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Thursday, 30 August 2012

Leeds Festival 2012

Into the Valley's Guide to the Leeds Festival 2012

After last year's semi-successful venture to Bramham Park, I reluctantly agreed to accompany Daughter of Doccortex and two of her like minded cronies to the Friday of this year's Leeds Festival. I consoled myself in the fact that the festival site would not be a mud bath this year and we might actually find something interesting on one of the more specialist stages. Sadly the whole event was infinitely worse than last year's festivities due to a whole raft of issues and irritations, not least of which was the prolonged appearance of Dave Grohl!

Fashion Tips
On the plus side, the fashion on show at the festival was its usual high standard. Women of any age, shape or size are easily sorted at Leeds with the 'wellies, long socks and shorts' look. Accessorise with a band t-shirt, frock and/or little daisy chain headband if you're really 'with it'. For the chaps, anything goes really as long as you're desperately trying to be an 'individual' and even better still, an 'attention seeker'. Kilts, dinner suits and fur coats are always popular, but this year the real trend-setters went for the military helmet, preferably a German storm-trooper with spikes on top. One guy even went completely starkers, dancing on his unfortunate friend's shoulders - filthy little naturist! One thing is for sure; you should never just try a be yourself in the wacky world of festival fashion!

Super Heroes

Super Heroes love music festivals and this year was no exception. A tubby little Spider Man was joined by an emaciated Captain America and a slightly non-plused Thor in the early stages. They were all great movers and Spidey enjoyed borrowing Thor's hammer to whack is hapless girlfriend in the head, what a charmer. As the afternoon wore on their super contingent grew with Batman, Green Lantern, Banana Man, another beefier Captain America, a short Wonder Woman, a rather attractive Super Girl, two Thunder Cats and a slightly dishevelled Hulk. I was surprised that most of our heroes smoked and drank copiously and turned a blind eye to the heinous crime of beer throwing, but what the hell, they've got to let their hair down sometimes. If only they could have joined forces in an Avengers style super group to tackle the evil Grohl! Sadly they were all a bit worse for wear by the time he arrived on stage.

The Music
Festivals are generally rubbish for music, but sometimes provide an opportunity to discover a great band that you wouldn't ordinarily entertain. Leeds 2012 was a table with extremely lean pickings, but one quality morsel was at least offered up to the starving Into the Valley contingent.

Pulled Apart by Horses
We began our main stage experience with Pulled Apart by Horses. Their whole set can be summarised by 'trying too hard', with particular commendations going to the guitarist who performed every rock cliche in the Spinal Tap book of Rock n Roll Cliches. They were loud, fast and ultimately rubbish.

Band of Skulls
I watched them for forty minutes but can't remember what they were like. I think that says it all really.

The Gaslight Anthem
We side-stepped the Eagles of Death Metal to have some dinner and go t-shirt shopping, which was a positive move. On our return The Gaslight Anthem were absolutely awful. Slow, dour, boring, Bruce Springsteen-a-like folk rock. Give me strength!

The Joy Formidable

We then skipped the girls' former faves All Time Low as they'd grown out of them and trudged off to watch Into the Valley favourites, The Joy Formidable on the NME stage. I'd been looking forward to them all day, but sadly it ended in disappointment. Admittedly they rocked, but unfortunately they forgot to sing or perform. Too much guitaring, feedback and posturing makes for a poor show and we left before the end.

Bullet for My Valentine
Returning to the main stage we were greeted with the terrible racket of Bullet for My Valentine. Stereotypical thrash metal tripe to cut a long story short.

The Kaiser Chiefs
Worse was to come however in the shape of 'has beens' the Kaiser Chiefs. The laddish types in their Arctic Monkeys t-shirts loved them, but for me they were just embarrassing. We were worryingly squashed, we were covered in beer, we were surrounded by chanting Leeds United Neanderthals, we were living the dream. I day-dreamed of James Hayter's goal at Wembley and somehow I got through it.

The Black Keys

And just when I'd completely lost the will to live, the Black Keys turned up and pulled the whole show around by performing a tight, no nonsense set of quality blues tinged pop music. There were no cliches, no talking in-between songs and no posturing. Easily the performance of the day and I really enjoyed their straightforward yet quirky show. If I could have left after they finished I would have gone home happy. Sadly, we had to stay for the headliners...

