voices, we all know that this is one of the last times they’ll be doing this. The sweet, joyus melody that opens ‘Some Dresses’ is shoved into our already echoing ears, and as it begins to fade out, the hugging goes a little awry and we all end up in a heap on the floor - I’m pulled to my feet by a slightly concerned looking Calum, who checks we’re all okay and the band mill around a little longer, for some more hugs, saying their goodbyes and then that’s it. Goodbye Dananananykroyd.

On a slightly more personal and general note, I can’t think of any other band that I’ve been this genuinely sad to see go. They’ve always been endearingly enthusiastic about what they do, seem to genuinely care for their fans (can you think of many other bands that would take the time to help out and ensure the audience are ok if things get a bit messy?) and it’s with a heavy heart I finish the last thing I’ll ever get to write about them.