Saturday, October 30, 2010

From the Archives - Man or Astro-man? Interview

Songs To Learn And Sing - Man or Astro-man? Interview

Man or Astro-Man? European Tour 2000 - Flyer (front)

Birdstuff: "It's the opposite of Milli Vanilli – we're a live, loud, rowdy, rock band that is trying to make people think that the music is being controlled by a computer."

Man or Astroman? played Dublin on 23 January 2000. I spoke with Birdstuff, the band’s drummer and spokesperson before their show and he told me it would also probably be their one and only gig in Dublin. The band's ultimate plan was to stop touring and get people to come and visit them. “There’s this place called Branson, Missouri in the United Sates where they have all these general run of the mill country acts that perform in a theatre there seven months of the year and people come to them,” Birdstuff explained, “We’re thinking of setting up a venue in Atlanta, Georgia where the Man or Astroman? headquarters are located and we’d just play there three or four months out of the year. If anyone wants to come and see us they can come there, because we are going to quit coming to see people. I think that it’s going to start working the other way around.”

The band’s entrance was preceded by five astronauts stumbling around the stage in slow motion, setting up the equipment. The stage eventually resembled a laboratory from a fifties b-movie, lots of green screens, obsolete computers and tape machines. Man or Astroman? plugged themselves in and we were transported on a voyage back in time, via three huge projector screens, where UFOs were saucer shaped and calculators took up entire rooms.

Man or Astro-Man? European Tour 2000 - Flyer (back)

The band moved in choreographed robotic harmony, but according to Birdstuff they don’t really control anything. “At the base of our spines, if you can call it a spine, there’s a little port and we have no control over any kind of muscular coordination functions at all.” Halfway through we were introduced to the supercomputer that controls the whole Astroman? show. Earlier Birdstuff had given me a detailed explanation of how everything works. “We plug ourselves into the supercomputer, the EEVIAC (Embedded Electronic Variably Integrated Astro Console) and it basically controls everything that we do in the show, which is why this tour is a little bit more relaxing and we can get a little bit more sleep because we don’t have anything to do with the music.”

The band took a long hiatus in 2001 and regrouped for Touch & Go's 25th anniversary shows in 2006. They also played at this year's SXSW and are playing a short US tour in November 2010.

Friday, October 29, 2010

John Peel - 6th Anniversary

John Peel's Meltdown 1998 - Flyers

It's hard to believe that Monday saw the sixth anniversary of John Peel's passing. It's also 12 years since Peel curated the Meltdown festival at the Royal Festival Hall in London. In honour of the great man here are some old flyers of his Meltdown.  

Episode 319

Songs To Learn And Sing - Episode 319

Charles Douglas - Summertime

This episode featured two Charles Douglas tracks from his newly reissued 1999 album, The Lives of Charles Douglas. This record is surely a great lost album which is finally getting a proper release. The album was recorded in a decaying studio in New York owned by Ultra Vivid Scene's Kurt Ralske and produced by Moe Tucker. Moe also played drums on the record. Kurt Ralske also plays guitars and keyboards and engineered the album.

Charles was signed to No. 6 Records by Terry Tolkin, who had previously worked for Electra Records in the US, signing Stereolab, Luna and The Afghan Whigs to the label. The album eventually received a minor release by Caroline Records and subsequently disappeared. It's now getting a rerelease by Broken Horse Records with expanded linear notes by Douglas telling the fasinating and sometimes gut-wrenchingly funny story of the album's recording.      

Douglas has the following to say about the album's opening track: "I wrote “Summertime” because I really like the Velvet Underground. And I really like happy songs, or songs that start out happy and then you realize they’re really depressing. I always admired The Misfits song “Skulls” because it’s so poppy and upbeat, but then of course Danzig is so scary and demonic, especially now that he’s an old man. I suppose Husker Du does that too. One minute you think, “This is a cheerful, up-tempo rock song!” and then the next second there are razor blades everywhere and you’re dialing for an ambulance because you realize the song is about how much Bob Mould and Grant Hart love each other, but they can’t make things work. I thought it might be nice to write a song like that. The chords are catchy, but the lyrics paint a bleak picture. Of course, I was feeling that way at the time. Things were, are, and always will be quite bleak. I was also listening to a lot of Television and Ramones, and all the other classic New York City rock bands, so they really influenced the sound of this record. And we were recording at a horrible decaying studio on West 30th Street in New York City, so that helped too. I asked Maureen “Moe” Tucker to produce the album and play drums, because her drums sound like city traffic. I think she’s one of the best rock drummers in the world."

Charles Douglas - The Lives of Charles Douglas

In light of the recent footage of Moe Tucker at a Tea Party rally, Douglas has blogged about working with the VU legend. His recollections can be read here.

