Flowers & Straight Lines

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Two for Tuesday Red

This week, two tracks released last year from acts who have both been described as post-punk.

Firstly a new DIY video from For Malcontents Only favourites, Dot Dash, shot in the centre of their hometown, Washington D.C. The track is taken from their Earthquakes & Tidal Waves album, released on the always interesting Ontario indie label The Beautiful Music – who, incidentally, have just put together a ten track compilation of the band, consisting of demos, live tracks and a cover version, which comes free with any CD purchase of the album bought on the label’s website.

Earthquakes & Tidal Waves was produced by Mitch Easter, a man whose CV includes working with early R.E.M., Dinosaur Jr. and Ride, and this latest Dot Dash album is perhaps their best yet, although in Britain, the band generally remain frustratingly under the radar.

I hear that they will be going back into the studio with Easter again later this year, so hopefully their next effort might just be the one to garner Dot Dash the media attention they undoubtedly deserve.

This is Flowers, which you can download free of charge from the group’s Bandcamp page.


London trio Shopping have been on the go since 2012 and they didn’t take long to put out an album, Consumer Complaints, on their own MÏLK label.

Consisting of by Rachel Aggs on guitar, Billy Easter on bass and drummer Andrew Milk, Shopping have also supported ESG and Gang of Four and have been labelled, what do ya know, the ‘bastard child of ESG and Gang of Four’ by Bearded magazine.

They released a second LP, Why Choose, last October on FatCat (the home also of C. Duncan and Honeyblood) and from it, this is Straight Lines, which as you can see contains some nudity – so if, like Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, you have a problem with this kind of thing and feel it may offend then don’t click on the video.* Normal, intelligent people, though, are in for a treat and I especially like the jittery guitar sound, which  ear-wormed its way into my head the instant I first heard it.


Shopping will be playing some live dates in England and Wales during March and April. For more on the band:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/weareshopping
Twitter: @SH0PP1NG

* In case you missed it, Rouhani recently visited Rome’s Capitoline Museum along with Italian PM Matteo Renzi. Several nude statues were hidden, according to the BBC: ‘to avoid offending the Iranian president’.

Well done to the demonstrators outside who protested against Iran’s grotesque human rights record.

SLOW WEST, SQUARES & PLANET SIZES

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Slow West

What is the best way to break into directing films?

Study at somewhere like the National Film and Television School? Go down the guerrilla route and finance and shoot your own? Make videos for the Beta Band while being part of that act?

At a time when the sometimes regressive Britpop ‘movement’ was running out of steam, The Beta Band emerged and were immediately notable for a more experimental attitude, a big part of which was due to former Cameo Cinema employee, John Maclean, who as well as contributing keyboards and samples, also cut his directorial teeth by directing several DIY promos for the band, although post-Beta Band (and Aliens), he did go on to shoot a short film on his mobile phone which is pretty guerrilla even if did feature Michael Fassbender, who was a big fan of those Beta Band vids.

Next up for Maclean was another short, the BAFTA winning, again with Fassbender and 2015 saw the release of his debut feature, Slow West, which you might not be too surprised to discover, Fassbender was again a part of.

 
Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a gangling sixteen year old boy from the Highlands of Scotland, who has travelled to America to be with his girlfriend Rose (Caren Pistorius) after she was forced to leave her homeland in the wake of an incident that I won’t reveal as it could be classed as a spoiler.

This young man really is a hopeless romantic and also a hapless traveller, a ‘jackrabbit in a den of wolves, fortunate to be alive’, who treks across the American frontier in a dusty three piece suit, riding in the baking hot heat with no hat on – cowboy or otherwise – for protection from the sun.

If the wide-eyed and clueless Jay had a polar opposite it might well be Silas Selleck (Fassbender), a rugged but enigmatic loner who agrees to accompany Jay to Rose’s little house on the prairie for a fee. All, though, is not what it might seem.

Quentin Tarantino once said: ‘Any of the Western directors who had something to say created their own version of the West’ and this is exactly what Maclean has achieved here, albeit it would be stupid to categorise him as a western director.

Maclean’s script flips many expectations along the way and he presents viewers with a fresh vision of the old West. The scenery isn’t quite like anything you’ve ever seen in old John Wayne cowboy movies – probably as the bulk of the shoot took place in New Zealand’s South Island with the rest in Scotland (possibly making this the first Kiwi & Haggis Western). Again unlike the majority of movies from the genre’s classic era, many of the characters speak with the accent or even languages of their homeland and, unusual too, is the fact that events are seen mainly through the unusually youthful eyes of Jay. As for alcohol, I reckon this must be the first time I have ever seen anybody drink absinthe in this setting.

