Forgotten Noughties #1: Ten Grand, This Is the Way To Rule

February 24, 2011

This is the Way to Rule

Ten Grand
This Is the Way To Rule
Southern, 2003

Let’s kick this little series off with a firecracker, eh? Ten Grand – formerly The Vida Blue – were a band out of Iowa whose second LP, This Is the Way To Rule, remains one of my favourite punk discs of the decade that was. Released through Southern in 2003, it’s a curt collection of barely controlled turbulence, its songs given awkward titles but nevertheless cutting through any ambivalence with real force. The swagger-grind opening of R E S P E C T Me is instantly grabbing, a stranglehold of looping riff and bubbling bass; I Will Seriously Pay You to Shut Up charges its way through its allotted two minutes with eyes closed and head down, butting obstacles aside with no regard for the shattered limbs left in its wake – its, and the album’s, key lines: “Goddam it baby this is soul, what’s wrong with you… GODDAM IT BABY THIS IS SOUL.” That the four players were all fantastically able comes through clearly – this isn’t some practise space throw-down without any considered structural forethought. Plus, it’s sequenced brilliantly, the closing Now You Got What I Got a towering, twisting masterpiece of cacophonous craft. Goddam, I could probably listen to this record ’til the cows not only came home but keeled over extinct, it’s that sort of skewed genius. Frontman Matt Davis died in August 2003, not long after touring this record in the UK, leading to all Ten Grand activity coming to a standstill. This, then, is their definitive statement; and one wonders if it’d ever have been bettered, such is its remarkable potency several years later.

For Fans Of: The Blood Brothers, Les Savy Fav, Fugazi
Download: Everything, idiot.

Ten Grand – Hands Off the Merch

Critics’ Choice? I didn’t get a vote…

February 24, 2011

Jessie J

The Jessie J album is every bit as predictable as you already know it to be. It’s shallow, without a great amount of charm, and its protagonist never convinces as a solo artist in her own right (after co-writing hits for others). There are slivers of potential, between slabs of the mundane. But, due to her topping the BBC Sound of 2011 list and picking up the Brits Critics’ Choice award, I’ve been a little kinder than perhaps I should have been. Happens. Here’s the party line, I’m toeing it.

(Doesn’t she look like a waxwork in that picture?)

If you’re interested, here is my review.

This Will Destroy You – some words on a very good band

February 23, 2011

Tunnel Blanket

Last month I wrote some words for Monotreme Records, to support their release of This Will Destroy You‘s new (second) album, Tunnel Blanket. It’s a wonderful record, really, and I encourage anyone taken with Brian Eno, Stars of the Lid, or even the more texturally rich aspects of Sigur Ros (those bits where he’s not bleating on about orcs, or whatever) to give it a listen when it emerges in May. Now that the record has been officially announced, here are those words in full. (So no, I can’t review it later.)

In any relationship, it’s often what’s not said that lingers longest,
taken from an encounter and rendered indelible. Texan four-piece This
Will Destroy You realise this better than most instrumental outfits,
peppering their material with dialogue that’s no slave to language, to
vowels and tongues. It’s communication without bounds, expressive and
emotive and, most importantly of all, highly memorable.

Tunnel Blanket is the group’s second long-player. It follows a
well-received eponymous debut of 2008, a record that earned the band
many an attractive comparison to post-rockers who, for the sake of the
past being just that, will remain nameless here. But to This Will
Destroy You – founding guitarists Chris King and Jeremy Galindo,
bassist Donovan Jones and drummer Alex Bhore – the parallels were not
so welcomed. Their sound world was theirs alone to inhabit, any
coincidences just that. So, for album two, a new direction was
inevitable, ties binding them to any scene tossed and forgotten.

Tunnel Blanket delivers the epic-in-scope soundscapes that followers
of its makers’ previous recordings are accustomed to, but presents
them in new lights – where once the sun shone down bright upon
immediate tropes and traits, now their work is better suited to
distant starlight, casting changeable shadows across vistas of
inspired, ambitious amplification. This is not an album to pick
through in search of bold hooks and instant melodies. It is an
ever-shifting, always moving work, which seems to evolve before the
listener – spidery guitar lines feeling their way forth like vines
scrambling up trunks in time-lapse photography.

Recorded with John Congleton (Black Mountain, Bill Calahan, Modest
Mouse), Tunnel Blanket’s eight tracks can be heard as movements in a
single work – each constituent as important to the overall ebb and
flow of proceedings as any other. Within each a certain beauty is
manifested, one born of a desire to step free from common pigeonholes
and into a realm where parallels are, at best, fleeting: a glimpse of
Fennesz here, of Stars of the Lid in the record’s more serene
passages. Brian Eno’s Apollo album may come to mind on a couple of
occasions. What Tunnel Blanket categorically is not, however, is a
release that shares its genes with anything that could be deemed
typically post-rock in structure. The builds here keep building; the
breaks are permanent. Listen and it’s like the guitars are singing out
a paean to the endless space above, celebrating the primal splendour
of the unexplored dark.

