Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Antlers - Live Review

Acts: Official Secrets Act,
The Antlers and Graffiti 6
Location: Southampton U.K
Venue: Lennons
Date: 28/11/09

We were determined to catch a much anticipated performance by the Brooklyn based band The Antlers, whose Hospice album has been a slow burning success story of 2009 via the patronage of Pitchfork and it's ilk. It was self-released back in March 2009 and went on general release via French Kiss Records in August 2009. This short visit to the U.K has now catapulted the band's presence into the national arena with the national journos from The Times and The Guardian clambering on board to give it the horn.

Those journos have covered the London and Brighton legs of the tour, but it's up to the intrepid team here at Scratchy Buckles (myself and Platterhorn) to battle through the lashing rain in order to cover what must be the least prepossessing stop off on their jaunt around Europe. Yes, we're talking about being second on the bill in sodden Southampton's favourite student cheap 'n' cheerful nightclub Lennons; thankfully nothings changed in the years since I was last here frugging to the sounds of Britpop back in the 199o's (stop me now! before I turn into a voxpop for one of those cheapo 'I remember the Nineties' type of late night T.V fillers) and it promises to be a good honest intimate gig at this venue which is putting on some interesting gigs of late.

First up though, with their chance to make a mark on the wall of sound, was Graffiti 6 who put in a credible performance for the early birds. They're buoyed up with the gift of delivering a catchy tune in that genre that's tricky to master, i.e the soul/rock/pop crossover. Their breezy number Stare Into The Sun was used as part of a promo for a television ad promotion for The Sun newspaper back in Summer 2009. This must have been a useful boost to their fledgling career and it came as a surprise to us, when they mentioned at the end of delivering a polished and engaging set, that this was their first live gig.. The first of many successful performances I'm sure! and a band to keep an eye on.. a tip though, if I were you guys, I'd leave Liverpool off the tour list for the time being..

Graffiti 6 - Stare Into The Sun

The Antlers are a young trio from Brooklyn New York, who spent 2007/8 putting together a concept album of epic and haunting music. Lead singer Peter Silberman delivers aching soft vocals, interwoven with emotionally wrought crescendos, that turns the emotional screws to devastating effect. Michael Lerner’s sparse drumming plays off Darby Cicci’s downbeat keyboards to produce a taut post rock sound straddling between fragility and intense sonic outbursts. Their debut album ‘Hospice’ is a concept album about a carer looking after a girl who is terminally ill with cancer. What could have ended up a maudlin self indulgent mess is actually brooding and beautiful triumph, which is destined to be on many of the pundits 'Best of 2009' album lists.

It's clear from the opening chords that the band are going to pretty much play the songs through in the order of the album and so unfortunately the spine tingling opener the epic Kettering gets lost in the general hullabaloo of the crowd settling down. These guys obviously get swept into the intensity of delivering the songs with all their heart and soul and this means that the stage craft of commanding of the audience is slightly overlooked and so it takes a few numbers for them to capture the undivided attention the the crowd. This may be down to their inexperience or having to play to punters who haven't necessarily come to check out this band but slowly and surely the waverers are won over, as each song ramps up intensity of the atmosphere in the room. The more accessible uptempo numbers of Sylvia, Bear and Two in particular resonate with the crowd and as The Antlers' set draws to a close, it's clear that we've witnessed a very special show by a mesmerising and very talented band who are destined to make a considerable impact with their majestic music.

The Antlers - Kettering - taken from the debut Hospice on FrenchKiss Records Get it here

The video is unofficial and created by a fan using various photographs Original photographers listed here but has been compiled with such T.L.C that for me it's the definitive version and as good as anything the record company could put together.

Monday, 2 November 2009

M1 Motorway Celebration

All over the news today, nestling between the usual reports of misery and despair, is the 'light' item about the landmark that is it's the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the U.K's first motorway, imaginatively called the M1 read more here and here on the BBC.

The majority of driving residents of England have, at some time or other, experienced the dubious pleasures of travelling up or down this iconic motorway. For many commuters, it's part of their daily grind, driving some way along the 193 miles from Brent Cross in north-west London to Garforth near Leeds. Back in 1959, the Minister of Transport, Ernest Marples officially opened the original section, that paved (tarmac) the way for a brave new era of British motoring. To commemorate this milestone, the Roads Minister Chris Mole, is unveiling a plaque (nope, I've never heard of him either and surely he should be the Minister for Gardens instead).

Even though the original stretch of road was only 72 miles long, it was decided that drivers might need to stop for a rest, powder their nose and grab a bite to eat, thus the first service station was born. 'Watford Gap' (originally called the Blue Boar) opened in on the 2nd November 1959 and the rest is history so they say... of course most of us Brits are very familiar with this Great British Institution that is a Motorway Service Station but here's a here's a peek at what all the glories Watford Gap hold for the benefit of our international readers.

Of course the great misunderstanding about this service station is it's location, being situation no where near Watford (a fair to middling town close to London) but actually fifty miles or so miles up the country in the county of Northamptonshire. This place has actually come to symbolise the dividing line between North and South England and now some amateur actors have come up with their own affectionate tribute to this 'legend in it's own lunchtime' Watford Gap: The Musical

I have been pondering what to offer up as a Scratchy tribute to this anniversary and though it's hard to top St Etienne's 'Like A Motorway' for a pure pop pleasure, I feel the ultimate musical tribute to this tired travellers comfort stop has already been written back in 1977 and nothing will top it for capturing the pertinent atmosphere of the place and as a celebration of all things motorway like. Roy Harper's 'Watford Gap' taken from his 1977 album Bullinamingvase buy it here has the horse power to be the ultimate motorway anthem with just the right ingredients in the lyric department.

Just about a mile from where the motorways all merge
You can view the national edifice, a monumental splurge
It's the lonesome traveler's rotgut or bacterias' revenge
The great plastic spectacular descendant of Stonehenge
And the people come to worship on their death-defying wheels
Fancy-dressed as shovels for their death-defying meals

It's the Watford Gap, Watford Gap A plate of grease and a load of crap

At one a.m. on Sunday you can hear the boys declare
That the other team were fairies and the ref was Fred Astaire
It's Chopper Ronnie's fan club on their weekly pilgrimage
To stick the hero's boot in all the way from Stamford Bridge
And without a solid concrete-burger no night is complete
Plastic cups of used bathwater wash away defeat

It's the Watford Gap, Watford Gap A plate of grease and a load of crap

The traffic jam is rattling like a five-mile cornered snake
With fuming pieces falling off and steaming in its wake
The city's like a goolie in a groupie's stagnant womb
Spaghetti Junction's target in the vinegar strokes of doom
The countryside is ravaged like a syphilitic whore
Yodeling up the canyon is the dirty old Blue Boar

It's the Watford Gap, Watford Gap A plate of grease and a load of crap

Unsurprisingly the Service Station owners weren't too chuffed about this depiction of their pride and joy and Harper was forced to drop it from future U.K copies of the album, allegedly a member of the EMI board was also a member of the Watford Gap's Company board of directors. It reappeared on a later CD reissue and remained on the U.S LP.

Unfortunately, there isn't a decent video version of this classic but Watford Gap was the flip side of the song "One of Those Days in England", which featured backing vocals by Paul and Linda McCartney, this became became a Top 40 hit.

Roy Harper - One of Those Days in England - Live on Old Grey Whistle Test