Episode 318 - 21/10/2010


Polar Bear & Jyager - Enterprize
Wildbirds & Peacedrums - The Course
Shugo Tokumaru - Tracking Elevator
Shugo Tokumaru - Rum Hee
Antony and the Johnsons feat. Bjork - Fletta
The Acron - Restoration (Four Tet Remix)
The Black Heart Procession - Silence (Mr Tube Remix)
Comet Gain - I Never Happened
Morrissey - November the Second
Ann Scott - Dead Souls
Smoke Fairies - Hotel Room
Darren Hayman & the Secondary Modern feat. Emma-Lee Moss - Calling Out Your Name
Kort (Kurt Wagner & Cortney Tidwell) - Picking Wild Mountian Berries
Ingrid Olava - Warrier Song
Maps & Atlases - Solid Ground
Stereolab - The Super-It
Stereolab - So Is Cardboard Clouds
Seeland - Black Dot, White Spider
Big Audio Dynamite - E=MC2
Laetitia Sadier - Satues Can Bend
Cassius - Les Enfants
ESG - You're No Good
David Axelrod - The Edge
Comet Gain - Love Vigilantes
Charles Douglas - Summertime
Charles Douglas - Slowly Wasted
Dum Dum Girls - Stiff Little FIngers
Scheer - Sometimes
Jerry Goldsmith - Planet of the Apes (Main Theme)

Episode 318

Songs To Learn And Sing - Episode 318

Shugo Tokumaru - Tracking Elevator (from Port Entropy)

This episode featured three tracks from Shugo Tokumaru's fourth album Port Entropy. The Tokyo-born singer/songwriter layers "flute, accordion, harmonica and xylophone over uplifting guitar melodies" and the finished product is brilliant. The album is just out on Souterrain Transmissions and a free download of Rum Hee can be had here

Shugo Tokumaru - Port Entropy (Souterrain Transmission, 2010)

Episode 318 - 14/10/2010

Dollboy Meets Sone Institiute - A Slow Reader
Cassius - Les Enfants
Babybeef - Music
Shit Robot - Tuff Enuff
Best Coast - Boyfriend
Smoke Fairies - Hotel Room
Les Savy Fav - Let's Get Out of Here
The Coral - More Than A Lover
Tim Kasher - A Grown Man
Shugo Tokumaru - Tracking Elevator
Shugo Tokumaru - Straw
Shugo Tokumaru - Malerina
Andreya Triana - Far Closer
Nickel Pressing - Beck is Back
Stateless - Ariel
Minus the Bear - My Time
Pulled Apart By Horses - High Five, Swan Dive, Nose Dive
Maps & Atlases - Solid Ground
Swans - Reeling the Liars In
Spokes - We Can Make It
Adebisi Shank - International Dreamboat
I Love UFO - Die With the Snake
Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan - Yu Won't Let Me Down Again
NLF3 - Shadows My Friends
NFL3 - Shine Shine Shine
The Kissaway Trial - Beat Your Heartbeat
Interpol - Barricade
Grinderman - Heathen Child
Wavves - Green Eyes
Screaming Females - Fall Asleep

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Episode 317

Songs To Learn And Sing - Episode 317

The Monkees - Pleasent Valley Sunday

We kicked off this episode with two tracks from the fourth album by The Monkees, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. Pleasent Valley Sunday was written by  Gerry Goffin and Carole King and is named after a street in West Orange, New Jersey called Pleasent Valley Way. The lyrics are a brilliant observation on the comfortable existance of suburban America and how Goffin and King couldn't quite fit in after moving from New York. 

Another pleasant valley Sunday,
Charcoal burning everywhere,
Rows of houses that are all the same,
And no one seems to care.

Ken Emerson the author of the brilliant Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era, in an interview with the New York Times in 2005 noted that ''Jerry Goffin and Carole King, at that time a married couple, moved from Brooklyn to West Orange. They lived kind of uncomfortably in this suburban setting, with swimming pools in the backyard and barbecues. They were rock 'n' roll songwriters, after all.''

Ken Emerson's Always Magic in the Air (Viking, 2005)

Episode 317 - 07/10/2010

The Monkees - Pleasant Valley Sunday
The Monkees - Don'tCall On Me
Cassius - Les Enfants
A Certain Ratio - Knife Cuts Water
Centro-matic - Cracking the Seal
Kurt Wagner and Courtney Tidwell - Picking Wild Mountain Berries
Dum Dum Girls - Stiff Little Fingers
Edwyn Collins - Come Tomorrow, Come Today
Morrissey - Picadilly Palare
Ann Scott - Dead Souls
Ingrid Olava - Warrier Song
Crocodiles - Fires of Comparison
Crocodiles - Hollow Hollow Eyes
Wild Nothing - Golden Haze
Darren Hayman & the Secondary Modern - Calling Out Your Name Again
Zola Jesus - Tower
Maps & Atlases - Pigeon (playing Whelan's, 23 Oct)
Polar Bear & Jyager - Enterprize
The Black Angels - River of Blood (playing Crawdaddy, 11 Oct)
The Black Angels - Sunday Afternoon
Wild Beasts - We're Still Got The Taste Dancing On Our Tongue
The Godfathers - She Gives Me Love
Blitzen Trapper - Below the Hurricane
Grinderman - When My Baby Comes
Grinderman - Worm Tamer
NLF3 - The Lost Racer
Spokes - We Can Make It Out
Male Bonding - Franklyn (playing Whelan's, Oct 10)

Episide 316

Songs To Learn And Sing - Episode 316

The Dream Academy - Please Please Please Let Me Get Want I Want (Blanco Y Negro, 1984)

While watching This Is England 86, I was reminded of Clayhill's cover of Please Please Please Let Me Get Want I Want which plays over the final sequence of This Is England. Whilst I really like Clayhill's version, I've always prefered the Dream Academy's 1984 cover. This is probably better known in its instrumental mix from the soundtrack to Ferris Bueller's Day Off. A great track which kicked off Episode 316. 

