Hit The North:
Zee, Rick Tomlinson & Cage the Elephant
Zee - "Identity"
Well, I did promise bizarre collaborations, and “Identity” by Zee may be the amongst the most bizarre I own.
In 1984, after spending the first few years away from Pink Floyd sailing around the Mediterranean sea, keyboardist Rick Wright teamed up with Dave Harris from the new romantic band Fashion to form an unlikely synth pop duo. And heavy on the synths it certainly is, predominantly the good old Fairlight, as heard on a million and one 80's chart hits.
'Confusion' (which was released as a single) is the pick of the bunch, although it sounds suspiciously like the music that would go with a montage in a 1980's B-movie. Probably one about good ol' American teenage boys Billy and Bob and their attempts to hack their High Schools' computer to change their grades in History.
Bob: “I need an A or I'll have to spend the summer in school instead of riding my BMX over some hastily assembled wooden ramps and irretrievably damaging my bollocks forever. Let's make a computer that we can use to hack the school”
Billy: “I've got a better idea! Lets build a computer which we can use to hack the Pentagon! Then we can make tanks run over that old bloke who lives at the street who our parents tell us not to go near, but stop short of telling us he's a child molester even though we suspect he probably is.”
Bob: “Yeah! Come on Billy, I've got all the bits in my dad's basement!”
'Confusion' by Zee plays over a 4 minute montage of Billy and Bob making a super computer from an Atari 2600, some sticky tape and a copy of Penthouse, intercut with them doing flying kung fu kicks on a hillside and wheelies in a supermarket car park.
And at the end of all that:
Bob: “Fuck it, let's just design a woman with really big breasts and stare at them!”
High fives all round and everyone laughs, even the old paedo who lives at the end of the street.
I think I've got away from the point. Anyways, if you're expecting a Pink Floyd style album then you won't be in luck, as only 'Cuts like a Diamond' gets close. It's not dated well, but hey, 80's synth pop is back with La Roux, Ladyhwake, Little Boots et al, so surely there's room once again for the Fairlight? And if you see a copy of the album on ebay for 50p like I did then it's worth a go.
By the way, if anyone has an MP3 of “Eyes of a Gypsy (Dub Mix)” then let me know!
Rick Tomlinson - "Night time recordings from Göteborg"
Any release by Rick Tomlinson, whether it's under his own name or in his guise as Voice of the Seven Woods, is usually something special. This is no exception, coming in a lovely handmade sleeve and limited to 465 copies.
This particular album was almost completely improvised on acoustic guitar in the midst of a Swedish January. Despite it's improvisational nature, there's a couple of long pieces on this 45 minute long 6 track album - 'Daylight over Calvi' is almost 14 minutes long and 'Smältugn' clocks in over 12 (incidentally one of the few bits of music where the main theme isn't improvised), but such is the intricacy, intimacy and warmth of the recording you won't find your attention wandering.
Head on over to http://www.tchantinler-recordings.com for more information.
Cage the Elephant - Manchester Academy 2, 12th May 2009
So then, Cage the Elephant. As soon as the lights went off in the Academy 2, the kids cheered loudly. The kids started jumping up and down. The kids like Cage the Elephant.
The kids, it has to be said, are a bunch of clueless fuckwits. The band churned out a solid set of some unremarkable and some downright awful tunes while lead singer Matt Shultz, praised elsewhere for his energy and presence, seemingly had his macho posturing choreographed for him, right down to the removal of his shirt for the encore. Yawn.
A special mention to the rhythm guitarist with little rhythm (or knowledge of anything but bar chords - thank you for pointing that out, Bon) stood dead centre right at the front of the stage and gurned along with the words. You irritating fuck.
It wasn't all bad. Single "Ain't No Rest For the Wicked" had a great energy to it and got most of the venue going, while “Lotus” and “In one Ear” both brought out flowing funky grooves, but all too often the other songs descended into a swampy blues-rock mess, one song merging into another similar sounding song after similar sounding song in an almost endless circle of crushing mediocrity from which my only solution was to go to the bar and get more Jack Daniels.
Oh well, as if they'd actually care what I think. I am a grown man in my thirties, not a teenage girl. (well, apart from when I'm chatting online to other creepy old men also pretending to be teenage girls.)
Just to clear things up, there's no photo at the top of this from the gig as I couldn't get to the front without rubbing up against a crowd of under-age girls, and that would probably get the police involved (again...) There's a lot I'd do for this column, but signing the sex offenders register isn't one of them.
Right, that's it. That's my review. It's over. Go away.