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Monthly Archives: October 2012

So there I am, aged 14 or so, happily listening to my cassette of Tango in the Night by Fleetwood Mac, my Iron Maiden albums and my Bon Jovi singles * when, on a holiday in the Lake District, my friend Andy plays me a scratchy tape copy of a song called Slow by My Bloody Valentine and all of a sudden I’m catapulted deep into droney shoe-gazing music, growing my hair and pestering my mum to buy me some 8-hole DMs.

I still remember what it felt like. In a moment I realised all I knew about music was suddenly wrong. Or if not wrong, then certainly out-dated and a bit embarassing. This new music had been made for me, by people that understood exactly what I like, how I felt, what appeals to me and what makes the hairs stand up on the back of my next. It felt like that song was a metal bar laid across the tracks of my musical taste, and when I hit it, it sent me careering in a new direction on a voyage of discovery.

These moments happen to us all. At least I hope they do, I can’t imagine being stuck with the same taste in music for ever and ever. If this is the sorry state you find yourself in, please accept my sympathies. Anyway, as my music taste expanded these moments happened a lot at first and less often later on, as finding anything genuinely unlike anything I’d ever heard before became statistically less and less likely.

It’s worth noting that these musical derailments aren’t necessarily caused by songs that go on to be your favorites. The second one I experienced was The Orb’s Peel Session version of the mighty A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld (Loving You). It was released in 1991 and played as part of Peel’s festive 50, to which I listened on my little radio in the dark when I was supposed to be asleep. It’s not my favorite Orb track now – in fact it’s not even my favourite version of A Huge Ever Growing Brain… ** – but it will always remain the tune that made me realise how spectacular electronic music can be.

So, after The Orb sent me sideways, the next moment came courtesy of Acen’s Optikonfusion remix of Close Your Eyes, a slab of hardcore rave music with a pitched up sample from The Beatles’ Here Comes The Sun that signalled the beginning of my long love affair with rave, and the next when I heard Q Project’s Champion Sound, the track which led me deep into the heart of the jungle.

After many years of listening to electronic music to the exclusion of pretty much everything else, I was reminded how good real music is by Badly Drawn Boy’s Bewilderbeast and how good rock music is by The White Stripes’ Ball and Biscuit. In 2006 I finally worked out that folk music is a thing of wonder thanks to Flook and their track Gone Fishing. Most recently I discovered that a bit of country is a beautiful thing when I heard Dolly Parton’s stunning Little Sparrow in a youth hostel in Betws-y-Coed.

As I said, these moments are fewer and further between these days and I haven’t had one for a good few years, but I’m always looking for them because nothing beats that feeling of freefall when you realise everything you thought before was wrong and the world has just got a little better.

*By the way you’ll be pleased to know I have re-embraced Fleetwood Mac and Iron Maiden since that moment… but not Bon Jovi I’m afraid.

** This is my favuorite mix of A Huge Ever Growing Brain

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I was fortunate enough to catch Hot Chip last night at Bristol’s O2 Academy, supported by Django Django. I was a bit worried about it, because I absolutely love their new album In Our Heads, but I had heard mixed reports about their live show.

It didn’t help that it was at the O2 Academy, a venue which is traditionally regarded as a little bit shit by many Bristolians. I’m slowly getting over this though, as with a little bit of effort a band should be able to make you forget where you are (despite the £4.50 cans of beer, Gaymers cider, overcrowded dance-floor, narrow stairways and smelly toilets). The Hives did it a couple of years ago, the Civil Wars and NoFX did it recently and last night, both Django Django and Hot Chip did it too.

I should probably mention I’m not a much of a reviewer – I can’t always remember what songs the bands played, and in what order, or the names of any of the band members – so I’ll leave that to someone else. All I can tell you is that Django Django were a really great surprise. I’d heard a couple of their singles on BBC 6Music and liked them in a background sort of way, but live the harmonies sounded a bit like Ride but with better beats and less floppy hair. Even better than vaguely sounding a bit like a band I liked back in 1990, some of the band members could play more than one instrument which is something I absolutely love to see! The crowd, initially dubious, really warmed to them and by the end of their set there were plenty of people dancing enthusiastically. Oh, and they did some quite long instumental groove sections (heavy on the percussion) and quite often didn’t stop between songs, both qualities I admire in a good live band.

So, the challenge had been laid down for Hot Chip and I am very glad to say they rose to that challenge. As a relative newcomer to their music I was waiting for tracks from In Our Heads and they played plenty of them, mixed brilliantly with stuff from their previous albums. Two songs in and the band came alive, relaxing into the wonky, soulful, electronica-infused indie music that they do so well. There was more instrument swapping, and plenty of simultaneous, multiple instrument playing too. There was attention to detail, at one point someone handed Alexis Taylor a guitar which he played for a whole 4 bars before handing it back! The music was soulful, funky, exciting and geekily clever, and the band were clearly having as much fun as we were. Oh, and they now have a sexy lady drummer, what more could you ask for?

Highlights? Night and Day was awesome live, These Chains was stunning despite losing the UK-garagey feel to the drums and they dropped from Ready for the Floor into a cover of Everywhere by Fleetwood Mac (a favourite song of mine from the first album I ever bought!), but pretty much everything was good. As with Django Django, there were moments where the band hit a groove in an instrumental section and just let fly, and with the light show and the shades wonky electronica it was easy to get a little bit hypnotised by it all. Who needs drugs when the music is this intoxicating?

So, lots of fun and pound-for-pound the best value gig I’ve been to for ages. I ache all over from dancing solidly for three hours and I have had yet another good experience at the O2 Academy. Now, it they could just clean those fucking toilets properly and stock a decent cider.