Think a Greek tragedy shot through with quirky, Coen Brothers style humour with some Sergio Leone thrown in there too – Fassbender incidentally favours the Man with No Name style of smoking a cigar, once lodged in the corner of his mouth it never leaves that position as he chomps away at it.

Maclean has assembled a great cast here, along with the three actors already mentioned, there’s Ben Mendelsohn as Payne and Rory McCann, best known for portraying Sandor ‘The Hound’ Clegane in Game of Thrones (but who I will always somehow think of as Kenny in The Book Group). Kodi Smit-McPhee outshines them all though, even his co-star.

While not perfect, this is an exceptionally assured debut and I really have to mention the cinematography, which is startling at times and could have come straight out of something by Terence Malick. Cameraman Robbie Ryan was surely at least a little unlucky not to earn an Oscar nomination.

Slow West did though win the Grand Jury prize for best international drama at 2015’s Sundance Film Festival and is now out on DVD/Blu-ray and packed with extras, including a Q&A with Maclean hosted by Edith Bowman, interviews and Pitch Black Heist, although sadly no Beta Band vids, so from the 2001 album Hot Shots II, here is Squares:


Meanwhile Maclean’s former Beta Band-mate, Steve Mason has a new album, Meet the Humans, out on the 26th of this month on Domino. If it approaches the quality of Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time from 2013 then I’m in for hours of happy listening. From it, here’s the lead single Planet Sizes:


For more on Slow West click here, and for more on Steve Mason click here.

The Return of Two for Tuesday

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Two for Tuesday Red
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Anybody that follows this blog regularly will know I really rate Tuff Love, the Glasgow based duo signed to Lost Map Records. In fact, they’ve featured in my last two end of the year round-ups of the best new music – this despite the fact that Sonya Madan of Echobelly slagged them off on BBC 6 Music’s Roundtable (nah, I can’t remember any Echobelly songs either), Luke Haines isn’t sure if they’re worth the bother (I’m not sure if he is worth the bother) and some wannabe wit on the Guardian online left a comment about them looking like One Direction in drag (no they fucking don’t).

And I should point out here that the band are happy to highlight the actual quotes on their official site and, more positively, that bloggers never seem to have a bad word to say about them. Unthought of, though, somehow for instance penned a short piece in praise of them on Sunday.

Consisting of Julie Eisenstein (guitar & vocals) and Suse Bear (bass & vocals), Tuff Love formed in 2013 and after uploading some tracks onto Soundcloud attracted the attentions of Johnny Lynch (The Pictish Trail) of the aforementioned Lost Map, or Lust Mop as Tuff Love like to call the Isle of Eigg’s finest independent label.

They’ve performed at Glastonbury, T in the Park and supported Ride at the Barrowlands, and released three E.Ps which have now been collected together on one album, Resort, which is just out, a fat free collection of indie pop thrills filled to the brim with scuzzed up guitars, spiny basslines, cooing vocals and some soul-baring lyrics.

In this month’s edition of Uncut, John Lewis describes their music as ‘breathless bubblegum grunge’ and calls track seven, That’s Right, ‘2’25 of pop perfection.’

Think Elastica collaborating with Throwing Muses on that one.

If you don’t have the EPs, then Resort is highly recommended. Hopefully an album of new material will follow on in the not too distant future and I’m looking forward to it, well, there’s no such thing as too much breathless bubblegum grunge, is there?

Tuff Love take to the stage of Stereo in Glasgow this upcoming Friday.

For more on the band:

Official: http://www.reallytufflove.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/reallytufflove

This is the rather Lushious Crocodile:


Last year Edinburgh based musician Leo Bargery, who styles himself as Mt. Doubt, self released his debut album My Past Is A Quiet Beast, and it has only recently come to my attention via the always worth a visit Jocknroll Ain’t Noise Pollution.

Leo describes his sound as atmospheric alt-rock/dark-pop. His songs are sometimes spartan, sometimes noisy but always sonically intriguing.

Mt. Doubt has been named by Radio Scotland DJ Vic Galloway as one of the ’25 Scottish Artist to Watch in 2016′ while The National wrote: ‘Immediate comparisons will be drawn with The National’ – in explanation, the National saying this is the Scottish newspaper and those comparisons that will be drawn are to American band The National. But you might well have realised that. Especially if you live in Scotland.

The plan is to release a single and another album sometime this year and Leo has just announced that he’ll be performing at ButeFest in July along with The Rezillos and others. Before then Mt. Doubt will be supporting his pals Bronston this Friday at Sneaky Pete’s in Edinburgh, although if you’re thinking of heading along then don’t. Unless you have a ticket that is, as the gig has just sold out.

Featuring Annie Booth this is Soak:


For more on Mt. Doubt:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MtDoubt
Twitter: @MtDoubt