Listen, closer, and everything becomes clear. No words, just sound;
patterns and phrases, but no chorus, nothing approaching a standard
rock motif. But communication is absolute and enduring, Tunnel
Blanket’s message evident. Dare to disengage with what is perceived as
convention and the rewards are manifold. And the listener is sure to
carry them for no little time.

Below is Threads, from the Texan band’s eponymous debut. Its follow-up isn’t really in the same vein – but it carries elements across, so fans of the first record are sure to ‘get’ the second.

J Dilla’s Donuts, a review of

February 22, 2011

J Dilla, Donuts

I wrote one, earlier today, for the BBC…

“I’ve never been one for Golden Eras of art – especially when it comes to pop music, a form ever-morphing beside technological innovation and fluctuations in the human condition. To say that a select few years encapsulated everything that’s ever been great about a continuing movement is, typically, madness, as what the near-or-far future holds, nobody can say.

“But if one was to look at production in hip hop, they might view the years 1997 to 2006 as a period of considerably rich pickings: from Timbaland breaking through with Missy Elliott’s Supa Dupa Fly in 97, via Pharrell Williams’ work for Kelis and Clipse in the late-90s, to Kayne West’s desk-manning genius until The College Dropout. And with credits on releases by De La Soul, Busta Rhymes, Talib Kweli, Common and Mos Def, Detroit-based James ‘J Dilla’ (or ‘Jay Dee’) Yancey was also a major mover, his talents massively in-demand.”

Read it in full HERE.

J Dilla – Stop (from Donuts)

Video games. I play them. When I get an hour. Which is rare.

February 22, 2011

Weirdly I have become more interested in video games as I have got older. Yes, I had a console as a teenager (Master System, and then a Mega Drive; then, for no good reason, a Mega CD), but a few years ago I got made redundant, bought an Xbox 360, and the rest is Achievements history. So I figure it’d be a way to kill time nice thing to do, to post details of three games that I am looking forward to in 2011.

LA Noire

Now this, this, has the potential to be my game of the year. Granted, it’s looking a lot like Grand Theft Auto set in 1940s LA, just as Red Dead Redemption set GTA’s mechanics in the Wild West. But I’m all for a game that can be picked up quickly and enjoyed from the off. Release date is May 20. Excited.

Batman: Arkham City

Loved Arkham Asylum, and this looks like it’s going to live up to high expectations. If the gameplay’s been tweaked – so you don’t just play the whole game in stealth/detective mode – then it’ll get an additional thumbs-up from me. Which would be three. And impossible. (LOOK! IT’S HUGO STRANGE!)

Mass Effect 3

OMG! Reapers on Earth! Amazeballs… maybe. ME2 was my favourite game of last year – it kept me properly gripped ’til the very end (and I made sure I did everything). So this… this… this could own my life once it’s out, which should be before Christmas. And Clint Mansell‘s doing the soundtrack, which is amazing. Might go revisit ME2, to get ready likes…

A Forgotten 40 (ok, a few more than that) of the Noughties

February 13, 2011

I thought I’d do this. It’s a nice way of adding old(er) CDs to my iTunes.

By no means are these albums super obscure. Or terribly hard to come by. They’re simply great albums that I have enjoyed – that I continue to enjoy – immensely, and over the next… I dunno, few weeks or something… I’ll try to write a few words on each. It’s a series. Probably with sounds and visuals. Which you, reader, can click and link to and all that world-wide-web jazz. Amazing internet scenes.

Nothing on a major label though (I think – maybe some subsidiaries?). And nothing that really did pick up a head of steam and is deemed properly influential/important today in the world of the music monthlies (okay, so a couple probably are, albeit belatedly). And I might add to this. Warned. Might as well just let it run and run.

