six of the best from halfway through the year
1) Live: R. Stevie Moore at the 400 Bar Minneapolis, June 25th 2011
The least known yet most talented of the outsider artists who haunt the fringes of American music, R. Stevie Moore has been recording since the late 60s. 2011 saw his first ever tour and the Minneapolis show was maniacal brilliance. In between songs he dredged up free form poetry about being “Columbosexual” and rattled off the names of many double F bands with a sneer (“Fleet Foxes, Franz Ferdinand, Foo Fighters … Fiery Furnaces”). He yelled “Swag” twice and ended the show by wandering out into the street and asking my friend to throw him in a dumpster. He then began chatting with fans, wishing to know where the big after-party was. As for the music, imagine if all Todd Rundgren songs were as good as ‘International Feel’ and ‘Couldn’t I Just Tell You’ and you’re just beginning to understand Moore’s appeal. But there’s more. A night never to be forgotten.
2) Album: Kaputt, Destroyer
Still my favourite album of the year so far. A feast of cryptic poetics sound tracked by sleepy-eyed saxophones and smooth grooves.
3) Song: ‘Rise Up’, Barbara Panther
It starts with what sounds like a foghorn booming out some ominous warning to humanity. Electronics click and spark into life as Panther starts her creative/destructive mantra. When the chorus hits you’ve become enslaved and have no choice but to dance as some demented, vengeful robot, its hour come round at last, slouches toward the nearest all-night disco bringing destruction in its wake. A revolution without dancing robots is not worth having.
4) Book: The Record Players: DJ Revolutionaries, Bill Brewster & Frank Broughton
OK, so it came out in 2010 in the UK, but I live in America and it didn’t come out here till 2011. The book has interviews with the people who, away from the rock press limelight, have changed lives and altered the course of music. Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, Tom Moulton, Frankie Knuckles, Francois Kevorkian, Afrika Bambaataa, Derrick May, Juan Atkins…the list goes on and on. Fascinating and essential.
5) Celebrity musical encounter
If you ever find yourself in Glasgow, I recommend you visit Mono, the vegan restaurant/record store just off Argyll Street. While in the record store recently (properly called Monorail Music) I was chatting with an employee about payment methods. Who should join in the conversation but local music legend and Monorail employee (co-owner?) Stephen Pastel. Yes, the conversation was businesslike, but I’ll take what I can get. Now, can somebody open a place like Mono in Minneapolis?
6) Artist: James Blake
He doesn’t quite have my favourite album or song, but he was next in line on both counts. There’s something disconcerting yet crushingly logical about James Blake’s approach. The way ‘The Wilhelm Scream’ builds into an overpowering onslaught of noise while the melody floats above, the way he repeats lines that either hypnotise you or send you running from the room in tears (or in confused boredom), the look of the artwork, his jealousy-inducing youth and good looks … all the elements of greatness are in place. Spellbinding.
Favourite piece of writing
It’s from Collapse Board, obviously. No, it’s not one of my own. With an embarrassment of riches to choose from, I nominate Scott Creney’s review of Born This Way by Lady Gaga. Funny, scathing, wise and absolutely spot on.