The Foo Fighters

Words cannot express how bad the Foo Fighters were. Grohl was cocky, condescending, generally smug, and proceeded to play for two and a half hours. If we're being charitable they have one good song (Monkey Wrench), the rest of the 145 minutes was packed with tedious album tracks, jamming, backslapping, Queen's offspring drumming, rock cliches, twenty minutes of 'interacting' with the crowd, four boring encore songs and lots of posturing. It was almost too much to bare. Luckily Grohl cheered us up with his patronising banter; 'Pick up a guitar, quit high school and you can be a 'somebody' like me, (not a nobody like you.)' Cheers Dave. Best of all was when the drummer said that the 'greatest musician of his generation' was on the stage! I looked around for a glimpse of Gary Barlow, Mark Oliver Everett or the ghost of Kurt Cobain. Needless to say he meant Grohl!!! (who just nodded smugly.) He'd struggle to make the top thousand; toss-pot.

He's actually now down there with Bono, Coldplay and Freddie and the Sun City Boys in my estimations. Hang your head in shame Grohl. My Chemical Romance were world beaters in comparison to this year's 'headliners'. To add insult to injury it was raining, we were squashed in an almost Hillsborough-esque style and it took us over an hour to walk back to the car. And it was all Dave Grohl's fault!


Rather than moan, here are my suggestions to make the entire event more enjoyable. I'm giving the organisers solutions not problems.

1) Chop off the arm of anyone who throws beer into the crowd.
2) Chop of the goolies of anyone who throws wee into the crowd.
3) Put all the 'teeny' bands on one day, all the lads bands on another day, and don't give the Foo Fighters a day at all. And sort out the 'crush' issues before there's a serious accident.
4) Put up clear exit signs in the car park.
5) Bring back the nice friendly security people from last year, rather than the agressive bunch who searched our vegetarian picnic with the gusto of the Wehrmacht and almost arrested me for having a bottle of water in my rucksack. 
6) Ban Dave Grohl from performing anywhere ever again.

I'm not going next year.

Monday, 27 August 2012

My Bloody Valentine - ep's 1988-1991

Let's start at the beginning. The first time I heard my bloody valentine was in 1988 on the John Peel radio show. The song was 'you made me realise'. Things were never the same for a young evlkeith. I won't even attempt to describe how great it is, but the emotional power it still holds over me, even to this day, is immense. It's one of those rare songs that I liked the first time I heard it and continued to like it for ever after. Give it a listen and see what you think.

They'd set the bar so high that they would struggle to even get close again. The singles are, as you'd expect seeing as though b-sides are also included, a bit of a mixed bag. The gems are: 'i believe', 'don't ask why' and 'off your face'. CD2 is a bit of a waste of time apart from 'how do you do it'.

So what do my bloody valentine sound like? At their best: guitars distorted beyond all recognition coupled with barely audible - and definitely undecipherable - harmonically entwined male and female voices. At their worst: a dirge worthy of PJ Harvey. I think I'm right in saying that shoegazing started with my bloody valentine. Not sure if that's a good thing or not. But without them we wouldn't have had Slowdive, Chapterhouse, Pale Saints and Lush.

'soon' is an oddity in this collection. The rest of the tracks are fairly timeless. And some of 'soon' is too. It contains many of the requisite my bloody valentine classic features but also contains a godawful riff that sounds like something from 'Step On' by The Happy Mondays placing it firmly in the early 90s. The drums are not much better either.

As with Leatherface's inability to ever topple the greatness of 'Razorblades and Aspirin', my bloody valentine had already hit their peak with 'you made me realise' but there were still some more glorious moments to come...


Wednesday, 22 August 2012

REM - Collapse Into Now

The final instalment of the REM story and a sad day in the life of Doccortex as there'll be no new material. REM have soundtracked my adult life and have never really made a duff album apart from 'Accelerate' and I've viewed every release as a milestone on my journey from school to college to work to middle aged blogger. It's a triumph for the bullies who have for a long time crowed that the band were past their sell by date, but who else can now fill their role as godfathers of independent music? Raidiohead? U2? God help us!

'Collapse Into Now' is a triumphant last stand. It borrows from all their other albums, but sits somewhere between New Adventures, Monster and Out of Time. Lyrically, Stipe recounts past triumphs, experiences and the learning gained from their marathon stint in the music industry. The last line of the album and ultimately their career, 'Collapse into now', is particularly poignant as Michael almost sounds like he's throwing in the towel on the entire venture. It's a moving experience all round and is not unlike the last episode of a long running TV series as it pays its dues to the characters that paved the way for its success.

I find it difficult to dislike REM songs. They all have something to offer, but notable mentions have got to go to the World Leader-ish 'Mine Smell Like Honey', with 'Uberlin' sounding like a lost track from Up, and 'Blue' sounding like the distant cousin of 'E-Bow the Letter.' It's easily the most coherent package since Reveal and possibly their most musically varied album ever.