Themselves – The No Music – Anticon – 2002
Stapleton – On the Enjoyment of Unpleasant Places – Subjugation – 2001
Ten Grand – This is the Way to Rule – Southern – 2003
Meet Me In St Louis – Variations on Swing – Big Scary Monsters – 2007
Apparat – Walls – Shitkatapult – 2007
Bluetip – Polymer – Dischord – 2000
Breach – Kollapse – Burning Heart – 2001
Brian McBride – When the Detail Lost its Freedom – Kranky – 2005
Cadence Weapon – Breaking Kayfabe – Big Dada – 2005
Cannibal Ox – The Cold Vein – Definitive Jux – 2001
Dälek – Absence – Ipecac – 2004
The Dismemberment Plan – Change – DeSoto – 2001
Eluvium – Copia – Temporary Residence – 2007
Mono – One Step More and You Die – Arena Rock Recording Co. – 2002
Boris – Pink – Southern Lord – 2005
Nadja – Radiance of Shadows – Alien8 – 2007
Enablers – End Note – Neurot – 2004
Fairmont – Coloured in Memory – Border Community – 2007
The Icarus Line – Mono – Crank!/Buddyhead – 2001
The Rise – Signal to Noise – Ferret – 2002
Hammock – Maybe They Will Sing for us Tomorrow – Darla – 2008
Harvey Milk – Life… The Best Game in Town – Hydra Head – 2008
Shellac – 1000 Hurts – Touch & Go – 2000
Enon – High Society – Touch & Go – 2002
Hot Snakes – Suicide Invoice – Swami – 2002
I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness – Fear is On Our Side – Secretly Canadian – 2006
Constantines – Shine a Light – Three Gut – 2003
31Knots – It Was High Time to Escape – 54-40 or Fight – 2003
Q and not U – Different Damage – Dischord – 2002
Jon Hopkins – Insides – Double Six – 2009
Youthmovies – Good Nature – Drowned in Sound – 2008
Bullet Union – Ruins Domino – Jealous – 2004
This Aint Vegas – The Black Lung Captain – Jealous – 2003
J Dilla – Donuts – Stones Throw – 2006
Isis – Oceanic – Ipecac – 2002
Le Loup – The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly – Hardly Art – 2007
Manatees – The Forever Ending Jitter Quest of Slowhand Chuckle – Motive Sounds – 2006
Devics – Push the Heart – Bella Union – 2006
Russian Circles – Enter – Flameshovel – 2006
Four Tet – Rounds – Domino – 2003
A Sunny Day in Glasgow – Ashes Grammar – Mis Ojos Discos – 2009
Subtle – For Hero: For Fool – Lex – 2006
Telepathe – Dance Mother – IAMSOUND – 2009
Torche – In Return – Rock Action – 2007
Lightning Bolt – Wonderful Rainbow – Load Records – 2003
Amon Tobin – Foley Room – Ninja Tune – 2007
Stars of the Lid – And Their Refinement of the Decline – Kranky – 2007
Sole – Selling Live Water – Anticon – 2003
Wilderness – Wilderness – Jagjaguwar – 2005
Wives – Erect the Youth Problem – Sweet Nothing – 2004
HEALTH – HEALTH – Lovepump – 2007
Panda Bear – Person Pitch – Paw Tracks – 2007
The Village Orchestra – Et in Arcadia Ego – Highpoint Lowlife – 2007
Eiger – e – self-released – 2005
Murcof – Cosmos – Leaf – 2007
65daysofstatic – One Time For All Time – Monotreme – 2005
This Will Destroy You – This Will Destroy You – Magic Bullet – 2008
Seachange – The Lay of the Land – Matador – 2004
Non-Prophets – Hope – Lex – 2003
Saul Williams – Saul Williams – Wichita – 2005
The Bug – London Zoo – Ninja Tune – 2008
Adam Gnade – Run, Hide, Retreat, Surrender – Loud + Clear Records – 2005
Six By Seven – The Closer You Get – Mantra – 2000
Jackson and his Computer Band – Smash – Warp – 2005

Best get re-listening.

Some albums out in the next two weeks that you might want to care about.

February 4, 2011


These six albums/artists are enjoying some serious rotation. Do records rotate if they’re played on an iPod? Are they even records, then? You understand.

February 7th

…Trail of Dead – Tao of the Dead
BBC review
Summer of All Dead Souls on YouTube

James Blake – James Blake
BBC review
The Wilhelm Scream on YouTube

Ghostpoet (pictured) – Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam
BBC review
Cash and Carry Me Home on YouTube

February 14

Lia Ices – Grown Unknown
BBC review
Daphne (feat. Justin Vernon of Bon Iver) on YouTube

PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
BBC Review
The Words That Maketh Murder on YouTube

Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
BBC review
Rano Pano on YouTube


February 4, 2011

The two support acts for Esben and the Witch‘s London show at XOYO, this Wednesday (Feb 9), are both pretty super. If you’re coming along, come along early.

BretonThe Well

Trophy WifeThe Quiet Earth

Esben recently remixed Trophy Wife’s track White Horses, which can be heard below.
Trophy Wife – White Horses (Esben and the Witch Remix) by trophywifeband

Tickets / Info

Esben in Japan.

February 3, 2011

Esben in Japan


They are “Push New International Artist” in Tower Records, Shibuya. Tidy.

Diddy re-Tweeted me.

February 2, 2011

Diddy Tweet