This episode also featured Darren Hayman's latest single Calling Out Your Name Again taken from his latest album, Essex Arms. The is described as, "the second in a proposed trilogy of albums about Hayman's home county of Essex, Essex Arms is a conceptual piece about the East Anglian rural underbelly. Whereas Pram Town (2009) dealt with the displacement and ennui of living in a new town (Harlow) - and received the best reviews of Hayman's post-Hefner career - Essex Arms takes the narrative to the countryside."

Darren Hayman & the Secondary Modern feat. Emma-Lee Moss  
- Calling Out Your Name Again

Episode 316 - 30/09/2010

The Dream Academy - Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want
The Zephyrs - Recruitment Agency
Windsor For the Derby - Queen of the Sun
Beach House - Norway
Ann Scott - Universe (Remix)
British Sea Power - Zeus
The Balanesque Quartet - Computer Love
Luscious Jackson - City Song
Polar Bear & Jyager - Enterprize
The Acron - Restoration (Four Tet Remix)
Ann Scott - Dead Souls
Ben Watt & Robert Wyatt - Walter and John
The Sundays - Cry
Laetitia Sadier - One Million Year Trip
Darren Hayman & the Secondary Modern feat. Emma-Lee Moss  - Calling Out Your Name Again
Atheus - The Sound of Dark Matter
Deerhunter - Don't Cry
Erland & the Carnival - Trouble In Mind
Morrissey - November the Second
Howlin' Wolf - I Asked For Water (She Gave Me Gasoline)
Nest - The Twelve
James Blackshaw - Part 4 (playing with Swans, The Button Factory, 22 Oct)
Seeland - Black Dot, White Spider
Grinderman - Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man
Grinderman - Heathen Child
Women - Eyesore
Mice Parade - Couches & Carpets (playing Whelan's, 10 Oct)

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Episode 315

Songs To Learn And Sing - Episode 315

Polar Bear and  Jyager - Enterprize (live)

Episode 315 featured a few Polar Bear tracks. The Love Don't Go Anywhere is from this year's brilliant Peepers album and both Never Giving Up and Enterprize are from the newly released mini-album, Common Ground.

The mini-album is a colaboration between Polar Bear and London-based, Portugal-born rapper Jyager Maktwist. Polar Bear's Sebastian Rochford snatched samples from a vinyl copy of Peepers, and built new tracks from the ground up. The results are really impressive.
Polar Bear's Sebastian Rochford and Jyager

Seb Rochford recently put together the mixtape below for The Quietus and explained to them how the collaboration with Jyager came about. The feature is here.

Seb Rochford's mixtape Sept 2010

Episode 315 - 23/09/2010

Caribou - Sun
Male Bonding - Franklyn (playing Whelan's, Oct 10)
The Black Keys - Everlasting Light
Wild Nothing - Your Rabbit Feet
Crocodiles - Sleep Forever
Best Coast - Each and Everyday
Damien Jurado - Arkansas (playing Whelan's, Sept 24)
Damien Jurado - Kalama
Damien Jurado - Last Rights
Damien Jurado - Big Decision
Damien Jurado - I Am the Mountain
The Zephyrs - The Lonely Trekker
Antony & the Johnsons feat. Bjork - Fletta
Edwyn Collins - Come Tomorrow, Come Today
Centro-Matic - Liquidation Heart
Polar Bear - The Love Don't Go Anywhere
Polar Bear & Jyager - Never Giving Up
Polar Bear & Jyager - Enterprize
Richard Swift - Buildings In America (playing Whelan's with Damien Jurado, Sept 24)
Tanlines - Three Trees
The Boo Radleys - Lazarus
Syd Barrett - Gigolo Aunt
Talk Talk - Call In The Night Boy (Piano Version)
Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern feat. Emmy the Great - Calling Out Your Name Again
Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern - Rochelle
Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern - Cassette Compilation
Hefner - Good Fruit
Hefner - Pull Yourself Together
Emmy the Great - City Song

Shellac - Flyers

Shellac - Flyers

Following on from Episode 314 here are some great Shellac flyers from their first gig in Cork, Ireland. Support was from two brilliant Irish bands: Cork's The Shanks and Dublin's Female Hercules. The tour was in June of 1998 and took in a few dates around the country including a fantastically surreal date in Connollys of Leap: during the Q&A section a really young girl in the balcony of the venue asked Steve if the band had any "tapes for sale." After the Leap show the band chatted to fans and all three members kindly signed my vinyl copy of Terraform.

Shellac - flyer 1

Shellac - flyer 2 (front)

Shellac - flyer 2 (back)

Shellac - flyer 3

Shellac - flyer 4