So it's good bye to the only band that I've thought enough about to buy all their albums in order as they were released. Here's hoping Stipey will do a bit of a Morrisey and vent his bitterness and frustration at the aging process through a solo career. Whatever happens, REM will always be remembered fondly. They stuck to the plan, they produced music on their terms and they never quite got the critical acclaim they deserved. Hopefully the journey is not quite over yet... 


Tuesday, 21 August 2012

News - The Obscure World

In a similar move to 2000AD's take-over of Starlord, 'The Obscure World' is being merged with 'Obscurendure' and 'Into the Valley of the Obscure'.

Books, comics and games will be covered by Obscurendure. Food, drink, ornaments and other obscurities will be featured here on 'Into the Valley of the Obscure'.

Don't think for one minute that this will dilute our regular music coverage. Roughly 1 in 10 posts will be from the Obscure World angle to provide a break form the musical fun.

We will initially post some classic Obscure World articles to get you up to speed, then we will get onto the new stuff. Regular updates will be made on Facebook and Twitter to keep you informed on what is happening in the Obscure World. We hope you enjoy this addition to our provision!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Boards of Canada - Music Has the Right to Children LP

What is it?
Scottish electronic duo and favourite sons of Warp records, Boards of Canada present a range of downtempo, semi-ambient synthesiser based noodle-doodling.

Why should you listen?

If you like the more clicky-scratchy ambient end of the techno spectrum that doesn't resort to sampling the sounds of waterfalls, guillemots and minke whales then this will definitely be up your street. 'Music has the Right...' is as accessible as ambient comes and combines a rich and interesting soundscape with blasts of melody and odd vocal samples. Most of the tracks could double up as the intro music for 1970's sc-fi shows but are made so much more interesting with an overlay of analogue clicks, squawks and the odd grunt. There's not a bad track amongst them but 'Sixtyten', 'Telephasic Worskshop' and 'Roygbiv' are all worth a special mention. The only downside for me is that I really wish they were from Canada for some reason.

What's it like?

It's like how DJ Shadow would have sounded if he'd grown up in Edinburgh and had an unhealthy fascination for documentaries made by the National Film Board of Canada.

What's the best song?

For some reason I'm always drawn back to 'Pete Standing Alone' which has a touch of drum and base about it.

Who does it sound like?
Aphex Twin and Royksopp combined and more subtle.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Rise Against - Prayer of the Refugee

Pick of the Week 12 - Rise Against

I saw Rise Against at the Leeds Festival last year and in a sea of mediocrity they stood out for their passion, work ethic and down-to-earth-ness. I wasn't that impressed by their music at the time, but they've really grown on me since, to the point where I may actually have to buy one of their albums. They seem to be really cool guys, they're politically vocal and overtly support all manner of humanitarian and animal rights causes and this filters through into their musical output. They're hardly obscure with considerable success in the States, but deserve greater coverage in the UK compared to the avalanche of publicity for the likes of Green Day. This is an upbeat, shouty little number that extols the virtues of fair trade and warns of the exploitation of workers in the US and across the world. I like it more every time I hear it and only wish I'd paid more attention at Bramham Park.


Saturday, 11 August 2012

Caitlin Rose - Own Side Now LP

Caitlin Rose is the ultimate proof that alt-country music is a wonderful thing. She has a voice that is delicate yet powerful, vulnerable yet confident and combines elements of Jenny Lewis, Karen Carpenter and Larry the Lamb. Her songs are bitter sweet tales of love, loss and redemption and whether you want to or not, you'll be replaying them over and over in your head after just a couple of listens.

It is one of life's greatest injustices that everyone loves that other cowboy staple: jeans, however absolutely nobody apart from me (and cowboys), love a bit of Country and Western music. I hate jeans; they're cheap, uncomfortable and made of horrible blue denim that makes you look like one of Status Quo. My advice is leave them to the cowboys. But the likes of Caitlin Rose deserve a much wider audience. Unfortunately this is probably not going to happen and the masses will continue to skip about in their denims listening to Jessie J, while the in-crowd are wearing sensible trousers and singing along to 'Own Side Now'.

I've listened to some cracking albums this year and this is up there with the best of them. Every song has its merits and tells its own little story. 'Own Side' is undeniably a classic and deservedly ranked highly in my Festive Forty last year, however there's so much more to this collection. 'Shanghai Cigarettes' is a catchy combination of harmonies and twanging guitars and 'For the Rabbits' is an anthemic ballad which is as intriguing lyrically as it is musically. Best of all is the jaw dropping, lo-fi minimal charms of 'Sinful Wishing Well' where Caitlin gives us the full vulnerable vocal delivery that occasionally dips into Larry the Lamb vibrato for maximum emotion. That's not to say the other songs are weaker as the whole thing plays like a greatest hits package.

So abandon all your misconceptions about modern Country music and give Caitlin a chance. She's a rare talent and one of the most emotive singers in any genre. I love the name too; Caitlin Rose is just such a great C&W moniker for a woman. Nearly as good as Hank Wangford for the gents. Just as a dog is not just for Christmas, Caitlin Rose is not just for cowboys. Recommended.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Terry & Gerry - Clothes Shop

I'd never actually seen Terry And Gerry before discovering this video, and in a similar way to Sophie and Peter Johnson they manage to almost perfectly reflect the picture I had in my imagination. Bad haircuts, the sheriff's badge and cheeky grins. Terry & Gerry attempted to revitalise the dour eighties with some funpacked, washboard stroking, skiffle based action. Needless to say they failed miserably as can be seen from the comatose reaction of The Tube crowd. It's a sad world when Lady Gaga cracks out 480 million hits on Youtube and Terry & Gerry manage just 181.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Refused - The Shape of Punk to Come LP

What is it?
Number 13 on Kerrang's all-time most influential list of albums, the Shape of Punk to Come shows Swedish hardcore merchants Refused in blistering form.

Why should you listen?
It's undoubtedly a quality LP but manages to fall short of an absolute classic for some reason that's hard to define. It sounds very current in a hardcore, semi-screamo kind of way and you can hear the influence in many of the current crop of Kerrang friendly hardcore bands. Having said that it's an odd, disjointed mix of styles and arrangements ranging from the screamo tonsils of 'Liberation Frequency', the gentle acoustics of 'The Apollo Programme...' and the electronic tinged 'New Noise'. It's nothing if not interesting in it's combination of choppy guitar/power chords and shoutyesque politically aware lyrics. Give it a listen, it will probably be a surprise one way or the other.

What's it like?
It's like a Swedish Red Wedge on steroids.

What's the best song?
I prefer 'New Noise' if only for the little 'woooo' noise the singer makes after a couple of big riffs.

Who does it sound like?
Watch half an hour of Kerrang TV and it sounds like everything you've just watched, but in a good way, (not a Blink 182 way).

Monday, 6 August 2012

He is We - Light a Way

Pick of the Week 11 - Light a Way by He is We

I flew on an aeroplane for the first time in forty years a couple of weeks ago. The bookies' favourites for the song that would be stuck in my head as we flew were
'In the Aeorplane over the Sea' (the obvious choice) and 'At the Bottom of Everything' by Bright Eyes (the smart money). Amazingly a rank outsider provided the soundtrack to my voyage into the wide, blue yonder with 'Light a Way' providing some small consolation to the fact that I was hovering 6 miles above France in a pressurised tube.

We'd listened to its sickly sweet charms in the car on the way to East Midlands and I guess it must have just lodged in my subconscious. It's a lo-fi, camp-acoustic bundle of melodic fun from the duo from Tacoma, Washington. They sound completely wholesome, boy and girl next door types who met in a record shop and decided make dreamy indie music together. Wholesomeness is rarely a good thing outside of the world of Shredded Wheat, but in this case it's acceptable due their fiercely down to earth, independent attitude. The plan worked, and considering their whole marketing strategy was based on social networking sites they've done well to secure a deal with Universal Motown Records. A great song to listen to anywhere, but especially at 30,000 feet.


Saturday, 4 August 2012

Songlines - Top of the World 80

Another month goes by and another Songlines compilation goes on the car stereo. I've got such a back log that I've yet to renew my subscription to the magazine, but rest assured that I'll get round to it in the near future. Top of the World 80 is a game of two halves, but as always provides something interesting and new from the World Music coffers.

The first ten tracks are possibly the best Songlines compilation I've listened to. The songs are a joyous mix of global rhythms and multicultural voices, with Amira's beautiful and hypnotic 'Zemi Me Zemi', Kiran Ahluwalia's textbook eastern chanting, yodelling and wailing on 'Mustt Musst' and Lucas Santtana's instrumetal 'Super Violao Mashup', all proving to be welcome additions to my collection of world music anthems. Best of all is the clicky, clappy, and rhythmically complex 'Tango de Nilo' from Ali Khattab which I could listen to for hours on end, and proves once and for all to the cynical South Yorkshire masses that clapping is not just for Christians.

Sadly the compilation goes downhill with the five selections from the Grateful Dead's Mickey Hart which prove to be the worst selections ever by any of the guest pickers. A whole album of his selections could put you off world music for life. They're all very minimal and rely of repetitive beats, with 'Jayan Tangis' sounding like people banging tree trunks, which sounds promising, but they carry on banging tree trunks for over seven minutes.

It's the first hint of negativity in any of my Songlines reviews which reflects the quality that they offer on a monthly basis, but any future involvement of the Grateful Dead should be avoided at all costs.